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 8, inclusive, answered orally.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

9 Deputy P. J. Sheehan 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 this scheme to the Houses of the Oireachtas. [44854/09]

As the Deputy is aware, I signalled in the Supplementary Budget last April the Government's intention to revisit and make technical adjustments to the Bank Guarantee in ways which would continue to underpin financial stability and also support banks in Ireland in accessing longer-term finance.

In June of this year, the House approved the Financial Measures (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 which contained an enabling provision to allow for the extension of period of financial support contained in the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Act 2008 beyond the current expiry date of 29 September 2010 by Ministerial Order. The main elements of the revised guarantee Scheme were announced as part of my second stage speech on the NAMA Bill in mid-September and an outline of the Scheme was also published by my Department at that time. On foot of this, I have drawn up a new guarantee Scheme — the Eligible Liabilities Guarantee Scheme or ELG Scheme which was brought before the Houses of the Oireachtas earlier today. The ELG scheme was approved in accordance with EU State aid rules on 20 November 2009 and following Oireachtas approval it will commence 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 un-guaranteed basis. This access to longer term funding in line with the mainstream approach in the EU will help maintain the continued stability of the banking system in Ireland.

Demand deposits will be guaranteed under the Scheme until 29 September, 2010, (subject to six-monthly review by the Commission). Term deposits with a maturity of up to 5 years taken before 29 September 2010 will be guaranteed for the duration of the term.

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, albeit for a lower quantum of liabilities.

The revised guarantee Scheme will represent the necessary first steps in the exit strategy for the State from the blanket guarantee offered in September 2008. A key feature of the revised guarantee Scheme is that it allows the participating institutions to access un-guaranteed funding which will help reduce their reliance on State support over time in line with improving market conditions.

Banking Sector.

Ulick Burke

Question:

10 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied with the efforts made by banks under State protection to find executives who would make a clean break with the culture of banking that has prevailed here in recent years; if he is further satisfied with the arrangements in place in respect of both pay and leadership in the banks; and his plans to introduce further changes. [44778/09]

All but one of the 6 covered institutions have replaced their CEOs since 2008. All but one of the 6 covered institutions have had a change of Chairman since 2008.

Furthermore, each of the covered institutions has also had changes to the membership of their Boards of Directors and there have also been other very significant changes at senior management level in a number of these institutions.

The Government has appointed a new Central Bank Governor. The new Head of Financial Supervision at the Financial Regulator was recently appointed following a wide-ranging and comprehensive international search. Reform of the regulatory structure is well advanced.

I welcome the changes to senior personnel at the covered institutions, and there will be further changes. But changing personnel on its own will not address the problems facing the banking sector. Cultural changes such as implementing best practice and taking a more prudent approach to risk management are essential features along with appropriate and relevant supervision.

Finally, the appointment of 2 public interest directors to the 6 covered institutions represents a significant shift in the culture of banking. Further public interest appointments will be made shortly.

Flood Damage.

Seán Barrett

Question:

11 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Finance his assessment of the impact on the economy of the flooding that has occurred in recent weeks in November 2009; his assessment of the long-term investment strategy needed to reduce flooding risks in the affected areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44771/09]

The scale and magnitude of the flooding that has occurred over the past two weeks have not been seen before in living memory. They have resulted in widespread misery and devastation. People have been forced from their homes, farms have been overrun by water and businesses have had to cease operations. Every sector of the economy has been adversely affected. All efforts at present are primarily focused on responding to the immediate crisis. Emergency response teams including the Defence Forces, local authorities, the Gardai, Civil Defence and voluntary groups are busy working either to erect temporary flood defences, to evacuate people from their homes, to restore drinking water to homes or to provide clothing to flood victims. While there is some evidence of water receding in some areas, others remain on flood alert. Once the immediate crisis has passed and the situation starts to improve, attention will switch to the clean-up phase and to restoring displaced people to their homes.

It is only when some degree of normality is restored that the job of assessing the full scale of the damage that has been caused can be seriously addressed. However, even at this early stage, it is clear that the economic and social damage has been substantial. Already, some insurance industry sources are speculating that the cost of flooding damage to homes and businesses around the country may exceed €250 million. The cost to the insurance industry of one of the most recent significant flooding events (in August 2008), was of the order of €100 million.

Following the Review of Flood Policy in 2004, the OPW was assigned lead agency responsibility for the management of flood risk. Central to the policy is a Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme, which focuses on the assessment of flood risk and the long-term planning of the flood risk management measures throughout the country, including non-structural and structural measures.

The CFRAM Programme is being delivered through the CFRAM Studies, led by the OPW but undertaken in partnership with local authorities and in consultation with stakeholders and the public. The CFRAM Studies are comprehensive catchment-based studies focused on areas of potentially significant risk, for which detailed flood maps are produced and flood risk management measures are assessed and taken to outline design. These measures will be prioritised and set out in a Flood Risk Management Plan (FRMP). The CFRAM Programme will, as well as delivering on national policy, meet the requirements of the EU ‘Floods' Directive that came into force in November 2007. The procurement process for the national programme of CFRAM Studies has been initiated, and the studies will commence in 2010.

In addition, OPW has programmes of major and minor capital works to address existing areas at risk from flooding, and a range of non-structural initiatives which have been brought forward by OPW in order to mitigate the effects of flooding. These initiatives include, a Public Awareness Programme, and flood mapping information and guidelines with D/EHLG on the Planning System and Flood Risk Management issued earlier this week.

Inland Waterways.

Denis Naughten

Question:

12 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the steps which he is taking to address the lack of maintenance of the Shannon waterway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44909/09]

Maintenance of Shannon Waterway is not the responsibility of the Office of Public Works (OPW). OPW operates a maintenance programme on all schemes where it has undertaken works. Effective maintenance of river courses and channels can contribute to the moderation of the impact of flood events. However, expert engineering opinion is that maintenance of channels alone is not sufficient to protect against flood events of the extent and magnitude of those witnessed in the past few weeks. The River Shannon is at its highest level since the Office of Public Works began continuous recording of water levels in the late 1940s. The current flow in the Shannon is in excess of the 100 year flood event, which is the standard level of protection afforded by modern flood defences.

To facilitate planning for the management of future flood risk, OPW has embarked on a programme of Catchment Flood Risk Assessments. These studies, which are required by the National Flood Policy and the EU Floods Directive are designed to identify the areas at risk from flood events for a range of severities and to produce a prioritised plan of measures for dealing with areas where the risk is significant. The Shannon study is expected to be commissioned in mid-2010.

Pending completion of the Study for the Shannon Catchment, OPW through the minor works scheme will work with the relevant Local Authorities to identify areas that may benefit from interim localised mitigation measures.

National Asset Management Agency.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

13 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he has had contact from a bank (details supplied) regarding the possible participation of another bank in the National Asset Management Agency; if so, his plans to accept the application; and the amount of the £15 billion quarantined loans he plans to incorporate into the NAMA scheme. [44859/09]

NAMA has not yet been established and it would be inappropriate for me at this stage to comment on whether particular institutions will apply for designation.

Should any credit institution decide to apply for designation as a participating institution, it will do so under Section 62 of the Act, which provides that credit institutions may apply for designation as participating institutions. The relevant provisions dealing with the designation of participating institutions are in Section 67 of the NAMA Act 2009. This sets out the criteria to be taken into account by me, after consultation with the Governor of the Central Bank and the Financial Regulator, when designating applicant institutions as participating institutions. Under Section 67(2), to be designated as a participating institution:

the institution must be systemically important

the acquisition of bank assets from the institution must be necessary to achieve the purposes of the Act, having regard to the support available or received by the applicant institution, the financial position of the applicant institution and the resources available to me as Minister for Finance.

the applicant institution must have complied with all relevant obligations under the Act.

Tax Refunds.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

14 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance if he will comment on the fact that some €1.59 billion has been refunded in respect of 2008 preliminary tax and losses attributed back to 2007; the way this compares to tax refunds in previous years; the steps he has taken to ensure that financial institutions and property companies will not be able to avail of significant tax refunds arising from their participation in National Asset Management Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44869/09]

Figures providing a breakdown of refunds of Income Tax (non-PAYE) and Corporation Tax in 2007 and 2008 are set out in the following tables.

Refunds of tax associated with losses are not separately identifiable from refunds made for other reasons such as people making claims for medical expenses, etc.

Income Tax — refunds in 2007 and 2008.

Year

Total refund amounts

€m

2007

368.8

2008

469.2

Corporation Tax – refunds in 2007 and 2008.

Year

Year Total refund amounts

€m

2007

888.9

2008

891.8

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.

Financial Regulatory Authority.

Joe Costello

Question:

15 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm that the salary of the new chief executive of the Financial Regulator is higher than his predecessor by as much as €150,000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44893/09]

Under the Central Bank Act, 1942, as amended, the Chief Executive of the Financial Regulatory Authority is appointed by the other members of the Authority and the conditions of employment are agreed between the person and the other members of the Authority.

However, I know that extensive efforts were made to get a high calibre candidate and I will be pleased to see Mr. Elderfield take up his post in the very near future. My principal concern is to see him operate successfully in rebuilding confidence in our financial regulatory system.

Tax Code.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

16 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Finance if he has studied the impact of the proposed carbon tax on cross-Border trade in fuels covered by the tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44791/09]

On considering the introduction of a new tax or indeed an increase in current taxes a wide variety of factors are taken into consideration including the impact on cross-border trade.

When new taxes are being introduced there are always practical issues in relation to implementation that require consideration. In that regard, as is normal practice, my officials in conjunction with the Office of Revenue Commissioners and other relevant Departments will, if the need arises, engage with those sectors involved in the implementation of the carbon tax to minimise, in so far as it is reasonably possible, practical difficulties.

Banking Sector.

Tom Hayes

Question:

17 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Finance his views on the development of a third banking force in the economy centred solely on the former building societies; if he envisages a role for other banking entities; if he has estimated the payroll savings that will be secured from the initiatives for public service reform being developed by him over and about those being generated by the proposals for pay cuts or embargos; and if he will indicate the make up of these savings. [44815/09]

As far as the development of a third banking force is concerned, the Deputy will be aware two Building Societies have recently announced their intention to commence merger talks. In these circumstances where significant commercial considerations apply, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on the matter.

With regard to the question of pay roll savings, the discussions with the Public Service Unions to date concentrated on the measures to be implemented to achieve the necessary immediate savings in the Public Service pay and pensions bill in 2010. In response to the request of the Public Service Unions in that context, the Government outlined a medium term vision for the public service over the next five years. The vision document identifies significant revised sectoral, and cross-sectoral, work practices and other initiatives which would contribute to achieving efficiencies and improving productivity in the use of resources in the medium term.

The structural, productivity and efficiency improvements will be necessary to facilitate the maintenance of service standards as public service numbers reduce due to retirements and the application of the moratorium. As the payroll savings will largely arise from the overall reduction in public service numbers, payroll savings from the vision document have not been separately costed on an individual basis.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Joe McHugh

Question:

18 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Finance the discussions he has had with the UK authorities regarding the participation of banks operating in both jurisdictions in the respective State support schemes for banking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44831/09]

At all stages of the international financial crisis, I have had contact with my UK counterpart regarding all aspects of the response to this crisis, including the respective State support schemes in both jurisdictions for financial institutions. In addition, there has been close contact on issues of mutual interest between representatives of the central banks, financial services regulators and financial ministries in the UK and Ireland to facilitate cooperation and coordination in financial crisis prevention, management and resolution for cross-border institutions.

National Pensions Reserve Fund.

Martin Ferris

Question:

19 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Finance the monetary status of the National Pensions Reserve Fund; the expected impact of the National Asset Management Agency and other banking matters on this fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44904/09]

The value of the Fund at 30 September 2009, the most recent value published by the National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF) Commission, was €20.9 billion.

In relation to this 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 from the Fund's own resources and €3 billion from the Exchequer through the frontloading of the 2009 and 2010 Exchequer contributions to the Fund.

The legislation establishing the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) recently passed through all stages in the Oireachtas. This body is being established on a statutory basis to deal with the negative impact on the economy resulting from deficiencies in the asset quality in the banking system. NAMA will work by facilitating the speedy removal of higher risk property-related assets which are hampering the banks' ability to lend to credit-worthy individuals and households and thereby support economic activity. NAMA will purchase debt from the banks by issuing bonds. The funding arrangement for NAMA, as set out in legislation, does not involve the NPRF.

I am aware that some institutions will require additional capital in order to absorb the losses arising from the transfer of their impaired loans to NAMA and in order to maintain appropriate levels of capital. I have repeatedly made it clear that the Government's strong preference is that private market solutions are found and implemented by the institutions. To the extent that sufficient capital cannot be raised independently or generated internally, the Government remains committed to providing such institutions 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. The source of such funding will be dealt with as the need arises. Furthermore, any recapitalisation of a credit institution in such circumstances must be followed by restructuring in a manner which complies with EU State Aid requirements.

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

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

George Lee

Question:

20 Deputy George Lee asked the Minister for Finance if he has assessed the proposal by the various banking institutions receiving State support for restructuring to be presented to the European Commission under State aid rules; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44824/09]

In accordance with EU State aid requirements the financial institutions which were recapitalised by the State, namely Allied Irish Banks, Anglo Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland are obliged under State aid rules to submit a restructuring plan to the European Commission within six-months of receiving that recapitalisation.

The restructuring plans have been prepared by all three banks and submitted to the EU Commission for consideration. The approval process will involve considerable discussion and dialogue between the Commission, the Member State (i.e. Ireland) and the bank. It would not be appropriate to comment on the contents of the plans at this time pending the outcome of what will be an extensive and detailed process. I am committed to working with the Commission and the banks to achieve an agreed solution which meets the financial stability requirements and ensures that the Irish banking sector can continue to support the needs of the economy.

Exchequer Returns.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

21 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance the impact of the November Exchequer returns on the budgetary arithmetic for 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44809/09]

Liz McManus

Question:

58 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Finance his views on the November 2009 Exchequer returns published on 2 December 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44868/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 21 and 58 together.

The Exchequer Returns for the period to end-November, which were published yesterday, showed an Exchequer deficit of €22.1 billion. This compared to a deficit of €7.9 billion for the same period last year. The deterioration reflects an €8.1 billion decline in tax receipts along with a €4 billion capital injection for Anglo Irish Bank and the bringing forward of next year's contribution to the NPRF to facilitate the recapitalisation of AIB and Bank of Ireland. Total voted expenditure was 1.6 per cent below profile at end-November, but it is expected that this shortfall on target will be reduced by year-end.

As the Deputy is aware, November is a key month for tax revenue and while still below my Department's forecasts, receipts were not as weak as had been feared in some quarters. By the end of November, approximately €30.8 billion in tax revenue had been collected, which was €1.4 billion or 4.2 per cent lower than profiled. This represented a 21 per cent decline on what was collected in the same period last year.

In particular, November is a significant month for Income Tax, as returns from the self-employed are received and these were broadly on target, leaving Income Tax €50 million above profile for the month of November. However, it should be noted that revenues were still substantially below the level collected last year, with receipts from the self-employed being down by approximately €379 million or 32 per cent and overall Income Tax is showing a €1.3 billion or 10 per cent decline in the year to date. The bulk of the remaining shortfall is accounted for by VAT which was €749 million below profile at end-November, reflecting the continued weakness in consumer spending. Overall, tax receipts are now €1.4 billion behind target.

While the slightly better than anticipated tax performance in November is welcome, it does not in any way lessen the need for action on the Government's part. Taxes are still weaker than was forecast at that time and will likely finish the year around €1.8 billion below target.

This small improvement on the tax shortfall from that anticipated in the Pre-Budget Outlook must be kept in context. Taxes are still down by almost €14 billion on the same point in 2007 and are going to finish the year at a level that has not been lower since 2003. As the Deputy knows, in that time current expenditure has risen by 70 per cent. This is simply not sustainable.

We are borrowing to fill the gap between revenue and expenditure and failing to take action now means that our debt levels will increase further and consequently the cost of servicing that debt will rise. The objective of the forthcoming Budget must be to stabilise the deficit in 2010. Taking the necessary action now will ensure that confidence is maintained in the Irish economy and that Ireland is favourably placed to benefit from a global recovery as it takes hold.

As is customary, I do not propose to comment in advance of the Budget on any matters that might be the subject of Budget decisions. However, the White Paper on Receipts and Expenditure, which sets out the likely end-year position for 2009 and the no-policy change opening position for 2010, will be published on 5 December. Full economic and fiscal forecasts on a post-budget basis will be published on Budget day, 9 December.

Bond Options.

Michael Noonan

Question:

22 Deputy Michael Noonan asked the Minister for Finance the details of the various bond options conducted by the National Treasury Management Agency since the beginning of 2008; and the interest rate, duration, and values of issues in each case. [44838/09]

The details of the various bond issues conducted by the National Treasury Management Agency since the beginning of 2008 are set out in the tables below. Table 1 gives details of the bonds issued by syndication and Table 2 the bonds issued by auction over the relevant period.

Table 1: Syndicated Bond Issues 2008 & 2009

Launch Date

Treasury Bond

Amount

€m

8 April 2008

4.4% June 2019

7,000

4 November 2008

4.0% November 2011

4,000

8 January 2009

4.0% January 2014

6,000

23 February 2009

3.9% March 2012

4,000

23 June 2009

5.9% October 2019

6,000

6 October 2009

5.4% March 2025

7,000

Total Issued 2008 & 2009

34,000

Table 2: Auctioned Bond Issues 2009*

Auction Date

Treasury Bond

Amount

€m

24 March 2009

4.0% November 2011

390

4.5% April 2020

910

21 April 2009

4.0% January 2014

300

4.5% October 2018

758

19 May 2009

4.0% January 2014

310

4.4% June 2019

700

16 June 2009

3.9% March 2012

650

4.6% April 2016

650

21 July 2009

3.9% March 2012

390

4.0% January 2014

910

18 August 2009

4.0% January 2014

500

4.5% October 2018

748

15 September 2009

4.0% January 2014

374

4.5% April 2020

887

20 October 2009

3.9% March 2012

505

4.6% April 2016

780

17 November 2009

4.0% January 2014

200

5.9% October 2019

802

Total Issued 2009

10,764

*No bond auctions took place in 2008.

National Debt.

Mary Upton

Question:

23 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance the impact on the bund spread for sovereign debt here, and any consequent impact on the Exchequer position going forward, as a result of recent rating agency downgrades; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44887/09]

The National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) have advised that in the last eighteen months, investors in Irish bonds have sought an increased premium relative to German bonds. The Agency advises that this "spread" rose sharply in the early part of 2009 as a result of a number of factors, including the deterioration in the public finances and uncertainty about the cost to the Exchequer of restructuring the Irish banking sector. Over the course of this year, the NTMA undertook a number of initiatives to diversify the investor base and improve liquidity. In addition, I travelled to a number of major European financial centres so as to set out to key investors the Government's policy in relation to budgetary consolidation, the problems in the banking sector and the restoration of competitiveness in the economy.

The NTMA have advised that demand for Irish debt from international investors has increased and market conditions have generally improved. The spread on 10-year borrowing peaked at about 2.8% in March and, while still high, it has narrowed considerably. On a technical assumption of an EBR of €20 billion next year, the NTMA advises that a 1% increase in interest rates would have a full-year impact of €200 million on debt service costs.

As regards the recent downgrade of Ireland's debt, there was no measurable increase in the cost of funding as a direct result of the announcement. The NTMA advise that it is likely that investors had already "priced in" this effect.

Departmental Expenditure.

Brian Hayes

Question:

24 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Finance his estimate of the trend in the price index of undertaking work within the capital programme since 2006; his estimate for 2009; his forecast for 2010; and if he has had discussions with the board and or the management of Anglo Irish Bank regarding the assessment of options for the future of the bank. [44813/09]

Data received from the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government shows that by end 2009, construction tender prices are expected to be about 20 percent lower than in 2006. According to this information, total construction inflation was 6.2 percent for 2006; 2 percent for 2007; minus 8.2 percent for 2008 and minus 9.6 percent for the current year.

Again, based on consultation with the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the scope for further reductions in tender prices in 2010 appears limited.

Government Departments are also reporting their success in achieving greater value for money. For example, the Department of Education and Science has noted that tender prices for investment under the schools building programme are up to 30 percent lower than at the peak of the market.

It is clear then that there is a much enhanced environment for value for money and that a high level of important public capital infrastructure can be procured from a lower level of resources than was previously the case.

With regard to the Deputy's question on Anglo Irish Bank, on 30 November last the bank submitted its Restructuring Plan to the European Commission. This was a condition for State aid approval of the bank's recapitalisation earlier this year. The submission of the plan marks the beginning of a detailed and comprehensive evaluation of the plan in advance of any final decision by the Commission on the plan. This will require extensive consultation and dialogue between the Commission, the Irish authorities and the bank. I am committed to working closely with the Commission and the bank on the assessment of the plan to achieve the best possible outcome for the State from this process.

Mortgage Arrears.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

25 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance if he will support home owners in significant negative equity and in financial trouble to have assistance from the National Asset Management Agency in the form of an equity stake in a private home; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43028/09]

The National Asset Management Agency is being set up to remove land and development loans and associated loans from the balance sheets of participating financial institutions. There are no plans, at present, to extend the scope of NAMA beyond land and development loans and associated loans.

The Government is conscious of the high value Irish people place on home ownership and has committed under the Renewed Program for Government to introduce new measures to protect families having difficulties with their home mortgage payments. Further work is ongoing on these issues with a view to early results. It should be noted, however, that the Financial Regulator has estimated that only a small proportion of borrowers with the covered institutions who are in negative equity are in arrears on their payments.

This work will build on existing Government supported solutions for dealing with home owners with mortgage arrears including: application of the new Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears which applies to all mortgage lenders; support from the Mortgage Interest Scheme under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance system which is providing vital support for over 14,000 families with mortgage difficulties; and the provision of advice on debt management through the Money Advice Budgeting Service (MABS).

In relation to the position of mortgage holders generally, the Irish Bankers Federation published a Statement of Intent on 10 November which provides further reassurance to homeowners who find themselves genuinely unable to maintain mortgage repayments on their principal private residence. The Statement of Intent has been agreed and supported by all IBF members and is a welcome development. It is also welcome that the IBF Oversight Committee on the implementation of the Statement of Intent will include representation from the Money Advice Budgeting Service (MABS).

The Renewed Program for Government contains a provision to reform debt enforcement in light of the deliberations of the Law Reform Commission, which recently published a consultation paper on the matter. A new system of personal insolvency regulations will be created which will allow for a statutory non-court-based debt settlement system. In addition, it is also the Government's intention to establish a new Debt Enforcement Office which will remove as many debt enforcement proceeds from the courts as possible.

The Government recently decided that all relevant material on the matter of indebtedness and mortgage arrears in Departments should be brought together in consideration of this matter; and external input should be by way of consultation where relevant Ministers could meet with appropriate external organisations. In response, an interdepartmental group has been set up for the purpose of collecting information and examining options in this area.

Departmental Expenditure.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

26 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Finance the estimated saving to the Exchequer of the approximate 1,000 public servants who have opted for early retirement; his expectation of the take up of early retirement in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44840/09]

The returns from Departments, received by my Department, regarding the implementation of the Incentivised Scheme of Early Retirement indicate that some 1,902 Public Servants have applied for the Scheme and 1,231 applications have been approved.

Detailed information has been received by my Department in relation to 914 of the approved cases. Based on these returns, gross salary savings will be €8.3 million in 2009, €55 million in 2010 and €63 million in 2011, inclusive of savings on Employer's PRSI contributions. These gross salary savings do not take account of short-term offsetting costs of lump-sum payments, or the costs of pension payments to retirees.

The returns from the Departments also indicate that 81% of approved applicants are expected to have retired through the ISER by the end of 2009 with the remaining 19% expected to have retired through the ISER by the end of 2010. The ISER was open to applications made until 23 October 2009, and accordingly there will be no additional take-up of the Scheme in 2010.

Mortgage Arrears.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

27 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance if he will introduce a two year moratorium on family home repossessions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44870/09]

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.

