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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 5 Feb 2008

Vol. 646 No. 1

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 11, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 12 to 103, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 104 to 111, inclusive, answered orally.

Light Rail Project.

Brian Hayes

Question:

112 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Transport the results of a feasibility study into a possible Rathfarnham LUAS line; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3472/08]

The Railway Procurement Agency has made significant progress in examining the feasibility of a Luas Line serving Rathfarnham. It is examining the feasibility of a line in the corridor from Dundrum to the city centre via Harold's Cross, Rathfarnham and Terenure.

I understand that the Agency is currently reviewing its preliminary conclusions and following the completion of this process, it will be in a position in the near future to finalise its feasibility report.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

113 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Transport his plans to resolve outstanding issues between CIÉ and the Railway Procurement Agency in relation to land use for the proposed LUAS line D; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3470/08]

Transport 21 provides for a Luas line to run from St. Stephen's Green to Liffey Junction, with the project being delivered in two phases. The first phase, known as Luas Line Bx, runs from St. Stephen's Green to the City Centre and the second phase, known as Luas Line D, runs from the city centre to Liffey Junction. This is consistent with the long-term transportation strategy in the Dublin Transportation Initiative (1994) and in the Transportation Office's A Platform for Change (2001), both of which envisaged the old Broadstone alignment being used for Luas or Metro rather than suburban rail. The longer term strategy for light rail in Dublin envisages the extension of the line from Liffey Junction to West Finglas and possible onward extension to connect with Metro West.

Iarnród Éireann submitted a proposal in 2007 to my Department in relation to an alternative use of the Broadstone alignment for suburban rail services. Iarnród Éireann proposed using Broadstone to address capacity limitations for suburban services in city centre stations, notwithstanding proposals in Transport 21 for the Interconnector. In this context, my Department engaged transport consultants Booz, Allen and Hamilton to review the proposal from Iarnród Éireann.

As I have indicated on a number of occasions previously, I remain committed to the strategy set out in Transport 21 for the use of the old Broadstone alignment, unless the independent consultants confirm there are very strong strategic, transport and operational arguments, which require consideration of an alternative use.

I recently received the report of the independent consultants and am considering it at present.

Road Traffic Offences.

Jack Wall

Question:

114 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Transport if he will reform the penalty points system to address the issue of up to two thirds of drivers who accumulate twelve penalty points failing to voluntarily give up their driving licences as they are legally obliged to do; the consultation he has undertaken with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Courts Service to reform the present mechanism for the collection of fines for motoring offences and to permit gardaí to arrest disqualified drivers at road checks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3416/08]

The provision in the Road Traffic Acts in this context is not a voluntary one. Where a person has accumulated 12 penalty points and is to be disqualified for holding a licence for a period of 6 months, they are required to submit their driving licence to the issuing licensing authority within 14 days, and failure to comply is an offence.

The penalties on summary conviction for that offence are, in the case of a first offence a fine of up to €1,000 and in certain cases to a fine of up to €2,000, or imprisonment for up to three months, or both a fine and imprisonment.

Enforcement of this and other provisions of the Road Traffic Acts is a matter for An Garda Síochána and the realisation of fines is a matter for the Courts Service. Any reform of the fine collection system is a matter for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Courts Service.

Comprehensive reporting arrangements are in place under the present penalty points system to ensure that the Garda Síochána are notified of all drivers disqualified on the basis of having accumulated 12 penalty points. It is a matter for the Garda Síochána to follow up with the issue of summons to drivers who have failed to surrender their licence to a motor tax office within the statutory 14 day period.

A person who drives while disqualified from holding a licence commits the offence of driving without a licence. The Garda can prosecute the driver in respect of that offence in addition to prosecution of the separate offence of failing to surrender their licence where disqualified on the basis of having accumulated 12 penalty points.

As I indicated in my response to the priority question, my officials are eliciting proposals for possible inclusion in the forthcoming Road Traffic Bill. Any proposal to arrest disqualified drivers can be considered in that context.

Question No. 115 answered with Question No. 110.

Taxi Regulations.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

116 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Transport his proposals to have 100% wheelchair accessible taxis in cities as promised in the Programme for Government in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3444/08]

The Commission for Taxi Regulation published new National Vehicle Standards — Requirements for Small Public Service Vehicles on 26 November 2007, which include new accessible vehicle standards for licensing as wheelchair accessible taxis and wheelchair accessible hackneys.

My Department is in discussion with the Commission for Taxi Regulation in relation to a proposed subsidy arrangement to assist taxi and hackney operators with the purchase of wheelchair accessible vehicles that will meet the new accessible vehicle specification developed by the Commission. This recognises the fact that by their very nature such accessible vehicles will cost more than standard saloon cars. The recent announcement of the new accessible vehicle standards by the Commission facilitates further detailed examination of the subsidy proposal, which continues to be the subject of discussion with the Commission. A final decision will be made on the proposal for a subsidy scheme as soon as possible having regard to the overall budgetary context.

The development of the new accessible vehicle standard by the Commission forms the basis for the further promotion of accessibility in taxi and hackney services, and will facilitate a first step in delivery on the Programme for Government commitment in relation to accessible taxi services.

Port Development.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

117 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the conflict arising out of the use of private security personnel in Dublin Port; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3485/08]

This is an operational matter for Dublin Port Company. I have no function in regard to such industrial relations matters.

Regional Airports.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

118 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Transport his plans to fast track the independence of Shannon Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3477/08]

Phil Hogan

Question:

134 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Transport his plans to fast track the independence of Cork Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3476/08]

Dan Neville

Question:

169 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Transport when it is expected that Cork and Shannon Airports will become independent of the Dublin Airport Authority in view of the fact that the State Airports Act 2004 was passed in 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3491/08]

Pat Breen

Question:

174 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Transport if it is his intention to make Shannon Airport an independent privately owned airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3360/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 118, 134, 169 and 174 together.

The State Airports Act, 2004 provides the framework for the establishment of Shannon and Cork as independent airports. Under the Act, both the Minister for Finance and I will have to be satisfied as to the state of operational and financial readiness of the three airports before any vesting of assets can take place.

I have no intention of privatising either airport.

The actual timing of airport restructuring will depend on the creation of the appropriate conditions that will ensure the financial sustainability of each of the three State Airports. The restructuring process will require coordinated strategies for the achievement of operational and financial readiness of each airport. In this regard, the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) has a key role to play in finalizing the financial framework and coordinating the individual business plans for the three airports that will enable airport separation to take place.

Both the Cork and Shannon Airport Authorities recently submitted their draft business plans to the DAA and I understand that discussions are underway between the parties on the content of the plans.

The airport authorities' plans and the DAA's views on them are currently being considered within my Department and I hope to be in a position to progress these matters in the near future.

Public Transport.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

119 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport his views on the impact of the recently sanctioned price increases for Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann on developing the modal shift to public transport; if the level of subvention recently set for CIÉ had any impact on the fare increases that were sanctioned; if the new Dublin Transport Authority will have the power to set fares; if this will include setting LUAS fares; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3402/08]

My objective in relation to public transport fares is, taking account of underlying cost factors and inflation, to secure a good balance between anticipated revenues, cost control and compensation for loss making services by way of Exchequer subvention. This approach is intended to make public transport an attractive option for the travelling public and to ensure that the public transport companies continue to operate on a sound financial basis.

It is not anticipated that the recent increase of an average 5% in Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann fares will have any significant impact on a modal shift to public transport. Factors such as reliability, frequency and punctuality usually score highly in determining levels of demand for public transport and accordingly allow the companies the opportunity to grow market share by offering reliable and innovative public transport.

The regulation of public transport fares, routes and service levels in the Greater Dublin Area is set out in the Programme for Government as among the proposed functions of the Dublin Transport Authority.

Transport 21.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

120 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which the targets set in Transport 21 are expected to be met as predicted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3588/08]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

167 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport if he will provide a full report to Dáil Éireann on the final delivery date and budget for each of the Transport 21 projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3398/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 120 and 167 together.

At the launch of Transport 21, the Government identified the projects in the national roads, public transport and regional airports sectors that it wished to see prioritised for development in the ten-year period from 2006 to 2015 and provided indicative completion dates for the major projects contained.

Significant progress has been made on Transport 21 in its first two years and a number of projects have been completed, are under construction or are well advanced in planning terms.

Most national road projects are now being completed ahead of schedule and almost all of the projects opened in 2007 were on or ahead of time. These included the Newry-Dundalk motorway, which was three months ahead of schedule, the Tyrellstown to Kilbeggan project which was six months ahead of schedule and Phase 1 of the Arklow – Gorey Bypass which opened four months early. The five major inter-urban motorways are on schedule for completion by end 2010.

In public transport, the new Docklands station opened in March 2007, well ahead of its 2009 indicative target date, new rail carriages were introduced on the Dublin-Cork route facilitating the introduction of hourly services on the route, while the first of the 183 new Intercity railcars have been delivered on schedule and in accordance with the Transport 21 indicative timetable and have entered service on the Dublin-Sligo route.

While the majority of projects will be delivered ahead of or in accordance with the indicative timetable published at the launch of Transport 21, the huge scale of the programme is such that adjustments to the timescale for individual projects is inevitable. The value of the ten-year financial framework is that it gives us the flexibility to deal with this in an effective way.

The necessary revisions have arisen for a range of reasons including changes to the scope of projects arising from public consultation, planning issues, procurement issues and archaeological difficulties and are set out below for individual projects.

Portlaoise Train depot will be completed in the first half of this year, rather than end 2007; the short delay arose because the planning approval process took longer than anticipated.

Cork Commuter Rail Service to Midleton: The construction timetable is yet to be finalised with the contractors, but Iarnród Éireann is optimistic that passenger services will start in early 2009.

Linking of the existing Luas lines: Dublin City Council is in the process of completing traffic modelling work as part of its examination of revised traffic management arrangements in the city centre, which will be required for the delivery of the Luas city centre link (line BX) and the further extension to Liffey Junction (line D). Following completion of further detailed design work and subject to a satisfactory outcome to the city centre traffic management planning work, the RPA plans to submit a Railway Order application for Luas Line BX to An Bord Pleanála this year.

The Tallaght to Citywest Luas project involves a longer alignment than originally planned and the timescale for completion has, therefore, been revised to 2010.

The revised completion date for the Connolly to Docklands Luas is 2009, rather than late 2008 as originally scheduled mainly because the RPA devoted a substantial period to addressing and resolving the concerns of businesses in the IFSC about the impact of construction on their operations.

Metro West: The projected completion date for the entire project remains 2014. The project has been identified as a PPP and the RPA, when announcing the emerging preferred route alignment, indicated that the possibility of phasing implementation would be discussed with prospective PPP bidders.

There were delays in the start of the Limerick Southern Ring Road due to tendering issues, which meant that the contract award process did not progress as quickly as was originally hoped. Completion is now scheduled for 2010. Although Construction on both the M3 and the N25 Waterford City Bypass were delayed because of archaeological issues at Tara and Woodstown respectively, the completion date for both projects remains 2010.

Dublin City Centre rail resignalling project was expanded to include the Maynooth line, resulting in a longer construction period and a 2011 completion date.

Due to a slight delay in the submission of the Railway Order application, Phase 1 of the Navan Line will now be completed in 2010.

Metro North: The scheduled completion date is now 2013 to take account of scope changes made arising from public consultations.

The overall budget for Transport 21 is €34 billion and I am satisfied that the projects identified will be delivered within this budget. Both my predecessor and I have consistently taken the view that, in the interest of the taxpayer and in ensuring that Transport 21 is achieved within budget, the cost of individual projects should not be released until the public procurement processes have been completed. I propose to maintain that policy.

I have undertaken to provide relevant economic and financial information on projects at an appropriate time but without compromising the commercial sensitivity attaching to the projects.

Proposed Legislation.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

121 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Transport his views on the calls from the Road Safety Authority to his Department to immediately introduce legislation to give powers to the gardaí to arrest disqualified drivers that the gardaí discover during checkpoints; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3432/08]

Shane McEntee

Question:

122 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Transport his views on the calls from the Road Safety Authority to his Department to immediately introduce legislation to give powers to make the possession of a fake driving licence an offence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3483/08]

Shane McEntee

Question:

130 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Transport when his attention was drawn to legal loopholes where gardaí can not arrest disqualified drivers and can not seize their licences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3484/08]

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

141 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Transport his views on the calls from the Road Safety Authority to his Department to immediately introduce legislation to give powers to the gardaí to seize disqualified drivers' licences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3482/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos 121, 122, 130 and 141 together.

The Road Traffic Acts currently provide for the offence of driving while using a false driving licence. The offence comes under section 38 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 and relates to driving without a licence.

Drivers detected by the gardaí in such circumstances can be summonsed to appear before the courts and on conviction face a fine not exceeding €1,000 for a first offence, rising to a fine not exceeding €2,000 and/or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months in the case of a third or subsequent offence.

The issue of seizing driving licences, false or otherwise, has been brought to my attention by the Road Safety Authority, as has the issue of giving powers to the gardaí to arrest disqualified drivers who are found to be still driving. The issue has also been highlighted in the media in recent days.

These matters are currently being considered by my officials in the context of the preparation of a Road Traffic Bill, which I would hope to bring to Government later this year.

Light Rail Project.

Brian Hayes

Question:

123 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Transport if he is still of the opinion that a railway order will be made by 2009 for the proposed rail interconnector in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3471/08]

Sean Sherlock

Question:

139 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport the reason he has abandoned proposals to fast track the development of the Dublin rail interconnector; if this decision was due to financial constraints or other planning considerations; the progress he expects to be made on the interconnector in 2008 and 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3409/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

347 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Transport when he expects an announcement to be made on the proposed timeline of construction for the rail interconnector; the anticipated timeline for construction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3314/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 123, 139 and 347 together.

Transport 21 provides for the construction of the Interconnector tunnel by 2015. The project is proceeding and the detailed planning and design of the project is being undertaken by Iarnród Éireann. The Company expects to submit an application for a Railway Order to An Bord Pleanála in early 2009. The acceleration of the project will be considered in this context.

Coast Guard Service.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

124 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Transport if he will make a statement on the future of the maritime radio rescue centre at Malin head. [3468/08]

It is my intention that the Irish Coast Guard and Maritime Administration will be strengthened on an ongoing basis over the coming years. My ambition is to put in place a service that will fully meet the needs of this country well in the 21st century. The recent decisions have been taken to reflect the future optimal configuration of co-ordination centres whilst ensuring that the detailed technical knowledge and experience of the Coast Guard Watch Officers is retained and fully utilised. I want to restate again that no Officer will be forced to move or lose their jobs. The transition arrangements for new centres, including the functions to continue at Malin (and Valentia), will be negotiated with staff to ensure there is no loss of expertise.

The Deloitte and Touche Irish Coast Guard Study was published in 2002. This report has provided a backdrop to ongoing improvements and developments in the Coast Guard over the last 6 years. I have arranged that both this document and the submission to me on which recent decisions were based be published on the Department's website www.transport.ie.

I purposely outlined a long-term scenario to provide structure to negotiations, which are now taking place, on how best to implement this particular step in the modernisation of the Irish Coast Guard. I have given direction to the tendering process, where a Request for Tender is now in preparation, and given enough notice to enable difficulties to be identified and resolved before equipment has to be installed. I have made it clear that these discussions, which are underway, must take account of the safety needs of local communities, and ongoing improvement of the service to the public, and the concerns of individual staff members. As I indicated previously the proposed restructuring was raised at the relevant committees on which the relevant organisations that have an interest in search and rescue are represented.

I also want to take this opportunity to make two general statements related to the issue. Firstly, I am concerned that there is confusion in the public mind between the work done in Co-Ordination centres and that undertaken by local volunteers. A significant element of ‘local knowledge' is from the local Coast Guard Coastal Units and lifeboat crews strategically positioned around our coast. Their local knowledge of tides, currents, bays and local historical incident locations is invaluable to the Watch Officers of the Coast Guard. I would like to put on record again my appreciation of their selfless voluntary efforts of the Coast Guard, RNLI Lifeboat and Community Rescue Boat crews in rescuing those in trouble on our coasts, cliffs and offshore islands.

Secondly, the Coast Guard restructuring that is being worked on is aimed at improving the efficiency of a key public service. The position in relation to Coast Guard services is being considered with the benefit of the many comments that I have received since the restructuring proposal was announced. I can assure the Deputy that all views expressed will be taken into account before a west coast location is determined.

Road Safety.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

125 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if he has plans to reduce the legal blood alcohol level for drivers on a learner permit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3489/08]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

129 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport when he will introduce legislation to facilitate the graduated driver licence programme; the specific measures he will include in this system; if drivers holding this licence will be subject to a lower blood alcohol limit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3390/08]

I propose to takes Questions Nos. 125 and 129 together.

This issue of a setting a specific blood alcohol level for learner drivers was one of a number of proposals made to me in February last year by the Road Safety Authority (RSA), in the context of the introduction of a Scheme of Graduated Driving Licensing (GDL).

I took the decision at the time that the best and most practical approach was to introduce such any such Scheme on a basis of a progressive roll-out of appropriate measures. Deputies will recall the introduction of the first phase of the Scheme in relation to learner driver permits in October last year.

The current review of the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level for drivers generally, which is being carried out by the Advisory Panel of the RSA, changes the context in any case for the RSA's earlier proposal relating to learner drivers specifically. Consideration of this matter in isolation would not now be a sensible approach.

I am awaiting the advice of the RSA on reducing the current BAC, as envisaged in the Road Safety Strategy 2007-2012. I will take this and other relevant matters into account in the roll-out of subsequent phases of the Graduated Driving Licence Scheme.

Light Rail Project.

Jack Wall

Question:

126 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Transport if preliminary work has begun on the proposals for light rail systems for Limerick and Cork; if so, the work that has been undertaken; when he expects draft proposals to be produced and placed on public display; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3407/08]

The Agreed Programme for Government foresees feasibility studies being completed within two years into LUAS-style light rail systems in Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford.

My Department has agreed with the Limerick local authorities that the terms of reference for the proposed Limerick Planning, Land Use and Transportation Study will include an examination of the feasibility of introducing light rail transit and/or bus rapid transit. I understand that the Limerick local authorities hope to engage consultants by the end of April to work on this study.

The Cork local authorities have, in recent weeks, commissioned consultants to update the Cork Area Strategic Plan. At the request of my Department, the terms of reference for this update include a requirement that the review of the transportation strategies should include consideration of the feasibility of introducing light rail transit and/or bus rapid transit.

It is my expectation that both Cork and Limerick will have completed feasibility studies on light rail and bus rapid Transit by mid 2009. The publication and consultation on the feasibility studies will be a matter for the relevant local authorities.

Rural Transport Services.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

127 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport the amount of funding the Rural Transport Programme currently receives; the number of bus and other transport services the RTP supports; if he has plans to expand the scheme; if he will undertake a review of the transport needs of rural communities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3411/08]

€9 million was provided by my Department for the Rural Transport Programme (RTP) in 2007. Funding is also available to the RTP from the Department of Social and Family Affairs in respect of the Free Travel Scheme and from other sources that support the initiative.

Thirty-four community transport groups around the country are being funded under the programme and I understand from Pobal, which administers the Programme on behalf of my Department, that over 120,000 services were operated in 2007.

Pobal has commenced a process to extend the RTP on a phased basis with a goal of achieving nation-wide coverage in due course in line with Government policy following a review of the scheme in 2006.

The bottom-up approach developed during the pilot Rural Transport Initiative (2002-2006) demonstrated that local people know best what transport services they need. The RTP is building on that concept and the main drivers of community rural transport continue to be the local communities themselves.

Proposed Legislation.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

128 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Transport the progress in bringing forward legislation to introduce mandatory alcohol testing as was promised in a Dáil Éireann motion in October 2007 and to the PARC organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3435/08]

Following representations received from various bodies, including PARC, my Department has consulted the Office of the Attorney General as to how current legislation can be achieved to achieve compulsory roadside testing for intoxicants of drivers involved in serious collisions.

The current position is that a member of An Garda Síochána may require a driver involved in a collision to provide a preliminary breath specimen. This discretion is provided in acknowledgement of the fact that urgent medical attention for seriously injured victims must take precedence over breath testing.

The Attorney General has now advised on possible amendments to legislation, which continue to take overriding medical circumstances into account and my officials continue to engage, with that office on this matter. These will be considered in the context of a proposed new Road Traffic Bill which I hope to bring to Government later this year.

Question No. 129 answered with Question No. 125.
Question No. 130 answered with Question No. 121.

Light Rail Project.

Mary Upton

Question:

131 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Transport if plans to extend the green Luas line to Cherrywood are being reviewed to include provision for its eventual conversion to a Metro system; his views on recent criticisms of the Luas system’s capacity compared to Metro systems; if there are plans to provide a system of feeder buses for the red and green Luas lines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3405/08]

The extension of the existing Luas Green Line from Sandyford southwards to Cherrywood will be designed to light rail standards but, as with the existing line, appropriate provision will be made for its subsequent upgrade to Metro when required. This is in line with long-standing Government policy.

The Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) are currently carrying out initial preliminary planning for this upgrade, which will be considered for funding in the successor investment programme to Transport 21.

In the meantime, to provide additional capacity, I understand that the RPA has placed orders for 4 additional trams for the existing line and for 8 trams for the extension to Cherrywood. In addition, the Agency is examining options for a further expansion of capacity, such as extending tram length from 40 metres to 53 metres.

There are currently two private bus operators licensed in accordance with the Road Transport Act, 1932 to provide dedicated bus passenger services to the LUAS lines. One operator is authorised to operate services between Sandyford LUAS Line and Bray and the second operator provides services between Sandyford LUAS Line and Cherrywood and also services between the Tallaght LUAS Line and Citywest Business Park. Details of all current licences are available on the Department's website.

The Department has on hand a number of applications from private bus operators that are not dedicated feeder services but include stops at the LUAS lines. The Department has no outstanding proposals from Dublin Bus or Bus Éireann for dedicated feeder services to and from the LUAS lines.

Transport Policy.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

132 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport when he will publish the Sustainable Transport Plan; the agencies and stakeholders his Department consulted with in the preparation of the plan; if legislation will be necessary to fully implement the plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3404/08]

Simon Coveney

Question:

357 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Transport when the Sustainable Transport Action Plan due to be published by the end of 2007 is scheduled for publication. [3714/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 132 and 357 together.

I am committed to full consultation with not only agencies and stakeholders but also the general public in the preparation of a Sustainable Travel and Transport Action Plan. In this respect I intend to publish an issues document and launch a consultation process this month.

It is intended that the Plan itself will be agreed by Government this year, having regard to the views from the consultation process. It is not possible at this stage to say whether legislative measures will be necessary to give effect to the Plan.

Proposed Legislation.

Enda Kenny

Question:

133 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Transport the reason he revisited a draft Dublin Transport Authority Bill; the summary of the changes he ordered; when he expects to publish this Bill; when he expects to introduce it into Dáil Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3480/08]

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

135 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Transport if he will report on legislation to establish the new Dublin Transport Authority; the geographical area the proposed DTA will have responsibility for; the functions it will have; if it will have network ownership, route licensing and price setting roles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3401/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 133 and 135 together.

The Agreed Programme for Government includes a commitment to expediting the establishment of a statutory Dublin Transport Authority.

The principal functions of the proposed Authority are set out in the Programme for Government and will include:

strategic transport planning;

procurement of public transport infrastructure;

procurement of public transport services;

allocation of current and capital Exchequer funds for the provision of public transport infrastructure and services;

regulation of public transport fares, routes and service levels;

delivery of integrated ticketing, integrated passenger information and integrated fares;

better integration of transport and land use planning; and

ensuring effective traffic management.

This is in line with the recommendations made in the report of the Dublin Transport Authority Establishment Team.

I intend that the new Authority will have overall responsibility for surface transport in the Greater Dublin Area subject to direction by Government in respect of significant policy issues. The Greater Dublin Area comprises the city of Dublin and the administrative counties of South Dublin, Fingal, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Kildare, Meath and Wicklow.

I am currently completing a review of the existing legislative proposals looking particularly at:

strengthening the provisions of the Bill generally to ensure that the DTA is as effective as possible;

improving the arrangements for co-ordination of land use and transport; and

ensuring that the provisions governing the procurement of public transport services and public service obligations take full account of the recently agreed EU Public Service Obligation Regulation and EU law generally.

Preparation of the necessary legislation is in its final stages and concentrating on the above issues. I will bring a Memorandum to Government when this important work is completed. However, my overriding priority remains to establish a statutory Authority that will be effective.

Question No. 134 answered with Question No. 118.
Question No. 135 answered with Question No. 133.

Carbon Emissions.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

136 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Transport the number of cars in total and types of cars classified by level of CO2 emissions currently on Irish roads; the number and types of commercial vehicles classified by CO2 emissions and HGVs currently on Irish roads; the level of CO2 emissions that are produced by motor and commercial vehicles each year in Ireland since 2002; the average number of foreign registered vehicles on Irish roads on a daily and weekly basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3413/08]

The tabular statement is compiled from non-authenticated CO2 emission data on the National Vehicle and Driver File (NVDF) for currently taxed private cars registered as new since May 2004 when collection of CO2 data for such vehicles commenced. A total of 1,882,901 private cars were currently taxed at 31 December, 2007 and this statement covers 525,273 (28%) of that total. The data has been divided into CO2 categories reflecting the proposals to apply for VRT and motor tax purposes for cars registered on or after 1 July next. The CO2 data available relates to vehicles designated as Category ‘A' within the meaning of section 130 of the Finance Act 1992 i.e. passenger car types. Equivalent data is not available for other categories including commercial vehicles which will not be affected by the proposed CO2 based VRT and motor tax charges.

Matters relating to the levels of CO2 emissions produced by motor vehicles are appropriate to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and agencies under his aegis.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that as a general rule, all vehicles imported permanently into the State must be registered for VRT purposes. However, section 135 of the Finance Act, 1992, and Regulations made thereunder, provide for a range of circumstances in which foreign-registered vehicles, brought temporarily into the State, are exempted from the registration requirement. Foreign residents working and studying here temporarily are permitted to use foreign-registered vehicles in the State, normally for a period not exceeding 12 months. The exemption also extends to include vehicles brought into the State by tourists or by other non-residents who are in the State on a casual basis e.g. UK and NI residents on business or shopping trips.

These provisions are required to be in conformity with Article 39 of the EU Treaty, which provides for the free movement of EU workers between member states, and a reciprocal arrangement also applies to Irish residents who bring their cars temporarily to other member states.

I am also advised by the Revenue Commissioners that there is no requirement for vehicles imported under the temporary exemption provisions to be presented to them to avail of the relief. Details of such vehicles are not captured or held in the registration system or passed to the NVDF and consequently data on the number of foreign registered vehicles in circulation is not available.

Private Cars currently taxed at 31st December 2007 by Fuel Type and CO2 Emissions Rating.

CO2 Category

A

B

C

D

E

F

Total

(gCO2/km)

not over 120

121 to 140

141 to 155

156 to 170

171 to 190

191 to 225

Fuel Type

Petrol

4,985

43,127

87,390

116,183

101,972

29,036

394,650

Diesel

2,432

26,552

38,090

12,698

15,731

18,331

127,778

Petrol/Electric

1,232

40

159

575

2,006

Ethanol/Petrol

3

1

241

217

197

836

Other Fuel Types

1

1

3

Total

8,650

69,682

125,481

129,162

118,079

48,140

525,273

Air Services.

