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 16, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 17 to 60, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 61 to 67, inclusive, answered orally.

Dublin Docklands Development Authority

Tom Hayes

Question:

68 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the fact that the Dublin Docklands Development Authority has not paid interest on loans connected to its interest in a company (details supplied); if he has satisfied himself that the Dublin Docklands Development Authority has a sustainable financial position; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37500/10]

All interest accruing on the Becbay loans for which the Dublin Docklands Development Authority was liable was fully paid up to the end of 2008. According to the Authority's 2009 Annual Report and Accounts, the Authority's liability arising from its participation in the Becbay joint venture company at the end of 2009 comprised a principal guarantee of €29.1 million on its 26% share of the loans and €4.8m interest accrued on its share of the loans for 2009, leaving a total liability of some €34 million. Interest continues to accrue at a rate of some €4.8m per annum until such time as the loan is discharged. The Becbay loans have now transferred to the National Assets Management Agency and I understand that NAMA is considering detailed business plans submitted by all Becbay parties in relation to resolution of its outstanding debts.

In relation to the Authority's financial position, while the Authority posted an operating deficit for 2009, it has taken a broad range of measures to re-examine and prioritise all expenditure within the organisation. For example, staffing in the Authority has been reduced from 55 in January 2009 to 27 currently, which has led to a significant reduction in the payroll bill. Moreover, the number of social regeneration projects has been reduced and the Authority is focusing on managing existing programmes and projects to maintain momentum and progress made in these areas.

As with many other companies with significant property portfolios, the future operating performance of the Authority will be affected by the broader economic, financial and business conditions, many of which are beyond the control of the Authority. The Authority is in ongoing discussion with my Department and the Department of Finance in relation to plans to restore its finances to a more robust position.

Question No. 69 answered with Question No. 67.

Social and Affordable Housing

Róisín Shortall

Question:

70 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the total number of persons listed as having applied for social housing and if he will provide this information on a local authority basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37442/10]

It is open to any person or household to apply to a housing authority for an assessment of their housing need. The application process is the gateway to a broad range of social housing supports provided by housing authorities. The number of households that apply for social housing support from housing authorities continuously fluctuates as new households apply for housing support.

Under existing legislation, households can apply to multiple authorities which can result, therefore, in an application from the same household being processed by several authorities. In addition, households that have been in receipt of rent supplement for longer than 18 months do not always apply to the housing authority in order to receive social housing accommodation. My Department does not hold real time information on the number of persons or households that apply to housing authorities. The last statutory needs assessment in 2008 indicated that there were 56,249 households in need of social housing support.

The social housing reform programme, which was given legislative effect by the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, provides for a new process of housing needs assessment. Regulations will be made shortly to give detailed effect to the provisions of the Act. In an effort to standardise and bring about greater efficiency in the assessment process, the regulations will provide for a single application (that is a person or household may only apply once to one housing authority) in order to access social housing support. The regulations will also require that those in receipt of rent supplement for longer than 18 months will have to undergo the housing needs assessment process in order to be eligible for social housing support.

All of these changes to the current assessment system are being designed with a view to being able to carry out a statutory assessment in 2011 which will give a clearer picture of both the demand and need for social housing support.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

71 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of social housing units held by local authorities that have been vacant for a period of three months and more; his plans to put in place a strategy to deal with this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37438/10]

Information in relation to vacant local authority houses is a Local Authority Service Indicator and reports on these indicators are available on the Local Government Management Agency's website. The latest available figures relate to 2008 and report a significant decrease in the level of local authority housing stock that is vacant. The 2008 report shows that a total of 3,859 dwellings were empty, excluding those that were subject to major refurbishment programmes. This represents 3.2% of the total stock of 122,446 dwellings. The 2007 report showed that some 5,090 units were vacant out of a total stock of 118,276. Therefore there has been a decrease of 1,231 vacant units on the 2007 total — a 24% improvement.

I would point out that the management and maintenance of local authority housing stock is a matter for individual authorities under section 58 of the Housing Act 1966 and my Department has no direct responsibility for this issue. To assist local authorities in determining measures for further improvement in their housing stock, the Local Government Audit Service is finalising a Value for Money study on housing management and maintenance, which will include specific recommendations on how best practice can be achieved in relation to vacant stock.

In addition, my Department has provided a fund of €40 million under the Social Housing Investment Programme in 2010, to co-fund the retrofitting of vacant properties, both casual and planned, across local authority housing stock. Having regard to the rapid decline in local authority Internal Capital Receipts, amendments to the terms of the scheme in 2010 have included the reduction of the co-funding contribution required from within authorities own resources and a recent provision to allow local authorities to claim for higher costs in respect of works undertaken to longer term voids, to support authorities efforts to bring such stock back into viable use to meet housing needs. These retrofitting provisions will continue to have a positive impact on the ability of local authorities to deal with vacant stock.

Severe Weather Events

Dinny McGinley

Question:

72 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the preparatory action he has taken or the instructions he has given to local authorities in the event of an extreme weather occurrence this winter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37511/10]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

117 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps that have been taken to deal with adverse weather conditions, such those which occurred during the winter of 2009/2010, to ensure that the country is better equipped to deal with such crises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37352/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 72 and 117 together.

The role of my Department during a severe weather event is to ensure that the local authorities are prepared to respond promptly to ameliorate the worst effects in relation to those aspects of an emergency for which they have direct responsibility, and that they act in co-operation with the other principal response agencies — An Garda Síochána and the Health Service Executive — using the Major Emergency Management Framework as appropriate, and with the voluntary agencies and the Defence Forces to limit the effects on individuals whose lives may be put at risk or who may be exposed to serious hardship. When effective emergency plans are in place, the management of the emergency response then falls to the local authorities and the other response agencies.

Under the Framework, the local and/or regional coordination centres may be activated to manage the response to a severe weather event, whether a major emergency is declared or not.

My Department has overseen a development programme involving local authorities and the other principal response agencies to enable them to use the Framework structures effectively to manage the response to emergencies. During the two severe weather events of last winter the coordination and inter-agency arrangements set out in the Framework were implemented at local and regional level, as required by local circumstances.

The National Steering Group on the Framework for Emergency Management, which is chaired by my Department, undertook a review of the operation of the major emergency planning procedures and sought the views of participants in the response on matters which could be improved for future such events. It established that the arrangements set out in the Framework were fit for purpose and operated satisfactorily where used by local authorities (with their partner agencies) to manage the impact of both the flood and severe cold emergencies. However, some suggested changes and further development of operational matters are being implemented in association with the Framework's regional structures.

It has been widely recognised that the local authorities and the other agencies discharged their responsibilities in a commendable way and I have every confidence that they will continue to respond to such events in a like manner.

EU Directives

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

73 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will provide an update on the steps taken to transpose the EU directive on public participation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37421/10]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

108 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will provide an update on the steps taken to ratify the Aarhus Convention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37420/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 73 and 108 together.

Ireland signed the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters on 25 June 1998. Progress towards ratification of the Convention is closely aligned with work at EU level and, in that context, the European Union has adopted two Directives as part of the ratification process for the Convention. These Directives deal with public access to environmental information and public participation in certain environmental decision-making procedures.

The European Communities (Access to Information on the Environment) Regulations 2007 came into effect on 1 May 2007. These Regulations transpose the Directive on public access to environmental information.

Several new pieces of legislation have been necessary to transpose the Public Participation Directive and these have been completed over a number of years. The judgment of the European Court of Justice against Ireland in case C427/07, concerning non-notification of the Public Participation Directive, also necessitated additional legislative amendments, which have now been finalised and signed into law. These include:

Section 33 of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010;

the European Communities (Public Participation) Regulations 2010;

the Environmental Protection Agency (Amendment) Regulations 2010;

the Waste Management (Licensing) (Amendment) Regulations 2010; and

the Aquaculture (Licence Application) (Amendment) (No.2) Regulations 2010.

The provision in the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010 addresses the ruling of the ECJ in respect of the requirement that access to justice must not be prohibitively expensive. The four sets of Regulations impose a statutory obligation on the relevant public bodies to ensure that when decisions on consent systems subject to the Public Participation Directive, such as decisions on IPPC licences and certain planning matters, are taken, practical information on how such decisions may be appealed is made available to the public.

These measures have been formally notified to the European Commission. Pending any further communication from the Commission, no additional transposition measures are foreseen as necessary to give effect to the Public Participation Directive at this time.

The effect of the measures undertaken to transpose the two Directives is that Ireland is largely compliant with the provisions of the Convention; although there are some outstanding issues to resolve in the context of the access to justice pillar. Ratification of the Convention is a matter of the highest priority and my Department is working closely with the Office of the Attorney General in order to finalise this process.

Social and Affordable Housing

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

74 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 43 of 22 April 2010, the manner in which capital costs are repaid; the payment that is made by the approved housing body to the local authority in respect of the leased property; the proportion of the funds allocated to leasing in 2009 and to date in 2010 that has been drawn down; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37427/10]

Under the leasing initiative housing authorities can lease vacant and unsold affordable units to approved housing bodies where they feel that these units cannot be sold in the current market conditions. During the lease period my Department recoups to the authority the interest payments liable in respect of the loans taken by the authority to fund the affordable property in the first instance. My Department does not fund the repayment of the principal of the loan (i.e. the capital cost).

Lease agreements in respect of unsold affordable units must not exceed 5 years. At the end of the lease agreement the authority must review the arrangement and make a determination about its future use. The authority then has a number of courses available to it, including sale on the open market, or to those eligible for affordable housing or incremental purchase or taking the units into social stock. It is hoped that many of these properties would be viable for sale at this point and therefore the capital monies can be repaid from the proceeds of the sale.

It is a matter for the relevant local authority, where it has engaged an approved housing body in the process of letting unsold affordable housing units, to negotiate payment terms directly with the approved housing body concerned. However, in most lease agreements the approved housing body pays the local authority a nominal fee and the body collects and retains the differential rent from the tenant to support their costs in managing and maintaining the dwelling.

In 2009, €20 million was made available for use under the Social Housing Leasing Initiative (SHLI). By the end of December 2009 just over €642,178 had been recouped. In 2010 a further €25 million was made available for the leasing initiative of which, €2,365,158 had been drawn down by the end of September 2010. However, my Department would anticipate that activity and expenditure patterns under the leasing initiative will increase over the final quarter to compensate somewhat for the slower than expected progress during the year to date.

Departmental Expenditure

Catherine Byrne

Question:

75 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on each of the recommendations made in the report of the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes that relate to his Department and agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37462/10]

The Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes was published in July 2009 and, since then, its recommendations have provided an important input to Government and Ministerial consideration of options for expenditure reduction. As far as my own Department is concerned, expenditure provisions for 2010 are set out in the Revised Estimates for Public Services 2010 published by the Minister for Finance. These amount to €2.195 billion, compared to an outturn of €2.674 billion in 2009. They were determined in the context of the overall provision for public services, reflect the need to reduce public spending and, as indicated by the Minister for Finance in his Financial Statement on 9 December 2009, were guided by the Report.

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. These 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.

Social and Affordable Housing

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

76 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of persons to date, who have made a full application under the home choice scheme; the number of new build and the number of second hand houses now occupied as a result of the scheme; the cost to date of administering the scheme and if it is intended to continue with the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37433/10]

As of now, 111 full applications have been received under the Home Choice Loan scheme.

Of these, 17 have been approved, with 4 of these now drawn down. Of the 17 approved applications, 11 were for second hand properties and 4 for new build properties. The remaining two applications have been approved in principle. All 4 of the loans drawn down relate to new build properties.

The total cost to date of administering the scheme is approximately €290,000. These costs include the setting up of the central processing unit (CPU) within the Affordable Homes Partnership (AHP). These costs were met fully from within existing resources within the AHP. It should also be noted that a significant element of the staffing costs was incurred in the development of the loan processing model which applies to the Home Choice Loan but which has also now been used in the development of revised systems for processing and credit checking of standard local authority house purchase loan applications under other schemes such as tenant purchase, affordable housing, shared ownership etc.

The scheme is intended to be a temporary one which will be withdrawn once conditions in credit markets return to normal patterns.

Planning Issues

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

77 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will provide an update on the planning review of six local authorities and the expert panel that was to carry out this review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37422/10]

My Department published a request for tenders on www.etenders.gov.ie on 24 September 2010 with a view to establishing a panel of independent experts to assist as necessary in the review of planning legislation, policy and guidance within the development plan and development management systems at local level. Issues raised with my Department across a number of planning authorities, and the authorities' responses to these issues, will be used as an input to the review.

The closing date for receipt of tenders is Friday, 22 October 2010. Following evaluation of the tender submissions received, I intend to appoint the panel of experts as quickly as possible and will seek to complete the review before the end of the year.

Electoral Commission

Michael Noonan

Question:

78 Deputy Michael Noonan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding his commitment to set up an electoral commission to safeguard our electoral integrity and provide an independent well structured and adequately staffed office to oversee electoral function in a fully transparent manner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37520/10]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

87 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will outline the progress which has been made in 2010 to establish an independent electoral commission here and to provide a timeframe for when it will be operational; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37351/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 78 and 87 together.

The Programme for Government, agreed in 2007, contains a commitment to the establishment of an independent Electoral Commission. The renewed Programme for Government, agreed in October 2009, reaffirms this commitment and identifies a range of responsibilities which the Commission will be mandated to fulfil.

An independent Electoral Commission will require new legislation for purposes of its establishment and to transfer to it a range of roles and responsibilities including those assigned to the Standards in Public Office Commission in electoral law, the roles and responsibilities of the Constituency Commission and roles and responsibilities currently assigned to me as Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. This will involve changes to over 20 primary acts and to the associated regulations.

Towards implementing the Programme for Government commitments, and to assist in consideration of the issues involved, I commissioned a report by an expert group from University College Dublin. I published the report, entitled A Preliminary Study on the Establishment of an Electoral Commission in Ireland, for consultation in February 2009. The UCD study recommends that an Electoral Commission should be established through the enactment of an Electoral Commission Act, which would amend and consolidate the law relating to referendums and elections to local authorities, Údarás na Gaeltachta, the European Parliament, Dáil Éireann, Seanad Éireann and the office of President of Ireland. This is a major task and it is part of our considerations.

Many of the electoral reform issues that will come within the remit of an Electoral Commission were considered by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution, which published its report on the electoral system in July 2010. This report, which indicates the Committee's strong support for the establishment of an independent Electoral Commission, is a valuable input and is being taken into account in progressing work in this area.

I am currently giving consideration to the approaches that are to be taken to implement the Programme for Government commitment to establish an independent Electoral Commission.

Waste Management

Andrew Doyle

Question:

79 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department has incurred any expense to date in the remediation of Haulbowline Island; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37483/10]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

81 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the remediation actions he has taken since chromium 6 was discovered on Haulbowline Island in County Cork; the position regarding remediation efforts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37480/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 79 and 81 together.

From 2004 to 2009 my Department had an interim role in the management of this legacy site in a manner which is consistent with good practice and minimisation of risk to human health and the environment. Accordingly, my Department arranged for the decontamination and demolition of the buildings on site and, post-demolition, arranged for the procurement of a contractor for site surface clearance, back filling of voids and the disposal of the remaining surface wastes to be undertaken.

Examples of waste types removed include:

over 10,000 tonnes of scrap metal;

over 1,100 tonnes of hazardous dust vacuumed from the steelworks buildings before demolition;

hazardous soils and sludge;

millscale.

To date the State has expended some €50 million on investigations, site works, disposal of waste material, testing and sampling, analysis, topographical and foreshore ecological surveys, project management, professional fees and security.

In June 2009, the Government decided that the Office of Public Works would chair a working group to develop a structured and coherent approach to the further management and development of the former Irish Ispat site, and to advise on the site's most beneficial future use. Consideration of the regulatory requirements relevant to the site falls within the Terms of Reference of the OPW — led Working Group. The future use of the site will in itself influence the levels and extent of further works and/or remediation required.

Water Services

Paul Kehoe

Question:

80 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans for a national water metering campaign; if a flat water charge will be introduced before a metering programme is complete; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37503/10]

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

102 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the discussions between his Department and the Department of Finance regarding the implementation of water charges; his views regarding water charges; his further views regarding the fairest and most efficient method of collecting such charges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37555/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 80 and 102 together.

My Department is finalising proposals to give effect to the commitment in the renewed Programme for Government to introduce charges for water services in a way that is fair, significantly reduces waste and is easily applied. The proposals include the approach to be taken to the installation of water meters in households connected to public water supplies and to the development of a pricing structure for domestic water services, they will also address the arrangements for the collection of water charges. I will provide further details on these matters following their final approval by Government. My Department has been in regular contact with the Department of Finance, and with other Government Departments, during the development of these proposals.

The installation of water meters in households connected to public supplies will encourage householders to conserve water and will result in savings in the significant operational costs faced by local authorities in providing water and waste water services. It will also complement the significant increases in investment on water conservation measures in the Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012 which I announced earlier this year.

Question No. 81 answered with Question No. 79.

Electronic Voting Machines

Willie Penrose

Question:

82 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the interdepartmental task force on the disposal of the redundant electronic voting equipment will issue its final report, including a timeframe for the ending of outstanding leases and the disposal of the equipment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37435/10]

Following the Government decision not to proceed with implementation of electronic voting in Ireland, an Interdepartmental Task Force, chaired by my Department, was established to bring the project to an orderly conclusion and to oversee disposal of the equipment and termination of storage arrangements. To date, the Task Force has met five times, with its most recent meeting taking place in June 2010. Between meetings, my Department maintains ongoing contact with members of the Task Force, in order to progress work on the cessation arrangements for the project. The Task Force aims to complete its work as soon as possible.

In considering options for disposal of the equipment, the priority is to pursue the most economically advantageous approach, with a view to achieving the maximum recovery of cost possible in the circumstances, consistent with environmental and other obligations.

In 2007, over 60% of the machines (4,762 in total) were moved from 12 local storage locations to a central facility at Gormanston Army Camp. There are no ongoing rental costs in respect of the use of this property. The remaining machines are stored at 13 local premises that were originally identified by Returning Officers for this purpose. It is intended that all machines will be removed from their present locations when arrangements for disposal are implemented. Work on termination of local lease arrangements is proceeding in this context.

Turbary Rights

Denis Naughten

Question:

83 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has completed a financial assessment of the cost of banning turf cutting on all designated bogs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37174/10]

Denis Naughten

Question:

110 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has completed a financial assessment of the cost of banning turf cutting on all designated bogs under relevant legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37175/10]

Denis Naughten

Question:

459 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the financial provision made for the payment of compensation under Chapter IV of Statutory Instrument 94/1997 following his announcement of 28 May 2010 on the EU habitats directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37741/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 83, 110 and 459 together.

In May 2010, the Government confirmed the end of the 10 year derogation allowing a continuation of turf-cutting on raised bogs designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Natural Heritage Areas (NHAs). The Government also established an Interim Compensation Scheme to compensate those who have been cutting turf on the 31 raised bogs sites designated in or before 1999. Some 233 valid applications were received for the €1,000 interim payment. To date, 105 of these have been paid and the remainder are being assessed to confirm whether the individuals qualify. The expenditure will not exceed €233,000 this year.

The bogs affected by the end of the derogation are limited to raised bogs designated for protection as SACs or NHAs. In area, these make up just over 4% of bogland in the State where turf-extraction is feasible. Blanket bogs, which are far bigger in area and occur in uplands and along the western seaboard, are not affected by these measures.

The Inter-Departmental Working Group that I established to examine the modalities of the cessation of turf cutting in designated raised bogs reported on financial implications of various options. Full details of this analysis were published in the Working Group's report of May 2010. I understand the Deputy has a copy of this report and analysis.

I am currently considering the long-term financial commitment required successfully to ensure the protection of all 130 designated raised bog sites and I intend to bring further proposals to Government in this regard.

Local Government Fund

Leo Varadkar

Question:

84 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the expected reduction in the local government fund for 2011; if guidance has been issued to local authorities as they prepare their budgets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37496/10]

The 2011 Local Government Fund will be financed from the full proceeds of motor tax income in 2011 and an annual contribution from the Exchequer. The Exchequer contribution to the Fund will be announced in the context of Budget 2011.

I will continue to contribute to the general purpose funding of local authorities to the best extent possible, having regard to the current pressures on the public finances and motor tax income. Local authorities will also continue to have access to an additional source of funding through the charge on non-principal private residences.

My Department has not issued any formal guidance to local authorities on the preparation of their budgets. The adoption of a budget is a reserved function of the local elected members and is a matter in which I have no function. However, my Department maintains regular liaision with local authorities having regard to their own particular financial situation and the need to frame budgets in this context.

Proposed Legislation

Joan Burton

Question:

85 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will provide an update on promised legislation to enhance the protection of national monuments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37417/10]

The general scheme of a Monuments Bill was approved by Government in April 2010, and work towards preparation of the Bill is underway in the Office of the Attorney General. The Bill will provide a consolidated, updated and expanded legislative code to replace the National Monuments Acts 1930 to 2004 and a number of related enactments. It will include measures to streamline and improve procedures for the recording and protection of monuments and the regulation of archaeological activity. It will also seek to address anomalies in the existing code and it will introduce a number of new provisions including measures for the identification and conservation of historic landscapes.

Local Government Efficiency Review Group

Seán Barrett

Question:

86 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the recommendations of the local government efficiency review group which will be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37452/10]

The Report of the independent Local Government Efficiency Review Group, published in mid July, includes 106 recommendations for efficiency and other savings of €511m for the local government sector to be attained in the short, medium and long terms. These savings are comprised of €346m in efficiencies and €165m in improved cost recovery and revenue raising. The Report's findings and recommendations will be considered by me and 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.

Question No. 87 answered with Question No. 78.

Emergency Planning

David Stanton

Question:

88 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 202 of 27 May 2010 and No. 10 of 8 July 2010, the details of the membership or employees name, position held, location, staffing grade and so on of each office, committee or group respectively (details supplied); when each committee, office or group was established; if it is still in operation; the terms of reference, functions and remit of same; the total cost to the State per annum, in any; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37535/10]

The Consultative Committee of the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management was established on 22 June, 2009 and is still in operation. The Consultative Committee provides a forum for representation and consultation with fire service stakeholder interests. The membership of the Consultative Committee is intended to reflect the three core business areas of the National Directorate — Emergency Management, Fire Service Operations and Fire Safety. The Consultative Committee also provides for staffing interest representation. The costs which have arisen in relation to the Consultative Committee were €710.08 in 2009 and €7,674.32 to-date in 2010.

The current membership of the Consultative Committee is:

Name

Mr. Edmond O’Connor (Chairman)

County Manager, South Tipperary County Council

Mr. Seán Hogan

National Director for Fire & Emergency Management

Mr. Karl Cashen

Director of Services, North Tipperary County Council

Ms. Clare Curley

Director of Services, South Tipperary County Council

Mr. Oliver O’Loughlin

Director of Services, Limerick City Council

Mr. Hugh O’Neill

Chief Fire Officer, Dublin City Council

Mr. Seamus Murphy

Chief Fire Officer, Mayo County Council

Mr. Adrian Kelly

Chief Fire Officer, Clare Country Council

Ms. Maria Melia

Chief Fire Officer, Wexford County Council

Mr. Louis Jones

Former Deputy Chief Fire Officer, NI Fire & Rescue Service

Mr. Dave Spillett

SACFO, Cork City Council

Mr. Declan Power

SACFO, Laois County Council

Ms. Mary O’Brien

SEFPO, Dublin City Council

Mr. Greg Burnell

District Officer, Dublin Fire Brigade

Mr. Peter McDonnell

Station Officer, Ballina, Co. Mayo

Mr. Michael Fitzsimons

Civil Defence Officer, Meath County Council

Mr. Pat O’Riordan

Specialist in Emergency Management, HSE

Mr. Noel Reidy

Consultant, Reidy Brophy Consultants

Mr. Alan Hill

Communications, Tourism & Cross- Border Consultant

Mr. Michael Slattery

Consultant, Michael N Slattery & Associates

Mr. Peter Bluett

Architect, Bluett & Donoghue Architects

Mr. Eamon Woulfe

IMPACT Representative

Mr. Eddie Ryan

IMPACT Representative

Mr. Brian Murray

SIPTU Representative

Mr. Noel Heaney

SIPTU Representative

Mr. Tom Daly

SIPTU Representative

Mr. Brendan McCoy

SIPTU Representative

Mr. Cathal Faulkner

SIPTU Representative

The National Steering Group on the Framework for Major Emergency Management (NSG) was established by Government Decision (S180/46/01/0003L) of 30 May 2006 and continues to operate. The NSG comprises representatives from the Health Services Executive, An Garda Síochána, the Local Authorities, the Defence Forces and their parent Departments. The NSG is chaired by my Department, and it performs the national level functions set out in the Major Emergency Framework; oversees the Major Emergency Development Programme; develops, maintains and updates the Major Emergency Framework in light of the experience of its application, and reports on these issues to the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning. The costs which have arisen in relation to the NSG in 2009 were €1,411 and €1,377 to-date in 2010.

The current Membership of the NSG is:

Name

Mr. Sean Hogan (Chairman)

National Director for Fire & Emergency Management

Mr. Edmund Burke

Principal, Department of Transport

Ms. Celina Barrett

Fire Advisor, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government

Mr. Michael O’Boyle

Principal, Department of Defence

Mr. Martin Power

Principal, Department of Justice and Law Reform

Mr. Fergal Goodman

Principal, Department of Health & Children

Mr. Gavin Maguire

Assistant Director of Emergency Planning, HSE

Mr. Joseph Crockett

County Manager, Kilkenny County Council

Detective Superintendent Liam King

Garda Headquarters, Phoenix Park, Dublin 8.

Lieutenant Colonel Michael Smyth

Defence Forces

Mr. Pat O’Riordan

Specialist in Emergency Management, HSE

Mr. Seamus Murphy

Chief Fire Officer, Mayo County Council

The National Emergency Response Co-ordination Committee was a non-standing committee convened to deliver a ‘whole of government approach' to support the local response to the flooding and severe weather. The membership of the committee comprised relevant Government Ministers, and Departmental and State Agency representatives. The membership varied depending on the emergency and the issues being addressed during their different phases. There was no additional cost to the State arising from the convening and operating of this committee.

