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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 10 Jul 2008

Vol. 660 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 3, inclusive, answered orally.

Telecommunications Services.

Simon Coveney

Question:

4 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when commitments six and seven in his next generation policy paper, that is, regulations to mandate the installation of ducting in all major public infrastructure projects and to require the installation of open access fibre connections to new premises where practicable will be implemented; the way these regulations will work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28810/08]

One of the main themes of the draft consultation paper on Next Generation Broadband is to facilitate private sector investment in Next Generation Broadband networks. As the paper shows, major investment is already under way by the private sector, amounting to around €700m per annum, facilitated by a pro–competition, pro-investment regulatory regime.

This favourable regulatory regime will continue to be promoted. In addition the paper sets out actions that have the potential to lower the costs for telecoms operators of building NGB networks. A key measure in this regard is to utilise state infrastructure assets to facilitate broadband connectivity. Accordingly, the actions in the paper to support infrastructure deployment include:

Major public infrastructure projects will, in future, install ducting at construction stage to facilitate network roll-out and

A one stop shop will be established to make it easier for service providers to access current and future ducting.

In addition, new premises will be required to install open-access fibre connections, where practicable, with regulations in place by the end of this year.

I have already engaged with key Departments and agencies in regard to the implementation of these actions including the Department of Transport and the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. I will be intensifying this engagement in the period ahead to ensure the early implementation of the actions proposed. I consider that these measures have a key role to play in the regional rollout of Next Generation Broadband.

Noel Coonan

Question:

5 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Houses of the Oireachtas offices as well as ordinary customers in north Tipperary have had no broadband connection at all for the past two weeks and that their broadband connection had been intermittent at best for months prior to that; his plans to give greater powers to Comreg to force private broadband operators to provide adequate service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28811/08]

I have no function in the direct provision of broadband services to customers. This is a contractual matter between the service provider and their customer.

The provision of electronic communications services including broadband, is primarily a matter for private sector operators. Statutory responsibility for the regulation of telecommunications operators including regulatory issues surrounding the quality of services, rests with the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), which acts independently in the exercise of its functions.

In cases where people have complaints against their service providers, it would be normal that they would take the matter up with their service provider in the first instance.

ComReg will normally only deal with a complaint from individuals once they have exhausted the complaints procedure with their service providers. In this event ComReg could examine whether the service provider acted appropriately in accordance with regulatory requirements.

ComReg have stated that they have not received any significant number of complaints from the North Tipperary area over the last six months.

In relation to ComReg's enforcement powers, the Deputy may be aware that these were substantially enhanced by the Communications Regulation (Amendment) Act 2007 including:

The creation of new summary, indictable and continuing offences for breaches by operators of obligations imposed by ComReg;

Conferring on ComReg, competition law powers, to allow it to investigate and prosecute anti-competitive behaviour or abuse of dominance in the electronic communications sector; and

Providing ComReg with increased information gathering powers and power to investigate overcharging.

I have no plans at this juncture to further amend ComReg's enforcement powers.

Electronic Metering.

Liz McManus

Question:

6 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the progress made in the pilot scheme for smart electronic metres; the initial time-frame given for delivery of the pilot scheme; when the pilot scheme will commence; the number of houses it will cover and when will it be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28005/08]

James Reilly

Question:

23 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding his pilot project for smart metering; the level of success and take-up it has had; the future action he plans in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28226/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 6 and 23 together.

The rollout of a national smart meter programme is progressing in line with the commitment in the Government's Energy Policy Framework and in the Programme for Government. The Smart Meter programme is a central component of our strategy to significantly enhance management of energy demand and to achieve greater energy efficiency through the use of cutting-edge technology.

The delivery of smart metering requires a collective response. This is a technically complex and ambitious initiative. The Steering Group overseeing programme implementation is chaired by the Commission for Energy Regulation and includes representation from Sustainable Energy Ireland, ESB Networks, ESB Customer Supply and independent suppliers as well as my Department.

There are four distinct work streams under way. These cover tariffs, Billing/Data, Networks and Customer Behaviour, and the teams concerned are mandated by the Steering Group to progress the complex technical aspects of the smart metering project. Work is under way to develop the details of the two key strands to the pilot phase; the technology trial and the customer behaviour trial. The pilot phase is due to begin at the end of the year and is anticipated that it will last for eighteen months.

The technology trial will look at meter functionality and supporting information and communications systems. ESB Networks is currently at the final stages of a tender process to select smart meters for the technology trial. The results of this tender process will also quantify the number of installations required to ensure the successful testing of the technology in the pilot phase.

In parallel, work is well advanced on the design of the customer behaviour and tariff aspects of the pilot phase. The trial will determine the potential of smart meters to effect measurable change in consumer behaviour and the potential of this to effect reductions in energy use. Work is also under way to design a statistically robust approach to customer selection for the behavioural trial.

The overall objective remains to complete the national smart meter programme in five years. This will equip us with an advanced cost effective, national electricity metering system which will deliver tangible benefits to all energy consumers.

Given the very positive public response to the smart metering, and to other energy efficiency measures, I am confident that there will be ample demand from consumers to take part in the pilot project.

Telecommunications Services.

Tom Hayes

Question:

7 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the MANs programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28199/08]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

54 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the costs and time-frame of the MANs project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28020/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 and 54 together.

The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband, is a matter, in the first instance, for the private sector. Broadband service providers operate in a fully liberalised market, regulated, where appropriate, by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg. The primary role of the Government is to formulate regulatory and infrastructure policies to facilitate the provision of high quality telecommunications services by competing private sector service providers.

Previously, where the market has failed to meet the demand for telecommunications and broadband services, the Government has intervened to address the market failure. Intervention initiatives have been undertaken through investment in international connectivity and regional backhaul, the construction of the open-access Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs), and part-funding rural broadband access networks under the Group Broadband Scheme (GBS). The market's failure to provide broadband services in unserved rural areas will be addressed by the forthcoming National Broadband Scheme.

The MANs Programme involves the construction of high-speed, open-access Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) in towns and cities nationwide in partnership with local and regional authorities.

Phase 1 of the Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) programme provided open access, high-speed broadband networks to 27 towns and cities throughout the country. The MANs were co-financed from the European Regional Development Fund. All 27 MANs from Phase 1 have been successfully handed over to eNet, whose role is to manage, maintain, market and operate the MANs on behalf of the State. The networks are offered to telecommunication service providers on a wholesale basis to allow them to provide services without the need to build their own networks in the various cities and towns. The cost of the Phase 1 MANs Programme was just over €84 million.

Phase 2 of the MANs programme is almost complete. The estimated cost of the Phase 2 MANs Programme, which will provide an additional 60 MANs covering 66 towns, is €90 million.

MANs Projects in 28 towns under Phase 2 were suspended, pending consideration of the findings of a Value for Money and Policy Review of the Phase 1 Programme and a Next Generation Broadband Policy Paper both of which were published last week.

Future investment decisions including any investment in MANs will be guided by the outcome of the consultation on Next Generation Broadband; the recommendations of the Value for Money and Policy Review and other analyses as appropriate.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

8 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the expenditure plans for 2009 under his recently unveiled consultation paper on next generation broadband; if these plans will be affected by budgetary constraints; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28191/08]

I launched a consultation paper on Next Generation Broadband on Thursday the 3rd of July 2008.

The Paper commits to a number of actions to be taken by Government to promote a better broadband network and to facilitate specific policy goals. Where these actions require Exchequer expenditure they will be funded from the National Development Plan (NDP) envelope of €435m for telecommunications, for the period 2007–2013. The actions potentially leading to expenditure on the Vote of my Department include; universal access to broadband, which will mainly be delivered through the National Broadband Scheme; broadband connectivity to second level schools and the cost of a Communications Research Programme in conjunction with ComReg and the ESRI.

I am not in a position to state precisely how much funding will be available for these actions in 2009. This will be decided in the context of the 2009 Estimates and Budget but I anticipate progress in the rollout of these and the other actions in 2009. In addition, I am satisfied that targeted investment in broadband is a priority area for Government and that the allocated funding over the period of the NDP will be forthcoming.

Mobile Telephony.

John Perry

Question:

9 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if, in the context of the EU measures on roaming charges for mobile voice communications, he has plans to address the issue of roaming charges for mobile data communications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28225/08]

The issue of roaming charges for mobile data communications is currently being addressed by the European Commission as part of the public consultation on the Review of the functioning of the Roaming Regulation and its possible extension to SMS and data roaming services. The benefit of lower roaming charges for data traffic is that it would encourage the development of new digital applications on mobile networks. The US Communications Regulator has introduced new rules in the allocation of spectrum for mobile technologies to encourage similar flexibility in technologies that can access mobile networks. The Japanese Government has gone further in mandating access for independent operators to send data traffic across a mobile phone network.

My objective is to ensure that consumers obtain the best deal possible for data and SMS services. I look forward to the outcome of the consultation and to working closely with my colleagues in Europe to achieve this objective.

Telecommunications Services.

Joe McHugh

Question:

10 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will explain in greater detail his plans to improve the international broadband connections between Ireland and other countries as outlined in his consultation paper on next generation broadband, in particular plans to improve connectivity between the north west of Ireland and the USA; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28184/08]

On 3 July 2008 I published a "Consultation Paper on Next Generation Broadband" which included various Government commitments including a commitment on international telecommunications connectivity.

I intend to build on the success of the Global Crossing project and have asked my officials to examine (i) existing international connectivity capacity and (ii) the potential for the existing providers of international connectivity to expand their operations to meet future demand. My officials will also assess the likely need for additional international connectivity that might arise as a result of the predicted increase in demand for media rich applications and services, including streaming video, high definition television over internet protocol, online gaming, and so called "web 2.0" services like social networking and trading sites. All of these services use much more bandwidth than standard email and search facilities. Additionally, the security of supply of international telecommunications connectivity will be examined by my officials. While I understand that the supply of international connectivity is currently adequate to meet existing demand, I wish to ensure that we are well placed to intervene to guard against the development of any bottlenecks on our international connections.

In recent months my Department has been working with the Northern Ireland Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) on the preparation of a tender to procure direct international connectivity to the North West of the island of Ireland. The tender for the project, called project Kelvin, was issued by DETI last week.

The tender is seeking:

A direct international telecommunications connection between North America and the North West of the island of Ireland.

Improved international connectivity between mainland Europe and the North West of the island.

The provision of a telehouse facility in Derry, which will provide telecommunications operators and end users with open access to the above international links.

Onward connectivity from the Derry telehouse to the Metropolitan Area Networks in Letterkenny and Monaghan.

The expected outcome is that the three locations, Derry, Letterkenny and Monaghan and their surrounding towns and villages, will be more attractive for direct investment, especially for businesses in the internationally traded services sector that require high capacity international broadband links.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

11 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the best use for the ESB windfall gains levy on free carbon allowances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28036/08]

The question of windfall gains to electricity generating companies as a result of the free allocation of carbon allowances is a complex one. It arises as a result of the way the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme was constructed. As such, it is an issue which faces not only Ireland, but all EU Member States. It should be noted that to date only one EU Member State, Spain, has introduced measures to deal with windfall gains, and these are now subject to appeal and legal challenge.

Furthermore, as the Deputy will be aware, the EU Commission has proposed that, from 2013, all allowances will be auctioned thus removing the windfall profit dimension. From now until 2013, the free allowances remain in place and their treatment, as confirmed by my colleague, the Minister for Finance, in the House recently, is subject to an ongoing examination by his Department, which has lead responsibility for all matters relating to taxation.

In terms of the possible deployment of the proceeds of any carbon windfall gains levy or tax, there would be many considerations to take into account. There are a variety of potential implications inherent in any particular approach. Certainty about the effectiveness of a particular approach would be a key requirement.

Among the issues for consideration is the manner in which any tax or levy might be applied, the extent of its application and the legal basis for any particular approach proposed. The impact on the operation of the all-island Single Electricity Market, which straddles the two jurisdictions, is also a major factor that needs to be taken into account.

As increases in international fossil fuel prices impact on electricity and gas prices, the issue of windfall gains by power generators becomes more pertinent. In that context, I welcome today's announcement by the ESB that it has agreed with the CER to make a €300m contribution to help offset, for all customers, forthcoming electricity price increases due to rising global fuel costs.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

12 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the status of the price support scheme for offshore wind announced earlier 2008; if this scheme has received approval from the EU; when he envisages this scheme will come into operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28206/08]

Liz McManus

Question:

34 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the time-frame for implementation of the new tariff scheme for offshore wind; when this tariff scheme for offshore wind was announced by him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28006/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 12 and 34 together.

In February last I announced a number of new categories for the Renewable Energy Feed In Tariff support programme to support renewable energy projects in the electricity market. These new categories include offshore wind developments.

The renewable energy feed-in tariff scheme or REFIT, has, to date, included biomass, landfill gas, hydropower and onshore wind-power. The REFIT scheme provides market incentives for individuals and businesses investing in or developing electricity from renewable energy. It does this by providing a guaranteed price for electricity produced for 15 years. Projects included in these existing categories will deliver the target to increase consumption of electricity from renewable energy sources to 15% by 2010.

The extension of the REFIT scheme to additional categories includes support for the development of offshore wind-power projects at a price of €140 per megawatt hour of power produced. The support price is in line with what other Governments are offering and will ensure international investor confidence in the sector.

By including offshore-wind in the feed in tariff scheme we are sending a strong market signal and creating the conditions for offshore wind to contribute to the target of 33% of electricity consumed from renewable energy sources by 2020. The announcement now of the proposed support for offshore wind was in part, a recognition of the long lead in times for such projects and is also to ensure that State-Aid clearance and other requirements are cleared well in advance of developments.

The current REFIT support programme was approved by the EU Commission under EU State Aid guidelines. In January 2008 the EU Commission adopted revised EU State Aid guidelines. These were formally published in April. My officials have been in regular contact with relevant officials of the EU Commission on the implementation and application of the revised guidelines.

In light of these discussions, my Department is now working with interested players in the domestic wind sector to quantify the various offshore capital costs elements and related requirements under the EU Commission's revised State-Aid guidelines.

The Offshore-wind category of REFIT may not legally be commenced until state aid clearance is secured. I am satisfied that clearance will be forthcoming in good time to ensure that offshore wind projects can be planned and developed. In that regard I welcome Commissioner Piebalgs assurance to the meeting of EU Energy Ministers last week that the Commission was working to assist all Member States in relation to State-Aid clearances in the renewable energy area.

Pat Breen

Question:

13 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on extending the Sustainable Energy Ireland grant for wood pellet burners to wood log gasifiers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28153/08]

Denis Naughten

Question:

19 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps he is taking to promote the use of domestic renewable energy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27140/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 13 and 19 together.

The Greener Homes Scheme provides support to homeowners to invest in a range of domestic renewable energy heating technologies including solar panels, biomass boilers and stoves, and heat pumps.

The scheme is kept under regular review and earlier this week I announced Phase III of the scheme. I am pleased to advise the Deputy that wood log gasification boilers have been added to the scheme as an eligible biomass technology. There will be a small reduction in the levels of support for the existing biomass technologies reflecting the maturing of the market.

It is recognised that the installation of renewable heating systems in second hand homes is more complex and more expensive. As a result it is appropriate to continue to provide support in this housing sector for the present. The newly introduced Building Regulations 2008 make a component of renewable energy in all new homes compulsory. Therefore an additional change under Phase III of the scheme is that from now on only existing (at least one year old) houses will be eligible for support. Funding in forward years for the Greener Homes Scheme will be subject to overall budgetary considerations.

Decentralisation Programme.

Billy Timmins

Question:

14 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on whether the decentralisation programme has had an adverse effect on his Department’s ability to deliver services, particularly in the communications development section, in view of the fact that Freedom of Information documents have revealed that, for example, the National Broadband Scheme had no full-time staff working on it at times during 2006; if the communications development section currently has a full complement of staff; if other sections affected by the decentralisation programme have a full complement of staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28234/08]

The Government's decentralisation programme provides for the relocation of my Department in its entirety to Cavan by the end of 2010. To date some 53 staff on the Corporate Services side of the Department have already transferred successfully to Cavan. The next phase of our planned relocation involves placing Cavan-bound staff into divisions within the Natural Resources area of my Department, namely Inland Fisheries, Petroleum Affairs Division and Exploration and Mining Division.

There are strategies in place to ensure that any risks that might arise from decentralisation-related staff turnover are managed and mitigated. These include adequate overlap periods for staff training and the development of knowledge management strategies throughout the Department, which aim to minimise the loss of corporate knowledge associated with high levels of staff turnover. Our experience of the staff transfers that have already taken place is that these were concluded without any adverse impact on my Department's business delivery.

My Department, in common with other Government Departments, operates under an authorised staff number cap set by the Department of Finance. Staff resources, within our authorised staff number, are allocated across the divisions on the basis of availability, business needs and priorities. The Department's Management Committee continuously reviews the internal allocation and deployment of staff so as to ensure that we can quickly and flexibly respond to changing business priorities.

In this context I am satisfied that the Communications Division in the Department, including the section dealing with the National Broadband Scheme, has been, and is, adequately resourced.

Motor Fuels.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

15 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the average price of petrol and diesel in June 2004 and in June 2008; the percentage difference between the price in 2004 and 2008; the proposed percentage increases in ESB and gas prices planned for 2008/2009; the action he has taken in the past year to ensure that the most vulnerable people will be protected as much as possible by these increases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28032/08]

The Irish oil industry is fully privatised, liberalised and deregulated and there is free entry into the market. I have no function in regard to oil prices.

My Department has been advised that the average price of petrol in Ireland in June 2004 was 93.8 cent per litre and in June 2008 was 129.8 cent per litre. This represents an increase of just under 39%. The average price of diesel in Ireland in June 2004 was 85.3 cent per litre and was 139.9 cent per litre in June 2008. This represents an increase of 64%.

The regulation of ESB electricity tariffs and Bord Gáis Éireann (BGÉ) gas tariffs is the statutory responsibility of the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) under the Electricity Regulation Act. I have no function in setting these tariffs. The CER has publicly indicated that the increases in international fuel prices are expected to have a consequential impact on electricity and gas tariffs in the autumn.

The Government is committed to protecting the most vulnerable from the impact of energy costs through a combination of institutional supports and investment in improving the energy efficiency of the housing stock.

My Department is setting up a new working group with the Departments of Finance, Social and Family Affairs and Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the CER, Sustainable Energy Ireland and key energy suppliers, to ensure a fully cohesive approach to addressing the energy efficiency and affordability challenges for vulnerable people.

The Minister for Social and Family Affairs provides a range of supplements and allowances, including the Electricity/Gas Allowance and the National Fuel Allowance, to assist those most in need with their heating costs. The Department of Social and Family Affairs estimate that expenditure on these packages will be in the region of €330 million in 2008.

The CER also has a role in protecting vulnerable customers in the energy markets. Under the European Communities (Internal Market in Electricity) Regulations 2005 the CER was tasked with ensuring that there are adequate safeguards to protect vulnerable customers, including measures to help customers avoid disconnection. The CER has set out guidelines for the protection of household electricity and natural gas customers, particularly the elderly, customers relying on life support equipment and those with disabilities.

One of the root causes of fuel poverty is the legacy of older housing with poor energy efficiency standards. I have increased the allocation for this year to the Low Income Housing Programme administered by Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) to €5 million. The Programme's primary focus is the Warmer Homes Scheme which provides energy efficiency equipment including insulation and energy efficiency advice at little or no cost to eligible households. The increased allocation will enable SEI to fund insulation upgrades for an additional 2,000 vulnerable homes in 2008 bringing the total to 5,000 homes this year.

I also launched the pilot Home Energy Saving Scheme last April. This pilot scheme is incentivising improvements in energy efficiency by householders with a particular focus on older housing. This Scheme has the potential to significantly improve the energy efficiency of our housing stock. SEI has estimated that households upgrading their energy efficiency with the support of this scheme can expect to save in the region of €500 every year on their heating bills.

The Housing Aid for Older People Scheme was introduced last November by my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The Scheme provides targeted support of up to 100% of cost to improve conditions in the houses of older people. The Scheme provides grants for a wide range of structural repair and improvements including rewiring, water, sanitary services, heating, windows, as well as central heating and insulation.

The Central Heating Scheme has been allocated some €26 million in 2008 by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

The scheme provides funding to housing authorities to upgrade their rented homes including attic insulation to Building Regulations standards and draught proofing to windows and doors. It is estimated that an additional 5,000 Local Authority households will benefit from improved conditions and lower energy bills this year as a result of this year's investment.

Postal Services.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

16 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his policy on postcodes; the cost of implementation; the cost of consultancy on this issue to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28021/08]

The National Postcode Project Board presented its recommendation as to the most appropriate postcode system for Ireland, the costs and benefits arising from its introduction, along with a detailed implementation, promotion and maintenance plan.

The report of the board concluded that the introduction of a postcode would be a valuable addition to the country's postal infrastructure and would also be of benefit to policy formulation and implementation as well as delivering a number of benefits arising from use of postcodes in spatial data analysis.

The work of the postcode board focused on quantifying the costs and benefits of postcodes to the postal sector including postal operators and customers and did not explicitly address non-postal costs and benefits.

A proposal concerning the introduction of postcodes went to Government in May 2007 and Government decided that prior to the introduction of postcodes, further analysis to quantify the wider economic and societal benefits should be carried out.

Consultants employed by my Department are working to establish a more complete estimate of the costs and benefits of postcodes to the public sector focussing on key Government Departments. Some of the public sector benefits identified by the consultants included better targeted service provision, improved policy formulation, implementation and evaluation, and better profiling of public expenditure.

I expect that this work will be completed shortly and upon receipt of the analysis I will consider how best to proceed on the proposal.

To date, my Department has incurred €27,225 in consultancy fees for the project and I expect that a further €27,225 will be incurred to finalise the analysis currently under way.

Energy Resources.

Mary Upton

Question:

17 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views, in relation to the draft directive on the promotion of energy from renewable sources, on the top priorities for Ireland in the negotiations; if the targets proposed are consistent with Government policy; the further measures needed to ensure the targets will be met; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28040/08]

At the Council of Energy Ministers in February, and again at the Informal Meeting of Energy Ministers in Paris last week, I confirmed Ireland's general support for the proposed Renewable Energy Directive.

The overall target for the European Union of 20% renewable energy contributions to electricity by 2020 is ambitious but essential. All Member States will have to play their part by delivering their individual share of the overall target. It was clear in last weeks discussions with my European colleagues and Commissioner Piebalgs, that Member States are prepared to rise to the challenge.

For our part, the renewable energy target proposed for Ireland of 16% for the electricity, heat and transport sectors is challenging but achievable. It is also consistent with the Governments own targets set in the Energy Policy Framework and the Programme for Government. In the negotiations to date on the Directive, Ireland has worked with other Member States to ensure that the proposed trading system of Guarantees of Origin of renewable energies is sufficiently flexible and has the necessary safeguards for renewable energy support systems at national level. Together with other colleagues at the Informal Energy Ministers Meeting, I underlined the importance of agreeing flexibility and cooperation mechanisms which will reinforce and support delivery by individual Member States of their national targets. I welcome the French Presidency's proposal to reach an agreement around flexibility by the next Energy Council in October.

We will continue to work with the Presidency, the Commission and other Member States to achieve satisfactory outcomes in relation to the Renewable Energy Directive and which will provide the best possible framework for delivery on Ireland's renewable energy targets.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

18 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on a call from EirGrid for more to be done to construct the 250MW per annum needed to reach the Government’s renewables targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28026/08]

EirGrid, as the State body responsible for the national transmission system, is working to deliver the necessary upgrading and expansion of the transmission grid in the interests of the economy and regional development. I welcome the call by EirGrid's Chief Executive for collective engagement by all stakeholders in meeting the challenges inherent in delivering vitally needed new transmission infrastructure, which is safe, reliable, affordable and sustainable.

I share his view that all stakeholders working together have to find a way to balance overall public good and economic and social policy objective with the concerns of individuals and local communities.

The development of our high capacity grid network is needed to meet overall demand for electricity by business and consumers, to provide the critical infrastructure needed for balanced regional development and security of supply and to deliver on Ireland's renewable energy targets. If we are to achieve the levels of penetration of renewable energy onto the network, major development of the transmission grid is required.

EirGrid is finalising its Grid Development Strategy, which will take a strategic look forward to 2025. The strategy's assumptions around renewable energy generation will be consistent with the All-island Grid Study which showed we could attain 42% of our electricity from renewables by 2020.

I welcome the fact that the necessary legislation to enable EirGrid to construct, own and maintain an interconnector has recently passed all stages in the Dáil and the Seanad. This will enable EirGrid to progress the East-West interconnector project, which is on track to be completed in 2012. The East-West interconnector will support the increased penetration of renewable generation, particularly wind generation, in the Irish market. It will also allow surplus power to be exported to Britain in times of high wind generation.

There are very many challenges ahead. I have every confidence that EirGrid, as the State-owned transmission company, will continue to work in the national interest and in conjunction with all stakeholders, to deliver a sustainable transmission system in support of economic and social needs.

Question No. 19 answered with Question No. 13.

Foreshore Acts.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

20 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the state of the foreshore legislation; the person who currently has responsibility for updating this legislation; his views, in the context of his plans to expand offshore wind capacity here, on whether such an updating is urgently needed; his plans to work with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28230/08]

The Foreshore Acts are the responsibility of the Minister for Agriculture and Food and are administered by the Coastal Zone Management Division of his Department. I have no statutory function in the matter.

