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 3, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 4 to 39, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 40 to 47, inclusive, answered orally.

Public Sector Staff.

Seán Barrett

Question:

48 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Finance if arrangements for moving staff within the public service across different agencies have been agreed. [11560/10]

The Government Statement on Transforming Public Services recognises the importance of having a highly motivated and well led public service. The statement emphasises the importance of this as the needs of society and the citizen require better collaboration, joint planning and service delivery between the different sectors and organisations in the public service. A more integrated service will be united by its common objectives to achieve the priorities identified by Government. The need is identified to be able to redeploy people in one part of the public service from activities which are no longer priorities, towards new challenges which are often in other areas. This means breaking down the barriers to mobility (organisational, sectoral, professional and geographical) between the different parts of the public service. These are issues which will require negotiation with the public service unions.

In late 2009, discussions took place with the public service unions seeking agreement on arrangements to apply where staff were to be redeployed across the civil and public service. The discussions were part of the agenda of the wider Partnership Talks and had progressed to an advanced stage prior to the breakdown of those talks last December. While the current industrial relations environment has limited the scope to redeploy resources to priority areas my Department will continue to seek progress with the staff side on advancing the redeployment agenda. However, some progress continues to be made in relation to the voluntary movement of staff.

Tax Code.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

49 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance if he has ruled out the introduction of a property tax for 2011, as suggested by its absence from his recent address to the annual dinner of the Irish Taxation Institute; if he expects changes for domestic water charges to impact on the Exchequer position from 2011 onwards; if he will estimate the annual revenue expected to be derived from domestic water charges once implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11649/10]

At the outset, I would like to point out to the Deputy that while I did not specifically mention the introduction of a property tax for 2011 in my address to the Irish Taxation Institute, I did stress that the tax base needs to be broadened. In particular, the Deputy will be aware that I mentioned in my address that €2bn out of an overall €3bn adjustment for 2011 would have to be achieved from reducing the cost of public services and reform of how we tax income. Given that I indicated there was "little or no scope for increases in marginal income tax rates", it will be necessary to examine other ways of broadening our tax base.

The Deputy will be aware that the Government has successfully introduced a levy on second homes which yielded of the order of €60 million in 2009. The introduction of a more general property tax represents a major structural change in the tax system and any such development would have to be considered in light of the overall tax burden on individuals, the need for base broadening measures and current market conditions. The form of taxation on property will have specific regard to the commitment in the Renewed Programme for Government to introduce a Site Valuation Tax for non-agricultural land, following the necessary valuation and registration process.

In terms of water charges, the Deputy will be aware that my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government informed the House on 10th December 2009 that he would be bringing forward proposals as a priority for the installation of water meters in households. These proposals, which the Minister is currently finalising, will 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. I understand that the Minister’s proposals will include draft legislation to remove the prohibition on charging for domestic water services while also addressing arrangements for the delivery of the metering programme, cost estimates and how these costs are to be financed, as well as plans for the development of a pricing structure for domestic water services. Further details on these matters will be made available following their consideration and approval by Government.

The introduction of a metered charging regime for water services will promote increased conservation of water resources. Reducing consumption will help to reduce the very significant costs currently being faced by local authorities in providing supplies of high quality drinking water and treating waste water discharged into the public sewerage system.

Industrial Disputes.

John O'Mahony

Question:

50 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Finance the discussion he has had with the public service unions regarding the current state of industrial unrest in the public service. [11619/10]

The current work to rule and other actions are part of a programme of industrial action undertaken by public service unions across the public sector. The industrial action is in response to the pay reductions imposed by the Government on public servants with effect from 1 January last as part of the Government's budgetary strategy to bring the public finances under control.

There are ongoing informal contacts between Public Service management and unions in relation to the conduct of the present industrial action. These contacts form part of well-established channels of communication with representatives of the trade unions in the Public Service. Beyond these operational contacts, the Government believes it would be desirable that both public service unions and management would engage in relation to the wider transformation agenda and the future development of public services and public service employment. In order to reach a more formal and substantive process of engagement with the Unions, there needs to be a shared understanding of the parameters of any engagement and a willingness to explore what potential exists within those parameters. Public Service management will continue to seek a basis on which substantive discussions can take place with the public service unions and I would urge the unions to participate in meaningful engagement on the challenges facing the public service.

Any industrial action, whatever form it takes, is regrettable, in particular when it impacts on service delivery to the public. Everything possible is being done by management to minimise any impact. Nevertheless, the proposed escalation in the industrial action which was announced by the Public Services Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions on Monday last will inevitably adversely impact on service delivery across the public service. While the right of employees to take industrial action can be acknowledged, this has to be tempered by the obligation to provide a service to the citizen and taxpayer who provide the resources to fund our public services. I firmly believe that the legitimate concerns of public servants will not be advanced in any way through industrial conflict and that our collective responsibility for the provision of public services to the taxpayer must be adhered to.

Banking Sector Regulation.

Ulick Burke

Question:

51 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Finance his views on the desirable restructuring of the banking sector here. [11566/10]

In the first instance it is a matter for the financial institutions themselves to consider and determine their strategic arrangements, subject of course to necessary regulatory, competition and other relevant requirements. Regarding the State's role, its primary consideration continues to be to protect, in the public interest, the financial and economic system of the State. Where public support is provided to individual institutions, either in the form of participating in NAMA or by way of the provision of capital, such institutions will be required to prepare and submit restructuring plans to the EU Commission. So far, re-structuring plans have been submitted by Anglo Irish Bank, Bank of Ireland and AIB and, in due course, re-structuring plans will also be required from the two building societies.

I fully support the idea of a reformed and reinvigorated banking system that can serve our economy in a proper manner and within which there is scope for all credit institutions operating in the Irish market to play their full part. The Central Bank and the Financial Regulator are also significant stakeholders in the future shape of the financial system and their views are important. I will continue to encourage all institutions to examine, separately or jointly, how they can meet their capital or funding needs and develop business models to support economic development. I will consider all or any options presented to me and, insofar as possible, play a positive role in supporting the delivery of viable plans consistent with competition and State aid requirements.

Tax Yield.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

52 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if the trends in Exchequer returns to date give confidence that the end year targets will be achieved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11595/10]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

106 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Finance his views on the February 2010 Exchequer returns which show a revenue shortfall of more than €1 billion compared to the same period in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11629/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

157 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which the various revenue receipts are in accord with predictions or otherwise; the steps he has taken to address emerging issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11879/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 52, 106 and 157 together.

The end-February Exchequer Returns, published on 2 March, were generally in line with expectations. At end-February 2010, the Exchequer deficit was €2,407 million compared to €2,085 million at end-February 2009. In terms of tax revenue performance, €4,736 million in tax receipts were collected by the end of February, against a target of €4,800 million. This means that tax receipts for the first two months of the year were €64 million below target.

My Department published monthly targets for tax revenue earlier this year and while tax receipts collected in the first two months were about €1 billion less than the same period last year, this had been anticipated. A significant year-on-year decline is expected in the initial months of 2010, with tax revenues forecast to end the year 6% down on 2009, as the economy shows signs of positive growth during the second half of this year. Total net voted expenditure at end-February 2010 was €7,191 million, representing a decline of some €800 million or 10.2% on the same period in 2009. This significant year-on-year reduction reflects both the expenditure policy changes implemented over the past year or so and timing issues. The Revised Estimates Volume, published on 18 February, projected a 1.9% reduction in total net voted spending for the year as a whole.

The end-February Exchequer Returns show that the action taken by Government in managing the public finances is working. At this stage of the year I have no reason to adjust the revenue targets. My Department will, as is usual, have a press conference setting out the first quarter Exchequer Returns in early April. The Government is committed to the targets set out in the recent Budget. As economic growth returns during the course of the year, this will assist in the ongoing improvement in the public finances.

National Solidarity Bond.

Jack Wall

Question:

53 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance when he expects the national solidarity bonds, as announced in budget 2010, to be available for subscription; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11646/10]

I announced in Budget 2010 that the Government intended to introduce a National Solidarity Bond. This bond will effectively be a new form of our state savings products which are aimed at the retail investor. We already have savings bonds and savings certificates, which are three and five and a half year investment products managed by the National Treasury Management Agency. The new bond will be a longer-term product which will be attractive to people who wish to invest for up to 10 years. Where an investor wishes to encash their investment before the final maturity date of 10 years they will be able to do so.

The structure is quite innovative — there will be an annual interest payment and a final redemption bonus payable. The final investment bonus will be payable to investors who encash their bonds after five, seven or ten years. Legislative provisions relating to the introduction of the National Solidarity Bond are included in the Finance Bill which is expected to become law by early April. I expect that, by mid-April 2010, information on the Bond will be available in Post Offices, on the internet and by telephone and that the Bonds themselves will be available for purchase in any Post Office.

Financial Services Regulation.

Noel Coonan

Question:

54 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether increases in bank charges and interest rates are consistent with the banking policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11575/10]

There are basically two categories of charges applied by the banks — interest-related banking charges and non-interest-related banking charges and fees. Interest-related banking charges are determined by the banks themselves on the basis of market considerations and neither the Minister for Finance nor the Financial Regulator would have any statutory role in this matter. In setting the level of such charge for a borrower, a bank would have regard to a variety of factors such as the customer's credit history, the risk perceived to attach to the loan, the cost of funds to the bank, competition considerations etc.

The increase in the interest rates on some personal loans and overdrafts reflects the commercial market realities which the bank faces. Basically, the bank must pay more to access the funds which it uses to operate. Although the ECB base rate remains at historic lows, the level of interest rates also depends on a broad range of factors including deposit rates, market funding costs, the competitive environment, an institution's overall funding. With regard to the impact on Irish families of these changes, it is self evident that any increase in interest rates will have a negative impact on the disposable income of households. The Government has through a number of measures, including the Mortgage Interest Subsidy Scheme and the moratorium on home repossessions, sought to ease the burden of the recession for the most vulnerable members of Irish society. However, I do not have any function in the day to day running of the recapitalised banks and have no role in setting interest rates.

The regulation of non-interest-related banking charges/fees is vested in the Financial Regulator and credit institutions are obliged to seek the prior approval of the Regulator before any increase in such fees. In fact, Ireland is the only EU country with statutory control on such fee increases. If the increased charge to which the Deputy is referring falls within this category, then it will, as I have indicated, have received the prior approval of the Financial Regulator.

Departmental Reports.

Richard Bruton

Question:

55 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he plans to request a further report from the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes in 2010. [11564/10]

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

56 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Finance if he has had consultations with other Departments regarding the measures drawn from the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes report which they plan to implement; the aggregate savings involved outside of the social welfare rate changes; and the percentage of that aggregate which will be delivered in year one. [11588/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 55 and 56 together.

The Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes was published in July 2009 and outlined 271 recommendations with potential savings of up to €5.3 billion in a full year along with associated staffing reductions of over 17,300 in public service numbers. Following the publication of the Special Group’s Report, which is advisory in nature, the Government referred the Report to each Government Department with instructions to examine recommendations relevant to their Department as a major input to the Estimates process for 2010. In parallel with this, my Department also closely examined the Report for the same purpose. Accordingly, the Special Group’s analysis and recommendations have been taken into account in the 2010 Budget and the Estimates of Expenditure for the year ahead. The formulation of policy in regard to the 2010 Estimates involved discussions and consultations between my Department and other Departments, as is normal. Implementation of all Estimates decisions, including those arising from the Report of the Special Group, is the responsibility of the relevant Minister and Department.

In summary, the Government decided to implement 32 recommendations in full and 89 in part. In aggregate terms, these savings are estimated to yield some €1.7 billion in 2010 and €1.9 billion in a full year, with savings implemented by the Department of Social and Family Affairs accounting for an estimated €691 million in 2010 and €739 million in a full year. On that basis, aggregate savings outside of those related to the Department of Social Welfare amount to €1.06 billion in 2010 and €1.17 billion in a full year. The 2010 figure therefore represents 90% of the non-Social Welfare full year savings.

The Report of the Special Group will continue to be a central point of reference in the Government's ongoing consideration of overall expenditure strategy and structural reform across the public service, and the recommendations of the Report continue to receive active consideration across all Departments in this regard. There are no plans to reconvene the Special Group in 2011. Comprehensive details on the 2010 Estimates of Expenditure are set out in the 2010 Budget documentations and in the 2010 Revised Estimates Volume, which was published on 18 February 2010.

Banking Sector Recapitalisation.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

57 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Finance the way it is proposed to fund any recapitalisation of the banks after the loan transfer to the National Asset Management Agency, which it falls upon the State to provide. [11569/10]

I indicated last September that, following the transfer of eligible bank loans to NAMA, it is likely that institutions will require additional capital and that each institution should explore all available options, both internal and external, for raising such capital. However, I also stated that, to the extent that the institutions are not in a position to raise sufficient capital from such sources, the Government remains committed, consistent with EU rules, to providing relevant banks and building societies with an appropriate level of capital to enable them to continue to meet their regulatory requirements.

In light of its responsibilities for the implementation of the Capital Requirements Directive, the Financial Regulator is currently assessing the capital requirements arising for those credit institutions participating in NAMA to ensure that the banking system in Ireland meets appropriate regulatory standards and market expectations. In general terms, the impact of any future bank recapitalisation on the Exchequer, the National Pensions Reserve Fund and the General Government Balance will depend on the scale and source of the recapitalisation funds and the basis on which capital is provided and, therefore, cannot be specified at this point.

Financial Services Regulation.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

58 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance his views on the announcement by a bank (details supplied) that it is considering an increase in mortgage interest rates. [11448/10]

The Deputy will appreciate that the named covered institution is run as an arm's length operation and as such it is not appropriate for me to comment on how it manages its pricing strategies. I have stated publicly that I was disappointed by recent decisions and announcements by covered institutions to increase their variable interest rates but unfortunately such increases reflect commercial market realities including the increased cost of accessing funds.

The Guarantee means that the covered institutions can in fact raise funds more cheaply than they otherwise would. This is a benefit to all of their customers. All covered institutions pay the State for the costs of the Guarantee. Interest rates are at historically low levels and are likely to remain very low for the foreseeable future in overall terms and this has provided significant support for customers in the current challenging economic and financial environment.

Liz McManus

Question:

59 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Finance the progress made to date with the tender process for the strategic review of the Irish credit union sector; if the terms of reference for this strategic review have been framed; the terms of reference of same; the timeline for the completion of both the tender process and the completion of the report itself; if it is envisaged that new legislative measures will be needed arising from the preparation of this report; his views on the development of the credit union and co-operative banking sector here over the coming years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11636/10]

I have requested the Financial Regulator to carry out this Strategic Review of the Credit Union Sector in Ireland. The Project is being managed by the Registrar of Credit Unions and my officials are to liaise closely with him throughout the project. With regard to progress, the Registrar has received expressions of interest and is in the process of finalising the Tender Document. He will then issue an invitation to tender to a short-list of tenderers. It is anticipated that the selection process will be completed by end-May 2010 and work will begin shortly thereafter. I expect to have a report on the full project by end-March 2011.

The Terms of Reference has not yet been finalised. The Registrar and my officials have had detailed discussions on a draft Terms of Reference. The final Terms of Reference will reflect any modifications required following dialogue with the selected consultancy firm. I am confident that the Financial Regulator will execute the project in accordance with public procurement guidelines and that the best techniques in project management will be utilised.

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

In relation to the further development of the credit union sector, the outcomes for this project will be to develop proposals and make recommendations for a modern credit union operational model, supported by an appropriate and enabling legislative and regulatory framework. This framework must reflect the needs of the credit unions and their members. It should be able to support the development of movement into the future.

Remediation of Industrial Sites.

David Stanton

Question:

60 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 116 and 147 of 3 November 2009, if the Office of Public Works working group to manage the former ISPAT site at Haulbowline, County Cork has been established; its relationship with the group established under the aegis of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11539/10]

David Stanton

Question:

81 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Finance if the terms of reference of the Office of Public Works working group to manage and develop the former ISPAT site at Haulbowline, County Cork have been agreed; the details of same; if the working group has been convened; the members of the group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11538/10]

The Government decided that "the Office of Public Works would chair a working group to develop a structured and coherent approach to the further management and development of the site, on the basis that Cork County Council would be asked to continue to discharge site management responsibilities on an agency basis...". The working group has been established and the members comprise, in the first instance, representatives from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the Department of Defence, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department of Finance. As soon as the draft Terms of Reference have been finalised, the working group will be convened, and it is envisaged that a report will be ready for government within six months.

National Asset Management Agency.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

61 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Finance if the average discount to be paid on assets transferred to the National Asset Management Agency is likely to be more than the 30% initially envisaged; if there have been significant revelations in respect of satisfactory legal title and cross collateralisation of assets securing property, development and associated loans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11652/10]

The estimated aggregate discount of 30% that I announced last September was never a prediction or a target rather it was a top-down aggregate estimate of the potential discount that the institutions will face. I always made it clear that the actual valuation will be determined on a loan by loan basis. Only after a significant number of loan-by-loan valuations have been carried out will it be possible to get a full sense of the overall discount. I am advised by NAMA that issues have arisen during the due diligence process regarding the quality of legal title and related matters. Clearly this justifies the thorough and detailed due diligence process undertaken by NAMA.

Financial Services Regulation.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

62 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied with the effectiveness of the powers of enforcement when regulation failures or failure of corporate governance occur in the banking sector. [11610/10]

As the Deputy will be aware a detailed and comprehensive legal and regulatory framework is in place in Ireland for the regulation and supervision of the financial services sector. This framework is underpinned by an extensive series of EU Directives governing the conduct of financial services activities on a cross-border basis within the single EU market. Clearly, an effective system of enforcement is central to the effectiveness of any system of financial supervision. Under the statutory framework which established the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland, the Financial Regulator was conferred with significant powers to impose sanctions for prescribed contraventions of legislation or regulatory rules.

The Financial Regulator has wide-ranging powers to conduct an examination where it suspects that a regulated financial service provider and/or person concerned in the management of a regulated financial service provider has committed a ‘prescribed contravention'. If the examination concludes that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that there is or has been a prescribed contravention, the Financial Regulator can establish an inquiry. The inquiry shall decide if the prescribed contravention has occurred and determine the appropriate sanctions. The legislation provides that, at any time up to the conclusion of an inquiry, the Financial Regulator may enter into a binding settlement agreement with a regulated financial service provider and/or a person concerned in its management to resolve the matter. Where a financial services firm or individual enters into such an agreement early in the pursuit of a sanctions case, the terms of the settlement will reflect the savings in time, resources and money that would result. Administrative Sanctions Procedure decisions can be appealed to the Irish Financial Services Appeals Tribunal.

My Department has been advised that the Financial Regulator has concluded 26 enforcement actions since it received the legislative powers to do so. Seven people have been disqualified from being involved in the management of regulated financial services providers (for various periods of time) and one person stepped down as a director. Seven of the firms sought the voluntary revocations of their authorisations. In addition to the powers available to the Financial Regulator under the Administrative Sanctions regime, specific criminal offences are provided for under various national and EU legal instruments where a breach of regulatory requirements might arise. For instance, certain offences under the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive are punishable in Ireland by up fines up to €10m and/or up to 10 years imprisonment. The same punishments also apply in the case of other EU legislation.

Clearly, in restoring the reputation of the regulatory system through the reform of our regulatory structures, it will be a priority for the Government to ensure that any measures required to strengthen the powers of enforcement available to the new Central Bank of Ireland to ensure that a credible and robust enforcement regime is in place for the future. In that regard, my Department is in discussion with the Financial Regulator, now headed by Mr. Matthew Elderfield, and the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland, to which Dr. Patrick Honohan has recently been appointed as Governor, to assess possible areas of improvement to its enforcement powers and supervisory resources with a view to including appropriate provisions in forthcoming legislation on the restructuring of the Central Bank.

National Asset Management Agency.

Mary Upton

Question:

63 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance if he will comment on reports that the amount of loans to be transferred from Anglo Irish Bank to the National Asset Management Agency has increased from the €28 billion originally envisaged to at least €32 billion; if the estimates for loans to be transferred from the other institutions to NAMA have been revised upwards or downwards; if the total gross value and net value of loans to be transferred has been revised; if so, the amount, from the original estimates of €77 billion and €54 billion respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11655/10]

The figures I announced to the Dáil in September 2009 regarding NAMA were approximate figures based on estimates produced by certain guaranteed institutions. At all times I have stated that more accurate figures would be available only after participating institutions fully identified their eligible loans and these had been subjected to independent valuation.

Based on the assessment of applications from the five participating institutions, approximately €80 billion of loans have been identified as eligible for transfer to NAMA. The consideration to be paid for these loans will depend on valuations, determined by the application of the valuation methodology approved recently by the EU Commission, of each of the eligible loans. Also, section 84 of the NAMA Act provides that NAMA is not obliged to acquire any eligible asset on any grounds. It is my intention to provide a more detailed breakdown later this month. I should point out that Section 50 of the NAMA legislation places a limit of €54 billion on the consideration to be paid for the loans regardless of the nominal amounts involved. This limit can only be amended by a positive resolution by the Dáil. I have no intention of adjusting this figure at this time.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

64 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Finance the latest estimate of the decline in the value of property here which is likely to underlie the National Asset Management Agency loans. [11571/10]

Section 73 of the NAMA Act sets out that NAMA may set a date by reference to which the market value of a bank asset or property is to be determined. NAMA have set this date as 30 November 2009. It follows that any property decreases or increases after 30 November 2009 will not be reflected in the NAMA market valuations. Valuation will be in accordance with recognised red book valuation standards, European valuation standards, or International valuation standards, as appropriate to the locations where the property is situated. The valuation process for the eligible bank assets will be certified by independent experts and validated by the Financial Regulator to ensure that the NAMA valuation methodology is robust and credible.

Civil Service Staff.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

65 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that the top level appointment committee gives reasonable scope for appointments from outside the public service and outside the appointing Departments. [11583/10]

Since the establishment of the Top Level Appointments Committee (TLAC) in January, 1984, it has the discretion to decide whether posts should be filled by open competition or by a competition run amongst eligible officers across the civil service. Normally, positions are filled in the latter way, but since the establishment of TLAC, 3 posts at the grade of Secretary General, 3 at the grade of Deputy Secretary and 37 at the grade of Assistant Secretary have been filled by way of open competition. Since the beginning of 2007, 42 posts have been filled by way of open competition. Out of those 42 posts, 2 were filled by people from outside of the civil service, 2 were filled by people from the wider public service and 5 were filled from outside the appointing Departments.

Departmental Estimates.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

66 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Finance the percentage actual accuracy of each Estimates of public expenditure issued by his Department since 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11667/10]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in tabular form below. For each of the years 2004 to 2010, the total Estimate of both Gross and Net voted expenditure (Current and Capital) as outlined in the Revised Estimates Volume (REV) is compared with the final outturn total as audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General and published in the Appropriation Accounts for the relevant year. For 2009 the provisional outturn figure as published in the REV for 2010 is used as the Appropriation Accounts for 2009 will not be available until later in the year. No outturn is shown for 2010.

Gross Voted Expenditure

Total REV Estimate

Actual Outturn

% Accuracy

Deviation

€’000

€’000

€’000

2004

41,239,536

40,750,645

-1.19%

-488,891

2005

45,684,533

45,095,031

-1.29%

-589,502

2006

50,642,875

50,016,307

-1.24%

-626,568

2007

56,309,204

56,426,010

0.21%

116,806

2008

61,873,331

62,395,041

0.84%

521,710

2009

63,917,792

62,939,563

-1.53%

-978,229

2010

61,178,785

Net Voted Expenditure

Total REV Estimate

Actual Outturn

% Accuracy

Deviation

€’000

€’000

€’000

2004

32,941,150

32,269,134

-2.04%

-672,016

2005

36,172,209

35,436,373

-2.03%

-735,836

2006

40,133,499

39,441,138

-1.73%

-692,361

2007

44,825,116

44,687,379

-0.31%

-137,737

2008

48,962,138

49,297,260

0.68%

335,122

2009

47,414,488

47,078,506

-0.71%

-335,982

2010

46,315,380

Financial Services Regulation.