Waste Disposal

Martin Ferris

Question:

89 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to state when work will commence at a club (details supplied) in County Down to remove waste that was illegally dumped and if he or his officials will meet with local representatives to discuss the matter [37287/10]

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) will prioritise the order in which waste from the remaining sites in Northern Ireland will be dealt with under the Road Map agreed for tackling historical illegal movements of waste which was endorsed by Ministers from both this jurisdiction and Northern Ireland in October 2007. This prioritisation will be based on the risk of environmental pollution, harm to human health and other relevant factors. My understanding is that the site in question is likely to be the next site to be addressed and that waste will be removed from it in the first half of 2011.

Ethics in Public Office

Brian O'Shea

Question:

90 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to revise the ethics legislation regarding local authorities to deal with council members who subsequently benefit financially or commercially from zoning decisions despite having complied with existing legislation to declare an interest and to be absent at the time of the decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37430/10]

Part 15 of the Local Government Act 2001 provides an ethical framework that requires both elected members and employees to maintain proper standards of integrity, conduct and concern for the public interest. The legislation is complemented by Codes of Conduct issued by the Minister.

The framework sets out clear requirements and procedures for a councillor who has a pecuniary or other beneficial interest in a matter arising for consideration by a local authority. In particular, a councillor is prohibited from influencing or seeking to influence a decision of a local authority on any such matter. Under the Act, failure to comply with these requirements constitutes an offence.

There are no plans at present to revise the requirements or procedures concerned.

Social and Affordable Housing

Willie Penrose

Question:

91 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made towards the introduction of a rent to buy scheme for unsold affordable housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37434/10]

In the early part of 2009 local authorities had an estimated 3,700 unsold affordable housing units on hands. Very considerable progress has been made on both the sale of affordable housing and the deployment of unsold affordable homes for other purposes, including temporary use under the social leasing or RAS schemes. As of now, there are approximately 640 affordable units available for sale or transfer. While the sale of these units remains the preferred outcome, local authorities continue to have available to them a range of options to bring these units into effective use and are supported in this regard by my Department and the Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency.

I have no immediate plans to introduce a general rent-to-buy scheme across all local authorities because I do not believe such a scheme is needed in areas where there are only very small numbers of unsold units on hand. However, Dublin City Council, following approval by my Department, has recently launched a pilot scheme of "Rent to Buy" for a number of unsold affordable homes in three developments in Dublin City. I have asked Dublin City Council to prepare and submit a report on the operation of the pilot before the end of this year. This pilot will be reviewed before deciding whether it is appropriate to make such a scheme available in any other local authorities where there are significant numbers of unsold affordable homes. End of Take

Local Authorities

Ulick Burke

Question:

92 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason for the delay in the publication of the White Paper on Local Government Reform; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37459/10]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

111 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he will bring forward the White Paper on local government which was promised for 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37436/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 92 and 111 together.

As indicated in the reply to Question No. 453 on 12th October, 2010, 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.

Urban Regeneration Projects

James Reilly

Question:

93 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the funding he is providing for urban regeneration projects; the position regarding current regeneration projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37529/10]

My Department currently supports an ambitious programme of regeneration projects to deliver integrated physical, social and economic regeneration, ranging from large-scale urban regeneration projects such as Ballymun and Limerick City to smaller estate regeneration projects in a number of regional towns around the country.

This year, my Department is providing some €126.8 million to support this important national regeneration programme, an increase of over 18% on the €107.1 million spent in 2009.

Regardless of the size and complexity of regeneration projects, each one requires the development of a masterplan for delivering the regeneration which generally provides for social inclusion interventions, a planned mix of public and private investment in housing stock and measures to address any deficits in local transport infrastructure or community/recreational facilities. The Masterplan process is ongoing for two of the projects included in the programme, Cranmore Estate, Sligo and Cox's Demense, Dundalk.

Details of the current status of each project and the amount of funding allocated for 2010 are set out in the following table:

Project

Project Status

2010 Allocation

€ million

Ballymun, Dublin City Council

Ongoing at present. Projected completion date of 2014.

50

Dublin City Council — Inner City Flats

Ongoing — construction work underway

8.795

Regeneration Projects at St. Michaels Estate, O’Devenney Gardens and Dominick Street

Contracts signed and construction due to commence at St. Michael’s Estate.Outline plans agreed by Dublin City Council for O’Devaney Gardens and Dominick Street; detailed plans expected in early 2011.

3.5

Laurel Avenue, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council

Project complete.

1.5

Knocknaheeny and the Glen Regeneration Projects, Cork City Council

Ongoing at present. Construction commenced on the Glen Phase 2. Works at Knocknaheeny D nearing completion. Cork City Council currently undertaking a review of the Knocknaheeny masterplan with a view to determining the next phases of the project.

15

Waterford City Council Regeneration Programme

Ongoing — construction work underway

3.5

Limerick City Regeneration

Phase 1 plans, involving 26 capital projects, approved by Government in June, 2010.

35

Mitchel’s Crescent, Tralee Town Council

Ongoing — construction work underway

5

Cranmore Estate, Sligo Borough Council

Enabling works and community projects underway. Development of masterplan delayed pending decision by Borough Council on proposed eastern bridge.

3.5

Cox’s Demesne, Dundalk Town Council

Masterplan process ongoing. Estate improvement works underway.

1

Local Authority Elections

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

94 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the proposed new mayor of Dublin office has been assessed for cost effectiveness; if it is intended to abolish the existing structures to accommodate the financial requirements of the new office; if any appraisal has been carried out of the total number of staff required in the new office; the way the costs involved are likely to sit alongside the various departmental cutbacks; the extent of any cutbacks needed to accommodate the new offices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37414/10]

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

118 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the powers and responsibilities of the proposed elected Dublin mayor; the way this new office will be funded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37554/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 94 and 118 together.

I refer to the reply to Priority Question No. 63 on today's order paper which sets out the position on this matter.

Water Services

Joan Burton

Question:

95 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he will take to ensure chlorine monitors are installed at every water treatment plant in accordance with the recommendation of the Environmental Protection Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37416/10]

In 2007, all water services authorities (the 34 County and City Councils) were asked by my Department to review the operation of all water treatment plants and associated infrastructure and to ensure that the installation of continuous chlorine alarms and turbidity meters at appropriate locations at the treatment plant or in the distribution network was progressed without delay. This request was restated in August 2008 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who issued a circular to water services authorities recommending the installation of chlorine monitors and alarms on each public water supply.

While in some instances, the expenditure involved in installing such monitoring equipment was eligible for funding under my Department's Rural Water Programme, under the European Communities (Drinking Water) (No.2) Regulations 2007, the EPA is responsible for the supervision of public water supplies. Under the Regulations, the EPA can issue a binding direction to a water services authority to take the relevant action to ensure compliance with the requirements of the Regulations. Failure by a water services authority to comply with such a direction can result in a prosecution by the EPA.

Córas Úisce Poiblí

Jack Wall

Question:

96 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Jack Wall den Aire Comhshaoil, Oidhreachta agus Rialtais Áitiúil cén cabhair a thabharfaidh sé chun córas ceart uisce poiblí a chur in áit in Árann Mór, Contae na Gaillimhe; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [28737/10]

Faoin Chlár Infheistíochta Séarachais 2010-2012, a bhfuil cóip de le fáil i Leabharlann an Oireachtais, tá forbairt beartaithe ar raon cuimsitheach de bhonneagar seirbhísí uisce nua i gContae na Gaillimhe. Tá Scéim Sholáthair Uisce Inis Mhóir — Uasghrádú an Ghléasra Chóireála san áireamh sa Chlár, i measc an liosta conarthaí sa chontae atá le tosú sa tréimhse 2010-2012.

Cheadaigh mo Roinn maoiniú de €493,392 i mí Márta seo caite le haghaidh uasghrádú an ghléasra chóireála ar Inis Mór. Tuigim gur shínigh Comhairle Chontae na Gaillimhe an conradh le haghaidh uasghrádú an ghléasra chóireála agus gur dócha go mbeidh tús leis an obair seo go luath san athbhliain. Tá tuilleadh eolais faoin dul chun cinn leis an gconradh seo le fáil ón Chomhairle.

Environmental Protection Agency

Joe Costello

Question:

97 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will provide an update on the programme for Government commitment that there would be a review of the Environmental Protection Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37418/10]

The review of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promised in the Programme for Government commenced in February 2010. The review's terms of reference are as follows:

(i) To review the legislation governing the EPA, including the licensing functions and the processes in place to ensure public participation and the various remedies and sanctions available to the EPA for enforcement provided in the Acts, and to identify any necessary improvements in the legislation;

(ii) To assess the performance of the EPA against the mandate which it was given when it was originally established in 1993, in relation to the expanding goals which have been set for it in the past decade and in comparison with best practice elsewhere, and to identify any necessary improvements in the EPA's procedures and approaches;

(iii) To assess the scope of the EPA's mandate and whether it could be strengthened to include other areas;

(iv) To review the resources allocated to the EPA in relation to current obligations and further functions that may arise, on foot of EU legislation;

(v) To assess the structures and governance of the EPA (including the operation of advisory committees and whether non-executive directors should be provided for; and

(vi) To re-assess the ongoing relationship between the EPA and other parts of the environmental governance structure in Ireland, having regard to the environmental challenges facing Ireland and developments in society.

The Review Group has decided that seven broad thematic perspectives will be used to progress its work. These themes are:

1. Legislative Framework

2. Legislative Compliance

3. Licensing, Management and Assessment

4. Environmental Research and Information

5. The Relationship between the Environmental Protection Agency and its stakeholders

6. Governance, Internal Structure and Resource Allocation Issues

7. An International/Comparative Agency Perspective

The review process has included a public consultation period from April to June 2010, during which 131 submissions were received, and the Group is now consulting with key stakeholders, including other State agencies that interact frequently with the EPA, as well as business, farming and NGO representatives.

I expect the Review Group to be in a position to substantially to conclude its work by the end of the year and to submit its report to me quickly thereafter. I envisage that the report will be published in due course, following consideration of its conclusions and recommendations. Further details in relation to the review are available on my Department's website at www.environ.ie .

Foreshore Licences

Liz McManus

Question:

98 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will provide an update on the proposed review of foreshore legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37424/10]

Work is well underway in my Department to modernise the foreshore consent regime and integrate it within the wider planning system. This includes preparatory work towards the necessary legislative changes, and assessment of the requirements for the development of a Marine Spatial Plan.

Short-term administrative and regulatory measures are also being introduced to improve the throughput of foreshore applications. In this context, my Department has also been working with the Department of Finance on a business process improvement exercise in the foreshore area. This process has been completed and the recommended actions are now being implemented.

Land Transfers

Sean Sherlock

Question:

99 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the value and breakdown of lands that have been transferred to the land aggregation scheme to date; the total estimated value of lands that will be transferred when the process is complete; the number of local authorities that are transferring land to the scheme and the valuation process for determining a value for the individual transfers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37441/10]

Under the Land Aggregation Scheme, housing authorities may, subject to approval from my Department, transfer residential lands on which there are outstanding loans from the Housing Finance Agency to Housing and Sustainable Communities Ltd. (HSC Ltd — a company under the Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency) when the loans fall due for redemption and on the basis that there are no short to medium term plans for the development of the land. In such cases it is intended that the local authority will redeem the loan from the Housing Finance Agency in advance of transferring the land. Funding to redeem the loan will be made available from my Department.

HSC Ltd. will be responsible for the management and maintenance of lands transferred under the scheme.

Applications totalling almost €41 million from five housing authorities have been received by my Department. However, the amount recouped will depend on a number of factors, including whether a portion of the loan has already been redeemed and/or there has been any apportionment or partial development of the site.

To date one site put forward by Wicklow Town Council has been approved by my Department for inclusion in the scheme. The associated Housing Finance Agency loan of €1,390,114.60 has been redeemed.

The remaining applications, listed below, are currently being assessed, in consultation with the Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency.

Local Authority

Site

Tralee Town Council

Ballyard

Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Co Co

Ballyman Road, Rathmichael

Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Co Co

Lehaunstown

Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Co Co

Enniskerry Road

Offaly Co Co

Shinrone (Rathbaun)

Sligo Co Co

Coolaney

Sligo Co Co

Lisnalurg

Following transfer of the land, HSC will be required to prepare a report and implement a strategy for the management, utilisation and ultimate development of the land in question, including valuation in the event of land disposal. HSC Ltd. will seek input from the relevant local authority and other interested bodies in respect of the land in question when preparing the report.

It is expected that further requests from housing authorities to transfer lands under the scheme will be made in the coming months.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

100 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the outstanding waste water treatment works that need to be carried out countrywide; when these works are due to commence and the amount being budgeted for these works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37415/10]

It is a matter for each Water Services Authority to consider what wastewater treatment works need to be undertaken in their areas. Water Services Authorities were asked in July 2009 to submit an assessment of needs for water and sewerage services to my Department by 23 October 2009. In preparing these assessments, water services authorities were required to take into consideration key environmental and economic criteria in prioritising contracts and schemes to be progressed in their areas. These assessments were a key input to the development of my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012, which I published in April 2010 and a copy of which is available in the Oireachtas Library.

The Programme sets out the location and estimated cost of water and wastewater contracts envisaged over the period 2010-2012, together with further schemes to be advanced through planning stages. The timing of the commencement of contracts within that period is a matter for the Water Services Authorities subject to the need for my Department's approval at key stages in the progression of projects through planning and on to construction. Details on the progression of individual contracts can be obtained from the local authorities involved.

Investment under the Water Services Investment Programme is complemented by investment annually under the Rural Water Programme — a largely devolved programme of investment in relatively smaller water services schemes and the group water sector. The 2010 Estimates provision for water services infrastructure is €508 million, of which €415 million is available under the Water Services Investment Programme and €93 million under the Rural Water Programme.

Local Authority Housing

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

101 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if arrangements are in place for the commencement of the sale of local authority apartments under the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009; when tenants will be in a position to buy their homes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37428/10]

Preparatory work is underway to bring Part 4 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, which provides for tenant purchase of apartments in designated local authority complexes, into operation. I expect to make the necessary statutory instruments early in 2011 to enable the apartments sales scheme to be introduced as quickly as possible thereafter.

Question No. 102 answered with Question No. 80.

House Prices

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

103 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress that has been made on the establishment of a national house price database; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37432/10]

To take account of the lack of reliable sales prices in the case of residential property, and accurate information on market rents and other terms, including rent review clauses, in the case of commercial leases, the Government made a commitment in the renewed Programme for Government to create and maintain a comprehensive register in respect of commercial and residential property transactions.

Following close consideration by my Department and the Department of Justice and Law Reform in relation to the shape that such a register might take, the Minister for Justice and Law Reform now intends to bring forward amendments to the Property Services (Regulation) Bill 2009 in due course to give the Property Services Regulatory Authority the statutory function of publishing details of both residential sales prices and commercial leases, including rent review clauses.

Docklands Redevelopment

Deirdre Clune

Question:

104 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the support he will provide to progress a project (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37534/10]

In conjunction with the Inter-Departmental Senior Officials Group which was established to consider the analysis and recommendations in the Cork Docklands Development Forum Report, my Department and Cork City Council is considering what enabling measures can be put in place to further progress the development of Cork Docklands, taking account of the changed economic circumstances and the current slowdown in construction activity and demand.

The Forum's Report envisages very significant investment in public infrastructure, including the provision of an Eastern Gateway Bridge and the re-location of the port to Ringaskiddy. Due to prevailing budgetary conditions, decisions in relation to the bridge, enabling link roads and port re-location, for which funding had been sought under the Gateway Innovation Fund, were deferred in 2008. However, the Government's Infrastructure Investment Priorities 2010-2016, published over the Summer, purposes the re-establishment of the Gateway Innovation Fund to support innovative and locally co-funded projects that will promote the economic development of the NSS Gateways as motors for their wider regions and the national economy, with an indicative level of Exchequer funding of €200 million from 2012 on.

Unfinished Housing Estates

Liz McManus

Question:

105 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the audit of ghost estates has been completed; when the report will be published; the action he will take in view of its recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37429/10]

Together with my colleague, Minister of State Finneran, I will, as soon as possible, publish the results of a national inventory to quantify, classify and map the various types of unfinished or unoccupied estates so as to facilitate a better understanding of the scale and extent of the problem, and to inform the development of policy measures to address difficulties on specific sites in a co-ordinated manner. The responses will require a range of interventions across a number of disciplines — there are issues of public safety, the provision of bonds and securities, environmental protection, building control and estate management.

Building Regulations

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

106 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will confirm that the objectives of C1 BER rating was achieved as a result of the energy efficiency measures carried out at a cost of almost €11 million to the Exchequer in 2009; his plans to introduce the C1 BER rating as the standard for private rented dwellings in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37437/10]

Under a programme established in 2009 to improve the energy efficiency of local authority social housing units, my Department approved energy efficiency improvement works to some 1,155 vacant units across the country with a view to achieving a high standard of Building Energy Rating [BER] of at least C1, where practicable. Although the scheme only commenced in Autumn 2009, by year end my Department had recouped almost €11 million to authorities across the country for some 900 improved units, with the balance being delivered in 2010. Of these improved units, 48% achieved a BER standard of C1 or better and 12% achieved a C2 or C3 standard. Where units achieved a lesser standard, my Department contributed only 50% of the cost of the works, up to a maximum grant of €15,000. This retrofit programme has been significantly expanded in 2010 with a total funding provision of €40 million and additional technical guidance has been developed to support authorities in providing cost optimal energy efficiency measures for their social housing stock.

Minimum standards for rental accommodation are prescribed by regulations made under section 18 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992. These standards were significantly updated in December 2008 via the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008. Further measures to update, and more effectively enforce, the regulations required amendment of primary legislation and were addressed by the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009. These elements included increased penalties for non-compliance and the introduction of a more robust sanctions regime.

Where a property is offered for letting, the European Communities (Energy Performance of Buildings) Regulations 2006 — 2008 require a landlord to produce a copy of the Building Energy Rating (BER) certificate and advisory report in relation to that property to any person who expresses any interest in availing of the letting. The BER certificate and advisory report serve to enable prospective tenants to take the energy performance of a building into account when making decisions in relation to lettings and to compare in a standard format the energy performance of a range of buildings available to them. In this way it is intended that the BER system will promote greater awareness of energy efficiency in the property market and encourage building owners to take cost effective steps to improve the energy rating, and hence the overall energy performance, of such buildings. Failure to obtain a BER certificate when required by the Regulations is an offence, which may lead to a prosecution and a fine of up to €5,000.

I have no plans to specify a minimum BER rating as standard for private rented dwellings at this time. However, the matter is kept under review by my Department in the context of both strengthening the quality of the private rented sector and growing awareness of the energy performance of buildings.

Social and Affordable Housing

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

107 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of private lease agreements signed and commenced under the social housing leasing initiative and the length of the lease period; the average monthly cost and the full-year cost of the leases; the number of these properties that achieved the expected 20% reduction as compared to market costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37425/10]

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

114 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of unsold affordable housing units where agreements have been signed and commenced under the social housing leasing initiative and the length of the lease period; the average monthly cost and the full-year cost of the leases; the number of these properties that achieved the expected 20% reduction as compared to market costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37426/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 107 and 114 together.

Of the private lease units approved, 144 are operational with agreements signed. The average monthly cost for these units is €588 and the total full year cost in respect of the units is €1,015,988.

Varying discounts have been achieved depending on the details of the lease terms. Discounts therefore range from 8% for units where the property owner has retained full responsibility for management and maintenance, to over 33%. A breakdown of the discounts received by range is set out in tabular form below.

Discount levels achieved in respect of operational private leases to end of Sept. 2010

Discount achieved

Between 8-10%

Between 10%-20%

Greater than 20%

Total

No. of Units

4

72

68

144

The duration of the lease agreements also varies depending on contract type (for example where maintenance and management responsibilities are retained by the property owner units can be leased for a period of less than 10 years). A breakdown by lease duration is also set out in tabular form below. Length of operational private leases

Length

5 years or less years

10 years

20 Years

Total

No. of Units

59

68

17

144

Of the affordable lease units approved for use under the leasing initiative, 796 are fully operational with lease agreements signed. The average monthly cost for these units is €331 and the total full year cost is €3,167,557. Discount from market rent is not a consideration in respect of unsold affordable units; rather, my Department recoups to the authority the interest payments liable in respect of the loans taken by the authority to fund the affordable property in the first instance, hence there is no relation to market rent for these units.

Question No. 108 answered with Question No. 73.

Capital Projects

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

109 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 2 of 4 April 2010, the action he has taken regarding replacing increased incurred expenditure by local authorities which saw project overspends ranging from 5% to 160%; if bonus payments were made to local authorities staff regarding these projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37439/10]

In 2008, in the context of requirements relating to capital funding, my Department, following a competitive tendering process, commissioned Ernst and Young to carry out spot-checks on capital projects under construction in the period 2006 and 2007.

In general, the report found good performance in relation to procurement and that local authorities comply with the relevant guidelines. The report also found that, in a large number of cases where significant capital expenditure was involved, processes adopted by local authorities mirrored the formal appraisal guidelines.

However, the report also records deficiencies in relation to formal appraisals and project briefs, and completion of documentation, as well as delayed submission of final accounts. In particular, the report identified 11 issues relating to appraisal and management of projects and made recommendations to accompany those findings. These included increased expenditure on a range of projects. However, the report also acknowledged that cost increases "were usually attributable to changes in the scope of works to be performed and "unforeseen circumstances".

In response to the report, my Department wrote to local authorities on 22 March 2010 emphasising the importance of adherence to the Capital Appraisal Guidelines. All project managers were asked to review current arrangements for the management of projects to assure themselves that they are being appraised, managed and monitored sufficiently in line with Department of Finance Guidelines, as well as with relevant Departmental circulars. As far as the specific programme areas are concerned, issues arising from the report are being taken forward by the relevant sections in my Department dealing directly with those areas. In addition, my Department, in conjunction with the Department of Finance, is currently devising a training programme for local authority staff involved in capital projects.

Applications by local authorities for additional funding to meet increased expenditure are considered by my Department in the course of work on projects or at final accounts stage. No additional funding is provided by my Department to meet increased expenditure unless it is satisfied that it is appropriate to do so.

New forms of contracts have been in place for construction projects since May 2008. The new contract arrangements are designed to achieve greater cost certainty and better value for money for the Exchequer. The key difference from the traditional approach to contracts is the transfer of all contract risks (other than archaeology) to the contractor, who prices for that risk in a fixed-price tender bid.

In 2000, the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector recommended the introduction of a performance related awards scheme for County and City Managers, Assistant City Managers and Directors of Service of local authorities. The scheme was introduced in 2003 and awards were made by the local government Committee for Performance Awards on the basis of achievement of approved objectives submitted in advance: it is not possible to attribute any portion of an award to any specific capital project. The scheme has now been suspended and no performance awards have been made since 2007.

Question No. 110 answered with Question No. 83.
Question No. 111 answered with Question No. 92.

Severe Weather Events

Deirdre Clune

Question:

112 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to hold an independent inquiry into the flooding in the Cork area in November 2009; the reason such an inquiry has not been held to date in view of the benefits it would have; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37533/10]

The fourth report of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government entitled The Management of Severe Weather Events in Ireland and Related Matters was published on 20 July 2010. As the Committee's report illustrates, the response to a severe weather event generally involves cross Departmental coordination and collaboration. A recommendation that my Department conduct an investigation into the events surrounding the flooding of Cork City in November 2009 is contained therein. The report is being considered by my Department at present and I will make decisions in respect of those recommendations for which I have responsibility as soon as possible.

Local Authority Housing

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

113 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of properties rented under the rental assessment scheme by local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37423/10]

Since its introduction in September 2005, some 29,445 household units have been transferred to the Rental Accommodation Scheme from rent supplement. Of these, 16,319 were housed directly in RAS accommodation and a further 13,126 were accommodated under other social housing options.

A breakdown by local authority is set out in the following table.

RAS Cumulative figures up to end September 2010

Local Authorities (Housing)

No. of Private households transferred from SWA Rent Supplement to RAS

No. of Voluntary households transferred from SWA Rents Supplement to RAS

Total No. (Voluntary + Private) households transferred from SWA Rent Supplement to RAS

Total No. of households transferred from SWA Rent Supplement to other social housing options

Total No. of households transferred from SWA Rent Supplement

Carlow Co. Cl.

266

74

340

164

504

Cavan Co. Cl.

162

82

244

184

428

Clare Co. Cl.

307

85

392

197

589

Cork City Cl.

505

222

727

817

1,544

Cork North Co. Cl.

178

85

263

246

509

Cork South Co. Cl.

408

244

652

551

1,203

Cork West Co. Cl.

40

68

108

124

232

Donegal Co. Cl.

213

211

424

1,267

1,691

Dublin City Cl.

1,479

677

2,156

667

2,823

Dublin South Co. Cl.

1,034

49

1,083

925

2,008

Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown Co. Cl.

397

96

493

442

935

Fingal Co. Cl.

481

0

481

641

1,122

Galway City Cl.

540

185

725

296

1,021

Galway Co. Cl.

267

153

420

235

655

Kerry Co. Cl.

522

76

598

563

1,161

Kildare Co. Cl.

218

125

343

503

846

Kilkenny Co. Cl.

226

307

533

305

838

Laois Co. Cl.

103

82

185

165

350

Leitrim Co. Cl.

42

12

54

74

128

Limerick City Cl.

436

92

528

132

660

Limerick Co. Cl.

168

209

377

188

565

Longford Co. Cl.

351

0

351

73

424

Louth Co. Cl.

196

65

261

716

977

Mayo Co. Cl.

430

334

764

263

1,027

Meath Co. Cl.

100

63

163

258

421

Monaghan Co. Cl.

101

117

218

159

377

Nth Tipperary Co. Cl.

293

43

336

165

501

Offaly Co. Cl.

200

42

242

181

423

Roscommon Co.Cl.

244

77

321

266

587

Sligo Co. Cl.

226

159

385

189

574

Sth Tipperary Co. Cl.

408

79

487

357

844

Waterford City Cl.

231

249

480

273

753

Waterford Co. Cl.

