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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 1 Jul 2008

Vol. 658 No. 1

Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 8, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 9 to 76, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 77 to 83, inclusive, answered orally.

Farm Improvement Scheme.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

84 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will re-open the farm improvement scheme which would help ease the burden on farmers going forward following the introduction of the Nitrates Directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25555/08]

The Farm Improvement Scheme was introduced by my Department in July 2007 with funding of €79 million as agreed under the 2006 Partnership agreement, Towards 2016, and was suspended on 31 October 2007 as applications had reached this level of funding. Indeed, the terms and conditions of the Scheme specifically provided for its termination when this financial ceiling was reached. 12,675 applications were received from farmers prior to the closing date of the Scheme and these applications are currently being processed within my Department up to the level of funding made available for the Scheme. I have no plans at present to reopen the Scheme to new applications.

The revised Farm Waste Management Scheme which was introduced by my Department in March 2006, rather than the Farm Improvement Scheme, was the principal measure designed to assist farmers meet their obligations under the Nitrates Directive and a standard grant-rate of 60% (70% in the four Zone C counties) is available to farmers who complete investment works under that Scheme. 48,580 applications were received from farmers under the Farm Waste Management Scheme and, to date, 41,750 approvals have issued to farmers to commence work under the Scheme. The remaining applications have either been withdrawn, are awaiting the receipt of full planning permission or are explained by the receipt of multiple applications from a single farmer. To date this year, over €110 million has been paid out in grants to farmers under the Farm Waste Management Scheme compared to €21 million in 2006 and €114 million during the 2007 calendar year. Under the terms of the Scheme, all investment works must be completed by farmers and supporting documentation submitted to my Department by 31 December 2008 and I urge farmers to ensure that this deadline is respected so that they can avail of the generous grants available.

Fishing Industry Development.

Enda Kenny

Question:

85 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the discussions he has had with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government with a view to resolving outstanding difficulties surrounding EU approval of the Operational Programme for Fisheries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25661/08]

The National Strategic Plan for the Irish fisheries sector 2007-2013 was prepared and approved by the Minister on the 26th November 2007, it was subsequently submitted to the Commission on the 28th November 2007. The National Strategic Plan sets down a programme of support for fisheries in line with the Seafood Sector Review Group report, Steering a New Course — strategy for a restructured, sustainable and profitable Irish seafood industry 2007-13 (the Cawley report), which was launched by the Taoiseach on 28 January 2007. The funding provisions for the strategy were set down in the National Development Plan (2007-2013).

My Department and Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) drew up an Operational Programme for Fisheries for Ireland to implement the policies and priorities to be co-financed by the European Fisheries Fund (EFF).

This Operational Programme submitted to the Commission on the on the 6th March 2008 envisages the use of EU funds under the EFF to support decommissioning of fishing vessels, aquaculture development and environmental/inshore fisheries support, this only forms part of the commitment to support the sector as set down in the NDP.

As part of the normal consultative process for approval, the Commission adopts a negotiating position where it sets out in their observations and recommendations with regard to improving the OP. This negotiating position was received on the 22nd of April 2008, officials from my Department met the Commission (DG Mare, DG Regio and DG Environment) on 24 April as part of the formal process in the consideration of Ireland's O.P.

The issues raised by the Commission were mainly procedural and/or editorial in nature. The Commission expressed disappointment at the exclusion of measures under the Axis 4 pillar of the European Fisheries Fund "sustainable development of fisheries areas". At a meeting between the Commission and officials of my Department on the 24 April, the Commission acknowledged Ireland's commitment to implement these measures under national state aided measures as outlined in the National Strategic Plan for Fisheries 2007-2013. However, the Commission continued to press for it's inclusion under the operational programme.

The Commission also expressed concerns in relation to Ireland's implementation of certain EU Directives on the Environment in the context of providing EU funding under the OP for aquaculture development. The Directives identified are the Birds Directive, the Habitats Directive, the Shellfish Waters Directive and the Dangerous Substances Directive. The linkage made by DG Environment between the implementation of these Directives and support for the development of aquaculture in Ireland is, in our view, disproportionate as the issues arising in respect of the Directives are significant, complex and challenging. I do not consider that the Fisheries Operational Programme is an appropriate vehicle for addressing the issues related to the implementation of these Directives in Ireland. Nevertheless, my officials are working closely with their colleagues in the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government to address issues related to these Directives in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors.

My priority at this time is to secure the agreement of the EU Commission for the Fisheries Operational Programme and in that context, I am currently reviewing the options available, including taking aquaculture development out of the Operational Programme and supporting the industry as national measures. This option would not negatively impact on the development of the aquaculture sector.

Milk Quota.

Bernard Allen

Question:

86 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the approach he will take to negotiations surrounding the changes to milk quotas under CAP health check proposals; the way the dairy sector can be best supported going forward; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25605/08]

The Commission proposals in the milk sector cover the full range of market management measures currently in place. While milk quota expansion is at the forefront of these proposals, considerable changes to other market management measures are also proposed. These include the abolition of private storage aid for cheese and the disposal aid for butter used in the manufacture of pastry and ice cream and for direct consumption. The Commission has also proposed making optional rather than obligatory as at present, the private storage aid for butter, casein aid and the skimmed milk powder feeding stuff scheme. In addition, the Commission has proposed to change the current intervention schemes, which guarantee the purchase of up to 30,000 tonnes of butter and 109,000 tonnes of skimmed milk powder when intervention is open in Member States, to a tender only scheme. On quotas, the Commission has proposed to increase national quotas by 1% per annum from 2009/10 to 2013/14 and to allow quotas to expire in 2015.

My approach in these negotiations will be to ensure a ‘soft landing' towards the eventual abolition of quotas in 2015. The Health Check provides Irish and EU dairy farmers with a new opportunity to respond to increased global demand. However, the proposals currently on the table, in my view, do not meet the expectations of Irish milk producers in meeting the demands of international dairy markets. A gradual increase in quotas is the most sensible and logical way to achieve this but we will need to be more ambitious in the annual adjustments of quota volumes. I will be asking the Commission to bring forward more ambitious quota expansion proposals in these negotiations and moreover, I want to keep the existing market management measures in place to cater for any price volatility that may occur during the transition period.

Domestic Abattoirs.

Billy Timmins

Question:

87 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding the scheme for grant aid for the establishment of abattoirs; if he will provide details on the uptake of this funding and the way information on this scheme is being circulated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25670/08]

My Department has supported capital investment into the marketing and processing of agricultural products in various sectors. In December 2007 my Department invited applications in the areas of horticulture, livestock marts and small slaughterhouses and low throughput meat establishments. The closing date for receipt of applications was the 29th of February 2008.

In respect of small slaughterhouses and low throughput meat establishments, a total of 51 eligible applications were received. These eligible applications are undergoing a detailed assessment and evaluation process. This process involved, in a considerable number of cases, seeking additional information from the applicants in terms of business plans, financial information and technical drawings. The evaluation process is nearing completion.

Farm Waste Management.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

88 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of applicants to the waste management scheme who have confirmed their intention to proceed with construction under the scheme; his views on whether that take up of the scheme is not as envisaged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25617/08]

The revised Farm Waste Management Scheme was introduced by my Department in March 2006 in order to assist farmers meet the additional requirements of the Nitrates Directive. Under the Scheme, grant-aid is available at a standard grant-rate of 60% (70% in the four Zone C counties) to farmers who complete investment works under the Scheme. As the Scheme formed part of the 2000-2006 National Development Plan, it had to close for applications at the end of 2006.

48,580 applications were received from farmers under the Scheme by the closing date and, to date, 41,750 approvals have issued to farmers to commence work under the Scheme. Farmers are required to notify the Department when they are commencing work under the Scheme and, to date, about 17,000 farmers have indicated to the Department that they have commenced but not yet completed works. The remaining farmers have either already completed and have been paid, or have not yet commenced work under the Scheme. The rate of commencement is in line with previous on-farm investment schemes operated by my Department.

Under the terms of the Scheme, farmers must complete the investment works concerned and submit a payment claim to my Department by the end of this year. A notice has recently been sent to all farmers holding an approval to commence work under the Scheme reminding them of the importance of compliance with this deadline.

Road Safety.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

89 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps he has taken to promote road safety among members of the farming community using agricultural vehicles on public roads in summer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25573/08]

I am concerned with all levels of safety on our farms and the use of agricultural vehicles on public roads. I fully support the work of the Department of Transport, which is the lead Department for all matters relating to road safety, and also the Road Safety Authority (RSA), which is the Agency established under the aegis of the Department of Transport to take a lead role in the area of road safety.

I agree completely with the joint summer road safety appeal issued by the Road Safety Authority in conjunction with the IFA in early June, which urged road users to be aware of the increase in the number of agricultural vehicles over the Summer and Autumn period. This appeal also highlighted the fact that:

Drivers of agricultural vehicles are governed by road traffic laws,

Standards in relation to vehicle roadworthiness, lighting and tax must be adhered to,

Agricultural vehicles must have proper working brakes on both tractor and trailer units and they must be fitted with lights, reflectors and indicators,

The tractor should carry no passengers unless it is equipped to do so,

Trailers should not be used for transporting people unless it has provision for carrying them, and

Tractors must be fitted with safety frames.

Farm Improvement Scheme.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

90 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding the applications to the farm improvement scheme submitted in the last ten days before closure of the scheme from 21 to 31 October 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25558/08]

The Farm Improvement Scheme was introduced by my Department in July 2007 with funding of €79 million as agreed under the Partnership agreement, Towards 2016. The Scheme was suspended on 31 October 2007 as applications received has reached this level of funding. It was specifically made clear, at the time of its launch, that the Scheme would be terminated when this financial ceiling had been reached and this was also specifically provided for in the terms and conditions of the Scheme. 12,675 applications were received from farmers prior to the closing date of the Scheme.

These applications are currently being processed within my Department up to the level of funding made available for the Scheme in the above-mentioned Partnership agreement.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

91 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if all new policy initiatives in agriculture are carbon proofed; the steps he will take to meet Ireland’s national obligation to reduce carbon emissions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25659/08]

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

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

Carbon sequestration by Ireland's forests is a significant element in the National Climate Change Strategy and will play a very important role in meeting our Kyoto targets. Both forest products and energy crops also contribute to the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by acting as substitutes for fossil fuels and my Department continues to support participation in the EU Energy Crops Scheme and the Bioenergy Scheme in 2008.

I realise that further initiatives will be needed to address the challenge of climate change, which is why my Department has committed substantial funding, under the Research Stimulus Fund, to various research projects devoted to identifying sustainable greenhouse gas reduction measures. A comprehensive analysis of research needs has been carried out by my Department and will be used to inform future calls for research in the area of climate change.

Departmental Schemes.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

92 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will introduce a tie-up scheme for fishermen where boats could be tied up on a rota basis to help fishermen through this rough period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25596/08]

At the Council of Fisheries meeting in Luxembourg last week, which Minister Killeen and I attended, EU Fisheries Commissioner Borg, undertook to come back to the next Council meeting on the 15th July with definitive proposals to address the issues facing fishermen.

In the interim, I will continue to use every avenue open to me, as will Minister Killeen to convey in the strongest possible terms the depth of feeling of Irish fishermen on the situation facing them at present. I believe that the resolution to the current difficulties can only be achieved in a European context. In this regard, we will continue to press for a package of EU-funded measures to address the difficulties experienced by fishermen across Europe, particularly in Ireland.

I was heartened by the support I received from my fellow Ministers at Council and am also pleased with the progress made in a number of other areas of concern to Irish fishermen. I believe the meeting was positive as regards the restructuring of the industry and action to combat illegal fishing. I welcome the agreement reached at Council on a new regulation to combat landings of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fish from within and outside the EU.

Sheep Sector.

Joe Costello

Question:

93 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will remove the obstacles holding back payment of the €34 million sheep package committed by the Government to the sector in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25548/08]

The series of measures announced by my predecessor last year in support of the sheep sector constitute the response to the report of the Sheep Strategy Development Group — the Malone Report. Together, these measures form a comprehensive package that recognises the importance of the sheep sector and that addresses the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Good progress is being made in implementing the various measures. These include the following initiatives.

REPS

My Department secured European Commission approval for a new supplementary measure in REPS 4 promoting mixed grazing of cattle and sheep. Under this supplementary measure a farmer can qualify for an annual payment of up to €1,000 in addition to his or her basic REPS payment.

National Reserve

Payments of an additional €6m to qualifying sheep farmers were issued under the 2007 National Reserve.

Breed Improvement Programme

Progress is being made by my Department in discussions with ICBF, Teagasc, Breed Societies and Farm bodies on the proposal for ICBF to take over the management of a Sheep Breed Improvement Programme for the sheep sector. It is hoped to have an interim structure in place for the 2008-2009 breeding year.

Mechanical Grading

Trials have been carried out on the use of new technology to allow for the mechanical grading of carcasses in the sheepmeat sector and the results are being assessed.

Lamb Quality Assurance Scheme

The lamb quality assurance scheme, which was established in 2007, has seen some 6,000 farms being registered to date.

Bord Bia

Bord Bia is continuing to organise strategic marketing campaigns in selected European markets. Along with its French and British counterparts Bord Bia is undertaking a 3-year generic lamb promotion on the very important French market to promote lamb to younger consumers.

Teagasc

Teagasc have developed a comprehensive plan to restructure their sheep support services, including a programme for Technology Evaluation and Transfer farms, which includes hill and lowland areas.

These measures complement those to be taken by the industry itself in implementation of the Malone Report. I am confident that these form the right approach and will help to address potential difficulties. I am very conscious of the concerns within the sector and my predecessor raised these at the EU Council of Agriculture Ministers' meeting on 17 March. While definitive conclusions on possible support action were not reached, our concerns were shared by a large number of colleagues and it was generally recognised that the needs of the sector should be borne in mind in the CAP "health check" considerations.

Grant Payments.

Seán Barrett

Question:

94 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will introduce a ewe grant scheme as proposed by a recently published EU report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25609/08]

Premia payments for ewes ceased on the introduction of the Single Farm payment in 2005 and the re-introduction of a headage payment would not be easily achieved without consequences for the Single Farm Payment.

The European Parliament report, to which the Deputy refers, makes an important contribution to the ongoing consideration of the future of the sheep sector in Europe. In that context, my predecessor raised the issue at the EU Council of Agriculture Ministers last March. Commissioner Fisher Boel has indicated that the needs of the sector would be borne in mind in the CAP "Health Check".

I would also point out that the mixed grazing supplementary measure under REPS 4 is specifically targeted at the sheep sector. Under this measure a farmer can qualify for an annual payment of up to €1,000 in addition to his or her basic REPS payment.

Training Programmes.

Joe McHugh

Question:

95 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on providing training for redundant fishermen to re-train for the Merchant Navy; the steps he has taken to implement same; his views on meeting with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment to put together a plan to provide incentives for fishermen to take up this re-training; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25598/08]

Work is ongoing to facilitate the crew impacted by the decommissioning scheme who wish to re-train for the Merchant Navy. It should be noted that responsibility for setting the standards whereby fishermen can retrain for the Merchant Navy rests solely with the Marine Survey Office (MSO) of the Department of Transport (DoT).

BIM have been working closely with the MSO in this regard and most recently, have been asked to submit a proposal to them in relation to transfer and progression from fishing Certificates of Competency to merchant marine Certificates of Competency. This proposal is under active consideration at the moment. There are a number of technical issues to be resolved in this process and BIM continues to be engaged with the MSO in this regard and I am pushing for early delivery of these measures. I would also be supportive of incentives for such training to be made available and I have asked BIM to pursue options in this regard.

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

Diversification into other marine related areas such as aquaculture or seafood processing or training to become Department of Transport (DoT) certificated skippers, mates and engineers, or undertake Global Maritime Distress and Safety System radio and other skills training will be available to crew through BIM. For those who wish to retrain to enter the marine tourism sector or handle workboats authorised to carry passengers (e.g. on fish farms), BIM can provide training to enable them gain the DoT Passenger Boat Proficiency Certificate.

The training funding provided by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) is for the delivery of further education and statutory training courses to the seafood industry. Funds are not allocated to cover fees for courses in Higher Education or Third Level institutions. There are several grant schemes available in this regard via the Department of Education and Science and further information is available from that Department.

Notwithstanding, the career options made available to individual fishermen, it is ultimately a personal decision as to what route they wish to take in their future working lives. Every encouragement will be afforded to them from the appropriate resources of my Department and those of BIM to facilitate where possible career changes for fishermen on decommissioned vessels.

Food Labelling.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

96 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps being taken to amend legislation to ensure that foodstuffs of foreign origin cannot be labelled as produced in Ireland, processed in Ireland or sourced and produced in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25577/08]

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

The Deputy will be aware of the measures taken in relation to the labelling of beef both at retail level and within the catering sector.

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

Departmental Schemes.

Dan Neville

Question:

97 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has engaged in discussions with the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs with a view to negotiating the expansion or revision of the rural social scheme in order to provide support for fishermen considered ineligible for the scheme in view of the financial difficulties facing the fishing industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25673/08]

My colleague, Éamon Ó Cuív, has responsibility for the Rural Social Scheme (RSS) which was established to provide income support for low income farmers and fisherpersons who are in receipt of certain specified social welfare payments and to provide certain services of benefit to rural communities. The scheme is currently available to a wide variety of persons engaged in fishing activity. The scheme states that Fisherpersons that meet any of the following criteria may be eligible to participate on the RSS:

A self-employed fisherperson on a fishing boat, which has been entered in the Register of Fishing Boats.

A self-employed fisherperson whose boat has been issued with a Pot Fishing Licence. The Department of Communication, Marine and Natural Resources introduced this for small fishing boats such as currachs who traditionally have fished for Lobsters and were mainly unlicensed.

A self-employed fisherperson who has been issued with a Commercial Eel Fishing Licence from one of the seven Regional Fisheries Boards.

A self-employed fisherperson who has been issued with a dredging licence for shellfish from one of the seven Regional Fisheries Boards.

Holders of an Aquaculture licence issued by the Department of Communication, Marine and Natural Resources.

Permit holders for shell fishing issued by a registered Cooperative.

A self-employed fisherperson who held a Commercial Salmon Fishing Licence that issued from one of the seven Regional Fisheries Boards.

In relation to the last category, the Department of Communications Energy and Natural Resources is the Department with responsibility for the Salmon Hardship Scheme. I have no remit in this area.

My department has been in contact with the Department of Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and has been made aware that no further expansion or revision of the Rural Social Scheme is to be considered at this time.

Farm Waste Management.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

98 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will extend the deadline for the farm waste management scheme in view of the fact that many applicants to the scheme have been unable to secure contractors to carry out work before the scheme deadline; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25557/08]

The revised Farm Waste Management Scheme was introduced by my Department in March 2006 in order to assist farmers meet the additional requirements of the Nitrates Directive. Under the Scheme, a standard grant-rate of 60% (70% in the four Zone C counties) is available to farmers who complete investment works under the Scheme.

The end-2008 deadline is a condition of the EU state aid approval governing the Farm Waste Management Scheme, and farmers must complete the works and submit a payment claim to my Department by end-2008 so that they can qualify for the generous grants available. Indeed, my Department has recently written to all farmers who have been approved to commence work under the Scheme to remind them of the importance of compliance with this deadline. I have no plans to approach the EU Commission to alter the terms of the state aid approval.

Sheep Sector.

Shane McEntee

Question:

99 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding the take up of the €28 million mixed grazing supplementary measure available to sheep farmers; the way outstanding funds will be utilised should the take up remain low; his views on whether the eligibility criteria for this scheme is impractical as currently structured; his views on the need to amend the qualifying criteria in view of the need for aid to sheep farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25666/08]

The mixed grazing supplementary measure is available to farmers joining REPS 4. Currently, my Department is in the process of analysing the applications for REPS 4 received up to the closing date of 15 May. The number of farmers opting for the mixed grazing supplementary measure cannot be determined until this analysis is complete.

The supplementary measure was approved by the European Commission on the basis of the environmental benefits accruing from following a mixed grazing regime and any change to the measure would require further Commission approval and could only be justified on environmental grounds. REPS is a voluntary, demand-led scheme and it is open to farmers to opt for the measure.

Afforestation Programme.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

100 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the action he is taking to address an afforestation rate of less than the 5,000 hectares expected in 2008 which is the lowest in 20 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25552/08]

Early indications show that planting figures for 2008 should well exceed the 5,000 hectares referred to by the Deputy. It is worth emphasising that my Department has committed a total of €126 million in the current year to further the national afforestation programme. The current suite of Afforestation Grant and Premium Schemes, along with the various support measures, is the most financially attractive package ever made available in the history of forestry in Ireland. The establishment grant covers 100% of the planting costs, while the annual forestry premium is payable to farmers for 20 years. Both the grant and premium rates have been reviewed in recent times and increased in order to make the scheme more attractive.

Under the Forest Environment Protection Scheme (FEPS), landowners can receive a premium of up to €200 per hectare, over and above their forestry premium, should they choose to participate in the scheme, which promotes the establishment of high nature value forestry. This scheme was launched as a pilot in 2007, and after some refinements, including reducing the planting level threshold from 8 hectares to 5 hectares, has been adopted into the suite of afforestation schemes.

My Department is also undertaking significant promotional activities to encourage further participation in forestry. Radio advertisements aired earlier this year, highlighting the benefits of planting forests, are supplemented by promotion and publicity in other media throughout the year.

Earlier this year Mr. John Malone completed a review of the factors affecting the rate of afforestation in Ireland. His report outlined a number of recommendations, aimed at furthering the afforestation program, which are currently under review.

With the very attractive financial package available and the promotional efforts supporting the planting programme, I believe that an increase in the afforestation rate can be achieved.

Pesticide Use.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

101 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on the proposals to revise pesticide authorisation laws; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25556/08]

I supported most of the provisions contained in the draft EU Regulation. However there were a number of aspects of the Regulation that give rise to very significant concern on my part.

I am particularly concerned that the use of ‘hazard-based cut-off criteria', as a basis for the approval of substances, ignores the scientific principle of risk assessment. Of course it is important that the use of substances in plant protection products should be appropriately controlled. Some substances, which may fail to meet the cut-off criteria, are crucial to crop protection in Ireland. Their withdrawal may cause significant agronomic and economic damage without securing any significant reduction in human or environmental exposures to these types of substances.

I am also concerned about the absence of a detailed, up-to-date impact assessment on the effects of the current text on the competitiveness and sustainability of Irish and European agriculture. For these reasons, and despite supporting most of the provisions contained in the draft Regulation, I abstained from a vote on the Regulation at Council and provided a statement for the minutes to this effect.

Food Aid.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

102 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the total allocation for Ireland under the most deprived food aid scheme; the length of time that scheme has been in operation; the amount Ireland has drawn down under this scheme per year since its introduction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25545/08]

COMMISSION REGULATION (EEC) No 3149/92 of 29 October 1992 lays down detailed rules for the supply of food from intervention stocks for the benefit of the most deprived persons in the Community. Normally food that is distributed under Regulation 3149/92 is sourced from intervention stocks. Butter and beef have been used in previous years, with some butter being traded for cheddar cheese. This year because there are no stocks of butter or beef in intervention, the EU Commission allocated €147,834 to Ireland to buy dairy product for distribution.

This is the first year that food has been purchased. Food has been previously allocated from intervention stocks for use by charities. The following table shows the product applied for and the tonnage for each of the last ten years.

