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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 29 Apr 2010

Vol. 707 No. 5

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 10, inclusive, answered orally.

On-farm Investment Schemes.

Niall Blaney

Question:

11 Deputy Niall Blaney asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he expects to be in a position to announce details of on-farm investment schemes for the pig and poultry sectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16791/10]

As part of proposals in relation to the use of unspent Single Payment Scheme and Modulation funds and the European Economic Recovery Programme, I announced in 2009 that, subject to the receipt of EU Commission approval, I intended to introduce support for a number of specific categories of farmers which would be focused on supporting productive investment. The measures include:

A scheme for dairy farmers to make the necessary investment to adjust to expanding dairy opportunities and promote the operation of cost-effective commercial operations;

Aid for sheep fencing and handling facilities to assist sheep farmers in reducing labour input in a vulnerable sector;

Aid for farmers for water harvesting and conservation equipment, which will reduce water costs on farms;

Animal welfare grants (a) for pig producers to assist in the conversion to loose housing for sows; and (b) for poultry producers to assist in the conversion to enriched cages, free range or barn systems.

EU Commission approval for the above-mentioned schemes has recently been received and, due to the relatively short time-frames for completion of the investment works concerned, my priority is to introduce the Sow Welfare and Poultry Welfare Schemes first. Arrangements will then be made to introduce the three remaining Schemes. Discussions are ongoing with the relevant farming organizations in regard to the terms and conditions of the Schemes concerned. These should be completed in the near future and I hope to be in a position to make an announcement regarding the Sow Welfare and Poultry Welfare Schemes at that stage.

Common Agricultural Policy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

12 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the issues most likely to impact on the agriculture and food sector in the context of the current review of the Common Agricultural Policy; the degree to which he intends to ensure that this sector, which is vital to the Irish economy, is adequately provided for and developed in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17004/10]

The Common Agricultural Policy will provide the main policy framework for development of the primary agriculture and agri-food industries in Ireland and the EU to 2020 and beyond. Currently the CAP underpins farm income through payments decoupled from production, manages extremes of price volatility through market management instruments and supports investment, environmental and wider rural economy measures under the Rural Development Programme.

Funding arrangements for the CAP are fixed until 2013 under the EU Financial Perspective 2007 to 2013. There will be competing pressures for funds under the new Financial Perspective from 2014 to 2020. This, together with an increasing "green agenda" and conclusion of the WTO Doha Development Agenda (DDA) will bring pressure for further changes to the current arrangements, post 2013. Formal negotiations have yet to begin on the CAP after 2013 although there have been a number of policy debates and informal exchanges on the future direction of agricultural policy. However, it is unlikely that full details of any new arrangements for the CAP will be agreed until late 2012.

I am very conscious of the importance of the EU ensuring security of food supply and recognising the need to maintain family farming in Europe. However, particularly as an exporting country, I am also conscious of the need for competitiveness and innovation. I would wish to see all of these objectives clearly reflected in the new CAP. My overarching aim is for a strong and properly resourced CAP guided by the twin principles of competitiveness and sustainability. Several initiatives are underway to anticipate and prepare for the more competitive environment facing the agri-food sector in the future and to address upcoming challenges facing the sector.

Strategies for the development of a consumer focused, competitive and sustainable agri-food sector capable of meeting the challenges of more liberalised markets and broader societal demands both at home and abroad are already set out in the Agri-vision 2015 report. These strategies identify the delivery of safe, high quality, nutritious food, produced in a sustainable manner for high value markets as the optimum road for the future of the Irish food industry. They span the entire food chain from primary production through processing to market access, which is key to developing export potential.

A high level Committee which I appointed is currently engaged in an in-depth review of strategic policy for the agri-food, forestry and fishing sector looking forward to 2020 to allow it to cope with pressures from the current economic climate, to deal effectively with broader sustainability issues such as climate change, food security and environmental management and to address some structural and other weaknesses that must be addressed if its full potential is to be realised. The Committee is expected to present a report in June of this year.

An inter-Departmental Market Access Group chaired by my Department and comprising representatives from the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Enterprise, Trade and Employment, An Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland and Bord Iascaigh Mhara is currently engaged in a co-ordinated effort to identify potential market opportunities for the full range of Irish food and beverages, prioritisation of market initiatives and broader access issues.

Bord Bia published a Strategy to boost food exports for the period 2009-2011. The strategy comprises six key priorities to be addressed including enhancing the industry's position on its home market to capitalise on the potential for growth and expansion of exports with a particular emphasis on the Eurozone markets. In delivery of this strategy Bord Bia has implemented a comprehensive set of promotional programmes and services, which have been developed in consultation with industry bearing in mind the impact of the sterling differential on competitiveness. These initiatives, coupled with a proactive policy on my part and that of my Department in relation to evolving market situations, will help to position and consolidate the Irish agri-food sector in the home and global market.

Common Fisheries Policy.

Christy O'Sullivan

Question:

13 Deputy Christy O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views in relation to the EU Commission’s Green Paper on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16789/10]

The European Commission issued a Green Paper on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) in April 2009 and sought responses to their proposals. Minister Killeen, who had responsibility for the Fisheries portfolio at that time, appointed Dr. Noel Cawley to chair a nationwide public consultation process. The result of the extensive consultations contributed in no small way to Ireland's Response to the Green Paper which issued on the 23rd of February. Ireland's response on the CFP reform sets down a number of informed recommendations which we believe must be incorporated into the new Common Fisheries Policy. They take a pragmatic approach, which promote measures that collectively take account of economic, social, environmental and sustainability factors. The report in its entirety and all formal submissions received during the public consultation process are available on www.fishingnet.ie.

The changes we consider necessary cover:

New focus on addressing discarding of fish at sea with a complete ban being introduced for stocks in a depleted state;

The retention of a management system based on national quotas supported by increased flexibility and a rejection of the mandatory privatisation of fish quotas or the introduction of international trading of fish quotas;

Access to coastal waters to be re-examined with a view to an extension of the coastal limit to 20 miles with new management arrangements in place to strengthen coastal communities dependant on inshore coastal fisheries;

New measures to strengthen the market for EU producers and increase quay side prices;

Reinvigoration of European aquaculture with continued structural support and a roadmap that establishes a route for growth in harmony with Community environmental law.

New regional structure to decision making at EU level with increasing industry responsibility and the development of a culture of compliance.

I attended a bilateral meeting with the Maria Damanaki, the new EU Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, on the 29th of March 2010. This meeting was arranged at my request to discuss the Report on "Irelands Response" to the Commissions Green Paper on the Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy and to set out clearly Ireland's National position on the CFP reform. At this meeting we discussed many areas where we have common ground with the EU Commission. However, I made it quite clear that Ireland does not support the Commission's ideas expressed in the Green Paper which would allow our national fish quotas to be privatised and traded away to large European fishing companies. I stressed that one of Ireland's main objective in the Reform Process will be to protect the national fish quotas as a public resource to be used for the benefit of our family owned fleet and to support our coastal communities. Under the planned EU timetable for the review, a summary of the consultation process was published by the Commission. This will be followed by a legislative proposal to the Council and the European Parliament to be adopted in 2011, with a view to its entering into force in 2012.

Consultation at European level continues with an informal meeting of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers to discuss the reform to be held in Vigo, Spain on the 4th and 5th May 2010. This meeting follows a Conference involving stakeholders which is being held on the 2nd and 3rd of May, also in Spain. It is planned that the outcome of this conference, together with the submissions received by the Commission and the outcome of other gatherings and conferences will inform the discussion at the Informal Council. The meeting is intended to inform a working document concerning reform options which will be prepared by the Commission and presented at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council scheduled for the 28th and 29th June 2010.

Nationally, I intend to continue close collaboration with the Federation of Irish Fishermen, indeed I met with the Federation just last week, and the other stakeholders to put Ireland's case forward and convince our Member State colleagues and the Commission to strengthen the current policy in line with Ireland's submission on the reform of the CFP.

Domestic Abattoirs.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

14 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has a national strategy aimed at developing local abattoirs in each county across the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16969/10]

There are abattoirs located in every county in Ireland. The regulation of local abattoirs is the responsibility of local authorities, who report to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland on this issue. I understand that there are 220 local abattoirs under the supervision of the local authorities, while 51 larger establishments come under the remit of my Department. In order to assist the development of this sector, small slaughterhouses and low-throughput meat establishments were included under the last round of funding provided through my Department's Capital Investment Scheme for the Marketing and Processing of Agricultural Products in 2008. Applications were sought from abattoirs and meat establishments with a view to:

improving efficiency;

adding value to products or producing new products;

developing new markets, and

contributing to the overall development of the sector generally.

Following a detailed evaluation and selection process, 31 small meat establishments were approved for funding of nearly €8 million towards overall investment in the sector of over €25 million. The projects included refurbishment of some abattoirs and one new abattoir. This investment, involving enterprises spread throughout 19 different counties, represents a very substantial commitment to the future of this sector. Technical support for artisan meat businesses is also available through a dedicated meat technologist employed by Teagasc. The technologist works with food businesses, Teagasc and other institutes to ensure best knowledge, skills and technology is made available through training, advice and technical support.

The deputy may also be aware that I have launched a major initiative to draw up a long-term strategy for the overall agri-food, forestry and fisheries sectors. I have appointed a Committee, chaired by Dr Sean Brady, to lead the strategy and my Department also established a web-based public consultation process. I am satisfied that this approach, incorporating all elements of the food supply chain, including the meat sector, provides the best potential for a comprehensive, joined up approach to ensuring the continued growth of the many different elements that make up our agri-food industry. The Committee will report in June.

Live Exports.

Denis Naughten

Question:

15 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps he is taking to enhance the live cattle trade to Britain; the numbers exported in 2009; the reason this was proportionately smaller than the increase to other destinations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16858/10]

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. The main reasons for the resurgence in this trade were stronger calf exports to the Netherlands, greater feedlot demand in Spain and Italy along with a sharp rise in finished cattle exports to Northern Ireland and Great Britain. As the Deputy is aware from my reply to PQ 11805/10 on 11 March, overall exports of live cattle from Ireland in 2009 increased by 94% on 2008 levels with those to Great Britain increasing by 440% — the highest percentage increase to any destination.

As part of its remit to enhance the value of the beef and livestock industry generally, Bord Bia continues to work closely with the trade in providing current information and developing market opportunities for live cattle exports to Great Britain and elsewhere. It has, for example, carried out a survey of small- to medium-sized abattoirs which represent approximately 30% of UK throughput. This exercise yielded valuable information about which plants are already slaughtering Irish-born animals and those that would be willing to do so. An encouraging aspect of the survey results is that the majority of respondents have a positive attitude to processing Irish cattle.

Nevertheless, there are a number of commercial issues in relation to labelling and marketing that continue to affect the live trade to Great Britain. Firstly, the labelling of beef is governed by comprehensive EU regulations introduced in 2000, which prevent final retailers from describing product born in Ireland but finished in Britain as either British or Irish. This product would need, rather, to be labelled with the country of birth (Ireland), the country of rearing (Ireland and UK) and the country of slaughter (UK). Some retailers view these requirements as potentially confusing or ambiguous to British consumers.

Secondly, the British Quality Assurance Standard (Red Tractor), an independently operated Quality Assurance Scheme, is based largely on country of birth and residence. To qualify for the Red Tractor, animals must have been born in the UK and have resided on an approved farm for at least the final 90 days before slaughter. This condition excludes Irish-born animals from the standard which is the most widely used quality assurance mark amongst British retailers.

Despite these challenges, the UK remains our largest single market for live cattle and I can assure the Deputy that the strong performance of Irish live exports last year has continued into the current year. In the period up to 10 April 2010, overall live exports are already over 55% ahead of the levels achieved during the same period in 2009. Again exports to Great Britain have performed very strongly and are significantly above those to other destinations, increasing by 176%, while those to Northern Ireland are up by 82% and those to other destinations by almost by 47%.

Fishing Industry Development.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

16 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on the opening of commercial bass fishing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16936/10]

I have been asked by the Federation of Irish Fishermen (FIF) to consider a proposal to allow a limited Commercial Sea Bass fishery in the Celtic Sea. The FIF has specifically proposed that vessels would be permitted to land only Sea Bass caught south of (fifty one degrees thirty minutes North) in area VII, which is an area approximately 50 KM off the South East coast of Ireland. Irish vessels are currently precluded from landing Sea Bass under the Bass (Conservation of Stocks) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 230 of 2006) and the Bass (Restriction on Sale) Regulations 2007 (S.I. No. 367 of 2007). The complete ban for the commercial fishing of sea bass applies to Irish fishing vessels in all areas while the vessels of other EU Member States are permitted to fish for sea bass, other than within Ireland's 6 mile coastal zone where a complete ban applies.

These regulations were introduced initially in conjunction with the Sea Bass Fishing Conservation Bye-laws, which imposes a bag limit on anglers of two bass in any one period of 24 hours and a ban on angling for bass during the spawning season, from 15th May to 15th June in any given year. The dramatic decline of Sea Bass stocks in the 1970's and relatively late spawning age of Irish Bass were the key reasons for the introduction of these measures in 1990, although Bass conservation by-laws were first introduced in 1975. I recognise that this is a very complex issue which may have impacts in areas aside from commercial fishing, such as angling tourism and marine bio-diversity. Indeed, I am conscious that a large number of continental and UK anglers visit Ireland every year for the sole purpose of Bass fishing.

In order to give the fullest consideration to this proposal, I have sought and received scientific advice from the Marine Institute in relation to the proposal by the FIF. In the same vein I have sought and received the advice of the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority in relation to proposal, from the perspective of the regulation of such a fishery. In addition to this advice, Minister Killeen wrote to Minister Lenihan in the Department of Energy, Communications and Natural Resources, who has responsibility for inland fisheries, including Bass angling, seeking his views on this proposal and Minister Lenihan has provided those observations.

In coming to a determination on what is a complex matter, I am very conscious of the need to maintain the current level of protection afforded to the inshore Sea Bass fishery. This factor is also recognised by the FIF which gives an assurance in its proposal, that the inshore Sea Bass fishery around our coast will not be the target of commercial fishing. I am currently considering the proposal together with the advice, observations and submissions made to date, in order to determine whether sufficient information is available in order to reach a determination on the matter. Such a determination will take account of the advices and observations received including the views of all stakeholders, including anglers.

Single Payment Scheme.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

17 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the penalties imposed on the single farm payment for area discrepancies and cross compliance; if he will break down the cross compliance penalties by statutory management requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16925/10]

My Department, in the context of delivering the Direct Payment Schemes, is required to carry out on-the-spot inspections on a number of farms covering such issues as eligibility under the Scheme, compliance with EU legislation in the areas of the environment, food safety, animal health and welfare and plant health and ensuring that the farm is maintained in good agricultural and environmental condition. A minimum of 5% of Scheme applicants are required to be inspected under the eligibility rule. These checks are carried out to verify that the actual area claimed in the application form corresponds to the area held by the farmer and to ensure there are no overlapping claims or duplicate claims. Up to two-thirds of these inspections are carried out without a farm visit and using the technique of remote sensing.

The rate of on-farm inspection required for cross-compliance is 1% of those farmers to whom the Statutory Management Requirements or GAEC apply. However at least 5% of producers must be inspected under the Bovine Animal Identification and Registration requirements and 3% of sheep farmers as this level as prescribed under the relevant Regulations. In 2009, 8,700 farmers had their holdings selected for on-the-spot inspection out of some 126,000 who applied for the Single Payment Scheme — over 100,000 of these are also applicants for the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme while some 60,000 are applicants under the REPS scheme. The total value of these three schemes is in the region of €1.9 billion annually.

Some 7,455 of these inspections involved checking the eligibility of the land with 4,100 of these carried out using the technique of remote sensing. Following these checks, 1,255 applicants had their Single Payment Scheme payments reduced as a result of over-declarations. Some 800 of these were relatively minor and resulted in only a reduction to the payment with no additional penalty being recorded. In the remaining 458 cases, penalties were applied resulting in €1,101,201.95 being withheld from the payments under the relevant schemes. This represents just 0 .06% of the €1.9 billion paid out under The Single Payment Scheme, Disadvantaged Areas' Scheme and Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS).

The EU regulations governing cross-compliance sets out a range of percentage reductions for non-compliance. Where non-compliance results from negligence on behalf of the farmer a 3% reduction may be applied but this can be reduced to 1% or increased to 5% depending on the extent, severity and permanence of the infringement. If the non-compliance were repeated within a 3- year period a multiplier of 3 must be applied. In the case of intentional infringement a 20% reduction is proposed but this could be reduced to 15% or increased to 100% depending on the extent, severity and permanence of the infringement. EU regulations also provide that where minor cases of non-compliance are detected a tolerance may be applied provided the farmer takes remedial action to correct the situation within a given timeframe.

A total of 1,155 farmers were subject to cross-compliance penalties under the 2009 Schemes for breaches of one or more Statutory Management Requirements while a further 367 farmers, while technically in breach of the requirements, did not suffer any penalty because of the tolerance regime applied for minor non-compliance. Where a farmer is found to be non-compliant, through negligence, under more than one SMR the penalties are not accumulative — only the higher penalty is applied. The bulk of penalties applied, 484 farmers, were for breaches of the rules relating to the identification and registration of bovine animals i.e. tagging, registration and notification of movements and deaths. A further 292 farmers were penalised for breaches of the Statutory Management Requirements relating to identification and registration of ovine animals while 256 farmers were penalised for breaches of the Statutory Management Requirements relating to Nitrates.

To date breaches found during Cross Compliance Inspections in 2009 have resulted in a total of €472,223.84 being withheld from payments under the Single Payment Scheme, Disadvantaged Area Scheme and REPS. This represents just .03% of Ireland's national ceiling for the Single Payment Scheme of €1.3 billion.

Cereal Sector.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

18 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his priorities in the area of tillage sector reform; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16988/10]

The maintenance of an efficient and viable cereals sector in Ireland is clearly very important. Not only does it generate an income to our tillage farmers but it is also a key source of feedingstuffs for our livestock sector. Annual cereals production in Ireland has fluctuated around 2 million tonnes in recent years and it is desirable to try and sustain this level of production in order to avoid over dependence on imported cereals.

Since Ireland is a deficit market for cereals, prices here are greatly affected by world prices and supplies. In 2007, increased demands for grain from the biofuels sector and the growing needs of new emerging markets like China and India drove up world grain market prices. In line with this rise in world prices, grain prices in Ireland increased to record levels during 2007 and growers here reacted by increasing the acreage sown. This resulted in a bumper harvest in 2008 with total grain production of almost 2.4m tonnes, the second highest on record.

However, the bad weather in the autumn of 2008 affected sowing of winter crops and this, coupled with poor returns for growers, led to the area planted being reduced again and consequently a decreased 2009 harvest output of about 1.86m tonnes, somewhat short of the long-term average of 2m tonnes. Despite the significant drop in production, grain prices were also down — on average 30% lower than the 2008 level. This illustrates the fact that the grain price in Ireland is a function of developments on EU and world markets rather than a function of domestic supply and demand developments. Preliminary indications from Teagasc for 2010 are that the total winter crops sown is similar to 2009 while early indications show spring barley sowings are lower than 2009.

I am confident that this year will see some recovery in returns for growers due to reductions in the main input costs and some increase in harvest prices, although clearly this still leaves the tillage sector some way to go to achieving acceptable margins. Despite the current economic down turn across the world, the ever-increasing demand for grain within the biofuel industry and growing consumption patterns in developing countries is likely to continue over the coming years. While the various price spikes experienced in recent times are unlikely to be repeated in the short term, it is certainly possible that average world grain prices will grow over the next decade at a faster rate than over the previous one.

My Department operates a range of services aimed at improving the efficiency, quality and viability of cereal production. These services include seed certification, seed testing and recommended lists of varieties. In addition, Teagasc provides research, training and advisory services for cereal producers. The value of all these support services is reflected in the fact that Irish cereal producers have consistently achieved some of the highest yields in the world. In February I launched a major initiative to draw up a long-term strategy for the agri-food, forestry and fisheries sector and the position of the cereals sector will be examined in this context.

Carbon Tax.

David Stanton

Question:

19 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the likely impact of carbon tax on agriculture; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16888/10]

The implementation of a carbon tax on fossil fuels is, in the first instance, a matter for my colleagues, the Minister for Finance and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The Finance Bill, 2010,introduced carbon taxation of mineral oils which will apply to petrol, auto-diesel, kerosene, marked gas oil, liquid petroleum gas, fuel oil and natural gas. These increases, which, when VAT is included, amounted to 4.2 cent on a litre of petrol and 4.9 cent on a litre of diesel, arose from the application, in budget 2010, of a carbon charge on those fuels, at a rate equivalent to €15 per tonne of CO2 emitted.

When introducing the levy, Minister Gormley explained the principle of carbon pricing, noting that this mechanism is widely accepted as the most effective way to secure emission reductions. It is the basis of the EU's Emission Trading Scheme, which applies to the bigger emitters such as power generators and industrial plants. It should be noted that, apart from installations that have already made very considerable emissions reductions through their participation in the EU's emissions trading scheme, no sector of society is exempt from this tax.

The aim of the carbon tax is to use the increase in cost as a catalyst to effect behavioural change with regard to the consumption of fossil fuel and thereby cause a subsequent reduction in emissions associated with that reduced consumption. There is a considerable degree of variability in this across the various farm systems. The expectation is that farmers like everyone else would seek to reduce fuel use and therefore reduce the costs associated with the carbon tax. My colleague, the Minister for Finance has advised that it is estimated that the amount of revenue arising from a carbon tax of €15 per tonne on Marked Gas Oil or ‘green diesel' used by farmers is €12.5 million in a full year and as it is being applied from 1 May 2010 will amount to approximately €7 million in 2010.

It should be borne in mind that a significant financial concession is already afforded to the agriculture sector in the form of relief from excise duty on marked gas oil. Currently, excise duty on marked gas oil amounts to 4.7 cents per litre compared to an excise duty rate on auto-diesel, which, at 41 cents per litre, is almost ten times higher. Each litre of gas oil, whether used in a tractor or in a diesel engine car, will generate the equivalent of almost 3 kilograms of Carbon dioxide. In 2008, Greenhouse gas emissions associated with agricultural combustion were in excess of 850,000, tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

I am acutely aware that the imposition of this levy is not without consequence for farmers and for tillage farmers in particular, however, with greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture accounting for almost 40% of Ireland's non-trading sector emissions, I am also very conscious of the need to effect a reduction in these emission levels. Along with my Government colleagues, I intend to closely monitor the implementation of this tax to ensure it is operating as intended and my Department, in conjunction with other relevant Departments and agencies, will ensure that guidance material, to inform farmers of how best they can reduce their on-farm energy use, particularly in terms of fossil fuel usage, is provided to the widest possible audience.

Single Payment Scheme.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

20 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on whether farmers in some areas will receive a lower single farm payment on foot of changes to mapping requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16954/10]

By way of general comment, it is clearly evident that the Single Farm Payment, under which over €1.25 billion is paid annually to Irish farmers, is an extremely important Scheme not just to the agricultural industry, but also to the rural economy as a whole. With regard to the specific issue raised by the Deputy, I wish firstly to emphasise that no changes have been made with regard to the definition of eligible areas under the Single Farm Payment. Historically, the vast majority of Scheme applicants have been making sufficient deductions from their claims to take account of such areas in that they reduced the area claimed on. However, in many cases as no mapping evidence supporting these deductions was provided, the ineligible features were not, therefore, recorded onto the Land Parcel Identification System (LPIS), my Department's computer-based land parcel tracking system. As LPIS underpins all the direct payments, it is crucial that it accurately reflects the true position on the ground, particularly given the audit scrutiny which this Scheme attracts not just in Ireland but in all Member States.

Under the provisions of the governing EU Regulations, payments under the Single Farm Payment may be made only in respect of eligible land and applicants under the Scheme are obliged annually to declare the land parcels available to them; details of the eligible area of the land parcels are recorded on LPIS. Details of the use and area claimed for each of some one million parcels on the LPIS system are registered and continually monitored by my Department.

Each year in advance of the closing date for the Single Payment Scheme, my Department sends preprinted application forms (which include a list of parcels declared by the applicant in question the previous year) to each applicant. It is the responsibility of all applicants to ensure that the details in each year's application are accurate. As a further aid to farmers, my Department issued maps of all lands parcels in early 2010. Applicants were advised of the need to carefully review these maps and to make the appropriate deductions, if any, to the area of eligible parcels as necessary. For example, where a house or other building has been constructed, farmers are required to submit maps outlining the exclusion with their applications to allow accurate deductions to be made. It is also necessary for applicants to exclude ineligible features such as scrub, roadways, etc. Therefore, the LPIS database has to be amended on an ongoing basis to reflect any permanent changes such as parcel boundary changes, addition of new parcels, etc.

In order to meet the EU requirements, my Department initiated a process whereby the ortho-photos of land parcels declared by applicants were reviewed. If it was deemed that some of the area of the parcels reviewed was ineligible arising from, for example, house-sites, farmyards, ponds, trees and scrub, the ineligible areas were deducted from the claimed area and payments in respect of the period from 2005 were re-calculated. However, in the vast majority of cases, the applicants were making sufficient deductions for the ineligible features and, therefore, there were no over-payments in these cases.

As you are aware, these Schemes are fully and partially funded by the European Union and the relevant Competent Authorities in each Member State are obliged to ensure that the requirements of the governing EU Regulations are observed and that only valid applications that fully comply with the requirements are paid. The administration of these Schemes in each Member State is subjected to close scrutiny by officials of the EU Commission and the EU Court of Auditors to ensure that the regulatory requirements are met and that the Schemes are applied in a uniform manner across the European Union.

Grant Payments.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

21 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if his attention has been drawn to the delays in processing REP scheme payments in the County Kerry area, with an estimated €8 million in outstanding payments to be processed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16893/10]

The processing of REPS 4 payments is governed by EU Regulations which require exhaustive administrative checks and on-the-spot inspections. In most parts of the country, the processing of payments is well advanced and the majority of participants have received their full payments for 2009. In a significant number of cases, however, the administrative checks raised issues and queries which required further detailed examination. My Department's staff have been working to resolve these as quickly as possible. Many of these cases require the applicants' planners to amend the farm plans that were submitted originally. The applicants concerned have been made aware of the position and the applications will be further processed without delay on receipt of amended plans.

I am acutely aware of the situation in the Department's local offices in Kerry where, because of the Government's moratorium on recruitment and promotion in the civil service, two supervisory posts have been vacant and where, as a result, the processing of payments has been delayed. I am pleased to announce that my Department is now putting arrangements in place to resolve the situation. This will enable the processing of claims to proceed and for payments to issue without further delay.

Dairy Sector.

John Cregan

Question:

22 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on whether market management measures have a continued role to play in relation to the dairy sector, notwithstanding recent improvements in milk prices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16793/10]

The EU Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) provides a range of measures that can be used to manage the dairy market, and these were modified in the CAP reforms of 1999 and 2003. In the Health Check negotiations in 2008 there was pressure to remove or weaken the support measures significantly. At that time I fought hard to keep the key market instruments in place and the importance of the retention of these support measures was proven last year when the dairy market experienced a dramatic decline. Last year I frequently pressed the Commission to take all appropriate measures to deal with the dairy market situation, and there is no doubt that the implementation of a range of support measures helped to stabilise the market in 2009. I will continue to maintain close contact with the EU Commission and the Council to ensure that support measures are activated at levels that will make a real impact on the market.

I am committed to a strong and adequately resourced CAP after 2013 and I believe there is a continued role for existing market measures. The experience of the dairy sector in the past year reinforces this view. Furthermore, there is also a need for new measures which could assist in managing market volatility, and the Commission High Level Group on Milk is currently considering this issue. The Group was tasked with examining medium and long term ways of stabilising dairy farmers' incomes and improving market transparency. It is expected that the Group will present a report by the end of June 2010.

However, it is important to remember that the medium term prospects for global dairy markets are good. Growth in wealth and population is forecast to stimulate strong levels of demand for dairy products and returns will improve to all parts of the sector. The Government is committed to ensuring that the Irish dairy sector reaches its full potential. One of the major challenges in the medium term will be to ensure that Irish farming and the agri-food sector is at the heart of an evolving high-value food market, which is focused on quality and innovation. This is at the core of Government strategy which sets out a series of actions to develop a competitive, innovative and consumer focused agri-food sector.

Fertiliser Use.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

23 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on the Teagasc fertiliser use survey report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16908/10]

I want to compliment Teagasc on the work carried out by their National Farm Survey Unit and their Environmental Research Centre in order to publish their Survey of Fertilizer Use in Ireland from 2004 to 2008 for Grassland and Arable Crops. I am especially pleased to note that the survey demonstrates that the national usage of the major nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium on grassland and agricultural crops is now better matched with crop requirements. I note that Teagasc intend to monitor fertiliser use to ensure adequate nutrient status is maintained.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Joe Costello

Question:

24 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the amount that has been paid out to REP scheme farmers to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16899/10]

To date in 2010, €97 million has been paid to participants in REPS 3 and REPS 4.

Beef Industry.

Mary Upton

Question:

25 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will provide a full breakdown of the beef carcass classification results since 15 December 2009 based on the Meat Industry Ireland price grid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16927/10]

Willie Penrose

Question:

35 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps that are being taken to address the anomalies which have come to light in the grading system for beef; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16916/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 25 and 35 together.

I wish to assure the Deputy that the mechanical classification system for beef carcases continues to operate well within the performance criteria provided for in the relevant EU Regulations. Officials of my Department carry out regular checks on each of the 23 machines operating in beef processing plants. The classification results, including sub-classes within each main class, backdated to mid February, will be available once computer programmes are completed to generate the required reports. Results prior to mid-February may not, however, be available for all beef processing plants, as the computer programmes in some plants, for price reporting to the Department, had to be amended following the introduction of sub-classes for classifying beef carcases.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

26 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of farmers that have qualified for the early retirement scheme under the hardship provision announced by him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16902/10]

My Department received 175 applications following the temporary reopening of the Early Retirement Scheme from 23 September to 30 October, 2009. Sixteen of the applications have been approved for payment. Another 133 applications are currently being examined in my Department. Twelve of the applications could not be accepted for processing as they did not satisfy all of the Scheme conditions. In addition, 39 applications were returned to the applicants as they were submitted under the provision of the Early Retirement Scheme that envisaged the transferee being set up under the Young Farmers' Installation Scheme. As that scheme is closed to new applicants, the transferees in these cases could not satisfy that requirement. The applicants were offered the option of resubmitting their applications under an alternative provision of the Scheme which involved the holding being enlarged by the proposed transferee. To date, the transferees in 25 of these cases have secured additional land and the applications have been resubmitted and are being processed. The remaining 14 applicants have until 30 April 2010 to resubmit their applications.

Carbon Tax.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

27 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on whether the introduction of a carbon tax will have a serious cost competitiveness impact on farm business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16956/10]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

81 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the amount that a carbon tax on farm diesel will cost the sector annually; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16912/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 27 and 81 together.

