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 3, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 4 to 52, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 53 to 64, inclusive, answered orally.

Community Employment Schemes.

Phil Hogan

Question:

65 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties faced by community groups arising from the termination of participation of many community employment trainees; if he will review the criteria for those people who have recently been removed from those schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28426/07]

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

In April 2000 participation on CE by an individual was capped at 3 years. The 3 year-cap was amended in August 2001 to allow particularly disadvantaged persons to remain on the programme for a further period. These participation limits were introduced to facilitate the movement of participants through the programme, allowing new participants who may not otherwise have such an opportunity to avail of the programme.

However, to cater for older workers in particular, in November 2004 I revised the 3 year CE participation limit to allow those of 55 years of age and over to avail of a 6-year period on CE. Subsequently, the participation limit for persons eligible for CE based on a Social Welfare disability linked payment (including those under 55 years) was increased by 1 year. These measures were introduced in recognition of the fact that older participants and participants with a disability may find it more difficult to progress into the open labour market.

In the majority of cases where an individual exits the programme they are replaced by another eligible participant within the overall approved level. This supports the continued delivery of service provision by sponsor groups. As regards difficulties faced by Community groups, I am informed by FÁS that participation limits will continue to be operated flexibly at local level.

CE remains as an active labour market programme with the emphasis on progression into employment. The programme is managed within this context, with consideration given to the availability of resources and the needs of participants and the community. The overall operation of the scheme is therefore kept under constant review.

For those exiting CE and those not meeting the standard eligibility criteria for the programme, FÁS/Local Employment Service Offices provide information on other available employment and training opportunities.

In addition to FÁS employment programmes, a range of initiatives are in place to assist the reintegration of long-term unemployed persons and disadvantaged groups into the open labour market. These include:

the National Employment Action Plan preventative process which entails the systematic engagement and referral by the Department of Social and Family Affairs of persons six months on the Live Register, to FÁS , for interview. In the period 1st January-31st October 2007 39,913 clients have been referred under this process.

The Customised Training Fund and the High Support Process (HSP), have been integrated and renamed the Technical Employment Support Grant (TESG). It allows employment services officers to implement a range of responses for clients who are experiencing major barriers in progressing from unemployment to the workforce. A budget of up to €2,500 per person is available for this purpose.

the Pathways programme is a two-week group guidance programme for disadvantaged FÁS clients identified under the preventative process. The aim of the programme is to identify the most appropriate development pathway for each participant that will assist him or her to obtain and maintain employment. In 2006, 168 clients attended 14 pathways programmes nationally.

Proposed Legislation.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

66 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the changes he will make to company law with regard to residential management companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31338/07]

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

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

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

Finally, I should point out that the regulation of specific sectors, or the specific activities that companies engage in, can be treated by way of provisions in the company ‘constitution' (currently known as the Memorandum and Articles of Association), as provided for in the General Scheme.

Employment Rights.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

67 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of workplace inspections carried out by labour inspectors during 2006 and to date in 2007 to ensure that young workers are not being employed outside the hours permitted by the relevant regulations; the number of such inspections that took place outside of normal working hours; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31144/07]

The number of inspections/visits undertaken by Inspection Services in 2006 and to date in 2007 to check compliance with the Protection of Young Persons Act (Employment), Act, 1996 are as follows:

in 2006; 3,347 inspections/visits were undertaken, 1,766 of which were conducted at night-time; and

to date in 2007; 1,123 inspections/visits were undertaken, 284 of which were conducted at night-time.

The National Employment Rights Authority, NERA, will shortly embark on its annual campaign to ensure compliance with the legislation. This campaign will target in particular the licensed/catering and retail trade, where many of these young workers will be employed. It is expected that by year end the number of inspections under this legislation will be similar to last year.

The Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act, 1996 is designed to protect the health of young workers and to ensure that work during the school years does not put a young person's education at risk. The provisions of the Act encompass arrangements that are differentiated by reference to the age of young persons concerned, their school going status and whether school holidays are in effect.

It is an increasing reality that many young people are taking on jobs, be it part time or full time during holiday periods. While many enjoy a very positive experience there is a risk that others may be exploited. It is important therefore that young people are aware of their rights and what steps they can take should they find those being breached.

I would encourage employers to make themselves aware of their obligations under the Protection of Young Persons Act by contacting the National Employment Rights Authority's Information Services on 1890 80 80 90. I would also urge young workers who consider themselves to be victims of exploitation or others who may be aware of breaches of the legislation to contact the Authority.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

68 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will report on progress made in the establishment of the Office of the Director of Employment Rights Compliance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31140/07]

The Government is committed to delivering the key package of measures agreed under the chapter dealing with Employment Rights and Compliance in Towards 2016.

In this regard the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) has been established on an interim basis since February 2007. NERA has Department of Finance sanction for 141 staff, including an increased complement of 90 Labour Inspectors. An allocation of €8.553 million was provided under Vote 34 for the year 2007.

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

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

Recruitment of the additional Inspectors is also progressing. The number of Inspectors has increased from 31 to 51. Final interviews for a further 10 Inspectors with language skills took place on 5th November. Interviews for the remaining 29 Inspectors were completed on the 23rd November.

I am pleased with the progress made to date and I am confident that, subject to all the successful candidates accepting appointments offered, all 90 appointments will be made by end of 2007, in accordance with the commitment under Towards 2016.

As part of the Government decentralisation programme, NERA established its headquarters in Carlow at the end of July 2007. The Social Partnership Agreement "Towards 2016" also provided that the Labour Inspectorate, now part of NERA, would be established on a regional basis and in this regard, the new regional structure of NERA Inspectorate is being progressed.

In addition to Inspectors located in NERA headquarters in Carlow, regional offices of the Inspectorate will be located in Dublin, Cork, Shannon and Sligo. At this time, inspectors are operating out of the NERA headquarters in Carlow, Dublin and temporary accommodation in Cork. In consultation with OPW, permanent premises have been leased in Cork and will be occupied once furnished with the assistance of OPW. In relation to Sligo, a permanent premises has been identified and is the subject of lease negotiations. In relation to Shannon, temporary accommodation has been secured while the permanent premises is under construction. The projected completion date for the permanent premises is March 2008.

In line with the commitment under Towards 2016, joint investigation activity and exchange of information activity has commenced with Inspectors from NERA, the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social and Family Affairs. The necessary legislative provisions to enable the exchange of information between the three bodies came into effect on 30th March with the enactment of the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2007.

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

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

Liz McManus

Question:

69 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of inspections carried out by the Labour Inspectorate during 2006 and to date in 2007 to check that the minimum wage was being paid; the number of breaches detected in these inspections; the number of prosecutions that followed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31143/07]

Insofar as sectors covered by the National Minimum Wage Act, 2000 are concerned, the number of inspections/visits during which breaches were detected and the number of prosecutions initiated for breaches of that Act for the year 2006 and to date in 2007 are as follows:

in 2006: 2,002 inspections/visits were undertaken; in 104 cases breaches were detected and in one case a prosecution was initiated.

in 2007 up to and including 23rd November: 1,733 inspections/visits were undertaken; in 180 cases breaches were detected and no prosecutions have to date been initiated.

The majority of the inspections/visits in 2007 were undertaken as part of a recent focused employment rights compliance inspection campaign in sectors covered by the National Minimum Wage.

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

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

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

As outlined above, a focused employment rights compliance inspection campaign took place recently in sectors covered by the National Minimum Wage. Such targeted campaigns, accompanied by awareness and promotional activities, will be a significant feature of NERA's future employment rights compliance and information strategy.

Industrial Development.

Pat Breen

Question:

70 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of companies located in the Shannon Free Zone for the years 2004, 2005, 2006 and the first six months of 2007; the number of employees in these companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29766/07]

The number of companies located in the Shannon Free Zone in the years 2004, 2005 and 2006 was 112, 109 and 101 respectively. Employment in these companies for these years was 7472, 7207 and 7188. The number of companies was unchanged for the first half of this year but employment figures for 2007, which are compiled on a full year basis, will not be available until early in 2008.

The Zone has performed well against a very difficult global business background and whilst job losses are always regrettable, an overall reduction of 284 or 3.8% over a three year period to 2006 for over 100 Free Zone companies is understandable in the context of the severe competitive pressures facing industry today. While the overall employment trend for the Zone in recent years has been marginally downward, significant gains have also been made with 573 new jobs created in 2004, 450 in 2005 and 549 in 2006. Latest available figures show companies located in the Free Zone spend in excess of €610 million on wages and Irish sourced materials and generate sales of €3.3billion, with over 70% of these sales accounted for by the international services sector.

Shannon Development is committed to facilitating the Free Zone's manufacturing base move up the value chain through capability enhancement programmes with a strong emphasis being placed on R&D supports. Substantial investment in next generation office space such as the 1million sq ft Westpark Campus development at Shannon represents a serious vote of confidence in the Zone's ability to continue to attract world leaders in the international services and other sectors.

As part of its three year Corporate Plan drawn up to give effect to its new mandate, Shannon Development is at an advanced stage in overseeing a comprehensive masterplan to regenerate the Shannon Free Zone and adjoining areas. The masterplan is being prepared by external consultants in close cooperation with all key stakeholders, including IDA Ireland and Shannon Airport, and will serve as the basis for regeneration and development of the Zone in the coming years.

This multi-million investment implementation will result in large scale development of offices, laboratories, factories and warehouses, which will provide accommodation for businesses in key growth sectors and maintain the Shannon Free Zone's leading position in the international market into the future. IDA Ireland, in cooperation with Shannon Development, is continuing to market the Zone as a centre for FDI through its network of overseas offices.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

71 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the €4 million in grants paid by the IDA to a company (details supplied) has now been repaid in view of the failure of the planned project at Ballincollig to proceed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31135/07]

The legally binding agreements covering the payment of industrial grants by IDA to its client companies provide, among other things, that companies are obliged to repay grants in their entirety in the event of the project not proceeding. I am satisfied that the company concerned is fully aware if its obligation to repay the grant in its entirety.

Where a contractual entitlement to recover a grant arises, it is entirely a matter for the agency that is party to the contract to effect the recovery. I understand that the IDA has not yet sought recovery of the monies in this case.

As I said in the House on 24th October last the decision by Amgen to postpone indefinitely their proposed development at the Carrigtwohill site was based purely on developments related to the company's global business and is not in any way a reflection on the business environment in this Country. It is expected that the company, which has spent $100million on site acquisition, conceptual design and site clearance preparation, will retain ownership of the site. IDA Ireland will continue to maintain contact with Amgen as the company works through its restructuring phase.

While I am very disappointed at this turn of events, it must be noted that the Cork Gateway is still vibrant in what it can offer potential investors, particularly in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, medical technologies and internationally traded services.

There are currently 133 IDA assisted companies in County Cork employing almost 20,000 people. Cork City and County have benefited greatly from a number of important investment announcements this year which demonstrates the attractiveness of the greater Cork area as a location for investment, by both existing companies already located there as well as new overseas client companies choosing Cork as their location of choice. A total of nine Foreign Direct Investment projects have been announced for Cork City and County since the start of 2007, with an estimated 1,000 jobs to be created at full operation. In fact, IDA Ireland has, over the last 3 years, approved new projects for the Cork area with a job potential of over 3,100 people at full operation. I am confident that the policies being pursued for Cork City and County by the development agencies will continue pay dividends in terms of investment and jobs for the region.

Illegal Immigrants.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

72 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he plans to take to establish the number of people from other countries working illegally here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31136/07]

Under the Employment Permits Acts 2003 and 2006 it is illegal for a national from outside the European Economic Area to be in employment without an employment permit, except in specific circumstances. It is not possible to establish the precise number of people from other countries working illegally in Ireland. However, measures are being taken to restrict illegal working in Ireland.

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

In addition, a major package of measures has been agreed by the parties to Towards 2016, the new Social Partnership Agreement, to provide for enhanced public confidence in the system of compliance. New legislation, to be brought before the Oireachtas shortly, will empower the Labour Inspectorate of the National Employment Rights Authority to join with the Department of Social and Family Affairs and the Revenue Commissioners to work together in Joint Investigation Units. Such units will have a particular focus on the employment status of workers. The National Employment Rights Authority is currently working with the Department of Social and Family Affairs and the Revenue Commissioners with a view to the early establishment and operation of Joint Investigation Units within existing legal and administrative frameworks.

Towards 2016 also includes a number of other specific commitments in relation to employment status and in relation to the "Hidden Economy". The Government and social partners have agreed under Towards 2016 to review the application of the existing Code of Practice on employee status with a view to more effective implementation. My Department will be actively involved in that review. In addition, the Government and the social partners agreed under Towards 2016 to continue and expand the work of the Hidden Economy Working Group, which will make an important contribution in this area. This group comprises representatives of my own Department and the National Employment Rights Authority as well as the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, the Department of Social and Family Affairs, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Irish Business and Employers Confederation, the Small Firms Association and the Construction Industry Federation.

Legislative Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

73 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the plans he has to update the current partnership law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30788/07]

The Company Law Review Group, as part of their Work Programme for 2006/2007, to examine the issue of ‘Limited Liability Partnerships'. This follows from concerns, particularly by the legal profession, about the consequences of unlimited liability on partners in a firm. This is one of several issues under consideration by the Company Law Review Group and I expect to receive the report of the Group on its current Work Programme in early in 2008.

Road Network.

Frank Feighan

Question:

74 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will support the National Consumer Agency in their opposition to the electronic tolling arrangements that have been proposed by the National Roads Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31335/07]

The National Consumer Agency is empowered under the Consumer Protection Act 2007 to advocate the consumer's case to any public body in relation to matters of consumer protection and welfare. I understand that, in response to a public consultation in relation to a draft toll scheme for the M50, the Agency recently made a formal submission to the National Roads Authority. I would advise the Deputy that I do not have any direct responsibility in relation to the National Roads Authority.

I wish to point out that the process as laid down in the Roads Act 1993 provides parties who are concerned in relation to Draft Toll Schemes with the opportunity to express their concerns and to have those concerns considered prior to any decision being taken in relation to any Scheme. I am confident that the views of the National Consumer Agency will be considered before any final decision is made in relation to proposed Toll Scheme for the M50

Question No. 75 answered with QuestionNo. 63.

Consumer Protection.

Willie Penrose

Question:

76 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action being taken to implement the commitment in the Programme for Government that steps would be taken to ensure that prices of goods are labelled and transparent in order that the consumer is well informed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31148/07]

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

The National Consumer Agency whose function it is to enforce consumer laws, regularly undertakes surveillance with a view to securing voluntary compliance on the part of traders. In July 2007, my Department published a consultation paper on the Consumer Information (Advertisements for Concert or Theatre Performances) Order 1997 which contained proposals designed to broaden the scope and enhance the transparency of the price information provided to consumers about concerts, theatrical performances and other events. Follow-up meetings have been held with a wide range of interested parties and I hope to be in a position to introduce new Regulations in this area in 2008.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

77 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of deaths and injuries arising from workplace accidents generally, and specifically in regard to the construction industry for 2006; the way these figures compare with 2003, 2004 and 2005; the additional steps he will take to reduce such accidents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31145/07]

Figures published by the Health and Safety Authority show that in 2006 there were 50 recorded fatalities in Ireland as a result of work related accidents, compared to 74 work-related deaths in 2005, 50 in 2004 and 68 in 2003.

As regards construction, there were 12 fatalities in 2006 and 23, 16, and 20 for the years 2005, 2004 and 2003 respectively. Of the 12 fatalities in 2006, 11 were workers and 1 was a member of the public. Last year saw the introduction of significant legislative change in the construction sector with the introduction of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 504 of 2006) from 1 November.

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

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

carried out a focused programme of 6,024 construction site inspections covering appointment of competent designers, project supervisors and contractors, safety and health plans and safety statements, work at heights, traffic management and vehicle-reversing safety, welfare arrangements, and slips, trips and falls on a level,

carried out 91 inspections of designers concentrating on design risk assessments for work at a height and the provision of slip resistant floor surfaces,

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

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

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

developed a Code of Practice for Scaffolding,

developed a Code of Practice for Overhead Power Lines,

updated Guidance to reflect the 2006 Construction Regulations,

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

In addition, there is a considerable emphasis on safety in the high risk sectors, including construction, in the Health and Safety Authority's Work Programme for 2008.

Employment Rights.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

78 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the status of domestic legislation to protect the rights of agency workers. [31095/07]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

80 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason pay parity for agency workers from commencement of employment is outside the scope of the current partnership agreement; and his views on whether agency workers do not deserve the same pay and conditions as their directly employed co-workers doing the same job. [31096/07]

Martin Ferris

Question:

84 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the meaning of his statement that Ireland will continue to adopt a constructive role in discussions on the stalled EU Directive on Temporary Agency Workers; and if he plans to press ahead with domestic legislation on the issue of agency workers. [31094/07]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

85 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will support the trade union movement’s campaign to give agency workers equal rights. [31092/07]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

86 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when he will bring proposals to Government providing for the regulation of employment agencies, in order to ensure equality of treatment for agency workers; his views on whether this is an urgent matter as Ireland is one of only four EU countries which has failed to provide legislation for equal treatment of such workers in terms of pay, conditions and employment status; when the legislation will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31132/07]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

87 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the serious concern expressed by SIPTU, at the growing use of labour agencies by employers as a substitute for directly recruiting staff; the steps he is taking to put procedures in place to ensure that such workers receive the full protection of labour law and are not subject to exploitation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31130/07]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

112 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the fact that up to 200 of those who lost their jobs in the Seagate plant in October 2007 were agency workers and that they are being told they have no redundancy rights; if his further attention has been drawn to the growing number of agency workers here who face the same predicament; and the way he proposes to deal with the issue. [31093/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 78, 80, 84 to 87, inclusive, and 112 together.

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

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

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

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

I am aware of suggestions that Ireland is one of only three EU Member States which has failed to legislate for equal treatment for agency workers in terms of pay and conditions of employment. However practice in relation to agency working in other EU Member States is not always what it might appear at first glance. The situation is far more complex than that portrayed. Thus, for example, in Member States where legislation is complemented by collective agreements, deviation from the equal wage clause in legislation may be permitted. There is also wide variation in the nature and extent of wider employment rights and working conditions attained by agency workers in collective agreements such as, in the case of statutory sick pay and pension rights. In addition, in some Member States various restrictions and prohibitions are in place in which agency working is excluded from whole sectors of economic activity.

In the context of the European Union negotiations on the proposed EU Directive on Temporary Agency Work, Ireland will continue to adopt a constructive approach in these discussions. However, Ireland considers that the proposal for consideration, as currently drafted, is somewhat imbalanced. We have concerns about exemptions, or derogations, which would be to the benefit or advantage of some Member States and not others. In this regard, Ireland has, with other Member States, indicated that if permanent derogations through collective agreements are to be allowed then other means providing for derogations should also be allowed in those Member States without collective agreements.

Thus, Ireland considers that the derogation from equal treatment provided for in Article 5.4 of the proposed Directive, in respect of short-duration temporary agency assignments of a maximum of six weeks, is far too short. This is particularly so in comparison to the derogation available to those Member States, with collective agreements which can and do deviate from equal treatment in pay levels and in the areas of wider working and employment conditions, under the terms of Article 5.3 of the proposed Directive. In some cases these derogations can be for six months, or longer.

A longer time period than that currently on offer in respect of short-duration assignments — than the maximum six weeks now being proposed under Article 5.4 — would represent a more balanced approach. The shorter time period currently on offer could damage future job creation prospects and could deter the use of temporary agency working which would be to the detriment of our economy. This is particularly the case as agency work can provide, in certain circumstances, a useful stepping- stone for some persons to enter the labour market. The opportunities available to agency workers should not be reduced as a result of any new arrangements. Overall, the longer period being sought would provide the best balance between employment creation and flexibility, on the one hand, with employment protection and security on the other.

Ireland will continue to adopt a constructive approach to these discussions. In principle we support the thrust of the Directive but we are still participants in a wider negotiation on the details.

In Ireland, agency workers, as with other employees, who comply with the requirements of the Redundancy Acts 1967 to 2007, attain rights following a continuous period of service of two years. In the case of redundancies of agency workers in Seagate, in Derry, in October 2007, the company in question is outside the State and matters in that regard fall to be considered by legislation that applies in a separate jurisdiction.

Finally, despite frequent assertions to the contrary, Ireland's comprehensive body of employment rights legislation provides that employee protection applies to migrant workers in Ireland and also to agency and posted workers who have entered into a contract of employment that provides for him or her being employed in the State or who works in the State under a contract of employment. Enforcement is through the Labour Inspectorate, or, before dispute resolution bodies such as the Rights Commissioner Service, Labour Court and Employment Appeals Tribunal. I urge anyone who has evidence of the mistreatment of agency workers to furnish all the relevant details and any related materials to the Inspectorate with a view to pursuing the matter.

Industrial Development.

Denis Naughten

Question:

79 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he is taking to support enterprise development in the midland and western regions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30789/07]

The Enterprise Development Agencies under the aegis of my Department, Enterprise Ireland, the County Enterprise Boards, and IDA Ireland have remits respectively in the areas of, growing indigenous enterprises, and attracting and growing foreign direct investment. In addition, Shannon Development is the regional economic development agency for the mid-west region, and has specific responsibility for Foreign Direct Investment in the Shannon Free Zone. My Department has put in place a range of strategies, programmes and financial incentives to promote economic and enterprise development that will support sustainable employment throughout the country.

Enterprise Ireland (EI) recently launched their new strategy, ‘Transforming Irish Industry 2008-2010', which focuses on facilitating entrepreneurship and the enterprise environment in local and rural communities; driving the creation of innovation based start-ups, actively engaging in the Community Enterprise Scheme and proactively developing existing clients in all regions.

Enterprise Ireland works with almost 490 client companies in the West Region employing 11,578 people. In the Midlands, EI works with over 300 companies employing over 8,700 people (Forfás — Annual Employment Survey 2006).

EI has approved support for Community owned/led Enterprise Centres in 30 locations approximately in the West & Midlands Regions, which is helping to provide much needed workspace for the creation of new projects/businesses. In addition, I am informed that two community enterprise centres in the West & Midlands Regions were successful in their bid for funding under the Community Enterprise Scheme, as follows:

€300,000 for Roscommon IT & Knowledge Centre Ltd, and

€532,500 for OAK Partnership, Edenderry,

Support is available for both capital infrastructure and management support.

The County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) in the midland and western regions provide a source of support to small businesses with 10 employees or fewer. Subject to certain eligibility criteria new and developing enterprises may qualify for financial and non-financial support. During 2006 the Midland Region CEB's, composed of Longford, Westmeath, Laois and Offaly paid out over €1.04m in grant assistance to 120 clients. This intervention has assisted in the creation of 73 jobs in the region. The CEBs in the Western Region, comprising of Galway, Mayo and Roscommon have paid out over €1.28m in grant assistance to 114 clients, which in turn, has enabled the creation of 228 jobs in the area.

A central goal for IDA Ireland is the achievement of balanced regional development. The National Spatial Strategy provides a framework for achievement of this goal through the prioritisation of development and investment in the gateway and hub locations such as Galway, Limerick, Shannon, Athlone, Tuam and Mullingar. On this basis, IDA Ireland seeks to attract Foreign Direct Investment into the gateways and hubs as well as a small number of additional locations in these regions. In the West, IDA is working with key overseas companies such as Medtronics, Boston Scientific and Baxter Healthcare. In the Midlands, some of the agencies clients include Tyco Healthcare, Elan and Abbot Laboratories. Both the Midlands and the Western regions will also benefit from the ongoing investment in transport, energy and utilities set out in the new National Development Plan.

IDA Ireland is also working closely with educational institutions in the Region, in developing the skill sets necessary to attract high value added employment. The agency also works with FÁS to provide guidance in developing the skill sets needed by those already in the workforce who are interested in upskilling.

Question No. 80 answered with QuestionNo. 78.

Work Permits.

Seán Barrett

Question:

81 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the fact that due to delays in renewing work permits for foreign workers, difficulties are being caused for visa renewals in that frequently visas have expired prior to the renewed work permit being issued; if he will take steps to ensure that where work permit renewal applications are made prior to the expiry of the visa, that the work permits are issued prior to the visa expiry, in order that visas can be renewed without a gap; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27054/07]

The Employment Permits Section has indicated that in line with current policy renewal applications should be submitted at least 12 weeks prior to the expiry of the existing permit. Assuming that everything is in order applications are currently being processed within 15 working days of receipt.

Live Register.

Martin Ferris

Question:

82 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the number of people on the live register for the month of October 2007 was up by almost 9,000; and if a comprehensive study has been undertaken to ascertain the sectors those job losses have stemmed from. [31098/07]

I understand that the live register figures increased in October by 8,943 year on year. The total number of people recorded on the live register for October is 157,449. This equals the average numbers recorded on the live register for the year in both 2005 and 2006 and is less than that recorded in the previous four months of 2007.

The Department of Social and Family Affairs maintains the Live Register. The Live Register is not designed to measure unemployment. It includes part-time, seasonal and casual workers entitled to unemployment benefit.

Unemployment is measured by the Quarterly National Household Survey, collated and published by the Central Statistics Office. The most recent Quarterly National Household Survey, Quarter 3, 2007 indicates that employment has increased by 67,600 in the year. The unemployment rate is currently at 4.7%, down from 4.8% in the same period last year.

Employment growth has occurred in practically all sectors over the past year with a drop showing in two sectors in the most recent quarter — (i) agriculture, forestry and fishing and (ii) transport, storage and communication. The predictions for the medium term are for continued growth, albeit at a slower pace than that experienced to date.

The most recent data available on redundancy claims, by sector, are set out in the table below:

Sectors

October 2007

January to October 2007

Agriculture/Forestry and Fisheries

46

374

Energy and Water

11

103

Extraction Industry (Chemical Products)

12

269

Metal Manufacturing and Engineering

65

980

Other Manufacturing

630

5,420

Building and Civil Engineering

328

2,997

Distributive Trades

108

1,671

Transport and Communications

73

1,182

Other Services

865

7,586

Banking, Finance & Insurance

62

812

Total

2,200

21,394

Labour Inspectorate.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

83 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of labour inspectors employed by the Labour Inspectorate of his Department; the number of labour inspectors available for assignment on normal duties; the number of labour inspectors in training following recruitment; the status of the recruitment campaign to increase the Labour Inspectorate to 90 inspectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31141/07]

In accordance with commitments given under Towards 2016, the Social Partnership Agreement, the number of Inspectors is scheduled to increase to 90, from the starting position of 31, by the end of 2007.

Fifty-one Inspectors are currently assigned to the National Employment Rights Authority's Inspection Services. Twenty of these Inspectors were recruited in 2007 and have already undergone the core modules of the NERA Inspector training course. All fifty-one Inspectors are involved in carrying out inspections and other associated enquiries at places of work with a view to determining compliance with certain employment rights legislation.

The Public Appointments Service's recruitment and selection process for 10 Inspectors with specific language skills has now been completed while my Department's competitions for the remaining Inspector positions were completed yesterday (27th November 2007). It is expected that all 90 Inspector positions will be filled before the end of this year in line with the Towards 2016 target.

Questions Nos. 84 to 87, inclusive, answered with Question No. 78.

EU Directives.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

88 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number, in respect of EU directives for which his Department has responsibility, remaining to be implemented; the directives that are overdue; the number of reasoned opinions received from the EU Commission since 2002 regarding delays or non-implementation of such directives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31138/07]

There are currently a total of twelve Directives due to be transposed by my Department up to 2010. None of these Directives is overdue. One Directive is due for transposition by the end of 2007 and eleven further Directives are scheduled to be transposed in 2008 and subsequent years. My Department has received 24 Reasoned Opinions from the European Commission related to Directives since 2002. The outstanding issues concerning all but two of these Directives have been resolved satisfactorily.

Corrective measures are currently being taken in the context of legislation to introduce a public lending right to address a European Court of Justice ruling against Ireland for incorrect transposition of Directive 92/100/EC related to rental rights and lending rights in the field of intellectual property. In that regard, I would hope that the Copyright and Related Rights (Amendment) Bill 2007 will be enacted before the end of 2007.

On 23 October 2007, twelve Member States, including Ireland, received a Reasoned Opinion concerning the implementation of Council Directive 96/82/EC on the control of major accident hazards involving dangerous substances as amended by Directive 2003/105/EC (known as the Seveso Directive). Measures are being taken to ensure compliance as soon as possible.

Consumer Protection.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

89 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his proposals for a consultation process regarding the prohibition of credit card and other relevant methods of payment surcharges to consumers; when he expects the process to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31147/07]

As I advised the House in my reply of 24th October 2007 to a previous question on the same matter (PQ 25384/07 refers), my Department conducted a public consultation process in relation to the commencement of the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act 2007 regarding payment method charges. My Department received almost 50 submissions in response to the consultation process. These submissions have raised a number of matters which are currently being considered.

