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 10, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 11 to 34, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 35 to 43, inclusive, answered orally.

Litter Pollution.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

44 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will amend the Litter Pollution Act 1997 which enables local authorities to take action only against properties which accumulate high densities of refuse and other waste materials in public view and prohibits action being taken in circumstances where the material is not visible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28689/07]

The Litter Pollution Acts, 1997 to 2003, prohibit the leaving or throwing of litter in a public place or in any place that is visible from a public place. This includes the creation of litter in the carrying on of a business, trade or activity or in the loading, transporting or handling of items. The legislation also places an onus on occupiers of public places to keep the place free of litter. It places a similar obligation on occupiers of land to keep the land free of litter to the extent that it may be visible from a public place. The Litter Acts do not stipulate a minimum quantity of refuse or other waste material in order for a breach of the legislation to occur. It is not necessary for there to be a high density of refuse visible prior to action being taken by the relevant authorities.

Local authorities are responsible for implementing the litter laws in their own areas. In effect, this means they have responsibilities in relation to preventing and controlling litter, and they can take action against persons who break or ignore these laws. Gardaí also have the power to issue on-the-spot fines for litter offences.

Separate legislative provisions also prohibit illegal dumping and may be invoked to deal with cases whether waste material is visible or not from a public place; section 32 of the Waste Management Acts 1996-2007 places a general duty on the holder of waste and provides that a person shall not hold, transport, recover or dispose of waste in a manner that causes or is likely to cause environmental pollution. Section 39 of the Waste Management Acts 1996-2007 provides that waste cannot be disposed of or recovered at a facility except in accordance with a licence issued by the Environmental Protection Agency. The Waste Management (Permit) Regulations, 1998 provide that, for certain specified activities, a waste permit issued by the local authority rather than a waste licence will be required.

Section 10 of the Waste Management Acts 1996-2007 sets out the penalties for any person found guilty of offences under the Act. The penalties range from a minimum fine of €3,000 or 12 months imprisonment or both on summary conviction, to a maximum fine of €15million or 10 years imprisonment or both in the case of conviction on indictment. I am satisfied that the penalties and enforcement powers under the legislation to which I have referred are adequate and appropriate, and there are no proposals to amend the law along the lines mentioned in the question.

Hunting Licences.

Shane McEntee

Question:

45 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has sufficient information to make a decision on the granting of a stag hunting licence to a hunt (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28674/07]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

60 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has decided to grant a licence for a hunt (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27445/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 45 and 60 together.

Section 26(1) of the Wildlife Act 1976 provides that I may grant to the master or other person in charge of a pack of stag hounds, a licence authorising the hunting of deer by that pack, during such period or periods as is or are specified in the licence. The Ward Union Hunt applied to my Department for a hunting licence for the 2007/2008 season. In my consideration of the licence application I raised a number of issues of serious concern with the Ward Union Hunt including in relation to animal welfare, conservation and protection of stags generally and compliance with previous licence conditions. Meetings were held between officials of my Department and representatives of the Ward Union Hunt and correspondence was exchanged with the Hunt in order to convey my serious concerns to the Hunt and provide the Hunt with an opportunity to address these concerns.

I have given careful consideration to the responses provided by the Ward Union Hunt. There are however some outstanding issues that need to be resolved and I may require further information before coming to a definitive conclusion. I appreciate that this is a difficult issue for all concerned and I can assure Deputies that the matter is receiving my careful and urgent consideration.

Traveller Accommodation.

Phil Hogan

Question:

46 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views regarding the provision of Traveller accommodation by local authorities; the number of indigenous families in respect of each local authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28427/07]

Since the enactment of the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act 1998, each local authority has adopted two successive Traveller Accommodation Programmes. In the course of the first programmes, covering the period 2000 to 2004, some 1,371 additional Traveller families were provided with permanent, secure accommodation. Over the same period there was a 50% reduction in the number of families living on unauthorised sites, down from 1,207 families at the start of the programmes to 601 families at their completion. Significant progress is being made nationally under the second Traveller Accommodation Programmes 2005 to 2008, with some 1,001 units of new and refurbished Traveller specific accommodation having been provided so far. Expenditure to date on the second programmes exceeds €90 million.

One of the significant developments during the period of both Traveller Accommodation Programmes has been the establishment of structures and mechanisms at both national and local level to ensure that all services provided to Travellers by statutory agencies, including accommodation, are delivered in a more effective and co-ordinated way. In that context, my Department continues to work in partnership with the National Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee, in facilitating the development of strategies at national level to further improve the accommodation position of Travellers and to accelerate its provision. At local authority level, Local Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committees have been established to advise on the provision and management of accommodation for Travellers.

Broader Traveller-related issues are addressed at national level by the High Level Group on Traveller Issues, chaired by the Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. This group works closely with my Department to ensure effective co-ordination, at local level, of the provision of all services to Travellers. In that context, local authorities, through the City/County Development Boards, are actively engaged in putting the necessary structures in place to ensure effective liaison and co-ordination of services provision to Travellers, using an inter-agency approach.

I propose to circulate with the Official Report a tabular statement setting out the number of Traveller families located in each local authority area. The figures are based on the Annual Count of Traveller families undertaken by local authorities in November, 2006.

No. of Traveller Families by local authority at November 2006

Local Authority

No. of families

Carlow

119

Cavan

63

Clare

187

Cork (City)

275

Cork (County)

273

Donegal

184

Dublin (City)

579

Dun Laoire/Rath.

109

Fingal

329

Galway (City)

392

Galway (County)

470

Kerry

305

Kildare

117

Kilkenny

106

Laois

121

Leitrim

55

Limerick (City)

76

Limerick (County)

439

Longford

321

Louth

332

Mayo

243

Meath

192

Monaghan

109

Offaly

220

Roscommon

70

Sligo

111

South Dublin

515

North Tipperary

160

South Tipperary

134

Waterford (City)

189

Waterford (County)

30

Westmeath

243

Wexford

453

Wicklow

170

Totals

7,691

Environmental Policy.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

47 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made to date in delivering on commitments made in the Agreed Programme for Government in relation to integrating environmental considerations into policy formulation, linked with existing social partnership mechanisms and, in particular, establishing Comhar as a body within the National Economic and Social Development Office under the aegis of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26055/07]

The integration of environmental considerations into policy formulation has been central to policy making for a number of years. The specific commitments in the Programme for Government to introduce arrangements for the representation of environmental issues in Social Partnership, to increase the resources available to Comhar-Sustainable Development Council and to establish it as a body within the National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO) will further support the integration process.

The arrangements for the representation of environmental issues in the Social Partnership process will, as stated in the Programme, be considered in the context of the overall review of Towards 2016 which is due to take place in 2008. Proposals from Comhar to increase significantly its capacity for policy analysis are currently being considered, in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government to provide increased resources for that purpose. Arrangements for giving effect to the commitment to establish Comhar as a body within NESDO are being given careful consideration in order to ensure that the effective operation of both Comhar and NESDO is not compromised by any changes in structure.

Election Management System.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

48 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has proposals to widen the Seanad Éireann electorate for the higher education constituencies where, at present, graduates of universities and colleges other than NUI or Trinity are denied the right to vote and where the necessary constitutional change to permit the extension of voting rights was made many years ago. [26388/07]

The Report on Seanad Reform by the Seanad Sub-Committee on Seanad Reform, published in April 2004, sets out comprehensive recommendations for further consideration and action concerning the composition, functions and future role of Seanad Éireann. The Report recommends significant reform of the Seanad electoral system, involving rolling renewal of the Seanad and the introduction of direct election to a single national 26 seat constituency, with a further 6 seats to be reserved for direct election to a separate higher education constituency to include all graduates of institutions of higher education in the State.

At the request of the Taoiseach, an Informal All-Party Parliamentary Group on Seanad Reform was established in 2005, chaired by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The Group's role was to assess the extent of cross-party agreement on the Sub-Committee's recommendations and to advance, with consensus, proposals for the implementation of Seanad Reform. The Group addressed proposals which attracted early consensus and which are capable of implementation in the short to medium term. Prior to the general election, the Group referred a number of draft Standing Orders changes to the Seanad Committee on Procedure and Privileges to be piloted as Sessional Orders.

The Government's Programme includes a commitment to determine the extent of cross-party agreement on the recommendations of the 2004 Report to advance proposals for implementation. This would include consideration of the widening of the franchise for the higher education constituency in Seanad Éireann. I am currently considering how best to advance the Government Programme commitment.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

49 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will amend the Electoral Acts to provide for increased transparency in the funding of political parties and for greater scrutiny of political party expenditure, as strongly urged by the Standards in Public Office Commission in its most recent annual report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28684/07]

The Agreed Programme for Government contains a commitment to the establishment of an independent Electoral Commission which will take responsibility for a range of electoral matters including, inter alia, the functions currently exercised by the Standards in Public Office Commission relating to election spending; the Electoral Commission will also examine the issue of financing of the political system. I will be developing appropriate proposals in regard to the establishment of the Commission.

In addition, the Agreed Programme for Government commits to publishing a Green Paper on local government reform. One of the issues which the Green Paper will address is the question of expenditure limits at local elections. There are currently no such limits, although expenditure, as well as donations over a €635 threshold, must be disclosed. I have set in train a process of public consultation prior to the preparation of the Green Paper and established a related Consultative Committee. Work on the Green Paper should be completed by the end of this year with final proposals to be settled in a White Paper next year.

I am satisfied that the proposals for the Electoral Commission, together with the initiatives which will emerge from the Green Paper, provide an appropriate framework to progress our extensive and complex agenda for electoral and local government reform.

Waste Disposal.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

50 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of incinerators that will be required to deal with municipal waste; the locations of these incinerators; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28584/07]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 35 on today's order paper, in which I again confirmed that I have not made any statement in regard to the number of municipal waste incinerators which may be required. In accordance with the provisions of waste management legislation decisions in respect of the number of municipal waste incinerators which may be required are the responsibility of local authorities, in the context of the regional waste management plans for which they have statutory responsibility, and of commercial enterprises in relation to private sector facilities. All such proposed facilities are subject to statutory planning and waste licence approval processes and my Department has no function in that regard.

I do not consider that incineration should be the cornerstone of the national approach to waste management. The Programme for Government reflects this in placing emphasis on developing the potential of other technologies involving the mechanical and biological treatment of significant quantities of municipal waste. The major international review of waste management policy which is provided for in the Government's programme is now being initiated by my Department and will in part focus on how best to advance the use of the full range of technologies available for waste management.

Recycling Policy.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

51 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans for putting in place a national recycling infrastructure to process recyclable waste here as opposed to exporting it, in order to ensure accountability in respect of the action taken regarding that waste that cannot be ensured when that waste is exported to another country, and to reduce the emissions that would be the product of shipping or otherwise transporting that waste abroad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28694/07]

While statutory responsibility for the making and implementation of regional waste management plans, including in respect of the provision of recycling infrastructure, rests with the local authority or local authorities concerned, I am determined to further develop the national recycling infrastructure so as to meet the ambitious target set out in the Programme for Government that only 10% of waste or less is consigned to landfill. The Programme also commits to further expansion of the provision of segregated waste collection and the introduction of household hazardous waste collection, such as paint cans, in all suitable recycling centres.

Since 2002 my Department has allocated some €100 million in capital grants to assist local authorities in the provision of recycling and recovery services. The projects assisted include bring bank networks, civic amenity sites, materials recovery, composting and biological treatment facilities. There is a commitment in the National Development Plan to continue to support local authority provision of infrastructure and I will ensure this commitment is met.

In view of the escalating costs to local authorities of operating the increased network of recycling facilities, my Department has also allocated almost €30m since 2003 to these authorities to assist with the operating costs of such facilities. The costs incurred by local authorities are regularly reviewed to ensure that the available funding is distributed in an equitable manner. In addition, a Market Development Programme for Waste Resources 2007-2011 was published in April 2007. The purpose of the Programme is to promote stable demand for recovered materials and to support the achievement of economies of scale in the production of products made from recycled materials, as well as the need for more recycling infrastructure in Ireland to reduce reliance on overseas markets. The Programme also seeks to identify new applications and markets for recyclable material and secondary recycled products. Implementation arrangements for the Programme will be put in place shortly.

Local Authority Housing.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

52 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he plans to ensure that a proportion of any newly built or acquired social housing is given to those progressing out of homelessness. [28625/07]

The allocation of local authority housing is a matter for each housing authority in accordance with their scheme of letting priorities made under section 11 of the Housing Act 1988. Such schemes are required to provide that the housing authority may, from time to time, set aside, for persons of such category or categories as the authority may decide, a particular number or proportion of dwellings becoming available for letting. Where an authority sets aside dwellings, priority in the letting of those dwellings must be accorded to persons of that category. Social housing units provided by the voluntary housing sector are allocated by the voluntary body concerned in consultation with the local authority.

The need to ensure adequate accommodation for persons progressing out of homelessness is well recognised. A key focus and task of the Revised Government Strategy addressing Adult Homelessness, which is currently being finalised, will involve refocusing on the provision of accommodation in the social, voluntary and private rented housing sectors, exploiting the significant potential of the Rental Accommodation Scheme in this area and ensuring the availability of appropriate outreach and resettlement support. I consider that local circumstances and the needs of individual homeless people must be taken into account in delivering the optimum response in each case.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

53 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the implementation plans regarding accessibility for public parks, playgrounds, open spaces and amenities under his Department’s sectoral plan have been drawn up; if same have been drawn up for local authority owned harbours; if not, when these will be drawn up; the action his Department or local authorities will be taking as a result of the plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28713/07]

Following the completion of accessibility audits, local authorities are required to draw up implementation plans setting out programmes to give effect to the commitments and objectives contained in the Disability Act 2005 and the Department's related Sectoral Plan. Each implementation plan will be published and placed on the authority's website. I understand that nine such plans have been completed. The remaining local authorities have indicated that they are at an advanced stage in the preparation of their plans and expect to complete and publish them before the end of 2007. Where harbours are under the control of local authorities, they will be included in the implementation plans of the relevant authorities.

Each plan is required to contain targets and timeframes for carrying out the required works, and priority will be given to local authority buildings and other facilities to which access is most frequently required by people with disabilities, including public footpaths, street crossings and public amenity areas. The Department provides €15 million annually to local authorities to assist them in implementing actions under the National Disability Strategy. The Department will monitor progress on the implementation of the plans and seek reports, as appropriate, as required by the Sectoral Plan.

Question No. 54 answered with QuestionNo. 42.

Local Government Policy.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

55 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will provide directly elected mayors for cities other than Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28585/07]

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to publish a Green Paper, which will examine a number of issues in relation to the organisation of Irish local government, with the objective of making local government more transparent and responsive. Areas to be examined in the Green Paper include the issue of directly elected Mayors. The consideration of the provision of directly elected mayors will be examined in the context of the other issues being addressed in the Green Paper, including:

Ensuring a proper balance of power at local levels between the manager and the elected representatives;

The establishment of town councils in those towns that have shown significant population growth in recent years, including the upgrading of the former Town Commission towns, where appropriate to full Town Councils;

The provision of quality customer service to the public; and,

Expenditure limits at local elections.The Government Programme also states that a directly elected Mayor for Dublin with executive powers will be introduced by 2011.

The Green Paper represents the initial phase of a transparent, inclusive policy formulation process. The purpose of a Green Paper is not to arrive at a single solution, but to present options for further consideration. In this regard, it would be premature to anticipate the conclusions that may be reached regarding the provision of directly elected Mayors in any local authority area. Work on the Green Paper should be finalised by the end of the year, with a White Paper to follow next year.

Local Authority Housing.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

56 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he plans to initiate support for social housing schemes for women and men who are victims of domestic violence and who are leaving crisis accommodation and have ongoing support needs. [28624/07]

Cosc is the new National Office within the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform with key responsibility for ensuring the delivery of a well co-ordinated "whole of Government" response to domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. Its remit includes overall responsibility for the co-ordination of policy relating to women and men who are victims of domestic violence.

In relation to accommodation, capital funding is available through my Department's Capital Assistance Scheme to voluntary housing bodies providing accommodation to meet special needs, including accommodation for victims of domestic violence. My Department also recoups to the local authorities 90% of their current expenditure on accommodation related costs arising in respect of homeless persons including, where appropriate, victims of domestic violence. The remaining 10% is provided from the revenue resources of the local authorities.

The Independent Review of Implementation of Homeless Strategies was published in February 2006. Recommendation 16 of the Review states that "Victims of domestic violence should be recognised as an at risk target group, and in this regard the National Steering Committee on Violence against Women should consider convening an expert working group to examine refuge provision and occupancy around the country." The Government has accepted the broad thrust of the Review's recommendations and the details fall to be considered within the framework of work already underway in my Department on the finalisation of a revised and updated Strategy on Homelessness. In that context, my Department will continue to engage with Cosc to further address the accommodation-related issues arising in relation to domestic violence.

Proposed Legislation.

Liz McManus

Question:

57 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he plans to introduce legislation on foot of the recommendations of the All Party Committee on the Constitution on property rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28690/07]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

82 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will bring in legislation in line with the recommendations of the Kenny report and the Ninth Progress Report of the All Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution to empower local authorities to compulsorily acquire land on it being zoned for residential development at agricultural value or its existing use value plus 25%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28695/07]

Phil Hogan

Question:

227 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he will introduce the Designated Land (Housing Development) Bill; if it will provide for a use it or lose it scheme when he launched the housing policy document, Delivering Homes, Sustaining Communities; and if he will elaborate further on the intended provisions of the Bill. [28840/07]

Phil Hogan

Question:

228 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he intends introducing the Designated Land (Housing Development) Bill; if he will provide for a use it or lose it scheme (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28865/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 57, 82, 227 and 228 together.

As indicated in reply to Question Nos. 149 and 156 of 10 October 2007, the principal recommendation in the Ninth Progress Report of the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution (APOCC), on Private Property, was for the implementation of the central proposal of the 1973 majority "Kenny Report", a "designated area scheme" under which local authorities would be empowered to compulsorily acquire land for general development purposes, at its existing use value plus 25%, rather than at open market value. In the light of a range of substantive legal, practical and financial considerations, successive Governments since the 1970s have not proceeded with such a scheme, and I have no proposals to do so.

However, the Government has approved the drafting of a Designated Land (Housing Development) Bill to provide for a "use it or lose it" scheme. The General Scheme of the Bill, which is under consideration by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, provides for—

powers for planning authorities to enter into a binding agreement with, or impose requirements on, the owners of designated land in order to bring such land into housing development;

an amended compensation mechanism whereby designated land, if not developed in agreement with, or in accordance with requirements imposed by, the relevant planning authority, could be compulsorily acquired at below market value; and

as a possible alternative to compulsory acquisition, the imposition by planning authorities of an annual development incentive levy on designated land.

The APOCC report recommended, inter alia, that—

there should be a ‘one stop shop' planning procedure for strategic infrastructural projects,

the right to compensation for the acquisition of property rights below a specified depth under the surface should be removed, and

the existence of land purchase options should be made public to achieve transparency in property markets generally.

The Strategic Infrastructure Act 2006—

introduced a streamlined planning consent procedure for strategic infrastructure developments, and

amended the rules of compulsory acquisition to provide that the value of any land lying 10 metres or more below the surface shall be taken to be nil, unless it can be shown to be of greater value by a claimant.

The General Scheme referred to above also provides for mandatory registration of, and the imposition of a levy on, land purchase options.

Joe Costello

Question:

58 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when legislation will be introduced to provide for the independent electoral commission to take responsibility for electoral administration and oversight as promised in the programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28682/07]

The Agreed Programme for Government contains a commitment to the establishment of an independent Electoral Commission which will take responsibility for electoral administration and oversight, implement modern and efficient electoral practices, revise constituency boundaries, take charge of compiling a new national rolling electoral register, take over the functions of the Standards in Public Office Commission relating to election spending, and examine the issue of financing the political system. I will be developing appropriate proposals as soon as possible to take forward this extensive and complex agenda.

Waste Management.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

59 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his preferred options in regard to waste management and disposal; if it is intended to increase dependency on landfills in the future; the role he envisages for incineration and recycling; if the development of further landfills is in accord with Government policy; the extent to which toxic or other waste is being exported; his plans to meet such requirements in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28719/07]

The Programme for Government clearly sets out the approach to waste management that will be reflected in national policy in the years ahead. It is firmly grounded in a continuing commitment to the waste hierarchy with a renewed drive towards the achievement of international best practice in the reduction, re-use and recycling of our waste. This, coupled with an increasing emphasis on technologies for the mechanical and biological treatment of waste, will significantly reduce potential reliance on landfill and incineration. It will also permit better management so as to minimise the waste, including hazardous waste, requiring to be exported.

