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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 18 Dec 2007

Vol. 644 No. 3

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 6, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 7 to 60, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 61 to 69, inclusive, answered orally.

Carbon Budget.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

70 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he envisages a more comprehensive carbon budget for budget 2009 that will expand on a speech and a press release that comprised the carbon budget for budget 2008; if such a carbon budget will be communicated by the Minister for Finance alongside the financial budget as was promised for budget 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35233/07]

I was pleased to be able to present Ireland's first ever carbon budget on 6 December. Its purpose is to show how Government decisions on spending and taxation measures affect Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions, to demonstrate that Government decisions on climate change are consistent with overall economic and budgetary policy and to give a clear indication of the progress that is being made each year towards meeting both Ireland's Kyoto Protocol target and the Government's national target to reduce emissions by an average of 3% per annum.

In this context, the Programme for Government indicates that the role of the Minister for Finance is to present an outline carbon report. In fulfilling this commitment, Deputies will be aware that in his recent Budget statement, the Minister for Finance presented an outline of Ireland's emissions profile and detailed the measures being introduced in the Budget to reduce greenhouse gas emission levels.

In this year's carbon budget, I presented:

preliminary emissions figures for 2006;

projected emissions for the 2008-12 Kyoto Protocol period, taking account of the measures in the National Climate Change Strategy published in April 2007;

the effects of the additional measures put in place since then; and

updated projected emissions to take account of these measures.

As the question anticipates, future carbon budgets will be more detailed.

In addition to domestic emissions savings of 13.6 million tonnes set out in the National Climate Change Strategy, this year's carbon budget presented further savings of 600,000 tonnes. Future carbon budgets will present the effects of further measures, with the intention that Ireland is able to fulfil its commitments as far as possible by emissions reductions through domestic action and therefore achieve the 3% annual reduction on average between now and 2012.

Proposed Legislation.

Michael Noonan

Question:

71 Deputy Michael Noonan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if it his intention to appoint a regulator of the waste sector; when such legislation will be forthcoming; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35272/07]

In August 2006, my Department published a consultation paper on options for future regulation of the waste sector. Submissions were invited on whether there is a need for a regulator for the sector, if so what model of regulator might be most appropriate and what powers any such regulator should be given.

Following consideration of over fifty, many very detailed, submissions received which cover the range of complex issues surrounding the regulation of the sector, my Department is developing policy proposals to address the concerns raised. Subject to any necessary Government decision I hope to bring forward these proposals early in 2008.

Election Management System.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

72 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he will make the decision to scrap the electronic voting machines currently in storage; his views on the 25 year storage contracts entered into by a number of returning officers; if allowance has been made for depreciation of these machines; if it is his intention to follow the example of the authorities in the Netherlands and to abandon electronic voting for the foreseeable future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35145/07]

I am aware of recent developments in the Netherlands in relation to electronic voting, including an official report which recommends a move away from the current electronic voting system in operation in that country. I understand that the Dutch Parliament will debate the report in the New Year. My Department also maintains contact with other developments internationally in relation to electronic voting.

As far as our own jurisdiction is concerned, the House will recall that the Commission on Electronic Voting in its Final Report last year concluded that the voting equipment chosen for use in Ireland could be used, subject to further work which it also recommended.

As I have already indicated to the House, I am at present considering the next steps to be taken in relation to this project. In this, I am taking into account the work of the Commission on Electronic Voting, relevant experiences and developments internationally, and the need to maintain public confidence in the electoral process, as well as the provisions in the Programme for Government relating to electoral reform generally.

Responsibility for storage of manual voting equipment has always been a matter for the local returning officers and so similar responsibility was assigned to them in regard to the electronic voting equipment. In the majority of cases, leases were entered into by them for the storage of the machines, which have a 20-year lifespan. The Government decision to centralise storage of the electronic voting equipment was made taking into account a range of factors, including costs of local and centralised arrangements and the likely benefits to be realised.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

73 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will expedite the implementation of the commitments in Towards 2016 to reform social housing, including adequate funding to cover capital, maintenance and management costs for community and voluntary organisations that are providing social housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35276/07]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 65 on today's order paper.

My Department, in conjunction with the Housing Forum and related groups, has been active in progressing the social housing reform programme outlined in Towards 2016 and elaborated upon in the Government's housing policy statement Delivering Homes, Sustaining Communities published in February 2007.

Work is well underway on the drafting of a new Housing Bill to underpin the reform process. The Housing Forum has already been consulted on developments in a number of areas including the proposed approach to a new means of assessing housing need and housing allocation policy, both of which will be central to the transformation of housing services over the medium term.

Good progress is being made also on delivery of social housing programmes with indications that there will be some 9,000 new social housing starts in 2007 which is in line with the commitment in Towards 2016 to achieve 27,000 starts in the period 2007 to 2009. Output by the voluntary and co-operative housing sector is expected to reach record levels in 2007.

In line with commitments in Towards 2016, funding levels under the Capital Assistance Scheme were increased to 100% of project cost earlier this year where all tenants are drawn from the local authority social housing list. In addition, new streamlined arrangements for the assessment and approval of schemes will be introduced early next year with the objective speeding up the delivery of projects on the ground.

Record levels of funding in 2008, when over €2.5 billion will be available for housing programmes, are also in line with the commitments to housing in Towards 2016 and the National Development Plan, and will enable local authorities to achieve the ambitious targets set for next year.

Community and Recreational Facilities.

Joe Costello

Question:

74 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the action taken to implement the commitment given in the programme for Government to ensure that provision for community and recreational facilities are prioritised by local authorities when structuring their development plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35139/07]

I refer to the replies to Question No. 145 of 10 October 2007 and Question No. 284 of 7 November 2007.

The adoption of development plans and local area plans is a reserved function of elected members. The Planning and Development Act 2000 sets out the steps that must be followed by the Council, the requirements for consultation with the public and key stakeholders, including the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, during the drafting stages and the mandatory and discretionary objectives that must be reflected in the plan. Similar procedures are also set down in legislation regarding variations to development plans.

Section 10(2)(d) of the Planning and Development Act 2000 requires a development plan to include objectives for "the integration of the planning and sustainable development of the area with the social, community and cultural requirements of the area and its population." This objective allows for linkage to be made between the development plan and the County Development Board's strategy and brings the socio-economic and physical planning processes closer together. The land use policies of the development plan should be informed by, and reflect, the socio-economic and cultural considerations of the CDB strategy.

Similarly, section 10(2)(l) of the Act requires a development plan to include objectives for "the provision, or facilitation of the provision, of services for the community including, in particular, schools, crèches and other education and childcare facilities." Community facilities falling within this mandatory objective can include places of worship, hospital and health centres, facilities for the elderly and persons with disabilities, facilities for children's play including playgrounds, skateboard parks and other facilities, libraries and community halls. Planning authorities must respond to the circumstances of their own local communities when formulating their development plans, and identify the appropriate community and recreational facilities along with public open space requirements. Generally, appropriate policies and objectives for inclusion in plans will relate to allocation and reservation of land, setting appropriate development control standards and indicating provision of specific facilities. Development contributions can also be sought by planning authorities to help pay for facilities servicing new developments such as community and other recreational amenities.

My Department is addressing this issue on a number of fronts. Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Development Plans, published in June 2007, emphasise the objectives for the provision of public open space and recreation space, including space and places for children to play, and the preservation, improvement and extension of amenities and recreational amenities. Moreover, my Department is currently finalising new guidelines on sustainable residential development to issue shortly for public consultation. These new guidelines will replace the existing 1999 Residential Density Guidelines and will provide greater detail on how quality recreational facilities should be fully integrated into new residential developments.

Underpinning these new guidelines and the overall emphasis on quality community and recreational facilities in forward planning is the Government's housing policy statement Delivering Homes, Sustaining Communities published earlier in 2007. Its vision for creating sustainable communities will guide the transformation of the Irish housing sector over the next ten years, by delivering more and better quality housing responses, and by doing this in a more strategic way.

Proposed Legislation.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

75 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the effort made to date to bring forward legislation to regulate lobbyists as promised in the programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35143/07]

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

The Trinity / DCU report provides an overview of the rules and regulations at national and state/ province level in the USA and Canada, at national level in Germany and in the EU Institutions. The systems of regulation extant in these areas are classified by the research team using three categories: lowly regulated, medium regulated and highly regulated. These categories are based on the registration regimes and the nature and extent of periodic reporting to oversight bodies that lobbyists are obliged to undertake. The Trinity / DCU report also details the research team's views concerning the advantages and disadvantages of each of the three categories of regulation.

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

Local Government Reform.

Joan Burton

Question:

76 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if it is his intention to provide for directly elected mayors in Dublin and other local authority areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35138/07]

Joan Burton

Question:

99 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the status of applications made by towns seeking town council status in view of the present examination of local government being undertaken by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35137/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 76 and 99 together.

In accordance with the Programme for Government, my Department will be publishing a Green Paper on local government reform early in the new year. The Green Paper will examine a number of issues with the objective of making local government more transparent and responsive, and will set out options for reform in advance of a subsequent White Paper. Issues to be considered in the Green Paper will include the provision of directly elected mayors and the establishment of town councils in those towns that have shown significant population growth in recent years. The Government Programme states that a directly elected Mayor for Dublin with executive powers will be introduced by 2011.

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

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

Register of Electors.

Willie Penrose

Question:

77 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the internationally accepted norm that even in countries with compulsory registration, 15% to 20% of those entitled to vote do not appear on the electoral register; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35147/07]

In law the preparation of the Register of Electors is a matter for each local registration authority. It is their duty to ensure, as far as possible and with the cooperation of the public, the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the Register. In their work in this area, local authorities do not compile data which would permit specific conclusions to be drawn relating to levels of overall registration for electoral purposes.

In working to compile the Register for 2007/2008, which is currently in force, local authorities undertook and completed the most extensive registration campaign in decades. On the basis of the work undertaken, I am satisfied that local authorities have achieved a significant improvement in the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the Register compared to previous years.

My Department has advised local authorities that the approach this year should be to maintain and build on the progress they have made to date. Looking ahead, the Programme for Government contains a commitment to establish an independent Electoral Commission. The Commission's responsibilities will include taking charge of the compilation of a new national rolling electoral register.

Election Management System.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

78 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to recoup to the State the losses incurred through the e-voting project; the way he will dispose of the technology; the mechanism if known whereby he proposes to obtain a release from his contractual obligations in respect of the storage of the equipment; the inquiries made to date with a view to disposal of technology to another jurisdiction or the identification of an alternative use in view of the fact that it is improbable that the technology will ever be used here for its originally intended purpose; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35190/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

552 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has had any inquiries from other jurisdictions interested in purchasing the e-voting technology; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35567/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

553 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has approached any other jurisdiction with a view to disposing of the e-voting technology and equipment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35568/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 78, 552 and 553 together.

The Commission on Electronic Voting in its Final Report last year concluded that the electronic voting equipment chosen for use in Ireland could be used, subject to further work which it also recommended.

I am at present considering the next steps to be taken in relation to this project. In this, I am taking into account the work of the Commission on Electronic Voting, relevant experiences and developments internationally, and the need to maintain public confidence in the electoral process, as well as the provisions in the Programme for Government relating to electoral reform generally. My Department has not made or received enquiries or approaches along the lines referred to in the Questions.

Responsibility for storage of manual voting equipment has always been a matter for the local returning officers and so similar responsibility was assigned to them in regard to the electronic voting equipment. In the majority of cases, leases were entered into by them for the storage of the machines, which have a 20-year lifespan. The Government decision to centralise storage of the electronic voting equipment was made taking into account a range of factors, including costs of local and centralised arrangements and the likely benefits to be realised.

My Department engaged consultants with valuation expertise in May 2007, following a tender process, to examine individual lease arrangements and to make recommendations as to termination of the leases, where appropriate. The consultants recommendations are currently under consideration in the Department.

Waste Management.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

79 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the action he proposes to take to make the Poolbeg incinerator project redundant and unviable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35275/07]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 63 on today's order paper.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

80 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the need for Ireland to achieve its Kyoto targets by real reductions in carbon emissions as opposed to reductions by purchasing carbon credits or reductions by accounting for carbon sinks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35151/07]

Michael Noonan

Question:

95 Deputy Michael Noonan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the policy framework in which he will reach Government targets of reducing emissions by 3% a year and bring Ireland in line with Kyoto emissions targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35273/07]

I propose to answer Question Nos. 80 and 95 together.

I refer to the reply to Question No. 61 on today's Order Paper.

According to Article 2 of the Kyoto Protocol, the protection and enhancement of sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases and the promotion of sustainable forest management practices, afforestation and reforestation are among the policies the Parties may implement to meet their respective commitments. The rules of the Protocol allow Parties to include sequestration from net afforestation since 1990, i.e. sequestration from the planting of new forest since 1990, less the effects of deforestation over the same period.

Current estimates indicate that the average annual effect of sinks eligible for accounting under the Kyoto Protocol during the 2008-12 period will be 2.074 million tonnes. This estimate represents approximately 15% of total emissions savings of 13.6 million tonnes resulting from measures set out in the National Climate Change Strategy.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Joe McHugh

Question:

81 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the way his Department will meet targets to end homelessness here; the plans he has to ensure a continued supply of social housing during a construction slow down in order to meet targets to end homelessness; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35257/07]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

122 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the detail of the planned supports for homeless services as indicated in the budget 2008 speech; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35054/07]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

127 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he plans to propose legislation to amend section 11 of the Housing Act 1988 to ensure that local authorities are required to set aside a proportion of any social housing acquired or built by that authority to specific categories of person such as those progressing out of homelessness and victims of domestic violence as they are currently not adequately catered for; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35058/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

559 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of persons identified as homeless; the action or actions he proposes to take to address the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35575/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 81, 122, 127 and 559 together.

The social partnership agreement Towards 2016 contains a commitment to the elimination of the long-term occupancy of emergency homeless accommodation by 2010. It should also be noted that the Homeless Agency, which is the partnership body which coordinates homeless services in Dublin, has defined as its overarching goal the elimination of long-term homelessness and the need to sleep rough in Dublin by 2010.

Specifically in relation to the numbers of homeless persons, 2,399 households comprising 3,031 individuals were identified as homeless in the most recent Assessment of Housing Need, carried out by local authorities in March 2005. Many of these households would have been in hostel or bed and breakfast accommodation with some living in long-term supported housing. These figures marked a significant reduction from those recorded in the previous Assessment of Housing Need 2002, when 2,468 households and 5,581 people were identified as homeless.

In 2007, funding of €52.2 million was provided by my Department for accommodation and related services for homeless persons. Since 2000, the Government, through my Department, the Department of Health & Children and the Health Service Executive (HSE), has provided almost €450 million in capital and current funding nationally for the provision of accommodation and care related services for homeless persons.

Work is underway in my Department on the finalisation of a revised Government Strategy to address adult homelessness. This will include a refocusing on the provision of accommodation in the social, voluntary and private rented housing sectors, exploiting the significant potential of the Rental Accommodation Scheme in this area and ensuring the availability of appropriate outreach and resettlement supports. Specifically, in relation to the issue of housing for victims of domestic violence, my Department is engaging with COSC, the new National Office in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform with key responsibility for ensuring the delivery of a well co-ordinated "whole of Government" response to domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. I expect that the new Government Strategy on Homelessness will be published in Spring 2008.

The allocation of local authority housing is a matter for each housing authority in accordance with their scheme of letting priorities made under section 11 of the Housing Act 1988. Such schemes are required to provide that the housing authority may set aside for persons of such category as the authority may decide a particular proportion of available dwellings. As set out in the Government's housing policy statement, Building Homes, Sustaining Communities, published earlier this year, it is intended that a reform of the allocation practices of housing authorities generally will be undertaken. Work is ongoing on this reform process.

Housing Estate Completions.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

82 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will establish a national database of developers who fail to properly complete housing estates in accordance with the planning permission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35133/07]

As Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government I have overall responsibility for the legislative and policy framework governing the planning system. The enforcement of planning control is a matter for individual planning authorities, who have substantial enforcement powers under the Planning and Development Acts 2000 – 2006.

With regard to action against unauthorised developments, planning authorities have substantial powers and obligations, under the Planning and Development Acts, in relation to unauthorised developments. The 2000 Act provided for a strengthened enforcement regime and increased penalties on conviction for the offence of unauthorised development. Section 35 of the 2000 Act, as amended in 2006, gives planning authorities a new power to refuse planning permission, without recourse to the High Court, to a developer who has substantially failed to comply with a previous planning permission.

Ultimately, each planning authority has primary responsibility for dealing with applications for permission and planning enforcement within its own area. I do not propose, therefore, to establish a national database along the lines outlined in the Question.

Community and Recreational Facilities.

Jack Wall

Question:

83 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if consideration has been given to extending and providing funding for the skate-board parks in communities in view of the benefit such parks play; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32610/07]

A new initiative for the provision of skateboard facilities by local authorities was introduced in 2005. Each City and County Council was invited to submit expressions of interest for grant assistance towards the provision of a skateboard park in its area.

Thirty-seven proposals from 25 local authorities were received by the deadline. All applications were assessed by my Department in conjunction with the National Children's Office and some 21 projects in 21 different local authority areas were recommended for grant aid.

A sum of €1 million had initially been earmarked for the scheme in 2005 but, in light of the number and quality of submissions received, all 21 projects were approved in November 2005 and resulted in an increased funding allocation of over €2 million.

Progress with the completion of the facilities is a matter for individual local authorities and timescales vary taking account, for example planning and procurement issues locally.

Twelve local authorities have completed their projects to date. On the basis of information received from local authorities, it is anticipated that the remaining skateparks will be completed early in 2008.

The position is being monitored by my Department. The question of inviting further proposals from local authorities can be reviewed at a later stage in the light of experience with the scheme.

Housing for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

84 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department has begun development of a national housing strategy for people with disabilities as outlined in his Department’s sectoral plan; if not, when he expects this process to begin; the organisations, groups and so on which are, or will be, involved in this process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35187/07]

My Department has recently commenced work on the development of a national housing strategy for people with a disability in line with a commitment under my Department's sectoral plan. The strategy is being progressed by a National Advisory Group under the aegis of the Housing Forum, headed by my Department and involving the Department of Health and Children, the Health Services Executive, social partners and other relevant stakeholders including the National Disability Authority. I formally launched the National Advisory Group on 30 October 2007.

The strategy, which will be developed by end 2009, will support the provision of tailored housing and housing supports for people with a disability and have particular regard to adults with significant disabilities and people who experience mental health issues. A full list of the organisations represented on the National Advisory Group is set out as follows.

Department of Environment, Heritage & Local Government

Department of Health and Children

Health Service Executive

County and City Managers Association

Homeless Agency

Mental Health Ireland

Mental Health Commission

National Disability Authority

Disability Federation of Ireland

Inclusion Ireland

National Federation of Voluntary bodies

People with Disabilities in Ireland

Irish Council for Social Housing

Not for Profit Business Association

Community and Voluntary Pillar

Irish Congress of Trade Unions

Former Assistant County Manager, Cork

Chair Macroom Senior Citizens Housing Development Ltd

Social and Affordable Housing.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

85 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that 32% of the total number of affordable housing units provided here for the first six months of 2007 were in the Dublin area and that 18 out of 34 local authorities provided no affordable housing units outside of Part V, and eight provided none at all for the same period; his plans to provide more affordable housing for persons who can not afford to purchase at the market rate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35053/07]

The provision of affordable housing is a key priority for the Government and is a central element of the "Paths to home ownership" component of the Government's housing policy statement Delivering Homes, Sustaining Communities. Significant progress has been made in increasing delivery under the range of affordable housing mechanisms currently in place, including the Shared Ownership Scheme, the 1999 Affordable Housing Scheme, Part V of the Planning and Development Acts 2000 to 2006 and the Affordable Housing Initiative.

In addition, a low-cost site scheme is in place through which sites can be made available, at discounted prices, primarily to approved applicants on local authority housing lists, where it is considered that this is an appropriate mechanism for meeting their accommodation requirements.

Apart from the various schemes designed to deliver affordable housing, certain ancillary supports are also available to assist certain applicants towards realising their home ownership aspirations. Specifically, the mortgage allowance and rent subsidy schemes help lower-income households access shared-ownership and affordable housing by providing an annual subvention towards the repayment costs.

Furthermore, at my Department's request, the Affordable Homes Partnership initiated a process in late 2006 to purchase 500 homes in the Greater Dublin Area and has arranged for these homes to be sold, through the relevant local authorities, at discounted levels, to eligible affordable housing applicants.

In the National Development Plan 2007-13, the Government has committed to the delivery of 40,000 affordable homes over the seven year period of the plan. Under the social partnership agreement, Towards 2016, 17,000 of these are to be delivered over the three years 2007 to 2009. My Department is working closely with local authorities and the Affordable Homes Partnership to achieve the significant increases in delivery required to meet these ambitious targets. In particular, in the context of their Housing Action Plans, my Department will be continuing to engage with individual local authorities to review the full year delivery in their areas for 2007 and to ensure that every effort is made to optimise delivery in future years; a particular focus is being placed on the Greater Dublin Area and the other main urban centres where the demands for affordable housing and the associated supply response, are most concentrated. Furthermore, taking account of a report recently received from the Affordable Homes Partnership, my Department is currently examining the scope for additional measures to enhance the overall level of affordable housing delivery.

Motor Taxation.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

86 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will apply the emissions based tax regime to road freight vehicles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35274/07]

The current basis of assessment for goods vehicles is unladen weight. It is not possible at this stage to apply an emissions based motor tax system to goods vehicles given that data on CO2 emissions are not available or captured on the vehicle registration tax (VRT) or the national vehicle and driver file (NVDF) databases.

Electoral Area Boundaries.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

87 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will review the local authority electoral area boundaries in advance of the next local elections having regard to significant population changes in many areas since the boundaries were last reviewed in 1998; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35146/07]

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

Planning Issues.

Seán Barrett

Question:

88 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he intends amending section 246(b) of the Planning Act 2000 which requires that public representatives pay a fee of €20 in respect of a submission made on a planning application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29052/07]

Article 168 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 requires a fee of €20 to be paid to a planning authority by a person or body making a submission or observation to the authority regarding an application for permission. The primary purpose of the fee is to contribute towards the enhanced service provided by planning authorities to persons who make formal submissions.

Many submissions by elected representatives on planning applications are queries on the up to date position on an application, requests that the processing of applications be dealt with promptly, or more general support for an application or for the comments made by another person. In general, a fee would not have to be paid for these types of submissions, which add no substantive matter for consideration by the planning authority.

However, where a public representative makes a formal submission, such as elaborating on the grounds of an application or an objection to an application, the submission cannot be considered by the planning authority unless it is accompanied by the appropriate fee.

Hunting Licences.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

89 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason for the delay in making a decision on a licence application by a group (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35254/07]

I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 258 and 259 of 6 December 2007. I am completing any urgent consideration of this matter and will come to a definitive conclusion in the near future.

Codes of Conduct.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

90 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the plans he has to ensure greater compliance with the ethics and disclosure requirements that apply to members and officials of local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35247/07]

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

101 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in view of a recent RTE programme (details supplied) he will amend the Standards in Public Office Act 2001 to take account of decisions made by public office holders which may result in their becoming future beneficiaries of decisions which they made as public representatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35134/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 90 and 101 together.

The ethical framework that applies to councillors and relevant employees in local authorities is provided for in the Local Government Act 2001 and the Codes of Conduct published under that Act. The framework requires councillors and employees to act solely in the public interest at all times and prohibits them from influencing or seeking to influence a decision of a local authority in any matter in which they have a pecuniary or beneficial interest. The framework provides clearly for the steps to be taken by a councillor or employee where any such matter arises for consideration by an authority.

Under the 2001 Act, legal responsibility for compliance with these requirements rests with each individual councillor and relevant employee. Where a possible contravention of the requirements of the framework arises, it is the responsibility of the locally-appointed ethics registrar to bring the matter to the attention of the Cathaoirleach and/or the Manager and for any appropriate action necessary.

In the context of the Green Paper on local government reform currently being prepared in my Department, I am open to considering any changes that could improve the effectiveness of the ethical framework in local government.

Climate Change.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

91 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps the Government has taken to comply with the letter of warning from the European Commission reference 2007/2351 issued on 17 October 2007 regarding Ireland’s non-compliance with requirement in relation to reporting information on climate change; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35156/07]

The information requested by the European Commission is being compiled by my Department and will be submitted by the deadline.

Transboundary Pollutants.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

92 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to effect the National Emissions Ceilings Directive which gives Ireland specific ceilings for certain atmospheric pollutants, in particular the reduction of emissions of NOx from the transport sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32942/07]

The 2001 EU Directive on National Emission Ceilings specifies challenging aggregate national ceilings for four transboundary pollutants which must be achieved by 2010. Since 2001, Ireland has made positive progress in reducing emissions of all four pollutants — sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and ammonia (NH3). The reductions to date are the result of effective policies and measures, including regulatory, fiscal and voluntary instruments, across all sectors of the economy. The trend is projected to continue with further significant decreases forecast out to 2010 and beyond.

For three of the four pollutants, sulphur dioxide, ammonia and volatile organic compounds, Ireland is on target to comply or over-comply with the 2010 ceilings. In the case of nitrogen oxides, the ceiling as it is currently set presents a difficulty in that it does not provide a cost-effective or proportionate burden for Ireland relative to the objectives of the Directive.

The National Programme on Transboundary Pollutants was updated in July 2007 to reflect additional sectoral measures which have been adopted and/or implemented by Government since the Programme was announced in 2005. Identification of additional measures which are viable and cost-effective in reducing all four pollutants, particularly all sources of NOx, is ongoing. Investment under Transport 21 and the continuous strengthening of European vehicle standards are key responses to reducing nitrogen oxides emissions in the transport sector.

Planning Issues.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

93 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the measures planned by his Department to prevent unsustainable rezonings by local authorities, including lands that constitute a flood risk as identified by the flood policy review group and the Office of Public Works strategy to manage flood risk; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35154/07]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

121 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the need to ensure that land that is a flooding risk including where the risk could be exacerbated by the impact of climate change is not rezoned by local authorities in upcoming county development plans or that if such land is rezoned the need to ensure councils have the power to restrict, regulate or control development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35155/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 93 and 121 together.

Decisions regarding the zoning of land are a reserved function of the elected members under the statutory development plan and local area plan processes. In accordance with sections 12 and 13 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 and section 9 of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2002, the members of a planning authority are restricted to considering the proper planning and sustainable development of the area in question when making or varying a development plan or local area plan. The development plan must offer clear guidance on sustainable development policies and objectives, both national and local, which address the full range of sustainability issues including urban development, the creation of sustainable communities and the potential impacts of climate change. The Act outlines the steps that must be followed by the planning authority, the requirements for consultation with the public and key stakeholders, including the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, during the drafting stages and the mandatory and discretionary objectives that must be reflected in the plan.

The First Schedule of the Act specifies, inter alia, that planning authorities may include in their development plans objectives regulating, restricting or controlling development in areas at risk of flooding. Where development is proposed in an area at risk of flooding, it is a matter for each planning authority to evaluate such risk, on the basis of a flood risk assessment where appropriate and planning permission may either be refused, or, if granted, can be made subject to conditions requiring the implementation of measures necessary to alleviate or avoid damage due to flooding.

Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Development Plans were published by my Department in June 2007 further to assist planning authorities in the preparation of development plans. The guidelines recommend that flood risk should be considered at relevant stages of the planning and development process and the aim should be to ensure that existing flood risks are either reduced or addressed and that new development does not individually or cumulatively give rise to new flood risks, particularly in the context of potential impacts arising from climate change. Moreover, my Department, in conjunction with the OPW, is preparing more comprehensive guidance on flooding and the planning system, which it is intended to issue for public consultation and finalisation next year. Preparation of these guidelines, and the mapping resources already available to planning authorities on the OPW National Flood Hazard Mapping website at www.floodmap.ie, are two of the key actions arising from the work of the Flood Policy Review Group.