Wage Inflation.

Joe Costello

Question:

90 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the Government has plans to review the wage increases agreed for private sector workers under the Towards 2016 agreement in view of the continuing high rate of inflation, which is significantly higher than that forecast when the agreement was concluded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31133/07]

The provisions regarding private sector pay in the social partnership agreement, Towards 2016, were agreed by negotiation between the parties to the agreement. The agreed pay terms will begin to expire at the end of March 2008 and it is envisaged that the Social Partners will commence the next round of pay negotiations early in 2008.

It is the Government's firm view that a wage inflationary spiral is in nobody's interest. Indeed, that would be to everyone's detriment — with the low-paid and the vulnerable suffering most. I think that position is shared by all the parties to the pay terms of Towards 2016.

Wage moderation can be a powerful counter-inflationary tool, while excessive wage growth can be a strong driver of rising prices. Above all, what we must not do is embed inflation more deeply and price ourselves out of jobs and growth through an unworkable formula of wage demands chasing inflation.

Equal Opportunities Employment.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

91 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the average industrial wage earned by a male worker and female worker respectively; the average male earnings and average female earnings generally; if he plans additional measures to help bridge the male/female earnings gap; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31146/07]

Data from the CSO quarterly industrial survey show that average industrial earnings per hour for male industrial workers on adult rates in June 2007 was €16.62. For female industrial workers the average rate was €12.73.

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

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

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

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

My Department is responsible for chairing and providing the secretariat for the National Framework Committee on Work/life Balance Policies. This Committee, which was established under the social partnership process, comprises representatives from IBEC, ICTU, the Equality Authority and a number of Government Departments. The Committee has undertaken and continues to undertake a range of activities to raise awareness and encourage the provision of work/life balance at the level of the enterprise, including the provision of financial assistance to organisations, information dissemination activities, seminars, research etc. "Expanding the Workforce", which is run by FÁS, is aimed at proactively encouraging women to return to work. The initiative facilitates women returnees by ensuring that training is provided in a flexible manner and is tailored to meet business requirements and skills needs of employers.

Consumer Protection.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

92 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the recent proposals from the European Commission to close down airline websites that contained irregularities or incomplete information in regard to ticket pricing; if he has plans for a similar approach at national level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31129/07]

The question refers to the recent ‘sweep' or joint enforcement action co-ordinated by the European Commission to check websites selling airline tickets for compliance with consumer protection legislation. Enforcement authorities from 15 member states and Norway examined 447 airline websites to identify whether legal requirements were being met in relation to price information, limitations on ticket availability and fair contract terms. The investigation found that 226 of the airline websites showed irregularities in respect of the consumer law requirements under examination.

The next phase of the enforcement action comprises the further investigation of websites found to have irregularities. The airlines concerned will be asked to clarify their practices and, where necessary, to correct them. Those who fail to take corrective action could face legal action by national enforcement authorities acting on their own behalf or, under the Consumer Protection Co-Operation Regulation, on behalf of enforcement authorities in other member states. European Union consumer legislation is enforced at national level and penalties for breaches of that legislation are set by member states and, as a consequence, take different forms in different member states.

I understand that the National Consumer Agency has been examining various aspects of the airline industry in recent months, including the issues covered by the Commission ‘sweep'. It plans to engage directly with the airlines concerned in the period ahead with a view to securing voluntary compliance. If this is not forthcoming, enforcement action will be taken by the Agency where warranted.

Equal Opportunities Employment.

Seán Barrett

Question:

93 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his proposals to facilitate people to work past 65 years of age by abolishing the mandatory retirement age as recommended in the recently published report of the senior, select, retain and retrain partnership; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28768/07]

There is no age discrimination provision in employment rights legislation and there are no provisions in employment or equality law that impose a compulsory retirement from employment. The Employment Equality Acts 1998 and 2004, among other things, protects against discrimination on the ground of age in relation to access to employment. However, they also permit an employer to decide on a retirement age in a particular employment to give flexibility to employers and employees, having due regard to the nature of the work being performed.

There is therefore no single fixed retirement age for employees in Ireland, though the usual retirement age is 65. Retirement age is set out in a persons contract of employment, some of which do have a mandatory retirement age. However, it is open to the employee and employer to negotiate another contract. Many employment contracts have provisions for early retirement from age 60 or in some cases from age 55 and most have provision for early retirement on health grounds. Where an employee is subject to a mandatory retirement age in their job, there is nothing to prevent them taking up a different job when they retire or taking up self-employment.

With effect from 1 April, 2004, it is not compulsory for new entrants to the public service to retire at a particular age if they are fit and willing to remain in employment. The existing retirement conditions, in agreement with the relevant unions, been retained for existing employees. To do otherwise would be a breach of the terms and conditions of employment of employees. To encourage longer working and to improve income support for older people, the new enhanced State pension (non-contributory) for those over 66 years featured an employment earnings disregard incentive amounting to €200 per week in 2007.

The National Pensions Review, published last year, made a number of recommendations to encourage people to continue working after normal retirement age. This included allowing people to defer receiving their social welfare pension at normal pension age and to grant them an actuarially enhanced payment when they claim. The Government has recently published a Green Paper on pensions as part of the social partnership agreement, Towards 2016, with a view to developing a framework for future pensions policy. This includes an examination of the issues surrounding pensions and retirement age.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

94 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his view of the document recently published by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, A Fair Way In, proposals for a fair regularisation process for undocumented workers in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31128/07]

There are four recommendations in the ICTU document ‘A Fair Way In', two of which directly relate to my Department. The first recommendation states that undocumented workers must be guaranteed, in law, access to, and protection under, all employment rights law, including their trade union rights.

Ireland's body of employment rights legislation protects all workers employed on an employer-employee basis in Ireland. The second recommendation states that demand for undocumented labour be reduced by increased labour inspection and focusing sanctions on employers.

The Social Partnership Agreement "Towards 2016" provides that the number of Labour Inspectors (now known as NERA Inspection Services which is encompassed within the National Employment Rights Authority) would be progressively increased from 31 to 90 by end-2007. Recruitment of the additional Inspectors is progressing and will be completed, in line with the commitment under Towards 2016, by the end of 2007.

The primary role of the Inspection Services, in the case of breaches of employment rights legislation is to seek compliance from the employer and rectification of any breaches identified. Where breaches have not been rectified or in certain other circumstances, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment uses his statutory power to prosecute employers who breach certain provisions of protective employment legislation. These prosecutions against employers may be taken regardless of the status of the employees.

Price Inflation.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

95 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on reports of recent substantial increases in prices of a range of food prices and forecasts that food prices will rise further by the end of 2007; if he is satisfied that sufficient protection is available to protect consumers against unwarranted price increases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31139/07]

The price of a range of foods has increased in the last number of months. In this regard, the October 2007 Consumer Price Index as published by the Central Statistics Office shows that the price of food and non alcoholic beverages increased by 1.4% in the month and this was one of the main factors contributing to the increase in the annual rate of inflation to 4.8%.

As I advised the House in my reply of 24th October 2007 to a previous question on the same matter (PQ 25386/07 refers), rising food prices are being experienced right across the world due mainly to a number of emerging and growing trends. For example surging demand for meat and dairy produce in significant developing markets such as India and China, a rising global population, more frequent floods and droughts caused by climate change, the increasing loss of potential food-producing land to biofuel production have all impacted on the global rising cost of food. Unfortunately, these trends will most likely continue and will have an impact on the price of food into the future. Indeed as I previously advised the House, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation in a recent report expressed the view that because of factors such as those already referred to, the price of agricultural commodities will remain high over the next decade.

In terms of the price of food in Ireland, it is important that consumers keep themselves informed in relation to the level of prices in order that they can make an informed choice before deciding whether to buy from a particular retailer or whether to go elsewhere. To this end there is legislation in place which ensures that consumers are provided with clear price information prior to making a decision to purchase goods. The main piece of legislation in this area is the European Communities (Requirement to Indicate Product Prices) Regulations 2002, which requires that the selling price and the unit price for all products covered by the Regulations must be indicated.

As previously advised, the Competition Authority has been requested to review and monitor developments in the grocery sector and to assess, over time, the impact of the new regulatory environment. I understand that the Authority will present its first report, which will include an analysis of developments in the sector focusing on pricing trends, market structures and barriers to entry, shortly.

In addition to the work being undertaken by the Competition Authority, the National Consumer Agency also conducted a survey in relation to the price of common branded grocery products, the results of which it published in July of this year. The Agency will undertake a more extensive survey in the coming weeks, which will include branded and own branded groceries, fresh meat and fresh fruit and vegetables. I understand that the Agency will publish the results of this further survey in January 2008. I very much welcome this price awareness initiative by the National Consumer Agency which undoubtedly will greatly assist consumers in making price comparisons on a basket of common food products thereby helping them to achieve the best value for money.

I am satisfied that the measures put in place to allow consumers to make informed choices about the grocery items that they buy together with the ongoing work of the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency will help to ensure that consumers do not suffer from unwarranted price increases when doing their grocery shopping.

Financial Services Regulation.

Joan Burton

Question:

96 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his response to the recently submitted annual report from the stock exchange pursuant to Part V of the Companies Act 1990 in regard to insider trading; if he is satisfied that sufficient procedures are in place to deal with this practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31131/07]

Section 120 of the Companies Act, 1990 imposed a reporting obligation on every recognised stock exchange in relation to the exercise of functions under Part V (Insider Dealing) of the Act. The scope of that reporting obligation, as applying to the Irish Stock Exchange, was reduced significantly on the coming into operation on 6 July 2005 of the Market Abuse (Directive 2003/6/EC) Regulations 2005 (S.I. No. 342/2005). As a result of those Regulations, the Stock Exchange's supervisory functions and related reporting obligation, under Part V of the Act, now apply only to trading in Irish securities other than securities admitted to trading on a regulated market.

The Stock Exchange Report to which the Question refers is that for the year ended 31 December 2006, the first full year under the new regulatory arrangements. The Report meets the statutory requirements prescribed in Section 120 of the Companies Act, 1990 and has been noted.

Among the many significant changes introduced by the 2005 Regulations (S.I. No. 342/2005) was the appointment of the Financial Regulator (then described as the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland) as the single administrative competent authority for the purposes of the EU Directive being transposed by those Regulations viz. Directive 2003/6/EC on insider dealing and market manipulation (Market Abuse Directive). The effect of this change is that the Financial Regulator is now the relevant supervisory authority in this country for the purposes of ensuring compliance with the new regulatory regime by issuers whose securities are admitted to trading on a regulated market. In practice, the companies involved here would be those attached to the Stock Exchange's so called official list and would include all the larger companies. The new system also includes strengthened provisions and arrangements for preventing, investigating and sanctioning insider dealing and market manipulation.

While the new regulatory arrangements are of relatively recent origin, I am confident that these Community-wide arrangements will prove to be adequate to deal with insider dealing/market manipulation behaviour found to be in breach of the new rules. I am also considering whether to extend the application of the new arrangements in this country to those markets which are not currently covered by them.

Personal Injuries Assessment Board.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

97 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of cases before the Personal Injuries Assessment Board; the number of cases for which rulings have been given since its inception; the number of these cases that have been referred to the Courts for further action or appeal; the number of staff employed by the PIAB; the intended number of staff to be employed by the PIAB; the date by which he expects the PIAB to be fully staffed; the date on which a review will be undertaken on staffing levels in the PIAB; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31137/07]

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

Since its establishment the PIAB has successfully fulfilled its legal obligations: the PIAB is now assessing many claims three times faster and four times cheaper than under the old litigation system. To the end of Q3 2007, the PIAB had made actual savings to date of €61 million on awards totalling €270 million, when compared with the old, unwieldy, adversarial and litigation-based system. This is quite an achievement in such a short space of time, and can only be good news for accident victims, for business and for consumers generally who have seen, and should see further, reductions in their insurance premiums. The PIAB has pared down the personal injury claims process in a wholly positive way. In 2003 it is estimated that the number of personal injury cases going through the Irish Courts system was in the region of 32,000 cases whereas the estimated figure for 2006 is 15,900 cases. The effects are felt throughout the Court system where valuable time has now been freed up to deal with cases that should more properly reside there.

At the end of September 2007 there were 4,815 cases with the PIAB in the 90-day "consent to process" period i.e. PIAB has received a claim and has issued formal notice to the responding party and is awaiting consent to process from that party. There were a further 6,325 cases in the nine-month statutory assessment process, where the responding party has indicated that liability is not contested and damages are being assessed. Approximately 13,300 assessments have been made to October 2007, 6,500 of these having been issued by the end of 2006. Of the assessments issued 7,533 have been accepted, 4,707 have been rejected and authorised to proceed to litigation, and responses are awaited on the balance.

Delivery costs are 4 times cheaper than old system. Average delivery costs at approximately €1,407 flat fee equating to approximately 7% as against old system of 46%, e.g. a €15,000 award in the old system would have attracted costs of an additional €7,500 approximately. Under the Personal Injuries Assessment Board these costs would be €1,350. Some of the rejected assessments will have been resolved since PIAB involvement and others will proceed to the Courts. The PIAB would not be aware of the number of these cases which actually proceed to litigation, although it is believed that a significant proportion are settled outside of the Courts once an authorisation issues from the PIAB.

The Board currently employs 74 staff members (up from 53 in May 2006) and is in the process of recruiting to bring numbers towards the staffing level of 85 agreed with my Department. There are no plans at this time to further review staffing levels in the PIAB.

Decentralisation Programme.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

98 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if it is intended to proceed with the decentralisation of FÁS to Birr, County Offaly, especially in view of the recent expansion of its head office in Dublin to a new floor to accommodate 60 additional staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31152/07]

Under the Government's decentralisation programme, FÁS is due to transfer its head office, including some 383 staff, to Birr, Co Offaly. This remains the case. The staff referred to by the Deputy work in the FÁS Services to Business Section (STB) and had moved some years ago from Baggot Street to temporary accommodation in Kilmainham. The back section of FÁS' building in Baggot Street has been sub-let but the tenant no longer requires the first floor of this section and it has reverted to FÁS. This has facilitated the return of the STB section to Baggot Street.

Labour Inspectorate.

Liz McManus

Question:

99 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of inspections carried by the Labour Inspectorate to date in 2007; the way this compares with the same period in 2006; the reason for the significant decline in the number of inspections carried out in the first nine months of 2007 as compared to the first nine months of 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31142/07]

The number of employment rights inspections/visits undertaken to 23rd November, 2007 by the Inspection Services of the National Employment Rights Authority, or NERA, amounted to 12,002. In the full year 2006, some 15,855 inspections/visits were undertaken. Insofar as comparisons with the same period in 2006 are concerned I am advised by NERA that some 10,600 employment rights inspections/visits were undertaken in the period 1st January to 31st October, 2007. This represents a reduction of 28% in comparison to the 14,600 inspections/visits undertaken in the same period in 2006.

There are three main reasons for the reduction in the number of inspections to date in 2007 compared to 2006. Firstly, NERA Inspection Services undertook a comprehensive and extensive employment rights compliance campaign in the construction sector during June and July this year. The nature of the Construction Sector in terms of mobility, places of employment (headquarters and sites) and numbers of employees dictated a specific approach from NERA Inspection Services in order to optimise effectiveness. This approach was resource intensive in terms of inspector numbers, planning, intelligence gathering and liaison with the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social and Family Affairs in relation to joint investigations and the exchange of data. This campaign necessarily resulted in the diversion of resources for a considerable period from inspection activity in sectors that would be less demanding in terms of inspection planning, liaison and duration. However, the approach adopted for the Construction Campaign was extremely successful. Some €1.3 million has to date in 2007 been secured by NERA Inspection Services for employees arising from breaches detected in the construction sector.

Secondly, the 12,002 employment rights inspections/visits undertaken to date in 2007 exclude a significant number of inspections which will arise from a protection of young persons employment rights campaign to be undertaken during December. Thirdly, some 59 new inspectors will, by the end of 2007, have been recruited in line with the commitment given under Towards 2016, the Social Partnership Agreement. This large influx of new inspectors within such a short timeframe requires a huge commitment from existing inspectors in terms of training, mentoring and other supports and must necessarily divert some resources from inspection activity.

Notwithstanding the reduction to date in the number of employment rights inspections/visits compared to the same period in 2006, it should be noted that the outcomes in a number of respects are extremely positive. Firstly, over €2.2 million in arrears due to employees has to date in 2007 been recovered by NERA Inspection Services compared to €1.4 million for the full year in 2006. Secondly, 2,198 breaches have to date in 2007 been detected by Inspection Services compared to 2,108 for the full year in 2006. Thirdly, 25 prosecutions have been initiated by Inspection Services to date in 2007 compared to 8 for the full year in 2006. These outcomes point to the value of the more focussed and targeted activities being undertaken by NERA in relation to employment rights promotion and compliance.

Economic Competitiveness.

John Perry

Question:

100 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he is satisfied with Ireland’s ranking as the 22nd most competitive country in the World Economic Forum competitiveness league table; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31339/07]

The WEF's report is based on analysis of statistics and personal opinion from business managers in ranking 131 economies. In his introduction to this years Global Competitiveness Report, Mr. Schwab the Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF) says the report comes amid a time of uncertainty for the global economy. Ireland has maintained its position since last year despite the challenging world trading conditions.

Within the areas measured we are in 5th place for financial market sophistication and 4th for "goods market efficiency". This is important because included in this category we are ranked 1st for the positive impact of business rules on foreign direct investment. This again underlines our solid reputation as a flexible and competitive economy in which to invest. And of course what holds for foreign investors is equally true for the environment in which indigenous firms are encouraged to start and grow. These are clearly identified in the report as a competitive advantage for our economy.

Furthermore, underpinning our ambitions as a knowledge economy we also scored well on the quality of our education system and the quality of our management schools. The quality of our education, the depth of our human resources and the capabilities of our mangers will determine our competitiveness. In these areas we are particularly strong. The report reconfirms the wide understanding that our economy is conducive of the general business environment for enterprise and entrepreneurship. Together with the investment we are putting into the economy under the National Development Plan prioritising infrastructure, R&D and education, I am confident that we are successfully putting in place the conditions for future competitiveness and productivity growth.

Job Creation.

James Bannon

Question:

101 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the IDA plans for job creation in Rathowen and Mullingar, County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25903/07]

James Bannon

Question:

104 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the IDA plans for job creation in Longford Town and Ballymahon, County Longford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25902/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 101 and 104 together.

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment (FDI) to Ireland and its regions. The marketing of individual areas for new or expansion FDI investments and jobs is a day-to-day operational matter for the Agency. While I may give general policy directives to the Agency, I am precluded under the Industrial Development Acts from giving directives regarding individual undertakings or from giving preference to one area over others.

Counties Longford and Westmeath form part of the IDA Midland region along with Counties Offaly, Laois and Roscommon. In line with the National Spatial Strategy the locations of emphasis for IDA Ireland in these counties are the Gateway towns of Athlone, Tullamore and Mullingar. In addition IDA actively promotes the county towns of Portlaoise, Longford and Roscommon. IDA Ireland is committed to encouraging the establishment of foreign direct investment in the Midlands Region. However, Ireland now has to compete for more high value and skill-intensive investments than in the past. These investments tend to favour the larger urban centres, close to Universities and Institutes of Technology. Combining the strengths of the Midlands Gateway is essential to boosting the Region's overall economic strength. The region will also benefit from the ongoing investment in transport, energy and utilities set out in the new National Development Plan.

In addition, IDA Ireland is working closely with educational institutions in the Region, in developing the skill sets necessary to attract high value added employment. The agency also works with FAS to provide guidance in developing the skill sets needed by those already in the workforce who are interested in upskilling.

At present there are five IDA assisted companies in Mullingar and its environs employing approximately 655 people. Through its range of overseas offices, IDA Ireland actively markets Mullingar as part of the Midlands Region as a location for foreign direct investment in particular the Marlinstown / Ardmore site of 70 acres. The establishment of Abbott Ireland in Longford Town, has been a great boost to the Region with approximately 380 already employed in that plant. In addition, Cameron Ireland now has over 200 employed in its plant and that number continues to grow.

According to the Forfás Annual Survey there were, at the end of 2006, twenty six IDA supported companies employing a total of 3,320 people in the combined counties Westmeath and Longford. Figures for 2007 will not be available until early 2008. I am satisfied that the co-operation of the development agencies together with the roll out of the National Development Plan will continue to encourage investment and bring benefits the peoples of Counties Longford and Westmeath and indeed the region as a whole.

Consumer Protection.

Willie Penrose

Question:

102 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps being taken to implement the commitment in the Programme for Government to introduce on-the-spot fines for breaches of consumer law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31149/07]

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

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

Industrial Development.

Pat Breen

Question:

103 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of companies located in Ennis and in County Clare excluding the Shannon Free Zone for the years 2004, 2005, 2006 and the first six months of 2007; the number of employees in these companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29767/07]

Employment data in respect of companies supported by the Enterprise Agencies is collated by Forfás on a countywide annual basis only and accordingly data is not available for 2007. Responsibility for indigenous enterprise transferred from Shannon Development to Enterprise Ireland in Jan 2007. Data provided by the latter agency indicates that the number of companies in County Clare that transferred from Shannon Development consists of 126 in total (all of which are external to the Shannon Free Zone). The attached table sets out the position in relation to companies and employment in enterprise agency assisted firms in Co. Clare excluding the Shannon Free Zone for the past 3 years

The Government is committed to achieving balanced regional development and a key regional objective included in the NDP is to support the creation of conditions necessary to extend the process of employment and productivity growth in higher value added functions to all regions. The State Development agencies, in partnership with other key players, actively seek to provide high value employment opportunities in County Clare. Clearly the strategies set out in the National Development Plan will play a crucial role in maintaining the attractiveness of the regions as investment locations.

As part of an integrated mid-West strategy, IDA Ireland is actively promoting County Clare for foreign direct investment in line with its objective to pursue balanced regional development. Clare has a strong base of foreign direct investment jobs, with the pharmaceutical and medical technology sectors representing 85% of IDA supported employment in the county. The agency's strategy for the region involves a transition to the knowledge economy by winning new foreign direct investment in innovation driven, high value sectors and working with its existing company base to expand their presence in Ireland by the addition of increased functions of scale and increased strategic functions.

Ennis is designated as a hub town in the National Spatial Strategy (NSS) and is a priority location for IDA with 6 of the 9 companies supported by the agency in the county based in Ennis. Towards that end the development of Ennis Information Age Park has become an integral part of the Agency's international marketing programme and will be pivotal in attracting new investors.

Vital for any shift to a more knowledge based economy, is the development of the skill sets necessary to attract such high value added employment particularly, R&D, corporate services, shared services, supply chain management treasury management etc. The enterprise agencies' partnership with educational institutions in the region, in particular UL, LIT, NUIG and GMIT, is therefore a key part of their strategy for the region.

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

Among the firms supported by Enterprise Ireland in the County are Data Display in Ennistymon — one of the largest indigenous employers in the County employing 140 people. Other significant employers include Vitolograph, based in Ennis and employing 72 people, the company develops and manufactures products for the health care sector mainly for export markets. Shannon Showcase also based in Ennis is a relatively young company first established in 2000, employing 56 people which operates as an International relationship marketing company and AJ Precision a plastic injection moulding operation based in Tuamgraney employing 41 people. Smithstown Industrial Estate near Shannon Airport is the location of a significant cluster of Irish owned manufacturing companies.

Enterprise Ireland supports Community Enterprise Centres in Ennistymon and Kilkee and is currently in discussion with a group from Kilrush. This is a unique partnership between local communities and Enterprise Ireland that provides essential support for entrepreneurship in urban and rural areas. Earlier this year I announced a new Community Enterprise Centre scheme to be managed by Enterprise Ireland. Funding will be targeted at those communities where job losses have been most acute and there is an evident need for this type of initiative.

Enterprise Agencies Assisted Companies and Jobs in Co. Clare (excluding Shannon Free-zone)

2004

2005

2006

Companies

Permanent Jobs

Companies

Permanent Jobs

Companies

Permanent Jobs

IDA Ireland

9

929

9

1,024

9

1,004

Enterprise Ireland

7

185

6

189

7

197

EI (formerly Shannon Development)

126

1,621

121

1,612

126

1,674

Totals

142

2,735

136

2,825

142

2,678

Question No. 104 answered with QuestionNo. 101.

Company Closures.

Damien English

Question:

105 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of small businesses here that ceased trading within 12 months and three years of commencing to trade in the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30572/07]

The particular statistics sought by the Deputy are not compiled at present. The Central Statistics Office (CSO) recently published its first thematic report which focused specifically on the importance of small business in Ireland. The publication of this CSO "Small Business In Ireland" Report (May 2007) followed on from a recommendation of the Small Business Forum for a publication of robust data on a range of indicators relevant to the small business sector.

As part of its process in producing thematic reports to assist policymaking, the CSO intends to compile and publish a similar report on an annual basis and will seek to improve the range of information made available, including, the development of information on business demographics.

County Enterprise Boards.

Damien English

Question:

106 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount of grants paid out by each county enterprise board for each of the years 2004, 2005, 2006 and to date in 2007; the number of businesses that were in receipt of these grants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30573/07]

The function of the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) is to develop indigenous enterprise potential and to stimulate economic activity at regional level throughout the country. There are 35 Boards located throughout the 26 counties and their local base means that the projects and related job opportunities they support are specifically tailored to the particular needs of the local economic environment of the regions, urban and rural.

The CEBs can provide both financial and non-financial assistance to a project promoter. The forms of financial assistance which are available, subject to certain restrictions, include Capital Grants, Employment Grants and Feasibility Study Grants. The total number of grants paid out by the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) from 2004 to end September, 2007 stands at €39.3m. 3,392 businesses were in receipt of CEB assistance during this period. (2007 figures are provisional – end of year statistics will not be compiled until January, 2008.)

A breakdown of the information requested by the Deputy is set out in tabular format below.

Number of Businesses in receipt of CEB Grants for each of the years 2004, 2005, 2006 and to end September, 2007

CEB

2004

2005

2006

2007

Totals

Carlow

20

24

26

23

93

Cavan

23

25

29

13

90

Clare

38

41

37

14

130

Cork City

14

17

15

19

65

Cork North

2

0

0

0

2

Cork South

18

20

17

10

65

Cork West

21

23

20

8

72

Donegal

28

32

31

16

107

Dublin City

59

56

61

46

222

Dublin Fingal

44

31

30

23

128

Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown

30

38

26

20

114

Galway City & Co.

48

55

58

37

198

Kerry

43

40

33

28

144

Kildare

21

21

17

20

79

Kilkenny

32

38

31

22

123

Laois

20

14

27

16

77

Leitrim

25

26

23

16

90

Limerick City

21

22

20

14

77

Limerick County

17

21

17

16

71

Longford

37

43

41

24

145

Louth

26

27

23

15

91

Mayo

29

28

29

14

100

Meath

20

15

14

13

62

Monaghan

13

14

14

7

48

Offaly

24

22

21

28

95

Roscommon

17

23

27

12

79

Sligo

34

19

21

29

103

South Dublin

27

14

15

13

69

Tipperary NR

17

22

18

13

70

Tipperary SR

21

18

23

28

90

Waterford City

30

28

23

16

97

Waterford County

20

18

19

18

75

Westmeath

31

26

31

19

107

Wexford

39

36

28

27

130

Wicklow

20

23

25

16

84

TOTAL

929

920

890

653

3,392

Grants paid out by each County Enterprise Board for each of the years 2004, 2005, 2006 and to end September 2007

CEB

2004

2005

2006

2007

Totals

Carlow

326,448

291,829

211,035

194,616

1,023,928

Cavan

198,428

222,547

278,541

164,684

864,199

Clare

246,832

288,713

376,530

66,106

978,181

Cork City

257,512

73,908

180,738

248,308

760,466

Cork North

135,000

0

0

0

135,000

Cork South

210,941

266,517

355,109

241,494

1,074,061

Cork West

257,877

316,735

258,297

71,326

904,235

Donegal

484,762

671,795

475,308

395,118

2,026,982

Dublin City

504,814

580,590

770,095

292,909

2,148,409

Dublin Fingal

458,629

632,020

453,694

429,232

1,973,574

Dún Laoghaire/ Rathdown

493,405

446,107

376,169

345,103

1,660,784

Galway City & Co.

