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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Vol. 654 No. 4

Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 6, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 7 to 85, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 86 to 94, inclusive, answered orally.

Afforestation Programme.

Joe Carey

Question:

95 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of hectares of privately owned land that have been replanted in forestry after harvesting; the percentage this represents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19615/08]

Virtually all commercial felling is undertaken on foot of a General Felling Licence, issued in accordance with the requirements of the Forestry Act 1946, and it is a standard condition of such licences that all areas felled must be replanted. The Deputy does not ask for details in respect of any particular period, but by way of illustration, General Felling Licences for the clear-felling of 637.5 hectares of trees on privately owned land have been issued during the period 1st January 2006 to date. This figure is exclusive of clear-felling licences issued to Coillte Teoranta.

The duration of validity on these licences can range from one to five years. Under the replanting conditions attached to each licence there is a compulsory requirement to replant the cleared area within 12 months of expiry of the licence. In accordance with the conditions laid down, it would be expected that 100% of such areas would be replanted, unless a smaller area had been agreed for environmental reasons.

Fishing Industry Development.

Joe McHugh

Question:

96 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if further efforts to protect Irish fishing rights will be re-negotiated following the ratification of the Lisbon treaty; the way the principle of subsidiarity will be of benefit to the Irish fishing community within the framework of the Lisbon treaty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19524/08]

In practical terms, the Reform Treaty will not alter the arrangements that currently apply in the fisheries sector to any great extent other than applying the principle of co-decision in certain areas for the first time. Fisheries are now included in the Articles on the Common Agricultural Policy and references to the Common Agricultural Policy will be deemed to include fisheries. The Reform Treaty introduces the principle of qualified majority voting to certain new areas but the principle of qualified majority voting is already enshrined in the fisheries sector for some considerable time. While there will be some alterations to the thresholds for reaching a qualified majority under the new arrangements, these alterations will not have significant implications for decision-making. The reality is that most decisions on fisheries are arrived at by consensus.

However the Treaty will provide a greater degree of democracy in the decision-making process and the European Parliament will have a greater say in future EU legislation on fisheries with the exception of a small number of dossiers related to fixing of Total Allowable Catches and quotas. Our own Oireachtas also will have an enhanced role under the Lisbon Treaty along with the national Parliaments of the other Member States and these changes apply equally to the fisheries sector. National parliaments will have a longer period of time to scrutinise proposals. They will also have the power to object to a draft proposal on the grounds that it breaches the principle of subsidiarity.

However, in relation to fisheries, a significant exception will be the fixing and allocation of fishing opportunities, which will be dealt with by the Council of Ministers on a proposal from the European Commission, as is the current process. Total Allowable Catches and Quotas for the majority of commercial fish stocks in European waters are proposed by the Commission each year for the following year, taking account of scientific evidence on the state of each stock, the respective management measures in place, and the catches taken during the year. These proposals are the subject of extensive negotiations at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council each December. During the negotiating process, and indeed throughout the year, I will be taking a strong line in defence of Ireland's shares of the various stocks, as have my predecessors.

The annual process of setting TACs and quotas is a very important part of the management of fish stocks. Decisions in relation to quotas are necessarily made on a short-term basis and must react to ever-changing circumstances. While there are moves to "front load" this process, in order to facilitate earlier decision making each year, it will not be directly affected by the Lisbon Treaty. Under the Common Fisheries Policy, each Member State is responsible for the control of fishing activities within its own Exclusive Economic Zone waters and for the development of its own fishing industry and this will continue to be the case into the future.

Food Labelling.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

97 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is satisfied with the level of labelling of fresh foodstuffs imported from abroad; if he has plans for improved labelling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19654/08]

The Minister for Health & Children has overall responsibility for the general food labelling legislation. Responsibility for enforcement of labelling legislation rests with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) through its service contracts with my Department, the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, the Health Service Executive, the Local Authorities and the National Consumer Agency.

In terms of fresh fruit and vegetables, there is a legal obligation to display the country of origin for fresh fruit and vegetables. The EU currently has 36 specific marketing standards covering various fresh fruit and vegetables. Apart from quality criteria these standards also set down strict provisions regarding labelling; these include country of origin. The Agricultural Inspectorate in my Department ensures these standards are met. The EU Commission is currently reforming the Common Organisation of the Market for fruit and vegetables with the objectives of simplification, reduction in legislative burdens, consumer protection and transparency in trade. As part of this process, it is intended that a number of the existing 36 specific standards will to be replaced by a general standard. Under this General Standard produce must be of sound, fair and of marketable quality. While this reform is not yet completed, I am satisfied the proposed General Standard will still set down sufficiently detailed provisions regarding labelling.

In the case of the importation of meat and meat products, there are specific requirements that such products must originate from a country approved by the EU, have been produced in an approved establishment and be accompanied by a health certificate in accordance with the provisions of Community legislation; in addition such products must be presented for inspection at an EU approved Border Inspection Post. Furthermore, there is compulsory beef labelling legislation in place since September 2000 which stipulates, among other things, that the origin must be placed on the label. There are also EU Regulations in place for poultry meat, which provide for the labelling of unprocessed poultry meat at retail level. The Regulations require such poultry meat to be labelled with the information regarding class, price, condition, registered number of the slaughterhouse or cutting plant and, where imported from a Third Country, an indication of country of origin.

My Department, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Children, drafted regulations that would require the country of origin to be indicated on pig meat, poultry and sheep meat. This was notified to the EU Commission in December 2007 as required by legislation. The Commission was not prepared to adopt the draft regulations in their present format on the grounds that the proposed legislation in not in compliance with EU food labelling regulations. However, it indicated that it would reconsider the draft measures once we have submitted additional explanatory information. This information is currently being prepared for transmission to the Commission.

The EU Commission reviewed the whole area of food labelling and in that context my Department contributed to Ireland's submission which was co-ordinated by the Department of Health & Children. The Commission subsequently brought forward a proposal for a regulation on the provision of food information to consumers. This draft regulation will be examined by Council of Health Ministers and the European Parliament under the co-decision procedure. The FSAI proposes to initiate public consultation on this proposal from July to October this year.

Animal Feedstuffs.

Seán Barrett

Question:

98 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if his Department will introduce policy measures to tackle escalating costs of animal feed and fertilisers; if he will ensure Ireland does not hinder the efforts of millers to import ingredients for animal feed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19606/08]

The worldwide increase in the price of commodities such as cereals and oil over the last 18 months has caused the price of compound animal feeds and fertilizers to increase by about 30% and 50%, respectively. My predecessor has taken steps, through the Council of Ministers, to address some of the causes of these increases by bringing about a suspension of the obligation to set 10% of arable land aside and the elimination of import duties for cereals, as well as the introduction of an aid for private storage scheme and an increase in export refunds for the pigmeat sector. I can assure the Deputy that my Department is giving all the support it can to the feed industry, including to the importers of animal feed, to allow it to carry on its business because its success is vital to the success of our livestock industry. However, imports of feed materials must meet all the necessary legislative requirements.

In relation to fertilizers, Ireland has to import its requirement for all the inorganic fertiliser as there is no national production. The fact that worldwide demand considerably outstripped supply resulted in the significant price increase. On a positive note, the indications are that the world fertiliser shortage will be short term. The FAO circulated a press release in February 2008 entitled: "Global fertilizer supply expected to outstrip demand". In it the FAO expects world fertilizer production to outstrip demand over the next five years.

Common Agricultural Policy.

Bernard Allen

Question:

99 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has received EU health check proposals due to be published shortly; the impact the proposals will have on Irish agriculture; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19601/08]

The Commission proposals on the Health Check of the CAP are due to be published on 20 May. Advance copies of the proposals have been received in the last few days. The negotiating process will commence under the Slovenian Presidency with a series of Working Groups in May and June. My aim in the negotiations will be to achieve the best possible outcome for Ireland and for agriculture. We have already outlined the issues of concern to Ireland to Commissioner Fischer Boel, to Commission officials, and to colleagues in other Member States. I will continue to take an active role in the discussions at every opportunity and to reiterate our priorities. These include:

Ensuring that further simplification of the Single Payment Scheme (SPS) and cross-compliance is delivered;

In preparation for expiry of milk quotas in 2015, seeking ambitious annual quota increases and clear, predictable decisions taken at this stage to give policy certainty to producers and the industry;

Maintaining effective market management measures to cater for any market volatility that may occur

Opposing the proposed increase in compulsory modulation.

I will also be seeking a degree of subsidiarity in a number of areas but specifically in relation to the management of the Single Payment Scheme, to adjust policy to national circumstances.

The impact of the whole package of measures on Irish agriculture will clearly depend on what is agreed at the end of the negotiations. The aim is to reach agreement at the November meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers. A consultative process with key stakeholders has been established to advise on the main issues arising in the Health Check and the output from this will feed into Ireland's position in the negotiations.

Alternative Energy Projects.

David Stanton

Question:

100 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if his Department has conducted or is involved in research into growing sugar beet for the production of ethanol; if so, the details of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19586/08]

My Department is committed to supporting research in non-food land uses. To date, it has awarded in excess of €6 million in funding for biofuel research projects under the Department's Research Stimulus Fund Programme arising from Calls for Proposals issued in 2005, 2006 and 2007. The 2005 Research Stimulus Fund Programme funded a project entitled ‘Development of a strategy (E-supply) for bioethanol production to support the evolution of a non-food crops sector for Irish agriculture'. Part of this project quantified existing feedstocks and potential availability for conversion to bioethanol, including sugar beet. It also examined bioethanol production costs. My Department is closely monitoring the progress of this research project which is due for completion at the end of this year.

The 2007 Call for Proposals under the Research Stimulus Fund Programme invited proposals in the Agri-Energy area to identify and develop within the agriculture sector, renewable energy sources with feasible exploitation potential. No projects on sugar beet were submitted. My Department is currently in discussions with other stakeholder Departments on the priority topics for 2009. Research into non-food land uses will continue to be a priority.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

101 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will lobby the European Commission to rescind the decision to pay REP scheme four retrospectively to participating farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19653/08]

The arrangements for REPS 4 are derived from a new Commission Regulation which reflects the Commission's objective of integrating and harmonising the operation of the various farm payment schemes — including the Single Payment Scheme, REPS and the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme. For REPS 4, this means that applications to join the Scheme must be submitted by 15 May each year. Payments will relate to the number of months in a year during which the farmer is in a REPS 4 contract, and they will be released in two phases of 75% and 25%.

My officials had intensive discussions about these new rules with the Commission. They argued that the previous arrangements had worked well since REPS was first introduced in 1994 and had contributed to the success of the scheme, with nearly 60,000 farmers participating in REPS 2 and REPS 3 by the end of 2006. The Commission were adamant, however, that the new Regulation must apply to REPS 4. The only thing they were prepared to concede was a transitional arrangement for farmers in REPS 2 finishing their contracts during 2008. As long as these farmers submitted an application for REPS by the closing date of 15 May — last Thursday — they can submit their farm plans later on and still receive payment this year. The Commission insisted however that the new Regulation must apply strictly to all other farmers joining REPS 4 this year, and to everyone joining the new Scheme from next year on.

The previous discussions with the Commission were exhaustive and I see no prospect of any change in the position. Although payments will now come at different times of the year from those that farmers are used to, no farmer will lose out on his or her payments in REPS 4. Nevertheless I am aware that this change is unwelcome to farmers. I believe the previous way of doing things was better, but we are constrained by the Regulations. Finally I want to reiterate that there is no change to the rules governing REPS 2 and REPS 3. For the remainder of their time in these Schemes, farmers will continue to be paid in full at an early stage in each year of their contracts.

Fisheries Protection.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

102 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps being taken to police over-fishing resulting in the depletion of fish stocks; if action is contemplated to allow fish stocks to recover, particularly in proximity to Irish and UK waters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19581/08]

As custodian of some of the richest fishing grounds within the European Community, Ireland is strongly committed to the protection of our fish stocks from depletion due to over-exploitation, both at European and national levels. At EU level, Ireland has consistently argued for a level playing field in the enforcement of measures to prevent such over-exploitation, and we look forward to participating fully with other member states in the review of Control Systems planned for later this year.

At national level, enforcement of all regulations regarding over-fishing within Ireland's Exclusive Economic Zone (and by Irish-flagged vessels anywhere in the world), is a matter for the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), an independent authority, which was established on January 1st 2007 under the Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006. The Act clearly provides that the Authority is independent in the exercise of its functions. Fish stocks in the waters around Ireland are exploited under the umbrella of the EU Common Fisheries Policy. A fundamental principal underpinning this policy is to manage the exploitation of the fish stocks in a way that protects their long-term viability and encourages the recovery of the stocks.

Ireland has and continues to participate in a number of initiatives to encourage the recovery of fish stocks, particularly in proximity to Irish and U.K. waters. For example, in relation to the cod stocks in the Irish Sea, a pilot project is ongoing on Discards/Enhanced Data Collection, involving fishing vessels from all the coastal areas around the Irish Sea. This study has been developed collaboratively between fishing industry representatives, scientists, the North West Waters Regional Advisory Committee and the national administrations from Ireland, England and Northern Ireland. A cod recovery plan was introduced at EU level in 2004 establishing measures for the recovery of four cod stocks in the North-east Atlantic Ocean. That plan set total allowable catches (TAC's), limited fishing effort, restricted mesh sizes and closed fishing areas with a view to allowing stocks to recover to sustainable levels within a 5-10 year period.

The slow progress made towards achieving the cod recovery plan's goals has now prompted a re-examination and revision of the original cod recovery plan. A revised proposal for enhanced measures to promote the recovery of cod stocks was presented by the European Commission at the April 2008 Agriculture and Fisheries Council of Ministers. This revised proposal, which now proposes to include the Celtic Sea, is being considered by my Department at present in conjunction with our scientists and the industry.

Other recovery measures around our coasts include areas for the protection of orange roughy and juvenile hake in waters off the south-west coast and new management measures for herring stocks in the Celtic Sea proposed by our industry with the assistance of the Marine Institute. Ireland is committed to playing a full part in any necessary management measures in that regard, as we have done in the past and continue to do. Our common goal is to have a sustainable fishing industry with sustainable fish stocks.

Plant Protection Products.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

103 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will clarify his stance on the EU proposals on the reform of pesticide legislation that are being finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19629/08]

The Commission has proposed a Thematic Strategy for the Sustainable Use of Pesticides. The Strategy includes a number of initiatives designed to reduce the negative impacts associated with use of "Plant Protection Products" (agro-chemical sprays). It is in this context the Commission has proposed:

1. A framework Directive on the sustainable use of pesticides, the aim of which is to reduce the risks and impacts of pesticide use on human health and the environment.

2. A new regulation concerning the placing on the market of "Plant Protection Products". This proposal is designed to replace Council Directive 91/414/EEC (the current legislative instrument in place).

3. A new regulation concerning the collection of statistics on the use of pesticides in agriculture.

1. A framework Directive on the sustainable use of pesticides

In December last (2007) a common position in Council was achieved regarding the proposed framework directive on the sustainable use of pesticides. The agreed text was subsequently discussed by the jurist linguist group in March and final endorsement of the Council position was given at yesterday's Council meeting. This final endorsement allows the initiation of the second reading process where the Council and the Parliament can engage directly. The main elements of this proposal relate to issues such as operator and advisor training, inspection of application equipment and national action plans. Accordingly Ireland endorsed the current proposed text at Council.

2. A new Regulation concerning the placing on the market of “Plant Protection Products”

This proposal is designed to replace Council Directive 91/414/EEC (the current legislative instrument in place). The current proposal was also addressed at yesterday's meeting of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels but the meeting failed to reach agreement because of the continuing differences between Member States on elements of the proposal. This proposal currently includes many novel provisions which I support, including the regulation of parallel trade and simplified provisions for data protection. However, it also includes a provision for ‘hazard-based cut-off criteria' as a mechanism for making decisions relating to the approval of fungicides, herbicides and insecticides. If unchanged, this provision could result in a significant reduction of the number of substances available for plant protection in Europe. At the conclusion of yesterday`s Council, the Presidency undertook to "take stock" of the position and reflect on the outcome of the meeting.

3. A new regulation concerning the collection of statistics on the use of pesticides in agriculture.

The 3rd proposal is still at Council working group level and officials from my Department are participating in these discussions. The current proposals will not result in any changes to current practice in Ireland.

Departmental Programmes.

Joe Costello

Question:

104 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will support the European Commission proposal to give free fruit and vegetables to school children throughout the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19624/08]

At its meeting on 12 June 2007, the Council of Agriculture Ministers invited the Commission to come forward with a proposal for a school fruit scheme based on an impact assessment of the benefits, practicalities and administrative costs that would be involved. On 18 December 2007 the Commission began a public consultation process which ended on 29 February 2008. The Commission is currently working on its impact assessment report of different options for EU intervention and it is expected that it will present a proposal to Council in July. I look forward to the publication of the Commission's proposal and I will certainly support an initiative to increase the consumption of fruit and vegetables among schoolchildren as I believe that this will have long-term health benefits for the upcoming generations.

In this context I should point out that a national programme ("Food Dudes") designed to increase consumption of fresh fruit & vegetables among school children during school time and at home as well as a change in parental behaviour towards purchase and consumption of fresh fruit & vegetables was introduced in 2007. This programme, which is funded by my Department and operated by an Bord Bia, rewards repeat tastings and has proven quite successful. Some 625 schools and 85,000 children will receive the programme this year.

Fishing Fleet Modernisation.

Richard Bruton

Question:

105 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make provisions for funding to be provided for long-term deck crew members whose trawler owners are benefiting under the decommissioning scheme, to enable those track record fishermen some form of financial compensation for their retirement as they would not be in a position to participate in the proposed retraining schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19609/08]

All fishermen are eligible to undertake Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) training programmes including those serving on vessels that are decommissioning. In this regard, BIM and FÁS have agreed to co-operate to provide training for fishing vessel crew members that find themselves without a job when their fishing vessel is decommissioned. Both agencies will work closely together to provide retraining, up-skilling or diversification opportunities in the seafood industry or elsewhere in the economy as required.

In addition, funding will be provided within BIM's overall programmes to support the sustainable development and improvement of the quality of life in fisheries areas as part of an overall strategy that will support the implementation of the objectives of the common fisheries policy, in particular taking account of its socio-economic effects. The measures for sustainable development of fisheries areas shall seek to:

(a) maintain the economic and social prosperity of these areas and add value to fisheries and aquaculture products;

(b) maintain and develop jobs in fisheries areas through support for diversification or the economic and social restructuring of areas facing socio-economic difficulties as a result of changes in the fisheries sector;

(c) promote the quality of the coastal environment;

(d) promote national and transnational cooperation between fisheries areas.

It should also be noted that while the decommissioning scheme will remove some of the older and less economically viable vessels from the fleet right around the coast, the majority of the fleet will continue fishing and will continue to need crew. At present many skippers are experiencing great difficulty securing crew, as there is an overall shortage of crew for fishing vessels. In this situation there remains good opportunities for crew members whose current boats are leaving the fleet.

Price Inflation.

Willie Penrose

Question:

106 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps he is taking to offset food price inflation; if he has consulted with various shareholders including farming organisations on the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19643/08]

Recent data from the Central Statistics Office on the Consumer Price Index shows that Ireland, in common with the rest of the world, has experienced a steep rise in food prices. The cost of food and non-alcoholic beverage prices increased by 8.1% in the year to April 2008. This compares to an increase of 1.6% for the year to April 2007 and mirrors the upward trajectory in food prices as evidenced globally and across Europe throughout 2007 and into 2008.

Changes in food prices are primarily a function of market forces operating at international, EU and national levels. Consistently strong economic growth in developing countries is the main driver of changing world food demand towards high-value agricultural products and processed foods. Slow-growing supply, low stocks, and supply shocks at a time of increasing demand for feed, food and fuel have led to price increases globally. Biofuel production has also contributed to the changing world food equation. In common with the EU, Ireland is not impervious to this evolving change in context. In addition, rising input costs, at both producer and processor levels have fed through to put upward pressure on food prices. Pressure on input prices, in particular energy and raw material including feed costs, has combined with strong competition on world dairy and cereal markets in increasing producer prices.

In response to this situation the EU Council of agriculture Ministers has suspended set-aside, in order to increase cereal production, and has recently agreed a 2% increase in milk quota for 2008. Further measures are being considered in the context of the current discussions on the ‘‘Health Check'' of the CAP. A consultative process has been formed to advise on all aspects of the Health Check and the long-term future of milk quotas. This involves the main industry and farming stakeholders as well as independent experts and will feed into the ongoing debate on all the issues concerned.

Afforestation Programme.

Ulick Burke

Question:

107 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of hectares of Coillte land that have not been replanted in each of the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19612/08]

All clear felling of afforested areas is subject to the licensing conditions as laid down under the Forestry Act 1946. Licences are issued following detailed inspection and approval of the proposed clear felling sites by the Forest Service Inspectorate and following consultation with the relevant authorities. There are two types of licence, a general felling licence which carries a compulsory replanting condition on the cleared land and a limited felling licence to which a replanting obligation is normally, but not always, attached.

I understand from Coillte that the information requested is not readily available but that the area not replanted is very small in the context of Coillte's estate of in excess of 445,000 hectares. My Department is also carrying out an audit of certain Coillte plantations, licensed under the general licensing procedure, to ensure that the replanting obligation has been fulfilled. In relation to limited felling licences, my Department has given derogations from replanting for silvicultural and environmental reasons. Examples of these are the Western Blanket Bog and Raised Bog LIFE projects and the Priority Woodlands LIFE Project. There are also a small number of individual sites where derogations have been given on the replanting obligation.

Fishing Industry Development.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

108 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on supporting fishermen in their difficulties arising from the hikes in fuel prices, bearing in mind the steps taken in France and elsewhere throughout the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19543/08]

The escalation of fuel costs, as a result of global economic and political conditions, remains a matter of concern for all sectors of industry. It is important to note that the fishing industry in Ireland already receives favourable treatment in the form of a full rebate on excise and VAT on marine fuel, if the enterprise concerned is registered for VAT.

Fuel subsidies, in terms of operating aid for fishing vessels, are not permitted under EU State Aid rules and any such measures introduced by EU Member States would be in breach of EU law and subject to Infringement proceedings in the European Court of Justice. It is understood that previous measures taken by France in relation to support to offset the difficulties faced by its industry arising from high fuel prices are the subject of infringement proceedings in the European Court. Within the EU State Aid rules and the funding available to each, it is a matter for each Member State to put in place measures to support and develop the fishing industry. I understand that the main measures now being put in place by France include a tax on fishery products at the market place to fund the development and restructuring plan for the fishing sector.

Under the National Development Plan 2007-2013, the Irish seafood industry will benefit from funding of €216m. A further €118m may be made available on the basis of verified progressive change in the industry as set out in the national strategy for the seafood industry — Steering a New Course. I believe that the most critical element in addressing the impact of high fuel prices is to make the fleet more profitable. The planned reduction in the size of the fishing fleet, through the Whitefish decommissioning scheme launched in February, will increase the profitability of the vessels that continue to fish because they will be permitted to land higher quantities of quota stocks. Funding under the NDP will also focus on increasing returns to fishermen through maximising the value of seafood at every stage from the sea to the table.

I also consider that considerable research activity is required in order to identify the most fuel efficient equipment and practices and I will be pushing strongly for this area to be prioritised under the EU's Seventh Framework Programme for Research (2007–2013). At present, Bord Iascaigh Mhara is making grant aid available to improve fuel efficiency on board fishing vessels. I will keep this scheme under review to ensure that it covers best practice in the context of available research in the area.

Farm Safety.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

109 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has plans to launch an updated initiative to improve safety practices on farms and to reduce the number of farm deaths and injuries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19635/08]

I am very concerned with the level of farm safety on our farms. Last year 11 people died on Irish farms. While this was a decline of almost 40% on 2006, it is still unacceptably high. This year to-date 6 people have died on Irish farms. I strongly support the work of the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), which is the national body in Ireland with responsibility for securing health and safety at work.

The Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee to the HSA was set up in 2002. This Committee is made up of representatives from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Teagasc, HSA and other farming groups and supports and co-ordinates the majority of research and promotional activities in relation to farm safety. This Committee put a Farm Safety Plan in place in 2003. The outcome of this Farm Safety Plan, which ran for 5 years, was a 28% reduction in farm fatalities, 31% reduction in farm accidents and a reduction in child fatalities from 6 per annum to 2 per annum. A new Farm Safety Plan is now being developed by the Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee. My Department will fully support this new 5 year Plan with the aim of reducing farm fatalities and injuries even further.

Teagasc and the HSA launched a joint initiative in 2005 to reduce the number of farm accidents on Irish farms. This three-year initiative aimed to ensure that farmers with three or less employees completed and implemented a Farm Risk Assessment and involved a series of half-day health and safety training courses. During 2006 and 2007, up to 6,500 farmers attended these farm health and safety half-day training courses and up to 400 Teagasc advisors received farm health and safety briefings. Teagasc aim to provide health and safety training to approximately 8,000 farmers in 2008. As this is the last year of the initiative, Teagasc and the Health and Safety Authority are in discussions regarding renewal of the initiative.

My Department in conjunction with the Department for Labour Affairs circulated some 160,000 copies of A Code of Practice for the Prevention of Accidents and Occupational Ill Health in Agriculture in November/December 2006. Analysis of the 2007 Teagasc National Farm Survey shows that 42.5% of farmers have completed the Risk Assessment Document. The All Island Farm Safety Conference, to be held on the 18th June in Monaghan, is being organised by the HSA and the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland. It will focus on safety issues on farms such as the elderly, livestock and occupational health issues in farming.

Grant Payments.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

110 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will ensure farmers will continue to have payments by his Department issue to them by cheque should they so wish; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19645/08]

Farmers can choose to have payments made to them by cheque or electronic funds transfer directly into their bank account during the remainder of the 2008 EU financial year which ends on 15 October. However, as and from the 2009 EU financial year which commences on 16th October 2008, payment by cheque will no longer be permitted under EU rules on the financing and management of the Common Agricultural Policy. From that date, my Department is required to make payments under EU funded or co-funded schemes directly into the bank accounts of the beneficiaries. As the designated paying agency for EU funds, my Department is obliged to implement this new requirement.

My Department has notified farmers of the new requirement on a number of occasions over the past year and did so again recently. A very large number of farmers have now ‘signed up' for electronic funds transfer. Farmers who have not yet done so still have a number of months in which either to open a bank account or to notify my Department of the details of existing bank accounts. I will be urging all farmers to make the necessary arrangements as soon as possible so as to avoid disruption to their payments.

My officials have briefed the banks on the new requirement and have also met with An Post/Postbank which has recently launched a new current account which will facilitate the electronic transfer of funds and which can be opened and operated through the post office network. My Department will also arrange payments to accounts in any Credit Union which has the facility to process electronic transfers. I will explore all possible options to facilitate the transition to payments by electronic funds transfer and farmers may, of course, contact my Department with any concerns that they may have.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Liz McManus

Question:

111 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of offshore wind turbines that have been licensed; the number in the planning process; the provision made for public consultation on individual applications; the acceptable capacity and height for the turbines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14638/08]

The position in relation to leases and licences for Offshore Windfarms under the Foreshore Act 1933 is as follows:

A. There are currently three valid Foreshore licences for site investigation.

B. There are seven Foreshore licence applications for site investigation currently being processed.

C. Two Foreshore leases have been granted:

(i) In January 2002 a lease was granted to Sure Partners Ltd for the construction of a 200 turbine wind farm on the Arklow Banks. The maximum allowable height for the turbines in this project are 100m tip to sea level, each turbine will have a capacity of 2.5MW.

(ii) In November 2005, a lease was granted to Codling Wind Park Ltd for the construction of 220 wind turbines on the Codling Bank. The maximum allowable height for the turbines in this project are 100m tip to sea level, each turbine will have a capacity of 5MW.

D. There are three lease applications currently being considered.

(i) In January 2002 Kish Offshore Wind Ltd applied for a lease for the construction of a 75 turbine windfarm on the Kish Bank. The height of the turbines applied for in this project are 160m tip to sea level, each turbine will have a capacity of 2.3MW.

(ii) In January 2002 Bray Offshore Wind Ltd applied for a lease for the construction of a 70 turbine windfarm on the Bray Bank. The height of the turbines applied for in this project are 160m tip to sea level, each turbine will have a capacity of 2.3MW.

(iii) In February 2007 Oriel Windfarm Ltd applied for a lease for the construction of a 55 turbine wind farm off Dundalk Bay, The height of the turbines applied for in this project are 166m tip to sea level, each turbine will have a capacity of 6MW.

In relation to the above information it is important to note that the authorisation of offshore energy projects under the Foreshore Act is dealt with in two distinct phases. Under phase one, an application must be made for a foreshore licence for a defined area of the seabed in which to explore the viability and environmental sustainability of the development. The licensing stage does not require the developer to provide specific details of the turbines. The public consultation for a Foreshore Licence for an Offshore Electricity Generating Station lasts one month. The commencement of the public consultation process is advertised in national and regional newspapers and also generally placed on the Department's web site.

Where the site for which a licence has been granted proves suitable, an application may be made for a foreshore lease (phase two). The lease application process evaluates the project and its impacts in detail using specialist advisors, statutory and non-statutory consultees, and is followed by extensive public consultation. The current public consultation process for a Foreshore lease for an Offshore Electricity Generating Station lasts two months. Recent applications have seen over one hundred and twenty organisations consulted. The commencement of the public consultation is advertised in national and regional newspapers and also generally placed on the Department's web site.

The Government decided on 2 October 2007 that responsibility for foreshore licensing functions under the Foreshore Act 1933 for all energy developments (including oil, gas, wave, wind and tidal energy) on the foreshore would transfer to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. My Department is currently putting in place the necessary arrangements to ensure the efficient and effective transfer of the appropriate legislation and associated functions.

Sheep Industry.

Denis Naughten

Question:

112 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will implement the Malone report on the sheep industry in full; his timetable for the implementation of its recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19594/08]

The Sheep Industry Development Strategy Group, under the chairmanship of Mr. John Malone, set out a blueprint for the sector's future development. Its recommendations relate to all elements of the industry and do not have a fixed timeframe. My Department and the state agencies under my aegis are dealing with the areas relevant to them. Under REPS 4, a new mixed grazing measure specially targeted at sheep farmers has been introduced and development of this measure is being kept under review to ensure a good take up.

Plans for the upgrading of a Sheep Breeding Programme are well advanced and I hope that agreement can be reached and a new programme put in place for the 2008/2009 breeding year. Farmer confidence in the pricing system operated by plants will be improved if mechanical grading can be introduced. My Department has organised trials on this aspect and is assessing the initial results. It is also essential that producers and processors agree on the structures necessary to reward quality and to bring transparency to the pricing system. Teagasc are making a very positive contribution as well and have developed a comprehensive plan to restructure their sheep support services, including a programme for Technology Evaluation and Transfer farms, which includes hill and lowland areas. This approach will provide an opportunity for developing a dialogue with sheep farmers about the application of the latest management practices to their enterprises and identify research and development needs.

The Lamb Quality Assurance Scheme was established in 2007. Bord Bia is also playing a prominent part. Almost 6,000 farms have been registered to date and over 4,200 farm audits have been carried out. In 2007 the Department made available €0.4m to support inspections under the scheme and this funding will be repeated again in 2008 and 2009. In addition to the measures being taken at producer and processor level, promotional efforts are being undertaken by An Bord Bia which will continue to organize strategic marketing campaigns marketing in selected European markets. The downward trend in lamb consumption in certain markets presents a real challenge. To address this, Bord Bia is collaborating with its French and British counterparts on a 3 year generic lamb promotion on the very important French market to promote lamb to younger consumers.

The overall goal is to facilitate the development of a more profitable sheep-meat sector in Ireland covering the lamb production, lamb processing and marketing sectors of the industry. I recognise the challenges ahead but am confident about the future of the sector provided all stakeholders play their part in undertaking the various initiatives set out in the Strategy Group's report.

Plant Protection Products.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

113 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has undertaken an assessment of the implications for farming here of the EU plan to reduce the use of crop sprays; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19655/08]

The Commission has proposed a Thematic Strategy for the Sustainable Use of Pesticides. The Strategy includes a number of initiatives to reduce the impact of sprays. The Commission has proposed a framework Directive on the sustainable use of pesticides. The aim of this proposal is to reduce the risks and impacts of pesticide use on human health and the environment. The current Commission proposal does not contain any plan to "reduce the use of crop sprays", except in "sensitive areas", where restrictions on use will be subjected to a risk assessment. Since my Department already carries out such risk assessments during the authorisation process for pesticides, it is anticipated that there will be no additional implications for Irish farming.

Fishing Industry Development.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

114 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will lobby the EU for a bigger quota for Irish fishermen in their own waters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19648/08]

In relation to quota allocations, the position is that Ireland's shares of the main fish stocks were set in the early 1980s when fish stocks were being shared out between Member States. The share allocations were based on catch records and reflected the fishing levels by the Irish fleet at that time. The percentage shares held by each Member State have generally remained the same for over 20 years under the principle of relative stability.

Since then it has been a priority of successive Government Ministers with responsibility for the fisheries brief to try to have these shares improved. The Common Fisheries Policy was reviewed in 1992 and again in 2002 and in both cases substantial efforts were made to push Ireland's case for increased shares of important stocks but without success. Ireland received no support from other Member States for changes in the allocation keys for the share out of stocks. The next overall review of the basic framework of the Common Fisheries Policy is not scheduled until 2012.

The practical reality is that to achieve an increase in Ireland's share of catches, other Member States would have to take a cut in their shares. This is all the more difficult to achieve when the total allowable catches (TACs) of all the main commercial species are falling and the reality is that achieving support for such an outcome at the December Agriculture and Fisheries Council, where quotas are fixed for the following year, is not deliverable. At this point the European Commission and other Member States largely take the view that the quota shares are fixed and not subject to ad-hoc changes pending any more fundamental review of the Common Fisheries Policy. The reform package, agreed in December 2002, included key national priorities such as

the continuation of the Hague quota preferences, which are very important to Ireland as they guarantee minimum quotas to Ireland in certain stocks,

an action plan to address the problem of juvenile fish catches,

stronger control and enforcement and

the establishment of Regional Advisory Councils giving fishermen a strong voice in shaping future fisheries policy at EU level.

Following protracted negotiations at the December Agriculture and Fisheries Council, 2007 a total package of 182,699 tonnes of fish was secured for the Irish Fishing Industry for 2008. This was a significant success given the initial proposal by the European Commission which involved cuts of up to 25% for 25 of the 37 stocks of importance to Ireland. The crucial Hague preferences were also successfully defended after a number of Member States attempted to have them set aside. It appears that this system is likely to be challenged again this year and I want to re-iterate today that I will strongly resist any proposals to reduce or abolish our entitlements under these measures.

The Cawley Report "Steering A New Course — Strategy for a Restructured, Sustainable and Profitable Irish Seafood Industry 2007-2013" sets out a clear strategy to maximise the value of quotas focused on increasing the value of seafood at every stage from the net to the fork. I am satisfied that the effective implementation of this Strategy, which the Government has endorsed, will deliver a sustainable, profitable and self-reliant industry that will maximise its long term contribution to coastal communities. I am fully committed to working efficiently and effectively with the industry to deliver this strategy.

Food Industry.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

115 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps he will take to support the co-operative movement north of the line from Dublin to Galway in order that it can develop products other than butter and skimmed milk powder (details supplied); if a further study is being carried out on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19431/08]

The Dairy Investment Fund was a fixed period competitive call for proposals for dairy processing companies to assist them in increasing efficiency by supporting the upgrading of existing facilities in order to capture new business and develop value added products. The Government established a fund of €100 million and, when fully implemented, the approved projects will generate total dairy processing sector investment of €286 million. A total of 27 applications for funding were made and 19 projects were approved for grant assistance. Of these, four projects were submitted from the northern part of the country and three were approved for funding. The total investment amounted to €30.83 million, which attracted government grants of €15.42 million.

As regards the project referred to by the deputy, all projects were assessed and scored across a range of evaluation categories and funding was allocated to those projects that performed best in the evaluation process. The fund is now closed, though if further projects emerge, promoters should contact Enterprise Ireland with a view to exploring the nature of support that might be available to particular types of projects.

Food Labelling.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

116 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the action being taken to amend legislation to ensure that foodstuffs of foreign origin cannot be labelled as produced in Ireland, processed in Ireland or sourced and produced in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19634/08]

The Minister for Health & Children has overall responsibility for the general food labelling legislation. Responsibility for enforcement of labelling legislation rests with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) through its service contracts with my Department, the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, the Health Service Executive, the Local Authorities and the National Consumer Agency. The particular issue referred to here where a primary product can enter Ireland and be processed in some way thereby allowing it to be branded, as an Irish product is known as "substantial transformation". This terminology originates in EU legislation governing the EU Customs Code and therefore can only be amended at EU level.

The EU Commission reviewed the whole area of food labelling and in that context my Department contributed to Ireland's submission which was co-ordinated by the Department of Health & Children. The Commission subsequently brought forward a proposal for a regulation on the provision of food information to consumers. This draft regulation will be examined by Council of Health Ministers and the European Parliament under the co-decision procedure. The FSAI proposes to initiate public consultation on this proposal from July to October this year.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

117 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if all new policy initiatives in agriculture are carbon proofed; the steps to be taken to meet Ireland’s national obligation to reduce carbon emissions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19598/08]

Climate change has potentially serious implications not just for agriculture but for all sectors of the economy. The Irish agricultural pasture-based production system has many advantages in terms of sustainability and in a decoupled environment, efficiency of production is pursued which means that carbon emissions per unit of production are kept as low as possible.

In the context of carbon proofing, the agriculture sector will continue to effect production efficiencies in order that the emissions per unit of food produced are as low as possible. In this regard it can be expected that in 2008 the continued implementation of the Nitrates Regulations will result in better utilization of nutrients, with a consequent reduction in nitrogen applications. Other measures which will contribute to greenhouse gas abatement, such as the encouragement of minimum tillage, the use of clover swards and the adoption of low emission trailing shoe technology for slurry spreading have been introduced under the new Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Forestry sequestration of carbon is a significant element in the National Climate Change Strategy and will play a very important role in meeting our Kyoto targets. Both forest products and energy crops also contribute to the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by acting as substitutes for fossil fuels and my Department will continue to invite participation in the EU Energy Crops Scheme and the Bioenergy Scheme in 2008. I realize that further initiatives may be needed to address the challenge of climate change, which is why my Department has committed substantial funding, under the Research Stimulus Fund, to various research projects devoted to identifying sustainable greenhouse gas reduction measures. A comprehensive analysis of research needs has been carried out by my Department and will be used to inform future calls for research in the area of climate change. Furthermore, my officials are currently working closely with Teagasc and COFORD in carrying out a review of the potential mitigation options available to the sector.

Climate Change.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

118 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on the threat to the staple fruit and vegetable crops here due to climate change which will cause major changes in farming practices; his plans to plan for future food shortages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19638/08]

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing the world today. The focus in Ireland is on mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and there is ongoing analysis of the potential impacts of climate change, especially in relation to agriculture. The available information from regional climate models indicates that there will be impacts on the Irish climate. However, these are European-scale or world-scale models and give indicative information only for Ireland. The indications are that both summers and winters will be warmer, which would improve growing conditions for many crops in Ireland, especially fruit and vegetable crops.

We cannot be as certain at this stage about how rainfall will be affected by climate change. Ongoing work to refine regional climate models will give a clearer picture of the likely impacts on Irish climate and will provide better information on parameters that are important to farmers and the agricultural industry. In addition, Teagasc monitors crops for changes that may be induced by changing climate, such as changing patterns of pests or crop diseases. There is however, no justification for the suggestion that Ireland is facing food shortages caused by climate change.

At global level, there is increasing awareness that food security cannot be taken for granted in a world where demand is rising rapidly and is expected to double over the next fifty years. The projected increase in world population over the next 20 years presents a major challenge to the world and the agricultural industry to feed this growing number of people. Ireland has an important role to play in meeting this demand, as a supplier of food that is produced in a sustainable manner. The objective must be that all production from agricultural sources is sustainable and in this context it is important that policy at EU level in terms of curbing greenhouse gas emissions does not, by default, cause production to relocate to less sustainable systems outside the EU.

Afforestation Programme.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

119 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will recommend to Coillte the appointment of an arbitrator to report on the complaints of suppliers (details supplied) to Coillte; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19600/08]

Coillte Teoranta was established as a private commercial company under the Forestry Act, 1988 and day-to-day operational matters, such as the one referred to by the Deputy, are the responsibility of the company. I understand that Coillte has processes in place for dealing with contractor issues and I believe that, as this is an operational matter, it is for the company to address any outstanding issues.

World Trade Negotiations.

Denis Naughten

Question:

120 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps he is taking to ensure a fair deal for Irish farmers at the WTO talks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19593/08]

David Stanton

Question:

133 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the communications or meetings he has had with the EU Trade Commissioner; his future plans for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19587/08]

Joan Burton

Question:

135 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his stance on the World Trade Organisation proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19622/08]

Pat Breen

Question:

138 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the consequences for the beef industry here of the negotiations surrounding sensitive product status in the context of the World Trade Organisation; if this option is being considered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19607/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 120, 133, 135 and 138 together.

A revised negotiating text on agriculture was issued yesterday evening and a text on non-agricultural market access earlier today. These texts are being issued with a view to facilitating a final WTO agreement by the end of 2008. It is by no means clear whether such an agreement will be reached this year. The range of issues outstanding across the broad spectrum of the negotiations and the US political situation are among the factors that make it uncertain whether an agreement can be secured in the coming period. Already there is slippage in the negotiating timetable. A Ministerial meeting, anticipated to take place on 19 May, has been deferred and the latest indications are that it will not now take place until the end of June or even early July.

Against this background, there is no doubt that these WTO negotiations represent a significant challenge for EU and Irish agriculture. I and my Government colleagues are seeking a balanced and fair outcome across all of the various pillars of the negotiations. I am very concerned about some of the proposals being made in the agriculture negotiations and with the lack of balance in the overall process. It is not acceptable that the current negotiations are focused on agriculture while other negotiating areas are not making progress.

The Irish Government has and will continue to take every opportunity to express our concerns in the strongest terms in the various EU and WTO meetings dealing with these negotiations. I recently met my French counterpart in Dublin, and the current state of play and imbalance in these WTO negotiations were high on the agenda of this meeting. I can report that France and Ireland share the same concerns on the direction of these negotiations and will continue to insist that the Commission does not accept a deal which undermines EU agricultural production.

The Commission, including Commissioner Mandelson and his officials, are well aware of Ireland's views on the matter. These views have been articulated clearly and consistently at all available forums over the last several years, including bilateral meetings, meetings of the Article 133 Committee, the Agriculture Council and the General Affairs Council. My colleague and predecessor, the Tánaiste, met the Commissioner on 29 April last and set out in no uncertain terms the concerns of the Irish Government in regard to the current situation. As the negotiations progress I will continue to impress on the Commission that Ireland will not accept an unbalanced agreement which does not provide real benefits to Ireland and the EU.

At yesterday's Agriculture Council of Ministers meeting I met the Agriculture Commissioner, Mrs. Fischer Boel and I reiterated and highlighted Ireland's concerns to the Commission and to other Member States, insisting that any WTO agreement must not place a disproportionate burden on EU and Irish agriculture. I will also continue to ensure that Ireland plays a leading role in the Group of 14+ like-minded Member States who have come together to express concerns in relation to the direction of the WTO agriculture negotiations. I will continue to work closely with like-minded Ministers in other Member States to seek support for my position. I am travelling to Slovenia next week where I will have bilateral discussions on the WTO with my colleagues in this group. At official level, my Department, and other Departments involved, have and will continue to work assiduously in the various technical meetings to ensure Ireland's interests are best protected. In summary, I will continue to pursue an outcome which does not undermine the 2003 reforms of the CAP and ensures that Irish and EU agriculture can compete on world markets.

As to the question of sensitive product status for the beef sector, the detailed negotiations regarding the treatment of sensitive products are not yet finalised. Under the proposals currently on the table, designation of beef as a sensitive product would reduce the proposed tariff cut of between 66 and 73% by two-thirds to a figure of approximately 23%. In turn, the EU would be expected to open an additional import quota for beef of some 290,000 tonnes. Although final decisions surrounding the designation of products as sensitive will not be taken until the final details of the treatment of such products is known, there is no doubt in my mind that the intention is that beef will feature among the products declared sensitive by the EU.

A major concern, even with sensitive product status, is that imports would be concentrated on the high value "steak" cuts. We have emphasised the nature of this specific problem repeatedly to the Commission over the course of the negotiations. Overall, I continue to seek an outcome which will provide the maximum possible protection to the beef sector.

Fishing Industry Development.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

121 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will meet with representatives of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation to discuss the Lisbon treaty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19620/08]

As Minister with responsibility for fisheries, I will be working closely with the Irish fishing industry, through its representative organisations, to address the key issues the industry faces into the future. Meetings are held at regular intervals with industry representatives — including those from the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation — through the Sea Fisheries Consultative Council, to discuss these issues and to develop strategies that will safeguard the Irish industry's future. I plan to meet the Federation of Irish Fishermen (FIF), which includes the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation in the near future to hear their concerns at first hand. Officials of my Department also meet industry representatives on a regular basis in relation to management of the various fisheries. I am always available to listen to and consider the concerns of the industry and its representatives.

Afforestation Programme.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

122 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of hectares newly planted by Coillte in each of the past 20 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19614/08]

Coillte Teoranta was established from 1 January 1989 and the annual total planting, both afforestation and reforestation, by the company since then is set out in the table. The majority of the afforestation undertaken in recent years has been on behalf of private growers. In 1999 Coillte became ineligible for payment of the afforestation premium due to a decision by the European Commission, which was subsequently upheld by the European Court of Justice. In the last number of years the bulk of Coillte planting has therefore been reforestation. Coillte has also indicated that all of the land in its ownership, which is suitable for planting, has been planted.

Year

Afforestation (hectares)

Reforestation (hectares)

Total

1989

6,629

3,433

10,062

1990

6,670

3,682

10,352

1991

8,003

4,003

12,006

1992

7,634

3,868

11,502

1993

6,827

4,421

11,248

1994

4,774

5,840

10,614

1995

5,247

6,487

11,734

1996

4,545

6,003

10,548

1997

3094

6,890

9,984

1998

2,912

6,985

9,897

1999

2,672

7,724

10,396

2000

2,007

9,038

11,045

2001

1,706

8,601

10,307

2002

816

9,190

10,006

2003

1,450

10,325

11,775

2004

3,126

9,130

12,256

2005

3,359

7,836

11,195

2006

1,927

6,694

8,621

2007

1,485

6,996

8,481

Totals

74,883

127,146

202,029

Animal Diseases.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

123 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the measures in place to promote disease eradication; if there are plans for the introduction of an all-Ireland health policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19640/08]

My Department accords a high priority to maintaining Ireland's high status in relation to animal health and welfare in the context of protecting consumers and in view of the economic and social importance of agriculture to the country. It remains essential that we anticipate future possibilities wherever possible and maintain the capability of dealing effectively with any threats in this area, from wherever they emerge.

A comprehensive approach to these threats involves the following measures:

continued operation of schemes to reduce and eventually eradicate diseases of significant importance such as TB and Brucellosis;

an intensive programme of measures to eradicate BSE; and

measures to deal with threats from or actual outbreaks of other diseases.

The disease programmes operated by my Department include comprehensive compensation measures to compensate farmers for losses arising from the removal of animals as a result of disclosure of disease.

The animal traceability system and the Animal Health Computer System are essential elements in supporting the Department's policies in relation to animal health and welfare activities and consumer confidence. These systems bring the benefits of modern technology also to the administration of the Department's various programmes, including the management of the TB and Brucellosis eradication schemes. The Animal Health Computer System has been extended also to facilitate the creation of a national database of all registered keepers of domestic poultry and captive birds as part of the Department's response to the threat of an outbreak of Avian Influenza. There is a long history of co-operation between the administrations North and South on animal health issues. The administrations have traditionally shared information at local and national levels on disease control and surveillance issues. The importance of agriculture on the island of Ireland and the potential threats posed by diseases require that both Governments are involved at the highest level in protecting and enhancing the animal health and welfare status of livestock.

