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 11, inclusive, answered orally.

Sport and Recreational Development

Frank Feighan

Question:

12 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport when she intends to publish the national sports facility strategy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36753/10]

I am currently considering the draft National Sports Facilities Strategy 2010-2015 which has been completed within my Department. Prior to finalisation, the draft strategy was circulated for comments to relevant Government Departments and other bodies and has been amended to take into account the comments received. A decision on the publication of the strategy will be taken when I have fully considered the issues contained in it. The aim of the strategy is to provide high-level policy direction for future investment and grant assistance at national, regional and local level and to ensure a co-ordinated approach across the various agencies and Government Departments involved in supporting the provision of sport and recreational facilities. The strategy identifies the wider economic, health and social case for continued investment in sports facilities. It aims to prioritise areas for future investment and ensure continue impact in the relevant areas.

Since 1998 grants to the value of €730m have been allocated under the Sports Capital Programme to some 7,400 projects. A number of changes were introduced for the 2008 Sports Capital Programme to implement key commitments contained in the Agreed Programme for Government. For example:

The level of own funding required from applicants in urban disadvantaged areas was reduced;

Joint applications from schools and clubs were promoted, provided they were accompanied by evidence that the club will have access to the facilities for at least 30 hours a week; and

In keeping with the Government's commitment to the electronic delivery of public services, the closing date for receipt of online applications was a week later than for paper applications. This resulted in an increase of 600% in online applications in 2008.

Once the Sports Facilities Strategy has been completed, it will provide an improved policy platform for any future rounds of the Sports Capital Programme.

Genealogy Archives

Paul Connaughton

Question:

13 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport the progress that has been made with regard to the digitisation of genealogy archives; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36729/10]

The National Archives has now completed the digitisation of the 1911 and 1901 Census. The mammoth project involved digitising the census returns for those years and background material and making it searchable on-line by all of the available data fields, such as name, address, occupation, religion, relationship to head of household, etc. The project has been developed in several phases — the 1911 returns for the 32 counties were digitised first — followed by the 1901 returns. All of these records are now available online and 173,704 unique visitors logged on to the site in September 2010. This brought the total number of unique visitors to this site, to the end of September, to over 9 million.

The 1911 Census records have also being placed on the Europeana website which links to over 6 million digital items in

Images,

Sound,

Text,

Video,

from Europe's archives, audio-visual collections galleries, libraries and museums.

My Department hosts the website www.irishgenealogy.ie which contains a searchable database of Church records of Baptism, Marriage and Burial from Dublin City and Counties Carlow, Cork and Kerry. The website is an important aid to family history and genealogical research and will be an attraction for the Irish Diaspora to visit Ireland in search of their roots. Since its launch in Nov. 2009 a total of 239,068 Unique Visitors have visited the Church records site with a total of 34,707,315 hits recorded.

On Wednesday 16th June 2010 I had the pleasure of launching further Church records on this site along with His Grace, Dr. John R.W. Neill, Archbishop of Dublin in St. Werburgh's Church, Dublin. These additional records were made up of Church of Ireland records for Dublin City, Counties Carlow and Kerry and Roman Catholic Records for the County and City of Cork. The website www.irishgenealogy.ie now contains over 2 million records. Work is currently ongoing to add up to a further 1 million Church Baptism, Marriage and Burial records from Dublin City and County Cork and this work should be substantially completed by end 2010 and will then be added to this website early in 2011. This project is being undertaken with the support of our National repositories, the National Archives and the National Library of Ireland.

The majority of the records also have the corresponding image of the original entry in the Baptism, Marriage or Burial register available to view. Images for all the records will be made available during 2011. This level of detail, along with the success of the 1901/1911 Census online, will be a significant boost to the Roots' Tourism industry in Ireland. The Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport is working closely with Tourism Ireland to ensure that Ireland reaps the dividends of this work.

Tourism Industry

Shane McEntee

Question:

14 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport the progress that has been made on implementing the recommendations of the tourism renewal group report since the inaugural meeting of the implementation group on 6 September 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36771/10]

Since the publication of the Report of the Tourism Renewal Group in October 2009, my Department has been driving progress on key measures in line with those in the Framework for Action, focusing initially on the Survival Actions, in conjunction with the tourism agencies and other relevant Departments and bodies. For example, building on the Renewal Group’s Framework for Action along with the Government’s wider strategy for economic renewal, Budget 2010 recognised the tourism sector as a critical, labour-intensive sector and provided for a 3% increase to over €153 million in the overall tourism services budget. This included maintaining the real level of investment in overseas marketing, as well as a significantly increased capital allocation for tourism product. The tourism sector was also included in several cross-cutting measures to support enterprises and jobs, including the Employment Subsidy Scheme and the Credit Review System.

I established the new Tourism Renewal Implementation Group in July 2010 to oversee and further drive actions on measures, based on the wide-ranging Framework for Action, that support tourism in Ireland, increase competitiveness and ensure that the sector is ready for recovery and growth. The Group has already met twice under my Chairmanship on 6 and 20 September, and is scheduled to meet again on 27 October. Its first Progress Report, summarising progress on measures under the Framework for Action has been published on the homepage of my Department's website — http://www.tcs.gov.ie.

With regard to progress on implementing the recommended Survival Actions, the Tourism Renewal Implementation Group reports that we have either implemented or are making good progress on four of the five survival actions recommended by the Renewal Group. The sole exception relates to the recommended abolition of the Air Travel Tax, which has to be considered within the context of the overall fiscal framework. As regards the Recovery Actions, the Group notes good initial progress against each of these nine actions.

Having regard to the Report of the Tourism Renewal Group, the progress made to date on its recommended Framework for Action and the most urgent challenges facing the Irish tourism industry, the Implementation Group has now identified the following as the priority issues to be pursued in relation to public policy:

The restoration of sustainable levels of business lending, in particular to ensure availability of working capital for viable tourism enterprises given the seasonal nature of the business;

Measures to restore and enhance access to overseas markets, in particular to redress the adverse impact of the Air Travel Tax on carrier services;

Continued investment in overseas marketing and

Measures to address and reduce enterprise costs, including local authority rates and charges, energy and utility costs and the cost of labour.

The Implementation Group has also discussed the possibility of holding bilateral meetings with those organisations identified as having a key role under the various actions recommended, in order to review and ensure progress. In the coming months, we will be meeting representatives from the Office of Public Works, given the central importance of the OPW as manager of some of our most significant heritage sites, and with representatives from the City and County Managers' Association, given the key role of local authorities across a range of areas impacting on tourism.

In line with the Tourism Renewal Group's Framework for Action, the Government, my Department and the tourism agencies are working extremely hard to assist the sector, to maximise business for Irish tourism and to ensure that the tourism agenda is in all relevant policies. It is my strong belief that, drawing on the experience of members from both the public and private sector, with knowledge and expertise in tourism, transport, tour operation and accommodation, the Tourism Renewal Implementation Group will continue to oversee and drive further action on measures to support the competitiveness and sustainability of tourism in Ireland.

Arts Plan

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

15 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport the extent to which she has recognised the economic benefits and value of the arts and cultural activities in general as a means of economic revival and the need to ensure that such activities are encouraged and supported in the current climate; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36685/10]

I am acutely aware of the potential, impact and importance of the culture sector, in its widest sense, as an economic driver. Culture represents an essential element of our identity, profile, confidence and place in the world. As I have stated before, on assuming this portfolio, my general policy on the arts, culture and the creative industries is to promote and strengthen them, and increase participation. I want to do this for the sake of culture itself and also for the purposes of strengthening those sectors for the economy as a whole.

In the year since the Farmleigh Global Forum took place, there has been a recognition of the central role that Ireland's artistic and cultural strengths play in building our reputation globally, and on the benefits that flow for Irish trade and investment. The arts, cultural and creative industries have welcomed and engaged very actively in this discussion, with a view to building on this renewed strategic priority and unlocking the full potential of the key connection between culture, creativity, competitiveness and Ireland's international reputation.

Many recent international studies have shown that the cultural and creative industries are highly innovative sectors of great potential and are, for instance, one of Europe's most dynamic sectors, contributing approximately 2.5 per cent to EU GDP, with a high growth potential and providing quality jobs to some 5 million people across the EU. Furthermore, arts, culture and audio-visual content play a crucial role in the deployment of the knowledge society, fuelling investments in broadband infrastructures and services, in digital technologies, as well as in new consumer electronics, communications devices, platforms and channels to market. They are undoubtedly catalysts of economic and social innovation in many other sectors, as well as differentiators of us as a people, a culture and a nation set apart. In Ireland these sectors are real and enduring employers rooted in communities, making a real economic, social and cultural contribution.

Question No. 16 answered with Question No. 11.

Tourism Industry

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

17 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport if she has any proposals to alleviate the problem facing a substantial number of hotels that are unable to pay their local authority rates and charges, which is causing severe pressure on the hotels involved and depriving the local authorities of much needed funds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36786/10]

Joan Burton

Question:

24 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport in view of the threat posed to the tourism industry of unsustainable hotels, and given that the issue was not referred to in the Trading and Investing in the Smart Economy document, the policy the Government has to deal with this crucial issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36689/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

42 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport the efforts that are being made to incentivise and encourage the hotel and catering sectors which have been severely hit by the economic crisis; if she has received submissions from the sector in this regard; her proposals by way of response in the coming year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36686/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

188 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport if she has received submissions from the hotel and catering industry requesting continued banking facilities in respect of overdrafts and working capital for the hotel and catering industry, particularly in view of withdrawal of an overseas bank from the scene; her efforts to date to address these issues; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37070/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

189 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport the extent to which she has engaged with the entire tourism industry with a view to identifying and concentrating on the most important issues now facing the industry in the current economic climate; her proposals to address the issues emerging; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37071/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

195 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport if her attention has been drawn to the trading difficulties experienced by the hotel and catering sector in the current climate; if she has offered any encouragement or direct assistance in response; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37077/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 17, 24, 42, 188, 189 and 195 together.

It is the policy of the Government to develop and support the tourist industry in partnership with those bodies, such as the Irish Hotels Federation, the Restaurants Association of Ireland and the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation, that represent tourism businesses. Despite the difficulties in our public finances the Government increased the tourism services budget in 2010 by providing over €153m — an increase of 3% over the 2009 outturn. The Government has also set out significant plans to fund the further development of our tourism product offering. In addition the State tourism agencies are maintaining their marketing drives to attract overseas and domestic tourists to holiday in Ireland.

Economic circumstances are making trading conditions difficult for most businesses at present. These difficult conditions are exacerbated in the hotel sector by an over capacity in supply. This is proving to be a complex situation to resolve and I believe that, inevitably, it will require a market led solution over time. The role of the National Asset Management Agency and other banks holding hotel-backed loans will be an important factor in determining the future of the hotel sector. As I already indicated in reply to earlier questions, I met NAMA on Monday of this week to exchange views on recent developments in the sector, to encourage the agency to take a strategic approach to the management of its hotel-backed loans, to build up their own expertise in the area and to consult with sectoral interests, including the Irish Hotels Federation.

The principal benefit of the NAMA process is the recognition of losses upfront by the participating institutions and the cleansing of the balance sheets of our banks of their most toxic loans. Otherwise this lending would remain on the banks' books representing a major source of risk and instability in the years ahead which would prevent the banking system from playing its essential role in providing the finance required to underpin our economic recovery and fiscal sustainability. The transparency and clarity achieved through NAMA is, I believe, a significant strength in the Government's strategy for the repair and the restoration of the banking system.

The provision and management of finance to hotels, restaurants and other businesses is complex. For some time now business interests, along with other representative bodies, have been urging Government to improve access to credit to SMEs. In order to ensure that applications for credit get a fair hearing, the Government have put in place a credit review system under the direction of Mr John Trethowan to ensure that applications for bank credit by viable businesses (including tourism businesses) are assessed in a reasonable manner by the banks.

In regard to the actions of banks and receivers in relation to support for unviable borrowers, Section 66(1)(a) of the NAMA Act was included to ensure that applicant institutions continue to service loans in the same manner as a prudent lender. Where specific instances of institutions participating in NAMA are identified as supporting non-viable hotels in order to keep them open in an imprudent manner, these instances should be referred to the Department of Finance for its attention.

I am aware of the difficulties that many hotels and restaurants are facing in meeting the cost of local authority charges and have written to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government regarding these costs. I am informed by that Department that local authorities have taken a number of steps to support local business and employment generally. They have also implemented some reductions in their own cost base with a view to reducing the need to increase charges on businesses, and indeed some local authorities have reduced their rates in recent times with a view to trying to support and stimulate employment in their area. However, many businesses — including those in the tourism industry — are still struggling to meet the cost of local authority charges. Given that the Deputies' parties have a majority on most of the city and county councils, I urge them to do everything in their power to ensure that councillors consider the needs of employers when setting their annual budgets, with a view to supporting jobs for local people.

In acknowledgment of the difficulties faced by the tourism sector, the Government, through Fáilte Ireland, is investing over €11 million in 2010 in the form of direct supports and advice for tourism enterprises nationally. The key elements of Fáilte Ireland's enterprise development supports include:

A comprehensive €3.6 million Business Support Programme helping businesses to grow their "top line" while also tackling their cost base through a combination of restructuring debt and building greater liquidity into their businesses, as well as permanently re-engineering their business processes;

A suite of Management and Skills Development training programmes to tourism clients;

Measures to better develop, manage and promote tourism destinations, including promotion of networks and marketing partnerships with trade groups in destinations;

Strong e-Business Supports to underpin Fáilte Ireland and industry marketing activities, the delivery of enhanced visitor services and the availability of new online learning tools for industry clients.

Tourism Ireland is also continuing its marketing activities in Great Britain, Mainland Europe and North America this Autumn highlighting ease of access, great fares and offers from the industry and showcasing the wonderful holiday experiences available here. In the US, a seat sale is currently under way in gateway cities promoting Autumn/Winter fares from as low as $199 each way. Meanwhile, in Europe, over 16 million potential visitors will see the "Ireland — More for Less" promotion on the Ryanair website over the coming months. Car touring campaigns with the ferry companies are also encouraging visitors to take their own cars to Ireland. At home, Fáilte Ireland's €4 million home holiday marketing is continuing with the Autumn campaign launched during September.

With the limited resources available to Government it is not always possible to meet every request for assistance but I believe from my own contacts that the tourist industry generally supports the Government's broad policies for development of the industry. In recent weeks I have received copies of the pre-Budget submissions from a number of representative bodies to the Minister for Finance. I will certainly ensure their priorities receive due consideration in the formulation of next years' budget. As Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, I will continue to engage in regular consultation with the industry so that the support provided by the State tourism agencies and the Department are both relevant and effective.

Sport and Recreational Development

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

18 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport the progress that has been made on the national audit of sports facilities and when she plans to publish the report; the reasons for the delay in publishing the audit findings; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36692/10]

The national audit of sports facilities is currently being finalised. Phase one of the audit focused on national and regional sports facilities and has been completed. Phase two involves the compilation of a list of facilities at local level, which is a more complex undertaking. Phase two commenced in 2008 with the assistance of local authorities in conjunction with an audit of arts facilities and an audit of community facilities which was being undertaken by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The returns received from Local Authorities have been collated into a database of over 6,000 records and are currently being cross checked against the Department's Sports Capital Programme records. The mapping of the records has begun. The outcome of the audit will assist in identifying gaps in sporting facilities and will therefore provide very valuable information for any future rounds of sports capital funding.

National Aquatic Centre

Olwyn Enright

Question:

19 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport whether she has received details of any outstanding liabilities arising from a recent court case (details supplied); if the parties involved have already or plan to re-enter arbitration; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36750/10]

A lease for the operation of the National Aquatic Centre, which was constructed by the former Campus Stadium Ireland Development Limited (CSID), was agreed in April 2003 between CSID and Dublin WaterWorld Ltd. As was provided for under the VAT legislation in force at that time, a VAT invoice for €10,254,600 was issued to Dublin WaterWorld Ltd. upon the creation of this lease. As this payment was not made by Dublin Waterworld Ltd. CSID, at a meeting in September 2003, instructed its legal advisors to proceed to recover the outstanding amount.

The non-payment of this VAT invoice was among a number of breaches of the lease subsequently lodged in a Statement of Claim by CSID with the High Court (Commercial Court) in 2005. The outcome of the substantive proceedings in this matter was the vacating of the Centre by the previous operator and its return to the direct control of the former CSID, now the National Sports Campus Authority (NSCDA).

The question of the VAT charge on the lease of the National Aquatic Centre was referred by the High Court to Arbitration and following the submission of documents an oral Arbitration was held on 28 June 2005. The Arbitrator found that the amount of VAT charged by CSID on the capitalised value of the lease to DWW was correctly charged. The matter was returned to the High Court which upheld the Arbitrator's award. The defendant — Dublin WaterWorld Ltd. — appealed this judgment to the Supreme Court. The matter came before the Supreme Court in November 2009, and the findings of the Court were issued on 30th April last. In a further hearing on 11th May, the Supreme Court ordered the award of the arbitration be set aside and that the matter be referred back to an independent Arbitrator for further consideration.

The Court also made an award of costs in respect of the High Court and Supreme Court proceedings in favour of the defendant/appellant — Dublin WaterWorld Ltd. The level of such costs is yet to be determined and may in time be decided upon by the Taxing Master. Following the issuance of the Supreme Court decision, the National Sports Campus Development Authority considered the matter in detail and sought the advice of its legal and tax advisers on the implications of this ruling. The Authority has since decided that it would be prudent and in the best interests of the Authority not to proceed any further with the Arbitration process. The Authority has conveyed its decision to the legal representatives of Dublin WaterWorld Limited.

Video Game Industry

Emmet Stagg

Question:

20 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport her plans to develop a dedicated strategy for the gaming industry here; to use this strategy to encourage young persons to acquire third level education in gaming and ICT with a view to further developing our gaming business and wholesale ICT expertise; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36705/10]

Willie Penrose

Question:

26 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport her plans to establish a consultation process with the video game industry here and with major international companies where they can consult with the Government on how to develop Ireland as a hub for the development of the video game industry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36704/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 20 and 26 together.

A Strategy Framework Group for the Audiovisual Content Production Industry was established by my Department last year. This Group will assist in providing a clear vision and strategy for the future of the industry and a response to an ever-evolving market place. The computer and video games sector is an important subsector of the audiovisual content creation industry. While the remit of the aforementioned group is primarily that of film and television content production, the group will also touch on this particular subsector. I understand that the Group will conclude its report in the coming weeks.

North-South Co-operation

Seymour Crawford

Question:

21 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport the discussions she has had with her opposite number in Northern Ireland; their discussions on the greater promotion of the Border region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36640/10]

Promotion of particular regions as tourist destinations is a matter for the relevant tourism agencies. The work is primarily undertaken by Tourism Ireland in respect of overseas promotion and Fáilte Ireland and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board in respect of domestic promotion. In terms of meetings between Government Ministers from the North and South, these meetings take place on a bilateral basis to discuss particular issues, more broadly in the format of a North/South Ministerial Council (NSMC) Plenary meeting or, where the sector is identified as a formal area of North South cooperation, a NSMC Sectoral meeting.

With regard to my areas of responsibility, as the Deputy will be aware, tourism was specifically identified in the Good Friday Agreement as one of the key areas for North/South cooperation, and consequently it is one of the sectors on which the North/South Ministerial Council meets in Sectoral format. The Council meets in this format in order to make decisions on common policies and approaches in the area of tourism. It also takes decisions on policies and actions to be implemented by Tourism Ireland Limited, a publicly owned limited company established to promote the island of Ireland overseas as a tourist destination.

In terms of meetings between the respective Ministers with responsibility for tourism, there have been a total of ten North/South Ministerial Council meetings in Tourism Sectoral format. The most recent one took place on the 16th June last in Armagh when I met with the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland, Ms Arlene Foster MLA. Among the items discussed at this meeting were the challenging environment for tourism globally and Tourism Ireland's Business Plan for 2010, including its plans to focus on best prospect markets and spread the value message in tactical marketing campaigns. The next such meeting will take place in the coming months.

On the sports side, I also had a meeting with my Northern Ireland counterpart, the Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Nelson McCausland MLA, at the opening of the Aviva Stadium in May where we discussed a number of sporting issues of mutual interest. Finally, I also attended the tenth Plenary meeting of the North South Ministerial Council at Farmleigh House on 5th July last. Minister Arlene Foster, MLA and Minister Nelson McCausland, MLA also attended this meeting.

Sports Capital Programme

Denis Naughten

Question:

22 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport her plans to reintroduce the sports capital programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36638/10]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

34 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport when the sports capital budget will be reopened; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36693/10]

John O'Mahony

Question:

44 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport if she will provide an indication as to when new funding will become available for local sports facilities in light of the commitments outlined by the Government Infrastructure Investment Priorities 2010 to 2016; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36795/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 22, 34 and 44 together.

Under the Sports Capital Programme, funding is allocated to sporting and to voluntary and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. Given the current budgetary situation and the high level of outstanding commitments it was considered prudent to pause prior to announcing the next round of the Programme and accordingly no date has been set for the next round of the Programme. In the interim, the Department has been managing the drawdown of funds allocated under earlier rounds of the programme, and there is obviously no question of rowing back on allocations already made. The current position remains that €48 million has been provided in the Department's vote in the 2010 Estimates to cover payments to be made from the C1 subhead, out of which grants are paid for the provision of sports and recreation facilities.

Around 1,000 payments will be made to projects being undertaken this year across the country. These projects will allow clubs to drain pitches, erect floodlighting, build changing rooms and sports halls and generally increase the opportunities for people to engage in sports at all levels. The Deputy will be aware that since 1998, €730m has been allocated 7,400 projects nationwide which has transformed the level of sports facilities throughout the country.

Broadcasting Services

Liz McManus

Question:

23 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport her views on the proposals for free to air transmission of certain sporting events; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36703/10]

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources is statutorily required to consult with me before making an order or amending an order to list events of major importance which must be available on free television service. I have made a written submission to the Minister on this issue and I intend to engage further with the Minister prior to the Government taking a decision on this issue. I believe that there is a need to maintain a balance between the rights of the public to have free to air access to sports events and the rights of sporting bodies to fund and thereby sustain and develop their sport.

Question No. 24 answered with Question No. 17.

National Archives

Denis Naughten

Question:

25 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport her plans to review the outreach programmes of the National Archives to other exhibition centres throughout the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36637/10]

As I have explained in response to a similar question on 29th September 2010, the position is that the National Archives has the three following travelling exhibitions in store:

"A Nation and not a Rabble" — Ireland in the year July 1921-June 1922;

"The Calamitous Fire" — the destruction of the Public Record Office of Ireland, June 1922;

"Lovers of Liberty?" — 100 years of Local Government in Ireland.

These were prepared and exhibited extensively in the late 1990s, and have been exhibited more occasionally since then.

In recent years the limited resources available to the National Archives for outreach have been concentrated mainly on the development of its website and the digital publication of the 1901 and 1911 Census Returns. In addition to the Census Returns themselves, the website includes extensive contextual material, describing life in early 20th century Ireland, supported by many photographs illustrating life at the time. The inclusion of the contextual material is particularly helpful to teachers using this resource in the classroom, and the website is proving very popular in secondary school history classes. The resources available to the National Archives preclude an expansion of its outreach service for the present.

Question No. 26 answered with Question No. 20.
Question No. 27 answered with Question No. 10.

Cultural Events

Joe Costello

Question:

28 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, in view of the continuing success of the culture night initiative, if she has given consideration to holding a second culture night each spring, in order to generate further interest in our cultural offerings; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36687/10]

Culture Night 2010 took place on the 24th of September last in 20 locations throughout the country, with some 500 cultural venues remaining open until late in the evening to provide the public with free access to the various collections, workshops and other events. Culture Night has grown from a relatively small scale cultural event staged only in Dublin in 2006 to the significant national cultural event it now is, attracting over 200,000 visitors in 2009 and even greater attendance figures are expected from the 2010 event.

Temple Bar Cultural Trust co-ordinates the Dublin Culture Night event in association with the Council of National Cultural Institutions, Temple Bar Cultural Quarter, Dublin City Council, art and cultural institutions and other agencies. My Department has provided funding to the Trust for the event since 2006 and in 2008, requested the Trust to consider an expansion of the Culture Night model to cities and towns outside of Dublin. The success of this matched funding initiative in 2008 led to my Department agreeing to fund further expansions in 2009 and 2010. This year's was the most extensive Culture Night to date, with locations from Cork to Donegal and Galway to Wexford participating, including Gaeltacht regions for the first time ever. In addition, the Dublin event included a specific programme of events, celebrating the designation of Dublin as UNESCO City of Literature.

Discussions are ongoing as to the most appropriate way to build on the success and popularity of Culture Night. You will appreciate that these discussions must have regard to the resources available to my Department and to the many competing demands on these resources. St. Patrick's Festival, also part-funded by Fáilte Ireland through my Department's allocation, is, of course, the primary cultural festival during the Spring. There is a clear logic to the St. Patrick's Festival and Culture Night activities being currently positioned at the beginning and end of our main tourism season.

Swimming Pool Projects

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

29 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport if she will increase the capital grants for local authorities for the provision of swimming pools [30474/10]

Jack Wall

Question:

31 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport when the local authority swimming pool programme will be reopened; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36694/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 29 and 31 together.

The current round of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme, operated by the Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport provides grant aid to a maximum of €3.8m to Local Authorities, towards the capital cost of new swimming pools or the refurbishment of existing pools. Where a project is being undertaken by an organisation other than a local authority, the project must be considered, supported and submitted by the relevant local authority. Under the current programme which closed for applications in 2000, 46 pools have been opened throughout the country with a further 11 pools at various stages of development. The total expenditure of €144.9m under the Programme from 2000 to date has leveraged a total investment of some €406m in swimming pools throughout the country.

The allocation of €7.5m in 2010 will be sufficient to meet commitments arising in 2010 under the current round of the Local Authority Swimming Pool programme. No decision has been taken on the timing of a new round of the Programme. The question of funding a new round of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme will be considered in the Annual Estimates for 2011 and beyond, which are currently underway.

Departmental Reports

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

30 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport her plans to work with the Department of Education and Skills to implement the recommendations of the Arts in Education report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36707/10]

I refer the Deputy to my previous answers in the House on this issue. The Deputy will recall that this Report contained a number of wide-ranging recommendations which impacted on the work of this Department, the Department of Education and Skills and the Arts Council. In the light of the financial and other resource implications of these recommendations, many of which fall into the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Education and Skills, their implementation will be kept under review in the light of future allocations and changing Exchequer circumstances.

Question No. 31 answered with Question No. 29.

Arts Funding

Martin Ferris

Question:

32 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport if she will ensure that funding for the arts will not be further cut in the budget. [36650/10]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

35 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport if she will maintain the existing levels of funding to all agencies for the arts including the Arts Council, the Irish Film Board and Culture Ireland; if she will also protect local authority funding for the arts and make significant new funding available to act as a stimulus for cultural tourism in the upcoming budget. [36651/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 32 and 35 together.

