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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 7 Feb 2008

Vol. 646 No. 3

Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 11, inclusive, answered orally.

Employment Rights.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

12 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he is satisfied that there are sufficient deterrents in place for breach of employment laws beyond payment of arrears; if those punishments are being applied; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4153/08]

Under "Towards 2016, The Ten year Framework Social Partnership Agreement", the Government is committed to delivering a key package of measures dealing with employment rights. This package will be set out in the Employment Law Compliance Bill which will be published shortly. Included in the package will be substantially increased penalties for breaches of employment laws.

Already, the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) has been set up on an interim basis and is in full operation from its headquarters in Carlow. All senior management is in place. NERA Inspection Services and Information Services are operating out of the NERA headquarters in Carlow with regional Inspection Services offices in Shannon (temporary accommodation), Cork and Dublin. Accommodation for the Sligo regional office has been selected.

The number of Inspectors dealing with breaches of employment laws is being increased from 31 to 90. These measures together with the enactment of the new legislation will ensure that we have a comprehensive set of deterrents against breaches of employment law.

EU Treaty.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

13 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the potential negative effects the Lisbon Treaty, if passed, could have on Irish workers. [4078/08]

I reject the inherent negative premise of the question posed by the Deputy. On the contrary, I am firmly convinced that the new EU Treaty will be of overall benefit to Irish workers. Our membership of the European Union has been very beneficial to Ireland from the point of view of Irish workers, as reflected in the strong growth in employment in Ireland in recent years, and the very positive legal framework for employment rights which has contributed to the quality of that employment.

The current corpus of employment rights protection has been driven in large part by EU-wide legislative developments across a broad spectrum of employment protection legislation, providing equal treatment for the most vulnerable workers and attacking discriminatory practices such as discrimination based on gender and marital status. The whole approach to workplace safety has evolved considerably in the last ten to fifteen years, due in large part to rules initiated and formulated at EU level, and enshrined in EU Directives. Of further significance is the availability of EU appellate mechanisms, notably the European Court of Justice, in the development of the principles, and in interpretation, of key EU legal instruments.

The new EU Treaty is a balanced document. It is good for workers because it helps strike the right balance between social protection and economic competitiveness. It will help to underpin the positive developments in employment rights protection and will assist in providing a positive environment for future progress. The Charter of Fundamental Rights is a central component of the new EU Treaty, which was formally ratified by European leaders in Lisbon, last October. The Charter, which is legally binding and enforceable on Member States, sets out a range of rights, freedoms and principles for EU citizens and workers. It sets out the values on which the Union is founded in a clear and comprehensive way. It should be welcomed by all concerned who profess to care about the rights and concerns of workers.

Trade Missions.

Joe Costello

Question:

14 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will make a statement on the outcome of his recent trade mission to South Africa. [4054/08]

An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, accompanied by myself, led an Enterprise Ireland trade mission to South Africa on what was by far the largest trade mission from Ireland to have ever visited that country. The visit also facilitated the Taoiseach's involvement in a range of aid-related activities elsewhere in the region.

The mission had a number of objectives, namely to assist Irish companies access the South African market at the highest levels; to help Irish companies develop their business in South Africa and investigate all elements of the market; to reinforce Ireland's commitment to working in partnership with South Africa at Government and business levels; to raise Ireland's profile as a world class supplier of goods and tradeable services, to increase awareness of Ireland, in particular Ireland's recent economic performance; to increase awareness of Ireland's Education system and the links being established between South Africa and Irish institutions; to highlight the progress made in recent years in the development of economic links between the two countries — and to further strengthen these ties.

Central Statistics Office figures for 2006, show that two-way trade between Ireland and South Africa was worth over €1.375 billion, with merchandise trade amounting to €500 million and services trade amounting to more than €875 million — and there is much scope for further growth.

Many of the companies that participated in the mission are small and medium sized firms seeking local partners to expand operations in the region. An aim of the visit was to support Irish companies to develop a presence in South Africa through trade, investment, partnership and other business linkages.

This mission saw 52 Enterprise Ireland supported firms form important links and partnerships in a region which has a population of 185 million people. Contracts to the value of €35 million will be realised, following the trade mission, by the Irish companies who participated. A total of ten significant agreements were signed during the visit. These include companies in a variety of sectors including food processing, software, telecommunications and power generation.

Over 400 one to one meetings were held over the 5 days. In addition Enterprise Ireland organised a detailed programme of visits, for ten of the participating companies, involving over 80 meetings.

Arising from the trade mission, invaluable publicity was gained by participating companies, with some 90 articles in the Irish media and some 50 articles appearing in African media.

Job Losses.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

15 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the measures that were taken to avoid the recently announced job losses (details supplied); and the steps being taken to help those being made redundant to find other sources of employment. [4083/08]

Regarding measures taken to avoid the job losses, I understand that IDA Ireland had discussions with Allergan management in Arklow with a view to having the company invest more heavily in technical process development and in significant process automation. Unfortunately, the decision taken by the company was to move production to a more modern plant in Costa Rica which has spare capacity. However, the company has confirmed that its other plants in Ireland will not be affected by the decision.

In relation to Jacobs, I understand that Enterprise Ireland has had a number of discussions with the company over the last twelve months in relation to its development plans, and assistance has also been given to the company's innovation agenda. After reviewing a number of options, the company has now taken the strategic decision to outsource its biscuit manufacturing operation. However, the company has also indicated its commitment to undertaking new product development in Ireland by deciding to establish an innovation centre of excellence in biscuit manufacturing. This decision is very much in keeping with Enterprise Ireland's strategy for innovation with the agency's client companies, as innovation is accepted as the key to gaining competitive advantage in the fast moving consumer goods sector.

Regarding the steps being taken to help those being made redundant, the role of FAS, the Industrial Training agency, will be particularly important in this respect. I understand that, in response to a request from the company for assistance, the agency is meeting with Allergen to discuss its full range of services. I also understand that FAS has written to Jacobs indicating that it is prepared to offer its full range of services to any employees who wish to avail of them.

While Dawn Meats does not come under my area of responsibility, I am aware of the situation in the company. The company is consolidating beef production in its other plant some 25km away in Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo in which, I understand, it plans to invest some €15m to provide scale and efficiency in processing for very competitive markets. Furthermore, I understand that a Beef Forum is being established. The Forum is to examine the beef sector in the light of prevailing opportunities and challenges and is to set out a framework for future development. It is to hold its first meeting this month and report in the Summer.

In relation to all three cases, I am confident that the enterprise agencies under the aegis of my Department have taken and are taking all appropriate measures to deal with the situation and that, in their on-going activities, they will continue to create investment and employment opportunities in the future.

Liz McManus

Question:

16 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the announcement by a company (details supplied) of the loss of 360 jobs at its Arklow, County Wicklow plant; if his attention has been drawn to the potential social and economic damage to the Arklow area of job losses on such a scale; if he will organise a meeting with the industrial development agencies and public representatives from the county to come up with a plan to provide alternative employment for the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4049/08]

I am aware of the situation at the Allergan plant in Arklow. The decision taken by the company to close its facility by the middle of 2009 is very disappointing particularly for the workers and families involved. I am confident that the Industrial Development agencies together with other local interests will make every effort to secure alternative employment for the area. I will, of course, be prepared to meet with the various interested parties to discuss the situation.

The decision by the company to phase out operations over a lengthy period will allow its workforce to seek alternative employment. I also understand that the company has committed to seeking suitable positions for staff at the Arklow plant in its other facilities in Ireland and overseas where possible.

As regards retraining, the role of FAS, the Industrial Training agency, will be particularly important in assisting people who will lose their jobs. I understand that, in response to a request from the company for assistance, the agency is arranging a meeting to discuss its full range of services. This will include training and other supports.

In its ongoing drive to attract investment opportunities to Arklow and Co. Wicklow in general, I understand that IDA Ireland is currently in negotiations with investors with regard to commencing or expanding operations in the agency's Arklow Business Park. In addition, Servier Ireland Industries Limited, which is based in Arklow, is actively recruiting at present and employment figures have consistently increased over the last number of years.

I should point out that according to the last Quarterly National Household Survey published by the Central Statistics Office on 15 November, 2007, the unemployment rate in the mid-East area, which includes Arklow, was 3.9%. As this is one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, the workers who will be laid off should have good prospects of obtaining other employment.

I am satisfied that IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and the local County Enterprise Board will continue to promote Arklow and Co. Wicklow in general as attractive locations for employment and investment opportunities.

Price Inflation.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

17 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on reports of recent substantial increases in prices of a range of food prices and forecasts that food prices will rise further by the end of 2008; if he is satisfied that sufficient protection is available to protect consumers against unwarranted price increases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4063/08]

I am fully aware that the price of a range of foods has increased in the last number of months. Whilst the December 2007 Consumer Price Index as published by the Central Statistics Office shows that although the annual rate of inflation fell to 4.7% in December down from 5.0% in November, the price of food and non alcoholic beverages increased by 6.3% in the year.

Rising food prices are being experienced across the world due mainly to a number of factors including climatic, economic and demand reasons. A recent report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation has identified that the rapid expansion of the global biofuel industry is causing fundamental changes to agricultural markets and is likely to keep the prices of agricultural commodities high over the next decade. A rise in input and transportation costs consequent on increased fuel and energy prices has also contributed to the increase in biofuel production. Adverse weather conditions which have seen a two-year drought over large parts of Australia and an unusually wet summer over much of Western Europe in 2007 together with a drought in South-Eastern Europe has had consequent effects on food yields. This has coincided with an increased demand for meat and dairy products in significant developing markets such as China and India.

Notwithstanding the global rise in food prices, national policy in so far as the price of food to Irish consumers is concerned, is focused on promoting a competitive grocery market and raising consumer awareness in relation to the need to get the best value for money when doing their grocery shopping.

It is important that consumers are aware of the price of goods and services in order that they can make an informed choice before deciding whether to buy those goods and services from a particular trader or whether to go elsewhere. To this end we have legislation in place, which ensures that consumers are provided with clear price information prior to making a decision to purchase goods. There are four Price Orders currently being enforced by the National Consumer Agency. In the alcohol and soft drink area there is the Retail Price (Beverages in Licensed Premises) Display Order. This Order obliges all premises where alcohol is sold to display the price of alcohol and soft drinks both inside and outside the premises. The Charges (Hairdressing) Display Order 1976 (S.I. 156 of 1976) requires hairdressers to prominently display the charges for every service offered so that consumers will be informed before entering the premises. The Retail Price (Diesel and Petrol) Display Order, 1997 requires petrol stations to display their prices in a clear and prominent manner so that consumers can make an informed choice. The European Communities (Requirement to Indicate Product Prices) Regulations 2002, require that the selling price and the unit price for all products covered by the Regulations must be indicated. Any infringements of these Regulations should be reported to the NCA.

Whilst clearly the recent increases in the price of a variety of staple foods is a matter of some concern, I am confident that the current policy of promoting vigorous competition and raising consumer awareness together with the work of bodies such as the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency will help to ensure that consumers do not suffer from unwarranted price increases when doing their grocery shopping.

Job Losses.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

18 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which he or his Department have examined or focused on the cause or causes of job losses throughout the country in the past six months; if he has proposals to address this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4173/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

63 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action he proposes to take to improve the competitiveness of the economy thereby safeguarding jobs and discouraging relocation to lower cost economies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4172/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 18 and 63 together.

The last Quarterly National Household Survey on the labour market showed that the pace of employment growth actually accelerated slightly and employment over the year 2007 was up nearly 4%. Last year total employment in the country exceeded 2 million for the first time, an increase of 78,000 on the same quarter in 2006 and net job creation in both the IDA and Enterprise Ireland was the highest since 2000.

Information received by the enterprise development agencies from client companies which have closed plants or downsized their workforces suggests that job losses have been attributable to a range of factors including loss of contracts or a drop in demand for products, restructuring and rationalisation within companies and relocation of operations abroad. The last mentioned of these factors, according to the feedback from these companies, has been a relatively minor factor.

It would be entirely misleading to suggest that plant relocation or company restructuring giving rise to job losses, whether due to individual firm or sector challenges, indicate that whole economies are uncompetitive. Ireland is deeply connected with the global economy. Our success over many years in attracting industry leaders in advanced manufacturing and service companies has transformed our enterprise base. An increasing part of our economy is now sophisticated, highly productive and value driven.

What establishes the competitive credentials of the economy is our ability to replace quality jobs with others that are of the same or higher skill level. There is also no doubt that labour markets are changing at an increasingly fast pace due mainly to the impacts of globalisation, immigration and demographic factors. We are responding with new policies and new opportunities for our labour force. Labour market programmes play an important role by providing the skills needed for unemployed persons to get back to work while at the same time providing the skilled labour needed by employers to improve their productivity.

Fundamentally, our human resources are at the centre of our competitive advantage. Our National Skills Strategy sets out clear objectives for developing Ireland's human capital through upskilling, training and education. Our strategy will see an additional 500,000 employees being upgraded by at least one level on the National Framework of Qualifications by 2020. On training and skills development we have committed €7.8bn in the period 2007-2013 under the national Development Plan.

In addition to the National Skills Strategy, the Government has made a major commitment, through the substantial investment set out in the Strategy for Science, Technology & Innovation (SSTI) and the National Development Plan (NDP) 2007-2013, to making the transition to a knowledge-economy by funding world-class research in Ireland. Through the NDP and SSTI we are committed to providing €8.2 billion to ensure Ireland remains a key location for leading edge research and development, and the quality jobs it can deliver. This represents a tripling of the spend provided for under the previous NDP 2000-2006, bringing Ireland into line with R&D performance in leading countries.

Finally, I want to point out that on our overall competitiveness, Ireland stands out in a number of categories. Our stock of direct inward investment is 5 times greater than the OECD average. Ireland continues to attract a large number of international greenfield investment projects, relative to its size. UNCTAD's 2006 World Investment Report shows that we are number 1 in the OECD for the number of greenfield foreign investment projects per capita. The IDA confirm that the investment pipeline for 2008 remains strong.

Redundancy Figures.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

19 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of redundancies notified to his Department during 2007; the way this compares with the same period in each year from 2002 to 2006; his views on the reported increase in the number of redundancies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4059/08]

The numbers of actual redundancies notified to my Department for the years 2002-2007 are as follows:

Actual Redundancies 2002-2007

Year

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Actual

24,432

25,769

25,041

23,156

23,684

25,459

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

I have no control over the number of redundancies that occur at any given time.

My Department carried out an analysis last year in which the average annual level of redundancies for the period 2002-2006 was compared with the level of redundancies in the period 1995-2001. It was found that the level of redundancy had almost doubled and the cause may be attributed to two factors. Firstly, there were more people at work in the more recent period; this accounted for 20% of the increase in the level of redundancies.Secondly, the risk of redundancy increased significantly in the second period and this accounted for 80% of the increase in the level of redundancy.

Industrial Development.

Denis Naughten

Question:

20 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he is taking to support enterprise development in the midland and western regions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35099/07]

The Enterprise Development Agencies under the aegis of my Department, Enterprise Ireland, the County Enterprise Boards, and IDA Ireland are responsible for growing indigenous enterprises and attracting and growing foreign direct investment. My Department has put in place a range of strategies, programmes and financial incentives to promote economic and enterprise development that will support sustainable employment throughout the country.

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

Enterprise Ireland works with almost 490 client companies in the West Region employing 11,578 people and over 300 companies in the Midlands employing over 8,700 people.

EI has approved support for Community Enterprise Centres in 30 locations approximately in the West & Midlands Regions, which is helping to provide much needed workspace for the creation of new projects and businesses.

In addition, I am informed that two community enterprise centres in the West & Midlands Regions were successful in their bid for funding under the Community Enterprise Scheme, Roscommon IT & Knowledge Centre Ltd was approved for €300,000 and OAK Partnership, Edenderry, was approved for €532,000. Support is available for both capital infrastructure and management support.

The County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) in the midland and western regions provide a source of support to small businesses with 10 employees or fewer. Subject to certain eligibility criteria new and developing enterprises may qualify for financial and non-financial support. During 2007 the Midland Region CEBs, comprising Longford, Westmeath, Laois and Offaly paid out over €1.48m in grant assistance to 109 clients. This intervention has assisted in the creation of 236 jobs in the region. The CEBs in the Western Region, comprising Galway, Mayo and Roscommon have paid out over €1.11m in grant assistance to 104 clients, which in turn, has enabled the creation of 328 jobs in the area.

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

I am confident that the strategies and policies being pursued by the development agencies under the remit of my department will continue to bear fruit in terms of a regional development throughout the country.

EU Funding.

Jack Wall

Question:

21 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his Department has ever made an application to the European Commission for the draw down of support from the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund; if any such application has been successful; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4105/08]

To date my Department has not made an application to the European Globalisation Fund. However, my Department is currently investigating the possibility of making an application to the Fund subject to the strict criteria associated with the European Globalisation Fund being met.

Research Funding.

Brian Hayes

Question:

22 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his plans to further attract senior researchers here to meet targets in the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4194/08]

The Government has made a major commitment, through the substantial investment set out in the Strategy for Science, Technology & Innovation (SSTI) and the National Development Plan (NDP) 2007-2013, to making the transition to a knowledge-economy. The ambition is that "Ireland by 2013 will be internationally renowned for the excellence of its research, and will be to the forefront in generating and using new knowledge for economic and social progress, within an innovation driven culture."

The Government is committed to providing €8.2 billion to making this vision a reality and making Ireland a key location for leading edge research and development, and a location for high quality jobs that are underpinned by knowledge and high skill levels. The Strategy recognises that building up the required number of researchers for this purpose includes the need to attract greater numbers of researchers to Ireland than before. A number of elements of the Strategy are contributing towards building world-class research teams in Ireland.

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) has been allocated a sum of €1.4bn under the NDP and this investment in SFI has resulted in a significant increase in the number of world class scientists here, demonstrating that Ireland is serious about science and offers an environment of competitive excellence. In the context of achieving the national strategic targets set out in the SSTI SFI is investing in human capital across its range of innovative programmes and initiatives. The projects funded by SFI bring together significant numbers of Principal Investigators, senior researchers, Post Docs, PhD students and collaborators. Apart from attracting international talent to Ireland under its broad suite of Programmes SFI has a number of very successful specific initiatives aimed at attracting international talent.

As part of the recently launched Stokes Professorship and Lectureship Programme SFI awarded funding of €44.55 million last November that will create 67 new research posts in Higher Education Institutes. The Programme will support 32 Professorships and 35 Lectureships and the successful candidates are internationally competitive, research-active academics, performing at the highest level appropriate to their career point. 49 of the 67 approved candidates are from outside Ireland. This substantially increases the recognition that Ireland is a location of choice for internationally competitive researchers and offers an environment of competitive excellence. It is an extremely positive signal for Ireland that such eminent researchers have chosen to further their scientific careers here.

Another element of the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation is to work towards removing obstacles to the mobility of researchers with a view to attracting researchers to Ireland in greater numbers than ever before. Among the initiatives, which I have implemented to give effect to this are the establishment of a national mobility centre and mobility portal, as part of the European Network of Mobility Centres; and the implementation of the EU Council Directive on Third Country Researchers (2005/71/EC) which provides for the entry to the State of researchers to carry out research in a research organisation on the basis of a Hosting Agreement concluded between the researcher and the research organisation. The Hosting Agreement provides entry conditions comparable to those of the Green Card and also, importantly, provides for concurrent family re-unification and the right of family members to apply for a work permit without a labour market test.

The Strategy also recognises that an important factor in building up the cohort of researchers in Ireland is the availability of an attractive career structure, both for Irish nationals considering research as a career and also in the attraction of international researchers to Ireland. To that end, the Advisory Science Council has been undertaking a wide-ranging study of the issues affecting researcher careers in this country, by reference to international best practice, and will shortly publish its findings. This report will bring forward recommendations which, when implemented, will assist in the goal of improving Ireland's prospects as a location for international researchers to further their careers.

FETAC Awards.

Enda Kenny

Question:

23 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he or his Department has had discussions with the Department of Education and Science to ensure that there are sufficient FETAC accredited courses and training institutions available to employees of small to medium sized enterprises in order to access vital upskilling courses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4202/08]

My Department is regularly in contact with the Department of Education and Science, the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland and FETAC in relation to accreditation issues. I understand that at present in excess of 600 training providers have agreed their quality assurance arrangements with FETAC and can offer programmes leading to FETAC awards at Levels 1 to 6 of the National Framework of Qualifications.

FETAC also accredits an extensive range of awards designed to prepare learners for employment across a range of occupations in the business, catering, construction, IT, and childcare to name but a few. In addition to these awards, there are a number of general awards which are appropriate to business and enterprise development — for example Start Your Own Business, Enterprise Development, Business Administration and Management, Strategic Customer Relations Management, Business Appraisal, are all current awards which are validated by FETAC. The modular format of FETAC awards (a number of minor awards leading to a major award in a particular area) allows for flexibility for learners in achieving qualifications.

In addition FETAC are constantly developing new awards and since January of this year have established Standard Development Groups to develop these awards. These groups will be comprised of the relevant stakeholders across education, training, industry and professional bodies. In addition, any provider, in an education or training institution in the public or private sector, or in a workplace or community setting, may submit a new programme or award for validation. In this way FETAC is well placed to identify and respond to changing demands from industry. As this process is ongoing and is driven in part by the demands and needs of the relevant stakeholders including SMEs, it is clear that new programmes will be developed to meet the emerging needs of the stakeholders.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

24 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of workplace inspections carried out by the labour inspectors during 2006 and 2007 to ensure that young workers are not being employed outside the hours permitted by the relevant regulations; the number of such inspections that took place outside of normal working hours; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4067/08]

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

in 2006; 3,347 inspections/visits were undertaken, 1,766 of which were conducted outside of normal working hours; and

in 2007; 2,625 inspections/visits were undertaken, 1,695 of which were conducted outside of normal working hours.

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

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

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

Proposed Legislation.

Denis Naughten

Question:

25 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his plans to update the partnership law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35098/07]

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

Consumer Protection.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

26 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps being taken to implement the commitment in the Programme for Government that steps would be taken to ensure that consumer codes of conduct are published by businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4072/08]

The Consumer Protection Act 2007, which commenced in May last year, empowers the National Consumer Agency to prepare and publish guidelines to traders in relation to matters of consumer welfare and protection and matters related to commercial practices. The Act also entitles the Agency to review or approve Codes of Practice submitted to it by traders or their trade associations where the Agency is satisfied that the Code of Practice protects consumer interests and is not inconsistent with the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act or any other enactment.

The Agency has publicly stated its desire to establish a strong relationship with business to develop the highest standards of consumer protection and compliance by traders with consumer protection law. To this end, the Agency has held discussions with a number of business and representative bodies in relation to possible Codes of Practice. The Agency is also preparing Guidelines to business in two specific areas namely the Retail Sector and the Health and Fitness Sector. Following initial consultations with both sectors, the Agency is in the process of preparing detailed documents which reflect the views provided by businesses in those sectors and their representative bodies. The Agency intends to further consult with sectors concerned with a view to finalizing matters as soon as possible.

I welcome the positive steps taken by the Agency in working with traders and their representative associations to develop a strong consumer culture amongst Irish business. I am certain that the development of such a culture through initiatives such as Agency Guidelines and Consumer Codes of Practice will be to the benefit of not only consumers but also the businesses themselves and the economy as a whole.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Willie Penrose

Question:

27 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his Department has undertaken an assessment of the implications for industry, in regard to competitiveness and employment levels, of recent EU proposals that would require Ireland to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4045/08]

The Climate and Energy proposals published by the Commission on 23rd January are a complex package which raise economic and social issues for Ireland and thus require careful consideration by all Government stakeholders. The Commission package includes the following elements:

The separation of the EU Emissions Trading Sector (ETS) from the rest of the economy through the creation of a single EU-wide Emissions Trading Sector which will be administered by the Commission and has an EU-wide target of reducing emissions to 21% below 2005 levels by 2020.

For the non-ETS sectors of the European economy (essentially transport, agriculture, residential and non-ETS enterprises), the Commission has proposed national targets, with a very challenging target of reducing emissions to 20% below 2005 levels by 2020 being proposed for Ireland.

National renewable energy targets, with a target of 16% of all energy usage to be derived from renewable sources by 2020 being proposed for Ireland.

In addition to the foregoing, the package also includes a proposal for a legal framework on Carbon Capture and Storage technology, and new guidelines for environmental state aid.

In view of the complex, interlinking nature of the Commission package, any work to assess the competitiveness and employment implications for industry of the proposed national target for the non-Emissions Trading Sector of reducing emissions by 20% below 2005 levels by 2020 has to encompass the other elements of the package. It is for this reason that the analysis of the socioeconomic implications of the Commission package for all sectors of the Irish economy is being undertaken under the auspices of the Cabinet Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security, which is chaired by the Taoiseach. I am a member of the Committee, together with my colleagues the Minister for Finance; the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; the Minister for Environment, Heritage & Local Government and the Minister for Agriculture and Food. To ensure that the analysis is as robust as possible, relevant stakeholders, including the Social Partners, will be consulted on the proposals, and a Technical Advisory Steering Group has been established to oversee the analysis.

Negotiations on the Commission package, which commenced this month, will be a comprehensive and complex process which is not expected to be completed until next year. The Government has written to the Commission signalling that it expects detailed engagement on the package of proposals as a necessary prerequisite to any political agreement on the package. The detailed analysis which is being overseen by the Technical Advisory Steering Group under the auspices of the Cabinet Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security will form the basis of Ireland's negotiating position.

Employment Rights.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

28 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to reports that workers on a €50 million ferry due to begin sailings between Ireland and France will be paid as little as €4 per hour or around half the national minimum wage; his views on these reports; the action he will take in regard to this report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4051/08]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

29 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the fact that workers on a new Irish Ferries vessel will be paid just €4 an hour, half the Irish minimum wage. [4076/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 28 and 29 together.

I asked the National Employment Rights Authority to investigate the matter. I am advised that the ship referred to by the Deputies is not, in fact, registered in Ireland. The responsibility for safety, rates of pay and living and working conditions on the ship rests, therefore, with the ship operator and the country where the ship is registered. As the ship is registered in another state, Irish employment rights do not apply to the employees on the ship. The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, therefore does not have any power to enforce Irish employment rights legislation on board the ship.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) deals with living and working conditions on board ships. These conventions are enforced by Port State Control Officers of the Department of Transport and Marine. I will bring this matter to the attention of the Minister for Transport and Marine.

Product Labelling.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

30 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action being taken to implement the commitment in the Programme for Government that steps would be taken to ensure that prices of goods are labelled and transparent in order that the consumer is well informed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4070/08]

Price display law is covered by Orders made under Section 19 of the Prices Acts 1958 to 1972 and under the European Communities (Requirements to Indicate Product Prices) Regulations 2002, Statutory Instrument No. 639 of 2002. The various Price Display Orders made under the Prices Acts 1958 to 1972 cover Drinks Display in Licensed Premises, Hairdressing Services, Petrol and Diesel and Restaurants. The European Communities (Requirements to Indicate Product Prices) Regulations 2002 require retailers to display the selling and, where appropriate, the unit price (the price per litre or kilo) for all products covered by the scope of the Regulations. The Commission will be reviewing the Directive upon which these Regulations are based and I will support measures to enhance the information to be made available to consumers. This review is part of the general review of the Consumer Acquis.

