Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 7, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 8 to 51, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 52 to 58, inclusive, answered orally.

Telecommunication Services.

Frank Feighan

Question:

59 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the introduction of a one-stop-shop to improve the provision of broadband infrastructure here; the reason for the delay in setting up this new structure to date. [10197/10]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

67 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has established an Implementation Task Force chaired by his Department with regard to setting up a one-stop-shop to improve the provision of broadband infrastructure here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10216/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 59 and 67 together.

The establishment of a "one-stop-shop" is one of the commitments in the Next Generation Broadband policy paper "Gateway to a Knowledge Ireland", which I published in June last year.

The concept of a "one-stop-shop" arose from a recognition that there is added value to be had from facilitating telecoms operators in gaining access to ducting in State-owned networks, thereby ensuring optimal use of State assets and facilitating more cost-effective roll out of broadband. The context to the proposal is the anticipated increase in demand for high speed broadband into the future.

My Department has had consultations with the telecoms operators and has also engaged with the relevant State Bodies which are generally supportive of the proposal. My Department has also undertaken an initial survey of State-owned networks and has published a series of maps showing the routes of infrastructure such as roads, electricity, gas and rail.

A further development in progressing the thinking behind the concept has been the publication of the Premium Rate Services Bill, which contains an amendment to the Communications (Regulation) Act 2002 whereby the National Roads Authority will provide a formal framework to make ducts on national roads and motorways accessible to telecommunications companies. This Bill, which has cleared all stages in the Dáil and Seanad will be back before this House tomorrow and I anticipate that it will be quickly enacted.

The immediate objective is to have information on the availability of and access arrangements for all State-owned ducting via a single contact point later this year. My Department is in discussion with ComReg in this regard.

At the same time we will evaluate and progress the best management system that will in the future provide coordinated access to such State-owned ducting.

Such a management system should facilitate our wider objective of promoting cooperation between different telecoms providers of backhaul and wholesale services while at the same time not undermining competition in the market.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Bernard Allen

Question:

60 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to amend the Gate 3 system to facilitate commercially viable new wind farm proposals getting grid connection without unreasonable delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10178/10]

Jack Wall

Question:

88 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to amend the Gate 3 system to facilitate commercially viable new wind farm proposals getting grid connection without unreasonable delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10111/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 60 and 88 together.

The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) has statutory responsibility for grid connection offers and for oversight of EirGrid's grid connection process including the Gate process for renewable energy.

There is currently over 1,500 megawatts (MWs) of renewable generation capacity connected to the electricity grid. Wind powered technology is the dominant renewable technology. Over 100 individual windfarms have been connected with a combined capacity of 1,260 MWs. 240 MWs of hydro-power are connected. The balance represents biomass plants mainly landfill gas.

The contribution from renewable energy connected to the electricity grid is increasing very steadily from year to year. Renewable generation contributed 11.9% of all electricity consumed in 2008 compared to just 4.4% in 2003. Renewable generation in 2009 is estimated to have represented 14% of all generation consumed. Ireland is on schedule to meet the 15% target for electricity from renewable sources in 2010.

In addition to projects already built and connected, a further 1400 MWs of capacity have already signed grid connection offers from the Gate 1 and Gate 2 processes and will be built and connected to the grid over the next two or three year period.

The CER and EirGrid previously estimated that around 5,800 megawatts (MWs) of renewable capacity will be required in total to deliver the 40% target in 2020. If the downward trend in electricity consumption continues the prospects for exceeding the 40% target increases.

The CER decision on the ‘Gate 3' round provides for connection offers for an additional 4,000 MWs of renewable electricity capacity. Approximately 90% of these offers are wind powered capacity including around 800 MW of offshore wind. The Gate 3 decisions, combined with existing renewable capacity and projects currently being built and connected, point to the 40% target being met and even exceeded by 2020. Ireland's National Renewable Energy Action Plan, which is to be submitted to the EU Commission by next June, will set out the detailed projections and strategies to achieve the national target. The plan is being developed in consultation with the renewable sector and all stakeholders.

The projects in Gate 3 were selected by the CER on a "first come first served" criterion. Grid connection offers for projects within the Gate 3 process began to issue in December last year. They continue to be issued on a phased basis until mid 2011.

To ensure this process operates efficiently and to keep the industry informed of developments, the CER has established a Gate 3 Liaison Group involving all stakeholders, including EirGrid and the renewable industry associations. The objective is to ensure the connection offer process is completed quickly, transparently and effectively.

The Gate 3 process was extensively consulted on by the CER. Through public consultation and dedicated industry workshops, all industry stakeholders were given the opportunity of responding in advance to the proposed connection process.

Once the level of take up of Gate 3 offers becomes clear, the CER will decide how to address any issues arising.

A strategic framework to deliver on the potential for exporting renewable electricity from Ireland is also a key priority. This will take account of grid technology developments, power flow management techniques and progressive interconnection with the UK and potentially Europe. In that context Ireland's membership of the North Seas Countries Offshore Grid Initiative and involvement in other EU offshore wind fora will ensure that Ireland is at the forefront of European developments in offshore renewable energy.

Electricity Generation.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

61 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to address the issue of windfall profits being made by electricity generators on the back of charging consumers for the cost of carbon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10212/10]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

69 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to address the issue of windfall profits being made by electricity generators; the position regarding the types of legislative mechanisms that may be put in place to recover carbon windfall gains from electricity generation companies; the most recent amount of windfall profits generated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10140/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 61 and 69 together.

My Department in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General has been working to progress a scheme to provide for the recovery of carbon windfall gains from electricity generators to the end of the current EU Emissions Trading Scheme in 2012. Under the current Emissions Trading Scheme there is a free allocation of carbon credits to electricity generators.

The Single Electricity Market Committee has statutory responsibility for the operation of the all island electricity market. The Committee decided in 2008 that the full costs of the free carbon allocations should be passed through to the market. This has been a cause of considerable concern to business because of the impact on the wholesale cost of electricity. Business Groups have also expressed concerns about the related carbon windfall profits earned by electricity generators. These concerns have been raised consistently in the context of energy costs for business and their impact on competitiveness.

In July last year the Government agreed a series of measures to mitigate where possible energy costs for business. As part of those measures the Government decided to progress the introduction of legislation to recover carbon windfall gains from generators up to 2012.

There are legal, technical and other complex considerations inherent in any potential treatment of carbon windfall gains. My Department has been working to comprehensively address all these considerations in finalising proposals for the drafting of legislation. I can advise the Deputy that the Government have today approved my proposals to draft legislation on the implementation of a carbon windfall levy. My Department will be working with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to finalise the draft legislative provision with a view to its publication shortly.

Telecommunications Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

62 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps he is taking to provide broadband coverage to areas not serviced by the national broadband scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9945/10]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

99 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the implementation of a scheme funded by the European Economic Recovery Programme to access broadband in rural areas; the action he is taking to ensure 100% broadband availability here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10092/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 62 and 99 together.

My Department entered into a contract with "3", a Hutchison Whampoa company, for the delivery of the National Broadband Scheme (NBS) in late December 2008. Since then, 3 has progressed its network rollout and NBS broadband services are now available in almost half of the 1,028 designated Electoral Divisions (ED) to be covered under the Scheme. Under the NBS contract, all EDs in the NBS Coverage Area are required to have broadband connectivity by end September 2010.

It is accepted that even after the full roll-out of the National Broadband Scheme (NBS) there will still be a small percentage of premises outside of the Electoral Divisions covered by the scheme that will not be capable of receiving broadband services. This is primarily due to technical and other reasons (suitability of a telephone line, distance from an enabled exchange, no line of sight etc.).

The European Commission has set aside a portion of the European Economic Recovery Plan (EERP) funding for rural broadband initiatives. In this context, my Department is currently considering the detailed design and implementation of a scheme which would utilise these funds to address the issue of broadband availability to unserved rural premises outside of the NBS areas.

One of the key issues to be resolved in adopting a scheme to address this issue is the identification of potential beneficiaries under the scheme. The scheme can apply only in rural areas and can not apply to those areas already covered by the NBS. The scheme will also not be available to people who already have a service available to them.

My Department will be consulting with existing Internet Service Providers to ensure that the scheme does not encroach on their existing customer base.

It is hoped to commence the scheme this year with the identification of premises not capable of receiving broadband. State Aid approval has been granted by the European Commission as part of the overall process of securing the necessary approvals and funding for the scheme.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Enda Kenny

Question:

63 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to combine heat and power in public buildings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10206/10]

Combined Heat and Power (CHP) is a highly efficient way of generating on-site heat and electricity simultaneously. It can offer significantly reduced energy bills for the end user and is a particularly efficient form of energy generation as it minimises any transmission losses involved in getting power to the site.

Traditionally, CHP plants were only used in large industrial units with a high on-site heat load. Increasingly the technology is developing higher efficiency, smaller scale units that are capable of servicing smaller buildings and residential houses.

As this technology becomes more common in the market, smaller commercial premises, public buildings, can now reduce their energy costs by installing CHP systems.

Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI), administers the Deployment Programme for CHP technologies. The programme was expanded in 2008 to include dedicated support for Biomass and Anaerobic Digestion powered CHP.

Under the SEI Support Programme a significant number of Public Buildings have taken advantage of the benefits of CHP, or are currently in the process of doing so. These include academic institutions which have installed CHP systems, with a total electrical capacity of 850 kilowatts. Two more institutions are in the process of installing systems with an electrical capacity of 750 kilowatts.

In the Health sector, 5 hospitals have already installed CHP systems with a total electrical capacity of 770 kilowatts. 3 Local Authorities have also installed systems with an electrical capacity of 350 kilowatts, with one more in construction.

The Renewable Heat Deployment Programme (ReHeat), which incentivises the installation of biomass boilers, is also open to institutional users of heat, and has already supported the construction of a number of projects.

Taken together, CHP technologies and the projects supported by Reheat offer real solutions to energy costs in these public buildings by reducing the cost of power and increasing the overall energy efficiency of the buildings.

There are particular challenges for Ireland in achieving significant CHP penetration given our dispersed low density population and the characteristics of the built environment. The improvements in CHP technology and the ongoing work of SEI with the Public Sector and industry will help us to overcome the challenges.

Proposed Legislation.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

64 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to introduce legislation to facilitate the development of offshore wind energy; and if so the timescale for same. [10168/10]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

93 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to introduce legislation to facilitate the development of offshore wind energy; the timeframe for the legislation; the position regarding offshore wind here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10109/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 64 and 93 together.

Following the enactment of the Foreshore and Dumping at Sea (Amendment) Act 2009, responsibility for certain foreshore functions transferred to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government with effect from 15 January last. This includes all energy related developments (including oil, gas, wind, wave and tidal energy) on the foreshore.

My colleague, Minister Gormley, has made clear that he will introduce legislative change aimed at better integrating the foreshore consent processes with the planning processes under the Planning Acts. This will include the new planning regime for offshore renewable energy developments, taking account of the National Offshore Renewable Energy Plan which is to be submitted by my Department to the EU Commission by next June. My Department is working closely with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on the new regime that will reflect national and EU renewable energy objectives while taking account of the interests of stakeholders in the marine resource.

Both Departments will work with the Department of Finance, the Attorney General's Office and other relevant Departments as well as EirGrid, the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) and Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI), in the delivery of the new regime.

A Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of Irish offshore renewable energy resources is being undertaken by the SEI at my Department's request. This will complement and inform the design of the new offshore framework. The SEA process is being overseen by a steering group comprising my Department, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, SEI and the Marine Institute.

I intend to bring forward shortly a policy blueprint for the development of the renewable energy offshore resource encompassing ocean and wind energy. Ireland's National Offshore Renewable Energy Plan to be submitted to the EU Commission by next June will include our plans for offshore renewable energy. It will also take account of the significant impetus being given to offshore renewable energy at European level. Our work as part of the North Seas Countries Offshore Initiative together with the forthcoming EU Strategic Energy Review will focus on the priority interconnection needs across Member States. The Plan will also reflect ongoing co-operation with the UK and Northern Ireland through the ISLES project and under the British-Irish Council.

I look forward to meeting with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security in the coming weeks to set out my vision for the renewable energy resource and the actions underway to deliver on the potential including a fit for purpose planning regime.

Telecommunications Sector.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

65 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to instruct ComReg to allow open access to all publicly and privately owned infrastructure. [10176/10]

I strongly favour open access to private and public telecoms infrastructure. I believe that such access can increase competition, drive down prices and encourage investment.

The question of ensuring access to telecoms infrastructure is a matter for ComReg as part of its function of regulating the telecoms markets in accordance with the requirements of the EU Regulatory Framework for electronic communications. ComReg is independent in the exercise of its regulatory functions and is required by law to exercise its powers impartially and transparently.

Under the Access Directive of the EU Regulatory Framework, ComReg is required to ensure access and interconnection between telecommunications operators in order to promote efficiency, sustainable competition and give the maximum benefit to end users. These are legal obligations under EU and national law, which ComReg is required to enforce.

I very much welcome recent decisions by ComReg to make the cost of access to the infrastructure of the dominant telecommunications player more competitive.

There are a number of telecom networks which are owned by the State or by commercial State bodies that are available to telecom service providers on an open-access basis.

Eighty-seven Metropolitan Area Networks constructed by my Department, in conjunction with Local and Regional Authorities, offering dark fibre and managed services are available on an open access basis to all service providers. There are currently 35 service providers using the MANs in some of these locations.

ESB Telecoms (ESBT) has built over 1,300kms of optical fibre network, which was grant-aided by my Department from Exchequer and European Regional Development Funds. ESBT offers dark fibre and managed bandwidth services to any service provider requiring backhaul connectivity on their network.

Aurora Telecom, a Division of Bord Gáis Éireann, offers dark fibre on its network to service providers on an open-access basis.

The importance of open access for competition in the telecommunications market has been continuously highlighted by me in policy statements governing electronic communications, most recently in my policy paper "Next Generation Broadband — Gateway to a Knowledge Ireland".

Broadcasting Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

66 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the target date for the switch off of analogue television broadcast services. [10158/10]

Joan Burton

Question:

89 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the persons who are on the group set up to advise him on analogue switch off; when the recommendations will be completed; if the recommendations will be published in the public domain; if there is a cost involved in setting up this group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10143/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 66 and 89 together.

Part 8 of the Broadcasting Act, 2009 provides for, amongst other things, the closure of the national analogue TV network.

My stated policy objective on this is that the earliest possible switch-off of the analogue system needs to be achieved thereby releasing valuable spectrum to enable Ireland to reap the benefits of the digital dividend.

The European Commission has set 2012 as the timeline for analogue switch off throughout Europe and the EU Council of Ministers has asked Member States to, as far as possible, complete the switchover in 2012.

As previously announced my objective is that this should take place in Ireland no later than quarter 4 of 2012.

The group I have established to advise me on planning for analogue switch off and related matters is chaired by the Head of the Broadcasting Policy Division in my Department. The Group includes representatives of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), ComReg, RTE and my Department. Representation on the Group is a matter for the individual organisations and can vary from meeting to meeting. I expect to receive the group's report shortly and I will publish it when I have concluded my consideration of it. There was no cost involved in setting up the group.

Question No. 67 answered with Question No. 59.

Electric Vehicles.

John Deasy

Question:

68 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has worked on securing a memorandum of understanding with any new manufacturers with a view to supplying electric vehicles here following his statement that he would look to other manufacturers to guarantee choice of supply of electric vehicles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10187/10]

Damien English

Question:

70 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the process of rolling out an infrastructure for charging electric vehicles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10193/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 68 and 70 together.

Electric vehicles offer an increasingly realistic solution in terms of reducing the Greenhouse Gas Emissions in transport while at the same time tackling Ireland's dependence on imported fossil fuels. There is very significant global investment under way in research and development in this area. The technology is now maturing to a point where large scale commercial deployment appears feasible in the short to medium term. The range of new car models by virtually all motor manufacturers recently revealed at the recent Frankfurt Motor Show underlines the rapidity and scale of the technology shift.

Ireland needs to be at the forefront of developments and we are working to ensure this with all stakeholders. We have set a target of 10% of all vehicles to be powered by electricity by 2020, which will equate to around 225,000 cars on Irish roads.

The challenge is to develop economically viable options for the cost efficient build, operation and maintenance of an electric vehicle infrastructure network in Ireland. Incentivisation is also needed to develop a market for electric vehicles.

ESB networks are proactively developing plans for an electric vehicle infrastructure network and are taking a lead role in Europe to ensure that EU utilities work together to progress standardisation. I am working with my colleague the Minister for Finance to put in place the incentives to support electric vehicles as announced on Budget Day.

The Memorandum of Understanding concluded by the ESB and my Department with Renault-Nissan is designed to support knowledge transfer on the infrastructure requirements of electric vehicles. It will also ensure that Ireland is one of the first countries to be supplied with both Renault and Nissan electric cars. This represents a major opportunity for Ireland. Under the Memorandum of Understanding ESB Networks is able to avail of data on developments in electric vehicles which is informing consideration of optimum infrastructure, support mechanisms and the potential benefits accruing. The Memorandum of Understanding does not convey any exclusive rights in relation to the provision of electric cars. Ireland is open for business to all manufacturers of electric vehicles and I want to build relationships with all global players in the sector.

My Department and the ESB are currently in discussions with other motor manufacturers with a view to developing additional Memoranda of Understanding and there are a number of promising prospects for later this year, which will contribute to ensuring choice of supply.

Question No. 69 answered with Question No. 61.
Question No. 70 answered with Question No. 68.

Digital Terrestrial Television.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

71 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the provision of commercial digital terrestrial television here and the ongoing negotiation between the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland and a consortium (details supplied); the timescale for the rollout of a free to air DTT service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10201/10]

Liz McManus

Question:

102 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the digital terrestrial television project here; when he expects the signing of the contract with a company (details supplied); the concerns he has if the delays in implementing DTT continue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10104/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 71 and 102 together.

Part 8 of the Broadcasting Act 2009 provides for the development of free-to-air and commercial digital terrestrial television (DTT) in Ireland and for the closure of the national analogue TV network.

On foot of this requirement, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) predecessor, the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI), launched a competition, which is still ongoing. As the Deputy is aware, the highest placed consortium in the competition withdrew from the process last April. Negotiations then commenced with the next placed bidder and this process is continuing.

As I stated recently in response to previous questions on this issue, I am not prepared to speculate on the outcome of the commercial DTT process, which is a matter for the BAI, an independent regulatory authority. Nor am I prepared to surmise on the ongoing negotiations between the BAI, RTÉ and the OneVision consortium. I have, however, made clear my view that I would like to see this process concluded as soon as possible.

The conclusion of the process is essential to provide certainty for broadcasters, suppliers and the general public with regard to the development of commercial DTT services in Ireland.

Under section 129 of the Broadcasting Act 2009 RTÉ is required to ensure that ‘free-to-air' DTT is available to approximately 90% of the population on such date as may be specified by the Minister. I signed an Order last week specifying this date as 31st October 2010.

The Act also requires RTÉ to provide a national ‘free to air' digital service with capacity to carry RTÉ 1, RTE 2, TG4 and TV3 by the end of 2011 or such later date as I may specify. I have written to RTE informing them that the date for provision of a national service is 31 December 2011.

As I have previously stated, my policy objective is the earliest possible switch-off of the analogue TV system operated by RTÉNL and it is my intention that this will be no later that quarter four 2012. The timely switch-off of analogue broadcast services will release valuable spectrum and will position Ireland to maximise the benefits of the resulting digital dividend.

Departmental Agencies.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

72 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if the annual accounts for 2008 of the Central Fisheries Board have been published and laid before Dáil Éireann; if not, the reason for the delay; the timeframe for publication; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10128/10]

The Fisheries (Amendment) Act 1999, provides that the Central Fisheries Board shall submit draft annual accounts to the Comptroller & Auditor General (C&AG) and that the Board is then obliged to submit to the Minister, as soon as may be but not later than one month after an audit by the C&AG, a copy of its annual accounts, together with the report of the C&AG.

I understand the Comptroller and Auditor General is finalising his consideration of the Board's 2008 accounts and that it is expected the accounts will be signed off in the coming weeks, and forwarded to me thereafter. It is my intention that, on receipt of the audited accounts and report, copies of both will be laid before each House of the Oireachtas at the earliest possible opportunity.

Telecommunications Services.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

73 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if ComReg will be given powers to issue a regulatory limit on contention in relation to broadband or the way companies can advertise broadband speeds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10132/10]

The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) is charged with the development of a dynamic, efficient and competitive market-place for electronic communications. ComReg is empowered to regulate certain markets at the wholesale level, including the wholesale broadband market. Contention is only one element of many retail broadband products that are available. Other elements would include price, speed, latency, and technology and customers choose their product based on their specific needs. ComReg does not regulate retail markets.

Electricity Grid.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

74 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the North South Interconnector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10134/10]

The Meath-Tyrone 400 kV Interconnection Development Project comprises an 80km, 400kV Interconnector between Cavan and Tyrone, and a 58km, 400kV Power Line between Meath and Cavan. This project will deliver enhanced cross-border transmission of electricity and further strengthen links between Ireland and Northern Ireland as part of the all-island electricity market. It will facilitate the increased integration of renewable electricity and will ensure security of electricity supplies for consumers and businesses on the island and in particular in the North East region, thereby underpinning economic renewal.

This cross-border project is being developed by Ireland's national transmission system operator, EirGrid, and Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE). A planning consent application was submitted by EirGrid to An Bord Pleanála in December 2009. NIE also submitted a planning application in respect of the Northern Ireland aspects of the project, to the Northern Ireland Department of Environment Planning Service in December. Public consultation in both jurisdictions commenced last month.

Proposed Legislation.

Noel Coonan

Question:

75 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to introduce legislation to facilitate geothermal combined heat and power projects; and if so the time scale for same. [10171/10]

Jack Wall

Question:

86 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding geothermal energy here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10110/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 75 and 86 together.

I have stated on a number of occasions commitment to the early provision of a legislative framework for the exploration for and development of geothermal energy. Accordingly, in the course of 2009, drafting of a General Scheme of a Bill with a view to producing Heads in early 2010 has been prioritised in the Department, with detailed legislative drafting to follow by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel. Considerable progress has been made in this regard and I am currently considering an initial proposal for Heads, which I would hope to bring to Government in the near future, seeking approval to send these forward for drafting a Bill on Geothermal Energy for publication later this year.

I have pointed out on a number of occasions that geothermal energy is a new area of legislative endeavour in this jurisdiction and the Bill will be expected to be substantial, dealing with a range of matters such as ownership of the resource, regulation and licensing of exploration and development, ancillary rights and protection of third party interests. I would add that I have engaged closely with industry and interested parties in a series of meetings and workshops to ensure legislative proposals have the benefit of their input.

Broadcasting Services.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

76 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the establishment of a television channel dedicated to the proceedings of the Houses of the Oireachtas as outlined in the Programme for Government 2007; when it is proposed to be on air; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10091/10]

Part 7, Chapter 6 of the Broadcasting Act 2009 provides for the development of an Oireachtas Channel. Part 8 of the Act provides for a right of carriage on the RTÉ digital terrestrial television multiplex in respect of this channel.

The Broadcasting Act 2009 provides that the Commission of the Houses of the Oireachtas may establish a public service channel to be made available throughout the island of Ireland providing coverage of:

proceedings of both Houses of the Oireachtas;

proceedings of a local authority;

institutions under the British-Irish Agreement;

other legislatures; and

UN, EU and Council of Europe institutions.

The 2009 Act provides that the cost of such a channel would be met from the budget of the Commission of the Houses of the Oireachtas and that no advertising is permitted on the channel. I hope that the Commission of the Houses of the Oireachtas will now be able to make the necessary resources available to progress the channel in conjunction with the roll out of the new digital terrestrial television services.

Telecommunications Services.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

77 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the way he plans to combat the digital divide; if he is satisfied that persons who wish to learn how to use the Internet across broad sections of society have an opportunity to learn; the numbers of eInclusion grants awarded; the numbers of training places that have been taken up; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10127/10]

My Department, and others, have been working, and continue to work, on addressing the digital divide with a range of measures to promote digital engagement.

One issue has been access to the technology and infrastructure — which is being addressed both by the market and, in the case of areas where broadband provision remains an issue, through the National Broadband Scheme, in which my Department is investing substantially.

The issue of skills is being addressed in several ways. Training opportunities are being provided by community, voluntary and not for profit organisations across the country. My Department'sBene f IT e-Inclusion grant schemes are assisting many of these initiatives.

Under theBene f IT schemes, 89 grants were awarded in 2008 and 2009 — amounting to approximately €2.58 million. A review of the outputs from the Bene f IT 1 scheme has commenced. It will, inter alia, determine the number of people trained under the scheme, and will be published on my Department’s website when completed later this year. Approximately 7,400 training places are available under the Bene f IT 2 scheme this year. Training throughout 2010 is taking place in venues across the country. Details of the training, the locations and contact information for the training providers are available on my Department’s website at www.eInclusion.ie

There are, of course, other training opportunities available from a variety of sources — including opportunities in libraries and in night classes throughout the country, and from a range of private sector training providers. In addition, there is the "Log on, Learn" initiative — a collaborative program between Intel, Microsoft, An Post and the Department of Education & Science. The programme is designed to match participating transition-year students with older people on a one-to-one basis, to share skills and knowledge with each other. I understand that over 3,000 people have been trained on this programme.

Government will continue to examine approaches to promote increased digital participation and digital skills in the context of strategies to advance the Knowledge Society.

Postal Services.

Mary Upton

Question:

78 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if the decision on the type of postcode to be implemented was made prior to the tender process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10105/10]

The Government has now approved the implementation of a postcode system as recommended by the National Postcode Project Board.

The model recommended, and since approved by Government, is an alpha-numeric, publicly available and accessible postal sector model.

Following the Government's approval of the implementation of a national postcode system for Ireland as recommended by the National Postcodes Project Board, my officials and I have been working to address the next steps in this project. A competition was launched last month to select a body that will assist the Department in managing the delivery of a working postcodes system. That delivery will be undertaken by way of a competitive tender process.

Energy Regulation.

Tom Hayes

Question:

79 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when he plans to change the regulatory model for setting the price of domestic household electricity in order to allow the ESB to compete on price; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10205/10]

The entry into the domestic electricity market last year of two new suppliers, Airtricity and Bord Gáis Energy, demonstrates that policy to encourage competition in electricity generation and supply is paying dividends for consumers.

Bord Gáis Energy and Airtricity are offering discounts of between 10% and 14% on ESB unit rates which are still regulated. They are also offering domestic consumers alternative billing arrangements and options for the level of renewable electricity they purchase.

Energy price regulation is designed to ensure that a dominant player cannot engage in uncompetitive, short-term pricing practices, which could undermine or drive out emerging competition. The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) has made it clear that the regulation of ESB tariffs will discontinue when competition has taken firm hold in the market.

The CER is now working with ESB and with the other players in the market as well as consumer and business groups, to develop a timeframe for deregulation of the regulated ESB tariffs through the emergence of competition of scale. On 2nd December last, the CER published its paper for consultation on the timing and conditions under which regulation of prices should be discontinued for ESB Customer Supply. The CER is also consulting on other actions to be taken, apart from the removal of the price control, in order to ensure a fully competitive deregulated electricity retail market. The closing date for submissions on the CER's consultation paper was 1st February last. I understand the CER received a wide range of submissions which are now being analysed. A clear roadmap and timeframe for retail electricity deregulation for domestic customers as well as SMEs will result from this process in the coming months.

Telecommunications Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

80 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps he is taking to provide high speed broadband services in urban areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9946/10]

While the provision of broadband services, particularly in urban areas, is a matter for private sector service providers, my overall policy framework is aimed at encouraging wider availability and higher speed services.

Broadband policy is set out in the paper that I launched in June 2009. This paper set out the basic policy framework that investment in broadband, including Next Generation Networks (NGN) which provide higher speeds, is primarily a matter for the market facilitated by an appropriate regulatory regime. Direct State investment is aimed at market failure situations, for example, the National Broadband Scheme (NBS), which is aimed at bringing a basic broadband product to unserved areas.

The availability, take up and quality of broadband in Ireland have all increased substantially over recent years. Large corporates throughout Ireland are fully served. SME and residential broadband has also improved significantly over recent years. Any remaining areas of Ireland that do not currently have a broadband service (i.e. now estimated at under 4% of the premises in Ireland) will have one through the NBS by the end of this year.

At the end of September 2009, just over 70% of Irish homes, and over 86% of SMEs, had subscribed for a broadband connection. As regards broadband speeds, most of the homes (68.4%) and the SMEs (72.8%) are using higher speed broadband (2mbps — 10mbps).

