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 6, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 7 to 42, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 43 to 50, inclusive, answered orally.

Penalty Points System

Denis Naughten

Question:

51 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport his plans to address the abuse of the penalty points system by persons not holding an Irish or UK driving licence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42619/10]

Part 5 of the Road Traffic Act, 2010 provides for the amendment of existing provisions relating to the endorsement of penalty points and disqualifications relating to non-national driving licence holders. The 2010 Act also gives the Gardaí powers to seize a licence where the driver has been disqualified, including following the accumulation of 12 penalty points.

Those provisions will be commenced in consultation with the relevant stakeholders as soon as the necessary administrative supports are in place.

Road Traffic Offences

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

52 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport when he will publish the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2010 to legislate for mandatory alcohol testing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42669/10]

The Road Traffic Act 2010 provides for the introduction of mandatory breath testing of drivers by An Garda Síochána in certain circumstances, including where a Garda attends at the scene of a collision where injury has been caused. Because of the inter-relationship between the section of the Act that introduces mandatory breath testing and other drink driving related sections of the Act, it is now clear it will not be possible to commence this section until the new apparatus to measure the reduced levels of blood alcohol concentration has been procured.

However to overcome this difficulty it is my intention to introduce mandatory breath testing at an earlier date and officials in my Department and are currently in discussions on a number of legal drafting issues with the Office of the Attorney General, to seek to finalise a Bill in this regard.

Regional Airports

Joe Carey

Question:

53 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding the final agreed support subsidies to regional airports for opex and capex budgets in order to finalise the budgetary support for regional airports for 2010. [42641/10]

With regard to the Core Airport Management Operational Subvention (Opex) scheme, because of a projected shortfall in the resources available to fund this scheme in 2010, after allowing for estimated requirements for the PSO Air Services Programme for 2010, the six Regional Airports were allocated Opex funding on a pro rata basis in July of this year with no airport getting the full amount it might otherwise expect. This allocation was in line with the Opex contracts with the Airports. However, I am very much aware that payments at the reduced level have been causing difficulties for the Airports. My Department has been monitoring the position with management at each of the airports.

All the Airports have submitted additional information in support of their applications for funding. This updated information is being re-assessed by the Department in accordance with the terms of the scheme and I will make further allocations accordingly.

The provision in my Department's Vote to fund the capital expenditure (Capex) grant scheme for all the Regional Airports in 2010 is €3 million.

Grant aid for urgently required work at Knock and Donegal airports was approved for this year together with the completion of projects which had been contractually committed prior to July 2008. Just over €324,000 has been drawn down so far this year by the airports. It is not possible to say at this stage what the final draw down will be.

The Value for Money Review of Exchequer Expenditure on the Regional Airports Programme, including the Capex and Opex Schemes, has been completed and is at present being considered by Government. It is expected that, in the light of that Review, decisions on funding for regional airports in future years will be made in the context of the Estimates and Budget process.

Road Network

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

54 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport the reason for the policy not to provide service areas on national roads and in particular on the motorway between Cork and Dublin; when this policy was changed and when it can be expected that appropriate service areas will be available on the Cork-Dublin route; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42482/10]

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme element of Transport 21. The implementation of individual national road projects, including service areas, is a matter for the National Roads Authority in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

Section 54 of the Roads Act 1993 specifically provides for the NRA or a local authority to provide and/or operate service areas.

In 2005, the then Minister for Transport asked the NRA to review its policy of generally not providing service areas on national roads, particularly on the expanding network of access-controlled motorways and dual carriageways.

Arising from this review, the NRA developed a programme for the provision of up to 12 service areas on the major interurban routes (MIUs) as well as the N6/N18 junction and the N11 route at intervals of approx 50-60 kms.

Two documents relating to the NRA's policy on the provision of service areas are available on their website at www.nra.ie.

The NRA has completed the delivery of the first tranche of three service areas, under a PPP programme (two on the M1 and one on the M4). A further service area at Gorey on the M11 is scheduled to be constructed as part of the N11 Rathnew/Arklow and N7 Newlands Cross Junction Improvement Schemes.

The NRA proposals for other service areas are progressing through the planning process. However, the construction of these service areas is heavily dependent on the availability of funds and the prioritisation of projects within a reduced capital budget. In the light of this, I have advised the NRA that they should consider other options to finance the provision of service areas which do not require Exchequer funding.