The North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) provides a framework for the development of an all-island animal health policy. The main objectives of the NSMC are to foster co-operation and to devise a common, unified animal health strategy for the island as a whole. This involves the co-ordination of animal health policies and the development of joint strategies for dealing with animal diseases. Since 2001 the structured arrangements have been very valuable particularly in our dealings in relation to outbreaks of FMD, Bluetongue and Avian Influenza in England. In addition progress has been made in relation to policies on animal identification and on a variety of animal diseases including T.B, Brucellosis, BSE and Scrapie.

I welcome the continued co-operation at all levels on the activities included in the All-Island Animal Health and Welfare Strategy, most recently discussed at the North/South Ministerial Council Agriculture Sectoral meeting held in the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh on 30 April last. Progress has been noted in a number of areas, including in the areas of common contingency plans for diseases such as Foot and Mouth Disease and Bluetongue, joint data sharing, identification of sheep, the development of common approaches to sheep genotyping and to Salmonella. In addition there has been progress relating to Aujeszky's Disease in pigs, and the hygiene package in respect of the transmission of food chain information with animals going to slaughter and of the feasibility and priority of an all island approach relating to Trichinella in pigs. There are also plans for consultation and a future cross-border event with key agriculture stakeholders from both jurisdictions to discuss the all-island strategic approach.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Liz McManus

Question:

124 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of offshore wind turbines granted permission for construction; the number built; the number for which permission has been applied; the arrangements he has made to provide for public consultation procedure, as promised, prior to any granting of permission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14937/08]

The position in relation to leases and licences for Offshore Windfarms under the Foreshore Act 1933 is as follows:

A. There are currently three valid Foreshore licences for site investigation.

B. There are seven Foreshore licence applications for site investigation currently being processed.

C. Two Foreshore leases for the construction of Offshore windfarms have been granted:

(i) In January 2002 a lease was granted to Sure Partners Ltd for the construction of a 200 turbine wind farm on the Arklow Banks. Seven turbines have been constructed to date.

(ii) In November 2005, a lease was granted to Codling Wind Park Ltd for the construction of 220 wind turbines on the Codling Bank. No turbines have been constructed to date.

D. There are three lease applications currently being considered.

(i) In January 2002 Kish Offshore Wind Ltd applied for a lease for the construction of a 75 turbine windfarm on the Kish Bank.

(ii) In January 2002 Bray Offshore Wind Ltd applied for a lease for the construction of a 70 turbine windfarm on the Bray Bank.

(iii) In February 2007 Oriel Windfarm Ltd applied for a lease for the construction of a 55 turbine wind farm off Dundalk Bay.

In relation to the above information it is important to note that the authorisation of offshore energy projects under the Foreshore Act is dealt with in two distinct phases. Firstly an application must be made for a foreshore licence for a defined area of the seabed in which to explore the viability and environmental sustainability of the development. The public consultation for a Foreshore Licence for an Offshore Electricity Generating Station lasts one month. The commencement of the public consultation process is advertised in national and regional newspapers and also generally placed on the Department's web site.

Where the site for which a licence has been granted proves suitable, an application may be made for a foreshore lease. The lease application process evaluates the project and its impacts in detail using specialist advisors, statutory and non-statutory consultees, and is followed by extensive public consultation. The current public consultation process for a Foreshore lease for an Offshore Electricity Generating Station lasts two months. Recent applications have seen over one hundred and twenty organisations consulted. The commencement of the public consultation is advertised in national and regional newspapers and also generally placed on the Department's web site.

The Government decided on 2 October 2007 that responsibility for foreshore licensing functions under the Foreshore Act 1933 for all energy developments (including oil, gas, wave, wind and tidal energy) on the foreshore would transfer to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. My Department is currently putting in place the necessary arrangements to ensure the efficient and effective transfer of the appropriate legislation and associated functions.

Food Industry.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

125 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on global food shortages; the impact he foresees the impending food security crisis will have on Irish consumers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19597/08]

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

139 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the initiatives he is undertaking to promote self sufficiency in food production in view of the growing food shortages worldwide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19633/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

379 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent to which provision is being made to ensure adequacy of food supplies here and throughout the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19890/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 125, 139 and 379 together.

Increasing food prices and concerns regarding availability of food is a global situation, which is most severely affecting those people living in developing countries. This complex issue has many causes, including recurrent bad weather, and changing and increasing food requirements among countries caused in particular by economic and population growth. This underlines the role of Ireland as a major food-exporting nation. The 2003 reforms of the CAP, with the introduction of the full decoupling of direct payments under the Single Payment Scheme, allows farmers to respond to the demands of the market and effectively meet consumers' needs.

Although imports of certain commodities into the European Community may have increased, Ireland is a net exporter and is therefore not affected to the same extent as food deficit countries by global food shortages. Bord Bia produces annual estimates for the export performance of the Irish food and drink sector and has indicated that the agri-food sector increased its level of exports by 5% in 2007 to over €8.6 billion. There was marked growth in the exports of dairy products, food ingredients, prepared foods, beverages, horticulture and cereals.

Animal Diseases.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

126 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if there are sufficient stocks of blue tongue vaccine available for distribution in the event of an outbreak of the disease. [19626/08]

Ireland has been and remains bluetongue-free and the presence of the disease in a number of other member States has not had any significant impact on Irish agriculture to date. It continues to be my objective to ensure that Ireland remains disease free and that we make every effort and take all such reasonable precautions to that end.

With regard to vaccination, it is envisaged that we would vaccinate only in the event of a confirmed outbreak of the disease but that we will not vaccinate on a prophylactic basis. A number of companies have commenced the production of vaccines for the particular strain of bluetongue that is present in the affected member states and vaccination programmes have commenced in a number of these. It is expected that supplies will increase significantly later in the year and it is proposed to secure a store of vaccine for immediate use here in the event of a confirmed outbreak of bluetongue in and around the location of the outbreak. Further decisions on extending a vaccination programme will be taken on a risk-assessment basis, including decisions on the extent of any such programme. My Department is currently in advanced discussions with potential vaccine suppliers about arrangements for securing appropriate quantities of bluetongue vaccine under different scenarios. It is also in the process of finalising a comprehensive vaccination plan that will be discussed further with various stakeholders, including the farm organisations and the veterinary profession.

Plant Protection Products.

Michael Creed

Question:

127 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the consequences of imminent EU legislative proposals to restrict the availability of chemical pesticides and fungicides; the steps being taken to protect the Irish tillage sector in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19596/08]

The Commission has proposed a Thematic Strategy for the Sustainable Use of Pesticides. The Strategy includes a number of initiatives designed to reduce the negative impacts associated with use of chemical pesticides. Firstly, the Commission has proposed a framework Directive on the sustainable use of pesticides, the aim of which is to reduce the risks and impacts of pesticide use on human health and the environment. The current proposal was addressed at yesterday's meeting of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council and contains provisions such as operator and advisor training, inspection of application equipment and national action plans and seeks to ensure that pesticides are used safely. Accordingly Ireland endorsed the current text which was adopted by the Council.

In addition the Commission has proposed a new Regulation concerning the placing on the market of plant protection products. This proposal is designed to replace Council Directive 91/414/EEC (the current legislative instrument in place). The proposal contains many novel provisions which are acceptable, including the regulation of parallel trade and simplified provisions for data protection. However, it also includes a provision for ‘hazard-based cut-off criteria' as a mechanism for making decisions relating to the approval of fungicides, herbicides and insecticides. If unchanged, this provision could result in a significant reduction of the number of substances available for plant protection in Europe. At yesterday`s Council meeting in Brussels Ministers failed to reach agreement on this dossier because of continuing differences between Member States on elements of the proposal. In these circumstances the Presidency undertook to "take stock" of the position and reflect further on the outcome of the meeting.

Fisheries Protection.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

128 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when the review of penalties imposed on fishermen will be completed; if he will remove the element of criminal prosecution of those charged under the various Fisheries Acts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19599/08]

The review of the operation of sanctions under the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act, 2006 currently being conducted by officials of my Department is ongoing and every effort will be made to have it completed by the early autumn. I look forward to the outcome of this review, and will consider its conclusions carefully. It is important to note that administrative fines for fisheries offences could be introduced in Ireland if such were a requirement under European law. I am supportive of any proposals that may be brought forward by the Commission in this regard.

Fishing Industry Development.

Mary Upton

Question:

129 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the initiatives planned to promote the indigenous fishing industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19649/08]

Steering a New Course — strategy for a restructured, sustainable and profitable Irish seafood industry 2007-13, was approved by the Irish Government on 10 January 2007 and launched by the Taoiseach on 28 January as the blueprint for developing the fishing sector into the future. The plan envisages an Irish Seafood Industry that is sustainable, profitable, competitive and market-focused, making the maximum long-term economic and social contribution to coastal communities and Ireland as a whole. In order to ensure that the Irish seafood industry delivers on this vision, the Cawley report makes a series of recommendations which are focused on addressing critical issues impacting on the industry's development. These recommendations, are grouped under ten core themes. Associated with each of the development themes is a ‘key priority', which defines the overall objective for each of the core themes. These include:

Market Development

Invest further in market research and intelligence.

Focus marketing support in a targeted fashion on key export markets in addition to the domestic market.

Establish a ‘Seafood Island' identify for Irish seafood

Adopt a structured approach to providing services for commercially focused R&D/NPD more effectively through BIM's Seafood Development Centre.

Invest in identifying the potential usage of fish and marine biodiversity in functional foods.

Prioritise support for businesses with good potential.

Encourage investment in seafood processing from the wider food processing sector.

Introduce measures to improve competitiveness.

Co-ordinate State support to the processing sector.

Extend and develop the current Whitefish Fleet Decommissioning Programme .

Further investigate the need for a targeted decommissioning scheme for vessels less than 18m in length.

Review entry-exit regime for all fleet segments.

Implement a new and devolved fisheries management regime and Establish an industry-based legal entity to oversee quota management.

Update fisheries management objectives and fleet management policies.

Enhance institutional support for inshore fisheries.

Implement more effective and co-ordinated arrangements for first point-of-sale for seafood.

Proactively support cost reduction and performance improvement and Enhance onboard technologies.

Increase awareness and response to environmental policies.

Promote local area management strategies and the Coastal Zone Management approach.

Promote the introduction of Environmental Management Systems.

The Seafood Strategy Implementation Group (SSIG) has been established to oversee the implementation of the strategy recommendations in a coordinated and cohesive manner. Chaired by Dr. Noel Cawley, and consisting of representatives from the various sectors of the industry, the Department and relevant State Agencies, the SSIG has been tasked with driving, supporting, and monitoring the delivery of the plan in addition to reporting to me on the progress of the implementation of the plan.

Seán Barrett

Question:

130 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the issues raised by the EU Commission in recent correspondence regarding the operational programme for fisheries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19605/08]

The Commission submitted their observations on Ireland's Operational Programme (O.P) for Fisheries via a "Negotiation Position" document received on the 22nd of April 2008. This is a normal part of the consultative process for approval of O.P's. The issues raised by the Commission were mainly procedural and/or editorial in nature. Disappointment was expressed at the exclusion of measures under the Axis 4 pillar of the European Fisheries Fund "sustainable development of fisheries areas".

At a meeting between the Commission and officials of my Department on the 24 April, acknowledgement was given to our commitment for implementing these measures through state aided funds as outlined in the National Strategic Plan for Fisheries 2007-2013. Nonetheless, the Commission continued to press for its inclusion under the operational programme. The Commission also expressed concerns in relation to Ireland's implementation of certain EU Directives on the Environment in the context of providing EU funding under the OP for aquaculture development. My officials are fully engaged with the Commission with a view to bringing the consultation process to a successful conclusion and getting the O.P approved as soon as possible.

Milk Quota.

Michael Creed

Question:

131 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding milk quotas for the past milk quota year; the possibility of eliminating penalties for over-production in view of imminent quota increases, the failure within the EU to fill its milk quota and the global demand for dairy products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19595/08]

The position regarding milk deliveries for the 2007/2008 milk quota year is currently being finalised, and the expectation is that the country will be over quota. In accordance with EU law, a levy will therefore be payable by over-quota producers attached to milk purchasers in whose areas quota was exceeded. Although any levies arising in respect of the 2007/2008 milk quota year will incorporate reallocations made to take account of non-delivery of milk by some producers, once calculated they cannot be eliminated. In this regard the decision earlier this year by the Council of Ministers to increase EU milk quotas by 2 per cent applies only from 1 April 2008, and so does not provide an opportunity to eliminate levy liability in respect of the 2007/2008 milk quota year. The filling of milk quota at EU level and the global demand for dairy products are central to the Health Check of the 2003 CAP reform as it affects the dairy sector. The Government's position is that, with milk quotas due to be abolished in 2015, an ambitious annual quota expansion is necessary in the interim in order to facilitate a "soft landing" for producers.

Animal Diseases.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

132 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he plans to introduce a national strategy regarding infectious diseases such as IBR, BDVD and Joannes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19647/08]

My Department is actively working with relevant stakeholders to progress a herd health initiative to deal with non-regulated diseases in a comprehensive and integrated manner. The initiative complements existing animal health programmes and aims to develop effective national plans for action and facilitate Ireland achieving international best practice in the area of animal health. Officials of my Department have had discussions with the principal stakeholders, including farming and industry representatives, service providers and relevant state agencies and all have indicated broad support for the initiative. Following on these discussions, formal proposals have been circulated to the stakeholders inviting them to indicate if they can support the initiative and its intended objectives and seeking commitments from them to funding.

I am satisfied that there is a genuine commitment by all parties to work together to develop an infrastructure to improve animal health. A number of those contacted have already responded positively to the formal proposals circulated and we are awaiting definitive responses from the remaining stakeholders.

Question No. 133 answered with Question No. 120.

Food Labelling.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

134 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will extend the country of origin labelling of beef introduced in 2006 to cover lamb products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19651/08]

The Minister for Health & Children has overall responsibility for the general food labelling legislation. Responsibility for enforcement of labelling legislation rests with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) through its service contracts with my Department, the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, the Health Services Executive, the Local Authorities and the National Consumer Agency. Breaches of food labelling legislation should be reported to the FSAI.

My Department, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Children, drafted regulations that would require the country of origin to be indicated on pigmeat, poultry and sheepmeat. This was notified to the EU Commission in December 2007 as required by legislation. The Commission was not prepared to adopt the draft regulations in their present format on the grounds that the proposed legislation is not in compliance with EU food labelling regulations. However, it indicated that it would reconsider the draft measures on submission of additional explanatory information. This information is currently being prepared for transmission to the Commission. I will continue to press for progress, as I believe consumers are entitled to full information on the labelling of food products.

Question No. 135 answered with Question No. 120.

Farm Improvement Scheme.

Pat Breen

Question:

136 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will include applicants under the farm improvement scheme whose applications were received during the last ten days of October 2007 for grant aid under the scheme; the number of applicants involved; the estimated cost of this concession; the category of works involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19608/08]

€79 million was provided under the 2006 partnership agreement, Towards 2016, for the operation of the Farm Improvement Scheme. 12,675 applications were received by my Department under the Scheme prior to its suspension for new applications on 31 October 2007. To date, 6,017 approvals have issued to farmers to commence work under the Farm improvement Scheme. The remaining applications are currently being processed up to the level of funding available.

Support for Young Farmers.

Joe Costello

Question:

137 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will reintroduce supports and incentives to encourage young farmers to stay in agriculture; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19625/08]

Joan Burton

Question:

149 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the supports in place for young farmers to help redress the age profile in agriculture; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19623/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 137 and 149 together.

A number of schemes and reliefs have been introduced in recent years to bring about improvements in farm structures and the age profile of the sector. In 2005, 8% of farmers were under the age of 35 and they farmed a similar proportion of farmland. The Irish age structure is in line with the EU average. To maintain this structure, there are a number of generous schemes and reliefs aimed at encouraging the early transfer of farms to young farmers and reducing the tax burden of such transfers on farmers. In particular, the Rural Development Plan 2007-2013 includes a range of enhanced measures to improve the structure and competitiveness of Irish farming. The new Rural Development Plan 2007-2013 contains a generous Installation Grant Aid for young farmers of €15,000 (an increase of 55% of the previous grant). The early retirement pension also increased to a maximum €15,000 per annum for farmers who dispose of their land by gift, sale or lease.

Other incentives for early farm transfer include:

100% stamp duty relief for on transfers of agricultural land and buildings to young trained farmers;

100% stock relief for up to four years for young trained farmers;

90% agricultural relief from capital acquisitions tax;

Higher grant rates for young trained farmers under the farm improvement scheme;

Capital Gains Tax — Retirement relief on farm disposals up to the value of €750,000 and marginal relief on disposals above this threshold.

Also the Finance Act 2007 included a number of provisions to facilitate greater levels of land mobility and farm consolidation. The measures include a third rental income exemption threshold — €20,000 for leases of 10 years or over; stamp duty relief for farm consolidation where only one farmer is consolidating his holding; and a provision whereby farmers who are leasing out land can still, subject to certain conditions, qualify for Capital Gains Tax retirement relief. All these measures help to improve land mobility through early farm transfer or by encouraging greater levels of leasing, land swaps or farm consolidation.

Question No. 138 answered with Question No. 120.
Question No. 139 answered with Question No. 125.

National Statistics.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

140 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of persons employed full time and employed part time in agriculture in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19641/08]

The most recent figures available from the Central Statistics Office are for the year 2005 and these show that there were 73,500 farmers whose sole occupation was farming or 56% of the total. The number of farmers with another either major or subsidiary occupation was 58,900 or 44% of the total and they would be considered to be part-time. The trend in recent years has been towards part-time farming and reflects a combination of factors including the increased availability of off-farm employment. Many small-scale producers find that combining farming with off-farm employment is an effective way to ensure their continued viability in farming. At the same time, full-time farmers are looking to the new flexibility offered to them under decoupling to develop and intensify their commercial farm enterprises.

Fishing Industry Development.

James Bannon

Question:

141 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason no rural development proposal under Axis 4 was made under the operational programme for fisheries for the benefit of coastal communities; if his Department will consider one in view of recent Commission views on the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19604/08]

The draft Operational Programme (O.P) for Fisheries for Ireland, submitted to the Commission envisages the use of EU funds under the European Fisheries Fund to support decommissioning of fishing vessels, aquaculture development and environmental/inshore fisheries support, specifically a small number of Co-Financed measures under the pillars of axis 1, 2 and 3. As part of the normal consultative process for approval, the Commission adopts a negotiating position where it sets out how the OP should be improved and completed to meet the Commission's quality requirement for the programme. This negotiating position was received on the 22nd of April 2008. Officials from my Department met the Commission (DG Mare, DG Regio and DG Environment) on 24 April as part of the formal process in the consideration of Ireland's Fisheries Operational Programme 2007-2013. The observations of the commission on the content of the operational programme will be fully considered.

It is important to note that, as outlined in the National Strategic Plan for the Fisheries Sector (2007-2013), measures under Axis 4 are planned as Non-Co Financed (ie State aided). These predominantly socio-economic sustainability measures will be implemented by BIM with the assistance of local development networks such as Leader. I am fully committed to the introduction these measures, the benefit of which will be of great import to Coastal Communities. BIM have the primary responsibility for the implementation of the measures and are consulting with LEADER with a view to putting in place the best possible delivery mechanisms to ensure that the coastal communities dependent on fishing are given the best support.

Cereal Sector.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

142 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will implement measures to ensure growth in the cereals sector of the economy here to meet growing demand into the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19632/08]

The EU Council of Ministers has set the obligatory set aside rate at zero for sowings for the 2008 harvest and this is expected to lead to a significant increase in EU grain production this year. Production of cereals in Ireland has averaged about 2 million tonnes in recent years, with fluctuations in production being mainly attributable to weather conditions. The increased cereals prices in the past year, together with the warm dry weather last autumn, encouraged a major increase in the sowing of winter cereals for the 2008 harvest in Ireland. Initial estimates suggest the total area sown to winter cereals is expected to increase by around 20% overall. Estimates of spring sowings will not be available until later in the year.

To support grain growers, my Department continues to operate a range of services aimed at improving the efficiency, quality and viability of cereal production. These services include seed certification, seed testing, recommended lists of varieties etc. In addition, Teagasc provides comprehensive research, training and advisory services for cereal producers. The value of all these support services is reflected in the fact that Irish cereal producers have consistently achieved some of the highest yields in the world.

On-farm Investment Schemes.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

143 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will process without delay applications made by farmers to the farm investment scheme between 21 October 2007 and 31 October 2007 as many of these farmers are combining FIS investment with the farm waste management scheme investment in view of the fact that the deadline for completed works for the farm waste management scheme is 31 December 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19621/08]

€79 million was provided under the 2006 partnership agreement, Towards 2016, for the operation of the Farm Improvement Scheme. 12,675 applications were received by my Department under the Scheme prior to its suspension for new applications on 31 October 2007. These applications are currently being processed up to the level of funding available. To date, 6,017 approvals have issued to farmers to commence work under the Farm improvement Scheme. The remaining applications are currently being processed up to the level of funding available. The deadline of end-2008 for completion of works under the revised Farm Waste Management Scheme introduced by my Department in March 2006 does not apply to the Farm Improvement Scheme. Under the latter Scheme, farmers normally have a period of two years from the date of approval to complete the investment works concerned.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

144 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of hectares planted in the production of bio-fuels in each of the past six years; the amount of energy produced as a result of this crop production; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19617/08]

Brendan Howlin

Question:

157 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will put in place a proper policy framework that supports an indigenous bio-energy sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19630/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 144 and 157 together.

The number of hectares planted with crops for bioenergy purposes for each of the last six years is as follows:

Year

Hectares

2002

Not available

2003

137

2004

732

2005

2,590

2006

4,456

2007

9,057

My Department does not have figures relating to the amount of energy produced as a result of this crop production. The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR) has overall responsibility for energy policy and is the lead Department for the promotion and development of renewable energy, including bioenergy.

My Department has participated on a number of interdepartmental committees led by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources on the development of Ireland's bioenergy resources. For example, my Department was represented on the Bioenergy Strategy Group, which was established to consider policy options and support mechanisms to encourage greater use of biomass for bioenergy. The Group published a report ‘Bioenergy in Ireland' which made a number of recommendations to promote the bioenergy sector in Ireland. In 2006, the then Minister participated in a Ministerial Taskforce, which agreed a National Bioenergy Action Plan to increase deployment of Ireland's bioenergy resources to 2020. In accordance with this plan, the Minister subsequently launched a range of measures to stimulate production of energy crops and to complement measures introduced by other Ministers, notably the Mineral Oil Taxation Relief Scheme.

The specific agricultural measures included a new National Energy Crop Premium of €80 per hectare to supplement the EU premium available under the EU Energy Crops Scheme. A new Bioenergy Scheme was also launched providing establishment grants of up to €1,450 per hectare to farmers interested in planting willow and miscanthus. The second phase of the Scheme was announced in December 2007 and sufficient funding has been provided to support the planting of a further 1,600 hectares in 2008. Areas planted with energy crops can also qualify for the Single Payment. Other measures introduced included the Wood Biomass Harvesting Machinery Scheme to support developing enterprises in the wood chip supply sector and grant aid for anaerobic digestion projects under the Scheme of Investment Aid for Demonstration On Farm Waste Processing Facilities.

In addition, my Department is funding research projects that relate directly to biofuels and energy crops through the Department's Research Stimulus Fund Programme. Under the 2005 and 2006 calls for proposals, five projects received grant assistance of €1.5 million. The allocation under the 2007 Call for Proposals was significantly increased providing for the award of some €5.3 million over the next four years to a further seven research projects. The research covers a broad range of agri-energy topics including energy crop production.

