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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 8 Jul 2009

Vol. 687 No. 4

Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 7, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 8 to 19, inclusive, resubmitted.
Question No. 20 withdrawn.
Questions Nos. 21 and 22 resubmitted.
Question No. 23 withdrawn.
Question No. 24 resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 25 to 33, inclusive, answered orally.

Budgetary Strategy.

Martin Ferris

Question:

34 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Finance when he will circulate his budget strategy memo. [27281/09]

Joe Costello

Question:

37 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Finance the level of fiscal consolidation he expects to carry out in budget 2010; the approximate balance between tax and expenditure measures; the projected negative tax buoyancy and negative growth impact of this consolidation exercise on the economy in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27990/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 34 and 37 together.

The Supplementary Budget set out a multi-annual plan to bring the General Government deficit to 3% of GDP by end-2013. As part of this plan, measures on expenditure and tax revenue amounting to up to €4 billion in 2010 and 2011 are required if we are to restore the public finances to sustainability. The economic and fiscal forecasts as published in the Supplementary Budget have factored in the broad impact of these aggregate measures.

As I have already mentioned here today, the Commission on Taxation, which is expected to complete its work shortly, and the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure, which is due to report to me imminently, will have important roles to play in identifying measures that will improve the budgetary position in future years. In this context, I have previously outlined that the majority of future adjustments will have to be borne on the spending side as the scope for further increasing income taxes is limited. I have also stated that I view the revenue raising taxation measures as set out in the Supplementary Budget as the maximum that can be obtained and the expenditure adjustments as the minimum that will be raised.

Also, as I outlined in my response to a Priority Question earlier, it is intended that the Pre-Budget Outlook will be published in mid to late October, setting out the pre-budget position in more detail based on the latest available data. This will provide the House with the most up-to-date information on a pre-budget basis and will assist in informing the debate in the run up to the presentation of Budget 2010. I will then set out the details of Budget 2010 in my address on Budget Day in early December and the Budget will set out further information in relation to the medium term economic and fiscal projections.

Restoring sustainability to the public finances is vital to the renewal of the economy and we are committed to taking the necessary measures in this regard. We recognise that these measures are difficult but equally we know that they are essential. The corrective measures taken up to this point and our commitment to taking further action will help to ensure the confidence of investors in Ireland, provide greater consumer confidence and place us in a position to benefit from the upturn in the international economy when it occurs.

As is the usual practise, I intend to bring the Budget Strategy Memorandum to Government in the coming weeks. In line with the rules governing Cabinet confidentiality, I will not comment on the contents of the Budget Strategy Memorandum. However, as the Deputy will be aware, the recent Supplementary Budget set out, for the first time, the broad outline of the budgetary strategy for the medium term.

Tax Code.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

35 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Finance if a decision has been made on the publication dates of the McCarthy review and the Commission on Taxation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27902/09]

The report of the Commission on Taxation is due to be presented to me shortly and will be published following Government approval. The Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes, under the chairmanship of Mr Colm McCarthy, has completed its deliberations and I expect to receive their report imminently. I intend bringing the Special Group's report to Government and it is in that context that the decision on publication will be made.

House Repossessions.

Noel Coonan

Question:

36 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Finance his plans to obtain the agreement of other financial institutions to the 12 month moratorium on repossessions agreed by the two major banks. [27892/09]

It is a particular priority of the Government to ensure as much as possible that difficulties in relation to mortgage arrears do not result in legal proceedings for home repossession. Home repossession should be and generally is the last resort for the lender and the preferred method of dealing with arrears cases should be early intervention.

The Recapitalisation Programme announced on 11 February 2009 includes a new Code of Conduct for Mortgage Arrears, which has been issued by the Financial Regulator and came into force on the 27 February 2009. The new Code applies to mortgage lending activities to consumers in respect of their principal private residence in the State and is mandatory for all mortgage lenders registered with the Financial Regulator including so-called "sub-prime lenders". Under the mortgage arrears code where a borrower is in difficulty the lender shall make every reasonable effort to agree an alternative repayment schedule. Under the Code consideration should be given on a case-by-case basis to alternatives such as deferral of payments, extending the term of the mortgage, changing type of mortgage, or capitalising arrears and interest. Obviously cases will arise where the arrears situations persist despite newly agreed changes in repayment schedules. The Code provides that where the arrears situation persists, the lender may reserve the right to enforce the mortgage agreement. However, it must wait at least six months from the time arrears first arise before applying to the courts to commence enforcement of any legal action on repossession of a borrower's primary residence.

The Financial Regulator's Consumer Protection Code also sets out requirements that a regulated entity must contact the consumer as soon as it becomes aware that a mortgage account is in arrears and that it must have in place a procedure for handling accounts in arrears.

The Irish Banking Federation and the Money Advice and Budgeting Service recently agreed an Operational Protocol on consumer debt. The Operational Protocol will enable MABS and the IBF continue to work together effectively when dealing with debt problems of personal debtors who approach the MABS Service for assistance.

The number of residential properties taken into possession by Irish Banking Federation Members in 2008 was 96. This compares with the UK equivalent number of approximately 40,000.

I therefore have no plans to obtain the agreement of other financial institutions to the 12 month moratorium on repossessions agreed by the two major banks as I am satisfied that the managements currently in place are sufficient to safeguard the interests of borrowers who experience difficulty in meeting their mortgage repayments. I will of course be keeping the situation under close review.

Question No. 37 answered with Question No. 34.

Economic Outlook.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

38 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance his views on the most recent quarterly national accounts of the Central Statistics Office which showed a decline of 8.5% of GDP, and a decline of 12% of GNP, in the first three months of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27985/09]

The Central Statistics Office published quarterly national accounts data for the first quarter of 2009 last week. These show that GDP and GNP for this period declined by 8½ and 12 per cent, respectively, compared with the corresponding period last year.

In terms of the detail of the first quarter figures, the sharp declines in housing output and in personal spending were the main reasons for the contraction in the first quarter. The one positive that we can take from the data is that the rate of export decline is not as large as in many other export-oriented economies and given the significant fall in imports means that there is a positive contribution from net trade.

In overall terms, the first quarter figures are clearly exceptionally weak but we must be very careful not to double-count: the figures relate to the first quarter and previously published data had indicated a very poor performance in this period. In other words, we already knew that conditions had deteriorated significantly in the first quarter on an annual basis.

Moreover, while my Department does not produce economic forecasts for each quarter, there are tentative indications that the rate of deterioration may have slowed in the second quarter. Retail sales, industrial production, consumer confidence and purchasing manager's indices data are all consistent with this. Indeed, most economic commentators are now of the view that the rate of decline may be slowing.

Based on the information available at the end of March, my Department published its macroeconomic forecasts in the Supplementary Budget. My Department forecasts that GDP would decline by 7¾ per cent and that GNP would fall by 8 per cent. The first quarter GDP data along with the available data for the second quarter suggests that the Department's forecast is still appropriate.

In relation to the very weak first quarter GNP data caution must be used when interpreting these figures as quarterly GNP is highly volatile. Nonetheless, this figure is considerably weaker than previously expected and will need to be carefully monitored.

Finally, I want to assure the Deputy that the Government is not complacent — activity is still clearly declining and unemployment rising. Reversing these developments requires further measures and the Government will not be found wanting in this regard.

Banking Sector.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

39 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether the recent estimation by the International Monetary Fund that losses faced by Irish banks could reach €35 billion by the end of 2010 is correct; and the implications it will it have on the economy here. [27276/09]

The IMF has said that losses could be about €35 billion, or about 20 percent of GDP. It is, however, important to point out that the IMF figure was not based on a very detailed analysis of individual bank data. Also, this figure does not take into account the countervailing effect of bank earnings — in that sense it is a gross rather than a net figure.

The Deputy will be aware from my previous reports to the House that PWC has carried out detailed reviews of the loan books and the capital position of six of the covered institutions. Since then, additional due diligence reviews of Anglo Irish Bank, Allied Irish Banks and Bank of Ireland have been carried out, building on the assessments carried out by PWC.

As I have previously stated, I am not in a position to release information contained in these reviews, other than what has been released to date, because of the commercially sensitive nature of the information.

As regards the economy, the banking system is unique and its proper functioning is critical to the smooth running of the overall economy. Therefore, it must be protected by the Government. I have already said that the objective behind NAMA is to ensure that the financial institutions are freed up to allow them to lend to the real economy and the IMF has said that we are right to focus on the restructuring of property development loans as our priority in the area of bank stress. Our approach will facilitate a sustained flow of credit on a commercial basis to individuals, households and businesses in the real economy.

Consumer Debt.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

40 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance his views on the most recent statistics on private sector and consumer debt here and, in particular, on the newly emerging trend which sees declining outstanding mortgage debt as repayments outstrip new mortgage lending, the first time that such a trend has been in evidence since records began; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27978/09]

The Deputy will be aware that the Irish economy is experiencing a profound economic adjustment. This is impacting in particular in the housing market and is demonstrated in certain Bank statistics referred to in the Deputy's question. A key issue is therefore, notwithstanding, the adverse economic environment the steps the Government is taking to ensure the availability of mortgage finance, in particular to first time buyers. The Deputy will recognise that it is essential that in view of the stresses on the banking sector that this form of credit is maintained to support our economic recovery.

As regards mortgage debt the Deputy will be aware that in December 2008 AIB and Bank of Ireland to provide an additional 30% capacity to first time buyers in 2009. They also committed to public campaigns to actively promote their lending to this sector.

These commitments were reconfirmed in the Government announcement on 11 February 2009 on the recapitalisation of Allied Irish Banks and the Bank of Ireland. Progress on implementing the commitments is to be made to the Financial Regulator every quarter. The first quarterly reports from the banks to the Financial Regulator report that they are "open for business "as evidenced by their promotional and advertising material.

The latest May 09 edition of the IBF/PWC Mortgage Market Profile provides a more granular picture of mortgage market conditions overall

Net lending continues to grow — but at reduced levels

First-time buyers (FTBs) increased, for the fourth successive quarter, their share of the overall market — albeit a smaller market. Their share by volume now stands at a record 21.4%, reflecting the relative resilience of this segment.

Affordability continues to improve for FTBs through lower interest rates and house prices as well as for existing borrowers — with IBF calculating that the monthly repayment on an average loan has fallen by €479 or 38% since Sept '08.

The Profile showed that nearly 11,000 new mortgages to the value of some €2 billion were issued during the first quarter of 2009. While this shows that the rate of mortgage credit growth has eased significantly, at 4% the Irish market is still experiencing growth in net lending which contrasts with negative net lending in the UK, for example.

Proposed Legislation.

Frank Feighan

Question:

41 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Finance the nature of Houses of the Oireachtas oversight which he plans for the National Asset Management Agency. [27913/09]

The Deputy will be aware that the legislation for NAMA is still at the drafting stage with a view to the publication of a Bill at end July. I can assure the Deputy that there will be appropriate Oireachtas oversight of NAMA and that NAMA accounts will be subject to audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Banking Sector.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

42 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Finance the action which he will take to ensure that the flow of credit to small and medium sized business will increase; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27954/09]

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

59 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Finance if the flow of credit to small and medium sized business has increased as a result of the bank guarantee and the National Asset Management Agency proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27953/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 42 and 59 together.

A core Government objective is to free up lending on a commercial basis into the economy to support economic growth and a number of actions have been taken to achieve this objective. In the context of the bank guarantee scheme and recapitalisation the banks have made important commitments to support business lending.

An independent review of credit availability was agreed in the context of the recapitalisation of AIB and Bank of Ireland. The purpose of the review was to ascertain the position on credit availability to SMEs in Ireland. The Steering Group for the review consisted of representatives of the Departments of Finance and Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Forfás, Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Banking Federation and the six main banks involved in lending to SMEs, business representatives from ISME, Chambers Ireland and Small Firms Association. The final report of the Review of Lending to SMEs has just now been received. The report is quite extensive, running to almost 100 pages plus appendices. It will be considered by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Renewal which is meeting this afternoon. The intention is that it will be published shortly.

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

In addition, as part of the recapitalisation package announced on 11 February, Allied Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland reconfirmed their December commitment to increase lending capacity to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) by 10% and to provide an additional 30% capacity for lending to first time buyers in 2009. If the mortgage lending is not taken up, then the extra capacity will be available to SMEs. AIB and Bank of Ireland have also committed to public campaigns to actively promote small business lending at competitive rates with increased transparency on the criteria to be met. Compliance with this commitment is being monitored by the Financial Regulator. Officials from my Department are also in regular contact with the banks concerned in relation to their progress on implementing these measures.

My colleague the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment has recently set up a Clearing Group including representatives from the main banks, business interests and state agencies, which is chaired by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The purpose of the group is to identify specific patterns of events or cases where the flow of credit to viable businesses appears to be blocked and to seek to identify credit supply solutions. Any questions on the clearing group should be directed to my colleague the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

The banks report that they are "open for business" as evidenced by their promotional and advertising material. The banks state that they have funds available for lending to businesses and have provided details on approval levels and amounts drawn down. They report a slowdown in certain areas which they say reflects a reduced level of demand. The review of credit availability has considered this point. The most recent Central Bank Monthly Statistics for May 2009 show that credit to non-financial corporates actually increased by €225m month-on-month after two months of substantial falls. While care is always to be taken when reading monthly data, this could be a positive indicator of credit actively being fed through the real economy and businesses.

You may also be aware that my colleague, the Minister of State for Trade and Commerce, Mr Billy Kelleher TD has commenced a series of regional meetings to discuss access to bank credit with key local stakeholders.

With regard to the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA), its objective is to strengthen the banks' balance sheets, to considerably reduce uncertainty over bad debts and as a consequence ensure the flow of credit on a commercial basis to the real economy, to protect and grow employment while also maximising and protecting the interest of taxpayers. It is expected that legislation establishing NAMA will be published later this month.

Proposed Legislation.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

43 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the National Asset Management Agency; when he expects that the NAMA legislation will be published and brought before Dáil Éireann; and when and the way if will free up credit facilities for small businesses. [27952/09]

As the Deputy will be aware the establishment of NAMA and the interim preparations, including the drafting of legislation, are being overseen by a NAMA Steering Group established by me. The Group comprises representatives of my Department, the NTMA and the Attorney General.

I can confirm that it is my intention to publish legislation later this month. I can also confirm that the Oireachtas will be given adequate time to debate the important issues arising from this legislation and I expect that it will be before the Dáil in September.

The establishment of NAMA will deal with the uncertainty surrounding the riskiest assets on the balance sheets of the Irish banks, which were preventing them from lending into the economy, including to small businesses. The removal of these risky assets will provide assurance for international investors and providers of long-term capital for banks that the problem of balance sheet impairment has been comprehensively addressed.

NAMA will purchase the assets through the issue to the banks of Government bonds and the institutions concerned can then use these bonds to avail of ECB funding. In order to provide credit more freely, banks need access to funds, adequate capital and market support. The package of measures of support provided to the banking system, including the guarantee, capitalisation and NAMA, are aimed at ensuring the stability of the banking system and its ability to support the credit needs of the economy.

Heritage Sites.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

44 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the restrictions surrounding staffing levels and opening times of visitor attraction sites under the remit of the Office of Public Works for 2009 in comparison to 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27641/09]

All the operations, including opening hours and staffing levels, were reviewed in the light of budgetary considerations for 2009. As a result, opening dates at many centres were brought back to Easter, and closing dates rescheduled at the shoulder of the season. Staffing numbers were rationalised, where possible. It should be pointed out that in 2008, St. Patrick's Day and the Easter Bank Holiday were contiguous, with Good Friday falling on 21 March. Many sites, therefore, opened earlier than normal around St. Patrick's Day.

In 2009, Good Friday fell on 10 April, and opening times for these sites reverted to the normal Easter opening period. All centres are open and adequately staffed during the main tourist season.

Banking Sector.

Simon Coveney

Question:

45 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Finance the value of the charge made in respect of the bank guarantee in the most recent quarter for which he has returns; the rate per cent of covered liabilities which it entails; and if all covered institution are paying at the same rate. [27893/09]

The purpose of the charge is to cover the long-term costs of borrowing to the Exchequer that arise out of the provision of the Guarantee to the covered institutions. These additional costs initially were estimated to be about €1 billion.

We have received payments from all the institutions for three quarters to date. As of 24 April, there is just over €295 million (€295,585,719.67) in the mandated account which is held in the Central Bank. The institutions are presently in the process of placing the fourth quarter payment in the mandated account.

There are two reasons why the fees paid to date have been less than originally estimated:

The charging model for recouping these costs was based on covered liabilities of circa €450bn. However, as I have pointed out previously, about €90bn of that amount is covered by the enhanced Deposit Protection Scheme. The covered institutions do not pay the quarterly charge on liabilities covered by this scheme.

Furthermore, the total of covered liabilities will naturally adjust over time as bank balance sheets change in the normal course of business

However, the application of the guarantee charging model is presently being reviewed by my Department and other stakeholders to ensure the recovery of the aggregate cost borne by the State as a consequence of the provision of the guarantee, and to ensure that the overall objectives of the Act are achieved. I would like to assure the Deputy that I will utilise fully the powers given to me under the Scheme to safeguard financial stability and ensure that the long term interests of the taxpayers are protected.

With regard to the rate the institutions are paying for the provision of the Guarantee, I can confirm that the rates are differentiated to reflect relative risk position but owing to the commercial sensitivity of this information, I will not disclose these rates.

Tax Code.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

46 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Finance his latest assessment of tax changes in the USA which might adversely affect Irish interests; the initiatives he has taken to try to pre-empt such moves; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27936/09]

I think it is important to understand that the proposals announced earlier this year by the US Administration amount to changes to the existing system of deferral rather than abolishing it completely. Furthermore, because the proposals would represent a significant change to the current system for US multinationals operating overseas, they will be subject to detailed discussion and debate in Congress over the coming months.

My Department in conjunction with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the IDA are working in close collaboration with the Embassy in seeking to address the various policy proposals. Issues that may have implications for Ireland are the subject of focussed discussion with US policymakers within the overall framework of a shared commitment to promoting the consolidation and growth of our economic relationship. Our Embassy in Washington is continuing to engage with the Administration and with Congress with a view to ensuring that our very positive experience of substantive investment by US companies competing in Europe and globally using Ireland as a base feeds into consideration of this issue by the Administration and by Congress. The Embassy is being assisted in that regard by the deployment of a senior IDA executive to Washington to engage with the issue.

Public Procurement.

Michael Creed

Question:

47 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance the value of savings realised from the procurement review; the make-up of these savings; and his plans to make areas of public service delivery contestable by outside providers. [27897/09]

The National Public Procurement Operations Unit was established in the Office of Public Works earlier this year. It has been actively examining the means by which reductions in all contracts for goods and services over €100,000 can be achieved. To that end, it has requested all Departments, Offices, Agencies, Local Authorities and Third Level Education bodies to supply it with details of such contracts which are in place at present and, furthermore, to seek reductions of up to 8% on all the contracts involved. The process of negotiating these reductions has commenced. Due to the substantial number of contracts to be dealt with by the over 600 organisations involved, it is not possible at this early stage to quantify the definitive savings which will be achieved.

In regard to public service delivery, Towards 2016 recognised that there can be situations where, without affecting the essential ethos of the public service, work can be carried out or services delivered more effectively and efficiently, by contracting work to the private sector or outsourcing it to other public service bodies, or a combination thereof. Any such developments would be the subject of discussions with the relevant unions. Developments in this area will take account of the report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes and the report of the Task Force on the Public Service.

Tax Code.

Mary Upton

Question:

48 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance the proposals he has brought forward to tax on-line gambling for the purposes of meeting the funding shortfall for the horse and greyhound fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22716/09]

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.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

49 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether welfare recipients have a higher marginal propensity to consume than persons on higher incomes and that cutting welfare rates would thus more severely impact on demand within the economy than other expenditure cuts; his further views on whether welfare dependants are less likely to have benefited from falling interest rates than those on higher incomes and that the HICP measure of inflation is therefore more appropriate than the CPI measure in determining their changing cost of living; if he will commit to maintaining welfare rates in budget 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27958/09]

It is generally acknowledged that as income levels rise, the marginal propensity to consume declines. Therefore, I would tend to agree that the marginal propensity to consume of welfare recipients is higher than for those on higher incomes. However, the overall impact on aggregate demand is far less certain given the high degree of import intensity in Ireland.

As I have pointed on many occasions, expenditure adjustments are required in order to maintain the public finances on a sustainable path, as we are currently borrowing €214 million per week to fund the gap between day to day spending from day-to-day revenues. In terms of the specifics, announcements will be made in the context of the Budget, and I will not comment on the relative merits or otherwise of the various approaches at this stage.

In terms of the appropriate price index, interest rates go up as well as down. So while mortgage holders have benefited more than non-mortgage holders from the recent reductions in interest rates, the opposite was the case in the past. Reductions in interest rates have a beneficial effect on the disposable income of all those facing extra pressures at this time.

Banking Sector.

Dan Neville

Question:

50 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Finance if he is monitoring charges made to bank customers over inter-bank rates set by the European Central Bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27942/09]

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

In view of its statutory consumer protection mandate, the Financial Regulator will continue to monitor interest rates charged by financial institutions.

Financial Services Regulation.

Shane McEntee

Question:

51 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Finance his plans to make institutional changes in the arrangements for financial regulation; if he will publish an assessment of issues in advance of presenting proposals to Government; and if he will present the heads of any legislative Bill to the committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas which are investigating regulatory failure for early consideration of reform proposals. [27933/09]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

54 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Finance his plans for the consumer protection function of the Financial Regulator; if it is envisaged that it will remain under the aegis of his Department; if a new agency is envisaged, amalgamating the National Consumer Agency, the Competition Authority and the consumer protection function of the Financial Regulator; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27979/09]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

69 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance his views on the recently published annual report of the Bank of International Settlements; his further views on whether there are lessons to be learned in the context of the imminent redesign of the financial regulatory architecture here; his proposals to enforce the comprehensive application of enhanced prudential standards that integrate a system wide perspective at Irish credit institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27987/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 51, 54 and 69 together.

I announced on 18 June last that the Government had agreed a range of reforms of the regulatory structures for financial regulation. A new single fully integrated regulatory institution, the Central Bank of Ireland, will be established, replacing the current two pillar structure of the Central Bank and the Financial Services Regulatory Authority, comprising the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland, to achieve the highest performance standards for the new organisation. The new Central Bank Commission will be chaired by the Governor of the Central Bank and will be responsible for both the supervision of individual firms and the stability of the financial system generally, combining micro-prudential and macro-prudential supervision in the one institution.

Within the new regulatory structures, the consumer information and education role, currently carried out within the Consumer Directorate in the Financial Regulator will be re-assigned to the National Consumer Agency (NCA) which is being amalgamated with the Competition Authority. The functions to be merged in the new body are highly complementary and share a common goal of enhancing consumer welfare. Regulation for consumer protection, including the development and enforcement of codes of practice, remains within the new Commission as an integral part of conduct of business regulation.

