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 10, inclusive, answered orally.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Seán Barrett

Question:

11 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Finance if new inter-agency management structures have been put in place to handle the banking crisis; and if clear lines of accountability have been put in place in respect of the responsibilities of respective agencies. [38728/08]

The Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme 2008 applies comprehensive control, monitoring and information provisions to the credit institutions covered by the scheme which will ensure enhanced coordination and close working between the Central Bank, the Regulatory Authority and my Department so as to ensure the realisation of the Scheme's objectives. This enhanced cooperation facilitates appropriate detailed information exchange, liaison with the Governor and Chief Executive of the Regulatory Authority as well as consultation on specific prudential aspects of the terms and conditions to ensure a consistent approach across all the relevant public bodies by reference to the objectives of the Scheme.

The implementation of the Scheme is subject to formal monitoring by the Governor and Chief Executive of the Regulatory Authority and its terms are subject to review from time to time, at no later than six month intervals. The Regulatory Authority has already advised me that, in light of the severe difficulties faced by credit institutions arising from the crisis of confidence in the global credit market, it will continue to intensify its on-site and off-site supervision of credit institutions. The scheme also provides that I will report to the Oireachtas Committee on Finance and the Public Service at six month intervals on the level of the charges received from covered institutions and in relation to compliance with the terms and conditions of the Scheme and progress in relation to the purposes of the Act of 2008.

The enhanced cooperation I have outlined is supported by clear obligations on covered institutions to submit reports to the Regulatory Authority in relation to a range of matters including liquidity requirements, capital ratios, asset quality, risk exposures and funding costs, and to provide such other reports as the Regulatory Authority may request at my initiative. There is also significant provision for the regulation by the Regulatory Authority, in consultation with the Minister, of the commercial conduct of the institutions participating in the Scheme.

The Government is satisfied that, alongside the powers provided directly under the scheme, the relevant public bodies and in particular the Regulatory Authority have the authority and legal power to take whatever steps are necessary to continue to look after the interests of all depositors and customers of the covered institutions as well as that of the State and the taxpayer.

I am satisfied that the close coordination and liaison arrangements put in place between the Central Bank, the Financial Regulator and my Department will ensure effective management of the Scheme in an integrated fashion by all of the bodies concerned as well as clear lines of accountability with regard to their respective responsibilities.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

12 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he remains satisfied with the level of capitalisation of each of the Irish banks and credit institutions covered by the credit institution guarantee scheme; if his Department has drawn up a contingency plan in the event that a State injection of capital into the banks is required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38809/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, we have put in place a wide guarantee for the banking system in Ireland. The legislative scheme setting out the terms and conditions for the guarantee to support the long-term viability of the banking system in Ireland and safeguard the interest of taxpayers has been approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas. It has also been approved as being in compliance with the European Commission's requirements and is now in place.

To date, the guarantee has been successful in stabilising the position of the banking system in Ireland during an unprecedented period in international financial markets. The overarching objective of the scheme is to remedy the serious disturbance that might otherwise have unfolded for the economy. It is about taking whatever steps are necessary to ensure that we have a banking system that as a whole works effectively, efficiently and competitively in facilitating all the day to day ordinary economic transactions of commercial, business family and social life.

The Scheme provides a detailed framework for the authorities to oversee and guide the assessment of strategic options by the banks. If it is the case that an assessment is made by a particular institution that higher capitalisation would be appropriate, it must consider all possible strategic options to meet this requirement. Each institution must take appropriate steps to ensure that their levels of capital are aligned with their needs. The State has a keen interest in the health and security of the banking institutions, because of their role in the economy. Clearly, my Department, the Central Bank and the Financial Regulator will be in continuing contact with the institutions on their business plans, their capital position and their liquidity.

As indicated the issue of their capitalisation is a matter for individual banks in the first instance, and I don't think it wise to get into theoretical discussions that might be market sensitive.

Martin Ferris

Question:

13 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Finance if, in view the recent losses announced by a company (details supplied) he has made contact with other major credit institutions to discuss their financial positions going forward; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38665/08]

As Minister for Finance it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the performance or financial position of an individual credit institution.

The Financial Regulator is responsible for the prudential supervision of credit institutions and is therefore best placed to access and analyse information regarding an institution's financial position. The Financial Regulator has advised the Minister that in light of the severe difficulties faced by credit institutions arising from the crisis of confidence in the global credit market, it will continue to intensify its on-site and off-site supervision of credit institutions. This will build on revised capital and liquidity measures introduced by the Regulatory Authority during 2006 and 2007. The Financial Regulator will focus on liquidity requirements, capital adequacy, risk management, balance sheet structure and corporate governance. This may involve setting additional regulatory ratios as appropriate in order to reduce the risk in the balance sheet, reflecting the current domestic and global conditions. To augment its own resources the Financial Regulator has engaged an accountancy firm to work intensively to examine the loan books of the six banks that are currently covered by the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme 2008 and report to the Financial Regulator as a matter of urgency. This examination will result in a detailed comprehensive analysis of the individual loans in the covered institutions.

I would also point out that the Scheme provides that covered institutions are required to submit reports to the Financial Regulator in relation to liquidity requirements, capital ratios, asset quality, risk exposure and funding costs. The Financial Regulator can request covered institutions to submit such reports as are considered necessary to monitor their compliance with the Scheme. The implementation of the Scheme is subject to close ongoing monitoring by the Governor of the Central Bank and the Chief Executive of the Financial Regulator.

There are also significant powers under the Scheme for the Financial Regulator, in consultation with me, to require action in relation to a covered institution's commercial conduct including setting targets on assets and liabilities and liquidity, solvency and capital ratios, and covered institutions must comply with such targets. A covered institution can be required to limit is exposure to any sector, customer or connected customer in the interests of financial stability or to take specific actions to restructure its activities in compliance with the Scheme.

I am satisfied that there is a comprehensive framework in place to ensure each of the covered institutions actively manages its financial position in accordance with the objectives of the Scheme.

Public Service Pay.

Tom Hayes

Question:

14 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Finance his plans to contain the growth in the public service pay bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38773/08]

I am keeping the public service paybill under continuous review and I have already taken steps to contain its growth.

The draft pay agreement "Review and Transitional Agreement 2008-2009" provides for a pay pause of 11 months in the public service. The private sector pay pause provided for is to last for three months. Furthermore, public service employers are required to achieve a 3% cut in payroll costs in 2009 and no specific additional provision has been made for the cost in 2009 of the increase provided for in the new draft pay agreement. The cost of this increase must be met from within the approved allocations.

Payroll costs are a function of staff numbers. As I stated in the budget speech, we must do more with less in regard to public service pay and numbers. Where there are clear staff surpluses in certain areas, or where policy priorities change, staff numbers must be correspondingly reduced or re-assigned.

The Government has already decided that a targeted voluntary early retirement scheme will be introduced for the HSE. Discussions are underway on the development of such a scheme.

I believe it is essential to extend such schemes, in a targeted manner, to other areas of the public service where surplus staff are identified. In this context, the Government has decided to conduct a focused review of public sector numbers in all branches of Government to assess whether the resources are being fully deployed in an efficient and effective manner and what economies can be made.

This decision will be implemented when the report of the Task Force on the Public Service is received later this month.

Public service pay levels can only increase at a rate that is consistent with budgetary discipline and national competitiveness. I am satisfied that the measures put in place support this stance. As I have mentioned, we are keeping public service pay, along with other major expenditure categories, under ongoing review. Should further corrective action be necessary, this will be taken.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

15 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance the details of the proposed committee which will address issues relating to remuneration structures in the financial sector here including its membership, terms of reference and implementation timescale; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38841/08]

The Scheme prepared under the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Act 2008 requires each covered institution to prepare a plan to structure the remuneration packages of directors and executives, including total salary, bonuses, pension payments and any other benefits, so as to take account of the objectives of the Act.

I will shortly establish the independent, three-member, committee, to be called the Covered Institution Remuneration Oversight Committee ("CIROC") provided for under the Scheme. Each covered institution is to submit a report to CIROC no later than six weeks after joining the Scheme, and CIROC will then report to me within three months. An institution which has not complied with the requirements can be directed to amend its remuneration plan accordingly.

It is important to emphasise that one of the key features of this part of the Scheme is the requirement to orient the system of bonuses to create the appropriate incentives — incentives that point toward reduction in excessive risk-taking and that promote long-term sustainability. I believe that this, together with other controls and requirements incorporated in the Scheme, will make a real difference and greatly strengthen our financial system for the future.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

16 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if, in the context of budget 2009, he has identified and addressed any or all of the issues that heretofore have created a lack of competitiveness in the economy here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38697/08]

The deterioration in the economy's competitiveness relative to that of our main trading partners has been driven by a combination of factors. These include a strong euro, the global rise in commodity prices and wage increases in excess of productivity. The relatively high rate of inflation that we have experienced over the last number of years has also played a role. At this stage, price levels here are more than 20% above the euro area average.

Improving our competitive position is essential to facilitate a re-balancing of the economy towards more sustainable, export-led growth and to maintain Ireland's attractiveness as a location for inward investment.

In recognition of this, and notwithstanding the need to underpin the sustainability of the public finances, the Government took a number of steps in Budget 2009 aimed at supporting the economy's competitiveness. These included re-affirming our commitment to the 12.5% rate of corporation tax and maintaining and enhancing pro-employment business tax reliefs. We are also continuing to prioritise productivity enhancing investment under the National Development Plan. These measures will ensure that the Irish economy is well placed to take advantage of the global pick-up when it emerges.

While my Department, along with the Tánaiste's Department and the National Competitiveness Council all take an active role in monitoring competitiveness developments on an ongoing basis, I would point out that national competitiveness is not, however, solely a matter of Government policy. Rather it is a shared responsibility of all the Social Partners — Government, employers and unions. Regaining our competitive position, which as a small open economy is critical to our economic success, will require each of us to play our part and work together to this end.

This means ensuring that externally-driven price increases do not become embedded in our system as that only creates a vicious cycle from which no one wins. In this respect, the willingness of the various parties to compromise and adopt a realistic approach to wage developments in the recent pay talks is commendable. In addition, it will be important to ensure that improvements in external factors that impact on domestic costs, such as falling oil prices, are passed on.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

17 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Finance the amount of dated subordinated debt covered by the credit institutions financial support scheme; if he has a list of the holders of such debt; if they include directors of the banks covered by the scheme or persons holding substantial shareholdings in those banks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38833/08]

The consolidated dated subordinated debt figure in respect of the first group of banks and building societies to participate in the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme amounts to €12.4 billion. Details for each individual institution are available in their published financial statements.

I do not have a list of the holders of such debt, which means that I cannot comment as to whether they include directors or substantial shareholders in the institutions covered by the scheme.

Budgetary Projections.

Martin Ferris

Question:

18 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Finance if his Department is revising Irish GDP and GNP forecasts in view of the GDP figures in the USA and Britain; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38667/08]

The Budget day forecasts are for GDP to decline by 1¼ per cent this year, with GNP forecast to contract by 1½ per cent. In terms of next year, GDP is forecast to decline by ¾ per cent, while GNP is projected to decline by 1 per cent. The Budget day forecasts have not changed.

In preparing these forecasts my Department considered the growth prospects in several of our major trading partners, including the United States and the United Kingdom. Growth in these countries is slowing and is projected to slow further in 2009.

A greater-than-normal level of uncertainty is attached to the economic outlook given the highly unusual prevailing environment. A number of downside risks to the economic outlook were identified on Budget day including the possibility that the global financial market problems would persist, a more prolonged downturn in our major trading partners, the possibility of further exchange rate appreciation and a sharper than assumed decline in the residential sector. My Department continues to monitor developments and advises accordingly.

Pension Provisions.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

19 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Finance his views on the adequacy of provision for pension liabilities in the public sector; and the policy options open to him. [38747/08]

Total expenditure on public service pensions in 2007 was of the order of €2.3bn and the most recent projections carried out by the Department of Finance are for expenditure on public service pensions to increase from around 1.3% of GDP in 2007 to 2.1% in 2025 and to 2.6% by 2050. The projected increase arises from the growth in public service employment in recent years and from increasing longevity. Measures to contain the cost of this increase in public service pensions have been put in place in recent years and policy options for further reform are outlined in the Green Paper on Pensions. These policy options are now being examined in the context of preparing a framework for comprehensively addressing the pensions agenda over the long term.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Mary Upton

Question:

20 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance if the letters given by him to certain credit institutions on 30 September 2008, referred to by him in Dáil Éireann on 17 September 2008, were in identical terms as regards each such institution; if those letters remain in effect or have been withdrawn; if he will publish those letters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38836/08]

The written notification to six named financial institutions of the provision by the Government of a guarantee to their deposits and funding, which I referred to as a letter in the course of the debate on the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme 2008, was published by me on the morning of 30 September and is publicly available on my Department's website. On the 9th of October, I announced the Government was prepared to extend eligibility for participation in the guarantee Scheme to banking subsidiaries in Ireland with a significant and broadbased footprint in our economy.

The terms of the guarantee are set out in the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme 2008 and individual institutions join the Scheme by executing a guarantee acceptance deed in the form specified by me. The terms of the guarantee Scheme apply to all covered institutions and the form of the guarantee acceptance deed is common to the covered institutions except to the extent that a covered institution has or is a subsidiary and that each pays an individually determined charge factor based on the factors set out at paragraph 16 of the Scheme.

Financial Services Regulation.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

21 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance his views on the Financial Regulator’s recent decision to fine a company and an individual (details supplied) €3.2 million and €0.2 million respectively in relation to breaches of regulatory requirements with respect to the failure to notify the Financial Regulator prior to providing substantial loans to related companies for the purpose of purchasing equity stakes in a bank; when he was advised that this investigation was in progress; if his attention was drawn to the fact that this investigation was underway on 30 September 2008; if this investigation materially affected his decision to launch the credit institutions financial support scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38831/08]

The Central Bank Act, 1942 as amended provides the Financial Regulator with the power to administer sanctions in respect of prescribed contraventions by regulated financial service providers and persons concerned in the management of regulated financial service providers.

The Financial Regulator is the competent independent statutory authority in the State for the supervision of compliance and has the statutory power to impose sanctions on regulated firms where they contravene these requirements, as well as on persons concerned in the management of those firms who participated in such contraventions. The legislation expressly provides to the Financial Regulator the power to enter into a settlement agreement with the parties to resolve such a matter.

Tax Code.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

22 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance the meetings that he has had to ensure that the needs of US companies based here are not adversely affected by moves to change the tax rules in the United states. [38778/08]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

38 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance if his Department discussed the impact of changes in US tax legislation in view of the likelihood of a change in the US tax codes dealing with multinationals based here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38669/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 22 and 38 together.

My Department and I are of course always mindful of any international developments that could potentially impact on foreign direct investment here. In that respect there is continuous liaison with the business community through domestic and overseas channels to monitor any potential changes.

In terms of the United States of America, I am not aware of any concrete proposals to make changes to their tax legislation. While there has been some speculation in the context of the Presidential election that any new Administration could seek to make changes to the tax code, it is merely speculation.

I do not need to remind the House of the importance of US investment to the Irish economy which has been valued by successive Irish Governments over the last forty years. Irish investment in the US is also of significance. In that context it would be remiss of me not to be mindful of the sensitivity of investment decisions to the overall economic environment that would prevail including the tax environment that could undermine such decisions.

Public Service Modernisation.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

23 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance the changes in work practices which he sought to negotiate as part of the national social partnership talks. [38795/08]

Towards 2016 is a ten year framework agreement which sets out an agenda for the further modernisation of the Public Service. It commits the parties to the Agreement to continued co-operation with change and modernisation initiatives, as well as improved productivity across the Public Service.

In approaching the recent Partnership talks the Government recognised that while significant progress has been made in advancing the modernisation agenda, many more changes are needed. There must be a more customer-focused approach to the delivery of public services and a greater emphasis on efficiency and value for money. Accordingly, the Agreement recognises that the Public Service must review continuously its systems, processes and procedures to ensure that it is responsive and efficient and that it provides high quality, value for money services. Specifically, the parties acknowledge the requirement for developing the range of service delivery options, for utilising shared services in areas such as HR, ICT and financial management and for developing cross-organisational solutions as a way of addressing problems of service delivery on a ‘whole of Government' basis.

The Government was also mindful of the recommendations of the OECD Review of the Public Service, Towards an Integrated Public Service, which concluded that we are on a sound trajectory of modernisation but could further improve the yield from reforms. The parties to the Agreement commit themselves to implementation of the basic principles emerging from the OECD report. The Government has established a Task Force to develop an Action Plan for the Public Service taking account of the recommendations of the OECD Review. The report of the Task Force will be considered by the Government shortly.

Budgetary Projections.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

24 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that his budgetary projections for 2009 are likely to be accurate in view of the obvious miscalculations for 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38698/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

105 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which he can rely on his budgetary projections for accuracy over the next 12 months in view of his experience for 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39148/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 24 and 105 together.

The budgetary forecasts by my Department in Budget 2009 were based on the best information available at the time. For 2009 the Budget forecast a General Government Balance of -6½% of GDP based on tax revenue growth of 1% and gross voted expenditure growth of 1.8%.

Since Budget Day my Department has published the October Exchequer Returns which showed an Exchequer deficit of just over €11 billion for the first ten months of the year, including a tax shortfall of almost €4.3 billion.

As I have indicated previously, November is a key month for tax collection. While in the ten months to end-October, the tax shortfall is almost €4.3 billion, my Department expects that a further shortfall of the order of €2¼ billion will materialise in the final two months of the year.

While tax receipts in October have continued the poor performance of recent months, they are nonetheless broadly in line with what was anticipated when formulating the end year estimated outturn that underpinned the Budget. In overall terms, the assumed shortfall for the year is approximately €6½ billion and this has not been revised in light of the October tax data.

Budget 2009 forecast tax receipts of almost €42.8 billion in 2009, which represents revenue growth of approximately 1% as a result of significant revenue raising measures introduced in the Budget.

House Repossessions.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

25 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance his views on the rising level of home repossessions; if he proposes to introduce measures to help those at risk of losing their homes as a result of rising unemployment and more frequent instances of negative equity; if he will resource appropriate advisory services, particularly the Money Advice and Budgeting Service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38821/08]

The Deputy will appreciate that recent media attention to court proceedings for repossessions needs to be interpreted with caution, given the variety of circumstances that give rise to such cases. Although the number of cases involving applications for possession orders are up in each of the last two years it should be noted that orders are not always granted and do not always represent residential mortgages. Even when orders are granted they are not always followed through and levels remain low compared to historical averages and in comparison to similar jurisdictions such as the UK. In 2007, the number of orders granted by the High Court was a very small proportion — representing less than 0.2% — of the number of new mortgages issued in the same year. Furthermore, cases currently being heard are not confined to one particular year or time period.

Unfortunately, a small minority of borrowers develop debt problems. Anyone experiencing difficulty in repaying a mortgage or other loan should discuss the matter with the loan provider and seek appropriate advice without delay. The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS), which falls under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, is a national, free, confidential and independent service for people in debt, or in danger of getting into debt. MABS offices, throughout the country, work with people in order to assist them with their financial planning and budgeting for the future. Funding for MABS in 2009 is €17.9 million. The Department of Social and Family Affairs also funds the demand-led Mortgage Interest Supplement scheme which provides short-term income support to those eligible who are unable to meet their mortgage interest repayments in respect of a house which is their sole place of residence. Support for this scheme was increased in the recent budget.

Non-financial supports in place include the Financial Regulator's Consumer Protection Code (the CPC), which applies to all home loan providers operating in the State, requires mortgage lenders to undertake suitability assessments before offering a product or service to consumers and requires that a regulated entity must contact the consumer as soon as it becomes aware that a mortgage account is in arrears irrespective of the amount of the arrears. It also specifies that the regulated entity must have in place a procedure for handling accounts in arrears and the Financial Regulator's CEO has pointed out that the Financial Regulator considers this to include a requirement that lenders agree a remedial action plan with a borrower as soon as it detects arrears starting to emerge and to try to assist the borrower to manage his or her financial commitments and not allow the situation to worsen. (For details see www.financialregulator.ie).

The Deputy may wish to note that the provisions of the Scheme made under the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Act, 2008, requires institutions covered by the guarantee in Ireland to confirm their compliance not only with the CPC but also with the Irish Banking Federation's (IBF) Code of Practice on Mortgage Arrears (the IBF's Code).

In accordance with the IBF's Code borrowers are advised to contact their lender about any problems they may be experiencing regarding meeting their repayments schedule. It recommends that the borrower contact the lender after one missed scheduled payment (again irrespective of the amount) in order to prevent a situation of mounting arrears arising with negative consequences for both the borrower and lender.

Once the borrower has contacted the lender, the latter will consider all viable options and develop a plan for clearing the mortgage arrears. Home repossession should be the last resort for the lender and the preferred method of dealing with arrears cases should be early intervention. In the light of all of the above I am satisfied that adequate safeguards are in place to address the issues raised by the Deputy.

Debt Levels.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

26 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the private sector debt here is proportionately higher than any other country in the EU and that at the end of August 2008 Ireland collectively owed the banks €392,885,000,000, which breaks down to €95,000 for every person here; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that 63.4% of this private debt is owed by the construction, real estate and mortgage sectors and that another 16.4% has been borrowed by financial intermediaries such as pension funds that deal in property assets; his views on whether repayments on this high level of private debt will be unsupportable in view of the speed of decline in the money supply; the interventions he proposes to make to prevent bad debts spiralling out of control; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38834/08]

Within the implementation of the overall legislative framework, private sector credit growth and debt levels are, in the first instance, a matter for the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland. This follows from its role as part of the European System of Central Banks and its functions, as the Financial Regulator, in relation to the prudential supervision of financial institutions and the protection of the consumers of those firms.

The Central Bank publishes a quarterly note on the sectoral developments in credit. In June 2008, outstanding private-sector credit stood at €392.9 billion. While property-related lending accounted for 62 per cent of this, this measure includes residential mortgages, and securitised residential mortgages. During 2006 when all credit was increasing at a rapid pace, lending to households was also increasing rapidly. This has moderated slowly since then and increased annually by 9 per cent in June 2008. I am informed by the Central Bank that lending to insurance corporations and pension funds only account for a small proportion of private sector credit, around 1 per cent.

It is worth noting that lending to households for house purchase is continuing despite tighter lending standards, albeit at a slower, steadier pace than before. I also note from the latest EBS/DKM Affordability Index published on 4th November that affordability for first time buyers continues to improve and that this trend is set to continue over the coming months.

Unfortunately, a small minority of borrowers develop debt problems. Anyone experiencing difficulty in repaying a mortgage or other loan should discuss the matter with the loan provider and seek appropriate advice without delay. The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS), which falls under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, works with people in order to assist them with their financial planning and budgeting for the future. The Department of Social and Family Affairs also funds the demand-led Mortgage Interest Supplement scheme which provides short-term income support to those eligible who are unable to meet their mortgage interest repayments in respect of a house which is their sole place of residence.

Non-financial supports in place include the Financial Regulator's Consumer Protection Code (the CPC) and the Irish Banking Federation's (IBF) Code of Practice on Mortgage Arrears. The Deputy may wish to note that the provisions of the Scheme made under the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Act, 2008, requires institutions covered by the guarantee in Ireland to confirm their compliance not only with the CPC but also with the IBF's Code of Practice.

Public Service Pay.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

27 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied with the operation of performance related pay mechanisms in the public service. [38783/08]

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

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

I have no role in the decisions on awards. Recommendations for awards under the scheme are made, in the first instance, by the relevant Secretary General or other designated post as appropriate. These recommendations are then submitted to an independent body, the Committee for Performance Awards (CPA), which includes a majority of private sector members. The main roles of the Committee are to monitor the application of the scheme of performance-related awards and to bring independent judgement to bear in approving objectives for the persons covered by the scheme and in approving recommendations for awards.

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

I am satisfied that the CPA is fulfilling its remit in relation to the schemes. There are separate schemes of performance-related awards for senior staff of local authorities and the health service. The Committee for Performance Awards in the Local 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 pay may also apply to the Chief Executive Officers of non-commercial State sponsored bodies (and in some cases, to the second tier of management). The Review Body considered that certain conditions should be in place in non-commercial State-sponsored bodies before schemes of performance-related awards were introduced. Where a Board considers that these conditions can be met, the Board of the body concerned may submit a draft scheme to the relevant parent Department. If the parent Department is also of the view that the necessary conditions can be met, it submits the draft scheme to my Department for approval. Once schemes have been approved, the Department of Finance does not have any role in the awards made by the Boards of the bodies concerned. These schemes are also based on the achievement of stretched targets and provide for a maximum bonus of 20% of pay. The guidelines provide that awards of between 15% and 20% should arise only in the most exceptional situations where performance has surpassed all reasonable expectations and has resulted in the achievement of a major goal of the body. Decisions on the level of payment to be awarded are the responsibility of the Board of the body concerned.

I have no plans at present to introduce schemes of performance-related awards for other public service staff.

Proposed Legislation.

Alan Shatter

Question:

28 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Finance if he plans amendments to the legislation established to provide for an annual investment in the National Pensions Reserve Fund. [38805/08]

Willie Penrose

Question:

48 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Finance his views on the impact that falls in global equity markets have had on the National Pension Reserve Fund; his views on whether liquidating any of the NPRF’s equity holdings while global equity markets were at rock-bottom prices would be unwise; if he will propose modifications to the NPRF’s investment guidelines or portfolio make-up; if he will propose legislation in the coming months with respect to a modification of the operation of the NPRF. [38813/08]

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

As the Deputies will be aware, I announced in my Budget speech that I was conducting a review of the National Pensions Reserve Fund in the context of recent economic and fiscal developments. I have asked Mr Maurice O'Connell, former Governor of the Central Bank, to conduct the review and I await his report with interest. As I stated in my Budget speech, any changes requiring legislation will be brought forward in due course.

Decentralisation Programme.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

29 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Finance if the contracts for the €387.5 million worth of property sold in Dublin under the decentralisation scheme contain clauses that will allow the State to buy back the property in the case of reversal of decentralisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38846/08]

There is no clause to allow the State to buy back properties in any of the contracts for disposal of the properties outlined in my reply to Ceisteanna 227 and 222 of 21 October 2008.

Debt Levels.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

30 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that outstanding Irish bank loans to property developers within Ireland only were estimated to be €86.7 billion in June 2008 and that expert commentators estimated that the banks are expected to be forced to write off up to €45 billion of these loans over the next two years; his proposals to inject capital into the system if required in order that the guarantee on credit institutions is not called in; if he has set a limit on the amount of capital that the State would be prepared to inject into the banking system in such a scenario; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38832/08]

I do not wish to comment on speculative comments by various commentators but as it happens most serious commentators — and the institutions themselves — expect provisions required to be a much smaller figure than that suggested by the Deputy.

It is a matter for each institution and its auditors to publish results at the appropriate periods. The banks will be releasing accounts and information over the coming months. The Financial Regulator clearly takes a direct interest in this issue, with a view to ensuring financial stability. I understand that the Regulator is engaged in an exercise at present to review the loan books and business plans of the guaranteed institutions.