Energy Regulation.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

81 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on ensuring that tariffs for domestic gas cylinders are brought under the remit of the Energy Regulator; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10112/10]

While the regulation of natural gas tariffs is the responsibility of the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which is statutorily independent in the performance of its functions, the Commission has no function in regard to the setting of tariffs for domestic gas cylinders, or LPG, which is a by-product of oil. The Irish oil industry is fully privatised, liberalised and deregulated and there is no price control on petroleum products in Ireland.

The transportation and supply of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) is not licensed under the Energy Acts and neither my Department nor the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) have any role in the regulation of LPG transportation and supply.

Section 14 of the Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006, enables the CER's responsibilities to be extended to cover the activities of LPG undertakings and installers with respect to safety. Following legal advice indicating that amendments were required to this provision of the legislation, the Energy (Biofuel Obligation and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill includes a number of amendments in order to incorporate LPG and LPG installers into the natural gas safety regulatory system and to further provide that the CER assume responsibility for LPG safety. The Bill was introduced in the Seanad and has recently passed Second Stage.

These current legislative proposals represent Phase I of a two phase legislative approach. The matter of addressing identified gaps in relation to LPG Distribution Networks and reporting of LPG-related incidents requires further detailed examination and consultation with both industry and the Health and Safety Authority in order to ensure that among other things there is no duplication of responsibilities.

The CER has recently published a consultation document on these issues. The outcome of that consultation will inform Phase II legislative proposals. There are no plans to extend the role of the CER in relation to LPG beyond the safety role.

Telecommunications Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

82 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will seek a strategic partnership with Eircom under the new Singapore Technologies Telemedia partnership to roll out fibre broadband to the home. [10184/10]

Government policy pertaining to the electronic communications market in Ireland is set out in "Next Generation Broadband — Gateway to a Knowledge Ireland", which I published in June 2009. The policy paper was developed in accordance with various key principles, which are crucial to the development of the market including (i) competition, at platform and service levels, which drives innovation and investment, (ii) investment certainty for service providers considering investing in network infrastructure, (iii) investment intervention by Government to bridge any digital divide in cases of market failure and to meet certain of the State's own communication needs, and (iv) appropriate regulation. The policy paper sets out the Government's position that investment in broadband infrastructure is primarily a matter for the private sector, facilitated, where appropriate and possible, by Government (e.g. by providing access to State owned infrastructure).

Existing policy has facilitated significant progress in broadband roll out and broadband speeds over recent years and my focus will be on continuing implementation of this policy. I welcome all plans by service providers across different platforms to invest in high-speed broadband and will ensure that the State provides a supportive environment for such investment.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

83 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the national broadband scheme; the cost of the scheme to date; the overall expected cost; if the project is set for completion in September 2010; the maximum and minimum spends expected for this scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10139/10]

I regret to advise the Deputy that it is not possible to provide a response to her Question at this time. I will write to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Broadcasting Services.

Liz McManus

Question:

84 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the free to air BBC services here in view of statements (details supplied) following the publication of the Memorandum of Understanding between him and the UK Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10103/10]

Following the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding with the UK on digital broadcasting on 1 February 2010, it was found that a reference in the joint press release in relation to facilitating the provision of BBC services in Ireland did not accord with the text of the Memorandum. Following agreement between the two administrations, the press release was amended. The text of the memorandum and the press release is available on my Department's website www.dcenr.ie.

Energy Resources.

Joe Costello

Question:

85 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding fuel mix here; the percentage of fossil fuels that were imported in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10130/10]

The energy balance figures for 2009 are not yet available. The latest figures available were published by Sustainable Energy Ireland in December 2009 and refer to 2008.

The figures show that Ireland's overall import dependency reached 91% in 2006 and has decreased slightly to 89% in 2008.

Since the mid-1990s import dependency has grown significantly due to the overall increase in energy use together with the decline in indigenous natural gas production at Kinsale since 1995 and decreasing peat production.

Over the period 1990 to 2008, production of indigenous gas decreased by 81%, peat by 54% while the use renewable energy in contrast increased by 221%.

Question No. 86 answered with Question No. 75.
Question No. 87 answered with Question No. 57.
Question No. 88 answered with Question No. 60.
Question No. 89 answered with Question No. 66.

Telecommunications Services.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

90 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the Davy Report that pointed to the failures of investment in our telecoms sector as a major concern; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10136/10]

The report referred to by the Deputy examines the distribution of private sector capital investment over the previous decade. It highlights the excessive concentration of such investment in the housing sector and calls for an increased distribution of future capital investment in core activities that would enhance national productive capacity. The report accords with my policy paper "Next Generation Broadband — Gateway to a Knowledge Ireland", published in June 2009, which aims to facilitate private sector capital investment in electronic communications infrastructure.

I would to point out that there has in fact been significant private investment in telecommunications infrastructure, especially broadband, in recent years. This has led to a major investment in our broadband infrastructure across the different platforms of fixed line, cable and mobile. As a result, broadband coverage has been greatly extended and speeds have increased. This private investment has been complemented by State investment in cases of market failure such as the National Broadband Scheme (NBS). These developments are reflected in recent improvements in Ireland's international position on broadband provision.

Energy Efficiency.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

91 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the progress made to date on the implementation of the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan which was published in 2009; the position regarding the target of 20% energy efficiency savings across the economy by 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10133/10]

The National Energy Efficiency Action Plan (NEEAP) sets out 90 actions that Government is either already taking or will take in the period to 2020 to achieve the national energy efficiency targets of 20% across the economy and 33% in the public sector. The savings identified in the Action Plan represent approximately €1.6 billion in avoided energy costs for the economy in 2020.

The key NEEAP actions undertaken to date are as follows:

The Home Energy Saving (HES) Scheme, which is administered by Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI), was launched in March 2009. The scheme provides grant assistance to homeowners for energy efficiency retro-fitting measures including attic and wall insulation, very high-efficiency boilers, heating controls and Building Energy Rating (BER) assessments.

The scheme is open to anybody owning a house that was built prior to 2006. Homeowners can expect to save up to €700 per year on their energy bills if they install the full suite of measures available under the scheme. The scheme offers grants of up to 40% of the typical cost of energy efficiency upgrade measures, depending on the measure concerned. The scheme had attracted 40,724 applications by the end of December 2009. In total, 33,434 energy efficient measures were installed in 18,183 homes in 2009.

The Warmer Homes Scheme (WHS) provides support for low income housing for insulation and other energy efficiency improvement measures. This scheme is also managed by SEI and implemented by local community groups. Measures include cavity wall insulation, attic insulation, boiler lagging jackets, draught proofing measures and Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs). These measures are provided free or at a nominal cost to the householder. Advice is also provided on minimising energy use. Some €20 million was provided for the scheme in 2009, which included a contribution of €5 million from ESB and BGE. This enabled energy efficiency improvements to be made in over 19,000 vulnerable homes in 2009, effectively doubling the total number of homes benefiting under the scheme in the previous ten years.

In the business sector, the most significant cost-cutting and energy saving potential lies in improving the energy performance requirements of new non-residential buildings, improvement of existing buildings, encouraging more businesses and public bodies to actively address their energy use and to use the most energy efficient plant, machinery and equipment. In 2009, SEI delivered a €5 million programme that provided grant assistance to the business and public sectors. The programme supports energy efficiency measures for businesses and institutions across the country. Over 74 projects have been funded under the programme. As a result of the work carried out, annual energy savings worth €2.6 million and 12kt CO2 where achieved.

SEI also ran a €1.3m support programme providing energy assessments and training to local authorities and other public sector agencies. This has resulted in savings worth between €1.2M and €1.8M in 2009. A range of best practice guides were also developed and an energy efficiency design process initiated to incorporate energy efficiency principles into the design of new or retrofitted public sector services. Regulations introduced in December 2009 require all public bodies to include, in its annual reports published after January 1st next year, a statement describing the actions it is taking to improve its energy efficiency, together with an assessment of the energy savings arising from those actions. SEI is currently finalising the methodology for calculating energy savings across the public sector.

For 2010, a dedicated public sector programme will build on the work of 2009. The Energy Efficiency in the Public Sector Programme will be the main delivery mechanism for energy efficiency actions by public sector bodies. In addition to the services provided in 2009, areas to be supported in 2010 include:

Developing Energy Service Company (ESC) led models under new the National Retrofit programme, outlined in the Budget

Assisting public sector bodies in the development of 2020 energy efficiency strategies to 2020

Working in partnership with all Departments in relation to energy efficient design and procurement.

Regulations have also been finalised to give effect to the EU Energy Efficiency Directive that include new energy efficient public procurement rules. These new rules will require public bodies to purchase or lease only plant and equipment across a diverse range of technologies that are listed on SEI's database of highly energy efficient products. This database has already been developed as part of the Accelerated Capital Allowance (ACA) Scheme for energy efficient technologies.

SEI is also required under the regulations with producing general guidelines on energy efficient procurement and these will be progressed in conjunction with the new OPW National Public Procurement Office and the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

The ACA scheme was expanded in 2009 to take account of additional categories including energy efficient IT infrastructure and electric vehicles. Companies can now write off the full capital cost of energy efficient equipment in the year of purchase. The ACA scheme currently covers equipment accounting for at least 60% of the energy used by industry in Ireland.

In compliance with the 2006 and 2008 Building Regulations, it is also the policy of Office of Public Works (OPW) that it will conduct feasibility studies on the utilisation of renewable energy technologies in all new buildings over 1,000m2 as part of the design process.

The OPW has already installed a number of biomass boiler systems and Solar Panel systems in both new and existing buildings where it has been shown to be both technically and economically feasible. OPW will continue to take this approach.

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has recently prioritised work through the statutory Building Regulations Advisory Board to establish achievable targets for reductions in primary energy and CO2 emissions for buildings in all sectors of the economy including public sector buildings, with a view to upgrading the requirements in Part L (Conservation of Fuel and Energy) of the Building Regulations in 2010. The work programme currently under way will inform the development of a programme for continuous improvement in Part L requirements in coming years with a view to achieving a Carbon Neutral building standard for buildings other than dwellings, including civic buildings, by 2016.

SEI's Large Industry Energy Network (LIEN) continues to engage with the largest energy using enterprises (in manufacturing and services) where the 120 member companies collectively spend over €800 million per annum on energy. Recently published analysis shows that by spending €1.9 million these companies avoided energy costs of €60 million in 2008 alone.

The National Energy Retrofit Programme, announced on Budget Day, will further reduce energy costs and carbon emissions in homes and business while also creating employment and developing a sustainable market for energy services in Ireland. The detailed design and specification of the new programme is being finalised by my Department and SEI. The Programme will be the subject of a public consultation shortly. In broad terms the Retrofit Programme will bring together the HES Scheme and the WHS as well as the support programme for business and the public sector. It will also involve the development and promotion of energy services by the energy companies.

This new Programme has the potential to be the most innovative, ambitious, energy-related initiative ever introduced in Ireland. It will significantly reduce CO2 emissions and contribute to meeting the national efficiency targets including the target of 33% set for the public sector. It will also create significant employment in the energy and construction sectors in support of economic renewal.

Bio-Fuels Industry.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

92 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the European led sustainability criteria in relation to bio-fuels; the way he envisages same being implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10125/10]

I have been a strong advocate in Europe of the need for sustainability criteria for biofuel imports and production. The development of the EU biofuel sustainability criteria regime was overseen by a special ad hoc Committee, which comprised all Member States and the Commission. My Department participated in the work of the committee. The sustainability criteria are duly reflected in the Renewable Energy Directive which sets a 10% target for renewable energy in transport for all Member States by 2020. The Commission is finalising its detailed guidance document on the implementation of the sustainability criteria including reporting and verification requirements which will be critical to successful implementation. The Commission's guidelines are expected to be finalised and published later this month. They will be incorporated into the National Biofuels Obligation Scheme to ensure that the Irish biofuels market operates in full accordance with the sustainability standards.

Question No. 93 answered with Question No. 64.

Broadcasting Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

94 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will clarify his press statement on 27 January 2010 in relation to Play TV; the way he plans to deal with this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10145/10]

The Premium Rate Services Bill will empower the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) to regulate the provision of premium rate services, including TV shows that invite telephone participants. This Bill, which has already cleared all stages in the Dáil and Seanad, will be back before this House tomorrow and I anticipate that it will be quickly enacted.

Telecommunications Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

95 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the degree to which high speed high quality broadband is available throughout the country at present; the areas still without service; the areas with service but which is deemed to be unreliable or below par by international standards; the degree to which plans over the past five years to provide service in all areas have been achieved; his plans to ensure 100% coverage throughout the entire country in the next five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10154/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

98 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if comparisons have been made between the telecommunications services available here and those available in other EU member states with particular reference to the quality and reliability of all such technology, wire and wireless and or satellite; if the costs in this country are competitive; if the customer receives a service equal in every way to that available in other EU member states; if the quality of mobile phone services has kept pace with such services throughout the European Union in terms of overall coverage, quality, reliability and costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10155/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 95 and 98 together.

The regulation of telecommunications service providers, including regulatory issues surrounding network coverage and quality is the responsibility of the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), in accordance with its functions under the Communications Regulation Act 2002, as amended, and the EU Regulatory Framework for Electronic Communications. The framework applies in all EU Member States.

The provision of telecommunications and broadband services is a matter for electronic communications service providers who operate in a fully liberated market, regulated by the ComReg. In cases of market failure the Government will intervene, where appropriate and possible.

Government policy pertaining to the electronic communications market in Ireland is set out in "Next Generation Broadband — Gateway to a Knowledge Ireland", which I published in June 2009.

There has been significant progress in broadband roll out and broadband quality over recent years. According to ComReg's latest Quarterly Report for Q3/2009, 68% of residential subscriptions in Ireland and 72% of non-residential subscriptions are in the 2 — 10 Mbps range. Only 21% of the non residential subscriptions and only 24% of the residential subscriptions are in the 1 — 2 Mbps range. Higher speeds, in some cases up to 50Mbps, are also available to residential and SME customers in urban areas. For example, speeds of up to 24Mbps are available from DSL providers, 50Mbps products are available from fibre operators and 20Mbps products are available from cable operators.

In terms of fixed and mobile broadband penetration Ireland now ranks 11th out of the EU 27 and is ahead of the EU 27 average. It is notable also that telecoms prices in Ireland have fallen 40% in real terms over the past decade.

The Government has undertaken a number of initiatives to bring broadband to those parts of the country where operators have been unable to offer service on a commercial basis. In the case of the National Broadband Scheme (NBS), 3 is progressing its network roll-out and NBS broadband services are now available in almost half of the 1,028 designated Electoral Divisions (ED) to be covered under the Scheme. Under the NBS contract, all EDs in the NBS Coverage Area are required to have broadband connectivity by end September 2010.

It is accepted that even after the full roll-out of the NBS there will still be a small percentage of premises outside of the Electoral Divisions covered by the scheme that will not be capable of receiving broadband services. This is primarily due to technical and other reasons (suitability of a telephone line, distance from an enabled exchange, no line of sight etc.).

The European Commission has set aside a portion of the European Economic Recovery Plan (EERP) funding for rural broadband initiatives. In this context, my Department is currently considering the detailed design and implementation of a scheme which would utilise these funds to address the issue of broadband availability to unserved rural premises outside of the NBS areas.

Energy Programmes.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

96 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the €40 million that was unspent for sustainable energy programmes in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10135/10]

Under Public Financial Procedures, up to 10% of any given year's capital allocation can be carried forward if unspent. In relation to the 2009 allocation, my Department carried forward €15.721m into 2010. These funds were allocated between the ICT Programme (€14.290m) and the Energy Research Programme (€1.431m). The remainder of the unspent 2009 allocation was remitted to the Exchequer.

I would point out to the Deputy that the bulk of the allocation for energy programmes in 2009 related to demand led schemes and it is difficult to accurately predict take up of these, particularly in relation to new schemes. Notwithstanding the underspend in 2009, there were considerable achievements across sustainable energy programmes overseen by Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI). The Home Energy Savings Scheme, which was operational from April 2009, received 40,727 applications, and paid for 33,434 measures across 18,183 homes. Expenditure in 2009 amounted to €18.81m. The scheme has already received over 10,000 applications in 2010 with over €5m already paid out to date. I anticipate that the enhanced allocation on energy programmes in 2010 will be extended.

Telecommunications Services.

Joan Burton

Question:

97 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the cost and timeframe for the completion of the national broadband scheme. [10142/10]

The total cost of the National Broadband Scheme (NBS) is €223m of which the Government is contributing €79.8m.

The NBS project will involve a 21 month roll-out and the timeframe for 100% broadband availability in the NBS coverage area is end September 2010.

Question No. 98 answered with Question No. 95.
Question No. 99 answered with Question No. 62.

Energy Costs.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

100 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the timeframe for the energy affordability strategy; the form this strategy will take; the way he plans to address the problem of fuel poverty here; the number of homes that were part of the warmer homes scheme for 2008 and 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10113/10]

The Government is committed to mitigating energy costs for vulnerable households through a combination of institutional supports, investment in improving the energy efficiency of the housing stock and the wide availability of advice.

I am working closely with the Ministers for Social and Family Affairs and Environment, Heritage and Local Government to continue to deliver a fully cohesive Government response to the challenges of addressing energy affordability in Ireland in line with the commitment in the Renewed Programme for Government. The Energy Affordability Strategy is being prepared under the auspices of the Interdepartmental/Agency Group and will be subject of public consultation shortly. It will set out existing strategies and measures and future approaches to addressing energy affordability in a cohesive way.

Enhancing the energy efficiency of homes through structural improvements is pivotal to the Government's strategy to address energy affordability. To date, energy efficiency improvements in nearly 40,000 homes have been made under the Warmer Homes Scheme (WHS), of which 5,343 homes were completed in 2008 and 19,000 in 2009 (including nearly 3,000 homes delivered by the ESB according to WHS specification). Some €15 million was provided for the scheme in 2009, with a further €5 million provided by ESB and BGE. Of the €15 million Exchequer allocation €12.4m was spent under the scheme last year. Funding of €13m has been provided to the scheme in 2010. The WHS will be further enhanced under the National Energy Retrofit Programme which was announced on Budget Day.

The WHS provides energy efficiency improvements to homes in, or at risk of, fuel poverty and is primarily delivered by community based organisations (CBOs) of which 22 have, to date, been approved to provide this service. The CBOs work in partnership with their local network of poverty and community support organisations including public health nurses, MABS and St. Vincent De Paul to identify and address vulnerable homes. Private contractors were also engaged in 2009 to address the increasing demand for the scheme.

Energy Policy.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

101 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the energy related targets in the Programme for Government 2007; the current position in relation to achieving each target; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10129/10]

Under EU Directive 2001/77/EC, Ireland has a target of 13.2% for renewable electricity to be achieved by 2010. Ireland is on track to exceed this target and will meet the higher Government Programme target of 15% of electricity from renewable sources by 2010.

Between 2000 and 2007 renewable energy used for heat (RES-H) grew from 2.4 % to 3.7% before falling back slightly in 2008 to 3.6%. In absolute terms, biofuels in transport increased from 1 ktoe in 2005 (0.03% of road and rail transport [RES-T]) to 56 ktoe in 2008 (1.2%).

Under the Renewable Energy Directive 2009/28/EC, Ireland's target is for 16% of all energy (to include electricity, heating and transport) to be from renewable sources by 2020. The Government's targets of 40% of electricity, 12% of heating/cooling and 10% of transport to be sourced from renewable sources by 2020 are commensurate with Ireland's EU target.

In December 2008, the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) issued a decision, which requires EirGrid and ESB Networks to provide connection offers for an additional 3,900 MWs of new renewable capacity to ensure the 2020 target can be achieved. This additional level of capacity, taken together with the capacity already built and the capacity that already has connection offers, is capable of meeting our 40% 2020 electricity target, which EirGrid and the CER equate to an overall capacity of 5,800 MW of renewable capacity.

The National Energy Efficiency Action Plan 2009 sets out the actions under way and planned, which will deliver on the Government Programme targets of 20% energy savings across the economy and 33% in the public sector by 2020.

The Ocean Energy Strategy is under way in support of delivering on the targets for ocean energy in the Government Programme.

Question No. 102 answered with Question No. 71.

Energy Resources.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

103 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the legal action taken by the European Commission in 2009 on concerns over Ireland’s obligations under the EU Directive on emergency oil stocks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10138/10]

In 2008 the EU Commission issued a formal notice of infringement proceedings arising from the Commission's view that section 26 (4) of the National Oil Reserves Agency Act, 2007 was not compatible with Article 3(1) of Directive 2006/67/EC on the basis that the section allowed the National Oil Reserves Agency (NORA) stocks to be used as security against Agency loans. While in reality, NORA never used nor planned to use its stocks as security against any of its loans, the undertaking was given to the Commission to repeal the relevant Section of the Act in the interest of ensuring full compliance with the terms of the Directive.

Accordingly, I signed the European Communities (Repeal of Section 26(4) of the National Oil Reserves Agency Act 2007) Regulations 2009 (S.I. No 247 of 2009) on 30th June 2009. These Regulations repealed Section 26(4) of the National Oil Reserves Agency Act 2007, in order to make the 2007 Act compatible with Article 3(1) of the Directive and the European Commission was notified of this action accordingly.

Departmental Websites.

Mary Upton

Question:

104 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of websites being run under the remit of his Department; the cost of setting up each website; the cost of maintaining each website; the number of unique hits achieved per website; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10107/10]

I regret to advise the Deputy that it is not possible to provide a response to her Question at this time. I will write to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Departmental Programmes.

Joe Costello

Question:

105 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when the national energy efficiency retrofit programme will be launched in view of the difficulties (details supplied) with expenditure in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10106/10]

The National Energy Retrofit Programme, announced on Budget Day is a major initiative which will reduce energy costs and carbon emissions in homes and business while also creating jobs and developing a sustainable market for energy services. It will significantly reduce CO2 emissions and contribute to meeting the national efficiency targets including the target of 33% set for the public sector. It will also create significant employment in the energy and construction sectors in support of economic renewal and building the Smart Economy.

The detailed design and specification of the new programme is being finalised by my Department and SEI. The Programme will be the subject of public consultation shortly. In broad terms the Retrofit Programme will bring together the Home Energy Savings Scheme (HES) and the Warmer Homes Scheme (WHS), as well as support programmes for business and the public sector. It will also involve the development and promotion of energy services by the energy companies.

Pending the introduction of the overall Retrofit Programme, the HES and the WHS are fully open for business with applications being received and processed by SEI.

The HES Scheme which is administered by SEI, provides grant assistance to homeowners for energy efficiency retrofitting measures including attic and wall insulation, very high-efficiency boilers, heating controls and Building Energy Rating (BER) assessments.

The scheme is open to anybody owning a house that was built prior to 2006. Homeowners can expect to save up to €700 per year on their energy bills if they install the full suite of measures available under the scheme. The scheme offers grants of up to 40% of the typical cost of energy efficiency upgrade measures, depending on the measure concerned.

The scheme, which was launched in March 2009, had attracted 40,724 applications by the end of 2009. Some €16.26 million was paid out by SEI by the end of the year, representing 33,434 energy efficient measures installed in 18,183 homes. The scheme allows homeowners six months, from the date of grant approval, to have the work undertaken. Applications, take up and expenditure trends in January and to date in February have been most encouraging with over 1,000 applications per week on average.

Radio Broadcasting.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

106 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the amount of money that has been spent on digital radio here; the position regarding the project; if he will comment on criticisms of DAB radio as being outdated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10126/10]

I regret to advise the Deputy that it is not possible to provide a response to his Question at this time. I will write to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Electricity Grid.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

107 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the Grid 25 project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10141/10]

Grid25 is EirGrid's strategy for developing Ireland's electricity transmission network over the next fifteen years. The plan envisages the doubling of Ireland's grid capacity over the period to 2025, and will involve investment of €4 billion in this critical national infrastructure. I fully support EirGrid's plans for the transmission network as a strategic imperative.

The strengthening of Ireland's transmission grid is essential to allow increased integration of renewable energy in the Irish electricity system, facilitating the growth of secure indigenous energy resources and ensuring for the first time the capacity to export electricity generated in Ireland from renewable resources. It will also ensure secure, competitive and sustainable electricity supplies for industry and consumers by providing the capacity to meet future demand. Grid25 is therefore a key driver of economic growth and recovery. It is central to the achievement of a de-carbonised energy system for Ireland.

As the state owned National Transmission System Operator, EirGrid is proactively progressing Ireland's transmission development needs in line with Grid25, as a matter of priority. Work on a number of 110kV projects and three 220kV projects which have already received planning permission is underway. A further set of projects is currently the subject of public consultation in advance of planning consents being sought. These include key 110kV to 400kV developments at Moneypoint, Aghada, Shannonbridge, Mullingar and Loughteeogue. An application for planning consent was submitted in respect of the Meath Cavan Interconnection Project in December 2009, and construction on the East West Interconnector is scheduled to commence shortly.

In parallel with the roll-out of these projects, EirGrid has undertaken a series of regional briefings with stakeholders, on the longer-term implementation programme for Grid25. Detailed studies are being prepared to specify reinforcement requirements, and will assess environmental impact, technical issues, and route identification for the necessary regional schemes. These will form the basis for consultation with the public and all key stakeholders in the development of this strategic national infrastructure.

Electricity Generation.

David Stanton

Question:

108 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources further to Parliamentary Question No. 95 of 26 January 2010 the number of persons who have signed up to the ESB microgeneration programme; if the review of the scheme and participation levels has begun by his Department and the ESB; when he expects the review to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10157/10]

The Micro Generation Programme is being operated by ESB Customer Supply and supported by ESB Networks. The programme has the potential to provide up to 4,000 domestic customers investing in micro-scale projects with a financial payment for electricity exported back to the grid. The ESB advises that to date 222 customers have signed up for the scheme — 197 in the wind category and 25 in the solar photovoltaic category.

My Department has begun discussions with the ESB on reviewing the scheme with a further meeting planned in the coming weeks. I have asked my Department and ESB to expedite the review in the interests of timely progress on rolling out the microgeneration programme.

Central Statistics Office.

Joan Burton

Question:

109 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach the reason for the 19% increase, from €48,572,000 to €57, 832,000, in the estimated expenditure by the Central Statistics Office between 2009 and 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9952/10]

The net allocation for the CSO in 2010 is €57,832,000, compared with a provisional outturn of €48,572,000 for 2009. The increase is mainly due to cyclical activities which are additional to the CSO's core annual statistical work programme. Preparations for the next Census of Population in April 2011 are advancing this year and include the printing of the census forms; putting in place the census processing systems; commencing the recruitment of the temporary field force; and a wide range of other support and logistics preparations. The collection of the 2009/10 Household Budget Survey is continuing during the course of 2010 and the ten-yearly Census of Agriculture will be collected in June.

Unemployment Levels.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

110 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Taoiseach the number of persons under 25 years who are unemployed on the quarterly national household survey that do not hold a leaving certificate qualification on a county basis in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9883/10]

The Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) provides estimates at State and regional levels but does not provide data for counties or smaller areas. The following table gives details of the estimated number of unemployed persons aged 15 to 24 in Quarter 3 2009, classified by highest level of education completed.

Unemployed persons aged 15 to 24 by highest level of education completed Q3 2009

'000

Region

Below Leaving Certificate

Leaving Certificate or higher

Not stated

Total aged 15 to 24

Border

2.5

6.1

*

9.0

Midland

1.7

3.2

*

4.9

West

1.7

5.9

*

7.7

Dublin

4.2

11.9

*

16.2

Mid-East

1.8

6.8

*

8.7

Mid-West

1.4

4.9

*

6.7

South-East

3.5

7.1

*

10.7

South-West

3.1

7.3

*

10.5

Total

20.0

53.1

1.2

74.4

Figures marked with a * refer to estimates of below 1,000 persons. Such estimates are considered to be unreliable and as such are not presented.

Data may be subject to future revision.

Data may be subject to sampling or other survey errors, which are greater in respect of smaller values or estimates of change.

Reference period: q1=Jan-Mar, q2=Apr-Jun, q3=Jul-Sep, q4=Oct-Dec.

Source: Quarterly National Household Survey, Central Statistics Office.

Central Statistics Office.

David Stanton

Question:

111 Deputy David Stanton asked the Taoiseach the persons who represent Ireland at the United Nations Washington Group on Statistics; the State agencies, bodies or organisations that they represent; their functions and duties regarding the group, in particular the hosting of the group’s seventh meeting in Dublin in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9942/10]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

112 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach further to Parliamentary Question No. 139 of 23 February 2010, the reason the Central Statistics Office has not been represented by any other State body at EU or UN meetings in relation to the collection of statistics in view of the fact that in the National Disability Authority’s Operational Research Plan 2007 to 2009 it is stated on page 11 that it has participated on behalf of the CSO in the meetings of the UN Washington City Group on Disability Statistics. [10089/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 111 and 112 together.