Year

Product

Tonnage

1999

No relevant Intervention Stock

2000

No relevant Intervention Stock

2001

Butter

60

2002

Butter

60

2003

Canned Beef

800

Butter

60

2004

Butter

60

2005

Butter

20

2006

Cheese

50

Butter

20

2007

Cheese

30

2008

Cheese

25

World Trade Negotiations.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

103 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will report on the most recent negotiations relating to a new World Trade Organisation deal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25580/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

115 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position in regard to discussions on the agri-sector in the World Trade Organisation; the proposals received or made by him in this context; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25588/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 103 and 115 together.

The WTO Director General announced on Friday last that he will propose that a WTO Ministerial meeting take place in Geneva in the week commencing 21 July. The purpose of this meeting is to finalise the modalities or detailed texts of agreements on agriculture and non-agricultural market access (NAMA). It is envisaged that a Signalling Conference on Trade in Services will take place at the same time.

In preparation for the conference, it is expected that there will be further engagement on agriculture and NAMA for the remainder of this week with revised texts due towards the end of next week. This will be followed by meetings at official level in the run up to the Ministerial Conference.

If agreement is reached on Agriculture and NAMA modalities at this time, the expectation is that, in the period needed to produce detailed WTO schedules, the other areas of negotiation would be concluded so that the final overall agreement would be in place by the end of 2008.

It is by no means clear that this objective will be achieved. In addition to the large number of complex issues across the broad spectrum of negotiating areas which are unresolved, the uncertainty in the US political situation could play a crucial role in whether this proposed timetable for reaching a final agreement is achieved.

I am very concerned about some of the proposals being made in the agriculture negotiations and with the lack of balance in the overall process to date. It is not acceptable that the current negotiations are focused on agriculture while other negotiating areas are not making progress.

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

The Commission, including Commissioner Mandelson and his officials, are well aware of Ireland's views on the matter. These views have been articulated clearly and consistently at all available forums over the last several years, including bilateral meetings, meetings of the Article 133 Committee, the Agriculture Council and the General Affairs Council and in bilateral meetings with the Commission.

At last week's Agriculture Council of Ministers meeting, I re-emphasised to the Agriculture Commissioner, Mrs. Fischer Boel and to the Council as a whole, Ireland's concerns. I referred in particular to the changes that had taken place since WTO negotiations commenced in 2001 and I insisted that the new challenges of climate change and food security must be taken on board in any deal.

In the margins of the Council, a group of 20 EU countries reaffirmed their deep concerns about the WTO negotiations. I will continue to ensure that Ireland plays a leading role in this Group of like-minded Member States. I will continue to work closely with like-minded Ministers in other Member States to seek support for my position.

At official level, my Department, and other Departments involved, have and will continue to work assiduously in the various technical meetings to ensure Ireland's interests are best protected.

In summary, I will continue to pursue an outcome which does not undermine the 2003 reforms of the CAP and ensures that Irish and EU agriculture can compete on world markets.

As regards specific submissions received by my Department, I can confirm that submissions have been received from a number of stakeholders over the period of the negotiations. These submissions form the basis for a large element of the work of the WTO Consultative Committee, which was established for the express purpose of consultation and advice on the negotiating round. I can also confirm that, where appropriate, we have made oral and written submissions to the Commission on a range of issues related to the WTO.

Farm Safety.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

104 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there has been a 110% increase in the average number of fatal farm accidents between 1993 and 2007 on farms among those over 60 years of age; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25576/08]

I am aware and very concerned with the increase in fatal farm accidents between 1993 and 2007 involving farmers over 60 years of age. I fully support the work of the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), the statutory body established under the 1989 Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, which works in partnership with the agriculture and forestry sectors to improve health and safety in farm and forestry workplaces.

While there is a general downward trend in the rate of fatal farm accidents in recent years, there is an alarming increase in the number of fatal accidents to farmers over 60 years of age. The majority of these accidents were associated with tractors/machinery, livestock and falls. The Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee, of which my Department is a member, are planning to target the promotion of safety for older farmers as part of their new Farm Safety Action Plan for 2008-2012.

State Bodies.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

105 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the salaries and emoluments and other benefits received by the chief executives of the boards, agencies and other bodies funded by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25682/08]

The following is the information requested by the Deputy in relation to the salaries and other benefits received by the Chief Executives of the commercial and non-commercial State sponsored bodies under the aegis of my Department:

Agency

Remuneration

Pension Scheme

Ancillary Benefits

Coillte Teoranta

297,024

Yes

Performance Related Bonus Scheme Expenses incurred on behalf of the Company Health Insurance

Irish National Stud

104,668

Yes

Performance Related Bonus Scheme Expenses incurred in or about the performance of duties Accommodation Car

Teagasc

158,824

Yes

Expenses incurred in or about the performance of duties Performance Related Award Scheme Car

National Milk Agency

88,142

Yes

Expenses incurred in or about the performance of duties

Bord Bia

158,824

Yes

Bonus Scheme Expenses incurred in or about the performance of duties Car

Coford

100,867

Yes

Expenses incurred in or about the performance of duties

Sea Fisheries Protection Authority

114,581

Yes

Expenses incurred in or about the performance of duties

Bord Iascaigh Mhara

130,235

Yes

Expenses incurred in or about the performance of duties

Marine Institute

143,450

Yes

Annual Bonus Scheme Expenses incurred in or about the performance of duties

Sea Fishery Offences.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

106 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on whether there is a realistic opportunity to discuss the issue of administrative sanctions for minor sea fishery offences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25600/08]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

107 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if progress has been made in assessing the issues in relation to administrative sanctions for minor sea fishery offences. [25599/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 106 and 107 together.

Since 1959 Ireland has applied its criminal law in relation to fisheries matters and, since our membership of the European Community, Ireland has applied the criminal law in the enforcement of fisheries policy. Successive Governments have applied the criminal law. We do this to protect fish stocks and to seek to avoid financial penalties being imposed on the State and the Irish taxpayer.

The possibility of introducing administrative sanctions was comprehensively considered, including an examination of practices in other Member States, at the time of the passage of the Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill through the Oireachtas. The position taken by the Minister at the time was based on the legal advice from the Attorney General.

In response to recent representations on this matter from the Federation of Irish Fishermen I have asked the Attorney General to examine this issue and consider if there have been any new developments which might support the introduction of a regime of administrative sanctions for fisheries offences in Ireland, at least for minor offences.

Fishery Quota.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

108 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will continue to lobby the EU for a bigger quota for Irish fishermen in their own waters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25544/08]

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

It has been a priority of successive Irish fisheries Ministers to try to have these shares improved. The Common Fisheries Policy was reviewed in 1992 and again in 2002 and in both cases substantial efforts were made to push Ireland's case for increased shares of important stocks but without success. Ireland received no support from other Member States for changes in the allocation keys for the share out of stocks.

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

The next overall review of the basic framework of the Common Fisheries Policy is not scheduled until 2012.

The CFP reform package, agreed in December 2002, included key national priorities such as:

the continued recognition of the Hague quota preferences, which are very important to Ireland as they give Ireland a higher share of certain important fish stocks than was agreed in the 1980's;

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

stronger control and enforcement; and

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

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

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

David Stanton

Question:

109 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on the practice whereby fishermen are required to dump bycatch which is not covered by a quota; his plans to review this practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25591/08]

The issue of high levels of discards in commercial sea fisheries is a global problem and is on the agenda of all major international organisations who deal with the development of sustainable sea fisheries and protection of marine ecosystems.

Discarding is usually a feature of mixed fisheries where one species may be the target of fishing activity, but other species may be caught accidentally in the fishing gear. It can also occur for economic reasons, i.e., when smaller, less valuable fish are dumped in favour of larger, more marketable ones (a practice known as high-grading).

The discarding issue is already being addressed at a European level through measures regulating fishing gear, such as adjusting net mesh sizes or requiring acoustic devices to be attached to fishing gear. A new discard policy which aims to stop the practice of discarding is under preparation and a consultation process is currently underway with all the stakeholders. An effective resolution of the discards issue will likely require a combination of new policy and technical measures.

At my meeting on the 18th of June with Commissioner Borg I raised this issue as a priority for me, and for the Federation of Irish Fishermen. While he advised that finding effective solutions is challenging, he restated his commitment to continue to prioritise the current work programme agreed by the Council in June 2007. I will continue to press for progress on this issue at national, EU and international levels and I am confident that, with the co-operation, collaboration and commitment of all the stakeholders, significant improvements can be achieved in this most sensitive area for the long term sustainability of our industry.

Food Imports.

Martin Ferris

Question:

110 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has proposals to introduce a ban on the importation of pate foie gras in view of the fact that it is illegal to produce it in this country. [25339/08]

The production of pate foie gras is not banned in Ireland. The importation of this product is regulated at EU level and there are no current proposals to ban this trade.

Afforestation Programme.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

111 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will introduce a broadleaf thinning scheme which is vital to ensure the production of high quality crop; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25551/08]

The Broadleaf Thinning and Tending Scheme aims to improve the quality of broadleaf plantations by encouraging thinning and tending at a young age. Demand for all the forestry schemes is quite high this year, relative to the funds available. The Department is now in the process of prioritising expenditure within the Forestry budget as a whole.

State Appointments.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

112 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the way, following the announcement of a complaints officer to deal with fishermen’s complaints by the Sea Fishery Protection Authority, this person will be appointed; the terms of their appointment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25680/08]

The Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006, provided for the establishment of the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA). This independent authority was established on January 1st 2007. The Act clearly provides that the Authority is solely responsible for the appointment of a complaints officer and consequently I have no remit with regard to that particular appointment.

European Council Meetings.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

113 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will report on the Agriculture Council meeting in Brussels in June 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25683/08]

The Agriculture and Fisheries Council took place on 23/24 June. I represented Ireland together with my colleague Tony Killeen, Minister of State.

The Council reached political agreement on the following proposals for Council Regulations:

Establishment of a Community system to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing;

Fishing authorisations for Community vessels in third country waters and third country vessels in Community waters; and

The protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems in the high seas from the adverse impacts of bottom fishing gears.

The Council also reached a common position under the co-decision procedure on a proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market. I abstained in the vote on this proposal because of my concerns that the use of "hazard-based cut-off criteria" as a basis for the approval of substances ignored the scientific principles of risk assessment. Some of the substances which fail to meet the criteria are crucial to crop protection in Ireland and their withdrawal may cause agronomic and economic damage.

Aside from the agreements reached, the Council also had discussions covering a variety of agriculture and fisheries issues. These included a policy debate on the CAP Health check, focused on the issues of further decoupling and the possibility of specific support in vulnerable regions and sector. Commissioner Fischer Boel provided Ministers with an update on developments in the WTO negotiations. In addition, Member States raised issues concerning safeguard measures in the bovine sector arising from Bluetongue, the recent evolution of costs and prices in respect of animal products, the adaptation of the BSE surveillance system, the safety and compliance with Community rules of food, feed, animal and plant imports and the co-ordination of veterinary and border controls.

As to fisheries, there was a wide-ranging debate on the impact of increased fuel prices on the fisheries sector. Also on the agenda was Ireland's request to the Commission, submitted jointly with France and the UK, for an increase in the 2008 TAC (Total Allowable Catch) for cod in the Celtic Sea. The Commission also presented its annual Policy Statement for Fishing Opportunities, which outlines its approach to setting TACs for quota species for 2009, and there was a discussion on the adoption of the updated EU-Islamic Republic of Mauritania Fisheries Partnership Agreement.

Poultry Sector.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

114 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on the situation which has arisen at a poultry producer (details supplied) which has been placed in interim examinership which management claim has largely come about due to lax laws in relation to food labelling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25578/08]

I am aware that the poultry industry not only in Ireland but also throughout Europe is facing increasing difficulties in maintaining profitability. The ever-increasing fuel costs along with high prices of feeding stuff is continuing to apply pressures on the trade.

In the context of labelling my Department in conjunction with the Department of Health and Children, drafted National Regulations that would require an indication of country of origin on poultrymeat, pigmeat and sheepmeat. There is already such a provision for beef.

While the Commission adopted a negative opinion to this on the grounds that the proposed legislation was not in compliance with EU food labelling regulations, it afforded us the opportunity to provide further information. Such information has been provided recently and the Commission has three months to consider it.

Question No. 115 answered with Question No. 103.

Animal Diseases.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

116 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will provide a progress report on the establishment of a bio-security unit to provide security against threats from animal diseases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25583/08]

My Department's responsibilities extend to animal and plant health and the diseases of these sectors. In this regard it works closely with the Department of Health and Children and the Health Service Executive in relation to the public health aspects of and the potential implications for human health posed by these diseases, as for example in relation to avian ‘flu which crosses both disciplines.

I am acutely conscious of the threats of various animal disease outbreaks and my Department continually reassesses such threats and the dangers posed to Ireland. On the basis of such risk assessments, I and my officials on an ongoing basis review the adequacy of our control measures aimed at mitigating the risk of the introduction of such diseases to this country. As part of this review process, my Department has offered and continues to offer biosecurity advice to farmers in relation to diseases such as foot-and-mouth, avian ‘flu and bluetongue. This advice is updated as appropriate and made available in leaflet form, through the national newspapers or on my Department's website.

My Department within its own internal competency and facilities operates a wide range of surveillance, monitoring, controls, systems and processes which regulate, monitor and manage the risks posed by diseases and pests. These competencies and skills encompass professional, veterinary, scientific, bacteriological, microbiological, virological, epidemiological, administrative and legal expertise, all of which contribute, as appropriate, to the process. My Department's state of the art veterinary and agriculture laboratories at Backweston also continue to develop as centres of excellence increasing their range of diagnostic services to underpin any challenges posed to animal, plant health or food safety. All of these professions and disciplines are constantly upskilling and re-training.

In addition to its range of internal resources, my Department can rely on extensive external expertise, and assistance from State agencies, as well as organisations such as Birdwatch Ireland and academic expertise, such as for example, that provided by the Centre for Veterinary Epidemiology and Risk Analysis in UCD (CVERA) and the Department of Zoology at NUI, Galway in dealing with diseases or threats of diseases.

I am satisfied that my Department has available to it all the relevant expertise to ensure that the necessary biosecurity controls and precautions are exercised and taken both at points of import and at the farm gate. Nonetheless, I am anxious to bring a greater focus to and place a greater emphasis on the need for constant vigilance in the area of biosecurity and, for that reason, I have decided to establish, as a division within my Department, "Biosecurity Ireland" with a remit to ensure the exclusion, eradication or effective management of risks posed by diseases and pests to the economy, the environment as well as to human and animal health.

Farmers’ Rights.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

117 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on the introduction of a 14 day advance notice period for all farm inspections in the drawing up of a new charter of rights for farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25550/08]

My Department, in the context of delivering the Direct Payment Schemes worth up to €1.9bn annually, is required to carry out on-the-spot inspections on a number of farms covering land eligibility, and cross-compliance. A minimum of 5% of applicants are inspected annually under the eligibility rule. Up to two-thirds of these inspections are carried out without a farm visit and using the technique of remote sensing. Cross-compliance involves two key elements:

A requirement for farmers to comply with 18 Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs) set down in EU legislation on the environment, food safety, animal health and welfare and plant health; and

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

The rate of on-farm inspection required for cross-compliance is 1% of those farmers to whom the Statutory Management Requirements or GAEC apply. However at least 5% of producers must be inspected under the Bovine Animal Identification and Registration requirements while 3% must be inspected under the rules governing sheep and goat identification.

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

Tolerance for minor non-compliance

Introduction of a "de minimis" rule for penalties

Harmonisation of control rates

Advance notice of Inspections

Reviewing the "10 month land availability rule"

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

Phasing in of cross-compliance for new Member States.

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

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

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

It is intended however, that further simplification of the cross-compliance arrangements will be pursued in the context of the CAP Health Check.

European Council Meetings.

David Stanton

Question:

118 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the action he will take regarding short term financial support to fishermen in advance of the next Council of Ministers meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25590/08]

At the Council of Fisheries meeting in Luxembourg last week EU Fisheries Commissioner Borg, undertook to come back to the next Council meeting on the 15th July with definitive proposals to address the issues facing fishermen.

However, I will continue to use every avenue open to me, as will Minister Killeen to convey in the strongest possible terms the depth of feeling of Irish fishermen on the situation facing them at present. We will continue to press for a package of EU-funded measures to address the current difficulties experienced by fishermen across Europe, particularly in Ireland.

I was heartened by the support I received from my fellow Ministers at Council and am also pleased with the progress made in a number of areas of concern to Irish fishermen. I believe the meeting was positive as regards the restructuring of the industry and action to combat illegal fishing. I welcome the agreement reached at Council on a new regulation to combat landings of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fish from within and outside the EU.

Pigmeat Sector.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

119 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps being taken by him to reduce the level of salmonella infection in the Irish pig herd; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25566/08]

My Department is working with pig producers and meat processing plants to improve salmonella controls and reduce the levels of salmonella in the pig sector. The existing national salmonella control programme, which has been in place since 2002, is being revised with the objective of strengthening key elements at farm level, and during the transport and meat production stages.

Discussions have been taking place with industry representatives and I expect new arrangements to be in place shortly.

Milk Quota.

Liz McManus

Question:

120 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position of Ireland regarding the procurement of an additional milk quota from the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25563/08]

The Commission Health Check proposals in the milk sector cover the full range of market management measures currently in place, and milk quota expansion is at the forefront of these. The Commission has proposed to increase national quotas by 1% per annum from 2009/10 to 2013/14 and to allow quotas to expire in 2015.

My approach in these negotiations will be to ensure a ‘soft landing' towards the eventual abolition of quotas in 2015. The Health Check provides Irish and EU dairy farmers with a new opportunity to respond to increased global demand. However, the proposals currently on the table, in my view, do not correspond with the expectations of Irish milk producers in meeting the demands of international dairy markets. A gradual increase in quotas is the most sensible and logical way to achieve this but we will need to be more ambitious in the annual adjustments of quota volumes. I will be asking the Commission to bring forward more ambitious quota expansion proposals in these negotiations and I also want to keep the existing market management measures in place to cater for any price volatility that may occur during the transition period.

Sheep Sector.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

121 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will introduce a table of sheep prices similar to that produced for beef; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25559/08]

I support the principle of maximum price transparency at all levels. In Ireland, producer prices at export meat plants are published weekly by An Bord Bia. This includes a comparison with EU lamb markets.

One of the recommendations of the Sheep Strategy group was a move to mechanical grading of sheep, as is done for cattle. This will provide an objective assessment of quality and enhance price transparency. My Department has facilitated trials on mechanical grading and the results are currently being considered.

Designated Ports.

John O'Mahony

Question:

122 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has considered the representations from the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority to add ports to the list of designated landing ports for specific species of fish; if he expects to make further additions in relation to same; if he will provide the existing list of designated ports for each species and weight involved; if he has or will add additional ports to these lists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25685/08]

I have not received any representations from the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority to add extra ports to the list of designated landing ports for specific species of fish. The following is a list of landing ports and details for each species as requested.

I have recently, at the request of industry representatives, approved the addition of the ports of Kinsale and Schull as designated ports for the landing of Monkfish.

Ports Designated for Landing of Demersal Species:

Species

Monk Fish

Hake

Cod

Deep-Water Species

Albacore Tuna

750kg

2 Tonnes

2 Tonnes

100kg

All

Designated Ports

Greencastle

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Rathmullan

Killybegs

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Ros An Mhíl

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Galway

Yes

Fenit

Yes

An Daingean

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Castletownbere

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Baltimore

Union Hall

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Ringaskiddy

Yes

Dunmore East

Yes

Yes

Waterford

Yes

Duncannon

Kilmore Quay

Yes

Rosslare

Yes

Howth

Yes

Yes

All Monkfish landings over 150kg are to be hailed; all over 750kgs are to be landed at designated ports.

Monkfish — ‘Four hours notice of his intention to enter port for the purposes of landing monkfish of a quantity in excess of 150kg' SI 496/2006.

For the purposes of the Authorisation the designated ports of landing are Greencastle, Killybegs, Ros an Mhíl, An Daingean, Castletownbere, Ringaskiddy in the Port of Cork, Dunmore East and Howth.

Hake — ‘not less than four hours notice of his intention to make a landing' SI 762/2004.

All Cod landings over 1 tonne are to be hailed; all over 2 tonnes are to be landed at designated ports.

Cod — ‘at least four hours notice of the intention to land cod of a quantity in excess of 1 Tonne' SI 45/2005.

Ports Designated For Landing Of Pelagic Species:

Species

Pelagic Control*

Mackerel

Horse Mackerel

Nw Herring

Celtic Sea Herring#

Irish Sea Herring

Atlant-Oscand Herring

Designated Ports

Greencastle

Rathmullan

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Killybegs

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Ros An Mhíl

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Galway

Fenit

An Daingean

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Castletownbere

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Baltimore

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Union Hall

Ringaskiddy

Yes

Yes

Dunmore East

Yes

Yes-U65

Yes

Waterford

Duncannon

Yes

Yes#

Kilmore Quay

Rosslare

Howth

Yes

Yes

*All landings over 10 tonnes of Herring (ICES I, II, IV, VI, VII, IIa & Vb) to be hailed and landed at designated ports.

*All landings over 10 tonnes of Mackerel & Horse Mackerel (ICES IIIa, IV, VI, VII & IIa) to be hailed and landed at designated ports.

Irish vessels with Horse Mackerel authorisations must land at Rathmullan, Killybegs, Ros An Mhíl, An Daingean, Castletownbere or Baltimore only.

Horse mackerel — ‘not less than 4 hours notice of his intention to enter port. ‘Polyvalent HM O65 Authorisation & Polyvalent HM U65 Authorisation.

Horse mackerel — ‘not less than 4 hours notice of his intention to enter port' — RSW HM Authorisation.

Irish vessels with Mackerel authorisations must land at Rathmullan, Killybegs, Ros An Mhíl, An Daingean, Castletownbere or Baltimore only U65 can also land at Dunmore East.

Mackerel — ‘not less than 4 hours notice of his intention to make such landing'. RSW Mackerel Authorisation.

Mackerel — ‘not less than 4 hours notice of his intention to enter port' Polyvalent MAC O65 & U65 Authorisations.

Irish vessels with Atlanto-Scand Herring authorisations must land at Rathmullan, Killybegs, Ros An Mhíl or Norwegian ports.

Atlanto-Scand Herring — 'not less than four hours notice of intention to enter port'.

#All landings of Celtic Sea herring by Irish vessels are to be hailed. Only U65 vessels can land at Duncannon.

CS Herring — ‘Not less than four hours notice of his intention to enter port'.

Proposed Legislation.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

123 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food further to Parliamentary Question No. 92 of 20 May 2008, the progress on the Forestry Bill; when he will be in a position to publish the Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25679/08]

The General Scheme of the new Forestry Bill has been prepared and will shortly be submitted to Government for approval to send to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for drafting. I hope to publish the Bill as soon as possible.

Common Agricultural Policy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

124 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding the CAP review and health check; if provision has been made or is expected to be made to restore the concept of self sufficiency and adequacy and continuity of supply within the EU; if an assessment has been carried out into the reason for the reduction in supply in the past three years; if these reasons are expected to be fully addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25589/08]

The Commission presented its legislative proposals on the Health Check to the Informal Agriculture Council in Slovenia on 27 May. The proposals are currently being examined in Council Working Groups and the Special Committee on Agriculture. The impact of the whole package of measures on Irish agriculture will clearly depend on what is agreed at the end of the negotiations. The aim is to reach agreement at the November meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers.