The National Consumer Agency whose function it is to enforce consumer laws, regularly undertakes surveillance with a view to securing voluntary compliance on the part of traders.

In July 2007, my Department published a consultation paper on the Consumer Information (Advertisements for Concert or Theatre Performances) Order 1997 which contained proposals designed to broaden the scope and enhance the transparency of the price information provided to consumers about concerts, theatrical performances and other events. Follow-up meetings have been held with a wide range of interested parties and I hope to be in a position to introduce new Regulations in this area later this year.

Labour Inspectorate.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

31 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of labour inspectors currently employed by the Labour Inspectorate of his Department; the number of labour inspectors currently available for assignment on normal duties; the number of labour inspectors currently in training following recruitment; the status of the recruitment campaign to increase the Labour Inspectorate to 90 inspectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4064/08]

Martin Ferris

Question:

38 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of labour inspectors at the end of 2007. [4080/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 31 and 38 together.

In accordance with commitments given under Towards 2016, the Social Partnership Agreement, the number of Inspectors was scheduled to increase to 90, from the starting position of 31, by the end of 2007. Twenty new Inspectors were recruited by the National Employment Rights Authority during 2007 bringing the total number of Inspectors employed during 2007 to fifty one. However, one Inspector was promoted and transferred to another Government Department in November 2007 bringing the total number of Inspectors at the 31 December 2007 to fifty.

The twenty Inspectors recruited during 2007 have completed the core modules of the NERA Inspector training course and all fifty Inspectors are involved in carrying out inspections and other associated enquiries at places of work with a view to determining compliance with certain employment rights legislation.

Following the recent competitions for the recruitment of an additional thirty nine Inspectors, twenty nine Inspectors have been assigned to NERA. Twenty four commenced training in January 2008, four will commence in February 2008 and a further one will commence in March 2008.

Assignment of the remaining Inspectors selected in the competitions is ongoing. For example NERA is awaiting release dates for some candidates required to work their contractual notice obligations. However, it is proposed to schedule training for these Inspectors immediately upon assignment.

Industrial Development.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

32 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the €4 million in grants paid by the Industrial Development Authority to a company (details supplied) has been repaid in view of the failure of the planned project at Ballincollig to proceed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4060/08]

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

Where a contractual entitlement to recover a grant arises, it is entirely a matter for the agency that is party to the contract to effect the recovery. I understand that the IDA has not yet sought recovery of the monies in this case. IDA Ireland continues to maintain contact with Amgen as the company works through its restructuring phase.

While I am very disappointed at the Amgen decision to postpone their proposed development at the Carrigtwohill, it must be noted that the Cork Gateway is still vibrant in what it can offer potential investors, particularly in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, medical technologies and internationally traded services.

There are currently 133 IDA assisted companies in County Cork employing almost 20,000 people. Cork City and County have benefited greatly from a number of important investment announcements in recent years which demonstrates the attractiveness of the greater Cork area as a location for investment, by both existing companies already located there as well as new overseas client companies choosing Cork as their location of choice. IDA Ireland has, over the last 3 years, approved new projects for the Cork area with a job potential of over 3,100 people at full operation.

I am confident that the policies being pursued for Cork City and County by the development agencies will continue pay dividends in terms of investment and jobs for the region.

Economic Competitiveness.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

33 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when, in view of the recently published Central Bank financial stability report 2007 highlighting Ireland’s deterioration in competitiveness and the National Competitiveness Council annual competitiveness report 2007 showing Irish consumer price levels almost 20% higher than the EU-15 average and inflation growing faster than the EU-15 average, he will implement the NCC recommendation in their report to develop a national programme to restore cost competitiveness; the steps he will take to establish this programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2383/08]

The Central Bank Financial Stability Report 2007 referred to by the Deputy looks essentially at the soundness of the financial system. The Report makes clear that Irish credit institutions do not have significant exposures to the sub-prime market, either directly or indirectly. In relation to overall competitiveness, while acknowledging that our strong competitiveness position up to recently has undergone some decline, the report refers to the continued strong performance of inward FDI flows.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) was 4.9% on average in 2007. The euro area measure of inflation, the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP), was 3.2% for Ireland for the 12 months to December 2007. This was the same as the euro area average for the same period. The Central Bank, in their Quarterly Bulletin published last week, forecast inflation (HICP) to ease further to 2.5% in 2008.

While this is welcome I should point out that we have no control over some of the factors influencing inflation, such as oil prices, the exchange rate and mortgage interest rates. In this regard, it is important to ensure that our domestic cost base does not undermine competitiveness. I agree with the NCC that, as part of our economic policy, seeking to maintain low inflation, promoting competition, the pursuit of sensible incomes policy, and keeping public spending growth at sustainable levels in the medium term are important. Doing this will allow us to keep the burden of taxation low, thus helping to maintain competitiveness and to maximise our economic potential. These are all part of our strategy to improve the cost environment and to enhance competitiveness. In the context of the forthcoming pay talks it will be critical to ensure that labour costs are managed so as to enhance productivity, support employment creation and to safeguard competitiveness. Furthermore, the Government's last three budgets have been clearly non inflationary as a measure to help the cost environment for business.

I would also mention the Anti-Inflation Group which was reconstituted under Towards 2016 with the same membership and mandate as under Sustaining Progress and meets regularly. The Group has actively engaged with the Central Statistics Office (CSO), the Competition Authority, the National Consumer Agency and the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) with a view to co-ordinating and driving the fight against inflation on an informed basis.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Tom Hayes

Question:

34 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his plans to ensure that sufficient funding will be set aside in the 2008 services to business budget of FÁS to provide for the upskilling of small to medium sized enterprise employees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4195/08]

The budget for FÁS is agreed on the basis of detailed discussions between FÁS, my Department and the Department of Finance in the context of the annual Estimates process. The combined Exchequer and National Training Funds allocated to FÁS for 2008 will amount to €1,082,919. This represents a 3% increase on the Revised Estimates for 2007 and includes an additional amount of €1.7m from the National Training Fund to increase capacity for upskilling and in-company training. I am satisfied that the level of funding available is sufficient to support the ongoing upskilling of employees of small to medium sized businesses.

Decentralisation Programme.

Jack Wall

Question:

35 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress to date with regard to the implementation of the programme of decentralisation in respect of his Department and State bodies under the aegis of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4073/08]

My Department has been making good progress in the relocation of the required 250 posts to Carlow under the Government's Decentralisation Programme. The following business units/Offices of my Department are earmarked for decentralisation:

Companies Registration Office/Registry of Friendly Societies

National Employment Rights Authority (NERA)

Work Permits

Redundancy Payments Section

Insolvency Payments Section

Officials of my Department, in consultation with the Department of Finance and the OPW, as well as decentralising staff and Business Units opened an advance office in Carlow on July 30th 2007. The number of posts in this decentralised advance office is 100.

With regard to the property side of the Department's move, the OPW completed the purchase of a site in Carlow town centre for the construction of my Department's permanent office in Carlow. My colleague Minister of State Noel Ahern TD, announced on 13th December 2007 that the OPW has invited The Macquarie Partnership to become the ‘Successful Tenderer' in respect of this decentralisation project. This forms part of a major PPP project, which also involves the provision of office accommodation for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in Portlaoise and the Department of Education and Science in Mullingar. I am hopeful, subject to no planning issues arising, that construction of the permanent office will be completed in late 2009.

Agency Decentralisation

Under the Government Decentralisation Programme, announced in December 2003, six of the Agencies under the aegis of my Department are due to decentralise or have already been decentralised, as follows:

FÁS

Under the Government's decentralisation programme, FÁS is due to transfer its head office including some 383 posts to Birr, County Offaly. FÁS currently has 21 staff members based in Birr who are working out of offices located within the Birr Technology Centre.

FÁS has completed the purchase of 5.59 acres (approximately) in Birr, Co Offaly. A Planning Application is currently being progressed on behalf of FÁS by the vendor's Consultant Engineers and Architects, in discussion with the Consulting Engineers and Architects representing FÁS. In the meantime, since 6 May 2007 FáS has leased a floor of a building within the Birr Technology Centre to accommodate staff in the decentralised location pending the construction and fitting out of a permanent Headquarters. Enterprise Ireland Enterprise Ireland (EI) is to move 300 posts to Shannon under the decentralisation programme. Progress on the full transfer of EI's HQ to Shannon, within the Government decentralisation programme, will be influenced by many factors including among others, the level of interest in the Shannon location expressed by CAF applicants and progress made in discussions at a national level. To date, no post has moved to Shannon under this scheme.

Enterprise Ireland (EI) working closely with the Office of Public Works (OPW) has identified, but not yet acquired, a preferred site for the construction of a new HQ building in Shannon. The preferred site is a 13-acre site owned by Shannon Development. The site occupies a prime position in Shannon and is considered suitable for a major landmark building or civic structure.

EI now has a major presence in the Shannon region. EI has established its new National Regional Development Headquarters in Shannon and has established the County Enterprise Support Unit in Shannon. Currently there are 40 staff working in the Shannon office and it is expected that approximately 65 EI staff will be in place in Shannon over the coming months. A senior manager has been appointed as Head of Regions and Entrepreneurship to oversee the establishment of the EI presence in the Mid-West Region. EI managers with responsibility for the County Enterprise Coordination Unit and EI Regional Development strategy as well as the Regional Director with responsibility for the Mid West Regional are now in place in the Shannon office. As part of EI's regional strategy, these six posts were assigned to the new office in Shannon from Dublin.

Health and Safety Authority

The Health and Safety Authority is to move 110 posts to Thomastown, Co Kilkenny as part of the decentralisation programme. To date a total of 65 civil and public servants, including 12 Authority staff, have expressed an interest through the Central Application Facility (CAF) process in transferring to Thomastown.

In advance of decentralising to Thomastown, the Authority established an interim office in Kilkenny city. Currently, 27 staff, including 3 of the 12 internal HSA Thomastown applicants, are based in Kilkenny, and including also new staff recruited for the REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) strategy. All staff currently accommodated in the interim office will move to Thomastown once the new premises are ready for occupation.

The Commissioners of Public Works have signed a contract to purchase the site in Thomastown. A condition of the contract is that the vendor obtains the appropriate zoning for the site so that the Commissioners' planned development can take place. The required change of zoning has now been granted and the sale should close shortly.

When the purchase is completed, expressions of interest for the design and build phase will be invited from interested parties. It will be a matter for the successful tenderer to apply for planning permission at that stage. The current estimated timeline for availability for occupancy is 2009/2010.

NSAI

Under the Government's decentralisation programme the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) is due to relocate to Arklow, Co. Wicklow. The number required to decentralise from the NSAI is 132. A total of 10 Dublin based staff of the NSAI have applied to decentralise to Arklow. In addition a further 86 Dublin based civil and public servants have applied for decentralisation to Arklow. No staff from the NSAI have transferred to Arklow to date.

The accommodation requirements for the NSAI in Arklow are being addressed by the OPW. To date no progress has been made by the OPW in identifying or securing suitable office accommodation in the Arklow area. The current NSAI implementation plan anticipates a target date of April 2009 as the completion date.

National Consumer Agency (NCA)

The National Consumer Agency (NCA), which will be located in Cork City, was formally established on 1st May 2007. The NCA is currently staffed by employees of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment seconded to assist the Agency. The precise location of the Agency within Cork City, is under consideration at present. The Department of Finance has granted sanction for an overall complement of 80 members of staff. Furthermore, discussions are ongoing with the Department of Finance in relation to the manner in which the Central Applications Facility shall apply to the relocation. The Agency is expected to relocate to Cork in the course of 2009.

Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority (IAASA)

he Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority (IAASA) was established in December, 2005, and moved to its offices in Naas, Co. Kildare in the following month. All IAASA staff have been based in its offices in Co Kildare since its establishment, and as such the Authority is fully decentralised. Its offices are leased on its behalf by the Office of Public Works, said lease being for 20 years expiring in September, 2025.

Job Creation.

Joe McHugh

Question:

36 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has had recent meetings in relation to bringing new sources of employment to County Donegal; his plan to provide further incentives for indigenous people looking to start up new businesses in the county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3965/08]

Joe McHugh

Question:

41 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of unemployed people in County Donegal; his plans to tackle the unemployment rate in the county; the measures being taken by the Government to ensure that this figure does not rise in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3966/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 36 and 41 together.

The primary agencies under the remit of my Department with responsibility for supports and initiatives for indigenous enterprises in Donegal are Enterprise Ireland (EI) and the Donegal County Enterprise Board (CEB). Enterprise Ireland provides funding and expertise to companies with ten or more employees in the indigenous manufacturing and internationally traded services sectors who wish to expand through increased export activity. Through its network of 34 overseas offices, Enterprise Ireland assists client companies to create and implement successful strategies for market entry, development and growth.

Enterprise Ireland's policy objectives for balanced regional development are reflected in the structure of its funding offer, whereby, funding for existing company expansion and start-up businesses is biased towards the regions. The maximum grant level is higher than in Dublin and the Mid-East and a higher proportion of this funding is also non-repayable.

As regards the Donegal County Enterprise Board, its role is to provide support to micro-enterprises in the start-up and expansion phases, to promote and develop indigenous micro-enterprise potential and to stimulate economic activity and entrepreneurship at local level. Through the provision of both financial and non-financial support the Board supports individuals, firms and community groups provided that the proposed projects have the capacity to achieve commercial viability.

Financial support is available in the form of Capital Grants, Employment Grants and Feasibility Study grants. In relation to non-financial support, Donegal CEB engages in a range of activities to stimulate enterprise and to support small businesses. Also, Donegal is a key target location for IDA and the County is now competing for a different type of business to labour intensive manufacturing, on which it relied so heavily in the past. Investors are, in the main, seeking a large urban base with third level education facilities, well developed infrastructure as well as top quality business services that are international in focus. In line with this, IDA Ireland has adopted a focused approach in the County with Letterkenny as the main location for IDA development efforts.

Since my initial appointment as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment in September 2004, I have had many meetings and briefings with and from the IDA, Enterprise Ireland, FÁS and the County Enterprise Board. I have also visited County Donegal on a number of occasions since my initial appointment and met with local business and representative organisations in towns and villages such as Letterkenny, Buncrana, Moville, Donegal, Ballybofey and Stranorlar, Lifford, Killybegs and Ballyshannon.

As regards unemployment figures, these are not available on a county-by-county basis, although the latest C.S.O. live register figures show 9,651 persons in County Donegal on the live register in January 2008. Despite past difficulties in County Donegal due to the demise of traditional industries such as agriculture, fishing and textiles, there is clear evidence that the county is successfully engaged in a transition to the new economy. Progress has been made by the IDA in securing new high value investments from Pacificare, Pramerica, SITA and Abbott Diabetes with some 1,200 new jobs being added in the County by overseas firms over the last five years. These companies continue to recruit and are actively seeking new staff. Between 2004 and 2006, Enterprise Ireland client companies created 1,156 jobs as against 980 jobs lost with Enterprise Ireland also approving some €15m in support to its Donegal client companies. The County Enterprise Board has to date paid out some €7m in grant assistance to over 300 clients, which has assisted in the creation of some 1,400 jobs.

I can assure the Deputy that funding support and initiatives for enterprises in County Donegal is, and will remain, a priority for the State development agencies under the auspices of my Department.

David Stanton

Question:

37 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the efforts his Department and bodies under the aegis of his Department are making to attract industry and develop indigenous industry with a view to creating employment in Youghal; the number of enterprises for which his Department or bodies under the aegis of his Department have been notified of closures in the Youghal area in the past ten years with a breakdown of the number of jobs lost in each of these; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4227/08]

In the ten year period 1998 to 2007, four Youghal based IDA supported companies have closed with a total loss of 407 jobs. In the same period, two Enterprise Ireland client companies closed with a combined loss of 45 jobs. Details of these closures are set out in the tabular statement. While job losses at any time are to be are to be regretted, particularly for those who actually lose their jobs, it must be remembered that job gains and losses are a normal part of economic activity.

In general, the East Cork area has benefited greatly from investment in recent times. In order to build on our existing successes, the focus should be on building critical mass at regional, as opposed to local, level. The agencies under the remit of my department have a range of strategies, programmes and financial incentives in place that are designed to promote economic development and sustainable employment throughout East Cork.

The strategies and programmes of the development agencies are very much in line with the National Development Plan 2007-2013 and the National Spatial Strategy, which have been specifically designed to encourage economic development and job creation across the country as a whole.

The enterprise development agencies have seen the emergence of an economic corridor along the N25 with the initial development of Little Island many years ago followed by new developments at Eastgate, Fota Business Park, Carrigtwohill and Midleton all of which are within easy commuting distance of Youghal. IDA Ireland has found that the availability of quality property solutions in the East Cork area has proved attractive to visiting IDA clients.

I am satisfied that the actions of the development agencies together with the continued roll out of the NDP will continue to bear fruit in terms of economic development for the people of the area generally.

Table showing the number of IDA and Enterprise Ireland Client Companies in Youghal which closed in the period 1998 to 2007

Year

IDA client companies

Number of jobs lost

E.I. client companies

Number of jobs lost

1998

1999

2000

1

5

2003

1

184

2004

1

52

2006

1

117

1

40

2007

1

54

Question No. 38 answered with Question No. 31.

Consumer Protection.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

39 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his proposals for a consultation process regarding the prohibition of credit card and other relevant methods of payment surcharges to consumers; when he expects the process to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4069/08]

The issues raised by the Deputy relate to Sections 48 and 49 of the Consumer Protection Act 2007. My Department launched a public consultation process in relation to the commencement of these provisions of the Act in the summer of 2007. Almost 50 submissions were received in response to the consultation process. The submissions gave rise to a number of complex matters, which require careful consideration. I hope to conclude consideration of these issues shortly.

Departmental Bodies.

Joe Costello

Question:

40 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress to date in regard to the work of the National Employment Rights Authority; when the authority will be placed on a statutory basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4055/08]

The National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) has been established on an interim basis since February 2007. The Authority will be established on a statutory basis on the enactment of new Employment Law Compliance Bill which I propose to publish shortly.

A budget allocation of €8.553 million was provided for NERA for 2007 and this has increased to some €10.8 million for 2008.

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

Department of Finance sanction was secured for a total staff complement for NERA of 141, including an increased complement of 90 Labour Inspectors. The Director of NERA was appointed and took up duty on 12 February 2007. The Director is supported in his role by a management team including legal and accounting expertise and an administrative staff which are now fully in place.

Considerable progress has been made in the recruitment and deployment of Labour Inspectors over the past year with 49 of the additional 59 inspectors having been assigned to NERA.

As part of the Government's decentralisation programme, NERA established its headquarters in Carlow at the end of July 2007. The Social Partnership Agreement "Towards 2016" also provided that Inspection Services would be established on a regional basis. In this regard, regional Inspection Services offices are now operating in Shannon (temporary accommodation), Cork and Dublin while accommodation for the Sligo regional office has been selected.

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

NERA carried out some 14,400 inspections and recovered some €2.5m in arrears for workers during its first year of operation in 2007. Specific inspections campaigns were targeted at enforcing the minimum wage, protecting young workers and at the construction sector. Over 93,000 calls seeking information on employment rights were received by NERA in 2007. NERA also continued with its prosecution remit with 98 cases being referred to the Chief State Solicitors Office in 2007.

NERA launched a major public awareness campaign on the 14th of January 2008 to introduce it to the general public. The style of the campaign is open, accessible and approachable, focusing in the first instance on NERA's role in providing information on employment rights related to questions that arise in the modern Irish workplace whether from employers or employees. The integrated campaign will be ongoing throughout 2008 across the full range of media including TV, radio, national and regional press, specialised publications, outdoor and web based advertising. The key message of the campaign is "Employment Rights, it's the law, you need to know".

The launch of NERA's website, www.employmentrights.ie, is also an important resource for employers and employees alike.

NERA continues to consult with its range of stakeholders and has initiated a structured dialogue with the parties to the Social Partnership Agreement, ICTU, IBEC and the Construction Industry Federation on the development of a comprehensive and responsive system of employment rights compliance and enforcement. NERA invited its key stakeholders to a briefing on the 10th of January in respect of its activity and National Awareness Campaign. NERA also engaged constructively during 2007 with other stakeholder organisations such as the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland and the Citizen Information Centres.

This is a new era for employment rights compliance and enforcement. With increased staff and new locations NERA will be extending its activities and capabilities and building a strong public profile. I wish the Authority well as it makes an enhanced contribution to the quality of our workplaces which is a key economic and social priority of this Government.

Question No. 41 answered with Question No. 36.

Work Permits.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

42 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of persons granted green cards under the scheme for recruiting highly skilled workers from outside the EU; the reason for the relatively low take of the green card system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4052/08]

In its first 11 months of operation (February 2007 to end December 2007), a total of 2,974 permits issued under the Green Card Scheme. This figure represents close to one third of total new employment permits issued by the Department in 2007 and represents an increase over the 2,713 permits issued in 2006 under the Work Visa/Work Authorisation Scheme, which the Green Card Scheme replaced.

The Green Card Scheme was established to fill skills shortages, identified in consultation with the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs, in strategically important areas of the economy. A Green Card, as distinct from a Work Permit, therefore, is only available for highly qualified applicants in certain skilled occupations. The majority of such posts must offer an annual salary of at least €60,000. For a small number of occupations, posts with salaries between €30,000 and €60,000 qualify.

Departmental Bodies.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

43 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to an overlap in services provided in relation to training from organisations such Enterprise Ireland, FÁS, Skillnets and local authorities; if he has plans to re-organise these bodies and assess the way they complement each other; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4200/08]

In order to ensure optimal coordination in the implementation of the National Skills Strategy in the training sector and to avoid any possible over-lap or duplication my Department established the Upskilling Co-ordination Group last year. This group, which is chaired by my Department, brings together representatives of FÁS, Skillnets, Enterprise Ireland, the County Enterprise Boards and Forfas. The core work of this group is to ensure the most effective and strategic application of public budgets provided for the continuing training of those at work.

The group is responsible for ensuring that training programmes delivered by those in receipt of Departmental funding are fully co-ordinated both in terms of strategy and implementation.

Since its inception the group has allowed my Department to have a greater focus on the coordination of the training programmes and objectives of the respective bodies and has allowed for a greater emphasis to be placed on upskilling workers on lower rungs of the vocational ladder — as committed to in both Towards 2016 and in the National Development Plan. I currently have no plans to re-organise the bodies referred to by the Deputy.

Equal Opportunities Employment.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

44 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will extend wage subsidies, back to work allowances and supported employment schemes to assist people with disabilities into the labour force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32286/07]

The Wage Subsidy Scheme provides financial incentives to employers and employees, outside the public sector to encourage the employment of people with disabilities. The scheme was implemented by FÁS, on behalf of the Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment, in September 2005 on the basis of an initial three year pilot that would be subsequently reviewed within this time frame. The scheme is currently being reviewed by external consultants commissioned by the Department. The review will assess the operation of the scheme and its impact to date. It aims to identify areas which may be built upon to ensure that the scheme may achieve the maximum effect in meeting its original objectives of:

facilitating people with disabilities to enter paid employment in the open labour market.

encouraging employers to employ people with disabilities

giving people with disabilities the opportunity to experience open labour market employment.

The Department of Social and Family Affairs has responsibility for the Back to Work Allowance. Accordingly, any decision with regard to any extension of this allowance is a matter for that Department. The Back to Work Allowance scheme allows unemployed people, lone parents and people on certain disability payments to take up employment and retain a percentage of their social welfare payment.

The FÁS funded Supported Employment Programme is an active labour market initiative to assist people with a disability who are job ready to find a job, leading to independence and career progression. The programme is being reviewed by external consultants commissioned by FÁS. The scope and terms of reference for this review include the making of recommendations that may further enhance the overall effectiveness of the programme in providing employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

45 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the average industrial wage earned by a male worker and female worker respectively; the average male earnings and average female earnings generally; if he plans additional measures to help bridge the male and female earnings gap. [4068/08]

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

From the CSO National Employment Survey for March 2006, average hourly earnings were €20.59 for males and €18.22 for females. These latter figures cover the entire economy in March 2006 (excluding employees in agriculture, forestry and fishing).

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

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

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

My Department is responsible for chairing and providing the secretariat for the National Framework Committee on Work/life Balance Policies. This Committee, which was established under the social partnership process, comprises representatives from IBEC, ICTU, the Equality Authority and a number of Government Departments. The Committee has undertaken and continues to undertake a range of activities to raise awareness and encourage the provision of work/life balance at the level of the enterprise, including the provision of financial assistance to organisations, information dissemination activities, seminars, research etc.

"Expanding the Workforce", which is run by FÁS, is aimed at proactively encouraging women to return to work. The initiative facilitates women returnees by ensuring that training is provided in a flexible manner and is tailored to meet business requirements and skills needs of employers.

Employment Agency Regulation.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

46 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason the Employment Agency Regulation Bill, which had been on the list of legislation due to be published prior to 30 January 2008, has not been produced and has dropped to the list of legislation for which heads have not been approved by the Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4058/08]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

58 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the concern expressed by Ireland’s biggest union, SIPTU, at the growing use of labour agencies by employers as a substitute for directly recruiting staff; the steps he is taking to put procedures in place to ensure that such workers receive the full protection of labour law and are not subject to exploitation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4056/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 46 and 58 together.

Following a period of extensive consultation, proposals for an Employment Agency Regulation Bill which will modernise the regulation of the employment agency sector and which will repeal and replace the Employment Agency Act 1971, have now been finalised, and I intend to submit to Government later this month a Memorandum seeking approval for the drafting of the Bill by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel.

My Department has engaged with ICTU regarding assertions that agency workers are being used increasingly to undermine basic labour standards and are precipitating a "race to the bottom". The Department would welcome specific evidence supporting this thesis and I would urge anyone who has information to forward it to the Department.

Ireland's comprehensive body of employment rights legislation provides that employee protection applies to agency workers in Ireland, including agency workers posted to Ireland, who have entered into a contract of employment that provides for him or her being employed in the State or who works in the State under a contract of employment. This means that, irrespective of nationality or place of residence, agency workers have the same rights under employment rights legislation as other employees. Indeed this is acknowledged by SIPTU which has included a full listing of such entitlements in an information leaflet on agency workers of June 2007.

With regard to enforcement, the National Employment Rights Authority and its Labour Inspectorate pursue allegations of worker mistreatment and when evidence of non-compliance with the relevant employment rights legislation is found, the Inspectorate seeks redress for the individual/s concerned and, if appropriate, a prosecution is initiated. It should be noted also that, in many cases, Employment Rights Legislation has provisions whereby workers who believe that they have been denied their entitlements, or otherwise unfairly treated, can take the matter before dispute settling agencies such as the Rights Commissioner Service, Labour Court and Employment Appeals Tribunal. I urge anyone who has specific evidence of the mistreatment of agency workers to furnish all the relevant details and any related materials to the Inspectorate with a view to pursuing the matter.

Cross-Border Projects.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

47 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps taken by his Department and statutory agencies such as FÁS and Enterprise Ireland in 2007, to promote north-south cooperation on labour market policies and workplace issues. [4079/08]

I am committed to working with my counterparts in Northern Ireland to implement all-island initiatives where there is mutual economic benefit including in the area of labour market and skills. This area of North/South co-operation was identified in the Comprehensive Study on the All-Island Economy, published in 2006, as a means to optimise the skills pool on the island for continued prosperity in the knowledge economy.

