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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 30 Jun 2009

Vol. 686 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 and 2 answered orally.
Questions Nos. 3 to 24, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 25 to 32, inclusive, answered orally.

Pigmeat Sector.

Noel Coonan

Question:

33 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will introduce policy measures on foot of the recently published report of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on the contamination of Irish pork products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25982/09]

As I advised the Joint Oireachtas Committee I established a Review Group, chaired by Dr. Patrick Wall, to make recommendations on whatever adjustment of controls or other measures are necessary in the light of the experience gained during the dioxin contamination incident. The work of the Group is ongoing and it will report both the Minister for Health and Children and myself. The Group is considering the report and recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas committee which it received on 26 May 2009 as well as a range of submissions from interested parties. In the meantime my Department, in accordance with risk assessment practice, has amended the 2009 animal feed Inspection Programme to:

(i) afford the drying of feed and grain drying operators a higher risk category

(ii) place greater emphasis on the checking of HACCP plans of the Feed Business Operators

(ii) remind operators involved in the drying of grain and feed that only gas in particular fuels (diesel & kerosene) can be used for such drying.

The Department has also reminded feed business operators of their obligation, under the Hygiene Regulations, to take all steps necessary to ensure the safety of the feed chain.

Afforestation Programme.

Joe Costello

Question:

34 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the efforts that are being made to integrate forestry with other farming activities in view of the contribution and involvement forestry can make to a farmer’s income; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26050/09]

Forestry premiums were introduced with a view to encouraging farmers to plant new forests. Over 90% of all afforestation undertaken in recent years was by farmers with forestry regarded as an important and viable alternative land use option. For these farmers it is an integral part of their farming activity and a very important source of additional income. In 2008, 11,500 farmers received payments totalling almost €70 million from forestry premiums alone.

My Department introduced the Forest Environment Protection Scheme (FEPS) in 2007. It is aimed at further enhancing the integration of forestry with other farming activities, specifically for farmers participating in REPS. The FEPS measure is aimed at encouraging REPS farmers to create new on-farm woodlands. This not alone helps to protect wildlife habitats and contribute to enhancing and protecting the environment, but also makes a valuable contribution to farm incomes. A total of 204 farmers who participated in FEPs in 2008 received payments in excess of €2 million.

The Government remains committed to the maintenance of an active afforestation programme and would encourage farmers to seriously consider the financial and other contributions forestry can make to their farming enterprises.

Aquaculture Development.

Bernard Allen

Question:

35 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the measures he has introduced to facilitate the development of the aquaculture sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25959/09]

Government policy in relation to the development of the aquaculture industry is set out in the Cawley Strategy — Steering A New Course, Strategy for a Restructured, Sustainable and Profitable Irish Seafood Industry 2007 — 2013. The Strategy sees a much bigger role for aquaculture in meeting the increasing demands for seafood and on this basis includes a range of recommendations to promote the development of this sector over the coming period including a significant capital support programme to encourage industry development.

The National Seafood Development Operational Programme 2007-2013, which provides for grant aid support to develop the aquaculture industry, was advertised for public consultation in October 2008. Following this consultation process issues were raised by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources on behalf of CFB (Central Fisheries Board) regarding the grant-aiding of projects where environmental issues arise relating to compliance with the EU Birds and Habitats Directives and sea lice control on salmon farms.

This Department with its agencies working with the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government developed a plan to deliver compliance with the EU Birds and Habitat Directives for wild fisheries and aquaculture over a determined timeframe. This plan was submitted to DG Environment for consideration.

A meeting between this Department, the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Agencies and DG Environment took place in Brussels on 13 May 2009 to discuss the plan with a view to securing DG Environment's support for the approach set down in the plan.

DG Environment advised that it was, in principle, favourably disposed towards Ireland's plan subject to a positive response to the issues raised and further clarifications from the Irish authorities on the details of the plan. Additional material has now been forwarded to DG Environment where it is being examined. When these matters have been satisfactorily addressed, DG Environment expects to be in a position to formally respond on the plan at an early date.

A meeting at Ministerial level was held last week between my Department and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. Minister Killeen advised on the significant progress made in relation to managing sea lice levels on salmon farms and the concerns of the Fishery Boards were also set down. I am hopeful that there is a better understanding of the issues involved from both Department's perspectives and that on this basis we can find a satisfactory resolution to the concerns raised.

It is noteworthy that the delay in the launch of the National Seafood Development OP has not held up grant aiding aquaculture developments in 2009 as the European Commission have agreed to the continuation of grant aid under the 2000-06 OP until 30 June 2009. A provision of €5m has been made for aquaculture development in the Agriculture Vote for 2009 and I have approved the spending of €4.5m of this for aquaculture projects in both the BMW and S&E regions under the 2000-06 OP which will assist the continued operation of aquaculture projects in these areas and the employment that they support.

Installation Aid Scheme.

John O'Mahony

Question:

36 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if, in closing the installation aid scheme, Ireland has forfeited the EU contribution to this scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26031/09]

Against the background of the deterioration in public finances, my approach in preparing the 2009 Estimates for my Department was to focus available resources on the measures that would permit us to maintain and grow the productive capacity of the agri-food sector. Because I had chosen to protect expenditure in certain areas, expenditure in other areas, such as installation aid for young farmers, had to be curtailed and the Young Farmers' Installation Scheme was suspended for new applications on 14 October 2008.

To date there has been sufficient overall eligible expenditure under the Rural Development Programme to allow full draw down of available EU funds. There are ongoing commitments under the Young Farmers Installation Scheme which will continue to draw down these funds. I intend that any balance remaining relating to this Scheme will be drawn down by appropriate eligible expenditure over the lifetime of the Programme.

I have made provision of €9.7m for 2009 to meet current commitments under the Young Farmers' Installation Scheme and the preceding equivalent Schemes.

Food Safety Standards.

Ulick Burke

Question:

37 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has established a review group on traceability systems at all meat processing plants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25972/09]

Regulation (EC) No. 178 of 2002, which sets out the general principles and requirements of EU food law, stipulates among other things that food business operators at all stages of production, processing and distribution within the businesses under their control must ensure that foods satisfy the requirements of food law. Specifically in regard to traceability the regulations require that the operator must have systems in place to be able to identify any person from whom they have been supplied with a food. They must also have a system in place to identify the other businesses to which their product has been supplied. In other words a food business operator at each and every stage in the food chain must be able to identify the source of its inputs as well as having details of the first recipient of its output. This is commonly referred to as the "one step forward one step backward" traceability system.

I am satisfied that the meat sector generally is meeting the traceability standards required under this legislation. Nevertheless following the dioxin contamination incident my Department, in conjunction with industry, is continuing to examine the potential to improve traceability at processing level.

I also established a Review Group (chaired by Dr. Patrick Wall) to carry out a comprehensive review of the dioxin contamination incident. This Group will make recommendations on whatever adjustments of controls are necessary in the light of the experience gained in dealing with this incident. I expect that this group will cover the issue of traceability in its deliberations.

Farm Household Incomes.

John Deasy

Question:

38 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on the fact that farm incomes fell by 11.8% in 2008; his plans to introduce policy measures to sustain employment in the sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25989/09]

The CSO's final estimate for Output, Input and Income in Agriculture for 2008 shows that operating surplus in agriculture declined by 11.8% in 2008. This follows an increase of 12.5% in 2007, which was brought about by higher output prices, particularly on dairy and cereal markets. While these high commodity prices were maintained into the early part of 2008, there was a decline in the latter part of 2008, which was deepened by the fiscal and economic crisis. The livestock sector, notably cattle and pigs, did benefit from higher output prices during 2008 and an overall gain in output value for the year. Most of the reduction in operating surplus in 2008 can be attributed to the sharp rise in input costs. Intermediate consumption increased by €458 million or 11.3% primarily due to higher feedingstuffs, fertiliser and energy costs.

There is no doubt that certain parts of the industry are facing significant challenges again this year, however, some reduction in input prices should help to soften the impact of these difficulties. For the medium term outlook the European Commission forecast a gradual recovery aided by growth in global food demand due to population increase and also a longer-term decline in the growth of food-crop productivity. With this in mind preparatory work has begun on a new development plan for the agri-food sector for the period to 2020. It will focus on the critical issues of competitiveness, the challenges from the global economic downturn, currency fluctuations, climate change and how best to maximise the opportunities arising from a growing international food and energy crop markets.

I must state on a positive note that the agriculture and food sector has the innate capacity to help lead the economic recovery in the years ahead. Regardless of the economic difficulties that Ireland currently faces, there is no doubt that this country is fully capable of producing and exporting high quality food and drink products. Despite the challenging market, currency fluctuations and turbulent export environment, Bord Bia estimate that food and beverage exports have declined only marginally in 2008 and in that year were worth around €8.2 billion. Their short to medium term estimates for the sector remain reasonably positive and I believe that this indigenous industry has the potential to boost export returns and approach €10 billion in annual export revenues by 2011.

Beef exports, which are so important, bucked the overall negative trend in 2008 and performed very strongly last year, rising by more than 7% to €1.7 billion with tighter Irish cattle supplies combining with a significant fall in EU beef imports from South America to provide a more positive market environment for Irish beef in key markets. The medium term view is that Irish beef producers have the opportunity to maintain their competitive advantage and consolidate their position on the high value EU markets. As I stated previously, the EU medium term outlook for agricultural commodities is for a gradual recovery supported by growth in global demand and population. These are factors that can work to the advantage of Ireland and will act to underpin employment and the industry.

Farm Advisory Services.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

39 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is assisting farming groups with regard to the establishment of advice clinics for farming families currently under financial pressure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26051/09]

I fully understand that the current economic climate represents a particularly difficult time for farmers. Farmers are already in a cyclical business and that situation has been compounded by the current international and domestic downturn and low prices for certain commodities. Assistance is provided to farmers in a number of ways and by a number of different agencies and Departments.

Advisory services to farmers are primarily offered through Teagasc. These services help farmers improve efficiency and reduce costs through applying the latest results from the Teagasc research programme. Teagasc has some 500 advisers and specialists, located at over 80 centres throughout Ireland. The advisory service is divided into four particular programme areas, namely: Business and Technology, Good Farm Practice, Rural Development and Adult Training. Teagasc are in contact with some 80,000 farmers and rural dwellers each year, of whom approximately 45,000 avail of an intensive on-farm consultancy service.

With regard to those in the farming sector directly experiencing financial difficulties, there are a number of targeted schemes, which offer assistance. The Farm Assist is a means tested scheme aimed at low-income farm families, which is administered by the Department of Social and Family Affairs. At the end of May 2009, there were approximately 7,831 participants on the scheme, an increase of 6.3% on the previous year. The Rural Social Scheme (RSS) was launched in May 2004 to provide an income supplement to low income farmers and fisher persons while at the same time harnessing their skills for the benefit of rural communities. The scheme requires participants to work 19.5 hours per week and is administered in a farmer/fisher friendly manner allowing participants to work flexible hours.

Despite the downturn in our economy the Irish Government's commitment to the farming sector remains strong. In the Supplementary Estimate for 2009, €1,985 million was provided for my Department. The Government continues to support the farming sector and farming families to the fullest extent possible. In 2009, total public expenditure will amount to over €3.3 billion when the Department's Vote is combined with EU funding of €1.4 billion. The most recent National Farm Survey data from Teagasc indicates that average Family Farm income was just short of €19,700, with 84% of that net total accounted for through various direct payments demonstrating my Department's commitment to providing an income platform for farmers.

Farm Inspections.

Brian Hayes

Question:

40 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if discussions between himself and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government have concluded with regard to inspection arrangements for the Nitrates Directive Regulations recently published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26003/09]

Inspections to meet the requirements of the Nitrates Regulations are undertaken by my Department. The Department's inspectors currently undertake all on-farm cross-compliance inspections, including checks for compliance with the Nitrates Regulations and have considerable expertise in this area.

On-farm inspections are also required under the EU Water Framework Directive which is the responsibility of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

In my statement on 24 April 2009, I indicated my objective to ensure that the duplication of on-farm inspections is avoided for practical reasons, to minimise costs and to simplify the inspection arrangements from the farmer's perspective. Discussions are ongoing between officials of my Department and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government with a view to finalising, as soon as possible, the necessary arrangements in relation to on-farm inspections.

Bovine Disease Controls.

Bobby Aylward

Question:

41 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the benefits of brucellosis free status for farmers here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25952/09]

Bobby Aylward

Question:

65 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he expects that Ireland’s application for brucellosis free status will be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25951/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 41 and 65 together.

My Department applied to the European Commission on 31 March last for formal recognition of Officially Brucellosis Free status (OBF) for Ireland. The EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health is due to meet to-day and tomorrow and a draft Commission decision on this matter is expected to be presented. If adopted it will then be necessary for the Commission services to make the necessary arrangements to give the decision legal effect and for its publication in the Official Journal.

There are considerable benefits to being brucellosis free, not least in relation to public health and the alleviation of distress to farmers whose herds are affected, and the possibility of relaxed controls. I intend to decide on the action to take on this once the status has been achieved.

Aquaculture Development.

Pat Breen

Question:

42 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the progress made in relation to the processing of aquaculture licences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25965/09]

Aquaculture licensing is governed by the terms and conditions of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1997, as amended, and Regulations made thereunder, including, in particular, the Aquaculture (Licence Application) Regulations 1998, S.I. No. 236 of 1998. Other Regulations made under the European Communities Act 1972, as amended, also govern other aspects of aquaculture.

In considering an application for an aquaculture licence the licensing authority must consider:

the potential impacts on safety and navigation,

the ecological impacts on wild fisheries, natural habitats, flora and fauna,

the suitability of the waters,

the other beneficial uses of the place or waters,

the likely effects on the economy of the area, and

the statutory status under European legal frameworks of the area under application.

This process involves consultation with a range of scientific and technical advisers as well as various statutory consultees. Applications are also subject to public consultation whereby any interested person or body may make submissions or observations on any licence application. The process also involves publication of Ministerial decisions on applications and allowing a one month period for appeal of any decision. Any such appeal must then be considered by the independent Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board.

In the course of assessing applications for aquaculture licences a number of complexities have arisen due to the Natura 2000 status of many areas. In this regard my Department, together with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, is currently in the process of finalising, with the EU Commission, a plan to deliver compliance of aquaculture activities in Natura 2000 sites with the EU Birds and Habitat Directives. This plan is designed to provide for the continued operation of existing activities while at the same time undertaking a comprehensive data collection programme that will enable all new and renewal applications to be appropriately assessed for the purpose of ensuring compliance with these Directives.

The timeframe for reaching a determination in respect of applications will vary depending on location, species, scale and intensity of production, culture method, statutory status of sites, potential visual impact, access route and frequency of access to sites, other activities in the area etc. This does not include consideration of any submissions or observations raised during the public consultation period.

Every effort is being made by my Department to expedite the determination of all outstanding cases having regard to the complexities of each case and the need to comply fully with all relevant national and EU legislation.

Meat Processing Sector.

Michael Noonan

Question:

43 Deputy Michael Noonan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his plans to support or grant aid the small primary or secondary meat processing sector in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26024/09]

A grant aid scheme for the small meat sector, which includes small slaughterhouses and low throughput meat establishments, culminated in my Department awarding a total of €7.8m in grant assistance to 31 enterprises in December 2008. This grant aid is expected to contribute to an actual investment on projects in excess of €25 million. Details are set out below.

A substantial number of the investments have commenced and are proceeding satisfactorily. Interim and final grant claims will be processed in 2009 in respect of those projects with at least 50% of the works completed. The awards will assist the meat businesses to improve efficiency, add quality and value to products, produce new and innovative products and develop new markets.

Projects grant-aided

County

Project(s)

Location

Investment

Grant

Carlow

Carlow Foods Ltd

Fenagh

1,022,269

306,681

Cork

Gubbeen Farmhouse

Schull

124,923

49,968

Skeaghanore Fresh Farm Duck

Ballydehob

828,840

248,653

Hodgins Sausage Ltd

Mitchelstown

1,106,450

331,935

Finns Meats

Mitchelstown

596,14

178,844

Jack McCarthy Ltd Craft Butchers

Kanturk

249,732

99,893

Donegal

Swilly Meats Ltd

Ballybofey

1,548,514

464,554

Dublin

M&K Meats

Rathcoole

251,428

100,571

Sandyford Meats

Sandyford

268,868

107,547

Courtney Food Services

Kimmage

91,056

36,422

Hicks Foods Ltd

Ballymount

209,218

83,687

Galway

Heaney Meats Catering Co

Connemara

2,123,699

637,110

Kerry

PLM Foods

Glenfisk, Killarney

558,728

167,619

Kildare

Brady Family Food

Timahoe, Naas

1,892,296

567,689

McConnon’s Meats

Rathangan

1,625,232

487,570

Laois

Festa Fine Foods

Portlaoise

650,384

195,115

Leitrim

Campbell Meats

Drumshanbo

719,324

215,797

Limerick

Ashgrove Meats

Newcastle West

111,900

44,760

Longford

Louis Herterich

Longford

462,329

138,700

Sheelin Meats Ltd

Granard

558,916

167,675

Louth

Ashbrook Foods Ltd

Dundalk

248,984

99,594

Mayo

Imam Casing & Foods

Ballyhaunis

1,359,481

407,846

Meath

Traditional Meat Company

Oldcastle

2,233,641

670,093

Boyne Valley Meats

Garristown

1,199,415

359,825

Monaghan

Farney Foods Ltd

Carrickmacross

329,436

98,831

Connolly Meats

Scotstown

422,322

126,696

Roscommon

O’Brien Butchers

Whitehall

580,890

174,267

Gilligans Farm Fresh Meats

Four Mile House

746,183

223,855

Tipperary

Darcy Meats

Nenagh

732,688

219,806

Wexford

Thomas Kinsella Meats

Enniscorthy

416,965

125,090

Wicklow

Michael Whelan Puddings

Blessington

2,063,077

618,923

Total

25,333,333

7,755,615

Grant Payments.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

44 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when the remaining 25% payment will be awarded under REP scheme four; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26058/09]

I expect that the remaining 25% payment will issue within weeks to those farmers who have already received their first payment of 75% in respect of REPS 4 applications lodged in 2007 and 2008.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

45 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of 2007 and 2008 REP scheme four plans which were rejected before 15 May 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26065/09]

My officials have rejected 237 of the applications for REPS 4 received in the period concerned. The applicants concerned have the right to appeal to the Agriculture Appeals Office and I understand that a number of them have already done so.

Meat Processing Sector.

John Cregan

Question:

46 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the benefit for the beef and sheep meat processing industry here arising from his recent investment announcement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25955/09]

Under the Beef and Sheepmeat Investment Fund, grant assistance of over €69 million was recently announced in respect of 15 investment projects. The awards, which are part of a strategy to position the industry to face the challenges and grasp the opportunities that lie ahead, will contribute to total investment in the region of €168 million.

The objective of the Fund is to support investment to increase scale and efficiency in primary processing, and added value in further processing for retail, food service and manufacturing outlets. No overall increase in processing capacity within the sector is envisaged. The individual investments supported by the Fund will have a range of impacts on sales and employment. The expected overall net impact of this multi-annual programme of investment is to achieve over €400 million in additional sales and exports and a net expansion of 800 in employment following completion of the package of investments in 2012.

Dairy Industry.

Willie Penrose

Question:

47 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his plan to attract new entrants to dairying; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26067/09]

I announced details of the Scheme for the Allocation of Milk Quota to New Entrants on 10 June 2009. Since then in excess of 80 application forms have been issued to individuals who have expressed an interest in the scheme though no completed applications have, as yet, been returned to the Department. As the closing date is 31 July 2009, I expect that the majority of applications will arrive nearer that date.

The eligibility criteria for the scheme require that each applicant must:

satisfy certain education and training qualifications;

have no milk quota, nor have been a producer previously;

have a holding comprised of lands owned and/or leased;

have a separate independent herd number in which the dairy animals will be registered; and

have separate milking and milk storage facilities;

The applicant must also submit a five year business plan.

The closing date for applications is 31 July 2009, and it is expected that the assessment group will meet to consider applications in the week beginning 31 August 2009. The assessment of applications will be carried out by a group chaired by John Tyrrell, ICOS. New Entrants who acquire quota under this scheme will be required to commence milk production by 1 April 2011.

In addition to this new scheme, the Milk Quota Trading Scheme offers new entrants preferential access to milk quota from the priority pool. While at the same time affording them the opportunity to purchase quota from the exchange at the market price. Details of the next Trading Scheme will be published in September.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

48 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he expects to announce changes in the payment level for REP scheme three participants; if on the basis of the work undertaken by his officials to date in processing REP scheme four payments, he envisages there will a change in REP scheme three; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26018/09]

I indicated on 7 April, following the presentation of the 2009 Supplementary Budget, that I would review the payment level for REPS 3 participants once I have determined the ongoing financial obligations arising from the number of REPS 4 applications submitted by the closing date of 15 May. The total number of applications received was in the region of 17,000. The precise number will be available shortly, together with an estimate of their cost, when the applications received in each of the local offices have been entered on my Department's computer system.

I am carrying out the review of the scheme in the context of the overall level of participation, the funding which is likely to be available to me in the future, the flexibility provided by the additional funding which I negotiated in the recent CAP "Health Check" and also the preparation of a revised Rural Development Programme which must be submitted to the European Commission by the 15 July. I will be making a statement on the matter at that stage.

Farm Waste Management.

Shane McEntee

Question:

49 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the progress made with regard to farm waste management inspections and payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26015/09]

Payments are continuing to be made under the Farm Waste Management Scheme on a phased basis with 40 per cent being paid this year as claims are approved. To date in 2009, 13,381 payments totalling almost €185.9 million have been made to farmers under the Scheme, while a further 1,396 claims for grant-aid have been inspected and approved for payment. This compares to 12,847 payments in the whole of the 2008 calendar year.

The process of on-farm inspections and approval of payments is continuing and additional staff have been re-deployed to certain parts of the country to ensure that the remaining payments to be made under the Scheme are effected as soon as possible.

Agri-Food Sector.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

50 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the action being taken to support local growers’ cooperatives to deal with the threat of unfair competition from large international retailers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26040/09]

I am in the process of meeting with large retailers to impress on them the Government's commitment to the agri-food sector. I am taking the opportunity to explain the importance of the sector to the economy as well as the high quality standard of food production in this country. These standards have been achieved as a result of major investment over the years in traceability and food safety infrastructure which has complemented the natural advantages of food production here. More recent investment to support environmentally and animal welfare friendly methods of production have also been brought to the attention of retailers as advantages in meeting emerging consumer concerns. However I acknowledge that consumers are concerned about value for money and have emphasised the necessity for a reasonable balance between granting price reductions to consumers and giving a fair return to suppliers and producers.

As regards local growers cooperatives, the EU Producer Organisation (PO) Scheme provides an important mechanism for fruit and vegetable growers to achieve greater bargaining power in the marketplace by becoming part of a larger supply base. The Scheme has more flexible terms and conditions with effect from 2009 and it is hoped that this will attract more growers to join POs. Since 2000, twenty POs have benefited from EU funding amounting to €29.5m.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Tom Hayes

Question:

51 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position with regard to the processing of REP scheme four payments; the outcome of discussions he had with the European Commission with regard to changes to compliance measures or ineligible applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26006/09]

Under EU rules, payments to REPS 4 participants may be made in two instalments, the first at 75% on completion of all administrative checks and area checks on all files and the remaining 25% once all on-farm inspections have been completed. Some 91% of those who applied for REPS 4 in 2007 and 2008 have received the first instalment and the remaining 25% will be issued as soon as possible. Arrangements are being made to ensure that, where possible, outstanding payments of the first instalment will also issue shortly. Payment of the first REPS 4 instalment for 2009 will be made in the autumn.

My officials have held discussions with the European Commission regarding the treatment of cases where eligibility issues have arisen and are awaiting the Commission's response in the matter. My officials are also in discussion with the farm bodies regarding the possibility of amending a farmer's obligations under the Scheme to reflect the withdrawal of the 17% increase in rates in REPS 4. Any such amendments will also require the approval of the European Commission.

Dairy Industry.

Niall Collins

Question:

52 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the efforts he has made to secure EU supports for Irish milk producers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25947/09]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

53 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he continues to seek dairy price supports at EU level; the position in relation to same; the reason there has been no lift in dairy product prices; the price which is achievable based on the price supports he is seeking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26045/09]

Seymour Crawford

Question:

79 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps he has taken to prevent the collapse of dairy farming and consequently the dairy industry; his views on whether the price being paid for milk cannot and will not cover production costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25845/09]

Jack Wall

Question:

106 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps that he has taken over the past six months to restore the dairy sector to a sound trading position; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26056/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 52, 53, 79 and 106 together.

Over the past year or so we have witnessed extremes of volatility in dairy product prices on an unprecedented scale, a symptom of the changed EU policy framework in which we operate where world market forces have a major influence on the price paid for milk. Last November, when it became apparent that dairy commodity prices internationally were in decline, I contacted the EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, Mariann Fischer Boel, to press for the re-activation of dairy market supports. These had been suspended since 2006 because of the historically high milk prices that had prevailed in the intervening period.

The first step taken by the Commission, following my intervention, was to introduce the aid scheme for private storage of butter a full two months ahead of the normal date, ensuring that market support for butter was available in January instead of March. The scheme remains in place and has already supported the storage of some 96,000 tonnes of butter at EU level.

Public intervention for butter and skimmed milk powder opened in March. When the mandatory limits of butter and SMP to be purchased at the intervention price were reached, 30,000 tonnes and 109,000 tonnes respectively, I arranged a bilateral meeting in Brussels with the Commissioner. At that meeting I secured agreement for the continuation of these schemes under tendering arrangements that are close to intervention prices.

To date some 81,000 tonnes of butter have been bought into intervention, equal to 8 per cent of the butter production in January to June. As regards skimmed milk powder, 203,000 tonnes have been purchased into stock, equal to more than 38 per cent of the SMP production in January to June this year. In all, 20,000 tonnes of butter and 27,000 tonnes of skimmed milk powder from Ireland have been funded under these schemes at an approximate value of €60 million to Irish dairy processors.

Also re-introduced in January were export refunds for butter, cheese, skimmed milk powder and whole milk powder. So far this year, licences to export some 96,000 tonnes of butter and butteroil and 123,000 of SMP have been issued, which will enable these quantities to utilise export refunds for export outside the Community. Similarly, licences were issued in respect of cheese exports for 129,000 tonnes. The support value of this trade amounts to a further €113 million when these products are exported.

Taken together there has been a considerable commitment of EU funds to support the dairy sector. However, with the market continuing to show resistance, price returns to dairy farmers in Ireland are now at levels that threaten the very viability of many farm enterprises. I have explained in detail to the Commission, with regard to cheese exports, that it is difficult for many to understand why, in this current severe market downturn, we have a self-imposed technical impediment preventing the use of export refunds in support of cheese exports outside of the Community in the quantities demanded by the market. I have once again urged the Commissioner to remove the ‘free at frontier price' for cheeses at the earliest opportunity.

I have also stressed the need to examine other steps that may assist in reversing the downturn and stimulating the market further. For example, intervention purchases of butter and skimmed milk powder will close at the end of August and the private storage scheme for butter will close shortly beforehand. The role that private storage and intervention plays is such that their continuation after the normal cessation dates will be crucial in preventing further market turbulence at a time when supplies would otherwise hit commercial markets. My view, which I have articulated at meetings of the Council of Ministers, is that the market situation warrants an exceptional response on this occasion.

Dairy farmers incomes are comprised of the market price paid for milk and direct income support from the EU. Market forces have a major influence on the price paid to farmers for milk. World market prices determine the returns received by dairy processors and these in turn are reflected in the price paid to farmers. In essence, farm gate prices normally reflect the returns from international markets of dairy product sales. As the milk price is greatly influenced by supply and demand market support schemes can only have a limited effect on prices. For a dairy producing country like Ireland, where we export the vast majority of our product, this new framework is particularly relevant. Ultimately the market is the source of income and to maximise income the focus has to be on competitiveness, efficiency and innovation.

It is important to emphasise that medium term prospects for global dairy markets are good. Growth in wealth and population is forecast to stimulate strong levels of demand for dairy products, and returns will improve commensurately. I have every confidence that the sector will recover from this current downturn and achieve its fair share of the annual growth in demand for dairy products predicted by the OECD and others.

Sheep Identification Scheme.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

54 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the estimated cost of the electronic tagging system proposed for Irish ewes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26052/09]

The introduction of electronic identification (EID) for all sheep was agreed at EU level in late 2003. At that time, it was agreed to defer the implementation date until January 2008. The Council revisited this issue in December 2007 when it was agreed that the deadline for the compulsory introduction of EID should be definitively set for 31 December 2009.

I have used every opportunity in EU discussions, both at Council and at bilateral level, to seek the introduction of EID on a voluntary basis. However there is no appetite among the majority of Member States or the Commission for any further deferral of the deadline of 31 December 2009, or for the introduction of EID on a voluntary basis.