There is considerable interaction by my Department and the energy sector with Coastal Zone Management Division in the context of permissions required under the Foreshore Acts for energy projects including offshore wind. The sustainable development of the energy sector is predicated on having the optimum planning and environmental framework in place. In that context, I look forward to working with Ministerial colleagues to review as necessary the current framework under Foreshore legislation.

Natural Gas Grid.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

21 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the amount of public funding his Department has provided since 2007 and to date in 2008 for developing and expanding the gas transmission and distribution networks; the amount he will spend on such a project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28029/08]

Under Section 8 of the Gas Act, 1976, as amended by Section 11 of the Gas Amendment Act, 2002, Bord Gáis Éireann (BGÉ) has a duty to develop and maintain a system for the supply of natural gas that is both economical and efficient.

BGÉ is a commercial Semi State body and is not in receipt of Exchequer funding. The development, expansion, upgrading, renewal and maintenance of the gas network, including projects developed for the purposes of securing the supply of natural gas are funded through BGÉ's own resources, either through reinvestment of profits or through borrowings.

BGE's natural gas transportation business is regulated by the Commission for Energy Regulation, which allows BGÉ a regulated rate of return on its pipeline investments. This rate is currently 5.2%. Any capital expenditure proposed by BGÉ is subject to my approval, given with the consent of the Minister for Finance.

BGÉ spent €179 million in capital expenditure from its own resources in 2007. Of this expenditure €101 million relates to the development, expansion, upgrading, renewal and maintenance of Ireland's natural gas network and €78 million relates to the construction of BGE's power generation plant at Whitegate. Capital expenditure for the year to date on gas and electricity facilities are €74 million and €65 million respectively, based on actual spend to May 2008 and budget for June 2008. The final figures for June 2008 are not yet available.

Motor Fuels.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

22 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on calls from an organisation (details supplied) for an investigation into the increase in the price of diesel over petrol prices; the measures he will take to address the rising cost of diesel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28011/08]

The Irish oil industry is fully privatised, liberalised and deregulated. There is free entry into the market, and prices at the pump for both petrol and diesel reflect market factors notably global market price, transportation costs, Euro/Dollar fluctuations and other operating costs. The significant price rises of recent months reflect the exponential increase in global oil prices.

In so far as the relativity between the price of diesel and petrol is concerned, traditionally, diesel has been less expensive than petrol at the forecourts in Ireland. This was due to the fact that the international prices for both products were previously at a similar level, and excise duty was and is lower on diesel. European production was also closely matched to demand for both products. The international price of diesel has, however, increased relative to petrol for a number of reasons including rising demand in both Europe and in China and other rapidly-developing economies world-wide. European refineries are unable to keep pace with the demand for diesel. Each barrel of oil can only produce a certain percentage of diesel, and European diesel demand now exceeds production. This means that diesel has to be sourced from further afield, particularly from Russia, thus affecting price.

The increase in the price of diesel is affecting all of Europe. Ireland, according to recent EU data, has the 9th lowest petrol prices and the 12th lowest auto-diesel prices out of the 27 EU Member States. It is mainly the newer Member States that have lower fuel prices than in Ireland. These comparisons demonstrate that Ireland is by no means the worst affected country in Europe in relation to the retail price of diesel and petrol.

The upward global trend in oil prices reinforces the imperative for Ireland to reduce its oil dependency and to use energy wisely and efficiently. The Government is committed to accelerated delivery of our targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency which are essential to ensure a sustainable energy future for the economy and consumers. My Department is working with other key Government Departments on initiatives to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy in electricity, transport and heating, and to implement major energy efficiency and demand management programmes.

Question No. 23 answered with Question No. 6.

Electricity Supply.

Denis Naughten

Question:

24 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps he is taking to ensure that all homes have a reliable electricity service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27141/08]

Statutory responsibility for monitoring and ensuring quality of electricity supply rests with the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER).

The performance of the electricity networks has significantly improved in recent years. This reflects the considerable investment of approximately €3 billion in both our transmission and distribution networks that has taken place in the period 2001 to 2005, with another €3 billion planned for investment up to 2010. In allowing for capital expenditure in its revenue determination, the CER sets challenging performance standards and monitors performance to ensure that these are achieved.

As distribution system operator, ESB Networks is required by the CER to maintain certain levels of quality of supply and to report annually on the criteria set out by the CER. These service level requirements are reinforced with financial incentives, rewards for achieving better service and penalties for failure. I have been advised by the CER that available data for 2006 shows positive downward trends continuing in the two key metrics for quality of supply, which are Customer Minutes Lost and Verified Voltage complaints. In addition, specific guarantees of quality of service delivery are set out in the Distribution Services Guarantees section of the ESB customer charter.

Energy Resources.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

25 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent to which he has had discussions together with his EU colleagues or otherwise with a view to a resolution to the present and ongoing energy crisis culminating in fuel speculation and unprecedented profits for oil companies; the action taken to eliminate hoarding or other forms of market manipulation or speculation in view of the oil producing counties confirmation of more than adequate supply well into the next century; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28235/08]

I discussed energy security of supply issues with EU Ministerial colleagues and Commissioner Piebalgs at the Informal Energy Ministers Meeting last week. The causes of high oil prices are highly complex. The European Council, at its meeting in June, expressed grave concern about the continued surge in oil and gas prices and their social and economic consequences. The Council invited the French Presidency, in cooperation with the Commission, to examine the feasibility and impact of measures to smooth the effects of sudden oil and gas price increases and to report back to the European Council in October.

I understand that the Presidency, which will liaise directly with the Commission, will examine issues such as the operation of the markets, the financial instruments available for the improvement of energy efficiency, the use of renewable sources of energy and the use of fossil fuels that are less harmful to the environment, and an examination of possible measures likely to reduce the effects of increased oil prices. I understand that this report will be brought to the European Council meetings in October and December.

Telecommunications Services.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

26 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position in relation to the awarding of the national broadband scheme and its subsequent rollout; if it is on schedule; and if not, the reason for same. [26936/08]

Willie Penrose

Question:

39 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the action being taken within his Department to support the provision of broadband to rural dwellers in view of the fact that his Department is encouraging farmers to make use of online processes to eliminate registrations and scheme applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25579/08]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

47 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the accuracy of the broadband coverage map and therefore the area to be addressed by the national broadband scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28016/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 26, 39 and 47 together.

The provision of broadband services is, in the first instance, a matter for the private sector. Broadband service providers operate in a fully liberalised market, regulated, where appropriate, by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg.

The widespread provision of broadband services continues to be a priority for the Government. In that regard my Department has undertaken initiatives to address the gaps in broadband coverage. These included providing grant-aid under the Group Broadband Scheme (GBS) and ongoing investment in Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs).

Although broadband is now widely available in Ireland there are still some parts of the country where the private sector will be unable to justify the commercial provision of broadband services. These areas are being addressed by the National Broadband Scheme (NBS), which will provide broadband services to areas that are currently unserved and will ensure that all requests for broadband are met.

The first phase of the NBS procurement process (Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ)) is now complete. The remaining candidates have been engaged in "Competitive Dialogue" with my Department and are developing their proposed solutions to meet my Department's requirements.

The dialogue between the remaining candidates and my officials has proven to be very effective with all parties addressing and resolving potential ambiguities in the final Invitation to Tender (ITT) documentation. This effort, which has given rise to unanticipated work in advance of the issuing of the final ITT, will minimise the need for negotiations at the contract award stage of project.

Additionally, the NBS mapping process has given rise to a number of queries regarding the accuracy of the map being used to identify the extent of existing broadband coverage within the State. While I am, thus far, satisfied with the accuracy of the map, my officials are carrying out a series of spot checks and validations to ensure the accuracy of the maps.

Finally, Judicial Review proceedings regarding certain elements of the NBS mapping process took place on 10 and 11 June 2008 in the High Court and a judgement is awaited. While the outcome of the Judicial Review cannot be anticipated, it is currently expected that a preferred bidder for the NBS will be selected in September 2008, with rollout to commence as soon as possible thereafter.

Mining Industry.

Willie Penrose

Question:

27 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if, in view of the recent gold discovery in County Monaghan he will confirm that measures are in place to ensure that lessons have been learned from poor practice in other mining works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28031/08]

In addition to a State Mining Facility under the Minerals Development Acts, any new mining development requires Planning Permission from the Local Authority and an Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Licence from the Environmental Protection Agency. Planning Applications for mines are subject to Environmental Impact Assessment, which involves preparation by the developer of a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment, including a properly costed closure plan. It is a requirement of all three permits that a surety or bond is in place from the outset to guarantee the availability of funding to implement the closure plan, whether at the end of life of the mine or in the event of premature closure.

Energy Costs.

Mary Upton

Question:

28 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the warning by an organisation (details supplied) for the need for Government action in view of fears that pensioners will face a choice between food and fuel in winter 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28039/08]

Joan Burton

Question:

36 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the fact that the price of oil has recently surpassed 130 Dollars per barrel and that experts suggest that oil could surpass 200 Dollars per barrel during 2008; his further views on the impact this is having on consumers, particularly those on low, fixed incomes; if he proposes to introduce measures, to take effect during 2008, to target increasing instances of fuel poverty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21964/08]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

48 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps he is taking to combat the growing number of people in fuel poverty; his views on the call by the chief of Bord Gais for an immediate consultation process to ascertain the subsidies needed to be put in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28018/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 28, 36 and 48 together.

Rising energy costs are a major concern for all sectors of the economy and consumers, but clearly they have a particular impact on vulnerable members of society.

My Department is setting up a new working group with the Departments of Finance, Social and Family Affairs and Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the CER, Sustainable Energy Ireland and key energy suppliers, to ensure a fully cohesive approach to addressing the energy efficiency and affordability challenges for vulnerable people. In an era of high global fuel prices, fuel poverty is a major concern for Ireland and for all Member States of the European Union.

The Government is committed to increasing the energy generated from renewable resources and so reduce the impact of rising fossil fuel prices. We have set ourselves ambitious targets of generating 15% of our electricity needs from renewable sources by 2010 and 33% by 2020. I am confident that we will achieve those targets.

Householders can individually reduce their dependence on oil or gas for their heating needs by investing in renewable heating technology such as solar panels, wood pellet boilers and heat pumps. The Greener Homes Scheme provides grants to householders to assist with this investment.

It is clear that significant savings are achievable in both the residential and business sectors through greater energy efficiency. Energy efficiency savings can be achieved at no cost through behavioural change, while investments in energy efficiency improvements such as insulation can be quickly recovered through reduced energy use and lower bills.

My Department's Power of One Street initiative has clearly demonstrated that householders can achieve major savings on their energy bills by simply changing how they use energy. Some of the households participating in the Power of One Street initiative both this year and last year saved in excess of 30% of their heating costs by becoming more energy efficient.

One of the root causes of fuel poverty is the legacy of older housing with poor energy efficiency standards. Sustainable Energy Ireland's (SEI) Low Income Housing Programme has as its main focus, the Warmer Homes Scheme, which provides attic insulation, draught proofing, lagging jackets, energy efficient lighting, cavity wall insulation and energy advice at little or no cost to eligible households. These measures can significantly reduce the amount of energy required to heat and light the home. I have doubled the allocations for the Low Income Housing Programme to €5 million in 2008 and this will enable SEI to fund such energy upgrades for 5,000 vulnerable households this year.

I launched the pilot Home Energy Saving Scheme in April which is incentivising investment in energy efficiency by householders. SEI has estimated that those upgrading the energy efficiency of their homes with the support of this scheme could expect to save up to €500 per year on their energy bills.

I have asked my Department to examine the feasibility of placing an energy efficiency obligation on electricity and gas supply companies in consultation with all stakeholders. Such mechanisms can be a very cost effective way to improve energy efficiency in both the residential and commercial sectors and are already in place in other jurisdictions, including Northern Ireland.

My colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government provides supports for those in Local Authority rented dwellings through the Central Heating Scheme. This scheme provides funding to Local Authorities for works including installation of central heating, attic insulation to Building Regulations standards, draught-proofing to existing windows and external doors, and the lagging of exposed pipework and hot water storage cylinders. Some €26 million has been allocated to the scheme in 2008 and it is estimated that about 5,000 Local Authority households will benefit.

The Housing Aid for Older People Scheme provides targeted support of up to 100% of cost to improve conditions in the existing housing of older people. The works which are grant aided under the Scheme include structural repairs or improvements, re-wiring, the provision of water, sanitary services, heating, repairs to or replacement of windows, provision of central heating and associated insulation works.

In addition to these grant supports for structural improvements, the Government is also conscious of the need to directly protect vulnerable households. The Minister for Social and Family Affairs provides a range of supplements and allowances, including the Electricity/Gas Allowance and the National Fuel Allowance, to assist those most in need with their heating costs. Department of Social and Family Affairs estimate that expenditure on these packages will be in the region of €170 million in 2008.

CER has also been given a role in protecting vulnerable customers in the energy markets. Under the European Communities (Internal Market in Electricity) Regulations 2005, CER was tasked with ensuring that there are adequate safeguards to protect vulnerable customers, including measures to help customers avoid disconnection. CER has set out guidelines for the protection of household electricity and natural gas customers, particularly the elderly, customers relying on life support equipment, and those with disabilities.

Electricity Sector.

Alan Shatter

Question:

29 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding his plans to transfer ownership of electricity transmission assets from the ESB to EirGrid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28228/08]

Joe Costello

Question:

60 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will report on his policy to transfer assets from the ESB to EirGrid; the findings of the independent analysis carried out on this issue; when he expects to publish findings from that independent analysis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28008/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 29 and 60 together.

I would refer the Deputy to my statement of 13th March on the future of Ireland's electricity sector. In that statement I affirmed the Government's decision in the Energy Policy White Paper and the Programme for Government, to transfer the ownership of the electricity transmission assets from ESB to EirGrid. It is also fundamental Government policy that we retain the electricity and gas networks as strategic national assets in State ownership which will never be privatised.

The unbundling of the transmission assets involves the resolution of complex technical, financial and operational issues as well as legislation.

In the context, not least, of wide-ranging challenging priorities for ESB and EirGrid, I have proposed that we commission an independent analysis of the transmission transfer, including costs, benefits and regulatory impact assessment, set in the context also of EU developments and the all island single electricity market.

Statements by my predecessor and I, have consistently underlined the need for transparent and inclusive engagement with all relevant stakeholders in the process of implementing Government policy in relation to the electricity transmission assets.

Input to the process of independent analysis will accordingly be invited from the direct key stakeholders. These are the management and unions of ESB and EirGrid, the ESB Employee Share Ownership Trust, as well as the Commission for Energy Regulation and the Department of Finance.

As I also announced in my statement, I intend to appoint a senior independent figure to chair this process including the commissioning of independent consultants to carry out the technical and economic analysis. I am considering potential candidates for this role at present.

All the direct stakeholders have pivotal roles to play in the process of engagement and analysis and in achieving outcomes that are good for EirGrid and ESB, which are satisfactory for all parties concerned, and which are in the best interests of the economy and consumers. I look forward to getting this collective process under way following my appointment of the senior independent chair.

Government policy is clear in relation to ensuring the strategic future of both EirGrid and ESB as strong viable Semi State bodies with vital roles to play in delivering our national targets for emissions reduction, renewable energy and energy efficiency as well as security of supply and energy competitiveness.

I recently welcomed ESB's announcement of its new Strategic Framework to 2020, which will see an unprecedented capital investment programme by the company at home and abroad in support of our goals for renewable energy, energy efficiency, emissions reduction and energy security.

I look forward equally to EirGrid's forthcoming Transmission Development Strategy 2025. This will set out an ambitious national plan for critical investment in the transmission system over the next two decades in support of economic, social and regional development and the integration of renewable energy generation.

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

30 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if cutbacks are planned in the services provided for or funded through his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28033/08]

Damien English

Question:

986 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will make a statement on cost saving measures he plans introducing in the second half of 2008; if such measures will affect the delivery of front line services to the public; and the programmes that will be postponed or discontinued as a result of such cost savings. [27302/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 30 and 986 together.

The Government decision of 8 July in relation to expenditure savings in the remainder of 2008 identifies savings of €1.75m to be delivered across my Department and agencies under its aegis. These savings are to be realised in administrative efficiencies and overhead reductions.

Energy Efficiency.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

31 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the commitment contained under the environment heading in the Programme for Government to require the public sector to lead the way on energy efficiency with a mandatory programme of efficiency measures including the sole use of energy efficient lighting and heating in offices, schools and hospitals and other public buildings to produce 33% energy savings by 2020; the steps being taken to achieve this target, in schools for example, in view of the briefing document prepared for the Minister for Education and Science that highlighted school buildings in poor condition and the high prevalence of prefabs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27564/08]

The Government has set a target of achieving 20% energy efficiency savings across the economy by 2020 and to demonstrate its commitment to achieving this goal, has a further target of achieving 33% saving on energy use across the public sector, also by 2020.

I published a draft national energy efficiency action plan for public consultation towards the end of 2007. The draft plan sets out the measures proposed to meet the 20% target. We also propose to establish a Public Sector Energy Efficiency Working Group to drive collective delivery of the 33% public sector target. My Department is currently finalising the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan in light of the consultative process and ongoing developments at EU level. I intend to publish the plan in the autumn.

A key part of the initial work of the Public Sector Energy Efficiency Group will be to quantify the extent of existing energy efficiency initiatives within public sector bodies, share experience of best practice, coordinate action and most importantly develop and implement the detailed measures for achievement of the 33% public sector target, including performance indicators.

The energy savings potential will vary from one public sector body to another but every public sector body will be expected to contribute significantly to meeting the Government's ambitious global target of 33%. This will require a galvanising of all players across the public sector.

In relation to schools, the Minister for Education and Science has already taken a number of initiatives. Ireland's performance in the area of low energy school building design has been recognised at both national and international level. The Department of Education and Science is also developing an information technology project, in conjunction with Sustainable Energy Ireland, aimed at helping existing schools to improve their energy efficiency. Schools will be able to conduct an online energy audit of their buildings and energy usage. They will then receive information and advice on reducing their energy use, tailored to their specific circumstances. The system is expected to be completed later this year.

Telecommunications Services.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

32 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when he will announce the date in September 2008 on which the public forum on his next generation broadband consultation paper will meet; when, after this, a finalised policy paper on next generation broadband will be published; when he envisages the first concrete action will be undertaken by Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28232/08]

Alan Shatter

Question:

37 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will explain the meaning of pledge number eight in his consultation paper on next generation broadband to use Government purchasing power in order to stimulate demand, create economies of scale and better public services; if this will be the subject of further detailed specific plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28229/08]

Tom Sheahan

Question:

58 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide further detail on pledge number 10 in his consultation paper on next generation broadband, namely, to establish a specialised research programme to monitor developments; when this programme will be established; the resources that will be devoted to it; the remit of the programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28231/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 32, 37 and 58 together.

I launched the consultation paper on Next Generation Broadband on Thursday the 3rd of July 2008. A copy of the consultation paper is on my Department's website. The consultation period will run until the 30th September 2008. As part of the consultation process a public forum will be held this September. The precise date has yet to be finalised.

The consultation process will facilitate the views of stakeholders on the policy framework and specific actions set out in the paper. It will also inform the drafting of the new Action Plan on the Information Society which is now the responsibility of my Department. I intend that the necessary work on the implementation of the actions should commence as quickly as possible in order to meet the targets. A number of the recommendations require close co-operation with other Departments and State agencies and this work will be advanced prior to the completion of the consultation process.

In regard to Government purchasing power, I would point out that there are opportunities to adopt a more joined up approach to communications procurement by the Government sector within geographical areas in order to provide economies of scale for telecoms operators considering making infrastructure investments, including in broadband. This action will be pursued in conjunction with the Department of Finance.

In relation to research, the consultation paper sets out that my Department will work with ComReg and the ERSI to establish a specialised research programme to monitor developments in this fast changing area and provide evidence-based policy advice. This programme will support ongoing policy development in the communications sector by providing a robust information framework for the sector. It is intended that the costs of the research programme will be shared equally by ComReg and my Department. Preliminary estimates indicate that my Department's share of the costs will be around 382,000 over a three year period.

Advertising Codes.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

33 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the level of consultation he has had with public health agencies with regard to the ban on advertising of junk food in the Broadcasting Bill 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28035/08]

Under the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, EU Member States and the European Commission are required to encourage media service providers to develop codes of conduct regarding inappropriate audiovisual commercial communication, accompanying or included in children's programmes, of foods and beverages containing nutrients and substances with a nutritional or physiological effect. This relates in particular to those such as fat, trans-fatty acids, salt/sodium and sugars, excessive intakes of which in the overall diet are not recommended. While Member States have until December 2009 to transpose this requirement, I am using the opportunity afforded by the Broadcasting Bill 2008 to bring forward my proposals in this regard.

I have provided a requirement in Section 42 of the Bill that the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland prepare codes governing the standards and practices to be observed by broadcasters. In particular under Section 42.(2)(g) I have provided that "advertising, teleshopping material, sponsorship and other forms of commercial promotion employed in any broadcasting service, in particular advertising and other such activities which relate to matters likely to be of direct or indirect interest to children, protects the interests of children having particular regard to the general public health interests of children".

Furthermore, under Section 42.(4) I have provided that a broadcasting code prepared by the Authority under 42 (2)(g) "may prohibit the advertising in a broadcasting service of a particular class or classes of foods and beverages considered by the Authority to be the subject of public concern in respect of the general public health interests of children, in particular those which contain fat, trans-fatty acids, salts or sugars".

I have provided under Section 42 (5) that in preparing a broadcasting code under subsection 42 (2)(g) the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland may consult with the relevant public health authorities.

Question No. 34 answered with Question No. 12.

Departmental Reviews.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

35 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of studies and reviews carried out in his Department in the past year; the cost of these studies and reviews; the number that are ongoing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28024/08]

In the time available, it has not been possible to identify and assemble the information requested.

My Department is in the process of identifying and assembling the information and I will revert to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Question No. 36 answered with Question No. 28.
Question No. 37 answered with Question No. 32.

Mining Industry.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

38 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the timeframe for the completion of the remediation of mines (details supplied). [28034/08]

As I indicated in my reply to Parliamentary Questions 428 and 429 of 4th June 2008, Planning Permission was granted by North Tipperary County Council (NTCC) on 17th September 2007, for the rehabilitation work at the Gortmore Tailings Management Facility. A tender notice was advertised in the EU Journal on 21st January 2008, following which seven companies were short-listed and invited to submit a tender for the first phase of the rehabilitation works. Tenders were received from all seven companies on 21st April 2008 and subsequently assessed by the consultants employed by NTCC to design and supervise the project. On 21st May 2008, the Department authorised NTCC to issue a letter of intention to accept the tender of a construction firm for the first phase of the remediation works at the Gortmore site, at Silvermines, subject to the contractor producing insurances, bond and tax clearance. It is expected that works will commence on site in the next week. This complex project is being carried out on a phased basis and these initial works are planned to be completed in October 2008. The works planned for 2009 and 2010 at the Gortmore site include further capping and associated works as well as vegetation and upgrading of wetland areas.

Question No. 39 answered with Question No. 26.

Broadcasting Services.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

40 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps he will take to ease the effects of the close down of analogue television in Wales on Counties Wexford, Waterford, Wicklow and Dublin; the timescale of this impact; his views on the consequences of this signal shutdown; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28030/08]

The UK has a schedule to switch off analogue TV in different regions from 2008 to 2012 in favour of Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT). Analogue TV services in Wales, for instance, are expected to switch off in 2009 and this will impact on viewers in Wexford, Waterford, Wicklow and Dublin who receive UK TV channels via overspill from the UK.

Viewers on cable and satellite will not be affected by these changes and will continue to receive the UK terrestrial channels. In Ireland, the development of DTT is well under way. The Broadcasting (Amendment) Act 2007 provides for RTÉ to develop a public broadcasting DTT service with space to carry RTÉ, TG4 and TV3. In addition, the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland is currently running a competition to provide commercial DTT services. In these circumstances it is expected that Irish digital terrestrial services, providing a significant range of television services, will be available in the south east of the country in 2009, including to those persons who will be impacted by the switch off of analogue services in the UK.

Digital terrestrial services will offer more to viewers in terms of digital quality pictures and sound, more services such as programme guide information and more channel content.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

41 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the amount and percentage of wind power with access to the national grid; the number of applications awaiting access to the grid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28023/08]

The latest data published by EirGrid to December 2007 show that a total of c. 800 megawatts (MW) of wind-powered generating capacity is connected; there is a further 1600 MWs which have connection offers under Gate 1 and Gate 2 and a further 4000 MW approximately awaiting connection offers under Gate 3. I understand that a further 4000 MW have applied to GATE 3 since the start of 2008. The Gate 3 projects are being assessed by the Commission for Energy Regulation which is currently conducting a consultation process.

Telecommunications Services.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

42 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the fees paid to date paid to outside consultants and consultancies for the national broadband scheme; the details of those payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28013/08]

My Department has paid a total €586,000 in fees in respect of consultancy services for the National Broadband Scheme to date, details as follows:

Consultancy Service

Consultants

2007

2008

Subtotals

€000’s

€000’s

€000’s

Legal

McCann Fitzgerald

0

255

255

Financial & Technical

Analysys Masons/ Norton

157

68

225

Mapping

ESRI

14

32

46

ICT Expert

Aneta Scieplek

31

29

60

Totals

202

384

586

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

43 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding his target as part of the Programme for Government’s target of a 3% cut in carbon emissions; the way he will meet that target; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28037/08]

The Programme for Government target refers to a 3% reduction per year on average in greenhouse gas emissions. It does not contain an individual target for Departments emissions reductions as the levels of reductions will vary from each sector.