Martin Ferris

Question:

67 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Finance if he will make a statement on the ISME bank watch survey which showed that 55% of businesses were refused funding in the three months to the end of February 2010; and his views on whether this situation is having a negative effect on small and medium enterprise. [11450/10]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

95 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance if he will comment on the ISME bank watch survey which found that 55% of small to medium enterprises were refused funding in the three months to the end of February 2010; if he will further comment on the general SME lending environment; his views on whether the National Asset Management Agency is unlikely to have a significant impact on the availability of credit to SMEs; if he plans to bring forward further proposals to ameliorate the SME lending environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11657/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 67 and 95 together.

The second Mazars report on credit availability, published in December, confirmed that while some businesses are facing significant challenges accessing credit, and the SME sector in general is more conservative in its borrowing, nevertheless businesses surveyed confirmed that new lending is still taking place. It is noteworthy that SME businesses surveyed reported a lower level of refusals than claimed by ISME. However, the proportion of refused credit, especially in certain sectors, remains a concern for Government.

I have said before that the banks should be in a better position to lend once the riskiest loans have been removed from their balance sheets and that viable businesses should expect a fair hearing when seeking funding. The banks' balance sheets will be stronger once NAMA has taken over these loans and replaced them with Government guaranteed bonds; this will give the banks greater access to liquidity and make long-term funding cheaper.

To help address concerns over credit availability, under the NAMA Act I will shortly be issuing guidelines to ensure that SMEs, sole traders and farm enterprises will have recourse to an independent, external review of decisions of credit refusal by the NAMA participating banks. I hope that banks not participating in NAMA or covered by the Government guarantee will also decide to join the system. My aim is to have a simple, effective review process, run by people with experience and credibility. The banks must comply with the recommendations of the review process, or explain why they will not do so.

In addition to dealing with individual cases, the credit review system will examine the credit policies and practices of the banks in respect of SMEs. This will help me to decide what further action might be necessary to secure the flow of credit. I intend to publish the analysis from the review process so that the performance of the banks participating in NAMA will be clear to all. Work has been ongoing since December on the logistical aspects of the review system and it is envisaged that reviews will commence shortly.

Mortgage Arrears.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

68 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the work of the interdepartmental and expert mortgage arrears review group; when he expects this group to report and make recommendations; the terms of reference of this group; the reason there is no representative from the money advice and budgeting service in this group; if this apparent anomaly is set to be rectified; if he plans to introduce interim measures to relieve financial pressure on homeowners in arrears; the updated estimate of the number of homeowners in arrears and in negative equity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11644/10]

As the Deputy is aware, on 25th February 2010, I informed the Government of my proposals regarding expanding the membership of the Interdepartmental Mortgage Arrears Group, under the Chairmanship of Mr. Hugh Cooney who is an insolvency accountant. The other external members are as follows:

Name

Mr. Matthew Elderfield

Financial Regulator

Dr. David Duffy

ESRI

Mr. Pat Farrell

Irish Banking Federation (IBF)

Mr. Tom Foley

Irish Banking Federation (IBF)

Mr. Paul Joyce

Free Legal Advice Centre (FLAC)

Ms. Patricia T. Rickard-Clarke

Law Reform Commission (LRC)

Mr. Brendan Burgess

Independent Consultant

The Group will also include senior officials of the Departments of Finance, Taoiseach, Justice Equality and Law Reform, Social and Family Affairs, Communications Energy and Natural Resources, and Environment Heritage and Local Government. I am satisfied that the external members of the Group have the relevant expertise in areas relating to mortgage arrears and personal debt. In addition to the expertise of its own members the Group will be calling on others to provide it with material, covering all relevant areas, and this will naturally include the experiences of MABS in dealing with homeowners in arrears. The revamped Group had its first meeting on March 5th and is finalising the terms of reference. In general, the terms of reference will reflect the commitments made by the Government both in the Renewed Programme for Government and in subsequent Government decisions relating to the issues of mortgage arrears and personal debt.

The Group will focus initially on bringing forward recommendations in dealing with the mortgage arrears problem and will later address the personal debt issue. I expect that these recommendations will be made to me on a rolling basis as the Group progresses with its review. I will then consider the merits of each of the recommendations before deciding on whether to submit to Government for decision. The Deputy will be aware that the Financial Regulator recently published data on mortgage arrears for the period ended December 2009. As at December 2009, 28,603 mortgage accounts were in arrears for more than 90 days, of which 19,185 were more than 180 in arrears. It should be noted that the number of mortgage accounts is greater than the number of mortgaged homes by 20% or more.

All estimates of the extent of negative equity appear to be based on very general economic assumptions, but it is very difficult to assess realistic price levels when property market activity remains low. In any event, being in negative equity does not change the level of mortgage payments, so the problems it may cause are more long-term and should be considered on that basis. The Financial Regulator has estimated that only a small proportion of borrowers with the covered institutions who are in negative equity are in arrears on their payments.

Pension Provisions.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

69 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance his views on proposals to increase the retirement age of public servants; the impact that this will have on the public sector pension liability; when he plans to make these proposals public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11637/10]

I presume the Deputy's question relates to the increase in pension age for future recruits to the public service announced in Budget 2010. A retirement age of 70 years is to be introduced as part of the new arrangements also but, as the Deputy will be aware, this is in the context of no retirement age applying to public servants recruited after 1 April 2004. With regard to the matter of the increase in pension age, I would point out that this is one of a number of public service pension reform measures announced in the Budget. A key objective of this initiative is to secure sustainable, affordable and controllable public service pension costs in the medium to long term while ensuring that the Government and State continue to provide fair and adequate pensions in retirement.

As acknowledged in the National Pensions Framework, the task of financing increasing pension spending will, in future, fall on a diminishing share of the population. The proposals contained in the Budget are firmly supportive of the broader reform agenda in the Framework document. The new single public service pension scheme outlined in the Budget contains a provision to apply a minimum pension age of 66 years to future recruits. This provision will, henceforth, be linked to the State Pension age. The projected long run annual savings from this measure are estimated, in constant 2010 terms, at 500m euro. As indicated in the Budget, the details of the new scheme will be considered by Government following consultation between my Department and public service employers and unions. This process is well under way and it is intended to enact the necessary legislation so as to have the new arrangements in place by the end of the year.

Flood Relief.

Denis Naughten

Question:

70 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the steps he is taking to address the Shannon catchment flooding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11445/10]

A comprehensive management programme for the River Shannon is being addressed now through the Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme under the direction of the Office of Public Works. The CFRAM Programme underpins the essentials of the assessment of flood risk and the long-term planning risk assessment measures for the River Shannon catchment and other catchment areas throughout the country and includes capital, structural and non-structural measures. The CFRAM Programme is being delivered through the CFRAM Studies. The CFRAM studies are comprehensive catchment-based studies, which focus on and identify areas at risk from flood events for a range of severities and to produced a prioritised plan of measures and actions for dealing with areas where the risk is significant.

The Shannon FRAM study, which is expected to commence in mid-2010, will involve consultation with all of the main stakeholders, including the public, the ESB, Waterways Ireland, National Parks and Wildlife Service and relevant Local Authorities. The study will look at all options for dealing with areas of significant flood risk. The objective of this exercise is to determine relative roles and define relative responsibilities of all the main bodies involved with the Shannon, with a view to ensuring that all flood risk factors are identified and managed in a coordinated way.

The CFRAM Programme meets the requirements of the EU Water Framework Directive and the Flood Directive, which provide for a framework for a coordinated approach to the management of the river catchment systems. The EU Floods Directive is in the process of being transposed in Irish Law at present and by which OPW will be appointed as the Competent Authority to meet the requirements of the Directive. This legislation will reinforce the role of OPW in coordinating the management of the CFRAM programme.

Financial Services Regulation.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

71 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Finance if he has developed a framework to ensure credit flows and to provide an appeal against refusals; and when will this come into force. [11568/10]

The position is that under the NAMA Act I will shortly be issuing guidelines to ensure that SMEs, sole traders and farm enterprises will have recourse to an independent, external review of decisions of credit refusal by the NAMA participating banks. I hope that banks not participating in NAMA or covered by the Government guarantee will also decide to join the system. My aim is to have a simple, effective review process, run by people with experience and credibility. The banks must comply with the recommendations of the review process, or explain why they will not do so.

In addition to dealing with individual cases, the credit review system will examine the credit policies and practices of the banks in respect of SMEs. This will help me to decide what further action might be necessary to secure the flow of credit. I intend to publish the analysis from the review process so that the performance of the banks participating in NAMA will be clear to all. Mr John Trethowan, an experienced banker with a demonstrated commitment to public and social service, is overseeing the establishment of this credit review system with initial administrative support from Enterprise Ireland. Work has been ongoing since December on the logistical aspects of the review system and it is envisaged that Mr. Trethowan will be in a position to commence reviews shortly.

National Asset Management Agency.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

72 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the level of remuneration for board members of the National Asset Management Agency; if this was set prior to the pay cuts announced in budget 2010; if these pay cuts apply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11447/10]

Under section 21(1) and 25(9) of the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) Act 2009, I have approved the following fee arrangements. In setting the fees account was taken of the critical importance of the work to be undertaken by the Board and the fact that its workload will be excessive by normal standards in the first year of operation. I intend to review the fees after a year.

Chairperson — all inclusive fee of €170,000 per annum on the understanding that the incumbent is available without restriction.

Chairperson of Credit Committee — all inclusive fee of €150,000 per annum on the understanding that the incumbent works no less than 3 to 4 days a week.

Ordinary Board Members — fee of €50,000 per annum. Chair of other Committees — fee of €10,000 per annum in addition to Ordinary Board Member fee subject to a maximum of one per member.

The Board was appointed on 22 December 2009. Originally, the fees for the Chairperson and Ordinary Board Members were set at €100,000 and €38,000 respectively. Following discussions with the Chairperson and the Chief Executive of the National Treasury Management Agency last month and in light of the workload of the Board's operations over the initial period of its operation I revised these fees from a current date.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Joan Burton

Question:

73 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance his exit strategy from the blanket bank guarantee, issued on 30 September 2008; the credit institutions that have issued debt or other liabilities under the extended eligible liabilities guarantee; the amount of liabilities that have been raised to date under the eligible liabilities guarantee; the maturities of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11663/10]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme 2008 will expire on 29 September 2010. This scheme was introduced following the collapse of Lehmann Brothers and the following liquidity crisis of September 2008. However, the funding situation of Irish banks has improved dramatically in the intervening period and the blanket guarantee will no longer be necessary into the future.

A key feature of the new ELG Scheme introduced in December 2009 is access to longer-term funding, which is in line with the mainstream approach in the EU and is expected to contribute significantly to supporting the sustainable funding needs of the banks and to securing their continued stability. The structure of the ELG Scheme allows participating institutions to issue both guaranteed and unguaranteed liabilities, which will help reduce their reliance on State support over time as financial market conditions continue to improve. AIB, Anglo Irish Bank, Bank of Ireland, EBS, Irish Life & Permanent and the Irish Nationwide Building Society and named subsidiaries are the participating institutions in ELG. Deposits covered by the ELG Scheme at the end of February stood at €108bn, while debt covered by ELG was €37bn. The NTMA provide a comprehensive list on their website of securities which are guaranteed under ELG.

National Asset Management Agency.

Damien English

Question:

74 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Finance if he has received any report from the National Asset Management Agency on the progress of its work; and his views on whether the draft business plan still represents the best projection of the performance of the portfolio of bad loans that are to be acquired. [11600/10]

The CEO and Chairman of NAMA brief me on a regular basis about the progress of NAMA. There are also substantial provisions in the Act dealing with transparent reporting by NAMA and oversight of NAMA by the Oireachtas. The Act provides for NAMA to submit to me quarterly reports, which I shall lay before each House of the Oireachtas, as well as sending a copy to a Committee appointed by the Oireachtas to deal with NAMA. The publication of a Business Plan is a matter for the Board of NAMA which was appointed in December 2009. I am aware that the Board proposes to review the draft Business Plan published in October 2009 in the light of the extensive due diligence process currently under way and that any update to the Plan will be informed by the valuation of loans being transferred over the coming months. I am advised by NAMA that the NAMA Board proposes to publish a revised Business Plan by the 30th June 2010.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Willie Penrose

Question:

75 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Finance the progress made to date with respect to the viability and business plans for the credit institutions covered by the bank guarantee submitted to the EU Commission for consideration; when he expects opinions to be issued by the Commission in relation to each of the credit institutions concerned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11631/10]

Under EU State aid requirements the financial institutions which were recapitalised by the State — Allied Irish Banks, Anglo Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland — were obliged to submit a restructuring plan to the European Commission within six-months of receiving the Government injection of capital. The Bank of Ireland Plan was submitted to the Commission on 30 September 2009. The Allied Irish Banks Plan was submitted on 13 November 2009 and the Anglo Irish Bank Plan was submitted on 30 November 2009. Considerable discussion, dialogue and exchange of information is continuing as the Commission undertake their assessment of the restructuring plan in line with the applicable state aid rules. It is too early to speculate on how long this process will take and when final approval of the restructuring plans for the institutions will be granted by the Commission.

National Asset Management Agency.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

76 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance when he will publish an updated National Asset Management Agency business plan. [11628/10]

The publication of a Business Plan is a matter for the Board of NAMA which was appointed in December 2009. I am aware that the Board proposes to review the draft Business Plan published in October 2009 in the light of the extensive due diligence process currently under way and that any update to the Plan will be informed by the valuation of loans being transferred over the coming months. I am advised by NAMA that the NAMA Board proposes to publish a revised Business Plan by the 30th June 2010.

Pension Levy.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

77 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons who have been affected by the pension levy who do not have public service pensions, including educational contract workers; the amount to date deducted from their wages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11668/10]

The criteria for being covered by the pension-related deduction are that one is a public servant as defined in Section 1 of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009 and (i) is a member of a public service pension scheme as defined in section 1 of the Act or (ii) is entitled to a benefit under such a scheme or (iii) receives a payment in lieu of membership of such a scheme. In outline terms, therefore, the deduction applies to public servants who are employed by or hold an office or position in a public service body and are members of a public service pension scheme. I do not have the data requested by the Deputy but my understanding is that, in general, all staff in the public service who are employed on a contract of service are now eligible for admission to pension schemes. In this context a person who is on a contract and, for example, is in receipt of a payment in lieu of membership of a pension scheme, would be liable for the deduction.

National Asset Management Agency.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

78 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the timeline for transfer of loans to the National Asset Management Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11627/10]

NAMA has advised me that the process of transferring the eligible loans of participating institutions to NAMA should commence this month with the transfer of the first tranche, which has a nominal value of approximately €17 billion. Moreover, NAMA has also advised me that the transfer process is targeted for completion by the final quarter of the year.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

79 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the start date for National Asset Management Agency acquiring loans in view of the fact that the first round of loans will entail the top ten developers with the largest relative percentage of loans; if the Houses of the Oireachtas will have some oversight into this initial business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11446/10]

NAMA has advised me that the process of transferring the eligible loans of participating institutions to NAMA should commence this month with the transfer of the first tranche, which has a nominal value of approximately €17 billion. Moreover, NAMA has also advised me that the transfer process is targeted for completion by the final quarter of the year. As regards Oireachtas oversight of NAMA, I would point out that the first quarterly report of NAMA in respect of the quarter ending 31 March 2010 will be submitted to me on or before 30 June 2010 and will be laid before the House. Also, Section 59 of the NAMA Act makes provision for the Chairperson and CEO of NAMA to appear before a Committee of the Oireachtas to examine matters relating to NAMA if requested to do so.

State Banking Sector.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

80 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer and the 2010 cost of providing financial support to Anglo Irish Bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11633/10]

As the Deputy will be aware, €4bn in capital was provided to Anglo in 2009 from Exchequer funds, to protect the economy from the wider losses that would have occurred in the event of a failure of the bank, to protect the deposit base of the bank, and to prevent the bank becoming a systemic threat to the financial system. As I stated in my Second Stage speech on the NAMA Bill on 16 September last, it is likely that some institutions will require additional capital in order to absorb the losses arising from the transfer of their impaired assets to NAMA and in order to maintain appropriate levels of capital. I also made clear in the speech to the extent that sufficient capital cannot be raised independently or generated internally that the Government remains committed to providing such institutions with an appropriate level of capital to continue to meet their requirements.

Based on the information provided by me in mid-September to this House, the scale of Anglo's NAMA-eligible loans are such that they will give rise to a further capital requirement for the State. I am currently assessing the scale of any further capital support for Anglo Irish Bank in the light of the emerging accounting end year financial position of the bank, and the likely impact of the NAMA transfers over the course of 2010.

Question No. 81 answered with Question No. 60.

Financial Services Regulation.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

82 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether lending margins will increase and deposit rates paid to savers will fall at two banks (details supplied) during 2010. [11642/10]

The Deputy will appreciate that the named covered institutions are run as arm's length operations and as such it is not appropriate for me to comment on how they manage their pricing strategies. Given the need for all credit institutions at the moment to increase their deposit taking base in order to bolster their funding bases, competition for savings in the Irish market has led to an increase in interest rates paid to savers. I do not expect that the underlying conditions which led to this rise will change dramatically in the near future.

I have stated publicly that I was disappointed by recent decisions and announcements by covered institutions to increase their variable interest rates but unfortunately such increases reflect commercial market realities including the increased cost of accessing funds. Increasing costs of deposit interest rates being one of them. The Guarantee means that the covered institutions can in fact raise funds more cheaply than they otherwise would. This is a benefit to all of their customers. All covered institutions pay the State for the costs of the Guarantee. Interest rates are at historically low levels and are likely to remain very low for the foreseeable future in overall terms and this has provided significant support for customers in the current challenging economic and financial environment.

Economic Competitiveness.

Mary Upton

Question:

83 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether the rent demands by commercial landlords, particularly in the retail sector, undermine efforts to restore competitiveness and pose an ongoing and significant risk to economic recovery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11656/10]

A key part to restoring sustainable economic growth is an improvement in our competitiveness. In order to compete internationally it is essential that we ensure that all our cost pressures are kept under control. In this regard, domestically-driven costs such as rents must reflect the new economic realities that all in business face. While I have no specific legislative role with regard to commercial rents, what I would like to see is the necessary appropriate price adjustments taking place, thus ensuring that the competitive position of business is improved at all stages.

National Asset Management Agency.

Ulick Burke

Question:

84 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Finance if shareholders have been identified for the special purpose vehicles to be established by the National Asset Management Agency. [11567/10]

This is an issue for the Board of NAMA, which advises me that NAMA is in advanced discussions with a number of interested parties who have indicated an interest in becoming shareholders in the NAMA Master SPV.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

85 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether the completion of the National Asset Management Agency will not see a significant increase in lending here; his further views on whether private sector credit will continue to contract over the remainder of 2010 and during 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11640/10]

The second Mazars report on credit availability, published in December, confirmed that while some businesses are facing significant challenges accessing credit, and the SME sector in general is more conservative in its borrowing, nevertheless businesses surveyed confirmed that new lending is still taking place. However, the proportion of refused credit, especially in certain sectors, remains a concern for Government. It should be noted that Central Bank figures for lending are net of provisions against possible loan losses. The most recent monthly statistics, which cover January 2010, note that just over half of the annual decline in headline private sector credit is as a result of valuation effects, such as write-downs of loans and increased bad debt provisions.

I have said before that the banks should be in a better position to lend once the riskiest loans have been removed from their balance sheets and that viable businesses should expect a fair hearing when seeking funding. The banks' balance sheets will be stronger once NAMA has taken over these loans and replaced them with Government guaranteed bonds; this will give the banks greater access to liquidity and make long-term funding cheaper.

To help address concerns over credit availability, under the NAMA Act I will shortly be issuing guidelines to ensure that SMEs, sole traders and farm enterprises will have recourse to an independent, external review of decisions of credit refusal by the NAMA participating banks. I hope that banks not participating in NAMA or covered by the Government guarantee will also decide to join the system. My aim is to have a simple, effective review process, run by people with experience and credibility. The banks must comply with the recommendations of the review process, or explain why they will not do so.

In addition to dealing with individual cases, the credit review system will examine the credit policies and practices of the banks in respect of SMEs. This will help me to decide what further action might be necessary to secure the flow of credit. I intend to publish the analysis from the review process so that the performance of the banks participating in NAMA will be clear to all. Work has been ongoing since December on the logistical aspects of the review system and it is envisaged that reviews will commence shortly.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

86 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance if he has engaged consultants, or any State agency, to examine and monitor the non-National Asset Management Agency loan books of the guaranteed credit institutions; if he has a reliable estimate of the losses likely to be incurred on these loan books; if he envisages having to provide State financial support to any of the guaranteed credit institutions arising from these sub-NAMA loan books above and beyond post-NAMA recapitalisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11658/10]

The Financial Regulator is currently in the process of examining the capital needs of credit institutions based on its assessment of the loan books of the institutions both pre and post NAMA and other factors. In its analysis and consideration of the matter, the Regulator has had the benefit of external assistance regarding the financial position of some institutions. I have kept in touch with the Regulator and when the figures are finalised I will consider the implications for the institution and any financial support that might be needed.

Mortgage Arrears.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

87 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the interdepartmental group on debt and mortgage arrears; the number of times this group has met to date; the timeframe within which this group will report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9232/10]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

90 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance when the new personal debt committee will be established; if the membership will be representative of groups affected by personal debt; when same will report; if he is committed to implementing the committee’s proposals, even if they incur a cost to the Exchequer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11453/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 87 and 90 together.

Last November after the publication of the Renewed Programme for Government and the Governments decision to review the mortgage arrears issue, I approved the setting up of an Inter-Departmental Mortgage Arrears Review Group, for the purpose of bringing together all relevant information in Departments and examining options in relation to the matter of support for home owners facing the problems of mortgage arrears and repossessions. This Group met on two occasions. On 25th February 2010 after consultations with my Cabinet colleagues, I informed the Government of my proposals to expand the membership of the Group to include external experts, under the independent Chairmanship of Mr. Hugh Cooney an insolvency accountant, and to extend the remit to include personal debt.

The other external members of the Group are as follows:

Name

Mr. Matthew Elderfield

Financial Regulator

Dr. David Duffy

ESRI

Mr. Pat Farrell

Irish Banking Federation (IBF)

Mr. Tom Foley

Irish Banking Federation (IBF)

Mr. Paul Joyce

Free Legal Advice Centre (FLAC)

Ms. Patricia T. Rickard-Clarke

Law Reform Commission (LRC)

Mr. Brendan Burgess

Independent Consultant

The Group also includes senior officials of the Departments of Finance, Taoiseach, Justice Equality and Law Reform, Social and Family Affairs, Communications Energy and Natural Resources, and Environment Heritage and Local Government.

The revamped Group has met once on March 5th and will focus initially on bringing forward recommendations in dealing with the mortgage arrears problem and will later address the personal debt issue. I expect that these recommendations will be made to me on a rolling basis as the Group progresses with its review. I will then consider the merits of each of the recommendations before deciding on whether to submit to Government for decision. The Deputy will appreciate that all proposals will need to be fully costed before being recommended to Government and will also have to represent value for money from the point of view of the Government and taxpayers.

