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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 31 Mar 2009

Vol. 679 No. 1

Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 9, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 10 to 33, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 34 to 40, inclusive, answered orally.

Care of the Elderly.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

41 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children if capital funding will be made available to public nursing homes to enable them to upgrade their facilities to meet the new Health Information and Quality Authority residential care standards; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13147/09]

The Deputy will be aware that my colleague the Minister for Health and Children recently approved the national standards for all residential care settings for older people under section 10 (2) of the Health Act, 2007. The approval has been conveyed to the Health Information and Quality Authority and the standards were launched earlier this month. Under the 2007 Act statutory responsibility is given to the Chief Inspector of Social Services for inspecting and registering all residential centres for older people. It is intended to have the relevant parts of the Act commenced on 1 July, 2009 to allow the Chief Inspector inspect all centres against the regulations governing these centres together with the standards set by HIQA.

Standard 25 addresses the physical environment for all types of residential centres. A distinction is made between existing facilities and new builds. The standards provide a six year period for existing builds, whether public, private or voluntary to meet certain infrastructural deficits, for example with regard to room sizes, the number of residents per room and usable floor space. While the Chief Inspector has some discretion to extend this timeframe this can only occur where the provider and the Chief Inspector agree a written, explicit, costed plan with timescales to address these deficits. The Executive is developing an Action Plan to prioritise a phased programme of refurbishment and replacement of existing public nursing homes to meet the new standards.

Health Insurance.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

42 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children if the VHI has acquired its reserve fund, as obliged under EU competition; if it is regulated by the Financial Regulator in time for the revised deadline of 31 March 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13117/09]

The Voluntary Health Insurance (Amendment) Act, 2008 placed an obligation the VHI to have accumulated sufficient capital by 31 December 2008 to allow the company to submit an application to the Financial Regulator for authorisation as an insurance undertaking. When the Act was passed it appeared that the company would be in a position to satisfy the Regulator's solvency requirements. Accordingly the VHI submitted its application in June 2008.

As part of the application process the VHI was required to submit detailed financial projections for a number of years encompassing a robust business plan and sufficient capital. Obviously certain key assumptions would have been made by the company in preparing the projections submitted to the Regulator. One of these was that it would receive the transfers due under the 2003 Risk Equalisation Scheme. These transfers would include the amounts likely to be paid in the period covered by the projections as well as transfers due for the period from the activation of the scheme. The transfers had not been made pending the Supreme Court's decision on BUPA's appeal against the High Court finding upholding the validity of the Risk Equalisation Scheme. In the event the Supreme Court upheld BUPA's appeal and found the scheme to be ultra vires.

On 19 November 2008 the Government announced that it would be introducing a series of interim measures in support of community rating pending the introduction of a new risk equalisation scheme. These involve the granting of additional age related tax reliefs which are financed by a levy charged on health insurance companies. The measures are set out in the Health Insurance (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 2008 published last December. The interim scheme was notified to the European Commission in November as a potential state aid. Assuming a positive response from the Commission I expect to introduce the Second Stage immediately after the Easter recess.

Following enactment of the envisaged arrangements, I would hope that VHI will be in a position to satisfy the Regulator that it has a sufficiently robust business plan and the required capital to meet the authorisation requirements. Given the older age profile of VHI's customers I expect the company to be a net beneficiary under the interim scheme. Having regard to the timeframe for passing the Bill and any other measures necessary to ensure VHI is in a position to pursue its application, an Order setting a new deadline of 1st September 2009 is being prepared. The Government remains committed to having the VHI authorised as soon as possible and I have asked the Board to proceed accordingly and to explore all the options available to it under the VHI Acts.

Health Service Staff.

Brian Hayes

Question:

43 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children if her plans to introduce a Health Service Executive voluntary redundancy programme have been abandoned; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13149/09]

If the best possible services are to be delivered within available resources, pay costs have to be contained and reduced. The Government has already introduced the pension-related deduction for the public service in the context of the need to stabilise the public finances and achieve expenditure adjustments. In addition, the Government has recently announced the implementation of a moratorium on recruitment and promotions in the public service. Arrangements have been modulated in relation to the education and health sectors to reflect the particular service needs in these sectors. In particular, there will be flexibility to allow for the continued development of integrated health care, particularly primary and community care, care of the elderly and people with disabilities. Further measures and the role of a voluntary redundancy/early retirement scheme will be considered in the context of the forthcoming budget.

Medicinal Products.

John Deasy

Question:

44 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to reduce the State drugs bill through the use of generic medicines; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13132/09]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

51 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether there are potential savings of up to €350 million a year through the use of branded generic drugs throughout the health service; if so, the way these savings might best be achieved; and the obstacles that are in place, whether legislative or otherwise, in this regard. [13023/09]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

70 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if it is her policy to encourage the use of generic drugs; the action that is being taken to implement this policy; and if she has further proposals in this regard. [13022/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 44, 51 and 70 together.

The use of a proprietary drug or a generic equivalent is a matter for the prescriber, in consultation with the patient. Both my Department and the HSE support the increased use of generics where this is appropriate. Prescription drugs can be classified into four groups: proprietary drugs which have a generic equivalent, proprietary drugs which do not have a generic equivalent, branded generics and unbranded generics. In 2007 about a quarter of all drugs dispensed to medical card holders were proprietary drugs with generic equivalents, at a total cost of approximately €150 million.

Since the introduction of revised agreements in 2006 with IPHA, the pharmaceutical manufacturers, the price of every proprietary drug with a generic equivalent on the Irish market was reduced by 35% (20% from 1st March 2007 and 18% from 1st January 2009). Price reductions have been applied to approximately 600 products to date. These reductions have eroded the difference in price between proprietary and generic products in Ireland. Analysis by the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics, based on the volume and cost of drugs dispensed in 2003, estimated potential savings from generic substitution in the range of €15 million to €21 million. This was based on an average price differential between proprietary drugs and the lowest cost generic equivalents of 21.6%.

The HSE currently estimates that, following the 35% reduction in the price of patent-expired brand leaders, there is now a differential of approximately 10% between off-patent proprietary and generic products. Based on a total cost of €150 million for proprietary items on the GMS that have generic equivalents, this suggests that approximately €15 million in savings could be made if there were to be full substitution. Greater savings would, of course, arise if the price of generic products were to be reduced. The NCPE will carry out a detailed analysis of the current position as soon as the data for January of this year, the first month for which the second part of the IPHA price reduction came into effect, becomes available.

The report submitted to me in December 2008 by the group chaired by Dr Michael Barry recommended, amongst other things, that GPs should be encouraged and facilitated to prescribe generic products. An implementation group has since been established to identify and oversee the introduction of specific measures that will deliver more cost effective prescribing by GPs.

Long-Term Illness Scheme.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

45 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will review the illnesses covered by the long-term illness scheme; if she will include Huntington’s disease; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13077/09]

There are currently no plans to extend the list of eligible conditions covered by the Long Term Illness Scheme, which was introduced on a statutory basis in 1971. Under the Drugs Payment Scheme, which was introduced in 1999, no individual or family unit pays more than €100 per calendar month towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines. The scheme is easy to use and significantly reduces the cost burden for families and individuals incurring ongoing expenditure on medicines. In addition, people who cannot, without undue hardship, arrange for the provision of medical services for themselves and their dependants may be entitled to a medical card. In the assessment process, the Health Service Executive can take into account medical costs incurred by an individual or a family. Those who are not eligible for a medical card may still be able to avail of a GP visit card, which covers the cost of general practice consultations.

Medical Cards.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

46 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of income declaration forms received by the Health Service Executive regarding the over 70 years medical card; the sanctions the HSE will impose on people who have not declared they are above the income threshold; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13125/09]

Alan Shatter

Question:

53 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has asked the Health Service Executive for the number of over 70s medical cards either returned to the HSE or cancelled by the HSE as a consequence of the Health Act 2008; the number of such cards returned or cancelled to date; and the cost incurred in the communication of the new eligibility criteria by post to all relevant medical card holders. [13097/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 46 and 53 together.

Following enactment of the Health Act 2008, the Health Service Executive (HSE) wrote to all medical card holders aged 70 years and over in January 2009. Persons who were in receipt of a medical card on a non means tested basis were requested, if over the income limits set out in the Act, to make a declaration to the Executive, on or before the 2nd March 2009. The HSE reports the cost of postage, stationary, etc. for this exercise as some €224,000. This forms part of an ongoing data quality exercise which is budget neutral. To-date, 19,445 medical cards for persons aged 70 and over have been returned or removed from the medical card register.

Under the new arrangements, a much simplified system of assessment for eligibility was introduced in respect of persons aged 70 and over, based on gross income rather than net income, as applies otherwise for means-testing of eligibility for medical cards. The simplified approach taken for persons aged 70 and over who held a medical card prior to 31st December 2008 is close to a self-assessment system. In introducing the measures, I emphasised my belief in the honesty and integrity of the vast majority of older persons in our society. There are measures in the legislation that allow for the sharing of data between State agencies and the Health Service Executive (HSE) to allow the HSE to verify in any particular case if the person has income, as declared, under the gross income limit.

Long-standing provisions of the Health Act 1970, as amended, continue to apply. For instance, under Section 49(1) there is a requirement for a person to notify the HSE of any change in his/her circumstances which would render him/her ineligible for services. In addition, under Section 50, when a person has obtained a service and it is later ascertained that he/she was not entitled to the service, the HSE may charge the individual for any services provided to him/her for the period for which he/she had no entitlement. Failure to notify the HSE or the use of a service one is not entitled to is an offence on summary conviction.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

47 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the latest figures for persons in receipt of medical cards and general practitioner only cards; the number of cards issued to date in 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13072/09]

Details of the number of medical card holders and GP visit card holders are provided to my Department each month by the Health Service Executive (HSE). The figures are provided on a net basis, showing the balance after new cards have been issued and other cards, as appropriate, have been deleted from the Executive's database, e.g. following a review of a person's circumstances. The most recent figures provided to my Department by the HSE are for February 2009. The total number of medical card holders on 28th February 2009 was 1,365,242 and the total number of GP visit card holders on that date was 86,442. The net number of additional cards between 1st January 2009 and 28th February 2009 was 13,122 medical cards and 896 GP visit cards.

Health Service Staff.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

48 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of new consultants appointed to date in 2009; the number of such posts that have been advertised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13084/09]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) approved a total of 283 medical consultant posts from April to December 2008. Of these, 156 are new posts and 127 are replacement posts. The Executive has approved a further 43 posts to date in 2009: 27 of these are new posts and 16 are replacement posts. The Public Appointments Service provides recruitment, assessment and selection services for the HSE National Hospitals Office. The Public Appointments Service advertised 195 (194.5 wte) consultant posts for the National Hospitals Office between April 2008 and March 2009. A total of 48 consultants have been appointed, and 34 consultants have taken up post since April 2008: 27 in 2009 and seven in 2008. A further 14 consultants have been issued with contracts with start dates after 26 March 2009.

The creation and funding of further consultant posts will be driven by service priorities, as reflected in the HSE's Annual Service Plan, and the policy of achieving a better balance between the numbers of consultants and non-consultant hospital doctors. There is to be a significant reduction in the number of Non Consultant Hospital Doctors (NCHDs) employed in each of the years 2009, 2010 and 2011. This would generate savings that would be used to fund the recruitment of additional consultants. Government policy is to have a consultant delivered, rather than a consultant-led service. The new contract is designed to support this and, as in many areas of our health services, service improvements will depend to a much greater extent on mobilising and re-configuring existing resources than on additional funds.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

David Stanton

Question:

49 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the details of the people who are regarded as having full eligibility to repayment of long stay charges under the Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006; if her Department has conducted research into the number eligible for repayments under this scheme and the potential cost of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13095/09]

David Stanton

Question:

67 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the deadlines which have been set for the repayment of charges to persons or estates of persons under the Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006; the number of claims received under the repayment scheme; the number approved for payment; the number which have been paid to date; the number pending; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13096/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 49 and 67 together.

The Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006 provides the framework for the repayment of recoverable health charges to those who were incorrectly charged for publicly funded long stay care. The Act only provides for prescribed repayments to be made in respect of recoverable health charges. Recoverable health charges are charges for in-patient services, imposed on persons with full eligibility, under the Health (Charges for In-Patient Services) Regulations 1976, as amended, and the Institutional Assistance Regulations 1954. For the purpose of the Scheme both medical card holders and those entitled to medical cards are deemed to be persons with full eligibility.

The estates of all those fully eligible persons who were incorrectly charged and who died since 9 December 1998 are eligible for repayment under the scheme provided a valid application form was submitted prior to the closing date. It is anticipated that of the 35,000 applications received under the scheme, approximately 14,200 applications will be rejected and the remaining 20,800 valid applications will result in repayments with a potential cost of approximately €414m. Over 33,400 or 95% of applications have been concluded to date. Almost 19,900 offers of repayment totalling more than €392m have issued and, within this, 16,800 repayments have been completed to the value of €370m. There are in the region of 1,500 claims remaining to be concluded and it is anticipated that the vast majority of these remaining claims will be processed by the end of April.

Child Protection.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

50 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the way it is proposed to protect vulnerable children at weekends in the absence of social work cover; if she will ensure that such cover is provided for those children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13060/09]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

78 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the staffing levels for the provision of an after office hours social care and worker service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13088/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 50 and 78 together.

The Government and the HSE remain committed to the development of a comprehensive needs-based service for children at risk. I personally chair regular meetings between officials from my Office and senior child welfare and protection managers in the HSE aimed at improving the provision of services to children at risk. A key component of these discussions has been the provision of out of hours care. In this context, the HSE is now putting in place a standardised national system whereby Gardaí can access an appropriate place of safety for children found to be at risk out of hours under Section 12 of the Child Care Act 1991. This service will conform with Child Care Regulations and with the National Foster Care Standards. The provision of this service aims to ensure that children presenting as ‘at risk' outside of normal working hours are provided with an appropriate emergency place of safety thereby reducing or eliminating social admissions of children in an acute hospital setting. Foster families are currently being recruited with a view to commencing the service on or before 1 June 2009.

In addition, and instead of developing a stand alone social work out of hours service, it has been agreed to develop alternative proposals based on a more integrated approach which builds on the HSE's existing out of hours services including GPs, acute hospital services and mental health services. This should provide a more effective and integrated service by using existing resources and strengthening the links between services such as mental health and social work to appropriately address incidents occurring outside usual working hours. The aim is to ensure that persons seeking personal social services outside normal working hours can be provided with appropriate advice, information, support and, in emergency situations, access to specialist staff, such as staff working in the areas of mental health and suicide prevention.

Question No. 51 answered with Question No. 44.

Health Service Staff.

Bernard Allen

Question:

52 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether in the current economic climate pay increases for consultants can be justified; if she will review this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13101/09]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

227 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if it is proposed to revisit the hospital consultants contract; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13332/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 52 and 227 together.

The new consultants' contract does not represent a pay increase for consultants for doing the same work. Instead it entails a fundamentally different way of working that involves clinicians in the management and leadership of the acute hospital system. The contract ensures clinicians are involved in the management of budgets and that there is one-for-all access to outpatient and ambulatory diagnostic services in our publicly-funded acute hospital system.

The new arrangement is fundamental to the reform of the hospital system. In particular, it involves consultants working more as part of a team, with longer days and more structured cover at weekends. We have sought changes in the contract for almost 30 years and the changes which will happen are significant. The 85% of consultants who have signed on for this new contract will have their public-private mix measured for the first time. This is a fundamental and radical change to the current contract of employment that exists in our hospitals. Last December I indicated that I was not prepared to sanction salary increases for consultants who signed up to the new contract until I was satisfied that the reformed work practices were being implemented and there was a demonstrable benefit to the public health system. The HSE has since undertaken a verification exercise the results of which show that the majority of consultants are demonstrably engaged in the implementation of new work practices.

In the light of the HSE's findings, I am committed to commencing payment of the new contract rates from 1 January 2009. However, since the start of the year, our country's fiscal circumstances have deteriorated rapidly and very seriously. The Government is now formulating far-reaching, comprehensive and integrated measures for a Supplementary Budget to deal with this situation. The intention is to pay the new contract rates and issues may arise in this regard that will be addressed in the context of the budget. However, I intend that this contract will be honoured because it is fundamental to changing the manner in which our public hospitals operate. Without this change, we will not see improved access for public patients.

Question No. 53 answered with Question No. 46.

Health Services.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

54 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason 1,200 children and adults in Cork, Limerick and Kerry have been recalled for a review of their hearing tests dating as far back as 2001; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13163/09]

In 2008, concerns were raised about the practice of a Paediatric Audiological Scientist who had worked primarily in Cork from 2001 to 2007. A detailed investigation of these concerns was undertaken and 1,231 former clients of the Audiology Service are being recalled for precautionary check-up appointments as part of a Look Back Review. The recall appointments commenced on 18th March and they will be completed within 12 weeks.

Medical Cards.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

55 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to centralise the administration of medical card applications; the way this will affect the assessment of people whose income exceeds the guidelines but who have a case to be considered on medical or hardship grounds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13092/09]

Under the Health Service Executive's 2009 Service Plan it has been agreed that the processing of medical card applications will be centralised and will transfer to the Executive's Primary Care Reimbursement Service in Dublin. The change is being implemented on a phased basis and is designed to deliver a better and more cost effective service. Under the new arrangements, the HSE will be aiming for a turnaround time of 15 days or less for all medical card applications. Emergency applications will be dealt with immediately with a card issuing within 24 hours. There will be no effect on the assessment of people whose income exceeds the income guidelines but have a case to be considered on medical or hardship grounds.

Local Health Offices will continue to provide advice and necessary supports to people applying for medical cards. They will also deal with queries of a general nature about the medical card scheme and, along with the HSE National Helpline (1850 24 1850), will handle enquiries from clients in respect of their medical card entitlements. The new arrangements will also deliver significant efficiencies by making greater use of shared services for both internal administration and direct service delivery. This is a good example of the type of innovation signalled in the Transforming Public Services Programme announced by the Taoiseach last November. It demonstrates how the HSE can deliver improved services within the more limited resources available in a way which meets the needs of citizens in a modern society.

Departmental Expenditure.

John O'Mahony

Question:

56 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children the front-line services that will be affected due to the Health Service Executive funding shortfall of €1 billion; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13176/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

62 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the areas of the health budget expected to be affected arising from proposed budgetary reviews; the areas of services to the public likely to be restricted; the number of people to be so affected; the measures specifically identified to cater for those with particularly sensitive needs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13099/09]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

223 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the mechanisms in place in her Department to monitor the effects of spending cutbacks on the delivery of health care services to patients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13328/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

239 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent, if known, of financial cutbacks applicable or expected to be applied by her Department in 2009; the areas expected to be most affected; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13459/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 56, 62, 223 and 239 together.

The HSE and my Department have had intensive discussions regarding the Executive's financial position following the publication of its end January figures. At the time the HSE was projecting a shortfall in its budget of €1.1bn. This figures included a projected shortfall of €300m in health contributions. Following the discussions and based upon end February figures, the potential additional financial exposure is now estimated at approximately €480m including a shortfall of €100m in health contributions. The Department of Finance has now revised its estimated figure for the shortfall in health contributions to €160m.

Earlier this month I wrote to the HSE regarding the emerging position. I indicated that under the circumstances that the HSE should focus on the measures required to be implemented to deliver the services set out in the Service Plan within the allocation that will be given to it following the most recent government decisions on public expenditure. The HSE has already agreed measures amounting to €133m and was asked to further examine how it could achieve another €72m in savings. I have indicated to the HSE that any additional Exchequer funding to meet projected extra costs associated with the Long Stay Repayment Scheme, income from health contributions and a larger than anticipated increase in medical card numbers, as a result of increased unemployment, will have to be considered in the context of the Government's decisions to ensure the stabilisation and sustainability of the public finances, due to be finalised in early April.

The Board of the HSE met yesterday to further consider its financial position. I understand a revised Service Plan will be submitted to me within the next 5 days which will include proposals to save the further €72m. I will consider the proposals contained in the revised Service Plan when it is submitted for my approval in accordance with the Health Act 2004.

Care of the Elderly.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

57 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children the new long stay beds for older people planned for 2009; the locations of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13093/09]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

84 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in terms of step-down beds being made available in the major urban centres in order that patients in acute hospitals who are ready to be discharged to such beds can be transferred relieving pressure on the accident and emergency departments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13070/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 57 and 84 together.

The provision of services for older people is a priority for Government. A commitment has been made to provide 860 additional public long-stay beds for older people under the Fast-Track Initiative and these are in the process of being put in place. By the end of 2008, 273 additional beds had been provided under the Public Fast-Track Initiative. A further 704 additional beds and 506 replacement beds will become operational during 2009. This includes beds being provided under the Capital Plan and beds being provided under the Fast-Track Initiative. These beds will be located throughout the country as follows: Planned Capacity

Region

Additional Beds

Replacement Beds

DML

182

188

DNE

173

67

South

301

207

West

48

44

Total

704

506

Pending the provision of permanent capacity as outlined above, the HSE has provided for 235 additional contract beds to alleviate delayed discharges pressure on the acute hospital system. As of 13th March, 220 of these beds had been filled. As the permanent capacity comes on stream, these contract beds will be phased out to ensure that overall provision remains in line with resources. The breakdown of these beds is as follows:

Region

No. of Beds

DML

75

DNE

90

South

60

West

10

Total

235

Finally, many people leaving acute hospitals do not require long-term care but may instead need a short period of convalescent or respite care.

Very significant residential respite care continues to be provided in public community nursing units (including community hospitals/long stay residential units) across the country. There are over 700 designated respite care beds provided nationally in these units. It is estimated that approximately 19,000 people benefit over the course of a full year — based on an average length of stay of 2 weeks per person. Public Residential Respite Care Beds by Area — November 2008

Area

Number of Residential Respite Care Beds

Estimated numbers benefiting per annum*

DML

218

5,668

DNE

166

4,316

South

203

5,278

West

151

3,926

Total

738

19,188

*Figures assume an average length of respite break amounting to 2 weeks per person.

This is a very significant resource which is relied upon by carers across the country and which will continue to be developed as additional public bed capacity is provided.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Joan Burton

Question:

58 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress being made in reducing the waiting lists and times for rheumatology; the number of patients on waiting lists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13064/09]

I recognise that we need to strengthen rheumatology services, particularly by improving waiting times for rheumatology appointments. I am anxious to see improvements implemented as quickly as possible. The HSE's provisional waiting list figures for February 2009 indicate that there are just over 3,000 patients on waiting lists across all hospitals of whom over 70% are waiting for less than one year.

The HSE is taking steps to improve the situation. Since the publication in 2005 of a report by the former Comhairle na nOspidéal, the HSE has appointed a number of additional consultant rheumatologists. Two new posts were created in the Midlands and North West areas and a third additional post of Paediatric Rheumatologist was filled in Our Lady's Hospital, Crumlin in 2006. The HSE intends to appoint two Rheumatologists in the Mid West to provide services in Ennis and Nenagh as part of the process of reconfiguration of acute services. It is intended to create two further Consultant Rheumatology posts in 2009 one each in the South and the North East.

The National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) has also been working to reduce Rheumatology waiting lists. Since the Fund's outpatient programme commenced, a total of 1,970 people have been facilitated with outpatient Rheumatology appointments and further such appointments will be facilitated in 2009. In 2006, the HSE established a working group in association with Arthritis Ireland, to examine how rheumatology services could be improved. A report based on the Group's work is in the final stages of editing at present prior to presentation to the HSE Board and publication.

In relation to waiting times generally, the HSE is working across all medical specialties to ensure that best practice in ensuring prompt access to a hospital outpatient appointment is implemented. Measures will include setting targets for waiting times, ensuring that hospitals validate waiting lists, addressing the issue of persons who fail to attend for appointments and scrutinising new-to-return ratios to maximise the capacity available for new patients to be assessed. The HSE will also seek, particularly in the area of rheumatology and other chronic disease management processes, to exploit the multi-disciplinary skills available including specialist nursing and allied health professionals in both secondary and primary care. This is considered to have the potential to release acute care capacity to improve access times for new patients.

Drugs Payment Scheme.

Damien English

Question:

59 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the action that will be taken on foot of the report (details supplied) to reduce the State drugs bill; if the Health Service Executive has restricted access to oral nutritional supplements for those eligible for the medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13138/09]

Frank Feighan

Question:

69 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she plans to withdraw any drugs, medicines or supplements from community drugs schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13143/09]

James Reilly

Question:

201 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the details of all instructions issued to general practitioners to limit access, reduce prescribing rates, or withdraw certain drugs, medicines and nutritional supports provided by State drugs schemes, including a list of all drugs, medicines or supplements affected; the estimated cost savings to be achieved from each of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12950/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 59, 69 and 201 together.

