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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Vol. 682 No. 2

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 5, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 6 to 59, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 60 to 66, inclusive, answered orally.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

67 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the level of funding approval of ocean energy projects for 2008 and 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18761/09]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

91 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the progress made to date and the plans for the future use of wave energy as a renewable energy resource. [18618/09]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

115 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his target for ocean energy technology; the mega wattage of ocean energy connected to the grid; the number of applications received; the amount of the €26 million announced for ocean energy that will be spent in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18777/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 67, 91 and 115 together.

The Government is giving very high priority to supporting the development of Ireland's ocean energy potential. Not only will ocean energy contribute to Ireland's renewable energy targets, it has considerable potential for inward investment and enterprise activity in support of economic renewal. The ocean energy package launched last year is designed to ensure Ireland is fully positioned to harness the rich potential of the technology. Delivery will entail close cooperation between Departments, Agencies and the Industry to deliver on the roadmap, which will transform ocean energy into a commercially viable industry.

The dedicated Ocean Energy Development Unit (OEDU) was established within Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) last year. It has since commenced full implementation of the ocean energy programme. Expenditure in 2008 was €1 million. The budget for ocean energy developments for 2009, which is the Unit's first full year in operation, is €7m. It is anticipated that the budget will be fully spent in 2009.

Ocean energy technologies are still in the research and development phase globally. It is estimated that there are about 10 megawatts (MWs) of ocean energy test projects installed at this time. This reflects the early phase of development of the technology within international research programmes. The Government's target, following suitable technology development, is to install 500 MWs of ocean energy technologies by 2020. We have also sent a clear signal to the market in the announcement of a feed-in tariff of €220 per megawatt hour for wave and tidal technologies under the REFIT Scheme.

The ocean energy strategy has already made significant initial progress. The Unit is open for business and is working with all players in rolling out the key elements of the ocean energy strategy.

There are already significant expressions of interest by a range of commercial players who wish to conduct R & D into Ireland's ocean energy potential, at the earliest opportunity. Attracting and retaining world class renewable energy companies to Ireland is key to the successful development of the ocean energy resource. The economic potential is estimated to be significant by the IDA.

I am working closely with my colleagues the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to ensure that both the short term and medium term offshore energy licensing and planning issues are satisfactorily addressed. Clarity and certainty about the licensing regime is critical for industry confidence and to secure their long term commitment to Ireland.

The Ocean Energy Unit launched the industry prototype development fund towards the end of 2008. To date, 20 Expressions of Interest leading to seven firm proposals have been submitted by developers. Of these seven firm proposals for funding three projects are well advanced in the assessment process and the other four proposals are completing technical and business evaluation. Funding decisions will be made in light of these evaluations.

SEI, in partnership with the Marine Institute and ESBI, has undertaken a detailed assessment process since 2007 to identify the most suitable wave energy test site with a grid connection to the electricity network. The development partnership will now develop a grid connected site off Annagh, County Mayo. This facility will test operational pre-commercial wave energy devices directly connected to the electricity network.

The Project team is completing detailed technical consultation with prospective industrial users of the facility. It is also completing engineering specifications, onshore and offshore lease applications, network connection and necessary on-shore works. The project is scheduled to be complete by 2010 subject to external factors including offshore sea conditions during the development phase.

The Unit is also working with UCC to upgrade the existing wave-basin located at the Hydraulics and Maritime Research Centre (HMRC) at UCC. The facility provides research and testing facilities for a variety of offshore purposes. The upgrade of the existing facility includes new wave generating equipment, new experimental test rigs, improved workshop facilities and advanced computer solutions for numerical analysis and modelling. Expenditure in 2009 on the facility is estimated at €1 million.

In addition, proposals for a new National Ocean Test Facility (NOTF) will be developed by 2012 as part of a proposed Maritime and Energy Research Centre beside the National Maritime College at Ringaskiddy.

I am committed to ensuring that we maintain momentum on all fronts. The work now underway will reap rich dividends for Ireland if we succeed in building the critical mass of knowledge skills and capability to test and develop the technology and systematically address the short to medium term challenges.

EU Directives.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

68 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding his commitment to the biofuels directive; the outcome of the public consultation process here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18708/09]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

88 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans for the widespread introduction of biodiesel into the national road freight transport fleet; if he is funding initiatives in this respect; if he has directed State owned diesel fuelled vehicles to switch to biodiesel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14021/09]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

116 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the difficulties faced by owners of cars run on bio-ethanol E85 due to the lack of petrol retailers offering this product; his further views on ensuring all petrol stations carry a minimum of bio-ethanol in order to encourage less dependence on fossil fuels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18703/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 68, 88 and 116 together.

The Programme for Government commits to the sustainable development of an Irish biofuels market in line with overall EU biofuel policy developments. Transport is one of the fastest growing sectors in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and biofuels offer one potential means to counter rising emissions levels in the sector. I am working with my ministerial colleagues to progressively introduce biofuels into appropriate State fleets.

The Government Programme also commits to the introduction of a Biofuels Obligation which will underpin delivery of the national biofuel targets and which will take account of EU developments. The introduction of a Biofuel Obligation will require all fuel suppliers to ensure that biofuels represent a certain percentage of their annual fuel sales. The biofuels obligation will provide a long-term market based framework for the development of a biofuels sector and delivery of biofuels targets to 2020. It will also enable market players to make appropriate investment decisions.

In light of the public consultation conducted last year my Department is finalising the details of the Biofuel Obligation Scheme. I intend to bring proposals to Government in the near future with a view to finalising and publishing legislation later in the year. It is my intention to introduce the Biofuel Obligation Scheme in 2010.

The Biofuels Obligation Scheme will provide for trading of certificates between suppliers. This will benefit those producers of high blend biofuels as they will have surplus certificates to trade with those suppliers bringing lower blends to the market. Biofuels are already being mainstreamed in blends of up to 5% at a number of existing petrol and diesel pumps as a result of the Mineral Oil Tax Relief Schemes introduced by my Department. E85 is also available at a number of service stations around the country. This is in addition to higher blends of Pure Plant Oil which are also available to the retail and commercial sectors.

By taking full account of the EU sustainability criteria, the Biofuels Obligation Scheme mechanism will have safeguards so that biofuels are sustainably sourced. It is expected that evolving second generation technologies will enable increased penetration rates without negative impacts on food prices. Given that biofuels will form an increasingly important component of European transport fuels, we have worked in Europe to ensure that the sustainability criteria are robust, effective and verifiable. Sustainability criteria are also the key to ensuring investment in more efficient biofuel production, and for investment in second generation biofuels.

Broadcasting Services.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

69 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if RTE will be expected to roll out a full digital terrestrial television service in the absence of a commercial DTT provider using the same network. [18775/09]

Joe Costello

Question:

70 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the implications for the digital dividend in the event of a collapse of digital terrestrial television here; the outcome of any digital dividend; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18712/09]

Sean Sherlock

Question:

77 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on RTE’s opinion on the strategy regarding digital terrestrial television; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18697/09]

Liz McManus

Question:

78 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the recent set back for digital terrestrial television here; the action he will take to move DTT forward; his views on whether it is commercially viable; if the target for analogue switch off by 2012 is possible; the way he will deal with the impact of the Wales switch over for viewers on the east coast; the number of European countries which have switched over to DTT to date; the implications if we are unable to do so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18683/09]

Andrew Doyle

Question:

81 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the way he will proceed with digital terrestrial television following the announcement by a company (details supplied) that they no longer intend to proceed with plans for commercial DTT. [18758/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 69, 70, 77, 78 and 81 together.

The Broadcasting (Amendment) Act, 2007 puts in place a flexible framework for the licensing of digital terrestrial television (DTT) into the future. Under the Act, RTÉ, the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) and the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) have obligations to provide for the rollout of DTT and to assist in the development of a plan for analogue switch off.

The Act requires that RTÉ operate a single public service multiplex which provides access to the free to air Irish TV channels and that the BCI offers licences for three commercial multiplexes.

The development of a national DTT network is important to Ireland, both in terms of securing the future of public service broadcasting and in terms of the potential for benefits to be accrued from the use of the digital dividend which arises from the closure of the analogue television network.

A considerable part of the DTT network has already been built by RTÉ. This build represents the most difficult and costly part of the build plan as it includes the main transmitter sites in Ireland. In order to develop a viable and reliable national DTT service, additional build work will be necessary. In particular, the country's minor transmitter sites will need to be upgraded. This will provide "infill" coverage to ensure that the DTT service is reliable and to ensure that outlying areas in the West, North, North West and South of the country, those areas most reliant on the analogue terrestrial service are also served by DTT.

The 2007 Act also provides for the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) to licence commercial DTT operators.

The BCI has run a competition for the award of the three national commercial DTT multiplexes. On 21 July 2008 the BCI announced its intention to enter into contract negotiations with Boxer DTT Ltd for the award of the three national commercial DTT multiplexes.

On the 20 April 2009 the BCI announced that Boxer DTT Ltd had withdrawn from contract negotiations.

The BCI subsequently approached the second placed consortium, One Vision. The BCI has announced that it has now agreed to enter into contract negotiations with One Vision. I welcome this development and look forward to a speedy and successful conclusion to these negotiations.

The BCI have confirmed that they are committed to pursuing the development of DTT services in Ireland as quickly as possible. I should emphasise that the BCI is an independent body and that I have no role in their licensing process. I am, however, closely monitoring the progress being made.

The switch off of the national analogue broadcasting system is planned to take place by 2012. A working group has been established — comprising representatives from my Department, RTÉ, BCI and ComReg — to develop a plan for analogue switch-off.

ComReg is working closely with its UK counterpart to ensure the continued protection of analogue TV in Ireland. The UK has a schedule to switch off analogue TV in different regions from 2008 to 2012 in favour of digital terrestrial television. Analogue services in Wales are set to switch off in autumn 2009. This is likely to impact viewers along the South East of the country who currently receive overspill of the UK analogue terrestrial television channels. Viewers on cable and satellite will not be affected by these changes.

Both RTÉ and the BCI are aware of the situation in Wales and of the importance of providing DTT along the South East of Ireland.

In the context of the transition from analogue to DTT, I have also published a paper on the development of a policy framework for identifying the spectrum required for television broadcasting in the UHF band as well as identifying the spectrum that could be released for use by other services.

The policy framework requires ComReg to take appropriate actions, in conjunction with the BCI and RTÉ, to identify what spectrum can be made available for the Digital Dividend and to advise me accordingly in a timely manner on what uses could be made of spectrum not required for broadcasting in the band in order for me to make an informed assessment of the policy options for promoting various objectives.

To date approximately 19 EU Member States have switched on DTT services and 24 Member States plan to switch off analogue by 2012. I remain committed to meeting the 2012 deadline for analogue switch off.

Telecommunications Regulation.

Joe Costello

Question:

71 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the cost of running RegTel on a yearly basis since 2006 to date in 2009; the function of RegTel; if he is satisfied that there is sufficient regulation of premium rate services here; when he expects RegTel to be placed under the aegis of ComReg; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18685/09]

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

96 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on a regulatory or a voluntary basis for the control by mobile phone operators of text subscription services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18724/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 71 and 96 together.

Premium rate services (PRS) in Ireland are regulated by Regtel, which is an independent, not-for-profit limited company financed by means of a levy on the premium rate service providers and network operators. It is not directly accountable to any Government Department or State Body. Details of its running costs are contained in its annual report which is available on its website at www.regtel.ie.

Following a review of the regulation of PRS I decided that this function should be carried out directly by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg). I initiated the review following:

complaints from the public concerning PRS, particularly subscription services aimed at children;

RegTel's lack of effective enforcement powers; and

the recognition that the statutory basis for the regulation of PRS required strengthening.

Drafting of a Bill entitled ‘Communications Regulation (Amendment) Bill 2009' for the purpose of transferring the regulation of PRS to ComReg is currently being finalised. I expect to submit the draft Bill to Government for approval to publish within the next few weeks and have it enacted as soon as possible thereafter. I believe that the Bill will lead to improved protection for consumers and will enhance confidence in the sector.

Telecommunications Services.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

72 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the results for the NGN consultation process that his Department has facilitated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18751/09]

In July 2008 I published a draft paper on next generation broadband which considered the challenges for the Government in positioning Ireland as a leading country in the provision of broadband infrastructure and in the development of new digital applications.

The Paper set out that private sector investment and competition will be the main drivers of the roll out of next generation networks and applications.

The Government's role will be to provide a regulatory framework that supports a competitive market and supports potentially risky investments in Next Generation Access Networks. Provided that principles such as open access and non discrimination are respected, new models of collaboration by operators can be considered.

Government will have a direct investment role to play in bridging digital divides where the market cannot provide solutions.

Following publication of the draft paper, I initiated an extensive consultation process. This involved written submissions on the Paper, a one-day Forum held on the 30th September 2008 and an online consultation forum. The consultation process yielded a wide range of submissions from the industry, policy makers and broadband users. I am pleased to say that the thrust of the proposals in the draft paper was widely supported.

The output of the consultation process informed consideration of the final shape of the policy paper, particularly the implementation of the policy actions such as a one-stop-shop for State infrastructure to facilitate the rollout of fibre to the regions; mandating fibre to new build where practicable; high speed connectivity to schools, and innovative use of frequency spectrum. I expect to publish the final paper within a matter of weeks.

It is also important to note that both public and private investment in telecommunications investment has continued over the period in a manner equally consistent with the thrust of the draft NGN paper. The private sector investment has seen broadband connectivity exceeding the one million subscriber mark and Ireland is now the fastest growing broadband market in Europe. Public sector investment has seen the agreement and initial roll-out of the National Broadband Scheme, improvement in International Connectivity through Project Kelvin and the substantial completion of the Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs).

Energy Costs.

Richard Bruton

Question:

73 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he is satisfied the 12% reduction in gas prices between May and September 2009 is adequate in view of the collapse of wholesale gas price in Britain; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18733/09]

Paul Connaughton

Question:

74 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he is pursuing a deliberate policy of keeping energy prices high in an effort to force consumers and householders to reduce energy usage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18744/09]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

109 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the new measures he will take to ensure Ireland’s cost of energy is tackled in view of concerns expressed by the commercial sector on the high cost of energy here and in view of his failure to tackle this high cost for business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18783/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 73, 74 and 109 together.

I welcome the decision taken by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) to reduce electricity tariffs by 10% and gas tariffs by 12% from May 1st, following completion of the review of regulated tariffs, which I requested in February last. The Commission's decision on electricity tariffs is reflective of the decline in international fossil fuel prices, which follows a period of exponential increases in global oil, gas and coal prices.

The CER's pricing decision on gas tariffs is due to the much lower gas costs than forecast, exchange rate developments, and particularly as a result of increased sales during the winter due to the particularly cold weather.

The reduction in regulated energy prices is less than the overall fall in fuel commodities, because the CER took steps to ensure that when international oil and gas prices increased exponentially in 2008, consumers were insulated from the worst effects of these increases.

In taking this approach, the CER took account of the emerging difficult economic situation and the potential impact of high price increases on business and consumers, including vulnerable customers. This approach meant that when fossil fuels were rising very significantly in early and mid-2008 the CER decided to implement an increase of 17.5% in the cost of electricity and 20% in the cost of gas. When the CER made this decision, the wholesale gas price had more than doubled in the previous 12 months.

I would point out again that the CER has exited from the regulation of tariffs for large energy users. In that sector around 90% of business has switched to the independent electricity suppliers. Approximately half of these large commercial customers are on variable tariffs. As a result the substantial reductions in wholesale electricity and gas prices are already being reflected in their tariffs.

It is the case that energy costs have been of concern to enterprise for a number of years. This concern has been exacerbated by the economic downturn and the overall serious challenges facing business. I have made it consistently clear that all possible action that can be taken must be taken to reduce energy costs for the enterprise sector. Energy policy actions are focussed on mitigating those costs where possible.

My Department is actively engaged on the energy costs issue with all relevant players, including the CER, ESB, the independent suppliers and the enterprise sector itself.

I have no direct role in the setting of energy prices, whether in the regulated or non-regulated sector. My policy objective is to secure sustainable and diverse energy supply at least cost for Irish business and consumers. The Government's comprehensive range of energy policy actions are designed to deliver this objective. They include optimising all possible energy efficiency gains by industry and by householders.

The Government's strategies for renewable energy development, energy efficiency programmes and delivering essential strategic energy infrastructure are all key to delivering sustainable competitive and reliable energy supplies.

Energy efficiency is the best energy resource of all, delivering pervasive benefits for the economy and society. The energy efficiency potential in the built environment, in industry, in power generation and in transport is growing all the time as technology and innovation delivers more solutions.

I launched the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan last week, which sets out the comprehensive actions underway and which will reduce costs for all.

Energy Supply.

Bernard Allen

Question:

75 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on whether the €600 million cost of the east west interconnector represents value for money in terms of construction and completion costs, versus similar projects in other parts of Europe. [18728/09]

EirGrid, with the approval of the Government, is developing to schedule the East West Interconnector. The Government is fully committed to the cost effective delivery of the interconnector as a key strategic energy infrastructure project. The benefits for the economy, the energy market and consumers include:

Enhancing security of energy supply by delivering additional capacity to the all-island electricity market and linking it to the UK, which is in turn connected to mainland European markets;

Underpinning delivery of Ireland's renewable generation targets by providing additional back-up at times of low wind and enabling the export of wind energy from Ireland at times of high wind generation;

Supporting further competition in the electricity market and exerting downward pressure on prices;

Diversifying the national fuel mix and supply sources by reducing our dependence on electricity generated from imported natural gas; and

Providing EirGrid, as the system operator, with important back-up and reserve services.

The Government has been advised by EirGrid and the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) that, over the lifetime of the project, these benefits will more than outweigh the development costs.

In a strong endorsement by the European Union of the project, Ireland has secured €110 million for the East West interconnector under the European Economic Recovery Plan. This funding will be an important component of the overall financial package. In making cost comparisons it should be borne in mind that each electricity interconnector project is a unique development. Interconnectors across Europe and around the world vary in terms of capacity, length, diversity of terrain and the proportion of the project that is sub-sea or on-land.

I can advise the Deputy that the contract for the development of the East West interconnector was awarded on foot of an open, tender process conducted by EirGrid under the regulatory oversight of the Commission for Energy Regulation. Both EirGrid and CER have advised that the contract price negotiated with the successful bidder represents full value for money in a very competitive process. I am satisfied, on the basis of the comprehensive advice by EirGrid and CER to me and my Department, that the contract is economically advantageous and that EirGrid is on schedule to deliver the East West interconnector by 2012.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

76 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the options for investors of offshore and onshore wind farm applications outside the gate three process; the position regarding the wind applications to the grid; the position regarding an update and overview of the gate three process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18717/09]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

93 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position in relation to the development of energy from wind farms here; and the future plans in this regard. [18617/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 76 and 93 together.

Applications for grid connections are made to ESB Networks and/or EirGrid, in the first instance. Data on grid connections has been published by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) as part of its consultation process on grid connections and additional information is published from time to time by EirGrid.

There are currently in excess of 1,300 megawatts (MWs) of renewable electricity generating capacity connected to the electricity grid. The majority of these projects are within the wind-powered category. More that 1,000MW of that capacity is wind-powered plant with hydro-power contributing approximately 238MW. The remainder comprises biomass and biogas powered projects. Based on current technology trends, the dominance of the wind-powered category to date is expected to continue out to 2020 at least.

The Government targets are to increase the contribution from renewable energy sources to electricity consumed to 15% by 2010 and 40% at least by 2020.

Delivery of additional new projects to meet or surpass these targets are well advanced. Alongside the increase in renewable generation capacity in recent years the renewable electricity share of total electricity usage has increased year on year. The contribution from renewable resources has increased from 4.4% in 2003 to over 12% in 2008.

The 2008 contribution represents over 1,300 Megawatts of renewable powered plants connected to the grid. The CER and EirGrid have calculated that 5800 megawatts (MWs) of renewable capacity is required to achieve the 40% target in 2020. The latest figures from EirGrid and the CER show that there is a further 1,500 MW with signed connection agreements or in the final stages of agreeing one.

I am satisfied there is sufficient market confidence among developers and investors to deliver or surpass both the 2010 and 2020 targets.

The recent CER decision on the ‘Gate 3' round provides for connection offers for 3,900 MW of additional renewable electricity capacity. The size of the gate 3 round was initially set at 3,000MW of capacity by the CER. This was increased to 3,900MW of capacity in line with the Government's renewable electricity 2020 target of 40%. The Gate 3 process was extensively consulted on by the CER. All industry stakeholders were afforded the opportunity of responding to the proposed connection process.

The projects in Gate 3 were selected on a "first come first served" criterion. The projects within the 3900 MW capacity in the Gate 3 process are currently being assessed as part of the connection process.

To ensure this process operates efficiently, the CER has established a Gate 3 Liaison Group involving all stakeholders, including the renewable industry associations, to ensure the connection offer process is completed as quickly and as effectively as possible. Once connection offers issue to applicants they will have a set time frame to accept the offer or else they will forfeit the connection offer. The Gate 3 process will be supplemented by further measures to support future autogeneration and ocean energy connections.

The decision by CER on Gate 3 is potentially capable of delivering the 40% national target for the contribution from renewable energy resources to electricity consumed by 2020. It is the case however that CER and EirGrid need to review and develop with my Department and the industry an appropriate and effective approach to accommodating further renewable energy developments including autogeneration projects by enterprise as well as offshore wind and ocean energy projects.

Questions Nos. 77 and 78 answered with Question No. 69.

Radio Broadcasting.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

79 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the allocation of spectrum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18767/09]

The Radio spectrum is managed by countries at the national level and through international coordination. The overarching allocation of Radio spectrum is undertaken in an international context and in accordance with international regulations.

The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), is the statutory body responsible for spectrum management in Ireland and is statutorily obliged under the Communications Act 2002, to produce, publish and maintain the national Radio Frequency Plan, which is a national table of frequency allocations. This document details International and European frequency allocations as well as national usage and relevant national and European legislation. Copies of this document can be obtained from ComReg (www.comreg.ie).

As Minister with overall responsibility for spectrum policy, I am committed to ensuring that the spectrum resource is assigned and used effectively. This involves the efficient use of spectrum and also involves ensuring that spectrum policy is sufficiently flexible to accommodate technological development and that it supports and promotes innovation, and research and development, in new spectrum based technologies.

The Report of a Working Group on Spectrum Policy was published last year by my Department concerning the areas of use, the means of assignment and future trends in spectrum use. This document recognises the importance of a flexible and innovative spectrum policy which might incorporate developing concepts such as open access to spectrum resources and the importance of spectrum for the development and provision of wireless broadband services. The consultation on this document has now closed and taking cognisance of the responses received a Spectrum Policy will be produced and any necessary legislative changes will be made.

Telecommunications Services.

Alan Shatter

Question:

80 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will take the necessary steps to ensure that an area code fixed line number must be provided alongside an 1890 or 1850 telephone number when such numbers are provided for members of the public to contact any organisation or business to enable such calls to be included in a bundle of inclusive minutes as currently offered by various telecom providers; his views on whether the practice of State bodies and businesses to exclusively use 1890 or 1850 numbers is contrary to the public interest and results in consumers incurring unnecessary expense; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18648/09]

Jack Wall

Question:

114 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on directing State agencies and Departments to use both a lo-call number and local number for members of the public to phone in view of the fact that many people have free national calls which would be more cost efficient than calling the lo-call number; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18700/09]

I propose to take Question Nos. 80 and 114 together.

The matters raised by the Deputies are a customer service issue for the organisation or business concerned. The use and display of telephone numbers is an area in which I have no statutory function. In relation to the wider public sector, I will ask my officials to contact the Quality Customer Service Officers Network, which is managed by the Department of the Taoiseach, requesting that they advise Government Departments and State Agencies to display and use both local and lo-call numbers.

My own Department uses both a lo-call number and a standard local number to facilitate a choice for members of the public. These numbers are published on the Department's website and in telephone directories.

Question No. 81 answered with Question No. 69.

Denis Naughten

Question:

82 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps he is taking to provide broadband coverage to areas not serviced by the national broadband scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18649/09]

EU State Aid and competition rules prevent States from intervening in the areas already substantially served by broadband. While recognising that some premises within substantially served areas may have difficulties for whatever reason (long lines, pair gains, no line of sight etc) in receiving a broadband service, the National Broadband Scheme cannot cater for such limited instances. It is expected that over time, competing service providers would be attracted to offer services in such areas, given that those areas are already commercially viable for the existing service provider(s). It is also expected that technology innovations e.g. improved satellite broadband services, will result in increased competition in the served areas.

Details of the availability of broadband services in the specific areas not covered by the NBS are available at www.broadband.gov.ie.

Electric Vehicles.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

83 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the electric car roll-out programme; the persons who have been appointed to the national task force; when its report will be published; if he has had contacts with the ESB on this matter; the number of businesses which have taken up the option of a 100% write-off on the cost of purchase of electric vehicles against tax under the accelerated capital allowance scheme to date; when the public information campaign on electric vehicles will begin; the number of electric vehicles in the national car fleet; the percentage of the national car fleet they comprise; when the Ministerial car fleet will be electrified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13705/09]

Tom Sheahan

Question:

84 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has read the Drive to Zero electric car document published by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Change; and if he will implement the recommendations of the report. [18746/09]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

95 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the report on electric cars published recently by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Change; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18780/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 83, 84 and 95 together.

Together with the Minister for Transport, I have announced plans for the large scale deployment of electric vehicles in Ireland. The target of 10% of all vehicles to be powered by electricity by 2020, will represent up to 250,000 cars on Irish roads over the next 12 years. A number of initiatives to advance the strategy have already been put in place.

An inter-departmental agency Taskforce has been established and is meeting regularly to progress the framework for deployment of electric vehicles in Ireland. Chaired by my Department, the Taskforce comprises the Departments of Transport, Finance, the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Enterprise, Trade and Employment. ESB, Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI), the IDA and Enterprise Ireland are also key members of the taskforce.

The Taskforce is assessing the options and timeframe for creating the necessary infrastructure for the national roll-out of electric vehicles, taking account of global developments. The Government is sending out the message that Ireland is open for business in this area. The Taskforce will report its initial findings and advise on next steps shortly. Three sub groups are operating with the Taskforce: a Transport/Infrastructure Group, a Fiscal Group, and an Enterprise Group. The reports of these groups will inform the main report being prepared by the Taskforce. All issues relating to employment opportunities, the costs involved in providing car charging infrastructure and associated issues will be addressed in the report.

The ESB and SEI have been working intensively within the Taskforce and visited Israel and Denmark last year to learn from their approaches to fast tracking the deployment of electric vehicles. SEI is also developing a €1 million project on alternative transport technologies including electric vehicles.

The recently concluded Memorandum of Understanding with Renault-Nissan will ensure that Ireland will be one of the first countries in the world to be supplied with both Renault and Nissan electric cars. This represents a major opportunity for Ireland both in terms of our targets and more generally in relation to the economic impact of electric car development. Under the Memorandum of Understanding ESB Networks will be able to avail of data on developments in electric vehicles, enabling more detailed and precise planning around infrastructure, support mechanisms and the potential benefits accruing. My Department is working with ESB to determine how the necessary infrastructure arising from the arrangement will be put in place and how best to fund this infrastructure.

The Memorandum of Understanding does not convey exclusive rights in relation to the provision of electric cars. Ireland is open for business to all manufacturers in relation to electric vehicles and I look forward to building relationships with all global players in the sector.

I have read with great interest the report of the Joint Committee on Climate Change relating to electric vehicles which is an important contribution to the work underway. The recommendations of the Report will be considered as part of the overall strategy for electric vehicles.

My Department does not have information available on the number of businesses which have taken up the new tax incentive to purchase electric vehicles. Decisions in relation to the ministerial car fleet do not come under the direct remit of my Department.

Pension Provisions.

Mary Upton

Question:

85 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on concerns expressed by An Post for its pension fund; if he has met with the chief executive officer of An Post to discuss this issue; if so, the outcome of the meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18784/09]

Matters relating to the An Post pension fund are a matter for the board and management of the company and the trustees of the schemes and one in which I have no direct role.

In common with many pension funds, due to the economic downturn, An Post's pension fund is in deficit. An Post's annual report for 2008 shows that, because of its pension deficit at the end of last year, its net assets were half or less of the amount of the company's called-up share capital. Arising from this, in accordance with the requirements of Company Law, the company convened an extraordinary general meeting last month for the purpose of considering whether any, and if so what, measures should be taken to deal with the situation. I was represented at the meeting by officials from my Department.

At the EGM the chief executive advised that the company is required to formulate and submit a plan to the Pensions Board for corrective action to meet the Pensions Act Minimum Funding Standard by June 2010 and that, all other things being equal, addressing the minimum funding standard will, in time, eliminate the Balance Sheet deficit. He also advised that because investment markets are volatile this plan will require continual readjustment.

The Chairman undertook to brief, in due course, the company's shareholders on the plan of corrective action to meet the Pensions Act Minimum Funding Standard. In addition to this, myself and officials at my Department will continue to meet with the An Post management on a regular basis to discuss a range of matters of importance to the company including its finances.

Energy Conservation.

Joan Burton

Question:

86 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of applicants each year and to date in 2009 for the warmer homes scheme; the waiting time for approval and participation in the scheme; if there are applicants who have applied in 2009 who will not be able to avail of this scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18779/09]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

101 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when he will publish the findings of the fuel poverty action research project; when this was first due for publication; the number living in fuel poverty; the number of people who benefited from the warmer homes scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18721/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 86 and 101 together.