Liz McManus

Question:

137 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding the establishment of a public service obligation on the Shannon-Heathrow route; the contacts his Department has had with UK or EU officials in this regard; his views on the fact that no contact was made by any relevant stakeholder with British Airways about a BA Heathrow/Shannon link; the amount of the Economic and Tourism Plan for Shannon Airport catchment area funding that will be allocated for route support and to address the challenges of the Open Skies agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3394/08]

My Department had discussions recently with the EU Commission about air connectivity from the West of Ireland and in particular about the possible imposition of a Public Service Obligation (PSO) on the Shannon-Heathrow route.

The Commission's position, as clarified as a result of those discussions, is that the relevant Regulation is an exception to the general rule of free provision of air services and that any such exception should be considered as restrictively as possible and should only be applied as far as necessary. In order to be eligible for a PSO, a route must not only be vital for the economic development of the region concerned but the existing services must be inadequate. In assessing whether services are adequate, account has to be taken of all existing air transport services, direct and indirect.

In relation to Shannon to London, the Commission has noted that there are already regular direct air services by Ryanair between Shannon and London airports, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton. Allowing for these connections, along with the Cityjet service to Paris, the Commission has indicated that it would be difficult to justify a PSO on the Shannon to London route. In any case, I recently raised the matter of a Shannon — London PSO link with Mr. Jim Fitzpatrick, M.P., UK Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Transport. In subsequent contact by my Department with the UK Department for Transport on the subject it was confirmed that the UK would not favour a PSO link to London from another member state.

I think it is important to now focus on the commercial services from Shannon and I do not propose to comment on approaches to particular airlines, which are the direct responsibility of the airport authority. Cityjet's decision to launch the new Shannon-Paris route is a very positive development in this regard. This new route and the other services from Shannon indicate that Shannon can attract a range of commercial air services to support the business and tourism sectors.

An important element of the Economic and Tourism Development for the Shannon Airport Catchment area is a new tourism-marketing initiative for the area. This initiative amounts to an anticipated €15 to €20 million over the next few years and will be implemented by Tourism Ireland in close consultation with key tourism industry interests in the area, Shannon Development and the Fáilte Ireland Regions.

Finally, the question of allocating public funding directly to airlines for route support is severely constrained by EU State Aid Rules and I have no proposals to develop such a scheme at present.

Public Transport.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

138 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Transport if his Department instructed Dublin Bus to reduce the number of buses servicing the 25X route to Lucan on foot of a complaint by a private operator; the minimum acceptable service on a bus route that is required under current licensing rules; the number of bus licences that are individually held by private operators and Dublin Bus; the number of private operators holding licences for routes without a service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3408/08]

It is not the case that my Department instructed Dublin Bus to reduce the number of buses servicing the Route 25X route to Lucan on foot of a complaint from a private bus operator. My Department has made no demand on Dublin Bus to cease any of its authorised services.

The initiation or alteration of a bus service by Dublin Bus is subject to compliance with the requirement of giving advance notice to my Department and to compliance with the provisions of Section 25 of the Transport Act 1958 concerning competition with licensed private operators.

My Department wrote to Dublin Bus on 4th October, 2007 indicating that three Route 25X departures which the Company was operating from the Newcastle Road Area, were not the subject of an authorisation by my Department and should, therefore, cease. The letter indicated that an application for the authorisation of those services should be made and would be considered. To date no such application has been received in my Department.

The Road Transport Act, 1932, as amended, provides the statutory basis for regulating the provision of public bus services by private bus operators. In accordance with that legislation, private bus operators apply to my Department for licences to operate scheduled bus passenger services within the State.

All licences issued have standard conditions associated with them and compliance with those conditions is the responsibility of the service operator in each instance. A condition of all licences includes the requirement whereby the service must be in operation in its entirety within 4 months from the date of issue of the licence. In exceptional cases the four month deadline may be extended subject to the prior written approval of my Department.

It is also a condition of all licences that the licensee adheres to the approved timetable as listed on the licence.

There are currently 611 valid passenger licences on issue to private bus operators and details of these licences are available on my Department's website. The introduction of all authorised services by Dublin Bus is an operational matter for the Company itself and all services in operation by Dublin Bus are published in the Company's timetable and are available on the Company's website.

My Department is not aware of any licences being held by private operators that are not being operated save in the limited number of cases where the period of introduction has not yet expired or where the operator has applied to my Department and has been granted an extension to that period in accordance with the provisions of the Road Transport Act 1932 as amended.

Question No. 139 answered with Question No. 123.

Rail Network.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

140 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Transport if he will introduce a rail freight subsidy on a per tonne basis for materials that are transferred from existing road freight onto rail freight; if his Department has examined developing new rail lines to facilitate modern freight flows; if he will ensure that the Limerick to Foynes rail line will be urgently reconnected to the national network; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3412/08]

There is substantial ongoing current and capital Exchequer funding in the development and operation of the railway network. Total Exchequer funding allocated to Iarnród Éireann for 2008 amounts to more than €720 million. While I have no proposals to introduce a rail freight subsidy on a per tonne basis for materials transferred from road freight to rail freight, the potential to expand rail freight will be considered as part of the consultation process I intend to launch shortly on the development of a Sustainable Transport Action Plan.

A number of new railway lines – the Western Rail Corridor, the Cork-Midleton rail link, the Navan rail link and the Interconnector – are currently being developed. These will enhance the overall capacity of the network for passenger and freight traffic.

The position regarding the Limerick to Foynes railway line is that no rail freight traffic has operated on the Foynes branch line since December 2000. Since that time, the line has been maintained on a care and maintenance basis. In the meantime, I understand that Iarnród Éireann has undertaken some track renewal and realignment works in the Limerick area. It is normal practice when such work is undertaken not to renew or replace sections of line not currently in use. I have also been informed by Iarnród Éireann that the connection to the Foynes line was life-expired and, as there is no current requirement for it, Iarnród Éireann concluded that it would be unnecessary to incur the cost of renewing it. Iarnród Éireann advises that there are potential hazards from having long-term unused sets of points on the network.

However, the company state that if a viable business case emerged which justified traffic on the line, the connection could be easily reinstated at little cost. No works have been done or will be done in the Limerick area which would prevent reinstatement in the future.

Question No. 141 answered with Question No. 121.

Carbon Emissions.

Michael Noonan

Question:

142 Deputy Michael Noonan asked the Minister for Transport his plans in relation to the reduction of carbon emissions from the transport sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3492/08]

Joe Costello

Question:

175 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Transport the measures in the context of the new EU target for Ireland to reduce its greenhouse emissions by 20% by 2020, using 2005 as a base figure, his Department is planning to introduce to facilitate the reduction in emissions in the transport sector; the estimates his Department has made for the expected level of transport emissions in 2008, 2010, 2015 and 2020; the maximum level of transport emissions allowable within the context of the Kyoto Treaty and the Budget 2008 carbon budget; the estimated impact on transport carbon emissions of the introduction of vehicle registration tax changes in July 2008 and the car tax changes in Budget 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3386/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 142 and 175 together.

The growth in emissions from transport is an indication of the economic success and growth in population in Ireland. Ireland has a single target under the Kyoto Protocol and individual targets are not set for each sector. Nevertheless, the National Climate Change Strategy projects emissions from the transport sector to grow as per the following table:

2008-2012

2015

2020

Transport

13.992

15.12

16.48

Inventories and Projections (Mt CO2E) for Transport Sector.

A number of measures relating to transport are included in the National Climate Change Strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These include rebalancing of motor taxes, Mineral Oil Tax Relief for biofuels, modal shift through Transport 21 and the achievement of a 5.75% biofuels blend in fuels by 2010. In all, the transport sector will provide up to 13% in total national emissions savings under that Strategy. Further details of the Strategy are available on the website of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government: www.environ.ie.

The recent Government proposals in relation to rebalancing VRT and Motor Tax to reflect carbon dioxide emissions is in keeping with the National Climate Change Strategy. An updated analysis, to reflect the actual measures announced in the Budget, will be presented by my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, in the annual report on the implementation of the Strategy. This annual report will also include updated projections of greenhouse gas emissions for all sectors.

In the meanwhile the Government is committed to delivering a Sustainable Travel and Transport Action Plan this year and I hope to initiate an intensive public consultation process on the issues in the near future. I would expect that the question of emission targets for transport will be explored in more detail during that process.

Public Transport.

James Bannon

Question:

143 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Transport the cost of all expenses associated with integrated ticketing since it was announced by Government in November 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3422/08]

In March 2002 the Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) was given statutory responsibility for the delivery of an integrated ticketing scheme under S.I. No. 84 of 2002.

The total payments by the Exchequer on the integrated ticketing scheme since March 2002 is €12.5 million.

Driving Tests.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

144 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Transport his views on the latest information received by his Department from the Road Safety Authority indicating the number of people currently on the driver testing waiting list; if this is in line with his Department’s projections for 1 July 2008; the number of people who hold the new learner driver permits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3383/08]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

181 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if he is confident he will meet the June 2008 deadline to test all drivers and to reduce the waiting list for all drivers to 10 weeks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3488/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 144 and 181 together.

Responsibility for driver testing and licensing was transferred to the Road Safety Authority (RSA) under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006. The arrangements in relation to testing, numbers of candidates and licences are therefore a matter for the RSA.

Proposed Legislation.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

145 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Transport when he will amend the Harbours Act 1996 to facilitate the development of Bremore Port; if he will provide an update on proposals to relocate Dublin Port and on any property developments in the Dublin Port area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3415/08]

My Department has prepared the heads of a Harbours Bill to support further implementation of national ports policy and to update existing legislation, the main body of which dates from 1996. The Bill will, inter alia, facilitate development of a proposed new port facility at Bremore in Fingal County.

This week I have received Government approval for the drafting of the Bill, which will now be referred to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for that purpose. I intend to pursue enactment of the Bill at the earliest opportunity.

The National Development Plan provides for a comprehensive study of the role of Dublin Port, taking account of locational considerations, 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.

My Department is in the process of initiating this study and is liaising closely with Dublin City Council and the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government in this regard.

Road Traffic Offences.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

146 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the number of motorists tested and charged with driving under the influence of drugs in each year since 2002; the level of funding and resources he is recommending for the expansion of the drug testing programme of the Medical Bureau of Road Safety; the international experience in the area of drug testing he has or is currently reviewing; if he has plans to start a nationwide initiative to tackle driving under the influence of drugs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3384/08]

The number of specimens tested for the presence of a drug or drugs by the Medical Bureau of Road Safety for the years 2002 to 2006 is as follows:

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006 (Provisional)

388

416

569

747

1,000

Details in respect of 2007 are not available at this time. The number of motorists charged with driving under the influence of drugs in each year since 2002 is a matter for the Garda Síochána.

The funding and resources allocated by the Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS) to its various programmes is a matter for the Bureau itself.

With regard to drug testing of drivers, the Road Traffic Acts already provide that a member of the Garda Síochána may where he or she is of the opinion that a person in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle in a public place is under the influence of a drug or drugs to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of that vehicle require that person to go to a Garda station and further require that person to submit to a blood test or to provide a urine sample.

There is no feasible basis as yet in Ireland or in Europe for the introduction of a preliminary roadside test for drugs, as testing devices are still in the prototype stages. However, the MBRS is keeping abreast of developments in this area and is keeping me informed on the matter.

Motorway Service Areas.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

147 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport the number of applications for motorway service areas that have been submitted to his Department by the National Roads Authority; the number that have been approved to date by his Department; the reason there has been a delay in approving these applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3396/08]

The National Roads Authority (NRA) are not required to submit applications to me or my Department in relation to motorway service areas.

My involvement in the provision of service areas on the national road network relates to ensuring that the necessary legislative framework is in place to facilitate this provision. This was achieved last year with the enactment of the Roads Act 2007.

However, a Statutory Instrument is required to give effect to the provisions of that Act, insofar as it relates to service areas.

Officials from my Department are working with both the Attorney General's Office and the National Roads Authority (NRA) to finalise the draft of the Statutory Instrument and I expect to sign this Instrument very shortly.

State Airports.

Liz McManus

Question:

148 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Transport the overall level of debt of Dublin, Cork and Shannon Airports; the estimated level of debts for each of these airports for 2008, 2009 and 2010; when all three airports will become operationally and legally separate companies; if he has received the business plans for the three airports; if the Dublin Airport Authority made any changes or inputs to the Cork and Shannon plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3393/08]

The Dublin Airport Authority (DAA), which owns Dublin, Cork and Shannon Airports, has overall borrowings of just under €500 million as at the end of 2007. Just over €200 million of the DAA's borrowings relates to Cork airport, almost €70 million relates to Shannon airport and the remainder relates to Dublin airport.

Following recent disposals of Great Southern Hotels and the DAA's interests in Birmingham and Hamburg Airports, the DAA net debt levels have fallen sharply in the short term, resulting in a temporary net cash position at the end of 2007. They are likely to rise steadily again over the period referred to by the Deputy.

Precisely what the DAA's debt levels will be over this period will depend upon a number of factors. However, in the context of the DAA's Capital Investment programme over 10 years, the DAA's debt position will rise substantially, with net borrowings increasing to over €1 billion over the course of the next five years.

The future level of debt at Shannon and Cork will depend on a number of factors including, most significantly, the business plans for these airports which have recently been received and are currently being assessed by my Department.

Rail Network.

Dan Neville

Question:

149 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Transport the contact he or his senior staff here had with CIÉ in response to a CIÉ spokesperson claiming that the proposed Dublin-Navan rail line was economically unviable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3490/08]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

158 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport if he will provide the required financing to ensure the completion of the Navan rail line; the latest cost benefit analysis information available to his Department on this critically needed facility; the deadline for the completion of the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3397/08]

Joe McHugh

Question:

161 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport the criteria his Department used to determine the viability of the Navan-Dublin railway line; the cost of the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3138/08]

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

163 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Transport his plans to ensure the continued roll-out of the Navan line; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3481/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 149, 158, 161 and 163 together.

Transport 21 provides for the construction of the Navan Rail Line in two phases: Phase 1: Clonsilla to Dunboyne by 2010, and Phase 2: Dunboyne to Navan by 2015, subject to studies.

The current position on Phase 1 is that Iarnród Éireann has applied to An Bord Pleanála for a Railway Order in respect of the Clonsilla-Dunboyne section. I understand that Iarnród Éireann are aiming to start work before the end of the year, subject to the decision of An Bord Pleanála and any issues arising.

The position regarding the Dunboyne-Navan section (Phase 2) is that Iarnród Éireann has completed a scoping study and is now proceeding with the preparation of a full preliminary design and business case. The more detailed design work now to be undertaken by Iarnród Éireann will provide a better basis for estimating the final cost of the project. The actual cost of the project will only be determined when tenders are approved by Iarnród Éireann.

Both phases of this project are subject to appraisal in accordance with the Department of Finance Guidelines for the Appraisal and Management of Capital Investment and the Department of Transport Common Appraisal Guidelines. These guidelines require a full Cost Benefit Analysis to be carried out for projects costing in excess of €30m before a final decision is made to proceed. The results of initial and high level cost benefit analyses carried out to date in respect of both phases indicate internal rates of return in excess of the Department of Finance threshold rate. Once An Bord Pleanála has decided on the Railway Order application for Phase 1, the Board of Iarnród Éireann will make a formal application to my Department to proceed with the project, with details of a full Cost Benefit Analysis and financing arrangements. A full cost benefit analysis will be prepared for Phase 2 as part of the further design work and business case development now being undertaken by Iarnród Éireann.

My Department and I sought and was given details of the presentation made to Meath County Council by Iarnród Éireann on 7th January in respect of phase 2 of the project. It should be noted that Iarnród Éireann has indicated that the scoping study shows a positive Net Present Value for the project and an Internal Rate of Return in excess of the in the Department of Finance guidelines threshold rate.

My Department has allocated €10m to Iarnród Éireann this year to advance work on the project and the projects are progressing in line with the target completion dates.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

150 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Transport his Departmental policy on the drug testing of transport workers; if there is a drug testing programme in place across all the public transport companies; if workers in privately operated companies are subject to the same level of drug testing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3385/08]

Section 88 of the Railway Safety Act 2005 requires rail companies to draw up a code of conduct for safety critical workers in relation to intoxicants (i.e. drugs and alcohol) and including sampling procedures in that regard.

Veolia (as operator of the Luas) has a code of conduct in place and the Railway Safety Commission has accepted this as part of the approval of the Safety Case for Luas.

In relation to Iarnród Éireann, the Railway Safety Commission has asked the Company to implement its draft code of conduct pending clarification of some outstanding issues.

With regard to bus services, the position is that it is illegal to drive while under the influence of drugs to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the vehicle. Section 49 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 prohibits the driving of a mechanically propelled vehicle by a person while under the influence of an intoxicant. Enforcement of the law on drug driving is a matter for An Garda Síochána. When a member of the Garda suspects that a driver of a vehicle is driving under the influence of any intoxicant, the garda may arrest the suspect under Section 49 of the Road Traffic Act 1961.

In addition to this, Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann are considering the introduction of drug testing as envisaged in Section 13(1) of the Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005.

Rail Safety.

Joan Burton

Question:

151 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Transport if he has contacted Irish Rail and other public transport agencies regarding the contingency plans that are in place in case of an accident or emergency; if his Department is conducting a review of these procedures in view of the recent derailment on the northern rail line; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3400/08]

The procedures for dealing with railway incidents and accidents is a matter for the Railway Safety Commission as part of its role in approving railway operators' safety management systems.

However, for the purposes of reporting to the Office of Emergency Planning, my Department maintains an ongoing liaison with Iarnród Éireann and the other public transport agencies under my aegis in relation to their emergency response plans. Through these contacts, my Department is aware that Iarnród Éireann periodically reviews its emergency response handbook which sets out guidance procedures for its staff in the event of an accident or emergency. I am advised that each year the Company carries out test exercises in conjunction with the emergency services and my Department is made aware of all such exercises.

In relation to the recent derailment on the Northern rail line, I am informed by Iarnród Éireann that the procedures as set out in the Company's operational Rule Book and emergency response handbook were correctly applied throughout the management of the event.

State Airports.

Pat Breen

Question:

152 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Transport if he has plans to make funding available to develop cargo traffic through Shannon Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3361/08]

The Exchequer does not provide funding for any of the three State airports. Accordingly, the issue raised by the Deputy is an operational matter for the Shannon and Dublin Airport Authorities in which I have no statutory function.

Road Safety.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

153 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Transport if he will estimate the average vehicle speed on Irish roads; if he will estimate the average vehicle speed on a county basis; if he is planning initiatives to tackle the problem of speeding on Irish roads; if he has issued any directive or instruction to the Road Safety Authority regarding excessive and dangerous speeding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3391/08]

The most recent published data on vehicle speeds on Irish roads is contained in the 2005 Survey of Free Speeds (Urban and Rural) published by the National Roads Authority. The Road Safety Authority (RSA) is now responsible for the conduct of these surveys, since its establishment in September 2006, and I understand that it intends to publish the results of the 2006 survey shortly.

One of the actions in the Road Safety Strategy 2007 – 2012, which was launched in October last year, is for the RSA to review and expand the national speed survey on Irish roads and to publish the results annually on a national basis. Enforcement of speed limits is a matter for the Garda Síochána. The strategy also contains a range of actions designed to tackle excessive speeding.

I have not issued any directive or instruction to the RSA on the matter of excessive speeding.

Air Services.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

154 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport if he will initiate an investigation in conjunction with the National Consumer Agency, the Competition Authority and the Commission on Aviation Regulation in relation to a series of new extra charges on airline passengers; his views on legislation specifically to protect consumers of airline services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3410/08]

The market for air services in the Community was liberalized in the 1990s. The internal market has removed all commercial restrictions for airlines flying within the EU, such as restrictions on the routes, the number of flights or the setting of fares. Under the provisions of Council Regulation (EEC) No. 2409/92 Community air carriers can freely set their air fares.

The broader issue of consumer protection legislation falls within the remit of my colleague the Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment.

Public Transport.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

155 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport the procedure necessary for Bus Éireann to establish a new route or change an existing one in its network; if Bus Éireann will be regulated by the new Dublin Transport Authority or institutions established by the promised Public Transport Regulation Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3403/08]

Since 10 January 2001, Bus Éireann is required by Ministerial direction to notify my Department of any proposed new services, or proposed changes to existing services, at least four weeks prior to their introduction.

Where there is no competition from services provided by a licensed private operator, Bus Éireann is advised that the Department has noted their proposed service change and the company is free to proceed.

Where my Department considers that a proposal has the potential to compete with a prior application from a private operator under the Road Transport Act, 1932, Bus Éireann is informed and the company is required to defer the proposed service until the prior application from the private operator concerned is decided upon.

When the prior application is finalised and a licence has issued my Department then reverts to consider Bus Éireann's proposals taking into consideration the newly licensed service.

Where the proposed new amended Bus Éireann service would compete with a licensed service, the company must obtain my consent under section 25 of the Transport Act 1958 before proceeding.

With regard to proposals for regulation of Bus Éireann, as stated in the Programme for Government, the Dublin Transport Authority will have overall responsibility for surface transport in the Greater Dublin Area. I am examining legislative proposals for the proposed DTA with the intention of bringing them to Cabinet for approval and to publish the DTA Bill in due course. While I do not wish to pre-empt the consideration of the provisions of the Bill by this House, given the geographical area for which it is envisaged the DTA will be responsible, the majority of the services provided by Bus Éireann, with some exceptions, will not be subject to regulation by the DTA.

The Programme for Government also includes a commitment to examine the need for a National Transport Regulator in the context of the proposed review of the economic regulatory environment and to reform bus licensing to facilitate the optimum provision of services by providing a level playing field for all market participants. Any new licensing regime will be designed in a manner consistent with the new EU Regulation on Public Service Obligations in the transport sector, which was adopted in 2007 and will come into force next year.

While it is not possible at this time to indicate a precise time as to when the legislative proposals on regulatory reform of the bus market will be published, applications for bus licences and notifications from bus operators will continue to be processed under the provisions of the Road Transport Act 1932, as amended, and the notification system with reference to the Transport Act 1958, as appropriate.

Proposed Legislation.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

156 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Transport the progress to date in his discussions regarding a bilateral agreement with the UK Government in having drivers banned in either jurisdiction, being banned in both jurisdictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3494/08]

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

160 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Transport when he will introduce legislation to ensure that all vehicles on Irish roads, both Irish and foreign registered, are subject to the same laws, regulations and penalties and that any fines or penalties accrued by a driver of a foreign registered vehicle are realised; if he will report on the proposed agreement with the UK Government on the mutual recognition of disqualified drivers; if there has been progress on the mutual recognition of penalty points between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3387/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 156 and 160 together.

All drivers are subject to road traffic law and enforcement is a matter for An Garda Síochána. The realisation of any fines or penalties imposed by the Courts is a matter for the Courts Service.

While foreign licence holders do not have an Irish driving licence record, a separate record of any penalty points incurred by them in this State is kept in the National Driver File.

The enforcement on foreign registered drivers of penalties for road traffic offences is a complex legal and administrative matter for many States, and my Department is pursuing this question at European, British/Irish and North/South levels.

We are working with the United Kingdom with the objective of having a bilateral agreement on mutual recognition of driving disqualifications in place later this year, under the framework of the relevant EU Convention.

The mutual recognition of penalty points is however a much more difficult matter which is not covered by the EU Convention. In particular it involves complex legal questions which have yet to be determined and which will require the passage of primary legislation both here and in the United Kingdom in due course. While both jurisdictions are working on this, it will be a number of years before a bilateral agreement can be put in place.

I met the U.K. Minister responsible for this area in London last week and discussed these issues with him. I intend to meet with him and the Northern Ireland Minister for road safety on a tripartite basis in the coming months to review progress.

Coast Guard Service.

Billy Timmins

Question:

157 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Transport if he will make a statement on the future of the maritime radio rescue centre at Valentia. [3469/08]

Joe McHugh

Question:

170 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport his exact plans for the Coast Guard station in Malin Head; the precise function and number of workers the centre will employ in the long term future; if he will assure employees at the centre that their jobs will remain in Malin Head in the long term future as stated in the Deloitte and Touche report (details supplied); when the recommendations of additional staff at the centre will be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3137/08]

Joe McHugh

Question:

352 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport the report which recommended Drogheda and the west coast as the locations for Coast Guard centres; if this report will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3618/08]

Joe McHugh

Question:

353 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport if the location for the new Coast Guard station on the west coast has been identified and costed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3619/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 157, 170, 352 and 353 together.

It is my intention that the Irish Coast Guard and Maritime Administration will be strengthened on an ongoing basis over the coming years. My ambition is to put in place a service that will fully meet the needs of this country well in the 21st century. The recent decisions have been taken to reflect the future optimal configuration of co-ordination centres whilst ensuring that the detailed technical knowledge and experience of the Coast Guard Watch Officers is retained and fully utilised. I want to restate again that no Officer will be forced to move or lose their jobs. The transition arrangements for new centres, including the functions to continue at Malin and Valentia, will be negotiated with staff to ensure there is no loss of expertise.

The Deloitte and Touche Irish Coast Guard Study was published in 2002. This report has provided a backdrop to ongoing improvements and developments in the Coast Guard over the last 6 years. I have arranged that both this document and the submission to me on which recent decisions were based be published on the Department's website www.transport.ie.

I purposely outlined a long-term scenario to provide structure to negotiations, which are now taking place, on how best to implement this particular step in the modernisation of the Irish Coast Guard. I have given direction to the tendering process, where a Request for Tender is now in preparation, and given enough notice to enable difficulties to be identified and resolved before equipment has to be installed. I have made it clear that these discussions, which are underway, must take account of the safety needs of local communities, ongoing improvement of the service to the public and the concerns of individual staff members. As I indicated previously the proposed restructuring was raised at the relevant committees on which the relevant organisations that have an interest in search and rescue are represented.

I also want to take this opportunity to make two general statements related to the issue. Firstly, I am concerned that there is confusion in the public mind between the work done in Co-Ordination centres and that undertaken by local volunteers. A significant element of ‘local knowledge' is from the local Coast Guard Coastal Units and lifeboat crews strategically positioned around our coast. Their local knowledge of tides, currents, bays and local historical incident locations is invaluable to the Watch Officers of the Coast Guard. I would like to put on record again my appreciation of their selfless voluntary efforts of the Coast Guard, RNLI Lifeboat and Community Rescue Boat crews in rescuing those in trouble on our coasts, cliffs and offshore islands.

Secondly, the Coast Guard restructuring that is being worked on is aimed at improving the efficiency of a key public service. I can assure the Deputy that all views expressed will be taken into account before a west coast location is determined.

Question No. 158 answered with Question No. 149.

Departmental Bodies.

David Stanton

Question:

159 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Transport the funding and budget made available to the Marine Casualty Investigation Board each year since its establishment; the number of staff employed by the board; the grades and qualifications of same; if the board has availed of outside expertise to carry out its investigations in the past; if so, the details of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3498/08]

David Stanton

Question:

164 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Transport if the 2006 annual report of the Marine Casualty Investigation Board has been completed; if he has received same; if not, when he expects to receive it; when the 2006 annual report will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3499/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 159 and 164 together.