There are however a number of implementation issues of concern to Ireland in relation to the introduction of EID and my Department is in ongoing contact with the Commission and other Member States on these issues of concern. These ongoing discussions are without prejudice to the continuing political discussion on the overall policy in relation to EID. I am anxious that all Irish concerns are taken into account in whatever system is finally implemented.

Under the EU legislation, EID will not apply to sheep born before January 2010 nor generally will there be a need to retag existing sheep. Furthermore provision is made whereby lambs intended for slaughter and less than 12 months old can be permanently excluded from the EID requirement. If this provision is applied by Ireland, it will reduce the number of animals affected by EID and costs substantively. Until final decisions are taken in relation to this and other issues, I am not in a position to provide definitive figures for overall costs.

Agri-Food Sector.

Joan Burton

Question:

55 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the meetings he has had with large retailers with regard to the sourcing and provision of quality Irish brands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26048/09]

I am in the process of meeting with large retailers to impress on them the Government's commitment to agri-food sector. I am taking the opportunity to explain the importance of the sector to the economy as well as the high quality standard of food production in this country. These standards have been achieved as a result of major investment over the years in traceability and food safety infrastructure which has complemented the natural advantages of food production here. More recent investment to support environmentally and animal welfare friendly methods of production have also been brought to the attention of retailers as advantages in meeting emerging consumer concerns. However I acknowledge that consumers are concerned about value for money and have emphasised the necessity for a reasonable balance between granting price reductions to consumers and giving a fair return to suppliers and producers.

Grant Payments.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

56 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if all 17,400 farmers will be awarded their first 40% tranche of payment by 30th June, 2009 as promised by him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26060/09]

Payments are continuing to be made under the Farm Waste Management Scheme on a phased basis with 40 per cent being paid this year as claims are approved. To date in 2009, 13,381 payments totalling almost €185.9 million have been made to farmers under the Scheme, while a further 1,396 claims for grant-aid have been inspected and approved for payment. This compares to 12,847 payments in the whole of the 2008 calendar year.

The process of on-farm inspections and approval of payments is continuing and additional staff have been re-deployed to certain parts of the country to ensure that the remaining payments to be made under the Scheme are effected as soon as possible. Payments can only be made to those farmers whose claims for grant-aid under the Scheme have been found to be in compliance with the terms and conditions of the Scheme.

Food Labelling.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

57 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will provide an assurance that food labelling procedures adequately reflect the status, origin and quality of all meat and meat products on sale here; if there is absolute compliance with national and EU law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26084/09]

The Minister for Health & Children has overall responsibility for the general food labelling legislation. Responsibility for the enforcement of this legislation rests with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (F.S.A.I.). This is done through service contracts with other relevant agencies, including the Health Service Executive, the Local Authority Veterinary Service and my Department. Any breaches of national and EU law are dealt with by the F.S.A.I.

Under the general labelling Directive (2000/13/EC), the place of origin of the foodstuff must be given only if its absence might mislead the consumer to a material degree. The European Commission is currently undertaking a major review of all food labelling legislation. In this context the Commission has prepared draft revised labelling regulations and these are being discussed at Council Working Party level in Brussels. These draft regulations will be submitted to the EU Council of Health ministers during 2009.

Notwithstanding the outcome of the current review on origin labelling my Department has taken steps to try to introduce origin labelling for meats other than beef, which is already subject to specific legislation since September 2000.

Regarding the labelling of poultry meat, there are EU Regulations, which provide for the labelling of unprocessed poultry meat at retail level. The Regulations require such poultry meat to be labelled with the information regarding class, price, condition, registered number of slaughterhouse or cutting plant and, where imported from a Third Country, an indication of country of origin.

My Department, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Children, drafted regulations that would require the country of origin to be indicated on pigmeat, poultry and sheepmeat. This was notified to the EU Commission in December 2007 as required by legislation. The Commission was not prepared to adopt the draft regulations in their present format on the grounds that the proposed legislation is not in compliance with EU food labelling regulations. The Commission's main contention is that only harmonised rules with EU-wide applicability may be applied to food labelling other than in exceptional circumstances. In March, the EU Commission delivered a negative opinion on the regulations but afforded Ireland an opportunity to provide further information in support of them. While my Department submitted further material the EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health formally adopted the negative opinion on the draft regulation in December 2008.

We will continue to pursue this issue in conjunction with Department of Health and Children, at EU level in the context of the current review of food labelling legislation. In the meantime products carrying the Bord Bia quality assurance label provide consumers with assurance on product origin.

Forestry Sector.

Simon Coveney

Question:

58 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the role of Coillte in afforestation and the production of bio-mass for energy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24171/09]

Coillte Teoranta was established as a private commercial company under the Forestry Act, 1988. One of the company's principal objects under the Act is to carry on the business of forestry and related activities on a commercial basis and in accordance with efficient silvicultural practices.

When it was first established in 1989 the company actively engaged in land acquisition for afforestation purposes and expansion of its estate. In latter years, it has reduced its land acquisition programme for a number of reasons, including reduced availability of land for sale, rising land prices and the company's ineligibility for forestry premiums. Since 2000, the company has focused on contributing to the afforestation programme through its farm partnership schemes, by providing forestry services to farmers and by promoting forestry investment.

In relation to the production of biomass for energy, while much of Coillte's timber supply is destined for processing, it will still be a significant provider of forest residues. The BioEnergy Action Plan for Ireland, published by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources in 2007 identified the slow pace of progress in developing a reliable supply chain from the private sector forest resource as a key factor inhibiting the development of a wood energy sector in Ireland.

Coillte advise that it has a pivotal role in working with the private sector to establish a robust supply chain. The company is working with the key stakeholders in the market and, in particular, with the bio-energy group under the auspices of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. In order to refine its business model and strategy for approaching the market, the company has established a pilot depot in Co. Mayo. Coillte advise that, given its experience in the forestry sector and knowledge of the supply chain, it is well placed to play a leadership role in developing the sector.

World Trade Negotiations.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

59 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding the World Trade organisation situation; the possibility of an agreement in view of the fact that it would now appear that an agreement has been reached between India and the USA on the matter that stalled the WTO talks in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26077/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

90 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his preferred options in the context of the ongoing WTO discussions; if he will provide an assurance that he and other European Ministers fully appreciate the need to ensure adequacy and security of food supplies for the population of Europe and that sufficient steps are taken to ensure that the Irish and European food producing sectors are capable of meeting the challenge of international competition and consumer needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26083/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 59 and 90 together.

The current position in regard to the WTO negotiations is that talks are stalled following the failure to reach agreement at the Ministerial meeting last July and the decision to defer indefinitely a second Ministerial meeting planned for last December. The G20 meeting in April provided no new momentum for the negotiations and nor did it set a date for a conclusion of the talks this year. Notwithstanding changes in the Indian administration and unconfirmed reports of narrowing of differences between India and the US on issues that precipitated last year's breakdown of talks, the prospects for agreement are uncertain. These negotiations involve a large number of complex issues and 153 countries and it is difficult to see serious negotiations restarting until later this year at the earliest.

In all of this, Ireland's position has not changed. We want to see an agreement but that agreement must be balanced and should not be at the expense of Irish and EU agriculture. In this connection, I have repeatedly made the point to the EU Commission and to my colleagues in other Member States that the emerging challenge of food security must be taken into account together with the many other changes in the world since the current round of negotiations commenced in 2001.

As to the readiness of Irish and European food producing sectors to meet the challenge of international competition, several initiatives are underway to anticipate and prepare for the more competitive environment facing the agri-food sector in expectation of a WTO deal at some point in the future and to address other challenges facing the sector.

Strategies for the development of a consumer focused, competitive and sustainable agri-food sector capable of meeting the challenges of more liberalised markets and broader societal demands both at home and abroad are set out in the Agri-vision 2015 report and the Cawley Report. These strategies identify the delivery of safe, high quality, nutritious food produced in a sustainable manner for high value markets as the optimum road for the future of the Irish food industry in the light of the changes which have already taken place or are anticipated over the next number of years. They span the entire food chain from primary production through processing to market access which is key to developing export potential.

An inter-Departmental Market Access Group chaired by my Department and comprising representatives from the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Enterprise, Trade and Employment, An Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland and Bord Iascaigh Mhara is currently engaged in a co-ordinated effort to identify potential market opportunities for the full range of Irish food and beverages, prioritisation of market initiatives and broader access issues.

Aquaculture Development.

Seán Connick

Question:

60 Deputy Seán Connick asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on the plans of the EU Commission to promote the European aquaculture industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25940/09]

At the June Fisheries Council Meeting I was happy to give my support to the Commission's plan to promote the European aquaculture industry through the targeted sustainable strategy, along with all EU Fisheries Ministers.

The Commission's plan endeavours to bolster the aquaculture industry through a targeted strategy that promotes competitiveness, guarantees product quality and respect for the environment while enhancing the sector's image and governance.

On foot of this decision the Commission has been requested to prepare a programme of action to include supports for innovation and young entrepreneurs in the aquaculture industry, the promotion of exports and a consumer communications campaign.

Dairy Industry.

Seamus Kirk

Question:

61 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on whether there is further scope for the use of market management mechanisms to support the dairy sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25945/09]

Johnny Brady

Question:

94 Deputy Johnny Brady asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if the closing dates for private storage aid and intervention purchases of butter and skimmed powder will be extended beyond the end of August 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25936/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 61 and 94 together.

A range of market management mechanisms at EU level have now been activated to assist in stabilising the dairy sector. These include private storage aid for butter, public intervention for butter and skimmed milk powder, as well as export refunds for butter, skimmed milk powder, whole milk powder and cheese. These measures have now put a floor under the milk price but I believe that more can be done to stimulate demand.

I have continuously pressed the EU Commission to increase export refunds further for butter and SMP in particular, and to remove the 'free at frontier' price for cheeses, which limits the use of refunds for the export of cheese to international markets. I have also pressed very strongly for the continuation of private storage aid for butter beyond its scheduled closing date of mid August and similarly in relation to public intervention for butter and SMP beyond their closing dates of end August. The role that these schemes play in evening out the supply/demand balance is crucial to the dairy sector in this critical period. I am confident that the Commission will accede to my requests on these issues.

Fishing Industry Development.

Seán Connick

Question:

62 Deputy Seán Connick asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the outcome of his June 2009 meeting with the EU Fisheries Commissioner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25939/09]

At this month's Fisheries Council in Luxembourg, Minister Killeen took the opportunity to meet with Commissioner Borg to outline some of the key issues facing the Irish fishing industry currently.

The discussion dealt with the impact of the increasing cost of fuel and deteriorating prices being achieved for fish. Minister Killeen put Ireland's submission for additional EU funded restructuring measures back on the table.

In addition, the difficulties the Irish fishermen are experiencing in relation to the new effort regimes in the Irish Sea and North West were brought home to the Commissioner. Minister Killeen pressed strongly for changes that would maximize the available fishing effort for the Irish fleet by allowing Ireland to choose the reference years used to establish the effort for each individual fishery. Minister Killeen also asked for a number of practical changes to the rules that would help alleviate the impacts on the fleet particularly in the North West and in the Irish Sea. The changes sought were on the basis of discussions held with fishing industry representatives.

Minister Killeen also highlighted all our concerns regarding the impact of the additional unilateral mackerel quotas established by Norway and Iceland and the impacts of these actions on the EU mackerel fishery. He called on the Commissioner to ensure that all parties act in a responsible way and respect the agreed Total Allowable Catch which was established to take account of scientific advice. Minister Killeen made clear that the establishment of additional mackerel quotas by Norway and Iceland this year is not acceptable to Ireland.

Finally, the Minister outlined to the Commissioner the difficulties, from an Irish fisherman's perspective, with the proposed Recovery Plan for Celtic Sea Cod where a restriction on fishing effort is being proposed. He pointed out that the effort restrictions introduced in Area VI and the Irish Sea have substantially reduced fishing opportunities and fishing grounds for the Irish fleet. He proposed that other means such as more environmentally friendly fishing gear & closed areas to protect spawning grounds be put in place as the most appropriate tools to rebuild the cod stock in the Celtic Sea .

The meeting was very useful and gave Minister Killeen a good opportunity to address some of the most pressing issues facing the Irish fishing industry at present and to ensure that these are fully understood and appreciated by Commissioner Borg.

Dairy Industry.

Niall Collins

Question:

63 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the outcome of the June 2009 Council of Agriculture Ministers in relation to low dairy prices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25948/09]

David Stanton

Question:

72 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the supports available to dairy farmers who have been affected by the reduction in milk prices; the developments at EU level in relation to same, in particular the decisions taken at the recent Council of Agriculture Ministers meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26042/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 63 and 72 together.

The situation of the dairy market was discussed at the Council of Agriculture Ministers meeting on Monday the 22 June last. This was the fourth consecutive Council meeting that debated the very severe difficulties facing the dairy industry. The Commission outlined the measures it has taken to date to deal with the situation. All the main market supports of public and private storage and export refunds are being used at present and they have helped to stabilise the market.

I called on the Commissioner again to use in the most effective way possible the market management measures that are available. In particular I called for the extension of intervention and private storage aid beyond their August closing dates. The Commissioner said they are examining ways of overcoming the legal obstacles involved and that a proposal would need to be agreed at the next Council meeting in July.

I also stressed the need to progress the proposal to remove the "free at frontier" price for cheese that is blocking the use of export refunds. Progress in this area would yield substantial benefits.

Sheep Sector.

Denis Naughten

Question:

64 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps he is taking to support the sheep industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26043/09]

The sheep sector benefits significantly from the main schemes operated by my Department — the Single Farm Payment, the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme and REPS. I also took account of the needs of this sector in deciding that the €7 million available from the National Reserve in 2009, should be used on a new Uplands Sheep Payment, which is expected to benefit approximately 14,000 hill sheep farmers. In addition, Bord Bia will spend up to €1 million on the promotion of sheep and lamb at home and abroad in 2009, and Teagasc has allocated almost €1.5 million for sheep research.

I have frequently expressed the view that the report of the Sheep Industry Development Strategy Group provides a proper framework for the future development of the sheep sector. While most of the group's recommendations are the responsibility of the industry itself, a number are within the remit of my Department and the State agencies under my aegis, who have made very good progress in bringing them to fruition:

‘Sheep Ireland' has been established to take over the Department's current breed improvement programme and develop a new one. An interim Sheep Board, comprising representatives of farming organisations and breeders will oversee this process, with the Irish Cattle Breeders Federation (ICBF) providing the technical and professional service required.

My Department secured European Commission approval for a new supplementary measure in REPS 4 promoting mixed grazing of cattle and sheep. Under this supplementary measure a farmer can qualify for a top up on his or her basic REPS payment.

The results of a trial to examine the feasibility of mechanical carcase classification for lamb, which was conducted last year, are being examined. It is hoped that the system will allow for the accurate and objective mechanical classification of lamb carcases and will gain universal industry support. This would aid greatly in price transparency, which is a pre-requisite for efforts to improve quality and respond to the needs of the market.

The Lamb Quality Assurance Scheme was established in 2007. This Scheme is operated by Bord Bia and now has over 7000 participants.

Teagasc has developed a comprehensive plan to restructure its sheep support services, including a programme for Technology Evaluation and Transfer farms, which include hill and lowland areas. This approach will provide an opportunity to engage with sheep farmers on the use of the latest management practices and to identify research and development needs.

The actions being taken by my Department and the State agencies complement those being taken by the Industry. I am confident that taken together, all of these actions will be of significant benefit to the sector.

Under the final agreement on the CAP Health Check, Ireland will have access to additional funds of the order of €25 million annually from unspent CAP funds from 2010. As I have already indicated, the sheep sector will be a substantial beneficiary. I hope to announce details in the coming weeks.

Question No. 65 answered with Question No. 41.

Food Industry.

Joan Burton

Question:

66 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the proposals he has put forward with regard to improving transparency and costs in the food chain to ensure a fair return to suppliers and producers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26047/09]

The issue of retail margins on food products and prices paid to producers have become a focal point of public debate in recent times, and this has been reflected in numerous fora both at home and abroad. I had an opportunity to discuss this recently with my EU counterparts at the EU Council of Ministers meeting at the end of May and it is obvious that this is not just an Irish issue but an EU and indeed international issue. Underlying the debate is the increasing concentration of retail power in the hands of large supermarket chains. This international phenomenon has fundamentally changed the balance of market negotiating power within the food chain. It is recognised by all that retailers must strike a reasonable balance between giving competitive prices to consumers and providing a fair return to suppliers and producers, this should not be done at the expense of either of the parties.

Arising out of the aforementioned recent discussions at EU level, Commissioner Fischer Boel had indicated that the Commission will undertake a review of competitive practices in the food supply chain, with a particular focus on the dairy and pigmeat sectors. They are also undertaking a wider review of the retail sector, and both reports will be completed by the end of the year.

Live Exports.

Denis Naughten

Question:

67 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food further to Parliamentary Question No. 95 of 20 May 2009, the steps he is taking to support a live cattle trade to Britain; the number of live cattle exported to Britain rather than Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26044/09]

The live export trade is an important element of Ireland's meat and livestock industry providing a complement to the beef trade.

Up to 20 June, some 2,500 head were exported to Great Britain this year — a 290% increase on the same period last year. Shipments of cattle to Northern Ireland are close to 31,600 head, an increase of some 230%. Total live cattle exports to the UK, at almost 34,100 head, are 233% up on the same period in 2008. The main reasons for this increase are reduced cattle availability in the UK and higher returns on the market there.

Bord Bia continues to work closely with the industry in monitoring and developing emerging opportunities for Irish livestock in the United Kingdom, the Continent and international markets. This includes contact with leading retailers in Britain to establish their interest in cattle born in Ireland and finished in Britain.

Grant Payments.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

68 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of farmers entitled to grant aid under the farm improvement scheme; the number of farmers waiting to be sanctioned; if there are sufficient funds to pay the grant committed within the next few weeks in view of the fact that the farm waste management should now be finalised; if he will verify if all farm waste management schemes are cleared; and if he will make a statement on the overall grant situation. [25844/09]

6,857 approvals have issued to farmers to commence work under the Farm Improvement Scheme and entitlement to grant-aid under the Scheme is established when it has been determined that the completed investment works are in compliance with the terms and conditions of the Scheme. To date in 2009, 985 payments totalling €12.3 million have been made to farmers who have completed work under the Scheme and payments will continue to farmers who have satisfactorily completed work under the Scheme until the 2009 allocation for the Scheme has been exhausted.

In the case of the Farm Waste Management Scheme, payments are continuing to be made on a phased basis with 40 per cent being paid this year as claims are approved. To date in 2009, 13,381 payments totalling almost €185.9 million have been made to farmers under the Scheme while a further 1,396 claims for grant-aid have been inspected and approved for payment. This compares to 12,847 payments in the whole of the 2008 calendar year.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

69 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when the remaining 2008 REP scheme four payments will be awarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26057/09]

Some 91% of farmers who applied for REPS 4 in 2007 and 2008 have received the first stage payment of 75% payment. I expect the remaining 25% payment to issue to these farmers within weeks. Arrangements are being made to ensure that the remaining applicants are paid as soon as possible.

Disadvantaged Areas.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

70 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his plans to have a debate in Dáil Éireann on the current EU review of disadvantaged areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26066/09]

There are currently three categories of Less Favoured Areas (LFAs) or Disadvantaged Areas in the EU, viz:

Mountain Areas — there are none in Ireland but the category covers 16% of land area across the EU;

Intermediate Less Favoured Areas — which covers over 99% of Ireland's LFAs; and

Areas of Specific Handicap — which covers 0.4% of Ireland's LFAs (Coastal Regions).

Prompted criticism by the European Court of Auditors on the number and variety of criteria used by Member States to designate intermediate LFAs (over 100 criteria) and the lack of transparency, the Commission is currently conducting a Community-wide review of the Scheme. These criticisms were based on the number and variety of criteria used by Member States to designate intermediate LFAs (over 100 criteria) and the lack of transparency.

The Commission have previously made a number of unsuccessful attempts to deal with the criticisms made by the Court of Auditors. During 2004/2005, the Commission proposed that intermediate LFAs be designated using criteria based on area classification reflecting poor soil qualities and climate conditions but this approach was rejected by the Council of Ministers. In 2007, the Commission commenced working with its Joint Research Centre (JRC) to establish a common soil and climate criteria that would support the delineation of LFAs. Their intention was that a Commission proposal would be submitted to the Council in early 2009 for adoption by the Council of Ministers by the end of 2009. However, this approach was also abandoned by the Commission in favour of the current approach.

The Commission's current proposal is that LFAs (to be known as Areas of Natural Handicap) will be delineated by Member States using eight soil and climatic criteria as follows:

Climate, including Low Temperature and Heat Stress;

Soil, including Drainage, Texture & Stoniness, Rooting Depth and Chemical Properties;

Soil & Climate, including Soil Moisture Balance;

Terrain, including Slope.

An area (administrative unit) would be delineated as an area of Natural Handicap, when it meets the proposed threshold set for one of the above criteria only.

The Council of Ministers recently considered the matter and agreed Council Conclusions, calling for Member State support in the simulation process. While I can support the approach as outlined, my primary concern is that the proposed eight biophysical criteria do not take into account, in my view, the impact of the prevailing climatic conditions in North Western Europe. However, the Council Conclusions do provide for the use by Member States of additional criteria, in addition to the proposed eight biophysical criteria, and I am pleased to say that good progress is being made by my officials, supported by Teagasc soil scientists, in discussions with the Commission and the JRC.

Areas identified as meeting the criteria for the proposed designation as areas of Natural Handicap may then be subject to a fine-tuning process. These so called Second Stage Criteria are designed to remove areas which, although they meet the biophysical criteria, are deemed to have overcome the natural disadvantage and, therefore, should not benefit under the Scheme.

It is accepted that if the Council of Ministers adopt a proposal from the Commission on the designation of Areas of Natural Handicap, the new regime can only be implemented from 2014 onwards.

This is a very important issue for Ireland as the total area currently designated as disadvantaged is almost 75% of Ireland's total land area. From an economic perspective, the Less Favoured Areas Scheme is particularly significant, as it contributes to the support of in excess of 100,000 Irish farm families, whose ability to farm is restricted by the physical environment, in particular, the impact of the prevailing wet cold climatic conditions in Ireland. I remain fully committed to ensuring that every effort is made to achieve the best possible outcome for Ireland from this review.

Common Agricultural Policy.

Margaret Conlon

Question:

71 Deputy Margaret Conlon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the consideration which has been given to the CAP post 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25950/09]

Margaret Conlon

Question:

83 Deputy Margaret Conlon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views in relation to the need for a strong well funded CAP post 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25949/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 71 and 83 together.

A first policy debate on CAP post 2013 took place at the Informal Agriculture Council in September last year under the French Presidency and the Czech Presidency has continued the debate in the first months of 2009.

Notwithstanding discussions to date, concrete proposals have yet to emerge on the shape of EU agriculture policy beyond 2013. Among the ideas emerging are:

Demands from some Member States for a lower budget share for agriculture and for eventual dismantling of CAP.

Demands from new Member States for "re-balancing" of Member States' shares of agricultural funding.

Increased calls for changes to the Single Payment system to move from the historic model and to apply a "flatter" model of direct payments.

Calls for a greater focus on pillar 2 and introduction of more specific selection criteria and indicators to measure the effectiveness, outputs and impacts of rural development programmes.

Continuing pressures to reduce supply and market management mechanisms with a greater reliance on crisis management.

My own view, which I have expressed at meetings of the Council and bilaterally to my Ministerial colleagues, is that we must maintain a strong agricultural production base in the European Union in the future to take account of the challenges ahead in meeting increased demands for food. Any reduction in food production in the EU would be taken up elsewhere, where less efficient production systems exist, and would result in a heavier carbon footprint. We must also undertake food production and distribution in a manner that is sustainable in all its dimensions — economically, socially and environmentally.

There will be major challenges ahead from climate change, increased competition on world and EU markets, the financial crunch and other factors. We must ensure that we have the capacity to cope with the challenges and fully exploit the opportunities as they emerge. To do so, our whole sector, from farm to fork, must be highly efficient and competitive. It must also be innovative, producing the products that changing consumer tastes demand, and it must be relentlessly focused on quality and safety.

To achieve these objectives, there is a continuing need for an active and appropriately resourced European agricultural policy. That policy needs to recognise the role that a cohesive agriculture & rural development policy can play in addressing future energy needs, addressing environmental concerns and providing a secure and sustainable food supply in Europe.

Question No. 72 answered with Question No. 63.

Statutory Levies.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

73 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will provide a list of the statutory levies collected from farmers and the agri-food sector; the amount collected; the basis for the continued collection of these levies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26079/09]

The following table lists the statutory levies collected by my Department, together with information on the legislative basis for the levy, its use and the amount collected in 2008.

Name of Levy

Basis for collection (purpose/use)

Amount collected in 2008

€m

Bord Bia statutory levy

The An Bord Bia Act, 1994, provides for payment to the Board of a levy per head on cattle, sheep and pigs slaughtered or exported live.

4.900

The levy is required to co-fund the food promotion activities of Bord Bia. This co-funding is required under EU State Aid rules. The rates are set at €1.90 per head for cattle, 25c per head for sheep and 25c per head for pigs.

Dairy Inspection Fee

Milk (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1979 (as amended) Under the Milk (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1979 a fee of €0.001 per litre is imposed on all milk going for manufacturing or for the preparation of drinking milk. The fee contributes to the cost of providing the food safety inspection service and other work involved in the administration of EU market management schemes.

4.867

Bovine Disease Levy

Bovine Disease (Levies) Act 1979-1996 Under the Bovine Diseases Levies Act 1979 as amended, all milk received for processing from a herd and all bovines slaughtered and exported live are subject to a levy. The current rates of levy are for Milk: €0.0006 per litre and Beef: €1.27 per animal.

5.230

This levy is the farmers contribution towards the cost of the compensation element of the TB and Brucellosis Eradication Schemes.

Meat Inspection and Related Fees

Under Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council, 29 April 2004 — all Member States are required to put fees in place to cover the costs of inspections at meat slaughtering premises. This regulation was transposed in to Irish law by SI No 74 of 2004 — European Communities (Fees for Health Inspections and Controls of Fresh Meat) Regulations, 2004

14.731

The current rates are: Cattle slaughter fees: €5 per animal

Sheep slaughter fees: €0.50 per animal

Pig slaughter fees: €1.30 per animal

Poultry slaughter fees: €0.01 per bird <2kg; €0.02 per bird between 2-5kg; €0.04 per bird >5kg

Cutting fees: €3 per tonne

Distribution centre charges: €1.90 per tonne

Meat Product fees: €9.52 per person per hour

Overtime fees (slaughter): Between €12.70 per hour and €19.05 per hour

Overtime for sheep loading: Between €6.35 per hour and €9.52 per hour

Common Fisheries Policy.

Timmy Dooley

Question:

74 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the consideration given to the recently published EU Commission Green Paper on the Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25944/09]

Christy O'Sullivan

Question:

102 Deputy Christy O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has given an initial response to the recently published EU Commission Green Paper on the Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25954/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 74 and 102 together.

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is the fisheries policy of the European Union which was first put in place in 1983 and has been subject to reviews every 10 years, the most recent was in 2002 and the next is formally scheduled for 2012.

On 21 April 2009 the European Commission published a Green Paper on the latest reform of the CFP in order to launch a consultation with Member States and stakeholders and to initiate a broad public debate on the future CFP reform. Member States proposals are requested by the end of this year. A summary of this consultation process will be published in 2010. It will be followed by a legislative proposal to the Council and the European Parliament to be adopted in 2011, with a view to its entering into force in 2012. It is clear that every aspect of the CFP is up for review and will require detailed attention.

An exchange of views on the Green Paper took place at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on the 25 May 2009. It is my clear intention that the review process in Ireland is an all inclusive one, facilitating the exchange of views from all interested stakeholders. I intend to engage in a process of consultations with all stakeholders to inform Ireland's position. In that regard, Minister Killeen appointed Dr Noel Cawley to oversee a consultative process which will form a vital input to Ireland's negotiating framework for the CFP Review. Minister Killeen is in consultation with Dr Cawley in relation to the arrangements for this review. The first step will involve an open call for submissions.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Mary Upton

Question:

75 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if, in view of the 17% cut in REP scheme payments, he plans to reduce or change the terms and conditions of the scheme to compensate farmers for the reduction in payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26081/09]

The withdrawal of the planned 17% increase in REPS 4 payments was necessitated by the overall difficult economic and financial situation and the funding available to me in the 2009 Vote for my Department. My officials are in discussion with the farm bodies regarding the possibility of a commensurate reduction in a farmer's obligations under the Scheme. As this is an EU-approved Scheme, any such change would require the approval of discussions with the European Commission.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Mary Upton

Question:

76 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his plans to address the position of farmers who were ready to apply for the early retirement scheme in October 2008 but had not submitted their application before the scheme was suspended; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26082/09]

The Early Retirement Scheme was suspended for new applications on 14 October 2008. I am, however, conscious that some potential applicants were at an advanced stage of preparing an application when entry to the scheme was suspended and had made, or were making, arrangements to meet the requirements of the Scheme. I am aware of the difficulties which a number of such intending applicants had encountered.