Public Transport

Mary Upton

Question:

55 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Transport the way he proposes to complete Transport 21; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42745/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

71 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which he has discussed the various elements contained in Transport 21; the progress to date towards the various objectives therein set out and referred to by him in his original announcement of the project; if he has received any views regarding any specific provisions desirable omissions or additions to the project; the extent to which he expects Transport 21 to proceed as planned notwithstanding economic factors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42711/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 55 and 71 together.

As the Deputy is aware substantial progress has been made on Transport 21 since 2006:

Four of the five major inter-urban motorways and the M50 upgrade have been completed and the final section of the M7 Dublin to Limerick will be open by the end of this year.

The Cork-Midleton line and the first phase of the Western Rail Corridor and the Navan line have been completed.

The Kildare railway line has been upgraded and a number of new Dublin suburban stations have opened.

The Luas Docklands extension opened last December, the extension of the Green line to Cherrywood opened in October this year and the extension of the Red Line to City West is well advanced.

The Irish Rail fleet has been renewed and over 500 buses have been purchased.

Due to the changed economic circumstances, it is now unlikely that all of the remaining projects originally identified in Transport 21 will be completed by 2015.

The position is that no projects have been cancelled and Transport 21 continues to provide the strategic framework for capital spending on transport infrastructure into the future. Planning and design will continue on all projects in Transport 21 so as to be in a position to move to construction at the earliest possible date once financial circumstances permit.

The Department of Finance's Review of infrastructure investment priorities for the years 2010-2016, which was published in July 2010, was based on input from all Government departments.

In the Review €12.2 billion has been specifically provided for the Department of Transport's capital programme up to 2016. While this is a reduction from the original allocation of €15.9 billion for the years 2010-2015. However, improved value for money now available in procurement of infrastructure will go some way to bridge the shortfall.

The final capital funding allocation for my Department in 2011 and allocation for 2012-2014 will be settled in the context of decision on the Budget for 2011 and the 4 year plan currently being considered by Government.

Commission for Taxi Regulation

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

56 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the date on which the office of the Taxi Regulator will be transferred to the National Transport Authority; the number of staff and the location in which they will be accommodated in the future; the future roll of the regulator under the auspices of the NTA; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42730/10]

The Public Transport Regulation Act 2009 provides for the dissolution of the Commission for Taxi Regulation and the transfer of staff and functions of the Commission to the National Transport Authority. I propose to make an order under section 31 of the Act towards the end of this year to give effect to such transfer. The Commission's permanent staffing complement of twenty-three will transfer to the National Transport Authority but will remain at their Headquarters in 35 Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin 2.

With effect from the dissolution date, the National Transport Authority shall carry out the principal functions of the Commission as set out in Section 9 of the Taxi Regulation Act 2003, namely the development and maintenance of a regulatory framework for the control and operation of small public service vehicles and their drivers.

Question No. 57 answered with Question No. 48.

Road Safety

Mary Upton

Question:

58 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the increasing number of deaths on Irish roads in recent months; his plans to introduce legislation to facilitate the closer supervision of learner and novice drivers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42728/10]

I am aware that October 2010, with 35 road fatalities, has been the worst month for road fatalities since December 2007. It is worth bearing in mind, however, that even with the dreadful events of October, the total number of road fatalities for the year so far — 197 as of 11 November 2010 — is still below the number for the same period in 2009.

The core objective of the current Road Safety Strategy 2007–2012 is to reduce road deaths to no greater than 60 fatalities per million of population by the end of 2012, or an average of 252 deaths per year. 2009 saw the lowest number of road deaths on record in Ireland, 240. This means that we reached our core objective well before its target date. Indeed, road deaths dropped by 41.6% between the period 1999 and 2009.

However, 240 deaths on our roads is still far too many, and we can never be complacent. We must now, collectively, do all in our power to ensure that the core objective figure is not exceeded, and hopefully improved upon, this year and in future years.

While many road users in Ireland have embraced road safety and taken personal responsibility for their behaviour on our roads, I would like to take this opportunity to ask everyone, whether on a personal or professional basis, to work together and redouble all efforts with a view to making 2010 our safest year yet and to making 2011 even safer again.

One of a number of areas in which we can make improvements to road safety is through strengthening the process of learning to drive in Ireland. In September last, the Road Safety Authority launched proposals for the introduction of a graduated driver licensing scheme, and I am committed to seeing them implemented. These proposals include stricter rules on learner and recently qualified drivers, and will enhance the learning process, to the benefit of all road users.

The Road Safety Authority is currently engaged in work on preparing the roll-out of the various graduated driver licensing proposals.

Many of the proposals in the scheme will require primary legislation, and it is my intention to publish a Road Traffic Bill to provide the necessary powers in 2011.