Forestry Sector.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

145 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has plans or if his attention has been drawn to plans to provide high rope adventure courses in any of Ireland’s forests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19618/08]

Coillte Teoranta has looked at the feasibility of locating aerial trail adventure systems in a small number of appropriate locations across the country, which is part of its strategy to improve the recreational facilities it provides and to promote the value of its forest estate as a recreational resource. In this context, Coillte has received proposals from commercial operators on the operation of aerial trail adventure systems on its properties. At Lough Key Forest Park, Co. Roscommon, Jungle Parc has been chosen to operate the facility and has recently applied for planning permission. A number of other proposals are currently being considered.

Common Agricultural Policy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

146 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent to which he has had discussions with his EU colleagues in the context of a check of the CAP with a view to maximising food production potential within the EU thereby reducing dependancy on imports; if he has put forward proposals in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19580/08]

At yesterday's Agriculture Council we had a general debate on the agricultural market situation and the evolution of agricultural and food prices. In the course of the debate, I made the point that Europe has to consider the role of its own agri-food sector, so that it can play its part in ensuring a high standard of quality food for future generations. I said it was more important than ever that we ensure that we retain a strong agricultural production base in Europe. We needed to recognise this in considering issues such as WTO and the shape of our future Common Agricultural Policy. My comments were echoed by a number of other Ministers.

Yesterday's debate in the Council illustrated the increased focus of EU Ministers on the issue of food self-sufficiency. I believe that this increased focus will gather momentum in the forthcoming discussions on the CAP Health check and in the debates on the future of the CAP post 2013. I will participate actively in these discussions. I will be arguing for the need to build a better and stronger CAP, adapted to contemporary needs and more effective in supporting our farmers and food industries. I have already spoken on this matter to my French counterpart, Michel Barnier at our meeting in Dublin a week ago. We both agreed on the necessity for the CAP to continue to support sustainable agriculture, in line with the European model of agriculture, thereby ensuring stable food supplies to European consumers.

Farm Inspections.

Bernard Allen

Question:

147 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the progress in the past 12 months in securing for farmers advance notice of cross compliance checks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19602/08]

The position is that the cross-compliance regime has been in place since the introduction of the Single Payment Scheme in 2005. Cross-compliance involves two key elements:

A requirement for farmers to comply with 18 statutory management requirements (SMRs) set down in EU legislation on the environment, food safety, animal health and welfare and plant health and

A requirement to maintain the farm in good agricultural and environmental condition.

The Cross Compliance obligations were phased in over a three-year period. Eight cross-compliance SMRs came into force in 2005 together with the Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition requirements. A further 7 SMRs governing food, animal and plant health came on stream from 1 January 2006. The final 3 SMRs governing Animal Welfare were introduced with effect from 1 January 2007.

A Commission report on the application of cross-compliance was presented to the April 2007 Agriculture Council and Council conclusions were adopted in June 2007. The following issues were covered in the conclusions:

Tolerance for minor non-compliance

Introduction of a "de minimis" rule for penalties

Harmonisation of control rates

Advance notice of Inspections

Reviewing the "10 month land availability rule"

Making better use of the results of existing controls in the context of risk analysis for cross-compliance

Phasing in of cross-compliance for new Member States.

Council and Commission Regulations are now in place implementing the new arrangements with effect from 1 January 2008.

Under the new regime, while all inspections should generally be unannounced, a Member State can give up to 14 days notice for land eligibility inspections and for cross-compliance inspections involving SMRs other than those related to animal identification and registration, food, feed, and animal welfare. For checks involving animal identification and registration the maximum advance notice is 48 hours provided that the purpose of the inspection is not jeopardised. For SMRs dealing with feed, food and animal welfare no advance notice may be given.

My Department is required to ensure that the control environment established under cross-compliance is robust and meets with regulatory and audit requirements. Nevertheless, my Department believed that the cross-compliance provisions were overly complex for farmers and has sought and gained appropriate simplification in the context of the review of cross-compliance conducted by the Commission and the Regulations introduced as a result. It is intended however, that further simplification of the cross-compliance arrangements will be pursued in the context of the CAP Health Check.

Dairy Sector.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

148 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will press for an increased rate of export refunds to assist milk processors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19628/08]

The Common Agriculture Policy provides the EU with various market measures with which it manages the dairy market. During 2007 dairy prices increased dramatically as a consequence of high demand and tightness of supply on EU and World Markets. This shortage of supply caused the Commission to zero rate export refunds for milk products. Prices have fallen back from their high point of last autumn but still remain strong and above intervention levels. Increased EU production in recent months has seen large quantities of butter go into private storage, which indicates an expectation of strong demand in the second half of the year. My Department closely monitors developments in the dairy market on an ongoing basis. I will continue to recommend that the Commission utilise the various market measures, including export refunds, when the market conditions warrant them.

Question No. 149 answered with Question No. 137.

Fishing Industry Development.

Michael Ring

Question:

150 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the details in relation to the administration of Axis 4 in Ireland’s proposed operational programme for the delivery of the European Fisheries Fund; his views on whether Axis 4 would be of significant benefit to the development of coastal communities under his Department’s remit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18977/08]

The draft Operational Programme (O.P) for Fisheries for Ireland, submitted to the Commission envisages the use of EU funds under the European Fisheries Fund to support decommissioning of fishing vessels, aquaculture development and environmental/ inshore fisheries support, specifically a small number of Co-Financed measures under the pillars of axis 1, 2 and 3. There was no provision in the O.P submitted, for measures under axis 4.

However, as outlined in the National Strategic Plan for the Fisheries Sector (2007-2013), measures under Axis 4 are planned as Non-Co Financed (ie State aided). These predominantly socio-economic sustainability measures will be implemented by BIM with the assistance of local development networks such as Leader. I am fully committed to the introduction these measures, the benefit of which will be of great import to Coastal Communities. BIM have the primary responsibility for the implementation of the measures and are consulting with LEADER with a view to putting in place the best possible delivery mechanisms to ensure that the coastal communities dependent on fishing are given the best support.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Jack Wall

Question:

151 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the initiatives he is undertaking in 2008 to help combat climate change; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19636/08]

Climate change has potentially serious implications not just for agriculture but for all sectors of the economy. The Irish agricultural pasture-based production system has many advantages in terms of sustainability and in a decoupled environment, efficiency of production is pursued which means that carbon emissions per unit of production are kept as low as possible. In the context of carbon proofing, the agriculture sector will continue to effect production efficiencies in order that the emissions per unit of food produced are as low as possible. In this regard it can be expected that in 2008 the continued implementation of the Nitrates Regulations will result in better utilization of nutrients, with a consequent reduction in nitrogen applications. Other measures which will contribute to greenhouse gas abatement, such as the encouragement of minimum tillage, the use of clover swards and the adoption of low emission trailing shoe technology for slurry spreading have been introduced under the new Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Forestry sequestration of carbon is a significant element in the National Climate Change Strategy and will play a very important role in meeting our Kyoto targets. Both forest products and energy crops also contribute to the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by acting as substitutes for fossil fuels and my Department will continue to invite participation in the EU Energy Crops Scheme and the Bioenergy Scheme in 2008. I realize that further initiatives may be needed to address the challenge of climate change, which is why my Department has committed substantial funding, under the Research Stimulus Fund, to various research projects devoted to identifying sustainable greenhouse gas reduction measures. A comprehensive analysis of research needs has been carried out by my Department and will be used to inform future calls for research in the area of climate change. Furthermore, my officials are currently working closely with Teagasc and COFORD in carrying out a review of the potential mitigation options available to the sector.

Proposed Legislation.

James Bannon

Question:

152 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when the promised animal welfare legislation will be published; the objectives of the legislation; if the Bill will provide for the prohibition of fur farming; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19603/08]

Significant work has been undertaken on drafting a new Animal Health and Welfare Bill and I intend to initiate a process of public consultation by publishing a discussion paper next week and inviting submissions from interested parties and other stakeholders. The proposed Bill will give effect to a number of important commitments, in the area of animal health and welfare, contained in the Programme for Government.

It will be a wide ranging piece of legislation, which will amend and consolidate previous legislation to reflect the changed disease status of our nation's animals and update existing legislation, to ensure that the welfare of all animals (including non-farm animals) is properly protected and that penalties for offenders are increased significantly. The Bill will also contain provision to repeal and revoke a number of pieces of existing legislation as some of the principal Acts in this area date to 1911. It is intended that the forthcoming legislation will provide for the continuation of normal sporting and farming activities, including fur farming, where these do not involve reckless endangerment of the welfare of animals.

Afforestation Programme.

Joe Carey

Question:

153 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the percentage of land planted in forestry for each of the past 11 years; if present trends continue, the year he would expect to reach the national target of 30%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19616/08]

The level of forestry land planted in each of the past eleven years as a percentage of total land area is illustrated in the table.

Year

Total Hectares

% of land area

%

1997

608,522

8.83

1998

621,450

9.02

1999

634,118

9.20

2000

649,813

9.43

2001

665,277

9.66

2002

680,331

9.87

2003

689,428

10.01

2004

699,166

10.15

2005

709,262

10.29

2006

717,299

10.41

2007

724,246

10.51

The Strategic Plan for the Development of the Forestry Sector in Ireland ‘Growing for the Future,' published in 1996, sets a target of 17% of the total land area for forest cover to be achieved by 2035. Under the current climate, with high land prices and pressures from other areas in the context of land use, it is not possible to definitively state when the 17% target may be reached. The National Biodiversity Plan, published in 2000, called for a minimum of 30% broad-leaved trees to be planted in any given year as part of the national afforestation program. This target was achieved in 2005 and has been maintained each year since then.

Richard Bruton

Question:

154 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps he will take to meet the target of planting 10,000 hectares of forestry per year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19610/08]

The Strategic Plan for the Development of the Forestry Sector in Ireland ‘Growing for the Future,' sets a target for forest cover of 17% of the total land area to be achieved by 2035. Over the period of the National Development Plan, 2007 to 2013, the short-term objective is to grow annual planting to 10,000 hectares per annum. The average rate of planting over the last three years was 8,360. Planting of trees, is supported by my Department through the current suite of Afforestation Grant and Premium Schemes, along with the various support measures such as road infrastructure and shaping and pruning grants. This is the most financially attractive package available in the history of forestry in Ireland. The establishment grant covers 100% of the planting costs, while the annual forestry premium is payable to farmers for 20 years. Both the grant and premium rates have been reviewed in recent times and increased to make the scheme more attractive.

Under the Forest Environment Protection Scheme (FEPS), landowners can receive a premium of up to €200 per hectare, in addition to their forestry premium, should they choose to avail of the scheme, which promotes the establishment of high nature value forestry. This scheme was launched as a pilot in 2007, and after some refinements, including reducing the planting level threshold from 8ha to 5ha, has been adopted into the suite of afforestation schemes. My Department is also undertaking significant promotional activities to encourage further participation in forestry, for instance the joint national promotion campaign run with IFIC. A series of radio advertisements highlighting the benefits of planting forests were aired on local and national stations in March and April this year. These ads are supplemented by promotion and publicity in other media throughout the year.

In March of this year, Mr. John Malone completed a review of the factors affecting the rate of afforestation in Ireland. In his report, he makes several recommendations aimed at furthering the afforestation programme, which are currently under review. I am committed to boosting the forest planting levels in Ireland. I believe that with the excellent financial package available and the promotional efforts supporting the planting programme that an increase in the afforestation rate can be achieved.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

155 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will provide clarification regarding REP scheme payments to miscanthus growers and in particular the qualifying hectarage of miscanthus grass which will allow farmers to make best use of the Government support schemes in view of the fact that growers have sprayed and ploughed land in preparation for planting thereby placing a constraint on the need for clarification on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18791/08]

REPS is an agri-environmental measure, and for that reason payments to farmers must be costed and justified on the basis of quantifiable environmental benefits that go beyond keeping land in good agricultural and environmental condition and observing the statutory management requirements of the Single Payment Scheme. No element of the REPS payment can be justified on the basis of a production support, nor can a farmer be compensated for the same action twice. REPS is not a support scheme; it is a voluntary scheme open to all farmers and payments under the scheme are not entitlements as of right. Participants who agree to be bound by the scheme conditions qualify for payment.

Under the specification for REPS 4, the maximum area of willow and miscanthus permitted on REPS farms is 10 hectares or 25% of the REPS contract area, whichever is the greater. This area limitation is in order to maintain landscape diversity. It would not be desirable or acceptable in an agri-environmental scheme to have whole farms, or a major portion of the lands, devoted to the growing of an introduced species monoculture. Existing levels of flora and fauna need to be sustained, and if possible improved, on all REPS farms and the large-scale growing of miscanthus is not consistent with this objective. The same maximum area applies in REPS 3 and my Department has clarified the position in a circular sent directly to all REPS planners. It has come to my Department's notice that a small number of farmers have exceeded the limits. My Department is examining these sympathetically on a case-by-case basis.

Genetically Modified Organisms.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

156 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps he is taking to protect the industry against the threat of adventitious presence in feed imports from non-EU approved events; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19646/08]

The lack of synchronisation in the authorisation process for the marketing of GM crops employed in the US and in the EU can result in the adventitious or accidental presence of unauthorised GM events in imported animal feed because the GM event, although authorised in the US, is not yet authorised in the EU. The Commission are conscious of the anxiety and difficulties this situation is causing in the Irish and EU feed trade. They have recently referred to the requirement to introduce appropriate tolerance levels for GM events not yet authorised in the EU but authorised in other jurisdictions and to expedite their authorisation process. In the meantime my Department has in place a risk based sampling programme to protect the industry against the threat of adventitious presence in feed imports from non-EU approved events.

Question No. 157 answered with Question No. 144.

Animal Diseases.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

158 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will ensure that precautions are taken for high risk cargo such as horses straw, compost and plants at all points of entry under the new controls announced relating to bluetongue restricted zones. [19627/08]

Ireland has been and remains bluetongue-free and the presence of the disease in a number of other Member States has not had any significant impact on Irish agriculture to date. It continues to be my objective to ensure that Ireland remains disease free and that we make every effort and take all such reasonable precautions to that end.

My Department has carried out a number of assessments to seek to determine the risk of the possible introduction of the disease into the country. The first of these was undertaken and published in November and the analysis considered a number of possible routes of introduction of bluetongue. These ranged from the possible importation of infected ruminants and wind-borne infected vectors, which were classified as representing high risk routes of introduction, to the potential risk associated with the accidental importation of infected midges travelling on horses, in vehicles / containers or with agricultural / horticultural products such as hay, straw or plants. These latter alternative routes were classified in the risk assessment as representing a low risk route of introduction of the virus and the analysis concluded that no further control measures or mitigation procedures were required or warranted at that time.

That risk assessment was by its nature based on an assessment of the disease situation and the controls in place at a particular period in time and is, therefore, subject to revision should there be a significant change in that disease situation. Due to changes in animal movement regulations that were introduced in response to new scientific data on how the virus can be transmitted in animals and pressure from Ireland, a further risk analysis was carried out by my Department earlier this month. This risk analysis concluded that there have been no new developments since the November study in scientific knowledge on the accidental introduction of infected vectors by other means such as carriage on wind current, in vehicles, containers, on plants, on non-susceptible species (horses, pets, people) or in hay and straw. Consequently, the risk from these possible sources remains as outlined in the November assessment. Further information on bluetongue is available on my Department's website.

Afforestation Programme.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

159 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has given guidelines to Coillte in relation to considering the carbon effect of forestry planting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19619/08]

I have not issued guidelines to Coillte Teoranta on this matter and I am satisfied that the company is fully aware of the carbon effect of planting forestry.

Ministerial Appointments.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

160 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Taoiseach the appointments to bodies that were made by him since 2 April 2008; the persons who were the appointees; the bodies to which they were appointed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18999/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

162 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the appointments made by him between 26 of February 2008 and 1 April 2008 inclusive; the place or town of residence of each appointee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19252/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

163 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the appointments made by him between the 2 of April and 7 May 2008 inclusive; the place or town of residence of each appointee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19254/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 160, 162 and 163 together.

Since the 26 February 2008 to date, I have made no appointments to Bodies.

Departmental Expenditure.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

161 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Taoiseach the firms of solicitors or individual barristers which he has engaged on a contractual basis in the past 18 months; the purpose of that engagement; the fees already paid or an estimate of the fees expected to be paid by the conclusion of the task engaged for; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19251/08]

The following firms of solicitors and individual barristers have been engaged by my Department on a contractual basis in the past 18 months. Commission of Investigation (Dublin and Monaghan Bombings 1974)

The Commission of Investigation (Dublin and Monaghan Bombings 1974) was established in May 2005 to examine specific matters relating to the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings of 1974, including aspects of the Garda investigation and missing documentation. The Commission completed its work and presented its Final Report to the Taoiseach in March 2007. The Sole Member of the Commission was Mr. Patrick MacEntee S.C. Mr. Felix McEnroy S.C was contracted to assist Mr. MacEntee in his work.

Name

Period

Fees paid

Mr. MacEntee

December 06 – March 07

238,976.00

Mr. McEnroy

December 06 – March 07

50,127.90

3rd Party fees

December 06 – March 07

10,938.40

The Chief State Solicitors Office was engaged to act on behalf of the Department of the Taoiseach in seven cases during the period in question. The following Counsel were engaged by that Office, at a total cost of €87,714.11.

Names

Cost

Paul Anthony McDermott, BL

25,489.86

Brian Murray, SC

7,260.00

Donal O’Donnell, SC

22,687.50

Una Ní Raifeartaigh, BL

605.00

Gerard Duncan, SC

18,150.00

Remy Farrell, BL

4,840.00

Mark O’Mahony, BL

4,749.25

Paul Sreenan, SC

3,932.50

Questions Nos. 162 and 163 answered with Question No. 160.

European Council Meetings.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

164 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the number of Council of Ministers meetings attended by Ministers at his Department for each of the past three years in tabular form; the number of decisions made by the Council at those meetings; the number of occasions on which those decisions were decided upon by a vote; the number of occasions on which Ireland voted against a decision which was adopted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19269/08]

I am a member of the European Council which Heads of State and Government attend. I have no direct function in relation to the Council of Ministers and I do not attend them. As the Deputy will be aware, each configuration of the Council of Ministers is attended by the Minister responsible for that area, for example the General Affairs and External Relations Council is attended by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Economic and Financial Affairs Council is attended by the Minister for Finance.

Consultancy Contracts.

Michael Ring

Question:

165 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Taoiseach the expenditure by his Department on consultants to date in 2008; and if he will compare this to the expenditure on consultants for each of the past five years. [19505/08]

The table outlines expenditure from my Department's Vote on consultancy services to date in 2008 and for each of the past five years. The figures also include consultancy spend recouped from the Change Management Fund in the Department of Finance.

Year

Spend on Consultancy

2003

272,942

2004

477,398

2005

405,188

2006

527,924

2007

663,869

2008 (End of April)

226,192

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael Ring

Question:

166 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Taoiseach the number and cost of mobile phones or such communications equipment issued to programme managers, advisers, press officers and departmental personnel during each of the past three years; and the annual billing cost of same. [19520/08]

The tables outline the number of mobile phones and blackberries provided by my Department to Programme Manager, Advisers, Press Officers and other Department personnel during each of the past three years, and the average cost of this equipment in each year.

Number issued:

2005

2006

2007

Mobile phones

Blackberries

Mobile phones

Blackberries

Mobile phones

Blackberries

Programme Manager

0

2

0

0

1

1

Special Advisers

2

6

1

1

2

1

Press Officers

6

5

5

0

3

2

Other Departmental Personnel

38

7

23

6

26

22

Total:

46

20

29

7

32

26

Cost of equipment:

2005

2006

2007

Mobile phones

Blackberries

Mobile phones

Blackberries

Mobile phones

Blackberries

Average cost of equipment per hand set

€137.94

€205.25

€118.82

€224.37

€56.87

€195.97

Billing Cost:

The total number of mobile phones and blackberries in use in my Department and the annual billing cost in respect of these during each of the past three years are detailed in the following table.

Mobile phones

Blackberries

Total Units

Total Billing cost

2005

74

20

94

131,932

2006

103

27

130

147,142

2007

135

53

188

164,121

A breakdown of this cost in the format requested by the Deputy is not readily available. However, an analysis of billing details for a sample month (November, 2007) is set out in the following table.

Total mobile & blackberry charges in (November, 2007)

% of total

%

Programme Manager

188.23

9.2

Special Advisers

1,361.69

12.4

Press Officers

1,826.73

1.3

Other Departmental Personnel

11,377.86

77.1

Total:

14,754.51

100.0

Government Appointments.

Michael Ring

Question:

167 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Taoiseach the number of Ministers of State appointed in the State at five year intervals from 1970 to date in 2008; and the present number of Ministers of State. [19573/08]

Michael Ring

Question:

168 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Taoiseach the number of super Ministers of State in the State at 1970 and at five year intervals to date in 2008; and the present number of such persons appointed. [19574/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 167 and 168 together.

I take it that the Deputy's first question relates to Parliamentary Secretaries (as they then were) up to the coming into operation of the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1977, which established the office of Minister of State, and to Ministers of State thereafter. The number of Parliamentary Secretaries standing appointed on 1 January 1970, was 6 and on 1 January 1975 was 7. The number of Ministers of State standing appointed on 1 January 1980 was 10 and on 1 January 1985, 1990 and 1995 was 15. On 1 January 2000 and 2005 there were 17 and currently there are 20.

I take it that the Deputy's second question refers to the practice initiated in 1994 whereby a Minister of State, in addition to the Chief Whip, normally attends meetings of the Government. On 1 January 1995, 2000 and 2008 there was one such Minister of State while on 1 January 2005 there was none.

Commemorative Events.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

169 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach if his attention has been drawn to the facts surrounding a mine exploding on 15 May 1943 in Mullaghduff, County Donegal in which 19 people died (details supplied); and if there are plans for a commemoration by the State or if he will consider funding or contributing to such a commemoration if organised by relatives or by a community group. [19844/08]

The tragic mine explosion at Mullaghduff, Co Donegal in 1943 which resulted in the deaths of 19 people and injuries to four others was the worst of the several incidents to occur in the State during the period of the Second World War. These civilian deaths are included among those remembered annually at the National Day of Commemoration in July in honour of those Irishmen and Irish women who died in past wars or in service with the United Nations. I understand that a commemoration is to take place this year on the 65th anniversary through a local community initiative. I am not aware that any application has been received by Government for a contribution towards the costs arising from this commemoration.

Ministerial Staff.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

170 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the number of civil servants who have worked in the constituency offices of the Taoiseach and his Ministers of State since 1997 to date in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20059/08]

The number of Civil Servants who have worked in my Constituency Office and in the Constituency Offices of the Ministers of State attached to my Department since 1997 to date in 2008 are listed in the table.

Civil Servants in Taoiseach’s Constituency Office 1997-2008

Civil Servants in Office of Chief Whip Constituency Office 1997-2008

1997

6

2

1998

5

1.5

1999

6

1.5

2000

6

2

2001

7

2

2002

5.5

2

2003

6

2

2004

6.5

2

2005

6.5

1

2006

6.5

1

2007

7

1

2008

7

1

Heritage Sites.

Joe Carey

Question:

171 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Finance the person who is responsible for translation of signs such as An tOileán Naofa for Holy Island on signage indicating the monastic settlement of Iniscealtra situated on Lough Derg on the River Shannon; the location where that translation came from; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19860/08]

The Built Heritage Services of the Office of Public Works refer to a panel of translators for publications, exhibitions and signage. It is investigating the specific example referred to regarding Iniscealtra/Holy Island.

Road Network.

James Bannon

Question:

172 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Finance the position with regard to the Office of Public Works replacing the old collapsed bridge over the Rincoe River dividing the lands of a person (details supplied) in County Longford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19348/08]

The Office of Public Works has no statutory responsibility for the bridge referred to, as it is not a scheduled structure of the Arterial Drainage scheme in question. The OPW will provide advice to the property owner, should he wish to replace the bridge himself.

Flood Relief.

Michael Ring

Question:

173 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Finance the funding that was put in place in relation to the flooding problem (details supplied) in south Mayo. [19403/08]

Michael Ring

Question:

174 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Finance the position in the Office of Public Works in relation to finding a resolution to the flooding problem (details supplied) in south Mayo; the flood prevention works that have been carried out to date; the action being taken to ensure that the risk of flooding in the locality is reduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19404/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 173 and 174 together.