The Warmer Homes Scheme is administered by Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) and delivered by community based organisations (CBOs), which work in partnership with their local network of poverty and community support organisations, including public health nurses, MABS and St Vincent De Paul, to identify and address the energy needs of vulnerable homes. The scheme provides structural energy efficiency improvements to private homes in, or at risk of, fuel poverty. These measures include insulation, boiler lagging jackets, energy efficient lighting and draft proofing measures.

To date, energy efficiency improvements in almost 24,000 homes have been made under the Warmer Homes Scheme. A breakdown by year is set out in the table. Some €20 million has been provided for the scheme in 2009, which includes €5 million being provided between ESB and Bord Gáis Éireann. This will enable structural improvements to be made to at least 15,000 homes this year. To date, nearly 3,000 homes have been upgraded in the first 4 months of this year.

Some 21 CBOs have to date been approved by SEI to provide the Warmer Homes Scheme service in their area. SEI is confident that national coverage under the scheme will be achieved by the end of 2009. SEI will be publishing a call for proposals this month, inviting new community organisations to participate in the scheme.

Each CBO is responsible for managing applications in its own operational areas. SEI is not directly involved in the application or delivery process. Once an application is made to a CBO, details are registered and the house is addressed in turn. I understand that there is a waiting period in some areas and that this can be up to 12 months in some areas. With the substantially increased funds available to the scheme this year, SEI expects the waiting time to decrease. This cannot happen overnight, as the CBOs concerned must increase their capacity to deliver through new staff and other resources.

The most recent research figures available on fuel poverty in Ireland are contained in a recent working paper by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI). There are a variety of ways to measure fuel poverty including the proportion of household expenditure on fuel, the condition of the house and the subjective view of occupants about their energy needs.

The ESRI estimates that using the expenditure method, over 300,000 or 19.4% of Irish households may have experienced fuel poverty in 2008. Alternatively, using the subjective method, over 68,000 or 4.6% of households reported that they could not afford to heat their homes adequately.

There are many alternative definitions and measurements of fuel poverty. The Government's own working definition is the inability to afford adequate warmth in a home or the inability to achieve adequate warmth because the home is not energy efficient. By assisting vulnerable homes to become energy efficient, the Warmer Homes Scheme is designed to tackle the root causes of fuel poverty.

The Fuel Poverty Action Research Project was established by Combat Poverty and Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) to inform the future directions of energy efficiency programmes for vulnerable households. The project involved a rigorous assessment of the energy, environmental, thermal comfort and health benefits of the Warmer Homes Scheme. I understand that completion of the report was delayed by the accidental loss of some key interview data. To ensure the integrity of the analysis, these interviews had to be repeated. Combat Poverty is currently finalising the report and I am informed that it will be published shortly.

Table: Number of homes upgraded under the Warmer Homes Scheme 2000-2008

Year

Number of Homes

2000

1,430

2001

1,500

2002

1,600

2003

1,768

2004

1,947

2005

1,813

2006

2,102

2007

3,378

2008

5,343

Total

20,881

Telecommunications Services.

Liz McManus

Question:

87 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on submissions made recently to his Department on nationalising a company (details supplied); his further views on whether the company is crucial to plans to improve broadband access; the action he will take to secure that future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18684/09]

No submissions have been made recently to my Department proposing the nationalisation of eircom. Clearly eircom is an important player in private sector provision of telecommunications services and will continue to play a key role in providing higher speed broadband services. The commercial performance and ownership of the company is a matter for the company in the first instance and I have no direct role in this regard. Given the importance of eircom to Ireland's communication infrastructure and services, I am monitoring the overall situation in relation to the company but I have no plans to propose State ownership of the company.

More generally, Government policy is to facilitate the provision of high quality telecommunications services by competing private sector providers. In terms of access to broadband, Ireland now has a vibrant broadband market with many service providers offering competitively priced retail services across a range of technology platforms at increasingly fast speeds.

In addition, the National Broadband Scheme will bring broadband to those parts of the country where a commercial service cannot be provided. This will result in broadband being available throughout the country.

The soon to be published policy paper on next generation broadband will set out a strategic framework for the evolution to high speed broadband for all players in the sector.

Question No. 88 answered with Question No. 68.

John Deasy

Question:

89 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if the MAN’s phase two infrastructure has a management contract in place following long delays. [18753/09]

59 of the 60 Phase II MANs, which provide state-of-the-art, fibre, open access networks to 65 towns across the country are now completed. It is expected that the final network will be completed in early 2010.

All completed Phase II networks are being managed, maintained and operated on an interim basis by the technical services firm Magnum Opus on behalf of my Department. Magnum Opus will manage the Phase II MANs until such time as a Management Services Entity is engaged for the Phase II MANs (MSE 2).

The procurement process for the engagement of a MSE II is in the final stages of contract negotiations with eNet, the preferred bidder. Value for money is a key consideration for the Department in the negotiations, which are expected to be concluded in the coming weeks.

Smart Meters.

Seán Barrett

Question:

90 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when the smart meters pilot project from the ESB will be completed; the timing of the evaluation following completion; when there will be a large scale roll out of this technology; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18729/09]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

97 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the installation of pilot scheme smart electronic meters; when same will be rolled out to every home as per the programme for Government; the full cost for the pilot scheme and the estimated cost for the roll out to every home; the geographic locations of the pilot scheme; if his Department will facilitate the introduction of a micro generation strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18714/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 90 and 97 together.

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

The pilot phase is a very important element in the determination of a decision to proceed with the launch of a national smart metering scheme. This is a highly complex technological project and the trials are essential to ensure that we have the right technology and systems for the full launch and implementation of a national smart metering scheme.

The pilot phase was launched on 15 September 2008. The results of the pilot will inform both the timing of a national roll out, and the technology to be adopted. It is important to have a trial that captures seasonal changes in usage for peak demand management purposes. The pilot phase is expected to be completed at end December 2010 and the outcome should be a fully informed decision on the most suitable model of smart meter(s)/IT system(s), tariffing structure, communications system and demand stimuli, all of which works effectively and has the capability to deliver the anticipated benefits of smart metering in the Irish market.

The pilot phase encompasses two strands: a technology trial, which is testing a number of advanced metering systems and their associated IT and communications infrastructure and a customer behaviour trial, which will determine the potential of smart meters to achieve measurable change in consumer behaviour.

The technology trial will examine metering functionality and supporting information and communications systems. There are many challenges involved in developing a metering system for Ireland that will reflect the dispersed nature of our population and, as a result, by extension, the electricity network. This trial will involve the installation of up to 8,000 meters. Installation of the first 2,000 meters for technology testing is due to commence in May 2009.

Participants for the customer behaviour trial are being selected to ensure that the sample is representative of Ireland's electricity consumers both in terms of usage profiles and geographical spread. Invitations to participate in the trial are being issued on a phased basis with 24,000 letters of invitation issued thus far. The number of participants needed for the electricity customer behaviour trial is 6,000. To date the response has been very positive with sufficient numbers recruited to enable the residential element of the trial to proceed. Installation of electricity meters for this strand of the pilot phase is almost complete with 5,232 meters installed to date. All meters for the Customer Behaviour Trial are expected to be installed by end May 2009. The dispersed nature of our electricity consumers poses a major challenge to ESBN and the pilot is expected to inform the best metering systems to use in an Irish market.

The gas element of the Smart Metering Pilot Programme is also being progressed. 1,975 customers are expected to participate in Gas Customer Behaviour Trials. A further 750 meters will be installed to facilitate the Gas Technology Trials. Customers for the Gas Customer Behaviour Trial are expected to be recruited by end July 2009. The trial period will begin in June 2010 and is expected to continue until May 2011.

I have also announced measures to encourage and enable the on-site generation of electricity in homes and farms across the country. While the Smart Metering pilot is proceeding in parallel with this microgeneration initiative, there are important links between the two. The import and export data gathered form this microgeneration initiative will feed into the analysis of Smart Metering being carried out in the pilot. While the findings of the smart meter pilot will in turn inform the development of a long-term micro generation programme. Eligible installations include small scale wind, photovoltaic, hydro and combined heat and power.

The cost of the pilot will be €34.9m comprising €29.9m for the electricity smart metering trials and €5m for the gas element of the smart metering trial. The cost of a national roll out will be available when the pilot programme has been completed and a fully informed decision made on the type of smart metering system that will deliver the level of functionality required in an Irish market.

The Cost Benefit Analysis is scheduled to be completed at end Quarter 1 2011 in respect of the electricity element of the Smart Metering Pilot Programme. As the electricity smart metering trials are at a more advanced stage than gas trials, an interim gas cost benefit analysis will take place at this stage with the final gas cost benefit analysis expected to be completed by mid 2011 and published as an addendum to the initial results.

Question No. 91 answered with Question No. 67.

Telecommunications Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

92 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the claims that although there are up to 12,000 homes and businesses that cannot access broadband of any kind, they are not covered by the national broadband scheme; the provision he will make for these cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18782/09]

In designing the National Broadband Scheme (NBS), which was approved by the EU Commission, my Department needed to strike a balance between reaching as many unserved premises as possible and minimising the impact of the scheme on businesses already providing broadband services in rural areas, thereby minimising market distortion in accordance with EU State Aid rules.

The NBS will be rolled out on an electoral division (ED) basis, which are the smallest administrative areas used for statistical purposes in the country. In adopting the ED model my Department was faced with a further decision to determine which EDs should be addressed by the NBS. This decision was made based on levels of the existing combined broadband coverage in relevant EDs. Where an ED is completely unserved by any existing service provider it is included in the NBS. Where it is substantially covered by existing service providers it is excluded from the NBS. Where an ED is not substantially covered by existing service providers, it will be addressed by the Scheme. In this regard EU State Aid and competition rules govern how States can intervene in areas that are already substantially served by broadband. While recognising that some premises within substantially served areas may have difficulties for a variety of reasons in receiving a broadband service, the NBS cannot cater for such limited instances as to do so would give rise to an unacceptable level of market distortion.

It is expected that over time, as competition increases, service providers will be attracted to offer service to unserved premises in these areas. It is also expected that technology innovations e.g. improved satellite broadband services, will result in increased competition in these areas.

Questions Nos. 93 answered with Question No. 76.

Radio Broadcasting.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

94 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide an overview of DAB here; the number of listeners; the areas covered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18704/09]

DAB digital radio is an improved way of broadcasting radio via a network of terrestrial transmitters. It provides listeners with more choice, clearer sound and more features, while keeping all the features of FM radio, such as portability and free to use. The Broadcasting (Amendment) Act 2007 provides for the development of radio over digital multiplexes by both public service and commercial broadcasters.

It provides for RTÉ to be licensed for national multiplex(es) and it also provides for the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) to issue national and regional multiplexes to commercial operators. However, unlike Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT), where there in an imperative to "go digital" at the earliest opportunity, there are no current plans for switching off the analogue radio services. This means that the rollout of digital radio is likely to occur over a longer time period and in line with commercial and technology considerations.

RTÉ has been running a trial of DAB radio over the last 2 years and has now commenced the rollout of a DAB multiplex. In this regard, RTÉ has developed a number of new radio channels specifically for this multiplex i.e. RTÉ Junior, RTÉ Choice, RTÉ Pulse, RTÉ Gold, RTÉ Chill and RTÉ 2xm. The present service is available in the greater Dublin area, the North East of the country, Cork City and Limerick City. Data on digital listening is not yet available to RTÉ.

Question No. 95 answered with Question No. 83.
Question No. 96 answered with Question No. 71.
Question No. 97 answered with Question No. 90.

Telecommunications Services.

Joan Burton

Question:

98 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the reported deal between the national broadband scheme operator and a company (details supplied) for satellite services; the number of households he expects to be provided with satellite broadband; if this number has changed since the announcement of the national broadband scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18778/09]

The National Broadband Scheme (NBS) contract guarantees that broadband connectivity will be available to 100% of the buildings within the NBS coverage areas. In recognition of the fact that some areas will be very costly and technologically challenging to reach using standard infrastructure, a limited number of residences and businesses in the NBS coverage area may be covered by a satellite service.

The NBS contract defines specific thresholds and circumstances under which satellite can be deployed and allows for a maximum of 8% of buildings to be served utilising satellite technology. It is anticipated that the actual deployment of satellite will be around 5% of residences and businesses within the NBS coverage area. It is a matter for the NBS service provider, "3", to decide where a satellite solution will be deployed, provided that the overall number of satellite users does not exceed defined thresholds for each county and the NBS coverage area as a whole.

The NBS contract guarantees that the satellite service will deliver minimum speeds of 1 megabit download and 128 kilobits upload with a maximum contention ratio of 48:1, a round-trip latency of 800 milliseconds and an 11 gigabyte (10 down, 1 up) inclusive monthly allowance limit. Regardless of the technology deployed, the same monthly charge of €19.99 and the same install cost of €49 apply.

As a commercial matter, 3 has selected Avanti to provide the guaranteed satellite service levels and I understand that 3 has entered into a contract with Avanti on a non-exclusive basis.

Departmental Expenditure.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

99 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if there are plans to merge change.ie and powerofone.ie; the cost of running both these websites; his views on whether they cover the same broad area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18710/09]

The Power of One campaign aims to bring about more energy efficient behaviour by domestic consumers and other energy using sectors to achieve energy and CO2 savings. The campaign has been operating since August 2006 and has brought about a significant increase in awareness of energy efficiency and best practice energy behaviour. Since the beginning of 2009, Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) has assumed responsibility for the campaign. My Department has agreed with SEI that their stewardship will see the next phase of the campaign move away from mass media messaging towards more localised behavioural change projects, though the website will continue to be an important information hub.

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is responsible for the Change campaign. The objective of the campaign is to raise public awareness of climate change, its causes, impacts and implications for Ireland, as well as to drive significant behavioural change to reduce and avoid greenhouse gas emissions in how we live, work and travel. The remit of the campaign covers the broad spectrum of transport, waste, water, energy, biodiversity and planning across the sectors of agriculture, transport, construction, tourism, business, industry and the public sector. The campaign includes a significant advertising element as well as extensive stakeholder engagement to develop specific programmes and web-based tools tailored to achieve emission reductions at sectoral level.

Since the inception of the Change campaign, there has been a high degree of coordination and cooperation between the two campaigns in relation to energy efficiency and carbon reduction. This has involved sharing of materials, co-funding of projects and many linkages between the websites of the two campaigns. This approach has led to significant savings for the Exchequer.

I believe this cooperative approach should continue. My Department and SEI are both represented on the inter-Departmental steering committee for the Change campaign. In respect of Power of One, I have asked SEI to actively pursue the scope for continuing and enhancing cooperation between the campaigns as part of their management of Power of One.

Decentralisation Programme.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

100 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the status of the decentralisation programme for his Department; the cost of securing a site for this project and ongoing associated costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18713/09]

The Decentralisation Programme as originally announced in December 2003, included the proposal to relocate the Headquarters of my Department to Cavan.

As announced by the Minister for Finance in his statement of 14th October last, the Government has deferred decisions on the timing of the implementation of elements of the Decentralisation Programme including that of my Department, pending a review in 2011. Issues relating to the purchase of a site in Cavan town for the proposed decentralisation are a matter for the Office of Public Works.

Question No. 101 answered with Question No. 86.

Energy Regulation.

Brian Hayes

Question:

102 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the contact his office has had directly with the regulator’s office in relation to the recent determination of gas and electricity price reductions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18770/09]

The regulation of ESB electricity tariffs and Bord Gáis Éireann gas tariffs is the responsibility of the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which is statutorily independent in the performance of its functions. I have no responsibility for setting these tariffs.

The CER has a statutory duty to advise me as Minister on the development of the electricity and gas markets, and regular meetings are held on a monthly basis between officials in my Department and the CER. Electricity and gas tariffs are often an agenda item at these meetings.

In February of this year I asked CER to undertake an immediate review of options to bring forward a reduction in electricity prices. I met the Commissioners on February 12th to discuss this and conveyed my opinion that lower energy costs could be provided to consumers in a non-distortionary fashion through an expedited review of tariffs.

I welcome the subsequent decision taken by the CER to lower electricity tariffs by 10% and gas tariffs by 12% from May 1st, following their completion of the expedited review of tariffs. The Commission's decision is reflective of recent easing in international fossil fuel prices, which follows a period of sustained increases in global oil, gas and coal prices.

Pension Provisions.

Mary Upton

Question:

103 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the workers in Bord na Móna who have been told the State company cannot pay their pension; if he had meetings with the management or with the unions; the discussions that took place at this meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18711/09]

The current global economic climate has had a negative impact on pension scheme funds generally, including Bord na Móna schemes. The pension schemes and the emerging pension deficit are matters for the Board of Bord na Móna plc and the Trustees of the Pension Schemes in the first instance. Officials in my Department are in regular contact with Bord na Móna in relation to the schemes. The Department of Finance is also briefed regularly and Bord na Móna is also in discussion with the Pensions Board.

Discussions are ongoing between the company, the trustees of the scheme and the members in relation to the options available to remedy the issues arising for the pension schemes.

Energy Costs.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

104 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason the industrial electricity price here has moved from the European average in 1998 to nearly 45% above the European average in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18737/09]

Ensuring a competitive and sustainable energy supply is a key policy objective for the Government. Energy costs are a major concern for all sectors of the economy. There is a range of factors which have contributed to Ireland's higher than the EU average increases in electricity prices over recent years. Historical reasons — A long period without any price increases granted to ESB, coupled with rapid growth in electricity demand, resulted in a legacy of under investment in energy infrastructure — both in generation and in networks. Natural Resources and Fuel Mix — Ireland has the highest dependency on fossil fuels in the EU (over 85%). Only Italy and Netherlands have a comparable level of fossil fuel penetration and they both also have relatively high energy prices. Geographical Isolation — Given our lack of natural resources, fossil fuels required for generation must be imported. Our isolated geographical position at the periphery of Europe raises the cost of this transportation over and above what is paid by other European countries. Market Scale — Given the small size of our electricity market and lack of interconnection, Irish power generation plants tend to be smaller than those on the continent. This gives rise to diseconomies of scale relative to Europe, which also contributes to a higher than average cost of electricity. Population Dispersion — Ireland's population demographics are dissimilar from most of our European neighbours. An extremely wide but low rural population density means that connection costs for rural energy customers have been cross-subsidised by urban dwellers and costs are higher for the maintenance and operation of the electricity distribution system.

The Government's Energy Policy Framework and the Programme for Government set out the actions being taken to improve the competitiveness of energy supply. We must use energy far more efficiently, deliver on our ambitious renewable targets and progress vital strategic energy infrastructure such as the East West Electricity Interconnector. Initiatives in all these areas are being progressed and substantial progress has been made to date in relation to their delivery.

In addition, since the introduction of the All-island Single Electricity Market in 2007, the transformation of the Irish electricity market from an ESB monopoly to a competitive market has considerably accelerated with the involvement of additional players in power generation and supply. There are now four large independent suppliers, actively competing in the unregulated sector of the energy market, which also put downward pressure on energy costs over the medium to long term.

Telecommunications Services.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

105 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the action he will take to combat the digital divide; if he is satisfied that persons who wish to learn how to use the Internet across broad sections of society have an opportunity to learn; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18709/09]

While the provision of broadband is a matter for the service providers, there are still some parts of the country where the private sector will be unable to justify the commercial provision of broadband services. In this regard, my Department has undertaken a variety of initiatives to address the gaps in broadband coverage including the Group Broadband Scheme, the Metropolitan Area Networks Programme and the recently announced National Broadband Scheme (NBS). These initiatives have been designed to bridge the digital divide, create greater equality in terms of social and economic inclusion and remove the disadvantage caused by a lack of broadband services.

The NBS will ensure broadband services are available in un-served rural areas by September 2010. In addition the initiatives facilitate competition in the broadband market in the regions leading to greater choice, quality and value for money to the consumer.

I am acutely aware of the importance of measures to facilitate people in learning how to use information age technologies or to acquire or improve digital skills. That is why my Department has put in place the BenefIT eInclusion Grant Scheme. Through this scheme we are partnering with community, voluntary and not-for-profit organisations to making available eInclusion opportunities — with a major focus on digital skills and training. We have allocated over €2.2m to 87 projects under this scheme. These projects are currently ongoing and are operating throughout the country — some of them still have training places available. Details of the specific projects including where they are operating and what they cover are available on my Department's website http://www.dcenr.gov.ie/Communications/Knowledge+Society/

I am satisfied that my Department has, through the various initiatives, facilitated the widest possible roll-out of broadband connectivity, which has in turn underpinned widespread eInclusion.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

106 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his position in relation to the EU telecoms package; the role he has taken at EU level on this issue; the potential impact on the telecoms industry here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18706/09]

The EU Commission's proposals for reform of the electronic communications framework have been the subject of intense negotiation at EU Council and Parliament over the past sixteen months. As Minister for Communications, I and my officials have fully participated in these negotiations. I have strongly supported the package of proposals agreed by Council, especially the measures aimed at encouraging competition and investment in next generation networks.

The proposals aim to strengthen the regulatory framework and improve the consistency of its implementation throughout the EU. They provide for greater cooperation on regulatory decisions between the Commission and national regulators through the establishment of a new body, the Board of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC). Functional separation, as an exceptional remedy to be imposed by national regulators, if all other available remedies have failed to overcome competition problems, is also provided for in the revised package.

The sector generally will benefit from measures to encourage competition and investment in next generation access networks by reaffirming the importance of competition in this area while ensuring that telecom operators receive a fair return on their investments. Also, the rules governing the sharing of network elements, such as ducts and in-building wiring, between operators are updated. Besides improving competition and services for businesses and consumers, this will also help to lower costs for operators and improve the investment climate for high speed broadband services.

The revised package also contains measures providing greater flexibility in the management and use of the radio spectrum. These will allow operators to introduce innovative services and technologies in spectrum bands that are currently assigned for specific uses, while at the same time protecting rights of use for emergency and security services and for meeting general interest objectives such as public sector broadcasting.

Overall, I believe that the revised regulatory framework, when implemented, will have a beneficial impact on the Irish telecommunications sector and on consumers. It will lead to better and more effective regulation of the market and will provide greater regulatory certainty to operators.

Television Licence Fee.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

107 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the amount available to the fund accruing from the television broadcasting licence; the extent to which such funds are available to or have been made available to the public and independent broadcasting sectors; the degree to which it is intended to apportion such funding in the future; if advertising revenue is expected to become a factor in the apportionment of funds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18723/09]

The Broadcasting (Funding) Act 2003 assigned responsibility to the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) to develop and administer schemes under the Broadcasting Fund, which are designed to support the production and transmission of high quality programming based on Irish culture and heritage.

The Broadcasting Funding Scheme, Sound and Vision, has been operational since 2006 and has been allocated a total of €56.3m to the end of 2008. Applications to the scheme may be submitted to BCI by radio or television broadcasters and by independent production companies. The Broadcasting Fund is funded from the allocation of 5% of the net television licence fee receipts and the allocation in the 2009 Estimate is €10.8m. The Deputy may wish to note that in the context of the Broadcasting Bill I am proposing to increase the allocation to the fund from the existing 5% of net licence fee receipts to 7%.

Question No. 108 answered with Question No. 66.
Question No. 109 answered with Question No. 73.

Energy Conservation.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

110 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the exclusion of persons on low incomes from the home energy saving scheme; the reason there is a minimum requirement that the grant amount in the first application must be €500 or greater; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this excludes those who only require a cavity wall insulation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18719/09]

The Home Energy Saving scheme is one strand of the National Insulation Programme for Economic Recovery, under which funding is also provided under the Warmer Homes scheme and the schemes for social housing.

It is important to strike an appropriate balance between value for money in relation to the cost of the investment in delivering energy efficiency savings measures and the value of those energy savings to the economy. Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) has put in place a requirement that applicants to the scheme install measures attracting a minimum grant payment of €500. The administrative cost for SEI of processing grants under the Home Energy Saving Scheme is relatively fixed, regardless of the amount of the grant payment concerned. SEI has worked to keep administrative costs of the Scheme to a minimum.

The administrative cost of disbursing grants for relatively low cost measures such as attic insulation or cavity wall insulation would be unacceptably high if these were permitted on their own. It is likely that many householders would return to the scheme at a later date seeking support for other measures, giving rise to multiple administrative charges on the scheme. The minimum grant threshold serves to ensure value for money to the Exchequer, while encouraging homeowners to take a holistic approach from the outset to improving the energy efficiency of their homes.

In regard to those on low incomes, it is the case that €20 million has been provided to the Warmer Homes Scheme for 2009, a very substantial increase on previous years. The Warmer Homes Scheme is specifically targeted at low income households. This scheme provides for the installation of a range of energy efficiency measures, including cavity wall insulation, attic insulation, boiler lagging jackets, draught proofing measures and Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) at little or no cost to the homeowner.

The Warmer Homes Scheme is expected to support energy efficiency interventions in up to 15,000 low income homes in this year alone. Further information on the Warmer Homes Scheme is available by calling 1800-250204, by emailing warmerhomes@sei.ie or at www.sei.ie/Grants/Warmer Homes Scheme.

The third strand of the National Insulation Programme for Economic Recovery involves the retrofitting of insulation and other measures to improve the energy efficiency in local authority housing stock. I understand that proposals for the implementation of this element of the programme are at an advanced stage of development and an announcement by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is expected shortly.

Telecommunications Infrastructure.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

111 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the call from an association (details supplied) for a one stop shop for the communications market here; the position regarding his commitment to establish a one stop shop to provide service providers with open access to existing ducting infrastructure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18781/09]

In July 2008 I published a consultation paper on Next Generation Broadband. One of the proposals in this paper is to establish a one-stop-shop to provide electronic communications service providers with flexible and open access to existing and future State ducting infrastructure to facilitate the provision of backhaul. The proposal for a one-stop-shop received a largely positive response in the consultation process.

My officials have conducted work on identifying the supply of relevant State-owned infrastructure and are working with the relevant State agencies, mainly in the energy and transport sectors to examine how best their assets can be accessed and utilised.

Telecoms operators and service providers are the potential customers of a one-stop-shop and my Department is now engaging with them on how best to progress the one-stop-shop initiative.

A number of issues, relating to the agencies and to the operators and service providers, have been identified including commercial and legal issues, and operational issues such as ensuring safety when accessing infrastructure assets. These are complex matters that need careful consideration as we develop an appropriate model for the one-stop-shop. My Department and the agencies are committed to working out how best such issues can be addressed and ensuring that the ducting assets that are in State ownership are used to the greatest possible extent in our evolving Next Generation Broadband network.

Greener Homes Scheme.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

112 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position, post budget 2009, regarding the funding and number of applicants for the greener homes scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18716/09]

The Greener Homes Scheme, since its launch in March 2006, has provided support for home owners investing in renewable energy heating technologies. The scheme has evolved over that period, supported by appropriate budgetary allocations year on year. Phase III was launched in July 2008 and continues to support the installation of a variety of technologies in existing homes.

To date, Sustainable Energy Ireland has paid out over €55m to almost 21,000 successful applicants. The current level of accepted offers, including the €55.5m paid to date, is €64.5m. The 2009 allocation is €12.345m, which will be sufficient to meet demand over the course of the year.

Television Licence Fee.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

113 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on new methods of collecting television licences; the methods available to him to collect TV licences; his views on whether any new method needs to be mandatory; his further views on whether the jailing of more than 50 people in 2008 for non-payment of the TV licence is a waste of resources; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18690/09]

There are various methods of collection of television licence fees in other countries which could be adopted here. While such other systems may have advantages, I have not yet formed any conclusive opinions of which new method, if any, would be appropriate for this country.

In relation to the imprisonment of persons, I have introduced two new provisions in the Broadcasting Bill 2008, which I anticipate will reduce the necessity for criminal proceedings in respect of the non-payment of the television licence fee.

The first provision in section 149 of the Bill proposes an on-the-spot fine mechanism to be deployed at the option of the television licence collection agent. In essence this mechanism provides that if a person buys a television licence within a set time period and pays a penalty equivalent to one-third of the annual television licence fee, then no court proceedings will be taken, thus reducing the necessity for court proceedings.

The second provision which is proposed in section 150(3) empowers the television licence collection agent to pursue as a civil debt an amount owing in respect of a television licence fee.

Question No. 114 answered with Question No. 80.
Question No. 115 answered with Question No. 67.
Question No. 116 answered with Question No. 68.

Energy Resources.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

117 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when he plans on publishing the national energy efficiency action plan; the reason for the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18707/09]

I launched the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan 2009-2020 on Friday last, 8 May. The plan is a further comprehensive development of the Government's energy efficiency strategies as set out in the first Energy Efficiency Action Plan, which was published and submitted to the European Commission in October 2007. The new plan has been informed by the public consultation process conducted last year as well as energy efficiency policy developments since 2007. The Plan also takes account of the current economic climate which underlines the imperative to significantly enhance energy savings and to optimise jobs and economic activity in the energy services sector.

Tax Code.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

118 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent to which he or his Department have an input directly or indirectly into the determination of companies eligible for excise relief involved in the production of bio-diesel or pure plant oil for bio-fuel purposes; if all such approved companies are meeting their production quotas; the reason that some such companies have not produced product to the full extent of quota; if such companies have not produced any product since excise relief was awarded; if any product suitable for bio-fuel purposes is being exported and re-imported; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18722/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

377 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of alternative oil and energy producers approved for excise relief under the programme to encourage the alternative energy sectors; the amount produced by each company so approved; the companies that have not produced any product; the number of companies that have been refused relief but which are currently in production; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19003/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

378 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of bio-diesel or other potential motor fuel producers currently approved for excise relief under the programme to encourage the alternative energy sector; the quantity for which this relief has been approved and utilised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19004/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 118, 377 and 378 together.