To assist the process of ensuring that our waste management system can act in support of these objectives, my Department is initiating the major review of waste management policy foreseen in the Government's policy programme. This will be designed to ensure we have the legal, institutional and policy framework to achieve international best practice in the management of our waste.

Question No. 60 answered with QuestionNo. 45.

Private Rented Accommodation.

Denis Naughten

Question:

61 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he is taking to ensure that all rented accommodation is inspected by local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28377/07]

Denis Naughten

Question:

81 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he is taking to ensure that all rented accommodation is up to an acceptable standard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28378/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 61 and 81 together.

I refer to the reply to Question No. 278 of 7 November 2007 in relation to minimum standards and inspections. The position is unchanged.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

62 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the income received by each local authority from the Private Residential Tenancies Board to date; if these finances are ring-fenced to inspect dwellings for suitability; and the number of inspections of dwellings undertaken by each individual council which has received these funds to date. [28687/07]

Details of funding provided to local authorities to date by the Private Residential Tenancies Board, from the proceeds of the tenancy registration fees, are set out in the table. I expect that the balance of funding in respect of 2007, which will be of the order of a further €1.5m, will be paid early in 2008 in the light of final returns of local authority inspections in 2007. This funding is specifically to assist local authorities in carrying out their functions in relation to private rented accommodation standards and rent books. Details of dwellings inspected on a county/city basis are published in the Annual Housing Statistics Bulletins, copies of which are available in the Oireachtas Library and on my Department's website at www.environ.ie.

Funding to local authorities in relation to private rented accommodation standards and rent books

Year2004 (1/9/04–31/12/04 only)

Year2005

Year2006

Year2007First Tranche

County Councils

Carlow

3,905

12,991

15,210

10,814

Cavan

3,212

7,088

7,430

5,552

Clare

3,178

11,194

19,547

17,540

Cork

13,218

48,588

44,815

45,322

Donegal

659

11,115

65,095

31,840

Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown

19,980

92,951

102,310

81,064

Fingal

10,531

77,196

117,205

75,035

Galway

8,705

19,250

22,482

23,094

Kerry

1,116

9,102

16,313

41,005

Kildare

11,089

43,099

52,473

37,434

Kilkenny

5,105

5,291

7,658

8,827

Laois

1,471

8,292

9,261

10,638

Leitrim

2,569

5,015

16,021

20,932

Limerick

11,731

15,755

18,157

20,438

Longford

152

6,357

13,955

12,295

Louth

2,214

5,647

19,396

16,498

Mayo

118

7,877

14,556

11,687

Meath

507

16,387

17,711

13,560

Monaghan

507

3,771

3,306

1,638

North Tipperary

2,096

7,522

9,549

14,427

Offaly

1,099

5,311

10,209

24,393

Roscommon

727

8,095

10,056

22,382

Sligo

558

6,160

7,318

6,160

South Dublin

3,093

68,963

95,842

113,998

South Tipperary

963

5,489

5,669

6,542

Waterford

7,640

7,581

10,529

14,106

Westmeath

1,031

12,497

14,995

15,637

Wexford

1,995

11,569

13,387

10,206

Wicklow

2,688

16,742

19,270

9,963

City Councils

Cork

39,047

93,957

136,019

91,319

Dublin

112,965

555,156

666,241

426,191

Galway

60,734

97,709

100,349

58,185

Limerick

11,951

36,308

60,948

41,441

Waterford

6,795

23,810

39,707

36,086

Town/Borough Council

Carlow

7,843

4,107

3,790

2,486

Cavan

51

1,086

2,000

1,000

Ennis

9,449

11,668

10,345

5,128

Kilrush

625

336

2,000

1,000

Fermoy

270

2,448

2,600

1,217

Macroom

2,214

987

2,000

1,000

Mallow

2,958

3,514

3,706

2,146

Kinsale

389

2,211

2,260

1,000

Midleton

51

2,725

3,339

1,819

Youghal

2,062

2,073

2,160

1,000

Clonakilty

727

1,599

2,000

1,000

Cobh

727

2,132

2,420

1,167

Skibbereen

2,164

1,145

2,000

1,000

Buncrana

0

908

2,000

1,000

Bundoran

254

355

2,000

1,000

Letterkenny

338

4,699

4,073

2,564

Ballinasloe

2,857

4,758

3,644

1,593

Killarney

2,079

6,081

6,522

3,416

Listowel

406

987

2,000

1,000

Tralee

8,976

16,762

21,215

8,332

Athy

625

1,619

2,170

1,000

Naas

4,429

4,995

5,177

2,978

Kilkenny

101

10,089

9,578

4,367

Longford

423

2,705

5,070

1,475

Drogheda

1,318

12,359

11,691

6,341

Dundalk

6,356

4,758

4,190

2,704

Ballina

4,412

3,692

3,040

1,450

Castlebar

372

4,284

4,032

2,597

Westport

51

2,744

2,553

3,881

Kells

51

948

2,000

1,000

Navan

2,299

3,416

3,172

1,757

Trim

1,082

711

2,000

1,000

Carrickmacross

1,200

671

2,000

1,000

Castleblayney

490

592

2,000

1,000

Clones

304

415

2,000

1,000

Monaghan

1,910

1,441

2,000

1,000

Nenagh

575

2,172

2,380

1,081

Templemore

51

316

2,000

1,000

Thurles

2,045

1,974

2,110

1,000

Birr

879

632

2,000

1,000

Tullamore

2,265

4,995

5,515

3,056

Sligo

9,398

12,162

14,636

12,121

Carrick-on-suir

592

1,027

2,000

1,000

Cashel

406

809

2,000

1,000

Clonmel

5,646

10,780

9,451

4,416

Tipperary

287

888

2,000

1,000

Dungarvan

2,130

3,455

3,266

1,655

Athlone

4,648

13,169

11,359

5,800

Enniscorthy

304

3,534

3,290

6,910

New Ross

778

1,441

2,210

1,086

Wexford

5,680

13,800

13,350

6,411

Arklow

372

4,916

6,373

3,543

Bray

2,924

13,149

11,090

5,818

Wicklow

1,318

3,277

3,130

2,194

Total

463,510

1,582,350

2,025,896

1,510,758

Community Development.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

63 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps being taken to implement the commitment given in the programme for Government to ensure that local authorities prioritise the provision of community and recreational facilities as part of their development plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28679/07]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 145 of 10 October, 2007.

Tax Code.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

64 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will initiate a new motor tax compliance survey as the last survey in 2001 indicated an uncollected tax amount of €25 million; when vehicles imported by non-Irish nationals working here become liable for motor tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28677/07]

Measures have been introduced by my Department to combat motor tax evasion, and other enforcement initiatives are being developed in conjunction with the Garda Síochána. The increase of some 8% in motor tax revenue to end October 2007, compared with 2006, reflects a range of factors, including the impact of anti-evasion measures and increased payment levels in respect of motor tax arrears. Arrears payments have increased by 12% to end October 2007 over the same period in 2006. Consideration will be given, in consultation with other relevant authorities, to the question of holding a motor tax compliance survey next year.

Liability for motor tax on any vehicle arises when the vehicle is first used in a public place following registration of the vehicle by the Revenue Commissioners and assignment of Irish number plates.

Environmental Policy.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

65 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he has taken to ensure Ireland’s compliance with the environmental liability directive to hold operators whose activities have caused environmental damage financially liable for remedying this damage and to hold those whose activities have caused an imminent threat of environmental damage liable for taking preventative actions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28703/07]

My Department has prepared a Screening Regulatory Impact Analysis of the options for transposing the Environmental Liability Directive. This document is available on my Department's website (www.environ.ie), and the views of interested parties have been sought on it. Preparatory work on drafting the legal instrument for transposing the Directive is underway and will be informed, inter alia, by the outcome of the consultation process.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

66 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number and location of the local authorities from which he has received submissions in respect of upgrading, extending or providing new sewage treatment systems throughout the country; the extent to which he has evaluated the total cost and the urgent necessity to respond positively in respect of such submissions; if his attention has been drawn to the inadequacies in the sewage treatment systems at various locations throughout the country leading to pollution, including severe methane gas emissions; if he expects to be in a position to provide the necessary funding as and when required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28720/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

231 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he is satisfied regarding the adequacy of supply and quality of drinking water in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28925/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

233 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to increase the supply and quality of domestic drinking water in line with the requirements of increased population; if he will quantify his proposals in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28927/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

234 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he expects to be in a position to provide all local authorities with the funding they have requested to ensure the elimination of pollution threats caused by overloaded or outdated treatment works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28928/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

235 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the extent to which he or his Department have identified adequate new domestic drinking water sources to meet future population requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28929/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

238 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he expects to increase the capital programme for waste water treatment and domestic drinking water supply in line with demographic requirements in the coming year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28932/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

240 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has received technical advice from Kildare County Council in regard to the urgent need for the augmentation of the sewerage treatment system throughout the county; his proposals in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28934/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 66, 231, 233, 234, 235, 238 and 240 together.

Each local authority was asked by my Department in 2006 to carry out a detailed assessment of the needs for capital water services infrastructure in their area and to prioritise their assessments, taking account, inter alia, of:

national and EU environmental and public health requirements and standards, including the EU Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive, the Urban Wastewater Treatment Regulations, 2001 and the European Communities (Drinking Water) Regulations, 2000,

relevant reports produced by the Environmental Protection Agency, on the quality of drinking water, on water quality generally and on urban wastewater discharges,

specific reports and studies such as the National Urban Waste Water Study, County Sludge Management Plans and any other relevant studies/reports commissioned locally,

the provisions of their Development Plans or any draft Development Plans and any strategic regional planning guidelines or local area plans,

National Spatial Strategy objectives,

Any remaining non-compliant water schemes listed in Annex 12 of the EU Commission's application to the European Court of Justice in respect of Ireland's implementation of the Drinking Water Directive,

the adequacy of existing collection networks and, in the case of anticipated development, the adequacy of the capacity of existing treatment plants,

the need to provide for demographic, social and economic development,

the need to address infrastructural deficits in small rural towns, and

the outcome of River Basin District Management Projects and Characterisation Reports completed in 2005 under the Water Framework Directive.

The priorities adopted by the local authority elected members in their needs assessments were taken into account in the preparation of the €5.8 billion Water Services Investment Programme 2007-2009 which I published in September 2007 and which is available in the Oireachtas Library. Details of individual needs assessments may be obtained from the relevant local authorities.

Local Government Reform.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

67 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he expects the Green Paper on local government reform to be published; if he expects the deadline given in the programme for Government of 14 December 2007 to be met; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28678/07]

Joan Burton

Question:

80 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the status of applications made by towns for town council status in view of the present examination of local government being carried out by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28680/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 67 and 80 together.

In accordance with the Programme for Government, my Department will be publishing a Green Paper on local government reform in the coming months. The Green Paper will examine a number of issues with the objective of making local government more transparent and responsive, and will set out options for reform in advance of a subsequent White Paper. Issues to be considered in the Green Paper will include the establishment of town councils in those towns that have shown significant population growth in recent years. Work on the Green Paper should be finalised by the end of the year, with a White Paper to follow next year.

The provisions for the establishment of new town councils are contained in Part 17 of the Local Government Act 2001. However, these provisions have not been commenced and in these circumstances formal applications for new town councils cannot arise. I will give consideration to those parts of the 2001 Act which have not yet been commenced as part of the reform process.

Water Quality.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

68 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps his Department is taking to address the findings of a recent Environmental Protection Agency report that some 40% of public drinking water supplies it monitored in 2006 were not meeting required standards to protect against cryptosporidium contamination; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28675/07]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 226 of 24 October, 2007.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Joe McHugh

Question:

69 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the major capital water and sewage schemes sanctioned for funding in County Donegal; the percentage of funding from Government being sanctioned for each individual scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28552/07]

Details, including current approved costs, of water services schemes in County Donegal that are approved for funding by my Department are set out in the Water Services Investment Programme 2007-2009 which is available in the Oireachtas Library. The level of Departmental funding in each case will be determined in consultation with the local authority in accordance with the final approved cost of the project and application of water services pricing (polluter pays) policy.

Local Authority Housing.

Liz McManus

Question:

70 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of persons on local authority housing lists at the latest date for which figures are available; the steps he will take to reduce waiting lists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28691/07]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

95 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of people on the housing list in each local authority area; the number of these who are Irish, EU and non-EU nationals for each local authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27444/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

237 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of applicants for local authority housing currently on waiting lists; the length of time they have been on such lists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28931/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 70, 95 and 237 together.

I refer to the reply to Question No. 512 of 13 November 2007 concerning published data relating to the most recent assessment of housing need carried out in 2005. The data include information relating to applicants' citizenship. The Government is well placed to deliver on the commitments in Towards 2016 to start or acquire some 27,000 new homes for those in need of social housing over the next three years. The total Exchequer provision for social housing in 2007 is almost €1.4 billion — an increase of 10% on the 2006 provision. The funding will support the commencement of a significant number of new social housing units, further progress under the regeneration programmes, as well as bringing to completion a large number of units under both the local authority and voluntary housing programmes.

Election Management System.

Jack Wall

Question:

71 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the cost to date of the development, roll out and promotion of the electronic voting and counting system; the cost to date of storage and maintenance of the system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28706/07]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

89 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the cost to date of the development, roll out and promotion of the electronic voting and counting system; the cost to date of storage and maintenance of the system; the action required, the agency by which it is required and the timescale to facilitate the re-introduction of the stored machines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28685/07]

Seán Barrett

Question:

92 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the 25 year storage contracts entered into by a number of returning officers to store electronic voting machines; if he made allowance for depreciation and obsolescence of the said machines; if it is intended to use these machines in future elections; if he has noted the decision by the authorities in the Netherlands to abandon electronic voting for the foreseeable future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25290/07]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

99 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the Cabinet committee on electronic voting last met; when a final decision will be made as to whether to proceed with electronic voting; if he has plans for disposal of the electronic voting machines [28705/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 71, 89, 92 and 99 together.

The total cost incurred to date in the development and roll-out of the electronic voting and counting system is €51.3 million (including €2.6 million in respect of awareness and education initiatives). In addition, information provided by returning officers to my Department indicates that the total annual storage costs incurred by them in respect of the electronic voting machines and ancillary equipment in 2007 is some €528,000, with figures for 2004, 2005 and 2006 amounting to some €658,000; €696,000; and €706,000 respectively. The projected lifespan of the electronic voting machines is twenty years and they do not require maintenance on an ongoing basis.

Historically, responsibility for the security and safe storage of manual voting equipment has been a matter for returning officers who are statutorily responsible for conducting the polls. Accordingly, similar responsibility was assigned to returning officers in regard to the storage of the electronic voting equipment. The Government decision to proceed with the movement of the electronic voting equipment to centralised premises was made taking into account a range of factors, including costs of current and centralised arrangements and the likely benefits to be realised. Costs incurred to date in respect of the centralised storage arrangements are some €303,000. Further costs will be incurred in relation to the completion of these arrangements, including buy-out costs.

The Cabinet Committee on Electronic Voting established by the previous Government last met on 13 February 2007. As I have already indicated, I am at present considering the next steps to be taken in relation to the electronic voting and counting project. In this regard, I will take into account the work of the Commission on Electronic Voting, relevant experiences and developments internationally, and the need to maintain public confidence in the electoral process, as well as the provisions in the Agreed Programme for Government relating to electoral reform generally.

Environmental Policy.

Simon Coveney

Question:

72 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the call of British Minister, Mr. Hillary Benn, to end the sale of 150 watt light bulbs by January 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23131/07]

I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 151 of 10 October and 1102 of 26 September 2007. The position is unchanged.

Question No. 73 answered with QuestionNo. 42.

Planning Issues.

Joe McHugh

Question:

74 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the proposed distances from private dwellings to wind turbines; and if there will be rural and urban consideration. [28102/07]

On 25 October 2007 my Department launched a public consultation process on proposed amendments to the exempted development provisions of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 to provide exemptions for certain renewable energy technologies for use in the industrial, commercial, public and agricultural sectors. The overall aim is to ensure that the planning system supports the use of renewable energy technologies, thereby supporting wider Government efforts to tackle climate change. This follows the introduction, in February 2007, of exemptions for micro-renewable technologies for use in the domestic context based on a similar consultation process in late 2006.

The current proposals include exemptions for combined heat and power facilities, wind turbines, heat pumps, solar panels and biomass heaters in each sector, subject to certain conditions relating to safety, visual and noise impacts. The conditions are necessary to help achieve the right balance between maximising the impact of the exemptions on uptake of renewable energy on the one hand, and on adequately addressing the potential impacts on visual amenity, noise, and safety considerations on the other.

As set out in the consultation document, it is proposed that the erection of a wind turbine of up to 20 metres in height within the curtilage of an industrial, commercial, public, or agricultural building, would be exempt from planning permission requirements, subject to a number of conditions. In relation specifically to distances from dwellings, one of the proposed conditions would require that such a turbine would be sited at a minimum of 100 metres from the nearest inhabited dwelling.

It is, of course, open to any person to make a submission to my Department on any aspect of the proposed exemptions, set out in the consultation document, before 18 January 2007. I look forward to as many people as possible involving themselves in this process.

Private Rented Accommodation.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

75 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in view of the legislative restrictions in which the Private Residential Tenancies Board operates, he is considering putting in place a licensing system for landlords which will ensure a minimum standard for the renting of residential properties. [28686/07]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 107 of 10 October 2007. The position is unchanged.

Building Regulations.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

76 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if county and city councils will be enabled and required to employ additional building control inspectors and enforcement staff to ensure that the Part L building regulations, including the draft regulations, are properly policed and adhered to; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28696/07]

Under the Building Control Act 1990, enforcement of the building regulations, including Part L, is the responsibility of the 37 local building control authorities. Each of the authorities has a designated Building Control Officer with appropriate staff to carry out building control functions. While staffing requirements in local authorities are a matter for the County/City Manager concerned, my Department is keeping the overall employment position in the local government sector under regular review, and maintains appropriate contact with the Department of Finance in relation to the current ceiling on local authority staff numbers.

Election Management System.

Joan Burton

Question:

77 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the Government is planning changes to the law governing financial donations to politicians or political parties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23690/07]

The Agreed Programme for Government contains a commitment to the establishment of an independent Electoral Commission which will take responsibility for a range of electoral matters including, inter alia, the functions currently exercised by the Standards in Public Office Commission relating to election spending; the Electoral Commission will also examine the issue of financing of the political system. I will be developing appropriate proposals in regard to the establishment of the Commission.

In addition, the Agreed Programme for Government commits to publishing a Green Paper on local government reform. One of the issues which the Green Paper will address is the question of expenditure limits at local elections. There are currently no such limits, although expenditure, as well as donations over a €635 threshold, must be disclosed. I have set in train a process of public consultation prior to the preparation of the Green Paper and established a related Consultative Committee. Work on the Green Paper should be completed by the end of this year with final proposals to be settled in a White Paper next year.

I am satisfied that the proposals for the Electoral Commission, together with the initiatives which will emerge from the Green Paper, provide an appropriate framework to progress our extensive and complex agenda for electoral and local government reform.

Proposed Legislation.

Joe Costello

Question:

78 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress of his consideration of legislation to regulate lobbyists as promised in the programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28683/07]

Arising from previous research completed by the Institute of Public Administration on behalf of the Department in 2004, my Department commissioned further research by a Trinity College / Dublin City University joint team to establish a clear profile of formal systems for regulating lobbyists in public life in certain jurisdictions, thereby facilitating an assessment of their relevance to public life in Ireland. This research report, entitled Examining and Assessing the Regulation of Lobbyists in Canada, the USA, the EU institutions, and Germany has been published electronically on my Department's website and copies of the report were placed in the Oireachtas Library in June 2007.

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to consider legislation to regulate lobbyists, and this will be taken forward having regard to the conclusions of the Trinity College / Dublin City University report and emerging developments at international level.

Departmental Correspondence.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

79 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will respond to correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24852/07]

This correspondence was received in my Department recently and a reply will issue as soon as possible.