The energy sector will have to make a leading contribution towards reducing green house gas emissions through a range of measures designed to improve energy efficiency and increase the penetration of renewable energy across the electricity, heat and transport sectors.

Among the significant energy efficiency initiatives introduced already this year are the energy efficiency tax incentive aimed at supporting investment in new energy-saving equipment by companies and the Pilot Home Energy Savings Scheme. These complement existing successful energy efficiency initiatives such as IS 393 (the Irish Standard for Energy Management), the Energy Agreements Programme, the House of Tomorrow Programme and the Power of One Energy Efficiency Awareness Campaign.

The forthcoming National Energy Efficiency Action Plan will set out the Government's comprehensive programme of action to be implemented across all sectors to deliver on our national and EU targets for energy efficiency with resulting reductions in green house gas emissions.

On the renewable energy side, I am confident that we will meet our renewable electricity targets underpinned by the Renewable Energy Feed In Tariff mechanisms and the GATE 3 connections and authorisations process. I also announced a major ocean energy research and development programme earlier this year. As well as SEI's Greener Homes Scheme, which is designed to increase the penetration of renewable heat in the domestic sector, SEI also operates the Reheat and Combined Heat and Power programmes which focus on renewable heating technologies for the commercial, voluntary, community and education sectors.

Postal Services.

James Reilly

Question:

44 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the consultation process on the postal sector; if he will provide a detailed timetable of when he plans to publish a report and to undertake the first action in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28227/08]

The consultation process on the liberalisation of the postal sector was launched by my Department on 29th April. It invites views from the public on the key issues and the key decisions to be made for Ireland arising from EU Directive, EC/2008/6, which sets out the date and terms of the full liberalisation of the postal market, EU-wide. While a number of EU States received a derogation to 1st January 2013, the date set for full market opening for the majority of countries, including Ireland, is 1st January 2011. Key issues to be considered in the context of the liberalisation of the Irish market are the financing of the Universal Service Obligation in a liberalised market, the regulatory regime to be put in place with respect to price and quality of service, issues relating to access to An Post's network and matters relating to the promotion of competition.

All views and submissions received under the consultation process will be considered in the context of the transposition of the Directive into Irish law, including any possible consolidation of existing postal legislation, which is currently under review. The deadline for transposition of the Directive is 31st December 2010.

As part of the ongoing work on the transposition process, my Department will also be undertaking a Regulatory Impact Assessment.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

45 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if the site for the connection for wave energy into the National Grid has been agreed; the location of same; if there is no location agreed, the timeframe for an agreed location; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28041/08]

A study for a suitable grid-connected test site for wave energy devices, undertaken by ESBI and the Marine Institute, has identified Belmullet as the optimum location for the wave energy facility. Final consultations on the specific location are being completed. It is anticipated that permitting and infrastructure preplanning will commence in the near future. The Ocean Energy Unit, located in Sustainable Energy Ireland, is overseeing the project as part of the Ocean Energy Package.

Energy Resources.

Jack Wall

Question:

46 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the Corrib gas terminal and the proposed routes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28028/08]

Work on the construction of the Corrib Gas Terminal is continuing and the developers of the Corrib Gas Project, Shell E&P Ireland Limited, expect that the majority of the construction work will be completed by the end of this year. Work has also commenced on the offshore section of the Corrib Gas pipeline, which is to be installed this summer.

Following a recommendation made by mediator Mr. Peter Cassells, that the route of the pipeline be modified in the vicinity of Rossport to address community concerns, the developer is proceeding with plans to modify the route of the onshore section of the pipeline. This resulted in an application to me by Shell E&P Ireland Limited in April of this year for consent under Section 40 of the Gas Act 1976 to construct a gas pipeline with a modified onshore route. That application is being considered by my Department. A related application has also been submitted to An Bord Pleanála under the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act 2006.

Question No. 47 answered with Question No. 26.
Question No. 48 answered with Question No. 28.

Departmental Staff.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

49 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of staff in his Department; the number of staff per section; if there are anticipated staff cuts; if so, the locations the cuts will be made; the number of staff added to the energy section since he took office; the number of external advisors he has and their roles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28015/08]

There are 344 staff currently employed in my Department, amounting to 310 equivalent full time posts. Currently, these staff are assigned within my Department as follows:

Area

Number of Staff

Energy

54

Natural Resources

113

Communications and Broadcasting

44

Corporate Divisions

125

Minister/Minister of State’s Appointees

8

I have appointed three external advisors to my Department. Two of these advisors perform duties assigned by me as appropriate to the position of Special Advisor as set out in Section 11 of the Public Service Management Act 1997. I have also appointed a Special Advisor to the Minister of State at my Department who likewise performs appropriate Special Adviser duties for the Minister of State.

My Department's Secretary General, along with his colleagues on the Management Committee, keeps the issue of staff resources and internal staff deployment under continuous review so as to ensure that we can flexibly respond to changing policy priorities if and when the need arises.

There has been an increase of one extra staff member to the energy area in the last 12 months.

Staffing levels into the future will continue to be determined by reference to Government policy in relation to the overall public sector pay-bill. In this context my Department will put in place appropriate resources to meet its contribution to the cut of 3% in the public service pay-bill announced by the Minister for Finance on 8th July last.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

50 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of staff resources allocated to the national broadband scheme tender; if the recommendations on staffing from his Department have been carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28014/08]

The National Broadband Scheme (NBS) is being overseen at senior management level by full-time civil servants at the grades of Assistant Secretary and Principal Officer. Technical advice on the scheme is also being provided by a Telecommunications Specialist Advisor. In addition there are three civil servants at Assistant Principal, Higher Executive Officer and Clerical Officer working full-time on the NBS Working Group. My Department has also engaged a full-time resource with relevant ICT expertise to provide administrative support to the NBS working Group.

ComReg, who are assisting with the development of the Scheme, also provide a full-time resource to the NBS Working Group.

Additional specialist resources are available to the project from both ComReg and the Department when required. These resources are typically available during evaluations of responses and where specific technical issues need to be addressed. I am satisfied that the five full-time resources, aided by additional resources as required, and supported by external legal and technical consultants are sufficient to expedite the NBS in an efficient and timely manner.

Energy Resources.

Joan Burton

Question:

51 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide the most recent figures of the oil reserves held by the National Oil Reserves Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28027/08]

On 1 April, 2008, the latest date for which figures are available, Ireland held 102 days' oil stocks under the International Energy Agency system. These stocks comprised 48 days of stocks owned by the National Oil Reserves Agency (NORA), stored in Ireland and abroad, 16 days of stock tickets stores abroad on behalf of NORA, and 38 days of industry/consumer stocks stored in Ireland.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

52 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if the Government has indicated to the EU that the targets on biofuels should be halted due to the ethical implications of importing biofuels from developing countries to reach these targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28022/08]

At the Informal Meeting of Energy Ministers convened by the French Presidency last week, we discussed the very complex challenges of biofuels and the growing concerns in relation to global production and use. We agreed that the development of credible and robust sustainability criteria by the European Union was a key priority and that this work will intensify over the next three months. In terms of the proposed target for 2020, it is important to clarify that the EU objective is for 10% of renewable energy in transport, not a 10% share of biofuels. I expect the debate to continue intensively at European level and in that context the level and pace of intermediate biofuel targets is undoubtedly on the agenda.

Post Office Network.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

53 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent to which Government policy in regard to the future development of An Post has been clarified; if the policy in respect of the future development of the post office network currently in operation is in accord with Government policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28236/08]

It is Government policy that An Post remains a strong and viable company, in a position to compete in a liberalised market, provide a high quality, nationwide postal service and maintain a nationwide, customer-focussed network of post offices.

It is the responsibility of the board and management of the company to make strategic decisions regarding its future and how it will prepare itself for future competition, particularly in advance of the full liberalisation of the postal sector, set to happen in 2011.

In preparation for competition, it is vital that the company restructures itself effectively and that management and trade unions in An Post work together to transform the company into an efficient, innovative and modern service provider by implementing the agreed restructuring programme and providing innovative new service arrangements for the public.

Question No. 54 answered with Question No. 7.

Broadcasting Services.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

55 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his position on the funding allocated to independent radio production in the Independent Programme Account as set out in section 116 of the Broadcasting Bill 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28010/08]

Section 116 of the Broadcasting Bill 2008, as passed by Seanad Éireann, requires RTÉ to expend, by 2013, a minimum of 3% of the value of the independent production account on commissioning programming from independent radio producers.

This provision aims to ensure that RTÉ fully engages with the independent radio production sector to the benefit of all, including RTÉ, independent radio producers and most importantly, the listening public.

I have no doubt that over time, such engagement will result in commissioning in excess of the statutory requirement, as has been the case with independent television production.

The Bill also provides other mechanisms to facilitate the development of the independent radio production sector in Ireland. Section 25 sets the new single content regulator, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, the objective of stimulating the provision of high quality, diverse and innovative programming by independent producers.

Section 112 requires RTÉ to prepare a Code of Fair Trading Practice outlining how it will go about commissioning programmes from the independent production sector.

These initiatives along with the continuance of the Sound and Vision Scheme under Part 10 of the Bill will serve to add to the diversity of voices and creative ideas that populate the Irish airwaves.

Electricity Generation.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

56 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the north south interconnector and the report into overhead versus underground transmission lines which was due for publication in early June 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28038/08]

The Independent Study on the Comparative Merits of Overhead Electricity Transmission Lines versus Underground Cables was published yesterday and I have forwarded it to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

The study was conducted by International consultants Ecofys, in partnership with an expert in underground cable technology, Professor Dr Heinrich Brakelmann of the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany, and with Golder Associates, a global group specialising in ground engineering and environmental services.

The study examines available electricity transmission technologies, their characterisation, comparisons of techno-economic characteristics and environmental impacts, policy implications and costs. It also includes a review of over 500 stakeholder submissions received by the Department as part of the submissions process, analysis of current international practice and two hypothetical case studies with route lengths of 100km and 50km. The study was completed on a national basis and is not project specific.

The study represents an impartial, independent, technical assessment on the relative merits of overhead electricity lines versus underground cables and provides important further information that can used to facilitate decision making for current and future individual projects.

In its conclusions, the study notes the increasing pressure internationally to place electricity transmission infrastructure underground and the continued technology development in the field of underground cables at high and extra high voltages. The study states however, that the size and number of existing underground cables internationally is limited and that the majority of existing projects do not represent transmission connections in conventional networks. It also notes that underground transmission cables can be expected to have forced outage rates (likelihood of unplanned system breakdowns) which are at least 10 times more frequent than those expected of overhead lines. The consultants describe this as a "severe limitation" for underground cables and that consequently, underground cables do not therefore compare to overhead lines in terms of adequacy of the electricity transmission system and reliability of electricity supply. The consultants describe this finding as "the dominating criterion" when comparing overhead and underground technologies and note that the associated negative impacts cannot compensate for any of the advantages of underground cables.

The study also notes that the cost implications underground cable proposals are difficult to quantify, but would be significant. Based on case studies conducted by the consultants, they state that the cost of underground cables would be approximately five times greater than the capital cost of overhead lines and three times the lifecycle cost. In relation to perceived health impacts, the study notes that EirGrid operates within WHO guidelines and that in practice, the transmission system generally operates at levels that are 80-90% lower than the levels recommended in these guidelines.

I am fully supportive of the Joint Committee's commitment to full and objective debate of all the complex issues and to hear the views of all sides. Ecofys have confirmed their availability to present their report to the Joint Oireachtas Committee when required.

I have no statutory function regarding specific power lines, including the north south interconnector. The planning, development and routing of transmission line infrastructure is a matter for EirGrid, which is the State body responsible for operating the electricity transmission system in Ireland, including the wholesale electricity trading system. I forwarded the Ecofys study on its publication, to EirGrid and to ESB Networks.

Approval of the Transmission System Development Plan, which includes power lines, is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation, which is statutorily independent in carrying out its functions. Individual power lines also require permission under the relevant planning process including the Strategic Infrastructure Board where appropriate.

Telecommunications Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

57 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the growing digital divide across rural and urban Ireland as outlined in a recent Central Statistics Office report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28012/08]

The provision of telecommunications services including broadband is, in the first instance, a matter for the private sector. Broadband service providers operate in a fully liberalised market, regulated, where appropriate, by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg.

The widespread provision of broadband services continues to be a priority for the Government. In that regard my Department has undertaken initiatives to address the gaps in broadband coverage. These included providing grant-aid under the Group Broadband Scheme (GBS) and ongoing investment in Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs).

Although broadband is now widely available in Ireland there are still some parts of the country where the private sector will be unable to justify the commercial provision of broadband services. These areas are being addressed by the National Broadband Scheme (NBS), which will provide broadband services to areas that are currently unserved and will ensure that all requests for broadband are met.

The first phase of the NBS procurement process (Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ)) is now complete. The remaining candidates have been engaged in "Competitive Dialogue" with my Department and are developing their proposed solutions to meet my Department's requirements.

Judicial Review proceedings regarding certain elements of the NBS mapping process took place on 10 and 11 June 2008 in the High Court and a judgement is awaited. While the outcome of the Judicial Review cannot be anticipated, it is currently expected that a preferred bidder for the NBS will be selected in September 2008, with rollout to commence as soon as possible thereafter.

Question No. 58 answered with Question No. 32.

Electricity Generation.

Joe Costello

Question:

59 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the recommendations of the Expert Group on Health Effects of Electro Magnetic Fields published in March 2007; his further views on whether the report’s recommendations need to be implemented as a general regulatory framework before decisions can be made regarding the EirGrid proposals to strengthen the national grid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28007/08]

The health effects of electromagnetic fields, is a matter for the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government and I have no function in this matter.

EirGrid complies with International Guidelines for EMF exposure set by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), which advises the World Health Organisation.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) established a panel of interdisciplinary experts to examine all the available information and research on the health impacts of electromagnetic fields. The WHO's subsequent report, published in June 2007, concluded that the research does not suggest electromagnetic fields cause any adverse health effects at levels generally encountered by members of the public.

The conclusions of the Expert Group on Health Effects of Electro Magnetic Fields are consistent with the WHO Report.

I have this week recently published the Independent Study on the Comparative Merits of Overhead Electricity Transmission Lines versus Underground Cables. The Study notes that EirGrid designs and operates overhead lines in compliance with WHO guidelines on magnetic field exposure and that in practice, under normal operation conditions in Ireland, magnetic field strengths directly under transmission lines are as low as 10–20% of the maximum levels recommended in the WHO guidelines.

Question No. 60 answered with Question No. 29.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Question:

61 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the status and details of proposals on the introduction of a carbon tax or a carbon levy in view of the recent increases in the price of petrol and diesel; if he proposes to proceed with the introduction of such a tax or levy; if so, when; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28295/08]

Joan Burton

Question:

62 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance his proposals to amend the tax code to encourage good environmental behaviour and to discourage environmentally damaging practices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28296/08]

Joan Burton

Question:

63 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide assurances that any carbon tax or carbon levy will be phased in on a revenue neutral basis over the lifetime of the Government. [28297/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 61 to 63, inclusive, together.

I accept that the tax system can, as well as other measures, be used to either encourage or deter certain behaviours that have impacts on the environment. In this regard the Government has been to the fore in using the tax system to promote environmental policies; examples include:

Budget 2008 provided for VRT on passenger cars being based on CO2 emissions, rather than engine size, with effect from 1 July 2008, to encourage the purchase of lower emission cars.

Motor Tax for new cars is also being based on CO2 emissions with effect from 1 July 2008.

Up to €2,500 VRT relief is available on the registration of series production hybrid electric and flexible fuel vehicles from 1 July 2008 (this replaces the previous 50% VRT relief for such vehicles).

Series production electric passenger cars and motorcycles have been exempted from VRT since 1 January 2008 for a three year period.

Capital allowances and leasing expenses for business cars are based on CO2 emissions from 1 July 2008.

An accelerated capital allowance initiative scheme for energy efficient equipment has been introduced which will allow companies to claim the full cost, in the year of purchase, of specified energy efficient equipment against their taxable income.

The Finance Act 2008 also provided for the VAT rate applicable on the supply of miscanthus rhizomes, seeds, bulbs, roots and similar goods used for the agricultural production of bio-fuels being reduced from 21% to 13.5%.

An excise relief scheme for biofuels over 5 years from 2006 has been introduced.

Recycling companies that meet certain conditions are included in the BES and Seed Capital Schemes from 2007 onwards; windfarms are already covered by the schemes under the manufacturing category.

The introduction of other tax measures aimed at encouraging environmentally friendly behaviour will continue to be considered in the context of the Budgetary process.

In relation to the introduction of a carbon tax/levy, the Programme for Government includes a commitment to introduce a carbon tax/levy over the lifetime of the Government. This will, of course, form an important part of the normal deliberative process of the Government in setting fiscal and environmental policy. The Programme for Government indicates that the phasing-in of a carbon levy will be on a revenue neutral basis.

As the Deputy will be aware, the carbon tax issue is being examined by the Commission on Taxation. The Commission is due to report by September 2009, at the latest.

Airport Development Projects.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

64 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance if the National Development Plan Central Monitoring Committee has examined the terminal two project and the new runway at Dublin Airport; if so, the findings of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28354/08]

The NDP Central Monitoring Committee was supplied with both a report on the Airports Sub-Programme and with a draft of the 2007 NDP Annual Report, which also included a section on the Airports Sub-Programme. The draft 2007 NDP Annual Report was discussed by the NDP Central Monitoring Committee at its meeting on 16th May last. Following consideration by Government, the 2007 Annual Report was laid before the Oireachtas last week. The Airports Sub-Programme Report records that Terminal Two and a new runway are amongst the anticipated outputs from the Airports Sub-Programme over the period of the Plan (2007-2013). The Annual Report records that "construction work on the new Terminal Two commenced in October 2007 and is due for completion by end 2009 with an expected opening date of April 2010."

Departmental Expenditure.

Joan Burton

Question:

65 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the expenditure by his Department on consultants for each of the past six calendar years, including to date in 2008; the breakdown of these figures in order to show the amount and proportion of expenditure on consultants which relates to expenditure on public relations, marketing or advertising consultants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28385/08]

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

Total Consultancies

YTD

€,2007

€,2006

€,2005

€,2004

€,2003

€,000

€,000

€,000

€,000

€,000

€,000

CPSA

49

227

173

169

*

*

C&AG

74

181

297

73

65

85

Finance

170

1,657

1,873

2,473

2,140

1,954

Ombudsman

30

47

38

126

30

37

Revenue

158

627

27,706

22,900

18,530

12,450

PAS

142

229

390

234

*

*

State Lab

3

70

45

56

90

122

Valuation Office

19

68

74

35

25

17

OPW

30

336

177

131

216

130

Appeals Commr.

0

0

0

0

0

0

Departmental Staff.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

66 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance the pay and emoluments granted to the chief executive officer, or equivalents, of all of the agencies under the control of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28398/08]

The remuneration of the CEO of the one State agency, funded from the Vote of my Department, is as follows:

Special EU Programmes Body: The salary scale for the CEO which is paid in Sterling ranging from £60,017 to £83,430. In addition there is also an annual performance bonus structure in place in which the Chief Executive can be awarded from a minimum bonus of £nil up to a maximum bonus of £10,000, dependent on assessment of performance by Department of Finance and Department of Finance and Personnel (to be assessed against 2008 year objectives). The CEO is a member of the North/South pension scheme and will receive an annual pension and lump sum on retirement.

Of the other State Agencies which come under the remit of my Department, the remuneration for the CEO of the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland, is a matter for the Board of the individual authorities. The remuneration packages of all National Treasury Management Agency staff, including that of its CEO and the CEO of the National Development Finance Agency, are negotiated on an individual contract basis and are confidential. The administration accounts (including pay and pensions, etc.) of the NTMA are audited by the Comptroller & Auditor General each year.

Tax Code.

Niall Collins

Question:

67 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Finance the plans he has to allow unmarried couples living together on a long-term basis to utilise their partner’s tax credits and allowances similar to married couples; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28484/08]

Generally speaking, the tax system treats members of cohabiting couples as separate and unconnected individuals. Each partner is a separate entity for tax purposes and credits and bands and reliefs cannot be transferred from one partner to the other.

The Working Group Examining the Treatment of Married, Cohabiting and One-Parent Families under the Tax and Social Welfare Codes, which reported in August 1999, was sympathetic, in principle, to changes in the tax legislation to address the issues raised relating to cohabiting couples and reported that the options that it set out should be considered further. However, it acknowledged in relation to the tax treatment of cohabiting couples that a key issue is whether tax law should proceed ahead of changes in the general law.

There are a number of recent reports which will help to inform the Government's deliberations in this general area including:

the Tenth Progress Report of the Oireachtas All-Party Committee on the Constitution entitled ‘The Family' which was published in early 2006;

the Options Paper presented to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in November 2006 by the Working Group on Domestic Partnership (the Colley Group); andthe Report of the Law Reform Commission on the rights and duties of cohabitants which was published in December 2006.

I would also point out that An Agreed Programme for Government contains the following provision in relation to civil partnerships:

"This Government is committed to full equality for all in our society. Taking account of the options paper prepared by the Colley Group and the pending Supreme Court case, we will legislate for Civil Partnerships at the earliest possible date in the lifetime of the Government."

In addition, on 24 June 2008 the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform published the Heads of a Civil Partnership Bill which had been approved by the Government.

I would view as problematic and unwise a situation where changes in the tax code relating to the treatment of cohabiting couples would set a headline in advance of developments in other relevant areas of public policy such as in the area of legal recognition of relationships other than married relationships.

Flood Relief.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

68 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 87 of 24 April 2008, if the consulting engineer has been hired; and if so, when he expects their report to be available. [28527/08]

Kildare County Council has engaged consulting engineers, to carry out a Pre-feasibility Study in relation to the flooding problems in Johnstown, Co. Kildare. The Local Authority is currently examining this report, and has advised my officials that they will be forwarding it, to the OPW for appraisal, in the near future.

Tax Code.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

69 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Finance when a Med 1 refund will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare. [28531/08]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a PAYE balancing statement 2007, incorporating relief due for health expenses, will issue to the taxpayer in the coming days together with cheque in settlement.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

70 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Finance his views on extending tax relief on third level fees to the 8,500 students of the Open University; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28807/08]

Section 473A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, provides for tax relief at the standard rate of income tax (20%) for qualifying fees paid by an individual in respect of a third level education course.

Qualifying fees means tuition fees paid for an approved course at an approved college. The maximum amount of qualifying fees on which tax relief is allowed is €5,000 for the academic years 2006/2007 and 2007/2008.

The tax relief is confined to tuition fees only and does not extend to items such as registration fees, administration fees, accommodation, etc. Tuition fees that are, or will be, met directly or indirectly by grants, scholarships, employer contribution or other means are to be deducted in arriving at the net fees qualifying for tax relief.

An approved course means either:

(a) a full-time or part-time undergraduate course of study of at least 2 academic years duration at an approved college; or

(b) a postgraduate course of study leading to a postgraduate award, based on a thesis or on the results of an examination or both, at an approved college of not less than one academic year, but not more than 4 academic years in duration that requires an individual, undertaking the course, to have been conferred with a degree or an equivalent qualification.

Under the relevant legislation, the approval of colleges for the purposes of obtaining tax relief on third level education fees is granted by the Minister for Education and Science, with the consent of the Minister for Finance. The Open University is already such an approved college and tax relief is already available for approved courses at that college.

Pension Provisions.

Richard Bruton

Question:

71 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the reason the Air Corps service of a soldier (details supplied) in Dublin 5 who ended their service in October 1970 is not eligible for transfer to the Aer Lingus superannuation scheme; the pension provision that exists for those with pre-1970 service; and his views on amending the rules of pension eligibility to approve the transfer of Army service to link with the Aer Lingus pension. [28819/08]

The transfer of service in question is a matter for Aer Lingus and the Department of Defence. I might say that the person concerned served in the Permanent Defence Force until 1967 and again for one month with the reserve Defence Force in 1969 in a full time capacity. The latter period may be transferred to Aer Lingus. However, Aer Lingus has not accepted the former service for transfer purposes under the Public Service Transfer Network. As the service involved predated Aer Lingus joining the network in 1973, it is at the company's discretion whether the previous service will be accepted by them for transfer. I have no proposals to amend the Public Service Transfer Network to provide for the automatic transfer of service in such cases.

Fiscal Policy.

Denis Naughten

Question:

72 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance his plans to extend the mid Shannon tourism investment scheme; his views on the submission to him by a county council (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28850/08]

The areas included in the Mid-Shannon Tourism Infrastructure Investment Scheme are outlined in Schedule 8B of Section 29 of the 2007 Finance Act and include all of the District Electoral Divisions that are wholly or partly within a 12 kilometre band on either side of the mid section of the Shannon.

This is a pilot scheme, the operation of which will be carefully monitored and assessed and will be for a limited period only. The reason for selecting the mid-Shannon region is that from a tourism perspective, the inner core of the country remains relatively underdeveloped. Its tourism intensity is low and it has lagged behind recent growth in tourism in Ireland which has been predominately in Dublin and certain coastal counties. This scheme aims to help redress this regional imbalance and for this reason it is important that the geographical scope of the scheme should be confined to this limited area.