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, on foot of a Government decision, an interdepartmental working group has been established to specifically look into possible options to assist mortgage-holders in arrears.

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. The Government are carefully examining their recommendations and relevant officials will be closely liaising with the LRC in regard to its remaining body of work.

In relation to the position of mortgage holders generally, the Irish Bankers Federation published a Statement of Intent on 10 November which provides further reassurance to homeowners who find themselves genuinely unable to maintain mortgage repayments on their principal private residence. The Statement of Intent has been agreed and supported by all IBF members and is a welcome development. It is also welcome that the IBF Oversight Committee on the implementation of the Statement of Intent will include representation from the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS).

This follows on from the IBF and the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) Operational Protocol on consumer debt, which was recently put into effect. 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.

It should be noted that there are already other 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 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.

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.

Unemployment Levels.

John Perry

Question:

28 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Finance in view of the household survey, the projected level of the live register measure of unemployment; the measure of unemployment; and the total number at work by the end of 2010 which underlies the pre-budget forecasts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44845/09]

The Pre-Budget Outlook recently outlined the likely economic and fiscal position for next year and for the following three years based on information available at end October. The labour market projections contained in the analysis are consistent with the quarterly national household survey measure of labour market developments. As is the norm, annual averages are projected, as opposed to year-end positions.

On that basis, my Department forecast that total employment would fall by around 175,000 (7.8 per cent) this year and perhaps by a further 75,000 (3.8 per cent) next year. The unemployment rate consistent with such a view is for an increase from an average of 11¾ per cent this year to an average of 13¾ per cent next year. An update of these projections will be presented alongside the Budget.

Live Register figures were not published in the Pre-Budget Outlook. However, it is expected that the number on the Live Register this year will average around 400,000. In terms of next year, a revised forecast will be available once the Budget is presented to the Dáil. I would point out, however, that the rate of increase has slowed considerably since the beginning of the summer and this slowdown has consistently been maintained in recent weeks.

I want to assure the Deputy that I regard the deterioration in the labour market as the most worrying aspect of the recession. In this regard, the Government is continuing to pursue policies that will foster the best climate for long-term employment and which help to position the economy to take advantage of the upturn in world growth when this gathers momentum. The Government has also announced labour market activation measures, and has taken action to provide support to indigenous companies and the protection of vulnerable jobs in the productive sector of the economy.

Anglo Irish Bank.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

29 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether claims that Anglo Irish Bank requires in the region of €5.7 billion in order to restore its capital levels to international and regulatory norms are valid; his further views on winding down the institution over further recapitalisation; if he will comment on the announcement by the European Union Competition Commissioner’s head of cabinet (details supplied) that a very radical solution could be necessary for Anglo Irish Bank; the estimated Exchequer cost of each of these scenarios; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44860/09]

As the Deputy will be aware I stated in my Second Stage speech on the NAMA Bill on 16 September last that 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 also made clear in the speech to the extent that sufficient capital cannot be raised independently or generated internally that the Government remains committed to providing such banks and building societies with an appropriate level of capital to continue to meet their requirements in a manner consistent with EU State aid rules and the credit needs of the Irish economy.

As the Deputy will be aware based on the information provided by me in mid-September to this House, the scale of Anglo's NAMA-eligible loans are such that they will give rise to a further capital requirement for the State. However, the specific requirement for capital for the bank will only become evident following further progress in the implementation of the NAMA.

On 30 November last the bank submitted its Restructuring Plan to the European Commission. This was a condition for State aid approval of the bank's recapitalisation earlier this year. The submission of the plan marks the beginning of a detailed and comprehensive evaluation of the plan in advance of any final decision by the Commission on the plan. This will require extensive consultation and dialogue between the Commission, the Irish authorities and the bank. I am committed to working closely with the Commission and the bank on the assessment of the plan to achieve the best possible outcome for the State from this process.

The Deputy will understand that in view of the commercial sensitivities involved it would not be appropriate for me to make any comment on any detailed elements of the plan including the projected costs of any particular scenarios in the plan.

Finally the comment referred to by the Deputy is in fact aligned with the Commission's requirements for all restructuring plans as set out in the relevant Commission guidelines which states that restructuring plans must examine and assess all options for the future of an institution.

Banking Sector Regulation.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

30 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance his views on a recent statement by an economist (details supplied), that banks are not foreclosing on hotel loans which have gone bad; his further views on whether the failure to do so could be compromising the hotel industry and storing up future problems for the National Asset Management Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44866/09]

A considerable effort has been made by a number of different agencies aimed at ensuring that banks do not foreclose as a first alternative. I would point out that where a customer gets into difficulty, the banks are required under the respective Codes of Conduct in relation to SMEs and mortgages arrears to give the customer reasonable time and seek to agree an approach to resolve problems and to provide appropriate advice. Subject to these codes where appropriate any decision on whether to foreclose on a hotel loan is a matter for the relevant financial institution.

The price paid by the National Asset Management Agency for a loan will be based on the valuation of that loan. NAMA will only take over hotel loans insofar as these loans are associated with land and development loans. Where a hotel forms part of the security for a loan, the financial health and viability of that hotel would be taken into account. In the course of its operation it is expected that NAMA will take possession of various properties. It will manage and deal with these properties on a commercial basis and on a case by case basis with the intention of generating the best achievable financial return for the State.

Official Engagements.

Enda Kenny

Question:

31 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on his recent meeting in Dublin with the secretary of the OECD; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42564/09]

Secretary General Angel Gurriá visited Ireland on 4th November, and launched the OECD Economic Survey of Ireland and presented the conclusions and recommendations of the Environmental Performance review of Ireland, to be published early in 2010. He also met myself, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Minister for the Environment Heritage and Local Government and the Minister of State for Overseas Development.

Commenting on the Irish economy he remarked that having enjoyed unprecedented levels of growth as an open, export-oriented economy, Ireland has now experienced — in the context of a global financial crisis — a dramatic and rapid turn-around of its fortunes, which nobody had foreseen. Mr. Gurriá noted that adjustments taken to date are of the order of 5% of GDP. However, he highlighted the need for further fiscal consolidation and also timely action to create confidence in the markets and with investors. A drawing-out of the period of the necessary adjustments would he said only prolong the pain and make the economy less competitive as the price of borrowing would rise.

Mr. Gurriá discussed NAMA and his own experience (as Mexico's Finance Minister) in dealing with bad assets and re-capitalisation. He warned of the risks associated with the narrowing gap between effective wage rates and unemployment benefit levels, which could lead to a disincentive to take up employment.

People needed to be persuaded of the need to make adjustments and particularly to regain our competitiveness in readiness for a global upturn. Confidence in the economy needed to be restored. The priority of the Government is to stabilise the fiscal and economic position with a view to returning to sustainable growth in 2011 and beyond. Structural issues in the economy had to be tackled.

I welcomed the OECD's fair and balanced assessment of the Irish economy, which recognises the Government's commitment to stabilise and restore sustainability to the public finances. I feel that the establishment of NAMA, together with the initiatives we are pursuing to restore competitiveness and to put the public finances in order, will help position Ireland to take the earliest possible advantage of the economic recovery that is taking hold in the EU and in the rest of the world.

Cigarette Smuggling.

Joan Burton

Question:

32 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the expected loss to the Exchequer in 2010 due to cigarette smuggling; his views on the increases in the financial penalties for smugglers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44895/09]

As I have previously stated in response to a number of Parliamentary Questions, it is not possible 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 cigarettes legally purchased outside of the State for personal consumption here. While most cross-border purchases involve travellers arriving from Spain, Portugal and certain Eastern European countries where tobacco prices are low, Northern Ireland is also a destination for cigarette purchasers.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the penalties for smuggling cigarettes and tobacco products into Ireland are as follows:

On summary conviction, the penalty is a fine of €5,000 and/or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months. The trial judge may mitigate the monetary fine by up to 50%.

On conviction on indictment, the penalty is a fine of three (3) times the value of the cigarettes inclusive of all taxes and duties, or €12,695, whichever is the greater; and/or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 5 years. The trial judge may mitigate the monetary fine by up to 50%.

In the case of offering for sale/keeping for sale or delivering packs of cigarettes which do not have the requisite tobacco tax stamp affixed thereto, the penalties are as follows:

On summary conviction, the penalty is a fine of €5,000 and/or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months. The trial judge may mitigate the monetary fine by up to 50%.

On conviction on indictment, the penalty is a fine not exceeding €12,695 and/or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 5 years. The trial judge may mitigate the monetary fine by up to 50%.

In addition to the above, the cigarettes or tobacco products, along with the carrying conveyance concerned, are liable to forfeiture.

Of course, as the Deputy is aware, the precise penalty imposed on conviction in each individual case is a matter for the Court.

Central Bank Commission.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

33 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance when he envisages the establishment of the Central Bank Commission, announced in February 2009; if he will engage in consultation in this regard with all stakeholders, both inside and outside the banking sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44885/09]

I expect that a bill providing for the establishment of the Central Bank Commission will be published early in the new-year and its enactment and implementation will follow as speedily as the legislative process allows. Once published, it will be open to anyone to comment on the proposals. However, consultation with the key stakeholders on the main issues associated with changes in regulatory structures is already underway and includes representatives of the financial services industry and consumer interests.

Economic Competitiveness.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

34 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if a survey has been undertaken to identify the numbers travelling to Northern Ireland to shop; the amounts being spent and the types of goods being bought there; and his plans to reduce the impact of revenue loss to the Exchequer arising from this activity. [44432/09]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

40 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance the estimated amount being lost to the Exchequer in excise duty as a result of cross-Border shopping; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44900/09]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

53 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance the value of cross-Border shopping; the VAT and excise duty revenue loss to the Exchequer for the years 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44431/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 34, 40 and 53 together.

The Revenue Commissioners and the Central Statistics Office (CSO) prepared a report, at my request, on the Implications of Cross Border Shopping for the Irish Exchequer. The report was published on my Department's website on 20 March 2009.

The report estimates the value of cross border shopping in 2008 to be in the range of €350m to €550m; representing an increase in the order of around two-thirds compared to 2007, with the resulting VAT and excise duty revenue loss to the Irish exchequer estimated to be between €58m and €90m (the higher estimate represents under 0.5% of the total VAT and excise revenue in 2008). In addition to the VAT and excise loss, there is a possible corporation tax revenue loss that is tentatively estimated to be in the range of €15m to €24m. However, it should be noted that all estimates for corporation tax revenue are provisional and should only be considered as indicative of the potential loss.

In regard to 2009, the estimated value of cross-border shopping was put in the range of €450m to €700m, with a potential VAT and excise revenue loss of between €72m and €112m, and a possible corporation tax revenue loss in the range of €20m to €31m.

The report noted that the main causes of price differentials between goods in Northern Ireland and the Republic, are operating costs, profit margin (mark-up), taxes and the rapid depreciation of Sterling against the Euro. While changes in the standard VAT rates widened some price differentials, their impact however remains small compared to the size of the change in the exchange rate.

The report also noted that there was rather limited availability of quantifiable data on cross border shopping, and with a view to improving the data available, Revenue and the CSO have worked on questions for inclusion in the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) that should facilitate a more detailed assessment of cross-border shopping in the future.

I understand that the results of the CSO survey on cross border shopping, based on results from the Quarterly National Household Survey, Quarter 2 2009, are to be published tomorrow.

Anglo Irish Bank.

Willie Penrose

Question:

35 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Finance when he will make public the submission to the European Commission regarding the strategic future of State owned Anglo Irish Bank. [44864/09]

Willie Penrose

Question:

62 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Finance when he will make public the report prepared by a company (details supplied) regarding strategic options for the future of State owned Anglo Irish Bank. [44863/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 35 and 62 together.

As a condition of State Aid approval, in relation to the injection of capital of €4 billion into Anglo Irish Bank, the EU Commission required that Anglo Irish Bank submit a restructuring plan to the Commission by the 30 November 2009. The restructuring plan must comply with EU guidelines in this regard and have regard to EU competition rules. The plan is required to look at and assess all options for the future of the bank including liquidation, wind-up over time, stabilisation of the current operations and a radical restructuring of the bank etc.

The restructuring plan has been prepared by the bank and submitted to the EU Commission for consideration. The Deputy will understand that in view of the commercial sensitivities involved it would not be appropriate for me to make public or comment on any detailed elements of the plan including the projected costs of any particular scenarios in the plan.

The submission of the plan marks the beginning of a detailed and comprehensive evaluation of the plan in advance of any final decision by the Commission on the plan. This will require extensive consultation and dialogue between the Commission, the Irish authorities and the bank. I am committed to working closely with the Commission and the bank on the assessment of the plan to achieve the best possible outcome for the State from this process.

Hotel Sector.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

36 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance his views on the recent report prepared by an economist (details supplied) on the hotel industry here; his further views on whether tax breaks have resulted in the building of non-viable hotels and has made this sector insolvent; his plans to stimulate or support the hotel sector in view of the important contribution tourism makes to the economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44865/09]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

48 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance if he has studied the findings of a study on the impact of the tax break on the hotel sector. [44858/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 36 and 48 together.

I have received a copy of the report titled "Over-Capacity in the Irish Hotel Industry and Required Elements of a Recovery Programme" by Dr. Peter Bacon & Associates. The Deputy will be aware that this report was commissioned by the Irish Hotels Federation. Officials in the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism and in my own Department of Finance are currently examining the report and it's conclusions.

The Hotel Sector in common with other sectors currently facing economically challenging times are under review by me and by my Department.

Tax Yield.

Noel Coonan

Question:

37 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Finance the evaluation he has undertaken in respect of the recently introduced windfall tax on rezonings after 30 October 2009; his assessment on its economic impact and the revenue it will earn; and if he is satisfied that there will be no unintended impacts of a tax measure. [44788/09]

The windfall tax rate of 80% was introduced under the National Asset Management Agency Act. The 80% rate will apply to the portion of any profit or gain made on the disposal of land which is attributable to a rezoning, where both the rezoning and the disposal of land giving rise to the windfall occur after 30 October 2009. The 80% rate only applies to the portion of the profit or gain on the disposal of the land which is attributable to a rezoning. The balance of any profit or gain will be taxable at the Capital Gains Tax rate of 25%, where the disposal gives rise to a capital gain, or at the appropriate Income Tax or Corporation Tax rate, where the disposal is part of a trade of dealing in or developing land.

The rationale for taxing this part of the profit or gain at a higher rate is because it is attributable to an administrative decision — that is, to rezone the land — rather than to anything done by the landowner.

In the current economic and property climate, it is difficult to estimate how much the windfall tax will yield. Obviously this will depend on various factors, including the number of relevant transactions and the value of the land being disposed of.

As with any measure being implemented, it is impossible to foresee all its possible effects, but the Government took a wide range of factors into account before deciding to implement the measure. However, as the Deputy is aware, all taxes and potential taxation measures are constantly reviewed in the context of the Budget and Finance Bill.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Joan Burton

Question:

38 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance when he intends to put the credit institutions (eligibility liabilities guarantee) scheme 2009 before the Houses of the Oireachtas for approval; if the extended bank guarantee has received EU State aid approval; if he will reconsider plans to extend this guarantee for subordinated debt issued before 30 September 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44896/09]

As the Deputy is aware, the Credit Institutions (Eligible Liabilities Guarantee) Scheme or ELG Scheme was brought before the Houses of the Oireachtas earlier today. The ELG scheme was approved in accordance with EU State aid rules on 20 November 2009.

The ELG Scheme is intended to facilitate the ability of credit institutions in Ireland to issue debt securities and take term 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 or asset covered securities issued after the introduction of the ELG Scheme will not be guaranteed either under the ELG Scheme or under the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme (the ‘CIFS Scheme') .

However, all liabilities guaranteed under the CIFS Scheme, including dated subordinated debt, as at the commencement date of the ELG Scheme will remain unconditionally and irrevocably guaranteed under and in accordance with the terms of the CIFS Scheme, in other words, existing liabilities will remain guaranteed under the CIFS scheme until the maturity of the debt or the 29 September 2010, whichever is the earliest. This continued guarantee of existing liabilities is in accordance with the general nature of guarantees.

Tax Code.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

39 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Finance the details of the proposal that he has included in the Revised Programme for Government to introduce a site value tax; the way the site value will be delineated in the case of a single house and of a multi-unit dwelling; the basis of the valuation; the target yield; and the exemption or waivers which he intends to apply for persons who might not be in a position to pay. [44784/09]

The proposal in the Revised Programme for Government to introduce a site value tax is being considered at present. The issues raised by the Deputy will be examined as part of the deliberation process.

Question No. 40 answered with Question No. 34.

Pension Provisions.

Mary Upton

Question:

41 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance his views on the recently published ESRI report on pension policy, Pension Policy New Evidence on Key Issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44888/09]

The Report referred to by the Deputy was published by the ESRI on 25 November last. The Report deals mainly with the question of whether existing tax incentives for private pension provision would be better targeted to encourage improved coverage by allowing relief on contributions at the standard income tax rate or at a hybrid rate of 30% rate. While apparently seeing merit in both approaches, the Report favours tax relief on pension contributions at the standard income tax rate in conjunction with sustaining the State Pension and schemes to increase pension coverage among lower to middle income earners.

The recently published Renewed Programme for Government includes a commitment to introduce a single 33% rate for tax relief on private pension provision in the context of the National Pensions Framework. This would result in a reduction in the tax relief on pension contributions available to higher rate taxpayers and an additional incentive to pension savings for standard rate taxpayers. However, the full detail and timing of the introduction of this measure have yet to be decided. I will bear the ESRI Report in mind in the context of delivering on the Government's commitment in this area.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

42 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which he has identified by reference to the consumer price index or other mechanisms the precise cause or causes of inflation in the economy in each of the past ten years to date; the degree of inflation in each of the contributory causes; the degree to which he proposes to address such issues directly with a view to the restoration of competitiveness throughout the economy in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44906/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

117 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when it was last perceived that the economy here was competitive in international markets; the causes of erosion of this status; the measures he has taken or intends to take to bring about the restoration of competitiveness; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45232/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

118 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the steps he will take over the next two years to improve the competitiveness of the manufacturing and service sectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45233/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 42, 117 and 118 together.

Ireland's loss of competitiveness and the need to improve it is something that has been signalled already. Prices grew faster than those in the euro area for most of the last decade. In general, inflation over the last ten years was driven more by developments in the non-traded (services) sector of the economy, while the price of goods (which are mainly imported) did not increase by as much. In many cases wages grew at a rate faster than productivity growth would justify.

The National Competitiveness Council has outlined a range of wider cost factors that have damaged our competitiveness as well. Although the global economy is showing some signs of recovery, the appreciation of the euro against the dollar and sterling is not helping Irish firms.

As such, 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. Falls in commercial rents are set to ease business costs too. Unit labour costs — wages adjusted for productivity — are forecast by the European Commission to fall in Ireland this year, uniquely in the euro area. In 2010 and 2011 they are predicted to fall by a cumulative 5 per cent, the largest fall in the euro area over the two years.

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. A highly educated workforce as well as the policies outlined in the Government's ‘Smart Economy' document will help. 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 to take advantage of the global recovery.

Tax Code.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

43 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance his views on introducing a wealth tax; the possibility of such a wealth tax being modelled on the French ISF solidarity tax which taxes global assets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44898/09]

Capital Gains Tax (CGT) and Capital Acquisitions Tax (CAT) are, in effect, taxes on wealth, in that they are levied on an individual or company when they dispose of an asset (CGT) or acquire an asset through gift or inheritance (CAT). The rate of both taxes was increased to 25% in the last Budget and Finance Act.

Asset values increase and decrease over time and in the context of recent economic circumstances, they may have declined considerably in many cases. Thus, if the value of an asset or of an individual's wealth is measured at a particular time there is no guarantee that the asset value or the individual's wealth will remain at that level or increase from that point.

I am aware of the French ISF solidarity tax which is an annual tax paid by individuals, the net value of whose wealth exceeds €790,000 in 2009. The tax starts at 0.55% on assets valued between the threshold amount and €1.28 million, rising to 1.8% on assets valued over €16.48 million. The tax base includes all property, rights and values that constitute the wealth of a taxpayer, including his/her principal private residence.

I have not considered introducing a Wealth Tax modelled on this particular example. However, all taxes and potential taxation measures are constantly reviewed in the context of the Budget and Finance Bill.

Banking Sector Regulation.

Liz McManus

Question:

44 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Finance his views on the statement from an association (details supplied) expressing concerns regarding the internal appointment of directors at a bank; the reason he allowed these appointments to proceed when his preference was for an external candidate to become chief executive of the bank; his further views on the statement by the association that these internal appointments send out the wrong signals to the international investment community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44867/09]

As far as I am aware the Corporate Governance Association of Ireland expressed concerns about the appointment of an executive chairman in that Bank despite the fact that the Combined Code requires that the two top roles in a company, the chairman and the chief executive should be filled by different people. I share these concerns but would like to make clear that this arrangement has been agreed to purely as an interim measure and it is not foreseen that this situation will persist beyond the short term.

Regarding the appointment of internal candidates, I would remind the Deputy that this is a matter for the bank in the first instance. I am aware that a search to fill the position of Chief Executive Officer of the specified bank was carried out using professional recruitment consultancy services, and that this search was extensive and international in nature.

The Deputy also raised the question of signals being sent to the international investment community. In response, I would point to the signals being sent by this Government that it is far from business as usual in the Irish banking sector. Reform of the regulatory structure is being advanced and as the Deputy will be aware I have intervened in the matter of the level of salary for the incoming managing director of the particular bank.

Banking Sector.

Shane McEntee

Question:

45 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Finance his views on the concept of a living will for financial institutions as a way of limiting the exposure of the taxpayer to bank difficulties in the future. [44827/09]

In the light of events which have arisen in the context of the international financial markets crisis, the concept of ‘living wills' or recovery and resolution plans for financial institutions is being examined in a number of international fora. At EU level a recent Commission Communication on a EU framework for cross-border crisis management in the banking sector suggests powers for supervisors to require the preparation by systemically important institutions of firm-specific contingency and resolution plans. These plans would detail how an institution and its business might be wound up rapidly and in an orderly fashion. Ireland is, of course, participating fully in the work at EU level to examine this and other possible elements of bank resolution toolkits in a cross-border context. At their April 2009 meeting, G20 leaders endorsed a set of principles from the Financial Stability Board which include strong encouragement for financial institutions to maintain contingency plans and procedures for use in a situation of distress.

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. My deliberations in this regard will be informed by the work underway at the international level on resolution regimes for the banking sector including in relation to recovery and resolution plans.

Pension Provisions.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

46 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance if he intends to introduce legislation which would allow credit institutions to go after-self administered pension funds in order to fulfil borrowing requirements or personal guarantees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44891/09]

Legislation regarding pension funds is principally a matter for the Minister for Social and Family Affairs.

Banking Sector.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

47 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance his views on comments from the ECB regarding the withdrawal of extraordinary liquidity measures supporting European banks; the way he expects this to impact on the functioning of the National Asset Management Agency and the liquidity position of banks here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44873/09]

It is important to say that NAMA has never been predicated on extraordinary liquidity measures. These measures were introduced at the discretion of the ECB to deal with the liquidity crisis affecting the European wide banking system. A distinction needs to be drawn between extraordinary liquidity and normal liquidity operations of the ECB. The securities provided to financial institutions by NAMA as consideration for acquired loans was always envisaged to be used in normal monetary policy operations of the ECB.

Irish banks and indeed many European banks have obtained liquidity support provided by the European Central Bank. Dependence on ECB lending has been significantly reduced, however, indicating that the liquidity positions of the Irish banks is improving.

The withdrawal of exceptional measures will, as ECB President Trichet has stated, be on a "phased basis in a timely and gradual fashion" and "as the situation normalises". When these exceptional measures are withdrawn, financial institutions can still avail of normal ECB refinancing operations.

Conditions in international financial markets have improved substantially in recent months and Irish banks have benefited from improved funding conditions which has already been reflected in reduced recourse by Irish banks to Eurosystem funding.