The OPW, as a prescribed consultee on all draft development plans, also has the opportunity to input its views during the development plan process, with particular reference to its statutory responsibilities in respect of river drainage, flood relief and localised flooding problems.

Where a development plan fails to set out an overall strategy for the proper planning and sustainable development of the area or otherwise significantly fails to comply with the Act, I am empowered under section 31 of the Act to direct the planning authority take the specified measures to amend the draft plan or adopted plan so as to ensure compliance with proper planning principles and policies.

Local Government Elections.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

94 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if it is his intention to introduce a cap on spending by candidates in local elections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35144/07]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

103 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if it is his intention to amend the Electoral Acts to provide increased transparency in the funding of political parties and greater scrutiny of political party expenditure in all electoral contests both national and local; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35136/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 94 and 103 together.

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to the establishment of an independent Electoral Commission which will take responsibility for a range of electoral matters including, inter alia, the functions currently exercised by the Standards in Public Office Commission relating to election spending; the Electoral Commission will also examine the issue of financing of the political system. In this regard, I intend shortly to arrange for preliminary research on issues arising in relation to the establishment of the Electoral Commission.

In accordance with the Programme for Government my Department will be publishing a Green Paper on local government reform early in the new year. The Green Paper will examine a number of issues with the objective of making local government more transparent and responsive, and will set out options for reform in advance of a subsequent White Paper. One of the issues which the Green Paper will address is the question of expenditure limits at local elections. There are currently no such limits, although expenditure, as well as donations over a €635 threshold, must be disclosed.

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

Question No. 95 answered with QuestionNo. 80.

Flood Relief.

Dan Neville

Question:

96 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the proposal contained in the Dublin Bay study for the development of a South Bull Island along Sandymount Strand in the context of flood relief measures for Dublin city; if his Department made a submission to the study; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35261/07]

Phil Hogan

Question:

527 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the proposal contained in the Dublin Bay study for the development of the South Bull Island along Sandymount Strand in the context of flood relief measures for Dublin city; if his Department made a submission to the study; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35492/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 96 and 527 together.

Responsibility at Ministerial level for coastal flood protection and relief currently rests with the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. In accordance with a recent Government decision, however, arrangements are to be made for the transfer of these functions to my Department.

Dublin City Council has a policy objective in its Development Plan 2005-11 to prepare a plan for Dublin Bay encompassing the area from, and including, North Bull Island and the South Wall to Booterstown, and concentrating also on the Port area. It is envisaged that this Plan will help to identify and determine the role of that part of the Bay as an economic, amenity, recreational, environmental and ecological resource. The Council established a Steering Group in 2006 to progress the objective and my Department is represented on the Group. Consultants were commissioned in November 2006 to prepare a study of Dublin Bay including the Port area.

The consultants' report, entitled A Vision for Dublin Bay, went on public display on 1 October 2007 with a four-week period for receipt of comments and submissions. The report contained a number of possible scenarios for the future development and protection of the Bay area. I understand that a large number of submissions have been received and these are currently being considered by the Council.

The consultants' report specifically addressed the need for flood prevention and mitigation measures to protect the City and Port in the event of sea water levels rising as a result of climate change. The report, as its authors state, "imagines" four alternative approaches, two of which would involve a newly constructed South Bull Island. These are, at this stage, simply visions for how flood prevention and relief might be addressed: they are not proposed solutions, and do not go into the range of economic, social, environmental, ecological, design and engineering issues that would need to be addressed in a detailed flood prevention and relief plan for the City and the Port.

Climate Change.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

97 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the Government commitment referred to in the national climate change strategy to developing a national climate change adaptation strategy; if this strategy will be completed in time for local authorities to take account of the strategy in the preparation of the next county development plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35148/07]

The position set out in the reply to Questions Nos. 253 and 261 of 6 December 2007 and Nos. 36 and 96 of 14 November 2007 has not changed.

The National Climate Change Strategy which was published earlier this year contains a commitment to produce a national adaptation strategy within two years. The planned strategy will provide a framework for the integration of adaptation issues into decision-making at national and local level across all sectors.

Dublin Bay Task Force.

Richard Bruton

Question:

98 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the terms of reference, the membership and the report date of the Task Force on Dublin Bay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30709/07]

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to establish a Dublin Bay Area Task Force to maximise the potential of the Bay for the people of the capital city. I expect to finalise arrangements for its establishment early in the new year.

Dublin City Council has a policy objective in its Development Plan 2005-2011 to prepare a plan for Dublin Bay from (and including) North Bull Island and the South Wall to Booterstown, concentrating also on the Port area. It is envisaged that this plan will help to identify and determine the role of that part of the Bay as an economic, amenity, recreational, environmental and ecological resource.

As the first stage in the preparation of the plan for the Dublin Bay area, the Council commissioned a study of the Bay including the Port area in November 2006, and the draft study report issued for public consultation in October 2007 for a four-week period. I understand from Dublin City Council that a large number of submissions have been received and are currently being considered.

While the terms of reference for the Dublin Bay Area Task Force are not yet finalised, the approach will be to build on the analysis and work in relation to Dublin Bay by the City Council and other relevant stakeholders. The Government commitment in the National Development Plan 2007-2013 to undertake a comprehensive study of the role of Dublin Port "in the context of overall ports policy on the island of Ireland, wider transport policy, urban development policy, the National Spatial Strategy and national economic policy", which will be led by the Department of Transport, is also relevant in this regard.

Question No. 99 answered with QuestionNo. 76.

Planning Issues.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

100 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding his plans to require councillors to explain the reason for their zoning decisions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35153/07]

Decisions regarding the zoning of land are a reserved function of the elected members under the statutory development plan and local area plan processes. The Planning and Development Act 2000 sets out the steps that must be followed by the Council, the requirements for consultation with the public and key stakeholders, including the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, during the drafting stages, and the mandatory and discretionary objectives that must be reflected in the plan. Similar procedures are also set down in legislation regarding variations to development plans.

In accordance with sections 12 and 13 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 and section 9 of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2002, the members of a planning authority are restricted to considering the proper planning and sustainable development for the area in question when making or varying a development plan or local area plan. Having considered the manager's report, it is open to the members to decide by resolution to make or amend the plan, subject to any modifications that they consider appropriate, there is no legal requirement for the elected members expressly to set out how their decision is in the best interests of proper planning and sustainable development for the areas involved. It is in this context, and having regard to the commitment in the Programme for Government to make the local government system more transparent and responsive to its customers, that I have asked my Department to consider whether legislative or procedural changes are required to ensure that such decisions are made with the appropriate degree of transparency.

Question No. 101 answered with QuestionNo. 90.
Question No. 102 answered with QuestionNo. 69.
Question No. 103 answered with QuestionNo. 94.

Local Authority Housing.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

104 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of persons on local authority housing lists at the latest date for which figures are available; the steps he will take to reduce waiting lists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35141/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

560 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to deal with housing waiting lists in each local authority area throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35576/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 104 and 560 together.

The most recent assessment of need for social housing was undertaken by local authorities in March 2005. The results of that assessment indicated that there were 43,684 households on local authority housing waiting lists. Data in relation to these assessments for each housing authority are available on my Department's website at www.environ.ie. The next statutory assessment of housing need is due to be undertaken by housing authorities in March 2008.

The Government is well placed to deliver on the commitments in Towards 2016 to start or acquire some 27,000 new homes for those in need of social housing over the next three years. The total Exchequer provision for social housing in 2007 is almost €1.4 billion — an increase of 10% on the 2006 provision. This funding is supporting the commencement of a significant number of new social housing units, and further progress under the regeneration programmes, as well as bringing to completion a large number of units under both the local authority and voluntary housing programmes. Further increases in funding will be provided in 2008 to ensure that momentum on the range of social housing is maintained.

Building Regulations.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

105 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to a survey carried out by Sustainable Energy Ireland in 2005 that indicated that less than 2% of all houses comply with Part L of the Building Regulations 1997; if his Department has a copy of the survey; if he considered the implications of this survey in respect of the Draft Part L Building Regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35152/07]

I understand that the survey which is the subject of the Question is an unpublished report which was completed for Sustainable Energy Ireland in 2005.

My Department has not received a copy of the draft or final report, although it has been given access to an extract from the Executive Summary of the report.

The implications of the issues which were raised in this extract have been considered and addressed in the draft Part L Building Regulations, dealing with the conservation of fuel and energy in new dwellings, which were recently the subject of public consultation. On foot of this consultation, I expect to be in a position to sign new Part L Regulations before the end of this year.

Register of Electors.

James Bannon

Question:

106 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in view of the explained anomalies in voting patterns in the general election in May 2007, he will utilise the information gained from the recent census to produce an electoral register, the validity of which he can vouch for; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34831/07]

In law the preparation of the Register of Electors is a matter for each local registration authority. It is their duty to ensure, as far as possible and with the cooperation of the public, the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the Register.

The compilation of the Register and the carrying out of a Census are different processes with different statutory requirements. In addition, there are usually significant timing differences between the Census and the Register, with the Census being carried out once every five years and the Register being compiled on an annual basis. Therefore, care needs to be taken in making direct comparisons between these separate processes, and there are no proposals to utilise census data in the manner referred to in the Question.

In working to compile the Register for 2007/2008, which is currently in force, registration authorities undertook and completed the most extensive registration campaign in decades. On the basis of the work undertaken, registration authorities have achieved a significant improvement in the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the Register compared to previous years.

My Department has advised authorities that the approach this year should be to maintain and build on the progress they have made to date. Looking ahead, the Programme for Government contains a commitment to establish an independent Electoral Commission. The Commission's responsibilities will include taking charge of the compilation of a new national rolling electoral register.

Social and Affordable Housing.

David Stanton

Question:

107 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, with reference to his Department’s sectoral plan, protocols on individual housing needs and social housing supports for people with disabilities have been developed by the housing authorities and Health Service Executive; if these are in place throughout the country; if best practice advice on housing design approaches based on universal access philosophy, flexibility and adaptability have been published by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35186/07]

In line with a commitment under my Department's sectoral plan, a protocol governing liaison between the Health Service Executive and housing authorities on the assessment of the individual accommodation needs of people with a disability has been developed and is now being implemented. A protocol governing support costs for social housing projects provided for people with a disability is currently being developed and is expected to be implemented early next year.

As part of my Department's revision of the 1999 Social Housing Design guidelines, Quality Housing for Sustainable Communities was launched in March 2007, setting out the essential requirements to be met in the provision of new housing. These guidelines provide that all housing should be accessible and adaptable, that there should be ease of access and circulation for all residents, including people with impaired mobility, enabling them to move as freely as possible within and through the development, to gain access to buildings and to use the services and amenities provided, and that dwellings should be capable of adaptation to meet changing needs of residents during the course of their lifetime.

My Department recently met with the National Disability Authority to discuss possible specific best practice guidelines in the context of lifetime adaptable housing, which will further reinforce my Department's policy for social inclusion and universal accessibility.

The protocol governing the individual accommodation needs of people with a disability and Quality Housing for Sustainable Communities are available on my Department's website, www.environ.ie.

Residential Dwellings Register.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

108 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will increase funding for the Private Residential Tenancies Board which will allow further investment in the regulation and registration of private rented housing standards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35258/07]

Denis Naughten

Question:

126 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he is taking to ensure that all rented accommodation is up to an acceptable standard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30545/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 108 and 126 together.

Significantly increased funding, from the proceeds of tenancy registration fees received by the Private Residential Tenancies Board, is being made available to local authorities in respect of functions relating to private rented accommodation standards and rent books. Over €2m was provided in 2006, an increase of 28% over 2005 funding. A further €3m is being allocated in respect of 2007, linked to local authority performance in the enforcement of the standards regulations, bringing total funding for this purpose since 2004 to approximately €7m.

I refer also to the reply to Question No. 67 on today's order paper regarding inspection of private rented accommodation by local authorities. I look forward to a continuation of the trend of increased levels of local authority enforcement performance in future years, supported by correspondingly strong levels of funding.

This funding is being provided in the context of an Action Programme announced in September 2006, on foot of a commitment in the partnership agreement Towards 2016, to promote improvement in standards in private rented accommodation, involving a range of measures including improved regulation, enforcement, funding and information. Good progress is being made with the Programme. In addition to increased funding, updating of the existing standards regulations in consultation with relevant interests is progressing, and two reports recently published by the Centre for Housing Research on measures to promote improvement in private rented accommodation standards will also make an important contribution to the success of the Programme.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Shane McEntee

Question:

109 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason €10 million for Kyoto credits was in the voted budget of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government and €50 million was in the non-voted capital expenditure in the White Paper; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35252/07]

The National Climate Change Strategy 2007-12 indicated a potential purchase of up to 18 million carbon allowances in part fulfilment of Ireland's obligations pursuant to the Kyoto Protocol. However, my intention is that Ireland will meet its Kyoto commitments as far as possible by emissions reductions through domestic action, rather than the purchase of credits, and therefore achieve the 3% annual reduction on average between now and 2012. As I set out in this year's carbon budget, meeting this objective will enable the Government to limit its purchase of credits to no more than 1 million tonnes per annum during 2008-12.

Under the Carbon Fund Act 2007, a Carbon Fund has been established to fund the purchase of carbon allowances and the National Treasury Management Agency has been statutorily designated as purchasing agent. In practice, the cost of purchases in any year by the Agency will be refunded to the Carbon Fund from my Department's vote for the following year.

The provision of €10 million in my Department's Estimates for 2008 will be used to refund purchase costs incurred by the Agency in 2007. The provision of €50 million in the non-voted capital expenditure in the White Paper is an estimate of the amount set aside for any carbon allowance purchases that may arise in 2008. To the extent that any purchases are made in 2008, such costs will be refunded to the Carbon Fund from my Department's vote in 2009.

Community and Recreational Facilities.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

110 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the extent to which projects in the arts, sports or tourism sector are emerging to avail of the innovation fund targeted at gateway cities and towns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31542/07]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 191 of 12 December 2007.

The closing date for submissions of proposals for funding under the Gateway Innovation Fund (GIF) was 15 November 2007 and proposals have been received from all nine gateways in respect of the €300 million Fund. These proposals are currently being evaluated by the GIF Management Committee (with appropriate input from other Departments and agencies as required), against the criteria set down in the original Call for Proposals which issued in June 2007. Goodbody Economic Consultants have also been commissioned to assist in the evaluation process and in particular on the financial robustness of the proposals.

The GIF Management Committee will make funding recommendations jointly to the Minister for Finance and myself. Together with the Minister for Finance, I intend to bring recommendations on funding allocations to Government for approval in the first quarter of 2008.

The proposals include a wide spectrum of projects: projects in the arts, sports and tourism sector are well represented amongst the proposals. In addition, there are a number of other projects, including projects aimed at improving the public realm, which have the potential to improve the tourism potential of certain of the gateways.

Question No. 111 answered with QuestionNo. 66.

Election Management System.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

112 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the cost to date of the development, roll out and promotion of the electronic voting and counting system; the cost to date of storage and maintenance of the system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35142/07]

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

Historically, responsibility for the security and safe storage of manual voting equipment has been a matter for returning officers who are statutorily responsible for conducting the polls. Accordingly, similar responsibility was assigned to returning officers in regard to the storage of the electronic voting equipment. The Government decision to proceed with the movement of the electronic voting equipment to centralised premises was made taking into account a range of factors, including costs of current and centralised arrangements and the likely benefits to be realised. Costs incurred to date in respect of the centralised storage arrangements are some €326,000. Further costs will be incurred in relation to the completion of these arrangements, including buy-out costs.

Water Charges.

Dan Neville

Question:

113 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on whether the imposition of metered water charges for commercial customers should be extended to domestic users; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35260/07]

Government policy since 1998 has been to exempt from water charges water services used by households for ordinary domestic purposes. That policy has been accommodated in the wording of Article 9 of the EU Water Framework Directive, is reflected in legislation and was reiterated in section 105 of the recently enacted Water Services Act 2007. Accordingly, the extension to the domestic sector of charges applicable to the non-domestic supply of water is not currently contemplated.

Motor Taxation.

Liz McManus

Question:

114 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the merits of family car engine size of 1.6 litres rather than a vehicle’s carbon emissions being the measure for motor tax hikes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29144/07]

I refer to the Financial Resolution No. 3 on Excise Duties (Mechanically Propelled Vehicles) taken in the House on 5 December 2007 and the Carbon Budget, which I announced on 6 December 2007. While the Financial Resolution provided for an across-the-board increase of 9.5% on motor tax rates for the existing fleet up to 2.5 litres and an 11% increase above that threshold, the Carbon Budget provided for a move to a motor tax system based on CO2 emissions. The new system will apply to new cars and newly imported cars registered from 1 July 2008. Cars registered before that date will continue to be taxed under the existing system relating to cubic capacity engine sizes.

The new motor tax system will consist of seven CO2 bands commonly referred to as the seven white labels A to G, with the motor tax rates increasing as cars move up the CO2 bands. The bands are the same as those announced by the Tánaiste in respect of VRT, so that there will be commonality of approach as between the motor tax and VRT systems. The clear objective of this new motor tax system is to influence the purchasing decisions of consumers by rewarding the buyers of low-emitting cars and charging a premium on less efficient vehicles.

A key part of both the motor tax and VRT initiatives will be a new mandatory labelling system for cars based on CO2 emission levels. This will be accompanied by an active public information campaign, which will promote the purchase of fuel-efficient cars.

Water Quality.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

115 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on a nationwide assessment of water treatment plants to ensure safe drinking water can be provided in view of a recent EPA report that found 56% of groundwater to be polluted, groundwater which provides about a quarter of all drinking water here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35255/07]

Local authorities are responsible for the operation and maintenance of treatment plants for public water supplies. Earlier this year, I introduced new drinking water regulations and related monitoring requirements to strengthen controls in this sector. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) now has direct supervisory responsibility for local authority water supplies and the regulations give powers of both supervision and enforcement to the Agency in relation to local authorities' performance of their functions regarding drinking water. While local authorities continue to be responsible for supervising group scheme supplies, the Agency is required to supervise the performance by local authorities of their monitoring functions, and all monitoring programmes are now subject to its approval.

My Department and the EPA are examining the latest drinking water quality results for public supplies with a view to cataloguing those at greatest risk from E-Coli or other chemical exceedences as well as cryptosporidium. I expect this analysis to be completed within the next few months. The objective is to develop an action programme which identifies an appropriate solution in each case that will guarantee security and safety of supply. This could involve abandoning an existing source, upgrading a treatment plant or improving the operation and management regime.

I recently introduced a contingency funding arrangement under the Water Services Investment Programme, which will apply to any infrastructural works urgently required on foot of the current risk profiling exercise. The EPA will oversee implementation of all remedial actions as part of its enhanced supervisory function under the new regulations. This will include any necessary enforcement action against a local authority where the Agency is not satisfied that improvements either to operation and management or to infrastructure are being advanced with sufficient urgency.

The protection of surface waters and groundwaters is being considerably strengthened by the ongoing implementation of the European Communities (Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Waters) Regulations, which came into effect on 1 February 2006, and provide statutory support for good farming practice to protect waters against pollution from agricultural sources. The Regulations include measures such as:

set periods when land application of fertilisers is prohibited

storage requirements for livestock manure, and

monitoring of the effectiveness of the measures in terms of agricultural practice and impact on water quality.

The Regulations also apply limits on the land application of fertilisers and include provisions for protection of boreholes, springs and wells and vulnerable areas on karst limestone aquifers. Implementation of the Regulations is supported by an enhanced package of financial supports for farmers by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and by the cross-compliance inspections carried out by that Department.

Comprehensive programmes of measures to address all sources of water pollution are being prepared in the context of the preparation of river basin management plans under the Water Framework Directive. A report titled "Water Matters" was issued in June 2007 for each river basin district. The reports indicate the significant water management issues identified in each district and the measures which might need to be taken to address them.

Water treatment plants are currently subject to an increasing level of regulatory supervision and assessment and I will continue to review the measures necessary to ensure safe drinking water and protection of groundwater.

Question No. 116 answered with QuestionNo. 66.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

117 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the targets that have been set for reducing carbon emissions from electricity generating stations; and if they will be met. [34763/07]

I have no function in relation to the matter raised in the Question. Pursuant to the European Communities (Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading) Regulations 2004, the Environmental Protection Agency determines and oversees the greenhouse gas emission caps for installations, including electricity generating stations, participating in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.

Private Rented Accommodation.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

118 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in view of the report by the State funded Centre for Housing Research, it is his intention to put in place a licensing system for landlords which will ensure compliance with at least the minimum standard for the renting of residential properties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35135/07]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 107 of 10 October 2007 in relation to a possible licensing system for landlords. I am aware that a recent report by the Centre for Housing Research suggested the piloting of a system for certification of compliance with private rented accommodation standards. While it is not proposed to introduce such a system in the short-term, this proposal will be kept under consideration in the context of possible further measures to promote improvement in standards.

Planning Issues.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

119 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the impact the proposed North-South interconnector will have on the local environment in the areas through which it passes. [34764/07]

I understand that the proposed development referred to is currently before An Bord Pleanála under the pre-application stages of the new strategic consent process provided for under the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act 2006. As Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, I am precluded, under section 30 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, from exercising any power or control in relation to any individual planning application or appeal with which a planning authority or An Bord Pleanála is or may be concerned.

All applications made under the strategic consent process must be accompanied by an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The Planning and Development Regulations 2001 set out detailed requirements in relation to the information to be included in any EIS. These include a requirement for a detailed description of the likely impacts of a proposed development on the environment. In reaching a determination on an application for strategic infrastructure, the Board is required to carry out an assessment of the EIS.

Under the strategic consent process all Environmental Impact Statements submitted at application stage are made publicly available by the Board for inspection or purchase.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Liz McManus

Question:

120 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the issue of carbon credits; the cost and breakdown of carbon credits to the Exchequer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28984/07]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

125 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the use of flexible mechanisms of purchasing carbon credits by which over half Ireland’s Kyoto carbon emission reduction targets are to be achieved as set out in the budget carbon emissions table; the way these carbon credits will be purchased and the location from where; the amount they will cost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35150/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 120 and 125 together.

I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 61 and 70 on today's order paper. The Government has announced provision of €270 million for the purchase of carbon allowances over the period 2007-13. This sum is in addition to €20 million provided in my Department's Vote in 2006.

Following the enactment of the Carbon Fund Act in March 2007, the National Treasury Management Agency is now statutorily designated as purchasing agent for the acquisition of carbon allowances. The Agency is developing a purchasing programme on foot of the potential need indicated in the National Climate Change Strategy to purchase up to 18 million allowances in partial fulfilment of Ireland's obligations pursuant to the Kyoto Protocol. A national policy framework on the purchase of allowances, which is set out in Annex 3 to the National Climate Change Strategy 2007-12, provides guidance for the Agency in this regard.

In 2006, Ireland committed to investing €20m in the Multilateral Carbon Credit Fund offered by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and a further €20m in Funds offered by the World Bank, namely the Carbon Fund for Europe and the second tranche of the BioCarbon Fund. No other commitments were made prior to the designation of the National Treasury Management Agency as purchasing agent.

Question No. 121 answered with QuestionNo. 93.
Question No. 122 answered with QuestionNo. 81.

Wildlife Conservation.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

123 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on a project (details supplied) in County Clare which is working to save old Irish goats and if he has called on the relevant State agencies to play their part in the pro-active management of the broader population of feral goats; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30098/07]

Goats are not a protected species under the Wildlife Acts and I do not have any statutory function in relation to the protection of these or other goats. However, my Department, together with the EU, Teagasc and the IFA, supports the BurrenLIFE Project (BLP) which is the first major farming for conservation project in the State.

The objective of the project is to develop a new model for sustainable agriculture in the Burren in order to conserve the habitats designated under the EU Habitats Directive. As part of its work within 20 ‘monitor' farms, the project is working with one local farmer to erect a secure 22 acre enclosure within which it is hoped that a breeding population of old Irish goats may be kept. This pilot project will not only support the conservation of the genetic resource, but will also monitor the impact of these feral goats on scrub and grasslands and examine their use as a ‘conservation grazing' tool.

If successful, the breeding programme may be extended to other farms in the Burren. Protecting the old Irish goat is important from a number of perspectives including genetic heritage, cultural value, as well as the tourism and recreational potential, and with the support of Burren farmers, I would hope that this ancient breed may be protected for future generations to enjoy.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

124 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will detail what constitutes the carbon sinks referred to in the budget carbon emissions table as sinks eligible for accounting under Kyoto protocol rules which represents net afforestation since 1990 and accounting for almost half of the deductions from gross carbon emissions here to enable Ireland to meet Kyoto carbon emission reduction targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35149/07]

The provision for carbon sinks in the carbon budget table refers to sequestration, or removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, from forests that are eligible for accounting under the Kyoto Protocol. The rules of the Kyoto Protocol allow Parties to include sequestration from net afforestation since 1990, i.e. sequestration from the planting of new forest since 1990, less the effects of deforestation over the same period.

Current estimates indicate that the average annual effect of sinks eligible for accounting under the Kyoto Protocol during the 2008-12 period will be 2.074 million tonnes. This represents a significant increase on the sinks estimate for 2006 due to growth of young forests planted in recent years. The 2008-12 estimate for sinks represents approximately 15% of total emissions savings of 13.6 million tonnes resulting from measures set out in the National Climate Change Strategy.

Question No. 125 answered with QuestionNo. 120.
Question No. 126 answered with QuestionNo. 108.
Question No. 127 answered with QuestionNo. 81.

Water Charges.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

128 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the estimated revenue that will accrue from the metering and charging of non-domestic water users under the water framework directive. [34830/07]

Implementation of the polluter pays principle and of the Water Framework Directive requires full recovery of the cost of providing water and waste water services from the users of those services. Metering enables each consumer's water services bill to be related to consumption. Local authorities are required to set their water and waste water charges at levels that will recover their expenditure on providing water and waste water services to their non-domestic users. Total income received by local authorities in respect of non-domestic water charges is estimated at € 211 million in 2006.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

129 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the extent to which he will achieve compliance with the guidelines discussed, identified and set out during his attendance at the recent conference on global warming in Bali; if he has identified the precise measures to be taken here to meet such targets; the extent to which budget 2008 is expected to meet such requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35191/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

561 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans for compliance with the guidelines set out at the Bali conference; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35577/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

562 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his proposals to achieve parity with guidelines discussed at the recent conference in Bali; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35578/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 129, 561 and 562 together.

The primary objective of the recent United Nations conference on climate change was to mandate a two-year round of formal negotiations with a view to adopting a new international agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol from 2013. The ‘Bali Roadmap' which was adopted at the conference provides that mandate and the expectation of the EU is that the negotiations which will now take place will lead to a new agreement in 2009. This is essential if a gap between the ending of the Kyoto Protocol commitment period in 2012 and the beginning of the commitment period under the new agreement is to be avoided.

The EU has already, on a unilateral basis and without prejudice to its position in international negotiations, determined that it should make an independent commitment to achieve at least a 20% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 compared to 1990. It has also agreed that it is willing to commit to a reduction of 30% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 compared to 1990 as its contribution to a global and comprehensive agreement for the period beyond 2012.

Ireland supports these commitments and is preparing for the deeper emission reductions which all developed countries must make in the period to 2020 and beyond. The Government has set a target of an annual average reduction of 3% in greenhouse gas emissions. Measures set out in the National Climate Change Strategy, and also in the Carbon Budget which I presented in association with Budget 2008, will contribute significantly, while further measures to achieve reductions across all sectors of the economy are being and will be developed by the various Ministers on the Cabinet Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security.

Population Statistics.

