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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 8 May 2008

Vol. 653 No. 6

Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 10, inclusive, answered orally.

Taxi Regulations.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

11 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Transport if he will change the composition of the advisory council to the Taxi Regulator; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17527/08]

Section 54 of the Taxi Regulation Act 2003 provides for the establishment of an Advisory Council to the Commission for Taxi Regulation, consisting of an independent chairperson and 17 ordinary members. It provides for the appointment of at least four persons representing small public service vehicle and driver interests, one person each from local authorities and An Garda Síochana, at least two persons representing consumer interests, and at least one person each representing disability, business and tourism interests. The Minister also has power to appoint four persons who have a special interest or expertise in matters relating to the functions of the Commission or the Council. The role of the Council is to advise the Commission for Taxi Regulation and the Minister for Transport, as appropriate, in relation to issues relevant to small public service vehicles and their drivers.

The current Advisory Council was appointed in accordance with the membership structure set out in the 2003 Act. Nominations from a range of interests were considered when decisions on the Council's membership were being made. Six members of the Council have a background in the industry. The term of appointment of the current members of the Council will expire on 3 November 2009. There is currently a vacancy for one ordinary member on the Council.

I am satisfied that the current composition of the Advisory Council adequately reflects the representational structure envisaged under the Taxi Regulation Act 2003 and that there is an appropriate balance between the interests of small public service vehicle owners and drivers on the one hand and the consumer and public interests on the other.

Road Safety.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

12 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport when he will bring forward legislation to Cabinet to lower the blood alcohol limit to 50 m/g; if he is considering plans to lower the blood alcohol level for drivers on a learner permit to 20 m/g; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17312/08]

Joe Carey

Question:

27 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Transport when he expects to lower the legal blood alcohol level for drivers as has been recommended; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17466/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 12 and 27 together.

The Road Safety Strategy 2007 to 2012, approved by the Government in October 2007, identifies the need to legislate for and introduce a reduction in the legal Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) for drivers, but does not specify what that level should be.

In determining what the BAC limit should be reduced to, the advice of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) was sought. The RSA's recommendations have been received and the Government, in noting the contents of the Authority's report at last week's Cabinet meeting, agreed that the RSA's report be published and taken into account in preparing new road traffic legislation this year.

The issue of lowering the BAC limits will now move into the work underway to prepare the Heads of a Road Traffic Bill, which also includes the issue of appropriate penalties for drink driving and other road traffic offences. I hope to bring the Heads of the Bill to Government this Summer.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

13 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Transport if he will introduce changes to the penalty points system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17536/08]

The penalty points system provided for in the Road Traffic Act 2002 has been kept under review to identify changes that would enhance both road safety and the effective enforcement of road traffic legislation. To that end a range of changes to the system were provided for in the Road Traffic Acts of 2004 and of 2006.

The penalty point system applies in respect of 36 offences at present. The extension of the system to the remainder of the offences that are scheduled in the Road Traffic Acts as potential penalty point offences will proceed in due course. Those offences relate primarily to vehicles and their use, lighting of vehicles and the licensing of drivers.

The penalty points system will continue to be kept under review to respond, in particular, to any proposals for revision that may emerge in connection with the implementation of the various actions in the Road Safety Strategy 2007-2012.

End-of-Life Vehicles.

Mary Upton

Question:

14 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Transport when he will publish the report into the presence of Irish and foreign registered car write-offs on roads here; the contacts his Department has had with the Revenue Commissioners as regards information on the number of car write-offs on roads here; if he will reform the National Vehicle Driver File to tackle the problem of car write-offs; his views on a compulsory reporting system for car write-offs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17331/08]

My primary focus at this stage is to obtain details from insurers of vehicles that have been written off in recent years for comparison against the National Vehicle and Driver File (NVDF) and to determine the extent to which written off vehicles may still be in circulation. I can report that, with the assistance of the Irish Insurance Federation, the insurance industry has agreed to make the necessary data available voluntarily. I expect that the process of obtaining this information and validating it against the NVDF will be completed over the coming months.

As a first significant step, data relating to some 5,400 written off vehicles which has already been provided voluntarily to my Department by one major insurer has been analysed against the 2.4 million active vehicles on the NVDF. The analysis revealed activity on the NVDF file after the date of write off in respect of a relatively small number of vehicles and the Department has written in recent days to the registered owners of some 261 vehicles which the records indicate may still be in use on public roads.

I am also committed to establishing a framework going forward so that there is an effective system in place which ensures that all write off instances are notified to my Department and properly recorded. My Department has been informed of the deliberations of an informal review group established to examine this issue chaired by the RSA and representative of the Revenue Commissioners, An Garda Siochana, and the NVDF. Further consultation with relevant stakeholders is required. This element, which could involve introducing a voluntary code of practice for all concerned, will be progressed when the verification exercise for all insurance write off data against the NVDF is completed.

The alleged importation of write offs from abroad is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners who are responsible for the registration of vehicles. Discussions are currently in progress between that Office and my Department in relation to possible arrangements for noting NVDF records of the write off status of imported vehicles where that information is available at the time of registration.

Cycle Facilities.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

15 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Transport if, in the context of the development of proactive cycling policies, he has had consultations with the Minister for the Environment Heritage and Local Government on facilitating the appointment of cycle lane engineers by local authorities; if he will be making a recommendation on the appointment of local authority cycle officials in the upcoming 2020 Vision — Sustainable Travel and Transport Plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17342/08]

My Department is currently considering the outputs of research which will inform the development of a National Cycling Policy.

My Department's recent public consultation document on sustainable travel and transport acknowledged the existence of deficits in cycling infrastructure. The issue of ensuring that appropriate expertise in relation to such infrastructure will be available to local authorities will be considered by my Department in conjunction with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in the context of work on a National Cycling Policy and the Sustainable Travel and Transport Action Plan.

Decentralisation Programme.

David Stanton

Question:

16 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Transport further to Parliamentary Question No. 161 of 21 February 2007, the progress that has been made regarding the decentralisation of Bus Éireann staff to Mitchelstown, County Cork; if this relocation is still being pursued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17441/08]

Bus Eireann has continued to pursue decentralisation to Mitchelstown. However, to date no employee has indicated a wish to move.

My Department recently attended a meeting with the Decentralisation Implementation Group (DIG) on the 15th April, 2008 and representatives from each of the agencies under the Department's aegis, including Bus Eireann, were present. Discussions took place on how best to progress their decentralisation programmes. Options are currently being explored regarding the nature of the posts to decentralise.

Public Transport.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

17 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding the upgrading of the Dublin Bus fleet. [17428/08]

The upgrading of the Dublin Bus fleet, which currently stands at 1182 buses, is a matter for Dublin Bus. I understand from Dublin Bus that it purchased, with Exchequer assistance including under Transport 21, 213 additional buses, and 617 replacement buses over the period 2000-2007 and is in the process of purchasing a further 100 replacement buses for delivery in 2008 and 2009. I am informed that the average age of the Dublin Bus fleet is now 5.6 years compared to 7.2 years in 1999.

Freight Transport.

Phil Hogan

Question:

18 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Transport if he will introduce incentives to encourage freight transport by increasing port capacity as recommended by the recently published Freight Transport Report for the Island of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17504/08]

A port capacity study undertaken on the Department's behalf by Fisher Associates in 2006, contained detailed submissions from seven ports regarding increasing unitised capacity. The report concluded, inter alia, that:

There is currently significant available capacity for further growth in LoLo traffic at Irish ports;

Current available capacity for RoRo traffic also exists, although less so than in the case of LoLo.

The study demonstrated that the projects being progressed by the ports sector have the potential to deliver adequate capacity going forward, in line with the established policy.

As acknowledged in this latest report, the expansion proposals submitted by the port companies would be sufficient for a very large expansion in Ro-Ro and Lo-Lo capacity. My Department is continuing to actively monitor both the capacity situation at our ports and the continuing progress on the submitted expansion proposals. I am encouraged by the fact that the ports continue to make significant progress with their proposals.

Public Transport.

Joe Costello

Question:

19 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Transport if the funding for all of the major infrastructure projects outlined in Transport 21 has been ring-fenced until their full delivery in 2015 and beyond; the way his Department has prioritised the delivery of Transport 21 projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17319/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

59 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which proposals and objectives set out under Transport 21 are achievable within cost and time targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17451/08]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

70 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Transport if, in view of the economic climate, all aspects of Transport 21 will be delivered and within the timeframe set out in the plan. [17433/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 19, 59 and 70 together.

At the launch of Transport 21, the Government identified the projects in the national roads, public transport and regional airports sectors that it wished to see prioritised for development in the ten-year period from 2006 to 2015 with an overall investment of €34 billion. The prioritisation was influenced by a number of relevant studies carried out in the years leading up to the launch such as the National Road Needs Study, the Strategic Rail Review and the DTO Strategy document ‘A Platform for Change'.

The Government has committed to the overall funding for Transport 21 over its ten-year life to 2015. The Exchequer element of the funding is provided through the normal annual budget and estimates exercise. For the first three years of Transport 21, the capital funding provided is in line with the originally agreed profile of expenditure. I have no reason to believe that the funding requirement for the remaining years of Transport 21 will not be met.

Parking Facilities.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

20 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Transport if he has had discussions with the Office of Public Works or the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government to discuss the provision of public service car park spaces in Dublin; if he has plans to promote a sustainable transport policy for Departments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17482/08]

My intention is to publish a Sustainable Travel and Transport Action Plan before the end of the year and my Department is currently considering a wide range of policy options.

The development of the Action Plan is a cross-cutting initiative and there is already substantial engagement with other Government Departments, including the Office of Public Works, which is the key player in allocation of Government buildings, with their associated car spaces. My Department will engage in detailed bilateral discussions with the Office of Public Works on a range of issues in the next month and I expect that public service car park spaces will feature in those discussions.

I believe that the public service, in its widest sense, must strive to become an example of best practice in relation to sustainable travel and transport.

Question No. 21 answered with Question No. 9.

Ministerial Meetings.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

22 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Transport if he keeps minutes of meetings between himself and other Government Ministers; if not, the reason he does not; if so, the reason these minutes are not available through the Freedom of Information Act 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17488/08]

I meet other Government Ministers on a regular basis. The preparation of minutes would not arise from all such meetings. Where minutes are prepared and the subject matter relates to matters for consideration by the Government such minutes are exempt records under section 19 of the Freedom of Information Acts 1997 and 2003.

Question No. 23 answered with Question No. 9.

Road Network.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

24 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Transport the way his Department monitors and invigilates the policies and performance of the NRA; if he has received submissions from the National Toll Roads and the NRA on full road pricing along the M50 or other roads; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17335/08]

Under Part V of the Roads Act 1993 (as amended) the statutory power to levy tolls on national roads, to make toll bye-laws and to enter into toll agreements with private investors in respect of national roads is vested in the National Roads Authority (NRA).

An M50 Demand Management Report was carried out last year for the NRA by independent consultants and conveyed to my Department. It was received in my Department in the last quarter of 2007. This was an initial exploratory study and I understand it will be updated in three years time when recommendations will be made to support any action that may or may not be taken in this area post 2010.

As the Deputy is aware, as Minister for Transport I am responsible for overall policy and funding issues relating to the National Roads Programme element of Transport 21. The detailed planning, design and implementation of individual national road improvement projects are a matter for the NRA under the Roads Act 1993 (as amended).

My Department oversees the effective implementation of the national roads element of the Transport 21 investment programme by providing policy guidance to the NRA and through ongoing monitoring of NRA expenditure.

The main focus of the current monitoring arrangements is on:

overall programme progress and alignment of programme with Government priorities;

expenditure drawdown;

arrangements in place for programme/project management and cost estimation and control.

Officials from my Department are in regular contact with the NRA liaising with them on various aspects of the national roads programme. The NRA is required to submit progress reports to my Department on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis.

Public Transport.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

25 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Transport if he has plans to provide additional buses to the Cork area to improve public transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17750/08]

My Department has approved total funding of €73m (in September 2006 and April 2007) towards the purchase of 235 new buses by Bus Éireann. I understand that Bus Éireann is in the process of taking delivery of the new buses on a phased basis. The deployment of buses, including the new buses, is a matter for Bus Éireann and I have no function in the matter.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

26 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Transport the reason he has decided to order the creation of a new single brand for all public transport services in the Greater Dublin Area; the amount in total this new branding plan will cost; if the Dublin Transport Authority will be the lead agency in rolling out the new branding project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17315/08]

The Dublin Transport Authority Bill 2008 includes a provision requiring the Authority to promote the use of public transport in the Greater Dublin Area including the implementation of a single brand to be used by public transport operators providing services under contract to the Authority.

The aim is to establish a clear, shared brand across the various public transport modes — Luas, metro, bus, suburban rail — which will clearly establish that each mode is part of an integrated public transport network. In London, for example, the various public transport modes operate under the Transport for London brand.

It will be a matter for the Dublin Transport Authority to develop an appropriate brand for the Greater Dublin Area and decide on its detailed implementation. However, I do not consider that the proposed provision in the Bill will require the immediate repainting of the entire public transport fleet as has been suggested by some commentators.

Question No. 27 answered with Question No. 12.

Employment Rights.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

28 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Transport the number of incidents of marine workers being left unpaid for work done that have occurred on ships docked in Irish ports in the years 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17346/08]

The primary responsibility for the compliance with the law on board ships rests with the flag state in each case. I am unaware of any case of workers being left unpaid on board Irish registered ships as a result of default by an employer in the years 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008.

The payment of wages on foreign flagged ships is a matter for the flag state where the ship is registered and is a matter for the internal domestic law of that country. However, Ireland does carry out inspections onboard foreign flagged ships in Irish ports under the auspices of the Paris Memorandum of Understanding on port state control and EU directives. These inspections are carried out to check for compliance with international law. Surveyors from my Department inspect over 400 such foreign flagged ships per year and they detain any ship which poses a safety hazard or which does not comply with the international requirements on living and working arrangements. The number of ships detained in the years mentioned are 2005 twenty-one ships, in 2006 twenty-six ships, in 2007 twenty-four ships and so far in 2008 eight ships have been detained. However, non-payment of wages is not in itself a basis for detention by inspectors of my Department.

Taxi Regulations.

David Stanton

Question:

29 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Transport further to Parliamentary Question No. 566 of 30 January 2008, the progress made in the discussions with the Taxi Regulator in relation to the provision of subsidies by his Department to taxi and hackney operators to purchase wheelchair accessible vehicles which comply with new standards; if such a subsidy is to be made available in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17440/08]

My Department has been in discussion with the Commission for Taxi Regulation in relation to a proposed subsidy arrangement to assist taxi and hackney operators with the purchase of wheelchair accessible vehicles that will meet the new accessible vehicle specifications being developed by the Commission. The Commission submitted a revised subsidy proposal to my Department at the end of January 2008.

A final decision will be made on the subsidy scheme proposal as soon as possible having regard to the overall budgetary context.

Public Transport.

Seán Barrett

Question:

30 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Transport when he plans to reform the Transport Act 1932 to allow for greater bus competition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17457/08]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

51 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport his views on amending the 1932 bus licensing legislation; if the new Dublin Transport Authority will in effect be the new bus licensing authority for the Greater Dublin Area; the powers as regards bus licensing he will transfer from his Department to the new DTA; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17314/08]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

73 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Transport when the Public Transport Regulation Bill will be published; the purpose and proposed heads of this Bill; if the Bill will establish a national transport regulator for the part of Ireland outside the Dublin Transport Authority counties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17316/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 30, 51 and 73 together.

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to expedite the establishment of a Dublin Transport Authority, which will have the necessary powers to ensure the delivery of the integrated public transport system envisioned under Transport 21. The Dublin Transport Authority Bill has been published and has passed Second Stage in the Seanad.

The DTA Bill sets out the mechanisms for the award of contracts for subvention in line with the new regime introduced under the new EU Regulation on Public Service Obligations in the transport sector, which will become mandatory from next year.

The Programme for Government also includes a commitment to improving bus services under Transport 21 by reforming the bus licensing provisions of the Road Transport Act 1932, to facilitate the optimum provision of services by providing a level playing field for all market participants, both public and private.

It is my intention that proposals for a new bus licensing regime will follow in subsequent legislative proposals to be contained in a Public Transport Regulation Bill. At this stage it is too early to be precise on the detail of the proposals except to confirm that the new Bill will deal with the replacement of the Road Transport Act 1932 and the provisions of the Transport Act 1958 that relate to the provision of bus services by the State bus companies. The new bus licensing regime will be designed in a manner consistent with the new EU PSO Regulation. It is envisaged that the new licensing structure will apply in respect of all commercial bus services, including those provided by Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann, and that the powers to grant licences in the Greater Dublin Area will be given to the Dublin Transport Authority. The new Bill will also encompass provisions relating to the subvented bus market outside the Greater Dublin Area that are consistent with the EU PSO Regulation.

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

The Government has also committed to examining the need for a National Transport Regulator in the context of the overall review of the economic regulatory environment. This review is being progressed on an inter-departmental basis under the chairmanship of the Department of the Taoiseach.

Question No. 31 answered with Question No. 9.

Dublin Transport Authority.

Richard Bruton

Question:

32 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Transport the discussions he has had with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government regarding the role of a directly elected Dublin mayor in the proposed Dublin Transport Authority; the agreements made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17460/08]

My officials participated in a Consultative Committee representing local government interests, Government Departments and other experts which advised the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on the issues examined in the Green Paper on Local Government Stronger Local Democracy — Options for Change published by the Minister on 22 April last.

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and I also discussed the proposal that a directly elected Regional Mayor for Dublin act as Chair of the Dublin Transport Authority. I supported the inclusion of this proposal in the Green Paper.

I am committed to working closely with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, following the completion of the consultation process on the Green Paper, to ensure coherence between the Government approach to institutional changes in the governance of Dublin and in the management of the surface transport system and strategic land use in the Greater Dublin Area.

Road Safety.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

33 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport if he has had consultation with the RSA, the Gardaí and the HSA on the safety implications for newspaper workers, motorists, cyclists and pedestrians of the distribution of newspapers on the Irish road network; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17349/08]

The promotion of public awareness of road safety is a matter for the Road Safety Authority, and enforcement of the Road Traffic Acts or the Roads Act is a matter for An Garda Síochána.

Safety in the context of a workplace or work environment comes under the remit of the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and I have no role in this area. It was reported in the press media at the end of January that the HSA and the Garda Síochána had met with the employers of newspaper distribution personnel on the issue of complaints received in relation to the activity referred to by the Deputy.

State Airports.

Liz McManus

Question:

34 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Transport if all parties have fully accepted the recommendations of the Cassells’ report; if he has received the business plans from Cork and Shannon Airports; the timeframe for the final separation of Cork, Dublin and Shannon Airports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17322/08]

Deirdre Clune

Question:

65 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Transport the steps he will take to facilitate the separation of Cork, Shannon and Dublin Airports in view of Cork Airport Authority’s decision to accept a level of debt; if this will require legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17749/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 34 and 65 together.

The State Airports Act, 2004 provides the framework for the establishment of Shannon and Cork as independent airports. As part of the airport restructuring process the boards of Cork and Shannon airport are required to prepare business plans for eventual separation.

Draft business plans for Cork and Shannon were submitted to the DAA at the end of last year and subsequently forwarded to me with DAA's commentary. Consideration of the draft Cork business plan led to the Cassells report which was the outcome of dialogue with the Dublin Airport Authority and the Cork Airport Authority.

Following on from acceptance of the Cassells report by the Board of CAA on 10th April last, a process of engagement will now commence with all the relevant parties on implementation and the technical and legal issues involved will be progressed by the Cork and Shannon airport authorities and the Department.

It is my intention to proceed without delay to effect the full separation of the three State airports, as set out in the State Airports Act 2004. This process will involve the preparation of revised business plans taking account of the Cassells' recommendations. In due course, the business plans will be submitted to the Minister for Transport and the Minister for Finance for approval as regards the state airports' financial and operational readiness.

I should add that the legal commitments enshrined in the State Airports Act concerning the protection of terms and conditions of employment of State Airport employees, as well as the requirements for consultation on future collective bargaining structures, will be honoured in full.