Question No. 80 answered with QuestionNo. 67.
Question No. 81 answered with QuestionNo. 61.
Question No. 82 answered with QuestionNo. 57.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

83 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department has established a Disability Act sectoral plan advisory committee under his Department’s sectoral plan; the membership of this committee; if it has met since its establishment; if each of the local authorities has established procedures for the monitoring and review of the Disability Act 2005 and sectoral plans at local level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28714/07]

My Department has established a Disability Act Sectoral Plan Advisory Committee and its first meeting was held in June 2007. Membership of the Committee is comprised of representatives of organisations representing people with disabilities, local authorities, the Library Council and my Department. The second meeting of the Committee is scheduled to take place in December 2007.

I understand that local authorities have put in place procedures for monitoring and review of the commitments in both the Disability Act and the Sectoral Plan, including consultations with representatives of people with disabilities in their respective areas.

Waste Disposal.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

84 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the markets he has identified as being interested in purchasing the product of mechanical biological treatment in view of the need for such markets to be available if mechanical biological treatment is to be sustainable as a waste management option; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28704/07]

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to the introduction of mechanical biological treatment (MBT) facilities as one of a range of technologies to meet targets for diverting biodegradable waste from landfill required under the Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC). High quality mechanical and biological treatment of residual municipal waste generates a number of outputs and will contribute to further improvements in municipal waste recovery and recycling and a reduction in reliance on landfill. Current prices indicate that demand for plastics and metals, including those extracted during the MBT process, remains at a high level.

Solid recovered fuel (SRF), the output of the mechanical separation phase of MBT, can be used as a fuel in an incineration plant or co-incinerated in cement kiln or power generation plant. The European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) is currently developing a standard for SRF to standardise the classification of solid recovered fuels and to establish their acceptability in the fuel market across the European Union.

In Ireland, the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Research Technological Development and Innovation (ERTDI) Programme 2000-2006 issued a Call for proposals in the area of Waste and Resource Management in July 2005. Theme Two related to Developing Sustainable Organic Waste Management and Composting and a study now being carried out into the potential contribution of MBT to biodegradable municipal waste management in Ireland will inform future policy.

In addition, a Market Development Programme for Waste Resources 2007-2011 was published in April 2007. The purpose of the Programme is to promote stable demand for recovered materials, including materials recovered at MBT plants, and to support the achievement of economies of scale in the production of products made from recycled materials, as well as the need for more recycling infrastructure in Ireland to reduce reliance on overseas markets. The Programme also seeks to identify new applications and markets for recyclable material and secondary recycled products. Implementation arrangements for the Programme will be put in place shortly.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

85 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of social houses and affordable houses provided in 2006 and to date in 2007; the number expected to be provided by the end of 2007; if his attention has been drawn to the increase in the numbers applying for affordable housing in some areas; the steps he is taking to deal with the backlog. [28692/07]

The needs of some 14,686 households were met through the full range of social and affordable housing measures in 2006. The total number of social housing units completed by local authorities and the voluntary and co-operative housing sector in the first six months of 2007, at 3,167 units, is up 33% on the first six months of 2006 and represents the strongest level of activity on the programme this decade. In addition, some 450 new units were acquired under the Rental Accommodation Scheme.

Funding has been provided in 2007 to meet the commitments in Towards 2016 to start/acquire some 9,000 units of social housing. This will be through a combination of local authority, voluntary and co-operative housing units and new supply under the Rental Accommodation Scheme. Good momentum is being made in achieving these targets with 11,500 social housing units in progress at the end of June, 2007. While comprehensive information on the numbers applying for all affordable housing schemes is not collected by my Department, the indications are that demand for affordable housing remains strong in certain areas, particularly in the Greater Dublin Area and near other major urban centres.

In response, increased affordable housing activity is evident, supported in particular by the continued increase in momentum under Part V of the Planning and Development Acts 2000 to 2006. Following a 20% increase in overall affordable housing delivery in 2006, when over 3,200 units were provided, output in the first six months of 2007, at 1,192 homes, is up 5% on the corresponding period in 2006. In excess of 5,000 units were in progress at the end of June 2007 and a strong focus on delivery continues to be maintained in order to achieve further momentum towards the achievement of the 5,000 unit target for the year. This is being supported by the work of the Affordable Homes Partnership, which has a particular focus on initiatives to increase the supply of affordable housing in the Greater Dublin Area.

Traveller Accommodation.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

86 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the powers of local authorities to deal with illegal parking of Travellers on public or private property that results in safety risks to road users and Traveller families; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28429/07]

The principal powers of local authorities to deal with the unauthorised placing of temporary dwellings on public property, under legislation coming within the ambit of my Department, is contained in the Local Government (Sanitary Services) Act 1948, and Section 10 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992, as amended by Section 32 of the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act 1998 and Section 21 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2002. The relevant provisions of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 concerning offences relating to entering and occupying land without consent or the bringing of any object onto such land are a matter for my colleague the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Building Regulations.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

87 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when his promised examination of the issues related to pyrite in homes in north County Dublin will be concluded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24851/07]

I refer to the reply to Question Nos. 592 and 593 of 23 October 2007. The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) has initiated a public consultation process on a proposed amendment to SR 21 — Guidance on the use of I.S. EN 13242:2002 — Aggregates for unbound and hydraulically bound materials for use in civil engineering work and road construction. The proposed amendment incorporates a specification for hard-core for concrete floors. The consultation period will end on 26 November 2007.

It is my intention to adopt any recommendation of the NSAI in this regard, when available, in the relevant Technical Guidance Document to the Building Regulations.

Departmental Funding.

James Bannon

Question:

88 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the plans he has to counteract the plans to cut funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, the Irish Heritage Trust and the Heritage Council in budget 2008. [28492/07]

The financial provisions for the bodies in question and other provisions for my Department are, at this stage, Pre Budget Estimates in accordance with new procedural arrangements for public service estimates introduced by the Minister for Finance. Following the determination of expenditure levels for next year to be outlined in Budget 2008 by the Minister for Finance, the financial provisions for these areas in my Department's Expenditure Estimates will be finally determined and published in the Revised Estimates Volume for 2008.

Question No. 89 answered with QuestionNo. 71.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

90 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his real intentions regarding the provision of social housing units until 2010 in view of the fact that there have been 13,000 fewer social housing units constructed than committed to in the last national development programme; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Government has repeatedly committed itself to eradicating homelessness by 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28623/07]

Significant progress on the delivery of social housing was made under the National Development Plan 2000-2006, with almost 41,000 local authority and voluntary and co-operative houses completed. The Government is committed to building on that momentum and, as agreed in Towards 2016, some 27,000 new social homes will be commenced or acquired in the 2007-2009 period. The resources being made available under the National Development Plan 2007-2013 will allow for similar levels of activity post 2009 and it is estimated that some 60,000 new units of social housing will be provided over the full period of the Plan. The actual delivery will be determined as part of the mid-term review of the NDP in accordance with the commitment in Towards 2016 to review progress taking account of market developments and capacity.

The commitment in the partnership agreement to eliminate the long-term occupancy of emergency homeless accommodation by 2010, similarly, remains a key objective. Work is underway on the finalisation of a revised and updated Government Strategy on Homelessness, having regard to the Independent Review of Implementation of Homeless Strategies published in 2006. A key priority will involve refocusing on the provision of accommodation in the social, voluntary and private rented housing sectors, exploiting the significant potential of the Rental Accommodation Scheme in this area and ensuring the availability of appropriate outreach and resettlement support.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

91 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he will enact the provision in the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 to subject local authorities’ sewage treatment activities to an Environmental Protection Agency licensing regime in order that the agency will be better placed to regularly monitor and initiate prosecutions in relation to sewage treatment activities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28701/07]

Section 59 of the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 provides for the making of regulations by the Minister providing for the grant of an authorisation to a sanitary authority by the EPA in respect of the discharge of effluents generally, effluents in designated areas or classes of areas or specified plants, sewers or drainage pipes or effluents discharged to designated waters or classes of waters. The Waste Water Discharge (Authorisation) Regulations 2007 were made under the European Communities Act 1972 (as amended) rather than EPA legislation so as to make provision for offences under the Regulations to be prosecuted on an indictable basis, as this was considered necessary fully to implement the Dangerous Substances and Water Framework Directives.

These Regulations provide for the authorisation by the EPA of discharges from local authority waste water treatment works and collection systems that are released to all types of receiving waters. In considering applications for authorisations, the EPA will stipulate conditions to ensure compliance with standards for various substances and conformity with obligations under a number of EU environmental directives. The Agency will periodically review discharge authorisations granted by it. Failure by a local authority to comply with conditions attaching to an authorisation will be an offence.

Question No. 92 answered with QuestionNo. 71.

Planning Issues.

Willie Penrose

Question:

93 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he will take to ensure that Ireland complies with the environmental impact assessment directive 1, including the bringing in of legislation that will require environmental impact assessments for significant archaeological finds and the need to ensure proper environmental impact assessments for proposed incinerators; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28699/07]

Part 10 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 as amended implements the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, 85/337/EEC, as amended. The prescribed classes of development that require EIS are listed in Schedule 5 of the regulations. Incinerators are included in these classes of development. The regulations set out the information to be contained in the EIS and the procedures that planning authorities, or An Bord Pleanála, follow when a planning application accompanied by an EIS is submitted.

Schedule 6 of the regulations sets out the information to be contained in an EIS and specifies that it must include ‘a description of the aspects of the environment likely to be significantly affected by the proposed development, including in particular — material assets, including the architectural and archaeological heritage, and the cultural heritage'.

As indicated in the reply to Question No. 161 of 25 October 2007, there is a commitment in the Programme for Government to maximise and clarify the protection provided to our archaeological heritage. On foot of this commitment I have initiated a comprehensive review, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, of archaeological policy and practice in Ireland. It is my intention, following the review, to bring forward any necessary measures, including legislative proposals, to enhance the protection we afford to our archaeological heritage.

Local Government Elections.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

94 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he plans to review local authority electoral area boundaries in advance of the next local elections particularly having regard to the significant population changes experienced in many areas since the boundaries were last reviewed in 1998 and the need for certainty in regard to the areas, with elections now less than two years away; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28676/07]

John O'Mahony

Question:

229 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will carry out a review of the boundaries for the local election in 2009; if so, when this review will be carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28907/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 94 and 229 together.

Unlike for Dáil and European Parliament constituencies, there are no legal requirements in relation to the frequency of local electoral area reviews. The last review of local electoral areas was carried out in 1998; the next local elections are due to take place in 2009. I am at present considering the issues around a review of local electoral areas and I expect to be in a position to make a statement on the matter shortly.

Question No. 95 answered with QuestionNo. 70.

Environmental Policy.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

96 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the measures he will take in respect of the impact of climate change on coasts and landscapes here; the measures proposed by him in respect of climate adaptation measures to deal with the effects of climate change here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28700/07]

The National Climate Change Strategy 2007-2012, published in April of this year, recognises that Ireland will experience significant impacts on its natural and physical environments as a result of climate change and that many of these impacts are now unavoidable. The Strategy therefore commits to the development of a national adaptation strategy within two years to provide a framework for the integration of adaptation issues into decision-making at national and local level.

The Environmental Protection Agency is managing an ongoing programme of research that is contributing to an improved understanding of future climate change impacts on Ireland and resulting adaptation requirements.

Housing Grants.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

97 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the new revised housing adaptation scheme for adapting houses for people with disabilities is still inadequate as it does not provide 100% funding to owner-occupiers affecting low-income households greatly and that the 5% funding shortfall and the maximum grant of €30,000 will often not cover the cost of works which often produces problems due to the well documented links between poverty and disability. [28622/07]

The Housing Adaptation Grant Scheme for People with a Disability is intended to assist with works which provide additional or adapted accommodation in private houses. The scheme is not designed to cover the full cost of works for all applicants. However, local authorities may provide reconstruction loans to qualified applicants who have difficulty in obtaining finance to meet the balance of the cost.

Significant improvements have been made to the terms and conditions of the adaptation grant scheme for people with a disability in recent years. In 2001, the percentage of works covered by the grant was increased from two-thirds to 90%. Under the revised scheme the Housing Adaptation Grant has been further improved and may now cover up to 95% of the approved cost of works. The maximum grant available under the new scheme has been increased from €20,320 to €30,000. Furthermore the grant level will increase annually in line with the building cost index, thus protecting its value into the future.

Fire Services.

Martin Ferris

Question:

98 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will make a statement on the need for all local fire services to be provided with standardised training. [28439/07]

The training of fire service personnel is the statutory duty of individual fire authorities. Fire authorities provide initial recruit training, as well as training in the use of breathing apparatus to an agreed national syllabus, to all entrants to the fire service. Additionally, fire authorities provide ongoing training, including training in response to specialist incident types, such as road traffic accidents, hazardous materials, rescue from heights, water rescue, fires involving ships, as appropriate to the hazards in their functional areas.

The Fire Services Council, established in 1983 under the Fire Services Act 1981, provides a central training programme for fire officers which complements and supplements the local training programmes of the fire authorities. The training delivered by the Council is based on national syllabi. As part of the Fire Services Change Programme fire service training will be aligned with the National Framework of Qualifications of Ireland as part of the Further Education Training Awards Council accreditation system. I am satisfied that the fire service, both retained and full-time, is a highly trained and professional service.

Question No. 99 answered with QuestionNo. 71.

Financial Services Regulation.

Mary Upton

Question:

100 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the reforms he has proposed to curb the actions of registered money lenders who often charge punitive interest rates; when such reforms will be introduced or published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28896/07]

Licensed moneylenders are covered by a range of provisions under the Consumer Credit Act, 1995 including the annual licensing process administered by the Financial Regulator. In this regard, the draft Directive on credit agreements for consumers, which is now at second reading in the European Parliament, will, if adopted, give rise to the need to review the Consumer Credit Act.

The Financial Regulator recently published a review of the licensed moneylending industry including whether it is appropriate, necessary and reasonable to change current regulatory policies. The report concluded that the introduction of an interest rate ceiling for moneylenders may not achieve the objectives of lowering the cost of credit for consumers.

The Deputy may wish to know that licensed moneylenders are subject to the Financial Regulator's Interim Code of Practice, which sets out a number of general principles that must be complied with such as acting fairly, with due skill and care, with appropriate resources and making adequate disclosure of all relevant information. The Financial Regulator has committed under its Strategic Plan for 2008 to undertake a review of the Interim Code of Practice for Moneylenders. This review has commenced and the target date for completion is December 2008.

In relation to legislation, I have recently established the Advisory Forum on Financial Legislation, representative of key stakeholder interests to advise and assist in the consolidation and modernisation of financial services legislation. It is intended that the Forum, as part of its work, will consider the basis for licensing moneylenders to facilitate lower costs.

The Financial Regulator provides information about the different forms of credit available to consumers, including credit cards, overdrafts, hire purchase, personal loans and money lending. The Financial Regulator also recommends a number of steps that borrowers should take including shopping around for the cheapest loan, reading all loan agreements, reviewing their debts from time to time and not taking on more debt than they can afford. Borrowers should immediately get in touch with the lender if they have any difficulty in meeting repayments, or contact their local MABS centre.

I strongly endorse the Financial Regulator's advice. In particular, I would urge all consumers to shop around for credit, to examine the scope to borrow from community based lenders such as credit unions, and to avail of the moredetailed information which is available through the Financial Regulator's publications, help-line (Lo call 1890 77 77 77) and website: http://www.itsyourmoney.ie.

Tax Code.

Enda Kenny

Question:

101 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer of tax relief for the development of private child care facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28903/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that information on the scheme of tax relief for the development of private childcare facilities was for the first time specified and separately included in personal income tax returns for the tax year 2004, which were filed in October, 2005. Based on the information that has been received and collated for the 2004 tax year, a total of €9.2 million was included in 132 claims for capital allowances for the construction of buildings used for certain childcare purposes. This figure would correspond to a maximum Exchequer cost in the order of €3.9 million for these returns in terms of income tax foregone.

I should point out, however, that Revenue were concerned at preliminary indications that in some instances the new, separately categorised data on exempt income and property incentives may not have been correctly entered on the 2004 Income Tax returns. Revenue has engaged with the tax practitioner bodies in order to ensure that this situation is rectified for future years. Corresponding data available for the 2005 tax year indicates that a total of €12.8 million was included in 232 claims for capital allowances for the construction of buildings used for certain childcare purposes. This figure would correspond to a maximum Exchequer cost of the order of €5.4 million for these returns in terms of income tax forgone. Data for the 2006 tax year is not yet available as the income tax returns for that year were not due for filing until October, 2007.

Flood Relief.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

102 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has received from Kildare County Council or otherwise, requests for funding to alleviate flooding or flooding prevention in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28937/07]

The Office of Public Works is currently undertaking flood relief works in Leixlip in partnership with Kildare County Council. OPW currently has no other requests for funding to alleviate flooding in Kildare.

Pension Provisions.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

103 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the tax reduction in respect of three full-time single employees in their thirties, with the same PRSI class, the same health levy, the same basic tax credits making the same contribution to their PRSA of €5,000 a year, where none makes other pension contribution or receives further pension benefit, but where one earns €34,000, one €54,000, and one €154,000; the maximum possible contribution to their pension that each qualifies for if they were to maximise their pension contribution; and the maximum possible tax reduction that each qualifies for if they were to maximise their pension contributions. [28780/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the query raised by the Deputy regarding Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs) gives rise to two separate and distinct issues: (a) the maximum possible pension contribution that can be made; and (b) the maximum tax relief attributable to the various scenarios outlined by the Deputy. As regards (a), this is a matter for the individuals and the relevant pension providers. As regards (b), I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the maximum tax relief for pension contributions (i.e. contributions to occupational pensions schemes, additional voluntary contributions, PRSAs, etc.) cannot, in the aggregate, exceed the following percentages of an individual's net relevant earnings.

The tax relief due in the scenarios outlined by the Deputy is set out. There may also be savings on PRSI and the Health Contribution Levy.

Age

Percentage

%

under 30

15

30 to 39

20

40 to 49

25

50 to 54

30

55 to 59

35

60 and over

40

The tax relief due in the scenarios outlined by the Deputy is set out in the next table. There may also be savings on PRSI and the Health Contribution Levy.

No Pension Contribution

Person A

Person B

Person C

Income

34,000

54,000

154,000

Pension Contribution

Nil

Nil

Nil

Taxable Income

34,000

54,000

154,000

Tax Payable

3,280

11,480

52,480

Pension Contribution of €5,000

Person A

Person B

Person C

Income

34,000

54,000

154,000

Pension Contribution

5,000

5,000

5,000

Taxable Income

29,000

49,000

149,000

Tax Payable

2,280

9,430

50,430

Tax savings

1,000 (i.e. €5,000 @ 20%)

2,050( i.e. €5,000 @ 41%)

2,050 (i.e. €5,000 @ 41%)

Maximum Pension Contribution Qualifying for Tax Relief

Person A

Person B

Person C

Income

34,000

54,000

154,000

Maximum pension contribution qualifying for tax relief (20% of earnings) – see Note

6,800

10,800

30,800

Taxable Income

27,200

43,200

123,200

Tax Payable

1,920

7,052

39,852

Tax savings

1,360 (i.e. €6,800 @ 20%)

4,428 (i.e. €10,800 @ 41%)

12,628 (i.e. €30,800 @ 41%)

Note: Assuming the relevant pension plan accommodates such contributions.

Jack Wall

Question:

104 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if changes have been made to the child spouse section of the Civil Service pension scheme in relation to a single person who has made major financial contributions to the pension without financial gain to themselves, in view of the fact that they did not initially sign a contract or agreement for such deductions; his plans to reassess this aspect of the pension if no changes have taken place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28805/07]

As Minister for Finance I have primary responsibility for the Civil Service Pension Schemes. The Deputy is aware that under current arrangements, appointment to a pensionable post in the Civil Service is conditional on (i) membership of the Main Superannuation Scheme which provides for the member's own pension benefits and (ii) membership of an associated Spouses' and Children's Scheme which covers pensions for spouses and children. Compulsory membership of the Spouses' and Children's scheme is on foot of negotiated agreements between the Civil Service unions and management.

The spouses' and children's schemes effectively provide insurance for contingency benefits. The schemes are designed on a group insurance basis and the member contribution rate is structured accordingly. The total cost of the schemes is borne on a 50/50 basis by the employer and employees.