Banking Sector Regulation.

Liz McManus

Question:

88 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Finance the actions that are being taken to improve the funding position of a building society (details supplied); if his attention has been drawn to the imminent plans to spin the bank off from its parent holding company and insurance arm; if options are being explored which would see this building society form part of a third banking force. [11635/10]

The Deputy will be aware that the named covered institution operates as a commercial financial institution subject to relevant regulatory approval. On 18 January 2010, the institution restructured its organisation by way of a scheme of arrangement with shareholders to form a new group holding company, the purpose of which is to maintain maximum flexibility in the group's corporate structure. I have indicated publicly that I am considering all options for restructuring within the banking sector, which is an ongoing matter. Currently I do not favour any particular option.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

89 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance the reason the de-listing of a bank or other company from the stock market would make the later disposal, or part disposal, of same more difficult and expensive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11653/10]

I would note that I have no function in relation to listing of companies or otherwise. In general terms, the maintenance of a stock market quote for a company such as a bank allows a value to be put on its business throughout the business cycle. A listed bank also continues to report on its performance to the market, filing its accounts and other requirements as appropriate. Once a company de-lists from the stock market, the market valuation guide as to what that company is worth in overall terms is no longer available. In addition, should the company become a private company the disclosure requirements for the entity may reduce. To effect a partial or complete sale in the future of such a de-listed company, would therefore require a detailed information gathering process and valuation exercises.

Question No. 90 answered with Question No. 87.

Flood Relief.

Phil Hogan

Question:

91 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Finance if he has assessed the possibility of merging existing agencies or responsibilities of agencies into a single River Shannon organisation that would plan for flooding and related matters along the River Shannon catchment area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9622/10]

A comprehensive management programme for the River Shannon is being addressed now through the Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme under the direction of the Office of Public Works. The CFRAM Programme underpins the essentials of the assessment of flood risk and the long-term planning of the flood risk management measures for the River Shannon catchment and other catchment areas throughout the country and includes capital, structural and non-structural measures.

The CFRAM studies are comprehensive catchment-based studies, which focus on and identify areas at risk from flood events for a range of severities and to produce a prioritised plan of measures and actions for dealing with areas where the risk is significant, and to ensure that all flood risk factors are identified and managed in a coordinated way. The Shannon FRAM study, which is expected to commence in mid-2010, will involve consultation with all of the main stakeholders, including the public, the ESB, Waterways Ireland, National Parks and Wildlife Service and relevant Local Authorities.

The CFRAM programme meets the requirements of the EU Water Framework Directive and the EU Floods Directive, which provide for a framework for a coordinated approach to the management of the river catchment systems. The Floods Directive is being transposed into national law at present, and the OPW will be appointed as the Competent Authority under the requirements of the Directive. This legislation will reinforce the role of OPW in coordinating the management of the CFRAM programme.

Departmental Investigations.

Martin Ferris

Question:

92 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Finance if he will take suggestions from the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance and the Public Service which will view the two expert reports on the banking crisis in May 2010; if he will use those suggestions to form the terms of reference for the banking inquiry commission; if all parties will get an opportunity to give feedback on these reports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11451/10]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

97 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance if he has decided on the membership of the commission of inquiry; if he will take suggestions from political parties in the Houses of the Oireachtas on suitable members for the inquiry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11452/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 92 and 97 together.

As the Deputies are aware, the result of the Governor of the Central Bank's investigation, as well as the report by Mr. Klaus Regling and Mr Max Watson will provide the basis for identifying the further specific issues that need to be examined further by the Commission of Investigation. Thereafter, following consideration of the reports from the Governor and Messrs Regling and Watson, I will bring proposals to Government, on the establishment of a statutory Commission of Investigation, under the provisions of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004.

As I made clear in my Statement on 19 January, the Oireachtas will be involved at each stage of the planned inquiry process as follows:

the Finance and Public Service Committee has already met both the Governor and the independent expert at the outset of their work to be briefed on the members' priorities for investigation;

the two preliminary reports, when completed, will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas and the Oireachtas Committee will be invited to consider the findings of the reports;

the terms of reference and draft Government Order to establish the statutory Commission of Investigation will be laid before the Oireachtas; and

the report of the Commission of Investigation will, when completed, be laid before the Oireachtas for further consideration by the Committee. It is open to the Committee to hold public hearings on the Report.

As far as the issue of the membership of the Commission of Inquiry is concerned, this matter will be considered by Government in due course.

Financial Services Regulation.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

93 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance his views on the withdrawal of banks (details supplied) from the retail banking market here; his views on the diminished competition in this sector; if he envisages a new strategic partner for An Post to continue the delivery of basic financial services throughout its extensive branch network; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11647/10]

The Deputy's question refers to the withdrawal of Halifax and Postbank from the retail banking market in the State. The withdrawal of banks from the State, while regrettable, is a commercial decision for the banks themselves. The Financial Regulator is working with both Postbank and Bank of Scotland (Ireland) Ltd. (in respect of Halifax), to ensure that consumers' interests are protected in accordance with the Financial Regulator's Consumer Protection Code.

An Post has a strong retail presence throughout the State with its network of computerised post offices. Whilst the wind down of Postbank is disappointing, the underlying strengths of the network will allow An Post to develop other strategic opportunities in the financial services business. I understand that the board and management of An Post are actively engaged in this process. In addition, An Post offers banking services at post offices as an agent of a well known bank.

State Banking Sector.

Richard Bruton

Question:

94 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance his proposal for the separation of a bad bank within Anglo Irish Bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11565/10]

As the Deputy may be aware, on 30 November last Anglo Irish Bank submitted its Restructuring Plan to the European Commission as required under EU State aid rules in line with the requirement of the relevant Commission guidance. The Restructuring Plan considers all options for the future of the bank, in order to ensure that the evaluation of the plan is based on comprehensive information. As I have noted previously, the submission of the plan by Anglo to the European Commission marked the beginning of a detailed and comprehensive evaluation process in advance of any final decision by the Commission on the plan. This process is ongoing and involves extensive consultation and dialogue between the Commission, the Irish authorities and the bank.

As part of the process, Anglo is now undertaking further detailed work in relation to the plan. The Deputy will understand that in view of the commercial sensitivities involved it would not be appropriate for me to make public or comment on any detailed elements of the plan. As I have stated previously, I am committed to working closely with the Commission and the bank to achieve the best possible outcome for the State from the restructuring process for Anglo Irish Bank.

Question No. 95 answered with Question No. 67.

Banking Sector Recapitalisation.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

96 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if he expects the 8% preference dividend of €280 million due by a bank (details supplied) in May 2010 will be paid or whether the issues raised by the European Commission will have been resolved in the meantime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11170/10]

During 2009 the European Commission indicated that, in line with its policy on State Aid and pending its assessment of the named bank's restructuring plan, it should not make coupon payments on its tier 1 and tier 2 capital instruments unless under a binding legal obligation to do so. The bank agreed to this request by the Commission and resolved not to pay the non-cumulative distribution on a Sterling Security, which is guaranteed and which had been due to be paid on 14 December 2009. The effect of this decision by the bank was to trigger the ‘Dividend Stopper' provisions of the securities, which precluded it for a period of one calendar year from and including 14 December 2009, from declaring and paying certain distributions or dividends including its ordinary shares and the Irish Government €3.5 billion preference shares.

The Bank would be precluded, should the ‘Dividend Stopper' remain in force, from paying the dividend due on the preference shares on 13 May 2010. Under these circumstances, in accordance with the terms of the preference shares, the National Pension Reserve Fund Commission would become entitled to be issued with, at a date in the future, a number of ordinary shares related to the cash amount of the dividend that would otherwise have been payable. It is not for me to pre-empt the work of the European Commission. It is our preference to receive the dividend so if the prohibition is lifted before that date there is scope for a cash payment. If not, we will take ordinary shares in the bank.

Question No. 97 answered with Question No. 92.

National Asset Management Agency.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

98 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance if the revised National Asset Management Agency business plan will provide a more realistic assessment of the likely cost of fees and expenses for which an annual amount of €240 million was foreseen in the original draft business plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11639/10]

The figures included in the draft Business Plan last October were indicative figures and were estimated before conclusion of tendering processes for the various services required by NAMA. I would expect that costs will be reviewed by the NAMA Board and that the estimates provided in the draft Business Plan will be updated in any revised version of the Plan. I should point out that costs arising in 2010 from the due diligence process currently under way are recoverable from the participating institutions. I understand also that, due to the very competitive pricing submitted as part of the various tenders, costs are likely to be substantially less than originally envisaged. I am advised by NAMA that the NAMA Board proposes to publish a revised Business Plan by the 30th June 2010.

Financial Services Regulation.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

99 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance if he will make a statement on the recent announcement by a bank (details supplied) that it has increased the interest rates it charges on some personal loans and overdrafts; and if his attention has been drawn to the strain that this increase in charges will have on struggling families. [11449/10]

The increase in the interest rates on some personal loans and overdrafts reflects the commercial market realities which the bank faces. Basically, the bank must pay more to access the funds which it uses to operate. Although the ECB base rate remains at historic lows, the level of interest rates also depends on a broad range of factors including deposit rates, market funding costs, the competitive environment, an institution's overall funding.

With regard to the impact on Irish families of these changes, it is self evident that any increase in interest rates will have a negative impact on the disposable income of households. The Government has through a number of measures, including the Mortgage Interest Subsidy Scheme and the moratorium on home repossessions, sought to ease the burden of the recession for the most vulnerable members of Irish society. However, I do not have any function in the day to day running of the recapitalised banks and have no role in setting interest rates.

National Treasury Management Agency.

Pat Breen

Question:

100 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether the secrecy surrounding the pay levels of senior executives connected to the National Treasury Management Agency is justified. [11562/10]

According to the National Treasury Management Agency's most recent Annual Report, total salaries and bonuses in the Agency amounted to €19.9 million in 2008. The remuneration packages of all Agency staff are negotiated on an individual contract basis and are confidential. There are no proposals to amend the current arrangements at this stage.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

101 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which the proposals and provisions set out in the context of the National Asset Management Agency have been achieved in accordance with projections; if he is satisfied that original projections in this regard are realisable; if the taxpayers’ interests are adequately protected and safeguarded having regard to developments to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11666/10]

The NAMA legislation provides for an annual statement to be produced by NAMA and for NAMA to submit quarterly reports, which I will make available to the Oireachtas. The first of these quarterly reports is in respect of the quarter ended 31 March 2010 and is due to be submitted to me on or before 30 June 2010. The draft Business Plan, published by the interim NAMA in October 2009, sets out certain targets and projections for NAMA. The publication of a business plan is a matter for the Board of NAMA which was appointed in December 2009.

I am aware that the Board proposes to review the Business Plan in the light of the extensive due diligence process currently under way and that any update to the Plan will be informed by information gleaned during that process and by the valuation of loans being transferred over the coming months. I am advised by NAMA that the NAMA Board proposes to publish a revised Business Plan by the 30th June 2010.

Tax Code.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

102 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Finance if he will address the concerns of a manufacturing company (details supplied) regarding the increased costs arising from the carbon tax being added to its liabilities covered by the emissions trading scheme; the reason those who use natural tax are not being exempted when those who use fuel oils are being exempted; if this is in conflict with his policy as required by the Environmental Protection Agency in its preconditions for the granting of an IPC licence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11443/10]

The Finance Bill 2010 provides more detail on how the carbon tax will operate in relation to installations that are covered by the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS). A full exemption applies to EU ETS installations in the powergen sector, but ETS installations in other sectors will be required to comply with EU minimum excise rates. In practice, no additional charge arises in the case of mineral oils, as the existing mineral oil tax rates all satisfy the EU minimum rates and those companies within the ETS continue to pay those minimum rates. However, implications do arise, for example, in the case of gas as it has not been taxed up to this point. The carbon tax therefore brings gas into the tax net for the first time; consequently, the EU minimum rate is being applied. The EU minimum rate in the case of gas is about one sixth of the carbon tax rate i.e. 54 cents per megawatt hour. I do not consider that the application of EU minimum excise rates is in conflict with preconditions for licences granted by the EPA.

National Asset Management Agency.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

103 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance if he has been approached by any interested parties with respect to taking shareholdings in the National Asset Management Agency special purpose vehicle; when he expects these investments to be concluded and the terms; his views on whether such shareholdings were to be held by the investment arms of credit institutions participating in NAMA; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11659/10]

This is an issue for the Board of NAMA, which advises me that NAMA is in advanced discussions with a number of interested parties who have indicated an interest in becoming shareholders in the NAMA Master SPV.

Banking Sector Regulation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

104 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if banking policy in 2010 has changed to meet the needs of the current economic climate; the steps he has taken to achieve this objective; if he has sought any information from the banking sector with a view to ensuring the availability of the necessary capital for the manufacturing, commercial, services and other sectors; if any such response is adequate to meet current requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11665/10]

My Department receives a range of reports on developments in the banking sector from the Central Bank, the Financial Regulator and the NTMA. In addition, both Allied Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland submit quarterly reports in respect of the credit packages they implemented under the terms of their respective recapitalisations. I have outlined the range of reports received in more detail in a further question submitted by the Deputy for answer today. The second Mazars report on credit availability, published in December, confirmed that while some businesses are facing significant challenges accessing credit, and the SME sector in general is more conservative in its borrowing, nevertheless businesses surveyed confirmed that new lending is still taking place. However, the proportion of refused credit, especially in certain sectors, remains a concern for Government.

To help address this concern, under the NAMA Act I will shortly be issuing guidelines to ensure that SMEs, sole traders and farm enterprises will have recourse to an independent, external review of decisions of credit refusal by the NAMA participating banks. I hope that banks not participating in NAMA or covered by the Government guarantee will also decide to join the system. My aim is to have a simple, effective review process, run by people with experience and credibility. The banks must comply with the recommendations of the review process, or explain why they will not do so.

In addition to dealing with individual cases, the credit review system will examine the credit policies and practices of the banks in respect of SMEs. This will help me to decide what further action might be necessary to secure the flow of credit. I intend to publish the analysis from the review process so that the performance of the banks participating in NAMA will be clear to all. Mr John Trethowan, an experienced banker with a demonstrated commitment to public and social service, is overseeing the establishment of this credit review system with initial administrative support from Enterprise Ireland. Work has been ongoing since December on the logistical aspects of the review system and it is envisaged that Mr. Trethowan will be in a position to commence reviews shortly.

Banking Sector Recapitalisation.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

105 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Finance the current regulatory capital requirements for banks here; the way he expects these requirements to evolve in the coming years; the level of capital that is now expected by financial markets; the benchmark for capital levels that underpins preparations for the National Asset Management Agency and subsequent recapitalisation of the banking sector here; his views on whether there are market expectations that bank recapitalisation is done up front rather than in a staged, multi annual manner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11651/10]

Levels of regulatory capital that banks must hold as a cushion against the credit and other risks that they must run are established by the so-called Basel II Framework, which was adopted in 2004, implemented in Ireland and across the EU in 2006 and which came into effect from 1 January 2008. The Basel II Framework was agreed by members of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, which provides a forum for regular cooperation on banking supervisory matters. While Ireland is not a member of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, we are represented by the European Commission. Ireland considers all proposals and contributes to discussions taking place at European level on these issues.

The Capital Requirements Directive (CRD) implements the Basel II framework in the European Union. The CRD comprises two directives — Directive 2006/48/EC relating to the taking up and pursuit of the business of credit institutions and Directive 2006/49/2006 on the capital adequacy of investment firms and credit institutions. Irish banks are required to calculate capital requirements and maintain a minimum level of their own funds in accordance with the CRD. Specifically, Article 75 of the Directive 2006/48/EC refers to the minimum level of own funds required. However, in relation to minimum own funds there are a number of relevant Articles including Articles 22, 109, 123, 124 and 136.

I indicated last September that, following the transfer of eligible bank loans to NAMA, it is likely that institutions will require additional capital and that each institution should explore all available options, both internal and external, for raising such capital. However, I also stated that, to the extent that the institutions are not in a position to raise sufficient capital from such sources, the Government remains committed, consistent with EU rules, to providing relevant banks and building societies with an appropriate level of capital to enable them to continue to meet their regulatory requirements.

In light of its responsibility for the implementation of the CRD, the Financial Regulator is currently assessing the capital requirements arising for those credit institutions participating in NAMA to ensure that the banking system in Ireland meets appropriate regulatory standards and market expectations. Recent developments have demonstrated that capital requirements are at the heart of the soundness and stability of individual institutions and the financial system overall and that context, it should be noted that the CRD is already being reviewed. The European Commission is expected to make proposals to amend the CRD later this year. Therefore, in order to address issues that emerge, the CRD can be expected to evolve to cater for such situations.

Question No. 106 answered with Question No. 52.

Banking Sector Regulation.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

107 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance if he will comment on reports that Anglo Irish Bank is set to post record losses in the region of €10 billion to €12 billion for the 15 month period to the end of 2009; if he would expect further asset write-downs at Anglo Irish Bank during the 2010 accounting period; if there are implications for the balance sheets of two banks (details supplied) arising from the Anglo Irish Bank write-downs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11660/10]

Anglo Irish Bank is currently preparing its accounts for the fifteen month period to 31 December 2009. These accounts have not been finalised and it would therefore not be appropriate for me to comment on these in view of the commercial sensitivities involved. In terms of write downs, I would note that these are booked by financial institutions, based on defined accounting and legal requirements, and are impacted by a range of factors including the position of an institution's different borrowers, the financial structure and collateral position of the institution's loans, and relevant financial market conditions as well as the general economic position. Assessments on write downs are consequently a matter for each individual financial institution and its auditors, taking into account its accounting and legal obligations.

Based on the information provided by me in mid-September to this House, the scale of Anglo's NAMA-eligible loans are such that they will give rise to a further capital requirement for the State. I am currently assessing the scale of any further capital support for Anglo Irish Bank in the light of the emerging accounting end year financial position of the bank, and the likely impact of the NAMA transfers over the course of 2010. As I stated in my Second Stage speech on the NAMA Bill on 16 September last, it is likely that some institutions will require additional capital in order to absorb the losses arising from the transfer of their impaired assets to NAMA and in order to maintain appropriate levels of capital. I also made clear in the speech to the extent that sufficient capital cannot be raised independently or generated internally that the Government remains committed to providing such institutions with an appropriate level of capital to continue to meet their requirements.

National Pensions Reserve Fund.

Jack Wall

Question:

108 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if he foresees a future role for the National Pensions Reserve Fund making directed investments in infrastructure projects here which deliver a commercial rate of return; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11645/10]

The National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF) was established in 2001 under the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000. The purpose in establishing the NPRF was to meet as much as possible of the cost to the Exchequer of social welfare pensions and public service pensions to be paid from the year 2025 until at least 2055.

The Act provided for the establishment of the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission. The Commission is solely responsible for the control, management and investment of the assets of the Fund (other than assets which the Minister for Finance has directed the Commission to invest in a listed credit institution under the provisions of the Investment of the National Pensions Reserve Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2009) and for determining the investment strategy for the Fund in accordance with Fund investment policy. The Commission is required to invest the assets of the Fund so as to secure the optimal total financial return, having regard to the purpose of the Fund and the eventual requirements on the Fund to make payments to the Exchequer, provided the level of risk to the moneys held or invested is acceptable to the Commission. It is open to the Commission to invest in infrastructure projects by way of participation in a public-private partnership. The Commission would of course have to satisfy itself that the investment was in accordance with its investment mandate.

I note that, in a recent letter to the Committee of Public Accounts, the National Treasury Management Agency stated that infrastructure, as a long-term investment, is a natural asset class for the NPRF and that the NPRF is keen to access PPP investments where the risk/return characteristics satisfy its statutory commercial investment mandate. Moreover, I understand that recent changes to the tendering process for PPPs will facilitate NPRF involvement in PPPs. However, because of the timing of current PPP projects, a potential funding opportunity for the NPRF is not expected until at least late 2010.

The letter also noted that the NPRF is committed to supporting domestic investment where the investment terms satisfy its risk and return requirements. It has had a particular focus on the venture capital sector and has to date made a total commitment of €68 million to four Irish venture capital funds.

Misuse of Drugs.

Joe Costello

Question:

109 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Finance if he has given consideration to making it illegal for any retailer to sell any product advertised as a legal high or similar substance or preparation without a licence issued by the Revenue Commissioners and on payment of an appropriate fee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11662/10]

I share the Deputy's concerns about this issue. However, I do not consider that requiring licensing through the Revenue Commissioners is the appropriate means for dealing with the issue. The Deputy may be aware that the Government recently decided to commence a notification process, under the appropriate EC Directives, of our intention to make a Declaration Order under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 declaring certain substances, products and preparations to be controlled drugs for the purposes of the Misuse of Drugs Acts 1977 and 1984.

Financial Services Regulation.

Joe Carey

Question:

110 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Finance the progress that has been made in developing a policy to assist people who are experiencing difficulty in meeting their debt repayments. [11570/10]

The Renewed Program for Government sets out the Government's commitments for introducing new measures to protect families having difficulties with their mortgage repayments and personal indebtedness under the headings Protecting the Family Home and Helping Those in Debt. Last November I approved the setting up of an Inter-Departmental Mortgage Arrears Review Group, for the purpose of bringing together all relevant information in Departments and examining options in relation to the matter of support for home owners facing the problems of mortgage arrears and repossessions. This Group met on two occasions and commenced bringing forward options for dealing with the issue of mortgage arrears.

I have since discussed with Cabinet colleagues proposals to revamp this Group under an independent Chair and expand it to bring in additional expertise and to extend its remit to include the issue of personal debt. On 25th February 2010, I informed the Government of my proposal to extend the membership of the Group to be chaired by Mr Hugh Cooney an insolvency accountant, along with details of the other external appointees. The revamped Group met on 5th March 2010 and will focus initially on making recommendations for dealing with the mortgage arrears problem. The personal debt issue will then be addressed.

In my Budget speech in December the Government refocused mortgage interest relief on those who bought their homes at the peak of the market, many of whom find themselves in negative equity. Where a homeowner's entitlement to mortgage interest relief would expire in 2010 or after, they will now continue to receive it up to the end of 2017. The Deputy will be aware of other supports in place, including the Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears, the Mortgage Interest Subsidy Scheme and the services provided by the Money Advice Budgeting Services, all of which I have spoken about extensively in this House over the past number of months.

In addition, in my Budget speech, I said that I would be asking the Financial Regulator to examine extending the 6 month moratorium on legal proceedings to 12 months for all lenders. On 5 February, the Financial Regulator announced that with effect from 17 February, the Statutory Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears has been amended to require that a regulated firm must wait at least 12 months from the time arrears first arise before applying to the courts to commence enforcement of any legal action on repossession of a borrower's primary residence.

As a further support, the Irish Bankers Federation, representing the mainstream lenders, published a Statement of Intent in November 2009 which provides further reassurance to homeowners who find themselves genuinely unable to maintain repayments on their principal private residence. The Statement of Intent has been agreed and supported by all IBF members and is a welcome development. The Law Reform Commission's Consultation Paper on Personal Debt Management and Debt Enforcement, published in September 2009, contains an extensive list of provisional recommendations for reform of the law on personal debt that includes provision for a system of non-judicial debt settlement. The Commission is aiming to have its Final Report available by end of August 2010.

The Government has also approved the establishment of an Inter-Departmental Working Group on Personal Debt Management and Enforcement chaired by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to consider the commitment under "Helping those in Debt" envisaged in the Renewed Programme for Government. The Working Group will agree a plan for implementation, where appropriate, of the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission, assist in the development of a coherent and comprehensive administrative and legislative response to the issues arising, and, determine those measures, administrative and legislative, that can be implemented in a cost efficient manner, for early effective results.