I am currently examining options for resolving these cases against the background of the competing demands for the limited resources which are at my disposal.

Farm Safety.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

77 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the public awareness initiatives that are being undertaken by his Department to promote on farm safety and prevent farm accidents or fatalities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26069/09]

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) is the national body in Ireland with the responsibility for the promotion and enforcement of workplace safety and health. I fully support the efforts made by the HSA to promote farm safety and health and to prevent farm accidents and fatalities.

My Department is represented on the Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee and in December 2008 the HSA, in conjunction with this Committee, launched the Farm Safety Action Plan 2009 to 2012. This Plan sets out specific Goals and Actions to promote safety and health in agriculture.

Since the launch of the Farm Safety Action Plan my Department has:

Included a link on the homepage of our website to the 'Farm Safety Section' of the Health and Safety Authorities website.

Ensured that the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) training courses will continue to address farm safety and health issues as they arise under particular REPS measures.

I also promote, where appropriate, safety and health in my speeches, for example, in the address given on my behalf at the opening of the 2009 Farm Machinery Show I included a message on the dangers of working with machinery and appealed to farmers to complete their farm Safety Statements or Risk Assessment.

Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority, and the HSA in association with the Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee held four 'Farm Fatality Prevention Seminars' in the Spring of 2009. These Seminars were held in Counties with a high on-farm fatality rate, i.e. Cork, Tipperary, Westmeath and Cavan, to highlight and to seek solutions to the farm safety problem with the farming community in these areas.

Common Agricultural Policy.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

78 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his proposals to the EU Commission with regard to the spend of unused Common Agricultural Policy funds estimated to be around €17 million; the persons who will be the main benefactors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26074/09]

By way of background, in the negotiations last year on the CAP Health Check, I managed to secure access to additional EU funding to fund a suite of measures under the Single Payments Regulation, targeted at vulnerable areas, particular sectors under pressure, improvement of animal welfare and/or agri-environment measures.

The use of unspent Single Payment funds is a new concept. In fact I was the first Minister to raise this possibility in the context of the Health Check negotiations and I was delighted to get the support of most of my counterparts from other member states and the agreement of the Commission for this idea. Basically the funds arise because the rules surrounding the single payment system mean that not all entitlements to payment can be drawn down.

The amount of unspent funds available each year is based on the difference between the fixed annual ceiling for 2007 for these payments and the actual draw down for each year, less a safety margin. The actual draw down will vary from year to year, depending on the number of entitlements claimed. However, broadly speaking the outcome means that Ireland will have access to approximately €25 million in additional funding in each of the next three years from 2010 to 2012 to spend on these targeted measures.

I should mention that I have already secured an amount of €7 million in respect of 2009. I decided some months ago that these funds should be directed at the sheep sector in the form of an uplands sheep payment. Under the scheme, approximately 14,000 hill sheep farmers will benefit from the new payment this year. On the basis of data available for 2008, the level of aid will be of the order of €35 per hectare with a maximum payment of €525 per farmer. Payments will commence on 1 December 2009. This payment, for which I sought and secured the agreement of the Commission, is for 2009 alone.

In respect of 2010 and beyond, I have consulted widely with stakeholders on this matter and I am well aware of their wishes. I will be making decisions on the matter in the coming weeks and I will then submit Ireland's plans for use of these funds to the EU Commission for approval.

Question No. 79 answered with Question No. 52.

Grant Payments.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

80 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if, in view of the cashflow crisis on farms, he is prepared to seek a 100% advance payment of the single farm payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26078/09]

The Deputy will be aware of the recent decision by the EU Commissioner, following representations from a number of member states including Ireland, to allow for an advance payment of 70% of the Single Payment Scheme with effect from 16 October. This will be of particular assistance to farmers experiencing difficulties in the dairy market and other sectors and will mean that almost €900 million will be paid in mid October to Irish farmers, rather than early December. The Commission's decision came in response to pressure which I and other E.U. ministerial colleagues have brought to bear for additional action to support dairy, and other, farmers. I have naturally been particularly conscious of farmers cashflow difficulties and am particularly pleased with the Commissioners decision, which is clear recognition of these problems. The balancing payments of 30% will immediately begin issuing with effect from 1 December.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

81 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when the 2009 REP scheme four payments will be awarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26063/09]

Under EU Regulations, payment on individual REPS 4 applications for 2009 cannot be made until completion of administrative and area checks on all applications received up to the closing date of 15 May 2009. At that stage 75% of the payment to each individual participant can be released, with the balance being payable when the last of the on-farm inspections for the year has taken place. I expect that the payments will commence in the autumn.

Fisheries Protection.

Christy O'Sullivan

Question:

82 Deputy Christy O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has raised, with the EU Commission, concerns regarding the cod recovery plan in the Irish Sea and the north west; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25953/09]

On 12 June, Minister of State, Deputy Tony Killeen, who has responsibility for Fisheries, wrote to the Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg setting out changes he is seeking to the provisions of the Council Regulation for Total Allowable Catches and quotas for 2009 (Council Regulation 43/2009) in respect of the Cod Recovery Plan in the Irish Sea and in the North West and the new requirements for restrictions on cod, haddock and whiting catches in the north west. The changes sought were on the basis of discussions held with fishing industry representatives. In particular, Minister of State, Deputy Killeen asked for changes that would maximize the available fishing effort for the Irish fleet by allowing Ireland to choose the reference years used to establish the effort for each individual fishery. Minister of State, Deputy Killeen also asked for a number of practical changes to the rules that would help alleviate the impacts on the fleet particularly in the North West and in the Irish Sea.

On the 23 June 2009, Minister of State, Deputy Killeen held a bilateral meeting with Fisheries Commissioner Borg to press for the changes set out in his letter of 12 June. Commissioner Borg advised that he understood the challenges faced by the Irish fishing industry and that they would carefully examine the case both from a legal and conservation perspective.

Minister of State, Deputy Killeen regularly meets fishing industry representatives and fishermen and every effort is made to alleviate the impact of the Cod Recovery Plan in as far as it is practicable and within the legal framework.

Question No. 83 answered with Question No. 71.

Fishing Industry Development.

Niall Blaney

Question:

84 Deputy Niall Blaney asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on the case for an emergency aid package to assist the fishing industry here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25942/09]

Oil prices have, in recent months, started to rise again and though they remain far below last year's all time high levels, they are a cause of concern for the Irish fishing fleet particularly in the current situation where fish prices are also depressed.

Minister of State, Deputy Tony Killeen, at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food had a meeting with European Commissioner Joe Borg on 23 June. He took the opportunity to highlight the current economic problems facing Irish fishermen. He put Ireland's submission 12 September 2008 for an emergency aid package back on the table. We firmly believe that these proposals are the needed and are the most appropriate to assist the Irish fishing industry in the current situation.

We will continue to push Ireland's case at every available forum with a view to the EU Commission bringing forward firm proposals to provide additional EU funds that will enable the full implementation of the plan.

Grant Payments.

Liz McManus

Question:

85 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of farmers who will receive a REP scheme payment in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26062/09]

About 17,000 applications were received under the 2009 REPS 4 Scheme. The precise number will be available shortly when the applications received in each of the local offices have been entered on my Department's computer system. This, coupled with the 12,145 REPS 4 applications lodged in 2007 and 2008, gives a total of about 29,000 applicants who are due a REPS 4 payment in 2009. In addition, payments will issue to some 34,620 participants in REPS 3.

Dairy Industry.

Johnny Brady

Question:

86 Deputy Johnny Brady asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on the conclusions of the June 2009 European Council in relation to the invitation to the Commission to present an in-depth analysis of the situation in the dairy market within the next two months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25937/09]

I welcome the discussion on the dairy market situation that took place at the recent European Council. This issue is of concern across the EU and it was encouraging that so many government leaders engaged with it. Following the discussion the Commission was invited to present an in-depth market analysis within the next two months. This report should include possible options for stabilising the dairy market, while respecting the outcome of the Health Check.

It is important that the outcome of the Health Check agreement of last November is to be respected. From a dairy sector perspective the Health Check had two key elements, supply control and market support. The agreement essentially provided the framework for the EU milk quota regime leading up to its abolition in 2015. There was a wide divergence of views among Member States in the months leading up the final negotiations as to the best course of action in relation to milk quotas. Commissioner Fischer Boel had made it clear that she would not be proposing the continuation of the quota regime beyond 2015. The question was whether, and to what extent, milk quotas should be increased in order to prepare for their abolition.

Many of our colleagues argued in favour of annual quota increases of up to five per cent, while others were opposed to any increase. I adopted an ambitious approach that would facilitate the maximum possible fulfilment of the production potential in the Irish dairy herd. In that context I believe the decision to increase quotas by 1% each year from 2009 to 2014 was a good outcome. So also was the downward adjustment in the butterfat co-efficient that equates to a further potential 2% rise in quotas in 2009.

The other key dairy element in the Health Check was market support. In the negotiations I strongly defended the view that quota increases must be matched with effective dairy market management measures. The transition to a post-quota EU dairy market, along with current market fluctuations, makes this particularly important. I therefore called for the continuation of such measures and above all those schemes which are especially important for Ireland.

My position on these points has been fully vindicated and I will continue to press the Commission in order to ensure that the whole range of market management measures is implemented to full effect.

Grant Payments.

Liz McManus

Question:

87 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of farmers who applied for REP scheme four by the 15 May 2009 single farm payment deadline; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26061/09]

The total number of applications received for 2009 was in the region of 17,000. The precise number will be available shortly when the applications received in each of the local offices have been entered on my Department's computer system.

Dairy Industry.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

88 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Germany, France and Belgium, to mention three EU member states have put in place financial support packages to support their dairy farmers during this difficult period; his plans to introduce a similar package; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26076/09]

Significant measures have already been taken at EU level to support the dairy sector. These included the activation of a range of dairy market management measures including private storage aid for butter and intervention for butter and skimmed milk powder. In addition, export refunds are available to support the export outside the EU of butter, skimmed milk powder, whole milk powder and cheese. Irish processors are availing of all these schemes.

The current difficulties in the dairy sector are primarily due to a lack of demand. By removing product from the marketplace through the permanent export of products and through the temporary storage schemes, a floor has been put on the downward price spiral. Stimulating demand globally is the greatest challenge and one that is inextricably linked to problems in international financial markets where the availability of credit to business is challenging.

With the activation of these measures there has been a considerable commitment of EU funds to support the dairy sector. In addition further more direct funding will be available to dairy farmers as a result of the decision to make advance payments under the Single Payment Scheme. The advance payment will amount to 70% and will come into effect from 16 October. This will be of particular assistance to farmers experiencing difficulties in the dairy market and other sectors and will mean that almost €900 million will be paid in mid October to Irish farmers, rather than in December.

Agrifood Sector.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

89 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the initiatives that have been taken by his Department to encourage consumers to buy produce in season; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26054/09]

There are a number of initiatives underway to promote seasonal produce. Bord Bia's ‘Best in Season' promotional campaign for locally grown produce in season which was launched at the Bloom Garden Festival in the Phoenix Park over the June bank holiday weekend is one such example. This campaign will run to the end of the year. Each month the campaign will focus on the crops in season at that time. Currently the focus is on strawberries and summer salads. Promotional activities around ‘Best in Season' will include press and radio promotion as well as the provision of information on the health benefits, versatility and use of fresh produce on Bord Bia's website. The Good Practice Standard and Flag for Farmers' Markets also launched at the Bloom Festival encourages farmers markets to provide market access to locally produced in-season produce.

My Department has also been instrumental in bringing together the Irish fruit and vegetable industry to facilitate and fund the recent Incredible Edibles Growing Challenge in primary schools. Over two thirds of primary schools participated in the project (100,000 children actively involved). This gave an appreciation of growing skills and an opportunity to focus on the need to increase fresh fruit and vegetable consumption. The project was rolled out by Agri Aware with assistance from DAFF and industry sponsors.

Question No. 90 answered with Question No. 59.

Farm Safety.

Willie Penrose

Question:

91 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the stage of the implementation process that the new Farm Safety Action Plan 2009 to 2012 is at; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26068/09]

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) is the national body in Ireland with the responsibility for securing safety and health at work. The HSA has also the responsible body for implementing the Farm Safety Action Plan, 2009 to 2012, which was launched by my colleague Mr. Billy Kelleher T.D., the then Minister for Labour Affairs, in December 2008. This Plan sets out seven ambitious goals and a number of actions to raise national awareness of occupational safety and health in agriculture and to reduce fatalities and accidents on Irish farms.

My Department fully supports the HSA in implementing this Farm Safety Action Plan. To-date Working Groups have been established with the remit of implementing each of the goals identified in the Farm Safety Plan. Each Working Group consists of members from the Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee as well as people from the agricultural sector with specific expertise in the particular farm safety or health area of concern. My department is represented on the Working Group with responsibility for Goal 2 "To increase the uptake of training on farm safety and occupational health". These Working Groups are in the process of devising a strategy to ensure that all the Goals and Actions listed in the Farm Safety Action Plan are achieved by the end of 2012.

Departmental Funding.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

92 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the amount of funding allocated to the Agri-Food Research Programme under the National Development Plan; the breakdown of funding across all sectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26046/09]

Under the National Development Plan 2007-2013, indicative funding of €641 million has been allocated to the Agri-Food Research Programme, broken down as follows:

Agri-Food Research Programme

€M

Research Stimulus Fund

43.224

Food Industry Research Measure (FIRM)

93.653

Forestry / COFORD

29.296

Teagasc Research

474.827

Total Agri-Food Programme

641.000

Dairy Industry.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

93 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if his attention has been drawn to the fact that many dairy farmers will not be able to meet bank interest bills in the coming months due to the crisis in the sector and will require extra working capital to cover increases in farming costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26075/09]

The dairy sector downturn has its roots in the supply response that resulted from high prices in 2007 and in the early part of 2008. That situation was then exacerbated by the international financial crisis. This has had a major effect on the demand side. My efforts have focused on ensuring that the full range of market management supports would be made available at EU level. As a result significant measures have already been taken at EU level to support the dairy sector. These include the activation of a range of dairy market management measures including private storage aid for butter and intervention for butter and skimmed milk powder. In addition, export refunds are available to support the export outside the EU of butter, skimmed milk powder, whole milk powder and cheese. Irish processors are availing of all these schemes.

Difficulties with access to credit have intensified what was a cyclical downturn into a major reduction in international demand for dairy products. The Government's efforts over recent months in addressing the banking sector have had a central focus on the needs of the wider economy. A proper functioning banking sector is central to our economic recovery, as this will facilitate appropriate lending to our businesses, including farmers.

There are instances being reported of viable businesses being refused credit and some representative bodies are suggesting such refusals are in the majority. As against this, banks are reporting refusals are slight and that falling demand for credit accounts for reduced lending levels. There is a perception that there is limited credit availability and this can be damaging at a time of fragile business and consumer confidence.

As part of the banks' recapitalisation package, the Government decided to have an independent review of bank lending to try to have an objective assessment of the current lending situation. This process is underway and although originally only the two recapitalised banks agreed to participate and fund the review, now all the six leading banks are engaged in the project. The results of this review will be available shortly and this should allow all stakeholders have an objective view of the state of lending.

The recapitalisation package also included many supports for enterprises. Irish SMEs are covered by the Code of Conduct on Business Lending to SMEs. This Code was published by the Financial Regulator and came into effect from 13 March 2009. Lenders covered by the Code are required to offer their customers an option for an annual review meeting, to include all credit facilities and security, including collateral. Banks are also required to treat all credit applications on their merits, 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 seek to agree an approach to resolve problems and provide reasonable time and appropriate advice. Those applying for bank facilities, therefore, have a direct means to enquire from their banks why lending decisions are being made and to challenge any unreasonable terms being applied through the formal complaints procedure. Responsibility for the operation of the code rests with the Financial Regulator.

The Minister for Finance and the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment have established a Credit Supply Clearing Group with bank, business and State representation. This Group is responsible for identifying patterns of events where the flow of credit to viable businesses appears to be blocked and for seeking to identify credit supply solutions relating to these patterns. The Group is, however, not an appeals mechanism for cases where credit has been refused by the banks. Individual business decisions remain the responsibility of the banks. The Group met for the first time on 28 May 2009 and will next meet following the conclusion of the Independent Review of Bank Credit.

Individuals who have difficulty in getting access to bank credit should approach their banks to ascertain the reason for such refusals and should consider to what extent the relevant bank is operating within the Code of Conduct on Business Lending to SMEs. If the Deputy is aware of any pattern of events within the farming sector where the flow of credit to viable business appears to be blocked, information on these patterns can be sent to the Credit Supply Clearing Group care of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

In addition, my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Billy Kelleher, has commenced a series of eight regional meetings over the coming weeks with regional representatives of the major banks, business representatives from local chambers of commerce, ISME, SFA, IFA and the Irish Hotels Federation to gather first hand experience of bank lending. Local representatives from the various state agencies, Enterprise Ireland and Fáilte Ireland, will also attend. This will feed into the work of the CSCG and future Government policy.

Question No. 94 answered with Question No. 61.

John Cregan

Question:

95 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the level of investment made by him to date under the dairy investment fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25956/09]

A total of 19 capital investment projects were awarded Government grant assistance of over €114 million from the Dairy Investment Fund. This grant aid is geared to generating an estimated capital spend of €286 million in the Irish dairy processing sector and will play a key role in ensuring the long-term competitiveness of the dairy industry in Ireland.

Over €33 million in grant aid has been paid to date by my Department, through Enterprise Ireland, in respect of work already completed. The capital investment involved was over €80 million. It is anticipated that further investments, with capital spend in excess of €50 million, will be completed in the coming months.

Sheep Sector.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

96 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the way the €7 million allocation to sheep farmers from the single farm payment national reserve will be allocated to the 14,000 farmers set to benefit from the funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26073/09]

In recognition of the difficulties and costs, including compliance costs, facing the sheep sector, I decided that unused funds from the Single Payment National Reserve would be paid to hill sheep farmers in 2009 in the form of an Uplands Sheep Payment, as a means of ensuring that Irish sheep farmers could benefit immediately from these funds in 2009.

During the negotiations on the CAP Health Check proposals, I was one of the first Ministers to press for the use of unspent funds from national Single Payment Scheme ceilings to fund measures targeted at specific sectors in need of assistance. I am pleased to have introduced a payment that will fully and efficiently utilise all of the available funds in 2009. The outcome of the Health Check negotiations have been very positive for Ireland, and have once again shown the importance of EU support for Irish agriculture.

My objective in designing the Uplands Sheep payment was to ensure that it was simple and low cost to administer and created no additional administrative burden for farmers. The main features of the new Uplands Sheep Payment are as follows: (i) Eligible applicants must have sheep recorded in the National Sheep Census for both the 2007 and 2008 calendar years. (ii) Applicants must be eligible for the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme in 2009. (iii) Applicants must farm and declare in 2009 mountain type grazing land. (iv) The mountain type grazing land must have been declared on the 2008 and 2009 Single Payment/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme application forms. (v) The aid will be payable on mountain type grazing land up to a maximum of 15 hectares. (vi) The rate of aid per hectare will be calculated by reference to the available National Reserve funds and the total area eligible for payment when all of the 2009 Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme applications are processed. (vii) Eligible farmers will apply for the Uplands Sheep payment when they submit their 2009 Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme application form.

Payments will commence on 1 December 2009, the first date that payments can commence under the EU Regulations. Based on the estimated National Reserve funds of approximately €7 million and the eligible area declared by farmers in 2008, approximately 14,000 hill sheep farmers will benefit from the 2009 payment. Based on the data available for 2008, it is estimated that the level of aid will be €35 per hectare and a maximum payment of €525 per farmer.

I must emphasise, however, that the measure is for 2009 alone. A decision on the use of unspent CAP funds and modulation monies from 2010 onwards will be made when further information is available on the detailed EU rules that will apply to these measures. I expect that the Commission will shortly table its proposals for the detailed rules for the use of the unused funds. It is particularly important that these funds are used efficiently for the development of Irish agriculture. All sectors, including both hill and lowland sheep production, will be considered in this regard.

Common Fisheries Policy.

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

97 Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the way he will undertake consultations with stakeholders on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25941/09]

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is the fisheries policy of the European Union which was first put in place in 1983 and has been subject to reviews every 10 years, the most recent was in 2002 and the next is formally scheduled for 2012.

The Green Paper on the reform of the current CFP, published by the European Commission on 21 April 2009 has initiated a Pan-European consultation process on the issue. Because of the importance of the CFP as the strategic blueprint for fisheries across Europe this debate will be wide ranging.

Member States proposals are requested by the end of this year and a summary of the consultation process will be published in 2010. It will be followed by a legislative proposal to the Council and the European Parliament to be adopted in 2011, with a view to its entering into force in 2012. It is clear that every aspect of the CFP is up for review and will require detailed attention.

In Ireland the CFP review has already been on the agenda at a number of formal and informal meetings with industry. Indeed, the Federation of Irish Fishermen (FIF) has indicated its intention to pursue a process to develop its position in the matter and I welcome this and await the result of their deliberations.

It is my clear intention that the review process in Ireland will be an all inclusive one, facilitating the exchange of views from all interested stakeholders. I intend to engage in a parallel process of consultations with all stakeholders to inform Ireland's position. In that regard, Minister of State, Deputy Killeen appointed Dr. Noel Cawley to oversee a consultative process which will form a vital input to Ireland's negotiating framework for the CFP Review. Minister of State, Deputy Killeen is in consultation with Dr. Cawley in relation to the detailed arrangements for this review. The first step will involve an open call for submissions.

Dairy Industry.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

98 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if, in view of the collapse in the dairy markets, the deregulation of the dairy sector should be reassessed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26080/09]

Seamus Kirk

Question:

105 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on whether the terms of the CAP health check should be revisited in the context of the pressure on dairy prices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25946/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 98 and 105 together.

From a dairy sector perspective the CAP Health Check agreement of last November had two key elements, supply control and market support. The agreement essentially provided the framework for the EU milk quota regime leading up to its abolition in 2015. There was a wide divergence of views among member states in the months leading up the final negotiations as to the best course of action in relation to milk quotas. Commissioner Fischer Boel had made it clear that she would not be proposing the continuation of the quota regime beyond 2015. The question was whether, and to what extent, milk quotas should be increased in order to prepare for their abolition.

Many of our colleagues argued in favour of annual quota increases of up to five per cent, while others were opposed to any increase. I adopted an ambitious approach that would facilitate the maximum possible fulfilment of the production potential in the Irish dairy herd. In that context I believe the decision to increase quotas by 1% each year from 2009 to 2014 was a good outcome. So also was the downward adjustment in the butterfat co-efficient that equates to a further potential 2% rise in quotas in 2009.

When the 2% quota increase in 2008 is taken into account, the result is a cumulative increase of 9.3% in Ireland's milk quota by 2014 compared to 2007. This will help our dairy farmers to maximise their production potential, and to maximise the natural advantage they possess in the form of a grass-based production system. This in turn will lead to efficiency gains and help to achieve a competitive edge in an increasingly volatile world market. If on the other hand EU production is constrained by quotas, it will prevent Ireland from benefiting from future upturns in dairy markets. In that scenario the only winners would be our global competitors.

It has been suggested that the EU quota increases to all Member States are the cause of the current low prices for milk. This is a flawed argument. In its report to the Council last Monday week the Commission said that milk production in the quota year 2008/09 has fallen by 0.6 per cent compared to the previous year and that overall production was 4.2 per cent below quota by 31 March 2009. To attempt to attribute the current market weakness to the additional quota allocated as part of the Health Check is patently wrong — it is a demand-led problem.

The other key dairy element in the Health Check was market support. In the negotiations I strongly defended the view that quota increases must be matched with effective dairy market management measures. The transition to a post-quota EU dairy market, along with current market fluctuations, makes this particularly important. I therefore called for the continuation of such measures and, above all, those schemes which are especially important for Ireland.

In the event we managed to maintain the butter and skimmed milk powder intervention schemes intact despite the powerful forces opposing the retention of these schemes. There was a determined effort made to introduce tendering for every tonne of butter and SMP intervened. This would have been particularly difficult for Ireland. The importance of these measures cannot be overstated as they play a crucial role in levelling out the market supply/demand dynamics. They have a vital role in Ireland given our seasonal pattern of production. This is true also for Private Storage Aid for butter where existing arrangements were maintained, although once again there was strong opposition intent on introducing tendering arrangements.

Fighting to maintain these market supports in the Health Check has been vindicated and they are now being used to deal with the current situation. I have continued to ensure that these supports are operated to the maximum extent possible in the current volatile environment.

Equine Identification Regulations.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

99 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the penalties that will be faced by those who breach the new requirements on equine identification as and from 1 July 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26071/09]

European Commission Regulation No. 504/2008, which sets out an improved system of identification for equidae, comes into effect tomorrow, 1 July 2009 and is binding. All keepers of horses, passport issuing bodies and veterinary practitioners are obliged to comply with the provisions of this legislation. Anyone failing to comply with the provisions of this Regulation could face the prospect of on-the-spot fines or court proceedings resulting in a substantial fine and/or a term of imprisonment under the provisions of a Statutory Instrument being finalised in my Department.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

100 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the arrangements that have been put in place to ensure all foals born from 1 July 2009 are identified in accordance with regulation No. 504/2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26070/09]

EU and national legislation currently requires that all equines be accompanied by a passport (identification document) when being moved. In addition the vast majority of approved studbook keeping organisations operating in this country currently require that animals are micro-chipped as part of their registration systems.

European Commission Regulation No. 504/2008 comes into effect tomorrow, 1 July 2009 and is binding. All keepers of horses, passport issuing bodies and veterinary practitioners are obliged to comply with the provisions of this legislation. All foals born from tomorrow onwards (and also older animals if they have not been previously registered prior to 1 July 2009), will have to be identified by their individual passports and by a microchip, with the number of the microchip having to be entered on the passport also. All foals must be identified in this manner within six months of birth. The Regulation does not have retrospective effect.

My Department has met with representatives of the approved issuing bodies and with representatives of veterinary practitioners to outline in detail for them the impact of the new arrangements. A press release issued from my Department on June 10 2009 to the media, highlighting the principal features of Regulation 504/2008, this press release was also circulated widely to the various stakeholders in the equine industry e.g. the approved issuing bodies, the Veterinary Council, Veterinary Ireland, marts where horses are sold and major equestrian centres. Guidelines will issue shortly to veterinary practitioners and to the approved issuing bodies to assist them to comply with Regulation 504/2008. The necessary Statutory Instrument to support the application of Regulation 504/2008 is in the final stages of preparation in my Department.

Passports issued from 1 July 2009 must conform to Regulation 504/2008. Equine passports can only be obtained from one of the issuing bodies approved for this purpose, an up-to-date list of approved organisations can be found on my Department's website. Regulation 504/2008 sets out in detail the procedures to be followed and the responsibilities placed on passport issuing organisations and veterinary practitioners when issuing equine passports. My Department has taken steps to alert passport issuing organisations and veterinary practitioners of the obligations Regulation 504/2008 will place on them.

Since the vast majority of approved studbook keeping organisations operating in this country currently require that animals are micro-chipped as part of their registration systems, changes which require that all equines will have to be micro-chipped from 1 July 2009 will have limited impact. I am satisfied that the organisations responsible for the issuing of equine identification documents are fully aware of the arrangements they need to put in place to comply with Regulation 504/2008

Departmental Schemes.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

101 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will increase the payment rate under the suckler cow welfare scheme in view of the emerging participation rate of 750,000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26053/09]

Having regard to overall economic situation, the state of the public finances, and the funding available to me in the 2009 Vote for my Department it was necessary following the April 2009 supplementary budget, to reduce the rate of premium under the suckler welfare scheme 2009 to €40 per eligible animal to be paid in 2010. The financial pressures have not eased and I have no plans at present to review the rate of payment, under the scheme

Question No. 102 answered with Question No. 74.

Grant Payments.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

103 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason there have been delays in REPS 4 payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26059/09]

The delays in processing REPS 4 applications occurred mainly as a result of the urgent need to devise a comprehensive system of eligibility checks following EU audits in late 2007 and early 2008 as a result of which the European Commission indicated that the previous system of checking did not meet the requirements of the new EU Regulations now in force. To reduce the risk of a "financial correction" (recoupment by the EU of a significant amount of EU funding for REPS in 2007 and 2008), it was necessary to develop and introduce a new system of checks that would be acceptable to the European Commission. This work took much of 2008 to complete and it was only at the end of January 2009 that the first phase of checking could be carried out. This was a computerised screening of plans prepared on the eREPS system. This screening raised queries about a large majority of plans. Most of these were resolved in a subsequent manual examination of all plans which inevitably took some months. My Department also contacted a large number of applicants to enable them to correct minor deficiencies in their plans. Payments have been released as applications were cleared or corrected.