477,636

454,413

444,321

253,794

1,630,164

Kerry

307,694

294,555

349,230

207,287

1,158,766

Kildare

341,457

218,402

158,336

234,308

952,503

Kilkenny

298,073

348,067

380,142

165,636

1,191,918

Laois

201,874

134,038

219,264

156,523

711,699

Leitrim

183,304

239,349

184,599

104,162

711,414

Limerick City

171,622

231,650

189,964

88,989

682,225

Limerick County

263,397

369,930

349,758

299,930

1,283,015

Longford

300,909

236,599

257,345

153,592

948,445

Louth

299,767

223,325

305,411

153,503

982,006

Mayo

294,223

301,239

438,939

188,009

1,222,410

Meath

160,318

297,949

204,813

135,293

798,373

Monaghan

105,038

262,737

219,325

126,741

713,840

Offaly

208,909

297,620

253,104

242,575

1,002,208

Roscommon

301,334

249,414

403,420

81,064

1,035,232

Sligo

265,172

293,234

280,811

330,487

1,169,704

South Dublin

411,804

391,939

482,250

401,730

1,687,723

Tipperary NR

260,171

231,714

238,850

140,095

870,830

Tipperary SR

194,437

202,142

329,393

210,603

936,574

Waterford City

296,373

194,596

163,418

120,601

774,988

Waterford County

321,827

245,951

226,164

137,032

930,974

Westmeath

379,826

288,136

314,240

294,530

1,276,733

Wexford

380,727

516,262

223,761

363,469

1,484,218

Wicklow

548,825

494,529

269,143

284,877

1,597,374

TOTAL

10,549,363

10,808,552

10,621,517

7,323,724

39,303,156

Decentralisation Programme.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

107 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress made to date with regard to the implementation of the programme of decentralisation in respect of his Department and State bodies under the aegis of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31151/07]

My Department has been making good progress in the relocation of the required 250 posts to Carlow under the Government's Decentralisation Programme. The following business units/Offices of my Department have been selected as part of the Decentralisation Programme and will be relocated in the new decentralised office: Companies Registration Office/Registry of Friendly Societies; National Employment Rights Authority (NERA); Work Permits; Redundancy Payments Section; Insolvency Payments Section.

With regard to the property side of the Department's move, the OPW completed the purchase of a site in Carlow town centre late in 2005. On the 31st May 2006, the OPW commenced the tendering process by seeking expressions of interest from developers in relation to the Design/Build/Finance/Maintenance of new office accommodation and car parking for the Department in Carlow. This is part of a major PPP project, which also involves the provision of office accommodation for the Department of Agriculture and Food in Portlaoise and the Department of Education and Science in Mullingar. The project will be procured on a Design/Build/Finance/Maintain basis and a single contract will be placed covering the three buildings. Financial advice is being provided to the OPW by the National Development Finance Agency.

The OPW has advised my Department that the tender process is at tender evaluation stage and it is envisaged that the successful tenderer will be selected shortly and the award of the project agreement will be in December 2007. The OPW anticipate that construction start on site, subject to no planning issues arising, will commence in June 2008 and completion of construction of the permanent office is expected by December 2009.

In order to accommodate staff who wish to move earlier than the projected building completion date of late 2009, officials of my Department, in consultation with the Department of Finance and the OPW, opened an advance office in Carlow on July 30th 2007. The number of posts in this decentralised advance office is 98.

Under the current Government Decentralisation Programme, four of the Agencies under the aegis of my Department are due to decentralise as follows: FAS is to move 383 posts to Birr, Co. Offaly; Enterprise Ireland (EI) is to move 300 posts to Shannon; The Health and Safety Authority is to move 110 posts to Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny, and The National Standards Authority of Ireland is to move 132 posts to Arklow, Co. Wicklow.

My Department continues to provide advice and support to each of the four Agencies in progressing their decentralisation programmes and there is a dedicated Agency Decentralisation Committee to drive the process forward. In addition, I am satisfied that each Agency is fully engaged in the process and taking all of the relevant steps to advance their decentralisation plans.

Under the Government's decentralisation programme, FÁS is due to transfer its head office including some 383 posts to Birr, County Offaly. FÁS currently has 21 staff members based in Birr who are working out of offices located within the Birr Technology Centre. It is anticipated that some 25 staff will be located in Birr by the end of the year. The offices in the Technology Centre have been rented on a 5-year lease from May this year. FÁS has recently completed the purchase of a site in Birr, Co Offaly in connection with the decentralisation of its Headquarters. An application for planning permission is currently being prepared and will be submitted in due course.

Latest figures show that one Enterprise Ireland staff member has applied for decentralisation to Enterprise Ireland in Shannon. I understand that the number of applications received from within the civil and public service, including my Department, amounts to 25, thus giving a total overall of 26 persons. Progress on the full transfer of EI's HQ to Shannon, within the Government decentralisation programme, will be influenced by factors such as the level of interest in the Shannon location expressed by CAF applicants and by progress made discussions at a central level on various issues central to Agency decentralisation (and resolving potential internal HR/IR issues)

As the Deputy will be aware, the functions hitherto carried out by Shannon Development in relation to the development of indigenous industry in the Mid-West Region were transferred to EI with effect from 1 January 2007. This transfer of function also involved the transfer of posts from Shannon Development to EI. The necessary arrangements to give effect to these changes are well advanced and a number of staff have already formally transferred to EI.

In addition, Enterprise Ireland has also established its new National Regional Development Headquarters in Shannon and has established the County Enterprise Support Unit in Shannon. A senior manager has been appointed as Head of Regions and Entrepreneurship to oversee the establishment of the EI presence in the Mid-West Region. EI managers with responsibility for the County Enterprise Coordination Unit and EI Regional Development strategy as well as the Regional Director with responsibility for the Mid West Regional are now in place in its Shannon office. EI has leased high-spec office space in Westpark, Shannon, to accommodate this new Regional HQ. Currently there are 40 staff recruited to posts in Shannon and it is expected that this will rise to approximately 65 EI staff over the coming months.

The Health and Safety Authority is to move 110 posts to Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny. To date a total of 62 people (11 HSA staff, 41 Civil Servants, 10 Public Servants) have expressed an interest through the CAF process in transferring to Thomastown. The Authority has been advised by OPW that, as the site procurement is in the final stages, the current estimated timeline for availability for occupancy is 2009. In anticipation of the move to Thomastown, the Authority established an interim office in Kilkenny city in August 2006. To date, 27 staff have re-located to that office. That office is now fully occupied and discussions are currently on-going with a view to securing larger office space in the area. All staff that move to the Kilkenny office will transfer to Thomastown when those premises are completed and all newly recruited Dublin based staff are ultimately contracted to move to Thomastown.

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

Job Creation.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

108 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he plans to provide additional funding to Enterprise Ireland, county enterprise boards and LEADER groups to enhance the indigenous entrepreneur sector. [31097/07]

The Government recognises that an environment conducive to entrepreneurial activity that harnesses the abundant creativity of Irish entrepreneurs is critical to Ireland's economic future and national prosperity. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), benchmarks Ireland as one of the most entrepreneurial economies in Europe, ranking 3rd highest in the EU. The 2006 GEM report found that over 70% of those surveyed see entrepreneurship to be a good career choice with 44% of Irish adults perceiving good opportunities to establish a new business at present and 50% believing they have the necessary skills to successfully establish and run a new business. Entrepreneurs drive innovation, competitiveness and growth and are at the heart of economic activity and development in local communities and regional economies.

The transformation in Ireland's economic fortunes over the past decade has been little short of remarkable, including the creation of more than 700,000 new jobs. A significant factor in the improvement of Ireland's economic performance is the emergence of a genuine culture of entrepreneurship in Ireland — one which had never really existed before. All the economic signals from our major trading partners suggest the next period will be more testing than the conditions that we have experienced over the past number of years. However, Irish entrepreneurs and small business owners have faced difficult periods in the past and continually prove their resilience and determination. We aim to help entrepreneurs and start-ups by ensuring there is a comprehensive range of financial and non-financial supports provided by the State for entrepreneurs and start-up companies.

Insofar as 2008 is concerned, the Pre-Budget Outlook (PBO), published in October 2007, projected an increase of over €6m for Enterprise Ireland activities which focus on supporting High Potential Start Up companies (HPSUs) with the potential to export, comprehensive funding for R&D, driving growth and innovation capabilities and assisting major projects. In addition, CEB funding will be €32.2m. The funding will enable the CEBs to continue to deliver a wide-range of support programmes to the micro-enterprise sector with considerable success. It should be noted, however, that PBO projections are subject to revision.

Earlier this year, on foot of the recommendations contained in the Enterprise Strategy Group report Ahead of the Curve, Enterprise Ireland established a County Enterprise Board Coordination Unit in Shannon. The objective of this CEBCU is to provide a range of supports to the CEBs, which will ultimately impact on the future development of micro-enterprise. The supports to be provided include strategic, administrative, technical and financial support. Enterprise Ireland is also investigating ways to provide relevant CEB client companies with access to Enterprise Ireland programs designed to help them achieve export sales in new markets.

Last month, Forfás published its report "Towards developing an Entrepreneurship Policy for Ireland". The report sets out a profile of Ireland's entrepreneurial culture and a blueprint to drive increased entrepreneurial activity in Ireland. The Department of Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs is the national authority responsible for the administration of LEADER activity in Ireland and I have no function in the matter.

Regulatory Impact Assessments.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

109 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of regulatory impact assessments that have been carried out in the past two years; if he will provide a list of same; the number that were published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27146/07]

The number of Regulatory Impact Assessments carried out by my Department are set out on the attached tabular statement.

Title of RIA

Was RIA published? Yes / No

If not published, why not?

Any Additional Information

An Assessment of the Increase in the Minimum Wage Recommended by the Labour Court in 2006

No

ESRI report was circulated to Social Partners.

A full impact assessment was undertaken by the ESRI on the proposed increases in the National Minimum Wage contained in S.I. No. 667 of 2006 — National Minimum Wage Act 2000 (National Minimum Hourly Rate of Pay) Order 2006.

Employment Law Compliance Bill 2007

A Screening Regulatory Impact Analysis was undertaken by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and will be published as part of the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to the Bill to be initiated in Dail or Seanad Eireann as soon as it is drafted and approved by the Government. The Bill is intended to secure better compliance with employment law in accordance with provisions of PART 2 — Sections 11 to 16 of “TOWARDS 2016” (THE 10-YEAR FRAMEWORK SOCIAL PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT 2006-2015).

RIA: Safety, Healthand Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2006

Yes

RIA: Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Applications) Regulations 2007

Yes

RIA for the draft scheme of a Chemicals Regulation and Enforcement Bill

Yes published on Department’s website for consultation between the 19.10.07 and 16.11.07

SI 577 of 2007 — European Communities (Ecodesign Requirements for Certain Energy-using Products) Regulations 2007. In line with Government policy, a Screening RIA was undertaken on Regulations to implement Directive 2005/32/EC establishing a framework for the setting of ecodesign requirements for energy-using products (EUP). This Directive is a Framework Directive which specifies the framework within which detailed measures (referred to as implementing measures) setting ecodesign requirements for specific energy-using products will be brought forward by the Commission. It also provides that three existing Directives, which had already been implemented in national law, are to be implementing measures for the purposes of the Energy-using Products Directive.

No

A screening RIA conducted on the proposed draft Regulations concluded that there was no need to undertake a full RIA as the purpose of the new legislation was to consolidate three existing Regulations and to establish a national framework for future implementing measures proposed by the EU Commission. These new implementing measures, which will set out the eco-design requirements for specific energy-using products, will be subject to the regulatory impact assessment process.

Title of RIA

Was RIA published?Yes / No

If not published, why not?

Any Additional Information

A screening RIA was carried out on the Control of Exports Bill 2007 and is available for download from the Department’s website

Yes

NA

NA

Services Directive,

No

Work is ongoing as this RIA has just commenced recently.

NA

Screening RIA-General Scheme of Companies Consolidation and Reform Bill

Yes

The Screening RIA is set out in Chapter 4 of the CLRG Report on the General Scheme of the Companies Consolidation and Reform Bill 2007

Report on Directors’ Compliance Statement 2005

Yes

Section 45 of the Companies (Auditing and Accounting Act) 2003

A draft screening RIA was undertaken in the context of the negotiation of Directive 2007/36/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council (“Shareholder’s Rights Directive”).

No

Draft Screening RIA only

Investment Funds, Companies and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2006

No

While a formal RIA was not undertaken, all appropriate considerations arising were brought to the attention of Government relating to each of the provisions contained in the Act.

Consumer Protection (National Consumer Agency) Bill 2006 Screening Regulatory Impact Analysis

Yes

The Department is currently conducting a limited regulatory impact analysis in relation to certain aspects of sections 48 and 49 of the Consumer Protection Act 2007.

Competition (Amendment) Act 2006.

No

A formal RIA was not undertaken on the Competition (Amendment) Act 2006. Consideration of the issues giving rise to this Act were in train prior to the Government’s decision of June 2005 relating to Regulatory Impact Analysis. On the 8th November, 2005“The Restrictive Practices (Groceries) Order 1987 — A Review & Report of the Public Consultation Process” was published. This report is based on an evaluation and assessment of over 560 submissions received following a public consultation announced on 19 May 2005. The Report is also based on the Department’s research and examination of the issues involved.

Title of RIA

Was RIA published?Yes / No

If not published, why not?

Any Additional Information

SI 577 of 2007 — European Communities (Ecodesign Requirements for Certain Energy-using Products) Regulations 2007. In line with Government policy, a Screening RIA was undertaken on Regulations to implement Directive 2005/32/EC establishing a framework for the setting of ecodesign requirements for energy-using products (EUP). This Directive is a Framework Directive which specifies the framework within which detailed measures (referred to as implementing measures) setting ecodesign requirements for specific energy-using products will be brought forward by the Commission. It also provides that three existing Directives, which had already been implemented in national law, are to be implementing measures for the purposes of the Energy-using Products Directive.

No

A screening RIA conducted on the proposed draft Regulations concluded that there was no need to undertake a full RIA as the purpose of the new legislation was to consolidate three existing Regulations and to establish a national framework for future implementing measures proposed by the EU Commission. These new implementing measures, which will set out the eco-design requirements for specific energy-using products, will be subject to the regulatory impact assessment process.

A screening RIA was carried out on the Control of Exports Bill 2007 and is available for download from the Department’s website

Yes

NA

NA

A full RIA is being carried out on the Services Directive,

No

Work is ongoing as this RIA has just commenced recently.

NA

A full RIA was carried out in respect of The Protection of Employment (Exceptional Collective Redundancies and Related Matters) Act 2007.

Yes

Unemployment Levels.

Joan Burton

Question:

110 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the slow but increasing levels of unemployment and the continuing closure of manufacturing and assembly enterprises here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29595/07]

The latest employment data published by the Central Statistics Office indicates that the numbers in employment grew by almost 68,000 in the year to Quarter 3 2007 bringing the total number in employment to 2,140,900 (Quarterly National Household Survey 15 November 2007). The seasonally adjusted data indicates that the unemployment rate decreased from 4.5% to 4.4% in the 12-month period and a similar decrease was recorded between the second and third quarters of 2007 when unemployment fell by 3,000. In terms of manufacturing, the latest CSO release on Industrial Employment (31 October 2007) indicates a small decline of 500 in the numbers employed in manufacturing industry in Quarter 2 2007 relative to the same period in 2006.

Job losses are always regrettable, and neither the Government nor I ever dismiss the singularity of the impact at a personal and community level, of factory closures and their attendant job losses. As the figures indicate though, such losses as occur, do so in the midst of an historically phenomenal period of job creation; with nearly 6 hundred thousand more people in employment than 10 years ago. Many of the job losses incurred in the period were situated in low value added manufacturing and these losses have been more than offset by jobs created in higher value added manufacturing and the financial and international services sectors.

Ireland is no longer a low cost economy and manufacturers in particular are facing increased competition from producers in lower cost economies. It is the case that manufacturing firms in the more traditional sectors have, in recent years, operated against a backdrop of significantly declining external demand, downward price pressure, and an increasingly competitive international environment together with upward pressure on costs and the strengthening of the Euro against our key trading partner currencies.

The model of manufacturing in developed countries is changing and Irish enterprises are adapting to those changes and engaging in higher value added activities in order to compete in the global marketplace. This has been achieved as a result of increased productivity, technology levels and sophisticated skills of Irish employees. Irish manufacturing has performed quite strongly in recent years and manufacturing production by volume has increased by 35% overall between 2000 and 2006 which is significantly above the performance of many of our European counterparts.

One of our main tasks is to ensure that Ireland remains an attractive place to do business, and to support the development of economic competencies higher up the value chain. In that regard, the Programme for Government contains a range of commitments focussed on maintaining and enhancing our framework competitive conditions, and promoting new areas of competitive advantage, including the development of our R&D base, investment in physical and communications infrastructures, and promoting tertiary education and lifelong learning. Likewise the National Development Plan also commits the Government to provide investment specifically to support the development of the indigenous and FDI enterprise base in addition to NDP investment in infrastructure and skills.

Joe Costello

Question:

111 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of redundancies notified to his Department to date in 2007; the way this compares with the same period in each year from 2002 to 2006; his views on the reported increase in the number of redundancies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31134/07]

The numbers of actual redundancies notified to my Department for the period 1 January to 31 October for the years 2002-2007 are as follows:

Actual Redundancies 2002-2007 (Jan-Oct)

Year

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Actual

20,604

21,882

21,322

19,412

19,505

21,411

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

Actual Redundancies 2002-2006

Year

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Actual

24,432

25,769

25,041

23,156

23,684

These figures show the number of employees who actually qualified for statutory redundancy lump sum payments. They do not reflect those who lost their jobs with less than two years service in an employment.

I have no control over the number of redundancies that occur at any given time. The number of redundancies over the period in question have fluctuated year on year. The final figure for 2007 will be available early in the New Year. The number of people in employment has increased significantly since 2002. Redundancy is a risk associated with employment and the risk has increased from an average annual risk prior to 2002 of 0.787% to 1.34% for the period 2002 to 2006.

Question No. 112 answered with QuestionNo. 78.

Consumer Protection.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

113 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps being taken to implement the commitment in the Programme for Government that steps would be taken to ensure that consumer codes of conduct are published by businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31150/07]

As I advised the House in my reply of 24th October 2007 to a previous question on the same matter (PQ 25387/07 refers), the National Consumer Agency, which was established on a statutory basis on the commencement of the Consumer Protection Act in May 2007, is empowered as part of its mandate to publish Guidelines applicable to traders in relation to matters of consumer welfare and protection. The Agency is also empowered to approve Codes of Practice submitted to it by traders or their trade associations.

The Agency is keen to establish a strong relationship with business to develop the highest standards of consumer protection and compliance by traders with consumer protection law. To this end the Agency has held discussions with a number of business and representative bodies in relation to possible Codes of Practice. The Agency is also preparing to issue Guidelines to business in two specific areas namely the Retail Sector and the Health and Fitness Sector. In this regard the Agency has issued consultation documents in relation to particular practices in both these sectors. These documents can be accessed on the Agency's website www.consumerconnect.ie. I very much welcome the Agency's stated intention to work with business in the development of a strong consumer culture. I am confident that initiatives such as Agency Guidelines and Consumer Codes of Practice can play a significant part in achieving such a culture.

International Agreements.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

114 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the initiatives Ireland has taken to achieve the implementation of conventions (details supplied). [30896/07]

The Governing Body of the International Labour Office (ILO) has identified eight conventions as "fundamental", covering subjects that are considered as fundamental principles and rights at work: freedom of association of and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining; the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour; the effective abolition of child labour; and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. These principles are also covered in the ILOs Declaration of on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998). The Deputy in his question refers to six of the eight core Conventions.

Ireland fully supported the adoption of the ILOs Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, at the International Labour Conference, in June 1998. This commits all of the ILO's more than 180 member states to respect the principles inherent in the eight core labour standards and to respect, promote and realise their universal application. Ireland has also ratified all the eight core standards.

Ireland only ratifies those ILO Conventions, which are in conformity with our existing national law and practice. To that extent, in ratification, we are fully adhering to the core objectives established in each of the ILO Conventions which is reflected in national practice. Specifically, the enactment of legislation by the Oireachtas across the full range of fundamental labour and social rights underpins the realisation of the standards set in the core ILO Conventions. These core values are also being realised through the delivery of commitments entered into, for example, in National Partnership Agreements.

Ireland has consistently supported the International Labour Organisation in its efforts to realise and implement core labour standards and will continue to do so. Ireland's continuing progress in the achievement of these goals is subject to ongoing review and evaluation by the ILO itself, in consultation with the Social Partners.

Live Register.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

115 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach the number of people registered as unemployed in County Kildare in each of the past five years to date in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31665/07]

The exact information as requested by the Deputy is not available. Statistics on employment and unemployment are compiled, at a regional level, from the Quarterly National Household Survey. There are eight regions in the State: Border, Midland, West, Dublin, Mid-East, Mid-West, South-East and South-West. Sub-regional statistics, of the kind requested by the Deputy, are not available from the Quarterly National Household Survey. However the Live Register series gives a monthly breakdown of the number of people claiming Unemployment Assistance, Unemployment Benefit and other registrants as registered with the Department of Social and Family Affairs. Figures are published for each county and each Local Social Welfare Office. The most recent information available is for October 2007. The Live Register figures for all the Local/Branch Offices in Co. Kildare for each month from 2002 to date are set out in the table below.

Live Register totals for State, County Kildare and Co. Kildare Local Offices, 2002 to date

Live Register State total

Persons

Year

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Average

2002

159,960

162,337

162,252

156,237

154,944

164,277

172,098

173,563

161,432

157,706

158,636

166,142

162,465

2003

170,701

171,394

168,059

170,940

166,105

177,852

185,447

185,953

170,822

166,552

164,541

170,604

172,414

2004

174,529

173,127

168,880

164,660

161,972

168,952

177,501

175,816

160,466

155,476

151,966

158,816

166,013

2005

160,543

158,649

157,675

151,619

150,826

159,300

168,509

169,393

153,335

149,644

150,073

155,833

157,117

2006

160,139

159,617

155,543

154,566

152,560

163,059

168,946

169,614

152,307

148,506

148,529

155,389

157,398

2007

158,752

159,399

155,869

154,319

154,010

166,363

174,593

174,206

160,652

157,449

Live Register County Kildare total

Persons

Year

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Average

2002

4,134

4,282

4,286

4,132

4,083

4,260

4,487

4,436

4,121

3,975

4,061

4,362

4,218

2003

4,600

4,698

4,600

4,723

4,632

4,930

5,182

5,201

4,718

4,657

4,569

4,752

4,772

2004

4,921

4,832

4,745

4,788

4,708

4,912

5,294

5,212

4,605

4,329

4,216

4,350

4,743

2005

4,430

4,452

4,432

4,365

4,344

4,684

5,002

5,076

4,543

4,440

4,459

4,662

4,574

2006

4,817

4,903

4,859

4,840

4,772

5,252

5,471

5,543

4,987

4,950

5,010

5,187

5,049

2007

5,292

5,359

5,375

5,434

5,411

5,827

6,195

6,187

5,735

5,662

Live Register Athy Local Office total

Persons

Year

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Average

2002

697

730

737

753

733

779

810

795

786

770

770

787

762

2003

861

835

825

859

854

883

906

889

838

815

814

815

850

2004

887

879

873

868

868

879

948

900

822

778

804

821

861

2005

835

822

837

834

834

863

888

906

836

850

830

855

849

2006

880

896

875

864

851

917

935

931

878

860

917

925

894

2007

930

936

907

922

934

973

1,006

1,028

1,006

1,011

Live Register Maynooth Local Office total

Persons

Year

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Average

2002

1,167

1,229

1,232

1,200

1,172

1,282

1,307

1,302

1,176

1,153

1,191

1,281

1,224

2003

1,312

1,361

1,335

1,373

1,350

1,496

1,529

1,573

1,444

1,426

1,385

1,503

1,424

2004

1,548

1,535

1,573

1,610

1,557

1,645

1,827

1,784

1,559

1,417

1,338

1,409

1,567

2005

1,409

1,410

1,358

1,300

1,297

1,469

1,587

1,603

1,378

1,311

1,324

1,370

1,401

2006

1,399

1,448

1,371

1,423

1,424

1,589

1,686

1,693

1,468

1,422

1,410

1,518

1,488

2007

1,563

1,565

1,570

1,576

1,519

1,728

1,810

1,855

1,669

1,606

Live Register Newbridge Local Office total

Persons

Year

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Average

2002

2,270

2,323

2,317

2,179

2,178

2,199

2,370

2,339

2,159

2,052

2,100

2,294

2,232

2003

2,427

2,502

2,440

2,491

2,428

2,551

2,747

2,739

2,436

2,416

2,370

2,434

2,498

2004

2,486

2,418

2,299

2,310

2,283

2,388

2,519

2,528

2,224

2,134

2,074

2,120

2,315

2005

2,186

2,220

2,237

2,231

2,213

2,352

2,527

2,567

2,329

2,279

2,305

2,437

2,324

2006

2,538

2,559

2,613

2,553

2,497

2,746

2,850

2,919

2,641

2,668

2,683

2,744

2,668

2007

2,799

2,858

2,898

2,936

2,958

3,126

3,379

3,304

3,030

3,045

Source: Live Register Series, Central Statistics Office.

It should be noted that:

[a]the Live Register is not a definitive measure of unemployment as it includes part-time workers, seasonal and casual workers entitled to Jobseekers Assistance or Benefit. Statistics on unemployment are measured at regional level by the Quarterly National Household Survey.

[b]the exact area covered by each Local Office is not limited to the immediate locality of the particular office.

Site Acquisitions.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

116 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 1162 of 26 September 2007, the suitable area of land which the Office of Public Works were trying to acquire. [31601/07]

The area of land which the Office of Public Works were trying to acquire contains 135.15 square metres. For identification purposes a copy of the site map has been sent to the deputy.

Tax Code.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

117 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on introducing assistance for private school bus operators who are to lose the diesel fuel rebate and whose business is in danger with the risk to school bus routes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31350/07]

Jack Wall

Question:

122 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views in relation to the attached submission; the actions he will take as a result of the review to assist with overcoming the stated problems that will affect employment and school transport in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31631/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 117 and 122 together.

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 on 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 who 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.

Damien English

Question:

118 Deputy Damien English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 144 of 21 November 2007, the average repayment made to the almost 750,000 tax refund claimants by the Revenue Commissioners. [31372/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that approximately 978,000 applications for refund were reviewed and that the average repayment made to each of the approximately 750,000 taxpayers who have received a repayment in 2007 is €655. The repayments are for the years 2003 to 2007 inclusive.

Damien English

Question:

119 Deputy Damien English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the most accurate number available to his Department of people in the State who were entitled to a tax refund for the years 2003 to 2007 inclusive. [31373/07]

It is understood that the Deputy is enquiring about PAYE repayments. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they are not in a position to give the number of people who are entitled to a tax refund for the years 2003 to 2007 inclusive. This is because the onus is on the individual taxpayer to inform Revenue of changes in their individual circumstances which would give rise to a refund of tax. Without a claim or request for a review, the Revenue Commissioners have no way of knowing whether a refund is due.

The following table gives details of the total number of reviews that were carried out in the years 2003 to 2007 and the number that resulted in a refund.

Year

Total number of reviews in year

Total Number of Reviews resulting in a refund

2003

482,628

314,298

2004

522,004

350,016

2005

552,098

355,808

2006

1,032,472

663,837

2007 (to 16/11/07)

977,966

748,222

It should be noted that not all reviews result in a refund.

Departmental Offices.

Joan Burton

Question:

120 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the purpose for which safes are installed in the offices of Ministers of the Government; the documents or things normally kept in those safes; if the safes are provided for the safe-keeping of ministerial or of purely private documents or things; if a written or unwritten protocol applies to the use of those safes, including their use for purely private purposes; the personnel who normally have access to those safes; if a written or unwritten protocol exists as to the opening and closing of those safes by personnel of the relevant Department; if so, the officers of the Minister who normally have the keys to the safe; if Ministers normally have direct access to and control of the use of those safes for purely private purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31435/07]

Safes and security cabinets are provided to officeholders for the secure storage of papers and effects (including personal effects) as the officeholder may require. The contents of such safes and the access arrangements in their offices are a matter for the officeholder.

Site Acquisitions.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

121 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if the contract has been signed for the purchase of the site for the new national school for Kill in view of the fact that the matters subject to planning permission have been resolved satisfactorily. [31578/07]

Revised contracts for sale were received from the Vendors Solicitors on the 7th of November and are currently being examined. Some clarification of the conditions of contract are necessary. A meeting was held with the Local Authority on the 27th November to deal with these outstanding matters. It is expected that the contractors will be issued to the department of Education and Science for signing in the next two weeks.