There is well-established co-operation between my Department and its agencies with their Northern counterparts. FÁS and the Northern Department of Education and Learning (DEL) have developed ongoing cooperation at both official and project levels through a variety of cross-border initiatives. These include research and analysis into skills needs and how to address them, for example through the Northwest Workforce Development Forum, set up as a cross-border entity to examine the needs of the North-West's economy and identify growth sectors and skills needs; joint planning of courses and events; joint participation in Redundancy Clinics for cross-border workers being made redundant; developing and implementing a pilot training project in the North West for those most at risk of unemployment through lack of relevant work skills; cross-border Jobs fairs, joint advertising of all FÁS/DEL listed vacancies, and cooperation in recruiting where large numbers of vacancies are involved.

In the area of labour market skills forecasting, I have asked the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs to liaise with their counterparts, the Northern Ireland Skills Expert Group, to examine the possibility of implementing an all-island approach. I am aware that both Expert Groups intend to produce an All-Island Statement of Skills Demand and to organise an All-Island skills conference this year. I understand that work is progressing well on both these initiatives.

The Enterprise Ireland strategy for 2008-2010 ‘Transforming Irish Industry' targets the development of leadership and management capability of client companies as a core enabler for success and scaled international growth. These management development initiatives are designed to support company capabilities in strategy and leadership, sales and marketing, innovation and entrepreneurship. Enterprise Ireland liaises with Invest Northern Ireland on these management development programmes and facilitates participation from Northern Ireland companies on these initiatives, as appropriate. Another initiative is the "Transform — Ideas Into Businesses Programme" which is a one-year full-time business incubation programme funded by the EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation and run by Enterprise Ireland and Invest Northern Ireland.

InterTradeIreland, the all-island trade and business development body, has been collaborating with Skillnets, the enterprise led learning networks body, to promote North/South co-operation in this critical area and is assisting with the delivery of a series of cross-border Skillnets in the following sectors: — Software, Wireless, Polymers, Food and Drink, Digital Media and Construction. InterTradeIreland is also working with Forfás and Northern Ireland partners on a proposed Managerial Skills Benchmarking exercise to be undertaken on an all-island basis in 2008.

Workplace Accidents.

Joan Burton

Question:

48 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the 34% increase in the number of deaths recorded in workplace accidents during 2007; his proposals to ensure a reduction in the number of workplace accidents and deaths; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4046/08]

Joan Burton

Question:

52 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the significant increase in the number of deaths recorded in workplace accidents in the construction sector during 2007; his proposals to ensure a reduction in the number of construction accidents and deaths; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4047/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 48 and 52 together.

The number of deaths recorded in workplace accidents during 2007 was 67 compared to 51 fatalities in 2006. I would like to record my sympathy to the relatives and friends of those who were bereaved.

Unfortunately, the same sectors keep surfacing as having the most accidents and the same causes are continuously attributed to fatalities. Construction, fishing and agriculture topped the list in 2007.

There were 18 deaths in the construction sector in 2007 compared to 13 in 2006. There were over 7,000 non-fatal work injuries overall reported to the Authority in 2007. The most common non-fatal accident triggers for all sectors were handling, lifting and carrying (34%), and slips, trips and falls (18%). These have been the two most common accident triggers every year since 2000.

I am concerned at the increase in fatalities in the construction sector. The Health and Safety Authority will continue to focus its inspection and awareness campaigns in these and other high-risk sectors and will continue to work with employer and employee organisations to make workplace safety, health and welfare an integral part of doing business in every workplace.

The Authority's programme of work for 2008 sets out its key priorities and activities and targets a 10% increase in the number of workplace inspections this year to 17,500. In relation to the construction sector the Authority will carry out 7,000 construction site inspections in 2008. Also, the Authority will continue to implement the 2006 Construction Regulations and Safe System of Work Plan (SSWP).

In addition to this in 2008 the Authority will also develop, consult on and publish codes of practice on construction anchors, pre-cast concrete and roofwork.

Employment Appeals Tribunal.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

49 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment further to his reply to Question Parliamentary No. 110 of 8 November 2007, the procedure that will be put in place to ensure that any possible relationship between a witness and a member of the Employment Appeals Tribunal is identified at the outset, in view of the fact that a full list of witnesses is available from the outset; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3964/08]

The Employment Appeals Tribunal is an independent semi-judicial body. The proceedings of the Tribunal are carried out in as informal manner as possible. To this end there is no requirement on a party to submit a list of witnesses before a hearing.

I understand that when members of the Tribunal receive papers in advance of a hearing their procedure is to examine the names of the parties and if they are aware of a relationship with any of the parties they would advise the Tribunal Secretariat and ask to be replaced on the hearing.

Work Permits.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

50 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, in regard to the number of proceedings commenced and convictions obtained for the years 2003 to 30 October 2007, for offences under the Employment Permits Act, 2003, he will provide information on the break-down of the proceedings and convictions against employers and employees; the reason this information has not been available to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4074/08]

I am informed by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform that the proceedings commenced and convictions under the Employment Permits Act 2003 were as follows:

2003

Proceedings commenced against Employers 83; Convictions: 6

Proceedings commenced against Employees 3; Convictions 2

2004

Proceedings commenced against Employers 42 Convictions:6;

Proceedings commenced against Employees 39; Convictions 14

2005

Proceedings commenced against Employers 40; Convictions: 31

Proceedings commenced against Employees 33; Convictions 14

2006

Proceedings commenced against Employers 20; Convictions: 4

Proceedings commenced against Employees 25; Convictions 3

2007

Proceedings commenced against Employers:0; Convictions: 0

Proceedings commenced against Employees 3; Convictions 1

This information was not immediately available to me as it had to be compiled by the Garda National Immigration Bureau and cleared through the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Personal Injuries Assessment Board.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

51 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of cases currently before the Personal Injuries Assessment Board; the number of cases for which rulings have been given since its inception; the number of these cases that have been referred to the courts for further action or appeal; the number of staff currently employed by the PIAB; the intended total number of staff to be employed by the PIAB; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4061/08]

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

Since its establishment the PIAB has successfully fulfilled its legal obligations: the PIAB is now assessing many claims three times faster and four times cheaper than under the old litigation system. To the end of Q3 2007, the PIAB had made actual savings of €61 million on awards totalling €270 million, when compared with the old, unwieldy, adversarial and litigation-based system. This is quite an achievement in such a short space of time, and can only be good news for accident victims, for business and for consumers generally who have seen, and should see further, reductions in their insurance premiums.

The PIAB has pared down the personal injury claims process in a wholly positive way. In 2003 it is estimated that the number of personal injury cases going through the Irish Courts system was in the region of 32,000 cases whereas the estimated figure for 2006 is 15,900 cases. The effects are felt throughout the Court system where valuable time has now been freed up to deal with cases that should more properly reside there.

At the end of Q.3 2007 there were 4,815 cases with the PIAB in the 90-day "consent to process" period i.e. PIAB has received a claim and has issued formal notice to the responding party and is awaiting consent to process from that party. There were a further 6,325 cases in the nine-month statutory assessment process, where the responding party has indicated that liability is not contested and damages are being assessed.

Approximately 13,300 assessments have been made to the end of Q.3 2007, 6,500 of these having been issued by the end of 2006. Of the assessments issued 7,533 have been accepted, 4,707 have been rejected and authorised to proceed to litigation, and responses are awaited on the balance.

Delivery costs are 4 times cheaper than old system

Average delivery costs at approx €1,407 flat fee equating to approx 7% of awards as against old system of 46%, e.g. a €15,000 award in the old system would have attracted costs of an additional €7,500 approximately. Under the Personal Injuries Assessment Board these costs would be €1,350.

Some of the rejected assessments will have been resolved since PIAB involvement and others will proceed to the Courts. The PIAB would not be aware of the number of these cases which actually proceed to litigation, although it is believed that a significant proportion are settled outside of the Courts once an authorisation issues from the PIAB.

At the end of Q.3 the Board had 74 staff members in employment (up from 53 in May 2006) and was in the process of recruiting to bring numbers towards the staffing level of 85 agreed with my Department. There are no plans at this time to further review staffing levels in the PIAB.

Question No. 52 answered with Question No. 48.

Employment Rights.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

53 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the closure of a number of major hotels with the redundancy of a significant number of workers and their reopening with the employment of workers at lower rates of pay and poorer conditions; his views on this pattern in view of the need to preserve adequate wages and decent working conditions; if he will take action on this development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4057/08]

The pay and conditions of employment of workers in the hotel industry are governed by Employment Regulation Orders. Labour Inspectors in the National Employment Regulation Authority (NERA) have powers to enter premises, inspect wage sheets and other records, interview the employees and workers concerned, recover arrears and, if necessary, take legal proceedings against an employer who is in breach of an Employment Regulation Order. If the Deputy has any information to the effect that workers in a particular hotel are not in receipt of their legal entitlements he should make this information available to NERA.

With regard to the Statutory Redundancy Payments Scheme, this is operated by my Department strictly in accordance with the provisions of the Redundancy Payments Acts 1967-2007.

Industrial Development.

Liz McManus

Question:

54 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount of grants, aids or other financial assistance provided by the Exchequer to a company (details supplied) to support its plant in Arklow, County Wicklow; if there are plans to seek the recovery of these payments in view of the announcement that it is to close in order that these moneys can be reinvested in retraining of staff and in sourcing alternative employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4050/08]

Payment and repayment of grants are day to day operational matters for the Industrial Development agencies. I do not have any role in day to day operational matters of the agencies. However, in this particular case, I understand from IDA Ireland that the company received approximately €3.7 million in grants since 1989. Discussions will take place between the agency and the company in relation to grant liabilities.

Employment Rights.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

55 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of inspections carried out by the Labour Inspectorate during 2006 and 2007 to ensure that the minimum wage was being paid; the number of breaches detected in these inspections; the number of prosecutions that followed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4066/08]

The number of inspections/visits carried out in relation to the National Minimum Wage Act, 2000 during which breaches were detected and the number of prosecutions initiated for breaches of that Act for the years 2006 and 2007 are as follows:

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

in 2007: 1,942 inspections/visits were undertaken; in 192 cases breaches were detected but no prosecutions were initiated.

The majority of the inspections/visits in 2006 and 2007 were undertaken as part of a focused employment rights compliance inspection campaign in sectors covered by the National Minimum Wage. Such targeted campaigns, accompanied by awareness and promotional activities, will be a significant feature of the National Employment Rights Authority's future employment rights compliance and information strategy.

The primary role of NERA Inspection Services, in the case of breaches of employment rights legislation, is to seek compliance and rectification of any breaches identified, including redress for the individual/s concerned and payment of any arrears due to employees.

It should be noted that in the majority of cases employers rectify the breaches and pay arrears due to employees without recourse to prosecution. However, Inspection Services reserve the right to initiate prosecutions in respect of breaches of employment legislation.

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

Martin Ferris

Question:

56 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of labour law infringements identified by labour inspectors in 2007; and the number of penalties imposed on employers following these infringements. [4081/08]

The number of workplace inspections/visits undertaken by the NERA Inspection Services in 2007 amounted to 14,413. Breaches were detected in 2,353 cases. During 2007, 28 cases were referred to the Chief State Solicitors Office. The level of fines imposed by the Court in respect of cases heard ranged from €200 to €2,500.

The primary objective of the NERA Inspection Services, where breaches of employment law are detected, is to seek compliance and rectification of any breaches identified, including redress for the individual/s concerned and payment of any arrears due to employees. In this regard the NERA Inspection Services recovered arrears amounting to almost €2.5 million in 2007.

Job Losses.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

57 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the announcement by a company (details supplied) of the loss of 220 jobs at its Tallaght, Dublin 24 plant; if he will ask the industrial development agencies to ensure that the area receives special attention in regard to a replacement industry; his views on the continued loss of manufacturing jobs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4048/08]

I understand that a restructuring of the manufacturing activities of the company in question will lead to a cessation of production at its biscuit factory in Tallaght by early 2009. The planned restructuring will include an investment programme and the company expects to employ 120 people at that stage in Ireland.

Enterprise Ireland has had a number of discussions with the company over the last twelve months in relation to its development plans and assistance has been given to the company's innovation agenda. After reviewing a number of options, the company has now taken a strategic decision to outsource its biscuit manufacturing operation. However, the company has also indicated its commitment to undertaking new product development in Ireland by deciding to establish an innovation centre of excellence in biscuit manufacturing. The agency will seek to continue working with the company to assist it to develop new products and processes and enhance its famous range of brands.

The redundancies at the company will take place on a phased basis from September 2008, through to early 2009. The role of FÁS, the Industrial Training agency, will be particularly important. The agency has already written to the company and a response is currently awaited as to how and when the company wishes to proceed. The agency is prepared to offer its full range of services to any employees who wish to avail of its services. I am aware of the significance of the job losses in such a long established company and every effort will be made to assist the employees. I understand the company is entering into talks with employees and unions immediately.

As regards manufacturing jobs, there is no doubt that some traditional and long established industries are under pressure while other industries, especially the service industry, are providing much employment. In recent years, more than 440,000 jobs have been created in services and 150,000 in high-end manufacturing. There has in effect, been a significant turn around in the nature of employment.

The State Development agencies will continue to work together and with local interests to promote employment opportunities for Tallaght. I am confident that the strategies and policies being pursued in the area by the agencies will maximise the flow of potential investors and convert these into investment and job opportunities. The development of the Grangecastle Business Park, which Microsoft Corporation has selected for its new data centre, combined with the development of the City West Business Park will ensure that the overall area is an attractive location for investment.

Question No. 58 answered with Question No. 46.

EU Directives.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

59 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of EU Directives for which his Department has responsibility, remaining to be implemented; the directives that are overdue; the number of reasoned opinions received from the EU Commission since 2002 to date in 2008 regarding delays or non-implementation of such directives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4062/08]

There are currently a total of thirteen Directives due to be transposed by my Department up to 2010. One of these Directives, Directive 2005/56/EC on cross-border mergers of limited liability companies, is currently overdue. It is intended to transpose this Directive by 31 March 2008.

Twelve Directives are scheduled to be transposed in 2008 and subsequent years.

My Department has received 24 Reasoned Opinions from the European Commission related to Directives since 2002. The outstanding issues concerning all but one of these Directives have been resolved satisfactorily.

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

Consumer Protection.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

60 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of on the spot fines for breaches of consumer law imposed to date under the terms of the Consumer Protection (Fixed Payment Notice) Regulations 2007; the type of breaches in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4071/08]

The Consumer Protection (Fixed Payment Notice) Regulations 2007 (S.I. No. 689 of 2007) came into effect on 13 October 2007.

Responsibility for the enforcement of these Regulations is a matter for the National Consumer Agency and I have no direct function in this matter. I am informed that to date authorised officers of the National Consumer Agency have served eight fixed payment notices all of which were in respect of alleged offences under the European Communities (Requirements to Indicate Product Prices) Regulations 2002 (S.I. No. 639 of 2002).

Payment was made in accordance with the terms of the fixed payment notice in five of the cases in which notices were served. In the remaining three cases, the National Consumer Agency is making arrangements to institute legal proceedings in respect of the alleged offences.

Price Inflation.

Willie Penrose

Question:

61 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the findings of the recent Eurostat report, Consumers in Europe, which found that Ireland had the highest prices in Europe, after Denmark, of 29 countries surveyed; his views on the findings of the report; the steps he will take to ensure better value for consumers here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4044/08]

I am aware of the 2007 edition of the Consumers in Europe Report recently published by Eurostat. The Report contains facts and figures on a number of different services of general interest to consumers in the European Union including information on price levels in the various member states.

The Report does show that household consumption expenditure in Ireland is above the average for the 25 member states of the Union. The December 2007 Consumer Price Index as published by the Central Statistics Office, shows that although the annual rate of inflation fell in December, it is currently running at 4.7%. In terms of comparison with price trends in other member states of the EU, the EU Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices, which is accepted as the most appropriate measure for such comparisons, shows that inflation in Ireland in the 12 months to December is 3.2% which is at the same rate as the harmonised index for the EU as a whole.

An analysis of the Eurostat Report, the CPI and the EU harmonised indices all show that prices for particular goods and services such as housing, transport, food and communications are significantly higher in Ireland than the EU average. Whilst these price levels do reflect in some measure recent rises in interest rates and global trends in food prices, they are matters of concern particularly in terms of our national competitiveness. In this regard, it is important to ensure that our domestic cost base does not undermine competitiveness.

Government policy in the area of prices is concentrated on promoting competition and raising consumer awareness in relation to the need to achieve the best value for money. In the area of competition, the Deputy will be aware of the fact that in conjunction with the abolition of the Groceries Order, which had the effect of keeping the price of groceries higher than they should have been, the Competition Authority undertook to review and monitor the grocery sector in the light of the changed regulatory environment. The Authority expects to finalise its analysis of developments in the grocery sector, which will focus on price trends, market structures and barriers to entry at the end of this month. I would also advise the Deputy that the Authority is committed, under Towards 2016, to keep under review the impact of the regulatory environment in the context of abuse of dominant positions including excessive and predatory pricing and to report to Government in relation to any recommendations arising from its findings.

Aside from the ongoing work of the Competition Authority, the National Consumer Agency, as part of its statutory function to raise consumer awareness, has commenced surveys in relation to the cost of household grocery items in various retail outlets. The results of its initial pilot survey, which examined the price of a selection of common branded goods, were published in July 2007. The Agency has since conducted a wider survey covering a more extensive range of goods, the results of which will be published shortly. Whilst the foregoing focuses on the work of the Authority and the Agency in the grocery sector, expenditure on food represents a significant element of overall consumer household expenditure as evidenced in the findings of the Eurostat Report. Accordingly, I fully support the activities of the Authority and the Agency in seeking to ensure that there is strong competition in the grocery sector and that consumers are fully aware of the price of grocery items so that they can get the best value for their money.

Aside from grocery expenditure, it is important that consumers inform themselves in relation to the price of all the various items which make up their overall household expenditure. In this regard, there is legislation in place which obliges traders to provide consumers with price information in relation to products that they sell. The European Communities (Requirement to Indicate Product Prices) Regulations 2002 require that the selling and unit price for all products covered by the Regulations must be indicated. Consumers have a responsibility to acquaint themselves with the price information provided so as to ensure that they get the best possible value for money.

I note that in presenting the Eurostat report, the European Commissioner for Consumers, Meglena Juneva, expressed the view that consumers cannot properly assess their options or decide how to act without access to information that is as objective as possible. In this regard, I am confident that the work of bodies such as the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency will help to ensure that consumers can access the necessary information so that they can negotiate the market and make informed choices in relation to the goods and services that they buy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

62 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the discussions his Department has had with the Department of Health and Children regarding the new Office for Disability and Mental Health; the interaction his Department will have with the new office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4228/08]

The establishment of the Office for Disability and Mental Health was announced by the Taoiseach on Wednesday, 30th January, 2008. The office will support the Minister of State for Disability and Mental Health at the Department of Health and Children in exercising his responsibilities in four Government Departments, namely, the Departments of Health and Children, Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Education and Science, and Enterprise Trade and Employment.

Formal arrangements will be put in place to improve linkage between the new Office and the four relevant Government Departments, including the holding of quarterly meetings between the Minister of State for Disability and Mental Health at the Department of Health and Children and the four Secretaries General, and a Principal Officer from my Department having a reporting relationship to the Director of the new Office The key focus of these arrangements as they relate to my Department will be to address the development of an appropriate continuum of training and employment support services for people with a disability.

Question No. 63 answered with Question No. 18.

Employment Rights.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

64 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the recent findings of the Laval case; and if he will make a statement on the impact the findings may have on Ireland. [4077/08]

The European Court of Justice issued a Judgement on 18 December 2007 in a case between the Latvian company, Laval, and the Swedish Building Workers' Union and others.

The Swedish Labour Court had referred the case to the European Court of Justice to determine whether it is permissible under European law for trade unions to take industrial action, in the form of a blockade, to compel a foreign temporary provider of services to sign a collective agreement in the host country where the law of the host country implementing the Posted Workers Directive does not provide for the application of terms and conditions in collective agreements.

In its judgement, the European Court of Justice held that, in the particular circumstances obtaining in the Swedish context, action in the form of a blockade of sites constitutes a restriction on the freedom to provide services, which, in this case, was not justified with regard to the public interest of protecting workers.

In reaching its judgement, the Court did point out that the Community has not only an economic but also a social purpose and thus the Treaty provisions on free movement of goods and services must be balanced against the objectives pursued by social policy. In this context, the Court found that the right to take collective action for the protection of workers may constitute an overriding reason of public interest which, in principle, justifies a restriction of one of the fundamental freedoms.

The judgement, which issued relatively recently, is complex and is currently still being considered. It appears that the judgement is quite case-specific and hinges, inter alia, on the way in which Sweden has transposed the Posting of Workers Directive into national law. Unlike Ireland, Sweden has no national minimum wage arrangements. Our view is that our differing methods of employment protection, including Registered Employment Agreements and Employment Regulation Orders, and the effective manner in which Ireland has implemented the Posted Workers Directive suggest that the judgement is unlikely to have any detrimental impact on Irish workers or our Industrial Relations legislation and practices.

Employment Appeals Tribunal.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

65 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the average waiting time of up to 11 months to have cases heard by the Employment Appeals Tribunal; the steps being taken to reduce waiting times; if he has had a request for additional personnel or resources from the tribunal; if these requests have been met; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4053/08]

The current overall average waiting time for a case to be heard before the Employment Appeals Tribunal is 44 weeks.

I understand that the Tribunal has been taking steps to reduce this waiting time, including targeting areas of the country where the waiting time is longest.

The Government undertook in the Social Partnership Agreement, Towards 2016 to increase the staffing resources of the Tribunal. The commitment is for an increase of 8 staff. To date 5 extra staff have been deployed. I expect that these extra staff will enable the Tribunal to substantially reduce the waiting time for a hearing.

The Tribunal Chairperson has drawn attention at meetings with the Department to the lack of sufficient staff resources. The Department will be in a position to assign the remaining 3 staff to the Tribunal in the near future which will address the resources issue.

Labour Inspectorate.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

66 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of inspections carried out by the Labour Inspectorate during 2007; the way this compares with those in 2006; the reason for the significant decline in the number of inspections carried out in the first nine months of 2007 as compared to the first nine months of 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4065/08]

The number of employment rights inspections/visits undertaken in 2007 by the Inspection Services of the National Employment Rights Authority, or NERA, amounted to 14,413. In the year 2006, some 15,855 inspections/visits were undertaken. This represents a reduction of 9% in 2007.

Insofar as comparisons with the same period in 2006 are concerned I am advised by NERA that some 10,600 employment rights inspections/visits were undertaken in the period 1st January to 31st October, 2007. This represents a reduction of 28% in comparison to the 14,600 inspections/visits undertaken in the same period in 2006.

There are three main reasons for the reduction in the number of inspections carried out in the first nine months of 2007 compared to 2006.

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

Secondly, recruitment processes and training plans had to be put in place for the recruitment of 59 new inspectors in line with the commitment given under Towards 2016, the Social Partnership Agreement. Successful candidates were identified for the 59 additional posts and twenty new inspectors were assigned during 2007. Again, this recruitment and training was resource intensive and the influx of the 20 new inspectors within such a short timeframe required a huge commitment from existing inspectors in terms of training, mentoring and other supports and diverted resources from inspection activity during that period.

Thirdly, there has been a substantial training investment in existing inspectors. This investment will continue in 2008.

Notwithstanding the reduction to date in the number of employment rights inspections/visits compared to the same period in 2006, it should be noted that the outcomes in a number of respects are extremely positive. Firstly, over €2.5 million in arrears due to employees was recovered by NERA Inspection Services in 2007 compared to €1.4 million for 2006. Secondly, 2,353 breaches were detected by Inspection Services in 2007 compared to 2,108 for 2006. Thirdly, 28 prosecutions were initiated by Inspection Services in 2007 compared to 8 for 2006. These outcomes point to the value of the more focussed and targeted activities being undertaken by NERA in relation to employment rights promotion and compliance.

Drainage Schemes.

Joe Carey

Question:

67 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when he plans to fund the recommendations as outlined in the hydrology report recently completed in relation to the lower Fergus floodplains in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4242/08]

I take it the Deputy is referring to the report entitled Ennis Main Drainage — Lower Fergus Main Flood Plain Storage, which was commissioned by Clare County Council.

The Council has requested a meeting with OPW to discuss the recommendations in the report. I am advised that a meeting will be arranged within the next few weeks.

The Office of Public Works is examining tenders for Phase 1 of the River Fergus Certified Drainage Scheme and it is expected that a contractor for that scheme will be appointed shortly. OPW intends to proceed as quickly as possible with the remaining phases of the scheme. The full implementation of this scheme is the current priority for expenditure by OPW in Ennis.

Decentralisation Programme.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

68 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the status of the decentralisation programme for Drogheda; the stage the building design process is at; if architects have been appointed; if the plans will be made available for public inspection; when the planning application will be submitted to the local authority; if this will be a public private partnership development; when does he anticipate the commencement, duration and completion of the proposed development; if, in view of the fact that the land earmarked for the development is currently being used as a local authority car park, an alternative car park will be made available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4319/08]

The proposed decentralised offices in Drogheda will be procured by means of a Public Private Partnership. Design and other work necessary to inform the PPP process, from which process design, build, finance and maintenance proposals will be secured from Tenderers, is well under way. It would be the intention to advertise the commencement of the formal PPP process during the current year.

The planning Application, when submitted, will be available for public inspection.

It is understood that the provision of public parking, going forward, is being addressed by Drogheda Borough Council.

Drug Seizures.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

69 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of vessels that have been intercepted with illegal drugs around the coast of Ireland for the years 2005, 2006 and 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4412/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners of the following maritime drug seizures during the period 2005 to 2007. These are listed below:

March 2005: 4.5 kgs. cannabis resin seized from a fishing vessel (and follow-up search of suspect's house).

July 2007: 1550 kgs. cocaine seized in Dunlough Bay area (more than one seizure).

July 2007: 13.08 kgs. cannabis resin found at sea off the Galway/Mayo coast.

September 2007: 261.2 kgs. cannabis resin found at sea off Galway/Mayo coast.

November 2007: 60 kgs. cannabis resin found at sea off Galway/Mayo coast.

In the case of the seizures made in the vicinity of Dunlough Bay, while the vessel that carried the drugs was not intercepted in this jurisdiction, the Joint Task Force (JTF) partners (Customs/Garda/Naval Service) believe they have identified the vessel that imported the cocaine as part of the investigation. Four persons are currently before the courts in connection with this case.

In the case of the other seizures off the west coast, international enquiries are on going in an effort to identify the vessel(s) that carried the drugs and those responsible. There was a further seizure of 30 kgs. cannabis resin off the west coast in the past week. All these seizures were trawled from the seabed.

In addition, there have been several cases during the relevant period where the JTF, on its own initiative or at the request of foreign law enforcement, has monitored suspect vessels that have passed by our coasts in international waters. Some of these vessels were later intercepted with significant illicit drug cargos abroad. Intelligence has also been contributed to several international maritime drug trafficking investigations.

Other drug seizures were also made on land or in port, in freight imported on commercial cargo vessels; however it is taken that the Deputy's question does not relate to such seizures.