The funding made available to the Board since it was established in 2002 is as follows:

Year

2002

123,000

2003

220,000

2004

290,000

2005

292,000

2006

300,000

2007

300,000

The figures are consistent with the Estimates for the specified years.

The Board has a staff of one Higher Executive Officer and one Clerical Officer on secondment from the Civil Service.

The Board has availed of the services of Marine Surveyors from the Marine Survey Office of the Department of Transport. Under Section 16(1) of the Merchant Shipping (Investigation of Marine Casualties) Act 2000 the Marine Casualty Investigation Board is not charged for these services.

The annual report of the Board for 2006 was presented to Cabinet in December 2007 and is being laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. It will be translated, printed and placed on the Marine Casualty Investigation Board website shortly.

Question No. 160 answered with Question No. 156.
Question No. 161 answered with Question No. 149.

Carbon Emissions.

Michael Noonan

Question:

162 Deputy Michael Noonan asked the Minister for Transport if he will encourage the reduction of carbon emissions in air transport by encouraging eco-friendly flights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3493/08]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

180 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Transport the current level of CO2 emissions from the Irish aviation industry; his Department’s projections for the level of CO2 emissions for aviation in each year from 2008 to 2020; his views on initiatives to target a reduction in the level of CO2 emissions in the aviation industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3414/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 162 and 180 together.

Figures in respect of carbon emissions from aviation can be got from the following websites:The Environmental Protection Agency: http://www.epa.ie Sustainable Energy Ireland: http://www.sei.ie

Sustainable Energy Ireland estimate that aviation in Ireland accounted for 2,953.4 kilotonnes CO2 or 18.3% of total transport emissions in 2006.

The National Climate Change Strategy proposes the introduction of a carbon offsetting scheme for all air travel on Government business, including flights by Ministers and by civil servants.

Practical arrangements will be put in place by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to enable each Department to compute annually the emissions associated with its air travel and to make a contribution to an appropriate fund to secure verified emission reductions of an equivalent amount.

On a broader level, given the international dimension to aviation, it is likely that emissions savings and environmental improvements will require inter-government agreement. Ireland is playing a positive role in the European Union's consideration of extending emissions trading to the aviation sector.

Question No. 163 answered with Question No. 149.
Question No. 164 answered with Question No. 159.

Departmental Expenditure.

Billy Timmins

Question:

165 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Transport the reason his Department do not make use of internet versions of the daily newspapers instead of the cost involved in buying hard copies everyday as detailed in Parliamentary Question No. 345 of 11 December 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3487/08]

Press cuttings that are relevant to the remit of the Department of Transport are posted on the Department's Intranet system and this is accessible electronically to all staff. While this system has considerable benefits, the availability of some hard copies of the national dailies to the Minister's Office and Senior Management provides additional flexibility and easier perusal of all current issues to those readers.

I am satisfied that the existing mix of hard and soft copy is the most appropriate to current needs. The situation will, however, be kept under periodic review.

Question No. 166 answered with Question No. 109.
Question No. 167 answered with Question No. 120.

Small Craft Register.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

168 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Transport if he will establish a register for certain small craft as proposed by his Department in 2005 and supported by the Revenue Commissioners in order that the tax due on imported pleasure craft, which is quite significant, is properly accounted for; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3453/08]

The Mercantile Marine Act 1955 sets out the requirements for registering vessels in Ireland. Irish owned vessels over 15 net tons are required to be registered under the Act. However, for vessels under 15 net tons, registration is voluntary and owners may register such a craft if they so wish. Small leisure craft would fall into this category. The 1955 Act and the system of registration in Ireland are under review in my Department. The comments received during an earlier consultation exercise are being taken into account in the deliberations on a proposed new regime. One of the issues being considered is how best to improve provision for the registration of leisure craft, including jet skis and other small craft.

The Revenue Commissioners have indicated their support for a revision of the current system of registration. Following completion of the current phase of the review, they will be consulted along with other relevant parties, on new outline proposals to replace the existing regime. It is intended that this consultation process will commence in March.

My officials will continue to develop more detailed proposals for the revision of the existing registration system, taking into account the outcome of the public consultation, with a view towards submitting proposals for new legislation to Government by the end of the year.

Question No. 169 answered with Question No. 118.
Question No. 170 answered with Question No. 157.

Port Development.

Phil Hogan

Question:

171 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Transport if there has been consultation between his Department and Dublin City Council over the council’s plans to transform the Dublin Port area into a multi-use development; his views on plans to move port capacity out of Dublin Port; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3475/08]

In October 2007 Dublin City Council published for public consultation a wide-ranging study of economic, amenity, recreational and environmental issues linked to Dublin Bay, including the port area. I understand that the outcome of the consultation will be reported back to the Council shortly.

As part of the preparation of the study my Department made a submission to the consultants carrying out the study. This pointed out that Dublin Port currently handles the vast majority of trade for the Greater Dublin Area and beyond and as such is of vital strategic importance to the economy. Some 79% of the State's RoRo trade and some 62% of the LoLo trade was handled at Dublin Port in 2006.

The National Spatial Strategy identifies strategic merit in relieving pressure on Dublin through targeted interventions in building up port capacity elsewhere. The National Development Plan proposes a comprehensive study of the role of Dublin Port, taking account of locational considerations, 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.

My Department is in the process of initiating this study and is liaising closing with Dublin City Council and the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government in this regard.

Air Services.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

172 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Transport the basis for his Department including a statement (details supplied) in the third draft of the note for his attention that was included in the report into the reason he was not informed about the Aer Lingus Shannon pull out; the contact his Department made to come to this conclusion; the persons in his Department who were aware of this information at the time of drafting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3486/08]

The circumstances surrounding the Aer Lingus decision to withdraw the Shannon-Heathrow air service, and the circumstances and sequence of events which led to me not being informed before end July 2007 of that possibility, are set out in the Secretary-General's Report on the matter. That report and the inclusion of the material referred to by the Deputy in a draft note prepared in my Department has been examined in detail by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and officials in my Department gave a detailed explanation on this to the Committee at its meeting on 28 November 2007.

Small Craft Register.

John O'Mahony

Question:

173 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Transport if he will establish a register for certain small craft which would, as the Revenue Commissioners have suggested to his Department, be of considerable benefit to Revenue in controlling coastal smuggling, particularity drug smuggling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3497/08]

The Mercantile Marine Act 1955 sets out the requirements for registering vessels in Ireland. Irish owned vessels over 15 net tons are required to be registered under the Act. However, for vessels under 15 net tons, registration is voluntary and owners may register such a craft if they so wish. Small leisure craft would fall into this category. The 1955 Act and the system of registration in Ireland are under review in my Department. The comments received during an earlier consultation exercise are being taken into account in the deliberations on a proposed new regime. One of the issues being considered is how best to improve provision for the registration of leisure craft, including jet skis and other small craft.

The Revenue Commissioners have indicated their support for a revision of the current system of registration. Following completion of the current phase of the review, they will be consulted along with other relevant parties, on new outline proposals to replace the existing regime. It is intended that this consultation process will commence in March. My officials will continue to develop more detailed proposals for the revision of the existing registration system, taking into account the outcome of the public consultation, with a view towards submitting proposals for new legislation to Government by the end of the year.

Question No. 174 answered with Question No. 118.
Question No. 175 answered with Question No. 142.

Air Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

176 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which he has monitored the use or availability of landing slots at Heathrow with particular reference to the retention of the necessary facilities to meet the requirements of all airports here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3587/08]

The allocation of slots at London Heathrow Airport is a matter for UK authorities acting in accordance with applicable EU rules relating to the allocation of slots. The applicable rules provide for slots to be assigned to airlines as distinct from airports. It is a matter for airlines to decide what services should be provided using such slots, except in the specific case where slots are assigned for the purpose of meeting a public service obligation.

Road Safety.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

177 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Transport when he will publish the Road Safety Authority’s recommendations to strengthen the HGV roadworthiness testing regime which he has accepted; when he will publish the requisite legislation to implement these regulations; the number of inspections that were carried out on HGVs in 2005, 2006 and 2007; the number of inspectors employed to monitor health and safety standards of HGVs; the number of vehicles found not to meet the required standards; if prosecutions ensued; if so, the number for each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3392/08]

Responsibility for vehicle testing was transferred to the Road Safety Authority (RSA), under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006. Information on testing activity is therefore a matter for the RSA. I recently accepted recommendations from the Road Safety Authority (RSA) on reforming the roadworthiness testing regime for commercial vehicles, for implementation as quickly as possible.

Before publication by the RSA of the details of the reform agenda it is important that the relevant stakeholders are apprised of the position. I understand that the RSA is in the process of doing this and publication can be expected in the near future. Requirements for legislative reform may arise from this process in due course. Any such proposals would be developed by RSA in the first instance and recommendations made to me in relation to new Regulations or primary legislation as the case may be. Enforcement of road traffic law is a matter for the Garda Síochána while the Health and Safety Authority is responsible for enforcement of health and safety regulations.

Railway Safety.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

178 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Transport when he will transpose into Irish law outstanding provisions of the Railway Safety Directive as requested by the Railway Safety Commission and the need for the effective closure of these loopholes as a priority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3495/08]

The Railway Safety Act 2005 substantially transposed the principal provisions of the Railway Safety Directive 2004. Work to complete transposition of the remaining provisions is at an advanced stage in my Department. These provisions do not present any loopholes in the legislation as far as the regulation of railway safety is concerned, and I have not received any communication from the Railway Safety Commission to that effect.

Taxi Regulations.

John O'Mahony

Question:

179 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Transport if he will examine ways of improving access and affordability to small public service vehicles for people with disabilities as recommended to his Department by the Taxi Regulator; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3496/08]

The Commission for Taxi Regulation was established as an independent public body in September 2004 under the Taxi Regulation Act 2003. The objectives of the Commission under the Act include the promotion of access to small public service vehicles by persons with disabilities. In this regard, it is understood that the Commission has been in communication with the Department of Social and Family Affairs regarding the possibility of an extension of the travel concessions available to passengers with disabilities on other forms of public transport being made available to passengers in taxis and hackneys. Consideration of such a proposal is primarily a matter for the Department of Social and Family Affairs.

The Commission for Taxi Regulation has also published new National Vehicle Standards — Requirements for Small Public Service Vehicles on 26 November 2007, which include new accessible vehicle standards for licensing as wheelchair accessible taxis and wheelchair accessible hackneys.

My Department is in discussion with the Commission for Taxi Regulation in relation to a proposed subsidy arrangement to assist taxi and hackney operators with the purchase of wheelchair accessible vehicles that will meet the new accessible vehicle specification developed by the Commission. A final decision will be made on the subsidy scheme proposal as soon as possible having regard to the overall budgetary context.

Question No. 180 answered with Question No. 162.
Question No. 181 answered with Question No. 144.

End-of-Life Vehicles.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

182 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport when he will publish the report on the presence of both Irish and foreign registered car write-offs on Irish roads; the information the Revenue Commissioners have provided on the number of car write-offs back on Irish roads; if this information was passed to his; if he will reform the National Vehicle Driver File to address this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3382/08]

The examination of the alleged continued use of vehicles which are written off by insurers has been progressing on two fronts. The first relates to the establishment of a framework going forward so that there is an effective system in place which ensures that all write off instances are notified and properly recorded. My Department has been informed of the initial deliberations of an informal review group established to examine this issue chaired by the RSA and representative of the Revenue Commissioners, An Garda Síochána, and the National Vehicle and Driver File (NVDF). Further consultation with relevant stakeholders is required.

The second task relates to obtaining details of vehicles which have been written off in recent years for comparison against the NVDF to seek to determine the extent to which written off vehicles may still be in circulation. At a recent meeting with the Irish Insurance Federation I sought and was given a commitment that they will use their influence with individual insurers to have the necessary data made available voluntarily. The alleged importation of write offs from abroad is a matter in the first instance for the Revenue Commissioners who are responsible for the registration of vehicles.

Unemployment Levels.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

183 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Taoiseach the unemployment figures for Tallaght, Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3079/08]

The exact information requested by the Deputy is not available. Statistics on employment and unemployment are measured by the Quarterly National Household Survey. The survey provides estimates for eight NUTS-3 level regions. The latest results are for the period June to August 2007 and showed an unemployment figure of 31,200 persons in the Dublin region.

The Live Register series gives a monthly breakdown of the number of people claiming Jobseekers Benefit, Jobseekers Allowance and other registrants as registered with the Department of Social and Family Affairs. Figures are published for each county and each Local Social Welfare Office. The most recent information is for January 2008. The Live Register figure for the Tallaght Local Office in Dublin in January 2008 was 4,123 persons.

It should be noted that the Live Register is not a definitive measure of unemployment as it includes part-time workers, seasonal and casual workers entitled to Jobseekers Benefit or Allowance. The exact area covered by each Local Office is not limited to the immediate locality, or county, of the particular office. For instance, in the Tallaght Local Office there may be registered, persons from the Blessington area.

Departmental Bodies.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

184 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Taoiseach the statutory bodies for which he has responsibility; and the date of establishment of each of these statutory bodies. [3096/08]

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

185 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Taoiseach the annual operating cost for each of the past five years of each statutory body for which he has responsibility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3111/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 184 and 185 together.

The statutory bodies for which I have had responsibility over the past five years are:

The Commission of Investigation (Dublin and Monaghan Bombings 1974);

The Law Reform Commission (1975);

The National Economic and Social Development Office (2007);

The National Statistics Board (1994); and

The Moriarty Tribunal (1997).

The Commission of Investigation (Dublin and Monaghan Bombings 1974) was established in May 2005 to examine specific matters relating to the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings of 1974, including aspects of the Garda investigation and missing documentation. The Commission completed its work and presented its Final Report to me in March 2007. Expenditure was as follows:

Year

Expenditure

2005

925,800

2006

1,300,000

2007

414,000

The Law Reform Commission was established on 20 October, 1975.

The operating costs (through a Vote in the Office of the Attorney General) over the past five years were:

Year

Expenditure

2003

1,577,000

2004

1,593,000

2005

1,900,000

2006

2,000,000

2007

4,910,000

The National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO), The National Economic and Social Council (NESC), The National Economic and Social Forum (NESF) and The National Centre for Partnership and Performance (NCPP) became Statutory Bodies on 1 January, 2007, under the NESDO Act, 2006, and the Order signed by me setting 1 January, 2007, as Establishment Date for the purposes of the Act. They were non statutory bodies until the establishment date. Therefore, the figures refer to the NESDO since 1 January, 2007 when it became a Statutory Body. The pay figures do not include accruals for pensions.

Body

Cost in 2007

NESDO

1,939,000

NESC

931,000

NESF

885,000

NCPP

1,951,000

TOTAL

5,706,000

The National Statistics Board (NSB) was established on a statutory basis in November 1994. The costs incurred by the NSB mainly relate to the payment of stipend fees. The costs can vary significantly in years where membership of the Board has lapsed before a new Board has been appointed.

Year

Expenditure

2003

48,932

2004

21,257

2005

48,989

2006

38,797

2007

31,998

The Tribunal to Inquire into Payments to Politicians (Haughey and Lowry), also known as the Moriarty Tribunal, was established by the Houses of the Oireachtas in September 1997 and is expected to publish its final report shortly. The relevant costs are:

Year

Expenditure

2002

2,798,000

2003

3,441,000

2004

3,610,000

2005

3,437,000

2006

4,232,000

2007

4,155,000

Leo Varadkar

Question:

186 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the number of task forces currently operating in his Department; the membership and terms of reference; the name of each one; the estimate cost of the taskforce; if he will report on the progress being made by the task force; if they have made any recommendations to him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3169/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

187 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the taskforces established under the auspices of his Department in the past five years; the recommendations made by each taskforce; the progress being made in implementing these recommendations; if specific recommendations have been rejected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3184/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

188 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the taskforces established under the auspices of his Department in the past five years; the cost of these taskforces in terms of administrative support, expenses, research and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3199/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 186 to 188, inclusive, together.Taskforce on Active Citizenship:The Taskforce on Active Citizenship was established in April 2006 and completed its work in March 2007 following a phase of public consultations on the extent to which citizens engage in the issues that affect them and their communities. This Government has committed, in principle, to implementing the recommendations contained in the Report of the Taskforce which are intended to promote a continued sense of community and greater civic participation by our citizens in every aspect of our national life and culture.

The recommendations focused on five key themes which reflect what emerged in the course of the national and regional consultations. These are:

(i) Participation in the Democratic Process;

(ii) The Public Service and Citizens;

(iii) Community Engagement and Promoting a Sense of Community;

(iv) Education for Citizenship; and

(v) Ethnic and Cultural Diversity and the Challenge of Engaging Newcomers.

The key recommendations include:

Participation in the Democratic Process:

Establishment of the independent Electoral Commission – to encourage everyone who is eligible to register and vote through organisation of voting, for example, the timing of voting, postal voting etc. Provision of appropriate publicity campaigns and explanatory material on registering to vote and the voting process itself.

The Taskforce has emphasised that the Commission's role should focus on promoting participation in elections and voter education.The Public Service and Citizens:

The ethos of the public service, based on the respect for the citizen, needs to be reinforced and strengthened and continue to be a core objective of public service reforms. This should include a renewed emphasis on effective consultation with associated training for public servants. This recommendation will build on current public service modernisation initiatives such as Quality Customer Service and the Guidelines on Consultation for Public Service Organisations. Introduction of a programme in the Public Service to promote community engagement and participation:

The programme could be run on the basis of recognising some time off for volunteering effort as was done by many employers for the Special Olympics. It could also include treating verifiable areas of community activity and volunteering as relevant items for inclusion and recognition in job applications and evaluation of performance.

Such an initiative could also extend through to retirement through pre-retirement courses offered in the public service.

The group insurance scheme open to members of Local Community and Voluntary Fora should be promoted widely amongst relevant organisations and groups. Insurance was one of the recurring barriers to Active Citizenship cited at the public consultation meetings. This scheme has assisted with insurance issues for community and voluntary groups in securing considerably cheaper premiums.

An initiative to help community and voluntary groups meet compliance costs (i) when providing programme funding and (ii) ensuring that compliance costs are proportionate and that administrative burdens on community and voluntary organisations are streamlined and standardised across the public service to the greatest extent possible.

Funding schemes be strengthened to support capacity development amongst community and voluntary organisations particularly in the area of training at both national and local level.

Community Engagement and Promoting a Sense of Community:

Introduction of a National Active Citizenship theme culminating in a National Active Citizenship Week – to stimulate local Active Citizenship activities and events, for example, ‘get to know your neighbour'. The themes will be selected to promote localcommunity involvement and would draw on existing community resources and initiatives. This initiative would culminate in an Active Citizenship Week and would be a focal point for local community engagement.

Introduction of National Presidential Citizen Awards — this award system would be introduced to recognise outstandingcontributions made by individuals to Irish society. They would be given to a limited number of people selected through an independent process based on nominations from members of the public. Presentation of the awards could tie in with the National

Active Citizen Week.

Development of a certificate/award which would be earned through completing at least three months volunteering or community involvement activity – this award would be earned by completing at least three months of voluntary activity either in Ireland or overseas. This could be done either during further education or in the early stages of working life.

Local Authorities should prioritise the provision of community and recreational facilities as part of Development Plans and subsequent planning decisions. An audit of the implementation of this approach should be undertaken by the Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government.

An audit should be undertaken by end 2008 by the Local Authorities through the County/City Development Boards of existing community facilities to identify (i) gaps in the provision of facilities and (ii) opportunities for improved use/sharing of existing facilities.

Better use be made of schools at evening and weekend time to act as community hubs. As a first step, a pilot project should be undertaken in a number of post primary schools in partnership with the Young People's Facilities and Services Fund.

Education for Citizenship:

Expansion of education for citizenship in the school system and in the youth and adult education sectors through (i) ensuring that every transition year student has the opportunity to take part in an active learning community-based project (ii) strengthen the status and role of the Civic, Social and Political Education programme in the junior cycle and introduce a citizenship programme as an exam subject at senior cycle and (iii) include workshops on Active Citizenship/Voter Education as a constituent element in Adult/Community Education Programmes.

The Higher Education Authority (HEA) should lead an initiative to promote, support and link together citizenship initiatives across the Higher Education sector.

Ethnic and Cultural Diversity and the Challenge of Engaging Newcomers:

All forms of community and voluntary organisations should be encouraged to undertake proactive initiatives to reach out and engage with newcomers to Irish society.

Introduction of a formal Citizenship Ceremony and Development of material and short education courses on Irish Citizenship — formal ceremony be introduced to mark entry to Irish citizenship and allow new citizens to publicly demonstrate their commitment to Ireland. Information and short education courses should be developed on Irish citizenship to include Irish history, democratic institutions, culture, language etc.

Local Civic Participation:

the County/City Community and Voluntary Fora in each Local Authority be strengthened and renewed with additional support as required; in particular, they should be organised on the basis of local electoral areas (where this is not already the case) and these local area fora should be renamed the Civic Fora.

public agencies at local level should be required to consult the Civic Fora in relation to the development and implementation of their policies at local level.

all Local Authority Area Committees should, in line with guidelines issued by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, include representatives of the Civic Fora for the purpose of community development and also contributing to the work of the County/City Development Board. The Taskforce recommends that this requirement to engage with the Fora should be expanded to further issues.

As well as enhancing the Community and Voluntary Fora, there are also a range of community councils, residents' associations and similar local participative structures operating locally. The Taskforce recommended that:

Local Authorities be requested to provide recognition to these structures under the Local Government Act, 2001;

where there are identifiable gaps in local community structures, Local Authorities should support the establishment of local civic participation structures and, where appropriate, include seed funding;

challenge funding should be made available through County/City Development Boards to match locally raised funding for suitable projects; and

Local Authorities should experiment with other forms and modes of local democracy which facilitate community engagement.

The Taskforce also recommended the establishment of a National Observatory to act as a focal point for research and analysis on civic engagement in Ireland. This is intended to facilitate better monitoring of progress and trends, which will in turn allow policies to be developed and refined.

The cost to the Exchequer of the work undertaken by the Taskforce on Active Citizenship in 2006 was €275,000 and in 2007 was €108,000. This expenditure was met under Subhead S of my Department's Vote and is broken down as follows:

2006

2007

Travel & Subsistence

7,000

12,000

Official Entertainment

9,000

6,000

Temporary contract staff

9,000

0

Incidental expenses

4,000

2,000

Consultation Seminars/Conferences

70,000

1,000

Advertising/Publicity

57,000

2,000

Photography

2,000

1,000

Publication & Design

42,000

53,000

Stationery

4,000

3,000

Consultancy

67,000

6,000

Grant Payment (Research)

4,000

0

Research

0

22,000

TOTAL

275,000

108,000

The cost of support staff pay was met from the Administrative Budget of the Taoiseach's Department Vote (A1). The total pay related expenditure in 2006 was €124,000 and in 2007 was €49,000.

Primary responsibility for follow up to the report of the Taskforce rests with the Departments whose areas of responsibility are relevant. In addition, as recommended by the Taskforce, an Active Citizenship Office has been established under the aegis of my Department, with a secretariat comprising staff assigned from the Department. The Office is currently developing an implementation plan in consultation with relevant stakeholders, including Heads of Government Departments who have examined the implications of the task force's recommendations and identified how their existing strategies and programmes take account of the Taskforce recommendations. The implementation plan will also take account of related commitments in the Government's Agreed Programme for Government.

In addition, the work of the Active Citizenship Office will be to develop further initiatives to bring a European and North/South context to its work. There will also be a requirement to generate as much public support as possible from individuals, community groups and the corporate sector to provide maximum opportunity for all sectors of society to become involved in the important issue of active citizenship.

Task Force on Customer Service:

The Task Force on Customer Service was set up following a Government Decision of 25 July, 2007. The Government, "agreed to establish a Task Force on Customer Service to deepen Quality Customer Service and to advance relevant commitments in the Programme for Government, including those in the Health, Justice and Local Government sectors and to report back on progress through the Implementation Group of Secretaries General". The Task Force is not intended as a replacement for any existing groups or network but rather as a new initiative to coordinate activities and make recommendations for action to improve the customer experience across Public Service organisations.

The Task Force is chaired by Mr. Seán Aylward, Secretary General at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Membership of the Task Force comprises representatives from all Government Departments, key Government Offices and the Health, Justice and Local Government sectors. A full list of members can be seen in the table.

To date, the Task Force has met on 4 occasions — 5 September, 2007, 25 October, 2007, 4 December, 2007 and 15 January, 2008. Their next meeting is scheduled for 12 March, 2008.

The terms of reference for the Task Force are:

1:to consider and make recommendations for the implementation of the commitments to customer service set out in the 2007 Programme for Government, particularly in relation to customer charters and service levels;

2:to consider and make recommendations on deepening and widening Quality Customer Service including the extension of the QCS principles and approaches in a consistent manner across the wider Public Service (particularly in the Health, Justice and Local Government sectors); and

3:to report to the Implementation Group of Secretaries General on progress made and recommendations for further initiatives. The Task Force will submit 2 interim reports, in January and September 2008, and a final report in January 2009.

The First Interim Report has been drafted and will be finalised and submitted to the Implementation Group shortly.

The costs to date of the Taskforce amount to €3,462.78. The estimated cost for 2008 will be €10,000. The secretariat to the Task Force is supplied by the Public Service Modernisation Division of the Department of the Taoiseach. This work dovetails with the overall duties of the staff involved.

Task Force on Customer Services: Membership

Organisation

Member — Name

Alternate Member — Name

Dept. Agriculture & Food

Ray Williamson

Andy Irving

Dept. Arts, Sport & Tourism

Bernard O’Kelly

Sean Coleman

Dept. Communications, Energy & Natural Resources

Ann Monaghan

Jim Whelan

Dept. Community, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs

Siobhan Stack

John Kavanagh Mary Hurley

Dept. Defence

Jim Blighe

Eilis O’Connell

Dept. Education & Science

Deirdre McDonnell

Donal Landers

Dept. Enterprise, Trade & Employment

Gerry Donnelly

Jack Thompson Ellen MacCafferty

Dept. Environment, Heritage & Local Government

Evelyn O’Connor

Mary McKenna

Dept. Finance

Gearoid O’Keeffe

Dept. Foreign Affairs

Ray Bassett

John Boyd

Garda Síochána

Louis Harkin (Asst. Commissioner)

Dept. Health & Children

Frances Spillane

Barry Murphy

Health Service Executive

Mary Culliton

Dept. Justice, Equality & Law Reform

Sean Aylward (Chair)

Aisling Bermingham

Public Appointments Service

Martin Bourke

Revenue Commissioners

Norman Gillanders

Maura Conneely

Dept. Social & Family Affairs

Darragh O’Connor

Aidan O’Reilly

Dept. Taoiseach

Ray Henry

Nason Fallon

Decentralisation Programme.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

189 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the non-property cost of decentralisation for each quarter since the project was initiated with regard to his Department’s quarterly return to the Decentralisation Implementation Group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3214/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

190 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the number of civil and public servants in his Department who have been decentralised to date; the number who will be decentralised in total under the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3229/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 189 and 190 together. 32 staff currently serving in my Department have applied through the Central Applications Facility to relocate under the Decentralisation Programme. The breakdown by grade is:

Grade

No.