Rail Services.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

35 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Transport his views on the introduction of a rail freight subsidy on a per tonne basis for materials that are transferred from existing road freight onto rail freight; if not, the measures he is considering to increase rail freight within the transport system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17343/08]

There is substantial ongoing current and capital Exchequer investment in the development and operation of the railway network. Total Exchequer funding allocated to Iarnród Éireann for 2008 amounts to more than €720 million and is targeted at passenger services. The potential to expand rail freight is being considered as part of the development of the Sustainable Travel and Transport Action Plan.

Marine Safety.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

36 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport her views on the views of the MCIB in relation to the need for the same colour coded buoyage system of navigation to be used in both jurisdictions on the island of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17748/08]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

38 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport if the recommendations of the MCIB into the grounding and flooding of an Emerald Star cruiser on Lough Derg on 1 July 2006 have been acted on; if a marine notice has been issued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17747/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 36 and 38 together.

My Department has recently received the report from the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) referred to by the Deputy. The Report relates to an incident on the Shannon system. Waterways Ireland has responsibility for navigable inland waterways North and South, including the Shannon.

The MCIB report makes a number of recommendations in relation to boat rental companies and inland waterways. These will be considered by my Department, in consultation as appropriate with Waterways Ireland, in the overall context of delivering maritime safety.

Light Rail Project.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

37 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Transport the progress on the development of the LUAS line through the Tallaght west estates to Citywest and Saggart; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11854/08]

Transport 21 provides for an extension of the Luas Red Line (Connolly — Tallaght) to Citywest and Saggart.

Significant progress has been made in advancing this project. The Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) has finalised arrangements with a consortium of local developers for the delivery of the project.

On 20th December 2007 the RPA submitted an application for a Railway Order (planning permission) for the project and an oral hearing into that application was held in March this year. The decision of An Bord Pleanála on this application is awaited.

Subject to the granting of the railway order by an Bord Pleanála, it is expected that construction will commence towards the end of 2008 and the extension is expected to be completed at the end of 2010 with services commencing in early 2011.

Question No. 38 answered with Question No. 36.

Ferry Services.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

39 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the concerns regarding the continuing delay in the re-establishment of the Cork Swansea ferry route; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16175/08]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

49 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport his views on the re-establishment of the Cork Swansea ferry; the efforts being made in this regard; the supports available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16176/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 39 and 49 together.

The Cork Swansea Ferries Company suspended its service in 2007. I can appreciate the concerns that have been expressed in the region in response to this development. However , as Minister I have no direct role in the provision of such a service.

I understand that a number of interested parties and stakeholders have been in discussions with the Port of Cork Company about the possibility of commencing a new passenger and freight service out of the port.

I am informed that a commercial examination of the route has been carried out by the Port of Cork Company. This indicates that, subject to procuring a suitable vessel, the service could be feasible on a year round basis. The Port of Cork Company will certainly do what it can to facilitate the resumption of the service.

As Minister for Transport, I feel it is important that the market offers a diverse range of maritime links in and out of the State. This is vital to facilitate trade and tourism. I certainly hope that the current efforts show that the service is commercially viable and that it can be resumed as soon as possible.

Road Traffic Offences.

Joan Burton

Question:

40 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Transport if progress has been made in terms of finding an alternative method of collection of fines for motoring offences with Garda statistics indicating that as many as 50% of motorists are failing to pay fines accrued for motoring offences; if he has had contact with the Courts Service or the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17333/08]

The collection of court fines levied in respect of motoring offences and any reform of that collection system are matters for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Courts Service.

My Department has had discussions with the Department of Justice, Equality & Law Reform, the Courts Service and An Garda Siochana in relation to the matter of fixed charges under the Road Traffic Act 2002, which can give rise to a summons where a fixed charge for a road traffic offence is unpaid after specified period.

Rail Network.

Martin Ferris

Question:

41 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Transport the progress regarding the reopening of the western rail corridor. [17427/08]

I refer the Deputy to my answer to Question No. 468 on 2nd April 2008. The position remains unchanged.

Ship Inspections.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

42 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport if he will increase the number of inspectors carrying out inspections on ships docked in Irish ports, especially in view of the tragic death of a young mariner in August 2007; if he has reviewed the resources that are allocated to the inspections system in the context of the recent report by the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch into the 2007 fatal accident on the Dublin Viking in Dublin Port; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17345/08]

The primary responsibility for the safety of a ship rests with the operating company and with the state in which the ship is registered, the flag state. A second line of defence exists whereby the state in which the ship is located, the port state, has the entitlement to carry out inspections. This entitlement to carry out port state control inspections can only ever be on a sampling basis.

In Ireland port state control inspections on foreign flagged ships are carried out in accordance with the requirements of the Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control and EU Directives. The requirement is to inspect 25% of all foreign flagged ships visiting Irish ports each year. Surveyors from my Department inspect over 400 such ships each year, which is in excess of the 25% inspection commitment. Additionally, Ireland inspects all foreign flagged roll-on roll-off passenger ferries operating on international voyages to and from Ireland; these inspections include both scheduled and unscheduled inspections. Ireland fully meets its commitment in this regard as well.

The recent tragedy on board the ro-ro passenger ferry the "M/V Dublin Viking" yet again highlights the importance of safe mooring procedures and safety management systems on board ships. As this ship is registered in the United Kingdom, they as flag state have the primary role in ensuring that the ship is operated safely and they certify the management company as capable of doing so. Ireland as the port state is obliged under international treaties to accept such certification as prima facie evidence that the ship is compliant unless there are clear grounds for concluding otherwise. My Department is in the process of recruiting additional surveyors to assist in this work from 2009 onwards.

Road Safety.

Joan Burton

Question:

43 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Transport when he will publish legislation to implement the graduated driver licence programme; the proposed measures that will be contained in this legislation; if he will update the Rules of the Road to include regulations for four lane motorways; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17334/08]

The Road Safety Strategy 2007-2012 outlines a range of measures to be considered in relation to a Graduated Driver Licensing System. A progressive roll-out of appropriate measures is envisaged as the most practical approach.

The Deputy will recall the introduction of the first phase of the Scheme in October last year, when Regulations were introduced in relation to learner drivers. These Regulations replace provisional licences with learner permits, require learner drivers to be accompanied by a person with a full driving licence for at least 2 years, prescribe a period of 6 months before a learner driver can apply for a test, and require learner motorcyclists to wear an L-plate. Other measures will be considered by me on the basis of proposals from the Road Safety Authority (RSA).

In relation to the Deputy's question on four-lane carriageways, the motorway driving rules that are set out in the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997 apply to all motorways irrespective of the number of traffic lanes on the carriageway. Further regulations are not required in respect of the use of four-lane carriageways.

The Rules of the Road booklet uses illustrations and gives advice in the context of 2 and 3 lane carriageways, as these are the most common situations that a driver will encounter. The same principles apply to any carriageway with more than three lanes.

Road Network.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

44 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Transport his views on the rising costs of road maintenance; his plans to achieve greater value for taxpayers money; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17476/08]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

62 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport if he will instigate a nationwide audit of the surfaces of the regional, primary and local road network; the directions he has made to the National Roads Authority under Section 41 of the Roads Act 1993 in 2005, 2006, 2007 and to date in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17337/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 44 and 62 together.

The provision, improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is a matter for local authorities to be funded from their own resources supplemented by State grants provided by my Department. A national Pavement Condition Study of the regional and local road network was carried out in 1996 and a second Pavement Condition Study of the network was completed in 2005.

On foot of the findings of the second study, grants available to county councils under the pavement restoration programme for restoration improvement and restoration maintenance works have been significantly increased in recent years. In view of the fact that the last study of regional and local roads was carried out recently, I do not propose to have another study carried out in the near future.

My Department monitors the cost of works undertaken by local authorities under the pavement restoration programme. Increased cost of surface dressing maintenance works in recent years can be attributed to a range of factors including increased cost of oil and bitumen, greater use of higher grade bitumen to cater for higher traffic flows, increased cost of chippings and other materials, higher plant hire costs, wage increases and additional health and safety requirements.

I have not issued any directions to the NRA under Section 41 of the Roads Act 1993 since I became Minister for Transport in 2007. I understand that to date no ministerial directions have been made under this Act.

Public Transport.

Joe Costello

Question:

45 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Transport the cost of the nationwide Transport 21 advertising campaign; the length of time this campaign will run for; the objectives that have been established for the campaign; if he will provide a full report to Dáil Éireann on the final delivery date and budget for each of the Transport 21 projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17318/08]

Transport 21 represents the largest capital investment commitment ever made by Government to the development of transport infrastructure in this country. The projects comprising Transport 21 will greatly improve our national roads and public transport system over the ten year period to 2015, involving a total investment of €34 billion.

Recent market research undertaken on behalf of my Department indicated that awareness levels of Transport 21 among the general public are low. Given the scale of Transport 21 I consider it essential that the general public and all interested parties are made aware of the programme and of the many transport improvements that are already being delivered. It is also important because of the disruption caused by many projects that the public are fully informed of the purpose of each project and the long term benefits which will accrue.

Therefore, as part of a wider information and communications strategy and following a public procurement process, my Department engaged the services of consultants to undertake a media advertising campaign to raise public awareness of Transport 21. The campaign involves television, radio, press and outdoor advertising and I envisage that it will be necessary to continue to provide information and awareness to the public and all interested parties for the duration of Transport 21. The budget allocated for the advertising campaign for 2008 is €2.9 million. The consultants have been engaged for a three-year period and further campaigns are planned for 2009 and 2010.

The overall objective of the campaign is to make the general public aware of the projects and programmes contained in Transport 21 and the benefits that will accrue from their implementation.

As I have stated previously, I believe that the projected completion dates and budgets for Transport 21 projects will be determined only when the projects have gone through (i) public consultation, (ii) the relevant statutory approvals processes and (iii) the procurement and contract award process. Full project costs will be made available when (i) all procurement processes related to the project have been completed and contracts awarded and (ii) robust estimates are available in relation to non-contract elements of the project.

Question No. 46 answered with Question No. 6.

Road Network.

Jack Wall

Question:

47 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Transport the contacts he has had with the National Roads Authority, Dublin City Council and Nishimatsu-Mowlem-Irishenco in relation to the total projected estimate for the construction of the Dublin Port Tunnel; when the total tunnel construction cost will be finalised; and if he envisages further payments being made to the NMI consortium; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17339/08]

As Minister for Transport I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme element of Transport 21. As the Deputy is aware, the implementation of individual national road projects, including the Dublin Port Tunnel, is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Act, 1993 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

In particular, the allocation of funding in relation to the construction or maintenance of national roads is a matter for the NRA under Section 19 of the Act.

The construction of the Dublin Port Tunnel project was procured by Dublin City Council and funded through the NRA. I understand from the NRA that the estimated final outturn cost of the Tunnel remains at €751 million.

Public Transport.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

48 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport when he will publish the Sustainable Travel and Transport Action Plan arising from the recent consultation process; his views on whether it will be necessary to publish new legislation to accompany the Sustainable Transport Action Plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17347/08]

My intention is to publish the Sustainable Travel and Transport Action Plan before the end of the year.

It is premature, pending finalisation of consideration of possible measures in the Sustainable Travel and Transport Plan, to indicate if it will be necessary to publish new legislation to underpin its objectives.

Question No. 49 answered with Question No. 39.

Road Safety.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

50 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport his views on the recommendation to double the penalty points at bank holidays; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17326/08]

The penalty points system under the Road Traffic Acts is kept under review in relation to changes that would enhance both road safety and the effective enforcement of road traffic legislation. This particular suggestion will be borne in mind in that context, and in relation to effective implementation of the Road Safety Strategy 2006-2012.

Question No. 51 answered with Question No. 30.

Road Network.

Jack Wall

Question:

52 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Transport if his Department is examining plans to complete the original Dublin C-ring or M50/Dublin beltway, namely, the southern extension of the Port Tunnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17340/08]

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme element of Transport 21.

The implementation of individual national road projects, such as the proposed Dublin Eastern Bypass, is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Act, 1993 in conjunction with the relevant local authorities concerned.

As I indicated in response to similar Parliamentary Questions recently, two reports were commissioned by the NRA in 2000 and 2002 on the feasibility of constructing the Eastern Bypass. Copies of both reports were forwarded to my Department at the time. The output of these reports consisted of a constraints study and preliminary cost and traffic reports.

It was indicated at the launch of Transport 21 that feasibility study work would be undertaken on this route. However, implementation of the project is not included in the Transport 21 financial envelope.

The NRA subsequently engaged consulting engineers to update these two studies by undertaking a further engineering and feasibility study of the Bypass. This study examines possible route options, forecasts traffic demand and reports on scheme costs for the various options examined. The Department was given a copy of this report by the NRA late last year and is considering it.

Rail Network.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

53 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Transport his views on plans to fast-track the delivery of the Dublin rail interconnector; the projected total cost and completion date for the interconnector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17348/08]

I refer the Deputy to my answer to Question No. 14 on 6th March 2008. The position remains unchanged.

Air Services.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

54 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Transport if he will initiate an investigation in conjunction with the National Consumer Agency, the Competition Authority and the Commission on Aviation Regulation into the new extra charges on airline passengers; if he will consider legislation specifically to protect air travellers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17324/08]

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

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

Road Traffic Offences.

Mary Upton

Question:

55 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Transport the progress he has made in preparing legislative or other measures to ensure that all vehicles on roads here, including foreign registered vehicles, are subject to the same laws, regulations and penalties and that any fines or penalties accrued by a driver of a foreign registered vehicle are realised; the operation date for the system of mutual recognition of penalty points between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17332/08]

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

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

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

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

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

Insurance Industry.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

56 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Transport if he will introduce measures to reduce the cost of motor insurance, particularly for young drivers. [17432/08]

Motor insurance is provided by private companies in an open and competitive market where consumer interests can exert influence by seeking quotes and comparing costs before purchasing. The Financial Regulator oversees insurance companies.

The Government's insurance reform programme, initiated in 2002, has resulted in cheaper and more widely available motor insurance. In general, the cost of motor insurance has declined by 2.8% in the last 12 months and overall, motor insurance premia have fallen by 41% since April 2003. Various factors have contributed to this reduction including the establishment of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, improved road safety and increased competition in the open market.

In the case of young drivers it has been represented that the cost of insurance is still too high. As part of the Social Partnership Agreement Towards 2016, a review of the cost of insurance for young people, 17 to 24 years of age, was commissioned in September 2007. I expect a report on this matter shortly.

Road Safety.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

57 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport if he has plans to increase the level of funding for the Medical Bureau of Road Safety; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17328/08]

The issue of funding for the Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS) for any one year is considered in the context of the overall funding and resources for my Department and its non-commercial state agencies for that year and any funding submissions received from those agencies. The Bureau has been allocated €4,448,000 for this year and the estimates process for 2009 has not yet begun.

Rail Network.

Denis Naughten

Question:

58 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the development of the Athlone to Mullingar rail line; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16056/08]

The upgrading and extension of the mainline railway system, including the re-opening of closed lines such as the Athlone to Mullingar line, is a matter for consideration by Iarnród Éireann in the first instance. The re-opening of the Athlone-Mullingar rail line was not identified as a priority in the Strategic Rail Review and is not provided for in Transport 21.

Question No. 59 answered with Question No. 19.

Road Safety.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

60 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport if he is invigilating the rollout of the Road Safety Strategy 2007 to 2012 on a continuous basis; the number of deadlines for the implementation of specific actions within the Road Safety Strategy 2007 to 2012 that have already been missed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17327/08]

One of the actions in the 2007-2012 Road Safety Strategy is for the Road Safety Authority (RSA), to report to me in the second quarter of each year on the implementation of the 126 actions in the Strategy, all of which identify the agency responsible for implementation and a target implementation date. I expect to receive the first report during the second quarter of this year and will be bringing it to the Cabinet Sub-Committee, which I chair, as it is important that the implementation of the Strategy is co-ordinated at the highest level.

The RSA has already confirmed to me that all actions in the Strategy identified for completion in 2007 have been completed in full and I expect that the Authority will be notifying me of any specific actions that have not been implemented within the deadlines as set out in the Strategy.

Rail Network.

Martin Ferris

Question:

61 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Transport if he will formally commit to a plan to develop a rail line from Sligo to the city of Derry, creating an all-Ireland rail loop. [17426/08]

The upgrading and extension of the mainline railway system is a matter for consideration by Iarnód Éireann in the first instance. I understand from Iarnród Éireann that it has no plans to develop a rail line from Sligo to Derry. Such a proposal does not form part of Transport 21.

Question No. 62 answered with Question No. 44.

Road Safety.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

63 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Transport if he will introduce new measures to facilitate the drug and drink testing of public and private sector transport workers in safety critical roles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17325/08]

I refer the Deputy to my previous reply to Question No. 9618 of 6th March 2008.

The Department has commenced a review of the issues relating to aviation personnel. Otherwise the situation is unchanged.

Public Transport.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

64 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the date for the full rollout of the integrated ticketing scheme; if this process will be delayed by the establishment of the Dublin Transport Authority; if he will mandate the Integrated Ticketing Project Board to oversee the development of a real time information system across the public transport modes in tandem with the integrated ticketing project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17317/08]

The Integrated Ticketing Project Board has responsibility for delivering the smartcard technology required to implement an integrated smart card ticketing system within an agreed specification, timeline and budget.

The Project Board submitted a comprehensive proposal to me in December 2006 setting out the timelines, scope and budget for the delivery of an integrated system.

Based on this proposal, the integrated ticketing system will be launched initially within the Greater Dublin Area in September 2009 on the services of Dublin Bus, LUAS and Morton's. It will be extended to Irish Rail DART and commuter rail services within a further 12 months, and by Bus Éireann on a pilot basis on a number of its commuter routes. It is also envisaged that other private bus operators will join the scheme over this timeframe.

The development of the integrated ticketing system is continuing in line with the programme agreed by the Project Board and it will not be delayed by the establishment of the Dublin Transport Authority.

In relation to real time information, the Dublin Transport Authority will, when established, have responsibility for the provision of an integrated information scheme within the Greater Dublin Area. In the interim, I do not intend to extend the mandate of the Integrated Ticketing Project Board to cover real time information.

It is better in my view for the Project Board to continue to focus solely on the delivery of the integrated ticketing system and for the Dublin Transport Authority to develop an integrated information scheme.

Question No. 65 answered with Question No. 34.

Dublin Transport Authority.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

66 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport if he will report on the recently published Dublin Transport Authority Bill; when he will appoint the new members of the DTA board and advisory council; if he will provide an indicative date for the full operation of the DTA; if he will estimate the expected cost of the authority’s operation for its first three years; the reason the Railway Procurement Agency has not been incorporated into the new DTA; the reason the Commission for Taxi Regulation is not incorporated into the new body; if the DTA will be the lead agency for the delivery of Transport 21 projects, including inter urban and other roads, in the Greater Dublin Area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17313/08]

The Dublin Transport Authority Bill 2008 was published last month and the Bill is currently before Seanad Éireann. Once the Seanad has passed the Bill it will be a matter for the Chief Whip to decide when Second Stage should be ordered in the Dáil. My aim is to have the Bill enacted during 2008 with a view to facilitating formal establishment of the new Authority at the beginning of 2009.

Mr. Tom Mulcahy was appointed by my predecessor as Chairperson-designate of the Dublin Transport Authority (DTA). I will shortly be appointing the other members of an interim Authority that will be tasked with putting in place the necessary arrangements to ensure that the Authority will be in a position to commence work immediately following its formal establishment. The priority in this regard will be the recruitment of a Chief Executive-designate.

My Department will provide up to €4 million from existing resources in the current year to the interim Authority for this purpose. The interim Authority will identify the Authority's administrative budget and staffing requirements for 2009 and beyond.

The Government decided that the Railway Procurement Agency should not be absorbed by the new Authority in order to remove any possible risk to the successful completion of the ongoing procurement process in respect of Metro North. The Government also decided that the Commission for Taxi Regulation should be absorbed by the new Authority and my Department is preparing the necessary amendments to the Dublin Transport Authority Bill for this purpose. Those amendments will be tabled at Dáil Committee Stage.

The DTA will have overall responsibility for the implementation of Transport 21 in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA), working as far as possible through the existing agencies as set out in Chapter 1 of Part 3 of the Bill. While the National Roads Authority (NRA) will continue to exercise national road functions in the GDA, it will be required to do so in a manner that is consistent with the DTA's transport strategy. The DTA will also have the power to require the NRA to exercise its functions in a manner that is consistent with the transport strategy as well as other specified plans and measures. Where necessary, the DTA will also be empowered to step-in and perform those functions itself. These powers are detailed in Chapter 6 of Part 4 of the Bill.