The implementation of a carbon tax on fossil fuels is, in the first instance, a matter for my colleagues, the Minister for Finance and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The Finance Bill, 2010, introduced carbon taxation of mineral oils which will apply to petrol, auto-diesel, kerosene, marked gas oil, liquid petroleum gas, fuel oil and natural gas. These increases, which, when VAT is included, amounted to 4.2 cent on a litre of petrol and 4.9 cent on a litre of diesel, arose from the application, in budget 2010, of a carbon charge on those fuels, at a rate equivalent to €15 per tonne of CO2 emitted.

When introducing the levy, Minister Gormley explained the principle of carbon pricing, noting that this mechanism is widely accepted as the most effective way to secure emission reductions. It is the basis of the EU's Emission Trading Scheme, which applies to the bigger emitters such as power generators and industrial plants. It should be noted that, apart from installations that have already made very considerable emissions reductions through their participation in the EU's emissions trading scheme, no sector of society is exempt from this tax.

The aim of the carbon tax is to use the increase in cost as a catalyst to effect behavioural change with regard to the consumption of fossil fuel and thereby cause a subsequent reduction in emissions associated with that reduced consumption. There is a considerable degree of variability in this across the various farm systems. The expectation is that farmers like everyone else would seek to reduce fuel use and therefore reduce the costs associated with the carbon tax. My colleague, the Minister for Finance has advised that it is estimated that the amount of revenue arising from a carbon tax of €15 per tonne on Marked Gas Oil or ‘green diesel' used by farmers is €12.5 million in a full year and as it is being applied from 1 May 2010 will amount to approximately €7 million in 2010.

It should be borne in mind that a significant financial concession is already afforded to the agriculture sector in the form of relief from excise duty on marked gas oil. Currently, excise duty on marked gas oil amounts to 4.7 cents per litre compared to an excise duty rate on auto-diesel, which, at 41 cents per litre, is almost ten times higher. I am acutely aware that the imposition of this levy is not without competitiveness consequences for farmers and for tillage farmers in particular; however, with greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture accounting for almost 40% of Ireland's non-trading sector emissions I am also very conscious of the need to achieve reductions in these emission levels.

Rural Development.

Mary Upton

Question:

28 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when the new rural development schemes as announced by him in summer 2009 will actually be open for applications from farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16928/10]

My Department recently received EU Commission approval for the various targeted on-farm investment schemes announced by my Department in 2009. Due to the relatively short time-frames for completion of the investment works concerned, my priority is to introduce the Sow Welfare and Poultry Welfare Schemes first. Arrangements will then be made to introduce the three remaining schemes, including the Sheep Handling/Fencing Scheme. Discussions are ongoing with the relevant farming organizations in regard to the terms and conditions of the Schemes concerned. These should be completed in the near future and I hope to be in a position to make an announcement regarding the new Schemes at that stage.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

29 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on introducing greater flexibility in the application process for the agri-environment option scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16945/10]

The application procedure for the Agri-Environment Options Scheme has been simplified as much as possible, within regulatory and audit restraints, and will allow the majority of farmers applying for the scheme to select actions suitable to their farm from a menu of options available by means of a simple tick box application form. There is no requirement to draw up a plan, except in cases where farmers have Natura or Commonage land, in which circumstances they must employ the services of a Planner.

Horse Breeding Industry.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

30 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has made a decision in relation to the ownership of the Irish draft horse stud; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16918/10]

As the Deputy may be aware, the studbook for the Irish Draught Horse breed in Ireland is maintained by Horse Sport Ireland, which is approved by my Department in accordance with EU and national legislation to do so. In addition, my Department has received two applications to maintain studbooks for the Irish Draught Horse breed from the Irish Draught Horse Society Co-Op Ltd and the Irish Draught Horse Breeders Association. My Department is currently examining these applications and a decision on them will be made in due course.

Common Agricultural Policy.

Noel Treacy

Question:

31 Deputy Noel Treacy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has plans to engage in a comprehensive process of consultation with interested stakeholders in relation to the future of the Common Agricultural Policy post-2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16780/10]

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

67 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his plans to discuss, with the EU Agriculture Commissioner, the future of the Common Agricultural Policy post-2013, particularly in the context of the EU Commission’s anticipated communication on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy later in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16781/10]

Noel Treacy

Question:

87 Deputy Noel Treacy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the consultation that has taken place to date in relation to the future of the Common Agricultural Policy post-2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16779/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 31, 67 and 87 together.

I launched a consultation process in July last year with stakeholders to obtain their views on what EU agriculture policies would serve Ireland and the EU best in the years to come. I am very pleased with the responses received. These responses will help to inform our position in the very important negotiations that lie ahead. In addition I announced in this House last month my intention to establish a Consultative Committee on the CAP after 2013. The first meeting of this Committee is scheduled to take place on 12 May. The Committee is comprised of all the major farming and agriculture related representative organisations involved in Social Partnership as well as a number of academics.

The Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Dacian Ciolos, has also recently launched a public consultation process providing an opportunity for all stakeholders and any interested party to give their views on the future of the CAP. In parallel with this process, the Commission has requested specific submissions on Rural Development in the context of CAP post 2013. My Department has written to interested stakeholders in this regard advising them how to participate in both of these consultation processes and encouraging them to do so to ensure that Ireland's voice is heard at every opportunity. Commissioner Ciolos will host a conference in July to discuss the findings from these consultations.

Broad discussions on the future of the CAP have been underway since the second half of 2008 when the French Presidency held a first policy debate at the Informal Agriculture Council. Since then, every Presidency has contributed to the debate with the Czech Presidency focusing, in particular, on the issue of direct payments to farmers and the Swedish Presidency on rural development issues. At the March Agriculture Council meeting the Spanish Presidency got agreement on Presidency Conclusions on the role of market management measures post 2013. The Belgian and Hungarian Presidencies who make up the Trio Presidency up to 30 June 2011, fully endorsed these conclusions.

In addition to these discussions at Council, both I and my officials continue to engage with other Member States and the Commission bilaterally on the future of the CAP. In this regard I met recently with the new Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Dacian Ciolos, and outlined my objectives including the need for a robust and properly funded CAP. Commissioner Ciolos has also accepted my invitation to visit Ireland in July. This is a very timely visit as it comes just in advance of the publication of the Commission's formal Communication on the Future of the CAP and I will of course, be taking this opportunity to let the Commissioner know again that my overarching view which I have repeatedly expressed at meetings of the Council and bilaterally to my Ministerial colleagues, is that we need a strong and adequately resourced CAP after 2013.

Electricity Generation.

Damien English

Question:

32 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has plans to develop a co-ordinated strategy with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on microgeneration of electricity on farms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16976/10]

The issue of micro generation of electricity is a matter in the first instance for my colleague the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. The Deputy may be aware that in February 2009 Minister Ryan announced measures to encourage the on-site generation of electricity in homes and farms across Ireland. The Micro Generation Programme is being operated by ESB Customer Supply and supported by ESB Networks. Among the measures is a guaranteed price of 19 cent per kilowatt hour of electricity produced as a feed-in tariff applying to the first 4,000 micro-generation installations countrywide over three years.

The programme has the potential to provide 4,000 domestic customers, including farms, investing in micro-scale projects with a financial payment for electricity exported back to the grid. Alongside this programme, under the aegis of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland is administrating a micro-generation programme supporting a number of micro scale projects to resolve outstanding technical issues including:

Defining the requirements for qualification and certification of technologies; and

Defining necessary arrangements for qualification, certification and training of installers.

My Department is involved on an ongoing basis with the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government on a wide range of environmental issues relevant to agriculture such as water quality, air quality, soils and biodiversity. It is my intention that my Department will continue to work with other Departments, Bodies and Agencies to advance the interests of the Agriculture sector.

Common Agricultural Policy.

Martin Ferris

Question:

33 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16699/10]

The Common Agricultural Policy will provide the main policy framework for development of the primary agriculture and agri-food industries in Ireland and the EU to 2020 and beyond and it is of the utmost importance that it continues to underpin the development of a competitive and vibrant agricultural sector. My overarching aim is for a strong and properly resourced CAP guided by the twin principles of competitiveness and sustainability. I am very conscious of the importance to the EU of ensuring security of food supply and maintaining family farming in Europe. However, particularly as an exporting country, I am also conscious of the need for competitiveness and innovation. I would wish to see all of these objectives clearly reflected in the new CAP.

Full decoupling has been a success for Ireland and I remain committed to this approach. Decoupled payments remain the best way of underpinning the incomes of small family farms, while allowing them respond to market opportunities. It is also important to ensure adequate recognition for the high standards that apply to agricultural production in the EU. There is pressure from a number of sides for redistribution of funds between Member States. I am prepared to look at all options on this, but will also require our partners in Europe to be equally realistic in their expectations. Ultimately the distribution mechanism must be fair and must underpin the goals of competitiveness and sustainability. Any new mechanism must take into account the wide diversity of farming between Member States. Pillar 1 direct payments are income supports and we must recognise that the cost of living and cost of farming vary widely throughout the EU.

Many of our partners in Europe are now questioning the credibility of the historic basis of direct payments. I am opposed to an EU-wide flat rate payment and continue to see significant advantages to the historic model. I am prepared to look at the alternatives, particularly if other countries move from the "historic camp". However, we need to find a basis that is acceptable and fair to all Member States and that meets our objectives of improved competitiveness and sustainability.

It is clear that there will be increased emphasis on the delivery of public goods, as well as an increased focus on measurable outcomes. Within this, there will be continued emphasis on "new challenges" identified in the Health Check. There are positives for Ireland in this, and I am open to engagement in the debate, provided that it does not come at the expense of the income support function of direct payments. As to market supports, my view is that the existing tools are appropriate and I believe there is broad agreement on this among Member States. For the future, I believe that there is also a need for new tools to address increased market volatility. We will look closely at the possibilities offered by risk management measures, for example. We would also be interested in examining the merits of systems that underpin revenue or income.

My view is that the core purpose of rural development policy is to support farmers in developing their productive capacity while securing the environment and ensuring the well being of the wider rural society. In this regard, I support continuation of the current two-pillar structure. Ireland's recent revised Rural Development Programme shows a clear focus on competitiveness and sustainability and points the way forward for that pillar. Axis 1 measures, particularly those directed at investment and which promote competitiveness, perform a pivotal role in encouraging efficiency and innovation in farming for the future. I believe that these measures are critical to the future of Irish and European farming and should be maintained and enhanced.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

34 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of REPS 4 plans that have been rejected to date per county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16895/10]

Details of the REP 4 plans that have been rejected are listed in the table below. My officials are in contact with applicants whose plans have been rejected to inform them of their right to appeal the decision. Alternatively, unless the application has been found to be fundamentally ineligible, the applicant may submit a new REPS 4 plan and application form on or before 17 May 2010. If an applicant chooses to lodge an appeal rather than submit a new plan and the appeal is unsuccessful, a new plan cannot be accepted after 17 May 2010.

County

Rejected Plans

Carlow

2

Cavan

3

Clare

0

Cork

10

Donegal

2

Dublin

1

Galway

0

Kerry

2

Kildare

2

Kilkenny

1

Laois

6

Leitrim

36

Limerick

9

Longford

0

Louth

1

Mayo

17

Meath

2

Monaghan

13

Offaly

4

Roscommon

1

Sligo

0

Tipperary Nth

1

Tipperary Sth

0

Waterford

1

Westmeath

2

Wexford

Wicklow

3

Total

119

Question No. 35 answered with Question No. 25.

Animal Welfare.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

36 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he intends to review his decision to exempt all commercial dogs being transported out of Ireland from having a pet passport in view of the dog welfare concerns involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16892/10]

I have not taken such a decision. Apart from exports to the UK (Ireland and the UK are in a common rabies free-movement zone),all dogs exported from Ireland, both commercial and non-commercial, must be accompanied by a pet passport. This passport is issued by my Department on foot of identification micro-chipping by the Private Veterinary Practitioner (PVP). The PVP subsequently completes sections in the passport concerning rabies vaccination and, in the case of commercial exports, health and fitness to travel, after which the animal concerned may be moved at a time to be decided by the owner.

Ministerial Functions.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

37 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the Minister within his Department who now has distinct responsibility for food; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16891/10]

As Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, I have full ministerial responsibility for all of the Department's activities, including responsibility for Food. I am assisted by two Ministers of State, both of whom have specific special responsibilities. Deputy Sean Connick has Minister of State responsibilities for Fisheries and Forestry and Deputy Ciaran Cuffe has Minister of State responsibilities for Horticulture and Organics.

The manufacture of food and drink products is our main indigenous industry, with 800 companies employing over 45,000 people and producing over a third of our net export earnings from primary and manufacturing sectors and the Government is committed to ensuring that the agri-food sector is fully positioned to exploit future opportunities to the full. A 2020 Committee (a group of high level players from the sector, including farmers, primary processors, food and drink product manufactures) is currently preparing a draft strategy for the medium-term development of the agri-food (including drinks) fisheries and forestry sector for the period to 2020. The strategy will outline the key actions needed to ensure that the sector contributes to the maximum possible extent to our export-led economic recovery and the full development of the smart economy. The 2020 Committee is due to report in June.

Departmental Committees.

Máire Hoctor

Question:

38 Deputy Máire Hoctor asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the timescale for the 2020 strategy committee to complete its work to draw up a long-term strategy for the agri-food, forestry and fisheries sectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16787/10]

Máire Hoctor

Question:

72 Deputy Máire Hoctor asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the progress that has been made towards the development of a new strategy for the agri-food sector until 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16786/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 38 and 72 together.

Work on the development of a strategy to further the growth of the agri-food, fisheries and forestry sectors to 2020 is well advanced. During 2009, my Department in collaboration with five State Bodies, Teagasc, Enterprise Ireland, Bord Bia, BIM, Marine Institute, completed a comprehensive analysis of the sector. In February 2010, I established the 2020 Committee and asked them to produce a short, sharp document setting out the key strategies required for the future development of the sector. At the same time, I published on the Department‘s website http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/2020Strategy, the completed analysis in the form of 5 Discussion Papers and 18 Background Papers. A web based public consultation process was also launched, seeking submissions from interested bodies on strategies and policies to guide the work of the 2020 Committee. 80 submissions have been received, have been posted on the Department's website and are being considered by the Committee.

The Committee, which has been widely drawn from the various sectors, has actively engaged in this intensive process and I believe that the output from this exercise will be both bold and practical and will set a clear path forward for the sector. The 2020 Committee is expected to finish its deliberations in June 2010.

Cattle Prices.

David Stanton

Question:

39 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on cattle prices at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16887/10]

Product prices are a function of market forces and beef prices to date in 2010 are down over 2% on the corresponding period in 2009. Factors governing beef returns at present include reduced consumer demand, stronger sales of cheaper cuts, currency movements, supply availability and the level of live exports. While I have no function in the determination of prices, I am, nonetheless, mindful of the difficulties that falling prices pose for producers. In this context, I have advanced various initiatives to support the sector.

My Department, in conjunction with Teagasc and Bord Bia, is driving the development of a number of non-price strategies to assist the sector in responding to market conditions. Among these are the breed improvement programmes, being progressed by ICBF, and the Animal Welfare Scheme for Suckler Herds. The objective of these policies is to utilise scientific and genetic data to further improve the quality of the cattle herd and, ultimately, returns to producers. Likewise, the Beef Quality Assurance Scheme administered by Bord Bia is crucial in reassuring consumers that Irish beef meets the highest standards of quality, safety and traceability. The QA standard is an important selling point in many of our markets and I note that over 30,000 certified farmers are now participating in this scheme with numbers continuing to grow strongly.

In conjunction with these initiatives, an enhanced Irish Beef Promotion Strategy for the period 2008-2013 is currently being implemented by Bord Bia. This strategy is based on differentiating and repositioning Irish beef in a number of key international markets, particularly the high-value EU markets which account for some 99% of Irish beef exports. My Department has also funded a beef processing development programme through Enterprise Ireland aimed at increasing efficiency and value added at processor level.

Animal Diseases.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

40 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the effect of official recognition of Ireland’s Aujeszky’s disease control and eradication status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16784/10]

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

76 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the progress made towards attaining official recognition of freedom from Aujeszky’s disease here, including co-operation with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16785/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 40 and 76 together.

I am delighted to confirm that Ireland has achieved official EU recognition of our Aujeszky's disease control and eradication status. Attaining "Annex II" status is a very significant milestone in meeting the objective of the Aujeszky's Disease Control and Eradication Programme: eradicating Aujeszky's disease from the national pig herd. Attaining this national status also offers protection to the live pig trade, both now and into the future. We are now moving forward with Phase 3 of the Control and Eradication Programme, with the ultimate intention of moving to "Annex I" status — official disease freedom. All necessary resources for this phase have been put in place and herdowners will receive notification to test in the coming weeks. My officials are in regular communication with their counterparts in Northern Ireland with regard to Aujeszky's control and eradication.

Natura 2000 Sites.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

41 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he will be in a position to clarify the payment of €150 per ha. in nature areas under the agricultural environmental options scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16901/10]

My proposal to increase the payment rate to €150 per hectare on Natura 2000 sites under the new Agri-environmental Options Scheme requires European Commission approval. A proposed amendment to the Scheme has therefore been submitted to the Commission and my officials are pressing for it to be dealt with as a matter of priority.

Animal Diseases.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

42 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will introduce a national vaccination programme for bovine viral diarrhoea; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16917/10]

I have no plans to introduce a national vaccination programme for Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD). In January 2009 I launched Animal Health Ireland (AHI), which operates, independently of my Department. One of the main aims of AHI is to identify and prioritise non regulated disease conditions such as BVD. AHI is a company limited by guarantee with its own Board of Directors and Chief Executive. It is part financed by my Department and by industry and is responsible for the distribution of information to stakeholders in relation to its programme of activities and has already begun to address the problem of BVD on Irish farms. Information on BVD is available on the Animal Health Ireland website at the following link: http://www.agriculture.gov.ie.

Common Fisheries Policy.

Martin Ferris

Question:

43 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position he will be taking during negotiations on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. [16698/10]

Christy O'Sullivan

Question:

74 Deputy Christy O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the outcome of his recent meeting with the new EU Fisheries Commissioner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16788/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 43 and 74 together.

The European Commission issued a Green Paper on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) in April 2009 and sought responses to their proposals. Minister Killeen, who had responsibility for the Fisheries portfolio at that time, appointed Dr. Noel Cawley to chair a nationwide public consultation process. The result of the extensive consultations contributed in no small way to Ireland's Response to the Green Paper which issued on the 23rd of February. Ireland's response on the CFP reform sets down a number of informed recommendations which we believe must be incorporated into the new Common Fisheries Policy. They take a pragmatic approach, which promote measures that collectively take account of economic, social, environmental and sustainability factors. The report in its entirety and all formal submissions received during the public consultation process are available on www.fishingnet.ie.

The changes we consider necessary cover:

New focus on addressing discarding of fish at sea with a complete ban being introduced for stocks in a depleted state;

The retention of a management system based on national quotas supported by increased flexibility and a rejection of the mandatory privatisation of fish quotas or the introduction of international trading of fish quotas;

Access to coastal waters to be re-examined with a view to an extension of the coastal limit to 20 miles with new management arrangements in place to strengthen coastal communities dependant on inshore coastal fisheries;

New measures to strengthen the market for EU producers and increase quay side prices;

Reinvigoration of European aquaculture with continued structural support and a roadmap that establishes a route for growth in harmony with Community environmental law.

New regional structure to decision making at EU level with increasing industry responsibility and the development of a culture of compliance.

I attended a bilateral meeting with the Maria Damanaki, the new EU Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, on the 29th of March 2010. This meeting was arranged at my request to discuss the Report on "Irelands Response" to the Commissions Green Paper on the Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy and to set out clearly Irelands National position on the CFP reform. At this meeting we discussed many areas where we have common ground with the EU Commission. However, I made it quite clear that Ireland does not support the Commission's ideas expressed in the Green Paper which would allow our national fish quotas to be privatised and traded away to large European fishing companies. I stressed that one of Ireland's main objective in the Reform Process will be to protect the national fish quotas as a public resource to be used for the benefit of our family owned fleet and to support our coastal communities.

Under the planned EU timetable for the review, a summary of the consultation process was published by the Commission. This will be followed by a legislative proposal to the Council and the European Parliament to be adopted in 2011, with a view to its entering into force in 2012. Consultation at European level continues with an informal meeting of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers to discuss the reform to be held in Vigo, Spain on the 4th and 5th May 2010. This meeting follows a Conference involving stakeholders which is being held on the 2nd and 3rd of May, also in Spain. It is planned that the outcome of this conference, together with the submissions received by the Commission and the outcome of other gatherings and conferences will inform the discussion at the Informal Council. The meeting is intended to inform a working document concerning reform options which will be prepared by the Commission and presented at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council scheduled for the 28th and 29th June 2010.

Nationally, I intend to continue close collaboration with the Federation of Irish Fishermen, indeed I met with the Federation just last week, and the other stakeholders to put Ireland's case forward and convince our Member State colleagues and the Commission to strengthen the current policy in line with Ireland's submission on the reform of the CFP.

Departmental Programmes.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

44 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the time frame for the conclusion of the research needed to gain approval of the operational programme for fisheries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16894/10]

The Seafood Development Measure contained in the National Development Plan 2007-2013 is divided between the EU Co-funded Operational Programme and the National Seafood Development Operational Programme. The EU Co-funded OP has already commenced and has funded the 2008 decommissioning scheme which has allowed 46 boats to be decommissioned with grant aid totalling €36.6 million already paid during 2008 and 2009.

The National Seafood Development Operational Programme 2007-2013 was advertised for public consultation in October 2008. Following this consultation process, issues were raised by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources on behalf of CFB (Central Fisheries Board) regarding the grant-aiding of projects where environmental issues arise relating to compliance with the EU Birds and Habitats Directives and sea lice control on salmon farms. I have asked my officials to examine the OP and to draft options that would allow for the adoption of the OP taking into consideration the issues that were raised in the public consultation stage. I would hope to be in a position to come to a decision on this matter in the near future.

Animal Diseases.

Margaret Conlon

Question:

45 Deputy Margaret Conlon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the further steps that he envisages to enhance co-operation on animal health issues on an all-island basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16778/10]

The All-Island Animal Health and Welfare Strategy provides a basis to enhance animal health and welfare standards and to have expanded opportunities for the export of livestock and livestock products with the ultimate objective to have policies and arrangements in place to facilitate the free movement of animals on the island. Ministers and officials will continue to meet regularly to develop, review and monitor policies. A formal structure is in place whereby working groups meet to focus on a range of critical issues such as disease control, animal identification and movement and data sharing. Consideration is given on an on-going basis to refocusing or expanding the remit of the working groups to concentrate on emerging issues where co-operation can be effective.

Food Industry.

Joan Burton

Question:

46 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the impact that the grounding of flights as a result of volcanic ash has had on agricultural exports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16897/10]

The cancellation of flights following the volcanic eruptions in Iceland has had a low impact on the food industry. Up to 97% of food exports are moved by road and sea. Investment in the road infrastructure in Ireland means that containers can switch quite easily between ports. Some specialist seafood products are exported by air to Japan, but as this is not the peak season, impact on sales is not expected to be significant.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

47 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his plans for the future development and expansion of the beef, lamb, pigmeat, poultry, dairy and cereal sectors; the extent to which market forces have affected each sector negatively or positively on an annual basis over the past five years to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17003/10]

The market performance of the meat, dairy and cereal sectors is a function of supply and demand, and has been affected by the recent global economic downturn, exchange rates and other factors. Plans for the future development of these agricultural sectors will be set out in detail in the forthcoming 2020 Strategy, which I plan to publish later this year.

Dairy Sector

Market forces have a major influence on the returns to the dairy sector which fluctuate in accordance with the international dairy markets. Over the past few years the international dairy industry has witnessed extremes of volatility in product prices on an unprecedented scale. During 2007 dairy prices reached record high levels during the international commodity price boom. In 2008 world dairy markets returned to far lower levels primarily due to a collapse in demand caused by the global economic downturn. The slump continued into 2009 before gradually improving later in the year. I continually pressed the Commission to take all appropriate actions to deal with the dairy market situation and the implementation of a range of support measures helped to stabilise the market. The dairy market situation has improved considerably since last Autumn and more recently has shown signs of a robust recovery with increased commodity prices on world and EU markets, and a consequent rise in milk prices.

Beef

Beef production is an extremely valuable component of the Irish economy with an export value of some €1.4 billion in 2009. Some 90% of Irish beef production is exported, with over 90% of product now being exported to the high value EU markets. Given recent developments in the international and domestic economy, the immediate prospects for the Irish beef sector remain challenging. As a result of the importance of international trade, the impact of exchange rate developments will be important — particularly in relation to the UK, our largest single market — while, due to challenging economic conditions, a continuing switch to lower value cuts is evident in key markets.

While the market performance of, and price return on, beef products is a function of supply and demand, I am committed to working with the sector in responding to evolving market challenges and in providing a sound framework for the development of the sector. To this end, a number of policy initiatives have been developed or enhanced. These include, inter alia, the Suckler Cow Scheme, Bord Bia Irish Beef Promotion Strategies, Bord Bia Quality Assurance Scheme, Breed Improvement Programmes and the Beef and Sheepmeat Capital Investment Scheme. These complement the actions being undertaken by Teagasc and other State Agencies, and together are important in underpinning production, quality and the ongoing marketing success on the important EU markets. My Department will also continue to work with Bord Bia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the industry to identify and develop other potential markets.

Pigmeat

The pig sector remains an important component of the Irish agricultural sector. With a farmgate value of some €300 million, and employment in the industry of approximately 7,000, the sector provides an important source of income to rural communities all over the country. Almost half of Irish production is exported with the UK accounting for 50% of exports with the remainder split between Continental Europe and third countries. In common with other meats, returns to pig producers have fallen as a result of the economic recession. Prices fell in 2009 and have continued to decline during the early part of this year. Irish price movements over recent years have mirrored those of the EU as a whole.

Pork remains the most-consumed meat worldwide and consumption is expected to increase steadily over the next decade. In order to best position the Irish industry to share in that growth, I am progressing a number of initiatives. Teagasc has prepared a development strategy for the Irish pig industry, which identifies the issues facing the sector and makes certain recommendations. Measures have been proposed that need to be taken to position the sector for a successful future and a ‘Pig Industry Strategy Steering Group', which includes representation from my Department and all sectors of the industry, has been established for the purpose of implementing the recommendations of this development strategy. I will continue to work with industry stakeholders to advance these recommendations.

On marketing and promotions, the domestic market remains the most important for Irish pigmeat, accounting for 50% of our production. Therefore, protecting and maintaining the market share of Quality Assured pigmeat in Irish retail is critical for the Irish industry. Bord Bia will continue to work with the industry and invest heavily in consumer promotions at retail and education programmes at food service level to promote Quality Assurance.

The ongoing marketing initiatives conducted by Bord Bia both at home and overseas are instrumental in supporting the pigmeat sector. Resources have been increased by Bord Bia, through the Marketing Fellowship Programme, in the market development of more customers for Irish pig meat within the EU. By targeting the end users and further manufacturers directly, we can shorten the supply chain and return greater value to exports. We currently export to over 20 non-EU markets and it is my policy and that of the Government to ensure that Irish producers have access to markets worldwide. My Department will continue to work with Bord Bia, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and the industry to identify and develop other potential markets.

Poultry

The farm gate value of Irish-produced poultry meat is thought to be approximately €150 million. Despite considerable competition from imports the domestic industry has proven to be quite resilient in recent years. The majority of Irish product is consumed in this country with exports focussing largely on by-products. The target over the medium term is to increase the share of the Irish poultry meat market being supplied by Irish producers.

Lamb

Although the scarcity of supply is currently helping to support producer prices, market forces have negatively affected the lamb sector in recent times. As one of the most expensive meats on the retail shelf, tightened consumer spending has impinged on demand on all main markets. A weaker euro/sterling exchange rate has reduced Ireland's competitiveness on the French market — our largest export market for lamb, where we compete directly with British exporters. Bord Bia's promotional strategy for the Irish sheep sector addresses these market forces in the following ways:

By encouraging Irish consumers to buy more Quality Assured lamb.

By collaborating with its French and English counterparts in a campaign to reverse the decline in consumption of lamb on the French market, which accounts for over 50% of our exports.

By working with individual exporter to increase the amount of exports to higher value markets such as Germany and Scandinavia and thereby reduce Ireland's dependency on the French market.

Bord Bia will spend up to €1 million this year on such promotional campaigns.

Earlier this month I launched a three-year, €54 million grassland sheep scheme, the funding for which, comes from unused Single Payment funds. The focus of this scheme is on breeding ewes and it should help to prevent further declines in flock numbers, by giving farmers a real incentive to maintain their production levels. It should also provide sheep farmers with a much-needed boost to their incomes. The sector should also benefit under the Rural Development Programme, where an indicative figure of €8 million has been allocated for sheep fencing and mobile handling facilities, to help sheep farmers in reducing labour input. In addition to this extra funding, last year I assigned €7 million from the 2009 Single Farm Payment National Reserve to 13,000 hill sheep farmers, under the Uplands Sheep Payment Scheme. Teagasc has also allocated almost €1.5 million for sheep research for 2010.

All of these supports complement the work being undertaken by my Department, its state agencies and the industry, following the recommendations of the Sheep Industry Development Strategy Group — "the Malone Report". This report provides a clear blueprint for the development of a more profitable sheep sector in Ireland and covers production, processing and marketing. While most of the recommendations in the Malone report fall to be implemented by the industry itself, my Department is playing its part by providing assistance for areas such as breeding and quality assurance.

Cereal Sector

The maintenance of an efficient and viable cereals sector in Ireland is clearly very important. Not only does it generate an income to our tillage farmers but it also a key source of feedstuffs for our livestock sector. Annual cereals production in Ireland has fluctuated around 2 million tones in recent years and it is desirable to try and sustain this level of production in order to avoid over dependence on imported cereals.

My Department operates a range of services aimed at improving the efficiency of, quality and viability of cereal production. These services include seed certification, seed testing and recommended list of varieties. In addition, Teagasc provides research, training and advisory services for cereal producers. The value of all these support services is reflected in the fact that Irish cereals producers have consistently achieved some of the highest yields in the world.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

48 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of REP scheme payments that are still outstanding in counties Cavan and Monaghan; when he hopes to have such payments finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16701/10]

Full payments have issued to 717 REPS 4 applicants in Cavan and 621 in Monaghan as of 23 April 2010, with further payments issuing this week. The processing of REPS 4 payments is governed by EU Regulations which require exhaustive administrative checks and on-the-spot inspections. In most parts of the country, the processing of payments is well advanced and the majority of participants have received their full payments for 2009.