Maritime Transport Needs

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

59 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Transport his plans to meet the transport needs of ocean energy providers along the Atlantic coast; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42740/10]

The primary transport needs of the ocean energy sector are maritime transport needs, in particular the availability of specialist ships and port facilities. My Department is currently carrying out a ports policy review. The consultation document published in September last contains a section dealing with ports and energy policy. The document acknowledges the very significant proposals that are under development in relation to ocean energy, in particular offshore wind. New deepwater port sites may be required to service this industry. One of the questions raised in the consultation is whether further action might be required to meet these needs.

The Irish Maritime Development Office and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland are also currently conducting a joint study to examine the potential of Irish ports and shipping companies to meet the demand for future offshore energy projects. This work will be completed shortly and an industry briefing is planned for January 2011.

Road Safety

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

60 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Transport the target date for the introduction of compulsory basic training for motor cyclists as mandated under the Road Safety Strategy 2007 to 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42708/10]

Regulations are in preparation to provide for compulsory basic training for motorcyclists, as envisaged in the Road Safety Strategy 2007-2012. I expect that these Regulations will be in effect before the end of the year.

Road Network

Seymour Crawford

Question:

61 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Transport if the road from Aughnacloy on the Border to Clontibret, County Monaghan has been discussed at any of the North-South Government meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42441/10]

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme element of Transport 21. The construction, improvement and maintenance of individual national roads, including the N2 Clontibret to the Border scheme, is a matter for the National Roads Authority under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2007, in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. In addition, the allocation of funding in relation to the construction or maintenance of national roads is a matter for the National Roads Authority under Section 19 of the Roads Act.

There has been no discussion to date regarding the N2 Clontibret to the Border scheme at the Transport Sectoral meeting of the North South Ministerial Council.

Departmental Expenditure

Joan Burton

Question:

62 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Transport the amount of money spent by his Department or by any of the transport bodies operating under his Department on branding or rebranding logos in each of the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42714/10]

Since the establishment of the Department of Transport in January 2002, we have spent €7,304.77 in 2003, €70,463.35 in 2007, €22,408.13 in 2008 and €2,250 in 2010 on branding or rebranding logos. The vast bulk of the expenditure related to the Transport 21 logo, the then new Department of Transport Logo and the Smarter Travel logo.

With regard to Agencies under the aegis of my Department, this is a matter for the Agencies themselves.

Road Safety

Billy Timmins

Question:

63 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Transport if the Road Safety Authority proposes to extend its winter campaign (details supplied) to avail of a free high visibility jacket especially for cyclists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42704/10]

The Road Safety Authority, Age Action Ireland and the Irish Pharmacy Union, in a joint initiative in May 2009 announced the distribution of 200,000 free high visibility vests to promote road safety among older people in Ireland. The Road Safety Authority publicised the campaign again in August of 2009 to ensure older people were aware of the initiative. The high visibility jackets were made available through local pharmacies.

The campaign was designed to heighten the awareness of vulnerable road users, in particular older pedestrians who are over represented in the number of those killed and seriously injured on Irish roads. Over the period 1998 — 2009, almost a third (30%) of pedestrians killed were aged 65 or over.

In 2010 the RSA has again distributed high visibility jackets and armbands to vulnerable road users, including cyclists.

A total of 340,000 high visibility arm bands were distributed recently through a Sunday newspaper to mark World Remembrance Day for Road Victims on the 29th November, 50,000 high visibility vests at the National Ploughing Championship, 130,000 high visibility jackets through the ‘Back to School' campaign, 25,000 high visibility vests through the ‘Bike Buyers Guide' and a further 20,000 to community and sporting groups around the country.

The Road Safety Authority will be running additional campaigns targeting vulnerable road users including cyclists in December.

The Authority is planning to continue its high visibility campaign into 2011 and will finalise specifics once the Authority has determined its budget for 2011.

Taxi Regulations

Joe Costello

Question:

64 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Transport the way he expects to reach the Government’s target of 10% of wheelchair accessible taxis by the end of 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42732/10]

I understand that the Commission for Taxi Regulation's new reform programme seeks to achieve a 10% target of wheelchair accessible taxis and hackneys. Since June 2010 new Small Public Service Vehicle licences are issued only in respect of wheelchair accessible vehicles and a new category of wheelchair accessible hackney was introduced. As part of its statutory remit the National Transport Authority is responsible for improved access to the transport system and in particular for public passenger transport access for persons with disabilities. In addition, the functions of the Commission for Taxi Regulation will be absorbed into the National Transport Authority by the end of the year.