There is growing and extensive international literature on the causes of the financial crisis and identification of supervisory issues that need to be addressed. This includes the report of the de Larosière Group to the European Commission and the annual report of the Bank of International Settlements. Both these reports highlight the importance of a macro-prudential orientation for regulation, focusing on the stability of the system as a whole as well as the viability of individual institutions. The range of reforms announced will underpin a much more effective and efficient financial services regulatory system aligned with best international practice. The approach taken closely reflects arrangements proposed at EU level and will ensure a cohesive approach between the two critical elements of effective financial regulation.

Banking Sector.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

52 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether the imposition of a smaller mark down on assets transferred to the National Asset Management Agency in order to avoid having to inject capital into the banking system once the asset transfer has been completed to ensure the banks meet the regulatory capital requirements is appropriate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27962/09]

Loans will be transferred to NAMA at an appropriate written down value which will ensure value for money for the taxpayer and take into account the risk being transferred to the State.

The NTMA has engaged experts to assist the interim Managing Director of NAMA in the development of an appropriate valuation methodology, which will be fair and independent. The valuation methodology will have to be agreed with the European Commission, which published guidance on the treatment of impaired assets last February. The Commission has indicated that in the absence of a market value, a transfer value reflecting the underlying longer-term economic value of the assets would be an acceptable benchmark as a basis of valuation methodology.

I have previously indicated that, following completion of the transfer of assets to NAMA, the capital position of the institutions involved would be reviewed on a case by case basis.

Economic Outlook.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

53 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which the various budgets he has produced in the past 12 months have proven to be on target in terms of accurately projecting revenue from the various forms or taxation, economic growth, job losses or gains and the housing market; if he is satisfied that current projections are likely to be sufficiently accurate to address in full the current and expected economic situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27867/09]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

71 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance his most up to date forecast budget deficit for the year to 31 December 2009, including projected capital injections into the banking system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27967/09]

Liz McManus

Question:

86 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Finance his views on the June 2009 Exchequer figures; the way the June 2009 figures compare to profiles forecast; if he is confident that tax revenue will amount to €34.4 billion for 2009; if he expects a significant amount of net emigration over the 2009 to 2010 period; the way he expects emigration trends to impact on tax revenues over this period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27963/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 53, 71 and 86 together.

The Supplementary Budget forecast that total tax revenue for the year would amount to €34.4 billion. Monthly profiles for individual tax-heads were published at the end of April.

The end-June Exchequer Returns showed that in the first half of the year total tax revenues of €15.8 billion were collected. At this stage, tax revenues are broadly on target with the Supplementary Budget forecast of €34.4 billion while expenditure is running approximately €500 million behind profile. Overall, taxes are €188 million or 1.2 per cent below profile. While this is close to target, significant sums remained to be collected in the second half of the year and the performance of Income Tax and VAT receipts in particular, will need to be monitored closely.

The Supplementary Budget forecast an Exchequer deficit of €20.35 billion. This figure allowed for a €3 billion front-loading of 2009 and 2010's contributions to the National Pension Reserve Fund, as part of the bank recapitalisation programme. In addition, the Government has since agreed a capital injection of up to €4 billion into Anglo Irish Bank, €3 billion of which was paid in June. Allowing for the full €4 billion capital injection increases the Exchequer deficit to a sum of almost €24.5 billion. However, while the injections of capital into the banking system will impact upon the forecast Exchequer Balance, they do not impact upon the General Government Balance as the investment is considered a financial transaction and does not count as expenditure under GGB accounting rules. Hence, the forecast 2009 General Government Deficit of €18.4 billion that was published in the Supplementary Budget is still valid.

In the supplementary Budget, my Department projected that GDP would contract by 7.7 per cent this year, that employment would fall by 7.8 per cent and that unemployment would average 12.6 per cent. These forecasts have been acknowledged as being robust and realistic by external commentators and are largely in line with the current market consensus. In addition, the data which have been published since the April Budget are broadly in line with these forecasts.

Net outward migration is, for the most part, due to the deterioration in the labour market. The main channels through which migration impacts on tax revenue are through the labour market and consumption. In addition, outward migration is one of the reasons why overall consumption levels are projected to decline both this year and next, which has negative implications for VAT and excise receipts. The Supplementary Budget tax projections factor in a reduction in consumption and an employment loss of 7.8 per cent this year and 4.6 per cent next year. My Department is assuming net outward migration for both this year and next, and quarterly national household survey data published at the end of June provide some evidence that this is indeed the case.

At the half-way point in the year, both expenditure and revenue are still broadly on profile. However, the Supplementary Budget targets for the second half of 2009 remain challenging and the performance of both will have to be monitored extremely closely in the coming months.

My Department will publish updated economic and fiscal forecasts in the Pre-Budget Outlook in the autumn.

Question No. 54 answered with Question No. 51.

Public Service Staff.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

55 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Finance the impact on public service employment of the embargo effective from the end of March 2009. [27888/09]

On the 27 March 2009, I announced a moratorium on recruitment and promotion in the public service with certain exceptions in the health and education sectors. The information to hand indicates that, by the end of June, the Department of Finance had received approximately 620 applications for the filling of specific posts comprehended by the moratorium, of which, the filling of 191 have been sanctioned. Of these Civil Service full-time posts accounted for 103 applications of which sanctions was conveyed in 69 cases. The filling of Public Service posts accounts for some 517 posts and sanction has been conveyed in 122 cases.

Banking Sector.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

56 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance his proposals for recapitalising Anglo Irish Bank; his assessment of the funds involved; his plans for sourcing these funds; and his views on the adequacy of the strategic plan of the bank. [27905/09]

As the Deputy will be aware the Government decided to provide up to €4bn by way of capital injection to Anglo Irish Bank. €3bn of this amount was provided from the Central Fund to the Bank for capital purposes on the 29 June 2009. The balance of up to €1bn will be provided subject to agreement on a proposed buy-back of Anglo debt aimed at improving the Bank's Core Tier 1 capital position.

The future capital needs of the Bank are not clear. This depends on a number of factors. The picture will become clearer when arrangements on the transfer of assets to NAMA are finalised. The economic climate, the performance of the remaining loan book will also be determinants of the future capital requirements of the Bank.

As already indicated the capital injection in May was made directly from the Central Fund. Since nationalisation Anglo Irish Bank shares are no longer trading in regulated markets and as a result the Bank has ceased, by definition, to be a "listed credit institution" for the purposes of the Investment of the National Pensions [No. 7.] Reserve Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2009. It follows, therefore, that the National Pensions Reserve Fund is not an appropriate vehicle for the transfer of funds to the Bank.

The Board of the Bank have not, as yet, finalised their Business plan. As part of the EU Commission State Aid approval for the injection of capital, the Bank has to prepare and submit a detailed restructuring plan. This will be done in consultation with my Department and the Financial Regulator and EU approval will also be needed.

Financial Services Regulation.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

57 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance his views on the concerns of the acting Financial Regulator with respect to banking staff, management or board members who may be over extended in terms of borrowings from their institution and who may be in a compromising position in relation to decisions on the transfer of assets to the National Asset Management Agency or the management and administration of such assets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27982/09]

The Financial Regulator has the statutory authority and responsibility to regulate and supervise credit institutions. The Financial Regulator recently carried out a review of loans to directors in financial institutions and is imposing conditions on banks and building societies following this review.

With regard to staff, the Financial Regulator has informed me that it expects the Board and management of financial institutions to ensure that proper controls and procedures are in place in relation to staff lending. In a situation where the Regulator became aware of staff in senior positions who may be, or may be seen to be, compromised because of borrowings from that institution, the Regulator would seek to ensure that the position was rectified.

Unemployment Levels.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

58 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance his views on the June 2009 live register figures and the latest quarterly national household survey; if he will provide revised estimates in respect of unemployment figures for year end 2009 end 2010; the way these trends and estimates are expected to impact on the general Government balance for both 2009 and 2010; the way these trends and forecasts compare to those provided at the supplementary budget of 7 April 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27986/09]

In June of this year, the seasonally-adjusted number on the Live Register was 413,500 resulting in a standardised unemployment rate of 11.9 per cent. The monthly increase in June was the lowest since September last year. In other words, the rate of labour market deterioration is not as bad as in the first quarter of this year.

The latest quarterly national household survey relates to the first quarter of this year, and shows that total employment fell at an annual rate of 7.5 per cent — the equivalent of 158,500 jobs — in the first quarter. The unemployment rate was 10.2 per cent.

These trends in both the Live Register and the quarterly national household survey are in line with labour market projections made by my Department in the April Supplementary Budget, so that revisions are not necessary. The budgetary arithmetic is based on employment falling by 7.8 per cent on average this year and by 4.6 per cent next year. Unemployment is forecast to average 12.6 per cent this year and 15.5 per cent next year. The number on the Live Register is projected to average 440,000 this year, which unfortunately implies breaching the 500,000 mark by end-year.

Therefore, the trajectory for the public finances — specifically the general government position — over this year and next is unaffected by the publication of labour market data since the Budget was formulated.

Falling employment and rising unemployment is the most worrying aspect of the economic downturn. The Government is working to improve the competitiveness of the economy so that we are in a position to exploit the global recovery when it emerges, thereby providing support to the labour market.

We are also investing in the smart economy, maintaining high levels of capital spending and directing that into labour intensive areas. For example, I announced the establishment of a Stabilisation Fund of €100m over two years to support vulnerable but viable enterprises and an R&D target of 2.5 per cent of GNP by 2013. In addition, I announced in the recent Supplementary Budget a further range of labour market activation initiatives.

Question No. 59 answered with Question No. 42.

Tax Code.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

60 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance his plans to tax child benefit. [27279/09]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

77 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance his preference for means testing or for taxing child benefit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27970/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 60 and 77 together.

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

Banking Sector.

Willie Penrose

Question:

61 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Finance the expected State capital injection into Anglo Irish Bank over the 2009 to 2012 period; if he proposes to fund such capital injections from the National Pensions Reserve Fund, from the central fund or from other resources; the amount of capital which has been injected by the State to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27959/09]

As the Deputy will be aware the Government decided to provide up to €4bn by way of capital injection to Anglo Irish Bank. €3bn of this amount was provided from the Central Fund to the Bank for capital purposes on the 29 June 2009. The balance of up to €1bn will be provided subject to agreement on a proposed buy-back of Anglo debt aimed at improving the Bank's Core Tier 1 capital position.

The future capital needs of the Bank are not clear. This depends on a number of factors. The picture will become clearer when arrangements on the transfer of assets to NAMA are finalised. The economic climate and the performance of the remaining loan book will also be determinants of the future capital requirements of the Bank.

As already indicated the capital injection in May was made directly from the Central Fund. Since nationalisation Anglo Irish Bank shares are no longer trading in regulated markets and as a result the Bank has ceased, by definition, to be a "listed credit institution" for the purposes of the Investment of the National Pensions [No. 7.] Reserve Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2009. It follows, therefore, that the National Pensions Reserve Fund is not an appropriate vehicle for the transfer of funds to the Bank.

Tax Yield.

George Lee

Question:

62 Deputy George Lee asked the Minister for Finance the yield from the air travel tax in the months from April to June 2009; and the number of journeys subjected to the tax. [27930/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the air travel tax arising from travel undertaken in any month is payable by the 23rd of the following month. The yields from the air travel tax received in May and June 2009 were €9.6 million and €11.5 million respectively, in respect of travel undertaken during the months of April and May 2009.

The tax due for travel undertaken during June 2009 is not payable until 23 July 2009, and therefore the yield in question is not yet available.

In addition to the monthly payments of the tax, each airline operator is required to furnish a detailed annual return to the Revenue Commissioners, which will include details of the number of departures liable at each rate of the tax. The first such annual returns, covering the period 30 March to 31 December 2009, are due to be provided by 23 February 2010. Consequently it is not possible as this time to provide details of the number of journeys subjected to air travel tax in the period April to June 2009.

Tax Code.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

63 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance if he will introduce a property tax on first homes; and the possible level of property tax. [27277/09]

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

Unemployment Levels.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

64 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance his views on the latest quarterly national household survey which indicates a 104% year on year rise in unemployment to the end of March 2009 and that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is at its highest level since 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27976/09]

Quarterly national household survey data show that in the first quarter of this year, economy-wide employment fell by 158,500 on an annual basis, a fall of 7.5 per cent. Seasonally adjusted unemployment was 223,000 in the first quarter, compared with 110,000 in the same period last year. The unemployment rate stood at 10.2 per cent in the first quarter.

There is no question that the deterioration in the labour market is of major concern. As I have said before, the most worrying aspect of the current economic difficulties is the rapid rise in unemployment.

In this regard, the Government is continuing to pursue policies that will limit the loss in employment and position the economy to take advantage of the upturn in world growth. For instance, we have brought in additional fiscal measures in order to maintain the public finances on a sustainable path. This will help restore international confidence in Ireland as a place to invest. We are working to improve competitiveness, through investing in infrastructure and in education and skills, maintaining the pro-enterprise tax system and research and development supports, thereby preparing the climate for future activity. The Government has also taken measures to get credit flowing, while we are ensuring that those losing their jobs have access to re-training.

Public Service Staff.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

65 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Finance the expected Exchequer saving for 2009 and 2010, respectively, resulting from the incentivised career break and incentivised early retirement schemes for public servants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27972/09]

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 3 years, as well as 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 €150m in 2009 and €300m in a full year. Achieving these savings is entirely dependent on take up, which is not certain at this stage.

Pre-Budget Submissions.

Martin Ferris

Question:

66 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Finance if he will pursue a different approach to preparing for budget 2010; and if he will include the Opposition parties in discussions regarding cuts to spending. [27282/09]

As I have already outlined in my response to a Priority Question today, the broad parameters for Budget 2010 were set out in the Supplementary Budget which for the first time set out a multi-annual plan which will achieve a General Government deficit of 3% of GDP by end-2013. In terms of the next two years, the Supplementary Budget set out the indicative split between the necessary further expenditure and tax revenue adjustments required, amounting to up to €4 billion in 2010 and 2011. At the time I indicated that the expenditure targets were a minimum and the taxation targets were a maximum and I have since elaborated on this to indicate that the scope for further income tax increases is limited. This will mean that other measures that broaden the tax base and further improve the expenditure position are central to the ongoing fiscal consolidation process.

The Commission on Taxation, which is expected to complete its work shortly, and the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure, which is due to report to me imminently, will have an important role to play in identifying measures that will achieve the required adjustments for 2010 and subsequent years, as set out in the Supplementary Budget.

The report of the Special Group will assist the Government to identify economies which can be made on the scale necessary to ensure that the public finances are returned to a sustainable path in the near future. The Special Group's conclusions will accordingly be considered on an ongoing basis in the context of preparing the allocation of expenditure for 2010.

In relation to the Commission on Taxation, its terms of reference are far reaching and broadly defined and allow for consideration of all aspects of the Irish taxation system. The work of the Commission will help establish the framework within which tax policy will be set for the next decade at least. I expect to receive the report of the Commission shortly and I will be bringing it to Government for consideration at that stage.

It is intended the Pre-Budget Outlook will be published in mid to late October, setting out the pre-budget position in more detail based on the latest available data. In this context, my Department will produce updated macroeconomic projections which will inform the decision making process for my December Budget. The Pre-Budget Outlook will assist the House by informing the debate in the run up to the presentation of the Budget. I will then set out the details of Budget 2010 in my address on Budget Day in early December and the Budget will also contain updates to the medium term economic and fiscal projections.

As the Deputy is aware there is ongoing engagement with both Houses of the Oireachtas, as well as the various Committees, in relation to economic and fiscal matters. I have no reason to believe that the situation will be any different in the lead-up to the presentation of Budget 2010.

Freedom of Information.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

67 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance if he will extend the scope of the Freedom of Information Act 1997 to cover the Central Bank, the Financial Regulator, the State Claims Agency, the National Treasury Management Agency, including the National Pension Reserve Fund and the National Asset Management Agency, as recommended by the Information Commissioner; if he will bring forward amending legislation to this effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27961/09]

Given the significant pressure on the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland (CBFSAI) at this time, arising from the financial crisis and the operation of the Bank Guarantee Scheme, and the significant change in the financial regulatory framework as proposed by Government, it is not considered that this would be the most appropriate time to consider the possible extension of the FOI Act to that organisation. Also significant issues relating to the confidential and commercial sensitivity of much of the information within the possession of that organisation, the international framework of its operations and its role in maintaining and protecting the financial stability of the State would have to taken on board in any such consideration of this matter.

With regard to the National Treasury Management Agency and the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission I do not propose to extend FOI to these bodies for reasons of commercial sensitivity. In relation to the Agency's role as the State Claims Agency, most of its work is covered by legal privilege and it is considered that a partial application of FOI to the State Claims Agency would not be warranted.

In the case of the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA), it is not yet established as a statutory body although it is my intention to publish legislation later this month. It will of course be necessary to bear in mind that NAMA will have a commercial mandate to obtain maximum value for the taxpayer and, to achieve this objective it will be required to enter into complex commercial negotiations with financial institutions and developers, the nature of which will require in many instances a high degree of commercial confidentiality.

Banking Sector.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

68 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the ease of access to lending, particularly working capital, for small, medium and large businesses here; if he will take further steps to ensure that viable businesses are not forced to close as a result of avoidable liquidity difficulties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27957/09]

A core Government objective is to free up lending on a commercial basis into the economy to support economic growth and a number of actions have been taken to achieve this objective. In the context of the bank guarantee scheme and recapitalisation the banks have made important commitments to support business lending.

An independent review of credit availability was agreed in the context of the recapitalisation of AIB and Bank of Ireland. The purpose of the review was to ascertain the position on credit availability to SMEs in Ireland. The Steering Group for the review consisted of representatives of the Departments of Finance and Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Forfás, Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Banking Federation and the six main banks involved in lending to SMEs, business representatives from ISME, Chambers Ireland and Small Firms Association. The final report of the Review of Lending to SMEs has just now been received. The report is quite extensive, running to almost 100 pages plus appendices. It will be considered by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Renewal which is meeting this afternoon. The intention is that it will be published shortly.

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

In addition, as part of the recapitalisation package announced on 11 February, Allied Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland reconfirmed their December commitment to increase lending capacity to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) by 10% and to provide an additional 30% capacity for lending to first time buyers in 2009. If the mortgage lending is not taken up, then the extra capacity will be available to SMEs. AIB and Bank of Ireland have also committed to public campaigns to actively promote small business lending at competitive rates with increased transparency on the criteria to be met. Compliance with this commitment is being monitored by the Financial Regulator. Officials from my Department are also in regular contact with the banks concerned in relation to their progress on implementing these measures.

My colleague the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment has recently set up a Clearing Group including representatives from the main banks, business interests and state agencies, which is chaired by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The purpose of the group is to identify specific patterns of events or cases where the flow of credit to viable businesses appears to be blocked and to seek to identify credit supply solutions. Any questions on the clearing group should be directed to my colleague the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

The banks report that they are "open for business" as evidenced by their promotional and advertising material. The banks state that they have funds available for lending to businesses and have provided details on approval levels and amounts drawn down. They report a slowdown in certain areas which they say reflects a reduced level of demand. The review of credit availability has considered this point. The most recent Central Bank Monthly Statistics for May 2009 show that credit to non-financial corporates actually increased by €225m month-on-month after two months of substantial falls. While care is always to be taken when reading monthly data, this could be a positive indicator of credit actively being fed through the real economy and businesses.

You may also be aware that my colleague, the Minister of State for Trade and Commerce, Mr Billy Kelleher TD has commenced a series of regional meetings to discuss access to bank credit with key local stakeholders.

Question No. 69 answered with Question No. 51.

Financial Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

70 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the steps he is taking to address the cost of sub-prime mortgages; the discussions he has had with the Irish Financial Regulatory Services Authority on the issue. [27640/09]

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

The Government took steps in October 2007 via an amendment to the Central Bank Act, 1997, to provide for an appropriate system of authorisation and supervision of retail credit firms by the Financial Regulator engaged in specialist or so-called sub-prime lending. Such lenders were not previously subject to financial regulation in respect of lending activities. The primary purpose of this amendment was to extend to customers of these firms the benefit of the consumer protections provided for in the Financial Regulator's Consumer Protection Code. This regulatory regime has been in place since 1 February 2008 and is being implemented by the Financial Regulator. Consumer credit, including sub-prime lending, is also regulated in Ireland under the Consumer Credit Act 1995. The Act makes detailed provision for the form and content of loan agreements and for advertising of consumer credit.

Some non deposit-taking mortgage lenders are required to notify charges under Section 149 of the Consumer Credit Act, 1995 (as amended) to the Financial Regulator for approval. However interest rates are excluded from this requirement. Also, legal fees tend to be imposed by 3rd parties and then passed on directly by the institution to the consumer. In general these do not require approval. When approving fees, the Financial Regulator takes the following criteria into consideration:

promotion of fair competition;

commercial justification;

passing on any costs to customers; and

the effect on customers or a group of customers.

In view of its statutory consumer protection mandate, the Financial Regulator will continue to monitor interest rates charged by financial institutions.

Question No. 71 answered with Question No. 53.

Banking Sector.

Mary Upton

Question:

72 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance his views on the evolution of the deposit base of Irish banks since the beginning of 2009; the borrowing by Irish banks from the European Central Bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27983/09]

I refer to my answer to Question No. 121 of 13 May 2009.

As I set out in that answer, data on the deposit base of bank offices resident in Ireland is published in the Monthly Statistics and Quarterly Bulletins of the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland (CBFSAI).

The latest available monthly statistics (May 2009) indicates that total deposits held in credit institutions reporting to the CBFSAI for statistical purposes is €276.2 billion (includes a total of €170.4 billion in deposits held by Irish residents). The aggregate level of deposits has declined by approximately €13 billion from the end of December 2008 to the end of May 2009, over half of which is accounted for by non-resident deposits. In May, overnight and short-term deposits increased whereas deposits for a longer maturity (i.e. up to two years) declined.

Credit institutions located in the State may avail of liquidity funding from the European Central Bank and as at 29 May 2009 a total of €118.1 billion in liquidity was borrowed by credit institutions reporting to the CBFSAI. While the monthly level of borrowing increased from January to March, it decreased in April and May. The Deputy will note that this data relates to all credit institutions reporting to the CBFSAI for statistical purposes so includes foreign owned institutions, including those based in the IFSC, as well as Irish-owned institutions.

Tax Code.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

73 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance when the report from the Commission on Taxation will be put before the Houses of the Oireachtas. [27278/09]

The report of the Commission on Taxation is due to be presented to me shortly and will be published following Government approval.

Proposed Legislation.

Joan Burton

Question:

74 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide for the extension of the range of assets eligible for transfer to the National Asset Management Agency to include commercial debt, residential mortgages, or other consumer debt; if the NAMA legislation will include a ceiling on the value of assets eligible for transfer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27992/09]

The objective behind the establishment of NAMA was to deal with the riskiest assets on the balance sheets of Irish banks, which were preventing banks from lending into the economy and thereby supporting economic recovery. In that regard, all land and development loans and certain associated exposures of each eligible institution will be considered for transfer to NAMA.

There are no plans to extend NAMA beyond development property related loans and associated exposures.