Farm Inspections.

Jack Wall

Question:

104 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason county councils are continuing to carry out on farm inspections, which ignore his statement of the 24 April 2009 which stated that his Department’s inspectorate are to undertake nitrates’ regulations inspections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26055/09]

Inspections to meet the requirements of the Nitrates Regulations are undertaken by my Department. The Department's inspectors currently undertake all on-farm cross-compliance inspections, including checks for compliance with the Nitrates Regulations and have considerable expertise in this area.

On farm inspections are also required under the EU Water Framework Directive which is the responsibility of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. In my statement on 24 April I indicated, my objective to ensure that the duplication of on-farm inspections is avoided for practical reasons, to minimise costs and to simplify the inspection arrangements from the farmer's perspective. Discussions are taking place between officials of my Department and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to finalise the necessary arrangements in relation to nitrates inspections.

Question No. 105 answered with Question No. 98.
Question No. 106 answered with Question No. 52.

Agrifood Sector.

David Stanton

Question:

107 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the ways in which the economic downturn is impacting on the agriculture industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26041/09]

Agriculture and food production are always subject to change and challenges and while agriculture is often more resilient to economic crises than other sectors, there is no doubt that certain parts of the industry are facing significant challenges this year, not least from low milk prices. However, the agriculture and food sector has the innate capacity to help lead the economic recovery in the years ahead. Regardless of the economic difficulties that Ireland currently faces, there is no doubt that this country is fully capable of producing and exporting high quality food and drink products. Despite the challenging market, currency fluctuations and turbulent export environment, Bord Bia estimate that food and beverage exports have declined only marginally in 2008 and in that year were worth around €8.2 billion. Its short to medium term estimates for the sector remain reasonably positive and I believe that this indigenous industry has the potential to boost export returns in the coming years.

The EU medium term outlook for agricultural commodities is for a gradual recovery supported by growth in global food demand due to population increase and also a long-term decline in the growth of food-crop productivity. These are factors that can work to the advantage of Ireland. My job as Minister is to continue to work to help the entire agri-food sector remains competitive so that it can capitalise on the inevitable global recovery.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Dan Neville

Question:

108 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Taoiseach the number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance and jobseeker’s benefit for the Abbeyfeale area and the Newcastle West area of County Limerick; the number of people who were claiming unemployment assistance at this time in 2008; the number of people who were claiming jobseeker’s allowance and jobseeker’s benefit at this time in 2007; the age profile and nationality profile for those claiming assistance of the people unemployed in both the Abbeyfeale area and Newcastle West area of County Limerick. [26186/09]

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. However these figures do not contain a breakdown by age or nationality. The most recent information is for May 2009.

The number of persons signing on in each of the Social Welfare offices in Limerick is contained in the following table. 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.

Persons on the Live Register in Limerick County (Number)

Total under 25 years

Total 25 years & over

Total

May-09

Kilmallock

568

1,768

2,336

Limerick

3,111

11,034

14,145

Newcastlewest

665

2,664

3,329

Limerick Total

4,344

15,466

19,810

May-08

Kilmallock

244

850

1,094

Limerick

1,670

5,680

7,350

Newcastlewest

324

1,143

1,467

Limerick Total

2,238

7,673

9,911

May-07

Kilmallock

181

647

828

Limerick

1,275

4,125

5,400

Newcastlewest

215

800

1,015

Limerick Total

1,671

5,572

7,243

Value for Money Reviews.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

109 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Taoiseach the nature and outcome of any value for money audit carried out by his Department during the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25712/09]

As part of the implementation of the Government's Value for Money Review and Policy Review Initiative, my Department undertook a review of the National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO) and its constituent bodies — the National Economic and Social Council (NESC), the National Economic and Social Forum (NESF) and the National Centre for Partnership and Performance (NCPP).

This Review examines the rationale, efficiency, effectiveness, impact and continued relevance of NESDO and its constituent bodies. The NESDO specific element of the review particularly examines the economies of scale derived from the shared administration costs of NESC, NESF, and the NCPP under the umbrella of NESDO, as well as the synergies that have evolved in terms of shared and complementary research initiatives. This review was undertaken in accordance with the framework set down by the Department of Finance by a member of staff of the Economic and Social Policy Division and included a comprehensive survey of stakeholders and employees.

The review was overseen by a Steering Group, chaired by a Principal Officer of my Department and included representatives of the Department of Finance, NESDO and relevant units of my Department.

The outcome of this review will help to identify further efficiencies as may be achieved by NESDO and its constituent bodies. This review has been signed off by the NESDO Value For Money Steering Group and has been accepted by the Secretary General of my Department. It will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas and forwarded to the Select Committee on Finance and the Public Service. The recommendations in regard to the scope for greater operational efficiencies are being implemented by my Department and the Board of NESDO, while other issues in respect of the effectiveness of the work of NESDO are being considered in consultation with the social partners.

Departmental Expenditure.

Joan Burton

Question:

110 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach the amount of interest paid by him in respect of the late payments for goods or services contracted by his Department for the past five years to date in 2009; the steps being taken to ensure that money is appropriately spent and that payments are made on time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25868/09]

The following table details the amount of Prompt Payment Interest paid by my Department in the last five years and to-date in 2009:

Year

Prompt Payment Interest Paid

2004

10,160

2005

5,041

2006

7,170

2007

941

2008

2,361

January-May 2009

395

Procurement of goods and services by my Department is carried out under procedures set out in Department of Finance Public Procurement Guidelines and EU Procurement rules. These procedures are designed to ensure that competitive processes are in place to select the providers of goods and services which represent best value to the Department, taking account of a number of important criteria including cost and suitability for purpose.

Procedures in place, which may vary according to the nature and amount of the procurement involved, include the appropriate use of processes to specify requirements; selection of an appropriate competitive process whether by seeking quotations, advertising, use of central purchasing facilities and centrally negotiated framework agreements or more formal tender processes; evaluation of alternatives according to pre-set criteria; agreement of contracts; and monitoring of service delivery.

My Department has appropriate procedures in place including computerised process to payment systems, monitoring and control procedures and electronic payment facilities in order to ensure that the requirements of the Late Payments in Commercial Transactions Act 2002 are fully complied with and suppliers are paid on time. The average time for payment of invoices by my Department based on a review of invoices from 1 January to 31 May 2009 is 13.5 working days.

Programmes for Government.

David Stanton

Question:

111 Deputy David Stanton asked the Taoiseach if, in the context of the review of the Programme for Government all sections of the programme are to be reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26191/09]

It is the Government's intention to review all sections of the programme for government. The Government will pursue this work throughout the summer recess. The programme for government makes clear that its delivery is based on a growth rate of 4.5%. It was negotiated prior to the worst global economic downturn since the 1930s. Our review is about ensuring the programme for government reflects current economic realities.

Along with reviewing the existing programme, a review will also allow us to see where the various policies we have developed over the last two years can be better integrated into our plans for developing Ireland up to 2012. I particularly refer to the ambitious smart economy document which we published before Christmas.

The review will also underline the considerable amount of the programme for government which has already been achieved. To date, organisations such as the European Commission and the ESRI have broadly recognised that the policies we are pursuing are the right ones to get Ireland working again.

Work Permits.

Tom Hayes

Question:

112 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding an application for a work permit on behalf of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25661/09]

The Employment Permits Section informs me that an application in respect of the above named was received on 3 June 2009. The section is currently processing applications received in the second week of April 2009 and therefore a decision will not issue on this application for another six-eight weeks.

Value for Money Reviews.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

113 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the nature and outcome of any value for money audit carried out by her Department during the past three years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25705/09]

The Government's Value for Money and Policy Review Initiative is part of a framework introduced to secure improved value for money from public expenditure. The objectives of the initiative are to analyse Exchequer spending in a systematic manner and to provide a basis on which more informed decisions can be made on priorities within and between programmes.

Two value for money reviews were undertaken by my Department since 2006. A value for money review of Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) was published on 29 July 2008 and is available on the Department's website at http://www.entemp.ie/science/technology/publications.htm. The review, inter alia, found SFI’s programmes and activities to be valid and supportive of wider economic and innovation policy objectives, and that they should continue to pursue their core mission of funding research excellence in areas where Ireland can compete successfully on a global scale. The review contained ten recommendations which are currently being implemented. The review was laid before the Oireachtas, as required under the terms of the Value for Money and Policy Review Initiative and was discussed at the Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment last summer.

A further review in relation to the FÁS Competency Development Programme is at final drafting stage and my Department expects to publish this review later this year. Finally, two further reviews will be undertaken by my Department, under the 2009-2011 round of the Value for Money and Policy Reviews Initiative, and these will be published and presented to the relevant Oireachtas Committee in due course.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Brian Hayes

Question:

114 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the discussions she has had with FÁS concerning the plight of apprentices who are unable to complete their FÁS training and apprenticeship in view of the fact that they are unable to obtain an apprenticeship from firms or contractors; if FÁS and her Department are prepared to resolve this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25774/09]

My Department and FÁS have been working together over the last number of months to put in place measures to assist up to 3,600 apprentices who have been made redundant due to the current downturn. A number of initiatives to assist such apprentices have been put in place to date:

The Department of Social and Family Affairs immediately on registration refer redundant apprentices to FÁS for assistance.

Following this referral, the FÁS Employment Services and FÁS Services to Business Divisions work in collaboration to provide guidance and support in finding a new employer and in considering other options available in individual cases

FÁS has amended the scheduling rules for off-the-job training so as to permit redundant apprentices to progress to their next off-the-job training, at phases 2, 4 and 6 of the apprenticeship cycle. It is expected that up to 2,000 redundant apprentices will in this way progress to such off-the-job training this year.

FÁS introduced an Employer Based Redundant Apprentice Rotation Scheme to provide support for employers to provide on-the-job training to redundant apprentices when they have released their employed apprentice to a scheduled phase 4 and phase 6 off-the-job training phase in the Institutes of Technology. There are currently 199 apprentices participating on the scheme and 35 apprentices have completed their period of rotation with assessments. Employers will again be requested during the June and September 2009 rotation periods to provide redundant apprentices with on-the-job training with assessments.

Léargas have provided funding under the Leonardo da Vinci programme of the European Union to support the placement of 37 redundant apprentices with overseas employers to complete their phase 7 on-the-job training with assessments. Recently 19 redundant apprentices returned from Germany having completed a phase 7 placement with such employers. Another 12 apprentices are due to travel in early August to more work placements in Germany. Léargas have recently provided additional funding to support the placement of an additional 60 apprentices with overseas employers. Arrangements here are being advanced.

ESB Networks have agreed a programme with FÁS to provide on-the-job training to eligible redundant electrical apprentices at phase 5 and phase 7 of their apprenticeships. This programme will provide up to 400 places over a period of 18 months. ESB Networks will fund this programme. There are currently 100 redundant such electrical apprentices in employment with ESB Networks and a further 100 will be provided with an opportunity to complete their on-the-job training before the end-year.

Redundant apprentices may also avail of existing specific skills training courses. These are trade related to enhance their employable skills. They may also avail of the range of trade related night courses that are available in FÁS training centres.

The Institutes of Technology are providing up to 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 will be divided into construction and engineering streams and will provide redundant apprentices with education and training in a number of trade areas that will be complementary to their core apprenticeship disciplines. The programme is expected to commence in September next.

Finally, FÁS is finalising plans that will allow redundant apprentices to undertake phase 7 assessments in situations where an on-the-job assessment opportunities do not at present exist. This will allow such apprentices, who are at the very latter end of their multi-annual training programme, to definitively finish and get the craft certification that attests to having successfully completed their apprenticeships.

I am closely monitoring the overall situation and I am open to positively considering any other approaches that will advance the progress of all apprentices to craft status at every stage of the apprenticeship cycle.

Company Closures.

Joe Costello

Question:

115 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding the workers who are still employed in Dublin Airport by a company (details supplied); the outcome of the negotiations on the expressions of interest in the line maintenance section of the company; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25820/09]

I have kept in close touch with the developing situation at SR Technics Ireland, with a view to maximising employment opportunities at the plant. Following a series of contacts with both the company and Government interests in the United Arab Emirates, I am pleased to record that on 4 June, SR Technics indicated it had agreed in principle to sell the bulk of its aircraft maintenance operations at Dublin Airport to Dublin Aerospace Limited, an Irish company. I am hopeful that this company's proposal will result in the recommencement of an MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) business at Dublin Airport. The full support of the State development agencies has been made available to all interested parties including Dublin Aerospace Limited with a view to providing every possible assistance. SR Technics has a ten year contract agreement in place with Aer Lingus to provide Line Maintenance and other maintenance functions at Dublin Airport.

Negotiations are ongoing between the companies on how these services will be provided to Aer Lingus, following the closure of SR Technics Ireland. These negotiations have not yet concluded.

Departmental Correspondence.

Joe Costello

Question:

116 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will respond to correspondence (details supplied). [25824/09]

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the correspondence dated 5 June 2009 from the individual in question has been responded to.

Business Regulation.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

117 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her proposals to remove the bureaucracy that surrounds the setting up of small businesses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25830/09]

The 2009 World Bank "Doing Business 2009" Report, ranks Ireland 5th for starting a business and 7th for the overall ease of doing business in Ireland, in terms of the number of procedures required. These rankings are unchanged from 2008.

Small businesses can set up immediately as sole traders or as limited companies, through registering with the Companies Registration Office (CRO). The CRO offers facilities for on-line registration and for traditional paper-based registrations.

Under the on-line basis, such applications are processed within 24 hours of receipt, at present, provided all required information is in order. Over 90% of applications are received using this arrangement. Paper-based applications are processed within 48 hours of receipt provided all documentation is in order. Registration On-Line costs €50 while paper-based registration costs €100.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Simon Coveney

Question:

118 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of people in Cork city and county who have received an offer of training from FÁS in the past three months under the national employment action plan; the number waiting in Cork City and county for an offer of this training; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25853/09]

The National Employment Action Plan Preventive Strategy (NEAP) involves a systematic referral of certain cohorts of registered unemployed persons by the Department of Social and Family Affairs (DSFA) to FÁS for assistance.

Department of Social and Family Affairs National Employment Action Plan (NEAP) referrals to FÁS Employment Services, Cork, in the second quarter of 2009 totalled, approximately 2,200 clients, with approximately 1,800 attending interview. Of these, approximately 900 expressed an interest in availing of training.

At the end of June 2009, FÁS Cork has approximately, 1,100 NEAP clients awaiting training, the majority of whom will be offered places on FÁS programmes over the next four months.

During the second quarter of 2009, 835 NEAP clients received an offer of training. A breakdown of these is provided in the following table:

Month 2009

Full Time Training

Evening/Saturday Morning Courses (estimate)

Technical Employment Support Grant Funded Training

April

109

133

25

May

103

133

64

June

195

19

54

Total

407

285

143

Overall Total

835

Departmental Expenditure.

Joan Burton

Question:

119 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount of interest paid by her in respect of the late payments for goods or services contracted by her Department for the past five years to date in 2009; the steps being taken to ensure that money is appropriately spent and that payments are made on time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25861/09]

Under the European Communities (Late Payment in Commercial Transactions) Regulations 2002, where a purchaser does not pay for goods or services by the relevant payment date in a commercial transaction, the supplier is entitled to interest on the amount outstanding. In the absence of any agreed payment date, late payment interest falls due after 30 days has elapsed from the date of receipt of a valid invoice.

The amount of interest paid by my Department under Prompt Payment legislation in each of the last five calendar years and to date in 2009 was as follows:

Year

2004

2,509.41

2005

4,971.02

2006

579.07

2007

5,019.46

2008

2,405.33

2009 to end May

410.04

Notwithstanding the provisions in the Prompt Payment legislation, the Government has decided to reduce the payment period by central Government Departments to their business suppliers to 15 days with effect from 15th June 2009. These arrangements will apply on an administrative basis and will not alter the contractual arrangements between Departments and their suppliers, or the current Prompt Payments legislation. However, all Departments will be required to report to my Department on a quarterly basis on the manner in which they have complied with the Government commitment.

As a result of the measures introduced by the Government, Departments will now give greater priority to making timely payments and will ensure that suppliers are aware of how they can assist the process by meeting the requirements of Departments in relation to the submission of invoices.

Redundancy Payments.

Phil Hogan

Question:

120 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason a company (details supplied) in County Tipperary is not prepared to pay statutory redundancy entitlement; and if she will investigate the matte ; and when workers will be paid. [25895/09]

In a reply given in regard to the company in question on 16 June last, I outlined the criteria in relation to the right of employees to receive redundancy entitlement under the Redundancy Payments Acts, 1967 — 2007. This provides that employees who have two years continuous service with an employer, are aged 16 years or over and are in employment which is insurable for all benefits under the Social Welfare Acts, have a statutory entitlement to a redundancy payment from their employer in the event of being made redundant. It is up to the employer concerned in the first instance to determine whether or not a redundancy situation obtains. Any disputes in this regard can be referred to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) for adjudication between the parties.

Where an employer is unable or refuses to pay the statutory lump sum, my Department pays the statutory amount from the Social Insurance Fund (SIF), which it administers on behalf of the Department of Social and Family Affairs. When an employer is not in a position to pay statutory redundancy, the redundancy payments section requires proof of inability to pay. The employer is asked to provide a letter from his accountant or solicitor confirming inability to pay together with documentary evidence (i.e audited accounts/statement of affairs) within 30 days of issue of the communication. Where an employer does not provide the information requested or refuses to pay within the agreed timeframe, the employee is advised to take a case to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) against the employer, seeking a determination of their entitlement to statutory redundancy.

In the event of a positive finding by the tribunal in favour of an individual, application for a redundancy payment should be made by the individual on form RP 50 which is available from the Department's website at www.entemp.ie. This form should be completed and returned with the decision of the Employment Appeals Tribunal which will allow the application to be processed. It should be noted that an employee must make application for a redundancy payment or seek a determination from the EAT within 12 months of ceasing of employment.

I understand also that, due to a downturn in the market for its products, the company has decided to close its manufacturing operation in Callan with the loss of about 40 jobs and that a dispute has arisen over the redundancy terms available.

While the dispute was the subject of conciliation by the Labour Relations Commission, no agreement was reached and, in line with normal industrial relations procedures, the dispute has been referred on to the Labour Court. I understand a hearing on the matter will take place on Friday next 3 July.

It must be remembered that the system of industrial relations in Ireland is essentially voluntary in nature and the Labour Court cannot compel a company to comply with its recommendations. It is a court of last resort in the industrial relations process and it is expected that the parties come to the process in good faith and consequently are prepared to give serious consideration to the court's recommendations. Recommendations of the Labour Court are not legally binding, however, and ultimately, responsibility for the resolution of trade disputes is a matter for the parties involved.

Work Placement Programme.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

121 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to a submission made to FÁS by the City and County Managers Association for local authorities to provide employment for the unemployed people on work placement schemes; if this submission is being considered at present by FÁS and by her; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25913/09]

In order to respond effectively to the growing numbers of unemployed through the provision of work placements I, in conjunction with my colleague the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Mary Hanafin jointly launched the work placement programme on 27 May last. The proposal by the City and County Managers Association and other similar proposals were considered as part of the decision making process which resulted in that launch.

Under this programme there are two streams each consisting of 1,000 places of six months duration. The first stream is for graduates who before this year have attained a full award at level seven or above on the National Framework of Qualifications and who have been receiving job seeker's allowance for the last six months. The second stream is open to all other individuals who have been receiving job seeker's allowance for the last six months. Under this stream 250 places are being ring-fenced for those under 25 years of age. Participants on both streams of the work placement programme will continue to receive their existing social welfare entitlements from the Department of Social and Family Affairs for their duration on the programme.

The work placement programme is available to public sector employers as well as the private sector and interested organisations should contact the FÁS call centre to register their interest in the programme. The proposal by the City and County Managers Association for local authorities to provide employment for the unemployed on work placement schemes could therefore be made to FÁS, as a formal application, in the context of this Programme.

Enterprise Stabilisation Fund.

Noel Coonan

Question:

122 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of companies in north Tipperary that have received money or are in the process of being approved for money from the Enterprise Stabilisation Fund announced in the supplementary Budget of 7 April 2009; the amount of funding they have received; her plans to increase the funding available for 2009 in view of the fact that more than 75% of the portion has been allocated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26095/09]

The provision of grant assistance to individual companies is a matter for the development agency or body concerned, and not one in which I have a direct function. Notwithstanding this, for reasons of commercial sensitivity, Enterprise Ireland will not disclose either the names of companies who have applied for assistance from the Enterprise Stabilisation Fund or the areas within which these companies operate as to do so would make some undertakings identifiable and risk undermining their future viability.

From the €50 million allocated to the fund for 2009, 16 projects have been approved to date for a total of €6 million. A further €20 million is under active negotiation with 30 companies nationwide. Enquiries have also been received from in excess of 100 companies. However, these have not as yet progressed to formal applications.

In summary, therefore, Enterprise Ireland has commitments or is in negotiations for €26 million of the fund leaving a balance of €24 million (48%) for the remainder of 2009.

Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

123 Deputy David Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress made in developing a comprehensive employment strategy for people with disabilities; when she expects such a plan to be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26118/09]

A draft comprehensive employment strategy for people with disabilities has been developed by my Department in discussions with key stakeholder representatives who form the consultative forum on an employment strategy established under my Department's sectoral plan. The aim of this strategy is to address the diversity of circumstances, needs and abilities of people with disabilities, and to work towards achieving the highest possible levels of employment for them. Discussions on the further development and finalisation of the comprehensive employment strategy are being actively pursued with the consultative forum and interdepartmental groups with a view to completing the strategy as soon as possible.

Community Employment Schemes.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

124 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, further to Parliamentary Question No. 113 of 23 June 2009, if any Members of the House of the Oireachtas are members of the local committees which direct the activities of community employment schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26244/09]

FÁS is aware of a number of sitting Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas being on the sponsoring committees of community employment projects.

The Community Employment Operating Guidelines state that the work programme of a sponsor should not involve any specific promotional-advocacy of a specific political party or the policies of a specific political party. Sponsors applying for a project of this nature are not eligible for CE funding.

Proposed Legislation.

Jack Wall

Question:

125 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her views in relation to the submission (details supplied); her plans to address the issues raised; if she will accept the two proposals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26278/09]

The issues raised in the submission do not fall directly under the remit of my Department. However, the overall cost of doing business in Ireland is a particular concern of mine and of the Government.

The issue of rent reviews lies within the remit of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy. Dermot Ahern. In relation to the Labour Party Bill dealing with the review of commercial rents, I understand that my colleague the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform will shortly introduce a legislative provision which will, in effect, prohibit upward-only rent review clauses in future leases.

Rates legislation is a matter in the first instance for my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy John Gormley. The Minister, Deputy Gormley and I have met with and impressed on local authority managers the concerns of Government in relation to costs for enterprise, including local authority costs, and asked them to consider measures to support new or existing enterprises in their area by, for example, reduced development contribution rates, or deferral of payments. I am aware that the Minister, Deputy John Gormley, has asked local authorities to give every consideration to businesses in adopting the Annual Rate on Valuation, and I welcome the fact that the average increase on local authority rates in 2009 was 1.15% with many rating authorities introducing no increase this year.

However, I am also very conscious that current trading conditions for companies are difficult and challenging due to a number of factors including the devaluation of sterling, tough competition, and the global recession. Some issues are outside the control of Government as a whole, but where possible we are addressing Ireland's cost competitiveness as an essential element of our economic recovery, as well as supporting enterprises in more direct ways such as through the Enterprise Stabilisation Fund.

Already there are indicators in our favour with inflation, commodity and other prices falling. The latest Consumer Price Index figures are an indication of falling Irish prices in a number of areas, with Ireland showing the highest cut in prices across the EU bringing Ireland closer in line with average EU prices.

I am conscious that energy costs for businesses in Ireland are a source of concern, particularly as businesses are attempting to cut costs to remain competitive in the current economic environment. However, in recent months, the trend of energy prices has been downward with a 10% drop in electricity prices for residents and small and medium enterprises from 1 May, while gas prices have reduced by an average of 12%. These reductions will result in further savings for businesses, particularly in the SME sector. We are committed to maintain low business taxes and a favourable regulatory environment, and will ensure that our policies keep pace with the way business is changing.

The Government is focused on the factors that will drive our long-term competitiveness. Our policies to improve competitiveness have a long term strategic objective which will restore confidence to the business community. Implementation of the actions included in the Smart Economy framework will continue to enhance and improve our competitiveness in this respect.

Departmental Contracts.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

126 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the details of print jobs carried out for her Department and being provided by companies based outside the Republic of Ireland; the dates of the awarding of these contracts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26280/09]

I presume the Deputy is requesting the above information for the period since my appointment as Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment viz, May 2008.

The only print jobs carried out by companies based outside the Republic of Ireland for my Department and for the Offices of my Department since May 2008 relate to the printing of file covers and file folders. The company involved is Enterprise Stationery Limited, which is based in Northern Ireland and since May 2008 it has been paid €11,794 for these services.

The contract was awarded by the Office of Public Works for the use of all Government Departments to Enterprise Stationery Limited on 1 April 2007.

Insolvency Payments Scheme.

Bobby Aylward

Question:

127 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when payments in lieu of eight weeks notice and in lieu of holidays will issue to the former employees of a company (details supplied). [26304/09]

I can confirm that between March and May of this year, my Department has received 1,623 applications under the Insolvency Payments Scheme for Arrears of Wages, Holiday Pay and Minimum Notice on behalf of the former employees of Waterford Crystal. These claims are currently being processed. It has however been necessary to seek further information from the Receiver and a response is currently awaited. Subject to receipt of all required information from the Receiver, it is hoped to complete processing and make payments in respect of these claims within two to three weeks.

I should point out that the impact on business of the severe economic circumstances currently pertaining has resulted in a significant rise in the level of company receiverships and insolvencies. Consequently, an increasing number of claims are being submitted to the Insolvency Payments Section, with 9,509 new claims recorded from January 1 to May 31 — an increase of over 226% against the corresponding figure for this period in 2008. My officials endeavour to process all claims as quickly as possible and claims are dealt with in order of date of receipt.

Work Placement Programme.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

128 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment further to Parliamentary Question No. 107 of 23 June 2009, if she will amend the rules pertaining to entry to the work placement programme in view of the fact that many graduates will have taken part-time work, or lowly paid work in fields not utilising their qualifications in preference to signing on the live register and that they are therefore excluded from entry to the programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26408/09]

I have no plans to amend the rules governing the entry requirements to the work placement programme at this time.

The objective of the work placement programme is to provide work experience for unemployed persons, including graduates, to improve their skills and to help them into employment as soon as possible. Specifically focusing on persons who have been on the live register for a period of at least six months ensures that participants have been allowed every opportunity to actively search for employment and, if not successful, benefit from the full range of training suites available from FÁS. This, in turn, ensures that participants are job ready, will make the most of their work placement and are better placed to avail of new opportunities when they become available.

Exchequer Savings.

Joan Burton

Question:

129 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the expected Exchequer savings for 2009, 2010 and 2011 from both the civil and public service incentivised career break and early retirement programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25657/09]

In the April 2009 supplementary budget, I announced a range of initiatives which are intended to lead to savings in the public service pay bill. The Government has decided to offer an Incentivised Scheme of Early Retirement in the public service to reduce the public service pay bill and facilitate a permanent, structural reduction in the numbers of staff serving in the Civil Service, local authorities, the health sector, non-commercial state bodies and certain other areas of the public service. The scheme is open to applications from 1 May 2009 until 1 September 2009.

The Government has also decided to implement two new work-life balance initiatives, the Special Civil Service Incentive Career Break Scheme to facilitate civil servants in taking a career break for three years, and the Shorter Working Year Scheme which replaces the existing Term Time Scheme.

I included a tentative estimate in the April budget of savings of up to €150 million in 2009 and €300 million in a full year. Achieving these savings is entirely dependent on take up, which is impossible to project with any firm degree of confidence.

Public Service Contracts.

Joan Burton

Question:

130 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the length and value of the contract retaining a firm (details supplied) as legal advisers to the National Asset Management Agency; his views on potential conflict of interest issues as a result of the award of this contract in view of the existing client base of the firm; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25658/09]

The contract between the interim NAMA and the firm in question is a commercial contract. As such it is subject to commercial confidentiality. I cannot comment on the terms and conditions.

The procurement process for this contract was conducted through www.etenders.gov.ie which is the website for Irish public tenders. I am advised that the process was fully compliant with public procurement procedures. Following a detailed evaluation of the various proposals received, the most economically advantageous bid was accepted.