Principal Officer

1

Assistant Principal

5

Higher Executive Officer

3

Administrative Officer

7

Executive Officer

6

Staff Officer

1

Clerical Officer

9

16 former members of staff have already been assigned to decentralised posts. The Deputy will be aware that there are no proposals to decentralise my Department or any of the bodies under its aegis and accordingly the information sought regarding the non-property cost of decentralisation for each quarter since the project was initiated with regard to my Department's quarterly return to the Decentralisation Implementation Group does not apply.

Security Industry.

Joan Burton

Question:

191 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach if he has statistics in respect of the number of people working in the private security industry; the number who are subcontractors; the number who are employees; if he has information regarding wage rates in the industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2858/08]

The most up-to-date information available, as requested by the deputy, is taken from the Census 2006 and is contained in the table. No details are available in respect of wages.

Total Number of persons at work in the Private Security industry.

Industry

Total at work

Employees

Self-employed, with paid employees

Self-employed without paid employees

Investigation and Security activities

10,223

9,560

424

239

Investigation and Security activities covers the following activities: Security, Bodyguards and Private Detectives.

EU Funding.

John O'Mahony

Question:

192 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Taoiseach the names of the programmes and schemes operated by his Department which were or continue to be funded in full or in part by the European Union; the amount of funding in each case since Ireland joined the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3768/08]

My Department does not operate any programmes or schemes funded in full or in part by the European Union. For details of the Operational Programmes for which my Department has had direct responsibility in the past, I would refer the Deputy to the reply given on 25 March, 1997 (ref. 8046/97). Responsibility for these programmes rests currently with the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

Motor Taxation.

Michael Ring

Question:

193 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the way the new vehicle registration tax will work. [3046/08]

Under the revised VRT system, the VRT rate applicable to both new and used imported cars registered on or after 1 July 2008 will be determined by the CO2 emission rating of the car and will no longer be related to engine size. The VRT rate will continue to be applied to the Open Market Selling Price of the car. There will be seven CO2 emission bands with VRT rates ranging from 14% to 36%. The certificate of conformity will normally be used to determine the CO2 emissions of cars registered in the State.

In respect of pre-owned used 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:a certificate of conformity for the particular model, (since 2001, EU law requires CO2 emission levels to be recited in this document), or a previous registration certificate, or a certificate from the manufacturer or distributor, or a certificate from an organisation approved by the Revenue Commissioners to provide such certificates.

Where a certificate or a measurement confirming CO2 levels for a vehicle is not available or does not satisfy the Revenue Commissioners, VRT will be charged on registration at the maximum rate allowable i.e. 36%. Such a VRT rating would be open to appeal through the VRT appeals system.

The legislative provision for the revised VRT system is included in the Finance Bill and further details regarding registration procedures and requirements will be set out in a Statutory Instrument.

Tax Code.

Finian McGrath

Question:

194 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if persons (details supplied) will be supported. [3294/08]

The stamp duty code does not contain any provisions that would allow for an exemption or reduced rates in the circumstances described.

I would point out, however, that all owner-occupying purchasers of new residential property are exempt from stamp duty where the property has a floor size of 125 square metres or less. Where the property is bigger than 125 square metres, stamp duty is only charged on the greater of the site value or 25% of the property value.

Furthermore, in the recent Budget, I announced a fundamental change to the stamp duty system for residential property which reduces the Stamp Duty burden for all purchasers of residential property.

Purchases of residences with a value of less than €1 million will be charged to stamp duty on the basis that no tax will be payable on the first €125,000 of the consideration and the balance will be charged at 7%. A rate of 9% on the portion of the price in excess of €1 million is charged.

Garda Stations.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

195 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the position in relation to the long promised refurbishment of the Garda station in Dunmanway in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3301/08]

The first phase of works at Dunmanway Garda Station, Co. Cork was completed in November 2007.

A contract for the second phase consisting of part demolition and security works to the boundary wall was placed on 13th November 2007, with works commencing on site on 3rd December. These are scheduled for completion at the end of February subject to weather conditions.

Tender documents for phase three, being the major part of the refurbishment of the Station, are virtually complete. It is hoped to be in a position to invite tenders at the end of this month.

Customs Clearance Facilities.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

196 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if customs clearance facilities are available at all harbours, ports and airports that facilitate through traffic from abroad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3886/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that there is a permanent customs presence at all major ports and airports where goods are brought into the State. These staff are responsible primarily for operating all necessary controls and for dealing with any trade facilitation needs that arise. In the case of smaller ports/airports, where the type and volume of business conducted does not justify the deployment of a permanent customs presence, staff attend regularly as a check against the landing (or exportation) of prohibited goods, in particular, controlled drugs.

I am further advised that as a general rule, customs clearance for compliant businesses is an electronic transaction which takes place via Revenue's Automated Entry Processing (AEP) System. The AEP system was completely re-developed in 2007 and embraces modern technologies, allows traders direct access via the Revenue on Line Services (ROS) and permits greater scope for flexibility and trade facilitation. The principal objective is to permit legitimate trade to move goods with minimum interference from Revenue, subject to compliance with relevant EU and national rules. 98% of all customs declarations at import, and 99% of export declarations are made using the AEP system.

Flood Relief.

Dara Calleary

Question:

197 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the position regarding the request from Mayo County Council given in February 2007 for a flood relief scheme on a river (details supplied) in County Mayo. [3054/08]

The Commissioners of Public Works agreed to carry out a survey to identify options for reducing significantly flood risk on the River Deel at Crossmolina after Mayo County Council completed certain minor alleviation works. These works were completed recently and the Commissioners will undertake the survey once water levels in the channel are suitable.

Departmental Bodies.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

198 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the statutory bodies for which he has responsibility; and the date of establishment of each of these statutory bodies. [3091/08]

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

199 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the annual operating cost for each of the past five years of each statutory body for which he has responsibility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3106/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 198 and 199 together.

Table A gives details of establishment dates and annual operating costs of the statutory bodies and agencies in receipt of exchequer funding, for which I have responsibility. Table B relates to statutory bodies and agencies for which I have responsibility and which are not in receipt of funding and as such operating costs are not included. As the Deputy is aware, there are a number of Government Offices for which I have responsibility, the accounts of which are published in the annual Appropriation Accounts. These offices are as follows:

Office of the Revenue Commissioners

Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General

Office of Public Works

Office of the Ombudsman

Office of the Information Commissioner

Standards in Public Office Commission

State Laboratory

Valuation Office

Public Appointments Service

Office of the Commission for Public Service Appointments

Table A

Name of Body

Date Established

Operating costs

Credit Union Advisory Committee

Department of Finance took over responsibility for funding the Committee in 2004. (Previously under the aegis of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.)

2005: €17,507* 2006: €26,063 2007: €37,621 * Includes payment for 2004 Meeting.

Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB)

2 December 1999

2003 : €2.660m 2004 : €2.800m 2005 : €2.979m 2006 : €2.813m 2007 : €2.908m The Department of Finance fund 50% of the SEUPB budget. The Department of Finance and Personnel in Northern Ireland fund the other 50%.

Valuation Tribunal

22 July 1998

2003 : €156,178 2004 : €220,000 2005 : €268,000 2006 : €231,000 2007 : €251,090

National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA)*

3 December 1990

2003: 14.9m 2004: 18.9m 2005: 22.0m 2006: 29.8m 2007: 32.5m**

National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission

2 April 2001

Included in figures for NTMA above, see footnotes

State Claims Agency

2 April 2001

Included in figures for NTMA above, see footnotes

National Development Finance Agency

1 January 2003

Included in figures for NTMA above, see footnotes

*The NTMA is also the State Claims Agency, the Manager of the National Pensions Reserve Fund and the body through which the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA) performs its functions. Staff working in the areas of the State Claims Agency, National Pensions Reserve Fund and National Development Finance Agency are NTMA employees who are assigned to these business activities.

**Exchequer cost which includes staff costs of NTMA, including staff assigned to State Claims Agency, National Pensions Reserve Fund and National Development Finance Agency, and costs of NTMA Advisory Committee, National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission, State Claims Agency Policy Committee and Board of NDFA.

Table B

Name of Body

Date Established

Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland

1 May 2003

Irish Financial Services Appeals Tribunal

1 October 2004

Financial Services Ombudsman Council

1 August 2004

Disabled Drivers.

Dan Neville

Question:

200 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will ensure that an application for a primary medical certificate and the application for a disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concessions grant for a person (details supplied) in County Cork is re-opened; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3120/08]

The initial application for a Primary Medical Certificate under the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994, is made to the Senior Medical Officer of the relevant local Health Service Executive administrative area.

If the Primary Medical Certificate has been refused in this case, the named person may appeal the refusal to the Medical Board of Appeal, National Rehabilitation Hospital, Rochestown Avenue, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin. I would point out that the Medical Board of Appeal is independent in the exercise of its functions.

Motor Taxation.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

201 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number and the type of hybrid electric vehicles purchased here in each year from 2002 to 2007; the vehicle registration tax reduction rate hybrid electric vehicles are currently eligible for; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3149/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the number and type of hybrid electric vehicles purchased here for the years 2002 to 2007 are set out in the table below.

Section 135C of the Finance Act 1992 (as amended) provides for the remission or repayment of 50% of the vehicle registration tax payable or paid on the registration of series production hybrid electric vehicles and series production flexible fuel vehicles. The scheme, which was due to expire on 31 December 2007, was extended from 1 January 2008 until 30 June 2008.

On the introduction of the revised VRT system to take greater account of CO2 emissions on 1 July 2008, the existing relief for series production hybrid electric and flexible fuel cars will be replaced with a VRT relief of up to €2,500 on the VRT payable. This relief will apply until 31 December 2010.

Hybrid Electric Vehicles 2002-2007

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Total

Lexus LS600H

28

28

Toyota Prius

9

9

246

280

326

497

1,367

Lexus RX400H

44

239

295

578

Honda Civic

17

156

173

Honda Insight

2

0

1

3

Lexus GS450H

61

121

182

Toyota Harrier

1

4

5

Toyota Estima

1

7

8

Total

11

9

246

324

645

1,109

2,344

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

202 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the percentage range of the open market selling price of a vehicle within which vehicle registration tax currently lies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3150/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that vehicle registration tax (VRT) is charged on the open market selling price (OMSP) of a vehicle in the State.

OMSP is defined in Section 133 of the Finance Act 1992 and is the price, inclusive of all taxes and duties, which a vehicle may reasonably be expected to fetch on a first arm's length sale in the open market in the State by retail.

The OMSP of new vehicles in the State is declared to the Revenue Commissioners by a wholesale distributor, while the OMSP of imported second hand vehicles is determined by the Revenue Commissioners, based on factors such as age, mileage and vehicle condition.

With regard to the registration of both new and second hand vehicles, VRT is charged at the appropriate rate on 100% of the open market selling price.

Departmental Bodies.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

203 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of task forces currently operating in his Department; the membership and terms of reference; the name of each one; the estimate cost of the task force; if he will report on the progress being made by the task force; if they have made any recommendations to him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3164/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

204 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the task forces established under the auspices of his Department in the past five years; the recommendations made by each task force; the progress being made in implementing these recommendations; if specific recommendations have been rejected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3179/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

205 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the task forces established under the auspices of his Department in the past five years; the cost of these task forces in terms of administrative support, expenses, research and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3194/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 203 to 205, inclusive, together.

There are no specific task forces currently operating in my Department or established in the past five years. As part of the Department's usual course of business, various working groups, consultative committees etc. are established. The membership of these groups are generally drawn from my own Department or other government Departments. If the Deputy has a specific query in relation to such groups and committees, I will have my officials provide the information requested.

Decentralisation Programme.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

206 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the non-property cost of decentralisation for each quarter since the project was initiated with regard to his Department’s quarterly return to the Decentralisation Implementation Group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3209/08]

Below are details reported to the Decentralisation Implementation Group in June 2007 relating to the non-property costs of decentralisation for my Department since 2004.

Year

Total Expenditure

2004

0

2005

117,669

2006

410,353

2007 (Qtr 1)

31,057

My Department is currently updating this information and expects to submit further details to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance and the Public Service in the coming weeks.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

207 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of civil and public servants in his Department who have been decentralised to date; the number who will be decentralised in total under the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3224/08]

To date one hundred and twenty three (123) staff of my Department have decentralised to Tullamore and a further two (2) have accepted offers of decentralisation. It is envisaged that a further five (5) will have relocated to Tullamore by the end of 2008, bringing to one hundred and thirty (130) the overall number of posts which will have been decentralised to Tullamore. Approximately thirty (30) further posts in my Department are scheduled to decentralise to County Kildare during 2008.

Tax Code.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

208 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if his Department has estimated the cost to the Exchequer of extending the income tax and inheritance tax benefits of married couples to same-sex couples; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3264/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, as same-sex couples are not separately identified in tax statistics, it is not possible to provide the precise information requested by the Deputy.

However, in the event that a formal registration scheme for same-sex couples were introduced, it is estimated that the cost of extending married treatment under the income tax code to such couples could be of the order of €3 million per annum for every 1,000 same-sex couples registered.

With regard to inheritance tax, inheritances from spouses are exempt from Capital Acquisitions Tax. In the case of same-sex couples, class 3 threshold applies which provides an exemption of €26,060 with the balance taxable at 20%. The cost of extending the benefits for married couples to same-sex couples is therefore €20,000 in respect of every €100,000 inheritance above the current threshold.

However, it must be borne in mind that there is an existing exemption in respect of a dwelling house which is transferred to an individual who has resided in the house for at least 3 years and continues to reside in it for the following 6 years. The value of this house is not taken into account for Capital Acquisitions Tax, nor is there a requirement for any relationship between the both parties.

State Property.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

209 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the amount that has been spent on refurbishing the gatekeeper’s house at Farmleigh, Dublin 15; the amount it costs to maintain it per annum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3265/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

210 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the position regarding the gatekeeper’s house at Farmleigh, Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3266/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 209 and 210 together.

The Steward's House at Farmleigh was recently refurbished to provide additional guest accommodation as part of the overall Farmleigh complex but separate from the main house.

The Steward's House is an integral part of the Farmleigh Estate and it was included as part of the purchase of Farmleigh by the State in 1999. Much of the renovation work was done by the building maintenance service of the Office of Public Works as part of its ongoing programme of works. External contracts directly associated with the renovation work amounted to €568,076 inclusive of VAT. In addition, direct landscaping contracts came to €30,748 inclusive of VAT.

Income Statistics.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

211 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the average wage for a PAYE person working full time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3267/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

212 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the average income for a full-time self-assessed taxpayer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3268/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 211 and 212 together.

I understand from the Revenue Commissioners that statistics maintained by them on the incomes of taxpayers do not distinguish between incomes derived from full-time employment and part-time working. It would not be possible to arrive at meaningful figures for average incomes without conducting a protracted re-development of the underlying computer system.

To the extent that official data on average earnings may be available, the Central Statistics Office produces statistics on earnings in the economy, including average earnings. My understanding is that such information is produced in accordance with the European Classification of Economic Activities (NACE) which is the European reference framework for the production and the dissemination of statistics related to economic activity.

Recreational Facilities.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

213 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when the playground at the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre will open; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3269/08]

The Playground at Ashtown in the Phoenix Park is substantially complete. It is currently undergoing final inspections and it is hoped to open the facility shortly.

Public Transport.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

214 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on proposals to open the Phoenix Park to public buses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3271/08]

In line with the recommendation outlined in the Phoenix Park Transportation Study published in September 2006, OPW agreed to facilitate a limited public transport service through the Park and is at present in discussions with the relevant agencies in this regard.

Tax Code.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

215 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if his Department in conjunction with the Revenue Commissioners have advised or will advise the embassies of foreign countries who have resident embassies here of their obligations under Irish law to treat Irish national domiciled here and employed by the embassy as PAYE workers and that access to PRSI and other entitlements commonly shared by Irish workers should apply to Irish nationals employed by foreign embassies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3349/08]

As the Deputy may be aware, informing Embassies located in the State on various matters is, generally, done by way of Note to the Heads of the Missions issued by the Protocol Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

In this regard, I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the Protocol Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs, by way of Note dated 28th June 2005, encouraged all Heads of Resident Missions to operate the PAYE system on payments made to local staff.

I am further informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they will provide information and assistance to any Embassy wishing to register for, and operate, the PAYE system on payments to locally engaged staff. In addition, they will deal with any queries Embassy staff may have as regards PAYE matters.

As regards the PRSI system, this is a matter for the Department of Social and Family Affairs.

Decentralisation Programme.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

216 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the status of plans to decentralise 200 Departmental jobs to Youghal. [3513/08]

Under the decentralisation programme both the Public Appointments Service and the Valuation Office will transfer 100 posts each to Youghal. The current status with both of these agencies is that arrangements for decentralisation are proceeding in accordance with their implementation plans which have been prepared and submitted by each of the agencies to the Decentralisation Implementation Group.

To date, no staff have been decentralised by the Public Appointments Service, or the Valuation Office. However ten (10) staff in the Public Appointment Service and eleven (11) staff in the Valuation Office are currently in posts in Dublin awaiting a transfer to Youghal. The Public Appointment Service and the Valuation Office are due to relocate to Youghal in 2009.

Social Partnership.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

217 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the steps that have been taken to achieve better value for money in public service delivery, proposed in Towards 2016 with a view to minimising the effect of the public service pay agreement on inflation. [3518/08]

The implementation of the modernisation agenda has been, and continues to be, driven by the various social partnership agreements across the public service. The current social partnership agreement, Towards 2016, builds on the progress made under previous agreements and ensures continued co-operation with change and modernisation initiatives as well as improvements in productivity right across the Public Service. It provides an important framework for meeting the economic and social challenges ahead and builds on previous achievements in areas such as quality customer services, better management of performance, better financial and human resource management, and greater flexibility and openness to change.

Critically, Towards 2016 sets out a mechanism for the verification of progress at sectorial, organisational and grade level in the Public Service through the establishment of a Performance Verification Group for each of the sectors — health, education and local authority sectors, and the Garda Síochána and Defence Forces. Under the terms of Towards 2016, payment of each of the public service pay increases is dependent on verification of satisfactory achievement in relation to co-operation with flexibility and ongoing change, including co-operation with satisfactory implementation of the agenda for modernisation set out in the Agreement, maintenance of stable industrial relations and the absence of industrial action in respect of any matters covered by the Agreement.

The requirement for staff at all levels in the public service to be multi-skilled and flexible is fundamental to the capacity of the civil and public service to deal with the challenging new issues and areas of work created by economic, societal and technological change. In particular, these skills are necessary prerequisites for delivering services in a joined up and integrated way. This means that the civil and public service must increase its focus on the nature and balance of skill mix required.

We have increased the focus on performance and accountability at organisational level and for managers at all levels across the civil service. At the level of the organization, there is now a requirement that annual output statements be submitted to the Oireachtas, along with the annual estimate. This is aimed at clearly linking resources with outputs and outcomes, and demands a rigorous approach to the management of all resources across the civil service.

We have good quality public services and many improvements have been made in recent years but the agenda for change, for enhancing the efficiency of public services and the quality of service to our citizens, is not a static one. It needs to be regularly reviewed and adapted as needs and demands change.

We are taking a range of initiatives in this regard: the efficiency reviews of public service organisations announced in the Budget, the study by the OECD to benchmark the public service in Ireland against other comparable countries and to make recommendations as to future directions for public service reform, and the programme of organisational reviews to examine the capability of individual Departments and Agencies to meet their current service delivery requirements and to deal effectively with future changes in direction and new challenges.

Pay settlements must reflect the economic fundamentals. With strong economic growth and productivity increasing strongly, as we experienced over the last decade, there was scope for greater flexibility in the level of pay increases. Pay developments in the period immediately ahead must reflect the more challenging economic and competitiveness scenario that we now face and be more directly linked to changes in productivity.

The current public service pay agreement under Towards 2016 expires in September 2008 and talks on a new agreement are due to commence soon. Public service pay levels can only increase at a rate that is consistent with budgetary discipline and national competitiveness. In addition the productivity and efficiency of the public service needs to be improved on an ongoing basis.

Flood Relief.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

218 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the remedial action he proposes to take regarding the severe flooding in the Ballycolgan/Skeaghbeg area of Headford, County Galway, the position regarding same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3584/08]

An ecological report commissioned by the Commissioners of Public Works is currently being completed. The Commissioners will then finalise their flood mitigation proposals taking account of this report and will consult with landowners and environmental stakeholders. If agreement is reached, it is envisaged that the works will commence during the Summer.

Fiscal Policy.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

219 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on carrying out research to examine the influence of fiscal policies on consumer purchasing and their impact on overweight and obesity, for example, risk benefit assessment of taxation that supports healthy eating and active living, subsidies for healthy food such as fruit and vegetables; if he will carry out such research; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3629/08]

I presume the Deputy is referring to one of the 93 recommendations of the National Taskforce on Obesity report "Obesity: the Policy Challenges" published in 2005. Primary responsibility in relation to policy on health promotion including healthy eating, active living and obesity rests with the Minister for Health and Children and the HSE. I understand that the Department of Health and Children is currently finalising a National Nutrition policy which will provide strategic direction on nutrition for the next ten years. The policy will be published in the coming months.

As regards tax, I would be of the strong view that little value could be gleaned from such research since the tax system, through the VAT regime, already favourably differentiates between different food products. Ireland applies a zero VAT rate on the purchase of unprepared food products and to fresh fruit. A positive VAT rate is applied for example to biscuits, takeaway food, chocolate and soft drinks. In this context Irish VAT law must comply with EU VAT law. Ireland also uses price signals for e.g. cigarettes and alcohol through excises and VAT at 21%.

Energy Conservation.

Simon Coveney

Question:

220 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if the Government required the exclusive purchase of CFL light bulbs for use in public bodies by the end of 2007, as announced in the National Climate Change Strategy 2007; and if not, the plans there are to introduce such a measure in the near future. [3713/08]

The National Climate Change Strategy required the public sector to use energy efficient lightening solely, in all public buildings. This was already very much in practice in buildings for which the OPW has responsibility, where fluorescent lighting has been the lighting of choice in almost all circumstances except in a very small number of instances for technical or aesthetic reasons.

Also the strategy proposed the exclusive purchase of compact fluorescent lighting in conjunction with a levy on incandescent lamps. The use of incandescent lighting is not practical in commercial or similar buildings because of the frequency of lamp replacement as well as for energy efficiency reasons and the Office of Public Works has ensured that such lighting has been used only in exceptional applications for many years now.

It is the policy of the Office of Public Works to use energy efficient lighting throughout its portfolio of buildings and every opportunity shall be used to improve efficiencies and reduce waste with the proper and economic use of technologies and heightening awareness.

EU Funding.

John O'Mahony

Question:

221 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the names of the programmes and schemes operated by his Department which were or continue to be funded in full or in part by the European Union; the amount of funding in each case since Ireland joined the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3763/08]

My Department is responsible for, amongst other things, overall policy in relation to Ireland's EU Structural and Cohesion Funds. It also plays a central role in the development and monitoring of the programmes/projects through which the Funds are drawn down. Ireland has qualified for Structural Funds since we joined the EU in 1973 and for the Cohesion Fund from 1993 when it was established. However, due to the economic progress the country has made, Ireland no longer qualifies for Cohesion Funding since 2004.

Ireland has been allocated some €901m in EU Structural Funds over the period 2007-2013. The European Commission has approved Ireland's National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) which I launched last December. The NSRF sets out the strategic orientation of the funding for the period. The strategy will be implemented through three operational programmes, one national European Social Fund (ESF) programme and two regional European Regional Development Programme (ERDF) programmes as set out in table 1 below.

Table 1 — NSRF 2007-2013 Operational Programmes

NSRF 2007-2013

Operational Programme

Managing Authority

Human Capital Investment OP

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

S&E Regional OP

Southern & Eastern Regional Assembly

BMW Regional OP

Border, Midland & Western Regional Assembly

In the 2000-2006 round of Funding, the funds were implemented under the National Development Plan/Community Support Framework (NDP/CSF) 2000-2006 through seven operational programmes as set out in table 2 below.

Table 2 — NDP/CSF 2000-2006 Operational Programmes

NDP/CSF 2000-2006

Operational Programme

Managing Authority

Economic and Social Infrastructure OP

Department of Transport

Employment and HumanResources OP

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

Productive Sector OP

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

S&E Regional OP

Southern & Eastern Regional Assembly

BMW Regional OP

Border, Midland & Western Regional Assembly

Peace OP

Special EU Programmes Body

Technical Assistance OP

Department of Finance

For the 1994-1999 round of funding, there were nine operational programmes and for the 1989-1993 round there were twelve operational programmes. Prior to 1989, funding was managed on a project basis with the relevant Government Department/Agency responsible for project implementation.

As can be seen in table 2 above, my Department is directly responsible for implementing the Technical Assistance Operational Programmes. Table 3 sets out details of receipts received.

Table 3 — Receipts under Technical Assistance Operational Programmes

Year

Technical Assistance OP 1994-1999

Technical Assistance OP 2000-2006

(€m)

(€m)

1996

2.8

1997

1998

1.9

1999

1.5

2000

2001

0.6

2002

2003

0.9

2004

0.4

1.9

2005

0.3

0.6

2006

0.2

Note: there were no receipts received prior to 1996 or in 2007.

Details of receipts Ireland has received from the EU Budget under the various funds, including the Structural and Cohesion Funds, since we joined the EU in 1973 can be obtained from the publication "Budgetary and Economic Statistics" published by my Department last year. Table 11 of this publication refers to the breakdown of receipts. The document can be obtained from the following website address: http://www.finance.gov.ie/documents/publications/other/ BES2007V2.pdf

Departmental Staff.

Denis Naughten

Question:

222 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the requirements to enable a person to be listed on the priority transfer list within the Revenue Commissioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3826/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, as in all other Departments and Offices, it is possible to be listed for a priority transfer at grades represented by Civil Public & Services Union, i.e. Clerical Officer and Staff Officer grades.

An Officer must be on the appropriate Central Transfer List for the Revenue location in question. Human Resources Division, Revenue, must receive formal written CPSU supported approval on behalf of the particular officer to be listed for priority transfer to that location.

Decentralisation Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

223 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the status of the decentralisation of his staff to Tullamore; the number of staff already decentralised; the numbers yet to be decentralised and the timetable for this; the status of property acquisition and the cost involved; when the property will be ready for occupation; the numbers which it will cater for; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3831/08]

To date one hundred and twenty three (123) staff of my Department have decentralised to Tullamore and a further two (2) have accepted offers of decentralisation. It is envisaged that a further five (5) will have relocated to Tullamore by the end of 2008, bringing to one hundred and thirty (130) the overall number of posts which will have been decentralised to Tullamore.

My Department decentralised to Tullamore in July 2006 and I am advised by the Office of Public Works that the cost of purchasing and fitting out of the office in Tullamore was €10,034,000.