As regards the capital position of the banks, each institution must take appropriate steps to ensure that their levels of capital are aligned with their needs. The State has a keen interest in the stability of the banking institutions, because of their role in the economy. Clearly, my Department, the Central Bank and the Financial Regulator will be in continuing contact with the institutions on their business plans, their capital position and their liquidity. Under the guarantee scheme, institutions can be required to adjust their capital ratios if that is required for the maintenance of financial stability.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

31 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance if he has assessed the steps necessary to ensure that there is a continuing flow of credit for enterprises and families; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38770/08]

The extended international credit crunch which we have experienced has brought home to all of us the pivotal role of the financial system in the economy and in the day-to-day lives of ordinary people. An important aim of the Scheme of Guarantees we have introduced is to ensure that we have a banking system that as a whole works effectively, efficiently and competitively in facilitating all the day-to-day ordinary economic transactions of commercial, business, family and social life. The scheme therefore includes the application of strict terms and conditions on covered institutions to ensure that the public interest, which includes the general consumer and small business sector, is paramount.

By putting guarantees in place we have removed a major obstacle to financial institutions continuing to play their proper role in facilitating enterprises and individuals with credit.

Budgetary Projections.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

32 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that the tax forecasts on which he has based financial projections are robust in the budget 2009 statement. [38767/08]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

72 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance his views on the October 2008 Exchequer returns; the updated tax revenue profiles for November and December 2008 and for 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38819/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 32 and 72 together.

The October 2008 Exchequer Returns showed an Exchequer deficit of just over €11 billion for the first ten months of the year, including a tax shortfall of almost €4.3 billion.

As I have indicated previously, November is a key month for tax collection. While in the ten months to end-October, the tax shortfall is almost €4.3 billion, my Department expects that a further shortfall of the order of €2¼ billion will materialise in the final two months of the year.

While tax receipts in October have continued the poor performance of recent months, they are nonetheless broadly in line with what was anticipated by my Department, when formulating the end year estimated outturn that underpinned the Budget. In overall terms, the assumed shortfall for the year is approximately €6½ billion and this has not been revised in light of the October tax data.

Budget 2009 forecast tax receipts of almost €42.8 billion in 2009, which represents revenue growth of approximately 1% as a result of significant revenue raising measures introduced in the Budget.

Capital Projects.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

33 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance if the central evaluation unit has identified any cases of non-compliance in its spot checks of capital projects; and the consequences for the projects involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38757/08]

Under the conditions of sanction for capital expenditure issued by my Department, Departments are required to put in place a system of annual spot-checks of capital projects to ensure that they are complying with these VFM requirements and to report the findings of these spot-checks annually to my Department. The Evaluation Unit in my Department reviews these spot-check reports and may also directly undertake its own spot checks of individual capital projects either as part of this review process or on its own initiative.

In this context, The Evaluation Unit has also undertaken a substantial programme of direct spot checks of individual capital projects encompassing over 20 projects across six different Departments — Transport; Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Education and Science; Health and Children; Enterprise, Trade and Employment; and Arts, Sport and Tourism.

On completion a final report on each spot-check is submitted to the relevant Department. As may be expected, these reports can raise issues from time to time and as a result do provide advice to Departments on aspects such as the planning, appraisal and execution of specific projects by reference to the VFM framework in place, which Departments are expected to consider and action as appropriate.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

34 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance the reason dated subordinated debt is included in the credit institutions financial support scheme; the representations received by him or his officials in respect of the inclusion of dated subordinated debt in the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38838/08]

Dated subordinated debt is part of the deposit base of a financial institution. The Government took the decision to safeguard all deposits of those credit institutions wishing to participate in the scheme following advice received from the Governor of the Central Bank and the Financial Regulator as to the impact of the turmoil in the international financial markets on the Irish banking system.

I should say that the objective of the guarantee is to provide confidence amongst senior investors in the wholesale capital markets. In recent years, as a result of tightening credit spreads, traditional investors in senior unsecured debt have increased their exposure to non-deferrable dated subordinated debt ("Lower Tier 2") in search of additional yield. Today, the overlap in the investor base for both senior and Lower Tier 2 is extremely high. Therefore, we feel it is important to the success of the guarantee to include dated subordinated liabilities in order to preserve capital market access for the Irish institutions going forward.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

35 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the Pricewaterhouse Cooper investigation into the balance sheets of the Irish banks covered by the credit institutions financial support scheme; the extent to which he has liaised with the Financial Regulator on the matter; the terms of reference for this investigation; if, having regard to the public interest in the reliability of the banks’ balance sheets, this report will be made public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38839/08]

The Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme provides a guarantee for covered institutions until 29 September 2010.

I have been advised by the Financial Regulator that it recently commissioned Price Waterhouse Coopers to conduct a review of loan portfolios of the covered credit institutions. PwC is currently progressing with this work and the Financial Regulator will keep me advised of progress as appropriate. The Deputy will appreciate that this review is highly commercially sensitive and accordingly the Financial Regulator will not be publishing the results of the PwC work.

Freedom of Information.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

36 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Finance his plans to amend the freedom of information scheme to include costings of Government projects in view of the importance of public spending in the current economic climate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33304/08]

I have no plans to amend the Freedom of Information Act. The FOI Act enables members of the public to obtain access to information held by public bodies, to the greatest extent possible consistent with the public interest and the right to privacy. Currently a member of the public can seek access to any record held by a public body covered by the Act, including information held by Government Departments relating to the Public Capital Programme. However, there are exemptions set out in the Act that protect certain types of records that would contain, for example, commercially sensitive information and where the public interest would not be served by the release of such information.

In relation to projects in the Public Capital Programme, Cost-Benefit appraisals of these projects are prepared by the individual Departments and Agencies undertaking the projects. Such appraisals are prepared to facilitate and inform the internal decision making process. It has not been the practice to publish these appraisals as they generally contain commercially sensitive information, the publication of which could be prejudicial to the State's capacity to get best value for money in procurement of capital projects. In these circumstances, I would not consider it appropriate to require that details of such appraisals be published or made available under the FOI Act.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

37 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm the net Exchequer income expected to arise from the credit institutions financial support scheme for each of the years 2008, 2009 and 2010; if he will confirm that this money will be available for use during the year in which it is received; if he will use this income to establish a contingency fund or to ringfence the funds in some other fashion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38824/08]

The Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme provides a guarantee for covered institutions until 29 September 2010.

The scheme provides that the income accruing from the charge will be credited to a designated account to be maintained at the Central Bank. This account will act as a reserve for any payment that may be made under the scheme. The scheme further provides that any amount standing to the credit of such an account at the expiration of the scheme will be paid to the Exchequer.

The current estimate of the income from the scheme over the two years is €1 billion. However, the level of income that will actually arise will depend on factors such as the institutions covered by the scheme, the level of covered liabilities and the charge applied to individual institutions. The scheme provides for the payment of the charge on a quarterly basis by each covered institution.

Question No. 38 answered with Question No. 22.

Liz McManus

Question:

39 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Finance the amount of liquidity that flowed into the banking system here in the days after the granting of the guarantee to credit institutions; if this level of liquidity has been maintained in the intervening weeks; the extent to which these inflows affected the extent of the liabilities under guarantee by the Irish taxpayer; the position in relation to the level of liabilities under guarantee through the bank guarantee; if he is satisfied at the level of liquidity in the banking system here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38817/08]

The Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme provides a guarantee for covered institutions until 29 September 2010.

Since it was introduced, the guarantee scheme has been successful in stabilising the banking situation. In the immediate wake of its introduction, I have been informed that the level of deposits received by the covered institutions have largely reversed the liquidity losses in previous weeks with total net inflows of around €25 billion to date. Subject to the rules of the scheme, any net increase in the level of deposits by the covered institutions will also increase the level of liabilities under the scheme. The scheme requires that balance sheet growth of the covered institution is not excessive. The Deputy can be assured that my Department, the Central Bank and the Financial Regulator will be in continuing contact with the covered institutions in relation to their levels of liabilities and liquidity.

Financial Services Regulation.

Joan Burton

Question:

40 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance his views on the solvency ratios of firms operating in the insurance market here; if he instructed the Financial Regulator to seek monthly solvency data from such firms; if contingency plans have been drawn up by his Department in the event that an insurance firm had to be underwritten by the Government in order to ensure it could fill its financial obligations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38844/08]

In my role as the Minister for Finance I have responsibility for the development of the legal framework governing financial regulation. The day-to-day responsibility for the supervision of financial institutions is a matter for the Financial Regulator, which is statutorily independent in the exercise of its regulatory functions. The Financial Regulator is also obliged to treat as confidential the information it holds on regulated entities. However, he has advised me that on the basis of the latest figures available, all insurers meet the statutory solvency margin requirements. He has also advised me that monthly monitoring of solvency positions will take place where necessary.

It should be noted that the Financial Regulator approaches prudential regulation from a risk perspective and tries to target its supervisory resources on those businesses with a higher risk profile and with the propensity to have the greatest impact in the event of a failure. This approach dovetails with the broader financial stability agenda in which my Department, the Central Bank and the Financial Regulator work closely. This agenda takes account, on an ongoing basis, of the general financial well being of the insurance industry and provides the basis for an appropriate response to changing circumstances and developments.

Capital Projects.

Michael Creed

Question:

41 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that the public capital programme is delivering in priority areas on time and on budget; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38749/08]

The exchequer capital allocations for 2009 for all Departments were outlined in my recent budget. It is a matter for each Department to manage its capital allocation to maximise impact and value for money. The Value for Money Framework put in place by Government over recent years will help ensure that value for money is attained and that public capital investment is delivered on time and within budget.

In the current economic climate, capital expenditure will be prioritised towards critical infrastructure projects. As you are aware, resources are allocated, inter alia, towards major inter-urban motorways, public transport, water services infrastructure, education, social housing and health infrastructure.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

42 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance if he will publish the advice of the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland on the appropriate scope of the credit institutions financial support scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38840/08]

The Government's decision on the banking guarantee was indeed informed by the advice and guidance of the Governor of the Central Bank and the chief executive officer of the Financial Regulator. I wish to refer the Deputy to the statement by the Governor of the Central Bank, Mr. John Hurley, issued on 3rd October 2008, which makes it clear that the Government's decision to guarantee depositors in and lenders to Irish financial institutions was taken after close consultation with the Central Bank and Financial Regulator, and sets out the context. The Statement is available on the Central Bank Website at the following address www.centralbank.ie.

Government Bonds.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

43 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance the cost of Exchequer debt financing since 30 September 2008; the changes to the cost of insuring Irish Government bonds against default since 30 September 2008; if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties the NTMA has had in raising debt financing since 30 September 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38815/08]

Bernard Allen

Question:

44 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Finance if he has received an analysis of the reason Irish debt costs are rising relative to other states. [38724/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 43 and 44 together.

As the Deputy is aware, the day-to-day management of the debt is handled by the National Treasury Management Agency and as such it is on their advice that Government relies in relation to the operation of our debt funding.

The cost of raising long-term debt in the capital markets can be measured in relative terms to other countries. This is known as the ‘spread'. In the case of Ireland, its cost of borrowing can be measured against the relative borrowing costs of, for example, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal or Greece. The spread to Germany is the benchmark measure and it is observed by comparing the yields on bonds of similar maturity.

Since September 2008 the turbulence in financial markets has been severe and this has been reflected in bond spreads. Only time and a historical perspective will allow a true analysis of the causes and, more importantly, the relative weight that should be ascribed to the different factors. As international difficulties have evolved over the past few months, all small and non-core sovereign issuers, such as Ireland, have experienced widening spreads. Liquidity has been a major factor. Most investors have focused on German Government debt as it is considered the most liquid investment — this means German bonds can be readily accessed and traded, and also that there is a liquid futures market in German government bonds to manage the associated market risks. However, while spreads have widened against Germany, absolute yields have remained low or even decreased, depending on the timeframe, because of the extent to which German yields have fallen.

Ireland's economic success in the past has resulted in a relatively low debt to GDP ratio and also a low absolute level of debt. We have not been a frequent issuer of bonds which reflects both the relative size of the Irish economy and the healthy state of the public finances for the last decade. These positive factors have in fact had the effect of contributing to liquidity difficulties for Ireland in the current market.

There are a number of other factors in addition to liquidity which influence borrowing costs. These include the state of the public finances, the level of borrowing requirement, and competition for funding in the sovereign debt markets. It is not possible to say to what extent each of these factors will affect the spread in the future.

The following per cent yields on Ireland's 10 year bonds were observed in the secondary market since September 2008:

1-Sep

29-Sep

1-Oct

3 -Nov

Ireland

4.493

4.492

4.581

4.771

All of the factors detailed above have been absorbed into the pricing of insuring Irish Government bonds against default. At time of writing this works out at €11,370 for 10 years per million insured. This was approximately €6,650 at the beginning of October and €3,710 at the beginning of September 2008. However, the credit default swaps (CDS) market is neither liquid nor transparent and, as a result, prices quoted are volatile. CDS spreads are a cost to the investor — they do not directly affect the cost of debt to the Exchequer.

Despite the difficult and volatile market conditions since September, the NTMA has continued to be successful in raising finance for the Exchequer. Over €2.5 billion in short term funding was raised in October and this week the NTMA issued a new €4 billion three-year benchmark bond. The bond was oversubscribed within 36 hours and close to 100 applicants participated in the transaction. The successful launch of the bond in these conditions confirms the confidence of investors in the Irish Government bond market.

Finally, the strategy underpinning Budget 2009 is designed with the clear intention of restoring balance to the public finances over the medium term cycle while having reference to the overall economic climate. In doing so the Government seeks to restore the current Budget to surplus and to limit the level of borrowing required as order and stability return to the Exchequer finances.

EU Directives.

Joan Burton

Question:

45 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance his position on draft EU proposals that originating banks be required to retain a portion of assets which they securitise on their books; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38845/08]

The Deputy is referring to the proposal by the Commission in the draft Capital Requirements Directive amending Directive, which is currently going through the co-decision legislative process, for improving the risk management for securitised products and addressing significant weaknesses in the so-called "originate-to-distribute" model which has played a central role in propagating the sub-prime crisis in the USA to the financial sector internationally.

Basically, it is proposed that firms that repackage loans will be required to retain some risk exposure to these securities, while firms that invest in such securities will be allowed to make their decisions only after conducting comprehensive due diligence.

For instance, banks issuing securitisations would be required to retain not less than 5% of the net economic interest in an issue. Similarly, banks would be prohibited from investing in securitisations unless the originator retained at least 5% of the risk.

Securitisation has been a useful means of meeting the funding needs of the banking sector. Accordingly, my Department is in consultation with industry representatives regarding the possible implications of the Commission's proposal for securitisation activities in Ireland and these contacts are ongoing. Moreover, compromise proposals on the draft Directive, including in relation to the securitisation elements, are currently under consideration in the Council Working Group. In the circumstances, my Department has not yet taken a definitive stance in regard to the so-called 5% retention proposal but it will be a priority to ensure that the agreed approach supports the maintenance of financial stability and the appropriate pricing of risk.

State Agencies.

Ulick Burke

Question:

46 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Finance the implications in terms of a reduction in staff numbers and savings in annual costs of the programme of rationalisation of State agencies outlined in budget 2009. [38734/08]

In my Budget for 2009, I announced that the Government has decided to proceed with proposals from 11 Departments that will reduce the number of State agencies by 41. Implementation of each proposal is primarily a matter for the responsible Department.

The rationalisation of State agencies, which involves amalgamating bodies, reassigning legislative and administrative functions, and discontinuing bodies in some cases, is a complex and sensitive exercise. Furthermore, rationalisation will give rise to a range of human resource issues, which will be the subject of consultation and discussion with the relevant staff interests as appropriate.

Consequently, in view of the complexities outlined above and timing issues, it is not yet possible to give an exact overview of the rationalisation process but there will be savings which will be passed on to the taxpayer.

Legal Costs.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

47 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide an estimate of the cost of legal services which the State paid for in 2007 and to date in 2008; and if he is satisfied that effective measures are in place to minimise this cost. [38789/08]

The following table sets out expenditure in 2007 and to date in 2008 on contracts for legal services by my department and the related offices.

Name of Office/Agency

2007

2008 (YTD)

€,000

€,000

The Department of Finance

394

230

Valuation Office

20

54

Comptroller & Auditor General

43

13

Commission for Public Service Appointments

130

65

State Laboratory

103

Public Appointments Service

17

Office of the Revenue Commissioners

5,688

4,994

Office of the Ombudsman

444

336

Office of the Appeals Commissioner

In general, my Department uses the services of the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the Chief State Solicitor, and seeks outside legal advisers in circumstances requiring legal services of a specific and/or specialist nature. The guidelines on the engagement of external support apply in such circumstances and require that such external support is procured only where essential. My Department requires that each office and department confirms regularly that these guidelines are applied.

In the time available, the Office of Public Works was unable to collate the information sought. I have asked that office to communicate the relevant information direct to the Deputy.

Question No. 48 answered with Question No. 28.

Tax Code.

Denis Naughten

Question:

49 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance if he will review the VAT rate on defibrillators; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38572/08]

The Deputy will be aware that in matters relating to the VAT rating of goods and services, I am constrained by the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply.

In relation to the VAT rate that applies to defibrillators, the position is that under the VAT Directive, Member States may retain the zero rates on goods and services which were in place on 1 January 1991, but cannot extend the zero rate to new goods and services. The zero VAT rate cannot therefore be applied to defibrillators which are subject to the standard rate.

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

Sean Sherlock

Question:

50 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance the estimate of the impact he expects the reduction in stamp duty on commercial property to have on the commercial property market in terms of transaction volume, prices and Exchequer income; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38829/08]

As I stated in my Budget speech, there is a need for commercial development and investment if we are to create jobs and stimulate economic activity. I also said that this change was being introduced as the Government's contribution towards providing an impetus to the commercial property market. The impact of the change cannot be specifically quantified at this point, as it depends on overall improvements in this sector over the coming year.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

51 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance if the credit institutions financial support scheme stipulates that the State will underwrite losses incurred as a result of default as opposed to these losses being recouped from the financial sector itself or if such an informal agreement exists with any of the banks or credit institutions covered by the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38818/08]

The Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme provides a guarantee for covered institutions until 29 September 2010.

The scheme places a strict obligation on every covered institution to reimburse the Minister immediately for any payment made under the Guarantee in respect of that particular covered institution's liabilities. The scheme also includes the principle that any payment not recovered from the institution concerned will be recouped from the sector as a whole over time in a manner consistent with the institutions long term viability and sustainability. If such a situation were to arise that there was a need to recoup from the sector as a whole, it would be a matter for Government to decide how best to proceed.

Tax Code.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

52 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Finance his plans to adjust the tax treatment of pension contributions in respect of company directors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38811/08]

In Budget 2009, I announced a significant reduction in the annual earnings limit for tax relieved pension contributions from just over €275,000 to €150,000. This reduced limit will apply for 2009 to all individuals contributing to private pension arrangements. The annual earnings cap acts, in conjunction with age-related percentage limits, to determine the value of pension contributions on which an individual taxpayer will get tax relief at his/her marginal income tax rate in any year.

The reduction in the annual earnings cap to €150,000 next year will result in a significant fall in the maximum value of tax relief that high earners can obtain on contributions to private pension provision. This change was made to promote greater equity in this area.

Apart from the annual limits on the amount of tax relieved contributions that can be made to pension funds, the maximum allowable pension fund that an individual can draw upon in their lifetime from tax relieved pension arrangements, known as the standard fund threshold, also acts to restrict the build-up of tax relieved pension benefits. In that regard, in a further policy change introduced in Budget 2009, the indexation of the standard fund threshold in line with an earnings index will not be undertaken in 2009. This will reduce the ability of higher earners to grow their pension funds through tax-relieved pension contributions.

Debt Levels.

Willie Penrose

Question:

53 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Finance the forecast total national debt for the year ends 2008, 2009 and 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38812/08]

My Department has been informed by the NTMA that the national debt is forecast as follows:

Year end

2008

2009

2010

National Debt (€m)

49,260

62,872

74,309

National Debt as % GNP

31.2%

39.7%

45.2%

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

54 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that under the credit institutions financial support scheme he can insure that increased liquidity will be provided by the banks to consumers and the small business sector and that the scheme charge will not be passed on to bank customers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38848/08]

The main purpose of the scheme is the provision of a guarantee to certain liabilities of covered institutions for a two year period in the interests of financial stability. The health of our financial institutions is linked to our economy as a whole. The scheme therefore includes the application of strict terms and conditions on covered institutions to ensure that the public interest, which includes the general consumer and small business sector, is paramount.

The Scheme provides that "A covered institution shall not pass on the costs of the guarantee to its customers in an unwarranted manner".

Joe Costello

Question:

55 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Finance his views on reports that the European Central Bank had threatened to withdraw funds from Irish banks if the Government did not extend the guarantee scheme to cover ECB deposits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38842/08]

I assume the Deputy is referring to a recent media report on the Opinion of the European Central Bank of 15 October 2008 on a draft Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme.

I would like to point out that the opinion of the ECB, which is published on the ECB website, was given in response to a request received from me on 10 October 2008. It would be utterly wrong to interpret the points set out in that opinion as a threat to withdraw funds from Irish banks. No such threat was ever received.

The simple reality is that the tone of our engagements with the European authorities — both the Commission and the ECB — has been very positive and constructive throughout this process. The Deputy will be aware that the Scheme has been approved by the European authorities.

Tax Code.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

56 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance the full details of the proposed €200 levy when an employer provides a car parking space for an employee; the urban areas to which the levy will be applied; the estimated number of parking spaces to which it will apply; if the levy will be payable by the employee or the employer; if the levy will apply in situations in which a person is employed with a parking space by somebody other than the employer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36583/08]

The detailed provisions of the car parking levy are currently being finalised and will be included in the Finance (No. 2) Bill 2008, which will be published on 20th November next.

Customs Service.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

57 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance the action he has taken to ensure that appropriate steps to deliver a comprehensive Customs and Excise Service with a view to preventing the importation of illegal drugs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32794/08]

Revenue's Customs Service has primary responsibility for the prevention, detection, interception and seizure of controlled drugs at importation. This Service has particular responsibility for implementing import and export controls at all points of entry/exit to/from Ireland, including ports, airports and the land frontier with Northern Ireland.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, in line with best practice in customs administration worldwide, the development of information and intelligence is critical to the successful detection of drug smuggling. This is very important in the case of Ireland and other EU Member States where 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. 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, especially drug smuggling.

I am satisfied that Revenue attaches significant importance to its role in drug enforcement and that Customs staff are keenly aware of their drug prevention role. At corporate level, Revenue's Statement of Strategy 2008-2010, which was launched in February 2008, contains a clear commitment on Revenue's role in the war against drugs. In addition, Revenue is contributing at Interdepartmental Group level to the formulation of the Government's new National Drug Strategy 2009-2016.

A further indication of Revenue's commitment in this area has been the development of specific Revenue Strategic and Operational Plans for Drug Interdiction for the period from 2008-2010. The development of these two plans, together with the recent decision by Revenue to invest further significant resources in this area (such as the purchase of a second Customs Cutter and the expansion of the detector dog programme) is testimony to the fact that this is an area of long-term strategic interest to Revenue and confirms its commitment to delivery in tackling the drugs problem.

At operational level, Revenue is fully committed to providing an effective level of protection against drug smuggling at frontiers by systematically applying controls commensurate with the levels of risk identified. All operations are risk focussed and resources are deployed to combat areas of greatest risk. In this regard, Revenue is continuously engaged in analysis and evaluation of seizure trends, routes and smuggling risks and in consequential resource deployment.

In developing information and intelligence, Revenue works very closely with the Garda Síochána, the Naval Service, the Air Corps and the Coast Guard Service. In addition, especially in view of the international dimension to drug trafficking, Revenue also attaches importance to optimising cooperation, collaboration and intelligence sharing with authorities in other countries. An example of its commitment in this area has been the recent assignment of Revenue officials as liaison officers at Europol headquarters in The Hague and at the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre — Narcotics in Lisbon, jointly established by Ireland and six other EU partner states. The Centre is already playing an important role in collating intelligence and co-ordinating a better international law enforcement response to the trafficking of cocaine into Europe.

In addition to co-operation with other enforcement agencies, Revenue also recognises the importance of co-operation with business interests and the community generally in the fight against drug smuggling. In this regard, every effort is made to maintain good relationships with trade and the community in order to optimise cooperation, collaboration and intelligence sharing. Revenue already has a Memorandum of Understanding programme in place with businesses to encourage them to join the fight against drug smuggling. Revenue also has a Customs Drugs Watch programme in place that facilitates confidential reporting by the members of the community (particularly those living along the coast and those that are living close to airports and sea ports) of any suspicious activity.

One measure of Revenue's success in the war against drug smuggling has been the value of drugs seized in the five years, 2003 to 2007, during which a total of 7,770 drug seizures were made with an estimated street value of €219m. In the period January 2008 to date, a further 5,200 drug seizures have been made with an estimated street value of €39m. (The figures from 2003 to date include some seizures made during joint operations with the Gardaí. The significant increase in the numbers of drug seizures in 2008 to date is due to an increase in the detection of medicines and also an increase in the number of drug seizures in the post).

Revenue's Customs Service also has responsibility for policing the controls regulating the importation and exportation of cash and they have had some notable successes. While these controls are aimed at criminality generally, there is little doubt that much of the cash seized originates from the drugs trade so it is clear that these activities by Customs are also contributing to the war against drugs.

Finally, I have been assured by the Revenue Commissioners that they are satisfied that the current risk based approach, which is in line with international best practice in this area, is the correct approach to follow.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

58 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on the measures being taken under the credit institutions financial support scheme to ensure the capital adequacy and solvency of the banks involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38849/08]

When I introduced the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Legislation to this House, I made it clear that the disruption in international financial markets required a strong and decisive response by the Government to underpin the commitment of the authorities to Ireland's financial stability. This Government moved swiftly to put in place a guarantee to ensure Irish financial institutions' access to the normal liquidity and funding for their day to day business, and to give confidence to depositors and wholesale lenders. The Government quickly demonstrated its resolve to support the financial system, in order to support the economy and society, enterprises and families.

In tandem with the guarantee, the intensified scrutiny and oversight of financial institutions which was put in place since the onset of the turmoil in financial markets has been maintained and further strengthened to ensure that high standards of regulation are achieved in Ireland and that the quality of corporate Governance applying in all institutions, including lending practices, the safeguard of the interests of taxpayers. The goal at the end of this process is a banking system that is "fit for purpose" for the transformed financial environment in which it will find itself operating in the coming decades.

An integral part of ongoing regulation is a detailed and ongoing assessment and analysis of the capital adequacy and solvency of all credit institutions within the state to ensure the stability of the system and flow of credit. Further, the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Legislation, provides a detailed framework for the authorities to oversee and guide the assessment of strategic options by the banks themselves. The Irish scheme is firmly aligned with the main themes of the euro group plan, which contains an option to provide additional capital resources where appropriate to the banks. Each institution must take appropriate steps to ensure that their levels of capital are aligned with their needs. The State has a keen interest in the health and security of the banking institutions, because of their role in the economy. Clearly, my Department, the Central Bank and the Financial Regulator will be in continuing contact with the institutions on their business plans, capital position and their liquidity.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

59 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance the meetings or correspondence there was between his office and a company (details supplied) in view of the decision by the company not to join the credit institutions guarantee scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38666/08]

The Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme provides a guarantee for covered institutions until 29 September 2010.

Participation in the scheme is open to all eligible credit institutions and it is a matter for each institution to make its own decision on whether or not it wishes to join the scheme. In the process of establishing the scheme, there has been regular contact between my officials and a wide range of financial institutions, including the company referred to by the Deputy.