I am committed to supporting the crucial constituent sectors of arts and culture and the Government will continue to fund those sectors within limited available financial resources. Decisions regarding funding, whether within my Department's Vote or on the part of other relevant Departments will, however, have to be taken in the context of the ongoing Estimates and budgetary preparation processes, and in the light of the target aggregate Exchequer savings to be achieved for 2011. In this context, I should like to acknowledge the concerns raised by the recent Campaign for the Arts and to reaffirm my commitment to maximising the place and status of the arts in society.

My policy on the arts, culture and film sectors reflects Government Policy in this area as set out in the Programme for Government. This policy is to promote and strengthen the arts in all its forms, increase access to and participation in the arts, make the arts an integral and valued part of our national life, and maximise the potential for cultural tourism. I will endeavour to maximise funding for these sectors, commensurate with their centrality to our economic and social well being.

Tourism Promotion

Joe Costello

Question:

33 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport her plans to increase the volume of overseas visitors to 2007 peak levels as stated in the Government policy document Trading and Investing in a Smart Economy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35230/10]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

43 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport her expectations for the tourism industry in 2011 and the measures proposed to achieve targets in same. [36642/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

192 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport if she and or her Department have drawn up a plan for the future of the tourism sector with particular emphasis of job retention and creation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37074/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 33, 43 and 192 together.

I have acknowledged on many occasions that we are currently in a very challenging period for Irish tourism. Figures for the first six months of the year show that although we welcomed over 2.6 million overseas visitors, this represented a reduction of 20.5% on the corresponding 2009 levels. Last year, when Tourism Ireland finalised its Business Plan for 2010, it set the ambitious target of growing visitor numbers by 3% against the background of a forecast decline in numbers. Clearly the target for visitor numbers will not now be met. While this is disappointing, it must be viewed in context.

Tourism worldwide has been deeply affected by global economic difficulties and loss of consumer confidence. Furthermore, the exceptional weather conditions in the early part of the year and the closure of airports in April and May due to the volcanic ash cloud meant that it was inevitable that a fall off in the numbers of people travelling, particularly in North west Europe, would be experienced in the first half of 2010. On the positive side, it should be noted that the latest published monthly figures for June 2010, show a monthly fall of 5.7 % compared to June 2009 which is significantly less than the year-on-year fall witnessed for the earlier months of 2010. Furthermore, the number of visitors from North America and other long haul destinations actually increased in June 2010 compared to June 2009 by 1.4% and 4.1% respectively. Visitors from these markets are particularly important for the tourism sector as they tend to stay longer and spend more than visitors from our nearer markets.

With regard to future targets,Trading and Investing in a Smart Economy — a Strategy and Action Plan for Irish Trade, Tourism and Investment to 2015, launched on the 28th September last, sets a target of increasing visitor numbers to 8 million by 2015. The Strategy provides for 15,000 new jobs to be generated directly in the tourism sector by this growth in numbers. In terms of achieving these targets, the Report recognises that in the short to medium term, Ireland’s best prospects from a tourism perspective are in the United States, Great Britain and the major European markets like Germany, France, Italy and Spain. In the longer term it highlights the Asia-Pacific region as one of the fastest growing outbound tourism markets and in this regard China and India will be the highest priorities for Ireland. Tourism Ireland was represented on the High Level Group which drafted the new Strategy and it is envisaged will also be represented on the new Foreign Trade Council which is being established for the purpose of monitoring, reviewing and promoting implementation of the agreed targets as set out in the Strategy.

In terms of expectations for 2011, Tourism Ireland is finalising its Business Plan for next year at present, for subsequent approval by the North/South Ministerial Council. I understand that, drawing on the overall strategic objectives set out in Government policy, it will contain targets for returning to growth next year from all our significant overseas markets. Activity being planned by Tourism Ireland includes leveraging the strength of St Patrick's Day, targeting the Irish diaspora abroad and emphasising the great value on offer in Ireland for visitors. New infrastructure, such as the recently opened Convention Centre Dublin, will also be used to promote Ireland overseas as a professional conference and business tourism destination. Events such as the Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle in 2011, the start of the Tall Ships Race Series which will be hosted by Waterford in 2011, the UEFA Cup Final at the Aviva Stadium in 2011, Irish Craft Year 2011 and the Volvo Ocean Race which returns to Galway in 2012, can be used to attract significant publicity around the world. They will provide valuable opportunities to place Ireland in the international spotlight and showcase the many attractions that we have to offer as a holiday destination.

On the domestic front, Fáilte Ireland will continue its significant investment in tourism product and services and will also continue to support local festivals and events. These, together with Fáilte's highly successful "holiday at home" marketing campaign, are playing a key role in boosting tourist revenues around the country as well as boosting employment.

In summary, while we have certainly gone through a difficult recent period for Irish tourism, I believe that the Government is pursuing the right programmes and measures to support the continued development of tourism. We are working with the industry and the tourism agencies in order to position the tourism sector for recovery and growth as part of the Government's wider strategy for economic renewal. I am confident that the necessary supports are in place to ensure that the ambitious targets previously outlined will be achieved in the years ahead.

Question No. 34 answered with Question No. 22.
Question No. 35 answered with Question No. 32.

Departmental Agencies

John O'Mahony

Question:

36 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport if the Comptroller and Auditor General has audited the accounts of the National Sports Campus Development Authority; the outstanding liabilities the authority has on foot of recent Supreme Court proceedings; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36796/10]

I have been informed by the National Sports Campus Development Authority that the annual accounts of the Authority are currently being audited by the C&AG. Upon completion of the audit and sign off on the accounts by the C&AG, I expect to receive a copy of the financial statements for 2009 from the Authority, which will be placed in the Library of the Houses of the Oireachtas. In relation to outstanding liabilities for the Authority arising from recent Supreme Court proceedings, the Court made an award of costs in respect of the High Court and Supreme Court proceedings in favour of the defendant/appellant — Dublin WaterWorld Ltd. The level of such costs is yet to be determined and may in time be decided upon by the Taxing Master.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

37 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport the role of the National Sports Campus Development Authority; the authority’s progress in identifying and prioritising the next phase of the development of a stadium (details supplied); what the next phase of the development will be; if the full €30 million set aside in the National Development Plan 2007 to 2013 will be made available to the authority; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36824/10]

The National Sports Campus Development Authority was established on 1 January 2007 under the National Sports Campus Development Authority Act, 2006. The principal functions of the Authority as specified in the Act are:

To develop a sports campus at Abbotstown, Co Dublin.

To furnish and equip the sports campus.

To manage, operate and maintain the sports campus.

To encourage and promote the use of the sports campus by professional and amateur sports people and members of the public.

The Government is advancing the development of new national sports facilities at Abbotstown as resources permit. The availability of funding for this project is therefore being considered in the context of the budgetary process for 2011 and beyond.

In parallel to the core National Sports Campus project, the National Sports Campus Development Authority is also continuing its strategy of redeveloping and refurbishing the existing buildings on the Abbotstown site for use by the wider sporting community, in particular the National Governing Bodies of Sport. It is intended that those buildings which can be cost effectively refurbished for new uses and which do not constrain the Master Plan for the Campus facilities will be retained.

The first such building was the former State Laboratory, which was refurbished as a new headquarters for the Football Association of Ireland (FAI). Work was completed in November 2007 within budget and the FAI took occupancy shortly afterwards. The second strand of this strategy was the refurbishment of the former Central Meat Control Laboratory as a new headquarters for the Irish Institute of Sport. Construction work on the project commenced in December 2008 and was completed at the end of August 2009. The Institute has since taken up occupation of their new headquarters. The Authority itself also relocated its offices to the refurbished Institute building.

The next strand of this strategy, the renovation of the former Marine Institute building to provide on-Campus office accommodation for other sporting bodies, is currently underway. The Authority, together with the Irish Sports Council and the Office of Public Works, are continuing work on finalisation of the detailed plans for this new facility.

The Authority — through its wholly owned subsidiary, NSCDA (Operations) Limited — is also responsible for the day-to-day management and operation of the National Aquatic Centre. Based on Fáilte Ireland statistics for 2008, the Centre was the fourth most popular paying visitor attraction in the State with some 707,000 visits. During 2009, the number of visitors to the Centre increased to 723,000. In 2009, Swim Ireland established a new High Performance Centre at the National Aquatic Centre. This has seen Swim Ireland base their High Performance Coach at the Centre and reconfirms the Centre as the country's foremost aquatics facility. Throughout 2009, some 31 new national swimming records were set at the Centre. In addition, the Centre has achieved numerous leisure industry awards. Over the course of the past two years, the Authority have been actively promoting the Centre as an ideal training base for international teams in the run up to the London 2012 Olympic Games. I am delighted to report that on foot of this activity the USA Synchronized Swimming team has chosen the National Aquatic Centre as its training base for the 2012 Olympics.

Since May of this year, the Authority (again through its subsidiary) has taken over responsibility for the day-to-day operation of Morton Stadium, Santry — our national athletics stadium. As with the National Aquatic Centre, the Authority are continuing to promote Morton Stadium as an ideal pre-Olympic training base — particularly given the recent installation of a Mondo running track, identical to that which will be installed in the London Olympic stadium.

London Olympics

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

38 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport the preparations in place to encourage high quality Irish representation at the London Olympics and the official financial support available for same. [36641/10]

The Irish Sports Council (ISC), which is funded by my Department, was established on a statutory basis on 1st July 1999, and the functions of the Council are outlined in Section 6 of the Irish Sports Council Act 1999. Section 6(1)(a) states that one of the functions of the Council shall be “to encourage the promotion, development and coordination of competitive sport and the achievement of excellence in competitive sport.”

In pursuit of its statutory responsibility in this regard, the Irish Sports Council works in partnership with the Olympic Council of Ireland, the Paralympic Council, the Irish Institute of Sport and the relevant national governing bodies of sport, for all matters, including funding, relating to the preparation and participation of Irish competitors at the Olympic Games. The funding required to support these activities is met from the annual grant in aid provided to the Irish Sports Council which in 2010 amounts to €49.572m. Funding in the years leading up to the London 2012 Olympic Games will be finalised in the context of the annual Estimates process, which in respect of 2011, is currently underway.

Sports Funding

Mary Upton

Question:

39 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport in view of the costs to the publicly funded Irish Sports Council of the legal costs it incurred by the action taken by the former chairperson of Athletics Ireland, if she is now willing to make it a condition of State funding that all governing bodies be required to sign up to a dispute resolution service such as the Just Sport Ireland initiative; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36701/10]

I consider that there is great potential for the Just Sport Ireland initiative which was established by the Federation of Irish Sports in 2007 as a specialised independent arbitration and mediation facility and I have asked the Sports Council to promote its use.

London Olympics

Brian O'Shea

Question:

40 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport from the expenditure of €114,000 for a consultants’ report on the potential benefits to Ireland from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games her estimate of the economic return to the State to date; the likely return on this expenditure between now and the end of the London 2012 Olympics; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36695/10]

A high-level coordinating group, chaired by my Department, is identifying at the opportunities that may arise for Ireland, across the sports, tourism and cultural sectors, from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The group comprises representatives from Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Ireland, the Arts Council, Culture Ireland, the Irish Sports Council, the Olympic Council of Ireland, Paralympic Council of Ireland and the Department of Foreign Affairs. The discussions of the group are taking into account the current economic situation and the findings of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics Task Force Report which was published last year. The Task Force report made a number of recommendations arising from an audit carried out of high quality sports facilities in Ireland and the findings of a report by Indecon International Economic Consultants on the economic evaluation of the benefit to the island of Ireland of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games.

Given our proximity to London and the many accessible routes to and from the United Kingdom, we can benefit from a sporting, tourism and culture perspective. The hosting in Ireland of Olympic and Paralympic teams for training purposes leading up to the Games has potential, while the economic benefits of securing additional tourists to Ireland before, during and after the Games are significant.

In terms of the tourism potential of the event, a number of specific initiatives are being undertaken by the Tourism Agencies to seek to maximise the potential benefits to Irish tourism of having the Olympics in London. These measures include:

Working with the official tour operators responsible for co-ordinating the travel arrangements for athletes participating in the Games to ensure that Ireland is included as a destination for pre and post-Olympics packages.

Arranging pre and post-Olympics familiarisation visits for key media contacts who are attending the London Olympics. These visits will showcase the sports facilities and cultural product on offer throughout Ireland.

Targeting tourists from London who may wish to get away from the city when the games are in progress, by offering good value offers and packages linked to other events in Ireland and presenting Ireland as a place to escape to and relax.

Since there will be reduced accommodation and carrier capacity available for visitors who wish to travel to London when the Olympics are on, Tourism Ireland will also be working with UK inbound tour operators to offer alternatives which would fill any gaps in their normal programmes, thereby diverting business to Ireland.

Fáilte Ireland supported University College Dublin in their launch as a potential Olympic Training camp venue and also supported the European Triathlon Championships this year in Athlone.

The Tourism agencies are also working with Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland and Bord Bia, as well as their counterparts in the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, VisitLondon and VisitBritain, to identify other opportunities to maximise the tourism potential of the London Olympics for Ireland.

One of the issues that the London 2012 coordinating group is looking at is Ireland's potential to attract international teams and athletes for training camps in the lead up to London 2012. The Deputy may be aware that the American Olympic Synchronized Swimming Squad has chosen the National Aquatic Centre as its pre-Olympic Training Base for the London Games. The squad of over 20 swimmers and team officials will be based in Dublin for three separate periods and will be joined in Ireland by family members and friends at various stages during their stays. My Department is also producing a CD which will contain the details of a number of Irish elite sports facilities which are suitable as pre-London training camps. This CD will be promoted through the network of National Olympic/Paralympic Committees and the Irish Embassies abroad in the coming months.

The Arts Council and Culture Ireland are developing proposals for a cultural programme which would include participation in the Cultural Olympiad of Irish culture groups and the organisation of a cultural programme in Ireland targeted at those of Irish descent living in the UK. These are some of the practical areas of work that are underway. The high-level coordinating group will continue to meet on an ongoing basis over the next two years to maximise opportunities from the London 2012 Games.

Departmental Expenditure

Sean Sherlock

Question:

41 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport the expenditure savings her Department is being required to make in the forthcoming budget; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36697/10]

As the Deputy will appreciate I am not in a position to outline the Estimates for my Department for 2011 in advance of publication of the Budget, preparations for which are currently under way.

Question No. 42 answered with Question No. 17.
Question No. 43 answered with Question No. 33.
Question No. 44 answered with Question No. 22.

Arts Promotion

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

45 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport if she is willing to establish, initially on a pilot basis, a local arts partnership, similar to the successful local sports partnerships in order to increase participation in arts and culture; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36709/10]

It is my belief that the arts are critical to the well-being of society, enhancing the life of local communities, and giving artistic expression to place and identity. Much work has been done to develop the arts at a local level, not necessarily based on the Local Sports Partnership (LSP) model, which is a specific model of practice. The LSP concept was developed under the remit of the Irish Sports Council (ISC) in 2000 as a means to coordinate and promote the development of sport. The majority of the LSPs operate under the aegis of the relevant local authority.

The Arts Council, has worked strategically with local authorities for 25 years in developing the arts at local level. This model focuses more on embedding arts expertise at the heart of the local authority service. Each of the 34 local authorities in Ireland employs a full-time Arts Officer. In many instances local authorities lead in providing a broader Arts Service, employing several specialist arts staff in addition to the Arts Officer.

In November a conference will be held to mark 25 years of Arts Council and Local Authority partnership. Senior contributors from Ireland, the UK and Australia will explore the role of the arts and culture in local development at the conference.

Graduate Support Schemes

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

46 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills her plans to provide work experience for 1,000 graduates to gain work experience in Departments as outlined in the programme for Government; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37022/10]

The Government introduced last year the Work Placement Programme (WPP) to provide valuable work experience to graduates and non-graduates who are unemployed. The WPP applies to all sectors of the economy, including the Civil and Public Service. The aim of the programme is to keep the unemployed close to the labour market and to provide them with relevant work experience that will assist them in their search for employment.

In line with the Government's commitment under the Renewed Programme for Government, which provides for the taking on of 1,000 graduates across the Public Service in order to provide them with work experience, in July of this year the Department of Finance wrote to all Personnel Officers in Government Departments encouraging them and their respective agencies to avail of the WPP as a vehicle to facilitate this commitment.

To date 113 Public Sector providers have been approved to provide places under the WPP and it is envisaged that this number will increase significantly over the coming months.

School Accommodation

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

47 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an additional grant to a school (details supplied) to enable the school commence building the classroom and resource rooms which are so badly required; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36859/10]

In September 2007 the school referred to by the Deputy was allocated a grant to provide one new mainstream classroom and two new resource rooms under the Department's Permanent Accommodation Scheme.

The management authority of the school recently contacted my Department's Building Unit requesting additional funding and also indicated that they wish to change the scope of works from what was originally approved.

The matter is currently being considered by my Department and the school authority will be notified of the decision as soon as possible.

Procurement Policy

Chris Andrews

Question:

48 Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the procurement policy regarding schools buying equipment from non-domestic based companies and if there is a threshold and any guidance. [36863/10]

Schools using state funds for the purpose of purchasing equipment are required to abide by the relevant public procurement requirements.

The nature of the public procurement requirements varies depending on the size and characteristics of the contract to be awarded and the nature of the contracting authority.

Guidelines on procurement policy and the relevant thresholds applicable for advertising in the Official Journal of the EU (OJEU) are available on the e-Tenders website (www.etenders.gov.ie).

Departmental Staff

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

49 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the number of employees within her Department, male and female, who have been approved for participation in the Civil Service flexible working scheme; the number of employees, male and female, who have been refused leave to participate in the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36881/10]

243 employees within my Department participate in the civil service worksharing scheme. The breakdown of this figure is 228 females and 15 males.

The operation of the scheme is subject to the principle that the operating requirements of Departments are not adversely affected. All applications to participate in the scheme are considered in this context and while my Department makes all reasonable efforts to accommodate requests from staff to participate in the scheme, it has been necessary to refuse 2 applications (both female) to workshare over the last 12 months.

Higher Education Grants

John Deasy

Question:

50 Deputy John Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the reason a person (details supplied) in County Waterford has been prevented from obtaining a top up third level grant due to the changeover from lone parent allowance to jobseeker’s allowance; if she will examine this anomaly and ensure a combination of time on long-term social welfare payments is acceptable for top up purposes; if she will investigate this case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36924/10]

The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter, in the first instance, for the relevant grant awarding authority i.e. the applicant's local authority or VEC.

Where a grant application is refused, the reason for the refusal is given by the grant awarding authority.

An applicant may appeal the decision to the relevant local authority or VEC.

Where the grant awarding authority decides to reject the appeal, the applicant may appeal this decision to my Department by submitting an appeal form outlining clearly the grounds for the appeal.

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

To qualify for the Special Rate of maintenance grant, an applicant must qualify for the ordinary maintenance grant in respect of the 2010/11 academic year. In addition, total reckonable income must not exceed a specified amount, which is €22,703 in the 2009 tax year. On the operative date, 31st December 2009 for the 2010/11 academic year, the reckonable income must include one of the eligible long-term Social Welfare payments prescribed under the scheme.

Schools Building Projects

Liz McManus

Question:

51 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application by a school (details supplied) in County Carlow to be included in the 2011 capital programme in view of the school’s great need and that the planning application for the project expires in June 2012; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36925/10]

A project for the school referred to by the Deputy is currently at an advanced stage of architectural planning. The design team are currently working on completing a revised stage 2(b) submission which will be submitted to my Department for technical review. The school have recently advised my Department that the design team anticipate forwarding the submission later this month.

Following receipt and review of the stage 2(b) submission, the further progression of this project will be considered in the context of my Department’s multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme for 2011 and subsequent years.

However, it is not possible to give a more indicative timeframe for the progression of the project to tender and construction at this time.

Course Certificates

Liz McManus

Question:

52 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the reason a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow has not received their results from the college even though they were due in July; the reason these delays have occurred; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36926/10]

I understand from the college concerned that in April 2010, the person referred to by the Deputy attended a Sports Stadium Steward course. On commencement of the course, all participants were informed that they would be entered for FETAC assessment in November 2010 and that certificates would be issued by FETAC in January 2011.

Site Acquisitions

Emmet Stagg

Question:

53 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the purchase of a site for a new school (details supplied) in Naas, County Kildare. [36964/10]

My Department is acutely aware of the need for additional permanent school accommodation in the general Naas area and to this end, my Department is currently in the process of acquiring sites in the Naas area for educational use. Pending the acquisition of these sites, the Deputy will appreciate that I am not in a position to say definitively whether the school referred to by the Deputy will be housed on the proposed sites.

FÁS Training Programmes

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

54 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the number of apprentices currently engaged each year in the FÁS apprenticeship programme; the number of those apprentices not currently engaged in an apprenticeship; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36974/10]

I refer the Deputy to the reply given to Parliamentary Question 36506/10 of 12 October 2010.

Departmental Expenditure

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

55 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the recommendations contained in the Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes that pertain to his Department; the detail of each and proposed savings relating to his Department; which of these have been implemented to date and the expected savings to be achieved on each of these in one calendar year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36991/10]

The recommendations made in the report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes relating to my Department are set out in Chapter 6 of the second volume of the Group's report. In addition, recommendations in relation to Labour Force Development are set out in Chapter 7. These recommendations were fully assessed and considered by my Department. The recommendations which were incorporated in Budget 2010, together with estimated savings yields for 2010 where relevant, are set out in the attached table.

The recommendations made by the Special Group will be further considered and will assist in the context of agreeing the expenditure allocation for my Department for 2011 and future years.

Department of Education and Skills

Implementation of recommendations of report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes

Comment regarding allocation for 2010

Staffing efficiencies in the primary/post-primary sectors

Savings from cessation of supply teacher scheme at primary level and changes to uncertified sick leave for teachers. (There was also a further reduction of €20m arising from an estimating reduction in light of the projected 2009 outturn).

Reduction in the number of Special Needs Assistants

A Nationwide review of SNA posts undertaken by the National Council for Special Education has resulted in an overall net reduction of some 439 SNA posts to date (when account is taken for reductions as a result of students having left school and diminishing care needs of other students, offset by allocations in respect of new students). However, the net change in 2010 numbers over 2009 will not be known until the impact of increases for demographics is known at end of year.

Integration of Senior Traveller Training

Reduction of 300 in number of Senior Traveller Training places

Staffing efficiencies across third level sector

Savings estimated in respect of pay and non-pay efficiencies

Merge Higher Education Authority (HEA) into the Department of Education and Science

No merger but allocation to HEA reduced

Reduction in the allocation for teacher training colleges

Savings estimated in relation to pre-service teacher education

Reduction in the allocation for Research and Development

Partial reduction

Reduction in the allocation to the Strategic Innovation Fund

Partial reduction

Reduction in the allocation to Student Support Grant

5% reduction in rates of student grants and scholarships applied, providing €10m in savings. Further €4m in savings effected by removal of eligibility for student support grants from recipients of Back to Education Allowance and certain persons pursuing PLC courses. (Note — overall allocation for student supports for 2010 was increased to take account of an anticipated increase in the number of eligible students at third level).

Reduce allocation to school transport

Partial reduction

Reduce allocation for teacher in-service training & funding for education centres

Savings and efficiencies effected in relation to teacher in-service education support

Absorb National Council for Special Education (NCSE) into the Department of Education and Science

NCSE not absorbed but allocation reduced

Reduce allocation to certain Local Drugs Task Force (LDTF) Projects

Funding for 2010 reduced

Reduction in allocation for National Council for Curriculum and Assessment

Funding for 2010 reduced

Discontinue National University of Ireland and transfer functions

Bill to establish a new qualifications and quality assurance agency for the further and higher education sectors is being prepared. The NUI will be discontinued as part of this process.

Funding of FAS Services to Business and Skillnets

The FAS Services Budget was reduced to €5.368m in 2010

Savings on Training for the Unemployed

FAS Training Allowances were abolished for participants who do not qualify for Jobseekers Benefit/Allowances

Schools Recognition

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

56 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the contact she has had with an organisation (details supplied) regarding their campaign for a school in the City West Tallaght area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37008/10]

In July 2008 Notifications of Intention to apply for recognition for two new primary schools in the Tallaght/Firhouse and Saggart/Rathcoole/Newcastle areas were received by my Department from the patron body referred to by the Deputy. A review of the procedures for the establishment of new primary schools is currently being carried out under the Commission on School Accommodation. In the interim it is not proposed to recognise any new primary schools, except in areas where the increases in pupil numbers cannot be catered for in existing schools and which require the provision of new schools. The Commission is due to report to me shortly at which time I will have to consider the policy matters and necessary arrangements and revised procedures that will need to be put in place. The Forward Planning Section of my Department has carried out a study of the country to identify the areas where, due to demographic changes, there may be a requirement for significant additional school provision at both primary and post-primary levels over the coming years. The study indicated that the requirement for additional primary provision in the short to medium term is likely to be greatest in more than 40 identified locations across the country based on significant changes to the demographics of those areas. The Tallaght/Firhouse/Oldbawn area was included in these initial identified areas, whereas Newcastle/Rathcoole/Saggart was not. The most recent projections used by my Department would see the projected enrolments at primary level increase from the current total enrolment of circa 505,600 pupils to an expected enrolment of circa 563,300 pupils by the year 2016. It is within this context that the Forward Planning Section of my Department will continue to analyse demographic trends to determine the level of additional provision which will be required into the future. Overall school requirements in the area referred to will be considered in this context.

Higher Education Grants

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

57 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the reason a higher education grant has not been awarded in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37035/10]

The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter, in the first instance, for the relevant grant awarding authority i.e. the applicant's local authority or VEC. Where a grant application is refused, the reason for the refusal is given by the grant awarding authority. An applicant may appeal the decision to the relevant local authority or VEC. Where the grant awarding authority decides to reject the appeal, the applicant may appeal this decision to my Department by submitting an appeal form outlining clearly the grounds for the appeal. No appeal has been received by my Department to date from the candidate referred to by the Deputy.

Tax Code

Chris Andrews

Question:

58 Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that in the UK VAT is not payable by schools for the purchase of musical instruments and equipment; if he would consider introducing a similar system here [36871/10]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the provision of education by schools and educational establishments is exempt from VAT under paragraph 4(3) of Schedule 1 of the Value-Added Tax Act 1972 (as amended). Providers of education have no entitlement to reclaim VAT charged to them on purchases of goods or services used in the provision of their VAT-exempt activity of education. This includes VAT incurred on the purchase of musical instruments. It is understood that in the UK musical instruments purchased by schools directly from suppliers are subject to VAT in the normal way. However, local education authorities (LEAs) in the UK are subject to special right-of-recovery VAT rules in certain circumstances and it may be possible for schools acquiring musical instruments through LEAs to benefit in some instances from VAT recovery.

I have no plans to introduce special VAT arrangements in relation to musical instruments or equipment purchased by schools.

Departmental Expenditure

Andrew Doyle

Question:

59 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide details of premises leased on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in Galway city and the amount of rent that is being paid. [36872/10]

The Commissioners of Public Works lease part of the Dockgate Building in Galway city at an annual rent of €922,250. The Department of Agriculture Fisheries occupies approximately 62% of the space while the remaining 38% is occupied by another Government Department.