In a significant number of cases, however, the administrative checks raised issues and queries which required further detailed examination. My Department's staff have been working to resolve these as quickly as possible. Many of these cases require the applicants' planners to amend the farm plans that were submitted originally. The applicants concerned have been made aware of the position and the applications will be further processed without delay on receipt of amended plans. My Department is working to resolve all outstanding issues and queries and my objective is to ensure that all outstanding payments issue as quickly as possible.

Sheep Production.

Denis Naughten

Question:

49 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps which he is taking to support the sheep industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16859/10]

My commitment to the sheep sector is well recognised. Earlier this month I launched a three-year, €54 million grassland sheep scheme, the funding for which, comes from unused Single Payment funds. I am confident that this scheme will provide a much-needed boost to sheep farmers' incomes, which should encourage them to stay in the sector. As the scheme focuses on flocks with breeding ewes, it should also provide a significant incentive to farmers to maintain their production levels, which is vital for the future of a viable sheep industry in Ireland. The sector should also benefit under the Rural Development Programme, where an indicative figure of €8 million has been allocated for sheep fencing and mobile handling facilities, to help sheep farmers in reducing labour input.

In addition to this extra funding, last year I assigned €7 million from the 2009 Single Farm Payment National Reserve to 13,000 hill sheep farmers, under the Uplands Sheep Payment Scheme. Bord Bia will also spend up to €1 million this year on the promotion of sheep and lamb at home and abroad and Teagasc has allocated almost €1.5 million for sheep research for 2010. All of these supports complement the work being undertaken by my Department, its state agencies and the industry, on foot of the recommendations of the Sheep Industry Development Strategy Group — "the Malone Report". This report provides a clear framework for progress for the sector.

While the responsibility for implementing most of the group's recommendations fall on the industry itself, a number are within the remit of my Department and the state agencies under its aegis, who have made significant progress in implementing them. Among the initiatives taken were:

The establishment of ‘Sheep Ireland' to take over the Department's current breed improvement programme and develop a new one. An interim Sheep Board, comprising representatives of farming organisations and breeders will oversee this process, with the Irish Cattle Breeders Federation (ICBF) providing the technical and professional service required.

The establishment of the Lamb Quality Assurance Scheme in 2007. This Scheme is operated by Bord Bia and now has approximately 8,085 participants.

Bord Bia has also intensified its efforts to promote lamb on the home and export markets. Together with its UK and French counterparts, it is part of a generic promotion campaign on the important French market.

Teagasc has developed a comprehensive plan to restructure its sheep support services, including a Better Farm Programme for sheep, which aims to establish focal points for the on-farm implementation, development and evaluation of technology that is relevant to the sheep sector. This approach provides an opportunity to engage with sheep farmers on the use of the latest management practices and to identify research and development needs.

In addition, the support being provided for processing facilities under the beef and sheepmeat capital investment fund underlines the Government's commitment to the sector. I am confident that all of the initiatives I have outlined, will be of significant assistance in developing a strong and sustainable sheep sector for the future.

Cereal Sector.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

50 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if his attention has been drawn to the precarious situation grain farmers are in as a result of the decision by a company (details supplied) to import from England. [16921/10]

The decision referred to by the Deputy is a private commercial one for the company concerned and one in which I have no role. In relation to their decision to use imported malt, I understand that the company continues to source 90 per cent of their malt requirement for their brewing operation in Ireland and that their commitment in this regard is unchanged.

Installation Aid Scheme.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

51 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the plans he has to deal with hardship installation cases locked out of the scheme in budget 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16905/10]

The Young Farmers' Installation Scheme was suspended for new applications on 14 October 2008 against the background of the deterioration in the national finances. 941 applications for grant-aid were received by my Department under the Scheme prior to its suspension and these applications are being processed to payment stage as the claims are approved. An allocation of €4.5 million has been provided in this year's Estimates to meet the financial commitment involved in processing applications under the Scheme and the preceding installation aid schemes. I have no plans at present to reopen the Scheme to new applicants. If and when the Scheme is reopened, I will endeavour to ensure that priority is given to those persons who were intending to apply for grant-aid under the Scheme prior to its suspension.

Fallen Animal Collection Scheme.

Willie Penrose

Question:

52 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the way he plans to address increasing fallen animal charges in the interest of small farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16915/10]

The disposal of fallen animals is subject to EU Regulations, notably Regulation (EC) No 1774 of 2002. These regulations require that animals which die on-farm must generally be disposed of through approved knackeries and rendering plants. My Department's contribution to the Fallen Animals Scheme ceased with effect from 14th April 2009. This was as a result of budgetary constraints and also reflects the greatly reduced incidence of BSE in this country. However I have continued to provide financial support for the collection of certain fallen animals, in particular bovines over 48 months of age, for sampling, as required under the ongoing national TSE surveillance programme.

With the ending of the Fallen Animals Scheme the cost of collection and rendering for animals not covered by the new scheme became a matter for negotiation between the individual collectors/rendering plants and their customers. My Department is continuing, within the boundaries of legal requirements, to make every effort to facilitate measures to maximise flexibility and enable reduction of costs in the rendering/collection system. This includes allowing cross border trade, permitting direct delivery by farmers to authorised plants and encouraging indigenous use of meat and bone meal (MBM) for energy purposes.

Approval conditions have recently been drawn up to facilitate the collection of fallen animals direct from farms by approved rendering plants, including arrangements to provide for TSE testing of these animals where required. Discussions are also ongoing between my Department and farmer and hunt representatives, to consider the feasibility of extending the network of plants authorised to act as knackeries. These measures are designed to help sustain competition in this sector and encourage fair pricing.

Sheep Production.

Question:

53 Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the basis on which payments under the recently announced grassland sheep scheme will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16773/10]

Bobby Aylward

Question:

56 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when his Department will be making payments under the recently announced grassland sheep scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16771/10]

Question:

66 Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when is the closing date for applications to be made for the new grassland sheep scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16774/10]

Bobby Aylward

Question:

80 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the funding that is allocated to the new grassland sheep scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16772/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 53, 56, 66 and 80 together.

As further evidence of my commitment to support the sheep sector, I recently announced the introduction of the Grassland Sheep Scheme. This is a three-year Scheme, with a total budget of €54 million. This funding, which comes from unused Single Payment funds, will provide a very important and timely boost to support incomes in the sheep sector over the next three years. I have deliberately kept the Scheme administratively simple, which will facilitate my Department making payments very shortly after the commencement date of 1 December 2010 (the commencement date for making payments under this Scheme in accordance with the provisions of the relevant EU Regulations). Farmers will find participating in the Scheme relatively easy, with three requirements, namely to:

maintain ewes;

complete the Sheep Census return; and

submit the SPS application form by the closing date of 17th May 2010.

The ewe numbers eligible for inclusion in the 2010 Scheme will be based on the numbers as declared in the 2009 Sheep Census. The ewe numbers eligible for inclusion in the 2011 Scheme will be based on the average of the ewe numbers as declared in the 2009 and 2010 Sheep Census and the numbers eligible for inclusion in the 2011 Scheme will be based on the average of the ewe numbers as declared in the 2010 and 2011 Sheep Census.

Applicants must maintain sheep on an ongoing basis to retain eligibility for the 2011 and 2012 Schemes, i.e. he or she has to have sheep to declare in their 2011 and 2012 Sheep Census Sheep Returns. Applicants must also submit an SPS application each year to be eligible for the Scheme. The rate payable per hectare will be based on the number of 2010 SPS eligible hectares declared or area deemed eligible for payment, whichever is the lower, using two stocking densities as follows:

2.5 ewes per hectare for Mountain Type Grazing Land (as defined under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme);

7 ewes per hectare for all other lands (including Most Severely, Less Severely Disadvantaged Area and non-Disadvantaged Areas).

The maximum area payable per Scheme-year is 84 hectares in respect of Mountain Type Grazing and 30 hectares for all other lands. The indicative rates of aid are as follows:

Mountain Areas (0 to 20 hectares) : €30 per hectare

Mountain Areas (20 to 84 hectares): €25 per hectare

Lowland Areas: €70 per hectare.

The maximum Mountain Area payment is €100 higher than for Lowland Areas in recognition of the difficulties facing hill sheep farming.

The Scheme will maintain production as the supply of lambs is a key and fundamental element underpinning the sheep and lamb processing industry. This is a hugely valuable export-oriented part of the Irish agri-food sector, supplying a high-value product to consumer markets throughout Europe. The industry is worth around €250 million annually to the Irish economy with two-thirds of the product destined for export.

Dairy Industry.

Jack Wall

Question:

54 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his policy to prevent a repeat of 2009 in the dairy sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16929/10]

Over the past few years the international dairy industry has witnessed extremes of volatility in product prices on an unprecedented scale. During 2007 dairy prices reached record high levels during the international commodity price boom. In 2008 world dairy markets returned to far lower levels primarily due to a collapse in demand caused by the global economic downturn. The slump continued into 2009 before gradually improving later in the year. I continually pressed the Commission to take all appropriate actions to deal with the dairy market situation and the implementation of a range of support measures helped to stabilise the market. The dairy market situation has improved considerably since last Autumn and more recently has shown signs of a robust recovery with increased commodity prices on world and EU markets, and a consequent rise in milk prices.

I am committed to a strong and adequately resourced CAP after 2013 and I believe there is a continued role for existing market measures. The experience of the dairy sector in the past year reinforces this view. Furthermore, there is also a need for new measures which could assist in managing market volatility, and the Commission High Level Group on Milk is currently considering this issue. The Group was tasked with examining medium and long term ways of stabilising dairy farmers incomes and improving market transparency and will deliver a report by the end of June 2010.

Ultimately, the market is the source of income and to maximise profit the focus must be on competitiveness, efficiency and innovation. This was the aim of the Dairy Investment Fund which my Department provided funding of €114 million towards in 2007. This fund aided a total of 19 dairy processing investment projects, which will generate an estimated capital spend of €286 million at full production. The purpose of the Fund is to increase the efficiency of the main dairy outputs by supporting the upgrading of plant and buildings. This will assist operators in capturing new business in global markets and in developing new valued added products.

At producer level I have introduced measures to assist dairy farmers maximise their efficiency and competitiveness. Various initiatives have been taken in relation to the operation of the milk quota regime to improve efficiency of production. Furthermore, in July 2009 I announced proposals for the spending of more than €200 million on new investment measures in Irish agriculture as part of a revised Rural Development programme. These included the allocation from unspent Single Payment Scheme funds of €6 million per annum for the next three years to a scheme to encourage significant improvement in efficiency on dairy farms.

This Dairy Efficiency Programme is now up and running, and is helping dairy farmers to adopt best practice in the running of their enterprises by focussing on efficient grassland management, better breeding practices and improved financial management. This is being achieved through increased participation in discussion groups, and I am confident that the initiative can double the rate of involvement in such groups and make a significant contribution to helping the sector to deal with the challenges and the enormous opportunities that it is presented with. In addition, €45 million has been earmarked for an investment support scheme aimed at helping young dairy farmers to adjust to expanding dairy opportunities and make their commercial operations more cost effective.

It is important to remember that the medium term prospects for global dairy markets are good. Growth in wealth and population is forecast to stimulate strong levels of demand for dairy products and returns will improve to all parts of the sector. The Government is committed to ensuring that the Irish dairy sector reaches its full potential. One of the major challenges in the medium term will be to ensure that Irish farming and the agri-food sector is at the heart of an evolving high-value food market, which is focused on quality and innovation. This is at the core of Government strategy which sets out a series of actions to develop a competitive, innovative and consumer focused agri food sector.

Single Payment Scheme.

Liz McManus

Question:

55 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the changes made to the eligible farmland areas for the purpose of applications for the single farm payment; the way he sees these changes affecting farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16910/10]

No changes have been made with regard to the definition of eligible areas under the Single Farm Payment. Historically, the vast majority of Scheme applicants have been making sufficient deductions from their claims to take account of such areas in that they reduced the area claimed on. In many cases as no mapping evidence supporting these deductions was provided, the ineligible features were not, therefore, recorded onto the Land Parcel Identification System (LPIS), my Department's computer-based land parcel tracking system. As LPIS underpins all the direct payments, it is crucial that it accurately reflects the true position on the ground.

Under the provisions of the governing EU Regulations, payments under the Single Farm Payment may be made only in respect of eligible land and applicants under the Scheme are obliged annually to declare the land parcels available to them and details of the eligible area of the land parcels are recorded on LPIS. It is also necessary for applicants to exclude ineligible features such as scrub, roadways, etc. Therefore, the LPIS database has to be amended on an ongoing basis to reflect any permanent changes such as parcel boundary changes, addition of new parcels, etc. In the vast majority of cases, the applicants were making sufficient deductions for the ineligible features and, therefore, there were no over-payments in these cases.

Question No. 56 answered with Question No. 53.

Live Exports.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

57 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is actively supporting the re-opening of the north African live export trade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16926/10]

My Department facilitates international trade by providing prospective importing countries with the necessary assurances and certification in relation to the health and welfare of animals, and where demand exists, through the assessment and approval of means of transport to ensure that they meet the necessary animal health and welfare standards. In the past two years, my Department has hosted visits from two North African countries, who have expressed a tentative interest in re-opening their markets to live exports from Ireland. However, the economics of exporting live cattle outside the EU have been affected by an EU decision to abolish export refunds for live exports in 2005.

My Department will continue to support Irish operators who wish to export live animals, through its work in the approval of means of transport and certification of exports, and by actively engaging with the industry in Ireland, and with authorities in other countries, including those in North Africa, where a potential market demand has been identified.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

58 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his plans to ensure that all farmers receive their 2010 REP scheme payment by the end of October 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16923/10]

Out of 29,376 farmers due payments in REPS 4, 100% payments have issued to over 21,000 as of 23rd April 2010, with a further 1,342 payments issuing this week.

To meet the requirements of EU regulations, applications for REPS payments have to go through an exhaustive series of administrative checks before payment can be released. In a significant number of cases, those checks raised issues and queries, which required further detailed examination. The Department's staffs are working to resolve these as quickly as possible. Many of these cases require the applicants' planners to amend the farm plans that were submitted originally. The applicants concerned have been made aware of the position and the applications will be further processed without delay on receipt of amended plans. Insofar as payments in respect of 2010 are concerned, my objective is to process the claims arising as soon as the existing issues and queries are resolved and to ensure that the 2010 payments are made as soon as possible.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

59 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will give an assurance that farmers who apply for the agricultural environmental options scheme before 17 May 2010 will receive payment from a start up date of 1 June 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16906/10]

Subject to the need to carry out adequate administrative checks to meet regulatory and audit requirements, it is my intention to ensure that participants in the new Agri-Environment Options Scheme can start their contracts at the earliest possible date.

Commercial Semi-State Bodies.

James Reilly

Question:

60 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he or officials in his Department have had any discussions with Coillte and or Bord na Mona about a possible merger or strategic alliance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16998/10]

Neither I nor officials of my Department have made any proposal to Coillte or Bord na Móna regarding a possible merger or strategic alliance between the two organizations. A full review of state forestry policy, including the role, functions and operations of Coillte, is currently being undertaken in line with the commitment in the renewed Programme for Government. The terms of reference of the Group reviewing Coillte are:

"To make proposals for the development of Coillte in the context of national and EU policies on forestry, commercial state enterprises, the national economy, energy, climate change, the environment, tourism and recreation. The review will address the role of Coillte and its functions and operations including:

Business Areas — forest management from afforestation through to log production, panel production, land use and renewable energy;

Public Goods — climate change mitigation, recreation and protection of the environment, biodiversity, landscape, water resources and heritage;

Corporate Development — funding, dividend policy, asset disposal, privatisation, wider share ownership, regulatory framework and relationships with stakeholders and organisations both public and private.".

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Johnny Brady

Question:

61 Deputy Johnny Brady asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is satisfied that the new agri-environment options scheme will be an attractive scheme for former REPS 3 participants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16775/10]

The new Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS) allows farmers to select specific actions relative to their own farm for which payment of up to €5,000 per annum can be achieved. I am satisfied that the Scheme will prove to be attractive in particular to REPS 3 farmers, who will have previous experience and expertise in relation to the agri-environment actions contained in the new scheme and will be well placed to choose actions suitable to their circumstances. I would urge all farmers who are eligible to join the Scheme to look carefully at all of the information available with a view to ensuring that they maximise their payment.

Proposed Legislation.

James Reilly

Question:

62 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding the proposed Forestry Bill; the legal issues still to be addressed; when he will be in a position to publish the Bill; the timetable he expects to enact this legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16999/10]

The Government has approved the heads of the Forestry Bill, and discussions are continuing between my Department and the Office of the Attorney General with a view to finalizing the text. There is no specified timetable for its enactment. It would be my intention to introduce the Bill in the Houses of the Oireachtas as soon as possible.

Animal Diseases.

Liz McManus

Question:

63 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps that were taken by his Department following the diagnosis of the first cases of bovine neonatal pancytopaenia in County Cork on 13 April 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16909/10]

The Veterinary Laboratory Service of my Department diagnosed the first cases of Bovine Neonatal Pancytopaenia (BNP) in Ireland on 13 April. The cases involved two two-week-old calves from the same farm in Cork which were submitted to the Regional Laboratory in Cork. BNP is a disease of calves less than one month of age which is variously referred to as "Calf Haemorrhagic Disease", "Haemorrhagic Diathesis" or "Blood Sweating Disease". No successful treatment has been identified to date. Cases were first identified in Germany in 2007 and have steadily risen in a number of European countries since then, with four cases confirmed in Northern Ireland.

There is no evidence that the condition is infectious or that it gives rise to food safety concerns. My Department's Regional Veterinary Laboratories are available to assist herdowners and veterinary practitioners with laboratory diagnosis and investigation of any suspicious cases as well as providing a free post mortem service for all calves which are considered suspects for this condition. Information on the condition is available on my Department's website at the following link: http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/

On-farm Investment Schemes.

Niall Blaney

Question:

64 Deputy Niall Blaney asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he expects to be in a position to announce details of the various on-farm investment measures, which will be funded by unspent funds from the single payment scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16790/10]

My Department recently received EU Commission approval for the various targeted on-farm investment schemes announced by my Department in 2009. Due to the relatively short time-frames for completion of the investment works concerned, my priority is to introduce the Sow Welfare and Poultry Welfare Schemes first. Arrangements will then be made to introduce the three remaining schemes, including the Sheep Handling/Fencing Scheme. Discussions are ongoing with the relevant farming organizations in regard to the terms and conditions of the Schemes concerned. These should be completed in the near future and I hope to be in a position to make an announcement regarding the new Schemes at that stage.

Departmental Committees.

Jack Wall

Question:

65 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason he has not established the farmers’ charter monitoring committee and to set out his Department’s level of compliance with the charter commitments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16930/10]

The Farmers Charter Action Plan 2009-2011 was agreed with the farm organisations in May 2009. Further consultations subsequently took place with the farm organisations in relation to changes to a number of the main Department schemes, including the establishment and recent launch of the new Agri-Environment Options Scheme, and a Chairman of the Monitoring Committee has not yet been appointed.

It is however my intention to shortly appoint a Chairman, following consultation with the Social Partner Farm Organisations. Under the terms of the Charter agreement the new Monitoring Committee will meet three times a year, or otherwise as agreed, to monitor implementation of the Charter. The Monitoring Committee will also monitor service delivery and payment deadlines in respect of new schemes, or changes to Charter commitments following any changes to existing schemes. These will include new schemes under the revised Rural Development Programme such as the Agri-Environment Options Scheme and a number of new on-farm investment schemes due to be rolled out over the lifetime of the Programme.

Question No. 66 answered with Question No. 53.
Question No. 67 answered with Question No. 31.

Afforestation Programme.

Sean Fleming

Question:

68 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his plans for the development of a sustainable forestry sector in view of its importance to farmers to the economy and to the environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16782/10]

My Department is committed to promoting and supporting the development of a sustainable forestry sector for the benefit of farmers, the wider economy and the environment. To achieve this my Department promotes the planting of new forests through a range of attractive support measures — the Afforestation Grant Scheme, the Forest Environment Protection Scheme and the Native Woodland Scheme. These schemes provide 100% establishment grants and annual premiums for up to 20 years. In addition, my Department also provides supports towards the provision of forest infrastructure such as harvesting roads, along with grants to encourage forest owners to actively manage their forests and improve the quality of the final crop. Funding has also been provided for enterprises involved in the production and supply of wood fuels to the commercial and domestic heat sectors, along with start-up funding to a number of farm forest owner groups to work collectively to manage and market forest products and services.

Dairy Industry.

John Cregan

Question:

69 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views in relation to the continued need for the use of market management measures in the dairy sector in view of the ongoing fragile nature of the market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16792/10]

The EU Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) provides a range of measures that can be used to manage the dairy market, and these were modified in the CAP reforms of 1999 and 2003. In the Health Check negotiations in 2008 there was pressure to remove or weaken the support measures significantly. At that time I fought hard to keep the key market instruments in place and the importance of the retention of these support measures was proven last year when the dairy market experienced a dramatic decline. I pressed the Commission to take all appropriate measures to deal with the dairy market situation, and there is no doubt that the implementation of a range of support measures helped to stabilise the market in 2009. I will continue to maintain close contact with the EU Commission and the Council to ensure that support measures are activated at levels that will make a real impact on the market.

I am committed to a strong and adequately resourced CAP after 2013 and I believe there is a continued role for existing market measures. The experience of the dairy sector in the past year reinforces this view. Furthermore, there is also a need for new measures which could assist in managing market volatility, and the Commission High Level Group on Milk is currently considering this issue. The Group was tasked with examining medium and long term ways of stabilising dairy farmers incomes and improving market transparency. It is expected that the Group will present a report by the end of June 2010.

Food Industry.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

70 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent to which the six day stoppage of all flights into and out of Ireland due to volcanic ash has affected the export of perishable food from this country; the effects which this has had on Irish food producers; the measures which have been put in place to assist those food producers affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16715/10]

The cancellation of flights following the volcanic eruptions in Iceland has had a low impact on the food industry. Up to 97% of food exports are moved by road and sea. Investment in the road infrastructure in Ireland and frequent sailings means that containers can switch quite easily between ports. Some specialist seafood products are exported by air to Japan, but as this is not the peak season, impact on sales is not expected to be significant.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

71 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the delay in paying REPS 4. [16700/10]

Out of 29, 376 farmers due payments in REPS 4, 100% payments have issued to over 21,000 as of 23rd April 2010, with a further 1,342 payments issuing this week. The processing of REPS 4 payments is governed by EU Regulations which require exhaustive administrative checks and on-the-spot inspections. In most parts of the country, the processing of payments is well advanced and the majority of participants have received their full payments for 2009. In a significant number of cases, however, the administrative checks raised issues and queries which required further detailed examination. My Department's staff have been working to resolve these as quickly as possible. Many of these cases require the applicants' planners to amend the farm plans that were submitted originally. The applicants concerned have been made aware of the position and the applications will be further processed without delay on receipt of amended plans. My Department is working to resolve all outstanding issues and queries and my objective is to ensure that all outstanding payments issue as quickly as possible.

Question No. 72 answered with Question No. 38.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

73 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason 50% of Kerry REPS 4 farmers remain unpaid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16896/10]

The processing of REPS 4 payments is governed by EU Regulations which require exhaustive administrative checks and on-the-spot inspections. In most parts of the country, the processing of payments is well advanced and the majority of participants have received their full payments for 2009. In a significant number of cases, however, the administrative checks raised issues and queries which required further detailed examination. My Department's staff have been working to resolve these as quickly as possible. Many of these cases require the applicants' planners to amend the farm plans that were submitted originally. The applicants concerned have been made aware of the position and the applications will be further processed without delay on receipt of amended plans.

I am acutely aware of the situation in the Department's local offices in Kerry where, because of the Government's moratorium on recruitment and promotion in the civil service, two supervisory posts have been vacant and where, as a result, the processing of claims has been delayed. I am pleased to announce that my Department is now putting arrangements in place to resolve the situation. This will enable the processing of claims to proceed and for payments to issue without further delay.

Question No. 74 answered with Question No. 43.

Job Creation.

Joan Burton

Question:

75 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of jobs that were created in the agricultural sector in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16898/10]

The CSO publishes employment statistics each quarter in the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS). The QNHS estimates the number of persons employed in any given sector for that quarter rather than the inward and outward flows in terms of job creation and job losses in that sector for the quarter. In common with the overall economy, the effects of the global recession and downturn in the Irish economy has impacted negatively on employment levels in agriculture and other related sectors such as food and beverage production. The table attached shows employment comparisons between 2008 and 2009 in agriculture and related sectors.

Agriculture and Related Employment 2008-2009

2008

2009

Primary Agriculture Forestry and Fishing

114.8

97.3

Manufacture of Food Products

45.8

42.2

Manufacture of Beverages

6.1

5.3

Manufacture of Wood Products*

9.0

6.7

Source: CSO, QNHS-Quarter 2.

*Excludes furniture.

Question No. 76 answered with Question No. 40.

Food Industry.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

77 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the net value to the Irish Exchequer from food and beverage exports from 2008 to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16920/10]

Bord Bia publishes annual data on the value of food and beverage exports. They estimate that in 2008 and 2009 over €15 billion worth of produce was exported by the sector. Their most recent estimates are that the value food and drink exports in 2009 declined by 12% to approximately €7.1 billion. This reduction was attributable to a number of factors including declines in the value of sterling against the euro as well as the ongoing global recession and weaker commodity prices. Over three quarters of exports go to high value markets in the UK and the EU with the balance going to the rest of the world. The table sets out details for 2008 and 2009, the most recent data available.

Food and Beverage Exports 2008-2009

2008

2009*

Total 2008-2009

Change 2009 v 2008

€m

€m

%

€m

Dairy Products & Ingredients

2,290

2,000

4,290

-13%

-290

Prepared Foods

1,499

1,282

2,781

-14%

-217

Beef

1,607

1,400

3,007

-13%

-207

Beverages

1,229

1,071

2,300

-13%

-158

Seafood

335

303

638

-10%

-32

Poultry

203

180

383

-11%

-23

Pigmeat

343

290

633

-15%

-53

Sheepmeat

265

218

483

-18%

-47

Edible Horticulture & Cereals

148

213

361

44%

65

Live Animals

167

166

333

-1%

-1

Total Food & Drinks

8,086

7,123

15,209

-12%

-963

*2009 Provisional.

Source: Bord Bia estimates.

Dairy Sector.

Michael Creed

Question:

78 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on restructuring in the dairy processing sector; the way he proposes to encourage, assist and facilitate this approach; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16890/10]

The Government is committed to ensuring that the Irish dairy sector reaches its full potential. One of the major challenges will be to ensure that Irish farming and the agri-food sector is at the heart of an evolving high-value food market, which is focused on quality and innovation. This is at the core of Government strategy under the AgriVision 2015 Plan which set out a series of actions to develop a competitive, innovative and consumer focused agri-food sector. As part of this plan, my Department provided funding of €114 million towards investment in dairy processing, which will generate an estimated capital spend of €286 million at full production. By stimulating necessary investment in the sector the Fund will help ensure the long-term competitiveness of the dairy industry in Ireland. In addition, various initiatives at producer level were taken in relation to the operation of the milk quota regime to improve efficiency of production. Furthermore, the Dairy Efficiency Programme and the investment support scheme for young dairy farmers have been put in place to encourage improved efficiency on dairy farms.

In terms of future policy development I expect to have a report by June from the 2020 Strategy Committee setting out strategies for the development of the agri-food sector. This will build on the actions taken by Government under the AgriVision 2015 Plan. The dairy industry itself is ultimately responsible for restructuring and rationalisation at processor level. Over the past year or so the industry has engaged in ongoing and wide ranging consultation with a view to restructuring milk processing in Ireland.

Fisheries Protection.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

79 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has any proposals to create marine protected areas in the seas around the Irish coast; if he plans to introduce legislation to create MPAs; the agreements conventions or discussions that he has entered into to create MPAs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17002/10]

In 2006 Ireland (the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government) formally designated 4 marine sites off the west and south-west coast of Ireland (Belgica Mound Province, Hovland Mound Province, the Northwest Porcupine Bank and the South West Porcupine Bank) as Special Areas of Conservation under the Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC) to conserve resident cold water coral reefs. Arising from concern that the continuous uses of active and passive fishing gears within the sites would undermine their conservation, in July 2006 Ireland asked the EU Commission to bring forward proposals for measures that would either provide for prohibition on fishing in these areas and/or would prohibit the use of fishing gear likely to cause damage to the coral reefs.

After extensive discussion and negotiation with all the stakeholders, a ban on all bottom trawling and fishing with static gears was introduced in these four areas in the TAC and Quota Regulation for 2008 (EU Council Regulation 40/2008). A derogation was allowed for certain pelagic fisheries using mid-water trawls that make no contact with the sea bed and as such do not pose a threat to the corals. The ban was renewed in the TAC and Quota Regulation for 2009 (EU Council Regulation 43/2009). The validity of the ban was then extended until 30 June 2011 in the Transitional Technical Measures Regulation (EU Council Regulation 1288/2

Question No. 80 answered with Question No. 53.
Question No. 81 answered with Question No. 27.

Agri-Environment Options Scheme.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

82 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is satisfied that measures have been taken to ensure that the agricultural and environmental options scheme will commence on 1 June 2010 in the interest of utilising the full annual allocation for the scheme this year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16914/10]

Subject to the need to carry out adequate administrative checks to meet regulatory and audit requirements, it is my intention to ensure that participants in the new Agri-Environment Options Scheme can start their contracts at the earliest possible date.

Beef Imports.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

83 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is satisfied with the rate at which Brazilian authorities are clearing farms to export beef to the EU in view of the concerns of an association (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16911/10]

Since the beginning of 2008 Brazilian beef must be sourced from holdings in regions of the country approved for export to the EU that can provide for animal traceability. This supplementary certification requirement, proposed by the Commission and accepted by the majority of the Member States, was felt appropriate to guarantee hygiene and health status of beef exports to the EU. Imports into the EU from Brazil have evolved over the past four years as follows:

Year

Tonnes

2006

332,000

2007

364,000

2008

171,000

2009

149,000

Source: EU Commission.

It is the function of the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) of the EU to monitor third countries and their application of their controls which have been accepted by the EU as offering equivalent guarantees to those operating in the EU for food of animal origin destined for export to the EU. In February and March 2008 the FVO undertook a mission to evaluate measures taken by the Brazilian Competent Authorities (CA) to address shortcomings it had identified on previous missions, in particular on traceability for cattle eligible to be slaughtered for export of their meat to the EU and on the system for approval of farms. Out of a total of 9,234 holdings which had been approved at that time the Brazilian Authorities proposed 106 farms for a renewed approval inspection for their entry on the EU approval listing which would be monitored by the FVO. The FVO highlighted the necessity for suitable training to guarantee consistency in the audit techniques used to ensure holdings were being operated to the required standards for export of meat to the EU. No changes to the EU's import conditions for beef were considered necessary at that time.

