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 9, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 10 to 72, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions No. 73 to 81, inclusive, answered orally.

Tax Code.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

82 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance if he will introduce an exemption on excise duty to make it viable for producers of energy crops for biofuel here to sell their product to the Irish market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19644/08]

While the promotion of biofuel is primarily a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, the Deputy will be aware the Finance Act 2006 provided for significant tax measures to promote biofuels in Ireland.

Under the scheme, biofuel produced under projects approved by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources are exempt from excise duty. This serves to reduce the additional costs associated with the production of biofuels and consequently allows them to compete with conventional fossil fuels. This fiscal incentive was designed to kickstart the domestic biofuels industry. Long-term general excise reliefs are not anticipated.

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

Furthermore, Budget 2007 provided funding for a national top-up of the EU energy crop payment from €45 per hectare to €80 per hectare. This payment is operated by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and provides farmers with a further incentive to grow energy crops.

The Deputy might wish to note that there are additional non-fiscal measures that can be used to promote biofuels. To provide further market certainty and encourage projects of scale, the Government has signalled its intention to move to a Biofuels Obligation by 2009 which will require all fuel suppliers to ensure that biofuels represent a certain percentage of their annual sales. I understand the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources will shortly be launching a public consultation on the proposed biofuels obligation.

Household Indebtedness.

Seán Barrett

Question:

83 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Finance his views regarding the high and rising levels of household debt. [21860/08]

As the Deputy may be aware, within the implementation of the overall legislative and policy framework for financial services, household credit growth and debt levels are, in the first instance, a matter for the Central Bank and the Financial Services Authority of Ireland (CBFSAI). This follows from its role as part of the European System of Central Banks and its functions as the Financial Regulator, in relation to the prudential supervision of financial institutions and the Financial Regulator's statutory mandate to protect the interests of consumers of financial services.

It is important that growth in private sector credit and the increase in household indebtedness in Ireland over recent years are seen in the context of the strong economic performance, the achievement of record employment levels, sustained increases in after-tax incomes and low levels of interest rates in historic terms following Ireland's entry into EMU. Also, increases in household debt over recent years need to be seen against the background of the very significant increase in household assets over the same period. Furthermore, according to the most recent CBFSAI statistics, growth in private sector credit in the economy continues to moderate.

As far as safeguarding the interests of individual borrowers is concerned, the function of Government is to provide an appropriate legislative framework for effective and efficient regulation of the financial services sector, one that is both comprehensive and robust. I am satisfied that, on foot of the progress made over recent years, through such measures as the establishment of the Financial Regulator and the Financial Services Ombudsman, we have such a framework in place in Ireland.

In this context, the introduction of the Financial Regulator's Consumer Protection Code last year represents a major step in promoting the interests of consumers. The Code places obligations on regulated entities that provide credit which includes the requirement to act in their customers' best interests, to seek appropriate information about the consumer and ensure that the products and services provided are suitable to the consumer. They must also treat their customers fairly and have adequate procedures in place to handle complaints and arrears. These obligations are additional to the statutory prior information and warnings required under the Consumer Credit Act, 1995.

The Financial Regulator has prioritised the provision of information for consumers about the potential risk of excessive debt and has also drawn attention to the need for consumers to choose the right type of loan for their needs while developing a number of specific initiatives to help consumers make informed choices in terms of the financial products they choose, the amount of risk they take on and the cost of financial products.

In conclusion, I endorse the requirement consistently highlighted by my predecessor for responsible behaviour by both borrowers and lenders and in particular the need to factor into their financial decision making the effects of potential future changes in economic and financial conditions.

Question No. 84 answered with Question No. 79.

Tax Code.

Phil Hogan

Question:

85 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Finance if he expects legislation to be introduced in 2008 on carbon tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21196/08]

As the Deputy will be aware the Carbon Tax issue is being examined by the Commission on Taxation. The Commission are due to report by September 2009, at the latest. It is open to the Commission if they wish to report prior to that date. However it seems reasonable to assume that there is unlikely to be legislation introducing a carbon tax in 2008. Notwithstanding that, as Minister for Finance, I will keep all options open in the context of preparations for Budget 2009.

James Bannon

Question:

86 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Finance if he foresees any threat to the Irish corporation tax regime; and his plans to mitigate the possible effects. [21857/08]

I want to assure the House that the Government's position on our corporate tax regime is unambiguous. It is clearly stated in the Programme for Government that the 12.5 per cent rate of corporation tax will remain.

Corporate taxation matters are and will remain within the competence of Member States. Our corporation tax system is protected, in an EU context, by the principle of unanimity in taxation matters. This principle is underpinned in the Reform Treaty, so that Treaty will not undermine our national discretions in this regard in any way.

Although the Deputy does not specify what threats to the Irish corporate tax regime he has in mind, he may be referring to the Commission's technical work on a common consolidated corporate tax base (CCCTB) which has been the subject of much recent discussion.

It is important to note that there has been no political decision taken on the CCCTB at the level of the Council of Ministers. The Commission is currently undertaking an economic impact assessment of a CCCTB and I understand that a decision on whether or not to bring forward a proposal to Council will not be taken until that impact assessment has been completed later this year.

As there has not been a formal proposal, it is very difficult to assess the impact of a CCCTB on Ireland and the EU overall. The Irish position on the CCCTB is well known and I will continue to highlight the difficulties I believe such a proposal could cause for individual Member States and overall EU competitiveness. There is, I know, increasing and widespread scepticism among Member States as the Commission's technical work continues.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

87 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Finance the cost of not plugging the avoidance scheme on stamp duty; and the reason this was deemed an appropriate policy boost tool for the housing sector. [21879/08]

Section 110 of the Finance Act 2007 made provision for a charge to stamp duty where license agreements and other such arrangements are used when land is purchased for development without conveyance or transfer. The provision ensured that these arrangements will incur a Stamp Duty charge where a landowner receives a payment amounting to 25% or more of the market value or consideration concerned. Section 110 is subject to a commencement order on the basis that it would be prudent to consider the state of the housing and property market before the provision is put into place.

For this reason, my predecessor commissioned an independent study of the potential effects that such a provision may have on the market.

The Report is available for download on my Department's website at: http://www.finance.gov.ie/documents/publications/reports/2008/S110Report.pdf.

As these transactions, under current law, do not involve a liability to Stamp Duty, there is no requirement to present any documentation to the Revenue Commissioners for stamping and there is therefore no specific data on which to accurately estimate any revenue gains from commencing the provisions.

The Report also makes the point that there are no official data sources on the value of development land sales. It, therefore, gives an indicative estimate of the total value of the development land market in 2006 at c. €7bn to €8bn. Based on a technical assumption that 40% of land transactions using these arrangements, the Report estimated a potential revenue gain in 2006 of c. €251m if the provisions had been in place at that time. However, this estimate is based on the levels of activity in 2006 and, as a result, is not indicative of the revenue gain that would occur following commencement of the provisions at a later date. A more realistic figure for the revenue accruing from the provisions is in the order of €50m per annum.

It should be noted, however, that the Report recommended that, on balance the section should not be commenced at this time. In this regard, it indicates that Section 110 would have led to a rise in land prices, with a knock-on increase in house prices, especially for first-time buyers, and possibly risked exacerbating the down-turn in the property market. In addition, the Report highlighted that Section 110 would also have raised the cost to the State of PPP projects because of increased land prices.

The commencement of Section 110 of the Finance Act 2007 is kept under constant review and any further consideration of this issue has to take into account the prevailing circumstances in the housing and property markets.

Departmental Estimates.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

88 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if he plans to alter the process of Estimate formation for 2009. [21919/08]

I have no plans to alter the process for the 2009 Estimates at this stage. The wide-ranging reforms introduced by my predecessor in 2008 seem to have worked well and I would like to see them bedded down before embarking on further change. In addition, the priority for next year will be on further controlling the rate of increase in spending rather than on the process.

Price Inflation.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

89 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Finance if he has analysed the source of Ireland’s faster rate of inflation in recent years and its implications for public policy. [21884/08]

I would like to reassure the Deputy that my Department monitors inflation developments on an ongoing basis.

As measured by the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP), annual inflation in Ireland was 3.3% in April 2008. Using the domestic measure — the Consumer Price Index (CPI) — the annual inflation rate was 4.3%.

The pick-up in inflation in recent years has been driven primarily by external developments, namely the global rise in oil and food prices and increases in interest rates. In the year to April 2008, food costs rose by some 8.4%, contributing 0.9 percentage points to the annual increase in prices while the cost of energy rose by 7.3%, contributing 0.6 percentage points. If the effect of last year's interest rate increases were removed, CPI inflation in the 12 months to April 2008 would have been 3.5%.

The Deputy will recall that my predecessor increased the ceiling on mortgage interest relief for first-time buyers in Budget 2008 to address the CPI inflation impact of last year's interest rate increases.

In addition, I would expect that there should be a moderation in Ireland's inflation rate later this year as the recent depreciation in Sterling is passed through.

Achieving a moderate rate of inflation is a key economic policy priority given its importance in helping to restore national competitiveness. In recognition of this, the Government is taking positive action to control inflation. Over the short to medium-term this includes implementing responsible fiscal policies and promoting competition and increased price transparency through the work of the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency.

Over the longer term, the considerable investment in public infrastructure that the Government is undertaking as part of the National Development Plan will enhance our ability to produce more goods and services, which by improving the economy's efficiency should help to keep inflation in check.

Finally, from a competitiveness perspective, I would stress the importance of ensuring that the externally-driven price increases that we are currently experiencing are not exacerbated by internally–generated second-round effects. Securing a sensible and sustainable outcome to the current round of pay talks will have an important role to play in this respect.

Public Private Partnerships.

John Deasy

Question:

90 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Finance his views on the concerns expressed by the Comptroller and Auditor General regarding reliance on public private partnerships. [21887/08]

I presume the Deputy is referring to the comments that Mr. John Purcell, the former Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), made during his recent appearance on a television programme. Speaking after his retirement, Mr. Purcell noted that Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) are not a panacea for all of our infrastructure requirements and that PPP procurement suits appropriate projects. In the 2008 Public Capital Programme, the Government set targets for PPP investment that average 16% of total capital investment per annum for the period 2008 to 2012. Hence, the majority of public capital projects will continue to be delivered using conventional public sector procurement.

The former C&AG also noted at a recent hearing of the Committee of Public Accounts on April 17th 2008 that "it is not the case that PPP is good and traditional procurement is bad, or vice versa" but rather that "certain situations are more suitable to PPP solutions." I agree with these views. PPPs are one of the options available to government to serve the objectives of government and I have no plans to abandon that option.

Naturally, there are a variety of PPP models that can be applied in the procurement of projects. In choosing to adopt the PPP approach for a particular project, Departments and Agencies must assess, in conjunction with their advisers, the optimum structure to use, including whether or not to include private finance. In this regard, State authorities have access to the financial expertise of the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA) to assist them in determining the optimum means of financing public investment projects in order to achieve value for money. The NDFA will also advise State authorities on all aspects of financing, refinancing and insurance, including risk analysis.

Appointments to State Boards.

Michael Noonan

Question:

91 Deputy Michael Noonan asked the Minister for Finance if he will ensure that all of his appointments to State bodies will be tabled for consideration by the Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service. [21923/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

101 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance if there are Government procedures, protocols or ethical guidelines in relation to public appointments made by Members of the Government; if he will introduce same, if there are none currently in operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17122/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 91 and 101 together.

The arrangements for appointments to the boards of State bodies are normally set out in the legislation establishing the bodies in question and are designed to ensure the efficient management of the organisation. Appointments to the boards are generally made by the Minister with responsibility for the body in question, subject to the consent of the Minister for Finance.

In making appointments, Ministers seek to ensure that the people appointed bring a diverse range of relevant skills and experiences to the body. Ministers also take account of any specific legislative or policy requirements such as those contained in the Workers Participation (State Enterprises) Acts or the Government's policy on gender balance on the boards of State bodies.

Where appropriate, Ministers may also consider representation from the different strands of society such as the business community, consumers, trades unions or the other social partners.

I am generally happy that the present arrangements, which follow the practice of previous Governments, work well and that people with the required skills and experience are appointed to State boards. Nevertheless I recognise that it might be useful to give some thought to involving committees of the House in appointments to some boards. This is an issue that some of my colleagues have been looking at in relation to boards under their remit.

National Development Plan.

Liz McManus

Question:

92 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Finance his views on the assessment of the National Economic and Social Council that the Exchequer should borrow up to the EU limits in order to finance key infrastructure projects under the National Development Plan such as stepping up capital investment in education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21957/08]

I assume the Deputy is referring to a recent newspaper report attributing this view to an unpublished National Economic and Social Council (NESC) Economic Report. Given that NESC have not published this report, I do not intend to comment as to its content.

The implementation of the National Development Plan is key to enhancing Ireland's competitiveness. However it was prudent management of the public finances by my recent predecessors that has allowed us to undertake this massive investment in our country's future in the first place. I will not deviate from that course and will only borrow for capital projects where there is a clear benefit to the country, all the while remaining within the parameters agreed within the EU Stability and Growth Pact. This Pact requires Ireland to adhere to its medium-term budgetary objective of a structured budget of close to balance.

Flood Relief.

Denis Naughten

Question:

93 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the steps he is taking to address the summer flooding in the Shannon Callows; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19794/08]

As indicated in reply to the Deputy's Question of 29 April 2008 (Ceist 94), the Office of Public Works has carried out vegetation removal at the Shannon Cut to reduce the level of summer flooding in the Callows. The OPW is currently revising its proposals for removal of silt from the channel at that location to address concerns raised by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in response to OPW's initial application.

The OPW will consider, in conjunction with other stakeholders, whether similar work in other areas, or a review of the river's water management regime, would be beneficial.

The Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management Study of the River Shannon Catchment, which the OPW will commence within the next couple of years, will produce a comprehensive long-term flood management plan for the river. All interested parties will have the opportunity to contribute to the Study.

Question No. 94 answered with Question No. 78.

Departmental Agencies.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

95 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance if his Department will complete an efficiency review and audit of all State agencies and bodies under the responsibility of his Department; if he has plans to merge or abolish any State agencies or bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20593/08]

In line with my predecessor's Budget 2008 announcement, the Department of Finance has engaged in the efficiency review exercise on the same basis as all other Government Departments, with a view to identifying possible savings on administrative spending. The exercise has included the bodies within the aegis of my Department. I am now considering the various responses my Department has received under the Efficiency Review initiative with a view to reverting to Government on the matter in the near future. Any issues concerning State agencies and bodies would also be considered by the Government in that overall context.

Fiscal Policy.

Damien English

Question:

96 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Finance his latest estimate for Exchequer borrowing in 2008. [21893/08]

At Budget time, an Exchequer deficit of €4,866 million was projected for this year.

At end-April, my Department published information which showed that overall tax receipts for the first four months of the year were €736 million, or 5.3 per cent, behind target. At the time it was indicated that it was not expected that the tax shortfall would be recouped. Later today, as is the norm, my Department will publish detailed information in relation to the Exchequer position at end-May. In relation to tax revenue, these numbers will show a further deterioration in taxes and as previously indicated the shortfall is not expected to be recouped later in the year. My Department monitors tax receipts and expenditure on an ongoing basis and an updated view on the expected Exchequer position in 2008 will be presented at the end of this quarter.

While the fiscal position has weakened from that envisaged at Budget time, this has to be considered in the context of the strong position of the public finances such as our low debt to GDP ratio.

Economic Competitiveness.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

97 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance if he has had cause to revise the projections for the public finances set out in the run-up to the general election; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21901/08]

The relevant projections for the public finances in the run-up to last year's election were the three year projections published in Budget 2007 on 6th December 2006. Based on GDP growth of 4.6% for 2008 and a projected stronger fiscal position in 2007 than materialised, an Exchequer deficit of €1,559 million was anticipated for 2008. Since then revised projections were published on 5th December 2007 in Budget 2008 and an Exchequer deficit of €4,866 million was projected for this year. At this time an economic growth rate of 3.0 per cent in GDP terms was forecast for 2008. A number of specific risks to that forecast were highlighted and these are now materialising. While my Department has not published new forecasts, I would point out that the current market consensus forecasts for growth now average around 2 per cent for this year. More modest growth has implications for the evolution of the public finances.

At end-April, my Department published information which showed that overall tax receipts for the first four months of the year were €736 million, or 5.3 per cent, behind target. At the time it was indicated that it was not expected that the tax shortfall would be recouped. Later today, as is the norm, my Department will publish detailed information in relation to the Exchequer position at end-May. In relation to tax revenue, these numbers will show a further deterioration in taxes and as previously indicated the shortfall is not expected to be recouped later in the year. My Department monitors tax receipts and expenditure on an ongoing basis and an updated view on the expected Exchequer position in 2008 will be presented at the end of this quarter.

While the fiscal position has weakened from that envisaged at Budget time, this has to be considered in the context of the strong position of the public finances such as our low debt to GDP ratio.

Programmes for Government.

Joe Carey

Question:

98 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Finance the reason he is unwilling to provide a costing of the proposals in the Programme for Government 2007 to 2012. [21868/08]

The Programme for Government is a five year programme in which a number of guiding principles in relation to economic and budgetary matters have been set out.

As the Deputy is aware, the first instalment of the delivery of this five year Programme for Government — Budget 2008 — was published in December last. Budget 2008 announced all new spending and taxation measures in a single, unified way and was a significant reform providing for greater transparency. The costs associated with the decisions made were set out at Budget time.

Taking account of the overall macroeconomic and fiscal environment, further instalments will be made in the subsequent Budgets over the lifetime of this Government.

Credit Union Regulation.

Bernard Allen

Question:

99 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied with the progress being made to find a satisfactory system for deposit protection in credit unions. [21856/08]

The Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) has since 1989, operated a savings protection scheme (SPS) for credit unions. The SPS aims to protect the individual savings of members by ensuring that credit unions are financially and administratively sound and provides for savings protection for each individual credit union member. It is important to note that under the SPS regime no member of a credit union has experienced any loss of shares and deposits and no credit union has become insolvent. The SPS has only been called upon in a very limited number of cases and it has never been necessary to make savings protection payments to individual credit union members.

Section 46 of the Credit Union Act 1997 provides for approval of savings protection schemes by the Registrar of Credit Unions. Initial ILCU proposals for reform of the SPS were the subject of discussions in 2007 between the Registrar and ILCU resulting in the submission of detailed revised proposals for the reform of SPS in November 2007.

Following the Registrar's assessment of these revised proposals he identified to ILCU in April 2008 outstanding issues which remained to be considered more fully relating to independence of the proposed company, funding of the scheme, stabilisation, regulation of the fund, regulatory powers and the need for consensus among credit unions.

As far as progress in finalising savings protection arrangements for credit unions is concerned, the Registrar of Credit Unions has recently advised my Department that he will make every effort to reach an agreement with ILCU on the basis of the resolution of the issues he has highlighted in relation to their reform proposal which would enable approval of the SPS under the provisions of Section 46 of the Credit Union Act, 1997. This is consistent with the objective in the Financial Regulator's Strategy Statement to conclude work during 2008 with a view to having an approved SPS in place as soon as possible.

The Deputy will wish to note that discussions between the Registrar and ILCU on the outstanding SPS issues commenced on 12 May last. While important issues remain to be determined it is hoped that the discussions will be concluded shortly with a view to having approved savings protection arrangements in place for credit unions under the provisions of the Credit Union Act comprising both savings protection for credit union savers and stabilisation arrangements for individual credit unions in appropriate circumstances.

Tax Yield.

John Perry

Question:

100 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Finance his estimate of the extra VAT raised from oil products to date in 2008 as a result of the rise in international oil prices. [21933/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the only monthly information available as a basis for estimating the extra VAT generated as a result of the rise in international oil prices is the monthly clearances of Oil Products on which Mineral Oil Tax has been paid to the end of April.

The estimates of the additional VAT yield, provided below, are based on the monthly indicative prices as shown on the National Average Prices Index produced by the Central Statistics Office and comparing them to the corresponding prices in December 2007.

On that basis the estimated additional VAT yield generated to the end of April 2008 is as follows:

Estimated Additional VAT

€ million

Petrol

0.98

Diesel

0.33

Marked Gas Oil

0.88

Kerosene

0.71

Total

2.90

I am also informed that VAT returns do not require the yield from a particular sector or sub-sector of trade to be identified and therefore the VAT yield in 2008 to date on oil products cannot be provided. The figures provided in this reply for monthly VAT receipts are estimates of the amount of VAT yield that would be generated by the volume of clearances of oil products up to the end of the period in question. Mineral Oil Tax is paid in the month of clearance of the product but, depending on the nature of the registration status of a trader, VAT returns can be made monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, half yearly or annually. This will dictate the point in time when VAT on sales will actually be paid to Revenue.

It should also be noted that the VAT content of purchases of Auto-Diesel, Marked Gas Oil and Kerosene is a deductible credit for business in the Irish VAT system. The additional VAT raised on LPG is negligible as sales of this product are very low.

Question No. 101 answered with Question No. 91.

Gambling Regulations.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

102 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding consultations which have taken place with respect to changes to the gambling legislation; if he will bring forward legislative proposals in this regard; if he has had discussions with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21954/08]

The Casino Regulation Committee, established in 2006 by the then Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, in undertaking its work examined the issue of gambling.

As the Deputy will be aware, in my previous capacity as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, I informed the House on 17 April that the whole issue of regulating gaming in Ireland was best addressed through the publication of the Casino Regulation Committee's report Regulating Gaming in Ireland and by referring it to an informal All-Party Committee for consideration. While the report deals primarily with the regulation of gaming in Ireland, it is clear that the complex issues involved have implications for other areas of gambling including sports betting. Therefore, the issue of legislative reform for gambling as a whole should not arise until the complexities of the report have been considered fully.

Responsibility for considering the Casino Regulation Committee's report now rests with my colleague the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Dermot Ahern, TD. Minister Ahern, on 28 May, informed the House that while he had not yet had the opportunity to consider how to best advance the complex issues involved, he intended to move quickly and that he was conscious of the need to ensure that the widest possible range of views was canvassed and brought to bear on settling public policy in this area. I support Minister Ahern's approach.

Tax Code.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

103 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm the reported decision of the Commission on Taxation to defer consideration of carbon taxation; if so, if the commitments on this form of taxation in the Programme for Government are now defunct; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21948/08]

The Carbon Tax issue is being examined by the Commission on Taxation. The Commission is due to report by September 2009, at the latest. The Deputy will appreciate that how the Commission organises its work is a matter for the Commission itself.

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to introduce a carbon tax/levy over the lifetime of the Government and that remains the position.

General Election Expenses.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

104 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance the returning officers who still have outstanding claims for expenses in relation to the 2007 general election; and the amount of such claims. [20780/08]

There are no outstanding claims to hand in respect of the expenses for the 2007 General Election. My Department has completed examination of most of the accounts submitted by the Returning Officers. As a result of this examination, in a number of instances Returning Officers were asked to repay outstanding balances, being the difference between the amount advanced and the actual cost. Most of the balances have been recouped and those remaining are small in value terms.

Economic Competitiveness.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

105 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance his views on the fall in the ESRI consumer confidence index to its lowest level since the index was first introduced and by the 2.1% year on year fall in retail sales, the first fall in retail sales since 2004; the expected effect on VAT returns for 2008 compared to the VAT profiles prepared by his Department in late 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21963/08]

I am aware of the recent decline in consumer sentiment as measured by the Consumer Sentiment Index, which is prepared by the ESRI in conjunction with a commercial bank. The Consumer Sentiment Index aggregates consumer views on present economic conditions and their perception of prospects over the next 12 months. This year the economic environment has become more challenging. There are a number of international factors which will weigh upon the economic outlook. The downturn in the U.S. economy is of particular concern, as is the appreciation of the euro against both the dollar and sterling. International financial market difficulties also represent a downside risk to the economy. Rising prices for oil, food and some other commodities is dampening real income growth in most of our major trading partners. Domestically, a further decline in new house building is expected this year which will also impact upon our economy.

Against this background retail sales data for first quarter of 2008, as published by the CSO, show a year-on-year inflation-adjusted decrease of -0.2 per cent in retail spending on the corresponding period last year. Excluding car sales, retail sales rose by 2.1 per cent in the first quarter. VAT receipts for the first four months of 2008 were €277 million or 5.4 per cent behind profile.

Unemployment Levels.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

106 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance if his Department has revised the forecast rate of unemployment and the growth rate in employment contained in Budget 2008. [21937/08]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

108 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance if his Department has given consideration to the impact of rising unemployment on the tax take, both in terms of income tax revenue and revenue from spending taxes. [21936/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 106 and 108 together.

On Budget day, my Department projected that unemployment, based on the classification used in the CSO Quarterly National Household Survey, would average 5.6 per cent for this year, a pick-up of 1 per cent compared to the 4.6 per cent average unemployment achieved in 2007. While employment would continue to rise — an increase of 1.1 per cent was forecast — this was expected to be considerably weaker than experienced in recent years. My Department, as always, continues to monitor the emerging labour market position, including developments in terms of the Live Register, which measures on a weekly basis those signing on for social welfare entitlements.

Tax revenues are forecast on a disaggregated individual tax-head basis using relevant macroeconomic drivers and, where appropriate, certain elasticity factors. When preparing the Department's forecasts, changes in employment, earnings and consumption patterns are taken into account. In the tax data published to date, the weakness in revenue is mainly associated with the weaker property market.

National Development Plan.

Ulick Burke

Question:

107 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Finance if he plans to review the National Development Plan to identify priority elements. [21866/08]

The NDP will be subject to a comprehensive mid-term review in 2010 in respect of the first three years' implementation from 2007 to 2009. Any possibilities for reprioritisation of investment that arise from the review will be considered at that juncture. In the meantime, priorities for Exchequer investment will be considered in the annual estimates process in the normal way.

Question No. 108 answered with Question No. 106.

Public Private Partnerships.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

109 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance the public private partnership projects which his Department has identified as being at risk from withdrawal by the private sector contractor; the extent of these perceived risks; the steps being taken to ensure these projects reach completion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21978/08]

I have no list of projects that may or may not be subject to the risk referred to in the question. Individual Ministers are responsible for the projects in their area and apart from the one recent case in the media, I have not been notified of any concerns in this regard.

Freedom of Information.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

110 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Finance if he has plans to abolish fees for Freedom of Information requests in view of the recent recommendation of the OECD which concluded that such charges imposed by State Departments and agencies were a disincentive to greater openness; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18022/08]

With regard to the fees that apply under the Freedom of Information Act, I am aware of the OECD's recommendation and I do not agree that the fees for FOI requests are a disincentive to greater openness. The application fee of €15 was first introduced in 2003 and has not been increased since then. FOI requests for non-personal information, to which a fee applies, have gone down from 7,216 in 2003 to 3,044 in 2007. At the same time, the number of applications for personal information, for which no fee is applied, have also gone down from 10,842 in 2003 to 7,558 in 2007. These figures clearly indicate that the application fee is not the primary driver in the reduction in application levels. In these circumstances, I am satisfied that the fees currently in operation strike the appropriate balance between the cost of administering the FOI Act and the right to access information.

National Centre for Science and Discovery.

Mary Upton

Question:

111 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance when the National Centre for Science and Discovery is expected to open; the estimated cost of this project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17676/08]

The National Centre for Science and Discovery, or Exploration Station, as it is known is currently scheduled to be housed in a building on the Heustongate development site in Kilmainham.

It is planned to bring the Heustongate development to the market and have the Exploration Station building provided to the State as part of the ‘community gain' provision set out in the planning permission attached to the site.

As the development will be offered for development in a public tender process, the estimated cost figure for the Exploration Station building is commercially sensitive information and cannot be released at this time.

A definitive date for the opening of the facility cannot be given at this time as no decision has yet been made as to the exact date on which Heustongate will be offered to the market due to the current market uncertainties.

Tax Yield.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

112 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance the average take to the Exchequer from each new house which is built; and if he has proposals to encourage an increase in house building in view of the present downturn. [21944/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, generally speaking, the direct yield of taxation to the Exchequer on the sale of new houses relates to VAT which is charged at the reduced VAT rate of 13.5%.

According to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government statistics, the average price of a new home in 2007 was €322,634. The amount of VAT included in that price would be €38,375.

Regarding stamp duty, the yield from residential stamp duty arises mainly from the sale of second-hand houses. New houses purchased by owner occupiers are exempt from stamp duty where the floor area is less than 125m2 . In the case of larger homes, the stamp duty is computed on the greater of the site value or a quarter of the property value exclusive of VAT. However, in the case of investors purchasing new houses, stamp duty is applied at the same rate as that charged on second-hand houses. First-time owner-occupying purchasers of new or second-hand residential property are exempt from stamp duty.

The Government and its agencies have worked to support a level of housing output that meets market demand over recent years. As a result, more people have been able to purchase a home. The Government will continue to support investment in infrastructure to deliver the required level of housing and improve affordability. The quality and affordability of housing is vital to both the country's social cohesion and its competitiveness.

The level of construction of private housing is ultimately driven by market forces and neither I nor the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government have proposals at this time to intervene to influence the output of housing.

Pay Awards.

Pat Breen

Question:

113 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied with the operation of performance related pay. [21861/08]

Following a decision by the Government on the implementation of recommendations in Report No. 38 of the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector, schemes of performance-related awards were introduced for the levels of Deputy Secretary and Assistant Secretary in the civil service, the Deputy Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner ranks in the Garda SÍochána and the ranks of Brigadier General and Major General in the Defence Forces.

The schemes of awards are based on performance by reference to demanding targets. The pool for performance awards is 10% of the pay bill for the group concerned. Within that overall limit individuals can receive payments of up to 20% of pay (although payments at that level would be very rare).

I have no role in the decisions on awards. Decisions on awards are made by the Committee for Performance Awards (CPA), which includes a majority of private sector members. The main roles of the Committee are to monitor the application of the scheme of performance-related awards and to bring independent judgement to bear in approving objectives for the persons covered by the scheme and in approving recommendations for awards.

Details of the procedures, the numbers covered by the schemes, the range of awards and the total amounts paid in Departments are outlined in the annual reports of the Committee (available on the website www.finance.gov.ie). The annual reports provide a commentary on how the schemes have operated each year and the CPA make suggestions about how aspects of the scheme can be improved.

The performance related pay schemes are monitored by an independent body — the CPA — and I am satisfied that the CPA is fulfilling its remit in relation to the schemes.

There are separate schemes of performance-related awards for senior staff of local authorities and the health service. The Committee for Performance Awards in the Local Government sector deals with the assessment of performance for senior managers in local authorities. For senior managers in the health service, the board of the HSE/relevant agency makes awards based on the agreed criteria. The scheme is quality assured by the PRA Oversight Committee which is chaired by the Secretary General of the Department of Health & Children.

Schemes of performance-related pay can also apply to the Chief Executive Officers of non-commercial State sponsored bodies (and in some cases, to the second tier of management). The Review Body considered that certain conditions should be in place non-commercial State-sponsored bodies before schemes of performance-related awards were introduced for the CEOs of those bodies. Where these conditions are met, the Board of the body concerned can submit a scheme to the parent Department and, subsequently, my Department for approval. These schemes are also based on the achievement of stretched targets and provide for a maximum bonus of 20% of pay. The guidelines provide that awards of between 15% and 20% should arise only in the most exceptional situations where performance has surpassed all reasonable expectations and has resulted in the achievement of a major goal of the body. Decisions on the level of payment to be awarded are the responsibility of the Board of the body concerned.

Revenue Investigations.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

114 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm recent reports that the Revenue Commissioners intend to carry out an investigation into large cash deposit holders; the details of any such proposed investigation; the way it is to be carried out; if his attention has been drawn to the concerns expressed by the many compliant taxpayers, many of whom are older people who may have received significant tax free lump sums upon retirement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21962/08]

Under recently introduced regulations certain financial institutions (Banks, Building Societies and the Post Office Savings Bank) are required to submit to Revenue details of interest earned on accounts where that interest exceeded €635. For the years 2005 and 2006 the information will be submitted to Revenue by the 15th September 2008, and for the year 2007 by the 31st October 2008.

In advance of the 15th of September, Revenue has recently launched a voluntary disclosure initiative, focused on holders of larger accounts who have not been tax compliant. It applies to persons who held aggregate funds in excess of €100,000, in one or more interest bearing accounts in these financial institutions and who have previously undeclared tax liabilities. Under the initiative, persons who fall into this category have the opportunity to give notice to Revenue, before the 15th of September next, of their intention to make a qualifying voluntary disclosure and to subsequently pay the outstanding liabilities. Those who avail of this opportunity will pay reduced penalties and will not have the settlement details published inIris Oifigúil. This is in line with the approach outlined in the Code of Practice for Revenue Auditors which provides for the making of a voluntary disclosure prior to the commencement of an investigation or enquiry.

I am also advised that the Revenue Commissioners are very conscious that the majority of deposit account holders for whom reports will be provided will have no outstanding tax issues because the moneys on deposit will have come from sources such as previously taxed income or gains, lump sums on retirement and similar tax free amounts. Therefore, persons who hold such accounts and who are tax compliant are not within the scope of the Revenue initiative and are not required to give any notice, or make any disclosure to Revenue.

Comprehensive information, including Frequently Asked Questions have been placed on the Revenue website www.revenue.ie giving further details of Revenue's initiative.

Tax Yield.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

115 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance the amount raised from excise duties on petrol and diesel respectively for the years 2005, 2006, 2007 and to date in 2008; the amount raised from VAT on petrol and diesel respectively for the years 2005, 2006, 2007 and to date in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21968/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the amounts of tax revenue collected from Mineral Oil Tax and VAT on these products for the years 2004 to 2007 and the first four months of 2008 are as follows:

Mineral Oil Tax

2004

2005

2006

2007 Prov

2008 (Jan to Apr) Prov

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

Petrol

970.7

1,001.9

1,026.4

1,051.3

382.4

Auto Diesel

870.7

920.5

1,016.7

1,075.8

392.6

Marked Gas Oil

70.9

72.9

68.8

68.4

26.2

Kerosene

33.5

33.7

18.0

0.0

0.0

Total

1,945.8

2,029.0

2,129.9

2,195.5

801.2

Estimated VAT Yield

2004 Est.

2005 Est.

2006 Est.

2007 Est.

2008 (Jan to Apr) Est.

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

Petrol

342

393

440

465

177

Auto Diesel

38

46

53

57

23

Marked Gas Oil

48

65

73

70

31

Kerosene

51

69

79

77

46

Total

479

573

645

669

277

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

Decentralisation Programme.