The original Spouses' and Children's Scheme, introduced in 1969, did provide that members who remained unmarried throughout their service will be refunded their relevant contributions in full. However, a revised Scheme was introduced for all established officers on 1 September 1984 and for unestablished officers on 1 June 1986. The revised terms improved the original schemes by extending cover to "whole of life" rather than "whole of employment" situations and covering spouses and children of post retirement marriages. At the same time the circumstances in which contributions are refunded were greatly restricted. Generally, refunds are confined, in the revised schemes, to situations where service is less than two years (no entitlement or possible entitlement), or where more than 40 years (maximum possible benefit) contributions have been made.

The Commission on Public Service Pensions considered the question of compulsory membership for single people and the non-refundable nature of the contributions paid by them and decided not to recommend any change in the existing scheme rules. No consideration is being given, at present, to changing this approach to the non-refunding of contributions.

Tax Code.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

105 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has received submissions from the IFA or other representative groups in the matter of CGT or CAT; if he has or will examine such proposals in the context of budget 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28819/07]

I have received pre-Budget submissions from many representative groups on the matter of capital gains tax and capital acquisitions tax. In relation to the IFA submission, this was presented to me at a meeting on 11 October 2007 and its recommendations were discussed with IFA representatives. As the Deputy will be aware, it is not customary for the Minister of Finance to comment on possible tax changes in advance of the Budget.

Bobby Aylward

Question:

106 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will meet with members of the private transport sector to discuss alternative measures which will alleviate the serious impact the loss of the fuel excise rebate will have on their industry in view of the fact that they were not informed of this situation until very recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28833/07]

Phil Hogan

Question:

107 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will review the recommendation that has been made regarding the removal of the refund of excise duty on fuel used in passenger transport services in view of the fact that private bus operators were not made aware of this imminent decision until recently and the consequences that the matter will have for 2008 contracts with schools and tours; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28866/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 106 and 107 together.

The Deputies may recall that I have answered Parliamentary Questions on this issue over the past year, including on 4 July 2007. The 2003 EU Energy Tax Directive incorporated special derogations which allowed specific excise duty reliefs to be applied in a number of Member States. In the Irish context, these derogations allowed for reduced rates to apply to fuel used for public transport services which includes school transport services.

While these derogations expired on 31 December 2006, Ireland, along with other Member States, sought retention of its derogations beyond that date. However the European Commission, who are the deciding authority, have to date refused all such requests. The Commission maintain that, in keeping with the EU Energy Tax Directive, Member States must apply at least the EU minimum rates of excise on fuels in such circumstances and that any further favourable excise treatment is not allowable. In this regard the Commission's decision was published to its website in March 2007. At the Commission's behest my officials have indicated that Ireland will avail of the forthcoming Finance Bill to make the necessary legislative changes to conform with the Directive.

In the circumstances, the relevant line Departments that have primary responsibility in this regard are, in conjunction with my Department, exploring alternative non-tax support mechanisms that could be put in place where appropriate to maintain the assistance currently being provided, subject of course to compatibility with EU State Aid requirements. In the interim the reduced rates applicable to fuel used will be maintained.

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

108 Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the supports available for equestrian centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28872/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the Business Expansion and Seed Capital schemes provide tax relief to investors in respect of investments in companies operating certain approved tourism facilities, including equestrian centres. Following an extensive review of the schemes in 2006, Finance Act 2007 extended the schemes to 31 December 2013 and increased the aggregate amount that a company can raise under the schemes from €1million to €2 million. The individual investment limits were increased from €31,750 to €150,000 in the case of the Business Expansion Scheme and €100,000 in the case of the Seed Capital Scheme. As the schemes are State aids, these changes required that an application be made to the European Commission for approval. This approval was received in August 2007 and a Commencement Order giving effect to the changes was signed in September 2007.

Apart from the schemes mentioned, there are no other specific tax supports or incentives available for the development of equestrian centres. However, the general position under tax law is that expenses incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of a trade are deductible in arriving at taxable profits. Relief is also available for capital expenditure on plant and machinery used for the purposes of a trade. Tax relief, in the form of capital allowances, may still be available under one of the general property-based incentive schemes, depending on where the premises is located and the circumstances of the case.

Under the Urban Renewal, Town Renewal and Rural Renewal schemes, tax relief is available for the construction of certain commercial premises which could include equestrian centres. However, at this stage, as these schemes are now being phased out, relief would only apply in the case of projects already established or those which met the various transitional arrangements put in place as part of the phasing out process. In general, commercial premises must be in use either by an owner-occupier for the purposes of a trade or profession or by a lessee who is renting the premises on commercial terms.

In order to qualify for tax relief under the Urban and Town Renewal schemes the relevant local authority must certify that the particular development is consistent with the aims, objectives and criteria of the particular scheme. This does not apply to the Rural Renewal scheme. This scheme applies to the entire counties of Leitrim and Longford and to certain areas of Roscommon, Sligo and Cavan. The Finance Act 2006 provided for the ending of these schemes on 31 July 2008. However, as already indicated, this extended deadline applies only to pipeline projects where certain transitional conditions were met.

Information on the various property-based incentive schemes is available on the Revenue website at www.revenue.ie in the ‘Leaflets and Guides’ section and in the publication ‘Tax Briefing’ Issues 63, 64 and 65, also available on the Revenue website, contain articles on the transitional arrangements for the phasing out of the various property incentive schemes.

Departmental Investigations.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

109 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of investigations that have been concluded or are currently under way in the Revenue Commissioners into individual security breaches or alleged breaches and or inappropriate accessing of information by staff; the basis on which each of these cases was commenced; the number of clients affected by each case; if, in relation to all investigations, they are current or completed; the sanctions that have been taken against staff; the sanction the Data Protection Commissioner has taken against the Revenue Commissioners; the number and amount of fines paid in each case; the number of civil cases that are being or have been taken against the Revenue Commissioners; and the outcome of any so far concluded. [28920/07]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that since 1 January 2000 no investigations have been concluded or are currently underway into individual security breaches or alleged breaches by staff. Since the same date there have been seven investigations concluded and one investigation is currently underway into staff conduct involving the inappropriate accessing of information. The inappropriate accessing of information constituted access commonly referred to as "browsing" and in respect of cases concluded the Commissioners have no evidence that clients were affected.

The staff investigations were commenced under the Civil Service Disciplinary Code. Sanctions taken against staff were as provided under the Civil Service Disciplinary Code and ranged from the issuing of warning letters to reducing pay and debarment from applying for promotion and entering promotion competitions. The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner and the Office of the Revenue Commissioners are in ongoing contact and co-operate fully on any data protection issues that arise. To date, sanctions have not been taken by the Data Protection Commissioner against the Revenue Commissioners and no fines have been levied.

We have identified one civil case, in a context where debt collection activity was being pursued on behalf of Revenue, where High Court proceedings were taken against the Revenue Commissioners in 2005 by an individual taxpayer for an alleged breach of Data Protection and the European Convention on Human Rights. The proceedings against Revenue are being defended but have been dormant since our Defence was served on the taxpayer in April 2006.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

110 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if the Revenue Commissioners are investigating the circumstances and amount of wage payments made to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 in relation to their records on their files; when this investigation will be concluded and the employee’s records corrected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29010/07]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they have written to the taxpayer to ascertain details of the actual wages received by him for each year that he was employed by the company in question. On receipt of this information the Revenue Commissioners will investigate the matter and will advise the taxpayer of the outcome without delay.

Health Service Staff.

James Reilly

Question:

111 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if, regarding the current controversy on cancer services at Portlaoise Hospital, the radiologist and pathologist concerned were on the register of medical specialists; if they were did they get onto the register by completing higher specialist training in the relevant field here or were they approved on recognition of their training being equivalent; if so the mechanisms in place to ensure that these doctors placed on the specialist register are actually capable of working as a competent specialist; the assessment they undergo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28766/07]

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 questions raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy in relation to the matters raised.

James Reilly

Question:

112 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the training grant for NCHDS agreed between HSEA and IMO, in particular the amount of the grant with a breakdown on what the grant is spent on and if it is being spent on the purpose which it was agreed for, namely, training courses, seminars, lectures and textbooks for junior doctors; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28767/07]

James Reilly

Question:

116 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if, regarding junior doctors’ travel expenses for specialist training here, she will report on the revolving annual fund of 1 million punts annually negotiated and agreed seven years ago, taking into account that medical line managers tell junior doctors there is no line item in their hospital budgets for this item and cannot pay out of the fund, which at today’s figures would amount to a cumulative €10 million; the action taken in relation to this money; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28777/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 112 and 116 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 is responsible for the administration of training grants and travel expenses for specialist training for NCHDs and 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 these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Departmental Expenditure.

Jack Wall

Question:

113 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the funding supplied by her Department to the assist programme for each of the past three years; her plans to further advance this programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28769/07]

Jack Wall

Question:

115 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the funding made available to the assist programme by the Health Service Executive in the Kildare/west Wicklow areas for each of the past three years; if there has been a cut back in the services provided by the HSE in relation to this programme in 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28776/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 113 and 115 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.

Health Services.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

114 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if home help will be allowed for a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [28772/07]

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. 115 answered with QuestionNo. 113.
Question No. 116 answered with QuestionNo. 112.

Hospital Services.

James Reilly

Question:

117 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the patients in Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown in need of the services of a plastic surgeon are not referred to alternative plastic surgeons in other hospitals when the incumbent half time plastic surgeon is on leave; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28778/07]

James Reilly

Question:

119 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children his views on the practice of admitting patients to Connolly Hospital to a bed in order that they can be transferred to another bed via ambulance to St. James’s Hospital for plastic surgery, when the Connolly Hospital plastic surgeon is on leave; her views on whether this practice is a waste of taxpayers' resources; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28784/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 117 and 119 together.

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

Data Protection.

Pat Breen

Question:

118 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the Health Service Executive in the western region requests a consent form from persons when they have authorised their Houses of the Oireachtas Members to make inquiries on their behalf, when this system does not apply to all other health board jurisdictions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28779/07]

My Department's enquiries into this matter have ascertained that the HSE has issued a standard operating procedure to all staff on foot of the Data Commissioner's recently published "Guidance Note For Data Controllers On The Release of Personal Data to Public Representatives".

Question No. 119 answered with QuestionNo. 117.

Medical Cards.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

120 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that people over 65 who must have a compulsory medical examination in order to renew their driving licence do not have to pay for that examination even when they have a medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28794/07]

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 Transport.

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 paid 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.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Michael McGrath

Question:

121 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application under the nursing home charges repayment scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [28800/07]

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.

Damien English

Question:

122 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount spent by the Health Service Executive for each of entertainment, hospitality and staff training for the past 12 months; and the breakdown under these headings for each administrative area of the Heath Service Executive for the past 12 months in tabular, readable form. [28801/07]

The management and delivery of health and personal social services, including related budgetary issues, are the responsibility of 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.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

123 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children if all permanent consultants dealing with cancer patients are listed on the special medical register; if it is deemed necessary that such permanent consultants be so registered; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28813/07]

Under the Medical Practitioners Act 1978, the Medical Council is the statutory body charged with responsibility for the registration of all medical practitioners and the regulation of their activities. All doctors practising medicine in Ireland should be registered with the Medical Council. The Council maintains two registers, the General Register of Medical Practitioners and the Register of Medical Specialists. The Register of Medical Specialists is a voluntary register. Only doctors holding full registration with the Medical Council can apply for inclusion therein.

The Medical Practitioners Act 2007 was signed into law earlier this year and provides for a new system of registration. There will be a new register with 4 divisions including a Specialist Division. Registration in the Specialist Division will be mandatory for those with specialist qualifications. Preparations for the implementation of the provisions of the Act are underway.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Damien English

Question:

124 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a child (details supplied) in County Meath who had been receiving early intervention services until their sixth birthday, has been refused services on application to transfer to the disability services; if she will re-examine this application with a view to awarding the vital services needed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28817/07]

The Disability Act 2005 is a central element of the National Disability Strategy. Part 2 of the Act commenced for children with a disability, including those with autism, aged under five years with effect from 1st June 2007 and provides for an independent assessment of need for such persons and for a formal statement of the services that will be provided to them arising from the assessment. Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005 will be commenced in respect of children aged 5-18 in tandem with the implementation of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004.

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

Health Service Staff.

James Reilly

Question:

125 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Hanly report is Government policy; if so, the way it will be possible to reduce junior doctors to 2000 when it is clear that almost 1000 junior doctors are thought to be eligible for contracts of indefinite duration; the way, in view of the fact that plans are well advanced to increase graduates from medical schools to over 700 per year, the system will accommodate training places for these doctors as it appears there will be very few places available for them; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28818/07]

Government policy on medical staffing and medical education and training is informed by a number of reports including the Report of the National Task Force on Medical Staffing (Hanly), the Report of the Undergraduate Medical Education and Training Group (Fottrell), and the Report of the Postgraduate Medical Education and Training Group (Buttimer).

The Medical Practitioners Act 2007 provides the statutory basis for many of the reforms proposed in the Buttimer Report including phasing out NCHD posts of limited training value. Provision has been made for the number of medical school places for EU students to be increased from 305 to 725. This will be made up of a new graduate entry stream, which will provide an additional 240 EU medical school places per annum on the basis of 60 per year over a 4 year period, and increasing the number of EU undergraduate places to 485 on the basis of substitution of 180 non-EU places. An additional 70 EU undergraduate places were provided in 2006 and a further 40 EU undergraduate places were provided in 2007, bringing the number of EU undergraduate places to 415. The first 60 graduate entry places were also provided in 2007.

Government has also approved, provision for an expansion of intern posts from 2011. There are currently sufficient numbers of intern posts in the health service to place any Irish/EU students graduating in the next 3 years. The Protection of Employees (Fixed Term Work) Act 2003 was introduced to ensure that a fixed-term employee is not treated in a less favourable manner than a comparable permanent employee. My Department, the Health Service Executive, the medical organisations and other major stakeholders are participating in a forum to agree guidelines on the drafting of contracts of employment which are compatible with the requirements of the legislation. These guidelines are currently being finalised.

Health Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

126 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will extend the number of home care packages available to County Limerick. [28830/07]

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.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

127 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children when the complaint from a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15 will be answered in view of the fact that the Health Service Executive commitment to respond in 30 days has not been honoured; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28837/07]

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

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Bobby Aylward

Question:

128 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ask the Health Service Executive to urgently examine the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny who is awaiting admission to St. James’s Hospital in Dublin for surgery and other medical procedures for some time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28842/07]

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.

Ambulance Service.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

129 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Health and Children the outcome of the review of ambulance personnel and recruitment embargoes that was to take place at end of October 2007. [28849/07]

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. The HSE recognises that there are some critical or exceptional circumstances where appointment of staff may be necessary in frontline 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.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

130 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied that the front line ambulance service will be properly fulfilled under the present staffing arrangements. [28850/07]

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.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

131 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of relief and permanent personnel in the ambulance service. [28851/07]

Andrew Doyle

Question:

132 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount paid in overtime in the ambulance service. [28852/07]

Andrew Doyle

Question:

133 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Health and Children if undue overtime requirements are demanded of an already over-stressed ambulance service. [28853/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 131 to 133, inclusive, together.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. 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.

Hospital Services.

Dr Martin Mansergh

Question:

134 Deputy Martin Mansergh asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether there are already many centres of excellence operating in public hospitals; and if there has been research carried out into outcomes in this country that would have a bearing on decisions on where or how specific hospital faculties within a region or the country should be brought together. [28868/07]

There is an abundance of strong, international evidence to show that patients with cancer have the best chance of survival if they are treated by clinicians who treat a large number of patients with a similar condition per year. To secure these benefits requires a consolidation of cancer treatment services to a smaller number of centres and a smaller number of clinicians.

A clear case for the re-organisation of the delivery of cancer services in Ireland was articulated in "A Strategy for Cancer Control in Ireland, which was prepared by the National Cancer Forum. The Strategy recommended a move towards eight cancer centres nationally to ensure that cancer patients have access to consistently high quality care and the best chance of survival. As part of the development of the Strategy, the Forum reviewed patterns of surgical activity in Ireland, and concluded that "the current arrangements for the delivery of cancer services are not generally in accordance with best practice and cannot be recommended to deliver best-quality cancer care".

The recent 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. Professor Keane, interim Director of the National Cancer Control Programme, is due to take up his post on 19 November. 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. Professor Keane will be engaging in detailed planning to facilitate the orderly phased transfer of services between locations. 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.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

135 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that children diagnosed with insulin dependent diabetes who are denied comprehensive treatment at Cork University Hospital due to the recruitment embargo must await the outcome of the 2008 Estimates process to establish if improvement in service is planned; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28878/07]

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

Health Services.

Tony Gregory

Question:

136 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the eastern community works programme in Thomas Street, Dublin 8 is being discontinued by the Health Service Executive; the provision being made for the staff involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28880/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive (HSE) under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. The HSE's responsibility includes the operation of the Housing Aid Scheme for the Elderly, on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular 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.

Medical Cards.

Tony Gregory

Question:

137 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to her reply to Parliamentary Question No. 253 of 16 October 2007, if a public hospital may charge a fee to an elderly person on a medical card for a bone scan on the basis that the scanning equipment was privately funded through a hospital foundation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28882/07]

A person with full eligibility who opts to be treated as a public patient in a public hospital should not be charged. My Department has instructed the HSE to ensure that such patients are not so charged.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Finian McGrath

Question:

138 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if there has been a review of mammography services in Cork University Hospital; if so, when the parameters of the review and findings of the review will be available to the public; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28901/07]

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) is currently in the process of completing an investigation, in accordance with Section 9 (1) of the Health Act 2007, which includes examination of the pathology services provided by the HSE at Cork University Hospital as part of symptomatic breast disease services provided to a patient by the HSE. The full terms of reference for this investigation have already been made available to the public and are on the HIQA website (www.hiqa.ie). The review is expected to be completed in the near future and the result of the investigation to be made public as soon as possible.

Finian McGrath

Question:

139 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if there has been a review of mammography services or any aspect of cancer services in St. Vincent’s Hospital in the past three years; if so, the results of this audit or if the review is ongoing when the results will be available to the public. [28902/07]

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 questions raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy in relation to the matters raised.

Child Care Services.

Enda Kenny

Question:

140 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of capital funding which has been made available to developers or individuals to develop private child care facilities in each of the years 2000 and 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28904/07]

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 (OMC). Under the EOCP, capital grants up to €50,790 were made available to private childcare providers, up to a maximum of 65% of the total cost. During 2000, capital funding of €1,579,792 was approved for private childcare providers under the Programme. Under the NCIP the upper limit on grant aid was increased to €100,000, up to a maximum of 75% of the total cost. During 2007, to end October, funding of €10,637,745 has been approved for private childcare providers under the new capital Programme.

Hospital Services.

Martin Ferris

Question:

141 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will receive the results of a grid x-ray; and when they can expect to be given a date for a follow up operation. [28911/07]

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.

Finian McGrath

Question:

142 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of new appointments in front-line services in the Dublin north east regions of the Health Service Executive over recent weeks particularly in relation to Beaumont Hospital, care for the elderly and services to people with a disability; and the position regarding the recent allegations of cuts in HSE services in HSE north east area. [28943/07]

Nearly 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 number of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals employed in the public health services. The Government has also invested heavily in the education and training of such personnel in order to secure a good supply of graduates to provide for the healthcare needs of the population into the future.

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

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

David Stanton

Question:

143 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to difficulties being encountered by persons with intellectual disabilities and their families who are claiming repayment under the patient repayment scheme; the reasons such payments are being delayed in respect of persons with an intellectual disability; if she will issue strict instructions as to the way such payments will be made; when such payments will be made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28944/07]

The health repayment scheme was launched in August 2006 and is administered by the Health Service Executive (HSE) in conjunction with the appointed Scheme Administrator KPMG/McCann Fitzgerald. The HSE has indicated that the scheme is progressing as speedily as possible and every effort is being made to complete payments. The time taken to process each application varies depending on the complexity of the application and the availability of accurate records to calculate repayment. As of 2 November 2007 over 31,000 claim forms have been received, 4,663 payments totalling over €92m have issued and 6,733 offers totalling over €129m have been made.

The Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006 provides a clear legal framework to repay recoverable health charges for publicly funded long term residential care. The scheme covers only those persons with full eligibility who were charged under the Health (Charges for In-Patient Services) Regulations 1976 or the Institutional Assistance Regulations 1954 (as amended). Applications from or in respect of persons with an intellectual disability must be assessed within this legal framework I have outlined.