Banking Sector.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

75 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance if he has drafted a scheme for the extension of the guarantee scheme beyond 2010; if the premium to be charged will differ from that under the existing guarantee; and his plans to present the scheme to the Houses of the Oireachtas. [27918/09]

As I announced in my Supplementary Budget Statement on 7 April 2009, it is the Government's intention to put a State guarantee in place for the future issuance of debt securities with a maximum maturity of up to five years.

Following the enactment of the Financial Measures (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act at the end of June which provides a power to extend the guarantee by order beyond its current expiry date of 29 September 2010, work is continuing on the drafting of a Scheme, the introduction of which requires EU State aid approval.

Access to longer-term funding in line with the mainstream approach in the EU and is expected to contribute significantly to supporting the funding needs of the banks and to securing their continued stability. The extended scheme must be approved in accordance with EU State aid rules and discussions are continuing in this regard with the European Commission.

Jack Wall

Question:

76 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance his views on the recent International Monetary Fund forecast that losses in the banking sector here are expected to total €35 billion by end 2010 and that the Exchequer cost is expected to fall in the 12 to 15% range; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27974/09]

The IMF has said that losses could be about €35 billion, or about 20 percent of GDP. It is, however, important to point out that the IMF figure was not based on a very detailed analysis of individual bank data. Also, this figure does not take into account the countervailing effect of bank earnings — in that sense it is a gross rather than a net figure.

The Deputy will be aware from my previous reports to the House that PWC has carried out detailed reviews of the loan books and the capital position of six of the covered institutions. Since then, additional due diligence reviews of Anglo Irish Bank, Allied Irish Banks and Bank of Ireland have been carried out, building on the assessments carried out by PWC.

As I have previously stated, I am not in a position to release information contained in these reviews, other than what has been released to date, because of the commercially sensitive nature of the information.

Arising from our assessment of the initial reviews of the loan books, the Government decided to establish the National Asset Management Agency to ensure that the financial institutions were freed up to allow them to lend to the real economy. As I announced in early April, the potential book value of loans that will be transferred to NAMA is in the region of €80 to €90 billion. However, the amount paid by NAMA will be considerably less than this since loans will only be transferred at an appropriate written down value. Where banks and borrowers have made losses, they will have to recognise such losses before the transfer of loans to NAMA. NAMA will operate on a full commercial basis and will be determined to recover monies owed to it to the fullest extent possible.

Question No. 77 answered with Question No. 60.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

78 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he has carried out a sufficient audit of the banking sector with a view to identifying precisely the full extent of assets and lending; the degree to which this information, if available, is expected to impact on future corrective action within the banking sector and Government regulation; the steps he will take to address the cause in departures from good banking and lending practices over the past number of years; the further steps he will take to address these issues in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27866/09]

The PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) Report commissioned by the Financial Regulator, provided a comprehensive analysis of the loan books of the covered institutions. This analysis informed the series of moves which have been taken to stabilise the Irish banking sector. The contents of the PWC reports are however, highly market sensitive and will not be published.

Work has begun at an international level on forging a new model to govern the conduct and behaviour of the financial sector. Ireland will play its part internationally and particularly at EU level in seeking to ensure that the re-design of the financial system and in particular of financial regulation is consistent with the objectives highlighted in the Guarantee Scheme.

The regulation of lending practices of Irish financial institutions is the responsibility of the Financial Regulator. In response to the financial turbulence of last year, the Financial Regulator instigated a series of new regulatory measures to take account of the changed environment, including an increased focus on the management of credit and liquidity risks of the banks. Among the actions the Financial Regulator has taken are the following:

the recruitment of 20 senior supervisory staff with banking experience to monitor developments in domestic credit institutions. An additional 20 positions were advertised in June 2009 for specific expertise across a range of areas. The competition closed in late June and the short listing of candidates from this competition is underway; and

enhanced reporting obligations in relation to capital, asset quality and individual large loans to supplement daily liquidity reporting requirements.

More recently however, I announced the Government's intention to establish a single fully integrated regulatory institution, the Central Bank of Ireland Commission. This new structure will replace the current board structure of the Central Bank and the Financial Services Regulatory Authority to achieve the highest performance standards for the new organisation.

The new Central Bank Commission will be chaired by the Governor of the Central Bank and will be responsible for both the supervision of individual firms and the stability of the financial system generally. This range of reforms will underpin a much more effective and efficient financial services regulatory system aligned with best international practice.

In the legislation which will underpin the new structures, the Government will seek to enhance the accountability of the new regulatory structures to the Oireachtas and to strengthen evaluation and quality assurance of regulatory performance.

National Archives.

David Stanton

Question:

79 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Finance his plans to upgrade the National Archives; the cost to the Office of Public Works for off-site storage of records since October 2008 to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27868/09]

The Land Commission is currently accommodated in the National Archives premises in Bishop Street, Dublin 8. The Office of Public Works is in the process of relocating the Land Commission personnel and their records from Bishop Street to Portlaoise, and will allocate the space freed up by this move to the National Archives for storage purposes.

The Office of Public Works has made arrangements for the provision of additional off-site storage for the National Archives and the cost associated with this storage from October 2008 is €10,114.50.

House Repossessions.

Joan Burton

Question:

80 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the steps he will take to ensure that there is not a surge in home repossessions upon the expiration of the 12 month moratorium agreed with Allied Irish Banks and another bank (details supplied) as part of their recapitalisation schemes; his views on the level of mortgage arrears here and its evolution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27991/09]

My Department continues to monitor the situation in general, and especially with the recapitalised banks and the banks under the Guarantee. The Government has the objective of ensuring that the rate of home repossessions should remain at its present very low levels and will seek to achieve this through the terms of the Statutory Code of Conduct, specific commitments under the recapitalisation scheme, the direct financial supports under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme and the support of the Money Advice and Budgetary Service.

The Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears published on 13 February 2009 builds on the existing voluntary Code of Practice issued by the Irish Banking Federation and incorporates a requirement for the lender to wait at least six months from the time arrears arise before taking legal action. Bank of Ireland and AIB have each committed that they will not commence court proceedings for repossession of a principal private residence until after twelve months of arrears appearing, where the customer continues to cooperate reasonably and honestly with the bank. It should be noted that the twelve months commences when the arrears first appear and is not limited to the dates of the recapitalisation. Under the Code of Conduct, a lender may not seek repossession until every reasonable effort has been made to agree an alternative repayment schedule with the borrower. The Code is monitored by the Financial Regulator.

I must stress however that there are no indications that such a surge in on the way.

Economic Outlook.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

81 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance his views on the latest OECD economic outlook and its forecast that Irish GDP is set to decline 9.8% in 2009 with the budget deficit set to hit 11.5% of GDP; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27969/09]

With regard to the latest OECD Economic Outlook, released June 24th, I note that the OECD's projections indicate that the global contraction is slowing, and for the first time in a while they are more optimistic regarding a global upturn than their last outlook. Of particular importance to Ireland are the signs of impending recovery in the US.

I note that the OECD forecast that the Irish economy will contract by -9¾ per cent this year. Since the OECD forecasts were published, first quarter national accounts data have become available which show that GDP contracted by 8½ per cent year-on-year in the first quarter. Moreover, many commentators are now of the view that the rate of deterioration may be slowing. Available data are consistent with this. Therefore, my Department's forecast of a 7¾ per cent contraction remains valid at this stage. Whatever the actual outturn, we all acknowledge that we are in a difficult economic situation and that Ireland is expected to suffer a 13% contraction in output over the period 2008-2010, before resuming some modest growth thereafter.

The OECD forecast a General Government Balance in 2009 of -11.5% of GDP and -13.6% of GDP in 2010; this compares to the Supplementary Budget forecast of -10¾% of GDP in both 2009 and 2010.

While the difference in the forecasts can partly be explained by the difference in economic growth forecasts, it also reflects the fact that the OECD forecast is based on existing specified policy. This means that they do not include the commitment contained in the Supplementary Budget to make further budgetary adjustments of the order of over 2% of GDP in 2010.

The recent Supplementary Budget set out a multi-annual consolidation plan for the public finances which will bring the General Government Balance to -3% of GDP by end-2013. I welcome the OECD's assessment that it is appropriate that fiscal consolidation has begun in Ireland given the severe pressures on the public finances.

Ministerial Appointments.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

82 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance when he will announce the identity of the next governor of the Irish Central Bank; if he has prepared a shortlist of potential candidates; if he has approached potential candidates regarding the position; if he will appoint a candidate with a blend of theoretical and practical, market knowledge of the banking sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27988/09]

As I announced previously, the current Governor of the Central Bank, Mr John Hurley, was requested to continue in office for a short period past the completion of his current term, in order to ensure continuity and leadership during the disruption in financial markets. He has agreed to remain for a period of additional months to facilitate the smooth transition to the new regulatory arrangements.

It is proposed that the Government will consider of a wide pool of qualified candidates, including from abroad, to ensure that the Governor Hurley's successor will have the necessary reputation, experience, abilities and expertise to take over responsibility for leading the reform of the regulatory structures.

Financial Services.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

83 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance his proposals to improve the flow of credit in respect of vehicle purchases when customers with good jobs, a reliable credit history and a significant equity in a vehicle purchase are having difficulty in accessing credit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27955/09]

In general, the decision on whether an institution operating in Ireland approves a loan application from an individual is a commercial decision for the institution concerned.

The Deputy will appreciate that a balance must be achieved by Government between influencing private banks through the bank guarantee scheme and other financial support incentives while at the same time being seen to have a hands-off approach to the day to day running of these institutions which must operate on a strictly commercial basis. In this regard, Government action to date has focussed on SME and mortgage markets rather than consumer lending of various types.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Jack Wall

Question:

84 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance the findings of the first six month review of the functioning of the bank guarantee; if he will publish this review; if he is satisfied that the guarantee has secured the liquidity situation of the banking system here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27973/09]

Under paragraph 8 of the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme, the Minister for Finance may review and vary the terms and conditions of the Scheme to ensure that it is achieving the purposes of the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Act 2008. The Scheme states that at such a review, the Minister shall consider, inter alia, the continued requirement for the provision of financial support under the Scheme with regard to its objectives and section 2(1) of the Act. This review has been provided to the European Commission as required under the Scheme.

As I announced in my Supplementary Budget Statement on 7 April 2009, it is the Government's intention to put a State guarantee in place for the future issuance of debt securities with a maximum maturity of up to five years.

Following the enactment of the Financial Measures (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act at the end of June which provides a power to extend the guarantee by order beyond its current expiry date of 29 September 2010, work is continuing on the drafting of a Scheme, the introduction of which requires EU State aid approval.

Access to longer-term funding in line with the mainstream approach in the EU and is expected to contribute significantly to supporting the funding needs of the banks and to securing their continued stability. The extended scheme must be approved in accordance with EU State aid rules and discussions are continuing in this regard with the European Commission.

Banking Sector.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

85 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance his views on the recent court action initiated by a bank (details supplied) to recover some €60 million owed to it; his views on whether further such legal actions are unlikely to be initiated by credit institutions in advance of the establishment of the National Asset Management Agency and that credit institutions should await the establishment of NAMA before initiating such legal actions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27968/09]

The Deputy will be aware that substantial progress has been made in the practical preparations for the establishment of NAMA in tandem with the drafting of legislation to establish the Agency on a statutory basis, and that it is my intention to publish the NAMA Bill before the end of July.

Pending the establishment of NAMA, institutions will be expected to manage loan assets in accordance with normal commercial practice. This includes the management of non-performing or impaired loans. The specific action referred to by the Deputy is a commercial matter for the institution concerned.

Question No. 86 answered with Question No. 53.

Ministerial Appointments.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

87 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the progress regarding the recruitment of a new head of financial supervision to act under the auspices of the new Central Bank commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27956/09]

A key aspect of the proposed reform of the regulatory structures is the appointment of a Director of Financial Supervision, who will be an ex officio member of the new Central Bank of Ireland Commission and will report to the Commission on the regulatory and supervisory functions and objectives of the new structure.

The process of recruiting this new Director of Financial Supervision is already underway, under the auspices of the Central Bank and Financial Regulator, in close consultation with my Department. Sir Andrew Large, former Deputy Governor of the Bank of England and former member of the UK Monetary Policy Committee is also advising on the recruitment process. The position was advertised nationally and internationally last week. The search being undertaken is wide-ranging to ensure that the successful candidate has the necessary calibre, reputation, experience and expertise to lead the reform of the regulatory and supervisory structures.

Banking Sector.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

88 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance his views on the recent reiteration by the International Monetary Fund of its recommendation that temporary nationalisation of the Irish banks should be pursued in conjunction with the National Asset Management Agency in order to restructure the banking sector and to mitigate difficulties in appropriately pricing assets being transferred to NAMA; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27975/09]

The IMF did not recommend nationalisation of the Irish banks. It did suggest that there can be circumstances in which a nationalisation is necessary. In this regard, the Deputy is aware of the nationalisation of Anglo Irish Bank, where circumstances were such that the Government believed a nationalisation was required.

The Government does not accept that nationalisation of the whole of the Irish banking system will be the short term panacea that some — but not the IMF — suggest. We believe that it is important, where possible, that the banking sector has a market presence and that it operates within market disciplines and constraints. A commercially focused banking system operating within market disciplines and constraints is best equipped to achieve the Government's aim of ensuring that the lending needs of the real economy are met.

I should note that the IMF Directors commended the response of the Irish authorities, welcomed the actions taken so far to safeguard financial stability and supported the NAMA initiative.

Proposed Legislation.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

89 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the person he is consulting with in drawing up the National Asset Management Agency legislation. [27275/09]

The Deputy will be aware that the establishment of NAMA and the interim preparations, including the drafting of legislation, are being overseen by a NAMA Steering Group established by me. The Group comprises representatives of my Department, the NTMA and the Attorney General.

To date, the interim NAMA has managed three tender competitions covering (i) banking and financial advice, (ii) tax advisory services and (iii) legal advice. Future tender competitions will be advised on the NAMA website www.nama.ie. While the drafting of the NAMA legislation is being overseen by the Steering Group, the expert advice of the three companies appointed to advise NAMA will feed into the process.

I also would add that many constructive observations, comments and advices have been independently offered. These have been referred to the Steering Group and the interim Managing Director of NAMA for consideration.

Banking Sector.

Willie Penrose

Question:

90 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Finance when he will introduce a revised bank guarantee scheme for consideration by Dáil Éireann; if he will narrow the scope of the guarantee for periods beyond 30 September 2010; if, in particular, he will remove dated subordinated debt from the scope of the guarantee under any proposed extension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27960/09]

As I announced in my Supplementary Budget Statement on 7 April 2009, it is the Government's intention to put a State guarantee in place for the future issuance of debt securities with a maximum maturity of up to five years.

The enactment of the Financial Measures (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act at the end of June provides a power to extend the guarantee by order beyond its current expiry date of 29 September 2010. As I mentioned during the debate on this Bill it is my intention to provide in any new Scheme that dated subordinated debt will not be part of any such extension. Work is continuing on the drafting of a Scheme, the introduction of which requires EU State aid approval.

Access to longer-term funding in line with the mainstream approach in the EU and is expected to contribute significantly to supporting the funding needs of the banks and to securing their continued stability. The extended scheme must be approved in accordance with EU State aid rules and discussions are continuing in this regard with the European Commission.

Debt Levels.

Joe Costello

Question:

91 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Finance his views on the spread on recently raised Irish sovereign debt above the benchmark German bonds; if he expects these spreads to ease or to become more pronounced over the 2009 to 2010 period; the expected impact of elevated bond spreads on the cost of financing the national debt in 2009 and 2010; the expected cost in nominal terms and as a proportion of GDP for 2009 and 2010, with comparative figures for 2007 and 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27989/09]

The spread in the cost of funding that Ireland must pay over the German benchmark rate began to increase towards the end of 2008 and rose sharply in January 2009 as a result of a number of global and domestic factors. These included international concerns about the prospect for continued economic contraction in Ireland and internationally, the deterioration in the public finances, and uncertainty about the cost to the Exchequer of restructuring the Irish banking sector. While spreads have fallen from the peak levels, they remain volatile. The National Treasury Management Agency advise that it is not possible to disentangle the precise effects of the different factors behind these spread moves or to quantify them. For illustrative purposes, the NTMA have estimated that an increase of 10 basis points in the spread would increase the cost of funding the overall 2009 borrowing requirement by around €29 million in a full year.

While, as outlined above, a number of factors have impacted on the spread in the cost of funding, the Government is taking the necessary corrective actions to address the deterioration in the public finances and ensure the stabilisation of the financial sector. It is expected that these actions will assist in restoring the confidence of international investors and will have an impact on the longer term debt servicing costs.

The Supplementary Budget forecasts as advised by the NTMA for 2009 and 2010 for debt servicing costs, in nominal terms and as a proportion of GDP, along with comparative figures for 2007 and 2008 are set out as follows:

Outturn

Outturn

Forecast

Forecast

2007

2008

2009

2010

Debt Service Cost

€2.1 billion

€2.1 billion

€3.9 billion

€5.8 billion

As a % of GDP

1.1%

1.1%

2.3%

3.5%

Tax Collection.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

92 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance his views on loss of revenue to the Exchequer, estimated to be in the region of €400 million annually, arising from the illegal smuggling of cigarettes; and the steps he is taking by way of legislation, enforcement and prevention to stem this loss. [27637/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they are not in a position to confirm the Deputy's estimate of tax loss from cigarette smuggling, as there is no reliable method for determining such a figure. However, a tentative estimate was given by Revenue earlier this year that about 20% of cigarettes consumed in Ireland may be untaxed, but it is important to emphasise that this includes both legitimate cross- border purchases for personal consumption and contraband and counterfeit cigarettes. Cigarette clearances on payment of tax for the first five months of 2009 are broadly in line with the same period in 2008.

Approximately 42m cigarettes with a retail value of €17.5m have been seized in the first six months of 2009. The efforts that are being made by Revenue to tackle cigarette smuggling include a continuous review of resource deployment both at points of importation and inland with a view to increasing the number of seizures and prosecutions, the procurement of a second Mobile Container Scanner that is expected to be completed this year, continued liaison with An Garda Síochána and where appropriate, the mounting of multi-agency international operations. In addition, Revenue will continue to liaise closely with the legitimate tobacco manufacturers and the Office of Tobacco Control, and will also maintain close contact with the authorities in other Member States and the European Anti-Fraud Office.

With regard to legislation, I can inform the Deputy that existing enforcement legislation is considered adequate for tackling cigarette smuggling. Current penalties on summary conviction for evasion of duties are €5,000 and/or a term of imprisonment not exceeding twelve months. These reflect the maximum statutory penalties that can be imposed by the District Courts. The penalty for conviction on indictment is currently €12,695 or treble the duty paid value of the goods, whichever is the greater, and/or a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years.

Banking Sector.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

93 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance if he has received reports from the banks covered under the guarantee scheme with regard to their lending to small businesses. [27280/09]

As part of the recapitalisation package announced on 11 February, Allied Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland reconfirmed their December commitment to increase lending capacity to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) by 10% and to provide an additional 30% capacity for lending to first time buyers in 2009. If the mortgage lending is not taken up, then the extra capacity will be available to SMEs. Compliance with this commitment is monitored by the Financial Regulator. The banks make quarterly reports to ensure compliance and the first reports to end March 2009 were received in a timely manner.

Additionally, an independent review of credit availability was agreed in the context of the recapitalisation of AIB and Bank of Ireland. The purpose of the review was to ascertain the position on credit availability to SMEs in Ireland. The Steering Group for the review consisted of representatives of the Departments of Finance and Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Forfás, Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Banking Federation and the six main banks involved in lending to SMEs, business representatives from ISME, Chambers Ireland and Small Firms Association. The final report of the Review of Lending to SMEs has just now been received. The report is quite extensive, running to almost 100 pages plus appendices. It will be considered by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Renewal which is meeting this afternoon. The intention is that it will be published shortly.

Public Service Contracts.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

94 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if the procurement process for the acquisition of a second mobile scanner needed to combat cigarette smuggling has been completed; and the expected date when it will be operational. [27636/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the procurement process for the acquisition of a second mobile scanner is progressing. The tenders have been evaluated, the project team responsible for procurement have decided on a supplier and have commenced the contract stage of the procurement process. The project plan envisages that the new scanner will be deployed by the end of this year.

Banking Sector.

Liz McManus

Question:

95 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Finance the lending by the European Central Bank and by the Irish Central Bank respectively to financial institutions covered by the bank guarantee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27964/09]

The Central Bank do not publish separate figures for the guaranteed banks but do publish figures which cover all banks operating in Ireland, including the IFSC banks. The total aggregate balance sheet of these institutions is €1,392,046 million of which €118,087 million represents ECB lending. These figures for individual banks are highly market sensitive and are not published.

Financial Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

96 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the steps he is taking to address the cost of fixed rate mortgages; the discussions he has had with the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority on the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27639/09]

The Deputy's question refers to the commitment I gave in this House on 26 March 2009 to request the Consumer Director in the Financial Regulator — which has a statutory mandate to safeguard customers' interests — to examine the level of redemption fees charged by banks to customers wishing to exit from fixed rate mortgages. My Department received a copy of the Financial Regulator's report on this matter on 29 June 2009.

The report sets out that the Financial Regulator requested specific information from 26 lenders on how early redemption fees quoted to customers are calculated. Of the 26 lenders, 25 confirmed to the FR that they did not impose any fees in respect of the early redemption of a fixed rate home loan other than those which would arise in the context of a normal redemption of any mortgage. In one case a €95 fee approved under the Consumer Credit Act, 1995 is charged by the lender for breaking a fixed rate mortgage.

The FR's report states that independent actuarial confirmation was also sought from all of the lenders to substantiate the case that the formulae applied by them to calculate redemption fees were restricted to the recovery cost of the funding of particular fixed rate mortgage arrangements in place.

On the basis of the information supplied by the lenders including worked examples and the actuarial confirmations submitted, the FR concluded and has confirmed to my Department that its analysis indicates that the early redemption fee calculation in all cases appears to seek to recover the costs; and lenders do not generally apply additional fees in the case of early redemption.

The Financial Regulator has advised my Department in its report that since its findings are based on a review of material provided by lending institutions rather than verification by means of on-site inspections it intends to carry out at least six on-site inspections on this issue.

Lenders do not therefore seem to be applying financial penalties in order to dissuade borrowers from early redemption of fixed rate mortgages. However, if the additional work to be undertaken by the Financial Regulator brings to light any information that does not support the findings and the conclusions contained in its report, the Financial Regulator has confirmed that this information will be made available in the public domain.

Departmental Expenditure.

David Stanton

Question:

97 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Finance the way he proposes to make savings and reduce expenditure associated with the Office of Public Works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27869/09]

The Revised Estimates Volume contains details on the financial provision for the Office of Public Works for 2009. The efficient and effective application of that provision is a matter for that Office. With regard to the impact of the general budgetary situation on the funds that may be provided for the OPW in 2010, that is a matter for decision in the context of the 2010 budget. The recommendations of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes will form an input to that process.