The Enforcement of Court Orders (Amendment) Act 2009, provides that certain safeguards will apply to the provisions under which a court may hear an application or grant an imprisonment order against a debtor who has failed to comply with an instalment order. The Act ensures that the court will not imprison the debtor unless it is satisfied that he has the means to pay and may also postpone the execution of an imprisonment order until such time as it thinks just. In addition, the court will inform a debtor of the risk of imprisonment and of his entitlement to apply for legal aid. The Act gives the court a clear power to vary the terms of an order to pay by instalments or alternatively to refer the parties for mediation.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

111 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance his views on the current small and medium enterprise lending environment; his further views on proposals which would ameliorate this lending environment; the discussions he has had with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment regarding the possibility of implementing an SME working capital loan guarantee scheme; the level of funding that is to be made available to any such scheme for 2010 and 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11641/10]

The second Mazars report on credit availability, published in December, confirmed that while some SMEs are facing significant challenges accessing credit, and the sector in general is more conservative in its borrowing, nevertheless new lending is still taking place. However, the proportion of refused credit, especially in certain sectors, remains a concern for Government.

Under the NAMA legislation I will shortly be issuing guidelines to all banks participating in NAMA who lend to SMEs, to ensure that SMEs, sole traders and farm enterprises will have recourse to an independent, external review of decisions of credit refusal by the banks. The purpose of this measure is to ensure that the benefits of NAMA lead to an improved flow of credit to viable businesses. I hope that banks not participating in NAMA or covered by the Government guarantee will also decide to participate. My aim is to have a simple, effective review process, run by people with experience and credibility. The banks must comply with the recommendations of the review process, or explain why they will not do so.

In addition to dealing with individual cases, the credit review system will examine the credit policies and practices of the banks in respect of SMEs. This will help me to decide what further action might be necessary to secure the flow of credit. I intend to publish the analysis from the review process so that the performance of the banks participating in NAMA will be clear to all. Mr John Trethowan, an experienced banker with a demonstrated commitment to public and social service, is overseeing the establishment of this credit review system with initial administrative support from Enterprise Ireland. Work has been ongoing since December on the logistical aspects of the review system and it is envisaged that Mr. Trethowan will be in a position to commence reviews shortly.

With regard to the possibility of implementing an SME loan guarantee scheme, I understand that an examination of the proposal is underway in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Enterprise Ireland and Forfás have carried out examinations of loan guarantee schemes in the UK and in some other countries. Forfás, together with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, is carrying out a further examination, and on completion of this work the Tánaiste will bring the results before Government. Any scheme developed must directly assist businesses, while at the same time safeguarding the interests of the taxpayer.

Banking Sector Regulation.

Bernard Allen

Question:

112 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether it continues to be appropriate that the target of promoting the development of the financial service sector be part of the mandate of the Central Bank. [11556/10]

Section 5A(1)(b) of the Central Bank Act 1942, as amended, provides that the Bank has as a function "to promote the development within the State of the financial services industry (but in such a way as not to affect the objective of the Bank in contributing to the stability of the State's financial system)". The powers and functions of the Central Bank, including section 5A(1)(b), are currently being examined in the context of the Government's programme to reform the institutional structures for regulation of financial services in Ireland and I will be bringing legislative proposals in this regard to Dáil Éireann in the near future.

Economic and Monetary Union.

James Bannon

Question:

113 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Finance his proposals to develop better tools within the euro zone for dealing with imbalances within member states. [11558/10]

Within monetary union, imbalances within individual Member States can potentially undermine the credibility of the single currency, thereby raising borrowing costs for all. It is, therefore, in the interests of all countries to reduce imbalances. Appropriate income and fiscal policies as well as enhanced flexibility are some of the measures which can reduce imbalances and help to ensure a smoother functioning of monetary union. This is why this Government has pursued the policy of restoring sustainability and credibility to the public finances and continues to take the necessary steps to address our high cost position which has emerged in recent years.

National Pensions Reserve Fund.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

114 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of the interdepartmental committee which was set up to consider the issue of an ethical investment policy for the National Pensions Reserve Fund, he will confirm that its work has been completed and its report is now available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11442/10]

I announced, during the debate on the Investment of the National Pensions Reserve Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2009 last March, that the preparation of the draft legislation provided an opportunity to consider once again the position regarding ethical investment and that I would establish an Interdepartmental Committee to examine the issues further and to report to me. The Committee includes representatives of the Ministers for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Foreign Affairs, as well as officials from my Department and representatives of the National Treasury Management Agency as Manager of the NPRF. I understand that the Committee's report, which is now complete, is undergoing final checking and proof reading and I expect it to be presented to me shortly.

Financial Services Regulation.

Bernard Allen

Question:

115 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Finance his plans for the increase in staff within the Central Bank and financial regulatory system; and if the embargo is being applied in these bodies. [11557/10]

In accordance with the Central Bank of Ireland Act 1942 (as amended), the employment of staff in the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland (other than the Governor, the Registrar of Credit Unions and the Chief Executive of the Regulatory Authority) is a matter solely for the Board of the Bank, the Regulatory Authority and the Governor and is not a matter in which I have a role. However, I am informed by the Bank that the staff complement of the Financial Regulator will increase by some 140 staff in 2010 with further significant increases in staff planned for the following couple of years.

Flood Relief.

Denis Naughten

Question:

116 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide funding for a relocation grant to persons affected by the recent flooding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11444/10]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to PQ 135 on 3rd February and confirm that I have no plans to introduce a grant for home relocation. As stated previously, the Government allocated €10m to fund a Humanitarian Assistance Scheme administered by the Community Welfare Service of the Health Service Executive on behalf of the Department of Social and Family Affairs. 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.

Banking Sector Recapitalisation.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

117 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance the way the State takeover of banks here would have dried up funding for the banks and the State; if he envisages such problems if and when the State takes majority control of the same banks post National Asset Management Agency and post recapitalisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11654/10]

Funding for banks depends on many factors, including current market conditions, collateral available to the banks, and capital and ownership structures of the banks. The Financial Regulator and the Central Bank, in conjunction with my Department and the NTMA, keep the liquidity and funding of the Irish banking system under constant review.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

118 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer and the 2010 cost of providing financial support for two banks (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11634/10]

In 2009, the Government invested €3.5bn each in AIB and Bank of Ireland in return for preference shares. This recapitalisation programme was funded from the National Pensions Reserve Fund. €4 billion came from the Fund's current resources while €3 billion was provided by means of a front-loading of the Exchequer contributions for 2009 and 2010. With regard to further possible State recapitalisation of either AIB or Bank of Ireland I understand that both institutions are actively exploring the option of capital raising in the private markets and this would be the Government's preferred option of raising capital. However, I have consistently stated that should some further State recapitalisation of the banks be necessary as a result of NAMA, the Government will do this by way of equity capital.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

119 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Finance the impact he expects bank recapitalisation will have on the Exchequer and the general Government balance in 2010 and in 2011; the impact he expects bank recapitalisation will have on the National Pensions Reserve Fund in 2010 and in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11643/10]

The recapitalisation of Anglo Irish Bank in 2009 was funded by Exchequer borrowing in 2009. Following consultation with Eurostat, the injection was classified as a financial transaction, and therefore, did not affect the General Government Balance. As a general rule of thumb, each €1 billion extra borrowed is estimated to cost the Exchequer about €50 million per year in interest costs. The recapitalisations of both AIB and Bank of Ireland were made by the NPRF from their existing assets, and as such, had no impact on the Exchequer Borrowing Requirement. As these injections were also classified as financial transactions, there was no impact upon the General Government Balance, and as the NPRF used its existing assets to make the injection.

As the nature of any future recapitalisation is as yet unknown, it is not yet possible to assess exactly the effect on the Exchequer Balance and the General Government Balance. However, it would be expected that any further capital injections into financial institutions would take the form of a financial transaction, which would be treated in the same way as previously. In the case of the National Pension Reserve Fund, it is not possible to assess what effect any future recapitalisations may have, as the source of the funding for such recapitalisations has not yet been established.

Tax Yield.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

120 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance if he will estimate the likely 2010 and full year yield from the levy on non-residents for tax purposes, as announced in budget 2010 and set out in the 2010 Finance Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11648/10]

I assume that the levy to which the Deputy refers is the Domicile Levy which I announced in Budget 2010, full details of which have set out in the Finance Bill, which is currently at Report Stage in this House. The Deputy will be aware that the Domicile Levy is charged on an individual who is Irish-domiciled and an Irish citizen whose world-wide income exceeds €1m, their Irish-located property is greater than €5m, and their liability to Irish income tax was less than €200,000.

In the Bill, it is provided that the Levy applies for the tax year 2010 and that it is payable on a self-assessment basis on or before 31st October in the year, following the valuation date which is 31st December of each year. The first such valuation date will be 31st December of 2010 so that the first due payment of the Levy will be on or before 31st October of 2011. Therefore, it is not possible to provide an estimate for 2010 because it will not arise in that year.

In regard to a potential full year yield, the Deputy will be aware that I have previously indicated in a reply on 3rd February, 2010 on this topic to Deputy Shortall that it is not possible to estimate the number of non-residents that this measure will affect. This was because many of the individuals who declare on their tax return that they are non-resident in the State do not have an Irish address. Many of these non-residents are foreign nationals or have a foreign domicile; and many of the non-resident Irish citizens or Irish domiciled individuals included in this figure may have become non-resident for reasons unrelated to taxation, but have retained Irish investments (such as rental property).

I am informed by Revenue that for the 2007 tax year (the latest year for which figures are available), 7,228 non-resident individuals filed Irish tax returns in respect of their Irish-source income or income derived from working here. The total amount of tax paid by these persons was c €43 million. For the 2006 tax year, 5,993 non-resident individuals filed Irish tax returns in respect of their Irish-source income or income derived from working here. The total amount of tax paid by these persons was €44.5 million.

The equivalent figures for 2008 are not yet available. Returns for 2008 were due by 31 October 2009 or, in the case of returns made on ROS (Revenue Online System), by 16 November 2009. The data capture of information of these returns is currently under way and when completed will facilitate the compilation of statistics for 2008.

Banking Sector Recapitalisation.

Willie Penrose

Question:

121 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer and the 2010 cost of providing financial support to building societies (details supplied); the position regarding the proposed merger of these institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11632/10]

I indicated last September that, following the transfer of eligible bank loans to NAMA, it is likely that institutions will require additional capital. I also stated that, to the extent that institutions are not in a position to raise sufficient capital from other sources, the Government remains committed, consistent with EU rules, to providing relevant banks and building societies with an appropriate level of capital to enable them to continue to meet their regulatory requirements. Both societies informed their members late last year that they would require capital and that they would be seeking this from the Government.

Subsequently work has been ongoing both on the quantification of the societies capital requirements and the terms on which it would be provided through special investment shares issued by the institutions to the State. Progress in relation to the proposed merger of the two institutions is a matter in the first instance for the respective Boards of the societies in respect of which it would not be appropriate for me to make any comment.

Flood Relief.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

122 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance his plans to provide additional resources to Cork in order to build flood defences for the city; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9548/10]

At the beginning of February, I launched the draft River Lee Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management study, CFRAM. At present, the study is in draft form, and the extent and severe impact of the flooding in November 2009 are currently being assessed in detail for incorporation into the final version of the plan, along with the substance of submissions received in the context of the public consultation.

The Catchment Flood Risk Management Plan (CFRMP) for the River Lee sets out prioritised actions and measures for the management of flood risk. Work to advance these measures has commenced and will form part of the Office of Public Works' work programme. The Government recognises the importance of the flood risk management programme, and the need for an appropriate level of funding.

National Asset Management Agency.

James Bannon

Question:

123 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Finance his plans for parliamentary oversight of the National Asset Management Agency. [11559/10]

The subject of reporting by NAMA was extensively debated during the course of the NAMA legislation through the Oireachtas. There are substantial provisions already in the Act dealing with transparent reporting by NAMA and oversight of NAMA by the Oireachtas. In particular, the Act provides for NAMA to submit to me quarterly reports, which I shall lay before each House of the Oireachtas, as well as sending a copy to a Committee appointed by the Oireachtas to deal with NAMA. The appointment of such a Committee is a matter for the Oireachtas.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Seán Barrett

Question:

124 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Finance the extent of State aid that has been involved in the bank guarantee scheme since it commenced operating; and if there are plans to recoup this aid for the Exchequer. [11561/10]

As the Deputy is aware, since 29 September 2008, the State has guaranteed certain liabilities of credit institutions in Ireland initially under the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme (the ‘CIFS' Scheme) but more recently under the Credit Institutions (Eligible Liabilities Guarantee) Scheme (the ‘ELG' Scheme). The Eligible Liabilities Guarantee (ELG) Scheme, which commenced on 9 December 2009 following Oireachtas and EU State aid approval introduced important changes to the Guarantee for financial institutions bringing it more into line with the mainstream approach to similar guarantees in other EU Member States.

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

The ECB pricing recommendations on government guarantees for bank debt apply to liabilities guaranteed under the ELG Scheme. This is the standard pricing arrangements which now applies to all Guarantee schemes securing approval of the European Commission in line with the applicable State aid rules. The exact remuneration payable to the State is dependent on a range of factors such as the maturity profile of the liabilities and the extent to which institutions chose to make unguaranteed issuances, however the fee will be charged at a higher rate than under CIFS. The average fee for short-term bank debt now stands at 0.5% under the new scheme.

The yield to the Exchequer in respect of guarantee fees as remuneration from the institutions for the availability of the State Guarantee is expected to amount to at least €1 billion over two years from September 2008. To date 718 million Euro has been collected from the institutions. The fees charged to guaranteed institutions have been approved by the European Commission and help ensure the compatibility of the guarantee schemes with EC state aid requirements. Other than in relation to the payment of these fees by the institutions participating in the guarantee schemes the issue of recouping the state aid provided under the schemes does not arise.

National Treasury Management Agency.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

125 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance his views on the fact that the National Treasury Management Agency could become overloaded with the addition of significant new tasks to its mandate in respect of the management of the banking crisis; the new resources that are being directed to the NTMA to ensure that it is not unreasonably constrained in fulfilling its expanded mandate; his further views on whether the expanded mandate of the NTMA necessitates its inclusion under the Freedom of Information Acts; if he will bring forward legislative amendments to this effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11650/10]

I think it might be helpful if I outlined the various activities under the aegis of the NTMA and the governance structures underlying them. The primary role for which the Agency was established is to ensure that sufficient funding is available at all times to meet the day-to-day requirements of the Exchequer, which involves borrowing funds as appropriate on behalf of the Exchequer and managing the Exchequer balances. The NTMA legislation provides for an Advisory Committee to advise the Agency on such matters as are referred to it by the Agency.

In addition the Government has subsequently assigned, under legislation, responsibilities in a number of other areas to the NTMA in order to draw and build on its expertise in the financial area and to maximise the benefits to the State of that expertise. These other activities include :

a number of related financial activities, including emissions trading, the provision of a Central Treasury Service to local authorities and non-commercial semi-state bodies and the management of the moneys in the Dormant Accounts Fund;

acting as Manager of the National Pensions Reserve Fund (the NPRF Act 2000 provides that the Agency is the Manager of the Fund for at least the first ten years of the Fund's existence). The investment of the Fund is the responsibility of the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission and the NTMA acts as its agent in ensuring that the investment policy adopted by the Fund is implemented. The Chief Executive of the NTMA, in his role as Chief Executive of the Manager, is a member of the Commission;

the management of personal injury and property management claims against the State and the underlying risks as the State Claims Agency. The Agency is assisted in these activities by a Policy Committee to advise it on policy and procedures relating to the performance of its claims management and risk management functions;

the NTMA is also the body through which the National Development Finance Agency fulfils its functions. The NDFA is a company with its own board, of which the Chief Executive of the NTMA is Chairman. The NTMA provides the staff needed by the NDFA.

With regard to the measures introduced to deal with the banking crisis, NAMA is a body corporate, the board of which is responsible for ensuring that the functions of NAMA are performed effectively. The Chief Executive of the NTMA is a member of the board of NAMA and the NTMA is responsible for providing staff and business support services to NAMA. In December 2009, I introduced the Eligible Liabilities Guarantee Scheme to maintain the stability of the financial system in the State and appointed the NTMA as scheme operator. Last month I announced the delegation of additional functions in the banking area to the NTMA. These include: discussions with the covered institutions on their capital needs; discussions with financial institutions on realignment or restructuring within the banking sector; the management of the State's shareholding in the credit institutions, and advice on banking matters generally, including issues relating to crisis prevention, management and resolution.

All of these activities are treated as separate business units within the NTMA to which staff are assigned by the NTMA. The NTMA operates a shared services model to support the various business units. Statutory governance arrangements for the different business units have been designed to ensure effective oversight and management at the level of the individual unit. I am satisfied that the governance structures that were developed as additional functions were assigned to the Agency will ensure the continuing effective functioning of the entities in the NTMA group and the effective pooling of the expertise and experience in the financial areas available in the NTMA.

As far as funding is concerned, the NTMA has been allocated a gross budget of €60 million for 2010, as against €41 million in 2009. In relation to Freedom of Information (FOI), the Agency is not subject to FOI because of the commercially-sensitive nature of much of its activities and, in relation to the State Claims Agency, the fact that most of its work is covered by legal privilege. As regards NAMA, it is necessary to bear in mind that NAMA will have a commercial mandate to obtain maximum value for the taxpayer and, to achieve this objective, it will be required to enter into complex commercial negotiations with financial institutions and developers, the nature of which will require in many instances a high degree of commercial confidentiality. In view of this it is not considered appropriate to extend FOI coverage to NAMA.

Enterprise Sector.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

126 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Finance if he has assessed the factors that have led to the accelerated rate of business failures here. [11572/10]

Sectoral policy in support of the enterprise sector and employment maintenance, including the Employment Subsidy Scheme and the Enterprise Stabilisation Fund initiatives, are matters in the first instance for my colleague the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

The prevailing economic environment has impacted on the rate of business failure here in Ireland. There are a number of factors affecting the viability of Irish business including the domestic correction in the residential construction sector along with the downturn experienced by our major trading partners as well as unfavourable exchange rate movements, particularly against sterling. In this context, appropriate economic and budgetary policies have been formulated by Government which seek to create the conditions for sustained growth and employment creation, going forward.

For my part, I am introducing measures under the forthcoming NAMA Act that should assist the flow of credit to viable businesses. I will shortly be issuing guidelines to ensure that SMEs, sole traders and farm enterprises will have resource to independent, external review of decisions of credit refusal by the NAMA-participating banks. Other banks not participating in NAMA or those covered by the Government guarantee may also decide to join the system. The banks must comply with the recommendations of the appeal process or explain why they will not do so. In addition to dealing with individual cases, the credit review system will examine credit policies and practices of the banks in respect of SMEs. This will help me decide on what further action might be necessary to secure the flow of credit which should help stem the rate of business failures as we move forward.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

127 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to recent interest from foreign investors in taking strategic or controlling stakes in any of the credit institutions covered by the banking guarantee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11638/10]

I have informed the House previously that I have discussed the issue of private sector investment in the banks with senior executives of the credit institutions covered by the bank guarantee. I have also had discussions with some representatives of proposed investors, as have the NTMA on my behalf. I understand that some institutions have engaged in such discussions with representatives of potential investors. To date, none of these discussions have resulted in any detailed investment proposal. However, the Deputy will appreciate that much of this information is received in confidence and could be a market sensitive issue for the potential investors.

Property Valuations.

Joan Burton

Question:

128 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance his views on reports that commercial landlords are maintaining rents at unrealistically high levels, and even increasing them further, in order to flatter both the yield and value of the property in advance of the transfer of loans to the National Asset Management Agency where the property in question forms part of the collateral for such loans; his further views on whether such landlords may opt to leave properties or units vacant rather than accept a lower rent revenue which may have a knock-on impact on the yield and book value of the property; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11664/10]

Any attempt by landlords to inflate the value of their property by seeking to impose unsustainable rent increases on tenants will have no impact on the valuation placed on such property by NAMA. NAMA will purchase land and development loans and investment loans from participating credit institutions. The valuation of investment loans will incorporate assumptions about rental receipts likely to be realised on the underlying properties. However, NAMA's valuation experts, in reviewing those assumptions, must be satisfied that the rental projections are realistic and sustainable given prospective market conditions. They will not accept optimistic projections, supplied by participating institutions or by debtors, which have little prospect of being realised in the foreseeable future.

Public Procurement Contracts.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

129 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance his plans to make public procurement contracts more accessible to Irish small and medium enterprises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11337/10]

Government recognises the important business opportunities that public service contracts represent for business enterprises in the local and national economy and encourages participation to the greatest extent possible. Significant measures have been introduced which make it easier for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to bid for public contracts. Among these are:

the wide advertising of public procurement opportunities via the national public procurement website www.etenders.gov.ie, which is now the established reference point for all procurement opportunities

the issue of email "alerts" directly to registered suppliers when contracts that might be of interest to them are advertised

the simplification of the tendering process through the etenders website having a facility to pre-qualify tenderers and to submit tenders online

the provision of more training for the "professionalisation" of public purchasers. In recent years, sixty officials from forty organisations have undergone training in spend profiling and corporate procurement planning. A two year Masters qualification in Strategic Procurement is being offered by Dublin City University since September 2006 and an IPA Course is also available. Such initiatives are providing key public purchasers with the skills to appropriately promote whole of Government objectives and policies through the State's purchasing power.

More recently, the National Public Procurement Operations Unit (NPPOU) was established within the Office of Public Works. The Unit is working closely with all areas of the public sector to promote efficiencies and economies in public procurement expenditure. It is acutely aware of the issues for SMEs and has commenced the process of:

encouraging organisations to advertise low value contracts on etenders in order to promote SME participation

in association with the Chief State Solicitor's Office (CSSO), standardising contract and tender documents

educating SMEs through up-skilling by means of seminars/workshops/website

in association with the Department of Finance, reviewing appropriate levels of financial capacity required for public contracts

working with the CSSO and the State Claims Agency in examining the levels of public liability insurance required

working with Enterprise Ireland to encourage SMEs to tender for as many contracts as possible

encouraging SMEs in the use of electronic tendering on etenders which requires no more than a personal computer and Internet access and does not involve the expense of specialist software

encouraging early advertising upcoming procurement opportunities.

Finally, my Department, in consultation with the NPPOU, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and other stakeholders in the public procurement market, has developed guidance for contracting authorities on measures to facilitate SME participation in the public procurement market. This should be circulated and published shortly.

Employment Rights.

Finian McGrath

Question:

130 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5; and the assistance she will provide to this person. [11727/10]

The Employment Appeals Tribunal is an independent, quasi-judicial body under the aegis of my Department, and, as such, I have no role in its day-to-day operation. I am informed that a claim has been lodged with the Employment Appeals Tribunal and that the Hearing of this case has been adjourned. It is now a matter for the claimant to pursue the options that are open to him. I am not aware that, at this stage in the proceedings, there exists any basis on which my Department or any of the bodies Offices or Agencies under its aegis can pursue the claim on behalf of the claimant.

Commercial Rent Reviews.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

131 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if any banking institution, pension fund or the National Treasury Management Agency has over the past 18 months made representations to her in relation to the potential impact that a retrospective end to upward only rent reviews would have on commercial property prices; and if so, if she will publish those representations, or the minutes of those representations. [11737/10]

I am not aware that any such representations have been made to me or my Department.

FÁS Training Programmes.