The company referred to has chosen, for its own reasons, not to join the scheme and my Department was informed of this decision by letter dated 28 October 2008. The company has publically stated that this decision was influenced by the fact that its parent company has joined the UK Government Capital Guarantee Scheme and it did not see a need to participate in two schemes.

Tax Code.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

60 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance his views on introducing a higher rate of income levy than 2% for persons earning significantly more than €100,000; the number of taxpayers who have a taxable income of €100,000 to €200,000 and €200,000 and above; the number of these taxpayers who are married couples; the number of these who are individual taxpayers; the number of these who are PAYE taxpayers; the number of these who are self-employed, carrying on a trade or business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38828/08]

The position is that the income levy will be applied to gross income except social welfare payments and contributory and non-contributory social welfare pensions. It is also proposed to exempt those on low incomes from the income levy. Full details on the levy will be set out in the forthcoming Finance Bill.

In relation to information requested by the Deputy, I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the numbers of income earners in the ranges of income specified are as provided in the following table. The numbers of earners are based on the adjusted data for 2005 projected forward to 2009 terms in accordance with macroeconomic data relating to actual and expected growth in wages and employment.

Range of Gross income

PAYE

Self-Employed

Total

100,001- 200,000

Single

14,200

4,800

19,000

Married two earning

78,200

14,900

93,200

Married one earning

18,000

4,400

22,400

Widowed

700

600

1,400

Range Total

111,100

24,700

135,900

over 200,000

Single

2,000

2,700

4,800

Married two earning

10,200

9,000

19,200

Married one earning

4,500

3,800

8,300

Widowed

200

300

500

Range Total

16,900

15,800

32,800

Any apparent discrepancies in totals are due to rounding.

It should be noted that the income ranges shown in the above table relate to gross income as defined in Revenue Statistical Report, 2006. They do not include incomes such as income from patent royalties, profits from commercial forestry, income before pension contributions and income from earnings of writers, composers and artists that will be subject to the income levy but are not currently available in the range basis breakdown as requested by the Deputy.

It should also be noted that gross income is different to taxable income, also defined in the Revenue Statistics Report 2006, which relates to income after personal reliefs and deductions (including deductions for capital allowances) but prior to the application of tax credits and reliefs at the standard rate.

A married couple who has elected or has deemed to have elected for joint assessment is counted as one tax unit.

The figures are projected estimates rounded to the nearest hundred and may be subject to further revision.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

61 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Finance if an actuarial or similar analysis was carried out with respect to the aggregate level of liability taken on by the Exchequer through the credit institutions guarantee scheme and the annual cost of such a guarantee on the open market; if he will provide details of and publish the results of such analysis when they do not impinge on the commercial sensitivities of any particular bank or credit institution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38810/08]

The guarantee has been introduced to remedy a very serious situation in relation to the financial institutions, for the benefit of the economy as a whole. The charge for the provision of the guarantee is derived from the Government funding cost.

While it would be possible in theory to estimate a market value for the guarantee, such an estimate would be based on a number of important assumptions. In practice, there is no market providing the type of guarantee scheme which we have introduced and it is doubtful if any market price estimate could be made reliably or accurately.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

62 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the meetings or correspondence he has had with the chief executive of the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority since the announcement of the credit institutions guarantee scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38662/08]

I have regular contact with the Financial Regulator as circumstances require. In addition I am kept closely in touch with developments through ongoing dialogue at official level.

Financial Services Regulation.

Liz McManus

Question:

63 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the recruitment of experts by the Financial Regulator to police the banking sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38816/08]

The Financial Regulator has informed me that there was a large response to its recent advertisement for additional staff. It is currently reviewing the applications submitted and expects to be holding interviews in the next few weeks with initial placements occurring shortly after that depending on any notice period staff may have to provide to their current employer.

In the meantime, staff from the Financial Regulator are currently on-site in the covered institutions on an on-going basis and the additional staff will complement the current number of staff based in the covered institutions.

Flood Relief.

Denis Naughten

Question:

64 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the steps which he is taking to address the summer flooding in the Shannon Callows; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38571/08]

I am very aware of the problems caused to farmers by the summer flooding in the Shannon Callows this year. I visited the area in September and met with the President of the Irish Farmers' Association and a number of farmers, and saw conditions at first hand. The Deputy will be aware that the rainfall this summer was exceptional, and exacerbated what is an already difficult situation in the Callows, due to the extremely flat gradient of the river, which makes it very difficult to devise a cost-effective solution.

The Office of Public Works has carried out some clearance of vegetation in the area, and the farmers acknowledge that, while that was not sufficient to prevent the flooding this year, it has improved the situation.

There is a proposal to remove silt from the Shannon Cut to try further to improve the situation. While OPW has some reservations as to how effective this will be, it is prepared to undertake a pilot project to test the efficacy of the measure, provided it is possible to do so in a cost-effective manner. Some discussions have taken place with the National Parks and Wildlife Service regarding the granting of a licence for this work. A number of issues have arisen, and OPW is in the process of arranging a meeting with NPWS, the IFA and other stakeholders to discuss the matter. The meeting will be held as soon as possible, and further progress will depend on the outcome.

Exchequer Borrowing.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

65 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the forecast Exchequer borrowing requirement for the years 2008, 2009 and 2010; the discussions he or his Department officials have had with the EU institutions with regard to the possible launch of an excessive deficit procedure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38808/08]

The projections for the years 2008, 2009 and 2010 for the Exchequer Balance and the General Government Balance, the latter being the relevant measure in the context of the Stability and Growth Pact, are detailed in Table 1 "Summary of Current and Capital Budgets 2008 to 2011" in the Budget 2009 publication and are as follows:

2008 Post-Budget

2009 Projection Forecast

2010 Projection

€m

€m

€m

Exchequer Balance

-11,510

-13,412

-11,237

General Government Balance

-10,375

-12,162

-9,311

GGB as % of GDP

-5.5%

-6.5%

-4.7%

Note: The General Government Balance (GGB) measures the fiscal performance of all arms of Government, e.g. Central Government, Local Authorities, Vocational Education Committees and non-commercial State sponsored bodies, as well as funds such as the Social Insurance Fund and the National Pensions Reserve Fund. It thus provides an accurate assessment of the fiscal performance of a more complete "government" sector. The GGB does not reflect the position of commercial State sponsored bodies as these agencies are classified as being outside the General Government Sector.

We have been keeping the European Commission informed about economic and fiscal developments in Ireland and I briefed Commissioner Almunia on the emerging situation in September. I have also provided my colleagues at Eurogroup and ECOFIN with an outline of the evolving budgetary position. The European Commission's autumn Economic Forecast published on 3 November indicates that a number of countries are expected to breach the 3% reference value over the next three years. The Commission has indicated that it now proposes to initiate an Excessive Deficit Procedure for Ireland in the light of the projected general government deficit of 5.5% of GDP for 2008. This is the norm for countries exceeding the 3% reference value and it begins a process that will lead to consideration by the Commission and the Ecofin Council of the position in the coming months. As part of that process there have also been exchanges with the Commission at official level in relation to the factors which might be considered relevant in their consideration of the Irish situation.

Supplementary Budget.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

66 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance if he will introduce a supplementary budget during the first half of 2009; if there are circumstances in which he would consider doing so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38823/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

108 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the impact on his budgetary projections of the variations on the original estimates entered into since budget day 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39151/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

111 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he will modify further any of the proposals announced in budget 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39154/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

114 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the action he will take to make good, financial shortfalls in Budget 2009, arising from adjustments arrived at since Budget day; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39157/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 66, 108, 111 and 114 together.

Budget 2009 was presented to the Dáil on 14 October last. The Budget sets out a medium-term strategy with the clear intention of stabilising and restoring balance to the public finances as soon as possible by, amongst other things, reducing and prioritising public expenditure and adjusting taxation levels to reflect the changed realities.

There have been no changes to the aggregate Budget forecasts. In relation to spending gross voted expenditure is set at just over €64 billion for 2009. Taxation measures in 2009 are expected to raise almost €42.8 billion. With regard to adjustments to taxation and expenditure measures, I have stated my commitment to remaining within the budget parameters. Government Departments are required to manage within their agreed spending allocations as set out in the Budget.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

67 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the meetings or correspondence he has had with directors or boards of any Irish credit institution since the announcement of the credit institutions guarantee scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38664/08]

I have regular contact with the representatives of the financial sector — both domestic and international banks. In addition, I am kept closely in touch with developments through ongoing dialogue at official level.

I do not believe it would be helpful to discuss individual meetings or correspondence. I am sure that the Deputy will recognise the strong potential for misinterpretation and misinformation in the market if I were to publicly discuss each individual meeting that I have held.

Tax Code.

Mary Upton

Question:

68 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance if he will explain the rationale for changing payment dates with respect to corporation tax and capital gains tax; the expected impact of these measures on Government cashflow in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38837/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

101 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance if an assessment has been carried out on the administration cost that will be imposed on businesses by bringing forward the due dates for corporation profit tax and capital gains tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39091/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 68 and 101 together.

In my Budget speech, I announced that the current single payment date for preliminary corporation tax for large companies (those whose corporation tax liability in their previous accounting period is more than €200,000) will be split into two instalments. This will apply to accounting periods commencing on or after Budget Day, 14 October 2008. The details of how the new arrangements will work are set out in the Summary of Budget Measures which forms part of the published Budget 2009 documentation.

The change to the preliminary tax payment dates will give rise to an estimated once-off cash flow gain to the Exchequer of €350 million in 2009. The change involving the bringing forward of the payment date in 2009 for individuals paying capital gains tax will generate a further €200 million in 2009 on a once-off basis. The rationale for these changes is the need to stabilise the public finances and all sections of the economy and community have to play their part in addressing the fiscal challenges we are facing.

As regards additional administration burdens on business, it should be noted that well over 90% of companies, that is small companies with a corporation tax liability of €200,000 or less in their previous accounting period will not be affected by the changes to the payment dates for preliminary corporation tax. Moreover, despite the need to secure substantial increases in tax revenue, the Budget was carefully structured so as not to worsen the competitive position of Irish business and to include measures to support jobs, encourage enterprise and enhance our productive capacity. These additional measures include: an increase in the rate of R&D tax credit from 20% to 25%, a remission of corporation tax and capital gains tax for new start up companies in their first three years of trading where their tax liability in any year does not exceed €40,000, and an extension of the deadlines for the online submission by businesses of tax returns and payments.

I should also make the point that the Revenue Commissioners have in recent years introduced many simplification measures designed to ease the compliance burden for business. The measures have involved legislative, administrative, operational and e-business aspects. A comprehensive programme to systematically consolidate and streamline the body of older legislation governing the various taxes and duties has made significant progress in streamlining and simplifying the regulatory environment for business. Less frequent filing obligations and increased registration thresholds introduced in recent years have reduced the administrative burden for thousands of small businesses. The development of the Revenue On-Line System (ROS) has also been acknowledged as a major contributor to the reduction of the administrative burden on business.

Reducing the administrative burden on business has been and continues to be a key priority for Revenue and their efforts in this area have been acknowledged by business representatives.

Jack Wall

Question:

69 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if he intends for prospective carbon tax to be revenue neutral as set out in the programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38826/08]

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

The Deputy will be aware the matter of a carbon tax is being considered by the Commission on Taxation and the Commission is due to report by September 2009 at the latest.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

70 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance if financial support, within the meaning of the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Act 2008, has been sought by or provided to a credit institution or subsidiary by individual agreement under Section 6(4) of that Act rather than under the general terms of the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme 2008 (SI 411 of 2008); if so, the nature of such support; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38835/08]

Under section 6 of the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Act 2008, the Minister for Finance can provide financial support to such credit institutions and subsidiaries as the Minister specifies by order. Section 6(4) provides that the provision of financial support may be effected by individual agreement, a scheme made by the Minister or otherwise. To date the only financial support that has been provided under the Act had been provided under the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme 2008 (SI no 411 of 2008). No financial support has been provided under an individual agreement.

Tax Collection.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

71 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance the steps he has taken to ensure better reporting going forward in view of the previous failings of his Department to accurately predict tax revenue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38668/08]

Last year, my Department's Budget 2008 forecast assumed tax revenue growth of 3½% for 2008. This was viewed as a conservative forecast by many commentators and in fact others, such as the ESRI, forecast stronger revenue growth at the time. However, tax revenue weakened considerably as the year progressed, reflecting the challenging domestic and international economic environment. Consequently, the Department of Finance expects an end-year tax shortfall of the order of €6½ billion. As part of Budget 2009, my Department forecast tax revenue growth of approximately 1% in 2009 as a result of significant revenue raising measures introduced in the Budget.

Earlier this year, the Department of Finance published a report produced by a group specifically established to examine the tax forecasting methodologies used by the Department. The Tax Forecasting Methodology Review Group comprised of experts from the Department of Finance, the ESRI, the Revenue Commissioners, the Central Bank and had input from the EU Commission.

In terms of the findings, while the Group suggested that the Department of Finance displays a prudent bias in tax forecasting, it did not suggest any major structural recommendations to the way the Department forecasts tax revenue. However, it did suggest a number of adjustments which the Department is currently implementing. Furthermore, the Group's report also indicated that the Department's methods were not out of line internationally. A copy of the Group's report is available on the Department of Finance website at www.finance.gov.ie.

Question No. 72 answered with Question No. 32.

Tax Code.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

73 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of recent financial developments, he is in favour of European and international support for the Tobin tax. [38396/08]

The Deputy may be aware that the issue of a currency transactions tax (Tobin tax) has been considered in a number of fora, including the informal Ecofin meeting at Liège on 22 September 2001. At that stage, the Belgian Presidency indicated that it wished to pursue the matter in the context of a general study to be carried out by the Commission on the issue of globalisation. However, it would be fair to say that most EU Finance Ministers at that time had reservations about the Tobin tax proposal. In particular, it was believed that it was not clear whether a further examination of the issue by the Commission would ensure satisfactory answers to issues relating to the tax, including: difficulties relating to practical implementation of the tax; its doubtful effect on short-term speculative capital movements; its conflict with the basic tenet of free capital movement in the EU; its disproportionate effect on small business and consumers; the probability that the tax would simply drive participants into other (non-taxable) alternatives; and the negative impact on liquidity in the foreign exchange market.

Nevertheless, at a formal Ecofin meeting on 16 October 2001, it was agreed that the Commission would carry out a study on globalisation and that this study would examine the arguments for, and against, a Tobin tax. This study, "Responses to the Challenges of Globalisation", was published on 14 February 2002. On the matter of the Tobin tax, the study concluded that "while as a source of additional revenue a currency transaction tax may look appealing, its feasibility is, however, not demonstrated".

This issue was also raised at EU level in 2005 in the context of the financing of development aid but was dismissed by the EU Commission for reasons such as those already outlined.

I do not propose to introduce such a tax as I am unconvinced of its feasibility given the many practical difficulties and potentially negative implications arising from its introduction.

Departmental Staff.

Michael Creed

Question:

74 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of staff employed in her Department whose function it is to deal with representations from her constituency; the number of these staff that are located in the constituency and in her Department; the grade and remuneration at which these staff are employed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38956/08]

The table following outlines the number of staff employed in my Department whose function it is to deal with representations from my constituents. The table also sets out the grade and salary pay scale for each staff member:

Constituency Office

Grade

Salary (Pay Scale) per annum

Department

1 Executive Officer

€31,394 – €49,809

1 Clerical Officer

€24,397 – €39,558

1 Clerical Officer (on a 0.8% worksharing basis)

€24,397 – €39,558

Constituency Office Donegal

1 Personal Assistant

€46,558 – €59,097

1 Personal Secretary

€23,101 – €44,572

1 Temporary Clerical Officer

€24,397 – €39,558

1 Clerical Officer

€24,397 – €39,558

Michael Creed

Question:

75 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of staff employed by Ministers of State in his Department whose function it is to deal with representations from the Ministers of States’ constituency; the number of these staff that are located in the constituency and in his Department; the grade and remuneration at which these staff are employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38970/08]

The following table outlines the number of staff employed by Ministers of State in my Department whose function it is to deal with representations from the Ministers of States constituency. The table also sets out the grade and salary pay scale for each staff member.

Minister of State for Labour Affairs, Mr. Billy Kelleher T.D.

Constituency Office

Grade

Salary (Pay Scale) per annum

Department

1 Clerical Officer

€24,397 – €39,558

Constituency Office Cork

1 Personal Assistant

€41,092 – €52,200

1 Personal Secretary

€23,101 – €44,572

Minister of State for Trade & Commerce, Mr. John McGuinness T.D.

Constituency Office

Grade

Salary (Pay Scale) per annum

Department

None

Constituency Office Kilkenny

1 Personal Assistant

€46,558 – €59,097

1 Personal Secretary

€30,566 – €48,504

2 Secretarial Assistants

€23,101 – €44,572

1 Clerical Officer

€24,397 – €39,558

Minister of State for Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr. Jimmy Devins T.D.

Constituency Office

Grade

Salary (Pay Scale) per annum

Department

1 Clerical Officer

€24,397 – €39,558

Constituency Office Sligo

1 Personal Assistant

€46,558 – €59,097

2 Personal Secretaries (each on a 0.5% worksharing basis)

€24,397 – €39,558

Departmental Agencies.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

76 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, with reference to Parliamentary Question No. 194 of 8 October 2008 in regard to each centre, the centre is owned or leased; the total floor area of each centre; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39005/08]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table.

FÁS Owned/Leased

Approx Floor area sq feet

Approx Floor area sq metres

Dublin

Baldoyle

FÁS owned

78,513

7,294

Cabra

FÁS owned

50,548

4,696

Jervis Street

Leased

31,976

2,971

Finglas

FÁS owned

80,294

7,518

Ballyfermot

FÁS owned

131,245

12,193

Tallaght

FÁS owned

109,814

10,202

Loughlinstown

FÁS owned

83,303

7,739

South East

Waterford

FÁS owned

101,824

9,460

Wexford

FÁS owned

6,100

567

South West

Cork

FÁS owned

123,786

11,500

Tralee

FÁS owned

49,220

4,573

Mid-West

Limerick

FÁS owned

84,131

7,816

Shannon

Leased

56,250

5,226

West

Galway

FÁS owned

61,500

5,713

Ballina

Leased

7,719

717

North West

Sligo

FÁS owned

45,742

4,250

Gweedore

Leased

27,771

2,580

Letterkenny

FÁS owned

53,529

4,973

North East

Dundalk

FÁS owned

50,482

4,690

Midlands

Athlone

FÁS owned

45,855

4,260

EU Regulations.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

77 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, under European Communities (Hallmarking of articles imported from other Members States) Regulations, 2001 S.I. No. 579/2001, there are items covered by this regulation imported from Thailand for sale outside of Ireland; if it is necessary to have these items hallmarked if they are for resale in countries outside the European Union; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39020/08]

Section 1 of the Hallmarking Act, 1981 defines articles of precious metals as articles consisting of or containing gold, silver or platinum. Irish hallmarking legislation requires all articles of precious metals to be assayed (that is to say tested for fineness) and hallmarked in Ireland. Statutory Instrument No. 579 of 2001 which was made under the European Communities Act, 1972 provides for the recognition of other Member States hallmarking regimes as set out in the Regulations. These Regulations only apply to EU member states.

State Agencies.

Joe McHugh

Question:

78 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of County Donegal electricians on the FÁS list of recommended electricians. [39066/08]

I understand that FÁS does not maintain a list of contractors for engagement in any region. The selection of candidates is based on pre-set criteria and rules for selection, which are made available in advance to interested parties.

Work Permits.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

79 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the full amounts of moneys collected over each of the past three years through applications made to her Department and its offices under the work permit scheme. [39074/08]

The amount collected in employment permit fees over the past three years is as follows: 2006 — €10.8m; 2007 — €16.7m; 2008 — €4.5m (to end August 2008).

These are net receipts as fees are refunded to the applicant if the permit is refused or withdrawn prior to the issuing of the permit.

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

80 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the systems her Department has in place for tracking absences from work for various reasons, for benchmarking them against best standards and for estimating the cost of cover or lost input as a result of these absences; and if she will present data for the most recent years on this matter. [39175/08]

Staff of my Department are entitled to be absent, subject to prior approval, for a number of reasons (e.g. Maternity Leave, Paternity Leave, Adoptive Leave, Carer's Leave etc.). Clear procedures are in place in my Department for the approval and recording of such absences.

Staff of my Department are also entitled to be absent from work when they are ill, in accordance with the terms of the Civil Service sick leave regulations. Clear notification procedures are in place and all sick leave is monitored for compliance with sick leave regulations. For this purpose, sick leave is measured in "duration days" (span of sickness absence from date of first absence to date of return to work) rather than actual working days lost. Separately, my Department has begun detailed examination of sickness absence, applying international best practice principles. Our first such examination was done in respect of the calendar year 2007. According to this analysis, the percentage of working days lost due to sickness absence was 3.90% in 2007 and 4.02% in 2006. Currently, my Department does not cost the impact of absences.

National Disability Strategy.

David Stanton

Question:

81 Deputy David Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the budget 2009 allocation for the advancement of the national disability strategy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39280/08]

The total allocation in 2009 for the advancement of the National Disability Strategy by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and its agencies is €78.642million of which €77.7million is ring-fenced within the FÁS allocation for specific employment and training programmes for people with disabilities.

Motor Vehicle Registration.

Jack Wall

Question:

82 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare cannot obtain registrations for antique vehicles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38989/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a letter detailing how registration for antique vehicles may be obtained has issued to the person in question.

Departmental Staff.

Michael Creed

Question:

83 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance the number of staff employed in his Department whose function it is to deal with representations from his constituency; the number of these staff that are located in the constituency and in his Department; the grade and remuneration at which these staff are employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38958/08]

Michael Creed

Question:

84 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance the number of staff employed by Ministers of State in his Department whose function it is to deal with representations from the Ministers of States’ constituency; the number of these staff that are located in the constituency and in his Department; the grade and remuneration at which these staff are employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38972/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 83 and 84 together.

The following are the staff employed in my Department whose function is to deal with representations from my constituency:

Grade

Number

Annual salary range

Executive Officer on Higher Executive Officer duties

1

€46,558 – €59,097 plus allowance retained from former duties

Clerical Officer

2

€23,174 – €40,417

Personal Secretary

1

€23,181 – €44,726

Personal Assistant

1

€46,558 – €55,030

One Clerical Officer and my Personal Secretary are based in my constituency office in Castleknock. The remainder of the staff are all based in my Department's offices in Merrion Street.

I am advised by the Office of Public Works that the following staff are employed there to deal with representations from Minister of State Mansergh's constituency:

Grade

Number

Annual salary range

Personal Secretary

1

€30,566 – €50,410

Personal Assistant

1

€46,558 – €55,030

The Minister of State's Personal Secretary is located in his constituency office in Tipperary Town, and his Personal Assistant is based in the Dublin office of the Office of Public Works.

Tax Code.

Enda Kenny

Question:

85 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the schedule of VAT rates for the professional photography industry; if he is satisfied that all Departments and State agencies are aware of the range of the schedule and that this schedule is implemented in accordance with appropriate rates set out by the Revenue Commissioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38979/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that commissioned photographic images, when supplied in the form of prints, slides and negatives, qualify for the 13.5% VAT rate, whereas the same images supplied on disc or via email are subject to the standard rate of 21%.

Responsibility for ensuring that the correct rate of VAT is charged on the provision of any goods or services lies with the supplier. Suppliers of photographic goods or services, or indeed any other goods or services, to a Government Department or State agency are obliged to charge the proper VAT rate.

Where a Government Department or State agency is supplied with photographic images from a supplier in another EU Member State at the zero-rate the Government Department or State agency must self-account for VAT at the correct rate. I have no reason to believe that Government Departments and State agencies are not aware of their obligations in this regard in circumstances when they are required to self-account.

Financial Services Regulation.

Joan Burton

Question:

86 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if credit default swaps and certain related derivative contracts are regarded by the regulatory authorities here as valid financial instruments creating enforceable rights or as void and unenforceable as wagering contracts; the manner in which dealing in such contracts is regulated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39000/08]

The provision in the State of certain investment services, such as professional dealing services or investment advice, in respect of a credit default swap would fall to be regulated by the Financial Regulator under the European Communities (Markets in Financial Instruments) Regulations 2007 (S.I. No. 60 of 2007), which transpose the EU Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (2004/39/EC) into national law. This would be on the basis that what is concerned in the Deputy's question is a ‘derivative instrument for the transfer of credit risk' within the meaning of that legislation. In such a case, subject to certain exceptions provided for in the Regulations, an Irish firm providing those services would require to be authorised by the Financial Regulator and its compliance with the Regulations and related capital requirements would be supervised by the Financial Regulator. The position is the same for other derivative instruments covered by those Regulations.

Equivalent requirements apply in other European Member States (pursuant to the above Directive) and are supervised by the corresponding regulatory authorities in those Member States. Where those firms have a branch in Ireland, the Financial Regulator supervises their compliance with rules applicable to that branch.

In terms of any question as to the validity of such contractual obligations, this is a matter for the Courts. Where the contract is governed by Irish law, the relevant Courts would be those of Ireland. Where it is governed by laws other than those of the State, it will be the Courts of the relevant foreign jurisdiction. For example, there is an international practice for many such contracts to be governed by either English or New York law. Generally speaking, there is not a question over the legal validity of derivative contracts such as credit default swaps and they are of common use in the financial markets and wider domestic and international trade. In the specific case of Ireland, the Netting of Financial Contracts Act 1995 bolsters the effectiveness of such contracts by providing that the set-off mechanisms (referred to as ‘netting') inherent in such contracts are valid, including on an insolvency of one of the parties.

Joan Burton

Question:

87 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance his views on the nature and extent of dealing in contracts for difference in Irish publicly quoted companies; if he proposes to take steps to restrict or otherwise reform the regulation of these instruments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39001/08]

The main Irish shares traded which use Contracts For Difference (CFDs) are dual-listed shares and the vast majority of Irish CFD trading is completed on a cross-border basis, with counterparties outside the State. There are no published figures available in relation to the volumes of these transactions.

CFDs represent a way of taking a position on a listed company without actually buying or selling its shares. It is clearly desirable that there should be greater market transparency in relation to such activity. The market should know when a person has a significant holding of CFDs. In fact the Regulations which transposed the EU's Transparency Directive (Directive 2004/109/EC) into Irish law require announcements to be made in relation to financial instruments that provide an option to purchase. However, this is an international issue, given that shares can have multiple listings in different jurisdictions.

The Financial Regulator has been in consultation with the UK's Financial Services Authority with a view to arriving at a similar approach in both jurisdictions so as to avoid the scope for regulatory arbitrage. The FSA is pursuing some initiatives in this area and when these are confirmed, I will, following consultation with the Financial Regulator, consider the need for legislation in this country.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Joan Burton

Question:

88 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he will explain what a market notice is; the persons to whom it is addressed and under what authority; the circumstances in which his Department issues such a notice; the number of such notices issued in the past; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39002/08]

A market notice is a document designed to provide information to participants in the financial markets. The Market Notice issued by my Department on 22 October was not prepared as a requirement under any legislative imperative. It was issued under my general authority to issue a public statement on matters within the remit of my Department. Its purpose was to provide a simple and clear statement to market participants of certain key elements of the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme 2008. The Market Notice does not and could not alter the Scheme as approved by the Oireachtas and the European Commission.

My Department has not had reason to issue a comparable market notice in the past.

Tax Code.