On a request from the Brazilian CA arrangements were put in place by the EU Commission, in April 2008, to provide training to core personnel in that country to promulgate the required standard for audit and approval of export holdings. Approximately 2000 (representing 2,400 farmers) have been listed as having received approval. A follow-up FVO mission to Brazil took place between 20 January and 2 February 2009 and noted significant improvements in the systems for animal registration, identification and movement and on the training of local inspection officials in accordance with the standards required for EU export. It concluded that with some further improvement to be undertaken by the CA the system is ‘in general robust enough to deliver the guarantees requested by the Commission'. It is understood that a further FVO mission has taken place to Brazil recently and information is not yet available on the outcome.

Both I and my predecessors have emphasised to the Commissioner the necessity to be able to guarantee that food products imported into the EU are of an equivalent standard as those produced by our farmers. I have been assured that the Commission will not hesitate to take appropriate protection measures if a product, imported from a third country, represents a risk for the health of EC consumers, livestock or plants.

Food Industry.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

84 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on the break-up of Glanbia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16919/10]

I have no role in the commercial operations of dairy companies. My objective is to ensure a policy framework which will facilitate the dairy industry, as a key part of the agri-food sector, to reach its full potential and to maximise the return from the marketplace on the basis of competitive, innovative and sustainable production of quality products. In this context I expect to have a report by June from the 2020 Strategy Committee setting out strategies for the development of the agri-food sector. This will build on the actions taken by Government under the AgriVision 2015 Plan.

As part of this plan, my Department provided funding of €114 million towards investment in dairy processing, which will generate an estimated capital spend of €286 million at full production. By stimulating necessary investment in the sector the Fund will help ensure the long-term competitiveness of the dairy industry in Ireland. In addition, various initiatives at producer level were taken in relation to the operation of the milk quota regime to improve efficiency of production. Furthermore, the Dairy Efficiency Programme and the investment support scheme for young dairy farmers have been put in place to improve efficiency on dairy farms. Ultimately of course it is a matter for the dairy industry itself to decide on restructuring and rationalisation at processor level having regard to the future evolution of supply and demand. As the deputy will be aware, over the past year or so the industry has engaged in ongoing and wide ranging consultation with a view to restructuring milk processing in Ireland.

Agri-Environment Options Scheme.

Johnny Brady

Question:

85 Deputy Johnny Brady asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the level of funding that is available for persons who will join the new agri-environment options scheme in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16776/10]

The Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS) is a multi-annual scheme and provision has been made for up to 10,000 participants at a maximum annual rate of €5,000.

Grant Payments.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

86 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, further to Parliamentary Question No. 14 of 11 March 2010, the progress that has been made in dealing with the problems that have caused delays in processing REP scheme payments; when all outstanding payments will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16716/10]

Out of 29,376 farmers due payments in REPS 4, 100% payments have issued to over 21,000 as of 23 April 2010, with a further 1,342 payments issuing this week. The processing of REPS 4 payments is governed by EU Regulations which require exhaustive administrative checks and on-the-spot inspections. In most parts of the country, the processing of payments is well advanced and the majority of participants have received their full payments for 2009. In a significant number of cases, however, the administrative checks raised issues and queries which required further detailed examination.

My Department's staff have been working to resolve these as quickly as possible. Many of these cases require the applicants' planners to amend the farm plans that were submitted originally. The applicants concerned have been made aware of the position and the applications will be further processed without delay on receipt of amended plans. My Department is working to resolve all outstanding issues and queries and my objective is to ensure that all outstanding payments issue as quickly as possible.

Question No. 87 answered with Question No. 31.

Afforestation Programme.

Sean Fleming

Question:

88 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the value of annual forestry premia to forestry owners here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16783/10]

A total of €70,495,666 of premium payments was made to forest owners in 2009. To date in 2010, payments to the value of €54,079,014 have been paid. This will increase according as new afforestation applications are approved.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

89 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding spouses of early retirement scheme applicants who were deceased during the period of the pension; if the pension is being withheld; if it will be restored; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16903/10]

Since the first Scheme of Early Retirement from Farming was introduced in 1994, it has been the practice to continue to pay the pension to dependants of participants who died before the period of their pension had elapsed. This arrangement was provided for first scheme document which was approved by the Commission and in the Rural Development Programme, 2000–2006, under which the second Scheme was introduced. However, following recent audits of the Scheme by the European Court of Auditors and the European Commission, the Commission has informed my Department that this practice is not compatible with the governing Regulations and must be discontinued. I am considering the implications of the European Commission's comments. In the meantime, my Department has suspended the processing of new cases.

Farm Inspections.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

90 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will implement a warning system rather than an immediate penalty for farmers who are inspected by his Department on behalf of local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16924/10]

This year, in an effort to minimise duplication of farm inspections, my Department agreed to carry out some 1,500 farm inspections under the GAP regulations on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

The EU regulations governing cross-compliance, which includes the Nitrates directive, set out a range of percentage reductions for non-compliance. Where non-compliance results from negligence on behalf of the farmer a 3% reduction may be applied but this can be reduced to 1% or increased to 5% depending on the extent, severity and permanence of the infringement. If the non-compliance were repeated within a 3 year period a multiplier of 3 must be applied. In the case of intentional infringement a 20% reduction is proposed but this could be reduced to 15% or increased to 100% depending on the extent, severity and permanence of the infringement.

EU regulations provide that where minor cases of non-compliance are detected a tolerance may be applied provided the farmer takes remedial action to correct the situation within a given timeframe. My Department applies this tolerance provision where appropriate.

Food Industry.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

91 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on the implementation of a statutory code of practice to ensure transparency in the grocery sector pricing model; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16922/10]

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

The Government will give effect to this commitment by including a specific provision in the legislation, currently being prepared by my colleague the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to merge the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority, which will allow for the introduction of statutory Codes of Practice in areas such as the grocery goods sector. Minister O' Keeffe expects to publish this legislation later this year. In the interim period until the legislation is enacted, the possibilities of agreeing a Voluntary Code, which would respect the interests of all parties, will be explored with all the relevant stakeholders. A Voluntary Code offers stakeholders the opportunity to develop a Code most suited to the dynamics of the Irish grocery goods sector and which could also form the basis of any subsequent statutory Code.

The Government is strongly committed to ensuring that Ireland continues to have vibrant agrifood food and retail sectors, particularly given the importance of these sectors to the national economy. The Government considers it important, therefore, that there is balance and transparency in the relationship between the various players in the grocery goods sector. The introduction of a Code of Practice, as provided for in the Programme for Government, is intended to achieve such a balance taking into account the interests of all stakeholders in the grocery goods sector including the interests of the consumer.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

92 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the impact of volcanic ash on agricultural production; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16907/10]

There was no reported impact of volcanic ash on Irish agricultural production. The European Food Safety Authority concluded that "based on available information, the potential risk posed by fluoride in volcanic ash through contamination of drinking water, fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, milk and feed in the European Union is negligible".

Animal Welfare.

Margaret Conlon

Question:

93 Deputy Margaret Conlon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the benefits that he believes will arise from the recently agreed all-island animal health and welfare strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16777/10]

The development of an All-Island Animal Health and Welfare Strategy was agreed under the North South Ministerial Council arrangements, as part of the commitment to closer co-operation and joint approaches for the improvement of animal health and welfare on the island of Ireland. The Strategy provides a basis to enhance animal health and welfare standards and to have expanded opportunities for the export of livestock and livestock products. The ultimate objective of the All-Island Animal Health and Welfare Strategy is to have policies and arrangements in place that facilitate the free movement of animals on the island.

Redundancy Payments.

Denis Naughten

Question:

94 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when a redundancy payment will be awarded in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17406/10]

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 lump sum claim for the individual concerned on 11 January, 2010 and that the claim is currently being processed. It is expected that payment to the individual will be made within a three to four week period.

Work Permits.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

95 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to a campaign by Migrants Rights Centre Ireland for a change in the way in which the work permit system is operated; his views of the campaign’s aim which is to allow the employee the right to change employer as opposed to being bound to one; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17433/10]

My Department condemn any practices by employers that may result in non-compliance with employment rights entitlements or any other mistreatment of employees including those on employment permits. Ireland's Employment Rights Legislation establishes the minimum statutory rights applicable to all people working in Ireland whether they are Irish citizens or otherwise. I would urge all whose employment rights are being breached by an employer or those who know of such exploitation to contact the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA).

The Employment Permits Act 2006 sets out in legislation the rules governing employment permits. One of the main focuses of this Act was in increasing the rights and protections afforded to migrant workers and the means to ensure redress in the event of exploitative practices. The Act's provisions gave immigrants greater freedom, autonomy and control over their own employment choices by enabling workers for the first time to apply and re-apply for their own permit and allowing workers to change their employer after a period of a year and move to another employment in order to take advantage of better conditions or career options. Last year, my Department issued almost 1,500 employment permits in respect of employees changing to new employers. The Employment Permits Act 2006 provides for regular review of Ireland's economic migration policies and my Department keeps these policies under review on an on-going basis.

Redundancy Payments.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

96 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding a statutory redundancy application in respect of a person (details supplied): when they will receive payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17508/10]

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 5 August, 2009 and I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the claim is at an advanced stage of processing. Payment is expected to issue to the individual within the next one to two week period.

Licensed Premises.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

97 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance the number of six-day publican licences issued in the State; if he has any proposals to facilitate the upgrading of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17405/10]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that there are currently eleven "Six Day" licences on their database, of which ten have been renewed for 2010. There are also four "Six Day Early Closing" licences of which two have been renewed for 2010. The Government Legislation Programme provides for the publication of the Sale of Alcohol Bill in 2010. This Bill, being sponsored by the Minister for Justice for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, will modernise and streamline all the laws relating to the sale and consumption of alcohol by repealing the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2008, as well as the Registration of Clubs Acts 1904 to 2008, and replacing them with updated and streamlined provisions. The upgrading of the remaining number of restricted licences is being considered in the context of that Bill.

Stability and Growth Pact.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

98 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance the discussions he has had with the German Chancellor or her officials or with the representatives of the other EU member states or institutions regarding her proposal to have an expulsion clause inserted into the Stability and Growth Pact to evict countries in the eurozone who persistently fail to meet the criteria set for public spending, country deficits and other breaches of the rules; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13294/10]

I assume that the Question relates to policy issues raised by individual Member States in follow-up discussions arising out of the statements of the Heads of State and Government on 11 February 2010 and 25 March 2010, and of the Eurogroup on 11 April 2010, on the taking of measures, if needed, to support the financial stability of the euro area, in the context of the difficulties being experienced by Greece.

As the Deputy will appreciate these matters are hugely sensitive and one that must be treated delicately least markets react unfavourably to speculative comment. Currently, the eurozone member states are working together to support the overall financial stability of the eurozone in light of the present difficulties of one member. It would not be appropriate to comment on any particular aspect of ongoing informal discussions.

Flood Relief.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

99 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the flood alleviation and flood prevention programme in respect of various river catchment areas; the extent to which plans have been submitted to the EU institutions with a view to obtaining funds available for this purpose; the extent to which it is expected to proceed with any such plans in the short to medium term; if it is intended to focus initially on those areas, both urban and rural, which were most affected by flooding in the past number of years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16084/10]

As lead agency in the management of flood risk nationally, the Office of Public Works (OPW) has focused on a catchment-based context for managing flood risk, with more proactive risk assessment and management, and increased use of non-structural and flood impact mitigation measures. Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management Studies (CFRAMSs) and their product — Catchment Flood Risk Management Plans (CFRMPs) — are at the core of this national policy for flood risk management and the strategy for its implementation. This policy is in line with international best practice and the requirements of the EU Floods Directive.

The OPW has been appointed as the national competent authority under the EU Floods Directive and as such will act as the principal coordinator in the production of CFRMPs for all national river catchments, which are due to be submitted to the EU by 2015. The programme for implementation of the CFRMPs is generally in accord with timescales set out in the EU ‘Floods' Directive. It is intended to complete the first phase by 2015. The Commission requires Member States to report progress on the implementation of the Directive. OPW is not aware of EU funding for these purposes.

In advance of the completion of the CFRMPs, OPW will continue to invest significant funds in terms of flood relief activities, capital works, drainage maintenance and hydrometric activities. The annual provision for like-for-like services has been increased by Government by 188% over the seven year period to 2010. OPW has already profiled expenditure in excess of €200m on around fifteen major capital schemes from now to 2014.

Tax Code.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

100 Deputy Trevor Sargent asked the Minister for Finance if a tax exempt approved body must, in order to comply with the provisions of section 235 of Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, include in its rules and constitution certain clauses, income and property and winding-up clauses, which ensure the members of the tax exempt approved sports body do not benefit directly or indirectly or otherwise from the income or assets of the approved body, including the interest accruing on any tax free capital sum arising from the sale of assets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17348/10]

Section 235 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997 provides an income tax exemption to sporting bodies, which have been approved by Revenue on the basis that the body has been established for, and exists for the sole purpose of promoting athletic or amateur games or sports. The exemption extends to the amount of the income of the approved body which has been, or will be, applied to the sole purpose mentioned.

Sections 610 and Schedule 15, Paragraph 37 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997 provides a capital gains tax exemption in respect of chargeable gains accruing to sporting bodies to the extent that the income of the sporting body is exempt from income tax or corporation tax as the case may be. Where a sporting body realises a capital sum from the disposal of an asset the exemption applies only to the extent that the proceeds are applied for the sole purpose of promoting athletic or amateur games or sports.

The administration of tax exemptions for sporting bodies is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners. Revenue has emphasised that the detailed application of funds has to be considered specifically, and in context, in each individual case, to determine whether any implications arise for the tax exemption, or the body's approval by Revenue. Revenue has also confirmed that while there is no specific requirement in section 235 regarding the type of clauses to be included in the Rules and Constitution of tax exempt sporting bodies, those bodies that formally apply for an exemption are required to include income, property and winding-up clauses which ensure that no portion of the bodies' income or property is transferred directly or indirectly by way of dividend, bonus or otherwise howsoever by way of profit to the members. Revenue has also confirmed that bodies granted sporting tax exemption are subject to periodic risk-focused review towards ensuring that the terms of the exemption continue to be fulfilled. All relevant matters, including adherence to any income, property and winding-up clauses are considered in the context of such reviews.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

101 Deputy Trevor Sargent asked the Minister for Finance if a club (details supplied) in County Dublin is in breach of section 235 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 by using €2.2 million of interest from a tax-exempt capital sum of €20 million to offset against the club operating loses of €2.9 million, thereby subsidising member’s annual subscriptions to a lesser amount than would otherwise be payable were such interest not available to the body, and, in so doing, conferring a direct or indirect financial benefit on the members of that body in contravention of the terms and conditions under which the tax exemption was granted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17349/10]

Section 235 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997 provides an income tax exemption to sporting bodies, which have been approved by Revenue on the basis that the body has been established and exists, for the sole purpose of promoting athletic or amateur games or sports. The exemption extends to the amount of income applied to the sole purpose of promoting athletic or amateur games or sports.

Sections 610 and Schedule 15, Paragraph 37 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997 provides a capital gains tax exemption in respect of chargeable gains accruing to sporting bodies to the extent that the income of the sporting body is exempt from income tax or corporation tax. Where a capital sum is realised from the disposal of an asset the exemption applies to the extent that the proceeds are applied for the sole purpose of promoting athletic or amateur games or sports. Revenue cannot comment on an individual case but confirms that such cases are subject to periodic review to ensure that all the terms of exemption are fulfilled and will investigate a case if information comes to light that the exemption conditions are not met.

Recapitalisation of Financial Institutions.

Joan Burton

Question:

102 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance how the promissory notes issued to Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society are to be treated by EUROSTAT for the purposes of quantifying the general Exchequer deficit and national debt for 2010 and beyond; if he will confirm that promissory notes for €8.3 billion and €2.7 billion have been transferred to Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide respectively; the total expected 2010 interest payment for money raised for the purposes of injecting capital into Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide; how these payments will impact on the commitment to make budgetary adjustments totalling €3 billion for 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17376/10]

On March 31st this year the Government issued promissory notes to Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society for €8.3 and €2.6 billion respectively to help meet their capitalisation requirements over the coming years. Although the effect of this is to increase General Government Debt by €10.9 billion in 2010 there will be no actual drawing down of funds associated with these transactions in 2010. Consequently, there will be no additional interest costs incurred in 2010 as the transfer of funds from the Exchequer relating to the promissory notes will not begin until 2011. The reason the full amount is included in the 2010 General Government Debt figures — despite the fact that the money will not be borrowed in that year — is because accounting rules state that one must recognise a debt in the period in which it arises.

Until the details of the restructuring plans of these institutions have been agreed with the European Commission, the precise impact on the General Government Deficit will not be clearly known. As such, these promissory notes have been classified as financial transactions, and hence are not included in the General Government Deficit for 2010. When further information is available, this decision can be reviewed. The Government remains committed to the Budget day target to reduce the deficit to below 3% of GDP by 2014 and as such the budgetary targets for this and subsequent years remain unchanged and are unaffected by these recapitalisation plans.

Pension Provisions.

Noel Ahern

Question:

103 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Finance the system of regulation for additional voluntary contribution schemes; if legislation covering AVCs allows participants to reduce the amount of money they are paying into schemes and or release a portion of the contributions that they have made to date; and the extent to which he will intervene in cases in which participants are dissatisfied with the conditions of AVC schemes. [17454/10]

Additional Voluntary Contributions (AVCs) are made by an employee in addition to any compulsory contributions the employee may be required to make under the rules of an occupational pension scheme of which he or she is a member. AVCs can be made in order to improve the benefits of scheme members over and above those provided by the scheme rules but within Revenue limits. Where an employer operates a pension scheme, it is usual to provide a facility to scheme members to make AVCs. Although the law does not require schemes to allow AVCs, the Pensions (Amendment) Act, 2002 requires any employer whose pension arrangements do not include an AVC facility to offer access to at least one standard PRSA to be used for AVC purposes.

As AVCs are voluntary, individuals can decide on the level of such contributions they wish to make and they may reduce or cease contributions at any time. Contributions to AVCs must, however, comply with the relevant tax legislation and the requirements of the Revenue Commissioners in relation to the tax treatment of pension provision and retirement benefits. For example, there are age-related percentage limits of earnings (subject to an overall annual earnings limit of €150,000) on which tax relief on contributions by an employee or individual to a pension arrangement, including contributions to an AVC, is allowed.

Moreover, the maximum benefit that an individual can receive from an occupational pension scheme at normal retirement age is a pension of two-thirds of final remuneration. When benefits secured by AVCs are added to the main scheme benefits, this maximum cannot be exceeded. A funding review and maximum benefits test must take place before any AVC is paid. It is the responsibility of the scheme trustees to ensure that excessive employee contributions are not made. Finally, in this regard, and as with pension contributions generally, AVC contributions once made are effectively "locked in" and access to the funds in an AVC is usually restricted to the time when access to the retirement benefits of the main scheme is permitted (generally at the normal retirement age provided for under the rules of the scheme).

Occupational pension schemes and personal pension plans such as Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs), which can encompass AVC arrangements, are subject to regulation by the Pensions Board which comes under the aegis of my colleague, the Minister for Social Protection. The Deputy's question is not clear on the specific aspects of the regulation or otherwise of AVCs about which he has concerns. If he were to set out the specific issues involved, then perhaps I or my colleague, the Minister for Social Protection, may be in a position to comment further on the matter.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

104 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance if he has reviewed the pension arrangements of top management within the covered institutions as recommended by CIROC in its report in February 2009; and if he has addressed the specific issue raised in the CIROC report that the arrangement for making pension cash payments is unacceptable and that pension arrangements for senior executives should be at least broadly similar to those applicable to the generality of the staff in the institution. [17524/10]

Under the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme 2008 the remuneration packages of directors and executives, including total salary, bonuses, pension payments and any other benefits were subject to review by the Covered Institutions Remuneration Oversight Committee, CIROC, arising from the provisions of the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Act, 2008. CIROC reported on 27 February 2009, recommending reductions in prevailing base salary, bonus and pension levels for Chief Executives, Chairs and ordinary board members that it considered to be, in many cases, markedly excessive.

The Government considered the CIROC recommendations in light of the further downturn in the wider economy, the prevailing financial position of the covered institutions and the fact that larger economies such as the United States and Germany had set lower caps on the salaries of Government aided financial institutions than those suggested by CIROC. In light of those considerations, the Government concluded that the CIROC recommendations regarding bonuses, pensions, long term incentive plans and board sub-committees were appropriate but that remuneration terms should be lower than those recommended by CIROC.

I wrote to the chairpersons of each of the covered institutions on foot of the publication of the CIROC report seeking immediate action from the Boards to review remuneration plans so that revised remuneration packages for everyone in their organisation respected the salary cap of €500,000 or amount recommended by CIROC, whichever is the lesser.

It is a matter for the remuneration committees of the covered institutions to ensure that these recommendations are being adhered to; however it is possible that in some cases the remuneration committee is restricted because of contractual arrangements entered into with individual senior executives prior to the publication of the CIROC report. I have no legal power under the Scheme to force new agreements in such cases for the duration of the existing contracts. In general, the experience of the Department is that the recommendations of CIROC are being complied with and/or are being attended to satisfactorily on an ongoing basis. The Deputy will appreciate that the respective covered institutions operate in a commercial fashion. Subject to contractual considerations, they are expected, in the present economic circumstances, to take account of the necessary downward adjustment in remuneration levels affecting all sectors of the economy.

On the issue of "pension cash payments", the report of the Covered Institution Remuneration Oversight Committee (CIROC) stated that: "We have become aware of a practice in which cash allowances were paid to compensate for the effects of the "pensions cap" imposed by the Finance Act, 2006. Pension schemes should reflect public policy and tax law and it is unacceptable that arrangements should be put in place which would be inconsistent with the intent of the relevant legislation." I specifically informed the affected institutions that this practice should cease immediately. My understanding is that this has been complied in all but two of the covered institutions where some of the payments continue to be made because of pre-existing contractual arrangements.

Money Laundering.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

105 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the degree to which he alone or in conjunction with his EU colleagues has provided or intends to provide adequate protection against money laundering; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17551/10]

EU action in the area of anti-money laundering is primarily contained in the Third Money Laundering Directive (Directive 2005/60/EC). Primary responsibility for domestic legislation in the anti-money laundering area lies with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform who has transposed the Directive into Irish law in the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Bill 2009 which is completing its consideration by the Oireachtas this week. The Bill also consolidates the existing money laundering provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1994.

The Criminal Justice Act 1994 imposed obligations on financial institutions and, more recently, on lawyers, accountants and auctioneers to identify their clients and report suspicious transactions to the Garda Síochána and to the Revenue Commissioners. The new legislation strengthens the existing anti-money laundering legislation by, among other requirements, widening the offence of money laundering, establishing a system of compliance monitoring by competent authorities, requiring designated persons to identify the beneficial ownership of unlisted companies and trusts and introducing the concept of a risked based approach which will enable designated persons to concentrate resources on higher risk areas.

The new legislation will also strengthen the powers of the Financial Regulator by allowing him to impose administrative sanctions for breaches of its provisions. The Financial Regulator is also devoting substantial additional resources to the inspection of credit and financial institutions to ensure compliance with their anti-money laundering obligations.

Apart from the Third Money Laundering Directive the EU has also introduced regulations to ensure full identification of persons transmitting funds by wire transfer (EC Regulation 1781/2006) and to require declaration of large cross-border cash movements (EC Regulation 1889/2005). These Regulations have direct effect in all Member States. The issues of money laundering and criminality generally are also regularly discussed at the Justice and Home Affairs Council.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

106 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which the issue of competitiveness in the economy has been addressed to date, with particular reference to the need to be in a position to compete with other EU member states and particularly our nearest neighbours; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17552/10]

Until 2008, Ireland lost competitiveness as our prices grew ahead of other euro area countries and our wages increased at rates above that justified by our productivity. Our price levels were almost a quarter higher than the euro area average in that year. As has been said for some time there is an urgent need to improve the competitiveness of the Irish economy and this is a job for all in society. While much more needs to be done I am happy to report that in this regard there are already a number of positive developments. Consumer prices in Ireland are now declining at the fastest rate in the euro area and the European Commission now suggests that, uniquely in the euro area, our unit labour costs fell last year when all others rose somewhat. I would point out to the Deputy that (when measured on the same basis) consumer prices fell by 2.4 per cent in the year to March in Ireland but rose by 3.4 per cent in the UK over the same period, almost a six percentage point difference. All these developments will assist addressing our competitiveness problem.

As a member of a currency union we have no control over the exchange rates we face so we must focus on improving competitiveness at home if we expect to be able to maintain and gain export market share. While the falls in domestic prices, easing wage pressures and improvements in productivity are helpful we must not be complacent as further improvements in our competitiveness are essential if we are to position ourselves to benefit as EU and global growth resumes. I want to assure the Deputy that improving the competitiveness of Ireland's economy is a key priority for this Government.

Fiscal Policy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

107 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which the projections as set out in budget 2010 remain on target; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17553/10]

Budget 2010 forecast an Exchequer Borrowing Requirement of just under €19 billion and a General Government Deficit of some 11½% of GDP in 2010. The most recently published fiscal data for 2010 are the Exchequer Returns for the end of the first quarter of the year, published on 2 April and these were broadly in line with my Department's expectations for the first quarter of the year. My Department continues to analyse the emerging trends. However, at this stage of the year I have no reason to change the budgetary targets for 2010.

Banking Sector.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

108 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when he expects the banks to be in a position to provide the necessary working capital to the business community in agriculture, industry and the commercial or services sectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17554/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

109 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when he expects traditional banking, borrowing and lending practices to be restored; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17555/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 108 and 109 together.

I announced earlier this month under the NAMA Act that AIB and Bank of Ireland are to make available a minimum of €3 billion each for new or increased credit facilities, including working capital targeted at SMEs, in the real economy in the next two years. Both Bank of Ireland and AIB are required to prepare a SME lending plan, broken down by sector and geography for submission to my Department by 12 May. Both banks are expected to make the credit available immediately and should not wait until the plans are submitted. These plans will be reviewed and if it is clear that it is necessary, I will introduce a Statutory Instrument under the NAMA legislation to ensure that lending takes place into the economy.

Further measures to assist the availability of credit for SMEs include: the requirement that the two largest banks provide €20 million each for seed capital to Enterprise Ireland supported projects; the requirement that the two banks each set up an additional €100 million fund for Environmental; Clean Energy and Innovation projects; the requirement that the banks commit to working with Enterprise Ireland and the IBF to develop sectoral expertise in the modern growth sectors; the requirement that they explore with Enterprise Ireland and the IBF how best to develop the range of banking services that Irish SMEs trading internationally will need, and the requirement to develop expertise and credit products in areas where cashflow rather than assets is the basis for lending.

The Financial Regulator has set down capital requirements for each of the banks. Bank of Ireland has already begun to implement its plan to raise €3.4 billion of capital and it was encouraging that the share placing earlier this week was nearly four times oversubscribed. Allied Irish Bank has announced that it is selling assets to raise capital. As I have outlined previously the State is willing to convert some or all of its preference shares, as required, on terms to be agreed that will provide full value for the taxpayer. The combination of cleansed balance sheets, following the removal of the riskiest loans by NAMA, and recapitalisation will put the banks in a stronger position to access liquidity, secure funding and increase lending.

I consider that the banks are in a position to lend to viable businesses and the recent Mazars report on lending to SMEs, which covers the period from October to December 2009, showed that credit applications in number and value terms rose slightly in the last quarter of 2009 over the previous quarter, which is encouraging. The level of applications for credit would appear to be stabilising and Mazars also reported a small improvement in the overall credit approval rate. However, the reduction in the stock of credit, as repayments exceed new credit, and in credit quality reported by the banks remains a concern for the Government.

The recently established Credit Review Office is available to review banks' decisions to refuse credit to businesses. It will provide an independent review of the banks' decisions on whether the credit should have been granted or not. It is expected that the existence of the Office will have an effect on the banks' behaviour in relation to credit. Businesses can also seek a review of a decision to reduce or withdraw credit. This should resolve the contentious issue of whether the banks are willing to lend to viable businesses.

Mortgage Arrears.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

110 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the progress that has been made in the matter of new provisions to assist persons who through no fault of their own have fallen into arrears and who may find themselves in danger of repossession; if he intends to introduce measures as promised during the passage of the National Asset Management Agency legislation in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17556/10]

The Renewed Program for Government which was published in October 2009 sets out the Government's priorities in relation to the issues facing families having difficulties with their mortgage repayments and personal indebtedness under the headings Protecting the Family Home and Helping Those in Debt. I have referred to the Government’s intentions in this regard on many occasions in this House, including during the passage of the National Asset Management Agency legislation as referred to by the Deputy.

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. Since my Budget speech, I wrote to the Financial Regulator requesting that consideration be given to extending the moratorium on mortgage arrears from 6 months to 12 months for all mortgage 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.

The Deputy will be aware that in February this year, I informed the Government of my proposals regarding expanding the membership of the Interdepartmental Mortgage Arrears Group, under the Chairmanship of Mr. Hugh Cooney. The revamped Group has commenced its work, having met on several occasions since being established, and has finalised its Terms of Reference which I have approved and incorporated into the supplementary documentation for my Statement on Banking which I delivered to this House on 30 March 2010. In general, the terms of reference 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 is initially exploring the feasibility of a range of possible options for improving the level of mortgage support to homeowners in difficulty. I understand that proposals will be based on factual information gathered by the Group and will take into account the findings of existing reports and mortgage support schemes in operation in other jurisdictions. I expect that these recommendations will be made to me on a rolling basis as the Group progresses with its findings and that a final report on this phase of the review will be ready by end June 2010. It is important to remember that established support measures remain in place including the Mortgage Interest Subsidy Scheme, helping over 15,000 home owners, and the services provided by the Money Advice Budgeting Services.

It is important to point out that historically, repossessions in Ireland have been low and a comparison of repossession figures for Irish Banking Federation members who are the mainstream lenders, not including subprime, with figures from the UK Council of Mortgage lenders indicates UK repossession rates per 100,000 mortgages at thirty times those in Ireland. For the year 2009, total repossessions of home owners by legal process for those institutions covered under the Bank Guarantee Scheme was 28.

As I have stated on many occasions in this House, it is a priority of the Government to ensure that as far as possible that difficulties in relation to mortgage arrears do not result in legal proceedings for home repossession. Home repossession should be and generally has been the last resort for the lender. Indeed the Government is satisfied that mainstream mortgage lenders have adopted a responsible position towards their customers.

National Asset Management Agency.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

111 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the full extent of debt so far acquired under the National Asset Management Agency; the current, expected or realisable values of the property; the degree to which expected State liability has altered since the passage of NAMA legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17557/10]

The first tranche of loans has now been transferred to NAMA from all but one of the participating institutions. I am informed by NAMA that they intend to transfer the first tranche of Anglo loans over the next two weeks- commencing this coming weekend.