The Office of Public Works is continuing to work with Mayo County Council to reduce the risk of flooding in South Mayo. In the case of Clyard, Thomastown and Kilmaine flood mitigation works were completed in 2007, at a cost of approximately €270,000. Efforts to find a solution to the problem in the Neale are ongoing, in conjunction with the Council. An ecological assessment of the proposed works at Hollymount will be completed shortly. It is expected that an application for permission to proceed with the works will be made to the National Parks and Wildlife Service during June. Funding will be made available for flood mitigation works in Neale and Hollymount that are acceptable on environmental and economic grounds.

Disabled Drivers.

Finian McGrath

Question:

175 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5 will be assisted. [19414/08]

The initial application for a Primary Medical Certificate under the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994, is made to the Senior Medical Officer of the relevant local Health Service Executive administrative area. If the Primary Medical Certificate has been refused in this case, the named person may appeal the refusal to the Medical Board of Appeal, National Rehabilitation Hospital, Rochestown Avenue, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin. I would point out that the Medical Board of Appeal is independent in the exercise of its functions.

Ministerial Staff.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

176 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance the number of civil servants who have worked in the constituency offices of Ministers and Ministers of State since 1997 to date in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19417/08]

Guidelines issued by the Department of Finance specify that the number of staff in a Minister's and a Minister of State's Constituency Office may not exceed 6 and 5 respectively. During the period 1997 to date the number of staff in the Constituency Office of the Minister for Finance and of the Minister of State assigned to the Department of Finance have never exceeded those numbers.

Consultancy Contracts.

Michael Ring

Question:

177 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Finance the expenditure by his Department on consultants to date in 2008; and if he will compare this to the expenditure on consultants for each of the past five years. [19500/08]

The following table sets out the details of expenditure on consultants by my Department and the Offices under its aegis in each of the years 2003 to 2007 and 2008 to date.

Name of Office

YTD

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

€,000

€,000

€,000

€,000

€,000

€,000

Commission for Public Service Appointments

49

227

173

169

N/A

N/A

Comptroller and Auditor General

27

181

297

73

65

85

Department of Finance

39

1,657

1,873

2,473

2,140

1,954

Office of the Ombudsman

17

47

38

126

30

37

Office of the Revenue Commissioners

148

627

27,706

22,900

18,530

12,450

Public Appointments Service

142

229

39

234

N/A

N/A

State Laboratory

0

70

45

56

90

122

Valuation Office

19

68

74

35

25

17

The Office of the Commission for Public Service Appointments and the Public Appointments Service did not exist prior to 2005. However, their predecessor body, The Civil Service and Local Appointments Commission, spent some €1.028m in 2004 and some €1.469m in 2003 on consultancy services. In the time available to answer the question, the Office of Public Works was unable to compile the information sought by the Deputy. However, the information will be compiled and forwarded by that Office to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael Ring

Question:

178 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Finance the number and cost of mobile phones or such communications equipment issued to programme managers, advisers, press officers and departmental personnel during each of the past three years; and the annual billing cost of same. [19515/08]

The number and cost of mobile phones and other such communications equipment issued to programme managers, advisers, press officers and Departmental personnel during each of the past three years, is set out in the table, together with the annual billing cost for mobile communications.

Year

Average number of devices

Annual billing costs

Purchase cost of equipment

2005

255

90,020.16

5,331.26

2006

215

70,378.65

2,302.63

2007

236

93,534.68

6,324.19

Architectural Heritage.

Pat Breen

Question:

179 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 235 of 20 June 2006, the funding made available for the project (details supplied) in County Clare; when the appearance of the building will be enhanced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19565/08]

The design and drawings for the newly refurbished building in Co. Clare have been completed, and tender documents are being prepared. The Commissioners of Public Works are also assessing the planning implications of this proposal. I expect that works will start on the building later this year. €1 million funding has been earmarked and the building works are expected to be completed and occupied by Autumn 2009.

Tax Code.

Michael Ring

Question:

180 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Finance the year in which a tax exemption was introduced for stud fees; and the conditions attaching to those exemptions. [19583/08]

Michael Ring

Question:

181 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Finance if stud fees earned abroad by stallions which are at stud in this State for most of the year are tax exempt. [19584/08]

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

The income tax exemption for stallion stud fees was introduced in 1969. The exemption was subsequently extended to cover corporation tax on its introduction in 1976. The exemption itself currently applies to profits or gains arising

to the owner, or part owner, of a stallion which is ordinarily kept on land in the State from the sale of stud services or rights to stud services within the State, or

to the part owner of a stallion which is ordinarily kept on land outside the State from the sale of stud services or rights to stud services anywhere.

In this latter case, the part owner must be engaged in bloodstock breeding within the State and must show to the satisfaction of the Revenue inspector that the part ownership of the stallion in question is primarily for the purposes of that bloodstock breeding business.

In certain circumstances, stallions which normally stand at stud in Ireland are sent abroad to the Southern Hemisphere when the breeding season has finished in Ireland. These are treated for the purposes of the exemption as being ordinarily kept on land in the State. This means that the tax exemption continues to apply but only as regards profits or gains arising from the servicing of mares within the State. Profits arising from the servicing of mares outside the State are not exempt. This exemption will terminate with effect from 31 July this year, after which time the profits or gains will be fully within the charge to tax. These changes were provided for in the Finance Acts of 2006 and 2007.

Denis Naughten

Question:

182 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance his plans to have Annex III of the EU VAT directive amended to include road safety products and thereby reduce the rate of VAT applicable on such products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19666/08]

The position is that 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 only apply the reduced VAT rate to those goods and services which are listed under Annex III of the VAT Directive. As Annex III does not include the supply of road safety products, the only rate that can apply to such products is the standard VAT rate which in Ireland is 21%.

In relation to amending Annex III of the VAT Directive, I would point out that this could only be done in the context of an overall review at Community level of reduced rates. Whilst the Commission launched a debate on reduced rates in July 2007, as yet, no specific Commission proposals have been brought forward. Generally, any significant review of the application of VAT across the different EU Member States can be complex.

Denis Naughten

Question:

183 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance if he will review the VAT rate on defibrillators; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19674/08]

The Deputy will be aware that in matters relating to the VAT rating of goods and services, I am constrained by the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. In relation to the VAT rate that applies to defibrillators, the position is that under the VAT Directive, Member States may retain the zero rates on goods and services which were in place on 1 January 1991, but cannot extend the zero rate to new goods and services. The zero VAT rate cannot therefore be applied to defibrillators which are subject to the standard rate.

In addition, Member States may only apply the reduced VAT rate to those goods and services which are listed under Annex III of the VAT Directive. While Annex III does include the supply of medical equipment for the exclusive personal use of a disabled person, it does not include defibrillators for general use. The reduced rate cannot be applied to the supply of defibrillators. Therefore the only rate of VAT that can apply to the supply of defibrillators is the standard VAT rate which in Ireland is 21%.

Flood Relief.

John Deasy

Question:

184 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide funding for works to prevent annual flooding of the main Tramore to Waterford road; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19702/08]

The Office of Public Works will consider funding Waterford City Council to undertake works to alleviate flooding of the Tramore Road if a scheme, which is technically feasible, cost beneficial and which at a minimum is not detrimental to the environment can be devised. The scheme, which was originally proposed for the Tramore Road, was not cost beneficial, and could not therefore be funded. The Tramore Road passes through Kilbarry Bog, which is a National Heritage Area. Waterford City Council, with funding from OPW has commissioned an Environmental Impact Assessment, which will inform the nature and extent of any works that may be possible in the area.

Decentralisation Programme.

John Deasy

Question:

185 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Finance when he expects construction of a new headquarters for Ordnance Survey Ireland in Dungarvan, County Waterford to be completed; when the OSI plans to take occupation of the new headquarters building; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19704/08]

A detailed brief of requirements has been agreed with Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSI), and tender documentation is being prepared at present, with a view to inviting tenders in the near future, subject to receipt of the necessary sanction. Following receipt and assessment of the tenders, a Preferred Tenderer will be selected, who will be instructed to apply for planning permission. On completion of the planning process, the OPW will request the Preferred Tenderer to submit working drawings and a Bill of Quantities, with a view to a contract being placed and work commencing on site at the earliest possible date. It is estimated that construction will take up to two years, and the building would be ready for occupation by the OSI on completion.

Tax Collection.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

186 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding an application for a tax rebate in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [19728/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they have no record of having received an application for repayment of tax from the person in question for the tax year 2007. From their records it appears that no income tax was paid in 2007; therefore, no income tax would be repayable for that year. If the person in question was a married person in 2007, she may be in a position to transfer her personal tax credit to her spouse for that year. Relevant information can be obtained by contacting 1890 22 24 25 or logging onto the revenue website at www.revenue.ie.

Tax Code.

Michael Ring

Question:

187 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Finance if there are tax incentives for specific developments (details supplied); and if there are proposals to introduce such an incentive. [19743/08]

The Finance Act 1995 introduced a scheme of tax relief in the form of capital allowances from 1 July 1995, on expenditure incurred on the construction or refurbishment of certain multi-storey car parks, where the relevant local authority certified that the car park was developed in accordance with criteria laid down by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Following a major review of various property and area based tax incentive schemes the then Minister of Finance announced in Budget 2006 that most of the existing reliefs were being phased out. These included the multi-storey car park scheme, which is no longer available to new developments.

Decentralisation Programme.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

188 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance the arrangements currently in place and the arrangements proposed to secure permanent office accommodation at Portlarlington, County Laois, having regard to the fact that civil servants currently attached to the Equality Tribunal who wish to decentralise to Portarlington have discovered that there is no office space available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19812/08]

The Commissioners of Public Works are in negotiations to lease a permanent premises in Portarlington to accommodate the four Bodies decentralising to the town, the Equality Tribunal, the Data Protection Commissioner, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), and the National Educational Welfare Board. Initiation of the construction of the new offices, by the Landowner, is dependant on the successful outcome of the negotiations. The Data Protection Commissioner (22 Staff) is currently accommodated in temporary premises in Portarlington. Additional temporary premises are currently being fitted out for advance parties of staff from the NCCA and the Equality Tribunal in Portlaoise. Twenty-five staff in all will be accommodated on a temporary basis from circa 1 September 2008.

Tax Code.

Richard Bruton

Question:

189 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if expenses associated with in-vitro fertilisation are eligible for income tax relief; and if not, if he will undertake an assessment of the cost of extending this concession and consider it in the context of the Finance Bill 2009. [19814/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that expenses incurred in respect of "In Vitro Fertilisation" are eligible for Income Tax relief, provided the treatment is carried out by a practitioner or in a hospital, as defined in section 469 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997:

Under the legislation—

"practitioner" means any person who is:—

(a) registered in the register established under section 26 of the Medical Practitioners Act 1978,

(b) registered in the register established under section 26 of the Dentists Act 1985, or,

(c) in relation to health care provided outside the State, entitled under the laws of the country in which the care is provided to practise medicine or dentistry there;

"hospital" means:—

(a) any institution which is provided and maintained by the Health Service Executive for the provision of services pursuant to the Health Acts 1947 to 2004,

(b) any institution in which services are provided on behalf of the Health Service Executive pursuant to the Health Acts 1947 to 2004,

(c) any hospital, nursing home, maternity home or other institution approved of for the purposes of this section by the Minister for Finance after consultation with the Minister for Health and Children.

Once an institution falls within the definition of "hospital" as set out above, health expenses in respect of maintenance or treatment in that institution may qualify for tax relief.

Garda Stations.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

190 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance his plans for the provision of a suitable Garda station at a location (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19864/08]

The Office of Public Works is currently finalising the assessment of site proposals received in response to an advertisement.

Parliamentary Questions.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

191 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance the estimate of the cost of answering a parliamentary question; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19877/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

192 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance his views on the veracity of the estimate that it costs €200 to answer a parliamentary question; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19878/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 191 and 192 together.

As outlined to the Deputy in my response of 13th May 2008 to his question in relation to the estimated cost of answering a Parliamentary Question, the cost of answering a Parliamentary Question will vary according to the nature, and phraseology, of the question asked and this inevitably involves differences in the costs among Departments and indeed within a Department from time to time. The figure quoted by the Deputy must be read in that context.

Child Care Services.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

193 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the Programme for Government to foster a parent plus approach to support families and parents and establish local programmes to help parents, including parenting classes for those whose children have been identified as most at risk of future anti-social behaviour. [19299/08]

The dominant focus in child care services since the early 1990s has been on the protection and care of children who are at risk. During this time work was undertaken on the development of our foster care and residential care services, including the development of special care units for children who require intensive interventions. More recently, the policy focus has shifted to a more preventive approach to child welfare, involving support to families and individual children, aimed at avoiding the need for further more serious interventions later on. These family support services complement the existing residential and foster care services.

"The Agenda for Children's Services" has been developed and published by the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in 2007. The principle of having health and social services provided on the basis of the child being supported within the family, within the local community, is at the core of "the Agenda". The purpose of the policy document is to set out the strategic direction and key goals of public policy in relation to children's health and social services. "The Agenda" includes a list of "Reflective Questions" for policy makers, HSE Senior Managers and frontline staff. This is a unique feature of "the Agenda". The aim of these questions is to assist people working in the system to check and change the way they work in the light of learning from past experience and also to allow them to better understand where their own work on behalf of children fits into the wider system. The Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs is working with the HSE in promoting the message of "the Agenda" to service providers around the country.

Family support services are provided to promote the welfare of children who may be at risk of abuse or neglect. Family support may be delivered formally through the direct services of statutory and voluntary organisations, and informally through the support of extended families, friends, neighbourhoods, communities, parishes and other local networks. Family support programmes are provided nationally by services such as the Community Mothers, Family Support Workers, Teen Parents Support Projects, Youth Advocacy Programmes and Spring Board Projects and encompass a range of general parenting programmes and supports, including parenting classes. The HSE works closely with non-governmental organisations in the provision of these services. HSE funding for family support initiatives has increased by 79% since 2003 (from €45.7m to €81.8m in 2008). This reflects the Government's on-going policy of emphasising a preventive and supportive approach to child welfare, within the family setting, in line with "the Agenda for Children's Services".

Health Services.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

194 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the Programme for Government to open two cocaine-specific treatment centres, in addition to pilot projects for cocaine approved under the emergency needs fund. [19312/08]

In recent times, the Health Service Executive has re-oriented its addiction services to address the needs arising from changing patterns of drug use in the population e.g. evidence shows that most cocaine users are poly drug misusers and need to be treated for poly drug misuse and not solely for cocaine use. The HSE is also involved in developing community based stand-alone stimulant intervention services which includes additional training for its staff on issues such as cocaine and it is re-engineering existing addiction services to meet emerging needs. Evidence also indicates that many approaches already in use in general addiction services work well with cocaine users. The commitment in the Programme for Government is being considered against this background.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

195 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the Programme for Government to mandate the Health Service Executive to ensure sexual assault treatment centres are established in all regions. [19339/08]

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

Health Service Allowances.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

196 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will expedite a decision on an application for domiciliary care by a person (details supplied) in County Cork in respect of their two children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19811/08]

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.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

John Cregan

Question:

197 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a wheelchair will be provided for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19260/08]

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.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

198 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will review the decision made with regard to subvention for nursing home care in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19261/08]

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.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Michael Ring

Question:

199 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the name of the applicant who made an application for payment under the health repayment scheme in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo in view of the fact that there should only be one rightful claimant. [19265/08]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

200 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the companies working on behalf of her Department in the administration of the health repayment scheme; the payments made to each company on an annual basis since the scheme was introduced; if this work was put out to tender; the way these companies were appointed; the reason it was deemed necessary for this work to be outsourced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19267/08]

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 the repayment scheme was publicly advertised and tendered for in accordance with EU procurement regulations. The HSE has advised that the reason it was deemed necessary for the work to be outsourced was to secure the most economically advantageous business solution for the HSE. The HSE has advised that the following payments were made since the scheme was introduced.

Company

Amount Paid to 31/03/08

2007

2006

Total

Scheme Administrator

2,412,000.00

2,274,000.00

1,118,000.00

5,804,000.00

(KPMG & McCann/Fitzgerald)

IT Consultancy Services

Client Solutions

5,800.00

0.00

0.00

5,800.00

I B M

0.00

34,000.00

27,866.00

61,866.00

Advertising

Drury Communications

17,000.00

19,000.00

96,800.00

132,800.00

BBDO

0.00

416,753.00

726,547.00

1,143,300.00

Legal Expenses

306,000.00

770,000.00

485,700.00

1,561,700.00

Contract Consultancy — Accenture

12,342.00

12,342.00

Appeals Office IT Consultancy

Complete Network Techology

7,000.00

7,260.00

5,000.00

19,260.00

IT Force

6,800.00

9,500.00

44,247.00

60,547.00

8,801,615.00

Iron Mountain (Escrow Agreement)

$4,950

$4,950

Hospital Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

201 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for a scan. [19273/08]

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.

Infectious Diseases.

Michael Ring

Question:

202 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the breakdown, on a hospital and county basis, of the number of cases of MRSA that have been reported in each hospital in the period from 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2007 and from 1 January 2008 to date in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19280/08]

At a European level, the European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (EARSS) was established in 1999 in response to the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance in Europe. EARSS comprises a network of over 800 microbiological laboratories serving some 1,200 hospitals in 30 countries that collects routinely generated antimicrobial susceptibility testing data on invasive infections caused by seven important bacterial pathogens. As of January 2008, all 44 microbiology laboratories in Ireland serving 65 acute hospitals (public and private) participate in EARSS representing 100% coverage of the Irish population.

Under the case definition for EARSS, data are collected on the first bloodstream isolate of Staphylococcus Aureus per patient per quarter. The table provides an extract of the relevant information as requested by the Deputy, taken from the recent report of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre. The table which relates to 2007 includes the number of MRSA isolates by hospital. Most of the variation in reported numbers of S. aureus bloodstream infections between hospitals can be explained by differences in hospital size, activity and patient populations. At present there is no way to adjust the data to allow for these differences and hence direct comparisons between hospitals are not possible.

There are limitations on the data provided. The EARSS case definition does not distinguish between clinically significant and non-significant bloodstream isolates, so some isolates may be contaminants (e.g. bacteria on the patient's skin), rather than true bloodstream infections. The definition only includes bacteria isolated from blood cultures, and does not include other types of infection caused by Staphylococcus Aureus such as wound infections, pneumonia etc. The standardised method for surveillance of antimicrobial resistance includes the first isolate of Staphylococcus Aureus from each patient in each three month period. This could mean that if a patient has more than one episode of MRSA in a three month period then only the first episode is reported and alternatively some duplicates may occur as Staphylococcus Aureus (either MRSA or MSSA) can be isolated from the same patient over two or more quarters.

It should also be noted that if a patient is diagnosed with a bloodstream infection at a given hospital it does not indicate that the infection was acquired at that hospital. Many bloodstream infections are acquired in the community, but only diagnosed upon admission to hospital. A patient may either have acquired the infection in one hospital, but the infection may be diagnosed on transfer to another hospital. The frequency with which blood cultures are taken depends on the numbers and types of patients being treated at that hospital and access to laboratory services. Hospitals that have a high frequency of taking blood cultures are more likely to diagnose bloodstream infections, but are also more likely to detect contaminated blood cultures.

The report of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre which includes this data together with information on antibiotic consumption and alcohol-based hand rub usage in both 2006 and 2007 is the first of its kind and forms part of the HSE action plan to guide infection control. While the data in the report comes with multiple caveats, it does nonetheless represent a significant step forward in terms of providing essential data that will serve as a benchmark for assessing progress in the future. While we don't have information yet on 2008, it is intended that similar data will be published quarterly from now on. I am glad to note that the trend so far is downward both in terms of the overall level of MRSA and the proportion of S. Aureus that is methicillin resistant, although the improvement is not statistically significant. While accepting that not all HCAIs are preventable, I am satisfied that significant steps are being taken to reduce the rates of HCAIs generally and to treat them promptly when they occur.

Data on Meticillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) bloodstream isolates by acute public hospital for 2007

Acute Public Hospital

Total number of isolates of MRSA

Ratea per 1,000 bed days used (MRSA)

Adelaide, Meath and National Children’s Hospital, Tallaght, Dublin

18

0.10

Bantry General Hospital

8

0.31

Beaumont Hospital (including St. Joseph’s Hospital, Raheny), Dublin

50

0.22

Cappagh National Orthopaedic Hospital, Dublin

0

0.00

Cavan General Hospital

9

0.14

Children’s University Hospital, Temple Street, Dublin

0

0.00

Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown, Dublin

14

0.17

Coombe Women’s Hospital, Dublin

2

0.03

Cork University Hospitalb

39

0.18

Erinville Hospital, Corkb

N/A

N/A

Kerry General Hospital, Tralee

16

0.19

Letterkenny General Hospital, Donegal

13

0.13

Lourdes Orthopaedic Hospital, Kilcreene

0

0.00

Louth County Hospital, Dundalk

1

0.03

Mallow General Hospital, Co. Cork

4

0.14

Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Dublin

40

0.22

Mayo General Hospital, Castlebar

20

0.23

Mercy University Hospital, Cork

15

0.22

Merlin Park Regional Hospital, Galway

7

0.14

Midland Regional Hospital, Mullingar

5

0.09

Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise

3

0.07

Midland Regional Hospital, Tullamore

13

0.21

Mid-western Regional Hospital, Ennis

3

0.09

Mid-western Regional Hospital, Nenagh

10

0.37

Mid-western Regional Hospital, Dooradoyle, Limerick

16

0.12

Mid-western Regional Maternity Hospital, Limerick

0

0.00

Mid-western Regional Orthopaedic Hospital, Limerick

0

0.00

Monaghan General Hospital

3

0.14

Naas General Hospital

11

0.15

National Maternity Hospital, Holles St., Dublin

0

0.00

Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda

*

N/A

Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin,

4

0.07

Our Lady’s Hospital, Cashelc

N/A

N/A

Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan

6

0.14

Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe

3

0.06

Roscommon County Hospital

3

0.09

Rotunda Hospital, Dublin

0

0.00

Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, Dublin

0

0.00

Sligo General Hospital

13

0.15

South Infirmary — Victoria University Hospital, Cork

4

0.07

South Tipperary General Hospital, Clonmel

1

0.01

St. Colmcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown

8

0.19

St. Finbarr’s Hospital, Corkb

3

0.11

St. James’s Hospital, Dublin

61

0.20

St. John’s Hospital, Limerick

2

0.08

St. Luke’s General Hospital, Kilkenny

10

0.11

St. Luke’s Hospital, Dublin

2

0.04

St. Mary’s Orthopaedic Hospital, Gurranebraher, Cork

0

0.00

St. Michael’s Hospital, Dun Laoghaire

2

0.08

St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin

28

0.16

University College Hospital, Galway

30

0.17

Waterford Regional Hospital

26

0.18

Wexford General Hospital

0

0.00

*No data received.

N/A, Not applicable.

a Rates calculated using the appropriate denominator data [Appenix 1: bed-days used or blood culture sets processed (B/Cs).

b In 2007, maternity services at Erinville Hospital and St. Finbarr's Hospital, Cork transferred to Cork University Maternity Hospital, which together with Cork University Hospital (CUH) composed CUH group. All data for CUH group in 2007 are presented under CUH.

c In 2007, acute services at Our Lady's Hospital, Cashel transferred to South Tipperary General Hospital, Clonmel.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Seán Barrett

Question:

203 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Health and Children the rationale behind the decision to outsource cervical screening services to a laboratory (details supplied) in view of the fact that Irish laboratories, whose staffs have provided this service for many years in the absence of a national screening programme, already meet international best practice criteria; if specialist graduates from the training programme established between the Irish cervical screening programme, the Academy of Medical Laboratory Sciences and DIT Kevin Street will be surplus to requirements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19283/08]

Finian McGrath

Question:

204 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on a case (details supplied). [19358/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

218 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the reasons it was decided to outsource cervical screening services to a company based in the US; her views on the impact this decision will have on health care personnel in this country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19458/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 203, 204 and 218 together.