Denis Naughten

Question:

224 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the status of the decentralisation of the Office of Public Works to Claremorris ; the number of staff already decentralised; the numbers yet to be decentralised and the timetable for this; the status of property acquisition and the cost involved; when the property will be ready for occupation; the numbers which it will cater for; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3832/08]

The Office of Public Works (OPW) commenced operations in the OPW advance office in Claremorris in September 2007. There are 29 staff currently in place out of the 142 posts to be transferred to this location. OPW has acquired the site for their permanent offices in Claremorris at a cost of €2.5m and it is expected that this building will be ready for occupation in 2009.

Disabled Drivers.

David Stanton

Question:

225 Deputy David Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of people who received tax relief under the disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concessions scheme in 2007; the number of people who are eligible to qualify for relief under this scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3851/08]

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from Vehicle Registration Tax, VAT and excise duty on fuel (up to certain limits), and exemption from motor tax, on the purchase and use of an adapted car for transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities.

Based on the most recent data available from the Revenue Commissioners it is estimated that the total number of people in/claimants under the scheme during 2007 was around 12,500, of whom some 5,900 people obtained VRT and VAT relief during 2007 on the purchase of a vehicle. It is estimated that the overall cost of the scheme in 2007 amounted to €74 million.

David Stanton

Question:

226 Deputy David Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of people who appealed a decision to refuse them tax relief in 2007 under the disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concessions scheme; the number who were successful in their appeal in 2007; the average waiting time for an appeal under this scheme to be heard by the Medical Board of Appeal; the location where appeals are heard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3852/08]

I understand from the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal, which is independent in the exercise of its functions, that 420 appeals were received during 2007 by the Medical Board of Appeal against decisions by Senior Medical Officers of the Health Service Executive to refuse Primary Medical Certificates.

The Medical Board of Appeal contacted some 460 people regarding offers of appointments in 2007, of whom 313 were assessed by the Board, the remainder declined the appointment or did not turn up for the appointment. Fifty Seven of the people assessed by the Medical Board of Appeal were successful in their appeal. The average waiting time for appeals in 2007 was 6 months, however, the waiting time is being continually reduced.

Appeals are normally heard in the National Rehabilitation Hospital, Rochestown Avenue, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin. The Board has in the past held regional sessions in Cork and Donegal when sufficient appellants were available from the regions.

Departmental Expenditure.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

227 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the average cost to his Department of answering a parliamentary question. [3863/08]

Parliamentary Questions are dealt with, as the need arises, by the staff in the sections dealing with the particular issue(s) raised in individual Parliamentary Questions. The number and level of staff and time spent on an individual answer depends on the complexity and importance of the issue raised , the form in which the information exists in the Department, and the form of the proposed response, i.e. whether oral or written.

As the processing of individual Parliamentary Questions is undertaken as part of the normal day to day work of individual sections within the Department it is not possible to isolate the administrative costs of processing Parliamentary Questions from the overall administrative costs of the Department.

Mental Health Services.

Joan Burton

Question:

228 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children if it is her intention to relocate the Central Mental Hospital, Dundrum to the site of the proposed prison at Thornton Hall; if her attention has been drawn to the serious objections to this both from those interested in mental health services and local residents in the Thornton Hall area; the steps taken by her Department in relation to any such proposal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3375/08]

In May 2006, the Government formally approved the development of a new national forensic mental health facility at Thornton Hall, Co Dublin, adjacent to the new prison. The new hospital facility will provide a therapeutic, forensic psychiatric service to the highest international standards, in a state-of–the-art building. This decision was consistent with "A Vision for Change" — the report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, which recommended that the Central Mental Hospital (CMH) should be replaced or remodelled to allow it to provide care and treatment in a modern, up-to-date humane setting and that the capacity of the CMH should be maximised.

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

The development of the new CMH is the responsibility of the HSE and at present, a project team is progressing the development of the new hospital. It is understood that the land at Thornton Hall is currently zoned for agricultural use and that preliminary discussions have taken place between the HSE and Fingal County Council regarding the planning process for the project; I am advised that the project will require planning permission. The HSE will seek planning permission at the appropriate time and will engage in the normal process of public consultation in this regard.

Eating Disorders.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

229 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the implementation of a policy for the provision of an integrated inter-Departmental approach to addressing overweight and obesity; if she will implement same policy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3500/08]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

230 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will implement an evaluation of the National Strategy on Obesity in conjunction with all Government Departments, relevant bodies and agencies, industry and consumer groups; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3501/08]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

231 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the development and implementation, as part of a health impact assessment, schemes and policies, including public procurement, that encourage healthy eating and active living, particularly those aimed at children and vulnerable groups in conjunction with all Government Departments; if she will implement same policy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3502/08]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

233 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on seeking the views of children and young people and those members of the population who are, at present, overweight or obese as part of addressing overweight and obesity; if she will undertake research on same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3578/08]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

234 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on using the health and immunisation programme in primary schools as an opportunity to work in partnership with parents and children in development life skills, which support healthy eating and active living, in detecting, by measurement, children who are at risk of overweight or underweight; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3612/08]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

235 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on seeking the views of children and young people and those members of the population who are, at present, overweight or obese as part of addressing overweight and obesity; if she will undertake same research; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3627/08]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

281 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the developments and implementation as part of a health impact assessment, schemes and policies, including public procurement, that encourage healthy eating and active living, particularly those aimed at children and vulnerable groups; if she will develop and implement same policy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3506/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 229 to 231, inclusive, 233 to 235, inclusive, and 281 together.

The National Taskforce on Obesity published its report in 2005. The Taskforce recommended a multi-sectoral approach involving State agencies, Government Departments and the private sectors.

The Taskforce saw the school as a key setting in tackling overweight and obesity in children and recommended that schools should be encouraged to develop consistent policies to promote healthy eating and active living. My Department has published "Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Preschools" and "Food and Nutrition guidelines for Primary Schools" and guidelines for post-primary schools are currently being finalised. These guidelines are designed to assist schools to develop a healthy eating policy and promote the concept of healthy eating through a supportive school community. The guidelines will be available as part of a training resource for teachers – trained jointly by Community Dietitians and SPHE Co-ordinators.

My Department is engaged with other Departments to ensure that the impact on health is considered in policy development and to ensure progress in implementation of those recommendations of the Taskforce which are outside the remit of my Department.

A key recommendation of the Taskforce was the development of a National Nutrition Policy. My Department is currently finalising this policy, which will provide strategic direction on nutrition for the next ten years. The target group is young people, 0-18 years, and the priority actions are intended to reduce obesity and food poverty. The policy will be published this spring.The HSE has established a Working Group to implement the health sector recommendations of the Taskforce on Obesity for which the HSE has the lead responsibility and for which €3 million has been allocated. Funding has been provided by the HSE to University College Dublin to record height and weight in children at school entry point as part of an EU initiative to counteract obesity. The development of a national database to monitor prevalence trends of growth, overweight and obesity was also funded. The HSE is working with the Irish Universities Nutritional Alliance to research food and nutrition in children. Funding has also been allocated to the Irish Heart Foundation to undertake a project on marketing of foods to children.

Health Service Allowances.

Enda Kenny

Question:

232 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children the medical criteria that applies where domiciliary care allowance is awarded; and the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo was refused this allowance. [3508/08]

Domiciliary Care Allowance (DCA) is a monthly allowance administered by the Health Service Executive (HSE). Eligible children from birth to the age of 16 who are living at home and who have a severe disability requiring continual or continuous care and attention which is substantially in excess of that normally required by a child of the same age may qualify for DCA. The condition must be likely to last for at least one year.

Eligibility is determined primarily by reference to the degree of additional care and attention required by the child rather than to the type of disability involved, subject to a means test. While no condition is debarred, conditions such as Asthma, Diabetes or Epilepsy are not normally considered unless there is a very high degree of additional care and attention required.

As the administration of the allowance is a matter for the Health Service Executive my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Questions Nos. 233 to 235, inclusive, answered with Question No. 229.

Child Care Services.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

236 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on ensuring that grant recipients under the equality opportunities childcare programme provide confirmation that they are in compliance with the statutory requirements in relation to healthy and active living; if she will develop and implement such a policy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3631/08]

The Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme (EOCP) 2000-2006 has now closed to applicants and is succeeded by the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP). Under both programmes all grant applications involve an assessment with reference to the Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations 2006. Regulations 5, 26 (1) and 28 (b) specifically address the issues of healthy eating and active living.

It is considered that the appraisal process of grant applications under the EOCP and NCIP provides an effective framework to ensure that services in receipt of funding comply with statutory requirements.

Health Services.

M. J. Nolan

Question:

237 Deputy M. J. Nolan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a physiotherapy service will be provided for a school (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3049/08]

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.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

238 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress she has made in introducing a national cervical screening programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3050/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

256 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that mortality rates for cervical cancer here are rising; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3245/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 238 and 256 together.

The National Cancer Registry has advised my Department that the number of deaths from cervical cancer has been increasing on average by about 1% per year. However, when adjusted for population growth, there has been no overall increase, and when also adjusted for age there has been a 1% average decrease in mortality rates.

The roll-out of a national cervical screening programme is the most efficient population approach to preventing and controlling cervical cancer. The National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) is planning to roll out such a programme on a national basis around the middle of this year. Women aged 25 to 44 years old will be screened every 3 years; women aged 45 to 60 will be screened every 5 years. The service will be available free of charge to eligible women everywhere in the country. Approximately 230,000 women will be screened annually, assuming an 80% take up by eligible women.

All elements of the programme, call/recall, smear taking, laboratories, colposcopy and treatment services will be quality assured, organised and managed to deliver a single integrated national service. The NCSS is in the process of procuring quality assured internationally accredited laboratory capacity. The laboratories will be required to meet turnaround times of ten working days. This process is due to be completed by end March. In terms of smeartaker capacity, the NCSS completed a stakeholder consultation process in November 2007 and published a draft smeartaker contract for consultation in the first week of January this year. This consultation process will end on 28 February next and the actual smeartaker contract will be published shortly thereafter. The programme will be based on a turnaround time of four weeks for smear testing. The NCSS is also carrying out a baseline quality audit of existing clinical colposcopy services in the State to establish their fitness for purpose in the context of a national cervical screening programme.

Additional revenue funding of €5.0m was allocated to the NCSS in 2007 for the roll-out of the programme and an additional €15.0m has been allocated in 2008. An additional 30 posts have been approved to facilitate integration and roll-out of the programme.

Health Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

239 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will respond to correspondence from a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3066/08]

Finian McGrath

Question:

301 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will investigate the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will respond to the issues raised. [3741/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 239 and 301 together.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. The Executive, therefore, is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputies. 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 Deputies.

Care of the Elderly.

Joe McHugh

Question:

240 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason there has been a lack of information regarding the nursing home support scheme, also known as fair deal, which, if implemented would bring about major changes in the care of the elderly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3073/08]

Since the announcement of the Fair Deal in December 2006, information leaflets and frequently asked questions outlining the proposals of the scheme have been available on the Department's website. In addition, the Department has endeavoured to address all queries, concerns and representations from interest groups, public representatives and members of the public.

The Bill providing for the Fair Deal is at an advanced stage and being finalised by the Office of the Attorney General at present. The Minister proposes to publish the Bill as soon as possible following Government approval. Once the Bill has been published additional information will be made available.

Nursing Home Accommodation.

Joe McHugh

Question:

241 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has plans to tackle the arbitrary nature of the allocation of beds for patients requiring long-term care; the way she plans to tackle the unfair system of admission to nursing homes, which previously exists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3074/08]

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 Home Subventions.

Joe McHugh

Question:

242 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will explain the proposal that 80% of disposable income be charged to patients admitted to nursing homes; if it will be 80% of gross or net income; the way business people and the self-employed will be assessed; if the 80% will be the full contribution or if further financial help will be sought from the family; the way the charge on the estate of the deceased person will be estimated and collected; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3075/08]

Under the Fair Deal, individuals who require long-term residential care will contribute a maximum of 80% of their net assessable income whether for public or private nursing home care. In calculating an individual's net assessable income, it is proposed that account can be taken of specified items of expenditure.

Depending on the amount of a person's assessable income, there may also be a contribution of up to 5% of a person's assets. The State will meet the balance of cost thereafter in public or private nursing homes and an individual's family and/or friends will not have to contribute towards the cost of their care. An individual can choose any nursing home subject to a) its ability to meet their care needs and b) availability.

The payment of the portion of the contribution relating to assets can be paid at the time when care is received, or may be deferred until the settlement of the individual's estate if they so wish. If an individual opts to defer this portion of the contribution, the Revenue Commissioners will collect it upon settlement of their estate.

Where the contribution is based on the principal private residence, it will be capped at a maximum of 15%, or 7.5% in the case of one spouse going long-term residential care while the other remains in the home. This means that after three years in care, an individual will not be liable for any further deferred contribution based on the principal residence.

Where a spouse or certain dependants are living in the principal residence, the contribution may be further deferred until after the death of that spouse or dependant, or until such time as a person previously qualifying as a dependant ceases to qualify as such.

Finally, individuals will be required to submit information on their income and assets in a manner and format specified by the HSE for the purposes of the financial assessment. This requirement will apply to all who wish to avail of the scheme including the self-employed.

Care of the Elderly.

Joe McHugh

Question:

243 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to address the inadequacies of residential services, both in nursing homes and in the community; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3076/08]

The development of Services for Older People is a priority for the Government. This is reflected in the funding committed to services for older people in Budgets 2006, 2007 and 2008. In 2006, the Government a significant expansion of services for older people with a full year cost of €150m. In 2007 a full year package of €255m was allocated for services for older people. Budget 2008 provided an additional €135m bringing the total spend over the last three years to €540m.

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.

During the period from 2005 to 2007 the Health Service Executive secured 1,995 private contract beds. A further 200 private contract beds will be made available in the early part of 2008. These 200 contract beds, together with 100 new public beds due to come on stream early this year in St. Marys in the Phoenix Park, will result in an additional 300 beds being made available in the near term. The public fast-track initiative provided for 860 new public beds by the end of 2008. This work commenced in 2007 and is continuing throughout 2008.

Home Care Packages are an additional support over and above existing mainstream community services and are used to maintain an older person at home via additional supports and therapy services. They are designed to be flexible and are particularly targeted at those at risk of admission to long-term care, inappropriate admission to acute hospital or requiring discharge home from acute hospital. The Packages are playing an increasing role in supporting people to remain in their own homes and communities. Over the years 2006 and 2007, additional funding of over €110m was made available to develop the Home Care Package initiative.

Budget 2008 provided an additional €22m revenue funding for a range of community based service initiatives including:

360 new Home Care Packages, benefiting and estimated 800 people

over 200,000 additional Home-Help Hours

Approx. 1,000 additional Day/Respite places

Enhanced supports at national level for voluntary groups working on delivering services in partnership with the HSE

Foster Care.

Michael Ring

Question:

244 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if there are plans for the future to have specialised facilities in place for children in foster care with special needs or difficulties. [3078/08]

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.

Departmental Bodies.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

245 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children the statutory bodies for which she has responsibility; and the date of establishment of each of these statutory bodies. [3093/08]

The information requested by the Deputy is as set out in the following table.

Name of Statutory body

Establishment Date

An Bord Uchtála (the Adoption Board)

01/01/1953

An Board Altranais — The Nursing Board

Established 07/06/1952. Reconstituted under Section 6 of Nurses Act 1985 on 01/09/1986

Children Acts Advisory Board (formerly Special Residential Services Board)

23/07/2007 — CAAB 07/11/ 2003 — SRSB

Consultative Council on Hepatitis C

26/11/1996

Crisis Pregnancy Agency

02/10/2001

Dental Council

13/11/1985

Drug Treatment Centre Board

22/04/1988

Dublin Dental Hospital Board

17/07/1963

Food Safety Authority of Ireland

01/01/1999

Food Safety Promotion Board Operates as safe food

Established under the British Irish Agreement Act 1999-02/12/1999

Health Insurance Authority

01/02/2001

Health & Social Care Professionals Council

20/03/2007

Health Repayment Scheme Appeals Office

04/12/2006

Health Research Board

14/08/1986

Health Service Executive

01/01/2005

HIQA

15/05/2007

Irish Blood Transfusion Service Board

15/04/1965

Irish Medicines Board

01/01/1996

Medical Council

Established under section 6 of Medical Practitioners Act 1978-commenced operation 01/04/1979

Mental Health Commission

01/04/2002

National Cancer Screening Services Board

01/01/2007

National Cancer Registry Board

04/02/1991

National Council for the Professional Development of Nursing and Midwifery

30/11/1999

National Council on Aging and Older People

19/03/1997

National Haemophilia Council

22/07/2004

National Paediatric Hospital Development Board

23/05/ 2007

National Social Work Qualifications Board

27/02/1997

National Treatment Purchase Fund

22/04/2004

Office for Tobacco Control

Set up on an administrative basis in late 2000 pending legislation and received statutory status in 01/05/2002, with the enactment of section 2 of the Public Health (Tobacco) Act, 2002.

Opticians Board

14/11/1956

Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland

Established 1875 — Reconstituted 21/05/2007 under 2007 Act

Poisons Council

26/06/1961

Postgraduate Medical and Dental Board

Established under section 39 of Medical Practitioners Act 1978 with effect from 07/03/1980

Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council

10/04/2000

Women’s Health Council

25/06/1997

Beaumont Hospital Board

02/08/1977

St James’s Hospital Board

11/06/1971

Leopardstown Park Hospital Board

31/03/1979

St Luke’s Hospital Board

30/07/1999

AMINCH – Adelaide & Meath Hospital Dublin incorporating The National Children’s Hospital

31/07/1996

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

246 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children the annual operating cost for each of the past five years of each statutory body for which she has responsibility; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3108/08]

The figures requested are contained in the table below. In the period requested a number of bodies have ceased operations and a number of new bodies have been established. The Irish Health Services Accreditation Board has been integrated within the Health Information and Quality Authority. The former Special Residential Services Board is now known as the Children's Acts Advisory Board. The Economic and Social Research Institute and Comhairle na nOspidéal are now included within the Health Service Executive Vote 40.

Statutory Body

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

Total

National Council on Ageing

1,510,000

1,440,000

1,347,000

1,202,000

1,055,000

6,554,000

National Social Work Qualification

573,000

557,000

511,000

549,000

552,000

2,742,000

Irish Medicines Board

4,924,000

4,025,000

3,856,000

2,251,000

1,645,000

16,701,000

Postgraduate Medical and Dental Board

9,795,000

8,744,000

7,088,000

9,117,000

7,139,000

41,883,000

Board for the Employment of the Blind

4,717,000

1,100,000

696,000

0

0

6,513,000

Crisis Pregnancy Agency

8,574,000

8,140,000

7,399,000

7,306,000

5,199,000

36,618,000

Food Safety Authority Ireland

18,712,000

17,430,000

17,159,663

16,282,000

11,563,000

81,146,663

Institute of Public Health

1,562,000

1,505,000

1,468,500

978,000

860,439

6,373,939

Health Information & Quality Authority

6,389,000

1,386,000

361,112

0

0

8,136,112

Irish Health Safety Accreditation Board.

843,000

2,464,000

2,342,000

0

0

5,649,000

Mental Health Commission

17,380,000

6,250,000

5,980,000

3,705,000

2,000,000

35,315,000

National Cancer Screening Service

30,419,000

13,693,000

10,606,000

0

0

54,718,000

National Council Professional Development of Nursing & Midwifery

4,200,000

4,350,000

4,220,000

4,092,000

3,939,000

20,801,000

Office of Tobacco Control

2,495,554

2,315,000

1,838,000

0

0

6,648,554

Pre Hospital Emergency Care Council

3,414,850

2,812,000

2,236,000

2,000,000

1,491,000

11,953,850

Children Acts Advisory Board *

2,232,000

1,715,000

2,101,000

1,191,207

0

7,239,207

Women’s Health Council

654,000

631,000

609,000

589,000

505,000

2,988,000

ESRI

0

3,000,000

2,761,000

0

0

5,761,000

Comhairle na nOspidéal

0

0

0

894,000

1,265,000

2,159,000

National Treatment Purchase Fund

91,744,000

78,644,000

64,000,000

9,657,000

0

244,045,000

Food Safety Promotion Board

6,475,000

6,580,000

6,370,000

6,167,000

6,086,000

31,678,000

Health Research Board

36,085,000

30,353,000

27,147,000

20,982,000

2,027,800

116,594,800

Ombudsman for Children

2,080,992

1,266,268

1,018,997

276,082

0

4,642,339

National Cancer Research Board

2,165,000

1,720,000

1,870,000

1,789,000

1,988,000

9,532,000

Interim Health Services Executive

0

0

0

950,710

0

950,710

Health Services.

Liz McManus

Question:

247 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the pay scheme for chiropodists providing a service to GMS card holders has not been reviewed since 1978; and the further reason at a series of independently mediated meetings held between 2003 and 2006 to look at the fee structure at which chiropody representatives with IMPACT made their case, agreement was reached at these meetings, and fifteen months later nothing has been implemented. [3121/08]

Denis Naughten

Question:

311 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the waiting time for approval for an appointment for chiropody in County Roscommon; the steps she is taking to address this backlog; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3811/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 247 and 311 together.

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

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

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

As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for Primary Care services, it is the appropriate body to consider the specific matters raised by the Deputies. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have these matters investigated and to have replies issued directly to the Deputies.

Child Care Services.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

248 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children when her office will request an application for capital grant funding under the National Child Care Investment Programme 2006 to 2010 by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 16 and send it to Pobal for examination; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3122/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006 — 2010 (NCIP), which will invest €575 million over five years, with €358 million of this in capital grant aid for childcare services.

Initially when seeking capital funding under the NCIP applicants approach the City/County Childcare Committees who assist in the development of applications and assess the local need for the project. When developed, the CCCs forward the application in a portfolio to Pobal, which is engaged to administer the grants, for their examination and assessment. Following Pobal's assessment of the application, it is forwarded to the Childcare Directorate of my Office for final consideration and recommendation to the Secretary General of the Department of Health and Children.

As the Deputy will be aware, the NCIP came into effect from 1 January 2006, with an allocation of €358 million for capital projects during the 5 year period of 2006 — 2010. This funding is allocated for each year subject to the rules governing capital expenditure and the multi-annual investment framework, which are conditions of the sanction given by the Department of Finance each year for capital expenditure, including expenditure under the NCIP. Due to the success of the programme to date, the approved ceiling in 2007 for capital commitments was reached in June. While capital projects continued to be processed during 2007, it was not possible to approve further capital project before January 2008. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the projects processed in 2007 were considered by the Secretary General in January 2008 and additional capital funding amounting to €39 million was approved.

With regard to the application for capital grant assistance under the NCIP referred to by the Deputy, I understand this is currently with the South Dublin County Childcare Committee and is expected to be submitted to Pobal as part of their June 2008 portfolio of capital projects. It is anticipated that a further €120 million in NCIP capital grants will be processed during 2008.

Hospital Accommodation.

Joe Costello

Question:

249 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children the additional bed capacity being planned for in the new Mater adult hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3143/08]

Joe Costello

Question:

282 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children the additional bed capacity being planned for in the new Mater adult hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3520/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 249 and 282 together.

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

Hospital Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

250 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the position at Sligo General Hospital with regard to the provision of cancer services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3151/08]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has designated University College Hospital Galway and Limerick Regional Hospital as the two cancer centres in the Managed Cancer Control Network for the HSE Western Region, which includes Sligo. The designation of cancer centres aims to ensure that patients receive the highest quality care while at the same time allowing local access to services, where appropriate. Where diagnosis and treatment planning is directed and managed by multi-disciplinary teams based at the cancer centres, then much of the treatment (other than surgery) can be delivered in local hospitals, such as Sligo General Hospital. The decisions of the HSE in relation to four managed cancer control networks and eight cancer centres will be implemented on a managed and phased basis. Prof. Keane is currently engaging in detailed planning to facilitate the orderly phased transfer of services between locations.

Departmental Bodies.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

251 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of task forces currently operating in her Department; the membership and terms of reference; the name of each one; the estimate cost of the taskforce; if she will report on the progress being made by the task force; if they have made any recommendations to her; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3166/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

252 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the task forces established under the auspices of her Department in the past five years; the recommendations made by each task force; the progress being made in implementing these recommendations; if specific recommendations have been rejected; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3181/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

253 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the task forces established under the auspices of her Department in the past five years; the cost of these task forces in terms of administrative support, expenses, research and so on; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3196/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 251 to 253, inclusive, together.

Two taskforces have been established by my Department since 2003: the Obesity Taskforce (cost €42,000) and the Taskforce on Sudden Cardiac Death (cost €23,899). The reports of these taskforces, which are published on the Department's website (www.dohc.ie), contain the information in relation to their respective membership, terms of reference, and recommendations. Work is proceeding in relation to the recommendations, which have informed the development of my Department's policy in respect of the areas concerned.

Decentralisation Programme.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

254 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the non-property cost of decentralisation for each quarter since the project was initiated with regard to her Department’s quarterly return to the Decentralisation Implementation Group; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3211/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

255 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of civil and public servants in her Department who have been decentralised to date; the number who will be decentralised in total under the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3226/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 254 and 255 together.

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department is not one of the Departments scheduled for decentralisation under the Government's Decentralisation Programme. To date fifty-one civil servants have transferred to decentralising Departments from my Department. Further details in respect of the transfer of these officers is available from the decentralising Departments and I understand that the Deputy has also tabled questions to the relevant Ministers.

Question No. 256 answered with Question No. 238.

Medicinal Products.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

257 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a drug (details supplied) available on the GMS in order that general practitioners may give it to high-risk patients pending a decision on a national vaccine programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3246/08]

The HSE maintains a common list of reimbursable medicines for the General Medical Services and Drug Payment schemes. This list is reviewed and amended monthly, as new products become available and deletions are notified. For an item to be reimbursed, it must comply with published criteria, including authorisation status as appropriate, price and, in certain cases, the intended use of the product. In addition, the product must ordinarily be supplied to the public only by medical prescription and should not be advertised or promoted to the public. Products are considered for reimbursement on application to the HSE by a supplier.

Only drugs and medicines which are licensed for dispensing in a community pharmacy, on foot of a doctor's prescription, qualify for reimbursement under the schemes. As the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine for screening for cervical cancer vaccine would require a clinical administration, it would not meet the criteria for reimbursement.

As is being done in other jurisdictions, Ireland is now considering the potential role of HPV vaccination in addressing cervical cancer prevention. The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) has undertaken a scientific assessment of the public health value of HPV following a request from my Department. NIAC and the National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) agreed that this work needed to be complemented by a study of the cost effectiveness of the vaccine in the current Irish context. Accordingly, both organisations requested that the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) undertake this study. When I have received the results of this work I will then be in a position to take the necessary policy decisions based on the best available national and international evidence. In the meantime, the NCSS is planning to roll-out the National Cervical Screening Programme on a national basis around the middle of this year.

Departmental Bodies.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

258 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the role the Health Information and Quality Authority has in advising on the cost effectiveness of pharmaceutical and other therapies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3254/08]

The functions of the Health Information and Quality Authority, which are set down in Section 8 of the Health Act 2007, include the evaluation of the clinical and cost effectiveness of health technologies including drugs and the provision of advice on these matters to the Minister and to the Health Service Executive. This function will reside within the Health Technology Assessment area of the Authority's structure which is currently being developed.