Vehicle Registration

Brendan Howlin

Question:

60 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Finance in relation to the registration of vehicles, if his attention has been drawn to the fact that since the transfer of this function from the Revenue Commissioners, garage owners in County Wexford have to wait up to one week for an appointment, often must travel considerable distances within the county or even to Dublin for an appointment as most national car test centres in the county open only three days per week; his views on whether this represents a diminution in service compared with the previous arrangement where registration by the Revenue Commissioners was completed if not the same day then within one or two days; the steps that are being taken to remedy this situation which is further damaging the motor industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36918/10]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that on the introduction of vehicle registration tax (VRT) on 1 January 1993, there was a requirement for all vehicles to be presented for examination prior to registration. However, by the early years of this decade, the Revenue Commissioners had adopted a risk-based approach to the registration of vehicles, thus eliminating the need for all vehicles, save those that posed a serious risk of loss to the Exchequer, to be examined prior to registration. While this risk-based approach proved satisfactory to protect the VRT yield, it meant that a significant number of the used vehicles entering the State were being registered in the State without prior examination. The Deputy will be aware that Revenue, as the registration authority for the State, also has a responsibility to ensure that all vehicles presented for registration are registered correctly. This responsibility became more onerous with the transposition into Irish law in March 2009 of EU Directive 2007/46/EC, which laid down minimum European vehicle standards as a pre-condition for registration. While the Directive impacts only on new passenger cars at present, its scope will be extended to all vehicles by 2014. Additionally, other EU Directives will extend obligations on the registration authorities of all Member States to examine all vehicles prior to registration. In addition to the EU vehicle inspection requirements mentioned above, concerns were raised by members of the Oireachtas, An Garda Síochána, the Road Safety Authority and indeed the motor trade regarding the provenance and safety of some of the used vehicles presented for registration. To address these concerns, the Government decided to make legislative provision to allow for the appointment of a competent person to carry out a pre-registration examination on all vehicles presented for registration. The intention of the relevant law was to ensure that all the conditions necessary for the registration of a vehicle and the proper administration of VRT are complied with before a vehicle may be registered in the State. Thus, section 131 of the Finance Act 1992 (as amended by section 104 of the Finance Act 2010) provided for the appointment of a "competent person” to carry out certain functions relating to the registration of vehicles in the State on behalf of the Revenue Commissioners, while section 109 of the Finance Act 2010 provided for the authorisation of such competent person in respect of the collection and payment of the tax to the Revenue Commissioners.

The requirement to have all used vehicles presented for pre-registration examination has presented some new challenges for both Revenue and the competent person appointed to carry out these functions, namely, the NCTS. In consultation with other stakeholders, e.g. the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI), the Farm Tractor & Machinery Trade Association Ltd (FTMTA), Revenue and the NCTS are facing these challenges and have implemented some revised procedures to speed up the registration process. For example, the NCTS have recently put procedures in place to provide additional capacity in their centres, including extending the opening times in some centres and the configuration of two additional centres for registration purposes in order to address current delays. Revenue are examining the possibility of providing electronic facilities for the registration of used vehicles that have been subjected to a pre registration examination.

Revenue is confident that with the implementation of these and other similar initiatives, an efficient user-friendly service will be available to all persons requiring vehicle registration, notwithstanding the fact that the vehicle will, in all cases as provided for in legislation, have to be presented for examination prior to registration.

Frank Feighan

Question:

61 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Finance the reason there is not a similar process in place whereby a person interested in purchasing a camper van in the UK or Northern Ireland for holidays can process the vehicle registration tax outstanding on-line (details supplied); is it legal for a person to buy such a camper, pay for it and present it at an authorised VRT centre where it is weighed and so on and details sent to Wexford and some time later they will come back with the VRT figure; if he will undertake to give some degree of transparency when dealing with these matters.; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37012/10]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they have in place an extensive database of vehicle valuations. From this database, they have built an on-line calculator where members of the public can, through the Internet, calculate the Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) that is payable on a range of vehicle makes and models depending on the characteristics, i.e. age, mileage and condition of each individual vehicle within that make and model range. This database has been set up based on valuations provided by Revenue for vehicles previously presented for registration and is updated on a regular basis to reflect changes in vehicle values in the State.

Because of the uniqueness of many motor caravans (or camper vans), with some built on a once-off basis, Revenue's database does not contain valuation details for every motor caravan available on the market abroad, but only for those models previously valued when presented for registration. It is not always possible, therefore, to get a valuation from Revenue's valuation system for a particular motor caravan that an individual may be interested in purchasing. It should be noted that the same situation prevails for passenger cars, in that many vehicles on sale in the UK and elsewhere are not already on Revenue's database because the models in question may not be generally available in the Irish market or have not been previously presented for registration and have not, therefore, been valued by Revenue's valuation officers.

Regarding the valuation of a particular vehicle, VRT is assessed on the open market selling price (OMSP) of a vehicle in the State. The OMSP is defined in Section 133 of the Finance Act 1992 as the price inclusive of all taxes and duties which, in the opinion of the Revenue Commissioners, the vehicle might reasonably fetch on a first arm's length sale in the open market in the State by retail. Any person who has paid or is liable to pay VRT may appeal to the Revenue Commissioners against the amount of tax charged.

Section 130 of the Finance Act 1992 provides the definition of a motor caravan for VRT purposes. Motor caravans with an unladen weight of not more than 3,000 kilograms are classified as category B — attracting a VRT rate of 13.3% of their OMSP in the State. Motor caravans with an unladen weight in excess of 3,000 kilograms are classified as category C attracting a flat rate of VRT of €50. Vehicles with an unladen weight of not more than 3,000 kilograms with many of the characteristics of a motor caravan, but which fail to meet the motor caravan legal definition, are classified as passenger vehicles (category A) attracting a rate of VRT of between 14% and 36% of OMSP depending on the vehicle's level of CO2 emissions.

For this reason, in order to determine their category for tax purposes, many motor caravans must be weighed before they can be valued because it is not possible for Revenue's valuation officers to assess the VRT due until it has been established to which category the vehicle belongs.

The valuation of vehicles can be a complex activity involving many variables including the identification and classification of the vehicle for VRT purposes, the identification of the exact make, model, version and variant, the identification of the individual characteristics of the vehicle such as the age, condition and mileage and for many vehicles, particularly prestige, rebuilt and once-off vehicles, each vehicle must be valued individually.

The Deputy may wish to note that the Commissioners have made the valuation process undertaken by their staff as transparent as possible by publishing on their web sitewww.revenue.ie 1their internal valuation manual. This manual contains the set of instructions issued to valuation officers detailing the procedures that must be followed in valuing a vehicle. These instructions are freely accessible to members of the public who wish to know the process by which Revenue officials form an opinion as to the value of a vehicle.

Tax Collection

Mary Upton

Question:

62 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance in view of the continuing negative effect of the air travel tax on tourist numbers, airlines and the public finances, the action she has taken to progress the removal or significant reduction of the air travel tax, to help promote Ireland as a potential destination for tourists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36955/10]

The air travel tax was one of a number of Budgetary measures introduced that was necessary in the context of an overall response to the fiscal challenges we face and represents a genuine effort to broaden the tax base in a fair and equitable manner. I have stated before that the impact of the tax on passenger numbers is being overstated.

As the Deputy will be aware, Germany has announced plans to introduce an air travel tax with effect from 1 January 2011.

Jack Wall

Question:

63 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No 472 of 29 September 2010 when a person (details supplied) in County Carlow will receive their P21; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36850/10]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they have requested the necessary details from the person concerned to enable them to issue a PAYE Balancing Statement (P21) for the tax year 2009.

Banking Sector

Joan Burton

Question:

64 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if the National Pension Reserve Fund will participate in and underwrite the Allied Irish Banks rights issue at a fixed price of 50 cent per share irrespective of its prevailing market price at the time of the rights issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36866/10]

In my statement on banking on the 30th September last I indicated that AIB is to raise €5.4bn of capital through a placing and open offer to shareholders of AIB. The transaction is to be fully underwritten by the National Pension Reserve Fund Commission (NPRFC) at a fixed price of €0.50 per share and is expected to be completed in 2010 subject to shareholder and regulatory approval. I am advised that it is the normal practice in underwritten transactions that the underwriting price is fixed at announcement.

Public Service Staff

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

65 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Finance his view on correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36876/10]

The most recent figures (May 2010) regarding the number of men and women that are participating in the worksharing scheme in the civil service is set out on the table below. The Civil Service Worksharing scheme was introduced in all Departments with effect from 1 June 2001. All civil servants, whether established or unestablished, may apply to workshare. The implementation of the Worksharing scheme within Departments is at the discretion of management in light of the needs of the Department and management within each Department has the final decision on applications for participation in the scheme. Whereas Departments are encouraged to make all reasonable efforts to accommodate requests from staff to participate in the scheme, the operation of the scheme is subject to the principle that the operating requirements of Departments are not adversely affected. In addition, all applications to participate in the scheme are considered in the context of the organisational needs of Departments and such organisational needs may make it necessary to limit the number who may participate.

Since the operation of the scheme is a matter for individual Departments, information on the number of applications that have been refused covering all civil service Departments is not available in my Department but I understand that the Deputy is seeking that information from individual Departments.

Non Industrial Civil Servants May 2010

Work Share

Female Headcount

Male Headcount

Total Headcount

Department

5,108

430

5,538

Agriculture, Fisheries & Food

479

25

504

Attorney General

13

0

13

Central Statistics Office

221

28

250

Chief State Solicitor

37

5

42

Communications Energy & Nat. Resources

41

10

51

Community, Equality & Gaeltacht Affairs

23

3

26

Comptroller & Auditor General

4

0

4

Courts Service

170

10

180

Defence

65

1

66

Director Of Public Prosecutions

23

2

25

Education Group

246

20

266

Enterprise Group

165

19

184

Environment Heritage & Local Government

97

15

112

Finance

92

14

106

Foreign Affairs Group

146

7

153

Garda Civilians

293

42

335

Garda Ombudsman

1

2

3

Health & Children

113

9

122

Justice & Law Reform

325

33

358

Legal Aid Board

58

1

59

Office Of Public Works

88

14

102

Oireachtas

31

2

33

Ombudsman

15

2

17

Presidents Establishment

5

0

5

Property Registration Authority

146

28

174

Public Appointments Service

28

0

28

Revenue Commissioners

1,144

89

1,233

Social Protection

897

42

939

State Laboratory

11

0

11

Taoiseach

33

1

34

Tourism, Culture & Sport

17

1

18

Transport

72

5

77

Valuation Office

9

0

9

The above data does not include the National Gallery, CPSA, Prisons and Foreign Affairs local recruits serving abroad.

Departmental Staff

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

66 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Finance the number of employees within his Department, male and female, who have been approved for participation in the Civil Service flexible working scheme; the number of employees, male and female, who have been refused leave to participate in the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36884/10]

The Department of Finance and the civil service has led the way in introducing family friendly policies in the workplace. In this Department and throughout the civil service, staff can avail of a wide range of family friendly working arrangements. However, I understand that the Deputy is referring specifically to the Civil Service Worksharing Scheme in this question. Out of a total staff of 591 (546.89 in whole time equivalent terms), there are currently 93 members of staff (ten men and eighty three women) on a total of 17 different work patterns participating in the Civil Service Worksharing Scheme in my Department.

Although any decisions on worksharing arrangements must be considered in the light of the business needs of the area and the Department, no member of staff has been refused leave to participate in the scheme.

Coastal Protection

Terence Flanagan

Question:

67 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance if he will deal with a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36920/10]

The Office of Public Works has within the past week received further information from Fingal County Council in relation to the applications for funding the Council submitted under the Minor Works scheme for coast protection works in the areas concerned. The information is currently being assessed by the OPW having regard to the eligibility criteria of the scheme, and a decision will be made shortly in relation to the application.

Tax Collection

Phil Hogan

Question:

68 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Finance when a refund of tax will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36976/10]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that while a repayment claim was received from the person concerned, the matter is currently under enquiry and correspondence is ongoing between Revenue and the taxpayer's agent. Revenue will not be in a position to consider the repayment until the veracity of the claim has been established.

Departmental Expenditure

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

69 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Finance the recommendations contained in the report of the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes that pertain to his Department; the detail of each and proposed savings relating to his Department; which of these have been implemented to date and the expected savings to be achieved on each of these in one calendar year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36984/10]

The Special Group made one specific recommendation pertaining to my Department as follows:

Group’s recommendation

Status

General administration and programme efficiencies with associated reduction in staff numbers of 30, annual saving €5.0m

Completed

The Special Group also made a number of cross-cutting recommendations in relation to initiatives such as procurement reform, shared services, greater focus on performance and outputs and strengthening of multi-annual budgeting arrangements. The consideration and progression of these recommendations is being coordinated by the Department of Finance in the broader context of the Transforming Public Services agenda. The relevant details are set out in the following table.

As these recommendations are general in nature the Special Group did not attribute any specific savings to them. However, it is expected that cross-cutting cost savings will be achieved when a number of the recommendations are implemented.

Group’s recommendation

Status

Administrative savings in the IPA and the ESRI resulting in reduced grants in aid

Completed

Potential to develop shared services (salaries, pensions, accounts, HR)

In progress

Further scaling-back and re-prioritisation of capital expenditure.

The Capital Review published in July 2010 provided for both a significant scaling back and for reprioritisation

A uniform Public Service Numbers Policy.

In Budget 2010, the Government moved to a new, more rigorous approach to controlling public service numbers, centring upon the establishment of agreed annual numbers ceilings, to be managed in accordance with Employment Control Frameworks for each Ministerial Vote Group. This approach is in line with the recommendation of the Special Group, and on this basis the Government has planned to bring about a reduction of approximately 12,600 public service staff by end-2012, relative to the end-2008 position.

Implementation of measures in the Green Paper on Pensions

In progress

Medium-term envelopes

Under active consideration in the context of preparations for the 4 year plan.

Strategic objectives for the new NPPPOU.

Strategic objectives in place, strategy statement being finalised, performance monitoring under consideration.

Prepare legislation to centralise the management of State property in OPW

In progress

Updated and enhanced guidelines for acquisition, management, sale and inter-agency transfer of property.

In progress

Centralised shared approaches to ICT services and data centre facilities, IT Advisory Group.

In progress

Pension policy should be adjusted to take account of future pension liabilities to the state.

In progress

Public Service Performance Charter

In progress

Development and enhancement of IT skills

In progress

Enhanced VFM & Policy Reviews & Possible role for the C&AG in auditing or verifying the Annual Output Statements

Under active consideration in the context of work on structural reforms in the 4 year plan

New benchmarking process

The proposal will remain under consideration but there are no plans for a further benchmarking exercise at this time

Monitor performance against objectives of NPPPOU

Strategic objectives in place, strategy statement being finalised, performance monitoring under consideration.

Estimates should be produced on a programme-by-programme basis.

Under active consideration in the context of work on structural reforms in the 4 year plan

All regulators to submit budgets to the Department of Finance

The McCarthy Group Report recommendation is under consideration and will be pursued. Separately, the Government decided in 2009 following a Review of the Economic Regulatory Environment, that Departments will be asked to put in place arrangements for increased scrutiny of expenditure plans and the setting of industry levies, including approval of these by relevant Ministers, with the agreement of the Minister for Finance. The potential for the joint collection of levies across regulators will also be pursued in line with the recommendations of the McCarthy Group.

Credit Availability

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

70 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Finance the amount of the €2.5 billion sanctioned by Allied Irish Banks to lend to small and medium enterprises that was drawn down in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36999/10]

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

71 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Finance the amount that was sanctioned by Bank of Ireland to lend to small and medium enterprises in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37000/10]

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

72 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Finance the percentage of the sanctioned 10% additional capacity for lending to small and medium enterprises committed to by Allied Irish Banks and Bank of Ireland was drawn down in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37001/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 70 to 72, inclusive, together.

The following table outlines the lending of AIB and Bank of Ireland to SMEs in 2009:

€m’s

Sanctioned

Drawndown

AIB

2,507

1,620

BOI

3,158

2,533

In the subscription agreement, AIB and Bank of Ireland were tasked with making available 10% additional capacity for SME lending in 2009. The recapitalised banks stated that there were no constraints on lending to viable businesses. However, the 10% target did not result in the expected level of additional lending.

Thus, in the context of NAMA at the end of March, both AIB and Bank of Ireland produced credible lending plans for how they will lend €3bn per annum (covering the period April to April) to SMEs. I also established the Credit Review Office to ensure that AIB and Bank of Ireland would lend to viable businesses.

Mr. Trethowan has recently reported to the Department that both AIB and Bank of Ireland remain open for business and I would strongly encourage borrowers to use the Credit Review Office if they find this is not so.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

73 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Finance the amount of the promised €3 billion in lending to small and medium enterprises promised by Allied Irish Banks and Bank of Ireland in 2010 has been drawn down; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37002/10]

The Deputy will be aware that Mr. Trethowan and my Department receive monthly progress reports from the two banks which allow us to monitor their lending to viable businesses in all sectors of the economy and in every area of the country. This information is commercially sensitive. The banks have 12 months to reach their targets and the overall results of their activities will be published in due course.

In addition to the above, Mr. Trethowan's first quarterly report was of course published and I intend publishing his next report when it is received.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

74 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Finance the role of the Credit Review Office; the number of reviews it has carried out since its inception; the number of reviews that have upheld the banks decision. [37003/10]

The Credit Review Office was established by S.I. No. 127 if 2010 with the intention of encouraging and increasing the supply of credit to viable borrowers (that is, borrowers who have the capacity to service their loans) for business purposes. One of the ways that it does this is by reviewing decisions of banks to refuse credit.

In his appearance before the Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Innovation on 21 September, Mr Trethowan informed the Committee that "Approximately 20 applications have been sent to the office for review, of which we have dealt with about ten, of which five have been upheld."

These figures have not significantly changed since then.

Tax Reliefs

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

75 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance the tax reliefs currently applicable to housing and property; the amount of tax that has been forgone in each year since the introduction of each relief; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37010/10]

I assume what the Deputy had in mind in his question refers primarily to the various area and sectoral property based tax incentive schemes provided for in the tax code.

There are only 2 such schemes still remaining; relief for Qualifying Specialist Palliative Care Units (subject to a Commencement Order) and the Mid-Shannon Corridor Tourism Infrastructure Scheme. Tax relief in respect of investment in Convalescent Homes, Qualifying (Private) Hospitals, Qualifying Mental Health Centres, Registered Nursing Homes and Qualifying (Nursing Home) Residential Units was abolished in the Supplementary Budget and Finance Bill 2009. Tax relief in respect of investment in buildings used for childcare purposes was terminated in the Finance Bill 2010. Apart from these schemes, all other property based tax incentive schemes have been terminated on, or before, 31 July 2008.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the relevant information available on the cost to the Exchequer of each of the property based tax reliefs is based on personal income tax returns filed by non-PAYE taxpayers and corporation tax returns filed by companies for the years 2004 to 2008, the latest year for which this information is available. These are set out in the following table. The figures are composite costs for both commercial and residential property reliefs.

Costs to the Exchequer of each Property based Tax reliefs

Scheme

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

Urban Renewal

57.4

137.3

140.5

109.3

84.5

Town Renewal

17.2

27.3

38.7

34.6

23.7

Seaside Renewal

10.1

7.3

6.4

8.0

5.7

Rural Renewal

16.1

24.7

38.0

48.5

34.2

Multi-storey car parks

3.6

26.2

16.6

9.6

6.6

Living over the Shop

1.1

1.3

2.7

3.0

2.5

Enterprise Areas

2.8

3.2

3.0

2.8

2.5

Park & Ride

0.1

2.7

2.8

1.4

0.7

Holiday Cottages

3.1

6.1

9.5

12.4

10.8

Hotels

37.7

67.0

106.6

118.0

114.7

Nursing Homes

7.0

12.4

14.7

18.3

19.4

Housing for the Elderly/Infirm

0.1

0.9

1.4

2.6

3.0

Hostels

0.15

0.82

0.72

0.66

Guest Houses

0.06

0.08

0.02

0.11

Convalescent Homes

0.2

0.2

1.7

0.5

0.5

Qualifying (Private) Hospitals

1.9

3.2

10.6

12.0

12.3

Qualifying Sports Injury Clinics

0.0

0.0

0.0

1.8

1.5

Buildings used for childcare purposes

3.9

5.4

6.0

9.8

12.0

Psychiatric Hospitals

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.1

0.0

Mental Health Centres

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

Student Accommodation

83.8

58.0

64.3

42.0

22.7

Registered Caravan Parks

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

0.6

Total

246.1

383.4

464.4

435.4

358.7

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that for the tax year 2003 and earlier years claims for tax incentive schemes on property were aggregated in tax returns with other claims and could not be distinguished from other reliefs claimed. Accordingly, the specific information on costs for 2003 and earlier years are not available.

I should also point out that the provisions of section 23 Finance Act 2010 severely curtails the amount of tax reliefs that can be used to reduce the income tax liability of those on high incomes. These provisions ensure that, in addition to the income levy, those with high incomes and using reliefs will have an effective income tax rate of about 30%. This measure applies to a list of specified reliefs, including most of the area and sectoral based property incentive schemes, the use of all of which has been curtailed as a result of this change.

Tax Code

Noel Ahern

Question:

76 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Finance to clarify the situation regarding the rent a room scheme; the qualifying rules for same and confirm if a separate dwelling unit (details supplied), separated from main home by a few feet qualifies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37086/10]

The rent-a-room scheme was introduced in the Finance Act 2001 as an incentive to encourage individuals to let rooms in their sole or main residence. The property must be situated in the State and be occupied by the individual as his/her sole or main residence during the tax year for which the relief is claimed. Payments received under the scheme in respect of the letting of rooms and any incidental services, e.g. meals, laundry etc., are exempt from income tax, PRSI, health contributions and the income levy where the amounts received do not exceed the annual threshold, currently €10,000.

The gross payments are taken into account in establishing whether the annual threshold is exceeded, i.e. no deduction is allowed for expenses incurred in connection with the letting. Where the gross payments exceed the threshold in a particular year, the entire profits are taxable and not just the amount that exceeds the threshold.

The availability of mortgage interest relief, the capital gains tax exemption on gains arising from the disposal of an individual's principal private residence and the owner-occupier relief for property situated in a tax incentive area, such as an urban renewal scheme, are not affected by the receipt of income that is exempt from income tax under the rent-a-room scheme.

The relief does not apply where the letting is by a parent to a child or, for example, where it is between an employer and an employee.

I am informed by the Commissioners that the let room or rooms can comprise a self-contained unit within the residence, such as a basement flat or a converted garage attached to the residence. However, a self-contained unit that is adjacent to the residence, but not actually attached to it, cannot qualify for the relief.

Medical Cards

Richard Bruton

Question:

77 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will indicate the number of persons aged over 70 years who are estimated to be in excess of the permitted income and capital guidelines for the retention of medical cards; if she will indicate the number of such persons who surrendered their medical card when the letter of request went out to them; if it is expected that income reviews will see further numbers in this age category lose their medical cards; and the number of income reviews in respect of people over the age of 70 that have resulted in the withdrawal of their medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36845/10]

Most recent figures supplied by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to my Department show 343,399 medical card holders aged 70 or over as at 1st September 2010.

When the Government took the decision to remove automatic entitlement to a medical card for persons aged 70 or over, it had been estimated that 20,000 persons would lose eligibility to the medical card under this measure.

Following the enactment of the Health Act 2008, the HSE wrote to all medical card holders aged 70 or over in January 2009 advising them to complete a return slip if they were over the threshold for a medical card. Approximately, 12,000 clients responded and their cards were removed from the Executive's medical card register. In addition, approximately 5,000 medical cards for persons aged 70 or over were removed from the medical card register in 2009 as part of the HSE's medical card data quality exercise.

Any person aged 70 or over who qualifies for a medical card on the basis of their gross income being within the gross income thresholds of €700 per week for a single person and €1,400 for a couple, will continue to retain their medical card, unless their circumstances change to bring their income above the thresholds.

The other information sought by the Deputy is not provided to my Department as a matter of routine. Accordingly, the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive has been requested to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to this matter.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

78 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children when a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) will be processed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36857/10]

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

Olwyn Enright

Question:

79 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children when a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) will be processed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36858/10]

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

Homeless Persons

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

80 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the total budget allocated and spent by the Health Service Executive on homeless services in 2009 and to date in 2010. [36860/10]

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

Medical Cards

Joe Costello

Question:

81 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children to reconsider her decision to refuse to renew the medical card in respect of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 7; to consider issuing the general practitioner visit card in view of the fact that they have had a medical card for many years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36868/10]

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

Health Service Property

Ulick Burke

Question:

82 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Health and Children to provide an update to the intentions of the Health Service Executive west regarding property (details supplied) building accommodation and lands if they have been sold or if negotiations for sale are taking place; if the funds accruing from the sale will, as promised previously, be ring fenced for the development for facilities in the east Galway mental health area. [36874/10]

Management of the Health Service Executive property portfolio is a service matter. Therefore your question has been referred to the Executive for direct reply.

Departmental Staff

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

83 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of employees within her Department, male and female, who have been approved for participation in the Civil Service flexible working scheme; the number of employees, male and female, who have been refused leave to participate in the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36886/10]

I understand the Deputy is referring specifically to the operation of the Civil Service Worksharing Scheme in this question. Out of a total staff of 519 (477.35 wholetime equivalents) at the end of September 2010, 119 (77.34 wholetime equivalents) are participating in the scheme. Of these, 111 (93%) are female.

Although decisions on worksharing arrangements are considered in light of the business needs of the specific area and the overall Department, no member of staff has to date been refused leave to participate in the scheme. The following table outlines the numbers worksharing across the Department:

Total Staff (Head Count)

Numbers Worksharing

Worksharing Females

Worksharing Males

Core Department

399

86

81

5

Office of the Minister for Children & Youth Affairs

69

23

22

1

Adoption Board

32

10

8

2

Office of the Ombudsman for Children

9

Office of the Disability Appeals Officer

4

Health Repayment Scheme Appeals Office

6

Total

519

119

111

8

Hospital Services

Jack Wall

Question:

84 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare can receive an earlier hospital appointment date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36892/10]

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

Health Services

Bobby Aylward

Question:

85 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Health and Children to make funding available towards the establishment of local services as part of a national foot screening programme for persons with diabetes in the south east, which would reduce diabetic foot disease by more than 50% and reduce the current costs in treating diabetic foot disease; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36897/10]

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

Pat Breen

Question:

86 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. [36901/10]

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

Child Care Services

John Cregan

Question:

87 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children the financial supports in place to meet the child care costs of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; if this person could be supported by the child care employment training support scheme. [36905/10]

I have responsibility for implementing a number of early years programmes including the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) and Childcare Education and Training Support (CETS) schemes, both of which came into effect in September of this year.

The CCS scheme, which replaces a previous support scheme implemented by my Office, provides funding to community childcare services to enable them to charge reduced childcare fees to disadvantaged and low income families. Some 950 services throughout the State are participating in the scheme. In the case in question, as a social welfare recipient he would qualify under the scheme for a weekly fee reduction for each child of €100 for a full-time childcare place, €50 for a part-time childcare place and €33 for a sessional (not more than 3 hours 30 minutes) childcare place. Information regarding childcare services which are participating in the CCS scheme, is available from local City and County Childcare Committees.

