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 12, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 13 to 89, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 90 to 97, inclusive, answered orally.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

98 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Finance the value of the charge made in respect of the bank guarantee for the most recent quarter in 2009 for which he has returns; the rate per cent of covered liabilities it entails; and if all covered institutions are paying at the same rate. [39065/09]

Under the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme 2008, each of the covered institutions pays a quarterly charge to the Exchequer which is held in a mandated account in the Central Bank. As of 20 October 2009, there is €548,642,029 in the mandated account. The balance in the account will be returned to the Exchequer.

The charge is paid quarterly in advance and all payments have been made in respect of 2009 which amounts to €437m. Of this total amount, €176m was paid in October 2009.

As the Deputy is aware the latest audited and verified figures for covered liabilities which were recently published in Iris Oifigúil, amount to €275.3 billion. The latest charge received in respect of the last quarter of this year would be equivalent to 0.065% of the latest published figure for covered liabilities and this would be equivalent to 0.26% on an annual basis. But as the covered liabilities can vary on a daily basis, this unaudited figure should be regarded as an estimate only.

In addition to the charge for the Guarantee levied on the covered institutions, institutions under the Guarantee are obliged to recoup the administrative costs of the Guarantee to the Minister. To date payments of €2.5m have been made, covering the period September 2008 to April 2009. There will be further charges made periodically between now and the end September 2010. Administrative costs are received as an Appropriation-in-Aid in my Department's vote.

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 the relative risk position of the covered institution, as set out in Paragraph 16 of the Scheme. Paragraph 22 of the Scheme allows me the discretion to review the application of the charging model every six months. The Guarantee charging model was recently reviewed by my Department 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. Given the shortfall in monies raised from the charge to date, the charge factor levied on each institution has been amended and new, higher rates are being applied for the remainder of the Scheme.

Departmental Expenditure.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

99 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance if he will meet with representatives of all the Opposition parties to take their views and suggestions into account in advance of planning budget 2010. [37614/09]

In relation to engagement with Opposition parties in the lead-up to Budget 2010, it is intended that my Department will publish in mid-November the Pre-Budget Outlook (PBO). This will set out an updated macroeconomic assessment based on the latest available data. In addition, the Pre-Budget Outlook will also set out the technical budgetary position as it is now emerging. I believe that the publication of the Pre-Budget Outlook will inform the debate in advance of Budget 2010, which will be presented to the Dáil on the 9th December. I further intend that a Pre-Budget debate will take place following the publication of the Pre-Budget Outlook, during which all Deputies will have the opportunity to present their views.

The Government has sought to engage all parties in our efforts to address the difficulties in the public finances. In this context, the reports of both the Commission on Taxation and the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes have now been published and are important inputs into the decision making process.

It must be noted that there is ongoing engagement with both Houses of the Oireachtas, as well as the various Committees, in relation to economic and fiscal matters. Furthermore, in recent weeks the Taoiseach and I, along with other relevant Ministers, have engaged with the Social Partners with a view to building a consensus for the action that is now required in terms of the need to stabilise the deficit in 2010. That said, it is the Government that will make the necessary decisions, taking all matters into consideration, in the context of the Budget in order to stabilise the public finances.

Finally, I am happy to listen to what the Opposition have to say on what their proposals are in relation to the stabilisation of the deficit in 2010.

Public Service Contracts.

Pat Breen

Question:

100 Deputy Pat Breen 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. [39085/09]

To date, the value of savings achieved from the procurement review is €21.5 million.

The savings were achieved in the supply of goods and services to Government Departments, Offices, Agencies and Third Level Institutions. The savings were achieved over the supply of a large number of goods and services. Among the main areas where savings were achieved were I.T. Hardware, Energy, Stationery/Office Supplies, Printing and Office Equipment.

All areas of Public Procurement are governed by National and EU legislation, in addition to guidelines laid down by the Department of Finance. These guidelines ensure that all competitive processes are open to all outside providers.

Government Departments and Offices ensure that there is full transparency, while conducting competitive procurement processes.

A primary tool in this objective is the www.e-tenders.gov.ie website. All suppliers, who have an interest in Government contracts, can register on this site and receive notification of competitive processes arising.

The aim of the NPPOU is to further streamline these processes in the coming months.

Cigarette Smuggling.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

101 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance his estimate of the loss to the Exchequer in 2009 arising from cigarette smuggling; and the measures being taken and proposed to deal with this situation. [37616/09]

It is not possible, as I have stated in response to a number of Parliamentary Questions over the past year, to provide a reliable estimate of the loss to the Exchequer as a result of cigarette smuggling. This arises from the fact that there is no proven internationally recognised method for determining such an estimate.

The Revenue Commissioners have given a tentative estimate that up to 20% of cigarettes consumed in the State in 2008 were untaxed in this State. However, this estimate included both smuggled cigarettes and also cigarettes legally purchased by cross-border shoppers for personal consumption. While most cross-border purchases involves travellers arriving from Spain, Portugal and certain East European countries where tobacco prices are low, Northern Ireland is also a destination for cigarette purchasers.

I wish to assure the Deputy that both my Department and the Revenue Commissioners, who are responsible for the collection of tobacco products tax and tackling the illicit trade in cigarettes and tobacco products, are concerned at the level of cigarette smuggling. It is generally accepted that the high level of taxation levied on cigarettes in Ireland makes it a target for smugglers despite the comparatively small size of the market.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that their strategy in relation to tobacco smuggling involves a combination of cargo and passenger profiling, intelligence gathering and mutual assistance co-operation with other Customs services. Where appropriate, x-ray scanning technology is used to detect and seize contraband in maritime and air transport. In this regard a second mobile container scanner has been purchased and is due to arrive in Ireland later this month. This scanner is expected to increase the overall level of detection at our major ports.

Revenue and an Garda Siochána also carry out multi-agency operations, particularly in relation to controlled deliveries. Where relevant, these operations involve international law enforcement agencies. The Customs service continuously reviews its strategy which includes analysis of resource requirements and its optimum staff deployment.

Revenue policy also entails close liaison with the legitimate tobacco industry and the Office of Tobacco Control. In addition intelligence driven and random checks are mounted at retail outlets and markets and other distribution centres in order to detect and seize illicit tobacco products which have evaded detection at the point of importation.

Furthermore, the Revenue Commissioners engage with the work of the European Anti Fraud Office which co-ordinates both international operations and other countermeasures undertaken by the authorities of the Member States against cigarette smuggling.

This combined approach has resulted in the seizure of almost 200 million cigarettes to-date in 2009. Included in this amount is the seizure of an estimated 120 million cigarettes at Greenore on 27 October 2009 in the course of the multi-agency Operation Samhna. This is a prime example of the fruits of multi-agency cooperation in the fight against this organised crime. The intelligence and operational strategy is backed up by a robust prosecution policy which has resulted in 101 convictions for cigarette smuggling or dealing in smuggled cigarettes during the first nine months of 2009. A significant number of other cases are already before the Courts awaiting hearing or are being processed for prosecution.

National Asset Management Agency.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

102 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Finance the breakdown of the individual discounts being applied to each of the five financial institutions in respect of the loans of €77 billion being taken over by the National Asset Management Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37797/09]

The figure of E77 billion relates to the estimated book value of the loans of five covered institutions who have indicated their intention to participate in NAMA. When presenting this information to the Dáil in September, I indicated that both the estimate of book value and the projected average discount of 30% to be applied in the purchase of these assets, was provisional in nature and based on summary information provided by the institutions concerned.

The actual discounts to be applied will be determined on an asset by asset basis following the application of the valuation methodology. The aggregate discount by institution will only be available on completion of the valuation of the loan books of each participating institution. This will only be possible following the finalisation of the NAMA legislation, the designation of participating institutions and the designation of eligible assets among other issues.

Financial Services Regulation.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

103 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Finance if he has issued any policy directions to the Financial Services Regulatory Authority since the banking crisis broke; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37709/09]

The Deputy may wish to note that, under the terms of the Central Bank Act 1942, as amended, the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority is responsible for the regulation and supervision of the financial system including the banking sector. In the exercise of its regulatory and supervisory functions under statute, the Regulatory Authority acts independently of the Minister of Finance. This independence is an essential pre-requisite for the proper exercise of these functions and is firmly in accordance with standards of international best practice. In my role as Minister for Finance, therefore, I have no legal authority nor would it be appropriate for me to issue policy directions to the Authority.

As the Deputy will be aware the system of financial regulation in Ireland is based on a detailed and comprehensive EU template and many of the functions and powers assigned to the Regulatory Authority are assigned under EU law. As Minister for Finance, I do not have the authority to issue directions on matters covered by European law.

Of course as a matter of routine, my Department liaises closely on an ongoing basis with the Financial Regulator on matters relating to the legislative and policy framework for financial regulation. This reflects the expert advisory role played by the Financial Regulator in relation to the development of legislative proposals both at national and EU level. Since the onset of the financial crisis all the public authorities have worked closely advising the Government on key elements of the Government's response — the Guarantee Scheme, the recapitalisation of the banks and NAMA. This has helped ensure a cohesive and co-ordinated national response to maintaining financial stability in Ireland and ensuring that the financial system is restored to health to support economic recovery.

Home Repossessions.

Phil Hogan

Question:

104 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the severity of the problem facing homeowners in negative equity; his plans to extend the moratorium on house repossessions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36000/09]

It is a particular priority of the Government to ensure as far 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. The preferred method of dealing with cases of arrears should be early intervention and engagement.

The Financial Regulator has a Code of Conduct for Mortgage Arrears. The 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. Under the Code where a borrower is in difficulty the lender shall make every reasonable effort to agree an alternative repayment schedule and he or she has to give consideration, 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 have agreed and put into effect 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.

I therefore have no plans to extend the moratorium on home repossessions. I am satisfied that the arrangements 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.

Banking Sector.

Joe McHugh

Question:

105 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Finance if he has reviewed the law governing the operation of banks of systemic importance to the economy and the changes he has identified as necessary. [39150/09]

The Deputy will be aware that the supervisory oversight of credit institutions is based on a pan-EU legislative framework, most notably the Capital Requirements Directive. In the light of events which have arisen in the context of the international financial markets crisis, the issue of the oversight of systemically important institutions is being considered, not only in the European framework, but also at a wider international level. At G20 level, in their Pittsburgh statement of September last, G20 Leaders recommended action by end 2010 to address the issue of systemically important financial institutions to reduce the probability of their distress and impact of their distress or failure. A report will be presented to G20 finance ministers in November on methodologies for determining whether a financial institution is of systemic importance. While discussions are at a relatively early stage, the IMF, the Financial Stability Board and the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision are also currently working on the issue. In parallel, the EU Commission is undertaking complementary work on systemically important financial institutions in the context of the current EU legislative framework. Ireland is participating fully in this work at EU level.

In my speech on the Second Stage of the NAMA Bill I indicated that I was examining options for the introduction of a legislative regime to deal with distressed financial institutions. The objective will be to ensure that the State has in place a range of tools to protect deposit holders and ensure financial stability and maintain international market confidence. I hope to be in a position to bring forward proposals in this area in the New Year. The development of this legislation will be informed by the work underway at the international level.

National Asset Management Agency.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

106 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on discussions between National Treasury Management Agency, departmental or Government officials with Eurostat and with any international rating agencies with respect to the statistical treatment of debt incurred by the National Asset Management Agency, particularly in relation to the treatment of this debt in the national accounts and as part of the national debt; if this NAMA debt will be excluded from the calculation of general Government debt; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37691/09]

On 16 October Eurostat (the Statistical Authority of the European Commission) informed the Central Statistics Office of its preliminary decision that the operations of the National Asset Management Agency should be recorded outside the general government sector in the Irish national accounts. On 20 October, Eurostat published its preliminary decision on its website.

The effect of this preliminary decision is that the acquisition of the assets from the financial institutions by NAMA will have no effect on our General Government Debt ratio or our general budget balance.

This treatment puts the Irish asset protection scheme on an equivalent footing with bank support schemes in other member states, which are also being recorded off-balance sheet. The main advantage of this is that it minimises the danger of the markets or international investors misinterpreting our headline debt or budget balance ratios when comparing us against other EU Member States.

As I have repeatedly said, the statistical treatment does not change the fact that operations of NAMA will lead to an increase in the amount of the State's potential liabilities. This basic fact should not be overlooked. However, neither should it be overlooked that these liabilities will be matched by a countervailing asset holding.

Officials from the Central Statistics Office, the interim National Asset Management Agency and my Department had been in regular contact with Eurostat over the previous few months regarding the appropriate treatment of NAMA. The main rating agencies were aware that discussions were ongoing. Furthermore, I had also referred to the likelihood that the treatment would be off balance in the "Frequently Asked Questions" document published on my Department's website and the NAMA website at the end of July.

Financial Services Regulation.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

107 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether, with respect to proposed reforms of the model of financial regulation here, it is appropriate to include in these reforms changes to the regulation of credit unions here or if he plans to deal with the issue of credit union regulation separately as part of a more broad based reform agenda for the credit union sector; his further views on the maintenance of the current regulatory arrangements for credit unions until such time as amendment to the Credit Union Act 1997 is deemed appropriate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37696/09]

The Credit Union Act 1997 provides the legal framework for the regulation of credit unions. The Act was designed to provide the credit union movement with a regulatory structure that reflects and promotes the particular ethos and philosophy of the credit union movement, its strong tradition of volunteer service and the core objective of providing opportunities for saving and lending for members of credit unions. The approach to regulation embodied in the Credit Union Act 1997 has served the credit union movement well by providing clarity and certainty to individual credit unions, their Directors and members. It has helped support the continued stability of the credit union movement and safeguard the members' savings during a period of rapid growth.

The future shape and operation of the legislative and regulatory framework will strongly influence the evolution of the credit union model. The question is how best to integrate that framework with the strategic development of the credit union movement in a manner which remains fully consistent with financial stability and long-term sustainability.

When, in June 2009, I announced major reform of the institutional structures for regulation of financial services in Ireland, I stated that no change is proposed to the current role and responsibilities of the Registrar of Credit Unions and that regulation of credit unions will remain within the Central Bank of Ireland structure.

However, the need for some modernisation of the legislative and regulatory framework for credit unions has become evident over time and it is clear therefore that the current legislative framework needs reform. I have asked the Chair of the Financial Regulator to initiate a review of credit unions which it is hoped will make an important contribution to identifying the appropriate way forward.

Martin Ferris

Question:

108 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the practice entitled pay-day lending which is in use here by a number of money lenders; the implications of such practice on persons who avail of it; and the action which will be taken to eliminate this practice. [37610/09]

From my inquiries with the Financial Regulator, the authority for licensing moneylenders, I understand that it has not issued any licences authorising moneylenders to provide pay-day loans, i.e. short-term loans intended to cover a borrower's expenses until her/his next pay-day, with the initial loan running for approximately one month. Anyone who becomes aware of such non-licensed money lending activity should bring it to the immediate attention of the Garda Síochána.

The Financial Regulator provides information about the different forms of credit available to consumers, including credit cards, overdrafts, hire purchase, personal loans and money lending and recommends that consumers take on the right type of credit for the right purpose. It also recommends a number of steps that borrowers should take including shopping around for the cheapest loan, reading all loan agreements, reviewing their debts from time to time and not taking on more debt than they can afford. I strongly endorse the recommendations of the Financial Regulator and urge consumers to avail of the detailed information on borrowing money and getting credit which is available through its publications, help-line (Lo call 1890 77 77 77) and website http://www.itsyourmoney.ie.

Finally, the Deputy may wish to note that my colleague, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, provides a non-profit public service counselling service through the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) at her Department. This is a national, free, confidential and independent service for people in debt or in danger of getting into debt. The Irish Banking Federation (IBF) and MABS recently agreed an Operational Protocol on consumer debt. The Operational Protocol will enable MABS and the IBF to continue to work together effectively when dealing with debt problems of personal debtors who approach the MABS Service for assistance.

Public Sector Staff.

John Perry

Question:

109 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Finance the impact on public service employment of the embargo on recruitment, on numbers and on the public service pay bill in 2010 and 2011; and the number and the pay bill implications of the exceptions which he has allowed. [39155/09]

At the end of March 2009, the Government introduced a moratorium on public service recruitment and promotion, while allowing for certain exemptions in the Education and Health Sectors for the filling of certain key posts. Furthermore, 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 — an Incentivised Scheme of Early Retirement in the public service, the Special Civil Service Incentive Career Break Scheme and the Shorter Working Year Scheme which replaces the existing Term Time Scheme. In the April Budget I included a tentative estimate of savings of up to €300 million in a full year (i.e. including both 2010 and 2011) arising from all of these initiatives.

Based on the information returned to my Department, the number of persons in the public service has already decreased by 1,497 between end-March and end-June of this year. Officials from my Department are currently engaged in the process of collating the end-September numbers.

As regards exceptions to the moratorium, the Department of Finance has received written applications for exceptions for the filling of approximately 1,710 specific posts comprehended by the moratorium, of which the filling of 802 posts has been sanctioned. As regards the Civil Service there were applications for the filling of 337 full-time posts and sanction was conveyed in 224 cases. The main areas of exception were the prison service, educational psychologists and social welfare staff.

As regards the broader Public Service, applications were made for the filling of some 1,373 posts and sanction was conveyed in 578 cases. The main areas of exception were in the Education sector (renewal of secondment of teachers to Education Service), the Health sector (mental health nurses) and the Defence Forces (in particular, sanction for once-off acting-up allowances for specific overseas deployment).

In terms of the pay bill implications it is estimated that gross full year salary costs of approximately €31.6 million arise in respect of 601 of the exceptions granted.

Of the remaining posts, the following specific points should be noted:

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food: 14 posts have transferred to Teagasc following the closure of Warrenstown Private College, and 1 promotion post in Teagasc was already the subject of an acting up allowance;

Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources: Of 45 posts exempted under the moratorium, 32 are seasonal posts recruited for 2009 only and 13 are funded by non-Exchequer sources;

Department of Defence: 108 posts have been exempted (recruitment of 42 cadets, 4 promotions and 62 once-off acting-up allowances for specific overseas deployments) and the annual additional cost of these exemptions is calculated on an incremental basis and amounts to some €1.5m. This cost will be met from the Department's existing pay allocation. This figure does not take account of savings resulting from non-filling of existing consequential vacancies in the case of promotions (€306,000) or vacancies arising from natural wastage;

Department of Justice, Equality & Law Reform: 33 exemptions have been sanctioned for the renewal of contract posts in the Irish Youth Justice Service. These posts were already filled on fixed term contracts and the concerned persons were on the payroll at their particular grade.

Programmes for Government.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

110 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Finance if he has costed the proposals in the Revised Programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39147/09]

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

151 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance the additional Exchequer cost arising from the Revised Programme for Government; if these additional costs are to be met through savings elsewhere; if he plans to introduce a €4 billion fiscal consolidation package in budget 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37675/09]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

312 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance the cost for the Revised Programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38295/09]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

313 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance the consultation with his Department on costings during the recent negotiation and agreement on the Revised Programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38296/09]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

314 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance the breakdown of individual costs of each spending commitment in the Revised Programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38297/09]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

315 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that the spending commitments contained in the Revised Programme for Government are consistent with his budgetary strategy for reducing spending; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38298/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 110, 151 and 312 to 315, inclusive, together.

The revised Programme for Government is based on the broad macroeconomic framework set out in the April budget, taking account of the latest fiscal trends. The guiding principles of the Programme are

1. Correction of the public finances;

2. Repair of the banking system;

3. Regaining competitiveness;

4. Protecting jobs and investing in retraining those who have lost their jobs.

The Programme for Government sets out a range of issues that will be addressed over the lifetime of the Government. In this context, Budget 2010 will be a key next step. As with all Budget measures in the past, our proposals will be fully costed and set out on Budget day.

Further instalments will be made in the subsequent Budgets over the lifetime of this Government, taking account of the overall macroeconomic and fiscal environment, and will be fully costed in that context.

Public Sector Remuneration.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

111 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance his views on the practice of awarding bonuses to State sector employees. [37613/09]

Schemes of performance-related awards were introduced for certain public service grades on foot of recommendations by the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector. In making these recommendations the Review Body expressed the view that such schemes were a highly desirable element in the total remuneration of top public service posts.

I announced in the Dáil on 5 February 2009 that award schemes in the public service would be suspended. No awards have been approved for 2008 in the case of the schemes applying to Deputy Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries in the civil service, the ranks of Deputy Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner in the Garda Síochána, the ranks of Major General and Brigadier General in the Defence Forces and senior staff in the local authorities and the HSE.

Decisions on performance-related bonuses for chief executives or other senior staff of non-commercial bodies and agencies are a matter for the Boards concerned. However, in April of this year my Department asked Secretaries General of Government Departments to inform such bodies and agencies under the remit of their Departments that, in view of the current economic and budgetary difficulties, it was appropriate that consideration of any bonus payments should be suspended.

The Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector has recently submitted a report to me on the remuneration of the senior public service groups within its terms of reference and this is under consideration at present. I intend to review the future position on performance-related awards in the context of my consideration of the report.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

112 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on the latest data on credit availability, declined cases, and the delivery on commitments by institutions covered by guarantee and by recapitalisation; and the lessons to be learnt from this experience for drafting regulations under the National Asset Management Agency Bill 2009. [39144/09]

The Central Bank last week issued the latest Irish results of the Bank Lending Survey, which showed that for Q3 2009, credit standards on loans to enterprises tightened and the demand for loans from enterprises decreased further. However, it must be noted that the pace of tightening decelerated from the previous quarter and that credit standards on loans to enterprises are expected to remain unchanged during the fourth quarter of 2009. The survey acknowledged that previous Government announcements regarding recapitalisation support and state guarantees have facilitated access to wholesale funding markets although access to these markets remained challenging during the third quarter of 2009.

A comprehensive independent review of SME lending from both the demand and supply perspective was undertaken and was published in July. The review showed that demand had fallen sharply, with the value of new applications for credit down by 42% while refusal rates varied by size of company from 19% to 30%. Stock of credit remained static, indicating that new credits broadly matched repayments.

A follow-on Review covering the period to end September 2009 is currently underway and is expected in the coming weeks.

In the context of the recapitalisation, Allied Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland made explicit commitments 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. The measures taken to date by the recapitalised banks, including those relating to lending, are outlined in the supplementary booklet on NAMA and I would direct the Deputy to Section 4 of that booklet. The Financial Regulator has been monitoring implementation of this commitment.

With regard to drafting regulations under the NAMA Bill 2009, I will be introducing a Report Stage amendment to the Bill to provide a power to issue guidelines to the participating institutions on lending practices and procedures to improve the flow of credit to SMEs and, if necessary, other sectors. The power will be a wide ranging one and will allow for a response adapted to the particular circumstances of different institutions and sectors. This approach recognises that this is a complex situation and allows for a flexible response to changing credit needs.

Customs Service.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

113 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance the cooperation that takes place between his Department and the Department of Justice in respect of the resources needed for an effective customs operation here. [31443/09]

I understand that the Deputy's question primarily relates to drug smuggling in the context of smaller aerodromes.

Revenue's Customs Service has primary responsibility for the detection and seizure of controlled drugs at importation but there is a high degree of cooperation among all of the enforcement agencies of the State in the fight against the importation of illicit drugs. In particular, Revenue has good working relationships with the Garda Síochána and the Naval Service; and a Joint Task Force arrangement is in place to enhance and support these relationships with regular contact and cooperation between the agencies.

It is important to note by way of context that the operating environment for Customs has been shaped to a significant degree by the introduction of the Internal Market and the related principles of freedom of movement within the EU. Of specific relevance are the abolition of routine and systematic Customs checks on goods and passengers moving within any part of the EU and the elimination of Customs controls on the baggage of intra-Community passengers other than anti-smuggling checks. The approach has of necessity been to balance the freedom of movement principle in regard to people and goods with the need to control smuggling and enforce prohibitions and restrictions.

The Customs controls at the smaller aerodromes are risk-based and are carried out by mobile Customs enforcement staff, whose attendance is selective and targeted, based on analysis and evaluation of national and international seizure trends, traffic frequency, routes and other risk indicators. Attendance can also be as a result of specific intelligence. Traffic with origins and destinations with a high-risk rating would attract particular interest.

Some of the smaller aerodromes are licensed by the Irish Aviation Authority. However, there are also small private aerodromes where, because of the limited nature of the activity at the aerodrome, a licensing requirement does not arise. Irrespective of the licensing situation, both Revenue's Customs Service and the Garda Síochána are conscious of the need to monitor activity at these smaller aerodromes. Whereas both agencies would have distinct operational protocols and priorities, they adopt a collaborative and complementary approach to areas of common interest. For example, during 2008 they held a series of joint regional meetings with the smaller airport operators aimed specifically at increasing the operators' awareness that their facilities could be used by drug traffickers and offering advice on minimising risk .

National Asset Management Agency.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

114 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Finance the action he is taking to ensure that the National Asset Management Agency does not drive up costs in the legal, accounting, auctioneering and related professions during its life span; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39062/09]

NAMA will be required to procure professional expert support through a tender process, which meets EU requirements and will ensure that the most economically advantageous option is selected.

The costs set out in tenders submitted by individual professional service providers will be commercial matters for the companies involved. I do not propose to take any action in this area.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

115 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance his views on the implications for the National Asset Management Agency of the recent High and Supreme Court judgments relating to the examinership protection sought by a company (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37682/09]

Tom Hayes

Question:

122 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Finance if the recent cases involving a company (details supplied) will have implications for the operation of the National Asset Management Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37744/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 115 and 122 together.

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

Actions concerning examinership, receivership and liquidation will be subject to the courts and a range of outcomes may emerge. NAMA will deal with the financial institutions and their loan assets and their particular credit status at the time of the loan transfer. If court actions taken before the loan is due to transfer to NAMA have impacted on the value of assets to transfer these matters will be fully taken into account in the valuation of any loans acquired by NAMA.

Departmental Properties.

David Stanton

Question:

116 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Finance if a working group has been established under the Office of Public Works to develop an approach to the management and development of the former Irish ISPAT site in Haulbowline, County Cork; if so, the members of the group; when the group is first due to meet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37791/09]

David Stanton

Question:

147 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Finance if the working group will be established under the Office of Public Works to develop an approach to the management and development of the former ISPAT site in Haulbowline, County Cork and will work in tandem with the group headed by the Secretary General of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment which was established in 2008 or if it will take on the role and work of this group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37792/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 116 and 147 together.

The Government decided that "the Office of Public Works would chair a working group to develop a structured and coherent approach to the further management and development of the site, on the basis that Cork County Council would be asked to continue to discharge site management responsibilities on an agency basis...". OPW is in the process of establishing this working group, which will, in the first instance, comprise representatives from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the Department of Defence, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department of Finance.

Once the group is established, it will review, amongst other issues, its relationship with the group established under the aegis of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

House Prices.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

117 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance his views on the recent Economic and Social Research Institute report which indicated that some 200,000 households, or one in three mortgages, could be in negative equity by end 2010; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the true number in negative equity could be far higher if house prices have fallen by 50% or more from their peak by that time; his plans to bring forward proposals to deal with this phenomenon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37680/09]

A clear distinction needs to be made between householders who are in a position to meet their mortgage repayments and those who presently are not, or who are most vulnerable to entering into arrears on their mortgage repayments.

The ESRI in its recent report on Negative Equity in the Irish Housing Market has noted at the outset that, and I quote: “In many cases negative equity will not be an issue. Many of those in negative equity will be unaffected and will continue to pay their mortgage without difficulty.”(ESRI Report 319, pp 2) Indeed the ESRI, through its trawl of the international literature, did not conclude that there is a direct causality between negative equity and mortgage default rates. [Indeed, in its concluding commentary, the ESRI noted that “negative equity does not cause default or foreclosure but rather is a condition of default” (ESRI Report 319, pp 17).]

In overall terms, policies directed towards the recovery of the economy will do most to help those who are in a position of negative equity, as this would generate the necessary stability and confidence in labour and property markets to improve the personal situations of such householders.

However, I am acutely aware that there are many householders who require immediate assistance and in this regard there are numerous measures in place to alleviate the problems faced. 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 Financial Regulator has a Code of Conduct for Mortgage Arrears which applies to mortgage lending activities with consumers, in respect of their principal private residence in the State, and is mandatory for all mortgage lenders registered with the Financial Regulator. Under the Code, where a borrower is in difficulty the lender will make every reasonable effort to agree an alternative repayment schedule and will not commence legal action for repossession until after six months from the time arrears first arise.

In addition as part of their recapitalisation scheme, the two banks concerned, A.I.B. and Bank of Ireland, will not commence court proceedings for repossession of a principal private residence until after 12 months of arrears appearing where the customer continues to co-operate with the banks.

People in serious debt or in danger of getting into serious debt can avail of the services of the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS). This is a national, free, confidential and independent service. The Operational Protocol on Debt Management agreed between the Irish Banking Federation (IBF) and MABS, which was recently put into effect, is to be welcomed and provides further assurance that the lending institutions will approach all genuine personal debt cases sympathetically and, where possible and appropriate, with the required degree of flexibility.

In terms of financial assistance for mortgage repayments, the Mortgage Interest Supplement Scheme, administered by the Community Welfare Service of the Health Service Executive, provides assistance where the mortgage relates to a person's sole place of residence.

Financial Services Regulation.

Denis Naughten

Question:

118 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 Regularity Authority on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37602/09]

I, as Minister for Finance, have no role in relation to the setting of mortgage interest rates, nor does the Financial Regulator.

The pricing of fixed rate mortgages by lending institutions would normally be based on the prevailing swap rates for the fixed rate period in question plus a margin. The actual cost of funds for each institution cannot be assessed on a mortgage by mortgage basis as they manage the risk on a portfolio basis using several types of wholesale funding and derivatives depending on the size of each institution and its mortgage book.

Regarding the application of early redemption fees on fixed rate mortgages, when a borrower signs a fixed-rate mortgage contract with a mortgage provider, the lender in turn enters into an agreement where they borrow the money at an agreed rate. The mortgage lender must repay the money at this agreed rate, so there is a cost to the institution if the fixed rate agreement is terminated before the agreed term which gives rise to the redemption fee charged in these cases.

The Financial Regulator carried out a review of this issue earlier this year and submitted a report to my Department and the Oireachtas Committee on Finance and the Public Service. The review focused on the early redemption fees being applied by lenders on fixed rate mortgages and looked at specific information requested from the mortgage lenders. This included the submission of actuarial reports based on the formulae applied by the different lenders. This independent verification, provided by actuaries, was received and analysed by the Financial Regulator.

The principal findings indicate that:

the early redemption fee calculation in all cases appears to seek to cover the costs; and

lenders do not generally apply additional fees in the case of early redemption. Lenders do not therefore seem to be applying financial penalties in order to dissuade borrowers from early redemption of fixed rate mortgages.

Notwithstanding the findings of the review set out above, I am aware that the Financial Regulator would strongly advise that any borrower who believes that they have been charged an excessive early redemption charge should request their lending institution to provide a clear explanation of how the cost was calculated. In the event that the borrower is not satisfied with the explanation, a formal complaint should be made to the lender and in the event of an unsatisfactory response, he or she should exercise his/her option to refer the matter to the Financial Services Ombudsman who will independently adjudicate on the matter.

Economic Forecasts.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

119 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance his views on the latest Central Bank quarterly economic bulletin which forecast a contraction of 10.6% of gross national product here in 2009, down from a 9.4% contraction forecast in July 2009; his further views on the return of a marked divergence in GNP performance vis-à-vis gross domestic product; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37683/09]

Mary Upton

Question:

171 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance his views on the Economic and Social Research Institute’s latest forecast, in its most recent quarterly economic bulletin, that the gross national product here will fall by 15.8% over the 2008 to 2010 period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37698/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 119 and 171 together.

In October, both the Central Bank and the ESRI published updated forecasts for the Irish economy. A number of private sector institutions have also recently updated their projections.

The Central Bank is now projecting that GNP will fall by 10.6 per cent this year or that in GDP terms the economy will contract by 7.8 per cent. The downward revision from the Bank's summer forecast stems from the publication of output data for the first half of this year which show, in particular, very weak GNP figures.

The ESRI is projecting that GNP will fall by a cumulative 13.2 per cent over the 2008 — 2010 period or expressed in GDP terms by 11.3 per cent over this time.

My Department will review its forecasts in the Pre-Budget Outlook later this month.

It is worth noting that regular forecasters of the Irish economy now concur with the view that the decline in activity has slowed and that positive annual growth will be recorded at some stage next year.

In terms of the divergences in the GDP and GNP data published for the first half of this year, these data suggest that the difference between the two measures for the year as a whole will be somewhat larger than normal. Given the large multinational sector here, the level of GDP typically exceeds that of GNP due to profit outflows. However, the level of GNP this year has been further affected by weaker profit inflows and by higher debt service costs to non-residents. This latter factor is likely to persist given the trends in our national debt over the coming years.

Oireachtas Expense Allowances.

George Lee

Question:

120 Deputy George Lee asked the Minister for Finance if he has developed proposals for the reform of the political expenses regimes of office holders and of Members of the Oireachtas. [37722/09]

Firstly it must be stated that Members of these Houses and officeholders incur legitimate expenses as part of their parliamentary duties both in attending Leinster House and as part of their constituency duties. It is also appropriate that the amount of any such expense should be kept under review to ensure they are appropriate to reflect the cost of those duties, as well as the prevailing economic circumstances.

As the Deputy will be aware, I have already reduced the cost of Oireachtas expense allowances. Expenses generally have been reduced by 10%; mileage rates have also been reduced by 25% in line with the general reduction in public service mileage rates.

Members of the Oireachtas and officer holders are therefore making sacrifices in recognition of the current economic situation.

The Houses of the Oireachtas Commission brought forward proposals earlier this year to introduce a single composite parliamentary allowance in place of a number of separate allowances. This summer I introduced the Oireachtas (Allowances to Members) and Ministerial and other Parliamentary Officeholders Act 2009 which, among other things, provided an enabling provision for a single composite allowance for Deputies and Senators to be known as the Parliamentary Standard Allowance. This allowance could replace some or all of the many separate allowances payable at present. The legislation also allows for the proposed composite allowance to be linked to attendance.

At the time I introduced the legislation, I stated clearly that I was of the view that there was a need for further consideration and discussion of the proposed composite allowance before I brought forward the necessary Regulations. Since then, I have had discussions with the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission, and there are contacts at official level also.

At present I am in the process of considering the most appropriate revised arrangements which would give a transparent, verifiable and cost-effective system of parliamentary expenses. When I have completed my consideration of the matter, Regulations setting out the new arrangements will be laid before the Houses.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Frank Feighan

Question:

121 Deputy Frank Feighan 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. [39139/09]

As the Deputy is aware, on 16 September last I published an outline of the main elements of the proposed new guarantee scheme for longer term funding, called the draft Credit Institutions (Eligible Liabilities Guarantee) Scheme or ELG Scheme. The ELG scheme must be approved in accordance with EU State aid rules and discussions are continuing in this regard with the European Commission. The Scheme is also subject to approval by the Houses of the Oireachtas and I plan to bring the necessary legislative proposals before the Dail and the Seanad shortly.

The ELG Scheme is intended to facilitate the ability of credit institutions in Ireland to issue debt securities and take deposits with a maturity post-September 2010 of up to five years, on either a guaranteed or unguaranteed basis.

As is the case for the current CIFS guarantee, the participating institutions in the ELG Scheme will pay a fee for the State guarantee. This fee will be priced in accordance with ECB pricing recommendations and it will be higher than that charged for the CIFS guarantee.

Question No. 122 answered with Question No. 115.

Public Sector Staff.

Alan Shatter

Question:

123 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Finance the guidelines that exist regarding the procedure applicable to the dismissal of a public servant or a chief executive or an employee of a State of semi-State body; the circumstances stated in such guidelines in which it is said to be appropriate to effect such dismissal; the financial arrangements applicable to same; if he will furnish a copy of the said guidelines; and if it is intended to make amendments to them. [34604/09]

The area for which I have direct responsibility is the civil service.

A Disciplinary Code for civil servants is set out inCircular 14/2006: Civil Service Disciplinary Code revised in accordance with the Civil Service Regulation (Amendment) Act 2005. The Code came into effect on 4 July 2006 and replaced the previous Code as set out in Circular 1/92. The Civil Service Regulation (Amendment) Act 2005 allows certain provisions contained in the Public Service Management Act 1997 to take effect. The 2005 Act gives each Secretary General/Head of Scheduled Office, as appropriate authority, responsibility for managing all matters relating to performance, conduct and discipline of civil servants below Principal Officer level. Ministers continue to be the appropriate authority for these matters in relation to civil servants at or above Principal level in accordance with the Civil Service Regulation Acts 1956 to 2005. The code is available on the personnel code website: www.personnelcode.gov.ie.

Specific arrangements apply to disciplinary matters affecting employees in other areas of the public service and these are the prime responsibility of the relevant Ministers. For instance, procedures for the suspension and dismissal of teachers have recently been agreed and these are available from the Department of Education and Science.

Guidelines are available on the contracts, remuneration and other conditions of chief executives and senior management of commercial state bodies. The guidelines are available on my Department's website — www.finance.gov.ie.

Contracts for Chief Executives of individual non-commercial state bodies contain provisions relating to circumstances in which the employment of the chief executive may be terminated. The circumstances in which employment may be terminated normally include misconduct or gross default affecting the business of the Body concerned, bankruptcy, incapacitation and conviction of a criminal offence, other than an offence which in the opinion of the Body concerned does not affect the position as chief executive.

As regards severance/early retirement arrangements for chief executive officers, the current guidelines are set out in a letter to all Heads of Departments on 26 May 1998. A copy of the letter is set out below this reply.

An Roinn Airgeadais

Department of Finance

Ref: P18/126/98

26 May 1998

To: All Heads of Department

A Chara,

Severance and Early Retirement for Chief Executives of State Sponsored Bodies

1. I am directed by the Minister for Finance to say that he has considered the issue of severance/early retirement payments for Chief Executives of State Sponsored Bodies (SSBs). This consideration has had particular regard to the fact that it is becoming more common for Chief Executive Officers of State Sponsored Bodies to be employed on fixed term contracts, and that there may be times when the Board of a State Sponsored Body and the relevant Minister may conclude that it is in the best interests of the efficiency and effectiveness of the SSB concerned to terminate or not to renew the contract of an incumbent CEO. This need not necessarily arise as a result of any dissatisfaction with the performance of the individual concerned, but perhaps because a new and fresh approach needs to be introduced. In such circumstances, the Minister will not object to the application of special early retirement/severance provisions, subject to certain conditions and safeguards.

2. The Minister has therefore decided that this Department will not object to the making of severance payments or grant of early retirement terms to Chief Executives of State Bodies within the following maximum limits and subject to the conditions specified, from a current date. Departments may deal with cases within the guidelines and limits without reference to this Department except where such reference is specifically required (drafts of any consequent changes in the relevant pension schemes would need to be cleared in the normal way).

(a) Payment of pension and lump sum, based on actual reckonable pensionable service, increased as appropriate in accordance with paragraph (b) following, may be allowed at age 55 for a CEO who retires from that position, who has served at least 6 years in that capacity and who has at least 15 years actual service overall in the public sector only service with the body from which the CEO is retiring or service which has been transferred into the scheme of that body may reckon.