The Washington Group on Disability Statistics was formed as a result of the United Nations International Seminar on Measurement of Disability that took place in New York in June 2001. An outcome of that meeting was the recognition that statistical and methodological work was needed at an international level in order to facilitate the comparison of data on disability cross-nationally. The City Group is an informal, temporary organisational format, reporting to the United Nations Statistical Commission, that allows representatives from national statistical agencies from a number of countries to come together along with subject matter and other experts to address selected problems in statistical methods. The composition of the Washington Group is representatives of National Statistics Institutes, International Organisations with an interest in disability statistics and national organisations with a research, policy or representational role.

The Washington Group first met in 2002 and has held nine meetings in total. Representatives from Ireland have attended the last seven meetings of the Group. The Irish delegation has included officials/experts from the Central Statistics Office, the National Disability Authority and Trinity College Dublin as appropriate. Ireland's participation in the Group has reflected considerable national developments in recent years, notably: the disability questions in the Census of Population and the 2006 National Disability Survey. The Central Statistics Office was a member of the Washington Group Steering Committee in 2008 and 2009.

The 2007 meeting in Dublin was organised and hosted by the CSO in conjunction with the NDA. Some officials from the Health Research Board and other Irish organisations with an interest in disability attended this meeting as observers.

As I stated in my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 139 of 23 February 2010, the CSO has not been represented by any other State body in relation to the work of the Group. Instead the composition of the Irish representation reflects the need for both producers and expert users of disability statistics to be engaged in methodological work of this nature. By way of analogy at national level, the CSO has worked closely with the NDA in the development and conduct of the National Disability Survey, in the formulation and review of the Census disability questions, in discussions of issues arising from the work of the Washington Group, on ethical issues concerning the conduct of the National Disability Survey, and more generally in relation to issues of relevance to disability statistics.

Unemployment Levels.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

113 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Taoiseach the most recent unemployment figures for Tallaght, Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10118/10]

The Live Register series gives a monthly breakdown of the number of people claiming Jobseekers Benefit, Jobseekers Allowance and other registrants as registered with the Department of Social and Family Affairs. Figures are published for each county and local social welfare office.

The most recent Live Register figures available are for January 2010. The table below contains the numbers signing on in Tallaght local office on the last Friday of January 2010. The live register for February will be published on March 3rd with detailed tables published on March 5th.

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

Persons on the Live Register in Tallaght Local Office by sex and age, January 2010

Male

Female

Both sexes

Under 25 years

1,595

849

2,444

25 years and over

5,617

2,090

7,707

All ages

7,212

2,939

10,151

Employment Levels.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

114 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Taoiseach the number of persons from the most recent Quarterly National Household Survey under 25 years who are self-employed; the percentage of persons in work under the age of 25 years who are self-employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10281/10]

The results of the Quarterly National Household Survey for Quarter 3 2009 indicated that there were an estimated 580,000 people aged 15 to 24 years in the State. Of these, an estimated 208,700 were in employment, 2,700 of whom were self-employed. This estimate represents 1.3% of all persons aged 15 to 24 years and in employment.

Departmental Staff.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

115 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Taoiseach the number of posts unfilled in his Department because of the embargo on recruitment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10296/10]

When the moratorium on recruitment is lifted the question as to whether any further staff are required by my Department will be considered further. Until then, my Department will continue to manage its staffing resources within the budget allocation in a manner which will ensure that priority is given to achieving the key activities and objectives of the Department.

Departmental Expenditure.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

116 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Taoiseach the amount of expenditure incurred in the period 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2009 by his Department and also offices, agencies and any other bodies falling within his remit on the lease, rental or purchase of car parking spaces for use by civil and public servants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10575/10]

My Department did not incur any expenditure on the lease, rental or purchase of car parking spaces for use by civil and public servants in 2009. The rental cost to the National Economic and Social Development Office of car parking spaces for use by its staff in 2009 was €38,100. The Central Statistics Office spent €12,417 for this purpose in the same period.

Departmental Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

117 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Taoiseach the number and grade of staff who qualified for performance related pay prior to that payment being abolished in his Department; and the pay scales appropriate to those grades. [10589/10]

Five Assistant Secretaries in my Department qualified for performance related pay prior to that payment being abolished. The current pay scales for the Assistant Secretary grade are set out in the most recent Department of Finance pay circular, Circular 28/2009, which is available on the Department of Finance's website, www.finance.gov.ie.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

118 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the cost of providing 10,000 free information technology skills training places to bring participants up to European computer drivers licence advanced level for unemployed workers. [9907/10]

The information requested is being researched and will be communicated to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Employment Support Services.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

119 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the employment schemes or grants available for a community newspaper (details supplied); if any subsidised schemes exist for it to provide employment or training for those in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance or to employ people; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10031/10]

The business referred to by the Deputy could avail of assistance through the Work Placement Programme. The programme is designed to provide unemployed people, including unemployed graduates, with the opportunity to obtain nine months work experience. The placement is unpaid but eligible participants retain their social welfare payments during their placement. Participants gain valuable work experience allowing them to keep their skills fresh and relevant to the job market. The business must meet with a number of eligibility criteria, including having no vacancies in the areas of activity in which the placement is offered. Furthermore, the placement cannot be provided to displace an existing employee and the business must not have made any person redundant in the last 3 months.

Another possible option would be the Wage Subsidy Scheme, which is available to employers, outside of the Public Sector. This scheme provides financial incentives to encourage the employment of persons with disabilities.

To pursue the above options further the business in question should contact FÁS in the first instance.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Simon Coveney

Question:

120 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of persons who have been taken off the live register to complete the GI1 and GID gas installation course with FÁS in the past 24 months on a monthly basis in tabular form. [10388/10]

Simon Coveney

Question:

121 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the level of work experience that a person needs to have in order to complete the FÁS GI1 and GI2 courses and be qualified as a gas installer. [10389/10]

Simon Coveney

Question:

122 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if all persons sent on GI1 training courses with FÁS have one year’s relevant work experience on GI1 type applications or installations prior to being sent on the course. [10390/10]

Simon Coveney

Question:

123 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if all persons sent on GID training courses with FÁS have a GI1 training certificate. [10391/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 120 to 123, inclusive, together.

The information requested is being collated and will be communicated to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

124 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of persons under 25 years who are registered with FÁS that do not hold a leaving certificate qualification on a county basis in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9882/10]

The number of people registered with FÁS as not holding a Leaving Certificate is set out in the table below.

County

Number of persons registered with FÁS without a Leaving Certificate

Dublin City

1,994

Dublin West County

61

Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown

105

Dublin North County — Fingal

216

Kildare

340

Meath

207

Wicklow

306

Cavan

101

Louth

335

Monaghan

133

Carlow

148

Kilkenny

149

Tipperary South

185

Waterford City

161

Waterford County

83

Wexford

465

Laois

144

Longford

103

Offaly

161

Roscommon

132

Westmeath

213

Cork City

422

Cork County

286

Kerry

302

Clare

190

Limerick City

233

Limerick County

227

Tipperary North

155

Galway City

172

Galway County

197

Mayo

285

Donegal

748

Leitrim

63

Sligo

116

Total

9,138

Redundancy Payments.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

125 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the eight month delay in her Department’s response in paying rebates due on foot of redundancy payments by the private sector; when a claim submitted on 2 July 2009 will be awarded to a company (details supplied) in Dublin 18; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9904/10]

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

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the Redundancy Payments Section of my Department processed an application for a statutory rebate claim submitted by the company concerned and that payment is expected to issue within the next week.

Given the unprecedented increase in Redundancy Payment claims lodged with my Department since late 2008 it has proved impossible to maintain the customer service targets that previously obtained. The scale of the challenge is evident from the statistics that show incoming redundancy claims with a cumulative figure for 2009 of 77,001. This figure exceeds the claims lodged for 2008 (40,607) by 90% and 2008 was, of itself, an exceptional year as compared with earlier years when claims received were of the order of 25,000.

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

the reassignment of 26.7 additional staff (full time equivalents) from other areas of the Department to the Redundancy Payments area since early 2009 with ongoing review of trends and demands. The current number of staff serving in the Redundancy Payments Section in terms of full time equivalents is 52.5;

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

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

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

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

It is clear that these interventions are having an impact in that for example the numbers of claims processed and paid by the Redundancy Payments Section in 2008 and 2009 respectively amounted to 29,802 and 50,664.

The Tánaiste and I are monitoring closely the impact of these changes against the continuing influx of redundancy claims. However, it is clear that additional measures are required to help reduce the backlog of claims, which currently stands in excess of 40,000. The Department is currently actively engaged in efforts to secure up to 16 additional staff resources deployed to the area in the first quarter of 2010.

EU Funding.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

126 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she is involved in the release of funds from the European Globalisation Fund; when a course (details supplied) will receive its funds; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that unless the funds are provided the course will be cancelled; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10008/10]

Richard Bruton

Question:

143 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the promise of engineering courses in a DIT for persons who worked at a company (details supplied) had not been delivered allegedly due to the fact that necessary funding has not been forthcoming from her Department; if her further attention has been drawn to the fact that the 12 month entitlement period under jobseeker’s benefit will soon be expiring for these persons who will thereby not only lose the opportunity to reskill but also lose their eligibility for continuing welfare payments if they have a spouse who is at work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10372/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 126 and 143 together.

I refer the Deputy to the reply given to Parliamentary Question, Reference No. 8809/10, of 23 February 2010.

As stated therein, the further progression of any interventions to be funded specifically by the European Globalisation Fund (EGF) must await the completion of the EGF application process.

Matters relating to social welfare entitlements are matters for my colleague the Minister for Social and Family Affairs.

Employment Rights.

Michael Ring

Question:

127 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the working conditions of some employees on board international cruise ships which visit some ports here; if her further attention has been drawn to the fact that some employees get as little as €30 a month and have contracts that may require them to work for six months without a day off; if she will raise this issue with her counterparts in the EU; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10013/10]

Primary responsibility for this sector rests with the Minister of Transport. I can advise the Deputy however that the terms and conditions of employment on board international cruise ships are linked to the State in which the ship is registered. In the case of workers employed on Irish registered vessels, the terms and conditions of those employees on the vessel are subject to the provisions of Irish law whether the ship is in Irish territorial waters or on the high seas. This would include legislation dealing with minimum wages. The conditions of employment, including minimum wages, of workers on board vessels under the Irish flag are governed by a comprehensive corpus of Irish employment rights legislation.

If the vessel is not registered in Ireland, it will also be subject to port state control inspections in Ireland by the Department of Transport. Such inspections cover safety, environment protection and International Labour Organisation Conventions. The latter covers the welfare of the crew (food, accommodation, hours of work etc) but excludes rates of pay.

Ireland has consistently supported the International Labour Organisation in its efforts to promote global labour standards for seafarers. A new consolidated Maritime Labour Convention was adopted in February 2006 at the 94th International Labour Conference in Geneva. Ireland was represented at the Conference by a tripartite delegation consisting of Government officials, nominees of the employers (IBEC) and of the workers (ICTU). The new Convention sets out clear principles and rights for seafarers. EU member states are committed to ratifying the new Convention by 31 December 2010 and it is expected to come into force internationally in 2011.

Work Permits.

Pat Breen

Question:

128 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding an application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10029/10]

An application for an employment permit in this case was refused on 19th January 2010. An appeal of this decision was received on 1 February and will be considered by the Appeals Officer in due course.

Business Regulation.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

129 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, in view of the commitment to cut the administrative cost of regulation by 25% by 2012, the baseline cost of regulation has been calculated; if not when it is expected to complete this calculation; the way it is intended to do so; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10034/10]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

130 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reduction in percentage terms that has been achieved in the cost of red tape since the commitment was made to reduce the administrative cost of regulation by 25% by 2012 for each Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10035/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 129 and 130 together.

In March 2008 the Government set a 25% target to reduce administrative burdens on business arising from regulations by 2012. My Department is charged with leading the cross-Government drive to reduce administrative burdens. This is being done in a prioritised way, drawing from the experience of other Member States involved in administrative burden reduction.

During 2009, a prioritized list of more than thirty Information Obligations in Company Law, Employment Law and Health & Safety Law, which falls within the remit of my Department, were measured. The results of this exercise were validated by business in December 2009.

My Department is now setting up a series of simplification workshops, to be run during the first half of this year, to identify ways to reduce burdens in the three measured areas. The workshops will canvass business for their views on how best to reduce the measured burdens.

At Inter-Departmental level Departments that have regulations that affects business are identifying the information obligations contained in their legislation that are likely to be causing the biggest burdens for business. A consolidated priority list of information obligations will be agreed and then measured in a single cross-Government project. Simplification plans will then be developed to reduce the administrative burden. I expect that this project will be completed in 2011.

It will not be possible to provide a final figure for the overall baseline until all of the burdens have been measured and the simplification plans have been completed.

International Agreements.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

131 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will support the campaign to suspend the trade agreement with Colombia in view of the treatment of trade union activists there; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10037/10]

EU relations with Colombia are conducted in the framework of regional relations between the EU and the Andean Community, comprising Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. In 2007, negotiations aimed at concluding a comprehensive Association Agreement between the EU and the Andean Community were formally launched. Such Agreements cover all facets of relations between the EU and these countries, including political dialogue, economic cooperation and trade. However, as not all member states of the Andean Community were in a position to proceed with free trade negotiations, the decision was taken to commence negotiations on a multiparty Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the EU and two member states of the Andean Community — Colombia and Peru — within the overall framework of the Association Agreement.

The European Union has competence in trade negotiations. So these were carried out by the European Commission on the basis of a mandate from the Council. The Commission announced on 1 March that trade talks with Peru and Colombia have concluded, reaching an agreement on the key elements of a trade arrangement. This will inaugurate a new framework of bilateral trade and investment relations between the European Union and the signatory Andean countries.

Colombia, however, faces many challenges. It has experienced the longest period of terrorist violence of any country in Latin America. There is no single solution for promoting peace in Colombia; the various social and economic elements underlying the conflict have to be tackled simultaneously. Our approach and that of the European Union is to assist and influence the Colombian Government in a manner that results in economic and social development while progressively improving human rights standards. The conclusion of a Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Colombia will contribute significantly to the social and economic development of Colombia, which is imperative if it is to emerge from its violent past.

I wish to assure the Deputy that there is no question of strengthening economic ties with Colombia at the expense of human rights. I am of the view that the FTA process with Colombia at this time offers the best opportunity to ensure that the concerns of EU Member States at the human rights situation in that country and, in particular, the treatment of trade union activists are fully addressed by the Colombian government.

I and my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs have taken a number of steps in addressing human rights issues directly with the Government of Colombia and together with the European Union. My officials have raised our concerns in various meetings of the Trade Policy Committee to highlight our deep interest in addressing the human rights situation in Colombia as part of the negotiations with Colombia. Ireland has insisted on the inclusion of a clause committing both the EU Member States and Colombia to the implementation of their human rights responsibilities with the proviso that failure to do would result in the suspension of the Agreement.

I can assure you that the Government will continue to closely follow the human rights situation in Colombia and take the steps we consider necessary bilaterally as well as in cooperation with our EU partners.

Departmental Agencies.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

132 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if FÁS made a request to her Department to facilitate term-time leave of absence arrangements; her response to the proposal; if she is supportive of such staffing arrangements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10041/10]

The question of term-time arrangements, as provided for under the Department of Finance Circular 14/2009 on the Shorter Working Year Scheme, is a day-to-day staffing matter for FÁS under its functions as provided for in the Labour Services Act, 1987.

Company Takeovers.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

133 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the law as it stands on the potentially predatory acquisition of shares in a company by a direct and hostile rival; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that many other EU and OECD states have legislation outlawing this practice, especially if there are significant monopolistic implications; if she is preparing legislation in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10058/10]

I am assuming that the Deputy's question relates to Competition Law.

Under the Competition Act 2002, any merger, involving the acquisition of shares in a company, by predatory purchase or otherwise, and which results in the acquisition of control of that company, must be notified to the Competition Authority if the merger satisfies certain financial thresholds. The 2002 Act also provides for voluntary notification of mergers which do not meet the said thresholds. All notified mergers are considered by the Authority with reference to whether the result of the merger will be to substantially lessen competition in markets for goods or services in the State.

In the context of the review of the implementation and operation of the 2002 Competition Act, submissions relating to the treatment of mergers have been received and are being examined by my Department.

Redundancy Payments.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

134 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding a redundancy claim in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare. [10090/10]

My Department administers the Social Insurance Fund (SIF) in relation to redundancy matters on behalf of the Department of Social and Family Affairs. There are two types of redundancy payment made from the SIF — rebates to those employers who have paid statutory redundancy to eligible employees, and statutory lump sums to employees whose employers are insolvent and/or in receivership/liquidation. I can confirm that my Department received a statutory lump sum claim for the individual concerned on 24 September, 2009 claiming inability to pay on behalf of the employer.

In this case, as in all cases where the employer claims inability to pay the employee(s) statutory redundancy, the Department requires the employer to provide sufficient proof to substantiate the claim. This includes providing the latest set of audited accounts for the company as well as certification from the company's Accountant or Solicitor attesting to the fact that the employer has insufficient assets to pay the redundancy entitlements. Providing this documentation is submitted and is in order, the Department pays the employee(s) directly from the Social Insurance Fund.

In this case, adequate supporting documentation from the employer was requested by my Department in November 2009 and was received on 26 February 2010. I understand that following receipt of the required information the claim is being processed and payment is expected to issue within the next two to three weeks.

Company Closures.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

135 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of enterprises, commercial and manufacturing, that went into liquidation in the past five years; the number of jobs lost; the value of exports lost in tabular form on a county basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10097/10]

In the time available it is not possible to provide the information requested.

Departmental Communications.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

136 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her plans to introduce the wider use of social media; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10151/10]

I have no plans to introduce the wider use of social media in my Department. The appropriateness of introducing the wider use of such media in my Department will be kept under review.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Joan Burton

Question:

137 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of participants in the FÁS work placement programme in 2009; the projected number of participants for 2010 by graduate and non-graduate; the cost of administering this programme; the average cost per participant; the number of employers participating in this programme that have taken on one to five participants, six to ten participants, 11 to 20 participants and more than 20 participants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10244/10]

To the end of December 2009, 186 people had started a placement as part of the Work Placement Programme; 129 took up graduate placements and 57 took up non-graduate placements.

To date, 473 people have started placements, 308 of which are graduates and 165 are non-graduates. There are 2,000 places available under the Work Placement Programme, with 1,000 places for the graduate stream and 1,000 places for the non-graduate stream.

There are no additional direct costs in administering the Work Placement Programme. The programme is being delivered using FÁS existing resources and budgets. The only cost per participant on the Work Placement Programme is for participants who are in receipt of a social welfare payment. Participants will continue to receive this payment from the Department of Social and Family Affairs for the duration they are entitled to. FÁS does not make any payments to participants while they are on a placement.

Providers that have started

Number of Providers

One to Five Participants

289

Six to Ten Participants

9

11 to 20 Participants

2

and more than 20 Participants

0

Total

300

Employment Levels.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

138 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of persons under 25 years who are self-employed; the percentage of persons in work under the age of 25 years who are self-employed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10280/10]

The information sought by the Deputy is not maintained by my Department.

From information provided by the CSO, the results of the Quarterly National Household Survey for Quarter 3 2009 indicated that there were an estimated 580,000 people aged 15 to 24 years in the State. Of these, an estimated 208,700 were in employment, 2,700 of whom were self-employed. This estimate represents 1.3% of all persons aged 15 to 24 years and in employment.

Departmental Staff.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

139 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of posts unfilled in her Department because of the embargo on recruitment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10289/10]

Government Decision S180/20/10/0964C which was communicated to my Department on 27th March 2009 directed that no public service post, however arising, may be filled by recruitment, promotion, nor payment of an allowance for the performance of duties at a higher grade.

Since that date, 55 members of staff have retired in my Department. 2 were compulsory retirements at age 65, 18 were normal retirements between age 60 and 65, 3 retired under the Cost Neutral Early Retirement Scheme, 28 opted for the Incentivised Scheme of Early Retirement and 4 retired on grounds of ill health. In addition my Department had 1 death in service and 3 members of staff had their employment terminated. In accordance with the Government Decision none of the above positions was filled and they are broken down by grade as follows:

7 Principal Officers

12 Assistant Principals

13 Higher Executive Officers

16 Executive Officers

2 Staff Officers

7 Clerical Officers

2 Service Officers

In addition to the above, 34 members of staff in my Department have commenced a career break since the moratorium began. Of the 34, 31 availed of the Special Incentivised Career Break introduced in May 2009, while 3 members of staff availed of the regular career break scheme provided for under Department of Finance Circular No. 18/98. These 34 posts are broken down by grade as follows:

1 Assistant Principal

2 Higher Executive Officers

3 Administrative Officers

5 Executive Officers

2 Staff Officers

21 Clerical Officers

Business Regulation.

Richard Bruton

Question:

140 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the fact that businesses who operate as sole traders rather than as limited liability companies who wish to do business in Arabic countries will often require certification by the authorities in those countries that they are compliant with all regulatory requirements, have their affairs properly registered and are trading solvently; her views on developing an appropriate certified document that would serve the needs of sole traders seeking to enter such potential markets; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10322/10]

Legal, regulatory and certification requirements vary substantially among the many jurisdictions that could be described as Arabic countries and business regulation can vary substantially across different countries. I am, however, not aware of the difficulties raised by the Deputy being either a specific or a generic problem for those doing business in Arabic countries. To help investigate the matter I would ask the Deputy to provide me with any specific instances of which he is aware.

Departmental Agencies.

Damien English

Question:

141 Deputy Damien English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of staff at each State agency under the aegis of her Department; the cost of employment for each agency in tabular form. [10327/10]

In the time available it has not been possible to gather all the information requested. The available information is outlined in the table.

Agency

Current Number of Staff

2010 Pay Budget

€m

Competition Authority

42.2

3.614

National ConsumerAgency

44.4

3.646

IAASA

12.0

1.243

Science Foundation Ireland

53.0

4.723

Personal Injuries Assessment Board

74.0

5,695

FÁS

2,055.4

112.330

Labour Relations Commission

46.0

4.011

Health and Safety Authority

192.3

13.504

NERA

116.0

€7.94m in 2009 comprising €6.55m in pay and €1.39m non-pay

Willie Penrose

Question:

142 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason she has prevented employees in her Department from availing of the family friendly option of term time or leave of absence from FÁS in 2010 due to the public sector moratorium on recruitment in view of the fact that the leave is unpaid and therefore cost neutral and that the vacancy is filled temporarily thus giving a person who is currently unemployed an opportunity to secure an income and gain invaluable experience; if this decision will be reviewed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10331/10]

The question of term-time arrangements, as provided for under the Department of Finance Circular 14/2009 on the Shorter Working Year Scheme, is a day-to-day staffing matter for FÁS under its functions as provided for in the Labour Services Act, 1987.

Question No. 143 answered with Question No. 126.

Phil Hogan

Question:

144 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she has ever made representations to FÁS in respect of contract procurement for any company; the details of those contacts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10397/10]

Contracts awarded to companies for services carried out on behalf of FÁS are subject to normal public sector procurement procedures.

Departmental Expenditure.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

145 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount of expenditure incurred in the period 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2009, by her Department and also offices, agencies and any other bodies falling within her remit, on the lease, rental or purchase of car parking spaces for use by civil and public servants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10568/10]

In general, all car parking spaces for use by officials in my Department and the 8 Offices of my Department are provided by the Office of Public Works (OPW) without any cost to the Department. The Department's expenditure during the period 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2009 was therefore nil.

I am not in a position to provide information in relation to the Agencies that come under the remit of my Department as the provision of such information is a day to day administrative matter for the Agencies concerned.

Departmental Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

146 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number and grade of staff who qualified for performance related pay prior to that payment being abolished in her Department; and the pay scales appropriate to those grades. [10583/10]

The scheme of performance-related awards in the civil service applied to Deputy and Assistant Secretaries and equivalent grades in my Department. 14 staff of my Department and its associated Offices were covered by the Scheme, 11 at Assistant Secretary level and 3 at Deputy Secretary level.

Details of pay scales for the grades of Deputy Secretary and Assistant Secretary are available on the website of the Department of Finance www.finance.gov.ie.

Proposed Legislation.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

147 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action she has taken regarding the reorganisation of the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority; the proposed timeframe for the establishment of an integrated agency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10599/10]

As both the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority were established under statute, it is necessary to give effect to the newly merged body by way of primary legislation. Work on the Heads of a Bill to provide for, inter alia, the merger of the two bodies is at an advanced stage. I expect that the Bill will be published during 2010.

County Enterprise Boards.

Ulick Burke

Question:

148 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason she has reduced the financial allocation to Galway County and City Enterprise Board by 34%; if her attention has been drawn to the impact this has on the assistance given to new start up enterprises; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10611/10]

The 2010 financial allocation to Galway County and City Enterprise Board, and to each of the other 34 individual Enterprise Boards, is derived from the final allocation set out for my Department in the Revised Estimate as published on 18 February 2010. The 2010 budget allocation for the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) is over €28m of which €14.9m has been allocated for Capital expenditure. In 2009, a further €6m capital allocation was made available for the CEBs under the Department's capital carryover process. This absence of any capital carryover provision in 2010 accounts for the differences in allocations to individual boards as between 2009 and 2010.

The CEB Central Coordination Unit, based within Enterprise Ireland, has recently advised the individual Enterprise Boards of their 2010 budget allocations. All CEBs have, in the case of their Capital allocation, received 65% of their 2009 capital allocations with some resources remaining to be allocated at a later stage. This represents prudent management of the available funding in the context of the ongoing pressures on public finances. All Boards will have to manage the resources very carefully to match the needs of the micro-enterprise sector in their areas.

I can assure the Deputy that the situation will be closely monitored by both the CEB Central Coordination Unit and by my Department over the coming months in conjunction with the individual CEBs themselves.

EU Funding.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

149 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance if he will look at the feasibility of establishing a public sector internship exchange programme with other EU states whereby young unemployed persons here would have access to public sector internships in other EU states as a mechanism to improve their language skills. [9967/10]

I can assure the Deputy that this Government is open to proposals that would be of benefit to people who are unemployed. Of course, as the Deputy will be aware, Labour Market Activation Measures, including EU programmes in this area, are a matter in the first instance for the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment. In this respect, I can say that all suitable opportunities for unemployed people will continue to be considered including, where appropriate, internship programmes. Further information on programmes such as SkillsNet, the European ReferNet and the European Social Fund may be found atwww.entemp.ie.

National Conference Centre.

Joe Costello

Question:

150 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Finance the cost of the National Conference Centre to the Exchequer to date; the cost to the private partner; the reason the Exchequer must pay an annual charge to the value of €380 million over 25 years; the funding that was obtained from the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10023/10]

The National Conference Centre (NCC) was procured by means of a Public Private Partnership (PPP). The Consortium awarded the contract is required to design, build, finance the NCC and to operate and maintain it for a period of 25 years, after which the facility will revert to the State. In return, once the construction of the Centre is complete and it is open for business, the State will pay the Consortium an annual charge, the maximum total cost of which over 25 years will be just under €380m in present day values. No funding was received from the European Union and Exchequer costs incurred to date total €4.25m Vat. incl.

Tax Code.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

151 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Finance his plans regarding a review of tax incentives to be put in place in respect of work to be carried out under Limerick regeneration; when he expects such a review to commence; the length of time it may be expected to take to carry out; the possible composition of any such review group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10385/10]

The Government continues to demonstrate a strong commitment to the Limerick Regeneration Programme. In December 2009, the Government considered the ten year Limerick Regeneration Programme and reaffirmed its commitment to the vision outlined in the Programme.

The Government has asked the Limerick Regeneration Agencies to complete its work on the Programme and to prepare a Phase 1 Implementation Plan which is expected to be completed by end of the first quarter of 2010, after which Government will consider the matter again.

The Agencies are currently developing the Implementation Plan, with expert advice from the National Building Agency, which will set out the planning issues, projected costings and value for money considerations associated with the housing and other key elements of public investment involved in Phase 1.

The economic development options and the opportunities and incentives to secure the essential private investment required are also under examination. Some €1.4 billion of private investment as well as €1.65 billion in public investment was originally envisaged as required to deliver on the Master plan objectives.