The CETS scheme is being implemented by my Office, on behalf of FÁS and the Vocational Educational Committees (VECs) under the Department of Education and Science and replaces the previous childcare support schemes implemented by FÁS and the Vocational Educational Committees (VECs). Under the FÁS and VEC schemes, qualifying students and trainees attending certain FÁS and VEC courses could apply for a childcare support payment of up to €63.50 per week towards their childcare costs. Under the new CETS scheme, participating services are paid a weekly capitation fee of €170 for each full-time childcare place contracted with their service, with lesser amounts obtaining for half day and afterschool places. In return, the service is required to provide a childcare place free of charge to the qualifying student or trainee.

I also have responsibility for implementing the free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme, which provides for a free pre-school year to eligible children in the year before they commence primary school. Children qualify for the free pre-school year where they are aged more than 3 years 2 months and less than 4 years 7 months in September of the relevant year. This means that children born between 2 February 2006 and 30 June 2007 are eligible for the free pre-school year which commenced in September 2010. There is no provision under the scheme to enrol children that are below the qualifying age.

Hospital Accommodation

Chris Andrews

Question:

88 Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide an update on the status of the planned cystic fibrosis units in St. Vincent’s Hospital. [36906/10]

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

94 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the construction of the 120-bed facility for cystic fibrosis patients at St. Vincent’s Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36936/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

111 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress to date since the original commitment to provide the special cystic fibrosis facility at St. Vincent’s Hospital to cater for the full range of services required as per the various submissions made on behalf of children or adults so affected; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37036/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 88, 94 and 111 together.

A new ward block to replace existing accommodation is being developed at St. Vincent's University Hospital. This facility will provide single room en-suite inpatient accommodation (100 rooms) and a dedicated day unit for people with Cystic Fibrosis, including 10 single day treatment rooms with en-suite sanitary facilities.

I am pleased to be able to inform the Deputy that the contract for construction of the new facility has been signed today. I further understand that the site has been handed over to the contractor and that work can now commence. It is expected that construction of the facility will take 18 months.

Patient Private Property Fund

Denis Naughten

Question:

89 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 228 of 6 July 2010, the value of payments made to date in 2010; the number of payments which have been issued; when repayments will commence in the western region; the timetable for the completion of this process; the reclaim procedure for the next of kin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36909/10]

Payment in respect of retained interest on previously invested PPP funds has yet to be made in 2010. The HSE will identify the remaining recipients of these payments from records retained at each Care Centre nationally. There is no requirement on clients or next of kin to make an application for this payment.

Suicide Prevention

Dan Neville

Question:

90 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the allocation of finance to the National Suicide Prevention Office for 2010. [36911/10]

The Budget for the National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP) is set by the Health Service Executive. The annual budget for the NOSP in 2010 is €3.7 million. The total annual funding available to support suicide prevention initiatives is in the region of €8 million.

Health Services

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

91 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Dublin is not being provided with the necessary physiotherapy treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36929/10]

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

Mary Upton

Question:

92 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that funding is kept in place for a home help service (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36932/10]

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

Services for People with Disabilities

David Stanton

Question:

93 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children following the meeting with an organisation (details supplied) in June 2010, if she and the Health Service Executive have considered increasing the amount of funding available to the organisation to allow it to increase the scope of the home care it provides to children with severe disabilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36933/10]

I met with the Jack and Jill Foundation on Tuesday 12th October last. The Health Service Executive was also represented at the meeting. We discussed a range of issues including the request for additional funding. I will continue to engage with the Jack and Jill Foundation.

As the Deputy is aware, under the Health Act 2004, the responsibility for the allocation of resources for the provision of health and social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE). In the current economic climate, all sectors of the health services are required to operate within existing available resources including support services for children with special needs. The HSE together with the "non statutory organisations" who provide services on behalf of the HSE, will continue to review how these services are provided in order to protect the delivery of front line services as much as possible.

Question No. 94 answered with Question No. 88.

Health Services

Pat Breen

Question:

95 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person will be facilitated (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36940/10]

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

Children in Care

Seán Power

Question:

96 Deputy Seán Power asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of private operators who are providing residential care for children in County Kildare; if the service management agreements could be made available; the cost of providing this service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36941/10]

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

Tobacco Controls

Phil Hogan

Question:

97 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Health and Children the situation concerning the draft proposal for articles 9 and 10 of the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control; if civil servants from the Department of Health and Children are attending the weekly EU Council working groups on the FCTC; if she expects Europe to adopt a common position on the FCTC, specifically articles 9 and 10, for the Uruguay conference between the 15 and 20 November 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36942/10]

Draft guidelines for the implementation of Articles 9 and 10 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control will be presented to the 4th Conference of the Parties in November. My Department submits observations through the Health Attaché in Brussels who attends the Council Health Working Party meetings at which the EU comments are being co-ordinated. Preliminary comments that were agreed by Member States have already been forwarded by the EU to the WHO. As the official negotiations on the draft guidelines have not yet been opened, it is not appropriate to elaborate further on the matter.

Medical Cards

Jack Wall

Question:

98 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason an affidavit signed before a peace commissioner is not acceptable as evidence for a person's medical card application; the reason a person has to spend €30 to €50 to obtain an affidavit before a commissioner of oaths in such an instance (details supplied), if she will issue a directive that an affidavit signed before a peace commissioner is acceptable in such circumstances; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36945/10]

As the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for the administration of the General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme, it is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has therefore requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address this matter and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

National Treatment Purchase Fund

Denis Naughten

Question:

99 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the average cost of each treatment under the national treatment purchase fund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36946/10]

The overall average cost of inpatients treated under NTPF during 2009 was €3,833. The comparable price year to date in 2010 is €3,402.

The Fund negotiates with hospitals individually seeking discounts where higher-volume work is concerned. If satisfactory prices cannot be agreed with a particular treating hospital it is NTPF policy to source treatment elsewhere.

The Comptroller and Auditor General's Report for 2008 examined the NTPF's arrangements for the procurement of treatment. The Report concluded "The examination suggests that, relative to the casemix benchmark, procedures purchased from private hospitals by the NTPF generally cost less than those carried out in the publicly funded hospital system".

Health Services

Denis Naughten

Question:

100 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the current waiting lists for each elective surgery list in the Health Service Executive west; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36947/10]

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

Medical Cards

John McGuinness

Question:

101 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if a medical card will be issued to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny and if she will expedite the matter. [36957/10]

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

Health Services

John McGuinness

Question:

102 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if the one hour home help being received by a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will be retained and if an increased number of hours will be provided in view of the circumstances of the case and the level of care now required; if she will expedite a response. [36958/10]

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

John McGuinness

Question:

103 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if funding for home care packages has been withdrawn or curtailed in the Carlow Kilkenny area and if she will set out the criteria for qualification for such assistance. [36959/10]

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

Hospital Funding

John McGuinness

Question:

104 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children the arrangements that are in place to account for car parking charges collected at St. Canice’s Hospital, Kilkenny for occasional public events; if the money collected is for direct support of services to patients; the amount collected to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36960/10]

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

Medical Cards

John McGuinness

Question:

105 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if a medical card will be issued as a matter of urgency in respect of a person (details supplied) and if she will expedite a response. [36962/10]

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

Jack Wall

Question:

106 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason medical card applicants are being asked to provide detailed information months after the application has been submitted; the reason the information now sought was not sought on the original application thus ensuring a far greater degree of efficiency in determining the application (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36973/10]

As the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for the administration of the General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme, it is the appropriate body to consider the particular issues raised by the Deputy. My Department has therefore requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address these matters and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Departmental Expenditure

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

107 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children the recommendations contained in the report of the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes that pertain to his Department; the detail of each and proposed savings relating to his Department; which of these have been implemented to date and the expected savings to be achieved on each of these in one calendar year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36990/10]

Health expenditure in line with public expenditure generally is being addressed in the context of the Government's strategy for economic recovery and its target to reduce the general Government deficit to 3% of GDP by 2014. Already this year the Government has made a series of decisions which significantly reduced the Health Estimates by €630m on pay and €394 on non-pay, over €1bn overall. The Government will continue to take measures to control health expenditure within the context of overall Government policy on public expenditure whilst ensuring that patient safety and quality are at the centre of the delivery of healthcare. In general the approach taken by the Government has been informed by the recommendations in the Special Group's Report. However, in addressing particular areas, in some instances different measures have been implemented where these have proved more effective.

The recommendations pertaining to the Department and agencies under its aegis, and the Health Service Executive, are set out in the following table. Full year savings in excess of €625m are detailed.

Recommendations

Status

Vote 39

Reduce the size of the Department of Health & Children

Special Group target savings — €11m

The Report indicated a total of 526 staff. Government policy on public service numbers requires my Department to meet a reduced civil service staffing level of 450 WTE by the end of 2012. These targets are set out and agreed by way of an Employment Control Framework (ECF).

This target takes account of adjustments to reflect the taking on of additional functions such as responsibility for Youth Affairs transferring into my Department and three agencies being subsumed under the Government’s rationalisation of agencies programme.

There were 477.35 whole-time equivalents (WTE) employed at my Department at the end of September 2010 and all appropriate mechanisms such as re-organisation and re-allocation of work, including redeployment where necessary, will be utilised to meet the ECF target by end 2012.

Merge the Ombudsman for Children with the Office of the Ombudsman

Special Group target savings — €0.3m

Government decided not to implement this.

Merge Health Research Board with single stream science funding

Special Group target savings — €10.6m

In the 2010 Estimates for the Public Service the Government established a single stream of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) funding. The allocation to the HRB funds part of the single stream of STI funding. Savings of approximately €1m have been achieved on HRB expenditure in 2010. In addition, under the Government’s STI strategy additional research responsibilities were allocated to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation earlier this year. The Government is continuing to keep progress in this area under review.

Integrate the Health Insurance Authority into the Financial Regulator

Special Group target savings — n/a.

Not implemented but no Exchequer savings would acrue here as the Health Insurance Authority is funded by the industry.

Restrict the National Treatment Purchase Fund

Special Group target savings — €7.5m

Implementation of this recommendation was not considered feasible or appropriate. The NTPF needs to have access on a limited basis to treatment capacity in public hospitals in Ireland for cases where for clinical reasons it is not possible or appropriate to use a private hospital — for example, where certain paediatric surgery is concerned. The amount of treatment the NTPF is allowed to source in this way is limited to 10% of its patient throughput. For reasons of convenience to patients as well as the additional non-patient-care costs that would arise, the NTPF does not generally purchase services abroad. It does however buy some services from Northern Ireland for patients living in border areas.

Remove the Exchequer element of agencies part funded by the National Lottery

Special Group target savings — €1.8m

Funding has been reduced by €199,000 in 2010.

Vote 40

Health sector efficiencies

Special Group target savings — €90m

HSE is to achieve €106m in efficiencies in 2010.

Health sector staffing

Special Group target savings — €300m

HSE pay is being reduced by €100m in 2010 for reduced staffing of 1,520 WTEs. The Employment Control framework requires further reductions of 1,520 in each of the years 2011 and 2012.

Eliminate all bonus payments to HSE staff

Special Group target savings — €1.3m

Bonus payments eliminated in 2009 and 2010.

Revise income guidelines for medical cards

Special Group target savings — €100m

The Department is currently reviewing all legislation relating to eligibility for health and personal social services with a view to making the system as fair and transparent as possible. As part of this exercise, a review of eligibility for medical cards in the context of financial, medical and social need is being undertaken.

Increase threshold for Drugs Payments Scheme

Special Group target savings — €37m

Threshold increased to €120 per month with effect from 1 January, 2010. Expected to produce savings of €27m in a full year.

Introduce co-payment (€5) for GMS and LTI prescriptions

Special Group target savings — €70m

A charge of 50 cent per prescription item, subject to a monthly ceiling of €10 per family, was introduced on 1 October, 2010. Expected to raise €24m in a full year.

Tendering for GMS services

Special Group target savings — €370m

Reductions in drug costs agreed with the IPHA, together with other measures, expected to produce savings of €94m in a full year. Reductions in drug costs agreed with the APMI expected to produce savings of €24m in a full year. Reductions in pharmacy, GP and other health professionals fees were also implemented under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (FEMPI) Act, estimated to produce savings of €159m in a full year. Following a recent review and consultation process further savings may be achieved.

Increase hospital charges

Special Group target savings — €6m

Charges are not being increased this year but the HSE is required as part of its National Service Plan to improve the collection rate of charges.

Increase charges for private beds in public hospitals

Special Group target savings — €50m

Charges are not being increased this year but the HSE is required as part of its National Service Plan to improve the collection rate of charges. A target of €75m has been set for 2010.

Introduce mandatory protocols to use generic medicines

Special Group target savings — €30m

The Government has decided to introduce a system of reference pricing combined with generic substitution of medicines. A report which sets out a proposed model for the operation of generic substitution and reference pricing was launched in June. Progress on the implementation of this initiative, including the legislative and administrative changes required to give it effect in 2011 will continue.

Efficiencies in non-emergency patient transport

Special Group target savings — €10m

HSE is to make savings of €4.3m in 2010.

Efficiencies in Disability and Mental Health administration

Special Group target savings — €50m

Overall €106m savings to be achieved on non-pay by HSE, including Disability and Mental Health service providers, in 2010

Increase percentage recoupment under Fair Deal

Special Group target savings — €50m

Not implemented

Introduce Means Test for Homecare Packages

Special Group target savings — €24m

Home Care Packages (HCPs) were introduced in 2006. The current annual funding of €130m supports approximately 9,600 recipients at any one time (or 13,000 per annum). It is noted that approx. 90% of those in receipt of home care packages have a medical card.

There would be considerable practical and resource implications for the HSE to introduce means testing. Primary legislation would be required and the McCarthy proposal, as framed, has implications for overall eligibility legislation, and would therefore be more appropriate to the wider review of eligibility for health services which is underway.

Vote 41

Abolish the transitional provisions for the National Childcare Investment Programme

Special Group target savings — €2m

The NCIP included a capital grant scheme and a revenue support scheme for community childcare services. The capital grant scheme closed to new applicants in April 2009. The recommendation of the McCarthy Report concerns the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS) which was implemented under the NCIP. The Childcare Directorate of the OMCYA responded to this recommendation by closing the CCSS at the end of August 2010 and replacing it with a new Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) scheme with effect from 1 September 2010.

Full year savings of €5m.

Alter the means test by eliminating Band C

Special Group target savings — €5m

A different approach to restructuring the CCSS than that proposed in the McCarthy report has been taken. The outcome achieves the savings sought by the Report but maintains and improves the provision for disadvantaged and low income parents under the new CCS scheme. In particular, the new CCS scheme improves the subvention levels for low income working parents. The new CCS also continues the policy of tapered withdrawal of the subvention to assist parents moving from unemployment back into the workforce.

The CCSS provided for three subvention Bands, with the highest level of subvention paid for Band A parents, the next highest paid for Band B parents and a lesser level paid for Band C parents. The CCS provides for two subvention Bands. Band B has been raised to the Band A level and Band C (now Band B) has been increased by 11%. These changes were made possible by restricting parents in receipt of Job Seeker’s Benefit/Allowance to part-time childcare provision (up to 5 hours per day). Restructuring the subvention Bands in this way has improved the level of provision under the scheme for low income working parents (e.g. parents in receipt of Family Income Supplement (FIS) are now categorised as Band A, and Medical Card and GP card holders benefited from the 11% increase to the new Band B).

Full year savings of €5m.

Rationalise the administrative structures of the National Childcare Investment Programme

Special Group target savings — €3m

This recommendation has been overtaken by the introduction of the free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care & Education (ECCE) scheme in January 2010, and more recently the Childcare Education and Training Support (CETS) scheme, both of which are administered by the OMCYA in addition to the CCS scheme. Approximately 4,300 pre-school services are participating in the ECCE scheme and 63,000 children are availing of the free pre-school year. In addition, 600 services are in the new CETS scheme and 950 services are participating in the CCS scheme. The existing administrative structures, which supported the original NCIP programme and its broader policy objectives, are now supporting a greatly expanded area of work at no additional cost to the State. These structures are also supporting the implementation of Síolta (the national early learning framework) to underpin the quality provision of the pre-school year. In effect, the work of the existing support structures for the NCIP has more than doubled and is being successfully delivered with no additional resources or costs arising.

Pharmacy Regulations

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

108 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children the action she will take to ensure pharmacies are passing on the benefits of savings of the price of commonly used drugs to non-medical card holders. [36995/10]

I have introduced a number of measures in the past year to reduce the costs of drugs and medicines for both the State and consumers. These measures have included a reduction in the wholesale and retail mark-ups under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009 and new price agreements with IPHA (Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association) and APMI (Association of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers in Ireland) which have reduced the price of hundreds of the most commonly prescribed off-patent medicines by 40%. Cumulatively these measures are expected to deliver savings to the State of over €200m in 2010.

I was most concerned to learn that some pharmacists were not passing on the benefits of these price and margin reductions to those patients whose expenditure on drug purchases are not met by the Health Service Executive e.g. persons whose monthly expenditure is below the €120 per month threshold under the Drugs Payment Scheme.

I have raised this matter with the Irish Pharmacy Union. It is disappointing that some pharmacists are withholding the benefit of the lower prices from some of their customers. The public deserve better in these difficult economic times.

The Code of Conduct for Pharmacists issued by the pharmacy regulator (the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland) requires pharmacists, amongst other things, to provide honest, relevant, accurate, current and appropriate information to patients regarding the nature, cost, value and benefit of medicines, health-related products and services provided by them. Every pharmacist has an obligation to comply in full with the statutory Code of Conduct. Patients have every right to ask a pharmacist the reasons for the price they are being charged and if dissatisfied can, if they so choose, transfer their custom to an alternative pharmacy.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

109 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children the sanctions applicable to pharmacies for not complying with the code of conduct for pharmacists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36996/10]

The Code of Conduct to which the Deputy refers was drawn up by the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland in accordance with sections 7(2)(a)(iii) and 12 of the Pharmacy Act 2007 as amended. Under section 33 of the Act a breach of this code of conduct by registered pharmacists constitutes professional misconduct.

Sections 35 and 36 of the Act set out the grounds upon which a complaint can be made against a registered pharmacist and a registered retail pharmacy business respectively. Under section 36 of the Act, a complaint may be made about a pharmacy on the grounds that the pharmacy owner, an employee or partner of the owner has been convicted of an offence under medicines, pharmacy or controlled drugs legislation or that these persons have been convicted of other offences or committed misconduct of such a nature that if the person were a pharmacist the Council would be likely to refuse to register the person.

Part 6 of the Act sets out the procedures to be followed in relation to a complaint against a registered pharmacist or registered retail pharmacy business. If it is found that a complaint has been substantiated against a pharmacist or pharmacy, section 48 of the Act sets out the sanctions that may be imposed by the Council of the PSI which include: admonishment or censure, attachment of conditions to the registration of a pharmacist or pharmacy, suspension of a pharmacist's or pharmacy's registration for a period of time, or cancellation of a pharmacist's or pharmacy's registration. If the Council proposes to attach conditions to, suspend or cancel the registration of a pharmacist or pharmacy, an application must be made to the High Court to confirm the application of these sanctions.

Health Services

Frank Feighan

Question:

110 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a matter (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37015/10]

Radiation oncology services for Sligo patients were provided by St Luke's Hospital prior to the development of radiation oncology services at Galway University Hospital (GUH) in 2004. The Galway unit was built with capacity to service the Sligo General Hospital (SGH) catchment area and there has been a gradual transition of the service for Sligo patients from St Luke's Hospital to GUH, which is now complete.

It was never the intention that patients previously being seen by the St Luke's consultant at SGH would now be required to travel to Dublin for follow-up; rather, the radiation oncology service at SGH has been taken over by the GUH service in a planned hand-over. Patients continue to have a locally based service with one radiation oncologist at GUH having a specific commitment to Sligo where weekly outpatient clinics are held.

Should a patient require retreatment, this can be provided at St Luke's Hospital where all records of previous treatment are available, if the patient prefers. Should the patient choose to be treated at the Galway unit, previous treatment details will be forwarded. While the majority of patients will have their radiation oncology treatment and follow-up in GUH/SGH, there will be occasional patients who for personal reasons will choose to attend a Dublin centre and this will be accommodated. However, this should be a very small group.

Question No. 111 answered with Question No. 88.

Medical Cards

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

112 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will issue in the case of a person (details supplied). [37037/10]

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

Health Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

113 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if and when an applicance to assist with mobility will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare [37038/10]

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

Departmental Staff

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

114 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Transport the number of employees within his Department, male and female, who have been approved for participation in the Civil Service flexible working scheme; the number of employees, male and female, who have been refused leave to participate in the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36890/10]

My Department currently has 78 employees participating in the Civil Service worksharing scheme, 5 male and 73 female employees. The Department does not keep records of any employee who has been refused leave to participate in the scheme, as applications must be approved at divisional level initially before they are sent to Human Resources Division for approval. My Department makes all reasonable efforts to accommodate requests from staff who apply to participate in the scheme subject to the principle that the operating requirements of the Department are not adversely affected.

Marine Safety

Joe Costello

Question:

115 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Transport the number of Irish fishing vessels that are affected by the new health and safety regulations introduced by his Department; the number of vessels that had complied by the deadline of 30 September 2010; the number of vessels which had not complied by the deadline; if he will grant an exemption for inshore boats; if he will extend the State decommissioning scheme to those boat owners who cannot afford the cost of implementing the new regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36896/10]

The development of safety regulations for fishing vessels dates back to the Fishing Vessel Safety Review group, which reported in 1996. One key recommendation made by that group was for the establishment of a safety regime for fishing vessels covering stability, strength, hull and machinery. Following several fishing vessel tragedies in 2007 efforts focused on the development of a scheme for the fishing vessels in the 15 to 24m length category. My Department developed regulations for such vessels based on international standards and these regulations were subject to extensive public consultations, following, which the regulations entered into force in September of that year. The Department of Transport as the maritime safety regulator does not regulate or control the number of fishing vessels; this function is carried out by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Compliance with the safety regulations is only required for those fishing vessels which wish to operate. Consequently, the Department of Transport only maintains figures for fishing vessels, which have been issued with or made contact with the Department for certificates.

The new regulations apply to fishing vessels in the 15m to 24m length category on a phased basis from 2007.

On 1 October 2010 a total of 81 fishing vessels had been issued with a safety certificate or clearance for such and since then a further 8 vessels have received clearance.

In addition, a further 43 vessel owners have contacted the Department with a view to achieving a certificate, and the Marine Survey Office is processing these. From contacts between officials of my Department and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food there may still be 20 or so older vessels that have not made contact. It is a matter for each vessel owner in question to do so if it is his or her intention to continue to use the vessel.

The regulations are focused on the main safety issues for fishing vessels including the integrity of the hull and vessel stability. Such requirements are fundamental to the safety of all fishing vessels and apply to inshore boats as for others.

Any decommissioning scheme for fishing vessels would be a matter for the Minister of Agriculture Fisheries and Food and I have no function in that regard.

Departmental Expenditure

Dan Neville

Question:

116 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Transport to outline the financial allocation to the National Road Safety Authority for 2010. [36912/10]

The 2010 Exchequer allocation, from the Vote for my Department, for the Road Safety Authority (RSA) is as follows:

Current €28.546m Pay €17.214m

Non-pay €11.332 m

Capital €200,000.

The RSA also receives income from various fees such as driver testing and NCT levies.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

117 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Transport the recommendations contained in the report of the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes that pertain to his Department; the detail of each and proposed savings relating to his Department; which of these have been implemented to date and the expected savings to be achieved on each of these in one calendar year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36988/10]

The recommendations contained in the McCarthy report that pertain to the Department of Transport, the details of each and the proposed savings are outlined in the following table:

Transport savings measures

Annual savings identified

€m

Programme A — Administration

A.1 Reduce pay expenditure

2.0

A.2 Reduce non pay expenditure

0.9

Programme A savings

2.9

Programme B — Roads

B.1 Reduce expenditure on roads maintenance/improvement

20.0

B.2 Reduce allocation to the Road Safety Authority

4.2

B.3 Merge the National Vehicle and Driver File into the Road Safety Authority

2.0

B.4 Outsourcing of driver testing and vehicle licensing

10.0

Programme B savings

36.2

Programme C — Public Transport

C.1 Operational efficiencies among CIÉ companies

55.0

C.2 Cease funding the Rural Transport Scheme

11.0

C.3 Discontinue the Green Schools Initiative

2.0

Programme C savings

68.0

Programme D — Aviation

D.1 Discontinue the Public Service Obligation for regional air services

15.0

D.2 Discontinue operational grants for regional airports

2.0

Programme D savings

17.0

Cross–programme

Proposed amalgamation of NRA and RPA

3.0

Cross –programme savings

3.0

Total Programme Savings

127.1

Total Associated Staff Savings

80

The recommendations implemented to date and the expected savings to be achieved on each of these in 2010 is outlined in the following table:

Transport Savings Measures

€m

Savings 2010

Programme A — Administration

A.1

Reduce pay expenditure

2.0

A.2

Reduce non pay expenditure

0.9

Programme A Savings

2.9

Programme B — Roads

B1

Reduce expenditure on roads maintenance/improvement

13.6

B4

National Vehicle and Driver File (NVDF)

4.0

Programme B Savings

17.3

Programme C — Public Transport

C1

Operational efficiencies among CIE companies

26.6

Programme C Savings

26.6

Cross Programme Savings

Reduction in National Roads Authority (NRA) administrative budget

1.0

Reduction in Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) administrative budget

0.35

Cross Programme Savings

1.35

Total Programme Savings

48.15

Other savings amounting to €12.2million, not proposed by the Special Group, were also included in my Department's current Estimate for 2010, bringing the total underlying current expenditure reduction for the year to €60.3million.

Road Traffic Offences

Billy Timmins

Question:

118 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding clamping companies; the way the clamping fee is decided; if all companies have the same fees; the conditions required in the setting up of a clamping company; if they are regulated or operate without conditions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37030/10]

Billy Timmins

Question:

119 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding the clamping of cars in areas where notices are not displayed informing persons that clamping is in operation; the steps he will take to ensure that proper regulations are applied to clamping companies to ensure that persons who have had to pay to have their cars released in such areas are awarded a refund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37031/10]

I propose to take Question Nos. 118 and 119 together.

The legislative basis for the application of immobilisation devices to vehicles that are illegally parked on public roads is set out in Section 101(b) of the Road Traffic Act 1961, as amended. Under this legislation, an authorised person can fix an immobilisation device (clamp) to a vehicle parked in contravention of any prohibition or restriction imposed under Sections 35, 36 and 36A of the Road Traffic Act 1994.

Powers to clamp vehicles are also available to the Gardaí and local authorities under Section 97 of the Road Traffic Act 1961.

The Road Traffic (Immobilisation of Vehicles) Regulations, 1998 (S.I. No. 247 of 1998) prescribe, inter alia, the amount that can be charged for the removal of an immobilisation device.

The Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations, 1997 to 2006 set out parking controls for the purposes of section 35. Parking controls for the purposes of sections 36 and 36A are set out in any byelaws made by a local authority under those provisions. These regulations and byelaws only have application in respect of vehicles illegally parked on public roads or in local authority car parks.