David Stanton

Question:

116 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 135 of 8 April 2007 the further progress that has been made in decentralisation to Youghal in particular in the sourcing of suitable temporary accommodation to allow the early decentralisation of some staff of the Public Appointments Service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21946/08]

The Public Appointments Service (PAS) will decentralise one hundred (100) posts to Youghal. Arrangements are proceeding in accordance with their Decentralisation Implementation Plan. In accordance with the indicative timescale set out in the Decentralisation Implementation Group's Report to Government in July 2007 the PAS is working towards decentralisation to Youghal in the 3rd quarter of 2009. Eleven (11) staff are currently in posts in Dublin awaiting a transfer to Youghal.

I am informed that the Commissioners of Public Works have agreed to purchase a site comprising 1.21 hectares/ 2.98 acres from Cork County Council at Youghal for the sum of €1.8 million. The intention is to build new offices on the site to accommodate 100 staff from the Valuation Office and 100 staff from the Public Appointments Service under a design/build process which will be initiated once the purchase is completed.

The purchase terms were agreed with the Council in late 2006, but the draft Contract for Sale was not received from Cork County Council's Solicitors until October 2007. The draft Contract is still under negotiation with the Council on a number of title related issues.

The Public Appointments Service has indicated that it would locate approximately 10 staff in an advance office in Youghal, if the Commissioners of Public Works could source suitable short-term office accommodation. However, no suitable accommodation has been identified to date.

Financial Services Regulation.

Joan Burton

Question:

117 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of the turmoil in the international financial markets and consequent concerns about probity in Irish financial markets, he is satisfied that the regulation of financial markets here is sufficiently robust and thorough, particularly in view of a recent Supreme Court ruling that the executive chairman of a major Irish company used insider information to trade illegally, has only recently resigned following the Irish Association of Investment Managers stating that it is inappropriate for them to remain in office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21984/08]

I should first explain that policy responsibility for market abuse legislation is a matter for my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

It is important to emphasise that the statutory framework for financial regulation in Ireland is largely shaped by a detailed and comprehensive EU template, which applies across the Union. The Irish financial services industry is also supported by a strong and credible regulatory system. Our principles-led regulatory system maintains the highest standards and the recent OECD economic survey of Ireland gave high marks to the Irish regulatory system, acknowledging in particular the important forward-looking actions taken by the Financial Regulator in advance of the market turmoil in the latter part of 2007. The International Monetary Fund in its assessment of the stability of Ireland's financial system also commented very favourably on the progress achieved in strengthening the regulatory and supervisory framework in Ireland.

The case to which the Deputy refers occurred prior to the enactment of the legislation which currently governs market abuse. The legislative framework which now applies to market abuse issues is S.I. No. 342 of 2005, the Market Abuse (Directive 2003/6/EC) Regulations, 2005. These regulations apply to all financial instruments admitted to trading on the main market of the Irish Stock Exchange and reflect the provisions of the EU Market Abuse Directive which embodies best practice international standards to guard against insider trading and market manipulation.

Responsibility for the day-to-day administration of this legislation is a matter for the Financial Regulator. Since it took on this function, the Financial Regulator has introduced additional market abuse rules. I understand that the Financial Regulator has also been working throughout 2007 and continues to work on strategic plans to strengthen significantly its supervisory role in relation to the financial markets. Furthermore it has substantial powers available to it to compel evidence and to impose administrative sanctions.

Consequently, I am satisfied that Ireland has a strong legislative framework for financial regulation, including in relation to market abuse, and that this is complemented by a robust supervisory regime.

With regard to the particular case referred to by the Deputy, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on an individual case in respect of which the Director of Corporate Enforcement has applied for the appointment of High Court inspectors.

Credit Union Regulation.

Liz McManus

Question:

118 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Finance if he has plans to introduce a list of restricted risky investments which credit unions will be advised against purchasing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21956/08]

As Minister for Finance, my role is to ensure that the legal framework for credit unions is appropriate for the effective operation and supervision of credit unions. The Registrar of Credit Unions is responsible for administering the system of regulation and supervision of credit unions provided under the Credit Union Act, 1997 with a view to the protection by each credit union of the funds of its members, and the maintenance of the financial stability of credit unions generally.

Under the legislative framework set out in the Credit Union Act the primary function of credit unions is to offer savings and loans services to its members. In view of the very significant growth over recent years in shares and deposits in many credit unions over and above what is required for their lending activities, significant resources have been available for investment by credit unions to generate a return for members. Credit union investments are governed by Section 43 of the Credit Union Act, 1997 which restricts investments to those which trustees are authorised to invest in under the Trustee (Authorised Investment) Order 1998. The Registrar of Credit Unions also has powers under Section 87(3)(b) of the Credit Union Act to give a regulatory direction to a credit union, if he deems it appropriate in the interest of members, to limit investments of a specified class or description.

The Board of Directors of each individual credit union is responsible for ensuring that its investment policy is prudent and responsible and conforms to what is legally permissible under the Credit Union Act. In order to assist Boards in effectively discharging this important function, in October 2006 the Registrar of Credit Unions issued a detailed Guidance Note on Investments to help safeguard the risk profile of credit union investments and ensure that members' savings continue to be protected. This provides the basis for monitoring the investment activities of credit unions by the Registrar. Following the changes in financial market conditions for investments since August 2007 the Registrar of Credit Unions on foot of a request from my Department has initiated a process, including consultation with stakeholders, with a view to revising the existing investment framework. This review will be informed by such factors as recent market developments and an assessment of the investment activities of credit unions overall. The Registrar has undertaken to keep my Department informed of progress.

Economic Competitiveness.

Jack Wall

Question:

119 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance his views on reports of significant reductions in the number of high street shoppers around the country and that the Cental Statistics Office has recently recorded the first year on year fall in retail sales since 2004; the impact this will have on consumer spending and VAT returns for 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21967/08]

The main source of short-term trends on consumer spending is the monthly retail sales data series, published by the CSO. The latest data relate to the first quarter of 2008, and show a year-on-year inflation-adjusted decrease of -0.2 per cent in retail spending on the corresponding period last year. Excluding car sales, retail sales rose by 2.1 per cent in the first quarter. It is clear that consumer confidence has deteriorated recently, as the outlook for the economy and employment has become less benign. This would appear to be impacting upon people's spending decisions.

The Budget day forecasts for VAT receipts this year are partly based on this more modest rate of consumer spending. VAT receipts in the opening months of the year are behind profile. Later today, as is the norm, my Department will publish detailed information in relation to the Exchequer position at end-May.

Data Protection.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

120 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance if he will introduce legislation as a matter of urgency to ensure that Irish banks are compelled to come clean about security breaches in relation to personal data as soon as they become apparent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21955/08]

I should first explain that legislative and policy responsibility for data protection is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Also, enforcement of data protection legislation is the responsibility of the Data Protection Commissioner. As Minister for Finance, I have, therefore, no statutory function in relation to the matter raised by the Deputy in his question. Hence, pending consideration of this matter by the relevant Minister it would not be appropriate for me to make any substantive comment as to the case for legislation to compel holders of personal data which, the Deputy will appreciate, involves far more entities than simply banks, to disclose security breaches.

This issue does however serve to highlight once again the absolute necessity for all organisations in the public and private sector to take their data protection responsibilities seriously. In particular, all organisations should have appropriate security measures in place to protect the personal data for which they have responsibility including as necessary any portable devices on which personal data may be stored. If a need is found, appropriate security measures such as encryption should be put in place immediately.

As far as the financial sector in particular is concerned, as the Deputy may be aware the Financial Regulator has recently stressed the requirement for financial institutions to comply with all aspects of the law and regulatory requirements including in relation to compliance with Data Protection Regulations. The Financial Regulator and the Data Protection Commissioner have confirmed that they are co-operating in respect of any specific issues relating to confidential personal information held by financial institutions.

Tax Code.

Jack Wall

Question:

121 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if he will propose changes in the treatment of people who are non-resident for tax purposes but in effect live in Ireland, assisted in particular by the Cinderella rule whereby if they leave the country by 12 midnight, it does not count as a day for tax residency purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21966/08]

A person is regarded as resident in the State for tax purposes in a tax year if he or she spends:

(a) 183 days in the State in that year, or

(b) 280 days in aggregate in that tax year and the preceding tax year.

An individual who is present in the State for 30 days or less in a tax year will not be treated as resident for that year unless he or she elects to be resident. Also, a day will only count if the individual is present in the State at the end of the day.

The tax residency rules were last updated in the 1994 Finance Act and they are similar to the rules that apply in many other developed countries. As with other areas of taxation, the rules are constantly kept under review.

Departmental Estimates.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

122 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Finance if he will bring forward revised spending estimates for 2008 in view of the steeper than expected decline in Exchequer returns, the steeper than expected increase in the live register and higher than expected inflation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21972/08]

The 2008 spending plans were set out in detail in the Revised Estimates for Public Services 2008 which were published on 21 February 2008. The Estimates provide for total gross expenditure of just under €62 billion made up of approximately €53 billion current expenditure and €9 billion capital expenditure. These are the settled spending allocations with which all Government Departments and Agencies must comply.

The end-April Exchequer returns showed that expenditure was broadly on target for the first four months of 2008. The question of bringing forward revised spending plans for 2008 does not arise.

Local Authority Funding.

James Bannon

Question:

123 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Finance his views on sharing general tax revenue with local authorities. [21858/08]

Local Authorities are multi-purpose bodies responsible for an extensive range of services. The annual budget of local authorities is formulated under eight main programme groups, including housing, water services, waste management, etc. In 2007, total expenditure by local authorities amounted to some €10 billion.

Capital expenditure is financed largely by State grants with the balance being funded from development levies and borrowings and own internal resources and property sales. Current expenditure is funded from a variety of sources, including charges for goods and services(31%), rates (26%) Government Grants and Subsidies (22%) and the Local Government Fund (20%).

The Local Government Fund (LGF) is a special central fund which was established in 1999 under the Local Government Act 1998. It is financed by the proceeds of motor tax and an Exchequer contribution. The Exchequer Contribution in 2008 amounts to €545m. The Fund provides local authorities with the finance for general discretionary funding of their day-to-day activities and for non-national roads, and funding for certain local government initiatives.

In March 2006, the then Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government published an independent report on local government financing. The main recommendations, contained in the Report, included the introduction of more locally based sources of funding, the economic charging for local authority services generally, the imposition of a contribution for commercial properties not currently covered by commercial rates, the extension of water charges and the introduction of a new tax on non-primary private residences.

The extent to which the Exchequer contributes to the Local Government Fund is determined in the context of the Public Service Estimates each year. As the Deputy is aware, the Commission on Taxation, established by my predecessor in February 2008, is reviewing the structure, efficiency and appropriateness of the Irish taxation system. Under its terms of reference, the Commission is specifically charged with considering options regarding the future financing of local government. I will consider this matter further in the context of the Commission's findings.

Economic Competitiveness.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

124 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the deterioration of the Exchequer position over the first five months of 2008; if he has plans to present an updated profile of Government revenues for 2008 in view of the fact that he has acknowledged that the Exchequer is unlikely to recoup in the second half of 2008 the shortfall from the first five months of 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21960/08]

The most recent projections for the public finances were set out at Budget time when an Exchequer deficit of €4,866 million was projected for this year. At this time an economic growth rate of 3.0 per cent in GDP terms was forecast for 2008. A number of specific risks to that forecast were highlighted and these are now materialising. While my Department has not published new forecasts, I would point out that the current market consensus forecasts for growth now average around 2 per cent for this year. More modest growth has implications for the evolution of the public finances.

At end-April, my Department published information which showed that overall tax receipts for the first four months of the year were €736 million, or 5.3 per cent, behind target. At the time it was indicated that it was not expected that the tax shortfall would be recouped. Later today, as is the norm, my Department will publish detailed information in relation to the Exchequer position at end-May. In relation to tax revenue, these numbers will show a further deterioration in taxes and as previously indicated the shortfall is not expected to be recouped later in the year. My Department monitors tax receipts and expenditure on an ongoing basis and an updated view on the expected Exchequer position in 2008 will be presented at the end of this quarter.

While the fiscal position has weakened from that envisaged at Budget time, this has to be considered in the context of the strong position of the public finances such as our low debt to GDP ratio.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

125 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of significant increases in the live register during the first quarter of 2008 and projected increases over the remainder of 2008, he will outline the impact such increases will have on the Exchequer in terms of increased social welfare payments and reduced income tax receipts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21965/08]

I am aware of the recent pressure on the Live Register. The Government is closely monitoring the emerging position.

The 2008 expenditure allocation for the Exchequer social welfare Jobseekers Allowance scheme is almost €1,020 million. However, Jobseekers Allowance is only one of a number of demand led schemes that are funded from the Vote of the Department of Social and Family Affairs. The expenditure trend on the Jobseekers Allowance scheme, and also on the other social welfare Exchequer funded schemes, will, as I said, be closely monitored by Government during the course of the year. While it is still too early to reach a firm conclusion, there are indications that such pressures will not pose significant difficulties for the Social and Family Affairs Vote as a whole. Expenditure on the Jobseekers Benefit scheme is met from the Social Insurance Fund and does not fall on the Exchequer.

Regarding income tax, at the end of April receipts were up 2.8% compared to the same period last year and just 0.3% below expectations. Despite the Live Register pressure, this is a welcome indicator of the resilience of the Irish economy and my Department will continue to closely monitor overall tax performance over the coming months as a clearer trend emerges.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

126 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if he proposes new measures in 2008 to stimulate the economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21945/08]

While there are a number of challenges facing the economy, the fundamentals are still good. For instance, we have one of the lowest levels of public debt in the euro area, our markets are flexible allowing us to respond efficiently to adverse developments, we have a dynamic and well educated labour force, we have a pro-business outward looking society and the tax burden on both labour and capital is low.

Budget 2008 represented a stimulus to the economy and should help boost economic activity.

Sustained investment in our core economic infrastructure, as provided for in the National Development Plan, remains a key priority for the period ahead.

In this context, the Government is also committed to education, training and life-long learning in order to ensure that those losing their jobs can acquire the necessary skills to gain employment in expanding sectors of the economy.

Through the social partnership process, the Government is also supporting improvements in competitiveness by promoting sensible wage developments as well as reforming the public sector.

We are also committed to maintaining flexibility in our economy and to maintaining a low burden of taxation of capital and labour in order to reward work and enterprise.

Tax Yield.

David Stanton

Question:

127 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 159 of 27 May 2008 the breakdown of moneys accrued by the Exchequer for each month respectively in 2007 and to date in 2008 by way of excise duty, VAT and other such payments through the sale of respective petroleum products including home heating oil, petrol, diesels and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21947/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the amounts of tax revenue collected from Mineral Oil Tax on petroleum products for each month respectively in 2007 and the first four months of 2008 are set out in the following Appendix A and Appendix B.

VAT returns do not require the yield from a particular sector or sub-sector of trade to be identified and therefore the VAT yield in each month on petroleum products cannot be provided. The figures provided in this reply for monthly VAT receipts are estimates of the amount of VAT yield that would be generated by the volume of clearances of oil products up to the end of each month. Mineral Oil Tax is paid in the month of clearance of the product but, depending on the nature of the registration status of a trader, VAT returns can be made monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, half yearly or annually. This will dictate the point in time when VAT on sales will actually be paid to Revenue.

It should also be noted that the VAT content of purchases of Auto Diesel, Marked Gas Oil, Kerosene and Fuel Oil is a deductible credit for business in the Irish VAT system. There are no VAT receipts for Heavy Fuel Oil, as this type of residual oil is used only by registered traders and any VAT paid is reclaimed.

The yield from excise, as excise is set at a nominal amount, does not increase as the price of fuels increase. On the other hand, the yield from VAT, as VAT is set as a percentage of the price, increases as the price of fuels increase. However, in this regard it should be borne in mind that to the extent that spending in the economy is re-allocated to petrol and other oil products, and away from other VAT liable spending, and to the extent that the overall level of economic activity is reduced by higher oil prices, there may be little or no net gain to the Exchequer.

Appendix A: Mineral Oil Tax

Petrol

Diesel

Fuel Oil

MGO

Auto LPG

2007 Prov

2007 Prov

2007 Prov

2007 Prov

2007 Prov

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

Jan

122.5

111.3

0.8

8.1

0.006

Feb

80.6

85.5

0.8

6.4

0.005

Mar

88.5

91.3

0.6

6.6

0.006

Apr

86.4

87.8

0.9

5.5

0.003

May

93.4

96.4

0.9

5.7

0.008

June

88.4

90.7

0.8

5.6

0.003

July

87.7

89.9

0.6

4.9

0.006

Aug

94.6

93.1

0.6

5.7

0.006

Sep

84.0

88.1

0.7

5.7

0.007

Oct

94.4

98.2

0.8

5.5

0.004

Nov

85.8

93.1

0.5

6.2

0.006

Dec

45.0

50.4

0.4

2.5

0.005

Total

1,051.3

1,075.8

8.4

68.4

0.07

2008 Prov

2008 Prov

2008 Prov

2008 Prov

2008 Prov

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

Jan

123.2

113.7

0.6

7.2

0.004

Feb

83.2

91.0

0.5

6.4

0.005

Mar

84.9

88.3

0.5

5.6

0.005

Apr

91.1

99.6

0.6

7.0

0.003

Total

382.4

392.6

2.3

26.2

0.02

Appendix B: Estimated VAT Receipts.

Petrol

Diesel

Kerosene

MGO

Auto LPG

2007 Estd

2007 Estd

2007 Estd

2007 Estd

2007 Estd

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

Jan

54.2

5.9

14.3

8.3

0.009

Feb

35.6

4.5

10.0

6.5

0.007

Mar

39.2

4.8

8.8

6.8

0.009

Apr

38.2

4.7

3.8

5.6

0.005

May

41.3

5.1

3.4

5.8

0.012

June

39.1

4.8

2.5

5.7

0.005

July

38.8

4.8

2.9

5.0

0.009

Aug

41.8

4.9

3.1

5.8

0.010

Sep

37.2

4.7

6.1

5.8

0.010

Oct

41.8

5.2

8.7

5.6

0.006

Nov

38.0

4.9

8.5

6.3

0.010

Dec

19.9

2.7

4.8

2.6

0.008

Total

465.0

57.0

77.0

70.0

0.10

2008

2008

2008

2008

2008

Estd

Estd

Estd

Estd

Estd

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

Jan

57.3

6.7

15.2

8.7

0.007

Feb

38.1

5.2

11.3

7.2

0.009

Mar

39.6

5.1

10.8

6.7

0.011

Apr

42.0

6.0

8.7

8.4

0.007

Total

177.0

23.0

46.0

31.0

0.03

Public Transport.

Joe Costello

Question:

128 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Finance if he has plans to allow commuter buses to use the Phoenix Park on a regular basis; the plans if they exist; if consultations will be carried out with local people as to the desirability of such a development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21982/08]

As confirmed in a reply to a similar question on 5 February 2008 (Ceist 214) the position is as follows. In line with the recommendation outlined in the Phoenix Park Transportation Study published in September 2006, I wish to confirm that the OPW has so far agreed to facilitate a limited year round public transport service through the Park, and is assisting the relevant agencies in this regard. The Phoenix Park Transportation Study was produced following an extensive public consultation process with residents groups, Local Authorities, public representatives and other interested parties. A number of presentations on the completed Study were subsequently held for these groups.

Social Partnership Agreements.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

129 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance his views on the ICTU economic outlook for 2008, in particular its assertion that the cost of living will continue to rise in 2008; and his views on whether this will have an impact on the current round of pay talks. [16607/08]

I am aware of the Economic Outlook publication prepared by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. This set out their analysis of the Irish economy as the national pay talks got underway. I acknowledge that there has been a recent increase in the rate of consumer price inflation but this is primarily due to external factors. At a recent plenary session of the social partnership pay talks, my Department gave an update as to economic and fiscal developments. At the time it was pointed out that the current market consensus is that inflation, as measured by the CPI, will average 4 per cent this year and moderate to an average of 2.5 per cent in 2009. Any new agreement will have to take account of the economic and budgetary realities and the need to improve our competitive position.

Finally, from a competitiveness perspective, I would stress the importance of ensuring that the externally-driven price increases that we are currently experiencing are not exacerbated by internally-generated second-round effects. Securing a sensible and sustainable outcome to the current round of pay talks will have an important role to play in this respect.

Departmental Expenditure Reviews.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

130 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance the purpose and extent of the efficiency reviews of public expenditure as cited in the OECD’s 2008 Economic Survey of Ireland; the terms of reference of these reviews; the person who is carrying out these reviews; when he expects these reviews to be completed; if and when these reviews will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21970/08]

In my predecessor's 2008 Budget Statement before this House on 5th December 2007, he announced the Government's agreement to an efficiency review of all administrative spending across the whole public service. In the Summary of Budget Measures, he set out his intentions as to how the review process should proceed.

In essence, all Government Departments and Offices were required to examine all administrative spending within their area, including spending by state bodies under their aegis, and to report back to my Department by March 2008 with specific proposals to maximise administrative savings in their area. The results of this exercise would then be reviewed within the Department of Finance, and the savings identified would be used in reducing the cost of the existing level of services for 2009 and subsequent years.

In setting out the parameters of the Efficiency Review, no requirements were laid down as to the persons who should be involved in conducting the examinations within each Department, nor as to the specific terms of reference that would guide the examination exercise in each case, as these are matters to be determined by the Head of Department or Office in each case. However, in the Summary of 2008 Budget Measures, particular areas of interest identified included possible inefficiencies due to the multiplicity of Boards and Agencies; the need for better sharing of certain services; and efficiencies in management, travel and consumables in general. It was also indicated that the measures identified would not jeopardise the maintenance of front-line services.

The Efficiency Review process has been completed in all Departments at this stage and my Department is reviewing the results at present. I anticipate that the outcomes of the exercise will have a bearing upon the preparations for the 2009 Pre-Budget Expenditure Estimates, which are due to be published in October this year.

As indicated in the 2008 Summary of Budget Measures, each Secretary General will be required to advise their relevant Oireachtas Committee of the savings agreed by Government arising in the Efficiency Review and be examined on these. The question of making the outcomes of the Efficiency Review exercise available to the Committees and public will naturally arise in that context.

Fiscal Policy.

Willie Penrose

Question:

131 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Finance his views on the serious decline in tax receipts which are running €736 million below target for the first four months of 2008; if he anticipates being in a position to meet all the spending commitments set out in Budget 2008; the implications the revenue shortfall is expected to have for the remainder of 2008 and on the spending commitments set out in Budget 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21952/08]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

136 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance the steps, in view of the fact that tax revenues to date in 2008 are significantly behind compared with the same period in 2007, he will take to ensure that the Exchequer has the revenue to meet public spending demands. [21938/08]

Bernard Allen

Question:

151 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Finance his views on the implications of the shortfall in tax receipts to date in 2008 for public policy. [21855/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 131, 136 and 151 together.

At Budget time, an Exchequer deficit of €4,866 million was projected for the year with tax revenue growth of 3½ per cent forecast. At end-April, my Department published information which showed that overall tax receipts for the first four months of the year were €736 million, or 5.3%, behind target. At the time it was indicated that it was not expected that the tax shortfall would be recouped. Later today, as is the norm, my Department will publish detailed information in relation to the Exchequer position at end-May. In relation to tax revenue, these numbers will show a further deterioration in taxes and as previously indicated the shortfall is not expected to be recouped later in the year. My Department monitors tax receipts and expenditure on an ongoing basis and an updated view on the expected Exchequer position in 2008 will be presented at the end of this quarter.

While the fiscal position has weakened from that envisaged at Budget time, this has to be considered in the context of the strong position of the public finances such as our low debt to GDP ratio.

Tax Evasion.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

132 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of the recent surge in the number of protective notifications, he sees scope for further enhancing the Revenue Commissioners powers to crack down on aggressive tax avoidance schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21979/08]

The protective notification regime, provided for by section 811A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 (TCA 1997), was introduced by Finance Act 2006 and was amended in Finance Act 2008 with a view to making it more effective. Section 811A is, in effect, a companion provision to the general anti-avoidance provision, contained in section 811 of the TCA 1997, which was introduced in 1989 after the Courts had declined to strike down certain artificial tax avoidance schemes.

Section 811 acts as a back-stop provision, designed to prevent tax avoidance arrangements, which circumvent the broad purpose of tax law to impose a charge to tax while staying within the letter of the law, from being effective in reducing tax liabilities. Under section 811 the Revenue Commissioners can seek to withdraw the tax advantage from the arrangements concerned by invoking the general anti-avoidance provision. The Revenue Commissioners can, of course, only challenge these artificial arrangements if and when they come to their attention.

Clearly, it is vital for the overall effectiveness of the tax system that the Revenue Commissioners be aware of the tax avoidance strategies being used by taxpayers. The primary purpose of the protective notification regime is, therefore, to encourage taxpayers and their advisers to be open with Revenue in relation to transactions that may be tax avoidance transactions within the meaning of section 811. The reason for revisiting the issue in this year's Finance Act was that the response to the original 2006 initiative had been very disappointing with only 8 notifications received and all of these emanating from the same group of companies. In this context, it was clear that the initiative needed to be reconsidered.

It was against that background that Finance Act 2008 increased the section 811A surcharge from 10% to 20% of the tax reinstated where a transaction is ultimately determined to be a tax avoidance transaction, introduced a “reasonableness test” on any appeal to the Appeal Commissioners and the Courts, and, by way of a positive incentive for the taxpayer to make a protective notification, introduced a two year time limit on the Revenue Commissioners forming an opinion that a transaction is a tax avoidance transaction from the date a notification is made.

A taxpayer can still get full protection from the surcharge, interest on the unpaid tax and the reasonableness test on appeal, and can obtain the certainty and finality of a two-year time-limit on Revenue forming an opinion that a transaction is a tax avoidance transaction, by the simple expedient of voluntarily making a protective notification to the Revenue Commissioners on a wholly non-prejudicial basis.

It is encouraging that the changes made in the 2008 Finance Act are already having some impact, with 53 new protective notifications received by the Revenue Commissioners since its enactment. In that regard, however, I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the significant increase in the number of protective notifications does not translate into a similar increase in the number of tax avoidance schemes or arrangements coming to their attention, as many of these notifications relate to the same scheme.

That said I am, nonetheless, heartened by the fact that it appears that taxpayers and their advisers are now treating the provisions of section 811A seriously and taking the opportunity to avail of the protections afforded by the section. When the enhancement of section 811A was announced earlier this year, my predecessor indicated that if it transpired that taxpayers and their advisers did not use this opportunity to be open with Revenue, there would be no hesitation in revisiting the issue again and proposing such further changes as may be necessary to ensure the provision's effectiveness. To this end my Department, together with the Revenue Commissioners, will monitor the effectiveness of section 811A over the next year to assess if it requires any further adjustments.

Departmental Expenditure Evaluation.

Richard Bruton

Question:

133 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance his views on giving the Oireachtas the power to initiate an evaluation of spending programmes under the value for money initiative. [21863/08]

I think it is important that the Oireachtas should engage with evaluation of spending programmes under the Value for Money Initiative, and in this regard the Deputy will be aware that the Orders of Reference for the Select Committees of the 30th Dáil specifically encompass consideration of the reviews completed under this initiative. The Deputy will also be aware that my predecessor wrote to the Chairpersons of all Dáil Select Committees on 1st February this year encouraging them to ensure that the Committees schedule time to consider Value for Money and Policy Reviews in detail, and where appropriate, to discuss the Reviews and their conclusions and recommendations with the relevant Department.

In my view this approach combined with the submission of Annual Output Statements to the Select Committees facilitates enhanced scrutiny and evaluation of the Estimates by the Dáil and ensures accountability for what is being achieved with the moneys approved.

Financial Services Regulation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

134 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that sufficient structures, guidelines and regulations are in place and operational to safeguard the stability of the banking and financial services with particular reference to lending and borrowing policies, insider dealing, money laundering or other activities likely to have a knock-on effect or implications for the wider economy; if specific changes are proposed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21942/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

180 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that adequate protective procedures and practices exist to protect the integrity of banking and financial services from unscrupulous operators, from within and outside the system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22289/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

181 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if steps were taken by banking international services here to prevent the occurrence here of financial scandals similar to those in other jurisdictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22290/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 134, 180 and 181 together.

The role of the Minister for Finance as regards financial regulation is to develop policy and bring forward proposals to the Oireachtas for the regulation of the financial services sector. Once that legislation has been enacted, the task of implementing and applying it on a day-to-day basis rests with the Financial Regulator, which is independent in the exercise of its function.

The most important safeguard of financial stability is the existence and effective operation of the financial regulatory and supervisory regime. The Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland integrates within a single institutional structure both the supervision of individual financial firms by the Financial Regulator and the monitoring of overall financial stability which is the independent responsibility of the Governor of the Central Bank. This structure yields significant advantages in terms of monitoring and maintaining financial stability in ensuring effective and timely co-ordination of these two key functions.

The assurance of financial stability is, of course, an ongoing task. To this end, both entities maintain an ongoing and open dialogue with the domestic credit institutions to review issues affecting the domestic financial system. As far as the current financial market environment is concerned, the most important point that needs to be made in the national context is that Ireland's banking system is well-capitalised, profitable, liquid and soundly regulated in this regard.

It is important to emphasise that the framework for financial regulation here is shaped by a detailed and comprehensive template, which applies across the EU. There have been a number of positive assessments of the effectiveness of our system of financial supervision. The recent OECD economic survey of Ireland gave high marks to the Irish regulatory system. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in their assessment of the stability of Ireland's financial system also commented very favourably on the progress achieved in strengthening the regulatory and supervisory framework in Ireland.

There are obviously important lessons to be learned from recent events in international financial markets. This process of review and examination has been underway for some time. The Deputy may be aware that arising from an Ecofin Council meeting in October 2007, EU Finance Ministers agreed on a set of common principles and a roadmap of further actions to enhance financial stability arrangements and the ability of authorities to respond to serious disturbances in EU financial markets. A further detailed set of conclusions on financial stability and financial supervision in the EU were adopted following the Ecofin Council meeting last month. Ireland is of course participating fully in this ongoing work to ensure that there is an effective EU-wide system to maintain financial stability taking into account the important cross-border linkages that now exist in EU financial markets. My Department is also continuing to work closely with the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland to oversee national financial stability planning arrangements in line with EU requirements.

As regards protecting a bank against fraudulent or unscrupulous operators, both internal and external, I would remind the Deputy that the primary responsibility for managing a bank lies with the management of that institution. No regulatory authority can put in place a supervisory regime to ensure that a financial institution can never be a victim of fraudulent or reckless trading activity from within. It is up to management to have appropriate controls to prevent or detect such activity. The Financial Regulator works closely with the financial institutions which it supervises to ensure that they remain focused and alert to these risks and have robust and effective controls in place.

International Agreements.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

135 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Finance if he agrees with the Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies of Ireland that unilateral tax credit arrangements with other countries is preferable to a series of double taxation agreements; if he proposes to pursue such an approach to international taxation agreements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21975/08]

Ireland has generous provisions in its tax code for granting relief from double taxation in respect of income of Irish residents that has suffered tax in a foreign country. Generally this allows for foreign tax paid by an Irish resident taxpayer to be credited against the Irish tax on the same income. Normally credit relief is only granted in respect of tax suffered in countries with which Ireland has concluded a double taxation treaty. The relief is granted based on the elimination of double taxation article in the relevant treaty.

In certain cases Ireland has gone further and provided unilateral credit for foreign tax paid in countries for which there is not a double taxation treaty in place. This is provided for in relation to certain foreign dividends and interest of Irish companies. There are also similar provisions covering foreign branch profits of Irish companies.

Granting credit unilaterally in respect of income from countries with which Ireland does not have a double taxation treaty in place is potentially more expensive for the Irish Exchequer and this is a matter that must be considered in the context of any consideration of an extension of the Irish unilateral credit provisions. Furthermore, the granting unilaterally of benefits that are normally only given on a reciprocal basis in double taxation treaties may impact on the priority that non-treaty countries give to requests from Ireland to enter into negotiations for a double taxation treaty.

Question No. 136 answered with Question No. 131.

Financial Services Regulation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

137 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that the strength of the Euro is adequately and accurately reflected in all trans-national transactions, both in the financial services and the commercial sector, having particular regard to the need to ensure that consumers and the economy here are not disadvantaged by restrictive practices applied here or abroad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21943/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

175 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he directly or through the regulator has taken steps to ensure that Irish consumers in the financial services sector and outside receive the full benefit of the increased strength of the Euro; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22284/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 137 and 175 together.

As the Deputy will be aware the general issue of the pricing of UK goods in Ireland on the basis of the increased strength of the euro has been the subject of recent discussions between my colleague the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Chief Executive Officer of the National Consumer Agency. The main issue highlighted in that context was the importance for consumers to consider their options when it came to their weekly shopping basket and the Agency's engagement with Retail Ireland to discuss the delays in passing on the benefits accruing from the appreciation of the euro.

As far as the financial sector is concerned, international survey evidence indicates that the price and availability of financial services in Ireland, in general, compares favourably to other EU Member States. This reflects increased competitive pressures in the Irish market on account of, for example, new market entrants and initiatives such as the development of the Financial Regulator's consumer information role and the introduction of the bank switching code. Exchange rate changes would not, in any event, be expected to exert any particular significant influence on the cost of retail financial services in Ireland as compared to such factors as changes in official interest rates and funding costs for financial institutions in the current market environment.

In terms of the promotion of competition in the banking sector the Deputy may wish to note that significant progress has been made in implementing the recommendations contained in the Competition Authority's 2005 report to strengthen competition between financial institutions. The establishment of the Single Euro Payment Area (SEPA) in the EU is also designed to increase competition in the financial sector by eliminating barriers to cross-border payments which will facilitate consumers in opening and operating bank accounts in other EU Member States.

Consumer information and awareness has a very important role to play in boosting competitive pressures in the retail financial sector. The Financial Regulator encourages all consumers to shop around before purchasing any financial product and has developed a number of specific initiatives to help consumers to make informed choices in terms of their purchase of financial products. These initiatives have been developed through the framework of the Financial Regulator's "It's Your Money" campaign and have involved publishing consumer guides on credit products, fact sheets and cost surveys on personal loans, all of which are intended to assist borrowers in making the most appropriate credit decisions given their circumstances. This information is available through its publications, help-line and website. In view of the recent trends in exchange rates, it would of course be important for consumers to shop around for the best rates available for the purchase of foreign currency.

As regards exchange rate charges, relevant charges (which includes margins and spreads) in respect of Bureau de Change Businesses must be approved by the Financial Regulator under S149 or S149A of the Consumer Credit Act, 1995 (as amended). On an annual basis the Financial Regulator conducts a nationwide survey of foreign exchange charges being imposed by credit institutions and bureaux de change on consumers for retail foreign exchange transactions. The purpose of this is to confirm whether these providers of foreign exchange facilities imposed these charges in accordance with relevant legislation. In 2007, the Financial Regulator visited a total of 75 outlets of 10 foreign exchange providers (5 credit institutions and 5 bureaux de change). The survey focused primarily on the costs imposed by these financial service providers on consumers when converting euro denominations to Sterling, US Dollars, Polish Zloty and Czech Koruna and conversely when converting these currencies to Euro. Overall the findings showed a high level of compliance among foreign exchange providers. Where issues were identified, the Financial Regulator has followed up with the relevant institution to ensure these issues were addressed in an appropriate and timely manner.