The CAP Health Check does not seek to fundamentally alter the principles of the CAP which include the concepts of adequacy and continuity of supply within the EU. Rather the stated purpose of the Commission is to ensure that the CAP is best placed to meet upcoming challenges including climate change, bio-energy, water management, bio-diversity and food security.

My aim in the negotiations will be to achieve the best possible outcome for Ireland and for agriculture. I have already outlined the issues of concern to Ireland to Commissioner Fischer Boel, to Commission officials, and to colleagues in other Member States. I will continue to take an active role in the discussions at every opportunity and to reiterate our priorities. These include: Ensuring that further simplification of the Single Payment Scheme (SPS) and cross-compliance is delivered; In preparation for expiry of milk quotas in 2015, seeking ambitious annual quota increases and clear, predictable decisions taken at this stage to give policy certainty to producers and the industry; Maintaining effective market management measures to cater for any market volatility that may occur; Opposing the proposed increase in compulsory modulation.

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

A consultative process with key stakeholders has been established to advise on the main issues arising in the Health Check and the output from this will feed into Ireland's position in the negotiations.

Departmental Schemes.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

125 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will report on his talks in Brussels in June 2008 in relation to a rescue package for fisherman; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25684/08]

Minister Killeen and I attended the Council of Fisheries meeting in Luxembourg last week, where we conveyed in the strongest possible terms the depth of feeling of Irish fishermen on this matter and the seriousness of the situation facing them. We outlined a strong case for a package of EU-funded measures to address the current difficulties experienced by fishermen across Europe, particularly in Ireland.

I am particularly pleased with the progress made in a number of areas of concern to Irish fishermen and I believe the meeting was positive as regards the restructuring of the industry and action to combat illegal fishing.

I welcome the agreement reached at Council on a new regulation to combat landings of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fish from within and outside the EU.

I pressed the Commission to examine new initiatives at EU level to increase the return received by fishermen at the quayside and improved labelling to assist customers. I also asked the Commission to bring forward initiatives on research and innovation into ways to develop more fuel-efficient engines and fishing practices.

I was particularly pleased with the support offered by a number of other Member States and with the response of the EU Fisheries Commissioner Borg, who has undertaken to come back to the next Council meeting on the 15th July with definitive proposals to address the issues facing fishermen. I expect these proposals to include a package of EU funded measures.

Afforestation Programme.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

126 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will provide targeted assistance to those who received the woodland enhancement grant for pre-1993 plantations in order to bring these plantations in line with current forest practices; if he will create greater biodiversity to improve plant health and the quality of timber produced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25553/08]

Provision was made in the forestry programme of the National Development Plan for the introduction of a scheme to improve the nature quality and biodiversity of older established woodlands. However, demand for all the forestry schemes is quite high this year, relative to the funds available. The Department is now in the process of prioritising expenditure within the Forestry budget as a whole.

Food Labelling.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

127 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the initiatives in place to ensure organic food is not mislabelled thereby protecting the consumer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25584/08]

I am fully committed to ensuring that consumers can have full confidence in the organic food they buy. For that reason my Department has assigned additional resources to the Organic Unit and the staff involved are now systematically inspecting retail outlets, including supermarkets, shops and farmers markets, checking to ensure that all product identified as organic has been produced fully in accordance with the organic regulations.

The introduction of the European Communities (Organic Farming) Regulation 2004 (S.I. No 112 of 2004) gave my Department powers to prosecute contraventions of Council Regulation (EEC) No. 2092/91 on organic production and indications referring thereto on agricultural products and foodstuffs. This Statutory Instrument was amended in October 2007 to grant significant additional statutory powers to my Department officials to enable them to carry out their work in a more effective manner. To date two prosecutions have been successfully brought for labelling product in contravention of these Regulations. In addition, there have been two seizures of incorrectly labelled produce.

Farming Sector.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

128 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the action he is taking to promote the merits and advantages of a career in full-time farming; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25570/08]

Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority, has responsibility for the provision of education and training services to the agri-food sector. It actively promotes careers in farming as being very rewarding and fulfilling with the opportunity to develop a lifestyle which competes favourably with other professions, particularly with regard to quality of life and job satisfaction. Teagasc courses in agriculture, horticulture, forestry and horses are continually reviewed and updated to meet changing needs in terms of knowledge, skills and competence for today's farmers. Education for farming can be availed of through one of the eight agricultural/horticultural colleges, a local Teagasc training centre or on line through the Teagasc eCollege. Teagasc courses are accredited by FETAC or HETAC with the advantage that participants can progress through the qualifications ladder to degree level and beyond. All students attending FETAC courses at agricultural/horticultural colleges are eligible for maintenance grants.

Farming careers are widely promoted by Teagasc through:

career features and advertisements in the farming and local press and on local radio;

promotional visits to second level schools;

participation in career promotion events both nationally (e.g. National Ploughing Championship, Farm Fest, Higher Options, FÁS Opportunities, etc.) and locally;

distribution of Teagasc Course Prospectus to all second level schools;

information on courses at www.teagasc.ie;

career open days at eight agricultural/horticultural colleges.

In addition the Government has provided a range of incentives to encourage young trained farmers. These incentives include Stamp Duty Relief, Stock Relief, Installation Aid, Additional Investment Aid, Milk Production Partnership and priority treatment for certain national reserves.

Other incentives which encourage land mobility and help farmers to obtain the necessary scale to farm on a full-time basis are available through the tax system. The measures include three rental income exemption thresholds for land leased on a long-term basis; stamp duty relief for farm consolidation where only one farmer is consolidating his holding through the purchase and sale of land; and a provision whereby farmers who are leasing out land can still, subject to certain conditions, qualify for Capital Gains Tax retirement relief.

Improving land mobility and having access to land at a reasonable cost should help young and exiting farmers to develop the necessary scale in their farming activities to farm on a full-time basis.

Food Prices.

Michael Creed

Question:

129 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the policy measures he will introduce in view of the escalating increase in the price of feedstuffs and the resulting pressure on the agricultural sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25602/08]

The worldwide increase in the price of cereals over the last 18 months, partly due to adverse weather conditions, has caused the price of compound animal feeds to increase by about 30%. However, the acreage directed to cereal cultivation has increased significantly in 2008, helped by increased market demand and the suspension of the obligation to set 10% of arable land aside. I am hopeful that these factors, coupled with the elimination of import duties for cereals, will help to ease the pressures on feed costs. In addition an aid for private storage scheme and an increase in export refunds were also introduced to specifically address the issue of feed prices for the pigmeat sector.

Farm Safety.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

130 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if his attention has been drawn to the fact that one third of all fatal workplace accidents here occur on farms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25575/08]

I am very concerned with the level of farm safety on our farms. Last year 11 people died on Irish farms, while this was a decline of almost 40% on 2006, it is still unacceptably high. This year to-date 10 people have died on Irish farms. I strongly support the work of the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), which is the national body in Ireland with responsibility for securing health and safety at work.

In 2007, almost 17% of all fatal workplace accidents occurred on farms and the corresponding average figure for the years 2002-2007 is just over 25%. While the general downward trend in the rate of fatal farm accidents involving children and adults under 60 years of age is welcomed, the increase in fatal farm accidents among farmers over 60 years of age is very worrying.

The Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee to the Health and Safety Authority was set up in 2002. This Committee is made up of representatives from my Department, Teagasc, HSA and other farming groups and supports and co-ordinates the majority of research and promotional activities in relation to farm safety. This Committee put a five year Farm Safety Plan in place in 2003, which achieved a 28% reduction in farm fatalities and a 31% reduction in farm accidents. A new five year Farm Safety Plan is being developed by the Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee and my Department will fully support this Plan with the aim of reducing farm fatalities and injuries even further.

European Council Meetings.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

131 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his discussions in Europe with Commissioner Borg and the lack of direct financial assistance being secured on behalf of struggling fishermen here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25597/08]

Minister Killeen and I attended the Council of Fisheries meeting in Luxembourg last week where we conveyed in the strongest possible terms the depth of feeling of Irish fishermen on this matter and the seriousness of the situation facing them. We outlined a strong case for a package of EU-funded measures to address the current difficulties experienced by fishermen across Europe, particularly in Ireland.

I am particularly pleased with the progress made in a number of areas of concern to Irish fishermen and I believe the meeting was positive as regards the restructuring of the industry and action to combat illegal fishing.

I welcome the agreement reached at Council on a new regulation to combat landings of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fish from within and outside the EU.

I pressed the Commission to examine new initiatives at EU level to increase the return received by fishermen at the quayside and improved labelling to assist customers. I also asked the Commission to bring forward initiatives on research and innovation into ways to develop more fuel-efficient engines and fishing practices.

I was particularly pleased with the support offered by a number of other Member States and with the response of the EU Fisheries Commissioner Borg, who has undertaken to come back to the next Council meeting on the 15th July with definitive proposals to address the issues facing fishermen. I expect these proposals to include a package of EU funded measures.

Decentralisation Programme.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

132 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food further to Parliamentary Question No. 56 of 21 February 2008, the status of the decentralisation plan for his Department; the number of civil servants and sections planned to be located to another location; the target date of same; the number of civil servants and sections who have relocated; the number of his original Department employees who were involved in these relocations; when the programme of decentralisation will be completed in his Department; the number of civil servants who will remain in Dublin; the percentage of the staff of his Department that will represent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25681/08]

The Government decision on the decentralisation of my Department is that our headquarters will move to Portlaoise, involving some 600 staff; the local offices in Cork city will move to Fermoy, involving some 100 staff; and the laboratories in Cork and Limerick will move to Macroom, involving up to 100 staff. The move of the Fisheries function of my Department to Clonakilty is now substantially complete.

My Department's original Decentralisation Implementation Plan allowed for a phased movement to Portlaoise. The 2005, 2006 and 2007 phases of decentralisation to Portlaoise were completed on schedule. The original estimate for completion of the plan was 2008, to coincide with the availability of the permanent accommodation. The OPW announced last December that a consortium, the Macquarie Partnership, has won the tender for the project to build the permanent offices in Portlaoise (as part of a public private partnership including offices in Mullingar and Carlow) and planning permission for the new building has now been granted. A revision to the Department's Decentralisation Implementation Plan is now being considered, to reflect the changes to the timetable and the progress so far, as well as the evolving operating environment. An additional advance phase has been agreed and planning and preparations for this phase are currently underway.

Separate implementation plans for Fermoy and Macroom are in place. Sanction has been granted for the building in Fermoy and some recruitment is currently in progress. The identification of a site for Macroom is progressing. These moves are currently scheduled for completion in 2009.

In total there has been an increase of 275 full-time posts in Portlaoise and 81 in Clonakilty since the programme was announced. Of the 275 staff that transferred to Portlaoise, 111 originally worked in my Department and were relocated under the programme.

The Government Decision on my Department is that the headquarters which is currently in Dublin will move to Portlaoise. The completion of the programme depends on the availability of the permanent accommodation and we are in discussion with OPW regarding the timescale for delivery of the building.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Michael Creed

Question:

133 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is satisfied with the monitoring procedures in place for the rural environment protection scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25603/08]

The controls in place for monitoring REPS are designed to conform with the requirements set out in EU legislation. All REPS applications are subject to administrative checks, and on-the-spot checks are carried out on at least 5% of applications annually. Additional discretionary on-the-spot checks are carried out where my Department becomes aware of possible incidences of non-compliance.

My Department reviews its controls for REPS and other schemes on an ongoing basis and in response to regulatory changes and audit recommendations.

Grant Payments.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

134 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason there has been no change to the standard costings for the calculation of farm building grants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25568/08]

The Standard Costings used to calculate grants under my Department's on-farm investment schemes (such as the Farm Waste Management and Farm Improvement Schemes) were last revised with effect from January 2007 in accordance with the commitments contained in the Farmers' Charter 2005-2007.

A review of these Costings then took place in late-2007 and the decision was taken to maintain the Costings at their current rates. I have no plans at present to carry out a further review of these Costings.

Fish Landings.

Martin Ferris

Question:

135 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the proportion of the fish landed in Irish ports processed in this country as opposed to exported raw. [25428/08]

Data produced by The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority show that the volume and value of fish landings by Irish vessels in 2006 amounted to 267,817 tonnes valued at €203.3 million. The landings included those into both Irish and foreign ports. By category of fish these landings comprised:

Tonnes

€000

Deep Water

1,662

2,032

Demersal

23,690

48,049

Pelagic

192,281

73,256

Shellfish

10,184

79,995

Total

267,817

203,331

Of this amount, landings into Irish ports only amounted to: 190,253 Tonnes valued at €161.8 million.

The bulk of fish which comes ashore at Irish ports may be destined for the local fresh market, may be sold to fresh fish markets on the continent, particularly France and Spain, and the remainder goes to the Irish fish processing sector. Processing activity includes production of frozen fillets, mainly in the case of the pelagic herring and mackerel, to added value consumer ready products in the case, in particular of shellfish products such as crab, mussels, scallops etc.

Effectively all the pelagic fish landed in Ireland is exported, mainly in whole frozen and in frozen fillet form to African and East European markets. A substantial proportion of the whitefish landings are sold on the fresh domestic market while species such as hake, megrim and monkfish tend to be exported in fresh form.

In the main, shellfish species are sold live and fresh in the case of lobsters, oysters and some crab, but also in processed form as consumer ready products in the case of mussels and Dublin Bay prawns. Salmon from aquaculture is exported fresh, but in recent years there has been a move away from exporting the whole fish towards the export of fillets which is a higher value form.

In 2007 seafood exports amounted to 158,022 tonnes valued at €360 million. This included exports of seafish and aquaculture products including salmon in fresh fillet as well as smoked form, and mussels and oysters.

Exports of whitefish and some pelagic in fresh form amounted to: 20,755 tonnes valued at €50 million. This amount may be considered that which is not processed. Exports of shellfish in live, fresh and frozen and other processed forms are classified cumulatively and amounted to 41,723 tonnes valued at €147 million. A large percentage of this value is accounted for by processed product.

The remaining €158 million value of exports comprises fish which has been processed in a variety of ways, including whole frozen and frozen fillets, individually frozen pieces e.g. mussels, cooked and pasteurised such as crab, smoked fish including salmon and other processed and prepared presentations.

Fishing Industry Development.

Willie Penrose

Question:

136 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the initiatives planned to promote the indigenous fishing industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25543/08]

A new seafood market initiative has been established under the chairmanship of Jason Whooley, CEO of BIM to identify and maximise the opportunities for domestic seafood supply to the Irish seafood market.

The objectives of the Irish Seafood Market Initiative will be:

Develop a shared understanding of key market issues between fishermen, processors, co-ops, retailers and their representative organisations.

Determine actionable outcomes which will maximise opportunities in the Irish seafood market for the Irish fishing fleet, processors and retailers.

Its scope will include:

Fish supply, availability and seasonality

Seafood prices

Market demand including domestic consumer seafood requirements

Retail, Food service opportunities

Seafood quality issues

Product formats

The Initiative will include representatives of FIF, IFA Agriculture, IASC, Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Associations (IFPEA) and Fish Sales Organisations. I have written to the relevant organisations seeking nominations to the Group and I hope that the Group will commence work without delay.

Wildlife Conservation.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

137 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on the action plans published by the National Parks and Wildlife Service to secure red squirrel and bat populations in forests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25572/08]

I fully support the conservation of the red squirrel and bat populations in Ireland. Officials in my Department will be working closely with the National Parks and Wildlife Service in implementing these Species Action Plans.

Afforestation Programme.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

138 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on a relaxation of the replanting obligation which would have a positive effect on the levels of afforestation and the value and competitiveness of land under forestry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25554/08]

In the new Forestry Bill, which will replace the 1946 Forestry Act, it is proposed to take a more flexible approach regarding the question of replanting after harvesting. However, the general principle of replanting after felling will remain in order to ensure that the national forest estate is maintained.

World Trade Negotiations.

John O'Mahony

Question:

139 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if his Department has carried out a detailed assessment of the consequences for Irish agriculture and farmers in the event of Commissioner Mandelson’s proposals for the Doha World Trade Organisation talks; if he is prepared to lay his Departments assessment before Dáil Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21780/08]

My Department carries out analysis on an ongoing basis of the various negotiating proposals which emerge in these negotiations. This analysis covers a large number of different scenarios and their impacts on the different agricultural sectors. In particular, the analysis evaluates the levels of import protection for individual products under the various different tariff cut scenarios that have been proposed up to now in the negotiations. It provides a basis for assessing the impact of such cuts and the relative benefits of seeking sensitive product status to mitigate their effects.

I am not convinced that it would be appropriate at this stage for me to publicly release the analysis undertaken by my officials to advise me in these negotiations. I believe this is a reasonable and prudent approach given the critical point we are at. I do not want to undermine in any way my negotiating position and I do not believe that the Deputy would wish to undermine Ireland's position in these negotiations. I have already indicated on a number of occasions that I, or my officials, are available to brief the opposition on some key issues in relation to impact analysis on a confidential basis.

Similar estimations have been made by various representative bodies and shared with the Department. These assessments are also used to evaluate the various negotiating proposals which emerge from the discussions and to develop the Irish negotiating position in these negotiations.

A number of other bodies and research institutes, in Ireland and elsewhere, have also carried out economic studies. Some of these analyses attempt a broader, overall assessment of possible outcomes of the negotiations. Inevitably these studies are based on a wide range of assumptions about issues that are yet to be decided in the negotiations. My Department also considers and uses these studies to inform our negotiating strategy. In particular I would point to the FAPRI Ireland WTO Analysis of Impacts on Irish and EU Agriculture study of March 2006 and the 2003 Forfás WTO Negotiating Objectives for Irish Enterprise Report. The FAPRI analysis has recently been updated.

The EU Commission has also recently presented its own latest analysis of possible impacts of the most recent proposals from the chairman of the WTO Agriculture Committee.

I should also point out that I have established a WTO Consultative Committee where stakeholders and my Department regularly discuss developments in the negotiations, and their analysis of them, in some detail. The most recent meeting of that Committee took place on Thursday last and heard presentations from the Department and from FAPRI Ireland regarding the current proposals. The analysis and assessments emerging from these meetings contributes helpfully to the negotiating position adopted by the Government.

Food Prices.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

140 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the action being taken to offset food price inflation; the stakeholders that have been consulted on the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25581/08]

Recent data from the Central Statistics Office on the Consumer Price Index show that Ireland, in common with the rest of the EU and indeed the world, has experienced a steep rise in food prices. The cost of food and non-alcoholic beverage prices increased by 7.8% in the year to May 2008. This compares to an increase of 1.4% for the year to May 2007 and mirrors the upward trajectory in food prices as evidenced globally and across Europe, particularly evident since late 2007 and into 2008.

Changes in food prices are primarily a function of market forces operating at international, EU and national levels. Consistently strong economic growth in developing countries is the main driver of changing world food demand towards high-value agricultural products and processed foods. Slow-growing supply, low stocks, and supply shocks at a time of increasing demand for feed, food and fuel have led to price increases globally. Biofuel production has also contributed to the changing world food equation. In common with the EU, Ireland is not impervious to this evolving change in context.

In addition, rising input costs, at both producer and processor levels have fed through to put upward pressure on food prices. Pressure on input prices, in particular energy and raw material including feed costs, has combined with strong competition on world dairy and cereal markets in increasing producer prices.

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

Pesticide Use.

Liz McManus

Question:

141 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on the change from risk to hazard based assessment of pesticides that would take out a number of crop reduction products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25562/08]

The new draft EU Regulation to replace Directive 91/4144/EEC concerning the marketing of plant protection products is part of a strategy for the Sustainable Use of Pesticides. I supported most of the provisions contained in the draft Regulation but I am concerned that the use of ‘hazard-based cut-off criteria', as a basis for the approval of substances, ignores the scientific principle of risk assessment. Some of the substances that are crucial to crop protection in Ireland may fail to meet the new cut-off criteria and their withdrawal may cause significant agronomic and economic damage without securing any significant reduction in human or environmental exposures to these types of substances. I am also concerned about the absence of a detailed, up-to-date impact assessment on the effects of the current text on the competitiveness and sustainability of Irish and European agriculture.

For these reasons, and despite supporting most of the provisions contained in the draft Regulation, I abstained from a vote on the Regulation in Council and provided a statement for the minutes to this effect.

Agriculture Statistics.

Martin Ferris

Question:

142 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Taoiseach the number of people who have left farming in Counties Cork, Kerry, Clare, Limerick, Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon and Donegal since 1998; and the type of employments most have moved into. [25406/08]

Comparing the results of the 1996 and 2006 censuses for persons in employment by sector gives an indication of the sectoral employment shifts which have occurred in the intervening period. However, comparing the data for both points in time does not allow any conclusion to be drawn on exits from farming and entries to other sectors of employment in the intervening period. Such an analysis would require a micro level longitudinal study.

The following table gives persons at work for 1996 and 2006 for the requested counties, distinguishing Agriculture, Industry and Services.

Persons at work aged 15 and over by broad industrial group, 1996 and 2006

Broad Industry Groups

Agriculture*

Industry

Services

Other Industries or Industry Not Stated

Total

Clare

1996

5,571

10,672

17,004

630

34,572

2006

3,213

14,332

29,305

3,754

50,607

Change 1996-2006

-2,358

3,660

12,301

3,124

16,035

Cork City

1996

17,530

42,739

80,936

2,639

148,388

and County

2006

12,241

60,390

130,078

13,267

215,984

Change 1996-2006

-5,289

17,651

49,142

10,628

67,596

Kerry

1996

8,052

10,077

22,400

1,288

42,909

2006

5,040

15,524

35,694

4,550

60,810

Change 1996-2006

-3,012

5,447

13,294

3,262

17,901

Limerick City

1996

6,587

18,771

30,787

878

58,622

and County

2006

4,161

24,497

47,805

4,058

80,525

Change 1996-2006

-2,426

5,726

17,018

3,180

21,903

Galway City

1996

10,387

17,176

36,398

1,517

67,497

and County

2006

5,968

29,533

62,499

6,487

104,495

Change 1996-2006

-4,419

12,357

26,101

4,970

36,998

Leitrim

1996

1,993

2,342

3,863

166

8,518

2006

1,173

3,552

7,442

502

12,669

Change 1996-2006

-820

1,210

3,579

336

4,151

Mayo

1996

7,963

9,883

17,512

530

36,583

2006

4,754

15,109

29,770

2,641

52,277

Change 1996-2006

-3,209

5,226

12,258

2,111

15,694

Roscommon

1996

4,529

4,799

8,499

315

18,559

2006

2,606

7,284

14,953

983

25,829

Change 1996-2006

-1,923

2,485

6,454

668

7,270

Sligo

1996

2,934

5,339

11,143

284

20,204

2006

1,795

7,026

17,278

1,226

27,328

Change 1996-2006

-1,139

1,687

6,135

942

7,124

Donegal

1996

5,427

13,782

19,348

517

39,811

2006

3,796

14,948

35,301

2,622

56,670

Change 1996-2006

-1,631

1,166

15,953

2,105

16,859

Total

1996

70,973

135,580

247,890

8,764

475,663

2006

44,747

192,195

410,125

40,090

687,194

Change 1996-2006

-26,226

56,615

162,235

31,326

211,531

* Includes Forestry and Fishing.

Departmental Expenditure.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

143 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Taoiseach the annual operating cost of the National Forum on Europe each year for the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25705/08]

The National Forum on Europe was established on 18 October, 2001 .