The nominal value of loans already transferred from four institutions in tranche 1 is €6 billion; the total consideration paid for these loans by NAMA is €3,538 million of which €3,361 million (95%) is Government guaranteed bonds and €177 million is subordinated bonds. The nominal value of loans to be transferred in Tranche 1 from Anglo is of the order of €10 billion. NAMA stated on 30th March 2010 that the average discount on these loans has been estimated at approximately 50%. Early indications suggest that this discount may be somewhat higher however; NAMA will not have the final average discount on these Anglo tranche 1 loans until the transfer is complete. The higher the discount on loans, the less NAMA will pay to acquire the loans.

Section 55 provides that NAMA will submit quarterly reports to me and these will provide detailed information on the loans including, amongst other details, the number of loans outstanding, the number of loans foreclosed, sums recovered from property sales in the relevant quarter and an abridged balance sheet of the assets and liabilities of NAMA and each NAMA group entity. The first quarterly report shall be submitted to me on or before 30 June 2010 and I will arrange for copies of these reports to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

112 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the original anticipated or expected discount in respect of the relevant properties as expressed during the passage of the National Asset Management Agency legislation; the eventual discount in respect of such properties subsequently; the likely impact of the increased discount; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17558/10]

The estimated aggregate discount of 30% that I announced last September is a top-down aggregate estimate of the potential discount that the institutions will face. I always made it clear that the actual valuation would 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.

The fact that the discount on the first tranche of NAMA loans is expected to be 47% as opposed to the initial estimate of 30% is proof of the robustness of the overall process. The increased discount will mean that the loans will be transferred to NAMA at a lower cost to the taxpayer than originally expected. Higher discounts also have implications for the capital needs of the banks as recently announced by the Financial Regulator.

The calculation of the discounts followed detailed loan by loan assessments which included legal due diligence, a detailed valuation process, and internal and external checking processes, including external audit. In my Dáil speech on banking on the 30th March I explained the impact of the NAMA process and the cost of recapitalising the participating institutions and that this restructuring and recapitalisation was critical to ensure that the banks can supply the credit necessary to underpin our economic recovery.

National Debt.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

113 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the full extent of the national debt in each of the past five years to date in 2010; the cost and means of servicing the debt; the projected costs over the next five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17559/10]

The level of national debt for the period from 2005 to end-March 2010 is set out in the table below.

Year

Level of National Debt*

€bn

2005

38

2006

36

2007

38

2008

50

2009

75

End-March 2010

79

*Figures have been rounded to nearest €bn.

Expenditure on national debt interest amounted to €2½ billion in 2009. Based on the projections for the Exchequer Borrowing Requirement for the years to 2014 set out in Budget 2010, the estimated cost of interest on the national debt is €4½ billion in 2010, €5¾ billion in 2011, €6½ billion in 2012, €7½ billion in 2013 and €7¾ billion in 2014. The National Treasury Management Agency has advised that, as is usual, these estimates were prepared on the basis of the prevailing market conditions for Irish Government bonds at that time.

Fiscal Policy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

114 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the implications arising from the recent decision by EUROSTAT in respect of off-balance sheet accounting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17560/10]

l presume the Deputy is referring the recent publication of the Maastricht returns which included a decision by the Irish authorities to reclassify the injection by the Government in Anglo Irish Bank in 2009 from a financial transaction to a capital transfer.

Initially the Irish authorities, having regard to Eurostat guidelines, classified this injection as a financial transaction and as such it did not affect the general government balance. Since then, the Irish authorities have reviewed the matter in light of later information and concluded that the transaction should now be considered as capital expenditure rather than a financial transaction. This was reported to Eurostat in the statistical transmission submitted last week, and was subsequently published by Eurostat as part of its notification of deficit and debt data for Member States for 2009.

The result is the deficit has been re-calculated to be 14.3% of GDP. I want to stress that there is no additional borrowing as a result of this technical reclassification. The Exchequer Balance, National Debt and General Government Debt had already accounted for this borrowing. The underlying General Government Balance excluding this reclassification is 11.8% of GDP, which is broadly in line with the Budget day estimate.

The reclassification of the €4 billion to Anglo in 2009 is a once-off adjustment that only impacts on the 2009 General Government Deficit and does not affect the Budget day forecast for a General Government Deficit of around 11½ % of GDP for 2010, and in that context, Ireland's fiscal targets have not changed in light of these statistical returns.

Tax Code.

Willie Penrose

Question:

115 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Finance if he has received correspondence (details supplied) from the County Managers’ Association about concerns of local authorities in relation to VAT changes in the Finance Bill; if, in this context, he has given consideration to the propositions made therein; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17572/10]

I have received correspondence from the County Managers Association which deals with a number of matters in relation to the application of VAT to services provided by public bodies including local authorities. The European Court of Justice ruled, in the case C-544/07 against Ireland on 16 July 2009, that Ireland should amend its VAT legislation to provide that State and public bodies are in general subject to VAT. This case goes back to 2004 when infringement proceedings were taken by the European Commission against Ireland. Given the time that has passed since the Court's Judgement, and since the commencement of the case, it is imperative that the VAT implementation takes place as soon as possible.

1 July 2010 was chosen as the date of implementation of VAT in order to allow time to process the relevant legislation and for State and public bodies, including local authorities, to prepare for the change to their administrative systems. Indeed, since the Judgement issued the European Commission have corresponded with us on a number of occasions seeking updates on our progress in its implementation and we have informed them of the recent enactment of the Finance Act 2010. In these circumstances any deferral of the implementation date is not at this stage realistically feasible.

Under the EU VAT Directive, treating local authorities and State bodies as not-for-profit organisations is not possible. The Directive provides distinct and separate regulation for not-for-profit bodies and State bodies, including local authorities. It is not possible to exempt from VAT any activity of a State body, including a local authority, or indeed any other business, simply because it is not making a profit.

The Revenue Commissioners are proceeding with implementing the new regime and liaising where possible with local authorities to ensure transition to the new VAT arrangements. While it is accepted that there may be initial teething problems, it is expected, as in the case of all tax legislation, that the State and public bodies comply with the new VAT rules from 1 July 2010.

National Asset Management Agency.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

116 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Finance the expected discount to be applied by the National Asset Management Agency on the takeover of loans by NAMA in tranche 1 in relation to Anglo Irish Bank; the date this will happen; the value of loans to be taken over; the value of loans to which zero per cent valuations are to be applied; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17585/10]

I am informed by NAMA that they intend to transfer the first tranche of Anglo loans over the next two weeks — commencing this coming weekend. The nominal value of the loans to be transferred in Tranche 1 from Anglo is of the order of €10 billion. NAMA in their statement on 30th March indicated that the anticipated discount on the first tranche of loans to transfer to NAMA from Anglo will be approximately 50%. Early indications suggest that this discount may be somewhat higher however; NAMA will not have the final average discount on these Anglo tranche 1 loans until the transfer is complete. That the higher the discount on loans, the less NAMA will pay to acquire the loans. I am informed by NAMA that information on the loans, if any, where a zero percent valuation will be applied to is not yet available.

Section 55 provides that NAMA will submit quarterly reports to me and these will provide detailed information on the loans including, amongst other details, the number of loans outstanding, the number of loans foreclosed, sums recovered from property sales in the relevant quarter and an abridged balance sheet of the assets and liabilities of NAMA and each NAMA group entity. The first quarterly report shall be submitted to me on or before 30 June 2010 and I will arrange for copies of these reports to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

117 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of a person (details supplied). [17380/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course. However, I would also recommend that you inform the family mentioned that it is open to them to contact their local health office directly in relation to this matter.

Registered Medical Practitioners.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

118 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on correspondence (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17435/10]

Under the Medical Practitioners Act 2007, the Medical Council is the statutory body charged with responsibility for the registration and regulation of medical practitioners in the State. The Minister for Health and Children has no role in matters relating to the ethics of registered medical practitioners or in matters relating to complaints concerning registered medical practitioners. Section 9 of the Act specifically precludes the Minister from giving any policy directions to the Council in relation to such matters.

The Medical Council has indicated that its current guidelines provide that if a registered medical practitioner has a conscientious objection to a course of action, this should be explained to the patient and the names of other doctors made available. The Medical Council has advised that it cannot make any comment regarding inquiries into individual registered medical practitioners.

Nursing Homes Support Scheme.

Tom Hayes

Question:

119 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children if any new applications to the nursing home support scheme since 27 October 2010 have received payment. [17344/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in duecourse.

Medical Cards.

Michael Creed

Question:

120 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will review her decision to refuse a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17351/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested. 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.

Finian McGrath

Question:

121 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [17378/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Mary Upton

Question:

122 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 314 of 2 February 2010, the supports that will be put in place for a person (details supplied) who is in nursing home care since October 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17391/10]

The Nursing Homes Support Scheme commenced on the 27th October 2009. Individuals who were resident in nursing homes on that date, as well as individuals who enter nursing homes after that date, can apply for the scheme. Furthermore, the legislation provides that applicants to the scheme who were in an approved nursing home on the date the scheme commenced shall have their State Support backdated to that date. Therefore, the individual referred to by the Deputy can apply to avail of support under the scheme and is entitled to have her State support backdated.

Applications for the scheme are made to the local Nursing Homes Support Office. In this case the local office can be contacted at:

Nursing Homes Support Office

Oak House

Millennium Park

Naas

Co. Kildare

Ph: 045 880400

Hospital Services.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

123 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) will receive an appointment. [17392/10]

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.

Pat Breen

Question:

124 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17396/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested. 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:

125 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application for a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17400/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested. 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.

Denis Naughten

Question:

126 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to a meeting (details supplied) the progress made to date; when it is planned to reopen this facility; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17417/10]

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.

Michael McGrath

Question:

127 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [17421/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Question No. 128 withdrawn.

Hospital Services.

James Bannon

Question:

129 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will arrange a transfer of a person (details supplied) in County Longford from Longford/Westmeath Regional Hospital, Mullingar to Tallaght Hospital, Dublin, for an urgent surgical procedure; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17437/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Drugs Payment Scheme.

Noel Ahern

Question:

130 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding medications covered and available under the medical card scheme and drugs cost subsidisation scheme; how a product (details supplied) will be placed on both lists; if this product is or previously was on either list; the reason same was removed; if the manufacturer or distributor has applied to get this product on the lists; if she will make a statement on the matter in view of the fact that elderly persons find it difficult to understand the reason the item is not available. [17456/10]

Noel Ahern

Question:

132 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason medication (details supplied) is not on the approved list for the drugs cost subsidisation scheme; how this medication can be put on that list; to whom and by whom the case should be put; if such medication is put on the list when statements from the patient’s consultant state that the medication on the list is not suited to their patients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17458/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 130 and 132 together.

Pharmaceutical companies must apply to the Health Service Executive (HSE), for their product(s) to be reimbursed under the General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme and the community drugs schemes. In order for a medicinal product to be considered by the HSE for reimbursement it must meet specified criteria. These include the following:

The product must be an ‘allopathic' medicinal product authorised by the Irish Medicines Board or the European Commission.

The product must be such that it is ordinarily supplied to the public only on foot of a medical prescription.

The product should not be advertised or promoted to the public.

The HSE have advised that there had been a manufacturing difficulty with Cytamen. Alternative arrangements were put in place during this time. The issue has now been resolved. Astonin is a brand name for Fludrocortisone. It is not a licensed product and therefore is not eligible for reimbursement under the GMS or community drugs schemes. An alternative brand of Fludrocortisone is licensed in Ireland and is reimbursable under the GMS and community drugs schemes.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Noel Ahern

Question:

131 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will refer to the waiting list for ear, nose and throat consultant outpatient appointments at Temple Street Hospital, Dublin 1 which are currently at 12 months duration; if she will provide details of delays for appointments at other children’s hospitals in Dublin for ENT; the number of ENT consultants working in Temple Street Hospital; if all are currently in work; if so, the further reason there is such a delay; the plans that are in place to improve matters; if the National Treatment Purchase Fund will be used to improve matters, specifically in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9. [17457/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course. The National Treatment Purchase Fund arranges treatment for patients who have been on a surgical waiting list for more than three months. It is open to the person in question or anyone acting on their behalf to contact the Fund directly in relation to their case.

Question No. 132 answered with Question No. 130.

Noel Ahern

Question:

133 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of ear, nose and throat consultants attached to Temple Street Children’s Hospital, Dublin 1; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a 12 month delay for an ENT outpatient appointment; if she will expedite the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17459/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested. 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.

Noel Ahern

Question:

134 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the processing of medical card applications; if existing cards are still valid until the renewal process, including appeal, is completed; the reason applications are being refused to persons on basic social welfare payments only; the further reason a renewal application in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9 was refused. [17460/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Medicinal Products.

Willie Penrose

Question:

135 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is proposing to introduce a scheme called reference pricing and generic substitution for all prescription drugs here; if same will include osteoporosis drugs; the discussion she has had with osteoporosis specialists and their patients in relation to the effectiveness of such policy; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that it may be a false economy, particularly in relation to osteoporosis medications; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17474/10]

The Government has decided to introduce a system of reference pricing combined with generic substitution under the GMS and community drugs schemes. This will promote price competition and deliver ongoing savings for both the State and for patients. A working group, made up of officials and healthcare professionals from my Department and the HSE, is setting out proposed steps for implementing this initiative. I expect to see significant progress on this in 2010, including the identification of legislative and administrative changes required to give it effect in 2011. There are some categories of medicines that are not suitable for substitution. In addition, there are also certain circumstances where an individual patient should receive a particular product.

With a system of generic substitution, it is important that all decisions about the interchangeability of medicines are evidence-based and take into account best practice elsewhere. It is envisaged that an expert group will provide guidance on this matter. I have received correspondence from the Irish Osteoporosis Society in relation to studies on the usage of generic versions of a particular medicine used for the treatment of osteoporosis. This information will be taken into account during the implementation process.

Medical Cards.

Michael Creed

Question:

136 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will review a decision to refuse a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17490/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested. 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.

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

137 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount paid by the Health Service Executive to the Parkhouse family practice at the Brookfield health centre, the general practitioners at Mary Mercer health centre in Jobstown and the general practitioners at the Killinarden health centre in Tallaght for general medical card services under the primary care reimbursement service for 2007, 2008 and 2009; and the number of medical card holders that are registered at each of those clinics in the respective years. [17491/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Hospital Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

138 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to remove 24 hour anaesthetic cover from Ennis and Nenagh hospitals in July 2010 and to phase out critical care thereafter; how this will affect the capacity of each of these hospitals to cater for medical patients who are inpatients and the range of services in the hospitals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17497/10]

As the Deputy will be aware, plans for services at individual hospitals, or regional networks of hospitals, are drawn up and implemented by the HSE, subject to overall Government policy, including policy on patient safety and quality care. However, I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to this Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to the Deputy, however, I would invite her to raise it with me again in due course.

Nursing Homes Support Scheme.

David Stanton

Question:

139 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the community hospital in Cobh, County Cork in relation to the fair deal nursing home support scheme; if she will ensure adequate funding will be provided to keep the community hospital open; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17499/10]

The Nursing Homes Support Scheme is a new system of financial support for individuals in need of long-term residential care. The commencement of the scheme brought about a fundamental change in the way in which such care is funded and, consequently, the way in which nursing homes and community hospitals are funded. In the past, these facilities were allocated a lump sum annually. In contrast, the new scheme supports the individuals in need of long-term residential care, not the facilities providing the care. This means that funding follows the patients and ensures that these facilities are not being funded for empty beds.

In order to qualify for the scheme, all private nursing homes, including the voluntary community hospital referred to by the Deputy, must negotiate and agree a price for the cost of care with the National Treatment Purchase Fund. This is a necessary feature of the scheme due to the commitment by the State to meet the full balance of the cost of care over and above a person's contribution. Finally, as stated above, the Nursing Homes Support Scheme only applies to long-term residential care. Nursing homes and community hospitals can continue to have separate agreements with the HSE for the provision of other services, e.g. day care, respite and convalescence.

Health Service Staff.

Denis Naughten

Question:

140 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she is taking to secure non-consultant hospital doctor cover for smaller hospitals like Roscommon County Hospital and Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, County Galway from July 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17509/10]

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive (HSE) has responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive, it is not possible for the Executive to supply information in relation to services at the hospitals referred to by him. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Government policy is to increase consultant numbers in the hospital sector with a related decrease in NCHD numbers. The moratorium on recruitment in the health sector is framed so as to provide the necessary level of flexibility to support the implementation of this policy. I understand that the Executive, in order to ensure adequate NCHD staffing levels and continued service delivery, has established a Human Resources and Integrated Services Directorate Group to examine these issues. This Group is currently working on initiatives to ensure that services will continue to be available when the new rotations commence in July 2010. My Department is currently, in conjunction with the Department of Justice Equality and Law Reform; the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment and the HSE, reviewing visa and work permit arrangements for NCHDs in order to facilitate their recruitment and retention.

Denis Naughten

Question:

141 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the discussions that she or her officials have had with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law reform on visa issues relating to non-consultant hospital doctors; the progress made to date on this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17510/10]

Officials from my Department have had contacts with and met representatives from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Health Service Executive recently to discuss visa arrangements and employment permit arrangements for non-EEA Non-Consultant Hospital Doctors (NCHDs). The purpose of the discussions is to put in place arrangements to facilitate, as far as possible, the entry of NCHDs into the State. Related proposals are being prepared with a view to having them in place in advance of the next training rotation which commences in July 2010.

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the HSE has responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. I am also aware that the Executive, in order to ensure adequate NCHD staffing levels and continued service delivery, has established a Human Resources and Integrated Services Directorate Group to examine these issues. This Group is currently working on initiatives to ensure that services will continue to be available when the new rotations commence in July 2010.

Health Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

142 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made to date on the development of palliative care services in County Roscommon; when all existing facilities will be fully operational; the future plans for capital developments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17511/10]

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.

Frank Feighan

Question:

143 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the reinstatement of services at a nursing home (details supplied) in Boyle, County Roscommon; and when the announcement will be made. [17516/10]

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.

Child Care Services.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

144 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children if the preschool allowance eligibility will be extended to September which is the beginning of the school year in view of the greater number of children born between 30 June and September who will not qualify for this scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17522/10]

I have responsibility for implementing the free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme, which was introduced in January this year. Children will qualify for the scheme where they are aged more than 3 years and 2 months and less than 4 years and 7 months at 1 September each year. The upper age limit does not apply where children are developmentally delayed and would benefit from participating in the pre-school year at a later age or where a child cannot start primary school until a later date due to the enrolment policy of the local primary schools.

The objective of the scheme is to make early learning in a formal setting available to all children in the key developmental year before they commence primary school, with appropriate age related activities and programmes being provided within a particular age cohort. Targeting the pre-school year at a particular age cohort is, therefore, fundamental to the scheme and for this reason minimum and maximum limits to the age range within which children participate in the scheme, have been set. While the majority of children commence school between the age of 4 years 6 months and 5 years 6 months, an age range of almost 17 months has been set for the scheme to maximise flexibility.

It is necessary to the objectives of the ECCE scheme that appropriate age-related early learning activities are provided to children in their pre-school year. The scheme must remain sufficiently targeted to ensure the best delivery of pre-school education and, therefore, it is not proposed to extend the eligibility age range beyond that currently provided for.

Hospital Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

145 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the arrangements that will be made in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare to have a hip operation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17561/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested. 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:

146 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if consideration will be given to the issue of a medical card in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17562/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Hospital Charges.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

147 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the action she will take other than the issue of a medical card to alleviate hardship arising from hospital charges in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17563/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested. 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:

148 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if a medical card issued in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare applies to him or her only or if their spouse and children are included; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17564/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested. 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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

149 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the follow up of support or assistance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17566/10]

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

Health Insurance.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

150 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent that private health care insurance costs and premiums have increased in each of the past ten years to date in 2010; the extent to which claims have grown over the same period; the proportion of such claims originating in both the private and public hospitals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17571/10]

Due to the amount of information requested under this question, I and officials in my Department need some time to collate the material. The information requested in the answer will be forwarded directly to the Deputy's office when it is available.

Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

151 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 72 of 25 February 2010, the position regarding same. [17573/10]

I refer the Deputy to my letter of 14 April last sent to the Deputy's home address.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

152 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 256 of 16 February 2010, when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive. [17574/10]

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.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

153 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 260 of 16 February 2010, when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive. [17575/10]

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.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

154 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 261 of 16 February 2010, when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive. [17576/10]

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.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

155 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 262 of 16 February 2010, when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive. [17577/10]

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.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

156 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 82 of 18 February 2010, when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive. [17578/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive, it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

157 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 83 of 18 February 2010, when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive. [17579/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive, it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Hospital Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

158 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if arrangements will be made for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare to have an operation at Naas Hospital, County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17586/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Departmental Correspondence.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

159 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport, further to Parliamentary Question No. 360 of 23 March 2010, if he will further respond; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17357/10]

My Department is still examining the issues raised in the correspondence and a reply will issue on completion of that examination.

Driving Tests.

Richard Bruton

Question:

160 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Transport the policy changes that he is considering in regard to the regulation of driving instructors; his views on making it mandatory for a learner driver to undergo a course of driving lessons from an accredited driving instructor before taking their driving test and making changes to the driving test cars; when changes will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17358/10]

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 Section 4, registration of driving instructors is a function of the Road Safety Authority (RSA). Under the Road Traffic (Driving Instructor Licensing) (No.2) Regulations 2009 (S.I. No. 203 of 2009), authorisation and registration of driving instructors and administration of driving instructor's licences are matters for the Road Safety Authority.

Action 72 of the Road Safety Strategy 2007-2012 contains a commitment to legislate for graduated driver licensing. Different versions of graduated driver licensing exist in a number of countries and consist of various combinations of measures, including mandatory tuition. I am currently considering proposals from the RSA for a graduated driver licensing system in Ireland, and mandatory tuition is one of the options under consideration.

I am aware that the RSA issues a written advice note to any prospective applicants for accreditation as driving instructors strongly advising them to undertake detailed market research to identify likely demand for their service in the location they propose to practice. They are also provided with details of driving test waiting numbers and numbers of holders of learner permits. I am pleased to report that the national average waiting time for a driving test is eight weeks and numbers waiting are at an all time low. I am not currently in receipt of any proposals regarding changes of rules for cars used in driver tests.

Air Services.

Joe Behan

Question:

161 Deputy Joe Behan asked the Minister for Transport the legislation under which airline companies can restrict the size and weight of hand and stored luggage on commercial passenger aircraft; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17476/10]

The Regulation detailing requirements with regard to hand baggage and checked-in baggage on board aircraft is Council Regulation 3922/91, of 16 December 1991, on the harmonization of technical requirements and administrative procedures in the field of civil Aviation. The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) is the competent authority in the State for the purposes of this Regulation. I am advised by the IAA that the above Regulation specifies standard weights for passengers and checked-in baggage based on the size of the aircraft and whether the flight is international or charter. The airline specifies the weight and size of hand baggage permitted on board aircraft which forms part of the airline's Operations Manual and is approved by the IAA.

A recent survey conducted by the IAA of airline passenger weights and baggage to verify that Irish airlines do not exceed weights permitted by this EU Regulation, indicated that hand baggage of weight up to and including 10 kgs is permissible. The size of hand baggage is determined by the airline depending on the size and weight limitations of the overhead bins and the available space underneath passenger seats in their particular aircraft. In fact an airline may have specified different sizes for hand baggage depending on the size of different aircraft in their network.

Motor Vehicle Registration.

Joe Behan

Question:

162 Deputy Joe Behan asked the Minister for Transport the number of instances in which incorrect ownership details were recorded in the registration of motor vehicles; if this information has been relayed to An Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17478/10]

As indicated in my reply to Dáil Question no: 367 on 23 March, 2010 the number of instances brought to the attention of my Department where incorrect ownership details were recorded on the National Vehicle and Driver File (NVDF) is small and would typically amount to less than 100 cases per year. Many of these relate to issues arising from the change of vehicle ownership notification procedures unwittingly not being followed by the parties involved. Consequently it is not necessary to refer the matter to An Garda Síochána as it is satisfactorily resolved locally. If the Deputy has details of particular instance or instances where incorrect details have been wilfully notified he might bring them to the attention of the offices of my Department in Shannon and they will be investigated.

Road Network.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

163 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which his Department has had a role in cost benefit analysis in regard to the choice of route for a road project (details supplied) in County Limerick; if he will give an estimate of the money spent so far on this project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17481/10]

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme element of Transport 21. The construction, improvement and maintenance of individual national roads, including the appraisal and selection of individual projects, is a matter for the National Roads Authority under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2007 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

International Agreements.

Noel Ahern

Question:

164 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on Ireland’s non-membership of the Schengen agreement; the reason Ireland did not join in this agreement at the time of its inception; if this decision will be reviewed with a view to joining the Schengen agreement at some stage in the future; his views on the introduction of a national ID card that might facilitate Ireland’s entry to the Schengen agreement at some stage in the future; the number of passports issued over the past 12 months for intra-EU travel; and the savings of time and money that would be achieved by the introduction of a national ID card that would also facilitate intra-EU travel. [17451/10]

The Schengen Convention is an agreement among European States which provides for the abolition of systematic border controls between participating States and a common Schengen visa which allows tourist access to the area. The agreement also provides for the development of enhanced cooperation in relation to law enforcement matters and judicial cooperation. Ireland has successfully applied to take part in certain elements of the Schengen agreement, including police cooperation, mutual assistance in criminal matters, extradition and drugs cooperation. These provisions will come into effect only after a range of technical and legislative measures have been put in place and successfully evaluated by the Council. Ireland has not, however, applied to participate in the Schengen arrangements to the extent that they deal with the abolition of border checks or common visa provisions. This decision has been taken to maintain the common travel area (CTA) with the United Kingdom.As the Deputy will be aware, the UK elected not to participate in the borders aspects of Schengen.

The operation of the CTA facilitates nationals of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Irish nationals moving around freely between the two States. The CTA could not continue to operate if Ireland were to remove border checks with Schengen States generally while the United Kingdom did not do so. To do so would result in a situation where the land border with Northern Ireland would become the border between the Schengen area and the United Kingdom. Given the importance of maintaining the Common Travel Area, I cannot envisage a situation where Ireland would change its position unilaterally in relation to participation in the Schengen borders arrangements. The focus for the foreseeable future is in maximising the effectiveness of the Common Travel area through mutual co-operation.

Ireland and the UK maintain a close and ongoing working relationship in this regard and a number of matters are kept under review, including security, information exchange, visas and operational co-operation. National ID cards are not a requirement for participation in the Schengen Agreement and would not be necessary should Ireland decide to take part in the border aspects of the agreement at any time in the future. I am advised by my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs that an Irish passport does not have a geographical limitation and is valid for all countries. Therefore it would not be possible to quantify the savings of time and money that would be achieved by the introduction of a national ID card that would also facilitate intra EU travel.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

165 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 6. [17541/10]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question no. 222 of 3 April, 2008. The status of the person concerned remains as set out in that reply. The person concerned continues to meet the presentation requirements of the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) in accordance with Section 8(1)(b) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended. He is due to present again on 30 May, 2010. The effect of the Deportation order is that the person concerned must leave the State and remain thereafter out of the States. The enforcement of the Deportation Order is, and remains, an operational matter for the GNIB.

Citizenship Applications.

Dan Neville

Question:

166 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will process an application for naturalisation in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [17338/10]

A valid application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in June 2008. All valid applications are dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants. The average processing time from application to decision is now at 26 months. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average, while an element of straight forward cases can be dealt with in less than that timescale. Officials in the citizenship division inform me that processing of the application has commenced and the file will be submitted to me for a decision in due course.

The length of time taken to process each application should not be classified as a delay, as the length of time taken for any application to be decided is purely a function of the time taken to carry out necessary checks. There is a limit to the reduction in the processing time that can be achieved as applications for naturalisation must be processed in a way which preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that it is not undervalued and is only given to persons who genuinely satisfy the necessary qualifying criteria.

Phil Hogan

Question:

167 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when an application for citizenship will be decided in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17352/10]

A valid application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the citizenship division of my Department in April 2009. All valid applications are dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants. The average processing time from application to decision is now at 26 months. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average, while an element of straight forward cases can be dealt with in less than that timescale.

The length of time taken to process each application should not be classified as a delay, as the length of time taken for any application to be decided is purely a function of the time taken to carry out necessary checks. There is a limit to the reduction in the processing time that can be achieved as applications for naturalisation must be processed in a way which preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that it is not undervalued and is only given to persons who genuinely satisfy the necessary qualifying criteria.

Phil Hogan

Question:

168 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision on naturalisation will be decided in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; the reason for the delay in processing this application in view of the fact that the application was submitted in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17367/10]

A valid application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in March 2006. All valid applications are dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants. The average processing time from application to decision is now at 26 months. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average, while an element of straight forward cases can be dealt with in less than that timescale.

However, I understand that the person concerned is a refugee. In accordance with the Government's obligations under the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, every effort is made to ensure that applications from persons with refugee status are dealt with as quickly as possible. Officials in the Citizenship Division inform me that processing of the application is ongoing and the file will be submitted to me for a decision in due course. The length of time taken to process each application should not be classified as a delay, as the length of time taken for any application to be decided is purely a function of the time taken to carry out necessary checks. There is a limit to the reduction in the processing time that can be achieved as applications for naturalisation must be processed in a way which preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that it is not undervalued and is only given to persons who genuinely satisfy the necessary qualifying criteria.

Residency Permits.

Dan Neville

Question:

169 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17387/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the individual concerned made an application for a residence card under EU Treaty Rights on 1 February 2010. My Department wrote back to the individual in question on 1 February 2010 advising them that their application could not be accepted as the circumstances of their individual case meant that the provisions of Directive 2004/38/EC (the "Directive") and the European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) (No. 2) Regulations 2006, as amended did not apply in their case. The letter went on to advise the individual in question of the alternative options open to them in regard to their immigration status in the State. I understand that to date there has been no further correspondence received from the individual in question in relation to the matter.

Crime Levels.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

170 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons who have been convicted of murder and who are out on parole up to 31 December 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17397/10]

The information being provided to the Deputy relates to persons sentenced to life imprisonment who are still under sentence. It is not feasible to identity all convictions for murders since the foundation of the State. However the vast majority of those who receive a life sentence do so for the offence of murder. A life sentence is mandatory in the case of a conviction for murder and persons who are made subject to a life sentence remains subject to that sentence for their life.

Specific legislation enacted by the Oireachtas — the Criminal Justice Act, 1960 and the Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Act, 2003 — provide a mechanism whereby the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, may release prisoners on temporary release for such period of time and subject to strict conditions as may be specified. Temporary release may be granted on a range of grounds including humanitarian or where the Minister is of the view that the person has worked with all available services to aid his/her rehabilitation and reintegration back to the community. However, before any such decision is reached matters such as the gravity of the offence, the period of imprisonment served, the overall conduct of the prisoner during imprisonment and the potential threat to the safety and security of the public are considered. Prisoners who are deemed to continue to pose a threat to the community if released continue to remain in prison. Indeed there are some prisoners who have been in custody for over 30 years.