Capital Expenditure Programmes.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

138 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Finance if he has met with Government Departments regarding commitments in respect of proposed new capital spending on projects such as school and hospital building and refurbishment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21951/08]

As Minister for Finance, I continually meet my Ministerial colleagues on matters of Government policy generally, including as regards progress on implementing the various capital programmes provided for in the annual Estimates. I envisage I will have more such meetings in the run up to the Budget. There is nothing exceptional about this.

Question No. 139 answered with Question No. 79.

Price Inflation.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

140 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance his views on the fact that inflation remains persistently high; if he proposes measures to bring down the inflation rate; if he has or intends to instruct the National Consumer Agency to take specific steps to tackle inflation and predatory pricing; if he will take steps to protect the real incomes of workers during the upcoming national pay talks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21959/08]

As measured by the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP), annual inflation in Ireland was 3.3% in April 2008, the same as the Euro area average. Using the domestic measure — the Consumer Price Index (CPI) — the annual inflation rate was 4.3% in April 2008. This represents an improvement on the CPI inflation rate of 5.0% recorded a month earlier.

The pick-up in inflation in recent years has been driven primarily by external developments, namely the global rise in oil and food prices and increases in interest rates. In the year to April 2008, food costs rose by some 8.4%, contributing 0.9 percentage points to the annual increase in prices while the cost of energy rose by 7.3%, contributing 0.6 percentage points. If the effect of last year's interest rate increases were removed, CPI inflation in the 12 months to April 2008 would have been 3.5%.

Achieving a moderate rate of inflation is a key economic policy priority given its importance in helping to restore national competitiveness. In recognition of this, the Government is taking positive action to control inflation. Before I outline the nature of this action, I would first draw the Deputy's attention to the fact that as a small open economy, Ireland is largely a price-taker which means that there are few direct measures we can use to reduce the inflationary impact of recent external developments.

Notwithstanding this, the Government is committed to doing what it can. This includes implementing responsible fiscal policies and promoting competition and increased price transparency through the work of the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency. As the Deputy is aware, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment met with the Chief Executive of the National Consumer Agency on May 21 to discuss a range of issues, from which a series of follow-up actions resulted. More recently, the Tánaiste met with IBEC and its affiliated body ‘Retail Ireland', and is scheduled to meet with further retailers this week.

In terms of protecting the real income of workers, I note that pay increases under partnership agreements combined with tax reductions have resulted in the disposable income of the average Irish worker being the second highest in the EU. In the years ahead, the best way to protect the real incomes of ordinary workers is to pursue policies that sustain competitiveness and employment. To this end, I would stress the importance of ensuring that the externally-driven price increases that we are currently experiencing are not exacerbated by internally–generated second-round effects. Securing a sensible and sustainable outcome to the current round of pay talks will have an important role to play in this respect.

International Monetary Institutions.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

141 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance the reforms the Government or the EU favour in relation to affording more accountability on the part of the Bretton Woods institutions. [16848/08]

In recent years the Bretton Woods Institutions have taken a number of steps to bolster their accountability, including the reform of quota and voice within the institutions, improved transparency and evaluation and in the case of the IMF, budgetary reform.

The IMF's 2005 Medium-Term Strategy included a broad programme of modernisation. Subsequently, the IMF has embarked on a process of reform of its governance structures, including its accountability. This involves adjusting quota shares to reflect better the relative weight of members in the world economy and enhancing the voice and participation of low-income members within the Fund. On April 28 last, the Board of Governors of the IMF, including Ireland and other EU Member States, voted in favour of changes to the quota and voting share structure of the institution that will do just this. The changes will also entail a tripling of basic votes, thus enabling each of the two Executive Directors representing African constituencies to appoint an additional Alternate Director.

In terms of the World Bank, its Development Committee's Communiqué of April 2008 encouraged the Bank to advance work on all aspects of voice and participation. The Committee looked forward to a process that is inclusive and consultative among shareholders and to reaching consensus on a comprehensive package of enhancements effecting all developing and transition countries in the Bank, by the 2009 Spring meetings.

Accountability also denotes transparency. In terms of the IMF, it now publishes the bulk of its research and a considerable amount of documentation regarding its work with individual countries on its website. Like the IMF, the World Bank has expanded its transparency in recent years. Its disclosure policies and much documentation are now available on the institution's website.

In addition, both institutions have independent evaluation offices, which conduct independent and objective evaluations of their respective policies and activities.

In terms of budgetary reform, a new income and expenditure framework has been agreed at the IMF. The strategic plan that forms the backbone of the budget is focused on five goals: strengthening multilateral surveillance, sharpening bilateral surveillance, refocusing work on low-income countries, streamlining capacity building, and modernizing the Fund.

Ireland is supportive of these ongoing reforms and will continue to monitor progress on their implementation.

Financial Services Remuneration Policy.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

142 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance his views on the concerns expressed by a number of European Union Finance Ministers that one of the causes of the difficulties being experienced by banks and other financial institutions is the bonus culture of very large sums being paid to people in financial services regardless of the high levels of risk undertaken; if he has plans to curtail this phenomenon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21981/08]

As Minister for Finance, I have no role in relation to the pay of senior executives of financial institutions, or indeed, any other private sector companies. Remuneration policies are ultimately a matter for the board of the directors of the institution concerned and should, in line with good corporate governance, be subject to oversight and approval by shareholders.

As the Deputy may be aware, the question of pay levels of top international executives was a matter for discussion by eurozone Finance Ministers at their May meeting, at which it was decided that the issue will be considered again in the course of the year. A significant issue highlighted in that context was the requirement that remuneration packages at top management levels be consistent with sustainable long-term performance of the firms concerned and be in line with EU-wide objectives for pay moderation in line with productivity and other performance targets.

In the financial sector, it is of course essential that pay structures at top management levels underpin prudent and responsible business practices, effective risk management and the stability of the financial system overall. The steps that might be required to ensure that remuneration policies in the financial sector conform internationally to this standard are being considered in relevant international fora.

Proposed Legislation.

Seán Barrett

Question:

143 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Finance if he plans to extend the Freedom of Information Act 1997. [21859/08]

The scope of the Freedom of Information Act has been extended on a number of occasions and the Act now applies to over 500 bodies across the public sector. My Department is currently involved in making arrangements for a further extension of the Act which I expect to implement before the end of 2008.

Tax Code.

Martin Ferris

Question:

144 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Finance his view of the French call on the EU to sanction a reduction in VAT on fuel in order to alleviate the increased costs imposed on fishermen and farmers. [21941/08]

Martin Ferris

Question:

150 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether changes could be made in relation to taxation and VAT which might provide relief for fishermen currently feeling the impact of rising fuel prices. [21940/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 144 and 150 together.

The increase in oil prices is an international phenomenon which is impacting across all sectors of the economy and of society.

I would draw to the Deputy's attention that, in terms of excise duties, fuel used by fishermen and farmers is already treated favourably compared to fuel used by other sectors. It should also be noted that the VAT content of purchases of auto-diesel and marked gas oil (MGO or green diesel) used in the course of business is a deductible credit for business in the Irish VAT system.

In relation to providing assistance to industries to compensate for the increase in oil prices, at the Informal ECOFIN in September 2005, the Ministers agreed that distortionary fiscal policy interventions, in response to changes in prices, that prevent the necessary adjustments should be avoided. This continues to be the appropriate policy response.

Public Private Partnerships.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

145 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance if his Department is concerned or if other Departments have raised concerns with him regarding the future viability of public private partnership projects in view of the recent collapse of the PPP between Dublin City Council and a developer (details supplied). [21939/08]

Apart from the one case referred to in the media, no similar concerns have been raised with me. The Government remains committed to the use of PPPs in appropriate circumstances as an option in delivering certain public investment projects.

National Development Plan.

Ulick Burke

Question:

146 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Finance the additional current expenditure required in 2009 to 2012 over and above the cost of maintaining existing services to deliver the commitments of the National Development Plan. [21865/08]

The National Development Plan 2007-2013 (NDP) sets out a seven year financial framework within which Government Departments and agencies could plan the delivery of public investment and expenditure, including existing levels of service and enhancements of service. The great bulk of projected NDP investment comes from the Exchequer and this is particularly true of current expenditure. Statutory approval for Exchequer expenditure under the NDP can only be conveyed through the approval by the Dail of the annual estimates.

As the Deputy is aware, the first instalment of the delivery of NDP current expenditure took place in the Estimates approved by the Dail for 2007. The second instalment of NDP current expenditure was included in Budget 2008 last December. Budget 2008 announced all new spending and taxation measures in a single, unified way and was a significant reform providing for greater transparency. The costs associated with the decisions made were set out at Budget time. Full details of NDP projected expenditure for 2007 and 2008 (both current and capital) were set out in Appendix 3 of the Revised Estimates Volumes for 2007 and 2008. The first Annual Report on NDP Implementation, covering 2007, will shortly be submitted to the Oireachtas.

As previously indicated, further instalments for the NDP will be made in the subsequent Budgets over the lifetime of this Government. The Stability and Growth Pact Up-date for 2007 to 2010 was set out in the Budget Booklet published in December 2007. This gives detailed data on the economic and fiscal projections for the period ahead and also provides relevant data on the NDP to which the Deputy might wish to refer.

Tax Yield.

Pat Breen

Question:

147 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Finance if he has had discussions with Ministers from other Member States regarding opposition to the common corporate tax base. [21862/08]

Both my predecessor and officials from my Department have regularly engaged with colleagues from other Member States within the EU on a whole range of policy issues, including tax issues and the common consolidated corporate tax base (CCCTB) and I will, of course, be making this a priority for my own term as Minister for Finance.

The Deputy will be pleased to learn that it is clear from these contacts that there is widespread scepticism among Member States about the notion of a CCCTB. I would point out that, as yet, there is no formal proposal from the European Commission on this issue and Ireland's position on the matter is very clear, and EU Ministers understand this.

Tax Collection.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

148 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Finance the change to the Revenue Commissioners approach to collecting tax from businesses in view of the markedly less benign economic climate and recent reports that the Revenue Commissioners are prepared to show firms some latitude in this regard; if the Revenue Commissioners will engage proactively with businesses to ward off problems at a later date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21977/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that there is no change to their approach to collecting tax from business. The reports to which the Deputy has referred was a reaffirmation of Revenue's long standing message to businesses of the importance of early engagement with Revenue where a business is experiencing difficulties in paying its tax debts. Revenue is not alone in urging such early engagement. Tax practitioners and business representative bodies support the importance of early diagnosis of the problems being faced by a business and timely engagement with Revenue. That encouragement is also something of which I am fully supportive.

Like every other creditor, Revenue wants to be paid what it is owed and on time and will pursue any tax owed with vigour. As the Irish tax and customs administration, Revenue plays a critical role in securing and delivering most of the financial resources required by Government to provide the range of services, facilities and supports that it does. Excellent progress has been made by Revenue in improving tax compliance levels and reduction of the overall level of tax debt, especially in the last ten years. Revenue has assured me of its continuing focus on maintaining that momentum and of its on-going readiness to work with businesses in that process.

Joan Burton

Question:

149 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he will estimate the number of investment properties in the State for which no rental income is declared; if he will estimate the annual cost to the Exchequer of undeclared rental income on investment properties; the details and the scope of the national investigation of undeclared rental income; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21980/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, as with all categories of undeclared income, they are not in a position to provide an estimate of the number of investment properties in the State for which no rental income is declared, or the cost to the Exchequer of undeclared rental income on such properties. This is because Revenue can only provide data on the basis of the information that is known to them. While the Revenue Commissioners are not in a position to reliably estimate the level of undeclared rental income, they are satisfied that their compliance programmes cover all economic sectors, including rental income.

For a number of years now, the strategy of the Revenue Commissioners has been to focus compliance resources on the cases with the highest risk, and to do this, they have been developing a risk analysis and profiling system. In the context of rental income, relevant third party information is included in the risk analysis, such as information on property acquisitions from stamp duty data and rental payment information from the Department of Social and Family Affairs. Property letting is also included in "sectoral" compliance programmes carried out by Revenue units from time to time.

I am satisfied that this risk-based approach by Revenue is the correct one.

Question No. 150 answered with Question No. 144.
Question No. 151 answered with Question No. 131.

Departmental Strategy Statements.

Richard Bruton

Question:

152 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he has issued new policy directions since taking up his post as Minister for Finance. [21864/08]

Since taking up office, I have been acquainting myself with the economic, budgetary and other policy issues which are the responsibility of the Minister for Finance. As the Deputy is aware, new policy directives are normally made principally in the context of the annual Budget and Estimates cycle. I have not found it necessary as yet to issue formal policy directives. However, I am evaluating the current changing economic situation and I will shortly be bringing my Budget Strategy memoranda to Government as is normal at this time of the year.

Tax Collection.

Willie Penrose

Question:

153 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Finance the number of letters that have been sent by the Revenue Commissioners to Irish investors seeking information about their overseas property; the number of such letters expected to be sent in total; the number of these letters that have received a response; the number of those letters to which a response has been received and are expected to be the subject of further investigation; his views on introducing a robust compulsory disclosure mechanism whereby Irish tax-payers must declare overseas properties which they own; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21953/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a dedicated unit within their organisation, the Offshore Assets Group, is tasked with identifying Irish residents who have assets located abroad, including overseas property. This area is considered to be of considerable tax risk because of the possibility that some individuals may fund such acquisitions with untaxed income or gains, and it is also recognised by the Commissioners that many purchasers of foreign properties have no tax issues.

To date, the work of this unit had identified around 2,000 Irish residents holding offshore properties who, on the basis of an initial examination appear to have tax issues. This information is being matched to individual returns and enquiry letters are issuing where discrepancies are discovered or clarification is required. As these enquiries are part of the overall audit programme, no separate statistics are currently available within Revenue to quantify the number of enquiry or audit letters relating to offshore properties.

Details of the acquisition of a property, whether domestic or offshore, are required to be returned to Revenue by taxpayers when completing their annual return of income (Form 11).

Battle of the Boyne Site.

Enda Kenny

Question:

154 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Finance his Department’s involvement in the purchase by the State of the Battle of the Boyne site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21734/08]

Enda Kenny

Question:

155 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the costs that accrued to his Department in respect of the purchase by the State of the Battle of the Boyne site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21735/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 154 and 155 together.

Negotiations for the purchase of the Battle of the Boyne site were conducted by the Commissioners of Public Works. The Department of Finance sanctioned the expenditure of £7.85m (€9.97m) on the purchase of the property, which was completed in August 2000.

Official Engagements.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

156 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Taoiseach the programme for his recent visit to Cardiff; the date on which this visit was decided upon; the names and titles of each of the persons who accompanied him; the mode of transport used; the cost of the visit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21731/08]

On 24 May, I travelled to Cardiff to meet with the First Minister of Wales, Rhodri Morgan. I also attended the European Rugby Cup Final between Munster and Toulouse the same day. This visit was decided upon on 16 May.

The delegation for the visit was as follows:

Mr Brian Cowen, TD, Taoiseach

Mr Micheál Martin, TD, Minister for Foreign Affairs

Mr Martin Cullen, TD, Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism

Mr Eoghan O Neachtain, Government Press Secretary

Mr Martin Fraser. Assistant Secretary, Department of the Taoiseach

Mr David Feeney, Taoiseach's Private Secretary

Mr Michael Cleary, Security Officer

The delegation travelled by Government Jet. No costs have yet arisen for my Department in respect of this trip.

Departmental Projects.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

157 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Taoiseach if he will list and number the pilot schemes or projects that are being funded, overseen, or in any way supported by his Department; the purpose of each project; the start up date of each project; the time-scale for each project; the projected completion date for each project; the date that a report evaluating the project will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22070/08]

Four pilot schemes / projects are being funded, overseen and/or supported by my Department. Details of these are outlined below.

It should be noted that three of the projects indicated below (the Senior Helpline/Curam volunteer assistance software, The Wheel (eEnablement) ASC ref: 2007/103 and ePlanning — Planning RSS (LGCSB — Local Government Computer Services Board)) are being funded under the eInclusion fund, provided in this Department's Vote in the 2008 Estimates, which will be transferring to the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

(1)

Name

Pilot phase of the Organisational Review Programme

Purpose

To assess the capacities, procedures, structures and leadership of Government Departments beginning with the Departments of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Transport.

Start up date

Preparatory work commenced in Summer 2007.

Time Scale

Underway at present.

Projected completion date

July, 2008.

Completion date when report will be available

Report of the pilot phase due to be published in July 2008.

(2)

Name

Senior Helpline/Curam volunteer assistance software.

Purpose

Curam Software to develop, in consultation with Senior Helpline volunteers, a prototype software system as a demonstrator project for use by Senior Helpline volunteers to enable them to meet the needs of their vulnerable clients with a view to resultant product(s) being made commercially available.

Start up date

14 January, 2008.

Time Scale

Estimated that requirements, project design and development be completed 6 June, 2008. Full user acceptance test expected to complete 6 July, 2008 .

Projected completion date

Expect to deploy in a “live environment” in July 2008.

Completion date when report will be available

December, 2008.

(3)

Name

The Wheel (eEnablement) ASC ref: 2007/103

Purpose

To pilot in 10 community and voluntary organisations a new model and framework to facilitate them providing a better service to their clients and to serve as demonstrators of the benefits of ICTs. This will entail development of a technical and operational framework for hosting back office solutions to allow C&V groups to use ICT to significantly leverage their capacity to deliver services to their clients.

Start up date

October, 2007.

Time Scale

Ten months.

Projected completion date

July, 2008.

Completion date when report will be available

August, 2008.

(4)

Name

ePlanning — Planning RSS(LGCSB — Local Government Computer Services Board).

Purpose

To add functionality to the online planning group of products. The new prototype will explore the issuing of planning information in an RSS format.

Start up date

20 December, 2007.

Time Scale

12 months.

Projected completion date

A working prototype is complete and was presented to the board of the LGCSB in March 2008 and to a meeting of heads of Information Systems in local authorities in April. Work is continuing to progress it further.

Completion date when report will be available

On completion of the pilot.

Motor Taxation.

Liz McManus

Question:

158 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Finance his views on amending the recently announced system in order to permit motorists purchasing new vehicles with low emissions before July 2008 to avail of the lower rate of VRT in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22018/08]

As announced in the 2008 Budget Statement the revised VRT system to take greater account of CO2 emission levels will be introduced on 1 July 2008. I have no plans to amend the scheme for people who register cars prior to 1 July 2008.

Tax Code.

Brian Hayes

Question:

159 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Finance if there are alternative methods for low income pensioners to claim back on their medical expenses in the same way as tax-payers are allowed to claim against their income tax; the way they can be accessed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22054/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that while pensioners may claim tax relief on health expenses incurred, the amount of relief is available at the taxpayers marginal rate and cannot exceed the tax paid in any year of assessment. It follows that if no tax is paid in the year of assessment (because the income in the year of assessment is below the exemption limit or is already fully covered by other allowances or credits) there is no method by which relief for medical expenses can be claimed under the tax system.

Any pensioner who has a liability to tax may claim the tax relief for medical expenses: by completing Form Med 1 and submitting it to their local Revenue Office; or via Revenue's Online Service (ROS) at www.revenue.ie.

It should be noted that tax relief is only one means through which the State may provide significant support to those in need of medical services. Account should also be taken of supports provided through the direct expenditure route and funded through the Vote of the Health Service Executive (HSE) such as the Drugs Payments Scheme, the Medical Card Scheme, etc.

Ombudsman Report.

Ulick Burke

Question:

160 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Finance when he will publish the Ombudsman report Lost At Sea; the reason for the delay in doing so as it has been completed for some time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22112/08]

I am informed by the Ombudsman that in any case where the Ombudsman conducts an investigation into a complaint it is a matter for the Ombudsman to decide if she wishes to publish a report or not at the conclusion of such an investigation. I have been advised that the investigation in question is ongoing.

Public Private Partnerships.

Richard Bruton

Question:

161 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he is reviewing the operation of public private partnership contracts in view of recent developments. [22281/08]

The Government remains committed to the use of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) process as a viable procurement option for appropriate projects within the overall parameters set out for public investment in infrastructure and public services.

My Department has the same role in relation to PPP projects as it does in relation to capital investment projects generally, in terms of setting the overall capital investment framework and the basic principles to be observed for the appraisal, assessment, procurement and evaluation of projects. Individual Ministers and their agencies are responsible for the projects and programme in their areas, within that overall framework.

I understand that recent developments in respect of certain housing projects reflect wider housing market developments and do not have a bearing on the use of PPP procurement, generally. Of course, my Department reviews all of these matters on an ongoing basis. PPP procurement is one option to be used alongside the traditional approach for the delivery of public investment projects. In choosing to adopt the PPP approach for a particular project Departments and Agencies must assess, in conjunction with their advisors, including the National Development Finance Agency, as appropriate, the optimum model to use in the prevailing circumstances. There is a wide variety of possible PPP models provided for in legislation and elaborated on in central guidance issued by my Department. Within these models the form of the deal entered into would be specific to each project.

Garda Stations.

John O'Mahony

Question:

162 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Finance the plans for the refurbishment or building of new Garda stations in 2008 in the Garda Division of Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21714/08]

The following is the up to date position regarding the significant refurbishment and building of new Garda stations in Mayo in 2008.

Claremorris: A new district headquarters is being built in Claremorris and is expected to be completed in Autumn 2008.

Ballyvary: The tender process for the construction of a new basic unit Garda Station will commence shortly.

Ballyhaunis: Planning documentation has been submitted to Mayo County Council for the refurbishment of Ballyhaunis Garda Station. Tenders for the refurbishment will be issued following the completion of the planning process.

National Drugs Strategy.

John O'Mahony

Question:

163 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Finance his proposals to designate moneys seized from drug dealers in a particular area to the provision of services for persons with drug abuse problems in that area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21715/08]

In accordance with the requirements of Article 11 of the Constitution, revenues accruing to the State, including those seized from drug dealers through the functions of the CAB, are paid into the Central Fund, from which the Government draws for expenditure on all necessary public services and investment. There are no proposals to alter these arrangements.

With certain exceptions, earmarking revenues for a specific expenditure programme would, in general, constrain the government in the implementation of its overall expenditure policy. Furthermore, if certain revenues were earmarked for particular projects within the overall fight against drug abuse, any projects thus funded would be dependent on actual revenue collected from that source. Therefore, a fall in revenue generated by that source could imply a fall in expenditure on such projects.

However, the Deputy should note that the Government is allocating considerable resources to the fight against drug abuse by a range of Government Departments and State Agencies as well as the Community and Voluntary Sector. Under the National Development Plan 2007-2013, some €319 million was allocated to the National Drugs Strategy Sub-Programme over the Plan period to support the fight against the causes and consequences of the abuse of illegal drugs.

Tax Collection.

Jack Wall

Question:

164 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is in receipt of all of their entitlements; if there is a tax rebate due to the applicant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21761/08]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the taxpayer may have entitlement to additional tax credits in respect of the one-parent family tax credit and rent relief. Explanatory leaflets incorporating claim forms in respect of both tax credits were issued to the taxpayer on 28 May 2008.

Following the processing of any claims to these credits, a revised certificate of tax credits and standard rate cut-off point for the year 2008 will be issued. Any refund of tax overpaid by the taxpayer since commencing employment in the State in March 2008 will be made by the taxpayer's employer.

Tax Code.

Sean Fleming

Question:

165 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Laois can obtain the exemptions in respect of stamp duty and mortgage interest relief as a first time buyer in respect of a house purchase even though the individual would have previously been involved in the joint purchase of a house but has actually never lived in the house and took their name off the house without ever taking up residence in it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21844/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the exemption in respect of stamp duty — first time purchaser relief, will apply to a person who, has not, either individually or jointly with any other person previously purchased another dwelling house or apartment. Based on the information provided by the Deputy, first time purchaser relief would appear not to apply, as the person concerned has previously been involved in the joint purchase of a house.

In the circumstances outlined by the Deputy, the person concerned is eligible for mortgage interest relief as a first time buyer. Revenue is responsible for administration of the Tax Relief at Source and will be making contact with the person concerned regarding the arrangements for getting the relief.

Flood Relief.

Dara Calleary

Question:

166 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding an Office of Public Works project (details supplied) in County Mayo. [21995/08]

The Office of Public Works will carry out a survey during June to identify potential options to address the problem in Co. Mayo.

Public Sector Employment.

Michael McGrath

Question:

167 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the residency requirements a person must comply with to be considered for employment in the Irish public sector. [22000/08]

As Minister for Finance I have responsibility for appointments to positions in the Irish civil service. Such appointments are governed by the terms of Article 39(4) (formerly Article 48(4)) of the EC Treaty as interpreted by the European Court of Justice. Citizens of non-European Economic Area (EEA) States are not eligible to compete for general service posts.

The EEA consists of the member states of the European Union along with Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein. Special conditions may apply to citizens of Bulgaria and Romania following their recent entry to the European Union and their eligibility to work must be confirmed by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

The EEA citizenship requirements do not apply to professional and technical positions in the civil service. If a candidate from outside the EEA is being considered for a position they are advised that they must have a legal right to work in Ireland ( appropriate residency status; employment permit) in order that an appointment can proceed. In certain circumstances the employing Department may have to apply to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment on their behalf for an employment permit. I would point out that I do not have statutory responsibility for appointments in the wider public sector. The appointing authority varies from sector to sector.

Departmental Projects.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

168 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Finance if he will list and number the pilot schemes or projects that are being funded, overseen, or in any way supported by his Department; the purpose of each project; the start up date of each project; the time-scale for each project; the projected completion date for each project; the date that a report evaluating the project will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22065/08]

The details requested by the Deputy in relation to pilot schemes or projects which my Department is overseeing are contained in the following table.

Scheme name

Purpose

Start Date

Projected Completion Date

Evaluation

Improved access to public service identity data

To examine technical mechanisms to enhance identity data quality across the public service, while facilitating easier compliance with Data Protection requirements

June 2008

Summer 2009

Late–Summer 2009

Concert Events.

Joe Costello

Question:

169 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Finance the procedures used by the Office of Public Works to give permission to promoters to hold large and small scale music and other commercial events in the Phoenix Park; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22074/08]

Joe Costello

Question:

170 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Finance if a fee is charged to promoters for the use of the Phoenix Park for commercial music concerts and other events; if so, the amount that is charged; if the money is being channelled directly back into the care and upkeep of the Phoenix Park; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22075/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 169 and 170 together.

A number of large-scale concerts — in excess of 100,000 — have been staged in the Park in the past, but in recent years, only relatively small-scale concerts have taken place. These have been confined to the Visitor Centre area, with the objectives of minimising any adverse impacts both on the Park environment and on local communities.

Each application for a commercial concert or event, is considered on its merits, in the context of the Phoenix Park Act 1925, the Phoenix Park Management Plan 1986, and the 1997 Policy Framework Document governing large scale events. Fees are normally payable for use of the Park for commercial concerts and events, the amount of which varies in each case depending on a number of factors, including for example, the scale of a concert and whether it is commercial or free. In accordance with Government Accounting procedures, fees from such events are returned directly to the Exchequer, as Appropriations-in-Aid.

Oil Prices.

Pat Breen

Question:

171 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Finance his views on the high cost of oil and the effect that this continuing hike in prices is having on the economy here; his views on whether the application of the improved rate of exchange namely the differential between the US Dollar and the Euro is being passed on to the Irish consumer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22080/08]

The rise in the price of oil mainly reflects stronger demand from emerging countries where living standards are rising.

The spot price of oil has traded at around $125 per barrel in recent weeks, although it has traded above that level at times. This is roughly double the level this time last year. From the perspective of the Irish consumer, this increase has been mitigated somewhat by the appreciation of the euro against the dollar. In euro terms the price of a barrel of oil is currently around €82, compared to approximately €48 this time last year. Higher oil prices restrain economic growth by dampening purchasing power, reducing profitability and lowering growth in our major trading partners.

Higher oil prices are clearly beyond our control. In this context, it is vital that we do not try to compensate ourselves for these increases. To do so would result in a further loss in competitiveness

Departmental Properties.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

172 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance the rent arrears for a building (details supplied) in Dublin 5; the procedures in place to follow up on rent arrears owing to the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22107/08]

I refer the Deputy to my reply of 15th April 2008 (Ceist a 118). Because of the transfer of the site from Dublin City Council to OPW has yet to be finalised, it is not possible to formalise occupancy details, including rent. However the tenants have been advised at the outset of indicative rents. The rents can only be formalised when the legal formalities have been completed and at that stage, all outstanding amounts will be sought.

Fiscal Policy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

173 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if action has been taken or will be taken to ensure that the strength of the euro is reflected in all financial transactions to the advantage of the Irish economy having particular regard to the purchase of goods and services from countries with weaker currencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22282/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

174 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if the increased purchasing power of the euro is reflected to the advantage of the Irish consumer in all transactions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22283/08]

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

In the year to April 2008, Sterling has depreciated sharply against the euro, falling by around 15%. Over the same period, the Dollar has also depreciated significantly. Given that approximately two-fifths of imports to Ireland are from the UK and the US, it is expected that these exchange rate developments should exert some downward pressure on cost bases and prices here, to the benefit of our economy.

The Government is in no doubt as to the importance of this issue and I would like to reassure the Deputy that we are taking positive action to address it. Such action includes the promotion of competition and increased price transparency through the work of the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency. In addition, my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, has been actively engaging with those concerned to see what steps can be taken to resolve the matter. The Tánaiste met with the Chief Executive of the National Consumer Agency on May 21 to discuss a range of issues, from which a series of follow-up actions resulted. More recently, the Tánaiste met with IBEC and its affiliated body ‘Retail Ireland', and is scheduled to meet with further retailers this week.

As the depreciation in Sterling and the Dollar is passed through, I would expect that there should be a moderation in Ireland's inflation rate later this year. I am disappointed that, so far, this does not seem to have happened.

Question No. 175 answered with Question No. 137.

Motor Fuels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

176 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if the cost of diesel oil indicates the need for adjustment in terms of VAT or excise duty having particular regard to the need to encourage the use of more eco-friendly fuels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22285/08]

While the promotion of biofuels is primarily a matter for the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, the Deputy will be aware that the Finance Act 2006 provided for significant tax measures to promote biofuels in Ireland.

Under the scheme, biofuel produced under projects approved by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources are exempt from excise duty. This serves to reduce the additional costs associated with the production of biofuels and consequently allows them to compete with conventional fossil fuels. This fiscal incentive was designed to kickstart the domestic biofuels industry. Long-term general excise reliefs are not anticipated.

In addition, as a complementary measure, the Finance Act 2008 provided for the VAT rate applicable on the supply of miscanthus rhizomes, seeds, bulbs, roots and similar goods used for the agricultural production of bio-fuels to be reduced from 21% to 13.5%. Furthermore, Budget 2007 provided funding for a national top-up of the EU energy crop payment from €45 per hectare to €80 per hectare. This payment is operated by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and provides farmers with a further incentive to grow energy crops.

Regarding VAT, it is important to note that the VAT content of purchases of auto diesel is a deductible credit for business in the Irish VAT system. In relation to a reduced rate of VAT for eco-friendly fuels, there is no mechanism which would allow for reducing the rates solely for such fuels. The VAT Directive does not make any distinction between different types of fuels. The supply of fuels including environmentally friendly ones, is therefore chargeable at the standard VAT rate of 21%. Any change in the standard rate would apply to the sale of all fuel and indeed products at the standard rate. A reduction in the standard rate would cost the Exchequer in excess of €483 million and have little effect on price.

The Deputy might wish to note that there are additional non-fiscal measures that can be used to promote biofuels. To provide further market certainty and encourage projects of scale, the Government has signalled its intention to move to a Biofuels Obligation by 2009 which will require all fuel suppliers to ensure that biofuels represent a certain percentage of their annual sales. I understand the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources will shortly be launching a public consultation on the proposed biofuels obligation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

177 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he will reduce VAT or excise duty on diesel in view of the recent increase in its price; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22286/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

178 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the urgent steps he can take to address the spiralling increase in the price of diesel in view of the extent of excise duty or VAT accruing to the Government from the inflated prices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22287/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 177 and 178 together.

The increase in fuel prices generally, and the increase in the price of diesel, is an international phenomenon. Fuel prices are driven by a number of factors including the price of oil on international markets, exchange rates, production costs and refining costs. The rise in oil prices over recent periods reflected additional factors such as geopolitical uncertainty, supply disruptions and strong economic growth in countries such as China.

Excise duty rates in Ireland for both auto-diesel and petrol are €368.05 and €442.68 per 1,000 litres of fuel respectively. These rates are lower than the EU 15 average, and our main trading partners particularly our nearest neighbour, the UK. I would also like to point out that excise rates for both diesel and petrol have not been increased in the last four Budgets.

The Exchequer yield from excise, as excise is set at a nominal amount, does not increase as the price of fuels increase. On the other hand, the yield from VAT, as VAT is set as a percentage of the price, increases as the price of fuels increase. However, in this regard it should be borne in mind that to the extent that spending in the economy is re-allocated to petrol and other oil products, and away from other VAT liable spending, and to the extent that the overall level of economic activity is reduced by higher oil prices, there may be little or no net gain to the Exchequer.

In relation to the rate of VAT applicable to auto-diesel, 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. Auto-diesel is subject to the standard VAT rate which in Ireland is 21%. It would not be possible to reduce the VAT rate applicable to auto-diesel without reducing the rate for all goods and services subject to the standard VAT rate. A decrease of 1 percentage point in the standard VAT rate would cost the Exchequer €483 million per annum. Such a reduction would have little or no impact on the price of fuel.

It should also be noted that the VAT content of purchases of auto-diesel, kerosene, marked gas oil (MGO or green diesel) and fuel oil used in the course of business is a deductible credit for business in the Irish VAT system.

In so far as calls for reduced taxes are concerned, given the impact high oil prices can have on growth rates, the Informal ECOFIN in September 2005, discussed the issue of appropriate policy response to the then price increases. The Ministers agreed that distortionary fiscal and other policy interventions that prevent the necessary adjustments should be avoided. This continues to be the appropriate policy response.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

179 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he proposes further incentives to encourage bio-fuel production; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22288/08]

While the promotion of biofuel is primarily a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, the Deputy will be aware the Finance Act 2006 provided for significant tax measures to promote biofuels in Ireland. Under the scheme, biofuel produced under projects approved by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources are exempt from excise duty. This serves to reduce the additional costs associated with the production of biofuels and consequently allows them to compete with conventional fossil fuels. This fiscal incentive was designed to kickstart the domestic biofuels industry. Long-term general excise reliefs are not anticipated.