The operating costs over the past five years were:

Year

Expenditure

2007

2,075,845.11

2006

1,517,041.49

2005

1,294,947.05

2004

942,340.90

2003

919,537.35

Leo Varadkar

Question:

144 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the breakdown of grants in aid in 2007 and to date in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25433/08]

The grant in aid paid by my Department under Subhead B. National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO) in 2007 was €5,812,330 and to date in 2008 (end of May) was €1,633,875.

The NESDO Grant in Aid provides funding for NESDO and its constituent bodies, the National Economic and Social Council (NESC), the National Economic and Social Forum (NESF) and the National Centre for Partnership and Performance (NCPP). The following table details the breakdown of these payments:

Year

Subhead

Amount of Grant in Aid

2007

NESDO

1,940,330

NESF

880,000

NESC

837,000

NCPP

2,155,000

Total paid in 2007

5,812,330

2008 (end of May )

NESDO

1,154,375

NESF

200,000

NCPP

279,500

Total paid to date in 2008

1,633,875

Legislative Programme.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

145 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Taoiseach the numbers of Bills passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas for the years 1999 to 2008, inclusive; and if he will provide this information in tabular form. [25494/08]

The information requested is as follows:

Year

Number of Bills passed

1999

35

2000

42

2001

57

2002

34

2003

46

2004

44

2005

34

2006

42

2007

42

2008 to date

9

State Appointments.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

146 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Taoiseach the numbers appointed to State boards from July 2007 to date in 2008; and the number of those appointments who were women. [25495/08]

Appointments were made to the following State Boards which come under the aegis of my Department during the time frame in question:

State Board/Agency: Law Reform Commission

There have been 4 board members reappointed to the Law Reform Commission since July 2007 to date, of whom 2 are women. These reappointments were made on 1 September, 2007 on foot of a Government Decision.

State Board/Agency: The National Economic and Social Forum (NESF)

There were 15 appointments to NESF from July 2007 to date, of whom one is a woman. These were solely Oireachtas nominations and as such are not representative of the overall gender balance of NESF which is 58% male and 42% female.

State Board/Agency: National Statistics Board

Nine appointments have been made by the Taoiseach to the National Statistics Board from July 2007 to date, of whom two are women.

All of these appointments were made in July 2007 with the exception of one appointment in August 2007 when a new Director General of the CSO was appointed (the Director General of the CSO holds an ex officio position on the NSB). The current board of the NSB is composed of 6 men and 2 women.

Programmes for Government.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

147 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Taoiseach if the programme for Government has been or will be revised on the basis of the ERSI report published on 25 June 2008 stating that Ireland is entering a recession for the first time in 25 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25707/08]

Much progress has already been achieved in fulfilling the commitments in the Programme for Government. Obviously, the Government must take decisions in the light of the fiscal situation which will be indicated on publication of the half yearly Exchequer returns to-morrow. We will then give priority to those Programme commitments which are most valuable from a social and economic perspective and can realistically be achieved in view of the present budgetary situation. I intend to publish a progress report on the implementation of the Programme for Government by the end of the summer.

Ethics in Public Office Act.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

148 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach if, during or following his meeting on 18 January 2005, with the President, Premier and Minister of Commerce of China, he received gifts; if so, the gifts he received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25731/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

149 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach if, during or following his meeting on 16 February 2005, with Prime Minister Bethuel Pakalitha Mosislli of the Kingdom of Lesostho, he received gifts; if so, the gifts he received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25732/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

150 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach if, during or following his meeting on 9 May 2005, with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he received gifts; if so, the gifts he received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25733/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

151 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach if, during or following his meeting on 26 September 2006, with Vice Premier Zeng of China, he received gifts; if so, the gifts he received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25734/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

152 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach if, during or following his meeting on 7 December 2006, with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt he received gifts; if so, the gifts he received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25735/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

153 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach if, during or following his meeting on 16 January 2007, with King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia, he received gifts; if so, the gifts he received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25736/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

154 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach if, during or following his meeting on 15 January 2008, with President Kikwete and Prime Minister Lowassa of Tanzania, he received gifts; if so, the gifts he received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25737/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

155 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach if, during or following his meeting on 18 February 2008, with Prince Faisal of Saudi Arabia, he received gifts; if so, the gifts he received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25738/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

156 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach if, during or following his meeting on 10 March 2008, with Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung of Vietnam, he received gifts; if so, the gifts he received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25739/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 148 to 156, inclusive, together.

I take it that the Deputy's questions concern gifts to my predecessor, who was Taoiseach when the meetings referred to took place.

Briefly, under the Ethics in Public Office Acts, gifts given to an office holder by virtue of his/her office which exceed €650 in value must be surrendered (where there is a doubt as to the value of gifts, my Department arranges for valuations through the Office of Public Works in accordance with the legislation). My Department does not keep a record of other gifts.

Office holders are required to include such gifts in the annual statements of registerable interests which they must make to the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPOC). These statements are subsequently forwarded by SIPOC to the Clerk of the Dáil for inclusion in the Register of Members' Interests, which is laid before the Dáil and published in Iris Oifigiúil. They are also published on the Houses of the Oireachtas website.

I understand that my predecessor made the necessary statements of interest to SIPOC for the years 2005, 2006 and 2007 and listed any such gifts in them. His statements can be downloaded from the Houses of the Oireachtas website. Any such gifts that he received in 2008 will be due to be included in his statement of registerable interests for 2008 to be made in January 2009. I understand that no such gifts were received by him in respect of the meetings in 2008 mentioned in the Deputy's questions.

Value for Money Reviews.

Tom Hayes

Question:

157 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Taoiseach the measures agreed for his Department under the value for money review 2006-08; the projects which had the necessary changes made; when they are planned for completion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25870/08]

As part of the implementation of the Government's Value for Money Review and Policy Review Initiative, my Department is undertaking a review of the National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO) and its constituent bodies — the National Economic and Social Council (NESC), the National Economic and Social Forum (NESF) and the National Centre for Partnership and Performance (NCPP).

In line with the objectives of the Value for Money and Policy Review Initiative, the Review will analyse in a systematic manner what is being achieved by Exchequer spending and will provide a basis on which more informed decisions can be made on priorities. More specifically, the Review aims:

to analyse the outputs of the grant-in-aid funding provided to NESDO;

to determine the impact on the development of public policy in line with the objectives of the Department of the Taoiseach and other relevant public organisations for NESDO; and

to inform future funding, administration, structural and policy decisions in relation to NESDO.

A Steering Group to oversee the Value for Money and Policy Review was established in January 2007. Terms of Reference have been drawn up and agreed by the Steering Group. A comprehensive Review Plan was subsequently developed and approved outlining methodology, work schedule and resource requirements.

In January 2008, work began on the Review with preparations for a comprehensive survey of stakeholders and in March 2008, a survey of stakeholders and employees was carried out. The results of this survey are currently being analysed and a number of follow up interviews will be held within the next few weeks.

It is envisaged that a draft review report will be prepared by the end of July 2008. This report will then be reviewed by an External Reviewer and a final report prepared by the end of September 2008.

Tax Code.

Finian McGrath

Question:

158 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will examine a matter (details supplied). [25833/08]

As I have previously indicated, economic growth for this year is now likely to be significantly less than that forecast at Budget time. This has implications for resources and, in this context, I will consider all options including taxation and expenditure proposals in the context of the formulation of the next Budget.

Value for Money Reviews.

Tom Hayes

Question:

159 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Finance if a value for money review is planned after 2008 for all Departments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25870/08]

Tom Hayes

Question:

179 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Finance the measures agreed for his Department under the Value for Money Review 2006-08; the projects which had the necessary changes made; when they are planned for completion; if a value for money review is planned after 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25859/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 159 and 179 together.

The Value for Money and Policy Review initiative was introduced by the Government in June 2006 replacing the Expenditure Review Initiative (ERI) which began in 1997 as part of the financial reform agenda set out in Delivering Better Government. It encompasses formal reviews for the period 2006-2008 already agreed to be carried out under the old Expenditure Review Initiative (ERI) as well as all other Policy Reviews conducted and commissioned by Departments which impact on Value for Money. The Government also agreed that completed reviews should be published and presented to the relevant Select Committee of the Oireachtas and that a list of all reviews be provided annually to the Select Committee and published in Departments’ Annual Reports.

The details of the projects (reviews) undertaken by my Department and by the Offices under its aegis for the period in question, together with completion dates, are set out as follows.

Department of Finance

Value for Money Review

Completion

Economic and Social Research Institute

July 2006.

The Value for Money and Policy Review of the Grant-in-Aid payment to the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) contained five recommendations, all of which are in the process of being implemented. The recommendations are intended to improve the overall value for money for the grant-in-aid. Among other things, they are directed at relating funding to outputs; benchmarking the ESRI with comparable institutes in other EU member states, and periodically reviewing the policy relevance of the Institute’s research. The level of the grant in aid has not changed significantly as a result of the review.

Information Society Fund

August 2006.

The Information Society Fund terminated at the end of 2005 in line with its intended lifespan. As a result, an annual allocation for the fund is no longer required. The Fund was focussed on initiatives in the areas of Electronic Government and Electronic Commerce.

Ordnance Survey Ireland

January 2007.

The Terms of Reference of the Value for Money and Policy Review of the Grant-in-Aid to Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSI) were to assess the objectives of the grant, to identify improved output definitions and monitoring arrangements for future editions of the Service Level Agreement with OSI so as to drive increased operational efficiency across the organisation and to assess whether OSI should remain under the aegis of the Department of Finance, be assigned to another Department or be merged with another appropriate body. While the focus of the Review was largely on policy aspects relating to the payment of the grant-in-aid, several of the recommendations should contribute to the efficiency of the organisation and reduce not only the direct Exchequer grant, but also the payments for services made to the organisation by both the public and private sector. One of the recommendations of this Review was that responsibility for Ordnance Survey Ireland should move to the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. This change took effect from 1st January, 2008. The DCMNR will be better placed to comment on further progress achieved as the other recommendations of the Review are implemented.

Procurement Management within the Department

End of 2008.

Construction Procurement Reform Initiative

End of 2008.

Civil Service Childcare Initiative

End of 2008.

With regard to the above three reviews, work is ongoing and the reviews are at different stages in the process. Reports on progress are provided on a quarterly basis for the Central Steering Committee.

Office of Public Works

Flood Relief Programme

June 2008

Property Management Services

End of 2008

Two areas were selected for review under the 2006-2008 round of Value for Money and Policy Reviews. These areas were the Flood Relief Programme and Property Management Services. Reports on progress are provided on a quarterly basis for the Central Steering Committee. Expenditure on the Reviews is identified separately in the OPW Estimates under Subhead A8. The Value for Money and Policy Review of the Flood Relief Programme will be approved by the Chairman of the OPW over the coming days. It will be published on the OPW website, submitted to the Select Committee on Finance and the Public Service and placed in the Oireachtas Library.

Office of the Revenue Commissioners

Revenue’s Data Capture Outsourcing Programme

October 2006

Information Technology External Resources Expenditure in 2006

March 2008

Both reviews have been submitted to the Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service and have been published on the Revenue website. Progress on Value for Money and Policy Reviews is reported on in the Annual Report of the Revenue Commissioners. Expenditure on Value for Money and Policy Reviews is identified separately in our Estimates.

The Valuation Office, Comptroller & Auditor General, Commission for Public Service Appointments, State Laboratory, Public Appointments Service, Office of the Ombudsman and the President’s Establishment did not have any such reviews for the period in question.

Arrangements for the next round of reviews, which may cover the period 2009-2011, are being considered by the Value for Money and Policy Review Central Steering Committee.

Tax Code.

Joe Costello

Question:

160 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Finance if he will respond to correspondence from a company (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25252/08]

James Reilly

Question:

166 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on undertakings given by An Taoiseach when he was Minister for Finance that his Department was exploring alternative mechanisms that could be put in place to replace the soon to be terminated excise duty refund for public transport service operators, which amounts to 34.5 cent per litre; the outcome of those explorations; if a method has been found to alleviate the burden of the removal of the excise duty refund scheme for public transport providers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25333/08]

Joan Burton

Question:

167 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the excise duty refund for public transport services, which amounts to 34.5 cent per litre, is scheduled for termination on 31 October 2008 and that his predecessor gave public assurances that line Departments would explore in conjunction with his Department an alternative mechanism to put in place to replace the refund; the progress of these discussions; if he will commit to ensuring that such a mechanism is in place before the termination of the aforementioned refund scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25341/08]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

168 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance the progress that has been made in regard to exploring alternative mechanisms to replace the excise duty refund for a public transport service (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25423/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 160 and 166 to 168, inclusive, together.

The 2003 EU Energy Tax Directive incorporated special derogations which allowed specific excise duty reliefs to be applied in a number of Member States. In the Irish context, these derogations allowed inter alia for reduced rates to apply to fuel used for public transport services which includes school transport services. While these derogations expired on 31 December 2006, Ireland, along with other Member States, sought retention of its derogations beyond that date. However the European Commission, which is the deciding authority, refused such requests.

The Finance Act 2008, as the Deputies are aware, consequently provided the legislative changes to withdraw the relief in respect of fuel used for public passenger transport vehicles. The relief will be withdrawn with effect from 1 November 2008 and the appropriate full excise rates will apply from that date. In the circumstances outlined above the question of reconsidering or deferring the withdrawal of the existing relief does not therefore arise.

The Department of Transport and other relevant line Departments have, in conjunction with my Department, explored alternative mechanisms that might be used to direct Exchequer resources toward such services from that date, subject of course to compatibility with competition and EU State Aid requirements. While the matter is still being considered it is necessary however to stress, despite the claims being made otherwise, that introducing an alternative suitable mechanism is not a straightforward matter.

Comptroller and Auditor General Reports.

Joan Burton

Question:

161 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he has any draft reports from the Comptroller and Auditor General; if so, when he expects to publish these reports; if any of these reports refer to public sector pension schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25255/08]

The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) is an independent Constitutional Officer, appointed by the President on the nomination of the Dáil. I am aware that, under its own authority, the office of the C&AG is planning to carry out a Value for Money examination on the management and administration of public service pension schemes and has recently issued a Request for Proposals in that regard. As Minister for Finance, I have no responsibility for reports undertaken by the C&AG, which are commissioned and conducted independently and therefore I am not in a position to comment on when the report may be published.

Customs and Excise.

John O'Mahony

Question:

162 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Finance when it is proposed to assign permanent customs staff to Ireland West Airport and Galway Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25257/08]

John O'Mahony

Question:

169 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Finance if a full-time customs presence is located at Weston Aerodrome in view of the drugs seizure at the Aerodrome in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25432/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 162 and 169 together.

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that there is no full-time Customs presence at Weston, Ireland West or Galway airports. Customs controls at these airports, as at the other smaller airports, are risk based and are carried out by Special Compliance/Enforcement staff. Attendance is targeted and is based on analysis and evaluation of general seizure trends, traffic frequency, route and similar risk indicators. Attendance can also be as a result of specific intelligence. These controls are kept under constant review, in particular to take account of emerging smuggling trends and any traffic increase at these airports.

It is important to note by way of context, that the operating environment for Customs has been shaped to a significant degree by the introduction of the Internal Market and the related principles of freedom of movement within the EU. Of specific relevance are the abolition of routine and systematic Customs checks on goods and passengers moving within any part of the EU and the elimination of Customs controls on the baggage of intra-Community passengers other than anti smuggling checks. This is particularly relevant in the case of the smaller airports where passenger traffic is predominantly intra-Community. In fact some of the smaller airports have no international flights. The approach has of necessity been to balance the freedom of movement principle in regard to people and goods with the need to control smuggling and enforce prohibitions and restrictions.

The Revenue Commissioners assure me that, having regard to the context set out above, they are satisfied that their risk based approach, which is in line with the methodology adopted by other EU administrations in similar circumstances, remains valid.

As regards the drugs seizure in 2006 and the related arrest of three Irish nationals, I have been informed that, while this seizure may have been connected to an aircraft that had previously left Weston, the seizure was in fact made in Belgium.

Departmental Properties.

John O'Mahony

Question:

163 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Finance when the last cutters boat was sold; the reason for the sale of the boat; the amount of finance realised by the boat’s sale; if it was sold as a result of a public tendering process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25258/08]

John O'Mahony

Question:

164 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Finance when the new cutters boat will come into service; the number of staff trained for the detection of drugs, for the searching of boats and the searching of persons who will man the boat; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25259/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 163 and 164 together.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the Revenue Customs Service operates one cutter which entered service in June 2004 following an EU Public Procurements process. This cutter has not been sold. Revenue, as part of its coastal control/anti-smuggling development programme, is currently in the process of acquiring a second Customs cutter which will be delivered in late 2009. All staff/crew assigned to the Cutter will be trained in the required range of Customs skills including search of persons and of vessels.

The Deputy may also wish to be aware that a number of small, open, rigid inflatable boats, acquired by the Customs Service in 1992/93 were disposed of by way of asset transfer to other State Agencies (Irish Coast Guard Service) where they have been re-furbished and are in use as training craft for their volunteers.

Compliance Costs.

Richard Bruton

Question:

165 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the dealings that he or agencies under the control of his Department have had with the business sector which incur regulatory costs or compliance costs on behalf of business; if he has identified the baseline cost profile for business associated with that activity; if he has set targets for the reduction of these different cost items; and the cost and the target reduction in each case. [25268/08]

I would draw the Deputy's attention to the first paragraph of the reply to PQ No. 178 made by the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to Deputy Leo Varadkar on Wednesday 18th June 2008. The first paragraph of that reply indicated the stages of the process which all Departments and their agencies would be required to follow.

This process, which is being coordinated by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, is now underway, and my Department will engage fully in the relevant issues.

Questions Nos. 166 to 168, inclusive, answered with Question No. 160.
Question No. 169 answered with Question No. 162.

Tax Code.

Jack Wall

Question:

170 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be furnished with a P60 for the year 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25480/08]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the employer issued form P60 2007 to the taxpayer on 20 February 2008. The employer has issued a copy of the original form P60 2007 to the taxpayer on 27 June 2008.

Energy Efficiency.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

171 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the pilot scheme carried out by the Office of Public Works to try to audit and improve energy efficiency in public buildings; and if he will outline by building concerned the improvement in energy achieved under the scheme and the changes that were brought about in each building to achieve better energy efficiency. [25499/08]

The Office of Public Works carried out a pilot ‘Staff Energy Awareness' programme in two groups of five buildings between March and September 2007. The following outlines the buildings that were included and the savings achieved:

Group 1

Building

Electrical

Heating Fuel (Gas/Oil)

%

%

Áras Mhic Dhiarmada

-2

-35

Ballyfermot SWO

+3

-24

Finglas SWO

-24

-23

Longford Government Office

+7

-19

Townsend

-7

-31

Group 2

Building

Electrical

%

Department of Defence, Renmore

-6

Department of Education, Athlone

+4

Department of Social Welfare, Sligo

-2

Government Offices, Ballina

-17

Government Offices, Sligo

-22

Note: With this group of buildings, in order to compare like with like and to remove unknowns based on different operating conditions of the building between 2006 and 2007, a methodology was used to predict the electricity consumption for 2007 using a ‘Business as Usual' scenario (BAU) based on 2006 data. In this group of buildings only electrical savings were considered.

The energy awareness campaign in each building consisted of providing staff with a series of workshops and lectures on practical energy conservation. Staff were encouraged to switch off equipment when not in use and to identify areas of energy wastage. A key component of the campaign was providing staff with weekly energy reports detailing how their building was performing, compared to the same period in the previous year, and to the other buildings in the programme.

Departmental Correspondence.

Pat Breen

Question:

172 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Finance the status of an application by a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25522/08]

I understand from the Chief State Solicitors Office that it has been in correspondence with the applicant's solicitor and is currently awaiting certain information in order to progress this matter.

Ethics in Public Office Act.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

173 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance if, during his meeting on 5 July 2006, with the Minister for Finance of Jamaica, he received gifts; if so the gifts he received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25719/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

174 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance if, during or following his meeting on 12 December 2007 with the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia, he received gifts; if so, the gifts he received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25720/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

175 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance if, during or following his meeting on 10 March 2008, with the Prime Minister of Vietnam, he received gifts; if so, the gifts he received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25721/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

176 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance if, during or following his meeting on 17 March 2008, with the Minister for Finance of Vietnam, he received gifts; if so, the gifts he received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25722/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 173 to 176, inclusive, together.

The position in relation to gifts accepted by the Minister for Finance is that a record of gifts is maintained solely for the purpose of Ethics in Public Office Act, 1995, i.e. where the value of the gift exceeds €634.87. Details of any such gifts are included in the returns made by the Minister for Finance under the Ethics in Public Office Act, which are in the public domain.

World Heritage Sites.

Tom Hayes

Question:

177 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works will make alterations to the management plan, appropriate planning controls, restrictions, conservation plan and expert comparative analysis of the Rock of Cashel in order that these documents be up to date for UNESCO world heritage status. [25810/08]

The State's Tentative List for consideration for nomination to UNESCO for World Heritage Site status will shortly be reviewed. This review will be conducted under the auspices of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government with assistance from the Office of Public Works. The Rock of Cashel, which is on the current tentative list, dating back to 1992, will be considered in the context of this review.

Child Care Services.

Joe Carey

Question:

178 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Finance the discussions he has had in relation to the Clare Civil Service crèche; the action he will take to keep this service open until a permanent service provider can be sourced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25824/08]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to question No. 125 of 18 June 2008 which sets out the background to the temporary closure of the Ennis Civil Service Crèche for a short period. In making this decision, all reasonable alternatives to the temporary closure of the crèche have been considered by officials of my Department, including exploring two arrangements suggested for interim management of the crèche since its temporary closure was announced. However given the legal and other obligations on any person who would take over as the operator of the crèche for the short period in question, no temporary solution has been found to be feasible.

I am happy that the Civil Service Childcare Initiative Board is in continuing discussions with a potential operator with a view to their taking over operation of the crèche for a five year period with effect from 1 October 2008.

Question No. 179 answered with Question No. 159.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Michael Ring

Question:

180 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Finance the capital allowances available in respect of nursing homes; and the criteria that apply for same. [26000/08]

Capital allowances are available where capital expenditure is incurred on the construction or refurbishment of certain nursing homes. The cost of the site does not qualify for capital allowances. The nursing home must be operated or managed as a registered nursing home within the meaning of section 2 of the Health (Nursing Homes) Act, 1990 and be registered under section 4 of that Act.

Capital allowances are available over a 7-year period at the rate of 15% per annum for the first 6 years and 10% in year 7. Owner-operators can use the allowances to reduce their taxable income arising from the operation of the nursing home. Investors/lessors can use the allowances to reduce their taxable rental income from the letting of the nursing home and, depending on the amount of their rental income, can set off up to €31,750 annually against their non-rental taxable income. In the case of nursing homes that are first used, or first used following refurbishment, on or after 1 February 2007, the person claiming the capital allowances must continue to own the nursing home for 15 years to avoid a clawback of the allowances granted. Prior to this date the required holding period was 7 years.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Seán Barrett

Question:

181 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of the €50 million provided to the Health Service Executive in budget 2008 for additional services to people with disabilities that will be allocated to services for young people with autism; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25249/08]

The 2008 Service Plan, developed by the HSE and approved by my Department, included €50m for the development of additional disability services. The standard expenditure sanction issued to the HSE for 2008 stipulated that the prior approval of my Department and the Department of Finance would be required in the event of any proposal to spend this money for any other purpose.

Clearly, it is essential that the HSE lives within its overall budget for the year. It needs to manage its activity levels and cost drivers appropriately to achieve this and I do not believe it is desirable to resort to using development funding to offset expenditure pressures arising in respect of ongoing health services.