John O'Mahony

Question:

132 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of FÁS places that are available on courses in County Mayo; the number of places that were available on FÁS courses in 2007, 2008, 2009; the waiting time for each course available in County Mayo; the number of persons on the live register who were offered a placement on a FÁS scheme in January 2010 and February 2010 in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11744/10]

The total number of places that were offered on FÁS training courses in Co Mayo in January to December of 2007 to 2009 is set out in the table below.

Year

Total Available Places

2007

644

2008

644

2009

1,129

The number of persons on the Live Register who were offered a training place in January 2010 was 110 and in February 2010 was 144. Waiting times for training courses vary depending both on the nature of the training course and the individual needs of the client.

Budget 2010 has provided an additional 500 CE places bringing the total number of places available to 23,300. FÁS is currently looking at the feasibility of setting up a number of additional schemes, as well as expanding existing schemes, in order to absorb the 500 extra places. I will continue to closely monitor the situation in Mayo to ensure the allocation of FÁS places is adequate and appropriate.

Community Employment Schemes.

John O'Mahony

Question:

133 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of community employment scheme places that were made available in County Mayo in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 on a monthly basis in tabular form; the number of places that are available for 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11745/10]

The table attached sets out the total number of Community Employment places that were made available in Co. Mayo for the years 2006 to 2009. Data on monthly trends is not readily available. Budget 2010 has provided an additional 500 CE places bringing the total number of places available to 23,300. FÁS is currently looking at the feasibility of setting up a number of additional schemes as well as expanding existing schemes, in order to absorb the 500 extra places.

The Government will continue to support the positive role of CE in meeting the needs of long-term unemployed persons while at the same time providing essential services to communities. This Department will keep the operation of the Scheme under review in the context of the current unemployment situation. I will continue to closely monitor the situation in Mayo to ensure the allocation of CE scheme places is adequate and appropriate.

Year

No. of Places

2006

774

2007

819

2008

820

2009

798

It is anticipated that 755 places will be available in 2010.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Finian McGrath

Question:

134 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will support a matter (details supplied). [11766/10]

FÁS's function as a training provider is to provide supports for unemployed persons seeking work as well as employees who wish to upskill themselves. It does not normally provide training for secondary school students.

Consultancy Contracts.

John O'Mahony

Question:

135 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, further to Parliamentary Question No. 162 of 23 February 2010, when the information requested will be provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11781/10]

Due to industrial action taken by some unions in my Department as part of the wider public service workers' campaign on pay issues, I am not in a position to provide the requested information to the Deputy at this time. Nor am I in a position to indicate when I might be able to provide the information sought.

Departmental Correspondence.

Mary Upton

Question:

136 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will reply to correspondence (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11814/10]

Dublin Airport Authority is a public limited company under the aegis of the Department of Transport. I have no function in relation to the activities of the DAA.

Redundancy Payments.

Jack Wall

Question:

137 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding an application for statutory redundancy in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11823/10]

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 can confirm to the Deputy that my Department received a redundancy lump sum claim for the individual concerned on 1 December 2009 claiming inability to pay on behalf of the employer. In respect of lump sum payments paid directly to employees, such as in this instance, the Section is, in general, processing claims dating from August 2009.

In instances such as this, where the employer does not formally wind the company up but goes into informal insolvency and is unable to pay the statutory redundancy entitlements, the Department seeks from the employer evidence of inability to pay the entitlements to the employees. This involves requesting a statement from the company's Accountant or Solicitor attesting to the inadequacy of assets to make the redundancy payments and, the latest set of financial accounts for the company. The employer is also asked to admit liability for the 40% liability attaching to the company arising from the redundancy payments. If this information is provided to the Department, the employees are paid their redundancy entitlement from the Social Insurance Fund. Upon payment, the Department pursues the company for the 40% share that the company would ordinarily have been expected to pay to the employees.

If the necessary supporting documentation required from the employer is not provided to my Department, the employee will be advised by my Department to take a case to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) against the employer to seek a determination establishing the employee's right and entitlement to redundancy. Once such a determination is available, the Department is then in a position to make the payment to the employee concerned. Should the outstanding documentation be provided by the employer during the period while the case is pending a hearing before the EAT, this would allow the claim to be processed by my Department in the usual way.

I should point out that 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.

The Tánaiste and I continue to monitor closely the impact of these changes against the continuing influx of redundancy claims and we are currently looking at ways in which additional resources can be allocated to the area in the first quarter of 2010.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

138 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when redundancy payment will be awarded in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11885/10]

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 can confirm that my Department received a lump sum claim for the individual concerned on 24 September 2009 and I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the claim has recently been processed and authorized for payment. Payment should issue to the claimant over the next one to two week period.

State Banking Sector.

Richard Bruton

Question:

139 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the proposal for the separation of a bad bank within Anglo Irish Bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11994/10]

As the Deputy may be aware, on 30 November last Anglo Irish Bank submitted its Restructuring Plan to the European Commission as required under EU State aid rules in line with the requirement of the relevant Commission guidance. The Restructuring Plan considers all options for the future of the bank, in order to ensure that the evaluation of the plan is based on comprehensive information. As I have noted previously, the submission of the plan by Anglo to the European Commission marked the beginning of a detailed and comprehensive evaluation process in advance of any final decision by the Commission on the plan. This process is ongoing and involves extensive consultation and dialogue between the Commission, the Irish authorities and the bank.

As part of the process, Anglo is now undertaking further detailed work in relation to the plan. The Deputy will understand that in view of the commercial sensitivities involved it would not be appropriate for me to make public or comment on any detailed elements of the plan. As I have stated previously, I am committed to working closely with the Commission and the bank to achieve the best possible outcome for the State from the restructuring process for Anglo Irish Bank.

Bank Closures.

Joan Burton

Question:

140 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the financial difficulty and inconvenience caused for Irish based customers of a bank (details supplied) in the wake of the decision of the latter to cease its retail banking operations here; his views on whether undue pressure may be placed on these customers to pay off bank loans and credit card bills in full in the coming months rather than switching them to another bank; if the Financial Regulator is taking steps to ensure that such undue pressure is not created and that switching banks is facilitated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11732/10]

Bank of Scotland (Ireland) has informed the Financial Regulator of its commercial intention to close the Halifax retail banking business and the Bank of Scotland (Ireland) intermediary business in the Republic of Ireland, commencing at the end of May 2010. The Financial Regulator is working with Bank of Scotland (Ireland) to ensure that customers' interests are protected in accordance with the Financial Regulator's Consumer Protection Code. As required by the Code all customers will be given three months notice of branch closures.

I am advised by the Financial Regulator that mortgages, personal loans and fixed rate savings with the Bank will operate to maturity. Bank of Scotland (Ireland) has advised that customers do not need to do anything at this stage. The Bank's Commercial Banking and Corporate Banking operations are unaffected by this development. Bank of Scotland (Ireland) began writing to all customers by the end of February 2010 to set out how the changes will affect them and to explain the next steps that they may need to take. The implications will vary depending on the type of account or product consumers may hold and the Financial Regulator would recommend that consumers read the details very carefully.

As regards customers wishing to switch bank accounts, the Irish Bankers Federation has in place a "Personal Account Switching Code". The purpose of the Code is to make the process of switching personal accounts from one institution to another easier for consumers. The Code is monitored for compliance by the Financial Regulator. Where consumers are switching their current account, they should contact the bank they wish to switch to (the new bank), and that bank will have all the documentation required and will make the switch on behalf of the consumer.

In relation to credit card bills and bank loans, customers may switch to alternative providers where such options are available. I understand that if a customer is not in a position to clear or switch a credit card balance by the closure date, the customer can call into their local branch or phone the Customer Service Centre to discuss and agree alternative repayment options. Bank loans will continue in accordance with the agreed term of the loan except in cases where the customer decides to repay such facilities early.

Commercial Rent Reviews.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

141 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance his views on the impact a retrospective ban on upward only rent reviews will have on the commercial property market, and in particular on loan portfolios which are being taken over by the National Asset Management Agency; if he has made them known to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; and if he will detail those concerns. [11734/10]

It is my understanding that real legal and constitutional difficulties would arise if steps were taken to intervene in existing leases retrospectively, where those leases have been freely entered into by the parties concerned. I am advised by the Department of Justice Equality and Law Reform that they have been advised by the Attorney Generals Office to this effect.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

142 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance if any banking institution, pension fund or the National Treasury Management Agency has over the past 18 months made representations to him in relation to the potential impact that a retrospective end to upward only rent reviews would have on commercial property prices; if so, if he will publish those representations, or the minutes of those representations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11735/10]

I am sure that the Deputy can appreciate that I receive many representations from many parties on a wide range of matters. Although an initial examination has not identified any records which might fall within the scope of the Deputy's request, I have asked my officials to conduct a more thorough search to ascertain if any relevant records exist. I will contact the Deputy directly when the examination of records is completed. If any record is identified, the Deputy will be aware that its release could be subject to the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.

Flood Relief.

Phil Hogan

Question:

143 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide the necessary funding to carry out drainage works at the River Duiske, Graiguenamanagh, County Kilkenny, in order to alleviate future flooding in the town; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11741/10]

Under a scheme introduced in 2009, the OPW wrote to all Local Authorities seeking prioritised applications for funding for localised minor flood mitigation works that the Authorities propose to undertake. If Kilkenny County Council submits an application in relation to works that meet the economic and environmental eligibility criteria of this scheme, it will be considered along with any other applications received from the Council and other Local Authorities having regard to the overall funding available for such works.

Mortgage Arrears.

Mary Upton

Question:

144 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance if he will respond to correspondence (details supplied) regarding the concerns of a mortgage holder from a sub-prime lender; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11754/10]

As the Deputy is aware, on 25th February 2010, I informed the Government of my proposals regarding expanding the membership of the Interdepartmental Mortgage Arrears Group, under the Chairmanship of Mr. Hugh Cooney who is an insolvency accountant. The other external members are as follows:

Name

Mr. Matthew Elderfield

Financial Regulator

Dr. David Duffy

ESRI

Mr. Pat Farrell

Irish Banking Federation (IBF)

Mr. Tom Foley

Irish Banking Federation (IBF)

Mr. Paul Joyce

Free Legal Advice Centre (FLAC)

Ms. Patricia T. Rickard-Clarke

Law Reform Commission (LRC)

Mr. Brendan Burgess

Independent Consultant

The Group will also include senior officials of the Departments of Finance, Taoiseach, Justice Equality and Law Reform, Social and Family Affairs, Communications Energy and Natural Resources, and Environment Heritage and Local Government.

I am satisfied that the external members of the Group have the relevant expertise in areas relating to mortgage arrears and personal debt. In addition to the expertise of its own members the Group will be calling on others to provide it with material, covering all relevant areas, and this will naturally include sub-prime mortgages.

Tax Collection.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

145 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance the basis on which the relevant currency exchange rate is calculated by the Revenue Commissioners in relation to receipt of pensions or other income from the UK on which Irish income tax may be chargeable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11769/10]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, in general, the exchange rate which is used by them for converting Sterling income into Euro amounts is the fiscal year average market mid-closing exchange rate as supplied by the Central Bank and based on daily reference rates as published by the European Central Bank. For 2009, the average rate so supplied for converting Sterling to Euro was 0.8909. As an alternative to using this average rate, a taxpayer may, when declaring UK income on his or her tax return, use the actual rate of exchange obtained by him or her.

In the case of Lloyds accounts, the rate of exchange used is that which applies at mid-market on the closing of the account at 31 December each year. This rate is also supplied by the Central Bank and was 0.88810 at 31 December 2009. This results in £1 Sterling being equivalent to €1.1260. The average exchange rates to be used in relation to Sterling and a number of other currencies for 2009 were issued by the Revenue Commissioners on 9 February 2010 in Revenue e-Brief No. 06/10 which is available on the Revenue website www.revenue.ie.

Tax Clearance Certificates.

Pat Breen

Question:

146 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Finance when a certificate will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11787/10]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the C2 certificate was withdrawn from the person in question on the 1st October 2009, due to non compliance with their tax obligations. Queries raised in connection with Income Tax returns for the years 2006, 2007 and 2008 must be resolved before they are deemed eligible to receive a C2 certificate. The person in question may contact Mr. Pat Nagle, Clare Tax District, Kilrush Road, Ennis, Co. Clare. Telephone number 065 6849292.

Departmental Correspondence.

Mary Upton

Question:

147 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. [11794/10]

I understand that there is no correspondence with me on this specific matter but that the details supplied relate to the application of the pay reductions under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act, 2009 to contract researchers employed in Universities. 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, regardless of the source of funding for that employment. I have no proposals to exempt persons in that position from the pay reductions.

Tax Yield.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

148 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance the amount of revenue that was paid to the Exchequer in 2009 from the income tax and corporation tax on stallion horse profits following the ending of tax exemption in August 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11810/10]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that as statistics on income tax and corporation tax receipts do not generally distinguish between the yields from different sources of income the figures of tax yields in 2009 from stallion stud profits are not separately identifiable. Figures of the profits earned from the provision of stallion stud services are required to be returned in income tax and corporation tax returns for the 2009 year. The bulk of these returns are not due until late in 2010.

Tax Code.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

149 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance the number of stallion horses standing here that are registered in the name of or owned by offshore companies or trusts, thus avoiding the payment of corporation tax on the stallions’ profits; the percentage of the overall stallion population in the breeding industry that are registered or owned offshore; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11811/10]

I am informed by the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism that the total number of stallions registered in 2009 is 271. Information in relation to the registration status is not readily available.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

150 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance the plans he has to close the loophole whereby stallion horses can stand here and their owners can avoid paying tax through registering them offshore; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11812/10]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that since the previous tax exemption scheme for stallion stud fee income ended in July 2008, stallions are treated as stock-in-trade. This means that where the owner (including a part owner) of a stallion is carrying on the trade of farming, any profits or gains arising in respect of stallion stud services are treated as if they arise in the course of the farming trade and are charged to tax as part of the profits of that trade. Otherwise, profits or gains arising in respect of stallion stud services are charged to tax under Case IV of Schedule D.

For Irish tax purposes "farming" means farming farm land, that is, land in the State which is wholly or mainly occupied for husbandry, other than market garden land. Subject to the provisions of the double taxation agreements in force between the State and other countries and of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, companies or individuals who are resident for tax purposes in the State are chargeable to tax here on worldwide profits or gains while companies or individuals who are non-resident in the State are chargeable to tax here only on profits or gains arising in the State. If the Deputy has more specific information on this issue, he might forward details to the Revenue Commissioners so that they can investigate the matter.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

151 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Finance the reason persons (details supplied) in County Galway are unable to claim tax relief in respect of specific treatment for eye problems; if there is a facility in the tax code for such eye sight problems as there is for dental problems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11817/10]

The position is that tax relief is available for the costs of a doctor, medical consultant, or hospital treatment where the costs are incurred on the diagnosis or treatment of an eye injury or defect other than sight testing, advice on the use of spectacles and the actual provision of spectacles or lenses. Tax relief is also available on expenses incurred in relation to orthoptic or vision training. Revenue has no record of having received a contact in respect of this issue in the case referred to by the Deputy. Details of the specific treatment should be sent to the Revenue Commissioners, Galway County District, Geata na Cathrach, Galway whereupon a determination of the eligibility of the claim will be made.

Flood Relief.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

152 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to proposals that would alleviate flooding in Ballinasloe, County Galway; if the Office of Public Works has been in contact with a local committee dealing with this issue; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a problem with certain sluice gates, lock gates, old arches under bridges that are blocked by debris and a host of other matters; if his officials will liaise with the committee to try to ensure there is some flood alleviation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11822/10]

Following the severe flooding that affected many parts of County Galway in November 2009, the Office of Public Works and Galway County Council established a Joint Working Group to identify locations where mitigation measures could be brought forward quickly to reduce flood risk. The Group have met and have decided to concentrate initially on a number of specific locations, including Ballinasloe. Arising from the Group's decisions, the County Council has recently applied for funding for a study and works that the Council proposes to undertake in 2010 to alleviate flood risk to the town. The applications are currently being considered, and a decision is expected to be made shortly in this regard. Where further works to reduce flood risk are identified, including works to sluices, lock gates or bridges, these will also be considered by the Working Group.

Decentralisation Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

153 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the cost of his former proposals on decentralisation, including the cost and or acquisition of buildings, sites or other development costs associated therewith; the degree to which disposals of surplus buildings have been achieved; the prices received; if same were in line with market trends; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11875/10]

The total expenditure on decentralisation to date is €331 million. Disposals have realised over €370 million for the Exchequer. These sales were in line with market trends.

Location

Occupier

Site acquisition costs

Annual Lease/rent

Construction/ Fitout etc

Athlone

Dept. of Education & Science (includes local office rationalisation)

12,489,489

Athy

Revenue Commissioners

231,554

493,000

Ballina

Road Safety Authority

151,641

319,000

Buncrana

DSFA

1,105,860

3,234,130

Carlow

ETE

1,440,000

28,000

Carlow

ETE

369,436

2,068,000

Carrick-on-Shannon

DSFA

800,000

4,331,000

Cavan

Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and HIQA

2,900,000

0

Cavan (4)

Communications, Energy and Natural Resources

102,818

196,000

Claremorris

OPW plus local staff of Dept. Agriculture, DSFA, PSA and Courthouse

2,500,000

0

Claremorris

OPW

68,712

725,106

Clonakilty

Agriculture, BIM & Others

2,875,000

20,142,446

Clonakilty (lease 1)

Agriculture, BIM & Others

157,480

118,855

Clonakilty (lease 2)

Agriculture, BIM & Others

118,910

116,744

Drogheda

SFA, CIB, (& Courts Service)

12,400,000

0

Dundalk

Sustainable Energy Ireland

96,000

190,000

Dungarvan

OSI

2,100,000

0

Edenderry

Education & Science

1,500,000

0

Furbo

CRGA

2,805,325

Furbo

CRGA

24,382

22,000

Killarney

AST

4,500,000

14,992,575

Killarney

AST

140,000

64,000

Kilrush

Revenue Commissioners

85,050

411,000

Limerick

Dept. Of Foreign Affairs

833,112

6,086,000

Limerick

Dept. Of Foreign Affairs

145,050

0

Listowel

Revenue Commissioners

183,000

1,352,000

Longford

Irish Prisons Service

576,250

18,478,714

Loughrea

Transport

139,235

572,000

Mullingar

Education & Science

8,250,000

20,559

Navan

Justice

440,000

3,093,740

Navan

Revenue Commissioners

575,360

2,135,235

Newbridge

Defence

6,300,000

5,757,000

Newcastlewest

Revenue Commissioners

325,000

2,862,100

Newcastlewest

Revenue Commissioners

68,771

0

Portarlington

NCCA, DATA PC, Equality Tribunal, NEWB

73,500

0

Portlaoise (lease 2)

agriculture

264,640

106,000

Portlaoise (lease 1)

agriculture

191,000

0

Portlaoise (lease 3)

agriculture

75,000

0

Portlaoise (lease 4)

NCCA, Equality Tribunal

69,661

357,952

Portlaoise

Dept. of Agriculture

1,027,636

1,247,148

Roscommon

Land Registry

3,000,000

0

Roscrea

Equality Authority, Garda Authority (Ombudsman)

108,000

0

Sligo

DSFA

12,595,481

Sligo

DSFA

27,926

0

Thomastown

H.S.A.

1,800,000

0

Thurles lease 1

Garda Fines Office — Temporary Accommodation

186,186

1,267,000

Thurles lease 2

66,254

262,271

Thurles

Garda Branches plus Revenue Commissioners and DSFA

967,500

0

Tipperary Town lease 1

Private Security Authority

108,200

0

Tipperary Town

Private Security Authority

3,349,429

Tipperary Town lease 2

Justice / INIS

103,597

800,693

Tipperary Town

Justice / INIS

1,625,000

0

Trim

OPW

67,752

43,000

Trim

OPW

3,600,000

32,067,809

Knock

CRAGA

390,000

0

Tubbercurry (lease 1)

CRAGA

86,755

81,000

Tubbercurry (lease 2)

88,138

321,318

Tullamore

Dept. Of Finance (building purchased)

10,034,000

0

Waterford

DOEHLG

8,000,000

0

Wexford

DOEHLG

3,500,000

6,860,000

Wexford

DOEHLG

75,000

206,000

Totals

80,716,246

6,322,120

162,669,119

Flood Relief.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

154 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which flood relief, flood prevention and flood damage cost have been calculated with a view to seeking assistance from the European Union with particular reference to addressing the problems arising from rain damage in November 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11876/10]

My Department made an application to the EU Commission on 27th January 2010 for funding under the EU Solidarity Fund based on estimates of damage received from Departments and local authorities. The application was formally acknowledged by the Commission on 24 February 2010. The EU Solidarity Fund does not fund full reconstruction nor does it fund prevention works. It funds emergency operations to allow a rapid return to normal living conditions.

A regional application was made as the estimate of the extent of the damage does not meet the Solidarity Fund's threshold of 0.6% of GNI or 935.5m euro for a national disaster. There are specific criteria which must be met to ensure a successful regional application to the EU Solidarity Fund. These criteria include the majority of the population of the region being affected by the disaster and serious and long lasting effects on the region's economic stability and living conditions. My Department continues to work with the Commission on finalising the costs underpinning the application.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

155 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which he has monitored the various costs affecting economic recovery; the degree to which he has identified the major contributory factors that need to be addressed in this context; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11877/10]

My officials continuously monitor and analyse how cost developments are impacting on our economic performance and I am briefed accordingly. Consumer prices are falling in Ireland while they are rising in many of our trading partners. In January, for instance, harmonised consumer prices fell at an annual rate of 2.4 per cent in Ireland compared with an increase of 1.0 per cent in the euro area. In addition, after adjusting for productivity developments, wages in Ireland are falling compared with increases in most other countries. These developments confirm that the necessary adjustments in competitiveness are taking place, which will help position the economy to take advantage of the emerging global recovery.

Tax Yield.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

156 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the degree to which tax receipts, including excise duty from the motor industry, under the various headings have fluctuated over the past five years to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11878/10]

Over the last two years tax receipts have been severely impacted by the sharp deterioration in the economic environment. The following table sets out the trend in tax receipts over the last five years and the 2010 forecast for tax revenue:

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010 Budget forecast

Total Exchequer Tax Receipts €m

39,254

45,539

47,249

40,777

33,043

31,050

Year-on-Year change

10%

16%

4%

-14%

-19%

-6%

The above totals include receipts from Excise Duty — details of which are set out in the following table:

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010 Budget forecast

Excise Duty €m

5,233

5,589

5,838

5,443

4,703

4,514

Year-on-Year change

6%

7%

4%

-7%

-14%

-4%

This includes:

VRT €m

1,149

1,287

1,406

1,121

375

365

Year-on-Year change

21%

12%

9%

-20%

-66%

-3%

Excise Duties are payable on a wide range of products, as well as certain premises and activities. These include (but are not limited to) charges arising on products such as mineral oils, alcoholic beverages and manufactured tobacco. In addition, Excise Duty includes receipts from the air travel tax, the carbon tax and from betting and licenses for retailing of liquor. Receipts from Vehicles Registration Tax (VRT) are also a component of Excise Duty.

The Revenue Commissioners have provided details of VRT receipts for the period 2005 to 2009 and these figures are also set out in the above table. The figures provided are on a Revenue Net Receipts basis, which differ from Exchequer receipts due to timing and accounting issues. The forecast for 2010 is also included. VRT represented 22% of overall Excise Duty receipts in 2005 and this had fallen to 8% of total Excise Duties by 2009. The decline in VRT receipts is due to both a reduction in activity and price as well as changes in the tax policy regarding vehicle emission levels.