In addition, as a complementary measure, the Finance Act 2008 provided for the VAT rate applicable on the supply of miscanthus rhizomes, seeds, bulbs, roots and similar goods used for the agricultural production of bio-fuels to be reduced from 21% to 13.5%. Furthermore, Budget 2007 provided funding for a national top-up of the EU energy crop payment from €45 per hectare to €80 per hectare. This payment is operated by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and provides farmers with a further incentive to grow energy crops.

The Deputy might wish to note that there are additional non-fiscal measures that can be used to promote biofuels. To provide further market certainty and encourage projects of scale, the Government has signalled its intention to move to a Biofuels Obligation by 2009 which will require all fuel suppliers to ensure that biofuels represent a certain percentage of their annual sales. I understand the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources will shortly be launching a public consultation on the proposed biofuels obligation.

Questions Nos. 180 and 181 answered with Question No. 134.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

182 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if action has been taken or is contemplated to improve the competitiveness of the economy through the financial and banking services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22291/08]

Competitiveness is a very broad topic and many factors contribute to national competitiveness. However, since the Deputy has specifically referred to the banking and financial sector, I might focus on that sector in this reply. I am satisfied that my Department has actively sought to improve the competitiveness of the Irish economy through the financial sector in Ireland. It has done this by recognising market conditions and responding accordingly. This is demonstrated through timely transposition of EU Directives relating to the capital requirements of credit institutions, investment funds, asset covered securities, etc.

I would also point out that the financial and banking services sector in Ireland operates under a modern and up to date legislative framework and tax environment which is focused on the realities of international finance and the requirements of international best practice. Ireland's corporate tax system is clear and deliberately transparent through maintaining a low general corporation tax rate of 12.5%. A system of full exchange of information, positive rates of tax and 44 tax treaties is also in place.

The Irish financial and banking services industry is also supported by a strong and credible regulatory system. The principles-led regulatory system maintains the highest standards and recognises the importance of being responsive and accessible to initiatives supporting the development of the sector. Indeed, the Deputy may be aware that recent assessments by reputable international bodies such as the IMF and the OECD have confirmed that the Irish system of financial regulation complies with best international practice.

As regards the funds side of the financial services sector, Ireland has become a major international funds jurisdiction, with links into the funds industry worldwide. In addition to becoming a major location for the domicile of investment funds, Ireland has also developed a strong niche activity in servicing non-domiciled funds here, providing back-office administrative services to such funds. In terms of the competitiveness of the banking sector in Ireland, there has been good progress since the 2005 report of the Competition Authority on competition in the banking sector. It issued 25 recommendations directed largely at the industry, its representative bodies, the Financial Regulator and Central Bank.

Points addressed for the attention of the Minister for Finance included the issues of stamp duty, the regulation of banking charges and the question of improvements in the area of cheques and mortgages. Measures had already been taken, through the Finance Act 2005, to eliminate a double stamp duty charge on switching of financial cards. The stamp duty charge on financial cards was recently reduced in Budget 2008. These measures along with measures introduced by the Financial Regulator and the industry, such as the introduction of a switching code for both personal customers and the business sector, have increased competition in the Irish banking sector. The Financial Regulator has also proactively informed consumers on types of banking products available and cost comparisons between them. Other factors that have increased competition include new entrants that have entered the Irish market in recent years. All of these factors will ultimately benefit consumers through increased choice, innovative products, lower prices and better service.

By way of concluding, Ireland is a small open economy and we must compete in the global economy. We must look at our competitiveness and make sure that we take the actions necessary to ensure that we are competitive in the future. The financial sector plays a pivotal role in the economy in terms of recycling savings and thus providing the credit for investment and economic activity generally. I can assure the Deputy that my Department is proactive in seeking to ensure the competitiveness of the banking and financial services sector.

Price Inflation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

183 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the action he has taken or proposes to take to combat inflation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22292/08]

Achieving a moderate rate of inflation is a key economic policy priority given its importance in helping to restore national competitiveness. Before outlining the Government's actions to achieve this objective, I would first draw the Deputy's attention to the fact that recent price developments have been driven primarily by external factors, namely the global rise in oil and food prices. It should be recognised that as a small open economy; Ireland is largely a price-taker which means that there are few direct measures we can use to reduce the inflationary impact of the global rise in commodity prices.

However, I would expect that there should be a moderation in Ireland's inflation rate later this year as the recent depreciation in Sterling is passed through. In addition, I would like to reassure the Deputy that the Government is committed to doing what it can to control inflation. In the short to medium term, this includes implementing responsible fiscal policies and promoting competition and increased price transparency through the work of the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency.

Over the longer term, the considerable investment in public infrastructure that the Government is undertaking as part of the National Development Plan will enhance our ability to produce more goods and services, which by improving the economy's efficiency should help to keep inflation in check.

Finally, from a competitiveness perspective, I would stress the importance of ensuring that the externally-driven price increases that we are currently experiencing are not exacerbated by internally generated second-round effects. Securing a sensible and sustainable outcome to the current round of pay talks will have an important role to play in this respect.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

184 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that economic growth projections for 2008 are expected to be achieved; the extent to which revenue from taxation is expected to be affected by fluctuations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22293/08]

On Budget day, GDP was forecast to rise by 3% this year, with GNP forecast to rise by 2.8 %. However, in framing these forecasts a number of downside risks to the economic outlook were identified. These risks included the possibility of a sharper slowdown in the US, the possibility of adverse exchange rate movements, the possibility that financial market difficulties could persist for longer than assumed and the possibility of a sharper contraction in new house building.

It now appears that most of these risks have materialised and in this regard other economic commentators that produce forecasts on a more frequent basis have revised their forecasts downwards. The current market consensus is for GDP growth of around 2 per cent this year. My Department continues to monitor developments and advises accordingly.

More modest growth has implications for the evolution of the public finances. At end-April, my Department published information which showed that overall tax receipts for the first four months of the year were €736 million, or 5.3%, behind target. At the time it was indicated that it was not expected that the tax shortfall would be recouped. Later today, as is the norm, my Department will publish detailed information in relation to the Exchequer position at end-May. In relation to tax revenue, these numbers will show a further deterioration in taxes and as previously indicated the shortfall is not expected to be recouped later in the year. My Department monitors tax receipts and expenditure on an ongoing basis and an updated view on the expected Exchequer position in 2008 will be presented at the end of this quarter.

Disabled Drivers.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

185 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when it is expected to implement the recommendations of the inter-Departmental group dealing with the disabled drivers disabled passengers tax concession 1994 regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22294/08]

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and Vehicle Registration Tax (up to a certain limit), and exemption from motor tax, on the purchase of an adapted car for transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities. The disability criteria for these concessions are set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994. To get a Primary Medical Certificate, an applicant must be permanently and severely disabled within the terms of these Regulations.

The Deputy might wish to be aware that some 12,500 people benefited under the scheme in 2007 at an overall estimated cost of €74 million. Any changes would have to be considered in the context of the annual Budget.

Garda Stations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

186 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when the new Garda station at Leixlip, County Kildare is expected to open; the full extent of the accommodation provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22295/08]

The construction of the new Garda Station in Leixlip, Co. Kildare is progressing well, and is due for completion in Autumn 2008. Accommodation is being provided for An Garda Síochána in line with the Garda Brief of Requirements for the particular category of station, i.e. city-type station.

Decentralisation Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

187 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which the original proposals in respect of decentralisation have been achieved to date; the costs involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22296/08]

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

191 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Finance the status on the decentralisation programme; the number of persons decentralised by Department and agency to date and from 1 January 2008 to date in 2008 in tabular form; the number of persons to be decentralised by Department and agency; the expected date of each decentralisation; and the cost involved with each decentralisation. [22311/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 187 and 191 together.

A progress report by the Decentralisation Implementation Group (DIG) was submitted to me and published on 8th October last. The Group reported that implementation of the civil service element of the Decentralisation Programme is progressing satisfactorily.

Over eleven thousand civil and public servants have applied to relocate under the Programme. Of these, over 6,000 or 55% are currently based in Dublin. The Central Applications Facility (CAF) remains open and continues to receive applications.

To date, decentralising organisations have a presence in 34 towns. Approximately three thousand four hundred civil service staff have been assigned to decentralising posts and over 2,200 of these are currently in their new locations, while the remainder are being trained in advance of decentralisation to a new location, as soon as accommodation becomes available. Taking account of both posts moved and assignments approximately 50% of the civil service posts have already moved or have staff in place with a commitment to move.Property or sites have been acquired or are well advanced in a total of 38 locations.

In addition, the OPW have been very efficient in securing suitable advance or temporary accommodation in over 20 locations to facilitate the early phasing of the transfer of business units. The October DIG report, which can be accessed at http://www.decentralisation.gov.ie, provides the OPW timeframes for the expected completion of permanent accommodation at that time. The DIG are currently updating the position in relation to property with the OPW and early indications are that there are now likely to be some shifts in the completion dates for permanent accommodation caused by property selection and acquisition issues, brief and design issues, tendering periods, planning issues and contractual arrangements.

The DIG is currently examining the position in relation to progressing the relocation of the State Agencies and I expect a report on this matter later in the summer. I understand that the DIG will also provide an update on timeframes for the Programme generally at that time.

I can also confirm that the Government has recently asked the Implementation Group of Secretaries General to deal with the Governmental and cross-Departmental issues arising from Decentralisation of the Headquarters of Government Departments and the need to provide facilities for Ministers, Ministers of State and officials while in Dublin on business. A sub-group of the Implementation Group has been established to progress these issues.

The estimated gross cost of the property aspects of the original decentralisation programme was €900m at the outset of the programme (2004 prices). This was based on provision of accommodation for 10,300 staff outside of Dublin.

The overall number of staff for which accommodation is required has increased since the announcement of the programme due to additional bodies and locations being added to the programme, changes to business functions of certain organisations, additional space required for work-sharing staff, planned future expansion etc. and consolidation of certain existing regional offices into new buildings). Based on costs incurred to date, a recent update of the financial model by the OPW anticipates that the direct cost of providing accommodation is now approximately €960m in 2004 terms (NPV).

While the majority of posts have not yet moved from Dublin, the OPW has been able to dispose of property in Dublin being held for future needs because the announcement of the decentralisation programme clarified that most future expansion of Civil Service accommodation would not be in central Dublin. Total income from such property disposed of between January 2004 and December 2007 was €387.5m. In addition property valued at €75 million was transferred to the Affordable Homes Partnership. In addition OPW has agreed joint venture redevelopment schemes with a minimum value of circa €125m up to the end of 2007 and further ongoing large property disposals are planned having regard to progress with staff moves.

As expected, non-property costs have been increasing since the beginning of 2007 as more advance accommodation is in place, staff training has increased and actual moves have taken place. At end September, 2007, the other costs incurred in implementing the programme amounted to approximately €8.4m. Of this total, it is estimated that approximately €3.9m are once off costs associated with the moves e.g. office machinery, office premises expenses, consultancy, etc. In addition, property costs of €1.4m have been incurred which are not captured in the OPW expenditure, giving total additional expenditure of €9.7m.

Details of the organisations and the number of posts due to be decentralised by the various Departments and agencies are set out in appendix A, together with details of those who were decentralised at end May 2008.

Details of the specific costs incurred to date by decentralising organisations are a matter for the individual Minister and I have asked the various Departments to provide this information directly to the Deputy.

Town

No. of posts to be relocated

Organisation

Number of Staff moved to End May 2008

Arklow

124

National Standards Authority of Ireland

Athlone

92

Education & Science

14

Athlone

64

Higher Education Authority

Athy

250

Revenue Commissioners

53

Ballina

62

Road Safety Authority

62

Ballinasloe

110

National Roads Authority

Birr

400

FÁS

14

Buncrana

118

Social & Family Affairs

Carlow

288

Enterprise Trade & Employment

99

Carrickmacross

85

Social & Family Affairs

Carrick-on-Shannon

220

Social and Family Affairs

120

Carrick-on-Shannon

54

Central Fisheries Board

Cavan

300

Communications Energy & NR

45

Cavan

HIQA* all HIQA posts shown for Cork — to be divided between Cavan, Galway and Cork

Charlestown

165

Community Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs

101

Claremorris

142

Office of the Public Works

29

Clifden

42

Pobal

25

Clonakilty

80

Agriculture Fisheries & Food

80

Clonakilty

95

BIM

Clonakilty

47

Sea Fisheries Protection Authority

22

Cork City

80

National Consumer Agency

Cork City

180

Health Information and Quality Authority

34

Curragh

413

Defence Forces Staff

Donegal

258

Social & Family Affairs

Drogheda

37

Department of Transport

Drogheda

216

Social & Family Affairs

Drogheda

255

Social & Family Affairs — ICT

Drogheda

49

Citizen’s Information Board

Drogheda

9

Railway Safety Commission

Drogheda

101

Local Government Computer Services Board

Dundalk

38

Sustainable Energy Ireland

19

Dungarvan

206

Ordnance Survey Ireland

Edenderry

18

National Qualification Authority of Ireland

Edenderry

34

Higher Education Training and Awards Council

Edenderry

44

Further Education Training and Awards Council

Enniscorthy

76

Bord Bia

Fermoy

100

Agriculture Fisheries & Food

Galway City

HIQA* all HIQA posts shown for Cork — to be divided between Cavan, Galway and Cork

Gweedore

30

Foras Na Gaeilge*

Kanturk

88

Office of the Public Works

Kildare

30

Finance — CMOD

Kildare

380

Revenue Commissioners

Kilkenny

62

Environment Heritage & Local Govt

Kilkenny

49

Arts Council

Killarney

123

Arts Sports & Tourism

70

Killarney

31

Irish Sports Council

Kilrush

57

Revenue Commissioners

57

Limerick

124

Foreign Affairs — DCI

57

Listowel

52

Revenue Commissioners

52

Longford

141

Irish Prison Service

110

Loughrea

10

Transport — Road Haulage

Loughrea

40

Road Safety Authority

50

Macroom

100

Agriculture Fisheries & Food

Mallow

167

Fáilte Ireland

Mitchelstown

200

CIE Group

Monaghan

25

Combat Poverty Agency

Mullingar

313

Education & Science

Na Forbacha

13

Community Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs

11

Naas

15

Irish Auditing & Accounting Supervisory Authority

9

Navan

39

Garda Civilian HR Unit

36

Navan

10

National Property Services Regulatory Authority

6

Navan

40

Coroners Agency

Navan

18

Office of the Director of Probation Service

1

Navan

100

Revenue Commissioners

91

New Ross

125

Environment Heritage & Local Government

Newbridge

247

Defence, C An A & Defence Forces

Newcastle West

52

Revenue Commissioners

50

Portarlington

23

Data Protection Commissioner

24

Portarlington

42

Equality Tribunal

Portarlington

14

National Educational Welfare Board

Portarlington

37

National Council for Curriculum and Assesment

Portlaoise

203

Agriculture Fisheries & Food ICT

259

392

Agriculture Fisheries & Food

Roscommon

230

Property Registration Authority

75

Roscrea

55

Equality Authority

13

Roscrea

22

Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission

Shannon

300

Enterprise Ireland

60

Shannon

102

Irish Aviation Authority

Sligo

88

Social & Family Affairs

72

Thomastown

110

Health and Safety Authority

28

Thurles

66

Garda Central Vetting Unit

68

Thurles

121

Fixed Charge Processing Section

65

Tipperary

186

Irish Naturalisation & Immigration Service

Tipperary

48

Private Security Authority

31

Trim

333

Office of the Public Works

28

Tullamore

130

Finance

121

Waterford

225

Environment Heritage & Local Govt

Wexford

270

Environment Heritage & Local Govt

40

Wexford

63

National Building Agency

Youghal

100

Valuation Office

Youghal

100

Public Appointments Service

10793

2201

Flood Relief.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

188 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the position in relation to his proposals directly or in conjunction with Kildare County Council for the alleviation of flooding at Leixlip, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22297/08]

The Office of Public Works and Kildare County Council agreed a programme of works to alleviate flooding on the Silleachain River at Mill Lane, and on the Rye River, including the Dún Carraig estate and works commenced in these areas in September 2007.

The first phase of works on the Silleachain River is now substantially complete, and re-instatement works are currently being carried out on landowner's properties adjacent to the river. Embankment works on the Rye River have been completed and works are on-going at Distillery Lane in relation to the Bridge and the retaining walls in this area. It is envisaged that the works on the Rye River will be substantially completed by the end of the year.

Economic Competitiveness.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

189 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Finance the measures he is putting in place to restore consumer confidence in the Irish economy. [22309/08]

I am aware of the recent decline in consumer confidence as measured by the Consumer Sentiment Index. While there are a number of challenges facing the economy, we face them from a position of strength. For instance, we have one of the lowest levels of public debt in the euro area, our markets are flexible allowing us to respond efficiently to adverse developments, we have a dynamic and well educated labour force, we have a pro-business outward looking society and the tax burden on both labour and capital is low. This Government, through the implementation of policies aimed at securing our prosperity and future economic growth will assist in restoring consumer confidence.

Budget 2008 represented a stimulus to the economy and should help boost economic activity. Sustained investment in our core economic infrastructure, as provided for under the National Development Plan, remains a key priority for the period ahead. In this context, the Government is also committed to education, training and life-long learning in order to ensure that those losing their jobs can acquire the necessary skills to gain employment in expanding sectors of the economy. Through the social partnership process, the Government is also supporting improvements in competitiveness by promoting sensible wage developments as well as reforming the public sector.

We are also committed to maintaining flexibility in our economy and to maintaining a low burden of taxation of capital and labour in order to reward work and enterprise. Hence, once we surmount the short-term difficulties, the outlook is for a pick-up to more sustainable rates of growth. It is of note that others, including the ESRI, share my assessment as evidenced by their recently published Medium Term Review.

House Completions.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

190 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of recent predictions on significantly reduced housing completions for 2008 and 2009, he will be revising his current Budget forecasts for these years. [22310/08]

On Budget Day, my Department forecast that housing completions for 2008 would ease to around 55,000 units. This easing in the level of completions was broadly in line with market consensus forecasts.

However, as evidenced by the weaker conditions in the opening months of this year there has been a sharper than expected slowdown in the house building sector. The current market consensus is for completions in the region of 45 — 50,000 housing units this year and stabilising around this level next year. As is normal practice, my Department will publish revised four year macro-economic and fiscal forecasts in the Pre-Budget Outlook in the Autumn.

Question No. 191 answered with Question No. 187.

Health Service Staff.

Jack Wall

Question:

192 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of behavioural therapists employed by her Department in the Kildare west Wicklow area and the Carlow/Kilkenny area; the mechanism available to a parent to obtain an appointment with such therapists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22088/08]

Jack Wall

Question:

234 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of behavioural therapists employed by the Health Service Executive in the Kildare west Wicklow area; the mechanism or arrangement that a parent has to use to obtain an appointment with such a therapist; the number of therapists seconded to her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22089/08]

I propose to take Question Nos. 192 and 234 together.

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

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

There are no behavioural therapists seconded to the Department.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

193 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application for home help for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21707/08]

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.

Jack Wall

Question:

194 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the funding of a home care package grant to persons (details supplied) in County Kildare has been reduced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21708/08]

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.

John O'Mahony

Question:

195 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children the average time a person must wait from being approved for home help and receiving the assistance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21716/08]

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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Question:

196 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [21728/08]

I understand from the Health Service Executive that a further letter has issued to the Deputy on the 30th May 2008.

Finian McGrath

Question:

197 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support Dóchas in 2008 (details supplied). [21729/08]

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. A further €50m investment was announced in the 2008 Budget.

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

Health Services.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

198 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children if public treatment clinics for hip dysplasia in Dublin and Cork are to be discontinued from the end of May 2008; if this treatment will in future be provided to private patients only; the number of children availing of the service; the number of patients who will be affected by this withdrawal of service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21732/08]

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.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Phil Hogan

Question:

199 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be made regarding an application (details supplied) under the health repayment scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21740/08]

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.

Health Service Allowances.

James Bannon

Question:

200 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Longford who is paralysed on one side due to a stroke in teenage years has had a mobility allowance withdrawn as the health and financial profile of this person is unaltered; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21744/08]

Mobility Allowance cases are reviewed financially on an annual basis and medically where appropriate. If the review process results in an unfavourable determination, formal notification must issue to the client informing him or her of their formal Right of Appeal and indicating where he/she should send the appeal.

As 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 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.

Michael Ring

Question:

201 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason surgery for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo has been cancelled for the third time. [21750/08]

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

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

202 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a person (details supplied) in County Cork who needs a replacement hearing aid has been informed that they can not receive a hearing aid as there are none available at present; and if she will arrange to have aids supplied to meet demand in respect of medical card holders. [21754/08]

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.

Medical Cards.

Finian McGrath

Question:

203 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9. [21769/08]

As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for the medical card benefit, 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.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Finian McGrath

Question:

204 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a project (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [21770/08]

The Government's sustained high level of investment in healthcare has enabled the completion and commissioning of numerous new facilities in both the acute and the non-acute sectors. This year, overall capital funding of approximately €594m has been provided to the Health Service Executive. The HSE has confirmed that the project in question will deliver an additional 64 beds and is being developed in two phases at a total cost of €16.6m. Phase 1, comprising 32 additional beds, was completed earlier this year and is now operational. The second phase is currently under construction and due for completion by mid-2009.

Hospital Services.

Alan Shatter

Question:

205 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will sanction the provision of combined decongestive therapy for lymphoedema for a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; if he will sanction the therapy for all other patients suffering from lymphoedema; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21776/08]

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

Medical Redress Scheme.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

206 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will respond to the communication received from a group (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21777/08]

An Inquiry into the practice of peripartum hysterectomy at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, was established by the Government following the decision of the Medical Council to remove the name of Dr. Michael Neary from the Register of Medical Practitioners after finding him guilty of professional misconduct. The Inquiry was chaired by Judge Maureen Harding Clark. Following the publication of the Inquiry Report in February 2006, Judge Clark was requested by the Government to advise on an appropriate scheme of redress. In April 2007 the Government approved the establishment of an ex-gratia scheme of redress for former patients of Dr Neary who underwent an unplanned obstetric hysterectomy or bilateral oophorectomy which in the opinion of a Consultant Obstetrician was medically unwarranted. Judge Clark was appointed to oversee the operation of the Redress Scheme.

Contributions were sought by Judge Clark from indemnifiers and a total of €7.7m was received. No contribution was received from the Medical Defence Union of which Dr. Neary was a member. The work of the Redress Board is at an advanced stage and Judge Clark will furnish a final report to the Minister on the operation of the Redress Board on completion of her work. I have met with the patient advocacy group referred to by the Deputy on a number of occasions to discuss issues of concern to them. The issues raised are under consideration and I will revert to the group as soon as possible.

Health Service Staff.

John Perry

Question:

207 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to appoint a permanent consultant child and adolescent psychologist in the north west region in view of a growing crisis in child and adolescent mental health services in this region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21796/08]

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

Catherine Byrne

Question:

208 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of clerical staff and general operatives employed by the Health Service Executive from outside of this country; the location where they are employed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21815/08]

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.

Health Service Property.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

209 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of Health Service Executive owned buildings in Donegal that are vacant; and the locations of same. [21819/08]

Responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services including estate management was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore the Executive is the appropriate body to investigate the particular matter raised by the Deputy.

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 Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

210 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. [21821/08]

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.

John Deasy

Question:

211 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that chiropody services are not available to medical card holders in County Waterford; if the legislation being prepared by her Department to clarify and update existing legislation on eligibility for health and personal social services will define specific eligibility of medical card holders for chiropody services; when that legislation will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21822/08]

I would like to bring to the Deputy's attention the fact that there is no statutory obligation on the Health Service Executive to provide chiropody services to medical card holders. However, in practice, arrangements have been made in several regions to provide these services. Before the establishment of the HSE the nature of any arrangements for community chiropody services and the level of service provided were a matter for individual health boards and so a degree of variation in practice developed over time.

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

Hospital Services.

Sean Fleming

Question:

212 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Health and Children when a hip operation will be carried out for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare. [21825/08]

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.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

213 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason it took so long for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 4 to receive results from the hospital laboratory; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21840/08]

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.

Pharmacy Regulations.

Denis Naughten

Question:

214 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children when she will introduce legislation to recognise UK trained pharmacists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21841/08]

The Pharmacy Act 2007 allows for the removal of the derogation under Article 2.2 of Council Directive 85/433/EEC which prevents pharmacists educated in other EU or EEA countries owning, managing or supervising a pharmacy in Ireland that is less than three years old.

The Pharmacy Act is being commenced in three stages. The first stage of the process involved the establishment of a Council of the new Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, the second stage will put in place a new registration regime for pharmacists and pharmacies, and the third stage will deal with complaints, inquiries and fitness to practice provisions. A three stage process is necessary given the complexity and number of new policies and procedures that the new Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland Council must have in place to accommodate each stage.

The removal of the derogation will occur as part of the second stage of implementation. The necessary regulations are at an advanced stage of preparation, including notification to the EU as appropriate. I expect to have the regulations in place in September, at which time the derogation will be removed.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Pat Breen

Question:

215 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when an application will be finalised for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21988/08]

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

Pat Breen

Question:

216 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be made on an application for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21989/08]

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

Hospital Services.

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. [21990/08]

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.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Michael McGrath

Question:

218 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the maximum subvention that can be paid in the area of the Health Service Executive south in relation to the nursing home charges of a person in a private nursing home; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22001/08]

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.

Liz McManus

Question:

219 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of speech therapists available in County Wicklow; the reason children in a school (details supplied) in County Wicklow have been refused access for an assessment by a speech therapist; her views on whether refusing assessments to children in Greystones and elsewhere between the ages of six to eighteen is detrimental to the development of children in need of speech therapy; the action she will take to rectify this situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22003/08]

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. A further €50m investment was announced in the 2008 Budget.

The Deputy's question refers to services which fall within the remit of the Health Service Executive. 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.

James Reilly

Question:

220 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if combined decongestive treatment is available for patients with lymphoedema; if it is available for public patients and patients under the GMS scheme; if it is not available, if she will direct the relevant section in her Department or the Health Service Executive to make arrangements to make it available as the use of this therapy can aid in deterrence of infections which involve hospitalisation and the use of hospital beds that could be used for other urgent procedures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22026/08]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

224 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children when combined decongestive therapy will be made available to Irish patients suffering from lymphoedema; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22035/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 220 and 224 together.

The specific questions raised by the Deputies relate to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the HSE under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to respond directly to the Deputies in this regard.

Mary Upton

Question:

221 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the arrangements that will be in place to ensure that the patients at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children will not be compromised because of the proposed cuts in staffing, that the number of referrals will not be reduced and that the waiting time for treatment will not be extended; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22029/08]

Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin provides acute secondary and tertiary hospital services for children. The hospital receives a significant proportion of its funding from the Exchequer via the Health Service Executive. In 2008, the hospital has an allocation of €137m, up from €128m in 2007. The hospital's budget has increased by over €38m since 2004, a 39% increase.

Each hospital funded by the HSE is required to deliver services within the financial allocation provided. The HSE is fully aware of the financial challenges being faced by the hospital. It is involved in ongoing discussions with hospital management regarding its 2008 financial allocation and Service Plan. The Hospital has an overrun of €10m from last year, and a projected overrun of €14m for this year.

As part of the discussions on the budgetary position, the HSE has made an agreement with the Hospital, on a once off basis, to deal with last year's overrun of €10 million and to provide a further €7 million this year. However, the additional funding arrangement is contingent on the hospital working within its budget which will be amended from €137 million to €144 million for this year. The hospital must achieve savings of €7 million from the projected overrun of €14 million for 2008.

The priority of the HSE and hospital management is to ensure that services for children at the hospital are maintained at an optimum level.

There has been an increase in activity at the hospital in 2008. The hospital is ahead of its Service Plan targets. The number of day cases is up by 12.3%, outpatient activity is up by 7.7% and the number of inpatients treated has increased by 1.6%.

The number of staff employed at the Hospital has increased by 433 whole time equivalents (WTE) since 2004. At the end of March the number of WTEs employed at the hospital was 282, or 20%, above the approved employment ceiling.

The initial focus of the discussions between hospital management and the HSE is on ensuring that all areas of non-pay expenditure are critically examined.

Pay costs represent over 70% of the hospital's expenditure. The hospital has indicated that there will be a need to reduce the number of temporary and agency staff numbers but it is not in a position at this point to confirm the number of posts involved.

Significant investment has been put into developing services at the Hospital in the last number of years in areas such as Cardiac, Haematology/Oncology and MRI Services. Discussions are also at an advanced stage to create additional Intensive Care facilities at the Hospital.

My Department has asked the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to revert to the Deputy on the operational issues raised.

Pharmacy Graduates.

Richard Bruton

Question:

222 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied with the number of pharmacists being trained; if she has records of the percentage of graduates who successfully find employment here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22030/08]

The Bacon Report, "Assessing Supply in Relation to Prospective Demand for Pharmacists in Ireland", and the subsequent Report of the Higher Education Authority Forum on Pharmacy Education in 2000 both outlined the need for additional undergraduate pharmacy places in order to address the severe manpower shortage in the profession. There has been a significant increase in investment by the State in the education and training of pharmacists. Undergraduate pharmacy courses are now provided by University College Cork and the Royal College of Surgeons, in addition to the course provided by Trinity College Dublin. In the 2005/2006 training year 72 pre-registration graduates undertook training. This number increased to 125 for the 2006/2007 year, to 144 for 2007/2008 and will be in the region of 180 for 2008/2009. The total number of undergraduate and pre-registration students under the accreditation programmes of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI) in 2007 was in the order of 800.

Neither my Department, or the PSI, maintain records on the percentage of pharmacy graduates who are currently employed.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

223 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist a person (details supplied). [22033/08]

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

Question No. 224 answered with Question No. 220.

Consultancy Contracts.

Denis Naughten

Question:

225 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the funding spent in each of the past five years by her Department on outside consultants; the cost of each project; the plans for the appointment of consultants in 2008; the proposed projects and the projected cost of same; the corresponding data from the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22036/08]

My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Health Service Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to respond directly to the Deputy. The information regarding this Department is currently being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Question:

226 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support a group (details supplied). [22044/08]

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. A further €50m investment was announced in the 2008 Budget.

The Deputy's question refers to services which fall within the remit of the Health Service Executive. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Departmental Projects.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

227 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will list and number the pilot schemes or projects that are being funded, overseen, or in any way supported by her Department; the purpose of each project; the start up date of each project; the time-scale for each project; the projected completion date for each project; the date that a report evaluating the project will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22067/08]

The information requested by the Deputy is currently being collated within my Department and will be forwarded as soon as it becomes available.

Hospital Procedures.

John Perry

Question:

228 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of breast cancer surgical procedures, as recorded by the hospital in-patient enquire database for Sligo Hospital for the years 2005, 2006 and 2007 and in the case of the figure for 2007 the percentage of the cases processed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22076/08]

The number of breast cancer surgical procedures, as recorded by the Hospital In-patient Enquiry (HIPE) System for Sligo General Hospital are as follows:

2005 — 65

2006 — 57

2007 — 79

The National Quality Assurance Standards for Symptomatic Breast Disease, which are approved by the Health Information and Quality Authority, recommend that specialist breast centres should provide care/service to more than 150 newly diagnosed patients with primary breast cancer per year.

HIPE data are coded by staff based in each hospital and returned to the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI). Hospitals were due to return all HIPE data for 2007 by 31st March 2008. The figure for 2007 is based on HIPE data made available to the ESRI at the end of April. It is estimated that the coverage for Sligo at this stage was 97.4%.

The data refer to the total number of the following procedures which were carried out on women with a principal diagnosis of breast cancer:

Excision of lesion of breast

Re-excision of lesion of breast

Subcutaneous mastectomy, unilateral

Subcutaneous mastectomy, bilateral

Simple mastectomy, unilateral

Simple mastectomy, bilateral

Cancer Treatment Services.

John Perry

Question:

229 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide a citation or reference for the three most relevant primary scientific studies from the 250 articles referenced by her (details supplied) that support the strategy of centralising breast cancer care services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22077/08]

John Perry

Question:

230 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide a citation or reference to a primary scientific study for the statement she made on local radio (details supplied) that a specialist unit like that proposed for Galway can deliver a 20% better outcome for breast cancer patients than the existing unit in Sligo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22078/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 229 and 230 together.

The reference to 20% improved outcome can be found in the summary of the Report on the Development of Services for Symptomatic Breast Disease (2000). This document is the Report of the Sub Group to the National Cancer Forum. The Report was prepared by Professor Niall O'Higgins, Dr Ann O'Doherty and Dr Bernadette O'Keeffe. The Report was approved by the National Cancer Forum, which was chaired by Professor James Fennelly.

Professor O'Higgins subsequently chaired the group which produced the National Quality Assurance Standards for Symptomatic Breast Disease Services (2006) which were approved by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA). These standards recommend that specialist breast centres should provide care/service to more than 150 newly diagnosed patients with primary breast cancer per year. This is in keeping with European Society of Breast Cancer Specialists (EUSOMA) guidelines on the requirements of a specialist breast centre.

I have full confidence in the work of Professor O'Higgins and other leading experts who have assisted and advised in the preparation and implementation of the Strategy for Cancer Control in Ireland. This group included a range of specialists covering all regions of the country and all relevant disciplines.

In relation to scientific studies supporting the strategy of centralizing breast cancer care services, there is a wealth of evidence to support this from Irish experts such as Professor O'Higgins and the other experts who informed the National Cancer Forum and also from many international sources. Professor O'Higgins' first report on "The Development of Services for Symptomatic Breast Disease" cites over 90 scientific references for various aspects of breast cancer services, some of which relate to specialist centres.

From recent debates and media coverage on the management of breast cancer services there has been very strong support for the concept of a specialist centre where a woman can be guaranteed that her initial diagnosis and treatment will be managed by a multidisciplinary team, which should predict complications and be familiar with all relevant investigations and treatment for the disease. Women attending the centres will know that they are in the hands of highly-skilled consultants and nurses who have access to all the resources necessary to achieve the best results possible in terms of survival rates.

The National Library of Medicine in the US is the primary source of evidence from scientific studies in health care. It can be accessed through the PUBMED gateway. A search using the key words breast cancer survival surgical volume identifies close to 200 papers. Professor O'Higgins has cited many other publications not included in this source, such as consensus guidelines from bodies including the British Association of Surgical Oncologists and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in the UK.

Cancer Incidence.