The Biofuels Mineral Oil Tax Relief Schemes were introduced in 2005 and 2006 on the basis of competitive calls for proposals. The scoring mechanism was published as part of the application form and accompanying documentation. There were specific limits on the amount of excise relief available under the various categories in each scheme and this was also stipulated in the relevant Guidance Notes. Assessment panels were established to review the applications received for both schemes and officials from my Department participated in the assessment process.

My Department made recommendations to the Minister for Finance in relation to those biofuels projects to be approved for excise relief. In all instances applicants were not awarded the full amount of MOT relief sought.

The Biofuels Mineral Oil Tax Relief Schemes have resulted in 18 projects being awarded excise relief between 2005 and 2010. Of these projects, four are in the biodiesel category, five are in the pure plant oil category, four are in the bioethanol category and five are in the captive fleets category.

While individual amounts of biofuel produced by particular companies under the schemes is considered to be commercially sensitive information, I can advise the Deputy that under Scheme I excise relief was awarded on 16m litres of biofuel with over 6.8 m litres of biofuel being produced. Under Scheme II excise relief was awarded on 665m litres of biofuel and up to the end of December 2008 there has been over 108.2 m litres of biofuel produced. My Department does not have details of the number of companies who were not successful in being awarded excise relief under the schemes but who are currently producing biofuel.

The schemes were designed as interim measures to accelerate the level of biofuels in the fuel mix, in advance of the introduction of a biofuels obligation in 2010.

Since the excise relief schemes were introduced there has been a steady increase in biofuels used in Ireland, albeit from a very low base. Prior to the introduction of the schemes, market penetration of biofuels was almost non existent. In 2007, penetration had risen to 0.6% and on the basis of the MOTR figures alone, penetration had risen to 1.5% in 2008.

It would not be appropriate for me to comment on the position of individual companies within the schemes or on their business practices. There have been at least five biofuels plants constructed or redeveloped on foot of excise relief granted under the schemes. A number of others are either at an advanced stage of planning, or have received planning permission. All but two of the projects are currently availing of the excise relief and my Department liaises with all project promoters on a regular basis.

The European biofuels industry generally, has experienced profound difficulties over recent years. A prolonged period of price volatility culminated in a severe decline in mineral prices fundamentally affecting the competitiveness of biofuels. In addition, the availability of US subsidised biodiesel, known as "B99", also placed considerable commercial pressure on the European and Irish industry. This has been redressed by the countervailing action taken by the EU Commission last month.

It is highly likely that some of the biofuels exported from Ireland do re-enter the country in a blended state. This is a function of the fact that biofuels and the products used to make them are internationally traded commodities.

The introduction of the Biofuels Obligation in 2010 will provide the Irish biofuels sector with the certainty it needs to invest and grow in a sustainable way.

Proposed Legislation.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

119 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the time frame for the completion and publication of the report from the geothermal working group; his views on the need for legislation to clear the way for development and exploration of geothermal energy; his plans to incorporate same into the Minerals Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18715/09]

As indicated in the reply to Parliamentary Question number 59 of 12th March 2009, complex legal issues arise in regard to geothermal energy, which have not been addressed previously and these are currently being examined by the Office of the Attorney General. I would, however, expect to receive the recommendations of the Geothermal Working Group in the next few weeks when it is intended to publish the results of these deliberations on the Department's website. I will then decide on the need for legislation and an appropriate regulatory framework.

While there are broad similarities between geothermal energy and minerals in terms of development requirements, work is continuing on a separate footing to finalise a draft of the proposed Minerals Development Bill, which is expected to be published after the summer recess 2009.

EU Directives.

David Stanton

Question:

120 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if EU Directive 2008/06/EC has been transposed in full into legislation here; if he intends that the postal sector here will have full liberalisation of the postal sector by 31 December 2010; if he has finished his consideration of all submissions from the public and stakeholders regarding same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18657/09]

The Irish postal market is due to be liberalised from 1 January 2011 as set out in the 3rd EU Postal Directive. My Department is currently developing a framework dealing with the key issues to be decided in transposing the Directive into Irish law by the end of next year. The initial consultation process has been completed and all of the submissions received, as well as the experiences of other countries, are being examined to inform the development of the framework. A further engagement with stakeholders is also envisaged, and following this the necessary legislation will be prepared.

My priority is to facilitate competition and the provision of high-quality, competitively priced postal services whilst ensuring the protection of the universal service in a liberalised market so that all postal consumers will have access to a basic, high quality suite of services.

Consultancy Contracts.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

121 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Taoiseach if he has employed consultants or lobbyists to act for his Department outside the State in the past five years; the nature of the work; the cost of the work undertaken; the outcome of such action; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18614/09]

No consultants or lobbyists have been employed to act for my Department outside the State in the past five years.

Unemployment Levels.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

122 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Taoiseach the latest unemployment figures recorded in respect of the Tallaght social welfare office, Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18672/09]

The Live Register series gives a monthly breakdown of the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Benefit, Jobseeker's Allowance and other registrants as registered with the Department of Social and Family Affairs. Figures are published for each county and each social welfare office. The most recent information is for April 2009.

The number of persons signing on in the Tallaght social welfare office on the last Friday in April 2009 was 8,787.

It should be noted that the Live Register is not a definitive measure of unemployment as it includes part-time workers, and seasonal and casual workers entitled to Jobseeker's Benefit or Allowance.

Departmental Staff.

Ulick Burke

Question:

123 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Taoiseach the number of Civil Servants in his Department that have been dismissed from 2004 to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18701/09]

No Civil Servants in my Department have been dismissed from 2004 to date.

Legislative Programme.

John O'Mahony

Question:

124 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Taoiseach the title of each Bill sponsored by him which was passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas and subsequently signed into law in respect of each of the years 2004 to 2008 and to date in 2009; if, in each case, it was drafted and passed in order to give effect to a directive from the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18855/09]

The following is a list of Bills sponsored by my Department in respect of each of the years 2004 to 2008 and to date in 2009:

2004 — nil;

2005 — Interpretation Act 2005 and Statute Law Revision (pre 1922) Act 2005;

2006 — National Economic and Social Development Act 2006;

2007 — Statute Law Revision Act 2007;

2008 — nil 2009 to date — nil.

None of these Acts were drafted and passed to give effect to a directive from the European Union.

Ministerial Correspondence.

Finian McGrath

Question:

125 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will support a matter (details supplied). [18476/09]

I have asked officials of my Department to contact the person in question and arrange to meet with him to discuss the matter.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Finian McGrath

Question:

126 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will support a matter (details supplied). [18488/09]

There are no provisions in worker safety legislation which enables third parties to carry out the duties of a safety representative or to act as observers in the workplace.

However, there are a number of provisions in the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 which address issues which employees may have in relation to workplace safety.

If any employee has concerns about the workplace, defects in the workplace, or in systems or articles in the workplace which could endanger persons in that workplace he is obliged under section 13 of the 2005 Act to report these concerns to his/her employer.

The employer, in turn is responsible for the safety, health and welfare of his/her employees and the Act in part 2 chapter 1 sets out the general duties of employers.

Part 4 of the Act deals with Safety Representatives and safety consultation and under section 25 of the Act employees may select and appoint from amongst their number a safety representative or, by agreement with their employer, more than one safety representative to represent them in consultations with the employer on matters of safety, health and welfare at their place of work. Section 25 deals in detail with the matter of safety representation. A safety representative may consult with, and make representations to, the employer on safety, health and welfare matters relating to the employees in the place of work. The employer must consider these representations, and act on them if necessary.

Recognising the possibility of adverse behaviour towards employees who raise matters relating to health and safety in the workplace under section 27 of the Act, an employer is prohibited from penalising an employee for acting in accordance with or performing any duty or exercising any right under health and safety laws, or for making a complaint or a representation about safety and health to the safety representative or to the employer or to an inspector.

In addition, where employees have concerns relating to health and safety in the workplace they can report them to the Health and Safety Authority's Workplace Contact Unit (Locall 1890 289 389 or wcu@hsa.ie).

Work Permits.

Richard Bruton

Question:

127 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if it is possible for a person who is a US citizen and who has completed a law degree here to qualify for a work permit in respect of a job that does not offer a salary of more than €30,000; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18537/09]

Under the Third Level Graduate Scheme, legally resident non-EEA graduates from an Irish third level educational institution may be permitted to remain in Ireland for six months, following receipt of their examination results, for the purpose of seeking employment and applying for a Green Card or work permit.

The Employment Permits Act 2006 allows for the issuing of a work permit for occupations offering a salary of €30,000 or more, where such occupations are not specified on the ineligible list for Work Permits, and subject to a labour market needs test. Only in very exceptional circumstances will my Department consider approving a work permit application for a position offering a salary of less than €30,000. All such applications are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Richard Bruton

Question:

128 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the partner of an Irish citizen can apply for a work permit after six months in that relationship; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18538/09]

The partner of an Irish citizen may apply for an employment permit subject to verification of their immigration status and such an application would be assessed based on the usual permit requirements.

It is current Government policy to issue new employment permits for highly skilled, highly paid positions, or for non-EEA nationals who are already legally resident in the State on valid employment permits, or where there is an officially recognised scarcity of workers of a particular type or qualification.

Full details on the current policy and application forms are available on the Department's website at www.entemp.ie.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Michael Creed

Question:

129 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the initiatives she proposes to deal with the plight of young apprentices who are midway through their training with FÁS, but who have been made redundant due to the downturn in the construction sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18543/09]

The number of redundant construction trades apprentices across all apprenticeship phases currently stands at 3,067 out of a global apprenticeship population of 24,774. To address this situation the Government has introduced a number of new measures which are providing over 3,400 training places for redundant apprentices. These measures include:

The scheduling rules for off-the-job training have been amended to permit redundant apprentices to progress to their next off-the-job training phases at Institutes of Technology. This change has permitted a total of 302 apprentices to attend phase 2 training, 428 apprentices to attend phases 4 and 6 off-the-job training in 2008 and 1,115 apprentices to attend phase 4 and phase 6 training to date in 2009.

The Employer Based Redundant Apprentice Rotation Scheme, which commenced in January 2009, provides for the on-the-job training placement of up to 500 redundant apprentices with employers who have released their own employed apprentices for off-the-job training.

FÁS and ESB Networks have agreed the placement on a phased basis of 400 redundant electrical apprentices over the period 2009-2010 to allow them to complete their on-the-job training and assessments. Some 94 redundant electrical apprentices are currently completing their Phase 5 and Phase 7 on-the-job training.

The Institutes of Technology are providing 700 places per annum on an 11-week certified training programme for those redundant apprentices who have completed their Phase 4 training but where an on or off-the-job training opportunity is not currently available for them. The programme is divided into Construction and Engineering streams and provides redundant apprentices with education and training support in a number of relevant trades areas. The first programme is expected to commence in September 2009.

Léargas has provided funding towards the cost of placing redundant Phase 7 apprentices with employers in Germany. Some 20 apprentices are currently in Germany and a further 60 apprentice placements has been approved.

FÁS with the support of relevant stakeholders is seeking to maximise all available opportunities for redundant apprentices to progress within the apprenticeship system and the situation is being monitored on an ongoing basis.

Consultancy Contracts.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

130 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she has employed consultants or lobbyists to act for her Department outside the State in the past five years; the nature of the work; the cost of the work undertaken; the outcome of such action; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18607/09]

The information sought by the Deputy for the last five years is as follows:

Year

Name of Consultant / Lobbyist

Nature of Work Outside the State

Cost

Outcome of Action

2004

Mr. Tom Walsh

Chairing the European Council Ad Hoc Chemicals Working Group during the Irish Presidency of the EU.

€34,798 (Includes payments in respect of the provision of advice and support to the Department on the EU Chemicals (REACH) legislation proposals as well as Chairing the EU Council Working Group)

Delivering on our Irish Presidency obligations in relation to the REACH Regulation.

2006

Crowleys DFK Chartered Accountants

Co-sourced audit of financial procedures in InterTradeIreland in Newry.

€33,336

A report was completed and given to the C&AG’s Office, and to public representatives in Ireland and the UK.

In addition, a former officer of my Department has continued to represent my Department on the Board of the European Chemicals Agency since his retirement in 2008.

Tourism Sector.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

131 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the assistance her Department is giving to ensure that the visitor centre at a company (details supplied) is left open; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18677/09]

I am aware that the visitor centre in question has re-opened and is in operation. My Department and the agencies under the aegis of my Department do not operate any schemes for providing assistance to visitor centres. However, I understand from the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism that Fáilte Ireland has provided marketing assistance to the centre but has not received a request for financial assistance from the operators of the centre.

Legislative Programme.

John O'Mahony

Question:

132 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the title of each Bill sponsored by her which was passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas and subsequently signed into law in respect of each of the years 2004 to 2008 and to date in 2009; if, in each case, it was drafted and passed in order to give effect to a directive from the European Union; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18848/09]

The information in relation to primary legislation enacted on behalf of my Department since 2004 is set out in the following table.

Year

Title and Number of Act

Did the Act give effect to an EU Directive? (Yes/No)

If yes, did Act have any other provisions additional to those required to implement the Directive? (Yes/No)

2004

Industrial Relations (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004 (No. 4 of 2004)

No

N/A

2004

Copyright and Related Rights (Amendment) Act 2004 (No. 18 of 2004)

No

N/A

2005

Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) Act, 2005 (No. 7 of 2005)

No

N/A

2005

Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 (No. 10 of 2005)

Yes. Directive 89/391/EEC on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements on the safety & health of workers at work and Directive 91/383/EEC on measures to improve the safety & health at work of workers with fixed duration or temporary employment relationship.

Yes. Included among other provisions in the Act is to provide for the further regulation of work activities, to continue in being and confer additional functions on the national authority for occupational safety and health and rename that body as the Health and Safety Authority.

2005

The Investment Funds, Companies and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2005 (No. 12 of 2005)

Yes. Directive 2003/6/EC and the implementing Directives 2003/124/EC, 2003/125/EC and 2004/72/EC on insider dealing and market manipulation (market abuse).

Yes. It makes provision in relation to Collective Investment Undertakings, amends Part XIII of the Companies Act 1990 and makes miscellaneous amendments to various pieces of legislation.

2006

Competition (Amendment) Act 2006 (No. 4 of 2006)

No

N/A

2006

Employees (Provision of Information and Consultation) Act 2006 (No. 9 of 2006)

Yes. 2002/14/EC and Article 3(2) of Directive 2001/23/EC.

No

2006

Employment Permits Act 2006(No. 16 of 2006)

No

N/A

2006

Patents (Amendment) Act 2006 (No. 31 of 2006)

No

N/A

2006

Industrial Development Act 2006 (No. 34 of 2006)

No

N/A

Year

Title and Number of Act

Did the Act give effect to an EU Directive? (Yes/No)

If yes, did Act have any other provisions additional to those required to implement the Directive? (Yes/No)

2006

The Investment Funds, Companies and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2006 (No. 41 of 2006)

Yes. Directive 2004/109/EC on the harmonisation of transparency requirements in relation to issuers whose securities are admitted to trading on a regulated market and Commission Directive 2007/14/EC laying down detailed rules for the implementation of certain provisions of Directive 2004/1009/EC.

Yes. It amends and extends the Companies Acts, the Irish Takeover Panel Act 1997, the Central Bank Act 1942, the Consumer Information Act 1978 and the Netting of Financial Contracts Act 1995.

2007

Consumer Protection Act 2007 (No. 19 of 2007)

Yes. 2005/29/EC Unfair Commercial Practices Directive

Yes. Established the National Consumer Agency

2007

Protection of Employment (Exceptional Collective Redundancies & Related Matters) Act 2007 (No. 27 of 2007)

No.

N/A

2007

Personal Injuries Assessment Board (Amendment) Act (No. 35 of 2007)

No

N/A

2007

Copyright and Related Rights (Amendment) Act 2007 (No. 39 of 2007)

Yes. This related to one provision, the Public Lending Remuneration Scheme, arising from EU Directive 92/100/EC. The other provisions of this Directive were transposed in the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000 (No 28 of 2000)

No

2008

Control of Exports Act (No. 1 of 2008)

No.The Act gives effect to Council Joint Action 22 June 2000 concerning the control of technical assistance to certain military end-users;Council Common Position 2003/468/CFSP on the control of arms brokering; and provides for related matters.

N/A

2008

Chemicals Act 2008 (No. 13 of 2008)

No.However, the Act gives further effect to 3 EU Regulations (Regulation EC No 304/2003 of 28 January 2003; Regulation EC No. 648/2004 of 31 March 2004; Regulation EC No. 1907/2006 of 18 December 2006). Section 5(2) of the Act provides that the Minister may make Regulations to give effect to certain EU Acts regulating chemicals. This would include Directives.

No

2009(to 6 May)

N/A

N/A

N/A

Work Permits.

James Reilly

Question:

133 Deputy James Reilly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will look favourably on a request to transfer a work permit in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18915/09]

The Employment Permits Section informs me that according to its records the above named was made redundant and her current permit is no longer valid. If the above named wishes to work for another employer then a new application for an employment permit must be made by her, or on her behalf.

Details on the current policy in respect of non-EEA nationals made redundant and application forms can be found on my Department's website at www.entemp.ie.

Consumer Protection.

James Reilly

Question:

134 Deputy James Reilly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she has a role in regulating auctioneers to encourage them to display realistic prices in their promotion of properties that reflect the market value of properties they are selling (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18932/09]

I would advise the Deputy that I have no role in relation to regulating auctioneers.

Under the law as it stands (the Auctioneers and Estate Agents Acts 1947 to 1973) the licensing of Auctioneers/Estate Agents is currently undertaken jointly by the Courts and the Revenue Commissioners.

In so far as the Consumer Protection Act 2007 is concerned, the Act, whilst not dealing with issues such as the cost of specific products or services, does contain provisions applicable to all sectors which prohibit traders from engaging in unfair commercial practices including misleading actions, misleading omissions and aggressive commercial practices. In that regard, any consumer who believes that they have suffered as a result of being misled in relation to the price of a good or service, including in relation to a property conveyancing service, may wish to contact the National Consumer Agency which is the body responsible for enforcing the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act 2007. The Deputy will be aware that the Agency is independent in the exercise of its statutory functions.

Redundancy Payments.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

135 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment further to Parliamentary Question No. 13 of 7 April 2009, the reason the redundancy rebate has not issued. [18934/09]

I can confirm that the Redundancy Payment Section of my Department has received a number of applications over various dates from the company concerned. Currently, the section is processing applications dating from November.

The Redundancy Payments Section has processed an application for this company dating from November and payment will issue this week. However, the remainder of the applications which were received at the start of 2009 and later in the year will be processed in order of date of receipt.

Tax Code.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

136 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance his view of the situation in which income tax relief is allowed to tenants in the private rental sector but not to tenants in social housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18452/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, section 473 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides tax relief at the standard rate of tax (20%), up to certain specified maximum amounts, to individuals who pay for private rented accommodation that is used as their sole or main residence.

However, tax relief is not available in respect of tenancies held from local authorities. The making of rent schemes is an integral part of the housing management functions of local authorities, subject to broad principles laid down by the Minister for Housing, Urban Renewal and Developing Areas. These broad principles are as follows:

the rent payable should be related to income and a smaller proportion of income should be required from low income households

allowances should be made for dependent children including those under 21 years of age in full-time education

a contribution towards rent should be required from subsidiary earners in the household

provision should be included for the acceptance of a lower rent than that required under the terms of the scheme in exceptional cases where payment of the normal rent would give rise to hardship, and

appropriate local factors should be taken into account including the costs of the maintenance and management of the stock of rented dwelling and the adequacy of the rental income to meet such costs.

Within these broad principles, authorities have discretion as to the types of income to be taken into account in the assessment of rents and how to deal with hardship cases, poverty traps and any other issues that arise in individual cases. By definition, local authority rents should reflect ability to pay. They bear no relation to economic rents in the private sector.

Local authority rents are heavily subsidised at present. In my view, it would not be appropriate, on the one hand, to provide subsidised housing to a person, at a rent which takes full account of ability to pay, and also offer a further subsidy through the tax system. Furthermore, among the other advantages which local authority tenants enjoy are greater security of tenure vis-à-vis the wider rental sector and the right to buy the property at a market discount.

National Lottery Funding.

John Deasy

Question:

137 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Finance the amount of National Lottery funding available for good causes in each of the years 2007 and 2008; the estimated amount available for such causes in 2009; the breakdown of funding spent on youth, sports and amenities, health and welfare, arts, culture and national heritage and the Irish language in 2007 and 2008; the estimated breakdown of such spending in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18482/09]

The amount of National Lottery funding available for good causes in 2007 was €230 million while the amount available in 2008 was €265 million. The corresponding amount which will be available in 2009 is estimated at €270 million.

Appendix 1 of the Revised Estimates for Public Services for each of the years 2007 and 2008 gives a breakdown by Department of subheads which were part funded by the surplus received from the National Lottery. Appendix 1 of the Revised Estimates for Public Services 2009 gives a similar breakdown for 2009. As the National Lottery funds are treated as an item of non-tax revenue, it is not possible to indicate the amount of lottery funding included in any particular subhead. However, funds from the National Lottery as a percentage of the total allocation for all subheads which are part-funded by the proceeds of the National Lottery amounted to 52% in 2007, 56% in 2008 while the estimated percentage for 2009 is 64%.

State Property.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

138 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance the number of State visitors who stayed in Farmleigh House in 2009; the annual running cost of the house; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18673/09]

In 2009 to date, Farmleigh House has hosted a State visit by the RT Hon. Mizengo P. Pinda, Prime Minister of the United Republic of Tanzania. There were 19 people in the delegation. They stayed for three nights.

The annual cost of running Farmleigh House is approximately €3 million. This covers the cost to the Office of Public Works of operating and maintaining the property. Additional expenditure is borne by other Departments — principally the Departments of Foreign Affairs and the Taoiseach — in relation to the hospitality and other costs associated with State visits and other high level or Government meetings held at Farmleigh. Security costs associated with State visits are borne by An Garda Síochána.

In addition to the cost of running Farmleigh as the premier guest facility for visiting Heads of State, the expenditure by the OPW in each year supported significant other activity at Farmleigh in relation to its use as a venue for high level meetings and also the very successful public access and event programme. In 2008, there were 103 high level meetings at Farmleigh attended by 5,900 delegates and almost 200,000 people attended the various free public events held on the estate over the course of the year.

Tax Code.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

139 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance when a tax refund will be made available to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18462/09]

I have been informed by the Revenue Commissioners that no claim for 2008 has been received for the person referred to in this case. All previous year repayment claims received have been dealt with. If the person wishes to make a claim for 2008, he or she may do so by forwarding the relevant details to: Office of the Revenue Commissioners, Government Offices, Spa Rd, Tralee, County Kerry.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

140 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance if stamp duty must be paid again when a married couple are divorced and the property is divided; his views on whether this is discriminatory; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18463/09]

When Stamp Duty relief for first-time purchasers was introduced in Finance (No. 2) Act 2000, the relief was also extended to spouses who, as a result of a judicial separation or divorce, left the family home to the other spouse and did not have an interest in any other property.

Also, a person whose marriage is the subject of a decree of divorce, judicial separation, nullity or a deed of separation can be treated as a first-time purchaser once and only once where the person buys another house to live in. It is a condition of the relief that the spouse or former spouse must occupy the former marital home as his or her only or main residence, following the granting of the decree or the making of the deed of separation, but he or she does not necessarily have to still occupy it at a time when the person, who originally left the marital home, purchases a new home. However, first-time purchaser Stamp Duty relief is denied to that person when, at the date of the decree or at the date the deed of separation is made, the person has an interest in another house/apartment apart from the former marital home.

Election Management System.

John O'Mahony

Question:

141 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Finance the system used to invite tenders for the printing of ballot papers in respect of each of the constituencies for the European elections; the names of the companies which tendered for these contracts; the amount tendered in each case; the tendered amount in respect of each company; the names of the companies to which tenders were awarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18469/09]

In accordance with the requirements of national and EU legislation, tenders for the supply of ballot papers and associated posters for the EU elections were advertised in the Office Journal of the European Union and on the Irish public procurement website, www.etenders.gov.ie. An open tendering procedure was used, allowing all interested suppliers to submit tenders. Suppliers were permitted to tender for one or more constituencies. Valid tenders were received from a total of ten firms, six Irish and four based in the United Kingdom.

The tender documents provided that the contracts would be awarded on the basis of the most economically advantageous tender, taking account of price, technical ability to meet the requirements and capacity to carry out the contract within the prescribed time frame. The result of the four constituencies were as follows:

1. North West Constituency (950,000 Ballot Papers and 8,300 Posters) — estimated Valid tenders were received from 7 companies;

Castle Print (Galway) Ltd.

DCKavanagh Ebrook, Dublin

DRS Data Services Ltd., Milton Keynes, UK

Irish International print Ltd. Dublin

Kalamazoo Secure Solutions Ltd., Birmingham, UK

Tall Security Print, Cheshire, UK

Turner Print Group, Longford

The successful tender was from Castle Print (Galway ) Limited at an estimated cost of €47,154.55 excluding VAT.

2. Dublin Constituency (981,000 Ballot Papers and 7,000 Posters) — estimated Valid tenders were received from 7 companies;

Cahill Printers Ltd., Dublin

DCKavanagh Ebrook, Dublin

DRS Data Services Ltd., Milton Keynes, UK

Irish International Print Ltd., Dublin

Kalamazoo Secure Solutions Ltd., Birmingham, UK

Smith & Ouzman Ltd., Eastbourne, UK

Tall Security Print, Cheshire, UK

The successful company was Smith & Ouzman, at an estimated cost of €29,645.50 excluding VAT.

3. East Constituency (920,000 Ballot Papers and 7,600 Posters) — estimated Valid tenders were received from 6 companies;

Cahill Printers Ltd., Dublin

DCKavanagh Ebrook, Dublin

DRS Data Services Ltd., Milton Keynes, UK

Irish International Print Ltd., Dublin

Kalamazoo Secure Solutions Ltd., Birmingham, UK

Tall Security Print, Cheshire, UK

The successful company was DCKavanagh Ebrook Limited. at an estimated cost of €68,598.00 excluding VAT.

4. South Constituency (981,000 Ballot Papers and 8,100 Posters) — estimated Valid tenders were received from six companies;

Allied Print Ltd., Cork

DCKavanagh Ebrook, Dublin

DRS Data Services Ltd., Milton Keynes, UK

Irish International Print Ltd., Dublin

Kalamazoo Secure Solutions Ltd., Birmingham, UK

Tall Security Print, Cheshire, UK

The successful company was Irish International Print Limited at an estimated cost of €68,247.00 excluding VAT.

Estimated costs are calculated on the basis of the tender prices submitted for the normal sized ballot paper and on the estimated number of posters and ballot papers required. The actual size of the ballot papers and posters will depend upon the number of candidates standing for election, and the actual quantities to be supplied will be determined by the individual Returning Officers.

Tender prices, except in the case of winning tenders, are regarding as commercially sensitive information, and are treated as confidential.

Public Sector Recruitment.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

142 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance the way public service recruitment restrictions will affect the establishment of the National Asset Management Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18495/09]

The National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) will be established on a statutory basis, under the aegis of the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA).

In accordance with section 7 of the National Treasury Management Agency Act 1990, the recruitment of staff, and terms and conditions of employment, are a matter for the NTMA and will not be subject to public service recruitment restrictions. Preparatory work by my Department, the Office of the Attorney General, the NTMA and our legal and financial advisers for the establishment and operation of NAMA on a statutory basis is under way. This includes work on the assessment of the human resource requirements and staffing needs of the Agency.

Tax Code.

Frank Feighan

Question:

143 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Finance if tax incentives for building nursing homes are in place; and if he will confirm that these tax incentives will apply to a person who has secured planning permission on a site for a nursing home. [18521/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that a scheme of capital allowances in respect of expenditure incurred on the refurbishment or construction of a nursing home that is registered under section 4 of the Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990, has been in place since December 1997. Under the scheme, qualifying expenditure can be written off against a person's tax liability at the rate of 15% per annum for the first six years with the remaining 10% in year seven.

However, as announced in the budget on 7 April last and as reflected in section 8 of the Finance Bill 2009 published last week, this scheme is to terminate on 31 December 2009 along with certain other health-related capital allowances schemes, subject to transitional arrangements for pipeline projects. Under the transitional arrangements, if certain qualifying criteria are met, the termination date for qualifying expenditure is extended.

The qualifying conditions depend on the type of work to be carried out and whether or not the work requires planning permission. Where the work to be carried out does not require planning permission, the termination date is 30 June 2010 so long as at least 30% of the construction or refurbishment costs have been incurred on or before 31 December 2009.

Where planning permission is required in relation to the work to be carried out, the qualifying condition for a termination date beyond 31 December 2009 is that a valid application for full planning permission be submitted on or before that date and be acknowledged by the relevant planning authority. In such cases, the termination date for qualifying expenditure is 30 June 2011. Thus, where planning permission for a nursing home has already been obtained, Finance Bill 2009 provides for qualifying expenditure to be incurred up to 30 June 2011.