The Commission for Taxi Regulation favours the provision of some financial assistance to wheelchair accessible licence holders to upgrade their vehicles by 2012. I have referred the Commission for Taxi Regulators's proposals to the National Transport Authority in March 2010 for its consideration and decision.

It will be a matter for the National Transport Authority to decide on the future approach to incentives for wheelchair accessible taxis in the light of available funding and other priorities as regards supporting enhanced accessibility on bus, rail and taxi services.

Rail Accidents

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

65 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport if he is satisfied with the progress made by Iarnród Éireann in implementing the recommendations made by the railway investigation unit in its report into the Malahide viaduct accident in August 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42716/10]

Jack Wall

Question:

73 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to Iarnród Éireann’s admission at a transport committee meeting that it had no structures in place to maintain and preserve its corporate memory; the steps he will take to ensure that the corporate memory of all transport bodies is secured; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42729/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 65 and 73 together.

The Railway Safety Commission is the independent statutory body charged with responsibility for ensuring implementation of recommendations made to Iarnród Éireann by the Rail Accident Investigation Unit, which is the independent body responsible for accident investigations.

I wrote to the Chairman of Córas Iompair Éireann on 17 August last emphasising the importance of implementing in full the recommendations made to Iarnród Éireann by the Rail Accident Investigation Unit and the Railway Safety Commission in its compliance audit.

The Chairman responded by letter of 20 October indicating that Iarnród Éireann accepted all of the recommendations in the Railway Accident Investigation Unit report and that a wide and substantive range of actions are being progressed on all of the recommendations. The Chairman confirmed that Iarnród Éireann has completed 8 of the 14 recommendations and have submitted documentation to the Railway Safety Commission for verification that they have been achieved and can be closed. He also indicated that the remaining 6 recommendations are being completed at the rate of envisaged in the programme agreed with the Railway Safety Commission and are in advanced stages of completion.

Since the issue of the Rail Accident Investigation Unit report on 16 August 2010, I understand from the Railway Safety Commission that it continues to hold on-going discussions with Iarnrod Eireann in regard to progress with all recommendations arising from investigations into the collapse of the viaduct at Malahide. The Railway Safety Commission has confirmed that documentation has been received from Iarnród Éireann in regard to the 8 recommendations that it considers have been completed and this documentation is currently being assessed by the Railway Safety Commission with a view to confirming that the recommendations have been adequately closed off. The Railway Safety Commission continues to monitor progress with the remaining 6 recommendations to ensure that they remain on schedule with the agreed implementation plan.

As to the question of loss of corporate memory, I understand that Iarnród Éireann is committed to implementing the organizational and system changes recommended in the Railway Accident Investigation Unit, Railway Safety Commission and Iarnród Éireann investigations of the Malahide viaduct accident. Iarnrod Eireann extensively re-organised the Civil Engineering Department and implemented a structured Safety Management System for that Department.

I have also been informed by the Railway Safety Commission that it has recently engaged specialist consultants to examine the organisational and cultural factors present in Iarnrod Eireann that contributed to a loss of corporate memory and to determine if such factors still persist and affect the engineering functions. A final report is scheduled to be presented to the Railway Safety Commission at the end of March 2011.

The Railway Safety Commission have also clarified that in accordance with good Safety Management System procedures, all recommendations and agreed actions, whether closed or in progress, will remain on the Iarnród Éireann Risk Register as a means of underpinning corporate memory.

Light Rail Project

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

66 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport the amount of funds paid by his Department to date on the Metro North project; the amount budgeted for 2011; the expenditure to date and for next year under the following headings: planning, purchases of land and properties, and enabling works; if he will make the cost benefit analysis available to the spokespersons on transport for inspection; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42724/10]

Responsibility for the implementation of Metro North transferred to the National Transport Authority on the 1st December 2009. Prior to the establishment of the NTA €127.2 million was made available by my Department to the RPA for expenditure on Metro North. This expenditure is broken down as follows:

€ million

RPA Project Management & Development

64.9

Land & Property Acquisition

24.0

Advance Enabling Works

38.3

Total

127.2

In relation to making the cost benefit analysis for Metro North available, I understand that the NTA has made a redacted version of the most up-to-date business case for Metro North available on their website at www.nationaltransport.ie

All other matters referred to by the Deputy in his question, now come under the remit of the NTA since the 1st December last.