Driving Tests.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

67 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether adequate exemptions are being granted to driving instructors who were on the driving instructors register who wish to register as an approved driving instructor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15237/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

69 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether the time-frame for full implementation of the approved driving instructor will be adequate to allow for the testing and re-testing of driving instructors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15238/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 67 and 69 together.

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) has given me comprehensive proposals for the registration and regulation of driving instructors, with a target operational date of 1 January 2009. The RSA's proposals followed on from extensive consultations it has engaged in with the driving instructor sector since 2006.

The proposals provide, inter alia, that the RSA may exempt a person from having to undertake one or more of the three required qualification tests for accreditation as an approved driving instructor, where it can be demonstrated that he or she meets the standard for the particular qualification test.

The RSA has administrative and testing arrangements in place to enable it to process applications from persons seeking accreditation as approved driving instructors.

Standards in driving instruction are an important element in the overall road safety agenda, particularly in relation to providing quality instruction for learner drivers, and this is recognised in the Road Safety Strategy 2006-2012.

Departmental Agencies.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

68 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport the number of agencies that come under the aegis of his Department; the funding provided by his Department for the operation of each of these agencies; the number of agencies that will be subsumed by the new Dublin Transport Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17320/08]

There are a total of 36 State agencies under the aegis of my Department. The total operating funding, excluding capital funding, provided to the State agencies by my Department in 2007 was €407,502,715. Some 10 State agencies received this funding and the amounts provided in each case are set out in the table below.

The remainder of the agencies, including the 20 port companies and harbour authorities, the aviation and airport authorities and the taxi and aviation regulators, are self-financing through charging for services provided.

It is my intention to subsume the Dublin Transportation Office and the Commission for Taxi Regulation into the Dublin Transport Authority.

I am, of course, always prepared to keep structures and agencies continuously under review, to ensure optimal efficiencies and best fit with my Department's strategic agenda.

Department of Transport Funding to Agencies

Name of Agency

Operating Funding provided in 2007

CIE Group — Bus Átha Cliath

80,100,000*

CIE Group — Bus Éireann

31,600,000*

CIE Group — Iarnród Éireann

194,900,000

Railway Safety Commission

2,100,000

Railway Procurement Agency

11,636,715

National Roads Authority

55,097,000

Dublin Transportation Office

1,108,000

Road Safety Authority

27,952,000

Medical Bureau of Road Safety

2,709,000

Marine Casualty Investigation Board

300,000

Dublin Airport Authority

Nil

Shannon Airport Authority

Nil

Cork Airport Authority

Nil

Commission for Taxi Regulation

Nil

Commission for Aviation Regulation

Nil

Irish Aviation Authority

Nil

Port of Cork Company

Nil

Drogheda Port Company

Nil

Dublin Port Company

Nil

Dundalk Port Company

Nil

Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company

Nil

Galway Harbour Company

Nil

New Ross Port Company

Nil

Shannon/Foynes Port Company

Nil

Port of Waterford Company

Nil

Wicklow Port Company

Nil

Arklow Harbour Commissioners

Nil

Baltimore Harbour Commissioners

Nil

Bantry Bay Harbour Commissioners

Nil

Kilrush Harbour Commissioners

Nil

Kinsale Harbour Commissioners

Nil

River Moy (Ballina) Harbour Commissioners

Nil

Tralee and Fenit and Harbour Commissioners

Nil

Westport Port and Harbour Commissioners

Nil

Wexford Harbour Commissioners

Nil

Youghal Harbour Commissioners

Nil

*In respect of subvented public transport services.

Question No. 69 answered with Question No. 67.
Question No. 70 answered with Question No. 19.

Port Development.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

71 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Transport if the Government’s study of Dublin Port has been completed; when it will be published; if he will bring forward a Green Paper on Dublin Port; if he has reviewed Dublin City Council’s recent study on the future of Dublin Bay; his views on plans to move Dublin Port and develop a new residential and commercial development on port lands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17341/08]

The National Development Plan provides for a comprehensive study of the role of Dublin Port, taking account of locational considerations, in the context of overall ports policy on the island of Ireland, wider transport policy, urban development policy, the National Spatial Strategy and national economic policy. My Department is in the process of recruiting consultants to help carry out the study. It is hoped to have the study completed within a six-month period. 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 am familiar with that study and I understand that the outcome of the consultation will be reported back to the Council. The study of the port under the NDP will take account of the findings of Dublin City Council's work. Dublin Port is a vital piece of economic infrastructure. In tonnage terms, it handles roughly 40% of the seaborne trade in and out of the State. In value terms it is even more significant. In 2006 it handled 79% of the State's RoRo traffic and 62% of the container traffic. Clearly, the future role of Dublin Port is of major strategic importance to the country. It is much more than a local or regional issue and requires further examination at a strategic level. The study of the port under the NDP will provide this strategic level examination.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

72 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport if he will report on all contacts he has had with members of the Shannon Foynes Port Company; his views on measures to address the alleged financial difficulties at Shannon Foynes Port; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17321/08]

I met the Chairman of Shannon Foynes Port Company on 3 March 2008. I have also been in correspondence with the Company over the past year. Department officials have represented me at the 2007 Annual General Meeting of the company on 10 July 2007 and the 2008 AGM on 2 May 2008. Officials have also had a number of meetings with the company over the past year. On 23 April last, in advance of the 2008 AGM, my Department met with the interim CEO of the company and the vice Chairman of the company. In 2006 and 2007 the company was party to a number of related legal disputes. In October 2007, an out of court settlement was reached between the parties. Following the settlement, my Department considered the financial position of the company and has further reviewed the accounts for 2007 in the context of the recent AGM. This has provided some reassurance that the company is addressing its financial difficulties, while continuing to operate and develop the business. My Department will continue to closely monitor the financial situation of the company.

Question No. 73 answered with Question No. 30.

Liquor Licensing Laws.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

74 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance the number of off-licences that have been authorised in the postal district of Dublin 24; the number that have been licensed in each of the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17174/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that details of the number of off-licences that have been issued in the postal district of Dublin 24 in each of the past three years are as follows:

Year Ending 30/09/2005

Year Ending 30/09/2006

Year Ending 30/09/2007

Dublin 24

25

33

36

The above figures include the renewal of existing licences and the issuance of new licences. The question of off-licences was among the issues considered by the Government Alcohol Advisory Group appointed by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The Group has now reported and the legislative proposals arising from the work of the Group were published recently.

Departmental Staff.

Chris Andrews

Question:

75 Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Finance when the marriage ban was initiated for working women who got married; the person by whom it was initiated; when it ended; the reason it did not apply to primary school teachers; if constitutional challenges were taken as a result of the ban; and if the State if obliged to repay moneys which were deducted for a pension scheme from which a woman can not benefit as a result of the marriage ban. [17180/08]

Statutory Instrument 26/04/1924: Regulations by the Minister of Finance Under Section 9 of the Civil Service Regulation Act, 1924 provided, inter alia, that female Civil Servants holding established posts would be required on marriage to resign from the Civil Service. The Civil Service (Employment of Married Women) Act, 1973 provided for the repeal of certain statutory provisions restricting the employment of married women in the Civil Service, including the repeal of Section 10 requiring women to retire on marriage. The marriage bar applied to female primary school teachers. All female teachers who entered teaching service on or after 1 October 1934 had to retire on marriage. The only exception to this was in the case of women who had completed their teacher training course before that date but had not been appointed to a permanent teaching position until on or after that date. The marriage bar was removed for primary school teachers on 30 June 1958. I am not aware of any Constitutional challenges having been taken as a result of the marriage bar. In the Civil Service the superannuation scheme was non-contributory for women in the period in question, so therefore the issue of repayment of contributions does not arise. Women who were compulsorily retired on marriage could, in certain circumstances, qualify for a marriage gratuity.

Tax Yield.

Phil Hogan

Question:

76 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Finance the number of new motor vehicles registered for each month since January 2007 to date in 2008. [17279/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the number of new motor vehicles registered through the VRT system for each month since January 2007 to April 2008 are set out in the following table:

New Vehicle Registrations

Year 2007

Category A Vehicles — cars

Category B Vehicles — car and jeep derived vans

Category C Vehicles — commercial

Total

Jan

45,864

1,145

11,888

58,897

Feb

26,573

650

6,507

33,730

Mar

28,047

627

6,416

35,090

Apr

16,906

401

4,627

21,934

May

20,563

484

5,112

26,159

Jun

15,318

482

4,460

20,260

Jul

13,133

398

3,854

17,385

Aug

8,881

331

3,193

12,405

Sep

5,748

291

2,754

8,793

Oct

3,830

184

2,157

6,171

Nov

1,460

93

1,397

2,950

Dec

518

23

478

1,019

Total

186,841

5,109

52,843

244,793

New Vehicle Registrations

Year 2008

Category A Vehicles — cars

Category B Vehicles — car and jeep derived vans

Category C Vehicles — commercial

Total

Jan

47,308

1,067

10,248

58,623

Feb

24,049

653

5,697

30,399

Mar

21,566

507

4,576

26,649

Apr

13,303

404

3,573

17,280

Total

106,226

2,631

24,094

132,951

Tax Code.

Michael Creed

Question:

77 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance if his Department’s attention has been drawn to the concerns among energy crop growers of the tax treatment of establishment costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17404/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the growing of energy crops such as miscanthus (elephant grass) and willow, for example, is regarded as crop husbandry. As such it is treated as farming for tax purposes. The crops in question are generally perennials which are harvested on a regular basis to provide bio-fuels. The initial cost of planting the root stock of these perennials is treated in tax law as capital expenditure. No deduction is, therefore, allowed for tax purposes. All expenditure subsequent to the initial planting is deductible as a trading expense. This tax treatment is in line with the tax treatment of other perennial crops such as nursery plants and fruit trees. I understand that grant aid is payable on 50% of the approved costs associated with establishing miscanthus and willow crops for biomass. The cost of establishment is estimated at €2,900 per hectare, giving a maximum grant payment amount of up to €1,450 per hectare.

Departmental Staff.

Finian McGrath

Question:

78 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will advise on a case (details supplied). [18010/08]

Recruitment and appointment to a position in the Civil Service is normally carried out by the Public Appointments Service (PAS) under the provisions of the Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) Act 2004. Departments and Offices can also obtain a recruitment licence from the Commission for Public Service Appointments for this purpose. In considering someone for appointment to the Civil Service, the licence holder must evaluate suitability in all respects. This includes suitability on grounds of character which would encompass such matters as criminal convictions. In addressing the issue of a criminal conviction, the licence holder would have regard to such matters as:

the nature and sensitivity of the post being filled,

the classification of the offence,

the circumstances under which the offence was committed,

the age of the person at the time of the offence,

any extenuating circumstances,

the sentence passed or served,

the elapsed time since completion of the sentence, and

whether the person has re-offended in the interim period.

If a candidate is rejected on grounds of character, this does not prevent him/her from applying for Civil Service competitions at a future date. Candidates are afforded the opportunity to complete a Health and Character Declaration during the recruitment process. This affords candidates the opportunity to bring all relevant matters to the attention of their potential employer. In accordance with the Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) Act 2004 in respect of a competition for a post with the public service it is an offence to knowingly or recklessly make an application that is false or misleading in a material respect for the position.

Disabled Drivers.

Pat Breen

Question:

79 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17863/08]

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and Vehicle Registration Tax (up to a certain limit), and exemption from motor tax, on the purchase of an adapted car for transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities. The disability criteria for these concessions are set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994. To get a Primary Medical Certificate, an applicant must be permanently and severely disabled within the terms of these Regulations. As the Deputy will be aware there was an interdepartmental review of the Scheme. Some 12,500 people benefited under the scheme in 2007 at an overall estimated cost of €74 million. Any changes would have to be considered in the context of the annual Budget.

Departmental Bodies.

Liz McManus

Question:

80 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Finance the resources for personnel that have been allocated to REACH; the contractual arrangements to private consultants in regard to REACH; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17140/08]

My Department assumed responsibility for Reach's functions at the beginning of April, and is now integrating these with the Department's work and simplifying the technologies used, as recommended by the Review of Reach. At present, five of the civil servants who worked on the Reach project are temporarily assigned to my Department, to assist two of my Department's staff with this work. With regard to private consultants, at present four are employed to work on the Broker, with a further seven providing a help desk service. All are employed under standard contractual arrangements. The consultancy contract for the development, maintenance and support of the Public Service Broker continues as before. As with all transfers of functions, my Department must of necessity adopt a flexible approach towards staffing so as to ensure value for money.

Richard Bruton

Question:

81 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if delays are being experienced in the stamp duty section of the Revenue Commissioners; the reason for the delay; the steps being taken to clear the delay; the system operated for identifying delays in Revenue transactions that are outside acceptable tolerance; and the areas showing strain in meeting performance targets. [17143/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the stamping of legal documents is mainly carried out in the office of Dublin Stamping District, with service also provided in Cork and Galway. I am advised that in the Dublin Stamping District 65% of all cases received are dealt with on the day and a further 10% are addressed within 5 working days of receipt. The remaining cases — 25% of the total — are received by post. In Dublin Stamping District and Cork Stamping Office there are currently some delays in processing postal cases, particularly for the more complex documents that require to be adjudicated. However, I am assured that the working of postal cases is continually monitored by managers and slippages are quickly identified; where backlogs arise, additional resources are specifically applied to the area concerned — including temporary redeployments of officers.

I am advised that, for Stamp Duty, the monitoring by managers of the initial response to postal submissions currently involves manual counts of items of post. The current process of stamping involves title deeds being physically presented to Revenue for examination, processing and calculation of any duty payable and finally physically stamping each Deed. This is a resource-intensive process for all concerned. Revenue are progressing the development of an e-Stamping system that will, when it comes into operation in 2009, enable the majority of customers to transact their stamp duty business on ROS — the Revenue Online Service. The legal framework for e-Stamping was provided in the Finance Act 2008.

Tax Yield.

Michael Ring

Question:

82 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Finance the number of people affected by the imposition of penalties when calculating tax liabilities for deceased persons and their estates in each of the past ten years. [17147/08]

Michael Ring

Question:

83 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Finance the amount of money the Revenue Commissioners have taken in as a result of penalties applied when calculating tax liabilities for deceased persons and their estates in each of the past ten years. [17148/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 82 and 83 together.

I assume the Deputy is referring to the recent change of practice announced by the Revenue Commissioners in March regarding the settlement of audits where there is a tax liability and where the taxpayer is deceased. From 18 March 2008 the imposition of penalties in tax settlements involving a deceased taxpayer under the Revenue audit programme will depend on whether or not a settlement is reached in the case prior to the death of the taxpayer. Where an agreement is reached and the penalty is unpaid at the time of death, Revenue will continue to proceed against the personal representatives of the deceased for the recovery of the penalty in the normal way. Otherwise, when no agreement is in place prior to the death of the taxpayer, Revenue will not seek to recover a penalty. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that detailed audit statistics to the level of identifying deceased taxpayers can be produced for the years from 2006 onwards only, and these are set out below. Prior to 2006, other than fairly basic statistics, a largely manual system of audit reporting was in place. Any attempt to capture the data sought by the Deputy for the years prior to would require the manual examination of ten of thousands of audit records at a disproportionate cost.

Since 2006, figures are available as follows:

In 2006, Revenue settled 38 cases involving deceased taxpayers collecting penalties of € 1.9 million.

In 2007, the figures were 16 cases and just under €1 million.

In 2008 so far, there are just 4 cases with a total of €11,000.

Revenue's audit programme is a key tools in supporting tax compliance and fairness in the tax system: 13,600 and 14,300 audits were carried out in 2006 and 2007 respectively.

Flood Relief.

Pat Breen

Question:

84 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 167 of 11 March 2008, if a feasibility study has been undertaken by the engineering staff of the Office of Public Works (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17164/08]

It is expected that the feasibility study will be completed by the Office of Public Works by the middle of May.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Question:

85 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if a school (details supplied) is an approved and registered college with the Revenue Commissioners for the purposes of tax relief on tuition fees and student grants; if it is not an approved and registered college for these purposes, if it is eligible to become so; the procedure for same; if an Irish student, normally resident in Ireland, taking part in their 14 month integrated airline transport pilot course would be eligible for such financial benefits as outlined or other reliefs or benefits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17202/08]

Section 473A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, provides for tax relief at the standard rate of income tax (20%) for qualifying fees paid by an individual in respect of a third level education course. Qualifying fees means tuition fees paid for an approved course at an approved college. The maximum amount of qualifying fees on which tax relief is allowed is €5,000 for the academic years 2006/2007 and 2007/2008. The tax relief is confined to tuition fees only and does not extend to items such as registration fees, administration fees, accommodation, etc. Tuition fees that are, or will be, met directly or indirectly by grants, scholarships, employer contribution or other means are to be deducted in arriving at the net fees qualifying for tax relief. An approved course means either: (a) a full-time or part-time undergraduate course of study of at least 2 academic years duration at an approved college; or (b) a postgraduate course of study leading to a postgraduate award, based on a thesis or on the results of an examination or both, at an approved college of not less than one academic year, but not more than 4 academic years in duration that requires an individual, undertaking the course, to have been conferred with a degree or an equivalent qualification.

As regards an approved college, the school referred to in the details supplied, being a school in an EU Member State, would be an approved college for the purposes of the tax relief for tuition fees if it is a university or similar institution of higher education, which is maintained or assisted by recurrent grants from public funds of that Member State or is a duly accredited university or institution of higher education in the country in which it is situated. In practice, it is a matter for the individual claiming the tax relief to obtain a letter from the relevant university or similar institute of higher education confirming that it is maintained or assisted by recurrent grants from public funds or is a duly accredited university or institution of higher education in the country in which it is situated. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that while they cannot at this point, in the absence of relevant information, comment on whether the school referred in the details supplied would be a qualifying college, they are of the view that a 14 month integrated airline transport pilot course is unlikely to be considered an undergraduate or post graduate course for the purposes of tax relief in respect of tuition fees.

Departmental Properties.

John O'Mahony

Question:

86 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Finance the stage the process of building new office accommodation for the Office of Public Works in Claremorris is at; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17207/08]

I am advised by the Office of Public Works that pre-qualification submissions have been received from contractors who are interested in tendering for this project. These have been assessed and tender documents are currently being completed with a view to inviting tenders at the earliest possible date.

The new accommodation in Claremorris is being procured on a Design and Build basis. While the offices are primarily for staff of the Office of Public Works, provision is also being made for local staff of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Department of Social and Family Affairs and the Private Security Authority. In addition, the project includes a new district court facility as a separate stand-alone building on the site.

Disabled Drivers.

Finian McGrath

Question:

87 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding a matter (details supplied). [17222/08]

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and Vehicle Registration Tax (up to a certain limit), and exemption from motor tax, on the purchase of an adapted car for transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities. The disability criteria for these concessions are set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994. To get a Primary Medical Certificate, an applicant must be permanently and severely disabled within the terms of these Regulations. As the Deputy will be aware there was an interdepartmental review of the Scheme. Some 12,500 people benefited under the scheme in 2007 at an overall estimated cost of €74 million. Any changes would have to be considered in the context of the annual Budget.

Tax Code.

Richard Bruton

Question:

88 Deputy Richard Bruton: asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons who are not domiciled here for tax purposes; the estimate of the tax foregone to the State as a result of the tax treatment of non-domiciles; if he plans to change the tax treatment of non-domiciles; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

97 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance the number of people who claim non-domiciled status for tax purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17397/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 88 and 97 together.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the number of chargeable persons that show on their 2006 return of income that they are not domiciled in the State is 3,996. In addition the 2006 returns show 1,773 spouses as non-domiciled. An individual who is not domiciled in the State but who is ordinarily resident in the State is, in general, taxable on all Irish income and on UK and foreign sourced income remitted to the State whether the individual is resident or not-resident in the State. Prior to 1 January 2008 such an individual was taxable on all UK income whether remitted or not. An individual who is not domiciled in the State and who is neither resident nor ordinarily resident in the State is in general taxable on Irish sourced income and on foreign sourced income in respect of a trade, profession carried on in the State or employment exercised in the State. In either case, there is no statutory obligation on these individuals to return details of income or gains arising anywhere else in the world. Therefore, it is not possible to establish the amount of these income or gains, including any associated tax.