Economic Competitiveness.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

98 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance his views on the International Monetary Fund’s recent assertion that the economic distress currently facing Ireland is the most severe facing an advanced economy since World War II; the way he expects businesses and families here to be able to cope with the crisis and the reduced incomes it entails; the measures he will introduce to alleviate these financial pressures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27965/09]

The IMF is projecting that the Irish economy will contract by 13.5% between 2008 and 2010. This is of similar magnitude to the forecast made by my Department in the April supplementary budget. This is a very sharp rate of contraction in both international and historical terms. However, as I have pointed out before, the IMF report commends the Government for its actions to resolve the difficulties.

The Government is acutely aware that businesses, families and almost everyone in our society is being affected by the deterioration in economic conditions. What we are attempting to do is to ensure that the burden of adjustment is spread evenly. Income reductions — which are inevitable — must also be seen in the context of declining prices.

Improving competitiveness and safeguarding our pro-enterprise economy, putting our public finances and our banking system on a sustainable footing while returning to export-led growth are the appropriate policies and will ensure that we achieve sustainable increases in employment in the future. In this context, the Government's approach to dealing with the present significant economic downturn is to ensure that the economy is in a position to be able to take advantage of the global recovery when it emerges.

Financial Services.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

99 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that consumers in stable employment and with a reliable credit history are having difficulties in accessing mortgage finance; his proposals to improve this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27971/09]

While I cannot comment on individual cases, I would however point out that in response to the issue of access to mortgage finance, as part of the terms of the recapitalisation of AIB and Bank of Ireland, the banks agreed to provide an additional 30% capacity for lending to first time buyers in 2009. The banks have also committed to actively promote mortgage lending at competitive rates, with increased transparency on the criteria to be met.

In general, the decision on whether an institution operating in Ireland approves a mortgage application from individuals is a commercial decision for the institution concerned. The Deputy will appreciate that a balance must be achieved by Government between influencing private banks through the bank guarantee scheme and other financial support incentives while at the same time being seen to have a hands-off approach to the day to day running of these institutions which must operate on a strictly commercial basis.

Agriculture Sector.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

100 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Taoiseach the number of people currently employed in the agrifood sector; the number of people employed in the agrifood sector in each of the past ten years; the breakdown of the sector into those currently employed in primary agriculture and those employed in the food processing industry; the further breakdown of the sector into those employed in primary agriculture and those employed in the food processing industry in each of the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28183/09]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

102 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Taoiseach the number of people who have left employment in agriculture in all counties since 1998 to date in 2009; the breakdown of employment in each sector since 1998; the type of employments most people have moved into; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28185/09]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

103 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Taoiseach the numbers employed in the agrifood sector of the past ten years; the breakdown of the employment in the sector into constituent parts; the major procedures in each sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28186/09]

I propose to take Questions 100, 102 and 103 together.

The actual information requested by the Deputy is not available. Information on the numbers employed in Agriculture (NACE Rev. 1.1) at 2 digit level for the years 1999 to 2009 by NUTS 3 region are contained in the following table. This is the most detailed information available from the CSO Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS).

Numbers employed in Agriculture classified by region

Region

Q1 1999

Q1 2000

Q1 2001

Q1 2002

Q1 2003

Q1 2004

Q1 2005

Q1 2006

Q1 2007

Q1 2008

Q1 2009

Border

19.1

17.1

16.9

17.1

16.8

17.8

18.8

17.6

16.3

17.1

13.5

Midland

11.3

10.3

9.4

9.9

9.8

9.0

7.4

8.3

9.5

10.0

7.9

West

27.1

27.8

24.0

22.9

20.1

19.9

18.1

19.5

17.2

19.2

17.5

Dublin

3.4

3.6

3.5

2.8

3.3

1.8

1.7

2.5

2.4

2.8

2.2

Mid-East

13.2

11.8

10.3

10.1

9.7

9.8

11.0

12.1

11.3

15.6

12.7

Mid-West

14.9

14.6

13.5

14.1

12.0

13.8

13.5

13.9

11.8

12.7

11.1

South-East

20.9

20.9

22.1

20.8

18.8

20.0

17.6

17.5

20.1

21.1

18.7

South-West

24.2

23.1

18.8

20.3

20.2

20.4

20.3

20.3

20.2

20.6

19.7

State

134.0

129.2

118.5

118.0

110.8

112.4

108.5

111.7

108.6

119.1

103.3

Table is based on the EU NACE Rev 1.1 (Nomenclature generale des activities economique dans les Communautes europeennes) classification.

Source: CSO Quarterly National Household Survey.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

101 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Taoiseach the number of people who have left farming in all counties since 1998 to date in 2009; the type of employment most people have moved into; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28184/09]

A comparison of census figures on the number of persons in employment by sector in 1996 and 2006 gives an indication of net changes in employment by sector. However, this comparison between points in time does not allow any conclusion to be drawn on exits from farming and entries to other sectors of employment in the intervening period, as such an analysis would require a micro-level longitudinal study.

The following table shows the number of persons at work in 1996 and 2006, distinguishing the Agriculture, Industry and Services sectors, for all counties.

Persons at work in Agriculture, Industry and Services, by county — 1996 and 2006

County

Years

Broad Industry Groups

Other Industries or

Total

Agriculture

Industry

Services

Industry Not Stated

Carlow

1996

13,608

2,038

4,436

7,084

50

2006

22,075

1,413

6,435

12,209

2,018

1996 to 2006 change

8,467

-625

1,999

5,125

1,968

Dublin City

1996

184,097

709

39,339

135,829

8,220

2006

245,007

640

36,051

181,890

26,426

1996 to 2006 change

60,910

-69

-3,288

46,061

18,206

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown

1996

76,271

332

13,131

61,407

1,401

2006

87,815

427

11,782

70,673

4,933

1996 to 2006 change

11,544

95

-1,349

9,266

3,532

Fingal

1996

65,807

1,384

14,074

49,019

1,330

2006

120,794

1,437

22,483

87,899

8,975

1996 to 2006 change

54,987

53

8,409

38,880

7,645

South Dublin

1996

82,978

367

22,869

58,219

1,523

2006

119,280

483

24,641

83,567

10,589

1996 to 2006 change

36,302

116

1,772

25,348

9,066

Kildare

1996

51,299

3,633

15,052

32,087

527

2006

91,581

3,048

24,506

57,822

6,205

1996 to 2006 change

40,282

-585

9,454

25,735

5,678

Kilkenny

1996

26,789

4,681

7,294

14,175

639

2006

39,809

3,247

10,496

23,877

2,189

1996 to 2006 change

13,020

-1,434

3,202

9,702

1,550

Laoighis

1996

18,120

3,527

4,783

9,613

197

2006

30,219

2,293

8,170

17,647

2,109

1996 to 2006 change

12,099

-1,234

3,387

8,034

1912

Longford

1996

10,154

2,187

2,939

4,895

133

2006

14,527

1,176

4,461

7,681

1,209

1996 to 2006 change

4,373

-1,011

1,522

2,786

1,076

Louth

1996

31,461

1,906

11,665

17,508

382

2006

48,129

1,331

12,983

30,912

2,903

1996 to 2006 change

16,668

-575

1,318

13,404

2,521

Meath

1996

40,475

5,146

12,768

21,920

641

2006

78,437

3,674

22,407

47,910

4,446

1996 to 2006 change

37,962

-1,472

9,639

25,990

3,805

Offaly

1996

20,006

3,259

7,489

9,094

164

2006

31,231

2,152

10,418

16,460

2,201

1996 to 2006 change

11,225

-1,107

2,929

7,366

2,037

Westmeath

1996

22,328

2,856

6,570

12,510

392

2006

35,469

1,824

9,755

21,200

2,690

1996 to 2006 change

13,141

-1,032

3,185

8,690

2,298

Wexford

1996

35,321

6,250

10,007

18,640

424

2006

56,011

4,216

16,700

32,934

2,161

1996 to 2006 change

20,690

-2,034

6,693

14,294

1,737

Wicklow

1996

36,423

3,097

9,673

22,964

689

2006

57,326

2,294

13,840

37,443

3,749

1996 to 2006 change

20,903

-803

4,167

14,479

3,060

Clare

1996

34,572

5,571

10,672

17,699

630

2006

50,607

3,213

14,332

29,308

3,754

1996 to 2006 change

16,035

-2,358

3,660

11,609

3,124

Cork City

1996

41,169

291

11,518

28,274

1,086

2006

48,892

199

11,641

32,841

4,211

1996 to 2006 change

7,723

-92

123

4,567

3,125

Cork County

1996

107,219

17,239

31,221

57,206

1,553

2006

167,092

12,042

48,749

97,245

9,056

1996 to 2006 change

59,873

-5,197

17,528

40,039

7,503

Kerry

1996

42,909

8,052

10,077

23,492

1,288

2006

60,810

5,040

15,524

35,696

4,550

1996 to 2006 change

17,901

-3,012

5,447

12,204

3,262

Limerick City

1996

17,168

79

5,706

11,095

288

2006

20,911

58

5,856

13,980

1,017

1996 to 2006 change

3,743

-21

150

2,885

729

Limerick County

1996

41,454

6,508

13,065

21,291

590

2006

59,614

4,103

18,641

33,829

3,041

1996 to 2006 change

18,160

-2,405

5,576

12,538

2,451

North Tipperary

1996

20,769

4,097

5,899

10,547

226

2006

29,355

2,822

8,302

16,678

1,553

1996 to 2006 change

8,586

-1,275

2,403

6,131

1327

South Tipperary

1996

25,886

5,043

7,935

12,410

498

2006

35,828

3,962

10,809

19,307

1,750

1996 to 2006 change

9,942

-1,081

2,874

6,897

1,252

Waterford City

1996

14,718

131

5,815

8,564

208

2006

19,389

135

5,821

11,579

1,854

1996 to 2006 change

4,671

4

6

3,015

1,646

Waterford County

1996

18,296

3,542

5,875

8,588

291

2006

26,869

2,589

8,454

14,813

1,013

1996 to 2006 change

8,573

-953

2,579

6,225

722

Galway City

1996

21,563

263

4,959

15,827

514

2006

33,878

219

8,094

23,231

2,334

1996 to 2006 change

12,315

-44

3,135

7,404

1820

Galway County

1996

45,934

10,124

12,217

22,590

1,003

2006

70,617

5,749

21,439

39,276

4,153

1996 to 2006 change

24,683

-4,375

9,222

16,686

3,150

Leitrim

1996

8,518

1,993

2,342

4,017

166

2006

12,669

1,173

3,552

7,442

502

1996 to 2006 change

4,151

-820

1,210

3,425

336

Mayo

1996

36,583

7,963

9,883

18,207

530

2006

52,277

4,754

15,109

29,773

2,641

1996 to 2006 change

15,694

-3,209

5,226

11,566

2,111

Roscommon

1996

18,559

4,529

4,799

8,916

315

2006

25,829

2,606

7,284

14,956

983

1996 to 2006 change

7,270

-1,923

2,485

6,040

668

Sligo

1996

20,204

2,934

5,339

11,647

284

2006

27,328

1,795

7,026

17,281

1,226

1996 to 2006 change

7,124

-1,139

1,687

5,634

942

Cavan

1996

18,593

4,760

5,287

8,350

196

2006

28,319

2,740

8,795

14,584

2,200

1996 to 2006 change

9,726

-2,020

3,508

6,234

2,004

Donegal

1996

39,811

5,427

13,782

20,085

517

2006

56,670

3,796

14,948

35,304

2,622

1996 to 2006 change

16,859

-1,631

1,166

15,219

2,105

Monaghan

1996

18,174

4,051

5,586

8,383

154

2006

25,378

2,627

7,903

13,201

1,647

1996 to 2006 change

7,204

-1,424

2,317

4,818

1,493

State

1996

1,307,236

133,969

354,066

792,152

27,049

2006

1,930,042

89,277

477,407

1,230,448

132,910

1996 to 2006 change

622,806

-44,692

123,341

438,296

105,861

*Includes Forestry and Fishing.

Questions Nos. 102 and 103 answered with Question No. 100.

Departmental Expenditure.

Denis Naughten

Question:

104 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Taoiseach the cost of public advertising funded by his Department in 2009; the breakdown between statutory and non-statutory; the corresponding figure for each agency under the control of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28425/09]

The following tables detail the expenditure by my Department and the Bodies under the aegis of my Department on public advertising from 1 January to the end of June 2009.

Departmental spend January-June 2009

Statutory Advertising

Non-Statutory Advertising

Dept. of the Taoiseach

€1,765.00

€9,076.05

Spend by Bodies under the Aegis of the Department

Body

Statutory Advertising

Non-Statutory Advertising

National Economic and Social Development Office

Nil

€8,296.92

National Forum on Europe

Nil

€1,768.74

Leo Varadkar

Question:

105 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the amount spent by his Department on legal fees directly to lawyers or through the States solicitor’s office for each of the years 2006, 2007 and 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28473/09]

The following table details the total expenditure by my Department on legal fees for the years 2006, 2007 and 2008:

Year

Amount

2006

60,846

2007

12,197

2008

159,677*

*159,377 of this expenditure relates to costs from the Independent Commission of Inquiry.

It should be noted that payments in respect of the Moriarty Tribunal are not included.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

106 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the degree to which she has carried out an assessment of costs in the private sector in respect of both manufacturing and service; the degree to which such costs have fluctuated in the past 12 months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28218/09]

The National Competitiveness Council (NCC) regularly produces reports assessing the quality of Ireland's business environment including our relative cost competitiveness.

The recently launched NCC Report ‘ Getting Fit Again; The Short Term Priorities to Restore Competitiveness’ (June 2009) reported that Ireland’s current price competitiveness has improved. The recession and the strength of the euro (as imports become cheaper) is resulting in a fall in price levels in Ireland. Inflation fell significantly across most goods and services groups in 2009. Housing and utilities experienced the most dramatic fall from increases of 6.9% p.a. in 2005-2008 to -4.5% in 2009 Q1. We are also witnessing significant falls in house prices and a weakening in wage growth.

The NCC recommend that in the medium term, policies need to facilitate the convergence of Irish costs, charges, professional fees, rents and incomes/ wages towards the levels of our trading partners.

Under the Framework for Economic Renewal we are taking a number of measures across Government to improve our competitiveness. Improving our cost competitiveness is a priority and we are already seeing results as noted by the NCC. We will continue to exert further pressure on costs, including reviewing those recommendations of the Competition Authority which have most effect on competitiveness, particularly in the non-traded sectors. We are working to ease costs to enterprise in administered sectors of the economy under state control such as local authority charges. We are also easing the administrative burden that regulations can create.

With regard to energy costs for businesses, 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 a further easing of cost pressures for businesses.

Workforce Statistics.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

107 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the educational profile of the workforce in each county for 2009; the educational profile of the workforce in each county for each of the past ten years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28332/09]

The educational profile of the labour force is measured by the Quarterly National Household Survey or QNHS and published by the Central Statistics Office. The most recent data on educational levels of the labour force for the last seven years (on a year on year quarterly basis) is set out in the table. This data is not available by county level and backdated data for this series, in its current format, is available to 2003 only. Prior to 2003 data was collected using different criteria and is, therefore, not directly comparable.

Highest education level attained

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

Primary or below

155.1

178.2

189.4

196.0

204.2

207.4

209.0

Lower secondary

301.0

330.3

327.2

335.8

337.0

330.3

324.8

Higher secondary

591.7

612.8

594.0

574.5

546.0

524.2

491.9

Post leaving certificate

223.6

229.0

235.8

228.5

218.4

208.2

227.5

Third level non degree

268.9

250.7

239.9

231.6

222.3

215.3

197.4

Third level degree or above

528.5

505.8

473.0

432.2

379.9

367.1

348.2

Other

74.9

80.2

84.7

65.4

56.9

33.6

34.0

Total persons aged 15 to 64

2,143.7

2,187.0

2,144.0

2,063.9

1,964.8

1,886.0

1,832.8

Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2009 (January-March 2009).

The educational profile of the labour force has increased significantly since 2003. Over 528,000 people now have a third level degree or above in Quarter 1 2009, an increase of 180,300 since 2003. The Government is committed to developing our economy into one of the world's leading knowledge based economies. That is why last December, in response to the much more challenging economic environment, the Government introduced a Framework for Sustainable Economic Renewal, called "Building Ireland's Smart Economy" which provides us with the necessary roadmap to guide our development over this turbulent period. Ireland continues to possess a pro-business environment, which is characterised by a highly skilled, educated and flexible labour force. The Government actively promotes Ireland as having a highly educated workforce to attract foreign direct investment.

Employment Support Services.

Enda Kenny

Question:

108 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 1 and 2 of 30 June 2009, in regard to the conditions of the temporary employment subsidy scheme, if a firm is currently manufacturing; if it is a condition that it also be exporting; the conditions of assessment that determine viability in the medium term in the context of this scheme; the nature and extent of restructuring that has to take place for eligibility; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28357/09]

The Government is proposing to introduce a Temporary Employment Subsidy Scheme. The purpose of this scheme will be to help the economy to retain its productive capacity and help employers to retain the labour, knowledge and skills of the workforce, thereby supporting a faster return to sustainable growth; help employees to retain their jobs, and ensure that economic and fiscal stability is promoted by avoiding the costs of unemployment including statutory redundancy payments and the longer-term cost of social welfare.

It is proposed that the Temporary Employment Subsidy Scheme will apply to companies in the manufacturing or internationally traded service sectors that are currently engaged in exporting. In addition in order to qualify for support it is intended that a company must not have been in difficulty on 1 July 2008, and a financial assessment must establish that it is now facing such difficulties as a result of the global and financial economic crisis that redundancies are likely to have to be considered within 12 months. It is also intended that a company must also be judged to be viable and capable of growth in the medium term in order to receive support under the scheme. Enterprise Ireland will be administering the scheme and they will determine whether a company meets the eligibility criteria of the scheme.

It is intended that a National Steering Committee will be established to oversee the implementation of the scheme and it would consist of representatives of the relevant Government Departments and the Social Partners. The Government will continue discussions with the social partners with a view to implementing the Temporary Employment Subsidy Scheme over the coming period. It is intended to have the scheme in operation with the first tranche of payments being made to companies after the summer.

Community Employment Schemes.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

109 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the fact that it is proposed to cut community employment schemes programme funding by 40%; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28617/09]

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

The aim of CE still remains as an active labour market programme with the emphasis on progression into employment. The programme is managed within this context, with consideration to the availability of resources and the needs of participants and the community.

The overall budget for community employment in 2009 has been increased by €6.4 million from that allocated in 2008. In addition, there has been an increase of 400 places in the allocated places available on the Community Employment Programme.

Visitor Centres.

Brendan Kenneally

Question:

110 Deputy Brendan Kenneally asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the status at a centre (details supplied) in County Waterford; and the efforts being made to secure jobs at the facility. [28141/09]

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

Employment Support Services.

Brendan Kenneally

Question:

111 Deputy Brendan Kenneally asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the status of efforts to secure replacement manufacturing jobs at a plant (details supplied) in County Waterford. [28142/09]

A private equity firm in the United States has agreed to take over the assets of the company in question and retain a number of jobs in Waterford. The sale of the company in Waterford to the US company was completed on 26 March 2009. Under a transitional service agreement due to expire in September 2009, the company continues to operate as a going concern and employs approximately 200 people in Waterford both on back office duties and in the Visitors Centre. However, all crystal production has ceased pending a decision on the future of the plant by its new owner. In the meantime, Waterford City Council has established a Waterford Crystal Forum to deal with the situation following the manufacturing job losses. The Enterprise Development agencies under the aegis of my Department are actively involved with the Forum.

Brendan Kenneally

Question:

112 Deputy Brendan Kenneally asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of companies brought to County Waterford by the Industrial Development Authority per year over the past ten years and the number of jobs provided by each company; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28143/09]

In the past 10 years (1999 to 2008) a total of 15 IDA supported companies set up in Waterford.

The Forfás Annual Employment Survey reports on job gains and losses in companies that are supported by the industrial development agencies. Data is compiled on an annualised basis and is aggregated at county level. The information is provided by companies on a confidential basis for statistical purposes only. It is therefore not possible to provide information at company level or for individual locations throughout the country.

The following tabular statement shows the number of new jobs created in IDA assisted companies in the same period. While IDA Ireland seeks to influence the selection of location, the final decision on location is taken in all cases by the promoting company.

Table showing the number of new jobs created in IDA assisted companies in the period 1999 to 2008.

Year

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Jobs Created

279

350

545

575

561

253

351

711

370

176

FÁS Training Programmes.

Brendan Kenneally

Question:

113 Deputy Brendan Kenneally asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of people in County Waterford to whom FÁS is providing training or other services. [28144/09]

Brendan Kenneally

Question:

114 Deputy Brendan Kenneally asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of people in Waterford who have received training or other services from FÁS to date in 2009 and separately in every other year over the past five years. [28145/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 113 and 114 together.

It is not readily possible to provide a breakdown of numbers between Waterford City and County. The following table below shows the number of people in County Waterford, including Waterford City, who have received training or another service from FÁS over each of the past five years, and also in 2009 year-to-date.

Year

Yearly Total

2009 year-to-date

3,718

2008

5,349

2007

3,744

2006

4,207

2005

3,942

2004

3,481

Brendan Kenneally

Question:

115 Deputy Brendan Kenneally asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of people currently listed as professional apprentices; and the regional breakdown of these figures by county. [28147/09]

There are currently 23,656 apprentices registered with FÁS. Of these 18,278 are currently employed and there is a cumulative total of 5,378 redundant apprentices in the period 1 January 2007 to 7 July 2009.

The further information requested by the Deputy is contained in the following tabular statement.

Apprentices

County

Redundant

Currently with Employers

Armagh

6

24

Carlow

60

263

Cavan

49

316

Clare

89

480

Cork City

295

923

Cork County

358

1,291

Donegal

146

286

Dublin

1,740

4,729

Galway City

65

194

Galway County

217

709

Kerry

113

619

Kildare

246

754

Kilkenny

126

442

Laois

83

224

Leitrim

36

127

Limerick City

76

328

Limerick County

137

603

Longford

47

94

Louth

116

374

Mayo

161

478

Meath

229

871

Monaghan

41

338

Offaly

72

333

Roscommon

64

188

Sligo

81

253

Tipperary (North Riding)

61

267

Tipperary (South Riding)

78

664

Waterford City

59

401

Waterford County

100

407

Westmeath

73

288

Wexford

200

683

Wicklow

154

327

TOTAL

5,378

18,278

Brendan Kenneally

Question:

116 Deputy Brendan Kenneally asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of professional apprentices who have completed their apprenticeships every year for the past five years; the number who are expected to complete their apprenticeships in 2009; and the breakdown on these figures by county. [28148/09]

The information requested by the Deputy is contained in the following tabular statement.