The details of how these functions will be carried out will be determined in the context the Authority's Corporate Plan, which is currently being finalised, and annual Business Plan which will follow shortly. It is anticipated that some of work in this area will be outsourced and that, where appropriate, the work will draw on international experience.

Health Services.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

259 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if the recommendations of the Pollock Report have been implemented, in particular the number of isolation rooms available to cystic fibrosis sufferers; her plans to make more rooms available; the number of dedicated nurses the Health Service Executive has employed; her plans to provide specialised home care staff for cystic fibrosis patients; the action that will be taken to improve cystic fibrosis care in the next six months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3255/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

268 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the average mortality rate for cystic fibrosis patients here; the way this rate compares with other EU countries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3319/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 259 and 268 together.

Following publication of the Pollock Report in 2005, the Health Service Executive established a Working Group to undertake a detailed review of cystic fibrosis services. The Group, which was multi-disciplinary in its composition and included representation from my Department, was asked to review the current configuration and delivery of services to persons with cystic fibrosis in Ireland. The Group identified a range of service improvements required for persons with Cystic Fibrosis, including the need to increase the level of clinical, nursing and allied health professional staffing in Cystic Fibrosis units around the country.

Arising from the Pollock Report and the emerging recommendations of the Working Group, I identified the development of cystic fibrosis services as a policy priority in the Estimates process. In 2006 and 2007, additional revenue funding of €6.78 million was provided to the Health Service Executive (HSE) to develop services.

44 additional staff dealing with cystic fibrosis have been appointed to date across a number of hospitals, including St Vincent's, Beaumont, Temple Street, Crumlin, Tallaght, Cork University Hospital, Galway, Limerick and Waterford. The necessary funding is available to facilitate the recruitment of a further 37 staff nationally.

The HSE was asked to place a particular focus on the development of services at the National Adult Tertiary Referral Centre at St. Vincent's Hospital. A number of capital projects have recently been completed at the hospital and have helped to improve facilities. These include a new ambulatory care centre, the refurbishment of St. Camillus Ward, and a new Accident and Emergency Department which includes single room accommodation.

However, it is accepted that these developments do not fully address the immediate needs of patients. The HSE has been working intensively with the Hospital and with representatives of the Cystic Fibrosis Association of Ireland to progress options for further interim improvements. My Department is advised that the option of developing a modular unit is being examined in this context and the position will be clarified shortly.

The HSE advises that it is fast-tracking the redevelopment of a ward which is adjacent to the main cystic fibrosis treatment area. The project is to commence within the next few weeks and will provide six single rooms. On completion, additional work will begin to provide a further eight single rooms. The HSE advises that this will result in a total of fourteen single rooms for cystic fibrosis patients by the end of the summer.

In the longer term, a new ward block is to be built and will include 120 replacement beds in single en-suite accommodation. The new facility will accommodate cystic fibrosis patients and will include appropriate isolation facilities. Planning permission has been obtained and financial provision has been included in the HSE Capital Plan. The HSE advises that contract notices will be published by the end of February 2008 and the contract is to be awarded in 2008. It will be a condition of the contract that the design build period be not more than 24 months from the date of contract award.

The hospital has also introduced a Home Treatment programme for cystic fibrosis patients which has enabled up to 60% of patients receive certain aspects of their treatment at home.

Beaumont Hospital operates as a regional centre in providing services to adults with cystic fibrosis. In the 2008 Budget, a special allocation of €2.5m capital funding was provided to enable Beaumont hospital to provide out patient facilities for cystic fibrosis patients.

An independent registry for cystic fibrosis has been established. As yet, the data is not available to fully inform analysis relating to median survival in this country. When it is available, the data from the Registry will allow for benchmarking against comparable countries around the world to measure the performance of our health care system.

My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to respond directly to Deputies on the additional issues raised.

Health Service Funding.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

260 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason Budget 2008 continues to fund the Health Service Executive based on the old health board regional divisions rather than the four new HSE regions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3272/08]

Since the establishment of the Health Service Executive (HSE), it has been my intention to present the new Vote 40 in the most transparent and informative format. While this continues to be my objective, the existing accounting process within the HSE does not support this optimal format. The HSE has been working on the design of a unified accounting system and proposals in this regard will be submitted to my Department and the Department of Finance shortly. The current format of Vote 40 will remain until the new unified system (Vote accounting and Accrual accounting) is installed.

Childhood Study.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

261 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the basis for the Government’s decision to include DNA sampling in the scientific longitudinal childhood study; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3273/08]

The aim of the National Longitudinal Study of Children in Ireland (NLSCI) is "to study the factors, which contribute to or undermine the well-being of children in contemporary Irish families, and, through this, contribute to the setting of effective and responsive policies relating to children and to the design of services for children and their families". This Study will monitor the development of 18,000 children, an infant cohort of 10,000 and a nine-year-old cohort of 8,000 children, yielding important information about each significant transition throughout their young lives.

In April 2006, the contract to undertake this Study was awarded to a research consortium led by the Economic and Social Research Institute and Trinity College Dublin.

Currently, the contract for the NLSCI does not provide for the collection of DNA material.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

262 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be offered treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3276/08]

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

Hospital Services.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

263 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children when it is expected that all facilities from the old Midlands Regional Hospital, Tullamore, County Offaly will be fully transferred to the new facility on the same site; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3277/08]

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

Olwyn Enright

Question:

264 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has received a progress report from the Health Service Executive in relation to when it is expected that the new Midlands Regional Hospital, Tullamore, County Offaly will be opened; the details of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3278/08]

My Department is informed by the Health Service Executive that a number of Departments transferred to the new Midlands Regional Hospital during 2007 are operational and that discussions are ongoing in relation to the transfer of the remaining existing services.

Health Services.

Michael McGrath

Question:

265 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children when intervention services will be provided to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [3281/08]

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

Phil Hogan

Question:

266 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Health and Children when the senior physiotherapist service will be reinstated at a school (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3300/08]

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.

Mary Upton

Question:

267 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of patients currently recorded as receiving treatment for cystic fibrosis here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3318/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

269 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of dedicated cystic fibrosis beds that exist in the public health system here: if she has satisfied herself that there are sufficient beds to meet the needs of patients with cystic fibrosis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3320/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 267 and 269 together.

There are approximately 1,100 people with cystic fibrosis living in the Republic of Ireland. Approximately 45% are adults and 55% are children. The Minister identified the enhancement of services to persons with cystic fibrosis as a key priority. Development funding of €4.78m was provided in 2006 and a further €2m was provided to the Health Service Executive (HSE) to facilitate the recruitment of additional medical, nursing and allied health professional staff to improve services. According to the most recent report from the HSE 44 additional staff have been appointed and funding is available to facilitate the recruitment of 37 additional staff across a range of disciplines. Provision has been included in the HSE Capital Plan 2008- 2013 for a new ward block to provide 120 replacement beds in single en-suite accommodation in St Vincent's University Hospital.

It is intended that the proposed 120 bed development will include dedicated facilities for patients with cystic fibrosis. These facilities will include single room accommodation with en-suite bathrooms, together with appropriate isolation facilities. In addition, the Project Team, which is overseeing the scheme, is giving consideration to the need for separate access routes to the unit.

The HSE advises that contract notices for Design Build Contractors and for Project Managers are to be published by the end of February 2008. The design brief is to be completed by the end of March 2008. The Design Build contract for the project is to be awarded by the end of 2008. The design build period is to be not more than 24 months from the date of contract award — this will be a condition of the contract.

In order to alleviate the more immediate service difficulties for cystic fibrosis patients, the HSE is working intensively with the hospital with a view to identifying and progressing additional improvements. The St. Mark's ward project is an interim solution and will provide additional capacity pending the completion of the 120-bed extension. This area is adjacent to the existing main treatment area for cystic fibrosis patients (St. Paul's Ward). The project is to commence within the next few weeks and will provide six single rooms. On completion, additional work will begin to provide a further eight single rooms. This will result in a total of fourteen single rooms for cystic fibrosis patients by the end of the summer.

My Department has asked the HSE to reply directly on any additional operational issues raised in the Deputy's questions.

Question No. 268 answered with Question No. 259.
Question No. 269 answered with Question No. 267.

Hospital Services.

Mary Upton

Question:

270 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the arrangements in place between the Mater Hospital and Freeman Hospital, Newcastle, for lung transplants for cystic fibrosis patients; the number of cystic fibrosis patients who have received transplants in the Mater to date; the number of transplants carried out on Irish cystic fibrosis patients in Newcastle in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3321/08]

An agreement is in place with the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle, to undertake lung transplants on Irish patients. The agreement was put in place in 1999 and my Department is advised by the Health Service Executive (HSE) that the arrangement will continue in 2008 and until such time as the Irish system is fully self-sufficient. The arrangement supplements the National Lung Transplant Programme at the Mater Hospital. The programme delivers services to patients with a variety of conditions including Cystic Fibrosis.

As operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the HSE my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to reply directly to the Deputy on the additional issues raised.

Pharmacy Regulations.

Mary Upton

Question:

271 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of the ongoing negotiations between the Health Service Executive and the Irish Pharmaceutical Union; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3322/08]

James Reilly

Question:

308 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in view of her statements (details supplied) she will make a statement on the unilateral action taken by the Health Service Executive issuing a new contract without recourse to an arbitrator, as agreed before Christmas 2007 and with a January 2008 deadline for signing of same contract; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3776/08]

Denis Naughten

Question:

313 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of discussions between the Health Service Executive and pharmacists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3814/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 271, 308 and 313 together.

At a meeting between the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the Irish Pharmaceutical Union (IPU) under Mr. Bill Shipsey SC on 5 December 2007, a process was proposed to the IPU to (i) address their immediate concerns regarding the alleged impact of the proposed revised wholesaler arrangements on GMS-dependent pharmacies and (ii) to provide a basis upon which discussions on a new substantive contract could commence. The IPU was not prepared to accept this proposal from the HSE and, accordingly, no further discussions have taken place under Mr. Shipsey's auspices since then. Notwithstanding the failure to reach agreement, the HSE has offered a draft interim contract to pharmacists to address their main concerns regarding the alleged impact of the proposed revised wholesaler arrangements on GMS-dependent pharmacies. I am informed that the HSE intends to implement the deferred revised wholesaler arrangements from 1st March 2008. The Executive also recently commenced discussions with the IPU and other parties on the development of a new substantive pharmacy contract. The details of the draft interim contract, and the HSE's other intentions in this regard, were set out in a letter to individual community pharmacists on 2nd January 2008.

In the light of the legal position previously outlined in the House, and after further consultation with the Attorney General, the other relevant Departments and the HSE on the best way of progressing the development of a new contract with pharmacists in compliance with competition law, my Department is working to develop appropriate arrangements for the development of contracts and for the setting of the fees payable in respect of contracts with private sector undertakings for the provision of health services on behalf of the HSE. These arrangements may include the establishment of an independent body which would consider the nature of the service to be provided and all other relevant factors in each case and make recommendations to the Government in relation to the fees it considers appropriate. The composition of such a body, its terms of reference and the timescale for its work are amongst the matters to be considered in this regard. In line with the legal advice received, the HSE may enter into discussions with community pharmacists on the non-fee aspects of their contract, with a view to developing a new substantive pharmacy contract.

Hospital Staff.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

272 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children when the two orthodontic surgeons who left St. Finbarr’s Hospital in Cork, serving north and south Lee, west Cork and Kerry, in October 2006 will be replaced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3327/08]

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

Sean Sherlock

Question:

273 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount paid to private orthodontists in 2006 and 2007 to treat patients referred from St. Finbarr’s Hospital in Cork as a result of the departure of two surgeons from St. Finbarr’s who left 1,000 patients still under treatment and who to date have not been replaced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3328/08]

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

Sean Sherlock

Question:

274 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps being taken to address the structural and equipment deficiencies at St. Finbarr’s Hospital in Cork (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3329/08]

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

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

275 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive occupational therapy in order to meet the needs of their illness; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3330/08]

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.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

276 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children when a replacement school dentist will be put in place for a school (details supplied) in County Donegal which has been without one since October 2006. [3339/08]

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

Michael Ring

Question:

277 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the support being provided or promised to a service (details supplied) in the south-east region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3345/08]

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

Health Service Staff.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

278 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people in the Health Service Executive who are on the assistant national director pay scale; the title and job specification in each case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3350/08]

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

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

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

279 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if and when speech and language therapy will be offered in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3351/08]

As part of the Multi-Annual Investment Programme 2006-2009 under the Disability Strategy, the Government provided the Health Service Executive with an additional €75 million in both 2006 and 2007. This funding included monies to provide new and enhanced services for people with disabilities, to implement Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, which came into effect on June 1st 2007 for the under 5's 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 €50 million investment 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 these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Michael McGrath

Question:

280 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children when a child (details supplied) in County Cork will be given an assessment for speech and language therapy. [3363/08]

As part of the Multi-Annual Investment Programme 2006-2009 under the Disability Strategy, the Government provided the Health Service Executive with an additional €75 million in both 2006 and 2007. This funding included monies to provide new and enhanced services for people with disabilities, to implement Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, which came into effect on June 1st 2007 for the under 5's 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 €50 million investment 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 these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 281 answered with Question No. 229.
Question No. 282 answered with Question No. 249.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

283 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children if the home care package programme for the elderly has been terminated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3573/08]

I am happy to say that the Home Care Package programme has not been terminated and has, in fact, been expanded this year.

Home Care Packages are an additional support over and above existing mainstream community services and are used to maintain an older person at home via additional supports and therapy services. They are designed to be flexible and are particularly targeted at those at risk of admission to long-term care, inappropriate admission to acute hospital or requiring discharge home from acute hospital. The initiative formally commenced in 2006, following a pilot programme in 2005.

Very significant funding of €110 million was provided over the years 2006 and 2007 to develop Home Care Packages. In 2007, the Health Service Executive had put in place 4,350 packages, which benefitted in excess of 10,500 clients.

In Budget 2008, an additional €10 million was allocated to provide 360 extra packages this year, which should benefit in the region of 800 additional people. The Government specifically highlighted community based services for older people, and the expansion of Home Care Packages in particular, as a priority for development funding in the Budget. The the total projected provision by the HSE is over 4,700 packages for this year, benefiting approximately 11,000 people.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

284 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of home care packages that were allocated per county in 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3574/08]

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

Mental Health Services.

Joe McHugh

Question:

285 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on re-evaluating present policy on asset stripping of mental health property to be re-distributed locally and targeted for specific mental health purposes; the policy in relation to asset stripping of land, bank and property belonging to the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3614/08]

A Vision for Change, the report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, which was launched in January 2006, has been accepted by Government as the basis for the future development of our mental health services. The Report recommends inter alia that a plan to bring about the closure of all mental hospitals should be drawn up and implemented, and that the resources released by these closures should be protected for reinvestment in the mental health service. The Health Services Executive (HSE) has primary responsibility for implementing the recommendations of A Vision for Change.

The HSE has confirmed that progress is continuing on the closure of hospitals in accordance with the recommendations in A Vision for Change. A comprehensive programme for the valuation and sale of mental health facilities is being developed, with a view to selling a number of properties in the next two years. All revenue raised from these sales will be directed towards improving mental health services.

The Irish Psychiatric Association launched a report recently which claims that the proceeds of the sale of assets has been lost to psychiatric services over a 20-25 year period. A small number of assets which have disposed of in the last two years are identified. A Vision for Change is very clear on this issue and recommends that resources, both capital and revenue, should be retained in the mental health service, with the reconfigured mental health services having priority in their disposal. It also recommends that the full economic value of psychiatric hospital buildings and lands should be professionally assessed towards identifying appropriate future use and maximum value and benefit. The value of these assets significantly counterbalances the capital cost of the new mental health services infrastructure requirement. I have asked the HSE to provide me with a report on "The Lie of the Land" Report particularly insofar as it relates to the disposal of assets in the past two years.

The Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Mary Harney, has also made it clear to the HSE, in the context of their Service Plan for 2008, that there can be no question of diverting capital or development funds to meet expenditure pressures arising in relation to core services.

Health Service Funding.

Joe McHugh

Question:

286 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children the services, in view of a cap on over-run of budget spend in 2008, which will be adversely affected, in view of the fact that there is less money in 2008 than 2007; the services which will be subject to cutbacks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3615/08]

The Post Budget gross provision ( both current and capital expenditure) for the Health Services Executive for 2008 is €14,931 million. When the provision for the Health (Repayments Scheme) Act is excluded the increase in 2008 is over €1.1 billion or almost 9%. The HSE has received very substantial additional resources from the Exchequer in the three years since its establishment. The revenue funding for the health services in 2004 was €9.8 billion. The revenue (non-capital) funding provided to the HSE for service delivery in 2007 was €13 billion — an increase of €3.2 billion in three years or 10% a year.

It is not the case that funds are issued to the health services by Government in the full knowledge that they were not sufficient to meet the cost of planned services. Each year, the Government decides what level of funding should be made available to the HSE following consideration by the Minister for Finance of the expenditure proposals submitted by all Ministers across the full range of expenditure areas. In the case of health, information and views provided by the HSE are taken into account, as well as my own priorities as the Minister for Health and Children in relation to service developments.

Once the Vote has been determined, it is a matter for the HSE to develop a national service plan within this budget which reflects these priorities. It has to plan and arrange, as necessary, its service/activity levels to meet the obligation on it to provide the most effective services possible within approved resources.

As the Deputy will be aware, revised and improved service planning and expenditure management arrangements are being put in place this year by the HSE.

Hospital Services.

Joe McHugh

Question:

287 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress on the advancement of a radiotherapy centre of excellence for the northwest; the negotiations that have taken place between Letterkenny and Altnagelvin in relation to furthering the plan for the said centre of excellence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3616/08]

Joe McHugh

Question:

289 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Government is providing funding for radiation services in Altnagelvin Hospital; if so, the amount that has been given to this project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3620/08]

Joe McHugh

Question:

290 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount the Government paid towards Belfast Hospital, and the way the money was used; the details of the service agreement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3621/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 287, 289 and 290 together.

The Government decided in July 2005 that the best option for improving geographic access for patients in the North West to radiation oncology services is to (i) facilitate access to Belfast City Hospital (BCH) and (ii) progress consideration of a joint venture for the provision of oncology services in the medium term to patients in the North West from a satellite centre in the North West linked to BCH.

The Minister met with Minister Michael McGimpsey of the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Northern Ireland on 28 November last. The potential for further cross border co-operation and collaboration in relation to cancer care, and specifically, provision of a satellite centre for radiation oncology in the North West, linked to BCH was discussed. It was agreed that both Departments would progress this issue through the Joint North/South Feasibility Study on the potential for future co-operation.

Cancer patients in the North West requiring radiation oncology treatment are referred to either St. Luke's Hospital Dublin or to University College Hospital Galway. A Service Level Agreement, between the Health Service Executive (HSE), Belfast City Hospital Trust and Altnagelvin Area Hospital is also in place for the referral of radiation oncology patients from Donegal to BCH.

The specific question raised by the Deputy in relation to this Service Level Agreement relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the HSE under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to respond directly to the Deputy in this regard.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Joe McHugh

Question:

288 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children when legislation will be enacted in relation to the fair deal scheme; the role of the National Treatment Purchase Fund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3617/08]

The Bill providing for the Fair Deal scheme is at a very advanced stage and is being finalised by the Office of the Attorney General at present. It is intended to publish the Bill as soon as possible following Government approval.

Under the new nursing home support scheme, A Fair Deal, the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) will negotiate prices for long-term care with private nursing home owners on behalf of the State. Where nursing homes agree prices for the purposes of the scheme with the NTPF, the NTPF will recommend the homes to the Health Service Executive for inclusion on the list of nursing homes ‘approved' for the scheme.

While not a matter for the NTPF, private nursing homes will also have to be registered in order to be ‘approved' for the scheme.

Questions Nos. 289 and 290 answered with Question No. 287.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Joe McHugh

Question:

291 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children when Donegal will have BreastCheck; the regularity with which this service will be available; if the service will be on a permanent basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3622/08]

John O'Mahony

Question:

304 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children when BreastCheck will be officially opened at Mayo General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3752/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 291 and 304 together.

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. I officially opened the BreastCheck static unit for the Western Region at University College Hospital Galway last December. The expansion of the BreastCheck programme to the West covers counties Clare, Donegal, Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo and Tipperary North Riding.

An additional €26.7 million capital funding was provided for the construction of two new static units, eight additional mobile units and the provision of state of the art digital equipment. A total of €15 million additional revenue funding has been allocated to cater for national roll-out of the programme. The full complement of 111 staff for roll-out has been approved and recruitment is underway. Staffing already appointed include Clinical Directors, Consultant Radiologists, Consultant Surgeons, Consultant Histopathologists, Consultant Anaesthetists, Medical Scientists, Breast Care Nurses and Radiographers. 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 Deputy's specific questions in relation to timeframes for roll-out of the Programme to Donegal and Mayo are the responsibility of the National Cancer Screening Service. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Chief Executive Officer of the Service to respond directly to the Deputy in relation to the matters raised.

Child Care Services.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

292 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children her views regarding the implementation of the Child Care (Pre School Services) Regulations 1996 and Child Care (Pre School) Services (Amendment) Regulations 1997 ensuring that pre schools services support healthy eating and active living; if she will develop and implement such a policy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3630/08]

The 1996 and 1997 Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations referred to by the Deputy, were replaced, with effect from 3rd September 2007, by the new and revised Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations 2006.

Under the new Regulations and associated explanatory guide, measures to support healthy eating and active living are provided for. Regulation 5 states that ‘A person carrying on a pre-school service shall ensure that each child's learning, development and well-being is facilitated within the daily life of the service through the provision of the appropriate opportunities, experiences, activities, interaction, materials and equipment, having regard to the age and stage of development of the child and the child's cultural context.'

The issue of ‘healthy eating' is specifically addressed in Regulation 26 (1) which states that ‘A person carrying on a pre-school service shall ensure that suitable, sufficient, nutritious and varied food is available for a pre-school child attending the service.'. Moreover, the explanatory guide refers that providers take account of the ‘Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Pre-School Services' published by the Department of Health and Children in 2004 when providing nutritious food and drink.

‘Active living' is also expressly addressed in the Regulations; Regulation 28 (b) provides that the pre-school service should have ‘adequate and suitable facilities for a pre-school child to play indoors and outdoors during the day.'. The accompanying explanatory guide also provides guidance on outdoor play and states that "Children in part-time or full-day care services should have access to the outdoors on a daily basis, weather permitting.".

It is considered that the new Regulations provide an effective framework for the continued development and advancement of healthy eating and active living in pre-school services.

Medical Cards.

Finian McGrath

Question:

293 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9 will be assisted. [3639/08]

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

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

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

294 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [3641/08]

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.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

295 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive to Parliamentary Question No. 82 of 21 November 2007. [3646/08]

My Department has made inquiries with the Health Service Executive in relation to this matter and is informed that a reply has issued to the Deputy.

Proposed Legislation.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

296 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the continuing delay in bringing forward legislation to prohibit the use of sunbeds by persons under 16 years of age; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3647/08]

Work on a Public Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, which will include a prohibition on the under-age use of sunbeds, is proceeding and it is expected that proposals will be submitted for Government decision shortly.

Infectious Diseases.

Richard Bruton

Question:

297 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the incidences of hospital infections of different kinds in the major Dublin hospitals; if she will provide an indication of the trend in these infection incidences since reporting began; and the extent to which she is satisfied with the progress to date in meeting the targets for containing this problem. [3656/08]

I would like to assure the Deputy that tackling all Health Care Associated Infections (HCAIs), including MRSA and C Difficile, continues to be a priority for the government and for the Health Service Executive (HSE).

MRSA is not a notifiable disease. However, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre of the HSE collects data on MRSA. In 2007, 43 Irish laboratories serving 64 acute hospitals (public and private) participated in their data collection system representing an estimated 98% coverage of the Irish population. At present we do not have the relevant statistics for each individual hospital. However the total number of MRSA cases recorded over the last five years was 445 cases in 2002, 480 cases in 2003, 553 cases in 2004, 592 cases in 2005, 588 cases in 2006 and 432 cases by the end of the 3rd Quarter in 2007.

Clostridium difficile, which is another significant HCAI, is not a notifiable disease and, as a result, it is difficult to quantify the extent of infection in the health care system. However, Clostridium difficile infection was examined in the Third Prevalence Survey of Health Care Associated Infections (HCAIs) in acute hospitals in 2006. The survey found that thirty-six patients had Clostridium difficile representing 0.5% of patients studied.

The extent to which hospitals are affected by HCAIs such as MRSA varies with the type of hospital. In the 2006 prevalence survey of healthcare associated infections, the prevalence of MRSA was 0.5% in tertiary/regional and general hospitals, and was zero in specialist hospitals.

A National Surveillance System has recently been established by the HSE to collect data and provide information on a quarterly basis on four key areas, to monitor HCAIs in our healthcare system:

1. Staphylococcus bacteraemia;

2. Antibiotic consumption;

3. Alcohol gel use;

4. MRSA surveillance in Intensive Care Units.

The data for 2006 is currently being finalised and a report will be released by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre in the near future. This report will include rates of MRSA bloodstream infection, listed by individual hospital. Data for 2007 will be available in early 2008 and MRSA bloodstream infection rates for all publicly funded hospitals will be published quarterly thereafter. All of this will greatly assist in the monitoring of improvements in infection control.

The HSE launched a National Infection Control Action Plan in March 2007. An Infection Control Steering Group, chaired by Dr. Pat Doorley, National Director (Population Health) is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the plan. Over the next three to five years, the HSE aims to reduce HCAIs by 20%, MRSA infections by 30% and antibiotic consumption by 20%. Achievement of these targets will benefit all patients who are at risk. These targets will be achieved through the development of national and local level action plans to reduce the potential for spread of infections between persons in healthcare settings, and, in addition, will focus on reducing antibiotic use in Ireland. The Steering Group is supported by eight Local Implementation Teams which will ensure that all local facilities are focused on achieving the national targets.

Improvements on hygiene are critical to effective infection control. The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) undertook a comprehensive review of hygiene in our hospitals in 2007 against hygiene standards developed by the Irish Health Services Accreditation Board. HIQA published its report, the National Hygiene Services Quality Review, on 13th November, 2007. The report represents a thorough assessment of how hygiene services are provided and managed in 51 HSE-funded acute care hospitals. Hospitals generally performed well on hygiene in the service delivery area. Most hospitals achieved either extensive or exceptional compliance with the standard in the service delivery section of the report. However, the results were poor on governance. While the good hygiene practice of front line staff highlighted in the report is vital, real improvement in this whole area also depends heavily on good leadership and a system of governance. HIQA is currently working with managers and clinicians to develop national standards for Infection Prevention and Control. When completed these, along with the national hygiene standards, will provide a comprehensive framework to help reduce the spread of infection and improve the quality of our health care.

The availability of isolation facilities is an important factor in the overall solution to the issue of reducing incidence of infection. I have instructed the HSE that designated private beds should be used where isolation facilities are required for patients who contract MRSA and this policy has been adopted by the HSE. New environmental building guidelines are being prepared by the HSE to inform infection control policy in all new builds and refurbishments and the HSE is committed to ensuring that such facilities are in line with international best practice including the provision of adequate numbers of single units.