The Revenue Commissioners are acutely aware of the vulnerability of our coastal areas to drug smuggling. The Revenue Customs Cutter ‘Suirbhéir' was commissioned in June 2004 in response to this threat. Customs officials work in close collaboration with the Garda and the Naval Service to prevent drug trafficking by sea. Customs also participate in regular international Joint Surveillance Operations, which target the smuggling of drugs in maritime traffic.

Most recently in September 2007, Ireland and six other EU member states established the Maritime Operations & Analysis Centre — Narcotics in Lisbon, Portugal. This centre has been specifically set up to further improve international co-operation in the fight against drug trafficking, particularly that of cocaine, into Europe; and I am confident that it will be successful.

EU Funding.

John O'Mahony

Question:

70 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the amount of funding made available to his Department by the European Union since Ireland’s accession to the Union in respect of schemes and projects funded either in part or in whole by various Government Departments. [4248/08]

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.

Since Ireland joined the EU in 1973 we have been allocated approximately €18bn in EU Structural Funds (which comprises the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF)) and the Cohesion Fund. The information is set out by period in the table below. From 1989 to the present, the EU monies have been invested through multi-annual investment programmes administered by various Government Departments. Prior to 1989 the monies were invested on a project by project basis by Departments.

Period

Amount

€ billions

2007-2013

0.9

2000-2006

3.7

1994-1999

6.9

1989-1993

3.6

1973-1988

2.7

I wish to inform the Deputy that in addition to the EU Structural and Cohesion Funds outlined above, the EU provides monies to Ireland through a number of other funds principally through FEOGA (CAP), and the Rural Development Fund. My colleague the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will be able to provide additional information in relation to these Funds.

Tax Code.

Jack Wall

Question:

71 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the effects that the recent changes in Budget 2008 will have in relation to the division of family farms between a parent and their child; the taxes that will apply to such divisions or the sale of sections of land within either holding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4285/08]

I announced in the Budget that I intended to introduce a new relief from Capital Gains Tax on the dissolution of farm partnerships and details have been included in the Finance Bill that was recently published.

This provides that, on the dissolution of a farm partnership, a gain will not be treated as accruing in respect of a relevant partnership asset and that the asset will be treated as having been acquired at the same time and for the same consideration as when it was originally acquired by the partner subsequently disposing of the asset. There is no distinction between farm partnerships comprised of family members and others.

As the Deputy may have a specific case in mind, he may wish to contact the Revenue Commissioners with full details, to determine the facts in that particular situation.

Brian Hayes

Question:

72 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of the 420 primary and post primary schools that have been granted charitable tax exemption under Section 207 of the Tax Consolidation Act 1997, that are private fee paying schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4324/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that those primary and post primary schools that have been granted charitable tax exemption under Section 207 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 were granted the exemption on the basis of their charitable objects and purpose. The matter of whether or not they are fee-paying schools was not a consideration.

In the circumstances, the Revenue Commissioners do not differentiate between fee paying and non-fee paying schools in their records and therefore it is not possible to provide the detailed information sought by the Deputy.

Departmental Offices.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

73 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the amount of electricity used in the offices of his Department at Government buildings for the past three years; if he will provide a monthly breakdown for this period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4358/08]

The electricity used in my Department's offices in Government Buildings is not metered separately from that used in other offices in Government Buildings. I am not, therefore, in a position to provide the details requested by the Deputy.

Tax Yield.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

74 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the inheritance tax take for 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4383/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the estimated net receipt of inheritance tax in 2007 is €314.45 million. This figure is provisional and subject to revision.

Appointments to State Boards.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

75 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the persons he appointed to sit on the boards of public bodies during the period 14 November 1991 to 15 December 1994; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4402/08]

In the time available it has not been possible to retrieve all the data requested by the Deputy. As soon as all relevant material from the period in question has been collated I will forward it directly to the Deputy.

Tax Code.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

76 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if a refund of income tax is due in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4434/08]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that there is no refund of income tax due to the taxpayer. PAYE balancing statements for the years 2004 to 2007 inclusive will issue to the taxpayer in the coming days, which will show a balanced result for each year.

Veterinary Inspection Service.

Michael Ring

Question:

77 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount paid annually to a local authority (details supplied) for the employment of a vet. [4265/08]

Veterinary inspectors employed by local authorities, including Mayo County Council, are paid in accordance with salary scales determined by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I am advised that Mayo County Council employs three whole-time veterinary inspectors.

The cost to local authorities of providing food safety services under service contract to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) is recouped from the FSAI which is funded for this purpose by the Department of Health and Children. Costs for veterinary inspectors' work not related to food safety and not performed under service contract with the FSAI are borne by the local authority.

In 2006, the last year for which full-year costs are available, the FSAI paid Mayo County Council €389,751; this covered payments to veterinary inspectors, administrative staff and related costs.

Health Services.

Brian Hayes

Question:

78 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the waiting times for children for each health centre in Dublin for speech and language therapy; the number of children awaiting speech and language therapy in each case; the length of time they must wait for; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4272/08]

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 under-fives 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 specific aspects of the Deputy's question relate 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.

Foster Care.

Michael Ring

Question:

79 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to implement special training for foster care parents who care for children with difficulties or special needs. [4015/08]

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.

Care of the Elderly.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

80 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of recommendations made by the Forum on Older People established by the Health Service Executive following the publication of the Leas Cross review in late 2006. [4238/08]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

93 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of recommendations made by the Forum on Older People established by the Health Services Executive following the publication of the Leas Cross review in late 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4336/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 80 and 93 together.

The Report of the Leas Cross Nursing Home Task Force, established by the Health Service Executive (HSE) on 26 February, 2007, was received in my Department earlier this year. The Report covers a wide range of recommendations relating to the complex health and social care needs of older people in Ireland.

I understand that the HSE has assigned responsibility within its organisation in relation to the implementation of the various recommendations of the Task Force Report and that progress on these is being reviewed by the Executive on a regular basis.

My Department will continue to liaise with the HSE in regard to addressing the recommendations of the Task Force Report and how these recommendations fit in the context of the report of the Leas Cross Commission of Investigation.

Nursing Home Subventions.

John Cregan

Question:

81 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children when the necessary legislation will be implemented to ensure commencement of the fair deal subvention scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4249/08]

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.

Qualifications Accreditation.

Jack Wall

Question:

82 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the Academy of Medical Science refused an application under EU Directive 92/51 in relation to an application by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare seeking accreditation from the academy to seek employment in the medical science field; if Directive 92/51 has been changed or the guidelines attached to this directive altered in any way that now prevents the applicant being granted such accreditation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4250/08]

The Academy of Medical Laboratory Science is the competent authority for the implementation of Directive 92/51/EEC in relation to the recognition of professional qualifications in medical laboratory science. This Directive is now consolidated, with other Directives on the recognition of professional qualifications, into Directive 2005/36/EC for which my colleague the Minister for Education and Science has overall national responsibility.

My officials have contacted the Academy about the specific application raised by the Deputy and I will reply bilaterally to him when the full details are available.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Tony Gregory

Question:

83 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7 is entitled to a personal assistant in view of their extreme condition; and if same will be made available to them. [4262/08]

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.

Health Services.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

84 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the success of the new Health Service Executive initiative Hospital In The Home (details supplied); if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that this service eases a lot of pressure on hospital services and registers a high satisfaction with patients; if she will ensure the continuation of the service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4266/08]

My Department is advised by the Health Service Executive that the Hospital in the Home service referred to by the Deputy was set up as a pilot project in the Dublin region as one of a number of such initiatives to provide treatment and support to patients who would otherwise be hospitalised.

The contract for the provision of these services, which is for one year, expires at the end of March of 2008. To date, 1414 people have availed of the service. The HSE has commissioned an evaluation of the service to assess its effectiveness from a clinical and a value for money perspective. The outcome of this evaluation is due to be presented to the HSE for consideration next month.

Hospital Accommodation.

Mary Upton

Question:

85 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if the 14 single rooms for cystic fibrosis patients promised by her and the Health Service Executive will be en-suite; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4267/08]

I take it that the Deputy is referring to the interim improvements for patients with cystic fibrosis at the National Tertiary Adult Referral Centre at St. Vincent's University Hospital. My Department is informed by the Health Service Executive that the single rooms to be provided will have en-suite facilities.

Joe Carey

Question:

86 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the complement of specialist palliative care beds per 100,000 population per Health Service Executive region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4283/08]

Under the Programme for Government, the Government has committed to removing the regional disparities in the provision and funding of palliative care, and to ensuring that the needs of all those who require palliative care are met. The Department of Health and Children is committed to working with the HSE and other key stakeholders in developing palliative care services throughout Ireland.

Funding is being provided for the development of palliative care services in line with the recommendations in the Report of the National Advisory Committee on Palliative Care (2001) and in the context of available resources and workforce planning across the health service. Additional funding totalling €18 million was provided by the Government in Budgets 2006 and 2007. A further €3 million was allocated under Budget 2008 to develop services. This funding is being used to improve palliative care services in consultation with the HSE Regional Development Committees and in line with the recommendations made in the 2001 Report.

At present, there are approx 157 specialist palliative care beds available nationally. Of these, there are 54 in Dublin/Mid Leinster, 19 in Dublin/North East, 26 in HSE South, and 58 in HSE West.

The HSE is continuing to work on implementing the Report of the National Advisory Committee on Palliative Care (2001) and is now developing a five-year implementation framework, in consultation with the Irish Association for Palliative Care, the Irish Hospice Foundation and the Irish Cancer Society. Work is ongoing on the development of this plan and good progress has been made to date.

Health Service Staff.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

87 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children if there is an embargo on recruitment of home helps in the Health Service Executive south area; the impact such a move would have on the increasing demand for home help services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4312/08]

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.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Michael Ring

Question:

88 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will increase the age range of all women who should be entitled to cancer screening (details supplied). [4315/08]

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

Medicinal Products.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

89 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children her policy in relation to the availability of benzylpiperazine here; if the pills pose health risks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4318/08]

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 and regulations made thereunder regulate and control the import, export, production, supply and possession of a range of named narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances listed in the Schedules to the Act. Substances are scheduled under the Act in accordance with the Department's obligations under international conventions and/or where there is evidence that the substances are causing significant harm to public health in Ireland, which could merit the criminalisation of their sale and use. The Act also limits packaging and labelling of controlled drugs.

The list of scheduled substances is kept under review on an ongoing basis. In particular, the Department reviews any evidence that substances are being abused and are causing significant harm to public health. For example, in 2006 the law surrounding psychotropic (magic) mushrooms in their raw state was clarified in the light of evidence of increased availability and significant harm being done and it is now an offence to sell or possess magic mushrooms.

Benzylpiperazine (BZP) is not currently a scheduled substance under Misuse of Drugs legislation, but its status is under advanced review. Following a risk assessment of BZP carried out at EU level by the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), the European Commission has asked the Council of Ministers to place BZP under control in accordance with the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances. If the Council adopts the Commission's proposal, Member States must act as soon as possible, but no later than one year from the date of the decision, to introduce control measures and criminal sanctions. Control measures and penalties are decided according to national laws which in turn comply with UN conventions. For Ireland, the introduction of national measures will involve declaring BZP to be a controlled substance under Irish Misuse of Drugs legislation and adding it to the schedule of controlled substances in accordance with that legislation.

The Council of Ministers is expected to make its decision on the control of BZP in the near future.

Hospital Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

90 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a project (details supplied). [4321/08]

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 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.

Joe Carey

Question:

91 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the provision of consultant-led palliative care in general and community hospitals in the mid west region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4326/08]

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.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

92 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to a serious shortage of speech therapy teachers in the midland region, the consequences of which will be a withdrawal of vital services for children in the area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4335/08]

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 under-fives 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 specific nature of 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. 93 answered with Question No. 80.

Health Service Allowances.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

94 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children if type one diabetes in children is covered under the domiciliary care allowance scheme; if each section of the Health Service Executive operates to the same guidelines on this payment in relation to type one diabetes in children. [4349/08]

Domiciliary Care Allowance is a monthly allowance administered by the Health Service Executive (HSE). The allowance may be paid in respect of eligible children from birth to the age of 16 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. Eligibility is determined primarily by reference to the degree of additional care and attention required by the child, as assessed by the Health Service Executive's Senior Medical Officer, rather than the nature of the disability/illness involved. While no condition is excluded, children with conditions such as asthma, diabetes or epilepsy are not automatically considered eligible for the allowance unless there is a very high degree of additional care and attention required by the child compared to that normally required by a child of the same age.

Departmental Offices.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

95 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of electricity used in the offices of her Department in Hawkins House, for the past three years; if she will provide a monthly breakdown for this period; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4360/08]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following tabular statement:

Month

2005

2006

2007

January

15,263

16,761

18,904

February

16,827

16,985

16,665

March

14,186

16,743

15,415

April

15,163

13,351

13,343

May

13,039

15,674

14,624

June

13,655

14,302

14,193

July

12,697

13,622

14,859

August

11,687

12,037

13,952

September

12,149

13,103

14,532

October

15,997

14,287

15,981

November

15,006

15,041

17,669

December

18,229

14,371

15,789

All costs are inclusive of VAT.

Following a tendering process conducted under the auspices of the Office of Public Works, contract is now in place with Energia since August 2006 for the supply of electricity to my Department's offices.

Health Services.

Michael McGrath

Question:

96 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive an assessment for occupational therapy. [4376/08]

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.

Michael McGrath

Question:

97 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children when a child (details supplied) in County Cork will receive an appointment to see a child psychologist. [4377/08]

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 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 Accommodation.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

98 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of young people who cannot be discharged from an acute medical or surgical bed because they require long-term nursing care which is not available to them in the community, with a breakdown by hospital and length of stay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4386/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

99 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of young people who cannot be discharged because they need long-term nursing care which is not available to them in the community who have been in an acute medical or surgical bed for more than a year, with a breakdown by hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4387/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 98 and 99 together.

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

Diabetes Incidence.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

100 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children with type one diabetes nationally on a county basis whose parents are in receipt of domiciliary care allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4394/08]

Domiciliary Care Allowance is a monthly allowance administered by the Health Service Executive (HSE). The allowance may be paid in respect of eligible children from birth to the age of 16 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. Eligibility is determined primarily by reference to the degree of additional care and attention required by the child, as assessed by the Health Service Executive's Senior Medical Officer, rather than the nature of the disability/illness involved. While no condition is excluded, children with conditions such as asthma, diabetes or epilepsy are not automatically considered eligible for the allowance unless there is a very degree of additional care and attention required by the child compared to that normally required by a child of the same age.

The specific information sought in 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.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Michael Ring

Question:

101 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called to St. James’ Hospital, Dublin for a procedure. [4400/08]

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

Vaccination Programme.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

102 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps that will be taken to ensure that when stocks of the BCG vaccine are available, children who have been on a waiting list over the past few months to have the vaccine will be given the vaccine promptly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4411/08]

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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

103 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of applications for primary medical certificates received by the relevant adjudicating body in each of the past five years; the number granted or refused on medical grounds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4436/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service 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.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

104 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children if there is a clinical screening service for asylum seekers in Galway City and county; the number of potential asylum seekers who have not had this facility available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4451/08]

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.

Child Care Services.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

105 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Health and Children the basis on which voluntary management childcare groups who have been approved capital funds in excess of €300,000 are required to execute a legal mortgage in favour of the Office of the Minister for Children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4453/08]

Capital grants are available to providers of community childcare facilities under the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006 which is part of the National Development Plan 2007 — 2013. The Deputy will be aware that all public expenditure is subject to strict accounting rules and requirements in order to safeguard public investment.

In relation to community childcare facilities a number of specific requirements have been included in the contractual conditions where capital grants are in excess of €200,000. One of these requirements is that the facility developed as a result of the grant aid will continue to be used for childcare purposes for a specified period of time. To further safeguard the public investment it is also considered appropriate to underpin the contractual requirements with a legal mortgage for the duration of the period specified for childcare use. The mortgage ensures that the asset which is grant aided by the State cannot be disposed of, or assigned for personal use, without the consent or agreement of my Office.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

106 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist persons (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [4455/08]

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.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Willie Penrose

Question:

107 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will take steps to ensure that a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath who is in urgent need of surgery gains immediate admission to St. James’s Hospital, Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4463/08]

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.

Port Development.

Richard Bruton

Question:

108 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Dublin Port has been granted the right to apply to An Bord Pleanála to infill 52 acres as a strategic infrastructure; and if he will issue a request to the Port board to refrain from applying for permission until key strategic studies on port capacity under the National Development Plan and on the appropriate development plan for the bay by Dublin City Council as authorised under the Planning Act 2000 are available for consideration by the board. [4328/08]

I am aware that Dublin Port Company has received confirmation from An Bord Pleanála that its proposal to extend the port at the north eastern perimeter qualifies to be considered as an application under the strategic infrastructure legislation. I understand that the company is presently engaged in the process of preparing the detailed planning application and the environmental impact assessment to accompany the application. The timing of an application is a matter for the Board of Dublin Port Company.

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. 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 (roll on roll off) trade and some 62% of the LoLo (lift on lift off) trade was handled at Dublin Port in 2006. The National Spatial Strategy identifies strategic merit in relieving pressure on Dublin Port 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.

Departmental Offices.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

109 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Transport the amount of electricity used in the offices of his Department at Kildare Street for the past three years; if he will provide a monthly breakdown for this period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4363/08]

The electricity consumption for the years 2005 to 2007 in respect of 44, Kildare Street, is set out in the following table; the data is expressed in Kilowatts (KWH):

2005

2006

2007

January

February

31,940

30,280

37,560

March

April

36,660

33,940

33,680

May

June

33,400

38,240

36,120

July

August

32,200

35,700

34,540

September

October

35,620

35,700

41,740

November

December

35,900

35,980

38,940

Total

205,660

209,840

183,640

Passport Validity.

Joe Costello

Question:

110 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will extend the period of the passport to 10 years and six months as travel is often refused in the six months prior to expiry. [4309/08]

Immigration requirements differ from country to country. For the majority of destinations, including all EU member states and the United States, Irish passports are valid for travel up until the date of expiry. Some other countries, however, require a passport to have a validity of six months or longer for travel purposes.

The long-established practice of the Passport Office to issue passports with a maximum validity of ten years complies with the recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organisation and is in accordance with accepted international practice. Any deviation from this could cause confusion at border controls and could potentially cause embarrassment or difficulties for Irish citizens. I believe it would be very unwise, therefore, to change this long-established practice and, while appreciating the motivation behind the Deputy's question, I do not intend to make such a change.

Departmental Offices.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

111 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the amount of electricity used in the offices of his Department in Stephen’s Green for the past three years; if he will provide a monthly breakdown for this period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4359/08]

The table below represents the amount of electricity used in my Department's headquarters at Iveagh House, St Stephen's Green, as advised by the Electricity Supply Board, for the past three years.

2005

kWh

2006

kWh

2007

kWh

Jan/Feb

140,050

January

76,056

January

68,828

February

70,474

February

61,819

March/April

130,700

March

73,147

March

64,859

April

61,563

April

52,592

May/June

116,550

May

60,085

May

52,418

June

53,561

June

50,449

July/August

103,100

July

53,252

July

54,045

August

50,492

August

49,927

Sept/Oct

125,402

September

52,782

September

53,032

October

58,493

October

61,822

Nov/Dec

141,150

November

64,451

November

64,635

December

62,615

December

65,054

Departmental Funding.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

112 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of times his Department has given, advanced or lent funds for the payment of a bond on behalf of Irish citizens facing prosecution or criminal investigation overseas for each of the past five years; the criteria according to which a decision is made to provide such funds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4385/08]

My Department advanced funds to facilitate the payment of a bond on behalf of Irish citizens on one occasion during the past five years. The funds were advanced on 25th June 2004 to facilitate the release of three Irish citizens from prison in Colombia in accordance with the ruling of the court. My Department, at the request of the defence team and given the very serious and ongoing consular concerns of the Department at the time about the safety of the persons concerned while in jail, advanced the funds to facilitate the payment of this bond, on the basis of a firm undertaking to repay the sum involved . The full amount was subsequently repaid to the Department. There was no Ministerial involvement in the decision to advance the funds which was taken strictly on consular grounds.

My Department will only advance funds for the payment of bail or a bond on behalf of Irish citizens facing prosecution abroad in the most exceptional circumstances, where there is considered to be a real risk to the life of those concerned and on the basis of firm assurances that the amount will be repaid in full.

Work Permits.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

113 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on issuing work permits to non-EU workers rather than to their employers as is the current practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4271/08]

A key objective of the Employment Permits Act 2006 was the strengthening of the protection for migrant workers. In that regard, employment permits are now issued to the employees and a copy sent to the employer. The permit contains a statement of the entitlements of the migrant worker including their remuneration, their right to change employer, and any deductions for board and accommodation, where applicable. The employee's permit is accompanied by an information leaflet summarising the principal employment rights of the employee. It is considered that the current permit system achieves an effective balance between safeguarding the employment rights of the employee while not putting unnecessary obstacles in the way of employers.

Unemployment Levels.

Willie Penrose

Question:

114 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of people who have been registered as unemployed for each of the past three years ending 31 December 2005, 31 December 2006 and 31 December 2007; the number of factory closures and lay offs which have occurred in County Donegal for each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4333/08]

The number of people on the Live Register at the end of years 2005, 2006 and 2007 was 155,833, 155,389 and 170,376 respectively. The increase in numbers on the Live Register in this two period was 14, 543. The Live Register is not designed to measure unemployment. It includes part-time, seasonal and casual workers entitled to unemployment benefit. Unemployment is measured by the Quarterly National Household Survey, collated and published by the Central Statistics Office. The increase in unemployment since 2005 to date is 9,400. Employment has increased from 1,989,800 in 2005 to a current level of 2,140,900. This reflects employment growth of 151,100.

The level of redundancies in each of the three years 2005, 2006 and 2007 in Donegal was 504, 984 and 434 respectively. As a percentage of overall redundancies in the country in these years it equates to 2%, 4% and 1.7%.

Despite past difficulties in County Donegal due to the demise of traditional industries such as agriculture, fishing and textiles, there is clear evidence that the county is successfully engaged in a transition to the new economy. Progress has been made by the IDA in securing new high value investments from Pacificare, Pramerica, SITA and Abbott Diabetes with some 1,200 new jobs being added in the County by overseas firms over the last five years. These companies continue to recruit and are actively seeking new staff. Between 2004 and 2006, Enterprise Ireland client companies created 1,156 jobs as against 980 jobs lost with Enterprise Ireland also approving some €15m in support to its Donegal client companies. The County Enterprise Board has to date paid out some €7m in grant assistance to over 300 clients, which has assisted in the creation of some 1,400 jobs.

I can assure the Deputy that funding support and initiatives for enterprises in County Donegal is, and will remain, a priority for the State development agencies under the auspices of my Department.

Job Losses.

Willie Penrose

Question:

115 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of job losses and redundancies which have occurred in Killybegs, County Donegal, for each of the past three years, ending 31 December 2005, 2006 and 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4334/08]

It is not possible to provide figures for redundancies by town for any county. I have, however, set out the total number of actual redundancies for County Donegal for the years in question in the table below.

Actual Redundancies for County Donegal 2005-2007

Year

No.

2005

504

2006

984

2007

434

Total

1,922

Departmental Offices.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

116 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount of electricity used in the offices of his Department in Kildare Street for the past three years; if he will provide a monthly breakdown for this period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4356/08]

The following table sets out the amount of electricity used in the offices of my Department in Kildare Street for the past three years on a monthly basis. The billing system changed from bi-monthly to monthly in May 2005. The usage figures in the KWH column for the months May 2005 to April 2006 inclusive are estimated average figures.

Date

KWH

Jan/Feb 2005

108,782

12,890.62

Mar/Apr 2005

106,558

12,234.17

May 2005

33,146

3,060.18

Jun 2005

53,733

4,380.17

Jul 2005

45,641

3,720.18

Aug 2005

69,820

5,691.09

Sep 2005

52,778

4,705.63

Oct 2005

42,148

3,757.12

Nov 2005

52,718

7,296.08

Dec 2005

59,550

5,918.81

Jan 2006

66,483

6,607.44

Feb 2006

77,500

7,701.80

Mar 2006

52,452

7,154.62

Apr 2006

47,474

6,475.90

May 2006

49,155

6,682.66

Jun 2006

44,800

6,129.92

Jul 2006

46,641

6,115.85

Aug 2006

43,471

5,731.42

Sep 2006

44,179

5,767.91

Oct 2006

48,198

6,295.24

Nov 2006

52,830

7,269.66

Dec 2006

48,732

6,849.21

Jan 2007

56,798

9,333.20

Feb 2007

49,049

8,082.87

Mar 2007

49,387

7,600.34

Apr 2007

40,728

6,143.53

May 2007

43,584

6,438.56

Jun 2007

40,345

5,835.49

Jul 2007

41,796

5,980.23

Aug 2007

38,909

5,542.87

Sep 2007

41,286

6,041.95

Oct 2007

46,208

6,645.07

Nov 2007

50,379

8,151.09

Dec 2007

48,732

7,689.06

Community Employment Schemes.

John Deasy

Question:

117 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the increase given by the Department of Social and Family Affairs to participants in the community employment scheme with an adult dependant pushes this category into the PRSI bracket taking most of the recent Budget 2008 increase back in social insurance; if he has had discussions with the Department of Social and Family Affairs in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4365/08]

Increases for Community Employment participant grants are a matter for my Department and reflect the changes in the budget with respect to increases in Social Welfare payments. The CE participant grant increases are effective from 1st January annually. In January 2008, the rates were increased by €20 per week for participants with an adult dependant, increasing this grant to €353.50.

I am aware that, following this increase the grant is now subject to PRSI as it exceeds the weekly PRSI threshold of €352, making the amount payable in Employees PRSI is €9.06. However, I should say that the aim of CE remains as an active labour market programme with the emphasis on progression into employment where the employee would, in any event be obliged to pay a PRSI contribution.

Employment Rights.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

118 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his view on any possible conflict between competition law and joint labour committees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4382/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

119 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his view on any possible conflict between competition law and registered employment agreements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4384/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 118 and 119 together.

Joint Labour Committees (JLCs):

Joint Labour Committees (JLCs) are established by order of the Labour Court under Section 35 of the Industrial Relations Act 1946. JLCs discuss and agree terms and conditions to apply to specified workers in certain sectors.

When a JLC agrees terms and conditions, it makes proposals to the Labour Court. That Court, on foot of a JLC proposal, can make Employment Regulation Orders (EROs). EROs are statutory instruments which set out terms and conditions applying to specified workers in a particular sector. Employers are then bound under penalty to pay wage rates and provide conditions of employment not less favourable than those prescribed.

JLCs are made up of equal numbers of employer and worker representatives appointed by the Labour Court and a chairman appointed by the Minster for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Registered Employment Agreements (REAs):

Section 25 of the Industrial Relations Act, 1946 provides that an Employment Agreement is an agreement made either between a trade union and an employer or employers organisation or at a meeting of a registered Joint Industrial Council, which relates to the pay or conditions of employment of any class, type or group of workers. Section 27 of that Act provides that any party to an employment agreement may apply to the Labour Court to have an agreement registered.

Where the Labour Court is satisfied that the agreement presented satisfies the statutory requirements, it registers the agreement. The effect of this is to make the provisions of the agreement legally enforceable in respect of every worker of the class, type or group to which it is expressed to apply and to his or her employer, even if such worker or employer is not a party to the agreement.