Question No. 48 answered with Question No. 36.

Debt Management.

Jack Wall

Question:

49 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of the relevant commitment given in the Revised Programme for Government, he intends to bring forward proposals for an extra-judicial debt-settlement mechanism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44877/09]

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 repossessions. 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 commitments contained in the revised Programme for Government span the broad area of personal debt management and its legislative framework. A number of the commitments relate to the responsibilities of a number of different Government Departments. This will require close collaboration in the period ahead.

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.

We have also committed to reforming the debt enforcement system in light of the deliberations of the Law Reform Commission on this issue in their recently published Consultation Paper on Personal Debt Management and Debt Enforcement.

I would like to 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 Government is committed to progress all of these issues with a view to early results.

Public Service Reform.

James Reilly

Question:

50 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Finance the steps he will take to implement a framework for the development of shared services and outsourcing across the public service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44847/09]

Richard Bruton

Question:

101 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the details of the pilot programme in shared services and in outsourcing that are under way; and the estimated saving anticipated in total as a proportion of the original cost. [45147/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 50 and 101 together.

The report of the Task Force on the Public Service, Transforming Public Services, defined shared services as the bringing together of activities that have been previously performed in many Departments or agencies into a single or small number of centres in order to perform routine processes more efficiently and effectively. It identified the most common areas of shared services as payroll, financial management, human resources management, means assessment, procurement and common ICT services.

The Task Force 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.

Experience elsewhere shows that shared procurement activities and shared technical infrastructures have high success rates and deliver very high rates of return if managed well. On the other hand complex issues have to be tackled for many of the remaining shared service opportunities and there is plenty of evidence both of failures and successes, with positive rates of return being delivered only in the medium term.

The Cabinet Committee established a series of working groups with membership drawn from across the Public Service to develop proposals for shared services in four areas — Human Resources and Pensions; Finance and Payroll; Single Point of Telephone Contact; and Simplification of Means Assessments. The Cabinet Committee has now considered initial reports in this area and a series of priority projects have been identified to be progressed, with the lessons learned from these projects being applied to subsequent developments in other areas.

Initial findings indicate that there are benefits to be realised from the adoption of shared services models through administrative and operational improvements, reducing costs associated with duplication, enabling business change and building organisational capability. However, it is not possible at this early stage to quantify such savings.

A number of major initiatives to provide shared ICT approaches have been implemented over the past few years. These include voice, data and mobile telephony, digital radio services, framework procurements for IT commodity items such as PCs, laptops and printers, and digital radio services. The Department of Finance is now working with a number of other public bodies to progress other potential opportunities for additional shared ICT approaches.

In the area of procurement, the National Public Procurement Operations Unit has been established in the Office of Public Works. A Project Board has been set up under the chairmanship of the Minister of State at the Office of Public Works, Martin Mansergh, to oversee the development of the Unit. The Board comprises representatives of the Department of Finance, the Department of Education & Science, the Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government, the HSE and Department of Finance & Personnel, Northern Ireland. The Government has decided that the NPPOU is to be responsible for managing the purchase of goods and services common to all areas of the Public Service, e.g. office equipment, furniture and fittings, fuel, electricity, printing, stationery and office supplies, uniforms and transport fleets. The existing Government Supplies Agency (GSA) in the OPW has been disbanded and its duties in relevant areas have been assumed by the NPPOU. Sector-specific items such as drugs, medicines and military equipment will continue to be managed within the relevant sectors (e.g. the HSE and the Department of Defence).

No consideration of shared services would be complete without an assessment of the potential for services to be delivered by external providers. An external provider may be able to provide a service or an element of a service more effectively or efficiently at an acceptable service quality level and consistent with public service standards of equity and probity. The overriding consideration must be the service to the citizen.

Social Insurance.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

51 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the effect that abolishing the PRSI ceiling would have on Exchequer returns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44897/09]

The abolition of the PRSI ceiling for employees would yield some €119.5 million additional contribution income in a full year. There is no ceiling on employer contributions.

Benchmarking Awards.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

52 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Finance if he intends to publish the working papers that underpin the benchmarking exercise for top paid public servants; if he intends to extend the benchmarking exercise beyond the top 1% of public service earners encompassed in the present study; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44802/09]

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. A decision on the publication of the report will be made by the Government. The Review Body is an independent body and I have no access to the working papers on which the report is based.

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

Question No. 53 answered with Question No. 34.

Departmental Expenditure.

Jack Wall

Question:

54 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance the cost of all new spending measures set out in the Revised Programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44878/09]

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.

Planning Issues.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

55 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to instances in which landowners or property developers were seeking planning permission or land rezoning with the intention, not of building, but of inflating the value of the land before the associated loan is transferred to the National Asset Management Agency; his views on this development; if he foresees significant financial implications for NAMA from this phenomenon; if he will take steps to put an end to this practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44879/09]

NAMA is being established to purchase certain portfolios of risky loan assets from the balance sheets of participating institutions. Loans will be valued in accordance with the valuation methodology set out in Part 5 of the National Asset Management Agency Act 2009.

The security for eligible loan assets will include property and as part of the valuation process the security of each eligible loan asset will be valued in accordance with the terms of the Act and the valuation regulations.

I am not aware of instances of application for planning permission as suggested by the Deputy. Any such application would be a matter for the relevant authority to assess on its independent merit.

The valuation process will take into account a number of factors including whether planning permission has been granted in relation to the property. However, NAMA's valuation of properties will be based on its assessment of their long-term prospects. Just because a poorly located site has planning permission it does not necessarily follow it will be acquired a higher current value.

Banking Sector Regulation.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

56 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance the protection available to homeowners that have taken out sub-prime mortgages; his plans to make statutory the code on mortgage arrears; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42785/09]

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 engaged in specialist or so-called sub-prime lending by the Financial Regulator. 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.

The Financial Regulator has a Code of Conduct for Mortgage Arrears, which came into effect in February 2009 and which applies to mortgage lending activities with consumers in respect of their principal private residence in the State. The Code 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.

I should also point out that 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.

National Asset Management Agency.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

57 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the special purposes vehicle proposed in the establishment of the National Asset Management Agency; if he has identified directors for the SPV; when he envisages that the SPV will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44901/09]

It is envisaged that the NAMA Master SPV will be set up shortly after NAMA is established. It will be jointly owned by private investors, who will own 51% of its ordinary equity, and by NAMA, which will hold the remaining 49% ordinary equity.

The Master SPV will have its own Board, with members appointed by NAMA and possibly members appointed by the private sector equity investors. The directors of the SPV are likely to include NAMA Board members and NAMA Officers.

Question No. 58 answered with Question No. 21.

Flood Relief.

Denis Naughten

Question:

59 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the steps which he is taking to provide funding for flood defences in the Shannon and Suck catchment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44910/09]

In accordance with national flood policy, and in compliance with the EU Floods Directive, the Office of Public Works is undertaking a Flood Risk Assessment and Management Study for each catchment in the country, including the Shannon and Suck catchment.

This Study will identify the areas in the catchment where there is significant flood risk, and will produce a plan of prioritised measures to manage that risk. It will consider both structural and non-structural measures, such as sustainable development and flood warning systems, which may be the appropriate way to address flood risk in some locations. The Study, which will commence in 2010, will enable the relevant Local Authorities, property owners and other interested parties to have a say in relation to the flood mitigation measures that will be taken forward. The report of the study will therefore provide the basis for managing flood risk in the catchment, including flood defences where these are considered appropriate. It will also provide an indication of the funding required to implement the measures it recommends. If a need for a major flood defence project is identified, it can be included in OPW's programme of capital flood relief schemes.

Pending the completion of the Study, OPW through the minor works schemes will work with the Local Authorities to identify areas that might benefit from interim localised mitigating measures. Under an initiative introduced this Summer, Local Authorities may apply to OPW for funding for minor flood mitigation works that meet specific economic and environmental criteria.

The OPW is currently completing works to relieve flooding at Clonlara in the Lower Shannon and has been in discussion with the IFA and the NPWS regarding the possibility of carrying out works in the Shannon Callows area.

National Asset Management Agency.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

60 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance if he has been approached by any interested parties with respect to taking shareholdings in the National Assets Management Agency’s special purchase vehicle; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44892/09]

I understand that a number of interested parties have indicated an interest in becoming shareholders in the NAMA Master SPV. However, the final decision on the private sector investors will be a matter for the Board of NAMA when appointed.

Tax Code.

Joe Carey

Question:

61 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Finance his plans, to review the penalties associated with the smuggling of cigarettes and goods associated with excise duty with a view to creating more of a deterrent to those profiting from this exercise. [40408/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the penalties for smuggling cigarettes and tobacco products into Ireland are as follows: On summary conviction, the penalty is a fine of €5,000 and/or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months. The trial judge may mitigate the monetary fine by up to 50%. On conviction on indictment, the penalty is a fine of three (3) times the value of the cigarettes inclusive of all taxes and duties, or €12,695, whichever is the greater; and/or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 5 years. The trial judge may mitigate the monetary fine by up to 50%.

In the case of offering for sale/keeping for sale or delivering packs of cigarettes which do not have the requisite tobacco tax stamp affixed thereto, the penalties are as follows: On summary conviction, the penalty is a fine of €5,000 and/or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months. The trial judge may mitigate the monetary fine by up to 50%. On conviction on indictment, the penalty is a fine not exceeding €12,695 and/or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 5 years. The trial judge may mitigate the monetary fine by up to 50%.

In addition to the above, the cigarettes or tobacco products, along with the carrying conveyance concerned, are liable to forfeiture.

Of course, as the Deputy is aware, the precise penalty imposed on conviction in each individual case is a matter for the Court.

Question No. 62 answered with Question No. 35.

Tax Collection.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

63 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Finance if he will introduce measures in view of the decrease in receipts for income tax from the self-employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44908/09]

It is a longstanding practice of the Minister for Finance not to comment in advance of the Budget on any tax or expenditure matters that might be the subject of Budget decisions.

Fiscal Policy.

Martin Ferris

Question:

64 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Finance if he is conducting an equality and distribution assessment of his budget proposals for 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44903/09]

An assessment of the impact of the 2010 Budget will be published on Budget day.

Departmental Properties.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

65 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance the date by which he was scheduled to have the new building for the Department of Defence fully equipped and operational; the date by which he expects this to occur; the cost as of 1 November 2009 for the building and equipping of the new departmental headquarters; the predicted cost on completion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42221/09]

The Office of Public Works placed a contract 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 was scheduled to be completed by the end of 2009. However, due to certain delays experienced by the Contractor, the building is not expected to be ready for handover to the Department until the end of January 2010. It is a matter for the Department as to when it will be fully operative.

Expenditure of approximately €26,000,000 has been incurred up to end of October 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 costs 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 IT, telephones, staff training and moving expenses, eg, transfers of files, will be a matter for the Department of Defence.

Fiscal Policy.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

66 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Finance his views on the record levels of deflation recorded by the Central Statistics Office in October 2009; his further views on the long-term effects of continued deflation on the economy; if he has conducted an impact study on the effects that cutting €4 billion from the economy will have on continued deflation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44862/09]

As measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), prices in Ireland fell by 6.6 per cent in the year to October. This is the largest comparable fall since the 1930s. On a harmonised basis the falls in prices are set to be the largest in the euro area this year, and are set to fall next year as well. This will bring about a welcome improvement to our relative price levels and assist with a much needed improvement in our competitiveness. As well as this, lower consumer prices are increasing purchasing power at a time of falling nominal incomes.

There are risks to the economy if an episode of falling prices is sustained. However, the phenomenon of falling prices which is now under way is a temporary one, mainly driven by lower interest rates, the pass-through of the depreciation of sterling and the fall-out of the spike in energy prices of 2008. Consumer prices are forecast to fall again next year, albeit not to the same extent as this year. The euro area recorded a return to positive year-on-year inflation in November. Over time, the inflation differential between Ireland and the rest of the euro area will not diverge substantially. Most recent survey and market-based expectations suggest that there is very little risk of a sustained period of deflation in the euro area.

As is the normal practise, my Department has assessed the economic impacts of illustrative fiscal adjustments using the ESRI's macroeconometric model. These likely economic impacts will be taken into consideration in the design of the overall Budgetary package.

Banking Sector Remuneration.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

67 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance if he will clarify the position regarding the €500,000 earnings cap for chief executives at credit institutions covered by the blanket bank guarantee; if this relates to salary only or to the total remuneration package; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this limit is being circumvented through deferred payments, payment in kind or other such mechanisms; if he is in agreement with this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44890/09]

As the Deputy is aware, the report of the Covered Institutions Remuneration Committee (CIROC) was placed before the House on 13 March 2009.

I have informed this House before that the Government considers the CIROC recommendations regarding remuneration of chief executives including bonuses, pensions, and long term incentive plans, which includes stock options, are appropriate but that basic salary level should be capped at €500,000 or the salary amount recommended by CIROC which ever is the lower.

Any deviation from this should be in exceptional circumstances and with my agreement.

National Asset Management Agency.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

68 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Finance if the passing of the National Asset Management Agency legislation has produced a quantifiable increase in the availability of credit to small businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44907/09]

The latest available statistics on credit availability, published by the Central Bank on 30 November, cover the period October 2009. As the NAMA legislation was only passed on 12 November and signed into law on 22 November, it is not yet possible to say whether this has had any effect on the availability of credit to small businesses.

Tax Code.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

69 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer if the standard rate of VAT was reduced by 1%; and the impact on the cost of living as a result of a decrease in VAT. [44902/09]

The estimated full year cost to the Exchequer of reducing the 21.5% standard rate of VAT by 1 percentage point is €334 million. This would impact on inflation by reducing the Consumer Price Index by 0.36%.

Banking Sector.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

70 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Finance the steps he will take to improve the ability of Irish businesses, particularly small to medium enterprises, to access credit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44875/09]

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

An independent review of credit availability was agreed in the context of the recapitalisation of AIB and Bank of Ireland. The purpose of the review was to ascertain the position on credit availability to SMEs in Ireland. The Steering Group for the review consisted of representatives of the Departments of Finance and Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Forfás, Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Banking Federation and the six main banks involved in lending to SMEs, business representatives from ISME, Chambers Ireland and the Small Firms Association. The final report of the Review of Lending to SMEs is available on my Department's website at www.finance.gov.ie.

The report made a series of recommendations including the further development of a framework for monitoring credit availability and measures to improve communications between the banks and SMEs. The report also suggests consideration of specific supports to ease the working capital requirements of SMEs, and measures to help investment levels in SMEs.

A follow-up independent review of credit availability is currently underway and it is expected that it will be published shortly.

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

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

My colleague the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment 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.

Banking Sector Remuneration.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

71 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance his views on the payment of bonuses to staff at credit institutions covered by the blanket bank guarantee and expected to participate in the National Assets Management Agency; if his attention has been drawn to the bonuses being paid to staff in the lending departments at any of these credit institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44889/09]

Paragraph 47 of the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme 2008 provides that bonuses for directors or senior executives must be measurably linked to reductions in guarantee charges, reduction in excessive risk-taking and encouraging the long-term sustainability of the covered institutions.

The Deputy will appreciate that in answering his question about bonuses to staff, the terms of the Scheme relate in this regard only to directors and senior executives. Pursuant to the Scheme, the Credit Institutions Remuneration Oversight Committee (CIROC) was established and its published report has provided additional specific details in relation to remuneration levels in the banks.

The Deputy will be aware that the Committee recommended that performance-related bonus schemes for chief executives and executive directors should not lead to payments in respect of performance in 2008 or in 2009 and for the period of the Government guarantee.

With regard to staff in the lending departments of the covered institutions I can confirm that in the case of two of the covered institutions bonuses have been paid out in 2009 to staff. In one instance the bonus payments at 25% of normal levels were awarded to 9 junior staff prior to the publication of the CIROC report. In the other bonuses were confined to staff working in overseas offices where there were pre-existing contractual commitments in relation to performance in the financial year 2008.

Departmental Expenditure.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

72 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance the amount of capital spending for 2010 that has already been contracted; the average reduction in tender prices in school building, road building and public transport; the scope that exists for re-negotiating pre-existing contracts to avail of lower prevailing tender prices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44872/09]

The latest information available to me is that contractual commitments for 2010 amount to approximately €4 billion.

Data received from the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government shows that by end 2009, construction tender prices are expected to be about 20 percent lower than in 2006. According to this information, total construction inflation was 6.2 percent for 2006; 2 percent for 2007; minus 8.2 percent for 2008 and minus 9.6 percent for the current year. The Department of Education has noted reductions of up to 30 percent under the schools building programme. I understand from the Department of Transport that the transport implementing agencies have indicated that there is a general downward trend in the cost of land purchases and tender prices. These changes benefit new projects going to tender. In 2009, there has not been a sufficient number of tenders or land purchases in the transport sector to be precise as to the scale of the reductions.

Because approximately 60% of the annual capital spend is for projects of €500,000 or less, the State has benefited considerably from this downward trend as contracts of this size are capable of being constructed easily within a matter of months. A good example of this is the Department of Education and Science's summer work programme for school buildings carried out earlier this year. Furthermore, there are also a significant number of projects between €500,000 and €5 million that are capable of being constructed within nine to twelve months.

EU procurement rules under restricted or open procedures prohibit negotiation on price. To do so would be in breach of the law.

Economic Competitiveness.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

73 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the price differentials between goods on sale in the United Kingdom and this country, despite the strengthening euro; if he has taken steps to address this ongoing problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44883/09]

As the Deputy may be aware, the Revenue Commissioners and the Central Statistics Office (CSO) prepared a report, at my request, on the Implications of Cross Border Shopping for the Irish Exchequer. The report was published on my Department's website on 20 March 2009. The report estimated the likely value of cross-border shopping in 2009 to be in the range of €450m to €700m, with a potential loss in Exchequer revenues arising from reduced VAT and excise yields of between €72m and €112m. In addition, a possible corporation tax loss in the range of €20m to €31m is tentatively estimated. It should, however, be noted that any estimate for corporation tax is provisional and should only be considered as indicative of the potential loss.

The report noted that the main causes of price differentials between goods in Northern Ireland and the Republic, are operating costs, profit margin (mark-up), taxes and the rapid depreciation of Sterling against the Euro. While changes in the standard VAT rates widened some price differentials, their impact however remains small compared to the size of the change in the exchange rate.

The report also noted that there was rather limited availability of quantifiable data on cross border shopping, and with a view to improving the data available, Revenue and the CSO have worked on questions for inclusion in the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) that should facilitate a more detailed assessment of cross-border shopping in the future. I understand that the results of the CSO's QNHS Cross Border shopping module are due to be published tomorrow.

Tax Code.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

74 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance if he has met with Revenue officials to discuss the possibility of introducing a third rate of tax; the impact such a tax would have on persons who fall into the bracket; and the impact it would have on Exchequer returns. [44899/09]

The position is that my Department meets regularly with the Revenue Commissioners as part of the Budget and Finance Bill process.

I should point out that it is a longstanding practice of the Minister for Finance not to comment in advance of the Budget on any tax or expenditure matters that might be the subject of Budget decisions.

Banking Sector Regulation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

75 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent of change in banking structures and personnel in each of the banks or other financial institutions sought by him or brought about by circumstances arising from injudicious borrowing or lending which culminated in the National Asset Management Agency rescue plan; the job description, terms and conditions of employment in each case; if he is satisfied that the extent of administrative and personnel changes at top level is adequate to ensure a complete break in the culture that has existed which led to the ongoing banking crisis; if he has sought, taken or received advice from outside or internal sources in this regard; the steps he has taken or procedures put in place to ensure that properties disposed of now or in the future on the open market are not likely to be acquired directly or indirectly by persons, groups, bodies or agencies which may ultimately be the subject of the NAMA scheme or in any way qualify for a double rescue package; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44905/09]

All but two of the covered institutions have replaced their CEOs since 2008. Similarly all but two of the covered institutions have had a change of Chairman since 2008.

In addition to the introduction of the public interest Directors, each of the covered institutions have also had changes to the membership of their Boards of Directors.

The job descriptions and terms and conditions of employment in each of the above cases would be matters for the individuals and the relevant institutions.

The Deputy also raised the question of a break in the banking culture which existed in our banking industry. In response, I would point to the above information on personnel changes at the highest levels in the covered institutions and the signals which this Government is sending to international markets that it is far from business as usual in the Irish banking sector. Reform of the regulatory structure is being advanced and as the Deputy will be aware the report of the Covered Institutions Remuneration Committee was placed before the House on 13 March 2009 and all of the covered institutions must follow its recommendations.

Of course, throughout all of this process I am consulting widely.

I would like to clarify that we have placed no statutory restrictions on disposals or acquisitions of property where this is done on the open market. However, section 172 of the NAMA Act places restrictions on the acquisition of land or other assets which are acquired by NAMA where there has been a default in a loan. The debtor or a person who would be an associated debtor in respect of that loan will not be entitled to acquire the asset from NAMA. There is also provision to extend the scope of this restriction by regulation.

Freedom of Information.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

76 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance if he will take the necessary steps to make the Central Bank, the Financial Regulator, the State-owned Anglo Irish Bank, the National Treasury Management Agency and associated agencies, including the National Asset Management Agency, subject to the Freedom of Information Acts; his views on whether that would improve the transparency of sections of the public service and financial sector which have suffered reputational damage in recent years as the banking crisis evolved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44881/09]

The Government has decided to implement significant changes in financial regulatory structures and in this regard I shall be bringing forward legislative proposals early next year relating to the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland (CBFSAI). Accordingly, it is not an appropriate time to consider the possible extension of the FOI Act to that organisation. Significant issues relating to the confidential and commercial sensitivity of much of the information within the possession of that organisation, the international framework of its operations and its role in maintaining and protecting the financial stability of the State would have to be taken on board in any consideration of this matter.

With regard to the National Treasury Management Agency and associated agencies I do not propose to extend FOI to these bodies for reasons of commercial sensitivity. In relation to the Agency's role as the State Claims Agency, most of its work is covered by legal privilege and no apparent merit is perceived in a partial application.

In the case of the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) it is necessary to bear in mind that NAMA will have a commercial mandate to obtain maximum value for the taxpayer and, to achieve this objective it will be required to enter into complex commercial negotiations with financial institutions and developers, the nature of which will require in many instances a high degree of commercial confidentiality. In view of this I believe it is not appropriate to extend FOI coverage to NAMA.

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

In summary, extension of Freedom of Information to any of these bodies must always be balanced against the need for them to operate in difficult competitive environments where such disclosure would significantly disadvantage them in their various activities.

Consumer Protection.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

77 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance if consumer protection will remain part of the remit and core activity of the new Central Bank Commission; if supporting structures such as the consultative consumer panel will continue to be part of the institutional framework of the new Central Bank Commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44886/09]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

83 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance the consumer functions which will be transferred from the Financial Regulator; the timeframe for this transfer of functions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44590/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 77 and 83 together.

A bill providing for the establishment of the Central Bank Commission will be published early next year.

The restructured Central Bank of Ireland will continue to have significant responsibility for consumer protection issues. This will include monitoring compliance, for example with statutory codes of practice for the financial services industry, with the Consumer Credit Act by credit firms and with the regulation of bank charges.

The consumer information and education functions currently carried out within the Consumer Directorate in the Financial Regulator are to be transferred to the National Consumer Agency (NCA).

I am currently considering the structures to be put in place.

Job Losses.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

78 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Finance his views on the projection, set out in the pre-budget outlook, that 75,000 jobs will be lost in 2010; the expected cost to the Exchequer, in terms of increased welfare payments and reduced tax revenue, of these 75,000 job losses; his further views on whether the live register will peak above 500,000 in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44861/09]

In the Pre-Budget Outlook, based on information to hand at end-October, my Department projected that employment will fall by about 3.75 per cent next year, the equivalent of around 75,000 job losses. The latest Central Bank forecast is for a decline of 86,000 in the level of employment next year while the corresponding forecast from the ESRI is for a decline of 80,000 jobs. An update of the Department of Finances projections will be presented alongside the Budget.