The regulations include a provision which identifies those classes of persons who may be authorised to apply and remove immobilisation devices, and determine that such persons shall consist of members of the Gardaí, traffic wardens and any person appointed in writing for such purposes by a local authority.

These regulations only have application in respect of vehicles illegally parked on public roads or in local authority car parks and only by the abovementioned persons. The practice of clamping or the removal of vehicles on private property does not come within the scope of Road Traffic legislation. The issue of requirements for setting up any company is a matter of company law and is not a matter for my Department.

Air Services

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

120 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Transport if he will enter into a binding arbitration process with an airline (details supplied) in relation to the public service obligation contract for the Kerry to Dublin route from Kerry airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37083/10]

The Kerry/Dublin Public Service Obligation (PSO) route is operated under the current Public Service Obligation (PSO) contracts for services linking Dublin Airport with the regional airports at Derry, Donegal, Sligo, Ireland West Airport Knock, Galway and Kerry Airports. These contracts commenced on 22 July 2008 and are due to expire on 21 July 2011. The specifications required for the service, including the stipulation that three return flights per day would be required, were set out in the tender Notice which was published in the EU Journal in January 2008.

In the case of the Kerry route, following the EU public tendering process, a bid submitted by Ryanair, which met the above requirements, emerged as the winner. The bid from Ryanair also set out the compensation it required in order to operate the service.

Based on that bid, Ryanair was awarded the contract to provide the scheduled air services over the three year contract period and are receiving payments in accordance with the contract. The contract does not include a provision for binding arbitration and I have no plans to enter into such a process.

However, the contract does include termination clauses, including a specific provision for termination by mutual agreement in the event of the rejection of a proposal for additional compensation and three months notice being given. It also provides for unilateral termination if either party gives the other at least six months notice of termination.

I can assure the Deputy that I have fully met my obligations under the terms of the contract and must comply with the requirement of European Law in relation to the operation of the PSO contracts governed by Regulation 1008/2008. It is a matter for Ryanair to ensure that it also meets its obligations under the contract.

Commercial Rent Reviews

Richard Bruton

Question:

121 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he has taken legal advice on the legal protection in certain contracts that prevent rents coming down; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Forfás has recommended that the legal view that it would be unconstitutional to provide for downward revision of rents should be challenged in the courts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36846/10]

I presume that the Deputy is referring to upwards-only rent review clauses in commercial leases.

I would remind the Deputy that a provision which prohibits upward only rent review clauses in future business leases is contained in Section 132 of the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009. That provision came into force on 28 February last.

The prohibition on upward only rent review clauses does not apply to business leases (or agreements for such leases) which were entered into prior to the commencement of the section. Advice was sought from the Office of the Attorney General as to whether or not the prohibiting provision could be applied retrospectively. It was indicated that wholesale interference with existing leases was not a feasible option. Real legal and constitutional difficulties would arise if property rights were to be affected retrospectively.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation has indicated that they are not aware of any recommendation made by Forfas of the type suggested by the Deputy.

Departmental Staff

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

122 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of employees within his Department, male and female, who have been approved for participation in the Civil Service flexible working scheme; the number of employees, male and female, who have been refused leave to participate in the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36887/10]

I understand that the Deputy is referring to the Civil Service Worksharing Scheme. The number of staff in my Department availing of the Scheme is 352 (322 female and 30 male).

My Department endeavours to facilitate all applications for participation in this Scheme.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

123 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 127 of 7 October 2010, the number of personnel vacancies that exist in the sexual crime management unit; the positions that are currently vacant; when it is envisaged the additional personnel will be in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36900/10]

I have requested the information sought by the Deputy from the Garda Commissioner and I will write to the Deputy directly when this information is to hand.

Asylum Applications

Seán Power

Question:

124 Deputy Seán Power asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will provide an update on the application for leave to remain here on humanitarian grounds in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36902/10]

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 7 January 2010, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against her. In addition, she was notified of her entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006.

The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection and this application will be considered first. 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.

I should remind the Deputy that queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by Email using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. The service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek this information through the more administratively expensive Parliamentary Questions process.

Immigrant Certification

Seán Power

Question:

125 Deputy Seán Power asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the reason requests for the return of original academic certificates to a person (details supplied) were only returned following a letter from his solicitor, the Department having denied being in possession of them many times; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36903/10]

At the outset I would like to advise the Deputy that documents submitted by an applicant as evidence of identity or nationality, or in support of a case to be permitted to remain in the State, can only be returned to that applicant once the case has had a definitive outcome.

Insofar as the case referred to by the Deputy is concerned, the person had a Deportation Order made against him on 29 May, 2006 and once this Order was served, on 2 June, 2006, the documents referred to by the Deputy were retained by the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB). This Order was challenged by way of judicial review proceedings which, when finalised, resulted in the Deportation Order being revoked on 14 August, 2008, and the case returned to my Department for further consideration. The case was finalised on 19 September 2008 with the person concerned having been granted permission to remain in the State with effect from that date.

A number of requests were received from the person concerned seeking the return of his documents and all such requests were responded to with an indication that the sought documents were not on the Department's file. This was the factual position at those times. These documents were returned by the GNIB to my Department in early July 2010 and were returned to the person concerned under cover of a letter dated 5 July 2010.

I can assure the Deputy that there was no intention on the part of any person in my Department to withhold the documents concerned once this case had a definitive outcome, which it did since 19 September 2008. Equally, I am entirely satisfied that once these documents were returned to my Department, they were returned to their owner without delay. I am satisfied also that there was no connection between the request being made by the relevant solicitor and the return of the documents. Had the documents been in my Department's possession at an earlier date, they would have been returned sooner.

Garda Recruitment

Noel Ahern

Question:

126 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform when the recruitment campaign to the Garda will be advertised; if he will give details of numbers sought, and if a percentage of places will be reserved for gardaí currently serving in the Garda Reserve force or how the investment in interest and commitment shown by the Garda Reserve will be acknowledged and rewarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36904/10]

The general moratorium on recruitment and appointments in the Public Service continues to apply to An Garda Síochána. The purpose of initiating a Garda recruitment campaign at this time is to establish a panel of approved candidates who will be available to meet future Garda recruitment needs in line with Government policy. I was happy to obtain the approval of my colleague the Minister for Finance for this competition.

This forward planning is necessary given the lead time involved both in establishing such a panel and in training recruits to the point of attestation.

The Garda Síochána (Admissions and Appointments) (Amendment) Regulations 2006 allow the Public Appointments Service to give due recognition to any satisfactory service by the person as a reserve member of the Garda Síochána.

Service in the Garda Reserve is voluntary and unpaid. Members of the Garda Reserve receive an allowance of €1,000 on the proviso that they complete 208 hours of duty per annum. The Government is strongly committed to the development of the Reserve. It has been a very successful initiative and I am confident that it will continue to flourish into the future.

Crime Levels

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

127 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the extent of subversive criminal activity on the island of Ireland by dissident republicans and the further steps that can be taken in this jurisdiction or in co-operation with and by way of support for the authorities in Northern Ireland to end this criminality. [36971/10]

The increase in activities in recent months by these supposed republicans, the so-called dissidents, is obviously a matter of concern for the Government. I know that all Members of the House will join me in condemning these groups without reserve. The Independent Monitoring Commission has outlined the range of criminal activity in which they are involved, and we should be clear that these people are no more than criminals using violent means in pursuit of their own ends. They have no support in the wider community for their criminal ends or for their violent means.

I can assure the House that the Gardaí continue to co-operate seamlessly with the PSNI in actively pursuing these groups. The Garda Commissioner has stated that he regards an attack on the PSNI as an attack on the Garda Síochána, an attitude shared by the Government. The Chief Constable of the PSNI has also referred to the excellent operational relationship between the two forces. This close level of operational co-operation has been instrumental in recent months in preventing attacks, combating criminality and saving lives, and it will continue to be an essential element in bringing these criminals to book.

It is only right to record the fact that the Garda Síochána and its counterparts in Northern Ireland have had significant successes. Since the start of this year the Gardaí have arrested over 50 people believed to be members of these groups and over 20 are at present before the courts.

Facing up to these groups is a priority for the Garda Síochána and, in support of this aim, the Government has maintained a high level of resources for the Force. I am assured by the Garda Commissioner that he has the resources he needs at his disposal in this regard.

We will continue, in co-operation with the authorities in Northern Ireland and Great Britain, to spare no effort to ensure that those thugs who seek to subvert the democratic will of the people will face the full rigours of the law.

Departmental Expenditure

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

128 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform which recommendations contained in the McCarthy report pertain to his Department; the detail of each and proposed savings relating to his Department; which of these have been implemented to date and the expected savings to be achieved on each of these in one calendar year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36977/10]

There were a number of recommendations in the Special Group Report (McCarthy) which referred to the Justice Sector, across nine different programme areas. In all these recommendations identified €134.5m in potential savings; €84m of which related to staffing and payroll costs, €16.3m to operational efficiencies, €14.6m related to structural reform and rationalisation and a further €21.5m referred to other expenditure and funding reductions.

A number of the measures in the report have been implemented at this stage in order to achieve reductions in the Departments Estimates for 2010. These relate to the programmes in a range of subheads which include Gender Mainstreaming, Graffiti Removal Operations, Equality Monitoring Consultative Committees, European Refugee Fund and Refugee Integration. The McCarthy Report recommended a total reduction of some €5 million in respect of these particular items. The actual budgetary reduction was €6.92 million. I should add that some of these areas are under the responsibility of the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs since June, this year.

A significant proportion of the recommendations (€84 million) related to reductions in payroll costs on items such as allowances payable to members of the Garda Síochána and the Prisons Service.

In common with all Departments, there are significant reductions in payroll related provisions in 2010 to take account of the reductions in payroll rates and other factors. The overall reduction in gross payroll budgets for the Justice Sector compared with the 2009 estimate is in the region of €126 million.

A number of recommendations were made by the McCarthy Group on structural reform and rationalisation across the Justice and Equality Sector. Decisions in respect of a number of these recommendations will be a matter for decision by Government in due course. In other cases progress is being made on measures such as the reduction of staffing in the Children's Detention Schools under the ambit of the Irish Youth Justice Service. Any expenditure reductions arising will be reflected in the budget for the Sector in future years as appropriate. A number of the recommendations in this context refer to the Equality, Disability, Integration and Human Rights areas, which are now the responsibility of the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs.

While it was never the intention that the full €134 million reduction recommended in the McCarthy report would be delivered in 2010, significant progress in this regard has been made. This is through a combination of the recommendations in the report and other measures being taken as part of the Governments budgetary policy.

Proposed Legislation

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

129 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform when he plans to introduce the DNA Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36992/10]

I presented the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Bill 2010 to Dáil Éireann on 15 January 2010. The Bill passed Second Stage on 4 March 2010 and it is currently awaiting Committee Stage.

White Papers

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

130 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the position regarding the White Paper on crime due to be published in 2011; the purpose of the White Paper; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36993/10]

I can inform the Deputy that the White Paper on Crime is on target for publication in 2011.

A key part of the process involves the publication of a series of discussion documents designed to give structure to the broad range of issues which arise in this field. Submissions are invited from members of the public and other interested parties in connection with each document and consultation seminars are being held around the country.

The first two documents dealt with Crime Prevention and Community Safety and Criminal Sanctions respectively. Two further documents are planned. The first will deal with Organised and White Collar Crime and will be published shortly. The second, which will be the final in the series of discussion documents, will examine the relationship between the community and the criminal justice system and is scheduled for publication at the beginning of next year.

The outcome of the consultation process will be reflected in the White Paper, which will set out the overall policy framework for future strategies to combat crime.

Further information on the White Paper on Crime process can be found on my Department's website which includes the discussion documents and summaries of the feedback received from the consultation process to date. Interested parties can also register for updates by emailing whitepaperoncrime@justice.ie.

Proposed Legislation

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

131 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform when an appropriate amendment will be included in the Property Services (Regulation) Bill 2009 that would see the Property Services Regulatory Authority being given the responsibility for the management of the database containing the relevant details of letting arrangements and rent reviews in the commercial property market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36997/10]

The Property Services (Regulation) Bill 2009 has passed all Stages in Seanad Éireann and is currently awaiting Second Stage in the House. The amendment to give responsibility to the Property Services Regulatory Authority for the management of the database relating to letting arrangements in the commercial property market will be advanced in the normal way as the Bill progresses through the House.

Rent Reviews

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

132 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the urgent need for landlords and tenants to adopt the rent review arbitration code; the steps he is taking to ensure its adoption; when he expects the adoption of the code; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36998/10]

The Rent Review Arbitration Code to which the Deputy refers was the subject of a recommendation of the Working Group on transparency in commercial rent reviews. That recommendation was for industry-wide acceptance, on a voluntary basis, of a code of best practice along the lines of the code which was appended to the report. As such, the code is already in the public domain and is available for use by those participating in the rent review process.

I have publicly endorsed the Group's recommendation in this area and I will shortly be in contact with bodies which were represented on the Group to encourage them to commit to the code.

Departmental Expenditure

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

133 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the overtime bill for the Garda Síochána in the years 2008, 2009 and to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37005/10]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the table.

Year

Overtime Expenditure in

€000

2008

115,280

2009

79,486

2010

60,666

I would ask the Deputy to note that the figure for 2009 is subject to final confirmation by way of the Appropriation Accounts process. The figure for 2010 is provisional as at 30 September 2010.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

134 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the cost of accommodating asylum seekers in the State in the years 2008, 2009 and to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37006/10]

The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department is responsible for the accommodation of asylum seekers in accordance with the Government policy of direct provision and dispersal.

In 2008, the RIA expenditure on asylum seeker accommodation was €91.5m, in 2009 the figure was €86.5m while to end September, 2010 the figure was €57.9m. The estimates provision for 2010 is €77.492m.

Direct provision provides full board accommodation and certain ancillary services to asylum seekers while they await a decision on their asylum application. The RIA is currently operating 47 centres across 20 counties providing accommodation to 6,300 asylum seekers. In line with recommendations of a Value for Money Report on the service published earlier this year, the RIA has continued to consolidate its accommodation portfolio, effecting closures and downsizing at a number of centres and has brought occupancy levels across the portfolio to in excess of 90%. As part of this consolidation process, the RIA has reduced contracted bed spaces by 686 to date in 2010 alone. The system of direct provision continues to prove the most efficient and effective means of meeting the State's international obligations in respect of the accommodation needs of asylum seekers.

EU Directives

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

135 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 239 of 6 October 2010, if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the British Government opted into Directive 2003/9/EC on the right to work of asylum seekers without any apparent implications for the common travel area; in view of this, to explain the reason he believes that the common travel area would be affected by Ireland opting into Directive 2009/52/EC or otherwise adopting measures to ensure that rogue employers who exploit undocumented workers would have to pay them. [37020/10]

Each EU instrument has to be considered on its merits, including any Common Travel Area concerns that might arise and the outcome of those considerations in respect of one Directive does not necessarily bear on that for subsequent unrelated instruments.

I refer the Deputy to my answer to Parliamentary Question 142 of 13 May 2010 in which I set out the primary reason why Ireland did not participate in the adoption and application of the Directive 2003/9/EC. In particular, the Government was concerned that by extending the right to work to asylum seekers would have a profoundly negative impact on application numbers, as was experienced in the aftermath of the July 1999 decision to do so. This concern would exist irrespective of the position of the UK on the measure.

Directive 2009/52/EC in contrast concerns illegal immigration. This is an area where there is always a risk of displacement of illegal workers who by their very nature will be much more mobile in terms of moving between countries.

Citizenship Applications

Willie Penrose

Question:

136 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the position regarding an application for naturalisation in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37028/10]

Valid applications for certificates of naturalisation from the persons referred to in the Deputy's Question were received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in December 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 both applications is ongoing and the files 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.

I should remind the Deputy that queries in relation to the status of individual Immigration cases may be made direct to INIS by Email using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. The service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek this information through the more administratively expensive Parliamentary Questions process.

Public Order Offences

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

137 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the concerns expressed by an organisation (details suppled) in County Kildare concerning anti-social behaviour and petty crime in the area, if he will approve the necessary extra gardaí to address this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37039/10]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the area referred to is within Maynooth Garda Sub-District. Local Garda management is aware of difficulties being experienced by residents. A number of persons have been arrested in relation to incidents, some of whom have been charged and are currently before the courts. Other incidents are under ongoing Garda investigation.

A member of the local Community Policing Unit is allocated specifically to the area referred to and regularly meets local residents to address any issues arising. Garda members also attend meetings of the residents' association.

The area is subject to patrols by uniform and plain-clothes personnel, including the Community Policing and Mountain Bike Units and the District Detective and Drug Units, supplemented as required by Divisional Traffic Corps personnel.

Local Garda management closely monitors and keeps under review patrols and other operational strategies in place, in conjunction with crime trends and policing needs of the communities in the area, to ensure optimum use is made of Garda resources and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public. The situation is kept under constant review, including the allocation of additional personnel, which will be fully considered within the overall context of the needs of each Garda Division throughout the country.

Current policing strategies are designed to prevent crime, public order offences and anti-social behaviour, and community policing is a central feature and core value of policing policy. This will ensure an environment conducive to the improvement of the quality of life for residents.

Citizenship Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

138 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice 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. [37040/10]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in October 2008 and I decided in my absolute discretion to grant a certificate of naturalisation. The person concerned was informed of this decision in a letter issued to him on 21 September, 2010. Documentation required for certification purposes has been received from the person concerned and a certificate of naturalisation will be issued in due course.

I should remind the Deputy that queries in relation to the status of individual Immigration cases may be made direct to INIS by Email using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. The service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek this information through the more administratively expensive Parliamentary Questions process.

Asylum Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

139 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the current position regarding an application for asylum in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37041/10]

If an application for asylum has been made by the person concerned the Deputy will of course be aware that it is not the practice to comment on asylum applications that are pending.

Residency Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

140 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the earliest time by which a person (details supplied) in County Kildare can be eligible in terms of residency for application for naturalisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37042/10]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in July 2010.

Officials in the Citizenship Division inform me that on examination of the application submitted it was determined that the person concerned did not meet the residency requirements as set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. The person in question was informed of this in a letter issued to her on 13 July, 2010. In order to be fair to all applicants only valid applications for certificates of naturalisation can be considered.

It is open to her to lodge a new application for a certificate of naturalisation if and when she is in a position to meet the statutory requirements.

Information on the statutory requirements in relation to an application for a certificate of naturalisation is available on the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Services website at www.inis.gov.ie.

I should remind the Deputy that queries in relation to the status of individual Immigration cases may be made direct to INIS by Email using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. The service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek this information through the more administratively expensive Parliamentary Questions process.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

141 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform to indicate when entitlement to stamp four will apply in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37043/10]

I have been informed by my officials in the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service that the person referred to by the Deputy arrived in the State in 2007 and is resident here as a dependant of her husband. As stated in my replies to previous Parliamentary Questions on 27 April, 2010 and again on 29 September 2010, dependants of applicants who have been granted Long term Residency can also apply for Long Term Residency after being legally resident in the State for 60 months. This particular long term permission does not grant them an exemption from employment permit requirements. They do not have an entitlement to a Stamp 4 immigration status.

Stamp 4 is applied to a number of different groupings within the immigration system, including long term residents, refugees, spouses of Irish Nationals, dependants of Irish nationals, persons on a working visa, certain family members of EU citizens who qualify under the relevant Regulations and some others. The applicable conditions may vary depending on the category.

The person referred to by the Deputy does not qualify for Stamp 4, at this time, under any of these categories.

I should remind the Deputy that queries in relation to the status of individual Immigration cases may be made direct to INIS by Email using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. The service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek this information through the more administratively expensive Parliamentary Questions process.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

142 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the position regarding residency in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37044/10]

I wish to inform the Deputy that the person concerned was granted permission to remain in the State for a two year period in September of 2005 under the revised arrangements for non-EEA parents of children born in Ireland prior to 1 January, 2005, commonly known as the IBC/05 scheme. This permission was subsequently renewed in 2007 for a three year period up to 27 September, 2010. Given that her permission has now expired, I would advise the person concerned to present to her local Immigration Office for renewal of same.

I should remind the Deputy that queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by Email using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. The service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek this information through the more administratively expensive Parliamentary Questions process.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

143 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the residency status and entitlement to naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7. [37045/10]

I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that the person referred to by the Deputy has no application pending for residency. The person concerned is the subject of a Deportation Order, signed on 28 September 2010, following a comprehensive and thorough examination of his asylum claim and his application for subsidiary protection, and a detailed examination of the representations he submitted for consideration under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended). This person has no entitlement to naturalisation.

The effect of the Deportation Order is that the person concerned must leave the State and remain thereafter out of the State. The enforcement of the Deportation Order is an operational matter for the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

I should remind the Deputy that queries in relation to the status of individual Immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by Email using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. The service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek this information through the more administratively expensive Parliamentary Questions process.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

144 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the position regarding residency in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37046/10]

There is currently no application pending in my Department for residency in the case of the person whose details were supplied.

If an application for asylum has been made by the person concerned the Deputy will of course be aware that it is not the practice to comment on asylum applications that are pending.

Visa Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

145 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the position regarding an application for a family reunification visa in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37047/10]

Based on the information supplied by the Deputy, I am informed by Officials in my Department that they can find no record of a current visa application for the son of the person referred to.

When completing an on-line visa application the applicant is assigned a unique visa transaction number. This detail must be provided where a query on the status or other enquiry regarding a visa application arises. The provision of this unique visa transaction number ensures that accurate and current information is provided to the authorised enquirer. Perhaps if the Deputy could provide the relevant detail to Officials in the Visa Office then an update could be provided.

Comprehensive information on the visa application process is available on the website of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (www.inis.gov.ie).

I should remind the Deputy that queries in relation to the status of individual Immigration cases may be made direct to INIS by Email using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. The service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek this information through the more administratively expensive Parliamentary Questions process.

Citizenship Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

146 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will re-issue correspondence relating to residency and naturalisation in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37048/10]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 1047 of 29 September, 2010. I am to advise that the letter dated 13 April, 2010 has been recently re-issued directly to the person concerned by registered post. Officials in the Citizenship Division of my Department inform me that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question.

I should remind the Deputy that queries in relation to the status of individual Immigration cases may be made direct to INIS by Email using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. The service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek this information through the more administratively expensive Parliamentary Questions process.

Residency Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

147 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 1126 of 29 September 2010 if any application for residency, refugee, asylum or other status was made in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Kildare; the result of such application, any further action required or pending to further the application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37049/10]

As indicated in my reply of 29 September 2010, there is currently no application pending in my Department for residency in the case of the persons whose details were supplied.

If an application for asylum has been made by the persons concerned the Deputy will of course be aware that it is not the practice to comment on asylum applications that are pending.

Citizenship Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

148 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the position regarding the determination of eligibility of citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37050/10]

Applications for certificates of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question were received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in April 2008 and September 2010.

Officials in the Citizenship Division inform me that on examination of the first application submitted it was determined that the person concerned did not meet the residency requirements as set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. The person in question was informed of this in a letter issued to him on 15 August, 2008. In order to be fair to all applicants only valid applications for certificates of naturalisation can be considered.

On examination of the second application submitted it was determined that the person concerned did not fulfil all of the statutory conditions, consequently, the Citizenship Division of my Department have deemed that application ineligible. The person in question was informed of this decision in a letter issued to him via his legal representatives on 23 September, 2010.

It is open to him to lodge a new application for a certificate of naturalisation with the Citizenship Division of my Department if and when he is in a position to meet the statutory requirements.

I should remind the Deputy that queries in relation to the status of individual Immigration cases may be made direct to INIS by Email using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. The service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek this information through the more administratively expensive Parliamentary Questions process.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

149 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the way a person (details supplied) in County Kildare can proceed with their application for naturalisation in view of the fact that they have been requested to return to their homeland to obtain original birth certificate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37051/10]

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 December 2009. Officials in the Citizenship Division inform me that the person concerned was requested to provide a copy of his birth certificate in a letter issued to him on 15 September, 2010.

If an applicant for a certificate of naturalisation does not have their birth certificate, then they should obtain it, so that the state can have equivalent proofs of the identity of naturalised citizens as all other citizens. In rare circumstances where an applicant cannot obtain their birth certificate for reasons genuinely beyond their control, the applicant should provide the Citizenship Division with reasons and supporting evidence. The Citizenship Division will assess those reasons and if satisfied that they provide a genuine impediment, alternative means of validating the true identity of the person will be put in place. I should remind the Deputy that queries in relation to the status of individual Immigration cases may be made direct to INIS by Email using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. The service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek this information through the more administratively expensive Parliamentary Questions process.

Refugee Status

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

150 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the position regarding residency status, current or pending in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37052/10]

I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that the persons referred to by the Deputy are the applicant and subject of a Family Reunification Application made in April 2008.

The applicant was awarded Refugee Status in December 2007.

The Family Reunification application was forwarded to the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner as required under Section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996.

The investigation was completed in September 2008 and a report was forwarded to INIS.

There are currently some issues that need to be resolved with regard to the application and INIS will be in contact with the person concerned in due course.

I should remind the Deputy that queries in relation to the status of individual Immigration cases may be made direct to INIS by E mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. The service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek this information through the more administratively expensive Parliamentary Questions process.

Citizenship Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

151 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the position regarding an application for citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1. [37053/10]

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 November 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. 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.

I should remind the Deputy that queries in relation to the status of individual Immigration cases may be made direct to INIS by Email using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. The service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek this information through the more administratively expensive Parliamentary Questions process.

Departmental Staff

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

152 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of employees within his Department, male and female, who have been approved for participation in the Civil Service flexible working scheme; the number of employees, male and female, who have been refused leave to participate in the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36885/10]

A total of 151 officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs are currently availing of the civil service work-sharing scheme, of whom 8 are male and 143 are female officers.

My Department makes every effort to accommodate applications for work-sharing and other work/life balance schemes, including the shorter working year and the flexible working hours schemes. On occasion, however, notably in the Passport Office, organisational needs have had to take precedence and in a small number of cases it has not been possible to approve work-sharing applications. When this does arise we endeavour to facilitate staff re-assignments so as to permit more flexible attendance patterns.

Departmental Expenditure

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

153 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs which recommendations contained in the McCarthy report pertain to his Department; the detail of each and proposed savings relating to his Department; which of these have been implemented to date and the expected savings to be achieved on each of these in one calendar year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36985/10]

The Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes (The McCarthy Report) made a number of recommendations to Government in respect of my Department. These were considered in the context of this year's budget and public service estimates and it was decided to implement a number of them in full or in part.

Recommendation in the report of the Special Group

Comment

Overseas Missions savings

A reduction of €17 million in the Administrative Budget allocation to the Department and the moratorium on staff recruitment has included savings on the running costs of the Department’s network abroad.

Some refocusing of resources has been implemented in the current year, including a trial of a new, lighter model of overseas representation.

The number of Missions headed at Assistant Secretary level has been reduced during 2010.

Given the important contribution that is being made by our diplomatic network in promoting our key objectives abroad, in particular, support for our economic recovery, I have not taken the step of reducing the number of our Missions but have sought to achieve savings through reduced running costs.