As the Deputy is aware, the interpretation of legislation is a matter for the Courts. I am not aware of any Court decision which has established that there is any conflict between competition law and JLCs/REAs. As the Deputy is also aware, a review of the operation and implementation of the Competition Act 2002 is currently underway and in the course of that review, all submissions, including the matters raised in the Deputy's questions, will be considered.

Job Losses.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

120 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action he proposes to take to address the ongoing problem of job relocations to more competitive economies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4423/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

121 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has undertaken research to identify the most commonly accepted causes for relocation of jobs to other economies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4424/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

122 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps taken in the past five years to counter the flow of jobs to more competitive economies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4425/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

123 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the underlying reason for the relocation of jobs to EU countries and non-EU countries with specific reference to each; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4426/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 120 to 123, inclusive, together.

There are many factors that influence a firm's decision to relocate. Firms adjust their plant location and utilisation strategies to address matters such as accessing new markets, moving production nearer to customers, meeting firm or market specific customer relationship issues, accessing technology or other competitive considerations. The result is flows of investment and employment across borders. Ireland successfully manages this process, while winning many prestigious and value added investment, and enterprise policies have enabled the economy to replace lost jobs with others of equal or higher value.

In circumstances where there is a more attractive low cost environment abroad, it will inevitably attract some companies that are unable to produce in the high-wage environment of modern industrial economies. Where actual relocation has occurred to date, it should be noted that this has been largely been limited to relatively low-technology, labour-intensive activities — those least suited to the economy that Ireland has become. It is not possible to quantify why firms relocate or the actual number of jobs which relocate to lower cost economies. The relocation of businesses within particular types of industry is a reality of modern global manufacturing for a highly developed economy such as Ireland. While Forfás undertakes an annual survey of employment in companies supported by the enterprise development agencies, no data is collected on the number of jobs that have relocated to other economies or the reasons why. Neither is data collected on employment that is attracted here from other less competitive economies.

The last Quarterly National Household Survey on the labour market showed that the pace of employment growth actually accelerated slightly and employment over the year 2007 was up nearly 4%. Last year total employment in the country exceeded 2 million for the first time, an increase of 78,000 on the same quarter in 2006 and net job creation in both the IDA and Enterprise Ireland was the highest since 2000.

The National Competitiveness Council benchmarks Ireland's competitiveness performance on an annual basis. We have also had the benefit of the advice and views of the Enterprise Strategy Group, the Small Business Forum, the Better Regulation Group and have policies in place to act on their recommendations. Together with our Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation and our National Skills Strategy, I am satisfied that we are taking the measures needed to meet the challenges of global competition.

It would be entirely misleading to suggest that plant relocation or company restructuring giving rise to job losses, whether due to individual firm or sector challenges, indicate that whole economies are uncompetitive. Ireland is deeply connected with the global economy. Our success over many years in attracting industry leaders in advanced manufacturing and service companies has transformed our enterprise base. An increasing part of our economy is now sophisticated, highly productive and value driven.

What establishes the competitive credentials of the economy is our ability to replace quality jobs with others that are of the same or higher skill level. There is also no doubt that labour markets are changing at an increasingly fast pace due mainly to the impacts of globalisation, immigration and demographic factors. We are responding with new policies and new opportunities for our labour force. Labour market programmes play an important role by providing the skills needed for unemployed persons to get back to work while at the same time providing the skilled labour needed by employers to improve their productivity.

The clearest demonstration of the benefits to Ireland from globalisation is illustrated by inward Foreign Direct Investment. It should be noted that in addition to attracting foreign direct investment, IDA Ireland also places significant focus on embedding existing multinational enterprises in Ireland, by encouraging such enterprises to increase the scale of Irish subsidiaries, and to also expand the range of activities undertaken in Irish subsidiaries to include less mobile types of operations (e.g. R&D activities, Supply Chain Management etc.). This process of embedding subsidiaries of multinational enterprises makes relocation less likely.

Employment Growth.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

124 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs expected to be created in 2008; the number of jobs expected to be lost in the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4427/08]

Employment growth, i.e. the excess of jobs created over jobs lost, is expected to continue to be positive in 2008, though growing at a slower pace than in previous years. In the Budget Outlook employment is forecast to grow by over 1% (24,000) in 2008. Employment has increased by 247,300 in the three-year period since 2004 and the number of people in employment is now 2,140,900. It is generally accepted that this rate of growth could not continue and the economy is now entering a period of adjustment.

Job Losses.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

125 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the main cause or causes for the hidden inflation resulting in the relocation of jobs here to more competitive economies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4428/08]

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) was 4.9% on average in 2007. The euro area measure of inflation, the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP), was 2.8% for Ireland in 2007. This was lower than the euro area average for the same period. The Central Bank, in their Quarterly Bulletin published last week, forecast inflation (HICP) to ease further to 2.5% in 2008. Inflation is measured by independent authorities in a public and transparent manner.

We have no control over some of the factors influencing inflation, such as oil prices, the exchange rate and mortgage interest rates. The overall cost environment is an important factor important for business and investment decisions. This is why, as part of our economic policy, we seek to maintain low inflation, promote competition, pursue a sensible incomes policy, and keep public spending growth at sustainable levels. Doing this will allow us to keep the burden of taxation low, thus helping to maintain competitiveness and to maximise our economic potential. These are all part of our strategy to improve the cost environment and to enhance competitiveness. Furthermore, the Government's last three budgets have been non inflationary as a measure to help the cost environment for business.

However, business decisions to move jobs or production to other locations are based on many factors and not just cost alone. Proximity to markets, consumer preferences and changes in technology are some of the factors which may influence location decisions of mobile investment.

Community Employment Schemes.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

126 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will ensure the provision of adequate finances for the expansion of the various community employment schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4429/08]

Community Employment (CE) is an active labour market programme designed to provide eligible long term unemployed people and other disadvantaged persons with an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a fixed term basis. CE aims to facilitate unemployed people to re-enter the active workforce by breaking their experience of unemployment through a return to a work routine and to assist them to enhance/develop both their technical and personal skills. To achieve these objectives, FÁS works in partnership with community and voluntary organisations to provide much needed social services within a community based environment.

The aim of CE still remains as an active labour market programme with the emphasis on progression into employment. The programme is managed in a flexible way within this context, with consideration to the availability of resources and the needs of participants and the community.

The FÁS Board has not yet approved the detailed FÁS budget for 2008. However, I can say that the Community Employment budget for 2008 has been provided with a view to maintaining overall numbers on schemes at 2007 levels. Since 2002 the number of CE places provided nationally has been maintained at a constant level.

There are currently no plans for expanding the Community Employment Scheme beyond its current capacity due to the relative stability in the numbers of long-term unemployed and other relevant target groups for participation on CE.

In conclusion then, I would say that this Government will continue to support the positive role of CE in meeting the needs of long-term unemployed persons while at the same time providing essential services to communities. In this regard, the operation of the Scheme is kept under constant review.

Decentralisation Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

127 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which his Department has complied with the Government’s decentralisation programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4430/08]

My Department has been making good progress in the relocation of the required 250 posts to Carlow under the Government's Decentralisation Programme. The following business units/Offices of my Department are earmarked for decentralisation:

Companies Registration Office/Registry of Friendly Societies

National Employment Rights Authority (NERA)

Work Permits

Redundancy Payments Section

Insolvency Payments Section

Officials of my Department, in consultation with the Department of Finance and the OPW, as well as decentralising staff and Business Units opened an advance office in Carlow on July 30 2007. The number of posts in this decentralised advance office is 100. With regard to the property side of the Department's move, the OPW completed the purchase of a site in Carlow town centre for the construction of my Department's permanent office in Carlow. My colleague Minister of State Noel Ahern TD, announced on 13 December 2007 that the OPW has invited The Macquarie Partnership to become the ‘Successful Tenderer' in respect of this decentralisation project. This forms part of a major PPP project, which also involves the provision of office accommodation for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in Portlaoise and the Department of Education and Science in Mullingar. I am hopeful, subject to no planning issues arising, that the construction of the permanent office will be completed in late 2009.

Skill Shortages.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

128 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he is satisfied that the workforce is adequately qualified to meet the requirements of industry in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4431/08]

In an increasingly knowledge-based and global environment, the skills required by a modern economy are progressively becoming more sophisticated. Ensuring that the skills supply and demand are matched requires an ongoing commitment to monitoring current and future skills needs and addressing any gaps through investments in upskilling. To that end the Government has made provision to ensure that we have the best possible information on future skills needs and the policies and training interventions in place to respond to them. Central to this endeavour is the work of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs. It has been monitoring developments and proposing responses since 1997. That work has involved ongoing research into labour demand and supply in a number of economic sectors. The subsequent implementation of positive recommendations made by the Expert Group has significantly contributed to the economic growth and job creation that we have seen in the interim.

Last year I launched, along with my colleague Minister Hanafin, the National Skills Strategy report. It is based on comprehensive research undertaken at my request by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs. It depicts an ambitious vision for the skills profile of Ireland in 2020 and sets out the advances necessary to realise it. The achievement of that vision should enable Ireland to develop a competitive advantage in the area of skills and ensure that we meet the evolving skills needs across the range of economic sectors. The principle recommendation is on the need to upskill by 2020 an additional 500,000 people by at least one level on the National Framework of Qualifications. This is an ambitious target and will require concerted and coordinated efforts between business owners/managers, the Government, the social partners and individual workers.

We will shortly establish an Inter-Departmental Committee that will be chaired by the Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Minister Sean Haughey, T.D. and that will include the Secretaries General of my Department and the Department of Education & Science. This Committee will approve an implementation plan for the National Skills Strategy and oversee progress towards the realisation of the important objectives to be progressively achieved in the period ahead. In summary, the National Skills Strategy has provided a road map in relation to Ireland's future skill requirements and we are currently putting in place the structures and supports to achieve its vision. In support of that national effort, and by reference to commitments contained in Towards 2016 and in the National Development Plan, the Government will invest approximately €7.7 billion in the continued development of Ireland's human capital over the period 2007-2013. The Government remains fully committed to providing enhanced education and training opportunities to ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, all citizens have the necessary qualifications and skills to allow them both to lead successful and productive personal and vocational lives, on the one hand, and find enriching work in a national labour market that is characterised by quality jobs, high levels of productivity and competitive advantage vis-à-vis our trading partners.

Foreign Direct Investment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

129 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he is satisfied that the extent of inward foreign investment is sufficient to ensure an adequate labour force to meet competitive requirements in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4432/08]

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment (FDI) to Ireland and its regions. The level of FDI in Ireland, relative to the size of the economy, is one of the highest in the world. Today, in Ireland, there are over 1,000 IDA supported companies employing in excess of 136,000 people. These include many of the leading companies in Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology, Medical Technology, Financial Services, International Services, Digital Media and ICT. The challenge is to sustain, embed and grow this investment. To meet this challenge, IDA Ireland is focusing on the development of its employment base into high technology, high value added and high skill functions, including not only high-end manufacturing, but also areas such as high-end services and R&D. The proposed investments, structures and policies set out in the National Development Plan 2007-2013 and National Spatial Strategy are also vital in meeting this challenge. I am satisfied that the policies being pursued by Government, together with the activities of IDA Ireland will continue to enable us to maintain the enviable position which we hold in terms of attracting foreign direct investment.

Departmental Offices.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

130 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the amount of electricity used in the offices of his Department in Kildare Street for the past three years; if he will provide a monthly breakdown for this period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4351/08]

The following table sets out the amount of electricity used in the offices of my Department in Kildare Street for the past three years on a monthly basis. The billing system changed from bimonthly to monthly in May 2005. The usage figures in the KWH column for the months May 2005 to April 2006 inclusive are estimated average figures.

Date

KWH

Date

KWH

Jan/Feb 2005

58,988

6,990

Aug-06

23,572

3,108

Mar/Apr 2005

57,782

6,634

Sep-06

23,956

3,128

May-05

17,974

1,659

Oct-06

26,136

3,414

Jun-05

29,137

2,375

Nov-06

28,647

3,942

Jul-05

24,749

2,017

Dec-06

26,425

3,714

Aug-05

37,860

3,086

Jan-07

30,799

5,061

Sep-05

28,619

2,552

Feb-07

26,597

4,383

Oct-05

22,855

2,037

Mar-07

26,780

4,121

Nov-05

28,587

3,956

Apr-07

22,085

3,331

Dec-05

32,291

3,210

May-07

23,634

3,491

Jan-06

36,051

3,583

Jun-07

21,877

3,164

Feb-06

42,025

4,176

Jul-07

22,664

3,243

Mar-06

28,443

3,880

Aug-07

21,099

3,006

Apr-06

25,743

3,512

Sep-07

22,388

3,276

May-06

26,655

3,624

Oct-07

25,057

3,603

Jun-06

24,293

3,324

Nov-07

27,318

4,420

Jul-06

25,291

3,316

Dec-07

26,425

4,169

Social Welfare Benefits.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

131 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the action taken by the Health Service Executive to recover money from tenants when the landlord makes a complaint to the HSE with regard to the assistance given to tenants in respect of their rent when living in private accommodation from the HSE and this money being paid to the tenant but not passed onto the landlord; the amount of money that has been recovered in the past 12 months; the number of complaints the HSE has received from landlords; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4367/08]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which includes rent supplement, is administered on behalf of my department by the Community Welfare Service of the Health Service Executive (HSE). The purpose of rent supplement is to provide short-term income support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation, whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. There are no statistics available on the number of complaints the HSE has received from landlords as a result of a tenant not using rent supplement to pay rent. However where the HSE becomes aware that a person receiving rent supplement is not using that supplement to meet housing costs, the supplement may be stopped and an overpayment may be raised. Any overpayment of rent supplement incurred in circumstances of this kind may be recoverable from the tenant. It is a matter for a Community Welfare Officer (CWO) of the HSE to determine if an overpayment should be raised and recovered, taking into account all of the circumstances of each particular case. Where an overpayment is deemed to be recoverable, a CWO will make appropriate arrangements with the tenant for recovery of the overpayment.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

132 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on private companies making mandatory top ups or subsidising the income difference for women in receipt of maternity benefit in order to bring income up to their normal levels where same is greater than maternity benefit; his further views on changing the situation where private companies do not have to subsidise maternity benefit to bring it up to normal wage level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4280/08]

Maternity Benefit is an income maintenance payment awarded by this Department to eligible women for a 26-week period on foot of a confinement. Entitlement to this benefit for employees is contingent on entitlement to statutory Maternity Leave. Under the provisions of social welfare legislation, the 26-week period of core statutory Maternity Leave attracts a payment from my Department — subject to certain social insurance contribution conditions being fulfilled. Maternity Leave legislation also provides an option for a woman to take an additional 16-week period of Maternity Leave that does not attract a benefit payment.

The Maternity Benefit scheme has been significantly improved, notably in the last few years, in terms of both the duration of the payment and the level at which it is paid. Budget 2006 provided for Maternity Leave — and thus Maternity Benefit payments — to be extended from 18 to 22 weeks. A further 4-week extension was implemented in the aftermath of Budget 2007 — bringing the total period of paid Maternity Leave and Maternity Benefit to the current level of 26 weeks. Under the Maternity Leave (Amendment) Act, 2004, the period of leave that must be taken before the end of the week during which the baby is due has been reduced from 4 to 2 weeks. Also, the final 4 weeks of Maternity Benefit can now be postponed in the event of a child being hospitalised. In terms of the level of payment, in 2000, the rate payable was the equivalent of €219.41 per week over 14 weeks — or €3,071 for the duration. Maternity Benefit is now paid at a weekly rate of €280 over 26 weeks — or €7,280 for the duration. This represents an increase considerably ahead of the rise in average industrial earnings. In addition, the rate of payment was increased from 70% to 80% of reckonable earnings, subject to minimum and maximum rates, in the Budgets of 2005 and 2006.

Some employment contracts may allow for additional periods of leave to be taken or for an additional top-up payment to be made above the normal entitlement to Maternity Benefit. These arrangements are discretionary private contractual arrangements agreed between employers and workers and, as such, are outside the realm of social welfare legislation. I am satisfied that the rates and duration of maternity benefit in Ireland represent a reasonable response to the income needs of women on maternity leave and can be favourably compared internationally.

Pension Provisions.

Michael Ring

Question:

133 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the outcome of the response received from the supervising committee (details supplied). [4301/08]

In its conclusions on the provisions relating to the special pension for the self employed, introduced in 1999, the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) placed particular emphasis on Article 29(5) of the European Code of Social Security. This section deals with the situation where the beneficiary, because of his advanced age at the moment the pension scheme enters into force, is unable to fulfil the qualifying conditions. In such circumstances, the Code provides for the payment of a reduced pension "under prescribed conditions" to be determined in national legislation. My Department introduced a special pension scheme for self-employed people, who were too old to satisfy the standard qualifying conditions for pension, when they became compulsorily insured in 1988.

Accordingly, the views of the ILO Committee of Experts, which examines national reports on compliance with the European Code of Social Security on behalf of the Council of Europe, were sought on the conclusions of the IHRC report, and in particular whether the provisions of the Code require the payment of a pension in the circumstances, regardless of how few contributions have been paid by the person involved. The ILO Committee has only just recently been in touch with the Department in this regard and has indicated that "Article 29(5) applies only to pension schemes "conditional upon a minimum period of contribution or employment", which, by definition, do not require pension to be paid in all cases, regardless of how few contributions have been paid by the person concerned. This response indicates that the Department's position in this matter has been upheld. The report of the ILO Committee will be reviewed at the beginning of April by a Council of Europe Governmental Committee of Experts on Social Security tasked with the interpretation of the Code. The IHRC have been informed of the up to date position.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

134 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his proposals to replace State pension books with swipe-cards; the way this will impact on people living in areas that do not have banks or automated post offices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4313/08]

The current range of payment options offered by my Department to customers includes payment to a local Post Office, bank or building society account and credit unions that have been authorised by the banking and credit union regulators. Customers choose a particular payment option having regard to their own personal circumstances. The Department supports government policy which aims to facilitate the greater use of electronic payment systems in the economy in the interests of developing a world class payments environment in Ireland. Our payment strategy is designed to ensure that cost effective arrangements are in place for making payments to social welfare customers by using a range of payment options and to ensure that new payment facilities are made available to customers as they arise. Currently some 50% of customers receive their payment electronically direct to their Post Office, bank or financial institution. The remaining customers are paid by paper based payment instruments — cheques, post drafts or personal payment order books. The replacement of books with swipe cards will have no impact on customers paid at non-automated post offices. They will simply present their Social Services Card and sign for their payment in the normal way.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

135 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will address the anomaly whereby, if downsizing a property, an older person if permitted to retain €190,000 in cash before it effects their pension eligibility, whereas any income obtained through an equity release scheme results in loss of non-contributory pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4329/08]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

136 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will ensure, in view of the difficulty in selling property, that elderly people do not lose their non-contributory pensions when they seek to release equity on their homes to supplement their income, as it appears such equity is calculated as means resulting in the loss of pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4330/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 135 and 136 together.

Social assistance payments, including state pension (non-contributory), are designed to provide financial support for people who do not qualify for one of the contributory pension or benefit schemes. Entitlement to these payments is based on a means test which is intended to ensure that available resources are targeted at those who are most in need. Accordingly, any resources that a claimant and his or her spouse or partner may have are assessed. These resources may include cash income, property, or an asset which could bring in money or provide the claimant with an income. This system of means assessment is designed to ensure that those with modest amounts of capital receive the greater share of available support while those with larger amounts of capital should avail of it to contribute, at least partially, towards meeting their needs.

Equity release and other similar products allow home owners to benefit from some of the capital tied up in their homes, while continuing to live in them. Sums of money raised through life loans or equity release are assessable under my Department's capital assessment rules. Sums of money which are spent or disposed of immediately are not included in the means assessment. Furthermore, as the balance of capital on hands decreases the claimant is entitled to have his/her means reassessed. Capital is assessed as follows:

the first €20,000 of the capital is disregarded.

the next €10,000 is assessed at €1 per €1,000.

the next €10,000 is assessed at €2 per €1,000.

any sum remaining in excess of €40,000 is assessed at €4.00 per €1,000.

The sale of residence provisions, to which the Deputy also refers, are designed to facilitate certain persons who are in receipt of a means-tested payment from my Department in selling their principal residence for the purpose of:

buying or renting alternative accommodation,

moving into a private nursing home,

moving in with a carer who is in receipt of carer's allowance or carer's benefit in respect of them, or

moving to sheltered or special housing in the voluntary, co-operative, statutory or private sectors.

Where alternative accommodation is being purchased the difference between the agreed sale price of the former residence and the agreed purchase price of the replacement residence, subject to a maximum of €190,461, is exempt from the means test. Where no alternative accommodation is being purchased the gross proceeds of the sale are defined as the agreed sale price of the residence and are disregarded in the means test also to a maximum of €190,461. These provisions apply to recipients of disability allowance, blind person's pension and those over age 66 years who receive a means-tested payment from this Department and they are intended to facilitate choice for certain people who might previously have been living alone or in unsuitable accommodation. In contrast, equity release arrangements are designed to provide an income stream for older people and it is considered appropriate that these should be assessed for means test purposes.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

137 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the progress made on the recommendations of the Review of Sign Language Interpretations Services and Service Requirements in Ireland, published and submitted by Comhairle in September 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4337/08]

The Review of Sign Language Interpretation Services and Service Requirements in Ireland report recommended the development of a service delivery model for sign language interpretation services based on a two phased approach. The first phase is to establish of a new entity to develop and deliver sign language interpretation services and commence the piloting of remote interpreting services using technologies such as videophones and the internet. The second phase is to develop and roll-out remote interpreting services. A three year timescale was recommended for each phase.

In line with the recommendations in the report, the Sign Language Interpreting Service (SLIS) was established as a company limited by guarantee in March 2007. The Board of the new company comprises representatives drawn from the Deaf community, people with a background in delivering services to the Deaf community, from relevant public bodies including the Citizens Information Board, my own Department and the private sector. Three staff were appointed to the new service, a manager, administration and booking officer, and a finance officer. The service is based in the Citizens Information Board regional office at Tallaght. The new service has been operational since the beginning of April 2007, providing interpreters to meet the needs of a range of public bodies and the private sector. SLIS processed over 1000 bookings in the eight month period to the end of the year. An analysis of the bookings indicates that educational interpreting for third level colleges accounted for the largest area of demand followed by health and legal interpreting. SLIS has recently established a website and will shortly be taking steps to initiate a pilot in relation to remote interpreting.

Departmental Offices.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

138 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the amount of electricity used in the offices of his Department in Store Street for the past three years; if he will provide a monthly breakdown for this period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4362/08]

The offices of my Department at Áras Mhic Dhiarmada, Store Street, Dublin used a total of 4,103,533 kilowatt hours of electricity in the years 2005 to 2007. From 1st January 2005 to 31st May 2005 electricity for this office was provided by the Electricity Supply Board and from 1st June 2005 to date the supply was provided by Energia. Over the course of the three years in question electricity usage has reduced by some 15%. Part of this reduction is attributable to the successful participation of this office in a pilot Energy Awareness Initiative run by the Office of Public Works in 2007. The breakdown for these figures on a monthly basis is set out in the following table.

2005

2006

2007

Total

(KWH)

(KWH)

(KWH)

(KWH)

Jan

113,760

120,243

120,712

354,715

Feb

113,760

113,207

106,176

333,143

Mar

123,240

116,999

109,652

349,891

Apr

123,240

97,565

101,436

322,241

May

106,650

107,440

106,018

320,108

June

103,648

108,941

100,093

312,682

July

121,028

113,444

106,808

341,280

Aug

172,694

114,076

97,407

384,177

Sept

140,620

113,523

92,698

346,841

Oct

118,579

110,442

108,748

337,769

Nov

131,772

113,602

103,399

348,773

Dec

122,935

120,870

108,118

351,923

Total

1,491,926

1,350,352

1,261,255

4,103,533

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

139 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of applications for respite grant received on a monthly basis in his Department since the inception of the scheme; the number granted on a monthly basis in the same period; the number refused; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4418/08]

The Respite Care Grant (RCG) is an annual payment made to all persons providing full-time care, regardless of means or PRSI contribution record, but subject to certain conditions. The extension of the scheme to all carers was introduced in Budget 2005. The Grant is payable from the first Thursday in June of the year in question.

Details of applications received, claims allowed and claims refused by month, for the years 2005 to 2007, are detailed in tabular form below. Differences between total applications received and those decided are due to the fact that some RCG applications are ultimately decided in the Carers section in Longford as part of claims for Carers Allowance or Benefit. In addition some cases require further enquiries to finalise entitlement.

2005

Month

Applications

Claims Allowed

Claims Refused

May

2,536

0

0

June

1,489

1,547

175

July

728

2,367

180

August

588

711

143

September

474

431

60

October

323

326

71

November

363

356

69

December

312

192

46

Total

6,813

5,930

744

2006

Month

Applications

Claims Allowed

Claims Refused

January

275

237

64

February

375

249

68

March

435

318

129

April

398

250

70

May

6,647

428

136

June

1,069

1,295

65

July

692

1,965

330

August

572

2,190

327

September

1,086

694

172

October

1,020

709

224

November

835

993

167

December

512

723

65

Total

13,916

10,051

1,817

2007

Month

Applications

Claims Allowed

Claims Refused

January

511

549

139

February

550

532

104

March

441

464

74

April

3,550

398

117

May

4,619

149

80

June

1,501

1,894

62

July

719

3,853

161

August

423

1,166

181

September

349

683

180

October

398

782

205

November

296

342

127

December

207

147

58

Total

13,564

10,959

1,488

Finian McGrath

Question:

140 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will assist a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [4456/08]

The Health Service Executive has advised that it has not received an application for assistance under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme from the person concerned. The Executive has advised that the person concerned should contact her local community welfare office immediately so that any entitlement she may have can be determined.

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which includes rent supplement, is administered on my behalf by the Community Welfare Division of the Health Service Executive. Neither I nor my Department has any function in relation to decisions on individual claims.

Community Development.

Finian McGrath

Question:

141 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position regarding a project (details supplied). [4322/08]

The Project referred to in the Deputy's question has been funded through the Community Development Programme since 1999. This Programme provides financial assistance to projects towards the staffing and equipping of local resource centres, which provide a focal point for community development activities and to other specialised community development projects and initiatives having a strategic importance. The Programme is aimed at addressing all areas of poverty and disadvantage. Projects are concerned with the needs of women and children, those with disabilities, the homeless, lone parent families, the elderly, the unemployed, young people at risk, Travellers and other disadvantaged groups.

Core funding to the project in question is set at €120,483 for 2008.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

142 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to a selection irregularity in the election of the board of East Cork Area Development; his views on whether the board as elected would stand for the term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4339/08]

As previously indicated to the house, the core objective of the cohesion process is to simplify and improve local delivery of programmes operated by my Department through the integration and alignment of local delivery structures.

The appointment of the members of the Boards of local development companies is primarily a matter for the Boards of the companies concerned. Given the significant public money dispersed through local development companies, the Department issued governance guidelines on the 1st of October 2007 that provide, inter alia, for a transparent selection process for nomination and appointment of members to the Boards of these companies. Copies of these guidelines are available on my Department's Website at www.pobail.ie.