Departmental Staff.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

89 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of a matter (details supplied) he will respond in full and confirm affirmatively or in the negative whether any such agreement was entered into by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17265/08]

As advised in the response of 2 April 2008, under the centrally agreed arrangements for staff who wish to remain in Dublin the Public Appointments Service circulates as much detail as possible in relation to the post to be filled to persons in the appropriate grades in the organisations participating in the arrangements at that time. Further information is of course made available to individual applicants by the receiving organisation as required. My Department has advised Departments and Offices that they can have a discussion with an individual volunteering under the Dublin Arrangements to ensure that the person understands fully the nature of the post and that there is a shared understanding of the expectations of the job. Once the closing date for expressions of interest in the post has passed, the post due to be filled is offered by the PAS to the most senior volunteer. My understanding from the Office of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform is that the GSOC wished to review all aspects of organisational staffing both current and prospective, to cater for the long-term needs and structure of the office. In that context, following the advertisement of the post to Dublin-based staff, that office advised my Department that the filling of the post of Head of Corporate Services was postponed pending a review of the posts at senior level in the GSOC. I understand that this review is ongoing.

Tax Yield.

Phil Hogan

Question:

90 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Finance the amount collected in taxation for each category of petrol and diesel for each year from 2004 to date in 2008 inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17280/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the amounts of tax revenue collected from Mineral Oil Tax and VAT on Petrol and Auto Diesel for the years 2004 to March 2008 inclusive are as follows:

Estimated Excise Duty yield from Petrol and Auto Diesel

2004

2005

2006

2007 (prov.)

2008 (prov.) 1st Qtr

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

Petrol

970.7

1,001.9

1,026.4

1,051.3

291.3

Diesel

870.7

920.5

1,016.7

1,075.9

293.0

Total

1,841.5

1,922.4

2,043.1

2,127.2

584.3

Estimated VAT yield from Petrol and Auto Diesel

2004

2005

2006

2007 (prov.)

2008 (prov.) 1st Qtr

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

Petrol

342

393

440

465

121

Diesel

38

46

53

57

15

Total

380

439

493

522

136

Total Estimated Excise Duty and VAT yield

2004

2005

2006

2007 (prov.)

2008 (prov.) 1st Qtr

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

Total

2,221.5

2,361.4

2,536.1

2,649.2

720.3

Note: The VAT yield from Petrol and Auto Diesel is estimated as the information to be furnished on VAT returns does not require the yield from particular sectors of trade to be identified. It should also be noted that the VAT content of purchases of Auto Diesel is a deductible credit for business in the Irish VAT system.

Phil Hogan

Question:

91 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Finance the amount of stamp duty collected on housing transactions for each month since January 2006 to date in 2008. [17281/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the information requested by the Deputy in relation to net receipts from stamp duty on residential property is as set out in the table which reflects the position up to and including March 2008:

Month

2006 Net Receipts

2007 Net Receipts

2008* Net Receipts

€ million

€ million

€ million

January

96.50

127.40

48.37

February

82.80

115.51

43.43

March

96.25

93.77

44.13

April

75.75

76.58

May

105.55

89.53

June

102.64

81.95

July

128.66

90.83

August

121.50

86.83

Sept.

137.54

68.50

Oct.

134.02

75.14

Nov.

123.65

67.32

Dec.

105.81

49.22

Total

1,310.87

1,017.90

135.85

*Figures for 2008 are provisional and subject to revision.

As monthly figures of yield provided in the table reflect the position recorded soon after the end of each month the total end-year yield implied on this basis does not coincide entirely with the end year totals finalised after year end. Differences can arise because of various retrospective adjustments and this applies particularly to 2007 where refunds to first-time buyers under the Finance (No. 2) Act 2007 necessitated retrospective adjustment to stamp duty liabilities.

Registration of Title.

Michael Kennedy

Question:

92 Deputy Michael Kennedy asked the Minister for Finance if he will arrange for the transfer of deeds (details supplied) to Fingal County Council, as there are various issues which need resolving; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17294/08]

I would refer the Deputy to my response to Parliamentary Question No.15516/08 of 23 April 2008. The position remains unchanged.

Faoiseamh Cánach.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

93 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Paul Gogarty den Aire Airgeadais an dtugann sé faoiseamh cánach i leith cúrsaí iarchéime Gaeilge mar a thugtar i leith cúrsaí inmholta i dteangacha iasachta agus an leagfaidh sé amach a thuairimí faoi. [17298/08]

Faoi réir Alt 473A den Acht um Chomhdhlúthú Cánacha 1997, foráiltear, faoi choinníollacha áirithe, gur féidir faoiseamh cánach ag an ráta caighdeánach de cháin ioncaim (20%) a thabhairt i leith táillí teagaisc a íocann duine aonair i dtaca le cúrsa oideachais tríú leibhéal agus cúrsa iarchéime san áireamh. Cuimsítear anseo cúrsaí iarchéime i dtaca leis an nGaeilge. Is é an t-uasmhéid de tháillí incháilithe ar a lamháiltear faoiseamh cánach ná €5,000. Tá sonraí iomlána i dtaobh na scéime le fáil ar shuíomh gréasáin na gCoimisinéirí Ioncaim ag http://www.revenue.ie/index.htm?/leaflets/it31.htm. Ach más mian leis an dTeachta na sonraí i dtaobh cáis áirithe a sholáthar, cinnteoidh na Coimisinéirí Ioncaim an bhfuil na táillí a íoctar i leith an chúrsa sin i dteideal faoisimh chánach.

Departmental Expenditure.

Damien English

Question:

94 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Finance the average time for payment to be made by his Department and by each agency affiliated to his Department to outside contractors for goods and services employed for each of the years 2004 to 2007 and to date in 2008 in tabular readable form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17378/08]

The information requested by the Deputy with the exception of the Office of Public Works is contained in the following Tables.

Average time for payment to be made to outside contractors for goods and services

Department / office

Average time for payment in 2004

Average time for payment in 2005

Average time for payment in 2006

Average time for payment in 2007

Average time for payment in Year to date 2008

(days)

Department of Finance

28

28

31

23

14

Office of the Revenue Commissioners

23

22

23

18

18

Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland

22*

26

19

20

19

Public Appointments Service

22

24

21

29

39

Commission for Public Service Appointments

20

9

7

12

15

Valuation Office

3

1

1

1

1

National Treasury Management Agency

22

17

16

19

17

State Claims Agency

23

23

17

17

17

Office of the Comptroller & Auditor General’s Office

11

11

11

10

10

Office of the Ombudsman

40

9

7

5

10

State Laboratory

36

47

45

26

22

*New system employed in 2004 records relate to April 2004–December 2004.

As the Office of Public Works process over of 40,000 payments annually it would not be practicable to research the payment details of each payment. The Office of Public has informed me that their accounting system captures all payments in excess of €5 which attract interest payments under the Prompt Payments of Accounts Act 1997. Interest is payable under the Act where an invoice is not paid within thirty days of receipt (or a shorter period specified in a contract).

The following table sets out the number of late payments by the Office and the percentage of the total which accrued interest payments for the period January 2004 to 30 April 2008.

Year

Total Number of Payments

Number of Late Payments

%

2004

42,341

1,062

2.5

2005

46,071

791

1.7

2006

46,817

900

1.9

2007

51,025

1,023

2.0

2008 (to 30 April)

15,960

435

2.7

Tax Yield.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

95 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance the estimate of the revenue that would be gained by restoring the residential property tax and applying it to residential properties, rental and homes, over a threshold of €3 million, €4 million and €5 million; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17395/08]

A Residential Property Tax was introduced by Finance Act 1983 and abolished in Finance Act 1997. There is insufficient data available that would allow for estimation of the revenue that would arise from a re-introduction of this tax.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

96 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance the estimate of the amount of revenue that would be gained from applying a minimum effective income tax rate of 20% to tax-payers who have reduced their income tax bill to lower than 20% through tax incentives and other measures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17396/08]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the restriction of reliefs measure that I introduced in Budget and Finance Act 2006, which took effect from 1 January 2007. The measure aims to ensure that those with high incomes pay a minimum effective tax rate of approximately 20% and restricts the use of various listed tax incentives in this regard. It is currently estimated that this measure will yield approximately €70 million in a full year. As the final date for receipt of tax returns in respect of the 2007 tax year is 31 October 2008, the actual amount raised will not be known until well into 2009.

Question No. 97 answered with Question No. 88.

Tax Code.

Michael Creed

Question:

98 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance if his Department will extend the same tax allowances to the woody biomass crops as are available to forestry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17411/08]

The current tax package for forestry provides that income from woodlands are exempt from income tax and corporation tax. In addition, gains arising to individuals and certain trusts on the disposal of felled timber are not chargeable to capital gains tax. Forestry is regarded for VAT purposes as an agricultural activity. As regards stamp duty, there is an exemption on the value of trees where it can be certified that the land being transferred contains commercial woodlands on a substantial part of those lands. The tax treatment of forestry investment is based on the premise that such investment is long term in nature. The tax treatment of investment in and profit from forestry is derived from the unique features associated with the activity where significant levels of investment are generally required at an early stage with the returns on such investment not arising for some considerable time. These considerations do not apply to farming income derived from woody biomass crops. It would not, therefore, be appropriate to extend the same tax treatment to such income. There is already in place a generous package of reliefs that continue to be available exclusively to the farming sector. These include accelerated capital allowances for expenditure incurred on farm buildings, accelerated capital allowances in respect of expenditure incurred on certain pollution control measures, stock relief, and an exemption from income tax in respect of certain income from certain leased farmland. In addition, certain young trained farmers can also qualify for full relief from Stamp Duty on the transfer of land.

Michael Creed

Question:

99 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance if he will introduce a 0% VAT rate on the supply of miscanthus and all energy crop seedstock; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17412/08]

The VAT rating of goods and services is subject to the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. Under the VAT Directive Member States may retain the zero rates on goods and services, which have been in place since 1 January 1991, but cannot extend the zero rate to other goods and services. It is therefore not possible under EU law to apply a zero VAT rate to the supply of elephant grass rhizomes (miscanthus), seeds, bulbs, roots and similar supplies used for the agricultural production of bio-fuels. However, in Budget 2008 I took the opportunity available under the EU Directive to reduce the rate of VAT on energy crop seedstock. The VAT rate on the supply of elephant grass rhizomes, seeds, bulbs, roots and similar supplies or inputs used for the agricultural production of bio-fuels was reduced from 21% to 13.5% with effect from 1 March 2008. This measure was introduced to assist in the development of agricultural production of such fuels.

Michael Creed

Question:

100 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will be granted a refund of VAT in respect of farm buildings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17413/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the claim in question was received by them on 5 December 2007. The amount claimed was allowed in full and payment was processed on 13 December. However, the cheque which issued was not received by the claimant. The cheque has not been cashed and Revenue have now arranged with the bank to have it cancelled. A replacement cheque issued to the claimant in the last few days.

Michael Creed

Question:

101 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance if community child care facilities which are operated on a not for profit basis can be exempted from commercial rates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17414/08]

The Valuation Act 2001 maintains the long-standing position that commercial child care facilities — including all private child care facilities such as play schools, preschools, crèches and Montessori schools — are liable for rates. However, private child care facilities which operate on a community basis in a community hall, and which are not-for-profit, are not rateable because there is not exclusive occupation of the hall. In the circumstances, they would be part of the activities of a community hall and, therefore, exempt under Schedule 4, section 15 of the Valuation Act. Similarly, child care facilities which operate on a non-profit basis as a charitable organisation may be deemed to be exempt depending in each instance on the terms and conditions of the Memorandum and Articles of Association. The exemption in such an instance is provided for under Schedule 4, section 16 (a) of the Act.

Flood Relief.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

102 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance if he will defer the closure of the Upper Glen Road until the road works in Chapelizod are complete; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17422/08]

Joan Burton

Question:

107 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the reason elective road works are taking place in the Upper Glen Road in the Phoenix Park at a time when this road is being used as an alternative route to facilitate road works in Chapelizod village which is closed to outgoing traffic for the next six months; the further reason these works can not be scheduled for summer time when schools are closed and traffic is lighter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17655/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 102 and 107 together.

The remedial works in the Upper Glen Road were essential for safety reasons particularly in the context of the commencement of the new Phoenix Park Shuttle bus service. Postponement of them was not a viable option. To minimise disruption, the roadworks were timed to coincide with the school mid-term break and will be completed this week.

Tax Code.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

103 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance the sources of income that are exempt from income tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17423/08]

The Schedule set out in the following table identifies those sections of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 (as amended) which provide for a full or partial exemption from income tax. In circumstances where the section ceases to have effect at a date in the next year this has been highlighted. Due to the time constraints some minor legislative provisions may have been overlooked in the preparation of this reply.

Description of income

Section of the Taxes Consolidated Act 1997

1.

Interest on Saving certificates

Section 42

2.

Interest on certain securities issued by Minister for Finance

Section 43

3.

Redemption of non-interest-bearing securities

Section 45

4.

Premiums on Investment Bonds (full or partial exemption on certain income)

Section 46

5.

Exemption of premiums on certain securities

Section 48

6.

Interest on certain securities exempted by Minister for Finance

Section 49

7.

Interest on securities issued outside the State by a local authority

Section 50

8.

Certain benefits in kind

Section 118, 118A, 120A, 121 (Pool cars), 121A

9.

Income which is the subject of a Revenue approved salary sacrifice agreement

Section 118B

10.

Certain benefits payable under the Social Welfare Acts

Section 126

11.

Age exemption and associated marginal relief (for persons aged over 65 years).

Section 188

12.

Payments in respect of Personal Injuries

Section 189

13.

Certain income from special trusts for permanently incapacitated individuals

Section 189A

14.

Certain payments made by the Haemophilia HIV Trust

Section 190

15.

Payments received under the Hepatitis C [and HIV] Compensation Acts

Section 191

16.

Payments in respect of Thalidomide children

Section 192

17.

Certain payments made under Employment Law

Section 192A

18.

Foster Care Payments

Section 192B

19.

Income from scholarships

Section 193

20.

Child benefit payments

Section 194

21.

Early Child care supplement payments

Section 194A

22.

Certain earnings of writers, composers and artists (subject to certain limits)

Section 195

23.

Certain expenses payments to members of boards, councils and committees

Section 195A

24.

Certain expense payments payable to members of the Judiciary

Section 196

25.

Certain foreign service allowances payable to certain employees of the State and certain agencies

Section 196A, 196B

26.

Bonus or interest paid under national instalment savings schemes

Section 197

27.

Certain interest receipts

Section 198

28.

Interest on certain securities used in the payment of income tax

Section 199

29.

Certain foreign pensions

Section 200

30.

Certain payments made on termination of an office or employment (subject to certain limits)

Section 201

31.

Certain payments for agreed pay restructuring

Section 202

32.

Certain statutory redundancy payments

Section 203

33.

Certain military and other pensions, gratuities and allowances

Section 204

34.

Payments to Veterans of War of Independence

Section 205

35.

Income from investments under Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act

Section 206

36.

Rents of properties belonging to hospitals and other charities

Section 207, 209

37.

Lands owned and occupied, and trades carried on by charities

Section 208

38.

Income arising under “The Great Book of Ireland Trust”

Section 210

39.

Income payable to Friendly Societies

Section 211

40.

Certain payments made by Trade Unions to their members

Section 213

41.

Income arising to Local authorities, Vocational Education Committees, the Health Service Executive, and certain Agriculture Committees.

Section 214

42.

Certain profits of agricultural societies

Section 215

43.

Profits from lotteries

Section 216

44.

Income received under the Rent-a-room scheme (subject to a certain limit)

Section 216A

45.

Payments under Scéim na bhFoghlaimeoirí

Section 216B

46.

Income from certain Childcare services (subject to a certain limit)

Section 216C

47.

Certain income of Nítrigin Éireann Teoranta

Section 217

48.

Certain income of Housing Finance Agency plc.

Section 218

49.

Income arising to a body designated under the Irish Takeover Panel Act

Section 219

50.

Income of Investor Compensation Company Ltd

Section 219B

51.

Profits of certain bodies corporate (e.g. National Lottery; Pensions Board)

Section 220

52.

Certain payments to National Co-operative Farm Relief Services Ltd. And certain payments made to its members

Section 221

53.

Certain dividends from a non-resident subsidiary

Section 222

54.

Small Enterprise grants

Section 223

55.

Certain employment grants to medium and large industrial undertakings

Section 224

56.

Certain employments grants and recruitment subsidies

Section 225, 226

57.

Certain income arising to specified non-commercial state-sponsored bodies

Section 227

58.

Income arising to designated bodies under the Securitisation (Proceeds of Certain Mortgages)Act, 1995

Section 228

59.

Certain income of harbour authorities and port companies

Section 229

60.

Profits arising to National Treasury Management Agency

Section 230

61.

Profits arising to the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission

Section 230A

62.

Profits arising to the National Development Finance Agency

Section 230AB

63.

Profits or gains from Stallion Fees (up to 31 July 2008)

Section 231

64.

Profits from occupation of certain woodlands

Section 232

65.

Stud greyhound service fees (up to 31 July 2008)

Section 233

66.

Certain income derived from patent royalties

Section 234

67.

Income arising to bodies established for promotion of athletic or amateur games or sports

Section 235

68.

Exemption from a benefit in kind charge in respect of the loan of certain art objects

Section 236

69.

interest and dividends on special term accounts (full or partial exemption on certain income)

Section 261A

70.

Dividends on special term share accounts (full or partial exemption on certain income)

Section 267C

71.

Exemption in respect of certain benefits received by employees under approved employee share schemes

Section 510, 519A, 519C, 519D

72.

Income from leasing of farm land (full or partial exemption on certain income)

Section 664

73.

Exemption in respect of certain retirement benefits to certain employees

Section 778

Exemption from income tax is also provided for in respect of certain diplomatic personnel, officials of the United Nations and certain other international organisations, as well as for the earnings of persons working in the service of the European Community. The relevant legislation is included in:

The Diplomatic Relations and Immunities Act 1967;

The European Communities Act 1972;

Article 12 of the Protocol on Privileges and Immunities annexed to the Treaty of Rome.

Tax Yield.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

104 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance the amount of revenue that would be accrued from a 5 cent and 10 cent increase in duty on petrol and diesel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17424/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the estimated amount of revenue that would accrue from a 5 cent and a 10 cent increase, inclusive and exclusive of VAT, in excise duty on petrol and diesel is as follows:

5 Cent Increase in Price (VAT Inclusive)

10 Cent Increase in Price (VAT Inclusive)

Increase in Price

5 Cent

10 Cent

€m

€m

Petrol

108.47

214.70

Diesel

116.38

230.67

Total

224.85

445.37

5 Cent Increase in Duty + VAT

10 Cent Increase in Duty + VAT

Increase in Price

6.05 Cent

12.1 Cent

€m

€m

Petrol

130.92

258.78

Diesel

140.55

278.05

Total

271.47

536.83

Budget Submissions.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

105 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance the date for each year since 2000 of pre-budget meetings held with the Department of An Taoiseach; the attendees at such meetings; if an agenda was circulated in advance; if minutes of such a meeting were kept; if not the reason for same; if officials were directed not to keep minutes of such meetings; if so, by whom and the date of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter [17564/08]

It has long been the practice for discussions to be held with Departments including the Department of the Taoiseach on the allocation of funds as part of the estimates process. These discussions take place at a late stage in the formulation of the annual estimates between civil servants from each Department who, from ongoing interdepartmental contacts, are highly familiar with the relevant details and issues involved. While there are no standing instructions in this regard, these discussions are not usually minuted by my officials.

Tax Yield.

Liz McManus

Question:

106 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Finance the amount of VAT collected from energy sources for each year of the past five years; the breakdown of those figures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17594/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that it is not possible to furnish actual figures of the VAT take from energy sources, as VAT returns are not required to be completed in a manner that identifies the yield from particular goods and services. However, estimates of the VAT yield on energy sources, derived from non-Revenue statistical data, are as follows:

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

Petrol

296

342

393

440

465

Auto Diesel

32

38

46

53

57

Marked Gas Oil

31

48

65

73

70

Kerosene

48

51

69

79

77

Electricity

117

129

153

159

180

Coal

18

17

17

18

22

Gas

42

52

67

53

60

Turf/Briquettes

12

11

14

14

17

LPG Domestic

9

9

10

11

13

Firewood/Firelighters

4

4

5

5

6

Motor Oil & LPG

2

2

3

3

3

Total

611

703

842

908

970

The revision of figures previously supplied is necessitated following the receipt of more up to date information. Data for 2007 is provisional and subject to further change.