Dan Neville

Question:

130 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Taoiseach the marriage rate per 100,000 in 2006. [34961/07]

The number of marriages registered in 2006 was 21,841. This equates to 515 marriages per 100,000 population. This figure is subject to revision.

Dan Neville

Question:

131 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Taoiseach the number of separated and divorced persons in 2006. [34962/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is contained in the table. It should be noted that the figures for ‘Separated' include deserted as this was the way the question was formulated on the 2006 Census Form.

Census 2006

Marital Status

Persons

Males

Females

Divorced

59,534

27,226

32,308

Separated (including deserted)

107,263

45,783

61,480

Departmental Expenditure.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

132 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach if his Department or any of its agencies has paid in advance for works or services that will not be commenced before the end of the 2007 financial year; the reasons for doing this; the amount of the payments; the recipients and the nature of the works or services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34758/07]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

135 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach if his Department or its agencies has paid in advance for works or services that will not be completed before the end of the 2007 financial year; the reasons for doing so; the amount of the payments; the recipients and the nature of the works or services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34890/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 132 and 135 together.

My Department has not paid in advance for works or services that will not be completed or commenced before the end of the 2007 financial year. However, it should be noted that my Department and its agencies are required to pay some suppliers in advance for items such as subscriptions for magazines and journals (hard copy and on-line versions), local authority bin charges, domain and website registrations, software support and licence fees, some maintenance contracts and prepaid technician hours.

In the case of the Director of Public Prosecutions Office, a sum of €515,207 was paid in advance to the Office of Public Works to cover the fit out costs and the securement of additional office space. It should be noted that the Central Statistics Office (CSO) does occasionally make ‘Agency Services' payments i.e. advances to the OPW to facilitate the commencement of works which the OPW contract on our behalf. Generally, the agent (OPW) requires an advance by way of imprest from which to meet payments falling due on the contract. Such advances are recorded in suspense accounts until such time as the OPW certify that the works have been completed satisfactorily and payments have actually been disbursed by them. It is only at that stage, when actual payments have been made by the OPW, that the CSO brings the expenditure to account on the CSO vote. This practice is in accordance with the Public Financial Procedures. The CSO currently have €36,594.45 in advances with the OPW in respect of the supply and installation of a generator in Cork.

In addition, the Deputy may also wish to note that in respect of the OECD Review of the Irish Public Service, the Department has increased its contribution to the OECD on a once-off basis by €490,000, to be paid over two years — 2006 and 2007. It is expected that the Review will be completed and published early in 2008. This review has two main objectives: firstly, to benchmark the Public Service in Ireland against other comparable countries; and secondly, to make recommendations as to future directions for Public Service reform. Given that this is the first whole of Public Service Review undertaken by the OECD, the work is very extensive and requires developing new approaches and working methods. In order for the OECD to develop a holistic approach to reviewing the Public Service as an entity and to apply it in the first instance to Ireland, the Government has agreed to make an additional contribution towards the work of the OECD. It is expected that the Review will be completed and published early in 2008.

Decentralisation Programme.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

133 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the number of posts that have been decentralised as part of the current decentralisation programme with respect to his Department and agencies; the cost of mileage and overtime paid with respect to the holders of these posts in the year prior to decentralisation and the year after decentralisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34759/07]

The Deputy will be aware that there are no proposals to decentralise my Department or any of the bodies under its aegis. The Department of Finance is responsible for the overall decentralisation programme.

Departmental Communications.

Michael Ring

Question:

134 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Taoiseach if, following his announcement of his telephone conversation with Senator Ted Kennedy, he will confirm the discussion that took place in that conversation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34825/07]

I spoke with Senator Kennedy on 7 December when we discussed the issue of immigration in the United States and the undocumented Irish in particular. I emphasised to the Senator that the resolution of this issue has been and will continue to be a priority for the Government and I referred to the strong all party support in this House on the issue.

Question No. 135 answered with QuestionNo. 132.

Average Industrial Wage.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

136 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the way the average industrial wage is calculated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34695/07]

The average industrial wage is generally defined as the hourly or weekly wage rate of industrial workers in the industrial sector. Until June 2007, this data was collected in the Quarterly Industrial Inquiry (QII), in respect of industrial enterprises with 10 or more employees. In the QII, the average industrial wage was recorded on the following basis:

The industrial sector included manufacturing industries; mining and quarrying; and the electricity, gas and water supply sector.

Industrial workers were defined as operatives, maintenance workers, storekeepers, packers, cleaners, basic supervisory staff and apprentices. Managerial, professional, technical and clerical staff were not included in the calculation of the average industrial wage.

Wages included the gross amount paid to employees before tax and PRSI. They included regular bonuses, overtime, service pay, shift pay and allowances, commissions, and regular bonuses. They excluded irregular pay, back-pay and redundancy payments.

The Earnings, Hours and Employment Costs Survey (EHECS) provides more detailed information, from 2006 onwards, on earnings, labour costs and hours worked in the industrial and financial sectors. During 2008, this new survey will be extended to other sectors. The results of the EHECS survey are contained in the quarterly Earnings and Labour Costs release, which was first published by the CSO in August 2007.

The EHECS survey involves some differences in scope from the surveys which it is replacing. For example, industrial enterprises with three or more employees are now being surveyed, whereas the QII covered workplaces with 10 or more employees. The EHECS survey also collects information for the entire quarter rather than for a single reference week in the quarter. The CSO has included broadly comparable tables of earnings and hours worked, from the old and new surveys, in the annex to the Earnings and Labour Costs quarterly release.

Departmental Agencies.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

137 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the terms of reference, functions and purpose of the National Economic and Social Forum, the First Information Society Commission and the National Millennium Committee; if these agencies are still operational; the reason these functions cannot be carried out by his Department; the benefits to the Irish taxpayer from the work of the agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35073/07]

The National Economic and Social Forum, established in 1993, continues in existence. The First Information Society Commission ceased to exist in December 2000 and the National Millennium Committee in June 2002. Section 10 of the National Economic and Social Development Office Act, 2006 sets out the functions of the National Economic and Social Forum (NESF), as follows:

To advise the Taoiseach on policies to achieve greater equality and social inclusion, and such other matters as may be specified by the Taoiseach in the context of social partnership arrangements, by analysing, monitoring and evaluating relevant programmes and policies, and to facilitate public consultation on policy matters referred to it, from time to time, by the Government.

Any advice made to the Taoiseach may be made either at the request of the Taoiseach or at the initiative of the Forum. The functions of the Forum, as set out in the Act, may be amended or added to by order of the Taoiseach following consultation with any Minister represented on the Forum. It should be noted that, by helping to achieve a better balance between economic and social policies in its work, the National Economic and Social Forum (NESF) has contributed to social cohesion and inclusion in our society and has also strengthened and widened the social partnership process.

The First Information Society Commission had the function of shaping and overseeing the implementation of a strategic framework for the development of the Information Society in Ireland. The Commission was also charged with promoting, co-ordinating and monitoring the implementation of the actions required from Government and other key actors in the development of the Information Society. The terms of reference as outlined at the time of the appointment of the Commission, in particular, mandated the Commission to:

identify quantifiable benchmarks for the development of an Information Society in Ireland and monitor the achievement of these benchmarks on an annual basis. To ask the relevant state agencies, Departments and private sector groups to assist the Commission by providing status reports and evaluations on a regular basis on the development of the Information Society within their areas of responsibility and expertise;

develop and implement awareness programmes itself and in conjunction with relevant state agencies, Departments, and private sector groups, targeted at all sectors of the community on the benefits and opportunities of the Information Society;

recommend measures to increase access to information and communications technologies in homes, schools, businesses and public offices, and particularly measures aimed at those in disadvantaged groups;

establish advisory groups which would highlight specific sectoral issues with respect to the Information Society and develop recommendations for action;

encourage and monitor Information Society initiatives especially at local and regional level in the delivery of public services and information; and

prepare an annual report for submission by the Taoiseach on the Commission's behalf to the Oireachtas.

The first Information Society Commission was established by the Government in May 1997, in response to the Report of Ireland's Information Society Steering Committee: "Information Society Ireland: Strategy for Action", and completed its term of office in December 2000. The Commission provided a forum for representatives from across all sectors to participate in the policy process of Government and therefore was an invaluable contribution to democracy and the democratic process. While it is not possible to put a monetary value on this contribution, there is no doubt that the taxpayer gained considerably from the creation of greater access to a wide sectoral opinion in this crucial policy area.

The Commission submitted three annual reports to Government. It also published a report on Lifelong Learning in the Information Society and a report on IT Access for All. Many of the recommendations contained in these reports were accepted by Government and included in the Government's Action Plan on the Information Society and the Information Society commitments in the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness.

The terms of reference of the National Millennium Committee were to examine and to make recommendations on projects of national significance to be included in the Government's Millennium Programme. It was established in 1998. The Millennium Committee's work was done by April 2000, following the commitment by the Government of Committee funds to the recommended projects. The total amount allocated to the Committee for the Millennium Programme was €30.09 million — all of which was allocated by April 2000.

A small office of four Civil Servants operating within the Department provided the secretariat to the Committee. This Office remained in place until June 2002, when it was abolished, to supervise the drawdown of the allocated funds according to agreed drawdown arrangements. The establishment of this office within the operational confines of the Department allowed for this unique Millennium Programme to be administered in a cohesive, focused fashion. The staffing cost of this Office in 2002 was €132,000. The Board had 13 members at the time of its abolition.

Official Engagements.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

138 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Taoiseach when he will meet with the family of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35077/07]

My officials have been in contact with the family of the person in question and I will meet with the family early in the new year.

National Statistics.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

139 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach the number of cocaine related deaths to date in 2007. [35131/07]

There were 7 deaths registered in the first 3 months of 2007 where the underlying cause of death was cocaine related. There were an additional 7 deaths registered in the first 3 months of 2007 where cocaine use was mentioned on the death certificate but was not the underlying cause of death. Figures for the remainder of 2007 are not yet available.

Departmental Records.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

140 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach if his Department maintains a record of visits by him to the headquarters of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35547/07]

The Department of the Taoiseach is located in Government Buildings, Upper Merrion Street. The Department has no offices elsewhere. No specific record of my attendance in my Department is maintained.

Tax Code.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

141 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the 11% increase in rent relief will have little impact on persons on low incomes who have faced 12% to 20% increases in rents in 2007 and that this is completely out of line with the rates of mortgage relief and therefore further penalises those who cannot afford to own a home; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35055/07]

The available evidence suggests that rents have increased on average by just under 10% over the past year. The increase in rent relief I announced in Budget 2008 is in line with these increases. Rent relief has increased by a cumulative 57% over the past four Budgets. I would point out that expenditure measures are also employed to assist those on lower incomes, many of whom are out of the tax net or paying very low levels of income tax. Over €2.1 billion has been allocated by the Government to social and affordable housing and rent supplements for 2008, compared to an estimated €650 million to mortgage interest relief.

Drug Seizures.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

142 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of boats available to customs officers to assist their efforts to disrupt the supply of illegal drugs into Ireland. [35126/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they work very closely with other Agencies in limiting and attempting to prevent the importation of drugs into the State. In the control of coastal smuggling, the co-operation of the Navy, the Garda Síochána, fishermen's organisations, harbour authorities and of coastal communities is hugely valuable. The Customs responsibility is for the coast itself and coastal waters.

As part of its strategy, Revenue purchased a 23 metre cutter, the RCC Suirbhéir, with full sea-going capability and on board RIB (an inflatable dinghy attached to the back of the cutter). This vessel began active work in 2005, with a specially trained and highly skilled crew of Revenue officials. Since then, it has proved its usefulness in patrolling coastal waters, drug seizures and building stronger ties with coastal communities. It has taken part in several operations, including international operations to track and investigate suspicious vessels. Its role was crucial recently in the recovery of drugs at Dunlough Bay in Cork, and off the Galway coast.

Tax Code.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

143 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the basis on which and by whom CO2 emission levels for pre-owned cars imported after 1 July 2008 will be calculated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35516/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, as outlined in Annex D to the Summary of 2008 Budget Measures, in respect of pre-owned cars imported after 1 July 2008, the CO2 emissions will have to be declared to the Revenue Commissioners on form VRT4 (declaration for registration of a used vehicle) by the person registering the vehicle. The declaration will be required to be supported by documentary evidence of the CO2 emissions. Acceptable documentary evidence (provided the CO2 emissions is shown) will include: the model's Certificate of Conformity, a document which, since 2001, European law has required to contain such information; a previous registration certificate; a National Car Test carried out elsewhere within the EU in compliance with EU Directive 96/96/EU (which makes car testing compulsory in all member states); a certificate from the manufacturer or distributor; a certificate from an organisation approved by the Revenue Commissioners to provide such certificates.

Where a certificate or a measurement is not available or fails to satisfy the Revenue Commissioners, the VRT tax charged could be set at the maximum VRT rate allowable i.e. 36%. Such a VRT rating would be open to appeal through the VRT appeals system. The final details of the system will be outlined in the Finance Bill 2008.

Architectural Heritage.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

144 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his proposals for the restoration, protection and preservation of Connolly’s Folly, Maynooth, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35574/07]

I refer to my reply to question 163 of 10th October, 2007. The scaffolding has since been erected and the structural stability of the Folly is being assessed.

Flood Relief.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

145 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if a survey has been undertaken to determine the potential damage from water saturation of the retaining wall at Dun Carrig, Captains Hill, Leixlip, County Kildare with particular reference to identifying the methodology to provide adequate drainage and therefore prevent any erosion that might lead to danger in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35583/07]

I am advised that the drainage problem in this case does not relate to risk of flooding and does not therefore come within the remit of the Commissioners of Public Works. I understand Kildare County Council is aware of the problem.

Dara Calleary

Question:

146 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the process for the dispersal of the €18 million announced in budget 2008 for flood relief. [34817/07]

The Government has allocated €50 million in 2008, an increase of €18 million over 2007 figures, to assist the Office of Public Works in its role as lead agency in the management of flood risk nationally and the implementation of flood relief works.

Four major flood relief schemes at Clonmel, Mallow, Fermoy and Ennis are expected to be at construction stage by the end of the first quarter of 2008. These four schemes are expected to incur expected expenditure in excess of €20 million in 2008, thereby accounting for the extra allocation next year.

Tax Yield.

Richard Bruton

Question:

147 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will provide details of VRT receipts on both a pre and post-budget basis for 2006 and 2007 and forecast receipts for 2008 to 2010. [34851/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that €1,287 million was received in 2006 and they estimate that €1,420 million VRT will be received in 2007.

The White Paper, Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, published on Saturday 1 December last includes, inter alia, my Department's pre-Budget estimate of tax revenue for 2008. The 2008 pre-Budget estimate for Excise Duties, which includes VRT, was €5,885 million. My Department does not publish a breakdown of the components of Excise Duties.

Table 3 on page E.9. of the Budget book provides the following post-Budget forecasts for Excise Duties: €5,989 million for 2008; €6,210 million for 2009; €6,415 million for 2010.

The Revenue Commissioners produce Post-Budget estimates for VRT. Their post-Budget estimates for VRT for 2006 and 2007, the net receipts for 2006 and the expected net receipts outturns for 2007, together with the forecast for 2008, 2009 and 2010 on a post-Budget basis are set out in the following table.

Year

Post Budget Estimate

Receipts

€m

€m

2006

1,308

1,287

2007

1,538

1,420 (f)

2008

1,388

2009

1,395

2010

1,424

(f) forecast figures for 2007 outturn.

Richard Bruton

Question:

148 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will provide details of receipts from stamp duty forecast for 2008 to 2010 on both a pre and post-budget basis. [34852/07]

The White Paper, Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure for the year ending 31 December, 2008, published on Saturday 1 December includes, inter alia, my Department's pre-Budget estimates of tax revenue for 2008. The pre-Budget forecast for Stamp Duties for 2008 is €2,950 million. My Department has not produced such pre-Budget estimates for later years.

Table 3 on page E.9 of the Budget book provides the following post-Budget forecasts for Stamp Duty: €2,855 million in 2008; €2,975 million in 2009; and €3,120 million in 2010.

Richard Bruton

Question:

149 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the basis for the calculation that the net effect on tax projections from budget 2008 changes would be €661 million additional tax revenues. [34853/07]

Budget day measures have an impact on the economy in that they can result in changes in consumption and investment patterns leading to additional tax revenues. In Budget 2008 the impact of the Budget Measures on tax buoyancy was estimated at €661 million. As is customary, table 7 on page E14 of the Budget book sets out the effects of the implementation of the Budget day tax and expenditure measures on the pre-Budgetary position shown in the White Paper on Receipts and Expenditure.

Departmental Expenditure.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

150 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if his Department, or its agencies has paid in advance for works or services that will not be completed before the end of the 2007 financial year; the reasons for doing so; the amount of the payments; the recipients and the nature of the works or services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34885/07]

My Department's practice is to make payments on foot of mature liabilities only. As such, apart from the usual prepayments in relation to contractual obligations, my Department has not paid in advance for works or services that will not be commenced before the end of the 2007 financial year. I have been informed that this is also the situation in relation to my Department's agencies.

Tax Code.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

151 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on granting a tax exemption to a voluntary group based in Cobh, County Cork whose members operate an emergency response unit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34917/07]

The granting of a charitable tax exemption is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners. In this regard, I am advised by Revenue that the group referred to by the Deputy have not applied for such an exemption.

While all charitable organisations applying for tax exemption require a legal structure and a Governing Instrument, it is not essential that the organisation be a registered company. Full details in relation to the application process (including the application form itself) are contained in information booklet CHY1, Applying for Relief from Tax on the Income and Property of Charities, and can be obtained online at www.revenue.ie or by phoning Lo call 1890 666 333. The completed application with the necessary supporting documentation, should be sent to the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, Charities Section, Government Offices, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary.

In relation to VAT, I would like to explain that charities and non-profit groups engaged in non-commercial activity are exempt from VAT under the VAT Directive, with which Irish VAT law must comply. This means they do not charge VAT on the services they provide and cannot recover VAT incurred on goods and services that they purchase. Essentially only VAT registered businesses which charge VAT are able to recover VAT.

However, the tax code currently provides exemption for charities from Income Tax, Corporation Tax, Capital Gains Tax, Deposit Interest Retention Tax, Capital Acquisitions Tax, Stamp Duty, Probate Tax and Dividend Withholding Tax.

National Development Plan.

Michael Ring

Question:

152 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the steps he will take to ensure a full uptake of the national development plan in the Border midland western regions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34970/07]

Michael Ring

Question:

153 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the plans he has to ensure that the National Development Plan 2007-13 investment envelope will lead to a better balance in economic development over the regions; if he will provide a commitment that the Border midland western region in particular will receive priority for funds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34973/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 152 and 153 together.

Balanced regional development, in line with the National Spatial Strategy, and the development of the rural economy are important horizontal issues in the National Development Plan 2007-2013. The Central Monitoring Committee (CMC) for the NDP has been established to oversee the rollout of the Plan. The inaugural meeting of the CMC took place on the 21st of November 2007. Membership of the Committee includes representatives of all the Regional Assemblies and Authorities.

The NDP also provided for the establishment of a Gateways Innovation Fund with an allocation of €300m over the period 2008-2010. I am pleased to note that this initiative has met with an enthusiastic response, with all 9 Gateways (including the 5 Gateways in the BMW Region) identified in the NSS submitting bids. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and I will bring our recommendations to Government in the new year regarding the allocation of the Fund.

The National Development Plan is a top Government priority, as I confirmed in my recent announcement of Budget 2008. On that occasion, I stated that I am determined to roll out the NDP as planned. The Plan will help transform all regions in the country, both socially and economically, including the Border, Midland and Western Region.

Flood Relief.

Finian McGrath

Question:

154 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the position in relation to a project (details supplied); the amount spent over the past few years; and if work is completed to a satisfactory standard. [34998/07]

The Office of Public Works has been carrying out works on the River Tolka in conjunction with the three local authorities concerned, Dublin City Council, Meath County Council and Fingal County Council, since 2003. The works have been carried out as a result of the recommendations contained in the River Tolka Flooding Report completed in 2003. The Report recommended a number of works from Dunboyne, County Meath to Luke Kelly Bridge in Dublin City which should be undertaken to provide the standard level of protection against a flood with a 1% probability of occurring in any year.

All the works are now practically completed except for some works in Mulhuddart which include the replacement of Mulhuddart Bridge, currently at procurement stage, and the construction of a pumping station in Drumcondra, also at procurement stage.

The OPW has undertaken most of the works directly, some works have been procured by the local authorities, and all have been funded by OPW. The total amount spent since the Report was completed amounts to €15.23 million. OPW also contributed €0.7million in 2002 towards the costs of the Study.

Council Area

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Total to date (Areas)

€M

€M

€M

Dublin City Council

1.18

1.0

1.64

1.18

1.7

6.70

Fingal County Council

0.02

0.7

0.88

0.03

0.5

2.13

Meath County Council

0.75

1.0

1.65

2.60

0.4

6.40

Totals (years)

1.95

2.7

4.17

3.81

2.60

15.23

The Office of Public Works and the local authorities are satisfied that the works undertaken have been completed in a manner which will provide the national standard of protection against flooding, ie protection against a flood event commonly known as the 100 year flood event.

Departmental Agencies.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

155 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the terms of reference, functions and purpose of the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeals; if the agency is still operational; the reason these functions cannot be carried out by his Department; the benefits to the Irish tax-payer gained from the work of the agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35071/07]

The Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal was established by the Minister for Finance under the Disabled Drivers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1989 and is currently regulated by the Department of Finance under the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations, 1994.

The availability of an appeals mechanism is an essential aspect of the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers scheme which provides relief from VAT and Vehicle Registration Tax (up to a certain limit) on the purchase of an adapted car for transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities, as well as relief from excise on the fuel used in the car, up to a certain limit. The disability criteria for these concessions are set out in the 1994 Regulations. In order to qualify for the reliefs under the scheme, an applicant must attain a Primary Medical Certificate, confirming that they are permanently and severely disabled within the strict qualifying criteria set out in the Regulations.

The initial application for a Primary Medical Certificate is made to the Senior Medical Officer of the relevant local Health Service Executive administrative area. A person whose application is refused can appeal the decision to the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal, which may review the decision based on the available medical evidence. The review process carried out by the Board requires medical expertise and, for this reason, a Board consisting of medical practitioners is necessary. Members are appointed by the Minister for Finance on the nomination of the Minister for Health and Children. The Medical Board of Appeal is an independent body whose decision as to eligibility is final.

National Lottery.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

156 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if ministerial or departmental approval was given in 1993 or 1994 of the involvement of the national lottery in discussions with the Sonas consortium relating to a development in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35079/07]

I am informed by my Department that its records do not indicate that approval was sought from or given by either the Minister or the Department in 1993 or 1994 in respect of the involvement of the National Lottery Company in discussions with the Sonas/Ogden Group which was proposing to build a complex in Dublin comprising an international conference centre and a casino.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

157 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if reports of meetings between the national lottery and the Sonas consortium relating to a development in north Dublin were submitted to him in 1993 or 1994; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35080/07]

I am informed by my Department that its records do not indicate that any reports of meetings between the National Lottery Company and the promoters of the Sonas/Ogden development proposal were submitted to the Minister in 1993 or 1994.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

158 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if in 1993 or 1994 he or his Department had knowledge of discussions between the national lottery and the Ogden-Sonas consortium relating to a development in north Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35081/07]

I am informed by my Department that its records indicate that, in August 1994, there was knowledge of discussions between the National Lottery Company and Sonas/Ogden Group. I outlined the background to this in a recent reply (Dáil Question No. 87) answered on 6 December 2007.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

159 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number and dates of meetings which took place in 1993 or 1994 between him and the promoters of the Ogden/Sonas consortium; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35082/07]

I am informed that there are no records on file in my Department of meetings between the Minister and the promoters in question during the period specified. However, the records contain a claim by the then Chief Executive of An Post that his understanding was the Minister had met such a promoter. Also, in a copy on file of a September 1994 letter from the Ogden/Sonas promoters to the Department of the Taoiseach, there is reference to the promoters having made a presentation to members of the Government and officials in March 1994, but the Department of Finance's records give no further information on this.

Flood Relief.

Ulick Burke

Question:

160 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if provision has been made in budget 2008 for the maintenance of the Dunkellin river basin from the estuary through to Killeely, Craughwell to include Aggard, Monksfield and Cregaclare and the Ardrahan area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35089/07]

The Dunkellin River forms part of a Drainage District and maintenance responsibility for this area lies with the Local Authority. However, the Commissioners of Public Works are currently in consultation with the Irish Farmers Association and Galway Co. Council in relation to a programme of maintenance works to relieve flooding on the Dunkellin River from downstream of Killeely to Craughwell. The proposed works are to include a portion of the existing Drainage District in the Aggard, Monksfield and the Ardrahan areas.

The Dunkellin River drains a number of turloughs and is therefore ecologically very sensitive, and the OPW will be consulting with a range of conservation management groups including National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Western Regional Fisheries Board and the Central Fisheries Board. Pending a favourable outcome to this consultation process, it is envisaged that these works will commence in 2008.

Tax Code.

Sean Fleming

Question:

161 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number and value of PAYE refunds made in 2004 and 2005; the years to which these claims applied; the number of claims for each of these years; and the value of these refunds for each of these years. [35177/07]

I understand from the Revenue Commissioners that they are not in a position to provide the information requested by the Deputy within the timescale for issue of a reply to his question. The Commissioners have advised me that they will contact the Deputy directly, and supply the information requested, insofar as it is available.

Michael Creed

Question:

162 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he proposes in the Finance Bill to assist school transport operators who have been adversely affected by the end of the fuel rebate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35269/07]

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.

Flood Relief.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

163 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the reason there is flooding at Cloonfaughna, Glinsk via Castlerea, County Galway on an annual basis during winter; if his attention has been drawn to the tremendous hardship that many families in the locality have to endure, and that the flooding is particularly bad between two particular houses (details supplied) at Cloonfaughna; the steps that have been taken to alleviate this flooding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35299/07]

The channel in the area referred to forms part of the River Suck Joint Drainage District for which Roscommon and Galway County Councils have maintenance responsibility. The Commissioners of Public Works had not been made aware of a flooding problem in this area. If further details are provided an OPW engineer will look into the matter.

Tax Code.

Finian McGrath

Question:

164 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will re-examine a case (details supplied). [35325/07]

I am having this matter re-examined in consultation with the Revenue Commissioners and I will revert to the Deputy as soon as possible.

State Property.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

165 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the use for which the Taoiseach’s residence at Farmleigh is being used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35526/07]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

166 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the cost to date of the Taoiseach’s residence at Farmleigh; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35527/07]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

167 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the status of the Taoiseach’s residence at Farmleigh; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35528/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 165 to 167, inclusive, together.

The Taoiseach does not have a residence at Farmleigh.

Departmental Investigations.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

168 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if will launch an investigation to ascertain the source of the leak that led to details of budget 2008 appearing in a newspaper (details supplied) before he made his budget speech; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35529/07]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

169 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that details of budget 2008 were published in a newspaper (details supplied) prior to his speech in Dáil Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35530/07]

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

I and my Department are fully conscious of the need for secrecy in relation to all Budget matters. That is why, in advance of the Budget, the Secretary General of my Department wrote to the Secretary Generals of all other Government Departments and to the Chairman of the Revenue Commissioners reminding them of the need for absolute secrecy when dealing with papers or issues relating to the Budget. That said it is fair to say that every year there is speculation in the media as to what changes will be announced in the Budget. Some of this speculation will prove to be accurate while some of it will be incorrect. In relation to this year's Budget I do not believe that there is any need to investigate the matter.

Departmental Records.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

170 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if his Department maintain a record of visits by him to the headquarters of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35542/07]

My Department does not keep records in relation to my attendance at the Department's headquarters.