(b) In determining the pension and lump sum to be paid, one added year of pensionable service may be granted for each year in excess of 15 years overall actual service in the public sector1 (i.e. including service in capacities other than as a CEO) subject to a maximum of 5 added years;

(c) Actuarially reduced benefits may be made available without age restriction — this means that a person might receive a pension benefit or lump sum before age 55, provided that the cost of providing these benefits at the earlier age are entirely offset by a reduction in the amount of benefits payable: the amount of such reduction would require to be determined by the relevant scheme's actuaries;

(d) Where an immediate pension (other than on an actuarially reduced basis) is not payable, a severance payment of four weeks pay per year of continuous service, up to a maximum of 26 weeks pay, may be made. However, where pension becomes payable within 26 weeks of retirement, the amount of the severance should be reduced to the amount of salary which would have been payable between the date of retirement and commencement of pension.

3. Application of the foregoing terms would be strictly conditional on completion of contract, unless the Board, in agreement with the appropriate Minister and the Minister for Finance, decides to terminate the CEO's employment before the termination of the contract. It is not therefore appropriate to make such payments where the initiative for the termination of a contract comes from the CEO concerned.

4. Application of these terms would also be conditional on there being no re-employment, direct or indirect, of the individual concerned by the body from which s/he is retiring, or another public sector body in the same sector.

5. Where subsequent employment is obtained in the public sector such that pension plus pay in the new job exceeds the equivalent of the retirement salary on the basis of which the pension is payable, then pension will be abated to bring the total down to the level of that salary. This abatement will not apply in relation to work after age 65. Where pension rights are acquired in respect of post-retirement work, the original pension (if based on actual service plus added years) would be reduced and based on actual service only. In such circumstances the uprated portion of the lump sum attributable to the added years would be required to be repaid. It should be explicitly stated that any grant of early retirement terms would be subject to these conditions.

6. The terms set out above are intended to be maximum ones, and a Board would be free to apply lesser benefits or not to apply early retirement benefits at all. Early retirement benefits might be denied, for example, if the Board wanted the contract renewed for a further term. It is not, therefore, intended to interfere with the freedom of Boards in this area, but rather to indicate the maximum limits which the Minister would be prepared to approve.

7. Adjustment to the terms set out above will be necessary where a retiring CEO has already availed of a severance or early retirement package from a public sector body, and in such cases this Department should be consulted.

8. The arrangements set out in this letter should be allowed strictly on the basis, accepted in writing by the CEO, that they are in full and final settlement of any claim which the CEO may have in relation to the early retirement or termination or non-renewal of a contract.

9. The Minister does not anticipate approving any improvement on the terms set out above, even in individual exceptional cases, other than on foot of a Government decision.

10. It is essential that Departments should convey to the Pensions Section of this Department details of each case dealt with under the terms of this letter. The contact point in this Department for telephone queries is Mr. Kevin Cardiff at (01) 604-5476.

Yours sincerely,

John Hurley

Secretary General, Public Service Management and Development.

An Roinn Airgeadais

Department of Finance

Ref: P18/126/98

4 June 1998

To: All Heads of Department

A Chara,

Severance and Early Retirement for Chief Executives of State Sponsored Bodies

I am directed by the Minister for Finance to refer to this Department's letter of 26 May 1998, in regard to the above. For the purposes of clarification, Departments should note that the grant of added years in accordance with paragraph 2(b) of that letter is subject to the following conditions, in accordance with the normal practice in relation to such added years, viz.

i. A person may not receive a greater number of added years than the additional service s/he would have if s/he served to his/her maximum retirement age. Thus a person retiring from a CEO position at 63 cannot receive more than 2 additional years service.

ii. The grant of additional pensionable service may not lead to a person having more than the maximum pensionable service for the relevant pension scheme (i.e. 40 years in most cases).

Yours sincerely

Kevin Cardiff

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

124 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the steps he has taken or proposes to take to improve or restore competitiveness here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37796/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

288 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when he expects to identify the issues most likely affecting the competitiveness of this economy over the past ten years; the steps he will take to address this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38145/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 124 and 288 together.

Ireland's recent loss of competitiveness and the need to improve it is something that we have been aware of for some time. Until last year, prices grew faster than those in the euro area, while wages grew at a rate greater than productivity would justify in many sectors. The recent appreciation of the euro against the dollar and sterling has not helped either. The National Competitiveness Council has outlined a range of wider cost factors that have damaged our competitiveness as well. These developments have left Ireland vulnerable in our international markets in the midst of the collapse in global demand.

We need to improve our competitiveness as quickly as possible and there are already a number of positive developments in this regard. Consumer prices in Ireland are now declining at the fastest rate in the euro area. In addition, we are also seeing the benefits of our labour market flexibility: much available evidence points to recent downward pressure on wages in the economy. As a small member of a currency union we have no control over the exchange rates we face so we must focus on improving competitiveness at home. While the falls in domestic prices, easing wage pressures and improvements in productivity are helpful we must not be complacent as further improvements in our competitiveness are essential if we are to position ourselves to benefit when EU and global growth resumes.

Financial Services Regulation.

Mary Upton

Question:

125 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the more stringent criteria being operated by financial institutions with respect to mortgage protection policies, even for existing mortgages and policies, in particular that a credit institution (details supplied) guaranteed by the State, has increased the amount of time a policy holder must wait before making a claim in the event of accident, job loss or long-term illness; his views on whether such changes are inappropriate, particularly for existing policy holders; the action he will take to prevent such arbitrary changes to mortgage protection policies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37697/09]

In recent months I understand that underwriters of payment protection insurance have been increasing their premiums in response to the rapid growth in unemployment which is leading to increases in claims and an increased risk profile.

I, as Minister for Finance, have no function in relation to the criteria for premiums being charged for payment protection insurance. However, I am informed that, while the Financial Regulator has no function in relation to the criteria being applied to premiums, this situation is being monitored to ensure that the Financial Regulators Consumer Protection Code is being complied with. The General Principles of the Code require that a regulated entity “acts honestly, fairly and professionally in the best interest of its customers and the integrity of the market”. In particular the Code requires a regulated entity must ensure that key items are brought to the attention of the consumer and that the method of presentation must not disguise, diminish or obscure important information. In addition information must be supplied on a timely basis, and where a regulated entity intends to amend or alter the range of services it provides, it must give at least one month’s notice to affected consumers.

Mortgage Arrears.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

126 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance his views on the problems of families experiencing difficulties meeting mortgage repayments; and the policy instruments which might be used to assist with this problem. [37762/09]

It is a particular priority of the Government to ensure as far 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. The preferred method of dealing with cases of arrears should be early intervention and engagement.

In the revised Programme for Government we have stated that we will be:

Introducing new measures to protect families having difficulties with their home mortgage payments;

Examining ways of expanding the existing options available for dealing with debt situations;

Examining ways of expanding existing state sponsored mortgage-support measures; There are already important arrangements in place to assist consumers who have fallen into arrears or are in danger of falling into arrears.

The Government provides support for payment of mortgages under the Mortgage Interest Supplement Scheme. This scheme is administered by the Community Welfare Service on behalf of the Department of Social and Family Affairs. It provides assistance where the mortgage relates to a person's principal private residence. Furthermore, people in debt or in danger of getting into debt can avail of the services of the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS). This is a national, free, confidential and independent service. The Irish Banking Federation (IBF) and the Money Advice and Budgeting Service recently agreed an Operational Protocol on consumer debt. The Operational Protocol will enable MABS and the IBF to continue to work together effectively when dealing with debt problems of personal debtors who approach the MABS Service for assistance.

The Financial Regulator's Consumer Protection Code 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 Financial Regulator also has in place a Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears. This 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. Under the code where a borrower is in difficulty the lender has to make every reasonable effort to agree an alternative repayment schedule and the lender has to give consideration on a case-by-case basis to alternatives such as deferral of payments, extending the term of the mortgage, changing the type of mortgage, or capitalising arrears and interest. Obviously cases will arise where the arrears persist despite newly agreed changes in repayment schedules. The Code provides that where such situations persist, 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.

Furthermore, as part of their recapitalisation scheme, A.I.B. and Bank of Ireland will not commence court proceedings for repossession of a principal private residence until after 12 months of arrears appearing where the customer continues to co-operate with the banks.

Fiscal Policy.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

127 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance the impact on 2009 gross national product and gross domestic product from a €4 billion fiscal consolidation package in budget 2010; the number of months such a €4 billion fiscal consolidation package would delay the return to growth of the economy here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37676/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, it is not sustainable to continue to allow the gap between revenue and expenditure to grow and that it is essential to stabilise the General Government Deficit in that context. Stabilising the deficit in 2010 will facilitate confidence and the earlier return to growth in the economy than would occur if stabilisation is deferred and the national debt increases further as a result.

In relation to the specifics of the question, it is assumed that the Deputy is referring to the economic impact in 2010 of any consolidation package. There are considerable uncertainties regarding the economic impact of any fiscal measures, given that it is unknown how economic agents will react to the various policy changes. In addition, the composition of the fiscal package would be important, as different policy measures would have different economic impacts. Notwithstanding these uncertainties, the economic impact of fiscal measures can be estimated in broad terms.

A fiscal package designed to raise €4 billion in 2010 would be the equivalent of about 2½% of GDP. Taking account of a number of factors, such as the potential for significant ‘leakages' through imports and some impact on price rather than on the quantity of output it is estimated that GDP growth would be around 1 to 1½% lower than would otherwise be the case on foot of these measures.

However, as stated above, there is potential for considerable variation on the macroeconomic impact depending on the exact nature of any fiscal package. Furthermore, account of the potential for enhanced consumer and investor confidence and greater future certainty that such a package could have is also important and would have to be factored in. On balance, stabilising the deficit in 2010 is critical to restoring confidence and to positioning the economy for growth in the years ahead.

It is intended to publish model-based estimates of the economic impact of actual fiscal consolidation alongside the budget documentation.

Small and Medium Enterprises.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

128 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the ease of access to lending, particularly working capital, for small, medium and large businesses here; the progress made to date in respect of implementing the recommendations made in the Mazars Report on small medium enterprise lending here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37679/09]

The Independent Review of Credit Availability was published on 10 July. The review showed that demand had fallen sharply, with the value of new applications for credit down by 42% while refusal rates varied by size of company from 19% to 30%. Stock of credit remained static since June 2008, indicating that new credits broadly matched repayments.

A follow-on Review covering the period to end September 2009 is currently underway and is expected in the coming weeks.

In the context of the recapitalisation, Allied Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland made explicit commitments 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. The measures taken to date by the recapitalised banks, including those relating to lending, are outlined in the supplementary booklet on NAMA and I would direct the Deputy to Section 4 of that booklet. The Financial Regulator has been monitoring implementation of these commitments.

With regard to drafting regulations under the NAMA Bill 2009, I will be introducing a Report Stage amendment to the Bill to provide a power to issue guidelines to the participating institutions on lending practices and procedures which will improve the flow of credit to SMEs and, if necessary, other sectors. The power will be a wide ranging one and will allow for a response adapted to the particular circumstances of different institutions and sectors. This approach recognises that this is a complex situation and allows for a flexible response to changing credit needs.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

129 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the amount of money he expects to inject into Anglo Irish Bank over the 2009 to 2010 period; the number of tranches; if he expects the Exchequer to get any of this money back; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37669/09]

As per the Government announcement of 29 May last, €4 billion in capital has been provided to Anglo, in three tranches; €3 billion on 29 June, €827 million on 6 August following completion of the bank's debt buy back exercise, and the remainder, €173 million, on 25 September. This capital was provided to Anglo to protect the economy from the wider losses that would occur in the event of the failure of the bank, to protect the deposits in the bank and to prevent the bank becoming a systemic threat to the financial system.

As I stated in my speech on the Second Stage of the NAMA Bill in the Dáil on 16 September last, it is likely that some institutions will require additional capital in order to absorb the losses arising from the transfer of their impaired assets to NAMA and in order to maintain appropriate levels of capital. I made it clear that the Government would expect such an institution to explore all available options for raising such capital as it is the Government preference that private market solutions are found and implemented.

However, to the extent that sufficient capital cannot be raised independently or generated internally, the Government remains committed to providing such banks with an appropriate level of capital to continue to meet their requirements. This will be done in a manner consistent with EU State aid rules and the credit needs of the Irish economy. I have recently confirmed this position to the Financial Regulator in the case of Anglo to facilitate the FR in granting Anglo derogations from certain regulatory capital requirements.

The Board of Anglo is currently finalising a restructuring plan, which will consider all options for the future of the bank and set out the future strategy for Anglo. The restructuring plan will address the issue of compensatory measures for the capital provision. The restructuring plan will be submitted to the European Commission for approval under State aid rules by the end of November.

Willie Penrose

Question:

130 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Finance his plans to put the revised and extended bank guarantee before Dáil Éireann for consideration; the reason he is extending the guarantee for existing subordinated debt; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37674/09]

As the Deputy is aware, on 16 September last I published an outline of the main elements of the proposed new guarantee scheme for longer term funding, called the draft Credit Institutions (Eligible Liabilities Guarantee) Scheme or ELG Scheme. The ELG scheme must be approved in accordance with EU State aid rules and discussions are continuing in this regard with the European Commission. The Scheme is also subject to approval by the Houses of the Oireachtas and I plan to bring the necessary legislative proposals before the Dail and the Seanad shortly.

The ELG Scheme is intended to facilitate the ability of credit institutions in Ireland to issue debt securities and take deposits with a maturity post-September 2010 of up to five years, on either a guaranteed or unguaranteed basis.

As I have previously remarked, the new scheme will be somewhat more targeted, and in this regard dated subordinated debt (Lower Tier 2) or asset covered securities (including other forms of covered bonds) issued by a covered institution on or after the commencement date shall not be guaranteed either under this Scheme or the CIFS Scheme .

However, dated subordinated debt and asset covered securities (including other forms of covered bonds) issued by a covered institution before the commencement date and which are covered liabilities shall continue to be guaranteed under the CIFS Scheme. Existing liabilities will remain guaranteed under the CIFS scheme until the maturity of the debt or the 29 September 2010, whichever is the earliest.

The ELG scheme will apply to new debt issued or deposits accepted by participating institutions in accordance with the terms of the ELG scheme.

Fiscal Policy.

James Bannon

Question:

131 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Finance if the broad parameters of the 2010 and 2011 Budgets, outlined in April 2009, have been altered; and the details of the latest proposals. [39084/09]

In the Supplementary Budget last April, the Government set out a multi-annual plan to correct the public finances. This plan has been welcomed by the European Commission. The immediate need is the stabilisation of the deficit in 2010 and this is Government's proposed aim. This will require difficult decisions to be made for Budget 2010 which will presented to the Dáil on 9 December. The bulk of the corrective action in Budget 2010 will have to come from the expenditure side as further significant increases in the tax burden would impact on enterprise and growth prospects. The measures that must be introduced will undoubtedly be difficult, but the imperative for action is clear and we must make the necessary adjustments now in order to stabilise the public finances.

At the publication of the end-September Exchequer Returns, my Department announced that tax revenues could finish the year in the region of €32 billion. Later today, my Department will publish the most recent Exchequer Returns for the period covering to end-October. While the poor performance of tax revenue has continued, it is not out of line with what had been anticipated. To put this in perspective, overall tax revenue in 2009 is back to 2003 levels while gross voted expenditure has increased by about 70 per cent since 2003. Consequently, we will have to borrow approximately €26 billion this year to fund the forecast Exchequer deficit for 2009.

Bridging the gap between income and expenditure through ongoing increased borrowing is not a viable solution in the medium to long-term. Taking the necessary action now will ensure that confidence is maintained in the Irish economy and that Ireland is favourably placed to benefit from global recovery as it takes hold. Delaying taking action is not an option and would require harsher actions to be taken later as well as seeing ever increasing amounts of Government resources being used up in servicing the debt.

In 2009, gross voted spending divides into three main areas — with 37 per cent on Social Welfare spending, 35 per cent on the public service pay and pensions bill and 28 per cent on other programmes. The priority must be the stabilisation of the deficit next year. It is clear, therefore, that all areas of expenditure will have to be considered in the context of deciding on the adjustments.

The Pre-Budget Outlook, which my Department plans to publish in mid-November, will provide an update on the macroeconomic outlook and set out a technical fiscal forecast. The House will have the chance to discuss these forecasts in a Pre-Budget Outlook debate. The Budget will be published on 9 December and will provide full details of the nature of the corrective measures being undertaken.

Tobacco Smuggling.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

132 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance the measures that are in place to address the smuggling of illegal cigarettes into this jurisdiction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31445/09]

The measures that are in place and the methodologies used to address the smuggling of illegal cigarettes into this jurisdiction have already been outlined in detail in a comprehensive reply that I issued to Deputy Flanagan on 13 October 2009 in response to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 84 (35772/09), 128 (35770/09) and 129(35771/09).

In summary, I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the overall approach is to tackle the problem using a combination of detection, seizure and prosecution by means of an amalgamation of profiling, intelligence gathering, sharing of information with other Customs Services and where appropriate using x-ray scanning technology to detect contraband.

Multi-agency operations involving Customs and An Garda Siochana and other Law Enforcement Agencies are mounted where appropriate. The strategy also involves working closely with the legitimate tobacco industry and the Office of Tobacco Control. In addition checks, both random and intelligence driven, are mounted at retail outlets and at markets and distribution centres to identify and seize illicit cigarettes that have evaded detection at the point of importation.

Furthermore, the Revenue Commissioners engage with the work of the European Anti Fraud Office which co-ordinates both international operations and other countermeasures undertaken by the authorities of the Member States against cigarette smuggling.

The above strategies, including the deployment of resources, are under continuous review. This approach has resulted in the seizure of almost 200m cigarettes to-date in 2009. These include the estimated 120m cigarettes seized in the course of the well-publicised multi-agency Operation Samhna mounted on 27 October 2009, which is a good illustration of the successful execution of a multi-agency operation.

Economic Forecasts.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

133 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance his views on the Economic and Social Research Institute’s latest forecast, in their most recent quarterly economic bulletin, that the general Government balance is set to reach 12.8% in 2010, and that the debt to gross domestic product ratio is set to reach 75.7%, excluding the National Asset Management Agency, that this could be significantly higher depending on the level of capital injections into the banking system here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37701/09]

In the April Supplementary Budget my Department published economic and fiscal forecasts for the 2009-2013 period: since then there has been a further decline in the fiscal position in 2009 due to a shortfall in expected tax receipts in the region of €2 billion. It is now expected that the General Government Balance for 2009 will be approximately -12% of GDP, as opposed to -10¾% of GDP forecast last April. The updated position was notified to Eurostat as part of the end-September Maastricht Returns. Details were also published on the Department's website. The deterioration in the 2009 position will obviously impact on the outlook for 2010.

I am aware of the views of the ESRI, as recently stated in its Quarterly Economic Commentary, as I am of other forecasts. In broad terms, the views of most forecasters are within the range of the current workings of my Department. In the coming weeks my Department will publish a technical pre-Budget forecast GGB and GGD for 2010 as part of the Pre Budget Outlook. However, I have already indicated that the Government's aim in the December Budget is to stabilise the Deficit at the 2009 level. This will not be an easy task although the Government is endeavouring to do through a series of processes including our recent ongoing engagement with the Social Partners.

It should also be noted that the Gross Debt position does not take account of the fact that the NTMA had cash balances at the end of September in the region of €25 billion, or of the €20.9 billion assets of the National Pensions Reserve Fund, which substantially reduces the country's Net Debt.

The main reason for the increasing level of government debt is the need to borrow to bridge the gap between the high level of government spending and declining tax receipts. At present we have to borrow the equivalent of €500 million per week to meet existing commitments. We cannot afford to continue to do this and so we will take corrective action in the forthcoming Budget to return the level of public spending to a more sustainable level.

It is likely that some institutions will require additional capital in order to absorb the losses arising from the transfer of their impaired assets to NAMA and in order to maintain appropriate levels of capital, although the Government would expect such an institution to explore all available options for raising such capital. It is the Government preference that private market solutions are found and implemented. The banks and building societies will be expected to increase the equity component of their capital base as the NAMA asset transfers are implemented.

To the extent that sufficient capital cannot be raised independently or generated internally, the Government remains committed to providing such banks and building societies with an appropriate level of capital to continue to meet their requirements. This will be done in a manner consistent with EU State aid rules and the credit needs of the Irish economy.

Public Sector Staff.

Enda Kenny

Question:

134 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Finance if he has developed the implementation mechanisms necessary for the implementation of the rationalisation of public service structures outlined by the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programme, such as arrangements for moving staff, the terms of redundancy arrangements, the framework for outsourcing and shared services and so on. [39145/09]

The Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes has made a wide range of recommendations for reform and rationalisation within the public service. All of the recommendations of the Special Group are being considered by the Government in the context of the 2010 Estimates and Budgetary process and Government decisions on the proposals will be taken in that context.

As regards the specific issues highlighted, the Deputy will be aware of the range of measures in place to support the Government's overall numbers policy, including the incentivised scheme of early retirement, incentivised career breaks and the shorter working year scheme. My Department has also commenced discussions with the unions representing civil and public servants with a view to agreeing appropriate arrangements for the redeployment and placement of staff across the civil and public service. To date, no redundancy arrangements have been discussed or agreed.

In relation to shared services and outsourcing, the report of the Government's Task Force on the Public Service noted that experience in both the public and private sectors demonstrates that benefits can be realised by the adoption of shared services models under certain conditions. It recalled the view of the OECD that an incremental approach should be taken to the development of shared services which should be a strategy that is only pursued where a clear ex-ante case can be made for achieving either financial benefits or service improvement. It identified the most common areas of shared services as payroll, financial management, human resources management, means assessment, procurement and common ICT services.

Of course, no consideration of shared services would be complete without an assessment of the potential for services to be delivered by external providers. Towards 2016 recognises that there will be co-operation with the introduction of shared services between Public Service and related organisations where this can give rise to efficiencies or cost savings. Work on the development of shared services, which is taking place under the direction of the Cabinet Committee on Transforming Public Services, is ongoing. At present a number of pilot projects are being developed which it is envisaged will inform developments throughout the Public Service.

Public Sector Pay.

Shane McEntee

Question:

135 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Finance if he has reviewed the evidence or the comparisons of pay in the public sector and in the private sector; his plans to introduce an extended benchmarking exercise to determine the appropriate level of public service remuneration. [37754/09]

I am aware of reports on the levels of pay in public service relative to the private sector. Earlier this year I requested the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector to conduct an examination of the pay of the top public service groups covered by its terms of reference including a comparison of how their remuneration compared with that of comparable posts in other countries. The report of the Review Body has recently been received and is under consideration at present.

I have no plans to carry out a similar exercise for other public service groups.

National Asset Management Agency.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

136 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Finance his views on the recent comments by a professor of economics and recipient of the Nobel Prize for Economics (details supplied), in respect of the National Asset Management Agency and, in particular, the intention to overpay for distressed assets through the long term economic value mechanism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37672/09]

The Government will of course take account of the opinions of expert commentators in relation to NAMA. However it is clear from recent commentaries that even the world's top economic commentators do not speak with one voice on this matter. It is a matter for us in Ireland to do what is necessary to protect our economy and our people having regard to our, perhaps more closely considered, understanding of the particular circumstances that apply.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Ulick Burke

Question:

137 Deputy Ulick Burke 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. [37785/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, following European Commission approval, €4bn in capital has now been provided to Anglo. This capital was provided to protect the economy from the wider losses that would occur in the event of the failure of the bank, to protect the substantial deposit base in the bank and to prevent the bank becoming a systemic threat to the financial system.

As I stated in my speech on the Second Stage of the NAMA Bill in the Dail on 16 September last, it is likely that some institutions will require additional capital in order to absorb the losses arising from the transfer of their impaired assets to NAMA and in order to maintain appropriate levels of capital. I made it clear that the Government would expect such an institution to explore all available options for raising such capital as it is the Government preference that private market solutions are found and implemented.

However, to the extent that sufficient capital cannot be raised independently or generated internally, the Government remains committed to providing such banks with an appropriate level of capital to continue to meet their requirements. This will be done in a manner consistent with EU State aid rules and the credit needs of the Irish economy. I have recently confirmed this position to the Financial Regulator in the case of Anglo to facilitate the FR in granting Anglo derogations from certain regulatory capital requirements.

The Board of Anglo is currently finalising a restructuring plan which will consider all options for the future of the bank and set out the future strategy for Anglo. The preparation of the restructuring plan by the bank is at an advanced stage and it would not be appropriate to comment on the draft plan at this point. The restructuring plan will be submitted by the end of November to the European Commission for approval under State aid rules.

Economic Forecasts.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

138 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance if he will comment on the most recent Central Statistics Office Quarterly National Accounts which showed a decline of 7.4% of Gross Domestic Product, and a decline of 11.6% of GNP, in the first six months of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37684/09]

The Central Statistics Office published national accounts data for the second quarter of 2009 at the end of September. These data show that GDP and GNP fell at an annual rate of 7.4 and 11.6 per cent, respectively, in the second quarter of this year. Combined with the first quarter data, the figures show that the annual rate of decline in the first half of the year was 8.4 per cent in GDP terms and 12.4 per cent in GNP terms.

The sharp declines in housing output and in personal spending were the main reasons for the contraction in the second quarter. While these results are poor, one positive feature of the data is that the rate of export decline was not as large as that in many other export-oriented economies.

Data which have been published since then suggest that the rate of contraction has slowed in the intervening period. As a result, the forecast for a GDP contraction of 7¾ per cent this year contained in the April Supplementary Budget remains broadly valid. My Department will publish in mid-November the Pre-Budget Outlook and that will set out a revised macroeconomic outlook. At this stage I envisage only a minor revision to the Department's estimate for GDP for this year.

National Asset Management Agency.

Willie Penrose

Question:

139 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Finance when he will publish the business plan for the National Asset Management Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37673/09]

The Deputy will be aware that a draft business plan was published by the interim NAMA and presented by me to the Dáil on 15 October.

Once the NAMA legislation is passed and the NAMA Board is appointed, a revised business plan will be prepared for approval by the NAMA Board and will be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas.

Pension Provisions.

Billy Timmins

Question:

140 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Finance if his proposals for pension reform will be included in Budget 2010. [37768/09]

In line with the normal practice, I do not propose to comment at this time on what may or may not be included in Budget 2010.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Question:

141 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the tax refunds to banks and financial institutions arising from losses in relation to the transfer of loans to the National Asset Management Agency and the subsequent write downs on their balance sheets; the steps he has taken or will take to minimise these refunds in the interest of taxpayers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37705/09]

The question of possible refunds of tax to participating institutions as a result of the transfer of assets to NAMA does not yet arise since no such transfers have yet taken place. As the Deputy will appreciate, it will not be possible to quantify the losses until the transfers actually take place.

The Irish tax system provides that where a company incurs losses in the course of its trade, those losses may be carried back and used against the profits, if any, of the immediately preceding accounting period of the same length (an accounting period cannot exceed one year). For example, if, as a result of transfers of bank assets in the year to 31 December 2009, a participating institution makes an overall loss in that year then it would be entitled to set off that loss against profits, if any, arising to the institution in the year to 31 December 2008 only. Where there were no profits in 2008 against which to set the loss carried back, no refund would arise since no tax would have been chargeable. In such cases, the losses may be carried forward.

For the future, I have included in the National Asset Management Agency Bill 2009 a provision to limit the amount of relief that can be claimed by participating institutions for losses carried forward from earlier years. It will limit the set-off of carried-forward losses against trading income of a participating institution and all other participating institutions in the same group, to no more than 50 per cent of that income. The net effect of the provision is that the income of a group of participating institutions cannot be reduced by more than 50% by set-off of losses carried forward. A minimum of 50% of trading income of any year will continue to be chargeable notwithstanding claims for relief for losses carried forward into that year.

Public Sector Staff.

Alan Shatter

Question:

142 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Finance the guidelines that exist regarding the procedure applicable to the early retirement of a public servant or a chief executive or an employee of a State or semi-State body; the circumstances stated in such guidelines in which it is said to be appropriate to effect such early retirement; the financial arrangements applicable to same; if he will furnish a copy of the said guidelines; and if it is intended to make amendments to them. [34605/09]

In the civil and public service, Cost Neutral Early Retirement (CNER) has been available since 1 April 2004 for individuals who wish to retire with immediate pension up to 10 years before normal retirement age. More recently, the Incentivised Scheme of Early Retirement (ISER) has been available. The procedures and circumstances whereby these arrangements may be availed of are set out in Circulars 10 of 2005 (CNER) and 12 of 2009 (ISER). Civil and public service superannuation schemes provide for early retirement on grounds of ill-health, which may include some additional years of notional service, depending on age and service.

There are specific early retirement provisions in various areas of the Public service. Gardai, prison officers and psychiatric nurses who are not new entrants as defined in the Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004 may retire on reaching the age of 50 if they have 30 years of service. This means that they have qualified for full pension entitlements because under their schemes each year of service in excess of 20 years reckons as 2 years of service for pension purposes. Primary and secondary school teachers may retire on or after age 55 if they have 35 years of service. In the Defence forces, officers who are not new entrants under the 2004 Act may retire with immediate pension after 12 years service regardless of age and similarly enlisted personnel may retire with immediate pension after 21 years service also regardless of age.

Section 6 of the Superannuation Act 1909 and sections 6 and 7 of the Superannuation and Pensions Act 1963 set out rules governing early retirement of civil servants as a consequence of abolition of office or for the purposes of facilitating improvements in the organisation of the department in order to effect greater efficiency and economy. Section 6 of the 1909 Act allows for the immediate payment of pension on retiring. Section 6 of the 1963 Act allows for the addition of up to 10 years of notional service and section 7 of that Act allows for the grant of a special severance gratuity of up to one-half of annual salary. These provisions apply to Secretaries General and similar provisions apply to County Managers under the Local Government Superannuation Scheme. In the wider public service the provisions of the 1909 and 1963 Acts serve as guidelines in dealing with similar cases. In operating these provisions, the practice in the main is not to grant additional years of notional service and a severance payment to any one individual.

For full-time board members and equivalent positions in the Competition Authority, Labour Court, Environmental Protection Agency and Bord Pleanála retirement is normally between age 60 and 65; however, members who have their appointment terminated (other than for stated misconduct), or are not re-appointed on expiration of their period of office, are entitled to immediate pension and lump sum where they have accrued more than two years' service. Preservation of benefits applies only in case of voluntary resignation after two or more years' service.

The Department of Finance letter of 26 May 1998 to all Heads of Departments sets out the enhanced retirement/severance terms for chief executive officers of non-commercial semi-State bodies whose contracts are not renewed or are terminated, and the conditions under which they may be made available. Such non-renewal or termination might arise where the board and Minister conclude that there is a need for a fresh approach in the interest of efficiency and effectiveness of the organisation. It is envisaged that the terms set out in the 1998 letter will be reviewed as part of a wider examination of public service pensions which is being undertaken with a view to developing a new and comprehensive pensions framework.

It is not possible to cover all the early retirement arrangements across the public service. The Deputy might wish to consult respective Ministers about specific circumstances pertaining to agencies and bodies under their aegis.

National Asset Management Agency.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

143 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance his views on the fact that some development sites could potentially have a negative value derived from the need to fence, clean, insure and make safe these sites; his further views on whether this could potentially have a negative impact on the public purse in certain instances when such properties are transferred to National Asset Management Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37689/09]

The NAMA Bill sets out a detailed framework for the valuation of loan assets and the security underlying each loan asset. NAMA will conduct due diligence on each loan and examine in detail all documentation relating to the underlying security and the loan contract itself. As a consequence the circumstances to which the Deputy refers to will be factored into the valuation of a loan.

The legislation also allows NAMA to refuse to acquire a loan where for example the security is not adequate or has not been perfected.

Mortgage Arrears.

Martin Ferris

Question:

144 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Finance if he will oblige banks, as part of the National Asset Management Agency legislation, to work with individual mortgage holders to renegotiate negative equity portions of their mortgages. [37611/09]

The National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) is being set up to remove land and development loans and associated loans from the balance sheets of participating institutions. The uncertainty associated with these loans has prevented banks from lending and supporting economic recovery. The Government has no plans at present to extend the scope of NAMA beyond land and development loans and associated loans.

The Deputy will also note that the revised Programme for Government includes a commitment to introduce new measures to protect families having difficulties with their home mortgage payments. The Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears and the recently agreed protocol between the Irish Bankers Federation (IBF) and the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) on debt default will be further reviewed with a view to expanding the options available for dealing with debt situations, including for example the use by banks and lenders of more flexible mechanisms to avoid foreclosure in appropriate circumstances. With reference to the measures adopted in other jurisdictions, the Government will also examine ways of expanding its own mortgage support measures.

Tax Yield.

Liz McManus

Question:

145 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Finance his views on the September 2009 Exchequer figures; the way the September 2009 figures compare to profiles forecast six months ago; if he expects tax revenue to fall below 20% of gross domestic product for 2009; his further views on whether this proportion is expected to be the lowest of any OECD member; 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. [37677/09]

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

280 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Finance the updated tax yields for the months of October, November and December 2009; the way this compares to the previously forecasted yields for these months; if he will provide this information in tabular form under individual headings for each of the relevant taxes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38089/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 145 and 280 together.

At the end of September, €23.7 billion in tax revenue receipts had been collected. This was €965 million below the profile target for the first nine months of the year that was outlined in April. The Supplementary Budget forecast that total tax revenue in 2009 would total €34.4 billion. At the publication of the end-September Exchequer Returns, my Department stated that it now expects that tax revenue receipts in 2009 will be in the region of €2 billion below forecast.

The end-October Exchequer Returns will be published this afternoon. Tax revenue receipts have continued to show some weakness, but are broadly in line with what was anticipated.

Trends in incoming tax receipts are continually analysed by my Department and the prospective end-year outturn kept under constant review. At the aggregate level, taxes in the region of €32 billion — back to 2003 levels — are now thought likely for the year as a whole. Set out below are the original end-monthly totals for tax revenue for the months of October, November and December.

Target as per Supplementary Budget

Outturn

± on Target

€m

€m

€m

End-September

24,671

23,706

-965

End-October

27,170

End-November Target

32,118

End-December Target

34,400

-2,000 (forecast)

In relation to migration matters, net outward migration was recorded in the year to April 2009, the first time this has happened since 1995. My Department is expecting further net outward migration over the remainder of this year and for this to continue in 2010. This is in line with the views of many other forecasting institutions.

Migration affects taxation revenue through a number of channels, such as lower levels of personal consumption and lower levels of employment. The impact of these developments on tax-heads such as VAT, Excise and Income Tax is included in forecasts of these tax-heads.

The Pre-Budget Outlook, which my Department plans to publish in mid-November, will provide an update on the macroeconomic outlook and set out a technical fiscal forecast.

Tax Collection.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

146 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance if he will advise the Office of the Revenue Commissioner to meet with companies or self-employed persons who claim to be in difficulty in advance of tax returns in November 2009 to discuss ability to pay. [37604/09]

The Revenue Commissioners are charged with responsibility for the collection and recovery of a wide range of taxes and duties. They have a strong focus on making sure that everyone complies with their tax and duty responsibilities by paying the right amount within the appropriate deadlines. Revenue expects businesses to continue, notwithstanding the more difficult economic circumstances in which they are now operating, to organise their financial affairs so as to ensure that tax debts are paid as they fall due. Apart from the critical importance of timely compliance to the Exchequer, unfair competitive advantage achieved through persistent late or non-payment of tax can undermine compliant businesses. I fully support what Revenue is doing in that regard.

I know that the Revenue Commissioners are very conscious of the difficult economic and financial climate in this country and of the challenges posed for some businesses in meeting with their tax obligations within the appropriate deadlines. Revenue has responded to the changing environment by actively encouraging businesses experiencing particular tax payment difficulties to work proactively with them to find an agreed way through those difficulties and quickly restore timely compliance.

Revenue has developed an administrative framework to manage such cases and it has published material for businesses experiencing tax payment difficulties in a prominent position on the home page of its website www.revenue.ie. I am aware that the feedback from trade representatives and tax practitioner bodies to the initiative Revenue has taken in this regard has been positive and it is regarded as an effective way of supporting businesses in meeting their tax payment obligations at this time.

Question No. 147 answered with Question No. 116.

Irish Credit Bureau.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

148 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance if he will request the Irish Credit Bureau to change or amend its criteria for placing people on its records for anything up to five years for missing small amounts of payments. [37605/09]

Decisions by the Irish Credit Bureau on the criteria for placing people on its records are a matter for the Irish Credit Bureau. The Irish Credit Bureau is owned by its members who are mainly financial institutions. The Irish Credit Bureau does not decide who should get credit, but the information it provides may help the lender to decide.

Non-Licensed Money Lending.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

149 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance the action he will take regarding non-licensed money lenders in advance of Christmas 2009. [37609/09]

Non-licensed money lending activity is a matter for the Garda Síochána and any occurrence of such should, therefore, be brought to the immediate attention of a member of the Garda Síochána.

The underpinning legal provisions with regard to the prohibition on engaging in the business of moneylending without licence are set out in Section 98 of the Consumer Credit Act 1995. Related offences and consequent penalties are set out in Sections 12 and 13 of the Act.

Tax Code.

Jack Wall

Question:

150 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if individuals who purchased shares in Anglo Irish Bank with loans financed by Anglo Irish Bank itself on a non-recourse basis will be able to write off the loss incurred against future Capital Gains Tax liabilities; if this is the case, if he will introduce some mechanism to prevent this from happening; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37688/09]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that loss relief for capital gains tax purposes arises where there is a disposal of an asset for a consideration that is less than its acquisition cost or where an asset has been lost or destroyed or becomes of negligible value. Subject to certain conditions (for example, relief cannot be given more than once in respect of a loss) a capital loss can be carried forward for set-off against future capital gains.

Section 546 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides that a loss is computed in the same way as a chargeable gain is computed in regard to Capital Gains Tax. Calculations of chargeable gains or allowable losses under this legislation take no account whatsoever of the financing arrangements (whether non-recourse or not) relating to the asset disposed of, or deemed to be of negligible value, or lost/destroyed, as the case may be.

The question of changing the legislation to disallow or limit the carry forward of losses in circumstances where the asset was financed through non-recourse loans would represent a significant change to our capital gains tax legislation because it would effectively link the taxation of an asset to the loan arrangements for the acquisition of the asset in question. Furthermore, the current symmetry of treatment between losses and gains would be affected. I have no plans at this stage to make a change in this area, but the matter will be kept under review.

Question No. 151 answered with Question No. 110.

Banking Sector.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

152 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if the banks have given a guarantee to restore lending to the business and commercial sectors in return for the National Asset Management Agency rescue package; if his attention has been drawn to the current situation whereby it appears that the banking sectors are using the Government guarantee of NAMA to restore confidence in their own entity leaving the economy without a cash flow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37795/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, during the committee stage debate of the National Asset Management Agency Bill, I undertook to bring forward an amendment at Report Stage dealing with the requirements for participating institutions in the area of the provision of credit.

I can confirm that I will be doing so later this week.

Economic Competitiveness.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

153 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance his views on the down side risks facing Irish exporters, and the economy here more broadly, as a result of the strengthening euro; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37699/09]

For a very open economy such as Ireland's exchange rate movements can have a large impact on living standards. In this regard, the appreciation of the euro against both the dollar and sterling is clearly a concern as it undermines the competitiveness of the exporting sector.

The traditional-type industries exporting to the UK appear to be especially vulnerable to appreciation of the euro. In addition, indigenous firms competing with UK-based firms on the domestic market are exposed to euro appreciation. The retail sector is also exposed to euro-sterling developments given our land border with the UK. On the upside, the appreciation of the euro, particularly against sterling, brings some benefits in terms of reduced prices for domestic consumer goods as a large amount of these are imported by retailers from the United Kingdom.

