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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 30 Sep 2008

Vol. 662 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 112, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 113 to 118, inclusive, answered orally.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Damien English

Question:

119 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will review the decision to relocate the Central Mental Hospital from its site at Dundrum to the proposed new site at Thornton Hall taking into account the audit of properties by the Health Service Executive; her views on an alternative location, possibly in existing hospital grounds or property in the ownership of her Department or the HSE; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32288/08]

Joan Burton

Question:

128 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children the funding allocated from budget 2008 for the proposed new Central Mental Hospital; the funding she proposes for the completion of the project in each of the years 2009, 2010 and 2011; the costs incurred to date on the project, including land acquisition costs, consultants, designers, architects; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31323/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 119 and 128 together.

In February 2003, a Project Team to progress the re-development of the Central Mental Hospital (CMH) was established by the then Minister for Health and Children. The Project Team consisted of a broad range of stakeholders including the Department of Health and Children, the Health Boards, the National Development Finance Agency, the Irish Prison Service, the Clinical Director and other staff of the CMH, and was chaired by the then East Coast Area Health Board. In their report, ‘Appraisal of Development and Procurement Options', the Project Team examined various options for the re-development of the hospital. With regard to location, several options were considered, from remaining on the current site in Dundrum to re-location to a site outside Dublin. The Team recommended that the CMH be relocated to a new purpose built facility in the greater Dublin area, as this was judged to be the most appropriate option for the delivery of patient care.

In these circumstances, and having regard to the lack of appropriate alternative sites in the greater Dublin area, the Government, in May 2006, approved the development of a new national forensic mental health facility at Thornton Hall, Co. Dublin. This decision is consistent with ‘A Vision for Change' — the report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, which recommends that the hospital should be replaced or remodelled to allow it to provide care and treatment in a modern, up-to-date humane setting and that capacity should be maximised.

The cost of developing the proposed new hospital will be met from the proceeds of the sale of the existing site in Dundrum, Co Dublin. The process for selecting and appointing a dedicated Design Team to develop a detailed design plan/brief for the project is underway; the HSE will not be in a position to define a specific capital investment plan until this detailed design brief is completed. No capital has been expended by the HSE on this project to date. The cost of acquiring the site at Thornton Hall for the new prison and hospital was €29,900,000. An additional 8.7 acres, at a cost of €1,305,000, was later acquired by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to provide a dedicated access road to the prison construction site.

While I am aware that concerns have now arisen regarding the proximity of the hospital to the prison, the position is that the redevelopment of the CMH will constitute a separate capital development project independent of the prison complex to replace Mountjoy, and will be owned and managed by the Health Service Executive. The new hospital will be built on its own campus and will retain its identity as a distinct therapeutic health facility with a separate entrance and address to the prison complex.

Data Collection.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

120 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to develop data collection systems that are in accordance with the standards of the World Health Organisation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32167/08]

For many decades, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has led the way in the development of standard classification systems for health data. Ireland participates fully in the work of the WHO and this includes adopting WHO standards in the area of health information. Examples of data collection systems which use WHO classification standards include vital statistics, hospital discharge data (HIPE), the national cancer registry and infectious disease notification. My Department updates the WHO Health For All database twice yearly with a wide range of health data for Ireland and follows WHO data definitions for all reported indicators.

Any development of new data collection systems will take account of and adopt, as appropriate, WHO standards. The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has a central role in assessing gaps in health information and ensuring that the best possible data standards are used and maintained. Comparable health information at international level is essential in monitoring and prioritising health issues and in measuring our performance.

Question No. 121 answered with Question No. 118.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Martin Ferris

Question:

122 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children the stage of development at each of the hospital sites designated for the private hospital co-location scheme; and the projected number of beds to be provided in the private hospitals at each site. [32223/08]

In July 2005 I issued a policy direction to the Health Service Executive aimed at freeing up additional beds in public hospitals for public patients. This will be achieved through the development of private hospitals on the sites of public hospitals and the transfer of private activity to those hospitals, thereby releasing substantial capacity for public patients in public hospitals. The initiative is expected to provide approximately 1,000 additional beds for public patients over five years. Co-location is the quickest and least expensive means of providing significant additional bed capacity for public patients. No capital outlay is required as the beds in the public hospitals are already in place, having been funded by the Exchequer.

The Board of the Health Service Executive (HSE) has approved preferred bidder status for the development of co-located hospitals at the following six sites: Beaumont Hospital, Cork University Hospital, Limerick Regional Hospital, St. James's Hospital, Waterford Regional Hospital and Sligo General Hospital. A tender in respect of Connolly Hospital has been received and is under consideration. Tallaght Hospital, which is also participating in the co-location initiative, is at an earlier stage of the procurement process. Work is being undertaken to finalise the Invitation to Tender (ITT) for Tallaght Hospital.

The project agreements for the Beaumont, Cork and Limerick sites have been signed. Planning permission has been sought for the Beaumont and Cork projects and has been granted by the local authorities concerned and appealed in both cases to An Bord Pleanala. Planning permission has been granted for the Limerick project. The HSE Board has approved the following total numbers of in-patient and day case beds at the co-located hospitals to be developed at these three sites: Beaumont Hospital — 240; Cork University Hospital — 249; Limerick Regional Hospital — 220.

The precise number of beds at these sites may change slightly as the process is finalised in the contractual negotiations and therefore it is not possible to give a precise answer to the information requested on the number of beds planned for the co-located hospitals at St. James's Hospital, Waterford Regional Hospital, Sligo General Hospital and Connolly Hospital.

Health Service Staff.

John O'Mahony

Question:

123 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the fact that the consultants' contract has been agreed and many consultants have signed up to a new contract, the necessary funds to employ the new consultants agreed in contract negotiations as necessary to implement the new arrangements and services have been provided; the number of new consultants who will be employed by the end of 2008 and in 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32329/08]

James Reilly

Question:

255 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the fact that the consultants' contract has been agreed and many consultants have signed up to the new contract, she has the necessary funds to employ the new consultants agreed in contract negotiations as necessary to implement the new arrangements and services; the number of new consultants that will be employed by the end of 2008; the number in 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32677/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 123 and 255 together.

I am pleased that so many consultants have already accepted, or indicated they will be accepting, the new contract. In April 2008 the HSE re-commenced its consultant recruitment process and 128 posts have been advertised to date. The recruitment process to fill these posts is underway. During the period from May to August the HSE approved a further 59 consultant posts bringing the total number of consultants approved since April to 187.

I would emphasise, however, that it is not a question of simply providing more funding to employ more consultants. The creation and funding of further consultant posts will be driven by service priorities, as reflected in the HSE's Annual Service Plan, and the policy of achieving a better balance between the numbers of consultants and non-consultant hospital doctors. Government policy is to have a consultant-delivered, rather than a consultant-led service. The new contract is designed to support this and, as in many areas of our health services, service improvements will depend to a much greater extent on mobilising and re-configuring existing resources than on new additional funds.

Hospital Services.

Tom Hayes

Question:

124 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the fact that 165,293 bed days were lost in hospitals in 2007 and that 85,232 bed days were lost during the first five months of 2008; her views on the current level of critical infrastructure in respect of health services; her plans to address the rising demand for community beds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32299/08]

I acknowledge that the number of bed days lost in acute hospitals as a result of delayed discharges is creating particular difficulties at the moment. Hospitals need to improve their admission/treatment and discharge processes to ensure that care is provided in a more timely, appropriate and efficient manner. Steps are being taken to ensure that patients are given an expected date of discharge within 24 hours of admission and that more patients are discharged at weekends. A new Code of Practice on Discharge Planning is also being introduced across the country.

With regard to health sector infrastructure, we have seen an unprecedented level of investment in recent years under two National Development Plans. Total expenditure under the earlier NDP 2000-2006 was in the order of €3.3 billion, while the NDP 2007-2013 provides for a further €5 billion capital investment under the Health Infrastructure Programme. This year, the capital provision for the health service is €720 million.

In relation to community services, the HSE, commissioned Prospectus to undertake a Needs Assessment of bed capacity requirements in the areas of long-stay, dementia-specific and respite care beds for the period 2006-2036. The report indicated, among other issues, the uneven distribution of beds between and within regions. The HSE is planning to provide an extra 860 public beds under the Fast Track Bed Initiative over the period 2007-2009. The latest information received from the HSE indicates that 188 beds of these beds were provided in 2007, 325 are to be provided in 2008 and 347 in 2009. This additional capacity will help to improve access for patients and provide a basis for more timely discharges.

Departmental Reports.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

125 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children when the review of radiology at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda will be finalised and published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32304/08]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

137 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children if the review of radiology in the north east has been completed; when the report of the review will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32149/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 125 and 137 together.

The radiology look-back review underway in the North East was prompted by concerns that a small number of patients in two Louth/Meath Hospitals during 2006/7 had their diagnosis delayed due to an abnormality on their chest x-ray not being noted on initial radiological examination. The review involves the x-rays and ct scans of approximately 4,600 other patients in the North East. I have been informed by the Health Service Executive that a comprehensive report on the look-back review is almost complete, but on the basis of legal advice, the HSE must allow due process to be finalised before the report can be published. The HSE now expects to be in a position to publish this report during October. I understand that Louth Meath Hospitals have been in continuing dialogue with the individual patients and families involved in this review, including the communication of each patient's review results as they became available. Communication with patients on this matter continues to take precedence over all other updates or public statements.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Billy Timmins

Question:

126 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that many general practitioner practices have not been supplied the kits necessary to carry out the tests under the national cervical screening programme; when the programme will be implemented and available nationally; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32273/08]

On 1 September 2008 the National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) announced the availability of CervicalCheck, the National Cervical Screening Programme. The Programme will provide free smear tests through primary care settings to the 1.1 million women living in Ireland aged between 25 and 60 years. A successful national programme in Ireland has the potential to cut current mortality rates from cervical cancer by up to 80%. In announcing the Programme, the NCSS made it clear that it would take some weeks to register participating medical practitioners and achieve national coverage. It is anticipated that national coverage will be achieved in the coming weeks.

The registration of smear takers is an important quality assurance element. All applications are being processed as quickly as possible. The Programme office is currently receiving an average of 80 contracts a day. There is an inevitable interval between an application being submitted and confirmation of registration being issued as quality checks, including Irish Medical Council status and Primary Care Reimbursement Fund registration, are confirmed. On receipt of the completed contract from smear takers, starter packs of supplies including smeartaking kits, are issued directly to each practice or clinic. To date the NCSS has issued 1,250 kits to smear takers. The NCSS is committed to establishing CervicalCheck on a national basis as quickly as possible. I welcome the commencement of this process and know that the Programme is receiving widespread national support.

Departmental Reports.

Michael Noonan

Question:

127 Deputy Michael Noonan asked the Minister for Health and Children when the review of maternity services will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32322/08]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

265 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if the report on the Dublin maternity hospitals has been published; if not, when it will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31946/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 127 and 265 together.

In May 2007 the Health Service Executive commissioned KPMG consultants to undertake an independent review of maternity and gynaecology services in the Greater Dublin area. In undertaking the review KPMG were asked to focus on four key areas:

to build on the strengths of the current service configuration and model of care;

to define the optimal configuration of maternity, gynaecology and neonatology services for the Greater Dublin Area;

to identify the optimal location of services;

to provide a roadmap for the future, outlining the steps required to get from where the service is now to the vision for the future.

The review was informed by a detailed analysis of current service delivery, an extensive stakeholder interview programme and a series of workshops with a wide range of stakeholders. It was also informed by an international analysis of maternity and gynaecology service configurations and best practice models of care. The findings of the review are due to be presented shortly to the Joint Standing Committee of the three Dublin Maternity Hospitals and to other stakeholder groups who contributed to the review.

Question No. 128 answered with Question No. 119.

Hospital Services.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

129 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of representations made to her from consultants at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, regarding the quality and safety of treatment offered to patients; the action she has taken in response to these concerns; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32261/08]

I have received direct correspondence, and copies of correspondence to the Health Service Executive (HSE), from consultants at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda regarding acute hospital services at Drogheda. The issues raised have been the subject of detailed discussions between officials of my Department and the HSE in order to ensure that any action necessary is taken to guarantee the provision of safe services to patients.

Management of capacity at Drogheda and across the North East region is complex and involves a major shift in services between the existing five hospitals and to a primary care setting. It is clear that the implementation of the North East Transformation Programme is key to achieving the necessary re-organisation and integration of services in order to ensure that the public has access to better quality services. The Programme involves widespread and fundamental change and is designed to build a health system that is in line with the model of care emerging internationally. The overriding aim, which I fully support, is the need to improve safety and achieve better standards of care for patients in the region.

Water Quality.

Mary Upton

Question:

130 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on findings by the Health Service Executive that water in parts of Galway is unsuitable for consumption; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32179/08]

Following a recent tap water survey in Galway City elevated levels of lead were found in a number of houses. I am advised by the Health Service Executive that, from a public health perspective, the risk to those affected from raised water lead levels depends on a number of factors, including the duration of exposure, the level of exposure, age and other characteristics which affect the individual's absorption of lead.

The HSE advised residents in households where elevated lead levels in tap water have been recorded to have their blood lead levels checked. The HSE received results of blood lead levels in respect of the 35 people tested yesterday evening and I have been advised that, as the test results are within the normal range, none of those tested have any evidence of lead toxicity. A programme of work has been agreed between Galway City Council, the HSE and the Environmental Protection Agency including the adjustment of the pH of the water, so as to reduce the interaction between the water and the lead pipes over the coming weeks, and the carrying out of the necessary works to replace the lead pipe distribution network thereafter.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Joe McHugh

Question:

131 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to address the ongoing problem of patients on trolleys in accident and emergency departments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32313/08]

There have been considerable improvements in the delivery of services in Emergency Departments over the past two years. For example, there has been a reduction in the average daily number of patients awaiting admission from 179 in 2005 to 92 in 2007. The figure for the first five months of 2008 was 99. National data was unavailable since early June because of industrial action taken by IMPACT. The industrial action was suspended last week and national data is again available. The average daily number for the four day period 26 September-29 September was 69. Outstanding difficulties are largely confined to a number of major hospitals and the HSE is working closely with these hospitals to bring about further improvements.

Hospitals need to improve their admission and discharge processes, to ensure that people are appropriately admitted and that their care is efficiently managed, both during their hospital stay and their follow up care in the community. Steps are being taken to ensure that patients have an expected date of discharge within 24 hours of admission, that patients can be discharged in a more proactive manner at weekends and that communication between the hospital system and primary care services is improved. Implementation of a new Code of Practice on Discharge Planning is to commence shortly across the country. This should help to deliver further improvements in overall bed utilisation.

I believe that setting clear targets for improvement and measuring performance against these targets helps to drive further improvements in services. The HSE has already introduced a target waiting time of no more than 12 hours from decision to admit for patients attending Emergency Departments. The intention is to move towards a lower target of no more than 6 hours from decision to admit in line with the recommendation of the Emergency Department Task Force report. The HSE is also starting to collect information on the average waiting time of patients attending Emergency Departments, irrespective of whether the person is admitted or not. I am committed to building on the progress made in recent years. Improving services for patients attending Emergency Departments will continue to be a top priority for the Government.

Financial Management Practices.

Liz McManus

Question:

132 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the controls and monitoring systems that she has put in place to ensure good financial management practices in the Health Service Executive and to address shortcomings identified in the audit undertaken by the Department of Finance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32161/08]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has its own Vote and the Chief Executive Officer is the Accounting Officer for the Vote. It must manage its Vote in accordance with the standard Public Financial Procedures. This includes the preparation of the Annual Appropriation Account which is audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General. As Accounting Officer, the Chief Executive Officer submits monthly reports on Vote expenditure to my Department. These form part of the Government's monitoring of expenditure across all Votes. In addition, officials of my Department and the Department of Finance meet with the HSE on a monthly basis to monitor expenditure trends. Each year the HSE also submits to me, along with its Service Plan, an estimate of its income and expenditure which is consistent with its approved Vote. It is required under the Health Act 2004 to prepare an annual report and statement of accounts. These accounts are also audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

These financial management controls form part of a wider framework of accountability which is provided for in the Health Act 2004. This includes, in particular, the submission of a Service Plan every year for my approval. The Plan must include the volume of services to be provided by the Executive, its capital plan and details of employee numbers. My Department receives monthly progress reports on the Service Plan. There are quarterly meetings between my Department's Secretary General and the CEO of the Executive, with their respective management teams, to evaluate the implementation of the Service Plan. In addition, there is ongoing contact between officials in my Department and their counterparts in the HSE in relation to service and expenditure issues.

I am aware of the just published report by the Comptroller and Auditor General in which he raised a number of concerns in relation to financial management within the HSE. In response, the Accounting Officer set out the measures taken, and being taken, to improve in-year expenditure management. A report, commissioned by my Department, by a former Secretary General of the Department of Finance is due to be completed soon. It is likely to make recommendations for further improvements in financial reporting by the HSE. Work is also in progress to develop a new financial system for the Executive to replace the existing multiple systems inherited from the former health boards and other agencies which were incorporated in the HSE.

Robust financial management systems are an essential feature of any health service but they are not an end in themselves. Our primary focus has to be on patients. Each hospital, each local health office, managers, clinicians and others working in the health services have a responsibility to ensure not just that they live within their assigned budgets each year but that they also strive to provide the best possible service to patients and other clients of our health services within those budgets.

Departmental Agencies.

Willie Penrose

Question:

133 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children the discussions she has had regarding the proposals by the Health Service Executive to devolve decision making to regional levels; if decisions have been made on the nature and number of these regions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32166/08]

I have had ongoing discussions with the Chairperson and CEO of the Health Service Executive (HSE) regarding its plans to introduce revised management structures at both national and regional level in order to improve the delivery of health and personal social services. The overall result of these changes will be:

better integration of primary, community and hospital care for the benefit of patients and to optimise the efficient use of resources;

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

more local responsibility and authority within defined national parameters through the establishment of service delivery areas.

The proposed new regional structures will not be autonomous entities and will operate in line with the organisation's national strategic direction, standards, operational policies, budgets and employment controls. An Implementation Team led by the HSE'S National Director of Human Resources has been established to oversee the process. While the number of service delivery areas, and their boundaries, has yet to be finalised, the clear intention is that 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.

Hospital Services.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

134 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children the assurances she will give that the necessary resources will be provided in order to provide the highest standards of diagnosis and care at the proposed eight specialist cancer centres; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32171/08]

The objective of the National Cancer Control Programme is to improve survival rates for persons diagnosed with cancer. It was established just over a year ago and the Director of the Programme took up his post last November. The Programme involves moving from the present fragmented system of care to one which is consistent with international best practice. Eight centres have been designated to ensure that patients receive high quality of care while at the same time allowing access to local services, where appropriate.

The success of the Programme depends as much on mobilising existing resources as providing extra resources. However, an additional €7m has been allocated this year to improve breast cancer services in the eight designated centres. This funding has been provided to support additional staff, including Consultant, Radiography, Nursing and clerical posts. Funding has also been allocated for some additional necessary equipment. I can assure the Deputy that the Government will continue to support the development of the cancer control programme in order to improve outcomes for patients.

Departmental Reports.

Joan Burton

Question:

135 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made on the implementation of the recommendations contained in the report of the Health Information and Quality Authority on the misdiagnosis of cancer in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32148/08]

Joe Carey

Question:

267 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made in relation to each of the recommendations detailed in the Health Information and Quality Authority report on the circumstances surrounding the provision of care to a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31955/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 135 and 267 together.

Last April the Health Information and Quality Authority published its report of the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the provision of care to the person concerned in relation to her symptomatic breast disease, the pathology services at Cork University Hospital and symptomatic breast disease services at the Mid Western Regional Hospital, Limerick. An implementation plan has been developed by the HSE and progress is being monitored on a quarterly basis. The first progress report, covering the period June to August 2008, has recently been published and is available on the HSE's website.

I particularly welcome the confirmation that Multi Disciplinary Teams (MDT) are in place in the eight designated centres and MDT meetings are held at least weekly as part of the normal working day. Stereotactic mammography machines and radiology-led image guidance are also in place in all eight centres, as part of the triple assessment process. I look forward to further quarterly reports on the implementation of the recommendations of the HIQA report on the care provided to the person referred to by the Deputies.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

136 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Health and Children when women in each of the counties of the south and west will be included in the BreastCheck programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32154/08]

BreastCheck commenced roll-out in the Western Region in May 2007 and in the Southern region last October. I officially opened the BreastCheck clinical static units in Galway and Cork last December. The expansion of the BreastCheck programme to the Southern region covers counties Limerick, Kerry, Cork, Waterford and Tipperary South Riding. The expansion of the BreastCheck programme to the West covers counties Clare, Donegal, Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo and Tipperary North Riding. The National Cancer Screening Service is making every effort to roll-out the programme to all remaining counties as quickly as possible. Screening has already been made available in Counties Roscommon, Galway, Mayo and Tipperary North Riding in the West and will commence in Limerick by early November. Screening has been made available in Counties Cork and Waterford in the South.

The Deputy's specific question in relation to the roll-out to each of the other counties in the South and the West is the responsibility of the National Cancer Screening Service. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Chief Executive Officer of the Service to respond directly to the Deputy in relation to the matters raised.

Question No. 137 answered with Question No. 125.

Child Care Services.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

138 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made regarding the provision of an out-of-hours social worker service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32169/08]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

180 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that the Health Service Executive immediately reinstates its plan to provide a comprehensive out-of-hours social care service for at-risk children in view of the crisis in child protection and inadequate social care services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32220/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 138 and 180 together.

The Government and the Health Service Executive (HSE) remain committed to the development of a comprehensive needs-based service for children at risk. In this regard, I personally chair regular meetings between officials from my Office (OMCYA) and Senior Child Welfare and Protection managers in the HSE aimed at improving the provision of services to children at risk. A key component of these discussions has been the provision of out of hours care.

As a result of these contacts it has now been agreed that rather than proceeding with the development of a stand alone social work out of hours service, the HSE is instead taking the opportunity provided by the proposed integration of hospital and community services at a regional level, to develop alternative proposals based on a more integrated approach which builds on its existing out of hours services including GPs, acute hospital services and mental health services. The HSE is currently finalising issues around the development of the necessary protocols and assessing the requirement for any further supports which will be necessary. It is anticipated that significant progress will be made in this regard over the coming weeks.

The aim is to ensure that persons seeking personal social services outside normal working hours can be triaged and provided with appropriate advice, information, support and, in emergency situations, access to specialist staff, such as staff working in the areas of mental health and suicide prevention. In this context the HSE is also working towards the provision of a system whereby Gardaí can access appropriate residential care options for children taken into care out of hours under Section 12 of the Child Care Act. In so doing, the HSE hopes to provide a standardised response across the country. This approach promises a more effective and integrated model of service provision which acknowledges the linkages between services such as mental health and social work while endeavouring to utilise the overall resources already in place to appropriately address incidents occurring outside usual working hours.

Hospital Services.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

139 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Health and Children the additional resources, beds and staff theatre capacity that have been allocated to Waterford General Hospital to deal with the extra caseload of cancer patients from the surrounding community hospitals in that area in view of the fact that cancer services in that region are to be closed and moved to Wexford General Hospital from October 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32324/08]

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

Medical Cards.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

140 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on a request to include people with post-polio syndrome in the medical card scheme without subjection to a means test; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32174/08]

Persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner (GP) services qualify for a medical card, which entitles them to a range of health services free of charge. In general, eligibility for a medical card is determined by the Health Service Executive (HSE) following an examination of the means of the applicant and his/her dependants. The main exception is persons aged 70 and over, who have an automatic statutory entitlement to a medical card. In assessing eligibility, the HSE use guidelines based on peoples' means, which includes their income, relevant outgoings and other certain factors such as medical need.

I have no plans to provide for the granting of medical cards to any particular group as a whole. However, 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 currently reviewing the assessment criteria for medical cards in the context of financial, medical and social need in line with the commitment in Towards 2016. A Steering Group has been established to undertake this review and is expected to complete its work and report to me within the next few months.

Health Services.

Frank Feighan

Question:

141 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Health and Children the delay in receiving finances from the British Government in respect of people who pay social insurance in the UK but receive treatment here; the amount outstanding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32291/08]

Funding is received from the UK Government in accordance with Regulation (EC) 1408/71. In relation to healthcare, the provisions of the regulations ensure that where people are affiliated with the healthcare system of one member state (insured with that system or covered by it), but residing or staying in another member state, they can access the public healthcare system of that member state. Under the terms of a bilateral reimbursement agreement between Ireland and the UK net liability between the two countries has been calculated on a lump sum basis. The payment made in any one year is determined based upon an estimate of the number of persons falling within categories eligible for reimbursement and for whom each country is liable and an estimate of the average cost of providing healthcare treatment.

The estimated number of pensioners for whom each country is liable is based on a survey by both administrations undertaken every three years. Such a survey has been completed this year and will be applied to determine the liabilities for the years 2007, 2008 and 2009. Discussions on the amount due in 2008 have been proceeding with the UK authorities and a payment, profiled for receipt by the HSE in July this year, has not yet been made by the UK pending the completion of these discussions. It is expected that these discussions will be concluded shortly.

Vaccination Programme.

David Stanton

Question:

142 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children her Department’s policy in relation to the provision of BCG vaccine to all babies; the advice she or her Department has given to the Health Service Executive in relation to the waiting list for the BCG vaccine for children in Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32184/08]

Ireland's recommended immunisation programme is based on the guidelines of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. These guidelines are prepared with the assistance of an active committee from associated disciplines in paediatrics, infectious diseases, general practice and public health. As part of the Primary Childhood Immunisation Programme the NIAC recommends that the BCG vaccination is administered to newborn babies. It also recommends that a BCG booster is given at 10-14 years for those who are known to be tuberculin negative and who have had no previous BCG.