Garda Stations.

Niall Collins

Question:

171 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his plans for the provision of a replacement Garda station (details supplied) in County Limerick; the status of an application by the local community to purchase the old Garda station; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35552/07]

The provision of a new Garda Station at Doon, Co. Limerick is currently under consideration. The position in regard to the old Garda Station will become clear in the context of how it is decided to proceed in regard to the new station.

Compensation Payments.

Niall Collins

Question:

172 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the position regarding compensation claims by persons (details supplied) lodged against the Office of Public Works. [35553/07]

Compensation claims on behalf of the individuals in question have been submitted to the Commissioners of Public Works. Correspondence and discussions have taken place over a number of years between OPW Valuation Staff and the Agricultural Advisor for the people in question but, to date, no agreement on compensation levels has been agreed.

All compensation claims are considered under the relevant provisions of the Arterial Drainage Acts under which damage and benefit to a holding are taken into account. In default of agreement being reached, the claim may be deferred to independent and binding arbitration. I would point out that claimants are also entitled to claim fair and reasonable costs of valuation and legal advice as an element of the damages.

Tax Collection.

Richard Bruton

Question:

173 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to cases where moneys being paid electronically in November to the Revenue Commissioners have not been taken yet by the Revenue; the cause of this problem; and the extent of same. [35634/07]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a debit instruction provided by a customer or his/her agent to Revenue is processed by Revenue where there is consistency between that instruction and customer and account information already provided to Revenue.

In the very limited number of instances where an inconsistency arises, Revenue must resolve the inconsistency before the debit instruction can be processed. To do otherwise could have consequences for taxpayers if, for example, incorrect debits were made.

In November, an inconsistency arose in respect of only twenty-seven instructions valued at €880,000 out of almost 140,000 electronic payments valued at €5 billion in the month. Seventeen of the cases have already been resolved and the remainder are being progressed to resolution by Revenue with the customer or his/her agent.

Departmental Staff.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

174 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if a temporary unestablished civil servant is disqualified from being a member of a local authority or from contesting local elections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35648/07]

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

175 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if a special advisor to a Minister is disqualified from being a member of a local authority or from contesting local elections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35649/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 174 and 175 together.

The Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour (promulgated on 9 September 2004) at Section 5 restated the rules governing civil servants who wish to stand for election to local authorities.

In summary civil servants, established or unestablished, may not involve themselves in politics other than as provided for in the Code. Special advisors to Ministers are exempt from these restrictions. Staff in the industrial grades and clerical officers and their equivalent may be involved in politics in a limited way as set out in the Code.

Section 5 Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour

Civil Servants and Politics

5.1 Restrictions have traditionally been imposed on civil servants engaging in political activity to ensure public confidence in the political impartiality of the Civil Service. This section restates the existing restrictions.

5.2 (a) Civil servants are not permitted to seek a nomination or to stand for election to either House of the Oireachtas or to the European Parliament. This restriction applies to all categories of staff. Civil servants above clerical level cannot stand for local election.

(b) Civil servants in the craft and state industrial related grades are free to engage in politics and may stand for local election. The general restriction in relation to election to either House of the Oireachtas or the European Parliament applies.

(c) Members of the clerical grades in the Civil Service and non-industrial civil servants in grades with salary maxima equal to or below the Clerical Officer maximum may apply to their Department/Office for permission to engage in politics on the same basis as the staff referred to at (b). Officers employed on particular types of work may, at the discretion of departmental management, have their applications refused. In cases where permission would otherwise be refused, Departments/Offices should examine the possibility of moving an officer to a less sensitive area.

(d) All civil servants above clerical level are totally debarred from engaging in any form of political activity.

5.3 Civil servants in category (d) may not engage in public debate (e.g. letter writing to newspapers, contributions to television or radio programmes etc.) on politics, except if required to do so as part of their official duties. This is not intended to change existing practice. Civil servants in category (c) may engage in public debate on politics only with the prior permission of their department/office. These provisions do not preclude publication by civil servants of material on public affairs in accordance with statute or where such publication was authorised by the department/office.

Special Advisors

5.4 The provisions of Paragraphs 5.1 and 5.2 do not apply to the posts of Government Press Secretary, Deputy Government Press Secretary, Assistant Government Press Secretary, and all Ministerial and Attorney General Private Office staff holding temporary unestablished positions and whose tenure is coterminous with that of the relevant Minister/Attorney General (e.g. personal assistants, special advisors, personal secretaries in offices of Ministers and civilian drivers of Ministers of State).

Grant Payments.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

176 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children if he has received a request for funding from a group (details supplied); and if same will be considered in the context of grant aid arrangements. [34923/07]

The Department received a request for funding from this organisation on the 11th December 2007. However as operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004, the correspondence has been forwarded directly to the HSE. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. The Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive have been asked to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Michael McGrath

Question:

177 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if additional home help hours will be provided to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [34822/07]

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

Hospital Services.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

178 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children when the Wrixon report will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34823/07]

I take it that the Deputy is referring to the review of acute hospital services in the HSE South which is being chaired by Prof. Gerry Wrixon. This will identify the appropriate model for acute service provision in Cork and Kerry and will recommend how best to reconfigure acute hospital services in the area to deliver on this model.

I am advised by the HSE that the final draft is currently being reviewed by the Project Team. The review has taken slightly longer than anticipated as its scope was broadened to incorporate community based services and to allow wider consultation with key stake holders.

The publication of the report is a matter for the HSE.

Child Care Services.

Joe Costello

Question:

179 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will respond to the concerns expressed in correspondence (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34833/07]

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

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

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

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 is to 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 have a weekly subvention paid to the service 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 during November and December. This review is now complete and is under consideration by the Government.

Health Services.

James Bannon

Question:

180 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children the core funding she is providing for the Irish Osteoporosis Society to ensure the continuation and expansion of its work. [34842/07]

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.

Cancer Screening Programme.

John O'Mahony

Question:

181 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children if, due to the delay in rolling out BreastCheck in County Mayo, this service will be made available to women aged 65 and over when the service commences; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34863/07]

I officially opened the BreastCheck static unit for the Western Region at University College Hospital Galway yesterday. BreastCheck commenced the screening process in the Western region last May, with the provision of a mobile unit on the grounds of Roscommon County Hospital. The expansion of the BreastCheck programme to the Western region covers counties Mayo, Clare, Donegal, Galway, Leitrim, Roscommon, Sligo and Tipperary North Riding. The screening sequence for roll out to individual counties will be dictated by BreastCheck's operational considerations such as maximising uptake, most efficient use of mobile and static units and radiographic personnel. The Programme is designed to offer repeat screening within an interval of 21-27 months.

The expert advice from BreastCheck and from the National Cancer Forum, as contained in the National Strategy for Cancer Control, is that following the national extension of the programme, the upper age limit should be extended to women aged 69 years. The priority of BreastCheck is to screen women who have not yet been screened and accordingly it is fully focussed at present on the completion of the first round of screening in the West and South. I will consider extending the age limit as recommended when the national roll-out of the programme is sufficiently developed and it is assured that a quality service is being delivered. Any woman irrespective of her age who has immediate concerns or symptoms should contact her GP who, where appropriate, will refer her to the symptomatic services in her area.

Community Development.

Michael McGrath

Question:

182 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the financial supports available from her Department in terms of both start-up costs and running costs for community groups who wish to establish youth cafes in their community. [34875/07]

The launch of the National Recreation Policy in September this year highlighted the Government's commitment to the development of youth cafés.

As the Deputy will be aware there are already a number of youth cafés in operation around the country. Funding for these existing initiatives is provided through local City/County Council and Health Service Executive. In addition, the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs operate a number of relevant funding programmes aimed at supporting community development, locally based community and voluntary groups as well as programmes aimed specifically at supporting projects for disadvantaged youth.

At this stage, my focus is to bring better coherence to the approach taken to date, retaining the strong inter-agency element and identifying an appropriate model(s) for youth cafés for future developments. Since September my office has undertaken a small survey of some of the existing cafés looking at mission/objectives, management and organisation, service levels and the role of young people. I have recently requested the National Children's Advisory Council's advice on the development of a youth café model and research work has been commissioned by the Council in this regard. This work will ensure that funding is targeted and co-ordinated most effectively on a model or models of youth cafés which meet the needs identified by young people themselves. Discussions are underway with my Cabinet colleagues regarding a youth café programme and appropriate funding mechanisms. I am considering which agency could best lead on the programme and how to ensure any funding which might be made available augments, without displacing, the existing inter-agency resources.

Departmental Expenditure.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

183 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children if her Department, or its agencies has paid in advance for works or services that will not be completed before the end of the 2007 financial year; the reasons for doing so; the amount of the payments; the recipients and the nature of the works or services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34887/07]

My Department has not paid in advance for any works or services that will not be completed before the end of 2007.

The position in relation to agencies is a matter for the agencies themselves.

Child Care Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

184 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 133 of 13 November 2007 if he will provide the funding required to ensure that the facility remains open in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34894/07]

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

Further to my reply of 13 November 2007 the application for interim support funding under the NCIP by the Group in question was declined in September 2007 as their application had not demonstrated sufficient ability to efficiently manage and sustain the service from September 2007 and therefore did not meet the requirements of the NCIP interim support scheme. The Group was invited to contact their local City/County Childcare Committee should they wish to apply for funding under the new Community Childcare Subvention Scheme which will come into effect in January 2008. I understand that the Group requested a review of this decision which is under process and the Group will be informed of the outcome shortly.

The interim support scheme under the NCIP was introduced as an interim measure pending the introduction of the new Community Childcare Subvention Scheme, to facilitate Groups which were unable to meet the contractual deadline of December 2006 for funding under the EOCP staffing support scheme.

Health Services.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

185 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 136 of 28 November 2007 the reason no answer has been forthcoming from the Health Service Executive; and if she will arrange for same without delay. [34902/07]

My Department is advised that a reply was issued to the Deputy by the Health Service Executive regarding this matter on the 13th December, 2007.

Victim Support Services.

Simon Coveney

Question:

186 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Government is taking steps to support victims of female genital mutilation here; and if this is already the case if she will explain the steps. [34922/07]

In order to raise awareness of the issue of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) among those who work with immigrant communities, my Department wrote to the former health boards in 2001 and again in 2004 and to the Health Service Executive in February 2007 drawing their attention to the issue of FGM and requesting that personnel, particularly those working with immigrant communities, should be aware of the issue and should educate and inform such communities about the dangers, unacceptability and illegality of FGM.

I understand that the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA), which operates under the aegis of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, has disseminated an information and education booklet entitled "Understanding Female Genital Mutilation". The booklet, published by Comhlámh, is aimed at health professionals and others interested in becoming, or who are already involved in, actions to raise awareness of the issues surrounding the practice and elimination of FGM.

Health Services.

Phil Hogan

Question:

187 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Health and Children when core funding will be allocated to the Irish Osteoporosis Society in order for this charity to continue and expand its vital work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34925/07]

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.

Michael McGrath

Question:

188 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if a treatment will be provided to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [34944/07]

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.

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

Patient Statistics.

Dan Neville

Question:

189 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the percentage of presentations at accident and emergency units having self-harm and attempted suicide under 30 years of age; and the number presenting by people aged less than 50 years. [34959/07]

Dan Neville

Question:

190 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of presentations to hospitals due to deliberate self-harm in 2005 and 2006; the number of persons involved in these presentations; and the percentage of male versus female. [34960/07]

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

A National Registry of Deliberate Self-Harm, which is a national system of population monitoring for the occurrence of deliberate self-harm, has been operating in general hospitals in the Republic of Ireland since 2001 and is managed by the National Suicide Research Foundation.

In each of the years 2005 and 2006, there were approximately 10,900 deliberate self-harm presentations to Accident and Emergency Departments in Ireland made by 8,600 individuals. Women and men accounted for 56% and 44% of all deliberate self-harm presentations, respectively.

Persons under 30 years of age accounted for almost half of all presentations, 46% or 5,000. 87% or 9,500 of the deliberate self-harmpresentations were by persons under 50 years of age.

Departmental Properties.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

191 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children if the State has unfettered ownership of the site occupied by St. Luke’s Cancer Hospital, Rathgar, Dublin 6; if the board of St. Luke’s have a legal say in the future disposal of the land; if there are restrictions on the use of the land; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34967/07]

It is important to note that the transfer of services from St. Luke's Hospital to new facilities at St. James's Hospital is not due to take place for a number of years. In the meantime, two additional linear accelerators will be commissioned at St. Luke's in early 2008 and two replacement linear accelerators will be commissioned later in 2008. These will provide much needed interim capacity pending the roll out of the National Plan for Radiation Oncology.

The decision to transfer services from St. Luke's was taken by the Government in the context of its consideration of the National Plan for Radiation Oncology Services. The decision is based on expert advice and is designed to ensure that radiation oncology is integrated with all other aspects of cancer care, including surgery and medical oncology. This is in line with best international practice. I am convinced that this model will provide better patient centred treatment with improved quality of service and outcome for patients. The Board of St. Luke's Hospital and its Executive Management Team are fully committed to supporting the Government's decision in relation to the development of radiation oncology.

No decisions have yet been taken in relation to the future use of the site and facilities at St. Luke's. However, I intend to ensure that these resources are utilised in the best interest of the health services. I am having enquiries made regarding the legal questions raised by the Deputy in relation to the site and will write to her as soon as possible.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Michael Ring

Question:

192 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a claim under the health repayment scheme will be granted to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [34974/07]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

193 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of claims received under the health repayment scheme; the number of those applications that have been verified to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34975/07]

Michael Ring

Question:

194 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the numbers that have received a payment, of the number of claims verified under the health repayment scheme; and the number that are waiting to be paid under this scheme. [34976/07]

Michael Ring

Question:

195 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of claims, under the health repayment scheme that have been refused to date; the category reason for their refusal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34977/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 193 to 195, inclusive, together.

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

The HSE has informed my Department that since the commencement of the scheme over 33,000 claims have been received and 5,346 payments totalling over €105m have issued. 8,320 offers of repayment, totalling over €160m, have been made.

The HSE has indicated that approximately 40% of applications will be rejected under the scheme and has informed my Department that 5,567 rejection letters have been issued as of 7 December 2007. Of these rejections 2,877 relate to institutions outside the scope of the scheme, 1,603 relate to applications where the relevant person's date of death is prior to 9 December 1998. The remaining rejections are due to miscellaneous factors where, for example, the patient was admitted after 9 December 2004 or where duplicate claims were submitted on behalf of a patient.

Michael Ring

Question:

196 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people who submitted an appeal in relation to the funding offered to them under the health repayment scheme; the average appeal processing time; and the number of appeals that have been successful to date. [34978/07]

The Health Repayment Scheme Appeals Office has indicated to my Department that as of the 7th December 2007 the total number of people who have indicated their intention to appeal under the health repayment scheme is 1,959. However of this figure 895 appeal forms have actually been received. I wish to advise the Deputy that 398 of these relate to the funding offered under the scheme. I understand that 285 appeals have been completed.

Hospital Services.

Noel O'Flynn

Question:

197 Deputy Noel O’Flynn asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will expedite a cataract operation for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny in view of the urgent medical circumstances of the patient. [34982/07]

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.

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

Noel O'Flynn

Question:

198 Deputy Noel O’Flynn asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will expedite a hip operation for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny in view of the medical circumstances of the patient. [34983/07]

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.

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

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

199 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if transport will be provided to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [34988/07]

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.

Disabled Drivers.

Finian McGrath

Question:

200 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5 will be assisted. [34995/07]

The Deputy should be aware that the Primary Medical Certificate is a requirement of the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme which the Department of Finance has statutory responsibility for. I would like to bring the Deputy's attention to two schemes administered by the Health Service Executive (HSE): the Motorised Transport Grant and the Mobility Allowance.

The HSE may pay a Motorised Transport Grant towards the purchase of a vehicle and/or adaptations to a vehicle being purchased by a person with a severe disability who is 17 years or older and under 66 years of age, where a vehicle is essential for him or her to retain employment. From 1st January 2008 the maximum personal rate is €5,020.50.

A Mobility Allowance is payable by the HSE, subject to a means test, to persons with a severe disability. Applicants must be 16 years or older and under 66 years. The allowance provides financial support to eligible people who are unable to walk or use public transport and is intended to enable them to benefit from a change in surroundings — for example, by financing the occasional taxi journey. From 1st January 2008 the maximum rate of Mobility Allowance is €202 per month. For both schemes applicants should apply to their local HSE office.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Finian McGrath

Question:

201 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the additional financial provisions provided by her Department from the 2008 Estimates and budget for the care and support costs for voluntary housing associations providing sheltered housing for older people, following the previous finance provided for an additional €1 million for the combined years of 2006 and 2007 that she previously announced as part of the care package for older people in November 2005; her views on whether the current financial commitment of less than €2 million for the whole country or €1 per day for an older person living in sheltered housing represents a real commitment providing support for the care costs in sheltered housing; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34997/07]

Government policy in relation to older people is to support people to live in dignity and independence in their own homes and communities for as long as possible and, where this is not possible, to support access to quality long-term residential care. This policy approach is renewed and developed in the latest partnership agreement, Towards 2016.

The focus in Budget 2008 was to ensure continued improvements in the key area of community and home-based services. In this regard an additional package of €22m has been allocated for community initiatives including an additional €1.1m allocated to progress the development of sheltered housing for older people.

The Deputy may be aware that earlier this year the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government established a Cross Departmental Team on Sheltered Housing, involving the Department of Health and Children, the HSE, Office for Social Inclusion and the local authorities. The Cross Departmental Team will, in conjunction with the Office of the Minister for Older People, develop and oversee policy in relation to sheltered housing provision for older people and agree protocols for integrated management and delivery of housing and related care services. The establishment of the Cross Departmental Team forms part of an overall strategic response to the housing needs of older people, as outlined in the Government's Housing Policy Statement, Delivering Homes, Sustaining Communities, which was published earlier this year.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

John Perry

Question:

202 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will intercede with the Health Service Executive to ensure that a person (details supplied) in County Sligo receives their long stay patient repayment; if she will not defer the answer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35014/07]

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.

Decentralisation Programme.

Frank Feighan

Question:

203 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Health and Children further to her reply to Parliamentary Question No. 56 of 19 November 2007, the date on which an applicant for a transfer (details supplied) from the Department of Social and Family Affairs to the General Registrars Office of her Department in Roscommon was put on a priority list on CAF; and their current number on the priority list. [35018/07]

As stated in my response on 29th November 2007 (PQ reference number 31761/07) my Department has been advised by the Department of Finance who manage the Central Applications Facility that the individual concerned in addition to a number of other officers has a priority application on CAF for the General Register Officer (GRO), Roscommon. My Department has been advised by the Department of Finance that all such applicants are given preference for available posts based on agreements previously reached with relevant trade unions as follows: first preference will be given to staff currently serving in posts being decentralised; second preference will be given to staff serving at the same grade in other posts in the same Department, Office or organisation; third preference will be given to staff on existing transfer lists, including both internal and inter-Departmental transfer lists; fourth preference will be given to staff serving in the same or equivalent grade on the basis of seniority in the grade.

As the person concerned has not applied to be included on this Department's Central Transfer List to the General Register Office, Roscommon they do not have priority over other priority applicants who are on the Central Transfer List. Therefore the person concerned would be placed under category four above. Where a person is on a particular list is also dependent on whether or not those ahead of them accept or reject a post offered in line with the agreements previously mentioned. As this is not usually known until such time as offers of posts are made to individuals it is not possible to determine this particular individual's place on the priority list. The Deputy may wish to note that responsibility for the GRO will transfer from my Department to the Department of Social and Family Affairs on the 1st January 2008.

Hospital Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

204 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive a date for surgery for a knee replacement operation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35045/07]

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

Health Services.

James McDaid

Question:

205 Deputy James McDaid asked the Minister for Health and Children the allocation of funding by the Health Service Executive to people with Asperger’s syndrome; the budget of the HSE in the north west allocated towards Asperger’s syndrome; and the services in place in the north west for people with Asperger’s syndrome. [35060/07]

As part of the Multi Annual Investment Programme under the Disability Strategy, the Government provided the Health Service Executive an additional €75m in 2007. This funding included monies to provide new residential, respite and day places and also for the continuation of the implementation of the transfer of persons with intellectual disability from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements. The Government is also honouring its promise in relation to the Multi Annual Investment Programme for people with disabilities, with a further €50m investment in which was announced in the 2008 Budget.

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.

Joe Costello

Question:

206 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7 has received a bill from a debt collection agency for dental treatment carried out on a minor over five years ago; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35087/07]

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

Health Service Staff.

Tom Hayes

Question:

207 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children when the freeze on recruiting staff will end; the way the situation is impacting on the South Tipperary General Hospital; and if the particular circumstances for that hospital, whereby they are already short-staffed, has been taken into account. [35090/07]

The current pause on the recruitment of additional staff is a temporary measure initiated as part of the Health Service Executive financial break-even plan. Of course, in any instance where a critical or essential vacancy arises it may be filled through redeployment of existing staff by the Line Manager or re-assignment of responsibilities based on an assessment of the priority of need.

Notwithstanding this, the Health Service Executive recognises that there are some circumstances where the appointment of staff may be necessary in frontline services. Accordingly, a process has been put in place to evaluate, monitor and approve requests for derogation from the general recruitment pause. A small group has been established including a representative of the National Hospitals Office, PCCC and other Directorates of the HSE and this group meets regularly to consider such applications. Of the applications for derogation received to date, 860 WTEs (wholetime equivalents) have been approved where posts have been identified as critical to service delivery.

I have been advised by the Health Service Executive that the recruitment pause will continue for December 2007 and the current arrangement will be reviewed prior to the end of the year. It is intended that a robust employment control framework will continue to be applied to services in 2008.

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 of South Tipperary General Hospital raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

208 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a person (details supplied) in County Laois, when referred from Portlaoise Hospital to Dublin for an urgent ultrasound, was told that they would have to wait up to four months before they could be seen; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35110/07]

My Department is advised that a reply issued to the Deputy by the Health Service Executive regarding this matter on 17th December 2007.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Michael Ring

Question:

209 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive payment under the health repayment scheme; and when this money will be awarded. [35116/07]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

210 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a claim under the health repayment scheme will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [35117/07]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

211 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when payment will be made on a claim under the health repayment scheme to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [35118/07]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

212 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied in County Mayo will be notified of the decision on their claim under the health repayment scheme. [35119/07]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

213 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive payment under the health repayment scheme. [35120/07]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

214 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive payment under the health repayment scheme. [35121/07]

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.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

215 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children when BreastCheck is expected to be rolled out to County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35123/07]

I officially opened the static unit for the Southern Region at the South Infirmary/Victoria Hospital in Cork yesterday. BreastCheck commenced the screening process in the Southern region in October. The expansion of the BreastCheck programme to the Southern region covers counties Kerry, Limerick, Cork, Waterford and Tipperary South Riding. The screening sequence for roll out to individual counties will be dictated by BreastCheck's management and operational considerations such as maximising uptake, most efficient use of mobile and static units and radiographic personnel. The Programme is designed to offer repeat screening within an interval of 21-27 months.

Drugs-related Deaths.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

216 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of cocaine related deaths to date in 2007. [35130/07]

There are no official statistics on the number of cocaine related deaths to date in 2007. In general there is a minimum 6 month delay between a person dying and an inquest into the death. The General Mortality Register, the main source of information on drug–related deaths prior to the establishment of the National Drug Related Deaths Index in 2005, shows that the number of cocaine-only deaths was 2 in 2002, 1 in 2003 and 9 in 2004 — the latest year for which data are available.

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

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

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

Retrospective work done to date on the index indicates that there were 14 cocaine-related deaths in 2002 compared to 7 in 2001 and 5 in each of the years 1998-2000. Of the 14 deaths in 2002, 12 were of known drug users and 11 involved more than one drug. Eleven of those who died were living in the Dublin area. Incomplete data for 2003 shows 4 cocaine-related deaths but data collection is Dublin is not yet completed.

The data presented above from the National Drug Related Deaths Index includes statistics from the coroner's service on "sudden and unexpected deaths with positive drug toxicology or a history of drug dependency". This data is extracted from closed coroner files. Files may not be closed for a period of time due to a number of reasons such as awaiting toxicology results, pathology results, Garda reports and delay in criminal court proceedings. These processes must be complete before an inquest is held and the file closed. For example, for some deaths which occurred in 2003 the inquest was held in 2005. This indicates that there may be up to a 2 year delay before the cause of death is ascertained and the file is closed.

A steering committee, co-chaired by the Department of Health and Children and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform provides general and technical advice on the development of the National Drug Related Death Index. The first report from the Index will be available in late 2008.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

217 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo and will be provided with home help by the Health Service Executive. [35160/07]

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.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

218 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of money spent in 2007 on privately operated home care provision the amount to be spent in 2008 under this heading; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35167/07]

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.

Pat Breen

Question:

219 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with an appointment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35168/07]

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Question:

220 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of places provided in 2006 for people with an intellectual disability; the services where people were placed; and the number of people who came off waiting lists as a result of these new places. [35181/07]

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

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

Cancer Incidence.

Finian McGrath

Question:

221 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an issue (details supplied). [35182/07]

I understand that the National Cancer Registry issued a response on 5 March 2007 to the Deputy's question of 20 February 2007.

Health Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

222 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children if assistance will be given to a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35185/07]

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.

Medical Cards.

Michael Creed

Question:

223 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that all cancer patients are entitled to a medical card. [35271/07]

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.

The HSE has indicated that applications from persons with a serious illness have been and will continue to be dealt with in as sensitive and compassionate a manner as possible, taking into account the needs of the applicant during what is a very difficult and stressful time for them and their families.

Alcohol Consumption.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

224 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans, she has to ensure that alcohol consumption will be reduced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35298/07]

My Department supports the view that the level of alcohol consumption in a population is an important determinant of health and disease. Therefore, alcohol policy must take into account the total drinking population when defining the scope of public health action as well as targeting high-risk groups and individual high-risk drinkers. Policies to reduce harmful use of alcohol reach far beyond the realm of health and involve such sectors as, fiscal policy, trade, agriculture, education and employment, thus falling within the responsibilities of numerous Governmental agencies and organizations.

The Strategic Task Force on Alcohol (STFA), which was established in January 2002, published two reports which together provide approximately 100 recommendations across a wide range of sectors. These recommendations are consistent with the measures identified by the World Health Organisation as being effective in reducing alcohol consumption in a population. When used appropriately and together the following strategies can lead to a reduction in overall consumption of alcohol across the population:

regulating and restricting alcohol availability;

reducing the demand for alcohol through taxation and pricing mechanisms;

regulating the marketing of alcoholic beverages, (in particular those practices that influence younger people);

implementing appropriate drink-driving policies;

implementing screening programmes and brief interventions against hazardous and harmful use of alcohol and

providing easily accessible and affordable treatment services for people with alcohol-use disorders.

My Department is maintaining a coordinating role in relation to alcohol policy and is continuing to pursue implementation of measures that will protect public health. I will continue to work with my Ministerial colleagues in those Government Departments which can make a significant contribution to the implementation of measures that would reduce alcohol consumption and reduce alcohol-related harm in this country.

Long-Term Illness Scheme.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

225 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children if there are proposals to change the terms of the long term illness scheme; if so, the reasons for the changes; her views on the matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35306/07]

Sean Fleming

Question:

243 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Health and Children the proposed changes in respect of the long-term illness scheme; the way it will affect patients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35554/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 225 and 243 together.

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

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

226 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a case (details supplied) a priority. [35326/07]

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

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

John Perry

Question:

227 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will intercede with the Health Service Executive to ensure that long stay patient repayments are made to a person (details supplied) in County Sligo as soon as possible; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35333/07]

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.