In an economy the size of Ireland's it is not unusual that one of the larger financial or legal advisers has to deal with potential conflicts of interest arising from their representation of more than one client in the same sector. The company in question has provided assurances that where potential conflicts arise they are dealt with through the application of well established 'Chinese Wall' structures which are overseen by their compliance department. These 'Chinese Walls' operate as information barriers which ensure that any advice given is confidential and is provided by a team which is segregated from and independent of their work for other clients.

Pension Provisions.

Joan Burton

Question:

131 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the value of the National Pension Reserve Fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25659/09]

The National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF) was established on 2 April 2001 under the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000 with the objective of meeting as much as possible of the cost to the Exchequer of social welfare pensions and public service pensions to be paid from the year 2025 until at least 2055.

The National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission — who control and manage the fund — publish a report on the performance of the NPRF at the end of each quarter. The most recent such report, to 31 March 2009, valued the fund at €15.5 billion. The Exchequer normally makes its annual contribution to the NPRF in four quarterly instalments. The first payment for 2009, for €396 million, was paid to the NPRF in March and is reflected in the outturn for the first quarter.

Under the Investment of the National Pensions Reserve Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2009, which allows the Minister for Finance to make payments into the fund where he has given the fund a direction to invest in a listed credit institution, a further payment of €2.604 billion was made to the fund in May, bringing the total paid over from the Exchequer to the fund in 2009 to €3 billion. This reflects the Government decision announced on 11 February 2009 that the recapitalisation of Allied Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland through the purchase of preference shares by the NPRF would be funded by €4 billion of the fund's own resources and €3 billion from the Exchequer through the frontloading of the 2009 and 2010 Exchequer contributions.

The fund's annual and quarterly reports are available publicly on the Commission's website http://www.nprf.ie/home.html. The annual report for 2008 will be available on this website in July.

Joan Burton

Question:

132 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the estimated outstanding pension liability in respect of all public and civil servants, inclusive of those liabilities relating to the pension funds to be transferred to the National Pension Reserve Fund as proposed under the Financial Measures (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25669/09]

The latest estimate for the accrued liability for public service occupational pensions is €75 billion as of 2007. This accrued liability figure is a single monetary amount representing the present value of all expected future superannuation payments to current staff and their spouses in respect of service to date, plus the full liability for all future payments to current pensioners and to their spouses. It includes those liabilities relating to pension funds to be transferred to the National Pension Reserve Fund under the Financial Measures (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009. The large size of the figure is due to the fact that it represents a projection of aggregate pension payments that will be spread over perhaps 70 years into the future.

The estimate of the accrued liability should not be confused with the actual cash funding that will be required in the future. The more meaningful measure of public service pension costs is the actual annual outgo on pensions, which amounted to approximately €2.5 billion in 2008, or 1.3% of GDP. This annual outgo is projected to rise to 2.5% of GDP in 2050. The projected increase arises from the growth in public service employment in the past and from increasing longevity.

The Finance Accounts, to be published shortly, will include an updated estimate of the total liability of public service occupational pension schemes as at 31 December 2008. This figure is being arrived at as part of on ongoing C&AG examination of public service pensions. As part of that examination the C&AG has engaged consultants to carry out a detailed actuarial valuation of public service schemes. The derivation of the accrued liability figure will follow the approach set out in the new accounting standard issued by the International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board, IPSAS 25.

Value for Money Reviews.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

133 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance the nature and outcome of any value for money audit carried out by his Department during the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25707/09]

I take it that the Deputy is referring to the ongoing Value for Money reviews. Under the Expenditure Review Initiative my Department, and the offices under its aegis, has carried out the following reviews during the last three years:

Value for Money Review

Completion date

Outcome

Department of Finance

Ordnance Survey Ireland

January 2007

22 recommendations (published in detail on the Government website)*

Procurement Management within the Department

Due to be completed by the July 2009

Not yet published

Construction Procurement Reform Initiative

Report is at review stage

Not yet published

Civil Service Childcare Initiative

November 2008

9 recommendations (published in detail on the Government website)*

Public Appointments Service

Advertising

November 2007

3 recommendations, all implemented

Procurement

April 2008

5 recommendations, 4 implemented

Training

November 2008

6 recommendations, all implemented

Office of Public Works

Value for Money and Policy Review of the Flood Risk Management Programme

May 2008

Completed and published on the Government website

Review of Property Management Services

Report is currently in draft format

Not yet published

Office of the Revenue Commissioners

Information Technology External Resources Expenditure in 2006

March 2008

Completed and published on the Government website

*Responsibility for Ordinance Survey Ireland has transferred to the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and responsibility for the Civil Service Childcare Initiative has transferred to the Office of Public Works.

The State Laboratory, the Office of the Appeals Commissioners, the Office of the Commission for Public Service Appointments and the Valuations Office did not perform any such reviews during the years in question.

Public Service Contracts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

134 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the failure of some main contractors to pay sub-contracts in respect of public contracts; if it is intended to draw such issues to the attention of main contractors particularly when further payments fall due; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25789/09]

I am not aware of any particular situation where a delay in payment by a main contractor to a sub-contractor has occurred on a public works contract. I should explain to the Deputy that a contracting authority is only responsible for payment for work satisfactorily done by a main contractor under contract with the contracting authority. The contractual relationship on a project with a subcontractor is different. In such cases the contract is between the main contractor and the subcontractor with no other party having privacy to it. Therefore, if there is a problem regarding payment to a subcontractor it is a contractual matter between main contractor and subcontractor and must be resolved through the use of the relevant provisions in the contract.

Tax Code.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

135 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the tax refund sought by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare relates to emergency tax deducted by the employer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25790/09]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they are aware that the person concerned claims that emergency tax was deducted during the period concerned. They are in correspondence with the person in an effort to establish whether or not PAYE tax was deducted from the payments made to him.

Flood Relief.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

136 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance the status of the flood alleviation scheme in respect of Fermoy, County Cork; if that scheme will commence in 2009; the amount of moneys to be made available for the scheme; the estimated completion date of all phases of the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25803/09]

The Minister for Finance confirmed the Munster Blackwater (Fermoy North) Drainage scheme on 19 November 2008. The tendering process for the main construction contract is nearing completion, and the Office of Public Works expects to appoint the main contractor for the scheme shortly. It is then anticipated that construction works will commence this summer.

The overall project cost for the Fermoy scheme is €32 million, while allocation for the first phase (Fermoy North) is €9.9 million. The contract for this first phase of the scheme is scheduled for completion within 12 months.

Consultants are appointed to complete the design for the next phases of the scheme (Fermoy South West and South East), and it is hoped that work on these will commence soon after the first phase is complete. While it is too early to say how long construction on the second phase will take, it is expected to be at least 24 months.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

137 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance the status of the flood alleviation scheme in respect of Mallow, County Cork; if that scheme will continue in 2009; the amount of moneys to be made available for the scheme; the estimated completion date of all phases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25804/09]

The Munster Blackwater (Mallow North) Drainage scheme has been under construction since April 2008, and is due for completion in the next few weeks. As this phase for the overall flood defence scheme for Mallow has been completed, the detailed design of the southern phase, encompassing Mallow South and West Drainage schemes, has commenced. The procurement process for the civil works contract for the second phase will commence very shortly, with the appointment of a contractor expected before the end of 2009.

The commencement of construction is, of course, subject to the necessary funding being available. It is anticipated that the second phase will be constructed over a 24 month period and has an estimated budget of €12 million.

Tax Collection.

Brian Hayes

Question:

138 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Finance the number of cases coming before the Revenue Commissioners in which a solicitor has not paid in full the stamp duty on the transaction of property on behalf of their client, and when in effect the property has never been registered or stamped; the number of cases in which the Law Society of Ireland has paid directly to Revenue the stamp duty as a compensation for the default on the part of the solicitor; if the issue of penalties and interest were applied in these cases where the problem has emerged some years after the sale of the property; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25832/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the number of transactions coming before them where a professional presenter (the vast majority of whom are solicitors) has not paid the stamp duty in full and where the instrument (the vast majority of which relate to property) has not been stamped amounted to 155 in the first five months in 2009 from a total of 45,117 instruments received for that period.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, where a solicitor defaults in paying over stamp duty to Revenue and is 'struck off' subsequently as a practising solicitor, the Law Society will appoint a new solicitor to complete the cases of the defaulting solicitor. In such cases, the new solicitor will pay the stamp duty to Revenue and be compensated accordingly by the Law Society. I understand from Revenue that there were approximately 200 such transactions per annum for the three years 2006-2008 inclusive. There are no instances where the Law Society has paid stamp duty directly to Revenue.

On the question of interest and penalties arising from late payment of stamp duty, I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that all applications for mitigation of interest and penalties are considered on a case by case basis under section 14(3) of the Stamp Duties Consolidation Act 1999. This provides Revenue with discretion to mitigate penalties and interest where, on taking account of all relevant circumstances, not to do so would be unjust and unreasonable. Claims for mitigation must be made in writing and be supported by documentary evidence.

In cases where a taxpayer has, in good faith, paid stamp duty to a solicitor who failed to pay the duty over to Revenue and that solicitor has since been ‘struck off' and the practice closed, Revenue gives favourable consideration to mitigating the penalties and interest that would, otherwise, fall to be paid by the taxpayer in order to have the instrument stamped.

Members’ Remuneration.

Finian McGrath

Question:

139 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of Ministers, Deputies and Senators who took the voluntary pay cut. [25850/09]

To date all Ministers and Ministers of State, 15 Deputies and five Senators are making gifts from salary to the Minister for Finance. In addition, all Ministers, Ministers of State, Deputies and Senators are subject to the public service pensions-related deduction.

Departmental Expenditure.

Joan Burton

Question:

140 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the amount of interest paid by him in respect of the late payments for goods or services contracted by his Department for the past five years to date in 2009; the steps being taken to ensure that money is appropriately spent and that payments are made on time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25863/09]

The amount of late payment penalty interest paid from the Vote of the Minster for Finance for the past five years to date in 2009 is set out in the following table. The period between receipt of an invoice from a supplier and payment by my Department has been reducing in recent years and thus far in 2009 has averaged ten days. This is comfortably within the period of 30 days after which, in general, late payment interest starts accruing in respect of unpaid invoices which have no other problems preventing payment. It also complies with the Government's commitment, which came into effect from 15 June last, to have payments from central Government Departments to business suppliers made within a 15 day period on an administrative basis.

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009 (to date)

€5,476.51

€8,620.18

€6,016.28

€2,314.72

€719.05

Tax Code.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

141 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the progress made in devising a scheme to collect a levy or tax within the gambling industry to fund the horse and greyhound racing industry; if it is intended to bring proposals to Government in the near future; if an all-party committee as previously suggested is to deal with the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25898/09]

During the Finance Bill, I indicated that discussions would commence as to how best betting duty might be applied in the future, in the context of the 2010 budget including looking at the UK's gross profit tax model. A number of different proposals in that regard have been received from various sectors of the industry. I also indicated that it is my intention to widen if possible the tax base on which betting duty would be applied. My officials are continuing to explore all options on an ongoing basis.

In exploring options for widening the tax base on which betting duty could be applied, my aim is to generate revenue to fund public expenditure generally, rather than to fund one specific item of expenditure. The Deputy will be aware the 2009 budget publications announced that arrangements would end whereby the annual payment to the horse and greyhound racing fund would be automatically calculated by reference to the previous year's betting duty or the contribution to the fund in the year 2000 adjusted for inflation.

Tax Yield.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

142 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Finance the amount of revenue raised per year for each of the past five years from stamp duty on awards on infant rulings in the judicial system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26086/09]

It would appear, without further clarification, that the "stamp duty" referred to by the Deputy is not a stamp duty governed by the Stamp Duties Consolidation Act 1999 and for this reason the Minister for Finance would therefore have no function in relation to such matter.

The Deputy might wish to consider approaching the Courts Service for the information sought.

Tax Code.

Noel Coonan

Question:

143 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Finance the number of mortgage holders in the North Tipperary constituency who lost entitlement to mortgage interest relief following his decision to abolish mortgage interest relief for those with a mortgage for more than seven years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26140/09]

Noel Coonan

Question:

144 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Finance the number of mortgage holders in the North Tipperary constituency currently in receipt of mortgage interest relief; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26141/09]

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

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that it is not possible to provide a breakdown of entitlement to, or loss of entitlement to, mortgage interest relief on the geographic basis sought by the Deputy.

At the end of 2008, there were approximately 564,000 mortgage accounts in respect of which mortgage interest relief was being paid through the main lenders. Using the information already available through its own systems and by working with the lenders, Revenue was able to establish the entitlement status of 430,000 mortgage accounts (76% of the total of 564,000 mortgage accounts) under the new seven-year rule for the payment of tax relief as announced in the supplementary budget. Of those:

276,000 were determined as eligible for tax relief post 1 May. Of that 276,000, 242,000 have been getting the relief since 1 May, the remaining 34,000 have been getting the relief since 1 June and the mortgage relief for the month of May is also being paid automatically through the tax relief at source (TRS) system.

154,000 were determined as ineligible for tax relief post 1 May.

In the case of the remaining approximately 134,000 mortgage accounts (24% of the total), definitive entitlement or non-entitlement to mortgage interest relief could not be established by Revenue without making direct contact with the mortgage account holder. Revenue has now written to the vast majority of these mortgage account holders advising them of the new seven year rule. Where these account holders feel they have an entitlement to mortgage interest relief, they are asked to provide certain information about the account to Revenue. The remaining more complex cases, involving top up loans, are in the course of being written to by Revenue.

From the responses received, Revenue has acquired additional information needed to confirm continued eligibility for a further 26,000 accounts. Revenue will now recommence payment of mortgage interest relief from 1 July for these 26,000 accounts. Any arrears of tax relief due back to 1 May will also be paid automatically through the TRS system.

Pension Provisions.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

145 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance if, in respect of Appendix D of the Green Paper on Pensions, he will provide the same information in respect of PRSAs and of RACs for the last year for which figures are available. [26175/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the latest relevant information available is in respect of income tax relief allowed for contributions to Retirement Annuity Contracts (RACs) and Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs) for the income tax year 2006. RACs and PRSAs are available to the self-employed and to employees not in occupational pension schemes.

The information is set out in tables following this reply which provide the number of cases, amount of deduction and reduction in tax for tax relief for RACs and PRSAs for the various contribution ranges. The information is based on income returns contained in Revenue records at the time the data were compiled for analytical purposes, representing about 90% of all returns expected. A married couple who has elected or has deemed to have elected for joint assessment is counted as one tax unit.

INCOME TAX 2006

Personal Retirement Savings Accounts — by range of Gross Income

Range of gross income

Totals

From

To

Number of cases

Amount of deduction

Reduction in tax

Tax due for payment

Gross Tax*

Reduction in tax as % of Gross Tax

%

9,000

103

147,362

1,354

900

2,254

60.1

9,000

10,000

27

36,514

3,622

498

4,120

87.9

10,000

12,000

90

161,705

19,983

7,155

27,138

73.6

12,000

15,000

158

250,134

38,969

31,521

70,490

55.3

15,000

17,000

178

320,370

52,430

50,435

102,865

51.0

17,000

20,000

356

607,023

112,105

163,702

275,807

40.6

20,000

25,000

831

1,462,525

284,988

799,430

1,084,418

26.3

25,000

27,000

430

860,808

169,171

572,543

741,714

22.8

27,000

30,000

623

1,364,158

264,913

1,072,950

1,337,863

19.8

30,000

35,000

1,066

2,513,938

588,544

2,471,431

3,059,975

19.2

35,000

40,000

1,102

2,985,619

946,164

3,596,840

4,543,004

20.8

40,000

50,000

1,810

6,107,436

2,097,090

8,716,196

10,813,286

19.4

50,000

60,000

1,520

6,292,523

2,090,872

10,151,457

12,242,329

17.1

60,000

75,000

1,692

8,614,429

2,994,203

15,381,571

18,375,774

16.3

75,000

100,000

1,720

12,085,447

4,909,314

24,676,425

29,585,739

16.6

100,000

150,000

1,277

14,368,202

6,017,916

31,101,111

37,119,027

16.2

150,000

200,000

452

7,403,141

3,105,442

18,778,232

21,883,674

14.2

200,000

250,000

226

4,931,248

2,071,124

13,250,432

15,321,556

13.5

Over

250,000

401

14,955,336

6,280,930

48,196,615

54,477,545

11.5

Totals

14,062

85,467,916

32,049,137

179,019,445

211,068,581

15.2

*"Gross tax" means the tax that would be due before relief is allowed for PRSA deductions.

The figures do not include contributions made by employees through employers' payroll systems and in respect of which tax relief is provided on the net pay basis. Information on such contributions is not captured in such a way as to make it possible to provide disaggregated figures.

INCOME TAX 2006

Retirement Annuity — by range of Gross Income

Range of gross income

Totals

From

To

Number of cases

Amount of deduction

Reduction in tax

Tax due for payment

Gross Tax*

Reduction in tax as % of Gross Tax

%

9,000

758

1,017,924

11,765

3,115

14,880

79.1

9,000

10,000

208

294,204

27,143

2,189

29,332

92.5

10,000

12,000

570

932,611

120,454

34,008

154,462

78.0

12,000

15,000

1,141

1,956,090

280,294

225,268

505,562

55.4

15,000

17,000

1,071

2,003,400

302,625

378,765

681,390

44.4

17,000

20,000

2,149

4,141,847

703,082

1,039,705

1,742,787

40.3

20,000

25,000

4,769

9,744,586

1,823,720

4,227,460

6,051,180

30.1

25,000

27,000

2,286

4,855,427

941,450

2,739,943

3,681,393

25.6

27,000

30,000

3,815

8,504,697

1,664,465

5,934,111

7,598,576

21.9

30,000

35,000

6,918

16,699,549

3,610,077

14,081,768

17,691,845

20.4

35,000

40,000

7,134

19,480,087

5,335,239

20,194,177

25,529,416

20.9

40,000

50,000

13,728

45,570,662

14,134,610

57,069,111

71,203,721

19.9

50,000

60,000

12,010

49,068,511

15,582,360

71,264,408

86,846,768

17.9

60,000

75,000

14,846

76,318,023

25,432,784

125,946,885

151,379,669

16.8

75,000

100,000

14,880

113,952,157

45,377,951

196,595,768

241,973,719

18.8

100,000

150,000

11,469

153,025,824

63,710,750

262,121,194

325,831,944

19.6

150,000

200,000

4,176

95,577,779

40,036,324

160,934,586

200,970,910

19.9

200,000

250,000

2,431

78,299,260

32,837,396

129,985,205

162,822,601

20.2

Over

250,000

6,292

335,810,332

140,978,874

841,186,514

982,165,388

14.4

Totals

110,651

1,017,252,970

392,911,364

1,893,964,180

2,286,875,544

17.2

*"Gross tax" means the tax that would be due before relief is allowed for retirement annuity deductions.

The figures do not include contributions made by employees through employers' payroll systems and in respect of which tax relief is provided on the net pay basis. Information on such contributions is not captured in such a way as to make it possible to provide disaggregated figures.

Tax Yield.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

146 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance the numbers employed in the retail sector and the tax yield by way of income tax, levies and so on; the total tax yield from the retail sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26230/09]

In terms of employment, the Central Statistics Office compiles data in respect of those employed in the wholesale and retail sectors, as distinct from just the retail sector. Total employment in the wholesale and retail sector in the first quarter of this year was 285,000 which amounted to 14.5% of total employment in theeconomy.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the taxpayer is not required to specify the particular sector or sub-sector of economic activity that they are involved in. Consequently, the precise yield of tax revenues from the retail sector 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 retail sector in relation to VAT (not including VAT on imports), PAYE, Income tax non-PAYE, Corporation tax and Capital Gains Tax. On this basis, the Revenue Commissioners estimate that a tax revenue yield of the order of €4.5 billion was collected under these tax heads in the year 2007 for the sectors categorised as being involved in the retail sector under the international recognised systems applied by Revenue. 2007 is the most recent year for which a reliable breakdown of data is available.

Valuation Orders.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

147 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance if he will postpone the issuance by the Valuation Office of final valuation certificates in view of the current economic situation; the impact this process will have on retailers as well as on local authorities’ income; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26231/09]

The revaluation exercise is governed by the terms of the Valuation Act, 2001, which, inter alia, provides that the specification of publication dates for valuation lists is a matter for the Commissioner of Valuation, who exercises that function by means of the making of Valuation Orders. In each case, the Valuation Order was made by the Commissioner of Valuation only after formal consultation with both the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the rating authority concerned, as required by the Act. The Act further provides that the Commissioner shall be independent in the performance of his functions.

Departmental Allowances.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

148 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance the provisions relating to delegate’s allowance; if those provisions have changed in recent years; if the delegate’s allowance is awarded in addition to travel subsistence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26243/09]

The criteria for the payment of delegate's allowance to civil servants is set out in Circular Letters 4/79 (grades at Assistant Principal level and above) and 1/81 (grades at Higher Executive Officer level and below).

Officers who travel outside Ireland and Britain as members of a delegation representing Ireland at meetings of the EU or other international organisations or with representatives of another government or governments qualify for payment of delegate's allowance. Additional payments are made to those who act as Chairpersons of EU committees or Working Groups during Ireland's tenure of the EU Presidency. Travel abroad for the purposes of attendance at training courses, fact-finding or familiarisation visits, seminars or meetings held solely to exchange information does not qualify for payment of delegate's allowance.

Delegate's allowance rates are reviewed periodically. The last review took place in December 2003 in advance of the Irish Presidency of the European Union in 2004. The delegate's allowance moves in line with general wage round increases. The current rates payable (effective from 1 September 2008) are as follows:

Delegate's Allowance for grades covered by Circular Letter 4/79

First night in each continuous period of 7 days or less

Second and subsequent nights up to a limit of 3 in each period of 7 days or less

Travel on Saturday, Sunday or Public Holiday (per day)

Chairperson Allowance (per day)

€230.41

€67.92

€84.89

€84.89

Delegate's Allowance for grades covered by Circular Letter 1/81

First night away from home in any 7 day period

Second, third and fourth night away from home in any 7 day period

Chairperson Allowance (per day)

€109.15

€36.39

€84.89

Delegate's allowance is payable in addition to reimbursement of travel and subsistence expenses.

Tax Code.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

149 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance if he will establish with the Revenue Commissioners whether a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 has been granted a PAYE credit for themself only and not their spouse; if this has been the case in all previous years; the practice in respect of a PAYE credit for a person who is a qualified adult on a spouse’s State pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26269/09]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the PAYE tax credit is due against a variety of sources of income including occupational pensions and pensions payable under the Social Welfare Acts. However, irrespective of the number of sources of income against which the PAYE tax credit may be due, an individual is entitled to only one PAYE tax credit (currently €1,830) per annum.

As regards a pensioner couple where each spouse is in receipt of a separate social welfare pension plus an occupational pension, each spouse is entitled in their own right to the PAYE Tax Credit.

As regards a pensioner couple where one spouse is a dependant ‘qualifying adult' on the other spouse's pension book, the PAYE tax credit is due only to the spouse who has an entitlement to the pension and a separate PAYE tax credit is not due in respect of that element of the pension payable in respect of a dependant ‘qualified adult'.

For the couple in question, tax returns were submitted for the year 2006 & 2007. In these returns the pension was declared as paid to each of them separately and two PAYE Credits were claimed. However as one spouse is a dependant ‘qualifying adult' on the other spouse's pension book, one PAYE Credit is only due. Amended assessments issued for both years to show the correct position and the tax outstanding has been paid.

Departmental Contracts.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

150 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance the details of print jobs carried out for his Department and being provided by companies based outside the Republic of Ireland; the dates of the awarding of these contracts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26279/09]

Since the formation of the present Government on 14 June 2007 to date in 2009 my Department has not sent material abroad for printing.

I have been informed by the Office of Public Works that the Government Supplies Agency placed no contracts on behalf of the Department of Finance in the years 2007-2009 with printers from outside the state. They have also informed me that their records indicate that there were no contracts or orders placed by Office of Public Works with printing companies outside Ireland under Government Supplies Agency contracts during the period in question.

In relation to the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, the Office of Public Works awarded two printing contracts to firms outside Ireland in the relevant period. The first of these, for a security overlay for C2 cards is a proprietary product and was awarded to a company based in Switzerland called Ovd Kinegram Ag in July 2007. The other contract, awarded in October 2008 to Howitt Limited, Nottinghamshire, England, was for the production of 2.5 million copies of a 16 page information booklet on the PAYE system and was valued at €96,618.40 (excluding VAT) The Contract was publicly advertised, to be awarded to the firm submitting the lowest suitable tender. Howitt submitted the lowest of 14 tenders and met all the requirements of the tender competition.

Dormant Accounts Fund.

James Reilly

Question:

151 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will review a grant or funding application under the dormant accounts fund in respect of suicide prevention for an organisation (details supplied) in order to support this group in its efforts to prevent men committing suicide; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25736/09]

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

167 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 158 of 28 April 2009, if she will confirm that her Department has completed the assessments made by Pobal of the applications received regarding suicide prevention; the amount set aside for funding of this project; if she will outline the way the current economic situation will affect the timeframe for the funding of this measure in view of the fact that the funding is provided for by the dormant accounts fund; if funding for the suicide prevention measures is being reconsidered to support other programmes; if so, the other programmes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25675/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 151 and 167 together.

The Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, through POBAL, invited applications for funding under the suicide prevention measure. €1m was identified to fund the measure. Funding decisions are made by Government on the basis of recommendations made by the Economic and Social Disadvantage Interdepartmental Committee, which is chaired by my colleague, the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

My Department is considering the assessments made by POBAL of the applications received and, in light of the current national economic situation, is also considering the timeframe for the funding of this measure. Recommendations in this regard will be made to the Interdepartmental Committee shortly.

Health Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

152 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to establish a new national programme of wet facilities on the basis of a harm reduction approach; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25759/09]

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

Pre-school Services.

Mary Upton

Question:

153 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the position for parents of children born during June, July or August 2006 in respect of the new child care grant (details supplied), particularly where these children have already been accepted to enrol in national schools in September 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25902/09]

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 will be implemented from January 2010.

The scheme will allow qualifying children to avail of a free pre-school place in the year before they commence primary school. The scheme is open to all private and voluntary pre-school services which are notified to the Health Service Executive (HSE) or registered with the Irish Montessori Educational Board (IMEB). Sessional playschools will, normally, participate in the scheme by providing the pre-school year for 3 hours a day, 5 days a week over 38 weeks while full or part-time daycare services will, normally, participate by providing the pre-school year for 2 hours, 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week over 50 weeks.

While exceptions to the upper age limit will be allowed where children have been assessed by the Health Service Executive as having a special need which will delay their entry to primary school, or it is necessary to accept children at an older age due to the enrolment policy of local primary schools, participating children must, normally be aged between 3 years 3 months and 4 years 6 months on 1 September of each year.

In January 2010, children will be eligible if they were born between 1 March 2005 and 30 June 2006. Children born after 30 June 2006 will be eligible for the free Pre-School Year from September 2010. Most children commence school at around 5 years of age and it is considered that the 15 month age range provided for under the scheme, recognises this position while allowing flexibility to parents to assess the best time for their child to commence school.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Noel Coonan

Question:

154 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Health and Children the person who is charged with processing applications for the 2009 back to school, clothing and footwear scheme in north Tipperary in view of the fact that community welfare officers are over burdened; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26153/09]

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

155 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will consider the case of persons (details supplied) in County Meath who have applied for domiciliary care allowance; if approval will be given; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26218/09]

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.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

156 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that some community welfare officers in County Galway are not accepting applications under the back to school clothing and footwear scheme due to staff shortages; if this situation prevails nationwide; if applications made under the scheme will be posted directly to a Health Service Executive county headquarters office; if her further attention has been drawn to the importance of this scheme to thousands of low income families; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26256/09]

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

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

157 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if the back to school clothing and footwear allowance will be administered by community welfare officers in local health centres in 2009; if not, the arrangement for applying for and receiving this allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26303/09]

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

Inter-Country Adoptions.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

158 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made with the Vietnamese authorities on agreeing arrangements for intercountry adoptions between Ireland and Vietnam; the obstacles which remain; when she expects an agreement to be in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26502/09]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

161 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the ongoing crisis in the area of intercountry adoption which is affecting many families nationwide, particularly between Ireland and Vietnam, as well as between Ireland and other countries; if there has been recent communication between Ireland and Vietnam on the matter; the advice she will offer those people who have been on the applicant list often for a period of many years for adoption; when she expects that the situation will be rectified; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25650/09]

Dinny McGinley

Question:

186 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the proposed interim agreement between Ireland and Vietnam; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25812/09]

Noel Coonan

Question:

214 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the bilateral agreement between Ireland and Vietnam; if progress has been made regarding the request for an interim agreement; her views on whether the situation is unacceptable and leaves many families in distress; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26087/09]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

251 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that her Minister of State for Children will travel to Vietnam to bring to an end the ongoing crisis in intercountry adoption, which is continuing to cause distress to many families here; the position as regards the impasse in this area; and the steps which have been taken to date by her to resolve same. [26342/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 158, 161, 186, 214 and 251 together.