The HSE has not withdrawn any products that comply with the existing reimbursement criteria from the community drugs schemes. All patients continue to have access to prescribed drugs and medicines as required. Reimbursement decisions are made with regard to a range of criteria. These include clinical, pharmacoeconomic, patient safety and legal issues, as well as value for money. A number of reimbursement areas are currently under review by the HSE and any reimbursement decisions following those reviews will be made with regard to the existing criteria.

Ensuring value for money in the State's expenditure on drugs and medicines is a priority for both my Department and the HSE. In October last year I established a group, chaired by Dr Michael Barry of the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics, to develop recommendations for good practice which will ensure safe and effective prescribing for patients while maximising the potential for economy in the use of public funds. An implementation group has since been established to identify and oversee the introduction of specific measures that will deliver more cost effective prescribing by GPs. The group is expected to finish its work by the end of May 2009.

One of the issues identified by the group was the wastage of oral nutritional products. Clinical nutritional products cost the HSE €46 million a year, over €27 million of which is spent on oral nutritional products. The types of oral nutritional supplements most commonly prescribed in the community are ready-made drinks called ‘sip feeds'. Audits suggest that up to 50% of prescribed oral nutritional supplements may not be consumed by patients. The HSE are taking steps to reduce the wastage and inappropriate prescribing of these products while ensuring that patients can access them as required. A support pack with prescribing protocols has been distributed to all GPs. HSE dieticians are also developing a training package to support the implementation of the new protocols as well as establishing linkages with primary care teams. I have asked the HSE to forward to the Deputies the support pack with prescribing protocols for their information.

The HSE has also established an internal working group comprising of clinical, commercial and pharmaceutical expertise to review the usage of clinical nutrition products and the introduction of procurement arrangements where appropriate to determine cost effective reimbursement prices for agreed non-drug items.

Departmental Funding.

Liz McManus

Question:

60 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the funding being made available to the rape crisis centres nationally; the percentage increases per centre from 2008 to 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13075/09]

As the Deputy's question relates to a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

61 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the estimated full cost per year for the roll-out of bowel screening; when the national bowel screening programme will commence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13108/09]

James Reilly

Question:

176 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the estimated full cost per year of the roll-out of bowel screening; when the national bowel screening programme will commence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13414/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 61 and 176 together.

The Expert Group on Colorectal Screening was established by the National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) to study the medical and scientific evidence concerning screening for colorectal cancer and to make recommendations to the Board of the NCSS about the potential benefits of introducing a population-based screening programme for this condition in Ireland. In December 2008, I received the Final Report of the Expert Group. The Report indicated that there would be substantial capital and revenue costs associated with such a programme.

The NCSS has also requested the Health Information and Quality Authority to conduct a Health Technology Assessment on a colorectal screening programme. This is an important element of the overall assessment process. I expect this to be completed shortly, at which stage I will be in a position to give further consideration to the introduction of a colorectal screening programme and the resources that would be necessary for this.

Question No. 62 answered with Question No. 56.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Joe McHugh

Question:

63 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of the co-location hospital plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13165/09]

Jack Wall

Question:

79 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will continue to support the proposed construction of private hospitals on State lands; the position in respect of these proposed co-located hospitals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13086/09]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

225 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if her Department has carried out a re-evaluation of the private for-profit hospital co-location scheme in view of the economic recession; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13330/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 63, 79 and 225 together.

The co-location initiative is a complex process but it is an efficient means of delivering extra bed capacity. Significant progress has been made in advancing the individual projects involved. The Board of the HSE has approved preferred bidder status for the development of co-located hospitals at Beaumont, Cork University, the Mid-Western Regional Limerick, St. James's, Waterford Regional and Sligo General Hospitals. Project Agreements for the Beaumont, Cork, Limerick and St James's projects have been signed. Planning permission was granted by An Bord Pleanála for the Beaumont project late last year. Planning permission for the Cork and Limerick projects has been granted by the local authorities concerned and appealed in each case to An Bord Pleanála. The preparatory work required to make the planning application for the St James's project is underway.

The necessary preparatory work for the Project Agreements in respect of Waterford Regional Hospital and Sligo General Hospital is proceeding. Two further projects are at an earlier stage of the procurement process. A tender in respect of Connolly Hospital has been received by the HSE and is under consideration. Work is being undertaken on the drafting of the Invitation to Tender (ITT) for Tallaght Hospital.

It is a matter for each successful bidder to arrange its finance under the terms of the relevant Project Agreement. It is certainly the case that the funding environment has changed significantly in the last number of months, and this has affected both the public and private sectors. The co-location initiative, like other major projects, has to deal with the new situation. The successful bidders are working on the details of contractual terms with banks and other arrangers of finance. The HSE is continuing to work with the successful bidders to provide whatever assistance it can to help them advance the projects. The Programme for Government contains a commitment to carry out an independent review of the co location initiative following completion of the current programme of developments. Having regard to this commitment, my Department will make the necessary arrangements for a review in due course.

Health Promotion.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

64 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress being made in reducing the level of alcohol advertising associated with community and sporting events nationwide; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13061/09]

Strengthened codes on advertising and sponsorship, which were developed between the Department of Health and Children and representatives of the Irish drinks industry and the Irish advertising industry, came into effect on 1 July last year. Under these Codes the Irish alcohol industry may not sponsor any sporting competitions, leagues, events or competitors where such events are designated specifically for participants under 18 years of age. In the selection of a sponsored event the overall objective is to ensure that all alcohol drinks sponsored events are planned and executed in such a manner as to adhere to the relevant codes, regulations and legislation. In addition, Government has agreed to the establishment of a Working Group to examine the question of the sponsorship of sporting events by the alcohol industry with a view to phasing it out. The first meeting of the Working Group, which will be chaired by the Chief Medical Officer, is expected to take place in late April, 2009.

Health Services.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

65 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of specialist consultants per county treating persons suffering from diabetes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13073/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Vaccination Programme.

Seán Barrett

Question:

66 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will reconsider her decision to suspend the roll-out of the cervical cancer vaccination programme for 12 year old girls; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13105/09]

Willie Penrose

Question:

93 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will reconsider the decision not to introduce a programme of vaccination against cervical cancer as agreed in the programme for Government; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13080/09]

James Reilly

Question:

175 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will reconsider her decision to suspend the roll-out of the cervical cancer vaccination programme for 12 year old girls; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13413/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 66, 93 and 175 together.

All of the clinical advice available to me indicates that the national roll-out of a cervical screening programme should take precedence over the introduction of a HPV vaccination programme. The National Cervical Screening Programme, CervicalCheck, is being implemented at a full year cost of €42m. I am fully committed to keeping the introduction of a HPV vaccination programme under active review.

Question No. 67 answered with Question No. 49.

Community Care.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

68 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will protect the budgets for community care in order that elderly and disabled persons currently receiving a reasonable level of home help or home care will not be adversely affected; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13089/09]

Government policy in relation to older people is to support people to live in dignity and independence in their own homes and communities for as long as possible. Where this is not an option, the health service supports access as appropriate to quality long term residential care. Additional funding of just over €200 million was provided to develop community services and supports for older people over the period 2006-8.

The Home Help Sevice, delivered by or on behalf of the Health Service Executive (HSE), is a community initiative enabling people who otherwise might need to be cared for in long-term residential care to remain at home. The current level of investment by the Executive indicates:

around €210 million revenue funding annually (including additional funding of €55 made available over 2006-8).

over 54,000 people benefiting on average each year.

approaching 12 million Home Helps hours to be delivered nationally in 2009.

Home Care Packages are a relatively new initiative developed over the past few years across the country. A package comprises a number of community-based services and supports, provided in a way to best meet the needs of an older person. The person will have significant medical, nursing and/or therapy requirements and may be recently discharged from hospital, or at-risk of admission to hospital, if such needs are not met in a planned way. Developments in Home Care Packages over 2006-8 include:

a total of €120m development funding to establish the initiative.

over 4,600 packages were provided by the HSE in 2008, with around 8,700 people benefiting at any one time, or over 11,000 people benefiting during the course of last year.

In addition to the wide range of other supports available to older people, such as Day/Respite services and Meals-on-Wheels, it is clear that the Government has made considerable improvements in recent years to enhance Home Care provision generally across the country. There is no doubt that demand can at times exceed resources. However, it is a matter for the HSE to deliver services both nationally and locally, in the context of Government priorities and its overall resources, while at the same time taking account of the need to maximise services to the most vulnerable in our society.

Question No. 69 answered with Question No. 59.
Question No. 70 answered with Question No. 44.

Health Services.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

71 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of patients currently receiving IVF treatment through the Health Service Executive; the average cost involved per patient; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13091/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Inter-Country Adoptions.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

72 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that a new inter-country adoption arrangement will be concluded between Ireland and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in order that there will be no gap between the expiry of the present arrangement and the introduction of the new one; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12818/09]

The Adoption Bill, 2009, which will give force of law to the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption, was published on 23 January, 2009. Under the new legislation, prospective adoptive parents will be able to adopt from countries that have also ratified the Hague Convention, and from countries with which Ireland has a bilateral agreement that meets Hague standards.

While it is true to say that our current Agreement with Vietnam is based on Hague principles, as part of the preparations for our new legislation, we need to ensure that our Agreement reflects the Hague Convention as comprehensively as possible. A new Agreement allows the opportunity to elaborate and strengthen some existing provisions to meet the standards that will, it is anticipated, be set in draft legislation. There have been considerable developments in inter-country adoption in Vietnam since the Agreement was signed 5 years ago. This progress also needs to be reflected in any new Agreement.

In December, 2008, the Irish Government issued a formal request to the Vietnamese Authorities stating that we wish to enter into discussions immediately for the purpose of negotiating a new Agreement to follow on from the existing Agreement — which will expire on 1 May, 2009. The Vietnamese Authorities have responded positively to Ireland's request. Ireland offered to provide the Vietnamese Authorities with the text of a Draft Agreement as a basis for negotiations. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that a Draft Bilateral Agreement for Inter-country Adoption was delivered on 6 March, 2009, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, to the Vietnamese Authorities for their consideration.

I would like to again reiterate my personal commitment, and the commitment of the Government, to conclude an agreement with Vietnam and, in this regard, a letter accompanying the Draft Agreement advised the Vietnamese Government of our willingness to travel to discuss the draft at the earliest opportunity. As the Deputy will be aware, it is important to recognise that Ireland has a long and positive relationship with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and, also, to emphasise the need to respect the authority of that jurisdiction, having regard to the sensitive nature of discussions regarding inter-country adoption.

The work to prepare for and advise the Government on this issue, and the implementation of the Government's decisions, is being given the highest priority. These are complex matters that require careful consideration. At all times, the Minister and the Government, and officials advising them, are guided by the need to respect and protect the best interests and rights of the child.

Departmental Reports.

Phil Hogan

Question:

73 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the review of adult critical care services completed in January 2008, that identifies the need for 100 additional intensive care beds, has not been published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13153/09]

The report referred to by the Deputy has only been completed recently, and not in January 2008. The HSE is currently examining the report and its implications in the context of many competing and challenging priorities.

Medical Laboratory Services.

Enda Kenny

Question:

74 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of laboratories that will be cut and the staff reduction from same under recently announced plans to rationalise medical laboratory services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13156/09]

The implementation of the recently published review of Laboratory Medicine Services will bring about a significant restructuring of existing laboratory services. Large cold laboratories will be established to provide quality cost efficient laboratory services to primary and community care and some non-urgent testing from acute hospitals. All hospitals with Emergency Services, Critical Care Services or Maternity Services will continue to have on-site laboratories.

A Laboratory Services Steering Group, chaired by the National Director of Commercial and Support Services of the Health Service Executive, is currently being established to implement the plan. Engagement with the relevant stakeholders has commenced. The number of laboratories required, and associated staff, will be determined by the work of this group and therefore it would be premature to make any estimates at this time regarding the envisaged number of staff and laboratories required.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Joe Carey

Question:

75 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the development of the new national children’s hospital, that is estimated to cost in the region of €1 billion, in view of the state of the public finances; the reason the completion date for the new hospital has been delayed until 2014; if this development as currently proposed is still a priority for Government; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13115/09]

The Government is committed to proceeding with the development of the new national paediatric hospital as a priority project. The new hospital will be located beside the adult hospital on the Mater campus. The development will also include an associated Ambulatory and Urgent Care Centre at Tallaght which is to open in advance of the main hospital. The project is being overseen by the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board which was established in May, 2007. The HSE is working closely with the Board in progressing the project. The development of the hospital involves a number of phases. The planning, design and construction phases are scheduled for completion in 2013. The equipping and commissioning phases, which will allow the hospital to become operational, are scheduled for completion in 2014.

A detailed design brief for the new hospital is currently being prepared. This will be converted into an exemplar design, outlining the exact dimensions, standards and specifications for the new hospital, to allow the project proceed to tender for construction. A more comprehensive estimate of all costs will be available at that stage. However, current indications are that the project cost will be substantially less than the original estimate.

Medical Consent.

Alan Shatter

Question:

76 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has sanctioned the Health Service Executive advising HSE and medical nursing personnel that legally consent is only needed from one parent with parental responsibility for a medical examination or treatment to be provided to a child; her views on whether there is a difficulty in this area in the context of parents being joint guardians of their children; and if it is intended to enact more specific and detailed legislation to remove all ambiguity and difficulties that can arise. [13010/09]

The issue of medical consent required for the treatment of children is not governed by any specific piece of legislation. What is required in a given situation falls to be determined on the basis of the facts of an individual case. In medical emergencies, for example, urgent treatment may be provided to a child in the absence of express consents where it is necessary to save the life of the child. The age of the child is also relevant with this issue being provided for in the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 for children over 16 years.

I have contacted the Health Service Executive in this regard and I understand that the Executive has developed guidelines entitled "Procedure for obtaining consent for non emergency treatment/services from parents of children and young people under the age of 18 years". These guidelines give the necessary clarity in relation to this matter. I understand from the HSE that these guidelines will be available on the HSE website in the near future. If the Deputy is aware of any particular case where the issue of medical consent needs to be clarified then the individual concerned should contact his/her Local Health Office in this regard. The legal framework for guardianship is set out in the Guardianship of Infants Act, 1964. Any proposed amendment to this Act is the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

77 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will direct the Health Service Executive to measure accident and emergency waiting time from the time of arrival, rather than the time a decision has been made to admit a patient; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13169/09]

In its National Service Plan 2009, the HSE has set a lower waiting time target of 6 hours for all patients attending Emergency Departments. The aim is that all patients, irrespective of whether they are admitted or not, will be assessed, treated and discharged or admitted within 6 hours of arrival at an ED. Up to now, the focus has been on waiting times for those awaiting admission. The new target will apply to all ED patients, and will be measured from the time they register at the ED.

The HSE is developing a measurement system to collect this information. A Project Group has been established by the HSE to determine the necessary clinical dataset definitions, to establish the technical requirements to enable the collection of the data, and to implement the collection of the data across the acute hospital system. The project is scheduled for completion by the end of the second quarter of 2009. In the interim, a sampling system of waiting times at selected time periods each day will be used in Emergency Departments until all hospitals can report using the new system.

Question No. 78 answered with Question No. 50.
Question No. 79 answered with Question No. 63.

National Drugs Strategy.

Joe Costello

Question:

80 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the dependence on methadone treatment to address problems of drug addiction; if policy changes are planned in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13066/09]

While the treatment of opiate dependence is complex, methadone maintenance is recognised as an appropriate treatment in the context of an integrated response to this condition. Methadone treatment is currently available and no changes are anticipated in regard to its continued provision.

Infectious Diseases.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

81 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress being made in designating and implementing modern hygiene practices in hospitals in order to reduce and eradicate MRSA; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13082/09]

Achieving and maintaining the highest possible standards of hygiene in our hospitals and healthcare 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 Health Care Associated Infections (HCAIs), including MRSA. In March 2007, the HSE launched a National Infection Control Action Plan. An Infection Control Steering Group is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the plan. Over the period of the Plan the HSE aims to reduce HCAIs by 20%, MRSA infection by 30% and antibiotic consumption by 20%. The Steering Group is supported by eight Local Implementation Teams which will ensure that all local facilities are focused on achieving the national targets.

HIQA, since its establishment in 2007, has also taken significant steps in this area. A core function of the Authority is to set standards on safety and quality of health services and to monitor enforcement of those standards in an open and transparent way. In 2007, HIQA developed National Hygiene Standards and commenced a programme of audit against these Standards. The Authority undertook a comprehensive inspection and review of hygiene in our acute public hospitals in 2007 and again in 2008. The reports represent a thorough assessment of how hygiene services are provided and managed in HSE-funded acute care hospitals. HIQA noted that the standard on front line services which was already very high in 2007 had been maintained in 2008 and that corporate governance was significantly improved.

In 2008 HIQA developed National Standards for the Prevention and Control of Healthcare Associated Infections to provide an overall framework for health and social care providers to prevent or minimise the occurrence of health care associated infections in order to maximise the safety and quality of care delivered to all service users in Ireland. These Standards go far beyond hygiene and include all the key areas of importance in the control of HCAIs namely governance, hygiene, microbiological services, antimicrobial resistance and surveillance systems. The Standards are currently being examined in my Department and I expect them to be submitted to me for formal approval in the near future. When approved the HSE will produce a timetabled Action Plan for their implementation.

There has already been a significant decrease in MRSA cases in 2007 over 2006 from 589 (2006) to 533 (2007) and a further decrease in the first nine months of 2008 to 342 as compared to 432 for the same period in 2007. Data for the last quarter of 2008 will be published this week. Initial indications show that the reduction in MRSA rates has been sustained. In an extrapolation of data on public acute hospitals only it was found for the 12 month period from October 2007 to September 2008 when compared to the calendar 12 months of 2006, for the same hospitals, that there has been a 25% reduction in the rate of cases of MRSA (from 575 cases to 430 cases). I am satisfied that significant steps have been and continue to be taken to reduce the rates of HCAIs generally and to treat them promptly when they occur.

Health Services.

Joe Costello

Question:

82 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children the waiting periods and number of children seeking speech therapy in each Health Service Executive region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13065/09]

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

General Practitioner Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

83 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the action she will take to address the general practitioner manpower crisis to ensure that primary care can continue to deliver a same day service into the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13175/09]

The determinants of the demand for GPs are diverse and include matters such as population growth, aging and health status of the population, the development of new technologies, the geographic distribution of doctors, the overall status of the economy, fees, policy initiatives, etc. There are twelve GP Specialist Training Programmes (GPTPs) currently in operation in the State which are all of four years duration — two years spent in hospital posts (SHO), under supervision of hospital consultants, and two years in an approved general practice at registrar level, under the supervision of a general practice trainer. The Health Service Executive (HSE) has agreed to fund 120 GP training places in 2009.

The HSE is working closely with the Irish Medical Organisation on GP Workforce Planning and a joint working group to examine this area has been established in this regard. In addition, an extensive mapping exercise has been undertaken by the HSE and a number of measures in relation to maintaining and increasing GP numbers have been identified and are currently being progressed. These include the following:

On-going engagement with the Irish College of General Practitioners and the Medical Council in relation to increasing the number of GP training places within available resources and exploring alternative models of GP training.

Active management in each Local Health Office to encourage GP assistantship and partnership in relation to upcoming retirements where such doctors could potentially take over from the retiring GPs.

Recruitment drives in the UK and EU countries to attract qualified GPs to apply for available posts in Ireland, particularly regions experiencing difficulties attracting GPs.

Issuing of new GMS numbers in regions urgently requiring additional GPs. This is being undertaken in accordance with the established consultation process with the Irish Medical Organisation.

Continued expansion of Primary Care Teams and Primary Care Centres so that GPs applying for posts are attracted to high quality, well supported posts in suitable premises. To date, 107 teams have been established with an additional 103 teams planned for development by year end. In relation to the securing of accommodation for teams, the HSE Board has approved 90 locations to date as part of a new initiative to provide 200 primary care centres. This involves the HSE entering into fixed term leases with private providers. The programme aims to have all sites identified by the middle of this year, with a target of 80 to open by the end of 2010 and the full complement to open by 2011.

In addition to the above, research has been undertaken by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs on behalf of the Joint Department of Health and Children / HSE Working Group on Workforce Planning. This research, conducted by FÁS on behalf of the Expert Group, analysed the labour market for 12 healthcare occupations, including GPs. The research, which is expected to be finalised in a few months, will help determine future GP workforce planning and training needs.

Question No. 84 answered with Question No. 57.

Health Insurance.

Simon Coveney

Question:

85 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has received a decision from the European Commission with regard to the new health insurance levy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13122/09]

The levy and additional age related tax relief scheme was notified to the Commission in November as a potential State aid. These measures are set out in the Health Insurance (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 2008 published last December. I expect the Commission to give its decision in April. Assuming a positive response from the Commission I hope to introduce the Second Stage immediately after the Easter recess.

Care of the Elderly.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

86 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether the new charge levied against nursing home beds for inspection far exceeds the cost of conducting inspections and that this levy is instead a stealth tax aimed at gathering revenue for the deteriorating Exchequer finances; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13129/09]

It is important to have effective mechanisms to maintain and enhance public confidence in the delivery of quality residential care. Residents, their families and the public need to be reassured that HIQA (an independent inspectorate) will be monitoring the care people receive. It is important therefore to have an effective, robust, independent and properly resourced inspection regime for residential services for older people.

Under the 2007 Act statutory responsibility is given to the Chief Inspector of Social Services for inspecting and registering residential services for children, older people and people with disabilities. Following analysis of the types of centres, numbers of places, etc. it was a decided to set a registration fee of €500, payable every 3 years by each nursing home together with an annual fee of €190 per place in each registered centre. It is estimated that this will generate a minimum income of about €4.5 million which would cover the minimum annual additional funding required without putting an excessive burden on smaller residential units. The fees as calculated covers staff costs only; non-pay costs such as accommodation and equipment, are coming from the overall HIQA budget. It is further estimated that the fee will represent an average weekly cost of €3.73 per registered place.

Question No. 87 answered with Question No. 39.

Health Service Staff.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

88 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of chiropodists employed by the Health Service Executive per county; the waiting times for elderly people wishing to avail of this service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13074/09]

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

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Health Services.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

89 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Health and Children if the funding provided for the expansion of the home birth service in the Dublin area will be protected in 2009; the plans to provide such a service in other parts of the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13069/09]

Home birth services for women classified medically as being "low risk" are provided as an outreach from hospital service or through self employed community midwives on the basis of a Memorandum of Understanding agreed with the Health Service Executive. This national framework facilitates the provision of home birth services for low risk women in areas where an appropriate clinical governance framework can be established to enable a Memorandum of Understanding to be signed. Where this is possible, self employed community midwives are paid for the service by the Health Service Executive. It is open to any suitably qualified self employed community midwife to apply to the Health Service Executive for a Memorandum of Understanding. The provision of this service is limited by the number of midwives willing to practice as self employed midwives and who are in a position to sign a Memorandum of Understanding. The ability of hospital based services to provide for outreach services on a 24 hour basis also has a bearing on the operation of such services.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

90 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of funding spent on nursing home subvention per county; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13062/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply. I have asked the HSE to respond directly to the Deputy as a matter of urgency.

Health Services.

Joan Burton

Question:

91 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children the waiting times for orthodontic treatment for children under 16 years of age in each Health Service Executive region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13063/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

National Drugs Strategy.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

92 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children the juvenile residential facilities for substance abuse available here; her plans to improve these services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7684/09]

As the Deputy's question relates to a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Question No. 93 answered with Question No. 66.

Hospital Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

94 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps taken to ensure that all hospitals, including practices and procedures therein, are brought up to the standard of excellence in accordance with best international practice; the degree to which it is intended to take steps to bring same about in the short to medium term; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13098/09]

The achievement of the highest standards of patient care is at the heart of Government policy on the delivery of public hospital services. Patient safety has become both a national and international imperative in recent years, with increasing emphasis across the world on patient safety in policy reform, legislative changes and development of standards of care driven by quality improvement initiatives. The Government places great importance on the policies and practical reforms we are implementing to ensure patient safety and quality-assured health services. In the hospital system this objective is being addressed in a number of ways.

Work is underway in a number of regions to reconfigure hospital services. This process involves concentrating the more complex cases in a smaller number of more specialised hospitals. Importantly, it also involves developing smaller hospitals to provide a much greater proportion of less complex care, especially in day surgery, medicine and diagnostics. The HSE is currently progressing the appointment of Clinical Directors, whose principal roles will be to deploy and manage consultants and other resources, plan how services are delivered, contribute to the process of strategic planning and influence and respond to organisational priorities.

The HSE's 2009 National Service Plan includes a significantly enhanced suite of performance measures which include a number of targets, for example to increase the proportion of a given group of surgical procedures performed on a day basis, developed and agreed with reference to international best practice. These performance measures will be further developed for 2010 and subsequent years. The HSE has also recently published for the first time comprehensive information from its HealthStat system showing how 29 teaching, regional and general hospitals are performing against national and international targets. This information is designed to support continuous improvement and also allows for greater openness and transparency in relation to health services.