172

28

200

232

432

Westmeath Co. Cl.

315

14

329

198

527

Wexford Co. Cl.

280

97

377

801

1,178

Wicklow Co. Cl.

256

23

279

309

588

Totals

11,795

4,524

16,319

13,126

29,445

Question No. 114 answered with Question No. 107.

National Biodiversity Plan

Joe Costello

Question:

115 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will provide an update on the implementation of the biodiversity strategy currently in place; if measures contained in current strategy have yet to be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37419/10]

In 2002, Ireland published its first National Biodiversity Plan. This Plan contained 91 actions, grouped under a number of themes, which reflected Ireland's commitment to the implementation of the objectives of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. The overall objective of that Plan was to secure the conservation, including where possible the enhancement and sustainable use of biological diversity in Ireland, to contribute to conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity globally, and to advance other obligations of the Convention in the EU, regionally and internationally.

An interim review of the plan was published in 2005, and included an independent review by Comhar, the Sustainable Development Council. The review showed substantial progress in most of the Plan's actions, indicating that 23 actions had been implemented with a further 60 showing implementation was ongoing; leaving 8 actions requiring further action. Some of the actions implemented exceeded their aims, while others, which were ongoing, showed substantial achievement.

A further review of progress on the actions is being undertaken as part of the input to the new National Biodiversity Plan 2010-2015. I intend to publish this latest review in conjunction with the new Plan in the near future. I have invited interested organisations and members of the public to make observations on the draft of the new plan, with a closing date of 22 October 2010 for submissions. The lessons learned from the experience to date on actions in the first National Biodiversity Plan have been an important consideration in preparing the new plan.

Social and Affordable Housing

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

116 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the extent to which he has measured the total number of families on the various housing lists in local authorities here against the total number of houses vacant, completed or near completion in estates with a view to purchase by the local authorities through the local loans fund with a view to achieving nett savings when setting the annual cost of rent support against such expenditure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37413/10]

I am determined to ensure that the housing programme continues to be framed in a manner which optimises the delivery of social housing. To achieve this, it is essential that we tailor the use of available Exchequer supports to prevailing market conditions, and explore alternative solutions to address housing needs, having full regard to the sustainable communities philosophy outlined in the Government's housing policy statement Delivering Homes, Sustaining Communities.

To this end, the range of delivery mechanisms continues to be adapted and expanded. For example, in 2009 I announced the introduction of a new Social Housing Leasing Initiative, through which it is expected that a substantial number of dwellings, including newly completed but not yet occupied dwellings, will be provided in the years ahead to meet housing needs, matching up oversupply, where it exists, with existing housing need. The leasing initiative, together with the Rental Accommodation Scheme, complements the traditional capital funded programmes operated through local authorities and the voluntary and co-operative housing sector. In this context there will continue to be provision for the selective acquisition of completed properties by housing authorities and bodies, subject to available capital funding.

I will be keeping the leasing initiative and all the other housing programmes under ongoing review to ensure that they continue to align oversupply of new housing, where it exists, with existing housing need, and that they are appropriately geared towards meeting the maximum level of housing need.

Question No. 117 answered with Question No. 72.
Question No. 118 answered with Question No. 94.

Departmental Contracts

Leo Varadkar

Question:

119 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the number of contracts held by his Department and its agencies with telecommunication providers; if he will provide details of these contracts including the name of the telecommunication provider and associated financial agreements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37307/10]

My Department has a contract with Vodafone for the provision of mobile services and products procured through the Department of Finance Mobile Framework Agreement.

My Department also has a contract with Eircom for the provision of fixed line voice services through the Government VPN Plan.

My Department is currently in the process of reviewing its telecommunications requirements and as part of this initiative it is planned to carry out a tender under the Department of Finance, Fixed Voice and Voice over IP Framework 2010, when the necessary preparatory stage has been completed. In this context it would not be appropriate for me to provide details of the financial agreements in place between my Department and its current telecommunications providers at the moment for commercially sensitive reasons.

The National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO), which is the only agency under the aegis of my Department, has contracts with two telecommunication providers. One is with O2 and is for mobile phones. The price plan covered by this contract is the O2 Release Multi plan. The second contract is with Imagine and covers fixed land lines. The price plan covered in this contract is the IBA CommsSaver plan. NESDO continuously keeps these contracts under review to ensure that they offer the best value available from the various providers in the market.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

120 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the number of contracts held by his Department and its agencies with energy providers; if he will to provide details of these contracts including the name of the energy provider and associated financial agreements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37322/10]

My Department does not have any contracts in place with energy providers as its energy is supplied through the Houses of the Oireachtas system which provides for the needs of the Government buildings complex. Electricity and gas for the complex is provided by ESB Independent Energy Limited and Bord Gáis respectively.

The National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO), which is the only agency under the aegis of my Department, does not have any contracts with energy providers. Office accommodation for NESDO is rented from the Office of Public Works, which negotiates such contracts for the building where NESDO is located.

Departmental Staff

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

121 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Taoiseach 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. [36889/10]

In considering requests to participate in the Civil Service Worksharing Scheme my Department considers its operating requirements and endeavours to tailor workloads to allow for flexible attendance patterns that accommodate the business needs of the Department and the personal responsibilities or choices of those who wish to participate in it. Currently 32 members of staff in my Department, all female, are participating in the scheme. No applications to participate in the scheme have been refused.

Departmental Expenditure

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

122 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Taoiseach which recommendations contained in the report of the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes 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. [36989/10]

As recommended by the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure separate programme funding for the work of the Ireland Newfoundland Partnership and the Active Citizenship Office ceased in 2009. The separate Offices in these areas have been discontinued which has given rise to savings on my Department's Vote of approximately €308,000 per annum. The National Forum on Europe was closed in 2009 which also gave rise to savings of €515,000.

In addition there has been significant savings in the National Economic and Social Development Office. The Government considered the role of the Office in the context of the report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes and the recommendations of a Value-for-Money review of the Office carried out in my Department. These took account of the evolution of policy and programmes since the various bodies were established, not least the increase in the sources of policy analysis and commentary.

On 1st April 2010, an Order was made under Section 34 of the National Economic and Social Development Office Act 2006, which dissolved the National Economic and Social Forum (NESF) and the National Centre for Partnership and Performance (NCPP). As a result of this rationalisation, the budget for NESDO in 2010 was reduced by 34% from €5.059 million to €3.332 million, with potential for further administrative savings once the restructuring is implemented, of approximately €530,000 for a twelve month period. With the dissolution of the NESF and the NCPP, there have been savings on the cost of the accommodation required.

The CSO are implementing the recommendations of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure and are achieving the Special Groups savings targets. The restructuring savings are being achieved by a range of initiatives including a new organisation structure, consolidation of facilities management and re-engineering of business surveys.

The report recommends reducing the Census 2011 costs. Savings will arise primarily in 2011 and will be achieved by a range of actions including reduction in administration, advertising and field collection costs. These planned savings on the Census cost will be incorporated into the CSO 2011 estimates.

The McCarthy Group recommended that the Law Reform Commission, which is funded through the Vote of the Attorney General, be discontinued and that work on the Legislation Directory and on Statute Law Restatements currently undertaken by the Commission be transferred to the Office of the Attorney General, along with staff and relevant funds.

An alternative proposal from the Attorney General was subsequently accepted to the effect that the Commission's annual budget would be reduced by 33% and this recommendation has now been implemented.

The report recommended that the Chief State Solicitors Office should seek further reductions in expert witness fees and professional fees. The Office and the Department of Finance responded to these recommendations in framing the 2010 Estimate for the Office, which shows a €1.8m reduction over the 2009 Estimate.

In common with all Departments and Offices, there has already been a reduction in staff numbers arising from Government policies introduced. In my Department the number of whole time equivalent staff employed has reduced by 10% since the end of 2008.

In summary, I can assure the House that my Department will make significant savings on expenditure in 2010, and that this process will be managed so as to minimise the disruption to the very valuable public services they provide.

Hotel and Catering Sector

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

123 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach the employment in terms of job numbers in the hotel and catering sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37077/10]

The Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) is the official source of estimates of employment in the state. In line with EU requirements the QNHS collects sector of employment according to the standard EU classification (NACE Rev. 2).

The most recent figures available are for Quarter 2 2010.

The results indicated that there were an estimated 119,800 people employed in the Accommodation and food service activities sector.

Tourism, Cultural and Sporting Sectors

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

124 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach the number of persons currently employed in the tourism, cultural and sporting sectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37073/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

125 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach the employment in terms of job numbers in the arts, cultural and sporting sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37078/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 124 and 125 together.

The Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) is the official source of estimates of employment in the State. In line with EU requirements the QNHS collects sector of employment according to the standard EU classification (NACE Rev. 2). The sectors for which data are requested cannot be specifically identified within this classification.

Tourism industries and related employment are spread across a number of NACE divisions, groups and sections (primarily accommodation and food service activities, transport and arts, entertainment, recreation and other service activities). CSO does not currently compile a Tourism Satellite Account, without which tourism related employment cannot be properly estimated.

Employment in the arts, culture and sports broadly correspond with the sub-sectors of the arts, entertainment, recreation and other service activities sector for which estimates are currently published.

The table below shows the number of persons employed classified by NACE Rev. 2 Economic Sector for Quarter 2 2010.

Persons aged 15 years and over in employment (ILO) classified by NACE Rev. 2 Economic Sector, Quarter 2 2010

’000

Economic sector (NACE Rev. 2)

Apr-Jun 10

All persons

A

Agriculture, forestry and fishing

84.9

B-E

Industry

240.1

F

Construction

125.3

G

Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles

269.1

H

Transportation and storage

89.7

I

Accommodation and food service activities

119.8

J

Information and communication

74.1

K-L

Financial, insurance and real estate activities

103.2

M

Professional, scientific and technical activities

100.9

N

Administrative and support service activities

61.3

O

Public administration and defence; compulsory social security

107.8

P

Education

149.8

Q

Human health and social work activities

234.9

R-U

Arts, entertainment, recreation and other service activities

98.1

Total persons

1,859.1

Data may be subject to future revision.;

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

Reference period: q2=Apr-Jun.;

Source: Quarterly National Household Survey, Central Statistics Office.;

Departmental Agencies

Leo Varadkar

Question:

126 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the new agencies or offices established under the aegis of his Department since 2007; the annual budget in each case for 2007-2010 inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37575/10]

The Active Citizenship Office was established in 2008 under the aegis of my Department, as recommended by the Taskforce on Active Citizenship in its 2006 Report. The Office was discontinued in 2009 and the active citizenship function transferred to the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs in May, 2010.

The administrative budget for the work of the Office in supporting the Steering Group on Active Citizenship for the years 2008 to 2009 is as follows:

2008: — €200,000;

2009: — € 56,000.

There was no financial allocation for the Office in 2010.

State Companies

Leo Varadkar

Question:

127 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the new state-owned companies that have been established or have come under the aegis of his Department since 2007 and the annual turnover in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37590/10]

No new state-owned companies have been established or have come under the aegis of my Department since 2007.

Departmental Staff

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

128 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach if he will provide details of the number of civil servants in his Department who are e-working; his plans to increase the number of civil servants availing of e-working; if he will provide details of the numbers of civil servants he hopes to have e-working by end 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37654/10]

While no staff in my Department are currently e-working on a full-time or part-time basis, 53 have blackberries, laptops or remote access. The Department will review the potential for further use of e-working in the light of the Public Service Agreement 2010-2014.

On the wider issues, the Smarter Travel Plan 2009-2020 recognises that flexible and e-working policies can contribute to reducing the need to travel and to achieving modal shift. I understand that the Minister for Transport has set up an interdepartmental working group to draft an action plan to deliver on this commitment.

Community Employment

Róisín Shortall

Question:

129 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will provide a breakdown of community employment workers by the principal social welfare payment being previously claimed and the number of these CE participants who were claiming a reduced rate payment because of means or other reasons. [37100/10]

There are currently 6,346 participants listed as having previously been in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance (JA) as at 13th October, 2010, and 4,458 previously in receipt of Jobseekers Benefit (which is not means-tested). All lone parents and persons with disabilities participating on CE retain all or part of their social welfare payment simultaneously to their CE payment.

FAS does not record the level of social welfare payment previously paid to CE participants, however, it is the case that for example, if a participant only received €100 per week on JA, the minimum they would receive on CE would be €216 per week. If they were receiving the full €196 JA per week, they would also receive €216 per week via FÁS funding. In both cases the FÁS system will show €216 per week.

School Accommodation

Sean Sherlock

Question:

130 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the number of prefabricated buildings in use at all primary and secondary schools in County Cork; the annual cost of rental for these prefab units; the number of additional units rented for the school year 2010 to 2011; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37748/10]

There are currently 236 prefab units being rented in primary and post-primary schools in Cork City and County. It should be noted that a single prefab unit may consist of one or more classrooms and/or ancillary accommodation. The annual rental cost for these units is €3m.

My Department approved the rental of seven prefab units in Cork City and County to date in 2010 while rental contracts ended in respect 5 prefab units during the same period.

Institutes of Technology

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

131 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will respond to a query (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37104/10]

Proposals submitted to my Department by Institutes of Technology during the period 1st January to 31st March 2009 initially involved a total of 31 proposed voluntary early retirements, with added years, for academic staff. However, my Department was subsequently informed in March, 2009 by an Institute that one of the applicants included in its submission had withdrawn. Furthermore, following reconsideration by the Institute, it had decided to reduce the number of proposed voluntary early retirements from 16 to 8. Therefore, in consequence of this decision, the total number of active VER proposals received in my Department for the period in question was 22.

Prior to 2009 the policy was that consideration would be given to proposals from Institutes of Technology for voluntary early retirement with added years of staff in instances where

the individual was in a post that was no longer required for various reasons such as falling numbers on a particular programme or the discontinuance of a course for which there was insufficient demand,

the person in question was near to retirement age,

redeployment or retraining was not feasible,

it could be demonstrated by the Institute that voluntary early retirement was the most economically advantageous option in the particular circumstances,

the individual staff member would not be replaced thus reducing the Institute's overall staff complement.

Each individual proposal was considered on its merits and where sanctioned it was with the approval of the Department of Finance and subject to any conditions imposed by that Department.

The operation of these arrangements had the effect of achieving savings for the State where redundant skills were no longer required.

This policy was suspended in late 2008 pending the development of a new policy by the Department of Finance that emerged in early 2009 in the form of the Incentivised Early Retirement Scheme (ISER), which does not allow for added years. When announcing the new ISER in his supplementary budget speech of 4th April 2009, the Minister for Finance announced that this would be the only voluntary early retirement scheme that the Government intended to make available in the civil and public services.

School Accommodation

Róisín Shortall

Question:

132 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if officials from her Department have met with the Office of Public Works to progress the provision of a premises to a school (details supplied) in Dublin 11 and when this matter is likely to be finalised. [37129/10]

On foot of a technical inspection of the building referred to by the Deputy, which my officials deemed suitable, the OPW have agreed to transfer the building to my Department subject to a lease being finalised. The drafting of the lease is a matter for the OPW in the first instance.

Computerisation Programme

Arthur Morgan

Question:

133 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills when each classroom in the State will be supplied with a laptop and overhead projector; if she is satisfied that every school has sufficient broadband connection for best use of interactive teaching and learning resources [37138/10]

As the Deputy will be aware, my colleague Minister O'Keeffe distributed €22.3m in capital funding to primary schools last November, with a specific focus on equipping classrooms with digital projectors, teaching computers and wireless mice and keyboards. Schools are asked to prioritise the deployment of these items in each classroom, and have been given access to national purchasing Frameworks to assist them in getting best value for money in their procurement. I intend to build on this investment with further allocations to the post-primary and primary sectors shortly. Schools will continue to be asked to prioritise the deployment of digital projectors and teaching computers in each classroom. As and when each school completes this priority deployment, it is required to use any remaining grant balance on a second tier of priority ICT equipment categories including classroom computers, printers, scanners, networking equipment and so on.

As the Deputy may be aware, the maintenance of ICT equipment inventories for individual schools is a matter for school boards of management themselves. My officials will be reviewing the need and focus for any further investment in this domain in the new year, in light of information to be provided by schools on their grant expenditure.

Currently over 97% of all schools are availing of the Schools Broadband Service. Of the remaining percentage 70 schools have opted out of the scheme and the remaining schools are awaiting installation in the coming months as part of the roll out of new broadband for schools contracts. The priority for the new procurement process was to ensure that the broadband services to schools kept in line with national infrastructure improvements.

Since commencement of the roll out of phase II in 2009 there has already been over a 50% increase in aggregate bandwidth usage, this is due to improved bandwidth speeds being made available to schools and the substantial reduction i.e. over 50% in the number of schools who are connected via satellite. For those schools that remain reliant on satellite, where a wireless or DSL solution becomes available they will be migrated to the improved service as soon as is practicable. In addition my Department in conjunction with the Department of Communications Energy and Natural Resources has connected 78 post primary schools in a pilot project with 100Mbp/s broadband.

State Examinations

Arthur Morgan

Question:

134 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if her Department or the State Examinations Commission is aware of the confusion and anxiety which was caused by the late delivery of sample examination papers for junior certificate Gaeilge last year and if she is committed to avoiding a similar situation with leaving certificate Gaeilge [37139/10]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

135 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills to provide information to múinteoirí Gaeilge on the format and materials for the leaving certificate Gaeilge béalscrúdú 2012 which was referred to in her circular letter 0020/2010, if CDs of samples béalscrúdaithe will be provided and when this material will be available [37140/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 134 and 135 together.

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the holding of the examinations and ensuring the preparation of examination papers and other examination materials. I understand that the detailed specifications for assessment are currently being finalised by the Commission and will issue very shortly to schools. I have forwarded your query to the State Examinations Commission for direct reply to you.

School Curriculum

Arthur Morgan

Question:

136 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the membership of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment course committee for leaving certificate Gaeilge detailing the organisations represented and if she or her officials have met representatives of these organisations with a view to altering the leaving certificate Gaeilge course as detailed in circular letter 20/2010 [37141/10]

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment has statutory responsibility for advising on curriculum and assessment issues in early childhood, primary and second level school settings. This advice is processed through the consultative structures of the NCCA, on which my Department, along with the State Examinations Commission and the partners in education are represented. The following is the list of groups represented on the NCCA Leaving Certificate Gaeilge syllabus committee: Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland; Teachers' Union of Ireland; Irish Universities Association; Joint Managerial Body; Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools; Irish Vocational Education Association; Higher Education and Training Awards Council; Comhar na Múinteoirí Gaeilge; An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta; Foras na Gaeilge; State Examinations Commission; Department of Education and Skills.

Circular 20/2010 informs schools of the prescribed prose and poetry which will apply for the Leaving Certificate Examinations in Gaeilge in 2012, 2013 and 2014. The material included reflects the recommendations of the NCCA which were transmitted to my Department by the Council following the course committee's deliberations. It is not the practice of my Department to meet NCCA course committees, given that my Department has a representative on them, and that the ensuing advice is transmitted formally to my Department by the Council. My Department engages with the NCCA on an ongoing basis.

A revised syllabus in Leaving Certificate Irish has begun in all schools in September 2010, for first examination in 2012. As announced in 2007, the proportion of marks available for oral assessment will increase in the 2012 examinations to 40%. The objective is to promote a significant shift in emphasis towards Irish as a spoken language, where students can communicate and interact in a spontaneous way, and where Irish is spoken every day in schools. In order to ensure optimum time and space for increased oral interaction in the classroom, and to allow for an increase of 15% in the marks for oral assessment, the volume of literature in the revised syllabus at higher level in the Leaving Certificate has been reduced on the advice of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, and the study of the history of the language as a separate item has been incorporated into the teaching of literature.

Some concerns have been raised that this change will result in the revised syllabus presenting insufficient challenge for students with a high proficiency in Irish, particularly in Gaeltacht and Irish medium schools, and that it is insufficient to maintain a rich speech and writing culture. The revised syllabus is being implemented as planned. However, I have asked the NCCA to review the implementation of the programme in the light of the issues raised and the experiences of the first cohort of candidates under the revised assessment system.

Schools Refurbishment

Phil Hogan

Question:

137 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills when funding will be sanctioned for the extension to a school (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37162/10]

I can confirm that the school to which the Deputy refers recently wrote to my Department seeking capital funding to provide additional accommodation at the school. An appropriate application form was furnished to the school authority for completion. Any application received will be considered in the context of the capital budget available to my Department for school buildings generally.

Higher Education Grants

Richard Bruton

Question:

138 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she is aware that honours degree courses which have been developed by a college (details supplied) are not recognised by her Department for the award of three year degree course grants because they are funded through the vocational education committee system which only offers support for two year courses and her plans to remove this restriction [37190/10]

My Department has facilitated the running of the course referred to by the Deputy in a PLC centre for the last number of years. It is accredited by Dundee University as the equivalent of a Level 8 award on the National Framework of Qualifications (Honours Bachelor Degree/Higher Diploma). The conditions of approval for the PLC programme state that the level of certification on completion must be at FETAC Level 5 or Level 6 or equivalent.

My Department funds four maintenance grant schemes, three at third level, the Higher Education Grants (HEG) Scheme, the Vocational Education Committees' (VEC) Scholarships Scheme, the Third Level Maintenance Grants Scheme for Trainees (TLT) and one for students attending Post Leaving Certificate Courses (PLC). The HEG Scheme is administered by the Local Authorities on behalf of my Department, the other three maintenance grant schemes are administered on a similar basis by the VECs. The PLC Scheme prescribes the terms and conditions of funding in respect of students attending approved courses in approved PLC Centres.

Students attending the course to which the Deputy refers are not eligible for grants under the maintenance scheme for students attending Post Leaving Certificate Courses as the level of certification is not appropriate to the PLC programme. I understand from the VEC concerned that prospective students are informed of the absence of grant support for the degree courses before they apply for places.

Schools Refurbishment

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

139 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the schools in Dublin 5, 13 and 17 that were approved for funding under the 2009 and 2010 summer works scheme; if all of the projects approved under this scheme have now been completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37199/10]

The Summer Works Scheme (SWS) was introduced in 2004 to provide devolved funding to individual school authorities to undertake small scale building works which can be carried out during the summer months or at other times that avoid disrupting the operation of the school. Since then, thousands of projects such as gas works, electrical and mechanical works, roof replacements and repairs, windows replacement, toilet upgrades, structural improvements and access improvement works have been completed in schools. A key principle behind this Scheme is that responsibility for the management of the project is devolved to the school authority. The school authority can make use of its local knowledge and presence on the ground to manage the project more effectively and ensure better value for money for the taxpayer.

Under summer works 2009 a total of 123 primary schools and 103 post primary schools in the Dublin area were allocated funding in the amounts of €16.9m and €22.8m respectively. 213 projects are practically complete and the Department is expecting notification of having reached practical completion from the school authorities of the remaining 13 projects shortly. Under summer works 2010 a total of 181 primary schools and 104 post primary schools in the Dublin area were allocated funding in the amounts of €20.7m and €15.5m respectively. To date my Department has received notification from the school authorities that 78 projects are practically complete, 174 projects are ongoing and 33 projects are envisaged to advance on site shortly.

Pension Provisions

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

140 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills her views on a matter (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37205/10]

My Department has regulatory responsibility for the Superannuation Schemes of VEC staff while administrative responsibility rests with each individual VEC. Officials in my Department have been in contact with the VEC referred to by the Deputy and the VEC is contacting the person referred to by the Deputy in order to address the matter.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme

Joe Costello

Question:

141 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the number of survivors of institutional child abuse who came before the redress board in each year since its establishment; the number who obtained redress in each year and the number refused; the total amount of money that has been paid out to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37238/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that a total of 14,295 applications to the Residential Institutions Redress Board have been processed up to the 18th October 2010. This has resulted in 13,400 awards being made to individual survivors with 895 being refused or resulting in no award. This figure can be broken down as follows to reflect the statistics on an annual basis as requested by the Deputy:

2003 — 535 awards made52 — Refused/Nil Award;

2004 — 1,819 awards made19 — Refused/Nil Award;

2005 — 2,120 awards made80 — Refused/Nil Award;

2006 — 2,473 awards made193 — Refused/Nil Award;

2007 — 2,519 awards made112 — Refused/Nil Award;

2008 — 2,382 awards made243 — Refused/Nil Award;

2009 — 1,118 awards made116 — Refused/Nil Award;

2010 to date — 434 awards made80 — Refused/Nil Award.

The total amount of money paid out in awards made to date is €842.5 million.

Joe Costello

Question:

142 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will detail the new reparation fund which has been provided by the religious orders for the survivors of institutional child abuse; the total amount of the fund which is in cash and the amount in property; the way the Government proposes to distribute the fund to survivors; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37239/10]

The Government announced its intention to use €110m of the offers of contributions to be made by the religious Congregations over the next few years to establish a Statutory Fund to support the needs of survivors of residential institutional child abuse on 15th April last. As the Deputy will recall the Congregations offered additional contributions, which they valued at €348.51m, in addition to their original contribution under the 2002 Indemnity Agreement. The property elements of the offers are being examined to determine their potential use to the State.

The proposal to establish a Statutory Fund is in keeping with the all party Motion passed by Dáil Éireann, supporting the proposal for a Trust to be set up and managed by the State for the support of victims and for other education and welfare purposes. My Department has undertaken a wide ranging consultation process, meeting with groups representing survivors of institutional abuse, the religious Congregations and other interested parties. Press advertisements also invited views and submissions as to the exact nature of the fund, how it will operate and the uses to which it will be put. The views expressed in the responses together with the views from the Department's engagement with groups and other interested parties are being considered and my Department expects to report to Government shortly on the matter.

Special Educational Needs

Pat Breen

Question:

143 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills when an application will be processed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37251/10]

As the Deputy will be aware, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for allocating resource teachers and Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. I have arranged for the details supplied to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply. All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.