Apprentices Certified by year

County

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Projection 2009

Armagh

7

Carlow

98

68

94

88

66

39

Cavan

87

76

65

83

88

48

Clare

171

120

115

117

144

99

Cork

800

692

583

703

687

382

Donegal

104

93

83

104

97

49

Dublin

1,281

1,285

1,144

1,073

1,093

859

Fermanagh

2

Galway

328

318

295

309

300

169

Kerry

167

156

152

181

213

107

Kildare

208

194

230

204

223

102

Kilkenny

140

122

121

119

118

66

Laois

161

97

76

73

94

37

Leitrim

27

26

34

40

48

19

Limerick

308

239

266

282

264

167

Longford

43

38

48

35

43

12

Louth

111

103

93

104

101

77

Mayo

165

117

129

143

161

80

Meath

211

193

167

172

202

194

Monaghan

69

70

84

72

76

70

Offaly

133

48

80

87

74

59

Roscommon

69

60

57

58

73

37

Sligo

70

71

87

74

81

45

Tipperary

167

169

191

204

223

167

Tyrone

1

Waterford

243

221

214

206

196

136

Westmeath

76

73

76

94

87

44

Wexford

157

178

163

170

186

107

Wicklow

125

120

111

122

119

32

Total

5,519

4,948

4,760

4,917

5,057

3,210

Brendan Kenneally

Question:

117 Deputy Brendan Kenneally asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of people who have had their professional apprenticeships halted after being let go during the past 12 months. [28149/09]

The number of apprentices who have been notified to FÁS as redundant for the period 1 July, 2008, to 30 June, 2009, is 3,827.

FÁS has put in place a number of measures to assist apprentices who have been made redundant in progressing their apprenticeship. Over 4,000 places will be provided under the various measures outlined below.

The Department of Social and Family Affairs immediately refers redundant apprentices to FÁS for assistance.

Following this immediate referral, the FÁS Employment Services and FÁS Services to Business divisions work in collaboration to provide guidance and support in sourcing a new employer and in considering further options. Referred apprentices are provided with guidance in relation to preparation for a re-sit of their outstanding off-the-job modular assessments.

FÁS has amended the scheduling rules for off-the-job training to permit redundant apprentices to progress to their next off-the-job training, at phase 2, phase 4 and phase 6, in accordance with the existing scheduling criteria. The number of apprentices who have been scheduled to off-the-job training at phase 2, phase 4 and phase 6 in 2008 was 619. The number of redundant apprentices provided with off-the-job training in the year to the end of June 2009 is 1507, and it is expected that up to a further 900 will be provided with off-the-job training phases before the end-year.

FÁS introduced an Employer Based Redundant Apprentice Rotation Scheme to provide support for employers to provide on-the-job training for up to 500 redundant apprentices during 2009. This scheme assists them in taking on redundant apprentices when they have released their own apprentices to a scheduled phase 4 and phase 6 off-the-job training phase in the Institutes of Technology. There are currently 197 apprentices participating on the scheme and 49 apprentices have completed their period of rotation and their performance has been assessed. Employers will be requested during the June and September 2009 rotation periods to provide redundant apprentices with on-the-job training with assessments.

Léargas has provided funding under the EU's Leonardo da Vinci programme 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 employers, and 12 apprentices are due to travel on 5 August 2009 for a placement in Germany. Léargas has recently provided additional funding to support the placement of an additional 60 apprentices with overseas employers.

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. This programme will provide up to 400 places over a period of 18 months and will be funded by ESB Networks. There are currently 100 previously redundant electrical apprentices in employment with ESB Networks, 25 redundant electrical apprentices have completed their off-the-job training with assessments and a further 75 redundant electrical apprentices will be provided with an opportunity to complete their on-the-job training before the end of December 2009.

Redundant apprentices may also avail of existing specific skills training courses, which are trade related to enhance their employable skills. Redundant apprentices may also avail of the range of trade related night courses, which are available in FÁS Training Centres.

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

FÁS will be providing redundant apprentices in the autumn with an opportunity to undertake phase 7 assessments where an on-the-job assessment opportunity is not currently available.

FÁS will also be providing in the autumn a facility for redundant apprentices who have reached the minimum qualifying standard in all phases 1-7 inclusive and who have not completed the minimum duration in employment as an apprentice to make an application for consideration under Recognition of Prior Learning for the Award of an Advanced Craft Certificate.

Community Employment Schemes.

Brendan Kenneally

Question:

118 Deputy Brendan Kenneally asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of people in County Waterford currently under the community employment scheme; and the number who have been employed in these schemes every year for the past five years. [28173/09]

I am advised by FÁS that there are currently 680 participants in community employment schemes in County Waterford.

Details of the number of people employed on Community Employment projects in County Waterford in each the years 2003-2008 are as follows:

2003 — 681;

2004 — 772;

2005 — 760;

2006 — 650;

2008 — 659.

State Agencies.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

119 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the budget for Enterprise Ireland in each of the past five years; the amount of that budget spent on administration; the amount used for training and upskilling; the amount used on consultancy; the amount spent on contributions to enterprises which are specifically increasing the workforce; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28175/09]

It has not been possible in the time available to complete the detailed information sought for each of the past five years. I have arranged for my Department to prepare the data in the form requested and I will forward it to the Deputy as soon as possible.

County Enterprise Boards.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

120 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the budget for county enterprise boards in each of the past five years; the amount of that budget spent on administration; the amount used for training and upskilling; the amount used on consultancy; the amount spent on contributions to enterprises which are specifically increasing the workforce; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28176/09]

The County Enterprise Boards (CEBs) provide support for micro-enterprises (ten or less employees) in the start-up and expansion phases, promote and develop indigenous micro-enterprise potential and stimulate economic activity and entrepreneurship at local level. The CEBs deliver a series of Programmes to underpin this role. The costs associated with the operations of the CEBs are incurred in the delivery of a wide range of both financial and non-financial supports to the micro-enterprise sector across the Country.

The forms of financial assistance which are available, subject to certain eligibility criteria, include Capital Grants, Employment Grants and Feasibility Study Grants. The non-financial assistance can take the form of a wide range of Programmes such as Start Your Own Business Programmes, Management Capability Training and Development Programmes, Mentoring, E-commerce, Enterprise Education, and Women in Business networks. The primary objective of many of these Programmes is to upskill owner/managers to enable them to both sustain and grow their businesses. These activities are considerably more labour intensive than processing grant applications and a significant portion of CEB staff time is taken up with the delivery of such activities. In addition, CEB staff would be engaged on a daily basis in the provision of an informal information and advisory service to local entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs. The availability of both financial and non-financial support from the CEB Network contributes positively to greater levels of entrepreneurial activity and enterprise creation, which in turn leads to employment creation in a broader context. Expenditure details are outlined in the following table:

Year

Total CEB Budget

Administration Costs*

Expenditure on Financial Supports**

Expenditure on Training & Upskilling Measures

€000

€000

€000

€000

2004

28,571

11,580

10,550 (2,218 on employment grants

6,484

2005

33,330

12,189

10,809 (2,068 on employment grants)

7,411

2006

36,363

12,779

10,622 (1,885 on employment grants)

9,212

2007

33,900

13,492

12,372 (2,367 on employment grants)

11,272

2008

33,291

13,713

11,648 (2,173 on employment grants)

9,895

*The total estimated expenditure on consultancy over the past five years is €671,757 across the CEB Network. This includes costs relating to IT, Audit Fees, Accountancy and costs associated with the preparation of Strategic Plans etc.

**Please note that in addition to the annual allocation that a CEB receive the CEBs also use repaid grants at their disposal to disperse further grant aid to eligible micro-enterprises. In addition please note that employment grants are paid to a business in two moieties, which may cross over two years.

State Agencies.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

121 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount of grant aid awarded by Enterprise Ireland to enterprises for research and development purposes in each of the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28177/09]

From 2004-2008, €130,861,000 has been grant aided by Enterprise Ireland under the initiatives below in order to help companies engage in R&D.

Total yearly breakdown:

2004: €17,596,000

2005: €19,802,000

2006: €21,698,000

2007: €30,356,000

2008: €41,409,000

Enterprise Ireland operates three primary mechanisms aimed at helping companies to engage in R&D both within the company and in collaboration with third level institutions, namely: the research and development fund, through which funding goes directly to companies and the Innovation Voucher and Innovation Partnership initiatives, through which funding goes to third level Institutions to undertake work on a firm's behalf.

The Enterprise Ireland research and development fund is designed to provide support for research, development and technological innovation relevant at all stages of company development, and which will enable companies to progress from undertaking an initial research project to higher level innovation and R&D activities. The Fund is allied with a strong awareness campaign which seeks to promote the benefits of R&D. From 2004-2008 €103,937,000 has been grant aided directly to enterprise through this initiative and its predecessor (The Research, Technology and Innovation, or RTI, Fund) in order to help them to undertake specific R&D projects and to increase their R&D capabilities.

R&D (RTI) Fund yearly breakdown:

2004: € 15,704,000

2005: € 16,882,000

2006: € 17,180,000

2007: € 21,898,000

2008: € 32,273,000

EI's Innovation Voucher Initiative, launched in 2007, provides vouchers worth €5,000 to small businesses to introduce them to innovation by linking them with a network of 38 knowledge providers, North and South of the Border. A simple application process and facilitation support from Enterprise Ireland can help small companies who have never engaged in R&D to engage high skilled researchers to address key company needs and provide innovative solutions to business problems. To date over 370 projects have been completed, among them the first cross-border projects. In 2007 and 2008 €1,569,000 has been funded to colleges to help them to undertake R&D projects and provide innovative solutions to companies.

Innovation Voucher yearly breakdown:

2007: €168,000

2008: €1,401,000

The Innovation Partnership Initiative helps industry firms to access innovative "know how" and R&D solutions in the Third level system. By providing key funding Enterprise Ireland can help to reduce both the cost and the risk associated with larger collaborative research projects. The programme enables companies to engage in collaborative research projects with Irish universities and Institutes of Technology to develop new products and services. From 2004-2008 €25,355,000 has been funded to colleges to undertake Research and Development work with industry partners.

Innovation Partnership yearly breakdown:

2004: €1,892,000

2005: €2,920,000

2006: €4,518,000

2007: €8,290,000

2008: €7,735,000

Research and Development and Innovation (R&D&I) and the application of knowledge are critical drivers for the future success of Irish enterprise. It is therefore imperative that Ireland focuses on promoting the level, quality and commercial applicability of the R&D&I undertaken, ensuring that industry leads the response to rapid changes in customer needs.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

122 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount of grant aid awarded by the Industrial Development Authority to enterprises for research and development purposes in each of the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28178/09]

The amount of grants awarded by the Industrial Development Authority to enterprises for research and development purposes from 2005 to date in 2009 are shown on the following tabular statement. It is important to note that grants paid in a particular year do not necessarily refer to approvals in the same year.

The global business community now sees Ireland as a prime location for Research Development and Innovation (RD&I) functions. Government policies such as the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation (SSTI) have played a key role in establishing this competitive advantage for Ireland. In 2008, IDA supported clients announced 56 RD&I projects with a projected investment of circa €420m. IDA Ireland will continue to target high value investments in keeping with the Government's current strategy outlined in the recent framework document "Building Ireland’s Smart Economy”. The amount of grants awarded by the Industrial Development Authority to enterprises for research and development purposes from 2005 to date in 2009

Year

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

R&D Grants Paid

€8.348m

€26.899m

€40.687m

€45.627m

€16.417m

Arthur Morgan

Question:

123 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount of grant aid awarded by the county enterprise boards to enterprises for research and development purposes in each of the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28179/09]

The County Enterprise Boards (CEBs) were set up in 1993 to provide support for micro-enterprises (ten or less employees) in the start-up and expansion phases, to promote and develop indigenous micro-enterprise potential and to stimulate economic activity and entrepreneurship at local level. The CEBs deliver a series of Programmes to underpin this role and they can provide both financial and non-financial assistance to a project promoter.

The forms of financial assistance, which are available, subject to certain restrictions, include Capital Grants, Employment Grants and Feasibility Study Grants. While CEBs do not award grants under the specific heading of Research and Development, the Feasibility Study Grant may assist with the cost of necessary pre-start up studies carried out for the purpose of assessing market interest in and demand for a proposed new product or service, the appropriateness of the associated funding plans and the general viability and sustainability of the venture.

During the past five years CEBs have provided approximately €3 million for such Feasibility Studies. While the obtaining of a feasibility study grant is not linked to the direct creation of a job in the enterprise or proposed enterprise the availability of these grants can contribute to greater enterprise creation which leads to employment creation in a broader context.

Job Creation.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

124 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs funded or part-funded by her for research and development in each of the past five years; the breakdown of the jobs created into the relevant sectors; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28180/09]

The Government is very much aware that supporting enterprise, innovation and research and development is of critical importance to our economy. The way forward is to stay competitive and maintain an edge over our competition by developing new products and processes. In this regard, funding is provided to the Enterprise Development agencies as part of the Government's Estimates process. While I may give general policy guidelines to the agencies from time to time, and indeed, they are very much aware of the vital role that research and development plays, the application of the funding provided is a day to day operational matter for the agencies and I do not have any role in such matters. I can say that support levels would be tied to an assessment of strategic objectives, in conjunction with commercial and technical assessments rather than to job numbers. In any event, information on job numbers would be provided by companies on a confidential basis.

Grant Payments.

Denis Naughten

Question:

125 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment further to Parliamentary Question No. 211 of 21 October 2008, the funds that have been repaid; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28251/09]

Payment and repayment of grants are day-to-day operational matters for the Industrial Development agencies.

While I do not have any role in the day-to-day operations of the agencies, I understand from Enterprise Ireland that grants are approved on foot of a business proposal ahead of the investment taking place. Grant payments subsequently follow the actual expenditure undertaken consistent with that business plan. Grants are usually paid on an instalment basis, and in most cases the company has a contingent liability to repay the grant for the term of the grant agreement, i.e. the company may be liable to repay the grant if it is in breach of the grant agreement. The term of a grant agreement is usually, and was in this case, five years from the date of payment of the last instalment of the grant.

In this particular case the company received approximately €370,000 in grant aid for the Ballaghadereen site during the past ten years. The grant agreements relating to this amount expired prior to the closure of the Ballaghadereen facility. For this reason there is no outstanding liability in respect of the grants paid.

Forfás Report.

Denis Naughten

Question:

126 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps which have been taken to implement the recommendations in the Forfás report of the overview of the main infrastructure issues for enterprise; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28252/09]

Forfás compiles a report "Overview of Main Infrastructure Issues for Enterprise". The latest publication of this report was in May 2008.

This report acknowledged that significant progress had been made in addressing Ireland's infrastructure deficits, but also indicated that there were still a number of areas requiring continued investment to ensure the availability of cost competitive world class infrastructure. The main areas in which such action is required are telecoms, energy, waste, water and transport. Policy responsibility for these areas of infrastructure are a matter for my colleagues, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government; and the Minister for Transport.

Redundancy Payments.

John McGuinness

Question:

127 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a claim against a company (details supplied) under the redundancy payments acts will be struck out in view of the fact that the company ceased trading some years ago and was not notified of the action; and if she will expedite a positive response given the circumstances of this case. [28277/09]

It is up to the employer in the first instance to pay statutory redundancy entitlement to employees. When an employer does so, he is entitled to claim a rebate of 60% from the Social Insurance Fund. If the employer is unable to pay the statutory amount, then the employee can, ultimately, be paid directly by my Department from the Fund. In such cases, 40% of each statutory redundancy lump sum paid is recoverable from the assets of the employer by the Department for the Fund.

This statutory Redundancy Recoveries function is provided for in sections 42 and 43 of the Redundancy Payments Act, 1967 (as subsequently amended). Section 42 of the Redundancy Payments Acts 1967-2007 confers on the Minister, preferential creditor status in a winding-up situation in recovering amounts paid from the Social Insurance Fund. Thus, a redundancy lump sum (or part thereof) is made a priority debt under section 285 of the Companies Act, 1963, in cases of winding-up, and a priority debt under section 81 of the Bankruptcy Act 1988, in cases of a bankrupt or arranging debtor. Section 43 of the 1967 Act also makes general provision whereby all moneys due to the Fund (whether in a winding-up situation or not) are debts, which can be recovered in any court of competent jurisdiction.

In the present case, my Department paid a statutory redundancy lump sum in favour of a former employee of the company from the Social Insurance Fund and the Department was involved in written communication with the company at the time. The company was also advised of the fact that given that the payment was made directly from the Social Insurance Fund, the Minister, in line with the provisions of the Redundancy Payments Acts referred to, had preferential creditor status.

The Minister has no discretion with regard to the 40% due to the Social Insurance Fund in terms of any legal powers to divert, from the Social Insurance Fund, monies which may be recovered from the assets of the company at some future point and the Minister is not in a position to strike off the outstanding liability to the Social Insurance Fund.

Employment Support Services.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

128 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps she will take to protect small businesses here which are being hit hard by the economic downturn; her plans for incentives to small businesses who will create employment and bring revenue here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28279/09]

The banks' recapitalisation package was about securing the long-term health of the economy and about enabling our banks to get back to the business of lending to viable projects and about saving jobs. The package includes many supports for SMEs, including:

The recapitalised banks have committed to increasing their lending capacity to SMEs by 10% over 2008. This should ensure that sound businesses will receive support from their banks.

A €100 million environmental and clean energy innovation fund is also being established by each bank as well as a further €15m each to new or existing seed capital funds. Much of this funding will flow to small and medium enterprises

SMEs are also covered by the Code of Conduct on Business Lending to SMEs. This code which was published by the Financial Regulator came into effect from 13 March 2009. The application of the code will promote fairness and transparency in the treatment of SMEs by the banks and should facilitate access to credit for sustainable and productive business propositions.

Allied Irish Bank, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank will also provide funding for SMEs on foot of €300m facilities provided by the European Investment Bank to assist developing SMEs.

The recapitalised banks agreed to pay for and co-operate with the carrying out of an Independent Review of Bank Lending to SMEs. Additional banks have now participated in this Review with the result that the 5 major lending banks are now included. The purpose of the review is to ascertain the position on credit availability to SMEs here and to recommend appropriate action to improve credit availability. The independent review has now been submitted to the Minister for Finance, and will be published shortly. I welcome the completion of this review as it should allow all stakeholders have an objective view of the state of lending from the banks to SMEs and provide some clarity on the level of credit being declined.

Arising from the Recapitalisation Package, the Minister for Finance, and the Tánaiste also established a Credit Supply Clearing Group with bank, business (including ISME and SFA) 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 Credit Supply Clearing Group is being chaired by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and will work to provide a clear picture of any emerging lending patterns while facilitating direct discussion by all the relevant interests in addressing problems.

To assist and complement the work of the Credit Supply Clearing Group, I have held seven regional meetings beginning in Cork on Monday 29 June to discuss with representatives of business, banks and the State sector, their experience of gaining access to bank credit at local and regional level. To date, meetings have been held in Cork, Waterford, Dublin, Bundoran, Shannon, Galway and Athlone. The last meeting will be held in Dundalk on Monday next 13 July. In the course of these meetings, I met with local representatives of the major banks, business representatives from local Chambers of Commerce, ISME, SFA, IFA and the Irish Hotels Federation. Local representatives from the various State Agencies such as Enterprise Ireland, City and County Enterprise Boards and Fáilte Ireland, also attended. The outcome of theses meetings should facilitate a greater understanding of the issue at both regional and national levels.

Outside of the banking sphere, the Department's continuous support for enterprises arises through maintaining a positive business environment and through particular interventions from the State development agencies such as Enterprise Ireland, FÁS and the County and City Enterprise Boards. The significant allocations in my Department's Estimates for 2009 for the development agencies ensures that we can continue to build on this strategy for the future.

The Government has also introduced formal arrangements to reduce the payment period by central Government Departments to their business suppliers from 30 to 15 calendar days. This commitment has effect on all valid invoices received on and from 15 June 2009 and should help ease cash flow difficulties for SMEs.

In addition to the above package of measures to assist the SME sector, the Government is proposing to introduce a Temporary Employment Subsidy Scheme. The purpose of this scheme will be to help the economy to retain its productive capacity and help employers to retain the labour, knowledge and skills of the workforce, thereby supporting a faster return to sustainable growth; help employees to retain their jobs, and ensure that economic and fiscal stability is promoted by avoiding the costs of unemployment including statutory redundancy payments and the longer-term cost of social welfare.

It is proposed that the Temporary Employment Subsidy Scheme will apply to companies in the manufacturing or internationally traded service sectors that are currently engaged in exporting. In addition, in order to qualify for support it is intended that a company must not have been in difficulty on 1 July 2008, and a financial assessment must establish that it is now facing such difficulties as a result of the global and financial economic crisis that redundancies are likely to have to be considered within 12 months. It is also intended that a company must also be judged to be viable and capable of growth in the medium term in order to receive support under the Scheme. Enterprise Ireland will be administering the Scheme and they will determine whether a company meets the eligibility criteria of the scheme.

It is intended that a National Steering Committee will be established to oversee the implementation of the Scheme and it would consist of representatives of the relevant Government Departments and the Social Partners. The Government will continue discussions with the Social Partners with a view to implementing the Temporary Employment Subsidy Scheme over the coming period. It is intended to have the scheme in operation with the first tranche of payments being made to companies after the summer.

Employment Rights.

John McGuinness

Question:

129 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of inspectors employed by the National Employment Rights Authority; if this number is to be increased over the coming months in 2009; if all of the inspectors are on contract or employed under the usual terms and conditions of the Civil Service; if the inspectors are entitled to subsistence and other expenses; the cost to date in 2009 of all of those employed in this category; the number of premises visited in each region here; the number of cases prosecuted through the courts; the number of prosecutions or cases pending; the type of breaches being discovered; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28283/09]

The National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) currently has in place a team of 77 Inspectors. They are all employed under the standard terms and conditions governing civil servants in general. Inspectors are entitled to receive travel and subsistence in respect of expenses necessarily incurred in the performance of their official duties.

There are no proposals at present to increase the number of Inspectors. The Minister for Finance has recently introduced a moratorium on the filling of vacancies in the public service until the end of 2010, which will impact on NERA in common with all other public bodies.

The total costs, comprising pay and travel and subsistence costs, in relation to activities and operations of NERA's Inspection Services are set out in Table 1. It has not been possible, in the time available, to apportion other non-pay costs between the different services within NERA.

Data in relation to inspection activity is currently maintained on a case basis and information in relation to the number of unique employers visited is not readily available. The data provided in Table 2 below represents an indicative estimate by NERA of the number of employers visited. The inspection process includes calls, visits and inspections in respect of each case. In 2008 a total of 27,900 were carried out. The figure to date in 2009 is 10,445. NERA Inspectors have an enforcement role under aspects of the following legislation:

Industrial Relations Acts 1946-2004 — (1) Employment Regulation Orders (Joint Labour Committee system) and (2) Registered Employment Agreement system;

The National Minimum Wage Act 2000;

Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act 1996;

Organisation of Working Time Act 1997;

Payment of Wages Act 1991 — statement of wages aspect only;

Carer's Leave Act 2001;

Employment Agency Act 1971;

Protection of Employment Act 1977;

Protection of Employees (Employers' Insolvency) Acts 1984 to 2003;

Parental Leave Act 1998 (Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform);

Employees (Provision of Information and Consultation) Act 2006.