In 2007, I established the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) as part of the Health Reform Programme. A core function of HIQA is to set standards on safety and quality of health services and to monitor enforcement of those standards in an open and transparent way. HIQA has already developed National Quality Standards in areas such as Symptomatic Breast Disease Standards, National Hygiene Standards and National Standards for Infection Prevention and Control. Work has also commenced on the development of National Quality Standards for acute hospitals in the public acute hospital sector. These Standards conform to best international practice and compliance will be monitored by the Authority. HIQA also has power to conduct investigations into specific matters where there is cause for concern and three such investigations have been conducted to date. Recommendations for improvements in service standards and systems contained in the reports of these investigations are implemented by the HSE.

I also established the Commission on Patient Safety and Quality Assurance in January 2007 and it reported to me in July 2008. The Government recently accepted the Commission's report and approved the commencement of work on the drawing up of legislation to give effect to its central recommendation on the licensing of both public and private healthcare providers. The Government also supported the immediate establishment of a Steering Group, chaired by the Chief Medical Officer in my Department, to drive implementation of the report's recommendations. I expect to be in a position to announce the composition of that Group shortly. Work has already commenced in my Department on devising a plan for the implementation of the 134 recommendations in the Patient Safety Commission Report over the next two to three years.

There has also been considerable progress made in recent years in reforming the regulation of health professionals in Ireland. Legislation providing for the establishment of the Health and Social Care Professionals Council was enacted in 2005. The Pharmacy Act 2007 and the Medical Practitioners Act 2007 provided for new, modern systems of regulation for Pharmacists and Medical Practitioners. New legislation is in preparation for the reform of the regulation of Nurses and Midwives, while the regulation of Dentists will also be reviewed.

Part 11 of the Medical Practitioners Act 2007, once commenced, will place duties and responsibilities on individual medical practitioners, their employers and the Medical Council regarding the maintenance of professional competence of medical practitioners. Preparations are ongoing for the implementation of these provisions, which will be commenced in due course. I believe that all of these measures are contributing to an improvement in the standard of health services being delivered by our hospitals.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

95 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress being made to reduce the waiting lists for patients waiting to access dermatology services; the number currently waiting; the time period involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13090/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Mary Upton

Question:

96 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people treated under the National Treatment Purchase Fund; the amount to date spent on administering this fund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13078/09]

The allocations to the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) in each year since 2002 are as follows:- 2002: €5m; 2003: €30m.; 2004: €44m.; 2005: €64m.; 2006: €78m.; 2007: €91.75m.; 2008: €104.64m.; 2009: €100.350m. In each year to date, 95% to 96% of NTPF funding has been spent on direct patient care. The balance relates to the administration of the scheme with 2% to 2.5% of this relating to expenditure on wages and salaries.

At the end of February 2009, over 140,000 public patients had been facilitated by the NTPF with either in-patient procedures or out-patient appointments. A significant reduction in the number of people waiting for surgical procedures has been achieved over the years, from 7.4 per 1,000 population in 2002 to 4.3 per 1,000 in 2008. The NTPF will continue in 2009 to arrange in-patient and out-patient care for persons on hospital waiting lists. At my request, the NTPF, working with the HSE, will maintain a particular focus on the issue of people waiting for more than twelve months for treatment. I am pleased to say that, as a result of co-operation between the two organisations during 2008 on validation of waiting lists, the numbers of persons waiting over 12 months for treatment was reduced by 66%, from 4,637 to 1,576, between December 2007 and December 2008.

Departmental Expenditure.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

97 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has established a mechanism to protect funding for new developments in the areas of mental health, disability, palliative care, Travellers’ health and other specific areas from being used for other proposes in 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13094/09]

As the Deputy is aware, I have included additional funding in the 2009 Estimates for new developments which includes €15m for Cancer Services and €10m for Disabilities. To facilitate a more transparent level of accountability for this funding a new subhead, B 17, has been established in the Estimates for the Health Service Executive.

The Deputy will be aware that proposals regarding the expenditure of development funding must be submitted as part of the National Service Plan, the approval of which I have the statutory responsibility. The implementation of the plan is the subject of ongoing monitoring by my Department throughout the year, including the use of development funding. In addition, the letter of sanction in respect of the Health Service Executive's Vote issued each year by the Minister for Finance contains strict conditions regarding the use of these funds. I am satisfied that these mechanisms are more than adequate to ensure that development funding is used for the purpose for which it has been allocated.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

98 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children the stage the roll-out of the BreastCheck screening programme is at nationally; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13083/09]

The matter raised by the Deputy is the responsibility of the National Cancer Screening Service. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Chief Executive Officer of the Service to respond directly to the Deputy in relation to the matter raised.

Hospital Services.

Willie Penrose

Question:

99 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress being made in developing specific fully staffed cystic fibrosis units in designated hospitals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13081/09]

I have consistently emphasised the need to improve facilities and services for persons with cystic fibrosis. In particular, I have asked the Health Service Executive to focus on developing services at the National Adult Tertiary Referral Centre at St. Vincent's Hospital. Considerable improvements have been made at the hospital. Since 2006, 19 additional staff have been recruited and the physical infrastructure has been enhanced through the refurbishment last year of accommodation to provide eight single en suite rooms for the exclusive use of people with cystic fibrosis. There are currently 63 beds at St. Vincent's Hospital used for respiratory/cystic fibrosis services.

Phase 2 of the development of St Vincent's is being designed to provide a new clinical building which will include 120 replacement beds. The new facility will include appropriate isolation facilities with accommodation for cystic fibrosis patients as required. Design work and preparation of tender documents is continuing in respect of the development.

Beyond St Vincent's Hospital, a number of other significant capital developments are being progressed for patients with cystic fibrosis. For example, the 2008 budget included €2.5m capital funding to enable Beaumont Hospital to provide ambulatory care for people with cystic fibrosis. This project has now gone to tender. Patients with cystic fibrosis will also benefit from additional single rooms in the new Medical Admissions Unit, which is due for completion in the middle of this year.

On the staffing side, some 48 additional staff, including consultant, nursing and allied health professionals, have been appointed across the hospital system in recent years to enhance the level of services provided for persons with cystic fibrosis. I am conscious that further improvements are required, including the need to develop community outreach services and to facilitate the treatment of patients outside of a hospital setting where appropriate. My Department has asked the HSE to reply directly to the Deputy in respect of other individual hospitals.

Food Labelling.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

100 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will report on the proposals for a new food labelling system being finalised by the EU; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12008/09]

At present EU food labelling legislation is harmonised by Council Directive 2000/13/EC, transposed in 2002, with several amendments since. In January 2008, the European Commission presented its proposals on updating and harmonising this legislation. The proposal is still under discussion. This proposal consolidated existing legislation in the area of food labelling and introduced new provisions for Country of Origin Labelling, a mandatory nutrition declaration and allergen labelling, amongst others.

In November 2008, Ireland submitted its position paper on the proposal. This paper was informed by submissions made to the FSAI by many of the key stakeholders. Ireland's position will be further informed by the outcome of an FSAI Consumer Survey. This is expected to end in June 2009. In its position paper, Ireland

supports mandatory Country of Origin Labelling,

shares the concerns of a significant number of other member states with regard to National Schemes,

welcomes the proposal for mandatory allergen labelling and supports the highlighting of allergens on labels,

supports the equal treatment of all alcohol products,

asks that consideration should be given to bringing alcohol products into the scope of the legislation,

supports the retention of the Commission's proposal with regard to the use of "per portion" expression alone in certain cases,

does not support the proposal for a minimum font size of 3mm for display of mandatory particulars and suggests that other aids to legibility, such as contrasting background, be explored,

shares the concerns of some other member states regarding possible flaws in the calculation of Reference Intakes,

feels that a lower "significant amount" should be stipulated for foods and beverages with low contents of dried matter,

supports the inclusion of trans fats, fibre, folic acid, calcium, iron and vitamin D in the mandatory nutrition declaration.

Since January 2008 a number of meetings have taken place at European Union Working Group level, attended by officials from Department of Health and Children and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. The next meeting is due to take place on 27 April 2009. On 16th March 2009, the European Parliament examined the proposal. Parliament has indicated however, that it will not be in a position to conduct the first reading of the document until after the May European Parliament elections. At this stage, it is likely that the proposal will not be finalised until end of 2009 at the earliest.

Question No. 101 answered with Question No. 40.

Hospital Services.

Mary Upton

Question:

102 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the financial state of hospitals nationwide; the number which will over-spend their allocated budgets; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13087/09]

Dan Neville

Question:

222 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the reduction in funding to the Mid-Western Regional Hospital of €1,608,800 for inpatient services and €325,659 in respect of ED/accident and emergency services. [13327/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 102 and 222 together.

In the National Service Plan 2009, the HSE committed to deliver the same level of activity in 2009 as in 2008. In order to deliver this level of services the HSE will be reconfiguring many frontline services. This is in keeping with the overall strategic direction as set out in the HSE Corporate Plan 2008-2011 and includes: conversion of in-patient work to day case work, a focus on reducing patients length of stay in acute hospitals, reduction of in-patient bed numbers and associated costs and the provision of more services in community settings, thus reducing the dependency on in-patient beds. Arising from this strategy hospital budgets have been adjusted accordingly. As the details of each hospital budget and the monitoring and control of their budgets is a matter for the HSE I have asked the Executive to reply directly to the Deputy.

Care of the Elderly.

Michael Creed

Question:

103 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children the difficulties the Nursing Homes Support Scheme Bill poses to farm families; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11962/09]

With regard to the Nursing Homes Support Scheme, Farming Organisations and Deputies have expressed concern in relation to the combined impact of the inclusion of transferred assets in the financial assessment and the absence of a cap on contributions from farms. Their concerns centre most strongly on situations where care is required from an early age and for a prolonged period, and the impact that this could have on the normal family succession of the farm. The IFA met with the Minister and officials from the Department to discuss their concerns with the Bill. The potential impact of the Bill on farming families was also raised at both Second Stage and Committee Stage in the Dáil and my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, has pledged to give the matter careful consideration prior to Report Stage. The Department is, therefore, in the process of reviewing the issue and matters raised at present.

Health Service Staff.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

104 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of new physiotherapy posts expected to be created in 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13071/09]

There has been a growing demand for, and investment in, physiotherapy services over the last number of years. A particular priority for my Department and the Department of Education and Science in recent years has been the expansion of the supply of therapy graduates. The Government has also invested heavily in the education and training of such personnel in order to secure a good supply of graduates to provide for the healthcare needs of the population into the future. In this regard, since 1997, the number of training places for physiotherapists has been increased from 64 to 145 which represents an increase of 127%. The numbers employed in physiotherapy has also grown significantly, with 593 whole time equivalents employed in December 1997 compared to 1,449 whole time equivalents employed in December 2008, which represents an increase of 144%.

The Government is committed to ensuring continued adequate recruitment of professional staff across a range of community settings to ensure the continued development of community services. Additional funding of €20 million has been provided in 2009 for health and education services for children with special educational needs. This funding will provide a total of 125 additional therapy posts in the HSE targeted at children of school-going age. 90 of these will be in the disability services, including speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, and physiotherapists. In addition, it is intended that certain key health and social care professional posts, including physiotherapists, are to be protected by setting employment floors for these grades within the Health Service Executive (HSE) in 2009.

These posts are essential to the development of a number of services areas such as disability, child adolescent mental health services and child protection services. In order to protect these posts, it is envisaged that the HSE will establish minimum employment levels to be maintained within each of these occupations in the health sector in 2009. The recruitment and retention of these key front line professional posts is vital to ensure continued progress in the development of community settings.

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. 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. With regard to the number of new physiotherapy posts expected to be created in 2009, as this is an operational matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Mental Health Services.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

105 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children the most recent figures for children diagnosed with ADHD per county; the cost of administering appropriate medications to those children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13067/09]

As this is a service matter the question has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Health Service Staff.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

106 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of community welfare officers currently employed in each region; if there are plans to make further staff and resources available to the CWOs in view of the increasing demands being placed upon them due to increased unemployment levels; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13085/09]

I wish to advise that the number of community welfare officers employed at 31/12/2008 in each region is as follows:

Number (WTE) of Community Welfare Officers employed in the public health service

Grade

Dublin/Mid-Leinster

Dublin/North-East

National

South

West

Community Welfare Officer

41

327.84

1

163.30

161.30

Community Welfare Officer, Supt.

3

18.60

0

11.80

19.59

Total

44

346.44

1

175.10

180.89

As the further information requested is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Health Services.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

107 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Health and Children the plan and time frame to implement the recommendations of the report on maternity services in the Dublin area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13068/09]

The Review of Maternity & Gynaecology Services in the Greater Dublin Area, which was conducted for the Health Service Executive by KPMG Consultants, sets out recommendations and provides a high level action plan to facilitate the delivery of the best model of care for primary, community and hospital maternity services in the future. The objective is to ensure the provision of safe, sustainable, cost effective and high quality maternity, neonatology and gynaecology care services. The HSE has begun the process of developing an implementation plan to deal with the key recommendations in the report. My Department has asked the HSE to provide a more detailed response directly to the Deputy in relation to the plans and timeframe involved.

Consultancy Contracts.

Joan Burton

Question:

108 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach the number of limited companies with agreements for the provision of the full-time services of a single individual to him, his Department or to a public body under the aegis of his Department, indicating the nature of the services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12833/09]

As stated below, two limited companies have agreements for the provision of full-time services to my Department or to the bodies under its aegis.

One limited company is currently contracted to provide a full-time, on-site technical resource to my Department to assist in the operation and maintenance of my Department's IT and PC Network. The Central Statistics Office (CSO) has an agreement with one limited company for the full-time services of a senior Java IT developer. The contract is due to conclude in May 2009.

National Statistics.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

109 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Taoiseach the number of offences involving the possession of a knife annually for the past five years; the detection rate in respect of each of these crimes; the conviction rate in respect of each of these crimes annually for the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12872/09]

The exact data the deputy requested is not available. The CSO collects statistics on the possession of offensive weapons (excluding firearms) and statistics for the period 2003-2008 are included below. Please note offensive weapons include all non-firearm based weapons and, in addition to knives, may refer to sticks or other melee weapons.

Number of offences under ICCSq 11d Possession of offensive weapons offences leading to proceedings 2003-2008

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

N

N

N

N

N

N

11d Offensive weapons offences (nec)

1,564

1,845

2,107

2,485

2,768

2,691

All

1,564

1,845

2,107

2,485

2,768

2,691

All figures are provisional and may be subject to change as further criminal proceedings may be commenced.

No of offences under ICCSq 11d Possession of offensive weapons offences leading to convictions 2003-2008

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

N

N

N

N

N

N

11d Offensive weapons offences (nec)

603

676

766

964

913

439

All

603

676

766

964

913

439

All figures are provisional and may be subject to change as further criminal proceedings may be commenced.

Official Engagements.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

110 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Taoiseach the oversea visits, excluding attendance at EU Council, he will make before 31 December 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13422/09]

The information sought by the Deputy is set out below.

It is my intention to attend the EU-US Summit which will be held on 5 April in Prague where EU leaders will meet with US President Barack Obama. The summit will address issues of global financial architecture and consequences of the financial crisis, energy and climate change and broader foreign policy topics. I have also received an invitation from Prime Minister Topolanek to travel to Prague on 7 May for a summit to mark the formal launch of the Eastern Partnership initiative on which the European Council adopted a declaration at the Spring European Council. The initiative is designed to promote stability, good governance and economic development in those countries to the East of the Union's borders (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Belarus and Ukraine). I will also travel to Jersey in October to attend the thirteenth British Irish Council Summit.

Export Credit Insurance.

Niall Collins

Question:

111 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding export credit insurance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12980/09]

It is recognised that there has been some withdrawal and reduction of export credit insurance cover for business, by the commercial insurance companies, in recent months. In relation to the possible introduction of a State Export Credit Insurance scheme, as a response to this situation I recently requested that a review of the export credit insurance market be carried out by Forfas and Enterprise Ireland. This report has just been finalised and I will be bringing its findings to Government shortly for discussion.

Having regard to the continued concerns of the business community in relation to the issue of credit generally, an independent study on credit availability has been commissioned by the Department of Finance, as part of the bank recapitalisation programme. I understand that this study, which will also address the issue of credit insurance and trade finance generally, is due to be completed shortly. In light of the findings of the two studies mentioned above, the Government will be considering the facts and possible policy responses to these particular issues within the next few weeks. It should be appreciated that any intervention by the state in the area of trade finance must have regard to its effectiveness and tangible benefits for exporters and businesses generally, in light of potential significant additional costs and financial exposure to the exchequer.

Redundancy Payments.

Mary Upton

Question:

112 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will ensure that the Revenue Commissioners will reimburse employers the 60% rebate of statutory redundancy payments to which they are entitled; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13371/09]

Under the Redundancy Payments Scheme all eligible employees are entitled to a statutory redundancy lump sum payment on being made redundant. It is up to the employer concerned, in the first instance, to determine whether or not there is in fact a redundancy situation and to make the relevant statutory redundancy payment to the employee(s). The Redundancy Payments Section of my Department administers payments from the Social Insurance Fund (SIF) in respect of the Redundancy Payments and Insolvency Payments Schemes on behalf of the Department of Social and Family Affairs. On submission of the appropriately completed application form (RP50) to the Redundancy Payments Section, a rebate in respect of 60% of the amount paid by the employer will be paid from the SIF.

Consultancy Contracts.

Joan Burton

Question:

113 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of limited companies with agreements for the provision of the full-time services of a single individual to her, her Department or to a public body under the aegis of her Department, indicating the nature of the services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12826/09]

My Department has two contracts with limited companies for the provision of the full-time services of a single individual as follows:

Name of Contractor

Purpose of Contract

“Sword” (a software development company)

The provision of an on-site engineer to support the Patents Office administration system In responses to the need to reduce expenditure on the engagement of external service providers notice has been given to Sword of the Department’s intention to terminate this contract from 1st July 2009.

“MaryB.ie” (a recruitment agency)

The provision of a temporary Legal Secretary to legal personnel of the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE). The expertise performed by such temporary personnel is not available to the legal staff of the ODCE from within the cohort of general clerical staff available within the Department.

World Trade Negotiations.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

114 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if there is a process for interdepartmental co-operation on the WTO negotiations between her Department and the Department of Agriculture and Food. [12837/09]

There are a number of formal and informal avenues by which my Department and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food cooperate on Ireland's position in the WTO negotiations. In most cases, the Department of Foreign Affairs is also involved. As the Deputy may know, the EU acts as a single entity within the WTO, and its policy for the trade talks is agreed in the General Affairs Council and the Article 133 Committee. Whenever the WTO talks feature on the Council agenda, briefing is prepared in consultation with all three Departments. The Article 133 Committee has a meeting of its full members once a month, with the Deputy members meeting during each of the other three weeks of month. My Department together with the Departments of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and of Foreign Affairs coordinates the Irish position and briefing for all 133 Committee meetings.

Of course, the Irish position on the WTO talks is set by the Government, and these decisions are on the basis of proposals that I bring to the attention of Government colleagues in conjunction with the Minister for Agriculture, as well as with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, so that we can give a full picture to our government colleagues. Alongside this work at home, officials from all three Departments are posted in Geneva and they work closely together every day monitoring the WTO talks, reporting back to Dublin and representing Ireland's interests at the many meetings that take place there. As well as these formal contacts, all three Departments are in regular informal contact exchanging information and coordinating briefings.

Finally, in advance of the last WTO Ministerial meeting in July 2008, an interdepartmental committee was established for the weeks leading up to the event. As well as representatives from the three Departments already mentioned, the Department of the Taoiseach also attended. Then, as has been traditional for some time now, the Minister for Agriculture joined me in Geneva as an important member of the Irish delegation at the Ministerial. If another Ministerial meeting is convened on the trade talks this year, I anticipate that the same arrangements will be put in place.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

115 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will introduce additional measures to support redundant apprentices; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12931/09]

My Department and FÁS have been monitoring the trends in apprenticeship on an ongoing basis. A number of measures have been initiated or taken to date to assist apprentices who have become redundant to progress their apprenticeship. Over 2,700 places have been provided, are currently being provided or have been put in place for future provision under these measures. These include:

The scheduling rules for off-the-job training have been amended to permit redundant apprentices to progress to their next off-the-job phase, at phase 2, phase 4 and phase 6. This change has permitted 428 apprentices to attend phase 4 and phase 6 off-the-job training in 2008. To date in 2009 398 apprentices have attended phase 4 and phase 6. An estimated 700 redundant apprentices will commence phase 4 and phase 6 training in the Institutes of Technology on the 6th April 2009.

In relation to phase 2,191 redundant apprentices have completed their training to date, and 115 are currently attending phase 2 training. An additional 47 redundant apprentices will be scheduled for phase 2 training in the next number of weeks.

The Employer Based Redundant Apprentice Rotation Scheme became operational in January 2009. It provides up to 500 places this year for redundant apprentices to be placed with employers who have released their employed apprentice for off-the-job training. The number of redundant apprentices who are currently placed with employers is 98 and 7 have completed their training phase to date. FÁS is currently processing 24 applications from employers to participate in the scheme. · FÁS and ESB Networks have agreed the placement on a phased basis of 400 redundant electrical apprentices over the period 2009/10 to allow them to complete their on-the-job training and assessments. The first group of phase 7 apprentices commenced their placement with the ESB on the 23rd March last.

Leargas — the National Agency in Ireland for the management of national and international exchange and cooperation programmes in education, youth and community work, and vocational education and training — has also provided funding towards the cost of placing redundant phase 7 apprentices with employers in Germany. A group of 20 such apprentices are currently there completing their phase 7 training. FÁS has submitted a further proposal to Léargas to accommodate an additional 50 apprentices under this programme.

I will continue to work with all stakeholders in an effort to ensure that redundant apprentices will have opportunities to complete their apprenticeship and gain a craft qualification. In this endeavour I am open to positive suggestions from all quarters.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

116 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the take-up of the new scheme by which employers are paid to take on redundant apprentices; the cost of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12932/09]

The Employer Based Redundant Apprentice Rotation Scheme was launched in December 2008. It supports opportunities for up to 500 redundant apprentices to complete phases 5 and 7 on-the-job training and assessments with eligible employers during 2009. The apprenticeships covered by the scheme are those in the construction trades of bricklaying, carpentry & joinery, electrical, and plastering. There are currently 98 apprentices on the scheme and a further 24 applications are being processed. Seven apprentices have already completed a period of employment under the scheme. Projected costs to date amount to €717,080.

Work Permits.

Martin Ferris

Question:

117 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will make a statement on the application by a person (details supplied). [12943/09]

The Employment Permits Section informs me that it has written to the applicant requesting some additional information in this case. On receipt of that information this application will be considered further.

Community Employment Schemes.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

118 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her views on changing the qualifying conditions to participate in community employment schemes in view of the economic situation and when an organisation (details supplied) in County Offaly found a suitable candidate for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12969/09]

Community Employment (CE) is an active labour market programme designed to provide eligible long term unemployed people and other disadvantaged persons with an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a fixed term basis. CE helps unemployed people to re-enter the active workforce by breaking their experience of unemployment through a return to a work routine and to assist them to enhance/develop both their technical and personal skills. The criteria for participating on the Community Employment programme are based on age and length of time in receipt of various social welfare payments.

The aim of CE still remains as an active labour market programme with the emphasis on progression into employment. The programme is managed within this context, with consideration to the availability of resources and the needs of participants and the community. FÁS makes every effort to ensure that differing levels of demand between neighbouring schemes are equalised. FÁS also operates the programme flexibly as far as possible to ensure the continuation of community projects. I have no plans to change the qualifying conditions for CE; however, I should say that the operation of the Scheme is being kept under constant review in the context of the current difficult unemployment situation.

Employment Statistics.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

119 Deputy Ciarán Cuffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will provide this Deputy with a list of the ten largest employers in the Dáil Éireann constituency of Dún Laoghaire indicating the companies’ name, location and number employed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12971/09]

My Department does not retain a list of employers in the Dáil Éireann constituency of Dún Laoghaire.

Departmental Expenditure.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

120 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the concerns among employers at the diversion of funding for training for persons in employment within Skillnett in favour of those recently unemployed; her views on restoring the Skillnett fund to its original total; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12992/09]

The reply to Questions Nos. 130, 131, 134, 141, 143, 144, 145, 150, 151 and 13 of 24 March 2009 refers. As stated all Department budgetary allocations are currently under review in the context of the forthcoming Budget on 7 April 2009. Any reallocations that result will reflect the funding priorities that have been agreed by the Government.