Departmental Procurement

Leo Varadkar

Question:

144 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the number of contracts held by her Department and its agencies with telecommunications providers; if she will provide details of these contracts including the name of the telecommunications provider and associated financial agreements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37299/10]

The following companies are contracted to provide telecommunication services to my Department: Eircom, Siemens Enterprise Communications, Vodafone, 02, Complete Telecom, Soft-Ex Ireland, AA Telecom, Advanced Telephone Systems Ltd, Martin Kelly Business Telephone Systems, Phone Plus Ltd, Telephone & Alarm Systems, Spectrum Communications Ltd. The financial agreements in place with the telecommunications providers are that payments for services are made on receipt of invoices submitted by the provider, based on agreed deliverables. In relation to bodies under the aegis of my Department, contracts held, including those with telecommunication providers, are a matter for each agency and this information is not collated centrally.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

145 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the number of contracts held by her Department and its agencies with energy providers; if she will to provide details of these contracts including the name of the energy provider and associated financial agreements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37314/10]

The following companies are contracted to provide energy services to my Department: Bord Gáis Éireann, Chevron (Ireland) Limited, Energia, ESB, ESB Independent Energy Ltd, Flogas Ireland Ltd, Midland Oil and Geraghty Oil, Topaz Energy Ltd, Calor Teoranta and Kerry Petroleum Ltd. The financial agreements in place with the energy providers are that payments for services are made on receipt of invoices submitted by the provider, based on agreed deliverables. In relation to bodies under the aegis of my Department contracts held, including those with energy providers, are a matter for each agency and this information is not collated centrally.

School Transport

Terence Flanagan

Question:

146 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 13; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37328/10]

The school transport scheme, which is operated by Bus Éireann on my Department's behalf, facilitates the transportation of over 125,000 children to primary and post-primary schools each day including approximately 8,000 children with special educational needs. The purpose of the scheme is to ensure access to primary and post primary education for children, who because of where they live, might have difficulty in attending school regularly.

School transport is a very significant national operation involving about 42 million journeys and over 82 million kilometres on 6,000 routes every school year. This service is delivered using a mix of BE, both school transport and road passenger vehicles, private contractor vehicles including private operator scheduled services, and Dublin Bus, Irish Rail, DART and LUAS where practical. The scheme therefore encourages a significant reduction in daily usage of individual cars.

School Transport was also approved by Government as a topic for inclusion as part of the 2009-2011 round of Value for Money Reviews. This review looked at the original objectives of the scheme, whether these objectives remain valid today, the extent to which the objectives are being achieved, and whether there are possibilities for economies or efficiencies that would improve the value for money of the scheme. In this context, the review also looked at fundamental issues such as eligibility criteria and catchment boundaries, with a view to achieving efficiencies and value for money in the Scheme. The report of the Value for Money Review of the School Transport Scheme is currently being finalised.

In a wider context, the Government's Smarter Travel policy, which is led by my colleague the Minister for Transport, pursues the need to deliver a sustainable travel and transport system by 2020, including in relation to school travel. Since the publication of the Smarter Travel Policy in February last year, work has begun on developing a national cycle competency accreditation for schoolchildren. In addition, a stakeholder advisory group has been set up in relation to the delivery of the Green Schools Travel Programme. My colleague the Minister for Transport, continues to provide financial support for the Green Schools Travel Programme through the National Transport Authority. This programme reached 144,000 schoolchildren in 482 schools by the end of 2009 and yielded an average reduction of 22% in children travelling to school by car. The approved national programme aims to reach 260,000 schoolchildren by 2012.

Higher Education Grants

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

147 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills when a higher education grant will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37348/10]

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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

148 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills when a higher education grant will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37349/10]

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.

An Teanga Gaeilge

Dinny McGinley

Question:

149 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Dinny McGinley den Tánaiste agus Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna i bhfianaise an dualgais reachtúil atá ar Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh (faoi Acht an Choláiste Ollscoile, Gaillimh (Leasú) 2006), ‘a chinntiú go mbeidh oideachas á sholáthar trí mheán na Gaeilge’, agus atá i measc na bpríomhaidhmeanna a bheidh leagtha amach i bPlean Straitéise na hOllscoile, céard iad na socruithe atá déanta ag an Aire chun maoiniú a dhéanamh ar Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge agus ar straitéis Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh d’fhorbairt na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge [37364/10]

Bunaíodh Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge faoi choimirce Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh i 2004, chun tacaíocht níos dírithe agus níos straitéisí a thabhairt d'fhorbairt inbhuanaithe na gcúrsaí trí Ghaeilge, do ghníomhaíocht taighde agus do sheirbhísí eile. Maraon le cláir tríú leibhéal a chur ar fáil, soláthraíonn an tAcadamh chomh maith, insna hIonaid Gaeltachta aige, seirbhísí forbraíochta agus tacaíochta eile ar mhaithe le cothabháil pobal Gaeltachta, ina measc siúd sealbhú teanga agus cláir eile. Faigheann an tAcadamh maoiniú faoi láthair tríd an Údarás um Ardoideachas agus OE Gaillimh, maraon le maoiniú ón Roinn Gnóthaí Pobail, Comhionannais agus Gaeltachta agus ó Údarás na Gaeltachta.

Tá mo Roinnse agus an tÚdarás um Ardoideachas i mbun pléanna le OE Gaillimh chun próiseas a chomhaontú trínar féidir tacú i gcónaí le gníomhaíochtaí an Acadaimh. Tá an Roinn Gnóthaí Pobail, Comhionannais agus Gaeltachta agus Údarás na Gaeltachta araon i mbun pléanna den saghas céanna freisin i bhfianaise an róil thábhachtach a imríonn an tAcadamh ina gcuid straitéisí féin i leith forbartha sóisialta, geilleagraí, cultúrtha agus teangeolaíochta na Gaeltachta. I ngeall ar na costais shuntasacha atá i gceist, tuigfidh tú gur gnó iad na socruithe maoinithe a theastaíonn chun tacú le hobair an Acadaimh, ní do mo Roinnse agus don Údarás um Ardoideachas amháin, ach gur gnó don Roinn Gnóthaí Pobail, Comhionannais agus Gaeltachta agus d'Údarás na Gaeltachta chomh maith iad i bhfianaise na forbartha agus na tacaíochta leithne a thugann an tAcadamh i leith na Gaeilge.

School Staffing

Joe McHugh

Question:

150 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the progress that her Department has made since last summer on improving the employment structures for primary school secretaries especially in respect of entitlements, security on contract and pension provision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37365/10]

In the context of the Towards 2016 Review and Transitional Agreement in 2008, it was agreed that the relevant parties would enter into discussions regarding the terms and conditions of both school secretaries and caretakers. Accordingly, a forum was set up with the aim of establishing the position in schools regarding the terms and conditions of employment of school secretaries and caretakers. The forum is jointly chaired by my Department and the Department of Finance and includes the relevant management bodies and the unions involved (SIPTU and IMPACT).

In order to establish the factual position of secretaries and caretakers, a survey, developed in conjunction with the school management bodies and the relevant unions, was carried out in all schools. The results of the survey will feed into the work of the forum.

As the discussions of the forum are currently in progress, it would not be appropriate for me to make any further comment at this time.

Schools Building Projects

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

151 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the application and the proposed location regarding a new school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37377/10]

The project referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage of architectural planning.

Authorisation was given in June of this year for the Design Team to apply for Planning Permission, Fire Cert and Disability Access Certificate.

Following receipt of the above statutory approvals, 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.

FÁS Training Programmes

Joe Carey

Question:

152 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the number of apprentices registered with FÁS in County Clare that are unemployed; the initiatives that are in place or are planned by FÁS to assist these apprentices in completing their apprenticeships; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37384/10]

A total of 165 apprentices registered by FÁS with either home addresses or last employer based in County Clare are currently registered as redundant. At end September 2010, 7,614 of a total 18,380 apprentices nationally were registered by FÁS as being redundant. Of this number, 4,320 can progress in their apprenticeship having reached the minimum qualifying standard at the relevant training phase while 3,294 must first successfully pass their outstanding assessment(s) to permit similar progression.

FÁS has introduced a number of measures to date which have assisted over 4,000 redundant apprentices with on and off-the-job training.

The rules for off-the-job training have been amended to permit redundant apprentices to progress to their next off-the-job training phases. Of those apprentices registered as redundant at end September, 2,439 had completed off-the-job training and 955 are currently attending off-the-job training.

The Redundant Apprentice Placement Scheme was introduced in April 2010 to provide opportunities to redundant apprentices to complete on-the-job training at Phase 3, 5 and 7. The scheme provides a weekly subsidy of €250 to the employer towards employment costs. At end September 2010, 258 had commenced their on-the-job training phase, of whom 17 had completed the relevant phase.

ESB Networks are providing on-the-job training to 252 eligible redundant electrical and motor mechanics apprentices in 2010. At end September 2010, 189 redundant apprentices had completed the training with 63 currently in training with ESB Networks.

FÁS has also developed Phase 7 Equivalent off-the-job assessments for redundant apprentices for the trades of Carpentry & Joinery, Electrical, Plumbing, Brick & Stonelaying and Cabinet Making, where Phase 7 assessments cannot be undertaken on-the-job. At end September 2010, 91 redundant apprentices had completed the assessments and a further 52 are scheduled to take the assessments.

Redundant apprentices may also avail of existing specific skills training courses and evening courses available at FÁS Training Centres to enhance their employable skills. At end September 2010, some 1,133 course places have been availed of by redundant apprentices to date in 2010.

Under the EU Leonardo Da Vinci III Life Long Learning Programme, Léargas in collaboration with FÁS, has supported 25 redundant apprentices to complete on-the-job training overseas. Eighteen redundant apprentices are currently in on-the-job training overseas and 17 redundant apprentices will be scheduled for on-the-job training in the first half of 2011.

At end September, 9 redundant apprentices formerly employed by S.R. Technics had commenced Phase 5 and 7 on-the-job training with the Air Corps and a further 9 are scheduled to commence in November.

FAS, in consultation with the Department, continues to examine further potential measures to facilitate the progression and completion of apprenticeships including possibilities for on-the-job placements with public sector employers.

School Transport

Joe Carey

Question:

153 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills when will the review of the school transport scheme be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37385/10]

As the Deputy is aware, School Transport was approved by Government as a topic for inclusion as part of the 2009-2011 round of Value for Money Reviews. This review looked at the original objectives of the scheme, whether these objectives remain valid today, the extent to which the objectives are being achieved, and whether there are possibilities for economies or efficiencies that would improve the value for money of the scheme. In this context, the review also looked at fundamental issues such as eligibility criteria and catchment boundaries, with a view to achieving efficiencies and value for money in the Scheme. The report of the Value for Money Review of the School Transport Scheme is currently being finalised.

Schools Refurbishment

Joe Carey

Question:

154 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the schools in County Clare that have been awarded funding under the summer works scheme for 2010; the level of funding and nature of works that have been awarded to schools in County Clare under the 2010 scheme; the number of applications that were received from County Clare and the number which were subsequently approved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37386/10]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that details of the successful applicants under the 2010 Summer Works Scheme were announced on 19 April, 2010 and published on my Department's website, www.education.ie. A list of successful applicants from Clare is set out below for the Deputy's convenience.

There was a total of 65 applications received for the Summer Works scheme from schools in Clare. Out of the 65 applications, 53 schools, 42 at primary level and 11 at post primary level, were successful in their applications for funding for works to be carried out. The Planning and Building Unit of my Department has contacted all schools approved for grant aid with details and instructions on how to proceed.

There are 10 categories in total under the Summer Works scheme. The following list outlines the works applicable to each category:-Category 1: Gas Works Category 2: Electrical Works Category 3: Mechanical works Category 4: Projects to facilitate inclusion and access for special needs pupils Category 5: Toilet facilities Category 6: Roof works Category 7: Window projects Category 8: Curricular requirement projects Category 9: Other structural improvements Category 10: External environment projects The Deputy will understand that the Department does not publish information on the value of the grant aid awarded to schools as to do so could prejudice the tendering process.

Successful list of SWS 2010 for Clare Area

School

Roll No.

Project

Cratloe N S Cratloe

04919H

Mechanical

Holy Family Snr Ennis

07315N

Toilets

Rockmount Mixed N S Miltown Malbay

09390O

Roofs

S N Na Coradh Mullach

10191P

Mechanical

Tubber N S Tubber

10886E

Roofs

Clohanbeg N S Cree

11234M

Electrical

S N Padraig Nfa Fanoir Ballyvaughan

13379C

Access For All

Clohanes N S Mullach

13730L

External Environment

S N Cill Muire Inis

13942D

Toilets

Kilmaley N S Ennis

14468G

Roofs

S N Mhainistir Chuinche Quin

14757N

Mechanical

Barefield Mixed N S Ennis

14830U

Windows

Annagh N S Miltown Malbay

15221A

Windows

Cahermurphy N S Kilmihil

15327Q

Structural Improvements

Stonehall Ns

15350l

Toilets

Killaloe Boys N S Killaloe

15370R

Windows

Inch N S Ennis

16186G

External Environment

Cbs Bunscoil Ennis

16677C

Mechanical

Scoil An Sraith S N Tulach Brach

16930L

External Environment

Sn An Phairtin Mixed Parteen

16946D

Windows

S N Colm Cille Inis Diomain

17270A

Structural Improvements

S N Cnoc An Ein Inis

17583V

External Environment

S N Eoin Baiste Ballyvaughan

17633K

Roofs

Cooraclare B N S Cill Rois

17816S

Access For All

Kilnaboy N S Ennis

17832Q

Toilets

Ennis Convent Inf N S Ennis

17957N

Windows

Scoil Mhuire Naisiunta Cora Finne

18227E

Structural Improvements

Sn Iosef Naofa An Mhaigh

18339P

Toilets

S N Liosceanuir Inis

18410S

Roofs

S N Baile An Droichid Obriens Bridge

18467B

Windows

Ballycar N S Newmarket On Fergus

18526O

Windows

S N Cathair Aodha Lissycasey

18541K

Toilets

Lissycasey N S Ennis

18555V

Windows

S N Ma Sheasta Moyasta

18565B

External Environment

Shannon Airport No 2 Ns Shannon Airport

18740Q

External Environment

New Quay Ns Burren

19043W

External Environment

Flagmount Central Ns Flagmount Central Ns

19338S

Mechanical

Lisdoonvarna N S Lisdoonvarna

19700J

Roofs

Inchicronan Central Ns, Crusheen

19551S

Mechanical

St Mochullas N.S. Ennis Road

20075T

External Environment

Scoil Na Maighdine Mhuire Cora Chaithlin

20127M

Electrical

St Fachnan & St Attractas N S Kilfenora

20149W

Windows

St Josephs Secondary School, Spanish Point

62010C

Structural

Scoil Mhuire Ennistymon

61950W

Roofs

Mary Immaculate Secondary School Lisdoonvarna

62000W

Roofs

St. Joseph’s Secondary School Tulla

62020F

Mechanical

Ennis Community College Ennis

70830N

Access For All

Ennistymon Vocational School Ennistymon

70840Q

Electrical

St Joseph’s Community College Carrigholt Rd.

70880F

Toilets

Scariff Community College Scariff

70900I

Roofs

St Anne’s Community College Killaloe

70901K

Windows

Shannon Comprehensive School Shannon

81007U

Windows

Kilrush Community School Kilrush

91448K

Roofs

FÁS Training Programmes

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

155 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills her views on the recent announcement regarding a private training company (details supplied); if the company has been investigated by FÁS and FETAC, the results of such investigations and the actions taken; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37387/10]

The provider in question was first registered as a FETAC accredited provider in 2006, providing courses in such areas as child care, health care, psychology, business and finance. Monitoring inspections of the provider were conducted by FETAC in January and December 2009, with a follow-up meeting held in July 2010. The monitoring visits identified significant areas for improvement.

FETAC suspended the provider's access to certification on 13 September 2010, pending the completion of the monitoring process. FETAC also advised the provider not to enrol any new learners on programmes leading to FETAC Awards. The provider was given until 30 September to confirm with evidence that it was in full compliance with all requirements and to furnish a report to FETAC.

Information from the provider was received by the deadline, but, having considered the information, FETAC decided to continue the suspension of certification as issues regarding quality assurance procedures had not been satisfactorily resolved. This resulted in a suspension notice being placed on FETAC's website on 7 October. FETAC was notified on 10 October that the provider has ceased trading.

FETAC-registered providers, delivering programmes of 3 months duration or more on a commercial and profit making basis, are required to have policy and procedures for the Protection for Learners, aimed at ensuring that there are adequate arrangements in place in the event of a provider ceasing operations. Such arrangements can include having an agreement in place with at least 2 other providers, to enable learners to transfer to continue their programmes should the provider cease operation. FETAC is now examining the protection for learners arrangements in place for the provider in question and will assist affected learners as much as possible.

Separately, following an anonymous allegation of malpractice against the provider made to Skillnets Limited in February 2010, Skillnets Limited investigated the matter and subsequently put in place certain strengthened control measures from its own perspective. Skillnets Limited also promptly informed the Department, FAS, FETAC and the Comptroller and Auditor General upon receiving the anonymous allegation and where its subsequent investigations indicated potential fraudulent activity, it duly informed the Garda authorities. The matter is covered in chapter 29 of the Comptroller and Auditor General's report on the Accounts of the Public Services 2009.

FETAC assisted Skillnets Limited with its investigation of the allegation of malpractice and also reported the findings to the Comptroller and Auditor General.

An investigation conducted by FÁS' Internal Audit Unit into concerns regarding training provided by the company in question commenced on 13 May 2010. Payments due to the company concerned totalling €50,820 are currently being retained by FÁS. FÁS has held meetings with representatives of the company following learner and employer validation checks on a sample of claims funded by the Agency. It has also held a number of meetings with FETAC to establish the certification status of all learners on the sampled claims funded by FÁS where it was declared to the Agency that FETAC certification was being sought by the company in question. The investigation is ongoing and is expected to conclude in the coming weeks.

Schools Building Projects

Michael McGrath

Question:

156 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the position concerning the provision of an extension at a primary school in County Cork (details supplied). [37403/10]

The project referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage of architectural planning; my Department are currently awaiting confirmations from the Design Team in respect of the tender documentation. Following receipt of the required confirmations this project will then progress to tender and construction.

School Transport

Jack Wall

Question:

157 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the reason school transport has been reduced in an area in County Kildare (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37539/10]

Under the terms of my Department's Primary School Transport Scheme, pupils who reside 3.2 kilometres or more from, and are attending their nearest suitable national school as determined by my Department are eligible for free school transport.

Bus Éireann is responsible for the operation of the school transport service on behalf of my Department.

Routes are planned in such a way to ensure that, as far as possible, eligible pupils have a reasonable standard of service while at the same time, ensuring that school transport vehicles are fully utilised in the most efficient and cost effective manner. My Department has been advised by Bus Éireann that with the reorganisation of services during the summer, as there was a reduction in the number of pupils in the area in question offering for transport for the 2010/2011 school year, it was possible to amalgamate the two services referred to in the details supplied, into one.

The current service for the pupils referred to by the Deputy remains within the general guidelines of the School Transport Scheme.

Special Educational Needs

John Perry

Question:

158 Deputy John Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if a school (details supplied) in County Sligo will receive additional learning support hours as a matter of priority; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37542/10]

As the Deputy will be aware, the General Allocation Model (GAM) was introduced in primary schools in September 2005 to ensure that each school has learning support/resource teaching support available to meet the needs of children with high incidence special educational needs. In general, where a school meets the criteria for developing school status as outlined in the staffing schedule for the appointment of teachers for the current school year (Department Circular 0021/2010), an appropriate adjustment will automatically be made to the school's allocation under the General Allocation Model.

In relation to schools which may not meet the criteria for developing school status, when the GAM commenced, a commitment was given to carry out a review after three years of operation. This review commenced in 2008. The process involved engaging with the Education Partners which includes parent, management and union interests in the context of securing their views on the model's operation. The review is at an advanced stage and is currently being considered within my Department. It is expected that the review will be completed this year.

Any decision in relation to the operation of the model will be taken in the context of the outcome of the review, the resources available and the competing demands for resources generally in the education system.

Schools Building Projects

Michael McGrath

Question:

159 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the application for a new school building by a national school (details supplied) in County Cork [37547/10]

My Department has reached agreement, in principle, subject to contract with Cork County Council. Due to the commercial sensitivities relating to site acquisitions, I am not in a position to comment further on the matter at this time. Once this acquisition is concluded, the proposed building project will be considered in the context of the capital budget available to my Department for school buildings generally.

Teachers’ Remuneration

Catherine Byrne

Question:

160 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will ask State Examinations Commission to explain the delay in paying thousands of teachers who acted as invigilators and correctors of State examinations during the month of June 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37558/10]

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the holding of the examinations, charging and collecting fees for examinations and apply such monies to the carrying out of its functions.

In view of this I have forwarded your query to the State Examinations Commission for direct reply to you.

Departmental Agencies

Leo Varadkar

Question:

161 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the new agencies or offices established under the aegis of her Department since 2007; the annual budget in each case for 2007 to 2010, inclusive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37567/10]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

162 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the new state-owned companies that have been established or have come under the aegis of her Department since 2007 and the annual turnover in each case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37582/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 161 and 162 together

No new agencies, offices or state-owned companies have been established under the aegis of my Department since 2007.The Deputy may wish to note that responsibility for FÁS and Skillnets Ltd transferred from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation (D/ETI) to my Department with effect from May 2010.

Third Level Courses

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

163 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will respond to a query from a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37598/10]

Michael Ring

Question:

170 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the number of non-EU students who were enrolled at public higher education colleges and private higher education colleges for each of the past five years; and the countries of which they are nationals [37624/10]

Michael Ring

Question:

171 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the fees paid by non-EU students to higher education colleges in each of the past five years [37625/10]

Michael Ring

Question:

172 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will provide an example of the annual fees paid to a higher education college by a student from outside the EU for a medical course [37627/10]

Michael Ring

Question:

173 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the number of students at higher education colleges who are classified as non-EU nationals and pay fees accordingly, even though they may be long-term residents here and their parents are taxpayers [37628/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 163 and 170 to 173, inclusive, together.

Under the terms of my Department's Free Fee Initiative the Exchequer meets the cost of tuition fees in respect of eligible students who are pursuing full-time undergraduate courses of study which are a minimum of two years duration in an approved higher education institution. The main conditions of the scheme are that students must be first-time undergraduates, hold inter alia EU/EEA/Swiss nationality in their own right, and have been ordinarily resident in an EU/EEA/Swiss state for at least three of the five years preceding their entry to an approved third level course.

Where undergraduate students do not meet the eligibility criteria of the free fees schemes, it is the higher education institution concerned that determines, in accordance with its criteria, the appropriate tuition fee payable by such students. Details of the number of non-EU students, as referred to by the Deputy, who are long term residents and whose parents are taxpayers are not readily available. An example of the level of annual fee currently payable by a non EU student for an undergraduate medical course amounts to some €31,000. The total provision to the Higher Education Sector (including capital, current grants etc) amounts to some €1.8 billion this year. This includes an amount of some €400 million in respect of the cost of the free fees schemes. Statistical data in relation to higher education colleges is collected by the Higher Education Authority (HEA). Available date on the number and domiciliary of origin of full-time students enrolled in universities and institutes of technology are available on the HEA website at: http://www.hea.ie/en/statistics. Data in respect of student enrolments in private Higher Education colleges is not collected by the HEA.

Details on the amount of fees paid by non-EU students enrolled in universities and institutes of technology in each of the past five years are set out in the attached table (details in respect of the Institutes of Technology are only available for the last four years).

Schools Building Projects

John Cregan

Question:

164 Deputy John Cregan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if the technical report carried out by her Department on a school (details supplied) in County Limerick, has been completed and if it will now be published [37611/10]

Officials from my Department met with the Trustees of the school to which the Deputy refers at the end of June 2010 to discuss the future viability of the school. At that meeting, it was agreed that a technical assessment of the school buildings would be carried out.

A report of the technical assessment has been prepared recently and is under consideration. This report will be made available to the school authority in due course.

John O'Donoghue

Question:

165 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the progress made in providing additional grant aid for a proposed extension to a school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37617/10]

The school to which the Deputy refers has applied for large scale capital funding for an extension and refurbishment. The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects and assigned a band rating of 3.

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

The progression of all large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction phase will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of the Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time. In 2008, the school was approved funding for the replacement of a prefab for ASD facilities with a permanent structure. As the Deputy will be aware, I met a delegation from the school in June 2010. At this meeting, it was suggested to the school authority to proceed with the ASD project as a priority. Further works at the school can then be considered for progression in the context of available funds and competing demands on the capital budget of my Department.

John O'Donoghue

Question:

166 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the progress made in providing a new national school at a location (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37618/10]

The school to which the Deputy refers has applied for large scale capital funding for a new school. The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects and assigned a band rating of 2.2.

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

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

The progression of all large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction phase will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of the Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

Physical Education Facilities

John O'Donoghue

Question:

167 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the progress which has been made with advancing the building of a sports hall at a school (details supplied) in County Kerry under public private partnership arrangement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37619/10]

The school to which the Deputy refers has put forward a financial proposal to the Department to co-fund the building of a sports hall.

As the Deputy will be aware, I met representatives of the school authority with officials from my Department in June 2010 to discuss the matter. Subsequently, the school supplied further details regarding their proposal.

This proposal is under consideration and a response on the matter will issue to the school authority in due course.

School Transport

John O'Donoghue

Question:

168 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if a transport grant will be made available in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry in view of the fact that there is no room for them on the school bus [37620/10]

Under the terms of the Primary School Transport scheme pupils are eligible for free transport if they reside 3.2 kilometres or more from, and are attending, their nearest national school or school of amalgamation. In the case of amalgamations, pupils residing in a closed school area may be deemed eligible to the school of amalgamation only.

Bus Éireann, which operates the school transport scheme on behalf of my Department, have advised that the pupil referred to by the Deputy, in the details supplied, resides in a closed school area and is not attending his school of amalgamation and therefore, is not eligible for free school transport. Pupils may avail of transport to a school other than the amalgamated school on a concessionary basis. Such an arrangement would be subject to spare seats being available on the service, the agreement of the school of amalgamation being obtained and no additional State costs being incurred by way of re-routing the service. However, Bus Éireann have advised that the service in question is operating to capacity.

The Parents/Guardians of the pupil should continue to liaise with their local Bus Éireann office regarding the availability of seats. As the pupil referred to by the Deputy is not eligible for school transport the question of grant assistance does not arise.