The National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) have announced a preferred bidder for the provision of laboratory testing services for the National Cervical Screening Programme. This is an important milestone which will enable the NCSS to launch the first quality assured, population based National Cervical Screening Programme for women in Ireland aged 25-60 years.

In keeping with EU procurement legislation, the procurement process is being conducted in an open and competitive manner. Submissions were invited from local and international laboratories during the process. The NCSS has concluded that the preferred bidder can deliver a service that meets all of the required quality criteria. The Deputies will appreciate that quality is a critical requirement of the new programme. The National Hospitals Office (NHO) of the HSE has a commitment to staff currently employed in cytology services, and has met with their representative. Any decisions regarding reassignment of employees will be addressed after the National Cancer Screening Service has completed the procurement process for cytology services.

Hospital Services.

Joe McHugh

Question:

205 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount on average it costs for an orthopaedic surgeon to carry out a hip replacement; the cost to the Exchequer for funding all other services and assistance ancillary to the operation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19365/08]

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.

Joe McHugh

Question:

206 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of private operations by private consultants carried out in public facilities on an annual basis; the basis on which these consultants are supplied with ancillary services and assistance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19366/08]

I take it that the Deputy is referring to the private practice of public hospital consultants employed in public acute hospitals under the consultants' common contract. The provision of private care in public acute hospitals is a long standing feature of the Irish health care system. Over 2,500 beds in public hospitals are designated as private and semi-private. A ratio of 80:20 public/private applies on average across the entire acute system. The percentage of beds designated as private varies between individual hospitals; for example, there is a higher ratio of private beds in maternity and paediatric hospitals and a lower ratio in other hospitals.

Under the common contract, consultants are entitled to engage in private practice within the public hospital or hospitals in which they are employed. The extent to which consultants may engage in off-site practice is determined by the category of post which they hold and is subject to them satisfying the employing authority that they are fulfilling their contractual commitment to the public hospital(s). With regard to on-site private practice, a consultant's overall proportion of private to public patients should reflect the designated ratio of public to private beds.

I am concerned that there are instances where the ratio of private work has far exceeded the stated bed designation. This is a matter which is central to this Government's reform programme, in particular in relation to a new hospital consultants' contract. In this context, I should add that the new consultants' contract, which was accepted by the Irish Hospital Consultants Association on 16 May, will facilitate the appointment of Clinical Directors who will lead and manage consultants, as well as managing clinical budgets and services for patients. The Clinical Director will also have a pivotal role in monitoring compliance with the ratio of public to private practice, and taking corrective action where the private practice limit is exceeded. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the HSE to arrange to provide the detailed information requested by the Deputy directly to him as soon as possible.

Joe McHugh

Question:

207 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children if there are plans to remove the garden from St. Luke’s Hospital; the reason for this removal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19368/08]

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 question raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy in relation to the matter raised.

Health Services.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

208 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of beds available for drug detox in community based residential detox units, in medical detox units including stabilisation services, in residential rehabilitation units, in step-down and half way houses and in general and psychiatric hospitals; the corresponding figures for 2000; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19389/08]

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

Health Service Staff.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

209 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of medical and clerical staff employed by the Health Service Executive within its detoxification and rehabilitation residential services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19390/08]

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 health care professionals employed in the public health services. The Government has also invested heavily in the education and training of such personnel in order to secure a good supply of graduates to provide for the health care needs of the population into the future.

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

Catherine Byrne

Question:

210 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people on a waiting list for admission to residential detox services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19391/08]

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.

Hospital Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

211 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the provision of an eight bed hospice unit at Roscommon County Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19393/08]

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.

Denis Naughten

Question:

212 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the provision of a 14 bed hospice unit at Mayo General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19394/08]

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.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

213 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will undertake an immediate review as recommended by the recent OECD report which suggests that the Government take 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; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19395/08]

The OECD review of the Irish Public Service report — Ireland Towards an Integrated Public Service — includes a health sector Case Study on the reconfiguration of hospital services in the North East. The OECD state that the 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 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 for the region, it suggests a broader examination of international systems. This would help identify how other countries have met the needs of areas with characteristics similar to the North East.

The OECD took the view that an examination could include the possibility of having two hospitals, one regional and one general, in the North East. It added that the outcome of such an examination could equally be a reaffirmation of the plan for one acute hospital for the region. The OECD findings will need to be carefully considered in the context of the Transformation Programme for the North East. 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 focus of the Transformation Programme is to have acute and complex care moved from 5 to 2 hospital sites and 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.

Vaccination Programme.

Michael McGrath

Question:

214 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive the BCG vaccine. [19399/08]

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

Health Services.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

215 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason it has taken such an inordinate amount of time for a primary certificate examination for the disabled drivers to take place in the case of an application by a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19409/08]

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.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

216 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of young people awaiting orthodontic treatment in County Donegal; the number of orthodontists working in Donegal; if there are plans to increase the number of orthodontists in the county; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19428/08]

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.

Pat Breen

Question:

217 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. [19429/08]

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 case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 218 answered with Question No. 203.

Mental Health Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

219 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 153 of 29 April 2008, the classification of those children on the waiting list in County Clare as at 31 March 2008 for access to the child and adolescent mental health services; the number of those children who are awaiting intervention following notification of child abuse or neglect; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19459/08]

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 Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

220 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will expedite an application to the Health Service Executive for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19468/08]

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.

Grant Payments.

Finian McGrath

Question:

221 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will review the application for a motorised transport grant for a person (details supplied) in County Sligo. [19478/08]

The Department of Health and Children Motorised Transport Grant circular of March 2007 states that "The Health Service Executive may pay a grant towards the purchase of a vehicle and/or adaptations to a vehicle being purchased by a person with a severe disability who is 17 years or older and under 66 years of age, where a vehicle is essential for him / her to retain employment." My Department is aware of the issue of age related criteria for health allowances and grants. Having regard to equality legislation, my Department is considering the question of removing the upper age limit for this scheme.

Health Services.

Christy O'Sullivan

Question:

222 Deputy Christy O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the action being taken to alleviate the unnecessary stress and hardship to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [19479/08]

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.

Consultancy Contracts.

Michael Ring

Question:

223 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the expenditure by her Department on consultants to date in 2008; and if she will compare this to the expenditure on consultants for each of the past five years. [19502/08]

The information requested by the Deputy regarding expenditure on consultants by this Department is currently being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael Ring

Question:

224 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the number and cost of mobile phones or such communications equipment issued to programme managers, advisers, press officers and departmental personnel during each of the past three years; and the annual billing cost of same. [19517/08]

The information you requested is detailed in the following table.

Year

Total Amount

No. of Mobiles/Blackberry Devices

2005

113,825

173

2006

122,473

189

2007

140,140

196

Hospital Services.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

225 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children the name of the person with overall responsibility for the day to day construction of Tralee Community Hospital; the persons who will provide the medical expertise when the community hospital is opened; the proposed governance structure for the hospital when it is opened; if the patients of Loher and Dinish wards will be moved to the new community hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19541/08]

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

Health Service Staff.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

226 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children if the medical director has been appointed to the development board of the children’s hospital, Tallaght; if not, when such an appointment will be made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19542/08]

The National Paediatric Hospital Development Board has responsibility for planning, designing, building, furnishing and equipping the new national paediatric hospital. My Department is advised that the Development Board hopes to be in a position to appoint a Medical Director shortly.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

227 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of vacant beds in public nursing homes (details supplied) in County Mayo in view of the fact that the local health manager indicated that there were a number of beds vacant at a meeting with public representatives a number of weeks ago. [19545/08]

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

Health Service Staff.

Tom Hayes

Question:

228 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of neurologists per head of the population; the equivalent numbers for other European countries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19554/08]

Tom Hayes

Question:

229 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the recommendation from Comhairle na nOspidéal in recent years for a minimum of one neurologist per 100,000 people when the current level here stands at 20 neurologists; if there are plans in the next year to improve this situation; if this is considered suitable in view of the rising age of the population and the importance of adequate neurology care for older people; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19555/08]

Tom Hayes

Question:

230 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the action taken to tackle the future problems in neurology stemming from the projected increase in the incidence of neurological conditions due to an ageing population; the extra amount spent on neurology over the past ten years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19556/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 228 to 230, inclusive, together.

In recognition of the need to develop neurology and neurophysiology services additional revenue funding of €3m was allocated to the Health Service Executive (HSE) in 2006. In 2007 further additional revenue funding of €4m was allocated to support the continuing development of services in the area of neurosciences (neurology, neurophysiology and also neurosurgery services). There has been an increase in the number of consultant neurology posts arising from this investment. There are currently 24 approved posts of consultant neurologist in Ireland. This is an increase of 10 approved posts since the 2003 Comhairle na nOspideal report on neurology and neurophysiology. In addition, there are currently 7 approved posts of consultant clinical neurophysiologist, an increase of 4 approved posts since the Comhairle report. The HSE has made provision in its 2008 National Service Plan to progress the recruitment of a number of unfilled consultant neurologist and consultant neurophysiologist posts.

A Strategic Review of Neurology services in Ireland has been undertaken by the HSE. The Review was overseen by a multidisciplinary Steering Group whose aim was to identify the current level of service provision and future requirements for neurology and neurophysiology services in Ireland. The specific objectives were to:

1. Describe the epidemiology of neurological conditions in Ireland.

2. Evaluate current neurology services, including paediatrics and neurophysiology.

3. Review the evidence in relation to models of service delivery and make a recommendation on the preferred model for the Irish health system.

4. Identify requirements for the development of neurology and neurophysiology services nationally and prioritise service requirements.

5. Report to the Director of the National Hospitals Office.

Work on the review has recently been completed and the final draft report has been submitted to the Director of the National Hospitals Office for consideration. The review builds on the previous work done in 2003 by Comhairle na nOispidéal. The findings will help to inform the approach taken by the HSE to the future development of these services. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy on the additional issues raised.

Child Care Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

231 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the funding provided in each of the past seven years for all residential care placements for child care services; the funding for 2008; the corresponding figure for residential placements of separated children seeking asylum; the number of children and family social workers in each year in question and the corresponding figure for those working with separated children seeking asylum; the number of all reports, including child abuse and child welfare, to social work departments in each year in question and the corresponding figure for separated children seeking asylum; the number which required an initial assessment regarding possible abuse and an initial assessment regarding child welfare in each year and the corresponding figure for separated children seeking asylum; the number of cases which have been unallocated to social workers in each year and the corresponding figure for separated children seeking asylum; the number of children in residential care in each year in question and the corresponding figure for separated children seeking asylum; the corresponding numbers placed in foster care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19563/08]

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.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

232 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a commitment that a centre (details supplied) in Dublin 10 will be provided with sufficient funding to ensure that in September 2008 it can become fully operational hiring more staff and opening its doors to more children. [18863/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP) which replaced the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006 (EOCP), which was also administered by my Office. I understand that the Group in question received capital funding totalling €1.16 million under the EOCP and, as a result, has recently entered their new building.

The Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS) under the NCIP was introduced by my Office in January of this year and has an allocation of €154.2 million over three years. This Scheme will continue to support community-based childcare services to provide reduced childcare fees for disadvantaged parents, complementing the universal supports in place for all parents. The Group in question has been approved under the CCSS for transitional funding for the period January-June 2008 of €37,375. I understand that they received their first instalment of this grant on 22 February.

Community childcare services qualify for grant aid on the basis of the level of service they provide and the profile of the parents benefiting from their service. In general, the parent profile of services, and the amount of subvention they will receive, are determined on the basis of completed parent declaration forms which are returned as part of the application process. However, in the case of some specialist services, such as that operated by the Group in question, it is recognised that some additional arrangements may be necessary. Officials from my Office have been in correspondence and discussions with the manager of the service in this regard.

I am pleased to inform you that the service has been approved CCSS funding of €107,640 for the period July to December 2008. This level of funding is guaranteed for the start-up period of July-December 2008 and the level of funding for 2009 will be reviewed in the context of the level of service provided from September 2008. The Childcare Directorate of my Office has notified the Group of this decision.

Health Service Allowances.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

233 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if a review can or will be undertaken with regard to a mobility allowance application in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19576/08]

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

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

234 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if assistance will be offered to persons (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19577/08]

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.

Hospital Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

235 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans for the development of services at Portiuncula Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19667/08]

Denis Naughten

Question:

236 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the funds ring fenced by the Health Service Executive for the transfer of surgical services from Roscommon County Hospital; the timetable for its implementation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19676/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 235 and 236 together.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that it has conducted a review of services at Roscommon County Hospital and at Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe. The review was initiated in response to concerns raised by Comhairle na nOspidéal about the current service configuration for surgery and anaesthetics, at Roscommon and Portiuncula, the issues faced by the two small hospitals in maintaining surgical services independently, and the need for closer co-operation between them to ensure services are sustainable in future. The review will help to inform decisions about the most appropriate configuration of services at these hospitals in the future. My Department has been informed by the HSE that the Executive is at present considering the outcome of this review.

Vaccination Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

237 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in revaccinating children who received the out of date oral polio vaccine; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19677/08]

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

Health Services.

Enda Kenny

Question:

238 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children when a child (details supplied) will be called for speech therapy services; if owing to the long delay experienced she will examine the situation with the child’s waiting list; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19686/08]

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.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

239 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application for nursing home subvention in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [19727/08]

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.

Departmental Properties.

Niall Blaney

Question:

240 Deputy Niall Blaney asked the Minister for Health and Children if departmental guidelines have been produced under the Health (Amendment) (No. 3) Act 1996 or the Health Act 2004 relevant to the sale of land vested in the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19731/08]

Niall Blaney

Question:

241 Deputy Niall Blaney asked the Minister for Health and Children if departmental guidelines have been issued under the Health (Amendment) (No.3) Act 1996 or the Health Act 2004 which both referred to general directions as opposed to consent for the sale of Health Service Executive land (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19732/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 240 and 241 together.

The provisions of Part 5 of the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies (2001) sets out requirements in relation to the disposal of assets by the state bodies, including the HSE. The Board of the HSE has put in place a set of guidelines titled "Protocol for the Acquisition and Disposal of Property" which are consistent with and meet the requirements of Part 5 of the Code of Practice. The detailed protocol adopted by the HSE Board governs the sale of land vested in the HSE. No specific regulations relevant to property disposals have been made under the Health Act, 2004. I am satisfied that the requirements and protocols set out above deal adequately with the matter.

Vaccination Programme.

Michael McGrath

Question:

242 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the provision of a BCG vaccine for new born babies in Cork city and county; the number of children currently awaiting the vaccine; and the expected waiting period. [19766/08]

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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

243 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will clarify that the multi-annual funding for the disability sector promised in the programme for Government is being fulfilled in 2008. [19770/08]

The Government has fulfilled it's promise in relation to the 2008 element of the Multi-Annual Investment Programme 2006-2009 by allocating additional funding of €50m to the HSE in the 2008 Budget. The Health Service Executive proposed to allocate this funding, in its approved service plan for 2008, as follows:

Services for Persons with an Intellectual Disability and those with Autism: €29.34m

Residential/Community Care — 200 additional residential places

Day Care — 467 additional day places

Respite Care — 53 additional respite places.

Services for Persons with Physical or Sensory Disabilities: €10.82m

Residential Care — 80 additional residential places

PA/Home Support hours — 200,000 additional PA/Home Support hours.

Disability Act: €9.8m

This will create 140 additional multidisciplinary team posts to provide assessment and ongoing intervention services to children with a disability and in particular with reference to the implementation of the Disability Act, 2005.

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 Waiting Lists.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

244 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 175 of 12 March 2008, when a person (details supplied) in County Meath will be seen by a consultant in view of the fact that they continue to suffer with considerable pain. [19772/08]

The Health Service Executive has advised my Department that it has been in contact with the Deputy regarding this case. However my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter further investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

General Medical Services Scheme.

Rory O'Hanlon

Question:

245 Deputy Rory O’Hanlon asked the Minister for Health and Children the arrangements in place to ensure that patients entitled to GMS will have access to a general practitioner in areas where doctors are not accepting new people on their lists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19773/08]

Under the Health Act, 2004, the Health Service Executive (HSE) has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for arrangements to ensure appropriate service delivery for General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme (medical card and GP visit card) patients. The arrangements for the provision of publicly funded GP services, including those provided under the GMS Scheme, are under consideration. I regard the existing arrangements in relation to access by GPs to public contracts as unnecessarily restrictive and it is my wish that new contractual arrangements for the provision of publicly-funded GP services should ensure that HSE contracts are open to all suitably qualified and equipped doctors.

Health Services.

Liz McManus

Question:

246 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason there are no resources for palliative care nursing services in County Wicklow. [19774/08]

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.

Child Care Services.

Noel Coonan

Question:

247 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children from north Tipperary that are classified as at serious risk and who are currently on waiting lists for assessment by a social worker and looking to avail of social work services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19780/08]

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.

Health Service Staff.

Noel Coonan

Question:

248 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Health and Children if the number of social workers working in north Tipperary has increased or decreased since the Health Service Executive recruitment embargo in September 2007; if the number of all reports from north Tipperary, including child abuse and child welfare, to social work departments has increased or decreased in the same period; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19781/08]

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.

Noel Coonan

Question:

249 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of social workers that were working in north Tipperary in 1998; the number of children availing of social work services in the same area at that time; if she will provide the same information for 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19782/08]

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.

Noel Coonan

Question:

250 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of vacant social worker posts in north Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19783/08]

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.

Community Care.

Pat Breen

Question:

251 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 195 and 197 of 8 April 2008, if her attention has been drawn to plans to provide a facility (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19813/08]

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 again 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 as a matter of urgency.

Child Care Services.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

252 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children if community based homework clubs will be considered for funding under the national child care investment programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19818/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP) which will invest €575 million over 5 years in developing childcare services. The NCIP came into effect in January 2006 and aims to provide a proactive response to the development of quality childcare supports and services, which are grounded in an understanding of local needs. It is building on the success of the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006 (EOCP) and has a target of creating 50,000 new childcare places supported by capital grant aid of which will include 5,000 after school places and 10,000 pre-school education places aimed at 3 to 4 year olds.

Services eligible for support include those providing care for babies, full-day care, part-time, sessional playschool and other pre-school places, school age childcare which includes homework clubs, and childminding. Special consideration is given to supporting services which provide a range of these services. Application for support should, in the first instance, be made to City and County Childcare Committees.

Obesity Levels.

John O'Mahony

Question:

253 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children the measures she is taking to tackle the problem of obesity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19824/08]

The Government has agreed to the establishment of an Inter-Departmental Group (IDG) which will facilitate intersectoral collaboration on the prevention of chronic diseases. It is intended that measures to tackle obesity and to promote good health will be advanced through the IDG. My Department will be publishing our first National Nutrition Policy later this year. Recommendations will focus, primarily, on the nutrition needs of the 0-18 year age group.

My Department and the Department of Education and Science have been involved in developing healthy eating guidelines for schools. Guidelines for preschools and primary schools are already developed and appropriate healthy eating training by community dieticians with preschool and primary school staff is currently underway. Post-primary school guidelines will be launched in the coming weeks. Guidelines on levels of physical activity are currently being devised by the Population Health Directorate of the Health Service Executive. The Chronic Disease Framework, which I launched on the 10th April 2008, acknowledges the burden of chronic disease and the need for an integrated approach on prevention to tackle lifestyle factors including obesity. The Cardiovascular Health Policy Group, due to report this summer, will also be advising on measures to tackle lifestyle issues like obesity, at population level as well as in the primary care setting.

The Health Service Executive has established a Working Group to implement the recommendations of The Report of the National Taskforce on Obesity, for which it has the lead responsibility. A sum of €3 million was allocated for this purpose in 2006. This is in addition to the annual spend of €25 million on health promotion activities, €5 million of which is utilised in anti-obesity initiatives.

Care of the Elderly.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

254 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of public long-term care beds for the elderly in Limerick city, Limerick west and County Clare; the comparative figures for such beds in 1998; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19839/08]

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.

Departmental Reports.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

255 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the recommendations of the Judge Harding Clarke report into maternity services at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda that have been implemented; the recommendations still to be implemented; the timeframe for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19845/08]

The Health Service Executive is overseeing the implementation of the recommendations of the Lourdes Hospital Inquiry Report as it relates to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy on the implementation of the recommendations in the Report in respect of the Hospital.

Following the publication of the Inquiry Report additional funding of €3m was allocated to the Health Service Executive in respect of patient safety and risk management measures nationally. The funding was targeted specifically at implementing the findings of the Inquiry Report and the Madden Report on Post Mortem Practice and Procedures. A number of other initiatives have been taken at national level since the publication of the Inquiry Report and which are designed to strengthen the patient safety framework nationally;

the establishment of the Commission on Patient Safety and Quality Assurance

the establishment of the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA)

the enactment of the Medical Practitioners Act 2007.

Last year I established a special Commission on Patient Safety and Quality Assurance. The overall objective of the Commission is to develop clear and practical recommendations to ensure that quality and safety of care for patients is paramount within the healthcare system. The Commission is due to report to me in July of this year.

The Health Information and Quality Authority was also established as part of the Health Reform Programme. A core function of the Authority is to set standards on safety and quality of services and to monitor compliance on the part of the HSE and service providers with these standards in an open and transparent way. Other main functions of the Authority relating directly to patient safety include undertaking investigations as to the safety, quality and standards of services where it is believed that there is a serious risk to the health or welfare of a person receiving services.

In addition, the main objective of the Medical Practitioners Act 2007 is to provide for a modern, efficient, transparent and accountable system for the regulation of the medical profession, which will satisfy the public and the profession that all medical practitioners are appropriately qualified and competent to practise in a safe manner on an ongoing basis. Key areas addressed in the Act include registration, maintenance of professional competence, fitness to practise procedures and new provisions for supervising education & training at basic and specialist level. The Act provides for a Medical Council and Fitness to Practise Committee comprising a majority of persons who are not medical practitioners and for Fitness to Practise inquiries to be held in public.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

256 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the administrators of the nursing home refund scheme have refused repayments for periods when patients resided in a contract bed in private homes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19872/08]

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 Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006 provides a clear legal framework to repay recoverable health charges for publicly funded long term residential care including contract beds in private homes. Recoverable health charges are charges which were imposed on persons with full eligibility under the Health (Charges for In-patient Services) Regulations 1976 as amended in 1987 or charges for in-patient services only, raised under the Institutional Assistance Regulations 1954 as amended in 1965. A patient may have occupied a contract bed in a private home but may not have paid any recoverable health charges and would therefore not be due a repayment. The Act provides an independent appeals process whereby applicants can appeal the decision of the scheme administrator.

Denis Naughten

Question:

257 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of staff in the appeals office reviewing the decision of the scheme administrator of the nursing home refund scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19873/08]

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. Following the establishment of the appeals office a temporary appeals officer was seconded from the Chief State Solicitor's Office. Subsequently, a recruitment process was undertaken by the Public Appointments Service and a panel of appeal officers has been established. A second appeals officer is due to begin work shortly. In addition, four administrative staff support the work of the appeals officer.

Medical Cards.

Pat Breen

Question:

258 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when an application will be processed for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19880/08]

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.

In general, eligibility for medical cards and GP visit cards is determined following an examination of the means of the applicant and his/her dependants (income and relevant outgoings). The main exception is persons aged 70 and over, who have an automatic statutory entitlement to a medical card. 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.

Hospital Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

259 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when tests and x-ray results carried out at Blanchardstown Hospital in July 2007 will be relayed to St. James’s Hospital Dublin and Clane Hospital, County Kildare respectively in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19902/08]

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.

Health Services.

James McDaid

Question:

260 Deputy James McDaid asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children who require speech and language therapy here; the number of speech and language therapists working here; the number of colleges and institutes that have speech and language therapy courses; and the locations of same. [19937/08]

There has been a growing demand for, and investment in, speech and language therapy services over the last number of years. A particular priority for this Department and the Department of Education and Science in recent years has been the expansion of the supply of therapy graduates. In this regard, training places for speech and language therapists have increased by 320% since 1997 (from 25 to 105). My Department has worked closely with the HSE in the provision of clinical placements for these students; an essential component of the therapy degree programmes.