As arrangements for the roll-out of BCG vaccination clinics in Cork were being prepared in 2007, a difficulty emerged with the supply of vaccine in Ireland and across Europe in October. This issue has now been resolved and the supply of vaccine has again recommenced. However, the waiting list has significantly increased in the interim. The Health Service Executive (HSE) is working on the roll-out of its plan for the expansion of the BCG service and to address the waiting list. At present, the BCG vaccine is being offered to newborns who are at risk of developing TB, i.e., babies whose parents or siblings have a history of TB, whose parents work in a healthcare setting with patients affected by TB or whose parents come from countries where there is a high incidence of TB and children intending to visit high incidence countries for more than one month. BCG vaccine is also given to the child contacts of confirmed TB cases.

It is proposed to commence the neonatal BCG programme in the Cork region on Monday 13th October, 2008 in Cork University Hospital with clinics being held on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Neonatal catch up clinics will be held in each appropriate Local Health Office for those missed in hospital and put on a priority list. A number of additional clinics have been held recently to address the community BCG waiting list and reduce the numbers.

Proposed Legislation.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

143 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the date the fair deal nursing home support scheme legislation will be published; if the necessary funds will be allocated for the proposed scheme; the reason for the delay in publication; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32254/08]

Both the Minister for Health and Children and I are fully committed to introducing the new Nursing Homes Support Scheme in 2009. The legislation required in order to introduce the Scheme is complex and has involved careful drafting in order to ensure that the interests of older people requiring residential care are fully protected. The Minister expects to bring the Bill before the Houses of the Oireachtas for debate in this Dáil session. Details of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme were announced in December 2006 in order to facilitate consultation with the social partners and other stakeholders and such consultation has taken place. However, a number of legal issues emerged in the discussions with Parliamentary Counsel which meant it was not possible to finalise the Bill for Government approval prior to 1 January 2008 as originally intended. However, despite the delay, the principles of the scheme remain the same as originally announced.

The Fair Deal is designed to remove real financial hardship from many individuals and their families who, under the current system of Nursing Home Subvention, have to sell or re-mortgage homes to pay for the cost of nursing home care. There will be one, transparent system of support towards the cost of care that will be fair to all, irrespective of whether they are in public or private nursing homes. The basic commitments of the new scheme are that:

Individuals will be asked to contribute, based on their income and assets;

The HSE will meet the balance of cost in nursing homes approved for the purpose;

Individuals won't have to sell or mortgage their house;

Individuals won't have to borrow to fund costs;

Individuals won't experience unaffordable costs;

An individual's family won't have to find money for their care.

The new scheme encompasses key steps. The first of these is a care needs assessment carried out by a multi-disciplinary team of HSE healthcare professionals. If a person is assessed as requiring residential care, he/she can apply to the HSE for a means assessment which will calculate his or her contribution to care. On publication of the Bill, further engagement will take place with stakeholders on the details of the new scheme. This will take place under the auspices of Towards 2016. Any decisions regarding overall funding for the scheme will have to be taken by Government within the context of the budgetary and economic position.

Departmental Reports.

Jack Wall

Question:

144 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if the second investigation into the Leas Cross Nursing Home has been completed; if not, when the report will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32181/08]

The Final Report from the Commission of Investigation, established to investigate the management, operation and supervision of the former Leas Cross Nursing Home was due to be completed and submitted to the Minister for Health and Children earlier this month. The Sole Member to the Commission recently advised that this report would not be completed within the time originally envisaged. He requested a revision of the time frame as provided for in the Commissions of Investigation Act, 2004. Following consideration of his request, Minister Harney decided to extend the time for completion of the above investigation from September, 2008 to the end of December, 2008. The implications of the report will be considered within the Department when it is received.

Mental Health Services.

David Stanton

Question:

145 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the statement by the monitoring group for A Vision for Change in which concern was expressed regarding the rate of progress on the provision of child and adolescent services including appropriate inpatient facilities; the action she will take to improve the provision of these services and address these concerns; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32185/08]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

151 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of inpatient beds for child and adolescent psychiatry that are in place; the extra beds expected to be in place by the end of 2008; the number of new child and adolescent community teams that have been established in 2008; the number expected to be put in place by the end of 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32150/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 145 and 151 together.

I welcome the fact that the Health Service Executive has prioritised the development of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in 2008. In this regard the Service Plan for 2008 includes the completion of eight additional child and adolescent multi-disciplinary teams to further support the provision of child psychiatric services. In relation to in-patient facilities the position is that the HSE expect to provide an additional 18 children's beds in the current year; the provision of these beds will increase the acute bed complement to 30. Four of the additional beds have already been commissioned in St. Anne's, Galway, and a further 6 at St Vincent's Fairview and 8 at St Stephen's in Cork will be provided in the last quarter of the year. The HSE also hopes to begin construction on two 20 bedded child and adolescent units — one in Galway and one in Cork — later this year.

Care of the Elderly.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

146 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will licence nursing agencies or home help providers in order to promote and encourage patient safety; her plans to licence private health care facilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32279/08]

There are no plans at present to licence nursing agencies providing home-based care or home help providers. With regard to private health care facilities, the present standards for nursing homes are set out in the Care and Welfare Regulations and the Health Service Executive (HSE) inspects private nursing homes on the basis of these standards. Earlier this year, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) submitted "Draft Standards for Residential Care Settings for Older People" for approval, and these are currently under consideration in the Department. Once introduced, these standards will apply to all nursing homes — public, private and voluntary.

The HSE provides a wide range of community-based home care services such as home care packages, home helps, meals-on-wheels, and day/respite care. In this context, the Department is at present progressing an evaluation of the home care packages initiative introduced in recent years. It is intended to complete the Evaluation early next year, and that it will make an important contribution towards informing future policy and service developments for home care services generally. Recent improvements in the home help service have included the implementation of the National Home Help Agreement, which has led to the professionalisation of the service at HSE level. This has resulted in greater flexibility in service delivery and has improved consistency and service quality, to the benefit of users.

The HSE works closely with voluntary and private providers in relation to promoting patient safety, good practice, and standards generally for clients. The implications of introducing statutory standards for home care provision would obviously be wide ranging and significant, and have to be the subject of detailed consideration by all stakeholders. In the circumstances, the question of introducing any new standards for the areas referred to by the Deputy, whether on a statutory or voluntary basis would, in the first instance, have to await the outcome of the various initiatives I have outlined.

Infectious Diseases.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

147 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of incidents of MRSA, Clostridium difficile or other similar hospital based infections identified or suspected throughout the health services in each of the past five years to date; the action or actions taken to address this issue; the extent to which the remedial action taken compares with best practice in jurisdictions throughout Europe; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32335/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

329 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the efforts that have been made to make all hospitals and the practices therein compliant with the highest standards and best practice throughout Europe; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32577/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

330 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of hospitals that have been affected by MRSA or Clostridium difficile in the past five years to date in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32578/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

331 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent to which action has been taken or is being taken to address the ongoing problem of MRSA and Clostridium difficile; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32579/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 147, 329, 330 and 331 together.

Tackling all Health Care Associated Infections (HCAIs), including MRSA and C. difficile, continues to be a priority for the Government and the Health Service Executive (HSE). The HSE launched a National Infection Control Action Plan in March 2007. An Infection Control Steering Group is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the plan. This Steering Group is supported by eight Local Implementation Teams which ensure that all local facilities are focused on achieving the national targets. The HSE aims over the period of the plan to reduce HCAIs by 20%, MRSA infection by 30% and antibiotic consumption by 20%. Achievement of these targets will benefit all patients who are at risk.

A new National Surveillance System has been established to collect data and provide information based on four key areas in order to monitor HCAIs in our health system:

1. Staphylococcus bacteraemia (bloodstream infection);

2. Antibiotic consumption;

3. Alcohol gel use;

4. MRSA Surveillance in Intensive Care Units, from 2008 onwards.

This data (excluding MRSA in ICUs) has been compiled and published for 2006 and 2007. This report represents a significant step forward in terms of providing essential data that will serve as a benchmark for assessing progress in the future. This is the first report providing information on a hospital by hospital basis. The number of hospitals in this report which did not return any cases of MRSA was seven. I firmly believe that you cannot manage what you do not measure. We have now with this system begun a very useful measurement process. The results so far show some improvement in 2007 over 2006. The overall S. Aureus bloodstream infection rate was lower in 2007 (0.36) compared to 2006 (0.37). The overall proportion of MRSA was also lower in 2007 (38.5%) compared to 2006 (42.4%). The number of MRSA blood stream infections for the past five years are — 477 cases in 2003, 550 cases in 2004, 586 cases in 2005, 589 cases in 2006 and 533 cases in 2007.

Ireland participated in the Third Prevalence Survey of Health Care Associated Infections in acute hospitals in 2006 which surveyed a number of hospitals in Ireland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales. This study revealed that the Republic of Ireland was shown to have the lowest prevalence rate of both HCAIs and MRSA when compared with England, Northern Ireland and Wales. In European terms, the rates of MRSA for Ireland are better than many of the South European countries but not as low as some of the Scandinavian countries. Since May 4th of this year, C. difficile has become a notifiable disease and all cases now have to be reported to the relevant Department of Public Health. The range identified in the Third Prevalence Survey of Health Care Associated Infections in acute hospitals in 2006 was 0.5% of patients studied. The information available to date is the number of cases reported up to the 13th September 2008 which is 956 and is consistent with the results of the 2006 survey.

Other measures taken to reduce the incidence of HCAIs include the appointment of additional infection control staff, education campaigns for healthcare staff and the general public around the prudent use of antibiotics and the use of designated private beds for isolation purposes where required for patients who contracted HCAIs. In addition, new environmental building guidelines to inform infection control policy in all new builds and refurbishments are expected to be published shortly by the HSE.

In relation to hygiene standards and best practice, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) undertook a comprehensive review of hygiene in our acute hospitals in 2007 and published its report last November. This review was based on hygiene standards which were accredited by the International Society for Quality in Healthcare. The report represents a thorough assessment of how hygiene services are provided and managed in 51 HSE-funded acute care hospitals. HIQA is following up on this review to ensure that deficits identified during that process are rectified and the Authority has already commenced a further national review this month.

In addition, HIQA is due to publish Infection Prevention and Control Standards later this year. These standards are consistent with international best practice. When finalised, these, along with the National Hygiene Standards, will provide a comprehensive framework to control infection in all healthcare settings. While accepting that not all HCAIs are preventable, I am satisfied that significant steps are being taken to reduce the rates of HCAIs generally and to treat them promptly when they occur.

EU Directives.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

148 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the EU proposals to control the sale of vitamins and other health supplements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32175/08]

I presume the Deputy is referring to The Food Supplements Directive, 2002/46/EC, which makes provision for the European Commission to determine maximum and minimum levels of vitamins and minerals in food supplements. This matter remains under preliminary consideration at European Commission level. The Commission is currently working, in consultation with Member States, to develop a methodology under which maximum safe levels for vitamins and minerals in food supplements would be set. My Department is taking the lead on this matter on behalf of the Irish authorities and has advised the European Commission that it should proceed on a cautionary basis with a view to setting maximum limits for vitamins and minerals based on scientific evidence. The intention should be to protect the consumer from possible risks to health resulting from the inadvertent over consumption of vitamins and minerals.

I await the outcome of the European Commission's deliberations. My understanding is that the Commission intends to submit a Proposal for a Directive on the matter to the European Parliament in early 2009. This Proposal will, thereafter, be the subject of further discussions between Member States. I will discuss any matters arising with Government colleagues. Ultimately Ireland's position on the European Commission's Proposal will need to take full account of the views of other bodies with responsibilities and expertise in this area in addition to the views outlined to my Department by Irish consumers, industry stakeholders, and other interested parties on the matter.

Health Insurance.

Richard Bruton

Question:

149 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether the health insurance premia for older and sicker persons will increase in view of the decision of the Supreme Court to strike down the risk equalisation scheme; the steps she is taking to stabilise the health insurance market and ensure community rating in order that health insurance remains affordable; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32257/08]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

170 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the effect of the Supreme Court’s decision on risk equalisation; if she will introduce measures to protect the principle of community rating within the health insurance market; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32151/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 149 and 170 together.

A primary objective of Government policy in health insurance is that it should be affordable for the broadest possible cross section of the community including older people and those who suffer ill-health. This policy objective has been implemented through a substantial body of primary and secondary legislation providing for open enrolment, community rating and lifetime cover. I have yet to hear any argument made against the continuing need for community rating. It is a fundamental principle of the health insurance market in Ireland. Following the liberalisation of the market in 1994 every political party and successive governments have supported the maintenance of community rating.

It is an inescapable fact, supported by international evidence, that community rating cannot be sustained without some scheme to support the higher claims costs of older or sicker people, effectively a risk equalisation mechanism. There may be differences of opinion in how such a mechanism must work, but few dispute the need for one. Although the Supreme Court found the particular Risk Equalisation Scheme to be ultra vires, it did not strike down the principle of applying risk equalisation or any of the other important elements of the regulatory framework that supports private health insurance in Ireland. However, the decision of the Supreme Court gives rise to some complex issues that now need to be addressed.

I am currently assessing all available options. Since the Judgement was delivered, I have engaged in consultations with officials, the Attorney General and the Health Insurance Authority. I also received submissions from and met with insurers in the market. There are complex financial, legal and policy matters involved. It is my intention to bring forward measures to ensure that health insurance remains affordable for older and sicker people at the earliest opportunity. I will be bringing such proposals to Government shortly.

Primary Care Strategy.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

150 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made on the establishment of primary care teams; the range of services that will be supplied in each centre; the number of teams that are operational; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32147/08]

James Reilly

Question:

305 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the primary care centres open and operating under the control of the Health Service Executive; the services available in each centre; the number of general practitioners and other staff; the funds allocated to the primary care centres individually and in total, for running costs and capital costs; the primary care centres that operate from a central building in one location; the number of centres and teams providing services from more than one location; the number of centres planned to open by the end of 2008; the number of centres that will open in 2009; the funds that have been allocated for these centres; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32370/08]

James Reilly

Question:

306 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans for primary care centres in Drogheda, County Louth; the stage the plans are at for the centres; the number of expressions of interest that have been received; the number being considered; if the deadline has passed for expressions of interest; if further expressions of interest will be considered; when the primary care centres will be opened; the funds that have been allocated for the primary care teams in Drogheda, both for capital and running costs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32371/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 150, 305 and 306 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 and Primary Care Centres. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have these matters investigated and to have replies issued directly to the Deputies.

Question No. 151 answered with Question No. 145.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Liz McManus

Question:

152 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to give the National Treatment Purchase Fund a role in identifying suitable nursing homes for individual persons; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32162/08]

The National Treatment Purchase Fund's (NTPF) role under the proposed Nursing Homes Support Scheme is not to identify suitable nursing homes for individual persons. Under the new scheme, NTPF will negotiate prices for long-term care with private nursing home owners on behalf of the State. Where nursing homes agree prices for the purposes of the scheme with the NTPF, the NTPF will recommend the homes to the Health Service Executive for inclusion on the list of nursing homes ‘approved' for the scheme. A person availing of the scheme can then choose any approved private nursing home or public nursing home on the list subject to availability and the suitability of the home to meet their care needs. The NTPF's negotiating role under the scheme will be an ongoing one. The price agreed with private nursing homes for the purposes of the scheme will naturally be subject to periodic re-negotiation to take account of inflation and other developments.

Proposed Legislation.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

153 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children when she expects to publish the Health (Long-term Residential Care Services) Bill; if the legal difficulties encountered have substantially altered her original proposals for the so-called fair deal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32159/08]

Both the Minister for Health and Children and I are fully committed to introducing the new Nursing Homes Support Scheme in 2009. The legislation required in order to introduce the Scheme is complex and has involved careful drafting in order to ensure that the interests of older people requiring residential care are fully protected. However, the principles of the scheme remain the same as originally announced. The Minister expects to bring the Bill before the Houses of the Oireachtas for debate in this Dáil session.

Hospital Services.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

154 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will clarify reports that two of the proposed centres of excellence for cancer will now operate as one centre; if, in those circumstances, she will reconsider retaining a centre in County Sligo, at which a high standard pertains; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32182/08]

I understand that Deputy is referring to St. Vincent's Hospital and the Mater Hospital. Both of these hospitals are designated centres under the National Cancer Control Programme and so will not operate as a single designated centre. The Health Service Executive (HSE) has designated University Hospital Galway and Limerick Regional Hospital as the two cancer centres in the Managed Cancer Control Network for the HSE Western Region, which includes Sligo. 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 multi-disciplinary teams based at the cancer centres, then much of the treatment (other than surgery) can be delivered in local hospitals, such as Sligo General Hospital. In this context, chemotherapy and support services will continue to be delivered locally. Cancer day care units, including at Sligo General Hospital, will continue to have an important role in delivering services to patients as close to home as possible.

Health Service Staff.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

155 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of new consultants that have been recruited since the agreement on contracts with the Irish Hospitals Consultants Association; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32164/08]

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.

Health Services.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

156 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that elderly and disabled persons have difficulty in getting a reasonable level of home help or home care resulting in many of them going into full-time care with a resultant higher cost to the State; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31905/08]

The Government has committed very significant investment in recent years to develop both community-based and residential services for older people. Additional funding of just over €400 million was provided under Budgets 2006 and 2007, of which €190 million was ear-marked for community-based services such as Homecare Packages, Home-Helps, Day Care, Respite and Meals on Wheels. In this context, the Home Help Service nationally is a well established and successful component of overall strategy to enable older people to remain in their own homes and communities for as long as possible. The development of the service, to address increasing demands, over the period 2006 to 2008 shows, for example:

€211 million revenue funding provision, including over €55 million for new service developments.

In excess of 11 million Home-Help hours were provided by the HSE in 2007.

Numbers benefiting increased from just over 41,000 in 2006 to around 54,000 clients at present.

Total Home-Help hours increased from just over 9 million hours in 2006 to over 11 million hours expected this year, i.e. an increase of 22%.

In addition to the above, the Home Care Package Initiative formally commenced in 2006, following a pilot programme in 2005. Home Care Packages are an additional support over and above existing mainstream community services and are used to maintain an older person at home via additional supports and therapy services. They are designed to be flexible and are particularly targeted at those at risk of admission to long-term care, inappropriate admission to acute hospital or requiring discharge home from an acute hospital. Funding of €110 million was provided over the years 2006 and 2007 to roll-out the Home Care Package programme. This has resulted in just over 4,300 new packages introduced to the system which now benefits approximately 11,000 people per annum.

As the Deputy will be aware, 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 matters raised by the Deputy. My Department has therefore requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have these investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Proposed Legislation.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

157 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to introduce legislation to establish a register of persons considered unsafe to work with children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32177/08]

The issue raised by the Deputy is currently being considered in the context of the recent interim report of the Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children. I am currently working with the Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform to bring to Government a legislative proposal to give effect to the Committee's recommendation. In this regard, officials from my Office have been in contact with their counterparts in the Department of Justice Equality and Law Reform to begin the process of formulating proposals to give legal authority for the collection and exchange of information concerning the risk or the occurrence of endangerment, sexual exploitation or sexual abuse of children.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

158 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether the standard and quality of the health service is expected to improve in the foreseeable future; if so, the location at which these improvements are expected to take place; the impact that co-location plans will have on the situation; if her attention has been drawn to the public concern at the quality, availability and reliability of health services here; her proposals to address these fundamental issues; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32334/08]

The fundamental objective of the Government in health policy continues to be to maximise the health status of the population. The Government is committed not only to ensuring the delivery of the best quality health services possible but to doing so in an effective and efficient way. Ensuring patient safety is of paramount importance, so that people can have confidence in the services and that the best possible patient outcomes can be achieved.

The services and targets to be provided by the Health Service Executive 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 Houses of the Oireachtas and published. The Annual Output statement demonstrates that substantial progress has been made in the delivery of health services. Only by continuing to push forward with and supporting an agenda of reform within the health services can we hope to deliver the kind of health service we all want to benefit from within the resources that are available to us. The gross provision for the HSE in 2008 is €14,337 million revenue and €594 million capital.

In the area of acute hospitals, the HSE is supporting the continuous improvement of the safety and quality of care in hospitals which it operates or funds. A pilot of the project for implementation of the HSE Standards for Quality and Risk Management has been completed and roll-out across hospitals will commence later this year. The Government and the Executive are also committed to ensuring that the approach to re-organisation of services is carried out in consultation with the key stakeholders and that each element is progressed incrementally. I believe that it is important to work with health professionals and other interested parties to secure an increasing set of improvements over time. This approach will, I am confident, produce the best outcome for patients.

Change is happening on a number of other fronts such as the first full modernisation in 30 years in the Medical Council and the regulation of doctors, the modernisation of the law regulating the pharmacy profession and health and social care professions, putting in place a fundamental new contract for consultants for the first time in 30 years. The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) was established in 2007, as part of the restructuring of the health service under the Health Reform Programme. One of the main functions of HIQA is the setting of standards and monitoring healthcare quality. For the first time, we will have national standards across major programmes of care. Such standards in the field of symptomatic breast disease services have already been developed and are in the process of being implemented.

The Authority also has responsibility under the Health Act 2007 for undertaking investigations as to the safety, quality and standards of services where it is believed that there is serious risk to the health or welfare of a person receiving services. Recent developments have led to the commencement of a number of investigations by HIQA. In January 2007, as part of the Government's commitment to ensuring patient safety and quality in our healthcare, I established a Commission on Patient Safety and Quality Assurance to develop clear and practical recommendations to ensure that quality and safety of care for patients is paramount within the healthcare system. The Commission's Report — ‘Building a Culture of Patient Safety' was published in August 2008. This is the first report of its kind and it makes far reaching recommendations which when implemented will impact very positively on patients and their families.

The most significant recommendation in the report is the introduction of a licensing system for all health services whether they are delivered publicly or privately. Other recommendations from the Commission include the participation of all licensed healthcare facilities in local and national clinical audit, a mandatory adverse event reporting system, enhanced education, training and research and improved governance structures. I am currently considering these recommendations in detail and will bring the report to Government shortly. The implementation plan endorsed by the Commission recommends the establishment of an Implementation Steering Group (ISG) with clear and regular reporting obligations to the Minister for Health and Children. It also recommends the establishment of expert sub-groups comprised of representatives of relevant stakeholders, each of which will report to the ISG on the practical and detailed implementation of the recommendations within their remit.

In July 2005 I issued a policy direction to the HSE aimed at freeing up additional beds in public hospitals for public patients. This will be achieved through the development of private hospitals on the sites of public hospitals and the transfer of private activity to those hospitals, thereby releasing substantial capacity for public patients in public hospitals. The initiative is expected to provide approximately 1,000 additional beds for public patients of the 1,500 additional acute public beds to be provided set out in the Programme for Government.

Co-location is the quickest and least expensive means of providing significant additional bed capacity for public patients. No capital outlay is required as the beds in the public hospitals are already in place, having been funded by the Exchequer. The Board of the Health Service Executive (HSE) has approved preferred bidder status for the development of co-located hospitals at six public hospital sites and two other public hospitals which are also participating in the co-location initiative, are at an earlier stage of the procurement process.

Pharmacy Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

159 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to achieve savings under the community drugs scheme following the recent decision of the High Court in relation to changes introduced on payments to pharmacists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32163/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

339 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent to which final agreement has been reached between her Department and the pharmacists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32587/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 159 and 339 together.

The Government remains of the view that the costs of pharmacy services under the GMS and community drugs schemes are not sustainable, a view that is reinforced by the current budgetary challenges. It is clear that there are significant savings capable of being made for taxpayers, presently and in the future. My Department is considering the legal, financial and service implications of the recent High Court judgement for the payments made to community pharmacists.

Long-Term Illness Scheme.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

160 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children if consideration has been completed on extending the recognised illnesses and conditions covered by the long-term illness scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32173/08]

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

Care of the Elderly.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

161 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to provide additional public long stay elderly care beds in order to address the growing need for such facilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32160/08]

In 2006, the HSE, in conjunction with Prospectus, undertook a Needs Assessment of bed capacity requirements in the areas of long-stay, dementia-specific and respite care beds for the period 2006-2036. This report was submitted to the Department of Health and Children in September 2006. It indicated, among other issues, the uneven distribution of beds between and within regions. In particular, HSE Dublin North East and HSE South were identified as having a requirement for additional beds.

The report has informed proposals to expand capacity through the provision of 860 additional public beds under the Fast Track Bed Initiative over the period 2007–2009. The latest information received from the Health Service Executive indicates that 188 of these beds were provided in 2007 and that 325 and 347 are to be provided in 2008 and 2009 respectively. Of these, 75 are in the HSE West, 316 are in the HSE South, 242 are in the HSE Dublin North East and 227 are in the HSE Mid-Leinster. The report is the subject of ongoing deliberations between the Department and HSE and feeds into the development of future policy and infrastructure in the area of long-term care services for older people.

Proposed Legislation.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

162 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to introduce legislation in order that the national cancer registry can be integrated with the national cancer control programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32170/08]

In November 2006 I informed the Board of the National Cancer Registry (NCR) that I had decided that its functions should form part of the Health Service Executive's National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP). Following the appointment of the National Director of the NCCP the position was reviewed and it was agreed to postpone the integration of the NCR into the HSE until the roll out of Programme was at a more advanced stage.

It remains policy to integrate the NCR into the NCCP. The transfer is subject to my Department being satisfied in relation to a number of caveats, including the maintenance and development of the Register, the development of the cancer surveillance functions of the Registry, the development of an effective and integrated national approach to data collection and analysis and that human resource issues are adequately addressed. Consideration is being given to providing for integration of Registry functions into the HSE's NCCP in the context of the proposed Health Information Bill, which will address the issue of confidentiality and national registries.

Ambulance Service.