As a member of a monetary union, it is not open to us to adjust our exchange rate, but also of course there are benefits to being a member of such a union during these very challenging times in which we live. What is vital, however, is that we concentrate on restoring our competitiveness through other mechanisms, such as adjusting pay and non-pay costs as well as increasing in productivity.

I would also point out that Government initiatives such as the Enterprise Stabilisation Fund provide targeted support to indigenous companies, including those engaged in exporting to assist them in the exceptionally difficult business environment in which they are operating at present.

Cigarette Smuggling.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

154 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm that arrangements have been completed for the acquisition of a second mobile scanner to combat cigarette smuggling; if it is operational; if not, when it will be; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37617/09]

I can confirm that arrangements under the procurement process have been completed for the acquisition of a new mobile scanner for the Revenue Commissioners.Revenue has completed Factory Acceptance Testing, and the new Scanner is due to arrive in Dublin Port in November. Following testing the new scanner will be commissioned and operational soon after.

National Asset Management Agency.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

155 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Finance his views on the findings of the Draft Business Report on the National Asset Management Agency; the role his Department played in the decision to draft it; if the assumed 20% default rate reflects on his Department’s assumptions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39061/09]

While the actual NAMA Business Plan will not be published until the NAMA legislation has been enacted, and the Board has been appointed, I instructed the interim NAMA managing director to draw up a draft Business Plan, setting out how NAMA will carry out its functions and duties, on the basis of the information that was already available to him. I saw the draft Plan as a key element to informing the debate on the NAMA legislation as it progressed through its various stages. That is why I ensured that copies of the draft Plan were distributed to all members of both Houses of the Oireachtas as soon as possible after the interim managing director has submitted it to me.

I believe the draft business plan produced by the interim NAMA team is a substantial body of work, which casts a significant degree of light on the targets of the Agency, the way it will organise its business and the assumptions that underpin its targets.

I would remind the Deputy that the data on which the draft Plan is based, including the 20% default rate referred to by the Deputy, are provisional in nature. Definitive figures will not be available, until NAMA is established and it has had the opportunity to assess in detail the loan books involved.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

156 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Finance if the levy which is proposed to be introduced into the National Asset Management Agency legislation will take account of both the time value of money and the opportunity cost of money pumped into NAMA; if, for example, a levy is to be calculated after a ten year period, if the nominal amount of the shortfall to be recouped will be increased and decreased, as appropriate, to match the ten years of interest payments made on these funds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37685/09]

The Deputy will be aware that I am proposing to introduce, by way of a Report Stage amendment to the NAMA Bill, a future tax surcharge on the participating institutions in the event of NAMA making a loss.

The basis of this charge, if applicable, will be a report by NAMA on its aggregate profits or losses from its establishment to the date that the Minister looks for the report. These profits or losses, will of course by their nature, take account of interest rate movements over the period. The report itself will be certified by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Financial Services Regulation.

Denis Naughten

Question:

157 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the steps he is taking toaddress the cost of sub-prime mortgages; the discussions he has had with the Irish Financial Services Regularity Authority on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37603/09]

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.

Banking Sector Regulation.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

158 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he will appoint a High Court inspector to investigate irregularities and possible illegalities at Anglo Irish Bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37670/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, several regulatory bodies are carrying out investigations of behaviour at Anglo Irish Bank including in particular, the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, the Garda Fraud Office and the Financial Regulator. The various regulatory bodies will make their reports in due course. I am of course anxious that the investigations are completed as swiftly as possible.

Consumer Price Index.

Liz McManus

Question:

159 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Finance his views on the September 2009 inflation figures indicating annual falls in harmonised index consumer prices and consumer price index of 3% and 6.5% respectively; his further views on whether the HICP is a better measure of changes in the cost of living for pensioners and other social welfare recipients; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37678/09]

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) publishes monthly both the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP). The latter is compiled on a common basis across the European Union. The main difference between the CPI and the HICP is that the latter excludes mortgage interest costs. The CPI fell by 6.5 per cent in the twelve months to September while the HICP fell by 3.0 per cent over the same period. Much of the difference can be explained by changes in mortgage interest rates.

The CPI basket is based on average consumption patterns so price changes for particular individuals and households will invariably differ from the national average. The CSO does not publish indices by income decile or social group. Nevertheless, I would like to point out to the Deputy that prices of a wide range of goods and services have fallen on a year-on-year basis, not just mortgage interest. For instance, food prices have fallen sharply since the start of the summer. This is supporting disposable incomes right across society and not just for mortgage holders.

Debt Management.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

160 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance the proposals envisaged under the Revised Programme for Government to help those in debt; his plans to introduce personal insolvency regulations allowing for a statutory non-court based debt settlement system; when he expects these new regulations to come into force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37692/09]

The main points contained in the revised Programme for Government dealing with personal debt are:

Introducing new measures to protect families having difficulties with their home mortgage payments;

Examining ways of expanding the existing options available for dealing with debt situations;

Examining ways of expanding existing state sponsored mortgage-support measures;

Regulating debt collection agencies;

Introducing a new system of personal insolvency regulations allowing for a statutory non-court-based debt settlement system; and,

Seeking to establish a central Debt Enforcement Office to remove as many debt enforcement proceeds from the courts as possible.

I should point out that, as Minister for Finance, I have no function in relation to personal bankruptcy law. This is a function of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

The commitments contained in the revised Programme for Government span the broad area of personal debt management and its legislative framework and, as several relate to the responsibilities of several Government Departments, they will require close collaboration in the period ahead.

In this regard, the Law Reform Commission's recently published Consultation Paper on Personal Debt Management and Debt Enforcement has made an important contribution to this whole area and the relevant Departments are examining their recommendations.

Financial Services Regulation.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

161 Deputy Paul Connaughton 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. [39090/09]

The Government has agreed a range of reforms of the financial regulatory structures. A new single fully integrated institution, the Central Bank of Ireland, will be established, replacing the current two pillar structure under the existing Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland. The new structure 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 to achieve the highest performance standards for the new organisation. The new Central Bank will be chaired by the Governor of the Central Bank. These reforms will underpin a much more effective and efficient financial services regulatory system that is aligned with best international practice.

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). Regulation for consumer protection, including the development and enforcement of codes of practice, remains within the new central bank structure as an integral part of conduct of business regulation.

Two top-level posts will be established within the new Central Bank of Ireland as ex-officio members of its Board. A Head of Financial Regulation will report to the Board on the regulatory and supervisory functions. A Head of Central Banking will report on the performance of central banking functions (other than those that relate to the independent role of the Governor under the EC Treaty and Eurosystem and ECB structure). The Deputy will be aware of the recent announcement that Mr Matthew Elderfield will take up the post of Head of Financial Regulation in the New Year.

A key supporting element of the reforms agreed by Government involves a significant expansion of regulatory capacity with substantial additional staff and skills to meet the objectives of the new structure. In the legislation to underpin the new structure I will seek to enhance the accountability of the new regulatory structure to the Oireachtas and to strengthen evaluation and quality assurance of regulatory performance. These measures will ensure Ireland is regulated to the best international standards.

A high level group, chaired by my Department and including representatives of the Central Bank and Financial Regulator, has been established to expedite the implementation of the Government's decision and undertake appropriate consultations. It is a priority to have the new regulatory framework in place quickly and I expect draft legislation to give effect to the Government's decision will be published early next year. Once published, it will be open to anyone to comment on the draft legislation including of course Committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas.

I have decided that it is necessary to make some immediate progress on the integration of the existing institutions and, as the Deputy is aware, introduced provisions through Committee Stage amendments to the NAMA Bill to enable a common membership of the Central Bank Board and the Regulatory Authority in the transition phase before the dissolution of the Regulatory Authority and the establishment of the new Central Bank of Ireland.

Small and Medium Enterprises.

Joe Costello

Question:

162 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Finance the way the National Asset Management Agency proposal, through the draft NAMA business plan in particular, will get credit flowing to small and medium enterprises here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37704/09]

Specifically in relation to the NAMA Bill 2009, I will be introducing a Report Stage amendment to the Bill to provide a power to issue guidelines to the participating institutions on lending practices and procedures to improve the flow of credit to SMEs and, if necessary, other sectors. The power will be a wide ranging one and will allow for a response adapted to the particular circumstances of different institutions and sectors. This approach recognises that this is a complex situation and allows for a flexible response to changing credit needs.

National Asset Management Agency.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

163 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Finance the breakdown of the financial institutions to which the loans of €16 billion to be taken over by National Asset Management Agency in December 2009 and €24 billion to be taken over in January 2010 relate to, in both number of projects and value terms and the discounts being applied to each individual institution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37798/09]

Summary information provided in the draft NAMA business plan, and by me during the Second Stage debate on the NAMA Bill, is of a provisional nature.

The figures provided to date relate to the covered institutions who have indicated they intend to apply to participate in NAMA. The loan quality, geographic distribution and loan type will all vary from institution to institution.

Any further breakdown of the information will be contingent on the finalisation of the NAMA legislation, the designation of participating institutions and the designation of eligible assets among other issues. Importantly, information on the level of loans to transfer and the discount rates to be applied will only become available following a loan by loan assessment and the application of the valuation methodology.

Joe Costello

Question:

164 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Finance the opportunity cost of proceeding with the National Asset Management Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37703/09]

The National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) is being established to address the systemic threat posed to the Irish financial system by certain portfolios of risky assets on the banks' balance sheets.

‘Opportunity cost', in economic terms, refers to the opportunities forgone in the choice one expenditure over another. As the Deputy is no doubt fully aware, the monetary costs involved in NAMA must be judged against the risks and costs of not taking sufficient action to maintain the stability of the banking system, the security of savings and the availability of credit. I am sure the Deputy will agree that the costs of inaction could be catastrophic.

Financial Services Regulation.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

165 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Finance the progress made regarding reforms of the Central Bank and the Financial Regulator, including appointments to key positions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37693/09]

The Government has agreed a range of reforms of the financial regulatory structures. A new single fully integrated institution, the Central Bank of Ireland, will be established, replacing the current two pillar structure under the existing Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland. The new structure 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 to achieve the highest performance standards for the new organisation. The new Central Bank will be chaired by the Governor of the Central Bank. These reforms will underpin a much more effective and efficient financial services regulatory system that is aligned with best international practice.

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). Regulation for consumer protection, including the development and enforcement of codes of practice, remains within the new central bank structure as an integral part of conduct of business regulation.

With regard to the appointment to key positions, the Deputy will no doubt be aware that Professor Patrick Honohan was recently appointed as Governor of the Central Bank. Additionally, two top-level posts will be established within the new Central Bank of Ireland as ex-officio members of its Board. A Head of Financial Regulation will report to the Board on the regulatory and supervisory functions. A Head of Central Banking will report on the performance of central banking functions (other than those that relate to the independent role of the Governor under the EC Treaty and Eurosystem and ECB structure). The Deputy will be aware of the recent announcement that Mr Matthew Elderfield will take up the post of Head of Financial Regulation in the New Year.

A key supporting element of the reforms agreed by Government involves a significant expansion of regulatory capacity with substantial additional staff and skills to meet the objectives of the new structure. In the legislation to underpin the new structure I will seek to enhance the accountability of the new regulatory structure to the Oireachtas and to strengthen evaluation and quality assurance of regulatory performance. These measures will ensure Ireland is regulated to the best international standards.

A high level group, chaired by my Department and including representatives of the Central Bank and Financial Regulator, has been established to expedite the implementation of the Government's decision and undertake appropriate consultations. It is a priority to have the new regulatory framework in place quickly and I expect draft legislation to give effect to the Government's decision will be published early next year. Once published, it will be open to anyone to comment on the draft legislation including of course Committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas.

I have decided that it is necessary to make some immediate progress on the integration of the existing institutions and, as the Deputy is aware, introduced provisions through Committee Stage amendments to the NAMA Bill to enable a common membership of the Central Bank Board and the Regulatory Authority in the transition phase before the dissolution of the Regulatory Authority and the establishment of the new Central Bank of Ireland.

Employment Levels.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

166 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance if he will comment on the latest Quarterly National Household Survey which indicates an 8.2% year-on-year fall in employment to the end of June 2009 and that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is now at its highest level since 1996; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37690/09]

The Quarterly National Household Survey contains data for the period up to end June 2009. That survey shows an annual decrease in employment of 8.2%. The largest annual falls in employment have been in construction (down 86,000), wholesale and retail trade (down 29,600) and industry (down 29,000) sectors.

While the fall in employment is a cause for concern, it is nevertheless not unexpected — my Department forecast last April that employment would fall by 7.8% for the year as a whole. The latest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 12.6% in September, however the unemployment trend has slowed considerably in recent months. This government is not complacent about the very significant increase in job losses. One of the key policies that we can pursue is to strive to enhance our competitiveness so that demand for labour improves so that we can position ourselves to benefit when world and EU growth returns. It is also important that we bring stability and sustainability to the public finances, as that will facilitate confidence and growth in the economy. We are also investing in education, training, and up-skilling in order to ensure that workers have the means to move into expanding sectors. We have also doubled our support for job-search, training and activation places for the unemployed this year.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

167 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Finance if he has carried out an impact study on the expected economic and social impact of across the board cuts in child benefit; his views on whether such a cut would impact on low income single parents and their children one of the social groups at greatest risk of falling into poverty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37671/09]

Any changes to child benefit will be considered in the context of the 2010 Budget.

Appointments to State Boards.

Joan Burton

Question:

168 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance his views on a transparent vetting process, involving public confirmation hearings before the Joint Committee on Finance, for appointments to boards under the aegis of his Department including, but not limited to, the proposed Banking Commission, the National Asset Management Agency, the National Treasury Management Agency, the National Pension Reserve Fund, the board of governors of the Central Bank; his further views on whether the lack of transparency in such board appointments is an important factor in the decline of public and market confidence in these boards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37706/09]

Appointments to the board of a State body, including those under the aegis of my Department, are generally made by the Minister with responsibility for the Body in question. The arrangements for such appointments are normally set out in the legislation establishing the State Body. In recent years the system of appointments to State boards has been refined and the overall calibre of appointees has improved. It has increasingly become the practice to specify in the governing legislation the attributes required of board members.

The Government is anxious to innovate in this area and is keen to bring more accountability into the system of State board appointments. The Renewed Programme for Government, which was agreed at the beginning of October, contains a commitment to a more global reform of the system of appointments to Public Bodies. The document provides that the Government will introduce on a legislative basis a more open and transparent system for appointments to public bodies. The legislation will outline a procedure for the publication of all vacancies likely to occur, invite applications from the general public and from the responses create a panel of suitable persons for consideration of appointment. The legislation will also specify numbers of persons to be appointed by a Minister and will facilitate the appropriate Oireachtas Committees to make nominations to the panel.

The Deputy refers to appointments to a number of State bodies under the aegis of my Department. With regard to appointments to the board of the National Assets Management Agency, as the Deputy is aware legislation on the establishment of NAMA is currently going through the Dáil, however, I intend to consult with the Opposition parties about the chairmanship of the agency and I have written to the Opposition leaders in that regard.

In the context of the reform of the institutional structure for financial regulation, it is a priority for the Government to ensure that the membership of the new Central Bank of Ireland Commission will comprise persons with substantial experience and recognised expertise in relevant specialist areas such as financial regulation, international finance, risk management and economics.

The position with regard to the National Treasury Management Agency Advisory Committee and the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission is that appointments to both bodies are made by the Minister for Finance, there is no requirement for outside consultation. However, the NPRF Act 2000 requires those appointed to the NPRF Commission to have acquired substantial expertise and experience at senior level in any of the following areas.

Investment or international business management

Finance or economics

Law

Actuarial practice

Accountancy and auditing

The Civil Service of the Government of the Civil Service of the State

Trade union representation

The Pensions industry

Consumer protection

Customs Service.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

169 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance the steps he has taken to combat the trafficking of illicit drugs through private airports here, particularly in view of recent high profile legal actions relating to the smuggling of significant amounts of heroin through an airport (details supplied) in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37702/09]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the Customs controls at the location in question and at private airports in general are risk-based. The controls are carried out by mobile Customs enforcement staff, whose attendance is selective and targeted, based on analysis and evaluation of national and international seizure trends, traffic frequency, routes and other risk indicators. Attendance can also be as a result of specific intelligence. Traffic with origins and destinations with a high-risk rating would attract particular interest.

It is important to note by way of context that the operating environment for Customs has been shaped to a significant degree by the introduction of the Internal Market and the related principles of freedom of movement within the EU. Of specific relevance are the abolition of routine and systematic Customs checks on goods and passengers moving within any part of the EU and the elimination of Customs controls on the baggage of intra-Community passengers other than anti-smuggling checks. This is particularly relevant in the case of small private airports where passenger traffic is predominantly intra-Community. The approach has of necessity been to balance the freedom of movement principle in regard to people and goods with the need to control smuggling and enforce prohibitions and restrictions.

I have been assured by the Revenue Commissioners that they are satisfied with the level of Customs controls at these locations. In particular, they are satisfied that the risk-based approach applied remains valid and that their operations are on par with, and may even exceed, those of many other EU Member States.

Banking Sector Regulation.

Jack Wall

Question:

170 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if he will comment on recent revelations that senior bankers at Anglo Irish Bank were involved in property deals which the bank itself was financing; the steps that have been taken to remove any immediate conflicts of interests which may arise in the course of managing the nationalised bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37687/09]

As with all financial institutions, Anglo Irish Bank is subject to legal and regulatory requirements with regard to lending to its Directors and employees. Any breach of these obligations would be a matter for investigation by the relevant authorities, including the Financial Regulator, as appropriate. Also, I am informed by Anglo that, in order to avoid any potential conflicts of interest, the bank has taken steps to ensure that the individuals concerned, and any staff reporting to them, have no role in the management and oversight of loans in which they have a direct interest.

In addition, Anglo Irish Bank Corporation Limited is a public body for the purposes of the Ethics in Public Office Acts 1995 and 2001. Its directors and designated employees are required, inter alia, to furnish annual statements of their registrable interests. For directors these statements are also furnished to the Standards in Public Office Commission. If a conflict of material interests were to occur, the director or employee concerned must furnish a statement in writing of the facts and must abide by the provisions of the Ethics legislation on such matters.

Question No. 171 answered with Question No. 119.

Tax Yield.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

172 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance the amount of tax revenue raised to date in 2009 from the €10 air travel tax; the impact this has had on air travel to and from here; if he will carry out a comprehensive review of the implementation of this tax; if he will make amendments to this tax in budget 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37695/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the air travel tax arising from travel undertaken in any month is payable by airline operators by the 23rd of the following month. The yields from the air travel tax received in the period from May to October 2009, in respect of travel undertaken during the months April to September 2009 are as follows:

Month

€m

May

9.6

June

11.5

July

11.9

August

12.5

September

12.4

October

9.4

Total

67.3

As the Deputy is aware, I announced in Budget 2009 that an air travel tax would come into force in respect of passengers departing from Irish airports on and from 30 March 2009. A general rate of €10 per passenger would apply, with a lower rate of €2 for shorter journeys.

The Finance (No. 2) Act 2008 confirmed the introduction of an air travel tax from 30 March 2009. However, I took account of concerns raised by the regional airports particularly those on the western seaboard. The lower rate of €2 applies to departures from any Irish airport where the destination is 300kms or less from Dublin airport. This means that all Irish departures to locations such as Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow are subject to the €2 rate.

Ireland is not unique in regard to applying a tax on air travel. Other countries within the EU apply similar taxes such as the UK and France, as do Australia and New Zealand. The rates for the Irish air travel tax are not unreasonable both for shorter and longer journeys, when compared to rates in other countries.

It should be recognised that tourists are only subject to the tax on their return journey. The additional €10 or €2 in the context of a much larger purchasing decision involving travel, hotel expenditures etc. should have only a very limited effect on tourist numbers. The Government appreciates the airline industry continues to go through a difficult period. However, this difficult trading period arises primarily from weak world economic activity.

It should be noted that at present the decline in air travel is an international phenomenon and as a result aviation services are contracting on a global basis. Indeed the decline in the number of people travelling is also evident in those countries where there is no air travel tax in place.

We currently face significant financial challenges and the air travel tax is an important revenue raising measure. The Government has tried to be as fair as possible in looking at areas for additional tax revenues. It is also worth noting that fuel used by commercial airlines is completely exempt from tax, so it's a sector that already has considerable preferential treatment.

National Minimum Wage.

Joan Burton

Question:

173 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach the number and the proportion of the total that workers were paid at the minimum wage, no more than 5% above the minimum wage, no more than 10% above the minimum wage and no more than 20% above the minimum wage in 2009 and at the end of 2006, 2007 and 2008. [38251/09]

The information sought by the Deputy is contained in the National Employment Survey (NES), an annual workplace survey published by the Central Statistics Office. The most recent NES was published in July 2009 and uses data collected for October 2007 as its reference point. The previous NES had October 2006 as its reference period.

The National Minimum Wage (NMW) rate in operation in October 2006 was €7.65 per hour. An estimated 63,700 employees were paid that amount or less, equivalent to 3.8% of all employees. There were an estimated 101,200 employees (6% of all employees) paid less than or equal to €8.03 per hour, which is 5% above the minimum wage. 135,400 employees or 8% of all employees were paid less than or equal to €8.42 per hour, which is 10% above the minimum wage. Finally, 228,500 employees, equivalent to 13.5% of all employees, were paid less than or equal to €9.18 per hour, which is 20% above the minimum wage rate.

The NMW rate in operation in October 2007 was €8.65 per hour. An estimated 86,400 employees were paid that amount or less, equivalent to 5% of all employees. There were an estimated 148,500 employees (8.6% of all employees) paid less than or equal to €9.08 per hour, which is 5% above the minimum wage. 193,400 employees or 11.2% of all employees were paid less than or equal to €9.52 per hour, which is 10% above the minimum wage. Finally, 287,800 employees, equivalent to 16.7% of all employees, were paid less than or equal to €10.38 per hour, which is 20% above the minimum wage rate.

Table 1: National Employment Survey (NES) OCT 2007 DATA — National Minimum Wage (NMW) No. of employees earning the NMW or less, NMW +5% or less, NMW +10% or less, NMW +20% or less

No. of employees

Percent of employees

Minimum Wage

NMW = €8.65 in October 2007

Earning above €8.65

1,633,500

95.0

Earning €8.65 or less

86,400

5.0

Minimum Wage b

NMW +5% = €9.083 in October 2007

Earning above €9.083

1,571,400

91.4

Earning €9.083 or less

148,500

8.6

Minimum Wage c

NMW +10% = €9.52 in October 2007

Earning above €9.52

1,526,500

88.8

Earning €9.52 or less

193,400

11.2

Minimum Wage d

NMW +20% = €10.38 in October 2007

Earning above €10.38

1,432,100

83.3

Earning €10.38 or less

287,800

16.7

Table 2: National Employment Survey (NES) OCT 2006 DATA — National Minimum Wage (NMW) No. of employees earning the NMW or less, NMW +5% or less, NMW +10% or less, NMW +20% or less

No. of employees

Percent of employees

Minimum Wage

NMW = €7.65 in October 2006

Earning above €7.65

1,631,500

96.3

Earning NMW or less

63,700

3.8

Minimum Wage b

NMW + 5% = €8.03 in October 2006

Earning above €8.03

1,594,000

94.0

Earning €8.03 or less

101,200

6.0

Minimum Wage c

NMW + 10% = €8.42 in October 2006

Earning above €8.42

1,559,800

92.0

Earning €8.42 or less

135,400

8.0

Minimum Wage d

NMW + 20% = €9.18 in October 2006

Earning above €9.18

1,466,700

86.5

Earning €9.18 or less

228,500

13.5

Average Household Incomes.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

174 Deputy Ciarán Cuffe asked the Taoiseach the average income in each decile of persons resident here and the mean, median and mode of the income of residents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38829/09]

The official source of information on average household income is the Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) as compiled by the Central Statistics Office. The latest published SILC results are for the year 2007. The average net disposable income of individuals in the State and the components of income, classified by income decile, are presented in the table below, followed by overall median weekly income.

Net equivalised1 weekly income by income decile and income component, SILC 2007

A

B

A+B

C

A+B-C

Decile

Net disposable income threshold

Total direct income2

Total social transfers3

Total Gross Income

Total Tax and Social Contributions4

Net Disposable Income

Mean (€)

Mean (€)

Mean (€)

Mean (€)

Mean (€)

1

<198.09

43.07

115.21

158.27

5.15

153.13

2

<240.69

80.78

150.73

231.51

10.53

220.98

3

<278.48

126.34

154.06

280.40

20.50

259.90

4

<321.19

226.55

110.55

337.10

38.84

298.26

5

<379.33

281.08

116.03

397.11

47.00

350.11

6

<440.32

397.17

92.35

489.52

82.90

406.63

7

<516.69

483.87

95.12

579.00

100.97

478.03

8

<606.31

643.86

77.45

721.31

162.91

558.40

9

<772.94

831.34

82.80

914.14

233.06

681.08

10

>772.94

1,427.92

113.40

1,541.32

421.95

1,119.37

State

Overall Mean

454.03

110.77

564.80

112.33

452.47

Median equivalised weekly net disposable income (€)

€379.33

1 Equivalence scales assign each household type in the population a value in proportion to its needs. The national equivalence scale assigns the first adult a value of 1, each subsequent adult a value of 0.66 and each child a value of 0.33. These values are then summed and an equivalised household size is established. Disposable household income is divided by the equivalised household size to calculate equivalised disposable income. This value is essentially an approximate measure of how much of the household income can be attributed to each member of the household.

2 Total direct income is composed of employee income, employer’s social insurance contributions, gross cash benefits or losses from self-employment and any other direct income.

3 Total social transfers include unemployment and old-age benefit, children/family related allowances, housing allowances and other social transfers such as survivors, sickness or disability benefits.

4 Tax and social insurance contributions include employer’s social insurance contributions, regular inter-household cash transfers (paid), tax on income and social insurance contributions.

Retail Sector.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

175 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Taoiseach the number of retailers here; the share of larger retailers of the Irish market; the penetration of large retail multiples here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38007/09]

The information requested by the Deputy is given in the following table. The table was compiled from the results of the Annual Services Inquiry, conducted by the Central Statistics Office.

The table gives the estimated number of enterprises, turnover and number of persons engaged in retail trade, broken down by employment size class. All the data refers to the year 2007, the latest year for which the data are available.

NACE (Economic sector)

Size class (persons engaged)

Number of Enterprises

Turnover excl. VAT

Number of Persons Engaged

Share of Number of Enterprises

Share of Persons Engaged

Share of Total Turnover

(€000s)

(%)

(%)

(%)

< 10

13,609

6,374,361

45,479

81.1

23.0

20.4

10-19

1,950

3,691,470

26,006

11.6

13.2

11.8

52 (Retail)

20-49

802

3,325,435

23,941

4.8

12.1

10.6

50-249

371

5,589,425

34,620

2.2

17.5

17.9

250+

46

12,316,864

67,588

0.3

34.2

39.4

Total

16,777

31,297,554

197,634

100.0

100.0

100.0

*Persons engaged include working proprietors, full- and part-time employees.

**Number of persons engaged is a headcount during the week ending 7th September 2007.

Climate Change and Energy Security.

Denis Naughten

Question:

176 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Taoiseach when the Cabinet Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security last held a meeting; and the plans for further meetings. [38624/09]

The last meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security took place on 7 October 2009. The next meeting of the committee has not been scheduled yet.

Programmes for Government.

Denis Naughten

Question:

177 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Taoiseach if the revised programme for Government replaces all commitments in the Programme for Government 2007 to 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38819/09]

Last month, the Government parties agreed a renewed programme for Government.

Our initial Programme for Government, published following the 2007 General Election, made clear that its delivery was based on a growth rate of 4.5%. It was negotiated prior to the worst global downtown since the 1930s. The recent review is about ensuring the programme for Government reflects current economic realities.

Achievement of the goals set out in both documents, subject to resources, will provide the political basis of Government action, until we complete our term in 2012

Ministerial Travel.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

178 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach further to Parliamentary Question No. 160 of 20 October 2009, if he will provide the same information for 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38935/09]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

179 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach further to Parliamentary Question No. 160 of 20 October 2009, if his attention has been drawn to occasions on which a Minister did not comply with this provision of the Cabinet Handbook; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38936/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 178 and 179 together.

Our records show that the Taoiseach was consulted on 67 occasions in 2003, on 52 in 2004, on 26 in 2005 and on 25 in 2006 further to section 1.17 of the Cabinet Handbook. As I stated previously, Departments would not be likely to submit requests unless they considered them appropriate.

Departmental Staff.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

180 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach further to Parliamentary Question No. 174 of 6 October 2009, the name and years of service of the persons in question; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38937/09]

The persons in question are the former Director General of the Central Statistics Office, Mr. Donal Garvey and Mr. Gerry Hickey and Ms. Una Claffey, former Special Advisers to my predecessor. I will write to the Deputy directly and provide him with details of their service.

In each case, arrangements were made in accordance with comparable terms applied previously in similar circumstances, in the context of completion of contracts and were so approved by the Department of Finance.

Census Pilot Survey.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

181 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Taoiseach if his attention has been drawn to the calls being made to identify the number and geographic spread of children and adults with autism spectrum disorders in view of the lack of clear information available on a nationwide basis; if he will request the Central Statistics Office to include such a category in the next census; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39068/09]

As part of the preparatory work for the 2011 census the CSO conducted a public consultation by inviting members of the public and various interest groups to make submissions on the topics to be covered, and on the outputs to be produced. A notice to this effect was published in the national press in September 2008 seeking submissions, and all government departments were contacted for their input. This phase of the process has now concluded.

A Census Advisory Group was set up in autumn 2008 to consider the submissions received and advise on the questions to be tested in a pilot survey planned to be carried in April 2009. The Census Advisory Group is representative of central and local government, the social partners, universities, research bodies and other users of census data along with the relevant CSO personnel.

Over 90 submissions covering 31 topics were received in total, among them submissions on the subject of disability, and in particular on the subject of autism. A specific sub-group was convened to consider the disability questions on the census form. This sub-group was composed of representatives from the National Disability Authority, the Equality Authority, the Disability Federation of Ireland and the National Federation of Voluntary Bodies. The proposal to list specific disabilities within the disability question, namely to make specific reference to autistic spectrum disorder, or downs syndrome, in the category ‘A learning or intellectual disability' was considered at the second meeting of the group.

The group concluded that it would not be appropriate, nor would there be enough room on the census form, to list all individual disabilities. However, in order to go some way towards accommodating this request the existing (2006) category ‘ A learning or intellectual disability’ was split into two categories ‘An intellectual disability’ and separately ‘A difficulty with learning, remembering or concentrating’ for testing in the pilot survey. The group felt that this approach narrowed the categories and thus helped address the issue of autism, while allowing the question to remain as inclusive as possible.

The new wording of the disability questions which were tested in the Census Pilot Survey in April 2009 were as follows:

Census Pilot Survey 2009 — wording of Disability questions (Form B)

14 Do you have any of the following long-lasting conditions or difficulties?

Economic Competitiveness.

Joe McHugh

Question:

182 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will respond to matters (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38662/09]

In the current global economic climate, multinational companies are restructuring their global operations leading to global job cuts. Ireland therefore will inevitably be affected. On a daily basis, IDA Ireland is working with its client companies making every effort to keep their operations in Ireland and minimise job losses.

Despite this, Ireland continues to be an attractive location for FDI. To date this year IDA has already had a significant number of new investment projects approved and announced. There have been 44 announcements with a combined investment of €622.5 million and the potential to create 2,560 jobs. These investments are spread right throughout the country. It is encouraging that so many companies are prepared to undertake and announce these investments in Ireland given the current global economic environment. With the global outlook for 2010 looking more optimistic Ireland's improving competitiveness position should help IDA to make a significant contribution to economic recovery and continue to secure FDI for Ireland.

It is the view of this Government that controlling pay costs, both in the public and private sector, is a key element in restoring competitiveness. The Central Bank recently highlighted how our deterioration in international wage competitiveness threatens a quick return to economic growth. Although it will be a painful adjustment, a reduction in unit labour costs will strengthen our longer-term competitiveness. For most exporting firms, labour costs account for more than half their input costs. Both the NCB Manufacturing and Services Purchasing Managers' Indices have shown a sustained and deep period of declining input costs for businesses in Ireland, driven, in part, by lower wage costs. This is matched by a decline in Irish inflation that reached minus 6.5% in the year to September 2009 — the sharpest fall in Ireland since the 1920s. This deflation also cushions against the effects of any nominal wage declines. These indicators emphasise how we are meeting the challenge of restoring competitiveness through the primary means at our disposal — strict control over costs by all key players in Ireland's economy. With the OECD predicting mild deflation in Ireland for the next two years, the prospects are good for maintaining the current downward pressure on wages and prices. In addition, I should point out that the national minimum wage directly affects only about 5% of full time workers and has little direct impact on Ireland's international competitiveness as the number of persons on the national minimum wage in our internationally traded sectors in likely to be low.

Community Employment Schemes.

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

183 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of persons in the Community Employment Special Drug Projects; and the number of participants who are in receipt of double entitlements. [38699/09]

As of the 26 October there are currently 938 participants on Community Employment Drugs Taskforce projects, of these 522 participants are entitled to a dual payment i.e. to retain a portion or all of their Social Welfare payment while participating on community employment.

National Minimum Wage.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

184 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a limited company is obliged to pay their staff the minimum wage; if there are exceptions to the rule in cases of persons with a disability who are doing rehabilitative work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38883/09]

The National Minimum Wage Act applies to persons who have employee status. Under the National Minimum Wage Act, 2000 an employee is defined as a person who works under a contract of employment. A contract of employment (which can be written or implied) means a contract of service or apprenticeship or any other contract whereby an individual agrees with another person to do or perform personally any work or service for that person.

The only employees who are excluded from the provisions of the Act are close relatives of the employer and statutory apprentices within the meaning of the Industrial Training Act, 1967 and the Labour Services Act 1987. The Minimum Wage Act therefore would apply to those who are doing rehabilitative work if they have employee status.

Industrial Development.

Jack Wall

Question:

185 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding the Industrial Development Authority lands in Kildare south; if further meetings have taken place or are proposed with the relevant local authorities to discuss the sale of these lands; the result of such meetings; if the IDA will make such lands available for community development units; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38917/09]

The management of IDA Ireland's industrial property portfolio is a day-to-day operational matter for the agency, as part of the statutory responsibility assigned to it by the Oireachtas, and it is not a matter in which the Minister of the day has any involvement.

The use to which IDA property can be put is prescribed by legislation and the disposal of property for any alternative use requires the consent of the Minister of the day. However, the agency is always available to discuss proposals regarding availability or suitability of individual buildings with local authorities, enterprise boards or community groups and I will be happy to consider any request for such consent should it be required.

I have been informed by IDA Ireland that the position in relation to IDA lands in South Kildare has not changed since my reply to the Deputy's question of 6 May last. As I stated then, Kildare County Council confirmed to IDA in January 2009 that due to the financial position facing Kildare County Council at that time the local authority was not be in a position to purchase the sites in South Kildare.

The situation will be reviewed again early next year and should the same situation remain with Kildare County Council regarding the acquisition of the lands, IDA will consider open market disposal of some or all of these lands. This will be dependent on the open market conditions prevailing at that time.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Damien English

Question:

186 Deputy Damien English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her views on the impact the introduction of carbon taxes will have on competitiveness in industry and particularly within the small medium enterprise sector. [37919/09]

The proposed introduction of a carbon tax is a commitment in the renewed programme for Government and is in response to our international obligations under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

Work is under way to design a carbon tax that will reflect our commitment and obligation to address climate change challenges. A crucial consideration in forming a carbon tax must be the minimisation of any negative impacts on the enterprise sector, including possible impacts on competitiveness and employment. My Department is actively engaged in this assessment as part of the budgetary process.

The potential implications for industry of the introduction of a carbon tax will depend on many complex and interconnected factors and not least the level of a carbon tax, whether the revenue from the tax is recycled and whether there will be exemption provisions for companies who are already engaged in other greenhouse gas reduction measures such as emissions trading and negotiated agreements.

It is important that the level of tax be balanced between the objectives of achieving appropriate realistic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and realising these reductions at least cost to business, thereby maintaining competitiveness in the enterprise sector.

Job Creation.

Damien English

Question:

187 Deputy Damien English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the measures that have been taken to generate new employment in the Industrial Development Authority park in Navan, County Meath since June to date in 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37920/09]

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment (FDI) to Ireland and its regions. The marketing of individual areas for new or expansion FDI investments and jobs is a day-to-day operational matter for the agency and not one in which I have a function.

IDA Ireland's strategy for County Meath has been to promote the county as part of a wider East Region comprising Meath, Dublin, Wicklow and Kildare. This region has access to a population base of 1.5 million people, a diverse skills pool, educational infrastructure, international access connections, existing business activity across all sectors and extensive property solutions for future activity. Within the county, IDA focuses on the town of Navan. As Ireland competes for investments at the highest end of the value chain the concept of scale is crucial to our economic destiny. Leading corporations require a significant population of highly qualified talent, effective physical and digital infrastructure, coupled with availability of sophisticated professional support services.

The availability of suitable property solutions is one of the important attractions in encouraging FDI to Ireland and IDA Ireland has 25.5 hectares of serviced industrial lands available at the IDA Business Park in Navan, which it is marketing to prospective clients.

At present there are 15 IDA Ireland client companies in County Meath employing approximately 950 people. Six of these companies are located on the Business Park in Navan

IDA continues to work with its base of clients encouraging them to become involved in research and development and deepen their commitment to the local economy. In addition the agency is also involved in many local committees and task forces and is a Board Member of Meath County Development Board and the Economic Forum who are charged with developing initiatives to market the county.

Work Permits.

Jack Wall

Question:

188 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a work permit application by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare over a period since 2001 to 2008 is within the remit of her Department guidelines to permit them to obtain a stamp four under the new work permit regulations to ensure that they can seek employment or social welfare payments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37929/09]

The Employment Permits Section informs me that it appears from their records the above named has held employment permits for more than five consecutive years. On this basis it would appear that the individual might qualify for a Stamp 4 under the new regulations.

However, the issue of a Stamp 4 is a matter for the Immigration Authorities of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. In those circumstances, I would suggest that the above named contact his local immigration officer with the required supporting documentation. Details of the supporting documentation required can be found at www.inis.gov.ie.

FÁS Expenditure Budgets.

Joe Costello

Question:

189 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the FÁS budget in each year since its establishment in 1987 to date in 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37979/09]

The budget for FÁS each year since its establishment in January 1988 under the Labour Services Act 1987 is set out in the attached table.

FÁS Annual Expenditure Budget — 1988 to 2009

Year

Annual Budget Non-Capital

Capital Additions

€millions

€millions

2009

1,070.696

10.000

2008

1,061.500

25.107

2007

1,032.495

35.804

2006

939.125

48.366

2005

908.770

37.299

2004

827.500

20.263

2003

813.313

13.359

2002

857.466

11.564

2001

821.200

11.791

2000

728.233

14.979

1999

683.577

11.791

1998

650.794

8.891

1997

600.777

3.516

1996

555.131

6.910

1995

537.856

3.185

1994

424.804

2.363

1993

352.120

1.939

1992

285.564

4.581

1991

273.432

10.317

1990

250.258

4.420

1989

219,929

2.266

1988

232.365

1.364

Sources

1. Annual Budget Non-Capital figures per FÁS Board reports.

2. Capital additions per published FÁS Annual Reports.

3. All figures in € Euro.

FÁS Training Programmes.