Rail Network

Róisín Shortall

Question:

67 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Transport if he is satisfied that the establishment of a regime for the inspection of the 105 railway bridge structures over water in accordance with recommendation seven of the report by the railway investigation unit into the collapse of the Malahide viaduct is sufficient; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a total of 1,204 overbridges, 1,926 underbridges, including 780 viaducts, many of them constructed in the nineteenth century; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42726/10]

It is the responsibility of the Railway Safety Commission to take the necessary measures to ensure that Railway Accident Investigation Unit recommendations are implemented. The recommendation referred to by the Deputy is an operational matter for Córas Iompair Éireann to address under the overall supervision of the Railway Safety Commission and I have no specific function in relation to the inspection arrangements concerned.

Learner Drivers

Leo Varadkar

Question:

68 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding the Road Safety Authority plans to introduce mandatory driving lessons for new drivers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42707/10]

In September 2010 the Road Safety Authority (RSA) launched proposals for the introduction of a graduated driver licensing (GDL) scheme. I endorsed these proposals before their launch and am committed to seeing them implemented. The GDL is made up of a total of nine proposals, one of which is compulsory basic training for learner drivers. A number of the proposals, including the requirement for learners to take lessons, will require primary legislation. It is my intention to publish a Road Traffic Bill to provide the necessary powers in 2011.

Road Network

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

69 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Transport the preparations he has made in the extent of extreme cold weather this winter; the reason that almost half of the money allocated to repairing local and regional roads after last year’s bad weather was not spent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42746/10]

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of each local authority, in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act, 1993. Works on those roads are funded from local authorities own resources and are supplemented by State road grants. In January 2010, my Department carried out a review of the transport response to the severe weather during the period November 2009 and January 2010 and established a Review Group to carry out that task. In this review, my Department has recommended that local authorities and the National Roads Authority should work together to put in place framework contracts with a number of salt suppliers and that local authorities should draw down their supplies under these framework contracts and they should continue to be responsible for the implementation of the response on the ground.

The Review also recommended that local authorities should draw up lists of priority routes for treatment during severe weather.

Local authorities were asked to publish their Winter Maintenance Plans on their websites in advance of December 2010. This would allow the public to be aware of what routes will be treated in the case of severe weather and the type of intervention envisaged.

In February this year I announced an allocation of €411.409 million to local authorities under the 2010 Regional and Local Roads Investment Programme. From this allocation, a total of €111.409 was allocated to local authorities for maintenance works on regional and local roads, including repairs to roads damaged by the severe weather in late 2009 and early 2010. As of 19th October 2010, (the last date for which figures are available), €87 million or 78% of this maintenance allocation has been drawn down. It should be noted that by now further work will have been completed by local authorities but not yet claimed for. It is expected that the remainder of funding will be fully drawn down by the end of the year.

Public Transport

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

70 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the number of transport projects that are due to be completed by the end of 2011; the number of transport projects that are due to start by the end of 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42713/10]

Since 1st December 2009, public transport projects in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) come under the remit of the National Transport Authority (NTA). I understand that Iarnród Éireann have a number of programmes underway which are expected to be completed by the end of 2011 including the Car Parking Expansion and the Platform Renewal Programmes. The Elimination of Speed Restrictions project at Limerick junction is expected to be completed by mid 2011.

My Department is funding an ongoing programme of bus priority (Green Routes) and park & ride measures in the regional cities of Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford. It is a matter for the local authorities in each city to prioritise projects.

Terminal 2, Dublin Airport is completed and will open on 19 November 2010.

Question No. 71 answered with Question No. 55.

Departmental Expenditure

Róisín Shortall

Question:

72 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Transport if there are any moneys in his Department budgeted for 2010 which have not been spent; if so, if he will detail the areas of expenditure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42743/10]

Having regard to normal expenditure patterns which typically entail a disproportionately high level of spending by the Department and more particularly its agencies in the final months of the year I expect that the overall net expenditure outcome will be very close to the allocation.

Question No. 73 answered with Question No. 65.

Air Services

Willie Penrose

Question:

74 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Transport if an airline (details supplied) is still honouring the public service obligation contract at Kerry Airport; when the new PSO contracts are due to be negotiated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42739/10]

Martin Ferris

Question:

81 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Transport his plans to ensure the maintenance of the Kerry to Dublin air link; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36649/10]

Joe Costello

Question:

85 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Transport if an airline (details supplied) has withdrawn its threat to abandon the public service obligation for Kerry Airport; if that threat is not in itself a breach of the airline’s contractual duties; the action he has taken in response to the threat; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42715/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 74, 81 and 85 together.

As you are aware, the Kerry to Dublin air service is operated under the current Public Service Obligation (PSO) contracts for services linking Dublin Airport with the regional airports at Derry, Donegal, Sligo, Ireland West Airport Knock, Galway and Kerry Airports. These contracts run from July 2008 to July 2011.