Brian Hayes

Question:

163 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made regarding a commitment given by her to a call by the Association of Ambulance Personnel to provide stab vests to paramedics operating in high risk areas; if she met with ambulance personnel within the Health Service Executive in view of her assurance that such a group would be recognised as stakeholders to investigate claims made by ambulance personnel; if so, the actions that she has taken consequent to that meeting; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31907/08]

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, including ambulance 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 a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Departmental Reports.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

164 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children when the steering group which she referred to in her reply to Parliamentary Question No. 110 of 10 July 2008 will complete its work and report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32221/08]

The Steering Group is expected to complete its work and report to me within the next few months.

Joe Costello

Question:

165 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to implement the recommendations of the report of the Commission on Patient Safety and Quality Assurance, Building a Culture of Patient Safety; if same will require legislation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32152/08]

In January 2007, as part of the Government's commitment to ensuring patient safety and quality in our health service, I established a Commission on Patient Safety and Quality Assurance to develop clear and practical recommendations to ensure that quality and safety of care for patients is paramount within the healthcare system. The Commission's Report — ‘Building a Culture of Patient Safety' was published in August 2008. The Commission's recommendations will be considered by me and my Department and proposals on implementation will be submitted to Government in the near future. This is the first report of its kind and it makes far reaching recommendations which when implemented will impact very positively on patients and their families.

The implementation plan endorsed by the Commission recommends the immediate establishment of an Implementation Steering Group (ISG) with clear and regular reporting obligations to the Minister for Health and Children regarding progress on the implementation of the recommendations of the Report. This also requires the establishment of expert sub-groups comprised of representatives of relevant stakeholders, each of which will be required to report to the ISG on the practical and detailed implementation of the recommendations within their remit. The advantages of this model are that it immediately builds on the structures already in place and can deliver results quickly.

The most significant recommendation of the report is the introduction of a licensing system for all health services whether they are delivered publicly or privately and such a system would of course require legislation which will be extremely complex and take some time to develop. Other recommendations in the report which would require legislation include a mandatory system of adverse event reporting and legal protection for information collected through such a system. Similar protection is also suggested for information provided in the context of a process of open disclosure or clinical or other patient safety audit.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Mary Upton

Question:

166 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children her plan to restore a portion of the funds allocated for the introduction of the fair deal to the Health Service Executive to cover the estimated potential shortfall of €77 million in the budget provided for the nursing home repayment scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32180/08]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has responsibility for administering the health repayment scheme in conjunction with the appointed scheme administrator KPMG/McCann Fitzgerald. The HSE has advised my Department that as of 19th September 38,859 claim forms have been received under the Health Repayment Scheme. It is estimated that following adjustments for rejections and duplicate claims, the number of valid claims will be approximately 19,300. 17,684 claimants have received an offer of repayment and it is anticipated that the remaining offers will be processed by the end of November 2008. However it should be noted that the repayments offered in November cannot be paid until the statutory 28 day period has elapsed.

An allocation of €150m was provided for the scheme in the estimates for 2008. All eligible applications received prior to the closing date will be repaid in full and an appropriate provision will be made as necessary to meet any costs arising under the scheme. An operational plan submitted by the HSE to my Department indicates that the additional costs associated with the scheme in 2008 will amount to €77m. My Department is in discussion with the Department of Finance concerning the matter and I expect the situation to be resolved shortly.

Medical Cards.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

167 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Health and Children when her review of eligibility for medical cards will be completed; if it will be published when completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32172/08]

The Eligibility Review Team was established in my Department in 2005, to begin working on a new legislative framework to provide for clear statutory provisions on eligibility for health and personal social services. As part of this work the Department is reviewing the eligibility criteria for the assessment of medical cards in the context of financial, medical and social need in line with the commitment in Towards 2016 to clarify entitlement to a medical card. A Steering Group has been established to carry out this work and is expected to report to me within the next few months. The purpose of the review is to inform the decision-making process in relation to medical card eligibility and it is not my intention to publish the report.

Hospital Services.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

168 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that the orthopaedic unit at Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan, which serves the entire north-east region of Cavan, Monaghan, Louth and Meath remains fully operational and is not closed for any period to make savings at the cost of patient care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32219/08]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that it has been reviewing the need for cost containment measures between now and year end to ensure that expenditure across the Louth/Meath Hospital group, including Our Lady's Hospital, Navan is managed within the approved budget. The HSE has indicated that savings will need to be achieved in a number of areas including overtime, on call, agency and locum costs. This may involve some reduction in elective activity. The HSE is working to maintain elective orthopaedic services as far as possible and funding has been reprioritised in this context. Any necessary measures are being discussed with senior clinicians. It is not expected that the waiting lists for adult elective inpatient orthopaedic procedures in the North East will breach the national target limit of 6 months. The waiting lists are currently at 3 months or less in the region.

Organ Retention.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

169 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children when she will meet with a group (details supplied); if she will address their concerns that information they have received under the Freedom of Information Act 1997 suggest that investigations held to date into the retention of organs of deceased patients have been inadequate and incomplete. [32156/08]

I am satisfied that the retention of organs following post-mortem examination on deceased children and adults has been properly investigated. The information referred to by the Deputy consists of documents which were released to Parents for Justice (PFJ) by individual hospitals under Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation. The documents do not represent new disclosures but rather are copies of the documentation which those hospitals submitted to the Dunne Post-Mortem Inquiry. When Dr. Madden was appointed by the Government to complete the report on post-mortem practice and procedures the documentation collated by Ms. Dunne was made available to her. Dr. Madden produced a robust and thorough evaluation of the papers which she examined and took all relevant matters into consideration in drafting her report.

Parents for Justice released a subset of the documentation which they received under FOI to the media on 14th July 2008 and subsequently sent me a copy of this subset. The documents relate largely to the supply of pituitary glands by hospitals to pharmaceutical companies between 1976 and 1988. Dr. Madden addressed this matter in detail in Chapter 6 of her report. It would not be appropriate for me to re-visit the conclusions reached by Dr. Madden, who is an eminent expert in medical law, and who had access to an extensive body of documentation, including witness statements, in preparing her report. I have given PFJ an undertaking that I will meet them when the independent review of the organisation being conducted on behalf of the Health Service Executive has been completed and I will listen to their views on all relevant matters on that occasion.

Question No. 170 answered with Question No. 149.

Hospital Services.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

171 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans she has to intervene to address the crisis in dermatology services in the north-east Health Service Executive region in view of the chronic waiting list at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda and further in view of the fact that St. James’s Hospital in Dublin has been unable to accept patients, as heretofore, from outside its official catchment area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32217/08]

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.

Care of the Elderly.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

172 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has commenced the evaluation of the Health Service Executive’s home care packages; when she expects the review to be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32158/08]

The importance this Government attaches to the continued development of community-based services for older persons is reflected in the unprecedented levels of funding given to this sector in recent years. In 2006 and 2007, just over €400 million was provided to enhance service developments across the older persons sector. Of this specific investment of €110 million over those years has provided for a total of 4,300 new home care packages.

Under the Framework Social Partnership Agreement, Towards 2016, the Government and social partners committed to the establishment of a Steering Committee, chaired by my Department, to begin preparatory work of evaluating the effectiveness of Home Care Packages. This commitment also gives effect to a recommendation of the Long Term Care Working Group that an evaluation be undertaken. The Steering Committee commenced its work some time ago and recently sought tenders through the public procurement process for an independent consultancy to undertake the Evaluation. A number of tenders were subsequently received and are at present being considered.

My Department hopes to be in a position to award this contract at an early date, with a view to receiving a Final Report in the first quarter of 2009. It is intended that this Evaluation will make an important contribution towards informing future policy and service developments for home care services for older people.

Patient Safety.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

173 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will establish a patient safety authority or agency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32157/08]

In January 2007, I established a Commission on Patient Safety and Quality Assurance to develop clear and practical recommendations to ensure that quality and safety of care for patients is paramount within the healthcare system. The Commission's Report — ‘Building a Culture of Patient Safety' was published on 7th August 2008. The report contains 134 recommendations spanning across almost every area of the health service. The most significant recommendation of the report is the introduction of a licensing system for all health services whether they are delivered publicly or privately. The Commission proposed that the licensing scheme should be operated by HIQA. I am currently considering the Commission's recommendations in detail. It is my intention to bring the report, together with an implementation strategy, to Government as soon as possible.

The implementation plan endorsed by the Commission recommends the immediate establishment of an Implementation Steering Group (ISG) with clear and regular reporting obligations to the Minister for Health and Children regarding progress on the implementation of all the recommendations of the Report. This also proposes the establishment of expert sub-groups comprised of representatives of relevant stakeholders, each of which will be required to report to the ISG on the practical and detailed implementation of the recommendations within their remit. The advantages of this model are that it immediately builds on the structures already in place and can deliver results quickly. On this basis, I am not proposing the establishment of a new patient safety authority or agency.

Social Inclusion.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

174 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the findings of a report in August 2008 by the Institute of Public Health and the Combat Poverty Agency which indicates that 5,400 people here die prematurely each year as a result of social inequality and deprivation; the plans she has to address the problem; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32168/08]

The report to which the Deputy refers is the recently launched joint Institute of Public Health/Combat Poverty Agency publication "Tackling Health Inequalities: An-All Ireland Approach to Social Determinants". The report examines the influence of social, economic and environmental factors on health, such as poor housing, nutrition and education, across the island of Ireland and advocates a whole-of-Government approach across a range of policies to address and tackle inequalities in health among low income groups; it draws on a range of national and international research — including research published in 2002 by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Northern Ireland.

Addressing health inequalities is a common challenge for health systems across the world. As with many other countries, the Irish health sector is strongly committed to implementing a range of measures aimed at tackling and reducing health inequalities. Measures taken include the establishment, in late 2005 as part of the health reform process, of a dedicated Social Inclusion Unit in the Department of Health and Children to co-ordinate the Department's work on health inequalities and policies in relation to vulnerable groups. An important element of the work of this Unit is to develop policy and services aimed at addressing the specific health needs of vulnerable groups such as Travellers, the homeless, drug users, prisoners and asylum seekers. An additional, and equally important, element of the Unit's work, is to co-ordinate measures across other health policy areas that seek to promote greater social inclusion and equity in health generally. Actions are being pursued in conjunction with a range of stakeholders both within and outside the health services and with local communities.

In addition, social inclusion-relevant aspects of existing health strategies and plans feature in the social partnership agreement, Towards 2016, published in June 2006 and in Ireland's National Action Plan for Social Inclusion, Building an Inclusive Society 2007-2016 (NAPinclusion), published in February 2007 which details a number of health commitments aimed at tackling and reducing health inequalities and improving the health status of the more vulnerable members of our society. The health sector also strongly supports the social determinants approach to tackling health inequalities. One way in which it seeks to advance a more integrated approach to policy on key cross-cutting social issues is through the Department of Health and Children's participation in the Seniors Officials Group on Social Inclusion which operates under the aegis of the Department of the Taoiseach.

Health Promotion.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

175 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has taken the lead responsibility to provide an integrated and consistent proactive approach to addressing overweight and obesity and to the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the national strategy on obesity, as recommended by the national task force on obesity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25907/08]

A range of initiatives are being taken by various Government Departments and Agencies in response to the report of the National Taskforce on Obesity. These include:

my Department and the Department of Education and Science are developing healthy eating guidelines for schools. Guidelines for preschools and primary schools are already developed and appropriate healthy eating training by community dieticians with preschool and primary school staff is currently underway. The guidelines for post-primary schools will be published very shortly. Guidelines on levels of physical activity are currently being devised by the Population Health Directorate of the Health Service Executive.

my Department will be publishing the first National Nutrition Policy later this year. This will fulfil a key recommendation of the Taskforce on Obesity. While addressing the nutritional needs of the whole population, it will have a particular focus on the 0-18 year age group.

the Cardiovascular Health Policy Group, due to report this year, will be advising on measures to tackle lifestyle issues like obesity at population level as well as in the primary care setting.

the Health Service Executive has taken a number of anti-obesity initiatives, including:

the recruitment of Specialist Community Dieticians;

the appointment of Physical activity Co-ordinators;

the development of specialist hospital services for the treatment of obesity.

the Department of Transport is developing a Sustainable Travel and Transport Action Plan. A consultative document has been published which discusses the potential of cycling and walking, and suggests ways in which these could be promoted as alternative modes of healthy travel.

the Departments of Arts, Sports and Tourism, Environment and Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs have developed a range of sports, recreational and playground facilities for children and young adults.

In order to give a new impetus to this issue, I am this week commencing a series of bilateral discussions with relevant Departments with regard to the implementation of the recommendations of the Taskforce. It is my intention to work closely with Government colleagues to ensure a coherent approach to implementing the recommendations of the Taskforce.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Willie Penrose

Question:

176 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide an assurance that funding earmarked for the development funding for people with disabilities in 2008 has been transferred to the relevant service providers in time to provide placements as planned; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32165/08]

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

Mental Health Services.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

177 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of mental health properties that have been sold; the funds available as a result of such sales for the development of mental health services; the discussions she has had regarding the effects of a downturn in the construction industry on the sale of such sites; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32176/08]

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

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

Health Services.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

178 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31910/08]

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

Ulick Burke

Question:

179 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will take responsibility in the area of special needs education particularly in the area of speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and the other needed ancillary support services required in this area in view of the fact that many parents find that these services, which are crucial at an early age, are either not available or being delivered on an ad hoc basis; and if she will report on the co-ordination of these services between her Department and other Departments. [26391/08]

The new Office for Disability and Mental Health spans four Government Departments and brings together responsibility for a range of different policy areas and State services which directly impact on the lives of people with a disability and people with mental health difficulties. The Office aims to bring about improvements in the manner in which services respond to the needs of people with disabilities and mental health difficulties, by continuing to develop person-centred services, focussing on the holistic needs of clients and service users and actively involving them in their own care.

Very substantial progress has been made in recent years in the areas of disability and mental health, but much remains to be done. In particular, there is a need to improve co-ordination and communication across different Government Departments and agencies in their delivery of services to this client group. This will be the main focus for the new Office. A key priority for the Office is to facilitate the delivery of integrated health and education support services for children with special needs, by further developing existing mechanisms for co-operation and co-ordination between the health and education sectors, both at national and local level.

It is recognised that intervention early in life can have a significant impact on the disabling effects of a condition or impairment. In recognition of this, Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005 was commenced for children aged under 5 years with effect from 1 June 2007. This provides parents of young children with disabilities with an entitlement to an independent assessment of their child's health and educational needs and a statement of the services which it is proposed to provide for them. In the first year of operation, almost 2,300 applications for an assessment of need were received and continue to be processed by the HSE.

Representatives from the Office for Disability and Mental Health, the Department of Health and Children, the Department of Education and Science, the Health Service Executive and the National Council for Special Education meet on a regular basis to address a range of issues including matters arising in relation to the ongoing implementation of the Disability Act 2005. This work includes planning for the further commencement of Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005 in conjunction with the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004, to children aged between 5 and 18 years and to adults. Issues in relation to the timely and appropriate provision of health and education supports to children with a range of disabilities are being considered in the context of these discussions. Health related supports for children aged 5 to 18 and for adults will continue to be enhanced, as resources permit, to enable the Health Service Executive to meet needs identified for these groups.

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

Question No. 180 answered with Question No. 138.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

181 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to ease the backlog that has developed in the National Treatment Purchase Fund which has led to more than 2,000 patients waiting for more than a year for surgery and several hundred more waiting up to two years under the scheme. [31906/08]

I have asked the National Treatment Purchase Fund, in conjunction with the Health Service Executive, to address the issue of persons waiting for longer than 12 months for hospital treatment as a matter of priority during 2008. I regard it as unacceptable that anyone should have to wait for so long when an alternative pathway to treatment is possible and available through the NTPF. The NTPF has informed my Department that at the end of August 2008 the total number of surgical patients over a year on hospital waiting lists was 1,831. This represents a very significant improvement on the position as at the end of August 2007, when the total number waiting over 12 months was 4,614. The Fund has also indicated that it is confident that a further reduction will be achieved by the end of this year.

Waiting times have been falling significantly since the setting up of the NTPF. The average median wait time for a procedure via the Fund is now 3.2 months. Indeed, for 19 of the 20 most common adult surgical operations, patients are treated within two to five months while children, for the 10 most common paediatric surgical procedures, also receive their treatment within two to five months.

Health Services.

Martin Ferris

Question:

182 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of home help hours which have been cut since October 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32222/08]

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.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

183 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the long waiting times for persons seeking appointments with dermatologists; her plans to increase the number of dermatologists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32155/08]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

287 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the waiting times for dermatology services throughout the country, including a wait for at least five years at a hospital (details supplied) in Dublin 24; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that the waiting lists are closed to all new patients in some parts of the country; her plans to improve this situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32226/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 183 and 287 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 Deputies. 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 Deputies.

Health Services.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

184 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will establish a national diabetic retinopathy detection programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32178/08]

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.

Care of the Elderly.

Joe Costello

Question:

185 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to cases of elderly or disabled people being asked to give a monetary contribution for home help; if she will make it clear that this is a free service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32153/08]

The over-arching policy in relation to older people is to support them insofar as possible to live at home and in their own communities. The Home Help Service, delivered by or on behalf of the Health Service Executive (HSE), is therefore a core community service enabling people to remain at home, where appropriate, who otherwise might need to be cared for in long-term residential care. It is also a critical support to older people in facilitating their early discharge from and in preventing inappropriate admission to acute hospitals. Home-Help is one of a wide range of community based services being provided by the HSE including Primary Care Teams, Home Care Packages, Meals on Wheels, Day/Respite Care, or through similar services provided by voluntary agencies or private providers.

Significant progress has been made in developing home based and community services since 2006. This has had a considerable impact in terms of numbers of people benefiting from such services, as well as providing much needed support to the acute hospital sector. The development of this service over the period 2006 to 2008 shows, for example, the following:

€211 million revenue funding provision, including €55.6 million for new service developments.

in excess of 11 million Home-Help hours were provided by the HSE in 2007.

numbers benefiting increased from just over 41,000 in 2006 to around 54,000 clients at present.

total Home-Help hours increased from just over 9 million hours in 2006 to over 11 million hours expected this year, i.e. an increase of 22%.

The HSE provides a Home-Help Service under Section 61 of the 1970 Health Act which states that "a health board may make arrangements to assist in the maintenance at home of a sick or infirm person or a dependant of such a person." The Act specifies "may" and therefore the provision of a Home-Help Service is discretionary. To qualify for Home-Help service an assessment of need of the client concerned is undertaken in all instances. Section 61 also provides an option to charge for such services "either (as the chief executive officer of the board may determine in each case) without charge or at such charge as he considers appropriate".

Historically, varying financial eligibility practices were in operation in the former health board areas. Generally, however, medical card holders were deemed eligible. In addition , some voluntary agencies who provide Home-Help services on behalf of the HSE will accept a donation from clients towards the cost of the service. This does not apply in areas where Home-Help service is provided directly by the HSE.

Currently, where a financial assessment is applied, it ranges from applying the same financial guidescale which pertains to eligibility for a medical card in some areas, to a maximum income of €300 a week for a single person living on their own, in other areas. Where a financial assessment is applied, it is treated as a general guide line and applied in a flexible manner, to ensure that clients are appropriately supported to continue living in their own homes for as long as possible and in order to avoid inappropriate admissions to continuing care units. The operation of this service is at present being examined by the HSE, with a view to standardising nationally all aspects of its operation.

Levels of services provided by the Home-Help Service are reviewed regularly, and as a result, the service in individual cases may increase, decrease or may remain unchanged, based on the assessed need of the individual. Professional staff on the front line, who are aware of local circumstances, undertake the individual client assessments. Services are targeted at those with a high level of dependency and in accordance with their assessed need. The development of the Home-Help Service has also seen the professionalisation of the service in recent years with the implementation of the National Home Help Agreement. This has resulted in greater flexibility in service delivery and has improved consistency and service quality, through training, to the benefit of service users.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

186 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made on the publication of a review of the cost of disability payment; her plans to introduce such a payment; if so, the timeframe within which it is envisaged to introduce the payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24898/08]

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. The Department of Health and Children Sectoral Plan is subject to annual review and the first review of the Plan was published in December 2007. The Sectoral Plan 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 remains 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.

Seán Barrett

Question:

187 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will expedite the commencement of construction of the new National Rehabilitation Hospital at Dún Laoghaire, the services of which are needed by patients countrywide; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31904/08]

A key Government initiative in the area of rehabilitation is the commitment by the Department of Health and Children and the Health Service Executive (HSE) to develop a national policy and strategy for the provision of medical rehabilitation services. It is expected that this will:

Define the scope of rehabilitation services;

Research best practice approaches to rehabilitation services;

Assess the needs of the population;

Outline a model of service delivery that will encompass all stages of service required to meet the needs of service users;

Recommend a framework that will ensure that service developments are within an agreed national framework with common principles;

Develop an approach in line with the transformation of HSE services toward increased delivery at primary care level.

The strategy will focus on the service provision needs of the following categories:

Static and progressive neurological conditions; traumatic and non-traumatic brain injury; and

persons with other physically disabling conditions who may benefit from medical, psychological or social rehabilitation service provision.

A Steering Group, comprised of senior officials from the Department of Health and Children and the HSE, has been established to oversee the development of the policy and strategy. A Working Group has also been formed, which will assist with the production of the policy and strategy. This Group met for the first time in July and it is hoped that the National Policy and Strategy will be completed by the end of the year.

The Programme for Government committed to increasing the existing rehabilitation capacity in addition to redeveloping the National Rehabilitation Hospital. The HSE has informed the Department of Health and Children that plans have been prepared to develop a satellite unit of the National Rehabilitation Hospital attached to Beaumont Hospital, linking the rehabilitation expertise of NRH with the neurological services in Beaumont. This new proposed unit will provide acute medical rehabilitation services and early rehabilitation for those suffering from brain injury who access the National Neurosciences Unit at Beaumont Hospital and who currently have to access services at the National Rehabilitation Hospital. Plans are also being advanced to develop rehabilitation services on the campus of Merlin Park Hospital in Galway. The Working Group will consider the appropriate strategy for service provision including this proposed extension of facilities and the proposed new units.

Departmental Staff.

Joan Burton

Question:

188 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach the bonuses awarded by his Department to staff members for the years 2005, 2006 and 2007; the number and proportion of staff in receipt of bonuses for each of those years; the average bonus paid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32006/08]

Civil service posts at the levels of Assistant Secretary and Deputy Secretary are covered by a scheme of performance related awards. The operation of the scheme is overseen by the Committee for Performance Awards. The funding for awards is based on 10% of the payroll for the posts covered by the scheme. Within this overall limit, payments of up to 20% can be made to individuals. Details of the procedures, the numbers covered by the scheme, the range of awards and the total amounts paid in Departments are outlined in the annual reports of the Committee (available on the website www.finance.gov.ie). The amount paid out under this scheme is detailed below:

Year

No. of staff who received bonuses

Average amount paid

2005

4

11,000

2006

4

11,700

2007

4

12,800

In addition, under the Employee Recognition Awards Scheme, which is used to acknowledge and reward exceptional performance on the part of individuals and teams, merit payments were made as follows:

Year

Total value of awards

No. of individuals

Average award

2005

7,600

54

140

2006

8,500

29

290

2007

10,500

52

200

The highest individual award under this scheme to date is 500.00.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joan Burton

Question:

189 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach if he will list in regard to his Department and State agencies or bodies operating under the aegis of his Department, the original proposal announced in December 2003 in regard to decentralisation; the position in regard to each such proposed decentralisation; the number which have been completed; the number of persons who have been relocated; the number and proportion who have been relocated from Dublin or from other locations; the number of projects that have to be completed; the target date for completion in each case; the number of proposed projects that will not proceed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32021/08]

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

192 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Taoiseach the moneys under the decentralisation programme for the period from 3 July to date in 2008 that have been expended, properties purchased and employees decentralised specifying all relevant locations under each of these headings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32121/08]

Joan Burton

Question:

195 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach the number of civil servants and other public servants in his Department who had been decentralised from Dublin to other locations by the original deadline for the completion of the plan of December 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33064/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 189, 192 and 195 together.

The Deputy will be aware that there are no proposals to decentralise my Department or any of the agencies or bodies under its aegis and that the Department of Finance has responsibility in Government for the overall Decentralisation Programme.

Compulsory Purchase Orders.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

190 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the State sponsored bodies, quangos and other agencies within the remit of his Department that have the power to issue compulsory purchase orders; the number of CPOs that have been initiated by such agencies for the years 2005 to date in 2008; the purpose of such CPOs; the outcome in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32036/08]

None of the Agencies under the remit of my Department has the power to issue compulsory purchase orders.

National Statistics.

Joe Costello

Question:

191 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Taoiseach the population in each of the 26 counties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31670/08]

The most up to date information on the population in each of the 26 counties is taken from the 2006 Census and is set out in the table:

Persons, usually resident and present on Census Night, in each Province, County and City, Census 2006

Province, County or City

Population

State

4,172,013

Leinster

2,259,914

Carlow

49,688

Dublin

1,163,437

of which Dublin City

491,555

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown

190,421

Fingal

236,774

South Dublin

244,687

Kildare

184,330

Kilkenny

86,689

Laoighis

66,538

Longford

34,072

Louth

110,300

Meath

161,351

Offaly

70,207

Westmeath

78,402

Wexford

130,518

Wicklow

124,382

Munster

1,153,661

Clare

108,331

Cork

474,161

of which Cork City

117,222

Cork County

356,939

Kerry

135,500

Limerick

181,601

of which Limerick City

51,886

Limerick County

129,715

North Tipperary

65,271

South Tipperary

82,417

Waterford

106,380

of which Waterford City

45,109

Waterford County

61,271

Connacht

495,127

Galway

226,812

of which Galway City

69,807

Galway County

157,005

Leitrim

28,559

Mayo

121,680

Roscommon

58,218

Sligo

59,858

Ulster (part of)

263,311

Cavan

63,264

Donegal

144,685

Monaghan

55,362

The Population and Migration Estimates published in August 2008 give the population at Regional Authorities (NUTS 3) area level only and is set out in the table.