Registration of Marriages.

Áine Brady

Question:

144 Deputy Áine Brady asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason it was deemed necessary to change the rules in relation to the new marriage laws; the reason these major changes were not highlighted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28945/07]

The provisions of Part 6 of the Civil Registration Act 2004 were commenced on 5 November 2007 and govern the procedures for notification, solemnisation and registration of marriages within the State. The previous legislation dated back to Victorian statutes from 1844 and 1863 and were outmoded and inadequate to a modern society.

To address the issues involved, in 1999, an Inter-Departmental Committee was established by Government to review current marriage procedures and to bring forward a universally applicable framework of clear and simple procedures to underpin the solemnity of the marriage contract. The Committee met between 1999 and 2005 and, following extensive public consultation, produced several position papers. The Committee's findings were incorporated into the provisions of Part 6 of the Act. The Act, including the marriage provisions was debated at length in both Houses of the Oireachtas during 2003 and 2004.

The main changes to the rules and procedures for marriage registration are:—

The notification of intention to marry (three months' notice) are to be given in person to a Registrar, rather than by post; postal notifications are permitted only in very restricted circumstances which are prescribed by Statutory Instrument.

All couples giving notification after 5 November 2007 must sign declarations of no impediment and obtain a Marriage Registration Form (MRF) from a Registrar in advance of the ceremony; this is issued after they have completed the necessary notification procedures and the Registrar is satisfied they are free to marry.

A Register of Solemnisers of Marriage has been established and is maintained by the General Register Office. All those solemnising a civil or religious marriage must be on this Register.

It will be possible for civil marriages to be held at venues other than Registry Offices, provided the venue has been inspected and approved by the HSE in advance of the marriage ceremony and subject to a Registrar being available to solemnise a marriage at that venue on the date in question.

The residency requirements for civil marriages are removed.

The procedures for notification, solemnisation and registration of marriage are the same for all marriages, be they civil or religious.

Information notices, detailing the major changes and outlining the revised procedures were published in Sunday newspapers on 4 November 2007 and in the major daily newspapers on Monday, 5 November. The commencement of the new legislation was given extensive coverage in national and local broadcast and print media. In addition, all couples affected by the new rules were contacted by the local registrar.

All registered solemnisers, including religious solemnisers, have been issued with printed guidelines on the legislation and will inform any couple intending to marry of the requirements and procedures when approached to conduct the ceremony. Full details of these procedures are available also from all civil registration offices, from the General Register Office and from the websites www.groireland.ie and hse.ie. An information booklet for couples intending to marry has also been published.

The Registrar General has informed me that, from the increased volume of correspondence from the public with his office and registration offices throughout the country, he is satisfied that these matters have been brought to the attention of the public adequately.

Motor Insurance.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

145 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Transport if he will make a statement on the cost of motor insurance in this State particularly for young drivers; and the measures he will introduce to reduce these insurance costs. [28793/07]

The cost of Motor Insurance, generally, has declined by 11% in the last twelve months and has declined by 39% since April 2003. In the case of young drivers it has been represented that the cost of this insurance is still too high. As part of the Social Partnership Agreement 2006 – 2015, Towards 2016, a review of the cost of insurance for young people in the 17 to 24 years grouping was commissioned in September 2007 and I expect the report shortly.

National Development Plan.

Dan Neville

Question:

146 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Transport if the by-pass of Adare village is included in the Government’s National Development Plan 2007 to 2013 as announced in January 2007. [28806/07]

The N21 Adare Bypass is included in Transport 21, the implementation of which is contained in the National Development Plan 2007-2013. As Minister for Transport I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme element of Transport 21. As the Deputy is aware, the implementation of individual national road projects, including the N21 Adare Bypass, is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Act, 1993 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

Road Network.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

147 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Transport if, in view of the fact that the outer orbital route from north Dublin/south Meath to the M7 is not part of Transport 21, additional funding will be put in place to advance the project; and if this orbital route be extended from the M7 to the south as far as the N11 in north Wexford/south Wicklow. [28807/07]

As Minister for Transport I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme element of Transport 21.The implementation of individual national road projects is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Act, 1993 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. Both Transport 21 and the National Development Plan committed the NRA to carrying out a feasibility study on the Leinster Orbital Route. Neither Transport 21 nor the National Development Plan provide any funding for this proposed route.

Earlier this year, the NRA completed an updated feasibility study which built on an earlier 2001 study, looking in particular at the costs and benefits of such a route. The study is currently under detailed consideration within my Department. The route envisioned by the study does not extend to the N11.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

148 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Transport his plans to provide specific funding for new urban roads in fast developing areas to local authorities. [28808/07]

The provision and improvement of non-national roads in its area is a matter for each individual road authority to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State grants. Road grants for non-national roads are allocated annually under a number of grant categories. These include grants for specific roads schemes and roads which support the aims of the National Spatial Strategy. These schemes make a particular contribution to provision and improvement of roads in areas experiencing population increases.

The level of grants allocated to individual authorities is determined each year having regard to a number of factors including the total funds available in a particular year, eligibility criteria for the different grant schemes, road pavement conditions, length of road network, the need to prioritise projects and competing demands from other local authorities. In determining the annual non-national road grant allocations, the overall objective is to resource each local authority appropriately in relation to their ongoing and special needs. Road grants for 2008 will be announced early in the new year.

Public Transport.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

149 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Transport the reason the tax saver commuter ticket scheme does not apply to electric bicycles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28810/07]

I recognise the positive benefits of cycling and I am committed to increasing the use of cycling as a mode of transport. My Department is commissioning research on international best practice at present, which will inform the development of a National Cycle Policy. This, in turn, will feed into a Sustainable Travel and Transport Action Plan, which I intend publishing in 2008 after a full public consultation process. The process will inform the precise measures to be adopted in relation to cycling and other issues.

Transport Policy.

Dr Martin Mansergh

Question:

150 Deputy Martin Mansergh asked the Minister for Transport the projects under Transport 21 which have been completed. [28869/07]

To date twenty one national roads schemes have been completed since the commencement of Transport 21 in January 2006. These schemes are outlined in tabular format below. Many of the schemes were completed ahead of schedule and on or under budget. The opening of the Dundalk to Newry scheme, in August of this year, means that the M1 motorway is now complete. This is the first of the five inter-urban motorways identified for completion under Transport 21. The remaining four are on schedule for completion in 2010.

In the public transport area, the new Dublin Docklands station was opened in March of this year, 2 years ahead of the original schedule. With the introduction of 67 new rail carriages earlier this year, Iarnród Éireann is now operating hourly, clockface services on the Dublin – Cork rail route, as provided for under Transport 21.

National Roads Schemes Completed under Transport 21 at end October 2007

Route

Scheme

Completed

N2

Monaghan Town Bypass

2006

N2

Ashbourne Bypass

2006

N4

Edgeworthstown Relief Road

2006

N7

Naas Road widening

2006

N8

Rathcormac-Fermoy (PPP)

2006

N8/N73

Mitchelstown Relief Road

2006

N15

Ballyshannon-Bundoran Bypass

2006

N21

Castleisland-Abbeyfeale

2006

N25

Kinsalebeg

2006

N25/N27

Kinsale Road Interchange

2006

N30

Enniscorthy-Clonroche realignment

2006

M50

Dublin Port Tunnel

2006

N52

Mullingar Eastern Bypass

2006

N55

Cavan Bypass

2006

N1

Dundalk to Border

2007

N2

Castleblaney Bypass

2007

N5

Charlestown Bypass

2007

N6

Tyrellspass to Kilbeggan

2007

N11

Arklow to Gorey Bypass

2007

N18

Phase 1 of Ennis Bypass

2007

N52

Mullingar to Belvedere

2007

Passport Applications.

John Curran

Question:

151 Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if a passport has been issued to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22. [28835/07]

I can inform the Deputy that no passport has been issued to the person concerned and that the Passport Office has no record of a passport application from her. If assistance is required in making an application for a passport the person should contact Mr. Brian Hanniffy, Deputy Passport Officer at 673 3040.

Financial Services Sector.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

152 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount that has been contributed by companies operating in the international and domestic financial services industry to the national training fund in each of the past five years. [28856/07]

The Health Levy and National Training Levy are collected by the Revenue Commissioners as part of the PRSI collection system. The funds collected for these levies are then included in the transfer of gross PRSI from the Revenue Commissioners to the Department of Social and Family Affairs.

The National Training Levy contribution amounts to 0.7% of earnings of employees insured at Class A or H. Each year, the Department of Social and Family Affairs Accounts Branch undertakes an Annual Apportionment Exercise to analyse PRSI collection data and to apportion funds to the Social Insurance Fund, the Health Fund and the National Training Fund. My Department does not collect any information on the companies that contribute to the National Training Fund.

Decentralisation Programme.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

153 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when the decentralisation of the Arts Council to Kilkenny is intended to happen. [28841/07]

Phil Hogan

Question:

154 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when the decentralisation of the Arts Council to Kilkenny will happen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28864/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 153 and 154 together.

The Arts Council, one of the State Agencies under the aegis of my Department, is designated for transfer to Kilkenny under the Government's Programme of Decentralisation. In June 2004, a Decentralisation Implementation Plan was prepared by and in respect of the Arts Council and submitted to the Decentralisation Implementation Group (DIG), which is chaired by Mr. Finbar Flood.

There are currently 45 members of staff employed in the Arts Council and a total of 29 applications for transfer to Kilkenny have so far been received under the CAF (Central Application Facility) from non Arts Council staff members. The Arts Council has not been designated an early mover by the DIG but the Office of Public Works (OPW) is currently assessing a number of options regarding suitable locations and properties in Kilkenny. No decision has been made in this regard to date.

Sports Funding.

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

155 Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the supports available for equestrian centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28871/07]

The sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, is the primary means of providing funding to sporting clubs, voluntary and community organisations towards the provision of sporting facilities at local, regional and national level throughout the country. In this regard, it is open to organisations, including equestrian centres, which have a project that meets the terms and conditions of the programme to apply under future rounds of the programme. The date of the next round of the programme has not yet been decided. As in previous years, advertisements announcing the next round of the programme will be placed in the national newspapers and application forms will be available at that stage.

In relation to current funding for equestrian sports, the Irish Sports Council (ISC) is the statutory body responsible for the promotion and development of sport and in that context has an ongoing funding relationship with Horse Sport Ireland, the new body responsible for equestrian sport in Ireland.

Anti-Social Behaviour.

Michael Kennedy

Question:

156 Deputy Michael Kennedy asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on the levels of anti-social behaviour activities being exercised by certain tenants in receipt of rental supplements; if there are plans to give powers or responsibilities to community welfare officers in relation to the social behaviour of tenants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28941/07]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which is administered on behalf of my Department by the Health Service Executive, provides for the payment of a weekly or monthly supplement in respect of rent to eligible persons in the State whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation needs. In order to qualify for rent supplement a person must satisfy a number of conditions including; the person must be a bona fide tenant, must be habitually resident, must have a housing need and must satisfy a means test. In addition, the Executive must be satisfied that the accommodation is suited to the persons needs and the rent payable is within the prescribed limits.

In the case of private rent accommodation anti social behaviour by a tenant is a matter for the landlord in the first instance. There are a number of avenues open to landlords in such cases, including the mediation service for landlords and tenants operated by the Private Residential Tenancies Board. If necessary, the landlord may seek termination of the tenancy which, if effected, would result in the termination of rent supplement. Since 1997 Social Welfare legislation provides the Health Service Executive with the authority to refuse, suspend or terminate payment of a rent supplement in the case of a person who has been required to deliver up possession of a dwelling provided by a housing authority or an approved body where the reasons for that requirement include anti-social behaviour or the interests of good estate management.

I am satisfied that these existing measures are adequate and I have no plans to make any changes to the social welfare legislation in this regard.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

157 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when an invalidity pension hearing will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28821/07]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that the appeal from the person concerned has been referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing. The person concerned will be informed when arrangements have been made. The Social Welfare Appeals Office is an office of my Department that is independently responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Code.

Seán Connick

Question:

158 Deputy Seán Connick asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if cut-off points will be introduced for income earned from leasing farmland for retired farmers applying for the old age pension; and if an old age pension will be granted to a person (details supplied) in County Wexford. [28854/07]

A new pension scheme, known as State Pension (Non-Contributory) was introduced in September 2006 and incorporated all means-tested schemes for people aged 66 and over. As part of this reform, the basic income disregard for the purposes of the means test for non-contributory pensions was increased to €20 per week and a new disregard on earnings from employment of €100 per week was introduced to encourage pensioners to continue in, or return to work. Budget 2007 increased the basic means disregard to €30 per week in addition to increasing the earnings disregard to €200 per week.

The earnings disregard of €200 per week does not apply to income from any other source such as self-employment including farming or rents from leasing property. Income from sources other than employment, including pensions and capital, is covered by the enhanced general means disregard of €30 per week. The person concerned was in receipt of a reduced rate State Pension (Non-Contributory) from 1992 until 2002 when his pension was revoked as his means, derived from a farm holding and spouse's employment exceeded the statutory limit. He is currently being paid as a qualified adult on his spouse's State Pension (Contributory) at the rate of €173.00 per week.

Given the improvements in the means assessment that have occurred over the last two years, it is possible that the person concerned could qualify for a State Pension (non-contributory) in his own right. If he wishes to have his eligibility for this pension assessed he should submit an application to the Department's offices in Sligo. If, at the end of the day, payment of the qualified adult increase proves to be more advantageous to the couple, it is open to them to apply to have the pension and the qualified adult increase paid separately so that the person concerned can receive a direct payment.

Mary Upton

Question:

159 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his priorities for budget 2008; the services he has prioritised for expansion; the services he has recommended as not urgently requiring an increase; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28888/07]

Improvements in social welfare schemes and services are introduced by way of the Budget. In framing my Budget proposals, I have regard to a wide range of factors. My priority will be to make progress in delivering on the commitments contained in the Agreed Programme for Government, the Social Partnership Agreement Towards 2016 and the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion 2007-2016.

The recently published Pre-Budget Outlook provides for total social welfare expenditure between Vote and Social Insurance Fund of €16.113 billion in 2008. This is a 5.1% increase over the 2007 allocation and reflects the full-year impact of the Budget changes announced last December, as well as forecasted changes in numbers of recipients. The Pre-Budget estimates are on an existing level of service basis. They do not provide for any changes to qualifying conditions or rates of payment which are matters for the forthcoming Budget.

Mary Upton

Question:

160 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his view on whether the back to school clothing and footwear allowance is acceptable in view of the fact that the qualifying criteria are so stringent; his views on widening these criteria for 2008 in order as to allow low income families who are not in receipt of social welfare payment other than children’s allowance to be applicable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28889/07]

The back to school clothing and footwear allowance (BSCFA) scheme provides a one-off payment to eligible families to assist with the extra costs when their children start school each autumn. The allowance is not intended to meet the full cost of school clothing and footwear but to provide assistance towards these costs. A person may qualify for payment of an allowance if they are in receipt of a social welfare or Health Service Executive (HSE) payment, are participating in an approved employment scheme or attending a recognised education and training course and have household income at below standard levels.

Family Income Supplement (FIS) which is a weekly tax-free payment for families, including one-parent families, at work on low pay is also one of the qualifying payments for the purposes of the BSCFA scheme. This enables families, not normally in receipt of a social welfare or HSE payment to avail of the BSCFA scheme. The income limits for the BSCFA scheme for 2007 are based on the maximum rate of state pension (contributory) (under 80), plus the qualified adult allowance, plus €100 in the case of married and cohabiting couples; and the maximum rate of widow's/widower's contributory pension (under 80) plus €100 for Lone Parents, plus child dependant allowance in each case.

Income Limits for 2007 are €470.80 for a couple with one child and €331.30 for a lone parent with one child. The limit is increased by €22.00 for each additional child. The fact that the income limit is aligned to pension payments means that it is automatically indexed upward each year with budget increases.

In line with other secondary benefits, a means test is applied to ensure that limited resources are directed to those in greatest need. Apart from a number of exceptions, all household income, including welfare payments such as Carer's Allowance, is assessable as means under the BSCFA scheme in accordance with the normal assessment for supplementary welfare allowance. The exceptions to these rules are that any income received in the form of family income supplement (FIS), higher level education grants or the first €120 earnings from employment of a rehabilitative nature is disregarded for the purposes of the BSCFA scheme.

The rates of BSCFA have been increased significantly in recent years. From June 2006, the allowance was increased by €40 to €120 in respect of qualified children aged from 2 to 11 years and €190 for those aged from 12 to 22 years. In Budget 2007, the rate of payment of BSCFA was increased by €60 to €180 per child for children aged 2 to 11 years old and €95 to €285 for children aged 12 to 22 – a 50% increase on the previous allowance. Budget 2007 also increased the income limits for BSCFA by €50 to €100 above the state pension (contributory) rate.

I consider the back to school clothing and footwear allowance scheme to be an important support for parents at a time of particular financial strain. I am satisfied that improvements to the scheme in recent years, namely an increase in income limits and an increase in the rates of payment respectively, provide a major boost to meeting the financial costs associated with return to school for those who most need assistance.

Any changes to the structure of the scheme, rates of payment, income limits or amendments to the qualifying criteria would have cost implications and would have to be considered in a budgetary context and in the light of resources available to me for improvements in social welfare payments generally.

Mary Upton

Question:

161 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the restrictions here to extending the all-Ireland free travel pass scheme to all holders of free travel passes; if he has held talks with his counterpart in the Northern Government with a view towards having this all-Ireland free travel pass extended to all holders of free travel passes north and south; if he will lobby to have this scheme extended to all holders of the free travel pass; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28890/07]

The free travel scheme is available to all people living in the State aged 66 years or over. All carers in receipt of carer's allowance and carers of people in receipt of constant attendance or prescribed relative's allowance, regardless of their age, also receive a free travel pass. It is also available to people under age 66 who are in receipt of certain disability type welfare payments, such as disability allowance, invalidity pension and blind person's pension. People resident in the State who are in receipt of a social security invalidity or disability payment from a country covered by EU Regulations, or from a country with which Ireland has a bilateral social security agreement, and who have been in receipt of this payment for at least 12 months, are also eligible for free travel.

The all Ireland free travel scheme is based on a reciprocal agreement between my Department and the Department for Regional Development in Northern Ireland, which operates the Northern Ireland concessionary fares scheme. Under the scheme, free travel pass holders age 66 or over can travel free on services operating within Northern Ireland and senior smart pass holders from Northern Ireland can travel free on participating services here. Effectively, institutions in this State and in Northern Ireland recognise free travel arrangements for older people in each jurisdiction as equivalent arrangements.

The concessionary fares scheme in Northern Ireland is available only to people aged 65 and over so it is not possible to develop reciprocal arrangements in respect of free travel pass holders aged under 66. Any extension to the scheme would have to be agreed with the Northern authorities.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Mary Upton

Question:

162 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his priorities, in view of his statement that he wants to make a decisive impact on poverty, for achieving same; the progress made on each of these individual priorities to date; the estimated cost of each of his targets per year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28891/07]

Combating poverty and building an inclusive society are key priorities for the Government. The National Action Plan for Social Inclusion (NAPinclusion) 2007-2016, published in February 2007 and the social inclusion commitments in the National Development Plan (NDP) were drawn up in consultation with the social partners and after a wide ranging consultation process with other stakeholders. The NAPinclusion adopts a life cycle stage approach, in line with Towards 2016, with specific, measurable goals set for each group: children; people of working age; older people and people with disabilities; and their communities. It sets out a demanding and detailed programme of action across all government departments and their agencies to meet these goals and targets.

The first Annual Social Inclusion Report which will be published later this week at the annual Social Inclusion Forum, shows that, even at this early stage in the 10 year strategy process, the intended progress is being made and the social inclusion targets are on track for 2006/2007. The overall poverty goal in the NAPinclusion is to reduce the number of those experiencing consistent poverty to between 2 per cent and 4 per cent by 2012, with the aim of eliminating consistent poverty by 2016. To this end, 12 high level goals have been set across relevant policy areas and some 150 targets identified.