At end-February 2010, €4,736 million in total tax receipts were collected against a target of €4,800 million. This included Excise Duty receipts of €566 million, against a target of €604 million. VRT receipts to end-February amounted to €93 million. In addition, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government have provided the following data on motor tax receipts from 2005-2009 and their estimate for 2010.

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010 forecast

Motor Tax Receipts €m

800

878

957

1,059

1,057

1,025

Year-on-Year

7%

10%

9%

11%

-0.2%

-3%

Question No. 157 answered with Question No. 52.

National Asset Management Agency.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

158 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when he expects the National Asset Management Agency proposals will have a positive economic effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11880/10]

NAMA has already helped to generate greater confidence in the recovery of our economy. The spreads on Irish Government securities have narrowed in recent months on the back of the policies pursued by the Government in tackling the economic crisis. NAMA is one of these policy initiatives. I have been advised by NAMA that the transfer of the first tranche of loans will commence before the end of the month. Once the loans transfer the banks will be placed on a sounder footing and will be better placed to support economic recovery.

I have made it clear that I expect the banks which participate in NAMA to play their part in the economic recovery of the State by providing credit to viable businesses to protect and create jobs. The NAMA Act further provides that I may issue guidelines regarding lending to the participating institutions to ensure that they play their part in the economic recovery of the country. In this regard, I will shortly be issuing guidelines to ensure that SMEs, sole traders and farm enterprises will have recourse to an independent, external review of decisions of credit refusal by the NAMA participating banks.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

159 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which the various performance indicators have been monitored since the passing of the National Asset Management Agency legislation; the degree to which these are in line with predictions or otherwise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11881/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

161 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which the targets and predictions set out in the context of National Asset Management Agency legislation are so far being over or under achieved; the steps he proposes to take to bring the predictions back on track; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11883/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 159 and 161 together.

It is not clear as to which targets and performance indicators the Deputy refers. The NAMA legislation provides for an annual statement to be produced by NAMA and for NAMA to submit quarterly reports, which I will make available to the Oireachtas. The first of these quarterly reports is in respect of the quarter ended 31 March 2010 and is due to be submitted to me on or before 30 June 2010.

The draft Business Plan, published by the interim NAMA in October 2009, sets out certain targets and projections for NAMA. The publication of a business plan is a matter for the Board of NAMA which was appointed in December 2009. I am aware that the Board proposes to review the Business Plan in the light of the extensive due diligence process currently under way and that any update to the Plan will be informed by information gleaned during that process and by the valuation of loans being transferred over the coming months. I am advised by NAMA that the NAMA Board proposes to publish a revised Business Plan by the 30th June 2010.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

160 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which the likely cost to the Exchequer of the National Asset Management Agency proposals needs to be adjusted; the cost of any such adjustment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11882/10]

I have stated that accurate figures on NAMA costs will be available only after NAMA has had an opportunity to assess the eligible loans, which will be independently valued. To date the five participating institutions have advised NAMA that approximately €80 billion of loans are eligible for transfer to NAMA. The consideration to be paid for these loans will depend on valuations, determined by the application of the valuation methodology approved recently by the EU Commission, of each of the eligible loans. Moreover, section 84 of the NAMA Act provides that NAMA is not obliged to acquire any eligible asset on any grounds.

I should point out that Section 50 of the NAMA legislation places a limit of €54 billion on the consideration to be paid for the loans regardless of the nominal amounts involved. This limit can only be amended by a positive resolution by the Dáil. I have no intention of adjusting this figure at this time.

Question No. 161 answered with Question No. 159.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

162 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the degree to which he has monitored the performance of the banking sector here in the aftermath of National Asset Management Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11884/10]

My officials receive daily, weekly and monthly reports from the Financial Regulator, Central Bank and the NTMA and maintain a constant dialogue with same agencies and are kept aware of any developments. The Department also engages in direct contact with the covered institutions periodically when matters arise. Some of the key reports which my Department receives include:

Regular funding profiles and monthly private sector credit statistics from the Central Bank, the latter of which is publicly available.

Monthly summary financial returns from the Financial Regulator which look at inter alia, the capital position, liabilities covered under the CIFS Guarantee Scheme, impairments, provisions, new lending and the consolidated balance sheet. The Financial Regulator also provides weekly liquidity reports.

Weekly reports from the NTMA on the liabilities issued under the ELG Scheme.

As part of the recapitalisations of AIB and Bank of Ireland last year, both banks agreed to implement a credit package to improve the flow of credit to the real economy. Compliance with the commitments of the credit package is monitored by the Financial Regulator.

Flood Relief.

Phil Hogan

Question:

163 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide funding for work to be carried out to the River Pill at Pilltown, County Kilkenny to prevent future flooding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12004/10]

The Office of Public Works is implementing a programme of Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) studies based on river catchment areas. These studies make co-ordinated, integrated assessments of all the significant flood risk factors. The results of the studies will be used to formulate long-term plans for addressing the key flood risks identified for each catchment area. The CFRAM study for the Suir Catchment is currently underway and it is expected that the hydraulic modelling and draft predictive flood mapping will be completed this year with assessment of the various potential flood relief options becoming available early in 2011.

The River Pill forms part of the Suir Catchment and an assessment of the implementation of a flood relief scheme for the Piltown area will be covered as part of this study. Under a scheme introduced in 2009, the OPW wrote to all Local Authorities seeking prioritised applications for funding for localised minor flood mitigation works that the Authorities propose to undertake. If Kilkenny County Council submits an application in relation to works that meet the economic and environmental eligibility criteria of this scheme, it will be considered along with any other applications received from the Council and other Local Authorities having regard to the overall funding available for such works.

Misuse of Drugs.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

164 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason she proposes a three month standstill on legislative measures to outlaw the sale of certain products commonly sold in head shops in view of the fact that European law permits the Houses of the Oireachtas to take immediate action for urgent reasons in the interests of public health and public safety; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11831/10]

In the light of the health risks associated with some of the products being sold in so-called ‘head shops', the Government has agreed to the introduction of regulations under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 which will introduce controls on a range of substances which are currently on sale in head shops. The substances concerned include:

synthetic cannabinoids (SPICE products)

benzylpiperazine (BZP) derivatives

mephedrone, methylone and related cathinones

GBL and 1,4 BD

The possession and sale of these substances will become illegal and subject to criminal sanctions under the Misuse of Drugs Act. Some of these substances are used in industrial activities and the application of controls under the Misuse of Drugs Act will involve a restriction on trade in their legitimate use. The legal advice available to me is that, in accordance with EU law, it is necessary to notify the Commission of the proposed Regulations under the "Technical Standards" Directives 98/34/EC and 98/48/EC. This imposes a 3 month stand-still period on the making of the regulations. Failure to notify would leave the Regulations open to challenge when they are made.

Medical Cards.

Michael Creed

Question:

165 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive a decision on their application for a medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11730/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Community Care.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

166 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will restore day care facilities at a home (details supplied) in County Roscommon which services were recently withdrawn by the Health Service Executive; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that it is important that these facilities are restored in view of the fact that they provide a vital and valuable service for more than 50 persons who attend the centre each week; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11748/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Departmental Reports.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

167 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason that Parliamentary Question No. 202 of 7 July 2009, No. 189 of 21 October 2009 and No. 156 of 1 December 2009, and the query made directly to the parliamentary affairs division of the Health Service Executive on 1 February 2010 and again on 1 March 2010, regarding the number and subjects of unpublished or redacted reports conducted by the HSE or former health boards, did not elicit the information given by a senior HSE official to “Morning Ireland” on 4 March 2010 that there are 20 unpublished reports into the deaths of children in care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11749/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Health Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

168 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 364 of 19 January 2010, when the Health Service Executive will reply to this question; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11750/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

169 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children the way a person (details supplied) in County Kildare can obtain intravenous antibiotics within the existing health system here. [11767/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Sean Fleming

Question:

170 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Health and Children when an appointment will be arranged to investigate health difficulties experienced by a person (details supplied) in County Laois; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11768/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

171 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in arranging for a person (details supplied) to be seen by an occupational therapist. [11771/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Medical Cards.

Martin Ferris

Question:

172 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children if an application for a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry has been successful. [11774/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Martin Ferris

Question:

173 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children if applications for a medical card for over 70s in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry has been successful. [11775/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Misuse of Drugs.

Joe Costello

Question:

174 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children the developments in the case of a person (details supplied) who has made several requests to enter the State on holidays with a small amount of prescribed medicine listed in the Misuse of Drugs Act; if they can enter the State for the purpose of holidays and to visit his family; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11776/10]

The person in question is free to enter the State at any time whether to visit his family or otherwise. The difficulty relates to his request to be permitted to bring cannabis with him for his personal use. The legal position in Ireland is that cannabis is a Schedule 1 controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977. All Schedule 1 drugs are considered to have no medicinal use and their manufacture, production, preparation, sale, supply, distribution and possession 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 in the State for medicinal use or for prescription by a medical practitioner. The Misuse of Drugs legislation makes no provision for derogations in respect of the importation or possession of cannabis-containing substances or products.

Health Services.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

175 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children if children in primary schools are entitled to a hearing or sight examination; the number of staff that were employed in each of the past five years in the south Lee area to carry out such examinations; the number of such examinations that were carried out in the south Lee area in each of the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11790/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

176 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children if primary school children at a school (details supplied) in County Cork will receive an eye examination during the current school year. [11791/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Health Service Staff.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

177 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact there are a number of advanced paramedics here who are suitably qualified and in view of the fact that it is estimated to cost €100,000 to train each paramedic to the advanced paramedic standard, the number of advanced paramedics that are likely to be needed over the next few years; if the existing cohort of such advanced paramedics is sufficient for the proposed service in the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11815/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Health Services.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

178 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway, whilst having received an assessment for a speech impediment, has not been given speech therapy from the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11818/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Health Service Staff.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

179 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children if it is proposed by the Health Service Executive to have support staff such as multi-task attendants and other support staff in hospitals and public nursing homes replaced by outsourcing such jobs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11820/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Medical Cards.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

180 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. [11830/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Health Services.

Tom Hayes

Question:

181 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children when the national screening programme for cystic fibrosis in newborn infants will be implemented; the funding that has been allocated to this screening scheme for 2010; when the steering group appointed to administer this screening programme will report and commence the programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11842/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Accident and Emergency Services.

John Deasy

Question:

182 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children the measures she proposes to cater for access to emergency services for persons who are profoundly deaf and who cannot contact such services orally using the telephone systems; if she plans to establish a centralised texting service for emergency contact such as operates in Northern Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11843/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Medical Cards.

Joe Costello

Question:

183 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will reconsider her decision to refuse a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11844/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

184 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) will receive a decision on their medical card application. [11871/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Mental Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

185 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be offered urgent psychiatric services at St. John of God Brothers, Stillorgan, County Dublin or St. Patrick’s or St. Emmet’s in Lucan, County Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11888/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

186 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will be renewed in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11889/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Health Services.

Billy Timmins

Question:

187 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if, in view of the circumstances this request will be dealt with; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12009/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Airport Development Projects.

Finian McGrath

Question:

188 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the legal position of hangar 6 at Dublin Airport. [11726/10]

The legal position relating to Hangar 6 has been set out comprehensively by the DAA in the CEO's statement to the Oireachtas Committee on Transport on the 24th February last on the subject of Hangar 6.

Public Transport.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

189 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport if he has undertaken any research to examine the impact on rural and urban communities of the reduction in public bus and rail transport services due to the decrease in the public service obligation for public transport companies in budget 2010; his views on whether reduced public transport services may act as a barrier to accessing employment, education or health services and increase social exclusion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11742/10]

The annual Exchequer subvention to CIE in 2010 in respect of its public service obligation (PSO) services is €276 million — an increase of 45% on 2000. Despite this high level of funding and fare increases over the years, the CIE companies are facing a very difficult financial outlook in 2009 due to declining passenger numbers in an increasing cost environment. Decisions in relation to bus and rail services are a matter for CIE and its subsidiaries in conjunction, in the case of PSO services, with the National Transport Authority (NTA). I understand that the companies in conjunction with the NTA are seeking to minimise the impact of their cost recovery measures on the quantity and quality of services and are seeking to maintain services at the highest level possible for all service users including those seeking employment and access to education and health services by, for example, focusing service changes on low patronage services.

Departmental Agencies.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

190 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the budget for the National Transport Authority for 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11746/10]

The Budget for the National Transport Authority comprises three principal elements:

Exchequer public transport provision payments to public transport companies totalling €276 million;

Exchequer grants in respect of public transport and related investment in the Greater Dublin Area totalling approximately €350million; and

An administration budget of €7.7 million.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

191 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport if he will report on the contract between Met Éireann and the Irish Aviation Authority; if he will inquire as to whether the Irish Aviation Authority can access this service for a lower fee; and if he will give assurances that this contract is not cross-subsidisation between State agencies. [11755/10]

The contract between the Irish Aviation Authority and Met Eireann is an operational matter for the Authority and I have no function in the matter.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

192 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the pay, bonus and conditions of the chief executive of the Irish Aviation Authority for 2007, 2008 and 2009; and the additional details on benefits, including pension, company car and driver for this person. [11756/10]

Details of the remuneration of the Chief Executive of the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) are set in the Authority's Annual Reports for 2007 and 2008, which are available on the IAA website (www.iaa.ie). The audit of the 2009 accounts is currently underway and the results will be published in due course.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

193 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport if he is satisfied that the appropriate procedures were adopted in the recent appointment of a number of senior positions (details supplied) in the Irish Aviation Authority; his views on the fact that two of these positions were filled by external candidates, without any apparent prior advertising; and when the interviews for the positions were held. [11757/10]

Procedures for senior appointments to the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) are operational matters for the Authority and I have no function in the matter.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

194 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport his views on a recent senior appointment (details supplied) to the Irish Aviation Authority in the past year, although this person did not have the prerequisite educational qualifications. [11758/10]

Decisions on appointments to the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), including educational requirements, are operational matters for the Authority and I have no function in the matter.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

195 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the number of former senior managers of the Irish Aviation Authority who have taken early retirement, yet are still drawing a full salary; and if these salaries are drawn from the company’s working capital or from the company pension fund. [11759/10]

This is an operational matter for the Irish Aviation Authority and I have no function in the matter.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

196 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the level of investment in shares in external companies by the pension fund of the Irish Aviation Authority during a period (details supplied); the companies in which the fund invested; the purchase price of the shares; the disposal price of the shares; when the decisions were made on these transactions; and the person who was involved in making these decisions. [11760/10]

The management of the Irish Aviation Authority superannuation scheme is a matter for the Authority and the trustees of the scheme and I have no function in the matter.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

197 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Irish Aviation Authority is attempting to impose a mandatory increase in the retirement age for air traffic controllers from 60 years to 65 years, despite the fact that the policy of the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers Associations is that air traffic controllers should be eligible for retirement from the age of 50 years on the basis of the unique and demanding constraints on the individual controller and in the interests of the travelling public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11761/10]

Any proposals for amendments to the Irish Aviation Authority Superannuation Scheme are matters for the Authority and the Trustees of the Scheme in the first instance.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

198 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the refurbishment costs for the Irish Aviation Authority head office in Dublin; if he is satisfied that the procurement process was undertaken according to the established guidelines; and the details of the procedures that were followed. [11762/10]

Decisions on the procurement of accommodation for the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) are operational matters for the Authority and I have no function in the matter.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

199 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the total vehicle replacement costs and car allowance to senior executives from the Irish Aviation Authority for the years 2007, 2008 and 2009. [11763/10]

Decisions on any car allowances for senior executives of the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) are operational matters for the Authority and I have no function in the matter.

Road Safety.

Tom Hayes

Question:

200 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Transport the discussions he has had with the Road Safety Authority in relation to delays with national car testing tests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11793/10]

There are regular and ongoing contacts between the RSA and my Department on matters pertaining to the National Car Testing Service. My Department receives reports from the RSA from time to time regarding the number of tests booked and carried out and waiting periods. I am aware that there is currently a high level of demand for car testing and I understand that the National Car Testing Service is responding to that demand in a timely manner. The RSA continues to monitor the position regarding demand for car testing and testing arrangements. Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 477 of 2006) vehicle testing arrangements are matters for the Road Safety Authority.

Rural Transport.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

201 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport his views on the recent report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Arts, Sports, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Report on Rural Transport Provision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11874/10]

The report will be examined by my Department in the context of the development of rural transport policy. I note however that while the Report draws on previous research material produced both within and outside Ireland, it does not take into account the rural transport measures in my Department's Smarter Travel Plan or in the Renewed Programme for Government, nor does it refer to the recent establishment of the National Transport Authority. Some of the recommendations of the Report also relate to matters for which the Departments of Social and Family Affairs and Education and Science have responsibility.

Commercial Rent Reviews.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

202 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if any banking institution, pension fund or the National Treasury Management Agency has over the past 18 months made representations to him in relation to the potential impact that a retrospective end to upward only rent reviews would have on commercial property prices; if so, if he will publish those representations, or the minutes of those representations. [11736/10]

The only correspondence received by my Department which falls within the scope of the Deputy's question is a letter I received from the Irish Association of Pension Funds in May 2009 which commented on the impact which any retrospective abolition of upwards only rent reviews would have on property values. I should add that the decision to confine the prohibition on upwards only rent review clauses to future leases was informed solely by constitutional and legal considerations.

Legal Aid Service.

Finian McGrath

Question:

203 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will support the case of a person (details supplied). [11765/10]

Extensive correspondence has been received in my Department from the person concerned in recent years. With regard to the Legal Aid Board, I can inform the Deputy that under section 7(3) of the Civil Legal Aid Act, 1995, I am precluded from exercising any power or control in relation to any particular case with which the Legal Aid Board is or may be concerned. Furthermore, in respect of any queries regarding the provision of legal services to any person, please note that the solicitor/client relationship is protected by privilege in accordance with the terms of Section 32 of the Civil Legal Aid Act, 1995. The Legal Aid Board does not provide information to third parties regarding a person who may or may not be a client of the Board.

It should be noted that the Legal Aid Board is required to consider and make decisions on all applications received in its Law Centres for legal aid. When deciding to grant legal aid, the Board issues a Legal Aid Certificate to the applicant setting out the services to be rendered on that particular matter. In the event that the Board decides not to grant a Legal Aid Certificate, the applicant would be directly informed of the decision and the reasons supporting the decision. In addition, applicants would be advised as to their rights to have the decision reviewed and, if required, heard by the Appeals Committee of the Board. In that context, a decision arrived at by the Appeals Committee would be final.

The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission is the statutory body charged with the independent oversight of policing in this jurisdiction. I have been informed by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission that a complaint was received by them in relation to this matter in June 2007 and was deemed inadmissible. I am afraid that it is not open to me as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to intervene with the Commission on any case.

Debt Collection.

Martin Ferris

Question:

204 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he plans to introduce legislation to prevent private debt collectors entering a property to seize goods without proper court authorisation. [11772/10]

The law already provides that entry to or interference with the property of another person can be a civil or criminal wrong. However, operation of the law in this area is being kept under review in my Department with a view to any legislative changes that may be necessary. Moreover, the Law Reform Commission is currently preparing its Final Report on Management of and Enforcement of Debt, which will include examination of the law in relation to debt collectors.

Consultancy Contracts.

John O'Mahony

Question:

205 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to Parliamentary Question No. 300 of 23 February 2010, when the information requested will be provided; and if he will supply the date of a previous parliamentary question (details supplied) which he referred to which was tabled and the contents of the said answer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11784/10]

The information requested is provided in the following table. The date of the previous Parliamentary Question which I referred was Tuesday, 18th November, 2008.

Year

Consultancy Expenditure

2009

€438,328

Juvenile Offenders.

Joe Carey

Question:

206 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of juvenile liaison officers operating here in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11796/10]

The number of Juvenile Liaison Officers (JLOs) in An Garda Síochána is published each year in the Annual Report of the Committee appointed to monitor the effectiveness of the Diversion Programme. The annual reports for the years 2004 to 2008 are currently available on the Irish Youth Justice website —www.iyjs.ie. I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that 103 Gardaí and 8 Garda Sergeants were operating as JLOs in 2009.

Joe Carey

Question:

207 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of juvenile liaison officers operating who are full time juvenile liaison officers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11797/10]

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that there are currently 111 full-time Juvenile Liaison Officers appointed within An Garda Síochána.

Garda Training.

Joe Carey

Question:

208 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a third level qualification has been established for the training of juvenile liaison officers; if not, if there are plans for the development of another level of qualification; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11798/10]

The training programme for Garda Juvenile Liaison Officers (JLOs) is set out in detail in the Annual Reports of the Committee appointed to monitor the effectiveness of the Diversion Programme. The annual report for 2008 is available on the Irish Youth Justice Service website —www.iyjs.ie. I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the Garda Office for Children and Youth Affairs is working with the Garda College to attain a third level qualification for JLOs on completion of their training.

Juvenile Offenders.

Joe Carey

Question:

209 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if an appeals process for the denial of a minor seeking admission to the Garda youth diversion programme has been established; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11799/10]

The Diversion Programme operates in accordance with Part 4 (Sections 17-51) of the Children Act 2001, as amended, and under the general superintendence and control of the Garda Commissioner. The Act provides that the programme be managed by a member of an Garda Síochána not below the rank of superintendent, who is assigned by the Commissioner to the role of Director of the Programme. A child may be considered for admission to the programme if s/he (a) accepts responsibility for his or her criminal or anti-social behaviour, having had an opportunity to consult his or her parents or guardian, (b) consents to be cautioned and, where appropriate, supervised by a Garda juvenile liaison officer and (c) is between 10 -17 years of age. The Act does not provide a mechanism to appeal a decision to deem a child unsuitable for the programme.

Inquiries into Garda Activities.

Joe Carey

Question:

210 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the report inquiring into the circumstances of the death of a person (details supplied) has been made public; and if not, the reason same has remained private; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11800/10]

An Inquiry into the death of the person concerned was conducted was conducted by Mr Hugh Hartnett S.C. pursuant to the Dublin Police Act 1924. The Inquiry was established in September 2005 and it reported to my predecessor on 2 October 2007. The Attorney General advised that Mr Hartnett's report could not be published in full for legal reasons so an abridged summary was prepared and published in April 2008. The abridged version contains all the findings and conclusions of the full report and is available in the Oireachtas Library.

Garda Training.

Joe Carey

Question:

211 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if officers of An Garda Síochána involved with the interview or detention of minors receive additional and specialised training concerning the proper treatment of minors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11801/10]

The Garda Síochána is committed, under its current Youth and Children Strategy, "to provide a quality policing service to all the children and young people in our society and to do so with dignity and respect for their human rights by communicating, listening and working towards building and maintaining positive relationships with children and young people".

An important element of the strategy is to ensure An Garda Síochána is equipped to deliver a quality service to all children and young people and endeavour to maintain the highest recognised international standards of behaviour and best practice when dealing with all children and young people. In that regard the strategy sets out a number of actions related to training including the provision of training on international conventions relating to children in custody. Amongst the courses delivered by the Crime Training Faculty in the Garda Síochána College at Templemore is a specialist child interviewer course.

Joe Carey

Question:

212 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if members of An Garda Síochána are given specific training concerning the respectful treatment of minors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11802/10]

The Garda Síochána is committed, under its current Youth and Children Strategy, "to provide a quality policing service to all the children and young people in our society and to do so with dignity and respect for their human rights by communicating, listening and working towards building and maintaining positive relationships with children and young people".

An important element of the strategy is to ensure An Garda Síochána is equipped to deliver a quality service to all children and young people and endeavour to maintain the highest recognised international standards of behaviour and best practice when dealing with all children and young people. In that regard the strategy sets out a number of actions related to training including awareness raising of the human rights of children and a commitment to identify and reward best practices when dealing with young people.