Ryanair were awarded the contract to provide the scheduled air services between Dublin and Kerry over the three year contract period and have been receiving payments in accordance with the contract.

Despite several requests to Ryanair over recent months asking them to abide by the terms of the contract, I have been advised that with effect from Saturday 13 November, 2010 they have carried out their threat to reduce services on the route from three daily to one daily. Ryanair have already indicated that this daily service will be operated outside of the PSO arrangements.

I have since written to Ryanair formally notifying them that in accordance with the terms of the contract, due to the material breach of performance of the terms and standards specified in the contract, the contract has been terminated by me with effect from 13 November, 2010.

In accordance with Paragraph 8 of the original invitation to tender of 30 January, 2009, my Department has yesterday been in contact with the next highest ranking tenderer for the Kerry/Dublin PSO service and has asked them to consider whether they are in a position to provide the service for the remainder of the concession period, subject to the same conditions and level of compensation applying to the current contract.

Departmental Bodies

Enda Kenny

Question:

75 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Transport if he plans to abolish the CIE holding company; the annual cost of this company to the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42684/10]

Tom Sheahan

Question:

77 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Transport the reason his Department did not pursue the report PricewaterhouseCoopers research study into the financial and other implications of a proposed restructuring of the CIE companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42689/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 75 and 77 together.

It is not planned to abolish the CIE Holding Company. The CIE Holding Company provides central services for the whole CIE Group. These include services such as IT, legal, insurance, property management, management of the pension schemes and human resources management. Strategic direction, control and overall co-ordination is provided by the holding company whilst each subsidiary has a high degree of operating autonomy. The number of employees in the CIE holding company is less than 2% of the total number of employees in the whole CIE Group. The Exchequer does not fund the operating costs of the CIÉ holding company. CIÉ has a statutory mandate under various Transport Acts to provide Public Service Obligation (PSO) passenger services. The National Transport Authority governs the funding of these PSO services through the Public Service Contracts which are in place between Iarnrod Eireann, Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus.

In 2002 PriceWaterhouseCoopers undertook a research study into the financial and other implications of a proposed restructuring of the CIE Group. This report concluded that any restructuring of the Group would require extremely complex issues to be addressed in areas such as ownership of CIÉ property, pensions, insurance liabilities, debt management and human resources. In the event radical CIE restructuring did not proceed for the reasons mentioned. However, since the report was published, the bus and rail subsidiaries have operated with enhanced devolved responsibilities.

Commercial Seaports

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

76 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport if he will provide a list of seaports here; his plans for modernising the country’s seaports; if he is satisfied that there is sufficient shipping capacity for the medium to long term; if he is satisfied that all the seaports have management structures and financial resources to carry out their mandate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42741/10]

The Central Statistics Office publishes a comprehensive annual report entitled "Statistics of Port Traffic". This report lists 21 commercial seaports in the State and also provides details such as all goods exported and imported through those ports. The report is available on the website of the Central Statistics Office, www.cso.ie The Ports Policy Statement, published in 2005, is the guiding policy framework within which our commercial seaports operate. In September this year I published a consultation document on a review of that policy statement.

The review provides an opportunity to consider all issues in relation to the sector, including the issues mentioned in the Deputy's question.

My Department is currently examining the submissions received during the recently concluded consultation period.

Question No. 77 answered with Question No. 75.

Transport Projects

Liz McManus

Question:

78 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Transport the level of capital funds he plans to spend on transport projects in 2011; if he will outline his spending priorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42736/10]

The review of Infrastructure Investment Priorities 2010-2016, which was published in July this year by the Department of Finance, gives indicative capital allocations for my Department for 2011 and subsequent years. The priorities for future investment in transport are set out in the Review.

The final capital funding allocation for my Department for 2011 will be determined as part of the 2011 Budget process.

Private Clamping Industry

Sean Sherlock

Question:

79 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport his plans to introduce legislation to regulate the private clamping industry similar to the existing legislation which regulates the private security industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42742/10]

Clamping of vehicles on private land goes beyond the remit of my Department and I have no proposals to regulate it.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Joe McHugh

Question:

80 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport the proposals he has to reduce emissions from publicly owned cars, buses and trains; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42696/10]

The Government's Smarter Travel policy, launched by me in February 2009, provides that all public transport providers will prepare a plan for fleet replacement based on the most sustainable vehicle and fuel type. The EU adapted the Clean Vehicles Directive 2009/33 on 23 April 2009. This Directive aims to stimulate the market for clean and energy-efficient road transport vehicles by ensuring a level of demand for clean and energy-efficient road transport vehicles, which is sufficiently substantial to encourage manufacturers and the industry to invest in and further develop vehicles with low energy consumption, CO2 emissions, and pollutant emissions.