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

Health Service Staff.

John Cregan

Question:

298 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children when the Health Service Executive will be in a position to recruit home helps in the mid-west region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3657/08]

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

Health Services.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

299 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the extreme circumstances surrounding the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 16, she will intervene immediately to secure them a safe nursing home bed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3661/08]

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

Health Service Staff.

Joe Costello

Question:

300 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will respond to the concerns raised by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3665/08]

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

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

Question No. 301 answered with Question No. 239.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

302 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist persons (details supplied); and if she will respond to the issues raised. [3742/08]

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.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Michael McGrath

Question:

303 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be made on an application by a person (details supplied) in County Cork under the special housing aid for the elderly scheme. [3744/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive (HSE) under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. The HSE's responsibility includes the operation of the Housing Aid Scheme for the Elderly, on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. The Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 304 answered with Question No. 291.

Hospital Accommodation.

John O'Mahony

Question:

305 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children her proposals for funding 14 palliative care beds adjacent to Mayo General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3753/08]

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

Health Services.

John O'Mahony

Question:

306 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children the services available to cystic fibrosis patients in Mayo; the locations where treatment can be received; the number of staff employed in CF services and their grades; the situation regarding the building of a CF isolation unit at Mayo General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3754/08]

There are approximately 1,100 people with cystic fibrosis living in the Republic of Ireland. Approximately 45% are adults and 55% are children. I have identified the enhancement of services to persons with cystic fibrosis as a key priority. Development funding of €4.78m was provided in 2006 and a further €2m was provided to the Health Service Executive (HSE) to facilitate the recruitment of additional medical, nursing and allied health professional staff to improve services.

In regard to information relating to County Mayo specifically, as this is a detailed operational matter my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the position investigated and to have a detailed reply issued directly to the Deputy.

EU Funding.

John O'Mahony

Question:

307 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children the names of the programmes and schemes operated by her Department which were or continue to be funded in full or in part by the European Union; the amount of funding in each case since Ireland joined the EU; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3765/08]

The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available within my Department in the format requested.

In relation to EU funding which may have been received by the HSE or the former health boards over the period in question, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Health Service Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 308 answered with Question No. 271.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Michael Ring

Question:

309 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for occupational therapy for their fine motor skills development. [3777/08]

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.

National Lottery Funding.

Alan Shatter

Question:

310 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that she has received a grant application from an association (details supplied); if she will grant the request; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3778/08]

I can confirm that the Department received an application for a grant from the Health and Children allocation of National Lottery funds, in respect of the organisation referred to. There is a protocol in the Department of Health and Children for processing applications for National Lottery grants. Following assessment, evaluation and recommendation applications are considered in the context of the overall level of funds available. This application is one of many under consideration for a grant from the Department of Health and Children and the organisation in question will be informed as soon as a decision has been made.

Question No. 311 answered with Question No. 247.

Departmental Strategies.

Denis Naughten

Question:

312 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she has taken to implement the National Diabetes Strategy; when the report of the Expert Advisory Group on Diabetes will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3812/08]

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. As the Expert Advisory Group on Diabetes is under the auspices of the Health Service Executive, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 313 answered with Question No. 271.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

314 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that offers made to elderly persons or their representatives under the nursing home repayment scheme fall short of their payments to the institutions in question; if provision in statute has been made for such underpayments; the steps she is taking to ensure that the full entitlement is offered to elderly persons; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3815/08]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has responsibility for administering the health repayment scheme in conjunction with the appointed scheme administrator KPMG/McCann Fitzgerald. The Scheme provides a mechanism to repay recoverable health charges for publicly funded long stay residential care. Repayments include both the actual charge paid and an amount to take account of inflation (using the Consumer Price Index) since the time the person involved was charged.

The scheme also provides for an independent appeals process to allow applicants to appeal the decision of the scheme administrator.

Denis Naughten

Question:

315 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of applications received under the nursing home repayment scheme; the number of applicants issued offers to date; the number which have reviewed the offer made by the scheme; the number of reviews decided; the number of which reviews have received an increased offer; the number of payments made to date; the number of applications to be decided upon; the average waiting time to process an application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3816/08]

Over 36,000 applications for living and deceased patients have been received under the Health Repayment Scheme. Over 16,500 of the claims received by the Scheme Administrator have been concluded, which includes over 9,650 offers of repayment totalling more than €182 million. Further offers continue to be issued every week. Of the 9,650 offers made, almost 7,200 payments in the sum of €142m have been made to date.

The Health Repayment Scheme Appeals Office is an independent office established to provide an appeals service to those who wish to appeal the decision of the Scheme Administrator under the Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006.

Up to 1 February 2008 the Health Repayment Scheme Appeals Office had received 1,756 completed appeal forms. Decisions have issued in 546 cases and 98 of these decisions will result in an increased offer to the claimant.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has indicated that the Scheme is progressing as speedily as possible and every effort is being made to settle claims as quickly as possible. A very high number of deficiencies have appeared on claim forms which must each be rectified before they can be processed. It is estimated that approximately two thirds of all claim forms were submitted without some critical piece of information which meant that the claim could not be processed until the Scheme Administrator had written to the potential claimant and received the information required.

The Scheme Administrator has given assurances to the HSE that the vast majority of claims submitted by the public will be dealt with within the 2 year time frame allotted for the scheme which is due to end in June 2008. If there are any outstanding claims at the end of June 2008, such claims will be kept to an absolute minimum and will be dealt with as quickly as possible.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Denis Naughten

Question:

316 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the waiting time for approval of an ophthalmology appointment in County Roscommon; the steps she is taking to address the backlog; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3817/08]

The management of out-patient waiting lists is a matter for the Health Service Executive and the individual hospitals concerned. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Jack Wall

Question:

317 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Carlow who was allocated an MRI scan in October 2007 for a date on 23 March 2009 can have a reassessment of the date or an earlier appointment should one become available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3823/08]

The management of out-patient waiting lists is a matter for the Health Service Executive and the individual hospitals concerned. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Expenditure.

Damien English

Question:

318 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the in-house cleaning costs and contract cleaning service costs for each hospital in the State for the years 2005 and 2007; and if she will provide the information in tabular readable form. [3840/08]

Damien English

Question:

319 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the projected and budgeted cleaning costs and contract cleaning service costs for each hospital in the State for 2008; and if she will provide the information in tabular readable form. [3841/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 318 and 319 together.

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

Health Services.

Damien English

Question:

320 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the provisions that have been made to help children with dyslexia in County Meath for 2008; the supports her Department offers on same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3847/08]

As part of the Multi-Annual Investment Programme 2006-2009 under the Disability Strategy, the Government provided the Health Service Executive with an additional €75m in both 2006 and 2007. This funding included monies to provide new and enhanced services for people with disabilities, to implement Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, which came into effect on June 1st 2007 for the under 5s 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 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 these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

David Stanton

Question:

321 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to provide a dedicated stroke and rehabilitation unit in the Cork area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3850/08]

The Deputy should be aware that Cardiovascular Health Policy Group, chaired by Professor Hannah McGee of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, is due to complete its work by May 2008. It will set out broad policy guidelines for development of policy on cardiovascular health, including stroke.

My Department and the Health Service Executive are aware of the need to review the potential benefits of a regional network of rehabilitation facilities and services. The development of such a network should be considered in the context of a national strategy for rehabilitation services and the Department is currently considering this issue.

The Deputy's question in relation to the provision of stroke and rehabilitation services in Cork is 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.

Departmental Expenditure.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

322 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children the average cost to her Department of answering a parliamentary question. [3865/08]

As the processing of Parliamentary Questions is undertaken as part of the normal day to day work of individual sections within the Department, it is not possible to isolate the administration costs of processing Parliamentary Questions from the overall administrative costs of the Department. For the Deputy's information, in 2007 the Ministers of State and I answered a total of 4,849 Parliamentary Questions with the corresponding number in 2006 being 5,991.

Health Service Allowances.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

323 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when domiciliary care allowance will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3878/08]

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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

324 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if and when a primary medical certificate will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3879/08]

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

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

325 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of applications received to date under the health repayment scheme; the number and amount paid; the number still outstanding and expected to be paid; if the level of repayments to date is in accordance with original calculations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3880/08]

The Health Repayment Scheme commenced in August 2006 with a national public information campaign designed to raise awareness about the Scheme and how potential applicants should go about applying for repayment. At the time of the launch, based on records held by the HSE, it was estimated that potentially around 70,000 people may be eligible to submit an application.

Over 36,000 applications for living and deceased patients have been received by the Health Repayment Scheme. Over 16,500 of the claims received by the Scheme Administrator have been concluded, which includes over 9,650 offers of repayment totalling more than €182 million. Further offers continue to be issued every week. Almost 7,200 payments have been made totalling in excess of €142 million.

Around 19,500 applications remain to be concluded. The Scheme Administrator has given assurances to the HSE that the vast majority of claims submitted by the public will be dealt with within the 2 year time frame allotted for the scheme which is due to end in June 2008. The HSE has indicated that if there are any outstanding claims as at the end of June 2008, such claims will be kept to an absolute minimum and will be dealt with as quickly as possible.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

326 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the long drawn out process associated with the health repayment scheme; when she expects such payments to be concluded; the costs associated with the refunds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3881/08]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has responsibility for administering the health repayment scheme in conjunction with the appointed scheme administrator KPMG/McCann Fitzgerald. Over 36,000 applications for living and deceased patients have been received by the Health Repayment Scheme. Over 16,500 of the claims received by the Scheme Administrator have been concluded, which includes over 9,650 offers of repayment totalling more than €182million. Further offers continue to be issued every week.

The Scheme Administrator has given assurances to the HSE that the vast majority of claims submitted by the public will be dealt with within the 2 year time frame allotted for the scheme which is due to end in June 2008. The HSE has indicated that if there are any outstanding claims as at the end of June 2008, such claims will be kept to an absolute minimum and will be dealt with as quickly as possible.

The HSE has advised that the fees for the administration services required under the contract entered into in July 2006 were capped at €15 million exclusive of VAT.

Hospital Staff.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

327 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of posts, surgical, medical, nursing or otherwise remaining to be filled at Naas General Hospital, Naas, County Kildare; if she has immediate plans to fill these posts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3882/08]

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

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

Departmental Bodies.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

328 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Transport the statutory bodies for which he has responsibility; and the date of establishment of each of these statutory bodies. [3097/08]

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

329 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Transport the annual operating cost for each of the past five years of each statutory body for which he has responsibility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3112/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 328 and 329 together.

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

Statutory Body

Date of Establishment

Year

Operating Cost

Irish Aviation Authority

1st January 1994

2003 2004 2005 2006 2007

€103,190,000 €108,193,000 €108,422,000 €117,013,000 not available

Commission for Aviation Regulation

Established in 2001

2003 2004 2005 2006 2007

CAR is a self financing body and annual accounts detailing costs are published by the body each year

Dublin Transportation Office (DTO)

7 November 1995

2003 2004 2005 2006 2007

€0.948m €1.006m €1.046m €1.082m €1.108m

Railway Procurement Agency (RPA)

28th December 2001

Data is provided in the Agency’s published Annual Reports

Commission for Taxi Regulation

1 September 2004

2003 2004 2005 2006 2007

— 160,112 1,651,610 5,689,198 7,800,000 (Estimate)

Advisory Council to the Commission for Taxi Regulation

4 November 2003

2003 2004 2005 2006 2007

874 15,553 16,916 13,009 5,500 (Estimate)

National Roads Authority

1st January 1994

2003 2004 2005 2006 2007

€7,589,000 €8,452,000 €8,688,000 €13,080,000 €15,071,000

Marine Casualty Investigation Board

5/6/2002

2003 2004 2005 2006 2007

€208,209 €212,891 €161,748 €205,816 €258,825

Córas Iompair Éireann

01/01/1945

The CIÉ Group Annual Reports and Financial Statements, which are published annually, provide details of Revenue and Expenditure for CIÉ, Bus Átha Cliath, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann.

Bus Éireann

11/12/1986

See Above

Bus Átha Cliath

11/12/1986

See Above

Iarnród Éireann

11/12/1986

See Above

Railway Safety Commission

01/01/2006

2007

€2.09m

2006

€1.574m

Railway Safety Advisory Council

11/05/2007

2007

Budget comes out of RSC Budget

10 State owned Port companies Dublin Cork Waterford Dun Laoghaire New Ross Shannon/Foynes Dundalk Drogheda Galway Wicklow

Established pursuant to the provisions of the Harbour Acts 1996 and 2000

Budgets of the harbour authorities are operational matters for the authorities themselves.

Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS)

27 November 1968

2003 2004 2005 2006 2007

€2,067m €2,337m €3,283m €9,408m €6,478m

Road Safety Authority (RSA)

1 September 2006

2007

€29,617m

Railway Stations.

Joe Costello

Question:

330 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Transport the proposals for the Metro stop and station at the Mater Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3144/08]

Joe Costello

Question:

350 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Transport the proposals for the Metro stop and station at the Mater Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3522/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 330 and 350 together.

The Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) is responsible for delivery of Metro North and for discussion on the location, detailed planning and design of individual stations such as that at Mater Hospital. In October 2006, the RPA announced the preferred alignment for Metro North, which included an underground station at the Mater Hospital. Since then the RPA has undertaken significant detailed design work and engaged extensively with local communities, businesses and the Mater Hospital authorities in the case of the station referred to by the Deputy. This consultation is ongoing with the Hospital.

The Agency hopes to be in a position to lodge an application for a railway order to An Bord Pleanála in the coming months. The railway order, where granted by An Bord Pleanála, will determine the final alignment for Metro North.

Planning Issues.

Michael Ring

Question:

331 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Transport the action being taken in relation to a right of way (details supplied) in County Mayo that has been blocked off, in view of the fact that this matter has been referred to the State Solicitor. [3145/08]

I understand that statutory responsibility for the creation and protection of rights of ways is vested in local authorities under planning legislation. My Department has no function in the matter.

Departmental Bodies.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

332 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport the number of task forces currently operating in his Department; the membership and terms of reference; the name of each one; the estimate cost of the task force; if he will report on the progress being made by the task force; if they have made any recommendations to him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3170/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

333 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport the task forces established under the auspices of his Department in the past five years; the recommendations made by each task force; the progress being made in implementing these recommendations; if specific recommendations have been rejected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3185/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

334 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport the task forces established under the auspices of his Department in the past five years; the cost of these task forces in terms of administrative support, expenses, research and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3200/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 332 to 334, inclusive, together.

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

Name of Taskforce

Year of Establishment

Membership of taskforce

Terms of Reference

Cost of Taskforce

Recommendations accepted or rejected

Is task force still in operation

Dublin Transport Authority Establishment Team

November 2005

Professor Margaret O’Mahony, Chairperson (TCD), John Lumsden, Pat Mangan, (Dept of Transport), Colin Hunt (Adviser to Minister Martin Cullen)

To make recommendations on the establishment of a transport authority for the Greater Dublin Area; to advise on the legislation required; to make recommendations on interim arrangements.

€39,715 Maev Nic Lochlainn acted as secretary to the Team for the duration of its work

The team recommended a range of roles and objectives for a DTA, the enactment of the necessary legislation to give statutory effect to that, and the appointment of an interim chairperson and board pending passage of the legislation.The recommendations were generally accepted and are being implemented.

No; Report of the Team published in March 2006

High- Level Task Force on Railway Safety

2003

Representatives from CIE/Iarnród Éireann, Department of Transport, Chief Railway Inspecting Officer, Department of Finance, Technical Advisor.

To make recommendations regarding a prioritised railway safety programme, covering investment and safety management measures, for the five year period 2004-2008, as part of a prioritised railway investment programme.

€29,303.55

Yes

No

Decentralisation Programme.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

335 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport the non-property cost of decentralisation for each quarter since the project was initiated with regard to his Department’s quarterly return to the decentralisation implementation group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3215/08]

Quarterly figures are not available for the non-property cost of decentralisation. The total non-capital expenditure by my Department to date is €31,343 for travel and subsistence costs in respect of the move to Loughrea.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

336 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport the number of civil and public servants in his Department who have been decentralised to date; the number who will be decentralised in total under the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3230/08]

44 civil servants from my Department have transferred to posts which were due to move out of Dublin under the Government's decentralisation programme. Of these 44 staff, 6 have relocated to their decentralised location in Loughrea as either Department of Transport or Road Safety Authority staff. Of the 6 staff who transferred to Loughrea, 4 went as Road Safety Authority staff, thus becoming public servants. The transfer of the remaining 38 staff to their decentralised location is a matter for the new parent Departments. 410 public service posts are required to decentralise in respect of the following four agencies under the auspices of my Department -National Roads Authority (90), and Railway Safety Commission (20) to Ballinasloe, Irish Aviation Authority (100) to Shannon, and Bus Eireann (200) to Mitchelstown. My recent decision to move the Maritime Safety Directorate and the Irish Coast Guard to Drogheda is likely to lead to an increase in the number of posts to be transferred over and above the original 37.

Road Traffic Offences.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

337 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport if it is proposed to introduce penalty points for parking offences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3237/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

338 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport if traffic wardens are under the control of the gardaí or local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3238/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

339 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport if there are restrictions on the number of traffic wardens that may be employed by a local authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3239/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

340 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport if consideration has been given to outsourcing the functions of a traffic warden; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3241/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 337 to 340, inclusive, together.

The road traffic offences that are scheduled as penalty point offences focus on driving behaviour that adversely impacts on road safety. The only parking offence that is scheduled as a penalty point offence is the offence of parking a vehicle in a dangerous position and this serious offence incurs 5 penalty points on conviction in court. It is not proposed at present to extend the penalty point system to offences that involve the illegal parking of vehicles.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has power under section 103 (19) of the Road Traffic Act 1961 as amended by the Road Traffic Act 2002 to authorise persons to perform the functions of traffic wardens. Persons authorised under section 103 are under the control of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and operate out of Garda stations.

Local authorities have power to employ traffic wardens under the Local Authorities (Traffic Wardens) Act 1975. Persons engaged under that Act operate under the control of the relevant local authority.

The 1975 Act does not impose any limit on the number of traffic wardens that may be employed by a local authority. The post of traffic warden is, as is the case with any other local authority post, subject at any given time to the prevailing policy as regards overall staffing numbers and recruitment in the local authority public sector.

Some local authorities avail of the present enabling powers that are in place, since 1987, under section 101B of the 1961 Act to engage authorised persons to enforce parking law on public roads in their area through the clamping of illegally parked vehicles.

Local authorities have not made any request to my Department to be enabled to outsource traffic warden functions so there is no indication that there is any demand for a revision of the law in that direction.

Railway Stations.

Mary Upton

Question:

341 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Transport when he expects the new Park West station on the Kildare commuter line to open; the cost to the taxpayer of this station; the number of parking spaces to be provided on site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3308/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

342 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Transport the future plans for the Cherry Orchard station on the Kildare commuter line; the progress on the proposed relocation of this station; the expected new site for this station; the potential cost to the Exchequer of such a relocation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3309/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

343 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Transport when he expects the completion of the upgrade of the Kildare commuter line to be completed and fully operational; the cost of this project to the Exchequer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3310/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 341 to 343, inclusive, together.

The construction of the Kildare Rail Project, including the provision of car parking, is a matter for Iarnrod Eireann. I understand from the company that work is underway on all main contracts and that the project is on target for completion in 2010. I understand also that the estimated cost of the project is almost €360m.

I am informed by Iarnród Éireann that the Park West Station will open in autumn of this year and that the cost of the station is being funded in full by the developers of ParkWest. Accordingly there is no cost to the Exchequer. I understand from Iarnrod Eireann that as ParkWest will be at the heart of a high density development, there is no requirement for car parking at the station, as users will largely be within walking distance of the station, with cycle facilities and interchange with other public transport also provided. In accordance with the Railway Order for the Kildare Rail Project, ParkWest Station will replace Cherry Orchard Station and is approximately 900 metres west of the current Cherry Orchard Station.

Public Transport.

Mary Upton

Question:

344 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Transport when he expects integrated ticketing to be fully operational in Dublin; the cost of the integrated ticketing project to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3311/08]

The proposed integrated ticketing system will be launched initially within the Greater Dublin Area on the scheduled services of Dublin Bus, LUAS and Morton's in September 2009. Dublin Bus will launch its interim smartcard scheme in summer 2008 and Irish Rail will follow suit with its own interim scheme in 2009. It will be extended to Irish Rail DART and commuter rail services within a further 12 months, and Bus Éireann will implement a pilot scheme on a number of its commuter routes. It is also envisaged that other private bus operators will join the scheme over this timeframe. In the meantime, the award the contract to build the Back Office of the system is expected to be awarded by end March 2008 and the procurement process for a contractor to operate the system will then commence. €12.5 million has been paid out by the Exchequer on integrated ticketing since the inception of the project in March 2002.

Light Rail Project.

Mary Upton

Question:

345 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Transport when he expects construction on the LUAS line F to commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3312/08]

Transport 21 provides for the completion of Luas Line F, the Luas line from Lucan to the city centre, in 2013. Last September, on behalf of RPA I launched the public consultation process on the two route options for the new Luas Line from Lucan to the city centre. The RPA asked the public and all interested stakeholders to submit their views to the RPA by 31st January. It is expected that a preferred alignment will be identified this year, taking account of the results of this stage of public consultation.

Following completion of the route selection and design work, the RPA will submit a Railway Order application to An Bord Pleanála. The construction timescale will be dependent on the outcome of the above processes.

Public Transport.

Mary Upton

Question:

346 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Transport when he expects to introduce the legislation necessary to establish the Dublin Transportation Authority; the proposed responsibilities of the Dublin Transportation Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3313/08]

As I stated, in my reply to PQ3401/08 and PQ3480/08, the Agreed Programme for Government includes a commitment to expediting the establishment of a statutory Dublin Transport Authority. The principal functions of the proposed Authority are set out in the Programme for Government and will include strategic transport planning; procurement of public transport infrastructure; procurement of public transport services; allocation of current and capital Exchequer funds for the provision of public transport infrastructure and services; regulation of public transport fares, routes, and service levels; delivery of integrated ticketing, integrated passenger information and integrated fares; better integration of transport and land use planning; ensuring effective traffic management. This is in line with the recommendations made in the report of the Dublin Transport Authority Establishment Team.

I intend that the new Authority will have overall responsibility for surface transport in the Greater Dublin Area subject to direction by Government in respect of significant policy issues. The Greater Dublin Area comprises the city of Dublin and the administrative counties of South Dublin, Fingal, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Kildare, Meath and Wicklow. Preparation of the necessary legislation is in its final stages. I will bring a Memorandum to Government when this important work is completed. However my overriding priority remains to establish a statutory Authority that will be effective.

Question No. 347 answered with Question No. 123.

Mary Upton

Question:

348 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Transport when real time information will be available at bus stops in Dublin; if his Department has granted an application for funding for this project from Dublin Bus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3315/08]

Dublin Bus is proceeding with the introduction of automatic vehicle location system on board buses. This technology will provide the platform for the deployment of real time passenger information. A Dublin Bus application for funding towards the cost of procuring a real time passenger information system is being considered by my Department.

Rail Network.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

349 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Transport if there are plans to re-open the railway line to Youghal; and if he will make a statement on plans for the rail network across east Cork as a whole. [3510/08]

Transport does not provide for the re-opening of the rail line between Midleton and Youghal. I understand from Iarnrod Eireann that the Midleton to Youghal alignment will be preserved and its future development will be assessed on foot of the experience of the re-opening of the Glounthaune to Midleton line.

Enabling works have already commenced on the Glounthaune to Midleton line. I am informed by Iarnród Éireann that the main construction contract has been awarded and that the main works will commence next month. Iarnród Éireann have advised that construction works are expected to be completed, and services underway by mid 2009.

Question No. 350 answered with Question No. 330.

Regional Airports.

Joe McHugh

Question:

351 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport the amount that has been invested in the City of Derry Airport, by the Irish Government, for each year from 2000 to 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3613/08]

There have been no funds invested by my Department in City of Derry Airport in the period 2000 to 2007.

On 22 March 2005, the Government approved a decision in principle to assist a runway safety project at the airport on a 50/50 joint-funding basis with the British Government. The total contribution from the Irish Exchequer was to be €7.55 million (37.5% of total project cost). Payment of grants was to be subject to certain conditions, chiefly EU state aid clearance and the formulation by Derry City Council of acceptable proposals for revised governance arrangements for the airport.

In January 2007, the Government agreed as a final offer to increase the upper limit to €10.87 million to cover increased property and other costs. It is hoped to commence payments in 2008 now that necessary preconditions have been met.

Question Nos. 352 and 353 answered with Question No. 157.

Rail Services.

Joe McHugh

Question:

354 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport further to Parliamentary Question No. 89 of 1 November 2007, when his Department will supply the information sought; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3623/08]

I understand that the information sought by the Deputy has now been provided to him.

Road Traffic Accidents.

Martin Ferris

Question:

355 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Transport the person who is responsible for the initial investigation into road traffic accidents involving one vehicle. [3659/08]

The primary immediate investigative role in relation to road collisions is vested in the Garda Síochána. Priority in such an investigation must be given to the determination of the causes of road collisions and, if appropriate, whether a breach of the Road Traffic laws contributed to the occurrence.

Road Network.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

356 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if in view of the close out grant of €5 million to Dublin City Council to pay for the Port Tunnel, he is in a position to indicate the total cost of the provision of the Port Tunnel to include all direct and associated costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3662/08]

Overall responsibility for the planning, design and implementation of national road improvement projects, including the Dublin Port Tunnel, is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) and the local authorities concerned, in this case, Dublin City Council. In particular, the allocation of funding in relation to the construction or maintenance of national roads is a matter for the NRA under section 19 of the Roads Act, 1993. I understand from the NRA that the estimated cost of the Tunnel remains at €751 million.

Question No. 357 answered with Question No. 132.

Ferry Services.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

358 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport his views on the re-establishment of the Cork Swansea ferry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3747/08]

The Cork Swansea Ferries Company suspended its service in 2007. I can appreciate the concerns that have been expressed in the region in response to this development. I understand that a number of interested parties and stakeholders have been in discussions with the Port of Cork Company about the possibility of commencing a new passenger and freight service out of the port.

I am informed that a commercial examination of the route has been carried out. This indicates that, subject to procuring a suitable vessel, the service could be feasible on a year round basis. The Port of Cork Company will certainly do what it can to facilitate the resumption of the service.

As Minister for Transport, I feel it is important that the market offers a diverse range of maritime links in and out of the State. This is vital to facilitate trade and tourism. I certainly hope that the current efforts show that the service is commercially viable and that it can be resumed as soon as possible.

EU Funding.

John O'Mahony

Question:

359 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Transport the names of the programmes and schemes operated by his Department which were or continue to be funded in full or in part by the European Union; the amount of funding in each case since Ireland joined the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3769/08]

Following the re-allocation of Ministerial functions in 2002, my Department assumed responsibility for the overall management of the Transport Operational Programme (OPTRANS) 1994-1999 and the Economic and Social Infrastructure Operational Programme (ESIOP) 2000-2006.

My Department also took possession of papers relating to two earlier programmes, i.e. the Operational Programme on Peripherality (OPP) 1989-1993 and the National Programme of Community Interest (NPCI) 1986-1989. The source of all of the EU assistance involved for the four Programmes is the European Regional Development Fund.