Disabled Drivers.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

228 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on awarding primary medical certificates to disabled and handicapped persons; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35340/07]

As the Deputy should be aware, the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) regulations, 1994 were drawn up by the Minister for Finance and come under the remit of the Department of Finance. The Department of Health and Children has no statutory responsibility for the regulations or their operation. To qualify, a person must meet the medical criteria specified in the regulations to the scheme which are not set by the Department of Health and Children. The senior area medical officer within the relevant Health Service Executive region will issue a primary medical certificate if he/she is satisfied that the applicant fulfils the medical criteria set out in the Department of Finance's Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) regulations.

Medical Cards.

Jack Wall

Question:

229 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who is the holder of a medical card is entitled to dentures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35351/07]

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

Health Services.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

230 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the high prevalence of osteoporosis here and the valuable work in providing information and support carried out by the Irish Osteoporosis Society, she will give positive consideration to providing care funding for this organisation on a mutiannual basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35355/07]

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.

National Health Strategy.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

231 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress of the working group on eligibility for healthcare; and when she will publish its report. [35367/07]

My Department is currently reviewing eligibility with a view to clarifying and updating the present provisions relating to eligibility for health and personal social services. The eligibility review is being carried out by a team in the Department rather than by way of a working group. The intention is to bring forward legislation which will define specific health and personal social services more clearly; set out who should be eligible for what services, as well as criteria for eligibility; establish when and in what circumstances charges may be made and provide for an appeals framework. It is expected that the legislation will be published in 2008.

Drugs Payment Scheme.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

232 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children when the changes she announced as part of budget 2008 in relation to the increase in the monthly threshold for the drugs payment scheme will take effect. [35369/07]

The appropriate statutory instrument is currently being prepared and it is planned that the increase in the monthly threshold for the drugs payment scheme will take effect from 1 January 2008.

Health Insurance.

Sean Fleming

Question:

233 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of payments by private health insurance companies to public hospitals in respect of private patients on a hospital basis for 2006; and the annual operating budget for each of these hospitals. [35377/07]

The information sought by the Deputy relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services which is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Child Abuse.

Finian McGrath

Question:

234 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that all adults and children with disabilities are protected following the Galway abuse report; if she will ensure that they have a safe and caring place; and if she will make this a priority in 2008. [35380/07]

My Department has, over the years, developed a number of protocols and procedures sometimes in conjunction with other relevant bodies, in identifying, preventing and dealing with child abuse in all its various forms. These protocols include: Report of the Committee on Non Accidental Injury to Children (1976); Memorandum on Non Accidental Injury to Children (1977); Guidelines on the Identification and Management of Non-Accidental Injury to Children (1980); Non Accidental Injury to Children (Revised 1983); Child Abuse guidelines (1987); Child Care Act, 1991; UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (ratified 1992); Guidelines on recruitment and selection of staff in the health services (1994 & 1995); Notification of Suspected Cases of Child Abuse between Health Boards and Garda (1995); Putting Children First — A discussion document on Mandatory Reporting (1996); Putting Children First — Promoting and Protecting the Rights of Children (1997); Protections for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act (1998); Children First — National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (1999); Trust in Care — Guidelines for Dealing with Allegations of Abuse in Health Care Institutions (2005); Our Duty to Care — The principles of good practice for the protection of children & young people (2002); Stay Safe Programme for Primary Schools; Child Care Regulations (1995 and 1996).

The protection of children and vulnerable adults from abuse has always been a priority for my Department. Under the Health Act, 2007, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) will have power to set standards and to inspect residential facilities. As HIQA prepares for this role, I have asked the HSE to take all possible action to ensure the quality and safety of these services.

The HSE has published Guidelines for the Provision of Residential Services for Young People with Disabilities. Over the coming months, the HSE will roll out a Service Review System to support service providers in implementing the quality criteria contained in the Guidance document. In addition, the HSE is arranging for changes to the Service Level Agreements that it has with the disability service providers to enable it to review the quality and safety of the service which it funds.

Alan Shatter

Question:

235 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children the action the Government proposes taking to implement the recommendation contained in the report published on 11 December 2007 into services provided by the Brothers of Charity in Galway and the physical and sexual abuse of intellectually disabled children in the period 1965 to 1998 in institutions run by the Brothers; the reason there was an unaccountable delay of eight years in the publication of the report; and her views on whether the report is comprehensively addressing allegations raised in the circumstances in which just 21 victims of alleged abuse were interviewed although 135 residents in Brothers of Charity institutions have sought compensation through the Redress Board. [35384/07]

On Tuesday 11 December 2007, the HSE published a report into allegations of physical and sexual abuse in the Brothers of Charity services in Galway, at the Holy Family School and Woodlands Residential Service at Renmore, Galway City and Kilcornan Residential Services, Clarinbridge, Co. Galway.

The Inquiry was established in 1999 when the Western Health Board and An Garda Síochána became aware of allegations of abuse within the Brothers of Charity Services. Allegations were made in respect of a period between 1965 and 1998 by 21 clients at the Renmore and Kilcornan services against 18 people. 11 were members of the Brothers of Charity congregation, 4 were lay staff and 3 were former service users.

There was a serious delay in completing the report. It was initiated by the former Western Health Board in 1999 and no report was finalised until now. The HSE has apologised to the victims and their families for this delay. Dr Kevin McCoy, retired Chief Inspector of Social Services in Northern Ireland, was commissioned in May 2006 to finalise the report. The report details terrible abuse suffered by some of the most vulnerable members of society. It is further evidence of how some of the most vulnerable people in society were badly let down in the past.

On behalf of the Government, I reiterate the Taoiseach's formal apology to all those affected by abuse in institutions operated or funded by the State, including the Brothers of Charity Services, Galway. The HSE has advised me that the original Inquiry Team acted promptly in 2000 by notifying An Garda Síochána of all allegations of abuse and relaying all files and cases to them. I understand that two of those who are the subject of complaints received a conviction. The former Western Health Board at the time and the HSE have worked closely with the Brothers of Charity in offering immediate support for those affected, follow-up for each individual client now using the service, and follow-up for service users generally. In relation to the number of cases investigated, it is important to bear in mind that only those who made formal complaints could be dealt with individually by the inquiry. While we understand that others may have applied for redress under the Redress Board Scheme, their confidentially must be respected. I understand that agreement had been reached between the HSE and the Federation of Voluntary Bodies to develop a programme to close all institutional/campus style residential services for people with disabilities and to relocate them to more appropriate community settings. I should say that the Woodlands Residential Centre was closed in 1984, and the Kilcornan Residential Centre is in the process of being closed; residents will be relocating to more appropriate accommodation in the community as soon as possible.

I also understand that agreement has been reached with the Federation of Voluntary Bodies to carry out a comprehensive national audit and review of client protection issues within disability services. A number of important issues have been highlighted by the publication of this report.

I consider that the delay in preparing this report is totally unacceptable. The HSE has already apologised individually to each complainant and did so again on the day when the report was published. At the request of the Department of Health and Children, the HSE is developing protocols for the management of all future inquiries of this kind. In addition, I am arranging to have an immediate inquiry carried out by an independent person into the causes of the delay in preparing this report. The person will be asked to report to me as quickly as possible.

I am committed to ensuring that all residential facilities for people with a disability are independently monitored and inspected by the Health Information and Quality Authority. HIQA has commenced work on standards for designated residential centres for people with a disability which will form the basis for statutory regulations and inspections. In the meantime, I have asked the HSE to take all possible action to ensure the quality and safety of these services. The HSE recently published a formal guidance document on residential facilities for children, and will do so in respect of adults early in 2008. The HSE will be making it a condition of funding under its Service Level Agreements that the contractual arrangements between the HSE and agencies that provide disability service will include, for the first time, quality and safety measures to ensure that the users of a service can enjoy a rewarding and safe experience to which they are entitled.

Adoption Services.

John Cregan

Question:

236 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children if applications to the Health Service Executive by persons (details supplied) to foster children will be expedited in view of the extenuating circumstances involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35395/07]

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

Pharmacy Regulations.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

237 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if a drug (details supplied), available under special licence in the UK and elsewhere, for pain relief for those suffering from multiple sclerosis will be made available on prescription here; and if not, the reason for same. [35508/07]

My Department is aware that Sativex is a cannabis based product and that claims have been made in respect of cannabis based products and their possible benefits for patients suffering from certain conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis.

Applications for Marketing Authorisations for medicinal products are made to the Irish Medicines Board (IMB). On receipt of an application, the IMB assesses the quality, safety and efficacy data submitted and judges if the benefits of the product outweigh the risk for the proposed indication. If the benefits are deemed to outweigh the risks then the product is normally granted an authorisation.

The current legal position in relation to cannabis is that it is a Schedule 1 controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 which means that it has no recognised medical use under the law. Under Section 13(1) of the MDA 1977, the manufacture, production, preparation, sale, supply (including administration), distribution and possession of cannabis is unlawful except for the purposes of research. Licences may only be granted for the purposes of research, forensic analysis or as an essential intermediate or starting material in an industrial manufacturing process. Licences may also be granted in the case of certain low Tetrahydrocannabinol plant varieties of Cannabis for the growing of hemp.

Approval was granted a number of years ago for a clinical trial into the use of a cannabis based medicinal extract in controlling cancer related pain but the trial never took place. As the law currently stands, it would not be possible for a cannabis extract to be licensed here for medical use or for a General Practitioner to prescribe it. There are currently no plans to change the law in this regard. The IMB has confirmed that no application for a Marketing Authorisation has been made in respect of Sativex.

General Practitioner Contract.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

238 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the impact that recent decisions by the Competition Authority to prohibit negotiations between the Government, or its agencies and trade associations, representatives groups of the self-employed and so on, has had on the progress in agreeing a new general practitioner contract; her further views on legislative changes in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35531/07]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

239 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will report on the progress being made in agreeing a new general practitioner contract; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35532/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 238 and 239 together.

A review of the contractual arrangements for the provision of general practitioner services commenced in 2005 under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission. However, in the course of 2006 and 2007 both the Health Service Executive and my Department have received legal advice which identifies significant competition and procurement law issues such that it is not permissible to develop contracts for service and the associated fee arrangements on a negotiated basis. These matters are governed by both European Union and national competition law.

In the light of the detailed legal advice obtained, my Department is at present working, in consultation with relevant Government Departments and with the HSE, to devise appropriate new arrangements for the development and the pricing of contracts for the provision of health services, including the GMS general practitioner contract. It is my wish that, once these arrangements have been finalised, the development of a new GMS GP contract should be progressed as a matter of urgency by the HSE with a view to putting in place contractual arrangements which will facilitate the delivery of general practitioner services as a key and integral component of a modern primary care service.

Departmental Records.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

240 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children if her Department maintain a record of visits by her to the headquarters of her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35544/07]

There is no reason for my Department to maintain a record of my visits to Hawkins House. I can inform the Deputy that it is my practice to conduct my official business from my Leinster House office when the House is in session, and from my office in the Department at all other times.

Hospital Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

241 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children when a knee replacement operation will take place at Orthopaedic Hospital, Croom, County Limerick for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [35549/07]

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

Question No. 242 withdrawn.
Question No. 243 answered with QuestionNo. 225.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Sean Fleming

Question:

244 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Health and Children the payments to date under the long stay charges repayment scheme; and the amount of this that has been lodged to patients’ accounts which are administered by Health Service Executive staff on behalf of patients. [35555/07]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has responsibility for administering the health repayment scheme in conjunction with the appointed scheme administrator KPMG/McCann Fitzgerald. The HSE has informed my Department that since the commencement of the scheme over 33,000 claims have been received and 5,346 payments totalling over €105m have issued. 8,320 offers of repayment, totalling over €160m, have been made.

The HSE have informed me that to date over €56.5m has been lodged to patients private property accounts administered by Health Service Executive staff on behalf of patients.

Sean Fleming

Question:

245 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Health and Children the level of administration fees being charged for the management of patients’ funds in bank accounts which are the proceeds of the long stay charges repayment scheme and weekly State or other pensions of the patient; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35556/07]

Regulations allowing the HSE to impose a charge for the administration of patient property accounts came into effect on 11 September 2007. This administration charge will be used to offset the costs of a central investment unit to invest money held in these accounts with the National Treasury Management Agency and the associated external audit fees. The administration charge will be limited to 25% of interest earned, so the client's principal sum and the majority of the interest earned will not be affected. The service associated with the operation of these accounts locally will continue to be provided without any administration charge. To date the HSE has not raised charges under these Regulations, but it is preparing to do so.

Health Services.

Sean Fleming

Question:

246 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason it takes so long to issue post-mortem and autopsy results from the Health Service Executive, Pathology Department, Midlands, Regional Hospital, Tullamore in respect of patients who died in the hospital; and her views on whether this delay is acceptable as the coroner can not issue a death certificate until these reports are received. [35557/07]

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

Pharmacy Regulations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

247 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children her recent proposals to resolve the ongoing dispute with the pharmacists with particular reference to the need to enter into open-ended discussions with the pharmacists union; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35584/07]

To address concerns expressed by the Irish Pharmaceutical Union (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. Any new process would have to be consistent with competition law. There is ongoing engagement between the IPU and the Health Service Executive (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.

Child Care Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

248 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has received correspondence from a centre (details supplied) in County Kildare or on behalf of parents whose children are attending same in relation to the loss of staffing grant and new subvention scheme; her plans to address this issue in early date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35596/07]

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

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

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

With the closure of the EOCP in December 2007, to continue to support community child care services to provide affordable child care to disadvantaged parents, the Community Child care Subvention Scheme (CCSS) is being introduced from January 2008 under the Exchequer funded National Child care Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP), the successor programme to the EOCP. The CCSS has been allocated €153 million over the next 3 years, representing a 16% increase in funding over the EOCP staffing scheme, and will continue to support community child care services to provide reduced child care fees for disadvantaged parents, complementing the universal supports in place for all parents. Under the new scheme, it will be possible to ensure that the level of grant aid which individual services qualify for will reflect the actual level of service they provide and the profile of the parents benefiting from their service. As part of their application for funding under the new scheme, services are required to ask parents using their services to complete a simple declaration form which is to 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 have a weekly subvention paid to the service 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 child care service. However, as community not-for-profit services will, generally, have availed of capital grant aid under the EOCP or NCIP removing the requirement to cover rent or a mortgage, and as the services are run on a not-for-profit basis, this should still be significantly below the market price.

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

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

Transitional arrangements have been made under which existing grant recipients will continue to be funded at their current levels until 1st July 2008. This is to ensure that existing child care services are facilitated to adjust to the new scheme, including making any adjustments necessary to their fee structures. As signalled when I announced the new scheme in July this year, the transitional period between now and 1 July 2008 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 during November and December. This review is now complete and is under consideration by the Government.

I am also pleased to advise the Deputy that the Group in question has applied to enter the new scheme and a letter has issued from the Child care Directorate of my Office requesting them to forward outstanding information. When this is received a letter of approval for transitional funding under the NCIP Community Child care Subvention Scheme (CCSS) will issue. This funding will, for the first six months of 2008, be based on the level of funding currently being provided to the Groups 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.

Health Services.

Enda Kenny

Question:

249 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children the allocation to be made to the Irish Osteoporosis Society in 2008 in view of the work they do; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35637/07]

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

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Dan Neville

Question:

250 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will be taking applications for claims from patients who were in private nursing homes in the same way as she is accepting applications for claims from people who were in public nursing homes under the Health Repayment Scheme (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35645/07]

The Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006 provides a clear legal framework to repay recoverable health charges for publicly funded long term residential care. All those fully eligible persons who were wrongly charged and are alive will have their charges repaid in full. The estates of all those fully eligible persons who were wrongly charged for publicly funded long term residential care and died since 9 December 1998 will have the charges repaid in full. The scheme does not allow for repayments to the estates of those who died prior to that date. Recoverable health charges are charges which were imposed on persons with full eligibility under the Health (Charges for In-patient Services) Regulations 1976 as amended in 1987 or charges for in-patient services only, raised under the Institutional Assistance Regulations 1954 as amended in 1965. It is not my intention to extend the parameters of the health repayment scheme.

Irish Blood Transfusion Service.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

251 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the strategic goals for the Irish Blood Transfusion Service over the next five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35651/07]

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) published a Strategic Plan in 2005 for the period 2005-2009. It is in the process of reviewing that Plan and will publish a revised version in 2008. The following are the high level strategic goals of the IBTS over the next five years.

To provide a consistent and safe blood supply,

To build a new state of the art facility in Cork that will meet the highest standards of safety and quality,

To continually monitor emerging viruses and implement strategies to prevent transmission of viruses,

To keep abreast of the development of a test for the detection of vCJD and to take whatever steps are necessary to minimise the risk of this disease being transmitted,

To implement pro-active measures to prevent the transmission of disease, i.e. pathogen inactivation technologies,

To restructure the operation of donation clinics which will ensure that the IBTS recruits and retains sufficient donors to meet hospital demands,

To ensure that the IBTS recruits, trains and develops the staff with the appropriate levels of expertise and knowledge that will enable it to provide a world class transfusion service,

To ensure that the IBTS is at the leading edge of implementing new technologies, and

To provide a cost effective and efficient service.

The IBTS continually review its goals to ensure that it dealing with the priority issues in blood transfusion.

Coast Guard Service.

Liz McManus

Question:

252 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Transport if he will reconsider the decision to downgrade the marine stations at Valencia and Malin Head; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35505/07]

Joe McHugh

Question:

258 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport his views on making an application under the Interreg programme for the upgrade of the Malin coastguard station; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35046/07]

Joe McHugh

Question:

259 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport the reason a report carried out by senior coast guard executives in 2006 is not available under the Freedom of Information Act 1997; the reason this report is being kept from the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35047/07]

Joe McHugh

Question:

260 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport the amount it will cost to carry out the proposal to build two new coast guard stations; the cost of upgrading the existing centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35048/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 252 and 258 to 260, inclusive, together.

As the Deputies are aware I have recently confirmed that new equipment should be procured to operate two fully manned marine rescue centres. I have also confirmed that locating one on the east coast and one on the west coast is the preferred option and that the east coast centre should be co-located with the HQ of the Irish Coast Guard and Maritime Administration. The east coast location is part of the Decentralisation Programme and the costs will be met as part of that Programme. The Office of Public Works is not yet in a position to finalise the cost of the relocation.

In relation to the west coast I consider that the site should provide an infrastructural and technically robust location and also be situated where all the staff at the centre will be encouraged to live within close proximity to enable them to be called on in an emergency. The Centres should be within a reasonable distance of each other to facilitate resilience and mutual support in the event of the loss of one centre, facilitate staff training and development and reduce associated costs. I have not yet decided where the location should be. The work to determine the best west coast site is in progress and the costs involved will be part of that process. The option of exploring funding such as Interreg Programme funding does not arise at present.

The existing centres at Malin and Valentia will not be closed or be disposed of as IRCG locations. The Stations will remain manned and details of what functions will be run from them have yet to be completed.

In relation to staff, I want to restate my deeply held appreciation of the work done by those working in these centres today. I do not want to, nor do I intend to lose the emergency management expertise that has been developed and indeed I am determined to ensure that it is retained for future generations. At an individual level, no one will lose their job in this process. Nor will they be forced to move to new locations. This presents challenges, as it does in the decentralisation programme, but they are challenges that are being discussed with the staff involved and that will be overcome in consultation with them. I am not aware of a report on this subject carried out by senior Coast Guard executives in 2006.

Light Rail Project.

Finian McGrath

Question:

253 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding a project (details supplied) in Dublin 9. [34857/07]

The Railway Procurement Agency is responsible for the delivery of Metro North. In February 2006 public consultation on the preferred alignment for Metro North got underway and in October of that year my predecessor announced the preferred alignment selected by the RPA. Since then the RPA has undertaken significant detailed design work and engaged extensively with local communities and businesses, in particular, with residents and interested parties in the Drumcondra area. The views expressed during this consultation played a significant role in the selection of a revised alignment through Drumcondra in October this year.

The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Metro North project will set out the likely significant environmental effects associated with the project, both in construction and in operation, and the appropriate actions to ensure that these effects are mitigated. At present the relevant environmental assessments are being completed. These include an assessment of the impacts on human beings, including a health assessment, as a result of the construction and operation of Metro North.

Following completion of the Environmental Impact Statement, the Agency hopes to be in a position to lodge an application for a railway order to An Bord Pleanála early next year. The railway order, where granted by An Bord Pleanála, will determine the final alignment for Metro North. Subject to the grant of an enforceable railway order the RPA plans to commence construction of the project in 2009. I have been advised that the RPA is in on-going discussions with the Board of Management of Corpus Christi School to ensure all of their concerns are addressed.

Rail Network.

John O'Mahony

Question:

254 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Transport his plans to upgrade the Dublin to Westport rail service; the status of this service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34866/07]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 507 of 26 September 2007 which was as follows:

The provision of services on the Dublin to Westport line is a matter for Iarnród Éireann. However, I understand that the resignalling works on the Westport and Ballina lines have recently been completed. I have also been informed by the company that they intend to introduce new rolling stock on the service in late 2008 and that this will result in an increase in the daily frequency of service on the line from the current level of three services each way to five services each way.

The position remains the same.

Departmental Expenditure.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

255 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport if his Department, or its agencies has paid in advance for works or services that will not be completed before the end of the 2007 financial year; the reasons for doing so; the amount of the payments; the recipients and the nature of the works or services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34891/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is contained in the following table:

Payment

2007 Comment

€780.45 (inc VAT) annual hosting fee for the Transport 21 website.

Paid in July 07. Includes payment in advance for this service up to July 08. This is normal practice with a website hosting company.

Monthly grant payments in advance to the Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) from Subheads C2 and C3 based on the Agency’s estimate of its funding requirements for the month in question

Since the launch of Transport 21, the RPA has not had recourse to new borrowings and the system of advancing monthly grant payments to the Agency is therefore necessary to ensure that the RPA is in a position to meet its financial obligations for works and services as they fall due. I understand from the RPA that they have made no payments in advance for works or services that will not be completed before the end of the 2007 financial year.

Advance payment of €5,600.00 for Boats Purchase

Advance payment in respect of a deposit required by the seller of four EA 16 D Class Boats due to be delivered in January/ February 2008. The Irish Coast Guard requires the boats for Search and Rescue services

Advance payment of €19,901.66 for Boat Purchase

Advance payment in respect of a deposit required by the seller of an 8.5 metre RIB due to be delivered to the Irish Coast Guard before April 2008.

Air Services.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

256 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if Aer Lingus indicates to him, plans to lease or otherwise transfer some of the Heathrow slots either to other airports or to other airlines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35043/07]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

257 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if he will indicate to Aer Lingus his desire to be informed at an early date of plans to transfer or lease Heathrow slots to other airlines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35044/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 256 and 257 together.

The utilisation of airport slots is a commercial matter for Aer Lingus. The Government's shareholding does not confer on me a right to influence commercial operations of the company or to have preferential access to price sensitive information in advance of other shareholders.

Arrangements to safeguard Heathrow slots are built into the Company's Memorandum and Articles of Association of Aer Lingus. The Company is obliged under these provisions to notify shareholders of any proposal to dispose of Heathrow Slots. The measures also provide for the possibility that any disposal of Heathrow slots by the Company can be prevented by 30.2% of the votes cast at an Extraordinary General Meeting. 25.2% of the shares in the Company are held by the Minister for Finance on behalf of the State. I understand that the ESOT holds 12.5%, Ryanair hold 29.3% and the remaining 33% of shares are held by various private bodies and financial institutions. These arrangements do not apply to the transfer of slots between routes to and from Heathrow.

Also, under the Memorandum and Articles of Association, the State is entitled to appoint three directors to the board of Aer Lingus. Currently, there is only one State appointed director serving on the board and it is proposed that two further appointments be made in the near future. The State appointees will be mandated to seek to ensure that all future decisions of the company that have significant implications for wider Government, aviation or regional development policies are considered at board level. This will give the State appointees the opportunity to raise the public policy implications of each decision and to ensure that the full commercial implications for the company are taken into account.

Questions Nos. 258 to 260, inclusive, answered with Question No. 252.

Airport Development Projects.

Pat Breen

Question:

261 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Transport if the economic and tourism plan for the mid-west region is near completion; if funding will be made available for the plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35061/07]

The economic and tourism development plan for the Shannon Airport Catchment area has been finalised in consultation with Department of Arts, Sport & Tourism, Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and the Department of Finance. It is proposed to publish the Report on the Department's website shortly.

Departmental Agencies.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

262 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport the terms of reference, functions and purpose of the Integrated Ticketing Project Board and the Marine Casualty Investigation Board; if these agencies are still operational; the reason these functions cannot be carried out by his Department; the benefits to the Irish taxpayer gained from the work of these agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35084/07]

The independent reviews of the Integrated Ticketing project, undertaken in early 2006, strongly recommended continuing with the Integrated Ticketing project, on the basis of enhanced governance arrangements being put in place, including the establishment of an Integrated Ticketing Project Board with responsibility for delivering the project within an agreed specification, timeline and budget pending the establishment of the Dublin Transport Authority. This Board comprises representatives from the RPA, Bus Éireann, Dublin Bus, Irish Rail, private bus operators, the Department of Transport and the Department of Social and Family Affairs, as appropriate.

I am satisfied as to the continuing need for the Board arising from the recommendations in the reviews, which have been undertaken.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) was established on 5 June, 2002 under Section 7(1) of the Merchant Shipping (Investigation of Marine Casualties) Act, 2000. The terms of reference, function and purpose of the MCIB is to carry out investigations into marine casualties that take place in Irish waters or involve Irish registered vessels. The main purpose of the Board's investigations is to establish the cause or causes of a marine casualty with a view to making recommendations to the Minister for Transport for the avoidance of similar marine casualties in the future. It shall not be the purpose of an investigation to attribute blame or fault.

The MCIB is an independent statutory body with its own funding provided for by the Oireachtas under Section 19 of the Act. Under the legislation, the MCIB is independent of the Minister and the Department of Transport in the performance of its functions and, in general, shall be independent of any other person or body whose interests could conflict with the functions of the board.

State Airports.

Pat Breen

Question:

263 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Transport if he will provide details of scheduled passenger traffic from Shannon Airport to North America, Great Britain, Europe and Dublin Airport, for schedule periods (details supplied) in tabular form; the name of the airline operating the route; the frequency of the route; the capacity each airline provides on the route; the routes confirmed to date in terms of summer 2008 and winter 2008-09; the frequency of these routes; the capacity of these routes; the additional routes expected to be confirmed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35184/07]

The collection of aviation data relating to airlines operating out of Shannon Airport is an operational matter for the Shannon Airport Authority and I have no function in the matter.

Departmental Properties.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

264 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the number and full details of the number of mobile telephones used by him and supplied by his Department; the annual cost of same for each year since 1997 to date in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35331/07]

I refer the Deputy to my answer to Dáil Question No. 358 of Tuesday 11th December in which I provided the information sought.

Rail Network.

Joe McHugh

Question:

265 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport the negotiations that have taken place between his Department and the Northern Ireland Minister for Transport, in relation to a railway link between Letterkenny and Derry; if there are proposals for a Derry to Dublin rail link alongside the proposed new dual carriageway; if so if there is money set aside for these projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35407/07]

No negotiations have taken place between my Department and the Department for Regional Development in Northern Ireland regarding a Letterkenny-Derry rail link. I am not aware of any proposals for a direct Dublin-Derry railway line. Services to and from Derry via Belfast are a matter for the Northern Ireland Authorities. I have raised this generally at the North-South Ministerial Council.

Departmental Records.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

266 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport if his Department maintains a record of visits by him to the headquarters of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35548/07]

Rail Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

267 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the proposed cessation of the 8 a.m. Dublin to Sligo train which stops at Maynooth and various other locations; if his attention has been drawn further to the likely hardship and inconvenience caused by such a proposal; if he will intercede or direct those involved with a view to ensuring the continuation of this service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35591/07]

This is a day to day operational matter for Iarnród Éireann and I have no role in relation to this.