To-date the Government despite constraints on capital funding has provided in excess of €50m in the 2.5 years since the initiative commenced in mid-2007. This funding has contributed to increased stabilisation of the four areas, through rehousing, a planned programme of demolitions, environmental improvement works, CCTV infrastructure, social and community supports etc.

A further €25m was provisionally allocated by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government in support of the Programme in 2010 and the programme of works to be carried out is currently under discussion between the Agencies, Limerick City Council, Limerick County Council and Clare County Council. Additional investment has been provided in terms of Garda resources, as well as other State interventions through Education, Youth, Health, Training and Community facilities and services targeted at the areas.

Work has been progressing in 2009 on the detailed planning and design of two sheltered housing projects serving Myross and Ballinacurra Weston and a Project Team is working to advance the projects to tender stage in 2010. Two further projects serving the Southhill and St Mary's Park areas are currently being developed within the Project Team. While much attention to date has been focused on demolition and other essential works associated with the preparing of the areas for physical regeneration, the relevant agencies acknowledge the importance of progressing "new-build" projects at an early stage and the Government is committed to facilitating this within the overall resources available for 2010.

Tax Incentive Measures have provided a vital stimulus to the economy in Ireland, but we also recognise that there is a heavy cost on the Exchequer. This year and for the years 2011 and 2012 the Government needs to achieve savings in the region of €3 billion in each year. There are many conflicting demands on the Government at this time. New innovative thinking is required in tacking projects such as the Limerick Regeneration Masterplan. However, the inclusion of tax incentives within such plans require very careful examination, given the current difficult Exchequer position.

Proposed Legislation.

John O'Mahony

Question:

152 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Finance when he will introduce the necessary legislation for the European Union’s flood directive which comes into effect in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9892/10]

The draft regulation to transpose Directive 2007/60/EC is complete and is with the Minister for Finance for signing into national law.

Tax and Social Welfare Codes.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

153 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the steps he has taken to improve communication between the Commission for Taxi Regulation and the Revenue Commissioners to stamp out issues of tax evasion, double jobbing and welfare fraud; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9919/10]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that there is ongoing and improving communications between the Revenue Commissioners and the Commission for Taxi Regulation.

The recently published Finance Bill contains provisions which, when enacted, will allow for the supply of information held by the Commission for Taxi Regulation to the Revenue Commissioners. I am informed that, following the passing of the Bill, it is the intention to request details of all Small Public Service Vehicle Drivers (SPSV) licence holders from the Commission for Taxi Regulation. This data will then be checked against the Revenue database to ensure that all licence holders actively engaged in working in the taxi business are registered with Revenue. Instances where taxi drivers are not registered will be pursued by Revenue to ensure registration and payment of taxes due. Meetings are planned with a view to progressing the supply of the information.

Quite apart from the supply of information, officials from the Revenue Commissioners and the Commission for Taxi Regulation regularly, and on an ongoing basis, participate in Multi-Agency Checkpoints and operations. These checkpoints and operations are carried out with assistance of An Garda Síochána and regularly also involve officials from the Dept of Social and Family Affairs. These checkpoints and operations involve interviewing taxi drivers at ranks and at checkpoints with a view to ascertaining the compliance of the drivers interviewed with both taxi regulations and tax obligations. Checks are also made to see if the taxi drivers are in receipt of social welfare benefits and appropriate action is taken by all agencies where non-compliance or abuses are discovered.

As a result of these operations, fines have been issued by the Commission for Taxi Regulation; individuals who were not registered for tax or were registered incorrectly have now been registered by Revenue and instances of individuals working and claiming benefits are being investigated by Dept. of Social and Family Affairs.

Public Sector Pay.

Mary Upton

Question:

154 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance if he will reply to correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9921/10]

I refer to my reply to Question Nos. 9133/10 and 9199/10 of 23 February 2010.

"Section 6 of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009 provides that, in certain limited circumstances, the Minister for Finance may by direction exempt or vary the application of the pay reductions provided for in the Act to public servants or groups of public servants.

Representations from a number of Deputies have been made in relation to the application of the pay reductions to contract researchers. The Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act, 2009 makes provision for the reduction in the pay rates of all persons employed by public service bodies with effect from 1 January 2010. As universities come within the definition in the Act of public service bodies, contract researchers employed by such universities are subject to the pay reductions provided for under the legislation. I have no proposals to exempt persons in that position from the pay reductions."

Tax Code.

Joe McHugh

Question:

155 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Finance when the carbon tax on solid fuel will come into effect; the way that this tax will apply; the rate of this tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9922/10]

I announced on Budget night that the application of carbon tax to coal and commercial peat will be subject to a commencement order to allow a robust mechanism to be put in place to counter the sourcing of coal and peat from Northern Ireland where lower environmental standards apply. I do not propose to introduce the tax on coal and peat until that issue is addressed appropriately and that is why I haven't yet signalled a specific date. However, I understand work has already commenced on this matter within the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

The actual rates of carbon tax, exclusive of VAT, that will apply to solid fuels are:

Coal €39.51 per tonne;

Peat Briquettes €27.50 per tonne;

Milled Peat €13.50 per tonne;

and Other Peat €20.44 per tonne.

These rates are based on a rate of €15 per tonne of carbon emissions.

The details concerning the way in which the tax will apply are set out in Sections 73 to 83 in Finance Bill 2010 (as initiated).

Richard Bruton

Question:

156 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if the restriction of tax relief for nursing homes has now been restricted to the standard rate; the date on which that change came into force; if taxpayers are entitled to have this relief credited on a monthly basis instead of waiting until year end. [9929/10]

Joan Burton

Question:

175 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the tax relief regime in respect of nursing home fees; if relief is available at the standard or higher rate from 1 January 2010; if taxpayers claiming this relief are entitled to, upon provision of a letter from the nursing home concerned, receive a tax free allowance certificate so that the relief is receivable at source (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10367/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 156 and 175 together.

Relief for the cost of nursing home fees incurred which form part of a health expense claim continues to be allowed at the individual claimant's marginal rate of tax.

The statutory requirement that relief is to be given by way of repayment after the end of the tax year may be modified in cases of hardship to allow tax relief during the course of the tax year against wages/salaries where particularly large payments arise. The claimant's inspector, having regard to the circumstances of the case, may grant this concessionary treatment and issue an appropriately amended certificate of tax credits and standard rate cut-off point.

All such cases will, of course, be subject to lodgement of an overall end of year claim in the normal way.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

157 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance if he will carry out a review of a claim by the Revenue Commissioners in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal with particular emphasis on the VAT section and penalty section. [9934/10]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that this case involves the seizure of a non-State registered motor vehicle owned by a State resident. The vehicle in question was a new means of transport when it was acquired in the UK in June 2008. A new means of transport is defined as a motorised land vehicle which is intended for the transport of persons or goods, which was supplied six months or less after the date of first entry into service, or which has travelled 6000 kilometres or less.

The vehicle's supply and acquisition in June 2008 is defined under Value Added Tax legislation as an intra-Community acquisition of goods on which VAT was chargeable at the date of supply. The date of the transport of the vehicle to Ireland did not affect the charge to VAT in the case in question. However, this tax only became payable at the time the relevant Vehicle Registration Tax liability arose, the non- payment of which resulted in the vehicle's seizure.

The compromise penalties offered for the release of the vehicle in this case are in line with normal administrative practice and are calculated by reference to the amount of VRT and VAT evaded and the length of the time the vehicle has been in the State. Payment of the compromise penalty is in lieu of forfeiture of the vehicle and legal proceedings. The Revenue Commissioners have already reviewed this case in the light of earlier representations and I am advised that they consider the release terms to be proportionate and a further review to be unwarranted.

Under Section 143 of the Finance Act 2001, a person can give notice in writing contesting the liability to forfeiture of anything that has been seized. Revenue considers that correspondence already received in this case constitutes such a notice. In such cases Revenue is legally obliged to initiate civil legal proceedings for the forfeiture and condemnation of the goods in question. In the absence of a settlement being otherwise arrived at, Revenue will initiate these proceedings, in which the court will adjudicate on the validity of the seizure action. The parties contesting the seizure and their legal representatives, if any, will be required to attend and give evidence at any such proceedings.

Tax Clearance Certificates.

Seán Power

Question:

158 Deputy Seán Power asked the Minister for Finance the reason a C2 certificate has not yet been approved for a person (details supplied) despite providing all the necessary documentation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9951/10]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, regrettably, due to industrial action by some staff, it is not possible to ascertain the specific details of this case in the time available.

Tax Code.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

159 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Finance if it is envisaged that cemeteries will be included in the Finance Bill 2010. [10002/10]

I understand that the Deputy is referring to the issue of VAT and cemeteries. The Revenue Commissioners have confirmed that under the Irish VAT Act the purchase of a burial plot in a cemetery or through an undertaker is taxable at the lower VAT rate of 13.5%. Consequently the supply of burial plots by private cemeteries is currently subject to VAT.

While cemeteries operated by local authorities are currently outside of the scope of VAT, provision is being made in the Finance Bill 2010 to apply VAT to certain local authority services from 1 July 2010. Local authority cemeteries will then become subject to VAT. However, since the local authorities will have an entitlement to recover from Revenue the VAT incurred on their input costs in providing the service, the degree to which the VAT is passed on should be less than the full VAT rate of 13.5%. I will be urging local authorities to take this into account. It is of course a matter for a local authority to determine the overall charge in respect of the services it supplies.

This change is required in response to a ruling by the European Court of Justice on 16 July 2009 under Case C-554/07 which found that Ireland had failed to correctly transpose the EU VAT Directive regarding the application of VAT to services supplied by public bodies including local authorities. In order to comply with the ECJ ruling, it is necessary to make services provided by public bodies including local authorities subject to VAT unless they are otherwise exempted from VAT in accordance with the EU VAT Directive.

Flood Relief.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

160 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Finance his plans to offer any tax breaks to persons who wish to relocate on a permanent basis from their houses in areas of Galway which were recently flooded. [10009/10]

I understand that the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government does not operate a home relocation scheme to assist households who wish to relocate in the aftermath of a flooding event. I have no plans to introduce such a tax incentive measure.

However, in recognition of the problems faced by people in many areas of the country due to the recent flooding, the Government allocated an initial sum of €10m to fund a Humanitarian Assistance Scheme. The 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 scheme, which is means tested, is intended to provide emergency financial assistance to households who are not in a position to meet costs for essential needs in the period immediately following flooding. The scheme covers emergency income support payments to those in need and damage to a person's home and its basic essential contents, such as: carpets, flooring, furniture, household appliances and bedding. Structural damage may also be considered.

I also announced in my Budget speech that in excess of €70 million will be provided over the remainder of 2009 and into 2010 to help those affected by recent flooding and fund work to minimise the risks of future incidents.

Departmental Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

161 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Finance the number and grade of staff who qualified for performance related pay prior to that payment being abolished in each Government Department; and the pay scales appropriate to those grades. [10014/10]

I presume that the Deputy is referring to the scheme which, in the civil service, applied at the levels of Deputy and Assistant Secretary. The scheme of awards was based on performance by reference to demanding targets. The pool for performance awards was 10% of the pay bill in the relevant year for the group concerned. Within that overall limit individuals could receive payments of up to 20% of pay.

Decisions on awards were made by the Committee for Performance Awards (CPA), which included a majority of private sector members. The main roles of the committee were to monitor the application of the scheme of performance-related awards and to bring independent judgement to bear in approving objectives for the persons covered by the scheme and in approving recommendations for awards.

Details of the procedures, the numbers covered by the schemes, the range of awards and the total amounts paid in Departments — including the Department of Finance — are outlined in the annual reports of the committee. The Committee's Annual Reports 2006-2008 covering the operation of the scheme in 2005-2007, are available on the Department of Finance websitewww.finance.gov.ie. Not all persons who were eligible to participate in the awards chose to do so.

As the Deputy may be aware, on 5 February 2009, I announced in the Dáil the discontinuation of the scheme for Assistant Secretaries, Deputy Secretary and related grades subject to consultation with the relevant Staff Associations. Therefore no assessments or payments have been made in respect of performances in 2008.

The payscales for the grades involved in this Department are as follows (1 January 2010 rates):

Assistant Secretary/Commissioner of Valuation/Chief Executive of Public Appointments Service

€127,796, €133,605, €139,898, €146,191;

Assistant Secretary PPC/Commissioner of Valuation PPC/Chief Executive of Public Appointments Service PPC

€134,523, €140,636, €147,262, €153,885;

Chief Medical Officer

€168,000;

Chief Medical Officer PPC

€176,800.

Fiscal Policy.

Phil Hogan

Question:

162 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Finance if he gave consent for additional borrowing for the Dublin Docklands Development Authority to engage in its purchase of the Irish Glass Bottle site in October 2006 as required under section 30 of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority Act 1997; if he communicated any concerns or conditions with its consent for increased borrowing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10087/10]

Under Section.30 of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority Act 1997, the Dublin Docklands Development Authority is entitled to borrow up to a limit of €127m, with the approval of the Minister for the Environment Heritage and Local Government and the consent of the Minister for Finance.

In October 2006 the Dublin Docklands Development Authority applied to and was given approval by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, to borrow up to that limit for the purpose of acquiring the Irish Glass Bottle Site in the Dublin docklands area.

The consent of the Minister for Finance was given on the basis that the authority had the capacity to service the debt incurred without recourse to the Exchequer.

Business Closures.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

163 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the number of individuals’ businesses across all sectors that have advised the Revenue Commissioners that they have ceased trading in the past 12 months in tabular form on a county basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10099/10]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the following numbers of individuals and companies were recorded as ceased trading on their records during the period Feb 2009-Jan 2010, as requested by the Deputy:

County

Individuals

Companies

CARLOW

163

36

CAVAN

109

46

CLARE

231

64

CORK

1,144

396

DONEGAL

479

109

DUBLIN

3,183

1,657

GALWAY

503

167

KERRY

280

105

KILDARE

548

195

KILKENNY

190

57

LAOIS

158

40

LEITRIM

41

11

LIMERICK

373

135

LONGFORD

39

13

LOUTH

293

91

MAYO

335

84

MEATH

429

168

MONAGHAN

124

49

OFFALY

182

49

ROSCOMMON

111

19

SLIGO

84

20

TIPPERARY

362

99

WATERFORD

309

69

WESTMEATH

186

56

WEXFORD

476

97

WICKLOW

351

124

Total

10,683

3,956

The Commissioners advise that the figures should be treated with some caution as, based on past experience, there tends to be a time lag between date of cessation and notification to Revenue.

Businesses cease for many reasons, including trading conditions, retirement of the proprietors, death, formation of partnership or incorporation into Limited Company in the case of a sole trader.

Conservation Projects.

Frank Feighan

Question:

164 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Finance the number of restoration projects currently being undertaken by the Office of Public Works. [10148/10]

There are currently no restoration projects ongoing in the Connaught/Ulster area, as specified by the Deputy's office.

Office of Public Works (OPW) National Monuments Section does have a number of conservation projects currently taking place, but this work is being carried out by the OPW District workforces and not external contractors.

Pension Provisions.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

165 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Finance the reason for the delay in processing a pension and gratuity payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare. [10218/10]

In the case of prison officers, my Department calculates the pension entitlements and authorises payment on the basis of information which it receives from the Irish Prison Service, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Accordingly, my Department is not in a position to process prison officer retirements until such time as it receives the relevant documents from the Irish Prison Service.

The documents in this case were received from the Irish Prison Service on 8 February 2010. The pension entitlements were calculated immediately and authorisation for payment was sent to the Paymaster General's Office, Tullamore, on 11 February 2010. That Office issues prison officer pensions on a fortnightly basis in arrears. The person concerned will receive his pension on 4 March 2010 which is the earliest date possible following receipt of the documents from the Irish Prison Service.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

166 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when a pension will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who retired from the Irish Prison Service on 31 December 2009 and who gave six weeks notice prior to leaving at the end of 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10222/10]

In the case of prison officers, my Department calculates the pension entitlements and authorises payment on the basis of information which it receives from the Irish Prison Service, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Accordingly, my Department is not in a position to process prison officer retirements until such time as it receives the relevant documents from the Irish Prison Service.

The documents in this case were received from the Irish Prison Service on 8 February 2010. The pension entitlements were calculated immediately and authorisation for payment was sent to the Paymaster General's Office, Tullamore, on 11 February 2010. That Office issues prison officer pensions on a fortnightly basis in arrears. The person concerned will receive his pension on 4 March 2010 which is the earliest date possible following receipt of the documents from the Irish Prison Service.

Tax Code.

Liz McManus

Question:

167 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Finance his views on calls from a combined heat and power supplier for a full relief from the proposed carbon tax for electricity generated from CHP plants; if he has received correspondence on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10257/10]

I have received correspondence from a number of sectors, including the CHP sector, seeking an exemption from the carbon tax.

CHP is an energy efficient process that I have supported through the introduction of generous tax reliefs such as capital allowances and consequently I do not think it appropriate to put in place a further tax subsidy. We need to ensure the carbon tax has a broad base and I don't want to undermine that principle.

I would also like to point out that a long-term impact of the carbon tax will be to incentivise energy efficient processes such as CHP.

Local Government Staff.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

168 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Finance if he has replied to a request from Cork County Council on behalf of the South West Regional Authority seeking authorisation for that authority to employ two extra staff as part of a project fully funded by the European Union; if the request has not yet been replied to when he will reply; if he will confirm that failure to employ these two extra staff will result in the Authority losing €500,000 in EU funding; the reason behind his decision to authorise this request or not. [10274/10]

While no request has been received concerning this, this would be a matter in the first instance for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Job Creation.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

169 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the number of jobs that would be created if the public sector recruitment embargo was lifted; the number of positions that would be advertised; the cost to the Exchequer of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10282/10]

It is not possible to estimate this with any degree of reliability as the question posed is counterfactual. If, however, the average rate of job increases of 2000 to 2008 had been maintained then the extra annual payroll cost in 2010 of additional staff recruited in 2009 would be around €55 million. This estimated figure, which excludes local authorities, takes the pay rate reductions into account.

Departmental Staff.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

170 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the number of posts unfilled in his Department because of the embargo on recruitment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10291/10]

The authorised staffing number (whole-time equivalent) in my Department on 1 March 2010 was 647.50. The total number of staff serving (whole-time equivalent) on the 27 March 2009 (the date of issue of the Department of Finance letter advising Departments and Offices of the moratorium) was 608.61. Serving numbers at 1 March 2010 is 558.18. Prioritisation of resource allocation in my Department, including the management of vacancies, is carried out on an ongoing basis with reference to the Department's business needs at any given time, the level of expenditure available from which to meet those commitments and the recommendations of the Report of the Special Group on Public Sector Numbers and Expenditure. In that regard, my Department is constantly managing its resources and vacancies, which will include the necessity to re-allocate, or reconfigure work areas and posts. As a result, it would not be possible to accurately reflect the number of vacant posts that are unfilled solely as a result of the moratorium on recruitment.

Ministerial Appointments.

Richard Bruton

Question:

171 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if the person to be charged with deciding a residual value in Anglo Irish shares has yet been appointed; and if persons making tax returns are being advised on the way to quantify capital losses on such shares. [10313/10]

Section 22 of the Anglo Irish Bank Corporation Act 2009 provides that I shall appoint an Assessor at an appropriate time having regard to the public interest, to determine the fair and reasonable aggregate value of the transferred shares and extinguished rights and the consequent amount of compensation, if any, that may be payable to persons in respect of Anglo shares transferred and rights extinguished under the Act. Work on the process to appoint an Assessor under EU procurement rules is underway in my Department and will be completed soon.

With regard to treatment of Anglo shares in making tax returns, the Revenue Commissioners have published guidance on their website (e-Brief 76/09, dated 3 November 2009) explaining that the transfer of Anglo Irish Bank shares to the Minister for Finance may be considered a disposal to which the capital gains tax "negligible value" rule applies. The result is that, where a claim is made, the shares will be treated as being of negligible value and a loss for the 2009 tax year may be calculated, which is available for set-off in the same way as any other capital loss.

Compensation, if any, arising by virtue of a decision by the Assessor on the residual value of the shares, will be treated for capital gains tax purposes as consideration for disposal at the time of receipt. If a negligible value loss has been claimed, there will be no acquisition cost to set against such compensation. If a negligible value loss has not been claimed, the base cost will be the acquisition cost (and expenses of acquisition) of the shares transferred to the Minister for Finance.

Tax Code.

Richard Bruton

Question:

172 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if the lone parent tax credit can be availed of by a separated parent who is substantially maintaining a child when they have entered into a new relationship and are cohabiting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10324/10]

The position is that Section 462 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides for a one-parent family tax credit to be granted where a claimant proves that a qualifying child is resident with him or her for the whole or part of the year. However, the relief does not apply for any year of assessment where a husband and wife are living together. Nor is the credit available for a year of assessment where a man and woman are cohabiting.

Richard Bruton

Question:

173 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the evidence necessary by a separated parent to establish that they are paying maintenance which should be deducted from their income for the purpose of calculating tax liability; if he has satisfied himself that a parent who has not yet obtained a judicial separation has the opportunity to provide evidence of maintenance payments being made which would be accepted by the Revenue Commissioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10325/10]

Where an individual wishes to claim tax relief in respect of maintenance payments made in respect of a separated spouse they should supply their inspector of taxes with a copy of the signed maintenance agreement under which the maintenance payments are being made together with documentary evidence to confirm the actual payments made.

The maintenance arrangement may be in the form of an order or rule of a court, deed of separation or any other legally enforceable obligation, where the maintenance payments are annual or periodical.

It should be noted that payments made for the benefit of, or in support of a child of the marriage do not qualify for relief.

There is no requirement that an individual must have obtained a judicial separation in order to obtain relief in respect of maintenance payments.

Tax Clearance Certificates.

Jack Wall

Question:

174 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the renewal of C2 in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10342/10]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, regrettably, due to industrial action by some staff, it is not possible to ascertain the specific details of this case in the time available.

Question No. 175 answered with Question No. 156.

Business Closures.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

176 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance the number of businesses, both individuals and companies, across all sectors that have advised the Revenue Commissioners that they have ceased trading in each of the years 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10396/10]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the following numbers of individuals and companies were recorded as ceased trading during the period requested by the Deputy:

Year

Individuals

Companies

2005

35,536

8,399

2006

35,852

7,123

2007

34,586

7,184

2008

28,756

7,525

The Commissioners advise that the figures should be treated with some caution as, based on past experience, there tends to be a time lag between date of cessation and notification to Revenue.

I would also refer to my response to the Deputy on PQ 8667/10 of 23 February 2010 in relation to the number of businesses who advised the Revenue Commissioners of ceasing to trade in 2009 and in January 2010. I would like to clarify that the numbers provided in my reply to that question relate to the individuals and companies that were ceased on the records of the Revenue Commissioners during the period requested by the Deputy.

Businesses cease for many reasons, including trading conditions, retirement of the proprietors, death, formation of partnership or incorporation into Limited Company in the case of a sole trader.

Departmental Expenditure.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

177 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance the amount of expenditure incurred in the period 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2009, by his Department and also offices, agencies and any other bodies falling within his remit, on the lease, rental or purchase of car parking spaces for use by civil and public servants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10570/10]

The Office of Public Works provides car parking spaces for various Government Departments including the Department of Finance. I have been informed by the Office of Public Works that they are currently collating the information requested by the Deputy and will foreword it directly him upon completion of this process.

In addition to car parking spaces provided by the Office of Public Works, the Office of the Revenue Commissioners has informed me that they spent €1,458 in respect of car parking spaces in 2009.

The National Treasury Management Agency paid €147,270 in respect of rented parking spaces in 2009.

Flood Relief.

Ulick Burke

Question:

178 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Finance the financial support made available in County Galway for each of the minor drainage works identified following the flooding in south Galway; the location of work to be carried out and the dates on which work is likely to start; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10608/10]

The OPW and Galway County Council set up a Joint Working Group following the recent widespread flooding in the County in order to assist the identification of measures to address localised flood problems that could be taken forward quickly. The Group identified a number of locations that they would focus on initially, including a number of locations in South Galway. Where viable, cost effective mitigation works are identified they will generally be carried out by the Council with funding from OPW but, where appropriate, OPW may itself undertake works as agent of the Council.

Galway County Council has recently submitted applications for funding for minor flood mitigation works that the Council proposes to undertake at a number of locations in 2010. These applications are currently being considered, in conjunction with applications received from other Local Authorities, having regard to specific economic and environmental eligibility criteria and the overall funding available for flood mitigation works this year. It is expected that a decision will be made shortly in relation to applications for funding received to date. The OPW understands that the Council will submit further applications in the near future.

It is not possible to say at this stage when works may commence at any particular location.

Departmental Offices.

Ulick Burke

Question:

179 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works is still proceeding with the consolidation of the dispersed offices of the Department of Social and Family Affairs to one central office in a town (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10613/10]

The Commissioners of Public Works are currently investigating options in the town as a matter of priority with a view to consolidating the current offices of the Department of Social and Family Affairs into one centralised Local Office.

Children in Care.

Billy Timmins

Question:

180 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2009 whereby, at present, the Health Service Executive may continue to provide after-care to young persons coming out of care when they reach 18 years, but many of our most vulnerable young persons are effectively abandoned when they reach 18, a time at which they are particularly vulnerable to homelessness and the concomitant risk of drug addiction and crime; if the Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2009 will include a provision which would oblige the HSE to provide after-care support to every young person who needs it; her views on a submission by an organisation (details supplied) that guaranteeing after-care is not just the right thing to do, but is also cost-effective, and the fact that the availability of after-care to young people leaving State care is one of the key recommendations of the Ryan report on child abuse (recommendation 17), which all political parties have pledged to implement; if the recommendation will be included; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9885/10]

I am giving consideration to the legal position with regard to the provision of aftercare services, having regard to the existing legislative provisions as set out in the Child Care Act 1991. I had a positive meeting recently with Focus Ireland in this regard.

The Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, 2009 Implementation Plan states:

The provision of aftercare by the HSE should form an integral part of care delivery for children who have been in the care of the state. It should not be seen as a discretionary service or as a once-off event that occurs on a young person's 18th birthday.

The report makes the following recommendations in relation to aftercare:

The HSE will ensure the provision of aftercare services for children leaving care in all instances where the professional judgment of the allocated social worker determines it is required;

The HSE will, with their consent, conduct a longitudinal study to follow young people who leave care for 10 years, to map their transition to adulthood;

The HSE and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will review the approach to prioritising identified at-risk young people leaving care and requiring local authority housing;

The HSE will ensure care plans include aftercare planning for all young people of 16 years and older;

The HSE will ensure that aftercare planning identifies key workers in other health services to which a young person is referred, for example, disability and mental health services;

The OMCYA, in conjunction with the HSE, will consider how best to provide necessary once-off supports for care leavers to gain practical lifelong skills.

In line with the Government commitment as reflected in the Ryan Implementation Plan funding of €1.0m was set aside by the HSE in its 2010 Service Plan, for the development of aftercare services in 2010.

Care of the Elderly.

Richard Bruton

Question:

181 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on establishing a policy review of the challenges of an ageing population by way of a Green Paper or otherwise. [9928/10]

The information requested by the Deputy cannot be supplied at the moment due to industrial action by the Civil and Public Services Union (CPSU).

Medical Cards.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

182 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children if a review of the financial assessment of a person (details supplied) in County Cork for eligibility for a full medical card will be undertaken in view of a drop in family income following a social welfare assessment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9933/10]

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

I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Medicinal Products.

Joe Costello

Question:

183 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children the developments in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Galway regarding their request to return to Ireland and receive medical treatment involving a substance which is illegal under the Misuse of Drugs Act; if she is satisfied that Ireland is not in breach of UN conventions and EU directives in the operation of its current practices; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10022/10]

The current legal position in Ireland in relation to cannabis is that it is a Schedule 1 controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977. All Schedule 1 substances are substances which are considered as having no medicinal use and the manufacture, production, preparation, sale, supply, distribution and possession of cannabis is unlawful except for the purposes of research.

The importation of cannabis and substances and products containing cannabis to Ireland, even if legally obtained in another EU Member State, is prohibited. It is not possible for cannabis, products containing cannabis or derivatives thereof to be authorised for medicinal use or for prescription by a medical practitioner. The Misuse of Drugs legislation make no provision for derogations in respect of the importation or possession of cannabis-containing substances or products. I am satisfied that the Misuse of Drugs legislation as operated in Ireland is not in breach of UN Conventions and EU Directives.

Health Services.

James Bannon

Question:

184 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Longford who was approved for orthodontic treatment in January 2009 and was told there was a waiting list of nine months has still not received a date for treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9879/10]

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

Finian McGrath

Question:

185 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [9891/10]

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

Adoption Services.