The cost to the Exchequer of unemployment per thousand individuals can be determined by reference either to the cost of the Live Register or by the cost of those in receipt of jobseekers payments. A Live Register costing which includes those not in receipt of payments would be €11.4 million per thousand, including secondary benefits. The cost of those in receipt of jobseekers payments and secondary benefits would be €13.1m per thousand. The cost of unemployment is continually evolving given the changing nature of current employment patterns.

Based on certain assumptions, each 1,000 jobs lost would result in a loss to the Exchequer in income tax, PRSI, health and income levies of approximately €9.1 million in a full year.

It now seems likely that the annual average number on the Live Register for this year will be around 400,000. In terms of next year, a revised forecast will be available once the Budget is presented to the Dáil. I would point out, however, that the rate of increase has slowed considerably since the summer and that an average Live Register above 500,000 is now considered less likely.

Banking Sector.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

79 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance his views on the nationalised Anglo Irish Bank offering guarantees to a company (details supplied) during its recent examinership appearances before the courts. [40279/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, Anglo Irish Bank is run on an arm's length commercial basis. Consequently, decisions which relate to the normal commercial business of the bank are a matter for the Board of Anglo.

Also, as with all financial institutions, Anglo's dealings with its customers are subject to the normal provisions on client confidentiality, and it would therefore not be appropriate for me to comment on the client relationship referred to by the Deputy.

Flood Relief.

Michael Noonan

Question:

80 Deputy Michael Noonan asked the Minister for Finance his views on the problems associated with the lack of flood insurance or incidences of under insurance in view of recent flooding events and his plans regarding same. [44433/09]

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

81 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Finance the discussions he has planned with the Irish Insurance Federation regarding the problems associated with the lack of flood insurance or incidences of under insurance; and if he will report on any such discussions and any proposals emerging therefrom for dealing with these problems. [44434/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 80 and 81 together as the questions cover the same general area.

A number of Government Departments and agencies have responsibility for emergency planning functions. In the current flooding situation, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is chairing an Emergency Response Coordination Committee which meets on a daily basis to handle the current emergency situation. I am informed that his Department will shortly ask the local authorities for reports on the impact of the flooding and an assessment of the remedial works required.

While actual funding requirements will not be known until the assessments are completed, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has provided supplementary funding of 10m euro to assist local authorities in meeting the exceptional costs associated with the current flooding crisis. In addition the Government has announced the provision of an initial sum of 10 million euro for emergency flood relief to be administered by the Community Welfare Division of the Health Service Executive on behalf of the Department of Social and Family Affairs. A further 2 million euro has been provided for the agricultural sector.

When more complete information on the scale and cost of the damage arising becomes available, full consideration will be given to ways of meeting these costs, including if appropriate, making application to the EU for financial support. My Department has been in contact with the Commission to establish eligibility criteria and the scale of funding that might be available. I am also informed that the Joint Committee on European Affairs is travelling to Brussels on Friday, 4 December to meet with the Commissioner for Regional Policy, Mr. Pawe Samecki to discuss the flooding situation and opportunities for assistance from the EU under the EU Solidarity Fund.

Last Monday, Mr. John Gormley, T.D., Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, and Dr. Martin Mansergh, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Finance with responsibility for the OPW, jointly published statutory planning guidelines on The Planning System and Flood Risk Management, which are aimed at ensuring a more consistent, rigorous and systematic approach to the avoidance and minimisation of potential future flood risk and to fully incorporate flood risk assessment and management into the planning system.

In relation to insurance, my Department has ongoing contacts with the insurance industry including the Irish Insurance Federation, and the problems associated with the lack of flood insurance or incidences of under insurance will be raised in future discussions. However, as the Deputy will be aware decisions by individual insurance companies on the provision of insurance cover and the price at which it is offered is a commercial matter based on the assessment an insurer makes of the risks involved and other commercial considerations.

The Government will consider this issue, which has been particularly highlighted by recent events and will discuss them with the insurance industry to see what options or possible solutions may be available. The outcome of these discussions will be further considered by the Government as part of its overall review of recent events. In the meantime, the Government will keep the matter under review.

Insurance Industry.

Joe Costello

Question:

82 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Finance the way he plans to implement the commitment in the revised programme for Government to review insurance costs to ensure that the consumer is benefiting to the maximum extent possible from competition in the sector; the timeframe for implementation of this commitment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44591/09]

My Department is currently considering how this review should be conducted, who the appropriate participants should be as well as the consultative requirements. Account will have to be taken in this review of the difficult market conditions that insurers are currently operating in. For instance a report published earlier this year by Standard & Poor's titled ‘ A Testing 2009 for the Irish Non-Life Insurance Market, Despite Fundamental Strengths’ provides an insight into the problems facing the industry at the moment. The report envisages a difficult year for the non-life industry as a result of rising claims and continuing intense competition which they say is limiting price increases.

Any such review as well as looking at price increases and the reasons for such increases will also look at the extent of competition in the market and how this can be increased to maximise the benefits to the consumer.

Question No. 83 answered with Question No. 77.

Graduate Support Schemes.

Denis Naughten

Question:

84 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the details of plans for the establishment of a graduate internship programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45073/09]

It is widely accepted that keeping people close to the labour market is important to improve their future employability. That is why the Government introduced the Work Placement Programme.

This Programme is providing 2,000, 9 month, work experience places to unemployed individuals. Participants on the programme will retain their existing social welfare entitlements. There are two streams under the programme each consisting of 1,000 places. The first stream is specifically for graduates who possess a full award at level 7 on the National Qualifications Framework and is the Government's graduate internship programme. The second stream is for individuals who do not possess a full award at level 7 on the National Qualifications Framework.

There are currently 129 participants on the programme with 92 graduates in placements at present. The work experience that participants receive will provide portable and transferable skills in a range of areas that will increase their employability. It should be acknowledged that there are other graduate internship programmes in existence such as IBEC's Gradlink. My Department are currently exploring whether it would be possible to more closely align this programme with the Work Placement Programme.

Insurance Industry.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

85 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which she has monitored or observed fluctuations in all forms of insurance premiums in 2009; the full extent of increase or decrease in each sector; the reason for such changes; the extent to which the valuation of the items or property insured has increased or decreased in 2009; if he expects further changes in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45080/09]

Financial services including the insurance sector is a policy matter for my colleague, the Minister for Finance and I would refer the Deputy in particular to the Minister's response to a PQ on the 16th September 2009.

Economic Competitiveness.

John Deasy

Question:

86 Deputy John Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her policies to specifically support the retail sector; if her development agencies are providing specialised assistance to retail firms to help them deal with competitive pressures due to currency differentials; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45128/09]

Enterprise Ireland's engagement with the retail sector is limited, as retailing is not an eligible sector that Enterprise Ireland can provide support to under the Industrial Development (Services Industries) Order 2003. Companies in the retail sector that engage in one of the eligible activities set out in the Order, and currently generate or intend to generate exports from the eligible activity in the near future are eligible to apply for Enterprise Ireland supports. Enterprise Ireland is precluded from providing financial assistance to the retail sector to establish a commercial presence/outlet in either the domestic or international markets.

The County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) provide support for small businesses with 10 employees or fewer in the start-up and extension phases, promote and develop indigenous micro-enterprise potential and stimulate economic activity and entrepreneurship at local level. Subject to certain eligibility criteria new and developing enterprises may qualify for financial support from the CEBs, however, priority is given to projects in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sectors. It is considered inappropriate to grant-support other areas of business activity which may result in unacceptable deadweight and/or displacement concerns. The former refers to where projects would have proceeded anyway and the latter to where the projects simply displace business from other players in the market.

Work Permits.

Michael Moynihan

Question:

87 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of work permits issued in 2008 to meat producing factories here. [45156/09]

A total of 540 Employment Permits which included 214 renewed permits issued to the meat industry in 2008.

Economic Competitiveness.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

88 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she has received complaints from southern contractors that they are finding it difficult to compete with northern contractors on a cost basis for public contracts here; the action she has taken on same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45283/09]

Public procurement policy is primarily a matter for my colleagues Brian Lenihan TD., Minister for Finance, who has responsibility for the National Public Procurement Policy Unit and also Martin Mansergh TD., Minister of State who has responsibility for the National Public Procurement Operations Unit in the OPW. I have received correspondence from Irish businesses regarding their concerns about strong competition with northern Irish companies for public sector contracts. I should however point out that under EU rules, public sector procurement must follow transparent open procedures ensuring fair conditions of competition for all suppliers, including across borders in all EU countries. I would also emphasise that Irish companies are equally able to compete for public sector contracts across the EU.

It is inevitable, given the slowdown in demand from the private sector that there will be greater competition for public contracts. I fully recognise the importance of the public sector market as a source of employment creation and growth for business in Ireland and I am committed to promote Irish company's participation in public sector contracts to the greatest extent possible. To this end the Government recently agreed to a new set of policy guidelines to stimulate innovative business activity in Ireland, ensure a level playing field for all companies wishing to participate in public tendering and promote greater access for SMEs to public sector contracts.

Employment Support Services.

Frank Feighan

Question:

89 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Finance the opportunities for employment that are available for persons with disabilities within the public sector. [45066/09]

The position in relation to opportunities for employment to the Public Service generally is limited by the recruitment and promotion moratorium which was announced on the 27th March this year. The moratorium applies, with limited exceptions, to the civil service, local authorities, non-commercial state bodies, the Garda Síochána, the Permanent Defence Forces and to certain bodies established by enactment and wholly or partly funded out of the Central Fund. The arrangements have been modulated in relation to the education and health sectors to reflect the particular needs in those sectors.

In addition, a number of Departments and Offices in the Civil Service are participants in a Work Experience Graduate Programme for Persons with Disabilities which gives practical effect to Government and Civil Service policy on improving the employment prospects for persons with disabilities. The programme is not subject to the moratorium. The Deputy may wish to note that there is a 3 per cent target for the employment of people with disabilities in the Public Service which remains in place, notwithstanding the moratorium. The Civil and Public Service is an equal opportunities employer and all recruitment campaigns must be conducted in strict compliance with the Codes of Practice set out by the Commission for Public Service Appointments.

The Public Appointments Service (PAS) facilitates all applications with special needs from the outset of every recruitment campaign. Where potential applicants have difficulty accessing the application and/or information, staff are available to help them apply — all application material is made available in various formats e.g. JAWS, Large Print, Braille, Audio. Provision is made for candidates at all stages throughout a recruitment process. PAS staff liaise constantly with applicants that require special accommodation facilities throughout each recruitment campaign to ensure their needs are met. PAS also liaise with Disability Liaison Officers in Government Departments to ensure that the needs of successful candidates are facilitated prior to appointment. PAS also have a follow up system in place where they keep in touch with employing Departments/Offices with regard to newly recruited staff with special needs.

National Asset Management Agency.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

90 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the National Asset Management Agency plan for unfinished apartments and housing developments that will be on its books; if there is a plan in place for either the completion or the demolition of these properties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45122/09]

NAMA is being established to purchase certain portfolios of risky loan assets from the balance sheets of participating institutions. In the course of its operation it is expected that NAMA will take possession of various properties. Under the NAMA Act, NAMA will have access to working capital in order for it to complete developments or projects where it is commercially advantageous to do so. It will be a matter for the NAMA Board to manage and deal with acquired properties in a commercial fashion and on a case by case basis with the intention of generating the best achievable financial return for the State.

Debt Management.

Richard Bruton

Question:

91 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he has established a team within his Department to evaluate policy initiatives to address the debt problems of ordinary householders; if they have set out a work programme with target dates for reporting to him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45169/09]

The Government recently decided that all relevant material on the matter of indebtedness and mortgage arrears in Departments should be brought together in consideration of the debt problems faced by some householders. External input will be by way of consultation where relevant Ministers could meet with appropriate external organisations. In response, an interdepartmental group, chaired by one of my officials, has been set up for the purpose of urgently collecting information and examining options in this area. The Group has already met on a number of occasions and the Chair will report to me shortly on the deliberations of the Group.

The Renewed Programme for Government contains a provision to reform debt enforcement in light of the deliberations of the Law Reform Commission, which recently published a consultation paper on the matter. A new system of personal insolvency regulation which may allow for a statutory non-court-based debt settlement system will be one of the critical points to be considered. Consideration will also be given to whether to establish a new Debt Enforcement Office which will remove as many debt enforcement proceeds from the courts as possible. In addition an inter-Departmental Working Group on Personal Debt Management and Enforcement is being established to consider appropriate measures that can be implemented in a cost-effective manner, for early and effective results.

I have informed this House previously that the revised Programme for Government includes a commitment to introduce measures to protect families having difficulties with their home mortgage payments. The Deputy will be aware that the Irish Bankers Federation published a Statement of Intent in November which provides further reassurance to homeowners who find themselves genuinely unable to maintain mortgage repayments on their principal private residence. The Statement of Intent has been agreed and supported by all IBF members and is a welcome development. It is also welcome that the IBF Oversight Committee on the implementation of the Statement of Intent will include representation from the Money Advice Budgeting Service (MABS).

Departmental Expenditure.

Mary Wallace

Question:

92 Deputy Mary Wallace asked the Minister for Finance the savings, in view of public service reforms, that have been achieved by the public service recruitment moratorium; if the 3% expected savings has been achieved; if the continuing moratorium is expected to provide the same level of savings over the next 12 months; his views on the suggestion from some civil servants that a 40 hour week, confining lunch hour from 1- 2 and providing all staff with the same 20 day holiday entitlement might be preferable to job losses and greater than necessary pay cuts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45067/09]

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.

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 savings, I included a tentative estimate, in the April Budget, of savings of up to €300 million in a full year (i.e. including both 2010 and 2011) arising from all of these initiatives. Measures to reduce the public service pay bill and to increase productivity and efficiency are currently the subject of discussion with the Social Partners in the context of preparations for Budget 2010. It would not be appropriate for me to comment at this time. I will say, however, that the introduction of rigidities such as the application of a strict lunch hour regime would be a retrograde step that runs counter to the thrust of the reforms and flexibilities introduced to date. Flexible working hours are tailored to meet the specific business needs of Departments and Offices and to facilitate service to the public by having particular offices open across lunch time.

Tax Code.

Jack Wall

Question:

93 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance the date of the first payment of income tax by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; when the amount of payments made by the person in 2008 will be determined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45069/09]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they have no record of tax paid by the person concerned in 2008.

Graduate Support Schemes.

Denis Naughten

Question:

94 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the details of plans for the introduction of a graduate internship programme in the public service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45072/09]

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. These are work placements as distinct from additional posts in the Public Service. 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 nine 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.

EU Directives.

Joan Burton

Question:

95 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance his views on the draft alternative investment fund managers and amending directives; if and when he intends to facilitate a Dáil Éireann discussion of this legislation; the contacts he has had from lobbyists in respect of this draft directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45115/09]

On April 30th last, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a Directive on Alternative Investment Fund Managers (AIFM). The proposal has been discussed at a number of meetings at Council Working group level since May and discussions are still taking place. It has not yet been discussed by the Ecofin Council. The proposal aims to put in place a regulatory regime for managers of all EU Alternative Investment Funds (AIF). The proposal is generally regarded as an attempt to regulate Hedge Funds, but it has a much wider scope than Hedge Funds and covers all collective investment funds. While certain types of funds, such as pension funds, are exempted, others, like private equity or venture capital funds, do fall within the scope of the proposal.

As part of the proposal, AIF managers could avail of an EU passport to market funds on a cross-border basis within the EU. Such a passport could also be provided to non-EU funds in situations where those funds are domiciled in jurisdictions that are regarded as having equivalent supervisory regimes. While the proposed passport regime within the EU is restricted to professional investors (although Member States would be permitted to allow access for retail investors) the proposal does provide a number of investor protection measures. The proposal also envisages a range of powers for national competent authorities and provides for the effective exchange of information between regulators.

In view of the potential impact on the funds industry in Ireland, my Department has been in regular contact with a range of interested parties, including the Irish Funds Industry Association, the Irish Association of Investment Managers, the National Treasury Management Agency, the Irish Stock Exchange, the IDA and the Financial Regulator. These contacts have highlighted a number of areas where the Commission's proposal could be improved. The area of most concern for stakeholders is in relation to the scope of the proposal. A number of issues arise in relation to the definition of who exactly is the AIFM. The Irish delegation is working closely with the Swedish Presidency, the Commission and other Member States in an effort to achieve greater clarity on this crucial issue.

An Information Note was sent to the Joint Committee on European Scrutiny on 29th May last. The Committee held a public meeting on 14th July which was attended by my officials, accompanied by representatives from the Financial Regulator and the Irish Funds Industry Association. The Committee's Report of that meeting was published on 25th September. The Committee's Report highlighted seven issues which required further clarification or amendment and I was asked to bear these considerations in mind before adopting a final position on the proposal. My officials and the Financial Regulator have strongly pursued these particular issues, as well as others that arose, and, while a lot of clarification has been received, there are still some issues to be dealt with.

The Swedish Presidency is working very hard with Member States and the Commission in an effort to agree a general approach by Council prior to entering into formal negotiations with the European Parliament under the co-decision process. In light of the foregoing and, as this issue has already been subject to the Oireachtas scrutiny process, I do not believe that a further Dáil Eireann discussion on this matter is necessary at this time.

Tax Collection.

Joan Burton

Question:

96 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 156 and 157 of 24 November 2009, the number of tax refunds issued to date in 2009 below €1 million, more than €1 million, more than €5 million and more than €10 million to the banking and financial intermediation sector and the value of refunds to the banking and financial intermediation sector amounting to less than €1 million, more than €1 million, more than €5 million and more than €10 million. [45116/09]

Figures providing a breakdown of refunds of Income Tax (non-PAYE) and Corporation Tax in 2009 to mid-November for the banking and related financial intermediation sector, are set out in the following table.

Refunds By Size In 2009 for the Banking and related Financial Intermediation

Income Tax

Corporation Tax

Size of Refund

Number

Value

Number

Value

€m

€m

Less than €1m

1,176

3.2

672

33.6

> = €1m and < €5m

0

0.0

37

79.4

> = €5m and <€10m

0

0.0

5

39.4

> = €10m

0

0.0

5

101.4

Total

1,176

3.2

719

253.8

It should be noted that the classification of taxpayers into the ‘banking' and ‘financial' sectors is done by reference to the primary area of economic activity reported by individual and corporate taxpayers on their own behalf and the taxes collected are allocated to these categories without reference to the precise economic activity which generated them. While this information is sufficient to underpin broad sector-based analyses there will undoubtedly be some inaccuracies at individual level. This should be borne in mind when considering the information provided.

Proposed Legislation.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

97 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 55 of 24 September 2009, the actions he will take to address the hardship caused by the flooding of the Shannon area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45138/09]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

98 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Finance the action the Office of Public Works will take to address the hardship caused by the flooding of the Shannon area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45139/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 97 and 98 together.

As indicated in the reply to the Deputy's Question on 24 September, the OPW will, in 2010, commence a Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management Study that will identify areas in the Shannon catchment that are at significant risk from flooding, and will produce a prioritised list of measures for addressing the risk in those areas. Pending the completion of the Study, OPW, through the minor works schemes, will work with the Local Authorities to identify areas that might benefit from interim localised mitigating measures. The OPW is currently completing works to relieve flooding at Clonlara in the Lower Shannon, and has been in discussion with the IFA and the NPWS regarding the possibility of carrying out further works in the Shannon Callows area.

As regards the immediate impact on those affected by the flooding, the Government has allocated an initial sum of €10 million to fund a Humanitarian Assistance Scheme. This scheme is being administered by the Community Welfare Service of the Health Service Executive on behalf of the Department of Social and Family Affairs. The aim of the Scheme is to provide financial support to people who have suffered flood damage to their homes and, in doing so, will provide hardship alleviation as opposed to full compensation. As on previous occasions, commercial or business losses will not be covered by the scheme, nor will losses, which are covered by household insurance.

Flood Relief.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

99 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Finance if a management programme will be put in place to minimise future flood risk in the Shannon region on foot of its flooding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45140/09]

To facilitate planning for the management of future flood risk, OPW has embarked on a programme of Catchment Flood Risk Assessments, since being assigned lead agency responsibilities in 2004, following the Review of Flood Policy. These studies, which are required by the National Flood Policy and the EU Floods Directive, are designed to identify the areas at risk from flood events for a range of severities and to produce a prioritised plan of measures for dealing with areas where the risk is significant. The Shannon study is expected to commence in mid-2010.

Pending completion of the Study for the Shannon Catchment, OPW, through the minor works scheme, will work with the relevant Local Authorities to identify areas that may benefit from interim localised mitigation measures. The planning and development process is critical to avoid the creation of further flood risk. OPW, with the Departments of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Agriculture, developed the ‘Guidelines on the Management of Flood Risk in Planning and Development'. This document was launched jointly by my colleague, Minister John Gormley and myself earlier this week.

Departmental Agencies.

Richard Bruton

Question:

100 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the progress made to date in 2009 in the rationalisation of agencies announced in budget 2009; the savings generated to date in 2009 in each case and the source of the savings; the number of persons who have retired or relocated; and the value of savings and staff reduction as a proportion of the original provision. [45146/09]

The Government's decision to proceed with 30 rationalisation proposals was included in the 2009 Budget measures. The decision was informed by a set of central guiding principles, which were also set out in the 2009 Budget. These principles succinctly set out the Government's policy on the role that agencies should play in delivering public services. Accordingly, the rationalisation decisions were not driven solely by the need to find savings, although savings are a welcome and necessary element. The key objective was, and is, to move towards an effective and efficient agency structure that will ensure the delivery of quality public services.

Implementation of these proposals is a matter for each relevant Minister. The information available to my Department is that, to date in 2009, some 16 of the 30 agency rationalisation decisions have been implemented. Of the remainder, a further four are targeted for completion before the end of this year, four will be completed in 2010 with the remainder following in 2011 or later. The 16 rationalisations will deliver estimated gross savings of €3.4m in 2009, €6.8m in 2010 and a reduction of over 54 (whole time equivalents) in staff numbers. These figures are estimates because the identification of savings specifically due to rationalisation is difficult in an environment when savings due to other initiatives arise simultaneously. Such initiatives include the July 2008 announcements regarding efficiencies, professional fees, etc. along with more recent initiatives such as the moratorium on the filling of vacancies by recruitment or promotion.

Furthermore, agencies that are about to be rationalised tend to receive smaller allocations in their final year and their closing staff complements may also be depleted by an accelerated rate of retirements, departures and the non filling of temporary posts in the run up to the rationalisation. Accordingly, higher projected longer term savings will accrue in the future when the rationalisations have bedded down and efficiencies and synergies have been delivered in their new location compared to the relevant budgets enjoyed by these agencies prior to the relevant decisions on rationalisation. On this basis, annual savings of €9.7m should accrue in due course. In addition, it will be some time before some of the related savings will be delivered due to issues such as lengthy leases for premises and staff contracts. No estimate has been included for the disposal of assets such as surplus property. More specific and detailed information along the lines sought by the Deputy is a matter for the relevant Minister in each case.

Question No. 101 answered with Question No. 50.

Tax Yield.

Richard Bruton

Question:

102 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the estimated yield from the carbon tax; the estimated absolute and percentage increase in the price of each product affected; his estimate of the expenditure by persons of pension age and of the lowest income cohort on these products in total and as a percentage of their income. [45148/09]

I am committed to the introduction of a carbon tax on a phased basis in the context of the 2010 Budget. Indeed work is already underway on the design of a carbon tax. In relation to the issue of fuel poverty, it is acknowledged that appropriate measures may need to be put in place depending on the level of carbon tax introduced. I would draw to the Deputy's attention that it is the usual practice for the Minister for Finance not to speculate or comment in advance of the Budget on what it will contain and I do not propose to deviate from that practice.