Human Rights Issues.

Simon Coveney

Question:

268 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Government is taking steps to support victims of female genital mutilation internationally; and if this is already the case if he will explain the steps. [34922/07]

In order to raise awareness of the issue of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) among those who work with immigrant communities, my Department wrote to the former health boards in 2001 and again in 2004 and to the Health Service Executive in February 2007 drawing their attention to the issue of FGM and requesting that personnel, particularly those working with immigrant communities, should be aware of the issue and should educate and inform such communities about the dangers, unacceptability and illegality of FGM.

I understand that the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA), which operates under the aegis of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, has disseminated an information and education booklet entitled "Understanding Female Genital Mutilation". The booklet, published by Comhlámh, is aimed at health professionals and others interested in becoming, or who are already involved in, actions to raise awareness of the issues surrounding the practice and elimination of FGM.

Citizenship Applications.

Dan Neville

Question:

269 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will process an application for foreign birth citizenship for a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [35507/07]

I presume that the person in question wishes to apply for Irish citizenship by Foreign Births Registration. If so, she should apply to the Department's Consular Services Office at 1A South Mall, Cork, where the application will be processed.

An applicant for Foreign Births Registration is required to confirm his / her entitlement to Irish citizenship. This will involve producing sufficient documentation including birth, marriage and death certificates, where appropriate, and other relevant records for herself and the parent, and grandparent if relevant, through whom citizenship is claimed. I have asked the Office in Cork to provide her with the necessary application form and details of the requirements for Foreign Births Registration.

Foreign Conflicts.

Finian McGrath

Question:

270 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will support the protection of fundamental human rights in Sri Lanka and work to facilitate dialogue in that country and to raise this at EU and UN level. [34861/07]

I am deeply concerned by the deteriorating situation in Sri Lanka. Ireland, together with our partners in the EU, takes a close interest in the situation in that country, and in particular the disturbing level of serious human rights violations. We have consistently sought to impress on both the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) the importance of curbing violence and human rights violations and returning to meaningful peace talks. We continue to take the firm view that there can be no military solution and urge all sides to refrain from actions that make a negotiated settlement more difficult to achieve. Ireland is fully committed to assisting the work of the Norwegian facilitator in this regard. We regret the fact that, at this point, neither party appears willing to engage in meaningful negotiations.

I welcome the recent visit to Sri Lanka of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Louise Arbour. The High Commissioner reported on her visit to the resumed 6th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 11 December 2007, where she stressed the need for an independent actor to gather information and publicly report on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. She further suggested that the government would benefit from the support of a standing presence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the country. Despite discussions between the OHCHR and the Sri Lankan authorities subsequent to her visit, no agreement has been reached on possible models for a presence in that country. The OHCHR will however continue to assist the authorities in strengthening the national human rights system. Ireland continues to support calls for an OHCHR presence in Sri Lanka.

Ireland and the EU will of course take a keen interest when Sri Lanka is reviewed under the UN Human Rights Council's Universal Peer Review process in April 2008.

The situation in Sri Lanka is regularly discussed with EU partners, and the EU continues to play an active role as one of the four Co-Chairs of the 2003 Tokyo Conference on Reconstruction and Development of Sri Lanka. At their last meeting in June 2007, the Co-Chairs expressed their concern about the conflict and said that there can be no justification for the use of military means. Ireland, together with our EU partners, will continue to monitor developments closely and will ensure that the issue continues to receive attention in relevant international fora.

Human Rights Issues.

Finian McGrath

Question:

271 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will raise the plight of the Miami Five wives at UN level. [34862/07]

The case to which the Deputy refers relates to five Cuban citizens who were convicted in the US in 2001 on charges ranging from espionage to first degree murder. A panel of three judges from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta overturned the 2001 convictions on 9th August 2005 and ordered a retrial based on new evidence. The Miami District Attorney duly filed an appeal against the decision of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Following an appellate hearing on 14 February 2006, a 10-2 decision to uphold the 2001 convictions was issued on 9 August 2006.

It is my understanding that a number of appeals lodged on behalf of the defendants remain under active judicial review within the framework of the US domestic legal system. As I have previously informed the Deputy on several occasions, the Government has no standing in this matter, which is a bilateral consular question between the US and the Cuban authorities and, consequently, I do not intend to pursue this matter.

With regard to the question of family visits, as I have previously informed the Deputy, I am aware from the 2005 Report of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention that, as of October 2005, sixty visas had been issued for visits by family members but that visas had not been granted to the wives of two of the convicted men on the stated grounds of US national security. I am also aware from media reports that the US authorities recently turned down further requests for visas from the two women in question. Again, I do not believe that this is a matter on which I have any standing and I do not intend, therefore, to raise it with the US authorities or at UN level.

Departmental Expenditure.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

272 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his Department, or its agencies has paid in advance for works or services that will not be completed before the end of the 2007 financial year; the reasons for doing so; the amount of the payments; the recipients and the nature of the works or services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34886/07]

My Department has not paid in advance for any works or services which have commenced but will not be completed before the end of 2007. As I indicated to the Deputy in my reply to Parliamentary Question 34734, my Department has made advance payments in two instances in relation to services which will not be provided before the end of 2007.

Firstly, in preparation for an international conference on cluster munitions which will take place in Dublin in May of next year, my Department has paid a deposit for the use of the Croke Park Conference Centre. Secondly, in preparation for the Olympics to be held in Beijing in 2008, my Department has paid booking deposits on accommodation in Beijing, for the use of temporary additional staff and for visiting official delegations. Our Embassy in Beijing has advised that this advance booking is necessary in view of the severe pressure which will be on the available accommodation in the city at the time of the Olympics.

Passport Applications.

Phil Hogan

Question:

273 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the reason a passport was refused to a person (detail supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34924/07]

The Passport Office may issue passports only to Irish citizens. As the child in question was born in the State after 1 January 2005, his entitlement to citizenship is governed by the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 2004. Under the Act, a person born in the State after 1 January 2005, where neither parent is an Irish or British citizen, may claim citizenship by birth (and thereby establish eligibility for a passport) only where a parent has been lawfully resident in the State for three of the four years preceding his or her birth.

The child's father presented his passport to the Passport Office as proof of such required residence. However, an examination of that passport revealed that the period of lawful residence in the State was insufficient to meet the requirements of the Act. The Department has again reviewed this case, but the position remains that the Department is not authorised to grant a passport on the basis of the application and the documentation provided to date.

The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform is responsible for issues of citizenship and immigration, including in particular the determination of any issues arising under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 2004. Accordingly, the child's parents may wish to correspond directly with that Department regarding the entitlement of the child to Irish citizenship.

Departmental Agencies.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

274 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the terms of reference, functions and purpose of the Development Education Advisory Committee; if the agency is still operational; the reason these functions cannot be carried out by his Department; the benefits to the Irish taxpayer gained from the work of the agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35026/07]

The Development Education Advisory Committee (DEAC) was appointed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in 2003 to advise on development education policy and on ways of increasing knowledge and understanding of development issues in Ireland. The Committee also has a role in overseeing reviews and evaluations of development education activities and in managing an annual consultation forum.

The Committee serves a two year term and comprises eleven members who are experienced professionals from the formal and non-formal education sectors, as well as from the Department of Education and Science and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment. The expert advice provided by members contributes directly to the effectiveness of the work of the Department in promoting development education.

In recent years the Committee has identified new opportunities for development education and successfully promoted shared learning between key stakeholders in the sector through annual consultations. The DEAC has provided detailed advice in preparing the new 2007-2011 Irish Aid Development Education Strategy. The term of the Committee was renewed for a further two years in October this year.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

275 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the terms of reference, functions and purpose of the Dion advisory committee; if the agency is still operational; the reason these functions cannot be carried out by his Department; the benefits to the Irish taxpayer gained from the work of the agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35027/07]

The Díon Advisory Committee has no executive or operational function. All operational matters in relation to the considerable Government support for our community in Britain — particularly the vulnerable among our citizens there — are the responsibility of the Department of Foreign Affairs, and specifically are managed by the Irish Abroad Unit in the Department and the Embassy in London, with the assistance of our Consulates in Scotland and Wales. However, Díon provides valuable advice on applications for funding received from organisations in Britain.

The Advisory Committee was set up originally in 1984 in response to concerns about the situation of a considerable number of our emigrants in Britain. The Chairperson and the Secretary of the Committee are officials at our Embassy in London, and the other members serve in a voluntary capacity. This is selfless work by a small number of volunteers, for which I have, on many occasions, expressed my sincere appreciation. I would like to do so again here.

The members of the Committee have traditionally been chosen for their knowledge and wide experience of the Irish community in Britain, and the issues that they face.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

276 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the terms of reference, functions and purpose of the National Committee For Development Education; if the agency is still operational; the reason these functions cannot be carried out by his Department; the benefits to the Irish taxpayer gained from the work of the agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35028/07]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

277 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the terms of reference, functions and purpose of the Ireland-United States Commission for Educational Exchange, the Hunger Task Force and the National Committee for Development Education; if the agencies are still operational; the reason these functions can not be carried out by his Department; the benefits to the tax payer here gained from the work of the agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35056/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 276 and 277 together.

The Ireland-United States Commission for Educational Exchange, more commonly known as the Fulbright Commission for Ireland, was established by the Educational Exchange (Ireland and the United States of America) Act, 1991. The Commission facilitates a programme of educational exchange between Ireland and the United States of America. The Commission remains operational. The Commission comprises eight members, four of whom are appointed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and four of whom are appointed by the Ambassador of the United States to Ireland.

Over the last 50 years some 700 Irish students and scholars have enjoyed and benefited from educational opportunities in the United States, under the aegis of the Commission and its predecessor the Scholarship Exchange Board.

The establishment of a Hunger Task Force was one of the recommendations of the White Paper on Irish Aid published in September 2006. The aim of the Hunger Task Force is to identify the additional, appropriate and effective contributions that Ireland can make to international efforts to reduce hunger. Members of the Hunger Task Force include a number of renowned national and international experts in the field of food security and development.

The first meeting of the Hunger Task Force took place in Dublin on 14th September 2007 and the second in University College Cork on the 16th of November 2007. Two further meetings are planned for the first half of next year and the report of the Hunger Task Force is due around the middle of 2008.

The report will outline a number of key actions which Ireland can take to give practical leadership internationally on the attainment of the Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of those who suffer from hunger by 2015. It is expected that the report will also result in Ireland taking a more effective and focused approach to tackling hunger.

The National Committee for Development Education (NCDE) was established in 1994. Its aim was to promote development education through cooperation with groups, schools, and other relevant institutions in Ireland. Other functions included the administration of Department of Foreign Affairs grants for development education, monitoring the impact of this support and fostering good practice.

The NCDE was instrumental in promoting development education in the formal and non- formal education sectors. The significant work carried out by the Committee in each of the areas of its mandate was noted in the 2002 Ireland Aid Review. In December 2002 the NCDE ceased operation and its functions were assumed by the Department of Foreign Affairs. A Development Education Advisory Committee was established in 2003 to advise the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Irish Aid on development education and on ways of increasing knowledge and understanding of development issues. The term of the Committee was renewed for a further two years in October this year.

Departmental Records.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

278 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his Department maintain a record of visits by him to the headquarters of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35543/07]

I have an office in the Headquarters of my Department, Iveagh House, and use that office, and other meeting and reception rooms in that building, for official business on an ongoing basis. It simply would not make sense for my Department to maintain a record of my attendance in my own office. In addition, related to Oireachtas business, I also work from an office in Leinster House.

Human Rights Issues.

Dr Martin Mansergh

Question:

279 Deputy Martin Mansergh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the efforts the European Union is making to secure the release of Ms. Ingrid Betancourt and other political hostages held by the FARC guerillas in Colombia. [35640/07]

The Government, together with our EU partners, has consistently condemned the practice of hostage-taking and kidnapping by the FARC guerrillas and other illegal armed groups in Colombia and continues to offer full support to the Colombian Government in its search for a negotiated solution to the internal armed conflict and the release of all hostages.

Conclusions on Colombia were most recently adopted at the General Affairs and External Relations Council of 19 November 2007, in which I participated. In these Conclusions, the Council strongly condemned the violations of international humanitarian law that continue to be committed by illegal armed groups in Colombia. In this context, we demanded that they stop kidnapping and all other acts of terrorism or violence against the civilian population forthwith. The Council also reaffirmed the EU's solidarity with the Colombian government, the Colombian people and all victims of such acts.

The Council further expressed its hope that progress would be made in taking forward negotiations between the Colombian government and illegal armed groups, in order to reach a humanitarian agreement, to secure the release of all hostages, to end the armed conflict and to bring lasting peace to Colombia. In the same spirit, the Council welcomed all initiatives taken with the Colombian government's support with the objective of promoting a successful peace process.

Member States of the EU, in particular France and Spain, have over the last two years been engaged in efforts to assist in the facilitation of a humanitarian exchange resulting in a release of all hostages held by illegal armed groups. Most recently, renewed efforts have been made by the President of France, with the full support and encouragement of all the Member States of the EU, including Ireland.

Ireland will continue to support the Government of Colombia in its search for a negotiated solution to the internal armed conflict, including through direct engagement with those illegal armed groups which may be prepared to negotiate. We will also continue to work with, and support the efforts of, our EU partners in promoting in every way possible a positive resolution to the plight of Ingrid Betancourt and all other kidnap victims in Colombia.

EU Directives.

Joe Costello

Question:

280 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason he and the Government have reiterated their opposition to the draft EU Directive on Temporary Agency Workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34834/07]

Ireland adopted a consistent and constructive approach in the discussions on the draft EU Directive on temporary Agency Work, at the ESPHCA Council, on 5 December. We fully supported the Portuguese Presidency in its efforts to fashion an overall compromise solution by way of an integrated approach to discussions of the two proposed Directives on the Organisation of Working Time and Temporary Agency Work. The Portuguese Presidency presented these two sensitive dossiers as a package for consideration by the ESPHCA Council.

On the proposed Directive on Temporary Agency Work, I was clear and unequivocal at Council. I indicated that Ireland fully supported the thrust of the objectives of the proposed Directive. I also indicated that any such instrument must be balanced and be to the benefit of all parties concerned — employees and enterprises alike. I informed my ministerial colleagues, however, that I was concerned that the latest proposals on the table did not contain all the necessary elements of balance. Thus, permitted exemptions provided for in the proposed Directive would be to the advantage, or benefit, of some Member States and not others. This would be the case for those Member States where equal pay legislation is complemented by collective agreements and where deviation from the equal pay clause in legislation may be permitted by collective agreements. I stressed here that if exemptions from the equal treatment principle were to be allowed in the proposed Directive for those countries with collective agreements, then other means of providing for appropriate flexibility should be allowed for those Member States without collective agreements.

Finally I indicated to Ministers that Ireland considered the exemption proposed for short duration temporary agency assignments (under Article 5.4 of the proposed Directive) — i.e. a maximum of six weeks — to be such as not to provide the required flexibility. It could damage future job creation prospects and could deter the use of a legitimate form of employment, which would be to the detriment of our economy and agency workers.

Regrettably, having identified the remaining issues of concern to various Member States, the Presidency decided not to pursue the search for a solution at the Council. Ireland was fully prepared to assist in trying to resolve outstanding issues at the Council rather than postpone addressing these to a later date.

On my return from Council, I fully apprised the social partners of the outcome of the discussions and the current state of play regarding future progress of this dossier in a detailed letter to them, last week. This was with a view to help prevent any confusion and, to correct any misinformation from various quarters, in relation to Ireland's negotiating position.

Community Employment Schemes.

John O'Mahony

Question:

281 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of community employment participants that were and are on CE schemes in County Mayo in the years 2002 to 2006 and to date in 2007; the breakdown per scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34867/07]

The following table provides the numbers of participants on CE Schemes in Co. Mayo in the years 2002 to 2006 and to date in 2007.

Year

Participants

2002

1,031

2003

767

2004

795

2005

811

2006

774

2007

784 (currently 838 places are approved)

The following table details the current Community Employment Projects in Co. Mayo and the number of approved places in each project in the area.

Name of Scheme

Number of approved places

Western Alzheimer Foundation

27

Cerebral Palsy Ireland

26

Mayo Assoc Football League

16

Mayo County Council

16

Castlebar Council of Trade Union

20

Castlebar Care Underprivileged

28

Mayo Abbey Parish Community

25

Clar IRD

24

McMahon Park Ltd

16

Iorras Domhnann

32

Údaras na Gaeltachta

30

IRD North Mayo

17

Kilmoremoy Parish

24

Moygownagh Enterprises

30

Ballina Tidy Towns Ltd

19

Irish Wheelchair Association

12

Ballina Street Festival

36

North West Reg Fisheries

15

Kiltimagh Community Employment

21

Charlestown Development

19

Meitheal Mhuigheo

25

Meitheal Mhuigheo

25

Bofield Bonniconlon Co

15

Swinford Area CE

19

Barnacarroll Sports Centre

17

Michael Davitt National

21

Foxford Sports Leisure

17

Barnacarroll Sports Centre

17

Mulranny Day Centre

25

Inishturk Community Council

11

Ballycroy Parish & Community

16

Údaras na Gaeltachta

24

Meitheal Mhuigheo

27

Clare Island comm Co-Op

11

Westport chamber of Commerce

25

Western Care

16

Clogher Environmental Group

20

Carnacon community Dev

20

St Colmans Care Centre

27

Total

838

Departmental Expenditure.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

282 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his Department, or its agencies has paid in advance for works or services that will not be completed before the end of the 2007 financial year; the reasons for doing so; the amount of the payments; the recipients and the nature of the works or services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34883/07]

The works or services paid for in advance by my Department, that will not be completed before the end of the 2007 financial year are set out on the following tabular statement. In relation to the agencies of my Department, this is a day-to-day operational matter for the agencies concerned and one in which I have no function.

Project paid for in advance but will not be completed by end of 2007

Name of Service Provider

Nature/Purpose of Service

Reason for payment in advance

Amount

Corporate Risk Strategies Ltd (CRS)

Health and Safety Consultancy — to act as the Competent person for the Department in identifying health and safety risks in the Departments 9 buildings following the implementation of the comprehensive Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 and its implications for the Department.

The 6 month project was due to commence in June 2007 but the start date was delayed by one month in order to comply with Public Procurement Guidelines. The bulk of the contracted work has been completed to the satisfaction of the Department. The remainder of the work will be completed within a 6 month period (by end of January 2008) and only involves the finalisation of Safety Statements for each of the Department’s 9 buildings which work is well underway by CRS and involves ongoing co-operation between the Department and CRS.

€6,050 (€5,000 plus VAT of €1,050)

Science Gallery, Naughton Building, Trinity College

This refers to a once off financial allocation to assist with the setting up and operationalising of Science Gallery. This will be a venue for science exhibitions and events which will appeal to visitors aged 13 and over.

It is anticipated that 80% of the work will be completed by the end of the financial year, 31 December 2007 and the remainder completed by end January 2008. This relates to the fulfilment of the awareness strand of the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation 2006-2013.

€1.454m

The National Employment Rights Authority (NERA)

TV/Radio time slots for its publicity/awareness campaign to run in 2008.

It is industry norm to book in advance

€300,000

Information Technology (IT)*

Name of Service Provider

Nature/Purpose of Service

Reason for payment in advance

**Amount

Gartner

Analyst advisory service

On-going subscription

3,024

Butler Group

Research services

On-going subscription

4,834

Eurokom

Managed e-mail service

Annual payment for the service provided

8,919

Techniche Limited

Maintenance of the Department’s remote access environment.

Drawdown from maintenance contract

2,125

CMOD

Peoplesoft HRMS Services Support Contract

Annual Support Contract (not calendar year basis)

15,803

BearingPoint

Peoplesoft HRMS Managed Service Contract

Annual Support Contract (not calendar year basis)

10,243

Hewlett Packard

Hardware Support Contract

Annual Support Contract (not calendar year basis)

852

Hewlett Packard

Hardware Support Contract

Annual Support Contract (not calendar year basis)

790

Hewlett Packard

Hardware Support Contract

Annual Support Contract (not calendar year basis)

6,742

Hewlett Packard

Hardware Support Contract

Annual Support Contract (not calendar year basis)

6,660

UK Oracle User Group

User Group Membership

Annual Membership Subscription

1,096

OKI Systems (Ireland)

Printer Support Contract

Annual Support Contract (not calendar year basis)

1,986

Version 1

Software Support

Fixed Assets Register Support

1,712

Version 1

Software Support

Financial Management System Support

12,353

Version 1

Software Support

Electronic Travel & Subsistence and Progress Support

9,116

Sword

Software Support

Quarterly Support Contract, including on-site engineer (not calendar year basis)

112,530

*The Department's IT Unit is a licensed user of various software products. These licences must be purchased in advance (similar to a TV licence) and cover usage for a full year, but not necessarily on a calendar year basis.

**All amounts are VAT inclusive.

Work Permits.

Mattie McGrath

Question:

283 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the status of an appeal in relation to the issuing of an employment permit to a person (details supplied) in south Tipperary; when a decision will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35029/07]

The Appeals Officer has requested some additional information from the employer in relation to this case. On receipt of that information a decision will be made on this appeal.

Michael Ring

Question:

284 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will review a decision to refuse an employment permit for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [35032/07]

Michael Ring

Question:

285 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will review a decision to refuse an employment permit for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [35033/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 284 and 285 together.

The Employment Permits Section of my Department informs me that these applications were refused on the grounds that the issue of permits in this instance would lead to more than 50% of the employees in the stated company being non-EEA nationals.

The employer was notified of this decision in writing and of their right to appeal. To-date no such appeal has been received in the Employment Permits Section.

Departmental Agencies.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

286 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the terms of reference, functions and purpose of the An Foras Áiseanna Saothair, the National Competitiveness Council, the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, the National Standards Authority of Ireland and 35 city and county enterprise boards; if the agencies are still operational; the reason these functions can not be carried out by his Department; the benefits to the tax payer here gained from the work of the agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35059/07]

The following is the information requested by the Deputy:

1. Foras Áiseanna Saothair (FÁS)

The terms of reference, functions and purpose of An Foras Áiseanna Saothair (FÁS) are set out in the Labour Services Act, 1987. In summary the main functions and purpose relate to the provision of training or retraining for employment and the provision of assistance in obtaining employment or work experience. The role of FÁS is reviewed on an ongoing basis through the formation of its Statements of Strategy. The current FÁS Strategy Statement and the complementary Training Strategy outline the vision and direction for FÁS for the period 2006 to 2009. The strategy is closely aligned to the policy goals of my Department and was developed in close collaboration with my Department. In addition a comprehensive internal and external consultation process involving all relevant stakeholders was undertaken by FÁS. In implementing its strategy FÁS carries out a range of specialised activities, which lend themselves to provision by a dedicated agency, with specific skills.

In response to the changing demands of the economy and a situation of virtually full employment, the training and up-skilling of workers have become a key focus. The National Partnership agreement Towards 2016 includes commitments to increased training of those in employment, with a particular focus on the low skilled, disadvantaged communities and those in vulnerable sectors. FÁS plays a major role in delivering such training, addressing skills needs, barriers to access and progression, the issue of life-long learning and helping to tackle early school-leaving, literacy and numeracy issues. It has, for example, increased its activity in in-company training and provided additional training and employment schemes for people with disabilities. It works in close collaboration with industry to ensure that the training and curricula meet the needs of employers. It has also developed specific training in areas such as childcare. It works in partnership with the community training centres to provide early school leavers with basic skills and work experience and to assist with progress to further training and development. Such activities produce positive externalities for tax-payers by reducing the potential need to draw on social benefits, and by spreading the tax burden, due to increased tax revenue arising from higher-skilled employment.

2. The National Competitiveness Council (NCC)

The National Competitiveness Council (NCC) is a social partnership body, which reports to An Taoiseach on key competitiveness issues facing the Irish economy together with recommendations on policy actions required to enhance Ireland's competitive position. The taxpayer benefits from the independent and comprehensive commentary and advice which this body produces. The functions of the NCC are:

(a) To prepare and submit to An Taoiseach, an Annual Report on Competitiveness Policy outlining the main challenges facing the business sector in Ireland over the medium term and policy responses required to meet them.

(b) To publish an Annual Competitiveness Report examining and monitoring the international competitiveness of the business sector in Ireland, and to prepare such other reports on priority competitiveness issues, as appropriate, with recommendations on measures required to improve competitiveness.

(c) To undertake from time to time such other functions as An Taoiseach or the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment may decide. The membership of the NCC consists of representatives of the employer and trade union social partnership pillars; persons with relevant expertise in competitiveness; a representative of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; and the Chief Executive of Forfás. Council Members are appointed by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Employment who also appoints a Chairperson from amongst the Members. In addition, representatives of other Government Departments attend Council meetings in an observatory capacity. Finally, the Council may invite additional representatives of the Government Departments and Agencies to attend Council meetings in an observer capacity where it appears appropriate.

Each year the NCC publishes the an Annual Competitiveness Report, Benchmarking Ireland's Performance, which is a collection of statistical indicators of Ireland's competitiveness performance in relation to 16 other economies and the OECD and EU averages. The NCC also publishes Ireland's Competitiveness Challenge, based on the benchmarking report and the latest research to outline the main challenges to Ireland's competitiveness and the policy responses required to meet them. As part of its work, the NCC also publishes other papers on specific competitiveness issues. The NCC is operational, recently publishing its 2007 reports.

By its very design, as a social partnership body, it would not fall within the remit or function of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The secretariat is, however, provided by Forfás which is an agency falling under the aegis of the Department.

3. Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB)

The purpose and functions of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board are set out in the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003 and the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (Amendment) Act 2007. The Personal Injuries Assessment Board was established as an independent Statutory Body 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, which is of benefit to the taxpayer.

The fact that the Board is established as a statutorily independent body delivering fair and equitable assessments is one of the factors underpinning its success.

The PIAB has made a very positive contribution to the success of the Government's insurance reform programme and has pared down the personal injury claims process in a wholly positive way. Motor premiums are currently at levels last seen in December 1997 and, taking account of inflation, at 1989 levels. The PIAB has succeeded in establishing a new non-adversarial culture of settling claims. The effects are felt throughout the Court system, where valuable time has been freed up to deal with cases that should more properly reside there.

4. The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI)

The National Standards Authority of Ireland Act 1996 established the NSAI as an independent statutory body with specific functions relating to certification and the development of standards. Functions relating to the Legal Metrology Service (LMS) and National Metrology were transferred to the NSAI by the Industrial Development (Enterprise Ireland) Act 1998. The functions of the LMS are set out in the Metrology Act 1996 and are designed to secure confidence in measurements used in trade, through the exercise of controls on measuring instruments and quantities of pre-packed and loose goods and to implement a national system of measurement, more usually referred to as National Metrology. The NSAI also has responsibility for the Irish Agrément Board (IAB), which advises the NSAI on construction products and processes suitable for Agrément assessment and certification in Ireland.

The functions of the NSAI require professional and technical competencies and skills not available within my Department. The benefits of the work of the NSAI to the taxpayer can be summarised as the provision of a wide range of enterprise support services and also the securing of consumer confidence in measurements used in trade. The NSAI, through charging for its services, self finances approximately two thirds of its annual expenditure requirements.

5. City and County Enterprise Boards (CEBs)

The 35 City and County Enterprise Boards (CEBs) are statutorily recognised under Section 10 of the Industrial Development Act 1995 and continue to be operational. The Boards are incorporated individually as companies, limited by guarantee under the Companies Acts, with individual Memoranda and Articles of Association. The functions of the CEBs are set out in Section 10(1) of the Act and are essentially to promote and assist economic development within their area of operations and, in particular, by means of enterprise creation and business development.