Question No. 107 answered with Question No. 102.

Tax Code.

Mary Upton

Question:

108 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance if he will review the entitlement of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 to tax relief for rent payments made by them; if he will confirm that this person is required to withhold 20% of their rent and pay this to the Revenue Commissioners and not to their landlord; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17656/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the person in question is entitled to a tax credit for rent paid in respect of private rented accommodation. However, as the rent is paid to a non-resident landlord they are obliged to deduct income tax at the standard rate (20%) from the payment. In PAYE cases, such as the case in question, recovery of the tax deducted is collected by reducing the tenant's tax credits.

Departmental Expenditure.

Damien English

Question:

109 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Finance the cost to his Department of implementing the payroll system within his Department and within bodies under his Department’s aegis for each of the years 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and to date in 2008 in tabular readable form. [17716/08]

My Department did not implement a payroll system in the years 2004 to date in 2008. However within the period in question my Department paid €613, 000 in relation to training, upgrades and maintenance of the Department's payroll systems. In relation to the agencies under the remit of my Department the Public Appointments Service incurred an implementation cost of €3,000 in relation to a payroll system introduced in 2004 to pay selection board members. In relation to the Valuation Office, Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General and Office of the Revenue Commissioners some €574,000 has been paid in the period 2004 to 2008 towards enhancing and maintaining their payroll systems. I have been informed by the Office of Public works that they incurred costs of €274,000 in relation to hardware, licensing, upgrades and maintenance in relation to their payroll system for the years 2004 to date in 2008.

National Monuments.

Damien English

Question:

110 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Finance if the Office for Public Works has plans to introduce more secure protective measures at the Loughcrew Cairns in County Meath in order to maintain their natural structure and longevity of existence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17698/08]

The Office of Public Works manages some eighteen referenced cairns that are in state ownership or guardianship and that form part of the national monument complex collectively known as Sliabh na Callaigh or Loughcrew Cairns, Co. Meath. Additional cairns in the townlands of Corstown, Newtown and Patrickstown are in private ownership and are afforded protection under the National Monuments Acts, 1930-2004.

The Office of Public Works has no plans at present to introduce more secure protective measures at the Loughcrew Cairns, but the matter will be kept under review.

Tax Code.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

111 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance the incentives from his Department and his Department’s agencies for the production of bio-fuels; if he will review these in view of the current world food crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17742/08]

While the promotion of biofuel is primarily a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, the Deputy will be aware the Finance Act 2006 provided for significant tax measures to promote biofuels in Ireland. The overall level of excise relief available for biofuels is regarded as a level which is sufficient to match Ireland's output potential in relation to renewable energy crops for motor fuels over the coming years. These fiscal incentives were designed to kickstart the domestic biofuels industry. Long-term general excise reliefs are not anticipated.

In addition, as a complementary measure, the Finance Act 2008 provided for the VAT rate applicable on the supply of miscanthus rhizomes, seeds, bulbs, roots and similar goods used for the agricultural production of bio-fuels to be reduced from 21% to 13.5%.

The Deputy will be aware that under proposals drafted by the European Commission, Ireland has been assigned ambitious targets for reducing emissions from sectors not covered by the Emission Trading Scheme. In this regard, transport is one of the main areas where there will be a need to reduce emissions. Given the lack of viable alternatives to fossil fuels in the transport fuels market, it is appropriate that there are some incentives in place in the short term that facilitate biofuels becoming more available in the market place.

I am aware of the need to strike a land use balance between energy and food crops. Some biofuel sources are to an extent in direct competition with food production, however, I understand second generation biofuel and energy sources are less so. The assistance we are providing is towards the production of second generation as well as first generation biofuels sources. The European Commission has indicated its awareness of general sustainability issues in relation to biofuels and has signalled its intention to introduce incentives and support systems to avoid such issues.

Specifically, it intends to encourage the development of ‘second generation' biofuels. To this end, the Commission's renewable energy legislative proposals, contain targets for biofuels market penetration, subject to the introduction of sustainability criteria and the coming on stream of second-generation biofuels.

The Commission also notes that European demand for biomass, especially biofuels, could contribute to improving trade relations with the European Union's trading partners, in particular developing countries, many of which have the potential to produce and export biomass and biofuels at competitive prices. It will be important to strike a careful balance to ensure the optimum outcome in terms of reducing Green House Gas emissions in transport, providing real opportunities for local producers and developing countries, and at the same time minimising any risk in terms of food production.

I understand the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources will shortly be launching a public consultation on the proposed biofuels obligation as set out in the Programme for Government. In that context, Ireland's biofuels obligation will take account of EU sustainability initiatives in relation to biofuels. We should of course not forget that an increase in the prices for agricultural products also increases incomes in the agricultural industry in Ireland.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

112 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the correct level of tax free allowances or tax credits in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17809/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that without the PPS number of the person in question they are unable to furnish the information requested, as the taxpayer is not registered on their records at the address supplied and all searches have been unsuccessful. However, if the taxpayer wishes to contact the Kildare PAYE Customer Service, by telephoning 1890 44 44 25 or by e-mailing kildarecustomerservice@revenue.ie, they would be happy to deal with any queries she may have.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

113 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he proposes to take measures to address the issue of competitiveness in the economy and encourage continued inward investment having particular regard to global trends in the economic and financial services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17810/08]

In responding to the Deputy's question to my predecessor Mr. Cowen, I would begin by saying that the Government recognises that improving national competitiveness is essential to facilitate a re-balancing of the economy towards more sustainable, export-led growth and to maintain Ireland's attractiveness as a location for inward investment in all sectors of the economy.

While external factors such as the exchange rate have an impact on domestic costs, these are beyond our control. As such, we must seek to control those costs which we can influence. We must also take steps to improve productivity.

In support of these objectives, the Government is committed to maintaining a low burden of taxation on capital and labour, and has implemented a range of policies aimed at improving competition in product markets and flexibility in the labour market. We are also investing heavily in physical and human capital under the National Development Plan. These measures will equip the Irish economy with the skills, infrastructure and operating environment needed so that we can compete effectively for projects in sectors where global demand is growing, such as business and financial services.

Of course, restoring competitiveness will also require sensible wage developments. Therefore, it is essential that pay increases are kept at a level which does not undermine our competitive position relative to our main trading partners. The current round of pay talks has an important role to play in this respect.

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

114 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the costs incurred to date for decentralisation, broken down by individual Departments and agencies. [17833/08]

The non-property once-off costs incurred for decentralisation of my Department to Tullamore from 2004 to end 2007 are €624,472. As my Department completed its decentralisation to Tullamore it is not expected that there will be any further costs associated with this move. However, my Department will be decentralising circa 30 ICT posts to Naas later in the year. To date no costs have been incurred in association with this move.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the Revenue costs incurred for decentralisation from 2004 up to end 2007 are €963,469. The Revenue costs incurred for decentralisation during Q1 2008 are €8,648. Both of these amounts refer to non-property decentralisation costs.

I am advised that to date the Valuation Office have not incurred any costs associated with their move to Youghal while the costs incurred by PAS amount to €5,306 (not including staff costs or costs associated with the CAF).

I am informed by the Office of Public Works (OPW) that the non-property costs incurred by their office in relation to their decentralisation to Trim, Kanturk and Claremorris will be forwarded directly to the Deputy. I am further informed by the OPW that the following is the position regarding property costs for my Department and the agencies under the aegis of my Department.

Location

Department/ Office

Status

Site Acquisition Costs

Yearly Rental Costs

Fit Out Costs/ Building Purchased

(€1,000)

(€1,000)

(€1,000)

Athy

Revenue

Lease

231.5

493.00

Claremorris

OPW

Permanent Ownership

2,500

Claremorris

OPW

Lease

68.7

552.00

Kilrush

Revenue

Lease

85.0

411.00

Listowel

Revenue

Lease

183.0

1,352.00

Navan

Revenue

Lease

575.4

2,135.20

Newcastle West

Revenue

Permanent Ownership

325

Newcastle West (Limerick Office space)

Revenue

Lease

68.8

Trim

OPW

Permanent Ownership

3,600

Trim

OPW

Lease

67.8

43.00

Tullamore

Finance

Building Purchased

10,034.00

Richard Bruton

Question:

115 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a breakdown of the €833 million allocation for the decentralisation sub-programme in the National Development Plan by individual Departments and agencies. [17834/08]

Richard Bruton

Question:

116 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a breakdown of the €833 million allocation for the decentralisation sub-programme in the National Development Plan between Government Departments on one hand, and State agencies on the other. [17835/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 115 and 116 together.

Of the total allocation of €833 million provided in the NDP for Decentralisation, an estimate of €60 million is provided for agencies whose costs will not be funded through the OPW vote. The balance of €773 million represents the estimated cost of providing accommodation for the departments and agencies whose accommodation will be paid for by the OPW.

Property solutions are being pursued in respect of some remaining locations being funded through the OPW vote and firm scale costs will emerge on foot of actual cost proposals being received from the market. It would not be possible to give definitive costings in advance of final agreement on specific proposals. It is expected however that overall costs will remain within the published estimate figures.

Tax Yield.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

117 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance the taxation yield on rental income for 2004 and for each subsequent year for which figures are available with a breakdown in each year for individuals and for companies. [17909/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the information requested by the Deputy is estimated as follows:

Estimated Tax Yield

Year ended

Individuals

Companies

Total

€m

€m

€m

31/12/2004

295

121

416

31/12/2005

324

124

448

31/12/2006

334

133

467

The figures shown in respect of year ended 31/12/2006 are provisional and may be revised.

The rental income could come from either private tenants or business tenants. Data are not available to distinguish between income from private rental accommodation and from other accommodation.

Data for the tax year 2007 is not yet available as the income tax returns for that year are not due for filing until October 2008 (by 17th November 2008 in the case of returns filed via ROS) and the bulk of corresponding corporation tax returns are not due for filing until September 2008.

Tax Code.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

118 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance if, in respect of Appendix D of the Green Paper on Pensions, he will provide the same information in respect of PRSAs and RACs for 2005 and subsequent years; if he will provide details of the work ongoing to garner similar information in respect of other pension holders and the details similar to Appendix D for the years that are available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17912/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the latest relevant information available is in respect of income tax relief allowed for contributions to Retirement Annuity Contracts (RACs) and Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs) for the income tax year 2005. RACs and PRSAs are available to the self-employed and to employees not in occupational pension schemes.

The information is set out in tables following this reply which provide the number of cases, amount of deduction and reduction in tax for tax relief for RACs and PRSAs for the various contribution ranges. The information is based on income returns contained in Revenue records at the time the data were compiled for analytical purposes, representing about 98.5 % of all returns expected. A married couple who has elected or has deemed to have elected for joint assessment is counted as one tax unit.

It is not possible to provide corresponding figures in regard to the take-up of the tax relief for pension contributions by employers and employees to occupational pension schemes as the relevant data are not captured in such a way as to make this possible.

Provisions were included in Finance Act 2004 with a view to improving data quality and transparency without overburdening taxpayers or employers. The Act includes provisions that require employers to provide data on superannuation contributions in the P35 form to be filed by employers from 2006 on. These changes have yielded additional information regarding the overall cost of tax relief for pension contributions but as the returns are aggregated at employer level they cannot provide a precise basis for measuring the potential impact on the Exchequer of proposals for changes at individual level or enable a distribution of pension tax relief across the different income cohorts to be provided.

INCOME TAX 2005

Retirement Annuity — by range of Gross Income.

Range of gross income

Totals

From

To

Number of cases

Amount of deduction

Reduction in tax

Gross Tax*

Reduction in tax as % of Gross Tax

%

9,000

1,008

1,881,903

75,498

82,740

91.2

9,000

10,000

265

374,631

30,386

33,229

91.4

10,000

12,000

657

1,025,582

134,741

190,034

70.9

12,000

15,000

1,392

2,392,161

350,206

679,108

51.6

15,000

17,000

1,323

2,233,300

352,112

842,250

41.8

17,000

20,000

2,589

4,780,514

816,857

2,287,102

35.7

20,000

25,000

5,651

11,087,382

2,080,370

7,539,642

27.6

25,000

27,000

2,715

5,668,769

1,098,028

4,696,639

23.4

27,000

30,000

4,381

9,484,765

1,880,533

9,069,509

20.7

30,000

35,000

7,751

18,261,845

4,705,878

22,318,537

21.1

35,000

40,000

7,780

20,674,562

6,003,555

30,473,740

19.7

40,000

50,000

14,363

45,816,794

14,547,614

79,144,477

18.4

50,000

60,000

12,398

48,880,951

15,565,254

95,469,140

16.3

60,000

75,000

14,057

70,245,866

25,617,798

155,121,844

16.5

75,000

100,000

13,615

99,961,110

40,744,562

235,383,899

17.3

100,000

150,000

9,892

125,055,147

52,235,223

295,482,218

17.7

150,000

200,000

3,705

81,437,198

34,165,790

184,174,412

18.6

200,000

250,000

2,240

67,483,762

28,305,769

153,550,523

18.4

Over

250,000

5,532

278,887,354

117,075,544

832,516,852

14.1

Totals

111,314

895,633,596

345,785,718

2,109,055,895

16.4

*"Gross tax" means the tax that would be due before relief is allowed for retirement annuity deductions.

INCOME TAX 2005

Personal Retirement Savings Accounts — by range of Gross Income.

Range of gross income

Totals

From

To

Number of cases

Amount of deduction

Reduction in tax

Gross Tax*

Reduction in tax as % of Gross Tax

%

9,000

99

131,880

1,331

1,655

80.4

9,000

10,000

36

44,781

4,764

5,745

82.9

10,000

12,000

59

85,072

11,937

17,987

66.4

12,000

15,000

150

233,336

32,587

63,085

51.7

15,000

17,000

149

223,139

38,841

91,737

42.3

17,000

20,000

309

508,353

91,482

285,601

32.0

20,000

25,000

672

1,222,950

234,106

964,971

24.3

25,000

27,000

341

633,141

121,908

658,814

18.5

27,000

30,000

468

909,837

182,962

1,146,859

16.0

30,000

35,000

784

1,885,268

550,654

2,586,331

21.3

35,000

40,000

748

2,020,822

673,858

3,504,921

19.2

40,000

50,000

1,231

3,918,871

1,331,798

7,816,522

17.0

50,000

60,000

1,010

4,258,348

1,460,433

8,867,772

16.5

60,000

75,000

1,152

5,832,227

2,224,524

13,755,660

16.2

75,000

100,000

1,143

8,357,350

3,448,343

20,731,795

16.6

100,000

150,000

914

10,057,040

4,219,484

28,241,781

14.9

150,000

200,000

302

5,161,334

2,166,660

15,221,998

14.2

200,000

250,000

157

3,749,842

1,572,734

10,862,836

14.5

Over

250,000

282

9,359,602

3,931,033

39,741,329

9.9

Totals

10,006

58,593,193

22,299,439

154,567,399

14.4

"Gross tax" means the tax that would be due before relief is allowed for PRSA deductions

Joan Burton

Question:

119 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the progress in regard to the commitment given in the Programme for Government that the VAT classifications would be examined, with a view to reducing the rate of VAT applied to certain environmental goods and services. [17925/08]

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to examine the scope for reducing the VAT rate on environmental goods and services from the standard VAT rate of 21 per cent to the reduced rate of 13.5 per cent. I should mention that this is just one of a number of initiatives in the Programme aimed at delivering a cleaner environment.

When considering a change in the VAT treatment of a good or service, it is important to bear in mind that the scope for such change is derived from EU law with which Irish VAT law must comply. In this regard, the rate of VAT that applies to a particular good or service is determined by the nature of the good or service, and not by the environmental impact of the good or service. There is no provision in European VAT law that would allow the application of a reduced VAT rate on supplies of goods or services based on their environmental impact per se. However, at Community level, we support calls for the Commission to examine the potential use of reduced VAT rates in promoting environmentally friendly goods and services.

I would of course draw to the Deputy's attention that in the 2008 Finance Act the VAT rate on the supply of miscanthus rhizomes, seeds bulbs and similar inputs used for the agricultural production of biofuels was reduced from 21% to 13.5% with effect from 1 March 2008. This measure will assist in the development of agricultural production of such fuels.

National Parks.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

120 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance the progress being made in the implementation of Section 5.3 of the Towards a Liffey Valley Park strategy document which recommends that the currently limited co-ordinating role of the Office of Public Works be enhanced to ensure that the strategic objectives of the strategy are placed on the national agenda; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17987/08]

Many of the Study's objectives can be pursued by the Local Authorities from within their own resources. Progress at a national level is dependent on provision of funding through the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Health Services.

Brian Hayes

Question:

121 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of speech and language therapists currently working with primary schools here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17752/08]

As part of the Multi-Annual Investment Programme 2006-2009 under the Disability Strategy, the Government provided the Health Service Executive with an additional €75 million in both 2006 and 2007. This funding included monies to provide new and enhanced services for people with disabilities, to implement Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, which came into effect on June 1st 2007 for the under 5's and also for the continuation of the implementation of the transfer of persons with intellectual disability from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements.

The Government is also honouring its promise in relation to the Multi-Annual Investment Programme for people with disabilities, with a further €50m investment which was announced in the 2008 Budget.

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

Mental Health Services.

David Stanton

Question:

122 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children if, with reference to the National Economic and Social Forum Report 36, the Senior Officials Group under the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion are responsible for the implementation of the recommendations of the report; the action which has been taken in doing

The National Economic and Social Forum's report on Mental Health and Social Inclusion is consistent with ‘A Vision for Change' which was launched in January 2006.

A key recommendation of the NESF report is the establishment of cross-departmental structures to address mental health and social inclusion. In January 2008, the Government announced the establishment of the Office for Disability and Mental Health. The Office is a cross-departmental Government office with functions in four Departments: Health and Children, Education and Science, Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The Director of the Office is a member of the Senior Officials Group on Social Inclusion.

The Office's functions include driving the recommendations of ‘A Vision for Change', bringing a new impetus to the implementation of the Report through working in partnership with the HSE and other stakeholders to achieve implementation of agreed targets. The recommendations of the NESF report will inform the work of the Office in this regard.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

123 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position of an appeal by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17988/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular 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.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

124 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the waiting time for a routine outpatient appointment in Cork University Hospital is 18 to 24 months, that due to the suffering and anxiety of this delay the National Treatment Purchase Fund allocated 100 outpatient orthopaedic referrals for 2008 which have already been filled and that a patient (details supplied) in County Cork who is awaiting a consultant appointment is in severe pain and needs treatment before an MRI scan can be undertaken; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17144/08]

The management of waiting lists generally is a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE) in accordance with its operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services. Therefore, the HSE is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the HSE to arrange to have a reply issued direct to the Deputy concerning the case of the person in question.

I am aware that the National Treatment Purchase Fund is currently working closely with Cork University Hospital in order to facilitate treatment for 157 people who are on surgical in-patient waiting lists for more than 12 months.

Health Services.

Billy Timmins

Question:

125 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to an application from a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; if same will be dealt with; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17167/08]

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

Vaccination Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

126 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 57 of 3 April 2008, her definition of the term “shortly”, as this report has been due shortly for the past 12 months; when she expects to receive the final report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17170/08]

The Group is continuing with its consideration of this matter and I look forward to receiving its final recommendations.

Departmental Audits.

Michael Ring

Question:

127 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if a value for money audit has been carried out on the work undertaken for her Department by private companies (details supplied). [17177/08]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has responsibility for administering the health repayment scheme in conjunction with the appointed scheme administrator K.P.M.G. and McCann Fitzgerald.

The HSE has advised my Department that in the normal course of events a Value for Money audit would be carried out on completion of a particular project or assignment of work. The work in relation to the Longstay Repayments Scheme is ongoing at present.

The HSE has also advised my Department that an initial Tender and Procurement Process had been completed and a second Tender and Procurement Process was entered into to create a more competitive market environment, guided by the principle of obtaining value for money for the taxpayer. The HSE has informed my Department that they believe the result of this second Tender and Procurement Process achieved this objective. It is at the discretion of the Comptroller and Auditor General to conduct specific Value For Money audits and this applies to the Repayments Scheme also.

Health Services.