NERA will shortly be commencing inspections under the Employment Permits Acts 2003 and 2006. In the course of 2008, prosecution proceedings were initiated by NERA in 70 cases. Proceedings were concluded in 88 cases, which included cases initiated in 2007. Convictions were obtained in 41 cases while in the balance of 47 cases the breaches were rectified before the Court hearing or the cases were withdrawn or struck out.

In the course of 2009 to date prosecution proceedings have been initiated by NERA in 29 cases. Proceedings were concluded in 59 cases. Convictions were obtained in 13 cases while in the balance of 46 cases the breaches were rectified before the Court hearing or the cases were withdrawn or struck out.

NERA inspections indicate a very broad variance in the level of compliance with employment legislation. The level of compliance ranges from over 90% in Protection of Young Persons and National Minimum Wage to 55% in respect of Organisation of Working Time Act and is as low as 15% in relation to compliance with some Employment Regulation Orders. It would appear the higher the level of awareness the higher the compliance level. This supports the view that most employers want to comply with employment law. Some of the more serious illegal practices NERA has uncovered include:

Failure to pay the appropriate rate;

Falsifying records including payslips and timesheets;

Paying employees for significantly fewer hours than they actually worked;

Making unlawful deductions from employees wages;

Failure to keep records;

Failing to produce any records for inspection;

Not providing employees with payslips/statement of wages;

Providing documentation that purports to show arrears of wages have been paid to employees when this is not the case;

Inadequate public holiday/annual leave provision.

Table 1: NERA Inspection Services Costs, 2008 and 2009 (to end June)

Category

2008

2009 (to end June)

€000s

€000s

Pay

4,813

2,430

Travel & Subsistence

914

243

Total

5,727

2,673

Table 2: Estimate of Number of Employers visited by NERA in 2008 and 2009 (to end June)

No. of Employers Visited

Region

Regional HQ

2008

2009 (to end June)

South East

Carlow

3,287

1,230

South

Cork

1,339

372

North East

Dublin

3,080

894

West

Shannon

1,318

827

North West

Sligo

1,065

239

Totals

10,089

3,562

Employment Support Services.

Noel Coonan

Question:

130 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the assistance she will provide to a company (details supplied) in County Tipperary to ensure the continuation of employment for the workforce there; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28303/09]

Eltex of Sweden AB was a private family owned company established in Sweden in 1964, manufacturing electronic yarn control equipment for textile machines. Over the years the company added many products to its portfolio to include temperature control systems.

The Irish operation was established in Templemore, County. Tipperary in 1976 to manufacture stop control systems for textile looms. This detects yarn breakage and switches off the machine. There are currently 24 people employed in Ireland.

In June 2007, Eltex was taken over by three former employees and renamed Eltex Global Holdings Limited. This company is registered and headquartered in Ireland. Each owner holds one third of the company. There are three operations in this group, in Sweden, Ireland and the US.

Due to the downturn in the sector, the Irish operation is working on a two day week. The operation in the US has been reduced to two people and the Swedish operation (its R & D centre) has been reduced to 12 people. There are now 38 people employed in the group, down from 50 people in June 2008.

In June 2008, the IDA approved a feasibility grant for the company, to develop a computerised test system to manage its yarn sensors and improve and streamline the testing processes. This project has been put on hold by the company due to the downturn in the industry.

Departmental Programmes.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

131 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps she has taken to solve the problem of graduate retention in the western region; the partnerships that are in place between his Department, third level institutions and enterprise groups to promote graduate retention; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28335/09]

My Department works closely with many other Government Departments and State Agencies in ensuring the provision of appropriate courses and training which match, the known and future, needs of employers and of students.

My Department, the Department of Social and Family Affairs and FÁS are co-operating in relation to the Work Placement Programme which was jointly launched by the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Mary Hanafin, and I on 27 May last. The Work Placement Programme is a six-month work experience programme for an initial 2,000 individuals who are currently unemployed. Under this programme there are two streams each consisting of an initial 1,000 places of 6 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. This scheme will provide invaluable work experience to graduates, including graduates in the western region, who have just left college or have very limited experience of the workplace.

Employment Support Services.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

132 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of Industrial Development Authority supported jobs in existence in a county (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28366/09]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

136 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of Industrial Development Authority supported jobs created in a county (details supplied) each year for the past five years and to date in 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28370/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 132 and 136 together.

The Forfás Annual Employment Survey reports on job gains and losses in companies that are clients of the industrial development agencies. Information is collected on an annualised basis and is aggregated at county level. Figures for 2009 will not be available until early 2010.

As at the end of 2008, there were 129 persons in permanent employment in IDA supported companies in County Laois. The number of jobs created by IDA supported companies in County Laois in each year of the five year period 2004-2008 are shown on the following tabular statement. Table showing the number of jobs created by IDA supported companies in County Laois in each year 2004– 2008 inclusive.

Year

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Number of New Jobs Created

18

12

18

9

0

Olwyn Enright

Question:

133 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of Industrial Development Authority supported jobs in existence in a county (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28367/09]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

137 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of Industrial Development Authority supported jobs created in a county (details supplied) each year for the past five years and to date in 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28371/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 133 and 137 together.

The Forfás Annual Employment Survey reports on job gains and losses in companies that are clients of the industrial development agencies. Information is collected on an annualised basis and is aggregated at county level. Figures for 2009 will not be available until early 2010.

As at the end of 2008, there were 1,109 persons in permanent employment in IDA supported companies in County Offaly. The number of new jobs created by IDA supported companies in County Offaly in each year of the five year period 2004 –2008 are shown on the following tabular statement. Table showing the number of new jobs created by IDA supported companies in County Offaly in each year 2004-2008 inclusive.

Year

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Number of New Jobs Created

71

56

81

47

24

Olwyn Enright

Question:

134 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of Enterprise Ireland supported jobs in existence in a county (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28368/09]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

138 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of Enterprise Ireland supported jobs created in a county (details supplied) each year for the past five years and to date in 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28372/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 134 and 138 together.

The Forfás Annual Employment Survey reports on job gains and losses in companies that are clients of the industrial development agencies. Information is collected on an annualised basis and is aggregated at county level. Figures for 2009 will not be available until early 2010.

The numbers of new jobs created by EI supported companies in County Laois in each year of the five-year period 2004-2008 are shown on the following tabular statement. Table showing the number of jobs in Enterprise Ireland supported companies in County Laois over the five year period 2004-2008

Laois

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Full Time Jobs in existence

2,646

2,495

2,614

2,522

2,362

Jobs created

177

161

267

194

151

Source: Forfás Employment Survey 2008.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

135 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of Enterprise Ireland supported jobs in existence in a county (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28369/09]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

139 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of Enterprise Ireland supported jobs created in a county (details supplied) each year for the past five years and to date in 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28373/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 135 and 139 together.

The Forfás Annual Employment Survey reports on job gains and losses in companies that are clients of the industrial development agencies. Information is collected on an annualised basis and is aggregated at county level. Figures for 2009 will not be available until early 2010.

The numbers of new jobs created by EI supported companies in County Offaly in each year of the five-year period 2004-2008 are shown on the following tabular statement.

Table showing the number of jobs in Enterprise Ireland supported companies in County Offaly over the five year period 2004-2008

Offaly

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Full Time Jobs in existence

2,778

2,925

3,159

3,167

3,035

Jobs created

276

205

358

270

285

Source: Forfás Employment Survey 2008.

Question No. 136 answered with Question No. 132.
Question No. 137 answered with Question No. 133.
Question No. 138 answered with Question No. 134.
Question No. 139 answered with Question No. 135.

Departmental Expenditure.

Denis Naughten

Question:

140 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the cost of public advertising funded by her Department in 2009; the breakdown between statutory and non-statutory; the corresponding figure for each agency under the control of her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28418/09]

In the time available, it has not been possible to compile the information requested by the Deputy. This information is currently being compiled in relation to my Department and the Offices of my Department and I will be in touch with the Deputy shortly about the matter. I would, however, point out that the information in respect of the State Agencies falls within the day-to-day administration of the State Agencies concerned and I have asked them to respond directly to the Deputy.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

141 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount spent by her Department on legal fees directly to lawyers or through the State solicitor’s office for each of the years 2006 to 2008, inclusive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28466/09]

The information requested by the Deputy in respect of annual expenditure on legal fees paid directly by my Department to lawyers for the years in question is set out below. However, my Department does not have access to complete data on fees paid through the State Solicitor's Office as the CSSO is independent of my Department.

Year

Costs

2006

803,753

2007

1,189,773

2008

812,811

Public Service Contracts.

Noel Ahern

Question:

142 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will clarify the situation concerning complaints from the printing industry regarding the level of Government agency work, on behalf of the Office of Public Works, being awarded to companies outside the State; if same can be quantified in value terms; the efforts that have been made to retain the work in Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter (details supplied). [28745/09]

The Office of Public Works (OPW) does not come under the remit of my Department and it would not be appropriate for me to respond to the Parliamentary Question on behalf of the OPW. I note that the Deputy has put down an identical question to the Minister for Finance who would be the appropriate Minister to respond on behalf of the OPW.

Insurance Industry.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

143 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the situation in which a company (details supplied) is apparently refusing to take business from customers in certain parts of Dublin; if his further attention has been drawn to the widespread anger being generated by this issue; his views on the need to protect the image of these areas which could be affected by the decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28123/09]

At the outset, the Deputy should note that in my role as the Minister for Finance I have responsibility for the development of the legal framework governing financial regulation. The day to day responsibility for the supervision of financial institutions is a matter for the Financial Regulator which is statutorily independent in the exercise of its regulatory functions.

I am aware of the reports referred to by the Deputy. The Financial Regulator has informed me that it cannot compel insurers to quote for business. The decision to provide any specific form of insurance cover and the price at which it is offered is a commercial matter based on the assessment an insurer will make of the risks involved.

The Financial Regulator has also indicated that it has no role in relation to issues of pricing or the scope of cover provided by insurance companies. In addition, the Consumer Protection Code does not address the issue of the non-provision of insurance services based on an insurer's commercial assessment.

There are however, some options open to persons who find themselves in this position. Firstly, they can contact the Irish Insurance Federation (IIF) which administers a Declined Cases Agreement. This is adhered to by all motor insurers in Ireland. Under the agreement, the insurance market will not refuse to provide insurance to an individual seeking insurance, if he/she has approached at least three insurers and has not been able to obtain cover from them. Details of this scheme can be found on the IIF website. The second option open to consumers in such circumstances is to refer any unresolved complaint to the Financial Services Ombudsman for investigation and adjudication.

Flood Relief.

Noel Coonan

Question:

144 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Finance his plans to alleviate flooding in an area (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28304/09]

The Office of Public Works held the statutory Public Exhibition for the proposed River Mall (Templemore) Drainage Scheme, which I opened in the presence of the Deputy and other local public representatives in January of this year, as required under the Arterial Drainage Acts. OPW officials are at present assessing the observations, which were received following the Exhibition. Once the Exhibition Report has been considered, a decision will be made on the progress of the proposed Scheme.

Feachtais Gaeilge.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

145 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Airgeadais cén dul chun cinn atá déanta maidir leis an bhfeachtas ag duine (sonraí tugtha) chun an leagan Béarla coimrithe d’ainm na tíre (IRL) atá ar chláruimhreacha na gcarranna anseo a athrú ar ais go dtí an leagan Gaeilge coimrithe (ÉIR), a bhí ar ghluaisteáin go dtí 1962 sular athraíodh faoin Acht um Thrácht ar Bhóithre 1961 é, i gcás carranna a chláraítear in Éirinn ó Eanáir 2009 ar aghaidh; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [28452/09]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

149 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin den Aire Airgeadais cén dul chun cinn atá déanta maidir leis an bhfeachtas ag duine (sonraí tugtha) chun an leagan Béarla coimrithe d’ainm na tíre (IRL) atá ar chláruimhreacha na gcarranna anseo a athrú ar ais go dtí an leagan Gaeilge coimrithe (ÉIR), a bhí ar ghluaisteáin go dtí 1962 sular athraíodh faoin Acht um Thrácht ar Bhóithre 1961 é, i gcás carranna a chláraítear in Éirinn ó Eanáir 2009 ar aghaidh; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [28339/09]

Tá sé beartaithe agam Ceisteanna 145 agus 149 a thógáíl le chéile.

Tá curtha in iúl dom ag na Coimisinéirí Ioncaim go bhfuil foráil le hAlt 141 san Acht Airgeadais 1992 do na Coimisinéirí le rialacháin a dhéanamh mar is cuí nó is dóigh leo gur gá le bainistiú, fáil agus bailiú a dhéanamh ar cháin chláraithe feithiclí (VRT) sa Stát. Maidir leis sin forordaíonn Ionstraim Reachtúil Uimh. 318 de 1992 (Na Rialacháin um Chlárú Feithiclí agus Cánachas 1992 (arna leasú)) formáid, toisí agus sonraíocht theicniúil plátaí cláraithe a léireofar ar fheithiclí a chláraítear sa Stát.

Is eol don Teachta go bhfuil freagracht ar na Coimisinéirí Ioncaim maidir le nithe a bhaineann le formáid plátaí cláraithe sa Stát ó tugadh isteach VRT an 1 Eanáir 1993 agus roimhe sin gur bhain nithe a bhain le formáid plátaí cláraithe le dualgas na Roinne Comhshaoil mar a bhí.

Ar bhonn idirnáisiúnta bíonn difríochtaí idir plátaí cheadúnais thíortha éagsúla trí chód tíre breise do phlátaí ceadúnais. Tá sainitheoir na tíre seo léirithe i mbloc dubh láidir ceannlitreacha ar phláta beag bán ubhchruthach nó greamán ar chúl na feithicle in aice leis an bpláta uimhreacha. Ba Choinbhinsiún de chuid na Náisiún Aontaithe ar Thrácht Bóthair a dháil na sainitheoirí ar dtús sa Ghinéiv in 1949.

Tugadh an cód trí litreach "IRL" d'Éirinn in 1962 agus tá úsáid á bhaint as ó shin. Tugadh isteach pláta cláraithe fhormáid choiteanta an AE le Rialachán AE Uimh. 2411/98 ón AE ar fud an AE an 11 Samhain 1998. Tá an Rialachán sin athraithe isteach ag Éirinn sa reachtaíocht náisiúnta VRT agus comhlíonann an pláta cláraithe atá ann faoi láthair an fhormáid a éilíonn an AE. Ba chóir a thabhairt ar aird nach bhfuil gá an greamán ubhchruthach leis an sainitheoir tíre idirnáisiúnta a léiriú i gcás feithiclí a bhíonn ag taisteal laistigh den AE ar an gcoinníoll go bhfuil an pláta uimhreacha de réir ghnáth-Chaighdeán an AE.

B'fhéidir gur thug an Teachta faoi deara nár baineadh leas riamh as an tsiombail "ÉIR" mar shiombail náisiúnta na hÉireann ar phlátaí cláraithe in Éirinn. Sannadh an sainitheoir "EIR" do Cho. Uíbh Fhailí áfach le hIonstraim Reachtúil Uimh. 46 de 1960 — Na Rialacháin um Fheithiclí Bóthair (Marcanna Innéacs) (Leasú), 1960. Tá sé deimhnithe ag na Coimisinéirí Ioncaim nach bhfuil athbhreithniú á dhéanamh ó thaobh aon athrú a dhéanamh ar an tsiombail náisiúnta atá ann "IRL" agus in aon iarracht chun an tsiombail sin a athrú go gcaithfí leasú a dhéanamh ar chód tíre sannta na Náisiún Aontaithe don Stát agus ar an Iarscríbhinn chuí a ghabhann le Rialachán AE Uimh. 2411/98 ón gComhairle.

Tax Yield.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

146 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the initiatives being undertaken to address the problem of millions of euro worth of cigarettes being smuggled through ports in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28582/09]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

165 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if up to 25% of cigarettes smoked in Ireland have been imported and sold illegally; if the illegal sale of cigarettes is costing retailers here approximately €496 million in lost sales turnover; if the forecasted loss to the Exchequer in 2010 for the illegal importation and sale of cigarettes is set to reach €528 million; if he will report on the illegal importation of cigarettes from the USA; his views on the allegation that a certain percentage of cigarettes are produced in the US for illegal sale abroad; the efforts being taken to address this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28581/09]

I propose taking Parliamentary Questions Nos. 146 and 164 together.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they are not in a position to confirm the Deputy's various estimates of tax loss from cigarette smuggling or to attempt to forecast the tax loss on cigarettes in 2010, as there is no reliable method for determining such figures. However, a tentative estimate was given by Revenue earlier this year that about 20% of cigarettes consumed in Ireland may be untaxed, but it is important to emphasise that this includes both legitimate cross- border purchases for personal consumption and contraband and counterfeit cigarettes. Cigarette clearances on payment of tax for the first five months of 2009 are broadly in line with the same period in 2008.

As regards the illegal importation of cigarettes from the USA, I am informed that this illicit traffic was detected by Revenue some years ago and these detections resulted in the European Anti-Fraud Office, (OLAF), opening an international investigation that involved several Member States and the US Authorities. This investigation has culminated in the arrest of a US national who is due to go on trial in Florida on 3 August 2009 on a number of indictments relating to the shipment of cigarettes to several Member States including Ireland. However, none of the cigarettes in question were manufactured in the USA but Florida was used as the transit route into Europe.

Approximately 42m cigarettes with a retail value of €17.5m have been seized in the first six months of 2009. The efforts that are being made by Revenue to tackle cigarette smuggling include a continuous review of resource deployment both at points of importation and inland with a view to increasing the number of seizures and prosecutions, the procurement of a second Mobile Container Scanner that is expected to be completed this year, continued liaison with An Garda Síochána and where appropriate, the mounting of multi-agency international operations. In addition, Revenue will continue to liaise closely with the legitimate tobacco manufacturers and the Office of Tobacco Control, and will also maintain close contact with the authorities in other Member States and OLAF.

With regard to legislation, I can inform the Deputy that existing enforcement legislation is considered adequate for tackling cigarette smuggling. Current penalties on summary conviction for evasion of duties are €5,000 and/or a term of imprisonment not exceeding twelve months. These reflect the maximum statutory penalties that can be imposed by the District Courts. The penalty for conviction on indictment is currently €12,695 or treble the duty paid value of the goods, whichever is the greater, and/or a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years.

Customs Service.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

147 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance the annual funding provided to the customs service to directly tackle drugs since 2002 to date in 2009; his plans to provide them with greater resources; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28669/09]

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

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that it is not possible to provide the figures requested by the Deputy. This is because most enforcement personnel and equipment are not solely involved with illicit drug importation, but also carry out a wide range of other enforcement functions. In addition, the funding can vary from year to year depending on the expenditure on capital equipment. Nevertheless, estimated figures recently compiled suggest that the overall cost of the Revenue resource employed on drug prevention activities was of the order of €15 million in 2008.

I have been assured by the Revenue Commissioners that they are fully committed to providing an effective level of protection against drug smuggling by systematically applying controls commensurate with the levels of risk identified. In this regard, Revenue is continuously engaged in analysis and evaluation of seizure trends, routes and smuggling risks and resource deployment is adjusted accordingly. Furthermore, an additional Revenue cutter is due for delivery later this year, and the procurement process is underway for an additional x-ray scanner.

Flood Relief.

Finian McGrath

Question:

148 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide funding for anti-flood measures in areas (details supplied) in County Dublin. [28685/09]

The Office of Public Works are aware that the areas of Clanmoyle Road, Donnycarney, Dublin 5, Elm Mount Avenue, Beaumont, Dublin 3, Lower Fairview Avenue, Dublin 3 and Clontarf, Dublin 3 were affected by the stormwaters of 2 July of this year, having been previously affected last August.

The OPW are awaiting the completion of the report by Dublin City Council, which will outline some options for dealing with the flood risk in this area. A meeting has been scheduled between the OPW and DCC to plan how best to proceed.

Question No. 149 answered with Question No. 145.

Tax Yield.

Brendan Kenneally

Question:

150 Deputy Brendan Kenneally asked the Minister for Finance the amount of income tax contributed by people on professional apprenticeships every year for the past five years; and the amount that the Exchequer expects to receive during the course of the coming year. [28150/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that information on income tax receipts is not captured in such a way as to provide a basis for compiling the information sought by the Deputy.

Garda Stations.

Michael Creed

Question:

151 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the proposed development of a new Garda station (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28298/09]

The revised tender documents, which are to comply with the "New Conditions of Contract for Public Works Contracts", are at an advanced stage of preparation and the tender process is to commence shortly. The award of a contract will be subject to the availability of funding.

Pension Provisions.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

152 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Cork is entitled to a tax free allowance having paid into a private pension fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28324/09]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that as the individual in question is already a member of an Occupational Pension Scheme, he is not entitled to income tax relief in respect of PRSA contributions. The person in question was advised of this on 27th May 2009.

If further clarification is needed, the individual may contact Mr. Pearse Penney, Revenue House, Blackpool, Cork (Tel 021-6027266).

Banking Sector.

Joe Costello

Question:

153 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Finance the steps he will take to address the failure of the banks to provide a flow of credit to Irish business, particularly, the small business sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28348/09]

A core Government objective is to free up lending on a commercial basis into the economy to support economic growth and a number of actions have been taken to achieve this objective. In the context of the bank guarantee scheme and recapitalisation the banks have made important commitments to support business lending.

An independent review of credit availability was agreed in the context of the recapitalisation of AIB and Bank of Ireland. The purpose of the review was to ascertain the position on credit availability to SMEs in Ireland. The Steering Group for the review consisted of representatives of the Departments of Finance and Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Forfás, Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Banking Federation and the six main banks involved in lending to SMEs, business representatives from ISME, Chambers Ireland and Small Firms Association. The final report of the Review of Lending to SMEs has just now been received. The report is quite extensive, running to almost 100 pages plus appendices. It will be considered by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Renewal which is meeting this afternoon. The intention is that it will be published shortly.

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

In addition, as part of the recapitalisation package announced on 11 February, Allied Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland reconfirmed their December commitment to increase lending capacity to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) by 10% and to provide an additional 30% capacity for lending to first time buyers in 2009. If the mortgage lending is not taken up, then the extra capacity will be available to SMEs. AIB and Bank of Ireland have also committed to public campaigns to actively promote small business lending at competitive rates with increased transparency on the criteria to be met. Compliance with this commitment is being monitored by the Financial Regulator. Officials from my Department are also in regular contact with the banks concerned in relation to their progress on implementing these measures.

My colleague the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment has recently set up a Clearing Group including representatives from the main banks, business interests and state agencies, which is chaired by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The purpose of the group is to identify specific patterns of events or cases where the flow of credit to viable businesses appears to be blocked and to seek to identify credit supply solutions. Any questions on the clearing group should be directed to my colleague the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

The banks report that they are "open for business" as evidenced by their promotional and advertising material. The banks state that they have funds available for lending to businesses and have provided details on approval levels and amounts drawn down. They report a slowdown in certain areas which they say reflects a reduced level of demand. The review of credit availability has considered this point. The most recent Central Bank Monthly Statistics for May 2009 show that credit to non-financial corporates actually increased by €225m month-on-month after two months of substantial falls. While care is always to be taken when reading monthly data, this could be a positive indicator of credit actively being fed through the real economy and businesses.