John Perry

Question:

231 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of new breast cancer patients reported to the cancer registry in Cork by Sligo Hospital for the years 2005, 2006 and 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22079/08]

Statistics in relation to cancer incidence are collated by the National Cancer Registry. My Department has asked the Director of the Registry to examine these matters and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

232 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason medical card holders, including old age pensioners, are obliged to pay top-up fees to chiropodists; if it is intended for the full cost of this care to be covered under the GMS scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22081/08]

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

I consider that it is inappropriate for private chiropodists who are providing services on behalf of the HSE to charge patients a top-up fee, and I have conveyed this view formally to the HSE. My Department requested the HSE to review the fee arrangements in place for the provision of chiropody services, with a view to ensuring that such additional fees will no longer be levied on persons in receipt of this service.

I have been advised by the HSE that it will shortly be in a position to contact chiropodists offering them contracts to provide services and advising them of the revised fees payable for such services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the Deputy advised when this has been accomplished.

Hospital Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

233 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will clarify the situation on a case (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [22083/08]

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.

Question No. 234 answered with Question No. 192.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Bernard Allen

Question:

235 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork has been refused a refund under the nursing home repayment scheme for their brother. [22104/08]

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

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

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Joe McHugh

Question:

236 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children the average waiting time for an appointment with each specialist located at a hospital (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22109/08]

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

Jack Wall

Question:

237 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if the boundaries that determined the dispensed old health board areas are still recognised by her, her Department and the Health Service Executive in organising services for autistic children such as occupational therapists and speech and language therapists, behavioural therapists and so on if there are plans to alter or change such boundaries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22111/08]

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. A further €50m investment was announced in the 2008 Budget.

The Deputy's question refers to services which fall within the remit of the Health Service Executive. 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.

Liz McManus

Question:

238 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of Health Service Executive frontline posts vacant in April 2008 in County Wicklow; the type of posts involved; the timeframe for filling vacant posts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22122/08]

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.

Hospital Services.

Willie Penrose

Question:

239 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the sexual assault unit which was to be in operation by the end of April 2008 at the Midland Regional Hospital, Mullingar has not commenced operating; if the resources are available to allow it to be fully staffed to enable it to open; if, in view of the importance of this unit she will ensure that it will be opened without further delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22127/08]

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

General Medical Services Scheme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

240 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if payment can or will be offered through the GMS scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22299/08]

As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for the General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme, 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.

Fishing Vessel Licences.

Sean Fleming

Question:

241 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Transport if it is possible for a fishing vessel to simultaneously hold a licence to carry passengers while also holding a sea fishing boat licence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21791/08]

Due to the need to ensure the safety of passengers it is not permitted for a vessel to hold both a sea fishing vessel safety certificate and a passenger boat licence. This is because the safety record of fishing vessels is not as good as that for passenger boats. Fishing vessels carry on-board fishing nets, lifting equipment and other equipment, which can endanger the safety of passengers. Fishing vessels frequently operate in rough seas and in poor weather conditions; they are often subject to operational damage and experience high degrees of wear and tear. This is not compatible with the higher levels of safety required for the carriage of passengers. Passenger boats are required to be maintained to a higher standard and are only permitted to operate in favourable weather.

There have been some tragic incidents where fishing vessels carrying passengers sank with tragic consequences. The most notable one being the loss of the "MFV Pisces" which sank with the loss of five lives in 2002. The Pisces was a sea fishing vessel, which was being used to carry passengers.

Noise Pollution.

David Stanton

Question:

242 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Transport the measures his Department is taking to deal with cars with excessively noisy exhausts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21758/08]

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No 477 of 2006) this is a matter for the Road Safety Authority.

Airport Security.

Pat Breen

Question:

243 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Transport the level of security audits undertaken to monitor compliance with national and international aviation security standards by airlines, airports and other entities at each of the three main State airports at Cork, Shannon and Dublin for 2007; the number and frequency of those audits undertaken at each of the airports; if he has satisfied himself with the level of security at all three airports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21768/08]

Aviation security at EU airports is governed by EU Regulation (EC) No. 300/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council, which came into force on 29 April 2008. This Regulation repealed Regulation (EC) No. 2320/2002 which established common Community rules in the field of civil aviation security and which had been in force since January 2003. This Regulation and a series of supplementary implementing Regulations have been adopted into our National Civil Aviation Security Programme (NCASP). All Irish airports with regular commercial flights are required to comply with the requirements of the EU Regulations and the National Civil Aviation Security Programme.

I am satisfied that aviation security practices and procedures implemented at Irish airports conform to European Union common rules and to the highest standards internationally. These practices and procedures are subject to monitoring by my Department and are also the subject of periodic reviews by international organisations, such as the EU Commission and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

It is not the practice to comment on specific security measures in place or that may be implemented at the State's airports or on monitoring activities carried out by my Department; however, aviation security arrangements at Irish airports are kept under continuous review by my Department and the National Civil Aviation Security Committee, which is chaired by a senior official from my Department. The Committee comprises representatives of Government Departments, State Airports, airlines, An Garda Síochána, the Defence Forces, Customs and Excise, An Post, Irish Aviation Authority, the Irish Airline Pilots' Association and the Regional Airports.

Port Development.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

244 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Transport the reason for the decline in vessel numbers entering Arklow Port (details supplied); the Government policy regarding Arklow harbour; and the development plan for Arklow port. [21778/08]

The Government's Ports Policy Statement, which was launched in 2005, states that the continued operation of many of the regional harbours under the outdated provisions of the Harbours Act 1946 is unsustainable on the grounds of good governance. The Policy Statement reiterated the view that these harbours would best achieve their potential through their transfer to local authority ownership or, where this is not possible, the option of sale of the harbours will be considered. In harbours where significant commercial traffic exists consideration will be given to bringing them under the control of a port company.

My Department is working with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to advance the implementation of the Ports Policy Statement with regard to the transfer of the designated regional harbours to their respective local authorities, where appropriate, and to proceed individually in conjunction with the relevant local authorities and harbour authorities, having regard to local requirements in each case.

Arklow Harbour is a candidate for transfer to local authority control. The day to day business of Arklow Port is a matter for the Harbour Commissioners.

Rural Transport Services.

Áine Brady

Question:

245 Deputy Áine Brady asked the Minister for Transport the policies the Government is adopting to sustain and develop the rural transport programme including its input into Transport 21; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21786/08]

While the Rural Transport Programme (RTP) is not part of Transport 21, it operates in parallel with it and supports the aims of that transport investment framework.

Some €9 million was provided for the RTP in 2007, which led to an increase in the frequency of a number of existing services, extended area coverage, and additional groups of passengers accessing rural transport.

€11 million has been allocated for the Rural Transport Programme in 2008 to: support the continued expansion of RTP services and wider area coverage; prepare the ground for further development and consolidation of the RTP in line with commitments in the various Government economic and social policy documents including Towards 2016 and the National Development Plan 2007-2013 which commits some €90 million to the RTP over its full term; and implement pilot cross-border rural community transport services between Fermanagh, south Tyrone and Cavan in line with a recent decision of the North South Ministerial Council.

Road Network.

Sean Fleming

Question:

246 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Transport the cost to the State regarding the goodwill payment of €5,000 per acre paid to landowners in respect of compensation regarding roadway projects under the agreement signed by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the National Roads Authority and the Irish Farmers Association from the years 2001 to 2006. [21851/08]

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

Sean Fleming

Question:

247 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Transport the average compensation price per hectare required for road projects throughout Ireland; the costing of the replacement of farm buildings and fencing arrangements which are provided for under the agreement signed by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the National Roads Authority and the Irish Farmers Association. [21852/08]

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

Sean Fleming

Question:

248 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Transport the gross annual income from tolls on roads; and the proportion of this income accrued to the State. [21853/08]

The statutory power to levy tolls on national roads, to make toll bye-laws, and to enter into toll agreements with private investors in respect of national roads is vested in the National Roads Authority (NRA) under Part V of the Roads Act 1993 (as amended by the Planning and Development Act 2000 and the Roads Act 2007).

Driving Licences.

Billy Timmins

Question:

249 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Transport the number of occasions an individual can be issued with a provisional driving licence; the length of time each one is in date for; if it is necessary to be accompanied by a qualified driver if one is driving on a provisional licence; what a provisional licence entitles one to drive; when and the way it can be used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21854/08]

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No 477 of 2006) this is a matter for the Road Safety Authority.

Road Network.

Denis Naughten

Question:

250 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport the cost of advertising associated with his proposed order for the declaration of motorways with the closing date for submission on 28 March 2008; the roads involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22019/08]

The National Roads Authority applied to me under Section 8 of the Roads Act 2007 to re-designate elements of the N6, N7, N8 and N9 from dual carriageway to motorway status.

The specific sections of each route were:

Sections

N6

Kinnegad to Kilbeggan

Kilbeggan to Athlone

N7

Castletown to Nenagh

Nenagh to Limerick

N8

Cashel Bypass

Urlingford to Cashel

Cashel to Mitchelstown

Mitchelstown to Fermoy

The total printing and advertising expenses incurred by my Department for advertising in relation to the NRA application in question is €37,704.69.

As Minister for Transport I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme element of Transport 21. Sections 17 and 19 of the Roads Act, 1993 places specific responsibility for the provision of roads signage on the National Roads Authority.

Departmental Advertising.

Joe McHugh

Question:

251 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport the amount of money that has been spent on the advertising campaign for Transport 21; the purpose of the advertisement; the value for money offered to the Irish taxpayer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22046/08]

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

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

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

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

Departmental Projects.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

252 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Transport if he will list and number the pilot schemes or projects that are being funded, overseen, or in any way supported by his Department; the purpose of each project; the start up date of each project; the time-scale for each project; the projected completion date for each project; the date that a report evaluating the project will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22071/08]

The information requested is contained in the following table.

Pilot schemes/projects

Purpose

Start up date

Time-scale

Projected completion date

Date that a report evaluating the project will be completed

Green Schools Travel Module

Recognising the need to achieve significant modal shift, the Minister has made €2 million available in 2008 (with similar funding projected in the years 2009 to 2012) to enable a significant expansion of support by DTO (running on a pilot basis to date) to An Taisce’s Green-Schools Travel Module. The Module aims to reduce dependency on car transport for journeys to and from school (and create a life-long culture of using alternatives to the car) and will be an important element of the Sustainable Travel and Transport Action Plan. It would also link to a National Cycle Policy.

2008

2008 to 2012

2012

German Irish Chamber of Commerce-

The Department is supporting a pilot project in conjunction with the German-Irish Chamber of Industry and Commerce to promote the use of 100% pure plant oil (PPO) in heavy goods vehicles and buses.

November 2006

December 2007

Evaluate new bus type

Dublin Bus are leasing, with financial support from my Department, a prototype hybrid electric double-decker bus in 2008 on a trial basis. It is estimated that this vehicle can achieve 34% less fuel consumption than a standard bus. Dublin Bus will consider the further acquisition of hybrid electric vehicles as part of future fleet replacement

2008

2 years

2010

2010

Pilot Cross Border Rural Community Transport Exercise

To examine the potential for cross border rural community based transport initiatives to address social exclusion in border areas arising from unmet public transport needs and to identify the costs associated in providing them.

November 2008

12 Months

November 2009

December 2009

Traffic Management.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

253 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Transport his views on allowing hackneys and other public service vehicles to use bus corridors in Dublin; if previous applications have been made in relation to this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22082/08]

The current rules governing use of bus lanes were established through the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997-1998. These regulations restrict the use of bus lanes to buses or minibuses operating under a public service licence, as well as allowing taxis and pedal cycles to use bus lanes which are with-flow (as opposed to contra-flow).

Over the years requests received from a variety of individual operators, individual members of the public and various organisations seeking access for hackneys/limousines to use bus lanes have been turned down by my Department.

Last year, I received a request from the Commission for Taxi Regulation to amend regulations so as to permit the use of bus lanes by hackneys and limousines. In considering this request, I have received the views of several interested bodies. However, a case is pending before the High Court in which a limousine operator is challenging the provisions of the existing regulations. I intend to await the outcome of this case before making a final decision on the Taxi Regulator's request.

Judicial Powers.

Finian McGrath

Question:

254 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the European Union Court of Justice has more power than Ireland’s Supreme Court. [21702/08]

The Supreme Court is the final arbiter on all questions of Irish law, under the terms of Bunreacht na hÉireann.

It is clear that the ultimate source of sovereignty remains with the Member States and their national constitutions, with the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice applying only to those areas where the Member States have conferred powers on the Union. In this regard, the Lisbon Reform Treaty expressly recognises that the EU can only exercise the powers given to it by the Member States, who must act in accordance with their own constitutional requirements in conferring such powers.

UN Conventions.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

255 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if Ireland is the only EU State not to ratify the Aarhus Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters; if the treaty was laid before Dáil Éireann; if, close to the tenth anniversary of the treaty, Ireland is the sole European Union country that has not ratified the Convention; and if so, the reason this is the case. [21790/08]

Ireland signed the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters on 25 June 1998. All other EU Member States are parties to the Convention.

Amending legislation is required in order to complete the remaining steps necessary for ratification by Ireland. This will deal with the consent procedures in relation to: the Fisheries Act 1980; the Foreshore Act 1993; the Dumping at Sea Acts 1996 to 2006; and the Arterial Drainage Acts 1945 and 1995.

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is working with the concerned Ministers on the outstanding issues, which will be finalised at the earliest possible date. Once the necessary legislative provisions are in place, Government approval for the ratification of the Convention will be sought.

Citizenship Applications.

Billy Timmins

Question:

256 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position in relation to an application for citizenship by a person (details supplied); if in view of the fact that they are here and would like to stay for the summer, a visa extension will be granted and their application for citizenship dealt with as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22028/08]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the application for Irish citizenship, through entry in the Foreign Births Register, by the person to whom he has referred has been approved by the Consulate General in New York. The certificate confirming the applicant's Irish citizenship has been issued by the Consulate-General, and, as a result, she does not now require a visa to remain in Ireland.

Departmental Projects.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

257 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will list and number the pilot schemes or projects that are being funded, overseen, or in any way supported by his Department; the purpose of each project; the start up date of each project; the time-scale for each project; the projected completion date for each project; the date that a report evaluating the project will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22066/08]

There is only one ‘pilot project' currently being undertaken within my Department. This involves redirecting telephone queries relating to visa applications to an outside operator. This project was initially undertaken in our Embassy in London in January 2007, and was extended to our Missions in the United States in July 2007. The purpose of the project is to offer a high-quality information service for customers with routine visa enquiries to some of our busiest Missions overseas. At the same time, it enables officers to focus even more on substantive issues such as vetting. This service is not funded by the Department; rather the cost of the telephone call pays for the service. An interim review of the project took place in December 2007. Given its ongoing nature, there is no formal completion date, but discussions are continuing with the provider as to the possible geographic expansion of the project in the future.

Under a number of its programmes, my Department provides funding to organisations for a variety of projects, some of which are ‘pilot' in nature. These include:

Communicating Europe Initiative

In April 2008, under the Communicating Europe Initiative, my Department allocated €27,000 to the Environmental Education Unit of An Taisce. The Environment Education Unit (EEU) was set up in 1993 to deliver, sustain and develop programmes such as the nationwide Green Schools Programme. The allocation made by my Department to An Taisce was specifically to develop a pilot "European & Global Citizenship" module as a theme within the Green Schools Programme. It is intended that the pilot module will be rolled out in a small number of schools, in the academic year 2008-09 and will be appropriately evaluated.

Reconciliation Fund

Under its Reconciliation Fund, the Department of Foreign Affairs assists community groups and organisations involved in reconciliation and outreach projects, between North and South, and between Ireland and Britain. The total number of projects approved for assistance in 2007 was 103.

A number of the projects funded by the Reconciliation Fund would be in the nature of pilot schemes, though not necessarily described as such.

Irish Aid

Through Irish Aid, the Government's Development Aid programme, my Department provides funding to hundreds of projects, some of which would be in the nature of pilot schemes though not necessarily described as such. Some specific examples of pilot funding include support for a pilot tourism project in Limpopo, South Africa and the establishment of Traidlinks, which followed from an earlier pilot initiative. Traidlinks is an independent, not for profit, NGO focussed on harnessing the expertise of the Irish business sector to support the development of the private sector in Africa.

Irish Aid operates a comprehensive evaluation and audit role in regard to all of these projects.

Diplomatic Representation.

Pat Breen

Question:

258 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, in view of the fact that the Ukraine has opened an Embassy here he will reciprocate by opening a fully accredited Irish Embassy in the Ukraine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22072/08]

Ireland has a network of 75 resident diplomatic and consular Missions abroad, as well as the British-Irish Intergovernmental Secretariat in Belfast and the North-South Ministerial Council Joint Secretariat in Armagh. While the opening of new Embassies abroad is considered by the Government on an ongoing basis, any expansion of our diplomatic network can only be undertaken having regard to clear priorities and available resources.

The current position vis-à-vis the Ukraine is that our Ambassador to the Czech Republic is also accredited as Ambassador to the Ukraine on a non-resident basis. In addition, Ireland's Honorary Consul in Kiev, Mr Volodymyr Say, continues to provide a satisfactory service. There are no plans at present to change this arrangement.

Visa Applications.

Willie Penrose

Question:

259 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position in relation to an application for work visas by a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath who is seeking same to go to Australia; when these applications will be finally processed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22141/08]

Requirements for entry into Australia are the exclusive responsibility of the Australian authorities. In the circumstances, I would suggest that in the case of applications for work visas, as raised in the Deputy's question, the people concerned should seek clarification directly from the Australian High Commission, Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Australia House, Strand, London WC2B4LA, telephone 00449065508900, www.immi.gov.au.

While Australia does have a resident Embassy in Dublin, I understand that it is their High Commission in London that deals with visa applications from Irish citizens resident in Ireland. At the same time the Australian Embassy in Dublin may be able to provide helpful advice. Its contact details are: 7th Floor, Fitzwilton House, Wilton Terrace, Dublin 2, telephone 016645300, www.ireland.embassy.gov.au.

Fiscal Policy.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

260 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the measures in view of the 16% appreciation of the Euro against Sterling over the past twelve months, she is taking to ensure that this is passed onto consumers here in reduced prices on imported goods. [22308/08]

I share the Deputy's concern that the benefits of the euro's appreciation against sterling are passed on to consumers.

I have taken a number of steps to bring my and the Government's concerns about this matter to the attention of retailers. On 28 May, I met with the Director General of IBEC and the Director of Retail Ireland to outline these concerns and to hear their views. I am having a further meeting on the issue today with a number of prominent retailers who are members of Retail Ireland. While it is not my function to fix prices for retailers, responsible businesses must recognise the need to deal fairly with consumers. I intend to continue my active engagement with retailers with a view to securing progress on the issue.

I have met also with the Chief Executive of the National Consumer Agency on this matter. As a result of these discussions, the Agency has agreed to undertake further price surveys, including surveys comparing the price of grocery and non-grocery items in a range of sectors in the Republic and Northern Ireland. More and better consumer information and awareness, and a willingness by consumers to act on that information, has an important contribution to make on this particular issue and in the development of a more competitive marketplace generally.

Community Employment Schemes.

Tom Hayes

Question:

261 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when a review will be complete on policy regarding the continuation of participants on community employment schemes aged 55 years or over; when the review will be published; and what her recommendations will be. [21700/08]

Community Employment (CE) is an active labour market programme designed to provide eligible long term unemployed people and other disadvantaged persons with an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a fixed term basis. The programme helps unemployed people to progress to the open labour market by breaking their experience of unemployment through a return to work routine and assists them in enhancing/developing both their technical and personal skills.

This Government will continue to support the positive role of CE in meeting the needs of long-term unemployed persons while at the same time providing essential services to communities. In this regard, we are keeping the operation of the Scheme under constant review.

County Enterprise Boards.

Jack Wall

Question:

262 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if any of the county enterprise boards has sought an increase in funding from the annual funding allocated to each board due to the fact that their funding has already been allocated by today’s date in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21706/08]

The allocation of individual budgets to the thirty-five County and City Enterprise Boards is carried out by the CEB Central Coordination Unit (CCU), which has been set up within Enterprise Ireland to carry out a number of functions in respect of the CEBs, which had been previously undertaken by my Department. Such functions include the allocation of 2008 budgets to individual CEBs and the effective management of available resources to the CEB network in order to maximise sustainable development in the micro-enterprise sector.

In determining the 2008 allocations for individual CEBs, the CCU adopted a systematic approach to ensure the maximum degree of objectivity and equity of treatment. It is a matter for individual CEBs to determine how they will use allocated funds as well as the funds available to them from repayable grants in the most effective manner possible (subject to meeting the appropriate eligibility criteria and a number of limits and thresholds that are in place). Some Boards may choose to commit all of their available funding as projects present themselves, even if this means that their funding is exhausted relatively early in the year, while others may choose to reserve some funding until later in the year so that they are in a position to support high quality projects that emerge at that time. It is expected that Boards should manage the delivery of associated financial interventions and management capability development programmes on the basis of their allocated amount over the year as a whole. This is a fundamental operating principle which all Boards are expected to adhere to. As with all State-funded assistance CEBs are expected to prioritise and manage available funding in a targeted and effective manner as it is not possible for a CEB to provide financial assistance to every eligible project that may qualify for support.

I understand that some Boards have indicated to the CCU that they could utilise additional funds. As part of the CCU's on-going management of available funding for 2008, the Unit intends to conduct a review of CEB spending in late summer. It is generally the case that a number of Boards are not in a position to spend all of their annual allocations. Accordingly, should surplus funding become available, this will be reallocated by the CCU to any Boards that are in a position to spend additional funds. It will be in the context of this process that any additional funding requests from individual Boards will be considered.

Health and Safety Regulations.

John O'Mahony

Question:

263 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of inspections carried out by the Health and Safety Authority in primary and post-primary schools in 2006 and 2007; the number of such inspections in each county; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21713/08]

This is essentially an operational matter for the Health and Safety Authority. However, I am advised that the total numbers of inspections by the Authority of schools in 2006, both as educational establishments per se and in relation to construction, maintenance and allied work, are set out in the following table.

I have been advised that the corresponding data for 2007 could not be collated in the time available and I have asked the Authority to forward any further data on the matter that may be available, to me and to the Deputy as soon as possible.

2006

County

Primary Schools

Secondary Schools

Vocational/ Technical Schools

Total

Dublin

11

4

6

21

Clare

0

2

0

2

Cork

0

1

0

1

Galway

1

0

1

2

Kildare

3

0

3

6

Kilkenny

0

0

7

7

Kerry

0

0

14

14

Limerick

1

3

7

11

Monaghan

0

5

0

5

Mayo

1

2

1

4

Offaly

0

1

0

1

Sligo

0

0

1

1

Waterford

2

0

1

3

Westmeath

2

0

1

3

Wicklow

0

0

5

5

Wexford

0

0

1

1

Totals*

21

18

48

87

*In addition to the above, over 30 inspections of asbestos removal contractors working on school premises were carried out in 2006.

Work Permits.

Michael Ring

Question:

264 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will instruct the work permit section to re-issue a work permit in respect of a person (details supplied) as the permit which issued had the incorrect date of birth on it. [21733/08]

The Employment Permits Section of my Department informs me that it cannot consider the re-issue of a permit in this case. It understands from the Department of Foreign Affairs that the visa application in respect of the above named has been refused and upheld on appeal and the original of the permit has been returned to the Section by that Department for cancellation.

Industrial Relations.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

265 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment further to a previous parliamentary question (details supplied), if she is satisfied that the Association of Electrical Contractors in Ireland, which is party to this agreement, represents the majority of electrical contractors in this country with particular reference to Section 45 of the Employment Law Compliance Bill of 2008, which is intended to support and enhance monitoring and inspection activity in respect of compliance with the Registered Agreement in the Electrical Contracting Industry. [21779/08]

I confirm that I have no function in relation to the decision making process of the Labour Court under the Industrial Relations Acts 1946 to 2004 as regards the registration or variation or cancellation of Registered Employment Agreements. The Labour Court is a separate statutory body which acts independently of the Minister in carrying out its functions. Accordingly , it is a matter for the Labour Court to consider any question about the representative status of the Association of Electrical Contractors of Ireland which is a party to the Registered Employment Agreement in the electrical contracting industry.

With regard to the Employment Law Compliance Bill 2008, as the Deputy knows the Bill awaits consideration by Dáil and Seanad Éireann. Section 45 is intended to support and enhance monitoring and inspection activity in relation to compliance with the Registered Employment Agreement in the Electrical Contracting Industry.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

266 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she has plans to correct the anomaly whereby people on FÁS training courses who had not been in receipt of unemployment assistance but who signed on for credits while on the course are not now eligible for employment under the community employment schemes whereas the criteria for VTOS courses accepts signing on for credits as proof of long-term unemployment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21793/08]

Community Employment (CE) is an active labour market programme designed to provide eligible long term unemployed people and other disadvantaged persons (including those with a disability) with an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a fixed term basis.

The eligibility criteria and participation limits for CE are set by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (DETE). The qualifying criteria for participation are intended to facilitate the movement of participants through CE, allowing new participants who may not otherwise have such an opportunity, to avail of the programme.

One of the qualifying eligibility criteria is that time spent on recognised training courses can count towards the qualifying period, but the person must still meet the other criteria including being in receipt of an actual payment from Social Welfare.

The Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) is a European Social Fund supported intervention in the Irish labour market to enable unemployed people who have been on the Live Register for at least six months to access education and training with a view to progression to employment. The qualifying criteria for the VTOS are a matter for the Department of Education and Science.

County Enterprise Boards.

David Stanton

Question:

267 Deputy David Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment further to Parliamentary Question No. 292 of 20 May 2008, the conditions in place in CEBs to recover grant and aid allocated to businesses that then cease to operate; if all grants and aid must be refunded in such cases; if she will provide a breakdown of the amount of moneys recouped by each of the CEBs each year respectively from 2003 to 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22051/08]

Procedures dealing with the recovery of grant aid form part of the terms and conditions included in the grant agreement between the Boards and relevant project promoters. Boards may revoke, cancel, recover or abate grant aid in the event of a number of scenarios including the cessation of business. In deciding what appropriate action should be taken to retrieve allocated monies from project promoters Boards would take due cognisance of any financial or legal considerations that may apply in individual cases and whether there is a realistic prospect of retrieving the funding.

It is a matter for individual Boards to satisfy themselves that appropriate mechanisms are in place to allow for the recovery of grant aid should the need arise. This is a day to day matter for the Boards and my Department does not collect or retain information on the amount of monies recuperated by CEBs arising from grant aid allocated to businesses who then cease to operate.

Departmental Projects.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

268 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will list and number the pilot schemes or projects that are being funded, overseen, or in any way supported by her Department; the purpose of each project; the start-up date of each project; the timescale for each project; the projected completion date for each project; the date on which a report evaluating the project will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22063/08]

Having checked with officials in my Department, I can confirm that, at present, there are no such pilot schemes or pilot projects being funded, overseen, or in any way supported by my Department or its Offices.

In relation to the Agencies of my Department, this is a day-to-day operational matter for the Agencies concerned and one in which I have no function.

Work Permits.

Willie Penrose

Question:

269 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will take steps to have a decision regarding an application by a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath for an employment permit under the Employment Permits Act 2006, reviewed; if in particular, she will take into account the additional information furnished by the employer, which will clarify the issues as set out in her Department’s correspondence of 7 April 2008; if same will now be granted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22142/08]

The Employment Permits Section of my Department informs me that a renewal permit has now issued in this case.

Sports Capital Programme.

Tony Gregory

Question:

270 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the amount given to a club (details supplied) in County Leitrim under the sports capital programme 2007; and the purpose of this grant. [22306/08]

Under the Sports Capital Programme, which is administered by the Department, funding is allocated to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The aim of the Programme is to maximise participation in sport through the provision of modern high quality, safe, well-designed and sustainable facilities and sports equipment. The provision of such facilities allows for increased numbers to participate in sport.

The specified club was allocated €4,000 under the 2007 Sports Capital Programme in respect of sports equipment, specifically the purchase of clay target launchers. As the project is located in an area designated as disadvantaged under the Clár Programme, a further €800 was allocated to the club by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. To date €4,054 has been paid to the club, €3,254 under the Sports Capital Programme and €800 from the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

Noel Coonan

Question:

271 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of applications received for funding under the 2008 sports capital programme with a breakdown of applications received from County Tipperary; and the timeframe as to when these applications will be finalised. [21720/08]

Under the sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, funding is allocated to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country.

Applications for funding under the 2008 programme were invited through advertisements in the Press on 13th and 14th of January and the deadline for receipt of applications was 29 February for paper-based applications and 7th March for on-line applications. All applications received before the deadline are currently being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

In this regard, sixty four applications have been received from County Tipperary requesting grant aid totalling just over €10 million for projects to the value of over €20.8m.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

272 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when a decision will be made on an application under the 2008 sports capital programme by a club (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21829/08]

Under the sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, funding is allocated to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country.

Applications for funding under the 2008 programme were invited through advertisements in the Press on 13th and 14th of January and the deadline for receipt of applications was 29 February for paper-based applications and 7th March for on-line applications. All applications received before the deadline, including one from the organisation in question, are currently being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

273 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will confirm that the Chief State Solicitor’s Office have received all outstanding documents relating to a club (details supplied); if in order, when will the deeds will be available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21831/08]

Under the Sports Capital Programme, which is administered by the Department, funding is allocated to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The aim of the Programme is to maximise participation in sport through the provision of modern high quality, safe, well-designed and sustainable facilities and sports equipment. The provision of such facilities allows for increased numbers to participate in sport.

A grant of €100,000 was provisionally allocated to the project in question under the 2007 Sports Capital Programme, bringing the total allocated to the club under the Programme since 1996 to €232,700. The grant allocation was subject to the terms and conditions of the Programme, which included the execution of a deed of covenant and charge.

A deed of covenant and charge provides,inter alia, for a refund of the grant in the event of the facility not continuing to be used for the purpose for which the grant was allocated. The Department’s legal adviser, the Chief State Solicitor’s Office — CSSO — deals with the grantee’s solicitor in executing this deed. I understand that the CSSO recently received documentation regarding the case from the solicitors representing the organisation dated 8 May. The documentation submitted has been examined by the CSSO, who last week wrote to the grantee’s solicitor requesting further documentation to execute the deed.

The position yesterday (3 June) remained that the CSSO awaits the submission of the outstanding documentation and has undertaken to examine it expeditiously upon receipt. If the documentation is in order then the deed of covenant and charge can be executed and a grant payment will follow.

Departmental Projects.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

274 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will list and number the pilot schemes or projects that are being funded, overseen, or in any way supported by his Department; the purpose of each project; the start-up date of each project; the timescale for each project; the projected completion date for each project; the date on which a report evaluating the project will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22058/08]

Currently my Department has one pilot scheme underway. The Pilot Scheme for Mobility of Collections is aimed at facilitating the movement of artefacts held in the National Cultural Institutions to appropriate Local or regional Museums, either designated by the National Museum of Ireland under the National Cultural Institutions Act 1997 or participating in the Heritage Council's Accreditation Standards scheme.

The scheme will operate in 2008 and up to €100,000 is available should suitable applications be made and an evaluation will be carried out in early 2009.

Departmental Staff.

Frank Feighan

Question:

275 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position of a person (details supplied) on the transfer panel. [21833/08]

Frank Feighan

Question:

277 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the place of a person (details supplied) on the priority list and when the applicant in question was placed on the priority list. [21835/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 275 and 277 together.

The position in relation to the person in question is as outlined to the Deputy by written correspondence on 18 February 2008 and remains unchanged.

The deployment of staff is a matter for the head of my Department and the Department of Finance and it would not be appropriate for me to intervene in the matter.

Frank Feighan

Question:

276 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of clerical officers who have been transferred to the General Registrar’s Office since December 2006. [21834/08]

Since 1st December 2006, 1 Clerical Officer has transferred in to the General Registrar's Office (GRO). The post was filled by reference to the Central Applications Facility (CAF), established to record applications for decentralisation, as this Clerical Officer vacancy arose due to decentralisation.

Question No. 277 answered with Question No. 275.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

278 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of people refused the back to education allowance for each of the past five years with a breakdown of the reasons people were considered ineligible for the allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21747/08]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

279 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will provide a breakdown of the social welfare benefits which back to education allowance recipients are in receipt of; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21748/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 278 and 279 together.

Details of the qualifying social welfare schemes payments in respect of participants on the back to education allowance scheme (BTEA) for the 2006/2007 academic year are set out in the table below. Records are not maintained as to the number refused entry to the scheme.

The BTEA scheme is a second chance education opportunity designed to remove the barriers to participation in second and third level education. It encourages and facilitates people on certain social welfare payments to improve their skills and qualifications and, therefore, their prospects of returning to the active work force. The objective of the scheme is to enhance the employability skills of vulnerable groups who are distant from the labour market.

The scheme enables qualified people who have been getting a social welfare payment to continue to receive a payment while pursuing an approved full-time education course. The allowance is paid at a standard weekly rate equivalent to the maximum rate of the relevant social welfare payment that qualifies the applicant for participation in the scheme. It essentially replaces their existing social welfare income and in addition an annual €400 cost of education allowance is payable. This will be increased to €500 from the beginning of the academic year 2008/2009.

There are two education options available under the BTEA scheme; A Second Level Option (SLO) and a Third Level Option (TLO). Under the Second Level Option, a person may attend a second level course of study at any community, comprehensive, secondary or vocational school. Under the Third Level Option, a person may attend an approved third level course of study at any university or third level institution.

Table — BTEA participants and qualifying payments

Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) 2006/2007 Academic Year

Qualifying social welfare payment

SLO

TLO

Total

Jobseeker payment

2,532

3,154

5,686

One-Parent Family Payment

492

1,055

1,547

Disability Allowance

261

357

618

Invalidity Pension

25

87

112

Illness Benefit

33

61

94

Carer’s Allowance

14

15

29

Incapacity Supplement

2

2

4

Total

3,359

4,731

8,090

Michael Ring

Question:

280 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo who had been in receipt of illness benefit has been told that they do not qualify for it when they applied for disability allowance. [21781/08]

Disability Allowance is a weekly allowance paid to people with a specified disability who are aged 16 or over and under age 66. This disability must be expected to last for at least one year and the allowance is subject to both medical suitability and a means test.

The medical criteria that must be satisfied to qualify for payment of Disability Allowance specify that the person must be suffering from an injury, disease, congenital deformity or physical or mental illness or defect which has continued or may reasonably be expected to continue for at least one year and as a result of that condition, the person is ‘substantially restricted' in undertaking work which would otherwise be suitable having regard to the person's age, experience and qualifications.

The person concerned applied for Disability Allowance on the 4 April 2008. The Medical Assessor determined that an examination was necessary in order to establish the person's medical suitability to disability allowance. The person concerned was examined on 20 May 2008 and the Medical Assessor expressed the opinion that he was not medically suitable for disability allowance.

The disability allowance claim for the person concerned was refused on 22 May 2008 on the grounds that he was deemed to be not medically suitable for Disability Allowance. A letter issued to him advising him of this decision and of his right of appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals office.