I should also add that all prisoners serving a life sentence are eligible to have their case reviewed by the Parole Board when they have served seven years into the life sentence. The Board, following consideration of the individual case, make recommendations to the Minister as to how the individual's sentence should be managed. Generally speaking life sentenced prisoners are reviewed on a number of occasions before any substantive recommendations are made to me which might lead to the eventual extended temporary release of the individual back to the community to continue to serve his/her sentence, subject to a range of strict conditions. Having put the provisions applicable to life sentences in context let me tell the Deputy, in response to his specific question, that on 31 December 2009 there were 266 persons in custody serving life sentences. In addition 60 persons were under the supervision of the Probation Service on extended temporary release pursuant to the 1960 Act. Some of these persons were first released into the community over 30 years ago.

Of the 60 life sentence prisoners currently under supervision in the community, a total of 11 of these were granted temporary release during the time period 2004 to date. The average time spent in custody by these persons over this 6 year period is 17 years. This compares to an average of just over 7 1/2 years for releases dating from 1975 to 1984, just under 12 years for the period dating from 1985 to 1994 and just under 14 years for the period dating from 1995 to 2004. As is clear from these figures life sentence prisoners are serving longer terms in custody. I trust that these figures will dispel any notion that this category of prisoner spends anything other than a significant period of time in custody for the serious and heinous crimes they have committed.

Visa Applications.

Pat Breen

Question:

171 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17401/10]

The visa application referred to by the Deputy was received in the Visa Office, Dublin on 4 November 2009. Following consideration by a visa officer, it was refused on 7 January 2010, for a number of reasons:

1. Obligations to return to home country have not been deemed sufficient.

2. Observe the conditions of the visa — the visa sought is for a specific purpose and duration: — the applicant has not satisfied the visa officer that such conditions would be observed.

3. No clear link to reference has been shown.

The decision of the Visa Officer was appealed on 26 January 2010. The visa appeals officer upheld the decision of the visa officer on 2 February 2010, with the exception of point 3 above, which was addressed in the appeal. The applicant can make only one appeal and may make a new application for a visa if they so desire.

Vetting of Personnel.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

172 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if Garda vetting of persons who work with children could be standardised in order that when a person transfers to another post or organisation existing vetting procedures would apply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17404/10]

The Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) provides employment vetting for a large number of organisations in Ireland registered with the Garda for this purpose and which employ persons in a full-time, part-time, voluntary or training capacity to positions where they would have substantial, unsupervised access to children and/or vulnerable adults. I should clarify for the Deputy that it is not the role of the Garda Síochána in the employment vetting process to give clearance to persons for employment. Rather, in response to a written request for vetting, the GCVU releases the factual criminal history information in respect of the person concerned to the prospective recruiting organisation. These applications are made by recruiting organisations with the consent of the person involved in respect of a particular post or employment. Decisions on the suitability for the recruitment/engagement of the person concerned rest at all times, as they rightly should, with the recruiting organisation.

Citizenship Applications.

Dan Neville

Question:

173 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if an application for naturalisation will be processed without further delay in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [17419/10]

A valid application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in April 2010. All valid applications are dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants. The average processing time from application to decision is now at 26 months. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average, while an element of straight forward cases can be dealt with in less than that timescale.

Additional resources have been allocated to the Citizenship Division of my Department in order to reduce backlogs and provide a better quality service to all applicants. This has had a positive impact on processing times and has enabled certain categories of applicant to be dealt with more expeditiously. These include refugees, spouses of Irish citizens and minors. The length of time taken to process each application should not be classified as a delay, as the length of time taken for any application to be decided is purely a function of the time taken to carry out necessary checks. There is a limit to the reduction in the processing time that can be achieved as applications for naturalisation must be processed in a way which preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that it is not undervalued and is only given to persons who genuinely satisfy the necessary qualifying criteria.

Visa Applications.

Willie O'Dea

Question:

174 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason a spousal visa application has been refused twice in respect of a person (details supplied). [17425/10]

The individual referred to applied on 7 April 2009 for a study visa which was dealt with under reference number 2137722. The application was refused on 23 April 2009 for the following reasons:

CP — (Course Profile: Need to undertake the course in this State not demonstrated or warranted);

ID — (The visa officer is not satisfied with authenticity of documents submitted);

ID — (Insufficient documentation submitted in support of the application, please see website link to ‘Documentation to Accompany a Visa Application' at www.inis.gov.ie);

F — (Finances shown have been deemed insufficient);

SP — (Student Profile: Previous educational or employment background is at odds with course applied for);

IH — (Immigration history of Applicant);

INCO — (Inconsistencies e.g. contradictions in the information supplied).

This decision was not appealed.

The individual referred to applied on 7 July 2009 for a join spouse visa which was dealt with under reference number 2138601. The application was refused on 11 September 2009 for the following reasons:

RH — (Relationship History: have not shown evidence of a relationship being in existence prior to visa application/marriage);

IH — (Immigration history of Applicant);

INCO — (Inconsistencies e.g. contradictions in the information supplied);

ID — (Insufficient documentation submitted in support of the application, please see website link to ‘Documentation to Accompany a Visa Application' at www.inis.gov.ie) refusal letter from previous visa application.

This decision was appealed on 30 October 2009 and the visa appeals officer upheld the decision to refuse on 11 November 2009 for the following reason:

IH — (Immigration history of Applicant).

The current application for a join spouse visa, made on 5 March 2010 under reference number 3610402, is currently being processed by my Department and a decision will issue in due course.

Citizenship Applications.

Michael Ring

Question:

175 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a naturalisation application by a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be approved. [17427/10]

A valid application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in August 2007. All valid applications are dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants. The average processing time from application to decision is now at 26 months. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average, while an element of straight forward cases can be dealt with in less than that timescale.

Officials in the Citizenship Division inform me that processing of the application is ongoing and the file will be submitted to me for a decision in due course. The length of time taken to process each application should not be classified as a delay, as the length of time taken for any application to be decided is purely a function of the time taken to carry out necessary checks. There is a limit to the reduction in the processing time that can be achieved as applications for naturalisation must be processed in a way which preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that it is not undervalued and is only given to persons who genuinely satisfy the necessary qualifying criteria.

Visa Applications.

Michael Ring

Question:

176 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is possible for a person to obtain a visa on medical grounds (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17429/10]

On the basis of the details supplied by the Deputy, the individual referred to is a Canadian national and as such is not required to obtain a visa prior to entry into the State. A visa sticker is only a form of pre-clearance for entry to the State. Entry into the State is entirely at the discretion of the immigration officer at the port of entry and is subject to the person complying with the conditions of entry into the State. The person may be permitted to remain in the State for a maximum period of 90 days. It is the policy of my Department not to extend a permission to remain to persons who are admitted for a period of 90 days or less on a short stay visit, save in very exceptional and unforeseen circumstances.

Damien English

Question:

177 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17431/10]

I have been informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that the person referred to by the Deputy was granted a short term visa for the purpose of a short term visit to the State. This person was allowed to enter the State on 20 October 2009 and was granted permission to remain until 20 February 2010. In accordance with the immigration laws of the State the person in question was required to leave the State on expiry of their C visit Visa. However, once outside the State there was nothing to prevent them from applying for a further visit visa for the purposes of re-entering the State. An application was received on 13 January 2010 for an extension of their leave to remain. This application was refused and the applicant was informed by letter dated 26 March 2010.

Citizenship Applications.

Michael Ring

Question:

178 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when an application for Irish citizenship through naturalisation will be processed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [17432/10]

A valid application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in February 2008. All valid applications are dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants. The average processing time from application to decision is now at 26 months. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average, while an element of straight forward cases can be dealt with in less than that timescale.

Officials in the Citizenship Division inform me that processing of the application is at an advanced stage and the file will be submitted to me for a decision in due course. The length of time taken to process each application should not be classified as a delay, as the length of time taken for any application to be decided is purely a function of the time taken to carry out necessary checks. There is a limit to the reduction in the processing time that can be achieved as applications for naturalisation must be processed in a way which preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that it is not undervalued and is only given to persons who genuinely satisfy the necessary qualifying criteria.

Passport Applications.

Noel Ahern

Question:

179 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a UK citizen who is more than 20 years resident here and married to an Irish citizen is entitled to an Irish passport; the process and forms they must complete and the length of time it takes. [17462/10]

Voting rights information can be obtained from the Minister of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. On the question of entitlement to an Irish passport I can set out the position generally. Under the provisions in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, a person born outside of Ireland may qualify for Irish citizenship if they are of Irish descent. If they are not of Irish descent then they may make an application for naturalisation.

The basic requirement for obtaining Irish citizenship by descent, through Foreign Births Registration is that an applicant's parent was an Irish citizen at the time of the applicants birth. A person born outside of Ireland with a parent who was born in Ireland is automatically an Irish citizen by descent. A person born outside of Ireland with parents who were born outside Ireland and a grandparent who was born in Ireland may become an Irish citizen by Foreign Births Registration. If a person wishes to apply for Irish citizenship through a great grandparent born in Ireland, the position is more complex. Eligibility depends on one of the applicant parents, i.e. the grandchild of the person born in Ireland, being already entered in the Foreign Births Register, the date of that registration and the applicants date of birth.

Under the 1956 Act, an applicant who was entered in the Foreign Births Register between 17 July 1956 and 30 June 1986 acquired Irish citizenship from the date that the Act came into force (17 July 1956) or the applicants date of birth, whichever was later.Under the 1986 Act, a person is accorded Irish citizenship from the actual date of entry in the Foreign Births Register. The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, provides that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform may, in his absolute discretion, grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation provided certain statutory conditions are fulfilled.

In the case of a non-Irish national applicant who is the spouse of an Irish citizen those conditions are that the applicant must:

be of full age

be of good character

be married to the Irish citizen for at least 3 years

be in a marriage recognised under the laws of the State as subsisting

be living together as husband and wife with the Irish spouse have had a period of one year's continuous residency in the island of Ireland immediately before the date of the application and, during the four years immediately preceding that period, have had a total residence in the island of Ireland amounting to two years.

intend in good faith to continue to reside in the island of Ireland after naturalisation

have made, either before a Judge of the District Court in open court or in such a manner as the Minister, for special reasons allows, a declaration in the prescribed manner, of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State.

The average processing time from application to decision is now at 26 months. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average, while an element of straight forward cases can be dealt with in less than that timescale. Section 16 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, provides that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform may, in his absolute discretion, waive some or all of the statutory conditions, including residency, in certain circumstances including where an applicant is of Irish descent or of Irish associations. It is open to the person concerned to lodge an application for a certificate of naturalisation with the Citizenship Division of my Department at any time. Application forms are available on my Department's website at www.inis.gov.ie

Citizenship Applications.

Noel Ahern

Question:

180 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for a certificate of naturalisation in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; when it will be processed and approved. [17464/10]

A valid application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in January 2009. All valid applications are dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants. The average processing time from application to decision is now at 26 months. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average, while an element of straight forward cases can be dealt with in less than that timescale. Officials in the Citizenship Division inform me that processing of the application has commenced and the file will be submitted to me for a decision in due course.

The length of time taken to process each application should not be classified as a delay, as the length of time taken for any application to be decided is purely a function of the time taken to carry out necessary checks. There is a limit to the reduction in the processing time that can be achieved as applications for naturalisation must be processed in a way which preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that it is not undervalued and is only given to persons who genuinely satisfy the necessary qualifying criteria.

Noel Ahern

Question:

181 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for a certificate of naturalisation in respect of a person (details supplied). [17465/10]

A valid application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in April 2009. All valid applications are dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants. The average processing time from application to decision is now at 26 months. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average, while an element of straight forward cases can be dealt with in less than that timescale. Additional resources have been allocated to the Citizenship Division of my Department in order to reduce backlogs and provide a better quality service to all applicants. This has had a positive impact on processing times and has enabled certain categories of applicant to be dealt with more expeditiously. These include refugees, spouses of Irish citizens and minors.

The length of time taken to process each application should not be classified as a delay, as the length of time taken for any application to be decided is purely a function of the time taken to carry out necessary checks. There is a limit to the reduction in the processing time that can be achieved as applications for naturalisation must be processed in a way which preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that it is not undervalued and is only given to persons who genuinely satisfy the necessary qualifying criteria.

Michael Ring

Question:

182 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo needs to provide any additional documentation in regard to their application for a certificate of naturalisation. [17472/10]

A valid application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in October 2009. All valid applications are dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants. The average processing time from application to decision is now at 26 months. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average, while an element of straight forward cases can be dealt with in less than that timescale. If further documentation and/or clarification of any matter related to the application is required, officials from the Citizenship Division of my Department will be in touch with the person concerned at that time.

The length of time taken to process each application should not be classified as a delay, as the length of time taken for any application to be decided is purely a function of the time taken to carry out necessary checks. There is a limit to the reduction in the processing time that can be achieved as applications for naturalisation must be processed in a way which preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that it is not undervalued and is only given to persons who genuinely satisfy the necessary qualifying criteria.

Internet Security.

Joe Behan

Question:

183 Deputy Joe Behan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will provide details of discussions he has entered into with third parties regarding Internet censorship and Internet site blocking. [17479/10]

I refer the Deputy to the reply to Parliamentary Question No. 239 of 27 April 2010. The position is unchanged.

Proposed Legislation.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

184 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the protection that exists in law against forced marriage, both for adults and for children; his plans to introduce a specific forced marriage protection Act along the lines of that adopted by the British Parliament in 2007. [17506/10]

While, of course, the practice of forced marriages is to be deplored, my Department has no proposals for legislation in this area as it is not responsible for requirements relating to valid marriages.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

185 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 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17528/10]

I wish to inform the Deputy that the person concerned was granted permission to remain in the State under the revised arrangements for the non-EEA parents of children born in Ireland before 1 January, 2005, known as the IBC/05 Scheme. He currently has permission to remain in the State until 6 July, 2010.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

186 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 Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17529/10]

The person concerned was granted Leave to Remain in the State for a three year period, to 17 May 2010. This decision was conveyed in writing to the person concerned by letter dated 17 May 2007. The person concerned is required to apply in writing for the renewal of this permission. As my Department's records show no evidence of such a renewal application having been made to date, it is recommended that the person concerned should do so without further delay.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

187 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 Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17530/10]

The person concerned has recently had his Leave to Remain in the State extended for a further three year period, to 23 April 2013. This decision was conveyed in writing to the person concerned by letter dated 23 April 2010.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

188 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 Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17531/10]

An application from the person concerned was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in December 2009. On examination of the application submitted it was determined that the application in its entirety be returned to the person concerned for further attention on 15 December, 2009. In order to be fair to all applicants, only valid applications can be considered. It is open to the person in question to re-submit the application to the Citizenship Division of my Department at any time.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

189 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 Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17532/10]

I refer the Deputy to my detailed Reply to his earlier Parliamentary Question, No 685 of Tuesday, 6 October 2009, and the written Reply to that Question. The position in the State of the person concerned now falls to be considered for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006) and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

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

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

190 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 Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17533/10]

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

191 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected position in respect of an application for residency, citizenship and family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Sligo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17534/10]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 26 October 2004. In accordance with Section 9 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended), the person concerned was entitled to remain in the State until her application for asylum was decided. Her asylum application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Arising from the refusal of her asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 12 August 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against her. Representations were submitted on behalf of the person concerned at that time and subsequently.

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

192 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 Dublin 20; the residency status of their spouse; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17535/10]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the first named person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in July 2008. On examination of the application submitted it was determined that the person in question did not meet that statutory residency requirements as set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, as amended. The person concerned was informed of this in a letter issued to her on 28 October, 2008. It is open to the person concerned to lodge a new application for a certificate of naturalisation with the Citizenship Division of my Department if and when they are in a position to meet the statutory requirements.

Officials in the Citizenship Division of my Department inform me that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the second named person referred to in the Deputy's Question. The second named person applied for asylum on 7 February 2006. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 7 May 2009, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State.

In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006). By correspondence dated 27th May, 2009, an application for Subsidiary Protection was made on behalf of the person concerned by his legal representative. Following consideration of the information submitted, the application was refused. The person concerned and his legal representative were notified of this decision by letter dated 7th April, 2010.

His case was then examined under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999, (as amended), and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended), on the Prohibition of Refoulement. Consideration was given to representations submitted on his behalf by his legal representative for permission to remain in the State. On 20th April, 2010, I refused permission to remain temporarily in the State and instead signed a Deportation Order in respect of him. Notice of this Order was served by registered post requiring him to ‘present' to the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2 on 18th May, 2010 to make arrangements for his removal from the State.

I am satisfied that the applications made by the person concerned for asylum and for temporary leave to remain in the State, together with all refoulement issues, were fairly and comprehensively examined and, as such, the decision to deport him is justified. The effect of the Deportation Order is that the person concerned must leave the State and remain thereafter out of the State. The enforcement of the Deportation Order is, and remains, an operational matter for the GNIB.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

193 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 Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17536/10]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 27 January 2003. In accordance with Section 9 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended), the person concerned was entitled to remain in the State until his application for asylum was decided. His asylum application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Arising from the refusal of his asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 24 November 2006, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006).

The person concerned initiated Judicial Review proceedings in the High Court, challenging the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal in his case. The reliefs sought in the Judicial Review proceedings were refused on 19 November 2009 meaning that the earlier decisions of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal and the Minister stood. The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

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

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

194 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. [17537/10]

A valid application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in June 2008. All valid applications are dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants. The average processing time from application to decision is now at 26 months. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average, while an element of straight forward cases can be dealt with in less than that timescale. However, I understand that the person concerned is a refugee. In accordance with the Government's obligations under the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, every effort is made to ensure that applications from persons with refugee status are dealt with as quickly as possible. Officials in the Citizenship Division inform me that processing of the application is at an advanced stage and the file will be submitted to me for a decision in due course.

The length of time taken to process each application should not be classified as a delay, as the length of time taken for any application to be decided is purely a function of the time taken to carry out necessary checks. There is a limit to the reduction in the processing time that can be achieved as applications for naturalisation must be processed in a way which preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that it is not undervalued and is only given to persons who genuinely satisfy the necessary qualifying criteria.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

195 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review the application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork who has resided here since 2003 and has established this jurisdiction as his normal place of residence and has family commitments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17538/10]

I refer the Deputy to my detailed Reply to his earlier Parliamentary Question, No. 213 of Thursday, 21 January 2010, in this matter. The position in the State of the person concerned is as set out in that Reply.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

196 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 Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17539/10]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question 512 on 20 April, 2010. The position remains as stated.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

197 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for citizenship in the case of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17540/10]

A valid application for a certificate of naturalisation from the first named person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in June 2006 and I decided in my absolute discretion to grant a certificate of naturalisation. The person in question was informed of this decision in a letter issued to her on 23 April, 2010. A certificate of naturalisation will issue to the person concerned on receipt of documentation requested to finalise her application.

Officials in the Citizenship Division of my Department inform me that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the second named person referred to in the Deputy's Question. The second named person concerned applied for asylum on 21 June 2002. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the second named person concerned was informed, by letter dated 14 April 2003, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him. Representations were submitted on behalf of the second named person concerned at that time.

His case was examined under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement and all representations received were considered in arriving at a decision in his case. On 28 June 2004 a Deportation Order was signed in respect of the second named person concerned. Notice of this Order was served by registered post dated 11 January 2005. This communication advised the second named person concerned of the legal requirement that he present himself at the Offices of the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) on 20 January 2005 in order to make travel arrangements for his deportation from the State. The second named person concerned failed to ‘present' on this occasion and, as such, was classified as evading his deportation.

On 14 August 2008, an application for revocation of the Deportation Order, under Section 3(11) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), was submitted on behalf of the second named person concerned. Following consideration of all information submitted, the Deportation Order was affirmed. Notice of the affirmed Deportation Order was served by registered letter dated 13th April, 2010 requiring the person concerned to present himself at the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2 on Tuesday, 20th April, 2010, in order to make travel arrangements for his removal from the State. The person concerned continues to meet the presentation requirements of the Garda National Immigration Bureau (G.N.I.B.) in accordance with Section 8(1)(b) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended). He is due to present again on 18th May, 2010.

I am satisfied that the applications made by the person concerned for asylum and for temporary leave to remain in the State, together with all refoulement issues, were fairly and comprehensively examined and, as such, the decision to deport him is justified. As the Deputy is aware, Section 3(11) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) provides the Minister with powers to amend or revoke a Deportation Order. An application seeking to revoke a Deportation Order must set out new facts or circumstances which have arisen and which were not capable of being advanced at the time the decision to deport was made. My Department has no record of any such outstanding application made by, or on behalf of, the person concerned. The effect of the Deportation Order is that the person concerned must leave the State and remain thereafter out of the State. The enforcement of the Deportation Order is, and remains, an operational matter for the GNIB.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

198 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for residency in the case of persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17542/10]

I wish to inform the Deputy that both of the persons to whom he refers were granted permission to remain in the State in February of 2001, under the arrangements then in place for the non-EEA parents of Irish citizen children. I am informed that the permission granted is currently valid until 12 February, 2011, in both cases.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

199 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the procedures to be followed to facilitate citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; the stamp four status in respect of their spouse; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17543/10]

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, as amended, provides that the Minister may, in his absolute discretion, grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation provided certain statutory conditions are fulfilled. The conditions are that the applicant must:

be of full age

be of good character

have had a period of one year's continuous residency in the State immediately before the date of application and, during the eight years immediately preceding that period, have had a total residence in the State amounting to four years

intend in good faith to continue to reside in the State after naturalisation

have made, either before a Judge of the District Court in open court or in such a manner as the Minister for special reasons allows, a declaration in the prescribed manner, of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State

In the context of naturalisation, certain periods of residence in the State are excluded. These include:

periods of residence in respect of which an applicant does not have permission to remain in the State

periods granted for the purposes of study

periods granted for the purposes of seeking recognition as a refugee within the meaning of the Refugee Act, 1996.

It is open to the persons concerned to lodge applications for certificates of naturalisation with the Citizenship Division of my Department if and when they are in a position to meet the statutory requirements.

In relation to the stamp 4 status of the person's spouse, I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No 246 on Tuesday 27th April, 2010. The position remains as stated.

Garda Investigations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

200 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the follow-up of support or assistance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17565/10]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the matter referred to by the Deputy is under investigation by them. On completion of the investigation, a file will be submitted to the Law Officers. I am also informed that in accordance with the Children First Guidelines the Health Service Executive has been informed and liaison is being maintained with the injured party and their family.

International Agreements.

Joe Costello

Question:

201 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on upgrading EU-Israeli relations; if he will oppose Israel’s accession application to membership of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17382/10]

Ireland looks forward to the progressive deepening and strengthening of the EU's relations with Israel, as with all of our Mediterranean partners. We agreed with the EU's decision in 2008 to enhance relations with Israel, but acted with other Member States to ensure that the decision of the External Relations Council included a clear linkage to the EU's political concerns in the region, especially progress on the peace process. Following the Gaza conflict, Ireland and other Member States argued that for the EU to proceed at this time with the proposed ‘upgrade' would be open to misinterpretation both in the wider Middle East region and in Israel itself. In June 2009 the Council agreed that the time was not right to proceed with the ‘upgrade'. This remains the position for now. In my view, nothing has happened to alter that decision.

Concerning the second part of the Deputy's question, I draw the Deputy's attention to a reply to a written Parliamentary Question (16000/10), which I provided on Wednesday, 21 April 2010 and to confirm that the situation concerning this matter has not changed in the intervening week. The text of my reply to Parliamentary Question 16000/10 is attached below, for ease of reference:

"The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has periodically enlarged its membership since its foundation with 20 Members, including Ireland, in 1961. It currently has 30 members, with the Slovak Republic the most recent to accede, in 2000. In 2007, the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting decided, by consensus, to open accession discussions with Chile, Estonia, Israel, the Russian Federation and Slovenia.

The OECD accession process involves submission of an initial memorandum (which sets out the country's position on more than 200 OECD legal instruments), technical accession reviews by 22 OECD committees assessing the country's compliance with the OECD acquis (obligations include liberalisation commitments under the OECD investment instruments, adoption of national laws which comply with the requirements of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention as well as commitments related to environmental policy), and a final decision by the Council of the OECD to invite the candidate country to accede. An invitation to accede to the OECD is based upon the applicant country’s compliance with the Organisation’s acquis and does not relate to or imply approval for other actions or policies of that State.

An accession agreement with Chile was signed on 11 January of this year and it will accede formally to the Organisation once ratification procedures are completed. It is expected that Slovenia, Estonia and Israel will complete their accession procedures this year. The accession process for Russia is moving at a slower pace and there is no predicted date for completion. In the case of Israel, on the basis of formal opinions and all other relevant technical information, the Secretary-General of the OECD has recommended to the OECD Council that Israel be invited to accede to the Organisation. It is expected that the OECD Council will address this matter over the period ahead.

During the Israeli accession negotiations, the EU has adopted a cohesive approach and plans to issue a common statement at the OECD Council when a decision to formally invite Israel to become a member is taken in the coming weeks. It is anticipated that the EU will note that Israel has taken a number of important steps through the adoption of new legislation, regulations and policy directions in many areas, including anti-corruption, the environment, competition and intellectual property rights. It is expected that the EU statement will also state that Israel is expected to demonstrate readiness for compliance with the recommendations made by OECD bodies in the accession process and to pursue reforms, especially in areas where implementation periods were granted or where commitments have been undertaken.

Taking all requirements of the accession process into consideration it is expected that Ireland will join with the other 29 members of the OECD to formally invite Israel to become a member. We will work with partners in ensuring that Israel fully complies with all the obligations arising from OECD membership."

Compensation Claims.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

202 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the case of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal. [17434/10]

The Deputy's Question refers to an individual who has sought compensation for alleged mishandling of a recruitment process by the Agency for Personal Services Overseas (APSO) in 1997. APSO was a limited company which was wound up in 2004. I am sure the Deputy will understand that, for legal reasons, I cannot enter into the details of this case. However, I can state that the Department of Foreign Affairs has denied any liability in the matter and that this fact was communicated to the person concerned on the basis of the fullest consideration of the issues involved.

Departmental Funding.

Finian McGrath

Question:

203 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will support the case of a person (details supplied). [17381/10]

While my Department provides assistance to Gaeltacht households which accommodate Irish students while attending Gaeltacht Summer Colleges, there is no direct financial support available from my Department in cases of the nature referred to by the Deputy. However, I am advised that assistance may be available in some cases of this nature from the relevant local authority or from the local Vocational Education Committee and I would advise that contact be made with those bodies in this regard.

Community Development.

Denis Naughten

Question:

204 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of new projects approved under the rural social scheme on a county basis since the start of 2010; the projection to year end; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17475/10]

The number of participants on the Rural Social Scheme (RSS) varies from week to week and the work undertaken in each county depends on the number of available participants and the specific needs of each community. Participant skills are also taken into account when assigning work. To date, in 2010, over 200 new community-based projects have been set up under the Scheme. The breakdown per county is set out in the Table below.

However, it is not possible to indicate the number of additional new projects that will be established over the remainder of the year. Decisions regarding projects undertaken and the placement of RSS participants rests with each Implementing Body, in line with guidelines issued by my Department.

County

Number of new projects set up to date in 2010

Carlow

1

Cavan

5

Clare

4

Cork

28

Donegal

28

Galway

3

Kerry

22

Kildare

3

Kilkenny

2

Laois

9

Leitrim

14

Limerick

14

Longford

11

Louth

0

Mayo

33

Meath

0

Monaghan

4

Offaly

0

Roscommon

9

Sligo

3

Tipperary

7

Waterford

0

Westmeath

1

Wexford

6

Wicklow

3

Total

210

National Drugs Strategy.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

205 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position regarding the closure of head shops; when legislation will be brought forward to tackle this blight; the initiatives that are planned to highlight the dangers of substances being sold in these shops; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17523/10]

I am working with my Ministerial colleagues to ensure that speedy and effective action is taken to ensure that the new psychoactive substances being sold in headshops are removed from circulation, in as far as is possible. The National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016 includes two actions aimed at addressing the closely related issues of head shops and the substances they sell. Various approaches to addressing the issues involved are being considered within the context of these two actions in a co-ordinated way by the appropriate Departments and Agencies. These include:

An interdepartmental group is considering how best to draw up legislation to close down headshops. The approach to be taken may involve making it a criminal offence generally to supply unregulated psychotropic substances for use by humans. These deliberations are on-going;

The Department of Health and Children has drafted regulations, under the Misuse of Drugs Acts, to introduce controls on a range of substances. These regulations will make the possession and sale of these substances illegal and subject to criminal sanctions. It is expected that these will be in place in July;

The National Advisory Committee on Drugs is carrying out targeted research in this area which I expect to be completed by the end of July;

The HSE, in association with partner agencies under the Drugs Strategy, is currently finalising a national drugs awareness campaign that will focus on the dangers of psychoactive substances available through headshops and the internet; and

The activities of headshops are being closely monitored on an ongoing basis by An Garda Síochána and Revenue's Customs Service, with a view to ensuring that no substances that are currently illegal are being sold.

I can assure the Deputy that the issue of headshops and new psychoactive substances is of serious concern to this Government and appropriate measures to address the concerns will be introduced as quickly as possible.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

206 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) did not receive their back to school clothing allowance. [17369/10]

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

Social Welfare Appeals.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

207 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a decision will be made in relation to the jobseeker’s allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17408/10]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that, following receipt of the relevant Departmental papers including comments on the grounds of appeal, the appeal from the person concerned will be referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration. As part of this consideration, the Appeals Officer will decide if an oral hearing is appropriate in this case. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social and Family Affairs and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Jack Wall

Question:

208 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has not been paid their rent subsidy payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17426/10]

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

James Bannon

Question:

209 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will increase jobseeker’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Longford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17438/10]

The person concerned was in receipt of jobseeker's allowance at the weekly rate of €145.00 and his partner was in receipt of illness benefit at weekly rate of €210.90. The maximum rate payable to this couple was €355.90. A limitation on the amount payable applies when a couple is claiming a combination of jobseeker's allowance and illness benefit. His partner transferred to disability allowance on 24 February 2010. As no limitation applies between disability allowance and jobseeker's allowance, his jobseeker's allowance rate was increased to €210.90 per week (maximum weekly rate of €196.00 plus child dependent rate €14.90) with effect from 24 February 2010. The person concerned will receive payment of €760.00 (including arrears) on 30 April 2010.