There are currently four Speech and Language Therapy courses in Ireland — 3 undergraduate courses and one graduate entry course. The undergraduate courses are in University College Cork (UCC), Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and the National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG). The undergraduate courses are of 4 years duration leading to an honours degree. The graduate entry course is provided in the University of Limerick (UL) and is of 2 years duration. For entry to this course students are required to have a relevant undergraduate degree at honours level. The number of speech and language therapists employed in the public health service has grown from 282 wholetime equivalents in 1997 to 721 wholetime equivalents at end March 2008, a 156% growth in that period.

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

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

261 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the situation regarding access to speech therapy at the Bandon Clinic in County Cork; the number of persons on the waiting list for this service; and when she will provide a demand led service. [19938/08]

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:

262 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [19973/08]

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.

Consultancy Contracts.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

263 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount to date that has been granted to the authors of the Teamwork report; if the personnel are still under contract with the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20003/08]

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.

Ministerial Staff.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

264 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of civil servants who have worked in the constituency offices of the Minister and her junior Ministers since 1997 to date in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20056/08]

Guidelines issued by the Department of Finance specify that

the number of staff in a Minister's and a Minister of State's Constituency Office may not exceed 6 and 5 respectively

the number of staff in a Minister's and a Minister of State's Private Office may not exceed 10 and 7 respectively and

where a Minister of State is assigned to more than one Department, the total number of staff between all Private Offices may not exceed 9. (There should be only one Constituency Office with a maximum of 5 staff)

The historic information requested by the Deputy in respect of the number of civil servants who have worked in the constituency offices of the Minister and Ministers of State is not readily available. The following table details the number of civil servants (wholetime equivalents) working in my office and the offices of the Ministers of State in this Department on 5th May 2008.

Minister Mary Harney T.D.

Total Number of Civil Servants (WTE)

Constituency Office

2

Minister of State Brendan Smith T.D.

Total Number of Civil Servants (WTE)

Constituency Office

3.6

Minister of State Pat the Cope Gallagher T.D.

Total Number of Civil Servants (WTE)

Constituency Office

2

Minister of State Máire Hoctor T.D.

Total Number of Civil Servants (WTE)

Constituency Office

2

Minister of State Jimmy Devins T.D.

Total Number of Civil Servants (WTE)

Constituency Office

1

Proposed Legislation.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

265 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Transport if he is bringing forward a land Bill to control the price of land being acquired for new road developments or road widening projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19561/08]

I am concerned at the significant costs to the State associated with land acquisition for transport projects. However, due cognisance must also be taken of the rights of individuals, as protected by the Constitution, in acquiring land compulsorily. I have asked my Department to examine and report to me later this year whether there are legislative measures, within the constraints of the constitutional protections afforded to property owners, which could be taken to materially reduce the cost of land acquisition for transport projects.

Road Safety.

Brian Hayes

Question:

266 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Transport if he is satisfied with the policy of the National Car Test company to limit the certificate time for imported cars from Japan, Korea and other jurisdictions in view of the fact that the fee of €49 is the same for a two year certificate as for a limited certificate; and his views on whether the fee should be amended. [19353/08]

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No 477 of 2006), the Road Safety Authority has responsibility for the operation of the car testing service. It is also responsible for the contract with the National Car Testing Service.

Road Network.

Denis Naughten

Question:

267 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport, further to Parliamentary Question No. 88 of 3 April 2008, when an order will be made designating the road as a motorway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19362/08]

Under Section 8 of the Roads Act 1993 the National Roads Authority (NRA) may apply to the Minster for Transport to re-designate a road to be a motorway subject to certain conditions being met. This includes a requirement for a public consultation process. That process is being undertaken in connection with an application by the National Roads Authority for redesignation of elements of the N6, N7, N8 and N9 as motorways. The time limit for forwarding written submissions to the Minister expired on Friday 28th March 2008. A number of written submissions have been received and these submissions are currently under consideration in my Department. Once that process has been concluded, I will make a decision on whether to grant the application from the NRA.

End-of-Life Vehicles.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

268 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport the number of letters that have been sent out to owners of re-sold cars that were written off; the number that will be sent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19419/08]

Data relating to some 5,400 written off vehicles which was provided voluntarily to my Department by one major insurer has been analysed against the 2.5 million active vehicles on the NVDF and as result of this process the owners of 261 vehicles have been written to, advising them that the roadworthiness status of their vehicle should be checked. Of the 261 vehicles concerned the NVDF records indicate that registered ownership changed in the case of 187 vehicles since the write-off date. Other insurers have also agreed to provide the data voluntarily and officials in my Department are currently in discussion with the Irish Insurance Federation on their behalf in relation to the arrangements for the transfer of this data.

Traffic Management.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

269 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport his views on the recent proposals of the chairman of the Joint Committee on Transport to ban cars from certain streets in Dublin city centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19420/08]

I have not yet received proposals from the Joint Committee on Transport regarding this matter. When I do I will convey this to the group established and chaired by the Dublin City Manager, to develop a new Dublin City Centre Traffic Management Plan to address the traffic management issues which will arise from the construction of major Transport 21 projects, particularly in the city centre. The plan will also take account of the impact of other works, including the renewal of water, gas and electricity services and a range of private developments planned for the city. The Group includes the chief executives of the transport agencies and representatives of business organisations. The City Council is working to ensure that the Traffic Management Plan will be in place and tested well before initial work on the various T21 investment projects commences.

The objective of this plan will be to ensure continued access to the City Centre and its retail, cultural and leisure attractions. All the agencies participating in the formulation of the plan are keenly aware of the importance of maintaining access to the centre of Dublin and of retaining and enhancing its competitive edge. The proposals to which the Deputy has referred are, I presume, those outlined recently in the media by the Chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport. I understand that the Chairman has indicated that he intends to present this plan to me. When I receive the plan, it is my intention to ask the Chairman to take the report into consideration in the deliberations of the group.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

270 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport the way he will ensure that impact on traders caused by the construction of metro north will be minimised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19421/08]

Dublin City Traffic Management is a matter for Dublin City Council who are currently working on a Traffic Management Plan.

Light Rail Projects.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

271 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport his views on using underground power cables for future Luas and metro lines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19422/08]

The issue raised by the Deputy is a technical matter for the Railway Procurement Agency (RPA). I have asked the Agency to respond directly to the Deputy on the matter.

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael Ring

Question:

272 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Transport the expenditure by his Department on consultants to date in 2008; and if he will compare this to the expenditure on consultants for each of the past five years. [19506/08]

The expenditure on consultants in 2008 to date (as of 15 May 2008) is €300,035. The following table sets out the expenditure on consultants from 1 January to 15 May for each of the past five years.

(1 January-15 May)

2008

300,035

2007

3,305,165

2006

680,820

2005

344,918

2004

1,216,800

Michael Ring

Question:

273 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Transport the number and cost of mobile phones or such communications equipment issued to programme managers, advisers, press officers and departmental personnel during each of the past three years; and the annual billing cost of same. [19521/08]

There are approximately 190 mobile phones/blackberries in use by personnel of my Department including those issued to advisers and press officers. No programme manager has been appointed to my Department in the period covered by this Question. In each of the years 2005-2007, the cost of mobile phones has been €107,191, €153,628, and €166,397 respectively. A breakdown of individual items of expenditure is not readily available from my Department's records.

Ministerial Appointments.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

274 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the number of directors he has appointed to the board of Aer Lingus; if there are more Government slots on the board of Aer Lingus still to be filled; if so, when he will fill these positions; the names and relevant qualifications of all current Government appointed directors to the board of Aer Lingus; the directions he has given these directors particularly in terms of the critical maintenance of Irish air connectivity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19855/08]

I have appointed three directors to the Board of Aer Lingus and this fulfils the quota of Ministerial Nominees permitted under the terms of the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the company. The nominees are Mr. Francis Hackett, Mr. Chris Wall and Dr. Colin Hunt. All three directors are well established in the business sector and bring a wealth of commercial, economic and legal expertise to the board. Under Company Law all directors are obliged to pursue the best interests of the company. Subject to that duty the three Minister's Nominees have been mandated to seek to ensure that all future decisions of the company that have significant implications for wider Government, aviation or regional development policies are considered at board level. In any such decisions, the State-nominated directors are directed to seek to reconcile commercial and public policy objectives.

Air Services.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

275 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the air routes currently the subject of aviation PSOs; the value of each aviation PSO route; his views on the extension of the PSO mechanism on the Waterford-Dublin route for example; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19857/08]

Under the terms of the relevant EU Council Regulation, (EEC) No. 2408/92 of 23 July 1992, Member States can establish a PSO route in respect of scheduled air services to an airport serving a peripheral or development region in its territory, where such air services are considered vital for the economic development of the regions concerned and where air carriers are not prepared to provide them on a commercial basis.

The current PSO 3 year programme comprises the following return flights to Dublin:

No.

Kerry

3 return flights

Galway

3 return flights

Sligo and Donegal

2 return flights

Derry

2 return flights

Knock

1 return flight

The contract cost of the programme over the current contractual period (22 July 2005 to 21 July 2008) is:

€m

Kerry

9.025

Galway

8.999

Sligo/Donegal

15.526

Derry/Knock

12.266

Grand Total

45.816

I recently announced the results of the tender competition for the next contractual period (22 July 2008-21 July 2011). The cost of the programme over that period is expected to be as follows:

€m

Kerry

5.250

Galway

10.016

Sligo/Donegal

16.925

Derry

7.568

Knock

4.865

Grand Total

44.624

The question of introducing a PSO air service on the Waterford-Dublin route was first raised in 1993. I understand that the E.U. Commission refused to sanction the proposal because the route is relatively short and because Waterford was already adequately served by other transport modes. In the interim, the relevant surface transport links have been upgraded and continue to be improved. In the circumstances, I have no proposals to revive the question of including the airport in the Irish PSO air service programme. However €22.3 million has been allocated to Waterford airport under the regional airports capital expenditure grant scheme as part of Transport 21. In 2007, Waterford received €1.3m in operational subvention for the airport and I expect to consider a further application for subvention to the airport in the current year.

Road Network.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

276 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport the speed limit on the N8 between Fermoy and Watergrasshill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19883/08]

Under the Road Traffic Act 2004 a default speed limit of 100km/h applies to a rural national road. It is a matter for Cork County Council, with the consent of the National Roads Authority, to determine if a special speed limit should be applied in lieu of the default speed limit at any location on a national road. I have no function in relation to speed limits on the N8.

Ministerial Staff.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

277 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport the number of civil servants who have worked in the constituency offices of the Minister and his Ministers of State since 1997 to date in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20060/08]

Information on the number of individual civil servants who have worked in the constituency offices of the previous Ministers and Ministers of State, since this Department was established in 2002, is set out in the table. The number of staff in a Minister and Minister of State's Constituency Office may not exceed 6 and 5 respectively. This number includes both ministerial appointments and civil servants.

Year

Minister

Numbers of Civil Servants in the constituency office

June 2002–2004

Seamus Brennan

3

2004–2007

Martin Cullen

2

2007–date

Noel Dempsey

2

Year

Minister of State

Numbers of Civil Servants in the constituency office

June 2002–2004

Jim McDaid

2

2004–2005

Ivor Callely

3

2006–June 2007

Pat The Cope Gallagher

4

June 2007–May 2008

No Minister of State during this period

0

May 2008

Noel Ahern

Staff are currently being assigned to this office

Consultancy Contracts.

Michael Ring

Question:

278 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the expenditure by his Department on consultants to date in 2008; and if he will compare this to the expenditure on consultants for each of the past five years. [19501/08]

The Department of Foreign Affairs is responsible for two Votes — Vote 28 (Foreign Affairs) and Vote 29 (International Cooperation). I have set out in the table details of expenditure under sub-head A7 (Consultancy) under both Votes since 1 January 2008, and for each of the previous 5 years.

Year

Subhead A7 Expenditure Vote 28

Subhead A7 Expenditure Vote 29

(€)

(€)

2003

630,295

930,000

2004

812,174

1,338,000

2005

732,532

1,699,000

2006

592,317

2,248,000

2007

245,462

2,840,000

2008 (to-date)

52,120

1,080,000

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

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael Ring

Question:

279 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number and cost of mobile phones or such communications equipment issued to programme managers, advisers, press officers and departmental personnel during each of the past three years; and the annual billing cost of same. [19516/08]

The table sets out the number and cost of mobile phones, or such communications equipment, issued to staff in my Department for the past three years.

Year

Number of mobile Phones

Annual cost of mobile phones

2005

241

205,107.27

2006

215

179,886.85

2007

220

166,909.03

Passport Applications.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

280 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the reason for the difficulty in issuing a passport for a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan in view of the fact that they were previously issued a passport and the current application is simply to replace the first passport which has been lost. [19736/08]

The Passport Office can only issue a passport to an Irish Citizen. The person in question was born in Ireland in 2005. Under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 2004, persons born in the State after 1 January 2005, where neither parent is an Irish or British citizen or otherwise entitled to reside without restriction in the State or in Northern Ireland, may claim citizenship by birth in the State only where a parent has been lawfully resident in the State for 3 years of the 4 years preceding their birth. In all such cases, it is the practice of the Passport Office to seek evidence, in the form of official documentation, of lawful residence in the State by one or both parents.

An application for an Irish passport was first submitted on behalf of the child by his mother to the Passport Office in November, 2005. This application was approved and a passport was issued in December, 2005. The passport was reported lost by the applicant's mother and an application for a replacement passport was received on 21 February, 2008. In line with routine procedure in respect of lost or stolen passports, it was necessary for the applicant's mother to re-submit original papers including evidence of citizenship. Upon checking of these papers, it was the view — wrongly as it turned out — that satisfactory evidence of reckonable residency in the State had not been provided and that the applicant's entitlement to Irish citizenship had not been established. The application was therefore rejected on 10 March, 2008.

Both applications were subsequently re-examined in detail by the Passport Office. Based on this review, the Passport Office is satisfied that the applicant is a citizen and therefore entitled to an Irish passport. A replacement passport was issued on 16 May 2008. The Passport Office has also been in contact with the applicant's mother to apologise for the error and for the inconvenience.

Ministerial Staff.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

281 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of civil servants who have worked in the constituency offices of the Minister and Ministers of State since 1997 to date in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20055/08]

The requested details for each Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister of State at my Department during the period in question are set out below:

Minister for Foreign Affairs Minister Ray Burke T.D.

June 1997 to October 1997

Four civil servants were employed in the constituency office of the Minister.

Minister David Andrews T.D.

October 1997–January 2000

No civil servants were employed in the constituency office of the Minister.

Minister Brian Cowen T.D.

January 2000–September 2004

Four civil servants were employed in the constituency office of the Minister.

Minister Dermot Ahern T.D.

September 2004 to May 2008

Three civil servants were employed in the constituency office of the Minister on a full time basis and one on a part time basis.

Minister Micheál Martin T.D.

7 May 2008 to date

The staffing arrangements for my constituency office are still under consideration.

Minister of State for Overseas Development Ms. Liz O'Donnell T.D.

July 1997 to June 2002

Two civil servants were employed in the constituency office of the Minister of State.

Mr. Tom Kitt T.D.

June 2002 to September 2004

Four civil servants were employed in the constituency office of the Minister of State.

Mr. Conor Lenihan T.D.

October 2004 to June 2007

Three civil servants were employed in the constituency office of the Minister of State.

Mr. Michael Kitt T.D.

June 2007 to May 2008

Three civil servants were employed in the constituency office of the Minister of State.

Mr. Peter Power T.D.

14 May 2008 to date

The staffing arrangements for the Minister of State's constituency office are still under consideration.

Minister of State for European Affairs Mr. Dick Roche T.D.

June 2002 to September 2004

Three civil servants were employed in the constituency office of the Minister of State.

Mr. Noel Treacy T.D.

September 2004 to June 2007

Three civil servants were employed in the constituency office of the Minister of State on a full time basis and one on a part time basis.

Mr. Dick Roche T.D.

June 2007 to date

Four civil servants were employed in the constituency office of the Minister of State on a full time basis and one on a part time basis.

Work Permits.

James Reilly

Question:

282 Deputy James Reilly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the procedure to be followed by a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19402/08]

The Employment Permits Section of my Department informs me that the initial application made by the applicant for a work permit under the Spousal/Dependant scheme was refused. This decision has been appealed and is pending further information to be submitted by the applicant. According to correspondence received in the Employment Permits Section, this should take the applicant approximately two weeks to submit. The Appeals Officer will issue a decision in this case as soon as the information is made available.

Job Creation.

Michael Ring

Question:

283 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her views on whether the commitment of 50% of greenfield projects in the BMW region should be re-affirmed (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19272/08]

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment (FDI) to Ireland and its regions. The marketing of individual areas for new or expansion FDI investments and jobs is a day-to-day operational matter for the Agency. For the period 2000 to 2006 IDA Ireland had set itself a high-level performance target for the Objective 1 (BMW) Area, which committed the Agency to work to deliver a target of 50% of all new Greenfield jobs to be located in the Objective 1 Area. Despite difficult global trading conditions, substantial progress was achieved against this target and in that period 36% of all new Greenfield jobs were located in the area. At the end of 2007, the latest date for which figures are available, there were 26,430 people employed in IDA supported companies in the BMW Region, which represents almost 20% of all IDA supported employment in the country.

The knowledge intensive FDI for which Ireland now competes favours locations in or near centres of urban scale, where it has access to the concentrations of infrastructure, skills and services it needs. Accordingly, IDA Ireland has aligned its regional strategy with the National Spatial Strategy and is focused on delivering investments to the Gateway and Hub locations. In this regard the target now for IDA Ireland is to locate 60% of new investments outside of the Greater Dublin Area. The strategy in place to achieve this involves matching investor requirements with the competencies, infrastructure and critical mass of the Gateway and Hub location. The key sectors of focus for IDA are Life Sciences, Information and Communications Technologies and high value Services activities. In this connection, it must be remembered that, under the revised EU Regional Aid Guidelines, the BMW and South East Regions are the only areas where regional aid is available up to 2013.

I am satisfied that the work of the Agency on the ground, together with the continued roll out of the National Development Plan will continue to bear fruit in terms of investment and job creation for the people of the BMW Region.

Consumer Protection.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

284 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the anticipated benefits for house purchasers arising from the application of consumer protection law to real property transactions, as a result of the Consumer Protection Act 2007; if, in particular, a reduction in the conveyancing costs for intending purchasers is anticipated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19407/08]

I would advise the Deputy that I have no direct responsibility in relation to property transactions or in relation to the level of conveyancing costs attending to such transactions. In so far as the Consumer Protection Act 2007 is concerned, the Act, whilst not dealing with issues such as the cost of specific products or services, does contain provisions applicable to all sectors which prohibit traders from engaging in unfair commercial practices including misleading actions, misleading omissions and aggressive commercial practices.

In that regard, any consumer who believes that they have suffered as a result of being misled in relation to the price of a good or service, including in relation to a property conveyancing service, may wish to contact the National Consumer Agency which is the body responsible for enforcing the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act 2007. The Deputy will be aware that the Agency is independent in the exercise of its statutory functions.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

285 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason regulations in the safety, health and welfare at work (construction) regulations 2006 are being postponed until 9 July 2009 as stated in S.I. No. 130 of 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19411/08]

The Statutory Instrument 130 of 2008 deferred the introduction of the requirement for employers to provide training to employees in respect to specific tasks listed in Schedule 4 of Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2006 (S. I. No. 504 of 2006). The tasks involved are:

(i) mobile tower scaffold (where the employee has not been trained in basic or advanced scaffolding),

(ii) signing, lighting and guarding on roads,

(iii) locating under-ground services, and

(iv) shotfiring.

The reason for the deferral was that, due to problems in the accessing of certified training courses, it was not practicable for the required numbers of employees to obtain the required competence levels to obtain the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card as described in the 2006 regulations. It should be noted, however, that the recent statutory instrument did not defer the introduction of the requirement for competence and CSCS recognition for other tasks listed in the 2006 Construction Regulations. These tasks are:

(i) self erecting tower crane operation — where the employee has not been trained in tower crane operation

(ii) mini-digger operation — where the employee has not been trained in 1800 excavator operation.

Departmental Agencies.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

286 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she has had contact with FÁS regarding the awarding of an advertising contract to a local media outlet, as identified in a recent Comptroller and Auditor General report; if she has expressed concerns to FÁS over procurement and contract awarding practices; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19412/08]

The report referred to by the Deputy deals with a number of issues which arose in recent audits of Non-commercial Semi-State Bodies, including FÁS and I have discussed this matter with the Director General of FÁS. The issues referred to by the Comptroller and Auditor General had been previously identified in a report by the FÁS Internal Audit Unit which was subsequently forwarded by FÁS to the Comptroller and Auditor General. The issues identified in the report arose in the period 2002-2005. FÁS has already taken a number of steps in response to its internal audit report, on which the Comptroller and Auditor General's report is based. It has clarified its procedures and strengthened its internal controls.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

287 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if particular assistance is available for professional and technically trained disabled persons. [19462/08]

Under the aegis of my Department FÁS labour market services for disabled people have been mainstreamed, in line with best practice internationally. This means that the objective is the systematic integration of disabled people into the open labour market by actively creating conditions whereby disabled people can compete and operate in the labour market on an equitable basis with their non-disabled peers.

FÁS has been making considerable efforts to encourage disabled jobseekers, regardless of their educational or working background, to register with FÁS Employment Services. In particular, FÁS supports GET AHEAD which is an organisation that assists disabled third level students or graduates seeking employment to find work appropriate to their qualifications. This organisation operates a work placement initiative in partnership with large companies. Graduates with disabilities who are finding it difficult to get employment are encouraged by FÁS to familiarise themselves with the service provided by GET AHEAD. They may be contacted at AHEAD, Anglesea House, 63 Carysfort Ave, Blackrock, Co Dublin, telephone number 01- 2789325.

A job seeker with a disability should initially call to the local FÁS Office and discuss his or her options with an Employment Services Officer (ESO). The ESO is the access point to all FÁS training and employment services. FÁS staff have considerable experience in assisting unemployed people, including those with disabilities and across a wide range of backgrounds, on the options to assist people access labour market opportunities, or return to employment. All vacancies advertised by FÁS are open to disabled people, as indeed are all FÁS training courses and employment programmes. FÁS has in place a series of employer supports that are specifically for the employment of disabled people. Full details of these supports are available from the FÁS Employment Service Offices or on the disability portal of the FÁS website at www.fas.ie.

Consultancy Contracts.

Michael Ring

Question:

288 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the expenditure by her Department on consultants to date in 2008; and if she will compare this to the expenditure on consultants for each of the past five years. [19498/08]

The information requested by the Deputy is as follows:

Year

January to end-April 2008

514,367

2007

3,096,703

2006

1,641,048

2005

4,593,950

2004

6,103,087

2003

6,258,496

I should point out that the figures for 2006, 2007 and 2008 refer to consultancies as defined by the revised 2006 Guidelines issued by the Department of Finance. Figures for the earlier years predate these revised guidelines and represent total expenditure by my Department on consultancies, contractors and external service providers — categories which we had previously grouped together as "consultancies" when replying to previous Parliamentary Questions on this topic.

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael Ring

Question:

289 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number and cost of mobile phones or such communications equipment issued to programme managers, advisers, press officers and departmental personnel during each of the past three years; and the annual billing cost of same. [19513/08]

The table shows the details of mobile phones and BlackBerry devices issued to programme managers, advisers, press officers and personnel in my Department over the past three years.

2005

2006

2007

2008 (4 months)

*Number of phones/devices allocated

314

350

323

302

Hardware Cost of new/replacement devices

€18,690

€14,110

€28,034

€3,189

Annual Billing Cost

€188,699

€235,060

€226,325

€80,818

*The number of phones is the total allocated to staff for the year in question, not newly issued phones.

Official Engagements.

Michael Ring

Question:

290 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will confirm if she had an official meeting with a company (details supplied); and if she was accompanied by officials from her Department at this meeting. [19526/08]

I can confirm that a meeting took place with the company. The Chief Executive of Enterprise Ireland was also present.