Motor Fuels.

Joan Burton

Question:

73 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the details of seizures of marked diesel for the past three years, analysed by county, quantity, and value; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29000/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a breakdown of marked diesel seizures by county is not available at present as administrative records are maintained on a regional basis only. Details of seizures of mineral oils by type and value (where appropriate) and region during the period 1 January 2005 to 30 June 2008 are as follows:

Laundered Fuel

Year

Region

No. of Seizures

Quantity Litres

No value ascribed

2005

Border Midlands West

23

207,204

Dublin

6

60,500

East South East

16

94,850

South West

1

11,010

2006

Border Midlands West

16

114,850

Dublin

1

26,500

East South East

1

5,750

2007

Border Midlands West

13

84,025

2008

Border Midlands West

3

10,400

2008

Dublin

1

5,500

Kerosene

Year

Region

No. of Seizures

Quantity Litres

Value (approx.)

2005

Border Midlands West

18

45,288

31,700

2006

Border Midlands West

9

13,000

9,750

2007

Border Midlands West

10

16,650

12,500

2008

Border Midlands West

1

1,900

1,520

Green Diesel

Year

Region

No. of Seizures

Quantity Litres

Value (approx.)

2005

Border Midlands West

2

2,590

1,800

2005

East South East

2

2,700

1,900

2006

Border Midlands West

1

1,552

1,160

2007

Border Midlands West

4

12,260

9,200

2008

Border Midlands West

5

39,700

31,760

Red Diesel

Year

Region

No. of Seizures

Quantity Litres

Value (approx.)

2005

Border Midlands West

3

2,800

1,960

2006

Border Midlands West

1

1,000

1,000

2007

Border Midlands West

2

1,282

1,025

Revenue's Mineral Oil Enforcement Programme also includes the sampling of diesel vehicles. Details of detections made under this programme on a regional basis during the same period are as follows:

Details of Marked Mineral Oil Offences by Region

Region

2008 Y.T.D

2007

2006

2005

South West

185

391

380

421

Dublin

65

216

117

174

Border Midlands West

284

545

718

698

East South East

44

54

90

99

Total Number of detections

578

1,206

1,305

1,392

Financial Services Regulation.

Joan Burton

Question:

74 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the discussions that have taken place with the Irish banks and the Irish Bankers Federation in respect of schemes of support for the liquidity of the banks, particularly in respect of mortgage loans and other construction-related borrowing, as indicated by the comments of members of the banking delegation to the Joint Committee on Finance and Public Service; the arrangements under consideration; the approaches made by the banks to the Government, Central Bank, and the Financial Regulator; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29001/08]

The Deputy's question may refer to the discussion at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance and the Public Service on 2 July last with representatives of the banking industry and in particular to comments on the German mortgage banking Pfandbriefe model and its Irish equivalent Asset Covered Securities (ACS). As the Deputy may be aware we already have a robust and effective legislative framework in place in Ireland for ACS since 2001. This legislation which is considered an example of international best practice in this area was updated last year. It is one of the several mechanisms currently used by Irish banks to meet their funding needs. Those amendments were made early in 2007, and hence obviously were unconnected to the financial turmoil later that year. They were technical changes aimed at ensuring that the Irish legislative and regulatory basis for the issuance of covered bonds kept its place at the leading edge of international financial services. No further adaptation of our Asset Covered Securities(ACS) legislation is immediately required or planned.

As explained at the Joint Committee on Finance and Public Service, this kind of legislation draws its inspiration from the German Pfandbriefe model, originated about 150 years ago. The ACS mechanism serves as an additional source of diversified funding for participating banks. Put simply, it enables banks to offer highly regulated low risk bonds that are attractive to investors because they are backed by high quality assets. The fact that we put this legislation in place has provided a useful addition to the funding mix of our institutions.

As far as bank lending is concerned, the Deputy will note from the proceedings of the Joint Oireachtas Committee meeting that the bank representatives stressed that the Irish banks remain open for business and substantial mortgage lending is continuing to take place. As far as the overall position of the banking sector is concerned, the recent report by the credit rating agency Standard and Poor's concluded that the Irish banking system remains solid and is underpinned by good profit margins, sound liquidity and capitalisation.

More generally, as the Deputy would expect,members of staff of my Department and I would often have opportunities for discussions with business and their representative bodies. However, as I stated earlier this week, no scheme of the type mentioned has been submitted for my consideration. If there are specific proposals made, I will of course have them examined.

Departmental Offices.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

75 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Finance the number of clients on average that call each day to the new Revenue Commissioners offices at the Linn Dubh complex in Cork; the number of car parking spaces that are available to the office; the number allocated for public use including disabled parking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29003/08]

I have been informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the average number of customers calling to Revenue House, Blackpool, Cork is three hundred and twenty five per day.

This is a new office, combining functions previously based at Sullivan's Quay and at Centre Park Road. There is a total of two hundred and eighty two spaces available to the office. This includes seventeen spaces for the public, two of which are for disabled parking. It also includes spaces for vehicle inspection for purposes of vehicle registration tax, parking for official Revenue/Customs vehicles, provision for delivery/collection, and secure facilities for seized vehicles.

Revenue's previous buildings had no facilities for public parking or for disabled parking, and the need for both was part of the requirement for Revenue House. Revenue is committed to maximum accessibility at this building. In the event that both spaces for disabled parking are used, special arrangements are made for further disabled customers.

Garda Stations.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

76 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if there are plans by the Office of Public Works to refurbish and renovate Coolock Garda Station; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29020/08]

The Commissioners of Public Works operate the Garda Accommodation programme from a prioritised list provided by the Garda Authorities. Financial resources are set aside based on planned works arising from the list.

The Commissioners of Public Works have not received a detailed brief of requirements from the Garda Authorities to refurbish or renovate Coolock Garda Station. The Commissioners have however recently completed minor works at this station to include a new drugs store and resurfacing the car parking area. Other minor requests focusing on toilet facilities are being assessed currently.

Off-Licence Regulations.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

77 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the number of off-licences that are currently authorised in the postal districts of Dublin 5 and 13; the number that have been licensed in each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29041/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the number of off licences that are currently authorised in the postal districts of Dublin 5 and 13, is 31 and 10 respectively.

Details of the number of off-licences that have been issued in the Postal Districts Dublin 5 and Dublin 13 in each of the past five years is:

Year to 30-09-03

30-09-04

30-09-05

30-09-06

30-09-07

Dublin 5

21

24

31

29

31

Dublin 13

5

6

7

6

9

The above figures include the renewal of existing licences and the issuance of new licences.

The question of off-licences was among the issues considered by the Government Alcohol Advisory Group appointed by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The Group reported to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on 31 March 2008 and legislative proposals arising from the work of the Group were subsequently published. The Intoxicating Liquor Bill 2008 is currently before the Oireachtas.

Fiscal Policy.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

78 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance if he will reconsider the previous decision not to ringfence Criminal Assets Bureau moneys for use as additional funds for local drugs awareness or drug rehabilitation or community development schemes in drugs taskforce areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29084/08]

As I stated in my reply to Dáil Question No. 163, Reference no. 21715/08, on 4th June last, in accordance with the requirements of Article 11 of the Constitution, revenues accruing to the State, including those seized from drug dealers through the functions of the Criminal Assets Bureau, are paid into the Central Fund, from which the Government draws for expenditure on all necessary public services and investment. There are no proposals to alter these arrangements.

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

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

Tax Code.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

79 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance his views, in the interest of public health, on removing the VAT on nicorette and other such products that help reduce or end dependence on nicotine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29090/08]

I should explain that Nicorette sublingual tablets, Nicorette Inhalers and Nicorette chewing gum are chargeable to VAT at the zero rate. The basis for the zero rating of these products is that they come within paragraph (xiii) of the Second Schedule to the VAT Act 1972 as "medicine of a kind used for human oral consumption". Nicorette chewing gum was zero-rated as the product requires authorisation from the Department of Health and Children, being classed as a medicinal product subject to the same controls which apply to medicines generally.

Nicotine patches are, however, subject to the standard VAT rate of 21% and can not be zero-rated as they are not a medication used for human oral consumption.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

80 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance his views, in the interest of public health, and tackling obesity in particular which was identified as a key public health challenge for the Government, on removing the VAT on exercise bikes and other exercise equipment and bicycles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29091/08]

I should explain that the VAT regime for goods and services is governed by EU law with which Irish Law must comply. Under the EU VAT Directive, Member States may retain the zero rates on goods and services which were in place on 1 January 1991, but cannot extend the zero rate to new goods and services. As exercise bikes, exercise equipment and bicycles were not subject to the zero rate on 1 January 1991 it is not possible to apply the zero rate to the supply of such products. In addition, Member States may only apply the reduced VAT rate to those goods and services which are listed under Annex III of the EU VAT Directive. While Annex III does include the supply of certain pharmaceutical products used for health care and also medical equipment for the exclusive personal use of a disabled person, it does not include goods such as exercise bikes, exercise equipment and bicycles. Therefore it is not possible to apply the reduced rate of VAT to these items. The only rate of VAT that can apply to exercise bikes, exercise equipment and bicycles is the standard VAT rate which in Ireland is 21%. I would add, however, that Annex III of the VAT Directive does include the use of sporting facilities and, accordingly, Ireland applies the reduced rate to the use of gyms and health studio businesses.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

81 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance if, in the interest of public health and road safety, he will allow those taking driving lessons to be able to claim back the tax paid on fees to encourage provisional licence holders to prepare for their driving tests. [29092/08]

The Deputy should be aware that matters of road safety are primarily the responsibility of the Minister for Transport. Proposals for new tax reliefs or the extension of existing ones must be seen in the light of the public finances and demands on the Exchequer and, in accordance with long standing practice, are matters to be considered in the context of the annual Budget and Finance Bill process.

Richard Bruton

Question:

82 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the complaints that the Revenue Commissioners, in enforcing strict compliance with the relevant contracts tax provisions, have sought to recover tax a second time and impose penalties for failure to keep proper records even though the Exchequer has suffered no loss; and his views on ensuring that penalties in such a case would be proportionate. [29103/08]

I am aware that the Revenue Commissioners have tightened their fiscal control of the construction industry in recent years. Starting in late 2005, Revenue conducted a national campaign of audit and site visits in the industry to establish the levels of tax compliance and to tackle abuse.

One of the key problems identified was the fairly common failure to operate the construction industry withholding tax, known as RCT (Relevant Contract Tax).

RCT is a withholding tax operated by a principal contractor on payments to subcontractors. A subcontractor can avoid the withholding tax by applying to Revenue for a so-called C2 certificate. This allows the sub-contractor to be paid without tax deduction provided that the principal contractor applies to Revenue for a payments card for the sub-contractor. This card is issued where Revenue is satisfied that there is a contract between the principal and sub-contractor and the subcontractor has a satisfactory tax record. The card provides an auditable link between the two parties and is an essential part of Revenue control.

It became clear in 2006 that in many cases, payments were being made without tax deduction where these terms of the RCT scheme were not met. There was worrying evidence of organised fraud involving criminal gangs who used the system to extract fraudulent refunds.

Revenue undertook widespread publicity campaigns to explain the proper operation of the tax. They issued briefing papers to accountants, and to contractors through trade magazines. Revenue spoke at forums held by the Irish Taxation Institute to over 1,000 tax accountants.

Finally, for cases where the tax had not been properly operated, Revenue created a mechanism for end year collection to help principal contractors regularise their RCT and avoid being hit with a charge to tax, interest and penalties for failures to operate RCT properly.

Despite this, many cases have turned up in audit where RCT has not been properly operated; in particular, there has been a failure to use the key control document, the relevant payments card. Legally, this failure places the tax liability on the principal contractor. Some principal contractors faced with Revenue audits have argued that failure to withhold the RCT has not resulted in tax loss as the sub-contractors in the case were fully compliant with tax law. However, Revenue cannot establish this in any cost-effective way. I am advised by Revenue that in these circumstances they have proposed a mechanism that would allow the principal and sub-contractor to retrospectively adjust the tax liability between them so as to eliminate any double taxation. Unfortunately, some contractors have been unable or unwilling to make these adjustments. The majority of taxpayers in the construction industry are not affected by the problem as they operate RCT correctly.

Departmental Staff.

Denis Naughten

Question:

83 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance his plans for recruiting clerical staff in the Laois and Offaly areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29109/08]

The Public Appointments Service are the main licence holder for recruitment to civil service positions nationwide. A recruitment campaign was advertised in October 2007 to fill permanent clerical positions arising in the Laois / Offaly area. Positions notified to the Public Appointments Service are filled from panels established from this campaign. There are no immediate plans to re-advertise as it is anticipated that there are sufficient numbers of qualified candidates available in the short to medium term.

Ministerial Travel.

Liz McManus

Question:

84 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Finance the cost and frequency of travel per month since the beginning of this new Government by Ministers and Ministers of State by means of bus transport, rail transport or air transport by Department and by Minister involved in the travel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29147/08]

The Table gives details of the number of trips per month by air transport made by my predecessor and myself during the period 14 June 2007 to date in 2008.

Month>

No of Trips

July 2007

1

September 2007

1

October 2007

1

November 2007

1

January 2008

3

February 2008

1

March 2008

2

May 2008

1

June 2008

1

to date in July 2008

1

In all but one case (March 2008- €4604), the Government Jet was used and no charge was incurred by the Department of Finance. No bus or rail travel was undertaken in this period.

During the same period the Minister of State and his predecessor undertook the following trips:

Month

No of Trips

Cost of airfares

July 2007

1

379

October 2007

1

1,209

November 2007

1

377

March 2008

1

3,633

June 2008

3

6,861

In addition the Minister of State took a rail trip to Belfast in May 2008 at a cost of €98.00.

Departmental Agencies.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

85 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance if he is confident that all agencies and bodies under his Department’s responsibility comply fully with the Department of Finance procurement guidelines for goods and services; if he has sought assurances from the agencies and bodies that this is the case since 2000 to date in 2008; if he has expressed concern to an agency or body that it might be acting inappropriately since 2000 to date in 2008; if so, the agency or body; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29169/08]

I have no reason to believe that Offices and Agencies under my Department's responsibility comply other than fully with public procurement guidelines. My Department makes it clear through the Government Contracts Committee that public procurement procedures must be complied with in full and maintains regular contact with its agencies and bodies to keep this message to the fore at all times.

Departmental Expenditure.

Damien English

Question:

86 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Finance the cost saving measures he plans to introduce in the second half of 2008; if such measures will affect the delivery of front line services to the public; the programmes that will be postponed or discontinued as a result of such cost savings. [27308/08]

The Government decision of 8 July in relation to expenditure savings in the remainder of 2008 identifies savings of €82.732m to be delivered across the Finance group of votes. These savings are to be realised in both administrative and programme expenditure and are set out in the table.

Revised Estimate 2008

Savings Programme Current

Savings Programme Capital

Savings Administrative Budget

Savings Agency & other Efficiencies

Savings Consultancies/ Advertising/ PR

Savings Payroll

Savings

€000s

€000s

€000s

€000s

€000s

€000s

€000s

€000s

Dept of Finance

96,280

2,500

311

167

222

144

3,343

Comptroller & Auditor General

14,449

60

76

39

175

Ombudsman

8,778

38

44

22

103

OPW

680,825

75,000

444

222

35

345

76,046

Public Appointments Service & CPSA

16,749

43

299

27

369

Revenue

487,618

1,111

259

1,138

2,508

State Lab

10,638

39

6

20

65

Valuation Office

13,734

52

38

33

123

As a result of the recently completed efficiency review of my department a range of measures are being implemented to ensure costs savings by the end of the year. However, the Government decision requires further cost saving measures. My Department and the associated offices have not yet completed deliberations on which further measures will best achieve the targets. Accordingly, I cannot advise the Deputy of the precise nature or the expected consequences of the measures yet.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

87 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount assigned for 2008 under each separate budgetary heading and sub-headings for the midlands health service area; the amount spent to date in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28410/08]

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

Drug Treatment Programme.

Michael Ring

Question:

88 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made in relation to the Programme for Government proposal to open two cocaine specific treatment centres; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28654/08]

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

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

89 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made in relation to the Programme for Government proposal to improve health facilities on the offshore islands to ensure that they are fully equipped to deal with routine and where necessary emergency medical situations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28666/08]

Michael Ring

Question:

91 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made in relation to the Programme for Government proposal to provide better ante and post-natal services on island; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28668/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89 and 91 together.

Under the Health Act 2004, the management and delivery of health and personal social services is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive.

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

Michael Ring

Question:

90 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made in relation to the Programme for Government proposal to provide tele-medicine facilities to allow Ireland’s most remote island communities and medical practitioners access to doctors and consultants in specialist hospitals here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28667/08]

I understand that, as part of its emerging strategy for Information and Communications Technology which is expected to be completed later this year, the Health Service Executive is considering how Telemedicine and Telecare facilities can be best deployed to remotely monitor and provide services to patients, including those with chronic conditions, thus reducing the need to travel for medical consultations. Developments in this area will be particularly beneficial to those living in island communities.

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 respond in more detail to the query raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter further investigated and to arrange to provide more specific detail on the progress made to-date in this area directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 91 answered with Question No. 89.

Health Service Allowances.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

92 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children when the promised review of the cost of disability payment will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28869/08]

As the Deputy is aware the Department of Health and Children published a Sectoral Plan in 2006 as part of the implementation of Disability Act 2005. A review of year one of the Plan was published in December 2007. The Sectoral Plan establishes a system for the assessment of individual needs for people with a disability.

The Sectoral Plan also identifies key objectives in relation to income support and associated benefits for people with disabilities including an agreed protocol with the Department of Social and Family Affairs to develop income and related supports for people with disabilities in order to ensure that they have adequate, secure and sustainable income.

The Government is working towards ensuring that income supports and associated benefits do not create financial barriers to people with disabilities.

The Office for Disability and Mental Health is committed to considering the issues around the cost of disability following the development of the needs assessment system provided for in the Disability Act.

In the meantime, there is significant assistance currently available to mitigate the impact of the additional costs incurred by people with a disability. These measures include weekly/monthly allowances, additional income supports; other benefits such as medical cards, free travel, mobility allowance and tax concessions.

Community Care.

Billy Timmins

Question:

93 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the home care package application for a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if funding will be provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28276/08]

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

Billy Timmins

Question:

94 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the home care package for Wicklow in relation to a reply of 28 May 2008 stating that the budget is fully expanded on the existing 112 packages in place; if, in view of the necessity of this package, further funding will be provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28277/08]

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.

Billy Timmins

Question:

95 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the specialists palliative care specialist nursing service in Wicklow Community Care; if she will intervene and reinstate the service; the reason this service was withdrawn; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28278/08]

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.

Finian McGrath

Question:

96 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if assistance will be given in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11. [28288/08]

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

Finian McGrath

Question:

97 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5 will be supported. [28289/08]

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.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Finian McGrath

Question:

98 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if assistance will be given in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary. [28290/08]

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.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Joan Burton

Question:

99 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children the money set aside for the implementation of the Fair Deal scheme for long-term residential care for older people for the years 2008, 2009 and 2010; if there has been a change in the scheduling of the roll-out of this scheme; if such re-scheduling is currently under consideration; when she will introduce the necessary legislation for the roll-out of this scheme; her views on the utilisation of Fair Deal moneys allocated in Budget 2008 but not spent for the alleviation of suffering for those in long-term residential care during the interim period until the relevant legislation can be passed and the scheme fully rolled out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28291/08]

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 on enactment of the legislation is not possible at this stage.

Once the legislation is enacted and the necessary legal and administrative arrangements are in place, the scheme will be introduced.

Finally, an Exchequer budget of €920 million has been identified for purposes of meeting the costs associated with the nursing home support scheme in its first three years. This budget includes additional funding of €117 million provided in 2007 and a further €110 million pledged in Budget 2008. My colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, and I are conscious of the effect that the unavoidable and unforeseen delays in implementing Fair Deal are causing to some older people and their families. To date, €13 million has been allocated from the additional monies provided in Budget 2008 for the provision of 200 contract beds. Approval has also been given to HSE to utilise a further €12 million in meeting costs associated with nursing home subventions and existing contract beds.

Health Service Staff.

John Deasy

Question:

100 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount in bonus payments paid to the chief executive officer of the Health Service Executive in each of the years 2005, 2006 and 2007; if it is planned to make such a payment in 2008; the amount of such a payment planned for 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28311/08]

John Deasy

Question:

101 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children the details of the performance indicators used to determine the amount of bonus payments paid to the chief executive officer of the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28312/08]

John Deasy

Question:

102 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount in bonus payments paid to each of the national directors and other members of the management team of the Health Service Executive in each of the years 2005, 2006 and 2007; if it is planned to make such payments in 2008; the amount of such a payments planned for 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28313/08]

John Deasy

Question:

103 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children the details of the performance indicators used to determine the amount of bonus payments paid to each of the national directors and other members of the management team of the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28314/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 100 to 103, inclusive, together.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Health Service Executive is eligible, under his contract of employment, for an annual bonus of up to 25% of his basic salary. In addition a number of senior administrative personnel in the HSE are eligible for an annual performance-related award under a scheme recommended by the Review Body on Higher Remuneration.

In accordance with normal governance arrangements, the Board of the HSE is responsible for the operation of the CEOs bonus and PRA Scheme. My Department has, accordingly, asked the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the HSE to have the issues raised by the Deputy considered and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Care of the Elderly.

Noel Coonan

Question:

104 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Health and Children the services or facilities available for elderly people who are discharged from hospital and have nobody to care for them at home; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28316/08]

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.

Noel Coonan

Question:

105 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Health and Children the details of the winter initiative scheme; the number of weeks a person is entitled to under this scheme in a nursing home; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28317/08]

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.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Noel Coonan

Question:

106 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Health and Children the rate of nursing home subvention; the breakdown of the way this rate is assessed; the number of payments being issued in north Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28318/08]

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.

Noel Coonan

Question:

107 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the cost of nursing home care in north Tipperary; the way elderly people with only a pension income are to be able to balance the cost of this; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28319/08]

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.

Community Care.

Noel Coonan

Question:

108 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to reinstate the Borrisoleigh community welfare officer to Borrisoleigh, County Tipperary in view of the fact that the officer is currently operating from Templemore; the timeframe for the move; the reason that this has not occurred; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28336/08]

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

Medical Cards.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

109 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children and young people under 18 years covered by the full medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28338/08]

The Health Service Executive has informed my Department that the number of children and young people under 18 years currently covered by the medical card is 315,505.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

110 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the cost of implementing the commitments on medical cards for children and young people as made in the Programme for Government to double the income limit eligibility for parents of children under six years of age and treble them for parents of children under 18 years of age with an intellectual disability; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28339/08]

The Programme for Government commits to the following:

Indexing the income thresholds for medical cards to increases in the average industrial wage;

Doubling of the income limit eligibility of parents of children under 6 years of age, and trebling them for parents of children under 18 years of age with an intellectual disability.

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

Suicide Incidence.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

111 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of funding allocated to the National Office on Suicide Prevention for the implementation of Reach Out National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention in 2006, 2007 and 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28340/08]

Since the establishment of the HSE's National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP) in 2005, €1.2m additional funding was allocated in 2006 and a further €1.85 million was allocated in 2007 for the implementation of ‘Reach Out' — the National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention, 2005-2014. This brings the total funding available for suicide initiatives in 2008 to €8 million. The NOSP has an annual budget of €4.5m. This funding is being used to develop and implement national training programmes, implement awareness campaigns, progress actions identified in an All-Island Action Plan for Suicide Prevention. Other suicide prevention initiatives, which include the funding for dedicated suicide resources officers, deliberate self-harm response nurses in A&E departments, funding to local voluntary groups etc, are delivered and funded directly by the HSE.

It should also be emphasised that a range of services such as mental health and primary care services are important in helping to prevent suicide. These services play a vital role in the drive to reduce the incidence of suicide, and should be taken into account when considering the level of expenditure devoted to suicide prevention.

Codes of Practice.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

112 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will commit to consulting with children’s and youth organisations when the revised voluntary alcohol marketing, communications and sponsorship codes of practice are reviewed in June 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28341/08]

The revised codes provide for the establishment of a consultative panel to bring the views and concerns of stakeholders to the attention of the body established to monitor compliance with and the effectiveness of the codes. The consultative panel will include representation from the youth sector.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

113 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the way compliance with the voluntary alcohol marketing, communications and sponsorship codes of practice with respect to television advertising will be regulated and monitored; the process for producing the profile as outlined in the television code; the number of people on which the profile will be based; the agency responsible for compiling the profile; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28342/08]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

114 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the way compliance with the voluntary alcohol marketing, communications and sponsorship codes of practice with respect to outdoor media advertising will be independently regulated and monitored; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28343/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 113 and 114 together.

The process for the control and monitoring of alcohol advertisement involves a number of steps. These include the copy clearance by Central Copy Clearance Ireland (CCCI) of all alcohol advertisements published in the Irish media, the monitoring by the Monitoring Body of adherence to the voluntary codes and the investigation by the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland of complaints concerning possible breaches of these voluntary codes.

All alcohol advertisement carried by Irish Media must carry the CCCI Publication Certificate and Approval Number in order to be accepted for broadcast/display. The function of CCCI is to vet the content of alcohol advertisements to ensure adherence to the ASAI Code and the General Advertising Code of the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland.