Where the company concerned proposes to oversee the selection process of candidates from the community and voluntary sector, it is required to work with the relevant Director of Services for Community and Enterprise to ensure that no Community and Voluntary organisation active within its catchment area and registered with the Community and Voluntary Forum is excluded from the process and to seek the approval of my Department for the process proposed.

I understand that the company referred to by the Deputy held community director elections in December in order to include representatives from across its expanded catchment area. However, the company had not obtained Departmental approval for the selection procedure governing these recent elections because the selection procedure had not been certified by local Director of Services for Community and Enterprise. Officials of my Department are currently investigating the matter.

Departmental Offices.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

143 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the amount of electricity used in the offices of his Department in Mespil Road for the past three years; if he will provide a monthly breakdown for this period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4353/08]

The amount of electricity in kWh consumed in the offices of my Department in Mespil Road, Dublin, during the past three years is shown in tabular form.

Billing Period

2005

2006

2007

kWh

kWh

kWh

January

52,906

February

91,950

110,800

48,896

March

52,883

April

94,250

113,400

51,863

May

51,581

June

103,300

122,100

49,272

July

63,017

52,571

August

105,950

56,922

46,866

September

54,830

49,096

October

108,550

54,997

51,174

November

52,988

50,212

December

108,950

48,620

45,739

Total

612,950

677,674

603,059

Bills were received on a bi-monthly basis up to June 2006 and monthly thereafter.

Ferry Services.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

144 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the steps that have been taken to ensure a proper ferry service will be made available to the islands off the west of Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4410/08]

Details of the ferry services to the West Cork islands, which are subsidised by my Department, are shown in the following table.

It is my considered view that these services cater adequately for the transport needs of the island communities concerned.

Island

Operator

Type of Service

Value of Contract

Period of Contract

Bere Island

Bere Island Ferries Ltd./Murphy’s Ferry Services Ltd.

Roll On /Roll Off

253,153

1/1/05-30/4/08

Sherkin Island

Carbery Isle Ferries Ltd.

Passenger

108,921

1/11/04-31/3/08

Whiddy Island

Tim O’Leary

Passenger

480,000*

1/11/07-31/10/15

Cléire

Tithe Saoire Chléire Teo.

Passenger/Cargo

1,239,848

1/3/07-29/2/12

Long Island

Danny Murphy

Passenger

200,000*

1/12/06-30/11/11

Heir Island

Camp Roaring-water Ltd.

Passenger

117,988

1/6/06-31/5/11

*Estimated value as contract is index linked.

Fishing Vessel Licences.

Michael Ring

Question:

145 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if the tonnage of a vessel (details supplied) will be transferred to a new boat. [4373/08]

Under the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 2003, the functions of sea-fishing boat licensing were transferred from the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources to the Licensing Authority for Sea-Fishing Boats, which operates on an independent basis subject to criteria set out in that Act and Ministerial Policy Directives. All applications for sea-fishing boat licences are considered by the Licensing Authority. The head of the Licensing Authority is the Registrar General of Fishing Boats who is a senior official in the Department.

The Registrar General has advised me that there is no record of the vessel in question having ever been registered on the current Fishing Boat Register. Only capacity (tonnage) sourced from vessels on the current Register can be used to introduce a replacement vessel.

In the normal way, the new owner is entitled to apply for a sea-fishing boat licence under standard fishing boat licensing conditions whereby all the conditions of the licence offer would have to be met, including safety standards and replacement capacity in terms of both tonnage and power at a ratio of 1:1, before the vessel can be entered onto the Fishing Boat Register and licensed to fish.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Jack Wall

Question:

146 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has received a reduced farm retirement payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4245/08]

It is a requirement of the EU Council Regulation under which the Early Retirement Scheme 2000-06 was introduced that the Early Retirement pension can be paid only as a supplement to any national retirement pension to which the participant, and his or her spouse or partner in a joint management arrangement, is entitled.

In the case of the person named, she became entitled to a national retirement pension (Non-Contributory) from 18 January 2008, and as required under the Early Retirement Scheme, the amount of this national pension had to be offset against her Early Retirement Pension.

Approved Abattoirs.

Michael Ring

Question:

147 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of abattoirs operating in County Mayo; the number of abattoirs closed down in the past ten years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4263/08]

According to my Department's records, there was a total of 32 approved abattoirs in Co Mayo in 1998. In 1998 all abattoirs were under the supervision of my Department. Local abattoirs (or low throughput slaughtering establishments) are those establishments that slaughter no more than 1,000 livestock units per annum. In 1998 such abattoirs were only permitted to trade on the domestic market. According to the Department's records there were 29 local abattoirs in 1998 and 3 larger export approved slaughter plants.

The Local Authority Veterinary Service (LAVS), reporting to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, is now responsible for local abattoirs. I understand that there are currently 17 such abattoirs approved by the LAVS, and 4 larger abattoirs approved by my Department under new EU regulations collectively known as the Hygiene Package, which came into operation on 1 January 2006.

The Hygiene Package set out updated requirements regarding hygiene and safety assurance for food business operators involved in production and placing on the market of foods of animal origin. The Hygiene Package was transposed into Irish domestic law by the European Communities (Food and Feed Hygiene) Regulations, (S.I. No. 910 of 2005).

It is important to note that under the Hygiene Package, product from all approved establishments, regardless of size, may now be exported provided it is accompanied by appropriate certification. Thus, the distinction between local abattoirs, which could only sell on the national market, and larger abattoirs or so called export plants, was removed.

You will be interested to hear that I have recently announced an aid scheme for small slaughter houses and meat establishments. Details are available on the Department's website.

Departmental Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

148 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of vets located in County Mayo working within her Department. [4264/08]

Eleven Veterinarians employed by my Department are located in County Mayo.

Grant Payments.

Denis Naughten

Question:

149 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will reply to correspondence (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4295/08]

As outlined in my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 316 from the Deputy on 13 November 2007 the person named applied under Category A of the 2006 National Reserve. This Category catered for farmers who inherited land or received land free of charge or for a nominal sum from a farmer who had retired or died by 16 May 2005 and where the land was leased out by the original owner to a third party during the reference period 2000-2002.

The person named inherited a number of plots of land from his father, his grandmother and his uncle prior to 1 January 2000. While the lands were leased out during the reference period (2000-2002), these lands were in fact leased out by the person named and not by the persons from whom the land was acquired as required under this category. In this case the person named chose to lease out the lands himself.

The person named subsequently appealed this decision to the Independent Single Payments Appeals Committee who upheld my Department's decision. A reply will issue to the Deputy's correspondence shortly.

Farm Waste Management.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

150 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the status of the application for the farm waste management scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; when the application will be processed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4300/08]

The person named is an applicant under the Farm Waste Management Scheme. Approval to commence the investment works was issued to the person concerned on 5 February 2008.

Grant Payments.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

151 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if a person (details supplied) will qualify for a grant under the farm improvement scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4344/08]

The person concerned has submitted two applications for grant-aid under the Farm Improvement Scheme. The first application was lodged on 17 September 2007 and approval to proceed with same was issued by my Department on 13 November 2007. A second application for grant-aid was lodged on 30 October 2007 and this application is eligible for consideration subject to funding still being available at the time the application is processed.

Departmental Offices.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

152 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the amount of electricity used in the offices of her Department in Kildare Street for the past three years; if she will provide a monthly breakdown for this period; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4350/08]

The cost of the electricity used in my Department's offices in Kildare Street is set out in the following table.

Electricity Costs for Agriculture House from 2005 to 2007

Billing Period

Amount Paid

November 04

26,001.90

December 04

34,206.62

January 05

29,219.38

6/2/05 to 5/4/2005 *

59,985.77

6/4/05 to 4/5/2005*

31,278.16

5/5/05 to 30/6/05*

54,615.43

1/7/05 to 30/11/05 *

131,785.56

Dec 05

29,321.95

Total 2005

396,414.77

January 06

31,898.89

February 06

31,908.53

March 06

30,599.56

April 06

27,633.74

May 06

29,155.59

June 06

28,082.89

July 06

20,860.98

August 06

34,880.54

September 06

26,472.39

October 06

28,186.44

November 06

31,586.33

December 06

29,393.75

Total 2006

350,659.63

January 07

37,082.14

February 07

34,417.93

March 07

31,963.81

April 07

30,968.94

May 07

31,678.66

June 07

29,673.29

July 07

31,265.06

August 07

29,526.00

September 07

29,137.36

October 07

34,538.16

Total 07

320,251.3

TOTAL

1,067,325.75

* Monthly breakdown not available for these months.

Grant Payments.

Michael Ring

Question:

153 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be awarded their REP scheme payment. [4372/08]

The person named is a participant in REPS 3. In the course of the ongoing discussions on the payment arrangements for REPS, the European Commission have very recently raised questions about the established practice of paying REPS 2 and REPS 3 farmers at the beginning of each contract year. My officials have argued strongly with the Commission that the practice of paying at the start of the contract year is well established and one of which the Commission is well aware. I made the same points directly to Commissioner Fischer Boel when I met her in Dublin last week. My officials and I are pressing for a quick resolution to the issue, but until the matter is clarified my Department is not in a position to release payments under REPS 2 and REPS 3.

Coastal Zone Management.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

154 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps that have been taken by her Department to develop a national database specifying the nature of the coast. [4406/08]

The National Coastal Protection Strategy Studies in pilot areas have been completed and studies are being extended into new areas.

In the South East coast pilot area, information was assembled on the current and historic position of the coastline, the nature of the coast, its vulnerability to erosion and flooding and the nature of the hinterland in terms of economic, heritage and environmental assets. The information has been collated on a geographic information system (GIS). Similar information in respect of the North East and South coast is currently being compiled and should be concluded in the current year.

In line with a recent Government decision, responsibility for Coastal Protection and Coastal Flooding will become the responsibility of the Department of Environment, Heritage & Local Government. Arrangements are currently in train to effect the transfer.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

155 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps that have been taken by her Department to review the Foreshore Acts 1993 and 2003. [4407/08]

The Government decided on 2 October 2007 that responsibility for foreshore licensing functions under the Foreshore Act 1933 in respect of port companies and harbour authorities governed by the Harbours Acts 1946, 1996 and 2000 and any other harbour or harbour related developments intended for commercial trade, and for all energy developments (including oil, gas, wave, wind and tidal energy) and aggregate and mineral extraction developments on the foreshore would transfer to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. My Department is currently putting in place the necessary arrangements to ensure the efficient and effective transfer of the appropriate legislation and associated functions. In the interim, all foreshore functions under the Foreshore Acts 1933 to 2005 rest with my Department.

My Department will carry forward responsibility for all other foreshore licensing functions under the Foreshore Act 1933, including in respect of all aquaculture developments and piers and harbours, other than in respect of port companies and harbour authorities governed by the Harbours Acts 1946, 1996 and 2000 and any other harbour or harbour related developments intended for commercial trade.

The Statement of Strategy 2005-2007 of the former Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources indicated that procedures would be developed for enhanced coordination and cooperation between the wide range of public bodies responsible for management of the coastal zone. This was in response to the increasing demands and pressures on coastal areas and their resources.

A consolidation and streamlining of the Foreshore Acts has also been proposed. This is intended to provide a modern, effective and integrated legal framework for the management of the State's foreshore estate in the future. Preparation of these proposals is intended to take account, among other things, of the principles in the EU Recommendation on Integrated Coastal Zone Management, the outcome of the EU Maritime Green Paper and the EU Marine Strategy Directive.

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will clearly assume a critical role in these proposals. My Department will continue to work closely with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in the context of progressing the various elements required to develop the appropriate coastal zone legislative framework.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

156 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps that have been taken to develop a national coastal protection strategy study. [4408/08]

I refer to my response of Thursday 31st January to PQ 2928/08.

In 2002, the Department of Communications, Marine & Natural Resources (DCMNR) began a review of coastal protection requirements with a view to adopting a more long-term strategic, structured approach to the issues involved.

The National Coastal Protection Strategy Studies in pilot areas have been completed and studies are being extended into new areas.

In the pilot areas, information was assembled on the current and historic position of the coastline, the nature of the coast, its vulnerability to erosion and flooding and the nature of the hinterland in terms of economic, heritage and environmental assets. The information was collated on a geographic information system (GIS).

Following completion of the pilot studies, the surge modelling and identification of areas at risk was extended to the North East and South coast of Ireland. Land use restrictions, if any, resulting from these studies are a matter for the relevant planning authority. From early 2007 the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Office of Public Works (OPW) have been advised on impacts and sensitivity of erosion as well as coastal flood risk in relation to planning and development, including the provision of assistance as required in the development of guidelines and standards.

Over the last four years, 2004-2007, DCMNR have spent in excess of € 10.2 million to deal with the risks of coastal flooding and erosion throughout Ireland.

In line with a recent Government decision, responsibility for Coastal Protection and Coastal Flooding will become the responsibility of the Department of Environment, Heritage & Local Government. Arrangements are currently in train to effect the transfer.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

157 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps that have been taken to develop a new network of sea level stations to carry out tide gauge measurements. [4409/08]

In August 2003, the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources commissioned the Hydraulics and Maritime Research Centre (HMRC) and the Coastal and Marine Resources Centre (CMRC), both of University College Cork and Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory (POL) to carry out a scoping study to assess the status of Ireland's tide gauge infrastructure and outline current and future requirements.

The study catalogued all known tide gauge sites in Ireland and made recommendations for a new network of sea level stations to be established. These stations will consist of tide gauges together with ancillary sensors to provide meteorological data. In addition, sites set up for tracking long term trends in mean sea level will also contain Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers.

One such station was established in 2004 by the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources at Castletownbere, Co Cork and continues to be maintained.

Currently, the Marine Institute is at the forefront of efforts to develop a network of sea level stations to carry out tide gauge measurements. The Irish National Tide Gauge Network is an on-going development involving the Marine Institute and a number of organisations in the public and private sectors whose objective is to develop a permanent tidal monitoring infrastructure, ultimately consisting off between 35 and 40 stations. The project is currently entering year 4 of an anticipated 10-year program.

The principal objectives are two fold:

1.To involve local organisations (e.g. county councils) to assist them with local issues related to water level monitoring

2.To bring all operational tide gauges into a centrally managed national infrastructure.

Further information on the Network is available directly from the Marine Institute.

It should be noted that in line with a recent Government decision, responsibility for Coastal Protection and Coastal Flooding will become the responsibility of the Department of Environment, Heritage & Local Government. Arrangements are currently in train to effect the transfer.

Animal Diseases.

Finian McGrath

Question:

158 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will ensure that a case (details supplied) is resolved. [4454/08]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question 2474/08 of 30th January last which set out the background to this case and the reasons for the procedures which are applicable. As stated my Department facilitates people travelling with guide dogs in any way possible consistent with protecting our rabies status. My officials are in direct contact with the person concerned.

School Accommodation.

Billy Timmins

Question:

159 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in respect of a school (details supplied) which is urgently seeking accommodation to facilitate enrolments it has received for the school year commencing in September 2008; if her Department will expedite the procedure for recognition of this school and provide the accommodation they require in order that they can open in September 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4239/08]

The New School Advisory Committee (NSAC) has received an application for the recognition of a new primary school in September, 2008 in the location referred to by the Deputy. The NSAC is an independent advisory group established to process applications for the recognition of new primary schools and to make recommendations to the Minister for Education and Science. It is expected that the NSAC will produce its report by the end of March.

Billy Timmins

Question:

160 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to a school (details supplied) who are urgently seeking accommodation to facilitate enrolments that they have for the school year commencing in September 2008; if her Department will expedite the procedure for recognition of this school and provide the accommodation they require in order that they can open in September 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4240/08]

The New School Advisory Committee (NSAC) has received an application for the recognition of a new primary school in September, 2008 in the location referred to by the Deputy. The NSAC is an independent advisory group established to process applications for the recognition of new primary schools and to make recommendations to the Minister for Education and Science. It is expected that the NSAC will produce its report by the end of March.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

161 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Education and Science when additional classrooms will be provided in view of the serious overcrowding in a school (details supplied) in County Donegal. [4253/08]

The school referred to by the Deputy made an application for capital funding towards the provision of additional accommodation. An assessment of projected enrolment trends, demographic trends and housing developments in the area was carried out in order to determine the long term accommodation needs of the school. This has been finalised and notified to the school. The proposed building project will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation.

Special Educational Needs.

Brian Hayes

Question:

162 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will guarantee that the existing home tuition allowance payable to parents of autistic children to attend a school (details supplied) in Dublin 13 will remain in place as this represents probably the only funding from her Department to this special school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4254/08]

The Home tuition scheme provides funding to parents to provide education at home for children who, for a number of reasons such as chronic illness, are unable to attend school. The scheme was extended in recent years to facilitate tuition for children awaiting a suitable educational placement.

Home tuition funding cannot be provided indefinitely in respect of children who have school placements available to them. A suitable school place is available for each of the children attending this centre. Officials in my Department have now written to the parents of the children attending the centre in question in relation to the Home Tuition Scheme.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government believes that as each child with autism is unique, they should have access to a range of different approaches to meet their individual needs. This view is informed by advice received from international experts on autism, the National Educational Psychological Service and the Inspectorate. An analysis of research — including the report of the Irish Task Force on Autism — supports this approach too, while Autism societies in other countries also caution against relying on just one method. By enabling children in special classes to have access to a range of methods, including Applied Behavioural Analysis, the Government is doing what we are advised is the best interests of such children.

The Department of Education has supported the use of ABA for many years and training is provided for teachers in its use. However, the Department does not accept — based on research, advice and best practice — that it should be the only method used. While ABA can address certain needs — in particular behaviour — other methods, such as TEACCH and PECS are just as important — in particular in developing children's communication and speech skills. It is important that children have access to a range of methods so that their broader needs can be met.

Hundreds of children with autism are integrated into mainstream schools and hundreds more are in autism specific classes. More than 275 autism-specific classes have now been approved around the country, while more are being set up all the time. A testament to the scale of progress being made in this area is the fact that the number of such classes has increased by over 40% in the past year alone.

There are a maximum of 6 children in each special class with a teacher and at least 2 Special Needs Assistants. Extra assistants are provided where the children need them. A child can have his/her own SNA if needed. Children in special classes have the benefit of fully-qualified teachers who are trained in educating and developing children generally and who have access to additional training in autism-specific approaches, including ABA. The level of such training available to teachers has improved dramatically in recent years and is a major priority for the Government.

Children in special classes also have the option, where possible and appropriate, of full or partial integration into mainstream classes and of interaction with other pupils. As I have already explained, the Department of Education and the National Council for Special Education have been working hard to ensure that all children with autism have access to a range of approaches in special classes. A number of years ago, before this extensive network was in place, some centres were approved for funding under an ABA pilot programme. The Government is committed to long-term funding for these pilots subject to agreement on certain standards such as appropriate qualifications for staff and the type of educational programme available to the children. Discussions have taken place with Irish Autism Action with a view to advancing this commitment as soon as possible.

Other centres, including the one referred to by the Deputy, are seeking to be funded under the pilot scheme. However, now that a national network of special classes is available, new centres will not be brought into the pilot programme. We are determined instead to ensure that each child has access to the autism-specific education that is now being made available to schools throughout the country.

I would again point out that appropriate placements are available in local schools for the children currently attending the centre in question.

Brian Hayes

Question:

163 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the action she is taking to implement in full commitments given in the Programme for Government in respect of ABA schooling; when she will extend the existing pilot scheme which has been in place for some years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4255/08]

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that my Department officials have met with the IAA on several occasions to progress the current Programme for Government commitment to long-term funding for the centres that are currently in the ABA pilot scheme subject to agreement with my Department on standards that will enable them to be supported as primary schools for children with autism.

My Department has also put in place a training programme for teachers in specific interventions including ABA through the Special Education Support Service (SESS). In addition a team of behaviour advisers has been recruited, under the leadership of a person with a P HD, to support teachers.

The Deputy will be aware that the pilot programme was established in the absence of the network of special classes that is now in our schools and will not be expanded. We will continue to work to ensure that all children can have access to a broad programme, with provision for ABA as appropriate, in special classes.

School Enrolments.

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

164 Deputy Darragh O’Brien asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will assist in the placement of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin. [4273/08]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the matter of the enrolment of a pupil in a school including a special class is a matter for the Board of Management of the school and my Department has no role in relation to processing applications for enrolment by schools.

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

Special Educational Needs.

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

165 Deputy Darragh O’Brien asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools in Dublin north that have an autism outreach programme; and if she will list the schools and the number of places per school for children with Autism. [4274/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, the National Council for Special Education is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers, for the establishment of special classes for autism and for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants to schools to support children with special needs. The NCSE will continue to establish additional autism classes where the need arises in both special schools and mainstream schools.

I have arranged for the details requested by the Deputy to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.

Schools Building Projects.

Martin Ferris

Question:

166 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the availability of possible alternative sites for the provision of a new school for a school (details supplied) in County Kerry which were recently purchased by Tralee Town Council; if her Department will purchase one of these sites for the purpose of building a new school should it be approved under the school building programme. [4275/08]

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

Teaching Qualifications.

Brian Hayes

Question:

167 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on establishing an appeals mechanism within the remit of the Teaching Council which would allow those teachers who are unsuccessful in obtaining recognition of their qualifications from the council to have the matter appealed to an independent or expert group at arm’s length from the council; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that many of the decisions being taken by the council can cause difficulties for the applicants concerned, and the need to address these matters in a humane and understanding way; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4277/08]

The Teaching Council registers new teachers in accordance with section 31 of the Teaching Council Act. One of the principal requirements for registration is satisfying the relevant qualification conditions, a process also known as qualification recognition. Pending the approval of draft Registration Regulations the Council is using the educational qualification standards set by the Department of Education & Science and the former Registration Council which were in existence prior to the Council's establishment in March 2006.

The process for recognising (assessing) qualifications involves the review of the applicant's educational qualifications by Council staff. Where the qualifications have general recognition, e.g. B.Ed from Mary Immaculate College of Education, the qualifications are recognized subject to satisfactory confirmation that the applicant has successfully achieved the relevant qualification.

Where the applicant's educational qualifications are ‘non-standard', details of the course and transcripts are sought from the applicant and these are passed to external assessors for assessment. The applicant's file and the results of the assessment are presented to the Council's Primary Application's Panel or Post-Primary Application's Panel as appropriate. The Panel reviews the documentation provided and the recommendation of the assessor. Where the Panel decides that the applicant's educational qualifications do not meet the standard required, the applicant is advised accordingly and given the opportunity to present any further information they may have and to have a second external assessment undertaken. If a second assessment is undertaken, the Panel further reviews the file and assessments. The applicant is advised of the outcome of this review.

The refusal to recognise an applicant's educational qualifications can in effect prevent an applicant from being registered as a teacher under section 31(5) of the Teaching Council Act. The Council is currently putting in place an appeals mechanism to hear appeals from applicants whose educational qualifications have not been recognised in the process outlined in the preceding paragraph. It is expected that the appeals mechanism will be presented to the Council for approval at its next meeting on March 10th.

Under sections 31 (7) and (8) of the Teaching Council Act, an applicant does have the right to go to the High Court where the Council refuses registration. It is the Council's view that every opportunity should be given to the applicant to make their case fully prior to the possibility of having to go the High Court.

The Council and the Applications Panels are very cognisant of the impact of a refusal to recognise an applicant's qualifications. The Council endeavours to be transparent in its dealings with applicants and give the benefit of the doubt where reasonable. This includes giving Conditional Registration which allows the applicant to be registered and gives an opportunity to make good the identified educational deficiencies. Notwithstanding the Council is obliged to maintain teaching standards and be consistent in its approach to the thousands of applications it receives. Inevitably this will result in some applicants not having their qualifications recognised.

Brian Hayes

Question:

168 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of cases that have come before the Teaching Council in each year since it was established; the number of applications to the Teaching Council for recognition of their qualifications for the purpose of admission to the register of primary and post primary teachers that have been unsuccessful in their application in each year; the number of unqualified teachers in both primary and post primary education that are currently working within the system on the basis of discussions between the Teaching Council and her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4278/08]

In response to the Deputy's question, the Teaching Council has provided the following information:

The number of cases that have come before the Teaching Council in each year since it was established: The following information (A & B below) refers to registration cases only:

2006

2007

A. Primary Teachers Registered

1,400

1,510

B. Post Primary Teachers Registered

1,578

1550

The number of applications to the Teaching Council for recognition of their qualifications for the purpose of admission to the register of primary and post primary teachers that have been unsuccessful in their application in each year:

No individual year data are available.

The Council has received 2,533 Applications for recognition since March 2006. Please see notes 2, 3 and 4 below regarding unsuccessful applications.

The number of unqualified teachers in both primary and post primary education that are currently working within the system on the basis of discussions between the Teaching Council and her Department:

The Council has verified qualifications on the basis of Data Verification Forms sent by teachers to the Council in 2006. The following numbers of teachers have been verified as not being qualified.

Unqualified at Primary Level 231

Unqualified at Post Primary Level 335

These figures are not complete as a considerable number of teachers have not returned their qualification details to the Council.

1. Qualifications Recognition and Teacher Registration

It is only when the recognition process is completed that an applicant will seek registration. As a result, all applicants that seek registration via this route are registered. (Unless there is a problem with Garda Vetting, Original Transcripts or Proof of Identity). Only one applicant has continued to seek registration having not received recognition and this case is currently being processed.

2. Primary

Since Establishment day, 1328 applications for the recognition of primary teaching qualifications have been received. Approximately 80 applications have not been granted recognition. The remainder have either received full recognition or have been granted provisional recognition on the basis that a number of shortfalls (primarily in the Irish Language) will be fulfilled. There are also 34 applications from those who have completed a SCITT (School Centred Initial Teacher Training) programme of Teacher Education that are in the process of recognition.

3. Post-Primary

At post-primary level, 1046 applications for recognition have been received, but it is not possible to determine the exact number that have been recognised, as some applicants have received recognition of their primary degree or teacher education qualification or both, and some are already recognised and were seeking additional subjects. Of the 1046, applications at least 50 applications are from applicants seeking recognition of their degree prior to entering the Postgraduate Diploma in Education.

4. Further Education

159 applications for recognition in the Further Education sector have been received within the past 12 months. The Council has commenced the recognition process and will issue its first batch of decisions within the coming days.

Schools Building Projects.

Richard Bruton

Question:

169 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science when a decision will be made to approve construction by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 5; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4281/08]

The Stage 3 documentation for the project referred to by the Deputy is currently being examined by my Department's Technical Staff. Progression of all projects to tender and construction are considered in the context of my Department's Multi-Annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. The school should contact the School Building Section of my Department regarding the immediate problem with the electricity provision.

Vocational Education Committees.