George Lee

Question:

190 Deputy George Lee asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a short term diploma in family law is eligible for funding by FÁS; if so, the criteria that must be met to be eligible to undertake this course; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37981/09]

The Technical Employment Support Grant is used by FÁS where it is identified that a jobseeker has a support need to enter/re-enter the labour market, and that this need cannot be met by FÁS directly or any other state provider, within a reasonable timeframe or at a location convenient to the jobseeker. The grant has a limited budget, which is focused on short-term interventions. It is not the intention of this fund to generally support full-time or part-time third level programmes. In this context, however, the short-term diploma course in family law may be funded by FÁS on a case-by-case basis.

EU Funding.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

191 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount that has been drawn down from the European Social Fund here to date in 2009 for the human capital investment operational programme; the details of funds which have been drawn down to date in 2009 according to beneficiary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38001/09]

An Amount of €9,384,059.25 — the maximum allowable under Regulation — has been drawn down from the European Social Fund to date in 2009 in the form of an advance payment from the European Commission. This drawdown is not claim-based according to beneficiary.

In accordance with normal practice in Ireland, the claim to drawdown from the European Social Fund according to beneficiary is scheduled to be submitted during the final quarter of the year. Therefore, the amount of the 2009 claim — both in total and according to beneficiary — will only be available after it has been approved and received later in the year.

Food Labelling.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

192 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the penetration of own labelling of products in the grocery sector here in 2009; the penetration of own labelling of products in 1999; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38008/09]

My Department has no direct responsibility for the compilation of statistics associated with the market penetration of own brand goods in the Irish grocery sector. I understand such data would typically be available from market research companies and I would direct the deputy to these for detailed information.

I am aware that the Competition Authority has produced a number of recent reports focused on the grocery sector which may also assist the Deputy. These are available on the authority's website: http://www.tca.ie/PromotingCompetition/MarketStudies/MarketStudies.aspx

Departmental Agencies.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

193 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she has received representations regarding an issue (details supplied); the action she has taken in relation to same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38077/09]

I am aware of the issue to which the Deputy refers and my Department has written to the Director General of FÁS to seek a full report on the matter.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

194 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will make a statement on the decision of the City and Guilds to temporarily suspend accreditation of courses in the north east following the FÁS internal audit report (details supplied); the companies involved; and the cost of the course to the State. [38091/09]

I understand from FÁS that it requested City and Guilds to review the assessment material on courses run by the contractor in question. While the review of the material was taking place City and Guilds temporarily suspended certification of the courses at the centre of the controversy. This is standard procedure and was applied before any certificates were issued to the participants concerned.

Certification of the courses was reinstated following verification reports submitted to City and Guilds on completion of the review. I understand that there was no further suspension subsequent to the release of the FÁS Internal Audit Report in February 2009. I further understand that for legal reasons the company involved cannot be named. The costs of delivering the courses in question are set out in the following table.

Contract Number

Course

Location

Date

Trainer Fee

Trainee Allowances

0737

Legal Secretary

Drogheda

3/4/06 – 20/10/06

46,400

63,502

0769

Computer Aided Design

Cootehill

24/4/06 – 1/12/06

60,160

92,137

0927

Legal Secretary

Cootehill

18/9/06 – 13/4/07

52,780

59,216

1032

Office Administration

Ballivor

9/10/06 – 22/6/07

53,280

103,116

0964

Computerised Accounts & Payroll

Dundalk

8/1/07 – 15/6/07

40,480

67,735

1227

Office Administration

Navan

2/4/07 – 7/12/07

50,400

115,368

Redundancy Payments.

Frank Feighan

Question:

195 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress she has made to date on the 60 applications forwarded to her Department from persons who were made redundant from a company (details supplied) and who are seeking compensation from the insolvent fund; and when the outstanding wages, holiday moneys and so on will be awarded to them. [38102/09]

I can confirm that my Department received on 8 October 2009 applications under the Insolvency Payments Scheme for Arrears of Wages, Holiday Pay and Minimum Notice on behalf of the former employees of Peter Casey and Sons Limited. I should point out that the impact on business of the severe economic circumstances currently pertaining has resulted in a significant rise in the level of company receiverships and insolvencies. Consequently, an increasing number of claims are being submitted to the Insolvency Payments Section, with 17,933 new claims recorded from January 1 to September 30 — an increase of over 144% against the corresponding figure for this period in 2008. My officials endeavour to process all claims as quickly as possible and claims are dealt with in order of date of receipt. At present applications received in June 2009 are being processed.

I am advised also that a number of rebate and lump sum redundancy claims in respect of the former employees of the company have been submitted to the Redundancy Payment Section of my Department during October 2009 and that these are awaiting processing. There are two types of redundancy claims — rebates to those employers who have paid statutory redundancy to eligible employees, and statutory lump sums to employees whose employers are insolvent and/or in receivership/liquidation.

Currently, the average time it takes to process rebate applications from employers filed online is seven months while claims submitted by post are taking eight months. The Redundancy Payments Section of my Department is currently processing applications filed online from March 2009 and those submitted by post from February 2009. In respect of lump sum payments paid directly to employees in instances where employers are unable to pay the statutory redundancy entitlements, the section is, in general, processing claims dating from June 2009.

Given the unprecedented increase in redundancy payment claims lodged with my Department in since late 2008 it has proved impossible to maintain the customer service targets that previously obtained. The scale of the challenge is evident from the statistics that show incoming redundancy claims with a cumulative figure for the first nine months of 2009 at 60,785 an increase of 122% on the same period last year (27,373). This figure of 60,785 exceeds the claims lodged for the full year 2008 (40,607) and 2008 was, of itself, an exceptional year as compared with earlier years when claims received were of the order of 25,000.

Efforts continue to be made by my Department to deliver more acceptable turnaround processing times for redundancy payments given the difficulties that this gives rise to for both individual employees and the business community. Measures already taken include: the reassignment of 26.7 additional staff (full time equivalents) from other areas of the Department to the redundancy payments area since early 2009 with ongoing review of trends and demands. The current number of staff serving in the redundancy payments section in terms of full time equivalents is 53.8; the prioritisation of the Department's overtime budget towards staff in the redundancy payments section to tackle the backlog outside normal hours; the establishment of a special call handling facility to deal with the huge volume of telephone calls from people and businesses who are naturally concerned about their payments, using the facilities and co-operation of the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA). This centre has received an average of 12,500 calls per month this year with an estimated 60% relating to redundancy payments; the provision of better quality information relating to current processing times on the Department's website; engagement with the Revenue Commissioners to facilitate the offset of redundancy rebate payments by employers against outstanding tax liabilities with the Revenue Commissioners.

The Tánaiste and I continue to monitor closely the impact of these changes against the continuing influx of redundancy claims and will consider further measures to deal with the situation should current measures prove to be inadequate.

Job Creation.

Noel Grealish

Question:

196 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs that were created by the Industrial Development Authority in 2008; the cost per job; the number of jobs that were created by Enterprise Ireland in 2008; the cost per job; the number of jobs that were created by county enterprise boards in 2008; the cost per job; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38239/09]

The Forfás Annual Employment Survey shows that 8,837 new jobs were created in IDA supported companies in 2008. As part of the Forfás Annual Employment Survey, the overall cost per job is calculated each year by reference to the cost of jobs created during and sustained to the end of a seven-year period. All IDA expenditure on all firms in the period of calculation is included. For the period 2002 to 2008, at constant 2008 prices, the cost per job sustained was €13,202. This figure has declined steadily over the past seven years.

In 2008, Enterprise Ireland client companies created 10,522 new jobs. The accepted accounting measure for cost per job is ‘Cost per job Sustained'. This is calculated by taking into account all direct agency expenditure on all Enterprise Ireland client companies in a seven-year period. As with IDA, only jobs created during, and sustained at the end of each seven-year period are represented in the calculations. The cost per job calculation takes the total grants paid to companies to undertake development projects, at both start-up and expansion stages, and the new jobs that arise from these projects. The cost per job sustained created with assistance from Enterprise Ireland in 2008 was €8,235.

Since their inception in 1993, the county and city enterprise boards (CEBs) have provided grant assistance in excess of €201 million to 20,796 projects. This in turn has assisted in the net creation of 33,811 jobs, a figure that does not include jobs which existed in businesses prior to CEB support being provided to those businesses, at a cost of €5,944 per post. Whilst 2008 has seen a net decrease in job creation for the CEB Network, a number of CEBs reported an increase in job creation within their local area. This is a clear indication of the positive effect of CEB intervention on our economy at both local and national levels in the micro-enterprise sector.

National Minimum Wage.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

197 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the minimum wage will not be reduced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38270/09]

In November 2008, ICTU requested the Labour Court to review the national minimum wage and to make a recommendation to me concerning its adjustment. The court subsequently invited submissions on the issue. Various submissions were received, including from IBEC, ICTU and the Department of Finance. The Labour Court also held discussions with these parties.

Under the National Minimum Wage Act 2000, the Labour Court is required to have regard to the prospects for any general agreement that may be reached between employer and employee representatives on the appropriate national minimum hourly rate of pay.

As the Deputy is aware, discussions are still under way between the Government and the social partners on the possibility of reaching an agreement on an integrated national response to the current crisis. Accordingly, I understand that the Labour Court has not concluded — as it is required to do under the Act — that there is no prospect of a general agreement being reached between the parties. It would be inappropriate for me to comment further while the matter is still under consideration by the court.

Work Permits.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

198 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will consider the circumstances of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6 and issue an employment permit. . [38312/09]

The Employment Permits Section informs me that it cannot issue an employment permit retrospectively. However, in the event that the above named sources another employer then an application can be submitted and it will be considered on its merits.

Employment Rights.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

199 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the terms of reference of the Review Group on Employee Representation; its membership, the date on which it first met and the dates of all subsequent meetings; the activities of the group to date in 2009, the expected future activities of the group; the resources allocated to support the group; the date by which the group is expected to have completed its activities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38314/09]

The Towards 2016 Review and Transitional Agreement 2008 — 2009 (paras 9.1 — 9.3) provides for the establishment of a review process which would consider the legal and other steps necessary to enable the employee representation mechanisms that had been established under previous agreements — and in legislation — to operate as they had been intended. The agreement (para 9.4) also commits the Government to bringing forward legislative proposals to prohibit the victimisation of trade union members and to prohibit the incentivisation of persons not to be members of a trade union.

With a view to progressing work on both commitments, a Review Group on Employee Representation — chaired by the Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach and on which my Department; the Department of Finance; trade unions; and employers are represented — has been put in place to examine these issues.

Two informal meetings of the group have taken place to date — on 14 September and 13 October, 2009 — and position papers have been submitted by the employer and trade union representatives on the issues requiring the group's consideration. I understand that the group's work will now focus on the issues raised in these position papers and that further engagement between the parties is anticipated over the coming weeks. The group has not set a date for the completion of its activities.

The Social Partnership (IR & Workplace Change) Division of the Department of the Taoiseach is supporting the work of the group from within existing resources.

Industrial Disputes.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

200 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment further to Parliamentary Question No. 72 of 13 October 2009 in regard to the reference to outsourced contractors if she will comment on reports that these contractors are offering employees at a company (details supplied) working conditions that are inferior to that of the original contracts and which break the Protection of Employees on Transfers of Undertakings Regulations 2003 (S.I No. 131 of 2003); and the steps she will take to ensure that workers’ rights are fully protected.. [38344/09]

Following the intervention of the National Implementation Body and the ensuing appointment of a mediator to assist the parties, I am pleased to note that both the workers and the company have accepted the terms of a settlement agreement and the dispute at Coca Cola HBC Ireland has been resolved. I understand that the settlement agreement provides for redundancy terms in respect of the 130 Coca Cola workers who had been made redundant by the company in September.

In relation to the Transfer of Undertakings Regulations, it would be a matter for a Rights Commissioner to determine in law if any particular case does in fact constitute a transfer of undertakings situation, in the light of all previous case law, including European Court of Justice (ECJ) case law.

Grocery Industry.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

201 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she has conducted a survey of Irish suppliers of grocery products to the large supermarkets regarding the conduct of retail trade practices between supplier and supermarket; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38356/09]

The nature of the relationships between grocery goods businesses and, in particular, the relationships between suppliers and retailers of grocery goods has been the subject of debate for some time. During the course of that debate I have met with a variety of stakeholders in the grocery goods sector including a considerable number of retailers, suppliers and their representatives to discuss the reality of the relationships in the sector.

The Deputy will not be surprised by the fact that the various stakeholders have different analyses of the dynamics affecting the grocery goods sector and indeed that there are widely different views as to the nature of the practices occurring in the sector and, in particular, as to the fairness/unfairness of those practices.

Whilst contractual and commercial relationships between businesses is essentially a matter for discussion and agreement by the contracting parties themselves, the Government is concerned that there should be a balance in the relationship between the various players in the grocery goods sector, which takes account of the interests of all the various parties, including the consumer's interests.

To that end, the programme for Government contains a specific commitment "to implement a Code of Practice for doing business in the Grocery Goods sector, to develop a fair trading relationship between retailers and their suppliers and to review progress of the Code and if necessary to put in place a mandatory code".

The Deputy may be aware that I launched a public consultation process seeking the views of all stakeholders in relation to the introduction of a Code of Practice for Grocery Goods Undertakings earlier this year. A total of 29 responses were received to the consultation process. These responses are currently being analysed by my Department. It is intended that this analysis will inform how best to give effect to the commitment in the programme for Government.

The Government's efforts in this area are intended to ensure that Ireland continues to have vibrant and successful food and retail sectors, given the role these sectors play in the national economy, whilst also respecting the importance of ensuring that there is a fair balance in the relationships between the various players in the grocery goods sector, which takes account of the interests of all the various stakeholders, including the consumer's interests.

Bullying in the Workplace.

Brian Hayes

Question:

202 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the Labour Relations Commission has the ability to investigate workplace bullying; if not, her plans to strengthen legislation in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38378/09]

The Labour Relations Commission's "Code of Practice Detailing Procedures for Addressing Bullying in the Workplace" was introduced on foot of a recommendation in the Report of the Task Force on the Prevention of Workplace Bullying, presented to my predecessor in March 2001. The Code, prepared by the Labour Relations Commission, was subsequently designated as a statutory code of practice for the purposes of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. In addition, the Labour Relations Commission's involvement in workplace bullying is cited in the Health and Safety Authority's revised "Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Prevention and Resolution of Bullying at Work", made under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, which came into effect on 1 May 2007. In the case of both Codes, the emphasis is on the resolution of incidents of bullying using an informal or formal process inside organisations and professional mediation services.

Where a case of workplace bullying arises and internal processes fail, the Codes provide that an appeal may be referred to the Rights Commissioner Service of the Labour Relations Commission under the Industrial Relations Acts. If the recommendation of the Rights Commissioner is not acceptable, an appeal may be made to the Labour Court.

Although these respective Codes do not have the force of law, they can be taken into account in the course of proceedings before the Labour Court and the Employment Appeals Tribunal where they are germane to the proceedings. The development of these Codes has been welcomed by industrial relations and HR professionals as a practical contribution to improving internal employment relations practices and procedures.

I have no plans to alter the status of these Codes, which have been developed following intensive consultation with the Social Partners and expert bodies, or to change the legislative provisions from which they derive.

Tariff Codes.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

203 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the way the tariff nomenclature can be amended at international level; the way national governments and Ministries can influence the tariff nomenclature at international or EU level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38398/09]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

204 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the tariff nomenclature can be amended at EU level to distinguish agri-food products subject to substantial transformation; the way agri-food products subject to substantial transformation can become part of the tariff nomenclature set at international level by reference to Standard International Trade Classification or the Common Nomenclature; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38399/09]

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

Changes to tariff codes and the nomenclature are decided internationally and within the EU at committees serviced by the Revenue Commissioners. Consequently my Department is not responsible for deciding changes to the international tariff nomenclature and I have no involvement in the matters raised by the Deputy.

Redundancy Payments.

Noel Coonan

Question:

205 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when redundancy payments will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; the reason for delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38473/09]

My Department administers the Social Insurance Fund (SIF) in relation to redundancy matters on behalf of the Department of Social and Family Affairs. There are two types of payment made from the SIF — rebates to those employers who have paid statutory redundancy to eligible employees, and statutory lump sums to employees whose employers are insolvent and/or in receivership/liquidation.

The Redundancy Payments Section of my Department received a statutory redundancy lump sum application on behalf of the claimant concerned on 4 September, 2009. When an employer claims inability to pay, the onus is on the employer to provide sufficient proof to substantiate the claim. In this case, further information has been requested from the employer to allow a decision to be reached and the claim to be processed. If the former employer does not forward the required information it may be necessary for the employee to take a case to the Employment Appeals Tribunal.

In respect of lump sum payments paid directly to employees in instances where employers are unable to pay the statutory redundancy entitlements and where all of the required supporting documentation has been submitted, the section is, in general, processing lump sum claims dating from June 2009.

Given the unprecedented increase in redundancy payment claims lodged with my Department in since late 2008 it has proved impossible to maintain the customer service targets that previously obtained. The scale of the challenge is evident from the statistics that show incoming redundancy claims with a cumulative figure for the first nine months of 2009 at 60,785 an increase of 122% on the same period last year (27,373). This figure of 60,785 exceeds the claims lodged for the full year 2008 (40,607) and 2008 was, of itself, an exceptional year as compared with earlier years when claims received were of the order of 25,000.

Efforts continue to be made by my Department to deliver more acceptable turnaround processing times for redundancy payments given the difficulties that this gives rise to for both individual employees and the business community. Measures already taken include: the reassignment of 26.7 additional staff (full time equivalents) from other areas of the Department to the redundancy payments area since early 2009 with ongoing review of trends and demands. The current number of staff serving in the redundancy payments section in terms of full time equivalents is 53.8; the prioritisation of the Department's overtime budget towards staff in the redundancy payments section to tackle the backlog outside normal hours; the establishment of a special call handling facility to deal with the huge volume of telephone calls from people and businesses who are naturally concerned about their payments, using the facilities and cooperation of the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA). This centre has received an average of 12,500 calls per month this year with an estimated 60% relating to redundancy payments; the provision of better quality information relating to current processing times on the Department's website; engagement with the Revenue Commissioners to facilitate the offset of redundancy rebate payments by employers against outstanding tax liabilities with the Revenue Commissioners.

The Tánaiste and I continue to monitor closely the impact of these changes against the continuing influx of redundancy claims and will consider further measures to deal with the situation should current measures prove to be inadequate.

Noel Coonan

Question:

206 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when redundancy payments will issue to former employees of a company (details supplied) in County Tipperary; the reason for the delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38476/09]

My Department administers the Social Insurance Fund (SIF) in relation to redundancy matters on behalf of the Department of Social and Family Affairs. There are two types of payment made from the SIF — rebates to those employers who have paid statutory redundancy to eligible employees, and statutory lump sums to employees whose employers are insolvent and/or in receivership/liquidation.

The company in question submitted a number of claims to my Department some of which were rebate applications as well as a number of lump sum applications. This involved an offsetting exercise of the rebate applications against the lump sum applications which delayed the processing of the claims somewhat.

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the redundancy payments section completed processing of the statutory redundancy claims and that payment issued on 5 October last.

Noel Coonan

Question:

207 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when a redundancy payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; the breakdown of the payment; the reason for the delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38477/09]

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the redundancy payments section of my Department completed processing the statutory redundancy lump sum claim in respect of the individual concerned in early October 2009 and that payment issued at that time.

Industrial Development.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

208 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment further to Parliamentary Question No. 82 of 13 October 2009, the number of those client companies supported by the Industrial Development Authority and Enterprise Ireland since October 2008 that were newly supported companies; the specific amounts granted to each company; and the number of jobs created as a result. [38494/09]

In 2008, Enterprise Ireland supported the establishment of 71 new high potential start–up companies in sectors as diverse as life sciences, medical devices, software, services and food.The Government through Enterprise Ireland is investing €21.5 million in developing the businesses of these high potential start–up companies, which in turn will leverage a total investment of over €169 million. The investment is towards expenditures such as R&D, production and operations, key skilled employees and management development, all part of the essential mix to drive sustained growth and development in competitive international markets.

These highly innovative companies are forecast to create 1,000 new jobs over the next three years with total sales over the same period to reach €615 million, and exports will account for almost 75% of this. This is the result of ongoing initiatives by the agency and over the past four years, the agency supported almost 300 start-up companies. In 2009, Enterprise Ireland aims to support a further 66 start-up companies and despite difficult economic conditions, the pipeline for achieving this is healthy.

Between 1 October 2008 and 30 September 2009, Enterprise Ireland made financial payments of €164,705,000 direct to its client companies. This direct support to businesses does not include payments made by Enterprise Ireland to businesses under supports such as venture capital funding and infrastructural payments. The wide range of Enterprise Ireland financial supports are aimed at holistically developing companies across the business function. The intended outcome of this support is to develop the company with a view to maximising economic return to Ireland, which is typically in the form of exports and job creation.

The details of grant aid to Enterprise Ireland client companies that are no longer deemed to be commercially sensitive is available in the annual reports of Enterprise Ireland.

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.

I have been informed by IDA Ireland that in the period between 1 October 2008 and 30 September 2009 grant payments were made by the Agency to 18 "new-name" client companies.

It is not possible to give the actual number of jobs created as a result of these payments for the following of reasons:

Some grant support e.g. Training Grants and Research and Development grants are not directly linked to the creation specific numbers of new jobs;

Depending on the type of grant, there can be a considerable time lag between the payment of the grant and the actual generation of jobs; and

Information relating to the numbers of jobs created in IDA supported companies are contained in the Forfás Annual Employment Survey. Data is compiled on an annualized basis and is aggregated at county level. The information is provided by companies on a confidential basis for statistical purposes only. Information on individual companies is not disclosed for reasons of client confidentiality.

As information in relation to the amounts of grant approvals by IDA Ireland in respect of individual companies is commercially sensitive, you will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to comment further.

Redundancy Payments.

Bobby Aylward

Question:

209 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when statutory redundancy will be awarded to persons, (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [38498/09]

My Department administers the Social Insurance Fund (SIF) in relation to redundancy matters on behalf of the Department of Social and Family Affairs. There are two types of payment made from the SIF — rebates to those employers who have paid statutory redundancy to eligible employees, and statutory lump sums to employees whose employers are insolvent and/or in receivership/liquidation.

I can confirm that my Department received statutory redundancy lump sum redundancy applications in July 2009 in respect of the two former employees of the company concerned. When an employer claims inability to pay, the onus is on the employer to provide sufficient proof to substantiate the claim. In this case, further information has been requested from the employer to allow a decision to be reached and the claims to be processed. If the employer does not forward the required information, it may be necessary for the employees to take a case to the Employment Appeals Tribunal.

Currently, the average time it takes to process rebate applications from employers filed online is seven months while claims submitted by post are taking eight months. The redundancy payments section of my Department is currently processing applications filed online from March 2009 and those submitted by post from February 2009. In respect of lump sum payments paid directly to employees in instances where employers are unable to pay the statutory redundancy entitlements as in this case, the section is, in general, processing claims dating from June 2009.

Given the unprecedented increase in redundancy payment claims lodged with my Department in since late 2008 it has proved impossible to maintain the customer service targets that previously obtained. The scale of the challenge is evident from the statistics that show incoming redundancy claims with a cumulative figure for the first nine months of 2009 at 60,785 an increase of 122% on the same period last year (27,373). This figure of 60,785 exceeds the claims lodged for the full year 2008 (40,607) and 2008 was, of itself, an exceptional year as compared with earlier years when claims received were of the order of 25,000.

Efforts continue to be made by my Department to deliver more acceptable turnaround processing times for redundancy payments given the difficulties that this gives rise to for both individual employees and the business community. Measures already taken include: the reassignment of 26.7 additional staff (full time equivalents) from other areas of the Department to the redundancy payments area since early 2009 with ongoing review of trends and demands. The current number of staff serving in the redundancy payments section in terms of full time equivalents is 53.8; the prioritisation of the Department's overtime budget towards staff in the redundancy payments section to tackle the backlog outside normal hours; the establishment of a special call handling facility to deal with the huge volume of telephone calls from people and businesses who are naturally concerned about their payments, using the facilities and cooperation of the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA). This centre has received an average of 12,500 calls per month this year with an estimated 60% relating to redundancy payments; the provision of better quality information relating to current processing times on the Department's website; engagement with the Revenue Commissioners to facilitate the offset of redundancy rebate payments by employers against outstanding tax liabilities with the Revenue Commissioners.

The Tánaiste and I continue to monitor closely the impact of these changes against the continuing influx of redundancy claims and will consider further measures to deal with the situation should current measures prove to be inadequate.

Small and Medium Enterprises.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

210 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if innovation vouchers are available to small and medium enterprises in every sector; if innovation vouchers are available to indigenous SME’s that are not export orientated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38522/09]

The objective of the Innovation Voucher Initiative is to facilitate and encourage enterprises, in particular small enterprise, to avail of the support available from research institutions.

Under the Initiative vouchers worth €5,000 are allocated to small businesses whose proposals, to work with public knowledge providers on specific innovation questions, meet basic criteria. Companies can apply for more than one voucher and up to ten companies may pool their vouchers for a single project.

All small companies, in every sector of the Irish economy are eligible to apply for an innovation voucher. The only exclusions, in line with State Aid guidelines, are small enterprises in the transportation and agricultural sectors. Applications are restricted to registered limited companies only.

The Innovation Voucher Initiative is therefore available to all eligible sectors and is available to indigenous SME's that are not export orientated. The initiative has already played a role in drive on-going innovation by promoting and encouraging a transfer of knowledge between Ireland's third level educational institutions or research providers and the small business community and creating greater synergies between the two.

Innovation vouchers can be used for any kind of innovation such as:

new business model development;

new service delivery and customer interface;

new service development; or

tailored training in innovation management.

Small companies have redeemed 292 vouchers worth €1.46 million to date in 2009 with applications received from all 26 counties, covering a wide range of sectors, with the areas of eCommerce, Digital Mechanisms and Communications Technologies prominent.

Northern Ireland also launched an innovation voucher initiative in May 2008. This move by Invest Northern Ireland, means that innovation vouchers are now acceptable in third level institutions or ‘knowledge providers' on both sides of the border. This means that companies North and South have the same level of choice when it comes to selecting the most suitable research team and to date 14 southern Irish companies have completed projects with Northern Irish knowledge providers and eight Northern Irish companies have completed projects with knowledge providers in the South to deliver solutions to their knowledge questions.

Job Losses.

Noel Coonan

Question:

211 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the reduction in staff numbers at a company (details supplied) in County Tipperary; her plans to assist this company; if her further attention has been drawn to the difficulties at this company; the action she proposes to take to preserve the remaining jobs and help the company survive into the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38523/09]

I am aware that Taro Pharmaceuticals has announced its intention to make 20 of its 71 staff redundant at its Roscrea facility, by 1 December 2009. The redundancies were announced in response to continuing substantial losses at the Roscrea operation, due in part to the termination of contract business in Canada and the completion of an unprofitable tender contract in the UK.

Proposals are also in discussion for Taro to be acquired by Sun Pharmaceutical Industries, India.

IDA is in contact with Taro regarding the situation at the Roscrea plant and will assist the company in any way it can.

Redundancy Payments.

Noel Coonan

Question:

212 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of people in north Tipperary waiting on redundancy payments from her Department; the duration that they have been waiting; when it is envisaged that they will be paid; the number of people waiting nationally; the steps she will take to expedite the process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38524/09]

I can advise the Deputy that the latest figures available to end September 2009 indicate that the number of redundancy claims awaiting processing stands at 43,250. Unfortunately, I am unable to provide the Deputy with the specific information he has requested as the Department does not collate statistics for applications awaiting processing on the basis of local authority boundaries. I am sure the Deputy will appreciate that at this time my focus and that of my Department is on ensuring that redundancy payments are processed as quickly as possible.

Currently, the average time it takes to process rebate applications from employers filed online is seven months while claims submitted by post are taking eight months. The redundancy payments section of my Department is currently processing applications filed online from March 2009 and those submitted by post from February 2009. In respect of lump sum payments paid directly to employees in instances where employers are unable to pay the statutory redundancy entitlements, the section is, in general, processing claims dating from June 2009.

Given the unprecedented increase in redundancy payment claims lodged with my Department in since late 2008 it has proved impossible to maintain the customer service targets that previously obtained. The scale of the challenge is evident from the statistics that show incoming redundancy claims with a cumulative figure for the first nine months of 2009 at 60,785 an increase of 122% on the same period last year (27,373). This figure of 60,785 exceeds the claims lodged for the full year 2008 (40,607) and 2008 was, of itself, an exceptional year as compared with earlier years when claims received were of the order of 25,000.

Efforts continue to be made by my Department to deliver more acceptable turnaround processing times for redundancy payments given the difficulties that this gives rise to for both individual employees and the business community. Measures already taken include: the reassignment of 26.7 additional staff (full time equivalents) from other areas of the Department to the redundancy payments area since early 2009 with ongoing review of trends and demands. The current number of staff serving in the redundancy payments section in terms of full time equivalents is 53.8; the prioritisation of the Department's overtime budget towards staff in the redundancy payments section to tackle the backlog outside normal hours; the establishment of a special call handling facility to deal with the huge volume of telephone calls from people and businesses who are naturally concerned about their payments, using the facilities and cooperation of the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA). This centre has received an average of 12,500 calls per month this year with an estimated 60% relating to redundancy payments; the provision of better quality information relating to current processing times on the Department's website; engagement with the Revenue Commissioners to facilitate the offset of redundancy rebate payments by employers against outstanding tax liabilities with the Revenue Commissioners.

The Tánaiste and I continue to monitor closely the impact of these changes against the continuing influx of redundancy claims and will consider further measures to deal with the situation should current measures prove to be inadequate.

Grocery Industry.

Noel Coonan

Question:

213 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her views on proposals submitted to her by an association (details supplied) for a supermarket code of practice and a supermarket ombudsman; her plans to enact this legislation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38525/09]

The programme for Government contains a specific commitment to "implement a Code of Practice for doing business in the Grocery Goods sector, to develop a fair trading relationship between retailers and their suppliers and to review progress of the Code and if necessary to put in place a mandatory code".

The Deputy may be aware that I launched a public consultation process seeking the views of all stakeholders in relation to the introduction of a Code of Practice for Grocery Goods Undertakings earlier this year. A total of 29 responses, including a response from the association concerned, were received to the consultation process. These responses are currently being analysed by my Department. It is intended that this analysis will inform how best to give effect to the commitment in the programme for Government.

The Government's efforts in this area are essentially based on the need to ensure that Ireland continues to have vibrant and successful food and retail sectors, given the important role these sectors play in the national economy. In this regard, the Government fully recognises the importance of achieving a balance in the relationships between the various players in the grocery goods sector, which takes account of the interests of all the various parties, including the consumer's interests and the need to ensure that there is no impediment to the passing-on of lower prices to consumers.

Employment Subsidy Scheme.

Michael Creed

Question:

214 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will make a statement regarding the take up of the employment subsidy scheme announced by her Department; if she will comment on the ratio provision contained in the scheme which many employers see as an impediment to availing of this subsidy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38583/09]

The purpose of the Employment Subsidy Scheme is to support the maintenance of vulnerable jobs, help the economy retain its productive capacity and employers retain the labour, knowledge and skills of the workforce thereby supporting a faster return to sustainable growth.

The Scheme provides a subsidy of €9,100 per employee over fifteen months to qualifying enterprises. During this period the firm would continue to pay the employee their normal wages.

The Scheme was announced on the 6th August 2009 and Enterprise Ireland who are managing the scheme, received 561 eligible applications seeking employment subsidies for 9,130 jobs. Enterprise Ireland are currently assessing these applications.

Applications will be assessed on a competitive basis and the ratio provision contained in the Scheme provides a way of ensuring that the number of jobs retained by employers is maximised, thereby increasing the value for money return to the Exchequer for the funds provided.

Export Credit Insurance.

Michael Creed

Question:

215 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress she has made in addressing the difficulty being faced by companies involved in the building services area getting export credit insurance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38584/09]

As a result of the difficulties being experienced by some companies seeking Export Credit Insurance, I arranged that a forensic examination of the Credit Insurance market in Ireland should be carried out to establish what assistance the State could provide in enabling exporters and to assist recovery in the credit insurance market.

It should be appreciated that any intervention by the State in the area of trade finance must have regard to the effectiveness and tangible benefits of such a scheme for exporters across all sectors with a particular focus on job creation, in light of potential significant additional costs to the exchequer. Work is continuing in my Department and I intend to be in a position to communicate the outcome of our work to date with the groups concerned shortly.

Registrar of Friendly Societies.

John McGuinness

Question:

216 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of trade unions registered in each of the past three years with the Registrar of Friendly Societies; if each one fulfilled their obligations to the registrar; if there was a breach of these obligations; and if the annual report was submitted for each of these years. [38604/09]

The number of trade unions registered with the Registrar of Friendly Societies in each of the past three years is set out below. There were no new registrations in any of the three years. This information is included in the report of the Registrar of Friendly Societies which is laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas annually.

The main obligation of trade unions with regard to their registration is the submission of an annual return specifying the receipts, funds, effects and expenditure of the trade union, and detailing changes of officers and any changes to rules. Non-submission of an annual return constitutes a breach of a union's obligations under the Trade Union Acts, 1871 to 1990.

The table below sets out the number of unions registered at the end of each year and the number of annual returns which have been filed in respect of that year.

Year

Number of Unions

Registered Annual Returns Filed

2006

66

49

2007

65

47

2008

65

39

FÁS Training Programmes.

George Lee

Question:

217 Deputy George Lee asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment further to Parliamentary Question No. 138 of 21 October 2009, the date the data will be available; if a copy will be forwarded to this Deputy at that stage; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38636/09]

I have been informed that FÁS expects the fieldwork of the 2008 Customer Survey to be completed by the end of November and the data tables to be compiled by the end of the year. A Report will then be written and, after internal review, the results will be published. Based on past experience, the report should be available in the second quarter of 2010. A copy will be made available to the Deputy.

Redundancy Payments.

Dan Neville

Question:

218 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment further to Parliamentary Question No. 5 of 17 September 2009 if she will ensure that statutory redundancy payment is awarded without any further delay to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38722/09]

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the Statutory Redundancy lump sum claim has recently been authorized for payment for the individual concerned and I understand that payment should issue within the next week or two.

Sean Fleming

Question:

219 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when a payment due under the Redundancy Payment Acts, 1967 to 2003, will be awarded in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38728/09]

I understand that applications for payment in respect of the individual concerned have been submitted to my Department under both the Redundancy Payments Scheme and the Insolvency Payments scheme in respect of minimum notice and holiday pay.

In relation to the claim for a statutory redundancy lump sum payment, this was submitted to the Redundancy Payments Section on 13 July, 2009. I understand that the processing of this claim is at an advanced stage and, subject to the documentation received being in order, the claim may be processed for payment within the next few weeks.

As regards the application for the individual under the Insolvency Payments Scheme for arrears of holiday pay and minimum notice, I can confirm that my Department received this application on 13 June, 2009. It was necessary to seek further information from the Receiver and this was received on 15 July 2009. Given current processing constraints, it is expected to complete processing of this claim and to make payment within the next four to five weeks.

The impact on business of the severe economic circumstances currently pertaining has resulted in a significant rise in the level of company receiverships and insolvencies. Consequently, an increasing number of claims are being submitted to the Insolvency Payments Section, with 17,933 new claims recorded from January 1 to September 30 — an increase of over 144% against the corresponding figure for this period in 2008. My officials endeavour to process all claims as quickly as possible and claims are dealt with in order of date of receipt. At present applications received in June are being processed.

Job Losses.

James Bannon

Question:

220 Deputy James Bannon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs lost and provided in Mullingar, County Westmeath, in the past ten years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38745/09]

Employment/unemployment is measured by the Quarterly National Household Survey, published by the CSO. It does not provide data on particular counties but only on Regions. Employment in the Midlands Region, which includes County Westmeath, has dropped by 19,600 and unemployment has increased by 12,700 in the last 10 years from Quarter 2 (April-June) 2000 to Quarter 2 2009.

Live register figures for Mullingar have increased by 3,531 from September 2000 to September 2009. There was 4,840 signing on the Live Register in Mullingar in September 2009. The Live Register is not designed to measure unemployment. It includes part-time, seasonal and casual workers entitled to unemployment benefit.

In relation to the numbers of jobs lost, there is no exact measure, however, the Department records the number of redundancies notified to them on a monthly basis. The table below sets out the number of redundancy notifications received for County Westmeath from 2000 to 2009.

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009 Jan-Oct

Total

Westmeath

132

304

526

681

448

314

217

450

785

1158

5015

The table below provides details of full time job gains and job losses in enterprise agency supported companies in County Westmeath for the 10 year period 1999-2008.

Permanent Full Time Jobs Created / Lost in Enterprise Agency*** Assisted Firms in period 1999-2008

Westmeath

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Change in Period

Jobs Created

300

716

547

562

358

388

651

429

572

212

4,735

Jobs Lost

-436

-219

-320

-396

-812

-440

-184

-456

-435

-645

-4,343

Net Job Change

-136

497

227

166

-454

-52

467

-27

137

-433

392

***Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland.

There were 4,735 jobs created in County Westmeath by the enterprise development agencies for the 10 year period of 1999 to 2009, while 4,343 jobs have been lost in the same period. Figures for 2009 will not be available until early 2010.

My Department has adopted a broad range of measures to upskill and in many cases reskill the unemployed and to keep as many people as possible close to the labour market, thereby facilitating their re-entry into employment as soon as possible. These measures include the provision of various training initiatives that are designed to provide portable and transferable skills in a range of areas that will increase participants' employability throughout all sectors of industry.

Several new activation measures have also been launched. These include a Work Placement Programme for those who are unemployed, and a programme to enable the unemployed participate in third level courses on a part time basis.

James Bannon

Question:

221 Deputy James Bannon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs lost and provided in Granard, County Longford in the past ten years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38746/09]

James Bannon

Question:

222 Deputy James Bannon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs lost and provided in Ballymahon, County Longford in the past ten years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38747/09]

James Bannon

Question:

223 Deputy James Bannon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs lost and provided in Longford, County Longford in the past ten years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38748/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 221 to 223, inclusive, together.

Employment and unemployment is measured by the Quarterly National Household Survey, published by the CSO. It does not provide data on particular counties but only on Regions.

Employment in the Midlands Region, which includes County Longford, has dropped by 19,600 and unemployment has increased by 12,700 in the last 10 years from Quarter 2 (April-June) 2000 to Quarter 2 2009.

The Live Register collects data by social welfare office. There is only one social welfare office in Longford in which the CSO record data for which is Longford Town, which covers the whole of the county. Live register figures for Longford have increased by 3,689 from September 2000 to September 2009. There was 5,530 signing on the Live Register in Longford in September 2009. The Live Register is not designed to measure unemployment. It includes part-time, seasonal and casual workers entitled to unemployment benefit.

In relation to the numbers of jobs lost, there is no exact measure, however, the Department records the number of redundancies notified to them on a monthly basis. The table below sets out the number of redundancy notifications received for County Longford from 2000 to 2009.

Redundancies in County Longford

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009 Jan-Oct

Total

Longford

131

94

101

50

63

135

265

195

304

427

1,765

The table below provides details of full time job gains and job losses in enterprise agency supported companies in County Longford for the 10 year period 1999-2008.