With regard to television advertising the Monitoring Body receives quarterly profiles for each day of the week giving the percentage of under 18s viewing for each applicable half-hour segment. The ASAI investigate any complaints concerning possible breaches of the Voluntary Codes. The ASAI submit a report to each meeting of the Monitoring Body detailing the complaints received and the outcome. Audience Profiles are based on information from Nielson Media Research who are the contractor appointed by the Irish Broadcasters to measure television viewing in the Republic of Ireland. The profiles are based on 600 households. Each broadcaster is responsible for preparing and submitting their profile to the Monitoring Body.

In respect of outdoor advertising the Monitoring Body actively monitors compliance with the codes through Reports which detail booking cycles of all outdoor alcohol advertisements and the locations in which they were placed. The ASAI investigate any complaints concerning possible breaches of the codes. The ASAI submit a report to each meeting of the Monitoring Body detailing the complaints received and the outcome.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

115 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children when the 2007 annual report of the Alcohol Marketing Communications Monitoring Body will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28344/08]

The 2007 annual report of the Alcohol Marketing Communications Monitoring Body has been published and has been available on my Department's website and on the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland's website (ASAI) since 1 July 2008.

Health Services.

Thomas Byrne

Question:

116 Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of occupational therapy and speech and language therapy applications for a person (details supplied) in County Meath. [28348/08]

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.

Departmental Properties.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

117 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children the purpose for which a building (detail supplied) in County Dublin is being used; if it used as a hostel for the homeless or a half way house; if it is a half way house, the type of clients being placed there and the arrangements for their support that are in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28360/08]

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

Health Service Staff.

Tony Gregory

Question:

118 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of social workers employed by the Health Service Executive in Dublin’s north east inner city; the number of vacancies that exist for same; the plans in train in view of the HSE embargo on recruitment to employ sufficient social workers to fulfil the role for the protection of children at most risk and in need of state intervention; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28362/08]

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

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to provide information regarding the number of social worker posts employed within the health service.

There is no HSE embargo on recruitment. A recruitment pause was put in place in September 2007 by the HSE to facilitate the delivery of services on budget in accordance with the provisions of the 2007 National Service Plan. This temporary pause in recruitment ended on 31st December 2007.

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

Child Protection.

Tony Gregory

Question:

119 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children on waiting lists in the Dublin’s north east inner city Dublin in need of immediate assessment and families unallocated to the social work service but identified as being in need of long term social work support; the criteria by which cases are being prioritised in view of the staffing crisis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28363/08]

Tony Gregory

Question:

120 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children at ongoing risk without social work support; and the number of families in need but without the necessary social work support. [28364/08]

Tony Gregory

Question:

121 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Health and Children the action she will take to provide the necessary social work supports to children and families on waiting lists in view of the State’s responsibility to protect children and families at risk. [28365/08]

Tony Gregory

Question:

122 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that the necessary budgets for social work and related child protection services are ring fenced within her Department’s overall budget; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28366/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 119 to 122, inclusive, together.

The services and targets to be provided by the HSE in 2008 are set out in the National Service Plan which Minister Harney approved in November, 2007 and the Addendum to the Service Plan which Minister Harney approved in February, 2008. Both of these documents have been laid before this House and published. Budgets for social work and child protection services are provided by the Government as part of the vote for the Health Service Executive (HSE). The vote for the HSE does not provide for earmarking of funding as referred to in the Deputy's question. However the service plan for each year includes the specific commitments the HSE makes for services for each year.

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

Hospital Services.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

123 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children the breakdown of transferring patients from Mallow General Hospital to Cork for CAT scans over the past 24 months while a CT scanner lies idle in Mallow General Hospital to include costings in terms of transport, man-hours and the operation of CT scans in Cork hospitals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28371/08]

Sean Sherlock

Question:

124 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children the cost of providing a trained radiographer to operate the idle CT scanner at Mallow General Hospital, County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28372/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 123 and 124 together.

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

Health Service Staff.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

125 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make additional staff and staffing cover for maternity leave, sick leave replacement and so on available to an organisation (details supplied) in County Donegal, in order to cater for the continuing increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28373/08]

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.

Departmental Expenditure.

Joan Burton

Question:

126 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children the expenditure by her Department on consultants for each of the past six calendar years, including to date in 2008; the breakdown of these figures in order to show the amount and proportion of expenditure on consultants which relates to expenditure on public relations, marketing or advertising consultants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28387/08]

The information requested is currently being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Health Service Staff.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

127 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the pay and emoluments granted to the chief executive officer, or equivalents, of all of the agencies under the control of her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28400/08]

The level of pay (with salary scale where appropriate) and any allowances paid to the CEOs of State agencies under the aegis of the Department of Health and Children are provided below.

Agency Name

Current Pay

Allowances

An Bord Altranais

€135,300

No allowances

Children Acts Advisory Board

€146,773*

No allowances

Crisis Pregnancy Agency

€88,490 – €109,455 (LSI 2)

No allowances

Dental Council

€84,066 – €103,982 (LSI 2)

No allowances

Food Safety Authority of Ireland

€154,775

No allowances

Food Safety Promotion Board

€125,027

No allowances

Health Information & Quality Authority

€199,502

No allowances

Health Insurance Authority

€95,236 – €117,446 (LSI 2)

No allowances

Health Research Board

€154,775

No allowances

Health Service Executive

€369,713

Car allowance of €15,000 per annum

Health and Social Care Professionals Council

€95,236 – €110,381

No allowances

Irish Blood Transfusion Service

€167,979.50

Use of company car

Irish Medicines Board

€147,036

No allowances

Mental Health Commission

€135,300 – €154,775

No allowances

National Cancer Screening Service

€136,352*

No allowances

National Cancer Registry Board

€90,468 – €111,577 (LSI 2)

No allowances

National Council for Professional Development of Nursing & Midwifery

€109,455

Travel allowance of €3,708 per annum

National Paediatric Hospital Development Board

€120,000

No allowances

National Social Work Qualifications Board

€84,066 – €103,982 (LSI 2)

No allowances

National Treatment Purchase Fund

€135,300

No allowances

Office of Tobacco Control

€84,066 – €103,982 (LSI 2)

No allowances

Postgraduate Medical & Dental Board

€89,021 – €105,618

No allowances

Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council

€88,490 – €109,455 (LSI 2)

Medical Advisor Allowance of €17,570.20

Voluntary Health Insurance Board

€297,024*

Car allowance of €25,000 p.a.

Women’s Health Council

€84,066 – €103,982 (LSI 2)

No allowances

*Personal to holder.

Depending on the terms and conditions of individual contracts of employment, CEOs of certain state agencies may be eligible to participate in a Performance Related Award Scheme in line with the provisions and principles of the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector. All schemes must be approved by the Department of Finance. Where agencies participate in the Scheme, awards are made to the CEO directly by the Board of the agency concerned.

Health Services.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

128 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Cork who applied for orthodontic treatment in March 2005 will be granted a treatment commencement date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28404/08]

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.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

129 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the average timeframe for processing applications under the housing aid for the elderly scheme in the midlands Health Service Executive area; the average timeframe for processing applications under same scheme in Counties Offaly and Laois; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28407/08]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

130 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the average waiting time for allocation of funding under the housing aid for the elderly, once the person has been told they are eligible for works to be carried out, in the midlands Health Service Executive area; the average timeframe for same in Counties Offaly and Laois; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28408/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 129 and 130 together.

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 matters 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.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

131 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the qualifying criteria for eligibility under the National Treatment Purchase Fund; the length of time a person has to be waiting for treatment to qualify under the NTPF; if previous waiting time with the Health Service Executive is taken into consideration when deciding the length of time a person has to wait for a procedure under the NTPF; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28412/08]

The National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) has responsibility for the collation of national waiting list data for in-patient and day-case hospital treatment. In order to assist it with this function, the NTPF has developed the Patient Treatment Register (PTR), based on named patients. The PTR is an on-line, verified database of public in-patient and day case waiting lists.

A person may qualify for surgical treatment through the NTPF once his or her name has been on a waiting list for three months or more. For the purpose of making an offer of treatment, the NTPF measures waiting time from the date on which a person was placed on a waiting list.

Community Development.

Michael Creed

Question:

132 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount her Department has provided to rural development and LEADER programmes; the way this money has been allocated and spent; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28435/08]

My Department has no function in providing funding for rural development or the Leader programme.

Hospital Staff.

David Stanton

Question:

133 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the vacancies in the developmental co-ordination disorder unit in St Finbarr’s Hospital in Cork; her plans, to arrange for these vacancies to be filled; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28468/08]

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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

134 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children the funding made available for supported employment in an enterprise (details supplied) in Dublin 16 for adults with learning disabilities; the reason there are no places available for school leavers in 2008; the alternative arrangements she will provide for these school leavers with intellectual disabilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28470/08]

The Multi Annual Investment Programme for Disability Services makes provision for the development of additional residential, respite places and day care places each year between 2006 and 2009 for people with Intellectual Disability and Autism and additional residential care and home support services for people with physical and sensory disabilities. €50m was provided to the Health Service Executive (HSE) in 2008 to fund a range of additional services under the Multi Annual Investment Programme for Disability.

As the Deputy will be aware, the commencement of the planned developments in disability services this year had been delayed due to a financial review in the HSE. However, I am pleased to be able to inform the Deputy that the HSE has assured me that it is now in a position to roll out the planned developments as outlined in its 2008 Service Plan.

Planned services include additional residential, day care — including training places — and respite care places for people with intellectual disability and autism; additional residential care and home support services for people with physical and sensory disabilities; and additional multi-disciplinary therapy posts to provide assessment and ongoing intervention services to children with a disability.

I understand that the HSE hopes to be able to finalise the position in relation to the commencement of such developments over the next week.

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

Blood Disorders.

Denis Naughten

Question:

135 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the implementation of the recommendations of the report on haemochromotosis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28472/08]

The Working Group that I established to examine the nature and extent of haemochromatosis and to advise on the actions necessary to address problems caused by haemochromatosis presented its report to me in June 2006.

A key issue highlighted in the report was that blood from persons with haemochromatosis was not being used by the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS). The IBTS has re-examined its policy on this issue and has decided to establish a pilot venesection programme for haemochromatosis patients in one of its clinics. Subject to the usual screening protocols, blood from haemochromatosis patients will be used by the IBTS. A clinician has been appointed to one of the IBTS clinics to oversee the pilot programme. A second clinic will open in D'Olier Street shortly. It is hoped that the scheme can expand to 10-12 clinics which could provide up to one sixth of national blood stock needs.

Arising from the publication of the report the Irish Insurance Federation has agreed to investigate any complaint about life or health insurance cover linked to diagnosis with haemochromatosis.

I am pleased to inform you that I have granted €15,000 from my Department's 2008 allocation towards the development and dissemination of an impact document on diagnosis and management of Haemochromatosis in Irish General Practice.

I recently met with officials from the HSE to discuss the implementation of the recommendations of the report. Various issues in relation to the management of haemochromatosis were raised at the meeting and these issues are currently being investigated.

My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange for an update on the implementation of the recommendations of the report on haemachromotosis and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

136 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will expedite an appointment for a child (details supplied) in County Cork to see an occupational therapist; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28483/08]

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.

Noel Coonan

Question:

137 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of home help hours being provided in the constituency of North Tipperary; the number of home help clients in receipt of this service; the number of home help providers supplying this service; if she will compare these figures to 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28501/08]

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.

Noel Coonan

Question:

138 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Health and Children the way the eligibility for home help hours are assessed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28502/08]

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.

Mental Health Services.

Noel Coonan

Question:

139 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she, in conjunction with the Health Service Executive, has plans to provide a mental health unit in north Tipperary; the locations where patients from the constituency of North Tipperary attend for treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28503/08]

Noel Coonan

Question:

140 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of approved acute care beds available in a hospital (details supplied) in County Tipperary for patients from north Tipperary; and the number of patients on the waiting list for admission to the unit. [28504/08]

Noel Coonan

Question:

189 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she, in conjunction with the Health Service Executive, has plans to provide a mental health unit in north Tipperary; the locations at which patients from the constituency of North Tipperary can attend for treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28873/08]

Noel Coonan

Question:

190 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of approved acute care beds available in a hospital (details supplied) in County Tipperary for north Tipperary patients; and the number of patients on the waiting list for admission to the unit. [28874/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 139, 140, 189 and 190 together.

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

Health Services.

Noel Coonan

Question:

141 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the takeover of a unit (details supplied) in County Tipperary; when she expects the takeover to be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28505/08]

Noel Coonan

Question:

191 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the takeover of a unit (details supplied) in County Tipperary; when she expects the takeover to be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28875/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 141 and 191 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 matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

142 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of occupational therapists working in the Kildare west Wicklow service. [28517/08]

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

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

Hospitals Building Programme.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

143 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will include phase 3C of Naas General Hospital in the Final 2008 Health Service Executive capital plan. [28518/08]

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

The Health Service Executive's draft Capital Plan sets out the Executive's capital investment proposals over the period 2008-2013. Project proposals 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 by my Department for the agreement of the Department of Finance. Consideration of the draft plan is at an advanced stage and I expect the specific developments for this year to be approved shortly, following which details will be announced by the Executive.

Health Services.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

144 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children further to the response from the Health Service Executive to Parliamentary Question No. 78 of 22 May 2008, the waiting list for eye tests for children at 30 June 2008; if she will continue the additional clinics in Maynooth until the waiting list is eliminated; and if she will commence additional clinics in Naas. [28519/08]

Child optical services are provided by the Health Service Executive under Sections 66 and 67 of the Health Act, 1970.

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

Cancer Screening Programme.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

145 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children further to parliamentary Question No. 494 of 30 January 2008, when she will extend breast screening to women aged 65 to 69 years. [28520/08]

BreastCheck commenced roll-out in the Western Region last May and in the Southern region last October. I officially opened the BreastCheck clinical static units in Cork and Galway last December. The programme is designed to offer repeat screening within an interval of 21-27 months.

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

Health Services.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

146 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children the services provided individually in Maynooth, Celbridge, Leixlip, Kilcock, Clane, and Naas Health Centres in County Kildare. [28521/08]

Under the Health Act 2004, the management and delivery of health and personal social services is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive.

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

Emmet Stagg

Question:

147 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children the waiting times for hearing tests for children in County Kildare in Newbridge and Tallaght health centres. [28522/08]

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

Health Service Staff.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

148 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children if the post of head audiology and senior medical officer in audiology in the Health Service Executive Dublin north east have been filled. [28523/08]

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.

Parliamentary Questions.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

149 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children when a response will issue from the Health Service Executive in relation to Parliamentary Question No. 83 of 22 May 2008. [28524/08]

I understand that a response issued from the HSE to the Deputy on 9 June 2008.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

150 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children when a response will issue from the Health Service Executive in relation to Parliamentary Question No. 82 of 22 May 2008. [28525/08]

My Department understands from the HSE that a reply issued to the Deputy on the 8th July, 2008.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

151 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children when a response will issue from the Health Service Executive in relation to Parliamentary Question No. 80 of 22 May 2008. [28526/08]

The Health Service Executive has advised that a reply to Parliamentary Question No. 80 of 22 May 2008 issued to the Deputy on the 29th of May 2008.

Nursing Home Subventions.

James Reilly

Question:

152 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children her views, with regard to the €110 million ring-fenced for the implementation of the fair deal for nursing home care, on allowing fair deal funding to be used to enhance nursing home subvention supports; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28741/08]

James Reilly

Question:

165 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the portion of the €110 million ring-fenced for the implementation of the fair deal for nursing home care that has been spent to date; and what this has been spent on; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28754/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 152 and 165 together.

My colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, and I are conscious of the effect that the unavoidable and unforeseen delays in implementing Fair Deal are causing to some older people and their families. To date, €13 million has been allocated from the additional monies provided in Budget 2008 for the provision of 200 contract beds. Approval has also been given to HSE to utilise a further €12 million in meeting costs associated with nursing home subventions and existing contract beds.

This brings to €25 million the total funding redirected from Fair Deal and committed to nursing home supports in 2008. Any further decisions regarding the redeployment of Fair Deal funding will have to be taken within the overall context of the financial situation of the HSE.

Finally, it should be borne in mind that the Government already allocated additional funding of €105 million for Nursing Home Subvention in 2006 and 2007.

Health Service Reform.

James Reilly

Question:

153 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of health care regions and the geographical area they will encompass with regard to Health Service Executive reforms; the extent of streamlining management levels envisaged; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28742/08]

The revised management structures being introduced by the HSE are designed to facilitate:

more local responsibility and authority within defined national parameters;

greater clinical involvement in the design and management of patient services; and

improved integration of primary, community and acute care for the benefit of patients and to optimise efficient use of resources.

As national level, the new structures will involve:

a Director of Service Delivery who will be responsible for all service delivery and head up a single integrated NHO/PCCC pillar with a team of Area Service Delivery personnel;

a Director of Planning with a team of national care group/programme managers covering children, older people, disability/mental health, acute hospitals and primary/community care who will be responsible for setting corporate policy/standards in all these areas and driving performance against these standards;

a Director of Clinical Affairs who will drive engagement with clinicians and be responsible for quality/risk, and defining national clinical standards/protocols;

a Director of Communications who will be responsible for all communications including parliamentary affairs; and

the retention of the existing Directors of Finance, HR, ICT, Estates and Procurement.

The next steps in the process are to finalise the number of service delivery areas and define their boundaries; secure buy-in from all stakeholders, including relevant unions, and to implement the new structures as soon as possible.

It will also be necessary to review and modify the clinical and support structures at area level to reflect the adjustments at corporate level. The aim, however, will be to ensure that the Area Directors will have operational responsibility and authority to deliver all hospital and community care services, and personal and social services, in their specific geographical areas within their budgets and employment allocations.

This approach will strengthen and simplify area governance. It will also ensure more efficient and responsive delivery of local services and facilitate more local responsibility, authority and decision making within defined national parameters.

The implementation of these new management structures will involve a clarification of associated staffing implications. This will include developing a voluntary redundancy scheme to streamline the number of management layers and positions. This scheme will be subject to consultation, will require the prior approval of the Minister for Finance and will operate on a voluntary basis. It is to meet the test of delivering value for money. It would not be appropriate at this stage to speculate on the extent of the streamlining but the aim is to create a lean organisation with clarity of roles and accountability.

Health Service Staff.

James Reilly

Question:

154 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the proposed Health Service Executive staff redundancy programme; the number and categories of staff involved; the projected cost of the programme; when she will proceed with the programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28743/08]

As the Taoiseach announced yesterday the Government believes that a properly planned and managed voluntary redundancy scheme could have an important role to play in helping to streamline management within the HSE and, as a result, in improving the delivery of health services to patients. Such a scheme would need to be built upon a clearly delineated organisation structure and the associated human resource requirements. It would also need to demonstrate that it will deliver value for money, having regard to other options such as natural wastage and the scope for re-deployment. However, it is agreed that a targeted scheme could deliver significant benefits in terms of a much streamlined and integrated management structure within the HSE.

My Department will commence work immediately with the Department of Finance to develop proposals for a targeted voluntary early retirement scheme, the terms of which will be agreed between myself and the Minister for Finance and applied in the HSE as soon as practical. At this very early stage concrete figures on numbers and costs are not available. In accordance with established practice in the public service, any such scheme would operate on a voluntary basis and would require the approval of the Minister for Finance. HSE will hold discussions with the relevant staff associations when the proposal is finalised.

Departmental Staff.

James Reilly

Question:

155 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of non-Civil Service staff employed in her Department; the roles of these staff; the cost of these staff to the Exchequer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28744/08]

There are 26 posts currently filled on a temporary contract basis by non-civil servants at my Department as follows:

No.

Grade

Role

4

Special Advisor*

Providing advice to the Minister or a Minister of State

6

Personal Assistant

Providing administrative support to the Minister or a Minister of State

4

Personal Secretary

Providing administrative support to the Minister or a Minister of State

6

Civilian Driver

Providing driver services to a Minister of State

3

Temporary Clerical Officer

Providing administrative support to a Minister of State

1

Legal Research Assistant

Providing legal research support to the Department

1

Therapist Advisor

Providing professional therapist advice to the Department

1

Post Graduate Placement

Undertaking a financial evaluation project on behalf of the Department

The associated annual salary cost for these positions is €1.418m.

*The Deputy should note that one of the Special Advisors referred to above is included as he continues to be paid by my Department while arrangements are being made to appoint him as a Programme Manager at the Department of An Taoiseach.

The Deputy may also wish to note that there are a further 11 individuals employed at my Department on a secondment basis. These are primarily professional grades providing expert advice on policy matters ranging from palliative care to youth health promotion. While these individuals remain on their substantive employers payroll, my Department recoups the associated salary cost back to the substantive employers. The costs of this recoupment process is €0.857m per annum.

No.

Grade

Role

1

Chief Nursing Officer

Providing professional nursing advice to the Department

1

Nursing Adviser on care of Older People and Palliative Care

Providing professional nursing and palliative care advice to the Department

1

Nursing Adviser on Mental Health and Intellectual Disability

Providing professional nursing advice on mental health and intellecutal disability to the Department

2

Nurse/Midwife Adviser

Providing professional nursing advice to the Department

1

Chief Therapist Adviser

Providing professional therapist advice to the Department

1

Therapist Adviser

Providing professional therapist advice to the Department

1

Dental Adviser

Providing professional dental advice to the Department

1

Youth Health Promotion Officer

Providing advice on youth health promotion to the Department

1

Director of Social Work (Adoption Board)

Director of social work at the Adoption Board

1

Chief Environmental Health Officer

Providing professional advice to the Department on environmental health issues

The Deputy should note that costs referred to in this reply relate to salary costs only and do not take account of employers' PRSI or superannuation liabilities. Neither does it take account of any other overheads such as electricity as these overheads are not allocated individually.

Health Service Expenditure.

James Reilly

Question:

156 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount spent by Health Service Executive officials on transport costs, including air travel, public transport and mileage costs, per annum since 2005 to date in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28745/08]

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

James Reilly

Question:

157 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount spent by the Health Service Executive on the hospitality budget per annum since 2005 to date in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28746/08]

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

James Reilly

Question:

158 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount spent by the Health Service Executive on hotels for conferences, meetings and accommodation per annum since 2005 to date in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28747/08]

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

James Reilly

Question:

159 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount spent by the Health Service Executive on legal fees per annum since 2005 to date in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28748/08]

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

James Reilly

Question:

160 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the details of cost containment measures issued by the Health Service Executive to off set cost overruns; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28749/08]

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.

The services and targets to be provided by the HSE in 2008 are set out in the National Service Plan which I approved in November 2007 and the Addendum to the Service Plan which I approved in February 2008. Both of these documents have been laid before the House and published.

The Service Plan includes strategic objectives, cost containment initiatives, value for money and productivity reviews to progress the development and delivery of greater efficiencies in 2008 and beyond.

The HSE projects a potential overspend for the year in the order of €300m in the absence of their taking corrective action. The Board and management of the HSE are actively engaged in the development and implementation of an appropriate package of measures so as to manage within the resources available and deliver the services to which the HSE is committed in the Service Plan. A range of Value for Money initiatives, targeted to deliver significant cost reductions in 2008 have commenced with further initiatives under consideration.

The HSE has confirmed that it is aiming to deliver the Service Plan submitted by the Board last November within its approved Pre-Budget allocation.

My Department has asked the HSE to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy setting out the specifics of the actions taken to date.

Infectious Diseases.

James Reilly

Question:

161 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of cases of Clostridium difficile that have been reported to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre since it became a notifiable disease; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28750/08]

Tackling Healthcare Associated Infections continues to be a priority for the Government and the HSE.

In March 2008, the Chief Medical Officer of my Department instructed the HSE to make C. difficile a notifiable disease and since May 4th all cases are required to be notified to the relevant Department of Public Health. The number of cases reported to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre system from 4 May up to 21st June is 359.

Health Service Expenditure.

James Reilly

Question:

162 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount spent by the Health Service Executive per annum on taxis and private ambulances for patients, per HSE area, since 2005 to date in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28751/08]

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

Mental Health Services.

James Reilly

Question:

163 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of child and adolescent community mental health teams that have been established in relation to the Vision for Change strategy; the number that are fully staffed as recommended in Vision for Change; the composition of these teams; the number of positions that remain to be filled; the geographic area covered by these teams; the population of each of the areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28752/08]

James Reilly

Question:

164 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of adult community mental health teams that have been established to date in relation to the Vision for Change strategy; the number that are fully staffed as recommended in Vision for Change; the composition of these teams; the number of positions that remain to be filled; the geographic area covered by these teams; the population of each of the areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28753/08]

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

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. 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. 165 answered with Question No. 152.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

166 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the Health Service Executive has terminated funding for a development supported employment programme (details supplied) in Dublin 18 which was available to persons of 18 years, with an intellectual disability who had completed a two year vocational training programme with the expectation of participating in a sheltered employment programme are who are now deprived of this service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28755/08]

The Multi Annual Investment Programme for Disability Services makes provision for the development of additional residential, respite places and day care places each year between 2006 and 2009 for people with Intellectual Disability and Autism and additional residential care and home support services for people with physical and sensory disabilities. €50m was provided to the Health Service Executive (HSE) in 2008 to fund a range of additional services under the Multi Annual Investment Programme for Disability.

As the Deputy will be aware, the commencement of the planned developments in disability services this year had been delayed due to a financial review in the HSE. However, I am pleased to be able to inform the Deputy that the HSE has assured me that it is now in a position to roll out the planned developments as outlined in its 2008 Service Plan.