Estimated Population classified by Sex, Age Group and Regional Authority Area, April 20081

State

Border

Dublin

Mid-East

Midland

Mid-West

South-East

South-West

West

4,422,077.0

492,508.0

1,217,848.0

514,494.0

266,819.0

371,915.0

487,817.0

644,598.0

426,078.0

1 Preliminary.

Question No. 192 answered with Question No. 189.

Data Protection.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

193 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Taoiseach the policies in place to secure portable electronic data devices in his Department; if those policies have been published; if so, the locations where they can be viewed; if a system of whole disk encryption has been rolled out to all laptops in his Department; the date by which he expects a satisfactory security policy on portable electronic data devices to have been implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32410/08]

All members of staff of my Department, who have portable electronic data devices issued to them for work purposes, are issued with a specific policy which they must read, sign and return for records purposes. This policy details the terms and conditions associated with securing the usage of this portable equipment. It is available on my Department's internal system. In addition to this, all staff in the Department are issued with a copy of the Departmental Code of Practice relating to the use of all IT facilities provided by my Department. Again, this code of practice is available on my Department's Intranet.

These policies are reviewed, updated and reissued on a regular basis to take account of any new threats to security of information. All laptops issued by my Department have their hard disks encrypted and store no data locally.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

194 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Taoiseach the number of Department owned computer desktops or laptops or other data devices, such as blackberries and memory keys, reported lost, missing or stolen from his Department to date in 2008; the number of same later recovered or found; the number still missing; if sensitive or private data was compromised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32425/08]

No computer, desktops, laptops or other data devices, such as blackberries and memory keys, have been reported missing or stolen from my Department to date in 2008.

Question No. 195 answered with Question No. 189.

Work Permits.

Jack Wall

Question:

196 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position of an application for a work permit in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32244/08]

The Employment Permits Section has no record of an application for a work permit in respect of the above named.

Job Creation.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

197 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs created in County Monaghan during the period from June 1997 to date in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31919/08]

State support for enterprise and job creation is channelled through the industrial development agencies. While I may give general policy directives to the agencies, I am precluded under the Acts from giving directives regarding individual undertakings, or from giving preference to one area over others. Employment data in respect of agency assisted companies is collated on an annual basis and as such it is not possible to isolate data from June 1997 to year end nor is it possible to supply figures to date for 2008. In the 11 year period from 1997 to 2007, 4,317 new full time jobs were created by Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland in County Monaghan. In addition, Monaghan County Enterprise board assisted in the creation of 1,028 net new jobs in the same period.

In line with the National Spatial Strategy, IDA is focused on delivering investments to all of the Gateway and Hub locations. In the case of Monaghan, the Agency is concentrating its efforts on the county town of Monaghan and is actively marketing the town through its range of overseas offices. In addition the Agency works closely with its existing client companies in an effort to encourage them to increase and expand their operations in this country.

As Ireland competes for investments at the highest end of the value chain the concept of scale is crucial to our economic destiny. Leading corporations require a significant population of highly qualified talent, effective physical and digital infrastructure and the availability of sophisticated professional support services. If we are to make progress in attracting FDI to the regions we need to continue our investments under the NDP and all economic and social stakeholders will need to commit to the goal of balanced regional development as envisaged in the National Spatial Strategy. Future thinking and action must have a regional rather than a local bias and this requires a significant change in mindset.

Promoting entrepreneurship and facilitating the key infrastructural needs of Irish enterprise is vital to ensuring a vigorous pipeline of new business leaders, new business ideas and stability in employment numbers in Irish Industry. Strong balanced regional development and thriving entrepreneurship in all parts of Ireland are fundamental to the country's economic growth and employment prosperity. Enterprise Ireland is committed to creating and growing internationally competitive businesses, which in turn will increase employment and reduce the impact of job losses in all Irish Regions.

Through its Regional Network EI is working in close co-operation with IDA, FÁS, County and City Enterprise Boards and County Councils to bring focus and action to areas where required. EI are focused on the creation of new jobs through supporting entrepreneurs setting up new High Potential Start-Up Companies, the retention and creation of new jobs in existing companies and in enhancing the innovation capability of Ireland at a national and regional level through support of research in companies and third level institutions.

The role of the Monaghan County Enterprise Board (CEB) is to provide a source of support for micro-enterprise in the start-up and expansion phases, to promote and develop indigenous micro-enterprise potential and to stimulate economic activity and entrepreneurship. The Board supports individuals, firms and community groups provided that the proposed projects have the capacity to achieve commercial viability. Through the provision of both financial and non-financial support, such as advice, mentoring and training programmes, the Monaghan CEB remains central in assisting many micro-enterprises in developing their growth potential.

Community Employment Schemes.

Jack Wall

Question:

198 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a person in receipt of credits from social welfare is entitled to obtain a position on a FÁS scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31960/08]

Community Employment (CE) is an active labour market programme designed to provide eligible long term unemployed people and other disadvantaged persons (including those with a disability) with an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a fixed term basis. The qualifying criteria for Community Employment participation are intended to facilitate the movement of participants, allowing new participants who may not otherwise have such an opportunity to avail of the programme.

A person in receipt of credits from Social Welfare would not be eligible to obtain a position on a FÁS Community Employment Project. Persons must be at least 12 months in receipt of a payment (e.g. Jobseekers Allowance, Jobseekers Benefit, One Parent Family Payment etc.) in order to qualify. Any unemployed person can apply to participate on a FÁS training programme. However, priority is given to people in receipt of payments from the Department of Social and Family Affairs.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

199 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of community employment participants that were and are on community employment schemes in the Dublin 3, 5 and 17 areas in the years 2002 to 2007 and to date in 2008; the breakdown per scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31964/08]

Community Employment (CE) is an active labour market programme designed to provide eligible long term unemployed people and other disadvantaged persons (including those with a disability) with an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a fixed term basis. In relation to the information sought by the Deputy the table sets out details of the number of participants that were and are on CE Schemes in the Dublin 3, 5 and 17 areas in the years 2002 to 2007 and to date in 2008.

Year

Dublin 3

Dublin 5

Dublin 17

2002

113

305

207

2003

82

266

194

2004

160

273

312

2005

164

281

336

2006

136

284

332

2007

193

286

369

2008

185

283

379

Departmental Staff.

Joan Burton

Question:

200 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the bonuses awarded by her Department to staff members for the years 2005, 2006 and 2007; the number and proportion of staff in receipt of bonuses for each of those years; the average bonus paid; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31999/08]

The scheme of performance-related awards in the civil service applies to Deputy and Assistant Secretaries and equivalent grades. Details of awards to individual officers under the performance related scheme are not disclosed on the basis that they are confidential to the officer concerned. The awards paid to officers of my Department and associated Offices under the scheme for the years 2005, 2006 and 2007 were as follows:

Year

Total awards

Number of people

2005

160,000

14

2006

168,000

14

2007

196,000

14

Decentralisation Programme.

Joan Burton

Question:

201 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will list in regard to her Department and State agencies or bodies operating under the aegis of her Department, the original proposal announced in December 2003 in regard to decentralisation; the position in regard to each such proposed decentralisation; the number which have been completed; the number of persons who have been relocated; the number and proportion who have been relocated from Dublin or from other locations; the number of projects that have to be completed; the target date for completion in each case; the number of proposed projects that will not proceed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32014/08]

Joan Burton

Question:

208 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of civil servants and other public servants in her Department who had been decentralised from Dublin to other locations by the original deadline for the completion of the plan of December 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33057/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 201 and 208 together.

The Government decided on 8th July last that no further expenditure on the acquisition of accommodation for decentralisation should be sanctioned pending detailed consideration by the Government of two reports: one from the Decentralisation Implementation Group's report on the feasibility of phased moves by the State Agencies; and one from the Implementation Group of Secretaries General on the governmental and cross-Departmental issues arising from the need to provide facilities for Minister, Ministers of State and officials while in Dublin on business. As part of the Decentralisation Programme announced in December 2003, it was decided that 250 staff of my Department would decentralise to Carlow. At that time, it was also decided that four of my Department's Agencies — FÁS, National Standards Authority of Ireland, Health and Safety Authority and Enterprise Ireland — were to decentralise to Birr, Arklow, Thomastown and Shannon respectively.

The following is a summary of the progress, to date, with regard to the decentralization programme for my Department and Agencies. Obviously further progress in regard to these moves is subject to decisions of the Government which will be announced following consideration of the reports referred to above.

Department Decentralisation

My Department has been making good progress in the relocation of the required 250 posts to Carlow under the Government's Decentralisation Programme. The following business units/Offices of my Department are earmarked for decentralisation:

Companies Registration Office/Registry of Friendly Societies;

National Employment Rights Authority (NERA);

Redundancy Payments Section;

Insolvency Payments Section.

No staff from my Department were decentralised by the original deadline for the completion of the plan of December 2006, as announced by the Minister for Finance in December 2003. However, officials of my Department, in consultation with the Department of Finance and the OPW, as well as decentralising staff and Business Units, opened an advance office in Carlow on July 30th 2007. The number of staff in this decentralised advance office is 100. The number of staff relocated from Dublin is 61, which is 61% of the total. As well as staff already decentralised, there are 48 staff within my Department due to decentralise when the substantive move takes place, with a further 47 Carlow-bound applicants yet to be assigned from other Departments.

With regard to the property side of the Department's move, the OPW completed the purchase of a site in Carlow town centre for the construction of my Department's permanent office in Carlow. My colleague Minister of State Noel Ahern TD, announced on 13th December 2007 that the OPW has invited The Macquarie Partnership as the consortium to become the ‘Successful Tenderer' in respect of this decentralisation project. This forms part of a major PPP project, which also involves the provision of office accommodation for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in Portlaoise and the Department of Education and Science in Mullingar.

The formal application for planning permission was lodged with Carlow Town Council on 18th April 2008 and planning permission, with conditions, was granted on 12th June 2008 subject to appeal. The Office of Public Works has since advised that two objection lodged against the planning permission have been referred to An Bord Pleanála. An Bord Pleanála website indicates that the appeal cases are due to be decided by 10 November 2008. In light of this, it is difficult to provide a target date for completion of construction of the permanent office which appears is unlikely to happen before last quarter 2010.

Agency Decentralisation

Since the Government Decentralisation Programme was announced in December 2003, six Agencies under the aegis of my Department are due to decentralise or have already been decentralised, as follows:

Health and Safety Authority

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) is to move 110 posts to Thomastown, Co Kilkenny as part of the decentralisation programme. In anticipation of the move to Thomastown, the Authority established an interim office in Kilkenny city in August 2006. As at 31 December 2006, a total of 15 staff had relocated to this office and 7 of these staff relocated from the Authority's Dublin office. To date a total of 27 staff have decentralised to the Authority's interim office in Kilkenny city. Of the 27 staff in that office, 6 staff have relocated from the Dublin office and the remaining 21 staff have been assigned to Kilkenny on recruitment to the Authority. With regard to the Thomastown site, the Office of Public Works has identified a site in Thomastown and the contracts for the sale of the site have been exchanged. The sale is at an advanced stage but has not yet been completed. No premises occupation date has yet been agreed with the OPW.

NSAI

Under the Government's decentralisation programme the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) is due to relocate to Arklow, Co. Wicklow. The number required to decentralise from the NSAI is 132. No staff from the NSAI has transferred to Arklow to date. The current NSAI implementation plan anticipates a target date of April 2009 as the completion date. The accommodation requirements for the NSAI in Arklow will be addressed by the OPW. To date no progress has been made in identifying or securing suitable office accommodation in the Arklow area.

FÁS

Under the Government's decentralisation programme, FÁS is due to transfer its Head Office including some 383 posts to Birr, Co Offaly. The original proposal was for 250 staff to transfer. FÁS has completed the purchase of a site of approximately 5.59 acres in Birr, Co Offaly with a view to the construction of a permanent decentralised location. A planning application to allow development of the site is currently being progressed. In the meantime, FÁS has leased a floor of a building within the Birr Technology Centre to accommodate staff in the decentralised location pending the completion of a permanent Headquarters. There are currently 23 Head Office staff based in the temporary premises, which has a capacity for approximately 40 staff; of these, 9 were recruited directly to the location, 7 moved from Dublin and 7 moved from locations other than Dublin. Two staff had decentralised from Dublin to Birr by December 2006. FÁS' target date for completing the move to Birr is 2009.

Enterprise Ireland

Enterprise Ireland (EI) is to move 300 posts to Shannon under the decentralisation programme announced in 2003. To date, no persons have been relocated to or from Enterprise Ireland under this programme. Progress on the full transfer of EI's HQ to Shannon, within the Government decentralisation programme, will be influenced by factors (many exogenous to EI) such as the level of interest in the Shannon location expressed by CAF applicants and by progress made in discussions at a central level on various issues central to Agency decentralisation. In terms of acquiring a building, Enterprise Ireland, working closely with the Office of Public Works (OPW) has identified, but not yet acquired, a preferred site for the construction of a suitably sized new HQ building in Shannon. The preferred site comprises 13-acres owned by Shannon Development. In co-operation with Shannon Development and the OPW, the site was valued and a feasibility study carried out. The site occupies a prime position in Shannon and is considered suitable for a major landmark building or civic structure.

National Consumer Agency (NCA)

The National Consumer Agency (NCA) was formally established on 1st May 2007 and inherited the functions of the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs (ODCA). The Government agreed that the Agency should have a headquarters in Cork City. The Department of Finance has granted sanction for an overall complement of 80 members of staff. The NCA expects that there will be a significant turnover of staff as many of the existing staff, who formerly worked in ODCA and are on secondment from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, return to the Department. Decentralisation plans are being progressed with a view to the Agency relocating to Cork in the course of 2009. The Agency has forwarded details of its accommodation requirements to the OPW. Five staff have been recruited on the basis of relocation to Cork. However no relocations have occurred to date.

Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority (IAASA)

In the case of the Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority (IAASA), a decision was made prior to its establishment that it would be located in Naas, Co Kildare. Having been established in December, 2005 it moved to new offices at Naas, in January 2006. All IAASA staff have been based in its offices in Naas since its establishment, and as such the Authority is fully decentralised.

Compulsory Purchase Orders.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

202 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the State sponsored bodies, quangos and other agencies within the remit of her Department that have the power to issue compulsory purchase orders; the number of CPOs that have been initiated by such agencies for the years 2005 to date in 2008; the purpose of such CPOs; the outcome in each case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32029/08]

Both IDA Ireland and Forfás have the power to issue compulsory purchase orders. Neither of those agencies has initiated any such orders for the years 2005 to date.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

203 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will provide a tabular statement giving a yearly breakdown for the past eight years regarding the number of people who have participated in training courses through the FÁS system; the number of people who have qualified through this system to work at a particular trade; the number of people who have been retrained in a particular trade; the number of job placements obtained by participants through the system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32057/08]

Details are set out in the tables for:

those who have completed FÁS training courses (throughput) and placement (table 1);

apprentices who have received their National Craft Certificate (table 2).

Information concerning placements for 2006 and 2007 and the number of people who have been retrained in a particular trade will be provided at a later date.

Table 2: National Craft/Advanced Craft Certificates

Count of apprentices

Year Certificate Issued

Trade

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Total

Agricultural Mechanics

60

49

43

21

50

45

53

32

353

Aircraft Mechanics

53

36

37

51

53

68

76

26

400

Bookbinding

12

13

9

7

16

3

5

65

Cabinetmaking

63

82

174

166

187

161

182

138

1,153

Carpentry & Joinery

434

583

755

671

1,076

999

959

998

6,475

Carton Making

10

4

6

1

1

1

23

Construction Plant Fitting

47

70

64

55

75

85

64

84

544

Electrical

563

886

1,297

1,122

1,640

1,515

1,398

1,352

9,773

Electricial Instrumentation

8

27

22

22

46

33

32

28

218

Floor & Wall Tiling

5

22

16

16

24

83

Heavy Vehicle Mechanics

99

55

132

70

132

100

144

105

837

Instrumentation

11

17

22

18

36

27

19

9

159

Metal Fabrication

134

180

206

146

230

153

153

157

1,359

Motor Mechanics

188

237

308

224

374

324

292

295

2,242

Network Technicians

56

82

1

139

Origination

12

13

12

7

13

5

12

74

Painting & Decorating

67

44

71

55

92

80

69

91

569

Plastering

56

32

48

59

72

51

87

128

533

Plumbing

207

263

344

341

387

473

500

719

3,234

Printing

49

30

31

9

43

13

20

15

210

Refrigeration & Air Conditioning

30

59

45

47

68

70

51

65

435

Toolmaking

97

111

106

65

106

69

42

28

624

Vehicle Body Repairs

55

52

47

43

57

51

73

67

445

Wood Machinery

13

9

18

20

21

29

17

14

141

Fitting

189

239

257

195

300

257

184

170

1,791

Sheet Metalworking

49

44

58

58

67

60

53

39

428

Brick & Stonelaying

98

136

224

159

272

259

259

332

1,739

Total

2,660

3,271

4,341

3,632

5,518

4,947

4,760

4,917

34,046

Throughputs/% Placed by FÁS Programme

2007

2006

2005

2005

2004

2004

2003

2003

2002

2002

2001

2001

2000

2000

Throughput

Throughput

Throughput

Placed

Throughput

Placed

Throughput

Placed

Throughput

Placed

Throughput

Placed

Throughput

Placed

#

#

#

%

#

%

#

%

#

%

#

%

#

%

Bridging Foundation

5,480

6,429

6,468

49%

5,133

50%

3,744

48%

3,204

45%

2,733

52%

2,232

59%

Foundation/Progression CTCs

1,790

1,849

2,061

49%

1,868

50%

2,521

48%

2,920

45%

2,592

52%

2,541

59%

Return to Work

777

602

1,229

49%

976

50%

1,360

48%

1,619

45%

1,624

52%

1,306

59%

Skills Training

5,704

6,160

6,840

52%

6,510

48%

8,871

49%

8,705

48%

9,845

53%

11,154

63%

Traineeship

1,995

2,093

2,042

64%

1,720

68%

1,790

62%

1,384

56%

1,302

63%

1,457

79%

Local Training Initiatives

2,792

2,652

2,815

39%

2,104

38%

2,912

37%

3,577

43%

3,676

45%

4,407

51%

Specialist Training Providers

1,503

1,419

1,500

33%

1,593

36%

1,419

30%

1,277

34%

1,981

34%

0

0%

Apprenticeship

Phase 2

6,787

6,761

6,483

6,055

6,657

7,502

6,973

5,815

Phase 4

5,864

5,922

5,929

5,219

5,682

6,262

5,894

4,544

Phase 6

5,268

4,717

5,336

5,083

4,840

4,892

4,787

2,834

Sponsored Training

1,702

1,669

2,423

3,244

4,564

5,436

3,544

3,411

Evening Courses

8,000

8,674

8,510

8,038

11,217

12,504

0

0

Total

47,662

48,947

51,636

47,543

55,577

59,282

44,951

39,701

1. Throughputs sourced from Appendix 1 — FÁS Annual Reports, 2007 to 2000. Evening Courses figures per relevant December Management Accounts — Movements In Training Report.

2. % Placed (new starts) sourced from Appendix 3 (a) FÁS Annual Reports. Placement includes progression.

3. Placment: All items exclude employer-sponsoered training. All apprentices are regarded as employer-sponsored.

Skill Shortages.

Michael McGrath

Question:

204 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding the funding of Skillnets for the remainder of 2008 and for 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32091/08]

Skillnets has received a total funding allocation of €26.734m for 2008. A total of €23.207m has been paid to date, leaving a balance of €3.527m. It is expected that Skillnets will draw down this amount during the remainder of 2008. Details of funding for Skillnets for 2009 will become available following publication of the Budget for 2009 in October. The Government has significantly increased funding provided to Skillnets in recent years, from a total of €1.5m in 1999 to €7.7m in 2005 and to some €26.7m in 2008.

Work Permits.

Jack Wall

Question:

205 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding an application for an employment permit for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32396/08]

The Employment Permits Section has no record of an application for a work permit in this case. However, if the employer or proposed employee wishes to submit an application it will be considered on its merits.

Data Protection.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

206 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the policies in place to secure portable electronic data devices in her Department; if those policies have been published; if so, the locations where they can be viewed; if a system of whole disk encryption has been rolled out to all laptops in her Department; the date by which she expects a satisfactory security policy on portable electronic data devices to have been implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32403/08]

In 2006 my Department published a comprehensive set of IT and Information Systems security polices and standards, covering a wide range of issues including the security of portable electronic devices. These policies are published on my Department's Intranet and are presented to all new entrants to my Department as part of an induction training programme.

One of these policies concerns the implementation of laptop encryption and consequently a project is already well underway within my Department to apply whole disk encryption to all laptops. The majority of existing laptops have already been encrypted and the target is to have all remaining laptops encrypted by year-end. All new laptops are being encrypted before they are issued to officers. In addition encrypted USB flash drives are provided to officers who have a requirement to carry data on such devices and my Department is hoping to introduce centralised USB port control on PCs and laptops in 2009.

Many officers within my Department use Blackberry devices for access to email while out of the office. It is my Department's policy to invoke the facility to remotely erase all data from a BlackBerry device as soon as it is reported missing, and immediately cancel the subscription with the service provider. Last year my Department, conducted a comprehensive review of ICT security across the Department and its Offices. The findings of the report now form a significant part of my Department's new ICT Strategy (2008-2010) which focuses on ensuring continuity of ICT availability including increased security awareness of users, additional process and technological controls and ongoing inclusion of security considerations as part of a project's planning process. This strategy is available on my Department's website.

My Department recognises that ensuring the security of sensitive and personal information is an ongoing process. Accordingly my Department will review and update its policies, procedures and technologies as deemed necessary to ensure continuous improvements in securing such data. A key component of information security is user awareness and so a security awareness programme is currently underway in my Department, involving newsletters, workshops and presentations to staff along with reminders of ICT usage policies and regulations.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

207 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of Department owned computer desktops or laptops or other data devices, such as blackberries and memory keys, reported lost, missing or stolen from her Department to date in 2008; the number of same later recovered or found; the number still missing; if sensitive or private data was compromised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32418/08]

My Department's records indicate that to date in 2008 one laptop has been reported stolen, one laptop reported missing and one BlackBerry device reported stolen. None has been recovered or found. There have been no other computers or data devices reported lost, missing or stolen during this period. It is my Department's policy to invoke the facility to remotely erase all data from a BlackBerry device as soon as it is reported missing, and immediately cancel the subscription with the service provider. In the case of the stolen BlackBerry it was not possible to do this locally and the device was disabled by the service provider at my Department's request.

It is also the policy in my Department to encrypt all new laptops before they are issued. A project to encrypt all laptops already issued to officers of my Department is currently underway and should be completed by year-end. The two missing laptops were not encrypted but they were reported not to contain any sensitive or private data at the time of their loss.

Question No. 208 answered with Question No. 201.

Tax Code.

Pat Breen

Question:

209 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the interpretation of apart-hotel which is included in section 3 of the Valuation Act 2001, as applied by the Valuation Tribunal; the consequences of this interpretation for those properties designated holiday homes under section 268 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31895/08]

"Apart-hotel" as defined in section 3 of the Valuation Act, 2001 "means one or more apartments, including any ancillary facilities associated with such apartments, which are used for the purposes of hotel-keeping". It is indicated that the Valuation Tribunal has recently given several judgements in relation to the meaning of "apart-hotel" for the purposes of determining the appropriate rateable valuation to be applied to the relevant properties.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that for the purposes of tax relief there are no properties that are designated as "holiday homes" as such or as "apart-hotels". Section 268 Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 contains a number of definitions for buildings, known as "industrial buildings" that can qualify for tax relief in the form of capital allowances in respect of the cost of their construction. Included in those definitions are certain buildings that are used as tourist/holiday accommodation. The relevant buildings are:

Hotels;

Guest houses;

Holiday hostels;

Holiday cottages.

To qualify for capital allowances, these buildings must be included in the relevant register maintained by Fáilte Ireland under the Tourist Traffic Acts 1939 to 2003. Where hotels, guest houses, holiday hostels and holiday cottages are registered in the register of hotels, guest houses, holiday hostels or holiday cottages, respectively, section 268 deems them to be in use for the trade of hotel-keeping. However, this is merely a drafting mechanism for granting capital allowances: there is no requirement for the buildings to have any actual connection with a hotel.

During the course of the hearings before the Valuation Tribunal, reference may have been made to the fact that certain buildings were of the type that could qualify for capital allowances. For example, some of the cases involved buildings that were registered in the register of holiday cottages maintained by Fáilte Ireland. However, the definition of "apart-hotel" in the Valuation Act 2001 has no bearing on the interpretation of tourist/holiday accommodation buildings for purposes of determining entitlement to capital allowances. Therefore, any interpretation of "apart-hotel" applied by the Valuation Tribunal does not have any consequences for capital allowances that might be due in relation to certain tourist/holiday accommodation such as registered holiday cottages.

Customs Service.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

210 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance if he will respond to a query (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32465/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the Customs controls at the location in question are risk-based and are carried out by mobile Customs enforcement staff. Attendance is selective and targeted and is based on analysis and evaluation of national and international seizure trends, traffic frequency, routes and other risk indicators. Attendance can also be as a result of specific intelligence. Traffic with origins and destinations with a high-risk rating would attract particular interest. These attendances cover the full range of traffic at this location.