Reduce Staff Numbers by 65

The staffing complement of the Department is currently 73 below the number which was authorised at the introduction in March 2009 of the moratorium on recruitment and promotion. Savings on the reduction of staff numbers are included in the Administrative Budget savings above.

Cease funding the European Movement in Ireland and the Ireland United Nations Association

This has been implemented for the Ireland UN Association at a saving of €60,000.

Reduce allocation for Contributions to International Organisations by €5 million

The 2010 allocation has been reduced in line with the recommendation of the Special Group, although it is at this stage evident that it will not be possible to cover mandatory contributions due in 2010 from the amount allocated.

Cease expenditure to EU and other European States under Subhead K

This has been fully implemented with savings of €1 million.

Maintain allocation for Vote 29 at 0.39% GNP in 2010 and extend timeframe for reaching UN target until 2015

Vote 29 ODA for the current year was set at 0.42% of GNP in order to ensure that Ireland exceeds its EU commitment as a Member State to spend 0.51% on overall ODA in 2010.

Given changes in the reference GNP levels, savings of €35 million, which is in excess of those recommended by the Special Group report, were achieved.

The alignment with the EU timeframe of 2015 to meet the UN target has also been agreed.

Reduce expenditure on Support for Irish Emigrant Services

This was implemented in 2010 with a reduction of €2.2m

Remove free passport scheme for those aged-65 years and older

This recommendation has not been implemented.

The report of the Special Group, which foresees a multi-annual implementation period, continues to inform decisions being taken by me in terms of the allocation of resources within my Department.

Social Welfare Benefits

Michael Ring

Question:

154 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social Protection the steps that are being taken regarding the longevity of rent allowance to recipients and if there is a defined cut off point in qualifying for this payment. [36855/10]

Michael Ring

Question:

155 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social Protection how often long-term rent allowance recipients have their payments reviewed, in view of the changes in the rental market in recent years to ensure value for money for the Department and to ensure that inflated rental prices are not paid to landlords [36856/10]

I propose to take Question Nos. 154 and 155 together.

The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. Payment of rent supplement will continue as long as the person meets the qualifying conditions and satisfies the means test. The overall aim of rent supplement is to provide short term assistance and not to act as an alternative to the other social housing schemes operated by the Exchequer. There are currently over 96,000 tenants benefiting from a rent supplement payment — an increase of 60 per cent since the end of 2007. Over 44,300 have been in payment for 18 months or more.

The rental accommodation scheme (RAS), which was introduced in 2004, highlights local authorities' specific responsibility for meeting the longer term housing needs of people receiving rent supplement for 18 months or more. Details of these cases are notified regularly by the Department to the local authorities. Local authorities meet the housing needs of these individuals through a range of approaches including the traditional range of social housing options, the voluntary housing sector and in particular RAS.

Latest figures from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government show that a total of 28,939 transfers from rent supplement to local authorities have occurred since 2005: 15,986 rent supplement recipients to RAS and a further 12,953 recipients to other social housing options. In total, 14,000 recipients were transferred to RAS and social housing in 2008 and 2009; achieving targets set for RAS transfers for these years. The current target for 2010 is for a total of 8,000 rent supplement tenants to be provided with a housing solution by local authorities.

In consultation with the Department, the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government has approved a number of pilot programmes in different local authorities to increase the flow of transfers. These include allowing applicants for RAS to seek out their own properties which, subject to compliance with the normal conditions and the agreement of the landlord, may then be taken into the leasing programme. Approved housing bodies under the leasing initiative have also been advised that they can seek applicants for social housing support directly from households in long term receipt of rent supplement as part of a of choice-based lettings approach to allocations.

The Department continues to work closely with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and is represented on a number of RAS implementation groups. The purpose of these Groups is to ensure that the RAS meets its objective of catering for those on long term rent supplementation while enabling rent supplement to return to its original role of a short-term income support. It is essential that State support for rents are kept under review, reflect current market conditions, and do not distort the market in any way. The use of maximum rent limits established for each county achieves this purpose. The most recent rent limit review established new maximum rent limits effective from June 2010. The new limits were benchmarked against the most up to date market data available at that time. The emphasis of the review was to ensure that value for money is achieved whilst at the same time ensuring that people on rent supplement can obtain suitable accommodation within the private rented market. The new limits applied immediately to all new rent supplement applications and for all existing rent supplement claims once they were reviewed or renewed by the relevant community welfare officer.

Allied with achieving value for money for the Exchequer it is also necessary to ensure that low income families are not paying ‘distorted' rents, above the market rate, due to higher than required maximum rent limits for a given area. The outcome of the review was that maximum rent limits were reduced by a weighted average of 4%, the majority of reductions centred on two and three bedroom properties, assisting low income families with more affordable accommodation.

The reduction of rent limits will not impact on rent supplement recipients' disposable incomes. The minimum contribution, which is currently €24, is the amount that every applicant must pay from their own resources for their accommodation needs; this has not been altered in any way.

Departmental Staff

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

156 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of employees within his Department, male and female, who have been approved for participation in the Civil Service flexible working scheme; the number of employees, male and female, who have been refused leave to participate in the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36888/10]

At 1st October 2010, the number of staff in my Department who are participating in the work sharing scheme was 967 of which 926 are female and 41 are male.

All applications for participation in the scheme are subject to the principle that the operating requirements of individual business units and the Department as a whole are not adversely affected. Approval of applications is, in the first instance a matter for local management with appropriate input from the Department's Personnel Branch.

While details of all applications that are approved are forwarded to the Personnel Branch for recording and appropriate action, not all cases that are refused at local management level are recorded centrally. Accordingly, it is not possible to state categorically the number of applications refused. However, I can advise that Personnel Branch currently has a record of 12 people who have been refused an application to change their attendance pattern. Of the 12 people in question 11 are female and 1 is male.

Social Welfare Benefits

Jack Wall

Question:

157 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive a rent supplement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36899/10]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that the person concerned has made an application for rent supplement. The person was requested to provide further information in order to process his application for rent supplement and a decision will be made on his application when the information has been provided.

Seán Power

Question:

158 Deputy Seán Power asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason persons (details supplied) have been refused rent supplement following their move to new accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36908/10]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that payment of rent supplement to the person concerned ceased as the persons concerned moved accommodation and did not inform the HSE. Rent supplement is payable in respect of a tenancy and where a rent supplement recipient moves accommodation that person must complete a new application form in respect of their new tenancy. The HSE further advised that the persons concerned should contact the community welfare officer at their local health centre if they wish to make an application for rent supplement in respect of their new accommodation.

Willie O'Dea

Question:

159 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [36916/10]

An application was received from the person to whom the Deputy refers on 1 September, 2010. Following assessment of the application, which involved assessment of his self-employment contributions, a decision was made on 13 October 2010 that he is entitled to a widower's contributory pension at the maximum personal rate of €201.50 per week, with effect from 27 August 2010. Arrangements for payment of arrears of pension have also been made.

Under Social Welfare legislation, six weeks of the deceased person's pension is payable to a spouse after the date of death if the deceased was in receipt of a qualified adult increase for their spouse or if the spouse was in receipt of a social welfare payment in their own right. The late spouse was not in receipt of a qualified adult increase for her husband and neither was the applicant in receipt of another social welfare payment at the time of his spouse's death. However, he had lodged an application for carer's allowance prior to the death of his spouse and this is currently being assessed. If it is decided that the applicant was entitled to carer's allowance at the date of death of his spouse, then he will be entitled to six weeks payment of her invalidity pension. A decision will be notified to the applicant as soon as possible.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

160 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection the total number of claimants of rent supplement and mortgage interest supplement, by quarter, from January to September 2010. [36917/10]

The following tabular statement provides information on recipients of rent supplement and mortgage interest supplement by quarter from January to September 2010.

Number of Recipients of Rent Supplement and Mortgage Interest Supplement by Quarter, 2010

Rent Supplement

Mortgage Interest Supplement

End 2009

93,030

15,101

Q1 2010

94,964

16,044

Q2 2010

95,516

16,936

Q3 2010

96,100

17,513

Questions Nos. 161 and 162 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Code

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

163 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the carers strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36935/10]

During 2008, an interdepartmental group, chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach, with secretariat support provided by my Department, undertook work, including a public consultation process, to develop a National Carers' Strategy. However, because of the prevailing economic situation, it was not possible to set targets or time limits which could be achieved. In that context, rather than publishing a document which did not include any significant plans for the future, the Government decided not to publish a strategy. This position remains unchanged.

The Government is acutely aware and appreciative of the contribution made by carers. It was for that reason, that when resources were available, we invested heavily in improving social welfare rates and services for carers. Following this year's Budget, the carer's allowance rate for carers over 66 years of age has not changed and remains at €239. The rate of carer's allowance for someone under 66 is €212.

Since the introduction of the carer's allowance in 1990 payments to carers have been increased and expanded. Carer's allowance was increased in 2007, 2008 and 2009 by 12.1%, 6.5% and 3.3%, respectively. As a result, even with the reduction announced in the last Budget for carers under 66, the weekly rate of payment for the carers allowance is still almost 20% higher this year than in 2006 and more than 147% higher than in 1997.

The means test for carer's allowance has been significantly eased over the years, and is now one of the most generous means tests in the social welfare system, most notably with regard to spouse's earnings. Since April 2008, the income disregard has been €332.50 per week for a single person and €665 per week for a couple. This means that a couple with two children can earn in the region of €37,200 and qualify for the maximum rate of carer's allowance as well as the associated free travel and household benefits. A couple with an income in the region of €60,400 can still qualify for a minimum payment, as well as the associated free travel and household benefits package. These levels surpass the ‘Towards 2016' commitment to ensure those on average industrial earnings continue to qualify for a full carer's allowance.

From June 2005, the annual respite care grant was extended to all carers who are providing full time care to a person who needs such care, regardless of their income. The rate of the respite care grant has also been increased to €1,700 per year in respect of each care recipient since June 2008. The Government will continue to support carers within the resources available.

Social Welfare Benefits

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

164 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will respond to a query (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36938/10]

Since April 2000 the needs of asylum seekers are catered for under the direct provision system operated by the Reception and Integration Agency of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Under the system asylum seekers are provided with full board accommodation and other facilities such as laundry services and access to leisure areas. To take account of the services provided, a direct provision allowance of €19.10 per adult per week and €9.60 per child per week is payable in respect of any personal requisites required. The payment of this weekly direct provision allowance is being made on an administrative basis by the Community Welfare Division of the Health Service Executive on behalf of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme (SWA), which is administered on behalf of the Department by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive, an exceptional needs payment may be made to help meet an essential, once-off cost which the applicant is unable to meet out of his/her own resources.

The principal consideration in making a single payment of SWA to address a particular need is that the need to be met must be ‘exceptional'. Payments should arise only under abnormal conditions and should not become a regular or standard practice. Thus, an exceptional needs payment should be a single payment to meet an unforeseen and/or special need which cannot be met from a client's basic income.

Eligible people would normally be in receipt of a social welfare or HSE payment. There is no automatic entitlement to this payment. Each application is determined by the Executive based on the particular circumstances of the case, taking account of the nature and extent of the need. The expense incurred in emergency visits abroad or the purchasing of a car by foreign nationals or asylum seekers would not be considered appropriate to the exceptional needs payment provisions of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme.

The Department is aware that there have been reports from time to time that asylum seekers, refugees and foreign nationals are in receipt of special payments through the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme for certain items that would not be of an essential or exceptional nature. These reports are without foundation; insofar as it is possible to identify the individual cases about which the allegations were made, no such payments are, or have ever been made in this regard through the scheme or through any other social welfare support system.

Social Welfare Appeals

John McGuinness

Question:

165 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 1299 of the 29 September 2010, if he will arrange a review of this case in view of the further information provided by the parliamentary question; if he will now expedite the review and issue a response [36970/10]

In order to qualify for domiciliary care allowance a child must have a disability so severe that it requires the child needing care and attention and/or supervision substantially in excess of another child of the same age. This care and attention must be given by another person, effectively full-time so that the child can deal with the activities of daily living. The child must be likely to require this level of care and attention for at least 12 months. Each application is assessed on an individual basis taking account of the evidence submitted.

In the case in question an application for Domiciliary Care Allowance was received on 4th February 2010. This application was referred to one of the Department's Medical Assessors who found that the child was not medically eligible for Domiciliary Care Allowance. A letter issued on 8 th March 2010 where the person concerned was advised of the decision to refuse the allowance. The person concerned subsequently lodged an appeal against this decision. She was informed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 14 th September 2010 that the appeal had been disallowed. The decision/appeal process for this application was completed in early September.

All the information supplied by the person concerned which was available at that time, was provided to the appeals officer before the appeal was considered in early September. If the person concerned has new or additional information it is open to her to re-apply at any time.

Departmental Expenditure

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

166 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Social Protection the recommendations contained in the report of the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes that pertain to his Department; the detail of each and proposed savings relating to his Department; which of these have been implemented to date and the expected savings to be achieved on each of these in one calendar year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36986/10]

The Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes made a range of recommendations in relation to my Department. These recommendations are outlined in the following table along with the current status of each recommendation.

This forthcoming Budget process will have regard, amongst other issues, to the outstanding recommendations of the Special Group. It is important to stress that at this stage no decisions have been taken either by me or by the Government in regard to changes in social protection schemes and services in 2011, including the outstanding recommendations of the Special Group.

Special Group Proposals

Annual Savings Identified in Report

Status

Estimated 2010 Savings

€m

€m

1.

5% General Reduction in Rates

850

Partially implemented in Budget 2010 through reductions of between 3.5% and 4.2% in personal and qualified adult rates payable to persons aged under 66.

437.0

2.

Administrative Savings

3

Reduction in grants to Family Support Agency and the Citizen’s Information Board

2.3

3.

Agency Services

3

Expenditure in 2010 in relation to Agency Services provided by An Post will be €3.44 m less than 2009

4.

Discontinuation of the Family Support Agency

30

Not implemented — Family Support Agency transferred to the Department of Community Equality and Gealtacht Affairs on 1st May 2010.

5.

Change eligibility conditions of Family Income Supplement

20

Not implemented to date

6.

Reduce/Standardise Child Benefit Rate

513

Partially implemented in Budget 2010 through reductions of €16 per month in both rates. There was also full compensation for welfare families.

123.0 (net)

7.

Grading of Jobseeker’s Assistance by Age

70

Fully implemented including a €100 per week rate for those aged under 23 and €150 per week rate for those aged 23 and 24.

54.0

8.

Discontinuation of Treatment Benefit

92

Partially implemented.

54.0

9.

Phase out second welfare payment

100

Not implemented to date

10.

Discontinuation of Double payments for CE Schemes

100

Not implemented to date

11.

Tax Household Benefits Package

11

Not implemented to date — Implementation is a matter for the Department of Finance

12.

Merge Blind Persons scheme with Disability Allowance

0

Not implemented to date

13.

Re-examine the level of the Rent Supplement payment on a regional basis and reduce the length of time on rent supplement

35

Implemented — rent limits that apply to new Rent Supplement agreements were reduced to reflect reductions in private rent levels.

20.0

14.

Legislate for and reduce eligibility for Exceptional Needs Payments

18

Not implemented to date

15.

Merge Pensions Ombudsman with the Financial Service Ombudsman

1

Not implemented to date

16.

Merge Pensions Board with the Financial Regulator

1

Not implemented to date

Total Savings

1,847

690.3

Social Welfare Appeals

Olwyn Enright

Question:

167 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social Protection if he is satisfied that when a decision is made by the social welfare appeals office to recommend a person for an oral hearing that it is taking approximately 12 months from the date this person's appeal is first registered with her Department to hold an oral hearing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37009/10]

I am informed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office there are currently 20,781 appeals being processed. There was 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 was an increase of a further 44% in the number of appeals received in the first eight months of 2010. These increases have caused delays in the processing of appeals.

It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal must be sought in each case. On the return of the papers and comments to the Social Welfare Appeals Office the case is referred to an Appeals Officer who will either make a decision summarily based on the documentary evidence or, if s/he considers it necessary, will list the case for oral hearing. Given the logistics involved in organising an oral hearing, a considerable period of time is added to the process.

In order to be fair to all appellants, the vetting of appeals and the arranging of oral hearings are being dealt with in chronological order. A number of initiatives have been put in place to enhance the capacity of the office to deal with the current caseload and inflows. In that regard 2 additional Appeals Officers were assigned to the Office in 2009, a number of additional staff were assigned to the administration area of the Office, the organisation of the Appeals Officer's work has been changed so as to increase productivity, a project to improve the business processes in the office was undertaken which has resulted in a number of improvements being implemented and significant enhancements have been made to the office's IT and phone systems.

In addition, it was decided to use experienced retired staff strictly on a short term basis to supplement the current resources and the services of eight retired officers have now been secured on a part-time basis and have been operating since July. I am assured by the Chief Appeals Officer that she is keeping current processes under continuous review with a view to achieving a more effective throughput of appeals, while ensuring that any progress does not conflict with due process in terms of the rights of appellants and adherence to the requirements of natural justice.

Decentralisation Programme

Frank Feighan

Question:

168 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) will be given a transfer. [37017/10]

Prior to the introduction of the Programme of Decentralisation in May 2004, the names of Clerical Officers and Staff Officers applying for transfers were recorded on departmental transfer lists in accordance with formal protocols agreed between the Civil, Public and Services Union (CPSU) and the Department of Finance. There were no formal protocols for other grades in the civil or public service, however informal transfer lists were maintained.

Following the introduction of the Programme of Decentralisation, the Central Applications Facility (CAF), which is administered by the Public Appointments Service, was established to record transfer applications in respect of all grades, across the civil and public service. Vacancies which fall to be filled by way of transfer are filled by reference to these lists in strict order of application date and the Department has no discretion in this regard. The position therefore is that the person in question can only be considered for a transfer when her place on the relevant transfer list has been reached.

Question No. 169 withdrawn

Social Welfare Appeals

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

170 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a jobseeker’s allowance appeal in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37054/10]

According to the records of the Department no appeal has been received from the person concerned.

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

171 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the basis on which it was determined that a person (details supplied) in County Dublin was not living at the address in question in view of the information provided by the landlord; the current position; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37055/10]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that the person concerned was refused rent supplement as, based on the information available to the HSE, the HSE was not satisfied that the person concerned was residing at the address provided. The HSE has further advised that the person concerned has appealed the decision to the HSE Appeals Office. The HSE Appeals Office has advised that they have received an appeal from the person concerned but that no decision has been made on her appeal to date. The HSE Appeals Office will contact the person concerned when a decision has been made on her appeal.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

172 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the way it was concluded that means from self employment could be attributed to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare in view of the fact that they have only worked one week in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37056/10]

The person concerned claimed Jobseeker's allowance from 24 May 2010 to 28 September 2010. Jobseeker's Allowance is a means tested scheme. The person was self-employed and provided accounts for the period 1 January 2010 to 24 May 2010. Those accounts showed a profit for that period. Based on those accounts means were assessed by a Social Welfare Inspector and the Deciding Officer agreed with the assessment. For the period 27 May 2010 to 28 September 2010 Jobseeker's Allowance was paid at the appropriate rate less means assessed. The person did not appeal the means assessment. The person found work from 29 September 2010. The person made a repeat claim on 6 October 2010, and the claim is awarded, with the same means.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

173 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when rent allowance will be approved in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare in view of the fact that the first accommodation identified is no longer on the market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37057/10]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has that advised the person concerned was awarded rent supplement but that payment was suspended as he informed the HSE that he had not moved into the property for which rent supplement was awarded. The HSE has further advised that the person concerned has been requested to complete and return an application form for rent supplement in respect of his new tenancy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

174 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37058/10]

The position remains as advised in question number 1280 which I answered for the Deputy on 29 September 2010 and question number 183 which I answered for the Deputy on 7 October 2010. The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that payment of rent supplement of €3,855, including arrears from 1 April 2010 to 31 August 2010, issued to the person concerned by cheque on 24 August 2010. The HSE has further advised that payment of arrears of rent supplement of €304.18 for 20 March 2010 to 31 March 2010 issued to the person concerned on 6 October 2010.

Child Support

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

175 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when child benefit payments will be restored in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37059/10]

The person in question had been in receipt Child Benefit under domestic legislation from 1 October 2005. Correspondence received on 27 January 2010 indicated that her child moved to Lithuania on 4 January 2010 and consequently payment was suspended from February 2010. She is currently in insurable employment, and therefore her claim is now subject to EU legislation. Correspondence issued on 28 September 2010 requesting details of the carer of her child in Lithuania and a reply was received on 12 October 2010 stating that the child is residing with his grandparents. Correspondence has now issued to the Lithuanian authorities querying entitlement to Family Benefits in that State. On receipt of a reply from the Lithuanian authorities entitlement to Child Benefit will be examined and the person in question will be notified accordingly.

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

176 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if and when disability or invalidity pension will be paid in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37060/10]

Invalidity Pension is a payment for people who are permanently incapable of work because of illness or incapacity and who satisfy the contribution conditions. On 9 October, 2010, the person concerned was refused Invalidity Pension on the grounds that he was not considered to be permanently incapable of work. He has been notified of this decision and of his right of review and appeal to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

177 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when one parent family allowance will be paid or restored in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37062/10]

The person concerned applied for one parent family payment from 17 September 2010. Her file has been sent to an inspector for investigation and a decision will be made on her claim when a report is received from the inspector.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

178 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when rent support will be offered in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37063/10]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that the person concerned has made an application for rent supplement. The person was requested to provide further information in order to process her application for rent supplement and a decision will be made on her application when the information has been provided.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

179 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare qualifies for disability allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37064/10]

The person concerned applied for disability allowance on 26 May 2010. The person's claim was assessed by a medical assessor who was of the opinion that he was not medically suitable for disability allowance. The deciding officer accepted this opinion and refused his disability allowance claim. The person was advised of this decision by letter on 30 August 2010 and of his right of appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office within 21 days.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

180 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason rent allowance was refused in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37065/10]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that the person concerned has made an application for rent supplement but that no decision has been made on her application to date. The HSE further advised that the person concerned was requested in September to provide further information in order to process her application for rent supplement. A decision will be made on her rent supplement application when the information requested has been provided.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

181 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when rent support appeal will be determined in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37066/10]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that rent supplement was refused in this case on the grounds that the rent payable to the landlord was in excess of the prescribed maximum limits with regard to the personal circumstances of the person concerned.

The person concerned was notified of this decision in writing and advised of the right to appeal this decision to the HSE Appeals Office.

The HSE has advised that it has no record of an appeal in respect of this decision from the person concerned.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

182 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason rent support has not been restored in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37067/10]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that payment of rent supplement to the person concerned is suspended as she was outside the State from June 2010 to August 2010. The HSE further advised that they requested information in relation to the period when the person concerned was outside the State. The HSE further advised that they have received some of the information requested but that no decision has been made on reinstating her rent supplement. The HSE further advised that they will contact the person concerned directly when a decision has been made.

Tourism Promotion

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

183 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport her views on the Irish Hotel Federation statement on the performance of Tourism Ireland in Britain; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36848/10]

I have acknowledged on many occasions that we are currently in a very challenging period for Irish tourism. Great Britain remains our single most important market in terms of overseas visitor numbers and that market has been notably challenging in recent years due to the domestic economic conditions pertaining there and particularly the unfavourable sterling exchange rate. Furthermore, the exceptional weather conditions in the early part of the year and the closure of airports, particularly in Britain and Ireland, in April and May due to the volcanic ash cloud meant that the early months of this year were particularly difficult in terms of visitors from Great Britain. In fact, the most recent statistics, for June 2010, show that, while numbers from Great Britain to Ireland did fall by 3% in June 2010 over June 2009, Ireland outperformed other competing destinations in the British market as total UK trips to other EU member states, excluding the newer member states, fell by 5.4%.

Clearly, the statement by the Irish Hotels Federation reflected the genuine concerns in the industry as a result of these negative trends. While the views of stakeholders are important and a valuable contribution to strategy , the statement did not seem to fully take account of the adverse external factors affecting the GB market, or indeed of the ongoing process by which Tourism Ireland constantly reviews its approach to its main markets, and develops its strategies in partnership and consultation with the industry — including the Irish Hotels Federation.

In fact, Tourism Ireland, in close consultation with the Irish tourism industry, completed a major review of the Great Britain market, known as "Project Britain" last year. This review recommended a new focus on value to counter the perceptions that Ireland is an expensive destination. The Review also highlighted the need to differentiate a holiday in Ireland from one in England, Scotland or Wales. These conclusions were put into practice through an extensive programme of activity by Tourism Ireland this year, including a major push around St. Patrick's Day and a strong value push for Leisure Tourism, Golf Tourism and Business Tourism. Overall, Tourism Ireland is investing over €12 million in marketing in Great Britain alone this year.

In terms of the future, research has shown that interest in visiting Ireland remains strong in Great Britain. Tourism Ireland is continuing to review performance, in terms of both visitor numbers and visitor perceptions, and is working with the Irish tourist industry including the Irish Hotels Federation to maximise our impact in the market. In this regard, Tourism Ireland recently convened a meeting of industry partners, including the Irish Hotels Federation, to consider the Great Britain market in advance of finalising plans for next year's marketing campaign there. I look forward to launching these plans later this year.

Departmental Staff

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

184 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport the number of employees within her Department, male and female, who have been approved for participation in the Civil Service flexible working scheme; the number of employees, male and female, who have been refused leave to participate in the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36891/10]

Currently a total of 16 employees in my Department avail of the worksharing scheme. Of this number, one is male and fifteen are female. In addition, since the more recent introduction of the Shorter Working Year scheme in 2009, a total of 5 employees in my Department, one male and four female, have availed of this scheme. No employee has been refused leave to participate in these schemes.

Swimming Pool Projects

Emmet Stagg

Question:

185 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport when the sports capital programme and the local authority swimming pool programme will recommence. [36963/10]

Under the Sports Capital Programme, funding is allocated to sporting and to voluntary and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. Since 1998 an amount of €730m has been allocated to 7,400 projects throughout the country. This investment has transformed the quantity and quality of sports facilities throughout the country. Given the current budgetary situation and the high level of outstanding commitments it was considered prudent to take stock prior to announcing the next round of the Programme and accordingly no date has been set for the next round of the Programme.

The question of funding a new round of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme will be a matter for discussion as part of the Annual Estimates process between the Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport and the Department of Finance this year.

Departmental Staff

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

186 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport that recommendations contained in the report of the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes that pertain to her Department; the detail of each and proposed savings relating to her Department; which of these have been implemented to date and the expected savings to be achieved on each of these in one calendar year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36987/10]

The Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes, as published in July 2009, made a number of recommendations in respect of my Department and the Agencies under its aegis. Specifically, the Special Group made proposals to reduce programme expenditure by almost €105 million in 2010 and to structurally reduce 170 staff across the department and its agencies. It also proposed that consideration should be given to the discontinuation of the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism as a Department in its own right. The Group's recommendations are outlined in Detailed Paper no. 2 of the Report. The attached table outlines the recommendations and the annual saving identified by the Special Group in relation to my Department. It also outlines the savings that will be achieved in 2010 in relation to each of the proposals, which amounts to almost €30m. In addition to those outlined, further savings will be achieved in 2010 by reductions in allocations to various programmes across my Department which were not included in the Recommendations of the Special Group. In all, savings of more than €35 million, or almost 7 per cent, were achieved in the Revised Estimates for 2010 for the Department's Vote Group compared to 2009. Moreover, the Government's moratorium on staff recruitment and promotion and its incentivised early retirement scheme continue to achieve reductions in staff numbers across my Department and its Agencies.