Brian Hayes

Question:

170 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will publish in full the contents of communications received between her Department and each of the country’s vocational education committees when they were asked to provide to her Department in May 2007, with a complete list of funding applications for capital purposes in each respective VEC; the contents in respect of each VEC of that communication; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4286/08]

A survey of the accommodation needs in the Further Education Sector was initiated in May 2007. This involved sending a questionnaire to all VECs asking them to provide the following information

An outline of the capital funding requirements in the Further Education area of their VEC

A list the funding requirements in order of priority

A note on whether the proposed projects were of immediate (within 2 years) or of medium term need (3-5 years)

A brief statement justifying the need for capital funding

Completed forms were received from all 33 VECs. These outlined 335 projects at an estimated cost of € 315m. The following table details the projects and estimated funding per VEC,

VEC

No. of Projects

Funding Required

Carlow VEC

1 Project

3,325,000.00

Cavan VEC

7 Projects

42,250,000.00

Clare VEC

8 Projects

8,570,000.00

City of Cork VEC

21 Projects

4,661,500.00

County Cork VEC

6 Projects

22,000,000.00

Donegal VEC

34 Projects

3,858,550.00

City of Dublin VEC

34 Projects

42,266,000.00

County Dublin VEC

21 Projects

2,089,850.00

Dun Laoghaire VEC

2 Projects

1,700,000.00

City of Galway VEC

1 Project

19,000,000.00

County Galway VEC

5 Projects

472,000.00

Kerry VEC

16 Projects

9,282,500.00

Kildare VEC

14 Projects

8,246,300.00

Kilkenny VEC

3 Projects

6,000,000.00

Laois VEC

3 Projects

1,619,000.00

Leitrim VEC

1 Project

2,000,000.00

City of Limerick VEC

3 Projects

11,020,000.00

County Limerick VEC

6 Projects

6,650,000.00

Longford VEC

6 Projects

280,000.00

Louth VEC

1 Project

3,000,000.00

Mayo VEC

65 Projects

7,764,222.00

Meath VEC

8 Projects

14,870,000.00

Monaghan VEC

10 Projects

16,362,800.00

Offaly VEC

2 Projects

1,770,000.00

Roscommon VEC

4 Projects

1,353,000.00

Sligo VEC

3 Projects

4,700,000.00

Tipperary NR VEC

9 Projects

17,500,000.00

Tipperary SR VEC

11 Projects

3,580,000.00

County Waterford VEC

3 Projects

3,850,000.00

City of Waterford VEC

9 Projects

25,525,000.00

Westmeath VEC

7 Projects

1,165,000.00

Wexford VEC

3 Projects

1,500,000.00

Wicklow VEC

8 Projects

16,700,000.00

Funding for these projects will be considered in the context of the overall capital funding available to the Department.

Schools Building Projects.

Brian Hayes

Question:

171 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary and post primary building projects submitted by various schools to her Department at stage three that are awaiting approval to advance to stage four; her views on allowing some or all of the schools concerned to at least progress to the next stage, stage four, which is the planning stage, irrespective of when her Department will take a decision in terms of stage five in view of the multi-annual school building and modernisations programme; her views on the time that this would save for schools and the considerable costs that it would ultimately save; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4287/08]

My Department considers all building projects in the context of the multi-annual school building and modernisation programme. In my most recent announcement on the 2008 large-scale building programme last week I approved 48 projects to commence construction including 30 new primary schools in rapidly developing areas that are planned to be in place by next September. My Department has sufficient projects with planning permission in waiting to advance to tender and construction and these together with the ongoing demands in rapidly developing areas are under consideration for inclusion in future announcements.

Schools Refurbishment.

Brian Hayes

Question:

172 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science when a decision will be taken by her Department to allow a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary, to advance its project for a total redevelopment of the school, in view of the recent comments of her Department in the whole school evaluation regarding health and safety matters within the school; if she will prioritise this project within the context of the multi-annual school building programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4303/08]

This is an extension/refurbishment project. The project is at an early stage of architectural planning. The further progression of all large scale capital projects, including this project, will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation programme.

Schools Building Projects.

Brian Hayes

Question:

173 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science when her Department will advance the long standing commitment in respect of a proposal to redevelop a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary, which received a commitment in 1999 that such a project would be advanced in view of the amalgamation of a number of schools at that time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4304/08]

An application for an extension has been received from the school referred to by the Deputy. The building project required to meet the school's accommodation needs will be considered in the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

174 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science when her Department proposes to proceed to tender and construction stage of the proposed extension to a school (details supplied) in County Galway; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this project has been at the planning stage for the past nine years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4307/08]

I announced recently a list of schools which are due to go to construction in 2008. My Department will be in contact with the school authorities over the next number of days to advise on the most appropriate preparation schedule applicable on each project.

The school to which the Deputy refers is not included in that announcement. However, I intend to make further announcements regarding projects that will be proceeding to construction during the course of the year as the school building programme is rolled out. The next announcement will occur after Easter.

Brian Hayes

Question:

175 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department has entered into an agreement or has had discussions with any partner in education who may have an interest in being a school patron for the purposes of the proposed new primary school in Tallaght, Dublin 24 (details supplied); if an agreement, tentative or otherwise has been entered into with such a partner at this stage; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4323/08]

As the Deputy will be aware the Department has lodged a planning application for the provision of an 8 classroom primary school building on the site to which the Deputy refers which can be activated at short notice if and when required.

The action which the Department is taking in Tallaght is indicative of the proactive approach which it is taking on a nationwide basis to ensure that there will be sufficient accommodation available into the future as further planned housing developments come on stream.

The Department is aware that there is sufficient primary school provision in the Tallaght area for the immediate future but it is charged with looking beyond that to ensure that all eligible pupils have a place to go to school. In that context the Department has no plans in the immediate future to provide the accommodation on the site. Accordingly, there is currently no agreement with any school patron to establish a school on this site.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

176 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the application for the provision of an extension to a school (details supplied) in County Louth; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4345/08]

My Department recently received an updated application for large scale capital funding from the management authority of the school to which the Deputy refers.

The updated application is currently being assessed. When this has been completed, the project will be assigned a Band rating under the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects and progress on the project will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

177 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 1039 of 30 January 2008 regarding the provision of a new school at the Aston Village area, Drogheda, County Louth, the reason a general purpose room for indoor physical education activities and outdoor play areas will not be provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4346/08]

As the Deputy was informed previously, the Department is installing 8 classrooms and ancillary accommodation initially in the Aston Village area of Drogheda to enable a new school to open next September. The Department does not routinely provide a General Purpose room in this scenario. This will be provided in the course of expanding the school to a 24 classroom facility which is planned for the succeeding year.

In the meantime, the full extent of accommodation being provided for next September is unlikely to be required for classroom purposes so that a vacant classroom can be used for indoor physical education activities. Interim outdoor play areas will be provided.

Departmental Offices.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

178 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount of electricity used in the offices of her Department in Marlborough Street for the past three years; if she will provide a monthly breakdown for this period; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4355/08]

The information requested by the Deputy on the amount of electricity used in the offices of my Department in Marlborough Street is contained in the following table.

Electricity Usage Department of Education and Science, Marlborough Street Office 2005-2007.

Year

Month

Usage KWH

2005

January

244,410

2005

February

2005

March

243,064

2005

April

2005

May

232,794

2005

June

2005

July

229,682

2005

August

2005

September

243,272

2005

October

2005

November

259730

2005

December

2006

January

260,662

2006

February

2006

March

441,148

2006

April

2006

May

2006

June

2006

July

116,212

2006

August

114,651

2006

September

117,426

2006

October

127,514

2006

November

133,964

2006

December

126,517

2007

January

137,265

2007

February

124,082

2007

March

128,370

2007

April

117,147

2007

May

122,522

2007

June

115,730

2007

July

117,898

2007

August

112,018

2007

September

112,007

2007

October

126,144

2007

November

127,259

2007

December

121,645

School Transport.

Michael McGrath

Question:

179 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if further to Parliamentary Question No. 205 of 6 December 2007, her Department will sanction school transport supports to a group of children (details supplied) in County Cork. [4378/08]

Bus Éireann, which operates the school transport scheme, has informed my Department that the children referred by the Deputy, in the details supplied, are not eligible for transport to the school in question.

It is open to pupils who are not attending their nearest school to apply for concessionary transport to the school which they are attending.

Parents of the pupils should liaise with their local Bus Éireann office regarding the availability of such transport.

Site Acquisitions.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

180 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made in acquiring a permanent site for a primary school in Tyrrellstown, Dublin 15; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4379/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

181 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Education and Science the length of time she will continue to use the temporary school site on Powerstown Road, Tyrrellstown, Dublin 15; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4380/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 180 and 181 together.

Acquisition of a 6 acre site for primary school provision in Tyrellstown is well advanced at contract stage. As the Deputy will appreciate, due to the commercial sensitivities attaching to site acquisition, I cannot comment further on the matter at this time.

The site is such that it should provide accommodation for up to two 24 classroom schools, each of which would have a 3 stream junior infant intake. This equates to a pupil intake of 162 junior infants per year.

The Department will be discussing the configuration and size of the schools with the two patron bodies concerned, Educate Together and the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin.

The schools will continue to be accommodated on the site at Powerstown Rd until their permanent accommodation is delivered.

Schools Recognition.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

182 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will grant recognition to a school (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4381/08]

The New School Advisory Committee (NSAC) has received an application for the recognition of a new primary school in September, 2008 in the location referred to by the Deputy. The NSAC is an independent advisory group established to process applications for the recognition of new primary schools and to make recommendations to the Minister for Education and Science. It is expected that the NSAC will produce its report in the near future.

Schools Building Projects.

Denis Naughten

Question:

183 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason for the delay in issuing the final approval for the construction of a project (details supplied) in County Roscommon; when approval will be issued; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4398/08]

I announced recently a list of schools which are due to go to construction in 2008. My Department will be in contact with the school authorities over the next number of days to advise on the most appropriate preparation schedule applicable on each project.

The school to which the Deputy refers is not included in that announcement. However, I intend to make further announcements regarding projects that will be proceeding to construction during the course of the year as the school building programme is rolled out. The next announcement will occur after Easter.

Willie Penrose

Question:

184 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science when her Department will give approval for a school (details supplied) in County Westmeath to provide an extension to enable it to have the appropriate level of accommodation to facilitate the numbers that are attending the school; if she will take steps to have same expedited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4462/08]

My Department recently received an updated application for large scale capital funding from the management authority of the school to which the Deputy refers.

The updated application is currently being assessed. When this has been completed, the project will be assigned a Band rating under the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects and progress on the project will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Departmental Offices.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

185 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Defence the amount of electricity used in the offices of his Department in Infirmary Road for the past three years; if he will provide a monthly breakdown for this period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4354/08]

The amount of electricity used in my Department's offices on Infirmary Road over the last three years is 1,935,278 kilowatt hours. The table below sets out the monthly breakdown and overall total for this period.

As the data were not compiled on a monthly basis prior to March 2005, the usage for those two months is not readily available.

Month

2005

2006

2007

Overall Total

January

69,818

68,444

February

65,216

63,519

March

39,869

69,391

63,740

April

41,904

58,525

50,691

May

43,711

61,879

52,137

June

43,711

55,354

47,467

July

55,662

53,610

49,730

August

56,585

53,590

51,219

September

57,811

55,134

50,615

October

62,103

60,674

55,968

November

68,798

63,370

57,026

December

67,284

63,944

55,659

Total

538,558

730,505

666,215

1,935,278

Residency Permits.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

186 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to an application for residency made in September 2006 by a person (details supplied) who has received no communication directly from his Department in relation to the application; the status of the application; and the date by which a decision can be expected. [4241/08]

The position in relation to granting long term residency is as follows: Persons who have been legally resident in the State for over five years on the basis of work permit/work authorisation/work visa conditions may apply to the Immigration Division of my Department for a five year residency extension. In that context they may also apply to be exempt from employment permit requirements.

The dependants of the aforementioned, who have been legally resident in the State for over five years may also apply for long term residency. This particular long term permission does not grant an exemption from employment permit requirements to any such dependants.

Time spent in the State on student conditions cannot be counted towards long term residency.

While applications for long term residency are under consideration, the person concerned should ensure that their permission to remain in the State is kept up to date.

An application for long term residency from the person referred to by the Deputy was received in September 2006 and an acknowledgement has recently issued to him. I understand that applications received in July 2006 are currently being dealt with. As soon as a decision is made on the case, the person concerned will be notified.

Garda Deployment.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

187 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the level of the Garda structural organisation at which the local drugs units are constituted, that is at the regional, divisional or district level; and the size of the dedicated allocation of officers to each local drugs unit. [4257/08]

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that the overall strength of the Divisional Drugs Units is 313.

The personnel strengths outlined in the table below are indicative of all those employed full-time on Drugs Units throughout each of the 25 operational Divisions.

All Gardaí have responsibility, inter alia, to deal with drug related issues as and when they arise. The Deputy will appreciate that, as with any large organisation, on any given day the overall strength of the organisation may fluctuate due, for example, to retirements, resignations etc.

It is the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner to allocate personnel throughout the force taking everything into account. The situation will be kept under review and when additional personnel next become available the needs of the Divisional Drug Units will be fully considered by him within the overall context of the needs of Garda Divisions throughout the country.

Division/Station

Strength

Carlow/Kildare

8

Naas

2

Kildare

4

Carlow

2

Cavan/Monaghan

10

Cavan

3

Monaghan

7

Clare

5

Ennis

5

Cork City

21

Anglesea St

15

Gurranabraher

2

Mayfield

2

Togher

2

Cork North

8

Cobh

1

Midleton

2

Mallow

3

Fermoy

2

Cork West

6

Bandon

6

D.M.R. East

16

Dun Laoghaire

5

Bray

5

Dundrum

6

D.M.R. North

32

Santry

7

Raheny

5

Coolock

8

Balbriggan

3

Ballymun

4

Swords

5

D.M.R. North Central

16

Store St.

16

D.M.R. South

24

Sundrive

7

Tallaght

10

Terenure

7

D.M.R. South Central

22

Pearse St.

7

Donnybrook

5

Kevin St.

10

Tipperary

8

Clonmel

3

Thurles

1

Templemore

1

Tipperary

1

Nenagh

1

Cahir

1

D.M.R. West

35

Blanchardstown

7

Ronanstown

10

Clondalkin

6

Finglas

6

Ballyfermot

6

Donegal

4

Letterkenny

1

Buncrana

2

Donegal

1

Galway West

5

Galway

5

Kerry

9

Tralee

7

Killarney

2

Laois/Offaly

9

Portlaoise

3

Abbeyleix

3

Edenderry

3

Limerick

14

Roxboro Road

7

Henry St.

7

Longford/ Westmeath

11

Mullingar

2

Athlone

5

Longford

2

Granard

2

Louth/Meath

13

Drogheda

3

Dundalk

4

Ashbourne

2

Navan

1

Trim

1

Kells

1

Mayo

4

Castlebar

2

Ballina

2

Roscommon/Galway East

2

Ballinasloe

2

Sligo/Leitrim

5

Sligo

5

Waterford/Kilkenny

13

Waterford

6

Kilkenny

5

Dungarvan

2

Wexford/Wicklow

13

Wexford

3

Newross

2

Enniscorthy

2

Gorey

3

Wicklow

3

Departmental Agencies.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

188 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount that has been allocated to the Property Services Regulatory Authority since its establishment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4258/08]

Terence Flanagan

Question:

189 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the breakdown of the expenditure to date incurred by the Property Services Regulatory Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4259/08]

Terence Flanagan

Question:

191 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will provide an account of the work to date undertaken by the Property Services Regulatory Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4270/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 188, 189 and 191 together.

As the Deputy will be aware, in 2005 the Auctioneering/Estate Agency Review Group, established by my predecessor to carry out a review of all aspects of the auctioneering profession in Ireland, recommended the establishment of a Regulatory Authority to take over responsibility from the Courts and the Revenue Commissioners for the licensing and regulation of Auctioneers, Estate Agents and Management Agents.

In December 2006, the Government approved the general scheme of the Property Services Regulatory Authority Bill, which will establish the Authority on a statutory basis, and it is anticipated that the Bill will be published in final form later this year.

Clearly for the new Authority to be fully functional, it will be necessary for it to be established on a statutory basis. However, pending enactment of the legislation, an Implementation Group has been established to assist and advise on practical matters relating to the establishment of the new body and a Chief Executive designate, who is working closely with the Implementation Group, has been appointed. While the Group and the Chief Executive designate are currently involved in establishing the basic organisational structures, systems and procedures necessary to any organisation, a number of specific issues, fundamental to the long term functioning of the Authority, have been identified which can be addressed in advance of it being established on a statutory basis. These include the acquisition of accommodation for the Authority, the development of a code of practice for the industry, the creation of a National Public Register of Property Services Providers and the development of consumer information packs. To date, significant progress has been made in each of these areas as follows:

Accommodation, which will serve the medium to long term needs of the Authority, has been acquired in Navan, Co Meath.

A Code of Practice, which identifies the key principles and values that should guide the day to day practice of Auctioneers/Estate Agents, has been drawn up by the Group and circulated to all licensed Auctioneers/Estate Agents.

The Code incorporates a complaints system which will enable complaints concerning non-compliance with the Code to be investigated. All licensed Auctioneers/Estate Agents have been invited to subscribe to the code on a voluntary basis pending its establishment on a statutory basis under the proposed new legislation.

A National Public Register of all licensed Auctioneers and House Agents has been established and published for the first time. This Register will be added to on an ongoing basis and will, once the new legislation is in place, include Management Agents.

Public information material on the provision of property services, including the purchase and sale of property, is currently being prepared. It is planned to have this material available later in the year.

Expenditure to date on the establishment of the Authority is as follows:

Year

Pay

Non-pay

Total

2006

73,000

Nil

73,000

2007

199, 500

142,500

342,000

The budget allocation for 2008 is €904,000.

Proposed Legislation.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

190 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the Property Services Regulatory Authority Bill will be brought before Dáil Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4269/08]

I refer the Deputy to my response to Questions Nos. 597 and 645 of 5 February on this matter. I have nothing further to add to the information given in that reply.

Question No. 191 answered with Question No. 188.

Asylum Applications.

Brian Hayes

Question:

192 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be taken in respect of the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4276/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 12 October 1998 and applied for asylum. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner. The person concerned was advised of her entitlement to appeal this recommendation to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal but did not do so.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), she was informed, by letter dated 4 February 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of submitting written representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain in the State. Representations have been received on behalf of the person concerned and will be fully considered before the file is passed to me for decision.

Work Permits.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

193 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to a provision (details supplied); the reason for the discrepancy; and if he will take steps to rectify it. [4297/08]

In response to a previous Parliamentary Question No. 1274 on 30 January 2008 I explained the position in relation to Work Permits and the Certificate of Registration which is granted to holders of those permits.

Green Card Permits which are different from Work Permits are applicable to those earning €60K or more per annum or those earning over €30K in occupations where high level strategic skills shortages exist. The issue of aligning the term of a Green Card Permit and a Certificate of Registration is being reviewed.

I have asked the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service to examine the material on the website and to update as necessary.

Residency Permits.

Billy Timmins

Question:

194 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to long term residency applications; the month his Department are now dealing with; the length of time it takes for this process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4298/08]

The position in relation to granting long term residency is as follows: Persons who have been legally resident in the State for over five years on the basis of work permit/work authorisation/work visa conditions may apply to the Immigration Division of my Department for a five year residency extension. In that context they may also apply to be exempt from employment permit requirements.

The dependants of the aforementioned, who have been legally resident in the State for over five years may also apply for long term residency. This particular long term permission does not grant an exemption from employment permit requirements to any such dependants.

Time spent in the State on student conditions cannot be counted towards long term residency.

While applications for long term residency are under consideration, the person concerned should ensure that their permission to remain in the State is kept up to date.

Due to the large volume of applications on hands at present, the processing times for long term residency applications have lengthened. Applications are currently taking up to 19 months to process. Applications for long term residency received in July 2006 are currently being dealt with.

Refugee Status.

Joe Costello

Question:

195 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the situation whereby two Iranian nationals threatened to burn themselves to death outside his Department on 30 January 2008 (details supplied); the status of their application for asylum and their prospects of success; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4311/08]

With regard to the first named person, the Deputy will be aware that applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to myself, as Minister, as to whether such status should be granted.

A final decision on this person's application will be made upon receipt of the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

The second named person arrived in the State on 25 August 2006 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), he was informed, by letter dated 6 November 2007, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, he was notified that he was eligible to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with regulations known as the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, S.I. No. 518 of 2006, which came into force on 10 October 2006. The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and this application will be considered in due course. The person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the Subsidiary Protection application is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will be considered under Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the Prohibition of Refoulement. The case file of the person concerned will be passed to me for decision in due course.

Citizenship Applications.

Joe Costello

Question:

196 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made on the application of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 for citizenship which was lodged in May 2004; if he will respond to the parliamentary question of 22 May 2005 to the effect that a decision would be made in the first half of 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4316/08]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question 592 on 27 November 2007.

Processing of the application is ongoing and the file will be forwarded to me for a decision in the coming months.

I will inform the Deputy and the person concerned when I have reached a decision on the matter.

Sentencing Policy.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

197 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if drug offenders convicted to less than ten year sentences in prison are eligible for consideration for extra remission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4317/08]

As previously advised to the Deputy, Section 59 (2) of the Prison Rules, 2007 allows for the discretionary granting of additional remission, up to one third as opposed to the standard rate of one quarter, where a prisoner has shown further good conduct through his/her engagement in authorised structured activity and where, as a result, the prisoner is less likely to re-offend and will be better able to reintegrate into the community.

I can further advise that while prisoners, including those convicted of drug offences will be eligible for consideration for this concession, the additional concession will only be awarded in exceptional cases and where I am satisfied beyond any doubt that the prisoner concerned has demonstrated that he meets the requirements as set out in the Prison Rules.

Residency Permits.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

198 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if there is a moratorium in place on applications for long term residency, which have seen no movement since at least September 2007 at which time his parliamentary question replies indicated that applications from July 2006 were being dealt with, which is still the case according to his current parliamentary question replies; if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties this is causing for applicants, who were told at the time of their application to expect much shorter processing times; if he will take steps to speed up processing of these applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4327/08]

Long term residency is an administrative scheme that was introduced in May 2004 and is focused on persons who have been legally resident in the State for over five years on the basis of work permit/work authorisation/work visa conditions. Such persons may apply to the Immigration Division of my Department for a five year residency extension. In that context they may also apply to be exempt from employment permit requirements.

The dependants of the aforementioned, who have been legally resident in the State for over five years may also apply for long term residency. This particular long term permission does not grant an exemption from employment permit requirements to any such dependants.

Time spent in the State on student conditions cannot be counted towards long term residency.

While applications for long term residency are under consideration, the person concerned should ensure that their permission to remain in the State is kept up to date.

Information on the website is updated on a regular basis indicating the current processing time.

Apart from long term residency, the staff in General Immigration Division also process a wide variety of applications from non-EEA nationals seeking to reside in the State on various grounds.

There has been a continuous increase in the number of applications being received since the introduction of the long term residency scheme in May 2004. However, the Deputy will appreciate that these applications are dealt with in the context of the overall workload facing the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service at any given time.

The administrative scheme for long term residency will be established on a statutory basis in accordance with the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill.

Citizenship Applications.

Willie Penrose

Question:

199 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will take steps to have an application for citizenship by a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath processed without further delay; if in this context he will note correspondence from the person’s solicitors sent to his Department on 9 October 2007, and 16 November 2007, and further correspondence, whereby all the necessary documentation has been forwarded to his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4331/08]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 145 on 11 October 2007. The position remains as stated.

Residency Permits.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

200 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive authorisation to remain here. [4340/08]

I have been informed that the Immigration Division of my Department has recently been in contact with the person concerned requesting further documentation. Upon receipt of these documents a decision will be made on the case.

Private Security Licences.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

201 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if an application by a person (details supplied) in County Louth for a licence will be expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4347/08]

The Private Security Authority is an independent body under the aegis of my Department and I have no involvement in dealing with individual applications. The Authority has sole responsibility for the processing and issuing of licences. I am assured that all applications are processed in an expeditious manner.

Departmental Offices.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

202 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount of electricity used in the offices of his Department at St. Stephen’s Green for the past three years; if he will provide a monthly breakdown for this period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4361/08]

I can inform the Deputy that, based on an analysis of the Department's energy bills, the amount of general units of electricity used for the past year in the Department's office at St Stephen's Green is estimated at 112,681.

The quarterly breakdown for the year 2007 is estimated as follows:

January to March — 41,689*

April to June — 23,003

July to September — 20,723

October to December — 27,266

Equivalent figures for the years 2005 and 2006 are not readily available, and would not provide for meaningful comparison in any event as the number of staff and proportion of the building occupied by the Department varied during this time.

*The increased usage for the first quarter is attributable to additional energy requirements arising from building works taking place during that time.

Garda Strength.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

203 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 1211 of 30 January 2008, when next additional personnel will become available to An Garda Síochána; the number of additional Gardaí that will be available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4395/08]

The next allocation of Probationer Gardaí is due to take place on 13 March next. It is expected that approximately 270 members will be attested on that date. It is the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner to allocate personnel throughout the Force taking everything into account.

As I stated in my earlier reply this unprecedented increase in the strength of the Garda Síochána is continuing in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government, with an intake of approximately 1,100 recruits per annum. In addition, there is a significant expansion under way in the number of civilian staff being made available to the Commissioner.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

204 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the next additional gardaí will be made available to the Waterford-Kilkenny division of the Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4396/08]

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that as of 31 December 2007, the latest date for which figures are readily available, the personnel strength of the Waterford/Kilkenny Division was 428. The Deputy will appreciate that, as with any large organisation, on any given day the overall strength of the organisation may fluctuate due, for example, to retirements, resignations etc.

It is the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner to allocate personnel throughout the Force taking everything into account. The next allocation of Probationer Gardaí is due to take place on 13 March next. In that regard, the needs of the Garda Division referred to by the Deputy will be fully considered by the Commissioner within the overall context of the needs of Garda Divisions throughout the country.

Residency Permits.

John Curran

Question:

205 Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made regarding an application for permission to remain in the State by a person (details supplied) in County Dublin. [4397/08]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Questions No. 899 of Wednesday, 26 September 2007, 134 of Wednesday 29 November 2006, No. 169 of Thursday 23 March 2006 and Nos. 1022 and 1024 of Wednesday 28 September 2005 and the written replies to those Questions.

The person concerned arrived in the State on 18 April 2002 and applied for asylum. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), she was informed, by letter dated 22 September 2004, re-issued on 12 January 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of submitting written representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain in the State. Representations have been received on behalf of the person concerned and will be fully considered before the file is passed to me for decision.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

206 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to an application for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4437/08]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's question was received in the Citizenship section of my Department in March 2003. On examination of the application it was determined that the person concerned did not satisfy the residency requirements as set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. A letter informing him of this was issued on 14 March 2005.

It is open to the person in question to lodge a new application if and when he is in a position to meet the statutory requirements applicable at that time.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

207 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4438/08]

I refer the Deputy to the replies to Dáil Questions No. 960 of 26 September, 2007, No. 96 of 26 April, 2007, No. 120 of 22 February, 2007, No. 407 of 31 January, 2007, No. 151 of 14 December, 2006 and No. 56 of 30 November, 2006, in relation to this case. I wish to inform the Deputy that the position remains unchanged.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

208 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects a decision to issue in the matter of family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4439/08]

I refer the Deputy to my previous answer to Parliamentary Questions No. 522 put down for answer on the 18th December 2007, No. 179 put down for answer on 15th November 2007 and No. 149 put down for answer on the 25th October 2007.

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that the person in question made a Family Reunification application in February 2007. The application was forwarded to the Refugee Applications Commissioner for investigation as required under Section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996. This investigation is completed and the Commissioner has forwarded a report to my Department. This application will be considered by my Department and a decision will issue in due course. Family Reunification applications are dealt with in chronological order and at the present time are taking up to 24 months to process.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

209 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if due regard has been given to their particular circumstances on humanitarian grounds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4440/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 5 June 2006 and applied for asylum. The application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), she was informed, by letter dated 13 November 2007, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, she was notified that she was eligible to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with regulations known as the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, S.I. No. 518 of 2006, which came into force on 10 October 2006.