Michael Ring

Question:

281 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be granted the arrears of carer’s allowance which is due to them. [21784/08]

The person concerned applied for Carer's Allowance on 1 December 2006. Following investigation her application was refused on 12 March 2007 on the grounds that full time care and attention was not required in this case. The person was notified of this decision, the reasons for it and of her right to appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

The person concerned appealed this decision, and an oral hearing was held on 13 December 2007. Based on the available evidence the Appeals Officer decided, on 2 May 2008, that the person was entitled to Carer's Allowance for a period of one year from 1 December 2006.

The person concerned is awarded Carer's Allowance at the maximum weekly rate (180 Euro per week from 7 Dec. 2006 increased to 200 Euro per week from 4 Jan 2007) in respect of one care recipient for the period 7 December 2006 to 5 December 2007. Arrears of Carer's Allowance due for this period will issue within the next week. If further medical evidence is received for this person, her entitlement will be reviewed. Under Social Welfare legislation, decisions in relation to claims must be made by Deciding Officers and Appeals Officers. These Officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.

Pension Provisions.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

282 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will deal with a matter in relation to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21812/08]

Terence Flanagan

Question:

283 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason there is a delay in the pension of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5 being reviewed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21813.08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 282 and 283 together.

The person concerned entered insurable employment in 1958. He has a total of 103 full rate social insurance contributions paid to 1967 and 273 for the period 2002 to 2007. From late 1967 to the end of 2001 he was employed in the public service and paid contributions at the modified rate which gave cover only for a limited number of schemes which do not include State Pension (Contributory).

In addition to 376 paid full-rate contributions, his record includes a total of 149 credited contributions over the periods 1958 to 1967 and 2002 to 2007. The total of 525 paid/credited contributions gives a yearly average of 11 which qualifies him for a 50% State Pension (Contributory) of €186.10 (€111.70 personal rate and €74.40 Qualified Adult) per week with effect from his 66th birthday. Based on his insurance record, this is the maximum pension payable.

Social Welfare Benefits.

John Deasy

Question:

284 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when the living alone allowance was last increased; the amount of the payment now; if it has been raised in line with inflation since the date of the last increase; if she will undertake to increase same to at least compensate for inflation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21823/08]

The living alone increase is an additional payment of €7.70 per week made to people aged 66 years or over who are in receipt of certain social welfare payments and who are living alone. It is also available to people who are under 66 years of age who are living alone and receiving payments under one of a number of invalidity type schemes. The payment was last increased in 1996.

The policy in relation to support for older people has been, for many years, to give priority to increasing the personal rates of pension in addition to enhancing the Household Benefits Package which includes TV Licence, Telephone, Electricity/Gas and the Fuel Allowance rather than supplements like the living alone increase. The objective is to use resources to improve the position of all pensioners to the fullest extent possible rather than focusing on particular groups. Under this policy the rate of contributory pension has increased from €95.23 per week in 1996 to €223.30 per week in 2008 and the non-contributory pension has increased from €81.90 per week to €212.00 per week.

Michael Ring

Question:

285 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the way a person (details supplied) in County Mayo was assessed for disability allowance; if she will provide a full and total breakdown of all the income for the household; if there is anything that was not taken into consideration which would allow them to be approved even a nominal payment. [22049/08]

The person concerned originally applied for Disability Allowance on 19 February 2008. She was assessed with weekly means of €383.28 based on her spouse's earnings, derived as follows: Gross weekly pay year to date (per payslip): €744.33; less PRSI, Union & Superannuation — €45.51; insurable Employment Disregard — €60.00; total — €638.82; weekly Means @€0.60 per €1 — €383.28. As this exceeded the statutory limit of €377.10 per week for payment of Disability Allowance, her claim was refused.

The provisions governing the assessment of means for Disability Allowance purposes are contained in Part 1 & 2 of Schedule 3 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 and Articles 141 to 158 of the Social Welfare (Consolidated Claims, Payments and Control) Regulations, 2007 S.I. No. 142 of 2007, as amended. Means are assessed on the claimant's own means and that of their spouse/partner subject to certain exceptions laid down in legislation. A letter issued to the person concerned on 19 May 2008 notifying her of this decision and giving her the option of appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office within 21 days. Should her financial circumstances change in the future, the person concerned can notify Disability Allowance Section and her entitlement will be re-assessed.

Departmental Projects.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

286 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will list and number the pilot schemes or projects that are being funded, overseen, or in any way supported by her Department; the purpose of each project; the start up date of each project; the timescale for each project; the projected completion date for each project; the date that a report evaluating the project will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22069/08]

There are currently no pilot schemes or pilot projects being undertaken by the Department currently. I can further confirm that the Department has no plans at present to engage in any pilot schemes or projects.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Richard Bruton

Question:

287 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her Department will pay one parent allowance retrospectively where a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5 suffered postnatal illness and never realised their entitlement to claim the allowance, as a result of which their claim was made six years after the original entitlement accrued; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22073/08]

Social welfare legislation requires that people must claim their entitlements within a specified period from the date on which their entitlement arises. The prescribed time for making a claim is specified in Article 102 (c) of Statutory Instrument 417 of 1994. In the case of one-parent family payment, the prescribed time for making a claim is within 3 months of the date of entitlement.

Section 241 (2) (c) of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 states that where a person fails to make a claim for one-parent family payment within the prescribed time, he or she will be disqualified for payment in respect of any period before the date on which the claim is made. The following section (3) states that where a claimant proves to the satisfaction of a deciding officer or an appeals officer that they were entitled to the payment and that there was a good cause for the delay in making the claim, that the claim can be backdated for a period not to exceed 6 months.

According to the records of the Department, the person concerned made a claim for one-parent family payment on 15 September 2005. Payment was awarded from that date. The person applied for a retrospective payment, backdated to the date of birth of her child — 18 June 2000. In accordance with social welfare legislation, a deciding officer awarded retrospective payment for 6 months which resulted in payment of arrears of €3,180.60 for the period 17 March 2005 to 14 September 2005.

The person appealed the deciding officer's decision. An appeals officer upheld the deciding officer's decision. The person concerned was informed on 20 July 2006 of the appeals officer's decision. An appeals officer's decision is final in the absence of new facts or fresh evidence.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

288 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the delays in providing dates and locations for oral hearings for appeals of social welfare claims; the reason for the delay in same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22096/08]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

289 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the average waiting time for oral hearings of appeals for social welfare payment types; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22097/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 288 and 289 together.

The social welfare appeals system is quasi-judicial and the procedures involved are, by virtue of that fact, designed to ensure that every appellant gets full and satisfactory consideration.

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that oral hearings are granted at the discretion of the Appeals Officer usually in circumstances where there is a conflict in evidence presented by the parties to the appeal or where an oral hearing is requested by the appellant in order to present his or her case. During 2007, the average time taken to process such appeals was in the order of 30 weeks.

The processing time for appeals covers all phases of the appeal process including the submission by my Department of its comments on the grounds for the appeal, further examination by my Department's Medical Assessors in certain sickness related cases, the arranging and holding of the hearings and the investigation of further issues which may arise during the course of the oral hearing. Oral hearings are held every week at venues around the country as convenient as possible to the appellant. The selection of locations to be visited is based on the number of appeals on hand in a particular area in a given week. In general, those who are waiting longest can expect to be scheduled for hearing when next an Appeals Officer is in the area. A small number of cases are given priority when exceptional circumstances arise.

Improving processing times of all aspects of the appeals process is a major objective of the Social Welfare Appeals Office. However, it is necessary at all times to ensure that progress in this regard is achieved in a manner which is not in conflict with the demands of natural justice and the requirement that every appeal be fully investigated and examined on all its merits.

Designated Areas.

James Bannon

Question:

290 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when he will extend the RAPID areas within Athlone to include estates (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21745/08]

I refer the Deputy to my response to Question 200 of 14 May 2008.

Proposed Legislation.

Michael Ring

Question:

291 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when the section of an Act (details supplied) will be implemented. [21785/08]

The legal advice available to me is that the matter raised by the Deputy does not fall within the scope of the section of the Act to which he refers. It is not possible for me to answer the Question more fully within the parameters of the conventions of the House in relation to a Question asked on a "details supplied" basis.

Grant Payments.

Áine Brady

Question:

292 Deputy Áine Brady asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the financial supports provided by his Department for community groups to provide community facilities for their communities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21798/08]

As the Deputy will appreciate, my Department has responsibility for a wide range of programmes and schemes that support the sustainable and inclusive development of both urban and rural communities. It is possible that elements of the following programmes and schemes may provide financial support to community groups to provide facilities for their communities: Grants for Locally-Based Community and Voluntary Organisations; Local and Community Development Programmes; RAPID and CLÁR Programmes; Leader; Young People's Facilities and Services Fund; Dormant Accounts funded schemes; Gaeltacht Infrastructural Improvement Schemes; and Capital grants for economic and social development on offshore islands.

Details of these and all the programmes and schemes operated by my Department, including funding available, can be accessed on the Department's website at www.pobail.ie.

Departmental Projects.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

293 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will list and number the pilot schemes or projects that are being funded, overseen, or in any way supported by his Department; the purpose of each project; the start up date of each project; the time-scale for each project; the projected completion date for each project; the date that a report evaluating the project will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22060/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department operates a wide range of programmes, measures and schemes and provides funding and support to many projects, pilot schemes and pilot projects. Details of all the programmes and schemes operated by my Department can be found on my Department's website at www.pobail.ie.

Given the significant amount of pilot projects and initiatives funded and supported by my Department, it would not be feasible to readily compile the wide data relating to such projects that the Deputy has requested.

If, however, the Deputy is interested in seeking information on a specific project, pilot scheme or pilot project funded by my Department, I will arrange for that information to be provided to him as soon as possible.

Cruthú Fostaíochta.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

294 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Dinny McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cad iad na tionscnaimh a fuair tacaíocht ó Údarás na Gaeltachta i nGaeltacht Iardheisceart Dhún na nGall le cúig bhliana anuas, cén fhostaíocht a cruthaíodh i ngach ceann acu agus cad iad na hiarrachtaí atá á ndéanamh faoi láthair breis fostaíochta a chruthú sa cheantar sin. [22140/08]

Tugtar léargas cuimsitheach ar chúrsaí fostaíochta sa Ghaeltacht i dTuarascáil Bhliantúil agus Cuntais Údarás na Gaeltachta a leagtar faoi bhráid Thithe an Oireachtais gach bliain agus a bhíonn ar fáil ar an suíomh idirlín www.udaras.ie

Dírím aird an Teachta chomh maith ar an bhfreagra a thug mé ar Cheist Dála Uimh 295 ar 13 Samhain 2007 agus ar an teolas cuimsitheach maidir le fostaíocht sa cheantar atá luaite ag an dTeachta, a thug an tÚdarás dó ar iarratas uaim i mí na Samhna 2007.

Mar atá curtha in iúl cheana, bíonn iarrachtaí leanúnacha ar siúl ag Údarás na Gaeltachta chun deiseanna fostaíochta agus forbartha a chruthú i ngach ceantar Gaeltachta, ceantar Iardheisceart Dhún na nGall ina measc.

Departmental Staff.

John O'Mahony

Question:

295 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of field inspectors working for his Department; the number of farmers nationwide registered with his Department to be inspected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21709/08]

I assume the Deputy is referring to inspections carried out under the Single Payment Scheme.

The Integrated Controls Division of my Department will be conducting 6,217 field inspections in 2008 from an expected 126,000 SPS applicants, some of whom are also Disadvantaged Area, REPS and Suckler Welfare Scheme applicants. 109 field officers will undertake these inspections.

In conducting these inspections, and, at the request of the farming bodies, my Department endeavours to limit the inconvenience to farmers by combining, as far as possible, the various inspections to be undertaken, thereby minimising the number of visits to farms.

Grant Payments.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

296 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a REP scheme payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Galway in view of the fact that they have submitted the required soil sample; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21752/08]

The soil samples requested by my Department in October 2007 have still not been received and, consequently, further processing of the payment application cannot take place.

Coastal Protection.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

297 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the concerns he has regarding the removal of shore crabs in the Suir Estuary (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21802/08]

It is the policy of my Department to strive for both economically viable and environmentally compatible fisheries which take account of other interests in any given area of activity. In this regard we employ the appropriate tools and take the appropriate measures to achieve this.

With reference to the specific question on shore crabs in the Suir estuary, I have asked BIM to examine the issue and await their advice on the matter.

Grant Payments.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

298 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if the review of the case of a person (details supplied) has been finalised; the decision reached; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21805/08]

The person concerned has lodged an appeal in this case with the Agriculture Appeals Office. He will be notified of the outcome as soon as possible.

Milk Quota.

Michael Creed

Question:

299 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if a person (details supplied) in County Cork who received additional milk quota from the tribunal on the basis of a disease problem has had his appeal on this issue further considered in view of their excess production over the allocated quota; the outcome of this appeal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21828/08]

Allocations of milk quota from the National Reserve are granted on the basis of recommendations from the Milk Quota Appeals Tribunal. The Tribunal examines and makes recommendations on applications for additional quota from individual producers. The named person submitted an appeal against the original recommendation of the Tribunal for the temporary allocation of 32,000 litres of quota, for his benefit, on foot of an application under the animal disease category. This appeal was heard at a meeting on 22 May 2008 at which the Tribunal recommended an additional allocation of 9,976 litres from the National Reserve. Notification in this regard has been issued to the named person and his Co-op.

Departmental Projects.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

300 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list and number the pilot schemes or projects that are being funded, overseen, or in any way supported by his Department; the purpose of each project; the start up date of each project; the time-scale for each project; the projected completion date for each project; the date that a report evaluating the project will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22057/08]

My Department currently operates one pilot scheme, the Scheme of Investment Aid for Demonstration of On-farm Waste Processing Facilities. Applications for the scheme were accepted between June and December 2006. The purpose of the scheme is to facilitate the introduction/development of up to 10 demonstration projects relating to on-farm waste processing around the country. The Department will engage with the successful applicants on an ongoing basis to evaluate the progress of the projects.

Full details of all the main schemes operated by my Department are provided in my Department's main information booklet "Schemes & Services 2008". Copies are available from the local offices of my Department and from Teagasc offices. The booklet is also available on the websitewww.agriculture.gov.ie.

Food Safety.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

301 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food further to Question No. 205 of 21 May 2008 if under the regulations there are guidelines on where beehives should be sited in a residential area and how close they should be to another person’s boundary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22098/08]

The current regulations do not provide specific guidance on locating beehives in residential areas. However, most Irish beekeepers are members of the Federation of Irish Beekeepers Associations (FIBKA). FIBKA provides guidance on this matter in the Frequently Asked Questions part of their website,www.irishbeekeeping.ie.

On-farm Investment Schemes.

Ulick Burke

Question:

302 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the amount of money available in the 2008 Estimates for each of the on-farm investment schemes operated by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22114/08]

The amount of money allocated in 2008 to each on-farm investment scheme operated by my Department is as follows:

Scheme

Amount

(€m)

Aid Control Farm Pollution

0.001

Aid Dairy Hygiene

0.001

Alternative Enterprises Scheme

1.000

Control Farm Pollution Scheme

0.031

Dairy Hygiene Scheme

8.000

Farm Improvement Programme

0.001

Farm Improvement (Horticulture)

0.040

Farm Improvement Scheme

15.000

Farm Waste Management Scheme

150.604

Installation Aid Scheme

6.400

National Dairy Hygiene Scheme

0.001

Pig Welfare Scheme (NDP)

2.000

Pig Welfare Scheme (RDP)

3.000

Pilot Waste Processing Scheme (NDP)

1.600

Waste Processing Facilities Scheme (RDP)

0.800

Young Farmers’ Installation Scheme

3.600

Ulick Burke

Question:

303 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the amount of money paid or approved for payment in 2008 from 1 January to 1 May 2008 under each of the on-farm investment schemes operated by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22115/08]

The amount of expenditure under each of the on-farm investment schemes operated by my Department during the first four months of 2008 was as follows:

Scheme

Amount

(€m)

Aid Control Farm Pollution

Aid Dairy Hygiene

Alternative Enterprises Scheme

0.279

Control Farm Pollution Scheme

Dairy Hygiene Scheme

1.685

Farm Improvement Programme

Farm Improvement (Horticulture)

Farm Improvement Scheme

0.705

Farm Waste Management Scheme

67.952

Installation Aid Scheme

1.881

National Dairy Hygiene Scheme

Pig Welfare Scheme (NDP)

0.463

Pig Welfare Scheme (RDP)

Pilot Waste Processing Scheme (NDP)

Waste Processing Facilities Scheme (RDP)

Young Farmers’ Installation Scheme

1.050

Fisheries Protection.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

304 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will change the regulations to permit the landing of monkfish, with appropriate notification to the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, in the home port of the fishing vessel owner as well as at designated ports in view of the huge inconvenience and cost to many fishermen resulting from the present system. [22134/08]

The landing of monkfish is currently allowed in the following designated ports Greencastle, Killybegs, Ros an Mhíl, An Daingean, Castletownbere, Union Hall, Ringaskiddy in the Port of Cork, Dunmore East, Kilmore Quay, Rosslare Harbour and Howth. At the request of industry my department is currently preparing a Statutory Instrument that will add Kinsale and Schull to this list.

The rationale behind port designation is to provide a system whereby landings of certain fish species may be better validated through effective monitoring and inspection. The legislation is predicated on the premise that effective control and monitoring of fish landings can be achieved where fishing vessels are obliged to land their catches into a restricted number of ports thereby allowing the control services in these Member States to have appropriate resources in place to effectively control and monitor the fish landings.

Allowing vessels to land monkfish in their home ports would effectively nullify the designated port system and would undermine previous commitments, given to the EU Commission in the wake of infringement proceedings against Ireland, to strengthening our fisheries control regime.

Notwithstanding that, the entire system of designated ports is currently being reviewed by the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority in consultation with industry representatives and my department. The aim of this review is to create a more effective and efficient system that would maximise the number of ports to be designated while allowing the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority to deliver effective control in line with Ireland's obligations under the Common Fisheries Policy.

Site Acquisitions.

Sean Fleming

Question:

305 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason for the delay in a site acquisition for a school (details supplied) in County Donegal; if this issue will be resolved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21792/08]

The Office of Public Works (OPW) which acts on behalf of my Department in relation to site acquisitions generally has been requested to source a suitable site for the school in question. The OPW identified a site and my Department instructed the OPW to open negotiations on this site. The acquisition of this site was almost complete however, the OPW advised my Department that the Vendor could not offer good Marketable Title to the property. My Department, based on legal advice, was not prepared to accept Title as offered for this site and instructed the OPW to re-advertise.

The OPW have recently advised that there is a potential alternative proposal and this is currently under consideration by my Department. The further consideration of the site acquisition will be considered in the context of the Department's Multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Michael McGrath

Question:

306 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a primary school (details supplied) in County Cork has classes with pupil numbers in the mid to high 30s; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21703/08]

Schools have flexibility in the way in which they assign pupils and teachers to classes and the Department does not allocate teachers to specific classes or age groups. The mainstream staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous school year. The actual number of mainstream posts sanctioned is determined by reference to a staffing schedule which is issued to all primary schools each year.

Posts allocated on the basis of this staffing schedule are specifically for mainstream classes and should be deployed accordingly. School authorities are requested to ensure that the number of pupils in any class is kept as low as possible, taking all relevant contextual factors into account (e.g. classroom accommodation, fluctuating enrolment). In particular, school authorities should ensure that there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes and that the differential between the largest and smallest classes is kept to a minimum.

Data submitted to my Department by the Board of Management of the school referred to by the Deputy, indicates that the enrolment in the school on 30 September 2006 was 319 pupils. In accordance with the staffing schedule (Circular 0020/2007), which is available on my Department's website atwww.education.ie, the mainstream staffing in the school for the 2007/08 school year is a Principal and 12 mainstream class teachers.

According to data submitted by the Board of Management the enrolment on 30 September 2007 was 326 pupils. In accordance with the staffing schedule (Circular 0010/2008), which is also available on my Department's website atwww.education.ie and a hard copy of which has been issued to all primary schools, the mainstream staffing in the school for the 2008/09 school year will remain at a Principal and 12 mainstream class teachers.

Within the terms of the staffing arrangements for primary schools there is provision for additional posts, referred to as developing school posts, to be assigned to schools on the basis of projected enrolments for the next school year. Under these arrangements, a developing school post may be sanctioned provisionally where the projected enrolment at 30 September of the school year in question equals or exceeds a specified figure. If the specified figure is not achieved on 30 September, sanction for the post is withdrawn.

It is open to the Board of Management to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeal Board which was established to adjudicate on appeals on mainstream staffing allocations in primary schools. Details of the criteria and application dates for appeal are contained in the staffing schedule. The criteria are also available in Circular 0024/2007 (Appeal Board for Mainstream Staffing in Primary Schools) which is available on my Department's website.

The first meeting of the Appeal Board took place on 20 May 2008. Further meetings will be held in June and October 2008. The closing dates for receipt of appeals are 20 June and 10 October respectively. Appeals must be submitted to Primary Payments Section, Department of Education and Science, Athlone, on the standard application form, clearly stating the criterion under which the appeal is being made. The standard application form is available from Primary Payments Section or on my Department's website. The Appeal Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final.

School Accommodation.

Michael Ring

Question:

307 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science if the deed of partial surrender for a school (details supplied) in County Mayo has been executed. [21704/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Chief State Solicitor's Office were instructed to draft a deed of partial surrender for a portion of land on the grounds of the school referred to. I am advised that the Deed of Partial Surrender has been signed, sealed and forwarded by the Chief State Solicitors Office to the school's solicitors for their attention.

Educational Disadvantage.

John O'Mahony

Question:

308 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Science his plans to widen and improve access to third level education for marginalised groups including students from low income backgrounds, mature and part-time students and students from minority groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21712/08]

Over the seven years of the National Development Plan (NDP) €13 billion will be invested under the Human Capital Priority to develop the capacity of the higher education sector to meet a number of key national objectives, including that of increasing the numbers of students participating in the sector. The focus will continue from the previous NDP on measures targeting the increased participation of under-represented student groups, such as those from disadvantaged areas and older learners.

The recurrent grant to higher education institutions supports the core activities and services of all state-aided third level institutions, including the development of access programmes, the objective of which is to encourage and support the increased access and retention of young people and adults from disadvantaged schools and communities. Funding also supports measures targeting the progression of learners from the further and community education sector, people with a disability and members of the traveller community.

It has been over a decade since targeted access funding was introduced to the budgets of third level institutions. While the investment is, by its nature, a long-term one it is fair to say that so far there have been some very positive outcomes. For example, since 1998 the semi and unskilled manual group, who are a long-standing priority target group have increased their participation by at least 10%. An estimated one-third of young people from these backgrounds now enter higher education.

In addition to the core funding of institutions, innovative new initiatives on the part of third level institutions to increase levels of access and lifelong learning are also being supported by the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF). Over the course of the NDP it is planned that €510 million will be allocated to third level institutions through this fund. As a first step, in 2007 an allocation of €42 million was made and in 2008 under the second cycle of funding a further €130 million was allocated.

This funding is supporting some interesting new collaborations on the part of networks of higher-education institutions focusing on the needs of learners from disadvantaged communities. A number of projects aim to significantly increase part-time and flexible learning opportunities for adults who wish to develop their levels of education and skills. Having invested in infrastructure and strategies to ensure a more diverse and representative student body, it is equally important to ensure that those students are adequately supported in their participation. The Social Inclusion Priority of the NDP commits that €2 billion will be dedicated over the period 2007-13 to address inequities in participation by students from socio-economically disadvantaged groups (including members of the travelling community and refugees); students with a disability and mature students. This funding underpins the allocations that will be made through the Higher Education Grant scheme as well as the significant reforms to that scheme that are proposed by the Student Support Bill. This priority also encompasses the Third Level Access Sub-Programme, which includes the annual allocations through three funds: the Fund for Students with a Disability, the Student Assistance Fund and the Millennium Partnership Fund. This measure also supports the work of the National Office for Equity of Access to Higher Education which manages these three funds on behalf of my Department and advises national policy on access to higher education for under-represented groups.

A new "access plan", which will run concurrently with the National Development Plan (from 2008-2013), is currently being prepared. The plan will examine emerging issues and challenges, including progression from further to higher education. It will highlight ongoing and new areas of action, including work with institutions on the development of an ‘access plan' as an integral element of the overall strategic planning process.

School Enrolments.

Finian McGrath

Question:

309 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will support a school (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [21724/08]

Richard Bruton

Question:

325 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the pupil enrolment figures for a school (details supplied) in Dublin 5; and the teachers appointed for each of the past five years. [22010/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 309 and 325 together.

The mainstream staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous school year. The actual number of mainstream posts sanctioned is determined by reference to a staffing schedule which is issued to all primary schools each year.

Data submitted to my Department by the Board of Management of the school referred to by the Deputies indicates that the pupil enrolment figures on 30 September for the past five years are as follows:

Year

Number

2002

398

2003

386

2004

384

2005

381

2006

382

In accordance with the relevant staffing schedules which are available on my Department's website atwww.education.ie, the mainstream staffing in the school for the school years 2003/04, 2004/05, 2005/06, 2006/07 and 2007/08 is a Principal and 14 mainstream class teachers. According to data submitted by the Board of Management the enrolment in the school on 30 September 2007 was 388 pupils. In accordance with the staffing schedule (Circular 0010/2008), which is also available on my Department’s website at www.education.ie and a hard copy of which has been issued to all primary schools, the mainstream staffing in the school for the 2008/09 school year will remain a Principal and 14 mainstream class teachers.

The school also has the services of three Learning Support/Resource Teachers and one Resource Teacher for Special Needs Pupils. Within the terms of the staffing arrangements for primary schools there is provision for additional posts, referred to as developing school posts, to be assigned to schools on the basis of projected enrolments for the next school year. Under these arrangements, a developing school post may be sanctioned provisionally where the projected enrolment at 30 September of the school year in question equals or exceeds a specified figure. If the specified figure is not achieved on 30 September, sanction for the post is withdrawn.

It is open to the Board of Management to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeal Board which was established to adjudicate on appeals on mainstream staffing allocations in primary schools. Details of the criteria and application dates for appeal are contained in the staffing schedule. The criteria are also available in Circular 0024/2007 (Appeal Board for Mainstream Staffing in Primary Schools) which is available on my Department's website.

The staffing of the school for the 2008/2009 school year was considered by the Appeal Board on 20 May 2008. The Board, having considered the appeal with regard to the criteria outlined in Circular 0024/2007, was satisfied that a departure from the staffing schedule is not warranted in this case. The Board of Management of the school was notified in writing of the decision of the Appeal Board on 22 May 2008.

School Staffing.

Finian McGrath

Question:

310 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will support schools (details supplied) in Dublin 13. [21725/08]

The mainstream staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30th September of the previous school year. The actual number of mainstream posts sanctioned is determined by reference to a staffing schedule which is issued to all primary schools each year.

Data submitted to the Department by the Board of Management of the school referred to by the Deputy indicates that the enrolment in the school on 30th September 2006 was 233 pupils. In accordance with the staffing schedule (Circular 0020/2007), which is available on my Department's website at www.education.ie, the mainstream staffing in the school for the 2007/08 school year is a Principal and 9 mainstream class teachers.

According to data submitted by the Board of Management of the school the enrolment in the school on 30th September 2007 was 231 pupils. In accordance with the staffing schedule (Circular 0010/2008), which is also available on my Department's website at www.education.ie and a hard copy of which has been issued to all primary schools, the mainstream staffing in the school for the 2008/09 school year will be a Principal and 8 mainstream class teachers.

Within the terms of the staffing arrangements for primary schools there is provision for additional posts, referred to as developing school posts, to be assigned to schools on the basis of projected enrolments for the next school year. Under these arrangements, a developing school post may be sanctioned provisionally where the projected enrolment at 30th September of the school year in question equals or exceeds a specified figure. If the specified figure is not achieved on 30th September, sanction for the post is withdrawn.

An independent appeal board is now in place to decide on any appeals on mainstream staffing in primary schools. Details of the appeal procedure are outlined in the staffing schedule and also in Circular 0024/2007 (Appeal Board for Mainstream Staffing in Primary Schools) which is available on the Department's website.

The first meeting of the Appeal Board for Mainstream Staffing in primary schools took place on 20 May, 2008 at which an appeal on behalf of the school in question was heard. I understand that the Appeal Board deferred a decision on the appeal application pending receipt of further information. When this process has been completed the Board of Management will be notified of the outcome of the appeal.

The Appeal Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final.

Finian McGrath

Question:

311 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will support a proposal in relation to schools (details supplied). [21726/08]

The mainstream staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30th September of the previous school year. The actual number of mainstream posts sanctioned is determined by reference to a staffing schedule which is issued to all primary schools each year.

Data submitted to the Department by the Boards of Management of the schools in question indicate that the enrolment in the school on 30th September 2007 had decreased from that of 30th September 2006. In accordance with the staffing Schedule (Circular 0010/2008), which is available on my Department's Website at www.education.ie, and a copy of which issued to all Primary Schools, the reduction in enrolment in all of these schools did not justify the retention of staffing at their current levels.

Within the terms of the staffing arrangements for primary schools there is provision for additional posts, referred to as developing school posts, to be assigned to schools on the basis of projected enrolments for the next school year. Under these arrangements, a developing school post may be sanctioned provisionally where the projected enrolment at 30th September of the school year in question equals or exceeds a specified figure. If the specified figure is not achieved on 30th September, sanction for the post is withdrawn.

An independent appeal board is now in place to decide on any appeals on mainstream staffing in primary schools. Details of the appeal procedure are outlined in the staffing schedule and also in Circular 0024/2007 (Appeal Board for Mainstream Staffing in Primary Schools) which is available on the Department's website.

The first meeting of the Appeal Board for Mainstream Staffing in primary schools took place on 20 May, 2008. Further meetings will take place in June and October 2008.

The Appeal Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final.

Schools Refurbishment.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

312 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a school (details supplied) in County Waterford was refused emergency funding to repair a serious leak in the roof; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21741/08]

My Department received an application for Emergency Funding for roof works from the school in question.

Emergency works grants are made available to schools most in need of resources as a result of unforeseen emergencies of a capital nature that may arise during the school year. Following assessment of the application from this school and in light of the large number of projects seeking funding from my Department for works of this nature from the budget allocated, it was not possible to provide funding under the Emergency Works Scheme on this occasion for the works sought.

It is open to the school authorities to use the annual minor works grant to fund these works.

School Accommodation.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

313 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science when a decision will be made in regard to the application by a school (details supplied) in County Waterford for classroom furniture; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21742/08]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that my Department recently approved grant-aid for furniture for the school in question.

Special Educational Needs.

Pat Breen

Question:

314 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 214 of 22 May 2008, the number of the 315 autism classes which have been approved in primary and post primary schools that are up and running; the level of funding provided for those classes; the number of those classes which have been approved for County Clare; the number in County Clare that are up and running; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21766/08]

The Deputy will be aware of the Government's commitment to ensuring that all children with special educational needs, including those with autism, can have access to an education appropriate to their needs preferably in school settings through the primary and post primary school network. This facilitates access to individualised education programmes, fully qualified professional teachers, special needs assistants and the appropriate school curriculum.

The establishment of a network of autism-specific special classes in schools across the country to cater children with autism has been a key educational priority in recent years. In excess of 315 classes have now been approved around the country at primary and post primary level, including many in special schools. All but 33 of these special classes are now up and running, with the unopened classes expected to commence in September this year. 12 of the approved classes are in Co. Clare with 10 of them already open. The remaining classes are due to open in September '08. 6 of these special classes are attached to special schools, while one is attached to a mainstream post-primary school. Once-off special grants of €7,135 are available to schools on the establishment of a special class, while children in a special class qualify for an enhanced capitation rate of €880. Children in these classes may also qualify for transport and escort grants.

Children in these classes benefit from having fully-qualified teachers who have access to training in a range of autism-specific interventions, including Applied Behavioural Analysis, the Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children and the Picture Exchange Communication System. These students have the option, where appropriate, of full/partial integration and interaction with other pupils. Funding is also provided for assistive technology and specialist equipment as required and special school transport arrangements may also be put in place.

Teacher Training.

Pat Breen

Question:

315 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science further to parliamentary Question No. 214 of 22 May 2008, the details of the training programme for teachers in autism specific interventions including TEACCH, PECS and ABA through the Special Education Support Service; the number of teachers who have undertaken the programme to date; the qualifications criteria for the trainers of the programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21767/08]

The SESS provides a dedicated support team of expert teachers delivering a range of supports to schools through seminar delivery and individual school visits. In 2007, 5521 training places were funded by the SESS to enable teachers access a range of autism training. This training encompassed a variety of interventions and courses in the area of Autism including inter alia:

Applied Behaviour Analysis

TEACCH

PECS

Social Stories

Management of Challenging behaviour

Sensory integration

Pivotal response training

Online courses in Autism and Applied behaviour analysis

Floor Time

Hannen training

PEP 3

Lámh

From the 08/09 academic year, teachers may also avail of a programme of accreditation for courses undertaken in the area of ASD. This programme, offered by, St Angela's College, Sligo is a Post-Graduate Certificate/Diploma Programme in the area of Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASDs), in collaboration with the Special Education Support Service (SESS). The programme is accredited by NUI, Galway. This programme is being made available on a modular basis specifically for teachers of pupils with ASDs. The aim of the programme will be to develop teachers' knowledge, understanding and skills in working with pupils with ASDs.

In terms of qualification criteria for trainers in these programmes, all trainers involved in delivering continuing professional development through the Special Education Support Service are required to have relevant qualifications, expertise, experience, knowledge and skills in the specific areas in which they are delivering CPD. These are determined on an individual basis with reference to the specific CPD programme that is being delivered. The SESS is concerned to ensure that all of the CPD which it supports is of a high quality and impacts positively on developing teachers' knowledge, skills and expertise in meeting the needs of all pupils with special educational needs. To this end, the SESS consistently reviews and monitors the quality of all of its programmes of CPD. In addition, all SESS CPD is evaluated by participants in order to assess its benefits as they relate to the learning and teaching of all pupils with special educational needs.

In addition, my Department provides accredited post-graduate courses, which are available annually. Some 475 places are available annually on these courses. It is a central feature of all these courses that teachers are given the necessary skills and expertise to meet the needs of students with ASD and special educational needs in general.

School Enrolments.

Finian McGrath

Question:

316 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will support a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9. [21771/08]

Enrolment in individual schools is the responsibility of the managerial authority of those schools. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places. This may result, however, in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice.

Section 29 of the Education Act 1998, provides parents with an appeal process where a Board of Management of a school or a person acting on behalf of the Board refuses enrolment to a student. Where a school refuses to enrol a pupil, the school is obliged to inform parents of their right under Section 29 of Education Act 1998 to appeal that decision to the Secretary General of my Department. It is only where an appeal under Section 29 is upheld that the Secretary General of my Department may direct a school to enrol a pupil.