You may also be aware that my colleague, the Minister of State for Trade and Commerce, Mr Billy Kelleher TD has commenced a series of regional meetings to discuss access to bank credit with key local stakeholders.

Departmental Expenditure.

Denis Naughten

Question:

154 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the cost of public advertising funded by his Department in 2009; the breakdown between statutory and non-statutory; the corresponding figure for each agency under the control of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28420/09]

The following table sets out the cost of public advertising paid for by my Department and the offices under its aegis year to date in 2009.

Office

Statutory Advertising

Non-statutory Advertising

Total

Office of the Minister for Finance

Nil

27,476

27,476

Office of the Revenue Commissioners

93,841

389,861

483,702

The State Laboratory

Nil

Nil

Nil

The Valuation Office

Nil

Nil

Nil

The Public Appointments Service

Nil

120,392

120,392

Office of the Commission for Public Service Appointments

1,406

3,038

4,444

Office of the Appeals Commissioner

Nil

Nil

Nil

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

Banking Sector Regulation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

155 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the steps he will take to prevent a recurrence of the departure from good banking and lending practice throughout the sector for the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28436/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

156 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if it has been possible to identify with accuracy the exact cause or causes of the departure from good banking practice throughout the sector in the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28437/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

157 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if instruction, leave or any other indication was given to the banking sectors in the past ten years which might cause an understanding that deviation from good banking practice might be acceptable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28438/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

158 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the reprimands, restrictions or impositions of a financial or disciplinary nature imposed on the banking sectors when departure from good banking or lending practice has been identified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28439/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 155 to 158, inclusive, together.

It is important at the outset to highlight that the problems currently being experienced in the Irish banking sector are part of a wider international phenomenon. The causes of the current financial crisis have been extensively analysed and reported on internationally by various international bodies. Within the EU, the Report of the High Level Group on Financial Supervision in the EU, chaired by Mr. Jacques de Larosière, identifies a number of areas where financial services regulatory reform is required.

The de Larosière Report makes a number of recommendations to strengthen risk management on both a micro- and macro-prudential levels, including improvements in risk management in individual firms; improved systemic shock absorbers; reductions in pro-cyclical amplifiers; strengthening transparency; and improvements in the incentives in financial markets and in directors' remuneration.

Separately, EU Finance Ministers and the G20 have each recognised that the Basel II capital adequacy framework, which is implemented in the EU through the Capital Requirements Directive, should be strengthened with regard to risk management on both a micro- and macro-prudential levels. The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and the European Commission are currently developing proposals to address these various recommendations, which can be expected to be implemented over the coming years.

The impact of the crisis on the banking system in Ireland has emphasised the importance to the wider economy of the framework for financial regulation as well as the links between financial regulation and functions of central banks. The reform of regulatory structures which I announced on 18 June last will underpin a much more effective and efficient financial services regulatory system. In particular, the reforms will see the establishment of a single fully integrated institution, the Central Bank of Ireland Commission, with responsibility for both the supervision of individual firms and the stability of the financial system generally.

At domestic level, the Government has increased the disclosure requirements for directors of banks, through the recent Companies (Amendment) Act 2009. This Act improves the disclosure requirements for loans made by banks to their directors and to persons connected with them. The Act also increases the powers available to the Director of Corporate Enforcement to enforce compliance with company law. These powers will apply to all companies and not just financial institutions.

In relation to the reprimands, restrictions or impositions of a financial or disciplinary nature imposed on the banking sectors when departure from good banking or lending practice has been identified, the Deputy will be aware that in my role as Minister for Finance, I set out the legislative framework within which offences and penalties are contained. I am satisfied that such offences and penalties are in line with international best practice. The Financial Regulator is empowered under the Central Bank Acts to initiate administrative sanctions procedures where it suspects, on reasonable grounds, that a prescribed contravention may have been committed by a regulated financial service provider. The following sanctions may be imposed:

Caution or reprimand;

Direction to refund or withhold all or part of an amount of money charged or paid, or to be charged or paid, for the provision of a financial service;

Monetary penalty (not exceeding €5,000,000 in the case of a corporate and unincorporated body, not exceeding €500,000 in the case of a person);

Direction disqualifying a person from being concerned in the management of a regulated financial service provider;

Direction to cease the contravention if it is found the contravention is continuing;

Direction to pay all or part of the costs of the investigation and inquiry.

Obviously, it is important that where offence and penalty provisions are provided for in law that they are properly enforced. In this regard, the Financial Regulator has taken 18 enforcement actions (16 administrative sanctions procedures and 2 market abuse actions) since these powers became available to it in 2004. Seven individuals have been disqualified from working in the financial services industry (for various periods of time). There have been five breaches of the Consumer Protection Code, two breaches of Market Abuse Regulations and eleven breaches of other codes of conduct (five prudential and six consumer breaches). There have been twelve fines imposed, one of €3,250,000, one of €200,000, 1 of €80,000, 1 of €50,000, 1 of €45,000, 2 of €20,000, 2 of €10,000, and 3 of €5,000, which totals €3,700,000.

To date, one credit institution has been reprimanded and subject to a monetary penalty of €50,000.

By way of concluding, I would not accept any suggestion that an instruction, leave or any other indication was given to the banking sector in the past 10 years which might cause any understanding that deviation from good banking practice might be acceptable. While it is not my role as Minister for Finance to seek to intervene in the decision-making of individual financial institutions, I would repeat my desire that the sector provides prudent and responsible lending that is in the interest of the financial institutions, the borrower and the wider economy.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

159 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the steps he will take to reduce costs in both the public and private sectors with a view to improving economic performance; the targets set; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28440/09]

Since the early years of this decade Ireland has lost competitiveness. Up until last year, prices grew faster than those in the euro area, while wages grew at a rate greater than productivity would justify. These developments have left Ireland exposed in the midst of the collapse in global demand. Nonetheless, consumer prices have adjusted quickly downwards in the last six months. In addition, we are also seeing the benefits of our labour market flexibility: all available evidence points to recent downward pressure on wages economy-wide. The European Commission forecasts that Ireland's unit labour costs will fall by -4% this year, against a rise of 3% in the rest of the euro area.

In relation to public sector pay, the recently-introduced public service pension-related deduction decreases the net cost to the Exchequer of the public sector paybill. It is currently estimated that receipts from the deduction will come to just under €940 million in 2009 and over €1.1 billion in 2010. This reduction in public service net pay is likely to have a demonstration effect on private sector wages too.

On indirect costs, the Government spends over €1 billion annually on a range of professional services across all Departments. In view of the need for an equitable sharing of the burden of the adjustment to address the deterioration in the public finances, the Government is pursuing a general 8% reduction on fees to legal, medical, veterinary and other professionals engaged by the public service. This will raise €80 million in a full year. This process is being done by engaging in consultations through appropriate channels.

Regulated energy costs to private households also decreased this year, with piped gas falling by 12% from the 1st of May and electricity by 10% on the same date. Overall, my Department expects a small but significant fall in consumer prices this year which will go some way to addressing cost pressures that exist economy-wide.

Fiscal Policy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

160 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which the various budgetary cutbacks proposed in the context of recent reviews of public spending have been tested for likely negative impacts on the economy; the way these issues will be addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28441/09]

In the normal course of events, the macro-economic implications of various fiscal measures are considered in the context of the budgetary process. In that regard in the recent Supplementary Budget the macro-economic impact of the 2009 measures was set out.

Regarding the additional aggregate annual consolidation measures for the later years, the overall macro-economic impact was incorporated within the medium term economic and fiscal forecasts.

Therefore, all the specific measures that will be brought forward in terms of both expenditure and taxation will be considered in the context of the estimates / budgetary process in the normal manner and the economic and social impact of the specific budgetary package will be considered then.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

161 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when his attention was drawn to the fact that some sectors in the economy were suffering from or creating costs which were likely to affect the competitiveness of the economy; the steps he will take to address the issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28442/09]

Since becoming Minister for Finance my specific attention has been drawn to the fact that Ireland has been losing competitiveness for some time. In fact the loss of competitiveness and the need to improve it is one that is a constant theme of the Government in recent years. Up until last year, prices grew faster than those in the euro area, while wages grew at a rate greater than productivity would justify in some cases. These developments have left Ireland vulnerable in our international markets in the midst of the collapse in global demand. Nonetheless, consumer prices have adjusted quickly downwards over the last six months. In addition, we are also seeing the benefits of our labour market flexibility: all available evidence points to recent downward pressure on wages in the economy.

The European Commission forecasts that Ireland's unit labour costs will fall by -4 per cent this year, against a rise of 3 per cent in the rest of the euro area. Our economy is rapidly adapting to changed circumstances as we witness prices and wages falling. A substantial improvement in Ireland's competitiveness will place us on a much better footing for when global growth resumes.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

162 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he has satisfied himself regarding the adequacy of the resources available to his Department to carry out the necessary evaluation of performance and cost in both the public and private sectors with a view to improving competitiveness in the economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28443/09]

My Department must, as is the case for all Departments, operate within available resources, both in respect of staffing and other provisions. However, I am satisfied that the resources available to enable my Department to carry out the necessary evaluation of performance and cost in both the public and private sectors with a view to improving competitiveness in the economy are appropriate. The Department continually keeps under the review the prioritisation of resources.

Tax Code.

Noel Ahern

Question:

163 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Finance if he will clarify the revenue refund due to a person (details supplied) in respect of rebate on employee’s redundancy payment. [28444/09]

I wish to draw to the Deputy's attention that rebates on employee's redundancy payments are a matter for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Departmental Expenditure.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

164 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance the amount spent by his Department on legal fees directly to lawyers or through the State solicitor’s office for each of the years 2006, 2007 and 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28468/09]

In general, my department uses the services of the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the Chief State Solicitor, and seeks outside legal advisors in circumstances requiring legal services of a specific nature. The costs associated with the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the Chief State Solicitor are borne by the respective Votes and are not charged back to my Department.

The following table sets out expenditure in the years 2006 to 2008 on contracts for legal services by my department and the related offices.

Name of Office

2006

2007

2008

€,000

€,000

€,000

Office of Public Works

1,047

1,167

518

State Laboratory

103

Valuation Office

125

20

139

Public Appointments Service

17

Office of the Commission for Public Service Appointments

63

130

115

Office of the Minister for Finance

654

403

1,876

Office of the Revenue Commissioners

6,090

5,690

6,970

In addition the Office of the Revenue Commissioners incurred expenditure in respect of cases where they petition the courts for the liquidation of a company. These payments mainly comprise professional fees for Liquidators and their legal teams and totalled €1.7m in 2006, €2.5m in 2007. A breakdown isolating legal fees from within this total spend is not readily available for 2006 or 2007. The legal fees element for 2008 is included in the figures quoted above.

Question No. 165 answered with Question No. 146.

Departmental Properties.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

166 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the gross cost, including fee and all related items, per square foot for the combined social welfare and Garda station buildings recently constructed in Ballymun, Dublin; the way this compares to other similar buildings constructed in 2008; his views on whether this level of cost is justified and if effective cost management was applied to the building project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28585/09]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

167 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the number and value of all extra costs paid to the contractor, additional to the contract sum agreed at the commencement of the construction contract for the social welfare and Garda station building in Ballymun, Dublin; his views on whether these costs would have been avoided if the contract had been a fixed-price contract; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28586/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 166 and 167 together.

The development in Ballymun comprised a new Divisional Headquarters for An Garda Síochána, offices for the Department of Social and Family Affairs, including accommodation for the Money Advice and Budgeting Service, together with facilities for the Probation Service.

It is anticipated that the final account for the project will be completed in the next few weeks. I would be in a position at that stage to provide the Deputy with confirmation of the cost per square foot and other information requested, relating to the financial aspects of the project. I can, however, assure the Deputy that cost effective management was applied to the project, as is the case with all such projects undertaken by the Office of Public Works.

Details of the nature and value of additional works carried out under the contract would also be available when the final account has been agreed. I am advised that the additional works were requested by the public bodies concerned, and were deemed necessary, in order that they could deliver satisfactorily in relation to their statutory / operational functions, or were necessitated to address project critical issues that arose during the course of the contract.

Fiscal Policy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

168 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he has sufficient resources to undertake the necessary research to ensure that budgetary projections are accurately based; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28587/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

169 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the degree to which VAT, income tax and stamp duty targets identified in the various budgets over the past 12 months have been realised in the half yearly returns; the areas requiring attention; the action to be taken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28588/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

170 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the degree to which tax returns for the first six months of 2009 are in accordance with budgetary projections; the action taken or expected to be taken to address issues arising therefrom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28589/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 168 to 170, inclusive, together.

The Supplementary Budget forecast that total tax revenue for the year would amount to €34.4 billion. Monthly profiles for individual tax-heads were published at the end of April.

The end of June Exchequer Returns showed that €15.8 billion in tax receipts were collected in the first half of 2009. Income Tax receipts were €113 million or 2.0% below target, VAT receipts were €202 million or 3.5% behind profile and Stamp Duty receipts were €40 million or 10.3% down on target. Against this, other taxes, namely Corporation Tax and Excise Duties, were ahead of target. Overall, total taxes were €188 million or 1.2% below profile. While this is very close to target, significant sums remained to be collected in the second half of the year and the performance of Income Tax and VAT receipts in particular, will need to be monitored closely.

Economic and fiscal forecasting, at the best of times, is not an exact science. In the extraordinary circumstances prevailing over the last twelve months, it has proven to be extremely difficult for all forecasters to accurately predict short-term economic trends. In this context, the economic and tax projections were revised during the course of the year. My Department works closely with the Revenue Commissioners on an ongoing basis to ensure the highest quality tax forecasts are delivered to Government.

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

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

As I have stated many times, I am satisfied that my Department as currently resourced is fully capable of providing the necessary economic analysis and advice to myself and to Government.

National Development Plan.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

171 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the European Commission has sent a reasoned opinion to the Government to the effect that the National Development Plan 2007 to 2013, containing Transport 21, is in breach of EU law, as it has not been subject to strategic environmental assessment under the SEA directive; and his response to the Commission. [28643/09]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

172 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance the reason he continues to perform strategic environmental assessments on the national development plan and Transport 21. [28644/09]

I propose to take Questions Numbers 171 and 172 together.

To my knowledge, no reasoned opinion on this issue has been received from the European Commission by Ireland.

During the preparation of the NDP, the question of undertaking a Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) was considered by the Government. The outcome of this consideration, which included taking legal advice, was that an SEA was not required.

In 2007, the European commission sent a Letter of Formal Notice seeking information on the NDP and its status as it was their opinion that the NDP appeared to be a plan or programme subject to the SEA Directive. A reply was sent to the Commission setting out our position that the NDP is not subject to the aforementioned Directive.

The Commission sent a revised Letter of Formal Notice in 2008. Ireland's response confirmed our considered opinion that the NDP is not subject to the SEA Directive. Issues relating to Transport 21 are a matter, in the first instance, for the Minister for Transport.

Tax Yield.

Noel Ahern

Question:

173 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Finance the level of taxation on cigarettes; the various taxation increases over the past 15 years; if this revenue is ring-fenced for health spending; if some of the extra taxation in recent years was ring-fenced, for example the 50 pence levy in the mid 1990s; the health spending on illnesses specifically related to tobacco products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28733/09]

Based on cigarettes costing €8.35 per pack of 20, following the most recent increase of 25 cent from midnight on 7 April, 2009, the price includes a total of €6.67 in taxation (€5.19 excise duty and €1.48 VAT). The increases in excise, inclusive of VAT, made over the past 15 years are set out in the following table.

In accordance with section 3 of the Appropriation Act, 1999, the Revenue Commissioners made payments each year of certain excise duties on tobacco products as an appropriation-in-aid to the Department of Health and Children. These payments, which are spread over the year, amount to €167.605 million per annum.

It is not the normal practice of the Government to ring-fence individual tax receipts for particular purposes. The receipts from taxation are paid to the Exchequer and used to finance the general provisions of public services.

As the Deputy may be aware smoking is the greatest single cause of preventable illness and premature death in Ireland, causing the deaths of over 6,500 people a year. The impact of smoking on costs in the health service in terms of treatment services for cancer, cardiovascular disease and respiratory diseases is significant. Between them, these diseases account for a very significant element of hospital admissions and hospital bed occupancy.

Increases in Excise Duty, inclusive of VAT

Budget

Amount of Duty Increase, inclusive of VAT, per pack of 20 cigarettes

1994

10 cent

1995

15 cent

1996

13 cent

1997

9 cent

1998

13 cent

1999

6 cent

2000

63 cent

2001

4 cent

2002

13 cent

2003

50 cent

2004

25 cent

2005

No increase

2006

No increase

2007

50 cent

2008

30 cent

2009

50 cent

Supplementary Budget April 2009

25 cent

Public Service Contracts.

Noel Ahern

Question:

174 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Finance if he will clarify the situation concerning complaints from the printing industry regarding the level of Government agency work, on behalf of the Office of Public Works, being awarded to companies outside the State; if same can be quantified in value terms; the efforts that have been made to retain the work in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter (details supplied). [28746/09]

Up to recently, the Government Supplies Agency (GSA), a Business Unit of the Office of Public Works, has provided a centralised procurement service to Government Departments, Offices and Agencies for a range of goods and services, including printing. This service is provided principally by means of drawdown contracts, which sets out prices, terms and conditions under which supplies are delivered. The various Departments, Offices and Agencies can purchase, as required, from the appointed contractors. These contracts are generally of two to three years duration — this has proven to be a reasonable period, having regard to factors, such as the protracted timescale involved in organising tender competitions, the requirement for a reasonable degree of certainty and stability (including price stability) for customers, the needs for contracts to be of sufficient duration for suppliers to achieve an adequate return on investment, and the desire of unsuccessful tenderers to have new opportunities to compete for the business.

Contracts are awarded on the basis of the most economically advantageous tender, determined on the basis of criteria detailed in the tender documents. There is no advantage to non-Irish companies in assessing tender prices — comparisons are made on the basis of prices excluding VAT.

The expenditure on GSA contracts for printing and binding services for the past three years is as follows:

2006

2007

2008

Printing and Binding Services

9,374,092

11,157,120

10,874,780

Cost of items printed outside the State

193,160

1,267,915

1,294,808

Of the contracts for printing and binding services, the proportion delivered by Irish printers under these contracts was 97.9% in 2006, 88.6% in 2007 and 88.1% in 2008.

All public procurement is subject to the fundamental EU Treaty principles of non-discrimination, transparency, freedom of movement and freedom to provide goods and services. The OPW is not permitted to discriminate on the grounds of nationality in its assessment of tenders.

The function of the Government Supplies Agency have now been subsumed by the National Public Procurement Operations Unit (NPPOU), a new Business Unit within OPW. This new Unit will provide procurement services to a much larger range of customers across the entire public sector. Before entering into any new contracts or agreements, the NPPOU will analyse both the supply markets and the level of demand for the various products and services, and will develop appropriate procurement strategies for each individual market. This may entail changes in the nature and duration of the contractual arrangements, which currently apply. The NPPOU have been in regular consultation with the Print and Packaging Forum to explore measures, which could be adopted to meet the challenges faced by the Irish Print Industry into the future. The NPPOU will encourage greater participation of SME's in public procurement, by providing guidance on how to compete more effectively for future tenders, and also encouraging partnerships between SME's (where appropriate) to bid for the larger print contracts. Through meaningful effective supplier interaction, the NPPOU will support the Print Industry to meet the challenges and opportunities provided for in these national print contracts into the future.

Tax Code.

Noel Ahern

Question:

175 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Finance the approved VAT ranges that are allowed by the EU; if it is open to a member state to only use one VAT rate if they so decide; the VAT take from each of the rates in 2009; his views on the suggestion that Ireland should follow the UK and reduce our normal rate to 15% and increase the lower rate to 15%; if such an increase would substitute for the reduction; the loss to the Revenue Commissioners if the above change are made here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28755/09]

EU VAT law requires Member States to apply a single standard rate of VAT of not lower than 15%, and there is also political agreement that the standard rate applying in each Member State does not exceed 25%. Member States may also apply up to two reduced rates of VAT of no less than 5% and not more than 15% on those goods and services listed in Annex III of the EU VAT Directive. In addition, Member States may apply a reduced rate or a zero rate of VAT to goods and services not listed in Annex III in certain circumstances where a reduced or zero rate applied to those on 1 January 1991.

It is open to Member States to use a single rate of VAT, so long as it falls within the rules for the standard rate of VAT as outlined above.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the yield from the reduced and standard rates of VAT of 13.5% and 21.5% is estimated at €3,690 million and €7,730 million respectively in 2009.

Consolidating our existing reduced and standard rates of VAT into a single rate of 15% may simplify the VAT system and increase our competitiveness with the UK, however such a measure would be far too costly. It is estimated that while an increase from 13.5% to 15% in the reduced rate of VAT would yield an additional €410 million in a full year, however a decrease in the standard rate of VAT from 21.5% to 15% would cost €2,340 million in a full year; resulting in an overall loss to the Exchequer of around €1,930 million in a full year.

It should also be noted that in Ireland we apply the reduced VAT rate to a relatively large number of goods and services, and therefore consolidating our VAT rates to 15%, would result in a VAT increase for almost 40% of goods and services. The services involved include labour intensive services, residential housing, commercial construction and electricity, gas and domestic fuels. These increases would fall disproportionately on the less well off leading to significant public opposition to such a change.

Many of the items charged at 13.5% in Ireland are at the parked rate of VAT which applies in the case of such goods and services that are not included in Annex III of the EU VAT Directive but which were charged at a reduced rate on 1 January 1991. Such items include fuel used for heat or light and certain housing and construction. If the VAT rates are re-aligned into a new single standard rate, it would not be possible in the future under EU VAT law to revert these parked items back to the reduced rate.

Health Repayment Scheme.

Finian McGrath

Question:

176 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a matter (details supplied). [28687/09]

Finian McGrath

Question:

177 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a matter (details supplied). [28688/09]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has responsibility for administering the Health Repayment Scheme in conjunction with the appointed Scheme Administrator KPMG/McCann Fitzgerald.

The Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006 provides a clear legal framework to repay recoverable health charges for publicly funded long-term residential care including contract beds in private institutions. Recoverable health charges are charges which were imposed on persons with full eligibility under the Health (Charges for In-patient Services) Regulations 1976 as amended in 1987 or charges for in-patient services only, raised under the Institutional Assistance Regulations 1954 as amended in 1965.

All applications from or in respect of persons with an intellectual disability who were admitted to long-stay residences are assessed within this legal framework and only the specific charges outlined above are repayable under the Health Repayment Scheme. The closing date for receipt of applications under the Scheme was 31 December 2007.

Child Care Services.

Ulick Burke

Question:

178 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the provision of preschool for children as announced in budget 2009; if her projections and targets will be achieved; the total financial provision announced; if there is a cut in this provision; and the total number of children for which that provision will cater for. [28761/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the implementation of the new scheme to provide a free Preschool in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), which will be implemented from January 2010.