With the exception of the ESIOP, all of these Programmes have been completed and the drawdown of the associated EU assistance has also been completed. The amount of EU aid received in Ireland in respect of the three completed Programmes mentioned above is as follows:

Programme

€million*

NPCI (1986-1989):

158*

OPP (1989-1993):

713

OPTRANS (1994-1999):

973

Total:

1,844

*Based on data available

In the case of the ESIOP, the total EU aid provision is €1,040 million. Expenditure under the Programme continues to be eligible for EU aid up to the end of 2008. The total sum of EU aid receipts for the Programme up to 31st December, 2007 was €976 million.

As regards information on individual schemes or projects, I have arranged for my Department to provide you with material showing the amount of EU assisted expenditure in the case of each project under the OPTRANS and the ESIOP. Comprehensive information at project level under the two earlier Programmes (the NPCI and the OPP) is no longer readily available.

EU funding for transport projects was also received under various other Programmes including a number of Interreg Programmes and the Peace Programme. EU funding for local and regional roads has also been received under the Regional Operational Programmes for the Border, Midlands and Western Region (BMW) and the Southern and Eastern Region (S&E). My Department does not have lead responsibility for any of these Programmes.

Decentralisation Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

360 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport the status of the decentralisation of the road haulage section to Loughrea; the number of staff already decentralised; the numbers yet to be decentralised and the timetable for this; the status of property acquisition and the cost involved; when the property will be ready for occupation; the numbers which it will cater for; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3836/08]

I am pleased to state that the Road Transport Operator Licensing Section of my Department, involving a total of 10 staff, decentralised to Loughrea in July 2007.

The status and costs of property are matters for the Office of Public Works. The property was occupied on schedule in July, 2007.

Denis Naughten

Question:

361 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport the status of the decentralisation of the National Roads Authority to Ballinasloe; the number of staff already decentralised; the numbers yet to be decentralised and the timetable for this; the status of property acquisition and the cost involved; when the property will be ready for occupation; the numbers which it will cater for; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3837/08]

The National Roads Authority was not identified by the Decentralisation Implementation Group as an early mover. The NRA has reported that very few staff have expressed an interest in moving to the decentralised location. 90 posts are required to decentralise to Ballinasloe with the NRA.

Denis Naughten

Question:

362 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport the status of the decentralisation of the National Safety Council to Loughrea; the number of staff already decentralised; the numbers yet to be decentralised and the timetable for this; the status of property acquisition and the cost involved; when the property will be ready for occupation; the numbers which it will cater for; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3838/08]

The functions of the National Safety Council were transferred to the Road Safety Authority on 1 September, 2006. 40 posts of the Road Safety Authority were decentralised to Loughrea in July 2007. The status and costs of property are matters for the Office of Public Works. The property was occupied on schedule in July, 2007.

Denis Naughten

Question:

363 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport the status of the decentralisation of the Railway Safety Commission to Ballinasloe; the number of staff already decentralised; the numbers yet to be decentralised and the timetable for this; the status of property acquisition and the cost involved; when the property will be ready for occupation; and the numbers which it will cater for; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3839/08]

The Railway Safety Commission was not identified by the Decentralisation Implementation Group as an early mover. The RSC has reported that very few staff have expressed an interest in moving to the decentralised location. Some 20 posts are required to decentralise to Ballinasloe with the RSC.

Departmental Expenditure.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

364 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Transport the average cost to his Department of answering a parliamentary question. [3868/08]

Replies to Parliamentary Questions are drafted by the staff in the line divisions dealing with the particular issues raised. The number of staff and the time spent on an individual answer depends on the complexity of the issues raised, the level of supporting detail to be retrieved and collated and the form of the proposed response, i.e. whether oral or written.

In addition, for this Department there is the added complexity that much of the information sought has to be obtained from outside agencies and we would not be privy to their costs — thus I regret it would not be possible to give the Deputy an accurate assessment of the costs involved.

Air Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

365 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if the requisite slots required for the continuation or enhancement of scheduled air flights from the various airports throughout the country to Heathrow or other locations are expected to be safeguarded in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3885/08]

The allocation of slots at London Heathrow Airport is a matter for the UK authorities acting in accordance with applicable EU rules relating to the allocation of slots.

The applicable rules provide for slots to be assigned to airlines as distinct from airports. It is a matter for airlines to decide what services should be provided using such slots, except in the specific case where slots are assigned for the purpose of meeting a public service obligation.

Public Transport.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

366 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which progress on Transport 21 is progressing in accordance with projections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3887/08]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to similar Questions of today's date.

Railway Stations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

367 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the full extent of extra car parking spaces expected to be provided at Kilcock, Maynooth, Leixlip, Confey, Hazelhatch and Sallins rail stations in County Kildare with the objective of making rail travel more readily available to commuters; when he expects the extra spaces to be provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3890/08]

Iarnród Éireann has been asked to compile and forward the information sought directly to the Deputy.

Rail Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

368 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which it is intended to improve or increase the number of scheduled commuter rail services from Sallins, Hazelhatch, Confey, Leixlip, Maynooth and Kilcock, County Kildare morning and evening, with a view to providing greater and accessible choice for commuters with the objective of alleviating road traffic congestion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3892/08]

The position in regard to the improvement of railway services on the Maynooth line is that capacity has been trebled in the last five years. I understand from Iarnród Éireann that it is currently reviewing its plans for resignalling in the city centre area as part of its broader plans for the upgrade of railway infrastructure in the Dublin area and that in this context is considering the removal of level crossings and resignalling of the Maynooth line as a means of substantially increasing capacity on the line.

With regard to the Kildare line capacity has increased by 160% on this line in recent years, along with platform extensions allowing for longer trains, introduction of Sunday services and the turnback facility at Newbridge that provides for Newbridge specific trains to operate. Furthermore, the Kildare Route project will see four-tracking between Cherry Orchard and Hazelhatch that will allow intercity trains to bypass the commuter services serving the outer Dublin area leading to more efficient use of the rail network. The Interconnector and the associated electrification project will also provide a significant increase in capacity and service on both the Kildare and Maynooth lines.

Congestion Charges.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

369 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport his views on the imposition of congestion charges on motorists who already pay more than €5 billion annually to the Exchequer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3893/08]

At present tolls are the only charges, of the type referred to by the Deputy, made on motorists.

The statutory power to levy tolls on national roads is vested in the National Roads Authority under Part V of the Roads Act 1993 (as amended by the Planning and Development Act 2000).

There are currently no proposals to introduce any other charges of the type referred to by the Deputy.

Light Rail Project.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

370 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport when it is expected that the DART service will be extended to Maynooth and the various other rail stations throughout County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3895/08]

Transport 21 provides for the construction of the Interconnector Tunnel and the electrification of the Dublin suburban rail network which will provide a DART-type service between Maynooth and Bray and Hazlehatch and Balbriggan subject to final decisions on the extent of the electrification.

The projected completion date is under Transport 21 2015.

Heavy Goods Vehicles.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

371 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if super-trucks are banned from this country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3896/08]

I take it that the Deputy is referring to the issue of a maximum vehicle height.

While at present the maximum height of goods vehicles is not regulated, my predecessor announced in January last year his intention to introduce a national maximum vehicle height of 4.65 metres. Draft Regulations to give effect to this decision have been received from the Road Safety Authority and are currently under consideration.

Road Network.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

372 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if extra funding will be awarded to Kildare County Council to carry out urgently required repairs to the network of minor roads throughout the county which have suffered serious damage over the winter months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3899/08]

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads in their areas is a matter for local authorities to be funded from their own resources supplemented by State Grants. The initial selection of projects or works to be funded under the various grant categories is also a matter for local authorities.

In 2007, grants totalling €23.531 million were allocated to Kildare County Council for works on regional and local roads. This included a Discretionary Maintenance grant of €694,000 and a Discretionary Improvement grant of €587,000.

The funds available to local authorities for improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads are intended to cover contingencies arising from severe weather conditions. The "Memorandum on Grants for Non-National Roads" provides that the cost of remedial works necessitated by such conditions must be met from these resources and that local authorities should set aside contingency sums to finance these works.

My Department is also prepared to consider sympathetically any request from local authorities to adjust their multi-annual Restoration Programmes in order to prioritise work necessitated by severe weather conditions. In 2007, Kildare County Council was allocated a Restoration Improvement grant of €6.487 million and a Restoration Maintenance grant of €1.902 million.

I will announce the 2008 Regional and Local Road Grant Allocations shortly.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

373 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if, in the context of the upgrading of the Johnstownbridge-Edenderry route, it is intended to meet the concerns of the residents of Carbury who are concerned at the proposal to create a situation whereby access to the road will not be by way of proposed roundabout, having particular regard to previous commitments (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3900/08]

The upgrade of the Edenderry to Enfield road is being undertaken by Kildare County Council with grant assistance provided by my Department. The design of the route is a matter for the local authority.

Before works of this nature may proceed, the local authority is obliged to comply with requirements of planning legislation. I understand that those requirements, which include extensive public consultation, were complied with in respect of this project and that the works were approved by the elected members of Kildare County Council in December 2006. My Department has no function in that process.

Regional Development.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

374 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Transport the reason the €53 million Mid-West Tourism and Economic Development Plan to address the impact of open skies on Shannon Airport and the mid-west region was not funded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3905/08]

On 24 January 2008, I jointly announced with the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, that the Government has approved an Economic and Tourism Development Plan for Shannon Airport and its wider catchment area. The Report is available on the websites of both departments.

The Economic and Tourism Development Plan will facilitate the completion of a package of measures leading to improved road and rail access for the Shannon region and the continued rollout of broadband infrastructure throughout the region. There is very significant investment planned for the region under the NDP and Transport 21. In transport infrastructure alone €2 billion has been committed by Government to road projects in the region while approval for the development of the first phase of the Western Rail Corridor from Ennis to Athenry has also been given.

An important element of the Action Plan is a new tourism-marketing initiative for the area. This initiative amounts to an anticipated €15 million to €20 million over the next few years and will be implemented by Tourism Ireland in close consultation with key tourism industry interests in the area, Shannon Development and the Fáilte Ireland Regions. The continuing commitment to funding beyond 2008 will, as is the case with all tourism marketing plans, be finalised in the roll out of this new initiative each year. The primary objective of the initiative will be to promote the wider catchment area of Shannon Airport by highlighting the attractions of the region through additional publicity and promotional activity.

Under the 2008 Estimates of the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism an extra €5 million has been invested in the Tourism Marketing Fund, bringing it to €50 million. This includes incremental funding of €3 million to specifically address the challenges of Open Skies in 2008. When combined with the renewal of the Super regions and Air Access marketing initiatives, the result will be €5 million for the Shannon Catchment Area in Tourism Ireland's 2008 overseas marketing programme. The new tourism marketing programme will concentrate on highlighting the attractions of the Western regions, additional targeted publicity and promotional activity, developing markets around new gateways, including the Shannon-Paris CDG route, and striving to maintain good flows of business through existing routes.

In drawing up this Plan, I consulted with colleagues Ministers for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Enterprise Trade and Employment, Finance, and Communications Energy and Natural Resources. I also had regard to the report entitled "Mid-West Tourism and Economic Development Plan" submitted in 2006 to my Department by a group under the aegis of the Mid-West Regional Authority and comprising Clare County Council, Shannon Development, Shannon Airport Authority, SIGNAL and IBEC.

Ministerial Appointments.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

375 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Transport the date the two outstanding Government director nominees will be placed on the board of Aer Lingus; the steps the Government is taking through its shareholding and directors on the board to ensure that Aer Lingus retain transatlantic flights from Shannon Airport into the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3906/08]

The two remaining Minister's Nominees were appointed to the Board of Aer Lingus with effect from 31 January 2008.

Under Company Law all directors are obliged to pursue the best interests of the company.

Subject to that duty, the three Minister's Nominees on the Board of Aer Lingus will 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. The possible decisions concerned include decisions impacting on strategic air access, particularly with regard to the transatlantic market or regional development, in particular changes in services at non-Dublin airports.

EU Reform Treaty.

Joe Costello

Question:

376 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the date for the forthcoming referendum on the Lisbon Reform Treaty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3521/08]

Following its signature in Lisbon on 13 December 2007, Member States are expected to ratify the Reform Treaty by 1 January 2009.

The Attorney General has advised that the legal effects of the Reform Treaty require amendment of the Constitution to enable ratification by Ireland. The timing of the referendum is currently under consideration by the Government. A number of points will have to be taken into consideration, including the timing of the legislation's passage through the Houses of the Oireachtas and the desired duration of the referendum campaign.

Departmental Bodies.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

377 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the statutory bodies for which he has responsibility; and the date of establishment of each of these statutory bodies. [3092/08]

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

378 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the annual operating cost for each of the past five years of each statutory body for which he has responsibility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3107/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 377 and 378 together.

At present, there is only one organisation which operates under the aegis of my Department which was established on a statutory basis, the Ireland-United States Commission for Educational Exchange (the Fulbright Commission).

The Fulbright Commission finances study, research, teaching and other educational activities between Ireland and the United States of America. It was established in 1957 by means of the Scholarship Exchange (Ireland and the United States of America) Act, 1957 as amended by the Educational Exchange (Ireland and the United States of America) Act, 1991.

As Minister for Foreign Affairs, I have certain specific statutory responsibilities in respect of the Fulbright Commission. Under section 3(1) of the 1991 Act, I am responsible for the appointment of four members of the eight-member Commission. Under section 5(10) of the 1991 Act, I am also responsible for laying before both Houses of the Oireachtas, a copy of the annually audited accounts of the Ireland-United States Educational Fund and the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General thereon. However, the Fulbright Commission enjoys ‘autonomy of management and administration', by reason of section 2(5) of the Educational Exchange (Ireland and the United States of America), Act, 1991.

In each of the past five years, my Department has given Grant-in-Aid of €254,000 per annum to the Commission.

Human Rights Issues.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

379 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the arrest in Malaysia of human rights activists, including a person (details supplied), following a protest to mark International Human Rights day; if his attention has been further drawn to reports that Malaysian police have used tear gas and water cannons to break up human rights demonstrations, and that persons detained under so-called security legislation in Malaysia have been subjected to physical, mental and sexual abuse; if he will make representations to the Malaysian authorities regarding these arrests and human rights abuses in general; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3128/08]

I am aware of the arrest of 8 people, including 5 lawyers and the Malaysian citizen under reference, on 9 December 2007 during a protest to mark International Human Rights Day. I understand these individuals were charged under Malaysia's Police Act, and were released shortly thereafter. A date has not yet been set for their trial. I have asked that the Embassy in Kuala Lumpur continue to monitor these cases closely.

I am also aware of recent arrests under the Internal Security Act. Ireland and its EU partners have previously expressed serious concerns to the Government of Malaysia about the use and scope of the Act. While fully respecting the duty of the Government of Malaysia to ensure security and the rule of law within its borders, I believe more could and needs to be done to facilitate peaceful protests on human rights issues. Ireland, together with our EU partners will continue to monitor the situation closely on human rights in Malaysia.

Departmental Bodies.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

380 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of task forces currently operating in his Department; the membership and terms of reference; the name of each one; the estimate cost of the taskforce; if he will report on the progress being made by the task force; if they have made any recommendations to him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3165/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

381 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the taskforces established under the auspices of his Department in the past five years; the recommendations made by each taskforce; the progress being made in implementing these recommendations; if specific recommendations have been rejected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3180/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

382 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the taskforces established under the auspices of his Department in the past five years; the cost of these taskforces in terms of administrative support, expenses, research and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3195/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 380 to 382, inclusive, together.

There is currently one task force operating in my Department. This is the Hunger Task Force which is serviced by the Development Co-operation Directorate of my Department. This is the only task force which has been established under the auspices of my Department in the past five years.

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. 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. The next meeting is a field visit to Malawi which will take place from the 27th to the 29th of February 2008. It is estimated that the total cost of the Task Force will be in the region of €250,000.

The report of the Hunger Task Force is due around the middle of 2008 and it 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.

Members of the Hunger Task Force include a number of renowned national and international experts in the field of food security and development. A list of their names is set out below.

Mr Joe Walsh, Chairman

Ms Nancy Aburi, Self Help Development International

Dr Pamela K. Anderson, International Potato Centre

Mr Tom Arnold, Concern Worldwide

Mr Paul David Hewson (Bono)

Mr Kevin Farrell, World Food Programme

Professor Michael Gibney, UCD

Professor Lawrence Haddad, UK Institute of Development Studies

Mr Justin Kilcullen, Trócaire Professor

Denis Lucey, UCC

Mr Aidan O'Driscoll, Department of Agriculture

Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, Columbia University

Ms Josette Sheeran, World Food Programme

Ms Sheila Sisulu, World Food Programme

Decentralisation Programme.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

383 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the non-property cost of decentralisation for each quarter since the project was initiated with regard to his Department’s quarterly return to the Decentralisation Implementation Group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3210/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

384 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of civil and public servants in his Department who have been decentralised to date; the number who will be decentralised in total under the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3225/08]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 383 and 384 together.

Under the Government's decentralisation programme, the Development Cooperation Directorate of the Department of Foreign Affairs, which is Irish Aid's Headquarters, will decentralise to Limerick. Good progress has been made and personnel have either been assigned to, or identified for, 103 posts or approximately 83% of the 124 posts scheduled to be decentralised. An advance party involving 57 staff has already decentralised to interim office premises in Limerick, with most officers being in place since May 2007. It is expected that the remaining staff of Irish Aid will transfer to Limerick in June 2008, on completion and fit-out of the permanent accommodation.

There are still a number of issues to be worked out with regard to the specialist posts which are scheduled to move. Discussions are on-going at a very senior level with representatives of the specialists, with their union IMPACT and with the Departments of Finance and Foreign Affairs in order to resolve the outstanding issues. Progress has been made and I hope that these discussions can be brought to a successful conclusion at an early date.

In June 2005, the Department started reporting quarterly to the Department of Finance on non-property costs associated with the decentralisation programme. Table 1 below sets out the costs incurred by this Department during the period 2004-2006. The costs incurred during this time mainly related to training and subsistence. Table 2 below sets out the costs incurred in the first three quarters in 2007, mainly arising from the move to interim premises in May of that year. The Department will be reporting shortly to the Department of Finance on the final quarter of 2007.

TABLE 1

Non-Property Costs 2004-2006

Travel & Subsistence A.2

Training A.3

Postal & Telecom expenses A.4

Office Machinery & related expenses A.5

Office Premises A.6

Total Per Year

2004

0

1,200

0

0

0

1,200

2005

500

2,900

0

0

0

3,400

2006

1,900

7,200

0

0

0

9,100

Total 2004-2006

2,400

11,300

0

0

0

13,700

TABLE 2

Non-Property Costs 2007

Travel & Subsistence A.2

Training A.3

Postal & Telecom Expenses A.4

Office Machine & related expenses A.5

Office Premises A.6

Total Per Quarter

Quarter 1

0

0

0

0

0

0

Quarter 2

6,400

2,000

0

166,900

500

175,800

Quarter 3

0

0

0

0

6,000

6,000

Quarter 4

0

0

0

0

0

Total 2007

6,400

2,000

0

166,900

6,500

181,800

Passport Applications.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

385 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position of a name change on an Irish passport for a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [3302/08]

Passports are generally issued in the name of the applicant as it appears in his or her certificate of birth. On request, a passport may also be issued to a person in a new name following marriage. Such applications require the provision of a civil marriage certificate and either the long form of the applicant's certificate of birth or a previous passport issued in the name that applied before marriage. Should the person in question require further information or assistance, she may contact Ms. Joan Fitzpatrick at the Cork Passport office on 021 4944722.

Reconciliation Fund.

Michael Ring

Question:

386 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if funding will be provided to a project (details supplied) in County Mayo. [3651/08]

Applications to the Reconciliation Fund are reviewed on a periodic basis by an Inter-Departmental Advisory Committee. After considering each application on its merits, the Committee forwards its recommendation to me for final decision. The overriding aim is to ensure as widespread and equitable distribution of funding as possible, giving consideration to the strength of the cross-community and cross-border elements in the application; the level of funding available each year; and the number and quality of applications received.

An application was received by the Reconciliation Fund from the Mayo Peace Park on 29 January 2008. This was after the closing date for the current tranche of funding, which is due to be decided later this month. The application will however be fully considered by the Inter-Departmental Advisory Committee in the context of the next tranche of grants, the closing date for which is likely to be 19 May 2008. The group will be informed in writing once a decision has been made in relation to this application.

Overseas Development Aid.

John Deasy

Question:

387 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the planned expenditure on overseas aid in each of the years 2008 to 2012; the estimated proportion of GNP and GDP this expenditure represents in each of those years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3716/08]

The Government is committed to expanding Ireland's Overseas Aid programme. We have set a target of spending 0.7% of GNP on Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) by 2012 and we are well on track to meeting this UN target. For 2008 the Government has allocated €914 million to ODA. The majority of this funding — €814 million — comes under Vote 29, International Cooperation, which is managed by my Department. A further estimated €100 million will be spent by other Government Departments and through Ireland's contribution to the EU Development Cooperation Budget.

Expenditure on ODA in 2008 will be the highest in the history of the programme and will represent 0.54 % of GNP. This level of spending will ensure that Ireland remains one of the most generous donors in the world on a per capita basis. As with all exchequer funding, the ODA allocation for future years will be decided through the Estimates process. Figures for expenditure on ODA in the period 2009 to 2012 cannot be stated at this point as they are normally linked to estimated GNP growth at the time of the Estimates process. However, I can assure the Deputy that the Government is committed to meeting the target of 0.7% of GNP by 2012 in a planned and phased manner and that Ireland's ODA allocation will grow strongly year on year as we move towards that target.

John Deasy

Question:

388 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the amount of Irish Government overseas aid spent in each of the top 12 recipient countries in 2007; the amount of such aid that is planned to be spent in each of these countries in each of the years 2008 to 2012; the plans he has to change the regional focus of overseas aid in the next five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3717/08]

John Deasy

Question:

390 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the proportion of overseas aid paid to each of the top 12 recipient countries that was channelled through the Government of each of those countries in 2007; the proportion of planned overseas aid expenditure in each of the years 2008 to 2012 that will be channelled through each of those Governments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3719/08]

John Deasy

Question:

391 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the proportion of overseas aid paid to each of the top 12 recipient countries that was channelled through Irish non governmental organisations in 2007; the proportion of planned aid expenditure in each of the years 2008 to 2012 that will be channelled through Irish NGOs in each of those countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3720/08]

John Deasy

Question:

392 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the proportion of overseas aid paid to each of the top 12 recipient countries that was channelled through non-Irish non governmental organisations in 2007; the proportion of planned aid expenditure in those countries in each of the years 2008 to 2012 that will be channelled through non-Irish NGOs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3721/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 388 and 390 to 392, inclusive, together.

In 2008 Ireland's spending on Overseas Development Aid (ODA) will reach €914 million. This level of expenditure, the highest in the history of the programme, represents 0.54 % of GNP. It will ensure that Ireland remains one of the most generous donors in the world on a per capita basis. We are well on track to meeting the UN target of spending 0.7% on ODA by 2012, three years ahead of the EU commitment. Most of this funding — €814 million — comes under Vote 29 International Cooperation which is managed by my Department. A further estimated €100 million will be spent by other Government Departments and through Ireland's allocation to the EU Development Cooperation Budget.

As far as expenditure on individual countries is concerned, I set out below a table showing the 12 countries which received the largest volume of ODA in 2006 (final figures for expenditure in 2007 must await detailed returns from our partner organisations. These will be published in our 2007 Annual Report).

Country

Amount

Uganda

44,831,057

Mozambique

41,881,672

Ethiopia

39,457,355

Tanzania

30,567,113

Zambia

24,233,613

Sudan

15,024,219

South Africa

14,743,332

Kenya

11,814,703

Lesotho

10,835,042

Democratic Republic of Congo

9,976,916

Sierra Leone

8,895,072

Zimbabwe

8,350,290

The funding administered by Irish Aid is delivered through a wide range of partners including government, non Governmental organisations, missionaries, UN funds and programmes, international organisations and humanitarian agencies. Funding is delivered via local, regional and national government systems aimed at, inter alia, building health, education and local government systems. Irish Aid uses a number of modalities and funding mechanisms to manage ODA ranging from sector wide supports, mainly in the social sectors of health and education, to projects and general budget support.

A significant proportion of Irish Aid funding is delivered through our Multi Annual Partnership Scheme (MAPS) with the main Irish NGOs. In 2007 almost €63 million was provided to the five participating Irish NGOs under MAPS (Concern €23 million, Trócaire €18 million, GOAL €14.7 million, Self Help Development International (SHDI) €4 million and Christian Aid Ireland € 3.2 million). In the years 2007 through to 2011, we plan to support our MAPS partners by approximately €387 million as follows: Concern €148 million, Trócaire €116 million, GOAL €100 million, Christian Aid €17 million and SHDI €6.5 million.

As the deputy will be aware Irish Aid has consistently supported the work of Irish Missionaries. €16 million was provided to the Irish Missionary Resource Service in 2007 which will increase to €20 million next year. As far as future spending is concerned, the ODA allocation will be decided through the Estimates process. Figures for expenditure on ODA in the period 2009 to 2012 cannot be stated at this point as they are normally linked to estimated GNP growth at the time of the Estimates process. However, I can assure the Deputy that the Government is committed to meeting the target of 0.7% of GNP by 2012 in a planned and phased manner and that Ireland's ODA allocation will grow strongly year on year as we move towards that target.

Irish Aid will continue to focus on the world's poorest countries where need is greatest. As stated in the White Paper on Irish Aid, Sub-Saharan Africa will remain the principal geographic focus. Irish Aid will continue to focus on the world's poorest countries where need is greatest. As stated in the White Paper on Irish Aid, Sub-Saharan Africa will remain the principal geographic focus. However, Ireland places particular emphasis on long term support to eight programme countries: Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia, Lesotho, Timor Leste and Vietnam. In 2007 an Embassy was opened in Malawi, which will become Ireland's ninth programme country. These countries are amongst the poorest in the world and Ireland's assistance to them is directed primarily to the social sectors of health, education and rural development in order to make a real difference to the lives of ordinary people. ODA funding to these countries is allocated in accordance with the Country Strategy Papers (CSPs), which have a duration of five years. Five year CSPs were agreed in 2007 for Uganda, Vietnam, Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique. CSPs for Ethiopia, Timor Leste and Malawi are under negotiation and the amount to be allocated will be announced once they are agreed.

John Deasy

Question:

389 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the criteria used by his Department to identify countries to receive overseas aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3718/08]

The Government's official programme of development assistance, Irish Aid, has as its primary aim the reduction of poverty. Africa is the primary geographic focus of Irish Aid.

The White Paper on Irish Aid sets out the principles and policies underlying the aid programme. It outlines the vision for the future and a number of key initiatives.

The White Paper was the subject of extensive consultation with the Irish public, with aid agencies and other stakeholders including UN agencies and Ireland's partners in the developing world.

Irish Aid delivers assistance to over 30 countries in Africa, but has a particularly deep relationship with seven countries called programme countries. These are Tan