Departmental Reports.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

121 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the late payment survey has been completed; if so, the findings of the survey; if not, when the survey is expected to be completed and published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13026/09]

My Department has not undertaken a late payments survey as subsequent priority developments in the financial sector and wider economy have broadened the concerns for SMEs in gaining access to working capital. As I have outlined to the House on a number of occasions in recent months, I have had regular contacts with the representative bodies of the SME sector — the Small Firms Association and ISME — in relation to a number of issues impacting on small business access to working capital, including late payments.

The Recapitalisation Scheme for the banks includes a commitment to increase their lending capacity to the SME sector by 10% and has also resulted in the introduction by the Financial Regulator of a Code of Conduct for Business lending to SMEs to facilitate access to credit for sustainable and productive business propositions. To further assist the cash flow of SMEs, the Taoiseach announced on 5 March 2009, that the Government is introducing on an administrative basis, a commitment to reduce the payment period by central Government Departments from 30 to 15 days, and that an assessment will be completed by end-April of the impact of extending this arrangement to the local authority, health and education sectors. My Department is currently working on the specifics of implementing this arrangement and I will be circulating proposals to Government Departments shortly.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

122 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will detail for each individual craft apprenticeship provided by FÁS, the annual and total cost per apprentice of providing the training element of their apprenticeship excluding the cost of an apprentice’s allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13027/09]

The following table shows the average cost per apprentice for the training element of their apprenticeship broken down by trade group. FÁS have supplied information that could be provided in response to the Deputy's question in the time available. FÁS do not apportion staff costs and overheads to the various trades and in addition FÁS do not have information on staff costs and overheads for phases 4 & 6, as these are carried out by the Institutes of Technology. Following a further exercise to apportion these costs across the Apprenticeship programme and then within trade, FÁS will be in a position to provide the information to the Deputy within the next week, with the proviso that costs incurred by the Institutes of Technology would not be included in determining a full cost of the training element.

2008 FÁS Annual Programme cost per apprentice (excluding allowances)

Trade Group

Cost p/apprentice

Construction

1,140

Printing

153

Electrical

1,108

Motor

1,694

Engineering

932

Notes: Programme costs (excluding allowances) include course materials, student service charge; set up costs; technical support etc.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

123 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of apprentices in receipt of apprentice allowance from FÁS with a breakdown of same by craft, and within each craft by phase; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13028/09]

The Standard Based Apprenticeship programme is an alternance training programme consisting of seven phases of which four are on-the-job with the employer and three are off-the-job in FÁS/Institutes of Technology/ Colleges of Further Education. These off-the-job phases total approximately 40 weeks out of 208 weeks of the apprenticeship programme. Apprentices receive a training allowance from FÁS, which is equivalent to industry wage norm, while they are completing the off-the-job training phases of their apprenticeship. These occur at phases 2, 4 and 6. Apprentices completing phases 1,3,5 and 7 of their apprenticeship are paid by their employer. The following table outlines the number of apprentices currently in receipt of an allowance from FÁS by trade and phase.

Current Number of Apprentices in receipt of allowances in FÁS

Trade

Phase 2

Phase 4

Phase 6

Total

Cabinet making

54

54

Print media

28

28

Electronic security systems

13

13

Electrical

507

215

92

814

Instrumentation

9

9

Electrical instrumentation

25

40

23

88

Motor mechanics

147

13

160

Agricultural mechanics

21

8

29

Heavy vehicle mechanics

41

16

15

72

Vehicle body repairs

40

40

M.a.m.f.

71

15

14

100

Aircraft mechanics

24

18

42

Refrigeration

27

27

Sheet metalworking

9

9

Metal fabrication

50

29

17

96

Floor & wall tiling

7

7

Industrial insulation

5

5

Carpentry & joinery

196

1

197

Painting & decorating

29

29

Plumbing

272

129

141

542

Brick & stonelaying

10

24

34

Plastering

26

23

49

Construction plant fitting

23

23

TOTAL

1,613

526

328

2,467

Leo Varadkar

Question:

124 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the organisations other than FÁS which carry out approved apprenticeships; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13029/09]

Only FÁS has a role in approving apprenticeships. All employers must be approved by FÁS in advance of apprentices being recruited and registered with them. This is to ensure that such employers can provide the necessary on-the-job training and progress assessments in a way that meets the particular requirements of the apprenticeship system.

Other organisations do have a role in the provision of parts of the Standards Based Apprenticeship system administered by FÁS. FÁS provides phase 2 training to apprentices and the Institutes of Technology provide phase 4 and 6 training. Phases 1, 3, 5 and 7 are provided on-the-job in conjunction with the individual employers of apprentices. The following organisations provide off-the-job training for the Standard Based Apprenticeship programmes:

Athlone Institutes of Technology

Carlow Institute of Technology

Cork Institute of Technology Dublin Institute of Technology

Department of Defence (Air Corp)

Blancharstown Institute of Technology

Dundalk Institute of Technology

Dun Laoghaire College of Further Education

Galway/Mayo Institute of Technology

Limerick Institute of Technology

Mallow College of Further Education

Sligo Institute of Technology

Tallaght Institute of Technology

Tralee Institute of Technology

Waterford Institute of Technology

South West College Skills Centre on behalf of Sligo Institute of Technology.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

125 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the cost in 2008 and the budgeted amount for 2009 in respect of the apprentice allowance provided by FÁS with a breakdown of same by craft and within each craft by phase; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13030/09]

The following table shows the breakdown of the cost of the allowances for apprentices paid by FÁS in 2008 and estimates of the 2009 allocation.

Annual Allowance costs

2008 Actual

Estimated Budget 2009 *

Trade Group

Phase 2

Phase 4

Phase 6

TOTAL

Phase 2

Phase 4

Phase 6

TOTAL

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

Construction

22.799

17.289

15.720

55.808

13.071

16.384

16.335

45.790

Printing

0.167

0.089

0.256

0.192

0.250

0.442

Electrical

17.261

9.537

10.544

37.342

12.346

9.360

9.984

31.690

Motor

3.349

1.859

2.273

7.481

3.778

1.824

2.570

8.172

Engineering

1.883

1.275

1.539

4.697

2.653

1.746

1.650

6.049

45.459

30.049

30.076

105.584

32.040

29.564

30.539

92.143

*Based on estimated budget for 2009 — budget not yet finalised.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

126 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount spent in 2007 and 2008 on the apprenticeship activities of FÁS with a detailed breakdown of same; the budgeted amount for 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13031/09]

The information sought by the Deputy is as outlined in the tabular statement.

2007

2008

2009

Phase 2

Phase 4

Phase 6

Total

Phase 2

Phase 4

Phase 6

Total

Phase 2

Phase 4

Phase 6

Total

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

Allowances

39.02

25.40

26.88

91.31

38.09

27.22

27.56

92.87

25.91

26.80

28.01

80.72

Trainee T&S

8.17

2.30

2.47

12.94

7.37

2.83

2.51

12.72

6.13

2.76

2.53

11.42

Other Direct Costs*

20.89

2.07

1.83

24.79

17.57

1.99

1.70

21.26

11.81

2.43

2.09

16.33

68.08

29.77

31.18

129.03

63.03

32.04

31.77

126.84

43.85

32.00

32.63

108.48

Based on estimated budget for 2009 — budget not yet finalised.

*Includes course materials, student service charge; set up costs; technical support etc

Leo Varadkar

Question:

127 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount spent in 2008 by FÁS on the FÁS Jobs Ireland project; the amount budgeted for same in 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13032/09]

FÁS Jobs Ireland is an on-line marketplace where Jobseekers and Employers can find information and profiles about prospective jobs and staff in Ireland and across Europe. FÁS Jobs Ireland also provides a database of Training courses to suit all needs. It is an integrated system for:

receiving vacancies from employers and profiles from employees either by phone to a national call centre or inserted on-line;

distributing searchable information on those vacancies to interested job-seekers via the FÁS Website, self-service kiosks and to FÁS field staff through the Client Services System so they can match vacancies against the profiles of registered job-seeker clients.

The cost of running this system in 2008 was approximately €0.8 million, which includes staff costs and overheads. The cost is expected to be somewhat lower in 2009 due to a decrease in the number of vacancy notifications and the consequent redeployment of call centre staff to other front-line offices of the employment service. The exact extent of the savings in this area will not be clear until year-end.

Employment Rights.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

128 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will assist the persons (details supplied) in County Cavan who were unfairly dismissed and won their case at the Employment Appeals Tribunal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13220/09]

I understand that the person to whom the Deputy refers is one of a number of employees who were awarded compensation by the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) in 2006 under the Unfair Dismissals Acts. The Unfair Dismissals (Amendment) Act, 1993 provides that an employee who has not received compensation within six weeks of an EAT determination being communicated to the parties, may apply to the Circuit Court for an order directing the employer to carry out the determination. Such applications may also, if appropriate, and having regard to all the circumstances, be made by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Unfortunately, the advice I have received from the National Employment Rights Authority is that the taking of such proceedings and the enforcement of any Court Order, which might emanate therefrom, would in this case be problematical. I understand that the employer involved no longer resides or has a business in the State. I am also informed that representatives of the employees involved have instituted, or are considering the institution of, legal proceedings against the employer. Having regard to all the circumstances in this case, I regret that the State is not, therefore, in a position at this time to take enforcement proceedings under the Unfair Dismissals (Amendment) Act, 1993.

Redundancy Payments.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

129 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the shortest period and the longest period for companies who have made employees redundant to receive their 60% rebate from her Department currently and in each of the past three years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13318/09]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

130 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason applications for redundancy rebate payments due to employers back to October 2008 are still not paid; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13326/09]

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

The huge increase in the number of Redundancy Payment claims lodged with the Redundancy Payments Section of my Department in the latter part of 2008 and, to date in 2009 is unprecedented and is giving rise to delays in the processing of redundancy payments for individuals and companies within a reasonable timeframe. The scale of the challenge is evident from the statistics which indicate that, at the end of the first quarter of 2009, the number of new claims lodged with my Department was 19,742 which equates to almost 50% of the entire level of applications lodged for the whole of 2008 i.e. 40,607. It is also equivalent to 78% of applications lodged for the whole of 2007. The number of claims received is averaging 1,600 per week. Both the Tánaiste and I are acutely aware of the difficulties which the inability to deliver an acceptable turnaround of redundancy rebate payments is giving rise to for both individual employees and the business community and together, we are taking steps to address the issues.

Up until mid 2008, our customer service targets for processing correctly completed redundancy claims were, in order of priority:

4-6 weeks for statutory redundancy lump sum claims to employees whose employers failed to pay the statutory entitlement;

6 weeks where claims were correctly submitted on-line, hard copy printed down correctly signed and sent in by employer.

10+ weeks for manual claims sent in by employers.

By and large these targets were met. Because of the huge surge in the number of claims received in Redundancy Payments in 2008, customer service targets have slipped as existing staff levels are insufficient to cope with such a massive increase in claim numbers. Actual timeframes being achieved are, in order of priority:

6-8+ weeks for statutory lump sum payments to employees whose employers had failed to pay the statutory entitlement

12+ weeks for correctly submitted on-line claims, hard copy printed down correctly signed and sent in by employer.

16+ weeks for manual claims sent in by employers.

I have re-allocated an additional 9 persons to the Redundancy Payments Section since the start of the year and I have identified an additional 12 persons to be reassigned in the coming days and weeks. However, there is a limit to the amount of people that we can reassign internally because other areas of my Department are equally busy — for example on labour force activation issues and in the employment rights bodies (e.g. Employment Appeals Tribunal). Therefore, I am also in discussions with the Department of Finance to see what scope there is for the assignment of additional staff, possibly from other Departments, as happened in the case of the Department of Social and Family Affairs.

One of the problems is that people — quite rightly — are concerned about their redundancy claims and are telephoning frequently to check on progress. While this is understandable, it is adding to the delays as it means that staff are tied up on phones and not processing the claims. Therefore, we are making arrangements so that the dedicated call centre of the National Employment Rights Authority will be able to give out better and more up-to-date information to callers about the status of their applications. I can assure the Deputies that this matter is under constant review in my Department and that every effort is being made to deal with an increasing backlog in an attempt to ensure that claimants get the best possible service at, what is for them, a very difficult time.

EU Funding.

Niall Collins

Question:

131 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when the State will be making an application to the globalisation fund arising from recent announcements by a company (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13378/09]

Funding is available from the European Globalisation Fund (EGF) for the retraining of workers in EU Member States made redundant as a result of changing global trade patterns. A minimum threshold of at least 1,000 redundancies applies for a given enterprise and its suppliers. This threshold must be reached within a 4 month period. In order for an application for assistance from the EGF to be eligible, formal notification of redundancies must issue to the 1,000 workers affected.

With regard to the 1,900 redundancies recently announced by DELL at its Limerick plant, formal notification of redundancy has only issued in a small number of cases and well below the 1,000 threshold. Accordingly, no application for assistance from the EGF can be advanced at this time in respect of DELL or those that arise as a consequence of the redundancies at the DELL plant. Once redundancy notices have been received by at least 1,000 workers, and other relevant eligibility criteria have been met, a period of ten weeks is available within which an application to the EGF can be made. That application will then be made without any delay.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

132 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if additional FÁS training places will be made available following her decision to cut jobseeker’s benefit from 15 months to 12 months. [9243/09]

Matters relating to the payment of Jobseekers Benefit are the responsibility of the Department of Social and Family Affairs. The Government is determined to do all in its power to tackle the rise in numbers of people finding themselves without work or with reduced working weeks. Our approach in tackling the issue is multi-layered and centres on restoring our public finances, protecting employment across the economy, re-training those without work; and attracting new investment and jobs to our shores.

To assist individuals through the provision of education and training opportunities I recently announced the availability of 51,000 new training places under the FÁS Training Initiatives Strategy. These places are in addition to the 27,000 previously planned for 2009 under the Bridging Foundation Training, Specific Skills Training and Traineeships Programmes. These programmes will provide short training courses for those who are recently unemployed.

The Training Initiative Strategy enhances the traditional mix of course offerings and will be delivered through three core-training initiatives, Short Courses, Night Courses and On-line Courses. The courses are for highly employable persons who wish to add to their existing skills level and improve their prospects of re-entering the labour market. The night courses offer further flexibility and the on-line courses provide an excellent option for those who need a fast flexible intervention and who prefer a self directed e-learning and blended learning environment.

FÁS' Employment Services together with Local Employment Services have also put in place measures designed to provide increased capacity for the rise in referrals from the Department of Social and Family Affairs and the increased number of unemployed seeking job search assistance voluntarily. The implementation of these measures has increased the monthly capacity of job search services from 6,500 to 12,250 persons per month.

My Department, in conjunction with FÁS are working hard to achieve greater capacity within existing resources to meet the on-going challenges in the labour market. We are presently examining a number of ways to make training and education services available to a greater number of unemployed persons. While a significant amount of work has been done in a short space of time, the Government is intent on achieving greater capacity within existing resources. In this context we will bring forward further measures to make training and education services available to a greater number of unemployed persons over the coming weeks and months.

Departmental Expenditure.

Niall Collins

Question:

133 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Finance the cost of holding the recent Lisbon referendum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12981/09]

The total direct cost on the Central Fund for holding the recent Lisbon Referendum was €17.412m. This figure may change slightly as checking of four of the Returning Officers' accounts has still to be finalised.

Banking Sector Regulation.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

134 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the steps being taken to reform the financial regulatory system going forward; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12797/09]

I am bringing proposals before the Government to introduce new structures for regulation of financial services that will provide for the integration of Central Bank responsibilities with regulatory and supervisory functions and a new approach to enhance consumer protection. These changes are designed to restore Ireland's reputation and are consistent with the emerging international agenda for reform in the financial services sector. The structural changes and a substantial increase in regulatory capacity will lead to a more effective and efficient financial services regulatory system which will be aligned to the best international standards.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

135 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the meetings or correspondence he or his officials have had with the chief executives of the six largest retail banks here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12798/09]

I am assuming that the Deputy is referring to the six largest banks which are covered under by the Government's Bank Guarantee Scheme. In my reply to a parliamentary question from the Deputy on 18 February, I advised of the chief executives myself and/or my officials had met and corresponded with since January 2009. In the interim period, my officials and I have either met or corresponded with the chief executives of Bank of Ireland, AIB, EBS and Irish Nationwide Building Society, the executive chairman of Anglo Irish Bank, and the senior executive director of Irish Life and Permanent.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

136 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of the fact that banks (details supplied) are effectively nationalised retail banks operating in financial markets here, his attention has been drawn to the details of the take-over process undertaken by the British Government; his views on such an option for the Irish banks that he proposed recapitalising; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12799/09]

Of the banks the deputy has listed in the UK, only one has been nationalised; the UK Government have taken significant shareholdings in the others. The Irish Government took the decisive step of nationalising Anglo Irish Bank because of concerns about governance issues and the market confidence in Anglo Irish Bank. The Deputy is aware that I announced on 11th February the recapitalisation programme for Allied Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland. Shareholders in Bank of Ireland voted in favour of the recapitalisation proposal last Friday, 27th March, at their Extraordinary General Court. AIB is scheduled to hold its EGM in the near future.

The recapitalised banks have reconfirmed their commitment to an extensive credit package which will help to increase lending capacity to small and medium enterprises by 10% and to provide an additional 30% capacity for lending to first time buyers in 2009. The credit package also provides for a €100m environmental and clean energy innovation fund to be established by each bank. All the steps that I have outlined have been taken by the Government to ensure that the public interest is secured so that the financial system in Ireland meets the everyday financial needs of individuals, businesses and the overall economy.

Tax Code.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

137 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance his views on changes in property taxes here; and the measures which will be taken going forward. [12800/09]

All taxes and potential taxation measures continue to be reviewed on an ongoing basis. However, as the Deputy will be aware, it is not customary for the Minister of Finance to comment on possible tax and expenditure changes in advance of the Budget.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

138 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the most accurate figure for the amount of deposits guaranteed under the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Act 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12801/09]

I assume the Deputy when referring to ‘deposits' means the total covered liabilities guaranteed by the Government. Under the terms of the Scheme covered liabilities include: senior unsecured debt; asset covered securities; dated subordinated debt (Lower Tier 2); along with deposits (retail, corporate, and interbank). The estimated total amount of covered liabilities under the scheme for the final quarter of 2008 (an average of the end-month liabilities for October, November and December) amounts to €376bn. The banks are paying significant fees in respect of the Guarantee of some €450m per annum, based on the first two quarterly payments. For the institutions covered by the Government Guarantee, the deposits that are covered by the separate Deposit Protection Scheme (on deposits up to €100,000) amount to €90bn.

Tax Code.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

139 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance when the Revenue Commissioners report on reforming taxation here is due. [12802/09]

I take it that the Deputy is referring to the work of the Commission on Taxation which was established in 2008 to review the structure, efficiency and appropriateness of the Irish taxation system. The Commission is requested to report on the results of its examination and consideration and to make such recommendations as, and when, it thinks fit to the Minister for Finance but not later than 30 September 2009.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

140 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Finance if, in conjunction with the Department of Social and Family Affairs, he will address the anomaly whereby cohabitation with another person is considered as a means for social welfare purposes, yet it is not considered by his Department for tax credit purposes; if his attention has been drawn to the disadvantage that this puts such families at; if same will be addressed in the forthcoming budget; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12807/09]

Cohabitating couples are expressly recognised for the purpose of social welfare law but are not recognised for the purposes of income tax law. Although this may appear contradictory, the main aim of both the welfare code and the tax code is to uphold the constitutional right of married couples not to be treated less favourably than unmarried couples. The basis for the current tax treatment of married couples derives from the Supreme Court decision in Murphy vs the Attorney General (1980) which held that it was contrary to the Constitution for a married couple to pay more tax than two single people living together and having the same income.

The treatment of cohabiting couples for the purposes of social welfare is primarily a matter for the Minister for Social Community and Family Affairs. However, my understanding is that it is also based on the principle that married couples should not be treated less favourably than cohabiting couples. This was given a constitutional underpinning following the Supreme Court decision in Hyland v Minister for Social Welfare (1989) which ruled that it was unconstitutional for the total income a married couple received in social welfare benefits to be less than the couple would have received if they were unmarried and cohabiting.

Consultancy Contracts.

Joan Burton

Question:

141 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the number of limited companies with agreements for the provision of the full-time services of a single individual to him, his Department or to a public body under the aegis of his Department, indicating the nature of the services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12828/09]

There are 2 limited companies with agreements for the provision of the dedicated full time services of a single individual to my Department. The services of (i) an Analyst Programmer Contractor, and (ii) a Senior Technical Service Administrator Contractor are provided under these agreements. With regard to Offices under the aegis of my Department, I have been advised that the Valuation Office uses the services of a company for the provision of a Software Programmer in the development of an IT system, and PAS currently have an agreement with a company for the supply of an individual to provide Information Technology HelpDesk Services.

Five Limited Companies currently provide the Office of Public Works with the services of nine individuals. The services are 2 for Civil Engineering Services, 2 for CAD operations, 1 for architectural services, 1 for Clerk of Works services, 1 for Draughtsperson services, 1 for IT support services, and 1 for Geographic Information services. In relation to other Offices under the aegis of my Department, I am advised that no such agreements are in place.

Banking Sector Regulation.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

142 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Finance the reason he chose to announce new financial regulatory measures to a newspaper (details suppled) in March 2009 before presenting them to Cabinet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12838/09]

The Government have been very concerned that an unfavourable image of Ireland was being created abroad by media coverage. I was given an opportunity to speak to the newspaper the Deputy refers to on St. Patrick's Day which I took to put across a more balanced message. This appeared to me to be appropriate in the circumstances.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Question:

143 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the facilities and properties constituting a community hall under the Valuation Act 2001; if this covers GAA and other sports clubs and their playing areas; if these do not come under the Act, if he proposes to amend them to that effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12842/09]

The Valuation Act, 2001 defines a "community hall" as a hall or a similar building, which is used exclusively as a community hall and which—

(a) is not used primarily for profit or gain, and

(b) is occupied by a person who ordinarily uses it or permits it to be used, for purposes which involve the participation by inhabitants of the locality generally, and are recreational or otherwise of a social nature.

The exception is the premises of a club registered under the Registration of Clubs (Ireland) Act, 1904 which is a premises with a club licence to sell alcohol. In practical terms, this means that GAA and other sports clubs that are not licensed to sell alcohol are regarded as community halls and are therefore exempt from rates. The Act also provides for the exemption from rates of the land of sports clubs that is developed for sport such as playing pitches, land on golf courses, tennis courts, etc.

On the other hand, all sports clubs that are registered under the Registration of Clubs Act, 1904 and licensed to sell alcohol are not community halls and the premises occupied by such clubs are therefore liable for rates. I have no plans to provide for exemption from rates of such licensed clubs as the sale of alcohol is a commercial activity and these premises are competing with other commercial premises. The effect of removing any category of rateable property from the valuation base would be to reduce local authority revenues and could also increase the rates burden on other taxpayers.

Banking Sector Regulation.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

144 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Finance the way he will formulate strategic objectives for the Anglo Irish Bank board in view of the fact that he is the only shareholder. [12847/09]

Anglo Irish Bank is being run on arms length commercial basis. The Board of Anglo is currently preparing a comprehensive business plan which will be required to demonstrate how the Board will oversee the continued commercial operation of the bank in the best interests of the bank and the Exchequer as shareholders. The Board will formulate the strategic objectives of the bank, in the context of the bank's changed ownership structure and the more challenging operating environment in the coming years. My Department has been consulted as part of that process. The business plan will be submitted to me in the near future.

Fiscal Policy.

Joe Carey

Question:

145 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Finance his views on the introduction of a €30 note; if he will make a case to the European Central Bank for the creation of a new €30 note; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12868/09]

The denomination sequence of the euro currency was proposed by an EU Working Group as part of the preparations for the introduction of the new currency. The agreed sequence is 1:2:5 and this corresponds to the sequence we used in the Irish Pound currency. There are no plans to introduce a €30 bank note and it is not my intention to make a case to the ECB calling for the introduction of such a denomination.

Tax Collection.

Tom Hayes

Question:

146 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Finance when payment of rebate of stamp duty will issue in respect of a person (details suppled) in County Tipperary. [12874/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the solicitor acting on behalf of the person has replied to the queries raised relating to the application for the refund of stamp duty. The solicitor has been informed that the refund has now been approved and will issue shortly.

Flood Relief.

Phil Hogan

Question:

147 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Finance when flood relief work will be carried out to the River Pill, Piltown, County Kilkenny as promised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12914/09]

The Office of Public Works has agreed to a request from Kilkenny County Council to examine flood alleviation at a number of locations, including Piltown, in the County. A Steering Group has been established to progress the matter. A Consultant has been appointed to prepare a pre-feasibility report on problems in Thomastown, Callan and Graiguenamanagh and their report is expected shortly. OPW has already completed a pre-feasibility study of the flooding in Piltown. All of the reports will be considered by the Steering Committee and, subject to the identification of solutions, which are likely to be economically and socially viable and environmentally sustainable, decisions will be made on the development and prioritisation of flood alleviation measures.