The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The NEWB can be contacted at National Educational Welfare Board, National Headquarters, 16-22 Green Street, Dublin 7 or by telephone at 01-8738700.

Schools Building Projects.

Denis Naughten

Question:

317 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 789 of 2 April 2008, the status of the application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21773/08]

The commencement and progression of all large scale building projects from initial design stage through to construction phase, including this project, will be considered on an on-going basis in the context of my Department's Multi-Annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of the Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the further progression of the project at this time.

The particular emphasis in 2008 is on providing sufficient school places in developing areas, while also showing the Government's commitment to delivering improvements in the quality of existing primary and post-primary school accommodation throughout the country.

Denis Naughten

Question:

318 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 790 of 2 April 2008, if a final determination of the long term accommodation needs of the school has been made; the timetable for completion of this process; when a decision will be made on the provision of a new greenfield site or a site extension for the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21774/08]

An application for capital funding towards the provision of an extension has been received from the school authority referred to by the Deputy. An assessment of projected enrolment trends, demographic trends and housing developments in the area will be required in order to determine the long term projected enrolment figure on which the school's accommodation needs will be based.

Once the long term projection has been determined and agreed with the school authorities the required building project will be considered on an ongoing basis in the context of my Department's multi annual School Building and Modernisation programme. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of the Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

The particular emphasis in 2008 is on providing sufficient school places in developing areas, while also showing the Government's commitment to delivering improvements in the quality of existing primary and post-primary school accommodation throughout the country.

School Funding.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

319 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will urgently review the start-up grant for a new school (details supplied) in County Kildare in view of the inadequate funding provided and the urgent necessity for the school to open. [21803/08]

I am aware of the funding pressures on schools generally including also those in relation to the setting up of new schools.

It is a key priority for Government to improve funding for the day-to-day running costs of schools to help address these funding pressures. Specific commitments in relation to improving school funding form a central part of the education provisions of the Programme for Government. These commitments are a direct follow on from the clear thrust of Government policy over recent years to improve the position of primary schools in particular.

All Programme for Government commitments to improve public services including those relating to improving school funding are contingent on the economic and budgetary environment and the need for prudent expenditure and fiscal management. Even since the presentation of Budget 2008 last December there have been significant alterations in the external and domestic environment. The Government will continue to prioritise further improvements on school funding, including also for new schools, and this approach is the best way of sustaining the substantial improvements into the future.

I want to assure the Deputy that this Government has a track record of significantly increasing funding for schools and we will continue to build on this and deliver on our Programme for Government commitment.

School Staffing.

Joe McHugh

Question:

320 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Science the way he can justify the fact that his Department have removed two posts from a school (details supplied); if it is his Department’s policy to increase class sizes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21817/08]

The mainstream staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30th September of the previous school year. The actual number of mainstream posts sanctioned is determined by reference to a staffing schedule which is issued to all primary schools each year.

Posts allocated on the basis of this staffing schedule are specifically for mainstream classes and should be deployed accordingly. School authorities are requested to ensure that the number of pupils in any class is kept as low as possible, taking all relevant contextual factors into account (e.g. classroom accommodation, fluctuating enrolment). In particular, school authorities should ensure that there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes and that the differential between the largest and smallest classes is kept to a minimum.

Data submitted to my Department by the Board of Management of the school referred to by the Deputy, indicates that the enrolment in the school on 30th September 2006 was 179 pupils. In accordance with the staffing schedule (Circular 0020/2007), which is available on my Department's website at www.education.ie, the mainstream staffing in the school for the 2007/08 school year is an Administrative Principal and 7 mainstream class teachers.

According to data submitted by the Board of Management of the school, the enrolment in the school on 30th September 2007 was 171 pupils. In accordance with the staffing schedule (Circular 0010/2008), which is also available on my Department's website at www.education.ie and a hard copy of which has been issued to all primary schools, the mainstream staffing in the school for the 2008/09 school year will be 6 mainstream class teachers — one of which is a Teaching Principal.

Within the terms of the staffing arrangements for primary schools there is provision for additional posts, referred to as developing school posts, to be assigned to schools on the basis of projected enrolments for the next school year. Under these arrangements, a developing school post may be sanctioned provisionally where the projected enrolment at 30th September of the school year in question equals or exceeds a specified figure. If the specified figure is not achieved on 30th September, sanction for the post is withdrawn.

It is open to the Board of Management to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeal Board which was established to adjudicate on appeals on mainstream staffing allocations in primary schools. Details of the criteria and application dates for appeal are contained in the staffing schedule. The criteria are also available in Circular 0024/2007 (Appeal Board for Mainstream Staffing in Primary Schools) which is available on my Department's website.

The staffing of the school for the 2008/2009 school year was considered by the Appeal Board on 20 May 2008. The Board, having considered the appeal with regard to the criteria outlined in Circular 0024/2007, was satisfied that a departure from the staffing schedule is not warranted in this case. The Board of Management of the school was notified in writing of the decision of the Appeal Board on 26 May 2008.

The Appeal Board operates independently of the Department and it's decision is final.

Special Educational Needs.

Michael McGrath

Question:

321 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science when a communication device will be provided to a special needs child (details supplied) in County Cork. [21838/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, the National Council for Special Education is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENO) for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants to schools to support children with special needs. SENOs also make recommendations where assistive technology is required.

I can confirm that an application for a communication device in respect of the pupil in question has been received in my Department. Officials in my Department are liaising with the SENO and the Health Service Executive (HSE) in the context of the device being funded through the HSE Aids and Appliances grant scheme.

Schools Refurbishment.

Sean Fleming

Question:

322 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Science when major refurbishment will be carried out on a school (details supplied) in County Kildare. [21849/08]

The project at the school referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage of architectural planning.

The progression of all large scale building projects from initial design stage through to construction phase, including this project, will considered on an on-going basis in the context of my Department's Multi-Annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of the Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

The particular emphasis in 2008 is on providing sufficient school places in developing areas, while also showing the Government's commitment to delivering improvements in the quality of existing primary and post-primary school accommodation throughout the country.

Special Educational Needs.

Billy Timmins

Question:

323 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Science the situation with regard to a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21987/08]

The National Council for Special Education is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants (SNAs) to schools to support children with special needs. All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.

As the Deputy may be aware, SNA support in schools is intended to address the care needs of pupils with special educational needs. The criteria for the provision of SNA support envisages that such support is sanctioned where a child has a significant medical need, a significant impairment of physical or sensory function or where the child is a danger to themselves or other pupils. It would be expected that very often this level of care should diminish as the child matures and consequently the level of SNA support required in the school will diminish also.

There is no automatic system of transfer of SNA support from one school to another. The Board of Management of the school is the SNA's employer and the employment contract is a matter between the individual Board of Management and SNA.

Where a child with SNA support moves school or moves on to post-primary, and no other child with special needs enrols in the school, then the resource — resource teaching hours and/or special needs assistant support — is withdrawn from the first school and, if still warranted by the child's needs, is sanctioned for the new school. In considering applications for SNAs, the SENOs take account of the needs identified in the professional report and decide whether the circumstances come within the Department's criteria. They then consider the resources available to the school to identify whether additionality is needed or whether the school might reasonably be expected to meet the needs of the pupil from its current level of resources. A child needing occasional assistance with toileting may, for example, only require a limited amount of an SNA's time which may be available within the school.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

324 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools in County Kildare offering teaching to children with autism; the extent to which the full potential of such facilities are being achieved or are achievable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21996/08]

The Deputy will be aware of the Government's commitment to ensuring that all children with special educational needs, including those with autism, can have access to an education appropriate to their needs preferably in school settings through the primary and post primary school network. This facilitates access to individualised education programmes, fully qualified professional teachers, special needs assistants and the appropriate school curriculum.

The establishment of a network of autism-specific special classes in schools across the country to cater children with autism has been a key educational priority in recent years. In excess of 315 classes have now been approved around the country at primary and post primary level, including many in special schools. 27 of these classes are in Co. Kildare; 25 of these classes are now open with the remaining two due to open in September 2008. Of the 25 classes already open, 16 are in mainstream primary schools, 5 are in special schools, 3 are in second-level schools and one is a pre-school class based in a primary school. Of the two classes to open next September, one will be in a mainstream primary school and the other will be in a second-level school.

Children in these classes benefit from having fully-qualified teachers who have access to training in a range of autism-specific interventions, including Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA), the Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH) and the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). These students have the option, where appropriate, of full/partial integration and interaction with other pupils. Funding is also provided for assistive technology and specialist equipment as required and special school transport arrangements may also be put in place.

The Deputy may be aware that in order to support teachers my Department has put in place a training programme for teachers in specific interventions associated with autism including TEACCH, PECS and ABA through the Special Education Support Service. A recent initiative has been the expansion of this service to enable it to recruit a behavioural specialist support team.

Question No. 325 answered with Question No. 309.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Noel Coonan

Question:

326 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Education and Science his policy in respect of reducing class sizes; the average class size in north Tipperary including the pupil teacher ratio; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22012/08]

Class size data for primary schools for 2007/2008 are currently being compiled by my Department and is not yet available. The source of this data is the Annual Census of Primary Schools. Data will become available when returns for all schools have been processed.

The Programme for Government sets out the overarching policy position in relation to the provision of additional teachers and on reductions in class size over the life of the Government.

The Programme contains a commitment to increase the number of primary teachers by at least 4000 and on that basis to make further progress on reducing class sizes.

Budget 2008 provided my Department with €4.6 billion or €380 million extra for teacher pay and pensions. This was a very substantial level of additional investment in the terms of the economic environment on which the budget was based. That allocation provides for paying for over 2000 extra primary teachers more than the number in schools when the Government took office last Summer. It covers the additional teachers that went into schools last September for the previously announced reduction to a 27 to 1 based staffing schedule along with additional teachers this school year and in the coming school year to meet increasing enrolments, to provide for special needs and the language requirements of newcomer children.

This means that in terms of the overall commitment to provide at least 4000 additional teachers the Government in its first two years in office will be well ahead of target.

All Programme for Government commitments to improve public services including those relating to class size are contingent on the economic and budgetary environment and the need for prudent expenditure and fiscal management. Even since the presentation of Budget 2008 last December there have been significant alterations in the external and domestic environment. In that context any reasonable observer would regard the fact that the Government has already taken measures that will see the allocation of over 2000 additional teachers to primary schools as a considerable investment all things considered.

Similarly the commitment in relation to improving class size in second level schools can only be looked at and considered in the context of the overall economic and budgetary position that might prevail in the coming years and the competing priorities for available resources.

Special Educational Needs.

Michael Creed

Question:

327 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Education and Science further to his reply to Parliamentary Question No 217 of 22 May 2008 (details supplied), if he will reconsider this case as the request relates to the academic year 2009/2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22013/08]

As the Deputy is aware, special schools funded by my Department are intended to cater for children and young persons with special educational needs from 4 years until the end of the school year in which they reach their 18th year.

At that point, the Department of Health and Children/Health Service Executive assumes direct responsibility for young adults with special educational needs who are over 18 years. My Department, at that stage, may allocate resources towards an education component of such provision.

I understand that the student in question will reach age 18 in March 2009 and will remain in his present school for the 2008/2009 school year. My Department is not in a position to make a decision beyond the next school year at this time.

School Funding.

Liz McManus

Question:

328 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount allocated for start up grants for new primary schools; if it is satisfactory that a new school in Greystones, County Wicklow is only eligible for a figure of €6,348 when it has been calculated that the cost of opening a new primary school is estimated in excess of €30,000; his views on whether the financial burden of setting up a new school should fall on a small voluntary group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22015/08]

I am aware of the funding pressures on schools generally including also those in relation to the setting up of new schools.

It is a key priority for Government to improve funding for the day-to-day running costs of schools to help address these funding pressures. Specific commitments in relation to improving school funding form a central part of the education provisions of the Programme for Government. These commitments are a direct follow on from the clear thrust of Government policy over recent years to improve the position of primary schools in particular.

All Programme for Government commitments to improve public services including those relating to improving school funding are contingent on the economic and budgetary environment and the need for prudent expenditure and fiscal management. Even since the presentation of Budget 2008 last December there have been significant alterations in the external and domestic environment. The Government will continue to prioritise further improvements on school funding, including also for new schools, and this approach is the best way of sustaining improvements into the future.

Site Acquisitions.

Liz McManus

Question:

329 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to finalising a new site for the new Gaelscoil at Blacklion, Greystones, County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22016/08]

The legalities of finalising the site acquisition at Blacklion are at an advanced stage. It is the intention of my Department to provide accommodation for the school on the site in Blacklion for September 2008.

Schools Refurbishment.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

330 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Education and Science if an extension and refurbishment has been sanctioned for a school (details supplied) in County Donegal; if he will provide details of the extension and refurbishment; if the tendering process has been completed; the date the tendering process was completed; if approval has been given for work to commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22017/08]

A tender report for the project referred to by the Deputy has been received by my Department. The contract for the project has not yet been awarded.

The progression of all large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction will be considered on an on-going basis in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of the Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

Higher Education Grants.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

331 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science if an education grant is available to a person (details supplied) in County Cork who wishes to pursue a one year post-graduate course. [22025/08]

The decision on eligibility for third level grants is a matter for the relevant assessing authority — i.e. the local authority or VEC. These bodies do not refer individual applications to my Department except, in exceptional cases, where, for example, advice or instruction regarding a particular clause in the relevant scheme is required.

If an individual applicant considers that she/he has been unjustly refused a maintenance grant, or that the rate of grant awarded is not the correct one, she/he may appeal, in the first instance, to the relevant local authority or VEC.

Where an individual applicant has had an appeal turned down, in writing, by the assessing authority, and remains of the view that the body has not interpreted the schemes correctly in his/her case, an appeal form outlining the position may be submitted by the applicant to my Department.

Pharmacy Graduates.

Richard Bruton

Question:

332 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if he is satisfied with the number of pharmacists being trained; if he has records of the percentage of graduates who successfully find employment here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22031/08]

The HEA published a study on the demand and need for graduates in Pharmacy in November 1999. The study was undertaken on behalf of the HEA by Peter Bacon and Associates, Economic Consultants. At the time, the only course was in Trinity College Dublin and provided 70 graduates per annum. The Bacon report recommended that at least 50 extra graduates per annum would be required to fill the positions that would exist in the medium term.

Following the Beacon Report 80 new places in pharmacy were allocated. The RCSI course commenced in 2002/03 with an intake of 50 students. This intake was reduced to 30 in 2003/04 when the UCC pharmacy course commenced with an intake of 50 students. There are now 150 places in undergraduate pharmacy for Irish/ EU students.

Fás published a ‘Healthcare Skills Monitoring Report' in August 2005 which reviewed the demand for healthcare professionals. In relation to pharmacy, the report stated that the current number of university places, along with re-entry to the market of registered but non-practising pharmacists and immigration will ensure demand keeps pace with supply. The following table shows the First Destination of Graduates of Pharmacy.

First Destinations of Pharmacy Graduates

TCD

RCSI

%

%

In Employment — Ireland

96

100

In Employment — Overseas

0

0

Work Experience Schemes

0

0

Seeking Employment

4

0

Unavailable for Work/Study

0

0

Total

100

100

Notes

FDR Data relates to the situation of 2006 graduates as of April 2007.

UCC's Pharmacy course has yet to produce graduates (commenced 2003/04).

Third Level Qualifications.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

333 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of in-service teachers at primary level, second level and further education level who are holders of a masters degree, a Ph.d degree or any postgraduate qualification; the number in respect of each of these areas of in-service teachers who are receiving salary increments commensurate with their qualifications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22038/08]

All fully qualified post-primary teachers in Voluntary Secondary, Community and Comprehensive schools are in receipt of a primary degree and post-graduate qualification allowance. Two thousand six hundred and forty serving teachers are in receipt of a Masters Degree allowance, and two hundred and fifty five serving teachers are in receipt of PhD allowances. One hundred and thirty nine serving teachers are in receipt of a post-graduate Diploma in Special Education allowance.

The information in relation to teachers employed by VECs is held by them individually and is not available in my Department. All qualified primary teachers are paid a qualification allowance in respect of their degree qualification. The number of serving teachers at primary level who are in receipt of additional qualification allowances are as follows:

Masters Degree 2,183

Doctors Degree 41

Diploma in Special Education 918

Departmental Projects.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

334 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will list and number the pilot schemes or projects that are being funded, overseen, or in any way supported by his Department; the purpose of each project; the start up date of each project; the timescale for each project; the projected completion date for each project; the date that a report evaluating the project will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22062/08]

The information sought by the Deputy is being compiled by officials in my Department and will be forwarded to him as soon as possible.

Irish Language.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

335 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on whether second level support for Irish will increase the competency levels in Gaeilge labhartha; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22090/08]

My Department has implemented a range of measures aimed at improving outcomes in Irish language learning and proficiency. One of these measures was the establishment of a subject-specific support service for second-level schools. The service forms part of the Second Level Support (SLSS) which provides programme and subject specific curricular support, and support for teaching and learning generally in second-level schools.

The support service for Irish has been designed to provide professional development support to second-level teachers of Irish generally. One of the primary objectives of the service is to support the use of Gaeilge as a communicative language in schools and classrooms. The programme of professional development has been designed to:

promote the importance of oral skills as an integral part of the Junior and Leaving Certificate syllabuses

enable teachers develop a range of teaching and learning strategies that will promote oral language proficiency, as recommended in Circular 0042/2007

build on the strengths of the Revised Curriculum for Primary Schools.

The service is delivered by a dedicated team comprising a National Coordinator and six regionally-based development officers. The team is managed by the Steering Committee of the SLSS and its work is directed by a professional advisory group.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

336 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if he envisages an increase in the number of students taking the optional beal scrúdú Gaeilge at junior certificate level; the projected uptake he envisages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22091/08]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

337 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made with trade unions to support the beal scrúdú Gaeilge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22092/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 336 and 337 together.

The assessment of Irish for the Junior Certificate includes provision for an optional oral examination which is conducted by the class teacher in accordance with guidelines issued by the State Examinations Commission. The decision on whether, or not, to avail of this option is taken at school level. The syllabus for Junior Certificate Irish focuses strongly on developing communicative skills. Oral work is critically important in improving students' competence and confidence in this regard and it should be a key component of day-to-day teaching of the language from the beginning of junior cycle.

In March 2007, my predecessor announced significant changes to the proportion of marks awarded for oral Irish in both the Junior Cert and Leaving Cert exams. These changes will apply to students enrolling in First Year in 2007 and will mean that, in 2010, there will be 40% of marks available for the optional oral Irish examination in the Junior Certificate, and with effect from 2012, 40% of marks will be available for oral Irish in the Leaving Certificate.

The intention of the increase in marks for oral assessment is to promote a significant shift in emphasis towards Irish as a spoken language, where students can communicate and interact in a spontaneous way, and where Irish is spoken every day in schools. I believe that the increase in the marks for the optional oral component in the Junior Certificate from 20% to 40% from 2010 will be an incentive for more schools to provide this option. Given the critical importance of oral competence in language learning, all schools have been encouraged to avail of this option in the Junior Certificate. A support service with a national co-ordinator and 6 regional support staff has been put in place to support the change.

I am conscious that the model of oral examination in place for the Leaving Certificate examination is not replicable at Junior cycle. Issues of examiner supply and school disruption mean that implementing Junior and Leaving certificate oral examinations through a totally externally based approach would be unsustainable. I recognise the need to explore the scope for a different approach at Junior cycle, where the stakes are not so high, and my Department is engaging with the teacher unions on the issue.

There is no basis for projecting the uptake of the optional oral examination at Junior Cert level, but I am confident that, with the support of all education partners, the numbers will increase over to the coming years. I believe that the opportunity to avail of an oral examination would be a significant incentive for students to improve their proficiency in oral Irish.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

338 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on supporting the funding of Irish language courses for Irish teachers as part of their continuing professional development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22093/08]

My Department has implemented a range of measures aimed at improving outcomes in relation to Irish language learning and its proficiency. The Tús Maith initiative at primary level currently has thirty one cuiditheoirí on the team. The dual purposes are to improve the teaching of Irish and to improve teachers competence and confidence in the Irish language. Tús Maith cuiditheoir provide a range of support to teachers including in-class support, whole school support and after school workshops and language based activities. The team is currently working with 527 Spriocscoileanna, (Target Schools), providing intensive sustained support leading to high levels of impact.

At post primary level a subject-specific support service for Gaeilge has been established since September 2007. The service forms part of the Second Level Support (SLSS) which provides programme and subject specific curricular support, and support for teaching and learning generally in second-level schools. The support service for Irish provides professional development support to second-level teachers of Irish generally and support for the teaching and learning of all aspects of the Irish syllabuses. The service has a dedicated team comprising a National Coordinator and six regionally-based development officers. There are also a number of courses aimed at increasing proficiency in Irish through the "Cúrsai Samhraidh" programme run through the education centre network and a number of these take place in the Gaeltacht.

Special Educational Needs.

Jack Wall

Question:

339 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the plans or programmes in place or planned to assist with the integration of children into mainstream education and the community (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22101/08]

The Deputy will be aware of my Department's commitment to ensuring that all children including those with special needs can have access to an education appropriate to their needs preferably in school settings through the primary and post primary school network. This facilitates access to individualised education programmes, fully qualified professional teachers, special needs assistants and the appropriate school curriculum with the option, in line with each child's ability, of full/partial integration and interaction with other pupils.

My Department's policy is to provide for children with special educational needs to be integrated into mainstream schools unless such a placement would not be in their best interests or the interests of the children with whom they are to be educated. This does not necessarily mean that every child needs to be fully integrated. Some children may be better supported in a special class attached to a mainstream school. These students have the option, where appropriate, of full/partial integration and interaction with other pupils. Other children may have such complex needs that they are best placed in a special school. Students with special educational needs have access to a range of support services including additional teaching and/or care supports.

As the Deputy will be aware, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) was set up to improve the delivery of education services to persons with special educational needs arising from disabilities with particular emphasis on children. The Council, with its network of up to 80 Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is providing a structure for the delivery of an effective and speedy education service to children and families coping with disability on a daily basis. Working locally on the ground, the SENOs are a focal point of contact for parents and schools. Parents can contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, including any issues or queries they may have in relation to the integration of their child into mainstream education, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.

The SENOs are responsible for ensuring that all special educational needs in their areas are addressed in an effective manner. They are charged with facilitating access to, and co-ordinating education services for children with special needs in their areas. They will do this by liaising between local providers of educational services, appropriate ancillary services, the council, the Department and parents.

Schools Amalgamation.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

340 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the proposed amalgamation of schools (details supplied) in County Galway; if a site has been purchased; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the first school is likely to lose its playing fields due to a major commercial building project and should the proposed amalgamation not be proceeded with immediately the loss of such amenities would be a disaster to the efficient running of that particular school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22105/08]

As the Deputy will be aware an agreement was reached by the respective Patrons to rationalise provision of post-primary provision in the Tuam area to establish a single girls' school. The OPW have received a proposal for a site for the school which is currently with my Department for consideration and further instruction to the OPW. The further consideration of the site acquisition will be considered in the context of the Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Teacher Training.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

341 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Education and Science the levels of funding for 2008 for the three part-time teacher education centres in the Gaeltacht; the reason the three part-time centres serving Gaeltacht areas consistently receive the least level of funding to part-time education centres in the years 2001 to 2006 as reported in his Department’s value for money assessment of programmes managed by the teacher education section; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22108/08]

The three part time education centres in the Gaeltacht areas of Dingle, Conamara & Arainn and Gortahork have been allocated funding of €8,889 each for 2008. In addition to this funding a part-time administration post has been sanctioned for each of the three full-time centres whose catchment area encompasses the three part time teacher education centres in the Gaeltacht namely Tralee, Galway and Donegal Education Centres. This position of administrator has specific responsibility with regard to all administration in respect of the part-time centres in its catchment area and any other business requirements through the medium of Irish.

As mentioned in my Department's value for money report the Centres closest to urban areas and thereby serving a larger teaching population would have a higher level of activity. The funding of part-time Education Centres would be based on the level of activity in relation to courses. Therefore those Part Time Centres who are close to or are in urban areas would receive a higher level of funding than those serving non urban areas.

The part-time Education Centre covered by the Deputy's question is part of a network of twenty-one full-time and nine part-time Education Centres which are located throughout the Country. Education Centres provide continuous professional development and support for teachers and the wider education community through meeting locally researched and identified teacher and school community needs. They also provide this continuous professional development and support through involvement in national in-service programmes, involving either curricular reform or support on specific issues such as special needs.

Special Educational Needs.

Jack Wall

Question:

342 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the programme training or qualifications a person must adhere to before their qualification is accepted by his Department (details supplied); if there is a need for Garda clearance in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22110/08]

The responsibility for the recruitment and employment of individual special needs assistants is a matter for each school authority. The appointment procedures are outlined in Circular 03/03 — copy set out below. The current educational requirements specify that candidates for appointment to the post of special needs assistant must have been awarded Grade D (or pass) at least, in Irish, English and Mathematics in the Junior Certificate Examination, in the Day Vocational Certificate Examination or in an examination of equivalent standard. It is the responsibility of the relevant school authority to ensure that any proposed new appointee is vetted. The procedures for the vetting of teaching and non teaching staff are outlined in Circular 0094/2006 — copy also set out below.

Circular 0094/2006

To: The Management Authorities of all Primary Schools, The Management Authorities of Secondary, Community and Comprehensive Schools, The Chief Executive Officer of Each Vocational Education Committee

New arrangements for the vetting of teaching and non-teaching staff

1. Introduction

The Minister for Education and Science, Mary Hanafin, T.D. wishes to advise the authorities of all primary and post-primary schools and of Youthreach, VTOS, Junior Education or Traveller Training Centres of expanded arrangements for the vetting of persons with unsupervised access to children and vulnerable adults arising from the recommendations of the report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Garda Vetting.

1.2 Vetting procedures are already in place for special needs assistants and bus escorts. The procedures for the vetting of such staff are being revised and the new arrangements are set out below. In addition, vetting is being introduced for the 2006/07 school year for new teachers and any other new appointees who will have unsupervised access to children and vulnerable adults. It will be extended to others later on.

2. Vetting arrangements for the 2006/07 school year

2.1 The Department, in consultation with the Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU), has decided that, as a first step in the expansion of the vetting services of the GCVU, the vetting of new teachers and ancillary staff to be employed in schools should be given priority. Vetting will apply initially to all new staff being recruited with effect from 1st September, 2006 or later.

2.2 New staff are defined as those referred to above who have not been employed in a recognised primary or post-primary school, in a Youthreach, VTOS, Junior Education or Traveller Training Centre, in this State at any time since 1st September, 2003. Where a person was employed in a school or centre listed above in the past, but not within the last three years, he/she must be vetted.

2.3 It is the responsibility of the relevant school authorities (Board of Management or Vocational Education Committee as appropriate) to ensure that any proposed new appointee, who has/may have unsupervised access to children or vulnerable adults, is vetted. However, school authorities should ensure that vetting is only sought in respect of a person to whom it proposes to make an offer of employment. Applications should not be sought prior to a decision being taken to offer appointment. Applications need not be submitted in respect of newly qualified teachers who are dealt with in the process set out in Paragraph 3.1 below.

2.4 The appropriate application form, together with guidelines on its completion, will be issued directly on request to registered Authorised Signatories by the GCVU. The proposed employee must give his/her consent to his/her being vetted. A person, who refuses to provide his/her consent, may not be appointed in any capacity.

3. Application process

3.1 New Teachers

As part of the process of registering new teachers for the first time, the Teaching Council has agreed that it will submit vetting applications in respect of such teachers to the GCVU. It will then have regard to the outcome of this vetting in making its decision in relation to registration. This will obviate the need for schools to directly approach the GCVU in respect of vetting of such newly qualified teachers.

It is expected that formal registration of teachers will not take place before the commencement of the 2006/07 school year. However, the vetting process will have commenced in advance of that and the Teaching Council will issue a letter to individual teachers indicating the outcome of the vetting application in respect of them. Schools should ensure that they request a prospective employee to present for inspection the letter from the Councilbefore a decision to appoint is taken or a formal offer of appointment is made.

3.2 Non-Teaching Staff

In the case of non-teaching staff, the applications should be submitted by the Authorised Signatory (see Paragraph 4).

In the case of schools under Catholic patronage some Diocesan Offices have indicated that they will co-ordinate the submission of vetting requests from Authorised Signatories. Accordingly, those school authorities should contact the Central Office of the Catholic Primary Schools Management Association and the relevant Diocesan Office in relation to the procedure to be followed with regard to the submission of applications for vetting

The Church of Ireland Board of Education, has agreed to co-ordinate vetting applications for the schools that it represents. Accordingly, all applications from those schools should be forwarded by the Authorised Signatory to the Board of Education, for onward transmission by its nominated official to the GCVU.

Otherwise Authorised Signatories should submit vetting applications to the GCVU. The current practice of submitting applications for vetting in respect of special needs assistants and bus escorts via the Department is being discontinued.

3.3 The address of the Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) is:

Racecourse Road, Thurles, Co. Tipperary.

4. Authorised signatories

4.1 Each Board of Management or VEC, as appropriate, must nominate one person as the Authorised Signatory. That person's signature will be required to authenticate an application from the school or VEC.

5. Timely submission of applications

5.1 In order to be in a position to definitively offer a prospective employee a post arising from 1st September, 2006 onwards, school authorities should ensure that the vetting process has been satisfactorily concluded in good time. If the process is not satisfactorily completed before 1st September, 2006, or the effective date of appointment if later than that, the offer of a post can only be made on a provisional basis. The prospective employee should be formally notified of this and should confirm acceptance of this condition. If, on receipt of the result of the vetting application, the school authorities consider that the person concerned is not suitable for appointment, the provisional appointment should be terminated.

6. Training of Boards of Management

6.1 The GCVU is anxious to ensure that the vetting system operates as efficiently and effectively as possible. In order to achieve this, the GCVU is organising training sessions for persons engaged in the operation of the system. Training is being given to persons nominated by the Management Bodies who in turn will organise the necessary training for the nominees of the schools and centres.

7. Issue of result of vetting application

7.1 In response to each application, the GCVU will issue a statement directly to the Teaching Council, the Church of Ireland Board of Education or the Authorised Signatory as appropriate setting out the result of the search for criminal convictions made against its records.All convictions will be disclosed as part of this process.

8. Queries in relation to vetting

8.1 Queries in relation to vetting should be raised with the relevant management authority in the first instance. In the case of schools represented by the CPSMA, queries should be raised with the Diocesan Office in the diocese concerned.

9. Decision based on outcome of application

9.1 It is a matter for the Board of Management to determine whether any conviction disclosed as a result of the vetting application would render a prospective employee unsuitable for employment by the school. It is for the Board to make a judgement as to the person's suitability.

9.2Vetting should not take the place of normal recruitment procedures, such as seeking and following up of references and ensuring that any unexplained gaps in employment are satisfactorily accounted for. Proper recruitment procedures are an essential element of child protection practice. Vetting is to be used as an addition to those procedures.

Because of the importance of child protection, school authorities should be conscious of their responsibilities in this regard when requested to furnish a reference in respect of a particular individual.

9.3 The fact that a person has a conviction does not automatically render him or her unsuitable for work with or access to children or vulnerable adults. A person's suitability should be looked at as a whole in the light of all the information available including the relevance of the nature of the offence in the context of child protection.

10. Dissemination of Circular

10.1 Please provide a copy of this circular to the appropriate representatives of parents and teachers for transmission to individual parents and teachers.

This circular may be accessed on the Department of Education and Science website at www.education.ie

Johnny Bracken,

Principal Officer.

June, 2006.

Circular SNA 03/03

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND SCIENCE

PAYROLL DIVISION

TO BOARDS OF MANAGEMENT, PRINCIPALS AND SPECIAL NEED ASSISTANTS IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS

Appointment Procedures for Special Need Assistants

(Updated August 2007)

1. Introduction:

1.1 The Minister for Education and Science wishes to inform management authorities that this Circular — SNA 03/03 has been updated in August, 2007 and now sets out revised appointment pro cedures for Special Need Assistants in primary schools.

1.2 Boards of Management, in accordance with the guidelines hereunder, are responsible for the appointment of Special Need Assistants in primary schools. Any such appointment is subject to the prior approval of the school's Patron.

1.3 A Special Need Assistant shall only be appointed to a post which is to be filled within the allocation of posts approved by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE).

2. Advertising a Special Need Assistant Post:

2.1 A Special Need Assistant post must be advertised in a local newspaper. The advertisement shall invite applications from eligible persons to be submitted by a specified date to the Chairperson of the Board of Management.

2.2 Subject to any exceptions permitted by the Employment Equality Acts, 1998 and 2004 the advertisement must not indicate an intention to discriminate or contain information in any form which might reasonably be understood as indicating an intention of this kind.

3. Details that must be included in the advertisement:

i. The name and address of the school.

ii. The date of commencement of the post.

iii. State if the post is full time or part time and the number of part time hours.

iv. A general description of the duties of the post.

v. The latest date for receipt of application.

vi. State that a curriculum vitae must be submitted with the application.

vii. State that references or the names and addresses of referees are required.

viii. State that a list of suitable applicants may be set up from which future vacancies may be filled (valid for the duration of the school-year).

4. Selection Board for Appointment of Special Need Assistants:

4.1 The Selection Board shall consist of the Chairperson of the Board of Management, the Principal of the school and one other person nominated by the Patron.

4.2 The Selection Board must include at least one male and one female.

4.3 If any member of the Selection Board, including the Chairperson, stands in a relationship to a person who is a candidate for employment in the school, s/he shall withdraw from the Selection Board and the Patron shall nominate another Chairperson or member in his/her place.

5. Functions of the Selection Board:

5.1 The Selection Board, prior to interviewing the candidates shall establish in writing the criteria for assessment of applications, having regard to appropriate legislation and the requirements of the post. Established criteria of the Board shall take account of the Employment Equality Acts, 1998 and 2004 and the Code of Practice of the Equality Authority.

5.2 The Selection Board shall meet within a reasonable period after the closing date for receipt of applications to determine those applicants to be called for interview.

5.3 The Chairperson of the Selection Board shall keep a record of the criteria used.

6. Interviews:

6.1 While the Selection Board may decide to limit the number of applicants called for interview, a minimum of three eligible applicants must be called. If less than three applicants have applied for the post, all of the eligible applicants must be invited to interview.

6.2 The Selection Board must adhere to the agreed criteria for the assessment of applicants.

6.3 The Chairperson of the Selection Board must keep a record of the agreed criteria and of the scoring used to assess applications and interviews.