Planned services include additional residential, day care — including training places — and respite care places for people with intellectual disability and autism; additional residential care and home support services for people with physical and sensory disabilities; and additional multi-disciplinary therapy posts to provide assessment and ongoing intervention services to children with a disability.

I understand that the HSE hopes to be able to finalise the position in relation to the commencement of such developments over the next week.

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

Vaccination Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

167 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the maternity units or PCCC areas which do not administer the BCG to newborn babies; the number of newborns without such cover in each area or unit; the steps which are being taken to address this situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28758/08]

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.

Frank Feighan

Question:

168 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Health and Children when it is envisaged that patients who attended the audiology clinic in Roscommon in April 2008 and were advised at that clinic they would be called back in six weeks time will be called back; if there is a full time audiologist for the Health Service Executive west area including County Roscommon; when the appointment was made; the number of patients on the waiting list; the length of time patients have to wait; and the length of time patients assessed for hearing aids will have to wait for the hearing aids. [28762/08]

Frank Feighan

Question:

169 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Health and Children when is it envisaged persons (details supplied) in County Roscommon will be called for hearing aid tests. [28763/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 168 and 169 together.

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.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Frank Feighan

Question:

170 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in connection with fair deal scheme for assisting families with older people in long-term residential care and to which €110 million was voted specifically in Budget 2007 she will ensure this money is ring-fenced for this purpose; and the mechanisms in place for its dispersal to this designated group in order that her commitment is honoured. [28764/08]

My colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, and I are conscious of the effect that the unavoidable and unforeseen delays in implementing the Fair Deal are causing to some older people and their families. To date, €13 million has been allocated from the additional moneys provided in Budget 2008 for the provision of 200 contract beds. Approval has also been given to HSE to utilise a further €12 million in meeting costs associated with nursing home subventions and existing contract beds. This brings to €25 million the total funding redirected from Fair Deal and committed to nursing home supports in 2008. In addition, it should be borne in mind that the Government already allocated additional funding of €105 million for Nursing Home Subvention in 2006 and 2007. Finally, I wish to advise the Deputy that any further decisions regarding the redeployment of Fair Deal funding will have to be taken within the overall context of the financial situation of the HSE.

Special Educational Needs.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

171 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in providing funding for the autism unit in a school (details supplied) in Dublin 15; if this funding will be introduced for the 2008-09 academic year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28767/08]

The Multi Annual Investment Programme for Disability Services makes provision for the development of additional residential, respite places and day care places each year between 2006 and 2009 for people with Intellectual Disability and Autism and additional residential care and home support services for people with physical and sensory disabilities. Some €50 million was provided to the Health Service Executive in 2008 to fund a range of additional services under the Multi Annual Investment Programme for Disability. As the Deputy will be aware, the commencement of the planned developments in disability services this year had been delayed due to a financial review in the HSE. However, I am pleased to be able to inform the Deputy that the HSE has assured me that it is in a position to roll out the planned developments as outlined in its 2008 Service Plan. Planned services include additional residential, day care and respite care places for people with intellectual disability and autism; additional residential care and home support services for people with physical and sensory disabilities; and additional multidisciplinary therapy posts to provide assessment and ongoing intervention services to children with a disability. I understand the HSE hopes to be able to finalise the position in relation to the commencement of such developments over the next week. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the specific matter raised by the Deputy investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Community Care.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

172 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the shortage of funding for home help services; and her plans to address this shortage to ensure that adequate funding is available to deliver a suitable level of service required. [28805/08]

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.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

173 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of applications for home help assistance that were recently refused or hours reduced in Dublin North-West, by age, location and dependency level. [28806/08]

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.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

174 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of applications received under the nursing home repayment scheme from applicants with an intellectual disability or their representatives; the number of such applications which were submitted by Health Service Executive staff; the number of these applications approved to date; the number on hand; the number who have appealed the offer made to them; the success rate of same; the number who have appealed the rejection of their application; and the success rate; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28840/08]

The Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the health repayment scheme in conjunction with the appointed scheme administrator, KPMG/McCann Fitzgerald. The Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006 provides a clear legal framework to repay recoverable health charges for publicly funded long-term residential care. Recoverable health charges are charges which were imposed on persons with full eligibility under the Health (Charges for In-Patient Services) Regulations 1976 as amended in 1987, or charges for in-patient services only, raised under the Institutional Assistance Regulations 1954, as amended in 1965. Applications received under the scheme are processed within this legal framework. Specific details on certain cohorts of applicants, such as those outlined by the Deputy, are not available. However, in terms of the overall scheme almost 39,000 applications have been received, 7,500 of which were submitted by the HSE on behalf of patients.

The HSE has informed my Department that up to 27 June last, 11,483 payments totalling over €229 million have issued while 15,299 offers of repayment totalling over €271 million have been made. Approximately 6,000 claims are outstanding and they are being concluded on a daily basis. The Health Repayment Scheme Appeals Office has advised my Department that as of 27 June 2008, 810 applicants (approximately 5% of all offers made) have indicated they wish to appeal the amount offered by the scheme administrator. The Appeals Office has received a total of 2,694 appeal forms under the scheme from applicants who wished to appeal a rejection under the scheme. Of these appeals 1,418 decisions have issued and 1,285 decisions agree with the decision of the scheme administrator to reject a claim. In 133 cases the Appeals Officer has disagreed with the decision of the scheme administrator to reject a claim. Of the 293 appeals officer decisions which have issued in relation to amount appeals, 112 have agreed with the amount offered by the scheme administrator and 181 have disagreed with the amounts offered by the scheme administrator.

Health Service Staff.

Denis Naughten

Question:

175 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of paramedical grade posts in each profession which are currently vacant in primary, acute and long stay services in County Roscommon; the number of posts which are currently filled in each profession on a permanent and a temporary basis; the steps which she is taking to fill the outstanding posts; the plans for new development posts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28846/08]

Denis Naughten

Question:

176 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of paramedical grade posts in each profession which are currently vacant in primary, acute and long stay services in County Leitrim; the number of posts which are currently filled in each profession on a permanent and a temporary basis; the steps she is taking to fill the outstanding posts; the plans for new development posts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28847/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 175 and 176 together.

Almost 130,000 people work full-time or part-time in our public health services. In recent years, the Government's 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 invested heavily in the education and training of such personnel to secure a good supply of graduates to provide for the health care needs of the population in the future. Subject to overall parameters set by the Government, the HSE is responsible for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the HSE 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 HSE is the appropriate body to provide information about the number of posts employed in each sector of the allied health and social care professional grades. The overall employment ceiling for the public health services in 2008 provides for 1,050 additional new posts arising from development funding provided by the Government in the Budget Day package for 2008. The filling of these development posts, which cover a range of services including Older People, Palliative Care, Disability, Cancer and Population Health, is to be managed by the HSE within the employment control framework for the health services. My Department has asked the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the HSE to arrange to have the matters raised by the Deputy investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

177 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children when she expects the review of radiology at the Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, County Louth to be finalised and published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28851/08]

The ongoing review of the chest x-rays and CT scans of approximately 4,600 patients in the North East commenced in mid-May and is expected to conclude within eight weeks. The review covers the period from August 2006 to August 2007. All patients and their families will be contacted by letter when their chest x-ray or CT scan has been reviewed. When all the x-rays and CT scans have been reviewed, a report will be produced which will detail the background to the review, the methodology, the outcome and the learning from the review. It is expected that the final report will issue within four weeks of the completion of the review.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

178 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the services being removed from the Dóchas Centre, Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, County Louth; if she is satisfied that all consultants and staff working in the Dóchas Centre have been consulted about such proposed changes and agree with them; if not, the reason for same; if the Health Service Executive have in particular discussed the proposed changes with a person (details supplied); if she will provide categoric assurances to all patients and staff that at least the same level of service will be available in Beaumont Hospital as is in Drogheda; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28852/08]

Based on the National Quality Assurance Standards for Symptomatic Breast Disease Services, and the fact that the BreastCheck screening programme will significantly reduce the number of symptomatic breast cancer presentations, the Health Service Executive has determined that we require eight specialist breast cancer centres nationally. To comply with the assurance standards, the HSE has directed 17 hospitals to cease breast cancer services. Further staged reductions in the number of hospitals providing breast cancer services will occur over the next year in line with the development of quality assured capacity in the eight centres. The director of the national cancer control programme has confirmed that services from Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda will transfer to Beaumont Hospital in September. The Programme will ensure that adequate capacity is in place prior to the transfer of services from Drogheda. The designation of cancer centres aims to ensure that patients receive the highest quality care while at the same time allowing local access to services, where appropriate. Where diagnosis and treatment planning is directed and managed by multidisciplinary teams based at the centres, much of the treatment other than surgery can be delivered in local hospitals, such as Drogheda. Chemotherapy and support services will continue to be delivered locally. The specific questions raised by the Deputy in relation to consultations regarding the transfer of breast cancer services 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.

Health Service Staff.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

179 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of nursing vacancies in the health services at the end of June 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28860/08]

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.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

180 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will establish a structured tinnitus support service including clinical and audiological services, professional support and peer and volunteer support for people with tinnitus; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28861/08]

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

Child Care Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

181 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will report on the roll-out of the community child care subvention scheme including the number of additional child care places provided under the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28862/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the National Child Care Investment Programme 2006-10 (NCIP) under which the Community Child care Subvention Scheme was introduced in January of this year. The scheme replaced the previous staffing support grant scheme which was implemented under the EU co-funded Equal Opportunities Child Care Programme 2000-06 and which ended in December 2007. In providing for the scheme and the previous EOCP support scheme, Government child care 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 child care costs, that is child benefit and the early child care supplement. The latter payment is the responsibility of my office, and it alone is expected to amount to expenditure of over €500 million in 2008. These payments are universal and benefit all parents, regardless of their income, labour market status or the type of child care they choose.

The Community Child Care Subvention Scheme has an allocation of €154.2 million over 2008-10 and will continue to support and ensure the sustainability of community-based child care services which provide reduced child care fees for disadvantaged parents. The purpose of the scheme is not the creation of places per se, which is primarily affected by the capital grants scheme, rather it is to make places accessible to those in the community who would otherwise be unable to afford quality child care. Community-based child care 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.

I am also pleased to advise the Deputy that the child care directorate of my office has notified services of their individual grant levels for July-December 2008 based on their returns last November and that the total amount of grant assistance under the new scheme will be significantly higher than was the case under the previous scheme. It is not possible at this stage to state the number of additional places provided for under the scheme, as the 2008 annual return is scheduled for next September. I can report that a number of facilities, which were not considered eligible for funding under the earlier scheme, have been approved funding under the CCSS, thereby allowing disadvantaged parents access to subventions on an equal footing with parents in other areas.

General Practitioners.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

182 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of general practitioners in practice here; the estimate of the number required to meet the primary care needs of the growing population here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28863/08]

The number of General Practitioners in active practice is approximately 2,500. A joint Department of Health and Children and HSE working group on workforce planning was established in June 2006. It also includes representatives of the Departments of Finance and Education and Science, and the Higher Education Authority. Research is being undertaken by FÁS on behalf of the joint working group. This research will analyse the labour market for 11 health care grades and professions, including GPs, and will help determine future GP training needs. FÁS is expected to complete its work by the end of 2008 when it will report its findings to the joint working group.

Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

183 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of new primary care centres, that is, general practitioner and other services delivered in one location or premises, provided in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28864/08]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

184 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of new primary care teams, that is, general practitioner and other services delivered in a coordinated manner but not from one premises, provided in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28865/08]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

185 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of primary health centres developed in socially deprived areas since June 2007 to date in 2008. [28866/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 183 to 185, inclusive, together.

Under the Health Act 2004, the management and delivery of health and personal social services is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. This includes operational responsibility for the establishment of Primary Care Teams. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matters raised by the Deputy investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy as a matter of urgency.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

186 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if her Department has assessed the effects on patient care of the dispute between the Health Service Executive and the Irish Dental Association; the progress in resolving this dispute and in ensuring the full delivery of all services under the dental treatment services scheme; if officials in her Department and the Attorney General have completed the work as advised in Question No. 446 of 30 January 2008; if they have clarified the way forward; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28867/08]

The HSE, which has operational responsibility for the delivery of services under the DTSS, is continuing to monitor the situation arising from the withdrawal of approximately 190 contractors out of a total of approximately 1,400 who provide services under the scheme. I understand that over 70 new contractors have joined the scheme in the intervening period. Officials in my Department are continuing to work with the Attorney General's office to find a way forward in regard to the issues which have arisen under the Competition Act 2002.

Regional Health Forums.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

187 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the cost to date since their establishment of the regional health forums; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28868/08]

Section 42 of the Health Act 2004 provided for the setting up of a system of four Regional Health Forums. The forums were established with effect from 1 January 2006 under the Health Act 2004 (Regional Health Forums) Regulations 2005, SI No. 797 of 2005. The function of each forum is to make such representation to the Executive as the forum considers appropriate on the range and operation of health and personal social services provided within its functional area. Each forum meets six times a year. Each forum has two committees which meet four times a year. The Health Service Executive provides the necessary administrative services to enable the forums to perform their functions as required by the Act. Meetings are held on HSE premises. The Executive pays approved travelling and subsistence allowances to members of the forums in respect of each meeting of a forum or committee in accordance with the regulations. A summary of expenses paid to forum members for each of the regional forums in respect 2006 and 2007 is set out in the table that follows this reply. My Department has been advised by the HSE that details of expenses for 2008 are not yet available.

Regional Health Forum

Travel & Subsistence 2006

Travel & Subsistence 2007

West (Membership 40)

71,940

65,537

South (Membership 39)

49,465

52,736

Dublin Mid Leinster (Membership 40)

40,633

38,939

Dublin North East (Membership 29)

14,080

14,390

Total

176,118

171,602

Hospital Accommodation.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

188 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of dedicated public only hospital beds in June 2007 and the number in June 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28870/08]

My Department has requested from the Health Service Executive the data sought by the Deputy and when the necessary information is received I will be in further communication with him.

Questions Nos. 189 and 190 answered with Question No. 139.
Question No. 191 answered with Question No. 141.

Youth Services.

David Stanton

Question:

192 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children her proposals with regard to the transfer of youth work responsibilities from the Department of Education and Science to her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28933/08]

It is proposed that the responsibility for the following programmes and services will be transferred to the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs: the Youth Services Grant Scheme, the Special Projects for Youth Scheme, the Young Peoples Facilities and Services Fund (Round 1), the Youth Information Centres, the Local Youth Club Grant Scheme, Gaisce — the President's Award, and a number of other youth and youth related programmes and services such as the National Youth Arts Programme and the National Youth Health Programme. These programmes and services, valued at approximately €52 million, are being administered by the Department of Education and Science. It is hoped to have the Transfer of Function Order signed and the transfer of funding in place in the coming months. The Department of Health and Children has commenced making administrative provision for the transfer of staff from the Department of Education and Science to the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

The Young People's Facilities and Services Fund (YPFSF — Round 2) develops youth facilities (including sport and recreational facilities) and services in disadvantaged areas where a significant drug problem exists or has the potential to develop. By attracting young people into these facilities and activities, it aims to divert them away from the dangers of substance misuse. The Fund's target group is 10-21 year olds who are "at risk" due to factors such as family circumstances, educational disadvantage or involvement in crime/substance misuse. Over €150 million has been allocated to date to support a broad range of services and projects under the Fund. A draft order transferring the YPFSF (Round 2) to the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs is being prepared by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, in consultation with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. The draft order will then be submitted to the Department of Finance who will bring a Memorandum to Government transferring functions from the Departments of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and Education and Science to the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. The location of all these youth programmes within the one overall policy framework of the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs should facilitate the development of a more strategic approach to youth affairs across the country.

Health Services.

David Stanton

Question:

193 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of in-patient medically managed alcohol and drug detoxification services available to patients under 18 years of age; the locations of same and the number of beds; the form of after care services for young people under 18 years of age once detoxification has been completed; the locations where these services are available; her plans to increase these services available to young people under 18 in different locations here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28935/08]

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.

David Stanton

Question:

194 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has examined the issue of providing accommodation for young people under 18 years who have completed residential alcohol or substance abuse treatment centres and are homeless or living in difficult family situations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28936/08]

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 have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Mental Health Services.

David Stanton

Question:

195 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of hospital beds in each Health Service Executive area dedicated exclusively to adolescents with mental health problems, in particular young people aged 16 to 18 years; the locations of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28937/08]

David Stanton

Question:

196 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Question No. 257 of 30 May, 2006, the number of child and adolescent psychiatrists employed by the Health Service Executive; the location of same; the number of those who are working full time in the public sector; the composition of the back up teams available to each psychiatrist; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28938/08]

David Stanton

Question:

197 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Question No. 257 of 5 May, 2006, the number of child and adolescent psychiatrists in each Health Service Executive area in 2005, 2006, 2007 and to date in 2008; her plans to increase same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28939/08]

David Stanton

Question:

198 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children and adolescents awaiting psychiatric assessment in each Health Service Executive area; the number of those who are aged 16 to 18 years; the number who have been assessed and are awaiting services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28940/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 195 to 198, inclusive, together.

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

Substance Abuse.

David Stanton

Question:

199 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children if research has been completed by her Department regarding the development of strategies to work with pre-adolescents at risk of substance abuse; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28941/08]

Work with pre-adolescents in relation to substance abuse is addressed through the Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) programme, in primary and second level schools. Through SPHE, children can develop a framework of values, attitudes, understanding and skills that will inform their decisions and actions now and in the future to enhance their health and well-being. Support for the programme at primary level is provided through the Primary Curriculum Support Programme. At post-primary level the SPHE Support Service (Post-Primary) works as a partnership between my Department, the Department of Education and Science and the HSE to support teachers and schools through ongoing in-service training and support. Similar initiatives are under way in the non-formal education setting through partnerships with the key agencies. Following a recommendation in the National Drugs Strategy 2000-08, all schools have been offered guidance and support in developing a Substance Use policy setting out, in writing, the framework within which the whole school community manages issues relating to substance use. It should reflect the unique ethos of the school and should aim to develop a shared understanding. Each policy should cover the core components; education concerning substance use, management of incidents and provision for training and staff development.

Mental Health Services.

David Stanton

Question:

200 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children if the mental health expert group has been established as outlined in “A Vision for Change”; the membership of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28942/08]

I presume the question refers to the Independent Monitoring Group on "A Vision for Change", the Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, which was established in March 2006. The members of the Group are Dr. Ruth Barrington, Chief Executive Officer, Molecular Medicine Ireland (Chair); Dr. Tony Bates, Founder Director, Headstrong; Mr. Pat Brosnan, Specialist National Planning Mental Health, HSE; Dr. Susan Finnerty, Acting Inspector of Mental Health Services; Mr. Paul Flynn, Service User; Ms Dora Hennessy, Principal, Mental Health Division, Department of Health and Children; Dr. Terry Lynch, General Practitioner and Psychotherapist; Mr. Tim O'Malley, Pharmacist; and Ms Máire Redmond, Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Northern Ireland. The Group's Terms of Reference are to monitor and assess progress on the implementation of all the recommendations in a "A Vision for Change"; to make recommendations in relation to the manner in which the recommendations are implemented; and to report to the Minister annually on progress made towards implementing the recommendations of the Report and to publish the report. The Group's second annual report was published on 27 June 2008.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

201 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will clarify a matter (details supplied). [28991/08]

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

Child Care Services.

Alan Shatter

Question:

202 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the discontinuation of staffing grants to community child care services is significantly increasing the cost of services to many unsubvented parents who can ill afford to pay the costs required for the delivery of regulated services. [28993/08]

Alan Shatter

Question:

203 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that many community child care services that have been funded through the equal opportunities child care programme are struggling to remain sustainable. [28994/08]

Alan Shatter

Question:

206 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the community child care groups which have closed or are planning to close due to changes in their funding resulting from the replacement of the old equal opportunities child care programme staffing grant system with the community child care subvention scheme. [28997/08]

Alan Shatter

Question:

207 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the community child care groups which have reduced staffing levels or are planning to reduce staffing levels due to changes in their funding resulting from the replacement of the old equal opportunities child care programme staffing grant system with the community child care subvention scheme. [28998/08]

Alan Shatter

Question:

208 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the number of community child care groups who will receive less funding for the second half of 2008 under the community child care subvention scheme than they did in the first half of 2008 under the old equal opportunities child care programme staffing grant system. [28999/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 202, 203 and 206 to 208, inclusive, together.

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-10 (NCIP) under which the Community Child Care Subvention Scheme was introduced in January of this year. The scheme replaced the previous staffing support grant scheme which was implemented under the EU co-funded Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-06 (EOCP) and which ended in December 2007. In providing for the new scheme and the previous EOCP support scheme, Government child care 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 child care costs — child benefit and the early child care supplement. The latter payment is the responsibility of my office. It is expected to involve expenditure of some €500 million in 2008. These payments are universal and benefit all parents, regardless of their income, labour market status or the type of child care they choose.

The Community Childcare Subvention Scheme has an allocation of €154.2 million over 2008-10 and will continue to support and ensure the sustainability of community-based child care services which provide reduced child care fees for disadvantaged parents. This compares favourably with the €37 million the EOCP staffing grant scheme cost in 2007. Community-based child care services will qualify for grant aid on the basis of the level of service they provide and the profile of the parents benefiting from the service. The parent profile of each service and the amount of subvention it receives 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.

While this constitutes a significant increase in total grant aid, the targeting of support towards specific parents, as opposed to general grants made to services in respect of self-reported profiles, was always expected to result in some services, which had a weaker focus on disadvantage than reported, facing a reduction in funding, particularly if they had not implemented tiered fees as required under the previous scheme. The review of the scheme, based on the data returned by services last November, saw the introduction of guaranteed floors below which funding would not fall, provided the level of service was not reduced. This means that, where a service has very low levels of subvention due to its parents being middle and higher income, they would receive a top-up to 90% of their existing funding in the second half of this year, to 85% in 2009, and to 75% in 2010. The purpose of this was to allow services to introduce on an incremental basis tiered fees to make their services accessible to disadvantaged parents, as they had been required under the EOCP staffing scheme. In reality, it is expected that in 2009, most services will not require this top up funding as they will be more affordable to lower income families and their subvention levels will have increased. It might be remembered, however, that the effect of this is cost-neutral to the service as, whatever the eligibility of the parent, the fee charged plus the subvention (where applicable) is equal to the cost price of the child care place.

I am informed that some 46% of services are in receipt of 90% funding in July-December, with a further 7% in receipt of between 90.1% and 100%. On average, services are in receipt of 119% of their allocation in the period January to June and, overall, there is a significant increase, with some services more than doubling their grant aid. No service is facing a significant decrease in State funding. The review of the scheme also announced that the subvention for Band A parents has been increased to €100 weekly for each full-time equivalent place, and the Band B subvention increased to €70. Furthermore, each service has been given a tranche of funding to allow them to subvent low income parents above the FIS threshold, by €45. Given this funding will allow them to offer this reduction to parents who hold GP Visit cards, and given that the thresholds for these take account of mortgage, child care and commuting costs, I think most people would agree that those who fall outside those categories are not lower income and many middle-income parents will qualify for that subvention. Similarly, all parents in services with a top up payment are in receipt of a subsidy, which in some instances is very significant.

These services have the benefit of higher capital grant aid than private services. This is reflected in their cost price, which they charge to non-subvented parents. I am informed that, of the fees policies approved by my office to date, the average price for an full-time equivalent place under the scheme ranges from €43 to €143, depending on the band of the parent. This varies significantly, depending on the cost structure of the service, but is clearly below the commercial rate for child care. To further subsidise the rate for upper income parents in this sector would not be an equitable policy. Given these facts, there is no reason the sector should face issues regarding sustainability as a result of the new scheme. I am aware of a service whose manager took to the national airwaves to announce it was closing because of the introduction of the scheme. However, I can state that the situation is not as presented. The grant funding for the service has not, as was stated, been reduced by over €80,000, from €95,000 to €16,000. The true position is that the proposed grant funding for this service in July/December 2008, based on its level of qualifying parents, was due to reduce from €18,300 to €16,470. The manager of the service had been in contact with my officials days earlier indicating her satisfaction with the new funding arrangements and made no mention of any intention to close. My office is working with the local community sector and the county child care committee, as a matter of urgency, to try to ensure that another community service can take over the operation of the service and its proposed grant funding. As the level of support being given to existing services has increased and the number of services in the scheme has increased I am satisfied that the new scheme will prove an important step in the development of child care in Ireland.

Alan Shatter

Question:

204 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the number of parents who would be eligible for the community child care subvention scheme but cannot access subvention as they do not have access to a community child care service. [28995/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the National Child Care Investment Programme 2006-10 (NCIP) under which the Community Child Care Subvention Scheme was introduced in January of this year. The scheme replaced the previous staffing support grant scheme which was implemented under the EU co-funded Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-06 (EOCP) and which ended in December 2007. In providing for the new scheme and the previous EOCP support scheme, Government child care 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 child care costs — child benefit and the early child care supplement. The latter payment is the responsibility of my office. It is expected to involve expenditure of some €500 million in 2008. These payments are universal and benefit all parents, regardless of their income, labour market status or the type of child care they choose.

The community child care subvention scheme has an allocation of €154.2 million over 2008-10 and will continue to support and ensure the sustainability of community-based child care services which provide reduced child care fees for disadvantaged parents. community-based child care 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 child care 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 child care services generally. I am satisfied that it will be effective in delivering the NCIP objectives of supporting families to break the cycle of poverty and disadvantage. It will provide a framework which can accommodate any future child care 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 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 child care 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 child care sector, will be targeted at those who need it most.