My Department is responsible in respect of the legislative basis and policy framework for the CEBs. However, the Boards have a specific targeted remit in the development of indigenous enterprise potential regionally and, accordingly, they are best placed, structurally and geographically, to carry out these functions at a local level throughout the country.

Through the activities and range of supports provided by the 35 City and County Enterprise Boards the micro-enterprise sector in Ireland has been strengthened since their establishment in 1993 which, in turn, is of benefit to the taxpayer and the economy as a whole.

Refund Policies.

Richard Bruton

Question:

287 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the no refund policies that often apply not only to airline travel but to associated booking of accommodation; if such policies are fully in accord with the spirit of consumer protection law which would require the applications of the conditions of any agreement to supply service in a reasonable manner; if his attention has further been drawn to the recent moves by the EU Commission to investigate unreasonable terms of being applied on the websites of low cost airlines; and if he will make a statement on the possibility of developing new consumer codes of practice in this area. [35086/07]

I have no direct responsibility for the investigation of complaints relating to contracts for airline travel and associated accommodation. I am aware, however, of a number of issues relating to those contracts, including that of non-availability of, or restrictions on, refunds.

The National Consumer Agency has been examining various practices in the airline industry in recent months, including matters relating to the fairness or otherwise of the terms of contracts for air travel. The Agency plans to engage directly with the airlines concerned in the period ahead with a view to securing voluntary compliance with the provisions of the relevant legislation in this area. I understand that if voluntary compliance is not forthcoming, the Agency intends to take enforcement action, where warranted.

I am aware of the recent ‘sweep' or joint enforcement action co-ordinated by the European Commission to check airline websites for compliance with the requirements of consumer protection legislation relating, in particular, to price information, limitations on ticket availability and fair contract terms. The issues covered by this action are among those under examination by the National Consumer Agency.

The review or approval of codes of practice, or the issuing of guidelines to traders, are matters for the National Consumer Agency under the powers and functions conferred on the Agency by the Consumer Protection Act 2007.

Job Losses.

Pat Breen

Question:

288 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his Department has received notification through its Department’s early warning system of Shannon free zone firms where jobs are judged to be seriously at risk or if other State agencies under his Departments remit have received this notification; the number employed in these firms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35169/07]

Notifications of firms in difficulty and where jobs are at risk are received from all of the Industrial Development agencies under my Department's Early Warning System. However, the information is provided on a confidential basis and it must remain confidential. The Deputy will understand that this is commercially sensitive information which could be of benefit to national or international competitors in the context of Industrial Development projects already established in this country and our ability to attract further projects in the future.

Pat Breen

Question:

289 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will provide a listing by firm of job losses announced or notified by Shannon free zone firms in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35170/07]

Two companies based in the Shannon Free Zone announced job losses in 2007. Mohawk Europa announced job losses of 92 in August 2007. The Company, a manufacturer of specialized cutting tools, attributed the losses to increasing costs, the impact of a strengthening Euro and decreased order levels. The company's survival plan did not meet with the approval of employees and the company ceased trading.

Tyco Electronics announced job losses of 178 in September 2007. This Company, a manufacturer of engineered electronic components, decided to transfer its Shannon manufacturing and assembly operations to India, Mexico and China following a strategic review of worldwide operations.

The Zone is performing well against a very difficult global business background and whilst job losses are always regrettable, significant gains have also been made in recent years and a healthy pipeline augers well for the future. Latest available figures show companies located in the Free Zone spend in excess of €610million 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 1 million 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.

Grant Payments.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

290 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the financial assistance provided to the National Irish Safety Organisation on an annual basis from State or public resources; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35388/07]

NISO, the National Irish Safety Organisation, which is a voluntary and non-profit making body making a valuable contribution to occupational health and safety in Ireland, received an allocation of €100,000 in 2006 and €75,000 in 2007 from my Department to assist it in a major restructuring and redevelopment plan which it is undertaking following a strategic review. It is proposed to make a grant of €100,000 available to NISO in the Estimates for 2008.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

291 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, in view of the forthcoming changes to training requirements announced by FÁS under the construction skills certification course for machinery which are due to come into force in January 2008, provision has been made to award credit for certified experience gained by construction workers in other States particularly EU member states; if he is satisfied based on the certified experience gained to date in the operation of the current scheme that it is necessary to change the training and certification duration from one day to five days; his views on whether training gained within other EU member states which is certified to the relevant national standard is acceptable here; if allowances will be made for overseas experience gained; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35389/07]

Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations, 2001 specific categories of workers (including those engaged in the Operation of Plant Machinery) were required to have certification under the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS). Workers were required to successfully complete a one day Training/Assessment Programme for each category of machine in order to qualify for Certification. Successful candidates were entitled to apply for a FÁS CSCS Registration Card. This training was geared towards Experienced Workers.

In August 2007, FÁS launched a series of New Entrant Plant Machinery Training Programmes for inexperienced workers in compliance with the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations, 2006. The programmes are four days in duration. All candidates on CSCS Programmes are required to have successfully completed a Safe Pass Programme, satisfy the age requirement and have six months experience under the close personal supervision of a person who is in possession of a valid CSCS Registration Card relevant to the task concerned. Upon completion of the New Entrant Programmes workers can then present themselves for the one day Experienced Training/Assessment Programme.

With regard to allowances to be made for overseas experience gained, Council Directive Number 2005/36/EEC and Council Directive No. 2006/100/EC makes provision for recognising awards and certified experience gained by workers in other States particularly EU Member States.

Training and Certification gained by individuals within other EU Member States is acceptable in Ireland provided such training is recognised by the relevant State approved body within the individual's Member State.

Work Permits.

Willie Penrose

Question:

292 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason his Department is holding up the issue of work in Ireland visas administered through the work in Ireland programme via USIT; the reason the necessary regulations have not been put into effect by his Department to enable this type of working holiday visa for applicants to be issued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35512/07]

The Government recognises the value of international work and travel programmes for students. They contribute to the development of lasting links with other countries and provide valuable experience for students themselves. At the same time, it is essential that any such programmes be compatible with Ireland's existing employment permit and immigration legislation.

My Department, in cooperation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Justice, Equality and Law Reform, has been in consultation with USIT in relation to the operation of the Work in Ireland programmes and I understand that discussions are in the final stages, with a view to new arrangements being in operation shortly.

Community Employment Schemes.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

293 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the percentage of people who complete community employment schemes who subsequently go onto full-time employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35524/07]

The 2006/2007 Follow Up Survey of FÁS Participants (carried out by the ESRI on behalf of FÁS) highlights that, of those interviewed in the period following their completion of a CE scheme, 30% were in employment (17% part-time, 12% full time and 1% self employed) and 6% had progressed to other training and education programmes. An additional 29% had taken the opportunity to avail of a further period of Community Employment.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

294 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the portion of the FÁS budget allocated to community employment schemes for the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35525/07]

Details relating to the FÁS budget for Community Employment for the years 2002 to 2006 are outlined as follows:

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

CE Budget (€million)

332.697

276.705

270.134

292.981

324.04

Proportion of FÁS allocation

39%

34%

32%

31%

33%

Departmental Records.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

295 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his Department maintain a record of visits by him to the headquarters of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35540/07]

I understand that the diary maintained by my private office generally indicates the location for my official duties from day to day.

Decentralisation Programme.

Pat Breen

Question:

296 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress in respect of the decentralisation programme of Enterprise Ireland in Shannon, County Clare; the number transferred to date; the make-up of the people who have taken up posts; the persons who have transferred from Dublin; the persons who are transferring upon promotion; the persons who are new recruits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35633/07]

Following the transfer of responsibility for indigenous industry development in the Mid-West Region from Shannon Development to Enterprise Ireland (EI) from 1 January 2007, Enterprise Ireland established its new National Regional Development Headquarters, which incorporates the County Enterprise Coordination Unit, in Shannon. This has given Enterprise Ireland a major presence in Shannon. Currently 40 staff, including a number of staff transferred from Shannon Development and over 20 local recruits, are based at recently leased offices in Westpark, Shannon. It is expected that this number will increase to about 65 over the coming months. 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 Region are now in place in the Shannon office. As part of EI's regional strategy, these posts were assigned to the new office in Shannon from Dublin.

The Government decentralisation programme provides for the transfer of the Enterprise Ireland Headquarters, with 300 posts, to Shannon. Further progress in effecting this move is contingent on a number of factors, including the level of interest in the Shannon location expressed through the Central Applications Facility and the resolution of certain key issues for agency decentralisation in discussions at central level. I understand that there have been 25 applications through the Central Applications Facility from civil and public servants for transfer to Shannon. Enterprise Ireland, working closely with the Office of Public Works, has identified, but not yet acquired, a preferred site for the construction of a new HQ building in Shannon.

Sports Funding.

Pat Breen

Question:

297 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his plans to introduce a players grant scheme for camogie players and ladies football players; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34827/07]

The agreement reached between my Department, the Irish Sports Council, the GAA and the GPA, is in recognition of the contribution of Senior Inter County players to our indigenous sports of hurling and football. The scheme is a response to a joint submission from the GAA and the GPA for support for Senior Inter County players and I have no plans to extend the scheme to other team sports.

Departmental Expenditure.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

298 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his Department, or its agencies has paid in advance for works or services that will not be completed before the end of the 2007 financial year; the reasons for doing so; the amount of the payments; the recipients and the nature of the works or services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34878/07]

My Department only makes payments for works or services on the basis of matured liabilities with the exception of small on-going maintenance support contracts and subscriptions.

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 payment for works or services by the agencies under the aegis of my Department is a matter for the bodies themselves.

Campus and Stadium Ireland.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

299 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when he will lodge a planning application for phase one of Sports Campus Ireland as described in their development control plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34941/07]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to his Dail Question No. 57 of 25th October last on this matter.

The National Sports Campus Development Authority is in the process of appointing a Project Management Team and a Design Team. When these appointments are made detailed plans will be drawn up to give effect to the Government decision to implement Phase One of the Development Control Plan prepared by the Authority. Planning permission will be then be sought for this phase. It is expected the planning application will be submitted to Fingal Co. Co. during the course of 2008.

Culture Ireland.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

300 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the terms of reference, functions and purpose of Culture Ireland; if the agency is still operational; the reason these functions cannot be carried out by his Department; the benefits to the Irish taxpayer gained from the work of the agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35023/07]

Culture Ireland was established in 2005 as the new national agency under the aegis of my Department for the promotion of Irish arts and culture worldwide, including music, theatre, dance, film, literature, visual arts, traditional arts, architecture, opera and circus.

Arts and culture are among Ireland's strongest national achievements and play a key role in creating global recognition for the country. Culture Ireland was established to build on this competitive advantage and develop the expertise and capacity to maximise Ireland's international cultural impact, in parallel with our efforts in the field of tourism, trade and inward investment. By creating strategic opportunities for Irish artists to present their work abroad, Culture Ireland will raise Ireland's cultural reputation around the world, help to create sustainable careers for Irish artists and increase Ireland's global attractiveness as a centre of creativity and a preferred destination for business and tourism.

Culture Ireland works closely with other internationally focused State agencies, in particular Tourism Ireland and the Irish Film Board, to ensure resources and impacts are maximised. In its first three years it has initiated and developed strategic promotions and showcases at key global arts events, and helped to foster a new level of confidence, ambition and international recognition for Irish artists.

Culture Ireland is a small flexible organisation, staffed primarily by officials from my Department and led by an externally recruited CEO. It benefits from economies of shared accommodation, overheads and administrative cost with my Department and delivers its extensive grant programmes at marginal cost to the taxpayer. For further information on its strategy, programme and activities the Deputy may wish to access its website at www.cultureireland.ie.

Sports Funding.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

301 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if the grant in aid to the Irish Sports Council of €57 million for 2008 includes the €3.5 million promised for Gaelic players which is administered by the Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35036/07]

The financial provision for the Irish Sports Council and its programmes for 2008 is €57.327 million. This includes provision for the €3.5 million in respect of the new scheme for Senior Inter County Gaelic Players.

Campus and Stadium Ireland.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

302 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the purpose for which approval has been given for capital works to the extent of €1.2 million to the National Sports Campus Development Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35037/07]

I refer to my reply to Dáil Questions Numbers 6, 7 and 22 of 29 November last.

Following legal proceedings against Dublin Waterworld Ltd. for breaches of the lease of the National Aquatic Centre, it was returned to State control on 1 December 2006. I would refer the Deputy to two particular conditions of that lease i.e the requirement to put in place a capital maintenance programme and a sinking fund. The court found that these two conditions among others had not been complied with. As a result the Centre was not up to the standard that one would expect of such a facility when it was taken over by the National Sports Campus Development Authority (NSCDA) (Operations) Ltd., a subsidiary of the NSCDA, established for the purpose of operating the Centre.

€1.2m has been provided on bringing the Centre up to the standard expected of such a facility and it is now in top quality. I would like to invite the Deputy to visit the Centre and see it for herself at first hand and I am sure she will agree with me that it is one of the key elements of our national sporting infrastructure.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

303 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has an estimate of the unutilised capacity at the National Aquatic Centre in order to establish the potential to grow usage of the centre and reduce the demand for an annual subsidy. [35038/07]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Dáil Questions Nos. 6, 7 and 22 of 29 November last. The National Aquatic Centre reverted to the control of the NSCDA by way of its subsidiary company NSCDA (Operations) Ltd. from 1st December 2006, following legal proceedings against the previous operator. Its first full year's trading has just been completed and is currently being assessed and reviewed.

In its first year of trading since the National Aquatic Centre reverted to the overall control of the Authority over 532,000 people will have visited the Centre, that is, in terms of swimming access, swimming lessons and membership. From this base the centre can continue to grow further business utilisation. On a day to day level, the generation of business is a matter for the Authority and its subsidiary Company and it is considering all available options for growing further the utilisation of the Centre in terms of pricing structures, re-branding, marketing, advertising, and normal trading hours for a facility of this nature which has to cater, on a balanced basis, for broad categories of recreational, competitive and elite users.

Air Services.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

304 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his attention has been drawn to the fact that prior to the decision to open the Belfast base, Aer Lingus considered expansion plans from a base in Birmingham; if he had an input into this decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35039/07]

Aviation policy is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Transport, Noel Dempsey T.D. I had no input into the decision referred to by the Deputy.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

305 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he made representations or had discussions with Aer Lingus regarding the transfer of its planned new base from Birmingham to Belfast; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35040/07]

I made no such representations or had such discussions regarding the issue raised by the Deputy.

Campus and Stadium Ireland.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

306 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the cost to date of legal and consultant costs incurred in connection with legal cases involving CSID since 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35041/07]

The legal and consultant costs incurred in connection with legal cases involving Campus and Stadium Ireland Development Ltd. (CSID), from 2005 and up to its dissolution at the end of 2006 was €1,323,080. From the beginning of 2007, the functions of CSID were taken over by the statutorily established National Sports Campus Development Authority (NSCDA).

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

307 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if the accounts of CSID have been filed for the year ending 2006 as required by law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35042/07]

The Directors' Report and Financial Statements for the year ending 31 December 2006 of Campus and Stadium Ireland Development Ltd. have been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Natural History Museum.

Mary Upton

Question:

308 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has considered the possibility of transferring some or all of the items which are currently on display in the Natural History Museum to some of the other national museums for display during the period which the Natural History Museum is closed for repairs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35067/07]

The Natural History Museum is an Institution much-loved by both adults and children and I am anxious that the public would not, if possible, be deprived of its displays for the duration of the period necessary for its repair and redevelopment.

Since the National Museum of Ireland became an autonomous statutory body under the National Cultural Institutions Act, 1997 on 3rd May 2005, the Board of the National Museum is statutorily responsible for operational matters concerning its collection. In discussions with the Chairman of the Board and the Director of the National Museum of Ireland, I have emphasised the importance of alternative viewing arrangements during the duration of the refurbishment period. The National Museum of Ireland is considering the possibility of displaying a selection of the exhibits currently in the Natural History Museum elsewhere in the National Museum's facilities during the period in question. While consideration of this is at an early stage, I understand that a number of locations within the National Museum, in Dublin and at the Museum of Country Life in Turlough Park in Co. Mayo, are being assessed for use as display areas for a selection of these exhibits.

The National Museum of Ireland also intends to carry out long-needed conservation works on many of the exhibits in the Natural History Museum and the opportunity to address this work that is provided by the closure of the Museum for repairs and redevelopment will be fully utilised.

Departmental Funding.

Niall Collins

Question:

309 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the level of funding made available to a recipient (details supplied) in County Limerick by his Department for the period 1997 to date in 2007; and the persons who are the share holders or beneficial owners of the facility. [35102/07]

My Department has provided €353,000 in current funding and €650,000 in capital funding to this facility in the period 2002 to date. The body is a guarantee licence company and its shareholders are in the public domain. The Deputy may obtain details of its shareholders from the Companies Registration Office.

Niall Collins

Question:

310 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will provide a schedule of all grant and funding schemes administered by his Department. [35103/07]

My Department operates a range of promotional programmes and initiatives in the arts, sport and tourism sectors either directly, or through bodies operating under its remit. The overall policy framework governing the work of the Department is set out in our Statement of Strategy and annual reports, copies of which are available in the Dáil Library or on the Department's website.

A list of the individual schemes and programmes operated directly by the Department is as follows:

Scheme

Description

Sports Capital Programme

Provides funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country

Arts and Culture Capital Enhancement Scheme (ACCESS)

Provides capital grants to arts and cultural centres around the country

Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme

Provides grant aid towards the capital costs of a new pool or the refurbishment of an existing pool.

Culture Ireland currently operates as part of my Department and it is managed by a Board which is independent in its decision making on grants and funding for the promotion of Irish Arts internationally.

Departmental Records.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

311 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his Department maintain a record of visits by him to the headquarters of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35536/07]

My Department's headquarters is in Kildare Street, Dublin 2. I am in regular attendance at my office there, which is recorded in my official diary.

Social Welfare Code.

James Bannon

Question:

312 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will abolish the category of qualified adult within the social welfare system making all people so categorised independently eligible for social welfare payments and paying those eligible directly. [34843/07]

The social welfare system is designed to provide income supports and access to relevant services in a timely manner to all our customers. The system is neutral with regard to how it treats men and women; receipt of payment is generally dependent on contingency and other conditions being met. A person in receipt of a social welfare payment may claim an increase, known as a qualified adult allowance, in respect of his/her spouse or partner. Levels of payment and how they apply are exactly the same for men and women. However, while there is equity in access to the system, the impact of past labour market experience and the traditional roles of women in the home and the labour market are still reflected in some features of the social welfare system. One such feature is the status of the qualified adult, the majority of whom are women.

Significant changes have taken place in society in the past decades and the social welfare system has changed to reflect these changes, particularly to ensure that as many people as possible qualify for a social welfare payment in their own right. Considerable reform and expansion has taken place in the social insurance system to make it as inclusive as possible. This together with the increasing numbers of women entering employment has meant that more women are establishing their own entitlement to social insurance payments. In the case of State Pension schemes the qualified adult increase is now paid directly to the qualified adult. In addition, the Programme for Government includes a commitment to provide a personal pension payment, set at the level of a full rate State Pension (non-contributory), for pensioner spouses in receipt of the qualified adult increase.

The reform proposals outlined in the Government Discussion Paper: ‘Proposals for Supporting Lone Parents' further address this aspect of the social welfare system, As well as proposing the abolition of the contingency of lone parenthood, the reform proposes the departure from the concept of ‘qualified adult' within social assistance or means tested payments. Under these proposals, where a household means test is met, all individuals would claim for — and receive — a payment in their own right, thus ensuring consistency in treatment and equity across the social welfare system and recognising the changing role of women in society and the labour market. This would also mean that supports for education, training and employment would be offered to former qualified adults of working age, who are not currently engaged with.

These reform proposals would represent a fundamental change in the social welfare system, moving away from a derived entitlement to entitlement in the individual's own right. This aspect of the proposals, together with the development of a new income support scheme for lone parents and other low income families, and the non-income supports necessary to accompany such a payment, are currently being examined and developed by this Department in co-operation with other relevant Departments and agencies.

Social Insurance.

James Bannon

Question:

313 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will credit the work of homemakers within the social insurance system abolishing the category disregard and replacing it with a system of credits for this work; and if he will make these credits retrospective. [34844/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

330 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if consideration might be given to allowing social welfare contribution credits in cases where one parent takes time off from work during the children’s formative years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35588/07]

I propose to take Question Nos. 313 and 330 together.

The social welfare pension rights of those who take time out of the workforce for caring duties are protected by the Homemakers scheme which was introduced in and took effect from 1994. The scheme allows up to 20 years spent caring for children or incapacitated adults to be disregarded when a person's social insurance record is being averaged for pension purposes. However, the scheme will not of itself qualify a person for a pension. The standard qualifying conditions, which require a person to enter insurance 10 years before pension age, pay a minimum of 260 contributions at the correct rate and achieve a yearly average of at least 10 contributions on their record from the time they enter insurance until they reach pension age, must also be satisfied. The minimum paid contributions required will increase to 520 in 2012.

These conditions are designed to ensure that those qualifying for pensions have had an adequate and sustained commitment to the social insurance system as well as to uphold the contributory principle that underpins the qualifying conditions for all social insurance payments.

While there are no plans to alter these arrangements in the immediate term, the operation of this scheme is subject to review in the context of the Green Paper on Pensions, with particular regard being paid to the operative date of the scheme and the use of credits for pension purposes rather than the current system of disregards.

A consultation process on the Green Paper is now underway and will remain open until mid 2008. The Government will respond to the views expressed during the consultation process by publishing a framework for future pensions policy and I expect that this will be available towards the end of next year.

It should also be noted that people of working age who are no longer liable for PRSI contributions may opt to protect their pension entitlements by applying to become a voluntary contributor. In order to be admitted to the voluntary contributions scheme, a person must have a minimum of 260 weeks of PRSI paid in either employment or self-employment and apply within 12 months of the end of the tax year during which they last paid PRSI or had a PRSI credited contribution. The requirement to have 260 paid contributions to gain access to the scheme is essential in that it ensures that the requisite minimum number of paid contributions required is in place to establish a contributory pension entitlement.

Social Welfare Benefits.

James Bannon

Question:

314 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will introduce a means tested full-time parental allowance for all low income parents of children up to the age of eight years. [34845/07]

James Bannon

Question:

315 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will introduce a means tested part-time parental allowance for all low income parents of children aged eight to fourteen years. [34846/07]

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

The concept of a parental allowance referred to by the Deputy was proposed in the Government discussion paper "Proposals for Supporting Lone Parents". The discussion paper put forward proposals for the introduction of a new social assistance payment for lone parents and other low income families with young children. It also proposed a range of additional services including the expanded availability and range of education and training opportunities; the extension of the National Employment Action Plan; focused provision of childcare and improved information services.

The new social assistance payment, currently being developed by officials in my Department will have the long term aim of assisting people to achieve financial independence through supporting them to enter employment – the avenue that offers the best route out of poverty.

As I have recently reported to the house, the development of any new scheme to support low income parents can only be introduced when the necessary co-ordinated supports and services — dealing with issues including access to childcare support, education and training — are put in place on the ground by other Departments and Agencies.

This is why the non-income recommendations contained in the discussion paper are currently being tested in two areas: Coolock and Kilkenny. These tests are focused on identifying and resolving any practical and administrative issues that may arise in advance of the scheme being introduced. The tests are now scheduled to run until the end of January 2008, with a report then being made to the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion. They will allow for operational and logistical co-ordination between the relevant Departments and Agencies to be considered and will facilitate the development of the policy and operational details of the new scheme and accompanying supports.

Although the terms of the new scheme have not been finalised the objective is to ensure that the necessary financial and other supports are in place to assist families towards improved employment prospects and that all disincentives to work are kept to a minimum.

James Bannon

Question:

316 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will abolish the limitation rule for all social welfare payments. [34847/07]

Where both members of a couple are claiming social welfare payments and one or both of the claimants is in receipt of jobseekers allowance (JA), farm assist or pre-retirement allowance their combined payments cannot exceed the amount which would be payable if only one person was being paid with an increase for a qualified adult dependant, where appropriate. In this situation one or both of the payments would be limited to ensure that the relevant household rate of payment would not be exceeded. The removal of the limitation for the approximately 5,700 cases affected would have a direct cost of €19.8m in a full year.

The removal of the limitation would also provide an incentive to all those for whom qualified adult increase is currently in payment to claim JA in their own right, subject to being available for full-time employment. In the majority of cases this would result in an increase of €66.50 per week in 2008 terms. This development would have significant implications, both in terms of increased cost and live register numbers as it would apply (subject to means assessment) to qualified adults of working age across a range of schemes in addition to those currently affected by the limitation rule. There is a total of some 57,000 payments in this grouping, with additional potential costs estimated at up to €197m per annum in the case of 100% take-up.

The Government discussion paper: Proposals for Supporting Lone Parents, published in March 2006, outlines proposals for reform of income support arrangements for lone parents and low income families. It proposes a new allowance for all low income families with children under a specified age. This allowance would replace both the current one-parent family payment and the social assistance qualified adult allowance. In these circumstances no limitation would apply where the new allowance recipient cohabits with a person in receipt of a social assistance payment, e.g. jobseeker's allowance.

Lifting limitation for this limited period of time would have the effect of increasing household income in such situations by up to €66.50 per week, recognising the higher costs associated with care of young children. It would also assist in addressing the problem of poverty among children in low income families. Any proposal to abolish the limitation rule in full could only be considered in a budgetary context and in the light of competing priorities.

John Perry

Question:

317 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will ensure that a person (details supplied) in County Sligo is provided with rent subvention in view of extenuating circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34969/07]

The Health Service Executive has advised that it has not received an application for rent supplement from the person concerned. It has further advised that the person concerned should contact the community welfare officer if he wishes to discuss his entitlement to rent supplement.

Michael Ring

Question:

318 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be approved and granted the carers allowance. [34971/07]

The person concerned applied for carer's allowance on 9 October 2007. The medical criteria for award of Carer's Allowance have been satisfied, and the case is being examined to determine that all other conditions for receipt of the allowance are satisfied. On completion of the necessary investigations a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Under Social Welfare legislation decisions in relation to claims must be made by Deciding Officers and Appeals Officers. These Officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.

Michael Ring

Question:

319 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be approved and granted carers allowance. [34972/07]

The person concerned applied for half rate carer's allowance on 5 October 2007. The case has been referred to my Department's Medical Assessor to determine if the medical criteria are satisfied; in addition the case is being examined to determine that all other conditions for receipt of the allowance are satisfied. On completion of the necessary investigations a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome. Under Social Welfare legislation decisions in relation to claims must be made by Deciding Officers and Appeals Officers. These Officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.

Pensions Ombudsman.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

320 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the terms of reference, functions and purpose of the Family Support Agency and the Office of the Pensions Ombudsman; if the agencies are still operational; the reason these functions cannot be carried out by his Department; the benefits to the Irish tax-payer gained from the work of the agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35072/07]

The establishment of a statutory agency to oversee the provision of services to families was first suggested in the report of the Commission on the Family in 1998, with the recommendation that the Family Mediation Service be established on a statutory footing.

The Family Support Agency was established, with a wider remit, in 2003 under the terms of the Family Support Agency Act, 2001 to bring together the pro-family related programmes and services which are designed to promote local family support, help prevent marital breakdown, promote continuity and stability in family life and support ongoing parenting relationships for children.

The Family Support Agency (FSA) is a dedicated resource for both families themselves and the local and national voluntary organisations that work with families across Ireland. It is overseen by a board with expertise and experience in matters related to its responsibilities.

The Agency's main functions are to:

Support, promote and develop the Family and Community Services Resource Centre Programme.