The HSE is currently reviewing its overall financial position for the year and the roll out of planned developments in disability services is being considered in that context. I have been in communication with the HSE with a view to an early determination on the matter.

The HSE has informed my Department that it plans to release €20m of the €50m additional funding for Disability Services. The Deputy's specific question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

182 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children when the promised school support team to provide a six week block of speech therapy and occupational therapy for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be put in place in a school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25365/08]

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

Mental Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

183 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a child (details supplied) in County Mayo will be assessed by the child and adolescent mental health service. [25883/08]

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.

Genetically Modified Organisms.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

184 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent to which genetically modified food or food products are imported here and to other EU countries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25968/08]

The following genetically modified foods are authorised for sale in all EU Member States: vegetable oil from oil seed rape; vegetable oil from cotton seed; maize products; soya products; sugar beet products.

These products are normally used as food ingredients and have been identified in a variety of products such as vegetable casseroles, gluten-free reduced sugar rusks, soya protein mince, soya protein chunks, soya biscuits and cakes, soya bran, soya flour, infant formula, soya cream, soya yogurt, soya drink, soya dessert, lecithin granules derived from soya bean and maize meal, tortilla chips, taco shells, breadcrumbs for chicken, and burger and corn snacks derived from maize. This list, however, is not exhaustive.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) routinely surveys the food supply in Ireland to ensure that only EU-authorised and appropriately labelled GM food ingredients are placed on the market. In their recent survey, published in February 2008, no breaches of GM food legislation were found.

Services for People with Disabilities.

James Reilly

Question:

185 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on extending the availability of special needs assistants for preschools in respect of children with hydrocephalus and cerebral palsy in the South Eastern Health Board area (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25250/08]

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

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

186 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the outcome of the nine appeals made to the health repayment scheme appeals office by people who missed the 31 December 2007 deadline; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25256/08]

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

The Health Repayment Scheme Appeals Office has advised my Department that as of 6 June 2008, nine appeals have been lodged with the Health Repayment Scheme Appeals Office by applicants who submitted an application after the closing date.

When the Appeals Officer has examined these appeals the claimant will be informed of the outcome of same.

Health Services.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

187 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the hospital in the home scheme has been suspended as of 16 May 2008; if this scheme will be re-introduced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25261/08]

One of the key challenges facing the health service is the need to ensure that services are planned and provided in line with the clinical needs of the patient. A number of experimental initiatives have been put in place by the Health Service Executive with a view to providing care in community based rather than hospital based settings where clinically appropriate. The "Hospital in the Home" service is one such initiative along with the introduction of Primary Care Teams, Community Intervention Teams, a Rapid Access Service for the Elderly and the GP Out of Hours service.

The "Hospital in the Home" service was delivered by a private service provider on the basis of a service level agreement with the HSE and was for a period of one year. This agreement came to an end on the 16th March and was extended by agreement until 11th May 2008. During the year, the service treated in the region of 2,000 patients at an annual cost of €6.83 million.

A review of the service was carried out between January and March of this year under an independent Chairperson. The review made a number of recommendations. The main recommendation, which has been adopted by the HSE, is that the concept of the "Hospital in the Home" be retained and that the service should be repatriated within existing HSE services.

The HSE has emphasised that no patient was disadvantaged by this decision and has advised that patients who had been receiving services from the provider in question when the contract ceased have had their episode of care continued until it was scheduled to finish. These patients have since been referred back to their primary physician for management of any future care needs.

The HSE is developing the range of services provided by the Community Intervention Teams in the Greater Dublin Area and extending their coverage with a view to meeting the needs of patients previously treated by the "Hospital in the Home" service.

I have agreed to meet shortly with representatives from the company which had been providing this service.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Richard Bruton

Question:

188 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the charge being applied to persons who currently are admitted to a public nursing home or are placed in a nursing home bed by a hospital that deems the patient unfit to be discharged home; and if a change in the scheme will be made in advance of the passage of legislation for a unified system for charging for all nursing home beds. [25271/08]

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

The Health (Charges for In-Patient Services) Regulations 2005 in keeping with Section 53 of the Health Act, 1970, as amended, have provided for two different classes of persons on whom charges may be levied.

With effect from 14th July 2005, charges may be levied on persons who are in receipt of in-patient services in premises where nursing care is provided on a 24 hours basis, and in premises where nursing care is not provided on a 24 hour basis. The regulations provide for a different level of charge in respect of each class as follows:

Class 1

Class 1 refers to people in receipt of in-patient services on premises where nursing care is provided on a 24 hour basis on those premises. In this case, a weekly charge can be levied of €120 or the weekly income of that person less €35, whichever is the lesser.

Class 2

Class 2 refers to people in receipt of in-patient services on premises where nursing care is not provided on a 24 hour basis on those premises. In this situation, a weekly charge can be levied of €90, or the weekly income of that person less €55 or 60% of the weekly income of that person, whichever is the lesser.

These regulations provide for the maximum charge to be levied on either class of person. The HSE has the power to reduce or waive a charge on the grounds of "undue hardship". Under Section 1 (b) of the Health (Amendment) Act, 2005, the HSE can examine a person's overall financial situation in view of the person's reasonable expenditure in relation to themselves or their dependants, if any.

It is a matter for the HSE, based on its own legal advice and taking into account the individual circumstances as well as the service being provided, to make a decision on any charges levied.

The rate of charges applicable to long stay care have not been increased since their introduction in July 2005. These charges will be reviewed in the context of "A Fair Deal".

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Question:

189 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [25280/08]

The 2008 Service Plan, developed by the HSE and approved by the Minister for Health and Children, included €50m for the development of additional disability services. The standard expenditure sanction issued to the HSE for 2008 stipulated that the prior approval of the Department of Health and Children and the Department of Finance would be required in the event of any proposal to spend this money for any other purpose.

Clearly, is essential that the HSE lives within its overall budget for the year. It needs to manage its activity levels and cost drivers appropriately to achieve this and I do not believe it is desirable to resort to using development funding to offset expenditure pressures arising in respect of ongoing health services.

The HSE is currently reviewing its overall financial position for the year and roll-out of planned developments in disability services is being considered in that context. I have been in communication with the HSE with a view to an early determination on the matter. The HSE has informed my Department that it plans to release €20m of the €50m additional funding for Disability Services. The Deputy's specific question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal services, which are the responsibility of the Health Services Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Funding.

Denis Naughten

Question:

190 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children further to a reply to correspondence from a person (details supplied), if she has received a response from the Health Service Executive regarding funding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25282/08]

I wish to inform the Deputy that in my response to him of the 28th May 2008, I advised him that my Office had forwarded information in regard to the project referred to by him to the Director of the Office of Disabilities and Mental Health in the Department of Health and Children. However, at present, I understand that Office has no funding available to support this project.

Under the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006 -2010 (NCIP), for which I have responsibility, both capital and current grant funding is available to support the development of childcare facilities in both the community (not for profit) and private sectors. It is a requirement that childcare services which are funded under the NCIP are accessible to children with disabilities. As the Deputy will be aware, services open to the public must make reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities under the provisions of the Equal Status Acts 2000-2004. However, there is no provision under the NCIP to provide additional, more specialised supports, for children with disabilities in childcare facilities.

EU Directives.

James Reilly

Question:

191 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children her position on the recognition of general practice as a speciality with reference to the implementation of Recognition of Professional Qualifications Directive 2005/36/EC; if Ireland has informed the committee, established under Article 58 of the Directive, that general practice is a speciality in Europe; if so, when; if it has not informed the committee, the reason for same; if the Medical Council has been asked to supply a list of the medical specialties to the Government; the person who is the Irish representative on the committee; if Ireland has submitted a biennial report to the committee on the implementation of the directive as required by Article 60; if such a report has been submitted, if it will be published; if she will forward this Deputy a copy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25285/08]

Directive 2005/36/EC provides for the mutual recognition of qualifications of nationals of member states in respect of a broad range of regulated professions, including a number of regulated health professions.

This new Directive makes specific provision — in Articles 28, 29 & 30 — for training in general medical practice. The specific qualifications for general medical practice are listed in Annex V to the Directive, as are the qualifications for other medical specialties. The Medical Council was consulted on the Directive.

General coordination of matters relating to Directive 2005/36/EC is undertaken by the Department of Education and Science and an official of that Department is appointed to coordinate the activities of the designated authorities in the State. The national coordinator is Ireland's representative on the committee established under Article 58 of the Directive and, as required, a nominee of a designated authority can attend to advise on relevant matters on the agenda of any particular meeting.

The report under Article 60 is not due to be presented until two years after 20/10/2007. The Department of Education and Science will be responsible for the coordination of any such report at that time, in consultation with other government departments and designated authorities.

National Drugs Strategy.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

192 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the estimated number of drug users here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25286/08]

In January 2008 the National Advisory Committee on Drugs in Ireland and the Drug and Alcohol Information and Research Unit in Northern Ireland published the results of an all-island Drug Prevalence Survey carried out in 2006/2007 on a representative sample of people aged 15-64 years. Results are available separately for Ireland and Northern Ireland. The results for Ireland indicate that:

3% of respondents reported using any illegal drug during the last month (current use);

7% reported using any illegal drug in the last year (recent use); and

24% reported having ever used any illegal drug in their lifetime (ever used). Applying these percentages to the 2006 Census of Population figures for the 15-64 year age group (a total of 2,907,473 people), suggests that:

87,000 people have used any illegal drug in the last month;

204,000 people have used any illegal drug in the last year; and

698,000 people have used any illegal drug in their lifetime.

While the number of people who report ever using any illegal drug in Ireland has increased from 18.5% of the population in 2002/3 to 24% in 2006/7, this is to be expected as successive cohorts of those who grew up when there was increased exposure to different drugs grow older. It should, however, be noted that there has been no comparable increase in current use or recent use and that current use continues to be low.

While cannabis continues to be the most commonly used illegal drug, cocaine use has grown, particularly among the young adult (15-34 years) population. The HSE has in place a national cocaine awareness campaign and funding has also been allocated by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs to enable Local and Regional Drug Task Forces to develop local awareness campaigns to dovetail with this.

My Department and the HSE are participating in the development of the new National Drug Strategy 2009-2016 which is being led by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. This strategy will provide the opportunity for a renewed emphasis on prevention.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

193 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of patients receiving methadone treatment in each of the Health Service Executive regions to date; the gender and age profile of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25287/08]

Catherine Byrne

Question:

194 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of patients who received methadone treatment since 1995 to date in 2008; the gender and age profile of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25288/08]

Catherine Byrne

Question:

195 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of methadone clinics in Dublin city; the location of each clinic; the number of clients receiving methadone treatment at each of these clinics; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25289/08]

Catherine Byrne

Question:

196 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of methadone clinics nationwide; the location of each clinic; the number of clients receiving methadone treatment at each of these clinics; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25290/08]

Catherine Byrne

Question:

197 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people waiting to access a methadone treatment programme; the length of time they have been waiting; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25291/08]

Catherine Byrne

Question:

198 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the average cost of methadone treatment per patient, per year since 2000; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25292/08]

Catherine Byrne

Question:

199 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the cost of methadone treatment per annum; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25293/08]

Catherine Byrne

Question:

200 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of patients who have successfully completed methadone treatment and are drug-free and no longer require a methadone treatment place. [25294/08]

Catherine Byrne

Question:

201 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the medical treatment services available to poly-drug users; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25295/08]

Catherine Byrne

Question:

202 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the alternative treatments available to opiate users other than the methadone treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25296/08]

Catherine Byrne

Question:

203 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the drugs that people, who are registered on a methadone treatment programme, are addicted to; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25297/08]

Catherine Byrne

Question:

205 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of drugs counsellors; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25299/08]

Catherine Byrne

Question:

206 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the number, location and average length of stay in stabilisation service beds, community based residential detoxification beds, medical detoxification unit beds and step-down or half-way house beds available for rehabilitating drug addicts for each of the past eight years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25300/08]

Catherine Byrne

Question:

207 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people waiting for access to stabilisation service beds, community based residential detoxification beds, medical detoxification unit beds and step-down or half-way house beds; the average length of time people have been waiting; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25301/08]

Catherine Byrne

Question:

208 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of stand alone drug stabilisation units; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25302/08]

Catherine Byrne

Question:

209 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the number and type of medical and clerical staff employed by the Health Service Executive within its detoxification and rehabilitation residential services for each of the past eight years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25303/08]

Catherine Byrne

Question:

210 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the cocaine specific treatment centres available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25304/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 193 to 203, inclusive, and 205 to 210, inclusive, together.

The Deputy's questions relate to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have these matters investigated and replies issued directly to the Deputy.

Drugs-related Deaths.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

204 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of incidents where methadone featured in a drug related death since 1998 to date in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25298/08]

The information sought by the Deputy is not available in full. However, between January 1998 and December 2001 the Dublin City and County Coroner's Office investigated 332 opiate-related deaths in Dublin. Two-thirds of the opiate users who died tested positive for three or more drugs while just over eleven per cent tested positive for one drug. Methadone was detected in 189 of the 332 deaths: a more detailed analysis for 1999 found that of the 84 opiate related deaths in that year, 45 were methadone-related and of the methadone-related deaths, 15 were receiving methadone according to prescribed guidelines.

Information from 2003-2005 will be available in September of this year from the National Drug Related Deaths Index which was established by the Health Research Board in 2005 at the request of the Department of Health and Children and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Questions Nos. 205 to 210, inclusive, answered with Question No. 193.

Health Service Funding.

Frank Fahey

Question:

211 Deputy Frank Fahey asked the Minister for Health and Children the capital expenditure in each acute hospital during 2005, 2006 and 2007; and the capital allocations or approvals in respect of each acute hospital for 2008. [25305/08]

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, under the National Development Plan, capital funding of approximately €594m has been provided to the Health Service Executive.

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 respond to the particular queries 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.

In relation to acute hospital approvals for 2008, the Health Service Executive's draft Capital Plan sets out the Executive's capital investment proposals over the period 2008-2013. The project proposals contained in the plan have, following a detailed process of consideration, been prioritised by the Executive so as to fit within indicative funding levels under the National Development Plan. The draft plan has been submitted for approval by my Department with the agreement of the Minister for Finance. Consideration of the draft plan by both departments is now at an advanced stage and I expect the specific developments for this year to be approved shortly, following which details of the projects being progressed will be announced by the Executive.

Health Action Plan.

John O'Mahony

Question:

212 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children when she will implement a national diabetes strategy alongside an integrated health promotion programme in order to make people aware of the symptoms and risk factors for diabetes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25309/08]

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

Hospital Services.

John O'Mahony

Question:

213 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children if increased paediatric dietetic hours will be granted to Mayo General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25310/08]

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.

Hospital Staff.

John O'Mahony

Question:

214 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children when the position of a paediatric diabetes nurse specialist will be sanctioned for Mayo General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25311/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act, 2004. It is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

John O'Mahony

Question:

215 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children when the position of community diabetes nurse specialist will be sanctioned for Mayo General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25312/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act, 2004. It is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

John O'Mahony

Question:

216 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children if counselling services for patients with diabetes will be provided in Mayo General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25313/08]

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 Services.

John O'Mahony

Question:

217 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will sanction the provision of chiropody and ophthalmology services to diabetes patients free of charge; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25314/08]

There is no statutory obligation on the Health Service Executive (HSE) to provide chiropody services; however in practice arrangements have been made in several regions to provide these services, primarily to people who are medical card holders aged 65 years and over.

Optometric services are provided, free of charge, to adult medical card holders under the terms of Section 67(1) of the Health Act, 1970. There are no plans at present to extend these services to any particular group based on a particular medical condition.

Medical Cards.

John O'Mahony

Question:

218 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will sanction a selected number of doctor only visits per year by diabetes patients to their general practitioners; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25315/08]

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

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

I have no plans to provide for the granting of medical cards or GP visit cards to any particular group as a whole. However, my Department is currently reviewing all legislation relating to eligibility for health and personal social services with a view to making the system as fair and transparent as possible. As part of this general review, a review of the eligibility criteria for medical cards in the context of economic/financial, medical and social need is being undertaken with a view to clarifying entitlement to a medical card, and is expected to be completed by Autumn 2008.

Hospital Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

219 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the average waiting time from outpatient referral to seeing a consultant by speciality in respect of the six major Dublin hospitals; and the number of consultants and consultations by speciality in each hospital in 2007 or the most recent 12 month period for which data is available. [25329/08]

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

The HSE has identified the area of Out-Patient Departments (OPD) as a significant priority in 2008 and has established a Group to review on a national basis how these services operate. Among the issues to be examined will be the referral and booking process for OPD appointments, the operation and management of OPD clinics and the opportunities for innovative working practices to be adopted across the hospital system.

Joe Carey

Question:

220 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children when she expects the review of acute hospital services in the mid-west conducted by consultants (details supplied) to be published; when the review was established; the estimated cost of the review; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25330/08]

Pat Breen

Question:

257 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children if the findings of the Teamwork Report are currently being implemented in the mid-west region by the Health Service Executive despite the fact that the report on the review into the acute services has not been published by her Department; when this report will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25710/08]

The Health Service Executive has commissioned a number of reviews of the configuration of acute hospital services including the one in the Mid West referred to by the Deputies. In each case, the first priority is patient safety. The challenge in the years ahead will be to organise, manage and deliver high quality services that are focussed in the first instance on the safety of patients.

The Health Service Executive commissioned Horwath Consultants in association with Teamwork Management Services in February 2007 to work on the strategic reviews of acute hospital services being undertaken by the Executive in the Mid West and Southern regions. The reviews focus on identifying the best configuration of acute hospital services in the region including arrangements for A&E, critical care, acute medicine and surgery, together with diagnostic services so that the highest quality of care can be delivered to the population of the regions concerned.

The Health Service Executive reviews will act as one of the inputs to decisions on how best to reconfigure acute services in the regions concerned. The Government and the Executive are committed to ensuring that the approach to re-organisation of services is carried out in consultation with the key stakeholders, and that each element is progressed incrementally. I believe that it is important to work with health professionals and other interested parties to secure an increasing set of improvements over time. This approach will, I am confident, produce the best outcome for patients.

The detailed matters raised by the Deputies are the responsibility of the HSE. My Department has therefore requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to these matters.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Joe Carey

Question:

221 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of emergency cases referred to the accident and emergency department of Ennis General Hospital for each of the years from 2003 to 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25331/08]

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.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Joe Carey

Question:

222 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the arrangements currently in place for women residing in County Clare to avail of both symptomatic breast screening and mammography services in general; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25332/08]

The specific questions raised by the Deputy 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 Deputy in this regard.

Medical Cards.

James Reilly

Question:

223 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to address the financial hardship endured by amputees who number approximately 5,000 of which 50% are not covered by the GMS or medical card scheme and who must pay for the original prosthesis and a replacement prosthesis maybe every three years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25335/08]

Medical cards are made available by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner (GP) services. In general, eligibility for medical cards and GP visit cards is determined following an examination of the means of the applicant and his/her dependants (income and relevant outgoings). The main exception is persons aged 70 and over, who have an automatic statutory entitlement to a medical card.

In assessing a medical card/GP visit card application, the HSE uses guidelines based on people's means which includes their income after tax and PRSI, and takes account of reasonable expenses incurred in respect of rent or mortgage payments, child care and travel to work. The assessment process also takes account of other factors, such as medical or social need, which may impact on people's ability to meet the cost of GP services.

I have no plans to provide for the granting of medical cards to any particular group as a whole. However, my Department is currently reviewing all legislation relating to eligibility for health and personal social services with a view to making the system as fair and transparent as possible. As part of this exercise, a review of the eligibility criteria for medical cards in the context of financial, medical and social need is being undertaken and is expected to be completed by autumn 2008.

The VHI have informed my Department that the costs of prosthetic/artificial limbs including replacement limbs are eligible for inclusion in an Out-Patient Healthcare claim. This claim is subject to the applicable annual excess depending on family or individual member policy status and the annual maximum benefit payable can vary depending on the plan type chosen.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

224 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the situation regarding funding for therapy services (details supplied) in County Mayo; and when these services will be reinstated. [25340/08]

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.

Michael McGrath

Question:

225 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children when a child (details supplied) in County Cork will be assessed at the developmental co-ordination disorder unit, St. Finbarr’s Hospital, Cork; and the professional staff resources currently available to the unit. [25344/08]

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

Emmet Stagg

Question:

226 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children when the second special chair will be provided by the Health Service Executive for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25366/08]

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

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

227 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will quantify financially and in terms of bed days lost, the cost arising from the delay in the transfer of patients with a nuero-disability in the Health Service Executive south area to the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dún Laoghaire; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25368/08]

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

Health Action Plan.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

228 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the members of the committee who are drawing up the action plan for rehabilitation services; the professional credentials of the appointees; when they were appointed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25369/08]

The National Strategy for the Provision of Rehabilitation Services is currently in the early stages of development by the Department of Health and Children and the Health Service Executive (HSE). It is expected that the Strategy will define the scope of rehabilitation service, research best practice approaches to rehabilitation service, assess the need of the population, outline a model of service delivery that will encompass all stages of service required to meet the needs of service users, recommend a framework that will ensure that service developments are within an agreed national framework with common principle, develop an approach in line with the transformation of HSE services toward increased delivery at primary care level.

The strategy will focus on the service provision needs of the following categories: static and progressive neurological conditions, traumatic and non-traumatic brain injury; and other physically disabling conditions who may benefit from medical, psychological or social rehabilitation service provision.

A Steering Group, comprised of senior officials from the Department and the HSE, has been established to oversee the development of the Strategy. It is intended that a Working Group will also be formed, which will assist with the production of the Strategy. It is expected that the membership of the Working Group will be confirmed in the coming weeks.

Health Services.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

229 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of appropriately trained professionals employed in posts specifically designated for the rehabilitation of patients with a neuro-disability in the 15 to 65 year age group in the Health Service Executive south area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25371/08]

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

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

Finian McGrath

Question:

230 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [25372/08]

The specific questions raised by the Deputy 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 Deputy in this regard.

Community Drugs Scheme.

Finian McGrath

Question:

231 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will advise on a matter (details supplied). [25373/08]

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 is also responsible for the supply of drugs and medicines for the GMS and community drugs schemes. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Question:

232 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support a matter (details supplied). [25374/08]

The 2008 Service Plan, developed by the HSE and approved by my Department, included €50m for the development of additional disability services. The standard expenditure sanction issued to the HSE for 2008 stipulated that the prior approval of my Department and the Department of Finance would be required in the event of any proposal to spend this money for any other purpose. Clearly, it is essential that the HSE lives within its overall budget for the year. It needs to manage its activity levels and cost drivers appropriately to achieve this and I do not believe it is desirable to resort to using development funding to offset expenditure pressures arising in respect of ongoing health services.

The HSE is currently reviewing its overall financial position for the year and the roll-out of planned developments in disability services is being considered in that context. I have been in communication with the HSE with a view to an early determination on the matter.

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

Long-Term Illness Scheme.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

233 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Health and Children the policy regarding inclusion of specific long-term illnesses on the long-term illness scheme list; and the reason Huntington’s disease is not included on this list in view of the fact that it is a debilitating long-term illness. [25387/08]

Under the 1970 Health Act, the Health Service Executive may arrange for the supply, without charge, of drugs, medicines and medical and surgical appliances to people with a specified condition, for the treatment of that condition, through the Long Term Illness Scheme (LTI). The LTI does not cover GP fees or hospital co-payments. The conditions are: mental handicap, mental illness (for people under 16 only), phenylketonuria, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida, hydrocephalus, diabetes mellitus, diabetes insipidus, haemophilia, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophies, parkinsonism, conditions arising from thalidomide and acute leukaemia. There are currently no plans to extend the list of eligible conditions.