Billy Timmins

Question:

128 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to services for a person (details supplied); if there are respite services available for people in this position; if there are houses where they could go and be supervised for a week's respite but where they would have the necessary supervision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17179/08]

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

Hospital Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

129 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason no orthopaedic operations are carried out in Tallaght General Hospital each Friday; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17181/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. This includes decisions in relation to the scheduling of orthopaedic procedures at Tallaght Hospital. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have a reply issued to the Deputy on the operational issue raised.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Michael Ring

Question:

130 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of claimants that have been paid under an Act (details supplied) on a county basis; the number of applications received and verified; the number of applications that have been validated but are waiting on payment; and the number of applications that have been refused. [17191/08]

The Health Service Executive has advised my Department that since the commencement of the Health Repayment Scheme in August 2006, over 36,000 applications have been received. Letters of offer have been sent to in excess of 13,000 claimants and almost 9,500 of these have been paid. The breakdown of claimants paid on a county basis is provided in the accompanying table.

The HSE have advised my Department that payments issue as soon as is practicable after the 28 day appeal period has passed provided that a valid letter of acceptance is received. The HSE have advised my Department that over 9,600 rejections have been processed in respect of these claims. The remaining claims are all being worked on and claims are concluded on a weekly basis.

County

Number of Paid Claimants

Co. Dublin

2,032

Co. Galway

474

Co. Kildare

374

Co. Meath

265

Co. Mayo

447

Co. Carlow

152

Co. Cavan

93

Co. Clare

275

Co. Cork

1,010

Co. Donegal

337

Co. Waterford

390

Co. Westmeath

205

Co. Wexford

301

Co. Wicklow

286

Co. Kerry

311

Co. Kilkenny

186

Co. Laois

206

Co. Leitrim

114

Co. Limerick

291

Co. Longford

132

Co. Louth

344

Co. Monaghan

232

Co. Offaly

163

Co. Roscommon

239

Co. Sligo

219

Co. Tipperary

399

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Jack Wall

Question:

131 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 171 of 17 April 2008, when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive a date for their operation; if the reply received from the Health Service Executive can be determined as a directive to the National Treatment Purchase Fund from Tallaght General Hospital that files and so on in relation to the applicant will be made available to the NTPF for their processing of the case and that there will be no hold up in relation to the provision of the date for the operation other than finding a suitable hospital to carry out such an operation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17198/08]

The primary remit of the National Treatment Purchase Fund is to facilitate patients who are longest on waiting lists for surgery.

The scheduling of admissions is a matter for the relevant Consultant and is determined on the basis of medical priority and having regard to available capacity. The question of the treatment appropriate to the circumstances of each individual patient is a matter of clinical responsibility over which I have no control.

In the event that treatment is not readily available and should the medical condition of the person in question disimprove, their General Practitioner would be in the best position to emphasise the urgency of her case to the Consultant directly.

My Department has asked the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to respond to the Deputy directly on the operational matter raised by him.

Hospital Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

132 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 214, 375 and 433 of 2 April 2008, when the review of acute hospital services in the mid-west will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17212/08]

The HSE is undertaking a strategic review of acute hospital services in the Mid-West region. The review is focussing on identifying the most appropriate configuration of acute hospital services in the Mid-West including arrangements for A&E, critical care, acute medicine and surgery, together with diagnostic services, so that the highest quality of care can be delivered to the population. The HSE has advised my Department that the review is currently being finalised and that it will help to inform decisions on the future organisation of acute hospital and related services in the region.

General Practitioner Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

133 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the action she will take to address the worsening shortage of general practitioners as highlighted by the Irish College of General Practitioners survey showing over 25% of GPs in this State have closed their practices to new patients due to pressure of work; if she will increase the number of training places for GPs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17219/08]

I am aware of the results of the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) Manpower Survey 2008.

The number of General Practitioners who are in active practice is about 2,500. This equates to approximately 0.5 GPs per 1000 of the population, a ratio that is low by comparison with other EU and OECD countries.

I recognise there is a need to increase the number of GPs to take account of the projected growth in population, the ageing of the population and the ageing of the GP workforce.

The Government has taken a number of initiatives to address this. In February, 2006 we announced that the number of medical school places for EU students would be more than doubled by 305 to 725. The number of 305 places had been in place since 1978 through successive governments. Now there will be a new graduate entry stream providing an additional 240 places and increasing the number of EU undergraduate places by 180.

A total of 170 extra medical school places have been provided between 2006 and 2007 for Irish/EU students in the existing undergraduate courses and in the new graduate entry programme. A further 95 places will be made available in 2008 with the remaining 155 places coming on stream over the next 2 years.

In 2004, it was agreed with the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) that the number of GP vocational training places should be increased from 84 to 150 on a phased basis over three years. I am informed by the HSE that to date, 36 of the additional 66 places have been provided, bringing the total number of training places annually to 120. The further increase to 150 places is being kept under review by the HSE in the light of the current budgetary situation.

There are currently 12 GP vocational training programmes in the State and these programmes are accredited by the ICGP. 376 trainees are currently participating in these programmes and the HSE has advised that this number will increase to 449 in July 2008. The HSE has indicated that there have been capacity issues within these training programmes and that this is the principal reason that it has not been possible to increase the number of training places as quickly as had been hoped. The HSE continues to work with the ICGP with a view to addressing these issues.

A joint Department of Health and Children / HSE working group on workforce planning was established in June 2006. It also includes representatives of the Departments of Finance and Education and Science, and the Higher Education Authority.

Research is currently being undertaken by FÁS on behalf of the joint working group. This research will analyse the labour market for 11 healthcare grades and professions, including GPs, and will help determine future GP training needs. FÁS is expected to complete its work by the end of 2008 when it will report its findings to the joint working group.

Departmental Funding.

Finian McGrath

Question:

134 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if a group (details supplied) will be assisted with their priority matters. [17228/08]

With regard to the request for direct Irish Government funding for the exon skipping research project, there is no mechanism or budget for Government funding to U.K. health research.

The Deputy's question also 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.

The matters of education, training, employment, housing and transport are more appropriate to other Government Departments.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Pat Breen

Question:

135 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17231/08]

Pat Breen

Question:

136 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when appliances will be allocated to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17232/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 135 and 136 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. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Bernard Allen

Question:

137 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will investigate a situation where a person (details supplied) in County Cork received an appointment in the Cork University Hospital for 2 February 2009 to have their eyes examined; and if the appointment will be brought forward in view of their condition and age. [17234/08]

The management of waiting lists generally is a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE) in accordance with its operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services. Therefore, the HSE is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the HSE to arrange to have a reply issued direct to the Deputy concerning the case of the person in question.

Foreign Adoptions.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

138 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the lengthy delay in the greater Dublin area with regard to the assessment of appropriate candidates for inter country adoption; the number of couples and individuals in the greater Dublin area waiting on an assessment appointment; if there are sufficient social workers available to deal with the number of outstanding applications; and if she will implement policy to reduce waiting times and develop a more effective system. [17238/08]

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

As the Deputy may be aware, requests for assessment for intercountry adoption are continuously increasing. The recent study on intercountry adoption, undertaken by the Children's Research Centre in Trinity College, revealed that Ireland has one of the highest rates for foreign adoption in Europe. In addition, as a result of the increased number of children coming from abroad, a new and increasing demand for post-adoption reports from sending countries has been created. Both assessments and post-placement reports are being undertaken by HSE social work staff.

The HSE has been assessing the provision of services in the context of moving from the health board system to a single executive. It has acknowledged that there is a divergence in the provision of services and is committed to addressing those differences. In a number of areas, the HSE has improved waiting times by contracting assessments out to non-statutory agencies with appropriate expertise.

The HSE has undertaken a review of the intercountry adoption service. This review examined staffing, business processes, resources, strengths and options within the service. The HSE has indicated that it will contact the Department shortly with a proposed strategy on the management of the service into the future based on this work and parallel discussions with professionals within the service. I would like to assure the Deputy of my attention to this issue and reiterate the importance of a rigorous and effective assessment system.

Child Care Services.

Enda Kenny

Question:

139 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in an application by persons (details supplied) in County Dublin for domiciliary care for a child; if the application will be processed in view of the long delay already encountered; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17240/08]

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

Medicinal Products.

Finian McGrath

Question:

140 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied that a drug (details supplied) is safe; and if she will investigate this matter. [17242/08]

While no medicine is entirely without risk, the benefits of Prozac for the indications for which it is licensed far outweigh any potential associated risks.

All patients being prescribed Prozac are informed by the prescriber regarding the correct use of the product. Furthermore, all the information relating to the correct use of the product and the precautions and warnings for its use are clearly outlined in the product information and in particular the patient information which is supplied with the medicine when it is dispensed.

Mental Health Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

141 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that a psychological assessment is given to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [17246/08]

As part of the Multi-Annual Investment Programme 2006-2009 under the Disability Strategy, the Government provided the Health Service Executive with an additional €75m in both 2006 and 2007. This funding included monies to provide new and enhanced services for people with disabilities, to implement Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, which came into effect on June 1st 2007 for the under 5's and also for the continuation of the implementation of the transfer of persons with intellectual disability from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements.

The Government is also honouring its promise in relation to the Multi-Annual Investment Programme for people with disabilities, with a further €50m investment which was announced in the 2008 Budget.

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

Finian McGrath

Question:

142 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) will be assisted. [17254/08]

As part of the Multi-Annual Investment Programme 2006-2009 under the Disability Strategy, the Government provided the Health Service Executive with an additional €75 million in both 2006 and 2007. This funding included monies to provide new and enhanced services for people with disabilities, to implement Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, which came into effect on June 1st 2007 for the under 5's and also for the continuation of the implementation of the transfer of persons with intellectual disability from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements.

The Government is also honouring its promise in relation to the Multi-Annual Investment Programme for people with disabilities, with a further €50m investment which was announced in the 2008 Budget.

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

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

143 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if the home care attendants employed by the Health Service Executive in Kildare and west Wicklow are paid travel allowances using the eastern community works computer system; if so, the reason there is a delay in calculating the paying of travel expenses and arrears to the home help employees in Kildare and west Wicklow; if the system is programmed to pay existing employees within the HSE through the same system in view of the fact that both sets of employees are entitled to the same expenses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17257/08]

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, including the payment of travel allowances to eligible personnel, has been provided as part of its overall vote. 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 these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Infectious Diseases.

John Deasy

Question:

144 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children when it is expected that the final report set up by the Health Service Executive to study a cluster of hepatitis B cases which occurred at Waterford Regional Hospital and Wexford General Hospital between the period January 2005 to February 2006 will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17262/08]

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.

Hospital Services.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

145 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide isolation units for cystic fibrosis patients at the University Hospital, Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17269/08]

I have identified the enhancement of services to persons with cystic fibrosis as a key priority over recent years. Development funding of €6.78m has been allocated to the Health Service Executive since 2006 to facilitate the recruitment of specialist staff in this area.

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

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Billy Timmins

Question:

146 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow who is waiting for a hip replacement; if they will have the procedure as a matter of urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17275/08]

The primary remit of the National Treatment Purchase Fund is to facilitate patients who are longest on waiting lists for surgery.

The scheduling of admissions is a matter for the relevant Consultant and is determined on the basis of medical priority and having regard to available capacity. The question of the treatment appropriate to the circumstances of each individual patient is a matter of clinical responsibility over which I have no control.

In the event that the treatment is not readily available and should the medical condition of the person in question disimprove, their General Practitioner would be in the best position to emphasise the urgency of her case to the Consultant directly.

My Department has asked the Chief Executive of the Fund to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to the matter raised.

Health Services.

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

147 Deputy Darragh O’Brien asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress regarding the refurbishment and upgrading of the Health Service Executive public health clinic at New Street, Malahide, County Dublin, in order to ensure that the facility is fully accessible for people with disabilities and the elderly and that the working conditions for the staff in the clinic are brought up to standard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17304/08]

The provision of the appropriate infrastructure to facilitate the delivery of primary care services is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive.

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

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Michael Ring

Question:

148 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo in relation to their claim under the health repayment scheme. [17305/08]

The Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the Repayment Scheme and the information sought by the Deputy relates to matters within the area of responsibility of the Executive.

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

Hospital Services.

James Reilly

Question:

149 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children when, in view of the success of the acute medical admissions unit at St. James Hospital, acute medical admissions units will be introduced to hospitals, noting an article (details supplied) which claims up to 3000 lives could be saved by the introduction of such units; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17311/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular 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.

Pharmacy Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

150 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on correspondence (details supplied); her plans to address the concerns expressed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17363/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

157 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has received communication from pharmacists or if her attention has been drawn to such communication with the Health Service Executive indicating a cessation of services provided by pharmacists resulting from action taken by her Department and the HSE; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17447/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

158 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will take an initiative to resolve the ongoing dispute between herself, the Health Service Executive and the pharmacists with particular reference to the need to ensure ongoing services and facilities as provided by the pharmacist in the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17448/08]

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

175 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children the contingency plans in place by her Department and the Health Services Executive to deal with the probability that pharmacists will withdraw from the community drugs scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17624/08]

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

176 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has considered the impact on rural pharmacies of the cut in payment to pharmacists under the community drugs schemes; the plans in place to guarantee continuity of supply to patients of their medicines under the community drugs scheme in areas which may be left without a local community pharmacist arising from changes imposed by the Health Services Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17625/08]

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

191 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children the situation regarding pharmacies arising from recent discussions between the Health Service Executive and the Irish Pharmaceutical Union; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18013/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 150, 157, 158, 175, 176 and 191 together.

I welcome the recent decision of the Irish Pharmaceutical Union (IPU) to recommend that its members not proceed with their threatened withdrawal from the GMS and community drugs schemes. This decision followed intensive consultations between the IPU and officials of the Health Service Executive (HSE) and Department of Health and Children.

The Government's priority has been to ensure that patients continue to receive their full entitlements under the GMS and other drugs schemes and I am pleased that this has been achieved. Both the Government and the HSE have confirmed that they recognise the IPU as the representative body for community pharmacists. An agenda has been agreed for detailed discussions between the parties commencing this week on contractual and other outstanding issues.

I established an Independent Body to assess an interim, fair community pharmacy dispensing fee. This Body is being chaired by Seán Dorgan, former Head of IDA Ireland. It has been asked to make its recommendations by the end of May 2008. The Government is pleased that there will be no disruption of pharmacy services pending the completion of the work of the Independent Body. With continued goodwill on all sides, I am confident that significant progress will be made over the next few weeks.

Hospital Services.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

151 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has plans to increase the number of MRI scanners at Beaumont Hospital from two to five; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17354/08]

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

Hospital Staff.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

152 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children the staffing levels at each hospital maternity unit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17355/08]

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

Departmental Expenditure.

Damien English

Question:

153 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the average time for payment to be made by her Department and by each agency affiliated to her Department to outside contractors for goods and services employed for each of the years 2004 to 2007 and to date in 2008 in tabular readable form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17380/08]

I would like to inform the Deputy that my Department does not collate information in the manner set out in the question. The number of invoices processed for payment in regard to goods and services is set out in the table below. I would like to assure the Deputy that it is a policy of my Department to adhere to EU Directive 2000/35/EC in relation to prompt payment. All invoices which are authorised for payment are paid within 30 days of receipt.

Year

Invoices for Goods & Services

Invoices attracting Prompt Payment Interest

% of invoices paid within 30 days

2004

7,906

51

99.35

2005

7,115

89

98.75

2006

6,167

33

99.46

2007

5,306

13

99.75

2008

2,047

5

99.76

My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Health Services Executive to forward information directly to the Deputy. In addition there are a number of agencies funded directly by my Department. I have requested that these agencies forward information to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Medical Cards.

Jack Wall

Question:

154 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children when an application for a full medical card will be processed for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17392/08]

Persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner (GP) services qualify for a medical card, which entitles them to a range of health services free of charge. In 2005, the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so that people on moderate and lower incomes, particularly parents of young children, who did not qualify for a medical card, would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP.

The assessment of eligibility for medical cards and GP visit cards is statutorily a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE) and, with the exception of persons aged 70 and over, who have an automatic statutory entitlement to a medical card, is determined following an examination of the means of the applicant and his/her dependants (income and relevant outgoings). The GP visit card assessment threshold is 50% higher than the medical card threshold.

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

Vaccination Programme.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

155 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will act on the Health Information and Quality Authority’s approval of the HPV vaccine; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17417/08]

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) has undertaken a scientific assessment of the public health value of HPV following a request from my Department. NIAC and the National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) agreed that this work needed to be complemented by a study of the cost effectiveness of the vaccine in the current Irish context. Accordingly, both organisations requested the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) to undertake a study into the cost effectiveness of HPV.

I understand that HIQA has completed the study and that it is currently being considered by NCSS. When I receive the advice of the NCSS in the matter, the necessary decisions that arise from the advice will be made.

Pharmacy Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

156 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the eventual negative consequences arising from the continued conflict between herself and the Health Service Executive directed at the pharmacists; the expected reduction or cessation of services arising from the arbitrary action taken by the HSE; if her attention has further been drawn to the expected reduction in competition and delivery of services to the public in the event of the closure of a substantial number of pharmacies with particular reference to young pharmacists who were to become the driving force in the provision of such services in the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17446/08]

I welcome the recent decision of the Irish Pharmaceutical Union (IPU) to recommend that its members not proceed with their threatened withdrawal from the GMS and community drugs schemes. This decision followed intensive consultations between the IPU and officials of the Health Service Executive (HSE) and Department of Health and Children.

The Government's priority has been to ensure that patients continue to receive their full entitlements under the GMS and other drugs schemes and I am pleased that this has been achieved. Both the Government and the HSE have confirmed that they recognise the IPU as the representative body for community pharmacists. An agenda has been agreed for detailed discussions between the parties commencing this week on contractual and other outstanding issues.

I established an Independent Body to assess an interim, fair community pharmacy dispensing fee. This Body is being chaired by Seán Dorgan, former Head of IDA Ireland. It has been asked to make its recommendations by the end of May 2008. The Government is pleased that there will be no disruption of pharmacy services pending the completion of the work of the Independent Body. With continued goodwill on all sides, I am confident that significant progress will be made over the next few weeks.

Questions Nos. 157 and 158 answered with Question No. 150.

Hospital Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

159 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the work of a group (details supplied) which produced a report and recommendations locally for maternity patients and their families at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda; if their report was accepted by the relevant Health Service Executive manager; if leaflets were agreed and printed; the cost of same; if the leaflets have since been withdrawn from circulation to patients; if so, the reason for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17553/08]

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

Budget Submissions.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

160 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the date for each year since 2000 of pre-budget meetings held with the Department of Finance and the Department of An Taoiseach; the attendees at such meetings; if an agenda was circulated in advance; if minutes of such a meeting were kept; if not the reason for same; if officials were directed not to keep minutes of such meetings; if so, by whom and the date of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17566/08]

During the Annual Estimates process meetings are routinely held within the Department and with officials from the Department of Finance. A variety of officials attend these meetings depending on the issues involved. These meetings help to clarify outstanding issues in relation to the detail of the Estimate and the relative priorities for increased funding. As the meetings can be quite frequent and informal minutes are not kept in the ordinary course of events, but the meetings inform part of what is an ongoing dialogue in advance of final discussions on the Estimates. Towards the end of the process a meeting takes place at Ministerial level at which officials are also involved. Final figures are then agreed with the Minister for Finance for recommendation to Government and publication in the Estimates volume shortly thereafter.

Medical Cards.

Michael McGrath

Question:

161 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the medical card appeal of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [17574/08]

Persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner (GP) services qualify for a medical card, which entitles them to a range of health services free of charge. In 2005, the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so that people on moderate and lower incomes, particularly parents of young children, who did not qualify for a medical card, would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP.

The assessment of eligibility for medical cards and GP visit cards is statutorily a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE) and, with the exception of persons aged 70 and over, who have an automatic statutory entitlement to a medical card, is determined following an examination of the means of the applicant and his/her dependants (income and relevant outgoings). The GP visit card assessment threshold is 50% higher than the medical card threshold.

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

Health Service Staff.

Martin Ferris

Question:

162 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children when she will fill the vacant psychologist position at the Brothers of Charity, Kerry. [17578/08]

Martin Ferris

Question:

163 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children when the vacancy for a psychologist by the Health Service Executive in the Kerry region will be filled. [17579/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 162 and 163 together.

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

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

Health Services.