Schools Amalgamation

Arthur Morgan

Question:

169 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills her plans for the amalgamation of small rural schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37623/10]

I can confirm that I have no current plans to undertake an immediate large-scale programme of small school closures at this time. The exception to this is small schools where the question of closure would arise in the normal course under the current sustainability limits. These will continue to be dealt with in the same way and such schools may be closed if the numbers reduce over time to an unsustainable level.

In considering any future policy changes relating to small schools, my Department is conscious that there is a wider dimension than just the cost of maintaining small schools to be considered. This includes the impact of school closures on dispersed rural communities, parental choice, the availability of diversity of school provision and the additional cost of school transport.

All Patron bodies and the Education Partners will be consulted as part of any initiative undertaken by my Department in the future.

Questions Nos. 170 to 173, inclusive, answered with Question No. 163.

Departmental Agencies

Michael Ring

Question:

174 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the agencies that are funded or part funded by her Department to promote Ireland as a place of study for students at higher education colleges; the countries in which they operate; the level of funding awarded to each of these agencies in each of the past five years; the volume of students who have been recruited to come to Ireland by these agencies and if she has satisfied herself that the expenditure has been well spent. [37632/10]

Last year, the Government announced a new framework for the promotion, quality assurance and co-ordination of international education.

As part of this new framework, Enterprise Ireland has been given the lead role in the development, promotion and marketing of international higher education, including responsibility for the Education Ireland national brand and web site. Enterprise Ireland has over 30 international offices, facilitating access to over 60 overseas markets.

The responsibility for promoting Irish higher education institutions to international students was previously split between Enterprise Ireland and the International Education Board Ireland (IEBI), a small body under the aegis of my Department. The responsibilities, and some of the staff, of IEBI have now been fully transferred to Enterprise Ireland.

I am satisfied that these arrangements constitute the most effective use of funding to support international education initiatives. Between 2006 and 2009, my Department provided the following funding to the IEBI to support international education initiatives:

2009: €443,000;

2008: €569,000;

2007: €605,000;

2006: €436,000.

Since the beginning of 2010, the majority of funding previously allocated to IEBI has been instead allocated to Enterprise Ireland, and my Department has arranged the transfer of the allocation to the Vote of the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation. In 2010, this amount was on the order of €250,000, although Enterprise Ireland's expenditure in the area of international education is in excess of this figure because it is part of their mainstream activities, involving expenditure from various budget lines within the agency.

With respect to student numbers, Enterprise Ireland has reported that in 2009, around 26,000 international students studied in Irish higher education institutions. The Government, in its new international education strategy, has set a target that, on the basis of the new framework to promote international education, the number of international students in higher education should be increased by 50% to 38,000 students by 2015.

It should be noted that higher education institutions are themselves primarily responsible for their international activities and the main function of IEBI (up to the end of 2009) and Enterprise Ireland has been to support these efforts by promoting Ireland nationally as a destination for international study.

FÁS Training Programmes

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

175 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills her views on the circular issued to FÁS in January 2010 which restricted the eligibility for FÁS training allowances only to persons who have been in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance or jobseeker’s benefit immediately prior to entering FÁS training courses; the consequences this will have for workers from other European Union countries working here; the way a person who has been reliant on supplementary welfare allowance will be able to avail of FÁS courses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37638/10]

The December 2009 Budget aligned the payment of FÁS training allowances to a person's entitlement to welfare supports. Consequently, where a trainee is entitled to a welfare payment at the commencement of their training course a training allowance is payable. If a trainee is not entitled to welfare supports at the time of the commencement of their training course they will not receive a training allowance. This budgetary measure was necessary in order to provide for an increase in the number of training and employment places. However, I would emphasise that it in no way impacts on a person's opportunity to access training supports from FÁS which remain available to all unemployed persons regardless of whether they are in receipt of social welfare payments.

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

176 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding apprenticeships and the arrangements put in place to ensure that apprentices whose training has been halted due to firms closing will have a programme in place to enable their training to conclude. [37649/10]

At end September 2010, 7,614 of a total 18,380 apprentices were registered by FÁS as being redundant. Of this number, 4,320 can progress in their apprenticeship having reached the minimum qualifying standard at the relevant training phase while 3,294 must first successfully pass their outstanding assessment(s) to permit similar progression.

FÁS has introduced a number of measures to date which have assisted over 4,000 redundant apprentices with on and off-the-job training.

The rules for off-the-job training have been amended to permit redundant apprentices to progress to their next off-the-job training phases. Of those apprentices registered as redundant at end September, 2,439 had completed off-the-job training and 955 are currently attending off-the-job training.

The Redundant Apprentice Placement Scheme was introduced in April 2010 to provide opportunities to redundant apprentices to complete on-the-job training at Phase 3, 5 and 7. The scheme provides a weekly subsidy of €250 to the employer towards employment costs. At end September 2010, 258 had commenced their on-the-job training phase, of whom 17 had completed the relevant phase.

ESB Networks are providing on-the-job training to 252 eligible redundant electrical and motor mechanics apprentices in 2010. At end September 2010, 189 redundant apprentices had completed the training with 63 currently in training with ESB Networks.

FÁS has also developed Phase 7 Equivalent off-the-job assessments for redundant apprentices for the trades of Carpentry & Joinery, Electrical, Plumbing, Brick & Stonelaying and Cabinet Making, where Phase 7 assessments cannot be undertaken on-the-job. At end September 2010, 91 redundant apprentices had completed the assessments and a further 52 are scheduled to take the assessments.

Redundant apprentices may also avail of existing specific skills training courses and evening courses available at FÁS Training Centres to enhance their employable skills. At end September 2010, some 1,133 course places have been availed of by redundant apprentices to date in 2010.

Under the EU Leonardo Da Vinci III Life Long Learning Programme, Léargas in collaboration with FÁS, has supported 25 redundant apprentices to complete on-the-job training overseas. Eighteen redundant apprentices are currently in on-the-job training overseas and 17 redundant apprentices will be scheduled for on-the-job training in the first half of 2011.

At end September, 9 redundant apprentices formerly employed by S.R. Technics had commenced Phase 5 and 7 on-the-job training with the Air Corps and a further 9 are scheduled to commence in November.

FÁS, in consultation with the Department, continues to examine further potential measures to facilitate the progression and completion of apprenticeships including possibilities for on-the-job placements with public sector employers.

Higher Education Grants

Michael McGrath

Question:

177 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a higher education grant appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [37657/10]

An appeal has been received by my Department from the candidate to which the Deputy refers. The appeal is currently under consideration and a response will issue to the candidate in due course.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

178 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will advise on the students assistance fund and the disbursement of same; the qualifying parameters of this scheme; and her views as to the possibility of this scheme being widened to accommodate those who at the present time particularly are experiencing grave difficulties in accessing third level education. [37684/10]

The Student Assistance Fund at some €5m continues to be made available through the access offices of third-level institutions to assist students experiencing exceptional financial need in the course of their studies.

Full-time registered students participating on third level courses of not less than one-year duration leading to an undergraduate or postgraduate qualification are eligible to apply for assistance under the Fund. This is in addition to any maintenance grant they might receive.

A revised model of allocation was introduced for the 2010/11 academic year. The revised model includes for the provision of funding on the basis of the number of new entrants from target socioeconomic groups in each participating institution. 25% of the 2010/11 Fund will be allocated on this basis increasing to 50% in 2011/12. The remaining portion will be allocated on the number of full-time enrolments in each higher education institution. The model compliments the dual function of the fund, which is to provide ‘once-off' emergency financial assistance and also to provide assistance to students in need of ongoing financial support. In allocating funds, institutions are advised to prioritise those students deemed most in need of financial assistance.

Information on the fund is available from the access officer at a candidate's institution. Information is also available on www.studentfinance.ie.

School Transport

Billy Timmins

Question:

179 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the school transport scheme as a pupil travelling to school on the Dart pays €4.70 but pays an extra €1.30 per week to travel on the Luas; if her Department can make recommendations to a company (details supplied) to have this reduced for pupils using the Luas at school times to travel to and from school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37686/10]

The school transport scheme, which is operated by Bus Éireann on my Department's behalf, facilitates the transportation of over 125,000 children to primary and post primary schools each day including approximately 8,000 children with special educational needs.

School transport services are delivered using a mix of Bus Éireann, both school transport and road passenger vehicles, private contractor vehicles including private operator scheduled services, Dublin Bus, Irish Rail, DART and LUAS where practical. Eligible primary school children travel free and eligible post primary children pay €300 per annum. A maximum family charge of €650 is in place and provision is also made for children from families with medical cards.

My Department has no authority in relation to the prices charged for the transportation of schoolchildren outside of the School Transport Scheme on services provided by licensed public service operators on a commercial basis.

School Staffing

Niall Collins

Question:

180 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the reason some schools continue to hire retired teachers for temporary positions of supervision and substitution whilst there are many qualified young unemployed teachers on the live register; if she will direct schools to cease this practice; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37702/10]

The appointment of teachers to fill teaching posts is a matter for the individual school managerial authorities. Last year my Department wrote to schools in relation to giving priority to newly qualified teachers without work over those who had retired. I am endorsing the continuation of such an approach to all vacancies of any duration.

Schools Building Projects

John O'Donoghue

Question:

181 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will sanction grant aid to enable the new permanent resource rooms to be erected at a school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37736/10]

I can confirm that the school to which the Deputy refers has recently applied to my Department for additional accommodation.

The application is currently under consideration and a decision will issue to the school in due course.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

182 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the proposed new school (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37746/10]

My Department is aware of the need for additional permanent school accommodation in the general Midleton area and, as the Deputy will be aware, Midleton has been identified by my Department's Forward Planning Unit as one of the areas projected to undergo increases in educational demand in the coming years.

In that context, my Department is currently in the process of acquiring a suitable site which is zoned by the local authority for education use in the Midleton Area and to this end my Department has applied for planning permission as part of the exchange of contracts.

When the acquisition of a suitable site is concluded, the Department will consider the optimal use of the site to meet the primary school needs of Midleton.

The school to which the Deputy refers opened in September 2008 and currently has provisional recognition from my Department. Responsibility for the provision of accommodation is a matter for the school Patron. In the meantime, my Department provides grant aid towards the cost of renting the school's temporary accommodation.

Education Schemes

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

183 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will reply to a query (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37749/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that I have consistently encouraged schools to put in place book rental schemes as the most effective means of lowering costs for all parents.

In accordance with the Renewed Programme for Government, my Department issued funding to schools in June to enable them to provide assistance for school books.

Details of the funding were notified to schools by circulars 0041/2010 (second level) and 0043/2010 (first level), which are available on my Department's website. In these circulars, schools were urged to use this funding to establish book rental schemes. In total, €14.6 Million issued to schools. Funding was allocated as follows:

€11 per pupil in primary schools;

€21 per pupil in primary schools within the Delivering Equality in Schools (DEIS) scheme;

€24 per pupil in post-primary; or

€39 per pupil in post-primary schools within the DEIS scheme.

In the majority of cases, my Department does not have a role in recommending, endorsing or approving textbooks. Apart from a small number of prescribed texts at second level, mainly in the case of language subjects, decisions on which textbooks to use are taken at school level.

Syllabus planners are conscious of the need to avoid over-frequent changes, primarily in order to minimise increases in the cost burden for parents. School authorities have been advised that books should be changed only to the extent that is absolutely necessary.

Higher Education Grants

John Browne

Question:

184 Deputy John Browne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will arrange to have the full higher education grant approved in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford. [37758/10]

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.

Vocational Education Committees

Willie Penrose

Question:

185 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills when the implementation of the decision to amalgamate the existing 33 Vocational Education Committees into 16 VECs will be announced; if Marlinstown, Mullingar will be the location of the amalgamated Laois, Offaly and Westmeath VECs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37759/10]

My Department will be commencing discussions with the relevant stakeholders, including trade unions representing staff in the VEC sector, in relation to the detailed implementation of this Government's decision to amalgamate the existing 33 Vocational Education Committees into 16 VECs. Many of the detailed aspects of the restructuring, including the location of the headquarters of the new VECs, will fall to be considered and worked through by my Department in conjunction with the VECs involved in any one merger before decisions are taken.

M. J. Nolan

Question:

186 Deputy M. J. Nolan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the number of schools under the auspices of each Vocational Education Committee; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37916/10]

M. J. Nolan

Question:

187 Deputy M. J. Nolan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the number of secondary school pupils under the auspices of each Vocational Education Committee; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37917/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 186 and 187 together.

The data which the Deputy requires are set out in the table which gives both the number of schools under the auspices of each Vocational Education Committee as well as the number of pupils excluding Post-Leaving Certificate and Core VTOS students.

PP Schools In Each VEC for the 2009/2010 school year

Enrolment figures are as at 30th September 2009

VEC No.

Official Name

Total Schools

Total Pupils

1

City of Cork VEC

6

5,284

2

City of Dublin VEC

22

13,051

3

City of Limerick VEC

3

1,714

4

City of Waterford VEC

2

1,466

7

Dun Laoghaire VEC

3

2,579

8

City of Galway VEC

3

2,229

12

Co. Carlow VEC

5

2,387

13

Co. Cavan VEC

5

3,135

14

Co. Clare VEC

7

2,166

15

Co. Cork VEC

21

10,015

16

Co. Donegal VEC

15

4,670

17

Co. Dublin VEC

26

11,367

18

Co. Galway VEC

11

2,160

19

Kerry Education Service

8

2,842

20

Co. Kildare VEC

10

4,294

21

Co. Kilkenny VEC

8

2,630

22

Co. Laois VEC

3

1,139

23

Co. Leitrim VEC

4

1,079

24

Co. Limerick VEC

9

4,470

25

Co. Longford VEC

4

992

26

Co. Louth VEC

5

3,784

27

Co. Mayo VEC

8

2,295

28

Co. Meath VEC

9

4,608

29

Co. Monaghan VEC

6

2,490

30

Co. Offaly VEC

5

1,766

31

Co. Roscommon VEC

3

714

32

Co. Sligo VEC

6

1,650

33

Co. Tipperary (NR) VEC

6

2,394

34

Co. Tipperary (SR) VEC

5

2,115

35

Co. Waterford VEC

3

1,224

36

Co. Westmeath VEC

4

1,692

37

Co. Wexford VEC

7

2,855

38

Co. Wicklow VEC

11

5,283

Source: PEIP.

M. J. Nolan

Question:

188 Deputy M. J. Nolan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the number of post-leaving certificate students under the auspices of each Vocational Education Committee; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37918/10]

The figures for Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) enrolments which the Deputy requested are contained in the file below.

These figures are extracted from the returns of recognised post-primary schools for 2009/10. This is the latest school year for which complete figures are available. Please note that in the case of Co. Laois in addition to the figures enrolled for post-primary schools there are also two Further Education Centres which had a combined total enrolment of 80 PLC students. These figures are included in the total for Co. Laois.

VEC

Uptake October 2009

Co. Cavan

1,581

Co. Carlow

992

Co. Clare

168

City of Cork

4,456

Co. Cork

1,466

City of Dublin

8,995

Co. Dublin

1,195

Borough of Dun Laoghaire

2,580

Co. Donegal

229

City of Galway

1,578

Co. Galway

221

Co. Kerry

751

Co. Kildare

395

Co. Kilkenny

669

Co. Laois

386*

Co. Leitrim

94

City of Limerick

1,199

Co. Limerick

354

Co. Longford

424

Co. Louth

1,474

Co. Mayo

501

Co. Meath

451

Co. Monaghan

363

Co. Offaly

49

Co. Roscommon

55

Co. Sligo

843

Co. Tipperary N.R.

747

Co. Tipperary S.R.

329

City of Waterford

904

Co. Waterford

240

Co. Wexford

941

Co. Westmeath

208

Co. Wicklow

1,285

Total

36,123

*Includes 2 Further Education Centres with a combined total of 80 students.

Figures provided by Department of Education and Skills October 2010.

M. J. Nolan

Question:

189 Deputy M. J. Nolan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the annual budget for each Vocational Education Committee; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37919/10]

The most recent year for which full details of expenditure in VECs in relation to programmes and services under the auspices of my Department is 2009. I set out below for the Deputy's information a breakdown of current expenditure per VEC for that year.

Current Expenditure per VEC (2009)

VEC

Current expenditure 2009

€m

City of Cork

50.28

City of Dublin

150.54

City of Galway

22.40

City of Limerick

26.57

City of Waterford

17.97

Dun Laoghaire

20.43

Co. Carlow

21.76

Co. Cavan

25.47

Co. Clare

30.43

Co. Cork

90.70

Co. Donegal

51.32

Co. Dublin

108.17

Co. Galway

34.16

Co. Kerry

37.43

Co. Kildare

38.53

Co. Kilkenny

25.82

Co. Laois

18.52

Co. Leitrim

11.98

Co. Limerick

38.98

Co. Longford

13.77

Co. Louth

31.22

Co. Mayo

28.94

Co. Meath

39.31

Co. Monaghan

23.52

Co. Offaly

20.74

Co. Roscommon

13.02

Co. Sligo

16.74

Co. Tipperary NR

25.48

Co. Tipperary SR

23.55

Co. Waterford

14.64

Co. Westmeath

21.38

Co. Wexford

34.30

Co. Wicklow

47.82

M. J. Nolan

Question:

190 Deputy M. J. Nolan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the number of staff employed by each Vocational Education Committee; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37920/10]

As the Deputy is aware, VECs are statutory bodies which employ and pay their own staff.

The information sought by the Deputy is being compiled by my officials and will be forwarded to him as soon as it is available.

M. J. Nolan

Question:

191 Deputy M. J. Nolan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the number of teachers employed by each Vocational Education Committee; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37921/10]

The criteria used for the allocation of teachers to schools is published annually on my Department's website. The key factor for determining the level of staffing resources provided at individual school level for the current school year is the pupil enrolment at 30 September 2009. There are currently just over 8,400 wtes (whole time equivalent posts) allocated to the VEC sector. The document below sets out the information as requested by the Deputy.

VEC Scheme

No. of Teaching Posts

Co. Cavan

207

Co. Carlow

165

Co. Clare

180

City of Cork

331

Co. Cork

802

City of Dublin

791

Co. Dublin

898

Borough of Dun Laoghaire

155

Co. Donegal

391

City of Galway

139

Co. Galway

199

Co. Kerry

226

Co. Kildare

342

Co. Kilkenny

199

Co. Laois

99

Co. Leitrim

96

City of Limerick

115

Co. Limerick

356

Co. Longford

89

Co. Louth

265

Co. Mayo

200

Co. Meath

362

Co. Monaghan

201

Co. Offaly

153

Co. Roscommon

62

Co. Sligo

113

Co. Tipperary N.R.

186

Co. Tipperary S.R.

169

City of Waterford

99

Co. Waterford

95

Co. Wexford

234

Co. Westmeath

132

Co. Wicklow

388

Departmental Staff

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

192 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will provide details of the number of civil servants in each Government Department who are currently e-working; her plans to increase the number of civil servants availing of e-working; if she will provide details of the numbers of civil servants she would hope to have e-working by end 2013. [38194/10]

Currently there are 14 officials at my Department that work from a home base and my Department provides them with the necessary IT equipment to assist them in carrying out their duties. Under the terms of the Croke Park Agreement my Department will also be looking at options to increase the number of staff availing of e-working where feasible.

As the Deputy will be aware this Department has significant numbers of staff based in Dublin, Athlone and Tullamore. In addition, due to the nature of the Department's functions many officials are assigned to specific office locations around the country. In addition, some grades such as educational psychologists, school inspectors and members of the Department's Building Unit are required to work regularly away from their office base and my Department provides them with all of the appropriate IT equipment in order that they can carry out their duties remotely.

Tax Collection

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

193 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on Garda Operation Viking; if the operation is still active; the number of vehicles seized; the number of gardaí involved; the cost of the operation to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37198/10]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that it is assumed that the Deputy is referring to Operation Viking which was established in early 2005 in the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, Dublin Region, with the objective of countering the suspected evasion of Vehicle Registration Tax and VAT on new high value vehicles entering the State. The Operation ran until late 2005 and is no longer active. During the course of the Operation, Revenue seized over 160 vehicles. Almost 80 of these vehicles were in the high value category, with a combined value of almost €5.5 million. 60 of these high value vehicles were released on payment of almost €1.5m in outstanding VAT & VRT including penalties and interest.

Members of An Garda Síochána were not involved in the Operation. The Operation was carried out during the normal working time of Revenue Officers from a number of Dublin Districts and Revenue Customs Enforcement Officers from Dublin Port. No additional resource costs were incurred by Revenue during the operation.

Revenue continues to target evasion of VRT and other taxes and customs duties as part of its normal enforcement work. For example in the period 1 January 2010 to 30 September 2010, 1515 vehicles have been seized for VRT offences.

Departmental Contracts

Andrew Doyle

Question:

194 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Finance the action that is being taken to stem the flow of print contracts to companies domiciled in other countries which is 17.7% of the EU average of 1.49% of contracts awarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37714/10]

The number of non-domestic suppliers winning public procurement contracts in Ireland has been the subject of recent controversy.

The EU Commission released a statistic, suggesting that 17% of the number of contracts awarded in 2008 went to suppliers outside the jurisdiction. However, this statistic is based on incomplete data relating only to above threshold procurements, where contract notices were published, and the nationality of the winning tenderer disclosed.

When one compares the value (as opposed to the number) of contracts going to non-Irish companies in 2008, the figure actually amounts to less than 5% of the overall public spend on procurement. It should also be noted that the figures quoted by the Commission do not distinguish between companies in the UK and those based in Northern Ireland, so of the contracts going "abroad", many of the contracts may have stayed on the island of Ireland. The EU Commission agrees that an alternative interpretation of their figures is that "about 95% of all procurement by value was from domestic suppliers".

As regards print contracts up to 2009, the Government Supplies Agency, a Business Unit of the Office of Public Works, organised centralised procurement of printing services on behalf of Government Departments, Offices and Agencies (including An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces). This role has been subsumed by the National Procurement Service, whose remit now extends to other public service organisations.

The OPW has always applied the relevant Directives and Regulations in its procurement operations. Notwithstanding this, most of the work under print contracts for the GSA, and now for the NPS, is carried out in Ireland:

In 2008, 89.4% of the total value of OPW print contracts (amounting to approximately €10m) went to suppliers in the Republic of Ireland (90.5% to suppliers on the island of Ireland);

In 2009, 95.6% of the total value of OPW print contracts (amounting to approximately €6.8m) went to suppliers in the Republic of Ireland (96.7% to suppliers on the island of Ireland).

The National Procurement Service (NPS) has made efforts to ensure that print companies are able to take full advantage of the public procurement opportunities that arise and are available to them. The NPS facilitated a seminar for the Print & Packaging Forum in September 2009, which covered all the issues relating to competing for public procurement contracts, such as the Public Procurement regulations, accessing the market opportunities, the tendering process, and general guidance on how companies should approach the preparation of tenders. Further seminars have been delivered to ISME in 2010.

In addition, the NPS has put in place a Print Panel for small print requirements (below the new threshold for advertising of €25,000). All print companies who are interested in public sector work should apply to be placed on the print panel. This has been published recently, but we have not had as great a response as we would have hoped. Of the 700 or so companies that are involved in print, only around 55 are included in the panel, which is available currently to all public sector buyers on www.opw.ie , together with instructions on how it can be used for low-value tenders. Without doubt, the most significant development in the area of facilitating the SME sector has been the publication by the Minister for Finance in August 2010 of Circular 10/10. These guidelines to public contracting authorities aim to ensure that tendering processes are carried out in a manner that facilitates participation by SMEs, while ensuring that all procurement is carried out in a manner that is legal, transparent, and secures optimal value for money for the taxpayer. It addresses the concerns that SMEs have regarding access to public procurement opportunities, and highlights practices that are to be avoided, where they can unjustifiably hinder small businesses in competing for public contracts. The new arrangements include:

greater open advertising of opportunities (threshold now €25,000);

a reduced requirement for paperwork (such as accounts) at the early stages of tendering;

an instruction that suppliers are not to be charged for access to tender opportunities;

an assurance that all criteria used would be appropriate and proportionate;

and an instruction that turnover and insurance levels would be set at proportionate levels.

All of these actions are consistent with the recently published EU commissioned research carried out by GHK on Evaluation of SMEs’ Access to Public Procurement Markets in the EU (September 2010), DG Enterprise and Industry, which notes that SMEs in Ireland secured greater access to public procurement than in other countries.

In addition to the work being done by the NPS and the Department of Finance, Enterprise Ireland is running strategic workshops to assist companies, such as Management Development workshops which have been run specifically for the print industry, and Strategic & Change Management programmes. Enterprise Ireland also offer assistance with exports, management development, lean manufacturing, research and development, and overseas offices programmes.

We cannot be seen to close ourselves off from the EU marketplace, by adopting a protectionist stance, as in 2009 alone 80 companies have won €210m in overseas public procurement opportunities with the support of Enterprise Ireland, which has set up a new public procurement section. I understand that, already this year, in the order of 63 contracts have been won, and Irish firms have secured €200m worth of contracts with the Olympic Development Authority in the UK.

Intertrade Ireland offers GO2tender workshops, which include mentoring, consortium and cluster development.

Many small companies with less than 10 employees can avail of the services of County Enterprise Boards, and should liaise with their local County Enterprise board to see what support is available to them.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has published links on its website to other countries' public procurement portals which are open to Irish companies as well as other useful links.

The Government is supporting the print industry and SMEs generally through the range of initiatives outlined above, but under EU procurement law and the principles of transparency, non-discrimination and equal treatment, it cannot set out deliberately to discriminate in their favour, when tendering for goods and services.

Pension Provisions

Róisín Shortall

Question:

195 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No 146 of 26 May 2010, if he is now in a position to provide the short and long-term savings to the Exchequer under the scenarios set out in the question. [37119/10]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

196 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No 147 of 26 May 2010, if he is now in a position to provide the savings to the Exchequer under the scenarios set out in the question. [37120/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 195 and 196 together.