Joan Burton

Question:

186 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the document on the standardised framework for the provision of a national information and tracing service is no longer available for download from the Adoption Board website; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9901/10]

Joan Burton

Question:

187 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to ensure the adoption agencies comply with the standards set out in the standardised framework for the provision of a national information and tracing service without legislating for such compliance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9902/10]

Joan Burton

Question:

188 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to legislate for an adoption information and tracing service that will be compliant with the standardised framework for the provision of a national information and tracing service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9903/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 186 to 188, inclusive, together.

The Information and Tracing Unit in the Adoption Board provides an advice and referral service for those seeking to trace or to obtain medical or personal information. This unit provides services directly to adoptees, natural mothers and birth families. It also works closely with the registered adoption societies and the HSE national information and tracing services. Improvements to this service have been effected by the computerisation of the unique adoption files held by the Board. In addition, the National Adoption Contact Preference Register (NACPR) is designed to assist adopted people and their natural families to make contact with each other, exchange information, or to state their contact preferences.

The Adoption Board, together with adoption societies, the HSE and support groups, developed the "Standardised Framework for the Provision of a National Information and Tracing Service". This Framework, published in November 2007, sets standards and provides guidance and advice for information and tracing service providers nationally. There is no statutory basis for the framework which is being implemented on a consensus basis.

My Office is advised by the Adoption Board that the Framework is currently being reviewed and has been temporarily removed from the Board's website. However, the documentation set out in the Framework has been widely disseminated to societies, support groups and other interested parties and will continue to be made available to anyone contacting the Board to seek a copy. The Framework will again be made available through the Adoption Board website once the review is complete.

In overall terms it is considered that there is an effective administrative system in place to deal with the issue of information and tracing. Consequently, the current Adoption Bill, 2009 does not make specific provisions in this regard.

Nursing Homes Support Scheme.

Mary Upton

Question:

189 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the fair deal scheme in cases in which a patient is moved from a public psychiatric home to a nursing home; if the patient will continue to be entitled to be treated as a public patient; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9913/10]

Mary Upton

Question:

190 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if a psychiatric patient who has undergone an assessment when moving from a psychiatric unit to a nursing home will be assessed as a mental health patient or a public nursing home patient for the purposes of the fair deal scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9914/10]

Mary Upton

Question:

192 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied that nursing homes to which it is proposed to send mental health patients are adequately resourced to ensure the appropriate level of care for these patients; the extra provisions that are in place to deal with the increased demand for places; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9916/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 189, 190 and 192 together.

A patient who was in receipt of public in-patient services and subject to long-stay charges under section 53 of the Health Act 1970 prior to the introduction of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme, A Fair Deal, can choose to continue with their current arrangements when transferring to a public nursing home. In other words, where the person remains in receipt of public care services, they can choose to continue paying long-stay charges in accordance with section 53 of the Health Act 1970 and do not have to transfer to the Nursing Homes Support Scheme.

Accordingly, the patient will not have to undergo the assessments, including the care needs assessment, provided for in the new scheme. However, the Deputy will be aware that in 2009 my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, introduced new Care and Welfare Regulations to underpin the National Quality Standards for Residential Care Settings for Older People in Ireland. Article 8 of the Regulations states that "the person in charge shall ensure each resident's needs are set out in an individual care plan developed and agreed with each resident."

The National Standards themselves consist of 32 standards, focusing on the outcomes for the resident, under the following seven groupings: Rights, Protection, Health and Social Needs, Quality of Life, Staffing, The Care Environment and Governance and Management. The standards are a key requirement for the registration and inspection of nursing homes and they are underpinned by the Health Act 2007 (Care and Welfare of Residents in Designated Centres for Older People) Regulations 2009.

Amongst other things, the standards govern the procedure for moving to long-term residential care. In particular, Standard 10 addresses the assessment requirements by providing that "Each resident has his/her needs assessed prior to moving into the residential care setting, a full assessment upon admission, and subsequently as required to reflect changes in need and circumstances during his/her period in residence.

Standard 11 provides that "The arrangements to meet each resident's assessed needs are set out in an individual care plan, developed and agreed with each resident, or in the case of a resident with cognitive impairment with his/her representative."

Mental Health Services.

Mary Upton

Question:

191 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the process that will be provided to continue the care for psychiatric patients; the extra provisions that are in place to deal with the increased demand; when mental health patients are being moved to an independently managed nursing home in situations in which it is proposed to close down a facility (details supplied), if there is a responsibility on the Health Service Executive to inform the Mental Health Commission; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9915/10]

'A Vision for Change' the Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, provides a framework for action to develop a modern, high quality mental health service over a seven to ten year period. The Report recommends that the remaining psychiatric hospitals should close and that patients should be relocated to more appropriate community based settings. The HSE has developed a strategy for the phased closure of the remaining hospitals and the relocation of patients to community based accommodation, and in these circumstances the question has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Regulation 36 of the Mental Health Act 2001 (Approved Centres) Regulations 2006 (S.I. 551 of 2006) requires that where it is proposed to close an approved centre, the registered proprietor of the approved centre must inform the Mental Health Commission in writing, not later than 3 months before the intended date of the cessation of the provision of mental health services.

Question No. 192 answered with Question No. 189.

Departmental Expenditure.

Richard Bruton

Question:

193 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps that have been taken to address the major deficiencies and waste of resources in the Department as reported in the newspapers on 18 February 2010, the information on which was presented to the Department as far back as September 2009. [9940/10]

At the request of the Department of Health and Children, a review of the Department was carried out last year under the Organisational Review Programme (ORP). The report was received about four weeks ago — not last September. It will be published, along with similar reports on other Government Offices, following submission to the Government in due course. The report did not identify major deficiencies and waste in the Department. Its principal conclusions include the following:

The Department of Health and Children is an organisation in transition as a result of the formation of the Health Service Executive (HSE) in 2005, as this event led to substantial changes to the Department's roles and responsibilities.

The health sector is a particularly challenging sector of the public service and the Department regularly has to deal with crises which place it in the media and political spotlight. Looking into the future it is likely that significant resource constraints will add to the challenges faced by the Department.

There is general recognition amongst the Department's agencies and stakeholders that its greatest strengths are the ability and commitment of its staff in dealing with a difficult agenda. The staff have a deep knowledge of the health sector and they are widely praised for the quality of the policies they bring forward.

However, the Department's staff, agencies and stakeholders also recognise that in order to respond to the challenges and address issues of capacity the Department, as a priority, needs to:

Fully clarify its roles and responsibilities vis-à-vis the HSE, in particular.

Become better at managing the delivery of all its agencies (including the HSE); to do this it needs to become stronger at goal setting, measuring outputs and outcomes, and managing performance so as to ensure the implementation of its policies.

Define its customer and stakeholder groups clearly and align resources, processes and procedures to serve each one in the most appropriate way and, at the same time, strike an optimal balance in the allocation of resources between competing priorities, including serving the needs of the Ministers and the Oireachtas.

Improve its human resources capacities in general, and in particular improve its outcomes in terms of morale and analytical capability as well as tackling issues with

people management

management of underperformance

staff allocation

management of staff mobility.

Health Services.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

194 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11. [9960/10]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply. Due to industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response within the normal timeframe.

Finian McGrath

Question:

195 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of a person (details supplied). [9971/10]

Finian McGrath

Question:

198 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [9995/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 195 and 198 together.

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

Nursing Homes Support Scheme.

Finian McGrath

Question:

196 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if property abroad can be taken into account in The Fair Deal Scheme. [9972/10]

The Financial Assessment for the Nursing Homes Support Scheme takes all the individual's income and assets into account, including property and wealth outside of the State. The person's contribution to care is then worked out based on 80% of the person's assessable income and 5% of the value of their assets per annum. However, the first €36,000 of the person's assets, or €72,000 in the case of a couple, is not included at all in the assessment. It should also be noted that a person may never pay more than the cost of their care. Finally, the Deputy should note that the Nursing Home Loan element of the scheme is only available in respect of land-based assets within the State.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

197 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [9994/10]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Question No. 198 answered with Question No. 195.

Medical Cards.

Michael McGrath

Question:

199 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application for a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [9996/10]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Hospital Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

200 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim will receive surgery; and if this will be expedited. [10000/10]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply. Due to industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response within the normal timeframe.

Departmental Schemes.

Michael Ring

Question:

201 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the payments made, in each of the past three years, to individual doctors in County Mayo under the indicative drugs target savings scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10003/10]

While the Indicative Drugs Target Savings Scheme (IDTS) was suspended 4 years ago pending a review of its operation and effectiveness, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to reply directly to the Deputy regarding any IDTS payments made to individual GPs in Co. Mayo during the past three years which relate to payments due prior to suspension of the Scheme. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Michael Ring

Question:

202 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if the indicative drugs target savings scheme is still available; and if so, the guidelines for the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10004/10]

The Indicative Drugs Target Savings Scheme (IDTS) was suspended 4 years ago pending a review of its operation and effectiveness. That expert report review conducted by the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomic Assessment found that there was no evidence that the scheme was incentivising appropriate prescribing. The scheme remains suspended.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

203 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive a date for physiotherapy treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10033/10]

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 to the Deputy.

Mental Health Services.

Tom Kitt

Question:

204 Deputy Tom Kitt asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the recommendations, in both the 1992 Green Paper on Mental Health and the 1996 White Paper A New Mental Health Act, that the new legislation should include a framework for the provision of community mental health services. [10056/10]

Tom Kitt

Question:

205 Deputy Tom Kitt asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on examining the possibility of legislation providing a framework for access to community mental health services; the position regarding the examination within her Department; the reason there has been no progress on this for more than a decade; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10057/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 204 and 205 together. The Mental Health Act 2001 provides a modern framework for the admission and treatment of persons with a mental disorder. The Act is due to be reviewed in 2011 and the need for any provisions in relation to community-based mental health services, will be among the issues to be considered in that context.

Health Services.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

206 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) has been ordered to repay the Health Service Executive a sum of money for long-stay charges; if arrangements will be made to repay in instalments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10065/10]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Joe Costello

Question:

207 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 182 of 17 November 2009, when a reply will issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10072/10]

I understand from the HSE that a reply issued to you on the 7th December 2009. I have asked the HSE to re-issue a copy of this letter to you.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

208 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children the average waiting time for an appointment with each specialist located at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10086/10]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Child Care.

Denis Naughten

Question:

209 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 284 of 20 October 2009, the number of children in foster care; the number under the age of five years; the number between five and ten years; the number between ten and 15 years ; the number over 15 years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10096/10]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Health Services.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

210 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children the timetable for the report of the Needs Assessment Committee which met for the first time on 4 February 2010; the terms of reference; the names and qualifications of the members of this committee; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10117/10]

I understand that the Deputy is referring to the Single Assessment Tool Working Group. As this group was established by the Health Service Executive, the matter has been referred to the Executive for direct reply.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

211 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Health and Children if the agreed staffing levels are in place at the accident and emergency department of a hospital (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10149/10]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Mental Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

212 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of land the Health Service Executive plans to sell off from the St. Conal’s Hospital campus in Letterkenny, County Donegal; and if the money raised from the sale will be ringfenced for mental health services in Donegal. [10152/10]

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

Hospital Staff.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

213 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Lifford Community Hospital and the Rock Hospital in Ballyshannon, County Donegal, are earmarked for closure; and the way it will affect the staff at both hospitals if these closures take place. [10153/10]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Hospital Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

214 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when the clear air theatre at Naas General Hospital, County Kildare, will become fully operational; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10224/10]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

215 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a health centre (details supplied) in County Kildare following a recent audit by health board officials; when it is expected to respond positively to requests by this health centre with a view to expediting the process having particular regard to the population increase in the area and that the current facilities were provided to meet the existing population demands 40 years ago; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10225/10]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Hospital Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

216 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when hip replacement surgery will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10226/10]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Health Services.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

217 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 331 of 2 February 2010, the reason a formal reply has not yet been issued by the Health Service Executive; and if she is now in a position to furnish a reply to the question. [10246/10]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Mental Health Services.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

218 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will instruct the Health Service Executive to draw up new performance indicators together with supporting up-to-date data to enable accurate monitoring of the national mental health budget; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10250/10]

My Department work on an ongoing collaborative basis with the HSE in developing and refining performance measures across all service areas, including mental health, to ensure that they are as robust and meaningful as possible and reflect key priorities and international best practice as well as being comparable both within the EU and further afield.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

219 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [10258/10]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Medical Cards.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

220 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to inefficiency in the Health Service Executive which has seen medical card renewal forms sent to a person (details supplied) in County Dublin, two weeks after the submission date has passed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10268/10]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Departmental Staff.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

221 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of posts unfilled in her Department because of the embargo on recruitment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10293/10]

The information requested by the Deputy can not be supplied at the moment due to industrial action by the Civil & Public Services Union (CPSU). A reply will issue directly to the Deputy in due course.

Medical Cards.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

222 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10371/10]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Hospital Services.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

223 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the budget for Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15, for 2010; the budget for each of the past ten years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10382/10]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Medical Cards.

John O'Mahony

Question:

224 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo who has a medical card and who has to go privately to Galway to see a urologist will get a refund of the cost of same. [10395/10]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Health Services .

Michael McGrath

Question:

225 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an outpatient appointment for a person (details supplied) in County Cork at Cork University Hospital. [10404/10]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply. Due to industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response within the normal timeframe.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

226 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in considering an appeal on behalf of a person (details supplied); and if she will expedite this appeal. [10406/10]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Drugs Payment Scheme.

John Deasy

Question:

227 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to include herbal and alternative medicines in the drugs treatment scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10407/10]

In order for a medicinal product to be considered by the HSE for reimbursement under the Drugs Payment Scheme it must meet specified criteria. These include the following. The product must be an ‘allopathic' medicinal product authorised by the Irish Medicines Board or the European Commission. The product must be such that it is ordinarily supplied to the public only on foot of a medical prescription. The product should not be advertised or promoted to the public. Herbal and alternative medicines do not meet these criteria and as such are not reimbursable under the Drugs Payment Scheme.

General Medical Services Scheme.

John Deasy

Question:

228 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to include alternative therapies and treatments in the General Medical Services medical card scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10408/10]

Under the General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme, persons with full eligibility are entitled to general practitioner services, prescribed drugs, medicines and appliances, all in-patient public hospital services in public wards including consultant services, all out-patient public hospital services including consultant services, dental, ophthalmic and aural services and appliances, child health services, home nursing and a maternity and infant care service. Alternative or complementary therapies are not covered under the GMS Scheme and I have no plans to change this.

General Practitioner Training.

James Reilly

Question:

229 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the cost of each General Practitioner training place; how these places are funded; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10409/10]

The Health Service Executive is responsible for arranging and funding General Practitioner training. The Executive has reported to my Department that the projected cost of training a General Practitioner is approximately, €176,875.

Health Services.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

230 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will investigate a matter (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10412/10]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Departmental Expenditure.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

231 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of expenditure incurred in the period 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2009, by her Department and also offices, agencies and any other bodies falling within her remit, on the lease, rental or purchase of car parking spaces for use by civil and public servants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10572/10]

The issue of expenditure on the lease, rental or purchase of car parking spaces is a matter for the Office of Public Works (OPW) and I have asked the OPW to reply directly to the Deputy in this regard. The position regarding the Health Service Executive and the other agencies is a matter for the agencies themselves. My Department is requesting them to reply directly to the Deputy.

Departmental Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

232 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the number and grade of staff who qualified for performance-related pay prior to that payment being abolished in her Department; and the pay scales appropriate to those grades. [10586/10]

I presume that the Deputy is referring to the Performance Related Awards Scheme (PRA) which was introduced following a decision by the Government on the implementation of Report No. 38 of the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector in 2000. This Scheme applied at the level of Deputy and Assistant Secretary and related grades in the Civil Service and there were nine posts in my Department at this level (two at Deputy Secretary level and seven at Assistant Secretary level).

As the Deputy is aware, on 5th February 2009, the Minister for Finance announced the discontinuation of the scheme in the Dáil and consequently no payments were made to eligible officers in my Department in respect of performances in 2008. The payscales for the officials involved are as follows (1 January 2010 rates):

Payscales — 1 January 2010

Deputy Secretary €168,000

Deputy Secretary PPC €176,800

Assistant Secretary €127,796, €133,605, €139,898, €146,191

Assistant Secretary PPC €134,523, €140,636, €147,262, €153,885

Chief Medical Officer €168,000

Chief Medical Officer PPC €176,800

*PPC Scales apply to established officers appointed on or after the 6th April 1995 paying the Class A rate of PRSI contribution and making an employee contribution in respect of personal superannuation benefits.

Health Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

233 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 250 of 6 May 2009, if she will furnish the corresponding figure for 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10591/10]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply. Due to industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response within the normal timeframe.

Food Safety Authority.

Denis Naughten

Question:

234 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 112 of 18 December 2008 and No. 253 of 17 February 2009, if she will furnish the corresponding figures for 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10592/10]

Responsibility for the enforcement of food safety and food labelling legislation rests with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and its official agents, which include the Health Service Executive, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (DAFF), Local Authorities (LAs) and the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA).

Due to the public service industrial action involving members of IMPACT within the Health Service Executive (HSE), the HSE is not in a position to provide data to this response and consequently some of the data (particularly in respect of the second half of 2009) is not available.

Prosecutions

Further to the reply forwarded to the Deputy in May 2009 by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, a successful prosecution was taken by the FSAI against a food business in Galway: the legislation cited for breaches included the Labelling of Fishery and Aquaculture Products Regulations 2003. An unsuccessful prosecution was taken by the FSAI in March 2009 against two companies, including a number of Directors, in relation to the supply/placing on the market of certain fishery products. The case was dismissed. From January 2009 to date, the HSE initiated 17 successful prosecutions under food legislation. One of these prosecutions cited the 2006 Country of Origin of Beef Regulations and one cited the Beef Labelling Regulations 2000 as amended. The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority concluded one conviction in 2009 for breaches of food legislation.

Inspections

The HSE recorded 5,705 inspections in the retail sector and 15,181 in the service sector including restaurants in the first half of 2009. From January to June 2009, compliance with beef country of origin regulations was assessed in 4,092 inspections and 1,108 non-compliances were recorded. For the same period, compliance with labelling of beef and beef products regulations was assessed in 3,584 inspections and 727 non compliances were recorded. Many of these non compliances would be for minor infringements and Environmental Health Officers follow up on all of these non compliances with the Food Business Operators to ensure compliance.

Labelling inspections

Labelling inspections are carried out as part of the food safety inspections of food businesses. During the course of these inspections a total of 8,715 hygiene and labelling infringements including general hygiene and labelling were identified by Environmental Health Officers in the first half of 2009. The HSE issued 326 enforcement notices and orders under the FSAI Act in 2009.

Local Authority Veterinary Inspectors carry out inspections in 456 establishments. There are some outstanding returns due to be forwarded to the FSAI but so far Local Authorities have reported 12 major non compliances for 2009. In 2009, 3,200 inspections were carried out by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority. Ten compliance notices, one prohibition order, one closure order and one improvement notice were issued.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food have reported inspection data for the first three quarters of 2009. The meat and meat products division carried out 7,810 inspections for this period. The milk products division carried out 350 hygiene inspection and the egg and poultry inspectors carried out 2,441 inspections in the same period.

Hospital Accommodation.

Denis Naughten

Question:

235 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of acute hospital beds in each hospital that were unavailable in 2009 due to cost containment measures, infection control and refurbishment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10593/10]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply. Due to industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response within the normal timeframe.

Mental Health Services.

Ulick Burke

Question:

236 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason there is such a wide variation in the administration of electroconvulsive therapy for the treatment of depression where only two cases were administered in County Cork in 2008 while during the same year in County Galway 69 cases received this treatment which is described as a high-risk, low-benefit procedure; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10600/10]

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

Medical Cards.

Ulick Burke

Question:

237 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Health and Children the additional cost to her Department and to the Health Service Executive of the change of centralisation of the medical card processing from the regions to the Dublin centre and the number of jobs lost in the regional centres; the number of jobs required in the new centralised centre; the reason that this information was not supplied in my previous Parliamentary Question; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10601/10]

The issues raised by the Deputy are service matters. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address these matters and also the matters raised in the Deputy's previous Parliamentary Question and to have replies issued directly to the Deputy. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Hospital Staff.

Ulick Burke

Question:

238 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied herself that the appropriate number of consultants have been appointed to the various specialties at Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, County Galway; when additional consultants will be appointed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10609/10]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply. Due to industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response within the normal timeframe.

Road Network.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

239 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport if funding will be provided for the local improvement scheme in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9930/10]

I recently announced the 2010 regional and local road grant allocations. A total of €411.409 million is being provided to local authorities for regional and local roads in 2010. From this allocation €5 million is being provided towards the Local Improvements Scheme.

Marine Rescue Service.

Pat Breen

Question:

240 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding an application (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9880/10]

Details of the proposed new Coast Guard Station House at Doolin, Co. Clare are being finalised, and an application for planning permission will be lodged shortly.

Rail Services.

Joe McHugh

Question:

241 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport if he will acknowledge Resolution No. 2 of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly’s plenary meeting at Cavan on 23 February 2010 (details supplied), if he will conduct a feasibility study in response to this resolution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10030/10]

The Strategic Rail Review (SRR) set out priorities for future rail investment which provided an input into the development of Transport 21, my Department's investment framework. The SRR did not include the development of rail services in Cavan, Monaghan or Donegal in its recommendations. As a consequence, no capital provision for such rail development was included in Transport 21 and it is not a priority for investment in the current difficult economic situation. As I have previously indicated, the Programme for Government contained a commitment to commence preparation of a successor to Transport 21. It is in the context of such a successor Programme that consideration will be given to future transport investments.

I very much welcome any proposals regarding the advancement of public transport and am pleased to acknowledge the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly's interest in the possible development of public transport services in Fermanagh, Tyrone, Cavan, Monaghan, and Donegal. As the Deputy will be aware issues relating to cross-border public transport services are also discussed on a regular basis under the auspices of the North-South Ministerial Council. While there is no provision for funding for a study at present both Governments are committed to the development of cross-border public transport services and the matter will be kept under review.

Road Network.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

242 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport if his approval is required for the setting of a tolling scheme; if so, the occasions on which his consent was sought for each of the past three years; if he gave his consent in each instance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10083/10]

The statutory power to levy tolls on national roads, to make toll bye-laws and to enter into toll agreements with private investors in respect of national roads is vested in the National Roads Authority (NRA) under Part V of the Roads Act 1993 (as amended by the Planning and Development Act 2000 and the Roads Act 2007). Specifically, Section 57 of the Roads Act 1993, as amended by Section 271 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, provides that the NRA may prepare a scheme for the establishment of a system of tolls in respect of the use of a public road. The making of such a toll scheme does not require Ministerial consent.

EU Funding.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

243 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the amount of funding received from the EU towards the construction of road projects in each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10085/10]

The EU funding claimed in respect of national roads projects under the Economic and Social Infrastructure Operational Programme 2000-2006 for which my Department had lead responsibility was as follows:

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

70,072,217

24,054,087

22,101,189

7,400,180

Nil

I do not have details of the funding received as payments of EU aid in respect of these claims are made to the Department of Finance.

EU funding for national road development may also have been provided during this period under EU programmes in respect of which other bodies in Ireland have the lead management role under EU Regulations. These programmes include the Cohesion Fund, the Interreg Programme and the Peace Programme.

Public Transport.

Michael Ring

Question:

244 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Transport if he has considered the recent report by the Citizens Information Board regarding the difficulties rural persons experience in accessing transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8486/10]

The Citizens Information Board's Report "Getting There — Transport and Access to Social Services" is well researched and surfaces issues which the Department has already identified as important in developing rural transport and in making transport accessible. In that regard it will help to inform the development of rural transport policy. The recommendations in the report also impinge on matters for which other departments and public bodies such as the Departments of Social and Family Affairs, Health and Children and Education and Science, the Revenue Commissioners and the Health Services Executive have responsibility.

Joan Burton

Question:

245 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the dislocation suffered by the community-based in the rural areas (details supplied) of north County Dublin, and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10259/10]

Decisions in relation to the deployment of buses, including on the services referred to by the Deputy, are an operational matter for Bus Éireann in conjunction, in the case of PSO services, with the National Transport Authority, and not one in which I have any role.

Departmental Staff.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

246 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Transport the number of posts unfilled in his Department because of the embargo on recruitment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10297/10]

Due to industrial action currently being taken by staff, I regret that I am unable to provide the answer sought by the Deputy.

Traffic Management.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

247 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Transport his views on allowing chauffeur driven cars access to drive on bus lanes, thus giving the same access to routes as the taxi industry is permitted. [10338/10]

The current rules governing use of bus lanes were established through the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997-1998. Large public service vehicles (buses) are permitted to use all bus lanes. The key consideration underpinning the current policy is that bus lanes are provided to support and promote bus-based public transport and to protect the carrying capacity of bus lanes so as to optimise journey times for the members of the public who use that mode of transport.

Two exemptions are provided in the regulations. Pedal cyclists are regarded as being vulnerable road users and, on road safety grounds, are permitted to use with-flow bus lanes.

Taxis are available for hire on-street to the public at large and are regarded as being an element of the public transport service and are, accordingly, permitted to use with-flow bus lanes. I have no proposals to extend further the types of vehicles permitted to use bus lanes.

Departmental Expenditure.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

248 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport the amount of expenditure incurred in the period 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2009, by his Department and also offices, agencies and any other bodies falling within his remit, on the lease, rental or purchase of car parking spaces for use by civil and public servants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10576/10]

Costs associated with car parking spaces at Department of Transport premises tend to be integrated into property leasing costs generally, the arrangements for which are made by the Office of Public Works on behalf of the Department. The OPW is thus responsible for the provision of the information sought by the Deputy.

Insofar as the agencies under the aegis of the Department of Transport are concerned, the arrangements for the lease, rental or purchase of car parking spaces are matters to be dealt with directly by the agencies concerned.

Departmental Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

249 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Transport the number and grade of staff who qualified for performance related pay prior to that payment being abolished in his Department; and the pay scales appropriate to those grades. [10590/10]

The scheme for performance-related awards in the Civil Service applied to five Assistant Secretaries in my Department. The current pay scale appropriate to the Officers of this grade in my Department is as follows:

€127,796 — €133,605 — €139,898 — €146,191

Garda Transport.

Phil Hogan

Question:

250 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the public order van will be restored to Carlow town; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9912/10]

The detailed allocation of Garda resources, including transport, is a matter for the Garda Commissioner to decide in accordance with his operational requirements and priorities. Such allocations are continually monitored and reviewed by senior Garda management along with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy. This ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources and that the best possible service is provided to the public.

I regret that the specific information requested by the Deputy is not readily to hand. I will write to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Judicial Investigations.

Richard Bruton

Question:

251 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the relatives of Stardust victims have been consulted regarding the composition of the committee recommended in the Coffey Report to monitor the needs of families; the extent to which representatives of medical or other professions have been included and if a broader based committee could be formed in consultation with relatives. [9944/10]

As the Deputy will recall, there had been ongoing consultation with the Victims Committee's legal advisor with a view to identifying the level of demand for access to ongoing counselling and medical services. As this process failed to gather sufficient information to allow arrangements to be made, a public information notice was placed in newspapers asking those who wished to access such services through this channel to register their interest. Arrangements to provide these services have now been put in place, on foot of the response received. These arrangements involve a leading independent provider of counselling services and all personal details will be treated in the strictest confidence. Insofar as the monitoring of these arrangements is concerned, for the present this is being carried out by my Department in conjunction with the Department of An Taoiseach and with the expert advice of the Health Service Executive. This monitoring is restricted to the extent required to manage the provision of services.

Sexual Offences.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

252 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of primary school teachers convicted of committing sexual offences against pupils since 1990; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10027/10]

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose.

I will make arrangements, as soon as possible, to forward the Deputy's request to the CSO for direct reply.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

253 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of secondary school teachers convicted of committing sexual offences against pupils since 1990; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10028/10]

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose.

I will make arrangements, as soon as possible, to forward the Deputy's request to the CSO for direct reply.

Garda Investigations.

Joe Costello

Question:

254 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received the report from the Garda team which was sent to Slovakia to investigate the airport security exercise which caused explosives to be carried here by aircraft in January 2010; if he will publish the findings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10073/10]

I refer the Deputy to my replies to Questions Nos. 3 and 19 of 4 February 2010. As I indicated, the Garda Commissioner has appointed a Detective Chief Superintendent to inquire into all the circumstances surrounding the incident. That inquiry is ongoing and the report is awaited. When the report is completed I will consider what further action, if any, is required on my part and what information may be made publicly available.