Martin Ferris

Question:

164 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children if there will be no financial cuts to the Health Service Executive budget regarding primary community continuous care for the Kerry area. [17580/08]

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

Martin Ferris

Question:

165 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on the delay in getting through the waiting list for repeat assessments for autistic children in the Kerry area. [17581/08]

As part of the Multi-Annual Investment Programme 2006-2009 under the Disability Strategy, the Government provided the Health Service Executive with an additional €75m in both 2006 and 2007. This funding included monies to provide new and enhanced services for people with disabilities, to implement Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, which came into effect on June 1st 2007 for the under 5's and also for the continuation of the implementation of the transfer of persons with intellectual disability from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements. The Government is also honouring its promise in relation to the Multi-Annual Investment Programme for people with disabilities, with a further €50m investment which was announced in the 2008 Budget.

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

Health Service Staff.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

166 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 17 of 31 January 2008, if a recruitment pause is still in place; if this affects front line staff; the health services staff who are considered front line; if essential health services posts will be filled where vacancies are created in 2008; and the health services staff considered essential health services posts. [17590/08]

The recruitment pause put in place in September 2007 was initiated as part of the HSE financial break-even plan to facilitate the delivery of services on budget in accordance with the provisions of the 2007 National Service Plan. This pause did not involve random job cuts but did mean that the recruitment of staff to approved positions was delayed. The HSE put in place a derogation process to deal with the filling of essential posts to protect front-line services and close to 900 posts were approved under this process.

This temporary pause in recruitment ended on 31st December 2007 and any posts falling vacant from 1st January 2008 can be filled subject to the provisions of Circular 01/2008. This circular sets out the HSE Employment Control Framework for 2008 and is aimed at ensuring that health services are delivered in accordance with the provisions of the 2008 National Service Plan and within the funding provided by Government. The Employment Control Framework provides for the filling of vacancies arising in 2008, the filling of approved and funded service development posts not filled at the end of 2007 and new service developments in 2008.

An overall employment ceiling of 112,560 whole time equivalents has been set for the public health services for 2008 (111,650 adjusted for student nurses). This level of employment provides for 1,050 additional new posts arising from development funding provided by the Government in the Budget Day package for 2008. Following consideration of the requirements to deliver the priorities identified by Government in the Budget package, 1050 posts have been approved for 2008. A breakdown of these development posts is provided below.

Service

2008 Development Funding

No. of Development posts to be filled in 2008

€m

Older People

22.00

100

Palliative Care

3.00

50

Disability

49.96

710

Cancer

15.00

90

Population Health

17.96

100

Total

1,050

The filling of the above development posts are to be managed by the HSE within the employment control framework for the health services and its own circular issued in January 2008. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the health service staff and grades which are considered front-line and essential. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

167 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive north east is prepared to finalise a deal with a person (details supplied) in County Cavan for an extension to their site. [17600/08]

The provision of the appropriate infrastructure to facilitate the delivery of primary care services is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matters raised by the Deputy investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Liz McManus

Question:

168 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason there are no funds available to hospitals to discharge patients to nursing homes (details supplied). [17602/08]

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.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

169 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that the intention is to raise standards and increase capacity and capability in laboratories here for cervical screening to ensure existing expertise is not lost and to ensure the highest standard of reporting recall and management of Irish patients; if her attention has been drawn to the dangers of loss of local expertise; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17597/08]

The roll out of a national cervical screening programme is the most efficient population approach to preventing and controlling cervical cancer. The National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) is planning to roll out such a programme on a national basis and is in the final stages of preparations. The service will be available free of charge to all eligible women in Ireland aged 25-60. A national programme will provide screening in a primary care setting every three years for women aged 25-44 years and screening every five years for women aged 45-60 years. The priority is to establish a national quality assured, organised cervical screening programme and it will be implemented in line with best international practice.

All elements of the programme will be quality assured — call and recall, laboratory testing, colposcopy and will be managed to deliver a single integrated national service. A cytology procurement process is underway. This process commenced in December 2007 and the outcome of this will be announced shortly.

The vital emphasis of the procurement process has been and will be on quality of the national programme. The necessary entry criteria in choosing a cytology partner included accreditation status and that the laboratory dealt with a minimum of 25,000 smears per annum. These criteria were chosen in line with international acceptable criteria for cervical screening programmes. The NCSS will ensure that the laboratory elements will be delivered in an efficient and cost effective manner and with high quality and acceptable turn-around time for results and so avoid unacceptably long delays for routine cervical smear test results as a priority.

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

Hospitals Building Programme.

Brian Hayes

Question:

170 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that the new national paediatric hospital at the Mater Hospital can only be built once the newly proposed adult hospital at the Mater is completed; the proposed timeframe for the construction of both new hospitals at the Mater; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17605/08]

The National Paediatric Hospital Development Board has responsibility for planning, designing, building, furnishing and equipping the new national paediatric hospital. The Health Service Executive is working closely with the Development Board in progressing the project. My Department has asked the HSE to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy on the specific issues raised.

Health Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

171 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the details of the Office for Disability and Mental Health. [17610/08]

Dan Neville

Question:

172 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the details of the members of the Office for Disability and Mental Health. [17611/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 171 and 172 together.

In January 2008, the Government announced the establishment of the Office for Disability and Mental Health to support the Minister for Disability & Mental Health in exercising their responsibilities across four Government Departments: Health & Children, Education & Science, Enterprise, Trade & Employment and Justice, Equality & Law Reform.

The new Office brings together responsibility for a range of different policy areas and State services which directly impact on the lives of people with a disability and people with mental health issues. The Office will aim to bring about improvements in the manner in which services respond to the needs of people with disabilities and mental health issues, by working to develop person-centred services, focussing on the holistic needs of clients and service users and actively involving them in their own care.

Very substantial progress has been made in recent years in the areas of disability and mental health, but much remains to be done. In particular, there is a need to improve co-ordination and communication across different Government Departments and agencies in their delivery of services to this client group. This will be the main focus for the new Office in the coming months.

The key priorities for the Office for Disability and Mental Health are:

supporting the implementation of the Health Sectoral Plan under the Disability Act 2005. The Office will focus in particular on facilitating the delivery of integrated health and education support services for children with special needs, by further developing existing mechanisms for co-operation and co-ordination between the health and education sectors, both at national and local level;

developing an appropriate continuum of training and employment support services for people with a disability by working together with the Dept. of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, FAS and the HSE;

bringing a new impetus to the implementation of A Vision for Change, working in partnership with the HSE and other stakeholders to achieve implementation of agreed targets.

Achieving greater cooperation between the health and justice sectors on matters relating to people with mental illness who come before the Courts, who are in the prison system or in the Central Mental Hospital.

The Director of the Office for Disability and Mental Health is Bairbre Nic Aongusa, formerly Deputy Director of the Office of the Minister for Children (OMC). During her time in the OMC, Ms Nic Aongusa engaged extensively in the type of cross-agency and cross-Departmental work that is now required to achieve real progress in disability and mental health. She brings that experience and expertise with her to the new Office, in addition to her experience as a senior manager in the Department of Health & Children over several years. The Director of the Office is a member of the Senior Officials Group on Social Inclusion, which monitors progress on the Government's commitments in relation to social policy. The Government has also agreed that meetings will be held on a quarterly basis between the Minister for Disability and Mental Health, the four Secretary Generals of the relevant Departments and the Director of the new Office, to review progress in the priority areas. The staff of the Office were drawn from within existing resources as per Government policy on public service numbers.

In conclusion, the Government's decision to establish the Office for Disability and Mental Health reflects its commitment to developing a more coherent and integrated response to the needs of people with disabilities and mental health issues. It recognises that clients and service users need to be at the centre of service delivery and that we may need to examine the way in which services are currently delivered to ensure that is the case. To effectively achieve this requires a cross-Departmental, cross-agency response. The designation of a Minister of State with responsibility for Disabilities and Mental Health and the establishment of an Office for Disability and Mental Health will facilitate cross-agency and cross-departmental working and enable us to deliver real benefits to clients and service users into the future.

Mental Health Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

173 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of child adolescents on the psychiatric waiting list. [17612/08]

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

Dan Neville

Question:

174 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 275 of 17 April 2008 in relation to the number of in-patient psychiatric beds for years 2000 to 2006, the areas of the reduction of 850 beds in that period under the criteria of acute beds and long stay beds; and if there was a reduction on long stay, the locations where the patients were re-located to. [17613/08]

According to the Health Research Board the reduction in the number of in-patient psychiatric beds for the years 2000 to 2006 has been entirely in long-stay beds. There has been no decline in acute beds. Since the establishment of the Health Service Executive in 2004 and the splitting of some catchment areas it is not possible to compare data between the former health board areas and the HSE areas.

The Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, ‘A Vision for Change', which was launched in January 2006 and represents Government policy, provides a framework for action to develop a modern, high quality mental health services for a seven to ten year period. The Report recommends that steps be taken to bring about the closure of all psychiatric hospitals and the reinvestment of the resources released by these closures in mental health service. It emphasises that this process should take place on a phased basis with wards closing sequentially and that hospitals can only close when the clinical needs of the remaining patients have been addressed in more appropriate settings such as additional community residences, day hospitals and day centres. Currently, there are approximately 400 community psychiatric residences in the country providing over 3,000 places.

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

Questions No. 175 and 176 answered with Question No. 150.

Health Service Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

177 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that since changes have been made in the supply arrangements for specialist stockings for persons with acute swelling, medical card holders are having difficulty in obtaining service for lack of trained nurses to do the required measurement for fittings as in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [17628/08]

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

Hospital Staff.

Michael Creed

Question:

178 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will guarantee that a third consultant surgeon will be available to Mallow General Hospital on a permanent basis for the period after 31 May, 2008 when the current arrangements expire; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17645/08]

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

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

179 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will produce a copy of an agreement referred to recently (details supplied); if she will verify whether this document exists; and if so, if she will produce a copy of same. [17648/08]

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

Departmental Expenditure.

Damien English

Question:

180 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the cost to her Department of implementing the pay roll system within her Department and within bodies under her Department’s aegis for each of the years 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and to date in 2008 in tabular readable form. [17718/08]

The following table indicates the cost of updating and maintaining the payroll system in my Department from 2004 to the present. These costs include maintenance, support, licensing and training but do not include hardware.

Year

Cost

2004

21,034.89

2005

25,267.47

2006*

94,155.78

2007

31,055.32

2008 to date

29,585.92

*In 2006, an on-line payslip facility was implemented and the disaster recovery infrastructure was updated and enhanced.

The position regarding the HSE and other agencies is a matter for the agencies themselves. My Department is asking them to reply directly to the Deputy in this regard.

Health Services.

John Cregan

Question:

181 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children when funding of €1,500,000 will be made available to a foundation (details supplied) in County Cork by the Health Service Executive in view of the fact that this allocation was made in Budget 2008 and no funding has been drawn down to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17723/08]

As part of service improvements in the health system, a sum of €1.5million is provided in Budget 2008 for the organisation (details supplied). The drawing down of this funding is a matter between the Health Service Executive and the organisation (details supplied).

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

Hospital Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

182 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on the recently published OECD report in relation to the Health Reform Plan for hospitals in the north east which recommended that the Government reviews the idea of a centralised single acute hospital for the north east and consider the possibility of having two hospitals in the region. [17726/08]

The OECD review of the Irish Public Service report entitled Ireland Towards an Integrated Public Service, was launched by the Taoiseach on Monday 28 April and includes a Case Study on the reconfiguration of the Hospital Services in the North East. I think it is important to note that the OECD state that the health sector Case Study does not purport to be a full analysis or review of wider issues relating to health care in Ireland or a commentary on health service provision generally in Ireland.

The OECD note that the health of the Irish is good and improving at an exceptionally rapid pace. Ireland is the European country which had the most spectacular increase in its life expectancy at birth since 1990: almost five years in 15 years, an average of four months a year. The OECD recommend that there should be a focus on longer-term outcomes such as life expectancy to measure the performance of the health system.

The Report emphasises the need to deal with the reforms of primary and community care in tandem with the reconfiguration of hospitals if the overall vision is to be realised. In order to ensure the model is the optimum given the specific characteristics of the region, it suggests taking a broader look at international systems, including systems that are similar in terms of their needs, in order to examine different patterns of hospital requirements in the North East.

The OECD took the view that this may include the possibility of having two hospitals, one regional, and one general. It may equally be that the outcome of such an examination would be a reaffirmation of the plan for one acute hospital for the region. At this point no decisions have been made by the Government or by the Health Service Executive (HSE) on the future location of the new hospital. The immediate task for the HSE is to ensure that services in the region are organised to optimise patient safety. The first step in the development of a fully integrated regional health service is to ensure that the people of the North East have local access to both routine planned care and immediate life saving emergency care. Over the next few years, in preparation for all acute emergency in-patient care and complex planned care being provided at a regional centre, the existing five hospitals will continue to improve services by further merger of their acute care specialties.

Finally, I would like to draw attention to the fact that the OECD confirm that policy objectives of the proposal to reconfigure hospital services in the North East are based on sound principles: "Clinically, the reform programme makes sense and will lead to safer, better quality treatment options for citizens". There is also an acceptance that there is a clear vision within the HSE regarding how health care services in the North East will be delivered following final implementation of all reforms.

Care of the Elderly.

Damien English

Question:

183 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to a reduction in the number of day care visits being afforded to senior citizens at a centre (details supplied) in County Meath; if she will request the Health Service Executive to increase the number of visits that senior citizens can make in order to ensure that adequate physiotherapy, occupational therapy, blood pressure, blood sugar monitoring and other medical services can be afforded to those who use the centre; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17697/08]

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.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

184 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children when a response will issue to this Deputy in relation to correspondence (details supplied). [17727/08]

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.

Hospital Charges.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

185 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Health and Children the way the terms a contract bed in a private nursing home and long stay maintenance charges are defined in primary legislation, regulation or guidelines issued by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17731/08]

Section 53 of the Health Act, 1970, (as amended by the Health (Amendment) Act, 2005) provides, inter alia, for the levying of a charge where in-patient services have been provided for a period of not less than 30 days or for periods aggregating not less than 30 days within the previous 12 months.

The charges are implemented by way of the Health (Charges for In-Patient Services) Regulations 2005. These regulations provide for the maximum charge to be levied on either class of person. The HSE has the power to reduce or waive a charge on the grounds of "undue hardship". Under Section 1(b) of the Health (Amendment) Act, 2005, the HSE can examine a person's overall financial situation in view of the person's reasonable expenditure in relation to themselves or their dependants, if any. It is a matter for the HSE, based on its own legal advice and taking into account the individual circumstances as well as the service being provided, to make a decision on any charges levied.

The term "contract bed" is not defined in primary legislation, regulation or by way of departmental guidelines. The term "private nursing home" is defined in the Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990 (as amended). I have arranged for copies of the relevant legislation to be sent to the Deputy. Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to point out that it is intended to ultimately replace the arrangements for funding public nursing home beds, contract beds and private nursing home subventions with a single, uniform system of financial support, namely A Fair Deal.

Health Service Staff.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

186 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in appointing a replacement public health nurse (details supplied); and if she will ensure that there is no further delay. [17728/08]

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

Proposed Legislation.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

187 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans she has to clarify and update legislation on eligibility for health and personal social services; if it is intended to address eligibility for chiropodity services, in the context of that legislation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17732/08]

As the Deputy is aware, my Department is currently preparing legislation to provide for clear statutory provisions on eligibility for health and personal social services. The aim is to produce a clear set of statutory provisions that ensure equity and transparency and to bring the system up to date with developments in service delivery and technology that have occurred since the Health Act 1970. The legislation will define specific health and personal social services more clearly; set out who should be eligible for what services, as well as criteria for eligibility; establish when and in what circumstances charges may be made and provide for an appeals framework. My Department is currently examining the range of services that will be defined in legislation. It is expected that proposals will be brought to Government during 2008.

Health Service Staff.

Damien English

Question:

188 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of new positions created within the Health Service Executive for each of the years from 2004 to date in 2008; and the breakdown per grade category of same in tabular readable form. [17706/08]

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

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of 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.

However, the Deputy may wish to note that the increases in the numbers employed in the public health service by grade category, from end 2004 to March 2008, are as follows:

Table 1: Health Service Employment 2002-20081 (source: Health Service Personnel Census)

Grade category

2004

% Diff. between 2004 and 2003

2005

% Diff. between 2005 and 2004

2006

% Diff. between 2006 and 2005

2007

% Diff. between 2007 and 2006

Mar-08

% Diff. between 2007 and Mar 2008

Medical/Dental

7,013

3.30%

7,263

3.56%

7,712

6.18%

8,005

3.80%

8,007

0.02%

Nursing

34,313

1.65%

35,243

2.71%

36,737

4.24%

39,006

6.18%

38,047

-2.46%

Health & Social Care Profess

12,830

1.30%

13,927

8.55%

14,913

7.08%

15,705

5.31%

15,681

-0.15%

Mngmt./Admin.

16,157

2.60%

16,680

3.24%

17,262

3.49%

18,043

4.52%

17,930

-0.63%

General Support Staff

13,771

-0.38%

13,215

-4.04%

12,910

-2.31%

12,900

-0.08%

12,873

-0.21%

Other Patient & Client Care

14,640

7.32%

15,580

6.42%

16,739

7.44%

17,846

6.61%

17,759

-0.49%

Total

98,723

2.39%

101,908

3.23%

106,273

4.28%

111,505

4.92%

110,297

-1.08%

Notes

1 Excludes Home Helps.

2 Management/ Administrative includes staff who are of direct service to the public and include Consultant's Secretaries, Out-Patient Departmental Personnel, Medical Records Personnel, Telephonists and other staff who are engaged in front-line duties together with staff in the following categories Payroll, Human Resource Management (including training), Service Managers, IT Staff, General Management Support and Legislative and Information requirements.

3 The methodology under which employment figures are compiled changed during the course of 2007 with the addition of personnel not previously included in subsumed agencies such as the Health Service Executive-EA (HSEA), the Primary Care Reimbursement Service (GMSPB), Health Boards Executive (HeBe) and the Office for Health Management (now part of the HR function) together with many other posts in projects or post previously excluded such as HRBS/PPARS and Value-for-Money posts (all of which are largely in the Management/Administrative stream) together with the inclusion of student nurses and chaplains. This change was undertaken to represent health service employment on a like-for-like basis with employment ceilings and to more accurately represent a reconfigured health service's employment information. As a result of this change year-on-year figures are not comparable.

4 Caution should be exercised in making grade category comparisons due to changes in category composition over time.

5 Student nurses are included in the 2007 and 2008 employment ceiling on the basis of 3.5 students equating to 1 wholetime equivalent. The employment levels adjusted for student nurses on the above basis are 110,664 wte (Dec 07) and 110,156 wte (Mar 08).

Damien English

Question:

189 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of staff employed within the Health Service Executive as of 1 May 2008; and the breakdown per grade category in tabular readable form. [17707/08]

The main source of employment data in the health services is the Health Service Executive's Health Services Personnel Census which is derived from payroll history in each agency. The census collects data on actual staffing level for each staff grade in each health agency at a given point in time. Up to and including 2002 the census was conducted annually. Since 2003 the census has been carried out quarterly at the end of March, June, September and December each year. The data referred to in the question are unavailable as yet, however, the latest census data from the end of March are set out in the following table (source: Health Service Personnel Census):

Health Service Personnel Census by Grade Category

Grade Category

31/03/2008

Medical/Dental

8,007

of which Consultants

2,214

Nursing

38,047

Health and Social Care Professionals

15,681

Management/Admin

17,930

General Support Staff

12,873

Other Patient and Client Care

17,759

Total

110,297

Notes

1 Excludes Home Help.

2 Management/ Administrative includes staff who are of direct service to the public and include Consultant's Secretaries, Out-Patient Departmental Personnel, Medical Records Personnel, Telephonists and other staff who are engaged in front-line duties together with staff in the following categories Payroll, Human Resource Management (including training), Service Managers, IT Staff, General Management Support and Legislative and Information requirements

3 Student nurses are included in the 2008 employment ceiling on the basis of 3.5 students equating to 1 wholetime equivalent. The employment level adjusted for student nurses on the above basis is 110,091 wte.

Hospital Services.

Willie Penrose

Question:

190 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will take steps to have a person (details supplied) admitted to the Eye and Ear Hospital to have an important procedure carried out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17738/08]

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

Question No. 191 answered with Question No. 150.

Health Services.

Billy Timmins

Question:

192 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if they will be seen as matter of urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18014/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular 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.