James Bannon

Question:

210 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding a disability or illness benefit application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17440/10]

The records of the Department do not show any recent claim for illness benefit or disability allowance in respect of the person concerned. He was in receipt of disability allowance up to August 2007 at which point he was disallowed on means grounds. If his means have changed since then he may wish to apply again for disability allowance. Based on his current PRSI record, which shows that he has only 3 reckonable contributions in the governing contribution year (2008), he would not currently qualify for illness benefit. If he considers that he has further reckonable PRSI contributions that have not been recorded and can provide documentary evidence of such contributions (form P60, P45 and/or stamped employer statement) then these can be taken into account if a claim for illness benefit is received from him.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Willie O'Dea

Question:

211 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a decision has not been reached on an appeal received by the appeals office on 11 December 2009 in respect of a person (details supplied) in Limerick. [17442/10]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that, following receipt of the relevant Departmental papers including comments on the grounds of appeal, the appeal from the person concerned will be referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration. As part of this consideration, the Appeals Officer will decide if an oral hearing is appropriate in this case.

There has been a 46% increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office in 2009 when compared to 2008, which in itself was 27% greater than the numbers received in 2007. There has been an increase of a further 46% in the number of appeals received in the first quarter of 2010. These increases have caused delays in the processing of appeals. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social and Family Affairs and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Departmental Staff.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

212 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of persons in whole time equivalent terms employed in the social welfare appeals office in each of the past five years including the number at present; the number of staff lost due to the various incentive schemes over the past 18 months to two years. [17493/10]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

213 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the average waiting time for an appeal to be heard in the social welfare appeals office. [17494/10]

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

The statistics requested by the Deputy in respect of the number of persons employed in the Social Welfare Appeals Office during the past 5 years are given in the following table.

Dec. 2005

Dec. 2006

Dec. 2007

Dec. 2008

Dec. 2009

Mar. 2010

53.05

54.55

53.80

54.5

56.5

56.5

The Chief Appeals Officer and 2 admin staff availed of the Incentivised Early Retirement Scheme in 2009, in addition to 5 experienced Appeals Officers who retired in the normal way.

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. This represents an increase of 2 weeks in the time taken to process appeals when compared to 2008, but must be seen in the context of an increase of 46% in the number of appeals received during 2009. There has been an increase of a further 46% in the receipt of appeals in the first quarter of 2010 when compared to the same period last year.

During 2009, a total of 17,787 appeals were finalised of which 4,873 (26.9%) were revised on review by the Deciding Officer in favour of the appellant without going to appeal; 10,027 decisions were made by Appeals Officers of which 59.9% were decided following an oral hearing with the remaining 40.1% decided following a summary examination of the documentary evidence produced. 2,887 appeals were withdrawn or not otherwise pursued by the appellant. The processing time for appeals covers all phases of the appeal process including the submission by the Department of its comments on the grounds for the appeal, further examination by the Department's Medical Assessors in certain illness related cases, further investigation by Social Welfare Inspectors where required and circumstances may also arise where further information is sought from the appellant.

To deal with the increased workload being experienced by the Social Welfare Appeals Office, two additional Appeals Officers were appointed during 2009. The possibility of assigning further additional resources on a temporary basis is currently under consideration. In addition, changes have recently been made to processes in the Social Welfare Appeals Office with a view to achieving additional productivity. I am assured by the Chief Appeals Officer that she is keeping the outcome of these changes under continuous review to ensure the optimum throughput of appeals with full regard to due process in terms of the rights of appellants and adherence to the requirements of natural justice.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

214 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when an application for unemployment assistance or supplementary welfare will be authorised for payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17545/10]

The person concerned submitted an application for Jobseeker's Allowance on 19 April 2010. The payment of Jobseeker's Allowance is subject to a means test. This person's Jobseeker's Allowance file was forwarded to a Social Welfare Inspector on 19 April 2010 for investigation, who will be in touch in due course. A person may apply for Supplementary Welfare Allowance from their local Community Welfare Officer while an application for Jobseeker's Allowance is being processed.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

215 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason an application for social welfare in respect of child benefit, jobseeker’s and so on continues to be refused in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare. [17546/10]

In order to qualify for a range of Social Welfare payments, including Child Benefit and Job-Seekers Allowance, applicants are required to satisfy the Habitual Residence Condition (HRC), which was introduced on 1st May 2004. The HRC requires applicants to satisfy the Deciding Officer that they meet certain conditions, including that their centre of interest is in Ireland and that their future intentions, as demonstrated, are to remain in Ireland. The legal right to undertake employment and / or be self-supporting are factors considered by the Deciding Officer when the person's centre of interest and future intentions are being examined.

The person concerned is a Romanian national and, as such, is required to have a work permit to obtain employment in Ireland. She does not have such a permit. Child Benefit applications were received in August 2007 and August 2008 and both were disallowed on the grounds that the applicant did not satisfy the HRC. She was notified of the decisions in writing and advised of the right of appeal. No appeals were received. The person concerned has also applied for Jobseeker's Allowance on a number of occasions, the most recent being in July 2009. This application was also disallowed on the grounds that the applicant did not satisfy the HRC. She was notified of this decision in February 2010 and advised of the right of appeal. No appeal has been received in the Department.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

216 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will offer assistance in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17568/10]

The Citizens Information Board (CIB), under the aegis of the Department of Social and Family Affairs, is responsible for supporting the provision of information, advice, and advocacy on a wide range of public and social services. The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS), funded by the Citizens Information Board, focuses on providing assistance, advice and intense support to people who have financial difficulties. The money adviser works out a budget with the client and negotiates on their behalf with all creditors, including financial institutions and sub-prime lenders, to secure better terms for the client in managing the repayment of their debts.

Where required by the client, the money adviser can assist with setting up a special account with a local Credit Union into which an agreed amount of money is lodged regularly and from which each month the money adviser makes the repayments to the creditors on behalf of the client. In this instance, I recommend contacting the MABS helpline on 1890 283438 for assistance or for referral to their local MABS office, details of which can be found by visiting www.mabs.ie Neither MABS, nor the Department, have a role in assisting with the discharge of a debt.

Defence Forces Reserve.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

217 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Defence the amount paid in allowances, over and above salary, to Permanent Defence Force personnel employed with the Reserve Defence Force and Slua Muirí for the years 2005 to 2009; the number of personnel in receipt of such allowances; the rate per mile per engine capacity as regards mileage allowances; the amount paid in mileage in each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17583/10]

Personnel of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) who are employed on administrative and training duties with the Reserve Defence Force (RDF) are paid an allowance to cover all expenses, (including subsistence) other than travelling expenses. The following table shows the total amounts paid for the years in question and the number of personnel who received the allowance.

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

Amount paid

€1.662m

€1.612m

€1.707m

€1.787m

€1.389m

Number of recipients*

487

440

447

437

432

(*Includes all personnel who received the allowance at any time during the year.)

Officers of the PDF who hold appointments with the RDF are paid a fixed annual motor car allowance and mileage allowance at the following rates:

Fixed Annual Motor Car Allowance

Effective Date

Engine capacity up to 1200cc

Engine capacity between 1201cc and 1500cc

Engine capacity over 1500cc

1 January 2003

1,982.61

2,393.98

2,429.10

1 July 2005

1,982.61

2,393.98

2,592.89

1 July 2006

1,982.61

2,425.81

2,630.39

5 March 2009

1,486.96

1,819.36

1,984.24

Mileage Allowance

Mileage rates effective from 1 January 2003

Mileage in a Year

Engine Capacity up to 1200cc

Engine Capacity between 1201cc and 1500cc

Engine Capacity over 1500cc

Up to 4000

34.35 cent

38.06 cent

55.64 cent

4001 and upwards

42.47 cent

48.77 cent

54.30 cent

Mileage rates effective from 1 July 2005

Mileage in a Year

Engine Capacity up to 1200cc

Engine Capacity between 1201cc and 1500cc

Engine Capacity over 1500cc

Up to 4000

34.35 cent

38.06 cent

59.41 cent

4001 and upwards

42.47 cent

48.77 cent

57.39 cent

Mileage rates effective from 1 July 2006

Mileage in a Year

Engine Capacity up to 1200cc

Engine Capacity between 1201cc and 1500cc

Engine Capacity over 1500cc

Up to 4000

34.56 cent

38.80 cent

60.62 cent

4001 and upwards

43.39 cent

49.81 cent

58.97 cent

Mileage rates effective from 1 July 2007

Mileage in a Year

Engine Capacity up to 1200cc

Engine Capacity between 1201cc and 1500cc

Engine Capacity over 1500cc

Up to 4000

34.56 cent

38.80 cent

60.62 cent

4001 and upwards

43.57 cent

49.81 cent

58.97 cent

Mileage rates effective from 1 July 2008

Mileage in a Year

Engine Capacity up to 1200cc

Engine Capacity between 1201cc and 1500cc

Engine Capacity over 1500cc

Up to 4000

34.56 cent

38.80 cent

60.62 cent

4001 and upwards

45.51 cent

50.66 cent

61.05 cent

Mileage rates effective from 5 March 2009

Mileage in a Year

Engine Capacity up to 1200cc

Engine Capacity between 1201cc and 1500cc

Engine Capacity over 1500cc

Up to 4000

25.78 cent

28.95 cent

45.45 cent

4001 and upwards

34.13 cent

38.00 cent

45.79 cent

The amounts paid by way of motor car and mileage allowances for the years in question are:

Year

Amount paid in

’000

2005

829

2006

639

2007

702

2008

637

2009

423

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

218 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Defence the number of man days allocated for annual training in respect of paid duty for the Reserve; the number of days allocated for promotion courses; the number which refer to seven and 14 day periods; the number of days allocated for special courses, weapons or promotion courses, NCO/officer; the nature of such courses for each year from 2004 to 2009; the take up of paid man days for each category; the number of days allocated and taken up by brigade for security and barrack duty for each year; the rationale for such duties; when the allocation of paid days for 2010 will be announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17584/10]

The information is currently being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy in the near future.

Air Pollution.

Finian McGrath

Question:

219 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will investigate a matter (details supplied). [17580/10]

The EPA is the statutory body responsible for monitoring air quality in Ireland. In order to protect our health, vegetation and ecosystems, a number of EU directives set down air quality standards across the EU member states for a wide variety of pollutants. The monitoring, assessment and management of ambient air quality in Ireland is carried out according to the requirements of the EU Air Quality Framework Directive. This Directive was transposed into Irish law through the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992, (Ambient Air Quality Assessment and Management) Regulations, 1999. Under further regulations made in 2002, 2004 and 2009, specific ambient air quality standards have been prescribed for the following pollutants: sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and oxides of nitrogen, particulate matter and lead (2002); carbon monoxide and benzene (2002); ozone (2004); and polyaromatic hydrocarbons, arsenic, nickel, cadmium and mercury in ambient air (2009)

In addition to publishing a comprehensive report on air quality annually, the EPA also reports the results of current air quality monitoring of the above pollutants through its website: http://www.epa.ie/whatwedo/monitoring/air/data/ and it is possible to view real-time air quality data for air monitoring locations around the country. The EPA's air quality monitoring network confirms that air quality in Ireland is good. The concerns expressed in the question have been forwarded to the EPA.

Local Authority Charges.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

220 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he is satisfied that no constitutional issues arise with regard to the non-principal private residence charge as applied to married couples, in order that they cannot each own a property in their own right without the second property being subject to the charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17336/10]

The Local Government (Charges) Act 2009 introduced a charge, with some exceptions, on any residential property not occupied by the owner as his or her sole or main residence on the liability date. Liability for the charge is irrespective of the marital status of the owner. The legislation was prepared and scrutinised in the normal fashion by the Office of the Attorney General and I have not been advised of any Constitutional issues with regard to any of its provisions.

Waste Management.

Joan Burton

Question:

221 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 362 and 370 of 30 March 2010, the reason effluent which is not authorised for discharge at Balleally is being authorised for discharge beside the Phoenix Park train station in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17354/10]

Section 52 of the Waste Management Act 1996 requires that the consent of the relevant local authority is obtained prior to any sanction being granted to discharge leachate from landfill to sewers. In addition, section 40(4) of that Act prohibits the granting of a Waste Licence unless, inter alia, “any emissions from the recovery or disposal activity in question (“the activity concerned”) will not result in the contravention of any relevant standard, including any standard for an environmental medium, or any relevant emission limit value, prescribed under any other enactment.” The conditions applying to a waste licence and the enforcement of such conditions are matters for the Environmental Protection Agency. Under section 60(3) of the Waste Management Act 1996 the Minister is precluded from exercising any power or control in relation to the performance, in particular circumstances, of a function conferred on the Agency by or under the Act.

Phil Hogan

Question:

222 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will report on the amount of moneys owed to each local authority in respect of outstanding unpaid claims by the local authorities for costs incurred in progressing projects under the waste services investment programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17368/10]

The table below indicates claims submitted by local authorities that are currently under consideration by my Department in respect of capital waste management projects. In relation to the details set out in the table, the following should be noted.

With respect to the category "Outstanding Information required from LA", no further progress can be made on these claims until such time as the information requested is supplied by the local authorities concerned. The category "Under Consideration" includes situations where the local authority has spent in excess of their maximum grant and is seeking supplementary funding to cover the additional expenditure. The category "Ready to be paid" details claims which have been approved and will be paid to the relevant local authorities by April 30th 2010.

Waste Management Claims submitted by Local Authorities

Local Authority

Amount submitted

Of Which:

1. Amount under Consideration by Dept.

2. Amount outstanding Info requested from LA

3. Amount ready to be Paid

Cavan County Council

52,295

52,295

Clare County Council

158,677

158,677

Donegal County Council

536,745

536,745

Dublin County Council

295

295

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown

66,046

66,046

Fingal County Council

102,852

25,306

77,546

Galway City Council

509,896

509,896

Kerry County Council

320

320

Laois County Council

32,040

32,040

Leitrim County Council

225,000

225,000

Longford County Council

22,120

22,120

Mayo County Council

86,648

86,648

Meath County Council

63,881

63,881

Monaghan County Council

1,716

1,716

North Tipperary County Council

27,375

27,375

Roscommon County Council

70,391

70,391

Sligo County Council

8,741

8,741

South Tipperary County Council

114,225

114,225

Waterford County Council

950,165

220,690

729,475

Westmeath County Council

406,848

406,848

Wicklow County Council

788,796

212,022

576,774

Total

4,225,072

2,368,352

1,133,681

723,039

Building Regulations.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

223 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17420/10]

I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 318, 322 and 325 of 27 April 2010. The position is unchanged.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

224 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he will make money available to the Health Service Executive in County Offaly to enable the completion of the housing aid for the elderly scheme applications; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there are approximately 200 elderly waiting to have work done, some since 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17449/10]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

225 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he will make money available to the Health Service Executive in County Laois to enable the completion of the housing aid for the elderly scheme applications; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there are approximately 200 elderly waiting to have work done, some since 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17450/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 224 and 225 together.

On foot of a Government Decision, taken in February 2006, to transfer the administration of the Special Housing Aid for the Elderly Scheme (SHAE) from the Health Service Executive (HSE) to the local authority sector, a revised suite of Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability was implemented on 1 November, 2007. The revised schemes target available resources to those in most need, streamline operational and administrative procedures and ensure equity and consistency of operation across all local authority areas.

In order to facilitate transitional arrangements, it was agreed between my Department and the HSE that the SHAE scheme would be discontinued from 1 August 2008 and that the HSE would process and approve the applications on hand at that date. All new applications in respect of grant assistance for home repairs and improvements with effect from 1 August 2008 would be directed to the local authorities and dealt with under the provisions of the Housing Aid for Older People scheme. My Department provided a total of €14.7 million to the HSE in 2008 for the operation of the SHAE scheme. In July 2009, following consultation with the HSE, my Department provided a further €3.5 million in respect of the remaining claims on hand in all HSE regions, including the Dublin Mid Leinster region.

Voting Rights.

Noel Ahern

Question:

226 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the voting rights of a UK citizen who has been resident here for more than 20 years and is married to an Irish citizen. [17463/10]

In order to vote at elections in this jurisdiction, a person must be 18 years of age and his or her name must be entered in the register of electors for a constituency in the State in which the person ordinarily resides. Subject to these primary requirements, a person's citizenship determines the polls at which he or she is entitled to vote. British citizens may vote at Dáil, European and local elections.

Architectural Conservation.

Noel Ahern

Question:

227 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will list the various grant schemes run by his Department and agencies under the remit of his Department that give assistance towards refurbishment of buildings and places of worship of historic importance; if there are grant schemes under the headings of conservation or heritage; and if details of same will be outlined. [17470/10]

Details of the relevant grant schemes which are funded mainly through my Department's Built Heritage Capital Programme are set out in the following table:

Grant Scheme

2010 Provision

Description

€ million

Civic Structures Conservation Grants Scheme

1.38

The scheme is administered directly by the Department. It provides grants for the restoration and conservation of buildings of significant architectural heritage merit which are in civic ownership or occupation and generally open to the public.

Significant Places of Public Worship Grants Scheme

0.50

The scheme is administered by the Heritage Council on behalf of the Department. It provides grant assistance for major conservation works to places of public worship which are of national or greater importance, are protected structures and generally open to the public. Information in relation to this scheme is available from the Heritage Council.

Local Authority Conservation Grants Scheme

3.75

The scheme is administered by local authorities on behalf of the Department. It provides grant assistance for the conservation of protected buildings i.e. those buildings which are on the Record of Protected Structures (RPS) maintained by each planning authority. Information in relation to this scheme is available from the relevant local authority.

Heritage CouncilHeritage Management Grants Scheme

0.50

The Heritage Management Grants Scheme supports projects that apply good heritage practice to the management of places, collections or objects. The scheme covers works to ensure the survival of a heritage building or structure, under a management plan that applies good practice in building conservation. Information in relation to this scheme is available from the Heritage Council.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

228 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason a village (details supplied) has been excluded from the water services investment programme in view of the fact that Wexford County Council has advanced the installation of sewage treatment facilities in the village, including hydrographic surveys, site determination, foreshore and discharge licence applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17486/10]

The Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012, which I published last week provides for the development of a comprehensive range of new water services infrastructure in County Wexford. While provision is made to commence contracts to the value of some €64 million in the county during the period of the programme, it was not possible to include the Kilmore Quay Sewerage Scheme amongst the priority contracts and schemes selected for inclusion.

The new programme aims to prioritise projects that target environmental compliance issues and support economic and employment growth as envisaged in the Government's policy document Building Ireland's Smart Economy — A Framework for Sustainable Economic Renewal. A key input to the development of the programme was the assessment of needs prepared by local authorities, including Wexford County Council, in response to my Department's request to the authorities in 2009 to review and prioritise their proposals for new capital works in their areas. These were subsequently appraised by my Department in the context of the funds available and key criteria that complemented those used by the authorities. Inevitably, through this process, certain projects that had been proposed had to give way to others that are more strategically important at this time.

This evaluation included an examination of the towns and villages included in proposed bundled schemes. Any revisions to bundled projects, as in the case of the Wexford Villages Sewerage Scheme, reflect the need to align all of the schemes with programme priorities. Therefore, the new programme provides for the planning of the elements of the scheme relating to Arthurstown, Ballycanew, Clonroche, Duncannon and Wellingtonbridge to continue, but a number of other villages were not considered to have as high a relative priority. In addition, the scheme now provides for addressing the sewerage requirements for the villages of Ballyhack and Campile. The need to include these villages emerged after the completion of the needs assessment by Wexford County Council, in the context of the development of the Shellfish Waters Pollution Reduction Programme for Waterford Harbour, which was prepared in response to a European Court judgment.

Litter Pollution.

David Stanton

Question:

229 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, further to Parliamentary Question No. 57 of 22 April 2010, if he will provide a breakdown of the take up of anti-litter awareness grant funding by each local authority; the local authorities who failed to take up their full allocation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17500/10]

A total of €1,070,000 was made available under the Anti Litter and Anti Graffiti Awareness Grant Scheme for 2009. The total amount of funds claimed under the scheme for 2009 was €1,004,541.19 leaving a balance of €65,458.81 unclaimed. The table sets out details in respect of individual local authorities.

2009 Anti-Litter & Anti-Graffiti Awareness Grant Scheme

Local Authority Area

2009 Allocation

2009 Payments

Under/Over Spend

City Councils

Dublin

51,000

51,000

0

Cork

40,000

39,900

-100

Galway

40,000

40,000

0

Limerick

40,000

23,768

-16,232

Waterford

40,000

37,244

-2,757

County Councils

Cork County

42,000

42,000

0

South Dublin

42,000

42,000

0

Fingal

42,000

42,000

0

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown

42,000

33,191

-8,809

Kildare

32,000

7,000

-25,000

Meath

32,000

32,000

0

Galway County

32,000

32,000

0

Donegal

32,000

31,904

-96

Kerry

32,000

32,000

0

Wexford

32,000

35,272

3,272

Limerick County

32,000

30,526

-1,474

Wicklow

30,000

30,000

0

Mayo

30,000

30,000

0

Louth

30,000

29,778

-222

Clare

30,000

30,000

0

Kilkenny

30,000

32,000

2,000

South Tipperary

26,000

26,000

0

Westmeath

26,000

26,000

0

Offaly

25,000

25,000

0

Laois

25,000

25,000

0

North Tipperary

25,000

25,000

0

Cavan

25,000

25,000

0

Waterford County

25,000

8,960

-16,040

Sligo

25,000

25,000

0

Roscommon

25,000

25,000

0

Monaghan

25,000

25,000

0

Carlow

25,000

25,000

0

Longford

20,000

20,000

0

Leitrim

20,000

20,000

0

Total

1,070,000

1,004,541

-65,459

Planning Issues.

Michael Ring

Question:

230 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, under the Planning and Development Act 2000, a person is entitled to a refund of the fees paid to An Bord Pleanála when objecting to a planning approval decision in view of the fact that the planning applicant proceeded to reject the approval as given therefore making the appeal null and void. [17512/10]

Under the Planning and Development Act 2000, there is no provision for An Bord Pleanála to refund fees where an applicant for planning permission decides not to execute a permission granted on appeal. There is no obligation on a person in possession of a grant of planning permission to proceed with the development to which the permission relates.

Plastic Bag Levy.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

231 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount of income generated from the plastic bag levy over the past five years; the number of bags that were purchased under the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17514/10]

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

232 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government how the income generated from the plastic bag levy over the past five years has been used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17515/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 231 and 232 together.

Revenues from the levies on plastic shopping bags and the landfill of waste are paid into a ‘ring-fenced' Environment Fund, established under the Waste Management (Amendment) Act 2001, and can only be used for activities that are of benefit to the environment. Section 74(9) of the Waste Management Act 1996 (as inserted by section 12 of the Waste Management (Amendment) Act 2001), specifies the purposes for which payments may be made from the Environment Fund. These include assistance in a range of areas such as:

schemes to prevent/reduce waste;

waste recovery activities;

research & development into waste management;

production, distribution or sale of products deemed to be less harmful to the environment than other similar products;

development of producer initiatives to prevent/reduce waste arising from their activities;

implementation of waste management plans;

enforcement of the provisions of any enactment relating to waste management, prevention of litter or protection of the environment;

partnership projects, that involve local authorities, to improve the quality of the environment for particular local communities;

promotion of awareness of the need to protect the environment, including national and regional campaigns;

promotion/support of education and training to assist achievement of campaign objectives;

resources (human or material) to enable education and training to be carried out;

initiatives undertaken by community groups and others for protection of the environment;

such other purposes for protection of the environment as may be prescribed by the Minister in regulations.

The Waste Management (Environment Fund) (Prescribed Payments) Regulations 2003 extend these purposes to include:

initiatives undertaken in the State, or on an international or transnational basis relating to the protection of the environment; and

sustainable development initiatives, including areas such as research and development together with contributions to international organisations.

Details of expenditure from the Fund are available in the Fund's audited Annual Accounts. Copies of the Annual Accounts from 2002 to 2008 are available from the Oireachtas library and on my Department's website at: http://www.environ.ie/en/Environment/Waste/ Environment Fund/. The 2009 Annual Accounts will be published in due course after they have been audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

In the period from its introduction on 17 July 2001 until the end of 2008, a total of €125,263,842 was paid into the Environment Fund in respect of the plastic bag levy; €101,952,021 of these receipts arose in the five years 2004 to 2008. The exact number of plastic bags to which levy receipts in any given period equates cannot be determined precisely, as the amounts remitted into the Fund also include interest on late payments. However, receipts indicate that per capita usage of disposable plastic bags has decreased by more than 90%, from approximately 328 bags per head of population prior to the introduction of the levy, to 27 bags per head of population in 2008.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

233 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent to which alternative energy incentivisation exists and is set to continue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17550/10]

As the Deputy will be aware, there are a range of supports available for renewable energy production. The Renewable Energy Feed in Tariff (REFIT) scheme, which is administered by my Department, supports a number of different types of renewable electricity projects, including commercial wind farm projects through provision of a floor price. REFIT is a fixed feed in tariff system, designed to provide developers with certainty as to the price they will receive for the electricity generated. As such, it functions by guaranteeing a certain price to generators per unit of energy generated, and steps in to make up the difference between the REFIT price and the market price, in circumstances where this arises. REFIT is paid for from the Public Service Obligation. REFIT categories exist also for Biomass, and for Biomass/Anaerobic Digestion Combined Heat and Power plants.

My Department, through the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) also runs a number of capital grant aid programmes for Combined Heat and Power installations, and for renewable heating installations. SEAI's Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Programme assists the deployment of small-scale fossil-fired and biomass CHP systems in the industrial, commercial, service and public sectors. The Biomass CHP Programme provides grant aid for Biomass and Anaerobic Digestion CHP. Anaerobic Digestion, in particular, offers opportunities for farmers to use animal waste to generate electricity, while also reducing the environmental impact of that waste when spread on the land.

Combined Heat and Power (CHP) is a highly efficient way of generating on-site heat and electricity simultaneously. It can offer significantly reduced energy bills for the end user and is a particularly efficient form of energy generation as it minimises any transmission losses involved in getting power to the site. Traditionally, CHP plants were only used in large industrial units with a high on-site heat load. Increasingly the technology is developing higher efficiency, smaller scale units that are capable of servicing smaller buildings and even down to individual residential scale units.

Under the Deployment Programme, SEAI has supported 9 hospitals with a total capacity of 1.7 MWe and 5 educational establishments with a total capacity of 1.36 MWe at a cost of over €650,000. The Renewable Heat Deployment Programme (ReHeat), which incentivises the installation of biomass boilers, is also open to institutional users of heat, and has already supported the construction of a number of projects where the heat load was not sufficient to justify the expense of a CHP plant. The Greener Homes Scheme, which supports installation of renewable heating technology in homes, is now in its third phase. To date, over 37,000 applications have been received for grant aid under the Scheme, with over €61m paid to over 24,000 applicants.

In the transport sector a number of other schemes are in place or in process. The production of biofuel in Ireland has been incentivised to date, under the Mineral Oil Tax Relief Schemes, which have resulted in 18 projects being awarded excise relief on specified volumes of biofuel they produce. This scheme, which will come to a close at end 2010, is being replaced by the Biofuel Obligation Scheme, which will commence in July 2010. The availability of funding for capital programmes is subject to the annual budgetary process on a year by year basis.

Energy Conservation.

Thomas Byrne

Question:

234 Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding an application for the warmer homes scheme in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Meath. [17335/10]

I can confirm that the SEAI has received an application under the WHS from the individual in question. SEAI has already surveyed the house and has scheduled measures to be delivered to the homeowner within the next two weeks. More generally the Deputy may wish to note that dedicated Warmer Homes Scheme (WHS) hot line — 1800 250 204 — has been in operation for some time and all queries, from scheme applicants and public representatives, on delivery dates for individual households and/or funding agreements are dealt with immediately. In addition, the WHS programme manager, Mr. Michael Martin of Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), is available to deal with queries on 042 939 1548. The availability of both points of contact ensures that there is no delay in dealing with specific queries related to the delivery of the Warmer Homes Scheme.

Telecommunications Services.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

235 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the planned delivery of broadband to an area (details supplied) in County Offaly; when broadband will be delivered to each part of this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17445/10]

The provision of broadband services is in the first instance a matter for private sector service providers operating in Ireland's fully liberalised telecommunications market. Broadband services are provided by private service providers over various platforms including DSL (i.e over the telephone lines), fixed wireless, mobile, cable, fibre and satellite. Details of broadband services available in each county, including county Offaly, can be found on ComReg's website at www.callcosts.ie.

Kinnity, County Offaly, does not come within the scope of the National Broadband Scheme which aims to provide access to affordable and scalable broadband services to fixed residences and businesses within its designated rural areas. This is because, in designing the NBS, which was approved by the EU Commission, a balance had to be struck between reaching as many unserved areas as possible and minimising the impact of the scheme on businesses already providing broadband services in rural areas. EU State Aid and competition rules govern how states can intervene in areas where there are existing service providers. Accordingly, the NBS is prohibited from providing a service in areas where to do so would give rise to an unacceptable level of market distortion.

It continues to be a priority of the Government that there will be broadband coverage across the entire country. However, despite Government and private investment in broadband, I am aware that there continues to be a small percentage of premises throughout the country that will not be capable of receiving broadband services. This is primarily due to technical and other reasons (suitability of a telephone line, distance from an enabled exchange, no line of sight etc.).

The European Commission has set aside a portion of the European Economic Recovery Programme (EERP) funding for rural broadband initiatives. My Department is currently considering the design and implementation of a scheme which would use this funding to address the issue of basic broadband availability to un-served rural premises outside of the NBS areas. This work will include the identification of premises not capable of receiving broadband. It is hoped to commence this scheme in late 2010 and have it completed by 2012. As the scheme is only at the design stage, there is no application process at this juncture. Information in relation to acceptance of applications and the process of qualification under the scheme will be made available in due course when the scheme is launched.

Food Labelling.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

236 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if food labelling throughout the retail sector here fully and accurately reflects the country of origin and compliance with national and EU standards in respect of husbandry, production and traceability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17296/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

238 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent to which food labelling in respect of beef, lamb, pigmeat, poultry, dairy products and by-products available here and throughout the European Union accurately reflect the country of origin and compliance with EU regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17297/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 236 and 238 together.

The Minister for Health and Children has overall responsibility for the general food labelling legislation. Responsibility for the enforcement of this legislation rests with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (F.S.A.I.). This is done through service contracts between the F.S.A.I and my Department, The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, the Health Service Executive and the Local Authority Veterinary Service.

Under the general labelling Directive (2000/13/EC), the place of origin of the foodstuff must be given only if its absence might mislead the consumer to a material degree. Under EU legislation, specific country of origin labelling is only required in the case of beef, unprocessed poultry and fruit and vegetables. It is understood from the FSAI that a range of inspections are carried out at catering and retail establishments to monitor country of origin labelling. My Department conducts checks, as appropriate, in the business premises for which it has responsibility. Non-compliances are followed up as necessary.