Permanent Full Time Jobs Created / Lost in Enterprise Agency*** Assisted Firms in period 1999-2008

Longford

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Change in Period

Jobs Created

216

219

432

117

359

245

394

316

155

171

2,624

Jobs Lost

-454

-231

-304

-310

-86

-140

-117

-343

-124

-252

-2,361

Net Job Change

-238

-12

128

-193

273

105

277

-27

31

-81

263

There were 2,624 jobs created in County Longford by the enterprise development agencies for the 10 year period from 1999 to 2009, while 2,361 jobs have been lost in the same period. Figures for 2009 will not be available until early 2010.

My Department has adopted a broad range of measures to upskill and in many cases reskill the unemployed and to keep as many people as possible close to the labour market, thereby facilitating their re-entry into employment as soon as possible. These measures include the provision of various training initiatives that are designed to provide portable and transferable skills in a range of areas that will increase participants' employability.

Several new activation measures have also been launched. These include a Work Placement Programme for those who are unemployed, and a programme to enable the unemployed participate in third level courses on a part time basis.

Redundancy Payments.

Michael Ring

Question:

224 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive the redundancy rebate payment for employees. [38812/09]

I can confirm that my Department received two statutory redundancy rebate applications in April and June 2009 from the former employer of the two individuals concerned.

There are two types of redundancy claims — rebates to those employers who have paid statutory redundancy to eligible employees, and statutory lump sums to employees whose employers are insolvent and/or in receivership/liquidation.

Currently, the average time it takes to process rebate applications from employers filed online is 7 months while claims submitted by post are taking 8 months. The Redundancy Payments Section of my Department is currently processing applications filed online from March '09 and those submitted by post from February '09. In respect of lump sum payments paid directly to employees in instances where employers are unable to pay the statutory redundancy entitlements, the Section is, in general, processing claims dating from June '09.

Given the unprecedented increase in Redundancy Payment claims lodged with my Department in since late 2008 it has proved impossible to maintain the customer service targets that previously obtained. The scale of the challenge is evident from the statistics that show incoming redundancy claims with a cumulative figure for the first nine months of 2009 at 60,785 an increase of 122% on the same period last year (27,373). This figure of 60,785 exceeds the claims lodged for the full year 2008 (40,607) and 2008 was, of itself, an exceptional year as compared with earlier years when claims received were of the order of 25,000.

Efforts continue to be made by my Department to deliver more acceptable turnaround processing times for redundancy payments given the difficulties that this gives rise to for both individual employees and the business community. Measures already taken include:

the reassignment of 26.7 additional staff (full time equivalents) from other areas of the Department to the Redundancy Payments area since early 2009 with ongoing review of trends and demands. The current number of staff serving in the Redundancy Payments Section in terms of full time equivalents is 53.8;

the prioritisation of the Department's overtime budget towards staff in the Redundancy Payments Section to tackle the backlog outside normal hours;

the establishment of a special call handling facility to deal with the huge volume of telephone calls from people and businesses who are naturally concerned about their payments, using the facilities and cooperation of the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA). This centre has received an average of 12,500 calls per month this year with an estimated 60% relating to redundancy payments;

The provision of better quality information relating to current processing times on the Department's website;

Engagement with the Revenue Commissioners to facilitate the offset of redundancy rebate payments by employers against outstanding tax liabilities with the Revenue Commissioners.

The Tánaiste and I continue to monitor closely the impact of these changes against the continuing influx of redundancy claims and will consider further measures to deal with the situation.

Departmental Expenditure.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

225 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the State expenditure on research and development for each year in the past ten years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38813/09]

Government Budget Appropriations or Outlays on R&D (GBAORD) is an internationally recognised indicator which measures spending by the government sector on R&D. It comprises Exchequer funding for R&D, EU public funding and funding for humanities and social science research performed by government departments or agencies.

It includes

Funding for R&D programmes in the higher education sector, administered by the Dept of Education and Science, the HEA, SFI, EI and others

Funding for business sector R&D, administered via State agencies such as IDA, EI and others

Funding for government sector performed R&D, e.g. Teagasc, the Marine Institute and others.

The following table shows GBAORD figures for each of the last ten years:

Year

GBAORD

(Million €)

1999

231.6

2000

290.0

2001

359.6

2002

504.3

2003

518.1

2004

635.0

2005

755.9

2006

789.8

2007

934.2

2008

945.8

A concerted increase in state investment in R&D through the Government's Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation (SSTI) commenced on a full year basis in 2007. The SSTI represents an integrated whole-of-government approach to the realisation of an agreed vision — the transformation of Ireland into a competitive knowledge economy by building a world-class research system, driving economic growth and increased employment through research and innovation in enterprise and capturing, protecting and commercialising ideas and know-how. The recently published report ‘Science, Technology and Innovation — Delivering the Smart Economy' available online at:

www.entemp.ie/publications/science/2009/delivering_the_Smart_Economy.pdf confirms that substantial progress has been made in the achievement of SSTI objectives.

Some key indicators of progress include:

Business Expenditure on Research and Development rose to an estimated €1.56 billion in 2006 — a 17% increase on the previous year — almost double the level recorded in 2000. This trend continued in 2007 with BERD climbing to €1.60 billion.

Higher Education R&D spending has almost quadrupled in current terms over 10 years and is now at the EU and OECD average levels. This increased investment in the higher education sector is having a significant impact in terms of human capital development, feeding through to attraction of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and commercialisation.

Science Foundation Ireland funded world-class research teams now work with over 300 companies which include many blue chip multi-nationals. It is through this close industry engagement, primarily through their Centres for Science, Engineering and Technology and Strategic Research Cluster Programmes, that SFI is supporting the employment of over 56,000 people in Ireland.

By the end of 2008, EI's Campus Incubation Programme had supported 240 companies located in Business Incubation Centres employing over 1,000 people.

Enterprise Ireland and the IDA are also working closely with companies to strengthen the research and technological base of the enterprise sector in order to drive productivity, competitiveness, exports and jobs.

In 2008 EI assisted 698 companies to perform R&D.

Over 40% of IDA investments in 2008 were in R&D with approx. €420 millions of investment.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

226 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount of State expenditure on enterprise support for indigenous firms, broken down by agency, for each of the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38814/09]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

227 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount of State expenditure on enterprise support for indigenous firms, broken down by type of support, for each of the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38815/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 226 and 227 together.

Enterprise Ireland is the lead government agency responsible for the development of indigenous enterprise. The Agency assesses applications for financial assistance according to a number of criteria, including cost benefit modelling, commercial evaluation and technical assessment in order to ensure value for money to the exchequer. At any given time, Enterprise Ireland has approximately 3,300 client companies which it actively supports.

The following tabular statement illustrates the direct financial support to companies over the period 2004-2008, under the relevant category. This direct support to businesses does not include payments made by Enterprise Ireland under supports such as Venture Capital Funding; Infrastructural Payments, for example, Community Enterprise Centres, Incubation Centres, Webworks; Funding to Third Level Institutions and other third parties such as City & County Enterprise Boards, and Crafts Council of Ireland. The value of such direct support to companies increased year on year to almost €140m in 2008, driven by increases in support for R&D, management development, and latterly the Government's investment in the Dairy Investment Initiative.

Shannon Development has provided enterprise support for indigenous industries of €1,044,618 in 2004, € 474,555 in 2005 and €2,684,080 in 2006. From 1 January 2007, responsibility for providing support to indigenous industry in the mid-west region transferred to Enterprise Ireland and these grants are now paid directly by Enterprise Ireland.

The County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) provide support for micro-enterprises 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 CEBs expenditure details requested by the Deputy are provided in the following tabular statement.

Enterprise Ireland Financial Support to Industry 2004-2008

Type of EI Supports

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

€’000

€’000

€’000

€’000

€’000

Employment

4,265

3,315

4,169

4,817

7,271

Dairy Investment Fund

2,985

25,084

Fixed Asset Support

5,259

7,911

4,567

6,017

7,182

Technology Infrastructure

223

56

Marketing& Knowledge Transfer Support

8,168

11,106

12,725

13,610

14,206

R&D (including Feasibility)

6,417

5,422

6,667

8,060

9,034

Management Development and Training

4,586

4,347

5,063

5,308

12,193

Consultancy Grants

153

603

1,029

1,671

1,722

eBIT Initiative

1

Transforming R&D activity in Enterprise

23,163

25,228

27,304

24,454

32,186

Investment in Shares

25,684

21,509

25,033

23,679

30,702

Total

77,696

79,441

86,557

90,824

139,636

County & City Enterprise Boards

Year

Expenditure on Financial Supports (Grants)

Expenditure on “Soft Supports” (Training and Mentoring)

Total Enterprise Support

€000

€000

€000

2004

10,550

6,484

17,034

2005

10,809

7,411

18,220

2006

10,622

9,212

19,834

2007

12,372

11,272

23,644

2008

11,648

9,895

21,543

Redundancy Payments.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

228 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when redundancy payments will be awarded to the two staff members who lost their jobs as a result of the decision of FÁS to close the Carrick-on-Suir Jobs Club, County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38825/09]

In line with the requirements of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Department of Finance FÁS discontinued funding for the Carrick-on-Suir Jobs Club on 21st November 2008 because it was unable to achieve the nationally agreed targets set up for these programmes.

The two staff members were consequently entitled to a redundancy payment. This payment comprised a statutory amount of €10,860 and an enhanced amount of €23,307.57, giving a total of €35,167.57. The amount for both staff members was calculated and available to them.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

229 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of applications outstanding for statutory redundancy payments to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38857/09]

As at the end of September 2009, the number of redundancy claims on hands awaiting processing stood at 43,250.

Currently, the average time it takes to process rebate applications from employers filed online is 7 months while claims submitted by post are taking 8 months. The Redundancy Payments Section of my Department is currently processing applications filed online from March '09 and those submitted by post from February '09. In respect of lump sum payments paid directly to employees in instances where employers are unable to pay the statutory redundancy entitlements, the Section is, in general, processing claims dating from June '09.

In the period January to mid-October 2009, payments relating to redundancy claims made out of the Social Insurance Fund amounted to €238.7m in respect of 35,301 claims. This represents an average weekly payout of c. €6.28m on claims issued by my Department and is a measure of the level of activity involved.

Given the unprecedented increase in Redundancy Payment claims lodged with my Department since late 2008 it has proved impossible to maintain the customer service targets that previously obtained. The scale of the challenge is evident from the statistics that show incoming redundancy claims with a cumulative figure for the first nine months of 2009 at 60,785 an increase of 122% on the same period last year (27,373). This figure of 60,785 exceeds the claims lodged for the full year 2008 (40,607) and 2008 was, of itself, an exceptional year as compared with earlier years when claims received were of the order of 25,000.

Efforts continue to be made by my Department to deliver more acceptable turnaround processing times for redundancy payments given the difficulties that this gives rise to for both individual employees and the business community. Measures already taken include:

the reassignment of 26.7 additional staff (full time equivalents) from other areas of the Department to the Redundancy Payments area since early 2009 with ongoing review of trends and demands. The current number of staff serving in the Redundancy Payments Section (full time equivalents) is 53.8;

the prioritisation of the Department's overtime budget towards staff in the Redundancy Payments Section to tackle the backlog outside normal hours;

the establishment of a special call handling facility to deal with the huge volume of telephone calls from people and businesses who are naturally concerned about their payments, using the facilities and cooperation of the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA). This centre has received an average of 12,500 calls per month this year with an estimated 60% relating to redundancy payments;

The provision of better quality information relating to current processing times on the Department's website;

Engagement with the Revenue Commissioners to facilitate the offset of redundancy rebate payments by employers against outstanding tax liabilities with the Revenue Commissioners.

The Tánaiste and I continue to monitor closely the impact of these changes against the continuing influx of redundancy claims and will consider further measures to deal with the situation should current measures prove to be inadequate.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

230 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if an application for statutory redundancy by a person (details supplied) in County Cork is being expedited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38861/09]

My Department administers the Social Insurance Fund (SIF) in relation to redundancy matters on behalf of the Department of Social and Family Affairs. There are two types of payment made from the SIF — rebates to those employers who have paid statutory redundancy to eligible employees, and statutory lump sums to employees whose employers are insolvent and/or in receivership/liquidation.

I can confirm that my Department received an application for a statutory redundancy rebate in respect of the person concerned on 14 September, 2009 from their former employer.

Currently, the average time it takes to process rebate applications from employers filed online is 7 months while claims submitted by post are taking 8 months. The Redundancy Payments Section of my Department is currently processing applications filed online from March '09 and those submitted by post from February '09. In respect of lump sum payments paid directly to employees in instances where employers are unable to pay the statutory redundancy entitlements as in this case, the Section is, in general, processing claims dating from June '09.

Given the unprecedented increase in Redundancy Payment claims lodged with my Department in since late 2008 it has proved impossible to maintain the customer service targets that previously obtained. The scale of the challenge is evident from the statistics that show incoming redundancy claims with a cumulative figure for the first nine months of 2009 at 60,785 an increase of 122% on the same period last year (27,373). This figure of 60,785 exceeds the claims lodged for the full year 2008 (40,607) and 2008 was, of itself, an exceptional year as compared with earlier years when claims received were of the order of 25,000.

Efforts continue to be made by my Department to deliver more acceptable turnaround processing times for redundancy payments given the difficulties that this gives rise to for both individual employees and the business community. Measures already taken include:

the reassignment of 26.7 additional staff (full time equivalents) from other areas of the Department to the Redundancy Payments area since early 2009 with ongoing review of trends and demands. The current number of staff serving in the Redundancy Payments Section in terms of full time equivalents is 53.8;

the prioritisation of the Department's overtime budget towards staff in the Redundancy Payments Section to tackle the backlog outside normal hours;

the establishment of a special call handling facility to deal with the huge volume of telephone calls from people and businesses who are naturally concerned about their payments, using the facilities and cooperation of the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA). This centre has received an average of 12,500 calls per month this year with an estimated 60% relating to redundancy payments;

The provision of better quality information relating to current processing times on the Department's website;

Engagement with the Revenue Commissioners to facilitate the offset of redundancy rebate payments by employers against outstanding tax liabilities with the Revenue Commissioners.

The Tánaiste and I continue to monitor closely the impact of these changes against the continuing influx of redundancy claims and will consider further measures to deal with the situation should current measures prove to be inadequate.

Company Supports.

Finian McGrath

Question:

231 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a company (details supplied) in Dublin 11 will be supported. [38866/09]

Since the announcement by the company of its intention to make 77 staff redundant, I have met with worker representatives to hear their concerns and proposals. I have asked IDA Ireland to ensure that it offers its full range of supports to the company. I understand that the company and the unions have agreed to participate in talks with the Labour Relations Commission in the near future.

Departmental Agencies.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

232 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if An Foras Áiseanna Saothair superannuation amendment scheme 2000 is a statutory instrument; the number it is; when it was laid before Dáil Éireann; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38942/09]

An Foras Áiseanna Saothair Superannuation Amendment Scheme 2000 is a Statutory Instrument.

It does not have a number as it was not published; under the Statutory Instrument Act, 1947 it was deemed to be of "personal application" and the then Attorney General granted an exemption from publication under section 2(3)(ii) of that Act. The Statutory Instrument granting the exemption was published in the Iris Oifigiúil.

The Statutory Instrument providing for An Foras Áiseanna Saothair Superannuation Amendment Scheme 2000 was laid before the houses of the Oireachtas on 12 September, 2000.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

233 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a person (details supplied) resigned as director general of FÁS and that this was done on their own initiative. [38943/09]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

234 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a person (details supplied) was dismissed as director general of FÁS. [38944/09]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

235 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a person (details supplied) availed of early retirement on their resignation as director general of FÁS; the scheme which they availed of; and the legislation and guidelines underpinning it. [38945/09]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

236 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the superannuation and pension package granted to a person (details supplied) on their resignation as director general of FÁS was in accordance with the FÁS superannuation scheme of 1998, SI 514/1998; and if not, the legislation, scheme or guidelines which were used to grant their retirement package. [38946/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 233 to 236, inclusive, together.

The resignation of the person concerned from the position of Director General at FÁS was secured as it was considered to be in line with the best interests of the FÁS organisation and its clients. The resignation was not made under any early retirement scheme.

The agreed severance arrangements were granted in accordance with Section 6(3) of the Labour Services Act, 1987, and with the required approvals under SI 514/1998.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Finian McGrath

Question:

237 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a matter (details supplied) will be supported. [38972/09]

FÁS have almost doubled the number of activation training and work experience places available to the unemployed to over 130,000. This is a substantial increase on the 66,000 places, which were available at the end of last year. For an unemployed graduate, I would recommend that they contact FÁS to avail of the job search and guidance services to advise them of their training and work experience options that they may be interested in pursuing.

FÁS currently offer the Work Placement Programme (WPP). The programme is designed to offer unemployed people, including unemployed graduates, the opportunity to obtain 6 months experience in a work situation. Under the programme there are 2,000 places available consisting of two streams of 1,000 places.

The first stream is for unemployed graduates who have attained a full award at level 7 or above on the National Framework of Qualifications and who have been receiving Job Seeker's Allowance for the last six months.

The second stream is for unemployed individuals who have been receiving Job Seeker's Allowance for the last six months. Under this stream 250 places have been ring fenced for under 25's.

Participants on both streams of the Work Placement Programme will continue to receive their existing social welfare entitlements for their duration on the programme. To register an interest in the Work Placement Programme individuals are advised to contact their local FÁS Employment Services Office.

Job Creation.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

238 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress made to date on the efforts by the Industrial Development Authority to promote County Monaghan as a location for inward investment since her hosting a meeting in Government Buildings on 3 December 2008; the steps she has taken to encourage greater focus and pro activity on the part of the IDA and its regional office in presenting County Monaghan as a keen location for new or expanding employment opportunities here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39018/09]

I am informed by IDA that, consequent upon the meeting last December, IDA officials engaged with interested parties on proposals which had been put forward at that meeting to enhance Monaghan's attractiveness as a place to invest.

Unfortunately, in the current economic climate, there is little scope to create employment opportunities from the existing base of foreign owned companies in County Monaghan, but I am glad to say that some discussions are underway with at least one company that may have potential to grow. We must not lose sight of the fact that, at the end of 2008, there were already 6 IDA supported companies in Monaghan employing 351 people.

In addition, IDA is in the process of appointing a contractor to carry out improvement works to its site at Knockaconny, Monaghan, which will greatly enhance its appearance and marketability. Work on the site should begin in the first quarter of 2010.

Meanwhile, through its network of overseas offices, IDA continues to market Monaghan, for new and expanded investment as part of a wider region, which also includes the counties of Louth and Cavan and has a total population of 231,267. The nature of Foreign Direct Investment has changed and Ireland now competes for premium mobile investments against the most advanced countries in the world. As Ireland competes for investments at the highest end of the value chain the concept of scale is crucial to our economic destiny. Leading corporations require a significant population of highly qualified talent, effective physical and digital infrastructure and the availability of sophisticated professional support services. If we are to continue to make progress in attracting FDI, we must think regionally not locally. In the final analysis it is the investor who decides where to locate.

Distance Learning Courses.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

239 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the grants that would be available to persons to participate in a distance learning course (details supplied); if there are grants offered by her Department or by FÁS for which they could apply; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39037/09]

The Technical Employment Support Grant is used by FÁS where it is identified that a jobseeker has a support need to enter/re-enter the labour market, and that this need cannot be met by FÁS directly or any other state provider, within a reasonable timeframe or at a location convenient to the jobseeker. The Grant has a limited budget, which is focused on short-term interventions. This fund is not intended to generally support full-time or part-time third level programmes.

Industrial Disputes.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

240 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the industrial dispute at a company (details supplied) in County Kildare and the issues which led to the dispute; if she has issued any instructions or directives with a view to reaching a fair settlement; if it is true that the company has rejected the normal conciliation process; if this situation has her approval; the action she will take to bring matters to a satisfactory conclusion; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39047/09]

I understand that this dispute arose following a decision by the company to dismiss a number of workers following an investigation into improper use of the company's IT system. A number of workers affected by the company's decision were employed by a subcontractor at the company. The union representing the affected workers has disputed the company's stated reason for the dismissals and believes that the dismissals were a result of an earlier dispute over several workers sharing a confidential e-mail about redundancies, which had been sent to a union member in error.

I understand that the company does not recognise the trade union for collective bargaining purposes, nor is it obliged to do so.

I also understand that the union has referred the matter to the Labour Court. In my view, the experience and expertise of the Labour Court offer an appropriate avenue for resolving these issues. In this context, I would encourage both parties to engage fully with the Court in their efforts to resolve their differences.

Responsibility for the resolution of industrial disputes between employers and workers, whether in redundancy or other collective disputes, rests with the employer, the workers and their representatives. The State provides the industrial relations dispute settlement machinery free of charge to assist this process, which, in line with the general principles of industrial relations in Ireland, is voluntary in nature. The system of industrial relations in Ireland is designed to help and support parties in their efforts to resolve their differences, rather than imposing an extensive set of legislative conditions on the parties to an industrial dispute.

Redundancy Payments.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

241 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the status of an application for redundancy by a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39060/09]

My Department administers the Social Insurance Fund (SIF) in relation to redundancy matters on behalf of the Department of Social and Family Affairs. There are two types of payment made from the SIF — rebates to those employers who have paid statutory redundancy to eligible employees, and statutory lump sums to employees whose employers are insolvent and/or in receivership/liquidation.

I can confirm that my Department received an application for a statutory redundancy lump sum payment on 23 September, 2009 in respect of the person concerned which is awaiting processing.

The Redundancy Payments Section of my Department is currently processing applications filed online from March '09 and those submitted by post from February 2009 but expects shortly to be processing online claims submitted from April '09 and manual claims from March '09. In respect of lump sum payments paid directly to employees in instances where employers are unable to pay the statutory redundancy entitlements as in this case, the Section is, in general, processing claims dating from June 2009.

Given the unprecedented increase in Redundancy Payment claims lodged with my Department in since late 2008 it has proved impossible to maintain the customer service targets that previously obtained. The scale of the challenge is evident from the statistics that show incoming redundancy claims with a cumulative figure for the first ten months of 2009 at 67,346. This figure exceeds the claims lodged for the full year 2008 (40,607) and 2008 was, of itself, an exceptional year as compared with earlier years when claims received were of the order of 25,000.

Efforts continue to be made by my Department to deliver more acceptable turnaround processing times for redundancy payments given the difficulties that this gives rise to for both individual employees and the business community. Measures already taken include:

the reassignment of 26.7 additional staff (full time equivalents) from other areas of the Department to the Redundancy Payments area since early 2009 with ongoing review of trends and demands. The current number of staff serving in the Redundancy Payments Section in terms of full time equivalents is 50.5 although the Section is currently carrying three vacant positions which are due to be filled;

the prioritisation of the Department's overtime budget towards staff in the Redundancy Payments Section to tackle the backlog outside normal hours;

the establishment of a special call handling facility to deal with the huge volume of telephone calls from people and businesses who are naturally concerned about their payments, using the facilities and cooperation of the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA). This centre has received an average of 12,500 calls per month this year with an estimated 60% relating to redundancy payments;

The provision of better quality information relating to current processing times on the Department's website;

Engagement with the Revenue Commissioners to facilitate the offset of redundancy rebate payments by employers against outstanding tax liabilities with the Revenue Commissioners.

The Tánaiste and I continue to monitor closely the impact of these changes against the continuing influx of redundancy claims and will consider further measures to deal with the situation should current measures prove to be inadequate.

Job Creation.

Pat Breen

Question:

242 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the comments by the chairman of the mid-west task force regarding the recommendations contained in the interim report which has been published by her Department; her views on these comments; the actions taken by her to date on the recommendations contained in the interim report; the date when the final report will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39183/09]

The Mid-West Task Force, which I established under the Chairmanship of Mr Denis Brosnan, completed an interim Report and presented it to me on the 2nd of July.

The wide range of recommendations in the report cover both local and national issues. In that respect, the Government has been responding to the economic downturn generally and has taken numerous initiatives, for example in relation to competitiveness and cost competitiveness, industrial employment stabilization, and employment activation measures. All of these measures have benefited regions affected by or threatened with job losses, including the Mid West region. Workers in the Mid West are the subject of a substantial package assembled by the Government in response to the redundancies arising from developments at Dell in Limerick and knock-on effects in other companies in the region. The package addresses many of the issues raised in the interim Task Force recommendations and it is expected to be co-funded by the European Union under an application I have made to the EU Globalisation Fund which is currently being decided on at EU level, with a decision expected soon.

In addition to the measures mentioned above, the state agencies IDA, Enterprise Ireland, Shannon Development and the County Enterprise Boards have redoubled their efforts to stimulate industrial employment in the Mid West region. For example, IDA is supporting eight industrial projects with a job potential of 1,073 which were announced by multinational companies in the Mid West in 2008 and 2009 and are now being brought into operation.

The measures mentioned above are outlined more fully in an initial response to its recommendations which I sent to the Task Force in late September. Given the wide range of recommendations in the report, I have also brought the report to the attention of my colleagues in Cabinet and it is currently being further considered in a number of other Government Departments as well as in my own Department. Ministers will, in the context of finalising their spending proposals for 2010, consider what further measures can be taken in response to the Task Force recommendations. I had asked the Task Force to feed into this process by indicating items in their recommendations which they see as having particular potential for the Mid West region. I am now examining its response, which has just been received, and I will also bring it immediately to the attention of the other Ministers who are examining the Task Force's interim recommendations.

I am very grateful for the work Mr Brosnan and the other members of the Task Force have undertaken to date. I shall continue to keep the Task Force informed on the Government's work on matters covered in the interim recommendations. The Task Force has identified a number of issues for further study in its Final Report which I look forward to receiving early in 2010.

Redundancy Payments.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

243 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will ensure the processing of a redundancy claim in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [39203/09]

My Department administers the Social Insurance Fund (SIF) in relation to redundancy matters on behalf of the Department of Social and Family Affairs. There are two types of payment made from the SIF — rebates to those employers who have paid statutory redundancy to eligible employees, and statutory lump sums to employees whose employers are insolvent and/or in receivership/liquidation.

I can confirm that my Department received an application for a statutory redundancy lump sum payment on 04 September, 2009 in respect of the person concerned which is awaiting processing.

The Redundancy Payments Section of my Department is currently processing applications filed online from March '09 and those submitted by post from February 2009 but expects shortly to be processing online claims submitted from April '09 and manual claims from March '09. In respect of lump sum payments paid directly to employees in instances where employers are unable to pay the statutory redundancy entitlements as in this case, the Section is, in general, processing claims dating from June 2009.

Given the unprecedented increase in Redundancy Payment claims lodged with my Department in since late 2008 it has proved impossible to maintain the customer service targets that previously obtained. The scale of the challenge is evident from the statistics that show incoming redundancy claims with a cumulative figure for the first ten months of 2009 at 67,346. This figure exceeds the claims lodged for the full year 2008 (40,607) and 2008 was, of itself, an exceptional year as compared with earlier years when claims received were of the order of 25,000.

Efforts continue to be made by my Department to deliver more acceptable turnaround processing times for redundancy payments given the difficulties that this gives rise to for both individual employees and the business community. Measures already taken include:

the reassignment of 26.7 additional staff (full time equivalents) from other areas of the Department to the Redundancy Payments area since early 2009 with ongoing review of trends and demands. The current number of staff serving in the Redundancy Payments Section in terms of full time equivalents is 50.5 although the Section is currently carrying three vacant positions which are due to be filled;

the prioritisation of the Department's overtime budget towards staff in the Redundancy Payments Section to tackle the backlog outside normal hours;

the establishment of a special call handling facility to deal with the huge volume of telephone calls from people and businesses who are naturally concerned about their payments, using the facilities and cooperation of the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA). This centre has received an average of 12,500 calls per month this year with an estimated 60% relating to redundancy payments;

The provision of better quality information relating to current processing times on the Department's website;

Engagement with the Revenue Commissioners to facilitate the offset of redundancy rebate payments by employers against outstanding tax liabilities with the Revenue Commissioners.

The Tánaiste and I continue to monitor closely the impact of these changes against the continuing influx of redundancy claims and will consider further measures to deal with the situation should current measures prove to be inadequate.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

244 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her plans to introduce a compensation scheme for employees who are experiencing health problems due to exposure to asbestos and who have no possibility of pursuing former employers or their insurers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39244/09]

I have no plans to introduce any scheme for financial support for those suffering from any form of occupational illness. The issue of financial support for those suffering from an occupational disease i.e. a disease contracted in the course of employment through, for example, contact with a chemical agent like asbestos, falls under the remit of the Minister for Social and Family Affairs. Such employees may be eligible for benefit under the Occupational Injuries Benefit Scheme or a number of other Schemes operated by the Department of Social and Family Affairs.

The remit of my Department, in relation to asbestos in the workplace, arises under occupational health and safety policy where the focus is on prevention. The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Exposure to Asbestos) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 386 of 2006), which is enforced by the Health and Safety Authority, places obligations on employers and employees to ensure that the risk of exposure to asbestos is eliminated or reduced to a minimum and that any remaining residual risk is adequately controlled in accordance with the legislation.

Redundancy Payments.

Michael McGrath

Question:

245 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding the payment of statutory lump sum redundancy to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [39399/09]

Under the Redundancy Payments Scheme, all eligible employees are entitled to a statutory redundancy payment on being made redundant. Payment of statutory redundancy is, in the first instance, a matter for the employer. If, however an employer is unable to pay the statutory redundancy entitlement to the employee, my Department will, upon submission by the employer of satisfactory documentary evidence proving inability to pay, make payment directly to the employee from the Social Insurance Fund (SIF).

Before payment can be made from the SIF, my Department must be assured that there is insufficient monies in a company's account to enable it to satisfy its statutory obligations.

In this case the Redundancy Payments Section of my Department has received an application from the individual concerned and requested documentation from the company confirming its inability to pay. An unaudited statement of affairs and a letter from the accountant was provided but confirmation of inability to pay was not. The employee was advised that in the absence of this confirmation (i.e. confirmation from the company's Accountant based on his own professional view of the company finances rather than a view based on information provided by the employer), he would need to seek a determination of redundancy from the Employment Appeals Tribunal.

If the Redundancy Payments Section receive the required information and if it is in order the claim will be processed for payment.

Pension Provisions.

Thomas Byrne

Question:

246 Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a company pension scheme (details supplied) will qualify for inclusion in the pension insolvency protection scheme; if not, his proposals in relation to the said pension scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39400/09]

The Pension Insolvency Payments Scheme (PIPS) regulations are the responsibility of the Minister for Finance.

Engineering Programmes.

Brian Hayes

Question:

247 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the funding which will be provided in 2010 for the Steps engineering programme which is provided by an association (details supplied); if she will provide a commitment that the decision on funding for 2010 will be made early in order that the service which is provided to approximately 65,000 primary school children can be organised in a timely fashion; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38017/09]

STEPS to Engineering was established in 2000 to encourage primary and post primary students to explore the world of science and engineering. The programme is managed by Engineers Ireland and is supported by my Department, the Department of Education and Science, Forfas, FAS and a number of major engineering employers.

The programme aims to redress the shortage of engineers in Ireland by:

Increasing public awareness of the value of the engineering profession as a career

Making information available on engineering as a career for all interested parties

Initiating and developing projects that will encourage more students to study SET related subjects at school/college

Highlight the advantages, diversity, opportunities and excellent rewards offered by a career in the engineering profession

Introduce students to science and show the links with engineering

In 2009 my Department, through the National Training Fund, provided €300,000 to STEPS to Engineering to fund continuing professional development. The STEPS programme is also a key element of Discover Science and Engineering (DSE), the Government's national science and engineering awareness programme managed by Forfas which aims to increase interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics among students, teachers and members of the public. DSE provided €350,000 in support funding to STEPS in 2009. Additionally, my colleague the Minister for Education and Science has informed me that his Department provided a grant of €65,000 to STEPS in 2009.

Funding for this programme in 2010 will be considered as part of the 2010 Estimates process and I will endeavour to ensure timely decisions are reached

Central Procurement Unit.

Mary Upton

Question:

248 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance if a central procurement unit has been established to ensure costs are at a minimum and that the State can achieve economies of scale through pooling orders and resources; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38219/09]

The National Public Procurement Operations Unit (NPPOU) has been established by Government Decision on 8 July 2008 and is based in the Office of Public Works, Trim, Co. Meath.

The Unit is actively working to reduce costs in public procurement through a number of initiatives that include:

Percentage reduction in goods and services contracts

A reduction of 8% in the cost of all goods and services supplied to Government Departments, Offices, Agencies and Third Level Institutions. To date, savings of €21,500,000 have been achieved.

Development of E-tenders website

The present e-tenders website is being upgraded and its applications expanded to make it more user friendly and informative.

Analysis of Public Spending

An analysis of all public spending is taking place to identify potential areas of saving by means of amalgamated future contracts / framework agreements.

Green Procurement

The NPPOU and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government have agreed a joint approach to green and sustainable procurement. This approach will require that green and sustainability issues must be considered in the development of market procurement strategies, and in the assessment of value for money.

Standardisation of Documentation

The NPPOU is working with the Chief State Solicitor's Office to standardise tender and contract documents, thus making the purchasing and supplying of goods/services more straight forward for all parties.

Job Creation.

Billy Timmins

Question:

249 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the recent proposal to create a thousand posts in Departments for third level graduates; the way the jobs will be advertised; when the job will be advertised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38408/09]

The renewed Programme for Government provides for the taking on of 1,000 Third and Fourth level graduates to provide additional capacity and skills across the public service and in Government Departments and to provide valuable work experience.

My Department is currently examining the options in relation to this proposal and how it can best be implemented. In the context of the current moratorium on recruitment and promotion in the public service, a mechanism to facilitate a targeted intake of graduates to meet particular skills or capacity shortages is under investigation. Any such scheme would, of course, be advertised through the Public Appointments Service, FÁS or the relevant professional or graduate organisation, as appropriate. Assignments would be made in accordance with best practice.

The Deputy will be aware that the Work Placement Programme, under the auspices of FÁS, is an active labour market programme which was announced as part of the Government's package of measures to tackle rising unemployment in my Supplementary Budget last April. The programme provides valuable work experience for six months to 2,000 unemployed individuals of which 1,000 of the places are for graduates. The programme is already available to employers in the public and private sectors.

Statutory Instruments.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

250 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on the practice of unnumbered statutory instruments, for example, the An Foras Áiseanna Saothair superannuation amendment scheme 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38962/09]

In general, statutory instruments made on or after 1 January 1948 are allocated statutory instrument numbers under the Statutory Instruments Act 1947 (the Act). However, under section 2 of the Act, the Attorney General has the power, where certain criteria are met, to exempt certain statutory instruments from the operation of section 3(1) of the Act. Statutory instruments so exempted do not require to be issued with a statutory instrument number.

As the relevant criteria (namely the proposed Scheme's limited application) set out in section 2(3) of the Act were met by An Foras Áiseanna Saothair Superannuation (Amendment) Scheme 2000, that Scheme was exempted from the operation of section 3(1) of the Act by direction of the then Attorney General on 31 July 2000.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

251 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance the reason there are a number of unallocated statutory instruments in 2000; if unnumbered statutory instruments exist to correspond with these; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38963/09]

Government Publications Section of the Office of Public Works is responsible for the printing of Statutory Instruments in accordance with the Statutory Instruments Acts 1947 and 1955. The performance of this function includes the assignment of a unique number to each Statutory Instrument received from a Government Department and/or Statutory Body.

In three cases during the year 2000, Statutory Instrument numbers were assigned in circumstances where the requesting Departments subsequently did not require them. In addition, one number was, in error, assigned to a Statutory Instrument that had already been allocated a number in 1999, and there was one duplicate number assigned.

The introduction of the Electronic Statutory Instrument System (eSIS) during 2007 ensures greater control over the production of Statutory Instruments and their numbering.

Revenue Payments.

Richard Bruton

Question:

252 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to a scheme operated by the British revenue commissioners which allows companies experiencing temporary trading difficulties the opportunity to defer some revenue payments; if he has examined this scheme; and if elements of it could be applied in the situation here. [37898/09]

I am assuming the Deputy is referring to the Business Payment Support Service being operated by HM Revenue and Customs that was introduced in November 2008. I am aware of that service, which is designed to meet the needs of viable businesses affected by the current economic conditions. I think it is important to clarify that it is not a scheme for deferring tax payments per se but rather involves a phased payment approach that includes interest for the late payment of the tax involved.

I know that the Revenue Commissioners are also very conscious of the difficult economic and financial climate in this country and of the challenges posed for some businesses in being timely compliant with their tax obligations. Revenue has responded to the changing environment by actively encouraging businesses experiencing particular tax payment difficulties to work proactively with them to find an agreed way through those difficulties and quickly restore timely compliance.

Revenue has developed an administrative framework to manage such cases which is, in fact, broadly similar to the UK scheme. They have published material for businesses experiencing tax payment difficulties in a prominent position on the home page of their website www.revenue.ie. I am aware that the feedback from trade representatives and tax practitioner bodies to the initiative Revenue has taken in this regard has been positive and is regarded as an effective way of supporting businesses in meeting their tax payment obligations at this time.

The Revenue Commissioners are charged with responsibility for collection and recovery of a wide range of taxes and duties. They have had and continue to have a strong focus on making sure that everyone complies with their tax and duty responsibilities by paying the right amount and on time. Revenue expects businesses to continue, notwithstanding the more difficult economic circumstances in which they are now operating, to organise their financial affairs so as to ensure that tax debts are paid as they fall due. Apart from the critical importance of timely compliance to the Exchequer, unfair competitive advantage achieved through persistent late or non-payment of tax can undermines compliant businesses. I fully support what Revenue are doing in that regard.

Pension Provisions.

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

253 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance when a scheme (details supplied) will be approved; and if reckonable service will be backdated. [37902/09]

As outlined in my reply of 20 October 2009 to Deputy Brian Hayes on this matter, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has primary responsibility for matters relating to the state body mentioned, including its pension schemes. With regard to pension arrangements, the relevant legislation requires that they be approved by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance.

Officials from my Department are involved in ongoing consultation with officials in the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources regarding the pension scheme referred to. Certain aspects must be clarified in order to ensure that the Scheme is in accordance with public service pension policy and with public expenditure policy. It is hoped that, with cooperation from all parties involved, the scheme will be in order for the Ministers to approve in the near future. I can assure you that we are making every effort in this regard.

I refer to the Deputy's specific query as to whether reckonable service will be backdated. Such details of the scheme are a matter in the first instance for the employer to determine and clarify and I am not in a position to advise on this point.

Financial Services Support Scheme.

Frank Feighan

Question:

254 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Finance the number and volume of cheques returned unpaid by the banks supported by Government in the past six months. [37926/09]

I do not have the information the Deputy requests. However, I have not received any reports that there is anything unusual regarding the volume of cheques being returned by the covered institutions, now or since the introduction of the bank guarantee scheme last year.

Tax Code.

Frank Feighan

Question:

255 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Finance the way the proposed 80% windfall tax will operate with farmers and any sale of part of their farms for whatever purpose including compulsory purchase order in an effort to fund their farm enterprise; and if such moneys, if reinvested in their farms or used for clearance of farming debts, will attract this tax. [37927/09]

The proposed 80% windfall capital gains tax to which the Deputy refers is being considered as part of the NAMA legislation and it will be discussed at Report Stage of the Bill.

It is not customary for the Minister of Finance to comment on the specific details of tax changes prior to publication of the legislation.