The questions raised by the Deputy relate to the estimated savings to the Exchequer if both the Standard Fund Threshold (that is the maximum capital value of pension benefits that an individual can draw upon in their lifetime from tax-relieved pension arrangements) and the maximum lifetime limit for the tax-free retirement lump sum were reduced to various specified levels.

There is currently no underlying data available to my Department or to the Revenue Commissioners on which to base reliable estimates of the savings across the various scenarios outlined by the Deputy. Information on the numbers and values of individual pension funds are not required to be supplied by the administrators of pension schemes and personal pension arrangements. There would be particular difficulties with relevant data in the case of Defined Benefit pension schemes where there are no separate pension pots for individual scheme members. Likewise, information on tax-free retirement lump sum payments is not required to be provided by pension administrators.

My Department is liaising with the pensions industry with a view to establishing whether a potential basis exists for arriving at reliable figures and my Department will revert to the Deputy in the matter as soon as possible.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

197 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance if he will set out information available to him on the value of pension pot size at each quartile for those reaching retirement in each of the past ten years. [37121/10]

I do not have the information requested by the Deputy. Information on the value of pension funds of individuals on retirement is not required to be returned by the administrators of pension schemes to my Department or to the Revenue Commissioners.

Fiscal Policy

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

198 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance his views on the announcement by Ethiopia’s central bank to devalue the birr by one fifth on 1 September 2010; the effect this will have both on Ethiopia and other countries in the region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36119/10]

I am informed that on 1st September, Ethiopia's Central Bank devalued the Ethiopian Birr by 16.5%. The latest in a series of devaluations since January 2009 and I understand is in keeping with a Government policy of allowing the Birr to fall against foreign currencies so as to bolster Ethiopia's competitiveness. Ethiopia is one of the world's poorest countries. I understand that its growth and development gains came under threat in 2008 with the emergence of twin macroeconomic challenges of high inflation (with food inflation peaking at 92% year-on-year in July 2008) and an extremely difficult balance of payments situation. In the face of these acute challenges, the Ethiopian Government took a series of corrective measures which, together with support from the international community including the IMF, led to improvements during 2009 and 2010. However, I am informed that the economy remains fragile and under stress.

I understand that a recent IMF mission to Ethiopia considered that the devaluation of the Birr, supported by a prudent fiscal policy and monetary policy, would help to stimulate exports, import substitution, and economic growth. Overall, the recent IMF mission to Ethiopia concluded that Ethiopia has made good progress in the first half of 2010 in macroeconomic stabilisation and that the economic outlook remains favourable with continued strong growth expected.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs visited Ethiopia during the summer and it was clear to him that, while Ethiopia remains a very poor country, it is making real progress towards development based on economic growth. Ireland is playing a part in this process through Irish Aid which is having a very positive impact on social and economic development in the country. The Irish private sector is also now getting involved through trade and investment in Ethiopia.

I am informed that the impact of the devaluation of the Birr on other countries in the region is not likely to be significant as — in common with other Sub-Saharan African countries — most of Ethiopia's international trade at present is with Asian, European and North American markets rather than with African countries.

National Car Test

Joe McHugh

Question:

199 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Finance the waiting lists for re-registering cars in each of the national car test offices in the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37135/10]

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 are an advanced stage in the configuration of two additional centres, one in Carrick on Shannon and one in Donegal Town, for registration purposes in order to address current delays. Revenue are also examining the possibility of providing electronic facilities for the registration of used vehicles that have been subjected to a pre registration examination. I understand from the Revenue Commissioners that the National Car Testing Service has informed them that, as at close of business on 12 October 2010, the waiting times for appointments for the registration of vehicles in each of the National Car Test offices engaged in the registration of vehicles on behalf of Revenue, are as follows:

NCTS Centre

Next Available Appointment (Days)

Arklow

5

Carlow

4

Northpoint

5

Dundalk

9

Ennis

6

Enniscorthy

1

Galway

3

Kilkenny

6

Letterkenny

21

Limerick

6

Monaghan

8

Kells

8

Nenagh

3

Naas

8

Skibereen

1

Sligo

4

Tralee

2

Tullamore

8

Waterford

5

Westport

3

Blarney

6

Greenhills

5

Flood Relief

Pat Breen

Question:

200 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide funding for flood relief measures (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37151/10]

The embankments in the Fergus system fall into three categories (a) those which the OPW has a statutory duty to maintain in accordance with the Arterial Drainage Acts, (b) those forming part of the Fergus Drainage District and (c) those that were, in the past, the responsibility of the former Land Commission.

In relation to category (a), the OPW carries out inspections of these embankments and, where maintenance works are considered necessary, they are undertaken as part of the Office's annual programme of maintenance works.

Maintenance of the embankments forming part of the Fergus Drainage District is the responsibility of Clare County Council. However, OPW has recently agreed in principle to fund, on a once-off basis, the refurbishment of a section of these embankments, which impacts on the OPW Flood Relief Scheme in Ennis. It is proposed that the work will be undertaken as part of a single project that will also include mitigation measures for Ballybeg and St. Flannan's. Clare County Council have indicated that a tender competition for the design of this project has been initiated, and they hope to appoint consultants during November 2010.

As regards category (c), it would be open to Clare County Council to submit applications for funding for mitigation works to these embankments under the OPW Minor Works scheme. If applications are submitted that meet the eligibility criteria of the scheme, they will be considered, having regard to the overall availability of funding for flood risk management.

Pension Provisions

Richard Bruton

Question:

201 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if persons who are dismissed from the public service as a result of the marriage bar which prevailed in the past have the opportunity to gain pension recognition for their years of service which were unfairly terminated at that time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37181/10]

Prior to 1974 female officers were generally required to resign on marriage and, depending on their service, received a marriage gratuity in lieu of any pension benefits. Following the abolition of the marriage bar, any officer appointed before 1974 has the option of resigning within two years of marriage and receiving a marriage gratuity, preserving benefits when she resigns, or of remaining in employment. Officers who received a marriage gratuity and who are subsequently reappointed in an established capacity in the civil service may refund the gratuity and have all prior service aggregated with subsequent service for superannuation purposes.

I have no plans to pay pensions other than on reckonable service which is the cornerstone of Public Service Pensions. Given the accrued liabilities to date it is very important that cost increasing measures are avoided wherever possible.

Electronic Payments

Damien English

Question:

202 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Finance in view of the fact that a recent report estimated very significant savings to the Irish economy from the more widespread use of electronic payments, if he will outline his strategy to drive electronic payments here; if that strategy is being implemented in a timely fashion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37185/10]

The promotion of the use of electronic payments is a key Government policy and a number of initiatives have already been taken in this regard, with the longer-term objective of significant reductions, over a number of years, in the volume of paper-based payments in use throughout the economy. This policy is fully aligned and is developing in tandem with market and regulatory developments at EU level, including the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA), the introduction of the Payment Services Directive from November 2009 and the introduction of the revised Electronic Money Directive from April 2011. In promoting this policy objective, the Government has reduced stamp duty on combined ATM cards from €10 to €5 in Budget 2009, building upon changes in the previous year's Budget. Stamp duty on cheques was also increased from 30 cent to 50 cent per cheque, to act as a further disincentive to cheque usage. As part of the process of increasing the use of electronic payments new governance arrangements are required. I am currently considering the recommendations made by the National Payments Implementation Programme Advisory Group in their report on the possible mechanisms and mandate to further promote the development of electronic payments.

Higher Education Grants

Phil Hogan

Question:

203 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Finance if he will expedite a notice of assessment for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny to enable them to qualify for a third level grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37194/10]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the taxpayers Return of Income Form has been processed and a Notice of Assessment will issue to the person concerned within a week to ten days.

Tax Collection

Jack Wall

Question:

204 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is due money back from taxes paid in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37226/10]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, based on the information available, the person concerned is not entitled to a refund in respect of taxes paid in 2009. A PAYE Balancing Statement (P21) detailing his tax position for that year issued to the person on 13 October 2010.

Garda Stations

Damien English

Question:

205 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Finance his plans to develop a building at a location (details supplied) or to provide a new facility in the area for the Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37240/10]

Castlepollard has not been prioritised for development by An Garda Síochána. Accordingly, the Office of Public Works has no proposals, at present, to provide a new Station at the location.

Departmental Contracts

Leo Varadkar

Question:

206 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance the number of contracts held by his Department and its agencies with telecommunication providers; if he will provide details of these contracts including the name of the telecommunication provider and associated financial agreements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37302/10]

The following contracts are held by my Department with telecommunication providers:

Telecommunication Provider

Type of Service

Financial agreement

Description

UPC

Data

Annual

Primary link to Government Networks monitoring system

Smart

Data

Monthly

Resilient link to Government Networks monitoring system

BT

Data

Monthly

Link for HR Management System Support

UPC

Data

Annual

Primary Government Networks core links

Broighter

Data

Annual

Resilient Government Networks core links

Packet Exchange

Data

Monthly

Internet access for agencies connected to Government Networks

Complete/Tiscali

Data

Annual

Internet access for agencies connected to Government Networks

Eircom

N/A

N/A

The Department of Finance has put in place a Framework with 4 providers for Fixed Voice and VoIP services. This framework provides public sector specific terms and conditions, and public sector pricing. Agencies can select one of the participants after running a mini procurement competition.

Magnet

N/A

N/A

UPC

N/A

N/A

Vodafone

N/A

N/A

O2

N/A

N/A

The Department of Finance has put in place a Framework with 3 providers for Mobile Voice and Data services (one is currently suspended). This framework provides public sector specific terms and conditions, and public sector pricing. Agencies can select one of the participants after running a mini procurement competition.

Vodafone

N/A

N/A

Smart Telecom

Data

Monthly

Resilient link between Government Buildings and Tullamore Office

BT Ireland

Data

Monthly

Primary link between Lansdowne House and Tullamore Office

BT Ireland

Data

Monthly

Resilient link between Government Buildings and Lansdowne House

Complete Networks

Data

Annual

Primary link between Government Buildings and Lansdowne House

Eircom

Voice

Quarterly

Voice link between Government Buildings and Lansdowne House

Vodafone

Voice

Monthly

Voice telephony services acquired under the Framework agreement above

Eircom

Voice

Monthly

Legacy voice telephony in the process of being migrated to Vodafone

O2

Mobile Voice & Data

Monthly

Mobile Voice & Data services acquired under the Framework agreement above

I have been informed by the bodies under the aegis of my Department that the following contracts are held by the individual agencies with telecommunications providers:

Office of Public Works

Service Provider

Service provided

Details of the Contract

Eircom

Fixed line voice services

Awarded on foot of competitive tendering process. Yearly contracts payable monthly, in arrears, on production of valid invoice.

Eircom

Data link services

Awarded on foot of competitive tendering process. Yearly contracts payable monthly, in arrears, on production of valid invoice.

Vodafone

Mobile voice & data services

Awarded on foot of competitive tendering process. Yearly contracts payable monthly, in arrears, on production of valid invoice.

O2

Mobile voice & data services

Awarded on foot of competitive tendering process. Yearly contracts payable monthly, in arrears, on production of valid invoice.

UPC Communications Ireland Limited

Data link services

Awarded on foot of competitive tendering process. Yearly contracts payable monthly, in arrears, on production of valid invoice.

Airspeed Ltd.

Data link services

Awarded on foot of competitive tendering process. Yearly contracts payable monthly, in arrears, on production of valid invoice.

Imagine Group Ltd.

Data link services

Awarded on foot of competitive tendering process. Yearly contracts payable monthly, in arrears, on production of valid invoice.

Office of the Revenue Commissioners

The Office of the Revenue Commissioners have informed me that they have approximately 130 locations countrywide and therefore are heavily reliant on reliable telecommunications for both voice and data traffic. An ongoing programme to modernise is under way which will result in both voice and data traffic using the same lines using a technology called Voice over IP (VoIP). The current list of telecommunications suppliers are listed below and this is subject to constant review and change to meet business needs.

Supplier

Description of service

Period of Contract

Eircom

Leased Lines and call charges

Yearly

Vodafone

Blackberry (mobile email)

Yearly

Vodafone

Mobile phone call charges

Yearly

O2 Communications

3G Cards (for remote access to Revenue systems)

Yearly

O2 Communications

Mobile Phone call charges

Yearly

Meteor

SMS rental (text service)

Yearly

Payments are made in respect of these contracts on foot of valid invoices produced by the service provider.

Office of the Appeals Commissioner

Service provider

Nature of the Service Provided

Period of Contract

Eircom

Land lines

Non contract basis

Vodafone

Mobile phone call charges

Yearly

O2 Communications

Mobile Phone call charges

Yearly

Payments are made in respect of these contracts on foot of valid invoices produced by the service provider.

Commission for Public Service Appointments

Service provider

Nature of the Service Provided

Period of Contract

Eircom

Messaging service. On moving to a new location the Commission for Public Service Appointments required a messaging service to redirect people to their new location

There was once off fee charged for setting up the service. Monthly invoices are received in relation to both line rental and the messaging service

Vodafone Ireland

Mobile services for four employees

Charged monthly

Public Appointments Service

Service provider

Nature of the Service Provided

Period of Contract

Eircom

Landlines

Non contract basis

Vodafone Ireland

Mobile services for four employees

Charged monthly

State Laboratory

Service provider

Nature of the Service Provided

Period of Contract

Eircom

Landlines

Non contract basis

Vodafone Ireland

Mobile services for four employees

Non contract basis

Valuation Office

Service provider

Nature of the Service Provided

Period of Contract

Eircom

Land lines

Non contract basis payment is made at the end of every month.

Vodafone

Mobile phones

Payment is made on a monthly basis

Vodafone

30 Mobile Data Cards

Non contract basis paid monthly

O2

10 Mobile Data Cards

Non contract basis paid monthly

Office of the Ombudsman

Service provider

Nature of the Service Provided

Period of Contract

Eircom

For provision of internet connectivity and related support.

Annual — Payment made on receipt of valid invoice from the service provider.

National Treasury Management Agency

Details of the telecommunication providers used by the National Treasury Management Agency. SWIFT related telecommunications provided by the following companies:

Service provider

Nature of the Service Provided

AT&T

2 two private SWIFT connections on NTMA live site and backup connection at HP Swords

Eircom

PSTN backup connection at HP Swords

Smart Telecom

alternate data links (separate links for essential Dealer internet connectivity and private contractor Internet access)

Detail of general telecommunications providers are as follows:

Service provider

Nature of the Service Provided

Eircom

100Mb Links at Treasury Building and Business Continuity Site (integrated into Government Networks with resilient routing)

Eircom

Fixed Wireless 2 Mb connection to Dame Court (fail-over wireless Internet services link in case of ground line failure)

Complete Network Technologies

100 Mb link at Treasury Building (integrated into Government Networks)

British Telecom

Private Circuit to Business Continuity site at HP Swords (for business continuity, backup/recovery and SWIFT)

Vodafone

Mobile Communications

Eircom

Fixed Line voice communications

Smart Telecom

Alternate voice carrier/switchboard number

Smart Telecom

Alternate data links (separate links for essential Dealer internet connectivity and private contractor Internet access)

The Special EU Programmes Body

Service provider

Nature of the Service Provided

Vodafone

Mobile UK

02-UK

Mobile UK

02-ROI

Mobile ROI

02 Blackberry

Blackberry (mobile and data)

British Telecom

UK Landlines

Eircom

ROI Landlines

GP Telecom

Free Phone Number

BT Internet

Omagh Broadband

Bytel Connections

Wide Area Network

Eircom

Monaghan Broad Band

The costs of these services are shared equally between the Department of Finance and the Department of Finance and Personnel Northern Ireland.

The Central Bank of Ireland

The Central Bank of Ireland of Ireland purchase telecommunication services from the following service providers Eircom, British Telecom, Vodafone and O2. Details of the annual spend on Telecommunications and Postage are contained in the annual report of the Central Bank.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

207 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance the number of contracts held by his Department and its agencies with energy providers; if he will to provide details of these contracts including the name of the energy provider and associated financial agreements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37317/10]

The contracts for energy supply of Government Departments, Offices and Agencies are procured by the former Government Supplies Agency (GSA). The National Procurement Service of the Office of Public Works has assumed responsibility for GSA contracts. The contracts put in place by the GSA with energy providers are as follows:

Supplier

Contract

Date

Contract Value 2008

Contract Value 2009

Electricity

ESB.ie Energia

PS 77

01/07/07

12,839,433

11,814,275

Natural Gas

Bord Gas Eireann

PS 117

01/04/07

10,013,674

6,292,002

LPG

Flo Gas

PS 112

01/08/06

1,324,716

793,446

Liquid Fuels Bulk

Topaz

PS 113

01/03/07

6,791,308

4,926,011

Automotive Fuel Charge Card

Topaz

PS142

01/05/09

0

3,754,575

Supply of energy to central government sites continues through these contracts to date.

All energy contracts are awarded following a competitive tendering process The financial arrangements (procurement model) associated with these contracts are based on discounts from benchmark industry pricing standards.

Competitions for electricity and natural gas frameworks have just concluded and will supersede the existing arrangements.

The Office of Public Works Heritage Service is responsible for some 750 properties and sites across the country ranging from large scale, such as the Dublin Castle complex, to small such as Heywood Gardens, Co. Laois. Where provided each property manages its own energy acquisition. This includes electricity supply from the ESB at standard rates and charges to heating oil and gas procured through the most convenient provider, either local or national. The contract details are maintained locally.

My Department has energy supply to a number of different buildings, and uses electricity supply from both E.S.B. and Energia, gas supply from Bord Gáis and Flogas, and heating oil from Topaz.

I have been informed by the bodies under the aegis of my Department that the following arrangements are in place with various energy providers:

Office of the Revenue Commissioners

The office of the Revenue Commissioners use Airtricity, ESB Independent Energy Ltd., ESB and Energia for electricity supply. The gas requirements are supplied by Bórd Gáis and heating oil is supplied by Texaco/Cheveron.

Contracts for the supply of electricity, gas and oil have now lapsed. The Office of the Revenue Commissioners will be availing of new framework agreements put in place by the National Procurement Service of the Office of Public Works..

Fuel for the Revenue's vehicle fleet is supplied by Topaz under a 3-yer contract which is due to expire in March 2011.

Public Appointments Service

The Public Appointments Service use Bórd Gáis for the heating requirements and the ESB for their electrical needs. They are covered by the terms of the new framework agreements agreed by the Office of Public Works.

State Laboratory

The State Laboratory has contracts with ESB for the supply of power and with Bórd Gáis for heating their requirements. Both contracts were negotiated by the Office of Public Works and payments based on usage, are made monthly within an agreed timeframe.

Valuation Office

The ESB is currently the Valuation Office energy provider. Payment are made upon the receipt of bills outlining cost of usage.

The Office of the Ombudsman

The Office of the Ombudsman has accounts with ESB for the supply of power and with Bórd Gáis for heating their requirements. Contracts in respect of the supply of these services were negotiated by the Office of Public Works and payments based on usage, are made monthly within an agreed timeframe.

Special EU Programmes Body

The Special EU Programmes Body have a contract with Airtricity to supply electricity for it's Belfast and Omagh Offices. Electricity costs are shared on an equal basis by both the Department of Finance and the Department of Finance and Personnel in Northern Ireland.

The Central Bank of Ireland

The Central Bank of Ireland use the ESB, Energia and Bórd Gáis for their electrical and heating requirements.

The National Management Treasury Agency

The National Treasury Management Agency use Airtricity for their electrical requirements.

Tax Collection

Michael McGrath

Question:

208 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding an appeal for the repayment of VAT on an appliance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [37326/10]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the Value Added Tax (Refund of Tax) (No. 15) Order 1981 enables Revenue to refund the VAT paid on qualifying goods which are purchased for the exclusive use of disabled persons suffering a specific degree of disablement. The relief applies to VAT on the purchase of aids and appliances designed to assist a disabled person to overcome his/her disability in the performance of daily functions or in the exercise of a vocation. Typical examples of qualifying aids and appliances include necessary domestic aids (e.g. drinking and eating aids designed solely for the disabled); walk-in baths designed for the disabled; commode chairs and similar facilities; lifting seats and specified chairs designed for the disabled; hoists and stair lifts designed for invalids; communication aids designed for those unable to speak. The installation of a domestic central heating system does not qualify for relief under the Value Added Tax (Refund of Tax) (No. 15) Order 1981.

Tax Code

Frank Fahey

Question:

209 Deputy Frank Fahey asked the Minister for Finance the amount of revenue that would accrue to the Exchequer in 2011, if a third tax rate for persons earning over €100,000 was introduced at 50%, 55% and 60%. [37357/10]

It is assumed that the threshold for the proposed new tax bands mentioned by the Deputy would not alter the existing standard rate band structure applying to single and widowed persons, to lone parents and married couples. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the estimated full year yield to the Exchequer, estimated by reference to 2011 incomes, of the introduction of each of the proposed new rates would be of the order of €525 million, €820 million and €1,110 million respectively. Given the current band structures, major issues would need to be resolved as to how in practice such new rates could be integrated into the current system and how this would affect the relative position of different types of income earners.

These figures are estimates from the Revenue tax-forecasting model using actual data for the year 2008 adjusted as necessary for income and employment trends for the year 2011. They are therefore provisional and likely to be revised.

Flood Relief

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

210 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which the full appraisal and assessment of flood damage arising from floods in 2009 has been carried out; the degree to which damage to public and private property has been amalgamated and costed in this assessment; the full cost emerging; the extent to which funding has been sought from the European institutions towards repair and prevention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37443/10]

The total direct costs arising from the floods in late 2009 were estimated to amount to 520.9m euro. Of this, 276.9m euro related to costs to the State with the remaining 244m euro consisting of damage to private infrastructure (residential property, commercial property, and motor vehicles) which was covered by private insurance. My Department made an application to the EU Commission for funding under the EU Solidarity Fund based on costings of damage received from Departments and local authorities. A regional application was made as the estimate of the extent of the damage does not meet the Solidarity Fund's threshold of 0.6% of GNI or 935.5m euro for a national disaster.

111.5m euro of the 276.9m euro costs to the State were eligible for assistance under the EU Solidarity Fund criteria or 21.4% of total direct costs. This included damage to roads, infrastructure, the provision of temporary accommodation and the costs incurred by the rescue services.

The Commission informed the Department on 14th September 2010 that it is proposing financial aid amounting to 13.02m euro in response to Ireland's application to the EU Solidarity Fund. This amount will now have to be confirmed by the European Parliament and the European Council by way of an amending budget procedure.

These funds will be used to recoup some of the expenditure incurred by the State in responding to the emergency. As soon as the budget appropriations become available, consultation will begin with the relevant Departments and local authorities to determine how the money will be paid out.

Departmental Appointments

Joan Burton

Question:

211 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if any open competitions were held for the advisory positions in his Department which have been filled recently by a number of economists; if he will set out worth of the annual or the per diems for each person (details supplied); the details of each contract and any other economist’s contract not listed or pending; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37541/10]

The following Economists are on fixed-term employment contracts with my Department. These appointments were approved by the Government and were not the subject of open competitions.

Name

Title

Rate of pay

Details

Jim O’Leary

Senior Economist

€150,000 per annum

3 year fixed term contract.

Alan Ahearn

Special Adviser to Minister

€131,308 per annum

Appointment to terminate with that of the Minister.

The following economist has also been retained on a contract for service basis:

Name

Title

Rate of pay

Details

Colm McCarthy

Economist

€35,000

Temporary Appointment with the Review Group on State Assets & Liabilities.

Mr Phillip Lane and Mr Alan Matthews are not employed or retained by my Department. Mr Pat McArdle is also not employed by my Department but is providing advice to the Department of Finance Independent Review Panel. Mr McArdle's terms and conditions are currently being finalised. As the Deputy is aware, my Department is the subject of a Review process which will presumably have implications for the structure of the Department and its skill base, and which I hope will report before the end of the year.

EU Presidency

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

212 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance his views on the priorities of the Belgian Presidency of the European Union, in particular that the financial crisis and its impact means moving towards a more economic form of Government [36095/10]

As President of the Council of the EU, Belgium's role mainly consists of organising and managing the work of each Council configuration, including the ECOFIN Council, through its competent Ministers. Under Lisbon Treaty rules, Belgium forms part of the Trio Presidency with Spain and Hungary and would have collaborated with both these member states in the formulation of their 18-month Trio Presidency Programme. The Presidency of the Council ensures that the Council runs smoothly, chairs and directs discussions, tries to reconcile divergent points of view and formulates proposals for compromises so that decisions can be taken. The Presidency also plays an important role in negotiations with the other institutions of the Union, especially the European Parliament which, like the Council, has to give its assent to most European legislation. Belgium acknowledges in its Presidency Programme that the financial crisis and economic downturn and the related deterioration in public finances now require the Stability and Growth Pact to be strengthened. Accordingly, the priorities of the Belgian Presidency include ensuring progress on measures aimed at reinforcing the Pact, improving economic governance and broadening macroeconomic surveillance. This is being pursued through the high level Task Force, chaired by President Van Rompuy which was established by the European Council in March 2010, and through the work of the Eurogroup, the ECOFIN Council and the European Commission. Proposals in this area include strengthening the Stability and Growth Pact, improving economic governance and broadening the EU's macroeconomic surveillance. This work has been informed by the Communications on enhancing economic policy co-ordination published by the European Commission on 12 May and 30 June 2010 and by the related legislative proposals which it published on September 29. These latter proposals are subject to the normal process of consultation with national parliaments and with the European Parliament. The Van Rompuy Task Force is due to report to the European Council of 28-29 October.

I support the work of the Task Force and the broad consensus that improvements are needed in the economic governance of the EU, taking account of the EU's legal framework and the circumstances and challenges facing individual Member States. Ireland is contributing to discussions in this area and I look forward to the forthcoming report of the Task Force.

Departmental Agencies

Leo Varadkar

Question:

213 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance the new agencies or offices established under the aegis of his Department since 2007; the annual budget in each case for 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37570/10]

In response to the Deputy's question the following bodies were established under the aegis of my Department in the period 2007- 2010. The National Asset Management Agency

The National Asset Management Agency was established on 21 December 2009. It's budget for 2010 is €124m (excluding due diligence costs which will be recovered from Participating Institutions), but indications are that actual expenditure will be significantly less than budgeted. This is in part due to the timing of the loan transfers.