John Perry

Question:

89 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Finance if he will ensure that a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim, who upon purchase of farmland completed the green certificate course and submitted an application for refund of stamp duty in March 2008, will receive this refund as a matter of urgency; the position regarding this application as no information has been forthcoming from the Revenue Commissioners since the application was made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39007/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that a claim for a refund of Stamp Duty, by way of Young Trained Farmer Relief, was made to the Dublin Stamping Office, by the individual's Solicitor by letter dated 31 July 2008.

Further certification in relation to the claim was sought by the Revenue Commissioners in relation to the educational requirements together with a request for the return of the original Deed, to determine whether relief was due and to process the claim.

I am informed that all information has now been received and that the refund was processed on 4 November 2008.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

90 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance if, in the context of the provision of tax relief for the relocation of SEVESO sites, it is intended to allow tax relief for the execution of remediation works on vacated sites; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39014/08]

In my Budget speech on 14th October, I announced the introduction of a new tax incentive scheme to facilitate the relocation of Seveso-listed industrial facilities which hinder the residential and commercial regeneration of Docklands in urban areas. The EU Seveso Directive seeks to protect public safety by placing land-use restrictions on new residential and commercial development near locations where potentially dangerous activities are undertaken.

The Deputy will also be aware that I indicated in my speech that this scheme will be subject to clearance by the European Commission from a State Aids perspective.

In discussions which have been held between officials and the EU Commission about the regeneration of urban docklands, the Commission has indicated that the use of tax incentives to facilitate the remediation of sites vacated by Seveso-type industrial facilities for any future residential and commercial use will not pass the EU State Aid rules because of the ‘polluter pays principle'. This ensures that an industry that creates a pollution incident (or in this case, which undertakes the land-use that has damaged a particular location) must bear the cost of remediating the property back to a pre-pollution/pre-damaging land-use basis.

Financial Services Regulation.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

91 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance if he has received a request to instruct the Financial Regulator to investigate alleged overcharging by a company (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39022/08]

I might first explain that the function of the Minister for Finance is to provide an appropriate and robust legislative framework for regulation of the financial services sector with a particular focus on the consumer. The establishment of the Financial Regulator and the Financial Services Ombudsman in 2003 and 2005 respectively means that such a framework is now in place. It provides, with effect from their establishment, for both strengthened supervision of financial service providers and a forum to which complaints about the actions of financial service providers may be addressed.

In dealing with the Deputy's specific question, I am aware that allegations of overcharging have been made against certain financial institutions. Indeed the issue was fully aired at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Economic and Regulatory Affairs in May 2008. I am aware that certain allegations of overcharging have been resolved through the intervention of the Financial Regulator and other cases have been investigated by the Financial Services Ombudsman.

As the Deputy will be aware, I do not comment on individual cases. Furthermore, as Minister for Finance, I have no role in relation to the investigation of alleged overcharging by any financial services body. However, I continue to oversee the effectiveness of the financial regulations already in place to deal with allegations of irregularity and intervene, if necessary, to improve the effectiveness of these regulations.

Banking Sector Regulation.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

92 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance if the Central Bank has advised him of the number of cases prosecuted against Irish banks in courts here; and if so, if he will provide a breakdown for each bank licensed here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39023/08]

The Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland (CBFSAI) does not advise the Minister for Finance in relation to the number of cases prosecuted against any financial institution, including banks, in courts of this State.

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

Part IIIc of the Central Bank Act, 1942, as inserted by the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Act 2004, provides the Financial Regulator with a range of options to deal with contraventions of regulatory requirements, including the power to administer sanctions in respect of prescribed contraventions by regulated financial service providers and persons concerned in the management of regulated financial service providers. It may also refer certain suspected contraventions to other enforcement bodies or agencies, such as An Garda Síochána or the Director of Public Prosecutions for further investigation.

Any sanctions administered by the Financial Regulator are published on its website. In addition, the Financial Regulator records, in its Annual Reports, the number and types of regulatory actions, including administrative sanctions, in any given year. As far as the question of the number of cases prosecuted against credit institutions in the courts in this context is concerned, I have forwarded this to the CBFSAI, which will reply directly to the Deputy.

Financial Services Regulation.

Joan Burton

Question:

93 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if contracts for difference are a declarable interest under the Standards in Public Office Act 2001; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39025/08]

The Second Schedule to the Ethics in Public Office Act 1995 defines a registerable interest for the purposes of that Act.

The application of these or of other provisions of the Ethics Acts in particular cases, or to particular instruments or investments, is a matter for the Standards in Public Office Commission in the first instance or, as the case may be, the relevant Select Committee on Members' Interests. The Ethics in Public Office Act 1995 provides that a person to whom the provisions of the Ethics legislation applies can request the Commission (or, for a non-office holding Oireachtas member, the relevant Select Committee on Members' Interests) to give advice to the person in relation to any provision of the legislation or to the application, in any particular case, of any such provision.

Joan Burton

Question:

94 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if there are ethical, legal or conflict of interest issues relating to the use of spread betting by public representatives, public sector officials, officials of entities regulated by the Financial Regulator or others to profit from changes in the share prices of Irish publicly quoted companies in which they may have had access to information which is commercially sensitive with respect to the relevant companies; the steps taken to ensure that such ethical, legal or conflict of interest issues do not arise; if he will propose legislation or impose regulations in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39026/08]

The matters raised by the Deputy are dealt with at a number of levels. In the first instance, the Ethics in Public Office Acts provide a framework for dealing with conflicts of interest which can arise in the course of employment, including in relation to the declaration of interests, and the furnishing of a statement of the facts where a conflict of material interests exists, by Oireachtas members, by special advisers and by those directors and employees to whom the legislation applies in the civil and public sectors. The Ethics Acts also provide procedures under which complaints on suspected contraventions of the legislation can be dealt with, and provides for codes of conduct, such as the Civil Service Code of Standards & Behaviour, breaches of which are dealt with under the internal procedures of the bodies concerned.

Criminal law may also apply as the improper use of inside information is a very serious matter, but legislative protections already exist to cater for the type of situation outlined in the Deputy's question. The 2005 Market Abuse Regulations, made by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, transposed the EU Market Abuse Directive (Directive 2003/6/EC) into national law and set down the parameters for tackling insider dealing and market manipulation, collectively referred to as "market abuse". Regulation 4(1) of these Regulations highlights that they apply to any financial instrument admitted, or pending admission, to trading on a regulated market "whether or not any transaction in or relating to the financial instrument takes place on that market". The Regulations apply to everyone, with certain specific exceptions which are set down in Regulation 4(3). Therefore spread-betting on the price movement of any shares admitted to trading on any regulated market, is covered by the Market Abuse Regulations.

The Financial Regulator is the competent authority for the purposes of the Directive and the Regulations provide it with all the necessary monitoring and enforcement powers.

Convictions for market abuse carry penalties of a fine of up to €10m or 10 years imprisonment or both, as provided for in Section 32 of the Investment Funds, Companies and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2005.

Revenue Staff.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

95 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Finance the number of vacancies at executive officer level within the Revenue Commissioners in Athlone as on the 15 October 2008; when these vacancies will be filled from the existing panels in the Public Service Appointments Office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39038/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the allocation of their staff resources is kept under constant review and is subject to adjustment in the context of changing business needs and available resources. The filling of posts in any part of the organisation is approached from this perspective. Revenue had 108 staff serving in Athlone on 15 October, including 34 at Executive Officer level. In the year to date, four Executive Officers have been appointed to Athlone from the Public Appointments Service Panel and there are no immediate plans to make any further such appointments.

National Lottery Funding.

Joan Burton

Question:

96 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the level of national lottery funding administered by his Department in 2007 and 2008 and anticipated lottery revenue in 2009; the amount distributed and expected to be distributed to each Department in each of these years; the level of matching and expected matching provided by each Department in each relevant year; the ratio and expected ratio of matching funds provided by the Exchequer in each of these years; the ratios and expected ratios under each relevant subhead in the relevant estimates of each relevant Department in each of the years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39047/08]

The National Lottery Company generated a surplus of €245.480m in 2007. It is expected to generate a broadly similar or slightly higher surplus in 2008 and in 2009. The amount of lottery funding transferred to the Exchequer in 2007 to part-fund the various programmes in various Government Departments was €230m while the corresponding amount which will be transferred in 2008 is €260m. The amount which will be transferred in 2009 is expected to be in line with the 2008 figure.

Total expenditure on programmes part-funded by receipts from the National Lottery amounted to €444m in 2007 and is estimated to be €466m in 2008. Total expenditure on such programmes in 2009 is estimated at €448m. A table showing allocations by Department for subheads part-funded by the National Lottery in 2007 and 2008 is included in Appendix I of the Revised Estimates for Public Services 2008. A similar table will be published in the Revised Estimates for Public Services 2009. The ratio of aggregate National Lottery funding to aggregate Exchequer funding in 2007 was 52: 48 while the corresponding ratio in 2008 is expected to be 56:44. The ratio of National Lottery to Exchequer funding in 2009 is expected to be broadly in line with the 2008 ratio.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Joan Burton

Question:

97 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there was a fall of 10% in the amount that Irish residents held in their current accounts between August 2007 and August 2008 from €32,857 million to €29,601 million, that there was a 12.6% fall in their demand deposits over the same period from €29,601 million to €25,733 million, that overdrafts increased by €1.1 billion over this period while overnight deposits declined by almost €1 billion and that these figures indicate a picture of a rapidly shrinking money supply in the Irish economy and indicate that borrowers in the Irish economy will soon be unable to service their loans while small businesses will face serious cash flow problems; the action he will take to address this crisis of liquidity in the Irish economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39048/08]

The figures quoted by the Deputy mainly relate to retail clearing credit institutions, which is a group of four banks. Looking at the situation for all Irish credit institutions, which mirrors developments in the sub-set mentioned above, the amount of deposits held by Irish residents in overnight deposit accounts between September 2007 and September 2008 declined by 12.9 per cent. However, this was more than counterbalanced by the increase in term accounts of 22 per cent, or €18 billion. This would suggest that Irish people may be moving their deposits from overnight deposits, which generally offer low interest rates, into accounts with much higher interest rates, such as those with an agreed maturity.

The Central Bank informs me that the amount of credit accounted for by overdrafts can be quite volatile. Their statistics show that over the year to August 2008, overdrafts for households increased by €512 million, but decreased by €63 million for non-financial corporates.

There is no doubt that banks faced a harder task of raising funds over the past twelve months, due to the difficulties in interbank money markets. However, analysis of credit institutions' balance sheets show how banks have adapted to this by accessing different sources of funding. For example, borrowing from the European Central Bank has increased, which shows that Irish credit institutions have adequate collateral to draw down this form of lending. Decisive action to protect the stability of the economy and its financial system was taken by the Government with the introduction of the Scheme made under the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Act 2008. The extended international credit crunch which we have experienced has brought home to all of us the pivotal role of the financial system in the economy and in the day-to-day lives of ordinary people. An important aim of the Guarantee Scheme the Government have introduced is to ensure that we have a banking system that as a whole works effectively, efficiently and competitively in facilitating all the day-to-day ordinary economic transactions of commercial, business, family and social life. The scheme therefore includes the application of strict terms and conditions on covered institutions to ensure that the public interest, which includes the general consumer and small business sector, is paramount.

By putting the Guarantee Scheme in place the Government is helping to ensure that financial institutions continue to play their proper role in facilitating economic activity and enterprise and important financial transactions of households.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Joan Burton

Question:

98 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that outstanding Irish bank loans to property developers within Ireland only, were estimated to be €86.7 billion in June 2008 and that expert commentators estimate that the banks are expected to be forced to write off up to €45 billion of these loans over the next two years; if there is a proposal within his Department to inject capital into the system if required in order to ensure that the bank guarantee is not called in; if he has set a limit on the amount of capital that the State would be prepared to inject into the banking system in such a scenario; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39049/08]

I do not wish to comment on speculative comments by various commentators but as it happens most serious commentators — and the institutions themselves — expect provisions required to be a much smaller figure than that suggested by the Deputy.

It is a matter for each institution and its auditors to publish results at the appropriate periods. The banks will be releasing accounts and information over the coming months. The Financial Regulator clearly takes a direct interest in this issue, with a view to ensuring financial stability. I understand that the Regulator is engaged in an exercise at present to review the loan books and business plans of the guaranteed institutions.

As regards the capital position of the banks, each institution must take appropriate steps to ensure that their levels of capital are aligned with their needs. The State has a keen interest in the stability of the banking institutions, because of their role in the economy. Clearly, my Department, the Central Bank and the Financial Regulator will be in continuing contact with the institutions on their business plans, their capital position and their liquidity. Under the guarantee scheme, institutions can be required to adjust their capital ratios if that is required for the maintenance of financial stability.

Tax Code.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

99 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance if it is intended that the income levy announced in budget 2009 will apply to occupational pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39055/08]

The position is that the income levy will be applied to gross income except social welfare payments, including contributory and non-contributory social welfare pensions. It is also proposed to exempt those on low incomes from the income levy.

More detailed provisions, in relation to the collection, recovery, inspection of records, and other provisions required will be set out in the Finance Bill.

Departmental Properties.

Joe McHugh

Question:

100 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Finance the public buildings that are vacant or not in use in County Donegal; the amount the heating, maintenance and security of these buildings cost in 2007; and if he will provide the information in tabular form. [39062/08]

The Commissioners of Public Works have advised that there are three vacant buildings in County Donegal and the details are set out hereunder. They do not make public details of security particulars.

Name of Property

Location

Maintenance Expenditure

Heating Expenditure

Former Garda Station

The Mall, Ballyshannon

Nil

Nil

Former Customs and Excise

Lower Main St., Letterkenny

€150.00

Nil

Former Garda Station

Buncrana

Nil

Nil

Question No. 101 answered with Question No. 68.

Car Park Levy.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

102 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance if an assessment has been carried out of the administrative cost that will be imposed on businesses in operating the new car parking space tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39095/08]

Details of the car parking levy will be contained in the Finance (No. 2) Bill which will be published on the 20 November. I can assure the Deputy that every effort will be made to ensure that the arrangements for the administration and collection of the levy will be such as to minimise any additional administrative costs on businesses.

Tax Code.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

103 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance if an assessment has been carried out on the administrative cost that will be imposed on businesses by changing the VAT rate in the middle of the two month VAT period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39097/08]

The change in the standard VAT rate is taking effect from 1 December 2008. The change could have been made effective from 1 November 2008, the start of the preceding VAT taxable period, however, the later date of 1 December 2008 was chosen in order to give industry more time to adjust their systems to the Budget change. This provided a lead-in time of almost seven weeks during which traders can adjust to the new rate.

While the change in the VAT rate is effective from 1 December 2008, it is important to note that this does not impose any additional obligations on business in terms of their VAT returns. Businesses will file returns as normal on 19 January 2008.

In order to clarify the effect of the change in the standard VAT rate and its implications in different business circumstances, the Revenue Commissioners website contains detailed information in this regard.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

104 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance if efforts have been made to lobby members of Congress and the administration in opposition to possible changes to US corporate tax law that might adversely affect Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39098/08]

As I have said previously my Department and I are always mindful of potential international developments that could adversely affect foreign direct investment here. However, I am not aware of any concrete proposals to make changes to US tax legislation. While there has been some speculation in the context of the Presidential election that any new Administration could seek to make changes to the tax code, it is merely speculation and I am not prepared to comment on it.

I do not need to remind the House of the importance of US investment to the Irish economy which has been valued by successive Irish Governments over the last forty years. Irish investment in the US is also of significance. In that context it would be remiss of me not to be mindful of the sensitivity of investment decisions to the overall economic environment that would prevail including the tax environment that could undermine such decisions.

Question No. 105 answered with Question No. 24.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

106 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he has satisfied himself that he has received full information from all of the banks operating here and the required information relating to solvency and liquidity of their institutions in the context of recent legislation and with particular reference to protecting the taxpayer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39149/08]

In accordance with the terms of the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme all covered institutions are required to provide such information or reports as I, or the Financial Regulator on my behalf, may require. Under the Scheme covered institutions are also required to submit reports required by the Financial Regulator to monitor compliance with the terms and conditions of the Scheme. These reports will deal with, inter alia, liquidity requirements, capital ratios, asset quality, risk exposures and funding costs, and be submitted with such frequency and in such form as the Financial Regulator requires. Covered institutions will also be required to report on their compliance with the scheme itself on a quarterly basis and with the Irish Banking Federation Code of Practice on Mortgage Arrears and the Financial Regulator's Consumer Protection Code, at such frequency as I may require.

The reporting requirements under the scheme are additional to the regulatory framework already in place whereby all Irish licensed credit institutions report their solvency and liquidity positions to the Financial Regulator on an ongoing basis and the Financial Regulator has full legal powers to seek relevant information from the credit institutions in order to fulfil its statutory mandate.

The Deputy will appreciate that I will be working closely with the Financial Regulator regarding the reporting requirements under the Scheme.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

107 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the steps he has taken or proposes to take to augment the competitiveness of the economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39150/08]

Improving our competitive position is essential to facilitate a re-balancing of the economy towards more sustainable, export-led growth and to maintain Ireland's attractiveness as a location for inward investment.

In recognition of this, and notwithstanding the need to underpin the sustainability of the public finances, the Government took a number of steps in Budget 2009 aimed at supporting the economy's competitiveness. These included re-affirming our commitment to the 12.5% rate of corporation tax and maintaining and enhancing pro-employment business tax reliefs. We are also continuing to prioritise productivity enhancing investment under the National Development Plan. These measures will ensure that the Irish economy is well placed to take advantage of the global pick-up when it emerges.

National competitiveness is not, however, solely a matter of Government policy. Rather it is a shared responsibility of all the Social Partners — Government, employers and unions. Regaining our competitive position, which as a small open economy is critical to our economic success, will require each of us to play our part and work together to this end.

This means ensuring that externally-driven price increases do not become embedded in our system as that only creates a vicious cycle from which no one wins. In this respect, the willingness of the various parties to compromise and adopt a realistic approach to wage developments in the recent pay talks is commendable. In addition, it will be important to ensure that improvements in external factors that impact on domestic costs, such as falling oil prices, are passed on.

Question No. 108 answered with Question No. 66.

Departmental Expenditure.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

109 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he has issued instructions directly or through his Department to other Departments relating to making good, budgetary shortfalls arising now or expected to arise in the next 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39152/08]

Budget 2009, published on 14 October 2008, sets out the forecast outturn for Departments' expenditure in 2008 and the Budget Estimates allocations for 2009. Departments are required to manage within their agreed spending allocations and the question of issuing instructions to this effect does not arise.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

110 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he has had contact with the banks or the Central Bank with a view to reaching agreement on strategy for the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39153/08]

I have met with the relevant institutions and there is ongoing contact between the Financial Services Regulator, the Central Bank, the credit institutions and officials of my Department.

The Deputy will appreciate that when I introduced the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Legislation to this house, I made it clear that the disruption in international financial markets required a strong and decisive response by the Government to underpin the commitment of the authorities to Ireland's financial stability. This Government moved swiftly to put in place a guarantee to ensure Irish financial institutions' access to the normal liquidity and funding for their day to day business, and to give confidence to depositors and wholesale lenders. The Government quickly demonstrated its resolve to support the financial system, in order to support the economy and society, enterprises and families.

In tandem with the guarantee, the intensified scrutiny and oversight of financial institutions which was put in place since the onset of the turmoil in financial markets has been maintained and further strengthened to ensure that high standards of regulation are achieved in Ireland and that the quality of corporate Governance applying in all institutions, including lending practices, safeguard the interests of taxpayers. The goal at the end of this process is a banking system that is "fit for purpose" for the transformed financial environment in which it will find itself operating in the coming decades.

The legislation provides a detailed framework for the authorities to oversee and guide the assessment of strategic options by the banks themselves. The Irish scheme is firmly aligned with the main themes of the euro group plan, which contains an option to provide additional capital resources where appropriate to the banks.

Question No. 111 answered with Question No. 66.

Banking Sector Regulation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

112 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which he has taken initiatives through the EU Commission or the European Central Bank prior to action to protect the financial institutions throughout Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39155/08]

From the outset of the financial market difficulties in August 2007 EU Finance Ministers have taken a number of steps to address the difficulties in financial markets and Ireland has of course been a full participant in that work.

In October 2007 Finance Ministers agreed on a set of common principles and a roadmap of further actions to enhance financial stability arrangements and the ability of authorities to respond to serious disturbances in financial markets. This programme involves reviewing along with the EU's international partners how to further improve transparency of complex financial instruments, valuation standards, the prudential framework, risk management and supervision and market functioning including the role of rating agencies. Arising from this work, EU Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors agreed an extended Memorandum of Understanding on financial stability contingency planning between financial supervisors, central banks and finance ministries that incorporates common principles and practical guidelines for cross-border cooperation. This came into effect in June 2008.

At their meeting on 7th October 2008 EU Finance Ministers agreed common principles to guide the actions of Member States aimed at preserving confidence and stability in financial markets. The Finance Ministers welcomed the EU Commission's continued commitment to act quickly and apply flexibility in state aid decisions within the framework of the single market and state aid regime. The Commission has issued guidance for Member States on how decisions within this framework can be rapidly assessed.

The prompt actions by international central banks, including the European Central Bank, to provide major injections of liquidity have contributed to greater stability in financial markets internationally, though markets continue to remain subject to significant uncertainties. The ability of Irish banks to access liquidity from the European Central Bank has been a major benefit and provided a significant strength in assisting the Irish financial system to withstand difficult financial conditions over the last year.

Programme for Government.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

113 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if budget 2009 is in accord with the programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39156/08]

The Programme for Government is a five year programme which must be judged over the full five years of the Government. However, it is now clear that we have entered a period of lower economic growth than was envisaged when the Programme for Government was drawn up. This has consequences for the public finances and the Government is committed to carefully managing the economic and budgetary situation now so as not to jeopardise our long-term future. The ability of Government to deliver on all aspects of the programme must be seen in the context of this overriding priority.

Question No. 114 answered with Question No. 66.

Tax Code.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

115 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when a refund of income tax paid will be made in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39158/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the taxpayer was informed on the 2nd October 2008 that no refund of income tax is due in this case.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

116 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when a refund of tax paid will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39159/08]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they have no record of receiving a request from the individual for a tax refund. A Tax Return, Form 12 2007, issued to the individual on 4 November 2008 to enable them to carry out a review.

Flood Relief.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

117 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance if he will arrange to have work carried out on the Gleann Sharron River Castleisland, County Kerry to prevent the flooding of 17 houses at Tullig, Castleisland, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39163/08]

The Office of Public Works has been in contact with Kerry County Council regarding the flooding problem in Castleisland, and is at present examining potential alleviation options for the area, which is of considerable hydro-geological complexity.

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

118 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the systems his Department has in place for tracking absences from work for various reasons, for benchmarking them against best standards and for estimating the cost of cover or lost input as a result of these absences; and if he will present data for the most recent years on this matter. [39177/08]

My Department uses the PeopleSoft Human Resource Management System (HRMS) to facilitate the collation of information relating to a wide range of absences from duty e.g. sick leave, annual leave, special leave, maternity leave and other statutory and non-statutory leave provisions. That information is used for internal staff management purposes. The identification of suitable groups against which it can be meaningfully benchmarked is currently being explored.

As in the case of all organisations, allowance is made for leave entitlements in determining overall staffing complements. There is no specific system in place in my Department to estimate the costs of lost input or cover which is only provided in exceptional cases. Accordingly, absences rarely give rise to direct additional costs. I would also like to refer the Deputy to my response to Questions 237 and 238 raised by Deputy Leo Varadkar on 21 October 2008 which addressed the matter of sick leave absence levels in my Department and offices under its aegis.

Michael Creed

Question:

119 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of staff employed in her Department whose function it is to deal with representations from her constituency; the number of these staff that are located in the constituency and in her Department; the grade and remuneration at which these staff are employed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38960/08]

Michael Creed

Question:

120 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of staff employed by Ministers of State in his Department whose function it is to deal with representations from the Ministers of States’ constituency; the number of these staff that are located in the constituency and in his Department; the grade and remuneration at which these staff are employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38974/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 119 and 120 together.

The following table details the number of staff employed in my constituency office and those of the Ministers of State in my Department. The table gives a breakdown of the number of staff located in Hawkins House and each of the individual constituency offices.

Minister/Minister of State

No. of staff located in Hawkins House Constituency Office (WTE)

Staff in Private Office (Hawkins House) dealing with Constituency Reps. (WTE)

No. of staff located in regional Constituency Offices (WTE)

Total Number of Staff dealing with Constituency Representations (WTE)

Total Annual Gross Salaries in respect of Staff dealing with Constituency Representations

Health & Children (Minister Harney)

2 Clerical Officers 1 Personal Assistant

0

0

3

127,377.00

Children & Youth Affairs (Minister of State Andrews)

1.6 Clerical Officers 1 Personal Secretary

0

1 Personal Assistant

3.6

142,736.38

Older People (Minister of State Hoctor)

2 Clerical Officers 1 Personal Assistant

0

1 Personal Secretary

4

170,853.20

Disability & Mental Health (Minister of State Moloney)

2 Clerical Officers

0

1 Personal Assistant 1 Personal Secretary

4

167,202.66

Health Promotion & Food (Minister of State Wallace)

0

0

3 Clerical Officers 1 Personal Assistant 1 Personal Secretary

5

184,112.79

All of the staff employed in Constituency Offices, both in Hawkins House and in regional offices are responsible for dealing with representations submitted by constituents. However, the Deputy should note that staff employed in the Ministers' Private Offices deal with all health related representations, including those that originate in their constituencies.

Health Service Allowances.

Michael Creed

Question:

121 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be made on an application by a person (details supplied) in County Cork in respect of domiciliary care allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38978/08]

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.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

122 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people who have been added to the orthopaedic procedures waiting list since February 2008; the total as it stands at present as opposed to that which was outlined in the response to Parliamentary Question No. 444 of 2 April 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38986/08]

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 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.

Foster Care.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

123 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of potential foster carers or parents who have applied to the Health Service Executive midlands each year for the past three years; the number who have been subjected to assessment; the number of those who have been assessed as suitable or appropriate; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38987/08]

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

Health Services.

Tom Hayes

Question:

124 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children if posts of an adult respiratory consultant with special interest in cystic fibrosis and a second paediatric CF consultant for Limerick Hospital have been approved for funding; if these posts have been advertised; if job offers have been made; and when they will start work. [38990/08]

I have identified the need to improve services for persons with cystic fibrosis as a priority in the Estimates process over recent years. Since 2006, additional revenue funding of €6.78m has been allocated to the Health Service Executive (HSE) to develop services for patients with cystic fibrosis.

The HSE has advised that 44 additional staff dealing with cystic fibrosis have been appointed to date across a number of hospitals, including St Vincent's, Beaumont, Temple Street, Crumlin, Tallaght, Cork University Hospital, Galway, Limerick and Waterford. The necessary funding is available to facilitate the recruitment of a further 37 staff nationally. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the HSE to reply directly to the Deputy regarding the development of the service at the Mid West Regional Hospital, Limerick.

Finian McGrath

Question:

125 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support a matter (details supplied). [39003/08]

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

Special Educational Needs.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

126 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children the action she proposes to take in respect of the special language unit at a school (details supplied) in County Laois; and if she will make a statement on the services as required. [39027/08]

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

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

Michael McGrath

Question:

127 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children when a child (details supplied) in County Cork will be assessed for developmental co-ordination disorder; and when appropriate services will be provided for them. [39028/08]

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.