Tobacco Smuggling.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

256 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance his views on the increasing level of tobacco smuggling here, the resulting loss of revenue to the Exchequer and loss of jobs in the retail sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37982/09]

I wish to assure the Deputy that my Department and I, and also the Revenue Commissioners, who are responsible for the collection of tobacco products tax and tackling the illicit trade in cigarettes and tobacco products, are concerned at the current level of cigarette smuggling. In this regard it is generally accepted that the high level of taxation levied on cigarettes in Ireland makes it a target for smugglers despite the comparatively small size of the market. This problem is exacerbated by the downturn in the economy which undoubtedly puts greater pressure on tax collection.

There is no internationally recognised method for determining the amount of tax lost as a result of the illicit trade in cigarettes. I am aware of various media reports based on tobacco industry statements that indicate that the level of cigarette smuggling is on the increase. However these are largely based on empty cigarette pack surveys that are at best an indicator of the presence of untaxed cigarettes on the market but are unreliable as a method of determining estimates of smuggling levels as they do not distinguish between illegal (smuggled) cigarettes and legal cross-border purchases imported for personal consumption.

The Revenue Commissioners have previously given a tentative estimate that approximately 20% of cigarettes consumed in Ireland in 2008 were untaxed in Ireland. It is important however, to emphasise that this estimate includes both illicit cigarettes and legal cross-border purchases brought into the State for personal consumption.

I am also informed by the Revenue Commissioners that current strategies to deal with the problem are under continuous review. This includes monitoring importations, reviewing profiling techniques and container scanning operations, exchanges of information with Customs Services in other Member States and the European Anti- fraud Office (OLAF), joint operations with the Gardai, co-operation with the legitimate tobacco industry and with the Office of Tobacco Control. I might add that a second mobile container scanner has been purchased and is due to arrive in Ireland before the end of this month. This scanner is expected to increase the overall level of detection at our major ports. Already this year almost 200m cigarettes have been seized. These include cigarettes seized in maritime freight and from passengers arriving by air. They also include the recent seizure on 27 October 2009 of an estimated 120m cigarettes concealed in animal feed that were seized at Greenore Port from the vessel MV Anne Scan following a multi-agency operation. This investigation is ongoing with follow-up investigations in the Philippines being co-ordinated by OLAF. The seizure statistics also include 8.6m cigarettes seized in the course of 190 seizures made inland at retail outlets, markets and distribution centres.

In addition, there have been 101 convictions for cigarette smuggling or dealing in smuggled cigarettes during the first nine months of 2009. A significant number of other cases are already before the Courts awaiting hearing or are being processed for prosecution.

As regards the loss of jobs in the retail sector, while legitimate retailers undoubtedly suffer some drop in business due to competition from the illicit trade in contraband or counterfeit cigarettes, it is difficult to attribute job losses in supermarkets, retail shops and shops in filling stations where cigarettes are normally purchased, solely to cigarette smuggling.

Tax Code.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

257 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of the commitment to introduce a carbon budget in the revised Programme for Government and to introduce carbon taxes to keep Ireland’s Kyoto commitments and reduce the threat of millions of euro in penalties, he will clarify from a policy perspective if lower carbon fuels such as locally produced biofuels would be exempt from additional surcharges for carbon emissions on oil based fuels such as petrol and diesel; if this issue will be discussed in advance of the Budget 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37972/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

266 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the expected yield in 2010 from the introduction of a carbon tax at the rate of €25 per tonne of carbon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38062/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 257 and 266 together.

These questions relate to potential Budgetary measures. It is the usual practice for the Minister for Finance not to speculate or comment in advance of the Budget what it will contain and I do not propose to deviate from that practice.

Security of the Elderly.

Noel Ahern

Question:

258 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Finance if there is a scheme operated by his Department or an agency under his remit to provide grants or assistance towards installation of house alarms for the elderly; if such a scheme is under consideration; the success or otherwise of the scheme previously run by his Department, whereby tax relief against the cost of an alarm was available. [37992/09]

There is no scheme of grants or assistance towards the cost of the installation of house alarms for the elderly available from my Department. Tax relief was available for expenditure incurred in the period from 23 January 1996 to 5 April 1998 for the cost of purchase and/or installation of alarm systems in the sole or main residence of individuals aged 65 years or over and who lived alone for the greater part of the tax year in which the expenditure was incurred. A relative of the individual was entitled to claim the relief provided the claimant incurred the expenditure on the purchase and/or installation of the alarm system. Tax relief was granted on expenditure of up to £800 at the standard of rate of tax in force at the time.

As to the success or otherwise of that scheme, in the period 23 January 1996 to 5 April 1998 (spanning the tax years 1995/96, 1996/97 and 1997/98), tax relief was claimed by or on behalf of 1,200 elderly individuals at a total cost of €200,000. The Deputy may also wish to note that under the Value Added Tax (Refund of Tax) (No. 15) Order 1981, it may be possible to obtain a VAT refund in respect of the purchase of a panic alarm system by or on behalf of a disabled person, as it may be considered a medical device for the purpose of this refund order. However, any VAT paid in respect of monitoring and maintenance fees is not recoverable.

EU Funding.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

259 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Finance if he will take action to ensure the immediate roll-out of the INTERREG IVA programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38043/09]

Rory O'Hanlon

Question:

386 Deputy Rory O’Hanlon asked the Minister for Finance when approval will be given to commence spending Special EU Programmes Body funding under INTERREG IVA by cross-Border local authority groups (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38980/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 259 and 386 together.

The Cross Border INTERREG IVA Programme (Northern Ireland/Ireland/Scotland) aims to support strategic cross-border co-operation and economic development. The Programme (2007-2013) is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). The Cross Border Local Authority Groups were established as a network of councillors from the Ireland/Northern Ireland border and offer the opportunity for a co-ordinated and strategic cross border response to local issues. The Groups, based on their experience of managing EU funding on a cross border basis in the previous round of funding, have been identified as a key implementation partner for the INTERREG IVA programme.

The Monitoring Committee which oversees the implementation of the programme met on 28th October 2009. It was reported at the meeting that 94 applications had been received by the INTERREG IVA Programme by September 2009 and 34 of these had been recommended for approval at a total value of €152.6m. It should be noted that proposed projects are subject to approved selection and assessment criteria under an agreed process and therefore individual projects must complete the process before spending can commence. The Monitoring Committee was informed that for some projects this is expected to be completed very shortly.

The SEUPB also advised at the meeting that the key 2009 N+2 EU expenditure target will be achieved. My Department, as co-sponsor of the SEUPB with the Department of Finance and Personnel in Northern Ireland, continues to monitor the performance of the programme and is working with its counterparts to ensure full implementation of the programme and full drawdown of the EU funds available.

Tax Yield.

Joan Burton

Question:

260 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the expected yield in 2010 from an increase in the standard rate of tax by 1%, 2%, 3%, 4% or 5%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38054/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the full year yield to the Exchequer, estimated by reference to 2010 incomes, of changing the standard rate of tax by 1%, 2%, 3%, 4% or 5% would be approximately €420 million, €840 million, €1,260 million, €1,680 million and €2,100 million respectively.

The figures are estimates from the Revenue tax-forecasting model using actual data for the year 2007 adjusted as necessary for income and employment trends for the year 2010. They are therefore provisional and likely to be revised.

Joan Burton

Question:

261 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the expected yield in 2010 from an increase in the higher rate of tax by 1%, 2%, 3%, 4% or 5%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38055/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the full year yield to the Exchequer, estimated by reference to 2010 incomes, of changing the higher rate of tax by 1%, 2%, 3%, 4% or 5% would be approximately €145 million, €290 million, €435 million, €580 million and €725 million respectively.

The figures are estimates from the Revenue tax-forecasting model using actual data for the year 2007 adjusted as necessary for income and employment trends for the year 2010. They are therefore provisional and likely to be revised.

Joan Burton

Question:

262 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the expected yield in 2010 from a reduction in the personal income tax credit of €100; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38056/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the full year yield to the Exchequer, estimated by reference to 2010 incomes, of reducing the single person tax credit by €100 would be of the order of €155 million. The reduction mentioned in the Deputy's question is assumed to apply in similar measure to widowed persons and to include the normal consequential reductions in the tax credit for lone parents and the married tax credit.

The figures are estimates from the Revenue tax-forecasting model using actual data for the year 2007 adjusted as necessary for income and employment trends for the year 2010. They are therefore provisional and likely to be revised.

Joan Burton

Question:

263 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the expected yield in 2010 from introducing a tax at the rate of 1 cent per text on mobile phone texts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38065/09]

Based on information available from ComReg, introducing a tax at the rate of 1 cent per text on mobile phone messaging would have a potential yield of €118 million.

However, this potential yield does not take account of any behavioural impact that might result if a levy was directly imposed on customers or imposed on the mobile phone companies and passed on to customers. It also ignores the very real difficulties presented in the development of such a tax in regard to collection and coverage.

Also, it should be noted that VAT is charged at 21½% on mobile phone transactions.

Joan Burton

Question:

264 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the expected yield in 2010 from the imposition of a cap of €50,000 on the artists exemption; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38066/09]

It is assumed that the imposition of a cap of €50,000 as mentioned in the question would have the effect of withdrawing the tax exemption from all qualifying income in excess of €50,000. On this basis, I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the full year yield to the Exchequer, estimated by reference to the claims for the exemption made in income tax returns for the tax year 2007, the latest year for which the necessary detailed information is available, could be of the order of €20 million.

However, it must be stressed that this estimate assumes no significant behavioural change on the part of the affected taxpayers and therefore may not be an accurate measure of the yield that would actually be obtained. Moreover, the application of income tax to this income source could also lead to deductions for allowable expenses, personal allowances and other relevant costs, thereby reducing the level of income that would actually be subject to tax.

It should be noted that the exemption of certain earnings of writers, composers and artists is already affected by the measures to restrict the use of tax reliefs and exemptions by higher income earners, which was provided for in section 17 of the Finance Act 2006 and which took effect from 1 January 2007.

Joan Burton

Question:

265 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the expected yield in 2010 from the introduction of a new rate of tax of 48% on individual incomes of more than €100,000 and married couple incomes of more than €200,000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38061/09]

It is assumed that the threshold for the proposed new tax band mentioned by the Deputy would not alter the existing standard rate band structure applying to single and widowed persons, to lone parents and married couples.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the estimated full year yield to the Exchequer, estimated by reference to 2010 incomes, of the introduction of a new 48% rate would be of the order of €355 million. Given the current band structures, major issues would need to be resolved as to how in practice such a new rate could be integrated into the current system and how this would affect the relative position of different types of income earners.

This figure is an estimate from the Revenue tax-forecasting model using actual data for the year 2007, adjusted as necessary for income and employment trends for the year 2010. It is therefore provisional and likely to be revised.

Question No. 266 answered with Question No. 257.

Joan Burton

Question:

267 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the expected yield in 2010 from the abolition of tax relief on trade union subscriptions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38067/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the most recent year for which the necessary detailed information is available regarding tax relief for trade union subscriptions is the income tax year 2006, in which the cost to the Exchequer is estimated at approximately €19 million. On this basis, the full year yield to the Exchequer of abolishing tax relief for trade union subscriptions would be of the same order, although it should be noted that the value of the relief was increased from €300 to €350 in Budget 2008. At that time, it was estimated that the increase in the relief would cost approximately €3 million in a full year.

Joan Burton

Question:

268 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the expected yield in 2010 from increasing the rate of capital acquisitions tax by 1%, 2%, 3%, 4% or 5%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38063/09]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the estimated full year yield to the Exchequer from increasing the Capital Acquisitions Tax rate by 1%, 2%, 3%, 4% or 5% could be in the region of €10 million, €20 million, €30 million, €40 million and €50 million respectively.

However, it should be noted that this estimate is based upon an assumption that there would be no behavioural impact of such an increase, which could lead to a less than expected result from a change to the tax rate. In addition, the realisation of any estimated yield from an increase in taxation on assets relating to property is subject to movements in the value of such assets, which are currently occurring in the economy.

Joan Burton

Question:

269 Deputy Joan Burton 270. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the expected yield in 2010 from increasing the rate of capital gains tax by 1%, 2%, 3%, 4% or5%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38064/09]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that estimates of the full year cost to the Exchequer of tax reliefs for heritage items and property are contained in section 11 of Part 8 of the Commission on Taxation Report and are reproduced in the following table.

Heritage Relief

Year

Cost

€m

Payment of tax by means of donation of heritage items

2008

5

Payment of tax by means of donation of heritage property to the Irish heritage trust

2008

4

Income tax relief for expenditure on heritage buildings and gardens

2006

6

BIK exemption for employer–provided art objects in a heritage building or garden

Not available

CAT exemption for heritage property and heritage property of companies

20032008

10

On this basis, the full year yield to the Exchequer of abolishing these reliefs would be of the same order.

Joan Burton

Question:

270 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the expected yield in 2010 from increasing the rate of capital gains tax by 1%, 2%, 3%, 4% or 5%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38064/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the estimated full year gain from increasing the rate of Capital Gains Tax (CGT) by 1%, 2%, 3%, 4% or 5% could be in the region of €13 million, €25 million, €38 million, €50 million and €63 million respectively, assuming no significant behavioural change on the part of taxpayers.

CGT is very dependent on individual behaviour and a change in rate may not produce a corresponding increase or decrease in tax yield. In current economic conditions any estimate of additional yield must be treated with caution. In addition increasing the rate could, in theory, lead to a reduction in yield from the tax.

Joan Burton

Question:

271 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the expected yield in 2010 from the imposition of a cap of €200,000 on public sector salaries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38069/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

272 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the expected yield in 2010 from the imposition of a cap of €175,000 on public sector salaries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38070/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 271 and 272 together.

It is estimated that if a cap was imposed on public sector salaries at €200,000 it would yield savings in the region of €30m on a full year basis, while it is estimated that a similar cap on salaries at €175,000 would produce savings of the order of €85M on an annual basis.

By far the most significant group encompassed by the suggested salary caps is the hospital consultants. A new contract for this group was agreed in 2008 and has been implemented during the current year. Salary rates under the new contract arrangements are determined by the options taken by the consultants in their assimilation to the new contractual arrangements. The savings indicated reflect the options exercised in 2009 by the consultants under the new contractual arrangements and are estimated on base salary only. If the caps were to be applied to all earnings and not just salary, the savings would be higher. Any savings accruing on the public sector paybill would be offset to an extent by consequential tax revenue forgone.

Joan Burton

Question:

273 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the expected yield in 2010 from increasing the public sector pension levy by 1% on salaries between €150,000 and €200,000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38071/09]

The yield would depend on how an increase was applied. The estimated yield in 2010 through the application of an increase of an additional 1% in the pension levy on all earnings in the case of those on salaries between €150,000 and €200,000 would be in the region of €2.5m. If the additional 1% were to be applied only to that element of salary in excess of €150,000 and up to €200,000 the annual yield would be less than €400,000.

Joan Burton

Question:

274 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the expected yield in 2010 from the abolition of performance related pay in the public sector, including the civil service and the Health Service Executive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38072/09]

It is estimated that the abolition of performance related awards in the public service would yield approximately €8.0million in 2010.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Question:

275 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the expected cost to the Exchequer in 2010 of tax relief on rental income for residential properties and for commercial properties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38073/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that based on personal income tax returns filed by non-PAYE taxpayers for the year 2007, the latest year for which this information is available, the amount of tax foregone by allowing a deduction for interest on borrowings to be offset against rental income assessable under Case V, Schedule D is estimated to have been of the order of €877 million.

This estimate is based on assuming that tax relief was allowed at the top income tax rate of 41% and the figure provided could therefore be regarded as the maximum Exchequer cost in respect of those taxpayers. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they are not in a position to provide data for 2008 as the tax returns for that year and subsequent years are not yet due.

It should be noted that any corresponding data returned by PAYE taxpayers in the income tax return form 12 is not captured in the Revenue computer system. However, any PAYE taxpayer with non-PAYE income greater than €3,174 is required to complete an income tax return form 11. This return is the source of the figures provided in this reply.

The Deputy will no doubt be aware that the level at which interest repayments can be claimed against tax for residential rental properties was reduced from 100% to 75% in section 5 of the Finance Act 2009 at an estimated full year yield of €95 million.

Joan Burton

Question:

276 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the expected cost to the Exchequer in 2010 of property related tax schemes, including legacy schemes that are closed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38074/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the relevant information available on the cost to the Exchequer of each of the property based tax reliefs is based on personal income tax returns filed by non-PAYE taxpayers and corporation tax returns filed by companies for the year 2007, the latest year for which this information is available. These are as set out in the following table:

Scheme

Tax Cost

€m

Urban Renewal

109.3

Town Renewal

34.6

Seaside Resorts

8.0

Rural Renewal

48.5

Multi-storey car parks

9.6

Living over the shop

3.0

Enterprise Areas

2.8

Park and Ride

1.4

Holiday Cottages

12.4

Hotels

118.0

Nursing Homes

18.3

Housing for the Elderly/Infirm

2.6

Hostels

0.72

Guest houses

0.02

Convalescent Homes

0.5

Qualifying (Private) Hospitals

12.0

Qualifying sports injury clinics

1.8

Buildings used for Childcare Purposes

9.8

Psychiatric Hospitals

0.1

Mental Health centres

0.0

Student Accommodation

42.0

Total

435.4

Data is not yet available in relation to the following schemes: Qualifying specialist Palliative Care Units (subject to commencement order) and Certain tourism infrastructure under the mid-Shannon scheme (scheme terminates 31 May 2013).

I am advised by Revenue that they are not in a position to provide data for 2008 as the tax returns for that year and subsequent years are not yet due. The estimated relief claimed has assumed tax foregone at the 41% rate in the case of individuals and 12.5% in the case of companies. The figures shown correspond to the maximum Exchequer cost in terms of income tax and corporation tax.

It should be noted that any corresponding data returned by PAYE taxpayers in the income tax return form 12 is not captured in the Revenue computer system. However, any PAYE taxpayer with non-PAYE income greater than €3,174 is required to complete an income tax return form 11.

David Stanton

Question:

277 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Finance his views on reducing the minimum cost threshold of €25,390 to qualify for relief under VAT refund order SI 58/92 in respect of medical equipment donated to hospitals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38080/09]

Charities and non-profit groups engaged in non-commercial activity are exempt from VAT under the EU VAT Directive, with which Irish VAT law must comply. This means they do not charge VAT on the services they provide and cannot recover VAT incurred on goods and services that they purchase. In this regard, where a hospital or a charity purchases a good or engages a service, any VAT liable in the charge for that good or service must be borne by the hospital or charity.

However, there is provision for the refund of VAT incurred on the purchase of a new medical instrument or appliance by a person who donates such equipment to a hospital. The main conditions relating to this refund scheme are that: the appliance or instrument is new and is donated to a hospital; the appliance costs €25,390 or more in value (exclusive of VAT); the appliance is designed and manufactured for use solely in medical research or in diagnosis, prevention or treatment of illness; the appliance is purchased through voluntary donations, such that no part of the funds used in the purchase is provided directly or indirectly by the State, a State body or any public or local authority; and, the appliance is subject to a recommendation by the Minister for Health and Children that, having regard to the requirements of the health services in the State, a refund of tax would be appropriate.

The VAT refund Order was introduced to help defray the cost of more expensive items purchased by voluntary donations. Items costing less than the threshold of €25,390 are excluded from the relief in order to limit the relief to more expensive medical equipment.

The current threshold level has not changed since the refund was introduced in 1987 at £20,000, which was translated to €25,390 to coincide with the introduction of the euro in 2002. Given inflation since the introduction of the current threshold, in real terms the value of threshold has reduced significantly. Taking inflation into account the 1987 threshold would equate to around €46,500 in 2009 values. In this context a greater level of lower priced medical appliances now qualify under the Order than when the relief was originally introduced.

In the circumstances there are no plans to change the current threshold.

Tax Collection.

James Bannon

Question:

278 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Finance if consideration will be given to the penalty imposed on a person (details supplied) in County Longford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38025/09]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the person in question filed his return for the 2006 tax year on 19 March 2009, which was 505 days after the due date. Prior to filing his return, the Revenue Commissioners had written to him on three occasions to inform him of his obligations to file a return. The person in question has a pattern of delays in submitting his returns, with his last 4 returns being substantially late.

The Taxes Consolidation Act provides for the imposition of surcharges for the late filing of returns. In addition to a surcharge of €36.28 for the delay in filing of his 2006 return, a fine of €750 was imposed at a District Court Hearing on 24 March 2009. The person in question was afforded 6 months to pay this fine or face a custodial sentence. He contacted the Collector Generals office by telephone on 11 September 2009 where his options for payment of the District Court fine were explained.

John Deasy

Question:

279 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Finance the reason money paid to former workers of a company (details supplied) was classified as income as opposed to a redundancy or lump sum payment which would give an exemption from income tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38088/09]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, for reasons of confidentiality, they cannot comment on the details of payments from the fund referred to in the Deputy's question.

I am assured, however, that the Revenue Commissioners took account of all the facts and circumstances involved (including the basis under which entitlement to payments from this fund arose) in coming to the conclusion as to whether any payments made out of the fund are chargeable to income tax under Schedule E in accordance with Section 112 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. It should be noted that lump sum payments are not automatically exempt from taxation.

Question No. 280 answered with Question No. 145.

National Lottery Funding.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

281 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the full extent of funds from the proceeds of the National Lottery allocated to or through his Department in each of the past five years to date in 2009 and future years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38108/09]

Funding from the National Lottery which is allocated to this Department is used for the Charitable Lotteries Scheme. Under this Scheme, funding is made available to supplement the income of certain private charitable lotteries whose products are competing directly with National Lottery products. The amount of funding provided from the National Lottery to this Department for this Scheme in each of the past 5 years is as follows:

Year

€m

2004

7.618

2005

7.730

2006

8.618

2007

8.618

2008

8.618

A list of the beneficiaries under the Charitable Lotteries Scheme in each of the past five years is set out below. Comparable data for 2009 is not yet available.

Name of Body: Arts Council

Date of Transfer:

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

€000

€000

€000

€000

€000

Pension-related payments

127

127

127

127

Pension-related receipts

89

89

89

89

Net Impact on Vote Expenditure

38

38

38

38

Vote: CERT and TRO Pension Schemes

Name of Body:

Date of Transfer:

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

€000

€000

€000

€000

€000

Pension-related payments

2,032

2,248

2,787

2,156

Pension-related receipts

1,016

979

864

855

Net Impact on Vote Expenditure

1,016

1,269

1,923

1,301

National Debt.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

282 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the national debt as of 31 December 1997, 31 December 2007 and the projections for 31 December 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38139/09]

Michael Ring

Question:

329 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Finance the level of the National Debt at 31 December for each of the past ten years in tabular format; the percentage increase or decrease year on year; the projections for the debt levels at the end of 2009 and 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38456/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 282 and 329 together.

The level of national debt for the period 1997-2008 is outlined in the table below along with the percentage year-on-year change.

Year End

Total National Debt

% change year-on-year

€m

%

1997

38,966

2.6

1998

37,510

-3.7

1999

39,851

6.2

2000

36,511

-8.4

2001

36,183

-0.9

2002

36,361

0.5

2003

37,611

3.4

2004

37,846

0.6

2005

38,182

0.9

2006

35,917

-5.9

2007

37,559

4.6

2008

50,398

34.2

Taking into account the estimated end-year Exchequer Borrowing Requirement for 2009, which is forecast to be in the region of €26 billion, the anticipated level of national debt by end-2009 is some €76 billion. In respect of 2010, in the absence of any corrective action, an Exchequer deficit of the order of €25 billion would be in prospect and this would increase the level of national debt to approximately €100 billion by end-2010. As you know the Government plans to seek adjustments which would reduce the amount required to be borrowed next year by about €4 billion.

Continuing to borrow at a high level to bridge the gap between revenue and expenditure is not a sustainable solution in the medium to long-term. Therefore we must make the necessary adjustments in Budget 2010 to stabilise the deficit. Taking this action now will ensure that confidence is maintained in the Irish economy and that Ireland is favourably placed to benefit from global recovery as it takes hold. As part of the budgetary process, and taking account of the Budget day decisions, I will publish revised debt forecasts on Budget day.

It is intended that my Department will publish in mid-November the Pre-Budget Outlook (PBO). This will set out an updated macroeconomic assessment, based on the latest available data, and the emerging technical budgetary position.

Decentralisation Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

283 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the cost of the proposals on decentralisation including the cost and or acquisitions of buildings, sites or other development costs associated therewith; the degree to which disposal of surplus building has been achieved; the prices received; if they were in line with market trends; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38140/09]

The total amount of expenditure on the property aspects of the programme is approximately €321m. This is comprised of the costs of site/property acquisitions, fit out works and rent of approximately €315m expended by the OPW up to the end of July 2009, together with some €6m incurred directly in respect of property costs by other organisations.

The property costs have been offset by the sales/reallocation of some €556m. Of this, €356m has been received from property sales while transfers to the Affordable Homes Partnership account for a further €75m. In addition, the OPW has agreed joint venture redevelopment schemes with an approximate value of €125m, subject to current market fluctuations.

The total expenditure on non-property costs to the end of June 2009 for all decentralising organisations is approximately €14.5m. In addition the OPW has recently advised that its spend to date on staffing costs on the property aspects of the Programme up to June 2009 is €12.6m.

Banking Sector Regulation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

284 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he has sought or received an indication from the banks regarding lending to small and medium sized enterprises in return for the rescue package provided for such institutions by the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38141/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

289 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when he expects conventional lending best practice to be restored having particular regard to the guarantees given by the State to the banking sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38146/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

290 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when he expects lending to be restored with particular reference to meeting the needs of persons seeking to borrow on the basis of good and practical proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38147/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

291 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the steps he will take to ensure that the banking sector responds to the various guarantees given by the State in a positive manner with particular reference to meeting the ongoing needs of the business and commercial sectors in accordance with good practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38148/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

292 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the steps he will take to address the matter of the starvation in respect of working capital throughout the business sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38149/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

293 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the discussions he has had with the business community with a view to achieving banking support for business in line with good business practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38150/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

294 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the discussions he has had with the banking sector with a view to restoration of lending to the business sector with particular reference to small and medium sized businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38151/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 284 and 289 to 294, inclusive, together.

The Covered Institutions Financial Support Scheme which guarantees the liabilities of the covered institutions was put in place in September 2008 to maintain the stability of the financial system in Ireland. Without it the covered institutions would not have been in a position to lend to the real economy. Both AIB and Bank of Ireland have made explicit commitments on lending in the context of the recapitalisation package which was announced on 11 February this year.

Specifically, 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.

Building on the banks' commitment to the indigenous venture capital sector, AIB and Bank of Ireland have further committed in excess of €15m each to new or existing seed capital funds, in collaboration with Enterprise Ireland's Seed and Venture Capital Programme, to further create and develop indigenous enterprise. The banks' funding will be matched as appropriate by funding under Enterprise Ireland's Seed and Venture Capital Programme and/or by funding from other national or international investors. The supplementary documentation on NAMA issued in September, gives details of SME lending by AIB and Bank of Ireland.

Prompt payment is important to underpin cash flow, particularly for small businesses. The recapitalised banks have committed to prompt payment arrangements in future customer contracts which will involve payment within thirty days and a late payment interest charge on any payments made after thirty days.

I would direct the Deputy to Section 4 of the supplementary booklet on NAMA for further detail on the above. The Financial Regulator has been monitoring compliance with the above commitments and no issues have arisen requiring attention. The Government has introduced arrangements to reduce the payment period by Government Departments to business from 30 to 15 days.

Additionally, the Deputy might like to be aware that my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment has set up a Clearing Group including representatives from the main banks, business interests and state agencies, which is chaired by her Department. 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. Businesses have been invited to send details of such credit refusals to a dedicated e-mail contact point at the Department.

Although the Group cannot act as an appeal mechanism for individual cases of credit refusal, it is charged with seeking to identify credit supply solutions relating to any patterns identified. Information provided by businesses will inform and assist this work. A comprehensive independent review of SME lending from both the demand and supply perspective was undertaken and was published in July. The review showed that demand had fallen sharply, with the value of new applications for credit down by 42%. Stock of credit remained static, indicating that new credits broadly matched repayments. I understand that in a normal year, 15% to 20% of outstanding credit might be repaid, so that significant lending must take place even to keep the figure constant.

The Review, conducted by Mazars, found that refusal rates vary markedly by sector from 6% to 48% according to the SMEs surveyed. This finding clearly contradicts the allegation of a blanket refusal to lend. Mazars also examined a sample of files where credit was refused and found that, in general, "refusal seemed reasonable in the context of normal commercial and business criteria". A follow up review covering the period to September is currently underway.

In addition, I announced during the Committee Stage debate on the NAMA Bill last week that I will be introducing a Report Stage amendment to the Bill to provide a power to issue guidelines to the participating institutions on lending practices and procedures to improve the flow of credit to SMEs and, if necessary, other sectors. The power will be a wide ranging one and will allow for a response adapted to the particular circumstances of different institutions and sectors. This approach recognises that this is a complex situation and allows for a flexible response to changing credit needs.

Fiscal Policy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

285 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which receipts through the various forms of taxation are likely to form the basis for budgetary policy in the next 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38142/09]

Based on the emerging data, tax receipts for the year as a whole are now anticipated to be in the region of €32 billion. This revised position, down from the €34.4 billion set out in the April Supplementary Budget, was signalled at the end-September Exchequer Returns.

This weaker tax base forms the aggregate basis for revenue next year. Trends in incoming tax receipts are continually analysed by my Department and the prospective end-year outturn kept under constant review. The Pre-Budget Outlook, which my Department plans to publish in mid-November, will provide an update on the macroeconomic outlook and set out a technical fiscal forecast, including tax revenue for 2010. The Budget will be published on 9 December and will provide a post-Budget assessment taking account of policy decisions.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

286 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he has received information with a view to calculation of the cost of tribunals; the extent to which this includes legal fees, witnesses expenses, accommodation and or other costs associated with all tribunals conducted over the past 12 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38143/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

287 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he has received any indication as to the estimated cost of the various tribunals conducted over the past number of years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38144/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 286 and 287 together.

Based on bi-monthly reports made to the Department of Finance by the Departments with responsibility for the individual tribunals, up to end-August 2009 the cumulative cost of completed and sitting Tribunals as listed below was €290.51 million, of which €67.64 million comprised administration and €222.87 million derived from legal costs. The legal costs figures include €113.51 million for third-party legal costs that are already paid. Further third party legal costs have yet to be presented and taxed.

The table below sets out the costs of the various tribunals. While the cost figures include some element of accommodation and witnesses expenses, the breakdown of the costs of witnesses expenses, accommodation and other associated costs would have to be obtained from the relevant line Departments as this Department does not hold such information.

An estimate of the ultimate costs of three major tribunals, Mahon, Morris and Moriarty Tribunals is provided in the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General published in December 2008 on the timescale, cost and efficiency of these tribunals. The report is available at www.audgen.gov.ie. The Comptroller and Auditor General estimated, subject to caveats and contingencies, that these three tribunals could cost something in the order of €336 million to €366 million based on the costs being experienced to date by the tribunals themselves or alternatively, €418 million to €434 million if the pattern of third party costs experienced in the Beef Processing Industry Tribunal were to emerge in these cases also. The Report makes clear that these figures take no account of revenue that has or may in future accrue to the State arising from the Tribunals' work.

Tribunal Costs to End-August 2009

Admin Costs

State Legal Costs

3rd Party Legal Costs

Total Costs

€m

€m

€m

€m

Beef Tribunal of Inquiry to enquire into allegations of improper practices within the beef industry and the abuse of the EU export credit refund scheme (established 1991)

5.320

4.630

17.283

27.233

McCracken Tribunal of Inquiry into the Dunne’s payments to politicians (established 1997)

0.100

0.860

5.600

6.560

Finlay Tribunal of Inquiry into the Blood Transfusion Service Board (established 1996)

0.500

0.700

3.500

4.700

Lindsay Tribunal of Inquiry into the Infection with HIV and Hepatitis C of Persons with Haemophilia and Related Matters (established 1999)

3.133

4.350

39.166

46.649

Moriarty Tribunal of Inquiry into Payments to Messrs. Haughey and Lowry (established 1997)

7.664

29.668

2.504

39.836

Mahon Tribunal of Inquiry into Certain Planning matters and Payments (established 1997)

26.687

50.822

10.439

87.948

Morris Tribunal of Inquiry into certain Garda activities in Donegal (established 2002)

17.253

10.490

23.724

51.467

Barr Tribunal of Inquiry into the Facts and Circumstances Surrounding the Fatal Shooting of John Carthy at Abbeylara, Co. Longford (established 2002)

4.170

5.077

11.242

20.489

Smithwick Tribunal of Inquiry into the Fatal Shootings of RUC Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Robert Buchanan (established 2005)

2.809

2.762

0.056

5.627

Total

67.636

109.359

113.514

290.509

Question No. 288 answered with Question No. 124.
Questions Nos. 289 to 294, inclusive, answered with Question No. 284.

Tax Code.

Jack Wall

Question:

295 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a P45 will be verified for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38161/09]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that this issue is a matter for the employer. The person concerned should contact the employer directly to have form P45 fully completed.

Departmental Properties.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

296 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance the expenditure to date on building the new headquarters for the Department of Defence; the scheduled cost for building the new headquarters; the scheduled cost for equipping the building for usage, and all ancillary costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34756/09]

The Office of Public Works (OPW) placed a contract with P. Elliott & Co. Ltd. in the sum of €24,894,841, including VAT, for the Design and Build of the Department of Defence new headquarters at Station Road, Newbridge, Co. Kildare. Work on site is well advanced and is expected to be completed by the end of 2009.

Expenditure of approximately €25,500,000 has been incurred up to end September 2009. This figure includes the cost of site acquisition.

The fitting out of the canteen and the supply and installation of furniture will follow under separate contracts. The cost of these items will be known when contracts have been placed. Tenders for this element will be invited in due course. The provision of equipment, such as I.T., telephones, staff training and transfer of files, will be a matter for the Department of Defence.

Tax Code.

Jack Wall

Question:

297 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance the procedure available to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare to obtain a P45 certificate; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that a correctly completed form P45 is required, under PAYE regulations, to be given by an employer to an employee on cessation of employment. The form P45 is a notification to Revenue that an employee has ceased employment with that employer. The form also contains details of the employee's pay, tax and PRSI contributions from the start of the year to the date of cessation of employment. The P45 will show the date of commencement of that employment if the period of employment commenced since 1st January in the current tax year.

If an employee does not get a form P45 when leaving he or she should ask the employer for a P45 and repeat the request if necessary. If the employer still fails to provide a P45, the employee should notify their local Revenue District, in this case the Revenue Kildare District, by telephone, email or in writing, that they have failed, after several attempts, to get a P45 and stating what the problem is. The matter will then be followed up quickly by Revenue with the employer.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

298 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance the number of local authorities which have implemented the new rateable valuation calculation; the procedure used for the new valuation process; the way it differs from the old; his views on the impact that the new rateable valuation will have on business costs; if he will continue the process; if he will confirm that the procedure has resulted in an increase of 48% in one shopping centre and 62% in another (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38046/09]

The Valuation Act, 2001, which came into effect on 2nd May 2002 provides for the revaluation of all commercial and industrial property. I have been informed by the Commissioner of Valuation that the revaluation programme began in November 2005 in the South Dublin County Council area and has since been rolled out to the areas covered by Fingal and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Councils. The revaluation of South Dublin was completed in December 2007, Fingal will be completed later this year and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown will be completed in 2010. It is intended to roll out the programme to a further local authority area in the coming months and the necessary process of consultation is underway.

Once a local authority has been revalued, the Valuation Act provides for a subsequent revaluation not sooner than 5 but not later than 10 years. I should point out that under the 2001 Valuation Act, the Commissioner of Valuation is independent in the exercise of his duties under the Act and I, as Minister for Finance, have no functions in this regard.

The basis of rateable valuation for all commercial property is net annual value (NAV) i.e. the rental value of the property. In a revaluation properties are assessed, in accordance with statute, by reference to rental values at a specific valuation date and a new list of valuations is produced. This new list is then used by the rating authority to levy rates on individual ratepayers. The old valuation lists date from the Griffith Valuation carried out in the 19th century. Maintaining these lists requires the Valuation Office to determine valuations by reference to the values of comparable properties on the same valuation list. The result is a list of valuations that bear no resemblance to modern valuation levels and contain many anomalies.

The Act provides for the rates income to be capped in the year following a revaluation so that the total amount of rates income of a local authority in the year following a revaluation shall not exceed the total amount of rates income of the preceding year, adjusted to take account of changes to the Consumer Price Index. Revaluation is essentially about the redistribution of the commercial rates burden between ratepayers depending on the relative shift in the rental values of the properties they occupy. It is the relative value of properties to each other rather than the absolute value of an individual property, which will determine whether the rates liability of any given property decreases or increases, following a revaluation.

The revaluation in the South Dublin County Council area resulted in 39% of ratepayers having an increased rates liability and 49% of ratepayers a reduced rates liability. The two major shopping centres in South Dublin had contrasting outcomes; one had a reduced rates liability overall of 6% while the other had an increased rates liability of 55%. The Fingal revaluation is not finalised yet and definitive figures will not be available until December 2009.

Any individual ratepayer who is dissatisfied with the outcome of the revaluation of their property may appeal to the Commissioner of Valuation in the first instance and subsequently to the independent Valuation Tribunal as provided for in the Valuation Act, 2001. The purpose of revaluation is to bring more equity, fairness and transparency into the local authority rating system and following completion of the initial national revaluation programme, I am satisfied that there will be a much closer and uniform relationship between rental values of property and their commercial rates liability and that this relationship will thereafter be maintained by means of the recurring revaluations provided for in the Act. In essence the exercise is aimed at ensuring a fair sharing of the rates burden across all categories of ratepayers.

Departmental Properties.

Damien English

Question:

299 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Finance the cost to his Department of the vacant building at the Kells Road, Navan, County Meath since its closure; his plans for the premises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37917/09]

The former Government Offices at Kells Road, Navan are State-owned, so no rental costs arise. While the OPW has no immediate use for the building, it is a very valuable and strategic site, which will be retained by the State. A range of options for its longer-term use is being considered.

To maintain the basic fabric of the building and prevent its further deterioration, limited services were maintained. It is estimated that the costs to date are approximately €50,000.

Departmental Expenditure.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

300 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Finance the breakdown of the State capital expenditure costs incurred since 1 January to date in 2009, with expected further costs to be incurred to the end of 2009 in tabular form; if he will provide this in comparison with the original budgeted cost amounts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38165/09]

The following table compares net capital expenditure Issues to end-October, as provided to my Department by the other Departments of State, to the published profile of expenditure for the same period. I also attach the net 2009 Revised Estimates Volume capital allocations. At this time, the REV allocation sets out the published forecast outturn of expenditure for the year.