Commission of Investigation into the banking sector in Ireland

A Commission of Investigation into the banking sector in Ireland was established under the Commission of Investigations Act 2004 by Government Order on 21 September 2010. While the Commission is independent in the performance of its functions and does not as such fall under the aegis of my Department, the Minister for Finance is responsible for overseeing relevant administrative matters and the allocation of funding to the Commission. A provision of €2 million towards the costs of the Commission has been provided for in my Department's Vote for 2010.

State Companies

Leo Varadkar

Question:

214 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance the new State-owned companies that have been established or have come under the aegis of his Department since 2007 and the annual turnover in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37585/10]

In September 2009 Anglo Irish Bank was nationalised. Anglo Irish Bank does not publish a figure for turnover. In the 15 month period to 31 December 2009 the total operating income as published in the 2009 annual accounts amounted to €2,774 m.

Tax Code

Richard Bruton

Question:

215 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if there are conditions governing the letting of accommodation which receives tax relief as student accommodation to persons who are not students; if the eligibility for continuing taxable relief is jeopardised by such practices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37673/10]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that in order to avail of the tax relief to which the Deputy is referring, the accommodation must, among other requirements, be used for letting to students in accordance with the relevant guidelines. These guidelines are issued by the Minister for Education and Skills, in consultation with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government with the consent of the Minister for Finance. The original guidelines were issued in 1999 with a further clarification document issuing in July 2005. In order to comply with the guidelines, the accommodation must be let to the student or to the institution for on-letting to the student, for the academic year. A student means a person pursuing a course of full-time study in the institution. The development itself must be certified by an educational institution for use by its own students. One or more institutions can certify a single development.

The July 2005 clarification document modified the "academic year" requirement to allow for a limited number of situations in which the lease may be for a period of less than an academic year. These are where the development is not completed until after the start of the academic year, the course duration is short or where a lease is unexpectedly terminated during the year.

The accommodation may be let to non-students for periods outside of the academic year, which generally means the Summer months, without loss of entitlement to the relief. Apart from this, only students from the certifying educational institution may occupy the accommodation. Surplus accommodation during the academic year cannot be occupied by non-students or by students from other, non-certifying educational institutions.

Michael Noonan

Question:

216 Deputy Michael Noonan asked the Minister for Finance when he will sign the ministerial order regarding the leisure sector arising from section 117(2)(b) of the 2010 Finance Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37674/10]

Section 117 of the Finance Act 2010 included provision to make public bodies subject to VAT with effect from 1 July 2010 in accordance with the European Court of Justice ruling against Ireland of 16 July 2009 in Case C-554/07. In summary, the VAT Act 1972 was amended to provide that public bodies, including local authorities, are made subject to VAT. More specifically, they are subject to VAT where they engage (i) in economic activities; (ii) in any activities as outlined in Annex I of the EU VAT Directive, unless the activity is carried out on such a small scale as to be negligible; and (iii) in the case of their regulatory capacity as a public authority, when their treatment as non-taxable could lead to a distortion of competition. These are subject of course to the activity not being otherwise exempted from VAT. During the debate on the Finance Bill, I undertook to look again at the provisions, in particular in relation to the supply of community and sports facilities by public bodies, especially local authorities. Accordingly I amended the legislation to provide that the new VAT rules for public bodies, in relation to the supply of sports and community-type facilities, will be commenced by order, rather than on 1 July 2010. This is to allow for a more complete examination of the issues, including an analysis of how the new rules might best be implemented. In the circumstances, I have no immediate plans to introduce an Order to that effect.

National Solidarity Bond

Niall Collins

Question:

217 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Finance the amount of money invested to date in the national solidarity bond; the number of persons who have made investments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37701/10]

In Budget 2010, I announced the Government's intention to launch a National Solidarity Bond, the purpose of which is to allow citizens an opportunity to invest and provide money to the State to stimulate economic recovery and to assist in the maintenance and creation of employment. The necessary legislative basis was provided in this year's Finance Act and the Bond was launched on Tuesday 4 May. I am informed by the National Treasury Management Agency that, at close of business on Monday, 18 October, a total of some €265 million had been invested in the Bond by almost 12,000 customers.

Tax Reliefs

Niall Collins

Question:

218 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Finance the total value of refunds claimed by registered charities from Revenue under section 848 Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 in the years 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37705/10]

Section 848A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides for a scheme for tax relief on donations to eligible charities. Certain other approved bodies are also eligible to relief under section 848A and a list of these bodies as well as the conditions which they must satisfy in order to be approved are included in Schedule 26A of the Act. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners who administer the scheme of relief that their records do not differentiate between refunds to eligible charities and refunds to other approved bodies.

The following table sets out the payments made by Revenue to charities and other approved bodies under the scheme for the years requested.

Year

Amount

€m

2010 to date

24.9

2009

31.6

2008

29.5

2007

25.3

2006

28.5

2005

15.6

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Brian Hayes

Question:

219 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Finance with responsibility for the Office of Public Works the amount of the allocated €16.8 million for arterial drainage which has been spent to date in 2010; the amount that was allocated and spent for same; the rivers that were dealt with under this scheme in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37717/10]

The Office of Public Works is responsible for maintaining those channels that form part of drainage schemes carried out by the Office under the Arterial Drainage Acts. The country is currently divided into three administrative regions, East, West and South West, for the purposes of these maintenance operations.

Of the allocation of €16.8m provided in the OPW Vote for maintenance of arterial drainage schemes this year, a total of € 12.43m was spent to the end of September. This figure includes expenditure on studies and other measures to ensure compliance with all environmental regulations and minimising negative impacts on habitats in the carrying out of maintenance activities. The schemes on which works were carried out are given below. The 2010 maintenance programme is continuing.

Region

Total Spend to end September, 2010

Schemes Maintained

Length of channels maintained (metres)

East

Boyne

285,572

Glyde & Dee

63,304

Monaghan

62,192

Inny

127,820

Brosna

91,801

South East

33,627

Broadmeadow

10,366

Other

1,500

€4.212m

Total:

676,182

South West

Feale

73,663

Maine

27,561

Deel

57,269

Shannon Embankments North

24,927

Shannon Embankments South

43,983

Maigue

73,312

Mulkear/Groody

7,462

Killimor

60,384

Nenagh

26,134

Dunmanway

3,815

Ouvane

200

€3.883m

Total:

398,710

West

Bonet

14,950

Boyle

11,933

Corrib Clare

143,545

Corrib Headford

27,457

Corrib Mask

32,904

Donegal Group

26,074

Moy

153,367

€4.062m

Total:

410,230

All Regions

€0.27

Environmental Issues

Grant Payments

Joe McHugh

Question:

220 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding a grant (details supplied) recently allocated by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37718/10]

The allocation referred to by the Deputy was made by the Office of Public Works under the Minor Flood Mitigation Works & Studies Scheme, which I introduced in 2009 to provide funding to local authorities to address localised flooding problems in their administrative areas. Under the scheme, local authorities were invited to submit applications for funding for proposed mitigation measures that are economically viable and environmentally sustainable, up to a maximum cost of €500,000 in each instance. A maximum allocation of 90% of the total cost of a project is available, with the balance of the cost being met by the Local Authority.

Donegal County Council submitted a number of funding applications under the scheme this year. The application submitted by the Council in respect of the flooding problem in Burnfoot, which put the estimated cost of the proposed work at €75,000, was assessed by OPW engineers and was found to meet the eligibility criteria. A sum of €67,500, representing 90% of the estimated cost of the work, was allocated to the Council.

It would be open to Donegal County Council to submit further applications under the scheme.

Financial Services Regulation

Tom Hayes

Question:

221 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 101 of 8 July 2010 if the report referred to from the Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt Expert Group detailing recommendations on personal debt and mortgage arrears, which he expected to receive at the end of September, has been received; the recommendations that are contained in that report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37719/10]

In view of the complexity of the various issues involved, I have agreed with the Chair, Mr. Hugh Cooney, that the Group should take somewhat longer over its task. It is now envisaged that the Group will Report in the coming weeks. I must emphasise that the Group has not yet taken final decisions on its recommendations, nor has any recommendation been submitted to Government. I would add that, in parallel to the work of the Expert Group, action has been taken to make progress on the recommendations in the Group's first Report. For example, the revised Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears, through which many of the Group's recommendations from the first Report are to be put into effect, has been through a public consultation process and the Financial Regulator hopes to finalise and publish it shortly. Work on the other recommendations is also in train.

Illicit Trade in Tobacco

Michael Noonan

Question:

222 Deputy Michael Noonan asked the Minister for Finance the seizures and prosecutions arising to date in 2010 from the Revenue Commissioners’ Operation Downstream; the way these figures compare with operation activities in 2008 and 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37724/10]

Michael Noonan

Question:

223 Deputy Michael Noonan asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the Revenue Commissioners’ analysis of the economics of tobacco here; the terms of reference, methodology, persons conducting and objectives of this study; the anticipated completion date; if it will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37725/10]

Michael Noonan

Question:

224 Deputy Michael Noonan asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons who have telephoned Revenue’s cigarette smuggling hotline since its introduction; the number of these telephone calls which have directly led to cigarette seizures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37726/10]

Michael Noonan

Question:

225 Deputy Michael Noonan asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether Ireland has the highest level of cigarette smuggling in all of the 27 EU countries; from the information which he has received both from secondary and primary sources, where, in his view, Ireland ranks compared to other EU countries and globally for cigarette smuggling proportionate to our population; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37727/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 222 to 225, inclusive, together.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners, who are responsible for the collection of tobacco products tax, and for tackling the illicit trade in cigarettes and tobacco products, that the figures for seizures and prosecutions arising from "Operation Downstream" from January 2008 to September 30th 2010 are as follows:

Year

Number of detections

Quantity of cigarettes seized

Quantity of tobacco seized

2008

128

6.44m

Nil

2009

284

9.74m

Nil

2010 (to 30th Sept)

278

12.22m

1,064 kgs

Year

Number of prosecutions

Fines imposed

Number of Custodial sentences

2008

4

7,000

1

2009

19

33,150

6

2010 (to 30th Sept)

30

74,300

9

The Revenue Commissioners launched Operation Downstream in December 2007. It specifically targets the sale of illegal tobacco products at inland locations. As part of this ongoing operation, Revenue enforcement officers regularly conduct both intelligence-driven and random checks at shops, markets, and other points of retail sale, as well as private and commercial premises. The operation forms an important part of Revenue's strategy to tackle the problem of illicit trade in tobacco products.

As part of Operation Downstream, 95 seizures amounting to 2.04m cigarettes and 195kgs tobacco were made at inland locations in the course of a specific two-week national tobacco operation, which took place in July 2010.

In relation to Revenue's illegal cigarettes hotline, I am advised that 121 calls have been received to date since its introduction in July 2010. A total of 8 calls have contributed directly or indirectly to seizures of illicit cigarettes, and enquiries are ongoing in a number of other cases.

With regard to comparisons between the levels of smuggling in Ireland and other EU states, I am informed that there is no internationally recognised method for precisely determining the levels of tobacco smuggling in any one country. However, on the basis of a 2009 survey carried out independently on behalf of the Revenue Commissioners and the Office of Tobacco Control, Revenue estimates that approximately 20% of cigarettes consumed in the State had not been taxed in this jurisdiction. Revenue would further tentatively estimate that this figure of 20% comprises 14% illicit product and 6% legal cross-border purchases.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that as part of its obligations under a legally binding tobacco agreement signed with the European Anti Fraud Office (OLAF) and the Member States a report estimating the size of the illicit tobacco trade has been commissioned by a major international cigarette manufacturer annually since 2007. This report has not been published nor has it been made available to Member States. Each Member State is given information relating only to itself, and on a strictly confidential basis.

Any analysis of illicit tobacco movements must take account of a variety of factors including population, geographical location, size of the illicit market, level of taxation, price in neighbouring jurisdictions etc. A significant factor is whether or not the country is a source, transit or destination country. Ireland is considered to be both a transit and a destination country. For example, the brands seized under "Operation Samhna", where more than 120 million cigarettes were seized in October 2009, would indicate that this shipment was not intended for the Irish market.

I am also informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the European Anti Fraud Office (OLAF) has a special unit entitled OLAF Task Group Cigarettes, which co-ordinates both international operations and other countermeasures undertaken by the authorities of the Member States against cigarette smuggling. OLAF also maintains a database of cigarette seizures reported by the authorities of the Member States. In this regard, the number of cigarettes seized by Ireland in 2009 was 9th in the table of seizures. Comparative data published by the World Customs Organisation in relation only to very large seizures, shows Ireland as the 6th and 13th highest respectively out of 18 countries in Western Europe for the quantities of cigarettes seized and the numbers of seizures.

I am satisfied that overall Ireland performs very well in relation to cigarette seizures. However, given that Ireland is a transit country for tobacco smugglers, simple extrapolation from the volume of seizures of tobacco products to estimate the scale of the illicit tobacco trade in the domestic market is, in my view, not valid.

The problem of tobacco smuggling is a global one and requires a very high level of international co-operation. In this regard Revenue's Customs Service works very closely with enforcement agencies throughout the E.U. and with OLAF. This high level of co-operation has resulted in many successful detections of illicit products and in the prosecution of those responsible.

It was my privilege last month to open an international conference in Dublin co-hosted by Revenue Commissioners and OLAF on the illicit tobacco trade. The conference, which was the first of its kind, brought investigators and prosecutors from all 27 Member States together with their counterparts from law enforcement agencies from across the U.S.A.

In relation to the economics of tobacco research project, this is being conducted by economists in Revenue's Research and Analytics Branch. The research is an econometric analysis of the price elasticity of demand for taxed cigarettes in Ireland based on time series data. The econometric model measures the sensitivity of cigarette demand to a variety of economic and social factors. The current research findings are in draft form and are being considered by the Department of Finance and the Tax Strategy Group in the context of the Budget. I am advised that the Revenue Commissioners intend to publish the research in due course.

In recent years, Revenue has signed Memoranda of Understanding with two of the main cigarette manufacturers, ITL and JTI, to further co-operation in relation to the illicit tobacco trade. In addition, Revenue meets regularly with the trade association representing the leading tobacco companies as well as the four major global manufacturers.

Water Pollution

Michael Ahern

Question:

226 Deputy Michael Ahern asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the workings of the Office of Public Works working group regarding an organisation (details supplied) in County Cork; if the working group has taken note of recent reports in a newspaper (details supplied) concerning fears in the Cobh area that the condition of the site maybe the cause of the high rate of cancer in the Cobh area; the position regarding the deliberations of the OPW working group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37732/10]

The Working Group, established by the Government, is looking at the future use of Haulbowline. The remit of the Working Group does not include matters relating to the contamination of the site or matters relating to remediation or containment measures on the site. Such matters will be considered in light of Government's consideration of the recommendations of the Group as to the future use of the site.

Valuation of Property

John Deasy

Question:

227 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Finance if funding is available to the valuation office to carry out a full revision of rateable valuations of properties in Waterford city and county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37768/10]

The Valuation Act 2001 which came into effect on 2nd May, 2002, provides for the revaluation of all commercial and industrial property in the State. The Commissioner of Valuation has sole responsibility for all valuation matters under the Act, which includes the implementation of the revaluation programme. This is a major project in nature and scale, given that such a nationwide exercise has not been undertaken since the mid-1800's. The programme began in November 2005 in the South Dublin County Council area and has since been rolled out to the areas covered by Fingal and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Councils. In the next phase, it is intended to roll out the programme to further local authority areas in the coming months and the necessary process of consultation, as provided for under the Act, is underway in Dublin City and in the local authorities of Waterford, i.e. Waterford City and County Council and Dungarvan Town Council. Preliminary work is also underway on the revaluation of Limerick City.

The purpose of revaluation is to bring more equity, fairness and transparency into the local authority rating system and, following completion of the initial national revaluation programme, I am satisfied that there will be a much closer and uniform relationship between rental values of property and their commercial rates liability and that this relationship will thereafter be maintained by means of the recurring revaluations provided for in the Act.

The funding for the revaluation project in general, which includes the Waterford phase of the project, is being provided in the normal way through the annual Valuation Office Vote allocation. At this stage, it is not envisaged that additional resources will be required to undertake the project which is an integral part of the Valuation Office work programme.

Vehicle Insurance

Paul Connaughton

Question:

228 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Finance the reason a vehicle that had been written off by an insurance company as being economically beyond repair cannot be insured again as it has been restored to a proper standard, that is NCT tested; if there are any circumstances in which such a vehicle would be allowed back on the road in view of its excellent state of restoration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37902/10]

The Financial Services Ombudsman is a Statutory Officer, charged with investigating complaints from the public against all regulated financial service providers. This would include complaints against insurance providers. However, as the Financial Services Ombudsman is independent and impartial, it is solely at his discretion whether or not to accept jurisdiction on a complaint. Each complaint is taken on a case per case basis. An insurance company's refusal to offer a motor insurance quotation would ordinarily not be sufficient grounds to warrant an investigation by the Financial Services Ombudsman. The decision by an insurance provider to decline a quotation to a potential consumer is a commercial decision by that insurance company that the Financial Services Ombudsman would not question, unless there were grounds that such a decision to decline cover was unreasonable or discriminatory in the circumstances. In essence, the insurance provider may feel the risk is too great to insure that individual.

However, the Insurance Information Federation operates an agreement known as the ‘ Declined Cases Agreement’. This is an agreement which is adhered to by all motor insurers in Ireland. Under this agreement, the insurance market will not refuse to provide motor insurance to an individual seeking insurance, if he/she has approached at least three insurers and has not been able to obtain cover from them. In general, the insurer first approached will be required to provide the individual with a quote.

Where an individual has held a policy within the previous three years, the insurance company concerned is obliged to provide the individual with a quotation. Again, this is subject to the proviso that refusals have been received from three insurers (of which the previous insurer may be one). The only grounds on which an insurer can refuse cover are where to provide insurance would be contrary to the public interest. The Declined Cases Agreement is administered by a Committee made up of representatives of each of the companies which have signed up to participate in the agreement. The Committee also includes a representative of the Consumers’ Association of Ireland and the Financial Services Ombudsman Bureau as external observers. If it is impossible to identify which insurer was the first approached for a quote, then a rota of insurers comes into effect and the Committee allocates the risk to the insurer on the rota. The Committee can also decide whether a quote is so high or the terms so excessive as to make the quote tantamount to a refusal, in which case it will review the matter.

If a consumer wishes to seek more information regarding the Declined Cases Agreement, the Insurance Information Federation may be contacted directly.

Conversely, if it is the case where the consumer is unhappy with the valuation placed on his or her motor vehicle after e.g. the car was deemed to be beyond economic repair, this is a matter which can be investigated by the Financial Services Ombudsman. The Ombudsman's findings are legally binding on both parties, subject to an appeal to the High Court. However, as pointed out previously, the decision as to whether or not to accept jurisdiction on a matter is solely at the discretion of the Ombudsman, particularly if there is an alternative option available to either the complainant or the financial service provider. Any queries regarding making a complaint against a financial service provider should be directed to the Financial Services Ombudsman Bureau.

I have no responsibility with regard to the NCT; nor have I responsibility with regard to whether or not motor vehicles may be allowed on public roads.

Departmental Staff

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

229 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide details of the number of civil servants in each Department who are currently e-working; his plans to increase the number of civil servants availing of e-working; if he will provide details of the numbers of civil servants he would hope to have e-working by end 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38197/10]

There are currently no staff e-working in my Department. A pilot scheme did operate in the Department between 2005 and 2007. For a variety of reasons, the scheme was not pursued on a full-time basis. However, having regard to Government policy in this area, improving work/life balance and reducing time spent commuting, my Department is willing to consider e-working proposals, where practical and appropriate and in the context of overall administrative costs.

Medical Cards

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

230 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork [37097/10]

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

Hospital Services

Terence Flanagan

Question:

231 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37105/10]

Finian McGrath

Question:

260 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support a matter (details supplied). [37280/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 231 and 260 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. The unit will accommodate many other patients whose medical requirements necessitate single en-suite facilities and reflects best practice in terms of infection control.

I am pleased to be able to inform the Deputies that the contract for construction of the new facility was signed last week. 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.

Martin Ferris

Question:

232 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will receive results; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37107/10]

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

Finian McGrath

Question:

233 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support a matter (details supplied) [37113/10]

Decisions in relation to appropriate advice for patients are matters for the clinicians involved in their particular case to make. These decisions follow diagnosis of the symptoms of their patients and best clinical practice. Patients should always seek and be mindful of the advice of their clinicians.

Long-Term Illness Scheme

James Reilly

Question:

234 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will consider including narcolepsy on the list of long-term illness scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37137/10]

There are no plans to extend the list of eligible conditions covered by the Long Term Illness Scheme.

Under the Drugs Payment Scheme no individual or family pays more than €120 per calendar month towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines. The scheme is easy to use and significantly reduces the cost burden for families and individuals incurring ongoing expenditure on medicines.

In addition, people who cannot, without undue hardship, arrange for the provision of medical services for themselves and their dependants may be entitled to a medical card. In the assessment process, the Health Service Executive can take into account medical costs incurred by an individual or a family. Those who are not eligible for a medical card may still be able to avail of a GP visit card, which covers the cost of general practice consultations.

Services for People with Disabilities

Jack Wall

Question:

235 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an appeal against the decision to refuse an application for mobility allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37156/10]

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.

Health Services

Liz McManus

Question:

236 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the inadequate podiatry services available to persons with diabetes in County Wicklow; if she will provide a local service in County Wicklow as part of a national foot screening programme in view of reported figures of €6 million being spent between 2005 and 2009 in County Wicklow treating preventable diabetic foot disease; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37163/10]

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

Hospital Waiting Lists

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

237 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons on rheumatology waiting lists in the Cork area for consultant appointments and for follow up treatment and the steps she will take to deal with delays [37186/10]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

238 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons on neurology waiting lists in the Cork area for consultant appointments and for follow up treatment and the steps she will take to deal with delays. [37187/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 237 and 238 together.

The management of hospital services generally, including out-patient waiting lists, is a matter for the Health Service Executive and the individual hospitals concerned. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issues raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have these issues investigated and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Services

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

239 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if there are plans for cutbacks in the D-Doc services in an area (details supplied) in Dublin 15. [37195/10]

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

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

240 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of doctors currently working for D-Doc; the numbers of drivers and vehicles that are currently in use for D-Doc; the number of patients treated in each of the past three years; her plans to expand this vital service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37197/10]

As the information sought by the Deputy is not provided by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to my Department as a matter of routine, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address these matters and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Eating Disorders

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

241 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children the treatment currently available to citizens who are suffering from an eating disorder including anorexia or bulimia; the number of beds currently available in the public health system to facilitate the treatment of citizens with an eating disorder; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37203/10]

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

Inter-Country Adoptions

Charles Flanagan

Question:

242 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children the current situation regarding inter-country adoption with specific reference to Vietnam; if she expects such adoptions to recommence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37204/10]

The Adoption Act, 2010 gives force of law to the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption. The new legislation, which incorporates the provisions of the Hague Convention, is designed to provide a framework to ensure that appropriate procedures have been followed and that all adoptions are effected in the best interests of the child. Future intercountry adoption arrangements will be governed by the terms of the Adoption Act, 2010, once commenced.

The papers for the ratification of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption were deposited with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands on 28th July 2010. In accordance with Article 46.1 of the Convention, the Convention enters into force for Ireland on 1 November 2010.

It is my understanding that the Vietnamese National Assembly has recently passed legislation which should allow for a move to ratification of the Hague Convention. In the event that both Ireland and Vietnam ratify the Convention there is every reason to expect that adoptions from Vietnam could re-commence subject to the provisions of the Convention and the legislation in both Countries being met in this regard.

As both countries will have ratified the Hague Convention there will be no need for a formal bi-lateral agreement with regard to inter-country adoption. At the time of ratification Ireland and Vietnam will each designate a Central Authority to discharge the duties which are imposed by the Hague Convention. Administrative arrangements will be a matter for the Adoption Authority, as Ireland's designated Central Authority, to make with the designated Vietnamese Central Authority.

Hospital Services

Pat Breen

Question:

243 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. [37210/10]

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

Health Services

Pat Breen

Question:

244 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when an application will be processed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37215/10]

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

Medical Certificates

Jack Wall

Question:

245 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application for a primary medical certificate in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37222/10]

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.

Hospitals Building Programme

Billy Timmins

Question:

246 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a matter (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37223/10]

In late 2005 the HSE undertook a review of tertiary paediatric services.McKinsey and Company were engaged to advise on the future strategic organisation of tertiary paediatric services. The resulting report — "Children's Health First" — recommended that the new paediatric hospital should be located alongside a leading academic teaching hospital in Dublin in order to provide a more comprehensive healthcare service with improved clinical outcomes for all patients. The principle of location alongside a leading academic teaching hospital, in line with widespread international best practice, enjoyed widespread support.

McKinsey states that "the hospitals and experts cite many benefits from co-locations that support sub specialty critical mass". The McKinsey report refers to the Bristol Inquiry, in particular Recommendation 178, which states that "Children's acute hospital services should ideally be located in a children's hospital, which should be physically as close as possible to an acute general hospital". In addition McKinsey refers to the Scottish Review of Paediatric Services 2004, which specified that, “Children’s specialist acute services should be co-located with adult, maternity and neonatal services”. Of 17 hospitals examined by McKinsey, 15 were co-located with adult services, one was co-located with women’s services only, and only one — Great Ormond Street was entirely standalone. A joint Task Group (representative of the Department of Health and Children, the Office of Public Works and the HSE) was established in February 2006. This Task Group carried out extensive consultations with various stakeholders, including the three existing paediatric hospitals, the three maternity hospitals and external experts.

The High Level Framework Brief for the new hospital, prepared by Rawlinson Kelly & Whittlestone Ltd (RKW) was completed in October 2008. The RKW Report was informed by clinical and architectural experts from major children's hospitals in Toronto, Philadelphia and Manchester. The Report includes a detailed assessment of capacity and concludes that the site adjoining the Mater Hospital can accommodate all the requirements of the new hospital and still allow expansion capacity beyond the year 2021. The Brief includes provision for all in-patients to be accommodated in single en-suite rooms and on-site accommodation for parents and families. The designs for the new children's hospital have demonstrated that the site at the Mater campus meets the requirements for children, young people and their families.