6.4 When interviewing applicants, particular caution must be taken to ensure that no questions, comments or statements might be construed as discriminatory e.g. on grounds of gender or marital status.

7. Appointing the Successful Candidate:

7.1 Schools are reminded that the minimum qualification necessary for appointment as a Special Need Assistant is an award of Grade D (or pass) in Irish, English and Mathematics in the Inte rmediate Certificate/Junior Certificate or the Day Vocational Certificate Examination or in an examination of equivalent standard.

7.2 Having interviewed such applicants as present themselves, the Selection Board shall submit a written report to the Board of Management, nominating

a) the applicant whom it considers most suitable for appointment and

b) a list of candidates in order of merit suitable for appointment to any further post arising in the school over the course of the school-year.

7.3 The Board of Management shall meet and appoint the candidate nominated by the Selection Board unless it has good and sufficient reason not to do so, in which instance the matter shall be ref erred to the Patron, whose decision in this matter shall be accepted by the Board.

7.4 The Board of Management shall also retain the list of candidates deemed suitable for appointment. This list will be effective for the duration of the school-year in question in respect of any appointment to posts of Special Need Assistants which may arise in the school.

7.5 If two or more Special Need Assistants commence duty on the same day, the Board of Management shall establish the order of seniority based on the order that the Special Need Assistants were listed as a result of the interview process i.e. the Special Need Assistant who was ranked highest following the interview process should be given the higher seniority rating. Please refer to Circular 0059/2006 — Seniority of Special Need Assistants which is available on the Department’s website at www.education.ie under Education Personnel/Special Need Assistants.

8. Medical Certification:

8.1 The Board shall obtain from the successful candidate, prior to appointment, a certificate of medical fitness that s/he is fit to undertake the duties of the post. A sample form is attached as Appendix A.

8.2 While the medical practitioner shall be nominated by the Board of Management, any costs incurred shall be borne by the successful candidate.

9. References:

9.1 Before notifying the successful candidate the Board of Management shall check his/her references.

10. Vetting:

10.1 It is the responsibility of the Board of Management to ensure that any proposed new appointee as Special Need Assistant is vetted. However, school authorities shall ensure that vetting is only sought in respect of a person to whom it proposes to make an offer of employment. Applications should not be sought prior to a decision being taken to offer appointment.

10.2 Please refer toCircular 0094/2006 –‘New arrangements for the vetting of teaching and non-teaching staff’ which is available on the Department’s website at www.education.ie under Education Personnel/Special Need Assistants.

11. Contracts of Employment

11.1 New appointees must be offered a contract of employment in accordance with the terms outlined inCircular SNA 15/05 –‘Contract of Employment for Special Need Assistants’ which is available on the Department’s website www.education.ie under Education Personnel/Special Need Assistants.

12. Notification of the appointment to the Department of Education and Science:

12.1 On completion of the appointments procedure as outlined above, Boards of Management shall complete and submit the form "Notification of Appointment — Special Need Assistant", which is available on the Department's website www.education.ie under Education Personnel/Special Need Assistants, to

Non Teaching Staff (NTS) Payroll,

Payroll Division,

Department of Education and Science,

Cornamaddy,

Athlone,

Co Westmeath.

13. Queries

13.1 If you have any query in relation to this circular please e-mail your query to snapay@education.gov.ie or telephone 090 648 4136.

13.2 This circular should be retained for future reference in the school. It may also be accessed on the Department's website www.education.ie under Education Personnel/Special Need Assistants.

P. Maloney,

Principal Officer.

August, 2007

Appendix A

Certificate of fitness to commence employment as a Special Need Assistant

To be completed by a Medical Practitioner nominated by the Board of Management.

Surname: ——————————————

Forename: ——————————————

I certify that I have examined the above named and found that s/he is fit to undertake duties as a Special Needs Assistant.

Signed: ——————————————

Date: ——————————————

Stamp or Seal

School Funding.

Ulick Burke

Question:

343 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will provide grant assistance to a school (details supplied) in County Galway for the provision of off-road, set down and parking facilities in the interest of safety for school children and road traffic at this school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22113/08]

There is no record in my Department of an application from the school referred to by the Deputy for funding for the works in question.

Site Acquisitions.

Joan Burton

Question:

344 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department has ever sought to acquire school sites either directly, through the local authority or through the Office of Public Works using compulsory acquisition powers or other statutory powers; if they have ever informed landowners or developers that if they were unwilling to sell necessary or reserved sites to his Department or its agents that such statutory powers would or could be utilised to acquire the land; the details of any instances where such communications have taken place over the past five years with respect to the acquisition of school sites in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22117/08]

In general, the Office of Public Works (OPW) procures sites on behalf of my Department. In certain circumstances my Department liaises directly with landowners on the acquisition of sites. More recently, my Department has begun interacting directly with several local authorities in relation to acquiring sites, particularly in rapidly developing areas.

My Department in communications, in April 2007 with Fingal County Council indicated that a reserved site at Annfield, Diswellstown, Dublin 15 should be acquired using their statutory powers if necessary. The question of the use of Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) is a matter for the relevant Local Authority in the first instance.

Joan Burton

Question:

345 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of sites for schools and the name and location of same in the Dublin 15 area where the initial development of the site was commenced by his Department by having a licensing agreement with the landowner or licence to build on the site in advance of the expected completion of purchase of the land; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22118/08]

Joan Burton

Question:

347 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department has sought, or is seeking to establish, any licensing agreement in respect of land to be acquired or used as a school site, whether by rent, lease, purchase or other means; the location of such sites; when such agreements were entered into or are expected to be entered into; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22120/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 345 and 347 together.

In certain circumstances, particularly in rapidly developing areas where the provision of additional school places are required urgently, my Department may request a landowner to enter into a Building Licence Agreement to allow for the construction of a school pending the finalisation of the conveyancing process.

To date, in respect of 2008, my Department has entered into one such arrangement for a school in the Dublin 15 region. Due however to the commercial sensitivities attached to site acquisitions it would not be appropriate for me to expand further on the specifics of the site location at the present time.

Joan Burton

Question:

346 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science when, in respect of the proposed primary school at Annfield/Kellystown in Dublin 15, where site works are under way, planning permission for the school site was obtained; the details of the contractual arrangement between his Department or its agents with the relevant landowner or landowners; the persons who are the principal contractees to this agreement; when according to this contractual agreement, the purchase of the land will be completed; the actual cost of the use of the land in advance of the purchase; the estimated cost, or contractually agreed cost, of purchasing the land; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22119/08]

As the Deputy may be aware, the Department is progressing the acquisition of a number of sites under the Fingal School Model Agreement.

The Fingal School Model is an agreement reached with Fingal County Council and is a partnership approach to fast-track the delivery of schools and community facilities throughout the Fingal Area. The intention is that the agreed approach will match the rapid pace of housing development in the area with the delivery of schools while at the same time providing important facilities for community use.

A site has been identified in Porterstown/Kellystown for the delivery of phase one of the primary provision to be made for the area and the Department intends to relocate an existing school in temporary accommodation to the new school 16 classroom school building in Porterstown for September 2008 to meet the demand for school places.

A number of sites being acquired under the Fingal School Model are at varying stages of acquisition including this site and, as the Deputy will appreciate, due to commercial sensitivities relating to site acquisition, I am not in a position to comment further at this time.

Question No. 347 answered with Question No. 345.

Teachers’ Remuneration.

Dara Calleary

Question:

348 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary teachers employed in either temporary or permanent posts who have served more then seven years outside of the EU and are therefore denied incremental credit for that time worked abroad in contrast to teachers who have worked within the EU and are not subject to such restrictions. [22121/08]

The information requested by the Deputy is not available in my Department. The terms of award of incremental credit to teachers are determined by the Conciliation Council for Teachers, which is the forum for the discussion by representatives of the management and staff sides of claims, terms and conditions of employment.

Arrangements for the award of incremental credit for primary teachers are outlined in Circular 10/01, and any changes in arrangements would have to be negotiated through the Conciliation Council for Teachers. In this context, if the matter is to be considered by the Council, it should be raised by the teachers' union.

Schools Recognition.

Michael McGrath

Question:

349 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on the application for formal recognition of a proposed new secondary school (details supplied) in County Cork. [22123/08]

I can confirm that my Department is in receipt of a submission from the patron body to which he refers for the establishment of a new secondary school in County Cork. This submission is currently being examined and my Department will be in touch with the proposers on completion of the examination.

The submission for establishment of the new school will be considered in the overall context of provision of secondary school places in the area of Cork, to which the Deputy refers.

Schools Building Projects.

Denis Naughten

Question:

350 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science if a school (details supplied) in County Roscommon is on the list of schools in developing areas; when the funding for the school extension will be released; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22124/08]

The school referred to by the Deputy has experienced an increase in enrolments in recent years; however, it is not considered to be in a rapidly developing area. A tender report for the project is currently under examination by my Department. The contract for the project has not yet been awarded.

The progression of all large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction phase will be considered on an on-going basis in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of the Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

Educational Projects.

Willie Penrose

Question:

351 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the appeal by Westmeath VEC against a decision of his Department to refuse to formally sanction funding for a project (details supplied); if his Department will give the go-ahead to enable this important project to proceed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22125/08]

The proposal from Co. Westmeath VEC to which the Deputy refers was considered by officials of my Department and funding was not approved. This decision was upheld on appeal, and my Department wrote to the Chief Executive Officer on 26 May 2008 advising him of the position.

Higher Education Grants.

Willie Penrose

Question:

352 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science the level and type of student grants available to a person who is a mature student and who already has secured a primary degree (details supplied) and who wishes to pursue a post graduate degree in health and safety at one of the universities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22126/08]

Under the terms of my Department's Third Level Maintenance Grant Schemes, which are administered on behalf of my Department by the Local Authorities and the Vocational Education Committees, the provision is that, students who are entering approved courses for the first time are eligible for grants where they satisfy the relevant conditions as to age, residence, means, nationality and previous academic attainment. An approved course for the purpose of the Schemes means a full-time undergraduate course of not less than two years duration and a full time postgraduate course of not less than one year's duration pursued in an approved institution.

Under the terms of the Schemes a student is not eligible for grant assistance in respect of a second period of study at the same level, irrespective of whether a grant was paid previously. The Schemes also provide that grants may not be paid to candidates who already hold a postgraduate qualification and are pursuing a second postgraduate qualification. Notwithstanding this condition, candidates who already hold a postgraduate qualification and are progressing to a further postgraduate course which represents progression from the level at which the previous postgraduate qualification(s) was attained, may be deemed eligible for grant aid.

The decision on eligibility for third level grants is a matter for the relevant Local Authority or VEC.

Schools Refurbishment.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

353 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Education and Science the arrangement that will be made for the refurbishment of science laboratories in view of the fact that no summer works will be done in 2008 and that this work cannot be done during the academic year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22145/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

354 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will provide funding for the refurbishment of the science laboratories in a school (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22146/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 353 and 354 together.

As part of the multi-annual school building programme, the Government has invested heavily in the modernisation of school facilities throughout the country including science facilities in post-primary schools. Provision of science facilities is an intrinsic part of many school building projects at post-primary level. Typically this investment involves the provision of modern science facilities in new post-primary schools or the upgrading of science facilities in existing schools either as part of a school building project or as a dedicated investment to facilitate the teaching of science.

Schools have also received funding under the Summer Works Schemes 2004 -2007 to refurbish science laboratories. Over 60 schools were approved for funding in 2006 and 2007 under my Department's Summer Works Scheme to enable them to get science laboratories refurbished on a devolved basis.

Additionally, the Government has funded the provision of class materials, basic general equipment and chemicals for practical work for the Sciences. My Department also spent in excess of €13m in 2004 to facilitate the introduction of a revised Junior Science syllabus. Schools received a basic grant of €3500 per science laboratory to enable them to provide the new curriculum. Additional funding was made available to schools where other specified equipment was required. In addition, certain schools identified in a 1998 national survey as needing new or refurbished science laboratories received funding.

The authorities of the school referred to by the Deputy applied for funding under the 2008 Summer Works Scheme to renovate/upgrade the science and home economics facilities in the school at an estimated cost in excess of €1.6m. Since the Scheme was introduced in 2004, over 3,000 projects costing in excess of €300 million have been completed. With so many smaller projects having been completed over the past few years, my Department is focusing on delivering as many large projects as possible in 2008. Accordingly, there is no Summer Works Scheme for 2008. However, it is intended to have a Summer Works Scheme in 2009 and projects involving the upgrade of science laboratories will be considered for funding under the scheme in 2009.

Defence Forces Strength.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

355 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Defence the official establishment number for the Army Ranger Wing; the number serving in the ARW in 2006, 2007 and to date in 2008 respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21699/08]

The strength of the Army Ranger Wing (ARW) as a percentage of it's establishment is in the region of 90% and has been so for the period in question. The strength is sufficient to meet anticipated operational requirements. For security and operational reasons it has not been military practice to publicise exact details of the establishment or actual strength of the ARW.

There is an existing policy of ongoing recruitment to maintain strength levels and the delivery of required military capabilities. The unit recruits from all services with a continuous advertising campaign by means of road shows and seminars in Brigades/Corps, Naval Service and Air Corps conducted by ARW personnel and advertising in the Defence Forces Connect magazine and An Cosantoir journal.

Induction is by ARW selection courses run on an annual and bi-annual basis as required. Interest from Permanent Defence Force (PDF) personnel in joining the ARW remains at a very high level. All serving members of the PDF are entitled to apply, provided they are medically fit and have attained the rank of at least 3 Star Private (or equivalent). Successful passing of the selection course demands the highest levels of fitness, motivation and competency.

There is a continuous review of criteria for entry. However, it is critical that the high standards required for entry into the ARW are maintained in order to deliver the strategic capabilities and specialized response required by the Government.

Defence Forces Reserve.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

356 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Defence the proposals, in regard to Reserve Defence Force members taking part in overseas operations, he has in regard to those members’ income being maintained while overseas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21723/08]

The White Paper on Defence outlines the blue print for a new Reserve Defence Force. This blueprint outlined a new Reserve with a clearly defined role, an enhanced relationship with the PDF, better equipment and training and opportunities for reservists to serve on overseas peace support missions.

An Implementation Plan has been developed that will ensure the realisation of the White Paper vision. The Plan is being rolled out over the period to the end of 2009. There has been significant progress to date in implementing the detailed recommendations of the Plan e.g. new organisation structure implemented, major improvements in clothing, equipment, training and resourcing. In addition, the Reserve is now organised along similar lines to the PDF and the development of the integrated element of the Reserve is in its second year. All of these changes are enhancing the capabilities of the Reserve as well as improving interoperability with the PDF. These factors are significant enablers in facilitating future participation by Reserve personnel in overseas missions.

There are no plans for participation by members of the Reserve in overseas missions in the current year. However, it is hoped that a small number of Reservists will be available to serve overseas by the end of next year. As specified in the Plan, any such participation by members of the Reserve is likely to be in specialised areas such as medical, transport, engineering and communications and information services. This will also be subject to personnel having suitable qualifications, their personal availability and appropriate advance training. Any such commitment to overseas service by personnel from the Reserve will be on a voluntary basis.

As the numbers of personnel from the Reserve who are likely to serve overseas will be small, it is anticipated that the required numbers of Reservists can be met, for initial deployments, from personnel with personal circumstances that enable them to commit to such service. The conditions on which these initial personnel serve overseas will be established before any deployment takes place.

There may be a variety of factors that impact on the availability of some members of the Reserve to commit to overseas service, including concerns regarding their employment. All options that impact on achieving the required numbers of Reservists with appropriate skill-sets for overseas service, will be considered on foot of the lessons learned from initial overseas deployments.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

357 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Defence if the reservists in integrated units will be trained in the use of heavy artillery and all other military equipment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21830/08]

The Reserve Defence Forces Review Implementation Plan provides for the development of an Integrated Army Reserve. A pilot scheme for the Integrated Reserve was commenced in 2007 and this scheme has been extended into 2008.

The military authorities have advised me that members of the RDF are trained in all military equipment appropriate to their corps and rank in accordance with the Annual Training Directive and the relevant corps syllabi as issued by Director of Defence Forces Training. Reservists in integrated artillery units are trained in artillery weapons.

Defence Forces Equipment.

John Deasy

Question:

358 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Defence the name of the company which is contracted by his Department to transport the Irish Army’s equipment from Cameroon to the EUFOR Base in Chad; and when the contract arrangements were finalised and signed. [22042/08]

I am advised that the name of the contractor engaged by the Defence Forces to transport Defence Forces equipment from Cameroon to Chad is SDV Bollore, a French company. The contract was awarded in early April following a tender competition and the transportation of the equipment commenced in mid April 2008 and is due to be completed by the end of this week.

Departmental Projects.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

359 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Defence if he will list and number the pilot schemes or projects that are being funded, overseen, or in any way supported by his Department; the purpose of each project; the start up date of each project; the time-scale for each project; the projected completion date for each project; the date that a report evaluating the project will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22061/08]

The Reserve Defence Forces Review Implementation Plan provides for the re-organisation and development of the Reserve Defence Forces on a phased basis up to the end of 2009. The development of an Integrated Army Reserve is included in the Plan. A pilot scheme for the Integrated Reserve was run in 2007 and while numbers participating were small (180 completed training), very valuable lessons were learned. The pilot scheme has been reviewed by the Military Authorities and lessons learned have been taken into account in the development of the Integrated Reserve in the current year.

Asylum Support Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

360 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the plans he has to support the Health Service Executive Together We Play, Learn and Understand resource pack on integration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21810/08]

The resource pack referred to by the Deputy appears to be a useful example of how diversity issues can be mainstreamed by State agencies and line Departments. The HSE has done extremely good work in this area.

I was pleased to attend the launch earlier this year of the HSE intercultural strategy.

The HSE along with other State agencies e.g. An Garda Síochaná and various sporting bodies have followed approaches that I am happy to recommend to other agencies.

My office has not received a request for funding for this particular initiative.

Immigration Policy.

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

361 Deputy Darragh O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the additional measures in relation to immigration and asylum seekers that would come about with the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. [22022/08]

Title V of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union or Lisbon Treaty provides for an Area of Freedom, Security and Justice and contains the new measures in the fields of immigration and asylum. In particular, Article 78 of the Treaty deals with the common policy on asylum and contains measures for a common system on temporary protection, common procedures for granting asylum or subsidiary protection status, standards for the conditions for reception and cooperation with third countries for the management of the inflows of persons seeking protection. Article 79 deals with the common immigration policy and contains measures to standardise entry and residence to Member States including family reunification, defining the rights of third country nationals residing legally in a Member State, tackling illegal migration and combating human trafficking, in particular of women and children.

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

362 Deputy Darragh O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the measures in place to monitor and restrict if necessary immigration to Ireland from EU States, including Romania and Bulgaria, and non-EU States; and if those measures can be altered in line with economic activity and needs here. [22023/08]

In terms of immigration procedures and controls, all European Union citizens coming to Ireland, including Bulgarian and Romanian nationals, are covered by the European Communities (FreeMovement of Persons) (No.2) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 656 of 2006) which are available at www.inis.gov.ie. Those Regulations transposed into Irish law the European Directive 2004/38/EC on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States.

EU citizens can enter Ireland on production of their passport or national identity card. They are not required to register with the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

The only restriction on Bulgarian and Romanian nationals, in contrast with other EU citizens, is that in accordance with the Government decision of 24 October 2006 they continue to require employment permits in order to participate in the Irish labour market unless they were already granted the right to work here for an uninterrupted period of 12 months or longer and availed of that right, or are otherwise exempt.

In contrast, in the case of a non-EEA national, entry to the State or residence within it is not a right. Each person seeking entry must obtain permission from an immigration officer. For nationals of visa-required countries a visa will be required before that person can travel to Ireland. In relation to permission to reside, save in exceptional cases, non-EEA nationals remaining in the State for longer than 3 months are required to register with the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

In terms of Ireland's general approach to immigration it is open to the State to adjust its policies on admission and residence in the light of economic or other circumstances. The State's discretion in this area is exercised by the Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform.

Prisoner Transfers.

Michael Creed

Question:

363 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to his response to Parliamentary Question No. 249 of 22 May 2008, the length of time each of the prisoners transferred from Cork to Shelton Abbey between 17 December 2007 and 19 May 2008 had been sentenced for; the amount of time each prisoner had spent in Cork Prison; the length of time each individual prisoner subsequently spent in Shelton Abbey; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21698/08]

The offence type and length of sentences of the 77 persons referred to in Question No. 249 of 22 May 2008, are set out in the table below. The prisoners concerned were deemed suitable for transfer to an open centre having, in each case, taken into account a wide range of factors including the nature of their offence, length of sentence, engagement with the therapeutic services and behaviour while in custody.

Description of Offences

< 3 Months

3 to < 6 Months

6 to < 12 Months

1 to < 2 Years

Manslaughter

Drug Offences

2

5

3

Assault/Violent Disorder

1

1

5

2

Robbery

2

Larceny

Burglary / Theft

3

2

2

1

Firearm Offences

Criminal Damage

4

3

Road Traffic Offences

2

5

6

Other Offences

2

4

6

1

Total

8

14

28

12

Description of Offences

2 to < 3 Years

3 to < 5 Years

5 to < 10 Years

10 + Years

Total

Manslaughter

1

1

Drug Offences

1

11

Assault/Violent Disorder

4

13

Robbery

1

1

4

Larceny

1

1

Burglary / Theft

1

9

Firearm Offences

1

1

Criminal Damage

1

8

Road Traffic Offences

1

14

Other Offences

1

1

15

Total

10

2

2

1

77

I am not in a position to provide the extra information requested by the Deputy, as its collation would require an inordinate amount of staff time and effort which cannot be justified in current circumstances where there are other significant demands on resources.

Anti-Social Behaviour.

John O'Mahony

Question:

364 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of anti-social behaviour orders issued to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21717/08]

Part 11 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006, which provides for civil proceedings in relation to anti-social behaviour by adults, was commenced on 1 January, 2007. Part 13 of the Act, relating to anti-social behaviour by children, was commenced on 1 March, 2007. These provisions set out an incremental procedure for addressing anti-social behaviour by adults and children. With regard to children, these range from a warning from a member of An Garda Síochána, to a good behaviour contract involving the child and his or her parents or guardian, to referral to the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme and to the making of a behaviour order by the Children's Court.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that up to 30 April, 2008, 624 behaviour warnings were issued to adults and 279 to children. There have been nine formal good behaviour contracts, which are used only in the case of children, agreed.

In setting up the regime, the intention was that these warnings or good behaviour contracts would themselves address the problem behaviour. It is only if they fail that a court order will be applied for. In any case, it inevitably takes time to reach the stage where a court order itself might be sought. No significance therefore should be attached to the fact that the stage has not yet been reached in the process where a court order has been issued. Where warnings or good behaviour contracts do not succeed in altering a person's behaviour, however, they will culminate in a court order being sought by the Garda authorities from the courts.

Proposed Legislation.

Finian McGrath

Question:

365 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will support the concerns raised in a case (details supplied). [21730/08]

This issue relates to provisions in the Intoxicating Liquor Bill 2008 which was published earlier today. I look forward to detailed discussions on the Bill in the coming weeks, including discussion of the issue raised by the Deputy.

Asylum Applications.

Denis Naughten

Question:

366 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of applications for subsidiary protection that have been granted in each of the past ten years; the number to date in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21757/08]

I presume the Deputy is referring to applications for Subsidiary Protection made on foot of the European Union Council Directive 2004/83/EC of 29 April 2004 to which one of my predecessors gave effect in Irish Law on 10 October 2006 by way of Statutory Instrument No. 518 of 2006 — European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006.

The statistics requested by the Deputy are as set out in the table below.

Year

Subsidiary Protection granted

1999

n/a

2000

n/a

2001

n/a

2002

n/a

2003

n/a

2004

n/a

2005

n/a

2006

None

2007

2

2008 (until 31 May)

2

Total

4

Garda Deployment.

David Stanton

Question:

367 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda bicycle units in place across the country; the number of Gardaí trained to man such units; his plans to increase the number of such units; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21759/08]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that there are currently 359 Garda mountain bikes deployed nationwide on operational duties, with 1,050 members of the Garda Síochána trained and equipped for mountain bike duties.

I am further informed that approximately 150 additional mountain bikes will be delivered by the end of June 2008 and these will be allocated by the Garda authorities within the twenty-seven Garda Divisions on the basis of operational requirements. Training and equipping of members is ongoing, on a phased basis, including the training of additional members.

Garda Divisions.

David Stanton

Question:

368 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the changes that are planned in the organisation of Garda divisions in County Cork; when these changes are due to come into effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21760/08]

In accordance with the provisions of the Garda Síochána Acts 2005 to 2007 proposals,inter alia, to alter the boundaries of a divisional geographical area are a matter in the first instance for the Garda Commissioner in the context of the Annual Policing Plan. The 2008 Policing Plan contains the Commissioner’s proposals to realign Garda boundaries in a number of areas around the country to make them coterminous with local authority boundaries. The Plan also includes the re-location of the Divisional Headquarters in Cork North from Fermoy to Mallow and the amalgamation of Watercourse Road and the Mallow Road Garda Stations to provide improved facilities for the future policing in these areas of Cork city.

I am advised by the Garda authorities that Project Boards have been established in each division to develop implementation plans including time scales for the roll-out of the agreed changes.

Asylum Applications.

Michael McGrath

Question:

369 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the legal status of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [21772/08]

This applicant applied for asylum on 14 September 2004. Her application was refused by the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. A Deportation Order was made in respect of her on 6 September 2005. Judicial Review proceedings were initiated by the applicant on 18 October 2005 challenging the decision to make a Deportation Order.

Further representations were submitted by the applicant as part of an application for temporary leave to remain in the State. These representations were considered under section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and section 5 of the Refugee Act (as amended) and the Deportation Order was affirmed on 1 March 2007.

The applicant subsequently submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection under the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 (Statutory Instrument No. 518 of 2006) on 19 July 2007. This application was considered; however, it was determined that the applicant is not a person eligible for subsidiary protection.

The Judicial Review proceedings taken by the applicant challenging the decision to make a Deportation Order were settled between the parties on 17 December 2007 and the Deportation Order made in respect of this applicant was revoked on 15 January 2008. As part of the settlement terms the applicant was invited to submit fresh representations under section 3(3)(b) of the Immigration Act 1999.

Representations were submitted by the applicant and considered under section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act (as amended). The applicant's eligibility for Subsidiary Protection under the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 (Statutory Instrument No. 518 of 2006) was also further considered. A further Deportation Order was subsequently made in respect of this applicant on 24 January 2008.

Further Judicial Review proceedings were initiated on 29 January 2008 challenging the decision to make a Deportation Order in respect of this applicant and accordingly, as this matter issub judice, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further.

Garda Strength.

John O'Mahony

Question:

370 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Gardaí from all ranks who have been stationed in the Mayo Garda division in 2006 and 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21794/08]

John O'Mahony

Question:

371 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Gardaí from all ranks who have retired from An Garda Síochána Mayo division in 2006, 2007 and to date in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21795/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 370 and 371 together.

The personnel strength of the Mayo Garda Division, broken down by rank and including retirements, as at 31 December 2006 and 31 December 2007 was as set out in the below table.

Mayo Division, 31 December 2006

C/Supt

Supt

Insp

Sgt

Gda

Total

Retirements

1

6

3

46

223

279

11

Mayo Division, 31 December 2007

1

6

5

51

250

313

4

The personnel strength (all ranks) of the Mayo Division on 30 April 2008 was 321 and there have been 2 retirements in 2008 from the Division.

Garda personnel assigned throughout the country, together with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, are continually monitored and reviewed. Such monitoring ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public.

Proposed Legislation.

Denis Naughten

Question:

372 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the communication he has received from the office of the Minister of State for integration regarding the Immigration Residence and Protection Bill 2008; the date it was received; the issues raised in the communication; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21809/08]

It would not be appropriate for me to divulge the details of any communications with colleagues on the Bill, which is at Committee Stage.

Citizenship Applications.

Frank Feighan

Question:

373 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to the application for naturalisation on humanitarian grounds in relation to a person (details supplied) resident in County Roscommon since 2002. [21836/08]

Officials in the Citizenship Section of my Department inform me that having checked their records, no trace of an application for a certificate of naturalisation for the person referred to in the Deputy's Question can be found.

Criminal Prosecutions.

Sean Fleming

Question:

374 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if individuals can have their legal costs awarded in respect of criminal proceedings taken against them where the individuals are found not guilty in the Circuit Court; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21845/08]

Sean Fleming

Question:

375 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if individuals can have their legal costs awarded in respect of criminal proceedings taken against them where the charges are struck out in the Circuit Court; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21846/08]

Sean Fleming

Question:

376 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if individuals can have their legal costs awarded in respect of criminal proceedings taken against them where the individuals are found not guilty in the District Court; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21847/08]

Sean Fleming

Question:

377 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if individuals can have their legal costs awarded in respect of criminal proceedings taken against them where the set charges are struck out in the District Court; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21848/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 374 to 377, inclusive, together.

The Deputy will appreciate that I am not in a position as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to offer legal advice in response to Parliamentary Questions. However, I can say by way of general information that in criminal cases covered by the Criminal Justice (Legal Aid) Act 1962, the costs of both the prosecution and defence are borne by the State. In criminal cases not covered by the 1962 Act, it is only in rare instances that a court will award costs to either side. Where the prosecution is successful and the defendant is found guilty the State is generally required to pay its own costs. The defendant will also have to pay his or her legal advisers' fees. In some cases where the defendant is acquitted, the trial judge has a discretion to award costs against the State. In a summary prosecution in the District Court, rules of court provide that costs may never be awarded against a member of the Garda Síochána acting as prosecutor in discharge of his or her duties.

Garda Deployment.

Finian McGrath

Question:

378 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will put in a safety and security plan at a location (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [21998/08]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the location referred to is in Coolock Garda District and is patrolled by foot and mobile patrols from that Garda station. Members of the local Community Policing Unit allocated to this area liaise with the local community providing crime prevention and security advice.

I am further informed that local Gardaí attended an incident at the location referred to and this is the subject of an investigation. As this is an ongoing Garda investigation, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further at this time.

Additional uniform and plain clothes Garda patrols, including patrols by the District Detective and Drug Units, the Community Policing Unit, the Mountain Bike Unit, the Divisional Crime Task Force and Traffic Corps personnel have been directed to pay particular attention to this area, with a view to ensuring a visible Garda presence.

Current policing policy in the area is predicated on the prevention of crime, including crimes of violence against persons and property, the prevention of public order offences and the maintenance of an environment conducive to the improvement of the quality of life of the residents. This strategy is, and will continue to be, central to the delivery of the policing service in this area.

Citizenship Applications.

Michael McGrath

Question:

379 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in respect of an application for Irish citizenship through naturalisation by persons (details supplied) in County Cork; and when the applications will be adjudicated upon. [22002/08]

Applications for certificates of naturalisation from the persons referred to in the Deputy's Question were received in the Citizenship Section of my Department in August 2007.

Officials in that Section are currently processing applications received in late 2005 and have approximately 12,900 applications on hand to be dealt with before that of the persons concerned. These are generally dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants. It is likely, therefore, that further processing of both applications will commence in early 2010.

Finian McGrath

Question:

380 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will support the case of persons (details supplied). [22034/08]

Applications for certificates of naturalisation from the persons referred to in the Deputy's Question were received in the Citizenship Section of my Department in May 2008.

Officials in the Citizenship Section inform me that the applications have not been examined in detail. Examination of the residency requirement will take place in the near future and the persons concerned will be contacted at that time informing them when their applications will be further examined or, of any shortfall in their residency.

Visa Applications.

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

381 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a holiday visa will be granted to a person (details supplied). [22047/08]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the visa application referred to has been approved.

Residency Permits.

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

382 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin who seeks family reunification for their mother, spouse and daughter. [22048/08]

I refer the Deputy to my previous answer to Question Number 1008 put down for answer on 26 September, 2007 and Question Number 1192 put down for answer on 30 January 2008.

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that the person in question made a Family Reunification application in May 2007.

The application was forwarded to the Refugee Applications Commissioner for investigation as required under Section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996. This investigation has been completed and the Commissioner has forwarded a report to my Department.

This application will be considered by my Department and a decision will issue in due course.

At the present time Family Reunification applications are taking approximately 24 months to process.

Departmental Funding.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

383 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount of funding given to each youth diversion project in each year for the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22050/08]

Garda Youth Diversion Projects (GYDPs) are community based, multi-agency crime prevention initiatives which seek to divert young people away from criminal and/or anti-social behaviour by providing suitable activities to facilitate personal development and promote civic responsibility. The first two GYDPs were established in 1991 and by 2001, the number had reached 64. There are currently 100 of these type of projects operating throughout the country and this number will be extended over the next few years to 168, in line with the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government.

The information requested by the Deputy is too detailed to provide in Parliamentary Answer format and will be forwarded directly to him. I have however provided below a yearly summary of the detail requested.

Year

Total allocation to GYDPs

1998

675,000

1999

1,296,500

2000

1,743,192

2001

3,215,080

2002

4,490,151

2003

5,066,936

2004

4,904,656

2005

5,182,798

2006

6,432,747

2007

7,270,141

The allocation for Youth Diversion Projects in 2008 is €11,909,000.

Asylum Applications.

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

384 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review the case of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath who seeks subsidiary protection. [22056/08]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 476 of Tuesday 11 March 2008 and the Reply to that Question.

The person concerned arrived in the State on 16 November 2004 and applied for asylum on her own behalf and on behalf of her two children. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner. The person concerned then lodged Judicial Review Proceedings in the High Court challenging the determination of the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner that she not be declared to be a refugee. These Proceedings were successful. The person concerned was afforded a fresh consideration of her asylum claim by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner. This further consideration took place but again the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner concluded that the person concerned did not meet the criteria for recognition as a refugee. The person concerned appealed this recommendation to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal who affirmed the earlier recommendation.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 13 February 2008, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of her and her children. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of deportation orders or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she and her children should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, she was notified of her entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006).

The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the Subsidiary Protection application is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will then be considered under Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned is be passed to me for decision.

Departmental Projects.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

385 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will list and number the pilot schemes or projects that are being funded, overseen, or in any way supported by his Department; the purpose of each project; the start-up date of each project; the timescale for each project; the projected completion date for each project; the date that a report evaluating the project will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22068/08]

As the Deputy will appreciate, given the extent of my Department's remit, the number of projects, pilot or otherwise, which are directly or indirectly funded by the Department and its associated agencies is quite considerable. These projects range from very modest schemes and activities which receive financial assistance from the Department or its agencies under various programmes up to major multi-annual IT and capital projects. It would represent a disproportionately expensive use of staff resources to collate all such possible funding instances into a single document. I can, however, inform the Deputy that if there is a specific project or category of funding which he is interested in, it might be more feasible to supply such information.

Grant Payments.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

386 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Mini