Richard Bruton

Question:

103 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the estimated yield from the health levy and the income levy in 2009; and his estimate of the carry-over increase into extra yield in 2010 from the changes made in the course of 2009 to these levies. [45149/09]

The estimated yield from the health levy in 2009 was €1,892m. This included an estimated receipt of €719m this year from a doubling of the levy in the 2009 Supplementary Budget, with a full year yield of €1,501m. Recent projections indicate a shortfall in this estimate and provision for this shortfall has been included in the 2009 Supplementary Estimate for the HSE currently before the Dáil. The 2010 estimate will be included in the forthcoming Budget in the light of the latest available information.

The Income Levy was introduced in October of last year in Budget 2009 and the rates subsequently increased in the Supplementary Budget in April of this year. Based on these forecasts, it was estimated that the Income Levy would yield approximately €1.1 billion in 2009 and approximately €2 billion in a full year. Revised forecasts will be published in the White Paper on Receipts and Expenditure on 5 December, which will set out tax forecasts for 2010 revenues on a pre-Budget basis. As is customary, post-Budget tax forecasts for 2010 and later years will be published on Budget day, 9 December.

Departmental Staff.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

104 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the practice of granting a few hours paid leave in some sectors of the public service to facilitate staff shopping in the run up to Christmas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45217/09]

The Deputy does not give details or specify the sectors of the public service to which he refers, but he will be aware that the term "public service" encompasses a wide range of organisations, including but not limited to Civil Service Departments and Offices, the Garda Síochána, Permanent Defence Forces, Local Authorities, HSE, VECs and various bodies established by enactment and wholly or partly funded out of the Central Fund. The Minister for Finance is not the contractual employer for the vast majority of public servants, so I am not involved in the day to day management of more than 300,000 staff. Therefore the Deputy will appreciate that I cannot comment on particular practices in unspecified areas of the public service.

There is no formal scheme in the Civil Service. However, I understand that, dating from a time when shop opening hours were limited, it was local custom and practice in some organisations to allow some restricted grades of staff, with the greatest numbers at clerical level, a half-day's leave, for shopping in the month of December. This was and is a matter for the management of the relevant organisations. Indeed, a central element of public service reform is to promote Departmental, Ministerial and managerial responsibility. Obviously, management of public service organisations must take into account the needs of their organisations and that longer shop opening hours are available now and that flexible working hours not only meet the specific business needs of the organisations, and facilitate lunch time opening for the public, but also provide some flexibility for staff. As I have previously stated "all of us ... will have to accept that the old ways of doing things need to be looked at afresh, so that we can deliver excellent public services with the dramatically lower level of resources now available."

Insurance Industry.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

105 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he has ascertained the precise level of increase in insurance premiums, including motor insurance, over the past 12 months; the reason for such increases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45220/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

106 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the steps he has taken or proposes to take to bring insurance costs down in line with economic trends; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45221/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

107 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which he has monitored insurance premium increases; if the basis for such increases has been clarified, particularly against a background of alleged deflation in the economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45222/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 105 to 107, inclusive, together.

The response deals with recent increases to insurance premiums, the background to such increases, and the Government response. While I am aware that there has been an increase in insurance premiums including motor insurance premiums this year, the Financial Regulator does not maintain statistics on insurance premium costs, so I am not in a position to comment upon the level of such increases.

However, the Financial Regulator has provided some background as to why insurance prices have increased in these deflationary times. It has advised me that while the non-life insurance market performed well up to the end of 2006, market sources indicate that much non-life business was written at a loss in 2007. This trend continued in 2008, but the companies were still willing to write business at a loss in order to maintain their market share. They were able to do this as a result of the reserves they had built up during profitable years. However, the situation could not go on indefinitely and indications are that firms are now taking action on pricing to underpin their financial positions, including in the motor insurance area.

This position is supported by a report published earlier this year by Standard & Poor's titled ‘ A Testing 2009 for the Irish Non-Life Insurance Market, Despite Fundamental Strengths’. It provides an insight into the problems facing the industry at the moment. The report envisages a difficult year for the non-life industry as a result of rising claims and continuing intense competition which they say is limiting price increases. They add that this combined with anticipated lower investment returns is expected to hinder profitability.

In the current difficult trading climate, there is a delicate balance to be struck between ensuring the long-term sustainability of the non-life insurance industry and at the same time making sure that the consumer obtains good value for money. I am particularly conscious of the impact of a significant increase in premiums for both the consumer and business and I have informed the industry that it must be a priority for them to ensure that insurance cover is provided as competitively as possible consistent with long term commercial sustainability and viability. Finally as the Deputy will be aware, there is a commitment in the Revised Programme for Government to review insurance costs. My Department is currently considering appropriate steps to commence the study.

Banking Sector Regulation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

108 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he has issued instructions to the banking sector with a view to ensuring the availability of adequate working capital and overdraft facilities for business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45223/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

109 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he has had discussions, independently or in the context of the National Asset Management Agency, with the banking sectors with a view to achieving progress in the matter of provision of adequate lending facilities to meet the requirements of small and medium-sized businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45224/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

110 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that the banking sector is committed to providing working capital for business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45225/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 108 to 110, inclusive, together.

It is fair to assume that the banks should be in a better position to lend once the riskiest loans have been removed from their balance sheets and taken over by NAMA and that viable businesses should expect a fair hearing when seeking funding. I intend to issue guidelines to participating institutions to ensure that this is the case. A core Government objective is to free up lending on a commercial basis into the economy to support economic growth and a number of actions have been taken to achieve this objective. In the context of the bank guarantee scheme and recapitalisation the banks have made important commitments to support business lending.

An independent review of credit availability was agreed in the context of the recapitalisation of AIB and Bank of Ireland. The purpose of the review was to ascertain the position on credit availability to SMEs in Ireland. The Steering Group for the review consisted of representatives of the Departments of Finance and Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Forfás, Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Banking Federation and the six main banks involved in lending to SMEs, business representatives from ISME, Chambers Ireland and Small Firms Association. The final report of the Review of Lending to SMEs is available on my Department's website. The report made a series of recommendations including the further development of a framework for monitoring credit availability and measures to improve communications between the banks and SMEs. The report also suggests consideration of specific supports to ease the working capital requirements of SMEs, and measures to help investment levels in SMEs. A follow-up independent review of credit availability is currently underway and it is expected that it will be published shortly.

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

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

My colleague the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment 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.

Flood Relief.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

111 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which the Office of Public Works has studied recent flooding; the extent to which this has been caused by the interruption of existing drainage in the course of road building or other works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45226/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

113 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which drainage or flood alleviation works over the past five years have been adequate in the context of recent flooding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45228/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

114 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which he has studied flooding reports in various locations here; his plans to initiate or upgrade a regional drainage programme with a view to in the first instance targeting those most susceptible to flooding and areas most severely affected during recent heavy rainfalls; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45229/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 111, 113 and 114 together.

Since 2003, the Office of Public Works (OPW) has completed major flood relief schemes in Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary, Kilkenny City, River Tolka in Counties Dublin and Meath, Leixlip, Co. Kildare and the first phase of the River Dodder works in Dublin City. There have been no reports of any flooding taking place in these areas following the severe events of the last two weeks. In addition to these completed schemes, the first phase of three major schemes in Mallow, Co. Cork, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary and Ennis, Co. Clare are nearing completion. The scheme in Mallow, involving the erection of demountable defences upon receipt of a flood warning, and although not entirely completed, was thoroughly tested by the recent flood event, and proved an unqualified success. Similar sized flood events have caused major flooding to homes and businesses in Mallow in the past. The parts of the schemes substantially completed in Clonmel and Ennis has also reduced the impact of flooding in some areas previously prone to such flooding from events of this nature.

The first phase of the overall scheme for Fermoy, Co Cork has recently commenced construction, and is expected to be completed by the middle of 2010, which will provide protection to the northern side of the town. Other areas where construction is ongoing include Mornington, Co Meath, Newcastlewest, Co Limerick, Mullingar, Co Westmeath, and a further phase of the River Dodder, Dublin.

OPW also has a number of projects at tender stage for a civil works contractor, which includes further phases in Mallow, Clonmel and Ennis. It is anticipated that construction works on these schemes will commence early in 2010. Detailed design of the second phase of the Fermoy scheme is currently underway with construction expected to commence by the end of 2010, subject to the necessary funding being in place. In addition to these, OPW has a number of other schemes at various stages of planning. These include Templemore, Co Tipperary, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, Bray, Co Wicklow, Arklow, Co Wicklow and several others, smaller in nature.

OPW also introduced two initiatives in 2009 relating to minor river works and coastal protection works. Under these initiatives, OPW may provide financial and technical assistance to Local Authorities on their application to carry out studies or works to address small-scale flood problems in their respective areas. Funding has already been agreed under both these initiatives for 2009, and OPW will shortly be writing to the Local Authorities again inviting applications for 2010.

Since the severe flood events of the last two weeks, OPW has been collecting data on all flooded areas, including hydrometric information and aerial surveys. Available information to OPW indicates that the widespread flooding that occurred in recent weeks was caused mainly by unusually prolonged heavy rainfall, which exceeded the conveyance capacity of rivers and drainage infrastructure. The OPW implements a maintenance programme in respect of the channels for which the Office has a statutory maintenance responsibility. It is the opinion of the OPW that, in respect of these channels, while this programme of maintenance contributes to the moderation of flooding, the contribution would not have had a significant impact on the recent unprecedented level of flooding.

Since the publication of the report of the Flood Policy Review Group in 2004, which identified the OPW as the lead agency in relation to river based flood management in Ireland, subsequently added to from 1 January 2009 by its taking over responsibility for Coastal Erosion and Flood Risk, a number of Flood Risk Assessment and Management Studies have been commenced by OPW throughout the country. The objective of the studies is to develop, for River Basins throughout the country, Flood Risk Management Plans, where a significant flood risk exists or could arise, that define existing and foreseeable flood hazards and risks within a catchment and the methods, mechanisms, policies and proposals for managing the hazards and risks in a sustainable, integrated, pro-active and holistic manner. The objective is to have all Flood Risk Management Studies completed over the next six years, to coincide with dates set out in the EU Floods Directive, with the Lee CFRAM about to be placed on public display before the end of 2009.

OPW has also undertaken a number of other Programmes, including a Flood Hazard Mapping Programme, Flood Studies Update Programme, Public Awareness Programme, Flood Forecasting and Warning Programme, Strategic Hydro-Meteorological Review Programme, and Research and Development Programme. All of these Programmes will assist in addressing existing and future flood risk by helping to focus on a series of measures regarding sustainable flood prevention, protection and mitigation. The OPW is not aware of any flooding caused due to interruption to existing drainage, because of road building networks and other similar works around the country. Such matters would normally be addressed by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government or the Department of Transport, as the case may be.

Flood Relief.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

112 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the degree to which various flood remedial works undertaken throughout County Kildare have adequately withstood recent heavy rainfall; the extent to which he is prepared to initiate further works in terms of drainage and flood management; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45227/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

119 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the various locations throughout County Kildare which have been brought to his attention in the context of flooding arising from heavy rainfall in the past five years and to date in 2009; his plans or proposals to address this issue by way of strategic drainage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45234/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 112 and 119 together.

The OPW completed a flood relief scheme for the Shinkeen Stream, Hazelhatch, Co Kildare in 2002. The Commissioners of Public Works also obtained sanction from the Department of Finance to provide funding to Kildare County Council for a programme of minor flood alleviation works on the Lyreen and Meadowbrook Rivers in Maynooth and on the Morrell River in the Straffan area in June 2002. These works were carried out by the OPW, acting as agents to the Local Authority and were completed in 2003.

The Slate River in Allenwood, County Kildare forms part of the Rathangan Drainage District, and maintenance of this river is therefore a matter for the Local Authority. However, the OPW carried out some drainage works on the Slate River in 2003 as agents for Kildare County Council, and there are no proposals to carry out further works in this area. My Officials are advised that Kildare Co. Council have recently completed a 3-year cleaning programme on the Slate River.

The Office of Public Works funded a programme of flood defence works on the Rye River and the Silleachain Stream in Leixlip, Co. Kildare which were completed this year by the OPW on behalf of Kildare Co. Council, who were the contracting authority and have overall responsibility for the scheme. The OPW have also agreed to fund a programme of flood relief works for the Toni River in Celbridge, Co. Kildare under the Minor Flood Mitigation Works Scheme, and these works are currently underway, with completion due before Christmas 2009.

The aforementioned flood relief works have proved very successful, and as a consequence of these measures Leixlip, Maynooth, Celbridge and Hazelhatch experienced no fluvial flooding as a result of the recent rainfall. My Officials have also been advised by Kildare Co. Council that the flood relief works carried out on the Slate and Morrell Rivers helped to mitigate against the flooding in these areas.

Furthermore, the Commissioners of Public Works have agreed to allocate funding to complete a programme of flood alleviation works in the Johnstown area, provided Kildare Co. Council is successful in obtaining planning approval in accordance with Part 8 of the planning and development regulations for the scheme. I understand that this application will shortly be presented to the Local Authority for approval. It is also a prerequisite that the Local Authority resolve outstanding matters in relation to land acquisition and site investigation.

My Officials meet regularly with Kildare Co Council, and have discussed how best to prioritise the many areas in the region which have a history of flooding. As a result of these meetings, Kildare Co. County has submitted flood relief proposals for the Butterstream in Clane, and Confey in the Leixlip area, which will be considered by the OPW for inclusion in the programme of works for 2010. Areas such as Ardclough and the outstanding areas of the Morrell catchment have also been discussed, and it has been agreed that these will be considered as part of the overall strategy for dealing with the Liffey River Catchment. It is noted that preparatory work has commenced on the Liffey Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) study that forms part of the National CFRAM programme, and this is being rolled out in 2010.

Questions Nos. 113 and 114 answered with Question No. 111.

Disabled Drivers.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

115 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when it is expected to act on the recommendations of the interdepartmental group dealing with the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994; the status of the report; if immediate action is intended on foot of the recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45230/09]

A special Interdepartmental Review Group reviewed the operation of the Disabled Drivers Scheme. It examined the current benefits, the qualifying medical criteria, the Exchequer costs, relationship with other schemes and similar schemes in other countries. The report also made a number of recommendations, both immediate and long-term, referring respectively to the operation of the appeals process and options for the future development of the scheme. The Group's report is published on my Department's website. Some 13,000 people benefited under the scheme in 2008 at an overall estimated cost of €76 million. Any changes would have to be considered in the context of the annual Budget.

Fiscal Policy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

116 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if the measures taken in the 2009 budget were effective in terms of achieving their targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45231/09]

Over the last eighteen months the Government has taken action on a number of occasions, including the measures introduced in Budget 2009, to address the large gap which has opened up between revenue and expenditure as a result of the deterioration in the economic environment. The overall 2009 deficit position has been improved by the various measures the Government have taken by the order of 5% of GDP. That said a significant deficit still remains in the public finances which is currently being met by borrowing. It is not sustainable to continue to borrow at such a high-level in the medium to longer term and action must be taken to stabilise the deficit and then over the coming years reduce it. Budget 2010 is being framed in this context.

Questions Nos. 117 and 118 answered with Question No. 42.
Question No. 119 answered with Question No. 112.

Tax Collection.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

120 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if all arrears of tax paid by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare have been refunded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45235/09]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, based on the information available, the tax liability of the person concerned has been reviewed for the years 2005-2008 inclusive and tax overpaid has been refunded. In addition tax paid for 2009 has been refunded to the person concerned.

Tax Yield.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

121 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance the amount of revenue generated for the State in 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009 through the taxation of motor vehicles in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45281/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that figures to indicate the amount of revenue generated in the State through the taxation of motor vehicles are not available on a county basis. It is not possible therefore to produce the information requested by the Deputy.

National Asset Management Agency.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

122 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Finance his views on the confirmation that certain financial institutions covered under the National Asset Management Agency may not be using the NAMA bonds to obtain low interest credit from the European Central Bank for use in lending to small business; if he intends to issue guidance to the institutions regarding this matter; the alternative plans in place for providing credit to small business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45284/09]

My understanding is that the financial institutions in question expressed the view that there is not a shortage of credit available to business but that the risks taken by financial institutions must be compatible with the amount of capital they hold. Banks can currently access funds but the cost is higher than was previously the case. The banks' balance sheets will be stronger once NAMA has taken over the riskiest loans and replaced them with Government guaranteed bonds; this will give the banks greater access to liquidity and make long-term funding cheaper.

I would point out that the value of the NAMA bonds will far exceed the incremental borrowing requirements of business and it would not be realistic to expect all of this money to be loaned on. However, it is fair to assume that the banks should be in a better position to lend once the riskiest loans have been removed from their balance sheets and that viable businesses should expect a fair hearing when seeking funding. I intend to issue guidelines to participating institutions to ensure that this is the case. A core Government objective is to free up lending on a commercial basis into the economy to support economic growth and a number of actions have been taken to achieve this objective. In the context of the bank guarantee scheme and recapitalisation the banks have made important commitments to support business lending.

An independent review of credit availability was agreed in the context of the recapitalisation of AIB and Bank of Ireland. The purpose of the review was to ascertain the position on credit availability to SMEs in Ireland. The Steering Group for the review consisted of representatives of the Departments of Finance and Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Forfás, Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Banking Federation and the six main banks involved in lending to SMEs, business representatives from ISME, Chambers Ireland and Small Firms Association. The final report of the Review of Lending to SMEs is available on my Department's website. The report made a series of recommendations including the further development of a framework for monitoring credit availability and measures to improve communications between the banks and SMEs. The report also suggests consideration of specific supports to ease the working capital requirements of SMEs, and measures to help investment levels in SMEs. A follow-up independent review of credit availability is currently underway and it is expected that it will be published shortly.

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

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

My colleague the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment 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.

Flood Relief.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

123 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Finance the outcome of his approaches to the EU for funding for flood relief; the amount of funding that he anticipates will be forthcoming; the uses to which this funding will be put; which funds are being examined; when such funding will be in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45285/09]

Different Government departments and agencies have responsibilities for specific emergency planning functions. In the event of a major emergency, the most appropriate Department or agency is designated as the lead agency to co-ordinate the response to it. In relation to flooding, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is chairing the Emergency Response Coordination Committee which meets on a daily basis to handle the current emergency situation.

When more complete information on the scale and cost of the damage arising becomes available, full consideration will be given to ways of meeting these costs, including if appropriate, making application to the EU for financial support. My Department has been in contact with the Commission to establish eligibility criteria and the scale of funding that might be available. I am also informed that the Joint Committee on European Affairs is travelling to Brussels on Friday, 4 December to meet with the Commissioner for Regional Policy, Mr. Samecki to discuss the flooding situation and opportunities for assistance from the EU under the EU Solidarity Fund.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

124 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Finance the interim plans for flood relief that will be put in place in the coming months until the proposed consultants’ report is made available to the Office of Public Works; the particular initiatives that will form the consultants’ brief; the reasons for the March deadline for the appointment of the consultants; the period they will be required to report in; if these time lines can be speeded up; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45286/09]

The Office of Public Works has created a Flood Hazard Maps website, www.floodmaps.ie, which carries valuable historical data on flood events, mainly from local archives, and this should be used as an interim measure by Planners and the General Public, in seeking to avoid unsustainable development. In relation to the current flood events, the Commissioners of Public Works have commissioned aerial photography of the flood extents, and will process this information for inclusion on the flood maps website.

As part of its flood awareness programme, the OPW has also developed another website, www.flooding.ie, which gives practical help and advice to homes and businesses that have flooded, or are at risk of flooding. It contains detailed information on how to prepare for flooding, and how to minimise effects and safety advice in the event of flooding.

The Commissioners of Public Works are preparing to go to tender for consultants to carry out a strategic review to assess cost benefits and operational structures for a National Flood Warning System. The purpose of undertaking a strategic review of options for Flood Forecasting and Warning (FF&W) is to:

(A) Examine the potential benefits that FF&W could achieve.

(B) Identify and assess the options for the delivery of such a service in Ireland, and

(C) To develop an appropriate and sustainable strategy for FF&W in Ireland.

The work will be undertaken by suitably qualified and experienced Consultants, procured following compliance with National or European rules, with the Office of Public Works funding the project and managing the review. A Steering Group involving the relevant stakeholders will participate in the review process, and time lines will be determined therefrom.

Financial Services Regulation.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

125 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the remuneration plan for a bank (details supplied) as prepared for him by the covered institutions remuneration oversight committee; if this plan has been amended; the value of the remuneration packages for the incoming executive chairman and managing director; the duration of the contracts; if bonus payments are contractual or discretionary; if incentive payments are payable under the remuneration plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45287/09]

As the Deputy is aware, the specified bank submitted its Remuneration plan to the Covered Institutions Remuneration Committee (CIROC) whose report was placed before the House on 13 March 2009. The Government considers the CIROC recommendations regarding remuneration of chief executives including bonuses, pensions, long term incentive plans, which includes stock options, are appropriate but that basic salary level should be capped at €500,000 or the salary amount recommended by CIROC which ever is the lower. Any deviation from this should be in exceptional circumstances and with my agreement and this position has not changed.

The Deputy will be aware that in the case at hand I have intervened in the matter of the level of salary for the incoming managing director to ensure that it is in line with the CIROC recommendations and the Government's cap on basic salary of €500,000. Furthermore the subscription agreement stipulates that no bonus payments are payable to senior executives for performance in 2009 and 2010. I have not yet been approached regarding the Executive Chairman's salary arising from his interim appointment to facilitate the completion of the key tasks of capital raising, the implementation of NAMA and the specified Bank's restructuring plan which is currently being agreed with the EU Commission. It is planned at this stage that senior management structures will be reviewed in mid-2010.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Jack Wall

Question:

126 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if the National Treatment Purchase Fund has investigated an application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45063/09]

The primary remit of the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) is to facilitate treatment for those public patients waiting longest for surgery. At the end of November there were ninety-three patients waiting for longer than 12 months for surgery at Tallaght Hospital. The NTPF is working with the hospital to facilitate treatment for these patients quickly and thereafter to focus on patients waiting for less than twelve months. The NTPF will endeavour to facilitate the person whose case the Deputy has raised with treatment as soon as possible, while at the same time fulfilling its mandate in relation to persons waiting longest for treatment. It is open to the patient's general practitioner to contact the hospital about his case, if he is of the opinion that his condition merits more immediate attention.

Medical Cards.

Joe Costello

Question:

127 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1 who applied for a medical card in February 2009 and has not received an outcome; if an interim card will be provided in view of the length of time since the application was made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45065/09]

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

Nursing Homes Support Scheme.

Billy Timmins

Question:

128 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the fair deal scheme (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45081/09]

Under the legislation, any income or assets transferred within the five years prior to applying for the scheme are taken into account in the financial assessment. This is not a new concept; the same measure was in place under the subvention scheme.

However, the legislation also includes a provision, which only applies to items transferred prior to the 9th October 2008 (i.e. the date of publication of the Bill), that enables people to appeal the inclusion of transferred income/assets in the financial assessment. The applicant may apply to have transferred income/assets excluded from the financial assessment on the basis that their inclusion would cause undue financial hardship to themselves, their spouse/partner or their child under the age of 21.

Hospital Staff.

John O'Mahony

Question:

129 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a consultant urologist at the University College Hospital, Galway was moved to County Dublin. [45095/09]

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

Hospital Waiting Lists.

John O'Mahony

Question:

130 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children the waiting time to have an appointment to have an EEG scan carried out in University College Hospital, Galway. [45096/09]

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

Nursing Homes Support Scheme.

Billy Timmins

Question:

131 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a matter (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45099/09]

As of the 27th October 2009, new entrants to long-term nursing home care can only avail of financial support under the Nursing Homes Support Scheme. Individuals who were in long-term nursing home care prior to that date can retain their existing arrangements or they can apply for the new scheme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

132 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons approved in each primary, community and continuing care area under the fair deal scheme in November 2009; the number of persons already resident in a nursing home in each case; the number of applications pending in each PCCC; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45100/09]

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

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

133 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the options available to a person (details supplied) in County Cork, told by Health Service Executive south to expect a decision on treatment within three weeks of 2 October 2009 but who is still untreated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45104/09]

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

Community Care.