Pharmacy Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

128 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps which are being taken to refund the balance of payments due under the GMS to pharmacists for the period March to September 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39030/08]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) have reinstated the previous level of payment to pharmacists from October 2008 forward. The question of outstanding payments for the period March to September 2008 is under consideration by the HSE.

Medical Cards.

Michael Ring

Question:

129 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the funding available for services (details supplied) to people who urgently need them and who have always received them in the past because they have held a medical card; the changes in respect of same; and the situation regarding people who will not be in a position to pay for these services. [39034/08]

Following the recent Government decision to withdraw automatic entitlement to a medical card for persons aged 70 and over and to raise the means assessment threshold for persons in that age cohort, it is estimated that approximately 5% (20,000) of persons aged 70 and over will no longer qualify for a medical card.

Persons whose income is above the threshold and whose circumstances are such that it would cause them undue hardship to provide medical and surgical services and appliances for themselves may be eligible for a medical card at the discretion of the Health Service Executive.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Joe Costello

Question:

130 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will arrange for a person (details supplied) in County Cork to receive appropriate non-surgical treatment for their medical condition under the treatment abroad scheme owing to the special circumstances in their case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39050/08]

Regulation (EC) 1408/71 provides, inter alia, that people who are insured with or covered by the health care system of one member state may access health care in the public system of another member state in certain circumstances. Article 22 (1) (c) of the Regulation governs the referral of patients for public health services to another member state. In accordance with this article, a person eligible for health services in Ireland must be authorised by the HSE to go to another member state for treatment in the public health system there, where certain criteria are met. When authorisation is granted, Form E112 is issued by the HSE and is confirmation that the HSE will bear the cost of the treatment.

It is a matter for the HSE to determine whether authorisation for treatment abroad should be granted. Therefore, any individual who is eligible for health care in Ireland and who wishes to obtain treatment in another EU member state in accordance with these entitlements should apply to the HSE for authorisation.

Medical Cards.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

131 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the income that is considered in calculating the thresholds for qualification for a medical card for people over 70 years; if, in the case of public service pensioners it excludes the PAYE income tax which is automatically deducted from the amount paid to the pensioner; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39056/08]

With effect from the 1st January, 2009 the new income thresholds for entitlement to a medical card for persons aged 70 or over are €700 (gross) per week for a single person and €1,400 (gross) per week for a couple. Gross income refers to income before tax and PRSI deductions.

Hospital Hygiene Standards.

Joe McHugh

Question:

132 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children when she envisages the preparation and completion of a report into the contraction of MRSA by two babies at Letterkenny General Hospital, County Donegal in 2008. [39067/08]

Achieving and maintaining the highest possible standards of hygiene in our hospitals and health care facilities generally is a priority for this Government and for the Health Service Executive (HSE). Hygiene and infection control measures are key to the prevention of the spread of Healthcare Associated Infections in our hospital system.

I am informed that as part of the standard infection control policies within the hospital, Letterkenny General Hospital will be carrying out an internal review of the circumstances leading to and consequent management of the recent cluster of MRSA cases in its maternity unit. This is normal infection control practice.

It should be noted that it is not unique for babies to test positive for MRSA, whether in a hospital setting or at home in the community. On this occasion what was different, was that 3 babies tested positive for MRSA within a very short timeframe. Again, although unusual, this is not unique. The infection control protocols and the pro-active actions of the hospital resulted in all the babies being identified and treated in a very short period of time. There was also clear and open communication with all the families involved. The source of the colonisation was also identified and measures were taken to ensure that no further babies could be colonised from this source. It must be stressed that although the babies were colonised, at no time were they ill or have a blood stream infection.

Despite some attempts and speculation aiming to link these cases to any previous cases of MRSA within the hospital, this cluster of MRSA was a discrete event. The hospital kept the HSE and my Department advised of the measures it was undertaking throughout its management of this issue. The Hospital has clear clinical governance processes which allow for the review of incidents such as this and enable the hospital to learn from the process.

General Practitioner Co-operatives.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

133 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of funding given to SouthDoc, the out of hours service co-op in Counties Cork and Kerry since 2001 to date in 2008; the primary use of this funding; the controls in place to ensure appropriate use of the funding; and the status of the funding programme and the Health Service Executive’s plans to support this service with funding or otherwise in the future. [39069/08]

Out of hours co-operatives allow general practitioners to put in place arrangements to provide services to their patients, while their surgeries are closed in the evenings, on weekends and bank holidays. The development of GP co-operatives is in line with the overall health service policy of strengthening primary care services and ensuring that to the greatest extent possible, people's care needs are met in the primary care setting.

Out of hours co-operatives are now in place in all Health Service Executive (HSE) areas, providing coverage in all or in part of all counties. In 2007, the HSE Vote included almost €37 million in baseline funding for these services and the Executive has advised that this figure is available again in 2008. This figure does not include the fees of the participating doctors.

As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for this service, it is the appropriate body to provide the information sought by the Deputy . My Department has therefore requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address this matter and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

134 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding breast cancer treatment services at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, County Louth; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39088/08]

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.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

135 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when an angiogram will be provided in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39160/08]

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

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

136 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Meath continues to qualify for a medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39161/08]

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

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

137 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the systems her Department has in place for tracking absences from work for various reasons, for benchmarking them against best standards and for estimating the cost of cover or lost input as a result of these absences; and if she will present data for the most recent years on this matter. [39179/08]

Officers can be absent from work for various reasons including sick leave, annual leave, parental leave, worksharing, term time, special leave with out pay etc. The rules applicable to such absences are determined centrally by the Department of Finance circulars. All such absences are managed by the Department's computerised personnel administration system i.e. the PeopleSoft Human Resources Management System (HRMS). The HRMS is in operation in most Government Departments and assists with administering the workforce, managing positions, recruiting the workforce and administering training. HRMS is designed to work by streamlining and maintaining information for all the Department's human resource needs.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

138 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the 2009 funding allocation for disability services under the multi-annual investment programme 2006 to 2009; the expenditure under this programme each year respectively since it began; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39241/08]

The National Disability Strategy specifically provides for a targeted Investment Programme, which was announced in the 2005 Budget, of some €900m capital and revenue funding for the period 2006 to 2009, to build capacity in priority areas of support services for people with disabilities. Under the Multi-Annual Investment Programme additional funding of €75m was allocated in both 2006 and 2007 and €50m in 2008. In the 2008 Budget, €50m was provided to the Health Service Executive (HSE) to fund a range of additional services under the Multi Annual Investment Programme for Disability. Although the commencement of the planned developments in disability services this year had been delayed due to a financial review, I am pleased to inform you that the Executive has informed the Department of Health and Children that it is now in the process of rolling out the planned developments. The HSE has indicated that due to the delayed start to some of these developments, it expects to spend €33m of the €50m by the end of 2008. The resulting €17m time related savings were included in this Department's budgetary consolidation measures announced to the House in July 2008.

In Budget 2009, an additional €10m was allocated to the HSE. The funding for 2009 will provide for 90 additional therapy posts in the disability services area, targeted at children of school going age.

With regard to the yearly expenditure incurred to date on the Programme, this is a matter for the Health Service Executive. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

David Stanton

Question:

139 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the budget 2009 allocation for the advancement of the national disability strategy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39277/08]

In Budget 2009, an additional €20m was allocated for health and education services for children with special educational needs. €10 million of this allocation will be provided to the Health Service Executive (HSE), and €10million to the Department of Education and Science. It is intended that this additional funding will enable the services provided to children with special educational needs to be enhanced and strengthened. The additional €10m allocated to the HSE will provide for 125 additional therapy posts in the disability and mental health services, targeted at children of school-going age. This will provide an additional 90 posts in the disability services area, to include speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and psychologists for children's disability services. There will be 35 additional posts for the child & adolescent mental health services, including clinical psychologists, occupational therapists and speech & language therapists for new and existing multidisciplinary teams.

Departmental Staff.

Michael Creed

Question:

140 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Transport the number of staff employed in his Department whose function it is to deal with representations from his constituency; the number of these staff that are located in the constituency and in his Department; the grade and remuneration at which these staff are employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38963/08]

Aside from a Special Advisor, there are four staff employed by my Department who deal with representations from my constituency. Two are located in the constituency and if they were not paid by the Department they would be paid by the Houses of the Oireachtas and two are in Dublin. Their details are outlined in the following table.

Grade

Remuneration Salary scale per annum

Executive Officer

€32,179 – €51,054

Clerical Officer

€24,397 – €39,558

Personal Secretary (Secretarial Assistant)

€825.90 per week

Personal Assistant

€55,030

Michael Creed

Question:

141 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Transport the number of staff employed by Ministers of State in his Department whose function it is to deal with representations from the Ministers of State’s constituency; the number of these staff that are located in the constituency and in his Department; the grade and remuneration at which these staff are employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38977/08]

There are three staff in the Minister of State's constituency office. These are based in the Department and all of them deal with representations from the Minister of State's constituency. Their details are outlined in the following table.

Grade

Remuneration Salary scale per annum

1 Executive Officer

€30,566 – €48,504

2 Clerical Officers

€24,397 – €39,558

Taxi Regulations.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

142 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Transport the situation with regard to the over supply of taxis in cities such as Galway, where the proliferation of the issuing of taxi licences has led to a situation where there is no parking place or not enough taxi bays in the city and where the proliferation of licences is making it impossible for the long-standing taxi owners to make a viable wage; the steps he will take to alleviate this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39015/08]

The Commission for Taxi Regulation is the independent public body with statutory responsibility for the regulatory framework for the control and operation, including licensing, of taxis, hackneys, limousines and their drivers. In this regard, I understand that the Commission is currently carrying out an economic review of the small public service vehicle industry. In September 2006, the Commission replaced the individual local authority taximeter areas with one single national taximeter area.

With regard to taxi ranks, decisions regarding the location and operation of taxi ranks on public roads, as well as the provision of funding for taxi ranks, are primarily matters for consideration by the relevant local authority.

Search and Rescue Service.

Joe McHugh

Question:

143 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport if he has made a decision in regard to the future of Malin Head and Valentia coast guard stations; and the result of that decision. [39063/08]

Joe McHugh

Question:

144 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport the stage the decision-making process in regard to the futures of Malin Head and Valentia Island coast guard stations is at; and when this decision will be finalised. [39064/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 143 and 144 together.

It is my intention to strengthen the Irish Coast Guard and Maritime Administration to meet the needs of this country well into the 21st century. In that context, a decision on the west coast co-ordination centres will be taken shortly.

State Airports.

Michael McGrath

Question:

145 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the position in relation to the separation of the three State airports of Dublin, Shannon and Cork under the State Airports Act 2004; and the timeline for the competition of the process. [39076/08]

Under the State Airports Act, 2004 the boards of Cork and Shannon airport are required to prepare business plans for eventual separation.

All three airport business plans have to be coordinated by the Dublin Airport Authority for eventual approval by the Minister for Finance and myself. Among the requirements to be satisfied in advance of separation is the need to ensure the financial sustainability of all three state airports.

I have already received the Cork and Shannon business plans and I expect shortly to receive a finalised commentary on those plans by the DAA when they submit their own plan under the Act. I would expect DAA's commentary to address recent trends in the aviation market, the challenges facing the State airports and the financial and operational aspects of restructuring.

Departmental Expenditure.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

146 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding the €13.6 million paid to CIÉ in 2007 as the railway safety grant and what is was used to fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39165/08]

The Railway Safety Programme 2004 — 2008 is the second of three five-year programmes designed to improve all aspects of safety across the Iarnród Éireann network and to maintain levels of risk as low as is reasonably practical.

In 2007, a total of €102.4m was expended by Iarnród Éireann on the Railway Safety Programme, of which €13.6m represents that element relating to the enhancement of the safety culture and safety management systems. This included investment in safety training across the company, the development of tools such as an Infrastructure Asset Management database and the Network Wide Risk Model and the development of safety standards.

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

147 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Transport the systems his Department has in place for tracking absences from work for various reasons, for benchmarking them against best standards and for estimating the cost of cover or lost input as a result of these absences; and if he will present data for the most recent years on this matter. [39182/08]

Absences from work, with the exception of annual leave, are recorded on the Department's Human Resources Management System (HRMS). Such leave includes sick leave, parental leave, maternity leave, paternity leave, study and exam leave, carer's leave, and force majeure. Annual Leave is recorded and managed locally by line managers in the Departmental divisions and sections. All leave is managed in accordance with Department of Finance regulations and not benchmarked against other systems. Cover is not provided for such absences. In order to provide the Deputy with any further information he may require on the matter, I would ask that he contact my Department directly specifying the actual data and timeframe involved.

Bridge Repairs.

Willie Penrose

Question:

148 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Transport if his Department has received an application from Longford County Council for funding to repair the Camlin Bridge at Clondra; if finance will be made available for these works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39184/08]

The provision and improvement of regional and local roads, including bridges, in its area is a matter for Longford County Council to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State grants.

All applications received for funding in 2009 under the scheme will be considered by my Department, having regard to compliance with eligibility criteria, the need to prioritise projects, competing demands from other local authorities and the funds available for the scheme in 2009. The 2009 regional and local road grant allocations to local authorities will be announced early next year.

National Disability Strategy.

David Stanton

Question:

149 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Transport the Budget 2009 allocation for the advancement of the national disability strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39282/08]

My Department has allocated Euro 20 million for 2009 under the National Disability Strategy for accessibility improvements to existing public transport infrastructure and facilities. This is in addition to the significant resources being provided under Transport 21 to ensure that accessibility is built into new public transport infrastructure and rolling stock as a matter of course.

Visa Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

150 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a visitors visa will issue to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39162/08]

Based on the information provided, my Department has no record of a current visa application for the person in question.

Departmental Staff.

Michael Creed

Question:

151 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of staff employed in his Department whose function it is to deal with representations from his constituency; the number of these staff that are located in the constituency and in his Department; the grade and remuneration at which these staff are employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38961/08]

Michael Creed

Question:

152 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of staff employed by Ministers of State in his Department whose function it is to deal with representations from the Ministers of State’s constituency; the number of these staff that are located in the constituency and in his Department; the grade and remuneration at which these staff are employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38975/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 151 and 152 together.

I have 1 Personal (Dáil) Secretary (Dublin), salaries €30,566 — €50,410. I have 1 Personal Assistant (Louth), salaries €46,558 — 59,097. I have four Clerical Officers (3 in Dublin and 1 in Louth), salaries 3 @ €24,397 — € 39, 558 and 1 @ €24,225 — €38,397. The number, grade and salary range of staff employed in the Constituency Office of my colleague, Mr. Conor Lenihan, T.D., Minister of State for Integration, are set out in the following table.

Grade

Number

Salary Range

Personal Assistant

1

€46,558 – €59,097

Personal Secretary

1

€44,316 – one point scale

Executive Officer

1

€30,566 – €48,504

Clerical Officer

2

€24,397 – €39,558

With regard to the location of these staff, the Executive Officer and two Clerical Officers are based in the Office of the Minister for Integration, while the Personal Assistant and Personal Secretary divide their time between that Office and the Minister of State's constituency.

Departmental Expenditure.

Joan Burton

Question:

153 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the budgeted expenditure, and actual expenditure where relevant, of the Garda Reserve force, including resources diverted from other areas of Garda activity, for the years 2007, 2008 and 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38993/08]

In 2007 expenditure from the Garda Reserve subhead in the Garda Vote amounted to €45,000. The provision in this subhead for 2008 is €1.28 million and expenditure to the end of October amounts to €229,000. The estimates for 2009 provide €1.28 million for this subhead.

There are also costs which are not separately assigned to the Garda Reserve. These include the salary costs of Garda trainers as training Reserve members is considered part of the trainers' normal duties. In addition, uniforms for all Garda members are procured in bulk and as such, the specific cost of uniforms for the Garda Reserve members is not identifiable.

Asylum Applications.

Phil Hogan

Question:

154 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of an application on humanitarian grounds for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38998/08]

I refer the Deputy to the detailed Reply I gave to his recent Parliamentary Question, No. 863 of Wednesday, 24 September 2008, in this matter. The position in the State of the person concerned is as set out in that Reply.

Work Permits.

Michael Ring

Question:

155 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made in relation to the processing of an application for business permission by a company (details supplied) in view of the fact that the matter is ongoing since March 2008. [39043/08]

I can inform the Deputy that the Immigration Division of my Department has issued decision letters to the persons concerned in respect of their applications for permission to operate a business in the State.

Residency Permits.

Joe Costello

Question:

156 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the application for permission to remain in the State by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; the length of time it will be until a decision is made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39051/08]

The Immigration Division of my Department informs me that a letter was recently issued to the person in question granting her permission to remain in the State on the basis of her marriage to an Irish national for an initial period of twelve months. This permission becomes operative when the applicant registers with the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

157 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the full amounts of moneys collected over each of the past three years through applications made to his Department and its offices for the stamp four scheme. [39073/08]

The monies collected from persons who received certificates of registration on the basis of the issue of a stamp 4 during the last 3 years is as follows:

2006 (from 27 May): €1,132,000.00

2007: €2,964,000.00

2008 (up to 4 November): €1,624,200.00

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

158 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will issue regarding an application for citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39105/08]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department in September 2006.

Processing of the file has been completed and I have reached a decision. The person in question will be informed of that decision in the near future.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

159 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to an application for family reunification in the case of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39106/08]

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that the person in question made an application for Family Reunification on behalf of his wife in June 2008.

This application was then forwarded to the Refugee Applications Commissioner on 21st July, 2008 for investigation as required under section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996. The Commissioner will prepare and forward in due course a report to my Department.

Upon receipt of the report, the application will be considered and a decision will issue in due course. All applications are dealt with in chronological order and due to the high volume of applications on hand, it is unlikely that a decision will be reached on this application before January 2009.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

160 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a letter stating habitual residency or leave to remain in the State will be arranged for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1 who has been refused a higher education grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39107/08]

I wish to inform the Deputy that the person concerned was granted permission to remain in the State under Stamp 4 conditions for an initial period of 12 months, and was informed of this decision by letter dated 8 May, 2008. The person in question subsequently registered with the Garda National Immigration Bureau. Further renewals of this permission may be granted by GNIB without instruction from my Department, and no further correspondence between the person concerned and my Department is required.

Fees payable to third level institutions, and the eligibility criteria for higher education grants, are not matters which fall within the remit of my Department. However I have arranged for a letter to be issued to the person concerned confirming her legal residency in the State and setting out the basis on which her permission to remain in the State was granted.

Asylum Support Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

161 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if accommodation or medical assistance will be offered in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39108/08]

The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) is responsible for the accommodation of asylum seekers in accordance with the Government policy of direct provision and dispersal.

As stated in the Reply to the Deputy's Parliamentary Question of 23 October 2008, the person referred to in the details supplied is currently accommodated at Mount Trenchard accommodation centre in Limerick. The accommodation remains available to him and has never been withdrawn from him. The documents provided with the details supplied will be forwarded to a medical referee for examination to clarify whether there is a need for a change of accommodation in this case.

In relation to medical assistance generally, the provision of such assistance is a matter for the relevant medical services within the HSE. The Deputy will be aware that asylum seekers can access public health services in the same way as an Irish citizen. Furthermore, asylum seekers generally qualify for a medical card and can access the full range of services which that attracts without charge.

Deportation Orders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

162 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected position in relation to an application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39109/08]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 221 of Thursday 3 April 2008 and the written Reply to that Question.

The person concerned applied for asylum in the State on 7 February 2005. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 29 December 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations have been submitted on behalf of the person concerned and will be fully considered, under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, before the file is passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

163 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected position in relation to an application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39110/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 10 June 1997 and claimed asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

The person concerned was informed by letter dated 1 June 2001 that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him and afforded him three options in accordance with Section 3(3)(b)(ii) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), namely to leave the State voluntarily, to consent to the making of a Deportation Order or to submit, within 15 working days, written representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State i.e why he should not be deported.

His case was examined under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the Prohibition of Refoulement. The person concerned submitted an application for EU Treaty Rights. The person concerned was informed by letter dated 8 July 2004 that his application had been refused. On 26 August 2004 the then Minister refused permission to remain temporarily in the State and instead signed a Deportation Order in respect of him. Notice of this order was served by registered post requiring the person concerned to present himself at the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2 on Thursday 27th January 2005 in order to make travel arrangements for his removal from the State.

A further application was made by the legal representatives of the person concerned for EU Treaty Rights in February 2005. The person concerned was notified by letter dated 26 July 2005 that this application had been refused.

The enforcement of the Deportation Order is an operational matter for the Garda National Immigration Bureau. The effect of the Deportation Order is that the person concerned must leave the State and remain thereafter out of the State.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

164 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected position in relation to an application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39111/08]

It is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications.

As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted.

A final decision on each application is made following receipt of the recommendation of the Refugee Applications Commissioner or the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, as appropriate.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

165 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected position in relation to an application for citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39112/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

172 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a further review will be given to an application for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39120/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 165 and 172 together.

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department on 6 September 2004. This application was refused by my predecessor. The reason for the refusal was disclosed to the applicant in a letter dated 22 September 2006.

It is open to the person in question to lodge a new application if and when he is in a position to satisfy the statutory requirements applicable at that time. However, in doing so he should bear in mind the reasons for refusal of his previous application.

Deportation Orders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

166 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected position in relation to an application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39113/08]

I refer the Deputy to the Reply I gave to his Parliamentary Question no. 929 of Wednesday 24 September 2008. The status of the person concerned remains as set out in that Reply.

I am satisfied that the applications made by the person concerned for asylum and subsequently for temporary leave to remain in the State, together with all refoulement issues, were fairly and comprehensively examined and, as such, the decision to deport him is justified.

The enforcement of the Deportation Order is an operational matter for the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

167 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected position in relation to an application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39114/08]

I refer the Deputy to the detailed Reply I gave to his recent Parliamentary Question, No. 792 of Wednesday, 24 September 2008, in this matter. The position in the State of the person concerned is as set out in that Reply.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

168 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected position in relation to an application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39115/08]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 183 of Thursday, 10 April 2008 and the written Reply to that Question.

The person concerned applied for asylum in the State on 16 December 1997. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the then Asylum Division of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and, on appeal, the then Refugee Appeals Authority. He was notified of this decision by letter dated 2 August 2000. In addition, this letter notified him that, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the Minister was proposing to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations have been submitted on behalf of the person concerned and will be fully considered, under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, before the file is passed to me for decision.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

169 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected status in the case of an application for citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39116/08]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department in January 2008.

On examination of the application it was determined that the person in question did not meet the residency requirements as set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship 1956,as amended.

It is open to the person concerned to lodge a new application if and when he is in a position to meet the statutory requirements applicable at that time.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

170 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status or leave to remain in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39117/08]

The person concerned was refused permission to remain in the State under the revised arrangements for the non-EEA parents of children born in Ireland prior to 1st January 2005, known as the IBC/05 Scheme, as he did not meet the criteria of the scheme.

The person concerned was subsequently invited, by letter dated 9th May 2008, to make updated representations under Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999, as to why he should be permitted to remain in the State. Representations in this regard have been received in my Department and are being considered by the relevant officials. The person concerned, and his legal representatives, will be informed of any decisions made in due course.

Prisoner Transfers.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

171 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the arrangements in train to repatriate a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if it is intended to intervene, support or in any way cater for their well-being; if his attention has been drawn to the deterioration in their mental and physical condition; if their current position in terms of responsibility is with his Department or the Department of Health and Children; if their rights as an Irish citizen are or have been fully observed to date; if the duty of care to which they are entitled to has been fully discharged by the relevant authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39118/08]

The 1983 Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons provides a mechanism whereby prisoners can be repatriated to their home state in order to serve prison sentences they have incurred abroad. The Convention is provided for in legislation in this State by virtue of the Transfer of Sentenced Persons Acts, 1995 and 1997 and the process is administered by my Department.

The process requires extensive documentation to be exchanged between the relevant jurisdictions in order to allow an application to be fully considered. A three way consent is also required to enable any transfer to take place, i.e., from the authorities of both jurisdictions and from the person concerned. On receipt of those consents (assuming they will be forthcoming), an application must then be made to the High Court for a warrant authorising the transfer of the person concerned and their continued detention here.

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department has not as yet received a formal application for a transfer to Ireland in respect of this person from the United Kingdom authorities. My officials have contacted the UK authorities responsible for such repatriations regarding this matter and they have stated that they have not received an application from the person concerned either. If she has not already done so, she should now apply for a transfer via her Prison Governor in the United Kingdom.

I would also like to inform the Deputy that officials of my Department have brought this matter to the attention of their colleagues in the Department of Foreign Affairs. The Department of Foreign Affairs have indicated that the person concerned has not sought consular assistance from them. However, the matter has now been brought to the attention of our Embassy in the UK who will make further inquiries.

Question No. 172 answered with Question No. 165.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

173 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39122/08]

It is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications.

As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted.

A final decision on each application is made following receipt of the recommendation of the Refugee Applications Commissioner or the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, as appropriate.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

174 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected position in relation to an application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39123/08]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 24 April 2001. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 22 May 2003, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations were received on his behalf. Following consideration of his case, under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, a Deportation Order was signed in respect of the person concerned on 12 March 2004. Notice of this Order was served by registered letter dated 20 April 2004 requiring the person concerned to present himself to the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) on a specified date in order to make travel arrangements for his deportation from the State. The person concerned failed to ‘present' as required and was therefore classified as a person who was evading his deportation. This position continued to obtain for more than three years.

The person concerned, through his legal representative, subsequently lodged a request under Regulation 4 (2) of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006) seeking the permission of the Minister to make an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with those Regulations which came into force on 10 October 2006. This request was approved following which the person concerned formally applied for Subsidiary Protection in the State. This application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

The person concerned remains the subject of a valid Deportation Order. However, the Deputy may be assured that this Order will not be enforced pending the determination of the Subsidiary Protection application.

Visa Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

175 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected position in relation to an application for family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39124/08]

The person concerned was granted temporary permission to remain in the State on 14 November 2006, following the consideration of his case under Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended). This permission was subsequently renewed for one year to 18 November 2008 and the person concerned was informed of this decision by letter dated 19 November 2007. This position still obtains.

There are no records in my Department of the person concerned having submitted an application for family reunification. The Deputy might wish to note that the position in the State of the person concerned is not such as would confer any statutory entitlement under family reunification provisions.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

176 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a review will be undertaken in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39125/08]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 27 September 1999. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 27 November 2002, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations were received on his behalf. Following consideration of his case, under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, a Deportation Order was signed in respect of the person concerned on 22 December 2004. Notice of this Order was served by registered letter dated 17 February 2005 requiring the person concerned to present himself to the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) on a specified date in order to make travel arrangements for his deportation from the State. The person concerned presented on the specified date as required and was given further presentation dates by the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB).

The person concerned, through his legal representative, requested the Minister to review the decision not to allow to him permission to remain temporarily in the State in view of new information which had come to hand. Following consideration of this new information the Deportation Order signed on 22 December 2004 was affirmed. The legal representative of the person concerned was notified of this by letter dated 17 October 2005.

The person concerned, again through his legal representative, subsequently submitted a request under Regulation 4 (2) of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006) seeking the permission of the Minister to consider an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with those Regulations which came into force on 10 October 2006. The request was approved and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

The person concerned remains the subject of a valid Deportation Order. However, the Deputy may be assured that this Order will not be enforced pending the determination of the Subsidiary Protection application.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

177 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a letter as per the reply to Parliamentary Question No. 154 of 23 October 2008, will issue to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39126/08]

The letter referred to in my Reply to Parliamentary Question No. 154 of 23 October 2008, was issued to the person concerned by registered post to the address on file with my Department on the 9 October 2008. This letter has subsequently been returned undelivered to my Department. The person concerned should now notify my Department of his current address in order for the letter to be re-issued.