Products which are necessary for the management of the specified illness are available to LTI patients. Other products are available according to the patient's eligibility.

People who cannot, without undue hardship, arrange for the provision of medical services for themselves and their dependants may be entitled to a medical card. In the assessment process, the Health Service Executive can take into account medical costs incurred by an individual or a family. Those who are not eligible for a medical card may still be able to avail of a GP visit card, which covers the cost of general practice consultations.

Non-medical card holders and people whose illness is not covered by the LTI can avail of the Drugs Payment Scheme, which protects against excessive medicines costs. Under this scheme, no individual or family unit pays more than €90 per calendar month towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines. The scheme is easy to use and significantly reduces the cost burden for families and individuals incurring ongoing expenditure on medicines. In addition, non-reimbursed medical expenses above a set threshold may be offset against tax.

Health Services.

Joe Costello

Question:

234 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will respond to correspondence from persons (details supplied) in Dublin 7; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25407/08]

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

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

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

It is important to note that couples find it frustrating that subsequent to undergoing an assessment with the HSE and receiving the Declaration of Eligibility and Suitability from the Adoption Board they must then wait before receiving a referral for a child from the sending country (for some countries up to two years). This is an aspect that is outside the jurisdiction of the HSE and is dependant on the regulations that each individual country has with regard to Intercountry Adoption.

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Question:

235 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist on a matter regarding a person (details supplied). [25410/08]

The 2008 Service Plan, developed by the HSE and approved by the Minister for Health and Children, included €50m for the development of additional disability services. The standard expenditure sanction issued to the HSE for 2008 stipulated that the prior approval of the Department of Health and Children and the Department of Finance would be required in the event of any proposal to spend this money for any other purpose.

Clearly, it is essential that the HSE lives within its overall budget for the year. It needs to manage its activity levels and cost drivers appropriately to achieve this and I do not believe it is desirable to resort to using development funding to offset expenditure pressures arising in respect of ongoing health services. The HSE is currently reviewing its overall financial position for the year and roll — out of planned developments in disability services is being considered in that context. I have been in communication with the HSE with a view to an early determination on the matter. The HSE has informed my Department that it plans to release €20m of the €50m additional funding for Disability Services.

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

Finian McGrath

Question:

236 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a matter (details supplied). [25416/08]

The 2008 Service Plan, developed by the HSE and approved by the Minister for Health and Children, included €50m for the development of additional disability services. The standard expenditure sanction issued to the HSE for 2008 stipulated that the prior approval of the Department of Health and Children and the Department of Finance would only be required in the event of any proposal to spend this money for any other purpose. Clearly, it is essential that the HSE lives within its overall budget for the year. It needs to manage its activity levels and cost drivers appropriately to achieve this and I do not believe it is desirable to resort to using development funding to offset expenditure pressures arising in respect of ongoing health services.

The HSE is currently reviewing its overall financial position for the year and roll — out of planned developments in disability services is being considered in that context. I have been in communication with the HSE with a view to an early determination on the matter. The HSE has informed my Department that it plans to release €20m of the €50m additional funding for Disability Services.

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

Medical Cards.

Bernard Allen

Question:

237 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork has been told that they cannot get their dentures fixed under the medical card scheme due to the fact that the scheme has terminated; and the steps they should take to have replacement dentures provided. [25418/08]

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.

Jack Wall

Question:

238 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if smear tests are covered under the medical card scheme; if so, the reason some general practitioners do not provide such a service to medical card holders; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25427/08]

Cervical smear testing is not currently provided by GPs or family planning clinics under the scheme for medical card holders. However, where cervical smears form part of recognised protocols for the ongoing treatment of individual patient illnesses, they should be provided free of charge to eligible women under the General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme. Any necessary follow-up treatment is available to all women, including medical card holders, within the public hospital system.

The roll out of a national cervical screening programme is the most efficient population approach to preventing and controlling cervical cancer. The National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) is planning to roll out such a programme on a national basis towards the end of the summer. Women aged 25 to 44 years old will be screened every 3 years; women aged 45 to 60 will be screened every 5 years. The service will be available free of charge to eligible women everywhere in the country. Approximately 230,000 women will be screened annually, assuming an 80% take up by eligible women. All elements of the programme — call/recall, smear taking, laboratories, colposcopy and treatment services will be quality assured, organised and managed to deliver a single integrated national service.

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

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Michael Creed

Question:

239 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork has not received payment under the health repayment scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25442/08]

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 Services.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

240 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 155 of 29 April 2008, the number of speech and language therapists in Counties Offaly and Laois over the past five years; the average length of waiting lists to see same from 2003 to date in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25444/08]

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

Hospital Accommodation.

Michael Ring

Question:

241 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a bed will be made available in University College Hospital, Galway for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [25476/08]

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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Question:

242 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on a matter (details supplied). [25492/08]

The National Intellectual Disability database (NIDD) report for 2007 identified 329 individuals with intellectual disability, all aged 20 years or over, as being accommodated in psychiatric hospitals. It should be noted that registration on the NIDD is voluntary. An integral part of the National Disability Strategy is Multi-Annual Investment Programme, (MAIP), announced in the 2005 Budget, which provides €900m for the provision of specific high priority disability services over the period 2006 to 2009. MAIP commitments include the development of new residential, respite and day places for persons with intellectual disability and autism in each of the years covered by the programme as well as the transfer of persons with intellectual disability or autism from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements.

The Deputy's specific question relates to the progress and details of the programme to move those individuals to more appropriate accommodation, relate to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have these matters investigated to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

John Cregan

Question:

243 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Limerick will be admitted to Cork University Hospital for surgery; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25500/08]

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

Medical Cards.

Denis Naughten

Question:

244 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children when she expects to receive the report of the Independent Pricing Body on a dispensing fee to be paid to pharmacists in relation to the medical card scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25510/08]

The Independent Pricing Body has submitted its Report to me and I am considering its findings prior to submitting it to Government.

Hospital Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

245 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for an appointment to a hospital in Dublin. [25512/08]

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

National Drugs Strategy.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

246 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the way the delivery of the current and future National Drugs Strategy will be impacted by the further cost cutting plans of the Health Service Executive who are reportedly looking to cut costs in the region of €193 million over the coming months. [24737/08]

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

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Pat Breen

Question:

247 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Clare has not received payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25519/08]

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 Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

248 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when an application will be processed for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25521/08]

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.

Child Care Services.

Tom Hayes

Question:

249 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in the case of a child care group (details supplied) in County Tipperary in relation to their application for funding. [25524/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP), which will invest €575 million over 5 years. I understand from enquiries made that the Group in question was approved staffing funding amounting to €144,868 under the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000 — 2006 with a further €22,312 staffing subvention approved under the new NCIP Community Childcare Subvention Scheme for this year. I also understand that Pobal, which manages the day-to-day operation of the NCIP, has received this Group's capital application for €1.2 million recently from their local County Childcare Committee for examination and assessment. Following Pobal's assessment of the application, it will be forwarded to the Childcare Directorate of my Office for final consideration and recommendation to the Secretary General of the Department of Health and Children.

Vaccination Programme.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

250 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children when she will provide the BCG vaccination to newborns in the Cork region; the steps she is taking to reduce the two year waiting list for administering this vaccination; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25531/08]

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

Health Services.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

251 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Donegal will be called for an operation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25537/08]

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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Christy O'Sullivan

Question:

252 Deputy Christy O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children when the Health Service Executive will be instructed to release the development funding for intellectual disability to the relevant organisations. [25595/08]

The 2008 Service Plan, developed by the HSE and approved by the Minister for Health and Children, included €50m for the development of additional disability services. The standard expenditure sanction issued to the HSE for 2008 stipulated that the prior approval of the Department of Health and Children and the Department of Finance would be required in the event of any proposal to spend this money for any other purpose.

Clearly, it is essential that the HSE lives within its overall budget for the year. It needs to manage its activity levels and cost drivers appropriately to achieve this and I do not believe it is desirable to resort to using development funding to offset expenditure pressures arising in respect of ongoing health services. The HSE is currently reviewing its overall financial position for the year and roll — out of planned developments in disability services is being considered in that context. I have been in communications with the HSE with a view to an early determination on the matter. The HSE has informed my Department that it plans to release €20m of the €50m additional funding for Disability Services.

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

Michael McGrath

Question:

253 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and physiotherapy staff resources currently being provided at a school (details supplied) in County Cork; her plans to increase these resources for the 2008-2009 school year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25686/08]

The 2008 Service Plan, developed by the HSE and approved by the Minister for Health and Children, included €50m for the development of additional disability services. The standard expenditure sanction issued to the HSE for 2008 stipulated that the prior approval of the Department of Health and Children and the Department of Finance would be required in the event of any proposal to spend this money for any other purpose.

Clearly, it is essential that the HSE lives within its overall budget for the year. It needs to manage its activity levels and cost drivers appropriately to achieve this and I do not believe it is desirable to resort to using development funding to offset expenditure pressures arising in respect of ongoing health services. The HSE is currently reviewing its overall financial position for the year and roll-out of planned developments in disability services is being considered in that context. I have been in communication with HSE with a view to an early determination on the matter. The HSE has informed my Department that it plans to release €20m of the €50m additional funding for Disability Services.

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

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

254 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive has informed her that orthotic services have recently been transferred from the hospital to the community setting with payment for such devices as orthopaedic footwear and insoles sanctioned by local health offices; and if the Health Service Executive has further informed her of their assessment of the success or otherwise of this transfer and of cutbacks it may be making in terms of front-line staff or local health office sanction of orthotic devices in order not to overspend its 2008 budget. [25702/08]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

255 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive has informed her of an assessment it has made or is currently making regarding the impact of the recent move of orthotic services from the hospital to the community setting on patients who have recently undergone a surgical procedure substantially affecting their mobility notably, for example, a hip replacement; if the Health Service Executive has further informed her whether it has assessed if the recent move has resulted in patients having to walk and travel more directly after surgery than before to avail of orthotic services; and if the Health Service Executive will provide post-surgery preliminary orthotic services up to and including sanction for orthotic devices in the hospital setting in order to minimise the need for patients to have to walk and travel in a delicate state after surgery. [25703/08]

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

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

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Michael Ring

Question:

256 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive payment under the health repayment scheme in view of the fact that a decision on this matter was reached in July 2007. [25709/08]

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.

Question No. 257 answered with Question No. 220.

Departmental Contracts.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

258 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the information sought in Parliamentary Question No. 88 of 15 May 2008 has not been furnished; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25711/08]

Compilation of the information originally requested by the Deputy in Parliamentary Question No. 88 of 15 May 2008 involved a considerable amount of work by all units in my Department. This work has now been completed.

Details of firms of solicitors or individual barristers engaged by my Department on a contractual basis over the period concerned is set out in the following table.

Name of Solicitors/Barristers

Purpose of Engagement

Fees Paid to Date

Estimate of Fees to be paid on Conclusion of Engagement

(€)

(€)

Conor Feeney BL

Review of Draft S.I. transposing EU Directive 2005/36/EC — Recognition of Professional Qualifications — as they apply to Pharmacists

4,000.00

4,000.00

Conor Feeney BL

Drafting of transposition of an aspect of Directive 2005/36/EC

0.00

1,500.00

Conor Feeney BL

Drafting of S.I. transposing the sectoral arrangements for nurses and midwives of European Union Directive 2005/36/EC on the recognition of professional qualifications

3,000.00

3,000.00

Conor Feeney BL

Review of Draft Regulations under s18 of the Pharmacy Act 2007 and Review of Draft Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland Regulations — Registration of Pharmacy Businesses

0.00

1,452.00

Conor Feeney BL

To transpose EU Regulations on drug precursors into national legislation

500.00

500.00

Conor Feeney BL

Drafting of consolidation of Nurses Act 1985 with new provisions for the statutory regulation of the professions of nursing and midwifery

2,500.00

Some follow-up may be required

Conor Feeney BL

Drafting of S.I. transposing the sectoral arrangements for dentists of European Union Directive 2005/36/EC on the recognition of professional qualifications

2,500.00

Some follow-up may be required

Diarmuid O’Donovan SC

Sole Member for the Commission of Investigation (Leas Cross Nursing Home) Order 2007 who nominated his legal team under Section 8 of the Commissions of Investigation Act.

400,000.00

The estimated legal fees, salaries and other administrative costs for the Commission is 2m for a 12 month period.

Kate Brosnan

Chairperson — Inquiry into the events surrounding the deaths of the Dunne family in Monageer, Co. Wexford.

50,000.00

The Inquiry is ongoing.

Maire Ni Shuilleabhain

Engaged for the drafting of the following Statutory Instruments, which relate to the regulation of foodstuffs and cosmetic products: S.I. 85 of 2007, S.I. 171 of 2007, S.I. 241 of 2007, S.I. 242 of 2007, S.I. 376 of 2007, S.I. 506 of 2007, S.I. 554 of 2007, S.I. 686 of 2007, S.I. 747 of 2007, S.I. 776 of 2007, S.I. 784 of 2007, S.I. 808 of 2007, S.I. 852 of 2007 and S.I. 6 of 2008. This contract also included legal advice on drafting of instruments on Marginal, Localised and Restricted and Prior Approval Draft Statutory Instruments.

14,620.00

Input into the drafting of Statutory Instruments may be obtained as required.

Noel Whelan BL

Drafting & Advice on S.I. 598 of 2007 — Human Tissues and Cells Traceability Regulations

1,270.50

1,270.50

Noel Whelan BL

Drafting of Statutory Instrument S.I. 263 of 2007 — Disability (Assessment of Needs, Service Statements and Redress) Regulations 2007

3,327.50

3,327.50

William Fry, Solicitors, Dublin 2

Provision of Independent Legal advice to the National Oversight Committee for the Health Repayment Scheme

142,758.66

142,758.66

Ethics in Public Offices Act.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

259 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children if, during or following her meeting on 27 July 2005 with the Chinese ambassador to Ireland, she received gifts; if so, the gifts she received; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25723/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

260 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children if, during her meeting on 14 October 2005 with the Minister for Health of Malaysia, she received gifts; if so, the gifts she received; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25724/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

261 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children if, during or following her meeting on 12 December 2007 with the ambassador of Saudi Arabia, she received gifts; if so, the gifts she received; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25725/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 259 to 261, inclusive, together.

I can confirm that the meetings referred to by the Deputy took place and that no gifts were received during or following these meetings.

Hospital Procedures.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

262 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will arrange admission for surgery in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [25770/08]

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.

Patients waiting more than three months on a surgical waiting list may qualify for treatment under the National Treatment Purchase Fund. It is open to the person in question or anyone acting on their behalf to contact the Fund directly in relation to their case.

Hospital Staff.

Ulick Burke

Question:

263 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Health and Children the additional resources or staff required to put the additional ten beds funded in 2007 and lying idle at University College Hospital, Galway and three beds at Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe into service; if she will provide the necessary resources and staff; and when the beds will be put into service. [25786/08]

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.

Medical Cards.

Ulick Burke

Question:

264 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons in County Galway who were holders of full medical cards for each of the years 2005, 2006 and 2007 and to date in 2008; the number of persons with general practitioner visit-only cards for the same years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25787/08]

The Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for medical cards and GP visit cards. It collates medical card and GP visit card data by county, age and gender. My Department has therefore requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address these matters and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Staff.

Ulick Burke

Question:

265 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of full-time nurses at Merlin Park Hospital and Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, County Galway for each of the years 2003 to 2007 and at present; the number of part-time or temporary nurses for each of the years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25788/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. It is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Ulick Burke

Question:

266 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that there are restrictions and cutbacks on travel within the Health Service Executive western area; the category of staff affected by these cutbacks; the effects of these cutbacks on the delivery of community health services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25789/08]

Under the Health Act 2004, the management and delivery of health and personal social services, including related budgetary issues, are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. In this regard, 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 this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Accommodation.

Ulick Burke

Question:

267 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Health and Children the cost to date of the planning, design and investigation for the provision of the new planned 50-bed unit at St Brendan’s Hospital, Loughrea, County Galway; and the estimated cost of the completed unit. [25790/08]

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

Health Services.

Ulick Burke

Question:

268 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive western area has benefited substantially from the bequest of a person (details supplied); when the finance was received; the use to which it was put; if it was in accordance with the wishes of the donor; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25791/08]

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.

Ulick Burke

Question:

269 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide the resources for the provision of the long-planned new health centre for Gort, County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25792/08]

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

Health Service Expenditure.

Ulick Burke

Question:

270 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Health and Children the cost to the Health Service Executive western area of the contract cleaning at University College Hospital, Galway, Merlin Park Hospital, Galway and Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, County Galway for each of the past three years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25795/08]

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.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Ulick Burke

Question:

271 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons in County Galway who are in receipt of enhanced subvention in private and public nursing homes; the cost for each of the years 2005, 2006, 2007 and to date in 2008; the number of persons in receipt of respite place for these years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25796/08]

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.

Ulick Burke

Question:

272 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of bullying cases active within the Health Service Executive for each of the HSE areas; her views on whether in-house investigations are adequate; the number of cases resolved through these processes; the number of cases which have proceeded to outside arbitration; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25797/08]

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to have delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services in a safe and secure setting. This includes responsibility for dealing with any complaints an employee may have concerning his or her working environment. The Executive is therefore the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Tom Hayes

Question:

273 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children if the recruitment issues experienced in hiring care assistants to run the newly renovated ten-bed residential service for the mentally infirm (details supplied) in County Tipperary have been resolved; if all newly refurbished units across the country are being delayed in this fashion; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25812/08]

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

Hospital Services.

Tom Hayes

Question:

274 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children if the ten-bed day respite ward in Our Lady’s Hospital, Cashel was intended originally to be open full-time; the number of days a week it is currently open; the days of the week it is open; and the number of beds being used on a weekly basis there. [25826/08]

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:

275 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will advise and assist on a matter regarding a person (details supplied). [25830/08]

The 2008 Service Plan, developed by the HSE and approved by the Minister for Health and Children, included €50m for the development of additional disability services. The standard expenditure sanction issued to the HSE for 2008 stipulated that the prior approval of the Department of Health and Children and the Department of Finance would be required in the event of any proposal to spend this money for any other purpose.

Clearly, it is essential that the HSE lives within its overall budget for the year. It needs to manage its activity levels and cost drivers appropriately to achieve this and I do not believe it is desirable to resort to using development funding to offset expenditure pressures arising in respect of ongoing health services. The HSE is currently reviewing its overall financial position for the year and roll-out of planned developments in disability services is being considered in that context. I have been in communication with the HSE with a view to an early determination on the matter. The HSE has informed my Department that it plans to release €20m of the €50m additional funding for Disability Services.

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

Finian McGrath

Question:

276 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will advise and assist on a matter regarding a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5; and if she will work with the Department of Social and Family Affairs on this issue. [25834/08]

The Mobility Allowance is a monthly payment administered by the Health Service Executive (HSE) which provides financial support to severely disabled people who are unable to walk or use public transport and is intended to enable them to benefit from a change in surroundings, for example, by financing the occasional taxi journey.

To qualify for a social assistance payment a person must satisfy a means test. The means test examines sources of income and includes provision to disregard numerous sources of income including child benefit, carers allowance/benefit, supplementary welfare, fuel allowance and living alone allowance. Mobility Allowance applicants must undergo a means test to ensure a cost effective delivery of the scheme. As per any social assistance scheme, a balance must be struck between the needs of any individual and the requirements to prioritise public funds. Any person who receives mobility allowance must do so on the basis of genuine need in accordance with the medical criteria and the means test laid down in the scheme.

Under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which is administered on behalf of the Department of Social and Family Affairs by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive, an exceptional needs payment (ENP) may be made to help meet an essential, once-off cost which the applicant is unable to meet out of his/her own resources. There is no automatic entitlement to this payment. Each application is determined by the Executive based on the particular circumstances of the case.

The Community Welfare Officer (CWO) of the HSE has advised that the person has not made a request for an ENP. The CWO has further advised that should the person wish to be considered for an exceptional needs payment she should contact the HSE at (01) 8480666 or (01) 8774113 in order to make an appointment. If she is unable to attend the health centre the CWO can arrange to make a home visit.

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

Mental Health Services.

Tom Hayes

Question:

277 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children if the mental health day care and day unit in Clonmel, County Tipperary started construction on 7 April 2008 as planned; and the completion date in relation to same. [25836/08]

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

Hospital Services.

Tom Hayes

Question:

278 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children if the two beds for respite care in Our Lady’s Hospital in Cashel, County Tipperary in the newly refurbished unit are operational; if not, when they will be operational; and if the other eight residential beds are being used to full capacity. [25837/08]

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

Health Services.

John Cregan

Question:

279 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide funding for setting up a community first responder programme in the Athea area of County Limerick, in order to train people in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the use of defibrillators; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25838/08]

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

280 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason support funding has been refused to a person (details supplied) in County Cork who requires care in a day service capacity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25839/08]

The 2008 Service Plan, developed by the HSE and approved by the Minister for Health and Children, included €50m for the development of additional disability services. The standard expenditure sanction issued to the HSE for 2008 stipulated that the prior approval of the Department of Health and Children and the Department of Finance would be required in the event of any proposal to spend this money for any other purpose.

Clearly, it is essential that the HSE lives within its overall budget for the year. It needs to manage its activity levels and cost drivers appropriately to achieve this and I do not believe it is desirable to resort to using development funding to offset expenditure pressures arising in respect of ongoing health services. The HSE is currently reviewing its overall financial position for the year and roll-out of planned developments in disability services is being considered in that context. I have been in communication with the HSE with a view to an early determination on the matter. The HSE has informed my Department that it plans to release €20m of the €50m additional funding for Disability Services.

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

Child Care Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

281 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of funding for community child care facilities; the procedure to be employed from September 2008 for the allocation of such funding; the results of the evaluation of the impact which the proposed new funding mechanism will have on the operation of existing facilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25845/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP) under which the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS) was introduced in January of this year. The CCSS replaced the previous staffing support grant scheme which was implemented under the EU co-funded Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006 (EOCP) and which ended in December 2007.

In providing for the CCSS and the previous EOCP support scheme, Government childcare policy has recognised the need to target additional supports towards disadvantaged families in addition to the main supports which are made available to parents to assist them with their childcare costs, that is Child Benefit and the Early Childcare Supplement. The latter payment is the responsibility of my Office, and it alone is expected to amount to expenditure of over €500m in 2008. These payments are universal and benefit all parents, regardless of their income, labour market status or the type of childcare they choose.

The Community Childcare Subvention Scheme has an allocation of €154.2 million over 2008-2010 and will continue to support and ensure the sustainability of community-based childcare services which provide reduced childcare fees for disadvantaged parents. Community-based childcare services will qualify for grant aid on the basis of the level of service they provide and the profile of the parents benefiting from their service. The parent profile of each service, and the amount of subvention it will receive, are determined on the basis of completed parent declaration forms which they return as part of the application process. The subvention received by services is, in turn, reflected in a tiered fee system under which reduced fees are charged to parents who qualify as disadvantaged under the scheme. As the parent declaration forms are completed on an annual basis, the level of funding which is approved for each service is established on an annual basis.

Transitional arrangements have been put in place to facilitate services which were funded under the previous EOCP support scheme to adjust to the new arrangements. As a result, these services will receive not less than 95% of their previous level of funding in 2008. The CCSS also recognises that in some cases, particularly in rural areas or on the islands, community childcare services may operate with a small or fluctuating number of children, in which case a minimum annual grant level of €20,000 can be awarded.