Denis Naughten

Question:

134 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 83 of 18 June 2009, the status of the development project for a community hospital, day care unit and primary care centre; the breakdown of these costings to include the funding estimated for each of the facilities; the timetable for construction; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45110/09]

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

Hospital Staff.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

135 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of operations which have been cancelled in Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan, County Meath, due to lack of available staff; the number of staff vacancies in the hospital; the location in the hospital at which these vacancies exist; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45120/09]

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

Hospital Charges.

Richard Bruton

Question:

136 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the changes made on drug refund and on casualty attendance on a bed night in a public, private or semi private ward; and the provisions she has made for changes to these charges in the pre-budget estimates. [45153/09]

Decisions in relation to the matters referred to by the Deputy are a matter for Government to be considered as part of the Estimates and budgetary process. I am not in a position to comment on such matters at this stage.

Hospital Staff.

Michael Moynihan

Question:

137 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of career breaks granted to nursing staff in Tralee General Hospital, County Kerry, since February 2009. [45155/09]

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

Medical Cards.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

138 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application for an over 70 years medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [45162/09]

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

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

139 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application for an over 70 years medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [45164/09]

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

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

140 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; if she will support this case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45174/09]

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

Health Services.

Michael McGrath

Question:

141 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children when a child (details supplied) in County Cork will begin receiving speech and language therapy. [45206/09]

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

Michael McGrath

Question:

142 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children with autism who have been referred to the Brothers of Charity Southern Services for speech and language therapy for 2006, 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009; the length of time it has taken from diagnosis to the commencement of speech and language services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45207/09]

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

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Jack Wall

Question:

143 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive an appointment under the National Treatment Purchase Fund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45219/09]

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

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

144 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45237/09]

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

145 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will be awarded in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45238/09]

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

Hospital Accommodation.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

146 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of alcohol and drug addiction detox beds here; the location of each; the waiting list in each case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45266/09]

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

Health Services.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

147 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children awaiting hearing tests per Health Service Executive region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45267/09]

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

Hospital Services.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

148 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason universal newborn hearing screening is not available at hospitals here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45268/09]

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

Sean Sherlock

Question:

149 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children when universal newborn hearing screening will be available in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45269/09]

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

Departmental Properties.

Michael Ring

Question:

150 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Transport the legal position with a facility (details supplied) in County Mayo; the reason for the delay; the person who is dealing with the problem; and when it will be resolved. [45135/09]

Michael Ring

Question:

151 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether it is fair that a group providing a service cannot use a facility (details supplied) in County Mayo. [45136/09]

Michael Ring

Question:

152 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Transport the reason a facility (details supplied) in County Mayo cannot be used on a temporary basis while legal and contractual matters are being resolved. [45137/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 150 to 152, inclusive, together.

Legal and contractual matters are in the course of being resolved in order to allow the group in question to move into the facility referred to. A Caretakers Agreement which would allow of use the building pending the resolution of the legal difficulties was forwarded by the Chief State Solicitor's Office to Mayo County Council.

I have asked, and been assured that, the outstanding issues will be dealt with in the appropriate manner, as quickly as possible.

Road Network.

Jack Wall

Question:

153 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Transport if he has provided funding to a road project (details supplied) since the concept of the road was determined; the funding allocated; the amount in each year; if funding was drawn from a EU source for this project; if agreement was sought from him or his Department by the local authority regarding security or permission to secure or draw down loans or funding in relation to the project; if permission had to be granted by him or his Department for the development of the road; the cost of the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45178/09]

The Department paid Kildare County Council €17,840,661 in respect of the Naas Southern Ring Road in the years 2001 to 2008 and allocated €3,680,183 for this project in 2009. A breakdown of that funding is set out in the following table.

Table

Year

2001

9,142

2002

460,319

2003

541,700

2004

463,624

2005

2,664,655

2006

1,585,884

2007

2,115,337

2008

10,000,000

2009 Allocation*

3,680,183

The project had expenditure of €882,613 eligible for 50% EU co-financing under the Non-National Roads Measure of the Southern and Eastern Regional Operational Programme 2000– 2006. The EU grant aid accrued directly to the Exchequer, the local authority having received this aid through State road grants.

Earlier this year my Department approved a loan application from Naas Town Council. The approval allows the Council to seek a loan of €8 million to progress the regional and local road element of the Naas Ring Roads, of which the Naas Southern Ring Road is a part.

Jack Wall

Question:

154 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Transport if his Department or the National Roads Authority has provided funding to a road project (details supplied) since the concept of the road was determined; the funding allocated; the amount in each year; if funding was drawn from an EU source regarding the project; if agreement was sought from him or his Department by the local authority regarding security or permission to secure or draw down loans or funding in relation to the project; if permission had to be granted by him or his Department for the development of the road; if so, the cost of the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45181/09]

Kildare County Council has applied to my Department for funding for the Athy Southern Relief Road under the Department's regional and local road strategic grants scheme. All applications received for funding under the scheme will be considered, having regard to compliance with eligibility criteria, the need to prioritise projects, competing demands from other local authorities and the funds available for the scheme in 2010. The 2010 regional and local road grant allocations will be announced early next year.

Work Permits.

Michael Ring

Question:

155 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the expected completion time for an application to extend a work permit for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [45071/09]

I have been informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that they received an application from the person referred to by the Deputy on 7 August 2009 and that a letter approving further permission to remain in the State was issued to that person on 30 November 2009. This permission should enable the person referred to, to apply for a work permit.

Domestic Violence.

Joe Costello

Question:

156 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the estimated number of women who experience physical abuse here today; the State funding that is targeted at this problem; the range of services that are available nationwide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45157/09]

Empirical data on which one can rely in relation to this serious issue is difficult to obtain. According to the National Study of Domestic Abuse published by the National Crime Council in 2005, 13% of women, who participated in the study, reported suffering physical abuse or minor physical incidents at some stage or on some occasion over the course of their lifetime.

The bulk of direct funding in relation to domestic violence service provision is provided by the Health Service Executive which funds the core work of non-governmental organisations' support services in this sector. In addition the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government provides funding through the local authorities for the capital and maintenance costs of women's refuges and other crisis accommodation. The Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs also has domestic violence-related expenditure under its Community Development Programme.

In 2008 the HSE spent approximately €20m. on domestic violence-related services. The same year the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government spent €2,188,294 on such services and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs spent €204,894.

The direct funding of €2,261,000 by my Department in 2008 relates to activities such as awareness raising by support services at local level and perpetrator intervention programmes. The Deputy should note that, although such funding includes funding in relation to sexual violence services, in 2008 most of the funding related to domestic violence, which may of course include sexual violence occurring in the domestic context. In addition, the Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime, which is under the aegis of my Department, provides funding to domestic violence groups for court accompaniment, and granted €416,625 for this purpose in 2008. The Deputy will be aware that there is also other significant expenditure, supporting activity in the wider Justice sector which contributes to preventing or dealing with the consequences of domestic violence, but which cannot be quantified.

A wide range of services are available to women victims of domestic violence. In addition to the services provided by State agencies such as the Garda Síochána and the HSE, there are 19 support services providing crisis/emergency accommodation at refuge facilities. Other supports provided at these facilities include counselling; court accompaniment; advocacy; telephone helpline; outreach; and referrals to other appropriate services. A further 28 support services provide non-refuge support, information and advocacy for women victims of domestic violence.

The Deputy may also be aware that Cosc, the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence, was established within my Department in June, 2007. Cosc's remit is to provide a whole-of-Government response to domestic, sexual and gender-based violence in relation to women and men, including older people living in the community. Cosc's main priority is the drafting of a National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence, which is expected to be submitted to Government early in 2010. The Strategy will set out a cohesive plan to further develop actions to prevent and respond to this violence.

Work Permits.

Jack Wall

Question:

157 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is not allowed to work in view of the fact that the person has supplied new medical evidence to the Garda. [45205/09]

I have requested a report from the Garda authorities on the matter referred to by the Deputy and I will be in contact with the Deputy when the report is to hand.

Departmental Query.

Martin Ferris

Question:

158 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason a person (details supplied) was recently refused entry here. [45213/09]

I have been informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that they have requested the information sought by the Deputy from the Garda Authorities. The Immigration Division will be in contact with the Deputy when this information is to hand.

Rent Reviews.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

159 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if section 132 of the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 dealing with the removal of the upward only restriction on rent reviews has been implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45214/09

I can inform the Deputy that Section 132 will come into force on 28 February 2010 (Statutory Instrument No. 471 of 2009 refers).

Visa Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

160 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a visitor’s visa will be renewed in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45239/09]

Based on the information provided by the Deputy the Visa Office has no record of a current visa application connected to the person referred to.

It is, however, open to all persons resident outside the State and who require a visa to complete an on-line visa application form for the appropriate visa. Comprehensive information when making a visa application, inclusive of details with regard to the required supporting documents, is available on the website of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (www.inis.gov.ie). Each visa application is considered on its individual merits with the onus resting with the applicant to satisfy the Visa Officer as to why a visa should be granted.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

161 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the matter of residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45240/09]

I have been informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that an application for a "Without Condition As To Time" endorsement, otherwise know as a Stamp 5, was received from the person in question on the 12 November 2009. The application was processed and an approval letter was issued and forwarded by registered post to the person in question on the 26 November 2009. Records from An Post show that the letter was delivered and received on the 27 November 2009.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

162 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will give consideration on humanitarian grounds for extended residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45241/09]

The first named person concerned applied for asylum on 18 May 2005. She gave birth to a child in the State in 2005 and this child was included in her mother's asylum application. In accordance with Section 9 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended), she was entitled to remain in the State until her application for asylum was decided. Her asylum application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Arising from the refusal of her asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the first named person concerned was informed, by letter dated 25 August 2006, that the Minister proposed to make Deportation Orders in respect of her and her child. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of Deportation Orders or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she and her child should not have Deportation Orders made against them. Representations were submitted on behalf of the first named person concerned at that time. She was subsequently informed of her entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006).

An application for Subsidiary Protection in the State has been submitted on behalf of the first named person concerned and this application is currently under consideration. When this consideration has been completed, the first named person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the application for Subsidiary Protection is refused, the position in the State of the first named person concerned will then be decided by reference to the provisions of Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. All representations submitted will be considered before the file is passed to me for decision. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the first named person concerned.

The second person referred to, a minor, arrived in the State on 24 April 2006. He was reunited with his mother soon after. He applied for asylum on 29 May 2006. In accordance with Section 9 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended), he was entitled to remain in the State until his application for asylum was decided. His asylum application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Arising from the refusal of his asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the second person referred to was notified, by letter dated 29 January 2008, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006).

The second person referred to submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, he will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the application for Subsidiary Protection is refused, the position in the State of the second person referred to will then be decided by reference to the provisions of Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. All representations submitted, including those of the nature referred to by the Deputy, will be considered before the file is passed to me for decision. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the second person referred to.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

163 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will consider granting extended residency on humanitarian grounds in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45242/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 14 January 2005. In accordance with Section 9 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended), the person concerned was entitled to remain in the State until his application for asylum was decided. His asylum application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Arising from the refusal of his asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 22 April 2008, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006).

The person concerned initiated Judicial Review Proceedings in the High Court challenging the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal in his case. On 31 July 2009, the High Court refused the Judicial Review Leave Application with the consequence that the earlier decisions of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal and the Minister stood.

The position in the State of the person concerned now falls to be decided by reference to the provisions of Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. All representations submitted will be considered before the file is passed to me for decision. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

164 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45243/09]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in July 2007.

Processing of the file has been completed and I have reached a decision. The person in question will be informed of that decision in the near future.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

165 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if consideration will be given to extend residency or entertain an application for citizenship in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45244/09]

The first and second named persons concerned applied for asylum on 1 March 2004 and 18 March 2008 respectively. In accordance with Section 9 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended), the first and second persons concerned were entitled to remain in the State until their applications for asylum were decided. Their asylum applications were refused following consideration of their individual cases by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Arising from the refusal of the first named person's asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), he was informed, by letter dated 13 September 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should not have a Deportation Order made against him. Representations were submitted on behalf of the first named person concerned at that time.

The first named person concerned was subsequently informed of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006).

An application for Subsidiary Protection in the State has been submitted on behalf of the first named person concerned and this application is currently under consideration in my Department. When this consideration has been completed, the first named person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the application for Subsidiary Protection is refused, the position in the State of the first named person concerned will then be decided by reference to the provisions of Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. All representations submitted will be considered before the file is passed to me for decision. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the first named person concerned.

Arising from the refusal of the second named person's asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), she was notified, by letter dated 27 August 2009, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against her. In addition, she was notified of her entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006).

The position in the State of the second named person concerned now falls to be decided by reference to the provisions of Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. All representations submitted will be considered before the file is passed to me for decision. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the second named person concerned.

The Deputy might wish to note that as neither of the persons concerned are legally resident in the State, the issue of citizenship does not arise at this time.

Deportation Orders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

166 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review the deportation proposal in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45245/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 4 December 2006. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 29 May 2009, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State.

On 30 June 2009 the person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006). Following consideration of the information submitted, the application was refused. The person concerned and her legal representative were notified of this decision by letter dated 10 November 2009.

Her case was then examined under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999, (as amended), and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended), on the Prohibition of Refoulement. Consideration was given to representations submitted on her behalf by her legal representative for permission to remain in the State. On 18 November 2009, I refused permission to remain temporarily in the State and instead signed a Deportation Order in respect of her. Notice of this order was served by registered post requiring the person concerned to leave the State by 12 December 2009.

I am satisfied that the applications made by the person concerned for asylum, for temporary leave to remain in the State and for Subsidiary Protection, together with all refoulement issues, were fairly and comprehensively examined and, as such, the decision to deport her is justified.

The effect of the Deportation Order is that the person concerned must leave the State and remain thereafter out of the State.

The enforcement of the Deportation Order is an operational matter for the GNIB.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

167 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding residency or citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45246/09]

I wish to inform the Deputy that the person in question was granted permission to remain in the State, as a family dependant, in line with permission granted to her sister. She registered with the Garda National Immigration Bureau on 15 February, 2008 and her permission to remain is currently valid until 15 February, 2010.

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

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

168 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45247/09]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 23 April 2004 and applied for asylum on 25 November 2004. She subsequently gave birth to a child in the State, and this child was included in his mother's asylum application. In accordance with Section 9 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended), the person concerned was entitled to remain in the State until her application for asylum was decided. Her asylum application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Arising from the refusal of her asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 6 March 2008, that the Minister proposed to make Deportation Orders in respect of her and her child. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of Deportation Orders or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why Deportation Orders should not be made against her and her child. In addition, she was notified of her entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006).

The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the application for Subsidiary Protection is refused, the position in the State of the person concerned will then be decided by reference to the provisions of Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. All representations submitted will be considered before the file is passed to me for decision. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

169 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when residency or stamp four will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45248/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum in the State on 21 April 1997. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the then Asylum Division of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and, on appeal, the then Asylum Appeals Unit of the Department. The person concerned was informed in writing of this latter decision by letter dated 1 November 2000.

On 3 September 1999, the person concerned made an application for permission to remain in the State on the basis of his parentage of an Irish born child. However, this application was deemed to be abandoned as the person concerned failed to respond to letters from my Department requesting documentation to support his application.

In light of the fact that the person concerned appeared to have left the State, his case was not subsequently finalised. However, in an effort to bring his case to completion, my Department wrote to the person concerned on 18 September 2009 requesting detailed information from him relating to his personal and family circumstances as well as documentary evidence to attest to the periods he had been in the State and, by extension, was outside the State. The person concerned has responded to this communication and this response will be considered as part of the overall consideration of the case of the person concerned under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this consideration has been completed, the file is passed to me for decision. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

Asylum Support Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

170 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a person (details supplied) in County Cork will transfer to self-catering accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45249/09]

The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) has no record of a request from this family to transfer from their current accommodation. If the family wish to apply for a transfer, they may do so by writing directly to the RIA at RIA Operations,P.O. Box 11487, Dublin 2. If an application for a transfer is made, it will be duly considered by the RIA.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

171 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the residency status and the right to work without a work permit in the case of persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45250/09]

In relation to the first named person concerned, according to my Department's records, he was never the recipient of a Work Permit. He was, however, following the rejection of his asylum application, granted permission to remain temporarily in the State under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended). The first named person concerned has recently applied for the renewal of his permission to remain in the State which expires on 13 December 2009. This application is currently under consideration and the first named person concerned will be informed in writing when a decision has been made.

In relation to the second named person concerned, an application for Long Term Residency was submitted on her behalf on 7 July 2009. I am informed that Long Term Residency applications received in July 2008 are being processed at present. This being the case, it is likely that further processing of the application of the second named person concerned will commence around mid-2010.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

172 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the residency status in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45251/09]

The first named person concerned applied for asylum on 2 February 2005. In accordance with Section 9 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended), the person concerned was entitled to remain in the State until his application for asylum was decided. His asylum application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Arising from the refusal of his asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the first named person concerned was notified, by letter dated 30 September 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him.

Representations have been received on behalf of the first named person concerned and these representations will be fully considered, under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, before the file is passed to me for decision. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the first named person concerned.

In relation to the second named person concerned, the Deputy will appreciate that it is not the practice to comment on individual asylum applications where a final decision has not been made. However, the Deputy may wish to note that where an asylum application is made, the outcome of that application is determined at first instance by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

173 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will consider extended residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; if he will defer deportation at this time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45252/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 6 May 2004. Her daughter was born in the State on 12 May 2004 and is an Irish citizen. This person notified my Department that she wished to withdraw her asylum application as she was returning to Nigeria. It appears that she left the State in June 2004. Her asylum application was refused thereafter.

This person returned to the State with her daughter in or around February 2005. Her son was born in the State on 20 June 2005. Her application for permission to remain under the IBC 2005 scheme was refused on 8 December 2005. Following consideration of all representations for leave to remain submitted on their behalf, I signed Deportation Orders in respect of the persons concerned on 4 February 2009.

In relation to the second person concerned, it is not the practice to comment on individual asylum applications.

As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted.

The recommendation of the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner is currently the subject of ongoing judicial review proceedings. There are also separate judicial review proceedings challenging the decision to make the Deportation Orders.

As both matters are sub judice, I cannot comment further.

Garda Investigations.

George Lee

Question:

174 Deputy George Lee asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of incidents recorded on the Garda PULSE system in November 2009 in the vicinity of a licensed premises (details supplied) in Dublin 14 during and shortly after its opening hours; the breakdown of these incidents by category; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45270/09]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that matters relating to the premises referred to by the Deputy are currently before the District Court. It would, therefore, be inappropriate for me to comment on the matter at this time.

Human Rights Issues.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

175 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the recent arrest by Israeli authorities of a person (details supplied) at the border terminal between Jordan and the occupied West Bank; his further views on reports that this person has not been charged with a crime, which has led their lawyers to believe that the person is being held due to advocacy work; if this matter has been raised with the Israeli Government and its representatives here; and the steps being taken to seek the immediate and unconditional release of this person. [45175/09]

The person referred to by the Deputy is a Palestinian activist on political and human rights issues, who was arrested on 22 September on returning to the West Bank from Jordan, following a visit to Norway and other countries. He has been held since then in administrative detention. The Irish Missions in Israel and Palestine, and the EU Presidency and other partners, have been following the case against him, but full information on the circumstances is not yet available. The allegations against him have not been made public, but appear to have been based on security issues rather than any clearly criminal acts. It is suggested that he may be alleged to have been in contact with banned militant groups while abroad, but the absence of information has, not surprisingly, given rise to a widespread suspicion that his advocacy work may have been a factor in the action taken against him.

I understand that the process against him concluded with a final hearing before a judge on 25 November, at which he was sentenced to three months of administrative detention. While detention orders are often renewed, the judge in this case set a release date of 22 December. It is open to the individual concerned to appeal this verdict in a military court.

This case is only one of over 300 cases of Palestinians held in administrative detention, many held under short term orders which are regularly renewed. Over 100 of these detainees have been held for more than a year. While there may be a need in the context of the security situation in the Middle East for strong police powers, it is clear that the system of administrative detention, as operated on such a wide scale and in virtual secrecy, is wide open to abuse and to the suspicion of abuse. Our views on this system, and on other human rights issues pertaining to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, have been frequently conveyed to the Israeli authorities.

Sports Funding.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

176 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the plans in place to ensure the continuation and sustainability of the sports inclusion disability officer programme in County Meath for 2010; if his attention has been drawn to the achievements of the sports inclusion disability officer programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45119/09]

Special funding of €2.5 million was allocated from the dormant accounts fund for the appointment of 20 Sports Inclusion Development Officers (SIDOs) in Local Sports Partnerships (LSPs) in 2008. The SIDOs were appointed on two-year contracts to provide opportunities for persons with a disability to participate in sport and physical activity.

A network of 33 LSPs have been set up throughout the country by the Irish Sports Council (ISC) to coordinate and promote sport at local level especially amongst specific target groups such as older people, girls and women, people with disabilities, unemployed people, and those who live in identified disadvantaged communities. The special dormant accounts funding was in addition to the annual funding provided to the LSPs by the ISC for programmes and initiatives aimed at increasing participation in recreational sport. The ISC has allocated €6 million to the LSPs in 2009.

The continuation of the SIDO scheme from 2010 will be dependent on the outcome of the 2010 Estimates deliberations.

Inland Waterways.

Frank Feighan

Question:

177 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the procedures in place for the removal of sewage from cruisers on the Shannon navigation; and the locations of same. [45185/09]

I am informed by Waterways Ireland that there are 22 pump-outs at 15 locations on the Shannon which boat users can use to dispose of sewerage. Six (6) of these are operated by Waterways Ireland and nine (9) are operated by Local Authorities. Details of the locations are set out in the following table.

A programme of upgrading Local Authority pump-outs has been initiated with assistance of Fáilte Éireann to provide a consistent standard throughout the navigation. Once this programme has been completed, responsibility for their operation will transfer to Waterways Ireland.

County

Mode

Managed By

Drumshanbo

Leitrim

Smart card

Waterways Ireland

Boyle

Roscommon

Smart card

Waterways Ireland

Carrick-on-Shannon (2)

Leitrim

Smart card

Leitrim Co. Co.

Dromod

Leitrim

Smart card

Leitrim Co. Co.

Lanesboro

Roscommon

Operative on site

Roscommon Co. Co.

Ballyleague

Roscommon

Smart Card

Waterways Ireland

Athlone (2)

Westmeath

Operative on site

Westmeath Co. Co.

Shannonbridge (2)

Offaly

Operative on site

Offaly Co. Co.

Portrunny

Roscommon

Smart card

Waterways Ireland

Portumna (2)

Galway

Smart card

Galway Co. Co.

Mountshannon (3-2 connected)

Clare

Smart card

Clare Co. Co.

Dromineer (2)

Tipperary NR

Smart card

Tipperary (NR) Co. Co.

Garrykennedy

Tipperary NR

Smart card

Waterways Ireland

Scarriff

Clare

Smart card

Waterways Ireland

Ballina (Killaloe) (2)

Tipperary NR

Smart card

Tipperary (NR) Co. Co.

Grant Payments.

Michael Ring

Question:

178 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if funding will continue for wages of staff and the overheads involved in projects (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45159/09]

I wish to refer the Deputy to my reply to question number 105 of 24th September 2009.

As I indicated then, contracts will be renewed subject to the availability of sufficient funding and the satisfactory performance of projects. Funding for the Community Services Programme will be finalised in the Estimates and budgetary strategy for 2010.

Projects have been informed that the position with regard to the level of future funding will be clarified following the Budget on the 9th December 2009.

Question No. 179 withdrawn.

Social Insurance.