As Deputies are aware, my Office is continuing to work actively to create the appropriate legislative, policy and administrative frameworks that will ensure that a properly regulated regime of adoption is in place in Ireland. Our aim is to support and protect prospective adoptive parents and, even more importantly, the children for whom adoption services are devised and provided.

The promotion of a child's best interests is the fundamental principle that not only supports the development of a national child care and protection system but also ensures that an ethical and child-centred approach to inter-country adoption is adopted and consistently pursued in Ireland. Inter-country adoption does not occur in a vacuum — rather, 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. Inter-country adoption requires a shared responsibility and respect between States in order to ensure that the best ethical practices to support the interests of children, and to safeguard them against their abduction, sale or trafficking, are practised and upheld.

As you know, the Adoption Bill, 2009, was initiated in the Seanad and has recently passed all of the stages in that House. The Bill will continue to be prioritised by the Government for its passage through the Oireachtas.

I firmly believe that the Bill, which includes the regime of the Hague Convention, provides an assurance for individual children, for their families and for 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 the intention of the Government, as the Deputies are well aware, that all inter-country adoption will now meet the standards of the Hague Convention.

I have reported in detail to both Houses on the situation regarding the reasoning for and actions taken to support the negotiation of a new bilateral inter-country adoption agreement with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in recent weeks. This position has not fundamentally changed since my last statement on the matter. The process has been on-going since the beginning of 2008 and the dialogue with the Vietnamese authorities is continuing.

Many Deputies have, in recent weeks, sought guarantees on and specific timeframes for the conclusion of the discussions on a new agreement with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. I must reiterate that all options, including an interim inter-country adoption agreement, are actively being pursued by the Government to finalise these discussions. I must also stress the point that it is not possible for me to either give a timetable or anticipate when this process will be concluded. The negotiations remain live and a request to set up an interim inter-country adoption agreement, which was issued to the Vietnamese authorities on 20 May last via the Department of Foreign Affairs, has been made. It is now a matter for the Vietnamese authorities and, as such, it would be improper for the Government to seek to influence or interfere with their decision-making process.

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is a sovereign state and the decisions that it makes regarding the internal regulation and management of its adoption services must be treated sensitively as appropriate to a sovereign state. My priority is to conclude discussions with the Vietnamese Government on a new bilateral inter-country adoption agreement and to avoid any debate outside of that process that could potentially jeopardise or interfere with these discussions. In the meantime, my officials will continue to be in regular contact with the Department of Foreign Affairs and with the Embassy on the ground in Hanoi.

I can assure you that the work to prepare for and advise the Government on a new bilateral inter-country adoption agreement with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam has been given, and continues to be given, the very highest priority by my Office. I remain completely committed to finalising discussions on the text of the agreement with the Vietnamese authorities. I have explained the reasons for the renegotiation of the existing agreement and am acutely aware of the stress and anxiety that this process has caused to many prospective adoptive parents. I will be in Vietnam on the week commencing on 29 June, the itinerary for which visit has been compiled with the assistance of the Irish Embassy in Hanoi. I will issue a statement on the visit on my return from Vietnam.

My Office has also been working actively to assess the possibilities of entering into bilateral inter-country adoption agreements with a small number of other countries from which Irish applicants have traditionally adopted — including the Russian Federation and the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

While every effort will be made to conclude a bilateral inter-country adoption agreement with the relevant authorities 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.

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. 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.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Jack Wall

Question:

159 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive a date for an operation at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25639/09]

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

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Joe Costello

Question:

160 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 has not obtained a date for their operation; the further reason they have not been referred to the National Treatment Purchase Fund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25642/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service 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.

Question No. 161 answered with Question No. 158.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Jack Wall

Question:

162 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an appeal under the health repayment scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25653/09]

The Health Repayment Scheme Appeals Office is an independent office established to provide an appeals service to those who wish to appeal the decision of the scheme administrator under the Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006.

The claimant referred to by the Deputy lodged an Appeal Form with the Health Repayment Scheme Appeals Office on 29 April 2008. An Appeals Officer carefully and thoroughly considered and assessed this appeal and issued a written decision to the claimant on 26 June 2009. A copy of this decision was sent to the Scheme Administrator and to the Health Service Executive for implementation.

Hospital Services.

Phil Hogan

Question:

163 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Health and Children if there is a proposal to change the status of the specialist laboratories at Waterford Regional Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25662/09]

In February 2009 the HSE announced that, as part of its ongoing transformation of services, it was launching a programme to modernise medical laboratory services. The HSE plans to implement a unified, co-ordinated service which will improve the quality and turnaround times for these essential diagnostic services.

This work will be informed by the report, Implementing a new system of service delivery for Laboratory Medicine Services, by Teamwork Management Services, which the HSE has published. I welcome the fact that the HSE is involving key stakeholders, including the Faculty of Pathology, Royal College of Physicians and the Medical Laboratory Scientists Association, in the development of the implementation plans.

The specific question in relation to Waterford Regional Hospital is a matter for the HSE and I have, therefore, referred the Deputy's question to the Executive for direct reply.

Hospital Procedures.

James Reilly

Question:

164 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on facilitating or issuing a directive to the Health Service Executive to facilitate the collection of cord blood by a company (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25664/09]

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

Health Services.

Bernard Allen

Question:

165 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be made on the application in respect of by a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [25670/09]

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

Pre-school Services.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

166 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children if she received correspondence from a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow regarding the early childhood care and education scheme; if she will provide a copy of the response, or a detailed summary of the reply sent to this person; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25674/09]

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.

It is proposed to issue contracts setting out the requirements of the scheme and their associated terms and conditions in full detail next month. Services will be approved for entry to the scheme subject to them meeting and agreeing to the contractual requirements. It is open to any service approved for entry to the scheme to decide not to proceed at the point of receiving the contract. It is also open to any applicant to seek and pay for legal advice on the contract if they consider this to be necessary or appropriate. All participants will be required to provide a valid tax clearance certificate and keep appropriate records and accounts of their business. This is not expected to be any more onerous on a service than would normally be the case in meeting Revenue requirements, etc.

With regard to the requirement related to fee policies, it should be noted that where a service offers additional hours or services to parents, as clearly optional extras, it is free to charge parents for these where they choose to avail of them. This should not be confused with a service charging a "top up" fee and, in all cases, participating services must ensure that parents are given access to the free pre-school year irrespective of whether they choose to avail of such additional hours or services.

The provision of a valid tax clearance certificate is a standard requirement where public funding is being provided and data protection issues do not arise. With regard to the return to be made by participating services in January 2010, to establish the number of qualifying children enrolled, this will involve a simple input of data by each service similar to the return currently made by services participating in the community childcare subvention scheme (CCSS) which is also implemented by my Office. While there is no special competence required to make the return, I expect that the City and County Childcare Committees will assist services which require guidance on the return, as they did in the case of the CCSS.

The initial processing of application forms is being undertaken by the City and County Childcare Committees. I understand that they will log the applicants' details and seek confirmation from the relevant Pre-School Inspector that services can be considered to be in compliance with the Child Care (Pre-School Services) (No. 2) Regulations 2006 for the purposes of the scheme. All applications received by the Childcare Committees will be forwarded to the Childcare Directorate of my Office.

With regard to the particular circumstances of the service referred to by the Deputy, in that it is unable to open for more than 48 weeks of the year due to the conditions of its leasing arrangement, I would suggest that when the service in question is forwarding an application to operate on the basis of the 38 week model, it also forwards an application to operate on the basis of the 50 week mode, and outlines the particular difficulties it has in this regard.

Síolta is the national quality framework for early childhood education in Ireland and comprises a set of nationally devised and evidenced based principles, standards and components of quality in all dimensions of practice in early childhood education in Ireland. It was developed through extensive consultation with all stakeholders in the early childhood care and education (ECCE) sector in Ireland and is applicable for all settings where children aged birth to six years are present e.g. (full and part time day-care, sessional preschools and play groups, infant classes in primary schools and childminder settings). The Síolta Principles presents a highly endorsed vision for quality practice in early childhood care and education settings in Ireland and reflects our unique historical and cultural context. Síolta has been designed to promote quality improvement in ECCE settings and in addition to informal engagement with Síolta in everyday practice, ECCE services and practitioners may also register to participate in a more formal quality assurance programme which will require engagement with structured internal and external assessment processes, evidence collection and documentation. The Síolta Quality Assurance Programme (QAP) is supported by Síolta Co-ordinators. To date three Síolta Co-ordinators have been recruited and have undergone a rigorous induction process. They are currently supporting clusters of services in the three Dublin based Prevention and Early Intervention Programmes on the Síolta QAP. It is anticipated that the required additional coordinators will be recruited through the National Childcare Voluntary Organisations over the coming months. Each Síolta Coordinator will report, in the first instance to their individual employer, however the Early Years Education Policy Unit will provide induction and direct supervision on the implementation of the Síolta QAP.

In response to the specific queries contained in the letter, a service implementing the Early Years Foundation Management Programme or any other evidence based early childhood care and education programme (e.g. Montessori, High Scope, Steiner) will have no difficulty engaging with the Síolta Principles and Standards.

The National Nursery Education Board examination has been established as equivalent to a level 6 award on the National Framework for Qualifications (NFQ) in Ireland. As the Scheme stands the NFQ requirements relate to the pre-school leaders and not to other staff, although all staff are encouraged to avail of training, which will improve the quality of the service provided, and their own career prospects.

I launched a consultative process on developing the workforce in the ECCE sector on June 12th 2009. This consultation process seeks submissions on core questions relating to access and effective participation in education and training programmes. The consultation process is due to close on September 30th 2009 and it is anticipated that a Workforce Development Plan will be developed soon thereafter.

Question No. 167 answered with Question No. 151.

Services for People with Disabilities.

James Reilly

Question:

168 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children when, taking into account the Ryan report and other cases of abuse highlighted in the media she will introduce independent inspections for units which house intellectually disabled persons; the measures she has put in place to ensure such inspections take place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25677/09]

A Standards Advisory Group was established by HIQA to develop National Quality Standards on Residential Services for People with Disabilities. The Group comprised officials of HIQA, my Department, the HSE, service providers, organisations representing people with disabilities and service users, and met on a number of occasions during 2008. Following a public consultation process initiated by HIQA, the proposed standards were formulated and have now been published.

These standards will provide a national framework for quality, safe services for people with disabilities in a residential setting and relate only to adult services at present.

Given the current economic situation, to move to full statutory implementation of the standards, including regulation and inspection, presents significant challenges at this time. However, notwithstanding the difficulties of immediate statutory implementation, my Department, the HSE and HIQA have agreed that progressive implementation of the Standards will now commence, and that they will become the benchmark against which the HSE assesses both its own directly operated facilities and other facilities that the HSE funds. Further discussions will take place regarding the introduction of an appropriate level of external validation for relevant settings.

In relation to children's services, all children in residential services under the age of 18 are covered by the Children First National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children. Children with disabilities in generic residential centres under the Child Care Act, 1991, are covered by the standards and inspection regimes already applying to those centres. In relation to children with disabilities in other residential centres, Recommendation No. 12 of the Ryan Commission report states that "All services for children should be subject to regular inspections in respect of all aspects of their care". An implementation plan for the recommendations of the Ryan Commission report is being prepared by the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, and will be submitted to Government by the end of July. The Plan will include proposals to implement in full, all the recommendations of the Commission, including identifying costs of implementation.

James Reilly

Question:

169 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will report on the plans to open Bracken House, Julianstown, County Meath for intellectually disabled people; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25679/09]

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.

James Reilly

Question:

170 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason, in respect of the unit for intellectually disabled people in Portrane, County Dublin, nine applicants for the post of senior psychologist were interviewed for this position, nine applicants were offered the post and nine applicants refused the position; the further reason the post is not filled; if the offer of employment or contract is defective in some way; if not, the reason nine applicants refused the offer of employment. [25684/09]

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

Children in Care.

James Reilly

Question:

171 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on relocating the facility for homeless children to a more convenient location (details supplied) in the Dublin city centre, where most of the children come from as concerns have been expressed by the children’s representatives in view of the fact that the suitability of the current location in County Dublin and concerns have also been expressed by residents in the area and representatives of residents at some of the facilities adjacent; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25691/09]

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

Pharmacist Numbers.

Chris Andrews

Question:

172 Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of pharmacists registered here in March 2008; and the number of pharmacists registered as of March 2009. [25692/09]

Under the Pharmacy Acts 1875 — 2007, the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI) has responsibility for maintaining the register of pharmacists. I am informed by the PSI that the total number of persons registered as pharmacists as at 31 March 2008 was 4553, and as at 31 March 2009 was 4484.

Value for Money Reviews.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

173 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the nature and outcome of any value for money audit carried out by her Department during the past three years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25709/09]

Three reviews were carried out under the auspices of my Department as part of the Government's programme of Value for Money and Policy Reviews 2006-2008.

The ‘Review of the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme' was completed in June 2007. The report has been published on the website of the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and the recommendations are currently being implemented.

The ‘Review of the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Long Stay Residential Care for Adults in Mental Health Services' and the 'Review of the Allocation and Utilisation of Funding in Acute Services in the Southern Hospitals Group' have been completed. Implementation plans for both reviews are currently being finalised, following which the reviews will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas and published.

Health Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

174 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will outline the money spent by the Health Service Executive on public and private transport for each of the past five years; if a value for money audit has been conducted on such expenditure; the result of same; if the HSE has a transport policy in place for each acute hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25714/09]

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

Cancer Treatment Services.

James Reilly

Question:

175 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of consultants, registrars, senior house officers on the breast cancer team in Waterford; the number of cases which have been referred to them in the first six months of 2009; the number of these cases which have had breast cancer; her views on whether the staffing levels are sufficient; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25719/09]

The National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) has informed my Department that the Breast Cancer Team at Waterford Regional Hospital (WRH) consists of two Breast Surgeons and arrangements are in train for the appointment of a third Consultant to the Team. From the 1st of July 2009, a dedicated Registrar and Senior House Officer will be assigned to the Breast Surgery service.

NCCP has provided additional revenue funding of €1,198,000 in 2009 to support the development of breast services at WRH. This funding has supported additional Consultant appointments in surgery, radiology and anaesthesia, along with 6 support posts in respect of radiography, nursing and clerical grades.

The NCCP is satisfied that the current staffing levels in Waterford are adequate to meet current activity levels. However, the NCCP will continue to monitor resources and activity levels in the eight designated cancer centres and adjust funding and resources if required.

In the period January to May 2009, a total of 1,695 referrals were received and 91 cancer cases were diagnosed.

Pharmacy Training.

James Reilly

Question:

176 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will review the embargo on recruitment in hospitals and other health facilities to facilitate the training modules of pharmacy students who cannot qualify unless they receive one year’s pre-registration training in a hospital or community facility; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25727/09]

The Government decision to introduce a moratorium across the public service allows for certain posts in the health sector to be filled, through exemptions in the employment control framework for front line posts. Provision has been made within the employment control framework of the HSE for the continuation of the normal arrangements in relation to the filling of clinical placements, rotations and training positions for health care professionals, including trainee pharmacists. The Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland has been in discussions with the HSE concerning the number of placements available in the hospital sector and to ascertain whether there is an opportunity to increase the throughput of students in this area.

Pharmacy graduates have tended to undertake 12 months of pre-registration training in one establishment e.g. a community or hospital pharmacy. However, it is possible for students to undertake two 6 months placements, one of which must be in a community or hospital pharmacy and the second 6 months in another establishment relevant to the practise of pharmacy e.g. in the pharmaceutical industry, academia, etc.

The PSI has prepared a contingency plan in the event that there is a shortfall in the number of placements available this year. I welcome the initiative of the PSI in developing a contingency plan that will endeavour to ensure that all of the students are enabled to acquire a ‘qualification appropriate for practice' and thereby to obtain registration as pharmacists and practice their profession. The PSI's plan will require the full support of the HSE, community pharmacies and the pharmaceutical industry, as well as tutor pharmacists across all sectors of practice, either in the community, hospital, industry, academic and regulatory sectors, if it is to succeed. I would urge all concerned to support the PSI in this initiative.

Infectious Diseases.

Liz McManus

Question:

177 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will outline in respect of a hospital (details supplied) in County Dublin, the number of persons who died solely as a consequence of contracting C. difficile in 2008; the number of persons who died as a consequence of their condition being complicated by C. difficile in 2008; the action taken by this hospital to address this problem; if the hospital presently poses a serious risk to patients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25728/09]

Tackling Health Care Associated Infections (HCAIs), including C. difficile continues to be a priority for the Government and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

Up until May 2008, C. difficile was not a notifiable disease and, as a result, it was difficult to quantify the extent of infection in the health care system. Since May 4th 2008, all cases are required to be notified to the relevant Department of Public Health. The number of cases reported nationally from May to December 2008 was 1625 and from January to June 2009 was 946.

Guidelines for the Surveillance, Management and Control of C. difficile- associated disease were published on 22nd May 2008 by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre in the HSE. They give national guidance and deal with the isolation of C. difficile ribotype 027 for the first time in Irish Hospitals. They are a valuable resource in assisting in the prevention, management and control of this infectious disease.

The information the Deputy is seeking particularly hospital level data and mortality data is not readily available in the format requested. I have, therefore, requested the HSE to provide this information directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Charges.

James Reilly

Question:

178 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will outline the circumstances where the fee of €100 for a visit to a Hospital Emergency Department is waived or considered inapplicable; the protocol regarding charging of fees in circumstances of medical emergency or urgent medical need when a patient finds himself away from home and their normal general practitioner, but enter an emergency department of a hospital for assistance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25730/09]

The €100 outpatient charge for attendance at a designated Accident and Emergency Department is not applicable to persons with full eligibility; women receiving services in respect of motherhood; children up to the age of six weeks; children suffering from prescribed diseases or disabilities (the exemption applies only to treatment for the prescribed condition); children referred from treatment from child health clinics and school health examinations; persons receiving services for the diagnosis or treatment of infectious diseases under Part 1V of the Health Act 1947; persons undergoing tests for the purpose of ascertaining the presence of a disease, defect or condition that may be prescribed under section 70 of the Act; persons deemed to be persons with full eligibility by the Chief Executive for the purposes of the services concerned (hardship clause) (section 45 (7) of the Act); persons who have a letter of referral from a registered medical practitioner; persons whose attendance results in admission as an in-patient; holders of a Health (Amendment) Act Card.

The prescribed diseases and disabilities referred to are mental handicap, mental illness, phenylketonuria, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida, hydrocephalus, haemophilia, and cerebral palsy.

Other than in the circumstances described above, a person with limited eligibility is liable for the charge concerned.

Health Service Staff.

James Reilly

Question:

179 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that places for trainee clinical psychology for 2009 are not affected by the recruitment embargo and that they are exempt from the embargo to ensure a continuous supply of clinical psychologists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25731/09]

The immediate objective is to maintain the number of training places at current capacity. The HSE HR Circular 015/2009 (Moratorium on Recruitment and Promotions in the Public Services — Revised Employment Control Framework for the Health Services) states that the moratorium on recruitment does not apply to clinical psychology grades. In 2009, nationally, 32 trainees will graduate from Clinical Doctoral programmes and 31 new trainees will commence training. It is planned to further develop training opportunities, to meet legislative and service delivery requirements, to 156 training places nationally by 2012.

The Health Service Executive is aware of the increasing requirement for the provision of clinical psychological services. Cognisant of and working within the restrictions of the current employment control framework for the health services, the HSE is committed to ensuring the availability of Clinical Psychologists within the health sector. It is also committed to maintaining the number of postgraduate training places available nationally for clinical psychology training. I understand this currently stands at 107 places, distributed across four National Universities — University of Limerick, University College Galway, Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin.

Company Compliance.

James Reilly

Question:

180 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if a medical group (details supplied) is compliant with the necessary regulations in the Companies Registration Office; if its required submissions are up to date; if the necessary and up-to-date accounts have been filed with the Companies Registration Office as per its regulations; if she has made the necessary inquiries to ensure this group is compliant with CRO regulations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25737/09]

The company concerned is not involved in contractual dealings with the Department of Health and Children, but with the Health Service Executive. The question has been referred to the HSE for appropriate attention.

Generally, policy on compliance with company law and the operation of the Companies Office are matters for the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Health Service Staff.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

181 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the problems being experienced by the Health Service Executive and the unions with regards to the introduction of the incentivised scheme for early retirement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25781/09]

The incentivised scheme of early retirement in the HSE which is provided for in Circular 8/2009 does not apply to grades exempted from the moratorium on recruitment and promotions under the 2009 Employment Control Framework for the Public Health Sector in order to meet the requirements of integrated health care delivery and, in particular, to address needs in the community in respect of care of the elderly and people with disabilities.

Members of all other grades who meet the eligibility criteria will have access to the ISER provided the grades/staff groups concerned cooperate with the requirements in relation to redeployment, mobility, skill mix and flexibility which are outlined in the employment control framework: this is designed to allow individuals to avail of the ISER while still protecting services. Because staff who retire under the scheme will not be replaced (save in very exceptional cases), employers must pay particular attention, when considering applications, to the scope that exists within the organisation for reorganising and restructuring work in order to minimise the impact on essential service delivery. Staff cooperation and flexibility in that regard is essential.

My Department has been informed by the HSE that the majority of health service trade unions have recently issued a directive instructing their members not to cooperate with redeployment and reassignment requests from management. This instruction severely restricts the ability of management to organise/restructure work practice and contravenes the qualification criteria for the scheme.

However, applications can be made to the relevant employer in anticipation of a resolution of the industrial relations issues. Talks are continuing on the issue and it is hoped that a satisfactory resolution will be found.

Hospital Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

182 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a hospital appointment will be offered to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25784/09]

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

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

183 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25785/09]

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

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

184 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when home help hours will be restored to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; when speech and language services and occupational therapy services and child psychology services will be offered to them; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25786/09]

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.

Children in Care.

Joan Burton

Question:

185 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons under 18 years of age currently in State care who do not have an allocated social worker; the number of these persons in residential and foster care respectively; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25818/09]

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

Question No. 186 answered with Question No. 158.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

187 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assure a person (details supplied) in County Kildare that their next appointment will not be cancelled; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25819/09]

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

Pre-school Services.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

188 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will respond to a matter (details supplied). [25822/09]

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 scheme allows for a number of options in terms of the delivery of the Pre-School Year with the standard models being either 38 or 50 weeks. Under the 38 week model, the requirement will be to provide the Pre-School Year over 183 days (i.e. the equivalent of 36.6 working weeks) which is the same as the primary school year. Service will be asked to operate in a way which is as consistent as possible with local primary schools, closing for public holidays, mid-term breaks, etc. Participating services will be expected to meet their operational costs, including payment of staff in respect of statutory entitlements to paid leave, from within the capitation grant.

The Pre-School Year has been designed to provide children with an appropriate level of programme based activities over a regular timeframe and in settings of an appropriate size and age range. In this latter regard, children availing of the Pre-School Year will fall within a 15 month age cohort. Many parents currently enrol their children in play-school services for 2 years over the 3 to 5 year age range. The ECCE will not prevent them from continuing to do so but will allow them to avail of one of these years free of charge.

It is a fundamental principle of the scheme that it is available to parents free of charge. Services may, however, provide charge parents for additional services provided these are clearly optional to parents and provided appropriate programme based activities continue to be provided to children not availing of such services during the Pre-School Year hours. It is considered that the capitation fee has been set at a reasonable rate for the great majority of services, however, it is accepted that some services may wish to remain outside the scheme, as is the case with some fee paying primary schools.

Information relating to the scheme is available from the Childcare Directorate of my Office and is also on the website at www.omcya.ie. Information packs were sent out to over 4,800 pre-school services earlier this month and I understand that over 300 applications have been processed to date by the City and County Childcare Committees and will now be considered for approval within my Office. Contracts relating to entry to the scheme will be issued to services approved for entry to the scheme from next month.

Hospital Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

189 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive a hospital appointment for an urgent treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25823/09]

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

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

190 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an appointment for a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25825/09]

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

Medical Cards.

John Perry

Question:

191 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that a medical card will be issued to a person (details supplied) in County Sligo as soon as possible. [25828/09]

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

Health Services.

Billy Timmins

Question:

192 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25841/09]

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

Seymour Crawford

Question:

193 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of money spent on taxi services for patient transport in each of the counties Cavan and Monaghan for each of the years 2005 to 2008, inclusive; if she is satisfied that all of the money was used for patient transport, or if taxi services were used for other purposes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25846/09]

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

Departmental Expenditure.

Joan Burton

Question:

194 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of interest paid by her in respect of the late payments for goods or services contracted by her Department for the past five years to date in 2009; the steps being taken to ensure that money is appropriately spent and that payments are made on time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25865/09]

The total amount of Prompt Payment Interest paid by my Department during the five years 2004 to 2008 amounted to €19,442. No prompt payment interest has been paid to date in 2009. My Department's purchasing and procurement policies and its payments procedures are designed to ensure that value for money is achieved and that no undue delays occur in the processing and payment of valid invoices. In addition, my Department is subject to the provisions of the European Communities (Late Payment in Commercial Transactions) Regulations 2002 and the commitment that central Government Departments pay suppliers within 15 calendar days in respect of valid invoices received from 15 June 2009.

Medical Cards.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

195 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position with regard to the renewal of a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11. [25871/09]

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

Health and Safety Regulations.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

196 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that four children died in workplaces in 2008; if she has had discussions with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment on this issue; her plans to initiate a programme that will ensure children are safe in the workplace; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25872/09]

I have consulted with my colleague, Tánaiste Mary Coughlan in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment regarding this matter. The Health and Safety Authority, which operates under the auspices of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, and is responsible for the administration and enforcement of occupational health and safety legislation in Ireland recently published its 2008 annual report. The report points out that the number of work-related deaths reported in 2008 was 57 compared to 67 in 2007. Of the 6 non-worker fatalities in 2008, 4 of these were children and 3 of these occurred in the agriculture area.

This is a matter of concern and I know that the Authority is working to raise awareness of farm safety issues and has encouraged the establishment of appropriate training within the sector to help develop a sustainable health and safety culture in agriculture. Safety of children on farms received particular attention in 2008 during the Authority's inspection and promotional events. Specifically, the Authority:

Distributed a safety booklet ‘Stay Safe on the Farm with Jessy', to all national schools and libraries in the country, to raise awareness of the dangers for children on farms.

Developed and updated guidance on child safety, safety for the elderly and the safe use of All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)

Ran a slogan competition for national school children on farm safety in the Kilkenny, Kildare and Carlow catchments.

In 2009, as well as continuing to focus inspections in agriculture on the issues of child safety, the Authority is also working to mainstream health and safety at all levels of education, from early-learning through to third level. In this regard, it has made a number of submissions to the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) about different aspects of the syllabus including the agricultural science syllabus (Senior Cycle).

Children in Care.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

197 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children in residential care who are waiting for psychological assessments from the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25873/09]

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

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

198 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of complaints that have been made by or on behalf of children in residential care or foster care with regarding the standard of care that they are receiving, for each of the past five years; the details of these complaints; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25874/09]

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

Mental Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

199 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to incorporate recommendations made by the Dáil na nÓg council on mental health strategies for young people; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25875/09]

The main focus of the Dáil na nÓg 2008 Council was the development of a positive mental health advertising campaign aimed at teenagers. In October 2008, the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs conducted a series of national consultations with 277 teenagers in six locations around the country in cooperation with the Office for Disability and Mental Health and the HSE's National Office for Suicide Prevention. Young people from the Dáil na nÓg Council 2008 were involved in conducting these consultations. The consultations allowed teenage participants to identify the issues of most importance to them using the heading “Teenage Mental Health: What helps and What hurts?”. The outcome of this consultation process was published on 15th June 2009.

The findings of the report will inform a national information campaign targeted at young people. In Budget 2009, €1 million was provided to fund this campaign which will be undertaken by the National Office for Suicide Prevention in partnership with a range of statutory and voluntary agencies. The development of the campaign is at an advanced stage and is expected to be launched in September.

Children in Care.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

200 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the details of all inspections of institutions that cater for children that have been carried out by the Health Information and Qualify Authority since its inception; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25876/09]

The policy of the Health Inspection and Quality Authority (HIQA) is to publish all inspection reports. Since the Authority's establishment in 2007 a total of 133 inspections of services that cater for children have taken place.

The breakdown of inspections across each year since the Authority's establishment is as follows:

Type of Service

2009 (YTD)

2008

2007 (May-December)

Children’s Residential Centres

35

56

9

Detention Schools

2

2

High Support Units

4

11

Special Care Units

3

6

3

Foster Service*

1

1

*This relates to inspections of HSE Fostering Services as opposed to individual foster homes. HSE Fostering Services were inspected in the Meath Local Health Area in 2007 and in the Dublin South West Local Health Area in 2008.