I am also pleased to advise the Deputy that the child care 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 child care subvention scheme is a fair and equitable way of supporting community child care operators in the provision of an affordable and high quality service to parents. Given the low level of community child care provision in Ireland prior to 2000, the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-06 prioritised funding based on applications received and where it was considered that there was a clear need for child care places and the applicants could provide sustainable and affordable services. The National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-10 (NCIP) is continuing to target the available funding for child care in this way and as a result of this prioritisation, approximately 80% of grant funding under both programmes to date has been to the community, not for profit, sector. It is open to areas which do not have community child care services to apply under the NCIP. Further tranches of community applicants are expected to be approved under the programme.

Alan Shatter

Question:

205 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children the formula for the way the level of community child care subvention scheme is being calculated for each local community child care group. [28996/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the National Child Care Investment Programme 2006-10 (NCIP) under which the Community Child Care Subvention Scheme was introduced in January of this year. The scheme replaced the previous staffing support grant scheme which was implemented under the EU co-funded Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-06 (EOCP) and which ended in December 2007. The Community Child Care Subvention Scheme has an allocation of €154.2 million over 2008-10 and will continue to support and ensure the sustainability of community-based child care 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.

Each service made a return last November in respect of their children. The subventions were based on these returns, with band A parents attracting €100 per week for each full-time equivalent, and band B parents attracting €70 per week. A further tranche of funding was provided for parents somewhat above the family income supplement threshold, and this was calculated based on the profile of parents outside bands A and B with each service getting €45 per full-time equivalent for such parents who declared that they held a medical card or GP visit card. Where a service did not declare any parent holding a medical card or GP visit card, one such allowance i.e.a total of €1,170, was included in the grant amount. Finally, a supplement of €30 per full-time equivalent was added for infants under one year in the case of children of qualifying parents in that age category on the date of the return. Where the total amount would be less than 90% of a service's pre-existing funding level, or where the minimum grant level under the scheme of €20,000 applied, services were given a further top-up of funding to bring them to the relevant threshold guaranteed under the scheme i.e. either 90% of the pre-existing funding level or €20,000.

Questions Nos. 206 to 208, inclusive, answered with Question No. 202.

Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

209 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath will receive an intense hearing test and access to early intervention for autism. [29009/08]

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 these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Seán Connick

Question:

210 Deputy Seán Connick asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm the regulations under which the Health Service Executive have the right to refer a person with an intellectual disability for a residential placement as an emergency case; the criteria used to determine if a referral is an emergency case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29019/08]

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

Hospital Services.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

211 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will report on the provision of outpatient cystic fibrosis services at Beaumont Hospital; the number of dedicated cystic fibrosis beds that have been available at Beaumont each year since 2004 to date in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29038/08]

I have identified the need to improve services for persons with cystic fibrosis as a priority in the Estimates process over recent years. Since 2006, additional revenue funding of €6.78 million has been allocated to the HSE to develop services for patients with cystic fibrosis. The HSE has advised that 44 additional staff dealing with cystic fibrosis have been appointed to date across a number of hospitals, including St. Vincent's, Beaumont, Temple Street, Crumlin, Tallaght, Cork University Hospital, Galway, Limerick and Waterford. The necessary funding is available to facilitate the recruitment of a further 37 staff nationally. Beaumont Hospital operates as a regional centre in providing services to adults with cystic fibrosis. In the 2008 Budget, €2.5 million in capital funding was provided to enable Beaumont Hospital to provide out patient facilities for cystic fibrosis patients. Following discussions between hospital management, consultant respiratory physicians and cystic fibrosis patient representative organisations a decision has been taken regarding the site for a purpose built out-patient facility for patients with cystic fibrosis. A detailed proposal in relation to the development is being prepared for submission to the National Hospitals Office for approval. My Department understands that patients with cystic fibrosis will also benefit from additional single room capacity in the new medical admissions unit at the hospital which is due to open in December. The Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive has been asked by my Department to revert to the Deputy on the operational issue raised.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

212 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people currently waiting for physiotherapy services at Beaumont Hospital; the number of physiotherapists who have been employed at Beaumont Hospital each year since 2002 to date in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29039/08]

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

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

213 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that the cancer unit, St. Michael’s Ward, which also caters for cystic fibrosis patients in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin, Dublin 12, is closed during weekends; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29076/08]

Each hospital funded by the Health Service Executive is required to deliver services within the financial allocation provided. The HSE is involved in ongoing discussions with hospital management regarding its 2008 financial allocation and Service Plan. The Hospital has an overrun of €10 million from last year, and a projected overrun of €14 million this year. The priority of the HSE and hospital management is to ensure that services for children at the hospital are maintained at an optimum level. The initial focus of the discussions on budgetary issues between hospital management and the HSE is on ensuring that all areas of non-pay expenditure are critically examined. In this regard, the hospital made a recent decision to close St. Michael's Ward, which treats a mix of medical patients, a proportion of which are children with cystic fibrosis, at weekends and move to an adjacent ward, St. Joseph's, which also treats a mix of patients including orthopaedic patients. The hospital took the decision to amalgamate these two wards at weekends as the occupancy on both wards was approximately 50% at weekends. As a result, between five and patients, a small proportion of which are cystic fibrosis patients, from St. Michael's Ward are transferred to an adjacent ward at weekends. The infection control team in the hospital is satisfied that there is no additional risk to children as a result of this move. The same standard of care is being delivered to these children. There is no change in the specialised doctors and nurses and medical team caring for the patients who are transferred. On transfer, the children with cystic fibrosis are nursed in single rooms. The medical care delivered to the children remains the same. All patients and families are being communicated to by the nursing staff before they are transferred and there is an opportunity for families' concerns to be addressed by the multidisciplinary team. The only change for the children and their families is the location. There is ongoing monitoring and assessment of the situation by the infection control team.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

214 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the cutbacks in opening hours of various wards, theatres and other clinical services, the restructuring or recalibration of staff duties and the reduction in secretarial or reception availability that has taken place in the past year in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, Dublin 12; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29077/08]

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

Drug Treatment Programme.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

215 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason there has been a reduction of services to heroin users, intravenous drug-users and methadone dependent clients in Inchicore, Dublin 8; and whether they will be reinstated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29078/08]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

216 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of clients using the methadone dispensing clinic in Inchicore Health Centre, Dublin 8, in May 2007. [29079/08]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

217 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the addiction services available to clients from Inchicore, Dublin 8 and in Dublin 8 in general. [29080/08]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

218 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if there has been an increase of addicts from the Inchicore area accessing neighbouring addiction services due to a reduction of services available in Inchicore, Dublin 8; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29081/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 215 to 218, inclusive, together.

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.

Suicide Incidence.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

219 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the rate of suicide in the Dublin 8 area; the rate State wide; the initiatives she has taken aimed at areas where there is an identified cluster of youth suicide in particular; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29089/08]

Data on mortality are compiled by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) and published in the Annual and Quarterly Reports on Vital Statistics. Although the CSO collect data on a county basis, it is not possible to provide a breakdown on the basis of a particular area in Dublin. There were 62 deaths by suicide in Dublin City in 2005 at a rate of 11.9 per 100,000 population. There were 481 deaths by suicide nationally at a rate of 11.6.

"Reach Out" — A National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention, which was launched in September 2005, provides a policy framework for suicide prevention activities in Ireland. The strategy calls for a multi-sectoral approach to the prevention of suicidal behaviour in order to foster cooperation between health, education, community, voluntary and private sector agencies.

A key component of "Reach Out" is the implementation of measures aimed at high risk groups and vulnerable people. These include the provision of information and training on suicide prevention to relevant professionals and organisations, research on suicide prevention and the improvement of services which would benefit those at risk of suicide and those who attempt suicide. Implementation of the strategy is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

220 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that the Health Service Executive have withdrawn funding for new adult day places and training places for young adults with intellectual disabilities which were put in place to cover the period 2005 to 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29093/08]

The Multi Annual Investment Programme for Disability Services makes provision for the development of additional residential, respite places and day care places each year between 2006 and 2009 for people with Intellectual Disability and Autism and additional residential care and home support services for people with physical and sensory disabilities. €50m was provided to the Health Service Executive (HSE) in 2008 to fund a range of additional services under the Multi Annual Investment Programme for Disability.

As the Deputy will be aware, the commencement of the planned developments in disability services this year had been delayed due to a financial review in the HSE. However, I am pleased to be able to inform the Deputy that the HSE has assured me that it is now in a position to roll out the planned developments as outlined in its 2008 Service Plan.

Planned services include additional residential, day care — including training places — and respite care places for people with intellectual disability and autism; additional residential care and home support services for people with physical and sensory disabilities; and additional multi-disciplinary therapy posts to provide assessment and ongoing intervention services to children with a disability.

I understand that the HSE hopes to be able to finalise the position in relation to the commencement of such developments over the next week.

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

Parliamentary Questions.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

221 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of parliamentary questions referred by her to the Health Service Executive which were replied to within 20 working days; the number not replied to within 20 working days to date in 2008; and her plans to improve on these figures. [29094/08]

The operation of the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the HSE (PAD) allows for the centralised receipt, assignment and tracking of Parliamentary Questions within the HSE's extensive network of operations. More generally, PAD monitors overall performance in relation to the timely issue of replies and provides a central contact for all requests from Oireachtas members for information relating to matters within the statutory remit of the Executive. It reports on a regular basis to the Chief Executive officer and his management team.

In 2007 the Chief Executive Officer of the HSE, Professor Drumm, reiterated to Oireachtas members the importance he attaches to providing replies to Parliamentary Questions and affirmed his focus on improving the turnaround time for replies to the greatest possible extent. The Chief Executive Officer circulated a briefing document to Oireachtas members which informed them of his decision to introduce a shorter time frame of 15 working days for replies from January 2008 and also outlined new accountability structures being introduced to further improve the HSE's performance in this area. In the period January to June 30th 2008, a total of 2,120 questions were referred to the HSE for direct reply. During this period 1,854 replies were issued by the Executive and of these, 1,480 (70%) of replies were issued by the HSE within the new 15 day timeframe. A further 143 (5%) were answered within 20 days. 266 replies to questions remain to be finalised.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

222 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive to Parliamentary Question No. 209 of 4 June 2008. [29095/08]

My Department has been in correspondence with the Health Service Executive and I am informed that a response is being finalised and will be issued shortly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

223 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8 is assigned suitable accommodation in a facility that caters for sufferers of Alzheimer disease; if the chief executive officer of St. James’s Hospital will meet with the family; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29102/08]

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.

Commissions of Investigation.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

224 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress to date in the Leas Cross inquiry; when a final report is expected; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29110/08]

On the 25th April, 2007 the Government decided to establish a Commission of Investigation into the management, operation and supervision of the former Leas Cross Nursing Home.

The Commission consists of a Sole Member, supported by a legal team and 1 administrative post. It formally commenced its work in September 2007. An interim report was received in early March last and a final report is due in September 2008.

Nursing Home Inspections.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

225 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the details regarding nursing home inspections for each year on a county basis since 2002 to date in 2008; if all nursing homes have been inspected at least twice for each such year of operation; if not, the reason for same; if such inspections have taken place out of hours, at weekends or holidays; if not, the reason for same; the number of adverse reports and the names of such homes and location and the subsequent action taken including legal action or closure of home on a voluntary basis or deregulation of the home concerned; the names and location of such homes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29111/08]

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.

Medical Cards.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

226 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of medical card and general practitioner visit card applications received for Counties Louth, Meath, Cavan and Monaghan for each year since 2002 to date in 2008; the number granted under each category; the number of cards cancelled or withdrawn for each such county; the reason for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29112/08]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has the operational and funding responsibility for the medical card and GP Visit Card benefits. It collates medical card and GP Visit Card data by county, age and gender. Therefore, my Department has 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.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

227 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made in the provision of a clinical education building and the appointment of clinical education consultant teaching staff at the Mid-West Regional Hospital in conjunction with the University of Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29124/08]

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 Care Funding.

Joe McHugh

Question:

228 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children the official level of debt at Letterkenny General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29126/08]

Joe McHugh

Question:

229 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of money spent in Letterkenny General Hospital during the first six months of 2008; the amount of money left to spend for the remainder of 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29127/08]

Joe McHugh

Question:

230 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide assurances that each department in Letterkenny General Hospital will remain fully functioning for the remainder of 2008; if there are to be closures, the sections that will close; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29128/08]

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

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

My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to provide the detailed information requested directly to the Deputy.

Ministerial Travel.

Liz McManus

Question:

231 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the cost and frequency of travel per month since the beginning of this new Government by Ministers and Ministers of State by means of bus transport, rail transport or air transport by Department and by Minister involved in the travel; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29149/08]

The information requested is being collated by my Department and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Michael Ring

Question:

232 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for an angiogram at University College Hospital Galway. [29158/08]

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.

Departmental Agencies.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

233 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is confident that all agencies and bodies under her Department’s responsibility comply fully with the Department of Finance procurement guidelines for goods and services; if she has sought assurances from the agencies and bodies that this is the case since 2000 to date in 2008; if she has expressed concern to an agency or body that it might be acting inappropriately since 2000 to date in 2008; if so, the agency or body; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29171/08]

A revised Framework for Corporate and Financial Governance was issued in 2006 to all agencies funded by my Department. Agencies are asked to ensure that staff involved in purchasing or placing contracts are familiar with national, EU and international rules that may apply and are aware of the legal and policy framework within which procurement must be conducted.

Agencies are required to report on an annual basis to my Department on how they have applied the governance standards outlined in this framework document or to explain their reasons where the standards have not been implemented.

My Department is compiling information in respect of the Health Service Executive and other directly funded agencies. The relevant information will be provided to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

234 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will issue to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29175/08]

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

235 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if funding will be made available to a service for day services for 2008 in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29181/08]

The Multi Annual Investment Programme for Disability Services makes provision for the development of additional residential, respite places and day care places each year between 2006 and 2009 for people with Intellectual Disability and Autism and additional residential care and home support services for people with physical and sensory disabilities. €50m was provided to the Health Service Executive (HSE) in 2008 to fund a range of additional services under the Multi Annual Investment Programme for Disability.

As the Deputy will be aware, the commencement of the planned developments in disability services this year had been delayed due to a financial review in the HSE. However, I am pleased to be able to inform the Deputy that the HSE has assured me that it is now in a position to roll out the planned developments as outlined in its 2008 Service Plan.

Planned services include additional residential, day care and respite care places for people with intellectual disability and autism; additional residential care and home support services for people with physical and sensory disabilities; and additional multi-disciplinary therapy posts to provide assessment and ongoing intervention services to children with a disability.

I understand that the HSE hopes to be able to finalise the position in relation to the commencement of such developments over the next week.

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

236 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if funding will be made available to a service for day services for 2008 in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29182/08]

The Multi Annual Investment Programme for Disability Services makes provision for the development of additional residential, respite places and day care places each year between 2006 and 2009 for people with Intellectual Disability and Autism and additional residential care and home support services for people with physical and sensory disabilities. €50m was provided to the Health Service Executive (HSE) in 2008 to fund a range of additional services under the Multi Annual Investment Programme for Disability.

As the Deputy will be aware, the commencement of the planned developments in disability services this year had been delayed due to a financial review in the HSE. However, I am pleased to be able to inform the Deputy that the HSE has assured me that it is now in a position to roll out the planned developments as outlined in its 2008 Service Plan.

Planned services include additional residential, day care and respite care places for people with intellectual disability and autism; additional residential care and home support services for people with physical and sensory disabilities; and additional multi-disciplinary therapy posts to provide assessment and ongoing intervention services to children with a disability.

I understand that the HSE hopes to be able to finalise the position in relation to the commencement of such developments over the next week.

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

Departmental Expenditure.

Damien English

Question:

237 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on cost saving measures she plans introducing in the second half of 2008; if such measures will affect the delivery of front line services to the public; the programmes that will be postponed or discontinued as a result of such cost savings. [27310/08]

The budgetary consolidation measures decided by Government, 8 July 2008 will ensure that we can continue on a sound fiscal basis which will support economic growth and provide for improved public services into the future.

Within the Health Group of Votes, the 2008 Budget provided for an additional €1.16 billion expenditure in 2008 bringing the total to €16.156 billion.

A total of €144.35m is to be saved within the health sector this year.

The intention is that this amount will be saved through a combination of the following:

(i) savings of €85m in 2008 arising from the delay in implementing the new nursing home support scheme, the Fair Deal;

(ii) savings of €38m in 2008 arising from the slower than expected roll-out of new developments provided for in the December 2007 budget;

(iii) savings of €21.35m to be identified in administrative costs across the Department and all agencies other than the HSE to include payroll, advertising, procurement, consultancy; and in other schemes within Vote 39 (Department of Health & Children) and Vote 41 (Office of the Minister for Children).

These savings will not affect the provision of health services to patients and clients or the HSE capital plan in 2008.

Airport Development Projects.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

238 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Transport if a cost benefit analysis has been carried out for terminal two and the proposed new runway at Dublin Airport; if project managers have been appointed for terminal two and the proposed new runway at Dublin Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28351/08]

Terence Flanagan

Question:

239 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Transport the benefit cost ratios and internal rates of return for terminal two and the proposed new runway at Dublin Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28352/08]

Terence Flanagan

Question:

240 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Transport if evaluations of terminal two and the new runway at Dublin Airport have been published and submitted to the relevant select committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas; if so, the findings of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28353/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 238 to 240, inclusive, together.

The Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) operates under a clear commercial mandate and its capital investment programme, including Terminal Two and the proposed new parallel runway, is entirely funded from its own internal resources.

Proposals in relation to the development of Dublin Airport are, in the first instance, a matter for the DAA which has statutory responsibility to manage, operate and develop the airport and to provide such facilities and services as it considers necessary for aircraft and passengers. Accordingly, the issues of cost benefit analysis, cost benefit ratios and internal rates of return in relation to the new terminal and runway are matters that fall within the responsibility of the management and board of the DAA.

I understand that the DAA evaluations in respect of these two projects have not been published or submitted to committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas, nor is there a requirement to do so.

The DAA, of course, is required to comply with the value for money provisions of the National Development Plan to the extent that is appropriate to a commercial State Body that funds its capital expenditure programme from its own resources. I should also add that responsibility for compliance with Department of Finance capital appraisal guidelines rests with the Board of the DAA.

Finally, I would point that, in line with the Government decision of May 2005 mandating the DAA to build Terminal Two, independent experts have since reported on the specification and cost of the new terminal. The experts appointed by my Department concluded that the methodology, approach and execution of the planning objectives and considerations for passengers adopted by the DAA accords with best practice. They also found that the estimated cost of the new terminal is within industry norms for this type of project in a European capital city. The verification team report has been lodged in the Oireachtas library and is available on my Department's website. (www.transport.ie)

A project manager has been in place for Terminal Two for some time now, as work on the project is well underway and is due to be completed in early 2010. A project manager has not yet been appointed for the proposed new runway, as work on it has not yet commenced.

Park and Ride Facilities.

Michael Ring

Question:

241 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Transport the progress made in relation to the Programme for Government proposal to provide park and ride services in all appropriate locations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28652/08]

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to provide park and ride services in all appropriate locations.

The provision of car parking at railway stations is a matter for Iarnród Éireann in conjunction with local authorities. I understand that Iarnród Éireann have begun a network-wide programme of expanding existing or developing new car parks, with the assistance of Exchequer funding, to cater for record demand.

Within the past year car parks have opened/been extended at eight train stations namely Leixlip Louisa Bridge, Mallow, Ennis, Tullamore, Arklow, Limerick, Hazelhatch and Gormanston resulting in over 1,350 extra car parking spaces. New car parks are also due to open at Newbridge, Rush and Lusk, Portarlington, Carlow and Limerick Junction over the next eighteen months. I understand that Iarnród Éireann is currently examining a number of other locations for their suitability for expansion. To date Exchequer funding of €21m has been allocated for the car park expansion programme.

There are currently five Park and Ride sites along the existing Luas network at Red Cow, Sandyford, Stillorgan, Balally and Tallaght.

The Luas Park and Ride facility at Sandyford is currently closed to facilitate work on the extension of the Luas Green Line to Cherrywood. When the Luas extension to Cherrywood is complete, the Sandyford Park and Ride will re-open but with a reduced capacity for around 45 cars.

The RPA is in discussion with a private developer and Dún-Laoghaire Rathdown County Council on the provision of a P&R facility at Carrickmines in the context of the Luas extension to Cherrywood which is currently under construction.

The planned extension of the Luas Red Line to Citywest provides for a Park and Ride facility at Cheeverstown.

Metro North, which will run from St. Stephen's Green to Swords via Dublin Airport, will have 3 P&R sites. These will be located at Lissenhall, north of Swords, Metropark, between the Airport and the M50, and Fosterstown, south of Swords.

The preferred route for the further extension of the Green line from Cherrywood to the Bray area provides for a P&R facility at Fassaroe.

The preferred route corridor for Metro West was announced in July 2007 and the RPA hopes to provide Park and Ride facilities at a number of key locations where this Metro meets major road corridors. In particular RPA hope to provide Park and Ride facilities from the N2 (Ashbourne) at the Huntstown stop, N3 (Navan) at the Blanchardstown stop and N4 (Lucan) at the Liffey Valley stop. Additional facilities might also be provided at other locations.

I have made funding available to local authorities in the Greater Dublin Area to provide park and ride facilities. It is a matter for the local authorities to develop proposals and to apply for funding. To date I have received no such applications. However, the local authorities in question are continuing to explore the possibilities for such facilities. In this regard, An Bord Pleanála recently refused planning permission for a proposed facility on the N4 for South Dublin County Council.

I have also made funding available in the regional cities for bus priority and park and ride facilities. It is a matter for the local authorities to develop proposals and apply for funding.

Funding has bee provided to Cork City Council for a successful park and ride facility at Black Ash, and my Department has recently received a preliminary application for funding from the Council for a similar facility on the Western side of Cork City.

I understand that other regional cities are also seeking to develop proposals, taking account of the constraints of obtaining suitable sites.

Motor Fuels.

Joe McHugh

Question:

242 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport the situation regarding the fuel rebate for bus operators for 2008/2009; if he will assure these operators that they will not lose their fuel rebate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29002/08]

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 Átha Cliath, Bus Éireann, 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. The position in regard to the school transport sector is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science.

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 colleague the Minister for Finance has already stated that our overall response to the increase in fuel prices is, as was adopted at the recent Ecofin and European Council meetings, that distortionary fiscal and other policy interventions should be avoided as they prevent the necessary adjustments by economic agents. Accordingly, I do not envisage any approval from the Department of Finance for a replacement scheme in the current economic circumstances.

Road Safety.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

243 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport if all breathalysers would have to be replaced or recalibrated if there was a change in the drink driving limit; the length of time this process would take; the estimated cost of this process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29030/08]

Lowering of the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) levels for drivers requires the recalibration or replacement and subsequent recertification of the Evidential Breath Testing (EBT) machines in Garda stations and roadside breathalysers used by the Gardaí.

The Medical Bureau of Road Safety, who has responsibility for the approval, supply and testing of apparatus for indicating the presence and the concentration of alcohol in breath, has estimated that this process would take to the end of 2009/early 2010 to complete. The Bureau is in the process of estimating the exact costs involved.

Road Traffic Offences.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

244 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the way the new protocol on mutual recognition of disqualified drivers between Ireland, Northern Ireland and Britain will operate; the starting date of same; the system that will provide the authorities in all three jurisdictions with the information that a motorist has been disqualified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29047/08]

Details of an agreement for the mutual recognition of driving disqualifications between Ireland, Northern Ireland and Britain were announced on the 26th of June this year.

The agreement will be within the framework established by the 1998 Convention on Driving Disqualifications. I believe that this will be the first such instance of international cooperation within that framework.

In 1998, the UK and Ireland along with all thirteen (at the time) other EU Member States of the European Union signed the international Convention on driving disqualification (98/C 216/01). The Convention intends to ensure that drivers disqualified from driving in a Member State other than their normal place of residence should not, on their return home, escape the consequences of that disqualification.

The Convention provides for six agreed kinds of conduct which will be internationally recognised for the purposes of driving disqualification. The Convention automatically comes into force across all Member States only when all signatory States have ratified it. However, the Convention allows one EU Member State to recognise another's driving disqualifications before all Member States have ratified.

The agreed behaviours covered by the 1998 Convention include: reckless or dangerous driving; hit-and-run driving; driving whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs; speeding; and driving whilst disqualified.

Ireland and the UK and have already implemented the necessary primary legislation to allow for ratification (in the UK through the Crime (International Co-operation) Act 2003, and in Ireland under the Road Traffic Act 2002).

The agreement should see mutual recognition of disqualifications between the three administrations in place by Spring 2009. Discussions on the practical arrangements for implementation are continuing between the police, Court services and the licensing authorities in the different jurisdictions.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

245 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the number of categories of penalty points that have not come into operation; the target deadline for the operation of each category of penalty points; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29048/08]

The Road Traffic Act, 2002, which is the legislative basis for the system of penalty points, sets out an extensive list of offences, which may attract penalty points under the Act.

The focus of the roll-out of the penalty points system from 2002 to date is on offences that relate primarily to the behaviour of drivers. The remaining offences to which the penalty point system may be applied relate primarily to offences relating to vehicles and their use, lighting of vehicles and the licensing of drivers.