Ground Rents.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

255 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the legal representatives of ground landlords are demanding arrears of ground rent from leaseholders, the amounts of which are in excess of that to which they are legally entitled having regard to the provisions of the statute of limitations; the steps he proposes to take to stop this threatening practice which is causing distress to leaseholders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10597/10]

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

256 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that in the case of leases due to expire that ground landlords are entitled, under existing legislative provisions, to seek payment of one-eight the value of the property to buy out the lease; his views on whether this provision is justified; if not, the steps he proposes to take to ensure that leaseholders are not subjected to such penal charges to buy out their leases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10598/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 255 and 256 together.

I am aware that in some cases demands for payment of ground rents may not have been made for a number of years. Where, in such cases, a demand for payment is subsequently made by the ground rent landlord, the landlord is statute barred from claiming more than 6 years arrears of ground rent. Moreover, section 27 of the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents)(No. 2) Act 1978 provides that a landlord cannot re-enter or take possession of premises in respect of which payment of the ground rent is in arrears.

A legal challenge to the constitutionality of the purchase price provisions of ground rents legislation was heard in the High Court in 2005. While the Court's judgment upholding the constitutionality of the legislation was delivered in early 2006, it has since been appealed to the Supreme Court. While operation of the law in relation to ground rents continues to be reviewed in my Department, there are no proposals for changes pending the outcome of this appeal.

Garda Recruitment.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

257 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the discussions that have taken place within the European Union regarding serving police officers to join neighbouring police services in an easy manner; and the stage the discussions have reached; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9896/10]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

258 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current procedure if a serving PSNI officer wishes to join An Garda Síochána; if there is adequate protocols in place to allow this and due recognition to the training and service of such officers; his views on making such transfers easier as occurs between other jurisdictions within the European Union. [9897/10]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

259 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current procedure if a serving British Metropolitan or other British police service officers wishes to join An Garda Síochána; if there are adequate protocols in place to allow this and due recognition to the training and service of such officers; his views on making such transfers easier as occurs between other jurisdictions within the European Union. [9898/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 257 to 259, inclusive, together.

Under current regulations on admission and appointment to the Garda Síochána, recruitment to the Garda rank is open to all citizens of the EEA, although there is no provision for serving members in police forces in other States to apply directly for posts at higher ranks.

Under an Intergovernmental Agreement on Police Co-operation between Ireland and the UK, however, provision is made for members from the Garda Síochána and the PSNI to apply for posts in the other Force at ranks above Inspector. Giving effect to this will require changes to the current Garda regulations, and my Department is in ongoing discussions on this with the Garda Commissioner, the Garda representative associations and the Northern Ireland Office. Under this Agreement, personnel exchanges between the Garda Síochána and the PSNI are already in place, and a Garda Superintendent will shortly be seconded to the PSNI.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

260 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of serving members of An Garda Síochána who were previously members of another police service. [9899/10]

I regret that the information requested by the Deputy is not readily to hand. I will write to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

261 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of applications received by the Garda Síochána from police officers serving in other jurisdictions who wish to join the Garda Síochána in the past ten years. [9900/10]

I regret that the information requested by the Deputy is not readily to hand. I will write to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Citizenship Applications.

James Bannon

Question:

262 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for naturalisation in respect of persons (details supplied) who have been living here since 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9957/10]

I regret that the information requested by the Deputy is not readily to hand. I will write to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Asylum Applications.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

263 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9969/10]

I refer the Deputy to my detailed Reply to his recent Parliamentary Question, No. 643 of Tuesday, 19 January 2010, in this matter. The position in the State of the person concerned is as set out in that Reply.

The case of the person concerned is among a large volume of such cases which are awaiting consideration at present. However, the Deputy can be assured that the case of the person concerned will be processed to finality as soon as possible.

Departmental Investigations.

Finian McGrath

Question:

264 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on a matter (details supplied). [9993/10]

I regret to advise the Deputy that it is not possible to provide a response to his Question at this time. The information sought will be provided at a later date.

Residency Permits.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

265 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reasons for the refusal of a decision on the EU Treaty Rights application for residency in the State by a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if this decision will be reviewed. [9999/10]

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that the person concerned made an application for residence in the State based on her marriage to a Belgian national on 8 January 2009. The person referred to by the Deputy was informed of the decision to refuse her application and the basis for this decision by letter on 18 June 2009. My Department has been in receipt of further correspondence from the individual's legal representative and a request by the applicant and her spouse for a review of this decision was received on 18 February 2010. All applications for review are dealt with in chronological order of date of receipt and the decision to refuse this application remains under review.

Garda Deployment.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

266 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Gardaí currently in service in each of the following divisions Sligo-Leitrim, Donegal, Cavan-Monaghan, and Louth in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10011/10]

I regret that the information requested by the Deputy is not readily to hand. I will write to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Citizenship Applications.

Michael Ring

Question:

267 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on an application for citizenship in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath. [10016/10]

I regret that the information requested by the Deputy is not readily to hand. I will write to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Crime Prevention.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

268 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he is taking to address white collar crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10026/10]

I wish to inform the Deputy that it is not possible to provide a detailed response to his question within the timeframe available. I will however revert to him in due course.

Residency Permits.

Jack Wall

Question:

269 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for residency in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10050/10]

In the absence of more specific details being provided by the Deputy, I regret that it is not possible to provide a response to his Question. If the Deputy wishes to re-submit his Question with a relevant reference number, I would be happy to provide the requested information.

Garda Training.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

270 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the details of the new training programme for the Garda Síochána; if it will affect people waiting on a panel to commence training at Templemore College, County Tipperary; if the current panel will remain in place to fill the next intake; when those intakes will take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10055/10]

I was present recently when the Garda Commissioner launched the Report of the Garda Síochána Training and Development Review Group. The report together with guidelines for the implementation of the eighty five recommendations contained therein can be accessed on www.garda.ie.

Recruitment to An Garda Síochána is governed by the Garda Síochána Admission and Appointments Regulations, 1988, (as amended). I am informed by the Garda authorities that following selection by the Public Appointments Service each applicant must undergo a Physical Competency Test, a Medical Examination and also Character Vetting. Applicants successful at all three stages will remain on a panel and are available to be offered positions as Garda Trainees in a future intake.

Any proposed amendments to the regulations arising out of the Review Group's report will be given careful consideration and will involve full consultation with all relevant parties. The moratorium on recruitment and promotions in the Public Service applies to the Garda Síochána, both sworn members and civilian support staff. However, I will keep the situation under review in consultation with the Garda Commissioner and my colleague the Minister for Finance.

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

271 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make funding available through Pobal for the reintroduction of the closed circuit television scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8241/10]

The Community-based CCTV Scheme was launched in 2005 to provide financial assistance towards the capital costs of establishing a community CCTV system. Two types of grant have been made available. Substantive grants of up to €100,000 have been made available from my Department with the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs providing matching funding for successful applications from RAPID areas. Pre-development grants of up to €5,000 have also been made available to assist local communities to develop substantive proposals in their areas.

Two major rounds of the scheme were advertised in 2005/2006 and 2007 with a total of 13 and 30 substantive schemes respectively approved for funding. A further 2 schemes under the Limerick Regeneration programme were approved in 2008. In addition, 54 schemes were awarded pre-development grants over the same period. To date, a total of 26 substantive schemes have been installed. Installation of the remaining 19 Community CCTV Schemes is ongoing with Schemes at various stages of implementation.

Any further plans for extension of CCTV are dependent on a number of factors, including the progression of the schemes already grant aided, the availability of funding and overall policy considerations.

Departmental Investigations.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

272 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 13; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10066/10]

I regret that the information requested by the Deputy is not readily to hand. I will write to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Drug Treatment Programme.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

273 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the need for protocols governing the administering of methadone to persons in Garda custody; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10075/10]

The prescription and supply of methadone throughout this jurisdiction is governed by the Misuse of Drugs Acts and associated regulations, which come under the remit of the Minister for Health and Children.

Garda Deployment.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

274 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí employed in the national drugs squad when it was first set up in 1996; the number of gardaí employed in the national drugs squad; the number of proposed retirements within the squad in the next 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10076/10]

I regret that the information requested by the Deputy is not readily to hand. I will write to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Office of the Ombudsman.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

275 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, in view of his proposal to include the Courts Service under the remit of the Ombudsman, he will include the Office of the Wards of Court. [10079/10]

There are no proposals to extend the remit of the Ombudsman to the Office of Wards of Court which, in the exercise of its functions, is subject to the directions of the President of the High Court.

Proposed Legislation.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

276 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans for the proposed new Court Funds Office; the functions of this office; the establishment date; the way it will impact on current wards of court with funds in court; the way it will differ from the system currently in place; and the way it is proposed that the new courts funds office will operate in the context of the new mental capacity legislation. [10080/10]

The details of my proposals for establishment of a Court Funds Office will be announced by way of publication of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which is due to be published in this Session.

Departmental Funding.

Finian McGrath

Question:

277 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will support a matter (details supplied) in Dublin 17. [10102/10]

I understand that the organisation concerned has, over a number of years, received State support via funding from the Department of Social and Family Affairs. If the Deputy has not already done so he may wish to consider contacting my colleague, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs in relation to this matter. My Department has no proposals or funding to support the organisation concerned.

Liquor Licensing Laws.

Mary Wallace

Question:

278 Deputy Mary Wallace asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the relevant legislation that is applied to off-licence premises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10219/10]

The position is that statutory provisions relating to premises with off-licences are set out in the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2008.

International Women’s Day.

Mary Wallace

Question:

279 Deputy Mary Wallace asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to mark International Women’s Day on 8 March 2010; if he will list the progress made regarding women’s role in society over the past five, ten, 15 and 20 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10221/10]

The National Women's Strategy 2007-2016, published on 18 April 2007, represents the policy of the Government in relation to women in society today and it chronicles generally the progress made in this area over the past twenty years. The National Women's Council of Ireland, which is funded by my Department, will be marking International Women's Day on 8 March 2010.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

280 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 Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10232/10]

I regret to advise the Deputy that it is not possible to provide a response to his Question at this time. The information sought by the Deputy will be provided at a later date.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

281 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 Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10233/10]

I regret to advise the Deputy that it is not possible to provide a response to his Question at this time. The information sought by the Deputy will be provided at a later date.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

282 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for leave to remain in the State on humanitarian grounds in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10234/10]

I regret to advise the Deputy that it is not possible to provide a response to his Question at this time. The information sought by the Deputy will be provided at a later date.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

283 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the expected residency status or leave to remain in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10235/10]

I regret to advise the Deputy that it is not possible to provide a response to his Question at this time. The information sought by the Deputy will be provided at a later date.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

284 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for leave to remain in the case of a person (detail supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10236/10]

I refer the Deputy to my detailed reply to his earlier Parliamentary Question No. 220 of Wednesday, 2 December 2009, in this matter. The position in the state of the person concerned is as set out in that reply.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

285 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has not been granted permission to remain; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10237/10]

I regret to advise the Deputy that it is not possible to provide a response to his Question at this time. The information sought by the Deputy will be provided at a later date.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

286 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a decision to reject application for subsidiary protection is affected by a decision of the courts in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10238/10]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 26 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 person concerned was notified, by letter dated 15 January 2009, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why 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 submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and following the consideration of this application, a decision was made to refuse the application and this decision was conveyed in writing to the person concerned by letter dated 15 February 2010. The case of the person concerned was then 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 following which a Deportation Order was signed in respect of the person concerned. This Order was formally served on the person concerned by registered post dated 22 February 2010. This communication advised the person concerned that a Deportation Order had been made against him which placed a legal obligation on him to leave the State by 12 March 2010 or, if he fails to do so, he must present himself at the Offices of the Garda National Immigration Bureau on 16 March 2010 to make arrangements for his deportation from the State.

In relation to the Deputy's query about the impact of a Court decision on the refusal of the application for Subsidiary Protection made by the person concerned, it is not clear as to what Court decision the Deputy is referring to or what its relevance to the case of the person concerned might be.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

287 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10239/10]

I regret that the information requested by the Deputy is not readily to hand. I will write to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

288 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10240/10]

I regret that the information requested by the Deputy is not readily to hand. I will write to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Departmental Correspondence.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

289 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will arrange to meet the parties in relation to correspondence received from persons (details supplied) in Dublin 20; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10241/10]

As you are fully aware anyone who suspects a crime has been committed should report it to An Garda Síochána.

Asylum Applications.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

290 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made in regard to an application for leave to remain by a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10247/10]

I regret to advise the Deputy that it is not possible to provide a response to his Question at this time. The information sought by the Deputy will be provided at a later date.

Bernard Allen

Question:

291 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on an application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [10254/10]

I regret to advise the Deputy that it is not possible to provide a response to his Question at this time. The information sought by the Deputy will be provided at a later date.

Departmental Funding.

Damien English

Question:

292 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount of State funding the Federation for Victim Assistance has received for each of the years 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and to date in 2010 in tabular form. [10255/10]

The Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime, which was established in March, 2005 by the then Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and re-constituted in 2008, has provided following funding to the Federation for Victim Assistance as set out in the following table.

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010 (To date)

€42,500

€44,100

€25,100

€45,000

€60,000

€52,000

Departmental Staff.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

293 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of posts unfilled in his Department because of the embargo on recruitment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10294/10]

My Department and bodies under its aegis employ some 25,000 staff, including civil servants, members of An Garda Síochána, Prison Officers and the Judiciary. In March 2009, the Government introduced a moratorium on the filling of vacancies in the public service, either by way of recruitment or promotion. Subsequently, the Government introduced an Incentivised Scheme of Early Retirement (ISER) and an Incentivised Career Break Scheme (ICBS). Taken together, these Schemes are exerting downward pressure on numbers in the public service, including in my Department and its Agencies.

Given the size and complexity of the Justice and Equality Sector, my Department's focus is on ensuring that key posts that are essential to the functioning of the Sector are filled. To that end, I have already secured exemptions in respect of a number of key positions in the Garda Síochána and the Prison Service. The Deputy can be assured that where vacancies arise that are critical to the functioning of the Justice and Equality Sector, I will continue to seek exemptions to the moratorium.

Firearms Licences.

Michael Noonan

Question:

294 Deputy Michael Noonan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there have been three successful appeals to pistol licence refusals by Garda chief superintendents and that the judgments have all been similar in their findings; if, in view of this, he will issue guidelines to the Garda Commissioner to apply the law in accordance with these judgments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10323/10]

There have been a number of cases where appeals of licensing decisions of the kind referred to by the Deputy have been upheld, and indeed a number where they have not. In any event, I am advised that I cannot intervene in licensing decisions in the manner envisaged by the Deputy. Under the law, the Chief Superintendent is "persona designata" for the purposes of deciding whether or not to grant a firearm certificate.

Prison Committals.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

295 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons committed to prison for non-payment of fines and non-payment of debt in the year 2009. [10326/10]

The number of persons committed to prison for the non-payment of fines in 2009 was 62. I can advise the Deputy that the number of such persons held in custody at any one time is a minute fraction of the overall prisoner population and that I expect the number of committals for non-payment of fines to fall substantially once the Fines Bill 2009 has been enacted and brought into force. Statistics relating to the number of committals in respect of debt related issues are not currently available and will be provided to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Visa Applications.

Willie Penrose

Question:

296 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for a visa in respect of persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10333/10]

I regret to advise the Deputy that it is not possible to provide a response to his Question at this time. The information sought by the Deputy will be provided at a later date.

Garda Recruitment.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

297 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects there will be further recruitment to the Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10377/10]

The moratorium on recruitment in the Public Service currently applies to the Garda Síochána, both sworn members and civilian support staff. The strength of sworn members of An Garda Síochána on the last day for which figures are readily available was 14,547 with an additional 232 students in training. I am keeping the situation under review in consultation with the Garda Commissioner and my colleague the Minister for Finance with a view to maintaining Garda operational strength at the highest possible level.

Citizenship Applications.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

298 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on correspondence (details supplied) in respect of a person seeking naturalisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10392/10]

Officials in the citizenship division of my Department inform me that an acknowledgement of the letter from the person referred to by the Deputy was issued on to the applicant concerned on 12 February 2010 who was asked to submit certain documentation to assist with the processing of his application.

When all necessary information has been compiled the application will be submitted to me for a decision.

Garda Stations.

Brendan Kenneally

Question:

299 Deputy Brendan Kenneally asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the money that will be spent on a Garda station (details supplied); the nature of the works planned to be carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10393/10]

The programme of replacement and refurbishment of Garda accommodation is based on agreed priorities established by An Garda Síochána and progressed by the Office of Public Works, which has responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation.

I am advised by the Garda authorities and the Office of Public Works that a contract is in place for the refurbishment and extension of the accommodation at Carndonagh Garda station with work due to commence in the coming days. This work will include the provision of additional accommodation, a Communications Room and enhancements to the Public Office.

While I do not have details of all the costs involved, I understand from the Office of Public Works that the relevant expenditure is likely to exceed €100,000.

Departmental Expenditure.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

300 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount of expenditure incurred in the period 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2009 by his Department and by offices, agencies and any other bodies falling within his remit on the lease, rental or purchase of car parking spaces for use by civil and public servants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10573/10]

I am not in a position to provide the information in so much as it is relevant to my Department sought by the Deputy at this time, but will do so as soon as the information is available.

Departmental Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

301 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number and grade of staff who qualified for performance-related pay prior to that payment being abolished in his Department; and the pay scales appropriate to those grades. [10587/10]

I assume that the Deputy's question relates to the Performance-related Awards Scheme which, prior to its abolition in 2009, applied to staff at Assistant Secretary, Deputy Secretary and equivalent grades in the Civil and Public Service.

The position in relation to my Department is that a total of 11 staff received awards under the Scheme in its last year of operation. The current salary scales for Assistant Secretary and Deputy Secretary, the grades to which the Scheme mainly applied, are set out in Department of Finance Circular 28/2009 which is available on that Department's website at www.finance.gov.ie.

International Agreements.

Denis Naughten

Question:

302 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding his objectives to maximise the area of the continental shelf under Irish jurisdiction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9997/10]

Ireland claims continental shelf extending beyond the standard 200 nautical mile entitlement both to the west and to the south of the country. Under international law these claims must be examined by the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. For the purposes of our claims we have divided the extended shelf into three sectors.

The first sector is to the south-west of the country near the Porcupine Abyssal Plain, an area which is approximately half the size of the State's land territory. It was the subject of Ireland's first submission to the Commission. The Commission issued recommendations in 2007. These confirmed Ireland's entitlement in this sector and set out details of where the new outer limit there should be established. The area involved is approx. 39,000 square kilometres, which is a very satisfactory outcome. The Government made an Order last year under the 1968 Continental Shelf Act which formally establishes the area concerned as Irish continental shelf. The details of this new area of Irish continental shelf have been deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

The second claim is in the Celtic Sea, where there are unresolved boundary issues with the UK, France and Spain. The four countries made a joint submission for this 80,000 square kilometre area in 2006. Last March the UN Commission confirmed this claim and negotiations on the division of the area concerned between the four countries are expected to begin later this year.

Ireland also claims part of the Hatton-Rockall Area of the North-East Atlantic, which extends up to 500 nautical miles from the coast. There is an agreed Ireland-UK boundary here but it is not accepted by Iceland or the Færoe Islands, which make their own claims. The four countries have met regularly since 2001 in an effort to resolve the overlapping claims issue, but to date have been unable to reach agreement. In view of the 10-year deadline for the making of submissions to the UN Commission — which for Ireland expired last May — the State lodged its national claim for this area at the end of March. While the Commission's rules of procedure prevent consideration of a submission concerning a disputed area without the consent of all the states concerned, its lodgement at this time stops the clock on the deadline and preserves Ireland's legal position. In the meantime, the four states intend to keep the matter under regular review and we will continue to work for the creation of conditions that will permit consideration of the submission by the Commission as soon as possible.

Departmental Staff.

David Stanton

Question:

303 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his plans to recruit people to work in Irish embassies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9963/10]

Irish Embassies and Missions abroad are staffed by members of the diplomatic service and the wider civil service. A number of non-diplomatic clerical, administrative and support staff may also be recruited locally by Missions. The selection and recruitment of locally-engaged staff is handled directly by the Missions themselves.

Recruitment into civil service grades, including for posts at Third Secretary level (the entry-level grade for the Irish diplomatic service) is carried out centrally by the Public Appointments Service (PAS).

Visa Applications.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

304 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will request that a representative of the Australian Government meet with a group of Irish doctors (details supplied) who were affected by the decision to remove a number of doctors from the Australian Panel of Medical Examiners for visa applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10018/10]

The review of application procedures for Australian visas, including the appointment of approved medical examiners to assist with these procedures, is a matter for the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Australian visa applications from Ireland are handled by the Australian Immigration Office in London.

I have asked my officials to liaise with the Australian Embassy here regarding the possibilities for a meeting with the affected Irish doctors on this issue.

International Agreements.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

305 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will support the campaign to suspend the trade agreement with Colombia in view of the treatment of trade union activists there; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10036/10]

EU relations with Colombia are conducted in the framework of regional relations between the EU and the Andean Community, comprising Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. In 2007, negotiations aimed at concluding a comprehensive Association Agreement between the EU and the Andean Community were formally launched. Such Agreements cover all facets of relations between the EU and these countries, including political dialogue, economic cooperation and trade. However, as not all member states of the Andean Community were in a position to proceed with free trade negotiations, the decision was taken to commence negotiations on a multiparty Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the EU and two member states of the Andean Community — Colombia and Peru — within the overall framework of the Association Agreement. The negotiations were carried out by the European Commission on the basis of a mandate from the Council. The Commission announced on 1 March 2010 that negotiators had concluded talks on the key elements of the trade Agreement.

Colombia faces many challenges. It has experienced the longest period of terrorist violence of any country in Latin America. The Colombian people have endured relentless suffering reflected in the more than two million internally displaced persons, a number second only to that of Sudan.

There is no single solution for promoting peace in Colombia; the various social and economic elements underlying the conflict have to be tackled simultaneously. Our approach and that of the European Union is to assist and influence the Colombian Government in a manner that results in economic and social development while progressively improving human rights standards. The conclusion of a Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Colombia will contribute significantly to the social and economic development of Colombia, which is imperative if it is to emerge from its violent past.

I am aware of and share the deep concern that has been expressed at the manner in which trade union activists, human rights defenders and journalists have been treated in Colombia. I wish to assure the Deputy that there is no question of strengthening economic ties with Colombia at the expense of human rights. I am of the view that continuing the FTA negotiations with Colombia at this time offers the best opportunity to ensure that the concerns of EU Member States at the human rights situation in that country and, in particular, the treatment of trade union activists are fully addressed by the Colombian government.

I would like to put on record the steps which Ireland has taken over the past year in addressing human rights issues directly with the Government of Colombia and together with the European Union.

First, in December 2008, at theUniversal Periodic Review of Colombia at the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, Ireland made a set of strong recommendations inter alia on the protection of Human Rights Defenders in Colombia. Foreign Minister Bermudez subsequently wrote to me outlining in detail the steps that Colombia has undertaken particularly in response to Ireland’s recommendations at the Human Rights Council.

Secondly, the Irish Ambassador to Colombia met with President Uribé, Foreign Minister Bermudez and senior officials in Bogota in November 2009 and raised a range of human rights issues, in particular the question of the number of trade unionists killed in recent years. The Colombian side acknowledged the difficulties they are facing with regard to the protection of human rights but outlined the steps being taken such as trebling the budget of the Protection Programme for Human Rights Defenders to $47 million in 2009. This permitted the extension of the Protection Programme to cover trade unionists and journalists. Indeed in the first half of 2009, the Protection Programme benefited 1,430 trade unionists.

Thirdly, the Government's concerns were raised with the Colombian Ambassador when he visited Dublin to present his credentials last month.

Fourthly, Ireland has insisted on the inclusion of a clause committing both the EU Member States and Colombia to the implementation of their human rights responsibilities with the proviso that failure to do would result in the suspension of the Agreement.

And finally, I wrote to the EU Trade Commissioner in January to underline the importance I attach to the inclusion of a strong and effective human rights and suspension clause as an essential element of the Agreement.

In addition to the bilateral track, the European Union has stepped up its human rights dialogue with the Colombian authorities who have been left in no doubt about the seriousness of our concerns regarding the human rights situation and the extent of the improvements needed.

I assure the Deputy that the Government will continue to closely follow the human rights situation in Colombia and take the steps we consider necessary bilaterally as well as in cooperation with our EU partners.

International Relations.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

306 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the contacts he has had with the Government of Kenya; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10119/10]

Ireland conducts bilateral relations with Kenya through our Ambassador, based in Dar-es-Salaam and the Kenyan Ambassador in Dublin, as well as through multilateral channels.

On a bilateral level Ireland established diplomatic relations with Kenya in 1979 with the opening of an Embassy in Nairobi. That mission was closed for financial reasons in 1988 and we are currently represented on a non-resident basis by our Ambassador in Dar-es-Salaam, H.E. Ms. Anne Barrington, who travels to Kenya on a regular basis. Kenya opened an Embassy in Ireland in 2007 and is represented by H.E. Ambassador Catherine Muigai Mwangi.

President McAleese and Minister of State Liz O'Donnell visited Kenya in 2001 and paid a courtesy call on then-President Daniel Arap Moi. Minister of State Tom Kitt visited Kenya as part of an EU troika mission in 2003. Minister Dermot Ahern visited Kenya in April 2008 in the wake of the February power-sharing agreement which ended post-election violence.

The Kenyan Minister for Tourism, the Honourable Najib Balala, will visit Ireland from 5th to 8th of this month, and it is hoped that the Kenyan Foreign Minister will be able to visit later in the year.

On the multilateral level, Ireland conducts relations with Kenya through our respective Permanent Missions to the United Nations and also through the EU with the Kenyan Mission in Brussels and our Ambassador in Addis Ababa who is accredited to the African Union.

Since 2006, Irish Aid has provided over €27 million in humanitarian and development funding for Kenya, which is channelled through Irish, international and local NGOs, and UN agencies.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

307 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the contacts he has had with the Government of Uganda; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10120/10]

Ireland and Uganda established diplomatic relations in 1995. Ireland is represented in Kampala by Ambassador Kevin Kelly. The Ugandan Ambassador in London, H.E. Mrs. Joan Rwabyomere, is accredited to Ireland. On the multilateral level, Ireland conducts relations with Uganda through our respective Permanent Missions to the United Nations and also through the EU with the Ugandan in Brussels and our Ambassador in Addis Ababa who is accredited to the African Union.

There have been many visits in both directions, and other contacts, over the last decade. President Museveni visited Ireland in 2000 and 2003, and President McAleese paid a state visit to Uganda in 2001. Irish parliamentary delegations visited Uganda in 2004 and 2006. Then-Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern met Ugandan Foreign Minister Kutesa at the UN General Assembly in 2007. Minister Martin met the Ugandan Deputy Foreign Minister, Henry Okello Oryem, at the Cluster Munitions Conference in Dublin in May 2008.

Uganda is an Irish Aid Programme Country and received more than €51 million in Irish Aid development funding in 2008, as well as €450,000 to support the Juba peace talks on northern Uganda.

The Irish Embassy in Kampala, together with our EU partners, maintains regular contact with the Ugandan Government on a range of issues related to development, and also human rights and justice issues.

Departmental Staff.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

308 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of posts unfilled in his Department because of the embargo on recruitment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10292/10]

It is not possible to speculate on the number of jobs that might be created in my Department if the moratorium on recruitment were to be lifted. However, I can advise the Deputy that, since January 2009, there has been a net reduction of 54 in staffing levels in my Department.

Human Rights Issues.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

309 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the British Prime Minister’s apology for the child migrants programme, which sent 15,000 children between the ages of three to 14 years to Commonwealth countries where many of them were abused and forced into slave labour; if he has information on the number of these children born here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10317/10]

On 24 February, the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, delivered a statement in the House of Commons in which he apologised for the support given by successive British Governments for child migration schemes under which children aged between three and fourteen were sent to Australia, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand. The schemes ceased operating in the 1960s. Prime Minister Brown described the schemes as misguided and announced the establishment of a Family Restoration Fund of £6 million. The statement followed a similar public apology made in November 2009 by the Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, for the manner in which the children were treated when they arrived in Australia.

These statements represent a very significant acknowledgement of the suffering experienced by child migrants. The British post World War II scheme of child migration was not supported by the Irish Government of the day and there was no involvement in the scheme by the Irish authorities. While the number of Irish born children is not thought to be large, it is widely accepted that a significant number of the deported children may have been born to Irish mothers.