The Deputy should note that is incumbent on an applicant to notify my Department when they change address, in accordance with Articles 11 and 18 of the Aliens Order 1946. The person concerned was notified of this requirement and acknowledged same on 3 March 2003.

Deportation Orders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

178 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39127/08]

I refer the Deputy to his recent Parliamentary Questions No. 79 of Thursday, 16 October 2008, and No. 787 of Wednesday, 24 September 2008, in this matter. The position in the State of the person concerned is unchanged.

Visa Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

179 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will reconsider applications made by persons (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39128/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

191 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected position in relation to an application for family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39140/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 179 and 191 together.

I refer the Deputy to my Reply to his previous Parliamentary Question of 14 October 2008. I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that the person referred to by the Deputy made an application for family reunification on 26 September 2005 on behalf of her husband. She subsequently withdrew that application on 3 March 2006 and made a fresh application in respect of her mother and brother.

My Department forwarded the new application to the Refugee Applications Commissioner for investigation as required under Section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996. This investigation was completed and the Commissioner submitted a report to my Department on 20 June 2006. Following the receipt of the report my Department issued a decision to the applicant on 27 July 2006 refusing the application because the subjects of the application did not qualify as dependents under Section 18(4)(b) of the Refugee Act 1996.

Since the decision was issued further correspondence was received from the person in question and my Department replied to that correspondence on 5 August 2008.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

180 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39129/08]

It is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications.

As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted.

A final decision on each application is made following receipt of the recommendation of the Refugee Applications Commissioner or the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, as appropriate.

Travel Documentation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

181 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review a travel document in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39130/08]

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that a letter issued to the person in question on 29 October 2008 informing him that as an Angolan National he was advised to contact the Embassy of Angola, 22 Dorset Street, London W1U 6QY, England with a view to obtaining his own National passport.

The person in question has not been granted refugee status in the State in accordance with the Refugee Act 1996 and therefore is not entitled to apply for a 1951 UN Convention Travel Document. The person in question was issued with a Temporary Travel Document in May 2008 to assist him in obtaining his national passport. It now appears that the person concerned did not use the Travel Document for the purpose stated.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

182 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected position in relation to an application for residency in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39131/08]

The first named person concerned applied for asylum in the State on 27 May 2005. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the first named person concerned was informed, by letter dated 30 May 2006, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations have been submitted on behalf of the first named person concerned and will be fully considered, under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, before the file is passed to me for decision.

The second named person concerned has applied for asylum in the State. As the Deputy will be aware, applications for asylum in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted.

A final decision on each application is made following receipt of the recommendation of the Refugee Applications Commissioner or the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, as appropriate.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

183 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected position in relation to an application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39132/08]

It is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications. As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted. A final decision on each application is made following receipt of the recommendation of the Refugee Applications Commissioner or the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, as appropriate.

Asylum Support Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

184 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if permission will be given to a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39133/08]

The Reception and Integration Agency is responsible for the accommodation of asylum seekers in accordance with the Government policy of direct provision. As stated in the Reply to the Deputy's Parliamentary Question of 14 October, 2008 in this matter, the RIA understands that the first contact from either party referred to in the details supplied requesting that they be accommodated together was received on 3 January 2008. Both parties refused to be accommodated anywhere other than at Kinsale Road accommodation centre. Kinsale Road accommodation centre has high occupancy levels and no accommodation suitable for this family has become available at the centre in this time.

The RIA has offered alternative accommodation in its portfolio to this family on a number of occasions but these offers have been refused every time. As stated in the previous response in this matter, if the family still wish to be accommodated together, they should apply again in writing to the RIA but should understand that the situation in respect of their demand to be accommodated at Kinsale Road remains unchanged. No such request has been received by the RIA to date.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

185 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected position in relation to an application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39134/08]

Applications for certificates of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question were received in the Citizenship section of my Department in January 2005, April 2007 and September 2007. On each occasion, the person concerned did not meet the statutory requirements for Naturalisation. It is open to the person in question to lodge a new application if and when she can satisfy the statutory requirements applicable at that time.

Residency Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

186 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected position in relation to an application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39135/08]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 16 October 2000. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner. He did not appeal this decision.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 30 October 2001, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations were received on his behalf. Following consideration of his case, under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, a Deportation Order was signed in respect of the person concerned on 21 May 2002. Notice of this Order was served by registered letter dated 25 October 2002 requiring the person concerned to present himself to the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) on a specified date in order to make travel arrangements for his deportation from the State. The person concerned failed to present on the specified date as required and was subsequently classified as evading Deportation.

The person concerned, through his legal representative, submitted a request dated 4 March 2008, under Regulation 4(2) of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006) seeking the permission of the Minister to consider an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with those Regulations which came into force on 10 October 2006. The request was approved and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

The person concerned remains the subject of a valid Deportation Order. However, the Deputy may be assured that this Order will not be enforced pending the determination of the Subsidiary Protection application.

Travel Documentation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

187 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected position in relation to a request for a travel document in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39136/08]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question number 148 of 23 October 2008. The position remains unchanged. The person in question is an Angolan National and was advised to contact the Embassy of Angola, 22 Dorset Street, London W1U 6QY, England with a view to obtaining his own National passport.

The person in question was refused refugee status in the State in accordance with the Refugee Act 1996 and therefore is not entitled to apply for a 1951 UN Convention Travel Document. The person concerned was also advised that, should he need to travel to the United Kingdom to obtain his national passport, an application for a Travel Document of limited validity may be considered if he produces confirmed travel arrangements to the United Kingdom and an appointment letter from the Angolan Embassy London. The person in question has not responded to this information.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

188 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected position in relation to an application for citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39137/08]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department in May 2008. Officials in that Section are currently processing applications received in July 2006. Applications are dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants. However, I understand that the person concerned is married to an Irish national and every effort is made to ensure those applications are dealt with as quickly as possible.

Refugee Status.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

189 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected position in relation to an application for leave to remain or residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39138/08]

It is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications. As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted. A final decision on each application is made following receipt of the recommendation of the Refugee Applications Commissioner or the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, as appropriate.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

190 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected position in relation to an application for leave to remain or residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39139/08]

It is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications. As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted.

A final decision on each application is made following receipt of the recommendation of the Refugee Applications Commissioner or the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, as appropriate.

Question No. 191 answered with Question No. 171.

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

192 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the systems his Department has in place for tracking absences from work for various reasons, for benchmarking them against best standards and for estimating the cost of cover or lost input as a result of these absences; and if he will present data for the most recent years on this matter. [39180/08]

My Department uses the Civil Service Human Resource Management System (HRMS) and time and attendance systems to record absence from work for whatever reason. A significant proportion of all absences relate to statutory entitlements or conditions of employment. In relation to these leave entitlements (annual leave, maternity leave, parental leave, carer's leave, force majeure leave, bereavement leave, etc.), the question of benchmarking against best standards does not arise. In relation to sick leave absence, the Comptroller and Auditor General is undertaking a Value for Money Audit on sick leave absence across the Civil Service and I look forward to reading his Report in due course. In the meantime, I am satisfied that my Department's level of sick leave absence at 4% is comparable with other public sector organisations.

Departmental Expenditure.

David Stanton

Question:

193 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the 2009 funding allocation for disability services under the multi-annual investment programme 2006 to 2009; the expenditure under this programme each year respectively since it began; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39288/08]

In 2009, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform has been allocated €3 million for disability services under the multi-annual investment programme 2006 to 2009.

The table details expenditure under this programme.

Year

Expenditure

2006

2,696,000

2007

4,582,000

2008

1,783,144 spent to date

Departmental Staff.

Michael Creed

Question:

194 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of staff employed in his Department whose function it is to deal with representations from his constituency; the number of these staff that are located in the constituency and in his Department; the grade and remuneration at which these staff are employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38959/08]

Michael Creed

Question:

195 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of staff employed by Ministers of State in his Department whose function it is to deal with representations from the Ministers of State’s constituency; the number of these staff who are located in the constituency and in his Department; the grade and remuneration at which these staff are employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38973/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 194 and 195 together.

Responsibility for dealing with constituency representations lies with the staff of the Constituency Offices of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and of each Minister of State. The following tables set out the grades, numbers and remuneration of such staff.

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Micheál Martin, T.D.

Grade/Position

Number

Salary Scale

Personal Assistant

1

Secretarial Assistant Salary Scale €23,102 – €44,572 per annum

Personal Secretary

1

Executive Officer PPC Salary Scale €32,179 – €51,054 per annum

Executive Officer

1

Executive Officer PPC Salary Scale €32,179 – €51,054 per annum

Clerical Officer

2

Clerical Officer PPC Salary Scale €24,397 – €39,558 per annum

Total

5

My Personal Assistant and Personal Secretary are based in my Constituency Office in Cork. The other staff members are based in the Department's headquarters in Dublin.

Minister of State, Mr Dick Roche, T.D.

Grade/Position

Number

Salary Scale

Personal Assistant

1

Higher Executive Officer Standard Scale €46,558 – €59,097 per annum

Personal Secretary

1

Secretarial Assistant Salary Scale €23,102 – €44,572 per annum

Staff Officer

1

Staff Officer Standard Scale €34,941 – €46,655 per annum

Clerical Officer

1

Clerical Officer PPC Salary Scale €24,397 – €39,558 per annum

1.5

Clerical Officer Standard Scale €23,174 – €37,584 per annum

1

Clerical Officer Higher Scale €24,255 – €38,397 per annum

Total

6.5

Minister Roche's Personal Secretary is based in his Constituency Office in Bray, Co. Wicklow. The other staff members are based in the Department's headquarters in Dublin.

Minister of State, Mr Peter Power, T.D.

Grade/Position

Number

Salary Scale

Personal Assistant

1

Parliamentary Assistant Salary Scale €41,092 – €52,200

Personal Secretary

1

Secretarial Assistant Salary Scale €23,102 – €44,572 per annum

Clerical Officer

2

Clerical Officer PPC Salary Scale €24,397 – €39,558 per annum

1

Clerical Officer Standard Scale €23,174 – €37,584 per annum

Total

5

Minister Power oversees the Development Cooperation Directorate, the Division of my Department which is responsible for administering the Irish Aid programme. The Division is currently decentralising to Limerick; this move will be completed next week , when staff move into a new headquarters building. Consequently, all of Minister Power's Constituency Office staff will be based in Limerick from that date.

Personal Pension Contribution (PPC) scales apply where officers were employed since 6 April 1995, pay class A rate of PRSI and make a personal pension contribution.

Human Rights Issues.

Pat Breen

Question:

196 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his policy on the issue of extraordinary renditions; if there are new developments planned in this area; the implications of these new developments; if searches and inspections of aircraft are planned for Shannon Airport; if he no longer accepts assurances from the US Government in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39071/08]

The issue of extraordinary rendition has been raised on numerous occasions in this House. As has been made repeatedly clear, the Government is completely opposed to the practice of the extraordinary rendition of prisoners. I wish to reiterate at the outset that none of the various investigations into allegations of extraordinary rendition have revealed any evidence, or even resulted in a specific allegation, that any person has on any occasion been subjected to extraordinary rendition through Ireland. The Government has received clear and specific assurances from the US authorities that such prisoners have not been transferred through Irish territory, nor would they be, without our permission. These assurances are of a clear and categoric nature and have been confirmed at the highest level . I am confident that this would continue to be the case under a new US administration. The Government has established a Cabinet Committee on Aspects of International Human Rights. As part of its remit, the Committee has reviewed the Programme for Government commitments in relation to our total opposition to extraordinary rendition.

With a view to strengthening as necessary the legislative provisions, the Committee is to review the statutory powers currently available to the civil and police authorities regarding the search and inspection of aircraft, in the context of the obligations on the State under the Chicago Convention. We have stated on a number of occasions that the Gardaí have full powers of search and inspection where they have reasonable grounds for suspicion. In keeping with the Programme for Government and in the light of international developments, we believe that this is an opportune time to confirm that the legislation is as effective as it can be in this area, and to address, if necessary, any area where it may be improved.

The Committee has agreed that early contact should be made with the new US Administration to seek a clear statement of intent that extraordinary rendition would cease and would not resume during the new President's term of office. I would emphasise that, while we have no reason to doubt the existing assurances in respect of the use of Irish airports, what we are looking for is a clear overall policy statement which would commit the new Administration to end the practice of extraordinary rendition wherever it may be occurring.

In addition, commitments are also being sought in regard to the early closure of Guantanamo Bay and to the clear prohibition of intensive interrogation techniques such as water-boarding which are internationally considered to constitute torture. I have asked our Ambassador in Washington to follow up on these issues as a matter of urgency.

International Agreements.

Seán Barrett

Question:

197 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has satisfied himself with progress in the various EU-Israeli partnership agreements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39085/08]

Israel is a key partner of the European Union in the Mediterranean, and an active member of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. The relationship between the EU and Israel is governed mainly by the EU-Israel Association Agreement and its associated Action Plan. The eighth annual meeting of the EU-Israel Association Council was held in June 2008, and the current EU-Israel Action Plan is due to be completed in April 2009.

On specifics, the co-operation between the EU and Israel across a range of technical and practical fields, such as transport, energy and social affairs, has been very good. Indeed, Israel's highly developed institutional structures and public administration have enabled it to lead the way among Mediterranean countries in many cooperation projects.

With the completion of the current Action Plan in April next, it is logical that its successor will seek to build on and to deepen existing cooperation. In this regard, Israel has presented ideas on how relations might develop further. The EU has agreed in principle to this approach, but discussions on what might be involved have only just begun and will inevitably take some time.

As regards dialogue on political and human rights issues, these form an essential part of the EU's contractual relations with its neighbours, including those in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. Of their nature, this often involves disagreement and hard talking. In this regard, the EU has often been strongly critical of Israel in relation to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the process to reach a viable two State solution, and the rights of the Palestinian people. Importantly, this dialogue has provided the EU with a formal and regular channel to convey its views to Israel on these crucial matters, although of course the issues in question are also raised in many other fora.

The EU has stated that it sees deeper engagement on all these issues as an essential element of the enhancing of EU-Israel relations. This should include a strengthened political dialogue, stronger involvement of the EU in the peace process and in monitoring the situation on the ground, and the establishment of a full and separate subcommittee of the dialogue dealing with human rights issues.

Diplomatic Representation.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

198 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the procedures and resources in place to lobby the US Congress on issues of importance to Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39090/08]

The relationship between Ireland and the United States is deep, close and enduring. Successive Presidents and their Administrations, and Ireland's many friends on Capitol Hill from both sides of the aisle, have made an enormous contribution to bringing peace and economic prosperity to this island.

Following the US Presidential election on 4 November 2008, the President and Taoiseach have written to congratulate President-elect Barack Obama on his victory. The Government look forward to working with the new President and his Administration in the years ahead to underpin and deepen further the economic, cultural and social relations between the United States and Ireland. Likewise, we will continue to work closely with the bipartisan Friends of Ireland in Congress, chaired by Congressman Richard Neal.

This close cooperation is, of course, underpinned by the network of relations with members of Congress and their staff maintained by the Embassy in Washington. The Ambassador and his colleagues attach the highest priority to their work in this area, and, following yesterday's US elections, will be active in ensuring that Ireland's interests continue to be effectively advanced with the new Administration and Congress. In this regard, the level of staffing in our missions in the United States, and our Honorary Consul system, is kept under ongoing review.

Aware of the need to constantly update the relationship, and recognising the changing circumstances on both sides of the Atlantic, our Ambassador in Washington has been asked by the Taoiseach to lead a strategic review of Ireland/US relations, and to report on this by the end of the year. The review is intended to facilitate the further development of this important relationship, and to explore how our already close ties might be further enhanced in the future. Considerable work on the review has already taken place and the Ambassador has invited organizations and individuals across the United States to contribute their views.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

199 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if efforts have been made to lobby members of Congress and the administration in opposition to possible changes to US corporate tax law that might adversely affect Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39099/08]

The presidential campaign in the United States has just concluded. President Barack Obama will take up office on 20 January 2009 and the new Congress will meet for the first time on 6 January 2009. The campaign of the President-elect put forward a range of proposals on the US economy, trade and taxation. However, it is too early to know how these proposals will take shape and, therefore, what their implications may be for Ireland.

The Embassy in Washington, in co-ordination with the IDA, will continue to monitor these issues closely and to keep the Government fully informed of any possible developments so that, if necessary, appropriate action can be taken quickly and effectively.

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

200 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the systems his Department has in place for tracking absences from work for various reasons, for benchmarking them against best standards and for estimating the cost of cover or lost input as a result of these absences; and if he will present data for the most recent years on this matter. [39178/08]

My Department monitors absence through the Civil Service's Human Resources Management System (HRMS). All absences are recorded on HRMS, which is administered centrally by the Department of Finance. The recording of absences is managed by my Department's Human Resources Section. All HQ-based staff at grades up to, and including, Higher Executive Officer register their attendance using a flexi clock. At more senior grades and in our Missions abroad, attendance is monitored and reported on directly by line managers.

The average levels of absenteeism within my Department during the past five years are set out below. Each figure given is the total number of days lost to absence expressed as a percentage of the total available working days for staff in the Department.

2003: 1.98%;

2004: 2.28%;

2005: 2.57%;

2006: 2.76%;

2007: 3.58%.

In general, most absences in my Department are short-term in nature and do not require cover to be provided. Where a long-term absence arises, the question of cover is considered on a case-by-case basis and, if needed, such cover is drawn from existing resources. In some cases, an absent officer may be replaced temporarily by a junior colleague, usually from the same Section, who is paid an acting-up to higher duties allowance. The allowance is equivalent to the difference between the junior colleague's existing salary and the first point of the salary scale for the grade at which they are acting up.

Staff on certified long-term sick leave are entitled to full pay for a maximum of six months in any one year and half pay thereafter, subject to a maximum of twelve months' sick leave in any period of four years or less. Uncertified sick leave absences in excess of the limits prescribed by the Department of Finance may result in disciplinary action, including the withholding of salary increments. The Deputy may also wish to be aware that the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General is currently undertaking an examination of the management of sickness absences in the Civil Service. My Department is cooperating with the Office in this regard.

Michael Creed

Question:

201 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of staff employed in his Department whose function it is to deal with representations from his constituency; the number of these staff that are located in the constituency and in his Department; the grade and remuneration at which these staff are employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38951/08]

Michael Creed

Question:

202 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of staff employed by Ministers of State in his Department whose function it is to deal with representations from the Ministers of States’ constituency; the number of these staff that are located in the constituency and in his Department; the grade and remuneration at which these staff are employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38965/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 201 and 202 together.

There are currently two members of staff in the Department's office in Dublin dealing with constituency matters, one at Staff Officer and one at Clerical Officer level. In my constituency, there are three members of staff dealing with such matters, two Personal Assistants at Higher Executive Officer level and a Personal Secretary at Secretarial Assistant level.

All of these staff are paid at the appropriate civil service rates and in addition my Personal Secretary is in receipt of an attraction allowance of 10% of salary. The staffing of my constituency office is in accordance with Department of Finance guidelines.

Minister of State Mr. Martin Mansergh T.D. does not have private or constituency office facilities at the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism.

Richard Bruton

Question:

203 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the systems his Department has in place for tracking absences from work for various reasons, for benchmarking them against best standards and for estimating the cost of cover or lost input as a result of these absences; and if he will present data for the most recent years on this matter. [39170/08]

Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism (Martin Cullen TD): The Department uses the Human Resources Management System (HRMS) and a time management system (Clockwise) to track absences from work. This tracking is done in consultation with line managers in the Department as appropriate. A significant proportion of all absences relate to statutory entitlements or conditions of employment such as annual leave, maternity leave, parental leave, bereavement leave etc, where the question of benchmarking against best standards does not arise.

While the Department monitors sick leave absences it does not benchmark them against best standards but, as the Deputy will be aware, the Comptroller and Auditor General is currently carrying out an examination on the management of sickness absences across the civil service and the Department which has provided information to the C&AG in this exercise will implement any recommendations arising from this examination.

Michael Creed

Question:

204 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of staff employed in his Department whose function it is to deal with representations from his constituency; the number of these staff that are located in the constituency and in his Department; the grade and remuneration at which these staff are employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38953/08]

Michael Creed

Question:

205 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of staff employed by Ministers of State in his Department whose function it is to deal with representations from the Ministers of States’ constituency; the number of these staff that are located in the constituency and in his Department; the grade and remuneration at which these staff are employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38967/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 204 and 205 together.

There are five staff employed by my Department, whose function it is to deal with representations and matters relating to my constituency. These staff are based in my constituency office in Co. Galway and their grades and remuneration are as follows:

Grade

Salary Scales

1 Personal Assistant

€444.26 – €857.15 per week + 10% Attraction Allowance

1 Personal Secretary (HEO level)

€46,558 – €59,097 p.a.

1 Executive Officer

€32,179 – €51,054 p.a.

2 Clerical Officers

€467.55 – €758.10 per week

There are two staff employed by my Department, whose function it is to deal with representations and matters relating to the constituency of Mr John Curran, T. D., Minister of State at my Department. They are based in his constituency office in Clondalkin, Co Dublin, and their grades and remuneration are as follows:

Grade

Salary Scales

1 Personal Assistant

€41,092 – €52,200 p.a. + 10% Attraction Allowance

1 Personal Secretary

€444.26 – €857.15 per week + 10% Attraction Allowance

There are two staff employed by my Department, whose function it is to deal with representations and matters relating to the constituency of Mr John Curran, T. D., Minister of State at my Department. They are based in his constituency office in Clondalkin, Co Dublin, and their grades and remuneration are as follows:

Grade

Salary Scales

1 Personal Assistant

€41,092 – €52,200 p.a. + 10% Attraction Allowance

1 Personal Secretary

€444.26 – €857.15 per week + 10% Attraction Allowance

The Deputy will also be aware that Mr Conor Lenihan, T.D., Minister of State with responsibility for Integration, has been assigned to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Department of Education and Science and to my Department. The staffing of his office is a matter for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Consultancy Contracts.

Michael Ring

Question:

206 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the staff employed by a group (details supplied) giving details of their respective titles and so on. [38994/08]

The Group referred to by the Deputy is a private company limited by guarantee. Although the company is contracted to deliver a number of programmes on behalf of my Department, my Department has no role to play in the management and staffing of the company. Consequently, details of the staff employed and their respective positions within the company are a matter for the company itself.

Departmental Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

207 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the staff who will be transferring to a group (details supplied) in County Mayo; the existing companies from which they will transfer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38995/08]

Michael Ring

Question:

208 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the assets which will be transferring with the staff to a company (details supplied) in County Mayo; the existing companies that the assets will transfer from; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38996/08]

Michael Ring

Question:

209 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if the position of a company (details supplied) in County Mayo will be advertised; if it will be an open or closed competition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38997/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 207 to 209, inclusive, together.

I wish to refer the Deputy to PQ No. 223 of 2nd October in relation to positions within the newly Integrated Companies. As previously stated, decisions in relation to the advertising and appointment of positions in LEADER and Partnership Groups are matters for the boards of the companies concerned taking into account all relevant legislation, including the European Communities (Protection of Employees on Transfer of Undertakings) Regulations 2003 (SI No. 131 of 2003). My Department has no role or authority in such processes.

Similarly, in relation to the transfer of staff and assets to the company identified by the Deputy, it is matter for the Board of Directors of that company to identify and engage with all relevant companies within their catchment area in regard to transfer of staff and assets.

Community Development.

Michael Creed

Question:

210 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the status of an application from a group (details supplied) in County Cork for funding under the Pobal refurbishment scheme; when the group will received funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39035/08]

The group in question applied to my Department for funding to refurbish a Community Centre under the Programme of Grants for Locally-Based Community and Voluntary Organisations.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the group's application has been successful and funding of €35,050 is being allocated to them under the Programme.

The group will be formally notified of the grant in the coming days and funding will issue shortly in accordance with the payment guidelines attaching to the Programme.

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

211 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the systems his Department has in place for tracking absences from work for various reasons, for benchmarking them against best standards and for estimating the cost of cover or lost input as a result of these absences; and if he will present data for the most recent years on this matter. [39172/08]

My Department operates a personnel administration system, which records and tracks details in relation to staff, including the recording and tracking of staff absences from work for various reasons. I understand that this system is used by all Government Departments and that, while it does not have a specific facility to benchmark absences as referred to by the Deputy, it does enable my Department to review and monitor the attendance patterns of staff and to take follow-up action, where required.

Any cost arising in relation to providing cover where staff are absent from work is nominal, as dedicated cover is only provided for staff in the case of maternity absences. In such cases, a higher duties allowance is paid to the lower grade to act up in place of the officer on maternity leave and the consequential lower post remains unfilled. Estimating any lost input due to absences and the taking of appropriate action is the responsibility of line managers in my Department, who review progress in respect of the implementation of their annual business plans on a regular basis.

With regard to data relating to absenteeism in my Department, I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No 404 of 21 October 2008.

Michael Creed

Question:

212 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of staff employed in his Department whose function it is to deal with representations from her constituency; the number of these staff that are located in the constituency and in his Department; the grade and remuneration at which these staff are employed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38962/08]

There is a total of five full-time administrative staff assigned to deal with matters in my constituency office. The staff in question are based in my Department's headquarters in Áras Mhic Dhiarmada, Store Street, Dublin 1.

There are four established civil servants, one Executive Officer on a payscale of €32,179 to €51,054, two Clerical Officers on a payscale of €24,397 to €39,558 and one Clerical Officer on a payscale of €23,174 to €37,584 (Class B rate of PRSI contribution applies as this person commenced employment before 6 April 1995) in the office.

I have also appointed, on a contract basis for my term of office, one non-established civil servant, a Personal Assistant. The annual salary for my Personal Assistant is €55,030 together with a private pension contribution of 11% of salary.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Jack Wall

Question:

213 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is not being granted a mortgage allowance payment in view of their income details; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38981/08]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which includes mortgage interest supplement, is administered on behalf of the department by the Community Welfare division of the Health Service Executive. Neither I nor the Department has any function in relation to decisions on individual claims.

Mortgage interest supplement provides short-term income support to eligible people who are unable to meet their mortgage interest repayments in respect of a house which is their sole place of residence. The supplement assists with the interest portion of the mortgage repayments only.

The Health Service Executive has advised that the person concerned was refused a mortgage interest supplement because her means were deemed sufficient to meet her mortgage interest costs. It is open to the person concerned to appeal this decision to the Health Services Executive designated Appeals Officer.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Joe Costello

Question:

214 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39004/08]

The supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme, which is administered on my behalf by the Community Welfare Division of the Health Service Executive, provides for the payment of rent supplement to eligible people whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs.

The Health Service Executive has advised that the person concerned is not eligible for rent supplement. She has been refused rent supplement on the grounds that she is not in receipt of a social welfare payment and is currently participating in full-time education.

The person concerned has been advised by the community welfare officer of her right to lodge an appeal against the decision with the Appeals Office of the Health Service Executive.

Social Insurance.

Joan Burton

Question:

215 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the projected balance of the social insurance fund for end 2008, end 2009 and 2010; if she expects it to fall significantly into deficit over that period; her views on projected trends in the fund’s balance; if she proposes corrective measures to ensure that the fund remains broadly in balance or in surplus; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39037/08]

It is currently estimated that the balance of the social insurance fund will be approximately €3.4 billion, based on an expected annual deficit of €223 million, at end 2008. For end 2009, the balance is estimated to be €2.5 billion, based on an expected annual deficit of €900 million. A projected outturn for 2010 has not yet been finalised.