Medical Cards.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

193 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children when the income limits for medical cards were last increased; her views on whether the limits should be further increased; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18020/08]

Since the beginning of 2005, the qualification guidelines for medical card eligibility have increased by a cumulative 29% (7.5% and 20% in January and October 2005 respectively). The Agreed Programme for Government commits to the following: Indexing the income thresholds for medical cards to increases in the average industrial wage; doubling of the income limit eligibility of parents of children under 6 years of age, and trebling them for parents of children under 18 years of age with an intellectual disability.

In conjunction with the development of a new legislative framework to provide for clear statutory provisions on eligibility for health and personal social services, my Department is reviewing the assessment criteria in the context of financial, medical and social need in line with the commitment in Towards 2016. A Steering Group has been established which is expected to complete this work in autumn 2008. It is my intention to then consider how best to progress the commitments in the Agreed Programme for Government in relation to medical card eligibility.

Health Services.

James Reilly

Question:

194 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the average waiting times for speech and language services for adults in each Health Service Executive local health office in Dublin City and County, in each year over the past three years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17755/08]

As part of the Multi-Annual Investment Programme 2006-2009 under the Disability Strategy, the Government provided the Health Service Executive with an additional €75m in both 2006 and 2007. This funding included monies to provide new and enhanced services for people with disabilities, to implement Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, which came into effect on June 1st 2007 for the under 5's and also for the continuation of the implementation of the transfer of persons with intellectual disability from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements.

The Government is also honouring its promise in relation to the Multi-Annual Investment Programme for people with disabilities, with a further €50m investment which was announced in the 2008 Budget.

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

James Reilly

Question:

195 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the average waiting times for occupational therapy services for adults in each Health Service Executive local health office in Dublin City and County, in each year over the past three years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17756/08]

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

James Reilly

Question:

196 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the average waiting times for orthodontic treatment for adults in each health Service Executive local health office in Dublin City and County, in each year over the past three years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17757/08]

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.

General Practitioner Services.

James Reilly

Question:

197 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of general practitioners per county, in each year over the past 10 years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17758/08]

The Irish College of General Practitioners has informed my Department that the number of General Practitioners (GPs) who are in active practice is about 2,500. GPs working in the General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme hold a contract with the Health Service Executive (HSE). Therefore, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to examine this matter and to provide the available information directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Rory O'Hanlon

Question:

198 Deputy Rory O’Hanlon asked the Minister for Health and Children the allocation to each of the major acute hospitals in Dublin for the years 1997 to date in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17761/08]

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

Child Care Services.

Seán Ardagh

Question:

199 Deputy Seán Ardagh asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the investigation on child care facilities (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17763/08]

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.

Hospital Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

200 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made in providing for additional kidney dialysis capacity in County Kilkenny and in County Limerick; her views on the failure to reach timeframe targets; if she has plans to withdraw the contracts and provide the service through other means; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17766/08]

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

My Department is aware that the HSE undertook a National Renal Review to inform the approach to the future development of renal services. The Report of the Review Group was completed over a year ago and developments in renal services have since been guided by the thinking in the report. The Renal Review Group identified the need for the early introduction of a follow-on implementation plan. The HSE has decided that such a plan needs to be aligned with its Transformation Programme. The HSE has further determined that the Report of the Review Group should be reviewed by an external expert/consultancy and arrangements are to be put in place to this effect.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

201 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist in the case of a person (details supplied). [17767/08]

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

Billy Timmins

Question:

202 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; if home help will be provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17772/08]

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

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

203 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17813/08]

Persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner (GP) services qualify for a medical card, which entitles them to a range of health services free of charge. In 2005, the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so that people on moderate and lower incomes, particularly parents of young children, who did not qualify for a medical card, would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP.

The assessment of eligibility for medical cards and GP visit cards is statutorily a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE) and, with the exception of persons aged 70 and over, who have an automatic statutory entitlement to a medical card, is determined following an examination of the means of the applicant and his/her dependants (income and relevant outgoings). The GP visit card assessment threshold is 50% higher than the medical card threshold.

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

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

204 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a home care package will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17814/08]

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

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

205 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a medical card application review will be processed in the case of persons (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17815/08]

Persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner (GP) services qualify for a medical card, which entitles them to a range of health services free of charge. In 2005, the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so that people on moderate and lower incomes, particularly parents of young children, who did not qualify for a medical card, would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP.

The assessment of eligibility for medical cards and GP visit cards is statutorily a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE) and, with the exception of persons aged 70 and over, who have an automatic statutory entitlement to a medical card, is determined following an examination of the means of the applicant and his/her dependants (income and relevant outgoings). The GP visit card assessment threshold is 50% higher than the medical card threshold.

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

Departmental Properties.

Bernard Allen

Question:

206 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on a recent report (details supplied) that the National Director of Estates in the Health Service Executive has issued an instruction that assets and properties may not be disposed of at present. [17824/08]

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

Alcohol Consumption.

Bernard Allen

Question:

207 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on recent figures published by the Health Service Executive which show that in 2007 there was a rise in alcohol consumption here for the first time in four years. [17825/08]

Earlier this year the Health Service Executive obtained provisional alcohol consumption data from the Revenue Commissioners which indicated an increase of 2.7% in per capita alcohol consumption for 2007 compared to 2006. The 2006 Census population figure was used in this calculation. The Central Statistics Office recently released its population estimate for 2007 which showed an increase on 2006. Based on this estimate, the per capita alcohol consumption rate seems to have increased by 0.21% in 2007 over 2006. This figure remains provisional pending final alcohol consumption data from the Revenue Commissioners later this year.

I remain concerned that the per capita alcohol consumption rate in Ireland is well above the EU average. Reducing our consumption levels is key to tackling alcohol related harm in Ireland. The Government will continue to identify, promote and support measures to achieve this aim.

Medical Research.

Bernard Allen

Question:

208 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on a recent report into stem cell therapies prepared by the Irish Council for Bioethics which calls for research to be carried out on human embryos. [17826/08]

The report referred to by the Deputy has just been received by my Department and it is currently being examined and considered.

Health Service Staff.

Bernard Allen

Question:

209 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on recent comments made by medical experts that the shortage of general practitioners here is one of the reasons there are major bottlenecks in introducing a feasible and affordable health care system as contained in the report Social Health Insurance: Further Options for Ireland. [17827/08]

The Report referred to by the Deputy, Social Health Insurance: Further Options for Ireland, was published by the Adelaide Hospital Society on 16 April 2008 as a contribution to the debate on the health care system in Ireland. As part of its examination, the report looks at the supply of General Practitioners and other medical professionals in Ireland. My Department is currently considering this report.

Disease Screening Programme.

Bernard Allen

Question:

210 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she proposes to introduce a programme whereby all patients over 65 years of age should be tested for Alzheimer’s disease (details supplied). [17828/08]

Alzheimer disease is the most common form of dementia in Ireland. It is characterised by progressive, and almost always, irreversible decline in mental functioning. The condition has no single cause and, as yet, no single cure. It has a life changing physical, emotional and mental impact on the affected person and their primary carer and family. It is largely, but not exclusively, a condition of older age. While dementia is not solely related to age, it does affect 5% of people over 65 years with the figure rising to 20% over 80 years of age.

The case for any new screening programme would have to be carefully assessed against international criteria for the application of such programmes. These would include, for example, the ability to reliably predict the disease earlier than would present normally. The question of intervening earlier to change the course of the disease would also have to be determined, prior to the introduction of any effective programme. My Department is obviously familiar with the various and complex evolving issues associated with bringing about improvements in the detection and treatment of Alzheimer's disease. In this context, my Department will keep the issue of an effective screening programme in this regard under close review. It is important that information, care and support are made available as early as possible and this is what services try to achieve.

Mental Health Services.

Bernard Allen

Question:

211 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on recent disclosures that several mental health projects funded in 2006 and 2007 will not come on stream until later in 2008 at the earliest; and the projects these are. [17829/08]

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

Health Service Staff.

Bernard Allen

Question:

212 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she will take to deal with the situation whereby 6,000 health care workers face fatal hazards from needle stick injuries. [17830/08]

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to have delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services in a safe and secure setting. The Executive is therefore the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

General Medical Services Scheme.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

213 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Health and Children the criteria taken into consideration when awarding the rural practice allowance. [17838/08]

Payments to General Practitioners (GPs) under the General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme are made by the Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) section of the Health Service Executive (HSE). This includes payments in respect of the Rural Practice Allowance. My Department has, therefore, requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address this matter and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Question:

214 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support persons (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [17844/08]

As part of the Multi-Annual Investment Programme 2006-2009 under the Disability Strategy, the Government provided the Health Service Executive with an additional €75m in both 2006 and 2007. This funding included monies to provide new and enhanced services for people with disabilities, to implement Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, which came into effect on June 1st 2007 for the under 5's and also for the continuation of the implementation of the transfer of persons with intellectual disability from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements.

The Government is also honouring its promise in relation to the Multi-Annual Investment Programme for people with disabilities, with a further €50m investment which was announced in the 2008 Budget.

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

Hospital Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

215 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support a request from a group (details supplied). [17845/08]

I attended a meeting with this group in February of this year during which facilities for patients with cystic fibrosis at Temple Street and Beaumont Hospitals were discussed. A detailed proposal in this regard is due to be submitted, on behalf of the group, to the Health Service Executive for consideration.

Hospital Procedures.

John O'Mahony

Question:

216 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of mastectomy procedures were carried out in Mayo General Hospital in 2006, 2007 and to date in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17858/08]

John O'Mahony

Question:

222 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of breast surgeries carried out in Mayo General Hospital in 2006, 2007 and to date in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17885/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 216 and 222 together.

Data on surgical cancer procedures is collated by the Hospital In-patient Enquiry System (HIPE). The information is supplied by all public hospitals to the Economic and Social Research Institute. The HIPE system collects information on all discharges and deaths. The HIPE analysis counts every occurrence of those procedures where the patient has a principal diagnosis of breast cancer, and so may include more than one procedure per person.

The data provided by Mayo General Hospital shows that in 2006, 43 surgical procedures were carried out on women with a principal diagnosis of breast cancer. The HIPE data for 2007 for Mayo General Hospital is almost 90% complete and shows 35 procedures. Data for 2008 has yet to be collated.

Health Services.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

217 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will expedite the provision of podiatry footwear for a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17869/08]

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

Hospitals Building Programme.

Ulick Burke

Question:

218 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Health and Children the position with regard to her and the Health Service Executive west’s proposals for the provision a new health campus and step down facilities on the site of the Grove Hospital at Tuam, County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17873/08]

The Government's sustained high level of investment in health care has enabled the completion and commissioning of numerous new facilities in both the acute and the non-acute sectors. This year, overall capital funding of approximately €594m has been provided to the Health Service Executive.

In drawing up its Capital Plan the Health Service Executive is required to prioritise the capital infrastructure projects to be progressed within its overall capital funding allocation under the National Development Plan 2007-2013, taking account of the NDP targets for division of capital investment between the Acute and Primary, Community & Continuing Care pillars. The HSE has submitted a draft Capital Plan to my Department for consideration and approval in the normal way which sets out the HSE's proposed short and longer-term priorities and commitments. Consultation on this draft Capital Plan is ongoing between the HSE, the Department of Finance and my Department.

Children in Care.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

219 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps her Department will take on the continuing issue of 278 separated children who entered the country as unaccompanied minors and who have gone missing while under the care of the Health Service Executive; her views on whether the human rights of these children have not been vindicated; and if she is in a position to state that the children involved are not in danger of involvement in circumstances such as the abuses associated with human trafficking. [17881/08]

Separated children seeking asylum going missing from care is not a phenomenon unique to Ireland. Evidence from other countries indicates this is a substantial problem.

Most of the unaccompanied minors in Ireland are placed in the care of the Health Service Executive under the Child Care Act, 1991. My Department has asked the HSE to take all necessary steps to ensure the safety and welfare of these young people. The HSE has assured my Department that all possible steps are taken to protect these children within the resources available. The 2001 "Policy on Absence without Leave" is being followed in respect of these children. Each child who goes missing is reported, (on an agreed template with photograph and physical description), to the following: Local Garda Station; Garda National Immigration Bureau; Child Care Manager (for circulation throughout the country); Supt. Community Welfare Officer, Asylum Seekers Unit (for flagging on the National Social Welfare record system); Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (for circulation to other relevant asylum process agencies); and Local services notified.

New national protocols regarding missing children are currently being drafted and will be finalised shortly. The HSE are in consultation with the Garda Missing Persons Bureau on this matter.

The HSE are devising a National Policy, including an operational policy, for separated children. This is being finalised and it is understood to include the principle that all children in the care of the HSE should receive the same standard of care whether they be separated children seeking asylum or indigenous children in care. The policy will also reflect the principle of good practice that younger children under 12 should be placed in foster care with older less vulnerable young people placed in residential care as appropriate. The implementation of such a policy through the enhanced level of care should have a significant impact on the numbers of such young people going missing from the care of the HSE.

Mental Health Services.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

220 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children the response she proposes to make to that part of the Council of Europe‘s Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr Thomas Hammarberg’s report on his visit to Ireland that refers to the large number of children with psychiatric needs who continue to be treated in adult circumstances and his further comment that the placing of such children in adult facilities is in breach of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, which Ireland has ratified. [17882/08]

Commissioner Hammarberg's Report recommended inter alia that adequately resourced separate facilities and services be provided for minor psychiatric patients, and that early intervention at a local level should be made possible for such children.

The response to that recommendation in the report indicated that: "Government policy for the development of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services is outlined in "A Vision for Change". It recommends the recruitment of additional Child and Adolescent Multidisciplinary Mental Health Teams and the development of additional in-patient accommodation.

In 2008 eight additional Multidisciplinary Teams will be recruited and 18 additional beds provided. Construction of two 20 bed units (in Cork and Galway) for children and adolescents will also commence".

Dan Neville

Question:

221 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 166 of 26 February 2008 if the Health Service Executive has completed a cost benefit analysis under the Capital Appraisal Guidelines on the re-development of the Central Mental Hospital facility. [17884/08]

A cost benefit analysis of the new national forensic mental health facility at Thornton Hall, Co. Dublin is currently being undertaken, and the results are expected shortly.

Question No. 222 answered with Question No. 216.

Care of the Elderly.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

223 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will release funds for a home care package for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 18; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17897/08]

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

Medical Qualifications.

Jack Wall

Question:

224 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if a decision has been reached by the medical academy on the registration of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17989/08]

I presume the Deputy is referring to the application which was the subject of earlier questions on 7 February and 17 April 2008 on the recognition of professional qualifications.

The Academy of Medical Laboratory Science (AMLS) is the competent authority for the implementation of the EU Directive on the recognition of professional qualifications in medical laboratory science. I am advised by officials in my Department that the AMLS will issue a letter to the Deputy and to the applicant this week.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Michael Ring

Question:

225 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of claimants who have appealed the amounts offered to them under the Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006; the number of appeals that have been successful; and the number of appeals that have resulted in the moneys offered remaining the same. [18000/08]

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

The Appeals Office has informed my Department that up to 2 May 2008 the Health Repayment Scheme Appeals Office had received 650 completed appeal forms from claimants who have appealed the amounts offered to them. Decisions have issued in 259 of these cases and 171 of these decisions will result in an increased offer to the claimant while 88 of these decisions have resulted in the amounts offered remaining the same.

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

226 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the costs incurred to date for decentralisation, broken down by her Department and the agencies under the aegis of her Department. [18118/08]

As the Deputy will be aware my Department is not one of the Departments scheduled for decentralisation under the Government's Decentralisation Programme. To date fifty-four civil servants have transferred to decentralising Departments from my Department. Further details in respect of the transfer of these officers are available from the decentralising Departments.

Traffic Management.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

227 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport if he has had discussions with the Office of Public Works or the Department of Environment Heritage and Local Government to discuss the provision of public service car park spaces in Dublin; if he has plans to promote a sustainable transport policy for Government Departments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18005/08]

My intention is to publish a Sustainable Travel and Transport Action Plan before the end of the year and my Department is currently considering a wide range of policy options.

The development of the Action Plan is a cross-cutting initiative and there is already substantial engagement with other Government Departments, including the Office of Public Works, which is the key player in allocation of Government buildings, with their associated car spaces. My Department will engage in detailed bilateral discussions with the Office of Public Works on a range of issues in the next month and I expect that public service car park spaces will feature in those discussions.

I believe that the public service, in its widest sense, must strive to become an example of best practice in relation to sustainable travel and transport.

Coastal Protection.

Joe McHugh

Question:

228 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to a 60 year old agreement signed by the British and Irish Governments insisting that Malin Head Coastguard Station must always remain open for the safety of seafarers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17272/08]

I refer the Deputy to previous Dáil Question No: 251 on Tuesday, 29th April, 2008. The position remains the same.

The Coast Guard Radio Station at Malin Head is not being closed, and therefore, no issue would arise in relation to an agreement as outlined above. The question of relocation of the Rescue Co-Ordination function is still under consideration.

Rail Services.

Joe McHugh

Question:

229 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport if in view of the fact that the majority of cargo freight lands on the east coast and that Ireland does not have the necessary infrastructure to deal with the distribution of this cargo, with only 3% of goods transported by rail, there are plans to use rail in a pro-active way to distribute such goods, or if there are plans to use ports in the north west coast such as Lisahally in Derry or Greencastle for landing of cargo freight; his views on whether Ireland should be exploring the greater use of sea freight as a solution to congestion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17273/08]

Ireland, as an island, is dependent on seaborne trade. Our ports are vital gateways for commercial freight and sea passengers, with over 95% by volume of the island's overseas trade going by sea. Naturally given the State's geographic position the majority of the State's port capacity is located on the East and South coasts.

The position in relation to rail freight is that Iarnród Éireann continues to pursue a policy of growing its rail freight business where opportunities present such as in bulk and trainload traffic (where a company hires the entire train for a rail freight journey) and it has made progress in growing the rail freight business in areas where it holds a competitive advantage over road haulage, for example in the movement of mineral ore and pulpwood.

With regard to the promotion of the use of sea freight, there are a number of EU funded programmes, namely Marco Polo II and Motorways of the Sea, which are available to any enterprise. The Irish Maritime Development Office promotes these programmes and publishes full details on its website www.imdo.ie . The IMDO is available to encourage and assist with any application under these programmes.

Departmental Expenditure.

Damien English

Question:

230 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Transport the average time for payment to be made by his Department and by each agency affiliated to his Department to outside contractors for goods and services employed for each of the years 2004 to 2007 and to date in 2008 in tabular readable form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17384/08]

The following table sets out the average lead time for all payments made by the Department of Transport for goods and services in the years 2004 to 2007 and until the end of April in 2008. The average time for payments by the agencies would be a matter for the bodies themselves.

Year

Average Time for Payment (Days)

2004

13.0

2005

9.9

2006

7.6

2007

6.9

2008 (to end April)

5.7

State Airports.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

231 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport his view on the impact that the debt inferred upon the Cork Airport Authority will have on investment in the greater Cork area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16768/08]

While the airport authority does not have direct responsibility for promoting investment in the Cork region, one of the policy objectives in separating out Cork airport is to enable an independent airport, operating to a commercial mandate, to assist in the economic and tourist based development of its catchment area.

Some €180 million has been spent on a capital investment programme at Cork Airport, in recent years, effectively creating a new Cork airport for the benefit of the region. Passenger traffic at the airport has grown significantly in recent years increasing from about 2.2 million in 2003 to 3.2 million in 2007.

I am satisfied that the Cassells report, which has been accepted by both the Cork Airport Authority and the Dublin Airport Authority provides the Cork Airport Authority with a strong funding base post separation.

Traffic Management.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

232 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport his views on the recently published Value for Money and Policy Review of the Traffic Management Grants Scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17554/08]

My views on this Value for Money and Policy Review are contained in my Department's response to the Review Report. This response was published at the same time as the Review Report, and is available in the Oireachtas Library and on my Department's website.

Budget Submissions.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

233 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the date for each year since 2000 of pre-budget meetings held with the Department of Finance and the Department of An Taoiseach; the attendees at such meetings; if an agenda was circulated in advance; if minutes of such a meeting were kept; if not the reason for same; if officials were directed not to keep minutes of such meetings; if so, by whom and the date of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter [17570/08]

The Question impinges on matters internal to Cabinet. The only meetings of the category set out in the question were those involving the Taoiseach and Ministers and therefore the question relates to matters which are internal to Government.

Traffic Management.

Joan Burton

Question:

234 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has