Garda Operations.

Joe Carey

Question:

213 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if there is any measure of the effectiveness of Garda officers regarding the respectful and professional treatment of minors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11803/10]

The Garda Síochána is committed, under its current Youth and Children Strategy, "to provide a quality policing service to all the children and young people in our society and to do so with dignity and respect for their human rights by communicating, listening and working towards building and maintaining positive relationships with children and young people". The strategy sets out seventy actions and related performance indicators by which the effective implementation of the strategy can be measured. One of the initiatives in this regard is an action in the strategy to establish youth fora to allow for direct dialogue with young people on policing issues, which has the potential to enable a qualitative assessment of the treatment of minors.

Citizenship Applications.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

214 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on an application for naturalisation in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11827/10]

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 Staff.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

215 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to previous parliamentary questions, if he will address the situation where staff at the Finglas Child and Adolescent Centre, Dublin 11, have been denied basic information about the security of their jobs in the context of the proposed move of these services from Finglas to Oberstown, County Dublin; and the steps he will take to ensure the full implications of this proposed move are outlined to the staff and that they are treated with basic respect by the youth justice service. [11829/10]

Further to my reply of 17 February, 2010, and contrary to the assertion that staff are not being treated with respect, I can confirm that discussions have been continuing at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC). Those discussions are attended by representatives of the Irish Youth Justice Service (IYJS), the Director of the Centre, both Unions, SIPTU and IMPACT, along with a number of staff representatives from the Centre.

The discussions have been focussed on proposals presented by the IYJS on all aspects of the closure, the arrangements to be made, and the transfer of staff and services to positions in Oberstown. I am informed that the parties met again yesterday when it was agreed to refer certain matters to the Labour Court for determination and, in the meantime, to continue with further discussions on transitional rostering arrangements. The Board of Management is being kept informed of progress and the National Director of the IYJS recently wrote to each individual staff member in the Centre to update them on developments.

Visa Applications.

Finian McGrath

Question:

216 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon. [11834/10]

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 Support Services.

Mary Upton

Question:

217 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the report, One Size Doesn’t Fit All, prepared by an organisation (details supplied); if he plans to implement any of the recommendations in this document; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11835/10]

Mary Upton

Question:

218 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to carry out an audit on his policy of direct provision and dispersal of asylum seekers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11837/10]

Mary Upton

Question:

219 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the way he plans to give asylum seekers a more direct input into any review of the direct provision and dispersal system for asylum seekers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11838/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 217 to 219, inclusive, together.

These questions relate to a publication issued recently by the Free Legal Advice Centre (FLAC) on the Government's direct provision system, the means by which the State discharges its obligations to provide accommodation and sustenance to asylum seekers while their applications are considered. The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department is responsible for the accommodation of asylum seekers. The State, through RIA, assumes responsibility for providing suitable accommodation and certain other services on a full board basis. All accommodation costs, together with the costs of meals, heat, light, laundry and maintenance are paid directly by the State. Asylum seekers in direct provision accommodation also receive a weekly cash allowance which has been assessed on the basis of normal social welfare allowance, reduced to take account of board and lodgings and other ancillary benefits provided through the direct provision system.

At end February, 2010, RIA's accommodation portfolio comprised 53 accommodation units across 21 counties accommodating 6,358 persons representing 94 different nationalities. I do not propose to outline here the historical background to the setting up of the direct provision system in 1999, other than to reiterate that it is one of the central features of the Government's response to persons who choose to seek asylum here. I am satisfied that the treatment of asylum seekers in this country is, at a minimum, on a par with the best on offer in this context anywhere in the EU, and that the direct provision system delivers a high standard of service and value for money to the taxpayer through coordinated service delivery to asylum seekers.

One of the recommendations put forward by FLAC is that an audit of the direct provision and dispersal system should be carried out to ensure that the State meets the human rights obligations placed on it by domestic and international law. I am satisfied that the system is in compliance with all such obligations. Nothing in the report would lead me to conclude that such an audit is warranted.

Forty seven specific recommendations are made by FLAC. Many of these recommendations are fundamentally contrary to long standing Government policy. In relation to other recommendations, I should say that a review has recently been completed of the House Rules and Procedures for asylum seekers in direct provision, incorporating a complaints procedure, which govern the day to day operation of asylum accommodation centres and which clearly outline the obligations placed both upon residents and centre management. This review involved, inter alia, RIA, representatives of centre managers, the Refugee Information Service and the Irish Refugee Council. I believe that the Rules have to be given time to operate before considering any further changes.

One of the criticisms made by FLAC is to the effect that families can have their living and education arrangements abruptly disturbed by transfers between centres. Generally, this does not happen. Transfers are never made for arbitrary or capricious reasons. Indeed, where possible, residents in asylum centres are not transferred to other centres against their wishes but, on occasion, this simply has to happen. This may arise from, for example, the closing down of centres, medical emergencies or, as in certain cases, instances of personal conflict where there is a danger that keeping one or more of the involved parties in the centre could lead to serious trouble.

Residency Permits.

Willie Penrose

Question:

220 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has had their application for a work permit to remain in the State renewed; if steps will be taken to expedite same. [11845/10]

I am informed by officials in the Immigration Division of my Department that the person in question has been granted permission to remain in the State on Stamp 4 conditions for a one year period until 8 March 2011. Stamp 4 conditions entitle the person concerned to take up employment without the need for a work permit and to set up a business without the need for permission from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

221 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11897/10]

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.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

222 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11898/10]

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:

223 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11899/10]

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.

Visa Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

224 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for visas in the case of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 6; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11900/10]

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.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

225 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding citizenship or family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11901/10]

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.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

226 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 Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11902/10]

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:

227 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 or subsidiary protection grounds in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Laois; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11903/10]

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.

Deportation Orders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

228 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will defer order to deport in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Laois; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11904/10]

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.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

229 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will give consideration on humanitarian grounds for extended residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11905/10]

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:

230 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made to date and expected outcome in the residency application in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11906/10]

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:

231 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 Dublin 22; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11907/10]

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:

232 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 Dublin 22; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11908/10]

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:

233 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11909/10]

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:

234 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22. [11910/10]

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.

Deportation Orders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

235 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review the decision to deport in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11911/10]

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.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

236 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for residency and leave to remain in the State on humanitarian grounds in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11912/10]

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:

237 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 Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11913/10]

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:

238 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for residency and leave to remain in the State on humanitarian grounds in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12. [11914/10]

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.

Deportation Orders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

239 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a review of a decision to deport will be undertaken in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11915/10]

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 Stations.

Jack Wall

Question:

240 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a Garda Station (details supplied) in County Kildare will be upgraded, or if there are plans to locate to a different premises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12005/10]

The Garda accommodation programme is based on agreed priorities established by An Garda Síochána and it is brought forward in close cooperation with the Office of Public Works, which has responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation. The relevant accommodation requirements are considered in the context of the Garda Síochána's identified accommodation priorities and in the light of available resources. I regret that the information with regard to the Garda station referred to by the Deputy is not readily to hand. I will write to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Departmental Expenditure.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

241 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he is satisfied that the Atlantic Corridor has been successful; the analysis that has been carried out to estimate the net economic benefit of his Department’s funding for the Atlantic Corridor; his views on whether the project has been successful; the plans that are in place to establish similar projects around Ireland outside of the midlands; and if same has not been successful, when he plans to withdraw funding for the project. [11739/10]

Atlantic Corridor was founded in 1999 to facilitate, through its network of transatlantic and cross border activities and international linkages, the development of projects that will assist in supporting sustainable economic development and enhanced educational attainment. Atlantic Corridor has successfully built and maintained relationships with key partners in the US, Canada and Northern Ireland. Its activities with these partners support the economic development of the midlands region through international linkages in business and education.

Atlantic Corridor, through a range of projects, aims to support Irish companies to grow their exports and engage in technology transfer with international partners. It also focuses on promoting the teaching of science, technology and maths and stimulating an interest in these subjects in young students. Both these aims are in line with current Government policy which is focused on creating the smart economy. Examples of worthwhile activities organised by Atlantic Corridor include:

In 2008, Atlantic Corridor held an international conference on Science and Education. This has led to the development of a science education initiative for a rural school in Co. Offaly. The initiative will allow students in the school, through the use of high speed broadband and internet TV technology, to take part in cutting-edge science classes in the Georgia Institute of Technology, one of the top research universities in the USA. Georgia Institute of Technology, and their applied research arm, the Georgia Tech Research Institute have supported the project financially as well as through the provision of proprietary technology and expertise.

In May of this year, the Mesa Biotech Academy will bring 5 teachers, 30 students and a number of Arizona State Government representatives to Ireland for two weeks to provide teacher training and classes for primary school students doing science. The Mesa Biotech Academy is an initiative based in Mesa, Arizona which aims to encourage participation in Biotechnology in school students through hands-on and high-tech learning. This visit follows their successful participation in the 2008 Atlantic Corridor Science and Education conference.

Last year, Atlantic Corridor led a trade mission to Georgia and Arizona which resulted in new contracts and opportunities for 3 Irish companies. Furthermore, as a result of this visit, a reciprocal arrangement to provide short term office facilities has been agreed between Atlantic Corridor and the Enterprise Innovation Institute, Georgia Tech, Atlanta. This will allow Irish companies wishing to explore the US market to have desk-space at the Enterprise Innovation Institute in Georgia and avail of the services of this award-winning enterprise group and access to a fast-growing region in the USA.

Following a 2008 trade and study visit to Toronto and Waterloo in Canada, a Midlands-based IT company has developed two technology transfer agreements with Canadian companies and the Athlone Institute of Technology has developed links for its Masters in Entrepreneurship with the Innovations Group in the University of Toronto.

On an annual basis, Atlantic Corridor engages in a strategic planning exercise which involves a review of its activities against key metrics. These include, among others, the number of new International Business/Education Partnerships established, new exports facilitated (or part facilitated) through Atlantic Corridor initiatives, and technology transfer/licensing etc facilitated (or part facilitated) through Atlantic Corridor initiatives. This review informs its following year's work plan and is carried out with input from staff, board members and representatives from local business, industry and education.

Atlantic Corridor provides reports and audited accounts to the Department of Foreign Affairs on a regular basis, in respect of the funding provided. The funding for the Atlantic Corridor project is kept under review. I am not aware of any proposals at present to establish other similar projects around Ireland.

Human Rights Issues.

Billy Timmins

Question:

242 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will respond to a query (details supplied) received by this Deputy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11751/10]

The particular difficulties faced by Kurdish people in Syria, and throughout the region, is an issue of continuing concern to Ireland and its EU partners. This is one of a number of instances where minority populations are not being afforded the full rights and protections which should be due to all citizens. We continue to avail, both bilaterally and at EU level, of all appropriate opportunities to engage with the Syrian authorities in relation to our concerns about the general human rights situation in Syria, including specific issues such as those concerning the Kurdish population. The Syrian authorities are well aware of the EU's concerns in relation to the rights of freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and the rights of minorities.

Against this backdrop, I very much welcome the recent progress towards signature of the EU-Syria Association Agreement. I confirmed Ireland's strong support for the signing of the agreement when I met with the Syrian Ambassador to Ireland in October last. The text of the Association Agreement has been agreed at EU level, and provides a detailed framework for relations between the two sides. The EU is hopeful that the entry into force of the Association Agreement in the near future, following signature by both sides and the implementation of its provisions — including human rights clauses — will allow a more direct dialogue on human rights issues, including those pertaining to minority groups.

Billy Timmins

Question:

243 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will respond to a query (details supplied) received by this Deputy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11752/10]

The situation of the Coptic community in Egypt is closely monitored by my Department, as is generally the case in respect of religious minorities in the Middle East. The Government condemns acts of discrimination or persecution against persons on grounds of their religious beliefs. There have been various instances and reports of apparently sectarian violence directed against members of the Coptic community, the most recent of which occurred on 6 January 2010, the Coptic Christmas Eve, in Naga Hammadi, a town in Upper Egypt approximately 600 km south of Cairo when six Coptic Christians were killed. It is reported that three men opened fire on a crowd standing outside a church, and then proceeded through the town shooting at passers-by. A Muslim man working as a security guard at the church was also killed, and a number of people were injured.

I understand that three local Muslim men were arrested in the area on 8 January and subsequently charged with murder. The trial of the three accused began on 14 February, but, after a short hearing, proceedings were postponed until 20 March. The accused are being prosecuted in a Security Court under Egyptian emergency laws, and the prosecutor has stated that he is seeking the death penalty. Our Embassy in Cairo is continuing to follow the case closely. The Embassy is also involved in providing financial support to NGOs in Egypt working in the area of freedom of religion.

The overall human rights situation in Egypt is kept closely under review within the EU and our concerns are raised under the structures of the EU-Egypt Association Agreement and the Egypt Action Plan agreed in 2007. The most recent meeting of the specific EU-Egypt sub-committee dealing with human rights takes place in Brussels this week (10-11 March) and is due to cover developments in relation to freedom of religion and belief in Egypt. EU Missions in Egypt also prepare an annual report assessing the overall human rights situation in Egypt.

The human rights situation in Egypt has also recently been under review at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, within the context of Egypt's participation in the Universal Peer Review procedure. Ireland was one of a number of EU Member States which posed questions to the Egyptian government as part of this process, specifically raising the issues of press freedoms and freedom of expression, the use of torture, discrimination against women, and the position of NGOs in Egyptian society. Human rights issues were among the issues which I discussed when I met recently with the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, in Cairo on 24 February 2010.

Departmental Agencies.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

244 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the breakdown of the €5.292 million expenditure planned in 2010 for the National Sports Campus Development Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11828/10]

The total Exchequer allocation to the National Sports Campus Development Authority for 2010, as published in the 2010 Revised Estimates, is €7.754 million (comprising €4.112m in current funding and €3.642m capital). Of the total current allocation, an amount of €1.612m will meet the day-to-day funding requirements of the NSCDA, including staffing cash, and the provision of an operational subsidy to the National Aquatic Centre of up to €1.03m. The balance of the published current allocation was provided to NSCDA in the Revised Estimates to meet the costs of the settlement of a legal action taken.

Most of the 2010 capital allocation (€3m) to NSCDA is intended to meet the costs associated with the refurbishment of the former Marine Institute building at Abbotstown as new office accommodation for the National Governing Bodies (NGBs) of sport in Ireland. Of the remainder, €600k is to meet the costs of a planned maintenance programme at the National Aquatic Centre, while the balance of the allocation (€42k) is to meet the final retention payment for the Irish Institute of Sport HQ and other minor associated works.

Community Development.

John O'Mahony

Question:

245 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the effect of cutbacks in County Mayo following the cohesion process involving the partnerships; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12010/10]

John O'Mahony

Question:

246 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the effect on employment in the partnerships of any recent cutbacks; the reduction in remuneration resulting from same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12011/10]

John O'Mahony

Question:

247 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if it is envisaged that there will be a reduction in core services offered by partnerships specific to the disadvantaged and elderly living in rural isolated areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12012/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 245 to 247, inclusive, together.

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department was established in 2002 against a background of concern at the multiplicity of structures and agencies through which local and community development schemes and programmes were delivered. It inherited a number of local and community programmes with diverse structures, which had been operated under the aegis of several different Departments. Clearly, there was an inherent danger of fragmentation of services and the diffusion of resources.

The cohesion process initiated by my Department a number of years ago to address these issues resulted in a significant reduction of local delivery structures for a range of rural and local development programmes. Until last year, there were almost 100 partnerships/local development companies and LEADER companies operating. The cohesion process has resulted in that number being reduced to a total of 53 entities providing full county-wide coverage across the country.

Allocations to the local development companies under the Local and Community Development Programme (LCDP) — which replaced the Local Development Social Inclusion and Community Development Programmes from the beginning of 2010 — are made by Pobal, which manages it on behalf of my Department. Allocations are based on a number of factors, including the size/population of the catchment areas of the companies, the proposed annual programme of activity of each company, the deprivation index for the catchment areas and the available funding for the year. In addition, the indicative allocations for 2010 took account of concentrated levels of urban disadvantage in the catchment areas of urban partnership companies. The allocation for Co Mayo in 2009 was €1,136,953 and is set at €980,176 for 2010, a reduction of the order of 13.8%.

I am aware that the delivery of front-line services and supports on a full-county basis is posing a challenge for some companies but I am strongly of the view that, in the context of reduced overall funding, priority must continue to be given to the most disadvantaged individuals and communities, be they living in rural or urban areas.

I wish to remind the Deputy that my Department has no role in the internal operations of local development/partnership companies and therefore does not have a role in relation to staff employment and remuneration, which are matters for the boards of the companies as the employer. It is a matter for the boards to decide how best to operate with reduced budgets and to address any staffing issues, such as redundancy, which may arise. I would, however, anticipate that, within existing resources, individual companies will approach the issue of staff retention with a view to continued prioritisation of front-line services and will, consequently, examine all options for achieving necessary savings in administration and overheads.

As I have previously indicated, my primary concern is to make every effort to ensure that the front-line services provided by, or supported through, my Department — especially those providing tangible benefits for the most disadvantaged communities — are protected.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Pat Breen

Question:

248 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11795/10]

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

Finian McGrath

Question:

249 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9. [11728/10]

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

Social Welfare Appeals.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

250 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding a carer’s allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and when it is likely that a decision will be made. [11729/10]

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

Social Welfare Benefits.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

251 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding an application for arrears of jobseeker’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11743/10]

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

Martin Ferris

Question:

252 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will make a statement on the fact that many young unemployed persons are refused permission to sign on because they do not possess a recognisable photographic identity such as a driving licence or passport, and that the Garda will not issue a photographic identity without one of the former. [11747/10]

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

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

253 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of individual cases for each of the past five years where social welfare benefits were refused due to the fact that the applicant was unlawfully at large from prison or places of detention; the action taken as a result of such refusal; if the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform was informed; if any applicant refused applied more than once; and the dates of such application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11753/10]

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

Mary Upton

Question:

254 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her plans to ensure that persons on social welfare and who are entitled to the fuel allowance will be assisted with the payment of their fuel bills which have been unusually high, arising from the recent weather conditions which continues to cause a serious drain on their resources; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11778/10]

The Department's role is to assist social welfare recipients with heating costs, both through their basic payments and through the fuel allowance scheme and the household benefits package of electricity and gas allowances. The national fuel allowance scheme assists householders on long-term social welfare or health service executive (HSE) payments with meeting the cost of their heating needs during the winter season. The allowance represents a contribution towards a person's normal heating expenses. It is not intended to meet those costs in full.

Fuel allowance is payable for 32 weeks a year. The standard allowance is €20 a week while the rate in smokeless zones is €23.90 a week. The scheme benefits almost 318,000 people a year at an estimated cost of €217 million in 2009. Electricity and gas allowances under the household benefits package, are payable throughout the year to almost 380,000 pensioners, people with disabilities, and carer households towards their heating, light and cooking costs at an estimated cost of €200m in 2009. The electricity allowance covers standing charges plus VAT and up to 2,400 units of electricity in each billing period.

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, administered by community welfare officers, can be used to assist people in certain circumstances with specific heating needs due to infirmity or a particular medical condition. Heating needs can also be met under the exceptional needs payments provisions of the scheme where a person is unable to meet such needs out of his/her resources. Eligible people would normally be in receipt of a social welfare or health service executive payment.

Since January 2010, community welfare officers have made a total of 3,840 payments at a cost of €908,000 under the exceptional needs payment scheme to assist people with increased gas, ESB and other fuel costs arising from the recent adverse weather conditions. Assistance will continue to be provided towards the payment of heating bills for those in need. The exceptional needs payments scheme is considered to be the appropriate response to heating needs arising from the recent cold weather. Community welfare officers are best placed to deal with the situation having local knowledge and taking individual circumstances into account.

Mary Upton

Question:

255 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will arrange for an extension of the fuel allowance for an additional month, due to the hardship caused to many elderly persons in particular, as a consequence of the sustained weather conditions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11779/10]

The Department's role is to assist social welfare recipients with heating costs, both through their basic payments and through the household benefits package with fuel, electricity and gas allowances. These schemes have been improved significantly in recent years. The national fuel allowance scheme assists householders on long-term social welfare or health service executive (HSE) payments with meeting the cost of their heating needs during the winter season. The allowance represents a contribution towards a person's normal heating expenses. It is not intended to meet those costs in full.

Fuel allowance is now payable for 32 weeks and benefits over 318,000 people at an aggregate cost of €217m million in 2009. The payment rate is now €20 per week or €23.90 for recipients living in designated smokeless areas. Electricity and gas allowances under the household benefits package, are payable throughout the year to over 380,000 pensioners, people with disabilities, and carer households towards their heating, light and cooking costs at an estimated overall scheme cost of €200m in 2009. The electricity allowance covers standing charges plus VAT and up to 2,400 units of electricity in each billing period.

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, administered by community welfare officers, can be used to assist people in certain circumstances with specific heating needs due to infirmity or a particular medical condition. Heating needs can also be met under the exceptional needs payments provisions of the scheme where a person is unable to meet such needs out of his/her resources. Eligible people would normally be in receipt of a social welfare or health service executive payment. Since January 2010, community welfare officers have made a total of 3,840 payments at a cost of € 908,000 under the exceptional needs payment scheme to assist people with increased gas, ESB and other fuel costs arising from the recent adverse weather conditions. Assistance will continue to be provided towards the payment of heating bills for those in need.

The exceptional needs payments scheme is considered to be the appropriate response to heating needs arising from the recent cold weather. Community welfare officers are best placed to deal with the situation having local knowledge and taking individual circumstances into account. Improvements to the fuel allowance scheme, such as an increase in the rate of payment or an extension of the duration of the fuel season, would have considerable cost implications. Paying fuel allowance for an extra four weeks in 2010 at current payment rates would cost an additional €28m, bringing total annual expenditure on the scheme to some €245m. Any changes to the scheme will be considered in a budgetary context and in the light of resources available for improvements in social welfare payments generally.

Consultancy Contracts.

John O'Mahony

Question:

256 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, further to Parliamentary Question No. 401 of 23 February 2010, when the information requested will be provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11782/10]

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

Social Welfare Benefits.

Dan Neville

Question:

257 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the details of all social welfare payments awarded in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [11792/10]

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

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

258 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will reconsider the refusal to allow the full entitlement of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1 for their retirement pension. [11808/10]

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

Finian McGrath

Question:

259 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will support a matter (details supplied). [11809/10]

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

Dinny McGinley

Question:

260 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a child benefit application in respect of a person (details supplied) will be approved; and if arrears will be awarded to the date of application. [11813/10]

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

Paul Connaughton

Question:

261 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding an application for illness benefit in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this person has not worked since 6 March 2009 and worked with the London Metropolitan Police Service from 1978 to 1988; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11819/10]

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

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

262 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who was in PAYE employment for 22 years, as well as being latterly self-employed, is now entitled to any income support; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11832/10]

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

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

263 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a rent supplement will be approved in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11833/10]

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

Asylum Support Services.

Mary Upton

Question:

264 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the average processing time for asylum seekers’ appeals for those who are resident in direct provision accommodation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11839/10]

I am informed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that during 2009 the average time taken to process all appeals (i.e. those decided summarily and by way of oral hearing) was 24 weeks. However, if allowance was made for the 25% most protracted cases, the average time fell to 15.8 weeks. Separate statistics regarding asylum seekers in direct provision or, indeed, regarding any other category of appellants are not maintained.