The scheme will be funded from resources re-directed from the Early Childcare Supplement (ECS) which is being abolished from the end of this year. The proposed funding allocation for the scheme in 2010 is in the region of €170 million and I am not aware of any proposal to reduce this provision.

As part of the preparations for introducing the new scheme, the Childcare Directorate of my Office recently wrote to almost 5,000 private and voluntary preschool service providers in the State, inviting them to participate. These included preschool service providers who are notified to the Health Service Executive (HSE) or registered with the Irish Montessori Education Board (IMEB) and a number of other persons who have expressed an interest in establishing a preschool service and participating in the scheme. Application forms and other relevant information regarding the scheme were included in this correspondence and applicants are now returning forms to their local City or County Childcare Committees.

The closing date for response is 10 July 2009 and to date nearly 2,500 applications have been received from preschool services which will secure more than 43,000 preschool year places. It is estimated that up to 60,000 preschool year places could be required in January 2010 and I am confident that this will be achieved. It is expected that the application process will be completed by the end of September 2010 and following this a list of all participating services will be available to parents through the City and County Childcare Committees.

Pharmacy Regulations.

Joe McHugh

Question:

179 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children her views that a reduction of 34% to pharmacists is fair and proportionate; her plans to negotiate this with pharmacists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28873/09]

James Reilly

Question:

180 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will negotiate with pharmacists to try and prevent their withdrawal from the community drugs scheme from 1 August 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28821/09]

Joe McHugh

Question:

181 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children her contingency plans in the event of a withdrawal of pharmacists from the community drugs scheme from 1 August 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28921/09]

Joe McHugh

Question:

182 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans negotiate with pharmacists to try to prevent their withdrawal from the community drugs scheme from 1 August 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28922/09]

James Reilly

Question:

183 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the contingency plans she has put in place in the event of a withdrawal of pharmacists from the community drugs scheme from 1 August 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28820/09]

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

185 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children the contingency plans to deal with the situation in which pharmacies have given notice of terminating services from 1 August 2009; if her attention has been drawn to the concern of the general public in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28122/09]

John O'Mahony

Question:

202 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans she has put in place following the withdrawal of pharmacists contracts with the Health Service Executive which will affect medical card patients and many others using the drug payments scheme; her plans and those of the Health Service Executive to ensure the continued supply of medication to patients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28216/09]

Denis Naughten

Question:

203 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the action taken by Health Service Executive on payments to pharmacists; if an assessment has been completed on the impact that this will have in smaller towns; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28254/09]

Noel Coonan

Question:

210 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding reducing margins given to pharmacists, provided for under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009, taking into account pharmacists’ plans to discontinue providing services if the plans proceed; her plans to rescind this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28302/09]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

227 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether the reduction of 34% to pharmacists is fair and proportionate; her plans to negotiate same with pharmacists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28435/09]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

233 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the contingency plans she has in place in the event of a withdrawal of pharmacists from the community drugs scheme from 1 August 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28475/09]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

234 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will negotiate with pharmacists to prevent their withdrawal from the community drugs scheme from 1 August 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28476/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 179 to 183, inclusive, 185, 202, 203, 210, 227, 233 and 234 together.

I am aware that a number of community pharmacists have indicated that they may withdraw from participation in the GMS and community drugs schemes in the light of my decision to reduce certain payments under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has written to all 1,600 community pharmacy contractors to clarify whether they intend to continue the provision of services under the GMS and community drugs schemes.

A contingency plan is being put in place by the HSE, and will be implemented if required, to ensure that supplies of medicines to patients under the GMS and community drugs schemes will continue in the event of discontinuation of services by community pharmacists.

I believe that threats of withdrawal from the community pharmacy contract are unjustified and not in patients' interests. There can be no grounds for causing upset or anxiety about the supply of prescriptions to patients.

The decisions I have made on the reduction in payments to community pharmacists under the Act will reduce their income from the Health Service Executive (HSE) by €133m in a full year, from a total of approximately €550m. This is a reduction of 24% and not 34% as representatives of the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) have claimed. My decisions followed a public consultation process conducted under that Act. All interested stakeholders were invited to make submissions on the matter. The IPU made both a written and an oral submission to my Department. In addition, 104 other written submissions were received largely from community pharmacists. These submissions were analysed and considered before I made my decision to reduce payments.

Reductions are absolutely necessary for two reasons. Firstly, the cost of the community drugs schemes has doubled since 2002 to over €1.6 billion in 2008: and fees and other income earned by pharmacists have doubled accordingly. Secondly, it cost an exorbitant €640 million to get €1 billion of drugs from the factory gate to the patient in the community in 2008. This level of expenditure on delivery and dispensing is no longer sustainable, given the current financial circumstances of the country and the other priorities for spending in the health sector.

Savings from the measures have been estimated at €55 million for the remainder of this year and €133 million on a full year basis. This is almost exactly what would have been saved if I had imposed an across the board 8% reduction in fees and retail mark-ups and re-imposed the reduction in wholesale mark-up to 8%, as attempted by the HSE last year. However, I have decided to achieve broadly the same level of reduction through a revised common fee structure for dispensing, a reduced retail mark-up, removal of the special payment for over-70s dispensing and reduction in the wholesale mark-up to 10%.

In its submissions, the IPU indicated that it was prepared to consider yielding savings in an amount equivalent to 8% of dispensing fees only, which it calculated would save €21m in a full year. This would imply that their earnings from the HSE were just €260m in 2008. However, this is far from the case. In addition to dispensing fees, pharmacists also received a retail mark-up of 50% on items dispensed under the Drug Payments and Long Term Illness Schemes and special payments in respect of dispensing to persons aged 70 years and over. These payments brought their income from the HSE in 2008 to €440m. In addition pharmacists have benefitted from approximately half the €200m value of the wholesale margin. For the reasons outlined earlier, savings of €21m as proposed by the IPU would not have been an adequate response to the financial problems that we face in the pharmacy sector.

The IPU also suggested that savings of €30m could be obtained through generic substitution and €33.7m through a combination of changes in the High Tech Scheme, implementation of the Barry Report and the IPHA agreement. These are matters that are being pursued by my Department and the HSE. Any savings that arise under these headings will be additional to, and not a substitution for, the reductions in payments to pharmacists that I have announced.

Care of the Elderly.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

184 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Health and Children if the agreement still stands whereby the health care costs of pensioners living here who have paid national insurance in the UK while living and working here are covered and then reimbursed by the British Government; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28118/09]

Regulation (EC) 1408/71 co-ordinates health and social security arrangements among EU member states (it also applies in the remaining EEA member states and Switzerland). Under these provisions, people who are insured with (covered by) the healthcare system of one EU member state are entitled to receive healthcare in the public system of another member state in certain circumstances, at the cost of the member state in which they are insured.

Ireland operates a bilateral healthcare reimbursement agreement with the United Kingdom, arising from the application of Regulation (EC) 1408/71. The agreement comprehends such persons as temporary visitors between the two countries; pensioners of one country residing in the other country and their dependants; and the dependants residing in one country of people who are employed in the other country. The amount due is the net difference between the costs to the Irish health services of providing care to those with UK entitlements and the cost to the UK health services of providing services to those with Irish entitlements. Allowance is also made for those with dual entitlements in both jurisdictions.

Under the terms of the agreement net liability between the two countries is calculated on a lump sum basis rather than an individual basis. Officials from my Department liaise regularly with their UK counterparts in discussions on the application of the agreement and I can confirm to the Deputy that the bilateral agreement continues to operate.

Question No. 185 answered with Question No. 179.

Pharmacy Statistics.

Chris Andrews

Question:

186 Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of pharmacists in existence on 1 March 2008; and the number on 1 March 2009. [28124/09]

According to the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI) records the number of Retail Pharmacy Businesses that were notified to the PSI on 1 March 2008 was 1571 and on 1 March 2009 was 1599.

Care of the Elderly.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

187 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children the funding schemes available to a voluntary organisation being set up in the Dublin inner city area to provide voluntary care to the elderly in the Meath Street area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28137/09]

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

Departmental Investigations.

Billy Timmins

Question:

188 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the breakdown of the €2.1 million cost into the inquiry involving Leas Cross Nursing Home; and the person who was in receipt of €2.1 million. [28139/09]

On 24 April 2007, the Government announced its decision to establish a commission of investigation into the management, ownership, and operation of Leas Cross Nursing Home. The Commission of Investigation (Leas Cross Nursing Home) was established on 6 June 2007, under section 3 of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004. Mr Diarmuid P. O'Donovan, S.C., was appointed as the Sole Member of this Commission. It formally commenced its work in September 2007. The final report was received in June 2009.

Mr O'Donovan was assisted in his work by one solicitor, five barristers at different time intervals, and three clerical / secretarial staff. The total cost for the Commission is expected to be in the region of €2.1 million and includes staffing, accommodation, equipment and third-party legal costs. Invoices paid to 26 March 2009 totalled €1.423 million. This consisted of staffing and associated costs for the Commission of €1.270 million and accommodation and ICT costs of €0.153 million. A number of invoices were received towards the end of the Commission's lifetime which were subject to query before payment. Consequently, a final breakdown of the costs is not yet available. The remaining expenditure will consist mainly of third party legal fees, staffing costs and administration and ICT expenses.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Brendan Kenneally

Question:

189 Deputy Brendan Kenneally asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of the proposed new 50 bed unit for St. Patrick’s Hospital, Waterford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28157/09]

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

Hospital Procedures.

Brendan Kenneally

Question:

190 Deputy Brendan Kenneally asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of angiograms conducted in Waterford Regional Hospital in 2009; and the number conducted every year for the past five years per year. [28158/09]

Brendan Kenneally

Question:

191 Deputy Brendan Kenneally asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of patients over the past five years who have received an angiogram in Waterford Regional Hospital and went on to receive further follow up treatment locally, broken down by year to date in 2009. [28159/09]

Brendan Kenneally

Question:

192 Deputy Brendan Kenneally asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of patients who were treated for an angiogram in hospitals other than Waterford Regional Hospital after having initially been diagnosed in Waterford Regional Hospital in the past five years with a breakdown of these figures by year; and the cost of treating these patients per year. [28160/09]

Brendan Kenneally

Question:

193 Deputy Brendan Kenneally asked the Minister for Health and Children the estimated cost of running a full time angiogram service in Waterford Regional Hospital. [28161/09]

Brendan Kenneally

Question:

194 Deputy Brendan Kenneally asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of days the angiogram service operates in Waterford Regional Hospital per week; the number of days it has been in operation in 2006, 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009. [28162/09]

Brendan Kenneally

Question:

195 Deputy Brendan Kenneally asked the Minister for Health and Children the efforts made to operate the angiogram service in Waterford Regional Hospital on a full time basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28163/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 190 to 195, inclusive, together.

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

Hospital Services.

Brendan Kenneally

Question:

196 Deputy Brendan Kenneally asked the Minister for Health and Children the different departments that are currently in operation in Waterford Regional Hospital. [28164/09]

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

Health Services.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

197 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that funding is maintained in respect of an organisation (details supplied) in County Cork. [28197/09]

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.

Medical Cards.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

198 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application for renewal of a medical card by a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [28198/09]

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

Preschool Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

199 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on providing schools participating in the free preschool scheme a higher capitation grant if they employ teachers with higher educational qualifications; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28204/09]

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 preschool year to eligible children and which will be introduced in January 2010.

The scheme is open to private and voluntary preschool services including both sessional playschools and creche facilities. Sessional playschools will, normally, participate in the scheme by providing the preschool year for 3 hours a day, 5 days a week over 38 weeks while full or part-time creche facilities will, normally, participate by providing the preschool year for 2 hours, 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week over 50 weeks.

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. Services may, however, 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.

While there is no requirement in relation to the qualifications of staff under the Child Care (Preschool Services) (No. 2) Regulations 2006, it is a requirement of the ECCE scheme that pre-school year leaders in services participating in the scheme hold a qualification in childcare which is equivalent to FETAC Level 5. It is proposed to increase this requirement to a qualification in childcare equivalent of FETAC Level 6 over time. The capitation fee which is provided for applies to all services which choose to participate and additional funding is not provided where the requirements of the scheme are exceeded.

Health Services.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

200 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will grant speech and language therapy for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this person is waiting a long time and their condition could deteriorate further unless they receive treatment now; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28211/09]

The Health Service Executive advised this Department that there is a high demand for Speech and Language Therapy Services in Crumlin and the surrounding areas. The Local Health Office has in recent weeks received approval to recruit a Speech and Language Therapist. The HSE LHO Manager has advised that his office will be in a better position in the near future to give a firm indication as to when Hugo will be seen for assessment. 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.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

201 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of speech therapists who currently operate from a health centre (details supplied) in Dublin 12 and their working hours; if there are vacancies for speech therapists at this health centre; when these vacancies will be filled; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28212/09]

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

Questions Nos. 202 and 203 answered with Question No. 179.

Denis Naughten

Question:

204 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 169 of 28 January 2009, if all agencies under her authority have now furnished a full response; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28258/09]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No.94 of 5 March 2009 on this matter. My Department has contacted the HSE and the other agencies once more and requested again that they reply to the Deputy as a matter of urgency.

Finian McGrath

Question:

205 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11. [28267/09]

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

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Question:

206 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if a medical card will be issued in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny who is in need of ongoing medical treatment; and if she will expedite the matter. [28276/09]

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

Health Services.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

207 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that a follow-on day service will be made available to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28289/09]

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.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

208 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that a follow-on day service will be made available to a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28290/09]

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

Hospital Waiting Lists.

John McGuinness

Question:

209 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny has to wait 18 months for a scan at Waterford Regional Hospital; and if he will expedite a response. [28293/09]

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

Question No. 210 answered with Question No. 179.

Health Service Expenditure.

Mattie McGrath

Question:

211 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of money paid out by the Health Service Executive in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009 for the services of public relations companies, consultants and special advisers who are not in direct employment of the HSE or her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28307/09]

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

Care of the Elderly.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

212 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to avert the closure of the six bed acute psychiatric unit for older people at Portlaoise General Hospital and the closure of beds at St. Brigid’s Hospital, Shaen, Portlaoise; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28312/09]

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

Medical Cards.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

213 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway has been deemed not to be eligible for an over 70s medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28321/09]

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

Cancer Screening Programme.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

214 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has had a meeting with an organisation (details supplied); the persons who were present at the meeting; the matters discussed; the steps she will take in regard to same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28351/09]

I met a delegation from Co-operating for Cancer Care NorthWest on 29 June. A senior official from the Department's Cancer Policy Unit was also present. A wide range of issues was discussed in relation to cancer services for the people of the North West. These included, in particular, cross-border co-operation in radiotherapy services and the roll-out of the BreastCheck programme to Donegal and other remaining counties. In regard to the provision of cross-border radiotherapy services, I advised that discussions are ongoing between officials from my Department and their counterparts in Northern Ireland following the announcement of Minister McGimpsey of the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Northern Ireland of the provision of a satellite radiotherapy centre, linked to Belfast City Hospital, at Altnagelvin. I told the group that the facility is expected to be operational by 2015 and that I am committed to providing appropriate funding for the project.

In regard to the roll-out of BreastCheck in Clare, Donegal and Leitrim, I confirmed that the consent process for women in Clare is underway. The consent process in Donegal will begin in the second half of September with screening commencing in October, while the consent process will commence in Leitrim in October. A wide range of other issues was also discussed at the meeting including cancer screening and preventative initiatives, cross-border funding for health projects, services at Letterkenny General Hospital and transport for cancer patients. The discussion enabled me to understand the concerns of the CCC(NW) group and also to outline to them my Department's position in relation to these issues. I understand that the interim Director of the National Cancer Control Programme will meet this group in the near future.

Health Services.

Enda Kenny

Question:

215 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children the level of genetic services provided from the National Centre for Medical Genetics as of June 2009; the reduction in laboratory staff at the NCMG since September 2008; the number of requests for tests that have been placed by doctors; if she will confirm that these tests are being sent to commercial laboratories in the UK, France and other locations and that the cost of these tests is being borne by the Health Service Executive; the number of staff let go from these laboratories since September 2008; the number of those staff who are signing on for social welfare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28358/09]

Enda Kenny

Question:

216 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the validity of results of genetic tests from commercial laboratories; the number of tests carried out by some commercial genetic laboratories that have been incorrect and that have had to be repeated in the past two years; if she will confirm that many genetic tests need expert interpretation and that such interpretation is often at times not available at a commercial laboratory requiring the Health Service Executive to pay substantial amounts for the tests in the first instance and that the results are often so ambiguous and unclear that the genetics consultant has to have such tests repeated at the National Centre for Medical Genetics in order to have a reliable diagnosis before advising a patient of a family; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28359/09]

Enda Kenny

Question:

217 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children the waiting time for patients who require a genetic service from genetic consultants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28360/09]

Enda Kenny

Question:

218 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to expand the genetics service based on current levels of demand; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28361/09]

Enda Kenny

Question:

219 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has carried out a cost benefit analysis on the efficiency of having genetics tests paid for by the Health Service Executive being sent abroad and the consequence of letting trained scientists and technologists who have unique skills in laboratory genetics being made redundant; if she will publish the results of such cost benefit analysis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28362/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 215 to 219, inclusive, together.

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

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

220 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the fact that some general medical practitioners and consultants have continued to increase their fees to non-medical card patients, despite the changed economic climate; her plans to discourage this trend; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28363/09]

Consultation fees charged to private patients by general practitioners and consultants are a matter of private contract between the doctor and the patient. While I have no role in relation to such fees, I would expect Consultants and General Practitioners to have regard to the overall economic situation in setting their fees. I should add that General Practitioners who hold General Medical Services contracts with the Health Service Executive must not seek or accept money from medical card or GP visit card holders in respect of routine treatment.

Departmental Expenditure.

Denis Naughten

Question:

221 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the cost of public advertising funded by her Department in 2009; the breakdown between statutory and non-statutory advertising; the corresponding figure for each agency under the control of her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28422/09]

In 2009, my Department spent €103,091.73 on public advertising. Some €58,467.11 had a statutory basis and €44,624.62 a non-statutory basis. The expenditure on public advertising by agencies under the aegis of my Department, other than the HSE, is being collated and will be forwarded directly to the Deputy as soon as it is available. The question of advertising costs incurred by the HSE has been referred to the Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

222 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the savings and the changes made to the 2009 Health Service Executive budget in the Laois-Offaly area by item in tabular form; the services that have been reduced or varied; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28430/09]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

223 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the savings and the changes made to the 2009 Health Service Executive budget in respect of each hospital and each hospital department in the Laois-Offaly area by item in tabular form; the services that have been reduced or varied; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28431/09]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

224 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the contracts that have not been renewed in the Health Service Executive in the Laois-Offaly area since 1 January 2009; the further contracts that will not be renewed for the remainder of 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28432/09]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

236 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the service reviews currently being carried out by the Health Service Executive in Laois and Offaly; the purpose of these reviews; when they were initiated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28478/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 222 to 224, inclusive, and Question No. 236 together.

As the Deputy is aware, the National Service Plan 2009 which I approved in December contained a number of economic and cost avoidance measures for 2009 (in addition to a continuation of value for money measures from 2008). Subsequently a range of potential exposures (some of which were identified in the National Service Plan) materialised. Based on the best information available, a figure of €540 million was arrived at following intensive discussions and a detailed examination by the HSE and my Department.

The Government made significant decisions on spending, revenue raising and employment control in the Supplementary Budget. The approach agreed as part of the Supplementary Budget when combined with the €133 million in measures previously identified by the HSE and not affecting the National Service Plan left a potential shortfall of €147 million to be addressed. In April I approved a series of measures to address this potential shortfall and obviate the need to amend the National Service Plan. The HSE is now implementing these measures in order to deliver the Service Plan within its existing allocation. The level of service originally planned by the HSE and set out in the 2009 Service Plan is continuing to be delivered. Indeed, in a number of areas planned service levels have been exceeded so far this year. Maintaining this level of performance will demand close attention to value for money and ongoing modernisation of service delivery in line with best practice. With regard to specific issues relating to the Laois-Offaly area, I have referred the matter to the HSE for direct reply.

Health Service Staff.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

225 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of staff in the Laois-Offaly area on maternity leave whose positions have not been filled in their absence in 2009; the grades and areas that these staff are in; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28433/09]

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

Olwyn Enright

Question:

226 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of staff in the Laois-Offaly area on sick leave of more than one weeks duration whose positions have not been filled in their absence in 2009; the grades and areas these staff are in; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28434/09]

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

Question No. 227 answered with Question No. 179.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Noel Ahern

Question:

228 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding persons with an intellectual disability and a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5; if all existing funded schemes in this area are being maintained; the reason the person was told there will be no service for them from September 2009 unless additional funds are provided; and if she will provide same. [28447/09]

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.

Preschool Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

229 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the basis, with regard to the early childhood care and education scheme, on which the cut-off age of four years and ten months on 1 January 2010 was chosen; if it will be waived in the case of a family whose child is a year from starting school but is slightly too old to qualify; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28456/09]

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.

Under the scheme, eligible children will be able to avail of a pre-school year prior to commencing primary school. Children will be eligible where they are aged between 3 years 3 months and 4 years 6 months on 1 September each year. The scheme is being introduced in January 2010 and children aged between 3 years 7 months and 4 years 10 months on the 1st January 2010 will be eligible to avail of the free pre-school provision.

To provide additional flexibility for parents, for the purposes of this scheme children will qualify where they have not yet reached the age of 4 years 7 months during the month of September each year. This provision will also apply to children entering the scheme in January 2010 and those who have not reached the age of 4 years and 11 months during the month of January will be eligible.

The majority of children who participate in the scheme would be expected to commence primary school between the age of 4 years 3 months and 5 years 6 months and the age range for eligibility is designed to give flexibility to parents to access the scheme at the most appropriate time for their children prior to commencing school.

Health Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

230 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a contract to provide renal dialysis with an Irish company (details supplied) was not renewed by the Health Service Executive and was instead awarded to a non-Irish company; if she will ensure that the decision is re-visited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28458/09]

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

Medical Cards.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

231 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry who applied for renewal of their medical card in October 2008 will receive a decision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28459/09]

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

Departmental Expenditure.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

232 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount spent by her Department on legal fees directly to lawyers or through the State Solicitor’s Office for each of the years 2006, 2007 and 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28470/09]

Payments made by my Department in respect of legal fees, the legal costs associated with awards/settlements and similar payments made on behalf of the Hepatitis C and HIV Compensation Tribunal in the years 2006 to 2008 are set out in tabular form below.

2006

2007

2008

€m

€m

€m

Department of Health and Children

3.931

4.412

4.711

Hepatitis C and HIV Compensation Tribunal

11.962

8.345

9.372

Questions Nos. 233 and 234 answered with Question No. 179.

Hospital Services.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

235 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of beds in each hospital and nursing unit in Laois and Offaly of all types that have been closed or are currently not open in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28477/09]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

240 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will itemise in tabular form the number of people waiting to receive a service or therapy under each category of service in the hospital inpatient and outpatient section of Laois-Offaly Health Service Executive; the average length of wait in each category; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28482/09]