It is important to note by way of context that the operating environment for Customs has been shaped to a significant degree by the introduction of the Internal Market and the related principles of freedom of movement within the EU. Of specific relevance are the abolition of routine and systematic Customs checks on goods and passengers moving within any part of the EU and the elimination of Customs controls on the baggage of intra-Community passengers other than anti smuggling checks. This is particularly relevant in the case of this location where passenger traffic is predominantly intra-Community. The approach has of necessity been to balance the freedom of movement principle in regard to people and goods with the need to control smuggling and enforce prohibitions and restrictions. I have been assured by the Revenue Commissioners that they are satisfied with the level of Customs controls at this location. In particular, they are satisfied that the risk-based approach applied remains valid and that their operations are on par with, and may even exceed, those of many other EU Member States.

Tax Code.

Jack Wall

Question:

211 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if inheritance tax is payable by a person in relation to the transfer of family lands (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31940/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that for the purposes of both Gift and Inheritance Tax, the relationship between the person who provides the gift or inheritance and the person who receives the gift or inheritance, determines the maximum tax-free threshold known as the "Group Threshold". The Group threshold applying to a gift or inheritance received by a grandchild from a grandparent is the Group B threshold and, for 2008, this threshold figure is €52,121. Any other gifts/inheritances that might have been received by the grandchild from grandparents since 5 December 1991 will also be taken into account when applying the threshold for the purposes of calculating the gift/inheritance tax.

If, therefore, the value of the site now being transferred, plus the value of any other gifts/inheritances received by the grandchild from grandparents since 5 December 1991, exceeds the Group B tax-free threshold of €52,121, gift/inheritance tax would be payable on the excess over this tax-free threshold figure at the rate of 20%. Also, where a person receives a gift as opposed to an inheritance of property, the first €3,000 of the value of the gift is ignored for tax purposes by way of an annual small gift exemption.

Where a gift or inheritance consists of agricultural lands, as distinct from the transfer of a site, the market value of the agricultural lands may be reduced by 90% for tax purposes provided certain conditions are met. The conditions attaching to the relief are that the land is taken by a "farmer", who is defined in the legislation as an individual in respect of whom not less than 80 per cent of his or her assets, after taking the gift or inheritance, consist of agricultural property and also that the land is not disposed of for 6 years after the date of the receipt of the gift or inheritance.

House Prices.

Joan Burton

Question:

212 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he is considering a shared-equity home ownership scheme in the context of the budget 2009 process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31970/08]

As Deputies are aware it would not be appropriate for me to comment in advance of the Budget on possible Budget decisions.

Departmental Expenditure.

Joan Burton

Question:

213 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the forecast of public expenditure for each Department based on the maintenance of existing levels of service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31971/08]

The projected out-turn for 2008 public spending and the estimates for 2009 will be published in the Budget. This will provide relevant information on the implications of changes for the existing levels of service involved.

Civil Service Recruitment.

Joan Burton

Question:

214 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he is considering a Civil Service recruitment embargo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31972/08]

On the 8th of July last, I announced a number of cost saving measures that the Government had decided to implement with immediate effect. These measures included a 3% reduction in the payroll bill of all Departments, State Agencies and Local Authorities, with the exception of certain sectors of the Health and Education areas. To meet this requirement, a range of possible measures were outlined to all Departments. These included curtailing or suspending staff recruitment with immediate effect, the control of premium pay, the management of vacancies, the organisation of work processes and the level at which work is done. Any further proposals for the control of public sector pay or numbers will be considered in the context of the Budget.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Question:

215 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if an update is planned of the Revenue Commissioners’ study of the effective tax rates of the top 400 earners; the timetable for the publication of this updated report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31973/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, as the measure to restrict the use of incentive tax reliefs and exemptions by high earners (section 17 of the Finance Act 2006) came into effect in the tax year 2007, they plan to publish a study on the effectiveness of the restriction, which will look in detail at the use of tax incentives by high earners and their effective tax rates. This study will cover all high earners subject to the 2006 Act restriction (generally those with earnings of more than €250,000 in a tax year) and will therefore be broader in scope than the previous "top 400" studies carried out by Revenue. The first study for the tax year 2007 will be published once sufficient tax returns for that year have been processed and the data has been analysed. This is expected to be in the early part of 2009.

I am advised by Revenue that the study will include, subject to any confidentiality issues which may arise, an analysis of the numbers affected by the restriction by reference to income bands, details of the additional tax paid due to the measure, an analysis of the effective tax rates of those affected and a breakdown of the amount of income sheltered by the use of each incentive or relief restricted by the measure.

Joan Burton

Question:

216 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the steps which have been taken and those which remain to be taken in terms of the implementation of the recommendations of Indecon International Economic Consultants’ Review of Property-based Tax Incentive Schemes February 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31974/08]

In his 2005 Budget Statement, my predecessor announced that a review of a broad range of tax incentive schemes would be undertaken in 2005. The review process included studies by external consultants Indecon and Goodbody Economic Consultants, as well as internal reviews by officials from the Department of Finance and the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, with the involvement of other Government Departments as appropriate. In the Budget 2006 documentation, summaries of the recommendations of the various reviews were published, and the full reviews were published by my Department in three volumes on 6 February 2006. The general findings and recommendations arising from the review of tax schemes were taken into account and will continue to be taken into account where appropriate in the context of the ongoing formulation of tax policy.

Indecon International Economic Consultants were retained in April 2005 to undertake a detailed review of various sectoral property-based tax incentive schemes. In Budget 2006, in line with the recommendations of Indecon my predecessor announced the termination, subject to certain transitional provisions, of the following property tax incentive schemes: reliefs for holiday cottages, student accommodation, multistorey car parks, third-level educational buildings, sports injuries clinics, developments associated with park and ride facilities, the general rental refurbishment scheme and the special accelerated reliefs for hotels and holiday camps.

In line with the recommendations of the consultants, the tax reliefs available for private hospitals, registered nursing homes and child care facilities were retained. In addition, in Finance Act 2006 the clawback period for investors was increased from 7 to 15 years for these three reliefs. In the case of all new schemes introduced since the completion of the reviews in 2005 and for private hospitals that are first used on or after 1 February 2007 provision was made in the relevant legislation to provide for the full disclosure of key information to the Exchequer by investors promoters to enable the full cost and impact of the schemes to be monitored.

In Budget 2006 the introduction of a limit, with effect from 1 January 2007, on the use of tax reliefs, including certain exemptions, by high-income individuals was announced. Section 17 of Finance Act 2006 gave effect to this announcement. This measure was designed to address the situation where a small number of individuals with high incomes had been able to reduce their income tax liability to a very low level or to zero by means of the cumulative use of various tax incentive reliefs. Such individuals are no longer able to do so. This provision ensures that such individuals who use tax incentive schemes will have an effective rate of income tax for each year of not less than about 20 per cent on the income sheltered by such schemes.

The reviews also proposed that any new reliefs should be time limited and should, where relevant, be subject to an assessment of costs and benefits prior to their introduction. I will continue to follow this advice as far as appropriate. The role that time-limited tax relief schemes can play in supporting public policy objectives is routinely assessed as part of the ongoing process of tax policy formulation.

Departmental Expenditure.

Joan Burton

Question:

217 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a detailed breakdown of non-Exchequer capital spending for the years 2007 and 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31975/08]

I would refer the Deputy to the 2008 Public Capital Programme (PCP) which was published on 21 February 2008. The PCP sets out the provisional outturn figures for non-exchequer capital spending for 2007 in Table 4 on pages 104-108, together with the estimates for 2008.

Tax Yield.

Joan Burton

Question:

218 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the forecast receipts from the health levy for 2008; the actual figures on a comparative basis for each year since 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31976/08]

The 2008 forecast for health levy receipts is €1,330m — receipts were marginally above profile at end August. The actual health levy receipts for each year since 2002 are as follows: 2007 — €1,298m; 2006 — €1,188m; 2005 — €1,117m; 2004 — €951m; 2003 — €856m; 2002 — €751m.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Question:

219 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance his views on the charging of VAT on safety equipment used in sports activity; if he will introduce reductions in the VAT rate on safety equipment used in sports activity in budget 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31977/08]

The Deputy will be aware that in matters relating to the VAT rating of goods and services, I am constrained by the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. In relation to the VAT rate that applies to safety equipment used in sports activity, the position is that under the VAT Directive, Member States may retain the zero rates on goods and services which were in place on 1 January 1991, but cannot extend the zero rate to new goods and services. As safety equipment used in sports activity was 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 medical equipment for the exclusive personal use of a disabled person, it does not include safety equipment for general use. The reduced rate therefore cannot be applied to the supply of safety equipment used in sports activity. In this respect, the only rate of VAT that can apply to the supply of safety equipment used in sports activity is the standard VAT rate which in Ireland is 21%.

Departmental Expenditure.

Joan Burton

Question:

220 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance his views on maintaining all front-line public services at 2008 levels, accounting also for inflation and demographic changes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31978/08]

The Government's policy decisions in relation to expenditure on public services in 2009 will be announced in the forthcoming Budget.

Departmental Staff.

Joan Burton

Question:

221 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance his views on the introduction of a temporary bonus holiday for high-paid public servants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31979/08]

The great majority of public servants do not qualify for performance-related awards and the cost of such awards is a very small part of the public service pay bill. Following recommendations of the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector, schemes of performance-related awards were introduced for the levels of Deputy Secretary and Assistant Secretary in the civil service, the Deputy Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner ranks in the Garda Síochána and the ranks of Brigadier General and Major General in the Defence Forces. The Review Body recommended these awards as part of the overall remuneration package of the groups concerned. In 2007, 221 persons in those groups received an award. The overall cost of the awards was about 3 million euro.

Performance-related awards do not apply to the most senior posts of Secretary General, Garda Commissioner and Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces. The schemes of awards are based on performance by reference to demanding targets. The pool for performance awards is 10% of the pay bill for the group concerned. Within that overall limit individuals can receive payments of up to 20% of pay (although payments at that level would be very rare). I have no role in the decisions on awards. Decisions on awards are made by the Committee for Performance Awards (CPA), which includes a majority of private sector members. Details of the procedures, the numbers covered by the schemes, the range of awards and the total amounts paid in Departments are outlined in the annual reports of the Committee (available on the website www.finance.gov.ie).

There are separate schemes of performance-related awards for senior staff of local authorities and the health service. These schemes of awards were also recommended by the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector. I have no role in the decisions on these awards either. The Committee for Performance Awards in the Local Authority sector deals with the assessment of performance for senior managers in local authorities. For senior managers in the health service, the board of the HSE/relevant agency makes awards based on the agreed criteria. The scheme is quality assured by an Oversight Committee which is chaired by the Secretary General of the Department of Health and Children. Schemes of performance-related awards may also apply to the Chief Executive Officers of non-commercial State sponsored bodies (and in some cases, to the second tier of management). Decisions on awards are the responsibility of the Board of the body concerned. Access to a scheme of performance-related awards may be part of the employment contract of the persons concerned.

Banking Sector Regulation.

Joan Burton

Question:

222 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether an offer either implicit or explicit to support a distressed bank which had previously followed less than fastidious lending practices could introduce a moral hazard (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31980/08]

As the Deputy will be aware the Government has decided to put in place with immediate effect a guarantee arrangement to safeguard all deposits (retail, commercial, institutional and interbank), covered bonds, senior debt and dated subordinated debt (lower tier II), with the following banks: Allied Irish Bank, Bank of Ireland, Anglo Irish Bank, Irish Life and Permanent, Irish Nationwide Building Society and the Educational Building Society and such specific subsidiaries as may be approved by Government following consultation with the Central Bank and the Financial Regulator. It has done so following advice from the Governor of the Central Bank and the Financial Regulator about the impact of the recent international market turmoil on the Irish Banking system.

The guarantee is being provided at a charge to the institutions concerned and will be subject to specific terms and conditions so that the taxpayers' interest can be protected. The guarantee will cover all existing aforementioned facilities with these institutions and any new such facilities issued from midnight on 29 September 2008, and will expire at midnight on 28 September 2010. The decision has been taken by Government to remove any uncertainty on the part of counterparties and customers of the six credit institutions. The Government's objective in taking this decisive action is to maintain financial stability for the benefit of depositors and businesses and is in the best interests of the Irish economy.

The Financial Regulator has advised that all the financial institutions in Ireland will continue to be subject to normal ongoing regulatory requirements. This very important initiative by the Government is designed to safeguard the Irish financial system and to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy caused by the recent turmoil in the international financial markets. As far as the question of ‘moral hazard' is concerned, it will be a priority for the Government to ensure that the highest regulatory standards and standards of corporate governance apply in all of the institutions concerned including in relation to lending practices to safeguard the interests of taxpayers against any risk of financial loss.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joan Burton

Question:

223 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the leases taken out by the Office of Public Works on behalf of Departments or by State agencies since the announcement of the decentralisation programme in December 2003; the length of each lease; the annual rents involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31981/08]

The leases taken out under the Decentralisation Programme since December 2003 are outlined on the tables:

Leases taken under the Decentralisation Programme since December 2003

Location

Department/Agency

Term of Lease

Rental Cost (p.a)

Ballina

Road Safety Authority

4 years 9 Months

151,641

Kilrush

Revenue Commissioners

25 years

85,050

Listowel

Revenue Commissioners

20 years

183,000

Carrick-on-Shannon

Social & Family Affairs

20 years

800,000

Loughrea

Road Safety Authority

20 years

139,250

Navan

D/JELR

20 years

440,000

Navan

Revenue & Property Regulator

20 Years and 1 Month

575,360

Athy

Revenue Commissioners

7 years

231,554

Carlow

D/ETE

20 years

369,436

Cavan Lease 1

D/CENR

4 years

46,970

Cavan Lease 2

D/CENR

4 years

25,928

Cavan Lease 3

D/CENR

4 years

29,920

Claremorris

OPW

4 years 9 Months

68,712

Clonakilty (Lease 1)

D/CENR

3 years 5 months

157,480

Clonakilty (Lease 2)

Sea Fisheries Protection Authority

2 years

118,910

Dundalk

Sustainable Energy Ireland

3 years

96,000

Furbo

D/CRAGA

4 years 6 months

24,382

Killarney

D/AST

2 years with an agreed 9 month extension

140,000

Tubbercurry Lease 1

D/CRAGA

3 years

86,755

Tubbercurry Lease 2

D/CRAGA

4 years

88,138

Limerick

D/FA

1 year and monthly thereafter

128,694

Newcastle West (Limerick)

Revenue Commissioners

5 years

68,771

Portarlington

Data Protection Commission

20 years

73,500

Portlaoise (Lease 3)

D/AFF

5 years

75,000

Portlaoise (Lease 2)

D/AFF

5 years

264,640

Portlaoise (Lease 1)

D/AFF

5 years

191,000

Roscrea

Equality Authority

20 years

108,000

Thurles (Lease 1)

Garda Fines Office

5 years

186,186

Thurles (Lease 2)

Garda Vetting Unit

5 years

66,254

Tipperary

D/JELR

5 years

103,957

Tipperary

D/JELR

5 years

108,200

Trim

OPW

3 years

67,752

Wexford

D/EHLG

3 years

75,000

Joan Burton

Question:

224 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the latest information available from the central applications facility in respect of applications from civil servants and other public servants located in Dublin who wish to transfer to new locations outside of Dublin under the Government’s decentralisation programme; the way this compares with the Government target of 10,300; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31982/08]

Joan Burton

Question:

227 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if an estimate has been undertaken of the number of civil or public servants who do not wish to relocate and who will be surplus to requirements as a result of their jobs being transferred to other locations under the Government’s decentralisation programme; the jobs that will be provided for these personnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31985/08]

Joan Burton

Question:

228 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the number of civil servants and other public servants who applied for relocation under the Government’s decentralisation programme and who subsequently withdrew their application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31986/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 224, 227 and 228 together.

The Central Applications Facility (CAF), which was launched in May 2004, remains open and continues to receive applications. Up to September 2008, over thirteen thousand civil and public servants have applied on the CAF to relocate under the Programme. Over 7,000 of these — or 53% — were Dublin based applicants. A total of 868 people have withdrawn their application since CAF was launched. Because of the nature of the programme and the timescales involved, individual circumstances are open to change and application status may change as a result.

Across the public service, recruitment and promotion practices generally are being managed in a way which facilitates the achievement of the Decentralisation Programme in an efficient manner. In that context agreement has been reached with the Civil Service unions representing general service staff that an assignment will not be made to a decentralising post until alternative arrangements have been identified for an existing post holder who does not wish to decentralise with it. The primary mechanism for placing Civil Servants who are in posts which are due to decentralise but wish to remain in Dublin is by way of bilateral transfer. As staff who have applied to decentralise continue to be transferred into decentralising organisations, the posts they vacate become available to those wishing to remain in Dublin.

Further arrangements have been initiated for general service grades. The objective of these Dublin Arrangements is to provide to the Public Appointments Service details of staff who wish to remain in Dublin at each grade level so that a proportion of vacancies arising in Dublin based posts may be filled by those staff. The arrangements seek to balance the need to facilitate the effective achievement of the decentralisation programme with the business needs of departments and the aspirations of staff to be placed in appropriate posts in Dublin. To achieve this, they allow for prioritisation at certain times of staff in organisations who have an immediate need to be placed in Dublin posts due to the timing of the relocation of their current department or office. It is intended that the arrangements will continue over the full transition phase of the Programme and my department is monitoring them in co-operation with Departments and the relevant unions to ensure that they are operating efficiently.

The Government decided on 8 July last that no further expenditure on the acquisition of accommodation for decentralisation should be sanctioned pending detailed consideration by the Government of two reports: one from the Decentralisation Implementation Group on the feasibility of phased moves by the State Agencies; and one from the Implementation Group of Secretaries General on the governmental and cross-Departmental issues arising from the need to provide facilities for Ministers, Ministers of State and officials while in Dublin on business. I expect that these reports will be presented to the Government for consideration over the coming weeks.

Joan Burton

Question:

225 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the number of civil servants and other public servants in his Department who had been decentralised from Dublin to other locations by the original deadline for the completion of the plan of December 2006; if in view of the response to the scheme to date, he has plans to review the scale or scope of the proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31983/08]

One hundred and ten staff (110) of my Department decentralised to Tullamore by end December 2006. Of those seventy-eight (78) were previously Dublin based staff, twenty-one (21) were based in other locations and eleven (11) were recruited for posts in Tullamore. With regard to the agencies under the aegis of my Department no staff had decentralised under the programme by end December 2006. The Government decided on 8 July last that no further expenditure on the acquisition of accommodation for decentralisation should be sanctioned pending detailed consideration by the Government of two reports: one from the Decentralisation Implementation Group on the feasibility of phased moves by the State Agencies; and one from the Implementation Group of Secretaries General on the governmental and cross-Departmental issues arising from the need to provide facilities for Minister, Ministers of State and officials while in Dublin on business. I expect to present these reports for consideration by the Government over the coming weeks.

Joan Burton

Question:

226 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the anticipated costs, in terms of acquiring and equipping premises and other related costs at the latest date for which figures are available arising from the original decentralisation programme announced in budget 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31984/08]

The total amount of expenditure to date under the Government's Decentralisation Programme is approximately €244m. This includes the cost of site/property acquisitions, fit-out works and rent paid to date. The costs to date have been offset by property disposals in Dublin. The estimated cost for the entire Decentralisation Programme is of the order of €900m.

Questions Nos. 227 and 228 answered with Question No. 224.

National Pensions Reserve Fund.

Joan Burton

Question:

229 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if the National Treasury Management Agency engages, through equity participations held under the National Pension Reserve Fund or other programmes, in the practice of lending or borrowing equities to or from short-sellers; if any of the investment managers responsible for administering NPRF equity holdings engage in this practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31987/08]

The NPRF's equity mandates do not allow for the taking of short positions in stocks. It has invested a total of $350 million in two highly specialised investment vehicles which may, as part of their investment strategy, take short positions in very restricted circumstances. The Fund operates a securities lending programme through its global custodian which generated income of €22.3 million in 2007. The NPRF Commission withdrew all Irish stocks from its securities lending programme early this year. More recently, it withdrew a number of international financial stocks from the programme.

Tax Collection.

Joan Burton

Question:

230 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the number and proportion of taxpayers for the years 2007 and to date in 2008 paying tax at the standard rate who are nominally liable to pay tax at the higher rate before tax credits and reliefs are taken into account. [31989/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the information requested by the Deputy is as follows in respect of the income tax years 2007 and 2008.

Tax year

Exempt (Standard rate liability fully covered by credits or Age Exemption Limits)

Marginal Band

Paying tax at the standard rate (including those whose liability at the higher rate is fully offset by credits)

Higher rate Liability not fully offset by credits

All cases

Number

%

Number

%

Number

%

Number

%

2007

900,100

38.2

18,400

0.8

980,200

41.6

458,400

19.5

2,357,200

2008

898,200

38.0

18,700

0.8

982,800

41.5

466,100

19.7

2,365,800

Because of the operation of tax credits, many taxpayers who are nominally liable at the higher rate of tax pay tax at no more than the standard rate of tax. This is due to their higher rate liability for tax being fully offset by the value of their personal credits, as explained in pages C23 to C28 of the 2007 Budget booklet. The above data allows for this effect. What matters to earners is the amount of their earnings that they keep in their pockets. For all income earners, whether single or married, the position is that their take home pay has increased very significantly in real terms over the last number of years.

Notes

The figures are estimates from the Revenue tax-forecasting model using actual data for the year 2005 adjusted as necessary for income and employment growth for the years in question. They are therefore provisional and likely to be revised.

It should be noted that a married couple who has elected or has been deemed to have elected for joint assessment is counted as one tax unit.

Figures in the table are rounded to the nearest hundred and any apparent discrepancies in totals are due to this.

Price Inflation.

Joan Burton

Question:

231 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the expected inflationary impact of increasing excise duty respectively by 10 cent per packet of 20 cigarettes, 10 cent per litre of petrol, 10 cent per pint of beer and 10 cent per bottle of wine; if he will increase excise duties in budget 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31991/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, based on data currently available, the inflationary impact of increasing excise duty by 10 cent per packet of 20 cigarettes, 10 cent per litre of petrol, 10 cent per pint of beer and 10 cent per bottle of wine respectively would be a 0.426% increase in the Consumer Price Index. It is assumed that the Deputy is referring to a 10 cent (VAT inclusive) price increase. A breakdown of the individual estimated additional receipts and CPI effect is as follows:

Additional Total Revenue (Full Year) and CPI effect of Increases of 10c (VAT Inclusive)

Revenue

C.P.I. Effect

€m

%

Cigarettes (per pack of 20)

21.2

0.041

Unleaded petrol (per litre)

209.6

0.245

Beer (per pint)

79.2

0.128

Wine (per 75cl bottle)

6.5

0.012

Additional Total Revenue (Full Year)

316.5

Total CPI effect

0.426

The Deputy will be aware that it is a long-standing practice of the Minister for Finance not to comment in advance of the Budget on any tax or expenditure matters that might be the subject of Budget decisions.

Departmental Staff.

Joan Burton

Question:

232 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the bonuses awarded by his Department to staff members for the years 2005, 2006 and 2007; the number and proportion of staff in receipt of bonuses for each of those years; the average bonus paid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32001/08]

The following are the details of bonus payments in my Department.

Following recommendations made by the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector, schemes of performance-related awards were introduced for the levels of Deputy Secretary and Assistant Secretary in the civil service, as well as for the Deputy Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner ranks in the Garda Síochána and the ranks of Brigadier General and Major General in the Defence Forces. The schemes of awards are based on performance by reference to demanding targets. The pool for performance awards is 10% of the pay bill for the group concerned. Within that overall limit individuals can receive payments of up to 20% of pay.

Decisions on awards are made by the Committee for Performance Awards (CPA), which includes a majority of private sector members. The main roles of the Committee are to monitor the application of the scheme of performance-related awards and to bring independent judgement to bear in approving objectives for the persons covered by the scheme and in approving recommendations for awards. Details of the procedures, the numbers covered by the schemes, the range of awards and the total amounts paid in Departments are outlined in the annual reports of the Committee (available on the website www.finance.gov.ie). The Committee does not identify the amount paid to individuals as this is regarded as personal information.

Year

Total paid

No.

Average

2005

115,250

14

8,232

2006

169,000

13

13,000

2007

177,000

13

13,615

Principals and Assistant Principals have a separate scheme which arises as a result of the restructuring agreement for these grades under the Programme for Competitiveness and Work. It provides that 1% of payroll for these grades be made available in the form of Special Service Payments, for which staff are invited to apply, based on the following criteria:

— contribution by the individual to the work of the Department in his/her job;

— special demands of the job;

— experience brought to the job.

Year

Total paid

No.

Average

2005

38,610

21

1,839

2006

38,636

20

1,932

2007

54,175

21

2,580

In 1993, the then Minister for Finance sanctioned expenditure in respect of Merit Awards to individual staff members or groups of staff below Assistant Secretary level by way of recognition for exceptional performance of duty which was based on 0.1% of the salary allocation (as published in the Revised Estimates) in any one calendar year. This percentage was revised to 0.2% in 1998. An independent committee administers the Merit Awards scheme up to AO/HEO level; an Assistant Secretary group administers the Awards at Assistant Principal and Principal level. Nominees for the annual Merit Awards must, during the year, have demonstrated one or more of the following criteria:

— given an exceptional performance in some aspect of his/her work;

— demonstrated unusual commitment and dedication to some aspect of his/her work;

— made a notable contribution to the successful achievement of the section's targets.

Year

Total paid

Number of Individual awards

Number of Group awards

Average Individual

Average Group

2005

54,023

157

19

281

522

2006

60,537

211

13

234

862

2007

63,690

193

11

280

845

Ex-gratia payments are made in a number of situations which are outside the remit of the schemes already mentioned.

Year

Total paid

No.