Full details of all inspections undertaken since the establishment of the Authority are available on-line from www.hiqa.ie

Garda Vetting Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

201 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of Health Service Executive staff who work with children and are waiting for Garda clearance; the locations at which these individuals are employed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25877/09]

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

Children in Care.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

202 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of foster homes here. [25878/09]

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

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

203 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of foster homes that have been inspected by the Health Information and Quality Authority since 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25879/09]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

204 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to increase the number of the Health Information and Quality Authority inspectors to inspect foster care services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25880/09]

Responsibility for the inspection of foster services rests with the Social Services Inspectorate (SSI) of the Authority. It is important to stress that it is the foster service as opposed to the foster home which is inspected. The foster home is but one component in this robust process which also includes interviews with children in foster care and their foster carers, an assessment of social work records, and detailed interviews with the two branches of social services related to fostering — child and family social workers and the fostering team. On the basis of this process, judgement is reached in respect of the foster service provided. In general, inspections of foster services have demonstrated a high standard of care being provided.

The number of children in foster care, across a high number of individual homes, precludes the inspection of every home, and as a result the SSI team have implemented a rigorous methodology to select a representative sample of services for inspection based on the profile of children in these services. Full details of all inspections are freely accessible and in the public domain. The reports can be downloaded from the Authority's website at www.hiqa.ie

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

205 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children who were placed under supervision orders by the Courts since January 2008; the number of these that are still residing with their families; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25884/09]

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

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

206 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the date on which the emergency place of safety service will commence. [25887/09]

I am advised by the HSE that the Emergency Place of Safety Service commenced on 5th June 2009. Under this arrangement the Gardaí can access an appropriate place of safety for children found to be at risk out of hours under Section 12 of the Child Care Act 1991.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

207 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will initiate legislation to ensure a legal right to after-care to support young people making the transition from care to independent living. [25888/09]

The Government has accepted all of the recommendations of the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse and is committed to their full implementation. Included in the recommendations is the provision of aftercare services. As Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, I have been tasked with developing a plan for the implementation of the recommendations. Aftercare for young people leaving the care of the State will be considered in the context of the implementation plan. The plan will be brought to Government by the end of July.

Hospital Services.

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

208 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will stop the proposed closure of 16 respite beds in Cherry Orchard Hospital, Ballyfermot, Dublin 10. [25891/09]

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

Health Services.

John Cregan

Question:

209 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children if 2009 physiotherapy graduates will be given an opportunity to apply for future vacancies with the Health Service Executive in view of the fact that these newly qualified graduates have not been given the opportunity to be placed on a panel; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25897/09]

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

Commissions of Investigation.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

210 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in publishing the commission report into Leas Cross; if such report, received by her on 10 June 2009, has or will be discussed by the Cabinet; the expected date of publication; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25910/09]

The Commission of Investigation, established to investigate the management, operation and supervision of the former Leas Cross Nursing Home has completed its work. The Commission's Final Report was submitted to my colleague the Minister for Health and Children on 10 June 2009 and the Minister intends to publish the report as soon as possible.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

211 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the hospice groups here which are in receipt of grant aid from the Health Service Executive: the amount of aid awarded to each group in 2007 and 2008 in tabular form; the percentage this represents of total expenditure; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25915/09]

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

Michael McGrath

Question:

212 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the oversight and scrutiny procedures in place within the Health Service Executive to ensure that value for money is achieved by disability service providers funded by the HSE, with particular regard to multidisciplinary support providers, in view of the fact that the investment in specialist disability services, as outlined in the HSE service plan 2009, for people with disabilities, is €1.508 billion. [25933/09]

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. The Deputy may also wish to note that a Value for Money Study of the disability services funded from Vote 40 is due to commence shortly as part of the Government's Value for Money and Policy Review Initiative 2008-2011.

Hospital Services.

Joan Burton

Question:

213 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the possible outsourcing of pathology and blood tests from St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin; the rationale for outsourcing such tests to the private sector when the necessary skill set and experience exists in Health Service Executive facilities; if options have been explored for centralising such procedures at existing one or more HSE run laboratories; if a preferred bidder for this contract has been chosen; if a similar outsourcing process is in progress at other HSE run medical facilities or for other procedures; the consultation which has been carried out with the relevant practitioners in St. Vincent’s, particularly those in the pathology department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25934/09]

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

Question No. 214 answered with Question No. 158.

Noel Coonan

Question:

215 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in respect of ward and bed closures in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, Dublin, following the announcement that the hospital is not proceeding with plans to close two more wards and an operating theatre in July 2009; the way the proposed closures will lengthen waiting lists for children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26088/09]

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

246 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children the action she is taking to deal with difficulties at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, Dublin; if her attention has been drawn to the concern of many in respect of this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26262/09]

I proposed to take Questions Nos. 215 and 246 together.

Each hospital funded by the HSE is required to deliver services within the financial allocation provided. In common with all hospitals, Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin is faced with the challenge of delivering a high quality service to its patients, while remaining within budget.

The priority of the HSE and hospital management at Our Lady's Children's Hospital is to ensure that services at the hospital are maintained at an optimum level and to protect patient care. The HSE is involved in ongoing discussions with hospital management regarding its 2009 financial allocation and Service Plan.

It has proven necessary for Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin to take measures to stay within budget. The HSE has advised that, based on the financial performance for the first five months of 2009, the hospital should achieve a break even position at year end. This assessment takes account of cost saving measures totalling €6.5m which have been agreed with the hospital, and which are to be implemented over the remainder of the year. Much of the focus of the discussions between hospital management and the HSE has been on ensuring that all areas of non-pay expenditure are critically examined and that costs are reduced where possible.

Part of these measures to stay within budget included the temporary closure of a theatre and a ward from this month. The hospital has now indicated that further ward and theatre closures which had been proposed for in July and August will no longer be necessary. This is to be welcomed.

Following on from a meeting last week between the HSE and the three Dublin paediatric hospitals, it was agreed that Crumlin Hospital would revert to the HSE with its proposals to specifically address the needs of scoliosis patients between now and year end. The HSE will consider these proposals within days and form a plan of action with the hospital.

The allocation to Crumlin for 2009 is €139.6m, an increase of some 39% over the last five years. In line with the budgetary constraints facing the entire public sector and the wider economy, this does include a reduction of 3% this year over 2008. A particular challenge for the Hospital is that it has been operating at some 91 posts above its employment ceiling — it employed 1,641 people (whole-time equivalents) at the end of April compared with its ceiling of 1,550. This is contributing to the current financial difficulties.

The way to provide the best possible tertiary care most cost effectively involves the creation of one single national paediatric hospital, alongside a major teaching hospital, bringing together all the medical and nursing expertise for complex conditions. The concept of bringing together all three present services is widely accepted.

The Children's Health First Report commissioned by the Health Service Executive indicated that the population and projected demands in this country can support only one world class tertiary paediatric hospital. It recommended that the hospital should be in Dublin and should, ideally, be located with a leading adult academic hospital in order to optimize the outcomes for children. Following detailed consideration, it was decided that the most appropriate location for the new National Paediatric Hospital is at the Mater Hospital.

The development, one of the most significant to be undertaken in the health service, is being overseen by the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board which was established in May, 2007.

The current timetable for completion of the new hospital is:

Q2, 2009 — Completion of the Project Brief (including the detailed design brief);

Q3, 2009 — Sign-off detailed design brief;

Q3, 2010 — Preliminary foundation works with site development to begin (subject to Planning Permission);

Q4, 2013 — Construction completed;

Q4, 2014 — Fit-out and commissioning.

It is therefore entirely appropriate that we should now move towards that model of care in terms of closer integration and co-operation in the medical areas and in the most cost effective use of resources.

In 2009 the Government will provide over €250m for the running of three paediatric hospitals in Dublin. We can achieve significant cost savings if services and practices are more closely integrated across the three hospital sites, even before the new National Paediatric Hospital has been completed.

With this in mind, the HSE is pursuing ways in which services across the three hospitals can best be co-ordinated, to avoid unnecessary duplication and to achieve savings that can be put back into patient care. For example: the three children's hospitals in Dublin have agreed and developed a model for the development of a joint department of paediatric surgery. The clinical network across the three hospitals will make the best use of the resources that are available and will ensure a ‘single system of care'. A recruitment process is underway to recruit three replacement surgeons that will then give the joint department a complement of 7 surgeons (currently 5 in place, with 1 due to retire shortly). It is anticipated that these posts will be filled by year end.

The HSE commissioned a review in 2008 of paediatric critical care facilities and services with a view to addressing any identified deficits in advance of the opening of the new National Paediatric Hospital.

The resulting Report recommended that Paediatric Critical Care Services should operate as a single/joint clinical department across Temple Street and Crumlin sites (Tallaght does not have an ICU) with a lead clinician, initially as part of a combined Department of Anaesthesia and Critical Care. An Irish Paediatric Critical Care Network has been established as the advisory body to lead the development of a co-ordinated system for the delivery of paediatric critical care services and to develop advice, standards and recommendations regarding the optimum delivery of paediatric critical care services in the country.

An independent chair has been appointed (Dr. Des Bohan, Medical Director, Critical Care Services for Children, Toronto), who is an international respected expert, to facilitate and guide the development of the joint department of paediatric critical care. Other areas currently being examined in relation to increased co-operation are in the areas of renal services, genetics, endocrinology and dermatology services amongst others.

Pre-school Services.

Noel Coonan

Question:

216 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has been in discussions with North Tipperary pre-school providers to determine if the new Government sponsored pre-school year has been deemed adequate by these providers in terms of the proposed fee provided by the State and if this fee will cover all costs; the number of children from the area who will be availing of the scheme; the number of service providers in North Tipperary; when the scheme will be introduced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26091/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the implementation of the new Early Childhood Care and Education scheme which provides a free Pre-School year to eligible children and which will be introduced in January 2010.

Immediately following the announcement, details regarding the scheme were communicated to the City and County Childcare Committees, including North Tipperary County Childcare Committee, and the National Voluntary Childcare Organisations, all of which are funded by my Office. The scheme was subsequently discussed with them in depth at a special seminar held on 7 May 2009. I have also had a number of meetings, since the announcement of the scheme, with the National Voluntary Childcare Organisations who represent the views of their members throughout the country and I have listened carefully to what they had to say. Where possible, issues raised by the sector have been taken into account in the terms and conditions governing the scheme.

An annual capitation fee of over €2,400 will be paid to participating services in return for the provision of a free pre-school year to each child. This is equivalent to approximately €276 per month where a service is participating for 38 weeks and approximately €207 per month where it participates for 50 weeks. The capitation fee and its application on a weekly basis are considered reasonable. Approximately 1,000 community child care services, most of which are expected to apply for entry into the new scheme, already participate in the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS). The average fee charged for a sessional pre-school place in these services is €50 per week. The ECCE capitation fee also compares very favourably to that paid to private and voluntary pre-school services under the Pre-School Programme Expansion Scheme operated in Northern Ireland which amounts to approximately £30 per week.

Each participating service will have to meet the costs of the new free pre-school year from the capitation provided under the scheme. However, it is noted that services participating in the 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

The scheme is open to approximately 4,800 pre-school services operating in the State, including full and part-time daycare services as well as sessional playschool services. My Office recently wrote to these services inviting them to participate in the scheme and enclosing application forms and other relevant information. It is expected that the application process will be completed by the end of September 2009 and following this a list of participating services in each area will be available to each City and County Childcare Committee.

Many of the services expected to participate in the new scheme will have already received capital grant aid under the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme (EOCP) and or the National Childcare Investment Programme (NCIP). More than 65,000 additional child care places will have been created by the end of 2010 as a result of this investment. I am aware from representations received from pre-school services in recent months that many are currently reporting vacancy rates of up to 25% in their facilities. I am also aware of a number of people now considering investing in a child care business of their own, many of them existing qualified child care workers. Also, many services which to date have only been open in the morning, citing lack of demand for an afternoon session, are now considering offering an additional session to meet an increase in local demand. My Office and the City and County Childcare Committees will monitor the situation carefully, following the implementation of the scheme, to ensure that the beneficial impact of the scheme for parents and children is maximised.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

217 Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Health and Children when a claim by a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim under the nursing home refund scheme will be awarded; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26100/09]

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

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

218 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will be re-issued in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26104/09]

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

Cancer Screening Programme.

Michael Ring

Question:

219 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to extend a service (details supplied). [26109/09]

The expert advice from BreastCheck and from the National Cancer Forum, as contained in the National Strategy for Cancer Control, is that following the national roll out of the programme to women between the ages of 50 and 64 years, the upper age limit should be extended to women aged 69 years. The priority of BreastCheck is to screen women who have not yet been screened and accordingly it is fully focussed at present on the completion of the first round of screening in the West and South.

I will consider extending the age limit as recommended when the national roll-out of the programme is sufficiently developed and it is assured that a quality service is being delivered. Any woman irrespective of her age who has immediate concerns or symptoms should contact her GP who, where appropriate, will refer her to the symptomatic services in her area.

Hospital Procedures.

Bernard Allen

Question:

220 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on the situation at Mallow Hospital, Cork, where a CAT scanner is again lying idle with a radiographer unable to operate it as a result of staffing problems and patients are being sent to a private hospital in Cork for scans at a minimum daily cost of €3,000; and if she will investigate this case. [26119/09]

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

Hospital Services.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

221 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that cystic fibrosis patients at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin, remain on crowded wards and are therefore at risk of potentially fatal infection, and that, despite this situation, St. Vincent’s is closing a ward used by CF patients on 1 July 2009 in order to save money; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26120/09]

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

Hospitals Building Programme.

Martin Ferris

Question:

222 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children the projects listed for the Health Service Executive south; and the location of same. [26125/09]

Martin Ferris

Question:

224 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children the capital projects which will proceed in the Health Service Executive south in 2009. [26127/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 222 and 224 together.

The Health Service Executive is currently amending its Capital Plan to take account of its revised capital allocation following the Supplementary Budget. In determining its capital investment programme, the HSE is required to prioritise the projects to be progressed taking account of the targets for apportionment of capital investment between the Acute and Primary, Community & Continuing Care programmes. Planned expenditure for 2009 will need to be managed carefully within the available limits and further commitments will require prioritisation within the likely funding envelope in future years.

When revised, the Executive's capital proposals must be submitted for my approval with the agreement of the Minister for Finance. Details of the individual projects being included in the Capital Plan will be made available when the plan is approved.

Martin Ferris

Question:

223 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding proposals for a new maternity unit at Kerry General Hospital. [26126/09]

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

Question No. 224 answered with Question No. 222.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Richard Bruton

Question:

225 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the intended start date for fair deal, now that the legislation has passed all stages in Dáil Éireann; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26134/09]

Richard Bruton

Question:

226 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person who has been made a ward of court will enjoy the same protections under fair deal in terms of cap on their contribution as any other individual. [26135/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 225 and 226 together.

The Nursing Homes Support Scheme Bill 2008, A Fair Deal, has completed all Stages in the Houses of the Oireachtas and has been referred to the President for signature. The Minister intends to implement the scheme in the final quarter of this year.

With regard to the Deputies question about individuals who have been made a ward of court, I can confirm that such individuals will benefit from all of the same protections under the scheme as any other individual.

Medical Cards.

Noel Coonan

Question:

227 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Health and Children the income limits and other conditions that apply to a person, to be deemed eligible to apply for a medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26145/09]

Persons and their dependants who would experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of general medical and surgical services are eligible for a medical card, which entitles them to a range of health services free of charge. In 2005, the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so that people on moderate and lower incomes, particularly parents of young children, who do not qualify for a medical card, would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP. The full income guidelines as of 1st January 2009 that apply to applicants for a medical card or a GP visit card are set out in tabular form below.

Medical Card Income Thresholds for Applicants aged 70 & Over (Effective from 01-01-2009)

Medical Card Weekly Rate 01/01/2009

Single Person Aged 70 and over

€700.00

Married Couple Aged 70 and over

€1,400.00

Persons whose income is above €700 per week (gross) for a single person and €1,400 per week (gross) for a married couple and whose circumstances are such that it would cause them undue hardship to provide medical and surgical services for themselves, may be considered for a medical card on a discretionary basis.

Income from Savings/Investments/Property

Any savings up to €36,000 (single) / €72,000 (couple) will be disregarded and only interest from savings above these figures will be considered as income for means testing purposes.

Income will not be imputed from property (whether a family home, a holiday home or any other property) for means testing purposes, unless it is rented and only the net rental income will be included as income. The income to be assessed will be the gross income, less any cost necessarily incurred associated with the property and such cost may include insurance premia, loan/mortgage repayments, maintenance, etc.

Only dividend payments will be considered as income for means testing purposes in the context of shares and investments.

Medical Card / GP Visit Card Income Thresholds for Applicants under 70 Years of Age

(Effective from 01-01-2009)

Medical Card Weekly Rate 01/01/2009

GP Visit Card Weekly Rate 01/01/2009

Single Person Living Alone

Aged up to 65 years

184.00

276.00

Aged between 66-69 years

201.50

302.00

Single Person Living with Family

Aged up to 65 years

164.00

246.00

Aged between 66-69 years

173.50

260.00

Married Couple/Single Parent Families with Dependent Children

Aged up to 65 years

266.50

400.00

Aged between 66-69 years

298.00

447.00

Allowances

Allowance for first 2 children under 16 years financially dependent on applicant

38.00

57.00

For 3rd and subsequent children under 16 years financially dependent on applicant

41.00

61.50

Allowance for first 2 children over 16 years financially dependant on applicant

39.00

58.50

For 3rd and subsequent children over 16 years financially dependent on applicant

42.50

64.00

For a dependant over 16 years in full-time education and not grant-aided

78.00

117.00

Other Items Considered

In assessing if a person qualifies for a Medical Card or a GP Visit Card, the HSE must have regard to the person's overall financial situation and not just their income.

The assessment of eligibility for medical cards will be based on the combined income of the applicant and spouse (if any) after tax and PRSI have been deducted.

Applicants whose weekly incomes are derived solely from Social Welfare or Health Service Executive allowances/payments, which are in excess of the Financial Guidelines (either at first application or renewal) will be granted a medical card.

Additional guideline allowances will be given for:

Reasonable expenses incurred in respect of rent/mortgage payments;

Reasonable expenses incurred in respect of childcare costs;

Reasonable expenses incurred in travel to work.

Expenditure in relation to medical costs will be considered.

In respect of savings and investments, the first €36,000 for a single person and €72,000 in respect of a couple is disregarded when determining income.

If an applicant's income is over the guidelines they may still qualify if their personal circumstances cause undue financial hardship.

Noel Coonan

Question:

228 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Health and Children if there is a dedicated direct contact line for Oireachtas Members to contact officials in her Department in the new medical card section based in Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26147/09]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has the operational responsibility for the General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme. Up to the start of this year, medical card and GP visit card applications were processed in the 32 local health areas. However, under the HSE's 2009 Service Plan, the processing of all medical card and GP visit card applications will transfer to the Executive's Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) in Dublin. The change is being implemented on a phased basis and has commenced with the PCRS processing all medical card applications for persons aged 70 or over. The PCRS is committed to responding to all queries from Oireachtas members and the wider public. Its phone number is 01-8647100.

The HSE has established a Parliamentary Affairs Division (PAD) to co-ordinate and manage Parliamentary Questions and representations from Oireachtas members. The Executive is committed to responding to all Oireachtas members' PQs and representations and should a Deputy have any difficulty with regard to a reply to their question, they can contact the HSE central PAD on 01-6352505 or email pad@hse.ie.

Noel Coonan

Question:

229 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Health and Children the impact the proposed centralisation of medical cards will have on applicants in North Tipperary; the staff who are currently employed doing this work including community welfare officers and clerical staff; the way the service will be improved by removing local knowledge and local expertise; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26148/09]

Up to the start of this year, medical card and GP visit card applications were processed in the 32 local health areas. However, under the Health Service Executive's 2009 Service Plan, the processing of all medical card and GP visit card applications will transfer to the Executive's Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) in Dublin. The change is being implemented on a phased basis and has commenced with the PCRS processing all medical card applications for persons aged 70 or over.

The HSE has advised my Department that there are no plans to close any of the local health offices and these offices will continue to deal with queries of a general nature about the medical card scheme and will provide any assistance needed with the application process. 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. People whose income exceeds the income guidelines but have a case to be considered on medical or hardship grounds will continue to have their application considered by the PCRS.

Since medical card applications will all be processed centrally, this will result in a more consistent and transparent approach being applied.

This is an example of the type of innovation signalled in the Transforming Public Services Programme announced by the Taoiseach last November. It demonstrates how improved services can be delivered within the more limited resources available in a way which meets the needs of citizens in a modern society.

As the Deputy's question refers specifically to the position in North Tipperary, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address this matter, and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

John Perry

Question:

230 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that children (details supplied) in County Sligo who are in need of orthodontic treatment will receive that treatment as soon as possible; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26189/09]

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

Organ Retention.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

231 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the independent audit of currently retained organs in all hospitals here which is being carried out following the Madden Report into post mortem practice; if a draft report or final report has been received either by her or the Health Service Executive; if this report will be published and laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26192/09]

Dr Deirdre Madden's report on Post Mortem Practice and Procedures recommended that "an independent audit must be carried out of currently retained organs in all hospitals in the State". To implement this recommendation, the Health Service Executive (HSE) commissioned Ms Michaela Willis, former Member of the UK Human Tissue Authority and founder member and Chair of the UK National Committee relating to Organ Retention, to undertake an independent audit.

The HSE has advised that field work for Ms Willis's independent audit, which included site-visits to all hospitals that carry out post-mortem examinations in the State, has been completed. This data is being compiled and a report based on the audit is currently being prepared by the author. When this report of the independent audit is completed by the author, the HSE will arrange the publication of the full and final report. I understand that this process will be completed over the coming months.

Health Services.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

232 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in allocating funding to enable day placement for a person (details supplied). [26201/09]

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.

Sale of Tobacco Products.

Richard Bruton

Question:

233 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has prepared a compliance cost analysis on the impact of new restrictions on tobacco sales; and if she is satisfied that small shops will not be unfairly disadvantaged in the operation of these restrictions. [26204/09]

The measures in question were provided for in legislation enacted by the Oireachtas in 2002 and confirmed again by Government and the Oireachtas in 2004 prior to the Government's decision of 21 June 2005 that Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) including cost benefit analysis should be carried out on all proposals for primary legislation. I do not believe that these measures, which will come into effect tomorrow, will impose onerous obligations on tobacco retailers.

Hospital Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

234 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans in place or are proposed to secure the future of orthopaedic services in Sligo General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26210/09]

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

Health Services.

David Stanton

Question:

235 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she and the Health Service Executive recognise autism as a condition in its own right; if a person who is diagnosed as autistic can expect to receive supports from the health service as a result of such diagnosis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26212/09]

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a group of developmental disabilities defined by significant impairments in social interaction and communication and the presence of unusual behaviours and interests. Many people with ASDs also have unusual ways of learning, paying attention or reacting to different sensations. The thinking and learning abilities of people with ASDs can vary — from gifted to severely challenged.

In relation to the provision of health services, the intention of an assessment of need is to identify the health needs resulting from an individual's disability. The provision of services for people with autism is therefore determined by the level of need presented.

The Health Service Executive provides health services and supports to people with autism. As the Deputy's question relates to service matters I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Executive for direct reply.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

236 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8 is satisfactorily concluded and that there will be no further postponement. [26215/09]

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

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

237 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of crutches or pairs of crutches purchased by the Health Service Executive in the years 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008; the cost on the HSE for such crutches over the four years period and further; the number of crutches returned or accepted by the HSE during that same period; the policy of the HSE in respect of re-using or re-cycling crutches; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26217/09]

The Deputy will be aware that I arranged for a similar question raised by him on 26 May 2009 to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply. I understand from the Executive that the material is being collated and a reply will issue shortly.

In the meantime, the Department of Health and Children has sought a full assessment of the existing position regarding the recycling of medical equipment / aids and appliances from the Health Service Executive, to include the scope for improving the way this issue is dealt with.

Mental Health Services.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

238 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans to relocate the Central Mental Hospital from Dundrum to Portrane; the stage the plans are at; if Fingal County Council and local residents will be consulted at the outset before the plans are progressed further; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26229/09]

In May 2006 the Government confirmed the decision to develop a new Central Mental Hospital (CMH) at Thornton Hall, County Dublin. Since then, a draft project brief has been prepared and a Cost Benefit Analysis has been completed. None of the work undertaken to date has been site specific but a number of difficulties have now emerged with the Thornton Hall site. The HSE has identified a need for an Intellectual Disability Forensic Mental Health Unit and a Child and Adolescent Forensic Mental Health Unit. Neither of these units would be viable as a stand alone facility and they should be co-located with the CMH, but the twenty acre site at Thornton Hall is not large enough to allow for these additional developments. Moreover, the construction of these additional units at a location separate to the CMH would incur increased capital and revenue costs. The planning and design process for the CMH redevelopment project will soon need to become site specific and all of the issues involved are currently being considered. The Deputy can be assured that if the Government decide to change the location of the new hospital, the HSE will, in due course, undertake a consultation exercise with stakeholders.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Frank Feighan

Question:

239 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a medical appointment for 25 June 2009 in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon has been cancelled again; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the person has been waiting three years for this surgery; and if she will ensure that an early appointment will be arranged. [26232/09]

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

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

John Perry

Question:

240 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that the health repayment scheme reimbursement is awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim as a matter of urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26236/09]

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

Health Services.

Martin Ferris

Question:

241 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will receive orthodontic treatment. [26237/09]

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

Vaccination Programme.

David Stanton

Question:

242 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 168 of 19 April 2005, her views on whether to conduct an investigation into vaccine trials carried out on children in State care; the methods of compensation for the adults involved in same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26248/09]

On 28th November 2006, the Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney TD, announced that there would be no further examination of the question of vaccine trials in institutional settings. The trials were the subject of a report by the Chief Medical Officer which was laid before the Oireachtas in November 2000. The decision followed a detailed examination of judgements in court cases related to the vaccine trials heard in both the High Court and the Supreme Court.

Food Labelling.

James Reilly

Question:

243 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the labelling obligations of fast food outlets regarding the amount and type of nutritional and other information such establishments must display the point of display, whether on packaging, at the point of sale or otherwise; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26257/09]

Currently, EU general labelling requirements for all foodstuffs are set out in Directive 2000/13/EC. This Directive lists the compulsory information to be included on all labels, such as the list of ingredients, the use-by date and any special conditions of use. In addition to the general legislation, there are certain labelling rules for certain food groups (e.g. country of origin labelling for beef), and specific measures including labelling provisions for certain foods and substances (e.g. beef, fish, chocolate, dietetic foods, food supplements, fortified foods etc).

Nutrition labelling on food is currently regulated by Directive 90/496/EEC, transposed into Irish law by the European Communities (Nutrition Labelling for Foodstuffs) Regulations, 2005 (S.I. No. 65 of 2005). This sets out the requirements for the nutrition labelling of foodstuffs to be delivered to the ultimate consumer and to foodstuffs intended for supply to restaurants,fast food outlets, hospitals, canteens and other similar mass caterers. Foodstuffs must not be placed on the market unless these Regulations are complied with.

At the moment, under EU legislation, nutrition labelling is optional, although it becomes compulsory when a nutrition or health claim is made in the labelling, presentation or advertising of a foodstuff or when vitamins or minerals are voluntarily added to foods.

In January 2008, the European Commission presented its proposals on updating and harmonising this legislation. The proposal is still under discussion. This proposal introduced new provisions for a mandatory nutrition declaration and for mandatory allergen labelling amongst others. This declaration in Article 29(1) proposes that "the mandatory nutrition declaration shall include the following:

(a) energy value;

(b) the amounts of fat, saturates, carbohydrates, sugars, and salt.”

In November 2008, Ireland submitted its position paper on the proposal. This paper was informed by submissions made to the FSAI by many of the key stakeholders. Ireland's position will be further informed by the outcome of an FSAI Consumer Survey. In its position paper, Ireland supports Article 29(1) and mandatory allergen labelling and in addition seeks the inclusion of trans fats, fibre, folic acid, calcium, iron and vitamin D in the mandatory nutrition declaration.

Since January 2008 a number of meetings have taken place at European Union Working Group level, attended by officials from Department of Health and Children and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. The next meeting is due to take place on 6 July 2009.

James Reilly

Question:

244 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the method by which labelling and nutritional and general food labelling obligations of fast food retail outlets are inspected or monitored; the agency or body responsible for same; the frequency of inspections; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26258/09]

Responsibility for the enforcement of food labelling legislation in fast food retail outlets rests with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI). Checks on compliance are incorporated into routine hygiene inspections for such establishments. These inspections are carried out by the Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) in the Health Service Executive (HSE) operating under a service contract with the FSAI.