Martin Ferris

Question:

144 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Finance if a person who has remortgaged their house within the past seven years has lost their mortgage interest relief. [18532/09]

As I outlined in the recent Budget, with effect from 1 May 2009, mortgage interest relief is being limited so that the interest payable on a qualifying home loan qualifies for tax relief for the first seven years only of the life of that loan. A qualifying home loan is a loan used for the purchase, repair, development or improvement of an individual's principal private residence. The seven-year restriction applies to the interest payable on existing and on new qualifying home loans by both first-time buyers and non first-time buyers.

If the remortgage was made for the purposes of repair, development or improvement of the individual's principal private residence then that element would qualify for seven years relief in its own right. If however, the remortgage element was for a non-qualifying purpose such as buying a car or holiday the interest would not qualify for mortgage interest relief. This was always the case.

Michael Creed

Question:

145 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Cork is entitled to a tax refund in respect of child maintenance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18545/09]

I have been informed by the Revenue Commissioners that a claim for a tax refund in respect of child maintenance has not been received from the person in question. A claim may be made by forwarding the relevant details to: Office of the Revenue Commissioners, PAYE Mail Centre, P O Box 63, Ennis, County Clare.

A claim has been received in respect of One Parent Family credit and is currently being processed.

Tax Collection.

Seán Power

Question:

146 Deputy Seán Power asked the Minister for Finance the amount of tax collected under headings (details supplied) each year from 1999 to 2008; and if he will estimate the tax generated from the construction and property sector for each of the same years. [18567/09]

Figures of the net receipt of tax revenue from 1999 to 2008 under the headings requested by the Deputy are as set in the following table to the extent that figures are available or appropriate.

Net Receipts of Tax Revenue 1999 to 2008 under specific headings

Taxhead

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

Excise (Including. VRT)

4,016.2

4,424.1

4,212.6

4,595.4

4,736.0

5,066.4

5,391.0

5,696.4

6,003.4

5,599.5

VRT Only

771.1

1001.3

788.0

792.6

819.4

946.0

1,148.8

1,287.4

1,406.1

1,120.8

Capital Acquisitions Tax

192.3

223.1

167.7

150.9

213.3

190.5

249.5

343.2

390.5

342.8

Capital Gains Tax

452.2

773.5

875.6

619.0

1,435.7

1,527.8

1,982.0

3,099.2

3,097.4

1,423.9

Residential Property Tax

1.8

2.0

1.7

0.8

0.4

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.1

0.0

Stamp Duties

913.1

1,089.9

1,222.5

1,139.0

1,664.4

2,069.7

2,673.2

3,632.0

3,244.0

1,763.4

All Income Tax

8,007.0

9,124.5

9,318.6

8,978.9

9,156.2

10,695.1

11,339.5

12,374.8

13,582.2

13,195.1

Including

Professional Services Withholding Tax

173.5

187.3

226.5

255.9

255.0

322.8

342.1

399.8

435.2

604.1

Dividend Withholding Tax

38.4

186.5

174.7

190.0

196.5

225.4

231.6

285.2

324.6

349.7

Deposit Interest Retention Tax

161.0

385.9

228.4

206.5

153.3

143.6

167.1

254.4

471.8

653.8

Relevant Contracts Tax

21.3

52.2

57.0

29.1

53.3

50.7

98.9

93.7

49.9

-67.4

Corporation Tax (Including Tonnage Tax)

3,442.4

3,885.3

4,143.9

4,803.8

5,155.4

5,335.0

5,503.2

6,684.6

6,393.4

5,071.5

Tonnage Tax only

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.04

0.03

0.1

0.2

0.4

0.6

n/av

Value Added Tax

6,214.9

7,467.2

7,906.8

8,843.8

9,715.6

10,716.8

12,125.4

13,451.4

14,518.8

13,432.1

Environmental Levy

0.0

0.0

0.0

7.0

13.0

14.0

18.0

19.0

22.0

26.3

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, as the information furnished on tax returns does not generally require the yield from a particular sector or sub-sector of economic activity to be identified, the precise figures of net yield of tax revenues from the construction industry cannot be readily identified. Information can, however, be provided on an estimated basis to indicate the approximate net amounts of taxes paid (i.e. after allowing for repayments) by taxpayers in the construction industry in relation to VAT (not including VAT on imports), PAYE, Income tax non-PAYE, Corporation tax and Capital Gains Tax .

On this basis the figures of yield under each tax head in each of the years 2005 to 2008 inclusive is estimated as follows:

Yield under each tax head in each of the years 2005 to 2008

Tax head

2005

2006

2007

2008

€m

€m

€m

€m

VAT

996

1,152

1,072

929

PAYE

726

808

859

714

Income Tax non-PAYE

362

368

367

185

Corporation Tax

336

402

355

155

Capital Gains Tax

62

193

97

39

The figures given for the construction industry are a revision of figures provided previously. The revision was necessitated because of the need to move from a basis of gross receipts (i.e. before allowing for repayments) that was used previously to a net receipts basis (i.e. net of repayments) now being used. The net receipts basis is a more accurate measure of the net contribution of taxation but was not available at sector level when providing replies to questions previously raised.

The figures for 2008 are preliminary and subject to revision. Data on this basis are not readily available for years prior to 2005 and could not be obtained without conducting a protracted examination of Revenue records. Notes:

These figures are net receipts as provided by the Revenue Commissioners and differ slightly from the Exchequer receipts.

The breakdown by trade sector for the tax heading "Income Tax (non-PAYE)" is based on sectoral information associated with direct tax payments from the self-employed only and is not available in respect of other subheads of non-PAYE income tax.

The sector identifier used on the tax records is based on the 4 digit "NACE code (Rev. 1)" which is an internationally recognised economic activity code system. The NACE codes are not essential for the assessment and collection of taxes and duties and the correct allocation and maintenance of these codes is subject to the limit of available resources. NACE code classifications on tax records are compiled by reference to the primary area of economic activity reported by individual and corporate taxpayers on their own behalf and the taxes collected are allocated to those codes without reference to the precise economic activity which generated them. While the accuracy of the NACE codes on tax records is sufficient to underpin broad sector-based analyses there will undoubtedly be some inaccuracies at individual level. This should be borne in mind when considering the information provided.

The figures provided for the estimated yield from the construction industry are confined to those activities which are defined as construction within the NACE codes and do not include the yield from activities and businesses identified under other NACE codes which could be related, either in whole or in part, to the construction sector. An example of these would be architecture, engineering and the manufacture of products used in construction.

Information in relation to taxes on property is available in respect of value added tax on new housing, stamp duty on residential and commercial property and capital gains tax on residential and commercial property.

VAT

Year

New housing

Housing repair and maintenance

Total

€m

€m

€m

1999

641

289

931

2000

809

332

1,141

2001

927

382

1,309

2002

1,100

336

1,436

2003

1,541

332

1,873

2004

1,940

387

2,327

2005

2,405

436

2,841

2006

2,727

520

3,247

2007

2,487

566

3,053

2008

1,289

581

1,870

The figures given for the VAT raised in 2007 are a revision of figures provided previously. The revision was necessitated by more accurate information becoming available in the interim. The breakdown of yield from Stamp Duty on residential and non-residential property for the years 1999-2008 is set out in the following table:

Stamp Duty

Year

Residential Property

Non-Residential Property

€m

€m

1999

263

288

2000

282

392

2001

265

406

2002

349

317

2003

528

547

2004

752

709

2005

945

1,057

2006

1,311

1,678

2007

1,018

1,363

2008

445

600

CGT

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that a breakdown of the yield from Capital Gains Tax by asset type is not available. However, it is possible to provide a proportional breakdown by reference to asset types of the aggregate consideration underlying chargeable gains, that is, the total amount on which CGT is payable for the years 2002-07 broken down into broad asset categories. These figures refer to the total selling price prior to allowing any offsets or deductions and they do not reflect whether sale of the asset gave rise to a gain or a loss. In addition, disposals which are exempt from CGT, such as the disposal of a principal private residence, will also, in some cases, be reflected in the consideration but not in the yield. However, on this basis between 32% and 35% of disposals detailed on Form 11 as broken down by this aggregate consideration of asset value were from residential and commercial property in each of the years from 2002 to 2007. Data for years prior to 2002 is not available and is not yet available for the tax year 2008 as the income tax returns for that year are not due for filing until October 2009.

Tax Code.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

147 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance his views in respect of the levying of commercial rates against the child care providers; his further views on whether this would appear to be at variance with the National Childcare Investment Programme; if he has discussed the matter of the levying of commercial rates and water charges on such child care providers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18590/09]

The National Childcare Investment Programme is a matter in the first instance for my colleague the Minister for Health and Children.

The Valuation Act 2001, which came into effect on 2 May 2002, provides that all buildings used or developed for any purpose including constructions affixed thereto are rateable unless expressly exempted under Schedule 4 of the Act. Such exempt buildings would principally include those used for public worship, education and health care provided on a not-for-profit basis, and charitable purposes. The Act maintains the long-standing position that commercial facilities — including all private child care facilities such as play schools, pre-schools, crèches and Montessori schools — are liable for rates.

The basis of rateable valuation for all commercial property is net annual value (NAV) i.e. the rental value of the property. Like all commercial properties the valuations of private child care facilities are determined by reference to the values of comparable properties on the same valuation list.

Any individual ratepayer who has concerns about the valuation of their property or of any part thereof, including its rateability or the method of calculation may, on payment of a statutory fee of €250, apply to the Valuation Office for a revision of the valuation. If dissatisfied with the outcome, they may appeal to the Commissioner of Valuation in the first instance and subsequently to the independent Valuation Tribunal. There is also a further right of appeal to the High Court and ultimately to the Supreme Court on a point of law. I should also point out that the Commissioner of Valuation is independent in the exercise of his duties under the Valuation Act, 2001 and that I, as Minister for Finance, have no function in decisions in this regard.

I have no plans to provide for special treatment of private child care facilities under the Valuation Act which provides that all buildings used for commercial enterprises are valued in a fair and equitable manner. Exceptions to this key principle would be quickly followed by demands for similar treatment from other interests involved in commercial activity, which in equity would be difficult to resist. The process could thus substantially reduce local authority revenues, which if it were not to entail an increase in Exchequer funding of local authorities, would have to be made good by imposing a corresponding increase on the remaining ratepayers.

Consultancy Contracts.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

148 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance if he has employed consultants or lobbyists to act for his Department outside the State in the past five years; the nature of the work; the cost of the work undertaken; the outcome of such action; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18609/09]

Neither my Department nor the offices under its aegis (The Office of the Revenue Commissioners; The Office of Public Works; The State Laboratory; The Valuation Office; The Public Appointments Service; and The Office of the Commission for Pubic Service Appointments) employed consultants or lobbyists to act on their behalf outside the State in the past five years. I am also informed by The Office of the Ombudsman and The Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General that neither of those offices employed consultants or lobbyists to act on their behalf outside the State in the past five years.

Tax Code.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

149 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if the proposals to modify VAT on motor vehicles which are sold at a loss will be implemented prior to the next major VAT deadline, which is due in May 2009. [18616/09]

The supplementary budget announced that a Margin Scheme for second-hand cars was being introduced, with effect from 1 July 2009, whereby dealers would be taxed for VAT purposes on their margin in regard to second-hand cars they acquire and resold after that date. The margin is the difference between the price the dealer purchased and resold the second-hand car for. In conjunction with the introduction of the Margin Scheme, special transitional arrangements were being put in place regarding second-hand cars in stock on the introduction of the scheme.

The Margin Scheme would replace the existing special scheme for second-hand cars under which dealers-garages are entitled to immediate input credit for the residual VAT included in the price of a second-hand car acquired either through purchase or trade-in. Under the special scheme dealers, when they resell the car, are required to repay this VAT input credit or VAT based on the resale price of the car, whichever is the greater.

Since the supplementary budget further discussions have taken place with the motor industry concerning the proposed introduction of a VAT Margin Scheme for second-hand cars. While SIMI expressed appreciation at the efforts made by the Government to try to assist the industry, they considered, in view especially of the difficult financing situation facing the industry, that on balance it would not be in its overall best interest for the Margin Scheme to be introduced at this time. Consequently, the proposed Margin Scheme and transitional arrangements regarding existing stock of second-hand cars is not now being introduced. It has, however, been agreed that there will be ongoing dialogue over the coming months with SIMI as to what other measures might be introduced to assist the motor industry, especially in regard to removing the current stock of second-hand cars held by dealers.

Richard Bruton

Question:

150 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the tax treatment of moneys released from a pension fund as in a case (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18665/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, in relation to the details supplied, the matter is the subject of an appeal to the Appeal Commissioners. This being the case, the question of the tax treatment of the moneys released from a pension fund is, in this instance, a matter for the Appeal Commissioners.

Pension Provisions.

Joe Costello

Question:

151 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Finance the Government Department which is in charge of producing the new RTE pension scheme known as the 50:50 risk sharing scheme; if the consultation process between his Department and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has been completed; when it is expected that the pension scheme will be finally approved; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the longer the consultation process takes the less value the pensions will have; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18826/09]

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has primary responsibility for matters relating to RTÉ, including its pension schemes. However I have a role because of my responsibility for public service pension policy and for public service expenditure generally.

Under the terms of the Broadcasting Authority Act 1960 (as amended) RTÉ pension schemes and arrangements are subject to the approval of the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance. This is similar to the provisions normally used when establishing a State body.

My understanding is that late last year a new pension arrangement of a hybrid defined benefit/defined contribution scheme was proposed and was agreed to by Management and Unions. The details of this new arrangement, including a draft Scheme, were submitted to the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources seeking Ministerial approval and consent, as required under the governing legislation. This correspondence was also copied to my Department by RTÉ.

I can confirm that the specific issue raised by the Deputy concerning the delay in approving the scheme having an effect on the value of members' benefits has been brought to my attention. As I said in an earlier reply, my officials are in discussion and consultation with officials in the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources regarding the examination of the new RTÉ hybrid scheme and are considering this issue in that context and will conclude the matter as soon as possible. I can assure the Deputy that the normal practice when examining public service schemes is for all relevant service to be reckoned in the scheme, when it is approved.

Financial Services Regulation.

Finian McGrath

Question:

152 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will support a matter (details supplied). [18828/09]

The Deputy's question refers to the redemption fee applied by mortgage providers in circumstances that a customer seeks to break a fixed rate mortgage. Mortgage lenders in Ireland generally seek to recover costs of funds when a borrower with a fixed rate mortgage agreement seeks to terminate the agreement some time before the term agreed.

On 26 March 2009, I undertook, in this House, to contact the Consumer Director of the Financial Regulator on the subject of customers who wish to switch from a fixed rate mortgage. On foot of that my Department has contacted the Financial Regulator to request confirmation that the redemption costs for switching from a fixed rate mortgage cover funding costs only and that there are no other costs included in these charges. The Financial Regulator has confirmed to my Department that it is looking into this matter and that it will revert shortly. Iwill advise the Deputy of the outcome of the Financial Regulator's consideration of thismatter.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

153 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance the discussions he had with a company (details supplied); if he envisages them having a role to improve credit in the mortgage sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18840/09]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

154 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance his views on the State taking over a company (details supplied) which could be used to improve the availability as opposed to just the approval of mortgages in the housing market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18841/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 153 and 154 together.

I have not had any discussions with the company the Deputy refers to. The Deputy will appreciate that a balance must be achieved by Government between influencing credit institutions through the bank guarantee scheme and other financial support initiatives while at the same time being seen to have a hands-off approach to the day to day running of these institutions which must operate on a strictly commercial basis. The Government took the decisive step of nationalising Anglo Irish Bank because corporate governance issues emerged that caused serious reputational damage to the bank at a time when overall market sentiment towards it was negative.

I would however like to point out to the Deputy that in response to the issue of credit availability in the mortgage sector, the Government has taken a number of important steps. Firstly, I announced in Budget 2009 that a new mortgage scheme for first time buyers and for self-builds, the Home Choice Loan Scheme, would be introduced through the local authority system and is available through authorised mortgage brokers. Secondly, as part of the terms of the recapitalisation of AIB and Bank of Ireland, those banks will provide an additional 30% capacity for lending to first time buyers in 2009. The banks have also committed to actively promote mortgage lending at competitive rates, with increased transparency on the criteria to be met. I fully expect that the banks concerned will meet their commitments under the recapitalised scheme to increase the level of credit available nationally.

Many lenders are conducting extensive advertising campaigns, showing that competition is a real factor on the mortgage scene. The existence of that level of competition in the mortgage lending market is sufficient, I believe, to ensure that credit institutions will offer mortgages to suitably qualified customers in order to remain competitive and retain their share of the market. As long as this remains to be the case, I see no need for the State to intervene in the market place by taking over the company referred to by the Deputy.

Legislative Programme.

John O'Mahony

Question:

155 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Finance the Title of each Bill sponsored by him which was passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas and subsequently signed into law in respect of each of the years 2004 to 2008, inclusive, and to date in 2009; if, in each case, it was drafted and passed in order to give effect to a directive from the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18850/09]

The information requested by the Deputy is contained in the following table. Bills passed in period 2004 to 2009 year to date.

Year

Legislation

Was the bill drafted and passed in order to give effect to a directive from the European Union

2004

Finance Act

No*

2004

Appropriation Act

No

2004

Central Bank and Financial Services Authority Act

No

2004

Council of Europe Development Bank Act

No

2004

Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act

No

2004

Public Service Management (Recruitment& Appointments) Act

No

2005

Finance Act

No*

2005

Appropriation Act

No

2005

Civil Service Regulation (Amendment) Act

No

2005

Development Banks Act

No

2006

Finance Act

No*

2006

Appropriation Act

No

2006

Houses of the Oireachtas Commission (Amendment) Act

No

2007

National Development Finance Agency (Amendment) Act

No

2007

Finance Act

No*

2007

Finance (No 2) Act

No*

2007

Ministers and Secretaries (Ministers of State) Act (No. 33 of 2007)

No

2007

Appropriation Act

No

2007

Assets Covered Securities (Amendment) Act

Partly required by Ireland’s EU obligations

2007

Markets in Financial Instruments and Miscellaneous Provisions Act

Partly required by Ireland’s EU obligations

2008

Finance Act

No*

2008

Finance (No. 2) Act

No*

2008

Credit Institutions (Financial Support Act)

No

2008

Appropriation Act

No

2009

Investment of the National Pensions Reserve Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act

No

2009

Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act

No

2009

Anglo Irish Bank Corporation Act

No

*Primarily National but may also include some provisions resulting from directives adopted at EU level.

Pension Provisions.

John O'Mahony

Question:

156 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Finance if he will tax the gratuity payments of members of the Garda Síochána who have completed 30 years’ service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18873/09]

John O'Mahony

Question:

157 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Finance if he will tax the gratuities for public and civil servants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18874/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 156 and 157 together.

Under statutory pension schemes and pension schemes approved by the Revenue Commissioners there is no liability to income tax in respect of retirement gratuities or lump sums paid to members of such schemes on retirement. Provided the individuals referred to in the questions are members of such schemes and the lump sum payments comply with Revenue rules in this area, there is no liability to income tax on the retirement lump sums. In this regard, it should be noted that the tax arrangements for retirement lump sums apply in respect of pension schemes in both the public and private sectors.

As I mentioned in my Budget Speech on 7 April last, the Commission on Taxation is examining various aspects of pension tax treatment, including the treatment of retirement lump sum payments, and I expect to be dealing with the Commission's recommendations in the 2010 Budget in December.

Public Service Contracts.

Joe McHugh

Question:

158 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Finance his views on changing the Office of Public Works pricing and tendering mechanism for Garda stations, whereby costing and service delivery, that is, furniture, repairs and alterations are costed centrally and delivered centrally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18894/09]

The Office of Public Works (OPW) procurement policy in respect of all services provided by it to An Garda Síochána is determined by EU and national procurement legislation and procedures and consideration of value for money. I am satisfied that the current arrangements are appropriate and provide the most cost efficient outcomes in the context of open and transparent procurement rules.

Banking Sector.

Joe McHugh

Question:

159 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Finance when banks will release the €100 million sanctioned towards business start-ups and small and medium enterprises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18895/09]

As part of the banks recapitalisation scheme Allied Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland have committed to a range of measures to maintain a flow of credit to small businesses. These include a €100m environmental and clean energy innovation fund which is being established by each bank. One of the banks has already made some loans from its environmental and clean energy innovation fund. The other is about to launch its fund and I expect that it will make loans from its fund shortly.

This should not be confused with a separate €100 million which was made available in the Budget for the establishment of an Enterprise Stabilisation Fund (Enterprise Development Fund). This Fund is administered by Enterprise Ireland to help internationally trading companies survive the current global downturn. Any questions on this should be addressed to my colleague the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

The banks have also agreed to each provide €15m to a new seed capital fund with Enterprise Ireland. The banks funding will be matched as appropriate by funding under Enterprise Ireland's Seed and Venture Capital Programme and/or by funding from other national or international investors. It is expected that much of these funds will be utilised by SMEs. Again any questions on this should be addressed to my colleague the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Tax Code.

Joe McHugh

Question:

160 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Donegal can change their tax credits so that their partner, who is working, can get their tax credit back due to the fact that because they are not a married couple they are not allowed to do it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18896/09]

Sections 1017 to 1019 inclusive of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 deal with the joint assessment of married couples for a year of assessment. Persons assessed to tax under these provisions are entitled to the married person's tax credit (currently, €3,660). These provisions only apply to married couples. All other persons are assessed to tax as single persons in accordance with section 1016 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. Such persons are entitled to the single person's tax credit (currently, €1,830).

The basis for the current tax treatment of married couples derives from the Supreme Court decision in Murphy v 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.

In the particular circumstances outlined, as the couple are cohabiting rather than married, it is not permitted under existing legislation to transfer tax credits between the individuals.

Public Service Recruitment.

Richard Bruton

Question:

161 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he has issued guidelines to Departments regarding the exceptions which may be permitted to the recruitment ban; if he has established a procedure for clearing applications in respect of exceptions to this rule; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18918/09]

On the 27 March 2009, a letter issued from my Department to all Departments and Offices informing them that, on foot of a Government decision in this regard, no public service post, however arising, may be filled by recruitment, promotion or payment of an allowance for the performance of duties at a higher grade and any limited exceptions to this principle would require my prior sanction; and that all existing delegated sanctions in relation to staff numbers, grading, promotions, recruitment and related issues were accordingly withdrawn. Vacancies may be filled by redeployment of staff from other Departments or public bodies with my sanction. In relation to the Health and Education sectors the arrangements have been modulated to reflect the particular service needs in these areas.

Heads of Departments and Offices have been advised that any exceptions to these arrangements would arise only in very limited circumstances and my specific prior sanction would be required on submission of a formal application in each case. Requests for exemptions would have to demonstrate clearly that the post is essential to the delivery of a public service or performance of an essential function and that alternative arrangements, such as the reallocation of work, are not feasible in the circumstances.

Tax Code.

Jack Wall

Question:

162 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance his views in regard to a submission (details supplied); his plans to overcome the concerns expressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18937/09]

The position in relation to Child Benefit is as set out in my Supplementary Budget on 7 April 2009. The Government does not believe that it is fair to pay the same level of benefit irrespective of the level of income of the recipient. In times of scarce resources the Government believes support should be targeted at those most in need. My Department, together with the Department of Social and Family Affairs and the Revenue Commissioners are considering how best to achieve this policy objective. The tax treatment of child benefit is also being considered by the Commission on Taxation. I will be informed by its proposals on this matter.

Joan Burton

Question:

163 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he will set out the effective marginal tax rate for those earning €80,000 per annum or more once the Finance Bill 2009 has been enacted, assuming it is enacted unamended; his views on the recent ESRI study of the distributional impact of the 7 April 2009 budget which asserts that the effective marginal tax rate for higher earners has risen from 43.5% in 2008 to 52% in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18947/09]

I assume the Deputy is referring to a single individual earning €80,000 per annum or more. The position is that a single individual earning between €80,000 and €174,979 will have a marginal tax rate of 50% for 2009. This is a combination of income tax at 41%, income levy at 4% and health levy at 5%. In addition, an individual earning €174,980 or more will have a marginal tax rate of 52% for 2009. This is a combination of income tax at 41%, income levy at 6% and health levy at 5%.

It is important to note that the tax rate is just one factor used in calculating the actual tax an individual pays and should not be viewed in isolation. When tax credits and bands are taken into account, a single individual earner on €80,000 will now have an effective average tax rate of 36%.

With regard to the recent ESRI study on the distributional impact of Budget 2009 and Supplementary Budget 2009, the findings show that disposable income for the lowest 20% of incomes will actually increase by almost 5%. This contrasts with a 7% decrease in disposable income for the highest earning 20% and demonstrates the Governments determination that budgetary measures should be as fair as possible. Those who are best able to pay, pay most while the more vulnerable in society are protected.

The report notes that the marginal tax rate for higher earners has risen from 43.5% in 2008 to 52% in 2009. This is due to the introduction of the income levy and the doubling of the health levy rate, which was essential in order to provide fiscal balance in the extraordinary economic circumstances faced by the country. However, in addition to the point raised in relation to the effective average tax rate, I would point out that that Ireland still continues to have a lower marginal tax rate for high earners when compared with a number of European competitors.

Economic Competitiveness.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

164 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether the mid-west region not having Objective One status will hinder its ability to attract new investment and jobs; and the efforts he is making to ensure that the mid-west region receives objective one status. [13403/09]

For the purposes of EU Structural and Cohesion Funds, Ireland is designated into two NUTS (Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics) II regions, namely the Border, Midland and Western (BMW) Region and the Southern and Eastern (S&E) Region.

Under the EU Regulations, regions are classified for financial support based on economic characteristics, e.g population, regional prosperity, unemployment rate etc. Objective one status was aimed at regions whose gross domestic product (GDP) was less than 75% of the European Union average, i.e. those regions lagging behind in development terms. The most recent Eurostat Statistics relating to 2005 has Ireland at 166% of the EU average.

For the 2000-2006 Structural Funds, the designation of the country into two NUTS II regions maximised the Structural Funds allocation available to Ireland as the BMW region retained its objective one status and the S&E region qualified for a six-year phasing out regime for Objective One to the end of 2005.

Objective One has been replaced by the Convergence Objective for the 2007-13 round of EU Structural Funds. However, due to enlargement and our relative prosperity compared to the EU 27, neither of the Irish regions qualifies for funding under this objective. Ireland qualifies under the Regional Competitiveness and Employment Objective and have been allocated €750m for the period.

The Mid-West Region, which comprises the counties of Clare, Limerick and North-Tipperary, is one of the eight Irish sub regions classified for statistical purposes as NUTS 3 regions and is one of the five constituent NUTS III Regional Authority areas which comprise the S&E Region. The "Objective One" status refers to EU Structural Funds only and, therefore does not hinder the region's ability to attract investment.

The Deputy may wish to note that my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment has met with all of the State development agencies under the auspices of her Department, in the context of the job losses occurring in the Midwest region, and I am satisfied that they are working in a fully coordinated manner to take the appropriate actions to support workers in finding new employment, including assistance to re-skill and re-train to enhance their future employment potential. In addition, the Tánaiste established the Mid West Task Force, chaired by Mr Denis Brosnan, in order to assess the particular impact on the wider regional economy of the Dell closure and associated job losses in other companies and is expected to provide an interim report shortly.

National Lottery Funding.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

165 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if all funding accruing to the Exchequer from the national lottery is directed to the areas originally intended by legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16412/09]

All of the funding accruing to the Exchequer from the National Lottery is directed to the areas intended by legislation or later specified by Government in accordance with the National Lottery Act 1986. These areas are as follows: sport and other recreation; national culture (including the Irish language); the arts (within the meaning of the Arts Act, 1951); health of the community; and for such other purposes as the Government may determine. The following additional categories have been so determined: youth, welfare, national heritage and amenities. A breakdown of expenditure which is part-funded by the National Lottery is shown in Appendix 1 of the Revised Estimates for Public Services 2009.

Financial Services Sector.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

166 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether banks in receipt of State injections of capital could be using these funds to extend their loan books by cherry picking borrowers in the mortgage, consumer credit and commercial markets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18978/09]

Participating institutions in the State recapitalisation package have committed to increase lending capacity to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) by 10% and to provide an additional 30% capacity for lending to first time buyers in 2009. If the mortgage lending is not taken up, then the extra capacity will be available to SMEs. AIB and Bank of Ireland have also committed to public campaigns to actively promote small business lending at competitive rates with increased transparency on the criteria to be met. Compliance with this commitment will be monitored by the Financial Regulator. Both institutions have met with officials from my Department to give details of the steps they are taking to implement these measures.

An independent review of credit availability, funded by the banks but managed jointly by the banks, Government and business representatives is also underway and will be completed shortly. Amongst the issues covered by this review will be changes in bank lending, repayment terms and a comparison with customer experiences prior to the onset of the financial crisis.

I should also add that a Code of Conduct for Business Lending to Small and Medium Enterprises was published by the Financial Regulator on 13 February and took effect on 13 March. This code applies to all regulated banks and building societies and will facilitate access to credit, promote fairness and transparency and ensure that banks will assist borrowers in meeting their obligations, or otherwise deal with an arrears situation in an orderly and appropriate manner. The business lending code includes a requirement for banks to offer their business customers annual review meetings, to inform customers of the basis for decisions made and to have written procedures for the proper handling of complaints. Where a customer gets into difficulty the banks will give the customer reasonable time and seek to agree an approach to resolve problems and to provide appropriate advice. This is a statutory code and banks will be required to demonstrate compliance.