The CCSS provides an effective framework for the continued targeting of additional resources towards disadvantaged parents and their children while continuing to support community-based childcare services generally, and I am satisfied that it will also be effective in delivering the NCIP objectives of supporting families to break the cycle of poverty and disadvantage. It will also provide a framework which can accommodate any future childcare related initiatives which may be introduced. The scheme is responsive to the level of service provided as well as the degree of parental disadvantage and the ceiling for funding which existed under the previous scheme has been removed. Account is also taken of all of the operational costs of the service rather than staffing costs alone. The changes which have been introduced will ensure that the most affordable childcare is available to families according to their means. Put simply, the tiered fee structure is the most effective way of ensuring that the considerable and ongoing Government support for the community childcare sector, will be targeted at those who need it most.

I am also pleased to advise the Deputy that, the Childcare Directorate of my Office has notified services of their individual grant levels for July-December 2008 and that the total amount of grant assistance under the new Scheme will be significantly higher than was the case under the previous scheme. I am confident that the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme is a fair and equitable way of supporting community childcare operators in the provision of an affordable and high quality service to parents.

Hospital Staff.

Denis Naughten

Question:

282 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she is taking to resource the staffing needs of the special care baby unit at Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, County Galway; when the new facilities will be fully commissioned and operational; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25846/08]

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.

Departmental Properties.

Tom Hayes

Question:

283 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the psychiatric institutions sold to fund the A Vision for Change mental health policy; the land sold for these purposes; the sales of land and institutions which had the money from the sale paid directly to the Department of Finance; the number of these whose money went directly to the Department of Finance that have been reimbursed back to the Health Service Executive; the number of these reimbursements; and the amount ring-fenced for the policies outlined in A Vision for Change. [25847/08]

‘A Vision for Change', the Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy has been accepted by Government as the basis for the future development of our mental health services. The Report recommends inter alia that a plan to bring about the closure of all psychiatric hospitals should be drawn up and implemented, and that the resources released by these closures should be protected for reinvestment in the mental health service. It is understood that the Health Service Executive (HSE) has disposed of a small number of assets since the launch of the Report in January 2006.

As the HSE has primary responsibility for implementing this recommendation, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issues raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

284 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will review the case of persons (details supplied) in County Westmeath. [25848/08]

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

Value for Money Reviews.

Tom Hayes

Question:

285 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the measures agreed for her Department under the Value for Money Review 2006 to 2008; the projects which had the necessary changes made; when they are planned for completion; if a value for money review is planned after 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25861/08]

Between 2006 and 2008, three Value for Money & Policy Reviews commenced under the auspices of the Department of Health and Children. Details of these reviews and their status is set out in the table below. Arrangements for the next round of reviews, which may cover the period 2009-2011, are currently being considered by the Value for Money and Policy Review Central Steering Committee.

Name of Review

Amount of Public Expenditure under Study

Due Date for Completion

Conducted by

€m

Review of the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme.

114

Completed June 2007; recommendations currently being implemented.

Office of the Minister for Children

Allocation and Utilisation of Funding in Acute Services in the Southern Hospitals Group.

664

Expected to be completed in July 2008.

HSE

Review of the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Long Stay Residential Care for Adults in Mental Health Services.

485

On target for December 2008 completion.

HSE

Health Services.

Tom Hayes

Question:

286 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children when the universal screening programme for cystic fibrosis planned to begin in 2008 will begin; the estimated cost per year of this screening programme; and if staff training for this test has been undertaken. [25869/08]

The Health Service Executive National Service Plan for 2008 includes provision for the implementation of a plan for screening newborns for cystic fibrosis and commencement of screening by the end of 2008. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to respond more fully to the Deputy on the matter.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

287 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children when she expects the fair deal legislation dealing with nursing home subventions to come before Dáil Éireann; the additional funding that will be made available to increase the level of subvention to persons who cannot gain access to private nursing homes and who are unable to access beds in State-run homes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25874/08]

The Bill providing for the Fair Deal scheme is being finalised by the Office of the Attorney General at present. The legislation is complex and requires careful drafting in order to ensure that the interests of older people requiring residential care are fully protected.

My colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, intends to publish the Bill as soon as possible following finalisation by the Attorney General and Government approval, and to bring the legislation through the Houses of the Oireachtas thereafter. As the timeframe for bringing the legislation through both Houses is contingent upon finalisation of the Bill, a more definitive answer is not possible at this stage.

The Minister has considered carefully the question of allowing some of the funding allocated for Fair Deal to be used for nursing home subvention and her officials are now discussing this matter with the Department of Finance. As soon as a decision is reached, it will be announced. However, it should be borne in mind that the Government already allocated additional funding of €20 million for Nursing Home Subvention in 2006 and Budget 2007 provided a further €85 million — this is an increase of €105 million in nursing home subvention in two years.

Medical Cards.

James Reilly

Question:

288 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will report on a complaint received by this Deputy that GMS or medical card patients are being charged €80 for ultrasound tests which have been ordered by their general practitioners (details supplied); if she will confirm if this is true; if such charges exist in other areas and hospitals; if it is her policy and Health Service Executive policy to charge medical card patients for such services taking into account that anyone who holds a medical card is on approximately 50% of the minimum wage, or an elderly pensioner or maybe critically ill; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25882/08]

Full eligibility for health services is granted to persons who, in the opinion of the Health Service Executive, are unable to provide general practitioner, medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants without undue hardship. In general, eligibility for medical cards is determined following an examination of the means of the applicant and his/her dependants (income and relevant outgoings). The main exception is persons aged 70 and over, who have an automatic statutory entitlement to a medical card.

Persons with full eligibility are entitled to general practitioner services, prescribed drugs, medicines and appliances, all in-patient public hospital services in public wards including consultant services, all out-patient public hospital services including consultant services, dental, ophthalmic and aural services and appliances, child health services, home nursing and a maternity and infant care service.

Under the Health Act 2004, the management and delivery of health and personal social services are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address this matter and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Richard Bruton

Question:

289 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on introducing an exemption from the inpatient hospital charge for persons who have a general practitioners services card; the cost of such a change; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25889/08]

The GP visit card was introduced in 2005 as a graduated benefit, with the specific purpose that people on moderate and lower incomes, particularly parents of young children, who do not qualify for a medical card would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their general practitioner. The necessary amendments to the Health Act 1970 were enacted by way of the Health (Amendment) Act 2005. The income guidelines used by the HSE to assess applications for GP visit cards are 50% higher than those used in assessing applications for medical cards. As of 1 June, 2008, 80,035 persons held a GP visit card.

The range of general practitioner services available to holders of a GP visit card is the same as is available to persons who hold a medical card. In all other respects holders of a GP visit card have limited eligibility for health services. I do not intend extending the benefits attaching to the GP Visit Card beyond that for which it was originally designed. The costs of exempting GP Visit Card holders from hospital charges would be very difficult to quantify, as hospitals have no need to record a patients public eligibility status other than if they hold a Medical Card.

Departmental Reports.

Tom Hayes

Question:

290 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children if the statement of Need for Adult Cystic Fibrosis is ready for publication; if it covers the day and inpatient facilities required, the multidisciplinary team required, the provision of a gym and specialised equipment for assessments rather than hospital corridors; if the provision of physiotherapists is also included; the estimated length of this report; when it is planned for release; and the amount of time it will take in view of the fact that in was begun in mid-2007. [25893/08]

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.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

291 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of the 24 recommendations for the health sector outlined in the 2005 report of the national taskforce on obesity that have been implemented to date by her Department and the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25910/08]

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.

Misuse of Drugs Act.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

292 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on adding party drugs such as BZP to the list of controlled substances under the misuse of Drugs Acts in view of their growing proliferation here and of EU proposals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25914/08]

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

The list of scheduled substances is kept under review; in particular, my Department reviews any evidence that substances are being abused and are causing significant harm to public health.

Benzlpiperazine (BZP) is not currently a scheduled substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act. However, a risk assessment of new psychoactive substances carried out by the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction has found that the use of BZP can lead to medical problems even if the long term effects of the substance are still unknown. Against this background, the European Council decided in March 2008 to place BZP under control in accordance with the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Member States must act as soon as possible, but no later than one year from the date of the decision, to introduce control measures and criminal sanctions. Work is underway in my Department with a view to introducing the necessary control measures here.

Community Care.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

293 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she or her Minister of State with responsibility for disability will finalise discussions with the Health Service Executive in order that funding for community services for people with disabilities can be released to address the needs of people in acute hospitals who are ready for discharge but cannot access the necessary supports in the community and of young people with disabilities who are leaving school but cannot move to post-school placements because of a lack of funding to support these placements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25921/08]

The 2008 Service Plan, developed by the HSE and approved by my Department, included €50m for the development of additional disability services. The standard expenditure sanction issued to the HSE for 2008 stipulated that the prior approval of my Department and the Department of Finance would only be required in the event of any proposal to spend this money for any other purpose.

Clearly, it is essential that the HSE lives within its overall budget for the year. It needs to manage its activity levels and cost drivers appropriately to achieve this and I do not believe it is desirable to resort to using development funding to offset expenditure pressures arising in respect of ongoing health services.

The HSE is currently reviewing its overall financial position for the year and the roll out of planned developments in disability services is being considered in that context. I have been in communication with the HSE with a view to an early determination on the matter. The HSE has informed my Department that it plans to release €20m of the €50m additional funding for Disability Services.

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

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Denis Naughten

Question:

294 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the average waiting time for an appointment with each specialist located at University College Hospital Galway, Portiuncula, Mayo General, Roscommon County and Sligo General Hospitals; the corresponding figures for outpatient appointments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25932/08]

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

Pharmacy Regulations.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

295 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the award of a tender to a company (details supplied) for the supply of all hospital and community pharmacies with unlicensed medicines which was published on 21 July 2007 has not been progressed; the further reason the procurement process was terminated in March 2008; the basis on which it is proposed to commence a new tender process; if she or the Health Service Executive will meet the company concerned; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25933/08]

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 is also responsible for the supply of drugs and medicines for the GMS and community drugs schemes. Therefore the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the issues raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Mental Health Services.

Christy O'Sullivan

Question:

296 Deputy Christy O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the projected number of community mental health teams and staffing levels for each CMHT for Cork’s child and adolescent mental health service across each discipline, for end 2008 and end 2009, in view of the difference between what is currently available in the county of Cork and what is projected in A Vision for Change and the lack of progress in the two and a half years since A Vision for Change was published. [25934/08]

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

Hospital Services.

Mary Upton

Question:

297 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will investigate the delay in providing results of tests (details supplied) to persons who are waiting for a number of months for these results; if her attention has been drawn to the effect this wait and uncertainty is having on their lives; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25935/08]

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.

Hospital Staff.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

298 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the breakdown of the categories of posts that have been left vacant since the introduction of the Health Service Executive staff embargo; the number of these posts in the categories of nursing and midwifery, health care assistants, portering and housekeeping, allied health professionals and clerical and administrative support; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25946/08]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

301 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide a breakdown of the categories of posts that have been left vacant since the introduction of the Health Service Executive staff embargo; the number of these posts which are in the categories nursing/midwifery, health care assistants, portering/housekeeping, allied health professionals and clerical/administrative support; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25999/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 298 and 301 together.

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

This temporary pause in recruitment ended on 31st December 2007 and any posts falling vacant from 1st January 2008 can be filled subject to the provisions of Circular 01/2008. This circular sets out the HSE Employment Control Framework for 2008 and is aimed at ensuring that health services are delivered in accordance with the provisions of the 2008 National Service Plan and within the funding provided by Government.

The Employment Control Framework provides for the filling of vacancies arising in 2008, the filling of approved and funded service development posts not filled at the end of 2007 and new service developments in 2008. An overall employment ceiling of 111,650 whole time equivalents has been set for the public health services for 2008. This level of employment provides for 1,050 additional new posts arising from development funding provided by the Government in the Budget Day package for 2008. A breakdown of these development posts is provided as follows.

Service

2008 Development Funding

No. of Development posts to be filled in 2008

€m

Older People

22.00

100

Palliative Care

3.00

50

Disability

49.96

710

Cancer

15.00

90

Population Health

17.96

100

Total

1,050

The filling of the above development posts is to be managed by the HSE within the employment control framework for the health services and its own circular issued in January 2008. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider this issue. 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.

Nursing Education.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

299 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of student nurses completing their four year degree programme and registering with An Bord Altranais in June and July 2008 who will be offered posts by the Health Service Executive in acute hospitals thereby allowing them to consolidate their training, education and professional development; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25947/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act, 2004. It is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

300 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide a written assurance to the residents of an estate (details supplied) in County Kerry that the psychiatric patients resident at a mental health facility in close proximity pose no threat to the residents in the area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25987/08]

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.

Question No. 301 answered with Question No. 298.

Pat Breen

Question:

302 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of an application for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26037/08]

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 Waiting Lists.

James Reilly

Question:

303 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the section of her Department or the section of the Health Service Executive that is examining the waiting list appointment system with a view to improving its efficiency and reducing no shows; the names of the relevant manager and civil servant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26045/08]

The HSE has identified the area of Out-Patient Departments (OPD) as a significant priority in 2008 and has established a Group to review on a national basis how these services operate. This project will be carried out in partnership with the hospitals. Among the issues to be examined will be the referral and booking process for OPD appointments, the operation and management of OPD clinics and the opportunities for innovative working practices to be adopted across the hospital system.

As the HSE has operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to provide more detailed information about this matter directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

304 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children further to the recent media advertisement placed by the Mercy University Hospital, Cork, to make available approximately 2,000 square metres of clinical space in its main building for clinic or other treatment purposes, the cost of developing this space, the purpose for which the area was originally intended; if the purpose of this use has changed; if so, the factors that led to this change; her views on whether the suggested private use of this space in the hospital is in the best interest of patient care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26048/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE) 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 matter raised by the Deputy in relation to the Mercy University Hospital, Cork. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy in regard to the matter.

Compliance Costs.

Richard Bruton

Question:

305 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Transport the dealings that he or agencies under the control of his Department have had with the business sector which incur regulatory costs or compliance costs on behalf of business; if he has identified the baseline cost profile for business associated with that activity; if he has set targets for the reduction of these different cost items; and the cost and the target reduction in each case. [25270/08]

The business sector deals with my Department and Agencies under the aegis of my Department in many different ways. An analysis of the costs arising from this interaction is not available.

Driving Tests.

James Bannon

Question:

306 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Transport the measures he has put in place under the new regulations to allow for the serious situation being faced by drivers who have been driving for upwards of 30 years on a provisional licence; and the future for these drivers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25272/08]

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.

Rail Network.

Enda Kenny

Question:

307 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Transport the budgetary allocation for the western rail corridor in 2008 and 2009; the timetable and points of completion for both years; the expected date of operation of the section from Limerick to Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25380/08]

Enda Kenny

Question:

308 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Transport if he will confirm that there will be no cutback in the programme for the western rail development as envisaged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25381/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 307 and 308 together.

Transport 21 provides for the re-opening of the Western Rail Corridor on a phased basis. Work on the line between Ennis and Athenry is due for completion in early 2009 and services between Galway and Limerick are due to commence in early summer 2009. My Department has allocated €60 million to Iarnród Éireann for expenditure this year on the Western Rail Corridor; the total cost is €106.5 million.

Public Transport.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

309 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport the progress that has been made in regard to exploring alternative mechanisms to replace the excise duty refund for a public transport service (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25424/08]

The EU Energy Tax Directive incorporated special derogations which allowed specific excise duty reliefs to be applied in a number of Member States below the EU minimum duty rate. In the case of public transport services under my responsibility, these derogations included reduced rates to apply to fuel used for scheduled bus services. Scheduled bus services comprise bus passenger services provided by Bus Atha Cliath, Bus Eireann, private operators in accordance with bus route licences under the 1932 Road Transport Act and holders of Authorisations pursuant to European Council Regulation 684/92 as amended. While these derogations expired on 31 December 2006, Ireland, along with other Member States, sought retention of its derogations beyond that date. However the European Commission, which is the deciding authority, has to date refused all such requests. The Finance Act 2008 provided the basis for the removal of these excise duty reliefs with effect from 1 November 2008. My Department, in conjunction with the Department of Finance and other Departments, has been exploring whether alternative support mechanisms could be appropriate and could be done in a manner compatible with EU State Aid and other legal requirements. My Department has also met the Coach Tourism and Transport Council, as well as CIE, on this matter. My Department has also received a written submission from the Coach Tourism and Transport Council. While my Department is in discussion with the Department of Finance on these issues, it is necessary to stress that, despite claims being made otherwise, introducing an alternative suitable mechanism is not a straightforward matter in the current economic climate. I do not envisage any approval from the Department of Finance for a replacement scheme in the current economic circumstances.

Harbours and Piers.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

310 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Transport the number of local harbours and ports that have been given over to local government control; the roles, responsibilities of local governments in relation to local ports; the funding available to manage local ports; his policy regarding the disposal of harbour property, plant and assets by local government; the number of local port companies that have been sold or transferred to private ownership; and his policy regarding the sale of port property, plant and assets to private companies. [25489/08]

The following local harbours have been transferred to local authority control:

Buncrana and Ballyshannon harbours to Donegal County Council in 1999

Balbriggan and Skerries harbours to Fingal County Council in 2004

Annagassan and Sligo harbours to Louth County Council and Sligo County Council respectively in 2006.

In addition, Dingle was designated a Fisheries Harbour in 2007. No harbours have been sold or transferred to private ownership. There currently remain ten harbour authorities operating under the Harbours Act 1946. These harbour authorities are composed of commissioners whose duties include the management, control, maintenance and operation of the harbour.

Policy in relation to the regional harbours, as published in the Ports Policy Statement in 2005, is that the continued operation of these harbours under the outdated provisions of the Harbours Act 1946 is unsustainable on the grounds of good governance and that most would best achieve their potential through transfer to local authority ownership. Where it is not possible to reach agreement on transfer to local authorities, the option of sale of the harbours will be considered. In harbours where significant commercial traffic exists, consideration will be given to bringing such harbours under the control of a port company.

For over three years now, my Department has been funding essential works to protect the fabric of these regional harbours at an average cost of approximately €4m per annum, pending their transfer to local control.

The transfer of the harbours to local authority control is effected by means of an order made by the Minister for Transport with the consent of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The order transfers all the property, rights and liabilities of the harbour authority and every member of their staff to the relevant local authority. On completion of the transfer, the Harbours Act 1946 no longer applies and the harbours concerned are managed in accordance with the statutory powers available to the local authority. The statutory powers of local authorities are a matter for the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Public Transport.

James Reilly

Question:

311 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Transport if he has an application (details supplied) in his Department from Bus Éireann regarding its use of the port tunnel to service the people of Swords; when a decision will be made on the application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25511/08]

Following an application received from Dublin Bus on 5 June to reroute a number of its 41x services through the Dublin Port Tunnel, my Department advised the company on the 12th June, 2008 that it may proceed with the proposed changes. My Department has no other applications on hand from the company.

Road Safety.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

312 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport if action 72 of the Road Safety Strategy 2007-12 has been fully implemented; if the graduated driver licensing system provides for a restricted licence and full licence stages including restrictions on alcohol limits and more severe penalties for drivers on the two year restricted driving licence phase; when the use of R plates will come into force; if all these matters will be provided for through regulation or if new legislation is necessary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25514/08]

The first step in a graduated driver licensing system has already been taken in the Regulations made in October last year providing for the introduction of a driver learner permit for all new applicants for driver licences. Further steps in such a system are still under consideration.

Public Transport.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

313 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport if he will investigate and implement measures to make up for the shortfall in public transport capacity on the routes formerly covered by a bus company (details supplied) in view of the fact that 11,000 commuters per week are being left without public transport provision from 27 June 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25690/08]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

315 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport if he will investigate allegations of anti-competitive practices on the part of Dublin Bus, made by a private bus operator (details supplied) who has had to cease operating; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25692/08]

Terence Flanagan

Question:

327 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Transport the action he will take regarding a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25940/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

329 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if he has received correspondence from groups or individuals regarding cessation of transport (details supplied) through County Kildare; his plans to address this issue at an early date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25959/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 313, 315, 327 and 329 together.

On 19 June 2008, my Department was advised by the Circle Line Company that it was going into voluntary liquidation and that bus services it was providing to and from Celbridge and Lucan that were the subject of licences issued under the Road Transport Act, 1932, would cease to operate from Friday, 27 June 2008. I very much regret the loss of employment and the loss of the significant level of services to which the licences related.

The operator of the services that have now been withdrawn has made complaints to my Department in relation to alleged anti-competitive practices with regard to Dublin Bus services. These complaints have been the subject of ongoing communications between my Department, Dublin Bus and the company. Dublin Bus has advised my Department that it is conforming to its obligations with regard to its service authorisations.

I understand from Dublin Bus that there are approximately 217 services daily from the Lucan area to the city centre and that 39 of these also serve the Celbridge area. I am also informed that there are approximately 190 outbound services from the city centre serving the Lucan area throughout the day.

It is open to Dublin bus or any other operator to submit proposals to my Department in respect of new bus services from the areas in question. On the 27th June, 2008 Dublin Bus made an application seeking authorisation to provide a small number of morning services from Celbridge and Lucan, subsequently the application was revised by the Company and re-submitted to my Department on 30th June, 2008. That application is currently being given urgent consideration by my Department.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

314 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport his plans to put new legislation in place to support the role of private bus operators in the Dublin transport market; the measures he will consider introducing; when they will be introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25691/08]

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

The DTA Bill establishes a comprehensive framework which will give the new Dublin Transport Authority the power to procure public passenger transport services through the making of public service transport contracts. Section 48 of the Bill envisages that the DTA may enter into contracts following open tendering in respect of public bus passenger services, as well as metro and light rail services. It also provides that public bus and rail services can be secured by means of direct award contracts. However, section 52 provides that direct award contracts will only apply to the continued provision of the services currently being provided by Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann.

Accordingly, the future growth in the market for subvented public bus services will be pursued by way of open tendering in accordance with the new EU Regulation 1370/2007 on public passenger transport services by rail and by road, which will become mandatory from December 2009. All contracts will be framed against the background of EU law and will set strict standards of operational performance and customer service and will contain penalties for non-performance.

The provisions of the Bill seek to maintain a balance between the need for transport services, including bus passenger transport services, that are the subject of a public service obligation and the licensing of private transport operators who provide commercial bus transport services and are licensed under the provisions of the Road Transport Act 1932.

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

It is my intention that proposals for a new bus licensing regime will follow in subsequent legislative proposals to be contained in the Public Transport Regulation Bill. At this stage it is too early to be precise on the detail of the proposals except to confirm that the new Bill will deal with the replacement of the Road Transport Act 1932 and the provisions of the Transport Act 1958 that relate to the provision of bus services by the State bus companies.

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

Question No. 315 answered with Question No. 313.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

316 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether competition between private operators and Dublin Bus is proving a successful model for providing improved public transport services for commuters in the Greater Dublin Area, in view of the recent termination of services by a private bus company (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25693/08]

Entry by bus operators to the Dublin market is currently governed by the Road Transport Act of 1932 for private operators and by the Transport Act of 1958 for Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann. The Programme for Government includes a commitment to improving bus services under Transport 21 by reforming the bus licensing provisions of the Road Transport Act 1932, to facilitate the optimum provision of services by providing a level playing field for all market participants, both public and private.