The official controls (verification, inspection, audit, sampling and analysis, monitoring and surveillance) applying to food business operators, including fast food retail outlets, take in to account food safety requirements set out in law, the requirements of the Service Contract between HSE and FSAI, and the National Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) Strategy. Also included in these inspections are checks on compliance with labelling regulations in retail, catering and some food processing outlets as appropriate. It is expected that the finalisation of the proposed European Commission labelling Regulation will result in the compulsory presentation of allergens and a nutritional declaration on the label. HSE labelling inspections are done as part of the normal routine food safety inspections.

Frequency of inspection is related to the risk categorisation of the establishment; (High, Medium, Low risk) the means by which establishments are categorised by HSE is set out in FSAI Code of Practice 1. This code also includes guidance to take account of the provisions in Article 3 of Regulation (EC) No. 882/2004 on general obligations with regard to the organisation of official controls.

While no separate figures are available for fast food outlets during 2008, 46,873 inspections were carried out in HSE supervised establishments. As an outcome of these inspections, 18,169 infringements of which 1,358 or 7.5% related to labelling were observed.

Pharmacy Regulations.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

245 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children the contacts she has had with community pharmacists in respect of her announcements regarding the cost of drugs and medicines; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26261/09]

On 18 June 2009, I announced details on the reduction of payments to community pharmacists under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009. A public consultation, under the Act, took place in March 2009 where all interested stakeholders were invited to make submissions on the matter. As part of that process the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU), as the representative body of pharmacists, submitted a written submission and made an oral submission to Department officials. In addition, 104 other written submissions were received largely from community pharmacists. These submissions along with the other submissions received were analysed and considered before I made my decision on the restructuring of payments.

Question No. 246 answered with Question No. 215.

Industrial Disputes.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

247 Deputy Ciarán Cuffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on the long-running industrial dispute between her Department and the Department of Social and Family Affairs that is preventing greater flexibility in the provision of community welfare services to persons who have become unemployed. [26265/09]

The long-running industrial dispute referred to by the Deputy is not in fact between my Department and the Department of Social and Family Affairs, but rather arises from resistance by the trade unions representing the staff employed in the Community Welfare Service, SIPTU and IMPACT, to the transfer of the Community Welfare Service from the HSE to the Department of Social and Family Affairs taking place.

The Government decided in 2006, to transfer certain functions carried out in the Health Service Executive to the Department of Social and Family Affairs, including the transfer of income and support schemes, together with associated resources. A considerable amount of preparatory work for the transfer of the Community Welfare Service has already been completed. The IT, accommodation and financial management aspects are well advanced. The necessary legislative changes have been made and are subject to a Commencement Order.

Following on from the involvement of the National Implementation Body in December 2006, a Joint Liaison Group was set up comprised of the Unions, the HSE and the Departments of Health and Children and Social and Family Affairs to allow discussions take place to deal with the concerns of the staff involved. An independent facilitator, Mr. Conal Devine, was appointed to chair the discussions. While some progress was made during the discussions in relation to the future role of the Community Welfare Officers, no agreement has been reached in a number of areas related to terms and conditions of employment. These include pay assimilation to civil service pay scales and the future career path arrangements for the staff on transfer. The Government has recently considered a report on the progress of the transfer of functions programme and is determined that the transfer of the Community Welfare Service should be progressed. I understand that the HSE has requested that the Labour Relations Commission invite both parties to a conciliation meeting as soon as possible.

Health Service Staff.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

248 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 212 of 28 April 2009, the impact of the recruitment ban on acute hospital services and community health services in County Louth; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26268/09]

The previous Parliamentary Question raised on this matter (16406/09) was referred out to the Health Service Executive for attention and direct reply, as the recruitment of staff is a service matter for the Executive. I have been in contact with the Executive again, and requested that the response provided to the Deputy be clarified, specifically in relation to the location of County Louth.

Hospital Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

249 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she is taking to support services at Roscommon County Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26305/09]

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

Denis Naughten

Question:

250 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she is taking to support services at Portiuncula Hospital, County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26306/09]

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

Question No. 251 answered with Question No. 158.

Health Service Staff.

Dan Neville

Question:

252 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a director for mental health. [26409/09]

The HSE recently confirmed that a national lead dedicated to mental health will be appointed shortly.

State Airports.

Pat Breen

Question:

253 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Transport his views on the reduced winter schedule of flights from the US to Shannon Airport; his plans to make funding available to market the US preclearance facility at the airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25721/09]

I am concerned and disappointed at the suspension of these services. I recognise the harsh realities of the marketplace at present and the impact that reduced demand has had on long-haul operations globally in the past few months. I am particularly concerned, from both a business and tourism perspective, at the impact on connectivity of Ireland arising from decisions to reduce flights to the wider US market. I made these concerns known to the Aer Lingus Chairman when I met him recently. The airline business globally is experiencing a significant drop in demands and yields, especially on long haul operations, and all airlines have had to cut capacity and fares.

While responsibility for marketing preclearance facilities at Shannon Airport is a matter for the Shannon Airport Authority the Government has allocated €47.25m, for the overseas marketing of Ireland as a tourist destination this year. Included in this amount is over €4.5m for regional marketing activity including the "Discover Ireland's Wonderful West" Campaign. The campaign is overseen by Tourism Ireland who will continue to work closely with Fáilte Ireland, Shannon Airport, Shannon Development, and the local tourism industry in the mid-west to vigorously promote the Shannon region through cooperative marketing campaigns. I understand that their campaign has generally been very well received to date.

Finally, as the Deputy will be aware, I have given priority to the enactment of the Aviation Preclearance Bill 2009 which I hope will pass all stages in the Dáil and Seanad before the summer recess. The Bill will provide the necessary legal basis for preclearance to commence at Shannon airport. Preclearance services should give Shannon a key advantage on the highly competitive transatlantic market.

Road Network.

Joe McHugh

Question:

254 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether the cutting of €150 million from the roads maintenance budget is disproportionate, in view of the fact that 71% of road deaths here take place on secondary routes; if he will re-consider this decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25688/09]

In view of the severe constraints on Exchequer finances, it was found necessary to reduce the provision for regional and local road improvements by €150 million in the 7 April Supplementary Budget. As a consequence, road grants already allocated for regional and local roads in February were reviewed, and revised road grants totalling €447.7 million were allocated to local authorities on 14 April. These grants, which supplement expenditure by local authorities from their own resources, represent a very significant investment at a time when public finances are under severe pressure.

The capital budget for improvement works this year is €321.5 million. This will fund 241 separate improvement projects at various stages of planning design and construction, as well as 1,700 kilometres of road reconstruction under the Restoration Improvement Programme. The Department also finances safety works at high accident locations on the regional and local road network. Grants were allocated to local authorities in April to finance measures at 257 locations.

There was no reduction in the April Supplementary Budget in the provision for maintenance works and grants of €126 million were allocated to local authorities. The bulk of this — €85 million — is being invested in the Restoration Maintenance Programme and it is expected that there will be an increase in surface dressing output achieved by local authorities under this programme this year, compared with 2008.

Safety is a fundamental consideration in the improvement and maintenance of our road network and this high level of investment is continuing to deliver a significant road safety dividend.

Value for Money Reviews.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

255 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the nature and outcome of any value for money audit carried out by his Department during the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25713/09]

The Value for Money Reviews completed by this Department since 2006 are set out in tabular form below.

Name of Review

Year completed

Road Safety

2006

CIE Subvention

2007

The DTO Traffic Management Grants Scheme

2008

Strategic Non National Roads

2008

Railway Safety Programme

2008

The finding of each review can be found on the Department's website at www.transport.ie (under Publications).

Departmental Expenditure.

Joan Burton

Question:

256 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Transport the amount of interest paid by him in respect of the late payments for goods or services contracted by his Department for the past five years to date in 2009; the steps being taken to ensure that money is appropriately spent and that payments are made on time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25869/09]

The amount of interest paid by my Department in respect of the late payments for goods or services for the past five years and to date in 2009 is as follows:

Year

2005

103

2006

893

2007

734

2008

284

2009 to date

418

In response to a recent Government decision in relation to prompt payments, my Department is committed to paying suppliers within 15 days of receipt of valid invoices. My Department has put in place arrangements to comply with that decision.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

257 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the progress to date by the Railway Safety Commission in relation to the introduction of unannounced testing for intoxicants at Iarnród Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25917/09]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

258 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the results of random testing for intoxicants by the Railway Safety Commission; the action taken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25918/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 257 and 258 together.

Under the Railway Safety Act 2005, random testing of safety critical workers on the railways in relation to intoxicants is a matter for the relevant railway undertaking, and not for the Railway Safety Commission. I refer the Deputy to the Annual Report 2008 of the Railway Safety Commission, where details of Iarnród Éireann's statistics in relation to testing for intoxicants are available.

Rail Safety.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

259 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the nature of the 22 complaints received regarding public safety on railways here; the categories each complaint belonged to; if the complaints were upheld; if so, the action taken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25919/09]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

260 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the facts of the case pertaining to industry concerns which resulted in a further investigation, including a review of standards as mentioned in the Railway Safety Commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25920/09]

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

The Deputy is referring to comments made by the Railway Safety Commission in its Annual Report 2008. The Railway Safety Commission is the independent safety regulator for railways and the details of the items raised by the Deputy are therefore a matter for the Commission which may be raised directly with it.

Aviation Safety.

Joe Behan

Question:

261 Deputy Joe Behan asked the Minister for Transport the relevant expertise and professional qualifications of his Departmental officials in the area of aviation safety management and aviation safety regulation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26176/09]

Joe Behan

Question:

262 Deputy Joe Behan asked the Minister for Transport the training given to persons appointed to the board of the Irish Aviation Authority to enable them to exercise independently their personal and corporate responsibilities for aviation safety; his views on whether it is necessary to establish a safety committee of the board of the IAA and that the person with responsibility for the safety function should report directly to that committee in the same way as the internal auditor reports to the audit committee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26177/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 261 and 262 together.

The Irish Aviation Authority was established by the Irish Aviation Authority Act, 1993. The principal functions of the Authority are the safety oversight of civil aviation activities and the provision of air navigation services in the State.

Prior to enactment of the 1993 Act, these functions were carried out by the Department of Transport and on its establishment relevant staff from the Department were transferred to the Authority. The Department did not retain any technical expertise in the areas of responsibility of the Authority. The authority is mandated under Section 14(1)(i) of the Act to advise the Government, myself as Minister for Transport or any other Minister of the Government in relation to any matter under its statutory remit either on its own initiative or at my request. In addition, Section 32 of the Act requires me periodically to commission an independent report on "the performance by the company of its functions in so far as they relate to the application and enforcement of technical and safety standards". Reports under Section 32 were commissioned and completed in 1996, 2000 and 2004.

The Directors of the Authority are appointed by me in accordance with Section 17 of the Act. The Act specifically provides in Section 38 that it is the responsibility of the Chief Executive of the Authority to advise the Directors on any matter relating to or affecting the technical or safety standards specified under Section 32 or the safety of civil aviation.

Joe Behan

Question:

263 Deputy Joe Behan asked the Minister for Transport if he will initiate the Section 32 safety examination of the Irish Aviation Authority without delay; if he will expand its remit to provide the opportunity for persons who had reported concerns with the 2004 examination to present them to the 2009 examination and to have these concerns examined and reported upon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26178/09]

Joe Behan

Question:

264 Deputy Joe Behan asked the Minister for Transport if he will publish the report of the Section 32 Aviation Safety Audit of 2004 together with other aviation safety audits completed since 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26179/09]

Joe Behan

Question:

265 Deputy Joe Behan asked the Minister for Transport if he has investigated problems, reported to his Department in 2006, with the 2004 Section 32 safety examination of the Irish Aviation Authority; if so, his conclusions on same; if not, the reason therefore; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26180/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 263 to 265, inclusive, together.

The Irish Aviation Authority was established by the Irish Aviation Authority Act, 1993. The principal functions of the Authority are the safety oversight of civil aviation activities and the provision of air navigation services in the State. Section 32 of the Act requires me "to appoint a person to carry out an examination of the performance by the company of its functions in so far as they relate to the application and enforcement of technical and safety standards" at three yearly intervals.

Reports under Section 32 of the Act were completed in 1996, 2000 and 2004. The intent of Section 32 of the Act is to ensure that I, as Minister, can be satisfied that the authority is capable of carrying out the functions conferred on it by Statute and that it's performance is satisfactory. Its purpose is not to investigate or report on specific concerns or complaints or to review previous reports commissioned by me under Section 32. I am aware of concerns raised by one individual in relation to an alleged conflict of interest in relation to the conduct of the 2004 examination and I am satisfied that this was not the case. The Act requires me to submit a copy of reports under Section 32 to the Government and to the company. It is not considered to be appropriate to publish these reports.

Since the Authority was established in 1993, there have been significant developments both at European level and internationally in relation to the regulation of civil aviation. In addition to the reports commissioned by me under Section 32, the Authority is also subject to regular audits of the performance of its safety regulation functions by Eurocontrol, the European Aviation Safety Agency and the International Civil Aviation Organisation. In this regard, I am currently considering the continued relevance of the requirements of Section 32 of the Act from both a public sector efficiency and value for money perspective.

Joe Behan

Question:

266 Deputy Joe Behan asked the Minister for Transport if he is satisfied that the system failures which occurred at Dublin Airport in July 2008 will not recur; the basis for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26181/09]

Joe Behan

Question:

267 Deputy Joe Behan asked the Minister for Transport if he is satisfied with the report he received from the Irish Aviation Authority on the systems failures at Dublin Airport in July 2008, in view of the fact that, inter alia, it does not appear to state that there is a stand-by operational local area network which should have automatically come into service when the main operational local area network failed; the reason it failed to do so; the further reason the maintenance local area network was not manually switched into operation as is provided for should both operational networks fail; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26182/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 266 and 267 together.

On 19 September, 2008 I received the Irish Aviation Authority's report on the radar malfunction at Dublin airport on 9 July, 2008. The report was also made publicly available on the Authority's website www.iaa.ie. As set out in the report, the measures being implemented by the IAA and THALES ATM were intended to minimise the effect of a recurrence of like or similar failures of the ATM system in the future. The report also describes the contingency arrangements in place and states that these arrangements are consistent with the best arrangements available worldwide.

Crime Levels.

Joe Costello

Question:

268 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that 895 people were arrested for possession of drugs for sale and supply while they were on bail; the number of those suspected offenders who were again released on continuing bail; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25641/09]

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.

The law takes a serious view of offences committed by persons on bail. The Criminal Justice Act, 1984 provides for mandatory consecutive sentences to apply where a person is convicted of an offence committed while on bail. In addition, the law provides that the fact that an offence was committed while on bail must be treated as an aggravating factor at sentencing and that the court shall impose a sentence that is greater than that which would have been imposed otherwise, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

There have been concerns at how, in practice, our bail laws have been operating, and these led to the inclusion in the Criminal Justice Act, 2007 of a series of new provisions designed to tighten up on the granting of bail. These allow the prosecution to mount a more effective challenge to bail applications, for example, applicants for bail can be required to provide a statement of their means so that the prosecution can highlight any divergence their between their lifestyles and their stated means as evidence of their involvement in gangland activity. The Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) is now able to appeal to the High Court against a decision of the District Court to grant bail and against the conditions attached by the District Court to the bail.

The effectiveness of these provisions will be reviewed. In addition I intend to keep all aspects of the operation of our bail law under review to see whether further changes are necessary. One such change is included in the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, currently going through the Oireachtas.

Citizenship Applications.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

269 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will respond to a query in relation to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25645/09]

In the absence of more detailed information relating to the specific case, the Deputy will appreciate that I am unable to provide a definitive response. However, I can advise of the position generally.

Section 23 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, provides that a person who marries a non-Irish national, shall not, merely by virtue of the marriage, cease to be an Irish citizen, even if he or she acquires the nationality of the non-Irish national. The amended Section 6 (5) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, which is deemed to have come into effect on 2 December, 1999, provides that a person born in the island of Ireland who has renounced Irish citizenship by making a declaration of alienage under section 21 of the 1956 Act will remain entitled to be an Irish citizen. Such a person will not be an Irish citizen unless he or she makes a declaration of citizenship, in a form required by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and in that case the resumed Irish citizenship operates from the making of that declaration.

The only way that a person who was born outside Ireland whose declaration of alienage had been accepted could subsequently regain Irish citizenship would be through naturalisation.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

270 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made in regard to an application for naturalisation by persons (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25652/09]

Applications for certificates of naturalisation from the persons referred to in the Deputy's Question were received in the Citizenship Section of my Department on 16 October 2006 and 16 June 2006 respectively. Officials in that Section inform me that processing of the applications is at an advanced stage and the files will be forwarded to me for a decision in the coming months.

Prison Staff.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

271 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if an item of the new prison officer uniforms is to be manufactured here; the countries of origin of the new uniforms; and the cost of the contracts to provide the uniforms. [25655/09]

I have been informed by the OPW that the tender competition for the manufacture of the new prison officer uniforms was published through the etenders website and in the EU Journal on the 17th July 2008. This was a full international competition, with no restriction in respect of the nationality of tenderers. The tender was responded to by 9 companies, 6 of which were based in this jurisdiction, 2 in Northern Ireland and 1 in the UK. The contract was awarded to the JBS Group Ltd based in Monaghan.

I can confirm that no Irish manufactured garments are included in the Irish Prison Service Uniform contract. In addition no Irish manufactured garments were offered by any of the other tenderers in this competition. The countries of manufacture of the 30 constituent garments are set out hereunder, which form a contract with an estimated value of €2.14 million.

Item Description

Country of Manufacture

Operation Coat & Trousers No 2

Indonesia

Female Officer Tunics No 206 & 206A

Czech Republic

Female Officer Skirts No 22*

India

Female Officer Trousers No 155

India

Male Officer Tunics No 203

Czech Republic

Male Officer Trousers No 122

India

Shirts (Long Sleeved) No 25

India

Shirts (Short Sleeved) No 25

India

Operational Fleece No 1P

Indonesia

Tie No 12 (Male)

China

Tie No 12 (Female)

China

Epaulettes No. 3 (Pairs)

Pakistan

Female Officers Cap No 124

Sri Lanka

Male Officers Cap No 123

Sri Lanka

Male Chief Officers Cap No 123A

Sri Lanka

Female Chief Officers Cap No 124A

Sri Lanka

Ceremonial Belt No 1

China

Ceremonial Glove No 1

China

Gloves No 21 — Male

China

Gloves No 21- Female

China

Dress Trouser Belt No 1 (Male & Female)

China

Tights No 1 (Black) Lightweight Support.

U.K.

Medical Orderlies Tunic No 3

U.K.

Nurses Overall Tunic No 1 Male

U.K.

Chief Nurses Overall Tunic No 1A Male

U.K.

Nurses Overall Tunic No 2 Female

U.K.

Chief Nurses Overall Tunic No 2A Female

U.K

Nurses Trousers No 122N Male

India

Nurses Trousers No 155N Female

India

Nurses Fleece No 1 (Male/Female)

Indonesia

Residency Permits.

Phil Hogan

Question:

272 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on an application for long term residency for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25680/09]

An application for long-term residency by the person referred to by the Deputy was made on 27 September 2007. Officials in the Long-Term Residency Section of my Department have advised me that it is currently in the latter stages of processing. As soon as a decision is made on the case, the person concerned will be notified.

Citizenship Applications.

Phil Hogan

Question:

273 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when an application for naturalisation will be decided on for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25681/09]

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 2008. 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 early 2008. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average while an element of straightforward cases are now being dealt with in less than that time scale.

There is a limit to the reduction in the processing time that can be achieved as applications for naturalisation must be processed in a way which preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that the status of citizenship is not undervalued and is only given to persons who genuinely satisfy the necessary qualifying criteria.

Phil Hogan

Question:

274 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when an application for naturalisation will be decided on for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25682/09]

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 2008. On examination of the application submitted it was determined that the person concerned did not meet the statutory residency requirements as set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, as amended. A letter informing her of this was issued on 19 May, 2008. It is open to the person in question to lodge a new application for a certificate of naturalisation with the Citizenship Division of my Department if and when she is in a position to meet the statutory requirements.

Residency Permits.

Michael Ring

Question:

275 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on an application for long term residency for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo in view of the fact that his Department stated in April 2009 that this person would be contacted in writing within a number of days. [25686/09]

Officials in the Long-Term Residency Section of my Department inform me that a decision was made on the application for long-term residency from the person referred to by the Deputy on 24 June 2009. A letter informing the person in question of this decision was issued on 24 June 2009.

Value for Money Reviews.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

276 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the nature and outcome of any value for money audit carried out by his Department during the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25710/09]

My Department has completed two Value for Money and Policy Reviews (VFMs) between 2006 and 2008. These reviews covered the following areas: Review of Asylum and Immigration Process Review of Projects Funded by the Probation Service Copies of the Reports outlining the results of these VFMs have been submitted to the Dail Library in line with the Department of Finance Guidelines and are also available on the Department's website.

Property Transfers.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

277 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the transfer of property between persons (details supplied) will be finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25716/09]

I can inform the Deputy that under the Registration of Deeds and Title Act 2006, the Property Registration Authority (PRA) was established as and from 4 November, 2006. The PRA replaces the Registrar of Deeds and Titles as the registering authority in relation to property registration in Ireland and, subject to the above Act, is independent in the performance of its functions.

The Deputy will be aware of the service to T.D.s and Senators which provides information on the current status of applications, such as the subject of this question, which was introduced in May 2006. The service provides a speedier, more efficient and more cost effective alternative to submitting Parliamentary Questions. It is operated by the PRA and is available all year round. I can further inform the Deputy that his query has been forwarded to the PRA for attention and direct reply via the above mentioned service.

Garda Operations.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

278 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of complaints of intimidation, threatening behaviour and verbal assault the gardaí have received or investigated from 2006 to date in 2009; the number of prosecutions ensued; the number of formal warnings and anti-social behaviour orders issued in view of these complaints; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25739/09]

In the time available it has not been possible for the Garda authorities to supply the details requested by the Deputy. I will be in contact with the Deputy when the information is to hand.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

279 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on an application under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 for leave to remain in the State in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25791/09]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 144 of 25 June 2009.

The position remains unchanged as consideration of the person's case is ongoing. While I am not in a position to give a precise timeframe as to when such considerations will be concluded, I wish to inform the Deputy that a decision is expected shortly and that the person concerned will be contacted directly and notified of any such decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

280 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to the application for family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; if a visa will issue before their spouse’s passport expires; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25792/09]

I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that the person concerned made a Family Reunification Application in respect of his wife in June 2008. The Family Reunification Division of INIS has recently been in contact with the person in question requesting further information and documentation. On receipt of that information the application will be processed further.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

281 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to the application for residency or leave to remain in the State in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25793/09]

The person concerned arrived in the State as an unaccompanied minor. He was subsequently reunited with his mother and included on her asylum application on 31 January 2001. His mother's asylum application was refused on appeal. Following consideration of her case, under Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, Deportation Orders were signed in respect of her and her children on 26 August 2004.

Judicial Review proceedings challenging the Deportation Order in respect of the above named were instigated in March 2005. These proceedings were subsequently settled. The terms of the settlement included that the Deportation Order in respect of the person concerned be revoked and that he be allowed to make an application for asylum in his own right.

On 13 February 2008 the person concerned applied for asylum as an adult in his own right. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 29 May 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).

To date no response has been received in my Department to this letter. The Deputy might note that each case is considered individually and regardless of whether or not written representations are submitted by or on behalf of the applicant. The case of the person concerned will be considered having regard to Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, before the file is passed to me for Decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

282 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25794/09]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 141 of Thursday, 9 October 2008, and the written Reply to that Question.

The person concerned applied for asylum on 13 February 2006. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 26 October 2007, 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 person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

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

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

283 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is eligible for naturalisation; the procedure to be followed in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25795/09]

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, as amended, provides that the Minister may, in his absolute discretion, grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation provided certain statutory conditions are fulfilled. The conditions are that the applicant must — be of full age; be of good character; have had a period of one year's continuous residency in the State immediately before the date of application and, during the eight years immediately preceding that period, have had a total residence in the State amounting to four years; intend in good faith to continue to reside in the State after naturalisation; have made, either before a Judge of the District Court in open court or in such a manner as the Minister for special reasons allows, a declaration in the prescribed manner, of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State.

In the context of naturalisation, certain periods of residence in the State are excluded. These include -periods of residence in respect of which an applicant does not have permission to remain in the State; periods granted for the purposes of study; periods granted for the purposes of seeking recognition as a refugee within the meaning of the Refugee Act, 1996.

It is open to the person concerned to lodge an application for a certificate of naturalisation with the Citizenship Division of my Department if and when they are in a position to meet the statutory requirements.

Asylum Support Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

284 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if consideration will be given to self-catering accommodation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Clare on medical grounds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25796/09]

I am informed by the Reception and Integration Agency of my Department that there are no plans to relocate the person mentioned in the Question.

Drug Offenders Register.

Joe Costello

Question:

285 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when Part nine of the Criminal Justice Act 2006, which provides for a drug offenders’ register, will be established; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25802/09]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that at present, a record of all persons subject to the notification requirements under Part 9 of the Criminal Justice Act, 2006 is maintained by the Garda National Drugs Unit, Dublin Castle and that arrangements are being put in place for such records to be maintained on a Divisional / District basis.

All persons subject of the requirements of Part 9, Criminal Justice Act, 2006 are monitored in accordance with the provisions of the Act and arrangements are being made for a Garda Inspector, in every Garda Division, to be nominated with responsibility for the monitoring of such persons, to ensure compliance by such persons within their Divisions.

I am further informed that as at 23 June, 2009 there are 770 persons subject to the requirements of Part 9, Criminal Justice Act, 2006.

Citizenship Applications.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

286 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made for citizenship for a person (details supplied) in County Cork who was granted naturalisation in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25811/09]

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 April 2008.

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 early 2008. 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.

However, I understand that the person concerned is a refugee. In accordance with the Government's obligations under the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, every effort is made to ensure that applications from persons with refugee status are dealt with as quickly as possible.

Security Industry.

Joe Costello

Question:

287 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the licensing costs imposed by the Private Security Authority are more than ten times those of Northern Ireland; that alarm installers do not require a licence in Northern Ireland; the number of licences issued by the PSA since its establishment; the amount of money collected for those licences; the cost to the Exchequer of PSA salaries and administration during that period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25821/09]

The Private Security Authority, established under the Private Security Services Act 2004, is the regulatory body with responsibility for regulating and licensing the private security industry. The Authority is an independent body under the aegis of my Department.

It is considered inappropriate to compare the licensing costs associated with the private security industry in the State with those in place in Northern Ireland, given the significant differences that exist in the regulation of security contractors in each jurisdiction. In comparison to the mandatory licensing system which is operated by the Private Security Authority, the Security Industry Authority (SIA) in Northern Ireland operates a voluntary scheme of registration for contractors in the security industry. This voluntary scheme is not in fact open to contractors involved in the installation of intruder alarms as this sector was precluded from the legislation establishing the SIA. Any direct comparison of costs between the two schemes would therefore be fundamentally flawed, when one considers the voluntary nature of the SIA scheme against the standards based mandatory licensing scheme administered by the Private Security Authority, with its associated regulatory responsibilities, including substantial enforcement costs.

With regard to the other issues raised by the Deputy, the Authority has informed me that it has issued approx 1,600 contractor licences since the introduction of contractor licensing in 2006. Most contractors are now on their second licence, as the two year licences originally issued began to expire in 2008. There are currently 844 active contractor licences. In addition, the Authority has issued approximately 23,500 individual licences to date. The first individual licences are due for renewal in January 2010.

I am also informed by the Authority that, since its establishment in 2005, it has received, up to the end of May 2009, a total of €7.9 million in licence fees while the total costs of salaries and administration were €8.4 million. Taking into consideration the start up costs involved in all such projects, the Authority, in line with Government policy, is now on target to fund the regulation of the security industry through the fees raised.

Joe Costello

Question:

288 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a private security firm working for the Corrib gas project of a company (details supplied) and which employs over 50 security personnel does not require those personnel to wear uniforms or identifying badges contrary to the statutory terms of the licence issued by the Private Security Authority; if he will ensure that this company no longer breaches the law; if he will inform the local gardaí to ensure that personnel of the company who are in contact with the public at the Belanaboy site have clear identification markings at all times; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25831/09]

The Private Security Authority, established under the Private Security Services Act 2004, is the regulatory body with responsibility for regulating and licensing the private security industry. The Authority is an independent body operating under the aegis of my Department.

Section 30 of the Private Security Services Act, 2004 provides for the wearing of identity badges when providing a security service. It is envisaged that Regulations, to bring these provisions into effect, will come into force on 1 September 2009.

With regard to the wearing of uniforms by individuals who have been licensed by the Private Security Authority, I am informed by the Authority that employees of the company referred to by the Deputy wear a uniform which complies with IS.999:2004. This is the Irish standard which is required for licensing by the Authority. I am further informed that these particular staff also wear a high visibility vest with markings which identifies them as staff of that company.

Asylum Applications.

Mary O'Rourke