The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome. In the event that the Subsidiary Protection application is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will be considered under Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the Prohibition of Refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned will be passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

210 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if inquiries into the authentication of documentation in the matter of application for family reunification in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Cork have been completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4441/08]

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that the person in question made a Family Reunification application in September 2005. In the course of processing the application, questions arose in relation to the authenticity of certain documents submitted. This issue was investigated and I am informed by the Family Reunification Section of my Department that they will shortly be in contact with the legal representative of the person concerned.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

211 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4442/08]

I refer the Deputy to my previous answer to Parliamentary Question No. 1196 put down for answer on the 30th January 2008.

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that the person in question made a Family Reunification application in March 2006. This application is under consideration by my Department and a decision will issue in due course. At the present time Family Reunification applications are taking up to 24 months to process.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

212 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status or decision under subsidiary protection application in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4443/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 24 March 2000 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), he was informed, by letter dated 29 May 2002, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of submitting written representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain in the State. Representations have been received on behalf of the person concerned and will be fully considered before the file is passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

213 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4444/08]

It is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications. As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted.

A final decision on this application will be made upon receipt of the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Deportation Orders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

214 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency position in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4445/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 6 March 2002 and claimed asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

The person concerned was informed by letter dated 28 February 2003 that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him and afforded him three options in accordance with Section 3(3)(b)(ii) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) namely to leave the State voluntarily, to consent to the making of a Deportation Order or to submit, within 15 working days, written representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State i.e why he should not be deported.

His case was examined under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the Prohibition of Refoulement. Consideration was given to all representations submitted on his behalf for permission to remain in the State. On 11 December 2003 my predecessor refused permission to remain temporarily in the State and instead signed a Deportation Order in respect of him.

Notice of this order dated 8 January 2004 was served by registered post requiring the person concerned to present himself at Ennis Garda Station on Thursday 15 January 2004 in order to make travel arrangements for his removal from the State. He failed to comply with his reporting requirements and was classified as evading his deportation. He should therefore present himself to the Garda National Immigration Bureau without any further delay.

The effect of the Deportation Order is that the person concerned must leave the State and remain thereafter out of the State. The enforcement of the Deportation Order remains an operational matter for the Bureau.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

215 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress to date in the matter of naturalisation, residency and family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4446/08]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that I have approved the application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person in question and a certificate issued on 8 March 2007.

Officials in the Citizenship section inform me that there is no record of applications for certificates of naturalisation or long term residency for the other three people mentioned in the Deputy's question. However, officials in the family reunification section inform me that they were granted family reunification on 31 October 2002.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

216 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4447/08]

The Deputy may wish to note that in the details supplied, the reference number and name do not correspond to each other. I am assuming that the Deputy is referring to the person whose name he supplied. Notwithstanding this, it is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications.

As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted.

A final decision on this application will be made upon receipt of the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

217 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 22; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4448/08]

The persons concerned claimed asylum in the State on 2 July, 2001 and had their claims examined by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner who recommended that they be recognised as refugees. Based on these recommendations, the then Minister granted them formal declarations of refugee status and they were informed accordingly by letters dated 29 July, 2002. This communication also advised them of the rights and entitlements accompanying refugee status in the State. They continue to hold the status of refugees in the State.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

218 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected position in the matter of family reunification in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4449/08]

The persons in question made applications for asylum in the State in March 2001 and February 2001 respectively. On 18 March 2001 the second person concerned gave birth to a child. They subsequently withdrew their asylum applications and sought residency on the basis of parentage of an Irish born child and this was approved. This permission to remain has been renewed for the first person concerned until 8 April 2008 and for the second person until 17 April 2009. Accordingly, the entitlement to seek family reunification under the Refugee Act does not apply in this case.

As the family members in question are visa required nationals, it is open to them to make visa applications to enter the State. They can then outline their circumstances and provide supporting documentation to accompany their visa applications.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

219 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be reached on the application to remain in the State on humanitarian grounds for a person (details supplied) in County Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4457/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 12 April, 2004 and applied for asylum. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), she was informed, by letter dated 9 September, 2005 that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of submitting written representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain in the State. Representations have been received on behalf of the person concerned.

Following consideration of the case of the person concerned under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996, as amended, as an exceptional measure and subject to certain conditions, the person concerned was granted temporary permission to remain in the State for three years until 1 February, 2011. The person concerned was duly notified of this decision by letter dated 1 February, 2008.

Asylum Applications.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

220 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be reached in regard to the application for subsidiary protection and leave to remain in the State on humanitarian grounds for a person (details supplied) in County Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4458/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 7 October 2003 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), he was informed, by letter dated 16 August 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, he was later notified that he was eligible to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with regulations known as the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, S.I. No. 518 of 2006, which came into force on 10 October 2006. The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the Subsidiary Protection application is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will be considered under Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the Prohibition of Refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned will be passed to me for decision.

Voluntary Assisted Return Programme.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

221 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he will grant approval to persons (details supplied) in County Waterford in regard to their application under the voluntary assisted return programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4459/08]

The person concerned wrote to my Department on 10th October, 2007 indicating that he wished to apply to return voluntarily to Congo-Brazzaville. A reply was issued on 16th October advising him of the various options open to him and he was asked to contact either the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) who would assist with travel costs and travel documents if necessary, or the Voluntary Returns Unit of the Department if he was in a position to meet his own travel costs. To date there has been no further contact from the person concerned and I would urge him to immediately either contact the Department's Voluntary Returns Unit or make an application to IOM if he wishes to return voluntarily to Congo-Brazzaville.

Citizenship Applications.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

222 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be reached on the application for a certificate of naturalisation of persons (details supplied) in County Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4460/08]

Applications for certificates of naturalisation from the first two persons referred to in the Deputy's question were received in the Citizenship section of my Department in July 2006 and an application from the third person referred to was received in February 2007.

Officials in that section are currently processing applications received in July 2005 and have approximately 6,000 applications on hand to be dealt with before those of the first two people concerned and approximately 10,400 on hand to be dealt with before that of the third person.

However, I understand the individuals in question are refugees. In accordance with the Government's obligations under the United Nations Convention relating to the status of Refugees, every effort is made to ensure that applications from persons with refugee status are dealt with as quickly as possible. It is likely, therefore, that further processing of the applications of the first two individuals mentioned will commence in the near future and further processing of the application of the third person mentioned will commence in the second half of 2008.

I will inform the Deputy and the individuals in question when I have reached a decision on the applications.

Asylum Applications.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

223 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason he will not accept an application for subsidiary protection from a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4461/08]

This applicant applied for asylum on 1st August, 2003. His application was refused and a Deportation Order was made in respect of him on 21 July, 2005.

Under Statutory Instrument No. 518 of 2006, which transposed Council Directive 2004/83/EC into Irish law, persons in respect of whom a deportation order was made before 10 October, 2006 are not automatically entitled to have an application for subsidiary protection considered. However, it is open to such persons to apply under Regulation 4(2) for me to exercise my discretion and consider an application for subsidiary protection from them. To date, my Department has not received any subsidiary protection application from or on behalf of the person concerned.

The Applicant issued judicial review proceedings on 25 July, 2006 challenging the deportation order. He issued further judicial review proceedings on 19 December, 2007 challenging the refusal of his application under the European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) (No.2) Regulations 2006. As both matters are sub judice, I do not propose to comment further.

Drugs in Prisons.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

224 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of seizures of illegal drugs in prisons; the value of such seizures in 2007 and in each of the preceding five years; and if he will provide a breakdown of the seizures in each prison. [4465/08]

The confiscation of drugs (or suspected drugs) is recorded by our prisons under the generic description of "prohibited articles/substances". An accurate breakdown of statistics as requested by the Deputy is not available without the manual examination of records going back over a considerable time period.

Such an examination would require a disproportionate and inordinate amount of staff time and effort and could not be justified in current circumstances where there are other significant demands on resources.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

225 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position in regard to the proposed sewerage scheme for Burtonport, County Donegal. [4251/08]

The Burtonport Sewerage Scheme is included in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007–2009 as a scheme to start construction in 2008 at an estimated cost of €3.7m. My Department is awaiting submission of Donegal County Council's revised Preliminary Report for the scheme.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

226 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the proposed waste water treatment plant at Shanganagh, Shankill, County Dublin; his views on whether the proposed siting of the plant in close proximity to a residential area meets EU and Irish standards of best practice and legislative requirements; and if he will guarantee that the Shankill plant will not cause similar environmental problems including noise, odour and water pollution currently being caused by the Poolbeg sewage treatment plant in his constituency. [4256/08]

Responsibility for the planning of this project, including the siting of the waste water treatment plant, is a matter for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and the project has been subject to statutory Environmental Impact Assessment. The Environmental Impact Assessment was adopted by the elected members of the Council prior to submission to An Bord Pleanála for approval. I understand that the Council is currently examining tenders for the plant which is included in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007-2009. The plant is required to meet our statutory obligations under the EU Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive.

The operation and maintenance of the plant, following completion, will also be a matter for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. The Waste Water Discharge (Authorisation) Regulations, 2007, which I made in September 2007, provide for the authorisation and compliance monitoring by the EPA of discharges from local authority waste water treatment works and collection systems to all types of receiving waters. The Regulations implement aspects of the Dangerous Substances and Water Framework Directives and will ensure that waste water discharges into surface waters, ground water and coastal waters will meet highest international standards.

In addition, the European Communities (Waste Water Treatment) (Prevention of Odours and Noise) Regulations, 2005, require local authorities to ensure that their waste water treatment plants are operated and maintained so as not to cause a nuisance through odours or noise emissions. Local authorities are also required to maintain records of odour and noise incidents occurring in treatment plants and to provide details of any such incidents in their annual report to the EPA.

Planning Issues.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

227 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will confirm receipt of correspondence from a residents' association (details supplied) in County Laois; if a reply was issued to the correspondence; if so, his views on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4279/08]

I have received the correspondence of 31 January 2008 referred to in the question and will reply to it shortly. My Department will also be asking Laois County Council to provide a report on the matter. As Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, I am precluded under section 30 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, from exercising any power or control in relation to any particular case, including an enforcement matter, with which a planning authority or An Bord Pleanála is or may be concerned.

Enforcement of planning control is a matter for the planning authority, in this case Laois County Council, which can take action if a development, does not have the required permission, or where terms of a permission have not been met. Planning authorities have substantial powers under the Planning and Development Acts in relation to unauthorised developments. The 2000 Act provided for a strengthened enforcement regime and increased penalties on conviction for the offence of unauthorised development. Section 35 of the 2000 Act, as amended in 2006, gives planning authorities a new power to refuse planning permission, without recourse to the High Court, to a developer who has substantially failed to comply with a previous planning permission.

The 2000 Act also imposed new obligations on planning authorities in the enforcement area: there is now a statutory obligation on a planning authority to issue a warning letter in relation to any unauthorised development it becomes aware of (except in the case of trivial or minor development). There is also a statutory obligation to carry out an investigation and expeditiously decide whether an enforcement notice should be issued. The planning authority's decision on whether to issue an enforcement notice must be entered on the planning register and, in cases where it is decided not to issue an enforcement notice, any complainant must be informed.

Section 180 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, provides, in relation to any residential estate containing roads, water mains, sewers, drains, etc, that if the estate is not completed by the developer in accordance with the planning permission, and the planning authority has not taken enforcement action against the developer in this regard within the appropriate period, the planning authority must initiate taking in charge proceedings in response to a request from the majority of the residents.

My Department will shortly issue updated guidance to planning authorities on the taking in charge of estates, including the limited circumstances where it may be appropriate to condition a management company.

Finian McGrath

Question:

228 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will put a stay on a company’s plan (details supplied). [4289/08]

As Minister, I am precluded, under section 30 of the Planning and Development Act, 2000, from exercising any power or control in relation to any individual planning application or appeal with which a planning authority or An Bord Pleanála is or may be concerned.

Work is jointly being undertaken by this Department and the Office of Public Works on the preparation of comprehensive guidelines on the consideration of flood risk in the planning process. The guidelines, which will be issued for public consultation later in 2008, will provide an important input to the consideration of flood risk in the preparation of development plans, and the key policies and messages will need to be appropriately reflected in development plans, by way of variation if necessary.

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to establish a Dublin Bay Area Task Force to maximise the potential of the Bay for the people of the capital city. I am currently finalising arrangements for establishing the Task Force. Any relevant decisions of An Bord Pleanála in relation to Dublin Bay will be taken into account by the Task force in due course. The comprehensive study of the role of Dublin Port outlined in the NDP will be carried out by the Department of Transport, and will take account of the work of the Dublin Bay Area Task Force.

Deer Population.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

229 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the magnitude of damage caused to passing cars by the increased deer population in Irish forests; if his attention has further been drawn to incidents where cars have been wrecked and where people have been injured when deer crossed the road from one State plantation to another; if the deer population is increasing; if there are culling procedures in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4306/08]

Wild deer in the State are protected under the Wildlife Acts. There is an annual open season when deer can be legally shot under licence. The open season for deer operates from 1 September to 28 February depending on the species and gender of deer.

I am aware that deer species are increasing in range and numbers. My Department is undertaking a national deer survey in 2008, which should provide figures as to the overall deer population, and will also be working closely with Coillte this year to produce an up to date distribution map for all deer species throughout the country.

My Department carries out localised annual deer counts on lands such as National Parks. Where appropriate, and depending on the annual count and instances of damage caused by deer to habitats, especially woodland, culls are carried out to ensure that deer populations do not reach levels that would have negative ecological consequences. Control of deer on private property is the responsibility of the landowner who may apply to my Department for a licence under the Wildlife Acts to cull deer when this is necessary outside the annual open seasons.

The Road Safety Authority maintains records on the number and circumstances of all road collisions reported by the Gardaí. While their database does not indicate the number of traffic accidents involving deer, the number involving animals (a category which includes cattle, horses, dogs, deer, badgers etc.) is recorded. Latest figures suggest that animals in general are not a major factor in road collisions with 2006 figures showing that animals were involved in less than 1% of all collisions leading to injury.

My Department is working with the Road Safety Authority to establish the extent to which deer are involved in road traffic accidents. I am also examining potential mechanisms for stream-lining the reporting procedure to facilitate the maintenance of annual statistics on this issue.

Recycling Policy.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

230 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the high costs charged to consumers for the disposal of CFL light bulbs; if he has plans to increase the number of facilities where a person can return used domestic bulbs for the purpose of recycling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4357/08]

Under the WEEE Directive, which governs the recovery and recycling of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), retailers are required by law to take back waste CFLs and fluorescent lamps free of charge on a one-for-one, like-for-like basis from householders. Where replacement fluorescent tubes and CFLs are bought over the counter, retailers must take back the old product in-store, either at the time of sale or within a maximum of 15 days of the date of sale. Where a replacement CFL or fluorescent tube is being delivered, the seller of the product must take back the old lamp on delivery of the new lamp. Each local authority must also accept household waste CFLs and fluorescent tubes free of charge at its civic amenity facilities. Retailers can have their premises designated as ‘WEEE collection points' or deposit household WEEE free of charge at local authority civic amenity facilities. There are currently in excess of 600 ‘WEEE collection points' including both retail outlets and civic amenity facilities.

The determination of additional waste management infrastructure requirements is a matter for local authorities in the context of the preparation of the statutory waste management plans provided for in the Waste Management Acts. It is a matter for the retail sector to determine the number of retail outlets from which electrical goods including CFLs are made available for sale and as a consequence the number of retail outlets where WEEE can be deposited free of charge.

The recovery and recycling of all WEEE placed on the market since 13 August 2005, when the Directive came into effect, must be funded by the relevant producers, and is organised through two collective compliance schemes which operate a Producer Responsibility Initiative on behalf of the producers.

The WEEE Directive also allows for Environmental Management Costs (EMCs) which are included in the price of various products, including CFLs and fluorescent lamps, to fund the recovery and recycling of WEEE which was put on the market before 13 August 2005. These EMCs are set by the industry-based WEEE Register Society Limited which has an independent Committee of Management. This body is monitoring implementation of the scheme and has adjusted the EMCs periodically to ensure that the not-for-profit principle is observed and that the EMCs only cover the costs incurred in the environmentally sound management of WEEE. The EMCs are not imposed by or remitted to the Government and my Department has no function in the matter. The WEEE Register is currently carrying out a comprehensive review of EMCs and it is expected that this will be completed in the first half of 2008.

Local Authority Housing.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

231 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the action he will take to safeguard the health and safety and housing interests in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if he will direct the local authority in this regard having particular reference to the fact that the local authority through the shared ownership loan has approximately a 50% interest in the property; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4433/08]

The operation of the Shared Ownership Scheme in a particular area is a matter for the relevant local authority. I have no role in directing local authorities in relation to issues arising in individual cases.

Estate Management Companies.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

232 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the full extent to which management companies are operating throughout County Kildare; if these companies have taken over responsibility from the developer in situations where the development has not been completed in accordance with planning conditions; if this is in accordance with the Planning and Development Act 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4435/08]

The introduction of legislation in relation to management companies is a matter for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. My Department does not hold information on the extent to which management companies are operating throughout Co. Kildare. In Circular Letter PD 5/06, issued in July 2006, my Department told planning authorities that conditions requiring management companies should not be attached to planning permissions for traditional housing estates — that is, estates of houses with individual private gardens — except in very specific circumstances, e.g. if a particular service or facility is provided for residents' use only, such as a playground.

Section 180 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, provides, in relation to any residential estate containing roads, water mains, sewers, drains, etc, that if the estate is not completed by the developer in accordance with the planning permission, and the planning authority have not taken enforcement action against the developer in this regard within the appropriate period, the planning authority must initiate taking in charge proceedings in response to a request from a majority of the residents.

Telecommunications Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

233 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when he expects to receive the draft policy paper on next generation broadband networks; if he will implement the value for money and policy review of phase one of the MANs programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4244/08]

In response to recent industry announcements, and developments internationally, my Department is preparing a draft policy paper that will review current communications infrastructure policy and analyse policy options in light of industry developments, in relation to the optimum role for the Government in the planning and roll-out of next generation broadband.

I have established an expert International Advisory Forum on Next Generation Broadband that will meet on 26 and 27 February 2008 to critically evaluate policy issues, options and recommendations contained in the draft paper. Where appropriate, the draft paper will be amended to reflect the Forum's views. Thereafter I will quickly publish the paper for public consultation.

Phase I of the MANs Programme is complete in that twenty seven MANs have been completed and are currently being managed by eNet, the Managed Services Entity for Phase I. A Value for Money and Policy Review (VFMPR) of Phase I of the MANs Programme is being finalised and is due to be published in the coming weeks. Both the VFMPR and the policy paper on Next Generation Broadband will guide the development of policy in this important area.

Proposed Legislation.

Simon Coveney

Question:

234 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when he plans to publish the legislation that will confer statutory responsibility on the Commission for Energy Regulation for the safety of hydrocarbon exploration, production and upstream gas safety as outlined in the Energy White Paper. [4341/08]

A Bill to confer the statutory responsibility for the safety of petroleum exploration and production on the Commission for Energy Regulation, which will implement a key finding of safety studies carried out in relation to the Corrib onshore pipeline is being prepared in my Department. It is planned that this Bill will be published during the Dáil Summer Session 2008.

Energy Resources.

Simon Coveney

Question:

235 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has increased the level of the levy on certain oil products in order to underpin Ireland’s oil stockholding strategy as stated in the Energy White Paper. [4342/08]

In line with the commitment made in the Government White Paper, Delivering a Sustainable Energy Future for Ireland, to increase the National Oil Reserves Agency (NORA) levy on the consumption of oil products, I have made Regulations under the National Oil Reserves Agency Act, 2007, which provide for an increase in the rate of the levy to 1.00 cent per litre. The increase came into effect on 1 November 2007.

NORA has the statutory responsibility for ensuring that Ireland meets its EU and international obligations to maintain reserves of national oil stocks. It is estimated that the increase in the levy from 0.476 cent per litre to 1.00 cent per litre will generate an additional €40 million per annum. This additional revenue will enable NORA to work towards achieving the Government's objective, as set out in the White Paper, to maximise both Ireland's wholly-owned stocks of oil and the level of stocks held on the island of Ireland, subject to increased suitable storage availability and value for money considerations.

Simon Coveney

Question:

236 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if, together with the Northern Irish authorities, he has set an all-island 2020 renewables target informed by the recent all-island grid study, as set out in the Energy White Paper; when it was done; the target for same. [4343/08]

The established minimum targets for 2020 for the renewable energy sector in Ireland are to increase the contribution from renewable energy sources to 10% of transport fuels, 12% of heating fuels and 33% of electricity consumed.

The All-Island Grid Study, which was commissioned jointly by my Department and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (Northern Ireland), concludes that the 33% target by 2020 for the electricity market in Ireland can be achieved and surpassed, and a target of 42% is attainable on an all-island basis in that timeframe, if certain conditions are met. There are no common targets, quantified on an all-island basis, published for the electricity market or for the wider renewables energy market at this time.

Departmental Offices.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

237 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the amount of electricity used in the offices of his Department in Adelaide Road for the past three years; if he will provide a monthly breakdown for this period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4352/08]

I have set out in the following table the usage of electricity, expressed in kilowatt hours, in my Department's building at 29/31 Adelaide Road in Dublin, since July 2005, when the current supplier commenced supplying electricity to the Department. Records for the first half of 2005 are held by a former supplier and are not readily available.

Kilowatt Hours consumed

2005

July

321,205

August

252,512

September

250,441

October

244,222

November

252,312

December

258,957

2006

January

260,221

February

254,042

March

269,100

April

259,191

May

250,290

June

252,496

July

262,461

August

261,101

September

252,104

October

251,077

November

253,105

December

253,409

2007

January

262,629

February

248,733

March

258,054

April

261,588

May

264,446

June

260,854

July

254,564

August

248,260

September

237,392

October

242,239

November

242,191

December

234,318

Telecommunications Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

238 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the funding provided by his Department for a project (details supplied) in County Mayo from the year 2000 to date in 2008; if this project is up and running; if he will investigate the circumstances surrounding same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4370/08]

Michael Ring

Question:

239 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he is satisfied with the operational services provided and the value for money of the work carried out which was aided by funding from his Department (details supplied); the audits, whether technical or financial, that were carried out on such projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4371/08]

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

This project was selected for funding under the Broadband Measure of the Economic Infrastructure Operational Programme, 1994-1999. It involved the design and construction, by Chorus Communications, of a hybrid fibre coaxial network in Castlebar, County Mayo during 2000 and 2001 at a total cost of €1.3 million.

A technical evaluation of the project was completed by North West Labs Ltd, who furnished a completion report for each phase of the project and a final report. A financial audit was carried out by Ernst and Young. Consequently, grant aid of €615,627 was paid to Chorus in respect of the project. The demand for services foreseen by Chorus did not materialise for a variety of reasons. This project highlights the fast moving and risky nature of investment in the electronic communications market.

I understand UPC, the current owners of the network, are considering the possible role of the networks in their future plans.

Energy Research.

Simon Coveney

Question:

240 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has, through the Irish Energy Research Council, published a comprehensive Energy Research Strategy 2008 to 2013, as stated in the Energy White Paper; if he has not, when publication is scheduled; if he has, when it was published and the location it can be found. [4389/08]

The Energy Policy White Paper and the Programme for Government underline the Government's priority commitment to energy research in line with EU priorities. The Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy and the National Development Plan both reflect the vital importance of energy research and innovation to underpin the energy sector and the imperative to deliver sustainable, competitive and secure energy supplies for the economy and society. Our ambitious renewable energy and energy efficiency targets in particular require a significant ramping up of research and innovation.

Our commitment to building energy research capacity has already been reflected in the provision of €20m for over 200 researchers in Irish third level institutions over 7 years of which €7.9m was paid in 2006. It is a key priority for the Government to accelerate Research and Development into renewable energy technologies notably ocean energy in order to realise Ireland's undoubted potential and to deliver on the national targets for renewable energy.

In this regard, on 15 January last, I announced a major programme of activity, grants and supports to develop ocean energy in Ireland with significant targeted funding to go to the sector over the next three years. The Irish Energy Council is completing its work on an Energy Research Strategy for Ireland 2008-2013, which will advise on key areas of priority for energy research. I expect the Council to submit the Strategy to me by the end of March 2008. I then intend to undertake a public consultation process before finalising the Strategy, following any necessary Government deliberations.

Energy Conservation.

Simon Coveney

Question:

241 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps that were initiated in 2007 in conjunction with the Commission for Energy Regulation, Sustainable Energy Ireland and energy suppliers to roll-out the provision of real time energy displays for households which have demonstrable potential to reduce energy bills, as outlined in the Energy White Paper. [4390/08]

Simon Coveney

Question:

242 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if a technical economic and cost review on smart meters was completed in 2007; if not, when it will be completed; and if it was, the results of same. [4391/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 241 and 242 together.

The roll out of smart meters, as set out in the Government's Energy Policy Framework and in the Programme for Government, is a key component of the Government's strategy to improve management of demand for electricity and achieve greater energy efficiency through use of the latest technology. The delivery of smart metering requires a collective response. Therefore, at my direction, my Department is working closely with the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI), ESB Networks, ESB Customer Supply and the independent suppliers to roll out this new technology.

In March 2007 the CER launched a consultation process on demand side management and smart metering, which considered the technical, economic and behavioural benefits and costs of smart metering in both the Irish and international contexts. On 5 November I formally announced the national smart metering programme, coinciding with the publication by the CER of their paper outlining the results of their consultation process. This paper set out the reasons for the CER's recommendation to proceed with the roll out of an optimally designed universal smart metering programme that will embrace all aspects of smart metering relevant to the Irish electricity market. Measures initiated in 2007 were designed to facilitate installation of 25,000 smart meters in varied geographic locations as part of the first phase of the programme. The ultimate objective is to complete the national roll out in 5 years.

The paper also proposed the governance structure for the roll out. That structure is now in place with the first meeting of the Steering Group, consisting of representatives from the CER, my Department, Sustainable Energy Ireland, ESB Networks and Customer Supply, and independent suppliers, having taken place on 10 December. Under the oversight of the CER a number of Working Groups are also examining the technical aspects of the roll out.

Simon Coveney

Question:

243 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the progress that has been made on the consultation process on the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan outlined in the Energy White Paper; when the consultation paper on the subject was published; and when the final plan is scheduled for publication. [4392/08]

I published the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan for public consultation on 3 October 2007. The draft Action Plan sets out in excess of 60 actions that Government is taking or will take in the period up to 2020 to achieve a 20% reduction in energy demand across our economy and a 33% reduction in the public sector. The draft Plan also outlines how we will begin to achieve our more ambitious target of a 30% reduction across the whole economy by 2020.

Over 40 responses have been received as part of the public consultation process. I intend to publish the final Action Plan in April of this year.

Energy Review.

Simon Coveney

Question:

244 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if a fully costed demand side management plan for industry and consumers was finalised by the end of 2007 as stated in the Energy White Paper; the location where the plan can be found; and if it was not, when the plan is scheduled to be finalised. [4393/08]