The new children's hospital will play a central role in an integrated network of paediatric services across Ireland. This development will fundamentally change and improve the provision of paediatric healthcare in Ireland because merging the three existing hospitals (at Crumlin, Temple Street and Tallaght) into a single hospital structure will ensure a critical mass of specialised skills to provide highly complex treatment and care to sick children. In addition an Ambulatory and Urgent Care Centre will be established at Tallaght. The services to be provided will include urgent care consultations, outpatient appointments and day surgery.

On 12 October 2010, the Faculty of Paediatrics of the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland, which is the authorative professional body representing paediatricians in Ireland, publicly supported the new hospital and recommended that it should proceed as a matter of urgency.

Dr Ronnie Pollock of MPA Healthcare, London, was asked by the parent's group "the New Crumlin Hospital Group" whether the new hospital on the proposed site could provide the international standard of excellence in tertiary healthcare for children.Dr Pollack replied that "it most certainly can. The synergy created by assembling some of the best clinical and research skills in the country on a single site will create the environment for Ireland to progress further in international standing with measurable benefits for children and adults".

The Government is committed to proceeding with this important project at this location.

Nursing Homes

Billy Timmins

Question:

247 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a matter (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37224/10]

There were 10,153 public nursing homes beds in 2005. This figure includes beds designated for both short-term and long-term residential care.

Infectious Diseases

Deirdre Clune

Question:

248 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children if medicine required by persons who contracted TB as a result of an outbreak in a school in County Cork will be subject to the new prescription charge; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37227/10]

Deirdre Clune

Question:

249 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children if the cost of TB medicine required by persons who contracted TB as a result of an outbreak in a school in County Cork will have to be paid by the families themselves or if the State will cover this cost; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37228/10]

I propose to takes Questions Nos. 248 and 249 together.

Under the Infectious Diseases Regulations 1981 (S.I. No 390 of 1981), patients receiving treatment by the HSE for infectious diseases are not liable for charges.

The Health (Amendment)(No 2) Act 2010 provides for the payment of a charge of 50 cent by persons with full eligibility (GMS patients) per item on prescriptions filled by Community Pharmacies. These charges came into effect on 1st October, 2010.

To adhere to the Infectious Diseases Regulations which ensure the continued free treatment of TB patients and those with other infectious diseases, the HSE has been asked to put appropriate arrangements in place in regard to the provision of such treatment and dispensing of medicine to ensure that the prescription charge is not applicable.

Prescription Charges

Deirdre Clune

Question:

250 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children the categories of persons, medicines and illnesses excluded from the new prescription charge; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37229/10]

Medical card holders are required to pay a 50c charge for medicines and other prescription items supplied to them by community pharmacists, subject to a cap of €10 per month for each person or family. Prescription charges do not apply to children in the care of the HSE or to methadone supplied to patients participating in the Methadone Treatment Scheme. There are no plans to exempt any other products or categories of patients from the charge.

Children in Care

Billy Timmins

Question:

251 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a matter (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37230/10]

Aftercare is recognised as key element to achieving positive outcomes for young people leaving care, aiming to assist young people in care in bridging the transition from care to independent adult life in the community.

Aftercare is provided for under Section 45 of the Child Care Act, 1991, which states: "45.—(1) (a) Where a child leaves the care of a health board, the board may, in accordance with subsection (2), assist him for so long as the board is satisfied as to his need for assistance and, subject to paragraph (b), he has not attained the age of 21 years. (b) Where a health board is assisting a person in accordance with subsection (2)(b), and that person attains the age of 21 years, the board may continue to provide such assistance until the completion of the course of education in which he is engaged.

Consideration has been given to the legal position with regard to the provisions of aftercare services, having regard to the existing legislative provisions of the Childcare Act 1991. In relation to calls from agencies to place Aftercare on a statutory footing, i.e. to amend Section 45 of the Child Care Act, 1991 from a "may" to a "shall", the legal advice is that the Act creates a statutory power, and the HSE, as recipient of this power, must put itself in a position where it can exercise the power should the need arise. There is therefore no need to amend the Act as has been suggested.

In order to ensure that there was no doubt about the matter and to emphasise the importance of aftercare services, in accordance with Section 45(4) of the Child Care Act, I wrote to the HSE in June clarifying the issue and directing the HSE to formulate and implement aftercare policies.

In accordance with the findings of the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, 2009 the Government prepared an Implementation Plan in July 2009 and funding of €1.0m was set aside by the HSE in its 2010 Service Plan, for the development of aftercare services in 2010. The HSE are in the process of recruiting ten additional Aftercare workers effective from 1st November, 2010 and have provided funding to the Irish Association of Young People in Care (IAYPIC) to develop a national advocacy and support service for young people in care, leaving care and aftercare.

My Office has developed proposals to ensure the implementation of Recommendation No. 16 of the Implementation Plan and a National Aftercare Policy is currently being developed to be made widely available to the relevant care staff, service providers and will be made available on the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs website.

Medical Cards

Michael Ring

Question:

252 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a decision will issue on a medical card appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [37231/10]

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

Rare Diseases

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

253 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if work has commenced on an action plan for rare diseases; if a lead person has been identified in her Department to develop such a plan; if and when consultation will take place with representatives of patients who have been diagnosed with a rare disease; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37236/10]

Dan Neville

Question:

281 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children when the Government will honour its commitment to introduce the European Council recommendation that called on national Governments to develop and implement strategies for the treatment and care of persons living with rare diseases. [37404/10]

Denis Naughten

Question:

282 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to produce a national strategy for rare diseases; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37405/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 253, 281 and 282 together.

The 2009 EU Council Recommendations on Rare Diseases was supported by Ireland and this calls for Member States to establish national plans for rare diseases before the end of 2013. The European Commission is supporting the Europlan Project which aims to assist countries in the development of their national plans. A Europlan national conference in Ireland has been organised for December 2010 and this will involve relevant stakeholders as well as the Department of Health and Children and the HSE. This conference will contribute to the consultative process in the development of a rare disease strategy. The Department will also contribute to the work of the EU Committee of Experts on Rare Diseases which is scheduled to commence before the end of the year. Preliminary work has commenced on the development of a national action plan and this will continue in 2011.

Health Services

Olwyn Enright

Question:

254 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children if her Department plans to roll out a local podiatry service as part of a national foot screening programme and local service for the treatment of diabetic foot complications at a hospital (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37246/10]

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

Olwyn Enright

Question:

255 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the current podiatry services available to diabetic patients in the Laois and Offaly areas; the position regarding any future investment in both a hospital and community diabetes podiatry service to provide a foot screening programme and follow up services to diabetic patients in Laois and Offaly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37247/10]

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

John O'Mahony

Question:

256 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be made in respect of persons (details supplied) in County Mayo. [37260/10]

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

Health Service Allowances

Noel Coonan

Question:

257 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reasons for the delay in processing payments under the back to school clothing and footwear scheme in the Health Service Executive Mid West region; the number of north Tipperary applicants awaiting decision; when it is envisioned all applicants will be paid under the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37261/10]

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

Child Care Services

Charles Flanagan

Question:

258 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of separated children currently resident in hostels; where these hostels are located; the number of staff assigned to each hostel; the role of each staff member; the personnel on site outside office hours; the number of separated children that have been placed in foster care to date in 2010; the number of separated children that have been placed in children’s residential centres to date in 2010; which children’s residential centres have separated children been placed in; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37263/10]

The immediate and the ongoing needs of separated children seeking asylum (SCSA) relating to accommodation, medical and social needs as well as their application for refugee status are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive (HSE) in accordance with the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) and the Child Care Act, 1991. Where children are identified by An Garda Síochána at the point of entry, the circumstances are investigated and if there are any concerns about the welfare of the child, they are placed into the care of the HSE.

The HSE has developed a national policy on the standards and services to be provided to separated children seeking asylum. The policy seeks to achieve equity and equality of services to separated children seeking asylum vis a vis indigenous or resident children and to ensure that there is no differentiation of care provision, care practices, care priorities, standards or protocols.

The HSE is currently progressing plans to move to a more comprehensive model of care for these children. It is recognised that each child should be accommodated in a service either a foster care or residential placement that meets all relevant standards as well as providing the necessary security and grounding in the community that is appropriate for their needs. It is the intention of the Health Service Executive to phase out the hostel type of care arrangement with the provision of care for separated children seeking asylum being provided on a national basis with each child cared for in a registered care placement or equivalent. The HSE has appointed a senior manager with responsibility for managing these changes and developments on a full time basis.

In January 2009, the HSE in co-operation with Refugee Integration Agency (operated by Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform) agreed a policy for the transfer of separated children into adult services once they reach the age of 18.

Hospitals Building Programme

Charles Flanagan

Question:

259 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children if a contract has been signed to build the National Children’s Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37264/10]

Plans for the new children's hospital at the Mater Hospital site are progressing. The National Paediatric Hospital Development Board is preparing to submit a formal application for planning permission to An Bórd Pleanála. Subject to planning permission being granted, construction of the new hospital is scheduled to commence in the fourth quarter of 2011. A contract for construction will be signed within this timescale.

Question No. 260 answered with Question No. 231.

Health Services

Jack Wall

Question:

261 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of podiatry services available under the Health Service Executive; the areas of such services; if such are available to medical card holders and if there is a waiting list for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37292/10]

Jack Wall

Question:

262 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the total spend by the Health Service Executive for podiatry services for each of the past three years; if she will provide a breakdown of such costs by area; her plans or those of the Health Service Executive to improve the service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37293/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 261 and 262 together.

As these are service matters, they have been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

National Diabetes Policy

Jack Wall

Question:

263 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the action if any she or her Department or the Health Service Executive has taken or proposes to take to address the concerns raised in the 2008 report of the Diabetes Advisory Group; the cost to date of such action; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37294/10]

The report referred to by the Deputy is a Health Service Executive report, and as the implementation of its recommendations are a service matter, the question has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Departmental Contracts

Leo Varadkar

Question:

264 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of contracts held by her Department and its agencies with telecommunication providers; if she will provide details of these contracts including the name of the telecommunication provider and associated financial agreements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37304/10]

The Department's telecommunication system is provided by two companies. Details are as follows:

Type of Communication

Company

Type of Contract

Land Lines

Eircom

General

Data

Eircom

General

Mobile Phones

Vodafone

Framework Agreement

The position regarding the HSE and other agencies is a matter for the agencies themselves. My Department is requesting them to reply directly to the Deputy.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

265 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of contracts held by her Department and its agencies with energy providers; if she will to provide details of these contracts including the name of the energy provider and associated financial agreements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37319/10]

The Department's energy supply is provided by two companies. Details are as follows:

Energy Type

Company

Type of Contract

Electricity

Energia

Framework Agreement

Gas

Bord Gáis

Framework Agreement

The position regarding the HSE and other agencies is a matter for the agencies themselves. My Department is requesting them to reply directly to the Deputy.

National Diabetes Policy

Jack Wall

Question:

266 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the actions she or her Department or the Health Service Executive has taken or will take to address the rise in the number of persons with diabetes; if figures are available on an area basis regarding the rise in diabetes for each of the past three years; if these figures show a trend in relation to the type of the disease; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37325/10]

The issues relating to prevention and management of diabetes were addressed in the 2008 report of the Health Service Executive (HSE) Advisory Group on the subject. Earlier this year, a HSE National Diabetes Programme was established under the governance of their Quality and Clinical Care Directorate to progress a national diabetes plan. The plan has, as its core objective, delivery in the following five key actions:

To establish a National Diabetes Retinopathy Screening Service;

To establish a National Diabetes Register;

To progress foot care services nationally;

To facilitate integration of diabetes services between primary and secondary care, and

To develop strategies to improve diabetic control and risk reduction to prevent diabetic complications.

In relation to figures on diabetes on a regional basis and trends in the type of diabetes requested by the Deputy, this aspect of the question has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Medical Cards

Michael Ring

Question:

267 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ascertain from the Health Service Executive when a decision will be made on an appeal for a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [37332/10]

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

Health Service Appeals

Michael Ring

Question:

268 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ascertain from the Health Service Executive West the number of appeals that were lodged with an appeals officer in 2009; the number that were dealt with and of those the number that were successful or unsuccessful, on a monthly basis in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37333/10]

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

Michael Ring

Question:

269 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children to ascertain from the Health Service Executive West the length of time it is taking for appeals lodged with the appeals officer to be dealt with; the plans the HSE has to address the backlog of appeals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37334/10]

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

Michael Ring

Question:

270 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children to ascertain from the Health Service Executive West the number of appeals lodged with the appeals officer for each month and to date in 2010; the categories of decision being appealed, such as medical cards or social welfare allowances; the number of those appeals that have been dealt with, and the number that were successful; the number of appeals currently outstanding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37335/10]

As the information sought by the Deputy is not provided by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to my Department as a matter of routine, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address these matters and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Michael Ring

Question:

271 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of appeals officers within Health Service Executive West dealing with appeals regarding medical cards, social welfare allowances and so on; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37336/10]

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

Health Services

Joe McHugh

Question:

272 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will facilitate a patient who wishes to transfer from a location (details supplied) to a suitable facility in County Cork or County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37361/10]

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

Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus

Joe McHugh

Question:

273 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will respond to the findings of a report (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37363/10]

I had the honour of presenting the closing address to the World Annual Congress of the International Federation of Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus in Dublin in June of this year. I note that the recommendations contained in this report relate to work to be undertaken by the International Federation of Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus to support the Romanian Organisation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus.

Adoption Services

Joe McHugh

Question:

274 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children the minimum age requirement for adoption from the USA; if this policy is consistent across all health board areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37366/10]

Section 33 of the Adoption Act 2010 provides for a minimum age of 21 at which an adoption order may be made or recognition given to an inter-country adoption effected outside the State. There is no upper age limit for eligibility to be assessed for inter-country adoption. However, prospective adoptive parents are assessed for eligibility and suitability to adopt a child. All applications for assessment to adopt are dealt with on a case-by-case basis by the HSE having regard to a range of factors including the prospective adoptive parent's capacity to safeguard the child throughout his or her childhood.

In regard to the USA, the legislation regarding age limits for prospective adoptive parents may differ from state to state, but if a sending country does have age limits, this would not be within the control of the Irish authorities.

Medical Cards

Michael Ring

Question:

275 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be made by the Health Service Executive on an appeal for a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [37374/10]

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

Joe Carey

Question:

276 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the average processing time for medical card applications; the number of medical cards held by persons from County Clare; the number of medical card applications from County Clare currently awaiting a decision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37388/10]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has the operational and funding responsibility for the medical card and GP visit card benefits. It collates medical card and GP visit card data by county, age and gender. Therefore, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address this matter and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospitals Building Programme

Joe Carey

Question:

277 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress with regard to all capital development works pledged in respect of hospital reconfiguration in the mid-west region, including at Ennis, Nenagh and St. John’s hospitals and Limerick Regional Hospital; if the capital budget for the various developments is ring-fenced; when it is expected that these works will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37392/10]

The Health Service Executive's capital plan currently covers the five year period 2010 — 2014. The Executive has published on its website details of the projects which it intends to deliver within this plan.

The management and delivery of the health capital programme is a service matter for the Health Service Executive and the question has therefore been referred to the Executive for an update on progress for the projects mentioned and for direct reply.

Hospital Services

Joe Carey

Question:

278 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason only one urologist is based in Limerick Regional Hospital when there is a requirement that six urologists be based in the mid-west region; when these posts will be filled; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37393/10]

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

Health Services

Willie Penrose

Question:

279 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm she has received correspondence from a person (details supplied) which outlines matters of great personal concern; the steps she will take to improve the situation and deal with the matter raised therein; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37397/10]

Correspondence from the person referred to by the Deputy has been received in my office. The HSE has advised my Department that the individual in question has now undergone surgery and also that the Clinical Director at Galway University Hospitals has responded directly to this individual in relation to the concerns raised.

Nursing Homes Support Scheme

Michael McGrath

Question:

280 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an appeal relating to a nursing home support scheme decision (details supplied) in County Cork. [37401/10]

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

Questions Nos. 281 and 282 answered with Question No. 253.

Health Services

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

283 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim; if she will order a full investigation into the events, including the failure of the complaints system to provide a satisfactory outcome for the person; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37412/10]

The matter raised by the Deputy is one for the HSE in the first instance. My Department has therefore asked the Executive to examine the case and to respond directly to the Deputy in the matter.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

284 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when dental treatment will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37444/10]

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

Hospitals Building Programme

Catherine Byrne

Question:

285 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans for the existing Crumlin Children’s Hospital after 2016, when the new paediatric hospital is completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37556/10]

Mary Upton

Question:

291 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans that are in place for the existing children’s hospitals in the Dublin area following the provision of the new tertiary children’s hospital; if services will continue to be provided at the existing hospitals; if so, the nature of these services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37635/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 285 and 291 together.

It is widely accepted that the way to provide the best possible paediatric tertiary care most effectively is to provide a single national paediatric hospital alongside a major teaching hospital, bringing together all the medical and nursing expertise for complex conditions.

Services at Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin, National Children's Hospital Tallaght and the Children's University Hospital Temple Street will transfer to the new National Paediatric Hospital. Pending completion of the project, and to ensure the best possible services for children, the HSE will continue to finance the provision and development of services at each of the transferring hospitals. A Paediatric Hospitals Operations Group has been established for ongoing network management and enhanced integration of the three paediatric hospitals in advance of the transfer to the new paediatric hospital.

An Ambulatory and Urgent Care Centre will be provided at Tallaght Hospital as part of the National Paediatric Hospital development.

Neither the Crumlin nor Temple Street sites is owned by the State. The long term future of these facilities will be a matter for discussion between the two hospitals, the HSE and my Department.

Medical Cards

Catherine Byrne

Question:

286 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of chiropodists treating medical card patients and senior citizens in the Dublin area in 2007, 2008, 2009 and to date in 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37557/10]

With regard to the provision of chiropody services, as this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Departmental Agencies

Leo Varadkar

Question:

287 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the new agencies or offices established under the aegis of her Department since 2007; the annual budget in each case for 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37572/10]

A total of five new exchequer funded agencies have been established by my Department during the years in question. The annual expenditure by these agencies is set out in the table below. A sixth agency, the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland was established on a statutory basis in 2007 and is self-funded.

Agency

2010 est

2009

2008

2007

Health Information & Quality Authority

14,757,000

11,100,000

14,800,000

6,389,000

National Cancer Screening Service*

11,000

57,300,000

42,452,000

30,419,000

Childrens’ Acts Advisory Board**

1,000

2,199,000

2,314,000

2,232,000

Health and Social Care Professionals Council

962,000

595,000

315,000

0

National Paediatric Hospital Development Board

14,000,000

11,627,000

4,487,000

20,000

*Subsumed into HSE during 2010.

**Subsumed into the Department of Health and Children on an administrative basis during 2010 pending abolition by legislation.

State Companies

Leo Varadkar

Question:

288 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the new state-owned companies that have been established or have come under the aegis of her Department since 2007 and the annual turnover in each case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37587/10]

No new state-owned companies have been established or come under the aegis of my Department since 2007.

Departmental Investigations

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

289 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the discussions she had at a recent meeting with a group (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37602/10]

I appointed the former High Court Judge, Mr. TC Smyth SC, to examine whether a further investigation into the case of Michael Shine, former Consultant at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda would be of benefit.

I met with the patient support group referred to on Wednesday 13th October last. I explained that Judge Smyth's report has concluded that there is no basis for a further investigation into the matters raised by the group.

I conveyed my regret that, in order to avoid any danger of prejudicing legal cases, it is not possible to publish the report at this time. This is in line with the advice of both Judge Smyth and the Attorney General.

However, I promised to examine whether it may be possible to publish a summary of the report as soon as possible.

Health Services

John O'Donoghue

Question:

290 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for Health and Children if funding can be made available to provide treatment to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37621/10]

Regulation (EC) 883/04 provides, inter alia, that people who are insured with or covered by the health care system of one member state may access health care in the public system of another member state in certain circumstances. Article 20 of the Regulation governs the referral of patients for public health services to another member state. In accordance with this article, a person eligible for health services in Ireland must be authorised by the HSE to go to another member state for treatment in the public health system there, where certain criteria are met. When authorisation is granted, Form E112 is issued by the HSE and is confirmation that the HSE will bear the cost of the treatment. These arrangements apply in all EU / EEA member states and Switzerland.

It is a matter for the HSE to determine whether authorisation for treatment abroad (including outside the EU/EEA states and Switzerland) should be granted.

My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the case investigated and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 291 answered with Question No. 285.

Pat Breen

Question:

292 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. [37637/10]

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

Health Service Allowances

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

293 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Health and Children if the top up payment granted by community welfare officers to certain persons in receipt of State benefits, such as illness benefit, to bring them up to the full jobseeker’s allowance rate is restricted to those aged 25 years and over; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37660/10]

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

Health Services

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

294 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a totally inadequate podiatry service available to persons suffering with diabetes in South Dublin city and county; that there is an urgent need for the setting up of a local service as part of a National Foot Screen Programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37677/10]

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

Medical Cards

Michael McGrath

Question:

295 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the medical card renewal application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork [37685/10]

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

Hospital Services

Arthur Morgan

Question:

296 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason persons who use the Minor Injuries Unit at Louth County Hospital, Dundalk are charged €100 per visit when people who use the Minor Injuries Unit at Monaghan General Hospital have no charges imposed on them; if her Department has any input into whether or not charges are applied; if there are other discriminatory practices in terms of cost, in the health care sector; her views on whether a unified approach to health care costs would be fairer in the public system; the steps she intends to take to sort out this anomaly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37709/10]

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

Preschool Services

Brian Hayes

Question:

297 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason she has not replied to a query (Details Supplied) when this matter was first brought to her attention, if this family can avail of the early childhood care and education scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37713/10]

I have responsibility for implementing the free Preschool Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme, which provides for a free preschool year to eligible children in the year before they commence primary school.

Children qualify for the free preschool 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 preschool year which commenced in September 2010, and children born between 2 February 2007 and 30 June 2008 will be eligible in September 2011. I understand that the person referred to by the Deputy has a child who will qualify for the ECCE scheme in September 2011 but is outside of the lower age limit for qualification in September 2010. There is no provision under the scheme to enrol children that are below the qualifying age.

The objective of the ECCE scheme is to make early learning in a formal setting available to all children in the year before they commence primary school. Services participating in the preschool year are expected to provide appropriate age related activities and programmes to children within a particular age cohort. It is necessary, therefore, to target the preschool year at a particular age cohort and to set minimum and maximum limits to the age range within which children participate in the scheme. In setting the minimum and maximum age limits, account was taken of a number of factors, including the variation in school admission policies and the fact that the majority of children commence primary school between the ages of 4 years 6 months and 5 years 6 months.

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Office received correspondence in relation to this matter in September this year and a response issued on 11 October 2010.

Adoption Services

Charles Flanagan

Question:

298 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children the action she will take to correct adoption records (details supplied) where illegal birth registrations were carried out by private adoption agencies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37716/10]

Registration of domestic adoptions is governed by Section 22 of the Adoption Act 1952. Under that provision, an tArd Chlaraitheoir (Registrar General) is required to maintain a register of domestic adoptions (i.e. adoptions effected in Ireland, regardless of where the adopted person was born). The register is called the Adopted Children Register. The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has no authority to amend any details in that regard.

If an individual has evidence or information in relation to suspicions of illegal adoptions these concerns should be addressed to the appropriate authorities so that an investigation can commence.

Parliamentary Questions

Tom Hayes

Question:

299 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of questions received by her Department since the commencement of the Dáil term in September 2010; the number of these questions which were referred to the Health Service Executive for reply directly; the length of time the HSE are taking to reply to parliamentary questions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37722/10]

From September to 14th October of this Dail term 761 PQs have received by my Department. 485 of these (64%) have been referred to the HSE for direct reply. PQs referred to the HSE relate to operational issues, a large number of which concern individual cases.

The operation of the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the HSE (PAD) allows for the centralised receipt, assignment and tracking of Parliamentary Questions within the HSE's extensive network of operations. More generally, PAD monitors overall performance in relation to the timely issue of replies and provides a central contact for all requests from Oireachtas members for information relating to matters within the statutory remit of the Executive. It reports on a regular basis to the Chief Executive Officer and his management team.

In 2007 the Executive worked to a timeframe of responding to referred questions within 20 working days and this target was met for 65% of referred questions. From January 2008, this timeframe was reduced to 15 working days and 73% of referred questions were answered within this period. In 2009, 62% of questions referred to the Executive were answered within the 15 day timeframe.

However, between January and September 1st of this year, the number of questions answered within the 15 day timeframe dropped to 43%. This was due to a period of industrial action which commenced on a limited basis within the Health Service Executive on the 4th January 2010 and which escalated in effect from 1st March through to June 15th. In effect no new Parliamentary Questions could be forwarded to the Executive by my Department during the latter period.

The Executive is very conscious of the need for prompt responses to Parliamentary Questions and there is regular liaison between my Department and the Executive in this regard. While the Executive attempts to answer all questions referred to it as quickly as possible, many of the questions submitted by Deputies request large and detailed amounts of statistical data on a variety of subjects which require input and co-ordination from all areas of the Executive. Recent questions of this nature submitted to my Department include:

the number of home help hours provided in each year from 2007 to 2010 on a county basis;

the number of TB cases diagnosed in every county for each year between 2005 and 2010;

the number of persons on the waiting list for hearing aids in each HSE region;

the number of persons currently on waiting lists to see consultants in every hospital and the length of time each person has been on the list.

Given the volume of information sought in these type of questions, the Deputy will appreciate that it may not be possible to provide responses to such questions within the 15 day timeframe. However, my officials are working closely with the HSE to try to improve the service to members of the Oireachtas generally, and at recent meetings with the new CEO of the HSE, Mr. Cathal Magee, I have stressed the importance of providing responses to Parliamentary Questions that are both prompt and of a high quality. Mr. Magee is very aware of my concerns in this regard and is committed to improving the handling of parliamentary affairs within the HSE.

Long-Term Illness Scheme

Michael Ahern

Question:

300 Deputy Michael Ahern