Establishing the cost of progressively meeting the individual targets underpinning the priority goal in the NAPinclusion is complex and would have to have regard to other targets in the Plan as well as wider socioeconomic factors including demographic change, price and earnings inflation and developments in labour force participation rates. However in addition to income support, some €49.6 billion has been provided under the social inclusion priority of the NDP for the period up to 2013 for priority investment programmes such as pre-school education for children, greater support for lone parents, the long-term unemployed and for people with disabilities in securing access to employment, for older people in relation to community care services, and for communities in providing housing, health services and strategies to assist newcomers to integrate in Irish society.

My priorities and those of the NAPinclusion are reflected in the Programme for Government. They include; improvements in support for Lone Parents; in the State Pension and the Carers Allowance, in Child Benefit and in the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance and the School Meals Programme. Support for the Office for Social Inclusion is a key commitment, in particular, for its work to progress the use of poverty impact assessments by government departments, local authorities and statutory agencies in the development of policies and programmes and the delivery of public services to ensure that the Government's social inclusion agenda is achieved.

The NAPinclusion forms the framework of goals, objectives and targets within which I will frame my proposals, and priorities, in relation to social welfare for this and succeeding budgets. I am confident that the pursuit of this strategic approach for social welfare and the other relevant policy areas will make a decisive impact in relation to current levels of poverty over the next 10 years.

Social Welfare Code.

Mary Upton

Question:

163 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on whether the unemployment assistance scheme is the correct model and whether claimants receive enough income to support themselves in view of inflationary pressures, particularly in regard to inflation in the price of household goods and fuel; his further views on whether those on unemployment assistance are receiving enough up-skilling from FÁS courses; the steps in place to ensure those who are on the unemployment benefit for anything more than a short period are attending offered up-skilling courses; the measures he has introduced or will introduce to tackle long-term unemployment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28892/07]

A person who is unemployed may apply for Jobseeker's Benefit or Jobseeker's Allowance. Entitlement to Jobseeker's Benefit is determined by reference to an individual's social insurance record. Entitlement to Jobseeker's Allowance, which is a social assistance scheme, is based on an individual's weekly means. Increases in respect of a spouse/partner and children are dependent on the spouse/partner's social welfare status and weekly income. In addition, an increase is paid in respect of each qualified child.

The social assistance scheme model is replicated throughout the social welfare system and is an internationally recognised model for the provision of publicly funded income support in covering the contingency of unemployment. One of the key objectives of the 2007 social welfare package was to protect and enhance the value of all weekly rates of payment, including jobseeker's benefit and allowance, in relative terms by giving increases which are well in excess of the projected rate of inflation (4.9%) for this year.

In Budget 2007, the rate of jobseeker's benefit and allowance was increased by €20 per week, or 12.1%. This increase brought the lowest rates of payment to €185.80 per week, thereby ensuring that the Government commitment on the lowest rates of payment was fully achieved. Recipients with children also benefited from the increase in the child dependant allowances to €22 per week (an increase of up to 23.6% for recipients of jobseeker's payments) and the €10 per month increase in Child Benefit rates. In addition, the fuel allowance was increased by €4 per week to €18. This means that this allowance has doubled over the last two Budgets.

The Government, in its new Programme, is committed to maintaining the value over the next five years of payments for all people of working age. Currently all persons aged 18 and under 64 years who are approaching three months on the Live Register are identified by the Department of Social and Family Affairs and referred to FÁS under the National Employment Action Plan (NEAP). Over the period September 1998 to December 2006, 287,000 recipients of unemployment payments have been referred under the NEAP. While outcome data on the number of persons referred in 1998 and 1999 is not available the Department does have details of persons referred over the period 2000 to July 2007. Of the total (313,247) referred during the period 2000 to 2007, 187,727 or 60% were interviewed by FÁS. Some people sign off prior to interview by FÁS without any further intervention.

Of the 187,730 (approx) interviewed by FÁS between 2000 and 2007 53, 762 or 29% were placed in employment, training or education. I do not have a separate breakdown of the number placed in employment for years 2000 to 2002. However over the period 2003 to 2007 FÁS interviewed some 134,300, overall 34,289 or 26% of those interviewed were placed in employment, training or education and of that 53% or 18,150 were placed in employment.

People remain on the live register while engaged with FÁS under the NEAP until they take up offers of employment or training. If they do not attend for interview with FÁS, or having engaged with FÁS decline offers of employment or training, their cases are referred back to the social welfare local office for review to determine if they continue to satisfy the conditions for receipt of unemployment payments.

In addition to the NEAP process my Department assists and encourages the unemployed, particularly the long term unemployed, lone parents and other social welfare recipients to return to employment, training or education through a range of measures administered by my Department's social and family support service. These measures include the payment of income support through the back to work allowance and the back to education allowance.

My Department also provides funding to third parties to assist welfare recipients, as well as members of their families improve their employability, personal and family situations through education, training and personal development courses. Under the National Development Plan 2007-2013, my Department aims to promote participation and social inclusion through activation measures aimed at all people of working age. The Social and Economic Participation Programme aims to facilitate progression regardless of the circumstances that led the person to require income maintenance.

This will be a new service, building on my Department's existing experience and income maintenance relationship with the people concerned, in co-operation with other relevant service providers such as FÁS, VECs, HSE and other local agencies. The particular added value that will be provided by the Department is an active outcome-focused individual case management of all social welfare customers of working age who are not progressing into employment or accessing training or education opportunities.

Social Insurance.

Mary Upton

Question:

164 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he expects the rate of PRSI to be reduced from 4% to 2% in budget 2008 as was promised by his party earlier in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28893/07]

The Programme for Government states that ‘we will abolish the PRSI ceiling for full rate payers and reduce the rate at which this tax is levied from 4% to 2% over the lifetime of the next administration. We will also reduce the rate of PRSI paid by the self employed to 2% from 3%. These moves will eliminate remaining inequality in the income tax system and enhance its progressive nature. The Social Insurance Fund will be reimbursed by the Exchequer for the cost of this reform'. Changes in PRSI contribution rates are considered in a budgetary context.

Social Welfare Code.

Mary Upton

Question:

165 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he is satisfied with the one parent allowance scheme as it operates; the new proposals he has introduced to update this payment; when he expects to introduce such amendments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28894/07]

The One-Parent Family Payment is a payment for men and women who are bringing up a child without the support of a partner. It is a means tested payment with an earnings disregard to allow for the increased costs involved in returning to the workplace.

Current arrangements allow for a weekly earnings disregard of €146.50, with half of any additional earnings up to a weekly limit of €400 assessed as means for the purposes of calculating entitlement to payment. This upper earnings limit has been increased by €107 per week over the course of the last two budgets. The rate of payment to a qualified child has also increased to €22 per child. This is paid in addition to the personal rate of one parent family payment.

I have previously acknowledged that despite the recent improvements in the scheme, the rate of lone parents at risk of poverty is unacceptable and the best way out of poverty is through quality, sustainable employment. The Government has requested the Senior Officials Group on Social Inclusion to develop a plan to implement the proposals contained in the Government discussion paper "Proposals for Supporting Lone Parents."

The paper puts forward proposals for the expanded availability and range of education and training opportunities for lone parents; the extension of the National Employment Action Plan to focus on lone parents; focused provision of childcare; improved information services for lone parents and the introduction of a new social assistance payment for low income families with young children. The paper also proposes the abolition of the cohabitation rule as a condition for receipt of the proposed social assistance payment. Steps have been taken in my Department to draft legislation to introduce a new social assistance payment to replace the One Parent Family Payment. However, any proposed new payment can only be introduced when the necessary co-ordinated supports and services are put in place on the ground by other Departments and Agencies.

Discussions are ongoing with the relevant Departments and Agencies on issues including childcare, education, training and activation measures. As part of this process, my Department, with the co-operation of FÁS, the Office of the Minister for Children and the Department of Education and Science, are testing the non-income activation proposals in Coolock, Dublin and in Kilkenny. These tests are focused on identifying and resolving any practical and administrative issues that may arise in advance of the scheme being introduced. The tests are expected to run until the end of the year, with a report then being made to the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion. They will allow for operational and logistical co-ordination between the relevant Departments and Agencies to be considered and will facilitate the development of the policy and operational details of the new scheme and accompanying supports. The nationwide roll out of these reforms will follow the completion of the tests.

Pension Provisions.

Mary Upton

Question:

166 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason for the delay in proposing new legislation in the area of pension reform in view of the acknowledged future expected revenue shortfall to fund pensions; his views on whether the need for legislation as soon as possible is vital; the length of time the public consultation process is expected to last; when he expects to introduce new legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28895/07]

In the decades ahead, Ireland will face the same challenges in relation to pensions and other age related costs as many of our EU neighbours are facing at present. However, as a country, we are fortunate that our demographic position will remain favourable for sometime yet. This allows us time to review our situation and to decide on an appropriate course of action which will be affordable in the long-term and which will deliver adequate retirement incomes for all people.

There are widely differing views in relation to how the pensions system should develop and there is no doubt that developing a system that will command broad acceptance across society will not be easy. Accordingly, with the publication of the Green Paper, I have initiated a consultation process, which I want to be as inclusive as possible. Given the complex nature of the subject it is important that people have ample time to consider the issues and to formulate their ideas and comments. Therefore, the consultation process will remain open until mid-2008.

Following the completion of the consultation process, a framework for long-term policy will be developed and I would expect this to be finalised by the end of next year. Whether the framework will involve publishing actual legislation, or an outline of a proposed scheme, will depend on the conclusions reached at the end of the current process and the extent of the reform being proposed.

Money Advice and Budgeting Service.

Mary Upton

Question:

167 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of calls the money advice and budgeting service’s recently introduced low call telephone number has received in its first month of operation; the details of advertising campaigns to make people aware of this new service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28897/07]

The MABS National Helpline, Lo-call number 1890 283 438 (1890 BUDGET), was formally launched on 4th October 2007. The Helpline operates Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and it provides an accessible and confidential support service for those experiencing debt problems. Up to 9th November, the National Telephone Helpline has received over 1000 calls.

Posters advertising the new telephone service have been distributed throughout the MABS network, to Social Welfare Local and Branch Offices, the offices of the Community Welfare Service, Society of St Vincent De Paul conferences, Parochial Houses, Citizen Information Centres and Credit Unions throughout the country.

In addition notifications about the service have been issued to the main creditor organisations with which money advisors have regular contact, including the ESB and Board Gáis. Plans are now being developed for a national advertising campaign to further promote the new service to the people in their own locality. It is envisaged that the campaign will commence in late January /early February 2008. Information about budgeting and a self help money management facility is also available on-line at the MABS website www.mabs.ie.

MNDSAs part of this process, my Department, with the co-operation of FÁS, the Office of the Minister for Children and the Department of Education and Science, are testing the non-income activation proposals in Coolock, Dublin and in Kilkenny. These tests are focused on identifying and resolving any practical and administrative issues that may arise in advance of the scheme being introduced. The tests are expected to run until the end of the year, with a report then being made to the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion. They will allow for operational and logistical co-ordination between the relevant Departments and Agencies to be considered and will facilitate the development of the policy and operational details of the new scheme and accompanying supports. The nationwide roll out of these reforms will follow the completion of the tests.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

168 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the percentage of households in poverty in 2006 and to date in 2007 which were headed by a person with a job. [28899/07]

Information on poverty levels, deprivation and social exclusion are provided in the EU Survey on Income and Living Conditions (EU–SILC), which is conducted on an annual basis by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) and which commenced in Ireland in 2003. The most recent results are for the year 2005. The results for 2006 are due to be published before the end of this year.

In 2005 the percentage of households ‘at risk of poverty' and whose principal economic status was ‘at work' was 8.2%. This rate was significantly lower than that for the total population, which was 18.0% in 2005. However, households whose income falls below the 60% median income threshold are classified as being "at risk of poverty", but are not necessarily in poverty. An indicator has been developed by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), called "consistent poverty", which identifies the proportion of people ‘at risk of poverty', who are classified as being in poverty due to being deprived of certain goods or services considered essential for a basic standard of living. This measure was recently updated and revised by the ESRI. It is now used in the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion (NAPinclusion) 2007-2016. In 2005 the percentage of persons whose principal economic status was ‘at work' and who were in "consistent poverty" was 2.2%. This compares with a rate of 6.5% for the total population.

Low levels of unemployment over the past decade have helped to lift a significant number of people out of poverty. A key objective of the NAPinclusion is to remove barriers to people obtaining better quality, full time employment through a series of "activation" measures including education, training, provision of child care, assistance with job search and job placement, appropriate income support, and access to essential services. The measures provided for also specifically include more support for lone parents and for people with disabilities in increasing their participation in employment and measures to improve progression opportunities for people in low skilled employment.

The degree of commitment to meeting this challenge is reflected in the overall poverty goal in the NAPinclusion, which is to reduce the number of those experiencing consistent poverty to between 2% and 4% by 2012, with the aim of eliminating consistent poverty by 2016. The objectives of the NAPinclusion have been prioritised in the Programme for Government, which underlines the Government's fundamental commitment to the social inclusion agenda. My plans, in working with Government to deliver the programme over the coming years, are to build on the significant progress that has been made in reducing poverty in the past decade and to deliver real improvements in living standards and well being so that all households whether in work or dependent wholly or partially on income support participate in the benefits of our economic success.

Social Welfare Code.

Enda Kenny

Question:

169 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the cost to the Exchequer of the rental subsidy allowance scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28905/07]

Enda Kenny

Question:

170 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on whether the rent subsidy allowance scheme is assisting in creating a poverty trap; if he will review the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28906/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 169 and 170 together.

Expenditure on rent supplement in 2006 was €389m. Estimated expenditure for 2007 is €392m. The purpose of rent supplement, administered under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, is to provide short-term income support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source.

Budget 2007 measures provided improvements in the disregards that apply to assessing additional income for rent supplement purposes. From June 2007 the first €75 of additional income, is disregarded for rent supplement purposes, with any additional income above €75 assessed at 75%. These measures are a positive step in increasing the financial return from employment for those returning to work.

A measure to address more long term accommodation needs has been the introduction of the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) which gives local authorities specific responsibility for meeting the long-term housing needs of people receiving rent supplement for eighteen months or more.

Budget 2007 also provided that rent supplement recipients considered eligible for RAS by their local authorities can return to full-time employment, qualify for the standard income disregards for the first time, and may retain rent supplement subject to satisfying the other qualifying conditions of the scheme. These provisions, when taken together, support rent supplement recipients in the transition from welfare to work while at the same time reducing their dependency on primary welfare payments.

Grant Payments.

Ulick Burke

Question:

171 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when installation aid grant due to person (detail supplied) in County Galway will be awarded; the reasons for the delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28782/07]

The person concerned is an applicant for grant-aid under the Installation Aid Scheme. His application is currently being examined within my Department and the outcome will be notified to the person concerned shortly.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

172 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason an application by a person (details supplied) in County Galway under the quality stallion purchase incentive scheme was not successful; if she will provide an opportunity for an oral hearing by way of an appeal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28811/07]

My Department wrote to the applicant, to whom the Deputy refers, on 14th May 2007, informing him that his application for grant aid under The Quality Purchase Incentive Scheme (QSPIS) was unsuccessful as it did not comply with the Terms and Conditions of the Scheme. The applicant was also informed in this letter that if he was dissatisfied with the decision he could appeal (by 14th August 2007) the decision to the Agriculture Appeals Office, Kilminchy Court, Portlaoise, Co. Laois.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Michael Creed

Question:

173 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of farmers who have joined REP scheme four to date; and the steps she will take to deal with Natura designated lands and the adverse impact this has on basic rate of REP scheme payments. [28844/07]

REPS is a voluntary scheme which has delivered over €2 billion in direct payments to farmers since its introduction in 1994. For the period 2007 to 2013, provision of almost €3 billion has been made for the scheme as part of the Rural Development Programme. There are currently some 55,400 participants. REPS 4, which currently has over 100 applications being processed for payment, delivers on the Government's commitments and scheme payment rates and structure agreed in the social partnership negotiations with the farm bodies. I expect a significant increase in applications for the Scheme over coming months.

Farmers who can show that they suffer losses arising from Natura designation which are greater than the rate of REPS/Natura payment may apply to the National Parks and Wildlife Service for additional payment on a quantified loss basis.

Farm Improvement Scheme.

Michael Creed

Question:

174 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason sources in her Department were quoted in a newspaper (details supplied) on 27 October 2007 as denying a threat existed to the continuation of the farm improvement scheme when four days later she closed the scheme. [28845/07]

My Department indicated in the newspaper report referred to, that the Farm Improvement Scheme was open for applications at that particular time. It had been indicated on many occasions including in the terms and conditions of the Scheme that it would be suspended when the financial ceiling had been reached.

Michael Creed

Question:

175 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food her views on whether all applications under the farm improvement scheme received up to 31 October 2007 in her Department’s offices will be dealt with and where in order will be approved similar to all applications received prior to 24 October 2007. [28846/07]

Applications received under the Farm Improvement Scheme prior to its suspension on 31 October 2007 will be processed by my Department up to the level of funding available for the Scheme.

Milk Quota.

Michael Creed

Question:

176 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she has received a request for additional quota from a person (details supplied) in County Cork; when the tribunal will meet next; if this case will be considered on that occasion; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28847/07]

My Department is currently accepting applications to the Milk Quota Appeals Tribunal for additional quota on the grounds of Hardship or Animal Disease. The closing dates for receipt of these applications are Friday 16th November 2007 in the case of Hardship applications and Friday 7th December 2007 in the case of Animal Disease applications. As of yesterday, November 13th, no application had been received in respect of the person named. No dates have yet been finalised for the Tribunal meetings.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Michael Creed

Question:

177 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the amount of money to be spent on the REP scheme in 2007. [28848/07]

As of Friday last, 9 November, payments of over €240 million had issued to participants in REPS. Some 5,000 annual payment applications are currently being processed. Spending for the remainder of the year will be determined by the number of farmers who send in their annual payment applications. There are 3,000 such applications due by the end of November and some 6,500 more must be submitted during December, though many of these will probably arrive too late for processing this year. In 2006, REPS payments came to €33 million in November and €61 million in December.

Beverley Flynn

Question:

178 Deputy Beverley Flynn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo under the REP scheme has received their 2006/07 payment. [28855/07]

The person named began his current REPS contract in January 2004. In his REPS plan he was required to undertake certain pollution control measures before the first winter. Following an inspection in February 2005, a penalty was applied for failure to carry out these pollution control measures. Following further inspections in February 2006 and February 2007, increased penalties were applied with the result that there was no payment in 2007. During a further check in November 2007, clear evidence of pollution was observed. My Department is now considering the position and will communicate directly with the person named.

Farm Improvement Scheme.

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

179 Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the supports available for equestrian centres; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28870/07]

The Farm Improvement Scheme, which was suspended on 31 October 2007, provided grant-aid for certain types of on-farm investments in the equine sector, including stabling, waste storage facilities, fencing and unroofed lunging/exercise areas.

Pesticide Controls.

Finian McGrath

Question:

180 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of fruit and vegetables tested for pesticides in 2006; the type of pesticide detected regarding these number of domestic and imported samples; the residue and MLR; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28900/07]

The 2006 pesticide residue monitoring report is being finalised at present and will, when completed, be available on the DAFF website where all of the detailed results of the 2006 monitoring programme can be accessed. The annual Irish residue monitoring programme is agreed between the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (DAFF) and is implemented by the DAFF as part of a service contract between both bodies.

In 2006, 909 samples of fruit and vegetables were analysed for residues of 153 pesticides and their breakdown products. Of the 909 samples analysed, 168 were from domestic production and the remaining 741 were imported. Residues of 72 different pesticides were detected in the samples of fruit and vegetables analysed and 26 of these samples, 2.9%, contained a pesticide residue that exceeded the maximum residue limit (MRL) value for a pesticide food combination. The results are in line with those of previous years and are also in line with those found in other EU member states.

Animal Breeding Regulations.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

181 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of rare indigenous breeds of cattle that have been identified by her Department; the measures in place to protect these breeds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28919/07]

My Department is very aware of the need to conserve rare indigenous breeds of cattle 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.