Mary Upton

Question:

265 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her plans to increase the direct provision allowance for asylum seekers who are waiting on a decision on their status; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11840/10]

As responsibility for all matters relating to direct provision allowance for asylum seekers rests with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform this Parliamentary Question is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform.

Departmental Correspondence.

Mary Upton

Question:

266 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will reply to correspondence (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11841/10]

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

Social Welfare Benefits.

Joe Costello

Question:

267 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will reinstate child benefit in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11872/10]

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:

268 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if rent support will be increased in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare. [11887/10]

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:

269 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when child benefit will be awarded in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11890/10]

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:

270 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a person (details supplied) on County Kildare will be awarded jobseeker’s benefit or assistance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11891/10]

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:

271 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when one parent family allowance will be awarded in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11892/10]

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:

272 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the full social welfare entitlement in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11893/10]

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:

273 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if and when one parent family allowance will be awarded in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11894/10]

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:

274 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if and when all child benefit and arrears will be awarded in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11895/10]

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:

275 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding an application for child benefit in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11896/10]

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

Local Authority Staff.

Christy O'Sullivan

Question:

276 Deputy Christy O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the staffing level of Cork County Council; the breakdown by job description within Cork County Council; if there is an optimal number of outside staff and general operatives considered essential to maintain services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11731/10]

Based on its returns to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government at 31 December 2009, the present staffing level of Cork County Council is 2,364 whole time equivalent staff. 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. The matters raised in the question are, accordingly, appropriately determined at local level.

Planning Issues.

Frank Fahey

Question:

277 Deputy Frank Fahey asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the details of the Supreme Court appeal relative to the Galway city outer bypass; the specific points of law on which the appeal was allowed; and if the appeal has as yet been lodged. [11777/10]

This case involves planning consent for the construction of a road through a Special Area of Conservation and concerns the proper interpretation of Article 6.3 of the Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC). In judicial review proceedings of the Board's decision, in which it was a co-respondent, the State took a position that An Bord Pleanála had erred in its interpretation of Article 6(3) and that the legally correct course would have been to deal with this case under the derogation provisions of Article 6.4 of the Habitats Directive.

On 9 October 2009, the High Court upheld the Board's decision. However, leave for the State to appeal the decision was granted on 6 November 2009 on the basis that the issue involved a point of law of exceptional public importance. The State lodged its grounds for appeal, in regard to the interpretation of Article 6(3) of the Habitats Directive, earlier this week.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Seán Power

Question:

278 Deputy Seán Power asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when a decision will be made on the River Barrow abstraction project scheme in view of the fact that all issues have been addressed and a tender report prepared; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11873/10]

The Kildare Water Supply Scheme Phase 1 (River Barrow Abstraction Scheme and Associated Pipelines) was included in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007-2009. Kildare County Council has submitted a tender recommendation to my Department for the Water Treatment Plant Design Build Operate Contract which is to be constructed at Srowland and this is currently under examination. When this examination is complete a decision will be conveyed to the Council as soon as possible in light of the finalisation of the Water Services Investment Programme for the period 2010 to 2012; I expect to publish the new Programme shortly.

Special Areas of Conservation.

Enda Kenny

Question:

279 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the location, name and extent of each of the 32 raised bogs sites nominated for designation in 1999 as special areas of conservation, on which turf cutting for personal domestic use was allowed until 2009; his plan and programme for their conservation and protection in respect of these raised bog sites; the nature of the protection works envisaged in the case of each such plan; the timescale for implementation; the estimated cost in each such case; the allocation of money to be spent in 2010 on each such plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11997/10]

Enda Kenny

Question:

280 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will provide a copy of his plan for the protection of 32 raised bog sites nominated for special areas of conservation in 1999; if such programme of plans is available to the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11998/10]

Enda Kenny

Question:

281 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the date on which he had an approved derogation provided by the EU for 32 raised bog sites nominated for designation as special areas of conservation in 1999; if he will include in this reply, the formal wording of the derogation as approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11999/10]

Enda Kenny

Question:

282 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the name, location and extent of 23 raised bog special areas of conservation which were nominated for designation in 2002; the date and wording of the formal derogation by him in respect of these 23 raised bogs, on which turf cutting for personal domestic use can continue until 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12000/10]

Enda Kenny

Question:

283 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will provide a copy of the individual plans that he has prepared for the protection and conservation of 23 raised bog special areas of conservation designated in 2002; the estimated timescale and cost involved in each such plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12001/10]

Enda Kenny

Question:

284 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the name, location and extent of 75 natural heritage areas designated in 2004; his plans prepared for their protection and conservation; if he can provide copies of each individual plan; the wording and the date of approval of a Government derogation in each of these 75 areas; if he will confirm that turf cutting for domestic purposes can continue in these 75 areas until 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12002/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 279 to 284, inclusive, together.

Ireland is required to protect habitats of European importance under the Habitats Directive 1992, which was transposed into Irish law by the European Communities (Natural Habitats) Regulations 1997, and the Wildlife (Amendment) Act, 2000. In accordance with the Directive, Ireland has nominated certain raised bog sites, which contain priority natural habitats under the Directive, as candidate Special Areas of Conservation (cSACs). In addition, Ireland has also designated other raised bogs as natural heritage areas (NHAs) under the 2000 Wildlife Act.

By 1999, 32 raised bog site had been designated as Special Areas of Conservation. Commercial cutting was stopped and a 10-year grace period was granted to those cutting turf for their own domestic use. This was intended to allow those involved sufficient time to find an alternative source of fuel. A similar 10-year period applies to bogs designated after 1999. Approval was not sought from the EU in relation to this matter. Arising from the ten-year grace period, cutting for domestic purposes may continue on the remaining 23 raised bog SACs until the end of 2011 and the 75 NHA raised bog sites until the end of 2013. I am providing a list, with counties of location and extent of raised bog habitat within each site, of the 32 raised bog sites nominated for designation as SACs by 1999 and the 23 nominated in 2002. I am also providing information on the 75 which were classified as NHAs in 2004.

Management plans for these sites will comprise measures to maintain them in, or restore them to, favourable conservation status as required by the Habitats Directive. This will involve a complete cessation of all turf-cutting on the sites and restorative work including in relation to artificial drainage channels which were dug to facilitate turf extraction. Detailed management plans have yet to be drawn up for most sites, and these will be established after detailed surveys. My Department has allocated some €5.4 million for measures to compensate turbary owners in 2010. This is intended to cater for existing arrangements, including the need to make provision for any commercial turf cutters who have established rights to compensation for mandatory cessation of their activities.

The work of the Inter-Departmental Working Group on the Cessation of Turf Cutting in Designated Raised Bogs is nearing completion and I expect to receive its report very shortly. I will conclude my consideration of the report and any recommendations it contains, including in relation to cost and timeframe for implementation, as rapidly as possible, and will then be in touch with affected individuals and representative groups in regard to the position.

SAC 1999 — Raised Bog

No#

Year

Site Code

Site Name

County

Hectares of SAC

% of Raised Bog Habitat

Hectares of Raised Bog Habitat

%

1

1997

000006

Killyconny Bog (Cloghbally)

Cavan/Meath

191.22

46

87.96

2

1997

000231

Barroughter Bog

Galway

174.02

53

92.23

3

1997

000248

Cloonmoylan Bog

Galway

554.42

71

393.64

4

1997

000285

Kilsallagh Bog

Galway

279.73

68

190.22

5

1997

000296

Lisnageeragh Bog and Ballinstack Turlough

Galway

455.49

62

282.40

6

1997

000301

Lough Lurgeen Bog/ Glenamaddy Turlough

Galway

1,162.11

51

592.68

7

1997

000326

Shankill West Bog

Galway

136.39

52

70.92

8

1997

000382

Sheheree (Ardagh) Bog

Kerry

17.07

38

6.49

9

1997

000391

Ballynafagh Bog

Kildare

156.46

43

67.28

10

1997

000440

Lough Ree

Ros/LD/WM

14,371.24

3

431.14

11

1997

000457

Derrynabrock Bog

Mayo/Roscommon Subsumed into SAC 2298

12

1997

000497

Flughany Bog

Mayo/Sligo

231.09

47

108.61

13

1997

000547

Tawnaghbeg Bog

Mayo Subsumed into SAC 2298

14

1997

000566

All Saints Bog and Esker

Offaly

369.68

52

192.23

15

1997

000572

Clara Bog

Offaly

836.54

44

368.08

16

1997

000575

Ferbane Bog

Offaly

153.08

76

116.34

17

1997

000580

Mongan Bog

Offaly

207.83

61

126.78

18

1997

000581

Moyclare Bog

Offaly

129.86

62

80.51

SAC 1999 — Raised Bog continued

No#

Year

Site Code

Site Name

County

Hectares of SAC

of Raised Bog Habitat

Hectares of Raised Bog Habitat

%

19

1997

000582

Raheenmore Bog

Offaly

210.01

65

136.51

20

1997

000585

Sharavogue Bog

Offaly

223.43

61

136.29

21

1997

000592

Bellanagare Bog

Roscommon

1,207.59

61

736.63

22

1997

000597

Carrowbehy/Caher Bog

Roscommon

343.83

54

185.67

23

1997

000600

Cloonchambers Bog

Roscommon

348.20

45

156.69

24

1997

000604

Derrinea Bog

Roscommon

86.18

70

60.33

25

1997

000614

Cloonshanville Bog

Roscommon

225.76

84

189.64

26

1997

000641

Ballyduff/Clonfinane Bog

Tipperary

269.56

69

186.00

27

1997

000647

Kilcarren-Firville Bog

Tipperary

676.67

55

372.17

28

1997

000679

Garriskil Bog

Westmeath

324.81

52

168.90

29

1997

001242

Carrownagappul Bog

Galway

487.53

65

316.89

30

1997

001818

Lough Forbes Complex

Longford/Ros

1,337.08

21

280.79

31

1997

002110

Corliskea/Trien/Cloonfelliv Bog

Galway/Ros

725.21

61

442.38

32

1999

000297

Lough Corrib

Galway/Mayo

25,253.37

2

505.07

1999 Raised Bog SAC

Sub-total

51,145.46

13.85

7,081.45

SAC 2002 — Raised Bog

No#

Year

Site Code

Site Name

County

Hectares of SAC

of Raised Bog Habitat

Ha of Raised Bog Habitat

33

2002

000595

Callow Bog

Roscommon

617.91

26

160.66

34

2002

002298

River Moy

Mayo/Ros/Sligo

15,415.62

4

616.62

35

2002

002331

Mouds Bog

Kildare

591.20

49

289.69

36

2002

002332

Coolrain Bog

Laois

145.95

42

61.30

37

2002

002333

Knockacoller Bog

Laois

130.39

39

50.85

38

2002

002336

Carn Park Bog

Westmeath

247.89

63

156.17

39

2002

002337

Crosswood Bog

Westmeath

206.61

51

105.37

40

2002

002338

Drumalough Bog

Roscommon

278.89

52

145.02

41

2002

002339

Ballynamona Bog and Corkip Lough

Roscommon

244.77

18

44.06

42

2002

002340

Moneybeg and Clareisland Bogs

Meath/Westmeath

364.32

39

142.08

43

2002

002341

Ardagullion Bog

Longford

117.33

48

56.32

44

2002

002342

Mount Hevey Bog

Meath/Westmeath

483.78

41

198.35

45

2002

002343

Tullaher Lough and Bog

Clare

469.18

4

18.77

46

2002

002346

Brown Bog

Longford

76.68

66

50.61

47

2002

002347

Camderry Bog

Galway

280.72

70

196.50

48

2002

002348

Clooneen Bog

Longford

215.03

39

83.86

49

2002

002349

Corbo Bog

Roscommon

206.76

58

119.92

50

2002

002350

Curraghlehanagh Bog

Galway

278.22

55

153.02

51

2002

002351

Moanveanlagh Bog

Kerry

214.72

61

130.98

52

2002

002352

Monivea Bog

Galway

286.68

51

146.21

53

2002

002353

Redwood Bog

Tipperary

555.03

32

177.61

54

2002

002354

Tullaghanrock Bog

Roscommon

103.92

65

67.55

55

2002

002356

Ardgraigue Bog

Galway

183.54

43

78.92

2002 Raised Bog SAC

Sub-totals

21,715.14

14.97

3,250.45

Total SAC Raised Bog Area

72,860.60

14.18

10,331.89

Code

Site Name

County

Area (HA)

000220

Lough Namucka Bog NHA

Galway

276.46

000221

Moorfield Bog/Farm Cottage NHA

Galway

139.12

000222

Suck River Callows NHA

Galway/Ros

3,396.91

000229

Ballygar Bog NHA

Galway

165.58

000235

Bracklagh Bog NHA

Galway

104.93

000245

Clooncullaun Bog NHA

Galway

202.61

000247

Slieve Bog NHA

Galway

268.39

000249

Cloonoolish Bog NHA

Galway

119.76

000254

Crit Island West NHA

Galway

733.77

000267

Funshin Bog NHA

Galway

182.76

000280

Castle Ffrench West Bog NHA

Galway

159.00

000281

Keeloges Bog NHA

Galway

324.53

000283

Kilmore Bog NHA

Galway

160.49

000284

Kilnaborris Bog NHA

Galway

167.86

000292

Leaha Bog NHA

Galway

102.19

000307

Lough Tee Bog NHA

Galway

448.75

000310

Meneen Bog NHA

Galway

217.41

000321

Raford River Bog NHA

Galway

245.83

000333

Anna More Bog NHA

Kerry

128.99

000337

Doon Lough NHA

Clare

581.80

000422

Aghnamona Bog NHA

Leitrim/Longford

410.63

000564

River Little Brosna Callows NHA

Offaly/Tipp

1,322.87

000565

Clonydonnin Bog NHA

Offaly/Wmeath

138.07

000570

Black Castle Bog NHA

Offaly

167.69

000591

Bella Bridge Bog NHA

Roscommon

198.63

000603

Cornaveagh Bog NHA

Roscommon

123.97

000605

Derrycanan Bog NHA

Roscommon

349.87

000640

Arragh More Bog NHA

Tipperary

419.51

000642

Ballymacegan Bog NHA

Tipperary

107.48

000648

Killeen Bog NHA

Tipperary

217.27

000652

Monaincha Bog/Ballaghmore Bog NHA

Laois/Tipperary

293.50

000674

Ballynagrenia and Ballinderry Bog NHA

Westmeath

292.74

000677

Cloncrow Bog (New Forest) NHA

Westmeath

234.32

000684

Lough Derravaragh NHA

Westmeath

1,413.45

000691

Rinn River NHA

Leitirm

455.93

000694

Wooddown Bog NHA

Leitrim/Longford

196.99

000890

Cangort Bog NHA

Offaly/Tipp

127.14

000921

Screggan Bog NHA

Offaly

179.64

000937

Scohaboy Bog NHA

Tipperary

392.96

000985

Lough Kinale and Derragh Lough NHA

Cavan

414.30

000993

Ayle Lower Bog NHA

Clare

85.67

001020

Loughanilloon Bog NHA

Clare

95.69

001227

Aughrim Bog NHA

Galway

263.57

001240

Capira/Derrew Bog NHA

Galway

118.64

001244

Castle Ffrench East Bog NHA

Galway

204.28

001254

Derrinlough Bog NHA

Galway

246.89

001255

Derrynagran Bog and Esker NHA

Galway

110.11

001264

Eskerboy Bog NHA

Galway

132.01

001280

Killaclogher Bog NHA

Galway

492.20

001283

Killure Bog NHA

Galway

478.46

001303

Moorfield Bog NHA

Galway

208.50

001324

Jamestown Bog NHA

Meath

201.23

001352

Bunnaruddee Bog NHA

Kerry

151.87

001388

Carbury Bog NHA

Kildare

131.23

001393

Hodgestown Bog NHA

Kildare

128.98

001405

Cashel Bog (Leitrim) NHA

Leitirm

128.59

001420

Corracramph Bog NHA

Leitrim

222.68

001423

Cloonageeher Bog NHA

Leitrim

284.72

001448

Forthill Bog NHA

Longford

121.97

001450

Mount Jessop Bog NHA

Longford

147.53

001580

Girley Bog NHA

Meath

146.38

001582

Molerick Bog NHA

Meath

88.57

001623

Carrickynaghtan Bog NHA

Roscommon

599.97

001652

Tullaghan Bog (Roscommon) NHA

Roscommon

99.46

001684

Lorrha Bog NHA

Tipperary

82.23

001725

Nure Bog NHA

Westmeath

225.36

001812

Lough Garr NHA

Westmeath

218.99

001853

Nore Valley Bogs NHA

Tipperary

272.38

002033

Daingean Bog NHA

Offaly

179.59

002072

Lisnanarriagh Bog NHA

Roscommon

109.01

002307

Cloonloum More Bog NHA

Clare

167.52

002323

Milltownpass Bog NHA

Westmeath

118.39

002344

Annaghbeg Bog NHA

Galway

273.12

002355

Hawkswood Bog NHA

Offaly

136.74

002357

Clonreher Bog NHA

Laois

186.00

Total Area

22,443

Enda Kenny

Question:

285 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the nature and conditions of the bog purchase scheme available to tenants in areas of raised bog on which it is proposed not to allow further turf cutting for domestic purposes; the overall capital available to him for this scheme in 2010; the numbers of tenants approached in the case of the 32 raised bog sites which were designated as special areas of conservation in 1999; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12003/10]

Approximately €5.4 million has been made available in 2010 for the Bog Purchase Scheme for domestic cutters and for the compensation of commercial turf cutters. Having regard to available resources, priority in the domestic scheme is being given to those wishing to sell their interest in the 32 raised bog sites which were nominated for designation as Special Areas of Conservation in 1999. To date, over 220 applications have been received from owners of lands/rights within the 32 Raised Bog SACs. The Bog Purchase Scheme is a voluntary scheme advertised by my Department. It is up to interested parties to apply to sell qualifying land under this scheme. I have arranged for details of the voluntary bog purchase scheme to be forwarded to the Deputy for his information.

Departmental Correspondence.

David Stanton

Question:

286 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the meetings, discussions and correspondence he or officials from his Department have had with the National Asset Management Agency in relation to a social dividend such as leasing of residential properties for social housing purposes; the progress in relation to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12006/10]

From a social housing perspective, I see clear potential for real and meaningful synergies between the work of the National Asset Management Agency in ensuring the stability of the financial system and the role of my Department in responding to social housing need.

For some time now the social housing investment programme has been undergoing a significant restructuring to shift the focus increasingly towards more flexible delivery mechanisms, through the Rental Accommodation Scheme and, more recently, the introduction of long term leasing arrangements, with a lesser reliance on construction and acquisition, in line with the reform agenda clearly set out under the Government's housing policy statement, Delivering Homes, Sustaining Communities. This approach is enabling the Government to deal proactively with the new circumstances in the residential property market, seeking to make economic necessity and social need work in tandem.

I and my Department have met with representatives of NAMA to discuss how we might seek to ensure that a social dividend is secured through the long-term leasing of suitable residential units for social housing purposes, while providing a return in line with NAMA's mandate. With NAMA now operational, I anticipate that this engagement will continue and intensify in the period ahead.

Consultancy Contracts.

John O'Mahony

Question:

287 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, further to Parliamentary Question No. 461 of 23 February 2010, when the information requested will be provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11786/10]

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. I will write to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Grant Payments.

John O'Mahony

Question:

288 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their payment under REPS 4; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11733/10]

Due to industrial action by staff in my Department, I am not in a position to provide a reply to this question.

Departmental Investigations.

Finian McGrath

Question:

289 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if these allegations (details supplied) from persons are correct; and if the allegations have been investigated. [11764/10]

This is a matter for Teagasc, the legal successors to the Council of the Agriculture Institute, with which the person concerned was employed.

Crop Losses.

Martin Ferris

Question:

290 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a crop inspection will be carried out to assess damage on a farm (details supplied) in County Kerry. [11773/10]

An application under the Frost Damage Scheme, which I introduced to provide some compensation for damage to potatoes and vegetables caused by frost damage in January of this year, was received from the person named and I am pleased to say that the necessary inspection will take place within the coming days.

Consultancy Contracts.

John O'Mahony

Question:

291 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, further to Parliamentary Question No. 482 of 23 February 2010, when the information requested will be provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11785/10]

Due to Industrial Action in my Department I am not in a position to provide a reply to this question.

Grant Payments.

Michael Creed

Question:

292 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive their REP scheme payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11788/10]

Due to industrial action by staff in my Department, I am not in a position to provide a reply to this question.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

293 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a decision will be made on an application for the single farm payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11816/10]

The person named was allocated 36.39 Single Payment entitlements to the value of €158.29 each in 2005. The EU Regulations governing the Single Payment Scheme provide that a farmer must use his/her entitlements at least once over a three consecutive year period by submitting an application under the Scheme and declaring an eligible hectare in respect of each entitlement held. If the entitlements are not used in this manner, the Regulations provide that they revert to the National Reserve.

The person named did not declare any land on a Single Payment application form in the years 2007, 2008 or 2009. Therefore, in line with the governing provisions all his entitlements were surrendered to the National Reserve at the end of 2009. A letter of notification regarding the expired entitlements was issued to the person named on 25 January 2010. In that letter, the person named was informed of the right to appeal the decision to revert the entitlements to the Reserve.

Animal By-products.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

294 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reasons it will become almost impossible for very small wool buyers to continue in business in 2010 due to the introduction of new regulations which are both costly and in many cases unnecessary and which will prevent them from buying wool; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11821/10]

The use or disposal of animal by-products (ABP) is controlled under Regulation (EC) No. 1774 of 2002. The Regulation, which came into effect in Ireland in 2003, classifies animal by-products into three risk categories, ranging from Category 1 (high risk) material to Category 3 (which poses little or no risk) and requires each category to be subject to an appropriate level of regulatory control. Implementation of the Regulation in Ireland focused initially on the sectors where there was a higher risk to public or animal health. Wool is classified as a Category 3 ABP and generally seen as being at the lower end of the risk spectrum.

Under the EU Regulation wool sheds require approval from my Department. Within the wool sector the initial focus was on the largest operators, who are engaged in the export trade, and at this stage 27 have been approved under the Regulation. Details of approved plants are available on my Department's website. Smaller operators, who are not engaged in exporting, are only being contacted at this point in recognition of the reduced risk involved. They are being given until 1st May 2010 to submit applications and if they fail initially to meet the required standard will be allowed until 1st January 2011 to rectify any shortcomings. It is the intention that the Regulation will be implemented in a pragmatic and sympathetic manner; and it is certainly not intended to drive buyers out of the business.

Live Exports.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

295 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on the prospects for the live cattle export trade for 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11826/10]

Live exports continue to be an important outlet for Irish cattle, providing an essential element of competition with the beef trade. Following the abolition of export refunds on live animals, other than for breeding, this trade is now almost exclusively with other EU Member States. Live cattle exports surged to over 286,000 head in 2009, almost double the level recorded in 2008. In the period up to 21 February 2010 live exports are already over 200% ahead of the levels achieved during the same period in 2009. Within this, trade has been especially strong in cattle to the United Kingdom, calves to the Netherlands and weanlings to Italy and Spain. Over the full year it is anticipated that overall live exports should reach the highest level for many years.

Grant Payments.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

296 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when the 2009 cow welfare scheme will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12007/10]

The person named applied for 24 animals in 2009 under the Suckler Welfare Scheme. It is a condition of this Scheme that for herds of more than 10 cows the calves must be weaned in at least two separate groups with each group being removed at a minimum interval of five days. The applicant did not comply with this condition and, therefore, is not eligible for payment under the provisions of the Terms and Conditions of the Scheme.

Replies to Questions Nos. 297 to 306, inclusive, not received from the Department.