It is my intention that proposals for a new bus licensing regime will be contained in the Public Transport Regulation Bill. At this stage it is too early to be precise on the detail of the proposals except to state the new bus licensing regime will be designed in a manner consistent with the new EU PSO Regulation. It is envisaged that the new licensing structure will apply in respect of all commercial bus services, including those provided by Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann, and that the powers to grant licences in the Greater Dublin Area will be given to the Dublin Transport Authority. The new Bill will also encompass provisions relating to the subvented bus market outside the Greater Dublin Area that are consistent with the EU PSO Regulation. In drafting proposals for reform for inclusion in the new Bill, I will aim to establish:

(1) a common licensing regime for commercial services, with clear criteria for the grant of licences,

(2) a contracting regime for bus services in respect of public service obligations which are open, transparent and flexible, and

(3) provisions for direct award services to Bus Eireann on the basis of open and transparent criteria in line with our EU obligations.

In the meantime applications for new bus licences and notifications from State bus operators will continue to be processed under the provisions of the Road Transport Act 1932, as amended, and the notification system with reference to the Transport Act 1958, as appropriate.

Ethics in Public Office Act.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

317 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport if, during his meeting on 16 January 2006, with representatives of Singapore Civil Aviation Authority, he received gifts; if so, the gifts he received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25726/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

318 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport if, during or following his meeting on 17 January 2006, with Singapore International Airlines, he received gifts; if so, the gifts he received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25727/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

319 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport if, during or following his meeting on 18 January 2006, with the Thai Minister for Transport, he received gifts; if so, the gifts he received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25728/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

320 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport if, during his meeting on 20 March 2006, with representatives of the Chinese Civil Aviation Authority, he received gifts; if so, the gifts he received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25729/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

321 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport if, during or following his meeting on 15 January 2008, with the Iranian Ambassador to Ireland, he received gifts; if so, the gifts he received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25730/08]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 317 to 321, inclusive, together.

No formal gifts were received.

Decentralisation Programme.

Ulick Burke

Question:

322 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Transport the way, in view of his recommendation to Government, to withdraw the decentralisation of the Railway Safety Commission from Ballinasloe, County Galway to Drogheda, County Louth, he will maintain the number to be decentralised to Ballinasloe through the National Roads Authority transfer; the number already committed; if progress has been made in providing for this change; the timescale envisaged for this move; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25801/08]

It was originally intended to transfer the Railway Safety Commission to Ballinasloe. However, the original proposal to move 37 posts to Drogheda was subsequently reviewed in the context of an efficiency review and the Department considered that decentralising a combination of safety investigation functions, including the Railway Safety Commission and other areas to bring the numbers up to the total requirement of 37 for Drogheda, offered greater potential for operational efficiency and value for money. The shortfall in numbers for Ballinasloe will be met by the National Roads Authority (NRA) whose overall numbers have increased by 22 since decentralisation was announced. The NRA has stated that they can send an advance party of 30 staff to Ballinasloe within a two to three year timeframe.

Road Network.

Ulick Burke

Question:

323 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Transport if, under Transport 21, funds are available for the construction and completion of the N18 motorway, Oranmore to Gort, within the promised timescale; and if the political undertaking for the provision of a second entry and exit to the town of Gort will be provided for in the design of the scheme. [25802/08]

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

Sean Sherlock

Question:

324 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the existence of the National Roads Authority report titled National Roads Needs Study; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25808/08]

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

Driving Tests.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

325 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Transport if he has asked as a matter of public health, to reduce death and injury on the roads, that those taking lessons or re-tests should be able to claim back the tax paid on the fees and other incentive to encourage current provisional licence holders to apply for the test and prepare for it properly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25820/08]

Responsibility for driver licensing and testing was transferred to the Road Safety Authority in September 2006, under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 477 of 2006). The arrangements in relation to driver testing and licensing are therefore a matter for the Road Safety Authority. The granting of tax reliefs is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Finance.

Value for Money Reviews.

Tom Hayes

Question:

326 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Transport the measures agreed for his Department under the Value for Money Review 2006-08; the projects which had the necessary changes made; when they are planned for completion; if a value for money review is planned after 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25864/08]

The Department of Transport has given the following commitments in relation to the 2006-08 round of Value for Money and Policy Reviews

CIE Subvention

Capital Spend by Dublin Transportation Office

Strategic Non National Roads

Railway Safety Programme

The CIE Subvention and Capital spend by Dublin Transport Office reviews have been completed, published and laid before the Oireachtas. These reports can be viewed on my Department's website.

The review on Strategic Non national Roads is nearing completion and it is anticipated that it will be finalised in the coming weeks. The review on the Railway Safety Programme is at an advanced stage and it is anticipated that it will be finalised by end-July 2008. Arrangements for the next round of reviews, which may cover the period 2009-2011, are being considered by the Value for Money and Policy Review Central Steering Committee.

Question No. 327 answered with Question No. 313.

Road Network.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

328 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Transport the action he will take regarding a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25941/08]

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads in their areas is a matter for local authorities to be funded from their own resources supplemented by State grants.

There is no proposal before my Department in relation to funding of a road at the location in question.

Question No. 329 answered with Question No. 313.

Human Rights Issues.

Finian McGrath

Question:

330 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will advise on and support a case (details supplied). [25382/08]

The Government has repeatedly stated its desire to see the United States Administration take steps to release or bring to trial all detainees in accordance with established legal norms, and to close Guantánamo Bay as soon as possible.

Ireland has raised the issue of the detainees in Guantánamo Bay with the US authorities on numerous occasions. In all contacts with the US authorities, Ireland has been informed that the US is aware of its obligations under international law.

It is a matter for the United States Government to make arrangements for the return of individuals whom it has retained at Guantánamo to their countries of origin or elsewhere, as may be agreed with third States willing to accept individual detainees on their release. Were the United States Government to approach the Irish Government in relation to the individuals in question, the ultimate decision would lie with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, whose Department has responsibility for the reception and integration of refugees and asylum seekers. I am arranging for a copy of this reply and the documentation provided by the Deputy to go to that Department.

International Agreements.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

331 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position Ireland took in the recent EU decision not to fully lift the EU’s sanctions against Cuba; the steps he will take to ensure the lifting of remaining sanctions against Cuba remain on the EU Council of Minister’s agenda; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25386/08]

The European Union's 1996 Common Position on Cuba, adopted under the Irish Presidency in 1996, remains the basis of both the European Union's and Ireland's approach to relations with that country. The aims of the EU Common Position include encouraging a process of peaceful transition towards a pluralist democracy, promoting human rights and improving the living conditions of the Cuban people.

In the Conclusions on Cuba adopted unanimously on 23 June 2008, the EU, noting the changes undertaken to date by the Cuban Government, re-iterated the Union's desire for a constructive dialogue with the Cuban authorities. Contrary to what is suggested by the Deputy, the Council further decided formally to lift the EU diplomatic measures, which had been suspended since 2005, in order to encourage and facilitate the political dialogue process and enable the full use of the instruments of the 1996 Common Position. Ireland was strongly supportive of this decision.

The Conclusions also re-stated the Union's human rights concerns, and urged the Cuban authorities to release all remaining political prisoners unconditionally and to facilitate access by international humanitarian organisations to Cuban prisons.

On the occasion of the annual review of the Common Position in June of next year, the Council will evaluate its relations with Cuba, including the effectiveness of the political dialogue process.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

332 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress in view of the fact that Ireland hosted the recent international conference calling for the banning of cluster munitions at the end of which a text to that effect was agreed that has been made in ratifying and enacting the treaty arising from the conference in advance of the second conference on this subject which is to take place later in 2008. [25507/08]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

333 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress that has been made with regard to the position adopted by the Government at the recent international conference on cluster munitions that there would be disinvestment from companies involved in the production of such munitions; the steps that have been undertaken in this regard; and the companies no longer invested in by State agencies. [25508/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 332 and 333 together.

The Programme for Government of June 2007 committed us to campaign for a complete ban on the use of cluster munitions and to seek agreement on an immediate freeze on their use pending the establishment of effective international instruments to address humanitarian concerns. In implementation of this commitment, Ireland hosted and chaired a Diplomatic Conference in Croke Park last month to negotiate a treaty to prohibit the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians. On 30 May, over 100 States adopted a Convention on Cluster Munitions, which effectively bans all cluster munitions which have ever been used and provides ground-breaking provisions for victim assistance and clearance of contaminated areas. It represents a major advance in international humanitarian law.

The Convention will be opened for signature in Oslo on 3 December 2008 and will enter into force six months after the thirtieth State has ratified it. The Government is committed to early legislation to give domestic effect to the Convention and the new Inter-Departmental Committee on International Humanitarian Law has begun consideration of national implementation. I intend to introduce a Bill in the autumn and aim to take this forward rapidly so that Ireland will be in a position to sign and ratify the Convention in December.

As regards State investment, the Minister for Finance raised the issue of investing in shares of companies which are involved in the manufacture of cluster munitions with the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission earlier this year. The Commission agreed to exclude companies involved in the manufacture of cluster munitions from the Fund. I understand that the Commission has now implemented this decision.

Grant Payments.

Finian McGrath

Question:

334 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will advise and assist on a matter (details supplied). [25831/08]

The Department's Reconciliation Fund has as its term of reference to assist organisations working to facilitate better relations within and between the two traditions in the North, between North and South, and between Ireland and Britain.

Decisions on funding from the Reconciliation Fund are made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs on foot of recommendations from an interdepartmental Advisory Committee.

An application for funding from the Reconciliation Fund from the organisation in question was considered by the Advisory Committee, which reviews and makes recommendations on applications to the Fund, on 13 February 2008. However, as the Committee felt that the proposal in question did not sufficiently meet the objectives of the Fund, support was not recommended on this occasion.

International Agreements.

Billy Timmins

Question:

335 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will support the Amnesty International campaign to secure an arms trade treaty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25851/08]

Ireland shares Amnesty International's objective of achieving a comprehensive international Arms Trade Treaty establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms. In 2006 we cosponsored the UN resolution which commenced preparatory work within the UN to this end.

The 2007 Programme for Government contains a specific commitment "to support a binding and comprehensive global treaty on the trade of arms, covering all weapons and ammunition." In implementation of this commitment, we are continuing to work actively within the UN and with our EU partners to advance the negotiating process, which it is clear will necessarily be lengthy and complex.

I am communicating the Government's position to Amnesty International, in response to a recent letter from the Director of the Irish Section.

Value for Money Reviews.

Tom Hayes

Question:

336 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the measures agreed for his Department under the value for money review 2006-08; the projects which had the necessary changes made; when they are planned for completion; if a value for money review is planned after 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25860/08]

My Department has committed to undertaking five reviews under the current round of Value for Money Review initiative for 2006 to 2008. These reviews and their current status are:

Support for Irish Emigrant Groups Abroad — published August, 2007

Support for the Tsunami Affected Countries — published November, 2007

Evaluation of Development Programme in Mozambique — published February, 2008

Support for HIV/AIDS — underway and due for publication by 31 December 2008

Review of the Passport Service — almost complete and will be published this year.

The Department's policy is that all completed Value for Money Reviews should include management responses to the recommendations before they are completed and published. The Department's independent Audit Committee takes a close interest in the Value for Money Review process, including following up on the implementation of recommendations.

Arrangements for the next round of reviews are being considered by the Value for Money and Policy Review Central Steering Committee, which is chaired by the Department of Finance.

Foreign Conflicts.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

337 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the situation in Zimbabwe; if his attention has been drawn to the concern on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25884/08]

The situation in Zimbabwe is very grave and of the utmost concern to the Government and to the international community. This deep concern is strongly shared by members of the Oireachtas and by the Irish people.

I have made consistently clear our utter condemnation of the conditions under which last Friday's run-off election took place. The widespread state-sponsored violence and intimidation, which resulted in the deaths of close to one hundred MDC supporters and led to Morgan Tsvangirai's forced withdrawal, mean that Robert Mugabe's purported election victory cannot be regarded as in any way valid.

Following the re-inauguration of Mugabe as President on Sunday, the international community must continue to make clear that his position has not the slightest democratic legitimacy. The priority must be to find a peaceful way forward, through dialogue, that allows a legitimate government to be formed that reflects the will of the Zimbabwean people. Ireland fully supports the UN Security Council's call to this effect.

There is now a particular political and moral onus on African leaders, currently meeting at the African Union Summit, to take a decisive lead. In particular, the African Union needs to make clear that it does not accept this travesty of democracy and to show the necessary vigorous leadership to chart a negotiated way forward. I am encouraged by reports today from Sharm el-Sheikh that efforts to promote such a process are under way. This would represent a step in the right direction following yesterday's call by South Africa for talks between the Mugabe regime and the MDC. Any such negotiations would have to be credible, substantive and time-limited, and would need to be based on the outcome of the 29 March elections.

Ireland and the EU will continue to work closely with our African partners and with the UN and international community to develop the pressure for democratic change and for the relief of the suffering of the Zimbabwean people. In this regard, I would strongly support the imposition of further EU measures on those responsible for directing the recent political violence, and would also support UN sanctions as proposed by the United States, while avoiding any additional exacerbation of the dreadful economic situation which the long-suffering people of Zimbabwe have had to endure on a daily basis for far too long.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

338 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of Irish citizens living in Zimbabwe; and the diplomatic and consular steps which have been put in place for an evacuation of Irish citizens from Zimbabwe should any of these persons wish to leave. [25917/08]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

339 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the contingency arrangements in place, including discussions he may have had with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, on such issues as status and other aspects of citizenship, entitlement and social provision, as may arise following the evacuation of Irish citizens from Zimbabwe to Ireland. [25918/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 338 and 339 together.

The Government are and have for some considerable time been very concerned about the welfare of the Irish community in Zimbabwe.

In the last two years, the Irish Abroad Unit of the Department has supported two Irish community organisations in that country, the Mashonaland Irish Association and the Bulawayo Irish Association. This funding is provided for welfare and administrative needs.

In the same period, the Irish Abroad Unit has also provided funding to Safe Home Ltd, the voluntary organisation which supports elderly Irish emigrants who wish to return to Ireland. In this regard, Safe Home has housed a number of older Irish citizens who decided to leave Zimbabwe and return to Ireland due to their dire economic circumstances.

The Embassy in Pretoria, which is accredited to Zimbabwe, stays in on-going contact with the Irish community in that country. In addition, the Ambassador and staff from the Embassy visit Zimbabwe regularly and meet with members of the Irish community, including religious and representatives of Irish NGOs working in Zimbabwe.

There are in the region of 2,000 Irish citizens still resident in Zimbabwe and our current advice, as outlined on our website, strongly recommends Irish citizens there to keep a low profile, exercise a high degree of caution, monitor local media for developments and avoid all areas where demonstrations may be held, or where there are large gatherings of people. They should not travel unnecessarily, especially at night. Where possible, they should remain in built up areas and avoid the commercial centre of Harare.

They are also advised to register their details and those of their families with the Honorary Consul of Ireland in Harare, and also with the local British Embassy, with which we have a standing arrangement to assist in the provision of emergency consular assistance to Irish citizens. They should ensure that their travel documents are up to date and readily available in case they need to leave the country at short notice.

My Department's further advises all Irish Citizens resident there to regularly monitor travel advice issued by my Department.

All Irish citizens have the right of entry into this State. There is no particular need, therefore, to have specific discussions with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform other than to keep that Department generally informed of the overall situation.

Finally, I should emphasise that the Department is advising against all travel to Zimbabwe at the present time.

Compliance Costs.

Richard Bruton

Question:

340 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the dealings that she or agencies under the control of her Department have had with the business sector which incur regulatory costs or compliance costs on behalf of business; if she has identified the baseline cost profile for business associated with that activity; if she has set targets for the reduction of these different cost items; and the cost and the target reduction in each case. [25266/08]

I take it that the Deputy is referring to the administrative costs on business associated with complying with regulatory requirements.

In March 2008, the Government decided to reduce the administrative burden of domestic regulation on business by 25% by 2012. Administrative burdens include the cost of e.g. form filling, returns, applications, retaining records etc as required on foot of regulations.

My Department is responsible for devising the approach and methodology to be used across Government, for coordinating the work across Government Departments and Agencies and for reporting to Government on progress.

Initially, all Government Departments will be required to list the Information Obligations which their regulations impose on business. From that listing, Departments will assess which requirements are the most burdensome and will then measure the actual cost to business of the most burdensome requirements. At that point the most appropriate approach to achieving the overall 25% target will be re-examined.

In the case of my own Department, the intention is to focus initially on three major areas of regulation i.e. Company Law, Health and Safety legislation and Employment legislation.

Company Closures.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

341 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when former employees of a company (details supplied) in County Cork which is in receivership will be awarded moneys due to them through the insolvency payment scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25342/08]

Claims under the Insolvency Payments Scheme were received from the Receiver of the company in June in relation to one hundred and twenty-five employees. A payment will issue to the Receiver in the coming week.

Ethics in Public Office Act.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

342 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, during or following her meeting on 18 January 2005, with the Chinese Minister of Commerce, Bo Xilai, she received gifts; if so, the gifts she received; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25754/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

343 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, during or following her meeting on 19 January 2005, with President Hu Jintao of China, she received gifts; if so, the gifts she received; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25755/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

344 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, during or following her meeting on 6 January 2007, with the Egyptian Minister for Trade and Industry, Rachid Mohamed Rachid, she received gifts; if so, the gifts she received; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25756/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

345 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, during or following her meeting on 7 November 2007, with the Egyptian Minister for Higher Education, Hany Mahfouz Hilal and Egyptian Minister for Communications and Information Technology, Dr. Tarek Kamel, she received gifts; if so, the gifts she received; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25757/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

346 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, during or following her meeting on 5 July 2006, with the Minister for Finance of Jamaica, Omar Davies, she received gifts; if so, the gifts she received; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25758/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

347 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, during or following her meeting on 26 June 2006, with the Vice Minister of MOFCOM of the People’s Republic of China, Ma Xiuhong, she received gifts; if so, the gifts she received; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25759/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

348 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, during or following her meeting on 13 December 2007, with the First Vice Minister of Commerce of China, Yu Guangzhou, she received gifts; if so, the gifts she received; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25760/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

349 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, during or following her meeting on 5 March 2008, with the Minister of Science and Technology of Rwanda, Romain Murenzi and Minister of State Development of Rwanda, Rosemary Museminali, she received gifts; if so, the gifts she received; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25761/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

350 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, during or following her meeting on 27 June 2007, with the Minister for Commerce and Industry of Saudi Arabia, Hashim bin Abdullah bin Hashim Al-Yamani, she received gifts; if so, the gifts she received; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25762/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 342 to 350, inclusive, together.

The meetings referred to by the Deputy, were attended by my predecessor as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mr. Michael Martin TD. In relation to the meeting with Minister Rachid of Egypt, that meeting took place on 6th November 2007, not 6th January 2007, as stated by the Deputy.

It is customary at meetings with Ministers from other countries, such as those listed by the Deputy, to exchange modest gifts. The value of such gifts received by Minister Martin in these cases was significantly less than the threshold prescribed in the Ethics in Public Office Act 1995, whereby gifts with a value in excess of that amount are deemed to be a gift given to the State. In fact, many of these gifts have little intrinsic monetary value, examples of gifts that were received are, paperweights, letter openers, books etc. It is not practicable at this stage to identify which, of a range of various items, was presented at each specific meeting, over a period of more than two years.

Value for Money Reviews.

Tom Hayes

Question:

351 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the measures agreed for her Department under the value for money review 2006-08; the projects which had the necessary changes made; when they are planned for completion; if a value for money review is planned after 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25857/08]

In respect of the Value for Money Reviews for the 2006-2008, three such reviews were conducted and details of each of these are set out below. Arrangements for the next round of reviews, which may cover the period 2009-2011, are being considered by the Value for Money and Policy Review Central Steering Committee.

1. Expenditure Review of the FÁS Competency Development Programme

The Department is currently conducting a Value for Money Review of the FÁS Competency Development Programme. This is a review of the principal programme for supporting the training of people in employment. It is expected that the Value for Money Review will be completed during September 2008.

2. The Value for Money review of Science Foundation Ireland

The Value for Money review of Science Foundation Ireland programmes is nearing completion and is expected to be finalised in July 2008. The purpose of the review is to examine SFI's major funding programmes and make targeted comments and recommendations, where appropriate, on the overall effectiveness of the agency supports in building a world-class research system in Ireland, with a focus on whether the programmes as operated constitute value for money and efficient use of public funds. It is anticipated that the implementation of the review when completed will assist in securing value for money and maximising the economic impact from the SFI investments.

3. Expenditure Review on Science & Technology

The Department undertook an Expenditure Review of spending on Science & Technology in 2004. The Review focussed on the principal Research Technological Development and Innovation in Industry measures under the National Development Plan 2000-2006. The schemes assessed under the Expenditure Review over the period of operation 2000-2003 were:

The R & D Capability Grants Scheme

The Research Technology & Innovation Competitive Grants Scheme

The Enterprise Ireland Collaboration Programme.

The Review was completed in December 2005, presented to the Expenditure Review Steering Committee in the Department of Finance and laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas in 2006.

Compliance Costs.

Richard Bruton

Question:

352 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the dealings that he or agencies under the control of his Department have had with the business sector which incur regulatory costs or compliance costs on behalf of business; if he has identified the baseline cost profile for business associated with that activity; if he has set targets for the reduction of these different cost items; and the cost and the target reduction in each case. [25264/08]

As the Deputy is no doubt aware the Department has a very limited regulatory role.

In March 2008, the Government decided to reduce the administrative burden of domestic regulation on business by 25% by 2012. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is responsible for devising the approach and methodology to be used for coordinating the work across Government Departments and Agencies and for reporting to Government on progress. The Department is awaiting instructions on the approach and methodology for this exercise.

Sports Capital Programme.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

353 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if an application has been received by an organisation (details supplied) in County Donegal for funding under the 2008 sports capital programme; if the application is currently being considered; when a decision will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25806/08]

Bernard Allen

Question:

355 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if an application has been received from a group (details supplied) in County Cork requesting grant aid for the construction of a community and sport centre in Blarney village, County Cork. [25885/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 353 and 355 together.

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 29th February for paper-based applications and 7th March for online applications. All applications received before the deadline, including those from the organisations 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.

Value for Money Reviews.

Tom Hayes

Question:

354 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the measures agreed for his Department under the value for money review 2006-08; the projects which had the necessary changes made; when they are planned for completion; if a value for money review is planned after 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25853/08]

Under the current round of the Value for Money and Policy Review Initiative for the period 2006 to 2008, my Department is committed to carrying out the following six reviews: Irish Film Board, Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme, Irish Sports Council Reviews (rolled over from the previous round); the Arts and Culture Capital Enhancement Scheme (ACCESS), Arts Council and Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund Reviews. The Swimming Pool and the Irish Film Board Value for Money and Policy Reviews have been completed and will be published shortly. The other Reviews are in train and will be completed in 2008.

My Department intends to take into account the findings and recommendations of the Value for Money Reviews in its future management of the Programmes under review, and where practicable and appropriate, to have them implemented.

Question No. 355 answered with Question No. 353.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

356 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the action he will take regarding a matter (details supplied). [25942/08]

A sum of €184m has been provided in the National Development Plan 2007-2013 for supporting existing projects in the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme and for new projects to be selected following the launch of a new round of the Programme.

The launch of the new programme will be a matter for discussion as part of the Estimates process which will start shortly between this Department and the Department of Finance.

Social Welfare Benefits.