Support, promote and develop the provision of marriage and relationship counselling services, child counselling services and bereavement support for families and

Provide a Family Mediation Service throughout the country.

The FSA also has a role in the provision of information on parenting and family issues and undertakes research into family matters.

Recent statistics indicate that up to 70,000 people per annum avail of counselling funded by the FSA. In addition, a review of the Family Resource Centre Programme showed almost 850,000 visits to family resource centres during 2005, with 140,000 people receiving advice and information and almost 16,000 people completing training courses.

Provision was made for the appointment of a Pensions Ombudsman in the Pensions (amendment) Act 2002. The Pensions Ombudsman was appointed in April 2003 and his Office opened for business in September of that year.

The role of the Pensions Ombudsman is to investigate complaints of financial loss due to maladministration and disputes of fact or law in relation to occupational pension schemes and Personal Retirement Savings Accounts. In common with others providing services of this nature the Pensions Ombudsman is completely independent in the performance of his functions, and I consider that this is the most appropriate way of ensuring that pension scheme members can have their complaints dealt with in a fair and impartial manner.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

321 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will change the rule whereby when an employee is out sick or temporarily laid off due to shortage of work, they do not receive any payment for the first three days of the claim, as this causes hardship; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35166/07]

Waiting days have been a feature of the illness benefit and jobseeker's payment schemes since their inception and are a feature of similar social security schemes in many countries. The application of a three-day waiting period avoids the disproportionately high administrative costs involved in processing large numbers of claims of a very short duration.

However, the waiting day rule is not applied in all cases and exceptions are made in certain situations. For example, where a person is subject to intermittent spells of unemployment it would clearly be unreasonable to impose the three waiting days for each such jobseeker's benefit claim. In the case of illness benefit and jobseeker's benefit, spells of unemployment are aggregated so that the waiting period is confined to the first three days of the aggregate period of interruption of employment, subject to falling within the rules governing linking.

These rules provide that any two periods of unemployment, not separated by more than 26 weeks, are treated as one such period and payment may be made from the first day of the later claim. The same principle applies in the case of jobseeker's allowance but the linking period is 52 weeks instead of 26 weeks. In addition, linking rules apply in a variety of ways across schemes, for example, where a person claims illness benefit immediately following an unemployment benefit claim.

I would also emphasise that people who are in need of financial support are not left without such support during waiting days. A person who has no other income is entitled to claim supplementary welfare allowance in respect of the days in question.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

322 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if supplementary welfare payment will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35301/07]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that it has refused a payment of rent supplement in this case, in December 2006, on the grounds that the local housing authority has not certified that the person concerned has a genuine housing need. This decision was not appealed. It is open to the person concerned to lodge a new application for rent supplement with their local community welfare officer.

Departmental Estimates.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

323 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will provide a breakdown of subhead X contained the 2008 Estimate for his Department. [35347/07]

The information requested is as follows:

SUBHEAD X. – APPROPRIATIONS-IN-AID

2007 Estimate

2008 Estimate

€000

€000

1. Recovery of administration expenses from the Social Insurance Fund

160,500

178,000

2. Recoveries of Social Assistance overpaid

9,400

9,000

3. Repayment from the Social Insurance Fund of amounts paid initially as Social Assistance

5,600

5,600

4. Receipts under “Liability to Maintain Family” provisions in Part XII of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 2005

1,800

1,800

5. Dormant Accounts Receipts

1,000

1,000

6. Searches and certified copies of entries of Births, Deaths and Marriages(a)

380

7. Miscellaneous

1,209

1,000

Total:

179,509

196,780

(a)The 2008 Estimate reflects the transfer, with effect from 1 January 2008, of responsibility and funding for Oifig an Ard-Chláraitheora/the General Register Office from Vote 39 (Health and Children).

Social Welfare Benefits.

Michael Ring

Question:

324 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if, in relation to a free travel pass which has issued to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo, their spouse, when travelling with them can travel free also. [35365/07]

Under the terms of the Free Travel scheme, a married or cohabiting pass holder may get a free travel pass that allows their spouse or partner to accompany them for free on public transport. The person concerned was in receipt of a single type pass since September 2004. This represented his correct entitlement until his recent marriage. A married type free travel pass issued to the customer on 13 December 2007.

Departmental Funding.

Michael Creed

Question:

325 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the funding available from his Department for 2008 for organisations working in the area of marriage counselling; the criteria used to determine eligibility; his views on funding an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35498/07]

The scheme of grants to voluntary organisations providing marriage, child and bereavement counselling and related supports is administered by the Family Support Agency. The focus of the scheme of grants is on the development of support services in the community for families, to enhance stability in family life and to assist families and their members deal with difficult periods which they may experience. The aim of the scheme is to ensure an accessible, high quality service which is delivered at low cost to the client.

Financial support for the counselling grants scheme has risen from almost €7.5 million in 2004 to some €10 million in 2007. Funding under the specific heading of marriage and relationships counselling has also increased dramatically in the last 4 years. In 2007, almost €5.6million was allocated to marriage counselling – an increase of almost 28% in 4 years. The counselling sector will see further increases in funding for 2008 with over €11million allocated to this key family support.

The following criteria is taken into consideration in allocating the grant funding:

The demand for the service: this includes the number of clients using the service, the capacity to deliver the service and the number of people waiting for an appointment.

The quality of the service: this includes management and back-up support for the service and the qualifications and training of the counsellors.

The majority of organisations providing a counselling service have professional indemnity insurance. This is generally taken into consideration as one of the indicators of the standard and quality of services being provided by an organisation and is required with the grant application.

Under the 2007 scheme of grants for marriage, child and bereavement services, Retrovaille Ireland sought and received a grant of €15,000 towards the provision of marriage and relationship counselling.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

326 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the rationale behind not paying a qualified adult allowance to spouses of a person receiving carer’s benefit where the spouse does not qualify for any other payment in their own right. [35517/07]

Supporting and recognising carers in our society is and has been a priority of the Government since 1997. Over that period, weekly payment rates to carers have been greatly increased, qualifying conditions for carer's allowance have been significantly eased, coverage of the scheme has been extended and new schemes such as carer's benefit and the respite care grant have been introduced and extended.

Carer's benefit is a weekly income support payment intended to support people who leave the workforce temporarily to care for someone who is in need of full-time care and attention.

A qualified adult allowance is not payable with carers benefit or allowance scheme. The possibility of paying a qualified adult allowance with these schemes has been considered. However, in the majority of cases if the carer's spouse is the care recipient he/she will be in receipt of a social welfare payment in his/her own right. A number of other carers spouses are in employment. Supplementary welfare allowance is available, subject to a means test, to meet the income support needs of the small number of people who fall outside of these groups.

I will keep the supports for carers available from my Department under review in order to continue to improve the schemes and ensure that commitments in relation to income support are delivered.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

327 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason the back to school allowance is paid in respect of children under the age of four; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35533/07]

The back to school clothing and footwear allowance (BSCFA) scheme provides a one-off payment to eligible families to assist with the extra costs when their children start school each autumn.

The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance scheme was introduced in 1990. This scheme superseded the arrangements which had been in place since 1977 whereby child clothing and footwear payments were made under the exceptional needs provisions of the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme. The Supplementary Welfare Allowance clothing and footwear scheme had in turn replaced a previous Public Assistance Footwear scheme that had been introduced in 1944. These previous schemes had been targeted at both school and pre-school children from the age of two years up. When the BSCFA scheme was introduced, the provision to pay the allowance to children from the age of two years up was retained.

A person may qualify for payment of an allowance if they are in receipt of a social welfare or Health Service Executive (HSE) payment, or are participating in an approved employment scheme or attending a recognise d education and training course and have household income at below standard levels.

The 2007 rates for BSCFA are €180 for children aged 2 to 11 years and €285 for children aged 12 to 22. Budget 2008 has increased these rates by €20 to €200 and €305, respectively. I consider the back to school clothing and footwear allowance scheme to be an important support for parents at a time of particular financial strain.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

328 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will request the assistance of the Revenue Commissioners in identifying low paid families who would potentially be eligible for the family income supplement, but do not currently pay it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35534/07]

Family income supplement is the principal in-work income support for people in low-income employment. It is designed to provide an incentive to people with children, to remain in, or take up, employment rather than be fully welfare dependent. To qualify for payment, family income must be below the threshold applicable to the family size, which varies according to the number of qualified child dependants.

The number of families who are eligible for FIS is not directly comparable with income statistics compiled by the Revenue Commissioners for a number of reasons. Revenue data does not, generally speaking, take into account the number of hours worked, the number of children in a family, nor social welfare income which might not be taxed but would be taken into account for FIS. Also, the information held by the Revenue Commissioners is out of date, generally by at least a year and does not take into account all the current circumstances that a person may find themselves in.

The issue of paying FIS through the tax system was considered by a group set up under the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness and chaired by the Department of Finance. The Group concluded that FIS should continue to be paid through the social welfare system.

On the question of FIS take up, my department is undertaking a project which it hopes to complete in mid 2008, to provide an indication of current take up levels. The project will also include an analysis of the reasons and factors why persons who appear to have an entitlement to FIS have not taken up their entitlement or availed of this employment support; to identify what barriers, in terms of access to eligibility, may exist; where such barriers exist how they can be mitigated or removed; to assess whether alternative mechanisms to enhance take up of FIS can be implemented; and ultimately to improve customer service and access to family income supplement eligibility for low income families.

Given the radical developments in the economy and labour force in recent years, and in view of the changed FIS landscape, no conclusive judgement can be made regarding current FIS take-up levels until this issue has been comprehensively re-examined. In this context it should be noted that, since the end of 2004, FIS claim volume has increased by almost 50% and expenditure by over 90%.

Departmental Records.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

329 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his Department maintain a record of visits by him to the headquarters of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35546/07]

Records of this nature are not maintained in my Department.

Question No. 330 answered with QuestionNo. 313.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

331 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if it is intended to incentivise motherhood as is the case in a number of other European countries having particular regard to the falling birth rate throughout Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35589/07]

My Department provides a range of supports to parents, in particular mothers, which may impact on decisions regarding motherhood. In the context of measures to provide income support to mothers, child benefit and maternity benefit are the most direct financial provisions within the remit of my department. Child benefit, a universal payment, is paid in respect of children up to the age of 16 years and it continues to be paid in respect of children up to age 19 who are in full-time education, or who have a physical or mental disability. Maternity benefit is an income maintenance payment awarded by this department to eligible women for a 26-week period on foot of a confinement. Entitlement to this benefit for employees is contingent on entitlement to statutory maternity leave, which is the responsibility of the minister for justice, equality and law reform. Maternity leave legislation also provides an option for a woman to take an additional 16-week period of maternity leave that does not attract a benefit payment.

The Government has demonstrated its commitment to supporting parenthood through the significant enhancements to the child benefit scheme with increases of between 265% and 300% in the monthly payments since 2001. In addition in 2006 the government introduced the Early Childcare Supplement for children under age six. The supplement was increased to €1,100 in Budget 2008. Likewise Maternity benefit rates have increased substantially from some €219 in 2001 to 280. Furthermore the duration for maternity benefit has been extended from 18 to 26 weeks in recent years. The period of weeks which must be taken before the baby is due has been reduced from 4 to 2 weeks and the final 4 weeks can be postponed in the event of the child being hospitalised. It should be noted that the recently agreed programme for government contains the following commitment in relation to ‘Giving Parents More Time with Their Children': Over the next five years we will increase paid maternity leave by five weeks and make all leave after the first 26 weeks available to either parent; Work with the social partners to promote the greater availability of family-friendly work practices; Examine the possibility of introducing paternity benefit; Examine the possibility of shared parental leave. Progression of this commitment is a matter for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in the first instance.

Denis Naughten

Question:

332 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will extend social welfare rights to returning missionaries to include the provision of a travel pass when they reach 66 years of age; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35642/07]

Denis Naughten

Question:

334 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the plans he has to introduce a system where persons entitled to free travel who can not avail of public transport for hospital appointments could obtain a refund for the cost of taxis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35644/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 332 and 334 together.

The free travel scheme is available to all people living in the State aged 66 years or over. This includes people aged 66 or over, such as missionaries, returning from abroad to live in Ireland. All carers in receipt of carer's allowance and carers of people in receipt of constant attendance or prescribed relative's allowance, regardless of their age, receive a free travel pass. It is also available to people under age 66 who are in receipt of certain disability type welfare payments, such as disability allowance, invalidity pension and blind person's pension. The scheme provides free travel on the main public and private transport services for those eligible under the scheme. These include road, rail and ferry services provided by companies such as Bus Átha Cliath, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann, as well as Luas and services provided by over 80 private transport operators.

I am aware of the difficulties that some free travel pass holders have in accessing public transport and my officials have discussed this issue with the Commission for Taxi Regulation. Various alternatives to the existing system, including the use of vouchers, have been examined. A study, "A Review of the Free Schemes," published in 2000 under the Department's programme of expenditure reviews concluded that a voucher type system, which would be open to a wide range of transport providers including taxis and hackneys, would be extremely difficult to administer, open to abuse and unlikely to be sufficient to afford an acceptable amount of travel. This position remains unchanged.

The issue of access to public transport in rural areas is being addressed at present through the Rural Transport Programme, which is being managed by Pobal, on behalf of my colleague the Minister for Transport. My Department contributed €500,000 to the initiative in 2004, €750,000 in 2005, €850,000 in 2006, and €1.5 million in 2007 to ensure that free travel passholders continue to have access to community based transport services. I will continue to review the operation of the free travel scheme with a view to identifying the scope for further improvements as resources permit.

Denis Naughten

Question:

333 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will provide the fuel allowance in a lump sum in order that recipients can pay for the purchase of oil and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35643/07]

The aim of the national fuel scheme is to assist householders on long-term social welfare or health service executive payments with meeting the cost of their additional heating needs during the winter season. Fuel allowances are paid from end-September to mid-April. The allowance represents a contribution towards a person's normal heating expenses. A detailed review of the fuel allowance was carried out in 1998. This review looked at alternatives to the weekly payment method including a single lump sum payment. A survey of recipients with the allowance on a customer panel showed that the majority (58%) preferred weekly payment, 22% wanted a once-off lump sum payment, 12% favoured direct debit to a supplier while 8% would rather have two lump sum payments during the fuel season. The review recommended continuing with the weekly payment method. I will keep all aspects of the fuel allowance scheme, including the issue of a lump sum payment, under review. Any significant changes to the scheme that would require additional expenditure could only be considered within a budgetary context and in the light of resources available to me for improvements in social welfare generally.

Question No. 334 answered with QuestionNo. 332.

Community Development.

Michael McGrath

Question:

335 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the financial supports available from his Department in terms of both start-up costs and running costs for community groups who which to establish youth cafes in their community. [34874/07]

As the Deputy will be aware my Department does not operate a specific scheme or programme to support youth cafes. My Department does, however, operate a number of programmes and schemes and it may be possible to secure from these an element of funding towards the start up costs and running costs for community groups to establish youth cafes in their community. Details of all the programmes and schemes operated by my Department can be accessed on the Department's website at www.pobail.ie. I should point out that each of the schemes and programmes operated by my Department are governed by rules and eligibility criteria that applicants must meet in order to receive funding from the Department.

Departmental Expenditure.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

336 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his Department, or its agencies has paid in advance for works or services that will not be completed before the end of the 2007 financial year; the reasons for doing so; the amount of the payments; the recipients and the nature of the works or services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34880/07]

I refer the Deputy to question number 158 of 13 December 2007. As outlined in that reply, my Department operates in line with Public Financial Procedures, and makes payments on foot of matured liabilities, i.e., after goods or services have been received and found to be satisfactory or as otherwise provided for by contract. In relation to the agencies within the ambit of my Department, I understand that no payments have been made in respect of works or services that will not be completed before the end of the 2007 financial year.

Grant Payments.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

337 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the amount of money that has been granted to a group (details supplied) since its establishment; the benefit to taxpayers of the group’s work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35034/07]

The organisation concerned is a statutory body, rather than a group as that term might ordinarily be understood in the context of my Department's funding schemes for community and voluntary organisations. Given the nature of the statutory body and the funding arrangements that apply to it, it is not possible for me to answer the Deputy's Question in any meaningful way, without revealing the identify of the organisation. The Deputy will appreciate that I am precluded by the conventions of the House from so doing in the context of replying to a ‘details supplied' Question. I will, however, be glad to supply whatever information the Deputy requires in this case if he wishes to adopt an alternative approach to the matter.

Youth Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

338 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the breakdown on funding under the Drugs Initiative/Young Peoples Facilities and Services Fund in terms of capital expenditure; non-capital expenditure and the new programmes or initiatives to be funded. [35124/07]

The following table outlines the expected 2007 expenditure under the Drugs Initiative/ Young People's Facilities and Services Fund. 2007 Expected ExpenditureDrugs Initiative/ Young People's Facilities and Services Fund

Current

Capital

€m

€m

Drugs Initiative (Drugs Task Forces)

27.3

1.0

Young Peoples Facilities and Services Fund

13.1

7.0

Other (NACD, NDST, HRB, etc)

2.9

0

Total

43.3

8.0

A total allocation of €64.332m has been provided in my Department's Estimates for drugs expenditure in 2008, of which €9m has been allocated to capital projects. This represents an increase of 29% on the corresponding figure for 2007, which is a huge increase by any standards and, particularly, in the context of allocations generally for the coming year. The increased allocation will facilitate increased activity under the Young People's Facilities and Services Fund – including further progress towards the full implementation of the action plans of the Regional Drugs Task Forces; the initiation of the implementation of the recommendations of the Report of the Working Group on Drugs Rehabilitation in so far as they pertain to my Department; the expansion of the Fund to further towns, mainly in Leinster, and increased capital funding for drug related projects and facilities for young people. The 2008 allocation will also facilitate further initiatives in tackling cocaine in line with the recommendations of the Report of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs "An Overview of Cocaine Use in Ireland". Overall, I am satisfied that the significant funding available to me will facilitate accelerated progress in the coming year.

Community Development.

Billy Timmins

Question:

339 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the application for funding made in 2006 and 2007 by Wicklow County Council for CLÁR Funding; the discussions officials in his Department have had with Wicklow County Council on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35161/07]

Following a review of the CLÁR Programme in 2006, parts of Co Wicklow were added to the Programme for the first time. In this context, the Deputy should note that I met with officials from Wicklow County Council in May 2006 to outline the various measures available under CLÁR. Officials in my Department subsequently wrote to Wicklow County Council detailing the funding that is available under each measure. To date, Wicklow County Council has applied for €21,167 under the programme in 2007. No applications were made during 2006.

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

340 Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason an organisation that applied for a grant under the Irish National Community and Voluntary Forum was unsuccessful; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35382/07]

One of the organisations referred to by the Deputy had an unsuccessful application under the Funding Scheme to support National Organisations in the Community and Voluntary Sector. 64 organisations were awarded funding under this Scheme. This organisation has been notified directly of the reason they were not successful on this occasion. It is open to the organisation to appeal the decision.

Tuarascálacha Bliantúla.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

341 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an bhfuil cóip de Thuarascáil Bhliantúil Bhord na Leabhar Gaeilge do na blianta 2004, 2005 agus 2006 ar fáil agus cathain a bheidh sé ag súil le Tuarascáil Bhliantúil 2007 a fháil, ar ghlac sé leis na tuarascálacha agus ar fhoilsigh an Bord iad ina dhiaidh sin, mar níl siad ar fáil ar an idirlíon, nó cathain a bheidh siad ar fáil. [35485/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

342 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cathain a sheol Bord na Leabhar Gaeilge cóip nó dréacht de Thuarascálacha Bliantúla 2004, 2005 agus 2006 ar aghaidh chuig an Aire nó chuig a Roinn, agus cathain a d’fhaomhaigh an Bord an dréacht deireanach i ngach cás. [35486/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

343 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cé orthu a bhfuil an fhreagracht as a chinntiú go ndéantar Tuarascálacha Bliantúla Bhord na Leabhar Gaeilge a fhoilsiú do gach bliain, cad iad na céimeanna a glacadh maidir le foilsiú Thuarascálacha Bliantúla an Bhoird, mar shampla dréacht, faomhadh srl, cén staid ag a bhfuil Tuarascálacha Bliantúla 2004, 2005 agus 2006 agus cathain a glacadh na cinntí éagsúla maidir leis na tuarascálacha. [35487/07]

Tógfaidh mé Ceisteanna 341 go dtí 343 le chéile.

I dtús báire, ba mhaith liom a mhíniú don Teachta go bhfuil Tuarascáil Bhliantúil agus Ráiteas Airgeadais Bhord na Leabhar Gaeilge don bhliain 2004 leagtha faoi bhráid Tithe an Oireachtais ó 11 Eanáir 2007. Maidir leis na Tuarascálacha Bhliantúla do na blianta 2005 agus 2006, tuigim go bhfuil na dréacht-thuarascálacha do na blianta sin faomhtha ag an mBord féin ach go bhfuil na Ráitis Airgeadais a théann leo fós á bplé leis an Ard Reachtaire Cuntas agus Ciste. A luaithe agus a bheidh siad ar fáil, leagfar na Tuarascálacha mar aon leis na Ráitis Airgeadais faoi bhráid Tithe an Oireachtais. Beifear ag súil go mbeidh Tuarascáil agus Ráiteas Airgeadais don bhliain 2007 ar fáil go luath i 2008. Is ar an mBord go príomha atá an fhreagracht a chinntiú go bhfuil Tuarascálacha Bliantúla an Bhoird foilsithe do gach bhliain. Sin ráite, is féidir liom a dheimhniú go mbíonn monatóireacht leanúnach á dhéanamh ag mo Roinnse ar na nithe seo agus go mbíonn plé leanúnach ag oifigigh mo Roinne leis an eagraíocht lena cinntiú go gcomhlíontar na dualgais cuntasachta sa chás. Mar eolas don Teachta, tá cinneadh déanta feidhmeanna na heagraíochta seo a aistriú chuig Foras na Gaeilge le héifeacht ó dheireadh na bliana seo. Is ar Fhoras na Gaeilge, mar sin, a thitfidh an fhreagracht ó thús 2008 ar aghaidh chun na Tuarascálacha agus na Ráitis Airgeadais chuí a fhoilsiú.

Departmental Records.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

344 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his Department maintain a record of visits by him to the headquarters of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35538/07]

No. However, I visit the headquarters on days on which the Dáil is sitting, along with any days that I am in Dublin, including weekends. I also frequently visit one of the decentralised locations of the Department on days on which I am based in the West of Ireland.

Community Development.

Joe Costello

Question:

345 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the steps taken to provide funding for a project (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35558/07]

I understand that the project in question is primarily funded through FÁS. The process for any project seeking funding through the National Drugs Strategy is to make an application through the relevant Local or Regional Drugs Task Force who, in this case, is Finglas Cabra Local Drugs Task Force (LDTF). I understand that the LDTF in question has received an application for funding from the project which is currently being considered by them.

Harbours and Piers.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

346 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make funding available for the upgrading of the Coolnagalach pier outside Kenmare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35345/07]

The Pier at Coolnagalach is the property of Kerry County Council and responsibility for its repair and upkeep rests with the Local Authority in the first instance. My Department does, however, co-fund maintenance and development works with various Local Authorities subject to the availability of Exchequer funding and overall national priorities. I have recently invited applications for funding under the 2008 Fishery Harbours and Coastal Infrastructure Programme and any application received from Kerry County Council for the above location will be given due consideration subject to availability of exchequer funding and overall national priorities.

Grant Payments.

Beverley Flynn

Question:

347 Deputy Beverley Flynn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when payments due under the area based scheme will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [34849/07]

An application under the 2007 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 3 May 2007. Following processing of the application, issues arose regarding the area of land being claimed, the outcome of which was that the person named was deemed to have over-claimed in respect of the forage area available to him. While this over-claim did not affect his payment under the Single Payment Scheme — as he was confirmed to have more eligible land than the number of entitlements held — it has resulted in an over-declaration of greater than 20% of the eligible forage area found. Under the rules governing the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, an over-declaration of more than 20% results in a nil payment for the year in question. Accordingly, there is no payment due to the person named.

Departmental Expenditure.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

348 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if her Department, or its agencies, has paid in advance for works or services that will not be completed before the end of the 2007 financial year; the reasons for doing so; the amount of the payments; the recipients and the nature of the works or services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34877/07]

Almost all payments made in advance relate to Information Communications Technology (ICT).

My Department uses an extensive range of ICT hardware and software products to underpin its key operations. Some of these are off-the-shelf and some are tailored. These hardware and software products require ongoing support and enhancement to ensure their satisfactory operation and modification to meet ongoing changes to business needs.

By the end of 2007, my Department will have paid for a range of enhancement, support and maintenance services to be delivered during 2008. These are set out in the table below.

Telecommunications costs including both voice and data capacity, with the exception of call charges, are also paid for in advance.

In the case of some of these services the only contractual option available is to pay in advance. In the case of others, it is more beneficial to the Department to do so.

As part of composite billing, my Department has also paid two days (1st and 2nd January 2008) line and equipment rental to Eircom Virtual Private Network (VPN) account service.

The service contract for analytical instruments relates to the Central Meat Control Laboratory of my Department. Service contracts are required to establish that analytical instruments are still fit for purpose and operating within specification.

With regard to agencies under the aegis of my Department, payment for works or services are operational matters for the bodies themselves.

Company

Nature of Service

Period of Cover

Amount inc VAT

Allen Systems Group

Maintenance and support for Mainframe Development Software

February 2007 – February 2008

34,635.97

Allen Systems Group

Maintenance and support for Mainframe Monitoring Software

June 2007 – June 2008

11,464.95

Altassian

Maintenance and support for Management Software

March 2007 – March 2008

2,998.20

Blenheim

Maintenance and support for Management Software

July 2007 – July 2008

4,486.92

Cincom

Maintenance and support for Mainframe Database Software

January 2007 – January 2008

14,538.78

Cincom

Maintenance and support for Mainframe Database Software

March 2007 – March 2008

25,652.73

Cincom

Maintenance and support for Mainframe Database Software

July 2007 – July 2008

3,496.90

Cincom

Maintenance and support for Mainframe Database Software

August 2007 – July 2008

221,493.80

Computer Associates

Maintenance and support for Mainframe Management Software

December 2007 – December 2008

233,813.14

Core

Maintenance and support for Management Software

January 2008 – December 2008

37,074.96

Core

Maintenance and support for Management Software

January 2008 – December 2008

13,323.84

Core

Maintenance and support for Management Software

January 2008 – December 2008

793.72

eSpatial

Maintenance and support for Mapping Software

January 2008 – December 2008

290,118.12

Fitz Software

Maintenance and support for Mainframe Management Software

July 2007 – July 2008

9,075.00

Hewlett Packard

Maintenance and support for Hardware

June 2007 – June 2008

305,841.18

Hewlett Packard

Maintenance and Support for Hot Site facility

July 2007 – July 2008

111,010.19

Hewlett Packard

Maintenance and support for Mainframe Management Software

October 2007 – September 2008

10,577.82

IBM

Maintenance and support for Software

December 2007 – November 2008

46,516.56

Levi Ray Shoup

Maintenance and Support for Mainframe Management Software

January 2008 – December 2008

9,162.88

Macro4

Maintenance and Support for Mainframe Management Software

January 2008 – January 2009

4,000.00

Accenture

Maintenance and support of the Single Payment System

December 2007- December 2008

3,216,996.00

Neopost

Maintenance and Support for Hardware Maintenance

May 2007 – April 2008

494.25

Oracle

Maintenance and Support for Database and Application Software

February 2007 – February 2008

25,017.54

Oracle

Maintenance and Support for Database and Application Software

February 2007 – February 2008

44,501.71

Oracle

Maintenance and support for Database and Application Software

February 2007 – February 2008

53,584.63

Oracle

Maintenance and Support for Database and