Question No. 122 answered with QuestionNo. 117.

Tax Yield.

Richard Bruton

Question:

123 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the revenue received in VAT, capital gains tax, capital acquisitions tax, excise, stamp duty, customs, motor tax and corporate tax from 2004 to date in 2007 and if the Minister will provide an estimate for 2008. [31636/07]

Details of Exchequer taxes for the years 2004 – 2006 are published in the Finance Accounts and the relevant information is set out below for completeness. In relation to data for 2007, the information show in the table below reflects receipts at end-October. I will be publishing my latest estimate for the 2007 Outturn in the White Paper on Estimates and Receipts this coming weekend and, as is the norm on Budget day, 5 December, my Department will publish the Budget day tax forecast for 2008 for Exchequer Taxes.

Motor Tax is collected by the Local Authorities and paid into the Local Government Fund. Motor tax, unlike all other taxes, is not paid into the Exchequer. Under the Local Government Act, 1998 motor taxation is paid directly into the Local Government Fund. The Fund is used generally to finance local authority general purposes needs and non-national road grants. The motor tax figures for 2004 to 2007 have been provided by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

End Oct * 2007

End year 2006

End year 2005

End year 2004

€m

€m

€m

€m

VAT

12,212

13,448

12,089

10,693

Capital Gains Tax

1,375

3,100

1,960

1,516

Capital Aquisitions Tax

315

353

249

190

Excise Duties

4,720

5,589

5,233

4,928

Stamp Duty

2,774

3,717

2,725

2,089

Customs

219

257

226

173

Corporation Tax

2,964

6,683

5,492

5,332

Motor Tax**

946

880

800

745

*2007 Exchequer tax figures are the published end October Exchequer figures.

**The 2007 figure supplied by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government is a whole year estimate.

Health Services.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

124 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children the measures being taken to ensure that the youth homelessness strategy is being implemented in a county (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31352/07]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and social services which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Office 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.

Joe Costello

Question:

125 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children when A Fair Deal, the new nursing home support scheme will come into operation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31353/07]

The final details of the Bill for the new nursing home support scheme, A Fair Deal, are being addressed at present. The Minister proposes to publish the Bill as soon as possible, following Government approval.

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

126 Deputy Darragh O’Brien asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ask the Health Service Executive to facilitate the allocation of a place in a nursing home for a person (details supplied) in County Dublin. [31378/07]

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.

Departmental Staff.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

127 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people that are currently employed at chief executive officer grade, assistant CEO grade, general manager grade, assistant general manager grade and grade eight in the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31382/07]

According to the Health Service Personnel Census, there are 18,421 whole time equivalents in the overall Management/ Administration category as at 30 September 2007. As operational responsibility for the Health Service Personnel Census rests with the Health Service Executive, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to provide the Deputy with the detailed information requested.

Ambulance Service.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

128 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children when an ambulance service, based in the town, will be provided for a town (details supplied) in County Offaly and its hinterland; the position regarding the matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31392/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services, including ambulance 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.

General Practitioner Co-operatives.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

129 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the application by doctors in a town (details supplied) in County Offaly to provide general practitioners medical care for out of hours service as part of MIDOC; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31393/07]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

130 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children when a suitable premises will be provided in a town (details supplied) in County Offaly where a co-op to provide general practitioners medical care for out of hours service can be provided from; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31394/07]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

131 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children when out of hours emergency cover as provided by MIDOC will be provided to a town (details supplied) in County Offaly and its hinterland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31396/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 129 to 131, inclusive, together.

Out-of-hours co-operatives allow general practitioners to put in place arrangements to provide services to their patients, while their surgeries are closed in the evenings, on weekends and bank holidays. The development of GP out-of-hours co-operatives is in line with the overall health service policy of strengthening primary care services and ensuring that to the greatest extent possible, people's care needs are met in the primary care setting. Out-of-hours co-operatives are now in place in all Health Service Executive (HSE) areas, providing coverage in all or in part of all counties. In 2007, almost €37 million is available to the HSE to fund the operation of GP out of hours services. This figure does not include the fees of the participating doctors. As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for this service, it is the appropriate body to provide the information sought by the Deputy. My Department has therefore requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address this matter and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Community Pharmacy Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

132 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the seriousness of a situation that will develop if agreement is not reached in relation to the dispute between the Health Service Executive and the pharmacies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31403/07]

Michael Ring

Question:

133 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the talks that have taken place and the progress made to resolve the dispute between the Health Service Executive and pharmacies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31404/07]

Finian McGrath

Question:

168 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9. [31676/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 132, 133 and 168 together.

I have previously outlined in detail to the Oireachtas the legal provisions under competition law which prevent the Health Service Executive (HSE) from negotiating with the Irish Pharmaceutical Union (IPU) on fees, prices or margins for their members. When it became clear that the HSE could not negotiate with pharmacists or wholesalers on fees or margins, a detailed, fair and transparent consultation process, including independent economic analysis and public consultation, was carried out to inform the final determination of the new reimbursement pricing arrangements for drugs and medicines under the GMS and community drugs schemes. These new arrangements were announced by the HSE on 17th September 2007. The independent economic analysis was carried out by Indecon Economic Consultants and was published by the HSE on 13 November 2007. All aspects of the Indecon analysis were considered by the HSE in making its determination.

In regard to the new reimbursement prices, the main wholesaler companies have confirmed to the HSE that they will charge community pharmacists the same price for these drugs and medicines as pharmacists will be reimbursed by the HSE for these products. Furthermore, there are no changes planned by the HSE to the operation of the GMS medical card and community drugs schemes, and all patients continue to receive their entitlements in the normal way. My Department understands that the HSE has not received formal notification from any community pharmacist regarding cessation of services under the GMS or the various community drugs schemes. They will be required to give three months notice in writing of any intention to cease providing this service.

To address concerns expressed by the IPU, on behalf of community pharmacists, about the implications of the legal advice on competition law on their right to negotiate fees through the Union, a process of dialogue was established, chaired by Bill Shipsey SC, to explore ways in which concerns raised by the IPU about the implications of this legal advice might be addressed. I am also exploring, in consultation with the Attorney General, the other relevant Government Departments and the HSE, the best way of progressing the development of a new contract with pharmacists. There is ongoing engagement between the Irish Pharmaceutical Union and the HSE under the auspices of Mr. Shipsey and, in view of the progress in this regard, the HSE has decided to defer the implementation of the new reimbursement rates planned to take effect for community pharmacists on 1st December 2007 to a later date.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

134 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the funding provided for services for people with an intellectual disability in each of the past five years with a breakdown of the amount allocated to each of the agencies working in this area. [31406/07]

Additional funding amounting to €53m has been provided in 2007 for people with disabilities to meet costs associated with the following elements of the Multi-annual Investment Programme (in addition to community based mental health services). Services for Persons with Intellectual Disability and those with Autism:

255 new residential places;

85 new respite places;

535 new day places

The continuation of the implementation of the transfer of persons with intellectual disability/autism from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements.

Services for Persons with Physical or Sensory Disabilities:

80 new residential places for persons with significant disabilities who are currently placed in inappropriate settings

250,000 extra hours of home support and personal assistance.

Additional funding is also being provided to enhance the multi-disciplinary support services for people with disabilities in line with the Government's commitment to build capacity within the health services to deliver on the various legislative provisions contained in the National Disability Strategy.

€15m has been provided to enhance the level and range of multi-disciplinary support services available to adults and children with intellectual, physical and sensory disabilities and those with autism, with a priority in 2007 on enhancing the assessment and support services for children with disabilities;

€5m has been made available to address core under funding and core staffing issues in services for people with disabilities provided by the voluntary sector;

€45m capital funding has been made available to support additional places in services for person with a physical, sensory or intellectual disability or autism. This funding is over and above that already allocated to these services from the Capital Investment Programme 2005 to 2009.

Funding for Disability Services 1997-2006

Between 1997-2006

additional revenue and capital funding of €851m has been invested in health funded support services for people with disabilities between 1997 and 2006 of which;

€549m was provided for persons with intellectual disability and those with autism:

€302m was provided for people with physical or sensory disabilities.

As the Deputy's question relates to the funding provided for people with disabilities in the past five years, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive, 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.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

135 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the waiting lists for day-services and residential services in each of the agencies working in the intellectual disability area; and the steps she is taking to meet this demand. [31407/07]

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

Hospital Services.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

136 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of patients who are inappropriately placed in the Mater Hospital and Beaumont Hospital; the funding available in the winter 2007 period or the initiatives she intends taking to ensure sufficient step-down and nursing home beds are available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31408/07]

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 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.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

137 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of the claim for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick under the nursing home repayment scheme; when a decision will be made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31413/07]

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.

Child Care Services.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

138 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the concerns that the new childcare subvention scheme will result in parents of children utilising the services presently provided by a group (details supplied) in County Cork having to pay substantially higher fees, result in some parents withdrawing their children, place at risk the continuing financial viability of this childcare service and place at risk the employment security of those providing the services; if she will take immediate action to address these concerns; her proposed amendments to the proposed childcare subvention scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31415/07]

Deirdre Clune

Question:

139 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the concerns that the new childcare subvention scheme will result in parents of children utilising the services presently provided by a group (details supplied) in County Cork having to pay substantially higher fees, result in some parents withdrawing their children, place at risk the continuing financial viability of this childcare service and place at risk the employment security of those providing the services; if she will take immediate action to address these concerns; her proposed amendments to the proposed childcare subvention scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31416/07]

Deirdre Clune

Question:

140 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the concerns that the new childcare subvention scheme will result in parents of children utilising the services presently provided by a group (details supplied) in County Cork having to pay substantially higher fees, result in some parents withdrawing their children, place at risk the continuing financial viability of this childcare service and place at risk the employment security of those providing the services; if she will take immediate action to address these concerns; her proposed amendments to the proposed childcare subvention scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31417/07]

Deirdre Clune

Question:

141 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the concerns that the new childcare subvention scheme will result in parents of children utilising the services presently provided by a group (details supplied) in County Cork having to pay substantially higher fees, result in some parents withdrawing their children, place at risk the continuing financial viability of this childcare service and place at risk the employment security of those providing the services; if she will take immediate action to address these concerns; her proposed amendments to the proposed childcare subvention scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31418/07]

Deirdre Clune

Question:

142 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the concerns that the new childcare subvention scheme will result in parents of children utilising the services presently provided by a group (details supplied) in County Cork having to pay substantially higher fees, result in some parents withdrawing their children, place at risk the continuing financial viability of this childcare service and place at risk the employment security of those providing the services; if she will take immediate action to address these concerns; her proposed amendments to the proposed childcare subvention scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31419/07]

Deirdre Clune

Question:

143 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the concerns that the new childcare subvention scheme will result in parents of children utilising the services presently provided by a group (details supplied) in County Cork having to pay substantially higher fees, result in some parents withdrawing their children, place at risk the continuing financial viability of this childcare service and place at risk the employment security of those providing the services; if she will take immediate action to address these concerns; her proposed amendments to the proposed childcare subvention scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31420/07]

Deirdre Clune

Question:

144 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the concerns that the new childcare subvention scheme will result in parents of children utilising the services presently provided by a group (details supplied) in County Cork having to pay substantially higher fees, result in some parents withdrawing their children, place at risk the continuing financial viability of this childcare service and place at risk the employment security of those providing the services; if she will take immediate action to address these concerns; her proposed amendments to the proposed childcare subvention scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31421/07]

Deirdre Clune

Question:

145 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the concerns that the new childcare subvention scheme will result in parents of children utilising the services presently provided by a group (details supplied) in County Cork having to pay substantially higher fees, result in some parents withdrawing their children, place at risk the continuing financial viability of this childcare service and place at risk the employment security of those providing the services; if she will take immediate action to address these concerns; her proposed amendments to the proposed childcare subvention scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31422/07]

Deirdre Clune

Question:

146 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the concerns that the new childcare subvention scheme will result in parents of children utilising the services presently provided by a group (details supplied) in County Cork having to pay substantially higher fees, result in some parents withdrawing their children, place at risk the continuing financial viability of this childcare service and place at risk the employment security of those providing the services; if she will take immediate action to address these concerns; her proposed amendments to the proposed childcare subvention scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31423/07]

Deirdre Clune

Question:

147 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the concerns that the new childcare subvention scheme will result in parents of children utilising the services presently provided by a group (details supplied) in County Cork having to pay substantially higher fees, result in some parents withdrawing their children, place at risk the continuing financial viability of this childcare service and place at risk the employment security of those providing the services; if she will take immediate action to address these concerns; her proposed amendments to the proposed childcare subvention scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31424/07]

Deirdre Clune

Question:

148 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the concerns that the new childcare subvention scheme will result in parents of children utilising the services presently provided by a group (details supplied) in County Cork having to pay substantially higher fees, result in some parents withdrawing their children, place at risk the continuing financial viability of this childcare service and place at risk the employment security of those providing the services; if she will take immediate action to address these concerns; her proposed amendments to the proposed childcare subvention scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31425/07]

Deirdre Clune

Question:

149 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the concerns that the new childcare subvention scheme will result in parents of children utilising the services presently provided by a group (details supplied) in County Cork having to pay substantially higher fees, result in some parents withdrawing their children, place at risk the continuing financial viability of this childcare service and place at risk the employment security of those providing the services; if she will take immediate action to address these concerns; her proposed amendments to the proposed childcare subvention scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31426/07]

Deirdre Clune

Question:

150 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the concerns that the new childcare subvention scheme will result in parents of children utilising the services presently provided by a group (details supplied) in County Cork having to pay substantially higher fees, result in some parents withdrawing their children, place at risk the continuing financial viability of this childcare service and place at risk the employment security of those providing the services; if she will take immediate action to address these concerns; her proposed amendments to the proposed childcare subvention scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31427/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 138 to 150, inclusive, together.

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

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

With the closure of the EOCP in December 2007, to continue to support community childcare services to provide affordable childcare to disadvantaged parents, the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS) is being introduced from January 2008 under the Exchequer funded National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP), the successor programme to the EOCP. The CCSS has been allocated €153 million over the next 3 years, representing a 16% increase in funding over the EOCP staffing scheme, and will continue to support community childcare services to provide reduced childcare fees for disadvantaged parents, complementing the universal supports in place for all parents. Under the new scheme, it will be possible to ensure that the level of grant aid which individual services qualify for will reflect the actual level of service they provide and the profile of the parents benefiting from their service. As part of their application for funding under the new scheme, services are required to ask parents using their services to complete a simple declaration form which will be included in a return to my Office and on which basis the level of subvention for each service will be determined. The subvention received by services will, in turn, be reflected in the reduced fees for parents who qualify as disadvantaged under the scheme.

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

It is considered that the new scheme will provide an effective framework for the continued targeting of additional resources towards disadvantaged parents and their children while continuing to support community childcare services generally. The scheme has been informed by and takes account of a number of enhancements recommended by the report of the Value for Money Review of the EOCP. These include the fact that the subvention to services will be more responsive to the level of service provided as well as the degree of parental disadvantage supported and the ceiling for funding, which existed under the previous scheme, is being removed. Account will also be taken of all of the operational costs of the service rather than staffing costs alone. Services, including full-time, part-time and sessional ones, which at present are, in some cases, inaccessibly priced for disadvantaged parents, will be available to them at more appropriate rates under the new scheme. The new scheme has clear advantages over its predecessor. There is an increase in the level of funding available under it, and a majority of services will benefit from the changes it introduces. Existing EOCP staffing grant recipients who enter the new scheme will continue to be funded at their current levels until July 2008. My Office has engaged in a series of meetings with existing grant recipients to outline to them the details of the new scheme and to gather feedback from the services themselves. A meeting with representatives of the City and County Childcare Committees has also taken place.

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

Applications from Groups entering the new scheme are currently being processed and when validated, these Groups are issued with letters from the Childcare Directorate of my Office approving transitional funding under the NCIP Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS). To date ten of the Groups named by the Deputy have been approved transitional funding. This funding will, for the first six months of 2008, be based on the level of funding currently being provided to the Group under the EOCP staffing support grant scheme and subject to the necessary contractual arrangement with Pobal, who manage the day to day operation of the EOCP and NCIP.

Medical Cards.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

151 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide medical cards for those who are on medication for life such as anti rejection drugs following a transplant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31437/07]

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

Medical cards are made available to persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner (GP) services. In 2005 the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so that people on lower incomes who do not qualify for a medical card would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP. In June 2006 I agreed with the HSE to raise the assessment guidelines for GP visit cards and these are now 50% higher than those in respect of medical cards. For Medical Card and GP Visit Card applications, the HSE now considers an applicant's income after tax and PRSI are deducted, rather than total income. Allowances are also made for expenses on childcare, rent and mortgage costs and the cost of travel to work.

I have no plans to provide for the granting of medical cards to any particular group as a whole. However, my Department is currently reviewing all legislation relating to eligibility for health and personal social services with a view to making the system as fair and transparent as possible.

Health Services.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

152 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Health and Children if efforts are being made to provide public patients who are placed in private nursing homes by the Health Service Executive with occupational therapists, physiotherapists and speech therapists as these patients can not afford to pay for private advice or care as in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31467/07]

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

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

153 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason it will take from 18 September 2007 to 21 January 2008 for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 to get to see a consultant in the Eye and Ear Hospital, despite the person’s eyesight having deteriorated to such an extent that they have been forced to stop working; if her attention has been drawn to similar delays in getting appointments with consultants in the Eye and Ear Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31474/07]

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.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

154 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children if the contract has been awarded for phase 3C of Naas General Hospital. [31589/07]

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.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

155 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is aware that waiting times for eye tests for children at Maynooth health centre and Naas health centre, County Kildare have increased from eight months to 15 months and seven months to 12 months respectively in each health centre since April 2007; and if she will immediately sanction the provision of additional optical clinics at each health centre to reduce waiting times. [31590/07]

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

As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for Primary Care services, it is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Special Educational Needs.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

156 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children if the three additional speech and language therapists recruited for the Kildare/west Wicklow Service are now in place permanently and not on temporary contracts; and if they are on temporary contracts if she could outline why this is so. [31591/07]

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

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

Health Services.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

157 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is aware that the waiting times for hearing tests for children in Newbridge health centre in County Kildare and Tallaght health centre in Dublin have risen from three to four weeks in June, 2006 to three to six months now; and if she will arrange for the provision of additional clinics to reduce these unacceptable waiting times. [31592/07]

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

Emmet Stagg

Question:

158 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children when a response will issue to Parliamentary Question No. 444 of 26 September 2007. [31593/07]

My Department has been informed by the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Health Service Executive that the Executive will be in a position to provide a reply to the Deputy shortly.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

159 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will sanction additional funding for home care packages in County Kildare in view of the fact that there are 130 people awaiting approval for same because of financial constraints. [31594/07]

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.

Care of the Elderly.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

160 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is aware that there are 114 people in County Kildare awaiting placement in public nursing homes in County Kildare; and if she will acquire public spaces in private nursing homes in the interim to reduce this backlog. [31595/07]

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

Emmet Stagg

Question:

161 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children when she intends to provide additional public nursing homes in County Kildare similar to the excellent facility located at the Harbour in Maynooth. [31596/07]

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

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

162 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children the proposals she has to extend eligibility under the refund of nursing home charges scheme to those psychiatric patients who lived in community accommodation under the supervision of the psychiatric services; the reason these patients were excluded from entitlement under the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31609/07]

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 Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006 provides a clear legal framework to repay recoverable health charges. 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 in psychiatric care must be assessed within this legal framework I have outlined.

Health Services.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

163 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on the availability of home care packages, especially in area 8. [31611/07]

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

Hospital Staff.

Dan Neville

Question:

164 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children when a diabetic liaison nurse will be appointed in Limerick Regional Hospital to replace the person who will be going on leave. [31612/07]

The numbers of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals employed in the public health system have increased significantly in recent years, in tandem with the high level of investment in the development in new services. In December 2006, a revised employment ceiling for the health service of 108,000 expressed in whole time equivalents was sanctioned, representing an increase of 10,450 over the previous approved ceiling. The ceiling was further increased to 108,285 in October 2007.

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

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

Health Services.

Damien English

Question:

165 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children if speech and language therapy will be reinstated for a person (details supplied) in County Meath; the reason for the cessation of this service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31639/07]

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

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

Hospital Accommodation.

Dan Neville

Question:

166 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will publish the Health Service Executive commissioned PA consultancy group independent review of acute bed capacity requirements for Ireland until the year 2020. [31640/07]

The report referred to by the Deputy was commissioned from PA Consulting by the Health Service Executive. My Department has therefore asked the HSE to reply directly to the Deputy regarding the report.

Hospital Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

167 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a long stay bed will be provided to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [31643/07]

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

Question No. 168 answered with QuestionNo. 132.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Question:

169 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [31677/07]

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

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

Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

170 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if some chiropodists are charging medical card holders €10 for treatment; and if this practice is allowed or condoned by her Department. [31680/07]

There is no statutory obligation on the Health Service Executive (HSE) to provide chiropody services to GMS patients; however in practice arrangements have been made in several regions to provide these services. Before the establishment of the HSE the nature of any arrangements for community chiropody services and the level of service provided were a matter for individual health boards and so a degree of variation in practice developed over time. I understand that priority is usually given to certain groups of people, including people who are medical card holders aged 65 years and over. In several regions the service is provided by private chiropodists by arrangement with the HSE.

I consider that it is inappropriate for private chiropodists who are providing services on behalf of the HSE to charge patients a top-up fee, and I have conveyed this view formally to the HSE. My Department requested the HSE to review the fee arrangements in place for the provision of chiropody services, with a view to ensuring that such additional fees will no longer be levied on persons in receipt of this service. While considerable work has taken place to develop arrangements which would ensure that no top-up charges are applied, it is necessary to ensure that any such arrangements and the process by which they are arrived at comply with the terms of the Competition Act 2002. In this context consideration is being given at present to the most appropriate way in which to put in place contractual arrangements for the provision of services by self-employed health professionals.

My Department is currently preparing legislation to clarify and update existing legislation on eligibility for health and personal social services. The Bill will define specific health and personal services more clearly; define who should be eligible for what services; set out clear criteria for eligibility; establish when and in what circumstances charges may be made and provide for an appeals framework.

Road Network.

Michael Ring

Question:

171 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding funding for a road (details supplied) in County Mayo in view of the fact further information which was requested in relation to the road has been submitted; and when a decision is expected on same. [31477/07]

The provision and improvement of non-national roads in its area is a matter for Mayo County Council to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State grants. In 2007, Mayo County Council was allocated a total of €31,625,821 in non-national road grants.

Following the issue of road grants for 2007, Mayo County Council sought additional funding for the upgrading of the R312 Castlebar – Belmullet Road. The Council was informed on 5 March 2007, that the 2007 non-national road grant allocations had already been notified to local authorities, and that accordingly there were no funds available from which further grants could be provided for the proposed project. The Council was also informed that the design stage of the proposed project would be considered for funding in 2008, having regard, inter alia, to the overall funding available for non-national roads and competing demands from other local authorities.

In order to facilitate future consideration of the proposal, the Council was requested to submit details of the proposed scheme, including confirmation of the proposed works, a draft expenditure profile and details of the Council's proposed own resources expenditure on the scheme and possible funding from other sources. A reply has now been received from the Council and is under examination in the Department. The 2008 non-national road grant allocations to local authorities will be announced early next year.

Rail Services.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

172 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Transport when is it expected that the doubling of trains serving the Maynooth suburban line from four rail cars to eight will be completed. [31602/07]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

173 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Transport when additional services will be put in place on the Maynooth suburban rail line serving the new Docklands station. [31603/07]

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

I am informed by Iarnród Éireann that the remaining 4-carriage peak period services on the Maynooth line will be extended to 8-carriages by February 2008. I understand also that additional services serving the Docklands Station are already operating on the Clonsilla-Docklands section, which have benefited customers in the peak periods at Clonsilla, Coolmine, Castleknock, Ashtown, Broombridge and Docklands stations.

Road Network.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

174 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Transport if he intends to amend Part V of the Roads Act 1993 as amended by the Planning and Development Act 2000 with a view to lifting the toll barriers on the M50 toll bridge in view of the fact that the bridge is now in State ownership; and if he could give a clear response as to his intentions. [31604/07]

The Roads Act 2007 provides the necessary statutory basis to facilitate the implementation of free flow open road tolling (also known as "barrier-free" tolling) on toll-based national roads. The statutory power to levy tolls on national roads, to make toll bye-laws and to enter into toll agreements with private investors in respect of national roads, including the M50, is vested in the National Roads Authority under Part V of the Roads Act 1993 (as amended by the Planning and Development Act 2000 and the Roads Act 2007).

Emmet Stagg

Question:

175 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Transport if he has made a decision in relation to the application by Kildare County Council for a specific grant to improve safety at Firmount Crossroads, Clane, County Kildare. [31607/07]

The Low Cost Safety Improvement Works scheme of grants for non-national roads was introduced in 2000 as an extension of the scheme operated on national roads under the auspices of the National Roads Authority (NRA). The NRA assesses applications for grant assistance under the non-national roads scheme on behalf of the Department. The criteria for grant approval are based on accident data, inspection of sites, locations showing demonstrable hazard and discussions between the local authority and the NRA.

Earlier this year, local authorities were invited to submit applications for consideration for funding in 2008 under the Low Cost Safety Improvement Works scheme of grants for non-national roads. Kildare County Council submitted a number of schemes but these do not include an application for works at Firmount Crossroads, Clane. The 2008 non-national road grant allocations to local authorities will be announced early next year.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

176 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if he or his Department have received correspondence from the Irish Road Haulage Association in the matter of M50 free tolling; if he will favourably consider same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31623/07]

I can confirm that the Irish Road Haulage Association have made representations to my Department in the matter of M50 tolls. Issues relating to tolls on national roads are in the first instance a matter for the National Roads Authority. As the Deputy is aware, the statutory power to levy tolls on national roads, to make toll bye-laws and to enter into toll agreements with private investors in respect of national roads, is vested in the National Roads Authority under Part V of the Roads Act 1993 (as amended by the Planning and Development Act 2000 and the Roads Act 2007).

Rail Services.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

177 Deputy Ciarán Cuffe asked the Minister for Transport the tonnage of rail freight carried by Iarnród Éireann for the years 1996 to 2006 inclusive; the revenue obtained from carrying this rail freight for the years 1996 to 2006 inclusive; the costs incurred with providing the rail freight service for the years 1996 to 2006 inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31638/07]

My Department has asked Iarnród Éireann to compile the information sought and to forward it to the Deputy directly.

Human Rights Issues.

Joe Costello

Question:

178 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Irish Human Rights Commission has been in contact with him regarding the practice of extraordinary rendition and the likely use of Irish air space for this illegal practice; if he will institute a parliamentary inquiry as requested by the European Parliament into the alleged use of Irish air space for extraordinary rendition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31354/07]

As I have said many times before in this House, the Government are completely opposed to the practice of so-called extraordinary rendition. Our concerns in relation to this matter have been made clear to the highest levels of the US Government, including by the Taoiseach to President Bush. The Government received specific assurances from the US authorities, confirmed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to myself, that such prisoners have not been transferred through Irish territory, nor would they be, without our permission.

Over the past two years, my Department, at my request, has had detailed exchanges with Dr Maurice Manning, the President of the Irish Human Rights Commission, on a range of issues related to extraordinary rendition and has set out the Government's view that we are fully in compliance with our international obligations. My officials have also met with the Commission for a very full discussion on issues of concern in this area. On the matter of a Parliamentary inquiry, the call in the Report of the European Parliament for the Government "to agree to launch a parliamentary inquiry into the use of Irish territory as part of the CIA rendition circuit" ignores the fact that it is for the Oireachtas to decide its own work schedule. It also ignores the fact that Seanad Éireann has on three separate occasions voted not to institute a specific enquiry. The issues surrounding extraordinary rendition have been extensively debated in both Houses of the Oireachtas, and both have passed motions supporting the Government's policy in this area.

EU Treaties.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

179 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has been notified of a timetable for ratification of the reform treaty being proposed by his counterparts in each of the other EU member states; the dates they have proposed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31370/07]

The Taoiseach and I will sign the EU Reform Treaty on 13 December on behalf of Ireland. The Treaty is expected to be ratified by each Member State before 1 January 2009.

Member States will proceed with ratification under their respective constitutional provisions and in accordance with their own timetables. At this stage, Member States are focussing on the signing of the Treaty next month. It is, therefore, too early to have concrete information on the ratification process in other Member States. However, Irish Embassies in each of the Member States will be monitoring the local ratification process and will be reporting regularly on developments.

Consultancy Contracts.