Tax Code.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

148 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance his views on the introduction of a scrappage scheme for motor vehicles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12933/09]

I am conscious of the decline in new car sales in Ireland and internationally due to the contraction in economic activity. I and officials in my Department have met with representatives of the motor industry, where they have put forward various proposals, including the introduction of a car scrappage scheme. Any such proposal will be considered in the context of the forthcoming Supplementary Budget.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

149 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance if he will make amendments to the VAT system to ensure that VAT is paid by car dealers on the amount for which a used car is sold not purchased by the dealer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12934/09]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

150 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance if he will introduce a margin system in respect of VAT for used car dealerships similar to that in the United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12935/09]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 149 and 150 together.

I am conscious of the decline in the motor industry in Ireland and internationally due to the contraction in economic activity. I and my officials have had meetings with representatives of the motor industry on the matter. In the case of second-hand cars a special VAT scheme is in place in Ireland. This special scheme was introduced in 1994, following strong representations from the motor industry, as a derogation under the VAT Directive. The scheme contrasts with the Margin Scheme, which operates in most other Member States.

The special scheme allows motor dealers, at the time of purchase, to claim credit for residual input VAT which is considered to be included in the cost of acquiring a second-hand car from a customer. When the car is subsequently resold, the VAT is chargeable on the full sale price of the car or on the original purchase price paid by the dealer, whichever is the higher. This is necessary because the dealer has already been granted a credit in relation to the residual input VAT incurred. The special scheme allows dealers the maximum benefit by allowing an immediate deduction of residual VAT at the point of purchase. The VAT credit already allowed on second-hand cars must, despite the industry's view, be seen for what it is, i.e. money advanced to dealers by the Exchequer which they are only repaying when they resell the second-hand cars.

Under the Margin Scheme, garages and dealers would account for VAT on their profit margin only, i.e. on the difference between the cost of acquiring and selling the second-hand cars involved. There would also be no entitlement to a deduction on the acquisition of the car and consequently the question of a VAT clawback would not arise. Although with the changing economic circumstances dealers have found themselves selling traded-in second-hand cars at a loss, which is increasingly giving rise to clawbacks of VAT situations for dealers, it is not possible to write-off the VAT credit already allowed to the dealers on second-hand cars. In this context the Revenue Commissioners have however granted concessionary treatment which allows dealers to postpone payment in respect of the clawbacks over the past number of months until 19 May 2009.

The motor industry has made calls for the introduction of a Margin Scheme for second-hand cars in conjunction with the writing-off of the outstanding VAT credits already provided to dealers in respect of second-hand cars. I am not opposed to the introduction of such a Margin Scheme, but not on the basis that the outstanding VAT credit already provided to dealers in relation to their existing stock of second-hand cars would be written-off in full.

Pension Levy.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

151 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Finance if contract research staff in universities are eligible for exemption from the pension levy in view of the temporary nature of their employment and the lack of benefits, incremental pay scale or pension options for these positions. [12955/09]

Finian McGrath

Question:

153 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will advise on a matter (details supplied). [12982/09]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

154 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Finance if he will exercise his powers under section 8 of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009, to exempt research staff at third level institutions from deductions under section 2 of that Act, having regard to the particular aspects and conditions of their employment that materially distinguish them from other employees in the public sector (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13008/09]

Richard Bruton

Question:

170 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance his views on exempting university research staff who are on fixed term contracts from the pension levy, under section 8 of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009, as they would be unlikely to accumulate the years of service needed to receive a meaningful benefit from a public service pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13367/09]

I propose to take Questions 151, 153, 154 and 170 together.

Public servants who are members of public service pension schemes are liable to pay the pension-related deduction legislated for in the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009. On this basis, third-level researchers on fixed-term and temporary contracts must pay the deduction, since they are members of the relevant occupational pension schemes. They are just one of many groups of non-permanent public servants paying the deduction. Distinctions between public servants on the basis of whether they are permanent or temporary, and if temporary what contract duration applies, are irrelevant insofar as liability to pay the deduction is concerned. The pay of the post, in terms of whether it features incremental progression, is likewise irrelevant.

In recent years fixed-term researchers in third-level institutions have been made pensionable, and this has significantly improved the attractiveness of a research career. These researchers accrue pensionable service even for short-duration appointments and that service can be aggregated with past and future service in other pensionable public service employment.

Section 6 of the Act provides for a refund of the deduction in certain circumstances, and should reassure third-level researchers on short-term non-renewable contracts who have no prior public service employment history and who may be concerned about accruing no pension benefit at the expiry of their contract due to insufficient service. A deduction refund may be payable provided that the departing employee has accrued no benefits under any public service pension scheme, has not received a payment in lieu of scheme membership and has not transferred the service to another public service pension scheme.

Section 8 of the Act grants the Minister for Finance a limited special discretion to exempt groups of public servants from payment of the deduction. Specifically, where he is satisfied that due to exceptional circumstances, a particular class or group of public servants are materially distinguished from other classes or groups who are subject to the deduction, then the Minister may fully or partly exempt this group from paying some or all of the deduction, if he believes it would be fair and equitable to do so. The deduction is required at a time of great pressure on the public finances and takes account of the valuable pension benefits available to public servants.

In light of all the above factors, I am satisfied that it is fair and appropriate that public servants on fixed-term and temporary contracts, including third-level researchers, are subject to the pension-related deduction. In the event that any class or group of public servants makes an appeal for exemption from the deduction under section 8 of the Act then such an appeal will be considered.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

152 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance the number of times he and the banks met in order to negotiate the bank guarantee; the persons who attended these meetings and in what capacity; the legal advisers who attended the meetings on the banks’ behalf; the legal advisers who attended the meetings on the Government’s behalf; if the Government engaged external specialist financial or legal advice; if so, if such persons attended the meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12963/09]

The terms of the guarantee provided to covered institutions are set out in the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme 2008, approved by the European Commission on 13 October, 2008, enacted by the Oireachtas on 17 October, 2008 under Section 6 of the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Act 2008. Individual credit institutions became members of the scheme by executing a Guarantee Acceptance Deed in a form specified by me as provided for at paragraph five of the scheme.

The decision to introduce the Guarantee was taken after a prolonged and unfolding period of turmoil in financial markets characterised by deteriorating availability and cost of liquidity, which accelerated rapidly in the late summer and early autumn 2008. Throughout this period, and particularly in the weeks and months preceding the decision to introduce the Guarantee, the Financial Regulator had engaged in intensive liaison and monitoring with Irish credit institutions. I consulted throughout this period with the Financial Regulator and the Governor of the Central Bank and had available to me the advice of my officials, the National Treasury Management Agency and independent legal and financial expertise. These discussions and consultations were ongoing and intensified in the period following the virtual freezing of credit markets in September.

As the Deputy would expect during a period of difficult conditions I and my officials engaged in discussions with a wide range of institutions in the period before and after the Guarantee was introduced. In relation to meetings and those in attendance, I have previously dealt with this matter on a number of occasions in my replies to Parliamentary Questions Numbers 158, 159 and 160 of 28 January, 2009, Question Number 255 of 27 January, 2009, Question Number 170 of 9 December, 2008, and 67 of 6 November, 2008, and in my Second Stage speech to the Dáil on the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Bill.

Questions Nos. 153 and 154 answered with Question No. 151.

Tax Code.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

155 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the State of the tax reliefs available in respect of tuition fees in 2008; the amount claimed by individuals in respect of courses they undertook themselves as against their children, other dependants and so on; the amount claimed in respect of full-time undergraduate courses, part-time undergraduate courses, full-time postgraduate courses, part-time postgraduate courses, information technology training courses and language training courses. [13034/09]

The most recent year for which the necessary detailed information is available on the cost of tax relief for tuition fees is the income tax year 2005. The cost to the Exchequer is estimated at approximately €14.3 million and the number who availed of it was 29,900. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the other information sought by the Deputy is not available. A married couple who has elected or has been deemed to have elected for joint assessment is counted as one tax unit.

Financial Services Regulation.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

156 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance if he has received correspondence or a report from the Financial Regulator or Central Bank in relation to any matter since 2000 to date in 2009; if such correspondence related to overcharging at any bank; if they received correspondence or a report regarding overcharging customers at a bank (details supplied); if they received correspondence or a report into trading in that bank’s shares or any other shares; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13046/09]

Both the Minister for Finance and the Department of Finance have received a wide range of correspondence and reports from the Central Bank over the past nine years. The same applies to the Financial Regulator since it was established in May 2003. Allegations of overcharging have been made against various financial institutions over that period and were investigated by the Central Bank or Financial Regulator, as appropriate, and I have received reports on some of these investigations, some of which, specifically in relation to AIB, were published by the Financial Regulator in July and December 2004 and were the subject of an enquiry by an Oireachtas Committee at that time.

I have been informed that the Financial Regulator wrote last week to the Chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Economic and Regulatory Affairs — of which the Deputy is a member — in response to issues raised at discussions with the Committee on 24 March last by a former bank official. The Financial Regulator also issued an extensive public statement addressing those issues and I believe that officials from the Financial Regulator will appear before the Joint Committee on 8 April to discuss the issues raised. I understand that a report on irregular dealings in AIB shares up to 2001 was investigated by the Central Bank — the supervisor of banks prior to May 2003 but was not communicated to the Department of Finance due to the confidentiality obligations.

Pension Levy.

Jack Wall

Question:

157 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance his views on correspondence (details supplied); the plans or support mechanisms in place or proposed by him to overcome the problems stated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13048/09]

Deputy Wall has provided details of an individual but he will appreciate that I cannot comment on any particular case. I am fully aware of people's concerns following the introduction of the pension-related deduction. However, the key objective is the realisation of the savings needed from the public service pay bill, given the severe economic and budgetary circumstances we face. The approach to the pension related deduction is that it applies generally given the fact that public servants enjoy the benefits of a public service pension which provides for greater security and more favourable terms than the generality of private sector pensions. The pension related deduction is a reasonable means of reconciling the need to achieve the necessary savings while seeking to ameliorate the impact on lower paid staff.

EU Directives.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

158 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance the progress being made on the implementation of the payment services directive; the procedures which must be followed to ensure that all the PSD is operational by the November 2009 deadline; the consultation process that has been undertaken to date with the financial services providers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13052/09]

The Payment Services Directive (PSD) provides the necessary legal framework to support the development of the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA), a major payments industry initiative aimed at eliminating any remaining difference between domestic and cross-border payments within the eurozone. This Directive comes into effect on 1 November 2009 and my Department is currently working on draft legislation to enable Ireland to apply the PSD's provisions by that date. The Deputy may be aware that the Directive introduces standard rules for payment execution in all Member States, seeks to ensure fair market access to new payment services providers and introduces harmonised standards of consumer protection.

As regards the procedures which must be followed to ensure that all of the PSD is operational by November 2009, Section 3 of the European Communities Act 1972 allows me, as Minister, to make Regulations in order to fulfil Ireland's obligations which arise by virtue of our membership of the E.U. In this case, all of the PSD will be transposed through secondary legislation, namely a Statutory Instrument.

My Department has consulted relevant stakeholders on two occasions in 2008. In February 2008, it held a public consultation on the national discretions available within the PSD and in October 2008, it held a further consultation on the draft text of the transposing regulations. Based on responses received during both consultations, a draft set of regulations was submitted to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel in February 2009 for formal drafting and work is now progressing to produce a final set of regulations, which will give effect to the Directive by the required transposition date. My Department plans to hold another consultation when the text of the regulations is at a more advanced level. It is anticipated that the relevant regulations will be published in Summer 2009 and be given effect from 1 November 2009.

Pension Levy.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

159 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the pension levy is being imposed on city and county councillors’ representational allowance in view of the fact that this is not regarded as wages when assessing family income supplement and not regarded as wages for PRSI or other tax purposes; and the steps he will take to address this anomaly. [13058/09]

The pension-related deduction applies in respect of emoluments to which Chapter 4 of Part 42 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 applies and which are payable to public servants in respect of their services as such. As the representational payment is fully taxable and subject to that Chapter, the pension-related deduction applies to that payment. There is, therefore, no anomaly to address.

Freedom of Information.

Brian Hayes

Question:

160 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of the fact that Anglo Irish Bank has been nationalised, the scope of the Freedom of Information Act 1997 in respect of the public interest override extends to this bank in view of the fact that it is completely owned by the State and should be one of the institutions in which the FOI legislation is operational; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13191/09]

As a matter of policy, the Freedom of Information Act has not been extended to commercial State bodies for reasons associated with the need for such bodies to compete commercially. Commercial State bodies operate in a different environment to non-commercial State bodies. To bring a commercial State body under the Freedom of Information Act while other companies in the same sector remain excluded could place such a body at a significant commercial and competitive disadvantage. Therefore as Anglo Irish Bank is a commercial State body there are currently no proposals to extend the Freedom of Information Act to the bank.

Tax Code.

Richard Bruton

Question:

161 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that property transfers between partners who have been living together for years and have children are subject to stamp duty and this can give rise to significant hardship such as when one partner seeks to buy out the share of another partner or transfer a share in the family home; his views on an exemption from this stamp duty charge for partners who have been together for a certain minimum period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13199/09]

When a particular stamp duty relief for first-time purchasers was introduced into the tax code in the Finance (No. 2) Act 2000, the relief was also extended to spouses in certain circumstances, who, as a result of a judicial separation or divorce, left the family home to their other spouse and did not have an interest in any other property. As unmarried cohabiting couples cannot benefit from a judicial separation or divorce, the existing provisions cannot be extended to include them. As regards introducing a new provision to allow first-time purchaser status to cohabiting couples, I have no plans to introduce such an arrangement. At this point, it would be unwise to change the tax code with regard to cohabiting couples in advance of developments in other relevant areas of public policy, for example, in the area of legal recognition of relationships other than married relationships.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

162 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance if he has been informed or if he has inquired if any of the financial institutions covered by the Government guarantee have paid bonuses to their staff here, or overseas, since the inauguration of the Government guarantee; if any of these institutions have done so, the steps these institutions are taking to recover these bonuses; the status of this process; if he has been informed if such bonus recipients are co-operative; if evidence is discovered that post-guarantee bonuses have been paid, his views on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13208/09]

Paragraph 47 of the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme 2008 provides that bonuses for directors or senior executives must be measurably linked to reductions in guarantee charges, reduction in excessive risk-taking and encouraging the long-term sustainability of the covered institutions. The Deputy will appreciate that in answering his question about bonuses to staff, the terms of the Scheme relate in this regard only to directors and senior executives. Pursuant to the Scheme, the Credit Institutions Remuneration Oversight Committee (CIROC) was established and its recently published report has provided additional specific details in relation to remuneration levels in the banks.

The Deputy will be aware that the Committee recommended that performance-related bonus schemes for chief executives and executive directors should not lead to payments in respect of performance in 2008 or in 2009 and for the period of the Government guarantee. A number of covered institutions reported to CIROC that they did not intend to pay bonuses in respect of 2008. In respect of Irish Nationwide Building Society (INBS), where the CEO was paid a pre-arranged incentive bonus of €1,000,000 in relation to 2008, the Deputy will be aware that the CEO of INBS has undertaken to return that bonus.

Fiscal Policy.

James McDaid

Question:

163 Deputy James McDaid asked the Minister for Finance the amount of interest due on previous Government bonds due in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. [13303/09]

The National Treasury Management Agency advise me that interest due on bonds outstanding at present is as follows:

Year

2009

2010

2011

2012

Interest due (€m)

1,827.600

1,266.703

1,234.553

1,074.483

Of course, any additional borrowing undertaken will increase the amount of future interest payments.

James McDaid

Question:

164 Deputy James McDaid asked the Minister for Finance the amount of interest due in 2012 on Government bonds taken out in January 2009 and February 2009; and if it is anticipated that another bond will be required before April 2009. [13304/09]

The National Treasury Management Agency advise me that interest on the bonds issued in January and February 2009 will amount to €396 million in 2012. Another bond will not be required before April 2009. The NTMA auctioned €1 billion from existing series of medium- and long-term bonds last week. This was the first of a series of auctions planned for 2009 and it was oversubscribed, reflecting investor confidence in Irish bonds. The Exchequer is in a comfortable position with regard to funding with around €25 billion in cash balances.

Tax Code.

Richard Bruton

Question:

165 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance his views on raising a carbon tax on gas at the point of production in order that all gas produced here, whether used at home or abroad, would carry such a levy, providing an extra royalty on the Irish resources. [13305/09]

The Deputy will be aware the issue of a carbon tax is being considered by the Commission on Taxation. The Commission is due to report by September 2009 at the latest. Given that the precise design of the carbon tax is yet to be determined as well as other factors including how exports and companies covered by the EU Emissions Trading System are to be treated, I do not propose to comment on the structure of a carbon tax at this time.

Pension Levy.

Richard Bruton

Question:

166 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if the public service pension levy is being collected in a way that the liability is evenly spread over the full year to allow families plan their finances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13306/09]

The public service pension-related deduction is being collected on a "week-1" basis. This is the same way in which PRSI has been collected for many years. It is also used for collection of the Income Levy. I am satisfied that, for most affected public servants, the payroll impact is, or will shortly be, averaged across individual payments. In other words the same amount broadly would be deducted from each payment. This is in line with section 3(2)(a) of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009.

It should however be noted that payroll practice may differ across the constituent parts of the public service. In addition, the circumstances of individual public servants, especially in cases where earnings are subject to fluctuation or contract duration changes, may of necessity mean that a uniform deduction from each payroll payment is made more difficult. There will be provision for adjustments if required during a financial year. In conclusion, I can assure the Deputy that, to the greatest extent possible, my Department is aiming to ensure an even spread of deductions across the year.

Tax Code.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

167 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the tax relief on medical expenses is not available to people with large health care bills aged over 65 years who are exempt from income tax on the basis of their age and yet often this group cannot qualify for a medical card because the income threshold is set so low. [13312/09]

Relief for health expenses is allowed as a deduction at the standard rate of tax by way of review of liability at the end of the year. The relief is available as a refund of the amount of income tax paid by the taxpayer only. Where an individual's income tax liability has been reduced to zero or no income tax has been paid by a person for a tax year, he or she will have not been in a position to avail of the relief for that year. It should be noted that tax relief for health expenses is only one means through which the State may provide support to those in need of medical services. Account should also be taken of supports provided through the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The medical card is one such support. The assessment of eligibility to medical cards is statutorily a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE) and is determined following an examination of the means of the applicant and his/her dependants. Under Section 45 of the Health Act 1970 medical cards are provided for persons who, in the opinion of the HSE, are unable without undue hardship to arrange general practitioner medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants. Section 58 of the Health Act, 1970, as amended, provides for GP visit cards for adult persons with limited eligibility for whom, in the opinion of the HSE, and notwithstanding that they do not qualify for a medical card, it would be unduly burdensome to arrange GP medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants.

In assessing eligibility under the general medical card scheme, the HSE uses guidelines based on people's means, which includes their income, certain allowable outgoings and the effect of other factors such as medical or social need which may impact on their ability to meet the cost of GP services for themselves and their families. The current income thresholds for the general medical card scheme are set out in tabular form as follows.

Under the Health Act 2008, automatic entitlement to a medical card for persons aged 70 or over ceased on 31st December 2008, and with effect from 1st January 2009, the income thresholds for entitlement to a medical card for those aged 70 or over is €700 (gross) per week (€36,500 per year) for a single person and €1,400 (gross) per week (€73,000 per year) for a couple. Where the spouse/partner is under 70 years of age, he/she can qualify under the over 70s medical card scheme if the combined gross incomes of the applicant and dependant spouse/partner are within the income threshold limit of €1,400 (gross) per week. Individuals who do not qualify for the medical card can use the Drugs Payment Scheme, which protects against excessive costs arising in relation to medicines. Under this scheme, no individual or family unit pays more than €100 per calendar month towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines. The scheme is easy to use and significantly reduces the cost burden for families and individuals incurring ongoing expenditure on medicines.

General Medical Card Scheme Income Thresholds

Category

Medical Card Weekly amount

GP Visit Card Weekly amount

Single person Living Alone

Aged up to 65 years

184.00

276.00

Aged between 66-69 years

201.50

302.00

Single person living with family

Aged up to 65 years

164.00

246.00

Aged between 66-69 years

173.50

260.00

Married Couple

Aged up to 65 years

266.50

400.00

Aged between 66-69 years

298.00

447.00

Allowances for Dependent Children

For each of the first two children

38.00

57.00

For third and each subsequent child

41.00

61.50

For each of the first two children aged over 16

39.00

58.50

For third and each subsequent child aged over 16

42.50

64.00

Dependant over 16 years in full-time education and not grant-aided

Allowance for each child

78.00

117.00

The rates above show allowed weekly income, after tax/PRSI and before mortgage/rent, childcare and travel to work expenses are allowed for.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

168 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm that tax relief on health insurance can be applied to people who are exempt from income tax; and if, on that basis, tax relief at source can be applied to health care expenses incurred by a person who is exempt from income tax but does not have health insurance. [13313/09]

Tax relief on health insurance contributions to authorised insurers is available under the tax relief at source system irrespective of whether the insured individual has a liability to income tax or not. Under the tax relief at source, the insured individual pays the subscription to the authorised insurer net of the standard rate of tax. The authorised insurer then gets payment of this amount from the Revenue Commissioners. The tax relief at source system works best where there are a small number of players involved. In the case of medical insurance there are just three main companies involved. Tax relief at source for medical expenses would be difficult to implement because of the number of service providers who would need to co-operate in order for such a scheme to work. There would also be a considerable Exchequer cost involved in extending a subsidy through the tax system to persons who are exempt from income tax.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

169 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance his views on introducing a system of taxing offshore gambling on the basis that credit card companies and banks would be required to levy a percentage of all moneys paid to offshore gambling companies on the presumption that all individuals with an Irish credit card are tax resident unless notified specifically to the credit card company or bank that they are not by the Revenue Commissioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13319/09]

The Deputy will be aware that I have stated on numerous occasions that I would like to broaden the tax base applying to betting activity. Bets placed either online or over the phone are generally with out-of-State companies so applying betting duty is problematic. My officials, in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, are looking at the scope to overcome legal and operational difficulties in this area. One such option, as the Deputy suggests, is to explore the capacity of financial companies such as credit card companies to facilitate the collection of betting duty. However, it is clear that there are serious legal difficulties surrounding the effective application of betting duty to bets placed online or over the phone which my officials are exploring on an ongoing basis.

Question No. 170 answered with Question No. 151.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

171 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Finance the tax implications for a person in receipt of deserted wife’s benefit payment. [13376/09]

The position is that Deserted Wife's Benefit payment is within the charge to income tax. The extent to which taxation actually arises in a given case depends on the amount of an individual's total income for tax purposes (including the deserted wife's benefit) in a tax year and the amount of tax credits to which that individual is entitled. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that if the Deputy has a particular case in mind and can provide the necessary details, they would be prepared to examine it should the Deputy so wish.

Departmental Staff.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

172 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance the system in place to allow for transfers of service office staff between Departments; the way swaps are currently organised; if a centralised organised system exists to facilitate same; and if so, if he will provide the contact details. [13415/09]

Transfers across the Civil Service are arranged by various mechanisms: ‘Head-for Head' transfers which are organised between individual officers on the basis of personal contacts; the Central Applications Facility (CAF) for officers who wish to move to locations designated under the Decentralisation Programme and the ‘Dublin Arrangements' which facilitate the backfilling of posts in Dublin for the pool of officers who do not wish to decentralise. Head-for Head transfers must be approved by the relevant Personnel Officers while both of the decentralisation transfer systems are administered by the Public Appointments Service.

Services Officers may apply for Head-for-Head transfers and may register their interest in moving to a decentralising Department or Office by making an application on the CAF. Discussions have been ongoing between my Department and the relevant union in relation to the inclusion of Services Officer posts on the ‘Dublin Arrangements' system. Pending agreement, the arrangements have been utilised successfully in respect of a number of Services Officer posts on a case-by-case basis and it is intended to continue with this approach.

Pension Levy.

Denis Naughten

Question:

173 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance if he will furnish a reply to a commitment given in the Houses of the Oireachtas on 25 February 2008 to provide the figures on the cost of including low paid workers within the pension levy; if he will explain the way he could evaluate the matter as marginal on that date and yet be unable to furnish the figures requested within the month; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13419/09]

I wish to convey to the Deputy my regret that his enquiry was not replied to sooner. Over the past month the responsible officials in my Department have prioritised the goal of ensuring a fast and effective launch of the new pension-related deduction. In this context these officials have concentrated on giving clear guidance to public service employers on the interpretation of the relevant legal provisions and on critical operational aspects of collecting and remitting the deduction. At the same time there has been a special focus on ensuring that public servants themselves can access reliable and pertinent information on how the deduction affects them. Notwithstanding this, I can assure the Deputy that I will be writing to him about this matter in the very near future.