Average

2005

8,250

6

1,375

2006

14,950

6

2,492

2007

24,677

10

2,468

Overall, 198 people (plus 19 groups) received bonus payments in 2005 — authorised staff numbers in the Department at end 2005 were 614.50; 250 people (plus 13 groups) received bonus payments in 2006 — staff numbers in the Department at end 2006 were 644.50; 237 people (plus 11 groups) received bonus payments in 2007 — staff numbers in the Department at end 2007 were 644.50.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joan Burton

Question:

233 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he will list in regard to his Department and State agencies or bodies operating under the aegis of his Department, the original proposal announced in December 2003 in regard to decentralisation; the position in regard to each such proposed decentralisation; the number which have been completed; the number of persons who have been relocated; the number and proportion who have been relocated from Dublin or from other locations; the number of projects that have to be completed; the target date for completion in each case; the number of proposed projects that will not proceed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32016/08]

The following tables list the information requested by the Deputy in respect of my Department and agencies under the aegis of my Department:

Department of Finance

Location

Tullamore

Number of Posts

130

Current Position

Opened July 2006

Number of persons relocated

127

Number and percentage of those relocated who were originally in Dublin

89 (70%)

Number and percentage of those relocated who were originally in other locations

38 (30%) (includes 10 new recruits and 4 non-Central Applications Facility (non-CAF) assignments)

Project Status

Complete

Target Date for completion

N/A

Location

Kildare

Number of Posts

Circa 30

Current Position

There are 26 staff assigned for decentralisation to Kildare.

Number of persons relocated

0

Number and percentage of those relocated who were originally in Dublin

N/A

Number and percentage of those relocated who were originally in other locations

N/A

Project Status

See current position

Target Date for completion

Awaiting Government decision re announcement of 8 July 2008

Office of the Revenue Commissioners

Location

Kilrush

Number of Posts

50

Current Position

Opened July 2007

Number of persons relocated

57

Number and percentage of those relocated who were originally in Dublin

5 (8%)

Number and percentage of those relocated who were originally in other locations

52 (92%) (included 2 new recruits)

Project Status

Complete

Target Date for completion

N/A

Location

Listowel

Number of Posts

50

Current Position

Opened August 2007

Number of persons relocated

52

Number and percentage of those relocated who were originally in Dublin

8 (15%)

Number and percentage of those relocated who were originally in other locations

44 (85%) (includes 8 Non CAF assignments, 1 promotion and 7 new recruits)

Project Status

Complete

Target Date for completion

N/A

Location

Newcastle West

Number of Posts

50

Current Position

Temporary Office accommodation — Estuary House, Limerick

Number of persons relocated

48

Number and percentage of those relocated who were originally in Dublin

2 (4%)

Number and percentage of those relocated who were originally in other locations

46 (96%)

Project Status

To be completed by end 2008

Target Date for completion

End 2008

Location

Navan* (See note hereunder)

Number of Posts

100

Current Position

Opened January 2008

Number of persons relocated

103

Number and percentage of those relocated who were originally in Dublin

81 (83%)

Number and percentage of those relocated who were originally in other locations

22 (17%) (includes 1 new recruit, 1 non CAF assignee and 9 on transfer from the local VRO)

Project Status

Complete

Target Date for completion

N/A

*In October 2006, the Government approved Revenue's proposal to relocate 100 additional posts from Dublin to Navan, Co. Meath under the Decentralisation Programme.

Location

Athy

Number of Posts

250

Current Position

Advance accommodation opened December 2007

Number of persons relocated

73

Number and percentage of those relocated who were originally in Dublin

64 (87%)

Number and percentage of those relocated who were originally in other locations

9 (13%) (includes 2 promotions)

Project Status

N/A

Target Date for completion

Awaiting Government decision re announcement of 8 July 2008

Location

Kildare

Number of Posts

380

Current Position

Awaiting Government decision re announcement of 8 July 2008

Number of persons relocated

N/A

Number and percentage of those relocated who were originally in Dublin

N/A

Number and percentage of those relocated who were originally in other locations

N/A

Project Status

N/A

Target Date for completion

See current position

Office of Public Works

Location

Trim

Number of Posts

333

Current Position

Advance office in place since February 2008. Permanent building due for completion early 2009.

Number of persons relocated

31

Number and percentage of those relocated who were originally in Dublin

31 (100%)

Number and percentage of those relocated who were originally in other locations

0

Project Status — Shell & Core

On site

Target date for completion

November 2008

Project Status — Fit-out

Awaiting commencement. Awaiting Government decision re announcement of 8 July 2008.

Target Date for completion

Six months from placing of contract.

Location

Claremorris

Number of Posts

142

Current Position

Advance office in place since September 2007

Number of persons relocated

29

Number and percentage of those relocated who were originally in Dublin

5 (17%)

Number and percentage of those relocated who were originally in other locations

24 (83%)

Project Status

Tender documents for permanent accommodation complete.

Target Date for completion

Awaiting Government decision re announcement of 8 July 2008.

Location

Kanturk

Number of Posts

88

Current Position

Awaiting commencement

Number of persons relocated

0

Number and percentage of those relocated who were originally in Dublin

N/A

Number and percentage of those relocated who were originally in other locations

N/A

Project Status

As above

Target Date for completion

Awaiting Government decision re announcement of 8 July 2008.

Public Appointments Service and the Valuation Office

Location

Youghal

Number of Posts

200 (100 posts from each organisation)

Current Position

Brief of Public Appointments Service accommodation requirements under consideration.

Number of persons relocated

0

Number and percentage of those relocated who were originally in Dublin

N/A

Number and percentage of those relocated who were originally in other locations

N/A

Project Status

As above

Target Date for completion

Awaiting Government decision re announcement of 8 July 2008.

The Government decided on 8th July last that no further expenditure on the acquisition of accommodation for decentralisation should be sanctioned pending detailed consideration by the Government of two reports: one from the Decentralisation Implementation Group on the feasibility of phased moves by the State Agencies; and one from the Implementation Group of Secretaries General on the governmental and cross-Departmental issues arising from the need to provide facilities for Ministers, Ministers of State and officials while in Dublin on business. I expect to present these reports for consideration by the Government over the coming weeks.

Compulsory Purchase Orders.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

234 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance the State sponsored bodies, quangos and other agencies within the remit of his Department that have the power to issue compulsory purchase orders; the number of CPOs that have been initiated by such agencies for the years 2005 to date in 2008; the purpose of such CPOs; the outcome in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32031/08]

There are no State sponsored bodies or other agencies for which I have responsibility that have the power to issue compulsory purchase orders.

Departmental Properties.

Enda Kenny

Question:

235 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the facilities at a building (details supplied) in County Mayo for persons on the live register having to sign on in bad weather conditions and of the numerous instances of applicants having to stand in the rain for considerable periods in the recent past; if he has received reports of this situation; his proposals to rectify the situation in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32102/08]

Due to a recent increase in the number of persons on the live register the waiting area at Davitt House, Castlebar is now considered to be inadequate. Internal layouts are being revised, to provide an increased number of serving hatches as well as an increase in the capacity of the public waiting area. External shelter to the entrance area will also be provided. Tender documents for this work are being prepared. Proceeding with this work will depend on the availability of adequate funding.

Tax Collection.

Jack Wall

Question:

236 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) will be furnished with a P21 statement for 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32188/08]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a PAYE Balancing Statement form P21 for the year 2007 will issue shortly to the person.

Jack Wall

Question:

237 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) will be furnished with a P21 statement for 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32189/08]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a PAYE Balancing Statement form P21 for the year 2007 will issue shortly to the person.

Tax Code.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

238 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare qualifies for a home carer’s tax credit in respect of their spouse; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32214/08]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a tax credit certificate including home carers credit issued to the person on 2 July 2008.

Harbours and Piers.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

239 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Finance his plans to establish a border inspection post at Killybegs Harbour, County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32344/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that one officer is assigned full time to Killybegs Port and is accommodated in Killybegs Fisheries Harbour Centre. The Revenue Customs Mobile Enforcement Service also covers Killybegs Port as part of their ongoing patrols. Customs officers have assessed the risk at Killybegs and other ports or landing places over a number of years and this assessment is continually updated. Attendance by Customs officers is selective and targeted and is based on analysis and evaluation of national and international seizure trends, traffic frequency, routes and other risk indicators. Attendance can also be as a result of specific intelligence.

Patrols of the ports are kept under constant review to take account of available intelligence and emerging smuggling trends. As well as land-based Customs staff, Revenue has a sea-going vessel, the Customs Cutter, which patrols the coastline. The Revenue Commissioners have placed an order for a second cutter with a delivery date of September 2009 and this vessel will be of further benefit in the implementation of maritime border controls. Where necessary, Revenue can call on assistance from the Naval Service and the Air Corps. There are no plans to extend the current level of border inspection at Killybegs Port.

Tax Collection.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

240 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance the number of cases where tenants’ tax credits have been reduced with regard to the requirement for tenants to deduct 20% of the gross payable directly to their landlord’s bank account when their landlord is non-resident; the number of these cases that have been appealed to the Revenue Commissioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32353/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that where they are notified by a PAYE taxpayer that s/he has paid rent to a non-resident landlord, a reduction in tax credits is automatically created in order to collect the tax that has/should have been withheld by the tenant. This meets the tenant's liability in relation to the tax withheld. The number of cases where tenants' tax credits have been reduced to collect the tax that has/should have been withheld by the tenant are as follows:

Year

No.

2005

106

2006

186

2007

193

As a reduction in credits only arises where the tenant notifies Revenue that s/he has paid rent to a non-resident landlord, and the tenant has already withheld the tax amount, appeals are not a feature.

Departmental Properties.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

241 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works have taken charge of Johnstown Castle, County Wexford; if not, the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32367/08]

Teagasc offered the Office of Public Works the opportunity of taking over the running and management of Johnstown Castle several years ago. OPW explained to Teagasc at that time that they would be happy to do so, provided restrictive covenants were removed from the legal arrangements which governed the gift of the property to the State. Teagasc undertook to pursue this matter with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Teagasc have not so far been able to offer the property to the OPW with the restrictions removed.

National Pensions Reserve Fund.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

242 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the amount that would be saved were he not to pay into the National Pensions Reserve Fund in 2009. [32392/08]

The National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF) Act 2000 requires the Government to make a contribution of 1% of GNP to the NPRF each year. The 2008 Budget provision is for €1,690 million. The same Budget projected a 2009 GNP figure of €178.85 billion, 1% of which would be €1,789 million approximately. A revised estimate for GNP in 2009 will be published with Budget 2009. The contributions to the Fund, which do not count as expenditure for the purposes of calculating the General Government Balance, are invested on a long-term basis in order to meet as much as possible of the cost to the Exchequer of social welfare and public service pensions to be paid from 2025 until at least 2055.

Data Protection.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

243 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Finance the policies in place to secure portable electronic data devices in his Department; if those policies have been published; if so, the locations where they can be viewed; if a system of whole disk encryption has been rolled out to all laptops in his Department; the date by which he expects a satisfactory security policy on portable electronic data devices to have been implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32405/08]

My Department has a risk-based security policy for the operation of the Department's computer systems. The policy document is updated as required to cope with new security threats, to specify the general needs of new systems categories, to reflect new thinking on architectures, to take on new possibilities etc. Examples of security policy updates currently being implemented are encryption of portable laptop and memory stick electronic data devices and the facility to immediately erase all corporate emails and data from mobile email devices should such a device be reported lost or stolen. The policy document has not been published externally. My Department is currently rolling out file-level encryption to all laptops.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

244 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Finance the number of Department-owned computer desktops or laptops or other data devices, such as blackberries and memory keys, reported lost, missing or stolen from his Department to date in 2008; the number of same later recovered or found; the number still missing; if sensitive or private data was compromised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32420/08]

Following is the information requested by the Deputy:

Year

Device Type

Reported lost/ missing/stolen

Recovered

2008

USB Memory Stick

1

0

To date in 2008, one memory stick has been reported stolen and has not been recovered. I understand that no sensitive or private data was compromised with the loss of this device.

Departmental Properties.

Tom Hayes

Question:

245 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Finance when the Office of Public Works will launch the conservation plan in respect of Athassel Abbey in south Tipperary. [32488/08]

The conservation plan for Athassel Abbey is currently at the design and print stage. As the Minister with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works, I will be launching the conservation plan in the local area later this year.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Michael Ring

Question:

246 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if a contract (details supplied) was extended; the cost of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31878/08]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has responsibility for administering the health repayment scheme in conjunction with the appointed scheme administrator KPMG/McCann Fitzgerald. The HSE has informed my Department that it exercised its right under the contract to require the Scheme Administrator to complete the claims and services that were outstanding beyond their contract date. It is not possible at this stage to estimate exactly the cost of the completion of the work in progress but the contract provides that completion of outstanding claims and services is on the same terms as originally tendered.

Michael Ring

Question:

247 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of claimants pursuant to an Act (details supplied) that have received payment on their claims. [31879/08]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has responsibility for administering the health repayment scheme in conjunction with the appointed scheme administrator KPMG/McCann Fitzgerald. The HSE has informed my Department that since the commencement of the scheme 12,756 claimants have received payments under the Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006. The value of these repayments amounts to €260m. Offers can only be paid after the statutory 28 day period has elapsed. In addition, the Scheme Administrator must await the return of a completed Acceptance Form from each claimant before a payment can be processed.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

248 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people in an area (details supplied) who have to avail of dental services in alternative locations due to the lack of a dentist. [31883/08]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

249 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a response has not issued to date from her Department to a previous parliamentary question (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31897/08]

A response to the Parliamentary Question referred to has issued to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

250 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if there is a grant system or funding available to groups (details supplied) to carry out research and technology improvements relating to the care of senior citizens; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32194/08]

Responsibility for funding a range of agencies dealing with services for older people rests with the Health Service Executive. Applications for funding for the purposes described by the Deputy would, in the first instance, be a matter for consideration by the Executive. In addition, the Office for Older People intends to progress the Strategy on Positive Ageing. Research needs and how to promote technological initiatives in relation to older people in the future are among the issues to be considered in this context.

Health Service Allowances.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

251 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will expedite a decision on an application for domiciliary care allowance by a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32432/08]

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

Sean Sherlock

Question:

252 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will expedite a decision on an application for domiciliary care allowance by a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32433/08]

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

Genetically Modified Organisms.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

253 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the reports, in regard to genetically modified animals in the United States of America, which suggest that foods produced from some bioengineered animals will not have to be labelled; if there is a requirement that all foods imported into Ireland from the United States must be labelled to indicate all ingredients including genetically modified ingredients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32441/08]

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) is the competent authority in Ireland for the enforcement of EU legislation regarding food derived from Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) — generally referred to as GM food. The labelling of GM food within the EU is governed specifically by the GM Food and Feed Regulations (EC Regulations 1829/2003). These regulations require that all food and feed imported into the single market, including Ireland, must comply with specific labelling rules.

Specific GM labelling is required where more than 0.9% of a food or ingredient is produced from, or contains a GMO, and this requirement is not dependent on the presence of GM DNA or protein. Where the GM content of a food or ingredient is no more than 0.9%, specific GM labelling is not required provided operators can demonstrate that they have taken steps to avoid the presence of GM ingredients and therefore its presence is adventitious or technically unavoidable. Genetically modified food and feed is only authorised for placing on the Community market after a scientific evaluation under the responsibility of the European Food Safety Authority, of any risks which they present for human and animal health and, as the case may be, for the environment. This scientific evaluation is followed by a risk management decision by the Community, under a regulatory procedure ensuring close cooperation between the Commission and the Member States.

In addition GM Food and Feed must meet the requirements of the General Labelling Directive (2000/13/EC) which stipulates that labelling must not mislead the consumer as to the characteristics of the foodstuff and, in particular, as to its nature, identity, properties, composition, method of production and manufacturing. Foods imported into Ireland from the USA must therefore be labelled in compliance with the aforementioned EU legislation. I have also been advised by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) that in the United States GM animals are only in research facilities and consequently labelling is not an issue as none are yet authorised for food production. The FSAI routinely surveys the food supply in Ireland to ensure that only EU-authorised and appropriately labelled GM food ingredients are placed on the market. In their recent survey, published in February 2008, no breaches of GM food legislation were found.

Question No. 254 with Question No. 118.
Question No. 255 with Question No. 123.

Irish Blood Transfusion Service.

James Reilly

Question:

256 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the blood banks here which have not met the ISO standards which the Irish Medicines Board has set as a requirement to operate in the future; the blood banks which have met the ISO standards; the implications if the blood banks do not meet the standards set by the Irish Medicines Board by 8 November 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31900/08]

Under the European Communities (Quality and Safety of Blood and Blood Components) Regulations, 2005 (S.I. No. 360 of 2005) hospital blood banks are required to comply with certain good practice requirements and to obtain accreditation to ISO 15189 by the 8th November 2008. The Irish Medicines Board (IMB) is responsible for monitoring compliance with the legislation. The Irish Medicines Board has informed me that all hospital blood banks have engaged in the ISO 15189 accreditation process. At this time a number of blood banks have been accredited or have successfully completed the evaluation process. For others, the accreditation process is ongoing. Obtaining accreditation to the ISO 15189 standard is one aspect of the requirements for compliance with the Regulations.

In parallel with the accreditation process, the IMB monitors blood bank activities on a regular basis. Based on a review of annual reports received from all hospital blood banks for 2006 and 2007, the IMB has carried out inspections at a number of blood banks during 2007 and 2008 and, where necessary, has sought the implementation of corrective actions. The IMB has confirmed that considerable progress towards full compliance has been observed during the majority of inspections that have been carried out in 2008 and it continues to follow up closely with those that have outstanding issues. The IMB has informed me that compliance of all blood banks with the Regulations is being kept under regular review and, if necessary appropriate action will be taken.

Clinical Indemnity Scheme.

James Reilly

Question:

257 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will report on the issue of medical negligence insurance for medical practitioners; if such insurance is obligatory; if the Medical Council can as of right demand evidence that such insurance is in place before a doctor is given a licence to practise; if she will confirm that there is no loophole in regulations that would allow medical practitioners to practise without professional medical negligence insurance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31901/08]

Professional indemnity insurance is not a requirement for registration with the Medical Council. However, section 4.15 (Professional Indemnity) of the Medical Council's publication "A Guide to Ethical Conduct and Behaviour" states: "Doctors must ensure that they have adequate professional indemnity for the work they perform". Consultants, NCHDs, public health doctors and other clinical staff in the HSE and other agencies covered by the Clinical Indemnity Scheme (CIS) are provided with professional indemnity cover in respect of all work undertaken as part of their normal duties. It is important to stress that the CIS does not provide cover to individuals per se. The cover is provided to the agencies scheduled in the two Orders made under the National Treasury Management Agency (Amendment) Act 2000. Doctors are covered by virtue of being employees of these agencies. While consultants are covered for the treatment of private patients in public hospitals they are not covered for private practice outside the public hospitals and need to organise professional indemnity cover for this work.

Departmental Expenditure.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

258 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a company (details supplied) was chosen to undertake a study of Health Service Executive integration at a cost of €720,000 when there are a number of suitably qualified professionals in Irish universities and public agencies available for this type of work for a fraction of the cost. [31913/08]

The Health Service 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.

Medicinal Products.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

259 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the alternatives to methadone available to recovering drug users in this country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31922/08]

Catherine Byrne

Question:

260 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the research and pilot studies carried out in this country on the use of the drug buprenorphine as an alternative to methadone; if such research has indicated the potential for abuse of the substitute drug; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31923/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 259 and 260 together.

Buprenorphine (trade name Subutex) is an alternative to methadone for the treatment of people who are opiate dependent. The National Advisory Committee on Drugs commissioned research in 2002 into the use of buprenorphine which showed that it can be as effective as methadone for the treatment of opiate addiction and that it has a better safety profile. Buprenorphine is especially suitable for particular client groups such as young people and those who wish to undergo detoxification or withdraw from a methadone maintenance programme to become opiate-free but there is some risk of diversion. Buprenorphine has been available for several years in specialist drug treatment clinics, where its prescription and dispensing are tightly controlled.

Another alternative to methadone is Buprenorphine and Naloxone combined (trade name Suboxone). Buprenorphine/Naloxone has a better safety profile than methadone and it has a lower risk of diversion than Buprenorphine only. Its use is currently confined to certain specialist drug treatment clinics but a feasibility study of the prescribing and dispensing of Buprenorphine/Naloxone in specialist drug treatment clinics and in a selected number of community settings (level II trained GPs and community pharmacies) is due to commence shortly. Following an evaluation of this study, a decision will be made on whether to extend the availability of Buprenorphine/Naloxone to the wider community.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

261 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the difference in the cost of treating a patient with methadone and treating a patient with buprenorphine; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31924/08]

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.

Voluntary Sector Funding.

Tony Gregory

Question:

262 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the issues raised in correspondence (details supplied); if she will have this reviewed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31926/08]

Under the Health Act 2004, responsibility for the funding of voluntary organisations which are involved in the provision of health and personal social services rests with the Health Service Executive. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the specific matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Michael Ring

Question:

263 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if an appeal will be opened in respect of a claim made under the health repayment scheme in view of the fact that the patient was in a public bed as confirmed by the declaration submitted from his or her general practitioner; and when payment will issue to the claimant in this case. [31932/08]

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

Denis Naughten

Question:

264 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in processing appeals under the nursing home repayment scheme; the number of appeals officers processing applications; the average time it takes to process an appeal; if interest is granted on awards for the period from the date of receipt of the appeal application until the date of the decision of the appeals officer; the costs involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31934/08]

The Health Repayment Scheme Appeals Office is an independent office established to provide an appeals service to those who wish to appeal the decision of the Scheme Administrator under the Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006. Up to 26 September 2008 the Health Repayment Scheme Appeals Office has received 4,158 completed appeal forms. Two Appeals Officers have been appointed to consider appeals.

The Appeals Office has advised my Department that the average waiting time for an appeal to be decided on is 91 days. The Appeals Officers must investigate each appeal independently, these investigations can require additional reviews by the Health Service Executive and the Scheme Administrator and certain appeals present a high level of complexity. In addition a very high percentage of appellants have requested an Oral Hearing. Up to 26 September 2008 the Appeals Officers have carefully and thoroughly considered and assessed 2,158 appeals and have issued decisions to each of these appellants. On amount appeals where the decision of the Appeals Officer varies with that of the Scheme Administrator the Consumer Price Index element is updated to the date of the revised offer.

Question No. 265 answered with Question No. 127.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Joe Carey

Question:

266 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide a breakdown of the €1,359,996 professional costs contained in the non-pay revenue costs section of the accounts published in the 2006-2007 annual BreastCheck report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31954/08]

The Deputy's specific question in relation to a breakdown of professional costs by BreastCheck is the responsibility of the National Cancer Screening Service. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Chief Executive Officer of the Service to respond directly to the Deputy in relation to the matters raised.

Question No. 267 answered with Question No. 135.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

268 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support a matter concerning a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [31957/08]

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

Medical Cards.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

269 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of full medical cards issued for the years 2004 to 2008 inclusive; if she will provide the findings in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31958/08]

Details of the numbers of medical card holders are provided to my Department each month by the Health Service Executive. The figures are provided on a net basis showing the balance after new cards have been issued and other cards, as appropriate, have been deleted from the Executive's database, e.g. following a review of a person's circumstances. The following table shows the number of persons with a medical card on the dates requested by the Deputy:

Year

Number of Medical Card holders

31st December 2004

1,145,083

31st December 2005

1,155,727

31st December 2006

1,221,695

31st December 2007

1,276,178

31st August 2008

1,324,477

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

270 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of general practitioner cards issued for the years 2005 to date in 2008; if she will provide the findings in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31959/08]

Details of the numbers of GP visit card holders are provided to my Department each month by the Health Service Executive. The figures are provided on a net basis showing the balance after new cards have been issued and other cards, as appropriate, have been deleted from the Executive's database, e.g. following a review of a person's circumstances. The table below shows the number of persons with a GP visit card on the dates requested by the Deputy:

Year

Number of GP Visit Card holders

31st December 2005

5,080

31st December 2006

51,760

31st December 2007

75,589

31st August 2008

82,198

Róisín Shortall

Question:

271 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the details of the agreement regarding the fee per patient payable to medical practitioners in respect of medical card patients with a breakdown for each category of medical card holder. [31963/08]

Doctors holding contracts under the General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme with the Health Service Executive (HSE) are remunerated on the basis of the composition of their patient panel and the annual capitation rates payable reflect the age, gender and location of the patient.

A detailed list of the current rates payable is set out in tabular form below:

Age

Up to 3 Miles

3-5 Miles

5-7 Miles

7-10 Miles

Over 10 Miles

Male

Female

Male

Female

Male

Female

Male

Female

Male

Female

up to 4 years

83.53

81.57

87.76

85.83

94.01

92.11

100.19

98.30

107.85

105.94

5-15

50.12

50.64

51.87

52.39

54.45

55.03

56.95

57.49

60.09

60.58

16-44

62.89

100.38

65.17

102.65

68.54

106.00

71.84

108.76

75.89

113.38

45-64

121.74

133.38

127.20

138.85

135.26

146.89

143.20

154.87

153.09

164.70

65-69

128.04

142.39

143.22

157.59

165.77

180.12

187.89

202.26

215.42

229.81

70 and over

139.59

154.38

155.22

170.06

178.52

193.33

201.37

216.20

229.79

244.64

A capitation rate of €640 per annum is paid to GPs for the provision of service under the GMS contract for each person who qualifies for a medical card for the first time on the basis of being aged 70 years and over in the community. In respect of medical card holders, aged 70 years and over, who are resident in a private nursing home (approved by the HSE) for any continuous period of five weeks, the GP is paid a capitation rate of €927 per annum per card holder.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

272 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons who are on the waiting lists to see consultants at Beaumont Hospital; the length of time each of the patients have been on the waiting list; the estimated time each will be on the list before seeing a consultant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31966/08]

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

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

273 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason it took the Health Service Executive from 4 March 2008 to 22 September 2008 to respond to a parliamentary question (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31969/08]

The Department requested that the Health Service Executive contact the Deputy directly on this matter. I am informed by the Executive that an explanation together with an apology issued to the Deputy on 26th September.