This range of measures has been introduced to ensure that the banks continue to lend to credit worthy individuals and businesses in the real economy.

Capital Investment Programme.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

167 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding discussions with an association (details supplied) and other stakeholders in respect of proposals to secure funds for labour intensive construction or infrastructure projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18981/09]

My officials have actively engaged with representatives of the pensions industry and other interested parties to discuss alternative funding proposals. These discussions have focused on both the possible sources of additional funding and on what steps would be required to access such funding. A number of meetings have taken place, and further meetings will be arranged as appropriate.

I would note that we are already spending a considerable sum on Capital this year — 5% of GNP — one of the highest ratios in the world. This supports a substantial level of employment while the reductions in tender prices mean that we can do more with less. Nonetheless, the Government is prepared to look at new ways to fund needed capital investment and support activity and employment in the construction sector provided:

the terms are right and in the taxpayers favour;

the investment makes economic sense;

value for money is secured; and

the private sector shares the appropriate level of risk so as not to have a disproportionate impact on the public finances.

Financial Services Regulation.

Joan Burton

Question:

168 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the action he will take to ensure that mortgage lenders pass on European Central Bank interest rate cuts in full to mortgage holders on variable rate mortgages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18985/09]

As the Deputy will be aware mortgage borrowers with variable rate mortgages have benefited from very significant reductions in mortgage interest rates over recent months in line with the very substantial reductions in ECB interest rates. In respect of the covered institutions my Department has been informed by the Financial Regulator that all of the covered institutions have fully passed on each ECB interest rate cut to variable rate owner occupiers since the Credit Institutions Financial Support scheme was introduced up to and including the ECB cut announced on 2 April 2009.

The decision on pass through of ECB rate reductions to variable rate mortgages is a commercial decision for the financial institution concerned. This decision will reflect a range of different factors including funding costs, market conditions, profitability and business strategy as well as the competitive environment overall. The Deputy will appreciate it is a core function of the Board and senior management of each institution to assess where the appropriate balance lies between these competing objectives particularly in ensuring the financial health and commercial viability of the relevant institution. It is not an appropriate role for the Minister for Finance to seek to determine this decision making by financial institutions operating under competitive market conditions.

As far as the covered institutions are concerned and those participating in the Recapitalisation Programme the objective is to ensure that the credit needs of the real economy including house purchasers are met. In this context, as Minister for Finance I have consistently made a strong case for the full pass- through of ECB interest rate reductions from the relatively high levels they stood at last year. ECB rates are now at very low levels. Moreover, it is important to bear in mind that credit institutions are not primarily funded from the ECB but from a variety of sources and the cost of such funding may not be in line with the very low level of ECB rates.

In view of its statutory consumer protection mandate, the Financial Regulator will continue to monitor the level of mortgage interest rates. It is, of course, important that prospective mortgage borrowers considering a variable rate mortgage at the present time factor in the potential impact on their repayments of changes in financial conditions in the coming years.

Pension Provisions.

John Deasy

Question:

169 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason persons who are employed as home helps with the Health Service Executive are being deducted the pension levy when they will not benefit from a pension on reaching retirement; if she will examine the matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18530/09]

All Health Service Executive employees, including full time and part time employees on the payroll, who are, or are entitled to be members of a public service occupational pension scheme or pension arrangement are subject to the deduction provided for under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act, 2009.

Individual employees who opted out of the occupational pension scheme may be entitled to a non-pensionable gratuity on reaching retirement age as provided for under the scheme rules. In addition, the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2009 will amend the relevant thresholds and employees earning less than €15,000 will be exempt from the deduction.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

170 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the anomaly where workers in a hospital (details supplied) who will not get a public service pension are paying the pension levy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18535/09]

This hospital, is deemed to be a public sector employer under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act, 2009 (Sections 1(i), 2(1)(b)(i) and 2(1)(b)(iii) refer). Employees at the hospital are covered by either a public sector superannuation scheme or a private sector scheme which is funded by the Exchequer. The deduction therefore applies to all employees at this hospital.

Early Childhood Education.

Michael Noonan

Question:

171 Deputy Michael Noonan asked the Minister for Health and Children the requirements, arising from the budgetary announcement that free pre-school places would be provided for one year for all children under four years of age, she is placing on private sector pre-schools to provide places; the number of children being allocated to each school; the number of hours per day that need to be provided; the payment per child per week being offered; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18589/09]

As the Deputy will be aware I have responsibility for the implementation of the new scheme to provide a free Pre-School year of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) which was announced recently by the Minister of Finance.

The Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) is being introduced from January 2010 as a free scheme to benefit children in the key developmental period prior to commencing school. The scheme will allow children to avail of a free playschool place in their pre-school year, which will be provided for 3 hours per day, 5 days per week for 38 weeks. It will also allow children in their pre-school year who are attending full day or part-time day-care services to avail of a free session of 2 hours and 15 minutes per day, 5 days per week for 50 weeks. As the new scheme will be introduced from January next, the first full year will be from September 2010.

Participating children must, normally be aged between 3 years 3 months and 4 years 6 months on the 1st September of each year. Exceptions will be allowed where children have special needs or it is necessary to accept children at an older age due to the enrolment policy of the local primary school. Participating services will receive capitation of €64.50 per week where children attend for 38 weeks, and €48.50 where they attend for 50 weeks of the year. Services will receive payments at the start of each term. Where the child is attending full-day or part-time childcare, the service will be required to reduce the childcare fees by the amount of the capitation. A participating service may also operate a pre-school service which is not within the scheme.

While the scheme will normally be required to provide services on a five day per week basis, transitional arrangements will apply during the initial period of January to August 2010, to allow services to adjust to the requirements of the new scheme. During this period, services which are already accommodating children on a pro rata basis, may continue to do so and the capitation grant will be set by reference to the number of children attending per day rather than the total number of children per week.

To ensure that a satisfactory standard of pre-school provision is delivered, a minimum enrolment of 8 children is envisaged. Exceptions will be considered where, for good reason and subject to compliance with all other contractual requirements governing the scheme, a service has an enrolment of at least 5 children in their pre-school year or there is a minimum enrolment of 8 children of which at least 3 are in their pre-school year and the remainder would be eligible in the following year.

Health Services.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

172 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the provision she will make following the non-availability of a community welfare service due to the absence of a community welfare officer in an area (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18597/09]

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

Early Childhood Education.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

173 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide further clarification on the early childhood and education scheme; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that some providers operate for 41 weeks of the year and require extra fees in order to pay for new equipment and so on; if it is the case that they are limited to charging €240 a month for 38 weeks of the year if they sign up to the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18899/09]

As the Deputy will be aware I have responsibility for the implementation of the new scheme to provide a free Pre-School year of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) which was announced recently by the Minister of Finance.

The Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) is being introduced from January 2010 as a free scheme to benefit children in the key developmental period prior to commencing school. The scheme will allow children to avail of a free playschool place in their pre-school year, which will be provided for 3 hours per day, 5 days per week for 38 weeks. It will also allow children in their pre-school year who are attending full day or part-time day-care services to avail of a free session of 2 hours and 15 minutes per day, 5 days per week for 50 weeks. As the new scheme will be introduced from January next, the first full year will be from September 2010.

Participating children must, normally be aged between 3 years 3 months and 4 years 6 months on the 1st September of each year. Exceptions will be allowed where children have special needs or it is necessary to accept children at an older age due to the enrolment policy of the local primary school. Playschool sessional services will receive capitation of €64.50 per week where children attend for 38 weeks with 15 hours per week free pre-school provision. Full and part-time day-care services will receive €48.50 per week where children attend for 50 weeks with 11 hours, 15 minutes per week free pre-school provision. Playschool sessional services may also participate on the basis of 11 hours, 15 minutes per week over 50 weeks. Services will receive payments at the start of each term.

As private sector services, it is a matter for each participating service to manage its business affairs including how the service aligns itself with the provisions of the scheme. However, it is noted that services participating in the free pre-school year scheme may charge parents for additional services which they provide, including additional hours and additional activities or services provided these are offered on an optional basis to parents and provided appropriate programme based activities are provided to children not participating in an additional activity.

Richard Bruton

Question:

174 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a childcare facility (details supplied) in Dublin 17 did not qualify for the grant for which they applied in 2008; and if a similar grant opportunity will be available in 2009. [18991/09]

As the Deputy is aware the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP) is implemented by my Office.

Capital grant applications under the NCIP are processed in the first instance by the City and County Childcare Committees and are then forwarded to Pobal, who assist my Office in the day to day implementation of the programme, before being submitted for decision. A significant number of capital grant applications, including that of the applicant in question, were due to be considered for approval in the latter part of 2008.

As the Deputy will be aware it became necessary at that point to review Government expenditure, particularly in regard to new expenditure commitments. This process was finalised last month and all capital grant applicants under the NCIP were advised that funding could not be approved at this point under the programme. The capital allocation available to the NCIP is sufficient to meet existing capital grant commitments but is not expected to allow for the approval of any additional grant applications in 2009 or 2010.

Inter-Country Adoptions.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

175 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children if the bilateral agreement on inter-country adoption between this State and Russia has collapsed; the reason for this collapse; when it will be restored; the measures she is taking to ensure the Health Service Executive and other parties here honour the terms of inter-country agreements; if inter-country adoption agreements with this State are now in danger of collapse; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19407/09]

Willie Penrose

Question:

176 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children the status regarding the bilateral agreement relating to inter-country adoption between Ireland and Russia; if a copy of the agreement will be provided to parents in order that all parties are fully aware of their rights and duties under this agreement; the nature and legal status of the agreement between the Health Service Executive, the Russian Embassy and the Adoption Board; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19566/09]

Mary Upton

Question:

180 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will examine the inter-country adoptive system whereby the Health Service Executive have been lax in passing on post placement reports to the adoptive board and onwards to the foreign country; the reason an organisation (details supplied) has not been blacklisted by the Russian Federation as has the HSE; the steps being taken to ensure the HSE liaises with the Russian federal authorities and the Adoption Board; if her attention has been drawn to the causes of the current blockages; the number of outstanding post placement reports by region; and the length of time these are outstanding; the details of the agreement between the HSE, the Adoption Board and the Russian authorities as noted in the letters of commitment issued to prospective parents intending to adopt from Russia; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18436/09]

Billy Timmins

Question:

184 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the bilateral agreement with Russia; if same will be dealt with; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18464/09]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

209 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children why, with regard to inter-country adoption with Russia, many post-placement reports are outstanding; the length of time they are outstanding; the action being taken to ensure they are followed up by the Health Service Executive; the nature and legal status of the agreement between the HSE and the Russian Embassy and the Adoption Board as per the letters of commitment required for adoption from Russia; when her attention was drawn to the fact that there was a problem with the Russian authorities in regard to these post-placement reports and by whom; if a copy of the agreement will be provided to parents to ensure all parties are fully aware of their rights and duties under this agreement; the status of discussions regarding a bilateral agreement between Ireland and Russia; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18620/09]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

212 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of post-placement adoption reports by region for children adopted from the Russian Federation which are outstanding; the length of time they have been outstanding; and the action being taken to ensure they are followed up by the Health Service Executive. [18634/09]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

213 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children when and by whom her attention was drawn to the fact there was a problem with the authorities of the Russian Federation regarding post-placement reports. [18636/09]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

214 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children if a copy of the agreement with the Russian Federation will be made publicly available to ensure all parties are fully aware of their rights and duties. [18637/09]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

215 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children the status discussions regarding a bilateral agreement between Ireland and the Russian Federation have reached; the level at which these discussions are being held; and the timeframe envisaged for reaching agreement. [18638/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 175, 176, 180, 184, 209 and 212 to 215, inclusive, together.

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 proposed new legislative regime, prospective adoptive parents will be able to adopt from countries that have ratified the Hague Convention as well as from those countries with which Ireland has a bilateral agreement based on Hague standards. As part of the preparations for the likely passage and entry into force of these new legislative arrangements, my Office has been liaising with the Department of Foreign Affairs to identify and negotiate with countries who continue to seek homes abroad for children in need of alternative care that cannot be provided domestically. We are working actively to assess the possibilities of entering into bilateral agreements with a small number of countries, including with the Russian Federation.

Officials in the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, and colleagues in the Department of Foreign Affairs, have been taking soundings since April, 2008, in relation to inter-country adoption in the Russian Federation. This has included contacts with the Irish Embassy in Moscow and legal and other preparatory work on the possibility of a draft Inter-Country Adoption Agreement between the two countries. A first formal meeting was arranged with the assistance of the Department of Foreign Affairs. This meeting of officials of the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Ireland took place in the last week. I will continue to advance this matter with the assistance of my colleague Minister Martin and of his officials in both Dublin and Moscow.

While every effort will be made to conclude a bilateral agreement in advance of any of the proposed changes in Irish law taking effect, it must be acknowledged that these matters will be determined to a considerable degree by the Government of the Russian Federation. However, I would respectfully suggest that any applicant seeking to proceed with an adoption from a non-Hague country, or from a country with which Ireland does not have a bilateral agreement, should have regard to the likelihood of the adoption being completed in advance of the Bill being commenced.

With regard to the issue of outstanding post-placement reports, these are a requirement of a number of countries that send children to be adopted by Irish applicants. In order to provide assurance to the Russian Federation, the Health Service Executive has furnished a letter to indicate their on-going part in the provision of such reports and to their status as the statutory body with responsibility for child protection. This letter was provided at the request of applicants who may have experienced queries in relation to arrangements for the provision of such reports. The Health Service Executive has no statutory function in relation to the provision of post-placement reports, though it has and continues to facilitate the preparation of same. The key commitment given is the legal affidavit to co-operate with the provision of such reports that is required by the Russian Authorities from all applicants. Where parents do not co-operate, there is no legal basis to enforce their co-operation with post-adoption reporting in this jurisdiction.

My Office has been in touch with the Health Service Executive to clarify the situation in relation to any such list of outstanding reports. The Executive has confirmed that reports continue to be supplied from all regions and that it is following up in respect of reports which may be completed but not yet transmitted. Over 450 such reports were required in respect of 2008, and it is anticipated that around 400 will be required in respect of 2009 (not all due yet). The Health Service Executive in all ten areas has conducted an extensive search for these alleged "missing" post-placement reports and has identified in respect of 2008 and 2009, in total, some 34 which are due and have not yet been transmitted. The majority of the outstanding reports have been completed and are with the adoptive parents for translation, apostilling and notarisation — that is, the Social Workers have already conducted the home visit and the report.

In a small number of cases, parents have neglected or have been unwilling or unable to arrange for a home visit with their Social Worker. Further contact has been made again to arrange for all outstanding visits to be undertaken and is being prioritised by the Health Service Executive Adoption Services to ensure that the parents can have the required reports forwarded to the Russian Embassy. From information available at this stage, only one report has been "delayed" due to scheduling difficulties. I am given to understand that a re-scheduled visit is due to take place in relation to this particular case. In this regard, it should be noted that while the Adoption Board facilitates the transmission of completed reports to the Russian authorities, there is neither formal agreement nor obligation on the Board to do so.

Officials from my Office had an opportunity to raise the matter with the Russian Embassy at a recent meeting. The Russian side has provided a list of outstanding reports. This list, which was collated by the Russian Ministry of Education and Science, is currently being validated by the Embassy. In the meantime, I have asked the relevant authorities to assist me in pursuing the resolution of the issue as a matter of urgency. Officials have also indicated to the Russian side the importance that we are attaching to resolving the matter. I have also requested that this matter be raised directly with the Russian authorities.

Hospital Services.

Willie Penrose

Question:

177 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will take steps to have a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath admitted to Tallaght Hospital, Dublin, for an urgent procedure; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18426/09]

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

Billy Timmins

Question:

178 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if they will be seen; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18431/09]

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

Inter-Country Adoptions.

Mary Upton

Question:

179 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the average waiting times by region for assessment of prospective adoptive parents; her views on whether it is acceptable that the waiting period has been so high for such a long period of time; the plans to reduce this waiting time; the average number of new cases processed by quarter by region; the number of post-placement reports dealt with by region by quarter; and the number of FTE social workers assigned to inter-country adoption by quarter by region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18435/09]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

220 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on proposing reforms to the inter-country adoption assessment process. [18644/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 179 and 220 together.

I am arranging for the Deputy to be provided with the most recent statistics prepared by the Health Services Executive regarding inter-country adoption assessment services. I am very aware of the lengthy waiting time especially in some regions. My officials have been working with the HSE and the Adoption Board to assess ways of streamlining the current process and ensure that delays are reduced in so far as possible. This work is continuing as part of the preparations for the new legislative regime for adoption generally.

However, it must also be recognised that the demand for inter-country adoption has been increasing at an exponential rate over the last number of years. I understand from the HSE that over 370 first time assessments were completed in 2008 and over 170 second time assessments — a total of around 550. In addition to this increasing figure, the number of post adoption reports required has also been increasing. In 2008 around 1350 post adoption reports were completed. This is now considered to take around 28% of total social work time spent on the inter-country adoption process. Resourcing adoption assessment services has to be considered in the context of other child welfare and protection services provided by the Health Services Executive. The adoption service does not sit within a vacuum but has to be managed against competing priorities. Notwithstanding that, every effort has been made by the HSE to protect and improve the service over a number of years.

Under existing legislation assessments for adoption can be undertaken by registered adoption societies and a small number of societies continue to provide the service. Their focus is primarily on domestic adoption services. PACT provides an inter-country adoption service and continues to undertake a small number of assessments on behalf of the HSE. The Adoption Bill, 2009 currently before the Seanad develops a new regime for the accreditation of a range of agencies providing adoption services. This modernised regime more fully recognises the phenomenon of inter-country adoption and makes provision for the accreditation of agencies to provide assessment services or mediation services. The Bill also proposes changes to the regulation of the activities, management and financial arrangements of such agencies. If enacted, there will be opportunity for the development of new agencies to assist in the reduction of waiting times in those areas where the waiting times are longest.

I am considering alternative arrangements to the current system for processing inter-country adoptions with a view to reducing the length of time that these applications are taking due to the fact that the HSE Child Protection Services have to be provided by the same staff.

Question No. 180 answered with Question No. 175.

Mary Upton

Question:

181 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of the inter-country adoption arrangements with Russia; if she will confirm if she places more importance on securing an agreement with the Republic of Vietnam rather than the Russian Federation; the number of children in 2008 placed on the inter-country adoption register from Russia and from Vietnam; the number of persons by region who have received letters of introduction to Vietnam and to Russia; the number of e-mails and letters received by her office in the period 1 April to 1 May 2009 in relation to adoption issues; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18437/09]

Officials in the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, and colleagues in the Department of Foreign Affairs, have been taking soundings since April, 2008, in relation to inter-country adoption in the Russian Federation. This has included contacts with the Irish Embassy in Moscow and legal and other preparatory work on the possibility of a draft Inter-Country Adoption Agreement between the two countries. A first formal meeting was arranged with the assistance of the Department of Foreign Affairs. This meeting of officials of the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Ireland took place in the last week. I will continue to advance this matter with the assistance of my colleague Minister Martin and of his officials in both Dublin and Moscow.

I do not place more importance on either one country or another as regards the conclusion of inter-country adoption agreements. However, I and my predecessors took the pragmatic decision to prioritise the continuation of an existing proven agreement with the most popular country of choice for Irish applicants. As I say, work on the Russian situation has continued over this time and other countries, in particular Ethiopia are also under active consideration by my officials.

The number of entries made in the Register of Foreign Adoptions in 2008 in respect of children from Russia was 117 and in respect of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam 182. I cannot at this stage provide the numbers sought the Deputy in relation to the letters of introduction or referrals as they are also known. I will endeavour to do so through the relevant agencies and will contact your office separately.

It is not possible to provide an accurate count of emails and letters received by my Office, my Office's email post box and officials over the last month at this time. It has been substantial. My officials continue to respond in as timely a fashion as possible. I have also been communicating directly with the relevant support groups and other representatives on a regular basis and providing information through the OMCYA website at www.omcya.ie to ensure a continued dialogue in relation to the current developments in inter-country adoption.

Health Service Staff.

Denis Naughten

Question:

182 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to extend the special Civil Service incentive career break scheme to staff within the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18442/09]

I can confirm that it is intended to extend the special incentive career break scheme to staff within the public health sector, including the Health Service Executive. This will form part of a suite of schemes which will also include the incentivised scheme for early retirement (ISER) and the shorter working year scheme. These three initiatives were announced by the Minister for Finance in his Supplementary Budget Statement of 7 April 2009. The details of the schemes and the arrangements which will apply in the health sector are being finalised by my Department and it is intended that a circular on the matter will issue to the relevant organisations in the coming week.

General Medical Services Scheme.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

183 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will relax the conditions whereby doctors are required to have been in general practice here for five years before they can qualify for inclusion on the list of general practitioner for the purposes of the general medical services scheme, especially in view of both the need for more GPs generally, especially in areas in which there is currently a shortage, and the needs of immigrant communities, many of whom prefer doctors who speak their native languages; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18443/09]

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:

Ongoing 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, 110 teams are at an advanced functioning level (holding clinical team meetings on individual client cases) and the Health Service Executive has indicated that it plans to have 210 teams in place by the end of 2009.

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. 184 answered with Question No. 175.

Inter-Country Adoptions.

Billy Timmins

Question:

185 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to agreements (details supplied); if same will be dealt with; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18465/09]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

210 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason, with regard to inter-country adoption with Vietnam, the Minister of State with responsibility for children has not travelled to Vietnam to demonstrate the commitment at the highest level to the renewal of the bilateral agreement with Vietnam; the reason the Adoption Board has not extended compassion to parents facing a second declaration renewal, and allowed them to roll over the declaration as per the first extension; her views on this expedited second renewal processor or an initial declaration being made for two years as opposed to one year as at present; the action she suggests to parents who have papers in Vietnam but who cannot proceed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18621/09]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

217 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the Minister of State with responsibility for children travelling to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to progress discussions, demonstrate commitment and reach agreement on bilateral inter-country adoption; and the reason he has not done so. [18640/09]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

218 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children her views, in view of the lapse in securing a continued bilateral inter-country adoption agreement with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam on the Adoption Board allowing parents facing a second declaration renewal to roll over the declaration in an expedited way; and her further views on making the initial declaration valid for two years as opposed to one. [18641/09]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

219 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has advice for parents who have been caught by the lapse in securing the continuation of the inter-country adoption agreement with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam yet are still seeking to adopt; if these applications are valid; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18642/09]

Willie Penrose

Question:

252 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children how, following the expiration of the current bilateral international adoption agreement between Ireland and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, negotiations on a new agreement are progressing; when such new agreement will be in place; if arrangements have been put in place for an interim agreement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19111/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 185, 210, 217 to 219, inclusive, and 252 together.

Work in relation to a draft Bi-lateral Agreement for Inter-country Adoption with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam has been ongoing for over fourteen months. During this period there have been three visits by officials from this Department to Hanoi — including the most recent visit — to discuss the draft text of an agreement and many options, including possible transitional arrangements, have also been considered during this period.

Ireland offered to provide the Vietnamese Authorities with the text of a draft agreement as a basis for negotiations. A draft Bi-lateral Agreement for Inter-country Adoption was delivered on 6 March, 2009, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, to the Vietnamese Authorities for their consideration. On 2 April, 2009, the Vietnamese Government invited a delegation from Ireland to visit the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to discuss the provisions of the draft Bi-Lateral Agreement provided. An Irish delegation travelled to Hanoi on the week commencing on 20 April, 2009 — the earliest opportunity provided to meet with the relevant Vietnamese Ministries — for an intensive round of discussions on this draft Bi-lateral Agreement. The delegation was led by the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (OMCYA) and was assisted in discussions by the Adoption Board. Discussions were facilitated and guided locally by the Irish Embassy in Hanoi. The meetings were progressive but a number of residual issues remain outstanding — and discussions on these issues are ongoing.

I would like to again reiterate my personal commitment, and the commitment of the Government, to continue with these discussions with a view to bringing them to a conclusion at the earliest possible date. It is anticipated that further proposals to advance the discussions will be made to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in the coming week. It is also anticipated that the Vietnamese side will revert with proposals on their part shortly. I do not wish to speculate on the timeframe or outcome of these negotiations as these are genuinely difficult to determine. What I can say is that efforts on the Irish side are intensive and will continue to be so in the coming weeks. I can also say that there has been a high level of engagement on both sides. It is clear from progress so far that there is a willingness on both sides to bring these matters to a successful conclusion, if at all possible. The need for a further visit will be guided by the developments in the coming days and weeks. I am committed to travelling to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam at any time to facilitate the successful conclusion of these discussions, as and when appropriate.

In accordance with Section 5 of the Adoption Act, 1991, an initial Declaration of Eligibility and Suitability is only valid for 12 months. The Adoption Board has no discretion in this matter. The Board, however, may grant an extension to a Declaration if it is satisfied that it is reasonable and proper to do so. In order for the Board to decide whether it is reasonable and proper to do so, the Board requires applicants to make a Statutory Declaration that there have been no material changes in their circumstances.

Should the applicants apply for a subsequent extension, the Board feels that it is reasonable and proper to request the HSE to carry out an update on the original assessment as it is now over two years since the applicants were first assessed and changes may have taken place in their family make-up or in their employment status. This procedure applies to all countries equally. However, the Deputy will be pleased to know that provisions contained in the Adoption Bill, 2009, allow for a Declaration of Eligibility and Suitability to be valid for 24 months, with the possibility of a further 12-month extension, subject to Adoption Board discretion.

The decision regarding the country of choice from which to adopt is a matter for prospective applicants. This choice obviously should have regard to their personal preference, their knowledge of and/or connection with the proposed country of origin, and the status of the country as a contracting State either to the Hague Convention or to a bilateral agreement.

While every effort will be made to conclude a bilateral agreement with countries from which children have traditionally been adopted by Irish applicants, in advance of any of the proposed changes in Irish law taking effect, it must be acknowledged that these matters will be determined to a considerable degree by the Governments of these sovereign states. However, I would respectfully suggest that any applicant seeking to proceed with an adoption from a non-Hague country or a country with which Ireland does not have a bilateral agreement should have regard to the likelihood of the adoption being completed in advance of the Bill being commenced.

Ireland has a long and positive relationship with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, but I must also emphasise the need to respect the authority of that jurisdiction, having regard to the sensitive nature of discussions regarding inter-country adoption.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

186 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [18474/09]

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.

Departmental Agencies.

James Reilly

Question:

187 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied with the accounting systems and the financial arrangements in the National Rehabilitation Hospitals, Dublin, both at Clontarf and in Dun Laoghaire, in view of a communication (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18498/09]

The agency referred to by the Deputy is a voluntary body, therefore, it is a matter in the first instance for the Board of the agency to ensure that it complies with proper standards of governance, including any matters relating to its financial management. The agency concerned is funded by the Health Service Executive and as such is obliged to comply with terms and conditions set out by the Executive in respect of a range of issues including the management of its finances. I have therefore requested the Executive to investigate the issues raised by the Deputy with a view to ensuring that the agency complies with its financial obligations.

Children in Care.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

188 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. 432 of 27 January 2009. [18511/09]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

189 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. 433 of 27 January 2009. [18512/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 188 and 189 together.

A reply to Parliamentary Question No. 433 of 27 January 2009 was issued to the Deputy from the Health Service Executive (HSE) on the 8 May 2009. The HSE have informed me that the response to Parliamentary Question No. 432 is due to be issued to the Deputy this week.

Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

190 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons from the 26 counties being treated for intractable epilepsy in Chicago, USA, or other international centres. [18516/09]

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.

James Reilly

Question:

191 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of heart, and single and double lung transplants carried out in the Mater heart-lung unit and in the Freeman Hospital cardio transplant unit in the year ending March 2008; the number of consultants, non-consultant hospital doctors, transplant nurse co-ordinators and transplant specialist nurses employed in each of the units in 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18524/09]

The 2008 Annual Report of the Organ Procurement Service from Beaumont Hospital outlines activity data for organ donation and organ transplantation in Ireland for 2008 for all solid organs, including hearts and lungs. In 2008, there were 81 organ donors, from which ten hearts, seven single-lungs and one double-lung were retrieved for transplant. Four hearts and four single-lungs were transplanted into matching patients in Ireland. The other organs were sent overseas for transplant operations. As the other information requested by the Deputy is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

In relation to organ donation and transplantation generally, my Department has published draft proposals to regulate organ donation and transplantation for public consultation. My Department, with the HSE, is also investigating other issues in the area of organ donation and transplantation with a view to improving the system.

Health Services.

James Reilly

Question:

192 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that funding will be in place to continue the support training and education service for a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18525/09]

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 Staff.

James Reilly

Question:

193 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of nurses who were working at Cashel Hospital, County Tipperary, prior to the transfer of surgical services to Clonmel; if these nurses are still employed at Cashel; the areas to which they have been redeployed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18526/09]

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

Health Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

194 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if funding has been allocated for the district midwife service to continue its services; if, in particular, the Domino service based at the Mid-Western Regional Maternity Hospital, Limerick, has secured funding for 2009 and beyond; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18527/09]

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

Infectious Diseases.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

195 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people affected by tuberculosis here; the level of care available; the way the figure compares with previous years; the measures in place to prevent further infections; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18529/09]

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) of the HSE monitors rates of TB in Ireland on an ongoing basis. According to data provided by the HPSC, TB notifications in Ireland between 2004 and 2008 (provisional data) were as shown in the following table.