Tax Collection.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

174 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if and when a P45 issued in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13431/09]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a PPS number is required for the taxpayer to enable them to deal with this tax query.

Question No. 175 answered with Question No. 66.
Question No. 176 answered with Question No. 61.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Michael McGrath

Question:

177 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to a nursing home place and subvention for a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [12793/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Hospital Services.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

178 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of orthopaedic operations being carried out by each surgeon at the Midland Regional Hospital, Tullamore per week; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12804/09]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

179 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of private orthopaedic operations being carried out by each surgeon at the Midlands Regional Hospital, Tullamore per week; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12805/09]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

180 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the average waiting time for an appointment to be seen by the orthopaedic surgeon or a specialist at the Midlands Regional Hospital, Tullamore; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12806/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 178 to 180, inclusive, together.

As these are service matters they have been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Mental Health Services.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

181 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 181 of 4 February 2009, the number of children under the age of 18 with autism in the Dublin north catchment area (details supplied) who have been discharged from their school or service; the location where, be it in another institution, service or into their own family’s care, they were placed subsequently; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12813/09]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

182 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 181 of 4 February 2009, the number of people with autism aged 18 and over who have been discharged from their service placement in the Dublin north catchment area (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12814/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 181 and 182 together.

As the Deputy's questions relate to service matters I have arranged for the questions to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

183 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [12841/09]

The matter raised by the Deputy relates to the provision of healthcare services and accordingly, I have asked the HSE to respond directly to the Deputy on the matter.

Finian McGrath

Question:

184 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [12848/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

185 Deputy Ciarán Cuffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the nursing home support scheme; when she envisages the scheme being implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12852/09]

The Nursing Homes Support Scheme Bill 2008 completed Committee Stage in the Dáil on 12th March 2009. It is the Minister's intention to progress the legislation through the Houses of the Oireachtas with a view to implementing the scheme in the second half of 2009. Unfortunately it is not possible to give a more specific timeframe at present.

Medical Cards.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

186 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position with regard to the renewal of a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11. [12859/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

187 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of a review of the disability services sector which was announced in January 2009; the persons who sit on this committee; if non-profit organisations in the sector can be represented on this committee; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12860/09]

Following Budget 2009, I announced that a review will be conducted in 2009 of non-statutory agencies which provide services for persons with disabilities. The Review will consider a number of issues, including structure, overheads and coherence of and synergies within the sector with a view to assessing the scope for further efficiencies. This exercise will be undertaken with the focus at all times on the needs of people with disabilities.

The Review has now been incorporated within a wider programme of VFM Reviews being conducted under the supervision of the Department of Finance and will include the statutory as well as the non-statutory sectors. Discussions are ongoing between the Department of Health and Children and the Department of Finance with regard to the terms of reference and scope of the Review. These discussions are expected to conclude shortly. The Steering Group for the Review will be selected on the basis of expertise rather than on a representative basis.

Hospital Services.

Tom Hayes

Question:

188 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason South Tipperary General Hospital has not been included in the HealthStat initiative; when it will be included; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12875/09]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

189 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in respect of discussions between the Health Service Executive and St. John’s Hospital, Limerick, in terms of the recommendations of the Teamwork consultants report and its implications for St. John’s Hospital. [12876/09]

The HSE reconfiguration plans for the HSE Mid West region are informed by the recently published Teamwork Report. The Report highlighted the need for changes to be made in the provision and organisation of acute hospital services across the region as it found services were too fragmented, carried increased risks for patients and staff and were not sustainable in their present form. The HSE has been engaged in a consultation process with key stakeholders as it formulates detailed plans in relation to emergency care, critical care and surgical services in the region.

The HSE plans will involve the reconfiguration of Acute Hospital services into a network and their better integration with primary care services across the region, with a regional centre at the Regional Hospital Limerick that will deal with complex and specialist cases. The changing nature of health service delivery is such that smaller hospitals such as St John's can meet much of the demand for less complex services, especially those that are increasingly done on a day case basis, such as day surgery and diagnostic procedures.

St John's Hospital has played a prominent role in the provision of integrated health service in the Mid West and particularly in Limerick. For example, consultant appointments to the hospital for the past number of years have been on a shared basis with Limerick Regional Hospital at Dooradoyle. In addition, the hospital has participated in joint ventures such as the development of a minor injuries service in Limerick and in the co-ordination of pathology and radiology services.

St John's Hospital is well placed strategically to continue to play a prominent role in the provision of services under the reconfiguration proposals. The HSE has commenced initial discussions with the management of the hospital in relation to its contribution in the future. The issues being discussed include the provision of increased input at A&E consultant level, expanded role in the provision of surgical services and the possibility of expanding the scope of the minor injuries service in St John's to cover the weekend period. I am satisfied that the measures being taken by the HSE on the reconfiguration of services in the Mid West are necessary and appropriate in order to ensure the provision of safe and effective health services to the people of the region.

Medical Cards.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

190 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be reached in respect of a medical card application by a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12877/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

191 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be reached in respect of a medical card application by a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12878/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Health Service Allowances.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

192 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) qualifies for domiciliary care allowance; if they have been assessed to determine special needs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12902/09]

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Hospital Services.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

193 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Cork can expect to receive treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12913/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply. The National Treatment Purchase Fund arranges treatment for patients who have been on a surgical waiting list for more than three months. It is open to the person in question or anyone acting on their behalf to contact the Fund directly in relation to their case.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

194 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support a group (details supplied) in Dublin 9. [12921/09]

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Finian McGrath

Question:

195 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support persons (details supplied) in Dublin 9. [12923/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Parliamentary Questions.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

196 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive to Parliamentary Question No. 208 of 24 February 2009. [12925/09]

I understand that a reply to the Deputy's earlier question issued from the HSE on 25th March, 2009.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

197 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive to Parliamentary Question No. 209 of 24 February 2009. [12926/09]

I have been informed by the Health Service Executive (HSE) that it does not routinely keep the information required by the Deputy in the format requested by him and therefore it has to be generated and collated across each of the 32 Local Health Offices. I have also been informed that the HSE is actively pursuing the responses on the Deputy's behalf and that a reply will issue as soon as the information has been compiled.

Hospital Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

198 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for a hip operation. [12928/09]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Health Services.

Bernard Allen

Question:

199 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork is failing to receive an appointment with the occupational therapist; and the alternative arrangements being made to have the child assessed. [12929/09]

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

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Ambulance Service.

Denis Naughten

Question:

200 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ascertain from the Health Service Executive the reason the allocation of the transport of private medical insured patients is being allocated to only two private ambulance companies; and the further reason the Health Service Executive has not put in place a clinical and quality audit process to enable other private ambulance service providers to also do this work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12930/09]

Noel Grealish

Question:

205 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ascertain from the Health Service Executive if there is a mechanism in place for checking that the private ambulance services on the private ambulance service agreement framework are meeting the terms of their agreement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12967/09]

Noel Grealish

Question:

206 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ascertain from the Health Service Executive the number of inspections which have been carried out on the private ambulance providers who provide ambulance services under the private ambulance service level agreement to the HSE since the agreement was set up in January 2008; the observations the HSE assessors made as a result of these inspections; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12968/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 200, 205 and 206 together.

As these are service matters, they have been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Question No. 201 answered with Question No. 59.

Care of the Elderly.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

202 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Health and Children the long-term policy and plan for upgrading nursing homes; the criteria used for closing nursing homes; the consultation process with residents and staff of affected nursing homes; and if alternative measures are considered to improve standards before the closure option is chosen. [12956/09]

In preparation for the introduction of the new national standards for residential care settings for Older People the Health Service Executive has put in place a comprehensive programme of preparation to ensure that its public facilities will be in a position to comply with the requirements of the standards. This preparation has focused on two particular areas to ensure that:

1. Policies, procedures and overall service are sufficient to meet the new standards.

2. The overall infrastructure is adequately developed on a phased basis.

The Executive established a Residential Standards National Reference Group which included Managers/Directors of Nursing of HSE residential facilities and each residential care setting is currently undertaking work to benchmark their facility against the standards in order to identify and address the deficits that can be addressed on a cost neutral basis.

In 2006, at the request of the Department, the Executive carried out an assessment of need for residential care for older people in preparation for both the impending standards and the National Development Plan 2009-2013. As part of this work, an assessment was undertaken to establish the extent to which existing public residential accommodation required replacement in the context of emerging standards, but also in the context of wider environmental and structural requirements including health & safety, fire and other criteria.

The HSE has undertaken to commence a phased programme of sustained reconfiguration and development over the next 6 years in order to be in a position to meet the statutory requirements provided for in the new national standards. In terms of reconfiguration and development the focus of the HSE's programme is to target the highest priority locations in the first instance and progressing over time, within the resources available, to bring all our facilities up to the required standards. The 2009 National Service Plan sets out its plan for the management and configuration of public long-term residential care services.

The plan identifies a requirement to reduce the number of long-term residential care beds in some parts of the country, particularly where the standard of facilities is considered inadequate and where it is necessary to addresses infrastructural deficits in order to meet Health & Safety and Fire Requirements and the new standards. Where existing residents have to be relocated, the HSE works closely with the residents and their families to explain what options are available to them with a view to agreeing their preferences for relocation and ensuring that they are relocated to other facilities which will best meet their needs. It is also involved in an information and consultation process with both staff and their representative organisations and efforts will be made to accommodate preferences according to current best HR practice and HSE standards.

Health Services.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

203 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children the Health Service Executive’s plans for the retention or removal of services for the Dóchas Breast Care Unit, Drogheda, County Louth; if a definitive date has been set for removal of services; if so, the services which will be removed; the services which will be maintained; and if they are to be maintained on a permanent basis. [12960/09]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

204 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive has a strategy for the family history unit at the Dóchas Breast Care Unit, Drogheda, County Louth; and if so, the details of the strategy. [12961/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 203 and 204 together.

The matters raised by the Deputy relate to the provision of healthcare services and accordingly, I have asked the HSE to respond directly to the Deputy on the matters.

Questions Nos. 205 and 206 answered with Question No. 200.

Health Service Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

207 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has sought or received any report on the deployment of occupational therapists who work for the Health Service Executive; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the service is unable to provide a service for children with special needs who require a support for sensory perception; her views on whether too much of the time of occupational therapists is absorbed in building inspections for grant purposes which could be provided under supervision by suitability trained construction experts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12984/09]

There has been a growing demand for, and investment in, occupational therapy services over the last number of years. A particular priority for my Department and the Department of Education and Science in recent years has been the expansion of the supply of therapy graduates. The Government has also invested heavily in the education and training of such personnel in order to secure a good supply of graduates to provide for the healthcare needs of the population into the future. In this regard, since 1997, the number of training places for occupational therapy has been increased from 29 to 110 which represents an increase of 279%. The numbers employed in occupational therapy has also grown significantly, with 291 whole time equivalents employed in December 1997 compared to 1,078 whole time equivalents employed in December 2008, which represents an increase of 270%.

The Government is committed to ensuring continued adequate recruitment of professional staff across a range of community settings to ensure the continued development of community services. Additional funding of €20 million has been provided in 2009 for health and education services for children with special educational needs. This funding will provide a total of 125 additional therapy posts in the HSE targeted at children of school-going age. 90 of these will be in the disability services, including speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, and physiotherapists. 35 additional posts will be provided for child and adolescent mental health services, including clinical psychologists, occupational therapists, and speech and language therapists for new and existing multi-disciplinary teams.

In addition, it is intended that certain key health and social care professional posts, including occupational therapists, are to be protected by setting employment floors for these grades within the Health Service Executive (HSE) in 2009. These posts are essential to the development of a number of services areas such as disability, child adolescent mental health services and child protection services. In order to protect these posts, it is envisaged that the HSE will establish minimum employment levels to be maintained within each of these occupations in the health sector in 2009. The recruitment and retention of these key front line professional posts is vital to ensure continued progress in the development of community settings.

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. 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. With regard to the deployment and duties of occupational therapists, as this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Medical Cards.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

208 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in issuing an over 70s medical card to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare. [12994/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Community Care.

Michael Ring

Question:

209 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if persons (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive additional home help hours. [13011/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Health Service Staff.

Dan Neville

Question:

210 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will publish the report (details supplied) on the outcome of mediation undertaken at her request in the case of three consultant orthodontists working in the public orthodontic service. [13036/09]

The report concerns a mediation process which I initiated in an attempt to resolve differences between three consultant orthodontists and the HSE. At the outset the parties agreed that the report, which contains personal information, including correspondence between the individuals concerned and their employer, would be treated as confidential. Therefore, it would not be appropriate for me to publish the report.

Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

211 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the case of persons (details supplied) and that the family wish to return to Ireland; the treatment that is available here for this person; if they will be treated in Letterkenny General Hospital, County Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13057/09]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Question No. 212 answered with Question No. 40.

Finian McGrath

Question:

213 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [13202/09]

The HSE has advised that a reply was issued directly to the Deputy dated 23rd March 2009.

Child Protection.

Michael McGrath

Question:

214 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement in response to the call by a group (details supplied) for 24-hour social work services in respect of children. [13204/09]

The Government and the HSE remain committed to the development of a comprehensive needs-based service for children at risk. I personally chair regular meetings between officials from my Office and senior child welfare and protection managers in the HSE aimed at improving the provision of services to children at risk. A key component of these discussions has been the provision of out of hours care.

In this context, the HSE is now putting in place a standardised national system whereby Gardaí can access an appropriate place of safety for children found to be at risk out of hours under Section 12 of the Child Care Act 1991. This service will conform with Child Care Regulations and with the National Foster Care Standards. The provision of this service aims to ensure that children presenting as ‘at risk' outside of normal working hours are provided with an appropriate emergency place of safety thereby reducing or eliminating social admissions of children in an acute hospital setting. Foster families are currently being recruited with a view to commencing the service on or before 1 June 2009.

In addition, and instead of developing a stand alone social work out of hours service, it has been agreed to develop alternative proposals based on a more integrated approach which builds on the HSE's existing out of hours services including GPs, acute hospital services and mental health services. This should provide a more effective and integrated service by using existing resources and strengthening the links between services such as mental health and social work to appropriately address incidents occurring outside usual working hours. The aim is to ensure that persons seeking personal social services outside normal working hours can be provided with appropriate advice, information, support and, in emergency situations, access to specialist staff, such as staff working in the areas of mental health and suicide prevention.

Health Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

215 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children if an appointment will be expedited in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13213/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Departmental Correspondence.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

216 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on correspondence sent to her by the Irish Human Rights Commission, dated 23 October 2008, in which it recommended that she should reconsider her decision not to establish an external review of the use of symphysiotomy between the 1950s and the 1980s; if she will implement this recommendation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13217/09]

The Irish Human Rights Commission was requested some time ago by a patient advocacy group to conduct an Inquiry into matters relating to the practice of symphysiotomy in Ireland from the 1950s up to 1983. Having considered the matter in some detail the Commission decided against conducting such an Inquiry under the Human Rights Commission Act, 2000.

The Commission recommended that I review a previous decision not to establish an external review of the practice. Significant efforts had been made previously by the Department's Chief Medical Officer, via the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and through international contacts, to source a suitable reviewer. Progress was made in identifying and sourcing a suitable candidate who later became unavailable due to work commitments. However, the Survivors of Symphysiotomy, another patient support group, subsequently expressed reservations over the choice of reviewer. Thereafter it did not prove possible to source an independent expert. My Department remains in correspondence with the Commission in relation to the matter. The Deputy may also wish to note that in line with a recommendation from the Commission my Department has asked the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to consider the preparation of clinical guidelines covering the practice of symphysiotomy.

Health Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

217 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that a national co-ordinator is appointed who has the appropriate authority and knowledge to deal with the health needs of persons who underwent symphysiotomy procedures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13218/09]

A range of measures to support the Survivors of Symphysiotomy (SOS) Group was put in place by the Health Service Executive (HSE) following a meeting between my predecessor, Minister Martin, and the Group in late 2003. This included the designation of liaison officers to assist in co-ordinating the provision of services to former patients. My Department has asked the HSE to reply directly to the Deputy on the issue raised.

Health Levy.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

218 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is aware that retired teachers who will not benefit from a medical card are required to continue to pay a 2% health levy while also meeting the cost of hospital and general practitioner charges; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13224/09]

The Health Contribution was introduced by virtue of the Health Contributions Act 1979 and came into effect on the 6th April of that year. The contributions are levied on income at a percentage rate set in pursuance of the Health Contributions Act and are paid over to the Minister for Health and Children in respect of the Vote for the Health Service Executive. The current rate of contribution is 2% of gross income up to € 1,925 per week or €100,100 per annum and 2.5 % on the balance of income in excess of those amounts in a contribution year. Subject to exemptions, the rate of contribution is applicable to all persons over the age of sixteen with reckonable income, earnings or emoluments. Among the exemptions and in accordance with the provisions of the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2008, any person who is over 70 years of age is exempt from paying the contributions.

Youth Services.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

219 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the recent sudden decision to end the work of the teaching panel in the City of Dublin Youth Services Board; the consideration she has given to the impact of same on many youth clubs in the Dublin area; the implications for a long established youth club (details supplied) in Dublin 9; and if she will reconsider this decision in view of the negative implications for young people, particularly in disadvantaged areas. [13310/09]

The City of Dublin Youth Service Board (CDYSB) has been for many years promoting, supporting and co-ordinating the development of voluntary youth clubs and youth services in Dublin City. I understand that the youth club referred to by the Deputy was in receipt of a "pre project" grant of €15,000 for the past three years from CDYSB to help it develop and become an independent project.

While this funding is being discontinued, the youth club in question will continue to receive a grant to meet the costs of overheads, programme and activities. Applications have been submitted by CDYSB on behalf of the youth club over the past three years for funding under the Special Projects for Youth scheme but due to the large number of applications received and the limited funding available it was not possible to provide the funding requested. In relation to the work of the teaching panel, I understand that the teaching hours have had to be reduced in light of budgetary constraints, but CDYSB will continue to accept applications for support and hours will be allocated equitably to groups who meet the requirements. I wish to assure the Deputy that every effort will be made to minimise the impact of the reduction in funding available to the youth sector and to preserve and maintain existing provision in so far as is possible.

Health Insurance.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

220 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the registration or notification procedures in place to track the number of people with private health insurance; if regular statistics are collected on the number of people who have health insurance cover and the number of people covered; and if she will provide figures on the number of people currently with a policy, the number of people covered by these policies and the equivalent figures for 2006, 2007 and 2008. [13314/09]

The Health Insurance Authority compiles statistics on the market based on returns made by insurers. The most recent data available to the Authority relates to 31 December 2008. The Authority includes summary market data in its annual Reports, which are laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. Detailed data concerning the market is available in reports and surveys on the Authority's website.

While its 2008 Report is not yet published the Authority has informed my Department that at the end of 2008 2,299,000 people were insured — estimated at 51.6% of the population. Of these 1,011,000 were policyholders and the balance dependants (mostly spouses and children). The equivalent figures for 2007 were 2,245,000 people insured (51.2% of the population) and for 2006, 2,174,000 people (50.9% of the population).

Health Services.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

221 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will centralise the processing of the medical card scheme, drugs payment scheme, ophthalmic scheme and immunisation scheme to a central office in Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13323/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Question No. 222 answered with Question No. 102.
Question No. 223 answered with Question No. 56.

Suicide Prevention.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

224 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will reverse the cuts to the National Office for Suicide Prevention; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13329/09]

The Budget for the National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP) is set by the Health Service Executive, specifically, within the Population Health Directorate. The HSE advised NOSP that its annual budget was to be reduced by 12.5%. Accordingly, NOSP's budget for 2009 amounts to €3.3 million. In addition, once off funding of €1 million was allocated in 2009 for suicide prevention initiatives which brings the total funding available to NOSP in 2009 to €4.3m.

Funding will be used to progress actions identified in ‘Reach Out' — the National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention and specifically, develop youth based campaigns. Other suicide prevention initiatives which include Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), dedicated suicide resource officers, suicide prevention training officers and deliberate self-harm response nurses in A&E departments, are delivered and funded directly by the HSE. It should also be emphasised that a range of services such as mental health and primary care services are important in helping to prevent suicide. These services play a vital role in the drive to reduce the incidence of suicide, and should be taken into account when considering the level of expenditure devoted to suicide prevention.

It is the responsibility of the National Office to allocate its funding most effectively within itself and to organisations it funds. NOSP met all of the organisations involved to ensure that existing levels of service will be maintained. All organisations have agreed to introduce the required reductions and have agreed that cuts in expenditure will be restricted to non-pay and non-service related costs (e.g. training, travel etc.) It is worth noting that, in 2008, the National Office made no reduction in funding to any of the voluntary bodies it supports, even though other parts of the HSE reduced funding to voluntary bodies. We are operating in straitened times but I wish to assure the Deputy that the current economic climate does not in any way dilute this Government's commitment to suicide prevention.

Question No. 225 answered with Question No. 63.

Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

226 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if her Department, in view of the economic recession, has carried out a re-evaluation of the decision that new primary care centres will be provided by the market, through rental of floor space, rather than from the capital programme as proposed in the national development plan. [13331/09]

The Government as part of Budget 2009 announced that the Health Service Executive would initiate an innovative proposal to fast-track the roll-out of new Primary Care Centres in collaboration with the private sector through leasing arrangements. Based on responses received from the market, the Executive has undertaken a Cost Benefit Analysis on the proposed approach which, taking account of the competitive rates on offer, demonstrates that the provision of Primary Care Centres through leasing arrangements provides value for money. The private sector continues to show strong interest in the approach and negotiations on the initial tranche of pilot locations demonstrate commitment and capacity on the part of those expressing interest in providing suitable accommodation. The Executive has sought the assistance of the National Development Finance Agency to support it in developing a framework for testing the value for money to be achieved through this initiative on an ongoing basis.

Question No. 227 answered with Question No. 52.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

228 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the names and locations of the private health care facilities she has opened since her appointment as Minister. [13333/09]

The information requested is detailed as follows:

Year 2004

Date

Health Care Facility

30/11/04

The Beacon Clinic, Sandyford

Year 2005

Date

Health Care Facility

17/1/05

TLC Centre, Santry Purpose built nursing home.

22/4/05

New Building of MS Ireland, 80 Northumberland Road. Building for Multiple Sclerosis organisation, providing information and support to people with Multiple Sclerosis.

10/6/05

Summerville Healthcare, Strandhill Village. Residential medical care, for all age groups, short medium or long term.

11/6/05

Sycamore House, Clifden. 10 place community residence. Clifden Mental Health Association involved in the opening.

19/10/05

Touchstone Primary Health Care Centre, Mulhuddart Primary Care service allied to residences for elderly people.

9/11/05

Primary Care Centre for Dromod Development Assoc, Co Leitrim.

24/11/05

VHI Swift Care Centre, Dundrum

5/12/05

Peter Bradley House, Tallaght. Foundation related to acquired brain injuries.

12/11/05

Extension to Tara Winthrop Private Clinic. Clinic providing nursing care for medium, high and maximum dependency residents. Divided into 5 separate units.

Year 2006

Date

Health Care Facility

19/6/06

VHI Swiftcare Clinic — DCU Campus

17/7/06

Sonas Care Centre — Athlone, Co Westmeath. 60 bed nursing home with 16 independent living units

25/10/06

Beacon Hospital, Sandyford

Year 2007

Date

Health Care Facility

11/1/07

Charter Medical Clinic, Smithfield. Medical facility offering speciality healthcare in the community.

15/10/07

VHI Swiftcare Clinic, Swords

25/10/07

Slievemore Clinic, Stillorgan. Primary Care Services clinic.

26/11/07

Chartered Physiotherapy Clinic “the Physio Company”, Temple Bar. Physiotherapy centre catering for cases related to sports, work or in the home.

Year 2008

Date

Health Care Facility

28/1/08

Primary Care Centre for G.P. Practice. Providing services to the public.

1/2/08

All in Care unit, Balbriggan — (launch telephone monitoring unit). Care agency supplying experienced carers, nurses and home helps.

0/3/08

Dyspraxia Centre, Tallaght. Facility for The Dyspraxia Association of Ireland.

31/3/08

First Step Rehabilitation Centre, Limerick. Facility providing physiotherapy to young adults.

19/5/08

Day Surgery Unit in Aut Even Hospital, Kilkenny. Hospital opened in 1912. Opening of new unit.

30/5/08

Oakview Village Childcare, Tralee. Facility for children including a nursery and playschool.

23/6/08

Marley Nursing Home Clinic, Rathfarmham. Nursing home with 124 bedrooms.

9/7/08

Barchester Retirement Village, Trim. Retirement village with 69 homes for independent living. Medical services for people with dementia and chronic illnesses.