Damien English

Question:

180 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the private consultancy firms his Department and the agencies which report to his Department used to date in 2007; the projects each worked on; the cost to his Department or agency of each engagement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31374/07]

The Department of Foreign Affairs is responsible for two Votes: Vote 28 (Foreign Affairs) and Vote 29 (International Cooperation). The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following tables.

I am very conscious of the need to achieve value for money on consultancy expenditure. The Department commissions consultancies only where specialised knowledge and/or skills are not available within the Department and, particularly in the case of Irish Aid (Ireland's official development assistance programme), where an independent evaluation of programmes and projects is required. Given the overall scale of the Irish Aid Programme, this level of monitoring, review and evaluation is both prudent and proportionate.

With regard to agencies under the aegis of my Department, only the Irish Aid Advisory Board commissioned consultancies in 2007 and the relevant figures are included in a separate table. The information requested by the Deputy for Vote 28 is set out below.

Vote 28 (Foreign Affairs)

Service Provided

Consultants

Payments made to date in 2007

Technical advice on the maintenance and development of the Department’s ICT security infrastructure.

Bianconi Research Limited (trading as RITS) Information Security Centre 2052 Castle Drive Citywest Business Campus Dublin 24

93,896

Development of technical specifications and tender documents for the support and maintenance contract for the Automated Passport System.

Cornwell Management Consultants Ireland Limited, Alexandra House, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4

4,537

Value for Money and Policy Review of the Support for Irish Emigrant Groups Programmes

Goodbody Economic Consultants, Bankcentre, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4

26,164

Quality Assurance Assessment of the Value for Money and Policy Review of the Support for Irish Emigrants Groups Programmes

Annesley Resource Partnership

3,751

Evaluation of the capacity building programmes provided by the Institute of Public Administration in 2006 to the Bulgarian Institute of Public Administration and the Romanian National Institute of Administration.

BCT Communications Limited

20,469

Software Programming for Secure Document Repository

Version 1 Software Limited

1,481

Cultural Events Coordination and Advisory Services for State and Official Visits

Mr. Eugene Downes

9,883

Taxation advice provided to the Irish Embassy, London.

Mr. Peter Brown

3,835

Vote 29 (International Cooperation)

Service Provided

Consultant

Amounts Paid to date in 2007

Provision of advice and expertise on public procurement.

Achilles Procurement Services Limited

85,748

Technical support to the Zambia/Ireland Teacher Education Initiative

Reginald Terrence Allsop

15,910

Quality Assessment of the Irish Aid Evaluation Tsunami Report

Annesley Resource Partnership

2,723

Independent Consultant for the Partnership Programme for Europe and Central Asia Funding Committee

Annesley Resource Partnership

6,579

Review of the Irish Aid Fellowship Training Programme

Annesley Resource Partnership

34,388

Technical Consultant to the Civil Society Funding Schemes

Aodh O’Connor

9,800

Technical Support to the Civil Society & Micro Projects Fund 9

Aodh O’Connor

2,658

Advisory input to Irish Aid’s Project Assessment and Evaluation Group (PAEG)

Andre Barsony

10,166

Programme Consultant for the Central America Programme

Luis Enrique Bran Reyes

33,064

Global Fund Strategy Technical Support

Ruiri Brugha

8,450

Provision of Technical Support on Health and HIV/AIDS March 2005 to Dec 2006

Catherine A Butcher

3,893

Technical Support to the Civil Society Fund and Micro Projects Fund

Nicholas Chisholm

1,500

Monitoring of Irish Aid Recovery Programme, Malawi

Anne Conroy

62,445

Provision of Technical support for HIV/AIDS

Áine Costigan

27,353

External technical advice to the Fellowship Selection Committee

Bernie Crawford

3,712

Assist Irish Aid in appraising and approving proposals under the HIV /Aids Partnership Scheme Supplementary Grant

Bernie Crawford

5,384

Consultancy and Technical Support to the Civil Society Fund and Micro Projects Fund

Thomas Crowley

16,066

Mapping of Irish Aid Approval Processes

Dalberg Global Development Ad

25,410

Provision of Public Health Specialist Support

Sean Drysdale

55,527

Support to the revision of Irish Aids Country Strategy Planning (CSP) Guidelines and Procedures

Kate Dyer

28,895

Evaluation of the Mozambique Country Programmes 2001-2006

Ecorys Research & Consulting

93,191

Consultant to Development Education Grants Committee

Deirdre Farrell

5,000

Advisory input to Irish Aid’s Project Assessment and Evaluation Group (PAEG)

Arthur M Fell

20,261

Irish Aid Management Review

Farrell Grant Sparks

92,767

Provision of Technical Support on Health and HIV/AIDS, October to December 2006

Margaret Fitzgerald

18,392

Advisory input to Irish Aid’s Project Appraisal and Evaluation Group (PAEG)

Margaret Fitzgerald

8,480

Mainstreaming; Building Strategy and Practice within Irish Aid, January to December 2006

Cathy Gaynor

4,180

Technical Consultant for the Multi-Annual Programme Scheme

Cathy Gaynor

20,429

Provision of Technical Support for Education for All June 05- Dec 06

Cathy Gaynor

32,658

Provision of Technical Support for Emergency and Recovery Section, Rapid Response Initiative, August to November 2006

Margaret Gaynor

13,806

Provision of Technical Support to the Civil Society Fund and Micro Projects Fund

Margaret Gaynor

7,939

Support Irish Aid in the Areas of Vulnerability and Infrastructure

Margaret Gaynor

28,241

External Evaluator for Irish Aid for Balkans and CIS

John Grindle

8,500

Assist the Review of the Staffing Needs of the Diplomatic Missions in Programme Countries, Sierra Leone and South Africa, March-August 2006

John Grindle

15,426

Legal Advices regarding the establishment and operation of the Rapid Response Initiative

Grosso & Maldonado

2,080

Support to the Zambia/Ireland Teacher Education Initiative

Cathal Higgins

30,521

Provision of Technical Support for Education for All June 05- Dec 06

Cathal Higgins

24,746

Irish Aid Centre Public Relations and Outreach Consultant

Daire Higgins

13,200

Technical Consultant on Tsunami Response

Anne Holmes

69,579

Quality Review of Mozambique Country Strategy Programme Evaluation

Institute of Public Administration

2,904

Public Expenditure Review of the Irish Governments Support to Tsunami affected countries

INTRAC

31,181

Review of the Irish Missionary Resource Service (IMRS)

INTRAC

23,716

Mainstreaming: Building Strategy and Practice within Irish Aid, January to December 2006

Mary Jennings

3,020

Technical Consultant for the Multi-Annual Programme Scheme

Mary Jennings

28,125

Advisory input to Irish Aid’s Project Appraisal and Evaluation Group (PAEG)

Jim Kinsella

3,264

Irish Aid Seminar — Presentation on OECD/DAC Agriculture Task Team

Jim Kinsella

300

Programme of Strategic Co-operation between Irish Aid and Higher Education and Research Institutes

Maura Leen

4,750

Advisory input to Irish Aid’s Project Appraisal and Evaluation Group Jan-Dec 2006

Maura Leen

5, 371

Programme Consultancy, Central America

Imelda Torres Lopez

3,049

Evaluation of Development and Inter-Cultural Education Project (DICE)

Maeve Martin

15,000

Education for All — Quest 111

Mary Immaculate College

4,868

Programme Consultancy, Central America

Mary McCann Sanchez

42,087

Programme Consultancy in Central America 2006 — Dissemination of an Irish Aid teaching resource entitled “Our World — Our Future”

Owen McCarthy

9,065

Provision of Technical Support on Health and HIV/AIDS in area of R&D for new drugs, vaccines and micro biocides

Diarmuid McClean

109,799

Civil Society Fund and Micro Projects Fund

Geraldine McDonald

14,655

Technical Consultant for the Multi-Annual Programme Scheme, November 2006 to October 2008

McEvoy Peter

3,933

Advisory input to Irish Aid’s Project Appraisal and Evaluation Group (PAEG)

Hunter McGill

10,471

Assistant Communications Officer

Brid McGrath

31,196

Provision of Technical Support to the Civil Society Fund and Micro Projects Fund

Mary McKeown

3,000

Technical Consultant for the Multi-Annual Programme Scheme, November 2006 to October 2008

Mary McKeown

4,727

Advisory input to Irish Aid’s Project Appraisal and Evaluation Group (PAEG)

Mary McKeon

5,227

Provision of Technical Support to the Civil Society Fund and Micro Projects Fund

Mary McKeown

17,234

Advisory input to Irish Aid’s Project Appraisal and Evaluation Group (PAEG)

Bernard McLoughlin

5,525

Provision of technical expertise for private sector development in Africa

Kevin Moore

80,753

Provision of Technical Support for Education for All June 05-Dec 06

Patrick D. Murphy

8,774

Gender action planning and support to policy implementation.

Una Murray

7,519

Civil Society Fund and Micro Projects Fund

Una Murray

3,721

Irish Aid Centre, Content Consultant

Jill Nesbitt

10,000

Development Education Strategy

Helen Newman — Newman & Assoc

18,150

Provision of Technical Support on HIV/AIDS

Ann Nolan

52,432

Development of Irish Aid’s Governance Strategy for Tanzania for period 2007-2011

Dr. Diarmuid O Donovan

4,821

Support to Irish Aid on the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB & Malaria, March ’06 to February ’07

Jerry O’Dwyer

28,947

Consultant to Conflict Resolution Unit March-August 2007

Eleanor O Gorman

65,493

Advisory input to Irish Aid’s Project Appraisal and Evaluation Group 2006-2008

Helen O’Neill

9,425

Provision of Technical Support to HIV/AIDS Advisers Meeting

Morina O’Neill

6,708

Irish Aid Centre, Content Consultant

Morina O’Neill

5,000

Provision of Audit Management Support to the Evaluation and Audit Unit September 06-June 07,

Johnny O’Regan

50,285

Provision of Audit Management Support to the Evaluation and Audit Unit, 31 March 2007-31 Mar 2008

Johnny O’Regan

19,764

Strategic Review of Irish Aid’s Engagement with the United Nations Funds and Programmes

Oxford Policy Management

61,316

Consultancy Support to the Irish Aid Hunger Task Force

Oxford Policy Management

5,283

Evaluation of the Irish Aid World Bank Education Trust Fund

Steve Packer

23,001

Provision of Services to Irish Aid’s Project Appraisal and Advisory Group 2006-2008

Aidan Pender

8,450

Independent Consultant for the Partnership Programme for Europe and Central Asia Funding Committee.

Ann Pesic

2,294

On-going support to Irish Aid funding of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research Sept 06-December 07

Pat McMullin

11,928

Consultancy on Good Governance Jan-July 2007

James Polhemus

55,646

Facilitation of UN Volunteer Internship Programme Aug 06-Mar 08

Rothwell Performance Consulting

45,590

Piloting of Organisational Assessment Guidelines.

Rothwell Consultancy Civil Society

13,141

Technical Support — Information and Public Awareness

Daniel Rowan

28,314

Support to the AMAR Health Rehabilitation Project for the Marsh Arabs of Southern Iraq

Dr Jane Salvage

12,135

Rapid Response Initiative — Manager of Standby Register

James Saunderson

520

Participation at Mekong Private Sector Development Facility Planning and Review Meeting, and Vietnam Business Forum, December 2006

Mike Scott

6,357

Civil Society Fund and Micro Projects Fund, March 2007-March 2009.

James Sheehan

5,298

Provision of Technical support for HIV/AIDS June 06-June 07

Tara Shine

78,705

Country Strategic Planning Backstopping Support

Tara Shine

5,072

Implementation of the Irish Aid Environment Policy

Tara Shine

476

Provision of Technical Support for Emergency and Recovery Section, Rapid Response Initiative, August to November 2006

Ben Siddle

41,393

Civil Society Fund and Micro Projects Fund

Marie Smith

11,081

Technical Advice on Gender Equality

Aisling Swaine Consultancy Ltd

98,112

Supporting the work of the Emergency Section

John Telford

10,176

Production of publication material for communication about Irish Aid’s health programming

Debbie Thomas

10,000

Report on Staffing needs of Missions in Irish Aid Programme Countries, South Africa and Sierra Leone

Richard Townsend

8,556

MAPS 11 Civil Society Section Funding Schemes April 06-Mar 07

University Of Glasgow

5,748

Supporting the work of the Emergency Section

Barnaby Willits/ John Telford

21,326

Advisory Services to Irish Aid’s Project Appraisal and Evaluation Group (PAEG) 2006-2008

Bernard Wood + Associates Ltd

27,137

Advisory Services to Irish Aid’s Project Appraisal and Evaluation Group (PAEG) 2006-2008

Hunter McGill — PAEG Const.

417

Advisory Services to Irish Aid’s Project Appraisal and Evaluation Group (PAEG) 2006-2008

Andre Barsony — PAEG

357

Advisory Services to Irish Aid’s Project Appraisal and Evaluation Group (PAEG) 2007

Art Fell

591

Support to the revision of Irish Aid’s Country Strategy Planning (CSP) Guidelines and Procedures

Kate Dyer

476

Provision of Technical Support on Health and HIV/AIDS March 2005 to Dec 2006

Kate Butcher

476

Services to Irish Aid’s Project Appraisal and Evaluation Group (PAEG)

Art Fell

234

Programme Consultants in Central America 2006

M Torrez-Lopez M McCann-Sanchez

3,243

Private Sector Support Aug-Nov 06

Kevin Moore

3,939

Primary Teacher Education in Uganda

Margaret O’Sullivan

145

Provision of Technical Support on Health and HIV/AIDS, October to December 2006

Margaret Fitzgerald

10,687

On-going support to Irish Aid funding of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research Sept 06- December 07

Pat McMullin

4,277

Services to Irish Aid’s Project Appraisal and Evaluation Group (PAEG) 2006-2008

Margaret Fitzgerald

575

Consultancy Support to the Irish Aid Hunger Task Force

Nick Chisholm

6,408

Provision of Technical Support on HIV/AIDS, April 2007-31 July 2007.

Ann Nolan

22,241

Independent/External Mid-term Evaluation of the Justice System Programme August 2007

Siobhan Mulalley

5,197

Provision of Technical Support on Health and HIV/AIDS March 2005 to Dec 2006

Diarmuid O’Donnabháin,

280

Provision of Technical Support on Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria

Jeremiah O’Dwyer

4,328

Consultancy on Good Governance Jan-July 2007

James Polhemus

2,784

Maintenance of DCI Spanish Language website in Central America (January to December 2007) & Promotion of the Website (February 2007)

Roberto ED. Martinez

2,186

Irish Aid Advisory Board

Service Provided

Consultant

Amount Paid to Date in 2007

Preparation of a report entitled: Best Practice in the Governance of Aid Programmes

Theta Eta Advisors Limited

6,050

Research study entitled: “Measuring Impact: The Global and Irish Aid Programme Context”

Oxford Policy Management

42,258

(i)Preparation of a report entitled: “Selectivity in Action: Choosing Irish Aid’s Tenth Programme Country” (ii)Editorial Work on Research Findings Volume 1 Governance Trade and Aid Effectiveness.

Mr Tony Killick

25,410

Public Procurement Advice on establishment of Framework Agreements for Research

Achilles Procurement Services Limited

1,270

Human Rights Issues.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

181 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the proposals he has in regard to the concerns of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford regarding the sentences received by two persons in Saudi Arabia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31610/07]

The Government shares the widespread concern about the case referred to. I regard any punishment by flogging as abhorrent, no matter where it takes place. I am shocked by the sentences in this case in Saudi Arabia and by the context in which they have been imposed.

As soon as I became aware of the case, I asked our Embassy in Riyadh to ascertain the facts and to consult with our EU partners on the most effective possible intervention in the interests of the victims. We also joined with our EU partners in agreeing an immediate approach to the Saudi authorities, expressing our strong concerns. On behalf of the EU, the Portuguese Presidency raised the case with the Saudi Foreign Ministry on Sunday, 25 November, stressing our shock at the severity of the sentence, and the imperative need in such cases for physical and psychological support for the victims. The Presidency also emphasised the huge public concern about this case across the EU and the negative image of Saudi Arabia which it has presented internationally.

It is important to note that the verdict of the court in this case has been the subject of widespread discussion and publicly expressed disquiet within Saudi Arabia. This would have been highly unlikely a few years ago and in itself represents something of a positive development in relation to the human rights situation.

The judicial process in the case is continuing. We are following developments closely, in cooperation with our EU partners, and will ensure that our concerns continue to be understood clearly. Our overriding objective will be to ensure that the sentence imposed is not carried out.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

182 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position in relation to human rights abuses in Uganda; if he and his EU and UN colleagues have monitored the situation; the plans to address this issue in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31625/07]

The human rights situation in Uganda has shown gradual improvement over the last two decades. The first multi-party elections following the return to a democratic system took place in 2006, and were described by the EU Election Observation Mission as "generally well administered, transparent, competitive ... demonstrating some significant improvements...". Encouragingly also, a ceasefire with the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in Northern Uganda has generally held since August 2006, and the peace process aimed at resolving that conflict is ongoing. A sustainable and just end to that appalling conflict, which was notorious for the abduction by the LRA of children for use as child soldiers and sex slaves, will be an important step forward in advancing the human rights of the people of Uganda.

However, issues of concern remain. In April 2007, EU Heads of Mission drew attention to the continued existence of so-called "safe houses" which act as extra-judicial places of detention. EU Heads of Mission and UN representatives in Uganda have also expressed concerns about the forced disarmament programme being carried out by the Ugandan army in the Karamoja region, following unrest which led to the deaths of 48 civilians and 22 Ugandan soldiers there in October 2006. It is feared that excessive force may have been used, accompanied by human rights violations, in the course of this effort.

The initial refusal of the Ugandan Government in March of this year to carry out court orders to release on bail members of the People's Resistance Army (PRA) gave rise to serious concerns. In response to a request from my officials, the Ugandan Ambassador in London travelled to Dublin for discussions with them on this matter.

EU Heads of Mission in Kampala have regular discussions with the Ugandan authorities on a wide variety of issues, including human rights and governance. The Partners for Democracy and Governance (PDG) group, which Ireland co-chaired in 2006-07, has regular meetings with President Museveni and other key government leaders, at which all issues are on the table.

On 18 June 2007, the General Affairs and External Relations Council expressed its strong support for the northern Uganda peace process, and urged the Government of Uganda to shoulder its responsibilities as regards long-term reconstruction in northern Uganda. Ministers also underlined the importance of the Government of Uganda continuing to strengthen respect for human rights and the rule of law and, in this regard, referred to concerns regarding the Karamoja region.

Support for human rights is a key element in the Government's efforts to help eradicate poverty and promote development. Through Irish Aid, the Government is committed to strengthening good governance in our partner countries through support for democratic systems of government, public sector reform, strengthening the rule of law and enhancing respect for human rights. In 2006, Irish Aid provided over €32 million in funding to Uganda and has programmed €34 million for 2007. Support for governance is a central element of the Irish Aid programme.

In making future assessments of, and decisions about, Ireland's cooperation with Uganda and the human rights situation there, I will be guided by the situation on the ground, as advised by our Embassy in Kampala, and by close contact and liaison with our EU and like-minded development partners.

Company Liquidation.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

183 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the consequences for business of the Laffoy Judgment (details supplied) which suggests that the Director of Corporate Enforcement, rather than creditors should bring actions under section 251 of the Companies Act 1990 to deal with companies that have been struck off the register involuntarily and have not been liquidated properly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31480/07]

I understand that the judgement given in the case cited by the Deputy does not constrain the rights of creditors generally to seek to bring actions under Section 251 of the Companies Act, 1990. Rather, it provided clarification on the circumstances in which the Courts will consider granting orders to creditors under the relevant Section. In this case, it would appear that the applicant company was unsuccessful in convincing the Court that it met the requirements to entitle it to the particular Order sought under the relevant section. In particular the judgement stated that the company failed to demonstrate that a benefit would accrue to it by the granting of the Order. In these circumstances, it would not appear that the case has adverse implications for business generally.

Similarly, I do not believe that the judgement has any substantive implications for the work of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. Under the Companies Acts, the Director has a wide range of investigative and enforcement powers available to him, including recourse to Section 251 where appropriate. It is a matter for the Director to determine how to exercise these powers in any particular case that comes to his attention. In this regard, the Director continues to actively pursue breaches of the Companies Acts, including a number of successful actions for the disqualification of the directors of insolvent companies.

Employment Rights.

Denis Naughten

Question:

184 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the value of arrears recovered by the Labour Inspectorate from employers in each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31482/07]

The value of arrears recovered by Inspection Services on behalf of employees arising from breaches of employment rights legislation in the years 2002-2006 and to date in 2007 is as follows:

Year

2002

€354,000

2003

€226,000

2004

€486,000

2005

€476,000

2006

€1.49 million

2007 (to date)

€2.20 million

The amount of arrears recovered to date in 2007 represents a 48% increase on the amount recovered for the full year in 2006. Some 55%, or €1.28 million, of the arrears recovered to date in 2007 arises from breaches detected in the construction industry. The Inspection Services, which operates as part of the National Employment Rights Authority, undertook a targeted employment rights compliance campaign in this sector during the summer of 2007. Some €381,000 and €227,000 of the arrears to date in 2007 relate to the Hotels and Catering sectors, respectively, while almost €130,000 of the 2007 arrears arose from the Inspection Services mushroom sector campaign.

Employment Permits.

Peter Power

Question:

185 Deputy Peter Power asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when he expects a decision to be made in the appeal for an employment permit by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31346/07]

The Employment Permits Section has indicated that this application was refused on the grounds that the position on offer is currently one of the occupational categories ineligible for an employment permit. Having examined the appeal the Appeals Officer has upheld the original decision in this case.

Employment Rights.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

186 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he plans to introduce legislation that will make it mandatory for employers to grant bereavement leave, as advocated by the Irish Hospice Foundation. [31377/07]

The Government is committed to a two-pronged approach to achieving the goal of making workplaces more family friendly — the provision of statutory entitlements through legislative measures, and promoting a partnership approach at the level of the enterprise. Legislative measures which provide for statutory entitlements include maternity leave, adoptive leave, carer's leave and parental leave, along with all the other employment rights legislation. There is no general statutory entitlement to bereavement leave. Whether an employee is entitled to take time off in such circumstances depends on whether any provision exists in the employee's terms and conditions of employment providing for such leave.

Legislation is clearly important in terms of protecting workers and providing a base level of protection. However, in general, conditions of employment in excess of statutory entitlements are determined by negotiation and agreement between employers and employees or trade union acting on their behalf.

The challenge to achieving work life balance in individual enterprises is to establish policies that reflect the reality of the workplace and meet the many diverse needs of employees. It is considered that a partnership approach is the best method of addressing work life balance policies at this level in order to achieve tailor made solutions to the benefit of the workforce and the employer. Accordingly, I have no plans to introduce legislation to compel employers to grant bereavement leave to workers.

Work Permits.

Joe Costello

Question:

187 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of Romanian and Bulgarian people who have work permits; the number from each country recruited through agencies; the number from each country who have Irish PPS numbers; the number from each country who are living here at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31431/07]

There are currently 186 valid employment permits in respect of Romanian nationals and 63 in respect of Bulgarian nationals. I understand from the Department of Social and Family Affairs that since January 2007, 13130 PPS numbers have been issued in respect of Romanian nationals and 886 in respect of Bulgarian nationals.

The CSO Quarterly National Household Survey for the third quarter of 2007 indicates that there are 7,000 Bulgarians and Romanians in employment. The CSO 2006 census indicated that there were 8,492 nationals of Romania and 969 nationals of Bulgaria living in Ireland. The number of nationals of Romania and Bulgaria recruited through agencies is not known.

National Training Fund.

Richard Bruton

Question:

188 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the revenue received from the national training fund from 2004 to date in 2007; and if he can provide an estimate for 2008. [31635/07]

The following revenue was received from the National Training Fund 2004 to 2007:

2004

2005

2006

2007 (estimate)

2008 (Pre-Budget estimates)

276,679

312,686

353,954

395,666

402,907

In accordance with the National Training Fund Act 2000, expenditure under the Fund is allocated to organisations that operate schemes to raise the skills of those in employment, or to provide training to those who wish to acquire skills for the purpose of taking up employment, or to provide information in relation to existing, or likely future requirements for skills in the economy.

World Trade Negotiations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

189 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his role in the context of the World Trade Organisation negotiations; if he is conscious of the vulnerability of some aspects of Irish and European manufacturing and service sectors with the potential for serious loss of employment to more competitive regions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31651/07]

The current round of trade liberalisation talks in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the Doha Development Agenda Round (DDA), covers all aspects of international trade, including agriculture, industrialised goods, services, rules and trade facilitation. As a small open economy, Ireland has much to gain from a well-ordered rules-based world trading system. Accordingly, we are working for a balanced and ambitious outcome across all the core areas, where the vital interests of all countries, in particular the developing countries, are taken into account and where the WTO continues to provide a stable and consistent framework for the regulation of world trade.

The WTO has had a subtle but profound effect on Irish industrial development. As the body that sets the rules of international trade, the WTO has regulated and progressively liberalised trade relations between Ireland and nearly all countries outside the EU, including the USA and most of Latin America and Asia. This has been an important factor behind Ireland's economic transformation over the last four decades. I believe, therefore, that we must continue to work within the WTO to open new markets and develop existing ones. Ireland's manufacturing and services sectors depend to a large extent on exports. For them well regulated trade with fair and transparent rules and improved customs procedures is, therefore, of the utmost importance to the development of their industries.

Under the EU's Common Commercial Policy, it is the European Commission that has the competence to conduct trade negotiations on behalf of the EU. These negotiations are conducted on the basis of a mandate agreed by the Council. My role as Minister for Trade is to ensure that Ireland's interests are reflected to the fullest extent possible in the Common Commercial Policy, and, therefore, in the WTO negotiations.

Manufacturing and Services Sectors.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

190 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which he has addressed or proposes to address issues affecting the manufacturing or services sectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31654/07]

My Department, in conjunction with the Enterprise Development Agencies, has taken a number of steps in recent years to identify and address issues affecting the manufacturing and services sectors particularly through implementation of the enterprise action plan arising from the Enterprise Strategy Group report and implementation of recommendations from the Small Business Forum.

The 2006 Forfás report on Manufacturing and Services indicated that, despite the manufacturing sector in Ireland experiencing a decline in employment in line with most developed OECD economies, it had achieved very significant increases in output, reflecting growing productivity in the sector. Simultaneously the decline in manufacturing employment has been offset by rapid jobs growth in the services sector. The report also found that competitiveness challenges in the manufacturing sector need to be addressed if it is to continue to play a major role in the economy.

As part of the commitments included under the partnership agreement ‘Towards 2016', I established a high-level manufacturing group, to review the challenges facing the manufacturing sector and to identify further measures to meet those challenges. This Group, comprised of Industry, Employee, Government and Enterprise Agency representatives, is currently in the process of finalising a report outlining their views and recommendations to ensure that manufacturing continues to play a major role in our economy and will report back to Partnership early 2008.

To compliment the work ongoing in the High Level Group on Manufacturing, Forfás have established a group to look at the challenges and opportunities faced by the services sector. From this group we hope to prepare and position Irish enterprise to adapt to the globalisation of services with the aim of achieving sustainable and competitive services enterprise in Ireland based on three strategic imperatives:

Growing a cadre of Irish services companies that can expand into international markets (Overseas Direct Investment); and

Developing productive and competitive locally traded services including their globalisation potential.

The group have met on four occasions and a report outlining how to maximise the future returns to Ireland from services activities in all enterprises, both current and potential, is due at the end of March 2008.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

191 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has identified areas in the manufacturing or service sectors that are particularly and strongly competitive; his plans for the future development of such areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31655/07]

In 2004 the Enterprise Strategy Group report outlined the sectors where Ireland has considerable potential for future growth, building on existing expertise and capitalising on new opportunities in internationally-traded services, high-value manufacturing in a number of sectors and locally-trading businesses. A number of service sectors and activities were considered to offer opportunities for exploitation by indigenous enterprises and for increased inward investment and these are set out in Appendix 1.

The manufacturing sector in Ireland has evolved noticeably since 2000, in terms of the composition of industry and the nature of activities, and is likely to continue to do so. Manufacturing continues to be a significant employer accounting directly for 11% of total employment and a significant amount of associated services employment. In order to sustain and grow the sector, the Irish based manufacturing enterprises will have to continue the progression to high value added sectors and activities, and continue to increase productivity through investments in human capital, technology and innovation.