Food Industry.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

237 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent to which he and other EU Ministers have prepared a plan for the agricultural and food production sector to play a necessary and pivotal role in economic recovery throughout Europe with a view to job creation and improved opportunity now and in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17305/10]

Discussions are ongoing in the European Council, and in a number of other Council formations, on a replacement strategy for the Lisbon Agenda, to steer the EU to economic recovery, growth and jobs in the period up to 2020. This strategy is known as the EU 2020 strategy. To this end, earlier this year the EU Commission produced a communication setting out the proposed priorities and targets for the new strategy and the suggested means and processes for their delivery. The spring meeting of the European Council of Heads of State and Government agreed conclusions that endorse the broad thrust of the Commission objectives and targets.

The Commission proposed that the new strategy be based on the three priorities of smart growth, sustainable growth and inclusive growth. It identified five headline targets to be achieved (raising employment, promoting innovation, responding to climate change and energy use, boosting education, and reducing poverty) and a series of flagship initiatives centred round and designed to deliver results on the three priorities.

At the insistence of Ireland and a number of other Member States, the European Council included a reference in the Conclusions on its Spring meeting on the need for all common policies, including the CAP, to support the strategy. The conclusions went on to state that "a sustainable, productive and competitive agricultural sector will make an important contribution to the new strategy, considering the growth and employment potential of rural areas while ensuring fair competition". The proposed strategy was subsequently discussed by EU Agriculture Ministers and there was unanimous agreement that agriculture had a crucial contribution to make to the strategy in terms of sustainable growth, rural employment, territorial cohesion, mitigating climate change, economic growth, increasing exports and social inclusion.

I am very pleased that there is agreement on the important contribution that a sustainable, productive and competitive agricultural sector will make to the new strategy. This was something that Ireland had pressed for strongly in the discussions. The sector is an essential platform for the EU food and drinks sector. This is the largest manufacturing sector in the EU and represents some 9% of industrial value added and over 10% of industrial employment. Moreover, it is a sector in which global demand is guaranteed to increase.

A modern, productive agriculture and food sector will support green growth by assisting in land management and social inclusion for rural communities. It will also ensure more sustainable use of natural resources and support climate change mitigation. From the economic viewpoint it will provide stable, higher-value employment opportunities requiring higher skill levels and qualifications and greater levels of R&D and, importantly, innovation. It will boost European exports and contribute to food security both within and beyond Europe.

Question No. 238 answered with Question No. 236.

EU Fisheries.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

239 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the full extent of fish and fish product exports from the European Union on a country basis; the extent of imports throughout the Union, if known; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17306/10]

The information requested by the Deputy, as well as other statistical data relating to EU fisheries, is available in the report entitled "Facts and figures on the CFP: Basic Data on the Common Fisheries Policy" published by the European Community. I will arrange to have a copy of this report sent to the Deputy under a separate cover.

Grant Payments.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

240 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number and value of farm payments owed to farmers on a county basis throughout the country at the present time; when such payments are likely to be made in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17298/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

245 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the advice that he plans to offer the farming community suffering hardship due to delay by his Department in making farm payments; when he proposes to address this issue and bring payment fully up to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17302/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

248 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if his attention has been drawn to the hardship caused to the farming community by the failure of his Department to make farm payments promptly; the action he proposes to address the issue in the short term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17303/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

249 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when it is expected that all payments due to farmers currently delayed in his Department for whatever reason are likely to be paid in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17304/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 240, 245, 248 and 249 together.

There are no appreciable delays in issuing payments to farmers under the various schemes operated by the Department with the exception of the REPS scheme and the Young Farmers Installation Scheme.

In the case of REPS, in meeting the requirements of EU regulations, applications for payments have to go through an exhaustive series of administrative checks before payment can be released. In a significant number of cases, those checks raised issues and queries, which required further detailed examination. The Department's staff are working to resolve these as quickly as possible. Many of these cases require applicants' planners to amend the farm plans that were submitted originally. The applicants concerned have been made aware of the position and the applications will be further processed without delay on receipt of the amended plans.

In a small number of local offices, the processing of payments have been delayed by staffing issues arising from the moratorium on recruitment and promotions in the public service and the Department is attempting to resolve these issues. I would point out that out of the 29,376 farmers due payment under REPS 4, 100% payments have issued to over 21,000 farmers as of 23rd April, with a further 1,342 payments issuing this week.

Due to the redeployment of relevant staff on to the checking of REPS applications, delays have occurred in the processing of grant applications under the Young Farmers' Installation Scheme. However, arrangements have now been put in place to expedite the processing of these applications and the delays concerned should be eliminated in the very near future. It is not possible, within the timescale available, to provide details of the outstanding payments for these Schemes on a county basis.

I should point out that the payments under the 2009 Single Farm Payments scheme began issuing on 16th October 2009 a full six weeks earlier than provided for under the rules of the scheme. In respect of both the Single Farm Payment and the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, full payments have issued to all Scheme applicants, other then those subject to appeal or outstanding query. A small number of payments are also outstanding in cases where the applicant is now deceased and the necessary legal formalities have yet to be completed.

Farm Output.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

241 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent of growth in the beef, lamb, pigmeat, poultry and dairy sectors in each of the past five years to date in 2010; the action intended arising from trends emerging; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17299/10]

According to the CSO, the values of output at producer prices for the beef, pigmeat, sheep, poultry and dairy sectors for the past five years, were as shown in the table below.

Sector

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

(€m)

(€m)

(€m)

(€m)

(€m)

Livestock cattle

1,413.2

1,501.1

1,502.7

1,668

1,485.3

Livestock pigs

292

320.8

293.3

333.8

299.9

Livestock sheep

191.8

190.5

182.2

171.4

161.2

Livestock Poultry

144

140.6

151.4

151

147.7*

Livestock products — Milk

1,333.3

1,324.9

1,663.4

1,629.7

1,100.8

*Provisional.

The market performance of the beef, lamb, pigmeat, poultry and dairy sectors is a function of supply and demand, and has been affected by the recent global economic downturn, exchange rates and other factors. I will be setting out in detail my plans for the future development of these agricultural sectors in the forthcoming 2020 Strategy, which I plan to publish later this year. That said I would have the following specific comments to make on each area.

It is clear in the dairy sector, for example, that the key to future prosperity lies in increased efficiency. We in Ireland have the potential to significantly grow our milk production and take advantage of the very positive outlook for the dairy sector over the medium to long term. We also enjoy a significant advantage in the form of a grass-based production system, which, as well as keeping costs down, will help to achieve greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. The exploitation of this advantage through the application of modern technology in, for example, grazing and breeding management, will help the sector to maximise efficiency and deal with the kind of price volatility that we have experienced in the last two years and that is likely to recur in the future as exposure to global market forces intensifies. Efficiency will also be the key for the processing sector, with the focus increasingly falling on the need for greater collaboration and rationalisation, as well as investment in R&D and new product development.

Market forces have a major influence on the returns to the dairy sector which fluctuate in accordance with the international dairy markets. Over the past few years the international dairy industry has witnessed extremes of volatility in product prices on an unprecedented scale. During 2007 dairy prices reached record high levels during the international commodity price boom. In 2008 world dairy markets returned to far lower levels primarily due to a collapse in demand caused by the global economic downturn. The slump continued into 2009 before gradually improving later in the year. I continually pressed the Commission to take all appropriate actions to deal with the dairy market situation and the implementation of a range of support measures helped to stabilise the market. The dairy market situation has improved considerably since last Autumn and more recently has shown signs of a robust recovery with increased commodity prices on world and EU markets, and a consequent rise in milk prices.

Beef production is an extremely valuable component of the Irish economy with an export value of some €1.4 billion in 2009. Some 90% of Irish beef production is exported, with over 90% of product now being exported to the high value EU markets. Given recent developments in the international and domestic economy, the immediate prospects for the Irish beef sector remain challenging. As a result of the importance of international trade, the impact of exchange rate developments will be important — particularly in relation to the UK, our largest single market — while, due to challenging economic conditions, a continuing switch to lower value cuts is evident in key markets.

While the market performance of, and price return on, beef products is a function of supply and demand, I am committed to working with the sector in responding to evolving market challenges and in providing a sound framework for the development of the sector. To this end, a number of policy initiatives have been developed or enhanced. These include, inter alia, the Suckler Cow Scheme, Bord Bia Irish Beef Promotion Strategies, Bord Bia Quality Assurance Scheme, Breed Improvement Programmes and the Beef and Sheepmeat Capital Investment Scheme. These complement the actions being undertaken by Teagasc and other State Agencies, and together are important in underpinning production, quality and the ongoing marketing success on the important EU markets. My Department will also continue to work with Bord Bia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the industry to identify and develop other potential markets.

The pig sector remains an important component of the Irish agricultural sector. With a farmgate value of some €300 million, and employment in the industry of approximately 7,000, the sector provides an important source of income to rural communities all over the country. Almost half of Irish production is exported with the UK accounting for 50% of exports with the remainder split between Continental Europe and third countries. In common with other meats, returns to producers have fallen as a result of the economic recession. Prices fell in 2009 and have continued to decline during the early part of this year. Irish price movements over recent years have mirrored those of the EU as a whole.

Pork remains the most-consumed meat worldwide and consumption is expected to increase steadily over the next decade. In order to best position the Irish industry to share in that growth, I am progressing a number of initiatives. Teagasc has prepared a development strategy for the Irish pig industry, which identifies the issues facing the sector and makes certain recommendations. Measures have been proposed that need to be taken to position the sector for a successful future and a ‘Pig Industry Strategy Steering Group', which includes representation from my Department and all sectors of the industry, has been established for the purpose of implementing the recommendations of this development strategy. I will continue to work with industry stakeholders to advance these recommendations.

On marketing and promotions, the domestic market remains the most important for Irish pigmeat, accounting for 50% of our production. Therefore, protecting and maintaining the market share of Quality Assured pigmeat in Irish retail is critical for the Irish industry. Bord Bia will continue to work with the industry and invest heavily in consumer promotions at retail and education programmes at foodservice level to promote Quality Assurance.

The ongoing marketing initiatives conducted by Bord Bia both at home and overseas are instrumental in supporting the pigmeat sector. Resources have been increased by Bord Bia, through the Marketing Fellowship Programme, in the market development of more customers for Irish pig meat within the EU. By targeting the end users and further manufacturers directly, we can shorten the supply chain and return greater value to exports. We currently export to over 20 non-EU markets and it is my policy and that of the Government to ensure that Irish producers have access to markets worldwide. My Department will continue to work with Bord Bia, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and the industry to identify and develop other potential markets.

The farmgate value of Irish-produced poultry meat is thought to be approximately €150 million. Despite considerable competition from imports the domestic industry has proven to be quite resilient in recent years. The majority of Irish product is consumed in this country with exports focussing largely on by-products. The target over the medium term is to increase the share of the Irish poultry meat market being supplied by Irish producers. To this end Bord Bia is developing and enhancing policies with regard to Poultry Quality Assurance.

Although the scarcity of supply is currently helping to support producer prices, market forces have negatively affected the lamb sector in recent times. As one of the most expensive meats on the retail shelf, tightened consumer spending has impinged on demand on all main markets. A weaker euro/sterling exchange rate has reduced Ireland's competitiveness on the French market — our largest export market for lamb, where we compete directly with British exporters.

Bord Bia's promotional strategy for the Irish sheep sector addresses these market forces in the following ways: encouraging Irish consumers to buy more Quality Assured lamb; collaborating with its French and English counterparts in a campaign to reverse the decline in consumption of lamb on the French market, which accounts for over 50% of our exports; and working with individual exporter to increase the amount of exports to higher value markets such as Germany and Scandinavia and thereby reduce Ireland's dependency on the French market. Bord Bia will spend up to €1 million this year on such promotional campaigns.

Earlier this month I launched a three-year, €54 million grassland sheep scheme, the funding for which, comes from unused Single Payment funds. The focus of this scheme is on breeding ewes and it should help to prevent further declines in flock numbers, by giving farmers a real incentive to maintain their production levels. It should also provide sheep farmers with a much-needed boost to their incomes. The sector should also benefit under the Rural Development Programme, where an indicative figure of €8 million has been allocated for sheep fencing and mobile handling facilities, to help sheep farmers in reducing labour input. In addition to this extra funding, last year I assigned €7 million from the 2009 Single Farm Payment National Reserve to 13,000 hill sheep farmers, under the Uplands Sheep Payment Scheme. Teagasc has also allocated almost €1.5 million for sheep research for 2010.

All of these supports complement the work being undertaken by my Department, its state agencies and the industry, following the recommendations of the Sheep Industry Development Strategy Group — "the Malone Report". This report provides a clear blueprint for the development of a more profitable sheep sector in Ireland and covers production, processing and marketing. While most of the recommendations in the Malone report fall to be implemented by the industry itself, my Department is playing its part by providing assistance for areas such as breeding and quality assurance.

Common Fisheries Policy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

242 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, in the context of the review of the Common Fisheries Policy, the full extent of fishing and over-fishing that has taken place throughout the European Union by EU or other fishing fleets; the degree to which over-fishing has occurred and by whom; the action proposed or likely to combat this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17307/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

246 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent to which he has studied the decrease in fish stocks throughout Europe and the reason that has been attributed to same; if over-fishing is likely to be controlled in an even handed way throughout the European Union; the degree to which he has put forward proposals to this effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17308/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 242 and 246 together.

The EU Commission estimates that over 80% of EU stocks are over fished. This statistic should make us all pause and take stock of the serious situation facing the fishing industry across Europe. If unchecked the long term sustainability and viability of many fish stocks will be uncertain. The EU Court of Auditors report in December 2007 identified the problem of substantial control failures across Member States. The Court concluded that weaknesses in fisheries controls jeopardised the proper functioning of a fisheries management policy based on catch limitations. On foot of the Court of Auditor findings, the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council of Ministers adopted a Council Regulation (EC) No 1005/2008 of the 29th September 2008 establishing a Community system to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, which has applied from the 1st January 2010.

The Commission has also brought forward a proposal, establishing a new Community control system for ensuring compliance with the rules of the common fisheries policy, to strengthen fisheries control across the EU and this was adopted by the Agriculture and Fisheries Council of Ministers on the 20th of October 2009, Council Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009.

The new Regulation introduces a new and common approach to control, from net to plate. It will cover every stage in the process that sees fish caught, landed, brought to market and sold. Harmonised standards for inspection activities and procedures will help deliver uniform implementation. This new approach will make use of modern technologies and risk analysis. It will introduce systematic and automated cross checking of data collected at the catch, landing and sale stages, to make it easier to spot attempts to break the rules. These measures will be backed up by a comprehensive traceability system, so that all fish and fisheries products, whether imported or produced in the EU, can be tracked throughout the market chain.

I welcome these new measures which I believe are not a threat to Irish fishermen who have already moved significantly to a culture of compliance. As fisheries are a common resource it is vital that all operators from all EU fleets respect the rules. We must rebuild our fish stocks by implementing conservation measures and tackling illegal fishing by fleets in our waters which is the major cause of the decline in our fish stocks and quotas. With this package, we have now a better opportunity to stop the cycle of decline and secure a sustainable profitable future for our industry.

In the context of the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, Ireland submitted further proposals to promote a level playing field across EU waters. In the context of the introduction of Electronic Reporting Systems, which are applicable to larger vessels this year, Ireland proposed additional measures including the exchange of detailed information in the entitlements of individual vessels to the coastal Member State. I will be pushing for further improvements to the control regime that promote a level playing field in the reform of the CFP which is being discussion at this time. I believe that the new control regime together with the additional changes sought in Ireland's Response to the CFP will deliver on better control across the European Union.

Food Industry.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

243 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent to which he has examined the prices paid to producers and charged to the consumer in the beef, dairy, lamb, pigmeat and poultry sectors in this country; the way this compares with other EU member states; his plans to take any initiative arising from any such findings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17300/10]

Agricultural production in Ireland and the EU must be viewed in the context of a reformed and evolving Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), with much more competitive EU and world commodity markets. As a result of the reformed CAP farmers can now take advantage of the freedom to farm exclusively for the market. They can focus on meeting the requirements of the consumer in a competitive manner.

The latest price index data from the CSO indicates that overall output prices fell by approximately 15% in 2009. There were declines in the output prices for cattle, milk and pigs of10%, 31% and 9% respectively. There was a marginal increase in the output prices for sheep (+2.0%) whilst the output price paid for poultry remained consistent with the previous year. These developments followed notable increases in output prices across the majority of sectors in 2008. Consumer prices in Ireland also fell in 2009. The overall CPI fell by 4.5% for the year. The overall price of food as measured by the food price index fell by 3.5%. The price of beef, milk, lamb, pork and poultry to the consumer fell by 2.5%, 1.9%, 3.2%, 0.8% and 7.8% respectively.

With regards to the prices paid by consumers in the EU, these will primarily remain a function of prevailing market and competitive forces in those countries. Eurostat data indicates that there was a 0.9% increase in food prices to consumers across the EU-27 in 2009 following on from the 6.7% increase experienced in 2008. However there was a wide divergence in food price developments in the EU for 2009 with food prices increasing by over 5% in 2 countries (Malta and UK) whilst prices fell by over 3% in 4 countries including Ireland.

I have emphasised at EU and national level the necessity for a reasonable balance between granting price reductions to consumers and giving a fair return to suppliers and producers to ensure fair play in trading conditions and sustainability of food supply within the EU. The Commission has issued a Communication on "a better functioning food supply chain in Europe" and I am very pleased that the Spanish Presidency had committed itself to progressing the whole issue.

Among other challenges identified in the Commission communication, it seeks to ‘increase transparency along the food supply chain to encourage competition and improve its resilience to price volatility'. Eurostat is currently developing systems to monitor prices at various stages in the food chain through harnessing available data on price developments in the different steps of the supply chain and comparing price developments for the relevant agricultural commodities, for the relevant food industries as well as for the chosen consumer goods.

Dairy Sector.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

244 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent to which he has monitored trends and production level in the dairy sector and its potential to compete on home and international markets; the extent to which he has planned for the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17301/10]

Milk production levels in any given year are a function of price, climatic and other factors. Over the medium to long term, prospects for global dairy markets are positive, with growth in wealth and population forecast to stimulate strong levels of demand and improve returns in the sector. The Irish dairy industry is well placed to take advantage of this expansion in global demand. There is a significant potential to increase milk production from the current base, particularly following quota abolition, and Ireland has the added advantage of a significant competitive advantage, with its low cost grass based production system.

If the dairy industry in Ireland is to reach its potential, it is critically important that operators in the sector, both at farm and processing level, focus on reducing costs and increasing output and efficiency. There must also be a focus on consolidating and expanding market share in existing markets, on developing new markets, and on product and process development.

My Department and its agencies have supported these efforts over many years and are continuing to do so, through the provision of funding for capital investment both at farm and processor level, through the Dairy Efficiency Scheme, which funds the establishment of discussion groups to encourage best practice at farm level, in terms of grassland management, breeding and financial management, through the provision of advice and education based on state of the art research by Teagasc, and through the FIRM and Stimulus Research Funds.

At present my Department is engaged in an exercise to establish a medium term programme for the development of the agri food sector to 2020. I expect to have a report by June from the 2020 Strategy Committee, which includes representation at the highest levels from the agri food sector. This report will propose strategies for the development of the agri-food sector, including the dairy sector. I look forward to receiving it, and to building on the actions already taken by Government under the AgriVision 2015 Plan.

Question No. 245 answered with Question No. 240.
Question No. 246 answered with Question No. 242.

Crop Losses.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

247 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent to which the losses incurred by nursery growers from the severe winter frost have been calculated; if it is intended to offer assistance in this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17309/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

250 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has received a request from nursery growers for compensation arising from damage to crops during the severe winter; if he expects to be in a position to assist in view of the massive destruction during the heavy frost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17310/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 247 and 250 together.

Following a preliminary assessment of the crop losses caused by the severe weather conditions in January, I announced, in February, the introduction of a limited scheme of financial assistance to certain potato and field vegetable growers who have suffered significant losses of produce due to frost damage. It is not proposed to extend the scope of the scheme to include the nursery industry.

Questions Nos. 248 and 249 answered with Question No. 240.
Question No. 250 answered with Question No. 247.

Grant Payments.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

251 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when all 2009 REPS 4 payment will be awarded; the number of farmers that have applied for REPS 4; the number of these applicants that have been paid on a county basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17104/10]

Out of 29,376 farmers due payments in REPS 4, 100% payments have issued to over 21,000 as of 23 April 2010, with a further 1,342 payments issuing this week. Details are set out on a county-by-county basis in the table.

The processing of REPS 4 payments is governed by EU Regulations which require exhaustive administrative checks and on-the-spot inspections. In most parts of the country, the processing of payments is well advanced and the majority of participants have received their full payments for 2009. In a significant number of cases, however, the administrative checks raised issues and queries which required further detailed examination. My Department's staff have been working to resolve these as quickly as possible. Many of these cases require the applicants' planners to amend the farm plans that were submitted originally. The applicants concerned have been made aware of the position and the applications will be further processed without delay on receipt of amended plans.

I am acutely aware of the situation in the Department's local offices where, because of the Government's moratorium on recruitment and promotion in the civil service, two supervisory posts are vacant. Officials in the posts concerned carry out an essential role, from an audit and accreditation point of view, in authorizing claims for payment. My Department has attempted, without success to date, to resolve the situation and is continuing to urgently examine other possible solutions with a view to releasing payments as soon as possible.

County

REPS 4 applicants

Paid as at 23 April 2010

Carlow

300

249

Cavan

1,101

717

Clare

1,333

1,164

Cork

3,221

1,722

Donegal

1,898

1,667

Dublin

51

32

Galway

2,757

1,898

Kerry

1,999

898

Kildare

373

309

Kilkenny

833

662

Laois

761

651

Leitrim

880

652

Limerick

1,344

1,076

Longford

681

555

Louth

218

160

Mayo

2,703

1,779

Meath

561

360

Monaghan

903

621

Offaly

706

562

Roscommon

1,405

1,185

Sligo

917

621

Tipperary Nth

854

718

Tipperary Sth

1,004

726

Waterford

675

470

Westmeath

709

617

Wexford

783

602

Wicklow

406

328

Total

29,376

21,001

Fisheries Protection.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

252 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, further to Parliamentary Question No. 836 of 20 April 2010, if his attention has been drawn to the fact that latitude 51.30N in area VII intersects the Irish coast just west of County Cork, meaning that for part of the Irish coast line any fishing activity for bass, even if confined to south of this line, will actually take place right up to shore; the way he will reconcile this geographical fact with the Federation of Irish Fishermen assurance that the inshore sea bass fishery around our coast will not be the target of commercial fishing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17409/10]

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

254 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will give assurances that inshore bass stocks will not be permitted to be fished commercially; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17411/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 252 and 254 together.

The Federation of Irish Fishermen (FIF) has made a proposal to my Department concerning a limited Sea Bass fishery in the Celtic Sea. In the proposal the FIF have stated that they will take a "precautionary approach to avoid any fishing whatsoever of the Irish inshore stock". The FIF has specifically proposed that vessels would be permitted to land only Sea Bass caught south of (51.30'N) in area VII, which is an area approximately 50 km off the SE coast and adjacent to the SW coast of Ireland, this area extends 375 km south. The FIF proposal, having regard to the scientific advice that is available on the inshore stock, also provides that all fishing for sea bass should be prohibited inside the Irish 12 mile coastal limit until there is further assessment carried out to determine the state of the stock.

In order to give the fullest consideration to this proposal, I have sought and received scientific advice from the Marine Institute in relation to the proposal by the FIF. In the same vein I have sought and received the advice of the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority in relation to proposal, from the perspective of the regulation of such a fishery. In coming to a determination on what is a very complex matter, I am very conscious of the need to maintain the current level protection afforded to the inshore Sea Bass fishery. This factor is also recognised by the FIF which gives an assurance in its proposal, that the inshore Sea Bass fishery around our coast will not be the target of commercial fishing. In addition to the advice received above, a decision on the matter will take account of the views of all stakeholders, including anglers. My predecessor wrote to the Minister of State in the Department of Energy, Communications and Natural Resources, who has responsibility for inland fisheries, seeking his views on this proposal and the Minister has provided those observations.

I am currently considering the proposal together with the advice, observations and submissions made to date, in order to determine whether sufficient information is available in order to reach a determination on the matter.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

253 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if his attention has been drawn to the extent of illegal fishing of inshore bass stocks; his best estimate of the value of illegal bass fishing for each of the past three years; if his further attention has been drawn to a report by a person (details supplied) into illegal bass fishing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17410/10]

Operational aspects in relation to sea fisheries control operations are a matter for the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA). I have asked the SFPA to respond directly to the Deputy.

I am not aware of a report in recent years into illegal bass fishing prepared by the a manager of the Southern Fisheries Board. The Federation of Irish Fishermen (FIF) has made a proposal to my Department concerning a limited Sea Bass fishery in the Celtic Sea in an area south of (51.30'N) in area VII, which is an area approximately 50 km off the SE coast and adjacent to the SW coast of Ireland. Observations in relation to this proposal were sought from the Minister for Communications Energy and Natural Resources, who has responsibility for inland fisheries. The response received included a substantial set of observations from the Central Fisheries Board which did not include or reference the report referred to by the Deputy.

Question No. 254 answered with Question No. 252.

Grant Payments.

Michael Creed

Question:

255 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork has not received their REP scheme payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17414/10]

The application belonging to the person named cannot be processed until he replies to a letter which my officials sent him on 9 April 2010.

James Bannon

Question:

256 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a REP scheme payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Longford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17439/10]

My officials wrote to the person named on 26 April 2010 about his application and are waiting for him to reply.

Michael Ring

Question:

257 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their suckler cow welfare payment. [17471/10]

The person named had 28 animals for consideration under the 2009 Suckler Welfare Scheme. Payment amounting to totalling €902 was issued to the applicant on 12th March 2009 in respect of 22 animals. During the validation process a number of queries arose in relation to the remaining animals and an official from my Department will make direct contact with the applicant with a view to resolving these cases.

Pat Breen

Question:

258 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17482/10]

The holding of the person concerned has been restricted under the TB and Brucellosis Eradication Scheme since 24 February 2010. As outlined in the Important Information for Farmers booklet, which is issued to all herdowners at the time of restriction, the amount to be paid by the Department under the On Farm Market Valuation Scheme, which is the difference between the on-farm market value of the animal concerned and the price paid to the farmer by the slaughter plant, can only be calculated and paid by the District Veterinary Office following the receipt of a number of documents from the herdowner. In this case, the last of these documents was received in the District Veterinary Office on 7 April 2010. The District Veterinary Office has now certified payment which the herdowner should receive over the coming days.

Schools Building Projects.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

259 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science the position regarding an application for extension and building by a school (details supplied) in County Louth; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17350/10]

I can confirm that the school to which the Deputy refers has made an application to my Department for major capital funding. The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects and assigned a Band 1 rating. The progression of all large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction phase will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of my Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of a project for the school in question at this time. However, I am pleased to be able to inform the Deputy that the school has recently been approved funding to provide extra accommodation to meet its immediate needs.

Irish Language.

Finian McGrath

Question:

260 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science if she will support a matter (details supplied). [17379/10]

There is no current funding available to enable children from disadvantaged backgrounds to attend courses in the Gaeltacht. However, as an important step in progressing the first phase of the 20-year strategy for the Irish language, an additional €3 million has been secured for the development of materials and resources for schools at primary and post-primary level, the provision of additional training for teachers, and the development of intensive immersion programmes for students who need additional support to participate in Gaeltacht post-primary schools. The implementation arrangements for these measures are being put in train at present.

Early School Leavers.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

261 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science the policy that the National Education Welfare Board is implementing on children leaving school before the age of 16 years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17424/10]

The Education (Welfare) Act, 2000, established the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) charged with ensuring that each child attends a recognised school or otherwise receives a certain minimum education. The Act provides a comprehensive framework promoting regular school attendance and tackling the problems of absenteeism and early school leaving. All sections of the Act have been commenced since July 2002.

In May 2009, my Department extended the remit of the NEWB. The new remit will bring together the Visiting Teacher Service for Travellers (VTST), the Home School Community Liaison Service (HSCL) and the School Completion Programme (SCP) as well as the National Educational Welfare Service (EWS) under one common management team thereby providing for a single, more focussed, strategic direction at local, regional and national levels, reflecting equally the nature and strength of each of the services. The NEWB is charged with developing a single, strategic approach to attendance, participation and retention in school to meet the needs of children who are at risk of early school leaving or of developing attendance problems.

A core part of the new strategy will be an integrated child and family centered education support service drawing on the skills, expertise and knowledge of the four services — VTST, HSCL, SCP and EWS. By combining the skills and strengths of staff from the four services along with those of teachers and other school-based personnel, the new integrated approach will provide for better targeting of children who are not benefiting from education and it will ensure that these children are properly supported to maximise their educational potential. Work has commenced on developing the new arrangements. An integrated management team has been established and is working effectively at national level. At local level, the four service strands are building on the strong working relationships already in place.

The Education (Welfare) Act establishes a comprehensive framework for promoting regular school attendance and tackling the problems of absenteeism and early school leaving. Section 10 of the Act outlines the general functions of the Board which includes,

To ensure that each child attends a recognised school or otherwise receives a certain minimum education,

To assist recognised schools in so far as it is practicable to meet their obligations under the Act,

To advise and assist children and the parents of children who exhibit problems relating to attendance at , and behaviour in, school,

To cooperate with such persons as the Board considers appropriate, and to coordinate the activities of the Board with the activities of those persons in so far as they relate to preventing non-attendance in recognised schools,

To advise the Minister on any matters to which this Act relates.

The board may, in the performance of its functions, consult with such persons as it considers appropriate.

Since its inception the central priority for the Board has been the establishment of the Educational Welfare Service. The NEWB's network of Educational Welfare Officers (EWOs) has been the key means by which the Board ensures that each child attends and benefits from education. The NEWB's Educational Welfare Service is now provided from 31 locations nationwide with ninety-one staff directly involved in service delivery. The EWS is one of the key components of the new integrated services under the Board. EWOs are appointed under Section 11 of the Act and they deliver a service to children, families and schools. They assist schools, students and parents to comply with their legal obligations under the Act.

The Board is keenly aware of the need to deliver a quality service that focuses on standards and outcomes in relation school attendance and placement matters. In 2009 the NEWB launched its second strategic plan "every child counts" 2010 — 2011, which is focused on achieving better outcomes for children's school attendance and participation. The NEWB's core commitment to secure every child's entitlement to an education is a key driver of the "every child counts" strategy.

A key part of the Board's strategy is to continue to scrutinise and strengthen the quality of work, monitor its effectiveness, strengthen the focus on measuring outcomes for children and families and put children at the centre of the work. In 2009, a new way of working was developed in partnership with staff and external consultants in an effort to standardise the intervention process and focus on early intervention. Operational guidelines were developed in consultation with staff and these were tested out in six Pilot sites (Dublin City (2), Mayo, Wicklow, Cork City, and Dundalk). School principals and Education Support Services (Home School Community Liaison Coordinators, School Completion Coordinators and Visiting Teachers for Travellers) participated in