The CIÉ Group is continuing to monitor new developments in the fields of alternative fuels and emission reduction technology and are committed to moving to lower carbon/ environmentally friendly solutions for their fleets as quickly as commercial and technical issues allow.

Question No. 81 answered with Question No. 74.

Travel Trade Regulation

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

82 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport his plans to implement the recommendations of the Commissioner for Aviation Regulation in his report in 2009 on reform of the licensing and bonding arrangements for travel agents and tour operators; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42721/10]

As the Deputy will be aware, in 2008 I requested the Commission for Aviation Regulation to undertake a review of travel trade licensing and bonding regulations. The review by CAR concluded that any reduction in the level of the bond required by travel agents would increase the likelihood of further calls on the Travel Protection Fund (TPF), which has been called upon following a number of collapses in the industry in 2008, 2009 and to date in 2010, even at current bond levels.

In November 2009, as part of the Review of the Consumer Aqcuis, the Directorate General for Health and Consumers (DG SANCO) of the European Commission launched a review of the Package Travel Directive. The Commission is assessing the different policy options, with the aim of presenting a possible proposal for revising the current legislation at the beginning of 2011.

Given this development, there would not appear to be any merit in undertaking reform of the bonding regime at this time without a clearer understanding of what the Commission is proposing in this area.

Question No. 83 answered with Question No. 48.

Search and Rescue Service

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

84 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Transport his plans for ensuring that Ireland has a world class national search and rescue transport system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42744/10]

In March this year, my Department was involved in concluding the Irish National Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR) Framework in line with current international best practice. The National Maritime SAR Framework sets out the arrangements whereby responsible parties work together to provide effective and efficient maritime and aeronautical SAR services. The Framework has been prepared both to meet domestic needs and comply with International commitments.

In addition, detailed plans for the provision of services and cooperation arrangements by the various organisations involved in the Irish National SAR are contained in Liaison Agreements and Memorandum of Understandings as well as in Coast Guard Operational Memoranda.

The Framework is now the standard reference document for use by all Irish SAR authorities working in the maritime domain and promulgates the agreed methods of co-ordination through which search and rescue operations are conducted.

Participants to the Framework include my Department, the Irish Coast Guard, the Irish Aviation Authority, the Department of Defence, the Department of Justice, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, the Fire Services and Planning Directorate, the Health Service Executive, the Irish Mountain Rescue Association, the Irish Cave Rescue Organisation, Local Authorities, Harbour Masters, Irish Water Safety, the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, Dublin Fire Brigade, Community Rescue Boats of Ireland, the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the Civil Defence, the Commissioners of Irish Lights, and the Air Accident Investigation Unit. The Framework can be downloaded from the Irish Coast Guard section of my Departments website at www.transport.ie.

Question No. 85 answered with Question No. 74.

Statistical Surveys

John McGuinness

Question:

86 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Taoiseach his view and his Departments policy regarding small firms or family businesses that have reduced staff numbers and do not now have the capacity to continue to complete Central Statistics Office survey forms; if such business can be exempted from completing CSO forms for a period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42941/10]

Article 13 of the Statistics Act, 1993 makes clear that the Director General of the Central Statistics Office has sole responsibility for and independence over all decisions regarding statistical methodology and statistical standards adopted by that Office.

Consequently the Taoiseach has no input into operational matters within the CSO, including the selection of enterprises for statistical surveys.

Minimising respondent burden, especially that placed on small businesses, is a corporate priority for the Central Statistics Office. The Central Statistics Office has published a number of reports, all of which are available on the CSO website, on the administrative burden imposed on businesses by CSO surveys. These reports show that typically 70% of small businesses (i.e. those enterprises employing less than 20 persons) do not receive any questionnaires from the CSO. A further 20% of small businesses only receive a single questionnaire. The overall administrative burden imposed by the CSO on businesses (as measured using the Standard Cost Model) is less than €11m per annum; this accounts for less than 1% of the total administrative burden imposed on Irish business by Government regulation, which was estimated at €2 billion in the 2007Report of the Business Regulation Forum .