Year

Number of Cases

2004

432

2005

450

2006

465

2007 (Provisional)

478

2008 (Provisional)

437

Provisional figures from 2008 indicate a decrease in the number of TB notifications in the country. The number reported during 2008 is less than that reported in any year since 2004.

A number of disciplines in the health service are involved in the management of TB cases and prevention of TB in other individuals. The services involved include hospital, primary care and public health. Various disciplines will be involved in the diagnosis, care and follow-up of individuals with TB and their contacts (nurses, doctors, radiologists, laboratory staff, social workers etc.) Individuals with TB may require hospitalisation if severely ill or with infection that is highly resistant to treatment. Multidrug (typically four drugs to start with) antibiotic treatment is usually of 6 months duration but may be longer. In some individuals with antibiotic resistant TB additional antibiotics may be required.

The National TB Advisory Committee has developed guidelines (being finalised after a consultation period) for the prevention and control of Tuberculosis in Ireland. These guidelines include recommendations on Surveillance, Screening, Preventive therapy, Clinical management of cases, Laboratory diagnosis, BCG vaccination, HIV infection and tuberculosis, and review the epidemiology of tuberculosis and provide advice as required to the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI) immunisation committee on the use of vaccines to prevent cases of tuberculosis. When a TB case in the community is identified, the notification process ensures that close contacts are followed up and investigated to determine if they have infected and if treatment is required. This process is implemented in all HSE areas routinely.

The BCG vaccine is given to protect against tuberculosis. BCG has contributed to the dramatic decline in TB over the past 40 years. The national rate of BCG immunisation uptake now stands at 93% for children at 12 months of age. Vaccination is not mandatory in Ireland, but is strongly recommended by my Department. Under the Childhood Immunisation Programme all vaccines and their administration are provided free of charge for all children.

Assisted Human Reproduction.

James Reilly

Question:

196 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on funding fertility treatment for a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18539/09]

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

Hospital Services.

Joan Burton

Question:

197 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of Crumlin Hospital for Sick Children, Dublin, and its future development; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18541/09]

Services at Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin, the National Children's Hospital Tallaght and Temple Street Children's University Hospital will transfer to the new National Paediatric Hospital. Pending completion of the project, the HSE will continue to finance the provision and development of services at each of the transferring hospitals.

The development of the National Paediatric Hospital is a priority project for the Government. The project is proceeding as planned and 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, which is scheduled for completion in 2014. The new hospital will be based at the Mater Hospital and will include an associated Ambulatory and Urgent Care Centre at Tallaght.

Michael Creed

Question:

198 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will be called for an MRI scan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18544/09]

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

Health Services.

Michael McGrath

Question:

199 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if a medical device will be provided to a person (details supplied) in County Cork as soon as possible. [18549/09]

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

Medical Cards.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

200 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children if it is her intention to centralise the assessment of medical card applications to one facility in Dublin; and if she has carried out an assessment on the way in which this move will affect patient services and waiting times. [18554/09]

Under the Health Service Executive's (HSE) 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 (PCRS) in Dublin. The change is being implemented on a phased basis and is designed to deliver a better and more cost effective service.

The Executive reports that there are no plans to close any of the local offices that currently process medical card applications and there have been no changes to the staffing allocation levels at the PCRS. However, the process will involve a reassignment of existing human resources within the HSE.

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.

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.

Proposed Legislation.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

201 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position with regard to the fair deal scheme; and the status or the legislation which will provide for this scheme to take effect. [18555/09]

The Nursing Homes Support Scheme Bill has completed Committee Stage in the Dáil. 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.

Health Services.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

202 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the HPV vaccine that is being paid for by the parents of young girls getting a series of injections over six months cannot be given at a centre (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18562/09]

The centre referred to by the Deputy that is providing the HPV vaccine is a GP practice where a private arrangement is in place for their own patients. Neither my Department nor the HSE has any role in this matter.

Mental Health Services.

Joe Costello

Question:

203 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of institutions that provide psychiatric care in the country; the number of patients in each institution; the age of each institution; the future plans for each institution; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18583/09]

There are currently 64 approved centres providing in-patient psychiatric care in Ireland. The table provides the most recent data available from the Mental Health Commission regarding the number of in-patients in approved centres on 7th November 2007. The figures do not include the child and adolescent approved centres that were on the register in 2007 i.e. St. Anne's Children's Centre, Galway and Warrenstown In-patient Unit, Blanchardstown.

Regarding the question of the age of each approved centre, and their future plans, I have referred this matter to the HSE for direct reply.

HSE Dublin Mid Leinster

Mental Health Catchment Area

Approved Centre/Service Name

Number of Residents

Dublin South County

Cluain Mhuire (in-patient beds provided to the HSE on a contractual basis by St. John of God Hospital)

34

East Wicklow

Newcastle Hospital

49

Dublin City — South East

Elm Mount Unit, St Vincent’s University Hospital

45

Dublin City — South

Jonathan Swift Clinic

51

Dublin City — South West & West

Acute Psychiatric Unit AMNCH

39

Dublin City — South West & West

St Loman’s Hospital, Palmerstown

22

Kildare/West Wicklow

Lakeview Unit, Naas General Hospital

25

Laois/Offaly

Department of Psychiatry, Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise

38

Laois/Offaly

St Fintan’s Hospital

25

Longford/Westmeath

St Loman’s Hospital, Mullingar

107

Total

435

HSE Dublin North East

Mental Health Catchment Area

Approved Centre Name

Number of Residents

Cavan/Monaghan

Acute Psychiatric Unit, Cavan General Hospital

14

Cavan/Monaghan

St Davnet’s Hospital

34

Dublin City — North West

Department of Psychiatry, Connolly Hospital

25

Dublin City — North West

Sycamore Unit, Connolly Hospital

30

Dublin City — North West

St Brendan’s Hospital

80

Dublin City — North Central

Acute Psychiatric Unit, St Aloysius Ward, Mater Misericordiae University Hospital

14

Dublin City — North Central

St Vincent’s Hospital

75

Dublin North

St Ita’s Hospital — Mental Health Service

122

Louth/Meath

Department of Psychiatry, Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan

14

Louth/Meath

St Brigid’s Hospital, Ardee

51

Total

459

HSE South

Mental Health Catchment Area

Approved Centre Name

Number of Residents

North Lee

Carraig Mór Centre

43

North Lee

St Michael’s Unit, Mercy Hospital

48

Carlow/Kilkenny

Department of Psychiatry, St Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny

42

Carlow/Kilkenny

St Canice’s Hospital

52

Carlow/Kilkenny

St Dympna’s Hospital

54

Kerry

St Finan’s Hospital

60

Kerry

Acute Mental Health Admission Unit, Kerry General Hospital

51

North Cork

St Stephen’s Hospital

129

South Lee

GF Unit, Cork University Hospital

44

South Lee

St Finbarr’s Hospital

36

Tipperary South

St Luke’s Hospital, Clonmel

128

Tipperary South

St Michael’s Unit, South Tipperary General Hospital

47

Waterford

Department of Psychiatry, Waterford Regional Hospital

38

Waterford

St Otteran’s Hospital

101

West Cork

Acute Psychiatric Unit, Bantry General Hospital

9

Wexford

St Senan’s Hospital

145

Total

1,027

HSE West

Mental Health Catchment Area

Approved Centre Name

Number of Residents

Clare

Acute Psychiatric Unit, Midwestern Regional Hospital, Ennis

38

Clare

Orchard Grove

8

Donegal

Acute Psychiatric Unit, Carnamuggagh

36

Donegal

St Conal’s Hospital

21

East Galway

St Brigid’s Hospital, Ballinasloe

117

Limerick

Acute Psychiatric Unit 5B, Midwestern Regional Hospital

38

Limerick

St Joseph’s Hospital

81

Mayo

Adult Mental Health Unit, Mayo General Hospital

30

Mayo

An Coillín, HSE West

43

Mayo

Teach Aisling

10

Roscommon

Department of Psychiatry, County Hospital Roscommon

19

Sligo/Leitrim/ West Cavan

Ballytivnan Sligo/Leitrim Mental Health Services

42

& South Donegal

Psychiatric Unit, University College Hospital Galway

42

West Galway

Unit 9A, Merlin Park Hospital

27

West Galway

Total

552

National Service

Approved Centre Name

Number of Residents

Central Mental Hospital

81

St Joseph’s Intellectual Disability Service, St Ita’s Hospital

176

Total

257

Approved Centre Name

Number of Residents

*Independent Service Provider

Bloomfield Wing

35

Hampstead Private Hospital

44

Highfield Private Hospital

43

Kylemore Clinic

35

Palmerstown View, Stewart’s Hospital

6

St Edmundsbury Hospital

48

St John of God Hospital

140

St Patrick’s Hospital

233

Total

584

Health Services.

Joe Costello

Question:

204 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1 is provided with nursing home care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18584/09]

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

Dan Neville

Question:

205 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children her intentions to deal with a situation in Limerick in which children have to wait up to three years to receive orthodontic treatment. [18586/09]

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

John O'Mahony

Question:

206 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo has been refused transport to attend a hospital appointment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18587/09]

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

Dan Neville

Question:

207 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on the case of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [18593/09]

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

Consultancy Contracts.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

208 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has employed consultants or lobbyists to act for her Department outside the State in the past five years; the nature of the work; the cost of the work undertaken; the outcome of such action; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18611/09]

I wish to advise the Deputy that no consultants or lobbyists have been employed to act for my Department outside the State in the past five years.

Question No. 209 answered with Question No. 175.
Question No. 210 answered with Question No. 185.

Inter-Country Adoptions.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

211 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on inter-country adoption. [18632/09]

My Office is continuing to work to create the appropriate legislative, policy and administrative frameworks which will ensure a well regulated regime of adoption. Our aim is to support and protect prospective parents, and even more importantly, the children for whom adoption services are devised and provided.

My views on intercountry adoption are informed by the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption and the Good Practice Guide associated with it. The child's best interests are the fundamental principle that supports the development of a national child care and protection system as well as an ethical, child-centred approach to intercountry adoption. Intercountry adoption does not occur in a vacuum — it occurs across jurisdictions and spans complex areas of family law, child protection and welfare. It must be legislated for, managed and understood in that context. It requires a shared responsibility and respect between States in order to ensure the best ethical practices to support the child's best interests; and to safeguard against abduction, sale or trafficking of children.

Ireland has a very strong tradition of intercountry adoption and indeed was once a so-called "sending" country. My aim is to support that tradition continuing by assuring prospective adopters, the countries of origin of prospective adoptees, the birth families of the children and, looking into the future, the children themselves, that intercountry adoption was undertaken in the best interests of the child, to the required standard, with adequate safeguards and protections for all concerned.

As the Deputy is likely aware, the Adoption Bill 2009 is currently before the Seanad. I firmly believe that the Adoption Bill, which includes the regime of the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, provides an assurance for individual children, their families, and the State, that appropriate procedures have been followed and that the adoption was affected in the best interests of the child. As such, it is our intention that all intercountry adoption will now meet the standards of the Hague Convention.

Questions Nos. 212 to 215, inclusive, answered with Question No. 175.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

216 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive’s post-placement reporting practices are in line with best international practice; if the HSE’s practices are in line with the current agreement with the Russian Federation; and if her reports that the reporting practices of an agency (details supplied) are in line with requirements of the Russian Federation. [18639/09]

The HSE has no statutory function in relation to the provision of post-placement reports, though it has and continues to facilitate the preparation of same. The key commitment given is the legal affidavit to co-operate with the provision of such reports, required by the Russian authorities from all applicants. Where parents do not co-operate there is no legal basis to enforce their co-operation with post-adoption reporting in this jurisdiction. The Adoption Board facilitates the transmission of completed reports to the Russian authorities. However, there is no formal agreement, nor obligation on the Board to do so. Effectively, the responsibility rests with the adoptive parents.

Following a request from the Minister, the Health Service Executive has confirmed that reports continue to be supplied from all regions and that it is following up in respect of reports which may be completed but not yet transmitted. Over 450 such reports were required in respect of 2008 and it is anticipated that around 400 will be required in respect of 2009 (not all due yet). The HSE in all ten areas has conducted an extensive search for these alleged "missing" post-placement reports and, in total, some 34 have been identified as not yet transmitted. This is for reports due in the period 2008 and to date in 2009. The majority of the outstanding reports have been completed and are with the adoptive parents for translation, apostilling and notarisation, that is, the Social Workers have already conducted the home visit and the prepared the requisite report. In a small number of cases, parents have neglected or have been unwilling or unable to arrange for a home visit with their Social Worker. Further contact has been made again to arrange for all outstanding visits to be undertaken and is being prioritised by the HSE Adoption Services to ensure that the parents can have the required reports forwarded to the Russian Embassy.

Following contact with the Russian Embassy in Dublin, further checks are now being undertaken with regard to outstanding reports which may pre-date this period (i.e. 2008 and to date 2009). The Minister has requested the assistance of the HSE and the Adoption Board in bringing this matter resolution and further steps will be taken this week to advance the matter. Liaison with the Russian Embassy in Dublin in relation to the matter will continue.

From the information available to the Minister the HSE completed over 450 reports last year in respect of children adopted from the Russian Federation. There is no suggestion that these reports are not meeting the required standard. The difficulty referred to relates to "missing" reports. In contrast, the PACT undertook around 7 reports last year. Clearly this is primarily an issue of volume and relates to a build up over a number of years of activity.

Questions Nos. 217 to 219, inclusive, answered with Question No. 185.
Question No. 220 answered with Question No. 179.

Tom Hayes

Question:

221 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children if an interim agreement has been reached with Russia, Vietnam and China until a bilateral agreement has been agreed with each country in order that long-awaited adoptions are not being further delayed. [18655/09]

Tom Hayes

Question:

222 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the length of time it will take to agree bilateral agreements with Russia, Vietnam and China; the number of children’s adoptions which are normally processed from these countries a month; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18656/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 222 and 223 together.

The Russian Federation, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the People's Republic of China are, respectively, the first, third and fourth most popular destinations for Irish persons who seek to adopt children from abroad. According to the most up-to-date foreign adoption statistics available from the Adoption Board, a total of 1,229 Russian, 636 Vietnamese and 359 Chinese children were entered into the Register of Foreign Adoptions between 1991 and 2008. This amounted to, respectively, 30.98%, 16.03% and 9.05% of the total number of foreign children (i.e. 3,966) who were formally adopted by Irish persons during that period.

More specifically, between 2004 and 2008, the following totals were entered into the Register of Foreign Adoptions:

from the Russian Federation: 189 in 2004, 131 in 2005, 143 in 2006, 160 in 2007 and 117 in 2008;

from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam: 16 in 2004, 92 in 2005, 68 in 2006, 130 in 2007 and 182 in 2008, and

from the People's Republic of China: 60 in 2004, 52 in 2005, 33 in 2006, 31 in 2007 and 19 in 2008.

This represents an average, during that five-year period, of 148 adoptions from the Russian federation, of 98 adoptions from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and of 39 adoptions from the People's Republic of China per annum.

Currently, an administrative arrangement operates between Ireland and the People's Republic of China. The People's Republic of China is a contracting State under the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption and, as such, a bilateral agreement is not, nor will not be, required between Ireland and the People's Republic of China in relation to adoption.

With regard to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the existing bilateral agreement expired on 1 May, 2009. Discussions are on-going in relation to a further agreement. I do not wish to speculate on the timeframe or outcome of these negotiations as these are genuinely difficult to determine. What I can say is that efforts on the Irish side are intensive and will continue to be so in the coming weeks. I can also say that there has been a high level of engagement on both sides. It is clear from progress so far that there is a willingness on both sides to bring these matters to a successful conclusion, if at all possible.

While my priority at this point has been to secure a new bilateral agreement with Vietnam, my Office is also undertaking preparatory work on a draft bilateral inter-country adoption agreement with the Russian Federation. Officials in the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, and colleagues in the Department of Foreign Affairs, have been taking soundings since April, 2008, in relation to inter-country adoption in the Russian Federation. This has included contacts with the Irish Embassy in Moscow and legal and other preparatory work on the possibility of a draft Inter-Country Adoption Agreement between the two countries.

A first formal meeting was arranged with the assistance of the Department of Foreign Affairs. This meeting of officials of the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Ireland took place in the last week. I will continue to advance this matter with the assistance of my colleague Minister Martin and of his officials in both Dublin and Moscow.

Medical Cards.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

223 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application for a medical card and SWA payments in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [18663/09]

As the medical card application process is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy. My Department has no function in the other issue raised by the Deputy.

Health Service Allowances.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

224 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will supply the information being requested by a person (details supplied) in County Waterford; if the HSE is in discussion with the other service providers or caring organisation to attach part of the disability allowance of the people in their care to pay for revenue funding activities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18674/09]

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 Waiting Lists.

Michael Ring

Question:

225 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo has been placed on a waiting list; and if so, when they can expect to be called for a procedure. [18679/09]

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

Cancer Screening Programme.

Mary White

Question:

226 Deputy Mary Alexandra White asked the Minister for Health and Children the percentage of women here, aged between 50 and 65 years, who had been routinely screened by BreastCheck by 31 January 2009. [18789/09]

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.

Inter-Country Adoptions.

Tom Hayes

Question:

227 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children if the French arrangements with Vietnam regarding adoption will be considered to resolve the lapse of the bilateral agreement between Ireland and Vietnam. [18801/09]

The entering into agreements by other sovereign States does not determine the stance or standards required by Ireland in entering into similar agreements. This must be determined by Irish policy and legal frameworks. In the same way, neither are such arrangements a prerequisite for the Government's decision.

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

228 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a potential entitlement to an inheritance of approximately three acres of unzoned agricultural land that is unlikely to become otherwise is deemed to be fundamental to disallowance for medical card in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18820/09]

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

Health Service Properties.

Joan Burton

Question:

229 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children if in view of recent reductions in rent for both residential and commercial properties across the country she has directed the Health Service Executive to seek rent reductions on properties that they rent; if such savings have been secured to date; the amount such savings are expected to amount to in 2009. [18827/09]

In the context of the current exceptional financial circumstances and with a view achieving financial savings, my Department has written to the Health Service Executive and requested a critical review of all supplier relationships with the objective of ensuring that all areas of expenditure are reduced to the greatest extent possible that may be achievable this year.

Health Services.

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

230 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will arrange for the Health Service Executive to review the case of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath. [18831/09]

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.

Sean Fleming

Question:

231 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Laois will receive orthodontic treatment. [18835/09]

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

Health Repayment Scheme.

Michael Ring

Question:

232 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive payment under the health repayment scheme. [18837/09]

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

Health Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

233 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will clarify whether refunds in respect of long stay patients apply in respect of persons who were admitted to specialist long stay residences for persons with a disability, who on their admission to these facilities suffered the loss of their disabled person’s maintenance allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18838/09]

The Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006 provides a clear legal framework to repay recoverable health charges for publicly funded long term residential care including contract beds in private institutions. Recoverable health charges are charges which were imposed on persons with full eligibility under the Health (Charges for In-patient Services) Regulations 1976 as amended in 1987 or charges for in-patient services only, raised under the Institutional Assistance Regulations 1954 as amended in 1965. The Scheme does not provide for addressing any claims regarding current or past entitlement to any allowances.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

234 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will investigate the reason for the delay in having a medical aid made available to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [18839/09]

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

Legislative Programme.

John O'Mahony

Question:

235 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children the title of each Bill sponsored by her which was passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas and subsequently signed into law in respect of each of the years 2004 to 2008 and to date in 2009; if, in each case, it was drafted and passed in order to give effect to a directive from the European Union; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18852/09]

The Acts sponsored by the Minister for Health and Children which were passed since 2004 are set out below. Any Act which included provisions meeting or reflecting European Union (EU) requirements are shown with an asterisk. The Health Insurance (Amendment) Act 2007 amended the Health Insurance Act 1994 which gave effect to the EU's Third Non-Life Insurance Directive (Council Directive 92/49/EEC) and the Voluntary Health Insurance (Amendment) Act arises in the context of being a requirement under the Non-Life Insurance Directives. The Public Health (Tobacco) Amendment Act 2004 and the Irish Medicine Board (Miscellaneous Provisions ) Act 2006 were partly required by EU obligations. The other Acts shown with an asterisk included EU related provisions but dealt substantially with other policy matters.

The Deputy will be aware that, under the European Communities Acts 1972 to 2007, EU measures may be transposed by statutory instrument with the general practice being to introduce primary legislation where major policy changes are being implemented on foot of EU measures.

2004

Health (Amendment) Act 2004

Public Health (Tobacco) (Amendment) Act 2004*

Health Act 2004

2005

Health (Amendment) Act 2005

Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005*

2006

Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006

Irish Medicines Board (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006*

Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal (Amendment) Act 2006

2007

Health (Nursing Homes) (Amendment) Act 2007

Health Insurance (Amendment) Act 2007*

Health Act 2007

Pharmacy Act 2007*

Medical Practitioners Act 2007*

Child Care (Amendment) Act 2007

Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2007

2008

Health Act 2008

Mental Health Act 2008

Voluntary Health Insurance (Amendment) Act 2008*

To date in 2009 no legislation pertaining to my Department has been approved by Dáil Éireann. However, there are currently four Bills before the Oireachtas. These are: Nursing Home Support Scheme Bill 2008 Adoption Bill 2008 Health Insurance (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2008 Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2009

Medical Cards.

Billy Timmins

Question:

236 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if in view of the fact that they pay maintenance this will be taken into consideration and a card awarded; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18872/09]

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

Health Services.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

237 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide personal assistance hours to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare seeking to be discharged from the National Rehabilitation Hospital; the other home supports which will be provided to them; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18900/09]

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.

Mary Upton

Question:

238 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on an e-mail (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18916/09]

The matters raised in the email have been examined and a reply has been issued to the sender of the email referred to by the Deputy.

Hospital Accommodation.

Liz McManus

Question:

239 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the proposed closure of St. Brigid’s Ward, St. Colmcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown, Dublin; the position for existing patients of that ward; the effects into the future of the closure of this ward; the position with regard to the accident and emergency department in this hospital; if she will ensure that there will be no reduction in accident and emergency services at this hospital, in particular between the hours of 8 p.m. to 8 am; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18923/09]

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

Medical Cards.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

240 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the estimated number of visits to general practitioners in 2008 that arose from the administrative function of rewriting prescriptions issued to both medical card patients on their discharge from hospital and holders of the long-term illness card who have received a prescription from their hospital consultant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18928/09]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

241 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason general practitioners have to carry out the administrative function of rewriting prescriptions issued to both medical card patients on their discharge from hospital and holders of the long-term illness card who have received a prescription from their hospital consultant; if she will take steps to eliminate such unnecessary visits to GPs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18929/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 240 and 241 together.

As hospital doctors do not have General Medical Services (GMS) contracts, prescriptions written by them for medical card holders are not reimbursable under the GMS scheme. Such prescriptions must be transcribed by the patient's GMS-contracted general practitioner to a GMS form, in line with the audit and governance procedures applying to the scheme. The prescription can then be dispensed by a pharmacy that holds a community pharmacy contract. Under emergency dispensing arrangements for patients who have been in-patients of Acute General Hospitals or who have attended the Accident/Emergency Departments of General Hospitals, GMS patients can obtain a short term supply of a hospital prescription from a community pharmacy, where it would not be possible or practical to contact their GP within a reasonable period.

People with specified conditions receive without charge, drugs, medicines and medical and surgical appliances, for the treatment of that condition, through the Long Term Illness Scheme (LTI). LTI patients are issued with a book which contains the type and quantity of the drugs or medicines required for their specified illness. In the event of their discharge from hospital after treatment for their primary condition, patients take their hospital prescription to their local Health Service Executive Office (HSE) to seek approval for its addition to their LTI book, in line with the audit and governance procedures applying to that scheme. Products for the treatment of illnesses other than their primary condition are available according to the patient's eligibility e.g medical card holder or under the Drugs Payment Scheme. Some people who are eligible for the Long Term Illness Scheme also hold a medical card, which means that they are entitled to access all their medications free of charge, rather than just those required for the treatment of their long term illness and therefore must return to their GP to have their prescription transcribed to a GMS form.

In line with clinical best practice it is considered worthwhile that patients have contact with their general practitioner after leaving hospital, establishing a valuable link between primary and secondary care services that might otherwise be less frequent. The estimated number of visits to general practitioners in 2008 to rewrite prescriptions issued on discharge from hospital is a service matter and has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Mental Health Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

242 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that the number of training places for courses in clinical psychology are maintained in view of the need for clinical psychologists to implement the recommendations of A Vision for Change, the primary care strategy and the Disability Act 2005; if she will engage with the Department of Education and Science to ensure this; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18940/09]

To qualify as a clinical psychologist, a post-graduate qualification in clinical psychology must be completed after an initial undergraduate degree in psychology. Students are sponsored by health agencies and spend time over three years in clinical placements in different specialties; course work and a thesis must be also satisfactorily completed. The number of training places in clinical psychology is dependent on the availability of clinical placements. A Working Group to undertake a National Review of Clinical Psychology Training Places is in place within the Health Service Executive and accordingly I am referring the Deputy's question to the Executive for attention and direct reply.

Vaccination Programme.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

243 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if and when she will publish the vaccine damage compensation report; if not, the reason for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18941/09]

I have recently received the report of the Vaccine Damage Steering Group and I am currently considering its recommendations. It is my intention to publish the report when I have completed my deliberations.

Health Service Staff.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

244 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that self-funding organisations such as An Bord Altranais are exempt from the moratorium on recruitment and promotions in the public services in view of the fact that including them will actually cause an extra cost to the public finances by way of tax foregone and social welfare payments, rather than saving money; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18942/09]

Organisations such as An Bord Altranais are established under statute. In the case of An Bord Altranais (The Nursing Board), it was established under the Nurses Act, 1985, and is the statutory regulatory body for nurses and midwives. The Board consists of 29 members, 17 of whom are elected by nurses and 12 appointed by the Minister, 2 of whom are representatives of the Department of Health and Children. Under the Act the Minister has a range of functions in relation to the Board one of which, Section 17(1), relates to the officers and servants of the Board "In addition to the Chief Executive Officer, there shall be appointed such and so many persons to be officers and servants of the Board, as the Board, with the consent of the Minister, from time to time determines."

The Act also provides that the Local Government (Superannuation) Act, 1956 applies to the Board and its officers and servants as if it were a local authority. In addition to its statutory functions, the Board also administers the Nursing Careers Centre on behalf of the Health Services. For this purpose ongoing funding is provided by the HSE and the amount of this funding in 2007 was €600,000.

While the bulk of the Board's income is generated by fees paid by nurses and midwives, it and bodies similar to it, are statutory bodies whose staff have access to a public service pension scheme. They are thus covered by the recent Government decision that, with effect from the 27 March 2009 to end 2010, no post in the public sector, however arising, may be filled by recruitment, promotion, or payment of an allowance for the performance of duties at a higher grade. The decision also applies to temporary appointments on a fixed-term basis and to the renewal of such contracts. Therefore, when vacancies arise each agency must reallocate or reorganise work or staff accordingly. In the case of the health sector, any exceptions to this principle, which will arise in very limited circumstances only, require the prior sanction of the Minister for Health and Children and the Minister for Finance.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

John Deasy

Question:

245 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will examine the reason for the delay in having an operation carried out for a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath which cannot be carried out by the National Treatment Purchase Fund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18943/09]

The management of waiting lists generally is a matter for the HSE and the individual hospitals concerned. I have, therefore, referred the Deputy's question to the Executive 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.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Jack Wall

Question:

246 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a date for an appointment at the Coombe Women’s Hospital, Dublin, in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18944/09]

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

General Medical Services Scheme.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

247 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of GMS patients nationally who were sent review forms in 2007 and 2008; the number of these forms that were returned; the number of patients who were deleted from the GMS list in 2007 and 2008; the reasons for deletion; the process for following up non-returned review forms; if there are adequate staff numbers to work on this process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18988/09]

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.

Departmental Agencies.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

248 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has received a copy of the Health Information and Quality Authority report on the eight designated cancer centres, part of which, in relation to Waterford Regional Hospital, was the subject of media reports recently; if and when the report will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18989/09]

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) initiated a quality review of symptomatic breast cancer services in 2008. The overall objective of the review was to assess the performance of the designated cancer centres against the National Quality Standards for Symptomatic Breast Disease Services and assist in devising an implementation plan for incremental progress to becoming specialist cancer centres by the end of 2009.

There are a number of phases in the process of meeting the entire range of standards involved. The first was a self-assessment completed and submitted by each individual hospital in Spring, 2008. The second phase involved an independent validation by HIQA, in October 2008, of the Spring self-assessment process. In January 2009, HIQA issued individual interim reports to each of the designated centres. These were based on data from the self-assessments carried out in Spring, 2008 and were not an inspection of the status of the centres in October, 2008. The interim reports were copied to the CEO of the HSE, the Secretary General of my Department and to the Interim Director of the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) in January, 2009.

The interim reports provide the centres with details of the standards that are being met and of where gaps exist. Significant progress has been made by all of the designated cancer centres in addressing the gaps in systems and services. There is ongoing liaison also between the NCCP and HIQA about compliance with the standards.

The individual hospitals have prepared implementation plans in conjunction with the NCCP, which are now being implemented and monitored by the NCCP. A further inspection and assessment by HIQA is planned for the end of 2009, and these reports will be published.