These estimates are similar to those of the second Actuarial Review of the Social Insurance Fund, which was required under Section 10 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, 2005, and published on 17th October 2007 in conjunction with the Green Paper on Pensions.

The findings of the Review included:

That the Fund will move from being in surplus to running a deficit in 2009;

That on foot of the annual deficits from 2009, the accumulated surplus of the fund will be exhausted by 2016.

However, in the light of current economic circumstances it is now expected that the accumulated surplus will be exhausted prior to 2016.

In this regard it should be noted that legislation provides that the exchequer is the residual financier of the fund and exchequer contributions to cover any shortfalls in contributions were the norm for over forty years. No exchequer contribution has been required since 1996 as the fund has been in surplus on foot of contributions from employers and workers. Any shortfall in the fund, in meeting the cost of benefits paid, would in the normal way be addressed by exchequer subvention.

Issues relating to social insurance contribution rates, payments, and possible future exchequer subventions to the fund, would have to be considered in a budgetary context.

Pension Provisions.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

216 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if credits can be claimed by a person who takes a career break; and the general position of such persons in relation to the effect on their future pension and benefit entitlement. [39041/08]

The primary purpose of credited contributions is to preserve the continuity of a person's insurance record during periods when they are unable to work and pay PRSI in the normal way. In order to qualify for credited contributions, absences from work would generally have to be for reasons outside of the person's control, such as periods of proven illness or registered unemployment, or periods during which they may be entitled to certain other social welfare payments.

Credited contributions are not generally available in circumstances where a person voluntarily ceases insurable employment on a temporary or permanent basis. This reflects the contributory principle that underpins the qualifying conditions for all social insurance payments. However, a person taking time off work to care for children up to 12 years of age, or an incapacitated adult, may be entitled to avail of the homemaker's scheme whereby such periods can be taken into account for state contributory pension purposes at age 66.

One of the qualifying conditions for contributory pensions requires that the applicant must have a minimum yearly average number of paid or credited contributions throughout their working lives. Therefore, any prolonged gaps in insurance cover are likely to have significant consequences with regard to pension entitlement.

In the case of short-term benefits such as job-seekers allowance, illness, and treatment benefits a person may retain entitlement to such payments for a limited period after their last PRSI contribution but entitlement would then lapse unless further reckonable contributions are recorded on their behalf.

Subject to certain statutory conditions, it may be open to a person on a career break to pay voluntary contributions. However, it should be noted that voluntary contributions are reckonable only with regard to state contributory pension, transition pension and widows/widowers contributory pension.

Unemployment Levels.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

217 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of people on the live register by nationality with a breakdown by occupation and duration on the register. [39046/08]

The number on the live register at 31st October 2008 was 251,951. Of these, a total of 195,561 have been signing continuously for less than one year. A total of 56,390 have been signing continuously for a year or more. A breakdown of the live register at 31/10/08 by occupational category is given in the following table:

Category

Number

Agriculture, Fishing and Related Industries

4,170

Beauty

2,654

Business and Financial

2,839

Construction, Woodwork and Metal and Related Industries

81,418

Domestic and Catering

20,227

Education

8,355

General Operatives

32,914

Health and Related Industries

8,531

Information Technology

2,054

Legal Profession

615

Management

10,173

Office Admin, Clerical, Secretarial

25,425

Printing, Press, Communications

1,619

Retail, Sales

25,947

Security, Military

4,569

Textiles

404

Travel, Tourism

1,249

Unknown

12,055

Vehicle Trade

6,733

Total Live Register

251,951

The Central Statistics Office now includes a breakdown by nationality grouping in its detailed Live Register release each month. The figures for October 2008 will be published on 7th November 2008.

The total on the Live Register at 27th September 2008 was 240,217. The breakdown of this figure by nationality is as follows:

Country

Number

Ireland

199,003

United Kingdom

11,186

EU 15 (excluding Ireland & UK)

2,419

Accession States EU 15-27(Joined EU since Jan 2004)

19,381

Other Nationals

8,228

Total Live Register

240,217

Social Welfare Appeals.

Michael Ring

Question:

218 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a disability appeal for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be finalised. [39068/08]

Payment of illness benefit to the person concerned was disallowed from 2 May 2008 by a Deciding Officer of the Department following an examination by a Medical Assessor who expressed the opinion that the person concerned was not incapable of work.

An appeal was opened on 16 May 2008 and I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that, in accordance with the statutory requirements, the Department was asked for the documentation in the case and the Deciding Officer's comments on the grounds of the appeal. In that context another examination was carried out on 30 June 2008 by a different Medical Assessor who was also of the opinion that the person concerned was not incapable of work.

The case has been referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral appeal hearing. The Social Welfare Appeals Office is an office of the Department that is independently responsible for determining appeals against decisions on Social Welfare entitlements.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

219 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a review will be undertaken in the case of an application for supplementary welfare allowance or rent supplement in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39145/08]

All applicants regardless of nationality, from 1 May 2004, are required to be habitually resident in the State in order to qualify for Supplementary Welfare Allowance, child benefit and certain social welfare assistance payments.

The Dublin Mid-Leinster Area of the Health Service Executive has advised that the person concerned was refused supplementary welfare allowance and rent supplement on the grounds that he is not habitually resident in the country. Any applicant who disagrees with the decision of a Community Welfare Officer has the right to appeal to the Executive's designated Appeals Officer. The person concerned has been advised of his right of appeal against this decision to disallow his claims. He can appeal subsequently if necessary to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. No appeal has been received from him to date.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

220 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the specific measures she is taking to offset the savings originally identified in the proposed changes to the revised estimates for her Department as a result of the changes in relation to her decision not to proceed with the budget 2009 announcement in relation to the age criteria for disability allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39168/08]

In the Budget, I announced that the age of eligibility for entitlement to Disability Allowance (DA) would be increased from 16 to 18 years for new claimants with effect from 1 January 2009. As an alleviating measure, the age for entitlement to the Domiciliary Care Allowance (DCA) would be increased from 16 to 18 years from the same date. These measures were estimated to save €5.6 million on the Department of Social and Family Affairs Vote while giving rise to a cost of €1.4 million on the HSE Vote. Accordingly, the net saving to the Exchequer in 2009 was expected to be of the order of €4.2m.

As I have already announced, these measures will not now proceed. The consequential impact on the Social and Family Affairs Vote equates to 0.04% of expenditure and will be accommodated by on-going efficiencies across the whole range of the Department's activities next year. It will not be necessary to introduce further measures affecting entitlements or payments. The amount of €1.4 million which will not now be required for the DCA measure will be transferred from the HSE Vote to the Social and Family Affairs Vote in the Revised Estimates.

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

221 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the systems her Department has in place for tracking absences from work for various reasons, for benchmarking them against best standards and for estimating the cost of cover or lost input as a result of these absences; and if she will present data for the most recent years on this matter. [39181/08]

The Department has an Attendance Management policy in place since 2005. As part of the process of preparing this policy, the Department researched examples of best practice available in Irish and UK organisations. The inclusion in the Policy of practices such as return to work interviews, a Health Promotion Policy and supports for staff who are returning to work after a long term illness reflects this research.

The Department prepares reports for managers on a quarterly and annual basis of all sick leave absences that occur in the Department in order to support them in the management of attendance. These reports contain information in relation to numbers, duration, lost work days etc arising from work absences.

In addition, the Department uses the Administrative Productivity Training (APT) method of work measurement which is used to identify, measure and quantify workloads and to determine staffing requirements. This provides for a core figure of staffing for each business unit in the Department. The measurement includes a set 14.3% absence reserve. This absence reserve covers all normal levels of annual, sick and special leave. The following table sets out details of absences for the years 2003 to 2007.

Year

Average No. of Absences per Employee

Average No. of working days lost to Sick Leave per Employee

Average No. of working days lost to Sick Leave per Employee when absences in excess of 6 months are excluded

2003

2.36

13.58

10.73

2004

2.33

13.78

10.76

2005

2.35

14.79

11.77

2006

2.29

14.68

11.06

2007

2.30

14.74

11.35

Defence Forces Property.

Joe McHugh

Question:

222 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Defence the amount of money spent at Rockhill and Lifford Army Barracks on refurbishment work and capital investment since 2000 to date in 2008. [39061/08]

My Department is engaged in an on-going capital building programme designed to modernise and enhance the training, operational and accommodation facilities available to the Defence Forces both Permanent and Reserve. The programme focuses mainly on infrastructural projects comprising the construction of new buildings and the refurbishment of existing buildings.

In the period 2000 to 2008 the Department has spent approximately € 1,000,000 on refurbishment and capital projects in Rockhill and € 320,000 in Lifford. The majority of the expenditure in Rockhill was required to maintain and conserve the fabric of what is a listed building, thus protecting its structural integrity.

Departmental Staff.

Michael Creed

Question:

223 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Defence the number of staff employed in his Department whose function it is to deal with representations from his constituency; the number of these staff that are located in the constituency and in his Department; the grade and remuneration at which these staff are employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38954/08]

Michael Creed

Question:

224 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Defence the number of staff employed by Ministers of State in his Department whose function it is to deal with representations from the Ministers of State’s constituency; the number of these staff that are located in the constituency and in his Department; the grade and remuneration at which these staff are employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38968/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 223 and 224 together.

The information requested is set out in the following tables:

Minister for Defence, Mr Willie O'Dea, T.D.

Staff dealing with Constituency matters located in my Department

Number

Grade

Salary Scale as at 01/09/2008

1

Executive Officer

Executive Officer PPC scale €32,179 – €51,054

1

Staff Officer

Staff Officer Scale PPC €36,779 – €49,104

1

Clerical Officer

Clerical Officer Higher Scale €24,255 – €38,397

2

Clerical Officer

Clerical Officer PPC Standard Scale €24,397 – €39,558

1

Clerical Officer

Clerical Officer Standard Scale €23,174 – €37,584

Staff dealing with Constituency matters located in my Constituency

Number

Grade

Salary Scale as at 01/09/2008

1

Personal Assistant (Non-Established)

Higher Executive Officer Standard Scale €46,558 – €55,030 (Excludes long service increments).

1

Personal Secretary (Non-Established)

Secretarial Assistant Contract Scale €23,182 – €44,726.

Minister of State, Mr. Pat Carey, T.D.

Two staff are assigned to cover both the private office and the constituency office of the Minister of State, both of whom are located in my Department.

Number

Grade

Salary Scale as at 01/09/2008

1

Higher Executive Officer

Higher Executive Officer Standard Scale €46,558 – €59,097

1

Clerical Officer

Clerical Officer Higher Scale €24,255 – €38,397

Defence Forces Training.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

225 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Defence the number of National Defence Force personnel who have undergone potential NCO courses in each defence region in each of the past three years; the number of persons who have successfully completed the course in each region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39006/08]

A breakdown of the number of Defence Force personnel who have undergone potential NCO courses in each of the past three years and the number of persons who have successfully completed the course are in the form of Tabular Statements as follows.

No. of Personnel who began Potential NCO Courses

2005

2006

2007

Total

1 Southern Bde

39

Nil

12

51

2 Eastern Bde

55

39

58

152

4 Western Bde

Nil

31

Nil

31

DFTC

Nil

Nil

34

34

Air Corps

35

Nil

Nil

35

Naval Service

28

34

Nil

62

Total

157

104

104

365

No. of Personnel who Successfully Completed Potential NCO Courses

2005

2006

2007

Total

1 Southern Bde

39

Nil

12

51

2 Eastern Bde

54

38

56

148

4 Western Bde

Nil

31

Nil

31

DFTC

Nil

Nil

32

32

Air Corps

34

Nil

Nil

34

Naval Service

28

33

Nil

61

Total

155

102

100

357

The success rate for Defence Force personnel who have undergone potential NCO courses in 2005, 2006 and 2007 is 98%. This is a high pass rate and reflects well on the quality of the candidates, the selection procedures and the experienced trainers and facilities available to the Defence Forces. The eight unsuccessful personnel over the three years have either failed the mandatory tests or have withdrawn from the course for personal reasons.

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

226 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Defence the systems his Department has in place for tracking absences from work for various reasons, for benchmarking them against best standards and for estimating the cost of cover or lost input as a result of these absences; and if he will present data for the most recent years on this matter. [39173/08]

My Department has in place a database, known as Human Resources Management System (HRMS), for managing attendance. This system provides a suite of reporting tools for monitoring and analysing absence data. Absences arise for many reasons, such as annual leave, sick leave, worksharing and career breaks. Absenteeism is usually defined as the time lost attributable to sickness or any other cause not excused through statutory entitlements or conditions of employment. A report on sick leave in my Department for recent years is as follows:

Year

Lost Time Rate

2006

4.4%

2007

4.8%

These rates compare favourably against international public sector norms. My Department has in place a range of measures to identify, manage, monitor and control absenteeism due to sickness, including the measures and initiatives adopted to promote well being and attendance. In managing sickness absences, my Department also employs an Employee Assistance Officer and avails of the services of the CMO in respect of medical issues.

Michael Creed

Question:

227 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of staff employed in his Department whose function it is to deal with representations from his constituency; the number of these staff that are located in the constituency and in his Department; the grade and remuneration at which these staff are employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38957/08]

Michael Creed

Question:

228 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of staff employed by Ministers of State in his Department whose function it is to deal with representations from the Ministers of States’ constituency; the number of these staff that are located in the constituency and in his Department; the grade and remuneration at which these staff are employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38971/08]

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

The information requested is set out in the following tables:

Minister

Number of staff

Grade/Salary level

Location

John Gormley

0.5

Personal Secretary-Executive Officer salary scale

Department

2

Executive Officer

Department

2.5

Clerical Officer

Department

Minister of State

Number of staff

Grade

Location

Michael Kitt

1

Personal Assistant-Higher Executive Officer salary scale

Department

1

Personal Secretary-Executive Officer salary scale

Galway Constituency Office

2

Executive Officer

1 × Department1 × Galway Constituency Office

1

Clerical Officer

Department

Michael Finneran

1

Personal Assistant-Higher Executive Officer salary scale

Department

1

Personal Secretary-Executive Officer salary scale

Roscommon/Leitrim Constituency Office

1

Higher Executive Officer

Department

2

Clerical Officer

Department

Máire Hoctor*

*Staffing arrangements for the Office of the Minister of State, Máire Hoctor, with responsibility for Older People are dealt with by the Department of Health and Children.

The salary scales for all administrative grades are available on the Department of Finance website (www.finance.gov.ie ).

Local Government Boundaries.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

229 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position with regard to an application for boundary extension from a council (details supplied) in County Dublin; if he will respond to this application; if he consents to the application, if the changes will be enforced before the 2009 local elections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38982/08]

I have recently received an application for a boundary alteration from Balbriggan Town Council, under Part V of the Local Government Act 1991. The application is currently being examined in my Department and I will make a decision in due course on completion of this examination.

Waste Management.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

230 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the status of the proposed incinerator at Ringaskiddy; his views on whether all the requirements of the Aarhus Convention and the Public Participation Directive have been adhered to with regard to this application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39024/08]

The facility is a private sector development which has been the subject of the independent planning and waste licensing determinations provided for under the Planning and Waste Management Acts, and from which my involvement is statutorily precluded. In addition, there are legal proceedings before the High Court concerning compliance with EU requirements. In the circumstances it would not be appropriate to comment.

Local Authority Housing.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

231 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the obligations of local authorities to properly insulate houses which they rent to tenants in order to reduce fuel bills and the carbon footprint; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39052/08]

The regulations governing standards for rented houses are set out in the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 1993. These regulations, which apply to all rented dwellings including dwellings let by housing authorities, are currently under review and I expect to bring forward updated regulations shortly.

Through funding for remedial and regeneration programmes, significant improvements are being made in bringing the quality of older elements of the social housing stock up to modern standards, including from an energy efficiency perspective. In particular, my Department introduced a major initiative in 2004, providing for the installation of central heating in those local authority rented dwellings which lacked such facilities. It is a requirement under this initiative that all eligible works must include, where necessary, measures to ensure the energy efficiency of the dwelling, such as attic insulation to Building Regulation standards, draught proofing to existing windows and external doors, and the lagging of exposed pipe work and hot water cylinders.

By end 2007, my Department had co-funded the installation of central heating and associated energy efficiency measures in some 19,600 houses at a cost to the Exchequer of €94 million. A further €26 million has been allocated in 2008 to continue the programme.

In addition, I have recently announced that a full audit of the public housing stock will begin in 2009, to lay the foundation for a programme of retrofitting, where required, to deliver modern standards of energy efficiency. €5 million is being provided in 2009 for a number of retrofitting pilot projects, which will inform the approach to the wider roll-out of the retrofitting programme in due course.

Furthermore, local authorities and voluntary/co-operative housing bodies have been invited to submit proposals for demonstration projects for the delivery of sustainable energy efficient housing developments that will exceed the anticipated 2010 standards of the Building Regulations Part L. Funding of €20m will be made available to support this ‘Towards Carbon Neutral' programme, significantly advancing the knowledge and experience base in the design, construction and use of high performing energy efficient housing.

Animal Welfare.

Tony Gregory

Question:

232 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of hares killed or which subsequently died at coursing meetings (details supplied) during October and November 2008; and if this represents an increase on the average at these meetings. [39080/08]

Hare coursing in the State is administered by the Irish Coursing Club, set up under the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958. Statutory responsibility for the Act is a matter for the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism.

My responsibilities under the Wildlife Acts relate to the conservation of populations of certain protected species including hares.

My Department recently issued a licence under the Wildlife Acts to the Irish Coursing Club (ICC) allowing its affiliated clubs to net hares for the purpose of hare coursing for the 2008/2009 season, subject to certain conditions. One of these conditions is that the ICC must report on each hare coursing meeting held.

In relation to the 19 hare coursing meetings referred to in the question, my Department has received reports on 14 of these meetings to date. The reports for the meetings scheduled to take place on 1 and 2 November 2008 have not yet been received.

The number of hares killed or which subsequently died at the meetings reported upon was 22 compared to 27 at the equivalent meetings held last year.

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

233 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the systems his Department has in place for tracking absences from work for various reasons, for benchmarking them against best standards and for estimating the cost of cover or lost input as a result of these absences; and if he will present data for the most recent years on this matter. [39176/08]

Absences of staff on annual or sick leave are tracked through the Flexible Working Hours (FWH) system. This system applies to all administrative staff up to and including Higher Executive Officer. All staff must comply with the requirements set out in the relevant Department of Finance Circulars and this Department's Sick Leave Guidelines. The annual and sick leave of staff not on the flexible working hours system is managed by the relevant Line Manager in accordance with the above Circulars and Guidelines and recorded centrally on the Human Resources Management System (HRMS) database.

In the case of industrial staff, their sick leave records are maintained centrally on an attendance database and their annual leave records are maintained locally and monitored by line management.

I refer to the reply to Question No. 491 of 21 October 2008 which gives details of the average level of absenteeism in the Department and is within the levels publicly reported for the private sector.

Staff who are absent on sick or annual leave are not normally replaced.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

234 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the 2009 funding allocation for disability services under the multi-annual investment programme 2006 to 2009; the expenditure under this programme each year respectively since it began; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39242/08]

David Stanton

Question:

235 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the Budget 2009 allocation for the advancement of the National Disability Strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39279/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 234 and 235 together.

My Department allocates funds annually to individual local authorities on the basis of priority areas identified by them for capital and current expenditure each year. Capital funds are intended to address the priority needs of people with a disability by providing and improving accessibility to public buildings, roads, footpaths, beaches, amenity areas, heritage sites and swimming pools. Current funding provides for disability awareness training, accessibility audits, adapting information systems, and equipment to improve accessibility of public services.

The annual expenditure on the National Disability Strategy is as follows:

2005: €10,568,148;

2006: €17,488,090;

2007: €15,074,001;

2008: €1,983,118 (year-to-date).

I have allocated a total of €15 million for 2008 and expect that the balance will be drawn down by the end of the year. A provision of €14 million is included in my Department's expenditure estimates for 2009, consisting of €10 million capital and €4 million current.

Departmental Staff.

Michael Creed

Question:

236 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of staff employed in his Department whose function it is to deal with representations from his constituency; the number of these staff that are located in the constituency and in his Department; the grade and remuneration at which these staff are employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38952/08]

There are three staff employed in my Department who deal with representations from my constituency. One of these carries out this work on a part time basis. Their details are as follows:

Grade

Remuneration

Personal Assistant

Higher Executive Officer salary scale (modified) €46,558 (min) – €59,097 (2nd LSI)

Executive Officer

Executive Officer salary scale (Full PRSI) €32,179 (min) – €51,054 (2nd LSI)

Clerical Officer

Clerical Officer salary scale (Full PRSI) €24,397 (min) – €39,558 (2nd LSI)

All of the above staff are located in my Department. The Clerical Officer deals with representations from my constituency from time to time as required.

Michael Creed

Question:

237 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of staff employed by Ministers of State in his Department whose function it is to deal with representations from the Ministers of States’ constituency; the number of these staff that are located in the constituency and in his Department; the grade and remuneration at which these staff are employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38966/08]

There are three staff employed in my Department who deal with representations from the constituency of the Minister of State. Two of these carry out this work on a part-time basis. Their details are as follows:

Grade

Remuneration

Personal Secretary

Secretarial Assistant salary scale €23,181 (min) – €44,727 (2nd LSI)

Executive Officer (Private Secretary)

Executive Officer salary scale (Full PRSI) €32,179 (min) – €51,054 (2nd LSI) plus Private Secretary allowance of €21,774.20 per annum

Clerical Officer

Clerical Officer salary scale (Full PRSI) €24,397 (min) – €39,558 (2nd LSI)

The Minister of State's Personal Secretary is located in his constituency and the Executive Officer and Clerical Officer, who deal with representations from his constituency from time to time as required, are located in my Department.

Telecommunications Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

238 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when broadband will be rolled out to an area (details supplied) in County Mayo. [39044/08]

The provision of telecommunications services including broadband is, in the first instance, a matter for the private sector. Broadband service providers operate in a fully liberalised market, regulated, where appropriate, by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg. I have no role in private sector broadband infrastructure investment undertaken by broadband service providers. However, it is hoped that the facilitation of greater competition in the sector via the introduction of broadband from different technology platforms, will encourage more rapid enabling of all exchanges for broadband.

I would add that in addition to fixed landline broadband, otherwise known as Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) or broadband over telephone lines, broadband services are available from competing service providers over multiple platforms including cable, fixed wireless and increasingly mobile. I understand that Belclare already has broadband on offer from a number of service providers.

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

239 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the systems his Department has in place for tracking absences from work for various reasons, for benchmarking them against best standards and for estimating the cost of cover or lost input as a result of these absences; and if he will present data for the most recent years on this matter. [39171/08]

Staff absences in my Department such as sick leave, maternity leave, parental leave, carer's leave, study and exam leave, and term time, are recorded on the time and attendance system (Clockwise) and on our Human Resource Management System. Annual Leave is recorded and managed locally on Clockwise by line divisions and is monitored by our Human Resources Division.

Generally, cover is not provided where absences occur although, in some instances, staff are paid an Acting-Up Allowance to cover for maternity leave. In addition temporary Clerical Officers are recruited to cover for term time and staff are paid an Acting-Up Allowance in some instances. The sum of €40,000 was provided in the Estimates to cover the cost of the Department's term-time scheme in 2008.

There are no systems in place for benchmarking absences from work but all absences are managed in accordance with Department of Finance regulations. I will revert to the Deputy with general details for 2007 and 2008 in relation to the categories of absences mentioned in the first paragraph.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

240 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the Budget 2009 allocation for the advancement of the national disability strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39278/08]

The advancement of the National Disability Strategy to serve the needs of persons with disabilities is mainstreamed within the Department's remit, as an integral part of policy, legislative and operational matters, and as such, it is not possible to disaggregate expenditure on elements of these activities which relate to disability for 2009.

Departmental Staff.

Michael Creed

Question:

241 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of staff employed in his Department whose function it is to deal with representations from his constituency; the number of these staff that are located in the constituency and in his Department; the grade and remuneration at which these staff are employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38950/08]

I have detailed as follows the number, grade and salary details of staff located in my Constituency and Department Offices who deal with representations from my constituency:

Department Office

Number of Staff

Grade

Salary Scale

3*

Clerical Officer (Higher Scale)

€24,255 to €38,397

1

Personal Secretary

€30,566 to €45,416

*Two of whom are involved in work-sharing arrangements.

Constituency Office

Number of Staff

Grade

Salary Scale

2

Clerical Officer

€23,174 to €35,660

1

Personal Assistant

€46,558 to €55,030

Michael Creed

Question:

242 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of staff employed by Ministers of State in his Department whose function it is to deal with representations from the Ministers of States’ constituency; the number of these staff that are located in the constituency and in his Department; the grade and remuneration at which these staff are employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38964/08]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out as follows.

Minister of State Sargent

Department Office

Number of Staff

Grade

Salary Scale

1

Personal Secretary

€46,558 – €64,296

Constituency Office

Number of Staff

Grade

Salary Scale

1

Personal Assistant

€46,558 – €64,296

2

Staff Officers

€34,941 – €46,342

2

Temporary Clerical Officers

€23,174 – €37,660

Minister of State Killeen

Department Office: 2

Number of Staff

Grade

Salary Scale

2

Clerical Officers

€23,174 – €40,417

Constituency Office: 2

Number of Staff

Grade

Salary Scale

1

Personal Assistant

€46,558 – €64,296

1

Personal Secretary

€30,566 – €53,067

Aquaculture Development.

Ulick Burke

Question:

243 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason for the delay in granting a foreshore and aquaculture licence to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38980/08]

The individual in question originally applied for an Aquaculture Licence on 23 February 2006 and subsequently withdrew the application on 24 January 2008 due to the unsuitability of the site for the cultivation of shellfish. An application for an alternative site was received on 24 January 2008. My Department's advisors have some concerns about the suitability of this site and my Department has been in correspondence with the applicant on the matter. Every effort is being made by my Department to reach a determination in the case as soon as possible.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

244 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is examining alternative methods of cockle fishing in Dundalk Bay; if a method, which includes a vacuum process, is being considered suitable for cockle fishing in the bay; when a decision will be made in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38983/08]

Officials from my Department together with officials from BIM and the Marine Institute met with representatives of the Dundalk Cockle fishermen recently to discuss the current situation in Dundalk Bay and the possible re-opening of the cockle fishery. It was agreed that BIM and the MI would continue to work closely with fishermen on a management plan for the fishery. I am not aware of specific proposals on new fishing methods under consideration but any such proposals should be forwarded to the MI and BIM for evaluation. In the context of the Dundalk Cockle Fishery being within a Natura 2000 site, the re-opening of the fishery would be subject to the agreement of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government and DG Environment of the European Commission.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

245 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the results of a compliance inspection (details supplied); the penalties involved; the reasoning for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39031/08]

The European Court of Auditors and the European Commission both carried out audits on REPS earlier this year. The Commission has requested additional information which is currently being collated within my Department and will shortly be forwarded to the Commission. The outcome of the audit will not be known for some time.