Richard Bruton

Question:

180 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the estimated yield from employers PRSI and total PRSI in 2009. [45149/09]

The estimated yield for the employers PRSI of €5,216 million and total PRSI of €7,500 million is expected to be on target and similar to the published Revised Estimate Volume for 2009.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Michael Ring

Question:

181 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if an appeal has been opened on behalf of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [45068/09]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal has been received in this case and, in accordance with statutory requirements, the person concerned has been requested to forward his grounds of appeal.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office is an office of the Department that is independently responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Michael Ring

Question:

182 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be approved and awarded jobseeker’s allowance. [45074/09]

The person concerned applied for jobseeker's benefit on 24th July, 2009. Before a decision could be given on his claim, his entitlement to credited social insurance contributions had to be investigated. That investigation has now been concluded. His claim is currently with a Deciding Officer for decision. A decision will be made as soon as possible and he will be notified of the outcome.

Under Social Welfare legislation decisions in relation to claims must be made by Deciding Officers and Appeals Officers. These officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.

Humanitarian Assistance Scheme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

183 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the means assessment for the flooding hardship fund; the criteria to be considered for eligibility; if it will be extended to businesses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45083/09]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

189 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the action she will take to alleviate the hardship caused by the flooding of the Shannon area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45141/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 183 and 189 together.

The Government recognises the devastation suffered by people in many areas of the country as a result of the recent floods.

Community Welfare Service staff throughout the country have been providing substantial support to families every day since this flooding occurred. They have already provided emergency financial and other assistance to households affected by the flooding to cover items such as clothing, food, bedding, heating, hire of dehumidifiers and emergency accommodation needs. Community Welfare Officers have made over 470 initial emergency payments to people in areas impacted by flooding; the average payment made was €300. They will continue to make these payments as long as there is a need.

In addition to this, a Humanitarian Assistance Scheme is being set up to provide means-tested financial support to people who have suffered damages to their homes. An initial sum of €10million has been set aside by the Government for this purpose.

As the flood waters abate and people assess the full extent of the damage to their homes, qualified households can claim for essential household items such as carpets, flooring, furniture and white goods. Assistance will also be available for structural repairs to homes not covered by household insurance.

Humanitarian assistance is not an alternative to insurance in cases where household insurance was available on a reasonable basis. All of the main insurance companies have 24 hour, 7 day a week dedicated phone help lines in place to assist people to make claims under their household insurance policies. Depending on the nature of the insurance policy held, some companies may make advance payments to help people replace their most important belongings immediately. Insurance companies have undertaken to process claims as quickly as possible. Where insurance cover is not available because of previous flooding claims, a person may receive humanitarian assistance.

Costs of medical treatment and supplies may also be considered in determining assistance where medical cover is not already in place i.e. private health insurance or medical card.

The level of payment available under the aid scheme to any qualified individual will depend on the severity of the damage to that person's home and the extent of the loss experienced as well as household income and general family circumstances.

The scheme will provide hardship alleviation as opposed to full compensation. As on previous occasions, commercial or business losses will not be covered by the scheme nor will losses which are covered by household insurance. Applications under the scheme will be means tested to ensure that available assistance will be prioritised for those who are most vulnerable. Aid will not cover damage to private rented accommodation or local authority accommodation, though humanitarian assistance may be considered in the case of a tenant's personal belongings.

The basic principle of the means test will be to determine the household's capacity to meet the costs of restoring their home to a habitable condition. All household income will be considered when determining entitlement to payment. However, account will be taken of outgoings such as rent or mortgage payments, other loans and travel to work costs. In addition to the means test, other factors will also be considered by the Community Welfare Service in assessing individual applications, including: Whether the applicant is or was homeless as a result of the flooding. Age profile of family members i.e. babies, young children or elderly persons. Availability of support from the wider family; and The special needs that people may have as a result of illness or disability.

People seeking assistance should contact their local Community Welfare Office. Further information and applications forms in relation to the Humanitarian Assistance Scheme are available from the Community Welfare Service in the affected areas and from the Department's website ( www.welfare.ie ) and the HSE's website (www.hse.ie).

While this scheme is not intended to provide full compensation for all losses and damage it will go towards alleviating the hardship which many hundreds of families have had to endure.

Pension Provisions.

Michael McGrath

Question:

184 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason, in order to qualify for the contributory State pension, a person must have started to pay social insurance before the age of 56 years even if they are in a position to meet the contributions requirements between the age of 56 years and retirement age. [45097/09]

In order to qualify for a state pension (contributory), there are a number of minimum qualifying conditions that must be met. A person must have a minimum of 260 paid social insurance contributions, a yearly average of at least 10 contributions paid or credited since entry into social insurance, and must have entered social insurance at least 10 years before state pension age. From 6 April 2012, a minimum of 520 paid contributions will be required.

These conditions have been designed to ensure that those qualifying for payment have an adequate and sustained history of contributions to the social insurance fund over their working lives.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Joan Burton

Question:

185 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of persons in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance or benefit at any point during 2009 who stopped receiving their allowance due to the fact that they took up a new employment or a change in their means or they left the labour force or for other reasons; if she will provide comparative numbers for 2006, 2007 and 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45111/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

186 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of applications for either jobseeker’s benefit or allowance which were refused to date in 2009; if she will provide comparative numbers for 2006, 2007 and 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45112/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

187 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of persons who moved from jobseeker’s benefit to jobseeker’s allowance to date in 2009; if she will provide the comparative numbers for 2006, 2007 and 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45113/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 185 to 187, inclusive, together.

I set out below two tabular statements containing the information requested by the deputy. Table 1 shows the outflows from the Live Register for each of the years from 2006 to date. The second table contains data relating to the number of jobseeker claim applications that were disallowed in each of those years.

Statistics for those who moved from jobseekers benefit to jobseekers allowance are not maintained. There are two scenarios where claimants can move from jobseekers benefit to jobseekers allowance. All claimants whose benefit claim is about to expire are offered the opportunity to be means tested and to claim jobseekers allowance. Those found to have no entitlement are advised to sign for jobseekers credits. The second scenario is where it is more beneficial for claimants to opt to be paid jobseekers allowance instead of jobseekers benefit. This occurs where the claimant may only have an entitlement to a graduated rate of JB which is based on their average earnings in the governing year.

Table 1: Outflows from the Live Register

Year

Number

2006

274,420

2007

281,230

2008

328,908

2009

461,326

27/11/2009

Table 2: Applications for Jobseeker's Allowance & Jobseeker's Benefit received and refused in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 to October 31st.

2006

JA

JB

Total

Claims Registered

114,437

166,068

280,505

Total Disallowances

10,024

4,401

14,425

2007

JA

JB

Total

Claims Registered

119,886

184,096

303,982

Total Disallowances

10,711

4,803

15,514

2008

JA

JB

Total

Claims Registered

169,879

294,880

464,759

Total Disallowances

12,996

5,789

18,785

2009 to 31st October

JA

JB

Total

Claims Registered

229,882

317,763

547,645

Total Disallowances

17,288

5,217

22,505

Social Welfare Appeals.

Joe Behan

Question:

188 Deputy Joe Behan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will support the case of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45123/09]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal from the person concerned was received on 16 October 2009 and in accordance with the statutory requirements, the relevant Departmental papers and comments of the Social Welfare Services on the matters raised in the appeal were sought. When received, the appeal in question will be referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office is an office of the Department that is independently responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Question No. 189 answered with Question No. 183.

Social Insurance.

Richard Bruton

Question:

190 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the provisions she has made in the 2010 pre budget estimates for a change in the thresholds or ceilings for social insurance payments. [45151/09]

The question of adjusting thresholds and ceilings for social insurance payments will be considered in the context of the forthcoming budget.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

191 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when one parent family allowance will be payable in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45253/09]

The person concerned claimed one parent family payment from 08 September 2009. One of the qualifying conditions for receipt of one parent family payment is that a person must be habitually resident in the state. A deciding officer decided that she is not habitually resident in the state.

The person concerned was notified of the decision on 02 December 2009 and of her right to appeal against the decision within 21 days of the notification.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

192 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when child benefit will be payable in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45254/09]

A claim in respect of Child Benefit was received from the person concerned, who is Slovakian, on 11th September 2009. She has lived in Ireland since September 2007 and, in that period, had been employed for one year up until October 2008. The claim was disallowed on October 14th 2009 on the grounds that she does not satisfy the Habitual Residence Condition. She was notified in writing of this decision on October 15th 2009 and advised of her right to appeal, which to date she has not exercised.

She has also had a claim for Jobseeker's Allowance disallowed on the grounds of Habitual Residence.

It is open to the claimant to appeal the decisions to the Social Welfare Appeals Office, D'Olier Street, Dublin 2.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

193 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the correct level of social welfare payment in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45259/09]

The person concerned claimed jobseeker's benefit from 28 September 2009. His claim has been awarded at the weekly rate of E204.30, the maximum personal rate.

Based on the information supplied by the person concerned the deciding officer decided that he was not eligible to be paid an increase for a qualified adult or qualified children. If there has been any change in his domestic circumstances and he wishes to claim for qualified dependants he should notify the local office and his case will be reviewed.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

194 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when rent allowance will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45260/09]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which includes rent supplement, is administered on behalf of the Department by the Community Welfare division of the Health Service Executive.

The Executive has advised that it received an application for rent supplement from the person concerned on 24 June 2009. A Community Welfare Officer issued a letter to the person concerned on 25 June 2009, seeking additional documentary evidence in relation to a number of matters, including bank/credit union statements, proof of ownership of the rented property from the landlord and a copy of the lease agreement.

The Executive has advised that it has not received the additional supporting documentation from the person concerned since the date of issue of the request.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

195 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when mortgage support will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45262/09]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which includes mortgage interest supplement, is administered by the community welfare service of the Health Service Executive on behalf of the Department.

Mortgage interest supplement provides short-term income support to eligible people who are unable to meet their mortgage interest repayments in respect of a house which is their sole place of residence. The supplement assists with the interest portion of the mortgage repayments only.

The Executive has advised that according to its records, an application for mortgage interest supplement has not been received from the person concerned.

It is open to the person concerned to contact his local community welfare officer with a view to making an application for mortgage interest supplement.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Michael Ring

Question:

196 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason an appeal for domiciliary care allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo has not been finalised; when the appeal was received by the appeals office; when same will be dealt with; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45374/09]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal from the person concerned was received on 14 July 2009 and in accordance with the statutory requirements, the relevant Departmental papers and comments of the Social Welfare Services on the matters raised in the appeal were sought. Following receipt of the relevant Departmental papers including comments on the grounds of appeal, the appeal from the person concerned has been referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration. There has been a 44% increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office to the end of November 2009 when compared to the same period in 2008, which in itself was 27% greater than the numbers received in 2007. This has caused delays in the processing of appeals. The Social Welfare Appeals Office is an office of the Department that is independently responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Defence Forces Operations.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

197 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Defence the reason the Reserve Defence Force was not used in the recent flooding emergency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45103/09]

The Government's White Paper on Defence sets out the role the Defence Forces might play in the provision of support and services to other public agencies and the community in general. The Defence Forces can provide assistance in the maintenance of essential services during natural disasters and in major accidents and emergencies. The level of support that can be provided by the Defence Forces is demand led and provided on an "as available basis", having regard to both current and contingent Defence Forces operational commitments.

The Framework for Major Emergency Management sets out a structure enabling the Principal Response Agencies (An Garda Síochána, the Health Service Executive and Local Authorities) to prepare for, and make a coordinated response to, major emergencies resulting from events such as severe weather. The Defence Forces have met all requests for assistance from within the existing capacity and resources of the Permanent Defence Forces without the need to call on the Reserve.

Natural Heritage Areas.

Frank Feighan

Question:

198 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on whether the Owengar habitat is virtually destroyed in the natural heritage area (details supplied), County Leitrim, due to a wind farm project. [45191/09]

Frank Feighan

Question:

207 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on whether the Corry Mountain Bog natural heritage area, County Leitrim, is a site of considerable conservation significance comprising a relatively intact area of upland blanket bog; and if he proposes to cease all development until a baseline study is put in place by his Department. [45183/09]

Frank Feighan

Question:

209 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the fact that a substantial amount of peat has been disturbed during excavation of a co-development (details supplied) in County Leitrim. [45187/09]

Frank Feighan

Question:

210 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on whether the grouse habitat is virtually destroyed in the natural heritage area (details supplied) due to a wind farm project. [45188/09]

Frank Feighan

Question:

211 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the person responsible for the enforcement of national heritage area S.I. No. 473/2005. [45189/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 198, 207, 209 to 211, inclusive, together.

Corry Mountain Bog Natural Heritage Area is of considerable conservation importance for its upland blanket bog habitat and also as a habitat of various notable flora and fauna, including Grouse. Natural Heritage Areas (NHAs) are protected under the Wildlife Acts, enforced by authorised officers of my Department's National Parks and Wildlife Service, as well as An Garda Síochána. NHAs also enjoy protection under a number of other consent systems including under the Planning and Development Acts, enforced by planning authorities. The development of the wind farm in question is regulated under the Planning and Development Acts. As indicated in the reply to related questions on 26 November, the development of the wind farm received planning permission before the site was designated as a Natural Heritage Area (NHA). Since designation of the site, the developers have been in touch with my Department's National Parks and Wildlife Service to discuss how best to progress the project. My Department continues to consult with them with a view to minimising and mitigating any impacts on the Natural Heritage Area, including its blanket bog habitat and other flora and fauna. The matter is being kept under review.

Flood Relief.

Denis Naughten

Question:

199 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the emergency funds to be made available to each local authority to deal with the cost to date in 2009 of flood assistance and emergency works required to prevent further damage from flooding in the coming weeks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45085/09]

My Department will shortly ask the local authorities for reports on the consequences of the flooding and an assessment of the remedial works required. I will circulate these reports to other Government Departments and Agencies for consideration and appropriate action. I have recently announced the provision of supplementary funding amounting to €10m to assist local authorities in meeting the exceptional costs associated with the current flooding crisis. My Department will be in touch with the local authorities concerned in the coming days to make appropriate arrangements.

I am conscious that in addition to the trauma caused by the flooding, people also suffer financial loss arising from the damage caused to their property. The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which is administered by the Community Welfare Division of the Health Service Executive on behalf of the Department of Social and Family Affairs, is designed to provide immediate and flexible assistance for those in need who do not qualify for payment under other State schemes. The Government has announced the provision of an initial sum of €10 million for emergency flood relief to be administered by the Department of Social and Family Affairs and €2 million for the agricultural sector.

Election Management System.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

200 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the next review of Dáil constituency boundaries is due; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45086/09]

Section 5 of the Electoral Act 1997 (as amended by section 9 of the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2009), provides for the establishment of a Constituency Commission upon the publication by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) of a census report setting out the preliminary result of the Census in respect of the total population of the State. Section 9 of the Electoral Act 1997 (as amended by section 9 of the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2009) provides that the work of a Commission be finalised as soon as may be and not later than 3 months after publication by the CSO of the final result of the Census in respect of the total population of the State.

Architectural Heritage.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

201 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if it was intended in the architectural heritage protection guidelines for local authorities that a structure must be of regional interest to warrant consideration for entry in the record of protected structures; if local authorities are intended to be discouraged or precluded from considering for entry in the record of protected structures, any structure of local interest or exceptional local interest, but falling short of regional interest; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45090/09]

Under the provisions of the Planning and Development Act 2000, each planning authority is required, for the purpose of protecting structures or parts of structures which are of special architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical interest, to include in its development plan a Record of Protected Structures and shall include in that record every structure which is, in the opinion of the planning authority, of such interest within its functional area.

The Act also enables the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to make recommendations to a planning authority concerning the inclusion of specific structures in its Record of Protected Structures, and a planning authority must have regard to any such recommendations. These recommendations are based on the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH) surveys conducted by my Department. The aim of NIAH surveys is generally to include structures which are of international, national and regional importance. The Architectural Heritage Protection Guidelines for Planning Authorities issued by my Department provide that care should be taken when compiling the Record of Protected Structures that all reasonable research has taken place and all structures included merit protection.

Water Quality.

Finian McGrath

Question:

202 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will reply to a matter (details supplied). [45092/09]

The European Communities (Water Policy) Regulations 2003 require that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prepare a programme of monitoring in order to provide an assessment of water quality status within each river basin district. An interim assessment of status will be included in the first River Basin Management Plans, and a final assessment will be published by the EPA by 22 June 2011 in accordance with the European Communities Environmental Objectives (Surface Waters) Regulations 2009.

The first monitoring cycle commenced in 2007 for a three-year period to the end of 2009. While monitoring of inland waters, including rivers and lakes, has been completed, gaps remain in relation to coastal monitoring, particularly along the west coast, and in relation to some parameters for estuarine waters. My Department is liaising with the EPA and the Marine Institute to ensure that gaps in marine monitoring are addressed in time for the final status assessment.

Departmental Reports.

Joe Costello

Question:

203 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he intends to publish the report on adult entertainment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45125/09]

In 2007, my Department established a task force to examine the planning land use implications of the siting and location of adult entertainment venues. The task force was chaired by my Department and comprised representatives from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, An Garda Síochána and Dublin City Council. The task force met on a number of occasions, and its work was informed by detailed consideration of a range of issues based on agreed terms of reference. Given the relevance of a number of different statutory codes to this matter, it was not clear whether planning regulation alone could adequately support an appropriate and effective local control regime, and the interaction of these various codes needed to be carefully examined to ensure that the best possible approach is taken.

The task force has finalised its work and I will make the necessary arrangements to publish the report early next year. In advance of any new proposals, it is open to local authorities to use the powers currently available to them under the planning code, such as the development plan process, to ensure that new late night entertainment venues are not inappropriately located, for example in quiet residential areas.

Noise Pollution.

Joe Costello

Question:

204 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he will publish the findings of his consultation on proposed noise regulations held in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45126/09]

There is a commitment to introduce comprehensive legislation on noise pollution within the lifetime of this Government. As part of the preparatory process extensive public consultation was undertaken in 2008 during which 235 submissions were received from the public and key stakeholders. The main issues of concern were noise from continuously sounding intruder alarms, barking dogs and other forms of noise from neighbouring residential properties. After due consideration of these submissions the General Scheme of a Noise Nuisance Bill was prepared in my Department and approved by the Government. The Noise Nuisance Bill is included in the Government Legislation Programme published on 16 September, 2009. Information on the findings of the public consultation process will be made available in association with the publication of the Bill.

Departmental Correspondence.

Michael McGrath

Question:

205 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will respond to correspondence (details supplied) from a public representative in County Cork. [45132/09]

I have received the correspondence in question and have referred it to my colleague the Minister for Transport for consideration.

Planning Issues.

Richard Bruton

Question:

206 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the relationship between the special protection order process and the strategic infrastructure legislation providing for fast tracking developments in a case (details supplied). [45134/09]

In considering an application under the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act, An Bord Pleanála is required to consider whether any of the area of the development is within a European site or whether the proposed development would have an effect on a European site. In either of these situations, the Board must have regard to the provisions of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives in relation to the protection of European Sites such as Special Protection Areas and Special Areas of Conservation. The South Dublin Bay and River Tolka Estuary Special Protection Area, in which this development is proposed is such a European Site.

Question No. 207 answered with Question No. 198.

Turf Cutting.

Frank Feighan

Question:

208 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the cutting of turf as fuel for domestic consumption as an agricultural activity. [45186/09]

Frank Feighan

Question:

214 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on whether the cutting and saving of turf is an agricultural activity which land owners enjoy as a right under the Constitution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45279/09]

Frank Feighan

Question:

215 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the cutting of turf for private use is considered an agricultural activity. [45280/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 208, 214 and 215 together.

Section 4 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 provides that development consisting of the use of land for agriculture is exempted development within the meaning of the Act. However, the Act provides, notwithstanding this, that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, in connection with the implementation of the EU Directives on Environmental Impact Assessment, may prescribe that such development is not exempted development.

Regulations provide that peat extraction above 10ha in new or extended areas is not exempted development. Such peat extraction below 10ha is also not exempted development within Special Areas of Conservation or Natural Heritage Areas. Where there is a doubt, a person may request the relevant planning authority to make a declaration in a particular case as to whether or not a development is exempted.

In relation to Special Areas of Conservation, the European Communities (Habitats) Regulations require the Minister to ensure the conservation of protected habitats within Special Areas of Conservation. In compliance with this requirement, it is proposed that domestic turf cutting cease in designated raised bog Special Areas of Conservation. These restrictions are necessary to avoid the loss of what remains of this rare and endangered habitat and to enable the State to fulfil its legal obligations to protect these sites under the EU Habitats Directive. There is no intention to restrict turf-cutting for domestic use on the vast majority of bogs within the State, where cutting may continue as before. The restrictions on domestic turf cutting on designated raised bogs affect only about 4% of the total area of bogland available for cutting.

The Deputy will be aware that I am not in a position to provide an interpretation of rights under the Constitution.

Questions Nos. 209 to 211, inclusive, answered with Question No. 198.

Waste Management.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

212 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has received legal advice on the implications of the issuing of the commencement notice in respect of the Dublin waste to energy project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45277/09]

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

213 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has engaged in correspondence with Dublin City Council regarding the Poolbeg incinerator in the period since the issuing of the commencement notice in respect of the Dublin waste to energy project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45278/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 212 and 213 together.

I have not received legal advice on the implications of the issuing of the commencement notice nor engaged in correspondence with Dublin City Council on the matter.

As I have previously indicated, in terms of the capacity of the proposed facility, it is my understanding that the quantities of residual waste currently being collected by the Dublin local authorities may not be sufficient to meet the volumetric contractual commitment which forms part of the public private partnership agreement between Dublin City Council and its private partner. We have recently seen further increases in recycling rates in Dublin, with a corresponding drop in residual waste volumes. In addition, the recommendations of the report which I commissioned to underpin the review of waste management policy provided for in the Programme for Government would have the effect of further reducing the volumes of residual waste generated, and driving more waste towards recycling.

I have been in contact with the Attorney General in relation to these issues.

Questions Nos. 214 and 215 answered with Question No. 208.

Aquaculture Licences.

Frank Feighan

Question:

216 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide a list of eel dealer licences issued by his Department to date in 2009; and the names of successful and unsuccessful applicants. [45193/09]

Frank Feighan

Question:

217 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide a list of trap and truck licences issued by his Department to date in 2009; and the names of successful and unsuccessful applicants. [45194/09]

Frank Feighan

Question:

218 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the cost of the trap and truck operation to date in 2009; the reason eels need to be transported when they can swim themselves; and if the eel fishery is closed, the reason there is a need for licences. [45195/09]

Frank Feighan

Question:

219 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if it is possible for a person to obtain a trap and truck licence and eel dealers licence under current conditions; and his views on whether this system is unnecessary and possibly open to abuse. [45196/09]

Frank Feighan

Question:

220 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the scientific evidence that requires trap and truck approach to the natural movement of eels. [45197/09]

Frank Feighan

Question:

221 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if, under section 14 of the 1959 Fisheries Act, a permit issued by his Department to ESB in August 2009 to authorise the undertaking of trap and transport operations; and whether the constitutional role the ESB exercise regarding conservation in view of the actions relied upon in the Irish eel management plan includes the closure of commercial and recreational fishery ensuring upstream migration of juvenile eel at barriers and the mitigation of the impact of hydropower. [45198/09]

Frank Feighan

Question:

222 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if the ESB fishery division holds a trap and truck licence. [45199/09]

Frank Feighan

Question:

223 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the protocols and sanctions under the trap and transport operations authorised by the ESB in accordance with the contract conditions, statutory permissions and agreed protocols. [45200/09]

Frank Feighan

Question:

224 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if the ESB fishery division or any employee or agent holds an eel dealers licence. [45201/09]

Frank Feighan

Question:

225 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the measures that are in place to distinguish eels from different countries in view of the fact that licences are required to permit dealers to sell imported eels from other member states including Northern Ireland, which comply with the EC Regulation including its traceability requirements. [45202/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 216 to 225 inclusive, together.

As outlined in my response to Questions Nos. 283 284, 285 and 286 on 26 November 2009, given the implications of the scientific and management advice, the absolute necessity to conserve remaining European eel stocks and the obligation to contribute to the recovery of stocks in the shortest time possible, the National Eel Management Plan (EMP) (details of which are published on the Department's web site) recommended a number of management actions. These actions comprise the closure of the commercial and recreational fishery; ensuring upstream migration of juvenile eel at barriers and the mitigation of the impact of hydropower, including the introduction by the ESB of a comprehensive silver eel trap and transport operation on the Shannon, Lee and Erne rivers. The ESB is responsible for the fisheries above the hydroelectric dams in accordance with the Electricity (Supply) Acts and as such is a contributor to the implementation of the EMP.