Irish manufacturers who engage in specialised, sophisticated, high technology and value added activities can continue to compete successfully on international markets. These sectors often require specialised skilled staff, specialised technologies and flexible operations, and other factors which are not readily available in many low cost economies, such as modern IP protection laws, a business friendly regulatory environment, etc.

Many companies in Ireland have built world-class high value added manufacturing and services capabilities, particularly in food, information and communications technology, software development, pharmaceuticals and medical technologies. Ireland's existing expertise provides a base for continued wealth creation over the next decade and we envisage that Ireland's manufacturing base will continue to move up the value chain.

As part of the commitments included under the partnership agreement ‘Towards 2016', I established a high-level manufacturing group, to review the challenges facing the manufacturing sector and to identify further measures to meet those challenges. This Group is currently in the process of finalising a report outlining their views and recommendations to ensure that manufacturing continues to play a major role in our economy and will report back to Partnership early 2008.

The increasing importance of services is a phenomenon of most developed economies and Ireland is following this trend. Almost 70 percent of the Irish workforce is currently employed in services. More than one-third of Ireland's exports are in services and Ireland is now the 12th highest exporter of services in the world. The future performance in services activities will therefore be increasingly important to overall growth in the economy. To compliment the ongoing work of the High Level Group on Manufacturing, Forfás have established a group to examine the challenges and opportunities faced by the services sector. From this group we hope to prepare and position Irish enterprise to adapt to the globalisation of services with the aim of achieving sustainable and competitive services enterprise, part of the group's work will be to identify potential growth sectors for the future. The group have met on four occasions and a report outlining how to maximise the future returns to Ireland from services activities in all enterprises, both current and potential, is due at the end of March 2008.

Appendix 1

The following service sectors and activities are considered to offer opportunities for exploitation by indigenous enterprises and for increased inward investment:

Service Sectors

Education services,

Financial services,

Healthcare services,

Tourism,

Creative services,

Maritime services,

Aviation services,

Construction, Engineering and Environmental services,

Professional and Consultancy services,

Agricultural and Bloodstock services,

[Activities]

European Headquarters,

Franchising, Intellectual property,

Sales and Marketing,

Shared and Outsourced business processes,

Services delivered electronically i.e. eRetailing of Consumer Goods, eServices, Data Management,

Supply Chain Management

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

192 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the issues affecting competitiveness in the economy; his proposals to address such issues in the short term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31656/07]

There are a number of competitiveness benchmarks against which Ireland is measured. For example, the World Bank ranks Ireland as 8th out of 178 economies globally for "ease of doing business". This puts us in the top 5% of world economies in their survey. In its recently published report on global competitiveness rankings, the World Economic Forum (WEF) positioned Ireland, in 22nd position out of 131 countries. This puts us in the top 20% of its list of competitive economies. Within the areas measured we are in 5th place for financial market sophistication and 4th for "goods market efficiency". This is important because included in this category we are ranked 1st for the positive impact of business rules on foreign direct investment. We are also ranked in 1st place for the impact of foreign direct investment as an important source of new technology.

These issues are important because they underline our solid reputation as a flexible, competitive and technologically orientated economy in which it is worthwhile to invest. And of course what holds for foreign investors is equally true for the environment in which indigenous firms are encouraged to start and grow. These are clear and unambiguous competitive advantages for our economy.

Nevertheless, the broad enterprise sector and exporters in particular are facing some immediate challenges. For the most part these are driven by external events in currency, financial and commodity markets. The external value of the euro, flexibility and availability of credit and the unique and unprecedented cost of oil/energy are important cost components over which companies in Ireland have no control.

However, I am confident that the adaptability of our enterprise sector will overcome these challenges. Our forward looking enterprise policy has helped reposition the economy and influenced a structural change in what our economy produces. Our economy has moved into higher value added, technology based and more innovative products and services. This is reflected in another WEF competitive indicator based on business managers' belief that Ireland's competitiveness in international markets is founded more on unique products and processes, than low cost. We scored equal with the U.S. on this indicator of competitiveness and are well inside the top 15% of the economies looked at by the World Economic Forum.

This also reflects the strategic emphasis that my Department places on providing resources to enable enterprise in Ireland engage more successfully and profitably with the more complex yet higher yielding research, development and innovation process.

This will continue, at a strategic level through the National Development Plan and the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation. At firm level this will continue through closer engagement with individual companies by the enterprise development agencies. In respect of the very important indigenous sector, the early ground-work for this is already in place through Enterprise Ireland's new strategic direction to 2010, that I launched last month.

Job Creation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

193 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of new jobs created in each of the past 12 months to date; the job losses in the same period in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31657/07]

Employment data in enterprise agency assisted firms is collated by Forfás on an annual basis only. Accordingly data on jobs created and jobs lost in 2007 will not be available until early 2008 and in annual format only.

The latest employment data published by the Central Statistics Office indicates that the numbers in employment grew by almost 68,000 in the year to Quarter 3 2007 bringing the total number in employment to 2,140,900 (Quarterly National Household Survey 15 November 2007). The seasonally adjusted data indicate that the unemployment rate decreased from 4.5% to 4.4% in the 12-month period and a similar decrease was recorded between the second and third quarters of 2007 when unemployment fell by 3,000.

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

For the Government's part we will continue to pursue policies to promote lifelong learning and up-skilling to improve labour market flexibility and, where necessary, ensure that appropriate training supports are provided for workers in sectors that are no longer competitive, should they need to find alternative employment.

The performance of the enterprise sector has been pivotal to the huge success of the Irish economy in recent years and Ireland's long term economic success will depend on the continued strength of our enterprise base. There are almost six hundred thousand more people at work now than 10 years ago and while overall economic performance remains strong the Government is committed to increasing the number of high-paid jobs and knowledge intensive investment needed to sustain our performance into the future.

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

Trade Missions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

194 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which inward investment has grown arising from the various trade delegations organised by his Department or in association with his Department on a worldwide basis in the past seven years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31658/07]

Ministerial-led Trade Missions are an integral part of our work to develop and expand Ireland's exports to existing and new markets abroad. It has been the experience of my Department and of the companies participating in such missions that the presence of a Minister enhances the opportunities for the companies involved and achieves a higher level of recognition and access to the various markets. During my term as Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment since 2004, missions led either by myself or by the Minister for Trade and Commerce, have proven very successful and significant opportunities have resulted for the companies involved in expanding our trade.

As Trade Missions, the primary purpose of these visits is not primarily the attraction of Foreign Direct Investment. A separate and distinct series of Ministerial-led visits, organised in association with IDA Ireland, specifically pursues the attraction of such investment to Ireland. However, where possible and appropriate, I avail of the opportunity presented by my presence abroad on Trade Missions to meet with existing and prospective IDA company clients, to pursue investment opportunities in Ireland. There is an important incremental effect in pursuing such contacts at every opportunity and this is a significant factor in building up the level of Foreign Direct Investment in Ireland, which has resulted in over 1,000 foreign companies locating here, who currently employ over 135,000 staff.

Our success in developing our foreign trade markets and also in attracting Foreign Direct Investment is the result of a combination of the ongoing work of the relevant agencies and also of the Ministerial missions abroad. It is obviously not possible to disaggregate and measure the impact of specific Ministerial meetings, but the different elements all combine to achieve our present very satisfactory position, both in relation to our attraction of FDI and the expansion of our export markets.

Job Creation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

195 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to indicate the extent to which overseas investment here is resulting in the creation of extra jobs in the past 12 months to date; the way this compares with similar periods over the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31659/07]

Since the beginning of 2007 IDA Ireland has made 37 new project announcements with a potential job creation figure of in excess of 3,000.

It is necessary to distinguish between jobs announced and actual jobs created. There is always a timelag, often stretching over many years, between the announcement of jobs and their creation. The actual number of new jobs created in IDA supported companies in the calendar year 2007 will not be available until the Forfás Annual survey is published in early 2008. The actual number of new jobs created in IDA supported companies in each of the years from 1997 to 2006 is set out in the attached tabular statement.

The level of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Ireland, relative to the size of the economy, is one of the highest in the world, with many of the world's leading overseas companies having substantial international operations here. Some of these companies may have started with a manufacturing or basic services remit but have since taken on strategic activities such as next generation shared services, R&D, value-chain and supply-chain optimisation and EMEA headquarters.

At the end of 2006 there were over 135,000 people employed in over 1,000 IDA assisted companies. It should be noted that, in addition to the actual jobs created in IDA supported companies, FDI has significant multiplier effects throughout the economy. Additional jobs are created in indigenous industry, for example in companies that are engaged in sub supply as well as service jobs in the local economy. In addition to these direct benefits, FDI creates demand for high skills, advanced management and business processes, and guides beneficial national developments in education, science, telecommunications and other infrastructure.

The measures of progress in a globalised, high-value and knowledge-intensive economy, as we have in Ireland, are different to those that we used in the past. The number of jobs created was the key criterion of success in the 1990's, whereas now it is the quality and value of the activities undertaken here that matters, specifically in areas such as more skill-intensive manufacturing, financial services, headquarters functions for European and wider markets, and in research and innovation.

I am satisfied that the good work already being done by the Agency in winning important new investment for the country will continue into the years ahead.

Table showing the number of new jobs created in IDA supported companies in each of the years 1997 to 2006

Year

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Number of Jobs Created

14,582

15,812

17,738

22,802

12,847

10,501

9,399

10,972

12,032

11,846

Export Markets.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

196 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he has taken or proposes to take to improve the prospects for Irish exporters to the US; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31660/07]

Despite the difficulties posed by the decline in the exchange rate of the US Dollar against the Euro, which is outside our control, my Department and Enterprise Ireland are working to ensure that our exports to that country, which our single biggest export market, are maintained. Figures for the first 8 months of this year show that merchandise exports to the US were actually up slightly on the same period in 2006, despite this pressure. Earlier this year I led a Trade Mission of 34 Irish companies to New York, Boston and Washington. The outcome was very satisfactory and the companies announced over $40 million in new business sales and partnership deals with US customers, during that mission.

Enterprise Ireland (EI) have five offices in the United States and their primary focus is to increase sales and partnership deals for EI client companies in the US market. There are over 200 EI client companies in 1,300 locations across the US. These companies employ over 80,000 people in 50 States. EI's work is facilitated through client-buyer introductions, market intelligence support in market entry/validation and an extensive range of focused group projects, targeted at specific industries or regional areas. In the coming years, EI will work intensively with its client companies to grow their business. In 2006, exports by Irish owned companies to the US reached $1.7 billion, which is an 8% increase on 2005. To date in 2007, Enterprise Ireland clients have opened 24 new offices in the US. I am therefore satisfied that significant progress is being made in this market.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

197 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which imports and exports have fluctuated in the past five years and in the past 12 months to date having particular regard to the need to identify areas where an emerging lack of competitiveness is occurring and being substituted through imports or relocation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31661/07]

The position in relation to imports and exports of Merchandise goods over the last five years is given in the following table.

Data for the first eight months of 2007 show Merchandise Exports have increased by 5% over the same period in 2006 and Merchandise Imports for the same period have increased at a slower rate, i.e. 3%.

For the period 2004-2006 Merchandise Imports have been rising somewhat faster than Merchandise Exports, but there a number of pertinent factors involved. An inevitable consequence of increased production of goods for export, especially in the specialised sectors of the economy, is that component and raw materials for those sectors will be required to drive the increased manufacture of additional goods. While these are sourced in Ireland wherever feasible, inevitably a proportion of input items, including petroleum and its products, can only be sourced overseas.

Despite this, Ireland still has a very significant surplus in our merchandise trade, amounting to over €26 bn last year.

Services trade data for the first six months of 2007 show Exports of €30.136 bn and Imports of €32.136 bn. This means that the trend of significant growth in Services Exports is continuing and, also, that the deficit is continuing to close.

This combined data shows a very healthy trade position. Inevitably there will be fluctuations in relation to the various elements which impact on the ongoing position.

I would like to assure the Deputy that Enterprise Ireland, the agency with responsibility for the development of manufacturing and internationally traded services of indigenous companies, is acutely aware of the significant challenges and opportunities that have emerged as a result of globalisation and increased global competition. The agency does and will continue to work very closely with its client companies to help them grow and develop both here in Ireland and on world markets.

Annual External Merchandise Trade

Year

Imports

Exports

Trade Surplus

€m

€m

€m

2002

55,628

93,675

38,047

2003

47,865

82,076

33,211

2004

51,105

84,409

33,304

2005

57,465

86,732

29,267

2006

60,769

86,843

26,074

The following table show the position in relation Services Trade—

Year

Imports

Exports

Deficit

€bn

€bn

€bn

2002

43.119

28.731

-14.388

2003

48.223

37.133

-11.090

2004

52.625

42.424

-10.201

2005

57.521

48.219

-9.302

2006

62.471

55.051

-7.420

Job Losses.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

198 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs lost through relocation on a monthly basis in the past 12 months to date; the number of new jobs created in the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31662/07]

Economy wide employment data are officially collected by the Central Statistics Office through, for example its Quarterly National Household Survey and Live Register analysis. Collection of these data does not however include a module on the context in which employment changes take place.

The latest QNHS shows that employment grew by almost 68,000 or 3.3% in the year to the third quarter of 2007. This means that employment in the economy has reached an historic high of 2,140,900. One feature of a competitive economy is the growth and flexibility it shows in creating new employment to replace jobs that are lost. The economy is dynamic and jobs will inevitably be lost as sectors decline, new products replace older ones and competition changes how business is done. Ireland clearly is meeting this aspect of competitiveness.

Some more extensive employment data is available from Forfás. This agency compiles an Annual Employment Survey that provides an analysis of employment levels in manufacturing and internationally traded services companies under the remit of IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Shannon Development and Údarás na Gaeltachta. The latest findings are for the 2006 survey and they reflect the robust employment growth that has been taking place in the enterprise sector that are clients of my Department's enterprise agencies.

Total permanent full-time employment in agency-assisted companies operating in the manufacturing or internationally traded services sectors amounted to 305,062 in 2006, an increase of 5,927 jobs on the previous year. This was the highest level of net job creation since 2000. Total full-time employment among Irish-owned companies amounted to 151,710 in 2006, an increase of 3,014 on the previous year. This was the second year running that the Irish-owned enterprise base has experienced an increase in employment levels. At the end of 2006, employment among Irish-owned companies was 20,558 or 15.7 per cent higher than it was in 1997. For the second year running there was an increase in the number employed in Irish-owned manufacturing companies and permanent full-time employment within Irish-owned manufacturing companies was marginally higher at the end of 2006 than it was in 1997.

Nevertheless the international operating environment for business is not as benign as it has been over the past few years. This increases the importance of driving productivity growth to counteract the numerous external pressures that are emerging in important areas such as financial and commodity markets. With their range of carefully designed support programmes, my Department's enterprise agencies will continue to hold open their doors to clients who ask for help in strengthening their firms' competitiveness.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

199 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has provided adequate funds to FAS to ensure the provision of the maximum number and continuation of training or CE schemes in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31663/07]

The budget for FÁS is agreed on the basis of detailed discussions between FÁS, my Department and the Department of Finance in the context of the annual Estimates process. A budget of €1,046,861,000 was allocated to FÁS for 2007. This includes €359m in respect of Community Employment, with a view to maintaining overall numbers on the scheme and the continuation of training for participants.

Job Losses.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

200 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of manufacturing jobs lost throughout County Kildare to more competitive economies in each of the past five years; the number of new jobs created in the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31664/07]

Job losses occur for a wide variety of reasons and therefore it is not possible to quantify the actual numbers of jobs, that have been lost to more competitive economies. There are a variety of factors involved in a firm's decision to move all or part of their operations offshore. In addition to relative wage rates and other cost factors, these may include business takeovers, consolidations and changes in product or market focus. The relocation of businesses, within particular types of industry, is a reality of modern global manufacturing for a highly developed economy such as ours.

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

The following table sets out the number of full time manufacturing job gains and losses in Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland assisted firms in Co. Kildare for each of the years between 2002 and 2006. Overall in the period in question 4,031 new manufacturing jobs were created while job losses amounted to 3,048. In addition Kildare County Enterprise Board assisted in the creation of 136 net new Manufacturing jobs over the period, giving an overall net increase in manufacturing employment in Kildare of 1,389 in the period.

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

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

Enterprise Ireland activity is focussed on the creation of new jobs through supporting entrepreneurs in manufacturing and internationally traded services companies who are setting up new High Potential Start-Up Companies. Since the beginning of 2003, EI has approved over €12m in support to companies in Kildare to help them grow their sales and exports and improve innovation and new product development in order that they can compete on world markets. The consumer foods sector in particular, has shown rapid growth in recent years. Over the last two years we have seen significant investment by Green Isle Foods and Dawn Farm Foods Ltd, both supported by Enterprise Ireland, leading to significant employment increases in both of these state of the art facilities.

Job Gains & Losses (Full time) in Manufacturing Employment in Enterprise Agency Assisted Companies in Co. Kildare between 2002 and 2006.

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Change over Period

Job Gains

882

843

1,020

773

783

4,301

Job Losses

-499

-747

-733

-382

-687

-3,048

Net change

383

96

287

391

96

1,253

International Agreements.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

201 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the Government will support the call by the Ministers of the Central African Region for more time to negotiate economic partnership agreements despite their best efforts and for the EU continuing the preferences from the Cotonou agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31681/07]

At the Africa Caribbean Pacific (ACP)-EU Joint Council of Ministers in May of this year, all 6 ACP regions, together with the EU, reaffirmed their intention to conclude full EPAs (including provisions on services and investment) before the deadline of the 31st of December 2007. After that date the current trading arrangements under the Cotonou Agreement must end if the EU and our ACP partners are to meet our international obligations in the World Trade Organisation.

However, some of the ACP regions, including Central Africa, have since indicated that it will be difficult for them to agree the terms of a full EPA by that deadline. For those cases, the Commission has issued, in October last, a Communication setting out its proposals for a two-step approach. This approach is to put in place new arrangements to deal with trade in goods after the 31st of December and to continue with negotiations for all other aspects of a full EPA into next year.

At the EU General Affairs Council of the 21st of November last, the Development Ministers considered the current state of the negotiations for EPAs and the Commission's proposals for this two-step approach. In its Conclusions, the Council described the Commission's proposals as pragmatic and endorsed the approach as an interim solution. On the issue of continuing negotiations for full EPAs into 2008, the Council called for a flexible and phased approach.

Ireland agrees that the negotiations must be conducted in a spirit of goodwill, flexibility and understanding. We have always said that any resulting agreements must be supportive of ACP countries' development needs and their poverty reduction strategies.

The current trading arrangements under the Cotonou Agreement are not compatible with the rules of the World Trade Organisation. In order to allow time for the EU and its ACP partners to negotiate new agreements, the WTO granted a waiver until the end of this year. Once that waiver expires, developing countries that are not in the ACP regions will have the opportunity to challenge any trading regime that does not meet the requirements of the WTO. Trading arrangements that are legally vulnerable would not be in interests of the ACP countries, or its traders. For this reason, it is not feasible to look to continue the preference system under the Cotonou regime.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

202 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his attention has been drawn to the fact that communities such as Carrickmacross, County Monaghan are eager that their towns develop public swimming pools with ancillary facilities; if he will launch a new local authority swimming pool programme; when he will announce details of same; the bodies that will be in a position to apply for such funding; the format the programme is expected to take; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31384/07]

The current round of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme is progressing the development of 57 new or refurbished public swimming pools around the country. Of these, 43 have been grant aided of which 29 have been completed with 14 under construction. These 43 pools represent an investment of some €338m by Local Authorities attracting grant aid of some €129m.

My Department is completing a Value for Money and Policy Review Report of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme at present. The Report is examining, among other things, how the programme has worked to date and what changes, if any, are required to ensure its effective and efficient delivery. Thereafter, following consideration of the recommendations in the Report, it is my intention to launch a new round of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme.

When the programme is re-opened, it will be open to all Local Authorities, including Monaghan County Council on behalf of Carrickmacross, to submit an application under the terms that will apply. There is a provision of €184m in the National Development Plan, 2007-2013 in respect of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme.

Departmental Agencies.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

203 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the agencies operating under the aegis of his Department for which he is not responsible before Dáil Éireann. [31438/07]

As Minister, I have overall responsibility for the formulation of national policy in the areas of Arts, Sport and Tourism and, through my Department, for monitoring its implementation. The agencies under the aegis of my Department which have responsibility for the execution of policy are listed in my Department's Statement of Strategy 2005-2007 and Annual Reports which are available on my Department's website. In accordance with long established practice, I do not answer Parliamentary questions relating to the day to day activities of the agencies in question.

Exchequer funding for these bodies is provided through the voted expenditure of my Department as set out in the Book of Estimates each year and I attend at the meeting of the Select Committee at which the Estimates are considered. Each agency is responsible for complying with normal financial procedures in relation to the disbursement of funds allocated to it.

All the funds discharged through my Department's Vote are monitored and controlled in accordance with public financial procedures established by the Department of Finance. The accounts of my Department and the State agencies under its aegis are audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General and together with his report are laid before each House of the Oireachtas. In addition, the Secretary General of my Department and the chief executives of the State bodies under its aegis are subject to examination by the Public Accounts Committee.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

204 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if the expenditure review of the local authority swimming pool programme is completed and when does he expect to announce a new round of the local authority swimming pool programme. [31605/07]

My Department is completing a Value for Money and Policy Review Report of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme at present. The Report is examining, among other things, how the programme has worked to date and what changes, if any, are required to ensure its effective and efficient delivery.

Thereafter, following consideration of the recommendations in the Report, it is my intention to launch a new round of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme as soon as possible. When the programme is re-opened, it will be open to all local authorities to submit applications under the terms that will apply. There is a provision of €184m in the National Development Plan, 2007-2013 in respect of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme.

Sports Capital Programme.

Tony Gregory

Question:

205 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when a sports capital grant for €140,000 sanctioned in 2006 to a centre (details supplied) in County Cavan will be paid; and if the Chief State Solicitor’s Office will be requested to expedite the priority agreement which has already been submitted to them. [31672/07]

Under the sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, grants are allocated to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country.

The organisation in question was provisionally allocated €140,000 under the 2006 Sports Capital Programme.

Once the legal requirements are met and the organisation is in a position to submit quotations and, subsequently, invoices accompanied by tax clearance details, then provided all is in order, draw down of the grant can commence. My Department will make contact with the grantee this week to clarify these outstanding requirements.

Departmental Schemes.

Denis Naughten

Question:

206 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the applications processed by his Department; the average waiting time to process each application; the steps which he is taking to speed up the processing time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26900/07]

The details requested by the Deputy in relation to the schemes administered by my Department are set out in the table below. In addition my Department's Customer Charter sets out the standard of service that users of the Department's services are entitled to expect. The Charter is available on the Department's website http://www.arts-sport-tourism.gov.ie.

Type of Application

Average waiting time to process application

Steps being taken to speed up processing time

The Board of Culture Ireland considers applications on a quarterly basis for travel and support for the promotion of Irish artists worldwide.

One month.

A new system to allow smaller scale projects to be considered on a monthly basis is currently being considered.

Applications under the Arts and Culture Capital Enhancement Support Scheme (ACCESS)

Applications for the most recent round of this scheme, ACCESS II, were accepted over a six-week period. 155 applications were assessed and evaluated by the Department over a five-month period, with the assistance of an independent selection committee who duly made recommendations to the Minister. Projects for which applications were received varied in cost from €13,000 to €42m and therefore the time required to adequately assess each application varied depending on the size and scope of the project. Applicants were not notified of the outcome of their application until completion of the selection committee’s work and acceptance of their report by the Minister.

Applications for funding under the scheme are processed as promptly as possible, having regard to the size, complexity and variety of projects for which applications are received, the resources available to my Department to deal with them and the need for a robust and fair assessment process.

Sports Capital Programme

Processing and assessment of the applications (between 1300-1500 per round) over approximately three and a half to four months Recommendations regarding allocations are made to the Minister. The timing of the announcement of the provisional grant allocations is at the Minister’s discretion.

Regular reviews of assessment process are undertaken. Applications for funding under the scheme are processed as promptly as possible, having regard to the quantity, complexity and variety of projects for which applications are received, the resources available in my Department to deal with them and the need for a robust and fair assessment process.

Local Authority Swimming Pools Programme***

Four stage process Feasibility Study/Preliminary Report Contract Documents Tender Construction Timescale for completing projects depends on Local Authorities progress at each stage.

A Value for Money and Policy Review currently underway includes a review of the four stage process.

Freedom of Information Act

Dealt with within the statutory time frames

Not applicable

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

207 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if exceptional needs payment will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare, who applied for same through local community welfare office some time ago; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31627/07]

Under the terms of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive, an exceptional needs payment (ENP) may be made to help meet an essential, once-off cost which the applicant is unable to meet out of his/her own resources. There is no automatic entitlement to this payment. Each application is determined by the Executive based on the particular circumstances of the case. Eligible people would normally be in receipt of a social welfare or health service executive payment.

In the case of the person concerned, the Dublin-Mid-Leinster Area of the Executive have advised that they currently have no request for an exceptional needs payment from him. It is open to the person concerned to approach the Executive should he wish to make an application for ENP support.

Grant Payments.

Joe Costello

Question:

208 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the conditions under which bereavement grants are allocated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31355/07]

The bereavement grant is a payment designed to assist families with death and funeral expenses. It is a scheme that relates specifically to those who have made PRSI contributions and is payable on the death of an insured person, his/her spouse and dependent children under age 18 or under age 22 if in full-time education.

The grant is payable if the relevant insured person had:

156 PRSI contributions paid since entry into insurable employment

or

at least 26 PRSI contributions paid since entry into insurable employment,

and either,

39 PRSI contributions paid or credited in the Relevant Tax Year

or

a yearly average of 39 PRSI contributions paid or credited over the 3 or 5 tax years before the death occurred or pension age was reached (age 66 at present)

or

a yearly average of 26 PRSI contributions paid or credited since 1979 (or since starting work if later) and the end of the tax year before the death occurred or pension age was reached (age 66 at present)

or

a yearly average of 26 PRSI contributions paid or credited since 1st October 1970 (or since starting work if later) and the end of the tax year before the death occurred or pension age was reached (age 66 at present).

The relevant tax year is the last complete tax year before the year in which the death occurs or pension age was reached.

Budget 2007 extended the bereavement grant to the next of kin of deceased recipients of disability allowance aged between 16 and 22 years.

Where there are insufficient PRSI contributions to qualify for bereavement grant a person may receive assistance under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. Under this arrangement, the HSE may make a single payment to help meet exceptional expenditure, for example, for funeral expenses, which a family could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their income.

Departmental Offices.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

209 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if arrangements are being put in place in relation to a branch office in Dunmanway in County Cork, which was closed following the untimely death of the branch manager over four months ago, and to indicate a reopening date. [31619/07]

Due to the untimely death of the Branch Manager in Dunmanway arrangements had to be put in place immediately to ensure continuity of service to customers. All claims originally catered for in Dunmanway were transferred to the Department's office in Bantry as an interim arrangement to ensure that payments were not interrupted.

Arrangements were subsequently made to distribute the claims between five neighbouring branch offices in Bandon, Bantry, Clonakilty, Macroom and Skibereen. The distribution of the claims took into account the proximity of the adjoining branch offices and the availability of public transport. Customers are facilitated on request to change from their designated branch office when other offices prove more accessible. Service to customers has not been interrupted by these arrangements and payments are continuing as they fall due. The Social Welfare Inspector, based in Dunmanway, holds an office morning on Tuesday mornings which is open to the public and deals with any information queries.

In keeping with normal procedures when a branch office post becomes vacant, a review of the delivery of social welfare services in the area served by Dunmanway branch office is being undertaken to determine the most effective way of providing these services in the future. The review in respect of Dunmanway is expected to be completed shortly.

Social Insurance.

Richard Bruton

Question:

210 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the revenue received in PRSI, distinguishing between employer, employee and self-employed contributions, from 2004 to date in 2007; and if he will provide an estimate for 2008. [31637/07]

The amounts of Pay related Social Insurance (PRSI) received by my Department in respect of employer, employee and self-employed contributions, from 2004 to the 30 th of September 2007 are set out in the following table:

2004

2005

2006

Provisional Jan-Sept. 2007

€ Million

€ Million

€ Million

€ Million

Employer PRSI

4,000

4,512

5,167

4,344

Employee PRSI

1,258

1,218

1,380

1,189

Self-Employed PRSI

355

380

374

128

Total

5,613

6,110

6,921

5,661

The published estimate for PRSI for 2007 is €7,600 million and the published pre-budget estimate for 2008 is €8,260 million.

All of the above figures are exclusive of the Health Levy and the National Training Fund levy.

Pet Passports.