The offences concerned are those listed in the First Schedule to the 2002 Act (as amended in the Road Traffic Acts of 2004 and 2006) at reference numbers 1 to 6, 10 and 16 as per Part 1, the offences at reference numbers 1 to 14 as per Part 2, the offences at reference numbers 1 to 6 as per Part 3, the offence at reference number 1 as per Part 5, the offence at reference number 1 as per Part 6, the offences at reference numbers 1 to 6 as per Part 7 and the offence at reference number 1 as per Part 8.

The penalty point system applies to 36 offences at present. The progressive extension of the penalty point system will continue to be pursued but I have no definitive timeframe in mind at this point in relation to the remaining offences.

Public Transport.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

246 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport if he will introduce a general statute for the licensing of wheelchair adapted buses; the regulations and standards that presently apply to wheelchair adapted and accessible buses under road traffic legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29058/08]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

281 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport if the vehicle standards section of his Department has recommended the introduction of technical requirements for the licensing of wheelchair accessible buses; if he will introduce a general statute for the licensing of wheelchair adapted buses; the regulations and standards that currently apply to wheelchair adapted and accessible buses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29057/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 246 and 281 together.

The construction, equipment and use of vehicles are matters for the Road Safety Authority.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

247 Deputy Ciarán Cuffe asked the Minister for Transport the breakdown of the amount of funding that is individually earmarked for mainline rail, light rail and metro, road, bus, cycling and pedestrian infrastructure projects in relation to the Transport 21 capital investment programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28281/08]

The €34 billion provided for Transport 21 comprises €26 billion from the Exchequer and €8 billion from Public Private Partnerships.

A total of €18 billion is provided for national roads and €16 billion for the development of public transport. Of the €16 billion provided for public transport, an indicative allocation of approximately €13.5 billion relate to rail projects including mainline and suburban rail, light rail and metro. An indicative allocation of over €700 million relates to bus investment and over €800 million relates to traffic management which included bus priority, cycling and walking.

Light Rail Project.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

248 Deputy Ciarán Cuffe asked the Minister for Transport the completion date for the feasibility studies on light rail transit systems in respect of Limerick, Cork, Waterford and Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28282/08]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

274 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding the proposed development of light rail systems for Cork, Galway and Limerick; if he has received feasibility studies for the three projects; if so, if he will publish the studies; the estimated cost and completion date of each project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29034/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 248 and 274 together.

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to carry out feasibility studies into Luas-style Light Rail Transport (LRT) systems in Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford within two years. I have since asked that these studies should simultaneously include consideration of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).

The feasibility of LRT and/or BRT in Cork is being considered in the context of the update of the Cork Area Strategic Plan (CASP), which I understand is due to be completed in Autumn of 2008.

In the case of Limerick, the local authorities are currently conducting a tender process for consultants to carry out a Planning, Land Use and Transportation Study for the region, and the terms of reference will include consideration of LRT/BRT in Limerick.

I understand that Limerick City Council expect to appoint consultants by late August 2008 and the Study is expected to be completed by late 2009. However, it is expected that interim findings, including regarding the feasibility of LRT/BRT in Limerick, will be available by mid 2009.

Discussions are under way between my Department and the local authorities in Galway and Waterford on finalising the terms of reference for a feasibility study on LRT/BRT in these cities, in order to ensure that the local authorities complete these studies within the required timeframe.

I expect all of these studies to be published when completed. The costing of any individual LRT/BRT projects cannot be finalized until tenders have been received and decided upon by the relevant local authorities.

Public Transport.

Joan Burton

Question:

249 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Transport further to Parliamentary Question No. 184 of 2 July 2008, if he will provide the details of the examination of the application by Dublin Bus for modifying the 37 bus route; the details of the consultations with Dublin Bus on this matter; the rationale, including overlap of routes, stops and so on, for deeming that the Dublin Bus proposal would give rise to competition with an existing licensed service; if he had deemed this potential competition to be significant and likely to impact negatively on the existing licensed service; if he will review this decision and continue consultations with Dublin Bus in order to seek a satisfactory solution, without necessitating an application under section 25 of the Transport Act 1958, similar to that achieved on the matter of the use of the Dublin Port Tunnel by the 41X service; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that blocking the modified 37 route could have a potentially significant negative impact on the planned improvements to the bus service throughout Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28374/08]

I would like to advise the Deputy that my Department has not blocked any proposal from Dublin Bus for changes to its Route 37 bus service.

Following an initial examination of the proposal from Dublin Bus for changes to its Route 37 service, my Department, taking into consideration the existing transport services on and along the route in question, consulted with the Dublin Bus regarding the possible requirement of an application for consent in accordance with Section 25 of the Transport Act, 1958 due to the possible competition that may arise with an existing licensed service being operated by a private concern.

As I stated in my reply to Question 184 on 2nd July, 2008, following detailed consideration of the proposal, my Department advised Dublin Bus that Ministerial consent was required for the proposed change and a copy of the relevant licence detailing the route and services in question was forwarded to Dublin Bus for reference.

It is a matter for Dublin Bus, to revise its proposal and re-apply to my Department, should the Company wish to avoid competition with the licensed service. This was the case in relation to the authorisation of the Dublin Bus Route 41X service, in respect of which Dublin Bus submitted a proposal based on an alteration to the existing route.

Departmental Expenditure.

Joan Burton

Question:

250 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Transport the expenditure by his Department on consultants for each of the past six calendar years, including to date in 2008; the breakdown of these figures in order to show the amount and proportion of expenditure on consultants which relates to expenditure on public relations, marketing or advertising consultants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28390/08]

The information requested by the Deputy is being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Departmental Agencies.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

251 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport the pay and emoluments granted to the chief executive officer, or equivalents, of all of the agencies under the control of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28403/08]

It is the responsibility of the Boards of the relevant bodies under the aegis of my Department to agree terms and conditions (including pay and emoluments) of their respective Chief Executives or equivalents within the remuneration levels approved by my Department with the consent of the Department of Finance. Details of pay and emoluments are generally published in the Annual Reports.

End-of-Life Vehicles.

Liz McManus

Question:

252 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Transport the control in place to prevent unroadworthy cars being sold by garages and mechanics to the unsuspecting public. [28424/08]

Under the Road Traffic (Control of Supply of Vehicles) Regulations 1991 it is an offence for a motor dealer to supply, or offer to supply, a vehicle which does not comply with vehicle standards regulations. A person who contravenes these Regulations is liable on conviction to a fine of up to €1,000 in the case of a first offence.

Community Development.

Michael Creed

Question:

253 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Transport the amount of money his Department has provided to rural development and Leader programmes; the way this money has been allocated and spent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28438/08]

My Department provides no funding under LEADER programmes.

Rail Network.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

254 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Transport further to parliamentary Question No. 103 of 22 May 2008, if there has been progress on this issue. [28530/08]

The planning and design of railway upgrade works is a matter for Iarnród Éireann. I am informed by Iarnród Éireann that the current position regarding the removal of level crossings on the Maynooth line is that the discussions with the local authorities with a view to formulating joint proposals to facilitate the closures, including the necessary road and bridge works, are ongoing and that plans for dealing with each of the level crossings are now being prepared.

Iarnród Éireann has advised that the resignalling of the Maynooth line, which Iarnród Éireann are targeting for completion by the end of 2011, may precede some of the crossing closures.

Rural Transport Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

255 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Transport the progress made in relation to the programme for Government proposals to build on the success to date of the rural transport initiative and extend the rural transport programme nationwide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28628/08]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

264 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether the rural transport scheme is operating efficiently; if it meets the needs of rural communities; if he is considering policy initiatives in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28791/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 255 and 264 together.

2008 is the first full year of operation for the Rural Transport Programme (RTP). The Programme, which was launched in February 2007, is putting the former pilot Rural Transport Initiative on a mainstreamed basis with significantly increased funding and is providing for additional services together with expanded area coverage.

Pobal, which administers the RTP on behalf of my Department, is developing the Programme on a phased basis in consultation with individual RTP groups, with a goal of achieving nation-wide coverage in due course in line with Government policy. I am satisfied that the arrangements being put in place by Pobal in that regard take account of value for money and efficiency issues.

It is planned that by end-2008, RTP Groups will be operational in every county and will be working towards maximising coverage in their operational areas. At present, County Louth is the only county without an operational scheme although preparatory work in that regard is, I understand, at an advanced stage.

One of the strengths of the RTP is that it involves local groups that know their local communities' needs. Under the Programme, rural community transport groups, working with Pobal, are responsible for deciding on the specific services to be provided and the methods of provision.

Rail Network.

Michael Ring

Question:

256 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Transport the progress made in relation to the Programme for Government proposal to re-open the western rail corridor from Ennis to Claremorris and examine the feasibility of re-opening the line from Claremorris to Sligo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28629/08]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions Nos. 307 and 308 on 1 July.

Rail Accidents.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

257 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport if he will request CIÉ to send accident investigation findings to his Department for their consideration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28783/08]

The procedures for investigating railway accidents are determined by the EU Safety Directive as transposed into Irish law by the Railway Safety Act 2005 and the European Communities (Railway Safety) Regulations 2008.

Where an accident occurs, it will be investigated by the Railway Accident Investigation Unit, a functionally independent unit of the Railway Safety Commission. The Investigation Unit is required to submit investigation reports to me and also to make them public within 12 months of the date of the accident. In the event of an accident, Iarnród Éireann is also required to carry out its own internal investigation and prepare a report on its findings to be submitted to the Railway Safety Commission.

The investigation of road traffic accidents, including bus accidents, is a matter for An Garda Siochána under the Road Traffic Acts.

Public Transport.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

258 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the public transport infrastructure projects he expects to start within the next 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28784/08]

The planning and implementation of public transport infrastructure upgrade projects is a matter for the implementing agencies. I understand from Iarnród Éireann that it intends to commence work on the Clonsilla/Dunboyne section of the Navan Rail Link and the City Centre and Maynooth line re-signalling projects within the next 12 months.

The Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) was granted a Railway Order in June 2008 by An Bord Pleanála in respect of the proposed Luas extension to Citywest. Subject to the Railway Order becoming enforceable in mid August, the RPA expect that construction on this project will commence in the Autumn. The RPA will also commence substantial advance enabling works on the Metro North PPP project in 2009. The above is in addition to construction already taking place on other RPA and Irish Rail projects.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

259 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the transport projects that are not being prioritised in view of comments by An Taoiseach during Taoiseach’s Questions on 2 July 2008 that the National Development Plan projects will be prioritised according to the potential return; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28785/08]

Pat Breen

Question:

271 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Transport if he will confirm that projects under Transport 21 will be delivered to County Clare as outlined; his plans to review projects under Transport 21; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29011/08]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

286 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the target completion dates for each individual project in Transport 21; the estimated cost for each of these projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29071/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 259, 271 and 286 together.

At the launch of Transport 21, the Government identified the programmes and projects in the national roads, public transport and regional airport sectors that it wished to see prioritised for implementation in the ten-year period from 2006-2015 within an overall capital provision of €34 billion. That objective has not changed.

Significant progress is being made on Transport 21 and a number of projects have been completed, are under construction or are well advanced in planning terms.

The value of the ten-year financial framework provided by Transport 21 is that it gives us flexibility to keep the programme under ongoing review and to make adjustments to that programme in an effective manner, taking account of all relevant factors. For example there have already been revisions to some completion dates because of changes to the scope of projects arising from public consultation, planning issues, procurement issues and archaeological difficulties.

Both my predecessor and I have consistently taken the view that, in the interest of the taxpayer and in ensuring that Transport 21 is achieved within budget, the cost of individual projects should not be released until the public procurement processes have been completed. The publication of such commercially sensitive information prior to the completion of the procurement process.

Departmental Expenditure.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

260 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the cutbacks he is making in order to reduce expenditure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28786/08]

Damien English

Question:

294 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Transport if he will make a statement on cost saving measures he plans introducing in the second half of 2008; if such measures will affect the delivery of front line services to the public; the programmes that will be postponed or discontinued as a result of such cost savings. [27314/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 260 and 294 together.

The savings to be made in my Department's budget in 2008 are:

€1.844 million in respect of consultancies, advertising and public relations costs across the Department and the agencies under the aegis of the Department;

€114,000 in payroll costs;

€133,000 in the Administrative Budget of the Department;

€156,000 in the budgets of the agencies; and

€20 million in the capital allocation outside of the investment in core economic infrastructure.

My Department, in consultation with the relevant agencies, is considering how best these savings can be achieved and I anticipate that specific proposals will be available for consideration shortly. I do not anticipate that delivery of front line services to the public will be affected.

Motor Fuels.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

261 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport if he agrees with the Minister for Finance when he states that in the current economic climate an alternative scheme to the public transport vehicle fuel rebate scheme is unlikely to be initiated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28787/08]

My colleague the Minister for Finance has already stated that the overall response to the increase in fuel prices is, as was adopted at the recent Ecofin and European Council meetings, that distortionary fiscal and other policy interventions should be avoided as they prevent the necessary adjustments by economic agents. Accordingly, I do not envisage any approval from the Department of Finance for a replacement scheme in the current economic circumstances.

Integrated Ticketing.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

262 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the status of the integrated ticketing project; the person who is currently responsible; the amount spent on the project to date; the estimated completion date; the way the hand over to the proposed Dublin Transport Authority will be organised; if staff and resources will be transferred to the new Dublin Transport Authority or if the Authority will begin the project again; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28789/08]

I set out the current status of the Integrated Ticketing Project in my response to Question No. 437 of 8th July 2008. The Integrated Ticketing Project Board was established in July 2006 to deliver the smart card technology required to deliver an integrated smart card ticketing system within an agreed specification, timeline and budget. The initial focus of the project is in the Greater Dublin Area.

The Board comprises the Chief Executives of the RPA, Dublin Bus, Irish Rail, Bus Éireann, a representative of private bus operators, a senior official from the Department of Transport, and a senior official from the Department of Social and Family Affairs as required, under an independent chairperson, Mr. David O'Callaghan, former Secretary General of the Department of Defence. The Project Board reports to me on a quarterly basis.

In line with the provisions of the Dublin Transport Authority Bill, it is intended that integrated ticketing will become the responsibility of the Dublin Transport Authority. The timeframe for the hand-over of the Integrated Ticketing Project to the Authority will be determined by me in consultation with the Authority after its establishment. To date €13.5 million has been paid out by the Exchequer on the Integrated Ticketing Project.

Rail Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

263 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the actions he has taken to encourage greater use of rail freight; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28790/08]

There is substantial ongoing current and capital Exchequer investment in the development and operation of the railway network. Total Exchequer funding allocated to Iarnród Éireann for 2008 amounts to more than €720 million. In addition to this investment the potential to expand rail freight will be considered as part of the development of the Sustainable Travel and Transport Action Plan. Iarnród Éireann continues to pursue a policy of growing its rail freight business where opportunities present and of returning the rail freight business to profitability and, in that context, Iarnród Éireann has made progress in recent years in growing the rail freight business in areas where it holds a competitive advantage over road haulage, e.g. large volumes or trainloads over longer distances.

Rail freight is fully liberalised since 1st January, 2007, and while no applications have been made to my Department for entry to the market to date, any expressions of interest would be welcomed.

Question No. 264 answered with Question No. 255.

Road Network.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

265 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the cost of buying out the West Link toll bridge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28793/08]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

277 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the cost of the Government buy-back of West Link toll bridge on the M50; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29051/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 265 and 277 together.

As Minister for Transport I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme element of Transport 21. As the Deputy is aware, the implementation of individual national road projects, including the M50, is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Act, 1993 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. Under Section 19 of the Act, the allocation of monies in relation to the construction or maintenance of national road projects is a matter for the NRA.

In addition, issues relating to tolls on national roads are in the first instance a matter for the NRA. The statutory power to levy tolls on national roads, to make toll by-laws and to enter into toll agreements with private investors in respect of national roads is vested in the NRA under Part V of the Roads Act, 1993 (as amended by the Planning and Development Act 2000 and the Roads Act 2007).

In relation to the buy out of the M50 West Link concession, the cost of compensating NTR was a matter for determination between the NRA and NTR in line with the 1987 West-Link Agreement. Under the agreement reached between NTR and the NRA, NTR is to receive annual payments of €50 million, plus Consumer Price Index, for each of the years 2008-2020, in other words, a sum in the order of €600 million. (Partial year payments will apply in both 2008 and 2020 reflecting the date the NRA takeover operations in 2008 and also in 2020 reflecting the expiry date of the existing NTR concession contract).

Harbours and Piers.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

266 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether Ireland has enough port capacity to meet increased import and export levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28794/08]

A port capacity study undertaken on the Department's behalf by Fisher Associates in 2006, contained detailed submissions from seven ports regarding increasing unitised capacity.

The report concluded, inter alia, that: there is currently significant available capacity for further growth in LoLo traffic at Irish ports; and current available capacity for RoRo traffic also exists, although less so than in the case of LoLo. The study demonstrated that the projects being progressed by the ports sector have the potential to deliver adequate capacity going forward, in line with the established policy.

The expansion proposals submitted by the port companies would be sufficient for a very large expansion in Ro-Ro and Lo-Lo capacity. My Department is continuing to actively monitor both the capacity situation at our ports and developments relating to the submitted expansion proposals.

The slowdown in economic activity has caused a corresponding reduction in port throughput growth and this may impact on the timing of the need for new capacity. These trends will also be factors nationally for consideration as part of the upcoming Dublin Port NDP study, which while focusing on the future of Dublin Port, will also assess alternative port capacity options and potential in the medium and longer term.

Freedom of Information.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

267 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the number of freedom of information requests submitted to his Department since 2006 to date in 2008; the number accepted, partly accepted, refused, appealed, and overturned by the Information Commissioner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28797/08]

The information requested by the Deputy is outlined in the following table:

2006

2007

2008 up to 4 July

Requests received

92

91

68

Requests Granted

20

11

13

Requests Part Granted

36

28

22

Requests Denied

23

23

20

Requests Withdrawn or handled outside FOI

24

16

1

Requests Transferred to other Bodies

1

0

0

Internal Reviews

10

12

5

Appeals to Information Commissioner

7

6

0

Overturned by Information Commissioner

0

1

0

The Deputy may wish to note that my Department publishes information in relation to Freedom of Information requests received in its Annual Report.

Public Transport.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

268 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport if he expects all funding allocated for public transport investment to be spent in 2008; if delays in projects will result in funds not being spent; if he is planning supplementary Estimates to transfer funds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28798/08]

Expenditure projections to year-end indicate that a saving is likely in the funding allocation provided for public transport. This arises mainly from the fact that land acquisitions are not proceeding as quickly as originally anticipated at the start of the year. This saving will not have any direct impact on the implementation timetable for public transport projects.

I have no plans to seek a supplementary estimate this year, as I propose to deal with the saving through the mechanisms provided for in the capital envelope agreement which my Department has with the Department of Finance.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

269 Deputy Ciarán Cuffe asked the Minister for Transport if he has received bus licence applications from Dublin Bus or private operators to run a bus route between the town of Dún Laoghaire and Sandyford Luas station; if so, the status of those applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28838/08]

My Department has no notifications on hand from Dublin Bus or applications from private operators for the provision of bus services on the route referred to.

Road Network.

David Stanton

Question:

270 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Transport if he has provided funding to Cork County Council under the local tertiary road restoration grant scheme in 2008; the amount made available in 2007 and in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28946/08]

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads in its area is a matter for each individual road authority to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State road grants.

Specific grants for the improvement and maintenance of tertiary county roads were not allocated to local authorities in 2007 or 2008. Works on such roads may, at the discretion of the local authority, be funded on foot of discretionary grants or under the pavement restoration programme.

The grants paid to Cork County Council in 2007 and allocated in 2008 under those grant categories are set out in the following table.

Grant Category

2007 Payment

2008 Allocation

€ million

€ million

Restoration Improvement

29.500

29.500

Restoration Maintenance

10.533

11.054

Discretionary Improvement

3.095

3.249

Discretionary Maintenance

3.844

3.844

Question No. 271 answered with Question No. 259.

Road Traffic Offences.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

272 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport when the 14 newly appointed transport inspectors will be able to fully discharge their duties in tandem with the Garda Síochána under the auspices of the Road Safety Authority; when he will introduce legislation to close the legislative loophole and allow the heavy goods vehicle inspectors to work at roadside checkpoints; the number of HGVs found to have technical faults or to be unroadworthy in 2006, 2007 and to date in 2008; the deadline for the implementation of each of the RSA’s recommendations on improving the road worthiness of the HGV fleet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29032/08]

As was indicated in reply to Question No. 130 of 17 June 2008, a technical amendment to both the Road Transport Act 1986 and the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 is required to enable recently recruited transport officers of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) to fully discharge their functions in relation to the enforcement of road transport and related legislation. An amendment to rectify this problem was proposed and accepted by the Dáil during its recent consideration of the Dublin Transport Authority Bill. That Bill has now been passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas.

Responsibility for vehicle standards 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 recommendations from the RSA for reforming the roadworthiness testing regime and for addressing a number of other related issues have been accepted by the Minister. The RSA is working on a detailed implementation plan with specific actions to be taken to give effect to the reform programme.

Road Safety.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

273 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport when he will publish the report on the alleged presence of unroadworthy car write-offs on roads here; his views on the introduction of a compulsory system of the reporting of car write-offs; the number of imported cars that the Revenue Commissioners have informed his Department are potentially car write-offs; if he will establish a central and comprehensive register of all vehicles that have been classified as unsafe and unroadworthy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29033/08]

I refer the Deputy to the reply in response to a similar question (Ref No: 23276/08) put down by Deputy Joe Costello on 17th June last. The only change in the position is that write off data relating to other insurers have recently been made available to my Department and the process of validating it against the NVDF is currently underway.

Question No. 274 answered with Question No. 248.

Road Network.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

275 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the number of service and rest areas planned for the inter-urban and national road network here; the estimated completion date of each of these service areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29037/08]

As I stated in a response to a similar Question put to me on 17th June last, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme element of Transport 21. The detailed planning, design and implementation of national road projects, including the provision of service areas on or near these routes and their precise locations, is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Act 1993, as amended by the Roads Act 2007, in conjunction with the relevant local authorities concerned.

Public Transport.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

276 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the number of buses in the Bus Éireann fleet each year since 2001 to date in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29040/08]

Bus Éireann has informed me that the company's fleet at year-end over the period since 2001 is as set out below.

Year

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008*

689

677

679

687

689

677

712

796

Schools

680

671

683

676

652

711

678

677

Total

1,369

1,348

1,362

1,363

1,341

1,388

1,390

1,473

*End of May, 2008.

Question No. 277 answered with Question No. 265.

Road Network.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

278 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport if he has ruled out the imposition of congestion charges on any inter-urban, national or secondary road; if proposals for congestion charges have been submitted for his attention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29053/08]

Though specific proposals for the introduction of congestion charging are not being considered at the moment, the National Climate Change Strategy 2007-2012 states that consideration will be given to the potential introduction of fiscal measures, including road pricing or congestion charging, to reduce transport demand, once adequate supply-side infrastructure is in place.

Congestion charges can incentivise the shift from personal car transport and have been successfully adopted in, for example, London and Stockholm. On its introduction, the London congestion charge reduced congestion by 30% and traffic levels by 18% with a positive net annual revenue. Similarly, the Stockholm congestion charge resulted in weekday traffic falling by 22% and a reduction of 12% in emissions. This was introduced initially on a trial basis and was later adopted following a public referendum.

The success of these schemes is partly due to the availability of public transport alternatives and democratic consensus, following public awareness campaigns. Various types of charge are feasible, including cordon charges and area licences. Technological development provides the means for more sophisticated and targeted pricing schemes.

It is too early to say what, if any, fiscal measures are needed in Ireland. The Government is committed to delivering a Sustainable Travel and Transport Action Plan this year, for which a public consultation process is recently concluded. The question of congestion reduction and measures in relation to restricting traffic volumes in the Dublin City Centre area will be explored in more detail as part of that Action Plan. Also, the Dublin Transportation Office, in their document ‘2030 Vision for Greater Dublin Transport' will address measures for Dublin. Information on the document is available from www.2030vision.ie.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

279 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the categories of vehicles that are currently permitted to use dedicated bus lanes; if he is considering proposals to allow professionally operated chauffeur driven vehicles to use bus lanes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29055/08]

The current rules governing use of bus lanes were established through the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997-1998. Large public service vehicles are permitted to use all bus lanes. Taxis, while being used in the course of work, and pedal cycles are permitted to use with-flow bus lanes.

The prohibition on the use of bus lanes does not apply in respect of emergency service vehicles i.e. fire brigades, ambulances and vehicles being driven by members of the Garda Síochána, in the course of duty.

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

Road Haulage.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

280 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport if he will report on his recent meeting with the Irish Road Haulage Association; the proposals he is considering to address the impact of increasing fuel prices on members of the IRHA, the road haulage industry and the wider road transport sector; if he has drawn up contingency plans to address the fallout of potential widespread road and port blockades in response to the spiralling fuel prices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29056/08]

I met with the Irish Road Haulage Association on 19 June in relation to a number of issues, including increasing global oil prices. After that meeting, I relayed their specific concerns to my Cabinet colleagues and on the need in Ireland for a strong and professional haulage industry.

In a positive response to road haulage concerns, an Inter Departmental/Agency Task Force was immediately established at a senior level. This group has met on a regularly and has made progress on a number of measures, particularly in relation to increased enforcement targeting illegal activities of both hauliers and consignors.