Departmental Staff.

Joan Burton

Question:

274 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children the bonuses awarded by her Department to staff members for the years 2005, 2006 and 2007; the number and proportion of staff in receipt of bonuses for each of those years; the average bonus paid; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32003/08]

Performance awards are made by my Department under a Performance Award Scheme (Deputy and Assistant Secretaries and equivalent grades) and in respect of individual/group Exceptional Performance (Principal Officers, PO equivalent and lower grades) including a staff suggestion scheme. The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the table:

2005

Award

Total

No. of People

% Eligible Staff

Average Award

Performance Award

96,000

7

100%

13,714.29

Exceptional Performance (Individual)

4,040

4

0.64%

1,010.00

Exceptional Performance (Group)

8,000

7 Groups

Not Applicable

1,143.00

EU Presidency Bonus Scheme

7,100

2

Not Applicable

3,550.00

2006

Award

Sum

No. of People

% Eligible Staff

Average Award

Performance Award

100,000

8

100%

12,500

Exceptional Performance (Individual)

4,000

8

1.31%

500

Exceptional Performance (Group)

2,100

3 groups

Not Applicable

700

2007

Award

Sum

No. of People

% Eligible Staff

Average Award

Performance Award

123,000

8

100%

15,375

The Exceptional Performance Schemes are currently under review and no payments were made in 2007.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joan Burton

Question:

275 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will list in regard to her Department and State agencies or bodies operating under the aegis of her Department, the original proposal announced in December 2003 in regard to decentralisation; the position in regard to each such proposed decentralisation; the number which have been completed; the number of persons who have been relocated; the number and proportion who have been relocated from Dublin or from other locations; the number of projects that have to be completed; the target date for completion in each case; the number of proposed projects that will not proceed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32018/08]

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

With regard to the Health Sector, the original Government announcement stated that the Programme included 500 health sector staff but, in view of the position at that time in relation to the health reform programme, the Government had decided not to make any decisions about exactly what staff should be decentralised and to what locations these jobs should be assigned. However, the announcement did go on to say that the Government had decided that the then new Health Service Executive and the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) would be located outside Dublin. As regards the HSE, the delivery of health and personal social services already takes place on a decentralised basis, with personnel and facilities in locations spread across the entire country. HIQA was formally established in May 2007 and its headquarters are located in Cork. HIQA has informed my Department that there are currently a total of 35 (permanent and contract) staff working in its Cork office.

Compulsory Purchase Orders.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

276 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the State sponsored bodies, quangos and other agencies within the remit of her Department that have the power to issue compulsory purchase orders; the number of CPOs that have been initiated by such agencies for the years 2005 to date in 2008; the purpose of such CPOs; the outcome in each case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32033/08]

None of the agencies directly funded by my Department have powers to issue compulsory purchase orders. The Health Service Executive have powers to issue compulsory purchase orders and have confirmed that no such orders have been initiated between January 2005 and September 2008.

General Medical Services Scheme.

Michael Ring

Question:

277 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the annual capitation fee for each eligible person paid to doctors under the GMS contract; the schedule of GMS fees and the fee for each doctor patient contract under the fee per item of service agreement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32064/08]

Doctors holding capitation contracts under the General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme with the Health Service Executive (HSE) are remunerated on the basis of the composition of their patient panel and the annual capitation rates payable reflect the age, gender and location of the patient.

A detailed list of the current rates payable is set out in tabular form:

Age

Up to 3 Miles

3-5 Miles

5-7 Miles

7-10 Miles

Over 10 Miles

Male

Female

Male

Female

Male

Female

Male

Female

Male

Female

up to 4 years

83.53

81.57

87.76

85.83

94.01

92.11

100.19

98.30

107.85

105.94

5-15

50.12

50.64

51.87

52.39

54.45

55.03

56.95

57.49

60.09

60.58

16-44

62.89

100.38

65.17

102.65

68.54

106.00

71.84

108.76

75.89

113.38

45-64

121.74

133.38

127.20

138.85

135.26

146.89

143.20

154.87

153.09

164.70

65-69

128.04

142.39

143.22

157.59

165.77

180.12

187.89

202.26

215.42

229.81

70 and over

139.59

154.38

155.22

170.06

178.52

193.33

201.37

216.20

229.79

244.64

A capitation rate of €640 per annum is paid to GPs for the provision of service under the GMS contract for each person who qualifies for a medical card for the first time on the basis of being aged 70 years and over in the community. In respect of medical card holders, aged 70 years and over, who are resident in a private nursing home (approved by the HSE) for any continuous period of five weeks, the GP is paid a capitation rate of €927 per annum per card holder.

The other information sought by the Deputy is not provided by the Health Service Executive to my Department as a matter of routine. Accordingly, 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.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

278 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will receive payment from the nursing payment fund in respect of his or her late spouse; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32082/08]

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

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

279 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9. [32086/08]

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.

Mental Health Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

280 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the submission on the statutory registration of counsellors and psychotherapists in Ireland completed by Psychological Therapies Forum. [32100/08]

Dan Neville

Question:

341 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the setting up of the Health and Social Care Professions Council and of registration boards for certain designated health and social care professions; and the designated professions under section 4 of the Health and Social Care Professional Act 2005 for which established boards have been set up in view of the fact that this Act was signed into law on 30 November 2005. [32689/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 280 and 341 together.

As the Deputy may be aware, the Health and Social Care Professionals Act was passed by the Oireachtas in 2005. This Act provides for the establishment of a system of statutory registration for 12 health and social care professionals as follows:

Clinical Biochemists;

Dieticians;

Medical Scientists;

Occupational Therapists;

Orthoptists;

Physiotherapists;

Podiatrists;

Psychologists;

Radiographers;

Social Care Workers;

Social Workers, and;

Speech and Language Therapists.

The system of statutory registration will apply to the twelve professions regardless of whether they work in the public or private sector or are self-employed and is the first time that fitness to practice procedures will be put in place for these professionals on a statutory basis. The structure of the system of statutory registration will comprise a registration board for each of the professions to be registered, a Health and Social Care Professionals Council with overall responsibility for the regulatory system and a committee structure to deal with disciplinary matters.

The first step in the implementation of the system was the establishment of the Health and Social Care Professionals Council, which was launched in March last year. The Council has now recruited a Chief Executive Officer in May of this year and is currently putting in place a suitable organisational structure. The Council must establish a registration board for each of the twelve professions currently covered by the Act and will examine which professions, of the designated twelve, are most suitable for early registration. The Council has yet to advise the Department of the initial two professions selected for registration but it is hoped that the first two registration boards will be established by Spring 2009.

While the proposed system of statutory registration applies, in the first instance to twelve health and social care professions, the legislation provides for the inclusion of, on the basis of specific criteria, additional health and social care professions in the regulatory system over time, as appropriate. The Health and Social Care Professionals Council's priority is to put in place the regulatory structures for the 12 designated professions. Within this context, I welcome the recent submission by the Psychological Therapies Forum as a useful aid to assist in future discussions and decision-making regarding the inclusion of further health and social care professions, as appropriate, within Statutory Registration.

Proposed Legislation.

Michael Creed

Question:

281 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children her proposals to legislate for the use of nanotechnology in the food and feed industries; the regulations which exist governing this technology; the proposals at EU level to address this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32122/08]

Nanotechnology is a new and rapidly developing area of science which involves using minuscule (nano) particles (particles which are 1,000 times smaller then the diameter of a fine human hair), to develop new products or new variations of existing products with novel characteristics and functionalities. In September 2008, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland published a report from its Scientific Committee entitled "The Relevance for Food Safety of Applications of Nanotechnology in the Food and Feed Industries". This report provides an in-depth background on nanotechnology and its many current and potential applications along with associated benefits and possible risks.

The technology is expected to provide significant benefit to industry and consumers alike but because there are still some information gaps a certain amount of caution is prudent at this time, particularly in its application to food and feed production. The FSAI report concludes with a set of recommendations that include a call for the development of harmonised EU regulatory controls and for foods containing man-made nano particles to be labelled so that consumers are informed. There are currently fewer than 70 patented nanotechnological products in Ireland and most of these relate to packaging of food, rather than food or feed.

The FSAI considers existing EU legislation to be sufficiently wide-ranging to govern the use of nanotechnology in food production with Regulation EC No. 178/2002 requiring that food placed on the market be safe. The novel food Regulation, EC No. 258/97 controls food ingredients that have been produced by a new production process, including nanotechnology, and this legislation is currently being revised with nanotechnology among other new technologies in mind. Similarly, for food additives and food contact materials, current legislation is seen to be able to cope with the advent of nanotechnological applications. At EU and National level, the European Food Safety Authority and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland will maintain a watching brief on developments in the science and application of the technology as well as regulatory progress at EU and international level.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

282 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of day care facilities within the Kildare area of the Health Service Executive; her plans to increase the number; if the request of an association (details supplied) to increase social inclusion has been taken into account when determining the needs of new centres; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32190/08]

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.

Jack Wall

Question:

283 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has received an application for the provision of a help line for carers; the result of such an application; if she has plans to provide such a help line; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32191/08]

No application relating to such a proposal has been received in my Department. Issues relating to Carers are primarily the responsibility of the Department of Social and Family Affairs, including the commitments in the national partnership agreement "Towards 2016" and in the Programme for Government to develop various initiatives under a National Carers Strategy.

Vaccination Programme.

Jack Wall

Question:

284 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the application by an association (details supplied) for free flu injections for carers in receipt of a carer’s allowance payment by the Department of Social and Family Affairs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32192/08]

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee guidelines recommend flu vaccination for various categories of persons. Vaccination is recommended for among others "those likely to transmit influenza to a person at high risk for influenza complications (including household contacts and out-of-home care givers)." I am advised by the Health Service Executive that this includes carers. There is no charge for either the vaccine or the administration of the vaccine for those for whom vaccination is recommended who have a medical card or GP visit card. Where the patient does not have a medical card or GP visit card, there is no charge for the actual vaccine as the vaccine is supplied free of charge to GPs by the HSE. The fee for administering the vaccine is a matter between the GP and the patient.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

285 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress that has taken place since 20 April 2008 in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; when it is expected that this payment will be made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32206/08]

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

Health Service Reform.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

286 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Teamwork report on the reorganisation of health services in the mid-west has been brought to the board of the Health Service Executive; when it will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32225/08]

The Health Service Executive commissioned Horwath Consultants in association with Teamwork Management Services in February 2007 to examine the arrangements for the provision of acute hospital services in the Mid West with a view to identifying the best configuration of such services in the region including arrangements for A&E, critical care, acute medicine and surgery, together with diagnostic services so that the highest quality of care can be delivered to the population of the region.

The work of the consultants will act as one of the inputs to decisions on how best to reconfigure acute services in the Mid West region. The Government and the Executive are committed to ensuring that the approach to re-organisation of services is carried out in consultation with the key stakeholders and that each element is progressed incrementally. I believe that it is important to work with health professionals and other interested parties to secure an increasing set of improvements over time. This approach will, I am confident, produce the best outcome for patients. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the specific information sought forwarded directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 287 answered with Question No. 183.

EU Directives.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

288 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress on Ireland’s request for derogations for particular supplements under the EU Food Supplements Directive 2002/46/EC; the derogations sought; if she is satisfied that they address the concerns expressed by consumers here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32227/08]

Derogations sought under EU Directive 2002/46/EC relate to food ingredients rather than particular food supplements. Twenty-one food business operators applied to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland for derogations related to more than two hundred different ingredients. Only vitamins and minerals listed in the Directive may be used in the manufacture of food supplements. However, a derogation from the legislation is allowed for products already on the market, permitting the use of vitamins and minerals not listed up to 31 December 2009. These derogations relate to commercial considerations rather than consumer concerns.

The Food Supplements Directive, 2002/46/EC, has been transposed into Irish law by Statutory Instrument No. 506 of 2007. That legislation is implemented by the Health Service Executive, under a Service Contract Agreement with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI). This ensures that consumers in Ireland are protected by the harmonised EU rules on the sale of food supplements, in particular the labelling of food supplements and chemical form of vitamins and minerals they contain. Discussions are ongoing at European level on the development of a methodology under which maximum safe levels for vitamins and minerals in food supplements will be set. Those discussions will permit the European Commission and Member States to further develop its thinking on this issue.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

289 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if there is a national policy not to take back and re-use aids and appliances such as crutches and wheelchairs, even if they are unused or in perfect condition; the reason such a money-saving practice was discontinued; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32228/08]

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

Health Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

290 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children when she will introduce a national diabetic retinopathy programme as recommended by the expert advisory group on diabetes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32229/08]

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.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

291 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the use of optometrists as well as ophthalmologists for routine eye examinations of children in order to reduce the waiting times for this service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32230/08]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

292 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of community ophthalmologists in the country; the waiting times for this service in each of the Health Service Executive regions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32231/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 291 and 292 together.

As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for Primary Care services, it 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 these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

293 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children when funding for development services for young people who are leaving schools for children with disabilities will be provided as allocated for 2008; if those centres that have received primary notification will be assured that the funding to pay staff will follow; if she will give an assurance that funding will be put in place for the students who will be leaving school in 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32232/08]

The Deputy's question in relation to funding for 2008 and funding to pay staff relates to the management and delivery of health and personal services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy. It is not appropriate for me or my Department to comment on the resources that will be allocated in 2009, prior to the announcement of the Budget 2009 package.

Vaccination Programme.

David Stanton

Question:

294 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 250 of 1 July 2008, the number of children on the waiting list for the BCG vaccine in the Health Service Executive south, in particular in Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32239/08]

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.

David Stanton

Question:

295 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children if the neo-natal BCG service to newborn babies in Cork University Maternity Hospital has commenced; if not, when it is due to commence; if additional clinics to provide the vaccine are in operation; the locations and opening hours of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32240/08]

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.

Departmental Reports.

James Reilly

Question:

296 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children when the report on the issue of the removal of the wrong kidney from a patient in Crumlin children’s hospital will be completed and published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32338/08]

I very much regret that this unfortunate incident occurred. The priority for the hospital has been to ensure that all necessary medical care for the child has been provided and that the family has also received full support.

My Department is advised by the Health Service Executive that an internal review was conducted by the hospital following the incident. This was followed by an independent external review which was carried out by a team of experts from Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital, London. The external review has now been finalised and is due to be presented to the Board of Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin. A copy of the report will be forwarded to the HSE. The HSE advises that the family has been kept informed by the hospital authorities of the progress made in relation to both reviews. The issue of publication will need to be considered by the hospital taking account of the wishes of the family.

Health Services.

James Reilly

Question:

297 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that the waiting time for chromosome analysis is nine months whereas a number of years ago it was three months; her plans to address and reduce the waiting time for such tests; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32339/08]

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

James Reilly

Question:

298 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the waiting lists at Crumlin children’s hospital for genetic services; the reason there has been no public outpatient clinics for genetics by one of the senior consultants there since June 2008; if she will confirm that the secretarial assistance required is in place in order to ensure resumption of the service; the reason secretarial support was withdrawn for such a period of time leading to a consultant being paid €185,000 per annum and being unable to run an outpatient clinic for nearly four months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32340/08]

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

Tobacco-Related Diseases.

James Reilly

Question:

299 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the funding allocated directly to her Department from the Revenue Commissioners by way of appropriation-in-aid as a result of the increase in tobacco taxation in budget 2000 to fund the national cardiovascular strategy in tabular format, on an annual basis, from 2000; the way those funds were allocated annually; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32341/08]

Between 2000 and 2005, under section 3 of the Appropriation Act 1999, €167.5m was provided to my Department from moneys collected by the Revenue Commissioners in respect of certain excise duties on tobacco products. From 2005 onwards the funding was provided to the Health Service Executive. Funding from Appropriations In Aid is not specifically ringfenced or allocated to any particular service but contributes to the overall provision of services. The Deputy will be aware that since the launch of the Cardiovascular Strategy in 2000, additional dedicated funding of €60m has been provided as follows:

Year

Funding

€m

2000

15

2001

19

2002

11

2003

9

2004

3

2005

3

In addition, significant baseline funding across a range of sectors including primary and community care, community drug schemes, acute services and rehabilitation was in place prior to the launch of the Cardiovascular Strategy. There has been significant increase in these costs in the intervening period in line with wider trends in each of these sectors.

Hospital Services.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

300 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Health and Children if there are plans to withdraw colposcopy services from Letterkenny General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32342/08]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

304 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if it is planned to remove colposcopy services from Letterkenny General Hospital; if her attention has been drawn to the concern that this is causing in County Donegal in view of the distances people will have to travel if the service is removed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32369/08]

Brendan Kenneally

Question:

320 Deputy Brendan Kenneally asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the withdrawal of a service (details supplied) and the implications for public patients in a public hospital compared to those for the private patients in the public hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32554/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 300, 304 and 320 together.

The National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) is responsible for the implementation of CervicalCheck, the National Cervical Screening Programme. Colposcopy services are an integral part of a population based screening programme. Of the expected 300,000 women to be screened annually, approximately 2-5% will require access to colposcopy services. Women that have precancerous cell changes detected by their smear test are referred for colposcopy. The NCSS is making a significant investment in colposcopy services to enhance the service delivered to women and ensure timely access to a quality assured, standardised colposcopy service for those women that require further investigation.

The NCSS has identified eleven colposcopy services to initially support CervicalCheck. This does not necessarily preclude the inclusion of other colposcopy clinics in the future. The colposcopy service at Letterkenny General has not been identified for initial referrals of women. However, in the interim the service will continue to provide colposcopy services to women already attending or awaiting colposcopy. Key to quality colposcopy service provision is to ensure that as part of the Programme women can access colposcopy services within international best practice timeframes, adherence to quality assured clinical practice and the achievement of best clinical outcomes for women. The feasibility and provision of additional colposcopy services to women in the North West is also being examined. The NCSS is working with Letterkenny General Hospital and the question of Letterkenny's future participation in the screening programme's colposcopy service will be considered in this context.

Child Care Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

301 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of public and private places that have been created to date in relation to the national development plan’s social inclusion priority for the creation of an additional 50,000 child care places by 2010, of which approximately 22,000 will be in the private sector and 28,000 in the community and voluntary sector. [32350/08]

The NCIP has a funding allocation of €575 million and aims to create an additional 50,000 new child care places. It is expected that approximately 22,000 of these places will be in the private sector and 28,000 in the community/not for profit sector. NCIP grant approvals to end of August 2008 are expected to lead to over 13,400 places in community-based/not for profit facilities and a further 16,300 places in private facilities.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

302 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if he has received a capital grant application from a crèche (details supplied) in County Monaghan; if so, her views on this application; when she expects to make a decision on the application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32351/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP), which will invest €575 million over 5 years, with €358 million of this in capital grant aid for child care services. I understand that the service in question has applied for €977,822 in capital funding through its local County Childcare Committee. This application has been assessed by Pobal, which is engaged to administer grants under the NCIP. Following Pobal's assessment of the application it was forwarded to the Childcare Directorate of my Office for final appraisal. The service will be notified of the decision in due course.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

303 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children the grant assistance available for individuals seeking to provide montessori places or other preschool initiatives for children with special needs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32365/08]

As the Deputy will be aware Childcare developments are currently funded under the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010. This Government is committed to enhancing access to pre-school services for children with special needs. Under the Equal Status Acts 2000 to 2004, service providers must make reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability — this provision applies to the accommodation of children with special needs by child care providers. Furthermore, the ‘Diversity and Equality Guidelines for Childcare Providers' published by the Office of the Minister for Children in December 2006 underpins the Government's commitment to integration and equality for all. However, I regret that there is no specific provision under the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 to provide additional supports for children with disabilities.

Under the Multi-Annual Investment Programme 2006-2009 for the Disability Strategy, the Government provided the Health Service Executive with funding to implement Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, which came into effect on June 1st 2007 for the under 5's. The management and delivery of health and personal social services are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004.

Question No. 304 answered with Question No. 300.
Questions Nos. 305 and 306 answered with Question No. 150.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

307 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position of a funding application (details supplied); when a final decision will be made in relation to this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32390/08]

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.

Data Protection.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

308 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children the policies in place to secure portable electronic data devices in her Department; if those policies have been published; if so, the locations where they can be viewed; if a system of whole disk encryption has been rolled out to all laptops in her Department; the date by which she expects a satisfactory security policy on portable electronic data devices to have been implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32407/08]

My Department has developed a range of security policies and staff advisories in relation to the security of electronic information and in particular personal or sensitive data. Where appropriate these policies are on the Department's intranet. Encryption of existing laptops is nearing completion and all new laptops will be encrypted as a matter of course. The Department has also begun the implementation of USB security management software to ensure data are encrypted on USB and other portable devices. It will take several months to roll out this facility to all users. My Department is participating in the Working Group on the Protection of Personal Data set up by the Department of Finance and will be implementing recommendations from this group.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

309 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of Department owned computer desktops or laptops or other data devices, such as blackberries and memory keys, reported lost, missing or stolen from her Department to date in 2008; the number of same later recovered or found; the number still missing; if sensitive or private data was compromised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32422/08]

To date in 2008 there has been one item of ICT equipment reported lost, missing or stolen. This relates to a Blackberry which was stolen from a member of staff. It has not been recovered. I understand the device was password protected and that no sensitive or private data were compromised with the loss of this equipment.

Hospital Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

310 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a surgical appointment will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32428/08]

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.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Finian McGrath

Question:

311 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support a matter (details supplied). [32442/08]

I understand the Deputy is referring to cancer services nationally and the Human Pamilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine. In September 2007, the Government endorsed the establishment by the Health Service Executive (HSE) of a National Cancer Control Programme to manage, organise and deliver cancer services. The implementation of the Programme involves significant realignment of services to move from the present fragmented system of care to one which is consistent with international best practice in cancer control. Significant progress has been made to date including the appointment of an interim Director to lead and manage the Programme. A national network, comprising of eight designated cancer centres has been decided and work is currently progressing on the transfer of symptomatic breast disease services from regional hospitals to the designated centres.

In relation to the HPV vaccine, I have considered all the relevant advice available to me in relation to the potential public health benefits of HPV vaccination in the prevention of cervical cancer and the wider policy implications for its possible introduction into the National Immunisation Programme. I accept the consensus view of the relevant expert bodies that the introduction of a universal high uptake vaccination programme in young girls, in conjunction with population based cervical screening, could significantly reduce overall cervical cancer rates.

I have asked the HSE to begin planning for the introduction of a vaccination programme for 12 year old girls to commence in September 2009, subject to cost and the level of uptake required for effectiveness being achievable. Accordingly, I have asked the HSE to examine and ascertain the likely uptake rates for such a programme, the cost of purchasing the vaccine based on the best competitive arrangements available in the market and the most efficient method of "roll-out" of the programme. In light of the current budgetary situation the introduction of a "catch up" programme for 13-15 year olds is not envisaged.

Hospital Staff.

James Reilly

Question:

312 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children her views and that of the Health Service Executive on the employment of nursing staff from non-EU countries; if employing nursing staff from outside the EU is still current practice; if so, the rationale for that practice; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32444/08]

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

Departmental Properties.

Tom Hayes

Question:

313 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive has approved land for sale in respect of a site of a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary; if so, when the next step in the process will take place for the HSE to get this land transferred and ready for sale; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32446/08]

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

Health Service Publications.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

314 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the cost in 2007 and to date in 2008 of producing and distributing the Health Service Executive publication Health Matters; the persons to whom it is distributed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32447/08]

The publication in question is produced by the Health Service Executive. Accordingly, my Department has requested the HSE to reply directly to the Deputy with the information requested.

Departmental Properties.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

315 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a vacant site in the ownership of the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32464/08]

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

Health Services.

Tom Hayes

Question:

316 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children when the national screening programme for cystic fibrosis, scheduled to be introduced in 2008, will be implemented; the training that has been completed for staff to do this screening test; the budget set aside for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32487/08]

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

General Medical Services Scheme.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

317 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children the measures being taken to ensure that patients, until recently on the GMS panel of a doctor (details supplied), from the Ringsend and Irishtown, Dublin 4 area can receive treatment within a reasonable distance of their community; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32506/08]

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

318 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure a person (details supplied) in Dublin 4 is put on the list of a general practitioner within a reasonable distance of their home, following the decision of the doctor on whose list they were to no longer make their surgery available to their patients on their GMS panel; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32507/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 317 and 318 together.

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive (HSE) has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for arrangements to ensure appropriate service delivery for General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme (medical card and GP visit card) patients. My Department has therefore requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address these matters and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Ambulance Service.

Michael McGrath

Question:

319 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the proposal to establish a helicopter emergency medical service, air ambulance for Munster; and her views on requesting the Health Service Executive to provide the necessary supports to enable the project to become a reality. [32508/08]

I am aware of the proposal by a private consortium to establish an air ambulance service initially in the Munster area. However it is a matter for the Health Service Executive to consider the proposal in the context of its responsibility for the provision of public ambulance services. I understand that the group which has put forward the proposal is in communication with the HSE in the matter.

Question No. 320 answered with Question No. 300.

Mental Health Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

321 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will honour a commitment made to the Union of Students in Ireland to support by way of funding of €8,500 its Please Talk Campaign, on raising awareness regarding depression and the need to seek help if a person contracts the condition, which it proposes to introduce throughout third level colleges. [32566/08]

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

322 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children identified with Downs syndrome in each of the past five years; the way the figures here compare per 100,000 of the population with other countries within the EU and the US; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32570/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

323 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children diagnosed with autism in each of the past ten years; the way these figures compare per 100,000 population with other jurisdictions throughout Europe and the US; the full extent of research undertaken or proposed in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32571/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 322 and 323 together.