Following Prime Minister Brown's apology, our Embassy in London approached the British authorities to seek information on the number of Irish born child migrants but were advised that such official figures are not available. However, our contacts have undertaken to revert once they have consulted further with the British Department of Health.

Our Embassy in Australia has had contact with a number of individual child migrants who were either born in Ireland or trace their background to Ireland. The Embassy will continue to maintain contact with the Irish child migrants in Australia and to provide support and assistance where possible.

The Government, through the Emigrant Support Programme, supports Irish community organisations in each of the countries to which child migrants were sent; including for the provision of welfare assistance and outreach to elderly Irish emigrants.

Passport Security.

Richard Bruton

Question:

310 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the reporting arrangements for recording details of passports that have been lost or stolen; the action being taken to use those details to prevent lost or stolen passports from being used for illegal purposes; if he is satisfied with the existing procedures; if new initiatives are planned in view of the recent events where Irish passports have allegedly been used in criminal activity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10330/10]

My Department takes very seriously the possible misuse of lost or stolen Irish passports and urges passport holders to keep their passport in a secure place and exercise care and vigilance over its use.

Since 1 October, 2009 the Department increased the frequency of its reporting of the serial numbers of all lost/mislaid or stolen passports to Interpol through An Garda Síochána, to daily reports. This information is then made available immediately to police forces worldwide in the Interpol database to protect against the fraudulent use of these Irish passports.

The holders of lost/mislaid or stolen passports are advised not to use them again for any travel if they are subsequently recovered. When completing the statement of loss as part of their new passport application, applicants undertake not to travel on a missing passport if subsequently found. However, a number of individuals either unknowingly or mistakenly use their previously reported lost or stolen passports. This may account for the following numbers of Irish citizens who were delayed at international border control:

2008 — 87;

2009 — 126

There has been increase in these incidents due to in part to heightened security at international ports and airports and an increase in the number of border stations worldwide that are electronically reading passports.

In each of the cases above, the Passport Office has received a request from Interpol to verify the identity of the travellers. The Passport Office has been able to resolve these cases after checks of the relevant passport details against its own database were carried out.

The documents used by the suspects in a recent murder in Dubai were not lost or stolen Irish passports but rather counterfeit copies of an old version of the passport that is no longer issued and is currently being phased out of use. In 2005 the Department introduced the new APS version of the Irish passport which is one of the most modern and secure travel documents in the world.

The introduction of the biometric or e-Passport on 16 October, 2006 further enhanced the security features of the Irish passport. The microchip in the passport contains a digital image of the holder which cannot be altered. Any attempt to alter the data on the microchip will be apparent when the passport is read at a border control station because of the added security on our chip. Border control authorities can be assured that the document is genuine and unaltered.

To complement the major technical advance which the APS passport represented, new legislation was enacted in 2008. The Passports Act 2008 introduced a series of new offences relating to the misuse of passports and passport fraud.

International Agreements.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

311 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the stage of the association agreement between the European Union and Syria; the reason there has been a delay in signing an agreement; and if account has been taken of the fact that the EU is Syria’s biggest trading partner and that only Syria and Libya of the Mediterranean countries do not have an association agreement with the European Union. [10366/10]

Negotiations on an Association Agreement with Syria began in May 1998 on the basis of a mandate agreed by the Council of Ministers. The text of a draft Agreement was initialled by the Commission and Syria in 2004 and submitted for approval to the Council. The Council did not approve signature of the Agreement at the time because of concerns regarding Syria's policies towards Lebanon. In the light of more positive developments in Syria's regional policy, consensus within the EU emerged that the draft Agreement previously negotiated should be updated with a view to its signature and eventual conclusion. The text of the revised draft Agreement was initialled by the Commission and Syria on 14 December 2008.

The EU extended an invitation to Syria to sign the Agreement in Brussels on 26 October 2009. However, the Syrian authorities declined the invitation and advised that they required more time to study the impact of the Agreement on economic sectors in Syria. They undertook to remain in contact and to keep the EU informed of developments.

I understand that the Spanish Presidency is now working towards signature during the first half of this year.

The Agreement aims to promote a new, closer relationship between the EU and Syria. By establishing a free trade area between the EU and Syria over a transitional period it seeks to support economic and political reform in Syria, while preparing the country for greater integration into the world economy and promoting regional integration. It will enable the EU to engage in discussions with Syria on all topics of mutual concern, in particular human rights and democratic principles, combating terrorism and cooperation on countering the proliferation of weapons of mass-destruction.

Syria is the only one of the southern members of the Union for the Mediterranean with which an Association Agreement is not yet in force. Negotiations on a Framework Agreement with Libya, which is not a member of the Union for the Mediterranean, commenced on 13 November 2008 and are ongoing.

I regard the Association Agreement with Syria, which is the product of long negotiations, to be of mutual benefit to both the EU and Syria. It is my hope that the Syrian authorities will soon be in a position to move forward on the signature of the Agreement.

Passport Applications.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

312 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has approved of the use of Irish passports or travel documentation by persons who are not Irish citizens at the request of other governments or their security, defence or intelligence agencies in the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10376/10]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

313 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has received any requests from another government or its intelligence agencies with regard to the use of Irish passports or travel documentation by persons who are not Irish citizens in the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10378/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 312 and 313 together.

I can categorically state that I have not, at any time, authorised the use of Irish passports by persons who are not Irish citizens. I have also never received any request from another Government or any foreign intelligence agency seeking the use of Irish passports by non-nationals.

The 2008 Passports Act provides strict guidelines on the proper procedures to be followed with regards to the issuing of Irish passport and Section 12 of that Act stipulates very clearly that only Irish citizens can be issued with Irish passports. My Department and I take our obligations under the Passports Act very seriously and I would not allow a passport to be issued unless it was in full accordance with the terms of this legislation.

I would like to reassure the Deputy that safeguarding the integrity of the Irish passport is of paramount importance both to my Department and to me. We in Ireland are rightly proud of the esteem in which the Irish passport is held across the world and I would never condone any action whatsoever that would undermine its credibility.

Departmental Expenditure.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

314 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the amount of expenditure incurred in the period 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2009 by his Department and by offices, agencies and any other bodies falling within his remit on the lease, rental or purchase of car parking spaces for use by civil and public servants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10571/10]

My Department's expenditure on car park spaces in the State amounted to €14,375.00 in 2009.

Departmental Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

315 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number and grade of staff who qualified for performance-related pay prior to that payment being abolished in his Department; and the pay scales appropriate to those grades. [10585/10]

The Scheme of Performance Related Pay Awards in the Civil Service applied to Deputy and Assistant Secretaries and equivalent grades. It did not apply to Secretaries General.

In 2008, a total of €656,000 was paid to officers in my Department under this Scheme. The payments made related to the performance of 48 officers during the preceding calendar year. These payments were subject to tax and PRSI. The awards were made by the Committee for Performance Awards, chaired by the Secretary General for Public Service Management and Development in the Department of Finance, following recommendations by the Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The salary scales appropriate to the grades in question for the period covered by the 2008 payment are set out in the table below.

Grade

Salary Scale effective 1 December 2006

Salary Scale effective 1 June 2007*

Deputy Secretary

€157,786

€160,942

Assistant Secretary

€116,462 – €122,095 – €127,732 – €133,367

€118,791 – €124,537 – €130,287 – €136,034

*A pay increase was applied with effect from 1 June 2007 under theTowards 2016 pay agreement

Details of the operation of the Performance Related Pay Awards scheme are available in the annual reports of the Committee for Performance Awards. The Committee's April 2008 report can be accessed on the website of the Department of Finance at the following link:

http://www.finance.gov.ie/documents/publications/reports/2008/cpareport07final.pdf

No further payments were made to staff in my Department under the Scheme prior to its suspension in 2009.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

316 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of posts unfilled in his Department because of the embargo on recruitment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10284/10]

Since the introduction of the moratorium, a total of five vacancies have arisen in the Department, two at Assistant Principal level, two at Higher Executive Officer level, and one at Executive Officer level. One of the Assistant Principal posts has been part-filled by an officer returning from a career break on a work-sharing basis.

These vacancies would, in the absence of the moratorium, have been filled through the Central Applications Facility (CAF) under the decentralisation process, through the Public Appointments Service, Interdepartmental panels or through internal promotion. They would not have been advertised by the Department as it does not recruit directly.

Departmental Expenditure.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

317 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the amount of expenditure incurred in the period 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2009, by his Department and also offices, agencies and any other bodies falling within his remit, on the lease, rental or purchase of car parking spaces for use by civil and public servants. [10563/10]

The Department has incurred no expenditure in the period 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2009 on the lease, rental or purchase of car parking spaces for use by civil and public servants. Any such expenditure by the agencies under the aegis of the Department is a matter for the agencies themselves.

Departmental Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

318 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number and grade of staff who qualified for performance related pay prior to that payment being abolished in his Department; and the pay scales appropriate to those grades. [10578/10]

The scheme of performance-related awards in the civil service applies to Deputy and Assistant Secretaries and equivalent grades. Three assistant secretaries in the Department, on the relevant assistant secretary salary scale, qualified for performance related pay prior to that payment being abolished in the Department.

Údarás na Gaeltachta.

Michael Creed

Question:

319 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the date for elections to Údarás na Gaeltachta in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9989/10]

As the last Údarás na Gaeltachta elections were held on 2nd April 2005, the next elections must, according to the provisions of the existing legislation, be held on a date between 1st April 2009 and 1st October 2010. Due to the ongoing work in relation to the draft 20-year Strategy for Irish and the possible implications for the functions of an tÚdarás, I am not yet in a position to make a decision with regard to a date for the next elections. If necessary, however, I will consider bringing a Bill before the House with a view to extending the term of office of the current members.

Community Development.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

320 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if a review of RAPID area boundaries has taken place; if any changes have resulted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10024/10]

As I have previously outlined, a review of RAPID area boundaries has been undertaken with the intention of allowing adjustments necessary to ensure that areas are appropriately targeting the most disadvantaged communities.

A recognised expert in the field of mapping deprivation was contracted to analyse the Census 2006 data across a range of socio-economic and deprivation indicators and to make recommendations regarding the criteria for inclusion of areas in the RAPID Programme.

Following the review, the Government approved the inclusion of five new towns in the RAPID Programme in May 2009 — Ballina, Dungarvan, Enniscorthy, Mullingar and Rathkeale — and I have held information sessions in the five new towns over the last few months.

The review also proposed changes to the boundaries of some of the other 46 RAPID areas. In this regard, I held a meeting with all of the RAPID local Area Implementation Teams (AITs) in January last to brief them on this process. Each AIT has been requested to examine the proposals and to either confirm their agreement or to make suggestions for amendments, based on their local knowledge. This work is underway and a number of areas have requested amendments and these are currently being examined.

Overall, it should be noted that in implementing funding allocations based on RAPID boundaries, care has always been taken to ensure that key local facilities (sports clubs, health facilities, schools, etc) are offered RAPID status based on the population they serve — not just on their geographic inclusion within the area. Thus, for example, an AIT can accept the need to support an organisation which, while physically located outside a RAPID area, is actively serving RAPID residents.

Údarás na Gaeltachta.

Michael Creed

Question:

321 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the date for elections to Údarás Na Gaeltachta in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10062/10]

As the last Údarás na Gaeltachta elections were held on 2nd April 2005, the next elections must, according to the provisions of the existing legislation, be held on a date between 1st April 2009 and 1st October 2010. Due to the ongoing work in relation to the draft 20-year Strategy for Irish and the possible implications for the functions of an tÚdarás, I am not yet in a position to make a decision with regard to a date for the next elections. If necessary, however, I will consider bringing a Bill before the House with a view to extending the term of office of the current members.

Charities Regulation.

Joan Burton

Question:

322 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the control measures that exist in respect of collectors of old clothes who leave plastic bags at domestic premises for subsequent collection in respect of the Charities Act 2007 and the regulation of charities; the way a person can verify the bona fides of such groups; if such groups are required specifically to be registered as a charity; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there are many complaints of such groups dropping bags at all hours of the day and night much to the annoyance of local residents; and if he will make a statement on the regulation of such activities. [10067/10]

There are two issues of public concern raised in the Deputy's Question. Firstly, there is the practice of non-charities representing themselves as charities when collecting clothing and bric-a-brac from residences. Secondly, there is the public nuisance that can be caused by undertaking such collections at anti-social hours.

At present, certain collectors of clothing and bric-a-brac convey the impression in their promotional literature that they are charitable in nature, when this may not actually be the case. This may lead some people to donate to such collections in the belief that they are supporting a charity. I consider that this is unfair both to donors, whose intention in donating such items is to help those in need, and to genuine charities, and in particular charity shops, that are reportedly losing out on donations as a consequence. I believe strongly that the public should be empowered to verify the charitable bona fides of such collectors.

At present, there is no public register of charities operating in Ireland, although the Revenue Commissioners publish a list of current "CHY" holders — organisations that have qualified for charitable tax exemptions — on their website, www.revenue.ie, which is publicly accessible. I would recommend that members of the public check this list if they have concerns about the authenticity of any collector.

However, the Charities Act 2009, which I brought to enactment last year, will, when fully commenced, address this problem substantively. The cornerstone of the new statutory regulatory regime for charities will be a Charities Regulatory Authority with extensive regulatory powers and a publicly accessible Register of Charities upon which any charity operating in Ireland must be registered. It will be an offence for any organisation that is not on the Register of Charities to describe itself or its activities in such a way as to lead the public to assume that the organisation is a registered charity. This will limit the scope for non-charities to suggest that they are charitable in nature. By checking the Register, the public will be in a position to distinguish between charitable and non-charitable collections, and to make better-informed decisions about which collections they choose to support. The commencement of this provision is contingent upon both the new Authority and the Register of Charities being in place, and my Department is rolling out an implementation plan for the Act at the moment.

The second aspect of public concern raised by the Deputy is the nuisance caused to the public by certain collectors delivering leaflets or undertaking collections at irregular hours. Whilst I do agree that the methods of certain collectors leave a lot to be desired, I have no statutory function in relation to such matters. I understand, however, that local authorities have powers under the Waste Management Act 1996 to enable them to control collections where they are of the opinion that such waste collections are being undertaken for the purposes of reward, with a view to profit, or otherwise in the course of business. Such collections require a permit from a local authority for each region in which a collection is to be undertaken.

Departmental Expenditure.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

323 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the amount of money spent on communications and public relations for the new National Drugs Strategy 2009 to 2016; if he will provide a breakdown of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10077/10]

Publicity in relation to the publication of the National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016, including the arranging of interviews, press briefings and additional dissemination of information and press releases to the media, was co-ordinated by the Press and Information Office of my Department.

I am advised that costs of €3,231 were incurred in respect of the launch, broken down as follows:

Photographic services

860

Catering for 200 attendees

1,589

Printing of press folders

782

The Strategy was widely distributed to all key stakeholders and copies provided to any interested parties, including members of the public, upon request.

The document is also available for download from my Department's website www.pobail.ie.

Departmental Staff.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

324 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of posts unfilled in his Department because of the embargo on recruitment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10286/10]

I am advised that the number of posts unfilled in my Department at present in circumstances related to the moratorium on recruitment and promotion in the public service is 23.3.

Departmental Expenditure.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

325 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the amount of expenditure incurred in the period 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2009, by his Department and also offices, agencies and any other bodies falling within his remit, on the lease, rental or purchase of car parking spaces for use by civil and public servants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10565/10]

No expenditure was incurred by my Department in the period 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2009 on the lease, rental or purchase of car parking spaces as referred to by the Deputy.

In the case of bodies/agencies funded from my Department's Vote Group, I am advised that:

€32,750 was incurred in respect of leasing of such spaces;

€40,731* was incurred in respect of renting of such spaces; and

no costs were incurred in respect of purchasing of such spaces.

*£ sterling costs arising in the case of North/South Bodies were converted using an exchange range of €1 = £0.78.

Departmental Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

326 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number and grade of staff who qualified for performance related pay prior to that payment being abolished in his Department; and the pay scales appropriate to those grades. [10580/10]

There were three Assistant Secretaries in my Department who qualified for performance related pay under the scheme of performance-related awards for posts at the level of Deputy Secretary and Assistant Secretary, prior to that payment being abolished.

The current payscale appropriate to this grade is as follows:

Grade

1st Point

2nd Point

3rd Point

4th Point

Assistant Secretary

€127,796

€133,605

€139,898

€146,191

Civil Registrations.

Michael Ring

Question:

327 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if there are circumstances in which a fada or other accent would be excluded from a certificate of birth, death or marriage; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9881/10]

Section 61 of the Civil Registration Act 2004 provides that a true copy of an entry in any register must be provided to any person upon payment of a prescribed fee.

Accordingly a certificate of birth, death or marriage must contain the fada or other accent where it is contained in the entry in the register. The details of an entry in a register are as provided by a qualified informant prior to registration.

The current computerised registration system was introduced in 2003 and it replaced the manual system. While this system is highly successful and does cater for the fada, it does not cater for some characters or accents particular to some European and other languages for the purposes of registration. Consequently, the absence of these is also reflected in certificates of entries where relevant.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Tom Hayes

Question:

328 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if the European Globalisation Fund available to workers of a company (details supplied) for training and enterprise projects will not interfere with the provision of social welfare entitlements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9980/10]

Tom Hayes

Question:

346 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she has consulted with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment to clarify that the European Globalisation Fund available to workers of a company (details supplied) for training and enterprise projects, will not interfere with the provision of social welfare entitlements; if this has been communicated to all local offices; when this will be clarified for all workers concerned; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9981/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 328 and 346 together.

The European Globalisation Adjustment Fund exists to support workers who lose their jobs as a result of changing global trade patterns or the global economic and financial crisis so that they can be prepared to find another job as quickly as possible.

An application was made by Ireland, and recently approved by EU, in the context of the DELL redundancies in Raheen, Co. Limerick. It is estimated that up to 2,900 workers are involved when qualifying downstream companies affected by this closure are included and a combined total of €2.8 million is available, between EU and Government funding, to provide complementary retraining, upskilling, entrepreneurial supports and educational opportunities for the relevant workers. The allocated funding will be available for spending until September 2011.

Under the terms associated with the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF), it is not envisaged in general that any monies from the fund will be paid directly to former Dell workers. Therefore, the social welfare entitlements of the former workers will not be affected as no money will be directly received. Instead funding is being channelled through the relevant State agencies and educational institutions to deliver the required supports to eligible redundant workers.

Workers who were made statutorily redundant from Dell may retain their jobseekers payments while attending education or training courses under the terms of the Back to Education schemes operated by the Department of Social and Family Affairs. BTEA participants attending an approved full-time course can keep their jobseekers payments for the duration of that course (which may be a number of years). Those who participate in an approved part-time course can receive welfare support for as long as they would ordinarily be entitled to a jobseekers payment (9-12 months in the case of those on Jobseekers Benefit, or longer for those who qualify for the means-tested Jobseekers Allowance). These provisions equally apply to workers studying HETAC or FETAC accredited third level courses at private colleges.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment is the responsible authority for making EGF applications and drawing down EU funding. That department is also working with FAS to make a range of programmes available to the former Dell employees. The package of programmes is currently being finalised. Department of Social and Family Affairs officials are involved at central and local level these matters.

Educational Qualifications.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

329 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of persons under 25 years on the live register who do not hold a leaving certificate qualification; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9884/10]

The Department does not currently hold information in relation to the educational qualifications of its customers, though such information will be collected under the new statistical profiling and case management systems currently being developed.

However, when jobseekers are interviewed by FAS under the National Employment Action Plan or meet with one of this department's facilitators, their existing qualifications are discussed and possible options, such as the Back to Education Allowance, would be outlined to them.

The Back to Education Allowance is a second chance educational opportunities scheme for people on welfare payments who wish to participate in full time education and who would not otherwise be able to do so. It enables qualified people who have been getting a social welfare payment to continue to receive a payment while pursuing an approved full-time education course. Young people who have been out of the formal education system for at least two years may qualify for the Back to Education Allowance once they have been in receipt of a jobseekers payment for at least three months.

BTEA recipients can attend a second-level course of education at any secondary, community, comprehensive or vocational school. The course must be full-time and lead to a certificate recognised by the Department of Education and Science or approved by the Further Education and Training Awards Council.

Pension Provisions.

Michael Ring

Question:

330 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will switch to half-rate carers allowance and contributory State pension on reaching the age of 66 years as this would be paid at a higher rate than they currently receive. [9887/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Finian McGrath

Question:

331 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [9888/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Finian McGrath

Question:

332 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will support the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin. [9889/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Finian McGrath

Question:

333 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [9890/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

334 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason child benefit has not been awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Louth since April 2007; if she is satisfied that all information requested has been provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9893/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Seán Power

Question:

335 Deputy Seán Power asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare was refused jobseeker’s benefit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9920/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Richard Bruton

Question:

336 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if social welfare payments being made are automatically notified to the Revenue Commissioners; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9927/10]

The Department exchanges a large amount of data with the Revenue Commissioners. Data exchange considerations form part of the regular meetings between both organisations at all levels.

Among the data exchanged are daily details of payments made on a number of taxable schemes (Illness Benefit, Injury Benefit, Jobseeker's Benefit, One Parent Family Payment.)

Richard Bruton

Question:

337 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the income limit for a pensioner who does not have a social welfare pension to qualify for the free schemes, distinguishing the upper limit for a single person living alone, a single person living with others and a pensioner couple. [9943/10]

Persons aged over 70 years are eligible for the household benefits package irrespective of their income. A person aged between 66 and 69 years and not in receipt of a qualifying payment may be eligible for the package if they satisfy a means test.

The weekly means limit is calculated using the maximum rate of state pension contributory ( €230.30) plus €100. Depending on the individual's circumstances, the means limit may be further increased by the value of any other allowances as appropriate such as the qualified adult or living alone allowance.

The weekly upper limit for a single person not living alone is €330.30, and increases to €338 if the person lives alone. The weekly limit for a married couple where the spouse is under 66 years is €483.80 and increases to €536.60 where the spouse is over 66 years.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

338 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when an application for one parent family payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford was received in her Department; the reason this application has not been processed to completion; when the person will receive payment of any entitlements and arrears; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9948/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

339 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a decision will issue on an illness benefit appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; if an oral hearing will be granted as part of the appeals process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9949/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits.

James Bannon

Question:

340 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Longford has had their disability allowance discontinued and has been requested to return their free travel pass; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9958/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

341 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if an application for family income supplement will be expedited in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9964/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Michael Ring

Question:

342 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the way a person (details supplied) in County Mayo was assessed for jobseeker’s allowance, with particular reference to the notional assessment of their land. [9975/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Michael Ring

Question:

343 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will arrange a reassessment for farm assist in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo, in view of the reduction in their spouse’s earnings. [9976/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

344 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will have their application for disability allowance processed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9978/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Pat Breen

Question:

345 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when an application will be processed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9979/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Question No. 346 answered with Question No. 328.

Social Insurance.

Michael Creed

Question:

347 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a person (details supplied) in County Cork will be entitled to a refund of PRSI contributions paid in view of the fact that they have been notified that they are no longer entitled to a contributory pension; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9988/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Pensions Provisions.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

348 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10025/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

349 Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding an application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Sligo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10040/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Unemployment Levels.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

350 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of persons on the live register at the Tallaght office at end of January 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10044/10]

The number of persons on the live register at Tallaght Social Welfare Local Office at the end of January in the years in question, as published by the Central Statistics Office, is as follows:

Number

26 January 2007

3,536

25 January 2008

4,123

30 January 2009

7,246

29 January 2010

10,151

Social Welfare Benefits.

Seán Power

Question:

351 Deputy Seán Power asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason for the delay in processing an application by a person (details supplied) for farm assist, lodged in September 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10051/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

352 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will support the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10052/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Martin Ferris

Question:

353 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason an administrative error is being allowed to lead to the possible eviction of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry who was originally refused rent supplement due to an oversight at the local community welfare office; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10061/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

354 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the amount paid out by the State in 2009 on rent supplements. [10121/10]

The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term support, to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source.

As at December 2009, 92,300 people were in receipt of rent supplement. The total paid out by the State in 2009 on rent supplement, for year ending December 2009, was €511m.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

355 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the amount provided by the State in 2009 in respect of lone parents payments. [10122/10]

The expenditure on lone parents schemes administered by the Department for 2009 was as follows:

2009 Provisional Outturn

Funding source

Scheme

€000

Vote 38

One Parent Family Payment

1,117,840

Deserted Wives Allowance

5,978

Social Insurance Fund

Deserted Wives Benefit

100,494

The figures shown are provisional pending completion of audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Other supports available to lone parents include rent supplement, family income supplement, fuel allowance and reduced rate on illness benefit, jobseeker's benefit or occupational injuries benefit.

Social Insurance.

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

356 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will investigate the refusal and allow further contributions to be added to the records for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11. [10123/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

357 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when child benefit will be restored in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10229/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

358 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a review of a decision to refuse domiciliary care allowance will be undertaken in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10230/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret I am unable to provide the information requested by the Deputy.

Pension Provisions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

359 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare qualifies for old age pension; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10231/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

360 Deputy Darragh O’Brien asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding an application for jobseeker’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; when an inspector will be sent out to assess this application as it is a number of weeks now since they applied and they have been out of work since September 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10249/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

361 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when child benefit will be restored to a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10252/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Phil Hogan

Question:

362 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a decision for carer’s allowance will be made in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10271/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Pension Provisions.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

363 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding a pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 16; if voluntary contributions could be made and would materially affect their entitlement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10275/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

364 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if it is now the practice each month to notify jobseeker’s benefit recipients the next time and place for collection of that benefit; the reason for this practice which seems to be unjustified in terms of time or money; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10276/10]

It is not understood to what the Deputy is referring. Jobseeker's are advised at the start of their claim as to their rate of payment and the method by which they will be paid. In the vast majority of cases, they are paid at the Post Office of their choice. No further communication relating to the method of payment is issued unless the payment method is being changed.

All jobseeker's who get paid at the Post Office get a receipt handed to them with their payment advising them of the components of their payment and a reminder as to the next day they have to sign on at their local office.

Departmental Staff.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

365 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of posts unfilled in her Department because of the embargo on recruitment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10295/10]

It is not anticipated that any jobs would be immediately created in the Department if the public sector recruitment embargo was lifted. In order to address the additional demands on the Department arising from the increase in the Live Register and associated matters, the Government introduced a staff levy to transfer resources from other Government Departments and Offices to this Department.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

366 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will expedite a claim for jobseeker’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied). [10328/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Sean Fleming

Question:

367 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when jobseeker’s allowance will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Laois; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10335/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Sean Fleming

Question:

368 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when jobseeker’s allowance will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Laois; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10336/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

369 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will expedite an appeal against a decision not to award carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; if she will grant an early oral hearing; the reason for the delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10339/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Bobby Aylward

Question:

370 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason for the delay in deciding on the review of a carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny which commenced in May 2009; the person advised the Department of her change of address but no payment has been made despite the person being interviewed on a number of occasions by the social welfare officer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10381/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Insurance.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

371 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of persons who have made PRSI Class S contributions who have applied or inquired about seeking jobseeker’s benefit in 2007, 2008 and 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10383/10]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

372 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of persons who have had applications for jobseeker’s benefit refused due to their status as PRSI Class S contributions in each of the years 2007, 2008 and 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10384/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 371 and 372 together.

Self-employed people are liable for PRSI at the Class S rate of 3% and are consequently eligible for a narrower range of benefits than general employees who, together with their employers, pay a total social insurance contribution of 14.05%, excluding levies, under the full-rate PRSI Class A.

Self-employed workers are not insured against short-term benefits such as illness and jobseeker's payments — these are only available to persons covered by PRSI Classes A, E, H and P. This reflects the need for coverage for various contingencies, the rate of contributions that self-employed persons pay, the practicalities of administering and controlling access to short-term payments and the annualised system of contributions that these same persons enjoy. A system of separate arrangements for employed and self-employed workers within a social insurance context is common in other European social protection systems.

There are no immediate plans to extend cover for short-term benefits to this group of insured workers. Any such measure would have significant financial implications and would have to be considered within a budgetary context. Consideration would also have to be given to an appropriate increase in the rate of the PRSI Class S contribution.

Self-employed workers who do not qualify for an insurance-based benefit may establish entitlement to assistance-based payments such as Jobseekers Allowance. They can apply for the means-tested Jobseeker's Allowance if their business ceases or if they are on low income as a result of a downturn in demand for their services. In general their means will take account of the level of earnings in the last twelve months in determining their expected income for the following year. In the current climate, however, account is taken of the downward trend in the economy. It is accepted that future earnings may be lower than those of previous years and this is factored in projecting future earnings, with account being taken of the potential for significant upward or downward variations in income from one year to the next.