Finian McGrath

Question:

211 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan. [31679/07]

This pet passport application is being processed and will issue very shortly.

Domestic Abattoirs.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

212 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the support available for small local abattoirs to assist them in complying with the EU hygiene package. [31361/07]

As I indicated to the Deputy in reply to Parliamentary Question 29499/07 on 22 November 2007, the regulation of local abattoirs is the responsibility of local authorities, who report to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland on this issue. I am, however, considering whether there is scope for support to abattoirs in relation to specific activities under the marketing and processing scheme operated by my Department.

Registration of Title.

Michael Ring

Question:

213 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a deed of transfer will be executed by her Department for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo in order that their Land Registry application can be progressed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31402/07]

The person named has applied, through his Solicitor, for Registration to the Property Registration Authority (Land Registry). He has been informed by that Authority that it appears from its maps that the property is in fact registered to the Congested Districts Board.

I as Minister, as successor to the Congested Districts Board and the Irish Land Commission have no objection to the registration proceeding and a letter to this effect has been issued to the Solicitor.

EU Directives.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

214 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the date on which a beef farmer can legally spread farm yard manure or slurry on grassland in County Wexford in 2008, when the same farmer has not got sufficient slurry storage for a full 16 weeks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31429/07]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

215 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the necessary criteria to allow a farmer with insufficient slurry storage capacity to spread slurry in the first week of January 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31430/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 214 and 215 together.

The implementation of the Nitrates Directive is a matter in the first instance for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The dates of the prohibited periods for spreading fertilizer are set out in the European Communities (Good Agricultural Practice for the Protection of Waters) Regulations 2006, made by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

The prohibited periods apply to holdings that meet the minimum storage requirements as set out in the Regulations. In County Wexford, the prohibited periods for application of chemical fertilizer, slurry or farmyard manure run until 12 January. On a holding that has adequate storage, therefore, fertilizers may not be applied to land until after that date.

Farmers who do not have adequate storage for organic fertilizers are prohibited from spreading manure or slurry, and from storing farmyard manure in a field, during the months of November and December, but may do so outside of these periods. These transition rules apply until 1 January 2009, by which time all farmers must have adequate storage capacity for organic fertilizers in place.

Departmental Staff.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

216 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if transfer can be offered or arranged for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare from the Department of Social Welfare to her Department’s office at Maynooth or Celbridge, given their willingness to transfer in accordance with the Government’s policy on decentralisation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31629/07]

My Department's offices at Maynooth and Backweston are not part of the Government's decentralisation programme and vacancies are not currently being filled under the CAF arrangements. Currently, all vacancies are being filled from existing Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food staff.

Special Educational Needs.

Jack Wall

Question:

217 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on correspondence (details supplied); the meetings she or her officials have had with the Health Service Executive in relation to the matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31433/07]

Jack Wall

Question:

228 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will have investigated the problems as stated in correspondence (details attached) and provide the assistance needed to overcome such problems; if this initiative that has been created has got her full support; if there are similar initiatives elsewhere where her Department is involved; if so, the way the problems as stated in the correspondence are overcome; if she or her officials had meetings with the Minister for Health and Children, her Department officials or the Health Service Executive in relation to co-funding the initiative or the provision of a funding mechanism that will meet the demands as stated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31432/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 217 and 228 together.

My officials met with representatives of the school in question earlier this week and used this opportunity to explore the contents of the correspondence referred to by the Deputy and in particular the matter of dual enrolment. My officials clarified that this issue is expected to be considered in the context of the Review of Special Schools and Special Classes being undertaken currently by the National Council for Special Education.

The correspondence also referred to the issue of therapeutic and nursing supports for pupils in the school. The provision of such supports are a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE) and it is appropriate that questions relating to this area are addressed to the HSE.

Schools Building Projects.

Shane McEntee

Question:

218 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Education and Science when construction work will begin on the new national school in Laytown, County Meath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31348/07]

The project to which the Deputy refers to is currently at an early stage of architectural planning.

The progression of all large scale building projects from initial design stage through to construction phase, including this project, is considered on an on-going basis in the context of my Department's Multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

The Deputy can be assured that my Department will continue to ensure that building projects are delivered within the earliest possible timeframe.

School Transport.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

219 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on introducing assistance for private school bus operators who are to lose the diesel fuel rebate and whose business is in danger with the risk to school bus routes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31349/07]

The current fuel duty rebate scheme is a matter for the Minister for Finance and the Revenue Commissioners. I understand that in March of this year the European Commission published its decision to refuse all requests for the retention of the fuel duty rebate scheme.

My Department understands that officials from the Department of Transport are currently engaging with officials from the Department of Finance to explore the possibility of replacing the scheme, if appropriate, by alternative non-tax financial support mechanisms to achieve the same policy objectives, subject to EU State Aid requirements. My Department will liaise with both Departments regarding the outcome of these discussions.

Special Educational Needs.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

220 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Education and Science when the survey promised regarding the educational needs of all the students of a school (details supplied) will begin; the reason the survey has not been carried out to date; when the results will be made public; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31365/07]

The Commission on School Accommodation has formally requested the Board of Management of the school to provide the names and addresses of parents and students in the school to whom the survey will be distributed. This followed a meeting between the Commission and the school authorities at their request. Once the information is received the survey will be conducted and completed without delay.

School Completion Programme.

Brian Hayes

Question:

221 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the response of her Department to the issues raised by a committee (details supplied) in County Limerick; if her Department has been consulted by other Departments and stake-holders on the matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31375/07]

My Department will be happy to respond directly to the Deputy on receipt of further information on the issues of concern to the Páirc School Completion Programme committee.

Psychological Service.

Brian Hayes

Question:

222 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of assessments carried out by National Educational Psychological Service psychologists where a recommendation was made that the child in question should receive additional resources, but where that recommendation was then overruled by a SENO; and if the relevant information for the past five years could be outlined; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31376/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available. With effect from the 1st January 2005, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants to schools to support children with special needs. The SENOs operate within my Department's policy parameters in considering these applications and convey decisions directly to the schools. My Department's policy parameters include resource levels which are considered appropriate to meet the needs of children with different categories of special need. While a professional report may from time to time make a particular recommendation for resource levels the SENO also needs to take account of the resource levels already available to a particular school. In addition full consideration is given to any exceptional cases.

School Transport.

Jack Wall

Question:

223 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has been refused school transport in view of the fact that there are vacant places on the bus and in this case the person’s brother is in receipt of school transport to the same school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31379/07]

Under the terms of my Department's Post Primary School Transport Scheme, a pupil is eligible for transport if s/he resides 4.8 kilometres or more from her/his local post primary education centre. The scheme is not designed to facilitate parents who choose to send their children to a post-primary centre outside of the catchment area in which they reside. However, children who are fully eligible for transport to the post-primary centre in the catchment area in which they reside, may apply for transport on a concessionary basis to a post-primary centre outside of their own catchment area — otherwise known as catchment boundary transport. These children can only be facilitated if spare seats are available on the bus after all other eligible children travelling to their local post-primary centre have been catered for. Such children have to make their own way to the nearest pick up point within that catchment area.

The Transport Liaison Officer for Co. Kildare and Bus Éireann have advised that the transport service under the school transport scheme is operating to capacity. The family in question should continue to liaise with Bus Éireann regarding the availability of catchment boundary seats in the future.

School Accommodation.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

224 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science if there has been a health and safety assessment carried out on a school (details supplied) in Dublin 22; if her attention has been drawn to the growing number of health related complaints from children in the school believed to be due to the ill-serving 14 year old prefabricated huts in which the school sits; if there are plans to supply the school with a building; and if so, the status of those plans. [31383/07]

The school to which the Deputy refers is located in temporary rented accommodation. Since the property is being rented, any dissatisfaction with the condition of the accommodation should be brought to the attention of the lessor having regard to the terms of the lease.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that agreement has been reached to provide permanent accommodation for the school in question on a V.E.C. owned site. The site is currently being master planned to facilitate both this school and two other all-Irish schools. All of the school authorities will be kept informed of progress in this regard.

School Transport.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

225 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will approve an additional bus run to accommodate pupils attending a school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31391/07]

Under the terms of the Post Primary School Transport Scheme, a pupil is eligible for school transport if s/he lives 4.8 kilometres or more from the post-primary centre in the catchment area in which s/he resides. In general, Post Primary School Transport services are organised to ensure the maximum travel and waiting time does not exceed 2.5 hours.

My Department has been advised by Bus Éireann and the Transport Liaison Officer for Co. Kerry that the combined travel and waiting times for the eligible pupils, referred to by the Deputy, are within the general guidelines of the School Transport Scheme. In the circumstances, it is not proposed to put in place alternative arrangements.

Schools Building Projects.

Martin Ferris

Question:

226 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Science if an application for a new school (details supplied) in County Kerry has been processed; and if not, when it will be processed; if funding will be made available for a new school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31397/07]

An application for capital funding towards the provision of new school building on a greenfield site has been received from the school authority referred to by the Deputy. An assessment of projected enrolment trends, demographic trends and housing developments in the area will be required in order to determine the long term projected staffing figure on which the school's accommodation needs will be based.

Once the long term projection has been determined and agreed with the school authorities the required building project will be considered in the context of the multi annual School Building and Modernisation programme.

School Staffing.

Martin Ferris

Question:

227 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Science if the long term staffing figure for a school (details supplied) in County Kerry has been determined by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31398/07]

The mainstream staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the valid enrolment of the school on 30th September of the previous school year and the staffing schedule which is issued annually to all primary schools.

According to data submitted to the Department by the Board of Management of the school referred to by the Deputy, the enrolment in the school on 30th September 2006 was 117 pupils. In accordance with the staffing schedule (Circular 0020/2007), which is available on the Department's website at www.education.ie and a hard copy of which has issued to all primary schools, the mainstream staffing in the school for the 2007/08 school year is a Principal and 5 mainstream class teachers.

The school also has the following posts in the 2007/08 school year:

1Teaching Post to allow for Administrative status for the Principal

1Permanent Learning Support/Resource Post

1Temporary Learning Support/Resource Post1 Permanent Home School Liaison Post (Shared)

3Temporary Language Support Posts

According to further data submitted to the Department by the Board of Management of the school, the enrolment in the school on 30th September 2007 was 124 pupils. The staffing of the school for the 2008/2009 school year will be based on this figure and on the new staffing schedule for the 2008/09 school year which will issue from my Department early in 2008.

Question No. 228 answered with QuestionNo. 217.

Schools Building Projects.

Brian Hayes

Question:

229 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a building project for a school (details supplied) in Dublin 18 has not been commenced despite the fact that this Gaelscoil has operated on a temporary facility for the past 12 years, that this project has gone past the tender and contractor stage, and is awaiting approval from her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31439/07]

The tender report for the school referred to by the Deputy is under examination in my Department at present. The school's Board of Management will be kept advised of developments when the examination is complete.

School Curriculum.

Brian Hayes

Question:

230 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 279 of 21 November 2007, the court cases which have occurred since the revised curriculum came into effect in 1998; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31469/07]

There have been no court cases involving a challenge to the revised curriculum since it came into effect in 1999, with the exception of a challenge brought by an applicant in the last number of weeks.

Education Schemes.

Chris Andrews

Question:

231 Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Education and Science when she plans to establish Education Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31470/07]

During 2007, progress has been ongoing on the implementation of the recommendations of the Report of the Internationalisation of Education Services and the establishment of Education Ireland. Education Ireland will be responsible for promoting the development of Ireland as a centre of excellence for international education. Government approval has been received to proceed with the establishment of Education Ireland as a company with a view to it being set up on a statutory basis as soon as possible. Arrangements are currently underway to establish the new company and draft legislation for the establishment of Education Ireland is currently in preparation.

Schools Building Projects.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

232 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on the recommendation of the commission on school accommodation area development plan for Dublin north that a second 16 classroom primary level school should be located on the same site as the promised permanent building for a school (details supplied) in County Dublin; if this school will be needed from September 2008 to meet the huge upward growth in demand for junior infant places in the area; if the patronage of this new school has been determined; when it will be ready to receive pupils; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31475/07]

The Area Development Plan (ADP) published recently by the Commission on School Accommodation recommends that two sixteen classroom schools be provided on the school campus site at Donabate. The national school referred to by the Deputy is currently located in temporary accommodation on that site and it is intended that one of the new school buildings will provide permanent accommodation for the school in question.

The Department has appointed a project manager to oversee the development of the Donabate school campus site. Provision has been made in the master planning of this site for a post primary school and two sixteen classroom primary schools.

The Department is monitoring the emerging demand for primary school places in the Donabate area and will respond to any requirement for additional accommodation in a timely manner.

Site Acquisitions.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

233 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if there has been any successful outcome in relation to the purchase of a site for a permanent school (details supplied) in County Kildare given the indication by officials that a potential site was identified which was being pursued. [31575/07]

Discussions are on-going with the local authority in relation to a site for a permanent home for the school to which the Deputy refers. In the meantime arrangements are being made to ensure that the school will be adequately accommodated in temporary accommodation until such a time as a site has been acquired and a permanent building provided.

School Accommodation.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

234 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if the new prefabricated school (details supplied) in County Kildare will be in place to move students from the present school for the opening of the new school term in January, 2008. [31576/07]

The current accommodation for the school to which the Deputy refers is available until end of March, 2008.

Planning permission has been obtained for accommodation on an alternative site and the Board of Management is pursuing the delivery of accommodation on that site to meet the schools needs from April onwards.

School Enrolments.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

235 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of pupils presently attending a school (details supplied) in County Dublin; the numbers expected to enrol in the school in each of the next five years from the feeder gaelscoils; the numbers expected to complete their education in each of the same five years; and if the capacity of the school is sufficient for the next five years to meet these pupil numbers or will she agree that a secondary all Irish school is required in north Kildare. [31577/07]

The school to which the Deputy refers recently received a new school building with capacity for 600 pupils. In September 2007, the total enrolment in the school was 320 pupils. Its first year intake was 71 pupils.

Details of enrolments from individual feeder schools in 2007 are not yet available however, in 2006, 68 pupils from a total of 218 6th class pupils from 8 gaelscoileanna in Kildare, Meath and Co. Dublin enrolled in the school.

This represents 31% of the potential intake — consistent with this year's pattern.

While there are plans to increase capacity at 2 of the 8 gaelscoileanna feeding into this gaelcholáiste, an increase in the amount of 6th class pupils emerging from this development is not expected for at least six years.

Pre-enrolment lists at not held by the Department but, as matters stand, there are some 30 first year places available each year over and above the actual enrolment. This also means that over a six year cycle, enrolment in the school is likely to be in the region of c. 420 pupils, again leaving vacant capacity of some 180 pupil places.

Given the extent of current vacant capacity and the pattern of enrolments, my Department is satisfied that additional places are not required for the area at this time. It has agreed, however, to keep the situation under review.

Schools Building Projects.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

236 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if the design team has been appointed for the new Kill national school in County Kildare. [31579/07]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the appointment of a Design Team for the above project has been completed. A Planning and briefing meeting was recently held with the successful design team in order to allow this project commence architectural planning.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

237 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if a design team has been appointed for the required extension to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare. [31580/07]

The Board of Management of the school referred to by the Deputy is the Client/Contracting Authority for their proposed building project. As client, the Board is currently overseeing the appointment of an architectural Design Team and I understand that this process is at an advanced stage.

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.

Psychological Service.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

238 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department has finalised the allocation of the additional 31 educational psychologists to different counties; the schools to which they have been assigned; and the actual numbers of additional educational psychologists being appointed. [31581/07]

As the Deputy will be aware, all schools have access to assessments for their pupils either directly through NEPS or through the Scheme for Commissioning Private Assessments. Through this scheme, schools that are not yet served directly by NEPS or Dublin VEC psychologists can commission assessments from any one of 140 private psychologists and NEPS will pay for them.

During the last academic year some 4,400 assessments were funded under the SCPA, at a total cost of nearly €1.5 million.

Almost 5,800 assessments were carried out by NEPS psychologists in the same period. In total over 10,000 assessments were paid for by my Department in the last school year.

The number of schools served directly by NEPS is, therefore, only half the picture. Nonetheless, the Government is committed to expanding the number of NEPS psychologists, so that more schools can receive a direct service. As part of this expansion, funding was made available earlier this year for 31 extra psychologists to be appointed to NEPS in 2007. The number of NEPS psychologists has increased from a total of 128 in April to a current level of 134. In all 9 psychologists have been recruited in this period but due to the normal effect of resignations and retirement the net increase is 6. While recruitment for the remaining positions has taken longer than expected, it is under way.

Six psychologists have been recruited since September and these undergo an induction and work shadowing process before being assigned a full quota of schools. The full effect of this intake which will not therefore become apparent in coverage terms for a number of weeks/months. In addition my Department has recently contracted a further 5 psychologists with 4 due to take up duty later in November/December this year. A further psychologist will take up duty in early January 2008.

The panel concerned is now exhausted and the Public Appointments Service has recently announced the commencement of a competition from which a new panel will be drawn to continue the recruitment process. The competition has been focused on the appointment of psychologists outside the Dublin region. The deadline for receipt of applications in this regard has now passed and work is proceeding on the short-listing of candidates for interview. It is envisaged that the process will be completed and panels formed early in the new year allowing recruitment to re-commence soon after. In this regard the assignment of psychologists to particular counties or regions will be predicated upon (1) the current levels of staffing in each NEPS region and (2) the availability of panellists to serve in those regions as a result of the new competition. The latter will not be known until the interviews are completed and the panels formed.

Schools Building Projects.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

239 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if the stage three submission has been received in her Department in regard to the required extension to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare. [31582/07]

My Department is awaiting a date from the School's Board of Management as to when the stage three submission will be completed and forwarded to the School Building Section.

School Enrolments.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

240 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science the total number of national school children in County Kildare in 2007/2008; the number of same in classes of less than 20; and the number of pupils of each age in such classes. [31583/07]

Enrolment data for the school year 2007/2008 are currently being compiled by my Department and are not yet available.

Special Educational Needs.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

241 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has concluded her examination of the National Council for Special Education implementation report in regard to the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004. [31584/07]

As the Deputy is aware, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) was required by the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act, 2004 to provide a report on the Implementation of the Act. This report is, essentially, advice to the Minister for Education and Science, regarding the steps the Council considers necessary to implement EPSEN, within a period not greater than five years from the starting date of the Council. The Council's report also signalled the broad range of issues, and areas where discussion needs to take place in advance of implementation.

My Department has completed its examination of the report and steps have been taken by in regard to many of the issues raised in the report. A series of consultations have been held with the education partners, including school management bodies, teachers' unions and parent representative bodies, at which a range of issues were explored in the context of delivering the provisions of the Act. Arising from this process, my Department is developing proposals for the implementation of the Act and it is hoped to complete this work shortly.

Schools Building Projects.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

242 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has sanctioned the tender process for the required extension to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare. [31585/07]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the project to which the question refers is currently out to tender. The Design Team will, upon receipt of the completed tender documentation, submit a tender report to my Department on behalf of the school. Upon receipt the matter will receive further attention.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

243 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if a design team has been appointed for the new national school for Ardclough County Kildare; and the timeframe in which it must complete its work. [31586/07]

The process of appointing a design team to the school building project referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage. Progression of all projects will be considered in the context of my Department's Multi-Annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

244 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science the present position in regard to the provision of a new permanent school for a school (details supplied) in County Kildare. [31587/07]

The project to which the Deputy refers to is currently at an early stage of architectural planning. Officials from my Department examined the stage three (Developed Sketch Scheme) and requested additional information. This additional information has recently been received and is being examined. The school's board of management will be kept informed of developments once the examination is complete.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

245 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to the provision of a new permanent school (details supplied) in County Kildare. [31588/07]

The project to which the Deputy refers to is currently at an early stage of architectural planning. The Board of Management is currently in the process of re-appointing a Consultant Architect for this project. Once this appointment is complete officials from my Department will be in a position to give further direction to the school authorities in relation to progression of this project.

Site Acquisitions.

Simon Coveney

Question:

246 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to the approval and build of a new national school in Ballygarvan, County Cork; the progress in regard to the school and the delays that have been incurred; and when people in the area can expect to see concrete progress on a new school building. [31621/07]

A suitable site was identified for the construction of a new primary school building in the area referred to by the Deputy. The site comprises three separate plots of land with three separate vendors. As all three plots are essential in order to make a viable and suitable site for the school, my Department has instructed the Chief State Solicitor's Office to finalise all outstanding matters and arrange for the signing of Contracts and closure of the sales of all three sites simultaneously. As soon as the Chief State Solicitor's Office notifies my officials that all three Contracts are ready to be signed, they will be signed without delay.

When the site is in the ownership of my Department, a building project for the school will be considered for progression in the context of my Departments School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

247 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to a site acquisition and planning stages in regard to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; when it is likely this matter will progress in early date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31622/07]

I can confirm to the Deputy that the Department is in receipt of an application for large-scale capital funding from the school to which he refers. The project has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large-scale building projects and assigned a Band 2 rating. Progress on the proposed works is being considered in the context of the multi-annual School Building and Modernisation programme consistent with that Band rating.

Schools Building Projects.

John O'Mahony

Question:

248 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will give the go-ahead for a new school building (details supplied) in County Mayo to replace the portacabins currently in use. [31634/07]

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.

Brian Hayes

Question:

249 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the value of the capital expenditure programme for school buildings in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and the expected figure for 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31646/07]

The total capital expenditure on the school building programme for the years 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006 are detailed on the following table. The total capital allocation for 2007 is €542 million, of which in excess of €500 million has been spent to date. It is expected that the entire capital budget for 2007 will be expended by the end of the year.

Capital Programme 2003-2006 (Primary & Post-Primary)

Sector

2003 Outturn

2004 Outturn

2005 Outturn

2006 Outturn

€m

€m

€m

€m

Primary

175.441

170.671

266.679

244.898

Post-Primary

151.521

162.449

234.581

249.480

Total

326.962

333.120

501.260

494.378

Brian Hayes

Question:

250 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the capital expenditure programme for the construction of permanent school buildings in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and the expected figure for 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31647/07]

Brian Hayes

Question:

255 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will provide a breakdown of the capital expenditure invested in new school buildings or classrooms in primary and secondary schools for each year during the period 2000 to 2007; the number of individual schools and projects that benefited from this expenditure; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31673/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 250 and 255 together.

Details of investments made in the provision of new schools and the upgrade of existing schools in each of the years 2000 to 2006 inclusive are as follows:

Capital Programme 2000-2006 (Primary & Post-Primary)

Sector

2000 Outturn

2001 Outturn

2002 Outturn

2003 Outturn

2004 Outturn

2005 Outturn

2006 Outturn

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

Primary

102.978

139.829

172.788

175.441

170.671

266.679

244.898

P/Primary

154.532

177.857

171.347

151.521

162.449

234.581

249.480

Total

257.510

317.686

344.135

326.962

333.120

501.260

494.378

It is anticipated that the entire 2007 allocation of €542 million for schools will be fully expended by the end of the year. A total of 93 new schools were built and a total of 423 large scale extensions/refurbishment projects were completed between 2000 and 2006. Figures for 2007 are not finalised as yet.

It is important that I point out to the Deputy that, additionally, and from the investment levels detailed above, a wide range of further works were funded including improvement works under the summer works scheme, minor works funding scheme in the primary sector, asbestos, radon and mould remediation programmes, sites, furniture and equipment and other works.

Brian Hayes

Question:

251 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the items included in the capital expenditure programme for school buildings that are not included in the capital expenditure programme for the construction of permanent school buildings; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31648/07]

My Department's School Building and Modernisation Programme is divided into a number of component elements or sub programmes. These include Large Scale Building Projects (new school buildings and major extensions/refurbishments); Summer Works Scheme; Emergency Works; Site Acquisitions; remediation Programmes (asbestos removal, radon mitigation); Furniture and Equipment; provision of Temporary Accommodation and the Small Schools and Permanent Accommodation Schemes.

Schools Refurbishment.

Brian Hayes

Question:

252 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the value of the summer works programme for 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and the expected figure for 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31649/07]

Brian Hayes

Question:

253 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools that received funding for summer works programmes in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and to date in 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31650/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 252 and 253 together.

The Summer Works Scheme (SWS) was introduced in 2004 to provide capital grants for smaller-scale improvements works for both primary and post primary schools. Since then, thousands of projects have been completed in schools — such as gas, electrical and mechanical works, roof replacements and repairs, windows replacement, toilet upgrades, structural improvements and access works. Details in relation to the number of schools that have benefited from the scheme and the level of investment follow.

Summer Works Scheme 2004-2007

Year

Number of Schools

Approved Value (millions)

2004

447

31.0

2005

763

70.5

2006

778

81.0

2007

965

119.5

Schools Building Projects.

Pat Breen

Question:

254 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science when a technical assessment will be carried out in order to progress on a project for a school (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31668/07]

An application for capital funding towards the provision of an extension at the school referred to by the Deputy has been assessed and the long term projected enrolments has been determined.

In order to determine how best to provide for the school's future accommodation needs, a technical assessment of the existing school buildings will have to be carried out in order to finalise the schedules of accommodation. The building project required to meet the school's accommodation needs will be considered in the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Question No. 255 answered with QuestionNo. 250.

Psychological Service.

Brian Hayes

Question:

256 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will provide a geographical breakdown of schools with access to National Educational Psychological Service across the country, on a city and county-wide basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31674/07]

The Deputy will be aware that during 2007 the number of NEPS psychologists has increased from a total of 128 in April to a current level of 134. In all 9 psychologists have been recruited in this period but due to the normal effect of resignations and retirement the net increase is 6.

Six psychologists have been recruited since September and these undergo an induction and work shadowing process before being assigned a full quota of schools. The full effect of this intake which will not therefore become apparent in coverage terms for a number of weeks/months. In addition my Department has recently contracted a further 5 psychologists with 4 due to take up duty later in November/December this year. A further psychologist will take up duty in early January 2008.

The majority of these new recruits have been sited in the three NEPS Dublin regions and will during the current academic year be reflected in additional schools being afforded coverage by NEPS psychologists in the short and medium term. NEPS would intend to assess the effect of this expansion in January 2008 at the end of the first term of the current academic year at which stage the geographical breakdown of coverage will be forwarded to the Deputy.

Brian Hayes

Question:

257 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the average number of schools to which individual National Educational Psychological Service psychologists are assigned; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31675/07]

While the number of schools allocated to NEPS psychologists varies according to school size, special needs pupil incidence, disadvantaged status and geographical spread the average number assigned per whole-time post is 21. It should be noted that half the primary schools in the country are quite small, with four teachers or less.

Commemorative Events.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

258 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Defence if he will commission, fund and publish, as a 2016 commemoration project of the 1916 Rising, the compiling of a definitive list of all those who died during the War of Independence and the Civil War; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31401/07]

As the Deputy is aware, I propose to re-establish the All Party Oireachtas Consultation Group which was originally set up last year to offer advice on the scope and content of a 1916 centenary commemoration programme. I will be writing to Party Leaders, shortly, to ask them to nominate spokespersons to the Group. I intend to convene a meeting of the Group early in 2008.

The Group will be invited to reflect on a broad range of commemorative initiatives relevant to the period of the Rising. The project as outlined by the Deputy can be included for consideration when the Group meets.

Proposed Legislation.

Tony Gregory

Question:

259 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps being taken to comply with the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force Third Mutual Evaluation Assessment Report Anti Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31369/07]

As part of its 3rd Round of Mutual Evaluations, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) published its Report in February 2006 on Ireland's systems to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. Ireland achieved a relatively high compliance rating in respect of the revised 40 Recommendations which had been adopted by FATF in 2003. These recommendations have largely been embodied in the Third EU Money Laundering Directive (on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purpose of money laundering and terrorist financing), which is now in the process of being transposed into Irish law.

As the Deputy is aware, Ireland already has extensive legislation in place to tackle money laundering and the financing of terrorism as set out in the Criminal Justice Act 1994 (as amended) and the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005. With regard to operational matters, in the context of combating these activities, there is ongoing cooperation and exchange of information between the relevant supervisory and police authorities within the EU.

I will soon be submitting to Government for approval, a General Scheme of a Bill which will further strengthen our existing legal framework in this area. This Scheme will give effect in Irish law to the EU Third Money Laundering Directive and will take into account the relevant recommendations contained in the FATF Report, which come within the remit of my Department. The Scheme will also give legislative effect to the provisions of the 2005 Council of Europe Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism.

In line with standard FATF procedures, Ireland will be making a report to the FATF Plenary in February 2008 outlining the progress made on the implementation of the specific recommendations contained in the FATF Report on Ireland.