9/7/08

Redwood Extended Care Facility, Stamullen, Co Meath. Residential Centre for people with acquired brain injury.

28/7/08

Ballinderry Clinic, Mullingar. 16 unit consulting clinic providing outpatient services for Mullingar and midlands region.

15/9/08

New Emergency Dept at Hermitage Medical Clinic, Lucan. Independent hospital in West Dublin.

26/9/08

Hamilton Park Care Facility, Balrothery. Residential Care and health care facility.

29/9/08

The Care Centre, Straffan, Co Kildare. Residential care with separate specialist Alzheimer’s unit.

10/11/08

VHI Swiftcare Clinic, Cork

13/11/08

Rossecourt Resource Centre, Balgaddy, Lucan. Attached to Stewarts Hospital (voluntary body). Facility to help young adults requiring physiotherapy.

Year 2009

Date

Health Care Facility

2/2/09

Vista Primary Care Centre, Naas. Primary care facility also providing services and offices to the HSE

Services for People with Disabilities.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

229 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the action she has taken to ensure that funding allocated to the Health Service Executive for spending on disability services is spent on those services and not diverted to other purposes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13334/09]

The National Service Plan, which sets out the quantum of services to be provided in any financial year by the Health Service Executive (HSE) out of the resources allocated to it, is the primary vehicle through which the Minister and the Department monitor and evaluate the performance of the Executive against the targets set out in the plan. The Plan is laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas.

The Department has an agreed monitoring framework with the HSE and receives detailed comprehensive monthly reports from the HSE on all aspects of progression of the National Service Plan. Quarterly ‘high level' meetings take place between the Secretary General of the Department and the Chief Executive Officer of the HSE to discuss issues arising in relation to implementation and progression of the National Service Plan. In addition, there is ongoing liaison and dialogue between various sections within the Department and their corresponding directorates in the HSE. There are also ‘triangular' monthly meetings held between the Department of Finance, Department of Health and Children and the HSE.

As the Deputy is aware, the Minister for Finance will be introducing a new budget on 7th April 2009 which will determine spending levels for public services including the health services the rest of the year. The Minister for Health and Children has given a commitment that she will come before the Oireachtas or the Joint Committee on Health and Children to address the situation that will arise in the health service following the introduction of the budget on the 7th April 2009.

Hospital Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

230 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will intervene to prevent the planned removal of acute medical services from Monaghan General Hospital as planned later in 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13335/09]

The Transformation Programme for the North East region has been informed by the Teamwork Report to the Health Service Executive (HSE) which demonstrated that the service configuration in the region was unsustainable. A series of focused and necessary service changes are being implemented across the region.

With regard to the Cavan/Monaghan Hospital Group the HSE intends to complete the transfer of acute in-patient services from Monaghan to Cavan over the coming months and to develop additional services in Monaghan. The transfer of acute medical care to Cavan is subject to a number of dependencies first being in place, including the development of an enhanced ambulance and pre-hospital thrombolysis service. The recently opened Medical Assessment Unit at Cavan is to be in place for two months prior to the proposed transfer of services from Monaghan. Finally, I must emphasise that the changes proposed by the HSE and fully supported by the Government are for reasons of patient safety. The HSE will work with all stakeholders to bring about the improvements in a carefully planned way that puts patients first.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

231 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of dentists attached to the Kildare-west Wicklow area of the Health Service Executive; if there is a waiting list for dental or orthodontic treatment in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13372/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Health Service Staff.

Jack Wall

Question:

232 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position of the centralisation of the medical card system; the location at which the new headquarters will be; the position of the existing staff that operate the system within each Health Service Executive area; if they will be facilitated in the existing areas with alternative employment, if they will have to relocate to Dublin or if there will be redundancies as a result of this relocation; the cost that will occur to the HSE as a result of this change; the changes that will have to be made to the HSE computer system to facilitate the changes; if the changes will increase or decrease employment within the HSE; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13373/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

233 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason Roscommon County Hospital was not included in the Health Service Executive performance league; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13382/09]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

234 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if medical assistance or funding will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13454/09]

As this is a service matter the question has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

235 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when an MRI scan will be arranged in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13455/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

236 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when psychological and behavioural assessments will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13456/09]

As this is a service matter the question has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

237 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13457/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

238 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare. [13458/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Question No. 239 answered with Question No. 56.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

240 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the level of research currently in hand or proposed in respect of incidence of autism and Asperger’s syndrome; how this compares with other European countries; if genetic or other comparisons have been made; if the levels here are as high or higher than in other EU or non-EU countries; the initiatives she will take to address conclusions accruing from such comparisons; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13460/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

241 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the level of support, diagnostic or treatment support services available to parents of children with autism or Asperger’s syndrome; her plans to address this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13461/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

242 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the level of diagnostic treatment or support services available to the parents of autistic children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13462/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 240 to 242, inclusive, together.

The Department of Health and Children does not collect information on children identified with Autism and Asperger's on a national or international basis. Information pertaining to diagnosis is specifically excluded from the National Intellectual Disability Database as the database is not designed as a medical epidemiological tool. Accordingly the database does not record the incidence of Autism or any other disability.

In 2004, the Department of Health and Children, through the Health Research Board, approved expenditure of €5 million on autism research to help improve international understanding of the genetic causes of autism. This €5 million is the Irish contribution to a new major international research initiative called the Autism Genome Project which will receive a total investment of €12 million from a variety of international organisations over the next three years. The other co-funders in the international consortium include Autism Speaks (US), the British Medical Research Council (CIHR), Southwest Autism Research and Resource Centre (SARRC), and the Hilibrand Foundation. This unique combination of international, public and private partners funding a consortium of clinicians and scientists is a new and welcome departure in the field of autism research. The Health Research Board has informed my Department that this funding was awarded as follows:

€2.8 million: Professor Michael Gill, Department of Psychiatry, Trinity College, Dublin

€2.2 million: Professor Andrew Green, Director National Centre for Medical Genetics, Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin (affiliated to UCD).

This figure represents the largest tranche of funding to be awarded by any of the four funders within the international consortium. The Irish researchers are at the forefront in unravelling the genetic determinants of autism and related disorders. They are using novel state of the art genetic sequencing technology to analyse DNA samples taken from autistic patients to identify candidate genetic markers for autism. They will collaborate with their international colleagues to then link these genetic markers with clinical outcomes. This unique international research effort will greatly improve not only our understanding of the causes of autism, but its diagnosis and treatment.

With regard to the remaining matters raised by the Deputy, these relate to the management and delivery of health and personal services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act, 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Care of the Elderly.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

243 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children how she will make nursing home or similar accommodation available to older people at an affordable cost in view of the economic downturn; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13463/09]

The new Nursing Homes Support Scheme, A Fair Deal, will guarantee that nursing home care is affordable for those who need it. Individuals will contribute towards the cost of their care based on their ability to pay as determined by a financial assessment. The State will then meet the full balance of cost up to the agreed price for care. Under the new scheme, the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) will agree prices for long-term care with private nursing home owners on behalf of the State. Where nursing homes agree prices for the purposes of the scheme with the NTPF, the NTPF will recommend the homes to the Health Service Executive for inclusion on the list of nursing homes ‘approved' for the scheme. The NTPF will only agree a price if it is satisfied that it is reasonable and value for money.

The Nursing Homes Support Scheme Bill 2008 completed Committee Stage in the Dáil on 12th March 2009. It is the Minister's intention to progress the legislation through the Houses of the Oireachtas with a view to implementing the scheme in the second half of 2009. Unfortunately it is not possible to give a more specific timeframe at present. In the interim, individuals can also continue to apply for Nursing Home Subvention. The HSE has contracted an additional 235 beds in private nursing homes, of which 220 have been filled.

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

244 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of doctor-only medical cards issued since the inception of the doctor-only medical card scheme; the number withdrawn in the same period; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13464/09]

The GP visit card benefit was introduced in November 2005. Details of the number of GP visit card holders are provided to my Department each month by the Health Service Executive (HSE). The figures are provided on a net basis, showing the balance after new cards have been issued and other cards, as appropriate, have been deleted from the Executive's database, e.g. following a review of a person's circumstances. The most recent figures provided to my Department by the HSE are for February 2009. The total number of GP visit card holders on 28th February 2009 was 86,442.

As the information sought by the Deputy is not provided to my Department by the HSE as a matter of the routine, the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive has been requested to arrange to address these matters and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

245 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of medical cards issued to persons over 70 years of age; the number withdrawn to date; the extent to which further withdrawals or cancellations are expected to take place arising from budgetary or other decisions taken or likely to be taken; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13465/09]

Details of the number of medical card holders are provided to my Department each month by the Health Service Executive (HSE). The figures are provided on a net basis, showing the balance after new cards have been issued and other cards, as appropriate, have been deleted from the Executive's database, e.g. following a review of a person's circumstances. The most recent figures provided to my Department by the HSE are for February 2009. The total number of medical card holders aged 70 and over on 28th February 2009 was 343,617.

Following enactment of the Health Act 2008, the Health Service Executive (HSE) wrote to all medical card holders aged 70 years and over in January 2009. Persons who were in receipt of a medical card on a non means tested basis were requested, if over the income limits set out in the Act, to make a declaration to the Executive, on or before the 2nd March 2009. To date, 10,181 persons have returned their medical cards to the HSE and I understand that cards are still being returned. The HSE also reports that as part of an ongoing data quality exercise, a significant number of cards have also been removed from the medical card register — 9,264 of which are in respect of persons aged 70 years and over.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

246 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of general medical cards issued in each of the past five years to date; the number withdrawn or cancelled in each year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13466/09]

Details of the number of medical card holders are provided to my Department each month by the Health Service Executive (HSE). The figures are provided on a net basis, showing the balance after new cards have been issued and other cards, as appropriate, have been deleted from the Executive's database, e.g. following a review of a person's circumstances. The most recent figures provided to my Department by the HSE are for February 2009. The number of medical card holders in February 2009 and for the month of February in the five previous years are set out in tabular form.

Date

Number of Medical Card Holders

28th February 2009

1,365,242

29th February 2008

1,288,621

28th February 2007

1,228,468

28th February 2006

1,168,273

28th February 2005

1,144,578

29th February 2004

1,152,291

As the information requested by the Deputy is not provided by the HSE to my Department as a matter of routine, the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive has been requested to arrange to address these matters and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

247 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the level of permanent nursing staff throughout the health services; the extent to which this figure has fluctuated in each of the past ten years to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13467/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

248 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children assessed and adjudged to be in need of orthodontic treatment in each of the past five years to date; the number of such cases in which treatment has begun; the number outstanding; the number in respect of whom alternative provision has been made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13468/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Ambulance Service.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

249 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied that the ambulance service is fully and adequately equipped in terms of ambulances and all medical equipment required; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13469/09]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Hospital Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

250 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent to which all facilities proposed in respect of Naas General Hospital, Naas, County Kildare, are in operation in accordance with projections; if the full staff complement at all levels is in situ or anticipated; if all theatres, including the clear air theatre, are fully and satisfactorily functioning and being utilised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13470/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

251 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will issue to persons (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13471/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Consultancy Contracts.

Joan Burton

Question:

252 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Transport the number of limited companies with agreements for the provision of the full-time services of a single individual to him, his Department or to a public body under the aegis of his Department, indicating the nature of the services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12834/09]

The information requested by the Deputy is contained in the table. All the contracts involved are to the Department.

Company

Nature of Service

Premier Recruitment International

IT — Software development management and training

Version1 Software

IT — Software development

Sabeo Contracting Services Limited

IT — Network Support — data storage administrator

IT Force Limited

IT — Network Support Administrator

IT Force Limited

IT — Network Support — security systems administrator

IT Force Limited

IT — Service Desk

IT Force Limited

IT — Service Desk

Ajilon (UK) Limited trading as Computer People

IT — Service Desk

Sabeo Contracting Services Limited

IT — Database administrator

Talitha Management Services

Sustainability Advisor

In relation to agencies such agreements are matters for the agencies themselves.

Road Traffic Offences.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

253 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if the National Roads Authority, his Department or the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform retain all funds accruing from speeding or other motoring offences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12898/09]

The collection of financial penalties accruing from offences under the Road Traffic Acts is a matter for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Courts Service. There are no provisions in the Road Traffic Acts for any part of such penalties to be paid to the Department or to the NRA.

Rail Network.

Finian McGrath

Question:

254 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding a matter (details supplied). [12924/09]

The position I outlined in my reply of 11th November last to Dail Question No. 320 (Ref. No. 39293/08) in relation to this matter remains unchanged except that the planning and preparations for Metro North have been further advanced. The first round of tenders for the PPP contract for this project were submitted by the four bidding groups in 27th February last and these tenders are now being evaluated by the RPA. In addition, the Oral Hearing before An Bord Pleanála on the RPA's application for a railway order in respect of Metro North will commence tomorrow. The statutory planning process which is currently underway provides the appropriate forum for all interested parties, including Mr. Mannion, to have their views and concerns on the proposed Metro North project heard and taken into account by the planning authorities.

Company Closures.

Finian McGrath

Question:

255 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Transport if he will respond to a query regarding a company (details supplied). [12964/09]

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

261 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Transport his dealings in respect of the challenges for the workers at a company (details supplied); the position regarding same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13368/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 255 and 261 together.

In mid January the Department were informed by the DAA that as part of preparations for global restructuring SR Technics had agreed to sell certain hangars back to the DAA and had signed a letter of intent to that effect. I was informed of these developments at the time. The Department and I had been made aware by the DAA in mid November of contacts between SR Technics and the DAA about possible restructuring of SR Technics and as a consequence the possible return of hangar leases. The DAA advised that as they had signed a strict confidentiality agreement with SR Technics, they were therefore precluded from providing the Department with details of the discussions at that stage.

Subsequently, in late December the Department were advised by the DAA that these discussions were progressing but were still subject to a strict confidentiality agreement and that any restructuring of SR Technics could have a significant impact on employment in the Dublin operation. I would like to make it clear that both the Department and the DAA have at all times been sensitive to the employment implications of SR Technics closure. I can also confirm that the IDA and Enterprise Ireland are working intensively to ensure that any viable proposals for aviation related projects to retain as many jobs as possible in aircraft maintenance are given serious consideration. The DAA will also give serious consideration to any commercial proposal put to it as regards access to hangars for aircraft maintenance operations. I have instructed the Department to maintain contact with the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment, IDA and Enterprise Ireland to ensure that any viable proposals can be facilitated

As regards the position of Aer Lingus, the company awarded the maintenance contracts to other providers following a competitive tender process in which SR Technics played a full part. It is not open to the Government to intervene in commercial matters of Aer Lingus and the Company has to be allowed the freedom to make such decisions in the interests of its shareholders. It should also be noted that under EU rules the airline would have had to put the maintenance contracts out to tender even if it was still under State ownership.

Road Network.

Michael Ring

Question:

256 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Transport the amount of money which was available in 2008 to local authorities on a county basis in tabular form for local and regional roads. [12974/09]

Michael Ring

Question:

257 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Transport the amount of money which will be available to local authorities on a county basis in tabular form for local and regional roads. [12975/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 256 and 257 together.

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads, in its area, is a statutory function of each individual local authority to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State road grants paid by my Department. State road grants paid in 2008 are set out in the following table. The allocations which will be authorised for 2009 will not be known until after 7th April when the budget is announced.

Local Authority

2008 Grant Payments

2009 Grant Allocations

County Councils

Carlow

7,689,649

8,108,699

Cavan

18,459,927

18,683,025

Clare

22,318,081

22,576,498

Cork

62,827,165

63,659,343

Donegal

43,656,564

39,464,397

Dun Laoghaire–Rathdown

9,187,663

8,711,699

Fingal

9,740,986

8,170,866

Galway

30,251,618

33,844,804

Kerry

25,281,662

25,540,139

Kildare

26,858,894

25,470,264

Kilkenny

15,001,413

16,021,813

Laois

10,844,115

12,453,928

Leitrim

12,532,288

12,622,699

Limerick

18,408,476

18,330,598

Longford

8,953,647

9,085,799

Louth

10,678,281

14,426,636

Mayo

31,150,621

31,212,746

Meath

29,232,813

22,491,473

Monaghan

17,030,071

18,000,199

North Tipperary

13,648,233

15,517,598

Offaly

11,156,910

11,925,699

Roscommon

18,361,100

17,847,265

Sligo

15,853,007

17,149,751

South Dublin

9,162,308

13,826,899

South Tipperary

16,397,058

16,529,738

Waterford

15,844,110

17,888,699

Westmeath

15,701,147

18,329,365

Wexford

19,006,757

18,993,046

Wicklow

24,796,229

25,076,820

City Councils

Cork City

7,003,628

6,979,000

Dublin City

14,178,426

18,325,656

Galway City

2,317,829

3,805,000

Limerick City

3,498,718

4,210,000

Waterford City

6,950,075

5,170,000

* Grants in respect of county council areas include grants to borough and town councils in their areas.

Michael Ring

Question:

258 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Transport if there has been a cutback in the amount of funding which has been promised for roads for 2009. [12976/09]

Apart from a minor adjustment (€1.1 million) there has been no reduction in the allocation announced on 28 January 2009 by the National Roads Authority for its national roads investment programme or in the allocations for regional and local roads notified to local authorities on 2 February 2009. All public expenditure is, however, subject to review in the context of the forthcoming Supplementary Budget.

Departmental Correspondence.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

259 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport if he will respond to correspondence from an association (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12977/09]

Jack Wall

Question:

260 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Transport his views on correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13049/09]

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

The Minister has responded to the correspondence received from the Irish Road Haulage Association.

Question No. 261 answered with Question No. 255.

Transport 21.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

262 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Transport the projects under Transport 21 which will commence in 2009; the projects to be completed in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13385/09]

Significant progress has been made since the beginning of Transport 21 and this progress will continue in 2009. The Transport 21 projects that will begin in 2009 are:

the N21 Castleisland Bypass;

the Citywest Luas line;

the Dublin City Centre rail resignalling project;

the third tranche of the Railway Safety Programme.

Construction will continue during the year on 11 major projects including Phase 1 of the Navan rail line, the Cherrywood Luas line and 9 national road projects:

M3 Clonee-North of Kells;

N6 Galway-Ballinasloe;

N7 Limerick Tunnel;

M7 Castletown-Nenagh;

M7/M8 Portlaoise-Cullahill/Castletown;

N9 Carlow-Knocktopher;

N18 Gort-Crusheen;

M50 Upgrade Phase 2;

N52 Tullamore Bypass;

In addition, a number of public transport programmes such as the GDA traffic management grants scheme, the accessibility programme and the automation of level crossings will continue.

In 2009, the NRA expects to complete 8 national road projects:

N4 Leixlip/M50 Junction (Lucan Bypass upgrade);

N6 Athlone to Ballinasloe;

M7 Nenagh to Limerick;

M8 Mitchelstown to Fermoy;

N9 aterford to Knocktopher;

M9 Kilcullen to Carlow;

N25 Waterford City Bypass;

N51 Navan Inner Relief Road.

The following public transport projects will be completed in 2009:

the Docklands Luas line;

the Midleton rail line;

Phase 1 of the Western Rail Corridor (Ennis to Athenry);

the Kildare rail project;

The remaining Intercity railcars of the 183 ordered will enter into service on the national rail network.

Road Network.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

263 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Transport the roads projects that are subject to Department of Finance approval before the National Roads Authority can proceed with the projects; the expected delay in each case that will arise from this new procedure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13421/09]

The total capital allocation to the National Roads Authority (NRA) for its national roads investment programme for 2009 is €1.44 billion. All but approximately €50m of this year's allocation on national roads is already contractually committed and does not require prior Department of Finance approval. This contractually committed expenditure will see us move into the final construction phase on the interurban motorway and dual carriageway network and the completion of the M50 upgrade by end 2010. It will also finance a range of other projects around the country.

My Department has written to the Department of Finance seeking approval to proceed with the letting of contracts in respect of the remaining €50 million of the NRA's capital allocation. This includes the NRA's proposed programme of minor roadworks on both national primary and national secondary roads, as well as planning and preparatory works on a range of other projects. I expect that the Department of Finance will respond to my Department following the Supplementary Budget on 7th April next.

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

264 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the installation of closed circuit television by location in County Louth; the success to date of the system; the future plans for increased funding and expansion of the service in County Louth by location; if changes have been made in such plans as a result of cutbacks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12790/09]

There are currently two Garda Town Centre CCTV systems located in Dundalk and Drogheda. These systems are managed by An Garda Síochána and are monitored on a 24 hour basis. In addition, there is a Community based CCTV scheme operational in Drogheda consisting of six cameras and plans are well advanced by Drogheda Borough Council to further expand this scheme. Also, a proposed Community based scheme in Dundalk at Cox's Demesne and Muirhevnamor has been approved and two further groups — Carlingford and Louth County Council — Blackrock, have been awarded small pre-development grants to assist with developing proposals for the installation of Community CCTV schemes in their areas. Grant aided funding is provided for the Community based schemes by my Department with matching funding provided by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in respect of RAPID areas.

CCTV systems have become an important and effective tool to support policing and community safety in these areas and they also act as a useful deterrent to crime and public disorder. Garda CCTV schemes are planned and implemented on the basis of the Garda Commissioner's identified operational needs and priorities. Before grants are awarded under the Community based scheme, a comprehensive vetting of applications is carried out by Pobal on behalf of my Department. As part of the process, an assessment of needs, including an analysis of crime statistics and other background information, is carried out by the local Garda Divisional Officer. Any future plans for extension of CCTV are dependent on a number of factors including the availability of funding, the progression of schemes already grant aided and overall policy considerations.

Citizenship Applications.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

265 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to Parliamentary Question No. 271 of 10 March 2009, when he will make a decision in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12840/09]

I refer the Deputy to my detailed Reply to his recent Parliamentary Question, No. 271 of Tuesday 10 March 2009, in this matter. The position in the State of the person concerned is as set out in that Reply. The Deputy might wish to note that the outstanding leave to remain application of the person concerned is among a large number of such applications my Department currently has on hands. Additionally, the Deputy should note that the processing of such applications is resource intensive and, as such, it is not possible to estimate when a decision will be made on this application. However, the Deputy can be assured that there will be no avoidable delay in having the case of the person concerned finalised.

Courts Service.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

266 Deputy Ciarán Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has plans to commence sections 13 and 14 of the Courts and Courts Officers Act 2002 to extend the jurisdictions of the District and Circuit Courts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12853/09]

The matter is under consideration by my Department in the context of the proposed Legal Costs Bill.

Prison Accommodation.

Michael Ring

Question:

267 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the cell capacity of every prison here in tabular form. [12857/09]

I wish to advise the Deputy that there has been a significant increase in the provision of prison spaces in the last 10 to 12 years. In that period close to 1,400 new prison spaces have been provided representing a significant investment in modern prison accommodation. In addition, an additional 400 extra spaces will be provided at Castlerea, Wheatfield and Portlaoise in the coming months. That said, overcrowding is an issue with the numbers in custody increasing by 65% over the last 12 years. We must maximise the available prison space since the Irish Prison Service must accept all prisoners committed to their custody by the Courts.

The cell capacity of all prisons throughout the prison estate that presently can be used for occupancy are set out in the table below. This does not include special observation or close supervision cells. When looking at prison capacity and bearing in mind that not all cells are single occupancy cells, the bed capacity figure for each prison gives a much more accurate picture. Accordingly, details of the bed and the cell/room capacity of each prison are set out in the table.

Prison/Place of Detention

Bed Capacity

Cell/Room Capacity

Arbour Hill

148

114 cells

Castlerea

228

135 cells

Cloverhill

431

188 cells

Cork

272

138 cells

Dóchas Centre

85

90 rooms

Limerick

295

195 cells

Loughan House

130

115 rooms

Midlands

469

434 cells

Mountjoy (Male)

540

441 cells

Portlaoise

210

233 cells

Shelton Abbey

90

56 cells

St. Patrick’s

216

214 cells

Training Unit

107

96 rooms

Wheatfield

390

284 cells

Crime Levels.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

268 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of recorded incidents in which a knife was involved annually since 2003; the number of detected recorded incidents involving a knife annually since 2003; the number of recorded incidents in which a knife is involved with convictions annually since 2003; the number of recorded incidents in which a knife is involved with cases pending annually since 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12870/09]

Charles Flanagan

Question:

269 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of incidences in which a knife was involved recorded monthly in the past six months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12871/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 268 and 269 together.