The Department does not maintain statistics of the type sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

373 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding an appeal for domiciliary benefit in respect of a person (details supplied). [10386/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Rory O'Hanlon

Question:

374 Deputy Rory O’Hanlon asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the plans she has with the Department of Social Services in the UK to expedite the claims process for illness benefit for persons who live in one jurisdiction and claim in another jurisdiction; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10387/10]

Claims for illness benefit made to the Department, based on an Irish insurance record, from persons who are resident in the UK are processed in the same manner as claims from individuals who are resident in this State. There are no particular delays at present in processing such claims.

Claims for illness/sickness benefit made to the UK authorities, based on a UK insurance record, from persons who are resident in this State are processed in the same manner as claims from individuals who are resident in the UK. The Department is not aware of any difficulties or delays in the processing of such claims and have not, therefore, been in recent contact with the UK authorities in relation to cases of this nature.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

375 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the entitlements of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10413/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Departmental Expenditure.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

376 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the amount of expenditure incurred in the period 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2009 by her Department and also offices, agencies and any other bodies falling within her remit on the lease, rental or purchase of car parking spaces for use by civil and public servants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10574/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Departmental Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

377 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number and grade of staff who qualified for performance related pay prior to that payment being abolished in her Department; and the pay scales appropriate to those grades. [10588/10]

Civil service posts at the levels of Assistant Secretary and Deputy Secretary were covered by a scheme of performance related awards. At the point when the scheme was abolished there were 5 Assistant Secretaries and 1 Deputy Secretary serving in this Department.

The pay scales appropriate to the Deputy Secretary and Assistant Secretary grades, effective from 1 January 2010, are as follows:

Deputy Secretary

€168,000 (non personal pension contribution scale)

€176,800 (personal pension contribution scale)

Assistant Secretary

€127,796 €133,605 €139,898 €146,191 (non personal pension contribution scale)

€134,523 €140,636 €147,262 €153,885 (personal pension contribution scale)

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard Allen

Question:

378 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a person (details supplied) in County Cork will get a companion free travel pass in place of sole use pass. [10596/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Ulick Burke

Question:

379 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the waiting time for an assessment and appeal process to social welfare schemes at centres in Gort, Tuam, Loughrea and Ballinasloe, County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10602/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Departmental Expenditure.

Ulick Burke

Question:

380 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the cost of child benefit for each of the years 2007, 2008 and 2009 to parents of children here, in EU countries and to the parents of non EU children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10603/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Ulick Burke

Question:

381 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of persons on the back to education allowance for each of the years 2007, 2008 and 2009; the cost for each of these years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10605/10]

Participants in the back to education allowance (BTEA) scheme transfer from another social welfare payment. Annual statistics are collated by the Department for the number of participants on the basis of the relevant academic year.

In the 2007/2008 academic year, there were 8,883 participants in the back to education allowance scheme and this rose to 11,646 in 2008/2009. At the end of December 2009, there were 20,808 participants and this number is unlikely to change significantly in the remainder of the 2009/2010 academic year.

The expenditure on the back to education allowance scheme in 2007 was €64.142 million and this rose to €77.136 million in 2008. The provisional outturn for 2009 is €107.315 million.

Changes to provide for earlier access to the scheme announced in the April 2009 supplementary budget contributed to the significant increase in uptake in the 2009/2010 academic year.

The back to education allowance has an important role to play in enhancing the employability skills of jobseekers. The nature and structure of the scheme will continue to be monitored in the context of the objectives of the scheme and changes in the economic climate.

Flood Relief.

Ulick Burke

Question:

382 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the cost in 2009 and to date in 2010 of assistance to the flood victims in County Galway that is south Galway and Ballinasloe; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10606/10]

In recognition of the devastation suffered by people in many areas of the country as a result of the flooding from November 2009 onwards, the Government set up a Humanitarian Assistance Scheme to provide income tested financial support to people who have suffered damages to their homes not covered by insurance. Community Welfare Service staff in Galway have been providing support to families since this flooding occurred. Up to the 19th February 2010 they had made 718 payments to 328 individuals to the value of €289,000.

Initially, the vast bulk of applications for humanitarian assistance were for small amounts to assist with basics such as clothing, food, bedding, heating, hire of dehumidifiers and emergency accommodation needs. Payments have also been made in respect of essential household items such as carpets, flooring, furniture and white goods. Assistance is also available for structural repairs to homes not covered by household insurance.

Very few large scale claims have been made at this stage as homeowners have not yet established the cost of repair. In many cases, they are awaiting builders estimates. It is expected that large scale claims will be received over the coming weeks. These claims will take somewhat longer to process as they will require verification of the loss and the possible use of a loss assessor.

The level of payment available under the aid scheme to any qualified individual depends 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 provides hardship alleviation as opposed to full compensation. As on previous occasions, commercial or business losses are not covered by the scheme nor are losses which are covered by household insurance.

Applications under the scheme are being income tested to ensure that available assistance is prioritised for those who are most vulnerable. The basic objective of the income test is to determine the household's capacity to meet the costs of restoring their home to a habitable condition. All household income is considered when determining entitlement to payment.

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).

Social Welfare Benefits.

Ulick Burke

Question:

383 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason so many applicants for disability allowance which is means tested are being refused this allowance without medical officers having first assessed these applicants in person and the reason for the delay encountered by these applicants when they appeal these distant assessments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10607/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Ulick Burke

Question:

384 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of applicants currently in receipt of Family Income Supplement for each of the years 2007, 2008 and 2009 in County Galway, County Mayo and County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10610/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Pension Provisions.

Ulick Burke

Question:

385 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reasons an application for a non-contributory pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway which was submitted in April 2009 and mislaid by her Department and subsequently resubmitted in November 2009 has not yet been processed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10612/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret I am unable to provide the information sought by the deputy.

Overseas Missions.

Joe Costello

Question:

386 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Defence the reasons for seven Irish citizens being assigned to Afghanistan; the number who are military personnel; the duties to which each person is assigned; his views on withdrawing the Irish personnel from Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10074/10]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

389 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Defence if members of the Defence Forces have served in Afghanistan in the past two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10375/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 386 and 389 together.

On 20 December 2001, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1386 under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, authorising the establishment of an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. Ireland has participated in the NATO–led UN mandated mission since 5 July 2002, following the Government Decision of 2 July 2002, authorising the provision of seven (7) members of the Permanent Defence Force for service with the force. Since 2002, the Government has reviewed and approved, on an annual basis, the continued participation by seven (7) members of the Permanent Defence Force in ISAF.

The seven Irish personnel currently participating in ISAF, comprising 4 Officers and 3 Non-Commissioned Officers, are located in the two ISAF Headquarters in Kabul. The Irish personnel work in staff appointments in planning and administrative roles. Irish personnel are rotated every 6 months.

Departmental Staff.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

387 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Defence the number of posts unfilled in his Department because of the embargo on recruitment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10287/10]

I regret to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action, it is not possible to provide a response to his question at this time.

Overseas Missions.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

388 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence the cost to date of involvement of Irish soldiers in military exercises within the Nordic Battle Group; when the exercises were conducted; and if the operational headquarters of the Battle group is in Northwood, London. [10368/10]

In July 2009, the Government approved Ireland's participation in the Swedish-led Nordic Battlegroup 2011. The Nordic Battlegroup 2011 will be on standby for 6 months commencing on the 1st January 2011. To date Ireland has deployed four Officers to serve in staff posts at the Force Headquarters in Enkoping, Sweden and these officers took up their duties on the 28th August 2009.

The Nordic Battlegroup 2011 has not undertaken any military exercises to date. Consequently, no costs have been incurred by the Department of Defence. No decision has been taken regarding the location of the Operational Headquarters for Nordic Battlegroup 2011.

Question No. 389 answered with Question No. 386.

Departmental Expenditure.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

390 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Defence the amount of expenditure incurred in the period 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2009, by his Department and also offices, agencies and any other bodies falling within his remit, on the lease, rental or purchase of car parking spaces for use by civil and public servants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10566/10]

I regret to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action, it is not possible to provide a response to his question at this time.

Departmental Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

391 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Defence the number and grade of staff who qualified for performance related pay prior to that payment being abolished in his Department; and the pay scales appropriate to those grades. [10581/10]

I regret to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action, it is not possible to provide a response to his question at this time.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

392 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he is in a position to provide funding for a scheme (details supplied) in County Kildare as provided for in Kildare County Council’s water services investment programme 2010 to 2012. [10048/10]

The Kildare Water Supply Scheme Phase 1 Wellfield Contract (Johnstownbridge/Robertstown) was included in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007 — 2009. My Department is awaiting further information from Kildare County Council in relation to the contract documents submitted for this scheme. Following receipt and examination of this information, a decision will be conveyed as soon as possible to the Council, in light of the finalisation of the Water Services Investment Programme for 2010 to 2012 which I expect to publish shortly.

Waste Management.

John Deasy

Question:

393 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to ensure that food producers and processors reduce the amount of packaging used on food products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10101/10]

The Programme for Government gives a clear commitment to the implementation of effective waste management policies based on the international waste hierarchy which places greatest emphasis on waste prevention, minimisation and reuse. We must continue to reduce our reliance on landfill and this requires an intensive focus on the upper tiers of the waste hierarchy.

Policy and legislation on packaging waste, both at national and European level, is based on the principles of minimising harm to the environment while maximising the efficient use of resources. In this context, my Department is involved in ongoing discussions with the retail sector with a view to developing proposals on packaging waste prevention as part of a wider agreement aimed at addressing that sector's environmental responsibilities. It is envisaged that an agreement will be concluded by the end of 2010.

There are already legal requirements in place in relation to packaging waste. Article 9 of Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste provides that packaging may not be placed on the market within the European Union unless it complies with the essential requirements as to the composition and the reusable and recoverable nature of packaging as provided for in Annex II to that Directive. Article 28 of the Waste Management (Packaging) Regulations 2007 gives legal effect to the essential requirements of packaging in Ireland.

In broad terms, the essential requirements provide that packaging must be prevented so that only the minimum amount necessary is used for the containment, protection, handling, delivery and presentation of goods. Furthermore, packaging must be recoverable — either by means of material recycling, energy recovery, composting or by biodegradation. Under article 18 of the Directive, Member States are prohibited from impeding the placing on the market of packaging which satisfies these essential requirements.

Local Authority Charges.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

394 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on whether it is reasonable that the imposition of a €200 charge per dwelling unit is payable twice in six months, particularly for business owners who have multiple buy-to-let properties; his plans to include the charge as a business expense to be recognised by the Revenue Commissioners; if, in view of current downturn in rental rates for residential properties, he will consider an exceptional measure to give additional time for payment in 2010 to owners of buy-to-let dwellings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10115/10]

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

411 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in view of the current downturn in rental rates for residential properties, he will consider allowing local authorities to give additional time for payment in 2010, to owners of buy-to-let dwellings who are facing a demand next month for payment of the local charge for the second time in six months; his views on whether it is reasonable that the imposition of a €200 charge per dwelling unit is payable twice in six months, particularly for business owners who have multiple buy-to-let properties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10114/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 394 and 411 together.

The €200 non-principal private residence charge was introduced in the Local Government (Charges) Act 2009, which came into force in July 2009. As an exceptional measure for the year of introduction, the liability date for the charge was fixed at 31 July 2009. The Act provides that the liability date for 2010 and future years is 31 March 2010.

Payment does not fall due until two months after the liability date and there is a further one month's grace period before penalties for late payment commence. A person liable for the charge in 2010 thus has until 30 June 2010 to meet that liability without incurring any additional charge. I have no plans to extend this period.

The question of tax deductibility in respect of the charge is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners.

Local Authority Housing.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

395 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has received a report from Dublin City Council on the safety issues which led to the council evacuating its tenants from apartments (details supplied) in Dublin 13; if not, if he will request same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9895/10]

Under section 58 of the Housing Act 1966, the management and maintenance of the local authority housing stock is a matter for individual authorities.

Minimum standards for rental accommodation are prescribed in the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008, as amended by the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) (Amendment) Regulations 2009, made under section 18 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992. With very limited exemptions, these regulations apply to local authority and voluntary housing units, as well as private rented accommodation, and all landlords have a legal obligation to ensure that their rented properties comply with the regulations.

Coastal Zone Management.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

396 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the report and recommendations submitted to his Department by the Dublin Bay Task Force and Dublin Regional Authority in 2009; when he will respond to the Dublin Bay Task Force and the Dublin Regional Authority; his plans to instruct the Dublin Regional Authority to develop a master plan for Dublin Bay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9923/10]

The Dublin Regional Authority (DRA) established the Dublin Bay Task Force, at my request, to provide a forum for stakeholders to engage in order to prepare a Master Plan for the bay and to make recommendations on integrated coastal zone management.

The DRA was chosen to lead the Task Force due to its co-ordinating and cross-cutting role and the fact that Dublin Bay falls within the jurisdiction of three local authorities, all of which are represented on the task force.

To date, the Task Force has held a series of meetings, some of which were open to the public, conducted several public consultation seminars and carried out a significant amount of background research. The work that the Task Force has carried out has informed the development of the draft Regional Planning Guidelines for the Greater Dublin Area 2010-2022, currently on Public Display; the draft guidelines contain several recommendations concerning integrated coastal zone management in the Dublin Bay area. The relevant local authorities will take the necessary steps to reflect the RPG objectives in their Development Plans following adoption of the RPGs in the middle of this year.

My Department will engage with the Director of the DRA to discuss what further steps might usefully be taken to progress other relevant recommendations of the Dublin Bay Taskforce in light of the above developments.

Proposed Legislation.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

397 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans for legislation and policy regarding foreshore licensing and planning; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9924/10]

Following the enactment of the Foreshore and Dumping at Sea (Amendment) Act 2009, my Department assumed responsibility on 15 January 2010 for a range of foreshore functions including all foreshore energy-related developments (including oil, gas, wind, wave and tidal energy).

Work is under way in my Department to modernise the foreshore consent process and further integrate it with the planning processes under the Planning Acts. The aim is to ensure a quality service for stakeholders (state bodies, infrastructure providers and the general public) by,inter alia, providing a single stage consent process for project approval, statutory timeframes for consultation, mandatory pre-application consultations, a rigorous assessment of environmental impacts and full public participation.

Planning Issues.

Denis Naughten

Question:

398 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will exercise the powers conferred on him by sections 4, 176 and 262 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 to ensure that a shop changing its use to a head shop will require planning permission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9953/10]

Mary Wallace

Question:

414 Deputy Mary Wallace asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the distinction under the planning laws between retail premises and off-licence retail premises; the way in which the planning laws are applied differently to off-licence premises; if he will give consideration to applying similar rules to head shops as to off-licences, including amending the planning laws where necessary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10220/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 398 and 414 together.

The Planning and Development Regulations 2001, define a shop as a structure used for,inter alia, the retail sale of goods where the sale, display or service is principally to visiting members of the public, but excluding, inter alia, any use associated with the provision of funeral services or as a funeral home, or as a hotel, a restaurant or a public house, or for the sale of hot food for consumption off the premises, except where the sale of such food is subsidiary to the main retail use. Article 10 of the Regulations provides that, with certain exceptions, development which consists of a change of use within any one of the classes of use specified in Part 4 of Schedule 2 is exempted development. Class 1 of Part 4 of Schedule 2 is use as a shop and accordingly the effect of these provisions was that change of use from one type of shop to another type of shop was exempted development.

In the Planning and Development Regulations 2005, the definition of shop was amended to exclude a use for the sale of intoxicating liquor for consumption off the premises (except where the sale of such liquor is subsidiary to the main retail use). The effect of these amendments was that an off-licence no longer came within the definition of a shop and accordingly change of use from an off-licence to a shop was no longer exempted development and would in future require planning permission. The Minister of State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy has asked me to look at how the planning system might support the Department of Health regulatory response to the issue of so-called "head shops"; the issue is currently under consideration in my Department.

Proposed Legislation.

Denis Naughten

Question:

399 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he intends to publish the water services Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9954/10]

On 10 December 2009 and following a decision by the Government, I informed the House that I would be bringing forward proposals to give effect to the commitment in the renewed Programme for Government to introduce charging for domestic water use in a way that is fair, significantly reduces waste and is easily applied. Legislation will be required to give effect to this commitment. In October 2009, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) found that Ireland failed to make adequate legislation for dealing with domestic wastewater from septic tanks and other on-site wastewater treatment systems. My Department is currently considering the measures necessary to comply with the ECJ ruling and legislation will be required in this regard also. These matters are receiving priority attention and I will bring proposals, including draft legislation, to Government as soon as possible.

Foreshore Licences.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

400 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if an application has been made for a foreshore licence and for wave power research at Ballinskelligs Bay, County Kerry; and if so, the name of the applicant. [9973/10]

I understand that ESB International has applied for a foreshore licence for the investigation of a site for wave energy development in Ballinskelligs Bay, Co. Kerry.

Traveller Accommodation.

Michael Kennedy

Question:

401 Deputy Michael Kennedy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the process whereby a contract has been awarded to a company for the construction of a halting site (details supplied) in County Dublin; if his attention has been drawn to any works carried out in advance of the formal awarding of the contract and confirmation of funding from his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10001/10]

I have no function in relation to the awarding of contracts for the construction of halting sites. Under section 149 of the Local Government Act 2001, the making of contracts is a function of the manager of the relevant local authority. I regret that, due to industrial action, I am unable to provide any further information on this matter.

Building Regulations.

John Perry

Question:

402 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made regarding Recommendation 17 of the National Consumer Agency report Putting the Consumer First which relates to building control enforcement and the need for a system of self-certification; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10007/10]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 337 of 3 February 2010. The position is unchanged.

Local Authority Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

403 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number and grade of staff who qualified for performance related pay prior to that pay being abolished in each local authority; the pay scales appropriate to those grades. [10015/10]

All City and County Managers, Dublin Assistant City Managers and other posts at that grade in Dublin City Council, and Directors of Service and other posts at that grade in all local authorities were free to participate in the Performance Awards Scheme on a voluntary basis. Those who chose to participate were eligible for consideration for performance related payments. At 31 December 2008 there were a total of 302 members of staff in the relevant grades. The scheme for the Local Government Sector was suspended in 2009.

In 2003 and 2004, 269 participants received awards. In 2005, 278 participants received awards. In 2006, 274 participants received awards, and in 2007 awards were granted to 270 participants. No awards were made in 2008. Salaries of City and County Managers and Directors of Service are set out in the City and County Managers (Remuneration) (No. 2) Order 2010. The salaries for City and County Managers are set out in the table.

Local Authority Manager

Salary

Dublin City Council

189,301

Cork County Council

Fingal County Council

162,062

South Dublin County Council

Cork City Council

Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council

153,260

Kildare County Council

Meath County Council

Limerick City Council

Clare County Council

Donegal County Council

Galway County Council

Kerry County Council

Kilkenny County Council

142,469

Limerick County Council

Louth County Council

Mayo County Council

South Tipperary County Council

Westmeath County Council

Wexford County Council

Wicklow County Council

Galway City Council

Waterford City Council

Carlow County Council

Cavan County Council

Laois County Council

Leitrim County Council

Longford County Council

Monaghan County Council

132,511

Offaly County Council

Roscommon County Council

Sligo County Council

North Tipperary County Council

Waterford County Council

Dublin City — Assistant Manager

Dublin City — Personnel Officer

Dublin City — Finance Officer

Dublin City — Treasurer

The salary scale for Assistant Managers and Directors of Service, from 1 January 2010, is €90,453, increasing by annual increments to €94,565, €98,677, €102,788, and €106,900.

Nuclear Plants.

Joe Costello

Question:

404 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in view of his silence on the British Government’s proposal to construct seven new nuclear power stations, he is now considering giving his support to nuclear energy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10019/10]

Ireland is a non-nuclear state. The Government does not believe that nuclear power is the answer to our energy needs, and would prefer instead to see greater emphasis on renewable energy sources. As a non-nuclear state, Ireland does not stand to receive any of the claimed benefits from the current wave of developments in nuclear energy, but must still bear any trans-boundary risks which might arise from these facilities. In view of this, the Government continues to press for the fullest possible information from the UK authorities on any activities that might contribute to that risk.

Following direct contact with the UK Ambassador in relation to the UK's nuclear development proposals last November, I have asked my Department to maintain regular contact with the relevant UK Government Departments and Agencies on nuclear safety and radiological protection matters, including in particular the UK's proposed new build programme. The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) also has regular contact with the regulatory bodies responsible for radiological protection and nuclear safety in the UK, and meets frequently with my Department to discuss these matters.

Through these ongoing contacts, I am informed of key policy developments with regard to nuclear power in the UK, including proposals for the development of new nuclear power stations at up to ten sites, seven of which are on the coast of the Irish Sea. Arising from my and the Government's concerns at these proposals, I have written to the UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, outlining key concerns and seeking further information predominantly on safety and waste issues associated with the proposals. My Department's priority in all discussions with the UK on its nuclear energy programme is the safety of the Irish people and the protection of our environment, particularly the shared marine environment of the Irish Sea.

Private Rented Accommodation.

Joe Costello

Question:

405 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the changes he will make following the completion of the review of the provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004; when the Private Residential Tenancies Board will fall within the scope of the Freedom of Information Act 1977; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10020/10]

In February 2009, I announced my intention to review the provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 under which the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) operates. The purpose of this review is to consider whether the Act best supports the PRTB's key functions and whether legislative amendments would support either the achievement of additional operational efficiencies by the PRTB in the delivery of those functions or the broader good working of the private rented sector. In November 2009 I announced the preliminary results of this review, including recommendations in a number of key areas, with an overall emphasis on streamlining and simplifying the Act and reducing delays.

While a range of issues still remain to be considered, I intend to initiate comprehensive amending legislation within the next 12 months. Among the main issues that I have to address in the amending legislation are:

A statutory objective of 6 months to be set for the issuing of determination orders arising out of dispute resolution applications,

The Board of the PRTB to be reduced from 15 to 12 members,

The introduction of fixed fines where deposits are illegally retained by landlords,

Measures to address non-payment of rent by tenants during a dispute process, in particular to introduce scope for the legal termination of such a tenancy,

The separation of the governance and quasi-judicial functions of the Board,

The inclusion within the remit of the Residential Tenancies Act of segments of the voluntary and co-operative housing sector that most closely parallel the current remit of the Board.

A number of issues requiring further research, including third party complaints under the Act, the Act's engagement with anti-social behaviour and how best to address issues surrounding the retention of deposits, will also be considered in detail. In addition, all opportunities for the introduction of time and procedural efficiencies in the Act will be examined.

The PRTB, which commenced operations in September 2004, is at present outside the scope of the Freedom of Information Act 1997. Given the importance of openness and transparency in relation to the operation of State bodies generally it is my intention that the Board, subject to exemptions that recognise its quasi-judicial functions, should come under the scope of the Freedom of Information legislation. I will be seeking to give effect to this in the context of the next set of proposals for the extension of the Freedom of Information Act to additional public bodies, to be brought forward by my colleague the Minister for Finance, who has overall responsibility for the Freedom of Information legislative code.

Local Authority Staff.

Christy O'Sullivan

Question:

406 Deputy Christy O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if it is his policy to preclude local authorities from replacing staff who have retired from their duties, such as outdoor staff and general operatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10047/10]

My Department has a delegated sanction from the Department of Finance for implementation of the general moratorium on the filling of public sector posts in the Local Authority Sector, on the condition that the overall staffing levels in the local authority sector are to be reduced significantly by the end of 2010 in adherence to the Government's Policy on Staffing and Numbers in the Public Sector. Under the new arrangements which issued to the local authority sector on 20 August 2009, Local Authorities are expected, where vacancies arise, to consider options for reorganisation and reallocation of work to meet requirements. Any exceptions to this principle, which will arise in very limited circumstances, require sanction from my Department.

Under section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001, each County and City Manager is responsible for staffing and organisational arrangements necessary for carrying out the functions of the local authorities for which he or she is responsible, including the employment of outdoor staff and general operatives, in compliance with the relevant public sector recruitment and employment law requirements.

Control of Dogs.

Jack Wall

Question:

407 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of dog wardens employed by each local authority; if each local authority has a dog pound; the cost to each local authority of such an operation; the number of dogs impounded in each local authority area for each of the past three years; the breed of dogs impounded; the percentage of the overall figure of each breed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10060/10]

Statistics in relation to the number of dog wardens employed by each local authority, information as to whether each local authority has a dog pound, and the number of dogs impounded in each local authority area, are published annually on my Department's website under Local Government/Dog Control. The costs of providing a dog control service for the years 2006 to 2008 are detailed in the tables. My Department is currently compiling statistics for 2009 which should be available shortly. It should be noted the cost of the dog control service, includes the employment of dog wardens, collection of stray dogs and enforcement of licences and the operation of the pound. My Department does not keep records on the breeds of dogs that are impounded.

CONTROL OF DOGS ACTS 1986 & 1992

2008 Finances

Local Authority

Income

Expenditure

Deficit

Carlow

43,251.49

139,676.48

96,424.99

Cavan

87,336.56

95,200.27

7,863.71

Clare

46,394.32

165,022.16

118,627.84

Cork City

11,820.05

57,868.83

46,048.78

Cork County

353,091.43

503,493.00

150,401.57

Donegal

70,435.60

219,213.70

148,778.10

Dublin City

106,889.00

422,983.69

316,094.69

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown

57,827.74

183,862.07

126,034.33

Fingal

51,201.60

177,757.08

126,555.48

Galway City

26,934.47

110,068.93

83,134.46

Galway County

102,476.96

173,009.25

70,532.29

Kerry

207,306.71

219,366.59

12,059.88

Kildare

65,283.69

215,119.00

149,835.31

Kilkenny

83,982.23

163,354.72

79,372.49

Laois

50,497.38

136,000.00

85,502.62

Leitrim

19,762.52

34,731.91

14,969.39

Limerick City

6,760.59

67,619.80

60,859.21

Limerick County

173,168.99

210,836.61

37,667.62

Longford

22,742.00

94,834.00

72,092.00

Louth

105,562.10

185,108.21

79,546.11

Mayo

53,715.70

147,414.97

93,699.27

Meath

126,618.00

237,672.00

111,054.00

Monaghan

58,081.89

146,899.36

88,817.47

North Tipperary

44,281.47

101,536.33

57,254.86

Offaly

42,210.39

124,487.11

82,276.72

Roscommon

39,793.32

120,011.22

80,217.90

Sligo

54,577.48

110,805.00

56,227.52

South Dublin

122,083.58

396,642.25

274,558.67

South Tipperary

63,810.78

85,746.62

21,935.84

Waterford City

13,900.05

106,859.75

92,959.70

Waterford County

55,453.48

98,372.40

42,918.92

Westmeath

42,303.75

86,867.41

44,563.66

Wexford

123,324.00

193,444.17

70,120.17

Wicklow

76,983.01

221,502.34

144,519.33

Totals

2,609,862.33

5,753,387.23

3,143,524.90

CONTROL OF DOGS ACTS 1986 & 1992

2007 Finances

Local Authority

Income

Expenditure

Deficit

Carlow

45,815.36

112,518.10

66,702.74

Cavan

100,213.33

78,159.57

22,053.76

Clare

51,209.01

148,979.65

97,770.64

Cork City

15,805.55

56,007.79

40,202.24

Cork County

398,230.00

524,252.00

126,022.00

Donegal

88,186.69

199,059.44

110,872.75

Dublin City

92,044.54

459,946.81

367,902.27

South Dublin

114,788.22

324,096.85

209,308.63

Fingal

58,360.53

207,137.91

148,777.38

Dun Laoghaire /Rathdown

73,427.00

193,935.00

120,508.00

Galway City

27,408.60

133,282.89

105,874.29

Galway County

114,358.16

166,237.21

51,879.05

Kerry

223,550.62

214,017.66

9,532.96

Kildare

83,092.09

201,632.00

118,539.91

Kilkenny

67,966.38

98,097.40

30,131.02

Laois

60,432.37

123,373.00

62,940.63

Leitrim

23,398.93

35,969.51

12,570.58

Limerick City

8,433.35

78,753.55

70,320.20

Limerick County

207,544.60

259,738.85

52,194.25

Longford

26,565.28

84,198.81

57,633.53

Louth

129,835.27

164,465.44

34,630.17

Mayo

88,500.98

177,598.66

89,097.68

Meath

116,105.55

122,508.00

6,402.45

Monaghan

62,322.80

129,211.16

66,888.36

Offaly

36,384.73

<