Net Capital Expenditure (€'000s)

Department/ Office

Net REV Capital Allocation

Profile to End-October (Net)

End-October Net Capital Issues

Profile Vs. issues

Finance

1,410

1,245

364

-881

Revenue Commissioners

5,185

2,953

2,700

-253

Office of Public Works

202,792

165,937

107,139

-58,798

Justice, Equality and Law Reform

20,240

14,098

3,881

-10,217

Garda Síochána

44,854

32,693

19,441

-13,252

Prisons

38,683

29,406

23,796

-5,610

Courts Service

28,758

23,420

18,136

-5,284

Property Registration Authority

3,195

3,034

3,289

255

Environment, Heritage and Local Government

1,807,257

1,383,047

1,298,387

-84,660

Education and Science

840,908

663,947

523,492

-140,455

Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs

114,925

92,980

83,944

-9,036

Foreign Affairs

12,078

8,227

5,500

-2,727

International Co-operation

970

850

691

-159

Communications, Energy and Natural Resources

164,958

111,282

54,488

-56,794

Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

476,191

435,412

444,095

8,683

Transport

1,985,211

1,554,372

1,449,652

-104,720

National Gallery

2,000

1,484

1,791

307

Enterprise Trade and Employment

488,311

382,736

369,505

-13,231

Arts, Sport and Tourism

133,491

104,556

103,339

-1,217

Defence

17,394

10,932

9,529

-1,403

Social and Family Affairs

13,808

11,050

9,613

-1,437

Health and Children

15,450

13,214

4,712

-8,502

Health Service Executive

403,263

336,809

377,008

40,199

Office of the Minister for Children

62,509

49,184

43,625

-5,559

Total Vote

6,883,841

5,432,868

4,958,117

-474,751

Banking Sector.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

301 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Finance the direction given by the EU Commission on further injections of capital by the Government into Anglo Irish Bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38167/09]

No direction has been given by the EU Commission in relation to further injections of capital to Anglo Irish Bank by the Government.

As the Deputy may be aware, following EU approval to the provision of €4 billion in capital to Anglo, a restructuring plan for the bank is required. The Board of Anglo is currently finalising the restructuring plan which will consider all options for the future of the bank and set out the future strategy for Anglo. The restructuring plan will be submitted to the European Commission for approval under EU State aid rules by the end of November.

Any possible future capital provision to Anglo would also need to have the approval of the European Commission under EU State aid rules.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

302 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance if he will make available to the public the loans made to directors of Anglo Irish Bank and connected persons on the same basis as this information is made available to shareholders of banks that are public limited companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38193/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, following the taking into public ownership of Anglo, the bank made extensive disclosures in its Annual Report and its Interim Report for the period to 31 March in relation to loans to Directors, other key management personnel and related parties. These disclosures were made in accordance with the requirements applicable to banks that are public limited companies.

Anglo Irish Bank will continue to comply with all relevant public disclosure requirements applicable to banks that are publicly quoted.

Tax Code.

Mary Upton

Question:

303 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance the tax reliefs and tax breaks currently available; the estimated taxes forgone on a yearly basis per relief; if he will provide this information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38216/09]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the total identifiable costs to the Exchequer of all income tax and corporation tax allowances, reliefs, exemptions and tax credits available, are set out in the following tables for 2005 and 2006, the most recent year for which the necessary historical information is available in the required detail. Relevant notes relating to items in the tables are also included.

Index of Tables and Notes

(a) Note on the Cost of Tax Credits, Allowances and Reliefs 2005 & 2006

(b) Table of Tax Credits, Allowances and Reliefs 2005 & 2006

(c) Notes on Table IT 6

(d) Green Paper on Pensions — updated estimate of cost for 2007

(e) Estimate of cost of Tax Incentives/Income Exemption for 2007.

(a) Cost of Tax Credits, Allowances and Reliefs 2005 and 2006

The following table IT 6 shows the estimated cost in terms of revenue forgone of the personal tax credits and the main reliefs and deductions allowable under the income tax system. A number of reliefs which apply both to individuals and companies is also included and the cost shown in relation to these reliefs covers income tax and corporation tax.

An adjustment is included in the cost figures applying to income tax to compensate for incomplete numbers of tax returns on record at the time of compiling the estimates.

The tax credits and reliefs listed in the table serve varying purposes. Many are essentially structural reliefs through which individual tax liabilities are adjusted to reflect relative taxable capacity. The main personal tax credits are a good example of this since they may be regarded as part of the progressive income tax structure representing a band of income chargeable at a zero rate. Others, such as relief for interest paid in full or investment in corporate trades, are tax-based incentives in favour of specific groups or activities which are designed to promote certain aspects of public policy.

In computing taxable profits, account needs to be taken in some way of the depreciation of capital assets incurred in earning those profits. To this extent, the figures in the table of the "costs" of capital allowances should not be regarded as measuring a "loss of tax revenue" on profits. To compute such "loss", regard would have to be had to the excess of the amount of the capital allowances at current rates over the amount of the normal allowances.

The figures shown for the basic personal tax credits (married, single and widowed) are the costs of these tax credits as if all other tax credits and the exemption limits did not apply. They do not include individuals who are not on Revenue records because their incomes are below the income tax thresholds. The cost figures for the exemption limits are based on the excess of the exemption limits over the basic personal tax credits.

The figures of cost are for 2005 and 2006 and all figures are based on tax due in respect of assessments for each year and not on tax receipts within that year.

The figure against each credit or allowance represents the additional tax which would become payable if the tax credit or allowance were withdrawn assuming no consequent change in the behaviour of taxpayers (for example, in relation to the reliefs for savings), or the amounts of payments (for example, interest payable on certain savings schemes might need adjustment to take account of the new tax liability).

The numbers of claimants of each credit or relief are shown for both years to the extent that they are available. The numbers included are the taxpayers who would be adversely affected by the withdrawal of the respective credit or relief.

In the calculations, each tax credit or allowance has been dealt with separately and on the assumption that the rest of the tax system remained unchanged. It would be therefore inaccurate to calculate the effect of withdrawing all the credits, reliefs and allowances by simply totaling the figures. For example, the costs shown for capital allowances and stock relief are also calculated on the basis of separate withdrawal of these reliefs. Their combined cost would be greater than the sum of the separate costs because allowances are not always fully set off against available profits. For instance, a person with €1,000 gross trading profits, €1,000 capital allowances and €1,000 stock relief would pay no tax if either of the reliefs were withdrawn but would pay tax on €1,000 profits if both reliefs were withdrawn. In this case, the cost of each relief separately is nil but the combined cost is tax on €1,000. Basic data is not available to enable an estimate of the combined cost of these reliefs to be made.

The figures for estimates based on tax returns have been grossed up to an overall expected level to adjust for incompleteness in the numbers of returns on record at the time the data was extracted for analytical purposes.

Finally, the estimates shown in many cases are tentative and are subject to revision in the light of later information. Some of the cost figures included in the table for 2005 reflect revisions to figures previously published in the 2007 Report.

(b) Income Tax and Corporation Tax

Table IT6: Cost of Tax Credits, Allowances and Reliefs 2005 and 2006

(1) Estimated cost for

2005

2006

Tax Relief Provision

€m

Numbers

€m

Numbers

INCOME TAX

Exemption limits:

General Exemption(2)

0.0

0

0.0

0

Child Addition(2)

0.3

1,000

0.2

800

Age Exemption (2)

61.5

49,600

62.0

50,100

Married Person’s Credit(3)

2,268.9

756,500

2,396.9

777,700

Single Person’s Credit(3)

1,854.3

1,330,100

2,137.2

1,494,700

Widowed Person’s Credit(3)

132.2

71,500

155.2

78,400

Additional Credit to Widowed Person in Year of Bereavement

4.7

4,000

4.5

4,000

Additional Bereavement Credit to Widowed Parent

4.3

2,400

4.9

2,300

Additional Personal Credit for Lone Parent

194.1

124,900

186.1

123,100

Homecarer Credit

63.9

87,900

61.8

85,000

Additional Credit for Incapacitated Child

10.3

10,400

16.0

11,000

Employee (PAYE) Credit

2,030.8

1,493,300

2,522.0

1,626,700

Dependent Relative Credit

1.0

15,200

1.4

15,500

Person Taking Care of Incapacitated Taxpayer

1.8

660

2.8

820

Age Credit

20.6

68,800

28.3

76,700

Blind Person’s Credit

0.8

890

1.2

880

Medical Insurance Premiums (4)

229.6

1,073,400

260.5

1,134,800

Health Expenses

134.0

260,700

167.2

348,800

Contributions Under Permanent Health Benefit Schemes, after Deduction of Tax on Benefits Received(5)

3.2

21,600

3.1

23,000

Employees’ Contributions To Approved Superannuation Schemes(6)

423.4

565,200

543.3

693,100

Employers’ Contributions To Approved Superannuation Schemes(6)

90.0

296,500

120.0

363,100

Exemption of Investment Income and Gains of Approved Superannuation Funds(6) (7) (11)*

1,050.0

N/A

1,200.0

N/A

Exemption of employers’ contributions from employee BIK (6)

370.0

296,500

510.0

363,100

Tax Relief on “tax free” lump sums(6)

120.0

N/A

130.0

N/A

Retirement Annuity Contracts(6)

357.7

121,200

435.9

125,900

Personal Retirement Savings Account(6)

42.2

32,900

56.4

45,200

Interest paid:

Loans relating to Principal Private Residence

279.0

587,800

351.6

668,400

Other(8)

22.2

4,800

31.1

4,900

Rent Paid in Private Tenancies

48.1

144,500

64.0

171,800

Expenses Allowable to Employees under Schedule E

65.0

908,800

71.2

960,400

Third Level Education Fees

14.3

29,900

15.7

30,800

Exemption of Certain Earnings of Writers, Composers and Artists

34.8

2,220

65.9

2,890

Dispositions (Including Maintenance Payments made to Separated Spouses)

18.9

6,100

20.2

7,640

Exemption of Interest on Savings Certificates, National Installment Savings & Index Linked Savings Bonds

129.5

N/A

216.3

N/A

Rent a Room

3.3

2,820

3.9

3,560

Exemption of Income of Charities, Colleges, Hospitals, Schools, Friendly Societies, etc.(9)

19.8

N/A

35.0

N/A

Donations to Approved Bodies

34.0

63,800

49.5

107,100

Donations to Sports Bodies(10)

0.2

430

0.3

580

Retirement Relief for certain Sports Persons.(10)

0.3

42

0.2

32

Exemption of Irish Government Securities where owner not ordinarily resident in Ireland(11)*

169.3

N/A

197.0

N/A

Exemption of Statutory Redundancy Payments

72.8

22,000

77.7

22,100

Service Charges

17.2

304,700

21.4

363,900

Top Slicing Relief — Reduced Tax Rate for Payments in Excess of Exemption Amounts Made as Compensation for Loss of Office

11.1

1,480

20.2

2,050

Revenue Job Assist allowance

0.4

550

0.3

360

Allowance for seafarers

0.4

200

0.3

170

Trade Union Subscriptions

11.8

272,100

19.2

294,300

Exemption From Tax of Certain Social Welfare Payments:

Child benefit*

366.6

373,500

377.4

375,300

Early childcare Supplement*

N/A

N/A

64.9

192,000

Maternity allowance*

9.6

10,800

12.2

14,900

Exemption of Income arising from the Provision of Childcare Services

N/A

N/A

0.3

230.0

Approved Profit Sharing Schemes*

55.8

55,000

87.8

87,500

Savings-Related Share Option Schemes*

6.2

N/A

2.8

N/A

Approved Share Option Schemes*

0.4

464

3.4

1400

Relief for New Shares Purchased by Employees

N/A

N/A

0.2

184

Investment in Corporate Trades (BES)

16

1,650

21.4

2,000

Investment in Seed Capital

1.3

42

1.2

42

Stock Relief*

2.0

N/A

2.0

N/A

Relief for expenditure on significant buildings and gardens

3.3

84

6.2

180

Donation of Heritage items

5.8

7

5.7

5

Special Savings Incentive Scheme

597.4

1,083,600

438.9

718,570

INCOME TAX AND/OR CORPORATION TAX (12)

Employee Share Ownership Trusts*

1.8

16,800

6.3

16,300

Total Capital Allowances:(13)

1877.5

266,200

2036.3

260,700

Rented Residential Relief — Section 23(14)*

239.7

4,126

252.4

4,132

Effective Rate of 10% for Manufacturing and Certain Other Activities(15)

396

3,034

384.1

2,831

Double Taxation Relief

439.1

13,200

590.0

15,400

Investment in Films*

15.7

1,500

36.4

3,500

Group Relief

421.6

1,578

255.6

1,592

Research & Development Tax Credit(16)

65.2

135

74.7

141

(c) Notes on Table IT6

(1) Figures accompanied by an asterisk* are particularly tentative and subject to a considerable margin of error.

(2) The cost figures for the exemption limits are based on the excess of the exemption limits over the basic personal tax credits. They include the cost of marginal relief for taxpayers whose incomes are not greatly in excess of the exemption limits.

(3) The figures shown for the basic personal tax credits (married, single and widowed) are the costs of these tax credits as if all other tax credits and the exemption limits did not apply. They do not include individuals who are not on Revenue records because their incomes are below the income tax thresholds.

(4) Arising from the change over to Tax Relief at Source the figures relate to the number of policies issued. These include policies where subscriptions were paid by businesses on behalf of their employees.

(5) Part of the cost of contributions to Permanent Health Benefit Schemes is not identifiable as a result of the move to a “net pay” basis for contributions by PAYE taxpayers from 6 April 2001.

(6) See the following table “Green Paper on Pensions” for background commentary and cost figures for 2007.

(7) Arising from the work on the “Green Paper on Pensions” (2007) the basis for costing this item was changed for 2005 and is not directly comparable with the figures for earlier years. See also the following table “Green Paper on Pensions” for more recent figures.

(8) “Other” relates to borrowings for purposes such as acquiring an interest in a company or partnership or to pay death duties.

(9) The cost of exempting the income of charities, colleges, hospitals, schools, friendly societies, etc. from income tax includes the sums repaid in respect of tax credits, income tax deducted at source (certain dividends, other investment income and payments received under covenant), and also includes tax on (see Note 10) (a) donations made by the PAYE and self-employed sectors to approved bodies (b) income tax repayments on foot of PAYE donations. It also includes the cost of exempting certain bodies from the deduction on income arising from government securities. Information is not available about other income received gross.

(10) The cost figures for relief for donations to Approved Sports Bodies and for certain Sports Persons are based on self assessment returns.

(11) In the absence of other information, tax has been assumed at the standard rate of income tax even though a different rate might be appropriate in many cases.

(12) The costs included for corporation tax are by reference to accounting periods which ended in the years 2005 and 2006.

(13) The cost shown for capital allowances does not include any cost associated with “unused capital allowances”, that is, capital allowances which are not absorbed by a company in the accounting period in which they arise because they exceed the amount of the company’s profits of that accounting period which are available for offset. Unused capital allowances can be offset as losses against taxable profits arising in the previous accounting period and against certain profits arising in future accounting periods and can be offset against the profits of another company in the same group of companies. It is estimated that €3,340 million of unused capital allowances were claimed in respect of 2006 accounting periods but as the proportion of this item which is included in previous years losses and in group relief is not separately identifiable a reliable estimate of the cost of the capital allowance element cannot be provided.

(14) The tax cost shown for section 23 type relief is the estimated ultimate tax cost relating to the total allowable expenditure in respect of claims made in 2005 and 2006 tax returns for the first time. The cost shown is for income tax cases only.

(15) The cost does not include any notional cost associated with IFSC companies. The International Financial Services activity in Ireland represents new business which has developed as a result of, among other things, the concessionary tax rate. This means that as the cost of the concessionary rate is not just the difference between the concessionary tax rate and the full tax rate, it is therefore not quantifiable. In regard to the cost shown for the effective rate of 10 per cent for manufacturing and certain other activities, no account is taken of the fact that without these incentives, many enterprises may not have set up here. To the extent that profits earned by such enterprises would not have been available for Irish tax purposes, part of the cost figure shown might be regarded as notional.

(16) The costs shown for R&D is for claims for R&D on corporation tax returns for accounting periods ending in 2005 and 2006. However, the cost includes the cost associated with claims where the company was entitled to the credit but was unable to absorb it in that accounting year.

(d) Green Paper on Pensions — updated estimates of cost for 2007

As part of the work on the Green Paper on Pensions, a review was carried out of the current regime of incentives for supplementary pension provision with a view to developing more comprehensive and reliable estimates of the cost of reliefs in this area. The review examined, among other things, the current reliefs and incentives for investment in supplementary pensions and the data available on which to base reliable estimates of the costs in revenue foregone to the Exchequer.

The review drew on newly available 2007 aggregate data on contributions to pension schemes by employers and employees arising from a P35 initiative introduced on foot of provisions that were included in Finance Act 2004 with a view to improving data quality. Estimates of the cost of tax for private pension provision updated for 2007 are included in the table below.

Estimate of the cost of tax and PRSI reliefs for private pension provision 2007.

Estimated costs

Numbers*

€ million

Employees’ Contributions to approved Superannuation Schemes

590

708,100

Employers’ Contributions to approved Superannuation Schemes

150

**385,100

Estimated cost of exemption of employers’ contributions from employee BIK

540

385,100

Exemption of investment income and gains of approved Superannuation Funds

900

Not available

Retirement Annuity Contracts (RACs)

420

Not available for 2007

Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs)

65

56,400

Estimated cost of tax relief on “tax-free” lump sum payments

130

Estimated cost of PRSI and Health Levy relief on employee and employer contributions

240

Not available

Gross cost of tax relief

3,035

Estimated tax yield from payment of pension benefits

410

Net cost of tax relief

2,625

*Numbers as included in P35 returns from employers to Revenue for 2007. Figures are as verified to date but may be understated and subject to revision.

**This is numbers of employees for whom employers are contributing to occupational pension funds as included in P35 returns to Revenue for 2007. Figures are as verified to date but may be understated and subject to revision.

The breakdown and make-up of these estimated costs of reliefs differ from presentations of costs in this area for previous years in a number of respects and are not directly comparable. For further details on the cost of tax and other reliefs and the changes in the methodology, refer to pages 106 and 107 of the Green Paper on Pensions which is available at www.pensionsgreenpaper.ie.

(e) Certain property-based tax incentives and incomes exempt from tax — uptake and estimated potential cost to the Exchequer in terms of income tax and corporation tax forgone based on 2006 tax returns

Provisions were included in the Finance Acts of 2003 and 2004 to enable new statistical data on the uptake of tax relief for certain property-based tax incentives and incomes exempt from tax to be obtained from tax returns. This information, derived from changes introduced by the Revenue Commissioners to income tax returns and corporation tax returns for 2006, is set out in the following table.

The figures shown include the amounts claimed in the year but exclude amounts carried forward into the year either as losses or capital allowances, and include any amounts of unused losses and/or capital allowances which will be carried forward to subsequent years.

Tax Incentive/Income Exemption

Amount Claimed

Assumed maximum tax cost

Number of claimants

€m

€m

Urban renewal

351.7

140.5

3,436

Town Renewal

93.0

38.7

1,149

Seaside Resorts

15.7

6.4

1,167

Rural Renewal

94.0

38.0

2,137

Multi-storey car parks

40.2

16.6

119

Living Over the shop

7.1

2.7

82

Enterprise Areas

7.4

3.0

129

Park and Ride

6.9

2.8

32

Holiday Cottages

22.9

9.5

660

Hotels

277.1

106.6

1,515

Nursing Homes

35.5

14.7

538

Housing for the Elderly/infirm

3.4

1.4

95

Hostels

1.96

0.82

23

Guest Houses

0.2

0.1

7

Convalescent Homes

4.1

1.7

18

Qualifying Private Hospitals

25.2

10.6

284

Qualifying sports injury clinics

0.1

0

3

Buildings Used for certain childcare purposes

14.3

6.0

304

Student Accommodation

162.5

64.3

1,059

Exemption of profits or gains from Greyhounds

0.4

0.1

6

Exemption of profits or gains from Stallions

90.7

22.5

185

Exemption of profits or gains from Woodlands

13.6

5.4

1,231

Exempt Patents (section 234, TCA 1997)

395.0

83.8

1,120

Totals

1,662.9

576.2

5,299

Notes:

The figures shown relate to the various reliefs/incentives and exemptions as specified in the 2006 form 11 and CT1.

There were concerns that in some instances the new, separately categorised data on property incentives may not have been correctly entered on the Tax returns. Revenue drew the attention of the relevant tax practitioner bodies to these deficiencies to rectify them in the future returns and also increased awareness among its own staff involved in processing tax returns of the need to ensure, through closer examination of the returns, that they are correctly completed.

The estimated costs have assumed tax foregone at the 41% rate in the case of income tax and 12.5% in the case of corporation tax. This means the figures shown correspond to the maximum Exchequer cost in terms of income tax and corporation tax. However, the actual Exchequer cost could be lower, particularly in relation to the exempt income items, as the income could be subject to deductions for allowable expenses and other costs thereby reducing the level of income that would be actually subject to tax.

Some of the costs shown above are included in the costs shown for capital allowances and section 23 relief in Table IT6. For example, exempt income included above is not part of capital allowances.

Reliefs in Respect of which Costs are not Currently Quantifiable or are Negligible or are not Identifiable within Total Aggregates

Exemption in respect of certain income derived from the leasing of farm land

Relief for new shares purchased on issue by employees;

Relief from averaging of farm profits;

Exemption for income arising from payments in respect of personal injuries;

Exemption of certain payments made by Hemophilia HIV Trust;

Exemption of Pensions, Benefits or Gratuities Payable to Veterans of the War of Independence their Widows or Dependents;

Exemption of lump sum retirement payments;

Relief for allowable motor expenses;

Tapering relief allowable for taxation of car benefits in kind;

Reduced tax rate of 10% for authorised unit trust schemes;

Reduced tax rate of 10% for special investment schemes;

Exemption of certain grants made by Údarás na Gaeltachta;

Relief for investment income reserved for policy holders in life assurance companies;

Relief for various business related expenses such as staff recruitment, rent, legal fees, and other general expenses;

Exemption in certain circumstances on the interest on quoted bearer Eurobonds;

Exemption of payments made as compensation for loss of office;

Exemption of scholarship income;

Exemption for income received under Sceim na bhFoghlaimeoiri Gaeilge

Departmental Properties.

Mary Upton

Question:

304 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of the amount of money spent on the reinstatement of Leinster Lawn, he will open up this facility to the general public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38221/09]

While the reinstatement of Leinster Lawn was undertaken by the Office of Public Works out of funds provided to that Office, the management of the Leinster House complex, including the question of permitting access to the Lawn by the general public, is a matter for the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission.

National Asset Management Agency.

Mary Upton

Question:

305 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance the reason, further to the proposed National Asset Management Agency legislation, the Exchequer will be paying fees to the banks during the operation of NAMA if non-performing loans are being taken off their books; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38223/09]

The National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) is being set up to remove land and development loans and associated loans from the balance sheets of participating institutions. These loan assets will be purchased at prices significantly below book value following a detailed loan by loan assessment and application of the valuation methodology contained in the NAMA Bill.

The NAMA interim management team have indicated that the loans of the largest borrowers will be managed directly by NAMA but that it intends to outsource management of the loans of smaller borrowers. Part 8 of the NAMA Bill anticipates this and provides for the payment to participating institutions for servicing loans. The draft NAMA business plan sets out how such arrangements will work and be ring fenced.

The retention of participating institutions to conduct loan administration work will help ensure that NAMA can operate on a streamlined basis, keep costs to a minimum and help ensure a return to the State on its investment in NAMA. Banks will be incentivised to manage loans efficiently under contractual agreements.

Mary Upton

Question:

306 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance the reason, regarding the National Asset Management Agency legislation, he considers Irish Nationwide Building Society and Anglo Irish Bank as systemic to the financial system given that the majority of their loans are to the development and property sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38224/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society were specified as covered institutions under the bank guarantee Scheme, established pursuant to the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Act 2008. The systemic importance of each institution covered by the Scheme, including Anglo and Irish Nationwide, was confirmed by the Governor of the Central Bank, and the Scheme was approved by the European Commission under EU State aid rules. The European Commission also specifically acknowledged the systemic importance of Anglo Irish Bank, in its approval of the Government's provision of €4 billion in capital to Anglo.

As with our other major financial institutions, the systemic importance of Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide derives from their scale and their integration with our economy. As per each institution's latest published accounts, Irish Nationwide has a balance sheet of some €14 billion, while Anglo's balance sheet exceeds €88 billion. Each institution has a substantial deposit base, sourced through thousands of customers, companies and through other financial institutions, in Ireland and internationally. While a significant portion of the loan book of each institution relates to lending for land and development or associated exposures, these institutions also have significant levels of lending for commercial, investment, and residential property and to other sectors, which is not eligible for transfer to NAMA.

A key principle of the Government's action in addressing the financial crisis has been to maintain the viability of such systemic institutions, to prevent wider implications and costs for our economy, and eligibility for coverage by the bank guarantee Scheme and transfer of assets to the National Asset Management Agency is therefore structured on the basis of systemic importance.

NAMA is being established to restore confidence in the Irish banking sector and facilitate the flow of credit into the real economy. Section 2 of the NAMA Bill also provides that NAMA is being established, inter alia, to protect the taxpayers and the State's interest relating to the guarantees issued by the State in September 2008 and to facilitate the restructuring of credit institutions of systemic importance.

As regards NAMA, each institution wishing to participate must apply and will be assessed in line with the eligibility criteria outlined in Section 65(2) of the NAMA Bill.

Tobacco Smuggling.

Phil Hogan

Question:

307 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 128 of 13 October 2009, if he make available all reports on the European Anti-Fraud Office database that are available to his Department regarding illicit cigarette trade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38225/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the legal basis for communications between the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and the competent authorities of the Member States is Council Regulation (EC) No. 515/97 on Mutual Assistance in Customs Matters.

All such communications, including the reports referred to by the Deputy, are subject to a strict confidentiality clause under Article 45 of this Regulation. In the circumstances, it is not possible to make such reports available to the Deputy.

Retail Sector Developments.

Phil Hogan

Question:

308 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Finance if customs and excise officers have evaluated the impact the recently introduced public display ban could have on illegal and contraband trade now and in the future; if such evaluation has been provided to his Department; if he will publish such information; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38227/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners who are responsible for the collection of tobacco taxes and for tackling the illicit trade in tobacco products that they have not received any adverse reports from their enforcement officers that the display ban referred to is affecting checks carried out at retail outlets for the presence of counterfeit or contraband cigarettes on such premises. However, as this ban, which was introduced by the Department of Health and Children, has only been operative since 1 July 2009, it is too soon to evaluate its overall impact, if any, on enforcement operations. I might add that the Revenue Commissioners continue to liaise and share information with the Office of Tobacco Control which is centrally involved in the operation of the display ban.

On a general note, Revenue Enforcement Officers have found that prior to the ban, counterfeit and contraband cigarettes were rarely on open display at retail outlets and in any event, checks on suspect premises usually required a thorough search of the premises concerned.

Enforcement Officers have been conducting checks at retail outlets, markets, and distribution centres in an ongoing operation entitled Operation Downstream since 2008. This operation focuses on seizing illicit cigarettes that evaded detection at the point of importation. During the first nine months of 2009, 190 seizures totalling 8.6m cigarettes have been made in the course of this operation.

Tax Yield.

Joan Burton

Question:

309 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he will set out for each percentile or earners the total income earned, the total tax paid, the average rate of tax paid and the standard deviation from this average. [38252/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the information requested is not readily available and could not be obtained without conducting a protracted examination of the Revenue Commissioners' records.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Joan Burton

Question:

310 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the names of each director of each credit institution covered by the bank guarantee; the date the guarantee was granted; the main occupation of said directors and a list of all related directorships and interests for each director; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38261/09]

General information, such as the names and background information of the Directors of the institutions covered by the Bank Guarantee Scheme can be found in the Annual Reports and the websites of those covered institutions. Information on the Directors, including details of other directorships, can also be accessed by the Deputy from the Companies Registration Office. Detailed information regarding Postbank's Directors can be obtained directly from that institution.

Under the Building Societies Act, 1989, every building society must keep a register of each director which contains the Director's name, address, business occupation, and particulars of any other directorships of bodies corporate. Section 66(3) of that Act provides that any person may request a copy of the register, having paid a fee as the Central Bank may fix.

Most of the institutions joined the Scheme on 24th October 2008, with the exceptions of Postbank Ireland Ltd which was added on 5th November 2008, and EBS Mortgage Finance added on 4th December 2008.

Those institutions that have executed a guarantee acceptance deed and have then been designated in an order by the Minister for Finance are "covered institutions". The list of "covered institutions", including their subsidiaries is as follows:

Covered Institution

Subsidiary

Date added to the Scheme

Allied Irish Bank plc

AIB Mortgage Bank AIB Bank (CI) Limited AIB Group (UK) plc AIB North America Inc.

24 October 2008

Anglo Irish Bank Corporation Ltd.

Anglo Irish Bank Corporation (International) Ltd.

24 October 2008

The Governor and Company of the Bank of Ireland

Bank of Ireland Mortgage Bank ICS Building Society Bank of Ireland (I.O.M.) Limited

24 October 2008

EBS Building Society

EBS Mortgage Finance

24 October 2008 4 December 2008

Irish Life and Permanent plc

Irish Permanent (I.O.M.) Limited

24 October 2008

Irish Nationwide Building Society

Irish Nationwide (I.O.M.) Limited

24 October 2008

Postbank Ireland Limited

5 November 2008

Tax Code.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

311 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance if benefit in kind is applied to the company cars of chief executive officers of State agencies; if the tax treatment differs from the private sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38278/09]

Benefit in kind taxation is applicable to all cars made available to an employee or office holder (including Chief Executive Officers of State Agencies) by their employer or by a person connected with their employer in accordance with the provisions of section 121 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997.

There is no difference in treatment between the public and private sector.

Questions Nos. 312 to 315, inclusive, answered with Question No. 110.

Tax Yield.

Joan Burton

Question:

316 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he will elaborate on the interest rate assumptions underlying the yield curve scenarios outlined in scenarios 1, 2 and 3 of the draft National Asset Management Agency business plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38299/09]

The NAMA draft business plan includes projections for interest income and outflows over a ten year period. These projections were calculated by reference to the forward Euro swap rate curve.

The draft business plan goes on to examine NAMA's interest rate exposure and its sensitivity to changes in the yield curve. Pages 11 and 12 of the plan contain an analysis of the sensitivity of NAMA's projected net present value to various yield curve scenarios. The yield scenarios assume various interest rate changes and confirm that under a number of yield curve adjustments NAMA's net present value remains positive.

Of course this is a draft plan prepared at my request by the interim NAMA management and published by me to help inform the debate on NAMA. A revised business plan will be prepared by the NAMA Board and laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas.

Flood Relief.

Phil Hogan

Question:

317 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Finance when drainage and maintenance works will be carried out by the Office of Public Works in respect of its obligation under the 1932 Act and specifically relating to boglands (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38329/09]

The Office of Public Works has no statutory responsibility for the boglands at the townlands referred to by the Deputy in his question.

It is the understanding of the Commissioners of Public Works that responsibility for the drainage of the particular boglands lies with the Sugarstown and Kilfane Drainage District, which is overseen by the Local Authority.

Public Sector Pay.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

318 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the savings that would be made to the Exchequer if all salaries in both the Civil Service and semi-State bodies were capped at five and half times the basic entry wage in the public sector. [38332/09]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

333 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the savings that would be made to the Exchequer if the maximum salary available to civil servants and semi-State bodies was capped at five times the lowest entry grade pay to the Civil Service. [38493/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 318 and 333 together.

Following clarification from the Deputy and for the purposes of reply, I will take the basic entry wage in the private sector to be the current national minimum wage, set at €18,054 per annum based on a 40 hour week. This results in a suggested cap figure of approx. €100,000 per annum in the public service, with an estimated saving to the Exchequer, if such a cap were applied of around €450m per annum.

The entry rate of a clerical officer grade in the Civil Service of €24,397 per annum results in a suggested cap figure of approx. €122,000 per annum in the public service, with an estimated saving to the Exchequer, if such a cap were applied of around €250m per annum.

Flood Relief.

Michael Ring

Question:

319 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Finance when a report from ecologists (details supplied) will be finalised. [38343/09]

The Commissioners of Public Works expect that the ecologists report regarding potential measures to address the flood problem at Roundfort — Hollymount will be finalised by mid-November.

Pension Provisions.

Bernard Allen

Question:

320 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Finance if he will make a statement on a shortfall of €5 million in a pension scheme (details supplied); if the scheme has been transferred to the Department of Finance; and if so the details and circumstances of the transfer. [38350/09]

The published Financial Statements for the Body (details supplied) for the year 2008 show the present value of funded pension obligations as €40.8 million while the value of scheme assets is stated to be €20.7 million. The Financial Services (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 enables the Fund's assets to be transferred to the National Pensions Reserve Fund on the making of a Transfer Order under section 5 of the Act. While no date has been finalised for the proposed transfer, it is expected to take place in 2010.

Financial Services Regulation.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

321 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that persons who go into arrears on their credit cards can be charged interest rates which can be set at will by the credit lender and some companies can charge punitive interest rates which can be as high as 26% APR; if his proposals to strengthen the Financial Regulator will ensure credit card customers are made aware of the risks of such punitive interest rates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38354/09]

I am concerned about the problems of credit card arrears raised by the Deputy. Individual institutions set rates based on their cost of funds, market conditions and commercial considerations which in turn determine the interest rates charged to customers on various products.

The Financial Regulator has no statutory role in the setting of interest rates by regulated entities. However, the Financial Regulator provides a cost comparison of credit cards with up-to-date information on the providers APR, fees etc, on the website www.itsyourmoney.ie. On this same website there is a downloadable publication entitled “Credit Cards — What you should know” which includes details on how to keep credit card costs down. Also, the Financial Regulator has produced all its information booklets in hard copy. These booklets can be sent out on request or are available from its information centre in Dame Street. While the regularly updated cost comparisons are only available on-line, its website is accessible for free from all libraries in the country, in its information centre and from its lo-call helpline.

In relation to requirements on credit card companies, the consumer protection code applies to all regulated entities which would include credit card providers. The Code has some specific provisions in relation to loans (Chapter 4, rule 1 and 2) that apply to credit facilities. These are that: a regulated entity must not offer unsolicited pre-approved credit facilities; and a regulated entity may only increase a consumer's credit card limit following a request from the consumer. In addition the Consumer Protection Code requires that a regulated entity must: act honestly, fairly and professionally in the best interests of its customers and the integrity of the market; and act with due skill, care and diligence in the best interests of its customers.

The Code has specific requirements in relation to charges stating that consumers must be provided with details of all charges, prior to a service being provided and where such charges cannot be ascertained the entity must advise the consumer that such charges will be levied as part of the transaction.

The Code also has specific suitability requirements which require that a regulated entity ensures that any product or service offered to a consumer is suitable for that consumer.

Tax Code.

Michael McGrath

Question:

322 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of individual taxpayers and jointly assessed married couples who have claimed tax relief for the payment of service charges in each of the tax years 2006, 2007 and 2008. [38355/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the most recent year for which final information is available on the numbers of claimants for tax relief in relation to service charges is the income tax year 2006. A breakdown of the numbers between married 2 earner couples and other income earners on tax records is as follows:

Year

Married 2 Earners

Others

Total

2006

169,600

194,300

363,900

These figures relate to the number of income earners in a position to absorb the tax relief either partly or fully, but does not include the numbers of qualifying claimants who, because of the operation of other deductions and reliefs, have their taxable income reduced to nil or have their tax liability reduced to nil by the impact of other tax credits. Accordingly, potential claimants for the tax relief for service charges whose tax liability has been reduced to nil in this way are not included in the numbers given in this reply.

Projections for income tax receipts are based on assumed movements in macroeconomic parameters and not by reference to the costs of individual tax reliefs. Accordingly, I am not in a position to provide the data requested by the Deputy for the years 2007 to 2008.

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

Michael McGrath

Question:

323 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of individual taxpayers and jointly assessed married couples who have claimed tax relief for health or medical expenses in each of the tax years 2006, 2007 and 2008, and the percentage of total taxpayers that this represents. [38357/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the most recent year for which final information is available on the numbers of claimants for tax relief in relation to health and medical expenses is the income tax year 2006. A breakdown of the numbers between married 2 earner couples and other income earners on tax records is as follows:

Year

Married 2 Earners

% of Total Income Earners

Others

% of Total Income Earners

Total

% of Total Income Earners

2006

160,450

6.8%

188,350

7.9%

348,800

14.7%

These figures relate to the number of income earners in a position to absorb the tax relief either partly or fully, but does not include the numbers of qualifying claimants who, because of the operation of other deductions and reliefs, have their taxable income reduced to nil or have their tax liability reduced to nil by the impact of other tax credits. Accordingly, potential claimants for the tax relief for health and medical expenses, whose tax liability has been reduced to nil in this way, are not included in the numbers given in this reply.

It should be noted that a married couple, which has elected or has been deemed to have elected for joint assessment, is counted as one tax unit.

Departmental Correspondence.

Mary Upton

Question:

324 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to correspondence of 20 May 2009 from a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12; when he will reply to the various points raised by the person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38366/09]

My attention has been drawn to the existence of the correspondence dated 20 May 2009 from the person referred to. I can confirm that the letter has been acknowledged.

The issues raised by the person have been dealt with comprehensively in previous correspondence with public representatives, and through FOI requests and direct correspondence with the person. I am satisfied that there is no benefit to be derived from further correspondence on this matter and the person on behalf of whom the matter is now being raised has been so advised.

Flood Relief.

Richard Bruton

Question:

325 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the status of a proposal by Dublin City Council to carry out a combined project of flood protection and layout of a water main along the Clontarf seafront, Dublin 3; and if money has been allocated for the project in 2010. [38370/09]

The Office of Public Works understands that Dublin City Council has completed detailed design for the North City Arterial Water Main, which incorporates the Clontarf Flood Defence Project. The water main project is to be funded by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Dublin City Council and the Office of Public Works have had discussions in relation to funding the flood defence aspects of the project. This will, of course, depend on future budget provisions.

Tax Code.

John Perry

Question:

326 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Finance if he will ensure that persons (details supplied) in County Sligo receive their tax relief at source for mortgage interest relief payments as soon as possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38388/09]

The Revenue Commissioners have informed me that an application for mortgage interest relief through the Tax Relief at Source (TRS) system was received in late September in respect of a mortgage held by the persons concerned.

Processing of this application has been completed. Mortgage interest relief for 2009, and thereafter for as long as relief is due, will be applied by the mortgage provider from December 2009. Mortgage interest relief in respect of interest paid on the mortgage for 2007 and 2008 is being paid directly to the taxpayer's nominated bank account.

Departmental Staff.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

327 Deputy Ciarán Cuffe asked the Minister for Finance the grades and associated salary scales in regard to permanent and pensionable posts within the Civil Service from entry level to Secretary General; the number employed at that grade in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38401/09]

The numbers of staff serving in the main General Service grades at end-September 2009 are set out in the following table.

General Service Grades

Numbers

Secretary General

17

Deputy Secretary

2

Assistant Secretary

150

Principal Officer

752

Assistant Principal Officer

2,101

Higher Executive Officer

3,395

Administrative Officer

233

Executive Officer

5,140

Staff Officer

1,518

Clerical Officer

10,736

Total

24,044

The numbers correspond to full-time equivalent staff and do not include Department of Foreign Affairs local staff serving abroad. In addition to staff in General Service Grades who serve across all Departments and Offices, there is a further 12,208 staff in Professional, Technical and Departmental grades who typically serve in only one or two Departments/Offices.

The salaries for General Service grades are set out in Circular 18/2008 which is available on the Department's website at:

http://www.finance.gov.ie/documents/circulars/circulars2008/paysept2008.pdf.

Social Insurance.

Michael Ring

Question:

328 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm that the interest accruing to the social insurance fund over the past ten years was credited to this fund on an annual basis; if not, the way these moneys were spent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38455/09]

Over the past ten years all interest accruing to the surplus, and any balances, have been credited to the Social Insurance Fund annually.

Question No. 329 answered with Question No. 282.

National Debt.