There are three native rare breeds of cattle in Ireland, namely the Kerry Cattle, Irish Moiled and Dexter. The approximate current number of breeding females (actively producing offspring) in Ireland are as follows:

Kerry — 1100

Irish Moiled — 50

Dexter — <100

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

REPS 4 contains a voluntary Supplementary Measure that rewards farmers who keep native cattle breeds (Kerry, Irish Moiled and Dexter). 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 rare breeds is also supported in other ways. Approximately €150,000 of Exchequer funding has been allocated to projects that assist with the conservation of rare indigenous cattle breeds. Examples of this work includes the collection of semen from Kerry bulls, the development of a website for the Kerry Cattle breed society (to provide information and increase awareness of the breed), and the development of a long-term conservation strategy for Kerry Cattle. More recently, funding has been provided for the collection of semen from Irish Moiled bulls. The collection of semen from rare breeds is globally recognised as an important and low cost way of conserving animal genetic resources.

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 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.

Grant Payments.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

182 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when an area aid payment to a person (details supplied) in County Cork will be processed and paid; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28948/07]

An application under the 2007 Single Payment Scheme / Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 27 April 2007. Following processing of the application, issues arose regarding the area of land being claimed, the outcome of which was that the person named was deemed to have over-claimed in respect of the forage area available to him. While this over-claim did not affect his payment under the Single Payment Scheme — as he was confirmed to have more eligible land than the number of entitlements held — it has resulted in a reduced area for payment under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme. Payment of €2,020.07 in respect of the latter scheme issued to the person named on 13 November 2007, while the full 50% advance under the Single Payment scheme will issue shortly.

School Services Staff.

Bernard Allen

Question:

183 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Education and Science the pension benefits accruing to a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and their entitlements under the pension scheme. [28774/07]

In 2006 I introduced, with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance, pension arrangements for caretaking staff employed under the 1979 Employment Scheme in Primary Schools. These arrangements provide that membership of the superannuation scheme will be effective from 1 September 2001 in the case of eligible caretakers in service at that time. The pension scheme will be a contributory, defined benefit scheme and will provide standard public service pension benefits.

Arrears of contributions will be payable in respect of the period from 1 September 2001 to 6 March 2006 when payment of ongoing contributions from salary commenced. In accordance with standard public service arrangements, there is provision for reckoning service given prior to 1 September 2001 subject to verification of the service concerned and payment of appropriate contributions.

The person in question is currently in service and paying pension contributions. A statement of reckonable service, contributions payable in respect of arrears and prior service and benefits that will accrue is being prepared in my Department. This will issue directly to the person concerned as soon as all the details are finalised.

Home Tuition.

Chris Andrews

Question:

184 Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of children who received tuition from the home based July tuition scheme in 2007; the number of parents of children who appealed a decision not to include them in the home based July tuition scheme 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28783/07]

The July Education Programme is available to all special schools and mainstream primary schools with special classes catering for children with autism and severe and profound learning disability who choose to extend their education services through the month of July. Home based tuition is offered as an alternative for eligible pupils who cannot avail of school based programmes. The Department's objective is to facilitate the provision of a July Education Programme in all schools with special classes for children with autism. The schools in question are some special schools and some mainstream schools with special classes.

For the year 2007 my Department approved in the region of 1650 applications in respect of home based July Provision. My officials have received 35 appeals against decisions regarding the July provision and are currently working to resolve the few remaining issues.

Summer Works Scheme.

Martin Ferris

Question:

185 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Science if the list of schools approved for the 2008 summer works scheme is available. [28792/07]

The closing date for the Summer Works Scheme 2008 was the 28th of September last. Decisions on the Scheme will be taken later in the year.

Schools Building Projects.

Dara Calleary

Question:

186 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the development of schools (details supplied) in County Mayo; and when permission will be given to proceed to tender. [28796/07]

I understand that the tender documentation for the project referred to by the Deputy is nearing completion. Progression of all projects to tender and construction will be considered in the context of my Department's Multi-Annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

School Management.

Michael McGrath

Question:

187 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the procedures in place for dealing with complaints from parents regarding individual teachers in school; and the advice that should be given to parents as to the way such complaints should be made. [28798/07]

Under the provisions of the Education Act, 1998, the board of management is the body charged with the direct governance of a school. In general, the Board has the responsibility to ensure that the school operates efficiently and effectively and also has responsibilities in relation to the action of its employees. My Department supports the principle that complaints regarding schools should be resolved at school level whenever possible and will only become involved in an investigation of specific complaints after every effort has been made to resolve the matter at local level.

The Board as manager of the school must manage the staff in the school and intervene when it considers necessary to resolve matters relating to the actions of its employees. The Board of Management is the employer and has similar powers to any other employer. My Department is not the employer and does not have an employer/employee relationship with teachers in schools. My Department cannot perform functions which are proper to the Board in relation to the management of the teaching staff of the school.

Currently, most schools use procedures that have been arrived at through national agreements negotiated between management authorities and teacher unions. Under the CPSMA/INTO and the ASTI/JMB procedures that are in common usage in primary schools and voluntary secondary schools respectively, the Board of Management may invite the complainant to address a meeting of the Board. The Chairperson of the Board of Management will normally chair this meeting. In general, similar procedures are followed by post-primary schools in the VEC and Community and Comprehensive sectors. If, following the completion of the complaints procedure and the issuing of a finding by the Board of Management of the school, the complainant remains dissatisfied, she/he may raise the matter with my Department.

School Accommodation.

Willie Penrose

Question:

188 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to the application for new accommodation at a school (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28822/07]

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that on 22 February 2007, my Department gave devolved authority for the project in question to proceed to tender and construction. I understand that tenders have been returned and my Department is currently awaiting the tender report.

School Curriculum.

Mary Upton

Question:

189 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science when she expects physical education to become a recognised subject on both the junior and leaving certificate curriculum; the difficulties preventing the inclusion of PE on the curriculum starting in 2008; the steps she is taking to overcome these problems; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28857/07]

In accordance with the Rules and Programme for Secondary Schools, all second-level schools should offer Physical Education as part of the curriculum. The programme should be based on the Department's approved syllabuses and teaching hours should be registered on the school timetable. The syllabuses in Physical Education have been developed on the basis of a time allocation of two hours per week.

The phasing in of a revised Physical Education syllabus (non-examination) at Junior Cycle level commenced in September 2003. The Junior Cycle Physical Education Support Service has been in place since then to support teachers in the implementation of this syllabus. The programme includes adventure activities, aquatics, athletics, dance, invasion games, net and fielding games, gymnastics and health related activity. The Physical Education Programme in senior cycle is set out in the Rules and Programme for Secondary Schools, and is constructed across 5 areas: that students be given the opportunity to follow programmes in an optional area; to specialise in a PE area which has been taken at junior cycle; to undertake new activities; to undertake a personal fitness and health programme; and to receive training in sports Leadership.

The Programme for Government contains commitments to make PE mandatory at second level, put a revised PE curriculum for senior cycle students in place and examine the potential to introduce second level examinations in PE. The timescale for progression of these commitments will depend on a number of factors, including the availability of resources. Specific difficulties that must be considered as part of the examination of the potential to introduce examinations in PE include the nature and type of assessment which would be appropriate and equity in access to facilities. This matter also needs to be considered in the context of the broader proposals for senior cycle reform put forward by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.

School Placement.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

190 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science when school placement in Celbridge can be arranged for persons (details supplied) in County Kildare. [28879/07]

Enrolment in individual schools is the responsibility of the managerial authority of those schools and the Department does not seek to intervene in decisions made by schools in such matters. The Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places. This may result, however, in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice.

It is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of schools that are not in a position to admit all pupils seeking entry to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act. In this regard a board of management may find it necessary to restrict enrolment to children from a particular area or a particular age group or, occasionally, on the basis of some other criterion. In formulating an admissions policy a school must, however, ensure it is lawful. In particular, it must act in accordance with Section 7 of the Equal Status Act 2000 which, subject to very limited exceptions, prohibits schools from discriminating against people in relation to a number of matters including the admission of a pupil to the school.

Currently, under Section 29 of the Education Act 1998, parents of a student who has been refused enrolment in a school may appeal that decision to the Secretary General of this Department. Such appeals are dealt with within 30 days of their receipt and where an appeal is upheld the Secretary General is empowered to direct the school to enrol the student. Otherwise, the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child.

I would point out to the Deputy that, in response to the need for additional primary school places in Celbridge, my Department recognised a new primary school which commenced operation this September. My Department is satisfied that, with this development, there are sufficient places available currently for all eligible pupils.

Schools Building Projects.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

191 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Science the proposals she has received from County Kildare VEC with regard to the provision of second level accommodation to service the needs of Castledermot, County Kildare and its catchment area; her views on the renovation and extension of the existing school complex or if alternative approaches are envisaged; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28915/07]

I can confirm to the Deputy that the Department is in receipt of an application from County Kildare VEC for large scale capital funding for second level accommodation in Castledermot. The project has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects. Progress on the proposed works is being considered in the context of the multi-annual School Building and Modernisation programme.

Jack Wall

Question:

192 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of planning applications for primary schools made by her Department for the past five years; the number of planning permissions objected to or referred to An Bord Pleanála; the decision of An Board Pleanála in relation to each appeal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28921/07]

Jack Wall

Question:

193 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of planning applications for secondary schools made by her Department for the past five years; the number of planning permissions objected to or referred to An Bord Pleanála; the decision of An Bord Pleanála in relation to each appeal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28922/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 192 and 193 together.

The information sought by the Deputy is not readily available in my Department. However, if the Deputy wishes to request details on a specific school, my officials will provide the required information.

Jack Wall

Question:

194 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of planning applications for third level colleges and institutions made by her Department for the past five years; the number of planning permissions objected to or referred to An Bord Pleanála; the decision of An Bord Pleanála in relation to each appeal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28923/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is not maintained by my Department. Third Level Colleges and Institutions are autonomous bodies and are responsible for the day to day management of their affairs, including applications for planning permission for building projects.

Special Educational Needs.

Finian McGrath

Question:

195 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [28942/07]

As the Deputy will be aware, the National Council for Special Education is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers, for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants to schools to support children with special needs. All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie. I have arranged for the details supplied by the Deputy to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.

School Curriculum.

Brian Hayes

Question:

196 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science her position on the introduction of bonus leaving certificate points for maths and science subjects; if she has immediate or long-term plans for introducing such a scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28946/07]

The admission requirements for entry into third level colleges and the delineation of points for particular subjects are matters for decision by the colleges themselves. The Central Applications Office provides a processing service on behalf of the colleges, based on the parameters stipulated by the colleges for entry purposes. I am on record as favouring the provision of bonus points for Higher Level Mathematics where students are entering third level programmes with a high maths content, such as in science, engineering and technology. I have publicised my views in the hope of stimulating debate among third level colleges on this issue.

A revised programme in Mathematics is now being developed at junior and senior cycle by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment which will provide a bridging framework from the revised primary curriculum, and will be designed to ensure that students will experience mathematics in a new way. The programme will provide a strong focus on context and applications and problem solving, and enable students to have a greater realisation of the many ways mathematics is applied in the real world.

There are commitments in the Strategy for Science Technology and Innovation to further enhance science teaching and learning and improve the uptake of senior cycle Physics and Chemistry. These include ensuring that the project based hands-on investigative approach now in place at junior cycle is extended to senior cycle, that assessment of practical skills is strengthened, and that there is an emphasis on the inter-disciplinary nature of science in society. Proposals from the NCCA in this area are expected to be forwarded to my Department early next year.

Reforms in these areas are designed to enhance the attractiveness and understanding of science and mathematics so that more students will be encouraged to pursue these areas in third level and in their future careers.

Psychological Service.

Brian Hayes

Question:

197 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of private psychologists contracted by the National Educational Psychological Service in January 2007; the number of private psychologists on contract with the service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28947/07]

I would presume that the Deputies is alluding, in his reference to private psychologists, to those who participate in the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments (SCPA). This Scheme was established in 2001 to allow schools, who do not have a NEPS psychologist assigned to them, to commission individual psychological assessments from a panel of private psychologists set up by NEPS for this purpose. The scheme allows one assessment per 50 pupils enrolled in the school.

Access by private psychologists to the SCPA panel is moderated by NEPS who ensure that applicants are members of a relevant professional association, have experience in the individual assessment of children and have Garda clearance. A list of panellists and their contact details is provided on my Department's website for the information of schools concerned along with guidelines on the operation of the process and forms to be used in this regard. It is the school authority that engages the particular panellist.

Payment is made by NEPS to the psychologist in respect of assessments commissioned within the scheme upon receipt of certification of the satisfactory completion of the assessment signed by the school principal and the panel psychologist. As a matter of information, some 148 private psychologists were on the published panel for SCPA in January 2007. Currently, there are 144.

Defence Forces Property.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

198 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Defence if the process of transferring the lands at Magee Barracks, Kildare to Kildare County Council for affordable housing purposes has been concluded; if the former army houses at Magee Terrace and St. Barbara’s Park, Kildare have or will be in charge by Kildare County Council as part of this process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28916/07]

The Government decided on 1 July 2003 that Magee Barracks, Kildare, would be among the State lands released for inclusion in the Sustaining Progress Affordable Housing Initiative. With regard to Magee Barracks, the modalities of the transfer of the property to Kildare County Council are in process in consultation with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Chief State Solicitor's Office. The former Married Quarters at Magee Barracks were sold to the occupants some years ago and the roads and services surrounding same will be taken in charge by Kildare County Council as part of the overall transfer of Magee Barracks.

Garda Operations.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

199 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the average response times for gardaí when dealing with emergency calls in 2005, 2006 and to date in 2007; the average response time for the gardaí to deal with non-emergency calls for the years 2002 to 2006 and to date in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28771/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that Garda response times to emergency and non-emergency calls in the Dublin Metropolitan Area are contained in the table.

Garda Response to Emergency and Non-emergency Calls in the Dublin Metropolitan Area

2007 (to date)

2006

2005

%

%

%

Emergency calls responded to in under 15 minutes

79

78

78

Non-emergency calls responded to in under 15 minutes

40

41

40

Response times refer to the period from receipt of a call by An Garda Síochána to having Gardaí at the scene. I am further informed that statistics other than for the Dublin Metropolitan Region are not readily available and can only be obtained by the disproportionate expenditure of Garda time and resources.

Barry Andrews

Question:

200 Deputy Barry Andrews asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on the effectiveness and application of the adult caution scheme since its introduction in January 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28789/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the background to the introduction of the Adult Caution Scheme was the report of the Public Prosecution System Study Group published in 1999. In order to reduce the volume of cases being brought before the courts the report recommended that a system whereby offenders would be issued with warnings by the Gardaí instead of being prosecuted be introduced.

Offences deemed appropriate for inclusion in the scheme were arrived at through consultations between the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and An Garda Síochána. The scheme operates on a non-statutory basis and under the common law powers of the Garda Síochána. I am informed by the Garda authorities that in 2006 4,294 cautions were issued. From 1 January to 11 November, 2007 there have been 5,876 cautions issued.

The main offences in respect of which cautions were issued are as follows.

2006

2007

Theft Offences

1,244

1,753

Public Order and Drunkenness Offences

2,327

3,352

Minor Assaults

203

155

Criminal Damage

295

373

Total

4,069

5,633

Figures provides for 2007 are provisional, operational and liable to change.

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

Dan Neville

Question:

201 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will sanction money to provide closed circuit television cameras for a community group in Croom, County Limerick which is trying to deal with anti-social behaviour; the criteria to be satisfied to receive such funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28790/07]

My Department provides financial assistance under the Community-based CCTV Scheme to qualifying local organisations towards meeting the capital costs associated with the establishment of local, community-run CCTV systems. The scheme operates at two levels: initial funding for the assessment of needs (Stage 1) and substantive funding for fully developed proposals (Stage 2). Matching funding for RAPID areas is available from the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. Pobal has been engaged to administer the Scheme on behalf of my Department. It interacts with the applicants to the scheme, provides advice and assistance and carries out thorough evaluations of every application made.

I have been informed by Pobal that under the first Round of the Scheme proposals were received from a community group in Croom. However, following thorough evaluation by Pobal they were not recommended for funding. Feedback in this regard was provided directly to the group from Pobal.

I am committed to the further expansion of community-based CCTV around the country and this process is ongoing. It is intended to invite applications for funding under the Scheme periodically and it will be open to any group, including from Croom, to submit an application for funding. Details of the scheme and relevant documentation are available at my Department's website (www.justice.ie) or at Pobal's website (www.pobal.ie).

Illegal Immigrants.

Joe Costello

Question:

202 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will introduce a temporary permit or bridging visa to allow undocumented migrants to re-enter the system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28814/07]

I have no proposals to introduce any general regularisation programme for undocumented migrant workers in the State. Each case must be considered on its individual merits and this approach is being followed in respect of those brought to the attention of the immigration authorities where the migrant has become undocumented after previously holding a work permit. Depending on the circumstances of the case the individual may be permitted to remain on in the State for the purposes of seeking a new work permit.

The introduction of temporary permits or bridging visas would amount to a general regularisation for persons who do not have permission to be in the State. Such regularisations are highly problematic and carry the danger of creating a pull factor for illegal migration. In general, if a person who is illegally in Ireland wishes to regularise his or her position, he or she should leave the State voluntarily and seek to return through the legal channels.

Immigration Issues.

Joe Costello

Question:

203 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will clarify the status of Romanian and Bulgarian citizens who come to Ireland and their entitlements regarding social welfare and the right to work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28815/07]

Bulgarian and Romanian nationals are citizens of the EU and like all EU citizens they have the right to move to and reside in Ireland. The immigration law which applies to all EU citizens moving to Ireland is set out in the European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) (No. 2) Regulations 2006 (SI No. 656 of 2006).

Nationals of Bulgaria or Romania working legally in Ireland will be covered by the Irish social insurance (PRSI) system and may qualify for Irish social insurance benefits such as illness or jobseeker's benefits provided they meet the relevant qualifying criteria. EU Regulation 1408/71 provides for the aggregation of contributions paid in other Member States with those paid in Ireland should the claimant have insufficient social insurance contributions made in Ireland alone. They may also qualify for family benefits (e.g. Child Benefit and Early Childcare Supplement) on the basis of their employment status here in respect of their non-resident children (if any).

Bulgarian and Romanian nationals who do not have the relevant work permit and consequently do not have access to the labour market may qualify for certain means-tested social assistance payments provided they satisfy the Habitual Residence Conditions. Arising from the previous Government's decision of 24 October 2006, Bulgarian and Romanian nationals require work permits in order to work in Ireland unless they are otherwise exempt from that rule.

Asylum Applications.

Joe Costello

Question:

204 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress on the application for refugee status by a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28816/07]

As this case is the subject of legal proceedings, I am unable to comment on same.

Garda Deployment.

Phil Hogan

Question:

205 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will allocate additional gardaí to Castlecomer Garda station in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28838/07]

It is the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner to allocate personnel throughout the Force taking everything into account. The situation will be kept under review and when additional personnel next become available the needs of the Garda Station referred to by the Deputy will be fully considered by him within the overall context of the needs of Garda Districts/Divisions throughout the country.

Garda Stations.

Phil Hogan

Question:

206 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he will proceed with the construction of a new Garda station in Kilkenny city; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28839/07]

The ongoing programme of replacement and refurbishment of Garda accommodation around the country is based on agreed priorities established by An Garda Síochána in consultation with its representative associations. The programme is progressed by the Garda authorities working in close co-operation with the Office of Public Works, which has responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation. I have been informed by the Garda authorities that a brief of requirements for the new Regional Headquarters in Kilkenny City has been agreed and forwarded to the Office of Public Works. I am also informed by the Garda authorities that the relevant Garda officials will continue to liaise closely with the Office of Public Works to ensure the Garda accommodation requirements in Kilkenny City are met.

Residency Permits.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

207 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to his reply to Parliamentary Question No. 268 on 7 November 2007, the date the requirement for a police clearance certificate for long-term residency applications was introduced, or beginning with applications received, the date if that was the determining factor. [28858/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

208 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to his reply to Parliamentary Question No. 268 on 7 November 2007, if all applicants whose applications were about to be processed on the date the requirement for a police clearance certificate for long-term residency was introduced were notified of this requirement or only selected applicants; and the number of the 5915 cases on hand as reflected in his reply that have been affected by this new requirement. [28859/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

209 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to his reply to Parliamentary Question No. 268 of 7 November 2007, the reasoning behind making the requirement for a police clearance certificate for long-term residency applications retroactive; the reasoning behind this requirement being issued in the final stage of processing, contributing to further delays within the system, rather than early in the process; the reason INIS has not listed this requirement on the long-term residency information page of the INIS website; if it is intended to do so and when; if not, the reason. [28860/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

210 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to his reply to Parliamentary Question No. 268 on 7 November 2007, if it is INIS policy to require police clearance certificates from all long-term residency applicants for every country they have lived in; his views on whether it is practical or possible for many people to obtain police clearance certificates from every country they have lived in; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28861/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

211 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to his reply to Parliamentary Question No. 268 of 7 November 2007, the policy in relation to people who will not be able to secure police clearance certificates from every country they have lived in; if consideration will be given to people who have met all other requirements, as explained to them at the time they applied for long-term residency and have left or must leave exploitative employment situations potentially putting them into a situation of becoming undocumented migrants while they await decisions on their residency applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28862/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 207 to 211, inclusive, together.