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

Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

270 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will confirm that a tender competition was recently held to appoint presenting officers to attend hearings of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal; the publications and website on which this competition was advertised; the costs involved; the number of tenders received; the number of those interviewed by the selection board; the names of the members of the selection board and the fees and expenses they were paid; the name of the successful applicant; if they are solicitors or barristers; if those people are being or have been appointed as staff members of his Department or the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner; if they have been appointed or will be appointed authorised officers under the Refugee Act 1996; if so, the date of same; if the successful appointees are able to subcontract work to another solicitor or barrister or legal firms; if they are able to provide services to asylum applications before the Refugee Appeals Tribunal; the schedule of fees being paid; if they have been reduced in view of the statement (details supplied) of 3 February 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12879/09]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 232 on 3 March 2009. At the time of my reply, the matter of the application of the Government decision relating to professional fees to the schedule of fees payable to Presenting Panel members was under examination. I can now confirm that the schedule of fees applicable to the Panel has been reduced in line with the Government Decision.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

271 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to the application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12880/09]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No 334 for answer on 25 November, 2008. The person's case has been reviewed in light of the recent Supreme Court judgments on matters related to the IBC/05 Scheme. The Deportation Order made in respect of the person concerned, on 15 September, 2008 remains in force. The effect of the Deportation Order is that the person concerned must leave the State and remain thereafter out of the State. The enforcement of Deportation Orders is an operational matter for the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

272 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to the application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12881/09]

I refer the Deputy to my detailed Reply to his recent Parliamentary Question, No.125 of Thursday 12 February 2009, in this matter. The position of the person concerned is as set out in that Reply.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

273 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a review will be taken in the case of the application for residency by a person (details supplied) in County Meath; if all relevant issues have been fully investigated before making an order; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12882/09]

The person concerned, an infant child, was born in the State in mid-2008. An application for asylum was made on her behalf on 13 August 2008. Her asylum application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, and, on appeal, by 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 28 November 2008, 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 i.e. why she should not be deported. She was also notified of her entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection pursuant to the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006. An application for Subsidiary Protection was made on behalf of the person concerned by her legal representative. Following consideration of this application, a decision was made to refuse the application. The person concerned and her legal representative were notified of this decision by letter dated 11 March 2009.

Her case was then 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. Consideration was given to all representations submitted on her behalf. On 5 March 2009, I signed a Deportation Order in respect of the person concerned. Notice of this Order was served by registered letter dated 13 March 2009 which obliges the person concerned to leave the State. To this end, the person concerned is required to present herself at the Offices of the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2 on Tuesday 31 March 2009 in order to make arrangements for her removal from the State.

The Deputy might wish to note that the mother of the person concerned, who is also the subject of a Deportation Order, has been directed to ‘present' at the Offices of the Garda National Immigration Bureau on the same date and at the same time as her infant child. I am satisfied that the applications made by the person concerned for asylum, for Subsidiary Protection and for leave to remain temporarily in the State were fairly and comprehensively examined and, as such, the decision to deport the person concerned is justified. The effect of the Deportation Order is that the person concerned must leave the State and remain thereafter out of the State. The enforcement of the Deportation Order is an operational matter for the GNIB.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

274 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to the application for family reunification or residency in the case of persons (details supplied). [12883/09]

The person concerned has had his Leave to Remain in the State extended for a three year period, to 23 March 2012. This decision was conveyed to the person concerned by letter dated 24 March 2009. There is no record 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.

Refugee Status.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

275 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a further temporary travel document will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12884/09]

I am informed by the Immigration Services Section of my Department that 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 valid to November 2008 to assist him in obtaining a national passport. The person in question was advised in writing by the Travel Document Unit on 20 February 2009 that the temporary travel document previously issued to him would not be renewed. It is open to the person concerned to seek Consular Assistance from his own national embassy located in London.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

276 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position on the application for family reunification or residency in the case of aperson (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12885/09]

I refer the Deputy to my previous answers to his Parliamentary Questions on the person in question, No. 209 of 21 February 2008, No. 232 of Thursday 6th March 2008, No. 513 of 17th April 2008, No.147 of Thursday 29th May 2008, No.106 of 4th December 2008, and No. 316 of 16th December 2008. I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that an application for family reunification from the person referred to by the Deputy was processed in July 2006 and that a decision was made refusing the application. I am also informed that subsequently the person concerned submitted additional documentation relating to their application. Following the receipt of the additional material, the Family Reunification Unit has carried out a review of the case and has informed the person in question of the outcome.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

277 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position on the application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12886/09]

There is currently no application pending in my Department for residency in the case of the person whose details were supplied. If an application for asylum has been made by the person concerned the Deputy will of course be aware that it is not the practice to comment on asylum applications that are pending.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

278 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position on the application for family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Longford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12887/09]

The person concerned has been granted temporary Leave to Remain in the State for a three year period, to 26 June 2011. This decision was conveyed to the person concerned by letter dated 26 June 2008. There is no record 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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

279 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position on the application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12888/09]

There is currently no application pending in my Department for residency in the case of the person whose details were supplied. If an application for asylum has been made by the person concerned the Deputy will of course be aware that it is not the practice to comment on asylum applications that are pending.

Refugee Status.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

280 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a stamp four or travel document will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12889/09]

The person concerned was informed by the Repatriation Unit in writing on 19 January 2009 that, as an exceptional measure, his permission to remain in the State had been renewed for three years until 3 December 2011. In order to register, the person concerned, under Section 9(2)(a) of the Immigration Act 2004, is required to produce a passport issued by his national authorities which establishes his identity and nationality, unless a satisfactory explanation of the circumstances preventing him from procuring it is provided.

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. He was advised in writing by the Travel Document Unit of the Immigration Services Section of my Department on 11 November 2008 and 24 March 2009 that he would not be issued with a Temporary Irish Travel document as he had not produced satisfactory evidence to show that his national embassy in London was not in a position to provide Consular Assistance to him.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

281 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position on the application for citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12890/09]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in February 2009. On examination of the application and supporting documentation submitted it was determined that the application form was not fully completed and it was returned in its entirety to the person concerned for further attention on 17 February, 2009. In order to be fair to all applicants, only valid applications can be considered. It is open to the person in question to re-submit the application to the Citizenship Division of my Department at any time.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

282 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 County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12891/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 22 December 2003. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner. Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 25 May 2005, 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 person concerned and these representations 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:

283 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if leave to remain will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12892/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum in the State on 24 February 2004. 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 27 August 2007, 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. In addition, she was notified of her entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006).

The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome. In the event that the Subsidiary Protection application is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will then be considered under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned is passed to me for decision.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

284 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the mother of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare was granted naturalisation; when an extension of the person’s residency was granted subsequently; if it is recognised that there was no change in either person’s circumstances since renewal in December 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12893/09]

The mother of the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was granted a certificate of naturalisation in June 2006. Correspondence was received in my Department regarding the person's changed circumstances. Following receipt of this correspondence the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 25 March 2009, to attend at his local Registration Office in order to renew his certificate of registration. The permission granted to the person concerned will only become operative once registered, and this registration is a matter for the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

285 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to the renewal of residency documentation or citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12894/09]

The person concerned has had his permission to remain in the State extended for a further one-year period, to 11 March 2010. This decision was conveyed in writing to the person concerned by letter dated 13 March 2009.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

286 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to the asylum application in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12895/09]

If an application for asylum has been made by the person concerned the Deputy will of course be aware that it is not the practice to comment on asylum applications that are pending.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

287 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to the application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12896/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum in the State on 5 March 2004. 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 30 November 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.

The person concerned was notified, by letter dated 19 February 2008, of her entitlement to make an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006). She was also invited to update her earlier representations to the Minister. Updated representations have been received on behalf of the person concerned. An application for Subsidiary Protection in the State has also been submitted on behalf of the person concerned and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the Subsidiary Protection application is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will then be considered under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned is passed to me for decision.

Road Traffic Offences.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

288 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the National Roads Authority, the Department of Transport or his Department retains all funds accruing from speeding or other motoring offences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12897/09]

All moneys accruing from penalties for speeding or other motoring offences are surrendered to the Exchequer as extra exchequer receipts and are accounted for in the Appropriation Accounts.

Official Engagements.

Denis Naughten

Question:

289 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on the visit of his Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, to Nigeria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12907/09]

At the invitation of the Nigerian Government, I led an official and business delegation to Nigeria on 18 to 25 March last with the aim of strengthening bilateral co-operation in relation to immigration and to improve economic relations between our two countries.

On matters to do with immigration, I met with members of the Nigerian Government, the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Mr Michael Aondoakaa, and the Minister of Interior, Major-General (rtd) Godwin Abbe. The operation of the Readmission Agreement concluded by both Governments in 2001 was reviewed and agreed to be working well. In addition, as has become public knowledge, Mr Aondoakaa referred to a particular case. I cannot comment on this case as it is before the courts.

On business matters, representatives of the following Irish businesses, under the auspices of the Irish-Nigerian Chamber of Commerce (which was also represented on the visit) and the Nigerian Embassy, Dublin, took part in the visit: John Gartland and Partners Limited, Consulting Engineers; Whelan Corcoran Smith, Architects/Planners; Haahjem Heavy Duty Crushing Plants and Equipments; Ber Store, Solar Power Generators; Carey Glass; Kerrigan Sheanon Newman, Chartered Quantity Surveyors; Scott Construction; Trinity Shipping; Sutton Cronin Crowley, Consulting Engineers; Transcontinental Services; GT Plant Hire; OBK Development; James Booth, Financial Advisers and Consultants; Byrne, Anike; and Tullow Oil and Gas. I led the business delegation at meetings with Ministers at the Ministries of Commerce and Industry, Foreign Affairs, Environment, Housing and Urban Development and Information and Communications, and the National Planning Commission.

I also paid courtesy calls on the Adamawa State Governor, Vice-Admiral (rtd) Murtala Nyako, and the Chief Economic Adviser to the President, Dr Tanimu Yakubu. In addition, I attended a dinner reception for the delegation hosted by the Senate President, Senator David Mark. I am pleased to report that the visit was extremely successful in terms both of the official contacts with the Nigerian authorities on immigration issues and the opportunities to develop and strengthen economic relationships with Nigeria.

Deportation Orders.

Denis Naughten

Question:

290 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the cost of deportations in each of the past five years; the number of persons deported in each year; the estimates in this area for 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12908/09]

The deportation costs provided below refer to the removal from the State of illegal immigrants, persons whose asylum applications were refused or persons whose applications for asylum were transferred to another country under the Dublin Convention/Dublin II Regulations. The vast majority of the removals involved persons whose asylum applications were refused.

Set out below are the costs for the last five years of the removal of persons subject to either deportation or (Dublin II Regulation) transfer orders, by scheduled/commercial and charter flights and, in very limited circumstances for some Dublin II Regulation based removals, ferries. These figures include the travel costs relating to the deportees/transferees and their Garda escorts.

Year

Cost (Euros) of scheduled/commercial flight removals

2004

1,797,523

2005

1,725,745

2006

1,607,685

2007

786,335

2008

920,710

Total

6,837,998

The Deputy might wish to note that the figures above do not include the cost of overtime or subsistence payments for Garda escorts.

The deportation of failed asylum seekers and other illegal immigrants is costly, particularly in the case of removals to distant countries such as Nigeria, China etc. In most cases removals are carried out using commercial flights, which usually involves transit through other European airports as Ireland does not have direct flights to most of the countries of return. In addition, most flights have to be booked at short notice, near to the date of departure, which involves higher costs than if booked well in advance. However, such costs must be looked at in tandem with the considerable expense arising from the continued presence in the State of persons who have no valid basis for being in the State. Such costs would include accommodation and social welfare costs as well as detention costs in certain cases. While it is important to keep deportation costs to a minimum, to not remove persons who have no valid basis for being in the State would call into question the integrity of the entire asylum and immigration systems. This would leave this State open to further illegal immigration and even greater expense to taxpayers.

The numbers of persons deported and ‘transferred' in each of the last five years is as follows:

Year

Deportation Orders effected

Transfer Orders effected

2004

599

65

2005

396

209

2006

302

294

2007

139

225

2008

162

271

Total

1,598

1,064

It is not possible to accurately estimate the numbers of persons who will be removed from the State in 2009. Neither is it possible to estimate accurately what the financial costs in this area might be in 2009. However, the Deputy can be assured that my Department will continue to work in close collaboration with the Garda National Immigration Bureau towards the enforcement of deportation or transfer orders where such orders have been signed and served. Equally, my Department will continue to arrange deportations and Dublin II Regulation transfers in the most cost effective manner possible including the use of charter flights where this is considered to be most effective. My Department will also continue to work in co-operation with other EU Member States, through the EU-wide FRONTEX network, to carry out joint deportation operations to destinations of shared interest.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard Allen

Question:

291 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the situation regarding the application made in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork for naturalisation. [12916/09]

Officials in the Citizenship Division of my Department inform me that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question.

Bernard Allen

Question:

292 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on the application for naturalisation in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and the reason the decision is taking so long. [12917/09]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in October 2007. Applications for naturalisation are generally dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants. Additional resources were allocated to the Citizenship Division to enable certain categories of applicant to be dealt with more expeditiously. These include refugees, spouses of Irish citizens and minors.

The average processing time from application to decision is now at 23 months. The Citizenship Division is currently commencing further processing of applications received in mid 2007. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average while an element of straightforward cases are now being dealt with in less than that time scale. There is a limit to the reduction in the processing time that can be achieved as applications for naturalisation must be processed in a way which preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that the status of citizenship is not undervalued and is only given to persons who genuinely satisfy the necessary qualifying criteria.

Garda Recruitment.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

293 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the next phase of new Garda recruitment and training will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12918/09]

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that there is currently a panel in place of candidates for recruitment and there are no proposals at present to hold a further recruitment competition.

Garda Complaints Procedures.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

294 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of cases which have been referred to the confidential receiver for An Garda Síochána; the number which have been investigated; the outcomes of cases referred; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12948/09]

I understand that three reports have been made to the confidential recipient appointed under the Garda Síochána (Confidential Reporting of Corruption or Malpractice) Regulations 2007. These reports have been transmitted to the Garda Commissioner and they are currently being investigated.

Closed Circuit Televisions Systems.

Richard Bruton

Question:

295 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the areas in which closed circuit television cameras are used for crime fighting in the Dublin 17 area; his views on supporting the Garda in extending this scheme to roads (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12954/09]

I am advised by the Garda authorities that Dublin City Council operate and control a CCTV system in Dublin the 17 area. Local Gardaí have access this system at the Council's Darndale Office as and when required. In addition, Gardaí also have recourse to other CCTV footage for crime investigation from local business premises in the area. Garda CCTV schemes are planned and implemented on the basis of the Garda Commissioner's identified operational needs and priorities. I am informed by the Garda Authorities that there is currently no Garda operated CCTV system in the Dublin 17 area.

Garda Stations.

Finian McGrath

Question:

296 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda stations in County Donegal; the number of gardaí based in these stations; and the hours that they are open. [12965/09]

Finian McGrath

Question:

297 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the increase in Garda numbers stationed in County Donegal from 1997 to date in 2009; and the stations at which these gardaí were stationed. [12966/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 296 and 297 together.

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that the yearly personnel strengths from 31 December 1997 to 31 December 2008 and 28 February 2009 — the latest date for which figures are readily available — are as set out in the following table. Also shown is a table containing the opening hours, which are subject to manpower availability, of the 45 Garda stations in the Donegal Division. Resource levels are monitored on an ongoing basis by local and senior Garda Management in each District and Division, in conjunction with crime trends and other demands made on An Garda Síochána. The situation will be kept under review and the needs of the Division referred to by the Deputy will be fully considered within the overall context of the needs of Garda stations throughout the country.

Year ending 31 December

Station

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

28/02/09

District: Letterkenny

Letterkenny

90

96

92

93

92

92

101

94

97

119

129

132

135

Carrigans

12

11

9

8

9

8

7

6

5

5

5

5

5

Castlefin

18

17

14

10

5

4

4

4

3

3

4

4

4

Brocach

2

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

Newtowncunningham

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

2

2

4

4

Raphoe

5

6

9

9

7

7

6

4

6

4

4

4

4

Lifford

22

22

19

19

17

15

17

15

14

15

15

13

13

Ballybofey

20

23

22

20

23

24

23

24

21

21

22

25

24

Convoy

2

1

2

3

4

4

4

3

3

3

4

3

4

District: Buncrana

Buncrana

36

37

34

33

37

34

35

38

41

51

48

50

50

Burnfoot

21

19

21

22

19

18

15

13

11

12

14

15

16

Carndonagh

5

5

5

5

5

5

4

5

6

5

6

5

5

Clonmanny

2

2

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

2

2

1

1

Malin

2

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

2

3

7

5

5

Culdaff

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

Moville

9

10

10

10

9

9

9

8

9

9

9

10

9

Muff

2

3

2

2

3

4

4

4

6

4

3

4

3

District: Milford

Milford

18

19

20

19

17

20

23

23

23

24

27

31

26

Carrigart

3

2

3

3

3

3

3

2

3

3

3

3

2

Kerrykeel

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

2

2

2

3

3

3

Kilmacrennan

2

2

2

3

2

2

2

1

2

2

2

2

2

Churchill

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

Dunfanaghy

2

2

2

1

2

2

3

4

3

4

4

4

4

Craoslagh

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

Falcarragh

6

6

5

6

7

6

6

6

7

6

6

6

7

Ramelton

3

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

Rathmullen

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

District: Glenties

Glenties

19

20

19

20

18

21

24

24

21

22

27

28

26

Annagry

1

1

1

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

Ardara

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

Bunbeag

6

6

6

7

7

5

6

6

6

7

8

7

7

Burtonport

3

3

2

2

2

2

2

2

3

1

2

2

2

Clougher

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

Doochary

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

Dungloe

5

4

6

6

6

6

5

6

7

9

8

11

11

Carrick

2

2

2

2

2

2

1

1

2

2

2

2

2

Gleann Cholmcille

1

1

1

1

2

2

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

District: Ballyshannon

Ballyshannon

35

38

37

35

34

31

32

33

34

36

35

35

35

Ballintra

3

2

2

2

2

1

1

2

2

2

2

2

1

Bundoran

14

14

16

15

14

12

11

11

12

12

12

12

12

Donegal Town

29

29

27

27

34

34

34

33

24

32

34

34

36

Pettigo

13

13

13

12

4

4

2

2

1

1

1

1

1

Dunkineely

3

2

1

2

2

2

2

1

1

1

1

1

1

Na Cealla Beaga

6

6

6

6

6

6

7

8

7

7

7

6

7

Mountcharles

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

2

8

2

2

2

2

TOTAL

440

450

439

434

424

416

424

412

417

448

476

488

485

Monday-Friday

Saturday

Sunday

District: Letterkenny

Letterkenny

24 Hours

Carrigans

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

Castlefin

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

Brocach

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

Newtowncunningham

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

Raphoe

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

Lifford

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

Ballybofey

10am – 6pm

10am – 6pm

Closed

Convoy

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

District: Buncrana

Buncrana

24 Hours

Burnfoot

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

Carndonagh

9am – 3pm

10am – 1pm

Closed

Clonmanny

7pm – 8pm

Closed

Closed

Malin

6pm – 7pm

Closed

Closed

Culdaff

8pm – 9pm

Closed

Closed

Moville

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

Muff

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

District: Milford

Milford

24 Hours

Carrigart

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

Kerrykeel

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

Kilmacrennan

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

Churchill

11am – 1pm

11am – 1pm

11am – 1pm

Dunfanaghy

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

Craosloch

11am – 1pm

11am – 1pm

11am – 1pm

Falcarragh

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

Ramelton

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

Rathmullen

11am – 1pm

11am – 1pm

11am – 1pm

District: Glenties

Glenties

24 Hours

Annagry

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

Ardara

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

Bunbeag

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

Burtonport

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

Clougher

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

Doochary

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

Dungloe

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

Carrick

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

Gleann Cholmcille

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

District: Ballyshannon

Ballyshannon

24 Hours

Ballintra

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

Bundoran

10am – 1pm, 7pm – 8pm

10am – 1pm, 7pm – 8pm

10am – 1pm, 7pm – 8pm

Donegal

24 hours

Pettigo

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

Dunkineely

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

Na Cealla Beaga

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

Mountcharles

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

10am – 1pm

Citizenship Applications.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

298 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the application for naturalisation in respect of persons (details supplied) in County Wexford; when this application will be dealt with by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12978/09]

Applications for certificates of naturalisation on behalf of the persons referred to in the Deputy's Question were received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in December 2005, February 2008 and April 2008, and on each occasion the applications were refused. The reasons for refusal were disclosed to the parent of the persons concerned in letters issued on 11 April, 2006 and 30 October, 2008. However, on reviewing the files my Officials have noticed that it may not have been clear to the parent of one of the persons in question that the letter dated 30 October, 2008 indicated my refusal of both outstanding applications at that time. A new letter has issued clarifying the position.

Further applications for certificates of naturalisation were submitted to the Citizenship Division of my Department in December 2008. Applications on behalf of minors are dealt with by a separate unit in the Citizenship Division of my Department; because they generally require less processing than standard adult applications, it is usually possible to finalise them more quickly. All applications for a certificates of naturalisation on behalf of minors are dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants.

Public Order Offences.

Finian McGrath

Question:

299 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will support a matter (details supplied). [13037/09]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the location referred to is in the Clontarf Garda Sub-District. Local Garda management is aware of difficulties being experienced by residents in the area as a result of anti-social behaviour. A member of the local Community Policing Unit is allocated to this area and liaises with the local community. An active Neighbourhood Watch Scheme is in place, and the community Garda attends its meetings. Any issues raised are addressed by local Garda management.

The area is subject to regular patrols by uniform and plain clothes personnel, including the Community Policing Unit, the Garda Mountain Bike Unit and the District Detective and Drugs Unit, supplemented by the Divisional Crime Task Force and Traffic Corps personnel. Current policing policy in the area is predicated on the prevention of crime, including crimes of violence against persons and property, the prevention of public order offences and the maintenance of an environment conducive to the improvement of the quality of life of the residents. This strategy is, and will continue to be, central to the delivery of the policing service in this area.

Crime Levels.

Mary Upton

Question:

300 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons prosecuted for the supply of alcohol to under-age persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13038/09]

Mary Upton

Question:

302 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the Garda districts in which suppliers were prosecuted in respect of breaches of the law for the supply of alcohol to under-age persons; the number of prosecutions in each district; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13040/09]

Mary Upton

Question:

303 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if persons other than vendors of alcohol have been prosecuted for having been complicit in making alcohol available to under-age persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13041/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 300, 302 and 303 together.

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

Mary Upton

Question:

301 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the penalties in place for breaches of the law in respect of the supply of alcohol to under-age persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter [13039/09]

Sections 31 and 32 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1988, as amended, contain provisions which prohibit the sale and supply of intoxicating liquor to persons under the age of 18 years. The penalties applicable on conviction for offences under these sections have been updated most recently in sections 13 and 17 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008.

Questions Nos. 302 and 303 answered with Question No. 300.

Proposed Legislation.

Jack Wall

Question:

304 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13051/09]

The Deputy will be aware that I have initiated a major review of gambling. The objective of the review is to put in place a modern, responsive code that recognises the fact that some people gamble and enjoy gambling. But, equally, any gambling code must acknowledge that there are inherent dangers involved in gambling that need to be addressed, not least in terms of problem gambling, protection of minors and the need to ensure gambling venues are crime-free. The Casino Gaming Control Section of my Department will be responsible for bringing forward proposals, including a draft Bill in due course, for a revised gambling code. The Casino Gaming Control Section will consult widely before bringing forward any proposals and will develop its proposals based on the three important considerations which are the hallmark of most well-regulated gambling codes. These are: — that young people and the vulnerable are protected, — that gambling should in all respects be fairly and openly conducted, — that gambling is kept free of crime.

In this context I have also decided that private clubs offering casino games to members will be subject to oversight by the Casino Gaming Control Section of my Department, pending the outcome of the review now underway. As a first step, private clubs engaged in casino-like activities will be obliged to comply with relevant anti-money laundering and terrorist financing legislation. The immediate necessary legislative changes, for these purposes, will be made in conjunction with legislation now being drafted to give effect to the Third Money Laundering Directive, and which forms part of the Government's published legislative programme. This limited recognition of casino-type gaming does not mean that large-scale casino developments will be permitted. Any further development of this area must await detailed consideration and rigorous examination by the Government of proposals for the further regulation of this sector that will arise from the overall review of gambling being undertaken by my Department.

Garda Deployment.

Tom Hayes

Question:

305 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí based in Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary; and the number of gardaí there are nationally per head of the population. [13053/09]

Tom Hayes

Question:

306 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí based in Tipperary town; and the number of gardaí there are nationally per head of the population. [13054/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 305 and 306 together.

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that as of 28 February 2009, the latest date for which figures are readily available, the personnel strength of An Garda Síochána was 14,371. As of that date the personnel strength of Carrick-on-Suir and Tipperary town Garda Stations was 11 and 34 respectively. The population statistics were last collected by the Central Statistics Office in April 2006 and recorded a national population of 4,239,848. Garda strength on 30 April 2006 was 12,408. On that basis the ratio of Gardaí to head of population was 1:342.

Prison Service.