Michael Ring

Question:

330 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Finance the major sources of borrowings that have financed our national debt; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38457/09]

I am advised by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) that they have already raised more than €34 billion in long-term funding in 2009. Of the total funding, €32.8 billion refers to sales of Irish Government Bonds — €23 billion by way of syndicated bond issues and €9.8 billion through a series of bond auctions. Irish Government Bonds are bought by a broad range of investors, both domestic and international, but mainly financial institutions including fund managers, banks, Central Banks and insurance companies. The NTMA advise that international investors took up approximately 75 per cent of the bonds issued by syndication in 2009.

The balance of the long-term funding raised in 2009, currently €1.26 billion, was raised under the government savings schemes — these are domestic retail products operated on behalf of the NTMA by the Prize Bond Company and An Post.

In addition, the NTMA borrows in the short-term markets, mainly in order to manage liquidity risks and to assist in the timing of borrowings. These cash balances stood at around €25 billion at end-September. In 2009, the NTMA launched two new short-term programmes — Treasury Bills and a US Commercial Paper Programme — to diversify further the sources of borrowing available to it. The NTMA advise that both programmes have been highly successful and have seen strong demand from international banks and corporate treasuries.

While the nature of the international markets makes it difficult to quantify, the NTMA have advised that it is estimated that almost 80 per cent of Ireland's gross debt is currently held by international investors.

Pension Provisions.

Michael Ring

Question:

331 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Finance the level of funds in the pension reserve fund at 31 December for each of the past five years in tabular format; the outgoings from this fund to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38459/09]

The National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF) was established on 2 April 2001 with the objective of meeting as much as possible of the cost to the Exchequer of social welfare pensions and public service pensions to be paid from the year 2025 until at least 2055. The National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000 provides, inter alia, for the annual payment into the Fund from the Exchequer of an amount equivalent to 1% of GNP and that the NPRF Commission, which is responsible for the investment and management of the Fund, shall not make any payment to the Exchequer until the year 2025.

The value of the NPRF at 31 December for each of the past five years was as follows:

Year

Value of NPRF

€ billion

2004

11.689

2005

15.419

2006

18.900

2007

21.153

2008

16.142

The value of the Fund at 30 September 2009, the most recent value published by the NPRF Commission, was €20.9 billion.

In relation to the end-September figure, it should be noted that the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000 was amended by the Investment of the National Pensions Reserve Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2009. The amendments in the 2009 Act allow the Minister for Finance to give a direction to the NPRF Commission to invest in a listed credit institution and to make payments into the Fund for the purposes of such an investment, such additional contributions to be offset against the contribution liability in future years. These amendments reflected the Government decision, announced on 11 February 2009, that the recapitalisation of Allied Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland through the purchase of preference shares by the NPRF would be funded by €4 billion of the Fund's own resources and €3 billion from the Exchequer through the frontloading of the 2009 and 2010 Exchequer contributions to the Fund.

Accordingly, it should be noted that the figure of €20.9 billion given as the value of the Fund at end-September includes the full Exchequer contribution of 1% of GNP for 2009, €1.584 billion, plus an additional sum of €1.416 billion to give the total of €3 billion referred to in the Government decision. As a result of these payments, no contribution to the Fund is expected to be required in 2010.

The NPRF Commission publishes annual reports as a statutory obligation and quarterly reports providing an update on the Fund's performance. Both the annual reports and the quarterly reports are available on the Commission's website www.nprf.ie

Freedom of Information.

Joe Costello

Question:

332 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Finance if organisations and agencies in receipt of State funding are statutorily obliged to answer questions from the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38478/09]

Obligations are imposed by statute on organisations and agencies in receipt of State funding under a number of headings.

Freedom of Information legislation applies to a range of State organisations and the full spectrum of organisations is reviewed by my Department to ensure that FOI coverage is extended to new public bodies as soon as possible. Rights are also extended to individuals under the provisions of data protection legislation. A guide to these rights is set out at:

www.dataprotection.ie.

In addition, the Comptroller and Auditor General (C & AG) audits the accounts of non-commercial state sponsored bodies, third-level educational institutions and other bodies specified in legislation.

The C & AG also has statutory powers of inspection over the books, accounts and other records of any person or body for a particular financial year in which they receive from a Government Department or Office, or direct from the Exchequer, an amount which constitutes not less than 50% of their gross receipts in that year.

Question No. 333 answered with Question No. 318.

Tax Yield.

Joan Burton

Question:

334 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer of the mortgage interest relief at source scheme for each of the years 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009; the projected cost to the Exchequer for the years 2009, 2010 and 2011; the number of taxpayers for each of these time periods benefiting from the mortgage interest relief scheme who claimed tax relief at source of €0 to €200, less than €400, less than €600, less than €800, less than €1000, less than €1200, less than €1400, less than €1600, less than €1800, less than €2000, less than €2200, less than €2400, less than €2600, less than €2800, less than €3000, less than €3200, less than €3400, less than €3600 and less than €3800; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38537/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the cost to the Exchequer of mortgage interest relief by way of tax relief at source (TRS) and the associated number of claimants in each of the years 2005 to 2009 inclusive is as follows:

Tax Year

Numbers

Cost

€m

2005

587,800

280

2006

668,400

350

2007

720,000

545

2008

750,000*

705

2009 (9 months)

not available

365*

*These figures are provisional and subject to revision.

It should be noted that married couples are counted as a single claimant. The cost to the Exchequer of tax relief allowed for mortgage interest in 2009 is provisionally estimated at €462 million.

A breakdown, by range of amount, of tax relief provided at source could not be identified without carrying out a significant development of the Revenue Commissioners' TRS computer system.

I am not in a position to provide the information requested in relation to forecasts of mortgage interest relief for the years 2010 and 2011.

Joan Burton

Question:

335 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer of the rent relief for private accommodation scheme for each of the years 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009; the projected cost to the Exchequer for the years 2009, 2010 and 2011; the number of taxpayers who availed of the rent relief for private accommodation scheme in each of those time periods; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38538/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

336 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer of the tax relief on service charges scheme for each of the years 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009; the projected cost to the Exchequer for the years 2009, 2010 and 2011; the number of taxpayers who availed of the tax relief on service charges scheme in each of these time periods; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38539/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

337 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer of the trade union subscription scheme for each of the years 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009; the projected cost to the Exchequer for the years 2009, 2010 and 2011; the number of taxpayers who availed of the trade union subscription scheme in each of those time periods; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38540/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

338 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer of the health and medical expenses relief scheme for each of the years 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009; the projected cost to the Exchequer for the years 2009, 2010 and 2011; the number of taxpayers who availed of the health and medical expenses relief scheme in each of these time periods; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38541/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

339 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer of the tuition fees tax relief scheme for each of the years 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009; the projected cost to the Exchequer for the years 2009, 2010 and 2011; the number of taxpayers who availed of the tuition fees tax relief scheme in each of these time periods; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38542/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 335 to 339, inclusive, together.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the most recent years for which final information is available on the cost to the Exchequer, and the numbers of taxpayers availing, of the tax reliefs mentioned by the Deputy is for the income tax years 2005 and 2006. The relevant figures are shown in the following table.

2005

2006

Tax relief

Estimated cost to the Exchequer

Estimated numbers availing

Estimated cost to the Exchequer

Estimated numbers availing

€m

€m

Rent paid in private tenancies

48

144,500

64

171,800

Service charges

17

304,700

21

363,900

Trade union subscriptions

12

272,100

19

294,300

Health and medical expenses

134

260,700

167

348,800

Tuition fees

14

29,900

16

30,800

I am not in a position to provide the data requested by the Deputy for the years 2007 to 2011 in relation to the above mentioned reliefs.

The numbers availing represent income earners who were in a position to absorb at least some of the tax relief and thereby give rise to an Exchequer cost. They do not include the numbers of potential claimants whose entitlements to other tax reliefs were sufficient to reduce their liability to tax to nil without reference to the specific relief. The numbers availing are rounded to the nearest hundred as appropriate.

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

Joan Burton

Question:

340 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer of the medical insurance premiums tax relief at source scheme for each of the years 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009; the projected cost to the Exchequer for the years 2009, 2010 and 2011; the number of taxpayers who availed of the medical insurance premiums tax relief at source scheme in each of these time periods; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38543/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the cost to the Exchequer of tax relief allowed for medical insurance premia by way of tax relief at source (TRS) and the associated number of policies in each of the years 2005 to 2009 inclusive is as follows:

Tax Year

Numbers

Cost

€m

2005

1,073,400

230

2006

1,134,800*

260

2007

1,195,400*

300

2008

1,017,400*

321

2009 (9 months)

not available

283

*These figures are provisional and subject to revision.

The cost to the Exchequer of tax relief allowed for medical insurance premia in 2009 is provisionally estimated at €362 million.

The cost projections above do not include the cost to the Exchequer of the age-related tax relief at source which is established by the Health Insurance (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009.

This tax credit is part of a scheme designed to address the issues covered by the Supreme Court judgement of 2008 that found against the risk equalisation scheme for the provision of private health insurance. The scheme is two-fold, an age-related tax credit to compensate for the higher cost of insurance for older persons, which is funded by a levy on health insurance companies based on the number of people covered by policies underwritten by them.

This scheme is a temporary measure for three years from 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2011. It is intended that it will be revenue-neutral over its duration.

It should be noted that the numbers provided relate to the number of policies issued as it is not possible to compile a reliable count of the number of individual claimants.

I am not in a position to provide the information requested in relation to forecasts of tax relief for medical insurance for the years 2010 and 2011.

Joan Burton

Question:

341 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer of the home carer tax credit scheme for each of the years 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009; the projected cost to the Exchequer for the years 2009, 2010 and 2011; the number of taxpayers who availed of the home carer tax credit scheme in each of these time periods; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38544/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the most recent years for which final information is available on the cost to the Exchequer, and the numbers of taxpayers availing, of the home carer tax credit is for the income tax years 2005 and 2006. The relevant figures are as follows:

Tax Year

Estimated cost to the Exchequer

Estimated numbers availing

€m

2005

64

87,900

2006

62

85,000

In addition, provisional estimates, on a preliminary basis, of the cost to the Exchequer of the home carer's tax credit and the associated number of income earners availing of it for the income tax years 2007, 2008 and 2009 are as follows:

Tax year

Estimated cost to the Exchequer

Estimated numbers availing

€m

2007

62

85,600

2008

68

81,500

2009

61

73,700

The figures for 2008 to 2009 are estimates from the Revenue tax forecasting model using actual data for the year 2007, adjusted as necessary, for income and employment growth for the years in question and are therefore provisional and subject to revision.

I am not in a position to provide the data requested by the Deputy for the years 2010 and 2011.

The numbers availing represent income earners who were in a position to absorb at least some of the home carer tax credit and thereby give rise to an Exchequer cost. They do not include the numbers of potential claimants whose entitlements to other tax credits were sufficient to reduce their liability to tax to nil without reference to the home carer credit. The numbers availing are rounded to the nearest hundred as appropriate.

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

Joan Burton

Question:

342 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer of the tax relief for pension investment scheme for each of the years 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009; the projected cost to the Exchequer for the years 2009, 2010 and 2011; the number of taxpayers who availed of the tax relief for pension investment scheme in each of these time periods; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38545/09]

The following tables provide a breakdown of the estimated cost of tax and PRSI reliefs for private pension provision for 2006 and 2007, the latest year for which the most up-to-date data is available. The 2007 figures represent an update of the 2006 cost estimates set out in table 7.2 of the Green Paper on Pensions published in the autumn of 2007. Figures have been rounded where appropriate.

Corresponding estimates are also provided for 2005 to the extent that it has been possible to provide them on a consistent and comparable basis.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that sufficient data to enable estimates to be provided for the tax year 2008 is not yet available as the early tax returns due for that year are only now being processed and the Revenue On-line Service (ROS)- based returns, the majority, are not yet due.

As regards projections for 2009-2011, projections for income tax receipts are based on assumed movements in macro-economic parameters and not by reference to the costs of individual tax reliefs. Accordingly, I am not in a position to provide the projected cost data requested by the Deputy for the years 2009 to 2011 in relation to the above-mentioned reliefs.

2005 Estimate of the cost of tax reliefs for private pension provision 2005.

Estimated costs

Numbers*

€ million

Employees’ Contributions to approved Superannuation Schemes

425

565,200

Employers’ Contributions to approved Superannuation Schemes

90

**296,500

Estimated cost of exemption of employers’ contributions from employee BIK

370

296,500

Exemption of investment income and gains of approved Superannuation Funds

1,050

Not available

Retirement Annuity Contracts (RACs)

358

121,200

Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs)

42

32,900

Estimated cost of tax relief on “tax-free” lump sum payments

120

*Numbers as included in P35 returns from employers to Revenue for 2005.

**Numbers of employees for whom employers are contributing to occupational pension funds as included in P35 returns to Revenue for 2005.

Estimate of the cost of tax and PRSI reliefs for private pension provision 2006.

Estimated costs

Numbers*

€ million

Employees’ Contributions to approved Superannuation Schemes

540

693,100

Employers’ Contributions to approved Superannuation Schemes

120

**363,100

Estimated cost of exemption of employers’ contributions from employee BIK

510

363,100

Exemption of investment income and gains of approved Superannuation Funds

1,200

Not available

Retirement Annuity Contracts (RACs)

435

125,900

Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs)

55

45,200

Estimated cost of tax relief on “tax-free” lump sum payments

130

Estimated cost of PRSI and Health Levy relief on employee and employer contributions

220

Not available

Gross cost of tax relief

3,210

Estimated tax yield from payment of pension benefits

320

Net cost of tax relief***

2,890

*Numbers as included in P35 returns from employers to Revenue for 2006.

**Numbers of employees for whom employers are contributing to occupational pension funds as included in P35 returns to Revenue for 2006.

***The figure for this heading differs marginally from the figure in table 7.2 of the Green Paper on Pensions due to an update of the actual cost figures for RACs and PRSAs for 2006.

Estimate of the cost of tax and PRSI reliefs for private pension provision 2007.

Estimated costs

Numbers*

€million

Employees’ Contributions to approved Superannuation Schemes

590

708,100

Employers’ Contributions to approved Superannuation Schemes

150

385,100 **

Estimated cost of exemption of employers’ contributions from employee BIK

540

385,100

Exemption of investment income and gains of approved Superannuation Funds

900

Not available

Retirement Annuity Contracts (RACs)

420

123,900

Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs)

65

56,400

Estimated cost of tax relief on “tax-free” lump sum payments

130

Estimated cost of PRSI and Health Levy relief on employee and employer contributions

240

Not available

Gross cost of tax relief

3,035

Estimated tax yield from payment of pension benefits

410

Net cost of tax relief

2,625

*Numbers as included in P35 returns from employers to Revenue for 2007. Figures are as verified to date but may be understated and subject to revision.

**Numbers of employees for whom employers are contributing to occupational pension funds as included in P35 returns to Revenue for 2007. Figures are as verified to date but may be understated and subject to revision.

Ministerial Remuneration.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

343 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the savings that would be made to the Exchequer if Ministers’ pay were reduced to €100,000; and the pay of Ministers of State reduced to €85,000. [38580/09]

The Taoiseach, Tánaiste, Ministers and Ministers of State have all accepted a voluntary pay cut of 10% in their salaries. Their salaries are also subject to the public service pension levy. If the salaries of all Ministers, including the Taoiseach and Tánaiste, were reduced further to €100,000, and those of Ministers of State to €85,000, the savings arising would be €2.43m in a full year.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

344 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the savings that would be made to the Exchequer if the expenses of Ministers and Ministers of State were cut by half. [38581/09]

I understand that the Deputy is referring to domestic motor travel and subsistence arrangements for Ministers and Ministers of State. Ministers of State are reimbursed for official travel up to a limit of 96,540 km (60,000 miles) per annum. Their mileage rates were reduced by 25% from 5 March 2009. Ministers are provided with a State car and Garda drivers and have no expense allowance in this regard.

Subsistence is payable where a Minister is absent from their headquarters and home on official business in Ireland and abroad. In Ireland Ministers may claim the vouched cost of a hotel room, including tax and up to 15% for service charges and a subsistence allowance of €72.66 per night. The latter amount reflects a reduction of 25% from 5 March 2009 and is designed to provide for meals and a small amount for incidentals. I am responsible for the policy for the travel and subsistence regime of Ministers excluding State cars which is a matter for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

As regards the savings that would arise from a further reduction in travel and subsistence arrangements, this would depend on the expenses arising in each case. Individual Departments and offices are responsible for the day to day allocation and management of expenditure on travel and subsistence for Ministers.

Semi-State Boards.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

345 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the savings that would be made to the Exchequer if all bonuses due to be paid to members of semi-State boards, or employees of semi-State boards, in the remainder of 2009 and the whole of 2010 were cancelled. [38582/09]

I have approved schemes for the CEOs of some 35 Non Commercial State Sponsored Bodies, with 6 of the larger bodies also having schemes for 2nd level grades. A list of the bodies is set out in the following tables for the information of the Deputy.

Once such schemes have been approved all decisions on the making of any such awards for chief executives, and any other senior staff if appropriate, are a matter for the Boards concerned. In this context, my Department does not hold details of the level of awards that have been made in this sector. However, in April of this year my Department asked Secretaries General of Government Departments to inform such bodies and agencies under the remit of their Departments that, in view of the current economic and budgetary difficulties, it was appropriate that consideration of any bonus payments should be suspended.

Parent Department

Name of Body

Date Approved

Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

1

Teagasc

26 November 2004

Arts, Sport and Tourism

2

Fáilte Ireland

12 May 2004

3

Irish Sports Council

20 December 2006

4

National Concert Hall

13 July 2006

Communications Energy & Natural Resources

5

National Oil Reserve Agency

12 June 2008

Enterprise, Trade and Employment

6

Enterprise Ireland

26 September 2003

7

FÁS

31 March 2004

8

Forfás

24 August 2005

9

Health and Safety Authority

15 August 2003

10

IASSA

9 November 2007

11

IDA

11 July 2003

12

National Consumer Agency

25 September 2007

13

National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI)

30 July 2008

14

Personal Injuries Assessment Board

23 September 2005

15

Science Foundation Ireland

2 March 2004

Environment, Heritage and Local Government

16

Heritage Council

19 May 2008

17

Local Government Management Service Board

01 Feb 2007

Health and Children

18

Adoption Board

15 July 2008

19

Crisis Pregnancy Agency

5 January 2009

20

Food Safety Authority of Ireland

29 June 2007

21

Irish Medicines Board

29 June 2007

22

Mental Health Commission

7 July 2007

23

National Treatment Purchase Fund

15 January 2009

Justice, Equality and Law Reform

24

Courts Service

7 April 2004

25

Equality Authority

7 April 2004

26

Human Rights Commission

25 May 2006

27

Irish Prison Service

7 April 2004

28

Land Registry and Registry of Deeds

7 April 2004

29

Legal Aid Board

7 April 2004

Social and Family Affairs

30

Combat Poverty Agency

30 July 2003

31

Comhairle

14 March 2005

32

Family Support Agency

15 February 2006

33

The Pensions Board

10 July 2003

Transport

34

Road Safety Authority (was Driver Testing Standards Authority)

13 February 2006

35

National Roads Authority

21 July 2005

Performance Related Award schemes approved for 2nd level Senior Management as at 19 February 2009

Parent Department

Name of Body

Date Approved

Arts, Sport and Tourism

1

Fáilte Ireland — Second Level Managers

12 May 2004

Enterprise, Trade and Employment

2

Enterprise Ireland — Executive Directors & Divisional Managers

10 March 2004

3

Forfás — CEO & A/Sec related grades

24 August 2005

4

IDA — Executive Directors & Grade 1 Managers

9 July 2004

5

Science Foundation Ireland — Senior Management Team

1st January 2009

Environment, Heritage and Local Government

6

Local Government Management Services Board — CEO & AssistantChief Executives & Directors of OLAM

January 2007

Tax Code.

Sean Fleming

Question:

346 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Finance if a payment for education fees to a company in Northern Ireland be allowable for income tax purposes in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Laois; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38590/09]

Tax relief at the standard rate of tax is available for tuition fees for certain full-time and part-time undergraduate courses of at least two years duration and postgraduate courses of at least one but not more than four years duration. The full definition for approved courses is set out in Section 473A of the Taxes Consolidation Act (TCA) 1997. In order to qualify for the tax relief, the course must be an approved course, which is undertaken in an approved college.

On the information provided, the course in question would appear to of twelve months duration. However it is not clear if it is an undergraduate or postgraduate course. Therefore, the Revenue Commissioners cannot make a determination as to the whether the fees paid in respect of this course would qualify for tax relief. The individual concerned is advised to contact their Revenue District Office regarding the matter.

Financial Institutions Capitalisation.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

347 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Finance the amount the National Treasury Management Agency has invested in Irish banks; the worth of the initial investment; the value of the NTMA investment in Irish banks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38595/09]

I am replying to this question on the basis that the Deputy is referring to the National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF) of which the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) is currently manager.

In March and May 2009, under the terms of the Investment of the National Pensions Reserve Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2009, the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission invested, at my direction, a total of €7 billion in preference shares issued by Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Banks (AIB) plc (€3.5 billion in each institution). The investments followed intensive discussions between the Government and Bank of Ireland and AIB with a view to securing the position of these two banks. As a result of these discussions, the Government decided on a comprehensive recapitalisation package to reinforce the stability of the Irish financial system, increase confidence in the banking system in Ireland and facilitate the banks involved in lending to the economy.

The preference share investments pay an annual non-cumulative fixed dividend of 8% payable in cash or, in the case of non-payment by either bank of the cash dividend, ordinary shares in lieu. These preference shares can be repurchased at par up to the fifth anniversary of the issue and at 125% of face value thereafter. The preference share investments are held by the Fund at cost. Warrants issued with, but detachable from, the preference shares give an option to purchase up to 25% of the enlarged ordinary share capital of each bank following exercise of the warrants. The strike price of the warrants exercisable by the Fund for the first 15% of the ordinary share capital is €0.975 for AIB and €0.52 for Bank of Ireland. The strike price of the balance of the warrants is €0.375 for AIB and €0.20 for Bank of Ireland. The warrants are exercisable at any time from the fifth to tenth anniversary of issue of the preference shares or immediately prior to any takeover or merger of the bank concerned, whichever is earlier. If either bank redeems up to €1.5 billion of the Fund's investment in preference shares from privately-sourced core Tier 1 capital prior to 31 December 2009, then the warrants will be reduced pro rata to that redemption to an amount representing not less than 15% of the ordinary shares of the bank concerned.

The Commission has also made a number of private placement investments in credit securities issued by Irish financial institutions. At end-2008 — the date of the latest published annual accounts of the Fund — the value of these investments was €662 million. Finally, the Fund's third-party investment managers had investments on behalf of the NPRF Commission in quoted equities and debt securities issued by Irish financial institutions to the value of €13.4 million at end-2008.

National Monuments.

John McGuinness

Question:

348 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance if an application to use Kilkenny Castle in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will be expedited and approved. [38599/09]

Venues in the Parade Tower and the Duchess Boardroom, Kilkenny Castle can be made available for hire for the purpose indicated. The person in question should contact the Events Manager in Kilkenny Castle to arrange viewings of the venue and discuss terms and arrangements for the hire of the facility.

Flood Relief.

John McGuinness

Question:

349 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance his plans to carry out a river drainage scheme on the River Barrow between Milford and Leighlinbridge in County Carlow; if the Office of Public Works is responsible for the works; if not, the agency or body responsible; his intentions regarding the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38601/09]

The Commissioners of Public Works have no responsibility for maintenance of the River Barrow. Responsibility for the section of the river referred to lies with the Barrow Drainage Board, that is, the Local Authorities in Counties Carlow, Kildare and Laois. Waterways Ireland carries out a certain amount of maintenance of the Barrow in relation to its navigational aspect.

Departmental Properties.

Alan Shatter

Question:

350 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Finance the address of properties rented by the State for the use of each Department, State or semi-State agency; the date of commencement of the lease of each such property; the square meterage or square footage of such property; the number of persons working in each such property; the rent payable in respect of each such property; the date from which the current rent payable commenced; the purpose for which each property is utilised; the name of the landlord of each such property; the steps taken to date in 2009 to determine if the rent currently payable accords with current market rents for similar properties; and the steps taken to effect, where appropriate, a downward review of such rents. [38619/09]

In the time available to answer the question, it has not been possible to compile the information sought by the Deputy. However, the information will be compiled shortly and forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Coastal Protection.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

351 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance his proposals for funding for coastal protection works in County Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38637/09]

The Commissioners of Public Works wrote to Local Authorities in July 2009 requesting them to identify significant coastal erosion issues in their areas, their proposals for dealing with them and the order of priority in which they consider they should be addressed. Waterford County Council did not submit an application for funding at that time. It is intended to invite proposals from Local Authorities towards the end of 2009 for consideration in respect of 2010 funding. Waterford County Council will have a further opportunity to submit a proposal at that time.

National Asset Management Agency.

Joe McHugh

Question:

352 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Finance the plans that will be put in place under the National Asset Management Agency legislation to compensate small-scale developers who are owed money by large developers whose loans will be taken over by NAMA; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38648/09]

NAMA is being set up to acquire Land and Development and associated loans from participating institutions. In effect, NAMA will step into the shoes of the lender concerned and take over management of the loans with a view to generating a return over time. NAMA will have no role in relation to compensating developers, large or small, as anticipated in this question. NAMA will be mandated to operate in a commercial manner in relation to all contracts it acquires.

Revenue Investigations.

Willie Penrose

Question:

353 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Finance when an investigation will be finalised in relation to the affairs of a person (details supplied) in order to permit the testimony distributions to take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38665/09]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the investigation covered in the Deputy's question is ongoing. The Inspector of Taxes will be writing to the person's agent within the next week and a substantive reply to this letter with payment of any outstanding liability should allow the Inspector to bring the investigation to a conclusion and facilitate the distribution of the estate.

Tax Collection.

Joan Burton

Question:

354 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance further to his reply to Parliamentary Question No. 156 of 21 October 2009, if he will provide a similar breakdown for income earners under a classification other than PAYE; if he will provide a breakdown of the total tax paid by each income category cited in that reply for PAYE public, PAYE private, non-PAYE sectors, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38669/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the latest relevant sector-based information available is derived from income tax returns filed for the income tax year 2007 and is set out in the following table.

Distribution of Income Earners for Income Tax Year 2007

Private Sector Employees

Public Sector Employees

Non-PAYE

Range of Gross Income

Numbers

Tax

Numbers

Tax

Numbers

Tax

0

10,000

364,551

672,651

49,747

89,522

26,589

1,838,156

10,000

20,000

328,581

21,546,692

64,116

2,742,617

51,268

16,828,248

20,000

30,000

309,414

311,580,709

69,766

59,425,420

58,225

54,736,846

30,000

40,000

193,622

513,203,695

69,954

193,330,953

56,906

117,561,704

40,000

50,000

112,318

578,814,545

55,586

318,793,585

46,205

174,966,322

50,000

60,000

68,711

532,300,354

34,562

302,479,138

37,452

222,385,707

60,000

70,000

45,221

466,681,589

22,555

256,634,470

31,874

262,988,627

70,000

80,000

29,602

398,576,812

15,635

218,447,610

24,705

266,430,992

80,000

90,000

19,289

327,792,207

10,379

171,747,083

19,165

263,330,323

90,000

100,000

12,823

263,781,090

7,045

137,722,555

14,396

240,758,319

Over

100,000

31,516

1,266,711,256

15,278

479,356,598

70,800

4,012,210,167

1,515,648

4,681,661,600

414,623

2,140,769,551

437,585

5,634,035,409

The sector identifier used on the tax records is based on the 4-digit NACE code (Rev. 1), which is an internationally recognised economic activity code system. The information provided in relation to Public Sector employees is based on activities which are classified in the NACE code system as Public Administration and Defence; Compulsory Social Security, Education and Health and Social work but excluding the categories of Driving School Activities, Dental Practice Activities and Veterinary Activities as being more appropriate to the Private Sector. A married couple, which has elected or has been deemed to have elected for joint assessment, is counted as one tax unit.

The source of the information provided in relation to numbers and tax for both the Public and Private Sectors is the P35 end year returns filed by employers in respect of their employees but does not include the corresponding figures relating to PAYE taxpayers who are required to return an income tax return form 11 where non-PAYE income is greater than €3,174. The relevant information on these income earners is included in the figures provided for Non-PAYE.

Tax Yield.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

355 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer of reducing excise duty on alcohol by 10% for a two-month period starting the 15 November 2009; the cost to the Exchequer of reducing excise duty on alcohol by 20% for a two month period starting 15 November 2009; the cost to the Exchequer of reducing excise duty on alcohol by 30% for a two-month period starting 15 November 2009. [38706/09]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

374 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer of reducing excise duty on alcohol for a two-month period starting 15 November 2009. [38874/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 355 and 374 together.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the cost of reducing excise duty on alcohol products by 10%, 20% and 30% for a period of two months as suggested, would be in the region of €18m, €37m and €57m respectively. These estimates include excise and VAT on the excise reduction.

Fiscal Policy.

Joe McHugh

Question:

356 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Finance if he will discuss and act on a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38718/09]

With regard to the VAT differential between Ireland and the UK, given the current Exchequer deficit position, the policy decision of increasing the standard VAT rate in Budget 2009 continues to be necessary in order to support the public finances. We are borrowing to fund day to day public services which is unsustainable as future generations will be required to pay higher taxes unless we correct our public finances.

Although the UK cut its standard rate of VAT from 17.5% to 15% on a temporary basis from 1 December 2008 to the end of 2009, at the same time they increased excise duty on alcohol, cigarettes, petrol and diesel in order to offset the 2.5% reduction in VAT on these items. Consequently there was no reduction in the price of these products in Northern Ireland as a result of the reduction in the UK VAT.

The VAT rate is not the only factor in the price differential between North and South of the border. The weakening of sterling has had a far more significant impact on relative prices than any VAT changes. Furthermore, as a small open economy, many of our goods and services are imported, especially in the case of those at the standard rate. Cutting the VAT rates could benefit the economies from which we import more than our own. In other words, while, it might help the consumer, it would not be the most effective way of helping our own economy.

It is argued that reducing VAT rates would create some buoyancy and encourage additional consumer spending. However, it should be noted that with the notable exception of the UK, EU Member States have generally not opted for VAT rate cuts as a way to boost consumer spending. In contrast some Member States have increased VAT rates, curtailed the scope of exemptions and of reduced rates, to help cover the budgetary shortfall generated by the slump. Indeed it is understood that some Member States are now considering increasing their VAT rate as a part of the ongoing response to the general fiscal crisis.

There are other means of stimulating the economy, outside of the VAT system. The Government is funding capital investment of €7.3bn or 5% of GNP in 2009, a significant sum in times of constrained resources. This funding will be targeted at economically valuable infrastructure which will enhance our long term productive capacity and support employment.

Financial Services Regulation.

Richard Bruton

Question:

357 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that some banks are accepting a P60 as proof of income for the purpose of securing a mortgage; his views on requiring a P21 to be used as proof of income; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38723/09]

The Financial Regulator's Consumer Protection Code contains requirements which must be followed by both lenders and intermediaries at point of sale. The mortgage provider must demonstrate that it has gathered sufficient information from the consumer to allow it to provide a recommendation to that consumer. It is therefore incumbent upon mortgage providers to satisfy themselves as to the financial situation of prospective customers, how they do this is a matter for the institutions themselves, subject to their processes being acceptable to the Regulator.

Richard Bruton

Question:

358 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance his views on ending the situation in which an estate agent can also operate as a mortgage broker; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38724/09]

Mortgage Intermediaries are authorised in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Consumer Credit Act 1995. This sets out the necessary conditions which must be met prior to authorisation and also sets out a number of grounds where an authorisation may be refused, some of which relate to the holding of other types of licences (section 116 (9)). These restrictions do not include the holding of a licence to operate as an estate agency.

However, the Financial Regulator's Consumer Protection Code applies to mortgage intermediaries. Among the provisions included in this Code is the requirement to seek to avoid conflict of interest. The Code states that “where conflicts of interest arise and cannot be reasonably avoided, a regulated entity may undertake business with or on behalf of a consumer with whom it has directly or indirectly a conflicting interest, only where that consumer has acknowledged, in writing, that he/she is aware of the conflict of interest and that he/she still wants to proceed.”

In addition, Section 127 of the Consumer Credit Act 1995 prohibits mortgage lenders from making the granting of a loan subject to a requirement that the borrower uses the services of a particular individual or firm. Section 127 reads as follows—

(1) A mortgage agent shall not make or offer to make to any person, or arrange or offer to arrange for any person, a housing loan which would be subject to a condition that any financial services, conveyancing services, auctioneering services or other services relating to land which that person may require, whether or not in connection with the loan, shall be provided by the agent or through a subsidiary or other associated body of such agent.

(2) Where, in connection with the making or arranging of a housing loan, more than one service is made available by a mortgage agent or one or more of his subsidiaries, the agent shall not, and shall ensure that each of his subsidiaries does not, make the services available on terms other than terms which distinguish the consideration payable for each service so made available; nor shall any of the subsidiaries make the services available on terms other than terms which make that distinction.

(3) Where a person is providing auctioneering services, or constructing houses for sale, and is also a mortgage intermediary, he, or a subsidiary or other associated body, shall not sell, offer to sell or arrange to sell a house which is to be purchased with the aid of a housing loan, on terms which differentiate as between a person who purchases the house with the aid of a housing loan arranged by or on behalf of such intermediary and a person who purchases the house with the aid of a housing loan otherwise arranged.

The Financial Regulator conducted a themed inspection in 2008 to examine how mortgage intermediaries handle potential conflicts of interest when also providing property services to consumers. The inspection found that it was the policy of most intermediaries to avoid potential conflicts of interest or where a potential conflict of interest could arise that the intermediary would write to the customer advising them of the position before proceeding with the business.

It is my view that the existing legislation in this area sufficiently empowers the Financial Regulator to regulate effectively situations where conflicts of interest or potential conflicts of interest arise.

Tax Collection.

Joan Burton

Question:

359 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the number of judgments registered by the Collector General against persons and companies in the years 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009 within the bands of under €25,000, €25,001 to €50,000, €50,001 to €75,000, €75,001 to €100,000, €100,001 to €200,000, over €200,000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38767/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

360 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide an analysis by trade or profession in respect of judgments registered by the Collector General against persons and companies in the years 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38768/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

361 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the amount of the judgments registered by the Collector General against persons and companies in the years 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009; the amount subsequently received in satisfaction of those liabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38769/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 359 to 361, inclusive, together.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that data is not recorded in such a manner as would enable all of the information requested by the Deputy to be provided. Such information could not be obtained without conducting a protracted examination of the Revenue Commissioners records.

Details of the number of judgments registered by the Collector General against individuals and companies, in the specified value ranges, for the years 2004-2008, and to date in 2009, are outlined in Tables 1 & 2 below.

Table 1: Number and value of judgments registered against individuals 2004-2009 (to date)

Individual

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009 (at 23/10/09)

< €25,000

498

338

393

485

521

93

€25,001 – €50,000

126

94

108

106

148

39

€50,001 – €75,000

33

37

32

46

44

20

€75,001 – €100,000

21

20

23

26

25

8

€100,001 – €200,000

29

31

17

23

42

11

> €200,000

22

13

8

22

13

7

Total Numbers

729

533

581

708

793

178

Total Value

€23.8m

€20.3m

€19m

€30m

€25.1m

€10.4m

Table 2: Number and value of judgments registered against companies 2004-2009 (to date)

Companies

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009 (at 23/10/09)

< €25,000

195

95

109

92

148

153

€25,001 – €50,000

48

29

25

41

36

54

€50,001 – €75,000

23

21

16

7

18

25

€75,001 – €100,000

16

9

7

6

5

13

€100,001 – €200,000

14

8

9

11

13

11

> €200,000

8

8

5

7

2

10

Total Number

304

170

171

164

222

266

Total Value

€10.5m

€7.9m

€10.2m

€7.4m

€7m

€10.7m

Data with regard to satisfaction of judgments is not available.

An analysis of the judgments registered by trade or profession in respect of individuals is included in Table 3. Revenue is not in a position to provide an analysis of the judgements registered against companies by trade or profession.

Table 3: Details of Judgments registered against individuals itemised by trade or profession, where the numbers exceeded 10 for any trade or profession. The numbers of Judgments less than 10 by trade or profession are grouped under "Other".

Occupation

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

Accountant

15

10

17

Contractor — Agricultural/ General

39

30

10

22

Architect

10

Blocklayer

21

24

27

Builder

37

36

39

10

Businesswoman

19

9

13

18

Businessman

171

77

50

55

74

12

Carpenter

17

18

13

22

41

9

Courier

11

Director

10

14

Drycleaner

12

Electrician

10

Engineer

8

Fabrication & Welding

9

Farmer

14

13

11

15

11

Gentleman

117

70

77

66

52

30

Grocer

10

Hairdresser

11

11

9

Haulier

32

12

20

20

28

Painter and Decorator

10

18

15

14

Plant Hire

9

Plasterer

11

18

28

30

8

Plumber

9

9

14

Publican

20

18

16

25

32

7

Restaurant Owner

11

Roofing Contractor

11

8

Scaffolder

8

9

Solicitor

12

10

Sub Contractor

9

Taxi Driver

10

9

11

Other

252

263

234

276

308

102

Grand Total

729

533

581

708

793

178

Joan Burton

Question:

362 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the number of times the Collector General took bankruptcy proceedings against persons; the outcomes in those case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38770/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

363 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the Revenue Commissioners’ policy towards using bankruptcy when persons fail to discharge their tax liabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38771/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 362 and 363 together.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that bankruptcy proceedings are instigated to pursue and conclude collection activity in appropriate cases of serious debt owed by individuals where routine enforcement action is not successful.

Number of cases where bankruptcy proceedings were instigated and the number of cases that were adjudicated bankrupt 2004-2009 (to 20 October 2009)

Year

Number of cases where bankruptcy proceedings were instigated

Number of tax payers adjudicated bankrupt

2004

1

0

2005

4

2

2006

2

2

2007

2

1

2008

5

3

2009 (to date)

13

4

Total

27

*12

Note: *Includes cases instigated prior to 2004.

Tax Yield.

Joan Burton

Question:

364 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide an analysis of outstanding unpaid taxes at 30 September 2009 for customs, excise duties, capital gains tax, capital acquisitions tax, stamp duties, income taxes, corporation tax and VAT; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38772/09]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the latest published figures for outstanding taxes are available for the year ended 31 March 2009. Due to the varying nature of the different taxes, it is the practice to publish data in relation to tax debts on an annual basis. This facilitates meaningful comparative analysis. An analysis of this debt is set out in table 1. As at 31 March 2009, outstanding taxes and PRSI amounted to €1,861 million which represented some 3.10% of gross taxes collected (€60,061 million) for 2009.

In regard to 31 March 2008, outstanding taxes amounted to €1.286 million or 1.94% of the gross level of taxes (€66,148 million) collected for 2008. Of this figure of €1,861 million, €628 million was under appeal and therefore not available for collection. Of the total of €1,233m available for collection, €794m was under active collection while €326m was at enforcement and €113m was being managed through agreed instalment arrangement, where additional time to pay is given by Revenue.

Analysis of Outstanding Taxes and PRSI.

31 March 2008

Activity between 1 April 2008 and31 March 2009

31 March 2009

Debt

Net Charges Raised

Net Paid

Writeouts

Total Debt

Debt available for collection

Debt Under Appeal

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

Income Tax (Excluding PAYE)

313

2,928

2,872

6

363

276

87

Deposit Interest Retention Tax

0

648

648

0

0

0

0

RCT

12

7

-45

12

52

43

9