The Department of Health and Children does not collect information on children identified with Downs Syndrome or Autism on a national or international basis. Information pertaining to diagnosis is specifically excluded from the National Intellectual Disability Database as the database is not designed as a medical epidemiological tool. Accordingly the database does not record the incidence of Autism, Downs Syndrome or any other disability. With regard to the remaining matters raised by the Deputy, these relate to the management and delivery of health and personal services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

324 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the action being taken to prevent misdiagnosis at all hospitals here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32572/08]

I presume the Deputy is referring to the recent incidents of delayed diagnosis in patients with cancer. Unfortunately, even with the best multidisciplinary team involved in the diagnosis of cancer, expert international evidence notes that there may be a failure or delay in diagnosing cancer in up to one per cent of cases. However, by concentrating expertise in the eight designated cancer centres and by having triple assessment, the Director of the Health Service Executive (HSE) National Cancer Control Programme is confident that the chances of misdiagnosis will be minimised.

Last year, I approved National Quality Assurance Standards for Symptomatic Breast Disease Services under the Health Act 2007. The implementation of the Standards is an essential element of the quality agenda set out in the National Cancer Control Strategy. The aim of the standards is to ensure that women who develop breast cancer have an equal opportunity to be managed in a centre which is capable of delivering the best possible outcome. The standards require significant reorganisation of breast cancer services to ensure that each centre providing breast cancer care: manages a minimum number of 150 new cases per year; allows for a minimum number of new cases to be managed by a specialist breast surgeon of 50 per year (and a maximum of 150 per year); ensures that such care is provided by a team made up of a surgeon, a radiologist and a pathologist; and has a minimum of two consultants in each of these specialties.

Arising from the designation of eight cancer centres nationally and in order to comply with the Standards, the HSE has directed a number of hospitals to cease breast cancer services. In June last year thirty three hospitals were providing symptomatic breast services. By the end of this year this will have reduced to ten.

Health Service Staff.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

325 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons employed in 1991 in the delivery of the entire spectrum of health services to the entire population; the number of persons, patients and clients who sought and received services or treatment in 1991; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32573/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

326 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of staff employed, directly or indirectly, in the delivery of health services in both the public and private sectors; the number of persons, patients and clients who sought or received service in each of the past five years to date in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32574/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

335 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of nurses, doctors and consultants employed in the delivery of health services; the way this compares with 1992; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32583/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 325, 326 and 335 together.

The main source of employment data in the health services is the Health Service Executive's Health Service Personnel Census which is derived from payroll history in each agency. The census collects data on actual staffing level for each staff grade in each health agency at a given point in time. Up to and including 2002 the census was conducted annually. Since 2003, the census has been carried out quarterly at the end of March, June, September and December each year. The census provides data on the number of people employed in the public health service only; this includes the HSE, voluntary hospitals, voluntary disability and other PCCC voluntary agencies. It does not include data on some agencies which are grant-aided by the HSE, specialist agencies under the aegis of the Department of Health and Children or those employed in the private sector. In this regard, the data in relation to the public health service for 1991, and the years 2004 to 2008 are set out in the following tables:

Number (WTE excld. career break) of people employed in the public health service in 1991

Number

Medical/Dental

4,099.81

Nursing

25,118.41

Health & Social Care Professionals

4,299.20

Management/Admin.

6,800.30

General Support Staff

18,297.71

Other Patient & Client Care

Total

58,615.43

Source: Health Service Personnel Census.

Note 1: excludes Home Help.

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

Number (WTE excld. career break) of people employed in the public health service between 2004 and 2008

Dec 2004

Dec 2005

Dec 2006

Dec 2007

Jun 2008

Medical/Dental

7,013

7,266

7,712

8,005

8,009

Nursing

34,313

35,248

36,737

39,006

37,783

Health & Social Care Professionals

12,830

13,952

14,913

15,705

15,726

Management/Admin.

16,157

16,699

17,262

18,043

17,944

General Support Staff

13,771

13,227

12,910

12,900

12,884

Other Patient & Client Care

14,640

15,586

16,739

17,846

18,169

Total

98,723

101,978

106,273

111,505

110,515

Source: Health Service Personnel Census.

Note 1: excludes Home Help.

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

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

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

Note 5: Student nurses are included in the 2007 and 2008 employment ceilings on the basis of 3.5 students equating to 1 wholetime equivalent (WTE). The employment levels adjusted for student nurses on the above basis are 110,664 WTE (Dec 07) and 110,386 WTE (June 08).

The numbers of nurses, non-consultant hospital doctors and consultants employed in the public health service in 1992 and 2008 are as follows:

Numbers (WTE excld. career break) of nurses, non-consultant hospital doctors and consultants employed in the public health service in 1992 and 2008

Dec 1992

June 2008

Number of nurses

25,771

37,783

Number of NCHDs

2,341

4,859

Number of consultants

1,109

2,228

Source: Health Service Personnel Census.

I wish to advise that the outstanding information will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

327 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if all health centres here have been adequately upgraded in line with demographic requirements and best practice standards; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32575/08]

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 upgrading of health centres. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

328 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children whose orthodontic treatment has been completed in each of the past five years to date in 2008; the number awaiting treatment; the number receiving treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32576/08]

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.

Questions Nos. 329 to 331, inclusive, answered with Question No. 147.

Health Service Staff.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

332 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of nursing staff permanently employed throughout the health services; the number of agency staff included; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32580/08]

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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

333 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons in receipt of home help; the number who received such help in 2006; the extent to which the number of hours per patient has increased or decreased in the meantime; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32581/08]

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.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

334 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of accident and emergency beds available throughout the health service; the number available in 1990; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32582/08]

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

Question No. 335 answered with Question No. 325.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

336 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when it is expected that the final phase of the Naas hospital development plan will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32584/08]

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

Hospital Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

337 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent to which all theatres in Naas General Hospital, Naas, County Kildare are fully commissioned for procedures; the number of such procedures in each of the theatres in the past 12 months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32585/08]

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

338 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of surgical, medical or other beds available, public and private, throughout the entire hospital system; the number available in 1990; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32586/08]

The complement of acute hospital beds, inpatient and day beds reported for 1990 was 12,152 (11,868 inpatient and 284 day beds) {Source: Health Statistics Report 1990, Department of Health}. A medical/surgical and public/private breakdown is not available for that year. My Department has requested the Health Service Executive to provide the information requested by the Deputy on the breakdown of acute hospital bed numbers for the latest year available. When the necessary information is compiled I will arrange to have it forwarded to the Deputy.

Question No. 339 answered with Question No. 159.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

340 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent of the refunds paid to date under the nursing home refund proposal; when the entire liability will be met; the full extent of this liability at present; the cost of the administration to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32588/08]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has responsibility for administering the health repayment scheme in conjunction with the appointed scheme administrator KPMG/McCann Fitzgerald. The HSE has informed my Department that to date over 38,900 claim forms have been received under the Health Repayment Scheme. It is estimated that following adjustments for rejections and duplicate claims, the number of valid claims will be approximately 19,300. To date 17,684 claimants have received an offer of repayment and the value of these offers is €330m. 12,756 claimants have received payment to date under the Scheme and the value of these payments is €260m. It is anticipated that the remaining offers will be processed by end November 2008.

However it should be noted that the repayments offered in November cannot be paid until the statutory 28 day period has elapsed and a completed Acceptance Form has been returned to the Scheme Administrator. In addition, the claimants who receive offers in November must be given the opportunity if they so wish, to appeal the scheme administrator's decision. Taking account of overheads the total estimated spend on the scheme will be in the region of €390m. The HSE has advised that the total cost of administering the Scheme to date is €19.5m which includes payments made to the Scheme Administrator, HSE administrative costs, Appeals Office costs, legal fees and probate costs.

Question No. 341 answered with Question No. 280.

Health Services.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

342 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason top-up grants, previously available to some applicants who qualified for local authority home improvement grants, are no longer being granted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32690/08]

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

Decentralisation Programme.

Joan Burton

Question:

343 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of civil servants and other public servants in her Department who had been decentralised from Dublin to other locations by the original deadline for the completion of the plan of December 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33060/08]

As the Deputy will be aware my Department is not one of the Departments scheduled for decentralisation under the Government's Decentralisation Programme. By the end of December 2006, twenty-eight civil servants transferred to decentralising Departments from my Department. Further details in respect of the transfer of these officers are available from the decentralising Departments.

Public Transport.

Enda Kenny

Question:

344 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Transport the measures he is taking to ensure an adequate bus service in a locality (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32934/08]

Terence Flanagan

Question:

360 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Transport if he will respond to a query (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32471/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 344 and 360 together.

The Road Transport Act 1932, provides the statutory basis for regulating the provision of public bus services by private bus operators. In accordance with the legislation, private bus operators apply to my Department for licences to operate scheduled bus passenger services within the State. Dublin Bus is not subject to licensing in accordance with the 1932 Act. However, the initiation or alteration of a bus service by the Company is subject to compliance with the necessary regulatory requirement of giving advance notice to my Department and to compliance with the provisions of Section 25 of the Transport Act 1958 concerning competition with licensed private operators. It is open to any private operator or Dublin Bus to submit proposals to my Department seeking authorisation to operate bus passenger services.

With regard to services in Lucan, Dublin Bus made an application on 27th June 2008 seeking authorisation to provide additional services on the 25X and 25A routes serving Lucan. Dublin Bus was advised by my Department on the 18th July, 2008, that it could proceed with the proposal. My Department has no outstanding proposals for additional services on the routes in question.

Marine Safety.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

345 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Transport if he has commissioned a report or review in relation to an emergency towing vessel; his views regarding the acquisition of an emergency towing vessel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31917/08]

Consultants have been engaged to carry out a study including the potential acquisition of an Emergency Towing Vessel (ETV). The study is underway and the Minister for Transport expects to review the overall position by early 2009.

Departmental Staff.

Joan Burton

Question:

346 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Transport the bonuses awarded by his Department to staff members for the years 2005, 2006 and 2007; the number and proportion of staff in receipt of bonuses for each of those years; the average bonus paid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32007/08]

The scheme for performance-related awards in the Civil Service applies to Deputy and Assistant Secretaries and equivalent grades. Details of awards to individual officers under the performance-related scheme are not disclosed on the basis that they are confidential to the officer concerned. However I can say that during 2006, awards totalling €46,800 (averaging €11,700) were made to 4 officers in my Department in respect of 2005; in 2007, awards totalling €64,000 (averaging €12,800) were made to 5 officers in my Department in respect of 2006 and in 2008, awards totalling €63,500 (averaging €12,700) were made to 5 officers in my Department in respect of 2007.

Details of the operation of the scheme, the numbers covered by the scheme and the total amounts paid in Departments, are available in the annual reports of the Committee for Performance Awards which can be accessed on the website of the Department of Finance www.finance.gov.ie.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joan Burton

Question:

347 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Transport if he will list in regard to his Department and State agencies or bodies operating under the aegis of his Department, the original proposal announced in December 2003 in regard to decentralisation; the position in regard to each such proposed decentralisation; the number which have been completed; the number of persons who have been relocated; the number and proportion who have been relocated from Dublin or from other locations; the number of projects that have to be completed; the target date for completion in each case; the number of proposed projects that will not proceed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32022/08]

The following table shows the original proposal announced in December 2003 regarding decentralisation for this Department:

Organisation

Location

No. of Posts

Road Haulage Division (Department of Transport)

Loughrea

40

National Safety Council

Loughrea

10

National Roads Authority

Ballinasloe

90

Irish Aviation Authority

Shannon

100

Railway Safety Commission

Ballinasloe

20

Bus Eireann

Mitchelstown

200

The functions of the National Safety Council were transferred to the Road Safety Authority on 1st September, 2006. Some ten posts from the Department's Road Haulage function and 40 Road Safety Authority Posts were decentralised to Loughrea and the move was completed in July 2007. Some nine of these 50 posts were filled by CAF applicants from Dublin with the remainder filled by CAF applicants from other locations. Decentralisation of an additional 62 Road Safety Authority posts (which were not part of the original Government decision) to Ballina was also achieved.

A minimum of 37 posts are required to decentralise to Drogheda. These were not part of the decentralisation decision announced in December 2003. Consideration was given to moving the full complement of maritime safety staff to Drogheda. However, a review was undertaken by my Department in the context of the Efficiency Review and the conclusion was that a combination of accident investigation functions and other safety-related areas to bring the numbers up to the total requirement of 37 posts might more usefully transfer to Drogheda for greater operation efficiencies and value for money. To-date no staff have decentralised to Drogheda and there is currently no target date for completion of this move.

At its meeting on 27 May the Government agreed to my proposals to relocate the Railway Safety Commission to Drogheda instead of Ballinasloe. The shortfall in numbers for Ballinasloe will be met by the National Roads Authority whose overall numbers have increased by 22 since decentralisation was announced. To-date no staff have decentralised to Ballinasloe from the NRA and there is currently no target date for completion of this move. The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) has recruited 36 staff for Shannon and are now located there. There is currently no target date for the completion of the move. The 200 Bus Eireann posts to decentralise to Mitchelstown are now placed on the CIE Group. To-date no staff have decentralised to Mitchelstown from the CIE Group and there is currently no target date for completion of this move.

Compulsory Purchase Orders.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

348 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport the State sponsored bodies, quangos and other agencies within the remit of his Department that have the power to issue compulsory purchase orders; the number of CPOs that have been initiated by such agencies for the years 2005 to date in 2008; the purpose of such CPOs; the outcome in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32037/08]

The following table lists the agencies operating under the aegis of my Department, which have powers to undertake compulsory purchase orders. The initiation of compulsory purchase orders by the various agencies is a day-to-day matter for the companies concerned and I have no function in relation to this matter.

Agencies with CPO powers

Dublin Airport Authority

Irish Aviation Authority

Córas Iompair Éireann

Railway Procurement Agency

National Roads Authority

Port of Cork Company

Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company

Port of Waterford Company

Dundalk Port Company

Shannon/Foynes Port Company

Galway Harbour Company

Drogheda Port Company

Dublin Port Company

New Ross Port Company

Wicklow Port Company

Arklow Harbour Commissioners

Baltimore Harbour Commissioners

Bantry Bay Harbour Commissioners

Kinsale Harbour Commissioners

Kilrush Harbour Commissioners

Tralee and Fenit Pier and Harbour Commissioners

River Moy (Ballina) Harbour Commissioners

Westport Port and Harbour Commissioners

Wexford Harbour Commissioners

Youghal Harbour Authority

Road Network.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

349 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if the final accounts for the Dublin Port tunnel have been settled; the full costs from planning to completion of the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32074/08]

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme element of Transport 21. The implementation of individual national road projects, including the Dublin Port Tunnel, is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Act 1993 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. In particular, the allocation of funding in relation to the construction or maintenance of national roads is a matter for the NRA under Section 19 of the Act. The construction of the Dublin Port Tunnel project was procured by Dublin City Council and funded through the NRA. I understand from the NRA that the estimated final outturn cost of the Tunnel remains at €751 million.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

350 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the annual income of the Dublin Port tunnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32075/08]

As Minister for Transport I am responsible for policy and funding matters relating to the national road element of Transport 21. However, the detailed planning, design and implementation of all aspects of individual road improvement schemes including the Dublin Port Tunnel and the financial aspects of its operation are, under Section 17 of the Roads Act 1993 (as amended) a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) and the relevant local authorities concerned- in this case Dublin City Council.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

351 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the number of vehicles using the Dublin Port tunnel in each year since it opened; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32076/08]

As Minister for Transport I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme element of Transport 21. As the Deputy is aware, the implementation of individual national road projects is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Act 1993 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. In addition, I should point out that traffic management in general is a matter for the appropriate local authority. In the case of the Dublin Port Tunnel, that authority is Dublin City Council.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

352 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the annual running costs of the Dublin Port tunnel in each year since it opened; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32077/08]

As Minister for Transport I am responsible for policy and funding matters relating to the national road element of Transport 21. However, the detailed planning, design and implementation of all aspects of individual road improvement schemes including the Dublin Port Tunnel and the financial aspects of its operation are, under Section 17 of the Roads Act 1993 (as amended) a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) and the relevant local authorities concerned- in this case Dublin City Council.

Public Transport.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

353 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the amount of the subsidy to Dublin Bus per passenger trip for each of the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32078/08]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

354 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the amount of the subsidy to DART per passenger trip for each of the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32079/08]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

355 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the number of passenger carryings by Dublin Bus for each of the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32080/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 353 to 355, inclusive, together.

The information sought by the Deputy is set out in the table.

The allocation of the Irish Rail subvention across Suburban, DART, other commuter and InterCity services is a matter for the company.

Year

Bus Atha Cliath

Iarnród Éireann

Subvention

Pax Nos.

Subsidy per passenger

Subvention

Pax Nos.

Subsidy per passenger

(€m.)

(€m.)

1997

8,888

137.1m

0.064

117,451

29.40m

3.99

1998

11,294

137.5m

0.082

117,457

32.15m

3.65

1999

16,816

139.0m

0.12

119,292

32.77m

3.64

2000

41,189

134.2m

0.31

133,236

31.72m

4.20

2001

52,377

142.9m

0.37

146,020

34.21m

4.27

2002

56,063

146.6m

0.38

155,483

35.4m

4.39

2003

53,867

149.8m

0.36

168,257

35.56m

4.73

2004

61,810

149.8m

0.41

171,421

34.55m

4.96

2005

64,900

145.7m

0.44

179,991

37.65m

4.78

2006

69,845

146.3m

0.48

188,716

43.40m

4.35

2007

80,078

147.0m

0.54

189,910

45.50m

4.17

Rural Transport Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

356 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Transport the number under the rural transport initiative of types of fare waiver that are available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32196/08]

The Free Travel Scheme of the Department of Social and Family Affairs applies to services operated under the mainstreamed Rural Transport Programme. This is the only formal fare waiver type scheme in operation under the Programme.

Data Protection.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

357 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Transport the policies in place to secure portable electronic data devices in his Department; if those policies have been published; if so, the locations where they can be viewed; if a system of whole disk encryption has been rolled out to all laptops in his Department; the date by which he expects a satisfactory security policy on portable electronic data devices to have been implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32411/08]

I am informed by my Department's IT security team that we have a suite of security policies which include the security of portable electronic data devices. The appropriate elements of these policies are published internally for Departmental personnel use and they are not openly available to the public. Since October 2007, all data replicated from my Department's network to laptops is automatically encrypted. A system of whole disk encryption is not deemed necessary at this juncture. Data security measures are regularly reviewed in my Department in the light of changing circumstances. A review is currently underway and its findings are expected to be implemented by early 2009. This review will include, but not be limited to, the security policy for portable electronic data devices.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

358 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Transport the number of Department owned computer desktops or laptops or other data devices, such as blackberries and memory keys, reported lost, missing or stolen from his Department to date in 2008; the number of same later recovered or found; the number still missing; if sensitive or private data was compromised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32426/08]

There have been eight instances of laptop computers, data storage devices and memory sticks that have been reported lost, missing or stolen from my Department to date in 2008. These instances included five laptops and three Blackberries. Of these, four laptops and one Blackberry were subsequently recovered. I have been assured by my officials that each incident has been investigated and that there is no evidence that any private or sensitive data was compromised as a result of these incidents.

All Departmental laptops are issued to staff with password protection enabled. Since October 2007, all data replicated from my Department's network to laptops is automatically encrypted. Mechanisms are in place to remotely immobilise and wipe any information on any portable data devices lost, missing or stolen from my Department. My Department ensures that data security measures are regularly reviewed in the light of changing circumstances and that any appropriate measures identified are implemented in order to prevent risk to data.

School Transport.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

359 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Transport his views regarding a request by a local authority (details supplied) in County Dublin for funding in respect of a pilot school transport service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32470/08]

Officials from my Department, the Department of Education and Science and South Dublin County Council met on June 18 to discuss the possibility of progressing the Council's proposal. It was agreed that further work by the Council in the interests of broadening the scope of the proposal to include travel options other than motorised forms (for example, cycling and safe walking routes to school) would be welcome. I am informed that the Council will revert to my Department in due course. Any submission will have to be considered in the context of the current difficult financial position

Question No. 360 answered with Question No. 344.

Marine Accidents.

Brendan Kenneally

Question:

361 Deputy Brendan Kenneally asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding a report being undertaken in relation to a boat (details supplied) which sank earlier in 2008; when this report will be made available to the families; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32556/08]

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) is currently investigating the circumstances that led to the sinking of the Strath Marie. The role of the MCIB, which is an independent body, is to investigate casualties such as this and to publish their findings. The MCIB will investigate all relevant matters pertaining to the sinking of the vessel. You will appreciate that it would be inappropriate for me to comment on any aspect of this case while it is still under investigation.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joan Burton

Question:

362 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Transport the number of civil servants and other public servants in his Department who had been decentralised from Dublin to other locations by the original deadline for the completion of the plan of December 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33066/08]

No civil or other public servants decentralised from my Department up to 31 December 2006.

Immigration Procedures.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

363 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if following the detention of a person (details supplied) at Cloverhill Prison overnight and being strip searched in front of prison officials although the person’s paperwork was entirely in order and the person was merely seeking to travel to Limerick to visit relations, he has apologised to the person in question as well as to the Nigerian Ambassador who has voiced his concerns at the degrading way in which this person was treated upon arrival on Irish soil. [31885/08]

I would like to refer the Deputy to my answer to Parliamentary Question No. 179, which he put down for answer last Thursday, 25 September. In that reply I explained in detail that it is important to have regard to the legal provisions that govern entry to the State of foreign nationals. In essence, those provisions provide that every person landing in the State, including the holder of a visa, is obliged, pursuant to the provisions of the Immigration Act 2004, to furnish to an immigration officer such information in such manner as an immigration officer may reasonably require for the purposes of the performance of his or her functions. It is also important to emphasise that a visa is merely a permission to present at the frontiers of the State, but it does not guarantee entry to the State. The State's position in this regard was in fact confirmed by the High Court as recently as 23 May 2008 (Emmanuel Omatayo James & Others -V- Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform).

Section 4 of the Immigration Act 2004, sets out the provisions whereby an immigration officer may give a non-national permission to land in the State. This section of the Act also sets out fourteen different circumstances in which an immigration officer, may, on behalf of the Minister, refuse to give a person a permission to land in the State, any one of which may give rise to a permission to land being refused. In performing his or her functions an immigration officer is obliged to have regard to all the circumstances of the non-national concerned. As I previously informed the House, I am satisfied that the Garda National Immigration Bureau dealt with the case of the person who is the subject of this Parliamentary Question in accordance with these provisions. I also wish to repeat that in the particular case concerned a significant factor in the immigration officer's decision was that when the applicant was being questioned he claimed he was visiting a named person he identified first as his brother and then as a cousin — when, in fact, they are not related. This fact was established when telephone contact was made with the named person.

Airports by their very nature are extremely busy locations with understandable demands to have passengers processed as quickly as possible. In such circumstances there is a particular pressure on immigration officials to ensure that the safety of the State and integrity of the immigration process is not compromised in any way. I have already informed the Deputy that some weeks before this particular incident arose there was a case at Dublin Airport in which a person purporting to be a cleric, was refused leave to land and subsequently admitted that he was not in fact a priest. Immigration officials have tough decisions to make on a daily basis to protect the State not only from illegal migrants, but terrorists and others who might have ulterior motives.

As regards the committal of the person concerned to Cloverhill Prison on 9 September, I think it is important for the avoidance of any doubt in the matter, that I set out again how he was dealt with while in the custody of the Prison authorities. I am informed that the individual was processed through Reception in line with standard practice and that when he was being searched by prison officers he would not have been in the line of sight of anyone else. Furthermore, he was also treated as all other committals in accordance with Irish Prison Rules. Such searching is entirely appropriate and necessary to ensure the security and safety of the prison and the health and safety of the individual concerned. In line with Standard Operational Procedures, the individual was seen on Landing D1 on the morning of 10 September as a new committal. I previously informed the House that the prison records indicate that the Rules and Regulations were explained to him and a phone card application was issued. No complaints were recorded. The person concerned also received two visitors while in Cloverhill Prison and was discharged to the custody of the Garda National Immigration Bureau on the evening of 10 September 2008.

I have no doubt but that the individual was very distressed by these unfortunate events. However, I want to emphasise that insofar as the Immigration and Prison authorities are concerned, I am satisfied that all the necessary legal and administrative procedures were fully complied with and that there was no question of any lack of courtesy or respect to the individual at any time.

Departmental Bodies.

Joe Costello

Question:

364 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of equality and human rights organisations which are funded or part-funded by the Government; the funding paid by the State to these organisations; the organisations which the Government proposes to amalgamate or dispense with; the estimated savings to the Exchequer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32480/08]

I would refer the Deputy to my reply of 24 September 2008 to Parliamentary Question No. 768. The provision in the 2008 Estimates for the Equality Authority amounted to €5.9 million and, in respect of the Irish Human Rights Commission, the amount was €2 million.

Integration Strategy.

Denis Naughten

Question:

365 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps which he has taken in response to the European Parliament resolution of 31 January 2008 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31935/08]

The Resolution in question is directed towards the European Institutions and those Member States which have significant populations of Roma people. This would not be the case with Ireland. My general approach to integration is as set out in my statement on integration strategy and diversity management, Migration Nation, which published on 1 May last.

Road Traffic Offences.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

366 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of incidents of drug driving detected each year from 2002 to 2008; the number of convictions attained for each of these years from detected incidents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31967/08]

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose. I have requested the CSO to provide the statistics sought by the Deputy directly to him.

Departmental Staff.