Medical Cards.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

249 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. 113 of 7 April 2009. [18990/09]

My Department has made inquiries of the Health Service Executive regarding the status of its reply to the Deputy's Parliamentary Question No. 113 of 7th April 2009 and the Executive has indicated that a reply will issue to the Deputy in the coming days in this matter.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

250 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that the Naas General Hospital development plan will proceed in full as originally set out; that the full scale of services envisaged will be provided and that there will be no diminution in existing services, bed numbers, consultancy posts, nursing posts, medical post or any aspect of general hospital or theatre services originally identified in the hospital development plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19008/09]

The project is being considered in the context of revisions by the Health Service Executive to its draft Capital Plan 2009-2013, taking account of the approved level of Capital Funding available following the recent Supplementary Budget. Details of individual projects will be made known when the plan is approved.

My Department has asked the HSE to reply directly to the Deputy on the service issues he has raised.

Medical Cards.

Frank Feighan

Question:

251 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the revised criteria for assessment of the over 70s medical cards (details supplied); and her proposals to alleviate this procedure for such people. [19108/09]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) reports that all medical cards have an expiry date and are subject to review. The review is carried out prior to expiry to determine the card holder's current eligibility status under the General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme. Under the new medical card scheme for persons aged 70 and over, the application and review process have been simplified and the HSE only requires information relating to the gross income of the person and his/her dependants. This is in accordance with the Health Act, 2008, which provided for the new arrangements, relieving those aged 70 and over of a major burden in making an application for a medical card, while ensuring that those with significant incomes no longer retain automatic entitlement.

Question No. 252 answered with Question No. 185.

Rural Transport.

Denis Naughten

Question:

253 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport the funding provided by rural transport companies in 2008 for one-off transportation to specific events; the events and cost involved in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18585/09]

Thirty-seven community transport groups around the country are being funded under my Department's Rural Transport Programme (RTP) to address social exclusion in their rural areas arising from unmet public transport needs.

Pobal administers the RTP on behalf of my Department and neither I nor my Department have any role in relation to the day to day management of the Programme including allocating specific funds to particular groups or for services.

One of the key strengths of the RTP is that local communities know best where the transport needs are in their rural areas and how best to address those needs. The RTP groups are, therefore, responsible for deciding on the specific services to be provided and the methods of provision.

Departmental Agencies.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

254 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the way public service recruitment restrictions will effect the establishment of the Dublin Transport Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18494/09]

Revised arrangements for the filling of public sector posts came into effect on 27 March last. The revised arrangements apply to all public sector posts, however arising. They, therefore, apply to the Dublin Transport Authority.

The process to recruit a Chief Executive Officer for the Dublin Transport Authority is currently underway. In light of the revised arrangements that came into effect on 27 March last, I have now sought the sanction of the Minister for Finance to finalise that process.

As I have indicated previously, final decisions on the agreed staff numbers of the Dublin Transport Authority will only be taken following the receipt of proposals from the Authority in that regard as provided for under the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008, and with the consent of the Minister for Finance.

Rail Network.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

255 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the status of plans to extend the DART line to Drogheda, County Louth; the amount of funds allocated to such a project; the stage planning is at; when he expects such a project to finish; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18496/09]

Transport 21 provides for the completion of the DART Underground project by 2015. Currently, it is anticipated that the existing DART line will be extended (through electrification) as far as Drogheda, the Maynooth line would be fully electrified as far as Maynooth itself and that the Kildare line would be electrified as far as Hazelhatch.

Work is continuing on the preparation of a Railway Order in respect of the tunnel between Inchicore and the Northern Line element of the DART Underground project, with a view to its submission to An Bord Pleanála later this year. Similarly, Railway Orders will be required for the extension of the electrification elements of the DART Underground project. Iarnród Éireann expects to submit a Railway Order in respect of the extension to Drogheda in 2012.

The start and completion dates of Transport 21 projects in planning, such as the DART Underground project, will in each case be determined by the outcome of public consultation, the statutory planning approval process, the public procurement process and the availability of financial resources determined by the funding allocation available during the current difficult economic climate. As I have stated in the past the provision of increased capacity will be a key consideration in determining public transport priorities in the period ahead. In that context, the DART Underground is a particularly important rail investment.

As I am sure you will appreciate, to ensure value for money to the taxpayer, estimated costs are not released in advance of the signing of contracts for projects such as those in the DART Underground programme.

National Car Test.

John O'Mahony

Question:

256 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding persons who are unable to have the national car test carried out but have a booking made; if they will be exempt from receiving points; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18599/09]

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 477 of 2006) the Road Safety Authority has responsibility for matters relating to vehicle testing, including the National Car Testing service.

Consultancy Contracts.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

257 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport if he has employed consultants or lobbyists to act for his Department outside the State in the past five years; the nature of the work; the cost of the work undertaken; the outcome of such action; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18615/09]

The information requested by the Deputy is contained in the following table.

Year

Consultant

Nature of work

Cost

Outcome

2006

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

Legal advice to the Minister and Minister for Finance in relation to the EU Competition Case arising from the Ryanair hostile takeover bid for Aer Lingus

€1.3m

EU Commission prohibited the Ryanair takeover of Aer Lingus on competition grounds

Legal advice to the Minister and Minister for Finance in relation to the Ryanair Appeal to the Court of First Instance (CFI) of EU Commission decision to prohibit the takeover of Aer Lingus

€74K

CFI hearing date to be confirmed

Legislative Programme.

John O'Mahony

Question:

258 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Transport the title of each Bill sponsored by him which was passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas and subsequently signed into law in respect of each of the years 2004 to 2008 and to date in 2009; if, in each case, it was drafted and passed in order to give effect to a directive from the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18856/09]

The information requested by the Deputy is contained in the following table.

Title of Bill

Year

Implementing EU Directive

State Airports Act

2004

No

The Aer Lingus Act

2004

No

Air Navigation and Transport (International Conventions) Act

2004

No

Road Traffic Act

2004

No

Railway Safety Act

2005

No

Air Navigation and Transport (Indemnities) Act

2005

No

International Interests in Mobile Equipment (Capetown Convention) Act

2005

No

The Aviation Act

2006

No

Road Traffic and Transport Act

2006

No

Road Traffic Act

2006

No

Road Safety Authority Act

2006

No

Sea Pollution (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act

2006

No

Roads Act

2007

No

The Dublin Transport Authority Act

2008

No

Acts sponsored by the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Recourses, which are now the responsibility for the Minister for Transport as functions transferred on the 1st January 2006.

Title of Bill

Year

Implementing EU Directive

Maritime Safety Act

2005

No

Sea Pollution (Hazardous Substances) (Compensation) Act

2005

No

Sea Pollution (Miscellaneous provisions) Act

2006

No

National Car Test.

Liz McManus

Question:

259 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Transport his views on the fact that people are experiencing difficulties in getting through to the national car test centre in order to book an appointment; his further views on a case in which a NCT certificate is due to run out on 1 June 2009 but has had difficulty in getting through to the test centre to book an appointment, either by phone or through the website; the number of staff in the NCT centres; the waiting time for appointments; the reason for the difficulties in arranging appointments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18924/09]

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 477 of 2006) the Road Safety Authority has responsibility for matters relating to vehicle testing, including the National Car Testing service.

Road Haulage Licence.

Phil Hogan

Question:

260 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Transport the political representations made to him in relation to the application for an international road hauliers licence by a person (details supplied). [18938/09]

No political representations or any other representations, in relation to the application for an international road haulage operator's licence by the person in question.

National Car Test.

Richard Bruton

Question:

261 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a backlog on national car tests; and if he will request that the Garda accept requests for NCT appointments as sufficient to allow a person to avoid penalty points or being put off the road while waiting for the appointment date to arrive. [18992/09]

I am aware that the increase in inquiries to the National Car Testing Service (NCT) has created some difficulties in making applications for tests. However these are temporary and thousands of test appointments have successfully been made in the last few weeks.

Prior to 1st May 2009, the use of a vehicle without a valid NCT certificate was already an offence that carried a fine of up to €2,000 or imprisonment for up to 3 months or both. Since the 1st May 2009 it is an offence to which penalty points will be applied on conviction, in addition to any fine or imprisonment.

Enforcement is a matter for An Garda Síochána and penalties a matter for the courts.

Departmental Expenditure.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

262 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the call out charge applying to electrical work such as changing a light bulb in each prison; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18467/09]

I am informed by the Irish Prison Service that during the normal working week of 8.00 am to 5.00 pm Monday to Friday, all electrical maintenance required within the prison estate is carried out by in-house trades staff.

Cover for urgent electrical repairs, in circumstances where an immediate response is required, is provided by contractors who were selected following a publicly advertised competition. It should be noted that changing a light bulb would not be considered an urgent matter and would fall to be dealt with by the prison service trades staff.

Emergency call outs are paid for at a fixed hourly rate of €69.00. The payment is made only in respect of time on site in a prison and no payment arises in relation to travelling time, or retainer fees. There is also no minimum call out charge.

Prison Committals.

John O'Mahony

Question:

263 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the prison population in each of the prisons here; the official capacity of each prison; the number of prisoners currently in prison for debt default; his proposals to introduce a system of community service for this category; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18468/09]

The Irish Prison Service must accept all prisoners committed by the Courts. On 8 May, 2009, there were 3,934 prisoners in custody as compared to a bed capacity of 3,641. The following table provides a breakdown of the population of each prison/place of detention on that date.

Prison/Place of Detention

Bed Capacity

No. in Custody

Arbour Hill Prison

148

156

Castlerea Prison

228

279

Cloverhill Prison

431

465

Cork Prison

272

294

Dóchas Centre

85

112

Limerick Prison (male)

275

299

Limerick Prison (female)

20

26

Loughan House

150

134

Midlands Prison

469

509

Mountjoy Prison (male)

540

670

Portlaoise Prison

210

105

Shelton Abbey

100

96

St. Patrick’s Institution

216

248

Training Unit

107

112

Wheatfield Prison

390

429

Totals

3,641

3,934

Imprisonment for non-payment of debt was abolished by the Debtors (Ireland) Act 1872. However, refusal to pay a contractual debt may amount to civil contempt of court, for which imprisonment may be imposed. There are no immediate proposals to amend the law in this area although operation of the law is being kept under review in my Department. Moreover, debt enforcement forms part of the work of the Law Reform Commission. Government policy in this area is also reflected in the significant funding made available to the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) which provides assistance to people on low incomes who need help to cope with debt problems. There are 53 independent companies nationwide with over 240 money advice staff operating the service. MABS National Telephone Helpline has operated since October 2007. Many voluntary and statutory bodies such as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the Community Welfare Service, the Credit Union Movement, Citizens Information Centres, Centres for the unemployed and local authorities work closely with the programme.

I can advise the Deputy that the number of persons held in custody for such offences at any one time is a tiny fraction of the overall prisoner population. To illustrate this point, figures relating to 8 May, 2009 indicate that 20, or 0.5 percent, of the numbers in prison custody fell into this category.

Garda Investigations.

Finian McGrath

Question:

264 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [18472/09]

I have requested a report from the Garda authorities in relation to the matter referred to by the Deputy. I will contact the Deputy again when the report is to hand.

Finian McGrath

Question:

265 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will support a matter (details supplied). [18475/09]

I have requested the information sought by the Deputy from the Garda Commissioner and I will write to the Deputy directly when this information is to hand.

Garda Strength.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

266 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, further to Parliamentary Question No. 568 of 24 March 2009 and noting departmental statistics given to the media, he will provide details on the projections for 2009 in each of the forecastable sections (details supplied) in the Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18477/09]

As previously indicated in Parliamentary Question 568 of 24 March 2009, six members of the Force must retire on compulsory age grounds in 2009. It is not possible to predict with any certainty the number of Gardaí who will leave the Force for different reasons, during the course of the year.

Prison Accommodation.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

267 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prisoners, broken down by prison, who are being accommodated in cells exceeding their limit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18478/09]

As the Deputy will appreciate the Irish Prison Service must accept all prisoners committed by the Courts into its custody. Consequently it is not operationally practical to set limits for the number of prisoners held within the prison system.

The Irish Prison Service has been experiencing serious pressure on numbers during the last 12-18 months and in 2008 it became necessary to introduce additional contingency accommodation through the doubling up of cells in Mountjoy, Wheatfield, Cloverhill, Midlands and Arbour Hill Prisons and in the Training Unit. This provided 180 temporary bed spaces. Also in 2008, 70 new prison spaces were introduced at Shelton Abbey and Loughan House Open Centres.

As the pressure shows no sign of abating the Irish Prison Service recently decided to increase their capacities through the doubling up of further cells in Mountjoy, Wheatfield, Cloverhill, Midlands and Arbour Hill Prisons and in the Training Unit, thus creating 200 additional temporary bed spaces, some of which are already in place and others coming on stream shortly.

Furthermore, I am glad to confirm that an additional 400 spaces will come on stream shortly with the completion of building projects in Castlerea, Wheatfield and Portlaoise Prisons. It is my strong view that the continuation of the current capital programme is essential if we are to limit, as far as practicable, overcrowding so that we can accommodate our prisoner population in regime orientated modern prisons.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

268 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will provide details of revised projections received by him from the Irish Prison Service of prisoner numbers and capacity for 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18479/09]

I wish to inform the Deputy that a review of prisoner population projections is currently underway and a report is expected by the end of this summer. The outcome of this review will inform the Irish Prison Service and my Department on matters relevant to the prison estate.

Garda Deployment.

Tom Hayes

Question:

269 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí allocated to each station in south Tipperary; his plans to increase the numbers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18491/09]

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner, who is responsible for the detailed allocation of personnel throughout the force, that the personnel strength of each Garda Station in the Tipperary Garda Division on the latest date, for which figures are readily available, was as set out in the table. The Deputy should be aware that at the end of 2004, the personnel strength of the then Tipperary division was 307.

District

Station

Strength

Cahir

Ardfinnan

2

Ballyporeen

1

Cahir

47

Cashel

13

Clogheen

1

New Inn

1

Clonmel

Carrick-on-Suir

11

Clonmel

53

Fethard

2

Grangemockler

1

Kilsheelan

1

Mullinahone

2

Piltown

2

Nenagh

Ballingarry North

Borrisokane

5

Cloughjordan

1

Dolla

Lorrha

1

Nenagh

38

Newport

8

Portroe

2

Terryglass

Toomevara

2

Templemore

Borrisoleigh

1

Moneygal

Moyne

1

Rearcross

Roscrea

19

Shevry

Templederry

Templemore

40

Templetuohy

1

Thurles

Ballingarry South

1

Ballinure

GCVU

6

Holycross

1

Johnstown

1

Killenaule

3

Littleton

1

Thurles

78

Urlingford

2

Tipperary Town

Bansha

1

Cappawhite

1

Dundrum

1

Emly

1

Golden

1

Tipperary Town

34

Total

388

Crime Levels.

Tom Hayes

Question:

270 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of arrests for drug offences in County Tipperary every year for the past three years; the number of successful convictions arising from these arrests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18492/09]

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.

Garda Stations.

Tom Hayes

Question:

271 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his policy regarding one man rural garda stations in south Tipperary; and if he has proposals to change this policy. [18493/09]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 262 (16138/09) of the 28th April which sets out the position in relation to rural Garda stations.

Garda Strength.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

272 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of members serving in each rank in the Garda Síochána; the number of members in respect of each rank under the age of 30, between 30 and 40, between 40 and 50, and over 50; the number in respect of each rank of members who have served fewer than ten years, between ten years and 20 years, between 20 years and 30 years and 30 years or more; the number in respect of each rank of members who have retired in each of the past three years; the number of promotions to each rank above the rank of garda in each of the past three years; the number of persons recruited to the Garda Síochána in each of the past three years; the net cost to the Exchequer of employing a member of the Garda Síochána at each rank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18497/09]

I have requested the information sought by the Deputy from the Garda Commissioner and I will write to the Deputy directly when this information is to hand.

Criminal Prosecutions.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

273 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of people charged under the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2006; the number of people prosecuted under the Act; the number of people convicted under the Act with a gender breakdown of those charged, prosecuted and convicted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18509/09]

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.

Citizenship Applications.

Tom Hayes

Question:

274 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary who has applied for naturalisation. [18518/09]

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 January 2009.

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 late 2007. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average while an element of straight forward 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 Deployment.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

275 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the breakdown of divisions to which the 15 asset profilers working for the Criminal Assets Bureau in the south east are assigned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18548/09]

I am advised by the Garda Authorities that the South-Eastern Region has 15 members of An Garda Síochána trained by the Criminal Assets Bureau as Asset Profilers.

At present the breakdown of Asset Profilers operating in the South-Eastern region is seven in the Waterford/Kilkenny Division, three in the Tipperary Division and three in the Wexford Division.

When the amended Garda Divisional boundaries are finalised the number of Gardai trained and operating as Asset Profilers in the South East will be as follows — four will be based in the Carlow /Kilkenny Division, three in the Tipperary Division, five in the Waterford Division, and three in the Wexford Division.

The Divisional Asset Profilers continue to make a very valuable contribution to the work of the Criminal Assets Bureau in pursuing it's statutory remit. The complement and allocation of Divisional Asset Profilers is closely monitored by Divisional Officers in consultation with the Chief Bureau Officer and will be kept under review.

Residency Permits.

Enda Kenny

Question:

276 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on an application for long-term residency in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18588/09]

An application for long-term residency by the person referred to by the Deputy was received on 01/11/2006. His application is currently in the latter stages of processing and a decision will issue shortly. As soon as a decision is reached in his case, he will be notified directly.

Consultancy Contracts.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

277 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has employed consultants or lobbyists to act for his Department outside the State in the past five years; the nature of the work; the cost of the work undertaken; the outcome of such action; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18612/09]

I can inform the Deputy that my Department has not employed consultants or lobbyists to act for the Department outside the State in the past five years.

Citizenship Applications.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

278 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of pending naturalisation applications that were filed in 2006; the number that were filed in 2005; and the number that were filed in previous years. [18802/09]

The following is a breakdown of the number of applications for certificates of naturalisation received from 2002-2006 and the number pending a decision.

Year

No. of applications received

No. of applications pending a decision

2001

1,431

0

2002

3,574

2

2003

3,580

26

2004

4,074

87

2005

4,527

470

2006

7,030

3,019

Residency Permits.

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

279 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review the case of persons (details supplied) in County Westmeath, one who seeks stamp four and the other who seeks leave to remain here. [18813/09]

I have been informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service that they received an application from the person referred to by the Deputy on 19th March, 2009 and that they will be in touch with that person shortly.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

280 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to an application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18815/09]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 304 of Wednesday, 29 October 2008, and the written Reply to that Question.

The first named person concerned applied for asylum in the State on 29 July 2005. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

The first named person concerned initiated Judicial Review Proceedings in the High Court, challenging the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal in her case. The High Court refused the Judicial Review Leave Application.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the first named person concerned was informed, by letter dated 22 August 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. 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 first named 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 first named 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 first named 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 first named person concerned is passed to me for decision.

The second named person concerned is the infant son of the first named person concerned. An application for asylum was submitted on behalf of the second named person concerned on 6 March 2008. His asylum application was refused following consideration of his 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 second named person concerned was informed, by letter dated 29 January 2009, 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. In addition, he was notified of his 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 second named 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 second named 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 second named 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 second named person concerned is passed to me for decision.

Citizenship Applications.

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

281 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review the case of a person (details suppled) in County Roscommon. [18832/09]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was first received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in November 2004.

On examination of the application submitted it was determined that the person concerned did not have five year's reckonable residence at the date of application which is a statutory residency requirement as set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, as amended. The person in question was informed of this in a letter issued to him on 7 March, 2006.

A new application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person in question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in December 2008.

Applications for certificates of naturalisation are dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants. The average processing time from application to decision is now at 23 months. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average while an element of straight forward 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.

Legislative Programme.

John O'Mahony

Question:

282 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the Title of each Bill sponsored by him which was passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas and subsequently signed into law in respect of each of the years 2004 to 2008 and to date in 2009; if, in each case, it was drafted and passed in order to give effect to a directive from the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18853/09]

I wish to refer the Deputy to Questions Nos. 1154 and 287, answered on 30 January 2008 and 28 April 2009 respectively, which contain the information requested by him.

Residency Permits.

Billy Timmins

Question:

283 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to a person (details supplied); if their application will be dealt with; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18877/09]

I wish to inform the Deputy that an application from the person in question for permission to remain in the State under the revised arrangements for the non-EEA parents of children born in Ireland prior to 1 January 2005, was received in my Department in October 2006. The person in question was informed by letter dated 8 November 2006 of the termination of the IBC/05 Scheme.

Since the termination of that Scheme, there is no longer any separate procedure or stand-alone right of any person to apply for permission to remain in the State on the sole basis of parentage of a child born in Ireland. However, the person's case is currently being assessed by the relevant officials and the person concerned will be contacted directly and notified of any decisions made regarding his status in the State in due course.

Garda Management.

Joe McHugh

Question:

284 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will grant an unpaid sabbatical to a person (details supplied) in County Donegal who wishes to travel for a period of time; his views on whether this would be a way of saving his Department money at this time of budgetary constraints; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18897/09]

Under the Garda Síochána Acts 2005-2007, the Commissioner is responsible for the management of An Garda Síochána including the granting of leave to sworn members or civilian staff. I do not have any role in the matter.

Prison Accommodation.

Richard Bruton

Question:

285 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the drug free training unit in Mountjoy Prison, Dublin, is carrying more people than its original design capacity; if he is satisfied that sufficient additional staff and facilities have been provided to allow this to be a safe and suitable environment; if recommendations made by the Labour Relations Commission in respect of the operation of this facility have been implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18909/09]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the Training Unit Place of Detention has bed capacity for 107 prisoners. On 8 May, 2009 it was operating at slightly in excess of this capacity with 112 prisoners in custody. I am satisfied that the current staffing levels and facilities at the Training Unit are quite adequate and that a safe environment is provided for both prisoners and staff at the facility. In relation to the recommendation of the Labour Relations Commission regarding a particular staffing issue at the Training Unit, I can inform the Deputy that discussions in relation to this recommendation are ongoing between the Irish Prison Service and the Staff Association.

Citizenship Applications.

Joe Costello

Question:

286 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7 has not had their application for naturalisation processed; when the application will be finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18987/09]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department on 28 August 2006. Officials in that section inform me that processing of this application is ongoing and the file will be forwarded to me for a decision in the coming months.

Passport Applications.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

287 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the reason for the delay in processing a passport application by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7. [18577/09]

The Passport Office has no record of an application from the person in question. He has since advised the Passport Office that he is not an Irish citizen and that he made an application for citizenship through naturalisation in August 2008. This is a matter therefore for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Consultancy Contracts.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

288 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has employed consultants or lobbyists to act for his Department outside the State in the past five years; the nature of the work; the cost of the work undertaken; the outcome of such action; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18610/09]

My Department does not engage consultants to act as lobbyists on its behalf. However, on occasion, consultants engaged by my Department do engage in activity outside the State. For example, in 2007, KPMG were commissioned to undertake a Value for Money Review of the Irish Passport Service. In assessing efficiency and effectiveness, the review used the services operated in Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK as international comparators, and travel to those countries, acting on behalf of the Department, was required. The total cost of the review, including the cost of the fieldwork outside the State, was €71,384. Copies of the report were lodged with the Houses of the Oireachtas in November 2008 and the report is also published on the Department's website. Similarly, Value for Money Reviews of other areas of the Department's work, such as our support for emigrants and Irish Aid assistance to fight HIV/AIDS, as well as the Management Review of Irish Aid, have required field work by consultants to be undertaken outside the State.

Given the nature of its work, the Irish Aid programme utilises independent technical advisors on specific projects and programmes outside the State. These offer technical advice on sectors such as water, education, health, governance, evaluation, and other relevant areas to assist the aid programme, recipient governments, local authorities, NGOs and the other organisations. My Department is happy to provide more detail on all of these projects and programmes to the Deputy.

While the Department does not pay lobbyists to work on its behalf, there are occasions where the Department has provided funding for lobby groups or advocacy organisations through grant in aid mechanisms such as the Emigrant Support Programme. For example, through the Emigrant Support Programme, the Government has allocated grant-in-aid to a number of independent organisations that advocate on behalf of Irish citizens abroad, including the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, which, since 2006, has received grants totalling $235,000.

Legislative Programme.

John O'Mahony

Question:

289 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the Title of each Bill sponsored by him which was passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas and subsequently signed into law in respect of each of the years 2004 to 2008 and to date in 2009; if, in each case, it was drafted and passed in order to give effect to a directive from the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18851/09]

Details of all Bills brought forward by my Department since 2004 and subsequently enacted, are listed in tabular form, with an indication of whether they were drafted and passed to give effect to an EU Directive. It should be noted that in 2009 to date, no legislation has been brought forward by my Department. As the Deputy will be aware, more detailed information on all pieces of legislation is available on the Oireachtas website www.oireachtas.ie .

Title of Act

Drafted and passed in order to give effect to an EU Directive

Cluster Munitions and Anti-Personnel Mines Act 2008

No

Passports Act 2008

No

European Communities Act 2007

The legislation made changes to the way EU measures are transposed into domestic law, but did not relate to any particular EU Directive.

European Communities (Amendment) Act 2006

The legislation was required to give effect to the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the European Union, but did not relate to any particular EU Directive.

British–Irish Agreement (Amendment) Act 2006

No

Diplomatic Relations and Immunities (Amendment) Act 2006

No

Human Rights Issues.

Mary Upton

Question:

290 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position on the proposal to officially recognise the actions of the Ottoman Empire against the Armenian nation in 1915 as genocide; the reason for the official position here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18920/09]

The Deputy will be aware that the events which resulted in the tragic deaths of very large numbers of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire more than ninety years ago continue to affect relations between Turkey and Armenia, whose historical interpretations of these events diverge sharply. The Turkish Government has proposed the establishment of a joint commission, composed of eminent academics, to investigate and determine the facts of this tragic episode in their shared history.

While it has not yet been possible to move forward on the basis of this proposal, last month's announcement of a roadmap for the normalisation of relations between Armenia and Turkey is a positive step for the two countries' relations. I hope it will lead to the opening of diplomatic missions and the re-establishment of trade links that were cut off by the closure of the common border in 1993. Although official details of the roadmap have not yet been made public, it appears likely that it will indeed include a mechanism to allow for a joint study of the period and an investigation of claims relating to Armenian deaths. This may lead to a common understanding of the tragic events. I am sure the Deputy shares my view that due regard must be had to the sensitivity of the issues involved and that we should support all efforts to resolve them.

Sport and Recreational Development.

John Deasy

Question:

291 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the amount of national lottery funding allocated to projects in the area of youth, sports and amenities in each of the years 2007 and 2008; the planned allocation to youth, sports and amenities in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18481/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, the allocation of the proceeds of the National Lottery is a matter for the Minister for Finance. The elements of my Department's Vote which are part-funded by proceeds of the National Lottery are as follows:

Subhead C.1 — Grants for sporting bodies and for the provision of sports and recreational facilities under the Sports Capital Programme;

Subhead C.3 — Grant-in-Aid provided to the Irish Sports Council in respect of general assistance to sports organisations and expenditure in relation to sports activities; and

Subhead D.7 — Grant-in-Aid allocation provided to the Arts Council.

Details of expenditure part-funded by proceeds of the National Lottery under these subheads in the last two years, together with the Revised Estimates allocations for 2009, are outlined in the table.

Sports Capital Programme

Irish Sports Council

Arts Council

Totals

2007

63,724,000

54,025,000

83,000,000

200,749,000

2008

60,137,000

57,182,000

81,620,000

198,939,000

2009

56,000,000

51,689,000

73,350,000

181,039,000

Swimming Pool Projects.

James Reilly

Question:

292 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position regarding the application for grant approval for a swimming pool for a club (details supplied) in County Dublin; if he has made a decision to support this project which Fingal county manager has recently recommended to him; the conditions he will recommend to ensure the swimming pool facility is accessible to the general public from Balbriggan and nearby towns; the projected completion date if he issues a decision to support the Balbriggan-Balrothery project; if the necessary ancillary private funding is in place to bring the project to a successful conclusion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18534/09]

Under the current round of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme, the question of the location of public swimming pools is essentially a matter for local authorities. Projects are considered on a case-by-case basis and consideration is given to such issues as to whether the area is classified as disadvantaged, the number and geographical spread of projects within and between counties, the viability of the project, particularly in relation to operational and maintenance issues, overall funding package for the project, technical details and the Department's annual estimates provision for the Programme.

There are four principal stages in a swimming pool project following the submission of a feasibility study. These, in order of progress, are: Preliminary Report; Contract Documents; Tender and Construction. Grant-aid is allocated only when tenders have been approved for the project and is capped at the time of allocation. The Department and its technical advisors, the Office of Public Works, evaluate each stage and local authorities cannot proceed to the next stage of a project unless prior approval issues from the Department of Arts, Sport & Tourism. The Department has requested a Preliminary Report for the Balbriggan Swimming Pool and this is currently being examined by the OPW from a technical point of view. Once the project is acceptable to the OPW from a technical point of view I will then be in a position to approve the Preliminary Report allowing Fingal County Council to proceed to the next stage which is the preparation of Contract Documents.