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

246 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the systems his Department has in place for tracking absences from work for various reasons, for benchmarking them against best standards and for estimating the cost of cover or lost input as a result of these absences; and if he will present data for the most recent years on this matter. [39169/08]

My Department uses the Human Resource Management System (HRMS) to record and monitor absences. This system allows analysis of absence and the production of statistics on total and average number of sick days in a given time period, by grade, and by location, and enables my Department to estimate the direct salary cost of absence.

The Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General is currently preparing a report which examines the issue of managing sickness in the Civil Service. It is anticipated that this report will provide an opportunity for my Department to benchmark absence against other Government Departments.

Michael Creed

Question:

247 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of staff employed in his Department whose function it is to deal with representations from his constituency; the number of these staff that are located in the constituency and in his Department; the grade and remuneration at which these staff are employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38955/08]

Michael Creed

Question:

248 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of staff employed by Ministers of State in his Department whose function it is to deal with representations from the Ministers of States’ constituency; the number of these staff that are located in the constituency and in his Department; the grade and remuneration at which these staff are employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38969/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 247 and 248 together.

There are currently 5.5 officers working in my Constituency Office. The grades of these are as follows:

1 Higher Executive Officer — located in my Department

1 Staff Officer (working on a half time basis) — located in my Department

2 Clerical Officers — located in my Department

1 Personal Assistant (Higher Executive Officer level) — located in my constituency

1 Personal Secretary — located in my Constituency

The total anticipated cost in 2008 in terms of salary is €249,000.

There are currently 4.8 officers in the Constituency Office of the Minister of State. The grades of these officers are as follows:

1 Personal Assistant — located in the Department of Education and Science

1 Personal Secretary — located in the Minister of States office in his constituency

0.80 Staff Officer — located in the Department of Education and Science

2 Clerical Officers — located in the Department of Education and Science

The total anticipated cost in 2008 in terms of salary is €180,000.

These staffing levels are within the Department of Finance Guidelines for the staffing of the Private and Constituency offices of a Minister and Minister of State. The salaries paid to the Civil Servants are in accordance with the Department of Finance salary scales for the relevant grades. The salaries paid to the non-civil servant staff are in accordance with the Department of Finance Instructions relating to the Appointment of Ministerial Private Office Staff.

Representations from constituents are forwarded to the relevant Government Department or to the appropriate section of my Department, with responsibility for the relevant scheme and/or policy area, for the preparation of a response. Staff in my office and in the Minister of State's office are responsible for tracking and processing the replies.

School Staffing.

Finian McGrath

Question:

249 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will support a school (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [38984/08]

The 2009 Budget required difficult choices to be made across all areas of public expenditure. Decisions were made in order to control expenditure and to ensure sustainability in the long term. In this respect Education, while protected to a much greater extent than most other areas of public expenditure, could not be entirely spared, and I acknowledge the impact of funding restrictions in a number of areas, including at school level. However, these are the inevitable result of the challenging economic environment and the need to manage Exchequer resources prudently.

Specific information in relation to the detailed staffing allocations that individual schools will have for the commencement of the academic year 2009/10 cannot be determined until the allocation processes have fully concluded. There is nothing exceptional in this. The allocation processes include appellate mechanisms under which schools can appeal against the allocation due to them under the staffing schedules. This is particularly relevant at post-primary level where the appellate process considers in particular any specific curricular needs of the school concerned. At post-primary, there is no effective system wide redeployment scheme at present and this can mean that schools retain teachers, though over quota, and in addition discrete allocations are made to post-primary schools for example to cater for pupils with Special Educational Needs and those with Language difficulties and these allocations can also alter the ultimate position of the school in relation to any over quota position.

Schools are currently returning data to my Department in relation to their enrolment as of 30 September. My Department has commenced processing this data although all schools have not yet made their returns. The allocation processes including notification to schools will commence early in the New Year.

Finian McGrath

Question:

250 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will support a school (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [38985/08]

The 2009 Budget required difficult choices to be made across all areas of public expenditure. Decisions were made in order to control expenditure and to ensure sustainability in the long term. In this respect Education, while protected to a much greater extent than most other areas of public expenditure, could not be entirely spared, and I acknowledge the impact of funding restrictions in a number of areas, including at school level. However, these are the inevitable result of the challenging economic environment and the need to manage Exchequer resources prudently.

Specific information in relation to the detailed staffing allocations that individual schools will have for the commencement of the academic year 2009/10 cannot be determined until the allocation processes have fully concluded. There is nothing exceptional in this. The allocation processes include appellate mechanisms under which schools can appeal against the allocation due to them under the staffing schedules. This is particularly relevant at post-primary level where the appellate process considers in particular any specific curricular needs of the school concerned. At post-primary there is no effective system wide redeployment scheme at present and this can mean that schools retain teachers, though over quota, and in addition discrete allocations are made to post-primary schools for example to cater for pupils with Special Educational Needs and those with Language difficulties and these allocations can also alter the ultimate position of the school in relation to any over quota position.

Schools are currently returning data to my Department in relation to their enrolment as of 30 September. My Department has commenced processing this data although all schools have not yet made their returns. The allocation processes including notification to schools will commence early in the New Year.

Grant Payments.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

251 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the fact that his proposal to cut the grant he allocates to Protestant faith schools will have a detrimental effect on the future of these schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38991/08]

Deirdre Clune

Question:

252 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will consult with patrons and boards of management of Protestant faith schools with a view to assessing the effect the changes he announced to their grant allocation will have on the delivery of their education programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38992/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 251 and 252 together.

The 2009 budget required difficult choices to be made across all areas of public expenditure. Decisions were made in order to control expenditure and ensure sustainability in the long term. In this respect, education, while protected to a much greater extent than most other areas of public expenditure, could not be entirely spared. I acknowledge the impact of funding restrictions in a number of areas, including at school level. However, these are the inevitable result of the challenging international economic environment and the need to manage Exchequer resources.

With regard to the removal of certain support services grants received by Protestant fee-charging schools, I wish to re-emphasise that the Protestant Block grant remains in place. Protestant fee-charging schools receive, and will continue to receive, this grant, which amounts to €6.25 million in the current school year.

This payment covers capitation, tuition and boarding grants. It is distributed by the Secondary Education Committee among needier Protestant children. Applications are made by parents to the Central Protestant Churches Authority, which, on the basis of a means test, distributes the funds to individual schools on the basis of pupil needs.

The retention of this grant demonstrates the importance that I, and this Government, continue to attach to ensuring that students of the Protestant faith can attend schools that reflect their denominational ethos.

In retaining this grant, the Government is being faithful to the separate arrangements that were agreed with the Protestant schools when the free scheme was introduced by Donagh O'Malley and, at the time, it was the payment of the block grant in particular for Protestant fee-charging schools that distinguished them from those Catholic schools that chose to continue to charge fees.

It is estimated that savings of €2.8 million will accrue to my Department as a result of the withdrawal of support services grants from Protestant fee-charging schools in 2009.

It is important to note that the purpose of these grants was not to offset fees for disadvantaged Protestant students. Rather, they covered a range of support services.

I have had to take decisions on a number of grants that have impacted on the funding of schools generally. With the Protestant Block grant protected, I can see no justification for treating the Protestant fee-charging schools in a special way, particularly given that Catholic fee-charging schools have not been in receipt of the grants in question at all.

Departmental Property.

Michael Ring

Question:

253 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department will convey any interest it may have in an old national school (details supplied) in County Mayo to a committee. [39008/08]

Michael Ring

Question:

254 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has in his Department possession of an original lease (details supplied) relevant to a property; and if he will make the document available to this Deputy. [39009/08]

Michael Ring

Question:

255 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will release any interest that his Department has in a building (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39010/08]

Michael Ring

Question:

256 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on a proposal (details supplied). [39011/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 253 to 256, inclusive, together.

My Department has received correspondence in relation to the school in question from solicitors acting on behalf of a committee, as distinct from the Trustees of the school, to establish a playschool on the existing premises. This correspondence is currently under active consideration by officials in my Department. My officials will revert to the Solicitors in due course.

School Transport.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

257 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will confirm if he has received a report from Bus Éireann which was sought in October 2008 (details supplied); and if his attention has been drawn to the urgency in having this matter resolved. [39016/08]

My Department has been advised by Bus Éireann and the Transport Liaison Officer for Co. Cork that the children in question are availing of a public transport service and that the combined travel and waiting times for these children are within the guidelines of the Post Primary School Transport Scheme.

As a general rule, special school transport services are not established in areas where scheduled public services already exist.

School Completion Programme.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

258 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount of funding allocated to a school completion programme at a school (details supplied) in County Offaly in 2008/2009; the amount of funding for same allocated in 2006-07; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39017/08]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

259 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount of funding allocated to a school completion programme at a school (details supplied) in County Offaly in 2008/2009; the amount of funding for same allocated in 2006/2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39018/08]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

260 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will confirm receipt of an email sent by a person (details supplied) to him on 8 October 2008; if a reply was issued to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39019/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 258 to 260, inclusive, together.

The School Completion Programme is a key component of DEIS ( Delivering Equality of Opportunities in Schools) the action plan for educational inclusion, which discriminates positively in favour of children and young people who are at risk of early school leaving. The Programme supports 468 primary and 224 post-primary schools in 124 School Completion Programme sites across 26 counties, focusing on young people between the ages of 4 and 18 years, which aims to develop local strategies to ensure maximum participation levels in the education process. Funding is provided to projects based on an integrated approach involving the schools, parents, relevant statutory, voluntary and community agencies to devise and implement strategies for the whole-school, targeted strategies for individual students, and those who are already outside of the formal system. Provision includes in-school, after-school and holiday time supports to enhance the young person's readiness to benefit from education.

€28.8 million was allocated to the School Completion Programme in 2007 with €31.1 million allocated for 2008. The programme is funded on a multi-annual basis under the National Development Plan (NDP) and was assisted under the European Social Fund (ESF) up to 2007.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Education budget for 2009 has been increased by some €302 million. Notwithstanding this, a number of tough and difficult decisions have had to be taken, which have seen a number of spending cuts across the education sector. Funding for the School Completion Programme in 2009 will remain at the same level as in 2008 and Projects will be notified of their allocation for 2008/09 shortly.

€526,600 was allocated in total to the projects referred to by the Deputy for 2006/07 and 2007/08. The level of funding allocated to projects is dependent on the submission of their annual Retention plan, taking into account the level of educational disadvantage in the schools involved in each project, the target group selected for intensive supports, the salaries of personnel employed and the overall level of funding available to the programme.

A response to correspondence received by my office from the project to which the Deputy refers will issue in the next few days.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

261 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Science the career guidance counsellor-student ratio here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39033/08]

My Department makes a specific allocation of teaching posts in respect of guidance to schools in the second level system. This allocation is based on the pupil enrolment in September of the preceding school year.

As a result of the decision to allocate an additional 100 posts to guidance from September 2005 an enhanced guidance allocation provision has been put in place from the commencement of the 2005/06 school year. This enhanced provision means that in the case of schools in the Free Education/Block Grant Schemes, the level of allocation ranges from 8 hours per week for schools with enrolments below 200 pupils to 47 hours per week for schools with an enrolment of 1,000 pupils or more. The additional posts included provision for a further improvement in the allocation of Guidance hours for post-primary schools participating in the DEIS programme — Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools. The allocation for these schools now ranges from 11 hours per week for schools with enrolments below 300 to 55 hours per week for schools with an enrolment of 1,000 pupils or more. There are currently a total of 708 whole time equivalent posts allocated for guidance in post primary schools.

Site Acquisitions.

Simon Coveney

Question:

262 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason for the delay in writing to Cork County Council in relation to a school (details supplied) to clarify that his Department will not be purchasing the site for the school from Cork County Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39040/08]

The Deputy will be aware that a suitable site has been identified for the school referred to. It was originally intended that my Department would acquire the lands directly and negotiations were progressing on that basis. The school's Patron indicated that he was willing, in principle, to acquire the lands in order to advance the project subject to the Patron receiving a guarantee in relation to the timing of the building project.

For my part, I wrote to the Patron indicating that if the Patron was in a position to confirm that the lands would be acquired then my Department would commence the appointment of a Design Team.

My officials met with representatives of the school and the Patron earlier this week to discuss, inter alia, the site acquisition. The Patron's representative formally confirmed to my officials that the Patron would purchase the required lands for the new school. I am advised that in response my officials indicated that the Department will now formally write to the Local Authority to apprise same of the updated position.

Schools Refurbishment.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

263 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will ensure that a new ceiling will be installed at a school (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39042/08]

I have approved an emergency works grant for this school to enable the works referred to by the Deputy to be carried out as a matter of urgency.

Schools Building Projects.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

264 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Education and Science if a school (details supplied) in County Cork will be progressed in view of the capital funding announced in Budget 2009; the timetable for this work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39045/08]

The building project for the school to which the Deputy refers is in the early stages of architectural planning.

The progression of all large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction phase will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Third Level Fees.

Jack Wall

Question:

265 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science his views in relation to submissions of concern in relation to education (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39057/08]

The issue of the re-introduction of third level fees, to which the Deputy refers, should be viewed in the context of the wider funding of higher education.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government is investing unprecedented levels of public funding in higher education. In 2008 some €2 billion is being invested in our third level sector. In contributing to the achievement of national policy goals for social and economic development into the future, it can be anticipated that there will be continuing significant resource needs for our higher education sector. It is appropriate to raise questions around how future additional resource needs can be met and in particular how our higher education institutions can be supported in their development ambitions through a widening of their non-exchequer sources of income. The introduction of a form of student contribution, which would only be applied to those who can afford to pay it, is one possibility that merits debate.

My Department is, at present, conducting a review of policy options relating to the introduction of a form of student contribution. It is my intention, following completion of the review currently underway, to bring proposals to Government in relation to the available options.

Departmental Expenditure.

Joe McHugh

Question:

266 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of the 32 budget 2009 cuts in his Department he will reverse; and if he will elaborate on these particular cuts. [39065/08]

The 2009 Budget required difficult choices to be made across all areas of public expenditure. These decisions were made to control expenditure and to ensure sustainability in the long run. In this respect the education sector, while protected to a much greater extent than most other areas of public expenditure, could not be totally spared.

Vote 26: Education & Science was increased by €302m which was a real achievement in the current economic climate and was one of only three Government Departments to have increased funding in 2009.

On Budget day I made it clear however, that even with the increased allocation in 2009, tough and difficult decisions had to be taken in order to work within this level of resources. I took no joy in making those decisions. They would not have been taken if we were not facing such ominous financial circumstances.

In the circumstances outlined above, I am not in a position to reverse any of the decisions taken.

School Staffing.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

267 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Education and Science when schools in Dublin South-West will receive formal notice through departmental circulars, of changes arising from budget 2009 announcements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39077/08]

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

The detailed staffing allocation for the academic year 2009/10 cannot be determined until the allocation process has fully concluded. The allocation process includes appellate mechanisms under which schools can appeal against the allocation due to them under the staffing schedules. At primary level the final allocation to a school is also a function of the operation of the redeployment panels which provide for the retention of a teacher in an existing school if a new post is not available within the agreed terms of the scheme.

Schools are currently returning data to my Department in relation to their enrolment as of 30 September. My Department has commenced processing this data although all schools have not yet made their returns. The allocation process including notification to all primary schools will commence early in the New Year.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

268 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will arrange for officials of his Department to visit a school (details supplied) in Dublin 24 to discuss its needs in respect of the newcomer population in these schools; if the schools concerned will benefit from his statement that there will be alleviation in respect of language support teacher posts when significant concentration of newcomer pupils as a proportion of the overall enrolment is in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39078/08]

The budget measures will mean that the level of language support will be reduced from a maximum of six extra teachers per school to a maximum of two teachers per school, as was the case before 2007.

However, the ongoing requirement for current levels of language support teachers in schools should also start to reduce in line with lower levels of immigration and in line with improvements in the levels of proficiency of those pupils for whom this resource has been available.

Nonetheless, schools that require language support will still be entitled to get it. We still envisage having over 1,400 language support teachers in our schools in September 2009 and up to about 500 other teachers in part-time posts. By any standards this is a very significant resource and the challenge will be to ensure that it is used to maximum effect.

As I announced on budget day we will also provide for some alleviation for the position of those schools where there is a significant concentration of newcomer pupils as a proportion of the overall enrolment. This will be done on a case by case basis.

The allocation process for language support teachers is an annual one and existing provision is not rolled over automatically. Schools will be applying afresh in the spring and early summer of 2009 for the 2009/10 school year, based on their assessment of the prospective needs of existing pupils and any new pupils they are enrolling.

Schools Refurbishment.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

269 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Science when funds will be made available for the refurbishment of a school (details supplied) in County Cork; the action he will take to progress this long-standing matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39079/08]

The project to which the Deputy refers involves the acquisition of additional land.

The progression of the project, from site acquisition and initial design stage through to construction phase will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of the Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the further progression of the project at this time.

School Transport.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

270 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Education and Science the breakdown of the private contractors who received the €1.4 million to install new seat belts on school buses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39100/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

271 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Education and Science when it was decided that private contractors had to install pull test seat belts to be eligible for a grant; the person by whom the decision was made; the way private contractors were informed of these standards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39102/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 270 and 271 together.

The breakdown of costs for the private contractors seat belt programme is as follows: €872,940 for the visual inspections of seat belts fitted to vehicles; €250,763 for the retrofitting of vehicles; and €319,121 for the development of specifications

In the region of 100 buses owned by private contractors were included in the programme.

My Department met with the associations representing private contractors in the school transport scheme on a number of occasions to update them on developments regarding the safety belt programme in school buses which was announced in July 2005. In July 2006, my Department agreed, that contractors who retrofitted safety belts in accordance with installation standards approved by the Department of Transport, were eligible for a grant equivalent to half the cost of retrofitting their vehicles, subject to a maximum grant of €3,000 for a large vehicle.

School Staffing.

Tony Gregory

Question:

272 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of private fee-paying second levels schools here; and cost of State funding including salaries of staff to these fee paying schools. [39104/08]

There are 56 fee-paying schools in the State, of which 21 are Protestant, two inter-denominational, one Jewish and the remainder Catholic.

With the exception of the Protestant and Jewish fee-charging schools, fee-paying schools do not receive capitation or related supports.

Protestant fee-charging schools receive, and will continue to receive, the Protestant Block grant, which amounts to €6.25 million in the current school year. This payment covers capitation, tuition and boarding grants.

A similar arrangement exists for the Jewish school and amounted to €43,684 in the 2007/08 school year. This arrangement will continue also.

The arrangements for minority schools reflect the importance the Government attaches to ensuring that students can attend schools that reflect their denominational ethos.

Prior to Budget 2009, minority religion schools were eligible other non-pay grants. It is estimated that savings of €2.8 million will accrue to the Department from their withdrawal in 2009.

Teachers in all fee-charging schools are paid by the State, and this arrangement pre-dated the introduction of free education arrangements. The cost for the 2007/08 school year was €100.12 million.

Frank Feighan

Question:

273 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding a school (details supplied) in County Roscommon. [39164/08]

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

The detailed staffing allocation for the school in question for the academic year 2009/10 cannot be determined until the allocation process has fully concluded. The allocation process includes appellate mechanisms under which schools can appeal against the allocation due to them under the staffing schedules. At primary level the final allocation to a school is also a function of the operation of the redeployment panels which provide for the retention of a teacher in an existing school if a new post is not available within the agreed terms of the scheme.

Schools are currently returning data to my Department in relation to their enrolment as of 30 September. My Department has commenced processing this data although all schools have not yet made their returns. The allocation process including notification to all primary schools will commence early in the New Year.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

274 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of additional teachers that will be hired at primary and post primary level in order to deal with the increase in school enrolments as estimated in budget 2009; the amount the additional primary school teachers will cost; the amount the additional post-primary teachers will cost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39166/08]

Overall the number of primary and post-primary teachers in schools in September 2009 is projected to be about 200 fewer in each sector compared to September 2008.

The estimates are calculated on the basis that approximately 900 additional posts in primary schools and 320 such posts in post-primary schools are needed due to demographics and the continued growth in provision for children with special educational needs in schools.

The estimates are also calculated on the basis that the 900 additional primary posts will reduce by 340 (to 560) as a result of the reducing demand for language support teachers and reduced requirements because of decreases in pupil numbers in certain special classes.

In addition to the normal increases and decreases set out above, there are also policy changes announced as part of the Budget and 2009 estimates that provide for decreases in teaching post numbers arising from changes to the staffing schedules that allocate teachers to schools, the re-imposition of the ceiling on the number of language support teachers per school and the withdrawal of teaching posts which have been historically provided under previous disadvantage schemes to non-DEIS schools. It is estimated that these will decrease the number of teaching posts by approximately 760 posts in primary education and 560 in post-primary education.

Thus while it is estimated that there is of the order of a 200 net decrease in the number teaching posts in both primary and post-primary education, this also means that there will be a higher turnover of teachers to reflect the overall changes of allocations and teachers moving to new posts as a consequence of reflect the changes. The figures, both for increases and decreases in the estimated number of teaching posts, relate to possible ranges for the impact of changes to the staffing schedules and the effectiveness of redeployment. The net pay allocation for teachers' salaries and pensions will increase by almost €300m in 2009 as a result of a combination of pay increases, increased pension costs, increased enrolment in 2009 and the full year costs of the salaries of extra teachers appointed in September 2008.

An additional €40m has also been allocated for the continued growth in the provision for special needs in primary and post-primary schools providing for the full year costs of additional Special Needs Assistants in the system this September as well as provision for additional posts next September.

Departmental Staff.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

275 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science the estimated cost of paying the draft national pay agreement to those who are paid from his Department’s budget; if he will provide a breakdown of these figures which include both current spending on pay and predicted moneys spent on pay under the new agreement under headings (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39167/08]

The estimated cost of the 3.5% pay increase with effect from 1 September 2009, arising under the recently negotiated second pay agreement under Towards 2016, is €80m in 2009 and €240m in a full year.

The following Table gives a breakdown of the costs requested by the Deputy.

Estimated impact of 3.5% Pay Increase 1/9/09

2009 Budget Allocation

3.50% wef Sept. 2009

Departmental Staff Salaries

67,686

792

National Teachers

2,144,454

25,090

Secondary/Community & Comprehensive Teachers

1,297,319

15,179

Vocational Education (including Teachers & SNAs)

757,639

8,864

Non-Teaching staff including SNAs — Primary

295,083

3,452

Non-Teaching staff including SNAs — Sec/C&C

45,383

531

Third level

1,071,899

12,541

Retired Teachers

861,715

10,082

Other

138,132

3,100

Total

6,679,310

79,632

Richard Bruton

Question:

276 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the systems his Department has in place for tracking absences from work for various reasons, for benchmarking them against best standards and for estimating the cost of cover or lost input as a result of these absences; and if he will present data for the most recent years on this matter. [39174/08]

The attendance/absence of officials at my Department is recorded on a Human Resources Management System (HRMS) database.

A similar parliamentary question was tabled recently by one of the Deputy's colleagues and I have requested officials at the Personnel Unit of my Department to compile information on absenteeism for the last five years as sought by that Deputy and forward it to him in due course.

I will also arrange for the Deputy to be provided with a copy of this data when it has been completed.

Schools Building Projects.

Willie Penrose

Question:

277 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science the position of an application in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Longford; if steps will be taken to progress same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39183/08]

The school to which the Deputy refers has applied to my Department for capital funding for a new school building.

The progression of all large-scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction phase will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of the Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

Special Educational Needs.

David Stanton

Question:

278 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the 2009 funding allocation for disability services under the multi-annual investment programme 2006 to 2009; the expenditure under this programme each year respectively since it began; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39243/08]

David Stanton

Question:

279 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the budget 2009 allocation for the advancement of the national disability strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39283/08]

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

The National Disability Strategy supports and reinforces equal participation in society of people with disabilities. Its elements include — the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act, 2004, the Disability Act, 2005 and its associated Sectoral Plans published in 2006 by six Government Departments, the Citizens Information Act, 2007 and a commitment to a multi-annual investment programme for disability support services.

The Deputy will be aware that although my Department does not have a Sectoral Plan under the Disability Act, appropriate education services are supported as a central element in the Government commitment to supporting those with special educational needs/disability.

This support is provided across a wide spectrum of initiatives within the education sector. At school level, in addition to the teachers provided in the classroom, significant additional supports are also provided to enable schools to cater for the needs of students with special educational needs. Such supports include additional resource teaching support, special needs assistant support, special transport arrangements, enhanced capitation and funding for the purchase of specialised equipment.

When the overall annual spend in 2008 to support persons with special educational needs is considered, including the €25m funding available under the multi-annual investment programme, my Department will spend an estimated €900m in total by the end of this year.

The equivalent spend for 2006 and 2007 are €706m (€11m available under the multi-annual programme) and €838m (€20m available under the multi-annual programme) respectively.

Following the announcement of Budget 2009, I am pleased to report that in excess of €1 billion will be available next year to support children and adults with special educational needs.

With these levels of investment, it is clear that significant progress has been made in educational provision for people with special needs in recent years. This progress has been achieved through the additional investments made by successive Ministers for Education. Advances in the level of dedicated provision to support children with special educational needs include:

Schools are now allocated extra resource teachers and special needs assistants to enable them meet the special educational needs of students. In the region of 19,000 staff in our schools work solely with children with special needs.

Special Needs Assistant posts have increased from under 300 in 1997 to almost 10,000 in 2008.

Primary schools are staffed up-front with additional teachers to cater for the most prevalent special educational needs — removing the need for assessments and delays in recruitment.

The level of training available to teachers has improved significantly. The establishment of the Special Education Support Service to provide expert support, professional development and training opportunities in special education for school staff has been very significant. In 2007, the service was in contact with over 15,000 teachers. The range of post-graduate professional training programmes available to professionals in the special needs area has also significantly expanded.

The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) aims to facilitate, for all students, the development of their potential and maximise the benefits of their educational and other experiences, having particular regard to those with special educational needs. NEPS supports schools and students in the development and delivery of appropriate interventions for children with special educational needs.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) was established to co-ordinate the delivery of services for children with special needs. The NCSE is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers, for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants to schools to support children with special needs. This has completely transformed the application process for extra supports for the better.

Assistive technology, specialist equipment and building adaptations continue to be provided as necessary. Special school transport arrangements, currently costing €50m per year, will continue to be made.

There has been a particular focus in recent years on improving services for children with autism. In the past year alone, about 100 extra special classes for autistic children have been set up, bringing the total number sanctioned to over 330 classes, and

Early educational intervention is now provided for children with autism from 2½ years of age. There are now 35 early intervention classes for children with autism attached to mainstream schools that are funded by my Department. Funding is also provided through the home tuition programme for children with autism aged from 2 ½ years to 5 who are unable to access an early intervention class.

As announced on Budget day, in the current financial circumstances it is not possible to proceed with full implementation of the EPSEN Act in 2010 as originally envisaged. Government will keep the matter under review and is committed to the full implementation of EPSEN at the earliest possible date.

I am particularly pleased that, in order to strengthen and enhance services, and continue the preparation for the full implementation of the Act at a later date, the Government provided €20m in 2009 — €10m for education services and €10m for health services.

In my Department this additional funding will provide for an expansion of the NEPS service so that all schools in the country will be covered by the service as well as enhancing the capacity of the NCSE to co-ordinate the provision of services to children with special educational needs. In addition teachers and special needs assistants will continue to be deployed to schools to meet children's needs and there will be further investment in teacher training in this area.

An integrated approach is being adopted by the education and health sectors to target these additional resources to the areas of greatest need. Progress in both sectors will be kept under review by the Office for Disability & Mental Health and the Cross-Sectoral Team during 2009.