Credit Availability

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

187 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport the extent if any to which she has interceded with the banking sector with a view to the provision of adequate overdraft or working capital facilities for the tourism, sporting and cultural sectors; the extent if any to which she has received any response; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37069/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

190 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport to indicate the extent to which she has had discussions with the employers throughout the sector for which her Department has responsibility with a view to safeguarding existing jobs and job creation, the extent to which a plan has been formulated if any; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37072/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

191 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport the degree, if any, to which she has examined the tourism, cultural and sporting sectors with a view to safeguarding the existing employment and or creating new jobs; the extent, if any, of her discussions in this regard with the principal involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37073/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

194 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport her plans if any for the utilisation of the tourism, sporting and cultural sectors for the promotion of the principle of job retention and creation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37076/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

196 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport if her attention has been drawn to any trading difficulties experienced or direct assistance in response to the employment numbers in the arts, cultural and sporting sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37078/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 187, 190, 191, 194 and 196 together.

The Government has already introduced wide-ranging measures to promote the flow of credit within the economy, including the introduction of the Bank Guarantee Scheme, the 2009 Recapitalisation Scheme, the nationalisation of Anglo Irish Bank and the establishment of the National Asset Management Agency. These have all contributed to the stabilisation of the banking sector with a view to facilitating the flow of credit.

The 2010 Recapitalisation package builds on these earlier initiatives and includes additional support for enterprises, including small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs). In particular, AIB and Bank of Ireland have both committed to making available not less than €3 billion each for new or increased credit facilities to SMEs in both 2010 and 2011, including funds for working capital for businesses. Furthermore, the Credit Review Office was established to ensure that the banks are not refusing credit to viable businesses.

In addition, my Department has been actively participating in the work of the Credit Supply Steering Group, which has been examining the availability of credit generally to businesses. The Irish Hotels Federation is also represented on this Group together with other representative groups, Government Departments and the banks.

With specific regard to tourism, culture and sport, safeguarding existing jobs and supporting job creation can only be achieved by promoting the robustness and vibrancy of these sectors. I have sought at every opportunity to do just that.

It is Government policy and mine as Minister with responsibility for the sector to develop and support the tourism industry in partnership with those bodies, such as the Irish Hotels Federation, that represent tourism business. Despite the difficulties in our public finances, the Government increased the tourism services budget in 2010 by providing more than €153 million, which is an increase of 3 per cent over the 2009 outturn.

The State tourism agencies are maintaining their marketing drives to attract overseas and domestic tourists to holiday in Ireland. Tourism Ireland is continuing its marketing activities in Great Britain, mainland Europe and North America this Autumn highlighting ease of access, great fares and offers from the industry and showcasing the wonderful holiday experiences available here. Here at home, Fáilte Ireland's €4 million home holiday marketing programme is continuing with the Autumn offering launched during September.

In 2010, Fáilte Ireland is investing more than €11 million in the form of direct supports and advice for tourism enterprises. Business supports are aimed at assisting key tourism businesses to increase their international customer base, better manage their cost base, improve overall performance and sustain employment levels.

The Government further demonstrated its commitment to tourism by its inclusion of tourism in a range of cross-cutting measures — including the Employment Subsidy Scheme, the Work Placement Programme, the Credit Review System and incentives for investment in energy-efficiency — all of which support sustainable tourism enterprises and employment.

Tourism businesses accessed the second call for applications under the Employment Subsidy Scheme, under which total support of €65 million is available to protect vulnerable employment. The take-up of this scheme in the hotel sector was very strong. Further specific measures that are helping tourism include the changes in alcohol excise duties and VAT and the free rail travel initiative aimed at senior citizens visiting Ireland from abroad. The reduction in alcohol excise duties will result in lower hospitality costs to our visitors.

With regard to culture, the Government and I remain committed to supporting and funding this sector within financial resources to ensure the maintenance of as much employment as possible. My policy is to promote and strengthen the culture sector in all its forms, increase access to and participation in culture, make culture an integral and valued part of our national life, and maximise the potential for cultural tourism, including employment. I will endeavour to maximise funding for these sectors, given its centrality to our economic and social well being.

The sports sector is also a major contributor to the economy, a contribution which includes sports tourism, ticket sales, subscriptions and the cost of playing sport, together with the purchase of sports equipment and an economic value of time given by volunteers. There is also a very extensive financial dividend to be obtained through the success of major sporting events, particularly those with an international dimension. With specific regard to employment, the Irish Sports Council, through its grant funding to the National Governing Bodies, supports a large number of jobs throughout the country. The Department's capital expenditure, through its Sports Capital Programme and Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme, is also a major contributor to employment.

Across the tourism, culture and sport sectors, I remain in ongoing contact and consultation with the key stakeholders so that my Department's policy and other responses to the needs of these sectors remain current, proportionate, targeted and effective.

Questions Nos. 188 and 189 answered with Question No. 17.
Questions Nos. 190 and 191 answered with Question No. 187.
Question No 192 answered with Question No. 33.

Job Creation

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

193 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport the extent of her discussions with those involved in culture and the arts with particular reference to the determination of a policy in respect of job retention and creation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37075/10]

On 7 September last I organised a consultative forum which was attended by stakeholders representing the arts, culture and the film sectors. The deliberations of that forum, which included contributions relating to employment in the arts, culture and film sectors, will feed into the preparation of the Department's Statement of Strategy for the period 2011-2013 which will be published in due course.

Question No. 194 answered with Question No. 187.
Question No. 195 answered with Question No. 17.
Question No. 196 answered with Question No. 187.

Local Authority Staff

Joe McHugh

Question:

197 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of directors of services and managers in all local authorities who have retired and are back working in Government bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36934/10]

Information concerning the current employment of retirees from the Local Government sector is not available in my Department.

Building Regulations

Phil Hogan

Question:

198 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if in the redraft of Part H of the building regulations he intends to address concerns related to legal liability for domestic waste water pollution, legal standards for waste water treatment products, an inadequate certification process for waste water installations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36849/10]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

203 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his response to the concerns of a company (details supplied) regarding the consumer protection and environmental liberty issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36870/10]

I propose to take Question Nos. 198 and 203 together.

Research carried out as part of the preparation of the River Basin Management Plans estimated that as many as 25,000 septic tanks have the potential to impact on ground-waters and 120,000 have the potential to impact on surface waters, due to their location in vulnerable areas. Therefore, there is considerable urgency in reviewing both the technical standards for new build and setting an appropriate inspection and maintenance regime for existing systems to address the situation. The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Code of Practice on Waste water Treatment and Disposal Systems Serving Single Houses which was published in October 2009 sets out comprehensive requirements in relation to the site assessment, design, installation and maintenance of on-site waste water systems. My Department issued a circular letter to planning authorities in January 2010 regarding implementation of the EPA's new Code of Practice.

Elements of the Code relevant to building control will be provided for in the revised Technical Guidance Document (TGD) H — Drainage and Waster water Disposal — which will accompany the amendment to Part H of the Building Regulations which I hope to complete shortly. This follows a comprehensive review, including a three month public consultation process which closed on 8 March 2010, undertaken by my Department in conjunction with the Building Regulations Advisory Body. The proposed revised TGD H includes specific guidance on the current harmonised European product standards (IS EN 12566 series) for waste water treatment systems.

Section 70 of the Water Services Act 2007 places a duty of care on the owner of a premises to ensure that treatment systems for waste water which are not in the charge of a water services provider (i.e. septic tanks and other on-site waste water treatment systems) are kept so as not to (a) cause, or be likely to cause, a risk to human health or the environment, including waters, the atmosphere, land, soil, plants or animals, or (b) create a nuisance through odours. Non-compliance with the duty of care requirement is an offence. Extensive powers of inspection and enforcement are provided under the Water Services Act to facilitate the implementation of the duty of care provision.

My Department will work with local authorities in ensuring that future county development plans, taking account of river basin management plans and other water quality legislation, address this issue pro-actively so that rural communities continue to provide for their housing needs in tandem with protecting water quality.

Phil Hogan

Question:

199 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the status of the review of the retail planning guidelines; the nature of changes under consideration; when he expects to publish revised guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36852/10]

As indicated in the reply to Question No. 290 of 6 October 2010, my Department is currently reviewing the Retail Planning Guidelines which were originally published in 2001 and updated in 2005.

Among the principles guiding the review are the following:

competition to the benefit of the consumer should be maintained and enhanced in accordance with proper planning and sustainable development;

existing retail development-type definitions and relevant floorspace limits should be assessed to determine whether they remain appropriate or whether they need to be amended;

preferred locations for retail development should continue to be guided by considerations of sustainable land use, including access by public transport;

in particular, new retail development should be encouraged to contribute to the vitality and vibrancy of town and village centres, to ensure that they retain retailing as a core function; and

realistic, regionally consistent and forward-looking strategies for plan-led retail development should be devised which can give clear guidance to planning authorities, developers and shop owners in formulating development or expansion proposals.

An Issues Paper, which set out high-level and strategic issues for retail planning, was published in June 2010 to provide an opportunity for stakeholders and interested parties to assist in identifying key issues to be considered in the context of preparing and drafting revised guidelines. Almost 200 submissions were received by the closing date of 30 July, and the issues raised in these submissions are currently being examined in drafting the updated guidelines. It is intended that revised draft guidelines will be published for consultation before the end of the year, thus affording interested parties a further opportunity to input into the process before the guidelines are finalised.

Departmental Expenditure

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

200 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the total budget allocated and spent by his Department on homeless services in 2009 and to date in 2010. [36861/10]

The information requested is set out in the following table:

2009

2010

Allocation

56.000

56.000

Expenditure

56.057

36.586*

*Expenditure to date (end Sept 2010) The above expenditure does not include an additional 10% provided by the local authorities from their own resources.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

201 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the total budget allocated and spent by his Department on the capital assistance scheme in 2009 and to date in 2010. [36862/10]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 469 of 12 October, 2010 which sets out the position in this matter.

Departmental Correspondence

John O'Mahony

Question:

202 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he will respond to correspondence (details supplied). [36865/10]

The correspondence referred to was replied to by letter of 20 September 2010. According to An Post records, the reply, which issued by registered mail, was delivered on 21 September. A signed receipt was obtained from a member of the person's household. A further copy will be sent by normal mail.

Question No. 203 answered with Question No. 198.

Departmental Staff

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

204 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of employees within his Department, male and female, who have been approved for participation in the Civil Service flexible working scheme; the number of employees, male and female, who have been refused leave to participate in the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36883/10]

My Department's staff can avail of a wide range of family friendly working arrangements. However, I understand the Question refers specifically to the Civil Service Worksharing Scheme. Out of a total staff of 1,176.53 permanent staff in whole time equivalent terms, there are currently 118 members of staff (16 men and 102 women) participating in the Civil Service Worksharing Scheme in my Department. Decisions on worksharing arrangements must be considered in the light of the business needs of the area and the Department, but my Department has not refused any such application.

Departmental Reports

Phil Hogan

Question:

205 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the National Waste Report 2009 will be published by the Environmental Protection Agency for the 2009 national statistics on waste generation and management in the Republic of Ireland including information on waste exports and imports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36943/10]

The National Waste Report is prepared by the Environmental Protection Agency and I understand that it is intended that the 2009 report would be published before end 2010.

Waste Disposal

Phil Hogan

Question:

206 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if Ireland will meet the landfill directive target of biodegradable municipal waste allowed to be in landfill by July 2010 at 916,000 tonnes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36944/10]

I have accorded priority attention to the work associated with positioning Ireland to achieve compliance with the Landfill Directive's targets for the diversion of biodegradable waste from landfill. Taking account of policy initiatives including source segregated collection of household organic waste in urban areas, the new regulations I introduced requiring the separate collection of food waste from commercial premises and increases already in place and planned for the Landfill Levy, as well as revised projections for waste generation, I am confident that it will be possible to demonstrate compliance with the Directive's target for 2010.

Phil Hogan

Question:

207 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) will be law by 12 December 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36948/10]

I intend that the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) will be transposed on time by regulations made under the European Communities Act 1972. A draft of these Regulations will be available for public consultation shortly.

Departmental Expenditure

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

208 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government which recommendations contained in the McCarthy report pertain to his Department; the detail of each and proposed savings relating to his Department; which of these have been implemented to date and the expected savings to be achieved on each of these in one calendar year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36983/10]

My Department, local authorities and related agencies are working to maximise outputs from the 2010 provisions through prioritisation, increased efficiency and lower procurement costs generally. Recommendations in the Report relating to my Department are reflected,inter alia , in savings in administrative costs arising from reductions in public service numbers and pay; the reduced Exchequer contribution to the Local Government Fund (€226 million in 2010, in the context of wider developments relating to local government finance); the review of the EPA which is underway; the ongoing rationalisation of agencies in the housing area; and more extensive use of leasing to ensure overall housing output is maintained at the highest level possible. The Report will continue to be taken into account in the development of policy and the management of programmes by my Department. Consistent with the approach of the Special Group, the Report of the Local Government Efficiency Review Group , published in mid-July, includes recommendations for efficiency and other savings in the local government sector to be attained in the short, medium and long terms. The findings and recommendations will be considered by Government in the appropriate policy and financial contexts. I propose to establish an implementation group with an independent chairperson to oversee implementation of relevant recommendations.

Local Authority Funding

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

209 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made towards the implementation of a system for financing local government as promised in the programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37021/10]

The renewed Programme for Government contains commitments to introduce a new system for the financing of local government, ensuring the viability of local services, and that Government policy for the reform of Local Government is implemented. The Programme further commits to the introduction of charging for treated water use that is fair, significantly reduces waste and is easily applied.

The revenue base of local authorities was broadened in 2009 by the introduction in the Local Government (Charges) Act 2009 of a charge on non-principal private residences. The charge is payable in respect of private rented accommodation, holiday homes and other non-principal private residences. As at 13 October 2010, the non-principal private residence charge had raised €66,532,480 in respect of 2009 and €61,689,020 to date in respect of 2010. The Government is currently finalising its position in relation to the introduction of domestic water charges.

A dedicated Cabinet Committee has been engaged in finalising the policy decisions for inclusion in the White Paper on Local Government. I intend to publish the White Paper as soon as possible following completion of the Government's deliberations.

The Report of the independent Local Government Efficiency Review Group, published in mid July, includes 106 recommendations for efficiency and other savings of €511 million for the local government sector to be attained in the short, medium and long terms. These savings are comprised of €346 million in efficiencies and €165 million in improved cost recovery and revenue raising. The Group's focus was on removing costs in the local government sector and ensuring that efforts are directed towards improving and extending the delivery of local public services in the most efficient and effective way. The Report's findings and recommendations will be considered by Government in the appropriate policy and financial contexts.

As recommended in the Report, I propose to establish an implementation group with an independent chairperson to oversee implementation of relevant recommendations.

Affordable Energy Strategy

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

210 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason the fuel poverty strategy promised for 2009 in the programme for Government has not been published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37023/10]

I am working closely with the Ministers for Social Protection and Environment, Heritage and Local Government, and others on the inter-Departmental Steering Group to finalise the affordable energy strategy, which, due to the complexity of data being gathered, has necessitated a more intensive analysis than was previously envisioned. However, I expect to be in a position to bring the strategy to Government soon.

This strategy will set out a framework to ensure that households can achieve affordable access to their energy requirements through a range of practical initiatives and programmes designed to reduce the demand for energy, thus protecting those considered most at risk of energy poverty.

The strategy applies a holistic approach, combining national and geographically focussed actions in the areas of income supports, targeted and tailored energy efficiency improvements, and advice and information.

The strategy also reviews existing definitional constructs and will identify an appropriate methodology for the ongoing measurement and reporting of energy poverty in Ireland.

Provisional findings suggest that dwelling age is a key indicator of energy poverty. As a result, enhancing the energy efficiency of homes through structural improvements will remain a pivotal action in the strategy to address long-term energy affordability. This year will see energy efficiency upgrades delivered to at least 22,500 homes, bringing the total number of homes upgraded since 2000 to nearly 60,000 by year end.

Departmental Staff

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

211 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of employees within his Department, male and female, who have been approved for participation in the Civil Service flexible working scheme; the number of employees, male and female, who have been refused leave to participate in the scheme. [36878/10]

A total of 51 staff in my Department are currently participating in the Civil Service work sharing scheme, 42 of whom are female and 9 male. One male staff member was refused leave to participate in the scheme in 2008 as at that time there was no position available in the grade concerned suited to the work sharing pattern requested.

Departmental Expenditure

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

212 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources which recommendations contained in the McCarthy report pertain to his Department; the detail of each and proposed savings relating to his Department; which of these have been implemented to date and the expected savings to be achieved on each of these in one calendar year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36979/10]

The table below shows the recommendations contained in the Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes (McCarthy Report) which pertain to my Department and to the Agencies under its remit and the current status of said recommendations about which the Deputy is inquiring. As the Deputy is aware the Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes outlined a wide range of proposals across all Departments, a number of which, if agreed by Government to proceed, can only be achieved through restructuring over a number of years. The consideration of the proposals for my Department and the Agencies under its aegis is ongoing and as the table shows, progress has been made in relation to certain proposals. In addition, my Department has committed to current expenditure savings amounting to €13 million over the 2009 Estimate in 2010. Gross current expenditure in 2010 for my Department will be 3% below the 2009 outturn and expenditure on the Department's pay bill will be some 9% below the 2009 outturn.

Recommendations

Current Status/Savings

Merge DHDA with EI/IDA

Review of DHDA currently underway

Merge ComReg with BAI

Not implemented

Transfer IFCO into BAI

Under consideration

Partially fund TG4 from TV Licence

Not included in Budget 2010 but direct Exchequer subvention to TG4 reduced by €2.083 million

Terminate DCENR/SEAI energy awareness programmes

Separate budget for Energy Efficiency Awareness eliminated in Budget 2010 (€0.894 million saving)

Rationalise multiplicity of energy efficiency schemes run by SEAI

Being rationalised in the context of the multi-annual National Retrofit Programme announced in Budget 2010

Transfer energy research funding to new single funding stream for all research

Energy research function retained

Review operations of Bord na Móna to achieve optimal value

Will be done on an ongoing basis — any potential savings arising would not accrue to the Exchequer

Merge OSi and the Valuation Office with the PRA

Not implemented

Secure efficiencies/increased revenue worth 20% of GSI’s operating costs

Value for Money Review of GSI underway to secure efficiencies/increased revenue

Secure additional savings from the merger of the regional fisheries boards

Merger took place with effect from 1 July 2010 and direct Exchequer funding for Inland Fisheries reduced by €3.369 million compared to the 2009 Estimate

Transfer responsibility for Inland Fisheries from DCENR to DEHLG

Not implemented

Reduce DCENR authorised number of civil servants by 30 posts

DCENR has achieved target

Reduce DCENR agency staff by 76

Numbers to be reduced by 79 by end 2012 under Employment Control Framework agreed with Department of Finance

Departmental Staff

Andrew Doyle

Question:

213 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if his Department intends to move staff to the vacant offices at a location (details supplied) in County Galway which were previously highlighted for this purpose; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36873/10]

Considerable progress has been made over the past year in implementing a comprehensive reconfiguration of my Department's local office structure, as part of which sixteen enhanced regional offices are being developed, including one in Co Galway.

Work on this process is continuing and I am anxious that the new local office structure is fully in place as soon as possible. As the reconfiguration process continues, the Department will continue to engage with the staff concerned to ensure that they are kept informed of the progress of the process.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

214 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of employees within his Department, male and female, who have been approved for participation in the Civil Service flexible working scheme; the number of employees, male and female, who have been refused leave to participate in the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36877/10]

There are currently 533 members of the staff of my Department participating in the Civil Service Worksharing Scheme, which, I understand, is the scheme referred to in the question. Of these, 504 are female and 29 male.

My Department is supportive of family friendly and work life balance policies in the workplace and accommodates staff wishing to avail of these arrangements subject to the business requirements of the Department. To date this year, no employee has been refused leave to participate in the worksharing scheme.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme

Pat Breen

Question:

215 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36913/10]

An application under the 2010 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 23 April 2010. The 75% advance payment, paid on 21 September 2010, was on the basis of those parcels processed by my Department at that stage. As the remaining land parcels are digitised further payments will be made. The 25% balancing payments under this Scheme are scheduled to commence issuing as and from 20 October 2010.

Michael Ring

Question:

216 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their disadvantaged area scheme payment following their ground inspection this year. [36915/10]

An application under the Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Area Scheme was received from the person named on the 9 April 2010.

This application was selected for and was the subject of a ground eligibility and animal identification inspection. The inspection process is completed and the application has now been fully processed. The 75% advance payment under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme will issue shortly, with the 25% balancing payment scheduled to commence issuing on 20th October. The advance payment of 50% under the Single Payment Scheme is scheduled to commence issuing on 18 October with the balancing payment of 50% scheduled to commence issuing on 1st December.

Grant Payments

Denis Naughten

Question:

217 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he intends to make allocations under the 2010 single farm payment national reserve; when allocations were made under the scheme in 2008 and 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36919/10]

The National Reserve fund is replenished each year by the value of unused entitlements that are surrendered to the Reserve under the entitlement usage rules. This year the value of the unused entitlements will not be known until the end of the year. It is expected that allocations from 2010 National Reserve will commence shortly afterwards. Allocations under the 2008 and 2009 National Reserve commenced in September of each year.

Tree Felling Licences

John McGuinness

Question:

218 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if a felling licence has issued in respect of a project (details supplied) and if he will expedite the matter. [36961/10]

A felling licence has not yet issued for this site. My Department has requested further information from Coillte Teoranta on the proposed felling plan for the site at Castlecomer Demesne. Following receipt of this plan, a decision will be taken by the Department on the granting of a licence.

Grant Payments

Tom Sheahan

Question:

219 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will investigate a debt owed by a person (details supplied) to the Department as a Department officer found otherwise on a recent visit to the holding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36965/10]

I have arranged to have an official of my Department's Single Payment Unit make direct contact with the person named regarding this matter.

Pat Breen

Question:

220 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36972/10]

An application under the Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Area Scheme was received from the person named on the 15 April 2010.

This application was selected for and was the subject of a ground eligibility and animal identification inspection.

The inspection process is completed and the application has now been fully processed. The 75% advance payment under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme will issue shortly. The 25% balancing payments under the scheme are scheduled to commence issuing on 20 October 2010. The advance payments of 50% under the Single Payment Scheme are scheduled to commence issuing on 18 October with the balancing 50% payment scheduled to commence issuing on 1 December.

Departmental Expenditure

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

221 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the recommendations contained in the report of the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes that pertain to his Department; the detail of each and proposed savings relating to his Department; which of these have been implemented to date and the expected savings to be achieved on each of these in one calendar year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36978/10]

The following is the information requested

Report recommendation

Annual saving identified in Report

Progress to date, saving achieved

€m

1

Transfer export promotion function of An Bord Bia and BIM to Enterprise Ireland; transfer BIM’s other functions to DAFF and consider same for An Bord Bia

7.3

Partially implemented; BIM marketing functions transferred to An Bord Bia.COFORD integrated into DAFF.

2

Reduce Teagasc staff numbers and rationalise offices

30.0

On-going staff reductions and office rationalisation under way. Grant-in-Aid reduced from €127.3m in 2009 to €119.9m in 2009 and €114.1m in 2010.

3

Transfer agricultural research funding to new single funding stream for all research

14.0

Not implemented; while R+D funding will be centralised following Government decision announced in the 2010 Budget, the Department’s R+D funding has not been included in the new arrangement. No saving is envisaged as funding is required to meet existing commitments.

4

Terminate Suckler Cow Scheme

44.0

The payment rate was reduced from €80 to €40 per eligible animal in the 2009 Budget in October 2008 resulting in an annual saving of approx €32m.

5

Increase disease levies

5.0

Not implemented

6

Review the operation of the TB and Brucellosis Eradication Scheme

9.0

The recommendation to reduce compensation to 75% was not proceeded with due to loss of EU co-funding (€4.5m) and cost of insurance to farmers.

7

Efficiencies/reform in Inspection procedures, including disease eradication.

2.0

Reduction of €1m in travel and subsistence costs has been achieved in disease eradication as a result of new procedures.

8

Review admin costs in food safety, animal health, plant health, etc. with view to reducing costs by 10%

15.0

See comment item 14

9

Staff reductions food safety, etc..

8.3

See comment item 14

10

Close REPS 4 and no rollover of participants from REPS 2,3 into REPS 4

80.0

Implemented; REPS 4 was closed with effect from 9 July 2009. Savings of about €80m p.a. are achieved based on 13,000 new applicants p.a. The savings are offset by the cost of the new Agri-environment Options Scheme which was introduced in March 2010.

11

Staffing reductions, rural development/agri-environment, etc.

7.5

See comment item 14

12

Reduce annual expenditure on LFAs by 30%

66.0

Expenditure previously reduced by 14% (€35m p.a.) in 2009 Budget in October 2008

13

Rationalise the Departmental local office network

7.0

Being implemented; the rationalisation of the local office network is well advanced following Government decision and announcement in July 2009. Current structure of 48 local offices (DVO, AES, and Forestry offices) will be reduced to 16. Total savings are estimated at €30m p.a. and reduction in staff numbers of 400 on completion of the rationalisation programme.

14

Reduce staff numbers and implement efficiency savings

10.0

Expenditure on Salaries, Wages and Allowances has reduced from €233m in 2008 to €226.2m in 2009 and an allocation of €197m in 2010. In the same period, expenditure on travel and subsistence was reduced from €15.2m to €9.77m to €9.72m.

Grant Payments

Michael Ring

Question:

222 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their single payment scheme and disadvantaged area scheme payments from 2005 onwards. [37019/10]

By way of transfer on 5 May 2006 the applicant received 16.64 Single Payment entitlements without land by inheritance (gift). These entitlements would appear to have been established under the provisions of Council Regulation (EC) No. 1792/2003 on the land claimed by the applicant to draw down his payments from 2006 onwards.

The applicant originally submitted a claim on the commonage in Kilgalligan for 1/19 share. The outcome of the Court proceedings was that he was only entitled to claim 1/38 share of this commonage. In addition, some other ineligible areas have been excluded from the area declared for both the commonage parcel and the owned land parcels declared by the applicant. His total reference area at present equates to 9.86 hectares. The position will be examined with a view to establishing whether the number of his entitlements can be adjusted and my Department will be in direct contact with the applicant when this process is completed.

Industrial Relations

Richard Bruton

Question:

223 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation if he has satisfied himself with the operation of joint labour committee binding agreements in respect of wage levels that are applied in certain sectors; if he or his Department have examined the alleged legal frailty of this approach; if he plans to alter this system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36847/10]

The Joint Labour Committee (JLC) and Registered Employment Agreement (REA) systems have been the subject of a number of recent legal challenges which raised issues specific to particular Employment Regulation Orders (EROs) and REAs.

The Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill 2009, which has passed all stages in the Seanad and has completed Second Stage in the Dáil, aims to modernise and strengthen the existing arrangements for the making of EROs and REAs and to provide for their more effective operation. To this end, the Bill provides for a number of amendments to the existing legislative framework surrounding the JLC and REA systems, including improved procedures, and clear principles and policies to be taken into account by JLCs when formulating proposals for EROs. The Bill also provides that EROs and REAs will be given legal effect in future by Ministerial Order and that a perceived gap in the scope of parliamentary supervision will be filled by providing for Oireachtas scrutiny of these instruments.

I also announced at the time of the publication of the Bill that I propose to introduce an additional provision in the Bill — to be effected by means of an amendment to the Bill at Committee Stage — to facilitate the inclusion in EROs and REAs of an "inability to pay" mechanism, along the lines of the mechanism provided in the National Minimum Wage Act, 2000 in the interests of further strengthening these mechanisms against future court challenges and to protect employment in situations where employers are faced with severe economic challenges.

My Department and I will continue to monitor developments in this area on an ongoing basis and I would encourage all parties to these agreements to recognise that a little responsiveness and flexibility in the operation of the statutory wage determination machinery would go a long way towards securing jobs.

Consumer Protection

Chris Andrews

Question:

224 Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation in view of the fact that companies based in Northern Ireland have the right to register for a .ie domain name, is there any mechanism in place to inform consumers that those goods and services are from Northern Ireland rather than the Republic of Ireland and his plans to put such a requirement in place. [36864/10]

I understand that the database of .ie registered internet domain names is maintained by a non -profit, non governmental organization and I have no function in the matter.

The Deputy will be aware that the free movement of goods and services is a basic tenet of the European Treaties. There is no general obligation, however, requiring a trader whether offering goods for sale as a traditional bricks and mortar retailer or via the internet as an etailer to provide particular information in relation to maters such as the origin of the goods being offered for sale.

The Consumer Protection Act 2007 does, however, prohibit traders from engaging in unfair commercial practices, including engaging in misleading practices such as providing false information in relation to the geographical or commercial origin of goods. Accordingly any trader, be they a retailer or an etailer, who provides false information as to the origin of goods that they sell and where such information would be likely to cause the average consumer to make a transactional decision that the consumer would not otherwise make, may be committing an offence under the Consumer Protection Act 2007. Evidence of traders engaging in such practices should be brought to the attention of the National Consumer Agency in order that it may be investigated.

Departmental Staff

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

225 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the number of employees within his Department, male and female, who have been approved for participation in the Civil Service flexible working scheme; the number of employees, male and female, who have been refused leave to participate in the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36882/10]

My Department currently has 197 staff participating in the worksharing scheme. Of these 197 staff, 177 are female and 20 male. Figures are not available in relation to the number of staff turned down for the worksharing scheme; this is because applications must initially be approved at local line manger level subject to the business needs of the Unit/Division concerned and may not come to the attention of the Personnel Unit. However, if it is not possible for staff to participate in the worksharing scheme in their current Unit every effort is made to facilitate their worksharing request elsewhere in the Department.

Redundancy Payments

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

226 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the reason a statutory redundancy payment only was paid to a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36930/10]

Under the Redundancy Payments Acts all eligible employees are entitled to a statutory redundancy lump sum payment on being made redundant. The scheme provides that an employee is entitled to two weeks pay for every year of service, plus a bonus week, subject to the prevailing maximum ceiling on gross weekly pay that is currently set at €600. The statutory redundancy scheme operated by the Department on behalf of the Department of Social Protection is concerned only with the statutory minimum payments to which employees are entitled. The payment ofex gratia payments by the employer is a matter solely between the employer and employee.

Eligibility for persons to qualify under the Scheme requires that:

The employee must have at least two years continuous service (104 weeks) in the employment of the employer;

The employee must be in employment that is insurable under the Social Welfare Acts. Full-time employees must be in employment which is insurable for all benefits under the Social Welfare Acts; this does not apply to part-time employees;

The employee must be 16 years and upwards;

The employee must have been made redundant as a result of a genuine redundancy situation.

I understand that the individual concerned received his full statutory redundancy entitlement and a rebate was paid to his former employer in respect of this payment on the 26 May, 2010.

Departmental Expenditure

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

227 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation which recommendations contained in the McCarthy report pertain to his Department; the detail of each and proposed savings relating to his Department; which of these have been implemented to date and the expected savings to be achieved on each of these in one calendar year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36982/10]

The Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes made a number of recommendations addressed directly to my Department. All recommendations contained in the report have been considered by my Department and, where appropriate, have been implemented either in part or in full.

The following table sets out the current position in relation to the recommendations and identifies the associated savings achieved to date.

As the Deputy will be aware, FÁS transferred from my Department to the Department of Education and Skills with effect from 1 May this year and the recommendations made by the Special Group in relation to FÁS programmes and services are now a matter for consideration by that Department.

Summary of Recommendations made by the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes in relation to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation

Ref. in Report

Recommendation

Associated savings suggested by Special Group

Current Position

Savings made

A1

Reduce grant support and secure efficiency cuts in the context of creating a single funding stream for all science, technology and innovation activities across all Departments.

€4.9m Current €48m Capital

In the context of Budget 2010, the Minister for Finance announced that the Government was establishing a single funding stream for Science, Technology and Innovation to maximise the efficiency and focus of investment and ensure that Ireland’s effort is strategically targeted on those areas that can achieve greatest impact.

€15m reduction in base-line Capital allocation for 2010.

The transfer of responsibility and associated funding for the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI) and certain other research functions from the Department of Education and Skills to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation from 1 May 2010 represents significant progress in relation to implementing this recommendation.

Work is on-going to identify the areas that have the greatest potential to deliver sustainable economic return from Ireland’s investment in Science, Technology and Innovation.

A2

Discontinuation of funding for the Irish Council for Bioethics.

€0.4m

The 2010 Estimates made provision for an orderly wind-down of funding from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation to the Irish Council for Bioethics (ICB) in the course of the year. The then Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment agreed with the Minister for Health and Children and the Minister for Finance that the three staff in the secretariat to the ICB should be seconded to the Department of Health and Children, so that their expertise could be availed of appropriately.

€0.4m in DETI Vote

The funding allocation that had previously been made available to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment for the ICB was accordingly transferred to the Department of Health and Children. Any further decisions in relation to the body are a matter for that Department.

Summary of Recommendations made by the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes in relation to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation— continued

Ref. in Report

Recommendation

Associated savings suggested by Special Group

Current Position

Savings made

A3 B3 B8 D3 E3 F2

Reduction in Departmental and agency staff numbers

€6.3m for Departmental staff.

The Special Group proposed reductions in civil and public service numbers across all of the Department’s programmes.

The paybill for Departmental staff was reduced by €5m in 2010 compared to the 2009 allocation due to reductions in pay scales and in staff numbers.

Staff savings in agencies included in proposed administrative cuts (see other recommendations)

The number of staff serving across the Department and its agencies fell by 322 in 2009 and will fall further in 2010 due to the moratorium on the recruitment of staff.

Further savings will arise due to the moratorium on the recruitment of staff.

The Department is currently in discussion with the Department of Finance on staffing targets for the years 2010-2012.

B1

Consolidate all indigenous enterprise support and sector marketing functions in Enterprise Ireland and the rationalise the organisations losing functions as appropriate. EI to deliver consolidated services through 8 offices in line with NSS hubs

€10m

The proposal made by the Special Group cuts across a number of Government Departments and agencies. Those aspects that concern only the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation (regarding, for example, the CEBs) are under active consideration at the moment.

See “Current Position”

B2

Reduction of IDA’s capital and administrative costs including rationalisation of regional offices in Ireland and shared services.

€10m Capital €16m Current

There was a once-off saving of €10m on IDA’s Capital allocation for 2009. However, the agency’s capital allocation is directly related to its contractual commitments and this saving is not recurrent.

€10m Capital in 2009 €2.6 m Current savings in 2010. Scope for further savings will be considered in the context of the 2011 Estimates.

IDA’s administrative costs have been reduced by €2.6 million for 2010 compared to the 2009 Estimate provision. This has been achieved through pay and efficiency savings.

B3

Reduction in Enterprise Ireland’s Capital spend

€10m

The Government considered it appropriate to increase Capital funding to Enterprise Ireland over the last two years to enable the agency to support vulnerable but viable companies, through, for example, the Enterprise Stabilisation Fund.

See “Current Position”

Summary of Recommendations made by the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes in relation to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation— continued

Ref. in Report

Recommendation

Associated savings suggested by Special Group

Current Position

Savings made

B3

Efficiency saving in administration and programme prioritisation in Enterprise Ireland.Reduction of at least 200 staff in EI

€36m

Enterprise Ireland’s administrative budget has been reduced by €7.9 million for 2010 compared to the 2009 Estimate provision. This has been achieved through pay and efficiency savings.

€7.9m savings in 2010. Scope for further savings will be considered in the context of the 2011 Estimates.

B4

The rationalisation of IDA and Enterprise Ireland overseas offices.

Included in recommendations B2 and B3

The agencies already share office space in common locations, where it is practical to do so.

See “Current Position”

B5

Reorganisation of Shannon Development.

€2m

Consideration of this recommendation is on-going in the context of the special requirements of the Mid West Region in the aftermath of the Dell closure. Any reorganisation of Shannon Development would require approval by the Government.

See “Current Position”

B6

Reorganisation of Forfás.

€2m

The Special Group’s proposal was that Forfas’s existing shared services function (carried out on behalf of a number of agencies) should be relocated to a wider Shared Services operation.

See “Current Position”

The implementation of this recommendation would be contingent on the identification of another body which provides shared services functions more efficiently than Forfas.

In the absence of the identification of such a body, the Department requested Forfás to examine the possibility of achieving savings through an enhancement of their existing shared services arrangements. The Department is currently considering the Forfás submission regarding same.

B7

Privatise the Certification Service of the National Standards Authority of Ireland and implementation of an organisational review.

€4.5m

Having considered the recommendation in detail, it was not clear that any benefit would accrue to the taxpayer from the privatisation of Certification Services, because of the high level of overhead costs that would remain with the NSAI after a sale of the certification business. The more likely result would be increased Exchequer cost. Accordingly, it has been decided not to pursue this proposal at this time.

See “Current Position”

Summary of Recommendations made by the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes in relation to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation— continued

Ref. in Report

Recommendation

Associated savings suggested by Special Group

Current Position

Savings made

D1

The relocation of all Industrial Relations institutions to a single location.

€1.5m per year for 2 years

The Labour Court, the Labour Relations Commission and the Rights Commissioner services are currently located in Tom Johnson House in Dublin.

Notwithstanding the preceding comments, the combined 2010 budgets for the Labour Court and the LRC have been reduced by €1.5m compared to the 2009 Estimates provision.

The Office of Public Works and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources have been requested to facilitate the location of the Employment Appeals Tribunal to the same premises.

D2

Merging the Health and Safety Authority and the National Employment Rights Authority into one Work Place Inspectorate.

€5m

Further examination of this proposal suggests that: there are radical differences between the natures of the two inspectorates; overlaps between the two Agencies are minimal; a merger will not yield appreciable savings; substantial legislative change would be required

Notwithstanding the preceding comments, the combined 2010 budgets for NERA and the H&SA have been reduced by €1.5m compared to the 2009 Estimates provision.

On that basis, it is not proposed to proceed with this recommendation. However, both agencies are, under the aegis of the Department, developing a programme of practical co-operation designed to make most efficient and effective use of their overall resources, whilst having regard to their different remits.

E1

Merging the functions of the Registrar of Friendly Societies (RFS) and Companies Registration Office (CRO).

€0.5m

The two offices and their statutory functions are already the responsibility of the same public official.

The 2010 Estimate provision for the CRO and RFS shows administrative savings (pay and Non-Pay) of €0.9m compared to the 2009 Estimates provision.

Summary of Recommendations made by the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes in relation to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation— continued

Ref. in Report

Recommendation

Associated savings suggested by Special Group

Current Position

Savings made

E2

IAASA should maximise shared services and reduce the Exchequer’s intervention from 40% to 20%

€0.8m

IAASA is endeavouring to maximise the use of shared services, but scope for savings is minimal. The Department currently provides payroll services to the Authority.

See “Current Position”

The level of Exchequer subvention is provided for in legislation and any reduction in this subvention would require detailed policy assessment and legislative change.

F

Savings in corporate services, a reduction in administrative budget and a transfer of foreign posts to Brussels to reduce travel and subsistence spend

€1m

Savings of €1 million in the Administrative Budget were delivered in 2009. Further savings will be achieved in 2010, largely due to reductions in Pay rates (see also Ref. A3 above).

€1m in 2009 €4.1m in 2010

There are costs associated with the assignment of posts to Brussels (e.g. Rent Allowance). Having analysed the proposal, the Department does not believe that the recommendation would be efficient or achieve economies in an overall context.

G

Merging the Irish Takeover Panel with the Competition Authority

No saving identified

This merger could lead to unnecessary policy conflict and it would not be in line with best international practice.

See “Current Position”

Business Regulation

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

228 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the various measurement activities adopted by his Department to ensure all Departments and agencies reduce administrative burdens by 25% by 2012; the percentage administrative burdens that have been reduced to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36994/10]

International benchmarking statistics reveal that Ireland imposes a relatively low burden of regulation on business. The Forfás Annual Competitiveness Report 2010 states that Ireland's regulatory environment is one of the least restrictive in the OECD in relation to product market regulation, the time taken to comply with tax payments is one of the lowest in the OECD across all categories and Ireland's employment framework is less rigid than the OECD average.

The work to reduce red tape in Ireland is being progressed on two fronts. The High Level Group on Business Regulation works to fast-track simplifications to specific red tape issues identified by business; and an Inter-Departmental Group of officials from all Departments, having regulation affecting business, coordinates the measurement and reduction of administrative burdens in a systematic manner, based on the internationally recognized Standard Cost Model.

The High Level Group has processed thirty specific red tape issues brought to its attention by business and continues to drive progress on a further thirty-eight items. To date, the Group has measured over €20m of annual business savings and continues to work with business interests. In addition, further burden reductions achieved, and in the process of being measured, will contribute to the Government's overall target of 25% administrative burden reduction by 2012.

The measurement of administrative burdens using the Standard Cost Model is an exercise that was called for by business, as a baseline for the 25% administrative burden reduction programme, and is being carried out across all Departments with any substantive regulation that affects business. My Department and the Central Statistics Office have already measured burdens arising from regulations under their responsibility, and all other relevant Departments will shortly measure the current red tape costs on business arising from their regulation. Measurement is expected to be completed in 2011 and, following this, simplification plans will be developed in consultation with stakeholders, for implementation.

Redundancy Payments

Arthur Morgan

Question:

229 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation when a redundancy payment will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Louth. [37011/10]

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 statutory redundancy lump sum claim on 11 May, 2010 in respect of the above individual. This claim awaits processing.

In respect of lump sum payments paid directly to employees in instances where employers are unable to pay the statutory redundancy entitlements, the current processing time for these claims has improved and claims dating from March 2010 are currently being processed. Of course in some instances, where the necessary supporting documentation for lump sum claims is not provided to my Department, or where queries arise, processing of claims can be further delayed until the required documentation is provided and/or outstanding queries are resolved.

My Department continues to make every effort to reduce processing times. Measures already taken in the Department to alleviate the pressures on the Payments area include: · Almost doubling the number of staff working solely on redundancy payment claims through reassignment to a current level of 52 full time equivalents;

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

Establishment of a special call handling facility in NERA to deal with the huge volume of telephone calls from people and businesses concerned about their payments;

Better quality information relating to current processing times on the Department's website;

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

The backlog and waiting times remain at unacceptable levels. However, improvements are evident. In 2009, my Department processed 50,664 claims, up 70% on the previous year. Furthermore, the level of new claims processed in the first nine months of 2010 was 58,202 — up over 81% on the corresponding 9-month period in 2009 (32,127) and surpassing the total amount of claims processed for the full year 2009 which came to 50,644. The backlog of claims is decreasing — reducing from its highest level in November 2009 of 43,608 to a current level of 29,776.

Responsibility for the payment functions arising under the Redundancy and Insolvency payment schemes is due to be transferred to the Department of Social Protection with effect from 1 January 2011. In transferring the functions between Departments, it is the intention that this will operate seamlessly and without any adverse impact on the service levels being experienced by individuals or the business community awaiting payment of redundancy claims.

Frank Feighan

Question:

230 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) who has lodged an application for redundancy payment. [37014/10]

My Department administers the Social Insurance Fund (SIF) in relation to redundancy matters on behalf of the Department of Social Protection. 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 wish to advise the Deputy that on the basis of valid claims entered in the Redundancy Payments System in my Department, there is no record of a redundancy claim having been received in respect of the individual in question. It is my Department's practice not to enter incomplete claims on the system as these claims cannot be processed until the necessary documentation is submitted. Forms are returned to allow missing details and/or supporting documentation to be submitted. The documentation required in support of lump sum claims, is set out hereunder and is available on my Department's website atwww.entemp.ie. Submission of correctly completed Redundancy claim forms (RP50’s) with all of the required documentation greatly facilitates the processing of claims.

The documentation required in support of lump sum claims is evidence of the employer's inability to pay the redundancy entitlements to the employees. This involves requesting a statement from the company's Accountant or Solicitor attesting to the inadequacy of assets to make the redundancy payments and, the latest set of financial accounts for the company. The employer is also asked to admit liability for the 40% liability attaching to the company arising from the redundancy payments.

If this information is provided to the Department, the employees are paid their redundancy entitlement from the Social Insurance Fund. Upon payment, the Department pursues the company for the 40% share that the company would ordinarily have been expected to pay to the employees.

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

Frank Feighan

Question:

231 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the position regarding redundancy payments in respect of persons (details supplied) in County Leitrim. [37018/10]

My Department administers the Social Insurance Fund (SIF) in relation to redundancy matters on behalf of the Department of Social Protection. 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 wish to advise the Deputy that on the basis of valid claims entered in the Redundancy Payments System in my Department, there is no record of a redundancy claim having been received in respect of the individuals in question for the company mentioned. It is my Department's practice not to enter incomplete claims on the system as these claims cannot be processed until the necessary documentation is submitted. Forms are returned to allow missing details and/or supporting documentation to be submitted. The documentation required in support of lump sum claims, is set out hereunder and is available on my Department's website at www.entemp.ie. Submission of correctly completed Redundancy claim forms (RP50’s) with all of the required documentation greatly facilitates the processing of claims.

The documentation required in support of lump sum claims is evidence of the employer's inability to pay the redundancy entitlements to the employees. This involves requesting a statement from the company's Accountant or Solicitor attesting to the inadequacy of assets to make the redundancy payments and, the latest set of financial accounts for the company. The employer is also asked to admit liability for the 40% liability attaching to the company arising from the redundancy payments.

If this information is provided to the Department, the employees are paid their redundancy entitlement from the Social Insurance Fund. Upon payment, the Department pursues the company for the 40% share that the company would ordinarily have been expected to pay to the employees.

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

Departmental Staff

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

232 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of employees within his Department, male and female, who have been approved for participation in the Civil Service flexible working scheme; the number of employees, male and female, who have been refused leave to participate in the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36879/10]

The Shorter Working Year Scheme was introduced in May 2009 and the following table sets out the number of staff in my Department approved to participate in the scheme.

Shorter Working Week Scheme

Year

Female

Male

Total approved

2009

16

2

18

2010 to date

19

5

24

In addition to the above, a total of 49 staff (45 female and 4 male) currently avail of options under the Work-Sharing Scheme which allows staff to operate a variety of attendance patterns to facilitate their individual circumstances.

All applications received to date under the above schemes have been facilitated by my Department.

Irish Language

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

233 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has accepted the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Sport, Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs on the 20 year strategy for the Irish language; if he will elaborate on the recommendations for the Department of Finance regarding the Gaeltacht as laid out in the report on infrastructure and investment priorities 2010 to 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36910/10]

As indicated previously in reply to Questions in this House, the 20-year Strategy for Irish was published in draft form to facilitate a further round of public consultation on the proposals contained in it by the relevant Oireachtas Joint Committee. The Joint Committee held meetings with relevant interests, including one meeting in the Gaeltacht, and subsequently agreed a submission with a range of recommendations. I received the Committee's recommendations on 28 July 2010 and these have been under examination by my Department in consultation with other relevant Departments. I anticipate that these consultations will be completed shortly and that a final draft of the Strategy can be brought to the Cabinet Committee on Irish, and subsequently to Government, in the near future. Proposals in regard to investment programmes for the Gaeltacht, outlined in the Infrastructure and Investment Priorities 2010 to 2016 report that was published by the Department of Finance in July 2010, remain under consideration. As the Deputy will be aware, all of the figures are indicative at this time and the 2011 allocations will not be decided until the Estimates process is completed within the framework of the forthcoming Budget. In the context of the 20-year Strategy, these issues will be considered further by my Department having regard to the resources that will be available in 2011 and future years. As the Deputy will appreciate, in the present financial circumstances objectives will have to be pursued with less resources than previously. However, despite these constraints, my Department is committed to making significant progress and to achieving value for money in the implementation of the Strategy.

Departmental Expenditure

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

234 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs which recommendations contained in the McCarthy report pertain to his Department; the detail of each and proposed savings relating to his Department; which of these have been implemented to date and the expected savings to be achieved on each of these in one calendar year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36980/10]

As the Deputy is aware, the Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes presented a set of options to reduce expenditure and staff numbers across the public sector. These options were considered by the Government within the context of framing the 2010 Budget.

Gross savings of some €57 million, or almost 12%, were achieved in the 2010 Revised Estimates Volume (REV) for the Vote of the then Department of Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, relative to the 2009 REV. While the allocations in most expenditure programmes were reduced, the primary concern was to make every effort to ensure that the daily front-line services provided with funding from my Department were protected, especially those focused on the needs of the most socially deprived communities.

With regard to the reduction in staff numbers, the Government's moratorium on staff recruitment and promotion and other associated measures, including the incentivised early retirement scheme, have achieved, and continue to achieve, reductions in staff numbers across my Department and relevant agencies.

In terms of specific recommendations by the Special Group, one key recommendation was predicated on the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs being dissolved and its functions transferred to other Departments. Other recommendations related to the abolition or transfer between Departments of specified functions. In this regard, the Deputy will be aware that, as part of the restructuring of Departments and agencies announced in March last by the Taoiseach to ensure greater coherence and produce more efficient delivery, my Department has taken over responsibility for (i) social inclusion policy and family policy from the Department of Social Protection and (ii) equality, disability, integration and human rights from the Department of Justice and Law Reform.

In relation to other recommendations by the Special Group, it may be noted that

The funding of a number of programmes referred to is subject to ongoing consideration of options in the context of the forthcoming Budget.

The Government's key objective in thecohesion process at this time is to ensure greater efficiencies and value for money through the new Local and Community Development Programme. This will be subject to robust monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. It will be implemented through a single delivery structure in each area from 1st January 2011. The number of local community development groups (incorporating Partnerships and LEADER companies) has already reduced from 94 to 52. The consolidation/reduction of other structures under my Department’s remit, for example, Family Resource Centres, will be reviewed over the coming period.

The future of the Western Development Commission remains under consideration in the context of the ongoing general review of enterprise structures.

The drafting of a Dormant Accounts (Amendment) Bill, which will, inter alia, dissolve the Dormant Accounts Board, is underway. It is anticipated that the Bill will be published during the present parliamentary session.

Options in relation to the future functions of the Family Support Agency are under review.

Proposals relating to the reallocation of some functions of the Equality Tribunal will fall to be considered in the context of the review of the equality and human rights bodies currently under way.

Responsibility for the Community Services Programme has transferred to the Department of Social Protection.

The Gaeltacht Housing Grant Scheme was suspended in April 2009. While existing commitments under the scheme continue to be met, no new commitments have been created since that time.

Other issues with regard to the funding of Irish language/Gaeltacht programmes and the future role of Údarás na Gaeltachta are subject to ongoing consideration in the context of both the forthcoming Budget and the anticipated publication of the 20-year Strategy for Irish. The draft Strategy was published some time ago and has been subject to review by the relevant Oireachtas Committee. It is anticipated that the matter will be re-submitted to Government in the coming period. It may be noted that there is no requirement under the Official Languages Act that all official publications be translated into Irish. The requirement applies only to a limited range of cases.

The Deputy will appreciate that, in the context of the foregoing, any calculation of savings arising would be premature at this stage.

Departmental Staff

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

235 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Defence the number of employees within his Department, male and female, who have been approved for participation in the Civil Service flexible working scheme; the number of employees, male and female, who have been refused leave to participate in the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36880/10]

It has not been possible in the time available to compile the information requested by the Deputy. The information will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Departmental Expenditure

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

236 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Defence which recommendations contained in the McCarthy report pertain to his Department; the detail of each and proposed savings relating to his Department; which of these have been implemented to date and the expected savings to be achieved on each of these in one calendar year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36981/10]

Following the publication of the Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes in July 2009, the recommendations relating to the Defence sector were given full consideration.

With the exception of the recommendation to close the Equitation School, which has not been accepted, all of the main savings identified by the Special Group have been implemented, or alternative savings identified, as follows:

Report of the Special Group on Public Numbers and Expenditure Programmes Implementation progress

2010 Estimated Savings

€m

Reduction of Permanent Defence Force numbers.

9.0

Government approval was secured in the context of Budget 2010 for a level of 10,000 all ranks. Civilian employee numbers are also reducing.

Rationalise Ireland’s overseas commitments — end participation in UN mission in Chad.

7.0

Ireland’s commitments in Kosovo were significantly reduced in April 2010. Numbers in Bosnia-Herzegovina are being scaled back at the end of 2010.

The Irish contingent withdrew from Chad in May 2010.*.

Reduce the Reserve Defence Force by two-thirds.The number of paid training days for RDF members has been reduced.

4.0

Close the sail training scheme (Asgard II)

0.8

The sail training scheme has been discontinued.

Reduce Departmental staff numbers in proportion to the reduction in the Permanent Defence Force.

0.5

Recommended reduction has been achieved.

Further Consolidation of property portfolio.

5.0

Additional property sales are progressing.

Charge the full economic cost of Aid to the Civil Power, Aid to the Civil Authority, etc. to the relevant bodies.

3.0

The Central Bank has paid for security services provided to them and the Department are continuing to pursue the other bodies for the relevant cost.

*The reduction in Ireland's participation in KFOR was designed to deliver savings in line with the recommendations of the Special Group and as an alternative to a withdrawal from the UN operation in Chad and the Central African Republic (MINURCAT). Unfortunately it became necessary to withdraw from the Chad mission in May 2010. The financial implications of the early withdrawal are not shown in the above table due to some uncertain factors including the amount and timing of re-imbursements from the UN. Savings of c.€8m on a full calendar year basis are forecast to arise from this withdrawal. Similarly, full year savings of c. €12m are expected to arise due to the Kosovo downsizing. Options for future overseas deployments are currently being considered.

In the context of Budget 2011 all opportunities for cost reductions are being critically examined. Within the resources available I intend to retain the capacity of the Defence organisation to operate effectively across all roles while contributing to the necessary public service economies.