Where a project is being undertaken by an organisation other than a local authority, the proposal must be considered, supported and submitted by the relevant local authority. Before supporting a project, the local authority would have to be satisfied that the proposal was viable, that the balance of funding required to complete the project was available and that the project, when completed, would have a satisfactory level of public access. The Local Authority is responsible for making satisfactory arrangements for the management and maintenance of the facility. I understand a joint venture company will be established between Balbriggan R.F.C and a private company to build and operate the pool. The public interest will be safeguarded by a Deed of Covenant and Charge being put in place between the joint venture company, Fingal County Council and the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, which would guarantee access to the public for an agreed number of hours at reasonable charges.

Progress of pools under the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme depends much on Local Authorities leading projects continuing to press ahead with construction on schedule and as indicated to the Department. Once the grant is approved at Tender Report stage and construction commences, pools generally take about eighteen months to complete. Before a grant is approved the Local Authority has to have a satisfactory funding package in place to ensure the project is completed.

Consultancy Contracts.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

293 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has employed consultants or lobbyists to act for his Department outside the State in the past five years; the nature of the work; the cost of the work undertaken; the outcome of such action; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18602/09]

The requested information in respect of consultants contracted in the past five years is as set out in tabular form below. No lobbyists were contracted in the period in question. The only contracted consultants were in respect of the China Festival which was developed in the context of the Government's Asia Strategy and rolled out over a 2 year period. This involved an exchange of arts and cultural festivals which were designed to make an impact in themselves and to foster ongoing relationships and understanding between Ireland and China. Both the China and Dublin based festivals were a success and contributed significantly to the deepening of cultural and commercial relationships between Ireland and China.

Name/Title

Nature of Work

Cost of Work

Outcome of Work

Richard Wakeley

Commissioner for Irish Festival of Arts and Culture in China 2004

166,834

Festival completed successfully

Donal Shiels

Irish Festival in China — Festival Manager

87,500

Festival completed successfully

Red Dog Design Consultants

Irish Festival in China — Graphic Design Services

73,000

Festival completed successfully

Kate Bowe PR Limited

Irish Festival in China — PR Management Services

72,834

Festival completed successfully

Eamon Fox

Irish Festival in China — Production and Technical Services

40,000

Festival completed successfully

Sheenagh Gillen

Irish Festival in China — Relations Management Services

7,000

Festival completed successfully

Legislative Programme.

John O'Mahony

Question:

294 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the Title of each Bill sponsored by him which was passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas and subsequently signed into law in respect of each of the years 2004 to 2008 and to date in 2009; if, in each case, it was drafted and passed in order to give effect to a directive from the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18843/09]

The requested information for the period from 2004 to the present is as set out in tabular form.

Title of Bill

Year of Enactment

Introduced to Give Effect to EU Directive

National Sports Campus Development Authority Bill 2006

2006

No

Irish Film Board (Amendment) Bill 2006

2006

No

Performing Arts.

Seán Connick

Question:

295 Deputy Seán Connick asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will confirm whether his Department has grants available which would assist community theatre facilities to carry out upgrade works on their backstage areas such as improving their dressing rooms and lighting systems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18922/09]

The Arts and Culture Capital Enhancement Support Scheme (ACCESS) is a key element in the Government's regional arts strategy and has greatly improved access to and participation in the arts for large numbers of people nationwide. The scheme has been widely acknowledged as a significant intervention in the provision of quality cultural spaces. In this regard, my Department has taken a direct role in relation to the provision of capital grant-aid for the arts and culture infrastructure throughout the country in recent years.

Facilities funded to date include integrated arts centres, theatres, galleries, studio, and creative and performance spaces. In this manner my Department provides the bulk of capital funding for building and refurbishing arts facilities around the country, mainly in the not for profit sector, while the Arts Council provides the ongoing revenue support for many of the facilities. Under the first round of ACCESS, announced in 2001, funding of €43m was provided to the promoters of 40 arts and culture projects. The majority of these projects were for the provision of new art centres and most are now open and operational.

The NDP 2007-2013 provided €81m to conclude ACCESS 1 and to facilitate further rounds. In April 2007 a second round of ACCESS funding was announced and a total of €32m was offered to the promoters of 67 projects nationwide. The primary focus of the second round of the scheme is the refurbishment and enhancement of existing arts and cultural facilities and it will run from 2007 to 2009. In May 2008 a further 13 projects were allocated €10.2m in funding under the ACCESS II scheme bringing the total allocations under ACCESS II to €42m. Given the current economic climate it is not possible to say when further funding schemes will be announced in respect of Arts Capital projects during 2009.

Departmental Agencies.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

296 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will report on negotiations regarding a plot of land (details supplied) in County Cork between a State agency and the county council, to be used as a community facility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19124/09]

I have no responsibility for this matter, which is a day-to-day function of the National Tourism Development Authority, Fáilte Ireland, under Section 8 of the National Tourism Development Authority Act 2003. Under Section 7 (2) of the Act, the Authority is required to seek my consent together with the consent of the Minister for Finance to the disposal of land or an interest in land but the conduct of negotiations is an administrative matter that is the sole responsibility of the Fáilte Ireland Authority. I understand that Fáilte Ireland has been in discussions with Cork County Council since late 2007 in relation to the valuation of the lands in question. These negotiations are on going. However in order to expedite the matter, Fáilte Ireland is in the process of submitting the matter to arbitration for independent adjudication.

Security of the Elderly.

Richard Bruton

Question:

297 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the terms of his decision to restrict the scheme whereby his Department covered the cost of installing socially monitored alarms; and if persons who lodged an application prior to 7 April 2009 will have their application dealt with in the usual way. [18536/09]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

307 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will restore the community support for older people grant in view of its proven value in protecting older people in their homes and helping them to feel secure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18926/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 297 and 307 together.

I refer the Deputy to my response to Questions 68 and 69 on 29 April 2009. As indicated in that reply, the Scheme of Community Support for Older People was suspended on 7th April in order to afford my Department the opportunity to review its operation. I met with representatives of organisations involved with issues affecting older people and I have agreed with them a process that will set the broad parameters for the review and for the necessary consultation to be undertaken as part of it. I am hopeful that the review process can begin in May and be completed by mid September. As indicated in the earlier reply, it is my intention to re-launch the scheme later in the year, once the review is completed. All applications received up to the suspension of the Scheme will be processed and approved, as appropriate, in line with the current eligibility criteria. In addition, it is important to note that the suspension of the Scheme in no way affects those who already have received a monitored alarm device.

Consultancy Contracts.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

298 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has employed consultants or lobbyists to act for his Department outside the State in the past five years; the nature of the work; the cost of the work undertaken; the outcome of such action; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18604/09]

My Department has not employed consultants or lobbyists to act for it outside the State in the period 2004 to 2008 inclusive.

Departmental Bodies.

Michael Ring

Question:

299 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has met with Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta Teoranta and Údarás na Gaeltachta with regard to the possible transfer of functions from MFG Teoranta to Údarás na Gaeltachta; the outcome of this meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18804/09]

Michael Ring

Question:

300 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will transfer responsibility for the local development social inclusion programme and the rural social scheme to Údarás na Gaeltachta; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18805/09]

Michael Ring

Question:

301 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the level of funding which has been provided to Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta Teoranta under the Leader programme; if this funding will remain with MFG Teoranta, if the rural social scheme and the local development social inclusion programme are transferred to Údarás na Gaeltachta; if he will transfer allocated funding from MFG Teoranta to Údarás na Gaeltachta; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18806/09]

Michael Ring

Question:

302 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the details of planned staff transfers from Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta Teoranta to Údarás na Gaeltachta; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18807/09]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 299 to 302, inclusive, together.

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions No. 169, 170 and 171, which were taken together on the 29th April. The issues raised by the Deputy are under consideration as part of the process described in that reply. In addition, I would like to point out that Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta Teoranta (MFG) has been awarded €17,278,809 under Axes 3 & 4 of the Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2007-2013.

Departmental Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

303 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of staff within his Department dedicated to the development of a regulatory framework for the charities sector; if the recruitment embargo in the public sector will prevent the establishment of a charities regulator and recruitment of regulatory staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18808/09]

There are currently five staff within my own Department dedicated to the development of a regulatory framework for the charities sector. As the Deputy will be aware, the Charities Act 2009 was signed into law on 28 February 2009 and provides, inter alia, for the establishment of a new Charities Regulatory Authority. This will entail the dissolution of the Office of the Commissioners for Charitable Donations and Bequests for Ireland (CCDB), which currently employs 8 staff.

My Department is working closely with the CCDB to ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place for the smooth transfer of its functions and staff to the new Authority at the appropriate time. Liaison between my Department and the Department of Finance will also continue, as required, in relation to that transfer and the establishment of the new Charities Regulatory Authority, taking into account the current recruitment moratorium in place for the public sector.

As the Deputy is aware, a number of other steps will have to be taken before the new Authority can be established, including the establishment of an initial Register of Charities (which has taken of the order of 2 years in other similar jurisdictions). I can confirm, however, that the introduction of statutory regulation for charities remains Government policy and I am committed to delivering an integrated system of mandatory registration and proportionate regulation and supervision of the charities sector in Ireland at the earliest possible date.

Security of the Elderly.

Michael Ring

Question:

304 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the details of security system providers engaged under the community supports for older people scheme each year since the scheme was introduced; the amount allocated under the scheme during the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18809/09]

My Department has operated the Scheme since mid-2002. In excess of €20m has been provided since then to community and voluntary organisations with an estimated 60,000 older people benefiting from the scheme. The Department does not provide funding to the providers of personal security devices. All funds under the scheme are provided to community groups, which are responsible for arranging the engagement of system providers and installation of the equipment, which, in turn, must be done on the basis of a competitive tendering process. A list of all groups receiving funds is available on my Department's website at www.pobail.ie.

Legislative Programme.

John O'Mahony

Question:

305 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the Title of each Bill sponsored by him which was passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas and subsequently signed into law in respect of each of the years 2004 to 2008 and to date in 2009; if, in each case, it was drafted and passed in order to give effect to a directive from the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18845/09]

In the years to which the Deputy refers, the following bills sponsored by me were passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas and subsequently signed into law.

Dormant Accounts (Amendment) Bill (2004)

British-Irish Agreement (Amendment) Bill 2005

Charities Bill 2007

Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2007

None of these Bills were drafted or passed to give effect to a directive from the European Union.

Departmental Correspondence.

Michael Ring

Question:

306 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason an official has not made contact with persons (details supplied) in County Mayo as promised. [18893/09]

An official from my Department has recently been in contact with one of the persons referred to by the Deputy. I understand that the official is awaiting further clarification in regard to the matter in question.

Question No. 307 answered with Question No. 297.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

308 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will amend the rules regarding the application procedure for the back to work allowance scheme in order to allow a qualifying unemployed person, who finds himself or herself in the position of being offered employment at short notice, to immediately take up that employment, and subsequently apply retrospectively for the back to work allowance, in the situation where said individual would ordinarily have qualified for back to work allowance under the rules had they been in a position to apply in advance of taking up that employment. [18438/09]

In order to respond effectively to the growing numbers on the Live Register and the current employment situation, it was decided in the context of the recent supplementary budget to refocus resources on the enterprise strand of the back to work allowance which supports people into self employment. The changes provide for:

A reduction in qualifying period required for access to back to work enterprise allowance (BTWEA) from 2 years to 12 months provided a person has an underlying entitlement to jobseeker's allowance. This is in conjunction with a reduction in the period for which the BTWEA is payable from 4 years to 2 years, at 100% of existing social welfare entitlement in the first year and 75% in the second.

Immediate access to a shorter BTWEA, to be called Short Term Enterprise Allowance, for someone who qualifies for Jobseeker's Benefit (with 104 contributions paid) or who qualifies for statutory redundancy. It will be paid for the duration of the Jobseeker's Benefit claim entitlement.

Allow persons who previously participated in the BTWEA scheme and exhausted their entitlement after completion of the scheme, to participate a second time after a period of at least 5 years has elapsed.

These changes will come into effect from 1st May 2009. The changes will not affect participants who are already on either strand of the back to work allowance at that date. These changes significantly strengthen the support for jobseeker's wishing to move to self employment and in this context the employee strand of the back to work allowance has been closed to new applicants from the 1st May 2009. Persons who qualified for the back to work employee strand prior to this date will continue to be paid their entitlements.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

309 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if new or revised rules, guidelines or instructions have been issued by her Department regarding rent supplement; if her Department has advised local authorities of such revisions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18444/09]

The recent Supplementary Budget provided that payments currently being made to existing rent supplement tenants be reduced by 8%. The weekly minimum contribution payable towards rent is also being increased from €18 to €24 a week, with effect from 1 June 2009. While tenants may be contractually obliged to pay the rent agreed to in their lease, it is expected that landlords will decrease the rent in recognition of the fact that rents have fallen generally and that there is now a large number of vacant rental properties nationally.

Other changes in the Supplementary Budget provide for new maximum rent limits to be prescribed in regulations to take effect from 1 June 2009 to reflect the general reductions in private sector rent levels. Rent supplement will also be restricted to individuals who have been an existing tenant for six months. Individuals forming new households must have been placed on a Local Authority housing list following a full housing needs assessment before they are eligible for rent supplement.

Existing recipients of rent supplement will be advised by letter in advance of the change being made to their rent payment and this communication can be shown to landlords as evidence of the revised rent supplement in payment in individual cases. Landlords will be advised through advertising in the print media of the general reduction in rent supplement payments.

The Department has already issued briefing to the community welfare service outlining the measures announced in the Budget which impact the rent supplement scheme. Guidelines on the operational arrangements for the new measures, due for implementation on 1 June 2009, will issue to the community welfare service within the next two weeks when all of the relevant legislative provisions are in place.

The Department is also in discussions with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government regarding the role of local authorities who are responsible for providing a wide range of social housing supports for those with a long-term housing need and for carrying out a housing needs assessment for those seeking a rent supplement payment. The two Departments intend to coordinate the release of guidelines to the community welfare service and local authorities, as appropriate.

Pat Breen

Question:

310 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will review the decision to abolish the Christmas bonus; if her attention has been drawn to the implications that this decision will have on families and the elderly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18510/09]

The Deputy will be aware that in the context of the current economic circumstances, it has been necessary for the Government to take steps to reduce overall public expenditure in order to restore order and stability in the public finances. This has involved reviewing all public expenditure programmes, including social welfare programmes, which at some €21.3 billion in 2009 form a substantial portion of overall public expenditure.

In order to avoid cutting all the weekly social welfare payment rates while trying to keep the welfare budget at a level the State can afford it has been necessary to discontinue funding for the Christmas bonus that is usually paid to certain welfare recipients. The payment of a 100% Christmas bonus in 2009 would cost an estimated €223 million, the net savings to be achieved in the decision not to pay the Christmas bonus could not be effected by any other measure. This was the most difficult decision the Government had to make in framing the supplementary Budget. While very difficult decisions have been taken in order to restore order and stability in the public finances, I have been successful in keeping expenditure control measures in the social welfare area to an absolute minimum and in ensuring that the most vulnerable in society have been protected from their effects.

Michael Ring

Question:

311 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be approved for and granted the one-parent family payment. [18517/09]

The person concerned applied for one-parent family payment on 5 March 2009. Her claim is currently with the Social Welfare Inspector. On completion of enquiries a decision will be made and she will be notified of the outcome. Under Social Welfare legislation decisions in relation to claims must be made by Deciding Officers and Appeals Officers. These officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

312 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if, in view of the fact that the back to work scheme was closed for all new applicants on 1 May 2009, she will be introducing a replacement scheme for those looking to re-enter the workplace; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18519/09]

In order to respond effectively to the growing numbers on the Live Register and the current employment situation, it was decided in the context of the recent supplementary budget to refocus resources on the enterprise strand of the back to work allowance which supports people into self employment. The changes provide for:

A reduction in qualifying period required for access to back to work enterprise allowance (BTWEA) from 2 years to 12 months provided a person has an underlying entitlement to jobseeker's allowance. This is in conjunction with a reduction in the period for which the BTWEA is payable from 4 years to 2 years, at 100% of existing social welfare entitlement in the first year and 75% in the second.

Immediate access to a shorter BTWEA, to be called Short Term Enterprise Allowance, for someone who qualifies for Jobseeker's Benefit (with 104 contributions paid) or who qualifies for statutory redundancy. It will be paid for the duration of the Jobseeker's Benefit claim entitlement.

Allow persons who previously participated in the BTWEA scheme and exhausted their entitlement after completion of the scheme, to participate a second time after a period of at least 5 years has elapsed.

These changes will come into effect from 1st May 2009. The changes will not affect participants who are already on either strand of the back to work allowance at that date. These changes significantly strengthen the support for jobseeker's wishing to move to self employment and in this context the employee strand of the back to work allowance has been closed to new applicants from the 1st May 2009. Persons who qualified for the back to work employee strand prior to this date will continue to be paid their entitlements. It is not intended to replace this scheme at present.

Joan Burton

Question:

313 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her views on giving carers social welfare stamps in recognition of the work they do; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18542/09]

Persons in receipt of carer's allowance, carer's benefit and the respite care grant may engage in employment, self employment, training or education outside the home for up to 15 hours per week and still be considered to be providing full-time care and attention for the purposes of the schemes. This means that where a carer remains in employment he or she will continue to pay the appropriate social insurance contribution. Also, any person, including a carer, may pay voluntary contributions once they satisfy certain qualifying conditions.

The social welfare pension rights of those who take time out of the workforce for caring duties are protected by the homemaker's scheme which was introduced in and took effect from 1994. The scheme allows up to 20 years spent caring for children or incapacitated adults to be disregarded when a person's social insurance record is being averaged for pension purposes. However, the home-maker's scheme will not of itself qualify a person for a pension. The standard qualifying conditions, which require a person to enter insurance 10 years before pension age, pay a minimum of 260 contributions at the correct rate, and achieve a yearly average of at least 10 contributions on their record from the time they enter insurance until they reach pension age, must also be satisfied.

People who qualify for payments such as carer's allowance or carer's benefit may, subject to conditions, qualify for credited contributions for the period they are receiving the payment. There are, of course, people caring who cannot benefit from these measures. The Green Paper on Pensions considered a number of issues related to the qualifying conditions for a social welfare contributory pension. A framework for future pensions policy is being developed and the issue of contribution conditions will be further addressed in that context.

Michael McGrath

Question:

314 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the amount of jobseeker’s benefit a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive when they are made redundant over the next few months; and if their entitlement will be reduced by the fact that their spouse is in receipt of jobseeker’s benefit. [18551/09]

The person concerned has not made an application for jobseeker's benefit. Until an application is received no determination can be made as regards the rate of payment a person may be entitled to.

Michael Ring

Question:

315 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be approved and granted jobseeker’s benefit. [18561/09]

The person concerned has been awarded jobseeker's benefit at the maximum weekly rate of €204.30 with effect from 23 March, 2009. His first payment and arrears due will issue shortly.

Departmental Staff.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

316 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the arrangements that have been made on a temporary basis to provide services in the social welfare office in Arklow during the period of sick leave of a senior inspector in the office; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18565/09]

One of the social welfare inspectors based in Arklow has had a number of short absences due to illness in the past two months and the person concerned has been on sick leave since 27 April. The Department has no immediate plans to provide cover for the current absence but the matter will be kept under ongoing review. In the meanwhile, arrangements will be made by regional management to ensure that all cases are dealt with without undue delay.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

317 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the annual amount paid out by her Department in social welfare payments to people who are not citizens of the European Union for the years 2006, 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009 with a breakdown of these figures relative to the type of social welfare payment made. [18566/09]

The Department does not record the value of payments by reference to the citizenship of the recipient of social welfare schemes. I would however refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question 16128/09 answered on Tuesday 28 April 2009 which referenced statistical data on nationality of those on the Live Register which is compiled and published by the Central Statistics Office.

Consultancy Contracts.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

318 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she has employed consultants or lobbyists to act for her Department outside the State in the past five years; the nature of the work; the cost of the work undertaken; the outcome of such action; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18613/09]

No consultants or lobbyists were employed to act for the Department outside the State in the past five years.

Social Welfare Code.

Mary White

Question:

319 Deputy Mary Alexandra White asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her policy regarding artists who have registered as self-employed or as PAYE workers and entitlement to unemployment benefit. [18788/09]

An unemployed person may qualify for Jobseeker's Benefit or Jobseeker's Allowance. Jobseeker's Benefit is based on a person's social insurance record and Jobseeker's Allowance is based on weekly means. A fundamental qualifying condition for the benefit is that a person must be available for full-time work. The range of benefits and pensions to which different groups of workers may establish entitlement reflects the risks associated with the nature of their work. This in turn reflects the rate of contribution payable. Artists are generally adjudged to be self-employed workers, liable for PRSI at the Class S rate of 3%. They are consequently eligible for a narrower range of benefits than general employees who, together with their employers, pay a total social insurance contribution of 14.05%, excluding levies, under the full-rate PRSI Class A.

Self-employed workers are not insured against short-term benefits such as illness and jobseeker's payments — these are only available to persons covered by PRSI Classes A, E, H and P. This reflects the need for coverage for various contingencies, the rate of contributions that self-employed persons pay, the practicalities of administering and controlling access to short-term payments and the annualised system of contributions that these people enjoy. A system of separate arrangements for employed and self-employed workers within a social insurance context is common in other European social protection systems. Self-employed workers who do not qualify for an insurance-based benefit may establish entitlement to assistance-based payments by satisfying certain conditions including a means test.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

320 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when rent support will issue in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18817/09]

Rent supplement is administered on behalf of the Department by the community welfare service of the Health Service Executive as part of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term income support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation, whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source.

The Executive has advised that rent supplement was refused as total household income was deemed to be sufficient to meet the accommodation costs of the person concerned. He appealed against this decision to an Appeals Officer of the Executive but that appeal was unsuccessful. The person concerned was notified of the Appeals Officer's decision on 19 February 2009 and advised of a further right of appeal to the Chief Appeals Officer of the Department of Social and Family Affairs. No such appeal has been received to date.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

321 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when rent support will be offered in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18818/09]

Rent supplement is administered on behalf of the department by the community welfare service of the Health Service Executive as part of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. The Executive has advised that a community welfare officer recently made a home visit to the person concerned to assess entitlement to rent supplement. The person concerned has been advised that rent supplement and arrears due from November 2008 will be paid at the end of May.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

322 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a potential entitlement to an inheritance of approximately three acres of unzoned agricultural land that is unlikely to become otherwise is deemed to be fundamental to disallowance for rent allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18821/09]

Rent Supplement is administered on behalf of the Department by the community welfare service of the Health Service Executive as part of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term income support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation, whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source.

Rent supplement is a means tested payment and the capital value of all property owned by an applicant whether or not there is an income derived from it, is assessed for the purposes of establishing entitlement to a payment. Under Section 196(1)(b) of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005, "the weekly means of any person for the purpose of ascertaining his or her entitlement to supplementary welfare allowance shall be calculated in accordance with the Rules contained in Part 4 of Schedule 3" of the Act. Under Part 4 of Schedule 3 the capital value of property, other than a person's own home, "which is invested or otherwise put to profitable use or which, though capable of investment or profitable use, is not invested or put to profitable use" is assessable as means.

The Executive has advised that the person concerned has an interest in property which is jointly owned by him and his siblings. A verbal valuation of the property was recently provided by a sister of the person concerned. Following an assessment of his share of the property in question and additional income which the person concerned has, he has been assessed with means of €372 per week which is sufficient to meet his housing needs and so he is not entitled to rent supplement. However, the Executive has decided to pay rent supplement to the person concerned, as an exceptional measure, for a period of six months to give him an opportunity to realise his share of the property. The person concerned was advised of this decision by letter dated 8 May 2009 and of his right to appeal against the decision to an Appeals Officer of the Executive.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

323 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if mortgage assistance will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Laois; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18822/09]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which includes mortgage interest supplement, is administered on behalf of the department by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive. The Executive has advised that the person concerned appealed against a decision to refuse mortgage interest supplement to an Appeals Officer of the Executive. That Appeals Officer decided that the person concerned is not entitled to a supplement on the basis that the amount of mortgage interest payable by him exceeds such amount as is considered reasonable by the Executive to meet his residential and other needs. The person concerned lodged a further appeal to the Chief Appeals Officer of the Department of Social and Family Affairs on 26 February 2009. An oral hearing of the appeal is being arranged and the person concerned will be advised of the date of the hearing in due course.

Legislative Programme.

John O'Mahony

Question:

324 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the Title of each Bill sponsored by her which was passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas and subsequently signed into law in respect of each of the years 2004 to 2008 and to date in 2009; if, in each case, it was drafted and passed in order to give effect to a directive from the European Union; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18854/09]

Twelve social welfare Acts have been passed by the Oireachtas during the period 2004 to date, as follows:

The Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004 (No. 9 of 2004 enacted 25 March 2004)

Section 23 of the Act provided for a number of amendments to the Pensions Act to allow for the implementation of Council Directives 2000/43/EC (Race Directive) and 2000/78/EC (Employment Directive). These Directives relate to discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, religion, age, race and disability.

The Social Welfare Act 2004 (No. 41 of 2004 enacted 17 December 2004)

The Social Welfare and Pensions Bill, 2005 (No. 4 of 2005 enacted 14 March 2005) Sections 28, 31, 32, 33, 34, 36, 37 & 38 of the Act provided for the implementation of aspects of the EC Council Directive 2003/41/EC on the activities and supervision of Institutions for Occupational Retirement Provision (the IORPS directive). This Directive provided a framework for the operation and supervision of occupational pension schemes and allowed IORPs established in one EU Member State to be sponsored by employers in another Member State and required a number of amendments to the Pensions Act, 1990.

The Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 (No. 26 of 2005 enacted 27 November 2005)

The Social Welfare Act 2005 (No. 30 of 2005 enacted 16 December 2005)

The Social Welfare Law Reform and Pensions Act 2006 (No. 5 of 2006 enacted 24 March 2006)

The Social Welfare Act 2006 (No. 36 of 2006 enacted 19 December 2006)

The Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2007 (No. 8 of 2007 enacted 30 March 2007)

Section 36 of the Act amended the Pensions Act 1990 in relation to Trust Retirement Annuity Contracts to ensure compliance with the IORPS directive (Directive 2003/41/EC).

The Social Welfare Act 2007 (No. 40 of 2007 enacted 20 December 2007)

The Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2008 (No. 2 of 2008 enacted 7 March 2008)

The Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2008 (No. 22 of 2008 enacted 17 December 2008)

The Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2009 (No. 17 of 2009 enacted 29 April 2009)

Question No. 325 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

326 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the way she and her Government colleagues will protect persons in receipt of rent allowance from becoming homeless if their landlord is not willing to reduce their rent in accordance with the proposed reduction in rent subsidies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18925/09]

There are currently over 86,000 people in receipt of rent supplement, an increase of 44% since the end of December 2007. The recent Supplementary Budget provided that payments currently being made to existing rent supplement tenants be reduced by 8%. The weekly minimum contribution payable towards rent is also being increased from €18 to €24 a week, with effect from 1 June 2009. While tenants may be contractually obliged to pay the rent agreed to in their lease, it is expected that landlords will decrease the rent in recognition of the fact that rents have fallen generally and that there are now a large number of vacant rental properties nationally.

Data published by the CSO show that rents fell by almost 7% between November 2008 and February 2009. A leading property website recently reported that rents have fallen by almost 16% in the twelve months to March 2009 with 5% of the fall occurring since the start of 2009. It is essential that state support for tenants who form a substantial section of the rental market, does not give rise to inflated rental prices and overcharging by landlords. Other changes in the Supplementary Budget provide for new maximum rent limits to be prescribed in regulations to take effect from 1 June 2009 to reflect the general reductions in private sector rent levels.

Existing recipients of rent supplement will be advised by letter in advance of the change being made to their rent payment and this communication can be shown to landlords as evidence of the revised rent supplement in payment in individual cases. Landlords will be advised through advertising in the print media of the general reduction in rent supplement payments. In the current climate, where there is a large number of vacant rental properties, it is expected that people will be able to get accommodation at the appropriate rental level.

Community Welfare Officers have discretion to provide assistance where exceptional circumstances exist in any individual case e.g. where homelessness might result due to the inability of a person to meet their rent payment. The Department is also in discussions with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government regarding the role of local authorities who are responsible for providing a wide range of social housing supports for those with a long-term housing need.

Jack Wall

Question:

327 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her views in regard to a submission (details supplied); her plans to address the concerns expressed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18936/09]

The rates of child benefit have increased significantly since 2001 having trebled for the first two children and increased by over 185% for the third and subsequent children. Overall expenditure on child benefit grew from the equivalent of €965 million in 2001 to nearly €2.5 billion in 2008 as a result of these rates increases and the growth in the number of eligible children.

The Government is proud to have been able to direct such substantial increases in financial support to all Irish families in recent years. However, given the scale of the current economic crisis, it is necessary to address all aspects of the public finances so as to avoid excessive borrowing and to ensure that fairness exists in the allocation of resources.

It was in that context that the Minister for Finance announced in the Supplementary Budget the Government's intention to subject child benefit to income tax or means-test it from 2010.

The Department, together with the Department of Finance and the Revenue Commissioners, will be giving the matter careful consideration over the coming months.

Furthermore, the Commission on Taxation is considering the issues underlying the possible taxation of child benefit. The Commission's deliberations will inform the Government's final decision on how to proceed. Officials of this Department, in their submission and their meeting with the Commission, set out their views on the issues involved in means testing or taxing child benefit.

Since 1944, Child Benefit has been a key instrument in child income support policy with the main objectives of supporting families in the costs of rearing children and the alleviation of poverty. I assure the House that a decision on how best to proceed will not be taken lightly by the Government.