Garda Operations.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

260 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of warrants that are outstanding in each Garda division; the breakdown on the outstanding warrants for each division in terms of bench warrants, committal warrants and penal warrants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31381/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the cumulative numbers of bench warrants, penal warrants and committal warrants which were recorded on the PULSE system as being on hand on 25 November, 2007 are set out in the following table.

The number of bench warrants issued in Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) North Central accounts for 43% of the total number of bench warrants issued. This is due to the fact that the Dublin Metropolitan District Courts are located in this Garda Division and issued bench warrants remain in this Division until such time that they are required.

The Deputy will appreciate that it is in the nature of any criminal justice system that at any point in time a significant number of warrants are outstanding pending execution.

The number of Bench Warrants, Penal Warrants and Committal Warrants which were recorded on the PULSE system as being on hand on 25 November, 2007:

Region

Bench Warrant

Penal Warrant

Committal Warrant

Carlow/Kildare

1,048

3,920

261

Cavan/Monaghan

965

1,968

158

Clare

541

1,521

83

Cork City

1,741

4,151

393

Cork North

389

1,450

206

Cork West

326

1,168

50

Donegal

1,590

2,336

57

DMR Eastern

904

2,144

121

DMR North Central

15,493

3,452

274

DMR North

1,031

5,581

258

DMR South Central

413

1,546

158

DMR South

1,620

7,899

207

DMR West

815

8,168

275

Galway West

1,768

2,881

109

Kerry

380

1,346

71

Laois/Offaly

614

1,383

198

Limerick

1,294

3,471

98

Longford/Westmeath

726

1,701

143

Louth/Meath

1,620

6,849

222

Mayo

326

1,179

74

Roscommon/Galway East

385

813

35

Sligo/Leitrim

349

766

21

Tipperary

595

1,730

109

Waterford/Kilkenny

558

2,277

127

Wexford/Wicklow

823

1,627

104

Residency Permits.

Martin Ferris

Question:

261 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make a statement on the residency application of a person (details supplied). [31399/07]

An application for residence in the State on the basis of marriage to an Irish national was submitted by the person in question's legal representative in February 2007.

Applications of this kind, in fairness to all other such applicants, are dealt with in strict chronological order and currently take up to twelve months to process. It should be noted that marriage to an Irish national does not confer an automatic right of residence in the State.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Joan Burton

Question:

262 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to support for subtitling services for deaf people in respect of films and other cinema and film material; if his Department has a policy in relation to the provision of such services as a way of boosting access for deaf people to services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31412/07]

Policy in the law — contained in section 4 of the Equal Status Act 2000 — provides that discrimination includes a refusal or failure by the provider of a service to do all that is reasonable to accommodate the needs of a person with a disability by providing special treatment or facilities, if without such special treatment or facilities it would be impossible or unduly difficult for the person to avail himself or herself of the service. A refusal or failure to provide the special treatment or facilities shall not be deemed reasonable unless such provision would give rise to a cost, other than a nominal cost, to the provider of the service in question.

The practical support provided for in the Act of 2000, if there is a failure to provide reasonable accommodation, is that the person who has been discriminated against may seek redress by referring the case to the Equality Tribunal and/or seek advice from the Equality Authority. My Department has no funds out of which moneys are made available for services of the kind referred to by the Deputy.

Mental Health Services.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

263 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress his Department has made in implementing measures to divert persons with mental health problems from the criminal justice system as recommended by the Department of Health and Children expert group on mental health policy in the publication entitled A Vision for Change; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31428/07]

It is important to note that there is a wide range of circumstances where a person with a mental health issue can interact with the criminal justice system. It is a complex issue and there is not one simple solution that addresses all the issues involved. There are persons who commit criminal offences and have or have subsequently developed mental health problems unrelated to their criminal behaviour. While these persons need treatment, it may not always be appropriate that they be diverted away from the criminal justice system.

There are other persons who commit very serious criminal acts but their mental health is such that they are either not fit to be tried or if fit to be tried are found not to be criminally accountable for their actions because of mental disorder. As is appropriate, such persons do come before the criminal courts but are diverted away from the possibility of imprisonment by virtue of the provisions of the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act, 2006. The Act makes provision for the diversion of persons, in certain circumstances, appearing before the courts on criminal charges who are suffering from a mental disorder as defined, away from prison to either a designated centre (i.e. a psychiatric centre) where they may receive any necessary in-patient care or treatment or, where appropriate, outpatient care or treatment. This applies in circumstances where the court determines that an accused person is unfit to be tried having heard evidence from an approved medical officer that the person is suffering from a mental disorder.

In addition, section 5 of the Act provides that, following a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity, if the court is satisfied, having considered a report from an approved medical officer, that the person concerned is suffering from a mental disorder as defined and is in need of in-patient care or treatment, the court must commit the person to a specified designated centre.

Having said that my Department and the Irish Prison Service are only too well aware that there are other individuals suffering from mental illnesses who continue to find themselves before the courts arising from behaviour which can be attributed to that illness in circumstances where it would be in everyone's interest to have the issue addressed as a health issue rather than a criminal justice issue. In that regard my Department and the relevant criminal justice agencies are cooperating with the Department of Heath and Children in seeking to identify ways in which this issue can be resolved.

The Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, "A Vision for Change" acknowledges gaps in the current provision for forensic mental health services and recognises that such services should be available in all areas where law enforcement agents are likely to encounter individuals with severe mental health problems. The Government has accepted the Report as the basis for the future development of mental health services in this state.

Implementation of the individual recommendations of "A Vision for Change" is a matter primarily for the HSE. In July 2006, the HSE established an implementation group to ensure that mental health services develop in a synchronised and consistent manner across the country. I understand that the HSE intend to publish an implementation plan shortly which is to include a timed and prioritised set of short, medium and longer-term goals.

The Forensic Mental Health Service functions mainly as an in reach service to prisons, providing clinics and consultations on request, and where necessary, advising on the transfer of persons to the Central Mental Hospital. Staffing in the Forensic Mental Health Service has now been increased to seven consultant psychiatrists and six fully staffed, multidisciplinary teams. This has enabled the HSE to further strengthen forensic mental health services in 2007, with the assignment of one consultant psychiatrist and appropriate staff, on a full time basis, to the remand prisons.

Prisoner Transfers.

Joe Costello

Question:

264 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for the delay in the repatriation of a person (details supplied); if anything can be done to hasten the repatriation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31471/07]

I can inform the Deputy that the necessary transfer arrangements are being made and that this transfer will be effected in the near future.

Garda Strength.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

265 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí assigned to each Garda division in the State and the population of each division as determined in the 2006 Census. [31597/07]

The personnel strength of each Garda Division as at 31 October 2007, the latest date for which figures are readily available is set out in the following table:

Division

Garda Strength

DMR South Central

753

DMR Southern

601

DMR Northern

735

DMR West

732

DMR North Central

683

DMR Eastern

607

Louth/Meath

526

Longford/Westmeath

312

Laois/Offaly

309

Carlow/Kildare

402

Wexford/Wicklow

366

Waterford/Kilkenny

417

Tipperary

354

Cork City

652

Cork North

282

Cork West

293

Kerry

318

Limerick

566

Clare

316

Galway West

419

Roscommon/Galway East

274

Mayo

311

Sligo/Leitrim

298

Donegal

475

Cavan/Monaghan

402

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that Small Area Population Statistics (SAPS) for Garda Divisions, based on the 2006 census, are being developed by staff of the Central Statistics Office in consultation with An Garda Síochána at present.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

266 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is aware that headline crime increased by 6% in the Carlow Kildare division in the first three quarters of 2007 compared with the same period in 2006, whilst nationally there was no change and given this increase whether he will increase garda numbers in the division. [31598/07]

Current Policing Plans are designed, inter alia, to address the prevention of anti-social and public order offences, the prevention of crime including crimes against persons and property and the maintenance of an environment conducive to the improvement of quality of life of the residents. This strategy is, and will continue to be, central to the delivery of a policing service to the area in question. The Carlow/Kildare Divisional Policing Plan for 2008 currently being prepared will contain measures to prevent and detect crime.

Over the lifetime of this and the last Government the strength of An Garda Síochána has been significantly increased. The current Programme for Government re-affirms the commitment to a Garda strength of 15,000, with a target date of 2010, and commits us to increasing the strength of the Force further to 16,000 by 2012.

The personnel strength of the Carlow/Kildare Division at the end of the third quarter of 2007 was 398 compared to a personnel strength of 362 at the end of the third quarter of 2006. This represents an increase of 10%.

It is the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner to allocate personnel taking all aspects of policing into account. Garda personnel assigned throughout the country, together with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, are continually monitored and reviewed. Such monitoring ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and the best possible Garda service is provided to the general public. The situation will be kept under review by the Commissioner and when additional personnel next become available the needs of the Carlow/Kildare Division will be fully considered by him within the overall context of the needs of Garda Districts/Divisions throughout the country.

Garda Operations.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

267 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received the 2008 annual policing plan from the Garda Commissioner and when it will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. [31606/07]

I have received a draft annual policing plan for 2008 from the Garda Commissioner which is being examined in my Department. I intend to lay it before the Houses early next month following its formal approval in accordance with section 22 of the Garda Síochána Acts 2005 to 2007.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

268 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to an application for extended residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31626/07]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 1029 of 26th September 2007. The position remains unchanged.

Decentralisation Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

269 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if transfer will be offered or arranged for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare from the Department of Social Welfare to his Department in County Kildare, given their willingness to transfer in accordance with the Government’s policy on decentralisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31628/07]

I can inform the Deputy that County Kildare is not included as a provincial location under my Department's decentralisation programme. However, I understand that the person in question has applied for transfer to Kildare under the central transfer arrangements which apply to all Departments. The centrally agreed procedures for the scheme provide for applications to be recorded in strict order of the date of receipt and individual transfers are considered when a vacancy occurs and when the person's place on the list is reached.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

270 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in the application for leave to remain in the State in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31630/07]

I refer the Deputy to Question No. 940 of Wednesday, 26 September 2007, Question No. 299 of Wednesday, 31 January 2007 and Question No. 131 of Wednesday, 29 November 2006 and the written replies to those questions. The position is unchanged.

John O'Mahony

Question:

271 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress of the application by a person (detail supplied) in County Mayo to have their husband join them and their family in Ballyhaunis. [31633/07]

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that the person in question made a Family Reunification application in December 2006. The application was forwarded to the Refugee Applications Commissioner for investigation as required under Section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996. This investigation is completed and the Commissioner has forwarded a report to my Department. This application will be considered by my Department and a decision will issue in due course. Family Reunification applications are dealt with in chronological order and at the present time are taking up to 24 months to process.

Departmental Offices.

Joe Costello

Question:

272 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made towards relocating the Registry of Deeds Office from Henrietta Street; the action he will take regarding the vacated premises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31669/07]

I can inform the Deputy that no decision has been taken to relocate the Registry of Deeds Office from Henrietta Street.

Citizenship Applications.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

273 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on an application for citizenship in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; and the period of time it will take to complete the processing of same. [31670/07]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in November 2006. On examination of the application it was determined that the person concerned did not meet the residency requirements as set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. A letter informing her of this was issued on 26 March 2007. It is open to the person in question to lodge a new application if and when she is in a position to meet the statutory requirements applicable at that time.

Residency Permits.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

274 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on an application for residency or stamp four in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; and the period of time it will take to complete the processing of same. [31671/07]

The position in relation to granting long term residency is as follows: people who have been legally resident in the State for over five years on the basis of work permit/work authorisation/work visa conditions may apply to the Immigration Division of my Department for a five year residency extension. In that context they may also apply to be exempt from employment permit requirements. The dependants of the aforementioned, who have been legally resident in the State for over five years may also apply for long term residency. This particular long-term permission does not grant an exemption from employment permit requirements to any such dependants. Time spent in the State on student conditions cannot be counted towards long term residency. While applications for long term residency are under consideration, the person concerned should ensure that their permission to remain in the State is kept up to date. An application for long-term residence from the person referred to by the Deputy was received in April 2006. A refusal letter was issued in September 2006 as he did not meet the criteria. A second application was received in February 2007. I understand that applications received in July 2006 are currently being dealt with. As soon as a decision is made on the case, the person concerned will be notified.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

275 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if Dublin City Council are liable to pay rates to Wicklow County Council under the new Water Services Act 2007 as it appears that Dublin City Council supply water to neighbouring authorities on a commercial basis. [31360/07]

Liability for rates arises under local government legislation. The Water Services Act 2007 requires water services authorities to charge for the full cost of the provision of water services to non-domestic users, while prohibiting charging for water services provided to households for domestic purposes. Water services authorities must determine their charges for the provision of water supplies to non-domestic consumers on a non-profit basis.

Fire Services.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

276 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, following his commitment to review the options for the next phase of the change programme as recommended in the Farrell Grant Sparks Report, he has initiated the review; and if he will establish a national fire services authority. [31363/07]

Options for the next phase of the change programme are being reviewed in the Department, having regard to the Farrell Grant Sparks recommendations including the recommendations in relation to a national fire authority, and the need to continue to bring about real and substantive change so that the fire service in Ireland is in line with international standards. In reaching conclusions on the review regard must be had to the needs of the fire service and the wider public interest in regard to fire safety matters.

National Parks.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

277 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on swapping lands (details supplied) for other lands under his Department in the Bourne Vincent Memorial Park which would be suitable to provide a much needed public graveyard in the Killarney environs. [31364/07]

The nucleus of Killarney National Park was bequeathed to the State under the Bourn Vincent Memorial Park Act 1932, to be managed as a national park for the general purpose of the recreation and enjoyment of the public. My Department has received legal advice that it is not open to me, as Minister, to swap or otherwise dispose of the lands covered by that Act.

Remedial Works Scheme.

Jack Wall

Question:

278 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount of moneys allocated by his Department for a remedial works scheme (details supplied) in County Kildare; when the funding was sanctioned; if the funding was drawn down by the local authority; if so, when; if his Department is aware of delays in the remedial scheme; if so, the reason the delays have occurred; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31380/07]

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

282 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the Carbery Park/Townspark remedial works scheme in Athy, County Kildare; if the attitude of his Department to this long promised project has changed; if he is satisfied with the manner in which the local authority has advanced this scheme to date; his views on whether the scheme is not just desirable but absolutely essential; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31472/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 278 and 282 together.

Last year my Department approved a provisional budget of €3,553,982 for refurbishment works in Carbery Park/Townspark. The scope of works was subsequently reduced by the local authority and on 2 July 2007 a tender recommendation was received from Athy Town Council for the revised works. On 18 July 2007, my Department issued approval to Athy Town Council to proceed with the works and set a revised budget of €2,790,749. It is now a matter for the Council to progress this project. I understand that while the project has not yet commenced, the contract is expected to be signed shortly. Recoupment of expenditure to the authority does not arise until the contract has been signed.

Local Authority Staff.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

279 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made regarding the staffing needs identified by Fingal County Council in relation to the to new library at Malahide; the review of local government employment levels, particularly in relation to the ceiling on local authority staff numbers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31414/07]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

283 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if further to Parliamentary Questions no. 1159 of 26 September 2007 he has had any success. [31599/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 279 and 283 together.

I have approved additional staff for Fingal County Council in relation to the new library at Malahide. My Department is in consultation with the Department of Finance in relation to staffing requirements in the local government sector as set in out in reply to Question no. 305 of 10 October, 2007.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Mattie McGrath

Question:

280 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason for the delay in progressing the Burncourt/Glengara water treatment plant in south Tipperary to tender stage. [31441/07]

The Burncourt Water Supply Scheme, which includes a new treatment plant at Glengara, has been approved for funding under my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007 – 2009 as part of the Rural Towns and Villages Initiative. South Tipperary County Council is advancing the scheme jointly with Stage 2 of the Fethard Water Supply Scheme which is also approved for funding under the Rural Towns and Villages Initiative. A revised Preliminary Report submitted by the Council for both schemes is being examined in my Department and is being dealt with as quickly as possible.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

281 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason persons availing of affordable housing schemes must purchase their mortgages from the local authority, whose interest rates are in most cases higher than those of private lending institutions, thereby creating an additional financial burden on the buyer; if he has been advised that this may be an uncompetitive practice; the steps he will take to ensure that local authorities can offer the lowest mortgage rates or at least remain competitive in relation to affordable housing mortgages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31468/07]

Mortgage finance for affordable housing has traditionally been provided by local authorities through funding by Housing Finance Agency borrowings and this continues to be the case. However, in recent times my Department has facilitated a number of the main financial institutions in also introducing mortgage finance for persons wishing to access affordable housing. It is, therefore, not obligatory for a purchaser of an affordable home to source their mortgage loan from a local authority.

Interest rates on local authority loans are determined by the Housing Finance Agency by reference to prevailing rates in the financial market. The current variable rate is 5%, which is approximately 0.15% below an average variable rate of the five largest mortgage lenders. Alternatively, a person may opt for a fixed rate for a period of five years from the date of the loan advance: the current fixed rate is 5.25%. At the end of the fixed rate period, a borrower may fix for a further five years or change to a variable rate. In addition, a mortgage protection charge of 0.598% is applied to all local authority loans. I am satisfied that local authorities offer competitive mortgage finance to those who require it.

Question No. 282 answered with QuestionNo. 278.
Question No. 283 answered with QuestionNo. 279.

Local Government Elections.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

284 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if further to Parliamentary Question No. 1161 of 26 September 2007 he anticipates that there will be elections to any new town councils in place for the local elections due in 2009. [31600/07]

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to publish a Green Paper on Local Government in the coming months. This Paper will examine a number of issues in relation to the organisation of Irish local government including the establishment of new town councils in those towns that have shown significant population growth in recent years. The White Paper on Local Government, which will then follow next year, will outline proposed policy and associated timing in regard to its delivery.

Waste Management.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

285 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the plans he has to introduce further waste packaging legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31613/07]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

288 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the plans he has to promote improved waste packaging recycling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31616/07]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

290 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views of the level of support and relationship his Department provides to the repak compliance scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31618/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 285, 288 and 290 together.

The principle of producer responsibility requires waste producers to contribute to the waste management costs of products which they have placed on the market at end-of-life. In support of this approach, a producer responsibility initiative operates in Ireland in relation to packaging waste, underpinned by the Waste Management (Packaging) Regulations 2003, as amended, which replaced earlier regulations introduced in 1997. Under the regulations, producers who place substantial amounts of packaging on the market – major producers — are required to take steps to recover packaging waste or alternatively to contribute to, and participate in, compliance schemes set up to recover packaging waste.

Repak Ltd – established by Irish industry in 1997 to promote, co-ordinate and finance the collection and recovery of packaging waste with a view to achieving Ireland's packaging waste recovery and recycling targets under European Parliament and Council Directive 1994/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste — is the only such approved compliance scheme.

Ireland has a successful track record in packaging waste recycling. Under the Directive, Ireland was required to achieve a 25% recovery rate of packaging waste by 1 July 2001, increasing to a 50% recovery rate by 31 December 2005. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reported in its National Waste Report 2005 — published in January 2007 — that packaging waste recovery increased to 59.9% in that year, indicating that Ireland continues to exceed the current target recovery rate of 50% set by the Packaging Directive.

I will shortly be making new consolidated packaging regulations that will further enhance the packaging waste recovery regime. The improvements I will make are based largely on recommendations of stakeholders and include proposed revisions to increase the number of producers who will incur major producer obligations, to better share the burden of compliance.

I fully recognise that despite progress on recycling we need to continue to improve our performance on packaging waste. The Programme for Government provides for a comprehensive review of waste management planning, which I have directed my Department to initiate. This review will, inter alia, look at the desirability of other producer responsibility schemes, including deposit and refund for beverage containers.

In the interim, I have recently challenged industry to develop appropriate measures to address packaging waste litter, in particular in relation to beverage containers, and to examine voluntary measures to promote packaging waste prevention and minimisation. My Department is committed to continuing discussions on these issues in the context of finalising a four-year strategy for the packaging waste sector, this is currently being developed under the aegis of the National Strategy Group on Packaging Waste Recycling which is representative of the relevant public and private sector stakeholders, including Repak.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

286 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he is aware that newspaper companies generate a high volume of waste; if he has plans to include this sector in future waste packaging legislation in the short-term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31614/07]

Newsprint does not come within the definition of packaging and hence is not covered by waste packaging legislation. It is however a major waste stream accounting for about two-thirds by weight of the contents of kerbside dry recyclables.

Ireland has to meet challenging targets under the Landfill Directive, specifically diversion rates of 59.3% for 2010, 72.8% by 2013 and 80.1% by 2016 of biodegradable waste from landfill. Paper and cardboard makes up a significant element of biodegradable waste. Under the National Strategy on Biodegradable Waste, paper and cardboard (which includes newsprint) recycling must increase from 49.5% in 2004 to 55% by 2010, 65% by 2013, and 67% by 2016. These are the imperatives that are driving our efforts to persuade the newsprint industry to take responsibility for the waste their products generate, in the same way as other sectors of industry such as packaging, electrical, farm plastics and tyre producers already have.

Discussions are continuing with the newsprint industry with a view to developing a producer responsibility initiative (PRI) for the recovery and recycling of newspapers and magazines. Discussions have focused on waste prevention and minimisation issues in the newsprint industry, specifically the practice of "boxing out" i.e. oversupply of magazines, recovery and recycling of unsold newspapers and magazines and post–consumer newsprint waste. A Joint Industry Taskforce, comprising the Regional Newspapers Association of Ireland (RNAI), Newspread and Eason Wholesale Ltd, and co-ordinated by National Newspapers of Ireland (NNI) is leading the negotiations with my Department.

Since the establishment of the Taskforce, progress has been made by the industry in increasing the use of recycled paper in newsprint. My Department has asked the Taskforce to develop an industry code of practice with a view to preventing and minimising waste in this sector. At the suggestion of the Department the National Newspapers of Ireland (NNI) representing the newsprint publishers have now appointed an Environment Officer to co-ordinate the development and management of a PRI and examine the issues referred to above. I understand that when this review is complete following consultations with the other stakeholders in the industry, with a view to developing a consensus on the key issues — "boxing out", recovery and recycling of unsold newspapers and magazines and post–consumer newsprint waste — new proposals will be submitted to my Department.

My Department will continue to engage with the Joint Taskforce on developing a stable and sustainable industry initiative for the management of this important waste stream. I regard the achievement of progress on this as a priority.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

287 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to introduce internal recycling facilities given that the majority of waste produced in Ireland has to be exported in order to be recycled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31615/07]

Ireland relies significantly on foreign based materials recycling infrastructure, which dealt with 83% of recycled waste in 2005. While there has been recent progress in the provision of more infrastructure within Ireland to process materials recovered for recycling, for example in the development of new facilities to process waste electrical and electronic equipment, the Government recognizes the value of developing further markets for recyclates in Ireland.

The 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 the 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.

Question No. 288 answered with QuestionNo. 285.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

289 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the plans he has to introduce further categorisation of waste; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31617/07]

In accordance with the provisions of Directive 2006/12/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 April 2006 on waste it is a matter for the European Commission to draw up a list of waste belonging to the categories listed in Annex 1 of that Directive. The Directive provides for periodic review and, if necessary, a revision of this list and in these regards the Commission is to be assisted by a technical committee comprising representatives of the Member States.

The Directive is currently being revised and a common position was adopted by the Council of Ministers in June 2007 on the revision proposal. The new Directive will, inter alia, clarify the distinction between waste and non-waste, by-products that are not waste, when waste ceases to be waste and the determination of waste which is considered hazardous. The power to establish criteria on these issues will again be vested in the European Commission, assisted by a Committee.

Question No. 290 answered with QuestionNo. 285.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Pat Breen

Question:

291 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when works will commence on the Broadford sewerage scheme in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31645/07]

The Broadford Sewerage Scheme has been approved for funding under my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007 — 2009 as part of the Rural Towns and Villages Initiative.

My Department approved Clare County Council's revised Preliminary Report for the scheme in December 2006. In accordance with devolved procedures for schemes costing less than €5m, the Council may advance this scheme to construction without further reference to my Department.

Fire Services.

Billy Timmins

Question:

292 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position in relation to the Fire Services Act 1981 with regard to the provision of adequate fire services; the obligations or sanctions available to him when local authorities fail to provide an adequate fire service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31682/07]

The provision of a fire service in its functional area, including the establishment and maintenance of a fire brigade, the assessment of fire cover needs, the provision of a premises and the making of such other provisions as it considers necessary or desirable, is a statutory function of individual fire authorities under section 10 of the Fire Services Act 1981. The Department's role is one of supporting and assisting local authorities in delivering fire services through the setting of general policy and the provision of capital funding. Issues relating to the operation of the fire service are matters for the relevant fire authority.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

293 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change’s fourth report on climate change, which claims that the Earth and humanity are in permanent danger due to global warming; the steps the Government will take on foot of this report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30897/07]

I welcome publication of the Fourth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The fundamental message that climate change is unequivocal should not come as a surprise to anyone. We now know with a high level of confidence that global greenhouse gas concentrations have increased markedly since 1750 and far exceed pre-industrial values spanning many thousand of years.

The globally averaged net effect of human activities since 1750 has been one of warming, and most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations. According to the assessment report, attribution to human activities is now possible for all major continents.

Ireland is playing its part in the international effort to combat climate change. As confirmed in the report "Greenhouse gas emission trends and projections in Europe 2007" published yesterday by the European Environmental Agency, Ireland is on course to meet its target under the Kyoto Protocol. Furthermore, a fundamental objective of the National Climate Change Strategy is to prepare for the deeper emission reductions to which we are committed, which we must meet in the period to 2020 and beyond.

Ireland has consistently supported the strongly proactive position adopted by the EU on mobilising an effective international response climate change. At the upcoming meetings of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol, the EU will be seeking agreement to commence a formal round of negotiations over two years with the aim of adopting a comprehensive global post-2012 agreement by 2009.

Inland Fisheries.

David Stanton

Question:

294 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the measures he is taking to protect stocks of coarse fish from being illegally poached; if the instance of illegal poaching has increased in recent times; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31641/07]

Under the Fisheries Acts, primary responsibility for the management, conservation, protection and development of inland fisheries stocks rests with the Central and Regional Fisheries Boards. A considerable proportion of fisheries boards' resources and the time of personnel is devoted to protection of fish stocks.

Last year my Department introduced, on the advice of the fisheries boards, the Conservation of and Prohibition on Sale of Coarse Fish By-Law No. 806, 2006, and the Conservation of Pike By-Law No. 809, 2006, which control fishing for coarse fish referred to by the Deputy. These By-Laws provide for a number of conservation measures including that of limiting the number of fish that may be taken by anglers.

Details of these instruments were advertised as stipulated in the statute and the fisheries boards have undertaken a number of initiatives to publicise their content within the regions. I am not aware of any recent increase in illegal poaching and no such incidents have been reported to me.

Energy Policy.

Simon Coveney

Question:

295 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the total value of research development and demonstration projects in the energy sector funded by the exchequer currently underway; if this is less than the 2006 figure of €25 million announced in the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation, the reason for the drop; if there is any intention that the Energy Research Council will provide annual reports on its activities and expenditure; the structures in place to oversee the large amounts of expenditure in this area and access the quality of the outcomes in terms of commercial viability and value to the state energy sector. [31620/07]

The Energy Policy White Paper and the Programme for Government underline the Government's priority commitment to energy research in line with EU priorities. The Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy and the National Development Plan both reflect the vital importance of energy research and innovation to underpin the energy sector and the imperative to deliver sustainable, competitive and secure energy supplies for the economy and society. Our ambitious renewable energy and energy efficiency targets in particular require a significant ramping up of research and innovation.

The Strategy for Science Technology and Innovation published in 2006 noted that approximately 130 energy Research Development and Demonstration projects were underway in Ireland with a total funded value of approximately €25million. This assessment was based on an inventory compiled by my Department and Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) of energy research projects under way in 2004 comprising publicly and privately funded energy research activity. Under the National Development Plan the Exchequer envelope for energy research over the period is €149 million. The Irish Energy Council is finalising its Energy Research Strategy 2008-2013, which will advise on key areas of priority for energy research. Our commitment to building energy research capacity has already been reflected in the provision of €20m for over 200 researchers in Irish third level institutions over 7 years of which €7.9m was paid in 2006. It is a key priority for the Government to accelerate Research and Development into renewable energy technologies notably ocean energy in order to realise Ireland's undoubted potential and to deliver on the national targets for renewable energy.

The Energy Research Council is a non-statutory advisory and coordination forum which will advise on, and generally oversee, the roll out of the forthcoming Strategy. The Council does not have direct expenditure responsibilities for energy research. Expenditure under the Energy RTDI subhead of my Department's Vote and the research related programme expenditure of SEI will be reported on annually in terms of outputs and outcomes.