The trap and transport operation, which is recommended by both the scientists and fishery managers and relies on the results of studies by the International Council for Exploration of the Sea, as quoted in the EMP, reduces the mortality of eels passing through the hydroelectric turbines.

The Deputy will be aware from the reply to his previous question that eel dealer licences, which are required if handling imported eels, are issued in accordance with Part X of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959 (as amended) by the relevant Regional Fisheries Board. Under the EC Regulation 1100/2007 measures must be taken by Member States to ensure the traceability of all live eels exported from their territory and such evidence may be required of eel dealers handling imported eels.

As I have no function in relation to the issue of these licences, I have asked the boards, which have issued eel dealer licences in 2009, to provide the information sought directly to the Deputy. I have been advised by the ESB that neither the ESB nor any employee of the ESB or ESB Fisheries Conservation hold an eel dealers licence. It should be noted that the fisheries boards monitor the trap and transport operations (including the release of fish to sea) and are therefore aware of the identity of the ESB contractors in their region.

As previously advised ESB have entered into contracts with eight parties to carry out trap and transport on the Rivers Shannon, Lee and Erne on their behalf. The selection and identity of contractors and the cost of the trap and transport operations, as well as the detail of contracts are operational matters for the ESB.

The Deputy should be aware that under Section 14 of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959, the Minister may authorise the capture of fish for the purpose of, inter alia, the improvement of any fishery. Such a permit was issued by the Department to the ESB in August 2009, to authorise the undertaking of trap and transport operations. This is the only such permit issued.

The EMP provided for the establishment of a Scientific Eel Group (SEG) to oversee implementation of the scientific elements of the EMP. This Group approved the protocols for the trap and transport operations. I have arranged to forward a copy of these detailed protocols directly to the Deputy.

Regional Fisheries Boards.

Frank Feighan

Question:

226 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has been advised by Shannon Regional Fisheries Board that court proceedings have been initiated against the developers of a wind farm (details supplied) in Corry Mountain, County Leitrim; and the sections breached. [45203/09]

As I outlined in my reply to Question No. 287 of 26 November 2009, I have been advised by the Shannon Regional Fisheries Board that court proceedings have been initiated in this case against the developers referred to for breaches under section 171 of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959 and section 3 of the Local Government (Water Pollution) Act 1977.

Grant Payments.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

227 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if and when a home installation grant will be awarded in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45236/09]

I understand that the applicant applied for the Warmer Homes Scheme in response to a mailshot issued by the Department of Social and Family Affairs on behalf of Sustainable Energy Ireland. The mailshot was issued to recipients of the fuel allowance and indicated that applications would be processed on a first come, first served basis. The application was received by SEI on 25 September. Due to the volume of applications received prior to receipt of the application referred, all funds available in 2009 were already committed. Sustainable Energy Ireland has placed the applicant on a waiting list for the scheme and, subject to available funding, will address her requirements next year.

Fodder Aid Scheme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

228 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the details of the flooding hardship fund; the mechanism to apply for funding; if it will cover the provision of alternative housing for animals; the criteria to be considered for eligibility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45084/09]

The Fodder Aid Scheme which I announced will require individual farmers to demonstrate that their fodder was damaged and the extent of that damage. Although this scheme is targeted primarily at farmers in the West, Midlands and South West who suffered damage to fodder (silage, hay, straw or concentrates) caused by flooding in November 2009, those farmers in other areas also affected by the recent flooding may also be eligible. However, given the importance of having the funding made available as quickly as possible to those most severely affected by the crisis, I would encourage only those farmers who are directly affected to complete and submit the application without delay. I will set out the basis on which the scheme will operate. Funding of €2 million is allocated to the scheme. Financial aid will be paid in instances where genuine damage to silage or hay or concentrates was caused by the flooding in November 2009. Applications must be submitted by Friday, 11 December 2009. All applications will be subject to an on-farm inspection and the damaged fodder must be evident. Aid will not be payable where flood damage to fodder is covered by the farmer's insurance policy. I have had the necessary arrangements made to ensure that applications submitted under the scheme are processed as soon as they are received, with a view to payments issuing to the affected farmers as quickly as possible.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

229 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the action he will take to alleviate hardship caused to farmers who are affected by a shortage of fodder due to recent flooding in the Shannon area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45142/09]

The Fodder Aid Scheme which I announced will require individual farmers to demonstrate that their fodder was damaged and the extent of that damage. Although this scheme is targeted primarily at farmers in the West, Midlands and South West who suffered damage to fodder (silage or hay or concentrates) caused by flooding in November 2009, those farmers in other areas also affected by the recent flooding may also be eligible. However, given the importance of having the funding made available as quickly as possible to those most severely affected by the crisis, I would encourage only those farmers who are directly affected to complete and submit the application without delay. I will set out the basis on which the scheme will operate. Funding of €2 million is allocated to the scheme. Financial aid will be paid in instances where genuine damage to silage or hay or concentrates was caused by the flooding in November 2009. Applications must be submitted by Friday, 11 December 2009. All applications will be subject to an on-farm inspection and the damaged fodder must be evident. Aid will not be payable where flood damage to fodder is covered by the farmer's insurance policy. I have had the necessary arrangements made to ensure that applications submitted under the scheme are processed immediately they are received, with a view to payments issuing to the affected farmers as quickly as possible.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

James Bannon

Question:

230 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath has been penalised under measure 5, option 5A and measure 3 of the REP scheme. [45171/09]

Following an on-the-spot REPS inspection carried out by my officials on 8 October 2008, the person named was found to be non-compliant with his undertakings under Measure 3 (fencing of wells and boreholes), Measure 5 (maintaining farm and field boundaries) and Biodiversity Option 5A (hedgerow rejuvenation). Penalties totalling 45% were imposed. The person named appealed the decision to the Agriculture Appeals Office, which overturned the 15% penalty for non-compliance with Measure 3 but upheld the other penalties.

Grant Payments.

Michael Ring

Question:

231 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their second year REP scheme four payment. [45215/09]

REPS 4 is a measure under the current Rural Development Programme 2007–2013 and is subject to EU Regulations which require detailed administrative checks on all applications, including plan checks, to be completed before the first 2009 payments issue. The processing of applications is at an advanced stage. I hope to be in a position to release the 75% payment due on valid applications in mid-December, and the remaining 25% once the last of the on-the-spot inspections for 2009 has taken place.

Michael Ring

Question:

232 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their first year payment of REP scheme four. [45216/09]

REPS 4 is a measure under the current Rural Development Programme 2007–2013 and is subject to EU Regulations which require detailed administrative checks on all applications, including plan checks, to be completed before the first 2009 payments issue. Processing of applications is at an advanced stage. I hope to be in a position to release the 75% payment due on valid applications in mid December, and the remaining 25% once the last of the on-the-spot inspections for 2009 has taken place.

Schools Refurbishment.

Pat Breen

Question:

233 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding an application (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45070/09]

The closing date for the receipt of applications under the Summer Works Scheme 2010 was 27 November 2009.

Following an assessment process, projects will be selected for funding from all valid and approved applications on a top down basis in accordance with the prioritisation criteria published with the Scheme.

In keeping with the timetable published with the governing Circular letter, I expect to be in a position to publish the list of successful applicants in March 2010.

Special Educational Needs.

Tom Hayes

Question:

234 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science when the special needs assistant hours for a student (details supplied) at a school in County Limerick will be reinstated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45077/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers, for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants to schools to support children with special needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.

I have arranged for the details supplied to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.

All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.

Site Acquisitions.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

235 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the provision of a new school (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45087/09]

My Department recently advertised for sites in the area in relation to the school in question and a number of applications were received. These are currently under consideration in my Department and due to the commercial sensitivity attached to site acquisitions, I cannot comment further at this stage.

Upon acquisition of a suitable site, the proposed building project for the school will be considered in the context of the capital budget available to my Department for school buildings generally.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

236 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Education and Science if a site has been identified for a new school (details supplied) in County Donegal; if the site has been purchased; when work will commence on the new school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45088/09]

As the Deputy will be aware the Office of Public Works (OPW) had been requested to acquire a site for the school in question subject to planning permission. A site has been identified and my Department has recently assumed responsibility for the completion of the acquisition from the OPW. The acquisition is at contract stage and due to the commercial sensitivity attaching to site acquisitions, I cannot comment further at this point.

The proposed building project for the school will be considered in the context of the capital budget available to my Department for school buildings generally.

Schools Building Projects.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

237 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the proposed refurbishment and extension to a school (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45089/09]

The school to which the Deputy refers has applied to my Department for capital funding for a large scale extension project.

The application has been assessed in accordance with published prioritisation criteria for large scale projects and assigned a band 2 rating.

Information in respect of the current school building programme along with all assessed applications for major capital works, including the project referred to by the Deputy, are now available on the Department's website at www.education.ie.

The priority attaching to individual projects is determined by published prioritisation criteria, which were formulated following consultation with the Education Partners. There are four band ratings under these criteria, each of which describes the extent of accommodation required and the urgency attaching to it. Band 1 is the highest priority rating and Band 4 is the lowest. Documents explaining the band rating system are also available on the Department's website.

The progression of all large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction will be considered in the context of the school building and modernisation programme. However, in view of the level of demand on the Department's capital budget, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression the project at this time.

School Enrolments.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

238 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there are not sufficient places at a school (details supplied) in County Offaly; the way he intends to address this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45143/09]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

239 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there are not sufficient places at a school (details supplied) in County Offaly; the way he intends to address this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45144/09]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

240 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the way he intends to address the overall issue of lack of school places in a school catchment area (details supplied) in County Offaly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45145/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 238 to 240, inclusive, together.

The question of enrolment in individual schools is the responsibility of the managerial authority of those schools and the Department does not seek to intervene in decisions made by schools in such matters. The Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places. This may result, however, in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice.

It is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of schools that are not in a position to admit all pupils seeking entry to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act. In this regard a board of management may find it necessary to restrict enrolment to children from a particular area or a particular age group or, occasionally, on the basis of some other criterion. In formulating an admissions policy a school must, however, ensure it is lawful. In particular, it must act in accordance with Section 7 of the Equal Status Act 2000 which, subject to very limited exceptions, prohibits schools from discriminating against people in relation to a number of matters including the admission of a pupil to the school.

Currently, under Section 29 of the Education Act 1998, parents of a student who has been refused enrolment in a school may appeal that decision to the Secretary General of this Department. Such appeals are dealt with within 30 days of their receipt and where an appeal is upheld the Secretary General is empowered to direct the school to enrol the student. Otherwise, the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child.

The Forward Planning Section of my Department is in the process of carrying out detailed analysis of over 40 locations of highest population growth in order to identify the school accommodation requirements up to and including the school year 2014/2015.

When the required reports have been completed for these initial areas selected the Forward Planning Section will continue to work on preparing reports on a priority basis for the remainder of the country.

Overall primary and post-primary accommodation requirements in the area referred to in Co. Offaly will be considered in this regard.

Higher Education Grants.

Richard Bruton

Question:

241 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the current income limit for higher education grant and the value of grants payable; and if he has made any provisions in the 2010 no policy change estimates for changes in the income thresholds of payment. [45150/09]

The income limit to qualify for the full standard rate maintenance grant and payment of the student services charge where there are fewer than four dependent children was increased from €39,760 to €41,110 for the academic year 2009/2010. The income threshold for the Special Rate of maintenance grant was also increased in line with the relevant social welfare comparators from €20,147 to €22,308. Full details of the current income limits and rates of grant are below. In addition, undergraduate students who qualify under the maintenance grant schemes have the student services charge paid on their behalf. In 2009/10, this adds a further €1,500 to the value of the grants as outlined.

It has been my Department's practice in recent years to increase the reckonable income limits under the maintenance grant schemes in line with movements in the average industrial wage. Such increases are regarded as being essentially cost neutral.

Higher Education Grants Scheme, 2009:

Maintenance Grants Rates

Non-Adjacent Rate

Adjacent Rate

Full Maintenance

3,420

1,370

Part Maintenance (75%)

2,565

1,030

Part Maintenance (50%)

1,710

685

Part Maintenance (25%)

855

345

Special Rate of Maintenance Grant for 2009/10

Grant

Standard Grant

Special Rate Amount

Total Grant

Non Adjacent Rate

3,420

3,270

6,690

Adjacent Rate

1,370

1,310

2,680

Higher Education Grants Scheme, 2009

Reckonable Income Limits for the ordinary rates of grant* for the period 1 January, 2008 to 31 December 2008 (the tax year 2008)

No. of Dependent Children

Full Maintenance (100%) and Full Fees

Part Maintenance (75%) and Full Fees

Part Maintenance (50%) and Full Fees

Part Maintenance (25%) and Full Fees

Part Tuition Fees (50%) only**

Less than 4

41,110

42,235

44,720

47,205

51,380

4-7

45,165

46,415

49,145

51,880

56,460

8 or more

49,045

50,400

53,360

56,320

61,295

*In the 2009/10 academic year, where 2 or more children (or the candidate's parent) are pursuing a course of study listed below, the reckonable income limits for Full Maintenance (100%) and Full Fees and the Part Tuition Fee (50%) only categories may be increased by 4,980 where there are 2 such children, 9,960 where there are 3 such children and so on, by increments of 4,980.

**Full Student Service Charge is paid where income is at or below this level.

For the Part Maintenance and Full Fees at 75%, 50% and 25%, the reckonable income limits may be increased by €4,815 where there are 2 such children, €9,630 where there are 3 such children and so on, by increments of €4,815.

(i) attending full-time third level education

(ii) attending a recognised PLC course, student nurse training or student Garda training

(iii) participating in a Fáilte Ireland (formerly CERT) course of at least one years duration

(iv) attending a full time Teagasc course in an agricultural college

(v) attending a recognised full-time further education course, of at least one year's duration, in Northern Ireland

Special Rate of Maintenance Grant

For the award of a special rate of maintenance grant in respect of the 2009/10 academic year, a candidates reckonable income(for the period 1 January, 2008 to 31 December 2008 the tax year 2008) shall not exceed: — €22,308 net of standard exclusions (as set out in Clause 1 of this Scheme) and net of Child Dependant Increase (C.D.I.) paid by the Department of Social and Family Affairs

Third Level Fees.

Richard Bruton

Question:

242 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the value of the college registration fee; and the provisions he has made in the pre budget estimates for changing this charge. [45152/09]

As the Deputy will be aware the student services charge is levied by third level institutions to defray the costs of examinations, registration and students services. The range of student services in question may include such facilities as on-campus medical and counselling facilities for students, access and disability services, careers office services, student facilities, student clubs and societies. All students who are eligible for means tested grants have the charge paid on their behalf by the Local Authorities or VECs. As already announced, the Government indicated that it was prepared to accept increases in the level of this charge for the academic year 2009/10 to bring it to a limit of €1,500 in individual higher education institutions.

The student services charge is collected by each individual institution and up to date accounts are not available for all institutions. However the estimated revenue generated by the institutions in the 2008/09 academic year from the charge at €900 is some €107 million.

Currently, the student services charge is decided annually by third-level institutions in consultation with the Higher Education Authority and my Department. Any change in the level of this charge would be considered where the increase is intended to bring the amount contributed by students into line with the costs of the range of students services provided.

Inquiry into Child Abuse.

Joe Costello

Question:

243 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Education and Science when he proposes to erect a memorial to the survivors of institutional child abuse as recommended in the Ryan report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45167/09]

The Government's Implementation Plan in response to the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, which was published on 28th July 2009, set out the Government's commitment to erect a memorial to victims of abuse in institutions in line with the recommendations of the Commission's Report.

I announced the membership of the committee that will oversee the erection of the memorial on 18th October. The committee is being chaired by Séan Benton, former Chairman of the Office of Public Works, with Bernadette Fahy and Paddy Doyle as former residents of institutions. The other members of the committee are Seán Ó Laoire of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland; Monica Corcoran of the Arts Council; and Billy Houlihan, formerly Cork County Architect. A budget of €500,000 is being set aside for the project which will be managed by the Office of Public Works. My Department is providing secretarial services for the committee.

The committee's terms of reference are to consider the views of the survivor groups in relation to the location and nature of the memorial to be erected; make recommendations on the location and nature of the memorial in a manner that best takes account of the views of the groups representing the survivors of abuse, and to consider arrangements for a national day of remembrance and solidarity; oversee the commissioning and delivery by the OPW (through competition) of the design and building of the memorial.

The Committee has commenced its work and will be consulting widely in this regard.

Higher Education Grants.

James Bannon

Question:

244 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath has been deemed ineligible for a higher education grant in respect of a repeat year. [45170/09]

The decision on eligibility for student grants is a matter for the relevant assessing authority — i.e. the Local Authority or VEC. These bodies do not refer individual applications to my Department except, in exceptional cases, where, for example, advice or instruction regarding a particular clause in the relevant scheme is required.

If an individual applicant considers that she/he has been unjustly refused a maintenance grant, or that the rate of grant awarded is not the correct one, she/he may appeal, in the first instance, to the relevant local authority or VEC.

Where an individual applicant has had an appeal turned down, in writing, by the assessing authority, and remains of the view that the body has not interpreted the schemes correctly in her/his case, an appeal form outlining the position may be submitted by the applicant to my Department.

No appeal has been received by my Department to date from the candidate referred to by the Deputy.

Schools Building Projects.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

245 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the need for recommencement of the plans to proceed with the development of the new building of a school (details supplied) in County Galway; if he is in receipt of appeals from the local community to advance plans for a new fit for purpose school for Connemara; his views on whether the need for this work is made all the more urgent in view of the fact that there are thirteen feeder national schools linked with this secondary school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45173/09]

The project to which the Deputy refers is currently at an advanced stage of architectural planning.

A number of representations from members of the local community were received by my Department in the last few days. I met with a delegation in May 2009 regarding the school's building project. The delegation included members of the school's Board of Management, local political representatives as well as representatives of the local community. At the meeting, I confirmed that, due to changes in the brief for the project, it would be re-banded to Band 2.1. My Department is satisfied that this is the correct priority band rating for this project and that all relevant factors have been taken in to consideration in arriving at this rating.

The progression of all large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction is dependent on the prioritisation of competing demands on the funding available under the Department's capital budget.

The proposed building project will be considered in the context of the Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme for 2010 and subsequent years. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of the Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the delivery of the project at this time.

Special Educational Needs.

Michael McGrath

Question:

246 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding an application for a pupil (details supplied) in County Cork to be allocated a full-time special needs assistant. [45208/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers, for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants to schools to support children with special needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.

I have arranged for the details supplied to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.

All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.

School Enrolments.

Jack Wall

Question:

247 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science if a board of management of a primary or secondary school has within their remit the right to change their admission policy within a school year or whether it must be determined before the commencement of the school year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45211/09]

The question of enrolment in individual schools is the responsibility of the managerial authority of those schools. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places. This may result, however, in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice.

It is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of schools to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act, 1998. In this regard a Board of Management may find it necessary to restrict enrolment to children from a particular area or a particular age group or, occasionally, on the basis of some other criterion. This selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants.

Under section 15(2)(d) of the Education Act 1998, each school is legally obliged to disclose its enrolment policy and to ensure that as regards that policy that principles of equality and the rights of parents to send their children to a school of the parents choice are respected.

Section 29 of the Education Act 1998, provides parents with an appeal process where a Board of Management of a school or a person acting on behalf of the Board refuses enrolment to a student. Where a school refuses to enrol a pupil, the school is obliged to inform parents of their right under Section 29 of the Education Act 1998 to appeal that decision to either the relevant Vocational Educational Committee or to the Secretary General of my Department.

The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The NEWB advises parents to apply to more than one school in order to assist in securing a school placement. The Board can be contacted at National Educational Welfare Board, National Headquarters, 16-22 Green Street, Dublin 7 or by telephone at 01-8738700.

School Placement.

Jack Wall

Question:

248 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the priorities that his Department places on catchment areas or feeder schools in determining placements for secondary education facilities; if it is his Department or the board of management of such schools that determine feeder schools and prioritise them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45212/09]

The Forward Planning Section of my Department utilises the latest in GIS technology to assist in planning school requirements in the future. The Geographical Information System contains information on all schools in the country, primary and post primary level, geo-coded to their location. The information is then linked to the relevant demographic information for those areas — typically the demographic information will be from the Central Statistic's Office Census data, the General Registrar of Births, the Department of Social and Family Affairs, An Post's Geo-directory and information supplied by Local Authorities through Development Plans.

Growth projection figures are applied to the existing population with a view to assessing future requirements and areas of highest growth at primary and post-primary level. The extent to which pupils transfer from primary feeder schools to the relevant post-primary centres is a significant factor in determining the requirement for post-primary places in an area. The system of the designation of primary feeder schools was largely established through consultation ahead of the introduction of the free post-primary education scheme in the late 1960s.

Proposed Legislation.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

249 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will introduce legislation to create a permanent endowment for the Mitchell Scholars Programme; if this will require legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45265/09]

In 1998, in recognition of the pivotal contribution made by US Senator George J. Mitchell to the Northern Ireland peace process, the George Mitchell Scholarship Programme was established and the Government agreed to contribute an endowment of IR£2 million to the Programme. The purpose of the Programme is to enable highly qualified American students to attend third level institutions on the island of Ireland for post graduate studies.

The George Mitchell Scholarship Fund Act was enacted in December 1998 and it empowered the Minister for Education and Science to establish the Fund in the United States and to enter into agreement with persons to manage and control the Fund.

The Agreement for the management of the Fund was signed with the US-Ireland Alliance in March 1999. The income from the Fund provides, inter alia, for two scholarships per annum. The US-Ireland Alliance also secures additional funding from other sources which enables the programme offer a further ten scholarships annually.

In 2007, a decision was taken to secure the long term viability of the George Mitchell Scholarship Programme by increasing Ireland's contribution to the Fund for the programme by €20 million to be paid over a number of years, conditional on matching funding being raised by the US-Ireland Alliance.

It is envisaged that the increased future investment income from the additional funding of up to €40 million, inclusive of matching funding, would primarily meet the cost of administration and bursaries for successful students undertaking post-graduate study and research in universities and other approved institutions on the island of Ireland

Implementation of this decision requires, inter alia, amendment of the George Mitchell Scholarship Fund Act, 1998 and a new management and funding agreement between the US-Ireland Alliance and my Department.

Following protracted negotiations with the US-Ireland Alliance, agreement was reached on a draft new funding and management agreement in March 2009.

Drafting of the George Mitchell Scholarship Fund (Amendment) Bill 2009 is currently in progress and the Bill is scheduled to be published in the current session.

Teaching Qualifications.

Simon Coveney

Question:

250 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of pass degree persons teaching chemistry at second level education here. [45271/09]

Simon Coveney

Question:

251 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of honours degree persons teaching chemistry at second level education here. [45272/09]

Simon Coveney

Question:

252 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of pass degree persons teaching physics at second level education here. [45273/09]

Simon Coveney

Question:

253 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of honours degree persons teaching physics at second level education here. [45274/09]

Simon Coveney

Question:

254 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of pass degree persons teaching biology at second level education here. [45275/09]

Simon Coveney

Question:

255 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of honours degree persons teaching biology at second level education here. [45276/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 250 to 255, inclusive, together.

The information requested by the Deputy regarding the number of teachers paid pass or honours degree allowances and teaching the specific subjects referred to is not available from my Departments payroll databases. However, there were six thousand nine hundred and eighty two teachers employed in secondary community or comprehensive schools in receipt of pass degree allowances. There were eight thousand eight hundred and seventy four in receipt of honours degree allowances.

My Department is obtaining information from the Teaching Council in relation to the numbers of registered teachers holding honours or pass degrees in the subject areas referred to. I will arrange for that information to be forwarded to the Deputy.