Long term residency is an administrative scheme that was introduced in May 2004 and is focused on persons who have been legally resident in the State for over five years on the basis of work permit/work authorisation/work visa conditions. Such persons may apply to the Immigration Division of my Department for a five year residency extension. To date, the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service has received almost 6,000 applications under the scheme. The permission to remain granted under this Scheme gives non EEA nationals an exemption from work permit requirements thus significantly enhancing and giving security of tenure to their entitlement to be in the State. Applications for long term residency must therefore be processed in a way that preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that it is not undervalued and is given only to non EEA nationals who satisfy the criteria.

At time of processing, each application is examined to verify the application meets the residency criteria. Should an applicant meet the residency criteria a character reference check is then carried out. This includes a requirement for applicants to produce a police clearance certificate from their country of origin and any other country they resided in prior to travelling to this State. The requirement for a police clearance certificate was introduced recently as part of the character clearance aspect of the application process.

I accept there could be situations where applicants for long term residency, who have been away from their county of origin for considerable periods of time, may encounter difficulties in getting the necessary police clearance certificate. It is expected that such situations will arise only on an exceptional basis, and will be considered on a case by case basis having regard to all of the factors involved in the processing of applications for long term residency.

The INIS website will shortly be updated with the relevant information and future acknowledgements to applicants for long term residency will be advised of the requirement to provide a police clearance certificate.

Asylum Applications.

Denis Naughten

Question:

212 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of asylum applications which were deemed by his Department to be withdrawn in each of the past five years; the number of such notifications which were not responded to by the applicant; the subsequent number of notifications of deportation which were issued on foot of a failure to respond in each year concerned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28875/07]

The Immigration Act 2003, which was commenced on 15 September 2003, contained a number of key changes to the Refugee Act, 1996 which enabled the processing of asylum applications to be speeded up and also enhanced our ability to deal with abusive applications. These changes included the imposition on applicants of a clear statutory duty to actively pursue their asylum applications and co-operate at all times with the processing agencies or face having their applications deemed withdrawn.

The most common reasons for an application to be deemed withdrawn are where an applicant fails to attend for an interview without reasonable cause; an applicant fails to co-operate with the Refugee Applications Commissioner after having lodged his or her application or an applicant fails to notify the Commissioner of his or her postal address or change of address. Since the commencement of the Immigration Act 2003 recommendations are made by ORAC (Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner) to the Minister that an application should be deemed withdrawn.

The number of asylum applications deemed to be withdrawn since 2003 are set out in the table (applications deemed to be withdrawn where the application was transferred to another Dublin Convention country are provided separately in the next table).

Year

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007 (31/10)

Deemed Withdrawn

402

1,734

802

477

1,103

Section 13(2) of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) provides that there is no right of appeal against a recommendation to deem an application withdrawn.
Where an asylum application is deemed to be withdrawn the applicant is served with a notice of intent to deport under section 3(3)(a) of the Immigration Act 1999. A person served with a notice of intent to deport is afforded certain options, viz. to leave the State voluntarily; to consent to the making of a Deportation Order; or to make representations in writing within 15 working days setting out reasons as to why a Deportation Order should not be made and why temporary Leave to Remain in the State be granted instead.
In determining whether to make a deportation order or grant temporary leave to remain in the State, I must have regard to the eleven factors set out in Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, and Section 5 (Prohibition of Refoulement) of the Refugee Act 1996, as amended. Temporary leave to remain is considered in every case regardless of whether representations are made by, or on behalf of, the persons concerned. Statistics are not maintained in a way which distinguishes between those who have made an application for leave to remain and those who have not. Moreover, it must be borne in mind that many of those who failed the asylum process, and who did not opt to return voluntarily or consent to deportation, nonetheless left the State before a decision to deport or grant leave to remain was made.
Section 22(8) of the Refugee Act (as amended) provides that where an application has been transferred to a Dublin Convention country for examination or to a safe third country, the application shall be deemed to be withdrawn.
The number of applications transferred to a convention country in each of the years since the Dublin II Regulation (Council Regulation (EC) No. 343/2003) was commenced on 1 September 2003 is set out in the table.

Year

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007 (31/10)

No. of Asylum Applications Transferred to Convention Countries

0

65

209

294

186

Recidivism Rate.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

213 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of the 2641 prisoners referred to in Parliamentary Question No. 476 of 6 November 2007 who had previous convictions prior to the conviction for which they are currently serving a sentence; the average number of previous convictions a current prisoner excluding remand or immigration-related prisoners has; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28909/07]

I am informed by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service that the compilation of statistics relating to all offences for which prisoners have been convicted in the context of their current sentences or previous ones, if applicable, on an individual prisoner basis, would require a disproportionate and inordinate amount of staff time and effort to prepare and could not be justified in current circumstances where there are other significant demands on resources.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

214 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the resources he has already made available to detail and analyse the patterns and statistics of repeat offending of convicted criminals and recidivism; the resources he plans on making available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28910/07]

The Irish Prison Service facilitated the first major study of prisoner re-offending by the UCD Institute of Criminology. The study found that 27.4% of released prisoners were serving a new prison sentence within one year. This rose to 39.2% after two years, 45.1% after three years, and 49.2% after four years. The findings are in line with international experience, and I understand that they may in fact be considered to fall in the mid to lower range of recidivism internationally. While these figures are high, they still show that just over 50% of prisoners do not re-offend within four years of release, which compares well internationally.

In order to reduce the rates of re-offending, it is vital that offenders, or those who come in contact with the law, are targeted at as early an age as possible. Significant progress has been made in recent years in creating a more effective youth justice system, based on principles which are set out in the Children Act 2001, as amended. The Office of the Minister for Children has brought greater coherence to children's policy across government Departments. The Irish Youth Justice Service (IYJS), an Executive Office of my Department which is co-located in the office of the Minister for Children, has responsibility for developing youth justice policy and operating the children detention schools.

The Irish Youth Justice Service is committed to developing information and data on youth offending and this will be an objective in the forthcoming National Youth Justice Strategy which will cover the period 2008-2010. The Irish Youth Justice Service is contributing to a research on recidivism and young offenders. This study is a continuation of the UCD study and will focus on young offenders. This study will be a valuable addition to the research available on recidivism, in particular in respect of young offenders.

Building Regulations.

Phil Hogan

Question:

215 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the urgent measures he will adopt to ensure that private apartment schemes have adequate fire safety provision in view of the recent Dublin City Council survey of private apartment schemes which highlighted that three-quarters of private apartment schemes in Dublin have inadequate fire safety provision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28887/07]

The 1997 Building Regulations made under the Building Control Act 1990 sets out the requirements, including fire safety, to be met in the design and construction of new buildings, including apartment complexes. Primary responsibility for compliance with the Building Regulations rests with the builders and owners of buildings. Similarly the implementation of fire safety and fire prevention measures required when a premises is constructed and occupied, other than a dwelling occupied as a single dwelling, is the responsibility of the person having control of the premises as set out in the Fire Services Act 1981 and 2003.

The Department's role is to provide the legislative framework within which authorities carry out their functions in these areas. The Fire Services Acts 1981 and 2003 and the Building Control Act 1990 provide the necessary underpinning in this instance. The enforcement of the various fire safety provisions is a matter for individual building control authorities and fire authorities, as appropriate.

Under the building control regime, a Fire Safety Certificate is required for the design of non-domestic buildings, including apartment blocks. This Certificate, which is granted by the Building Control Authority, certifies that the building, if constructed in accordance with the design, plans and documentation submitted, will comply with Part B Fire Safety of the Building Regulations. The role of the local building control authority is to oversee and monitor enforcement of the building control system. Authorities are empowered to carry out inspections and undertake, where necessary, enforcement action in order to ensure compliance.

Section 18(2) of the Fire Services Acts 1981 and 2003 places a duty on persons having control over all premises, other than a dwelling occupied as a single dwelling, to take reasonable measures to "guard against an outbreak of fire and provide appropriate fire safety procedures and to ensure as far as is reasonably practicable the safety of persons on the premises in the event of an outbreak of fire whether such outbreak has occurred or not". The Department has published a number of guidance documents to assist persons in discharging their statutory responsibilities in this area. Fire authorities were given increased inspection, enforcement and prosecution powers in 2003.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Pat Breen

Question:

216 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the Ennis water augmentation scheme will be delivered on time; if there are plans to fast track the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28773/07]

Pat Breen

Question:

218 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the Ennis water augmentation scheme; the funding available for same; when the scheme will be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28809/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 216 and 218 together.

The Ennis Town Water Supply Augmentation Scheme is approved for construction under my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007-2009 at an estimated cost of €6.3m. My Department approved Clare County Council's proposals to lay the pipework for the scheme in conjunction with the Ennis Road By-Pass in 2005. The advancement and completion of the scheme is a matter for Clare County Council.

Pat Breen

Question:

217 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the Ennis sewerage scheme has reached capacity; if so, if there are plans to provide funding for a temporary solution until the proposed new system is installed in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28788/07]

The Ennis/Clarecastle Sewerage Scheme, which includes the provision of a new wastewater treatment plant, is included in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007-2009 as a scheme to begin construction in 2009. My Department approved Clare County Council's Preliminary Report for the scheme in September 2006. The Council's brief for the appointment of consultants to prepare Contract Documents for the scheme is being examined in the Department as quickly as possible. My Department has received no proposals from the Council in relation in relation to temporary treatment facilities.

Question No. 218 answered with QuestionNo. 216.

Willie Penrose

Question:

219 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress on the application for approval by Westmeath County Council of Finea sewerage scheme, County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28823/07]

The Finea Sewerage Scheme is included in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007-2009 as a scheme to advance through planning at an estimated cost of €1.6 million. Westmeath County Council's Preliminary Report and Water Services Pricing Policy Report for the scheme are being examined in my Department and are being dealt with as quickly as possible. Under devolved procedures, the Council will be free to proceed to tender once these reports have been approved.

Willie Penrose

Question:

220 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when full approval will be given to Westmeath County Council to enable Athlone main drainage to commence; if he will take steps to have same expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28824/07]

Phase 1 of the Athlone Sewerage Scheme is included in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007-2009 as a scheme to begin construction in 2008 at an estimated cost of €15 million. Westmeath County Council's Preliminary Report for the scheme is being examined in my Department and is being dealt with as quickly as possible. In the meantime, I understand that the Council is advancing the appointment of consultants for the design and construction stages of the scheme.

Willie Penrose

Question:

221 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the status of an application for a new sewerage scheme for Rathowen, County Westmeath; if he will take steps to expedite same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28825/07]

The Rathowen Sewerage Scheme is included in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007-2009 as a scheme to advance through planning at an estimated cost of €1.9 million. Westmeath County Council's Design Review and Water Services Pricing Policy Reports for the scheme are being examined in my Department and a reply will issue shortly. Under devolved procedures, the Council will be free to proceed to tender once these reports have been approved.

Willie Penrose

Question:

222 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the status of the application by Westmeath County Council for the installation of a sewerage scheme for Delvin, County Westmeath and in particular the necessary upgrading of the treatment plant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28826/07]

The Delvin Sewerage Scheme has been approved for funding under my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007-2009 as part of the Serviced Land Initiative at an estimated cost of €4.3 million. My Department is awaiting additional information requested from Westmeath County Council in relation to the Council's Design Review Report for the scheme.

Willie Penrose

Question:

223 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his Department’s assessment and evaluation of an application for approval by Westmeath County Council for the scheme to upgrade Kilbeggan sewerage scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28827/07]

Phase 1 of the Kilbeggan Sewerage Scheme is included in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007-2009 as a scheme to advance through planning at an estimated cost of €5.5 million. Westmeath County Council's Preliminary Report for the scheme is being examined in my Department and is being dealt with as quickly as possible.

Willie Penrose

Question:

224 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the status of an application by Westmeath County Council for the upgrading of Moate sewerage scheme; the expected timetable for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28828/07]

Phase 1 of the Moate Sewerage Scheme is included in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007-2009 as a scheme to advance through planning at an estimated cost of €9.7 million. Westmeath County Council's Preliminary Report for the scheme is being examined in my Department and is being dealt with as quickly as possible.

Local Authority Housing.

Willie Penrose

Question:

225 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will confirm that his Department has received an application from Westmeath County Council seeking approval to construct an isolated house for a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; if he will convey the approval thereof to the council without delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28829/07]

Westmeath County Council has made an application in respect of the matter concerned. The proposal is currently under consideration, and my Department will respond to the local authority as soon as possible.

Dan Neville

Question:

226 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason newly established agencies (details supplied) in County Limerick who have recently advertised in the public press and on tenders for the provision of a range of services did not include the provision of legal services; if legal advisers or services have been engaged by the agencies; if so, the reason there was no tendering process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28836/07]

The Limerick Northside and Southside Regeneration Agencies were established under the Local Government Services (Corporate Bodies) Act 1971 and are independent of my Department in operational matters. I have no function in the matter raised in the Question.

Questions Nos. 227 and 228 answered with Question No. 57.
Question No. 229 answered with QuestionNo. 94.

Waste Management.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

230 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he is satisfied that adequate funding will be provided by his Department to ensure that waste management and disposal conform to Government policy as set out in the programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28924/07]

Through the Environment Fund, and also more recently through the Exchequer, my Department co-funds the establishment of new recycling facilities by local authorities and also provides funding to subvent the operating costs of such facilities. Some €100m has been allocated in this way in respect of capital costs since 2002. This funding is provided in respect of facilities such as bring banks, civic amenity sites and materials recovery facilities. However, as provided for in the National Development Plan, heavy waste infrastructure, such as landfills or other significant disposal or recovery facilities, are not State funded but are to be provided by the private sector as entirely commercial developments or by local authorities by way of public private partnerships. In accordance with the Programme for Government my Department is committed to further expansion of the network of recycling facilities.

Question No. 231 answered with QuestionNo. 66.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

232 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the Government policy in regard to the extent to which it is expected to cater for waste management and disposal in future through landfills, recycling or incineration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28926/07]

The Programme for Government clearly sets out the approach to waste management that will be reflected in national policy in the years ahead. It is firmly grounded in a continuing commitment to the waste hierarchy with a renewed drive towards the achievement of international best practice in the reduction, re-use and recycling of our waste. This, coupled with an increasing emphasis on technologies for the mechanical and biological treatment of waste, will significantly reduce potential reliance on landfill and incineration. To assist the process of ensuring that our waste management system can act in support of these objectives my Department is initiating the major review of waste management policy foreseen in the Government's policy programme and which will help to ensure we have the legal, institutional and policy framework to achieve international best practice in the management of our waste.

Questions Nos. 233 to 235, inclusive, answered with Question No. 66.

Water Supply.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

236 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has received technical advice on the degree to which the River Liffey continues to provide supplies of drinking water and cater for waste water treatment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28930/07]

Local authorities are responsible for the operation and management of water supply and wastewater treatment infrastructure. Details of the volumes of water abstracted from, and of wastewater discharges to, the River Liffey may be obtained from the relevant local authorities.

Question No. 237 answered with QuestionNo. 70.
Question No. 238 answered with QuestionNo. 66.

Air Pollution.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

239 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has been informed of any areas throughout the country which appear to have particular problems with air pollution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28933/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

242 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has studied the results of air quality monitoring from various points throughout County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28936/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 239 and 242 together.

I refer to the reply to Question No. 363 of 17 October 2007.

Question No. 240 answered with QuestionNo. 66.

Local Authority Funding.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

241 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the extent to which he expects to provide the necessary funding to the various local authorities in County Kildare in the coming years to meet the accommodation requests of all those on housing lists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28935/07]

My Department has recently concluded a series of meetings with housing authorities to review progress on the 2007 housing programme and to discuss planned programmes for the 2008-2010 period. Allocations under the Social Housing Investment Programme to underpin the 2008-2010 programme will be made early in the New Year.

Question No. 242 answered with QuestionNo. 239.

Waste Management.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

243 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the reports referred to in the Dáil indicating that four incinerators was the number mentioned in a number of reports, are reports compiled on behalf of or for his Department; his views on these reports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29013/07]

In accordance with the provisions of waste management legislation, decisions in respect of the number of municipal waste incinerators which may be developed are the responsibility of local authorities, in the context of the regional waste management plans for which they have statutory responsibility, and of commercial enterprises in relation to private sector facilities.

Such projects are not formally reported on by my Department. However, it has been widely reported that a number of thermal treatment projects are being advanced. These include a municipal waste incinerator at Carranstown, Co. Meath and a hazardous waste incinerator at Ringaskiddy, Co. Cork, in respect of which the promoter has indicated that approval for the treatment of municipal waste at the location may be sought in the future, and a facility being promoted by Dublin City Council, on behalf of the Dublin local authorities, currently before An Bord Pleanála and the Environmental Protection Agency respectively. The other waste management regions identify, in their respective waste management plans, various approaches to the use of thermal treatment in waste management and a number of other private sector projects have been mooted. Such projects are at varying stages of development and would in all cases be subject to securing the necessary regulatory approvals.

The Government's policy in regard to waste management is clearly set out in the Programme for Government. It is firmly grounded in a continuing commitment to the waste hierarchy with a renewed drive towards the achievement of international best practice in the reduction, re-use and recycling of waste. There is a commitment to meeting our national objectives and EU obligations through an increasing emphasis on technologies for the mechanical and biological treatment of a growing volume of municipal waste. This will significantly reduce the future need for incineration capacity.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

244 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the basis on which he believes that with a developed MBT system the quantity of residual waste requiring disposal other than landfill would be reduced to 400,000 tonnes by 2016; the figures and reports on which he has made that calculation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29014/07]

Data available to my Department from the National Waste Report produced annually by the EPA were used to extrapolate that by 2016, and having met EU landfill diversion targets, the volume of waste requiring further treatment could be reduced to some 400,000 tonnes if sufficient capacity for the mechanical and biological treatment of waste can be developed in that timeframe.

This level of ambition reflects Government policy in regard to waste management as set out in the Programme for Government. It is firmly grounded in a continuing commitment to the waste hierarchy with a renewed drive towards the achievement of international best practice in the reduction, re-use and recycling of waste. There is a commitment to meeting our national objectives and EU obligations through an increasing emphasis on technologies for the mechanical and biological treatment of a growing volume of municipal waste. This will significantly reduce the future need for incineration and landfill capacity. As provided for in the Government Programme my Department is initiating a major international review of waste management policy which will in part focus on how best to advance the use of the full range of technologies available for waste management.

Pension Provisions.

Jack Wall

Question:

245 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is entitled to pension under court hearing or court decision in relation to the pension rights of personnel attached to the Department of Post and Telegraphs who had to retire from the service when the person got married; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28786/07]

My Department recently received an application from the Department of Social and Family Affairs for employment details of this person in relation to their employment with the former Department of Posts and Telegraphs. My Department will assist in the provision of this information as soon as possible. My Department is not aware of any court hearing or decision in relation to this matter. However, my Department will assist as appropriate with any legal decisions pertaining to the pension rights of the person as regards their service with the Department of Post and Telegraphs.

Telecommunications Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

246 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if the new generation network broadband pilot programme will be extended to the mid-west region; if funding will be provided to Shannon Development to develop this programme; if towns in County Clare will be included in the programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28787/07]

The provision of telecommunications services, including next generation broadband is a matter for the private sector operating in a liberalised market, regulated by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg).

My Department is currently drafting a policy paper on Next Generation Networks (NGNs). The paper will consider the extent and impact of Government investment in broadband infrastructure to date and review current communications infrastructure policy. It will also analyse policy options in relation to the optimum role for Government in encouraging and facilitating the planning and roll out of next generation broadband including how existing Government owned infrastructure and possible future Government investment could help achieve national policy objectives in this area. In this context it is premature to state whether particular towns or regions will be affected by any such potential investment.