Work Permits.

Dan Neville

Question:

291 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the status of an application for a person (details supplied). [19539/08]

The Employment Permits Section of my Department informs me that this application was refused on the grounds that it is current Government policy to issue new employment permits only for highly skilled, highly paid positions or for non-EEA nationals already legally resident in the State on valid employment permits. Furthermore, the newspaper advertisements submitted in support of the application were out of date as a permit must be applied for within 60 days of the advertisements being posted. Having examined the appeal, the Appeals Officer has upheld the original decision in this case.

County Enterprise Boards.

David Stanton

Question:

292 Deputy David Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount of funding allocated to each city and county enterprise board each year for the past five years respectively; the amount of same which was used by the boards for administration purposes; the amount used for grant aid to businesses and projects; the number of projects which received funding from each board each year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19589/08]

The 35 County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) were set up in 1993 to provide support for micro-enterprises in the start-up and expansion phases, to promote and develop indigenous micro-enterprise potential and to stimulate economic activity and entrepreneurship at local level. The CEBs deliver a series of Programmes to underpin this role and they can provide both financial and non-financial assistance to a project promoter.

The Boards are widely dispersed geographically and provide a single point of contact at local level for new and established small businesses. All areas of the country are served by and benefit from, the full range of Enterprise Board grant supports and entrepreneurial development programmes. Subject to certain eligibility criteria enterprises may access assistance and support from the CEBs. The forms of financial assistance which are available, subject to certain restrictions, include Capital Grants, Employment Grants and Feasibility Study Grants. The provision of non-financial assistance can take the form of a wide range of business advice such as Programmes covering Business Management, Mentoring, E-commerce, Enterprise Education, and Women in Business networks.

The cost of administering the CEB network is primarily made up of payroll costs and associated expenditure — travel costs, office accommodation, etc. Typically, each CEB would have between 4 and 5 staff. The total number of staff employed by the CEBs nationally is about 150, a figure that has been broadly constant for several years. The focus of CEB activity has been increasingly on the provision of "soft" supports — management training, mentoring, advisory and information services, etc. A significant allocation is made to the CEBs each year for the provision of these soft support or Measure 2 activities. These activities are considerably more labour intensive than processing grant applications. While the direct costs of training, mentoring, etc are borne by the programme budget (€11.2 million in 2007), a very significant portion of CEB staff time is taken up with the organisation and delivery of such activities. In addition, CEB staff would be engaged on a daily basis in the provision of an informal information and advisory service to local entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs.

In 2008 the Capital allocation for the 35 CEBs stands at over €20m. This will enable the Boards to continue to be actively involved in the area of economic development and will ensure that available funds are targeted to maximise entrepreneurial development. This will be done not just by direct grant aid to businesses and project promoters but also through the provision of a range of other important business supports such as mentoring, business training and business advice all of which help to stimulate indigenous enterprise creation. The precise statistical information sought by the Deputy is in tabular format as follows. Figures in relation to grant approvals and project approvals are collated on an annual basis at year-end. Accordingly 2008 figures are not yet available for these activities.

County and City Enterprise Boards Total Funding 2003 to 2008

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Totals

Carlow

788,307.00

679,157.00

912,405.73

966,884.00

972,463.00

906,850.00

5,226,066.73

Cavan

730,428.00

691,983.35

919,119.87

979,413.50

1,044,086.39

961,637.00

5,326,668.11

Clare

905,404.00

892,506.00

948,769.75

958,638.00

895,582.00

916,340.00

5,517,239.75

Cork City

697,791.00

781,113.00

826,059.11

917,044.00

845,800.00

898,245.00

4,966,052.11

Cork North

271,007.71

431,000.00

246,789.42

264,000.00

315,700.00

347,572.00

1,876,069.13

Cork South

779,964.00

908,889.00

979,000.99

1,205,300.00

1,215,751.82

1,170,836.00

6,259,741.81

Cork West

640,611.00

746,819.37

1,026,662.05

885,515.42

849,711.56

929,949.00

5,079,268.40

Donegal

1,034,131.00

1,318,941.01

1,311,326.36

1,527,415.51

1,277,243.00

1,243,607.00

7,712,663.88

Dublin City

1,341,322.00

1,179,566.00

1,619,367.67

1,760,380.00

1,895,116.00

1,657,406.00

9,453,157.67

Dublin Fingal

1,064,747.00

1,231,505.00

1,220,603.88

1,367,692.00

1,203,289.00

1,167,916.00

7,255,752.88

Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown

1,073,887.00

1,318,232.00

1,462,915.66

1,432,724.00

1,336,994.00

1,196,658.00

7,821,410.66

Galway

1,058,694.37

1,078,687.01

1,111,395.79

1,107,206.59

926,098.00

1,031,292.00

6,313,373.76

Kerry

990,465.00

740,768.00

990,467.64

1,116,073.00

827,390.00

942,795.00

5,607,958.64

Kildare

781,293.00

683,147.00

965,003.53

1,041,886.00

1,016,498.00

941,613.00

5,429,440.53

Kilkenny

775,803.00

824,076.00

1,035,826.93

992,593.00

847,387.82

917,422.00

5,393,108.75

Laois

661,980.00

665,418.00

637,191.00

942,949.18

843,264.61

764,996.00

4,515,798.79

Leitrim

726,980.00

688,914.00

755,384.00

894,275.00

798,125.00

835,671.00

4,699,349.00

Limerick City

754,906.00

723,783.00

884,755.87

999,616.00

807,771.00

865,816.00

5,036,647.87

Limerick County

1,083,919.00

797,463.00

971,164.37

981,152.00

854,891.00

851,117.00

5,539,706.37

Longford

744,521.00

627,524.00

724,000.00

860,000.00

805,223.00

768,014.00

4,529,282.00

Louth

791,773.00

723,487.00

940,885.00

1,011,303.00

1,127,500.00

1,045,516.00

5,640,464.00

Mayo

761,552.37

714,514.01

957,256.79

1,195,937.51

906,960.42

972,937.00

5,509,158.10

Meath

825,950.00

867,574.00

1,122,236.12

960,240.00

921,194.57

1,037,750.00

5,734,944.69

Monaghan

784,058.00

707,681.00

681,293.00

875,442.00

963,599.00

878,291.00

4,890,364.00

Offaly

875,159.00

635,859.00

955,554.00

1,067,731.00

860,289.00

909,267.00

5,303,859.00

Roscommon

813,182.00

635,795.00

863,197.00

953,802.00

845,345.67

819,199.00

4,930,520.67

Sligo

784,217.00

798,390.00

891,433.00

1,079,606.00

995,412.00

957,270.00

5,506,328.00

South Dublin

1,079,408.00

1,169,922.00

1,052,242.21

1,283,012.00

1,144,549.00

1,201,771.00

6,930,904.21

Tipperary NR

770,204.00

723,070.00

884,682.02

875,389.00

866,833.00

832,404.00

4,952,582.02

Tipperary SR

782,493.00

682,506.00

777,779.97

920,971.00

832,181.00

836,008.00

4,831,938.97

Waterford City

843,971.00

653,940.00

799,978.60

772,342.00

798,069.21

772,268.00

4,640,568.81

Waterford County

558,562.00

709,612.00

786,132.90

794,062.00

759,054.00

740,551.00

4,347,973.90

Westmeath

921,410.11

777,834.00

983,771.00

1,195,939.00

1,161,611.00

925,937.00

5,966,502.11

Wexford

971,403.00

1,013,653.00

1,184,985.72

1,190,509.00

1,106,987.00

1,014,873.00

6,482,410.72

Wicklow

1,337,354.00

747,085.00

900,074.57

985,590.00

1,032,312.58

1,031,095.00

6,033,511.15

Totals

29,806,857.56

28,570,413.75

33,329,711.52

36,362,632.71

33,900,282.65

33,290,889.00

195,260,787.19

County and City Enterprise Boards Administration Costs 2003 to 2008

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Totals

Carlow

332,002.00

374,600.00

366,738.00

382,000.00

418,550.00

420,012.00

2,293,902.00

Cavan

278,508.00

347,823.35

367,923.87

386,268.50

405,582.18

420,719.00

2,206,824.90

Clare

321,466.00

330,548.00

343,925.00

356,993.00

377,516.00

394,623.00

2,125,071.00

Cork City

264,037.00

309,800.00

310,500.00

324,600.00

374,800.00

408,245.00

1,991,982.00

Cork North

217,800.71

226,000.00

136,000.00

214,000.00

245,700.00

245,375.00

1,284,875.71

Cork South

317,826.00

367,230.00

401,700.00

439,300.00

449,520.82

457,067.00

2,432,643.82

Cork West

297,522.00

324,712.37

355,477.45

383,987.42

392,149.25

385,917.00

2,139,765.49

Donegal

383,306.00

420,020.01

428,543.06

437,299.51

442,000.00

422,514.00

2,533,682.58

Dublin City

332,010.00

347,025.00

394,075.00

468,667.00

534,162.00

522,178.00

2,598,117.00

Dublin Fingal

340,553.00

369,000.00

380,000.00

405,000.00

415,000.00

413,835.00

2,323,388.00

Dun Laoghaire/Rath

387,450.00

343,358.00

420,000.00

380,800.00

400,000.00

440,000.00

2,371,608.00

Galway

311,903.37

349,150.01

362,695.79

375,099.59

293,855.00

389,049.00

2,081,752.76

Kerry

316,323.00

350,000.00

365,767.00

383,314.00

331,000.00

346,295.00

2,092,699.00

Kildare

315,809.00

306,353.00

322,000.00

353,400.00

384,500.00

387,615.00

2,069,677.00

Kilkenny

278,112.00

307,000.00

318,500.00

318,750.00

330,750.00

339,437.00

1,892,549.00

Laois

262,505.00

272,831.00

280,000.00

305,173.18

340,000.00

344,996.00

1,805,505.18

Leitrim

338,434.00

362,250.00

370,700.00

375,000.00

386,000.00

418,643.00

2,251,027.00

Limerick City

322,810.00

352,000.00

382,000.00

396,491.00

429,000.00

419,833.00

2,302,134.00

Limerick County

285,920.00

309,133.00

322,581.00

333,396.00

355,950.00

351,477.00

1,958,457.00

Longford

268,679.00

291,000.00

329,000.00

340,000.00

376,000.00

349,225.00

1,953,904.00

Louth

343,430.00

346,567.00

368,145.00

409,203.00

440,000.00

458,016.00

2,365,361.00

Mayo

277,115.37

254,600.01

319,291.79

307,562.51

336,625.42

339,812.00

1,835,007.10

Meath

352,209.00

370,000.00

372,000.00

382,520.00

418,247.57

426,710.00

2,321,686.57

Monaghan

346,310.00

353,293.00

353,993.00

354,742.00

419,775.00

415,442.00

2,243,555.00

Offaly

306,860.00

306,000.00

354,000.00

369,000.00

394,000.00

403,978.00

2,133,838.00

Roscommon

282,624.00

297,758.00

323,668.00

336,726.00

356,530.67

371,509.00

1,968,815.67

Sligo

323,212.00

375,271.00

381,899.00

398,069.00

418,176.00

427,846.00

2,324,473.00

South Dublin

303,302.00

338,915.00

368,915.00

387,462.00

409,802.00

411,221.00

2,219,617.00

Tipperary NR

302,820.00

330,000.00

346,183.00

355,000.00

380,000.00

359,626.00

2,073,629.00

Tipperary SR

279,400.00

305,572.00

322,758.00

351,921.00

372,657.00

371,008.00

2,003,316.00

Waterford City

254,266.00

285,217.00

306,000.00

276,500.00

303,552.00

319,268.00

1,744,803.00

Waterford County

214,900.00

226,000.00

236,600.00

255,000.00

306,811.00

295,808.00

1,535,119.00

Westmeath

315,424.11

362,050.00

398,700.00

408,886.00

416,348.00

388,875.00

2,290,283.11

Wexford

376,218.00

403,877.00

404,219.00

432,050.00

436,122.00

438,473.00

2,490,959.00

Wicklow

309,349.00

365,100.00

373,795.00

394,845.00

401,508.00

408,363.00

2,252,960.00

Totals

10,760,415.56

11,580,053.75

12,188,292.96

12,779,025.71

13,492,189.91

13,713,010.00

74,512,987.89

County and City Enterprise Boards Grants Approved 2003 to 2007 (inclusive of grants approved from CEB Measure 1 allocation and refundable-aid)

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

CEB Approvals

Grants Approved

Grants Approved

Grants Approved

Grants Approved

Grants Approved

Totals

Carlow

297,372.00

155,268.00

300,600.00

351,142.00

298,853.45

1,403,235.45

Cavan

270,075.00

189,750.00

368,000.00

362,945.00

439,850.00

1,630,620.00

Clare

333,101.00

360,830.00

318,570.00

335,275.00

321,610.00

1,669,386.00

Cork City

221,047.00

284,567.00

218,322.00

357,444.00

345,343.00

1,426,723.00

Cork North

135,000.00

135,000.00

Cork South

225,596.00

330,804.00

286,500.00

446,000.00

593,775.00

1,882,675.00

Cork West

120,605.00

221,257.00

403,402.00

239,062.00

327,632.00

1,311,958.00

Donegal

346,767.00

645,120.00

593,405.30

667,072.00

638,475.00

2,890,839.30

Dublin City

675,000.00

520,500.00

707,100.00

821,986.00

1,010,485.36

3,735,071.36

Dublin Fingal

423,194.00

600,100.00

434,000.00

601,400.00

498,500.00

2,557,194.00

Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown

459,065.00

700,713.00

554,014.00

701,529.00

814,290.19

3,229,611.19

Galway City & Co.

510,056.00

505,975.00

498,700.00

457,107.00

521,393.00

2,493,231.00

Kerry

532,807.00

249,433.00

460,281.00

508,759.00

575,037.00

2,326,317.00

Kildare

277,220.00

200,174.00

319,058.00

387,986.00

426,100.00

1,610,538.00

Kilkenny

285,288.00

341,100.00

466,473.28

412,870.00

366,237.92

1,871,969.20

Laois

242,072.00

243,094.00

199,929.00

434,126.00

283,658.05

1,402,879.05

Leitrim

211,589.00

179,202.00

209,012.00

304,275.00

298,969.00

1,203,047.00

Limerick City

253,609.00

193,600.00

306,189.00

378,125.00

227,690.50

1,359,213.50

Limerick County

571,900.00

299,450.00

437,724.00

437,756.00

297,388.00

2,044,218.00

Longford

328,216.00

199,500.00

235,000.00

319,000.00

221,183.00

1,302,899.00

Louth

242,055.00

200,500.00

357,740.00

319,600.00

307,430.00

1,427,325.00

Mayo

291,068.00

280,898.00

437,965.00

619,375.00

483,250.00

2,112,556.00

Meath

182,818.00

275,508.00

407,664.00

317,720.00

364,391.53

1,548,101.53

Monaghan

251,014.00

196,900.00

137,300.00

317,000.00

255,604.00

1,157,818.00

Offaly

399,163.00

171,990.00

420,554.00

476,731.00

450,299.00

1,918,737.00

Roscommon

363,378.00

184,975.00

361,529.00

396,076.00

318,973.40

1,624,931.40

Sligo

293,825.00

267,905.00

329,534.00

448,537.00

418,169.00

1,757,970.00

South Dublin

493,329.00

587,979.00

384,500.00

510,000.00

650,000.00

2,625,808.00

Tipperary NR

244,900.00

211,490.00

315,051.00

295,389.00

438,171.00

1,505,001.00

Tipperary SR

314,525.00

211,550.00

261,148.00

366,550.00

311,550.00

1,465,323.00

Waterford City

372,109.00

192,949.00

265,132.00

255,842.00

386,140.00

1,472,172.00

Waterford Co.

157,475.00

324,005.00

368,758.00

329,062.00

359,975.00

1,539,275.00

Westmeath

386,152.00

228,931.00

354,071.00

444,653.00

506,285.05

1,920,092.05

Wexford

401,419.00

426,174.00

526,043.00

466,949.00

695,439.45

2,516,024.45

Wicklow

794,629.00

189,316.00

263,773.00

284,883.00

349,166.00

1,881,767.00

Total

11,772,438.00

10,506,507.00

12,507,041.58

14,372,226.00

14,801,313.90

63,959,526.48

County and City Enterprise Boards — Number of Approved Projects 2003 to 2007

CEB projects approved

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Totals

Carlow

21

20

24

22

17

104

Cavan

23

20

36

27

28

134

Clare

38

36

38

29

32

173

Cork City

17

18

23

26

20

104

Cork North

0

2

0

0

0

2

Cork South

13

15

12

12

14

66

Cork West

13

18

24

16

18

89

Donegal

17

28

26

29

25

125

Dublin City

61

47

48

63

66

285

Dublin Fingal

35

51

23

25

24

158

Dun Laoghaire/Rath

26

46

32

31

43

178

Galway County and City.

68

42

66

61

63

300

Kerry

54

37

54

42

49

236

Kildare

23

19

18

22

16

98

Kilkenny

30

30

32

27

31

150

Laois

21

21

21

25

34

122

Leitrim

26

22

24

24

27

123

Limerick City

25

20

24

21

19

109

Limerick County

27

18

21

24

15

105

Longford

44

24

36

34

22

160

Louth

28

29

41

24

28

150

Mayo

25

23

23

30

21

122

Meath

20

23

20

22

27

112

Monaghan

14

18

26

13

22

93

Offaly

39

23

27

19

34

142

Roscommon

24

11

24

24

26

109

Sligo

34

25

24

30

36

149

South Dublin

44

27

14

11

15

111

Tipperary NR

16

15

17

16

21

85

Tipperary SR

24

21

21

23

31

120

Waterford City

28

22

20

26

24

120

Waterford County

16

21

20

21

22

100

Westmeath

43

12

34

26

24

139

Wexford

38

39

32

27

34

170

Wicklow

16

21

23

22

17

99

Total

991

864

948

894

945

4,642

Employment Rights.

Denis Naughten

Question:

293 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when cross-departmental joint labour investigation teams will be operational; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19669/08]

The Social Partnership Agreement ‘Towards 2016', provides for greater co-ordination between organisations concerned with employment rights compliance, with a view to realising the considerable potential for synergy that exists in this area. In particular, the agreement provides that authorised officers of the new National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) will join with officers of the Department of Social and Family Affairs and the Revenue Commissioners to work together in Joint Investigation Units. The role of these Joint Investigation Units is to address areas where evidence suggests that non-compliance with employment rights legislation exists.

The Social Welfare and Pensions Act, 2007, which came into operation on 30th March, 2007, provides for the disclosure of relevant employment data between the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs and the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment/NERA. This legislation effectively enables NERA to join with the Department of Social and Family Affairs and the Office of the Revenue Commissioners to work together in Joint Investigation Units. Since the enactment of the Social Welfare and Pensions Act, 2007, exchange of information activity has already taken place between the bodies in a number of specific cases. In addition Joint Investigation activity, involving the three bodies, has also taken place, particularly in the context of the NERA Construction Industry Campaign in May-July 2007.

A Working Group has been established comprising the Department of Social and Family Affairs, the Office of the Revenue Commissioners and NERA to further enhance procedures for improved cross-Departmental co-operation and the sharing of information by the respective Departments/Offices and to plan future Joint Investigation activities and strategies.

Work Permits.

Denis Naughten

Question:

294 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps she is taking to streamline the issuing of work permits; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19670/08]

The Employment Permits Section of my Department informs me that following the introduction of new administrative arrangements in 2007 under the Employment Permits Act, 2006, employment permits are now issued on the basis of different permit types with dedicated staff working in each group. This system has streamlined the work of the section allowing faster times for issuing. Currently, fully completed applications for all employment permit types are processed within our business target of 15 working days.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

295 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, with regard to electrical contractors and the fact that a private company (details supplied) is calling on contractors and requesting to see their books and records, including payroll, she will confirm the way statutory authority would be given to a limited company to force employers to hand over their books and records in order that they carry out an inspection to see if the employees are in the pension scheme operated by the construction workers pension scheme and then report the matter to the Labour Court; if she had a role in promoting the CWPS to business people when they were setting up in business, in view of the fact that it has come to this Deputy’s attention that the Technical Engineering Union has suggested in correspondence that the details of this pension scheme are readily available through the Labour Court and her Department; if she is satisfied that when the Labour Court passes a complaint to the labour inspectorate of her Department as a result of an inspection carried out by the company which is a limited company with no statutory powers, that she should recommend prosecution; and if she is further satisfied that section 27(3)(c) of the Industrial Relations Act 1946, has been fully met by the Labour Court and that all sides to the employment agreement between the Electrical Contracting Association and the Technical and Engineering Union, meet the criteria of substantially representing the majority of the employers and unions in the industry, particularly when this agreement was set up on 24 September 1990, and as at the latest review dated 11 May 2007. [19808/08]

The company to which the Deputy refers (EPACE) was established under the aegis of the National Joint Industrial Council for the Electrical Contracting Industry. While its main objective is to advise Electrical Contractors of their responsibilities under the Registered Employment Agreement (REA) for the Electrical Industry it also carries out inspections of Electrical Contractors in order to ensure compliance with the agreement. While the organisation does not have statutory authority under employment rights legislation to undertake such inspections, Electrical Contractors have in the past been in general willing to facilitate, and cooperate with, these arrangements.

Section 45 of the Employment Law Compliance Bill 2008 is intended to support and enhance monitoring and inspection activity in relation to compliance with the Registered Employment Agreement in the electrical contracting industry. The Bill awaits consideration by Dáil and Seanad Éireann. In the meantime current arrangements continue to apply. Regarding the question of initiating prosecutions on the basis of an inspection undertaken by EPACE, the Deputy should be aware that enforcement of the provisions of the Registered Employment Agreement for the Electrical Sector is effected through the Labour Court under the Industrial Relations Acts.

A trade union, an association of employers or an individual employer may complain to the Labour Court that a particular employer is not complying with the Agreement. As EPACE does not have a statutory basis for taking a complaint to the Labour Court, complaints to the Court in respect of non-compliance with the Registered Agreement are in the normal course made by the Technical and Electrical Engineering Union (TEEU). If, after investigating a complaint, the Labour Court is satisfied that the employer is in breach of the Agreement, it may by order direct compliance with the Agreement.

NERA's Inspection Services receive requests, from time to time, from the Labour Court to undertake an inspection of an employer's records for the purposes of securing certain employee details. Such information is then used by the Labour Court in calculating the amount of pension or other arrears due to employees in the context of a complaint made by the TEEU. In such cases, therefore, the Labour Court is the relevant redress authority and I, as Minister, do not have any function insofar as making a determination or initiating a prosecution is concerned. Failure to comply with an order of the Labour Court is an offence punishable by a fine. In accordance with section 7 of the Industrial Relations Act, 1946 the Minister may bring proceedings in relation to such offences. Insofar as non-compliance with Labour Court orders directing compliance with the Registered Employment Agreement for the Electrical Sector is concerned, the practice is for the TEEU to request the Department to initiate legal proceedings against the relevant employer.

As regards the specific query about Section 27.3(c) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1946, I repeat that the Labour Court is a separate statutory body, which acts independently of the Minister in the carrying out of its functions. I have no function in relation to the decision making process of the Court.

Industrial Development.

Michael Ring

Question:

296 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of site visits to County Mayo conducted by IDA Ireland in 2007 and to date in 2008 (details supplied). [19831/08]

Michael Ring

Question:

297 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of visits hosted by IDA Ireland by potential investors to an area (details supplied) in 2007 and to date in 2008; and the outcome of those visits. [19832/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 296 and 297 together.

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

In the period January 2007 to date, there have been 3 site visits to Mayo, 2 in 2007 to both Westport and Castlebar and one in 2008 to Westport. To date none of these visits has resulted in the establishment of an industry in County Mayo. Discussions with existing or prospective client companies are an operational matter for the Agency and are treated as confidential. While IDA Ireland seeks to influence the selection of location, the final decision on location is taken in all cases by the promoting company.

Michael Ring

Question:

298 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of people employed in IDA supported companies in a location (details supplied). [19833/08]