Approximately 94% of Irish enterprises are small businesses employing less than 20 persons. As the dominant size class in Irish business, small businesses must be correctly represented in official statistics, both to comply with precision standards prescribed in EU legislation but also so that robust information can be provided to policy makers to support decision making in Ireland. Not only are these data important in showing the contribution of small business to the wider economy, they are essential building blocks in the calculation of GDP and Gross National Income. At a time when very significant decisions are being made, it is more critical than ever that estimates of economic performance are accurate and credible and that policy decisions are informed by robust information.

While the majority of the data is collected by the CSO in compliance with EU legislation, those same data are also demanded by Government and other national users. In fact, recent reports such as the 2008Building Ireland’s Smart Economy, Catching the Wave (2008), Trading and Investing in a Smart Economy (2010) and the 2010 Report of the Innovation Task Force are just some of the examples, where recommendations have been made that CSO collect additional data.

In an attempt to comply with the increasing demands for official statistics, arising from both EU legislation and national requirements, while also addressing the need to minimise the administrative burden placed on survey respondents, the CSO have in recent years introduced a range of burden-reduction measures specifically targetting small businesses. A number of survey questionnaires have been redesigned, with a reduced number of questions now being asked. In addition, the sample sizes of surveys have been decreased wherever feasible; in some cases, such as that of the Business Register Inquiry, surveys have been discontinued altogether. The CSO are also increasingly using administrative data, obtained from the Revenue Commissioners and other Government bodies, to both reduce existing burden to business or to avoid imposing additional burdens on business in compliance with new EU legislative demands. It is expected that this will lead to significant reductions in the number of small businesses being surveyed by the CSO's major structural inquiries.

Departmental Advertising

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

87 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Taoiseach the amount spent by his Department on public relations and advertising in the years 2008, 2009 and to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42392/10]

The table below details the amount spent by my Department on advertising in the years 2008, 2009 and to the end of October 2010. My Department has incurred no spend on Public Relations from 2008 to date.

Year

Advertising

2008

75,005*

2009

25,303*

2010 (Jan-Oct)

20,951*

*These amounts include advertising expenditure recouped from the Change Management Fund in the Department of Finance: 2008 €43,382; 2009 €3,402; 2010 €9,372.

Departmental Reviews-Reports

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

88 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Taoiseach the number of external reports and reviews commissioned by his Department in 2008, 2009, and to date in 2010; if he will name each review and report, the spending on external reports and reviews in each of those years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42393/10]

The information sought by the Deputy is set out in the Table beneath.

Year

Title of Report/Review

Spending on Report/Review

2008

1. Report on the Review of the Operation of Regulatory Impact Analysis

124,193

2. Report on the Review of the Economic Regulatory Environment

409,042

3. A Regulatory Impact Analysis of the Transposition of the Optional Pensions Provisions of the Transfer of Undertakings Directive

7,200

4. Knowledge Management Report — To advise the Department on Knowledge Management principles

2,269

5. Evaluate and present a report on virtualisation options for eCabinet System

726

6. Irish Civil Service Customer Satisfaction Survey

69,817

2009

1. Survey of Civil Service General Public Customers

68,186

2. Garda Boundaries Realignment Project

46,413

3. Irish Civil Service Customer Satisfaction Survey

68,186

4. Irish Civil Service Business Satisfaction Survey

23,752

Departmental Expenditure

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

89 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Taoiseach the total amount of money owed to private firms by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42394/10]

There are 65 invoices due to be paid to private firms by this Department totalling €121,553. 78% of these invoices will be paid within 15 calendar days.

Community Employment Schemes

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

90 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she can clarify that in order to qualify for the training aspect of a community employment scheme a participant must give up social welfare entitlements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42523/10]

Community Employment (CE) is an active labour market programme/intervention designed to provide eligible long-term unemployed people and other disadvantaged persons (including lone parents, recovering drug mis-users and those with a disability) with an opportunity to engage in useful part-time work within their communities on a temporary, fixed-term basis.

CE helps unemployed people to re-enter the active workforce by breaking their experience of unemployment through a return to a work routine and to assist them to enhance/develop both their technical and personal skills by providing opportunities for individual training and development. The Individual Learner Plan (ILP) training is an integral part of the CE placement for all CE participants, providing tailored training based on the individual needs of the participants. There is no link between social welfare payments and training provision on CE.

The continued receipt (or otherwise) of a particular social welfare payment whilst participating on a CE scheme is dependent on the Department of Social Protection rules governing each type of payment.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

91 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills when the trust fund for the survivors of residential institutions, first announced by the Government in 2009, will be put into place; if she will provide a breakdown of the sums of money transferred by the 18 religious teaching congregations to the State for the purpose of this trust fund to date; when she expects the fund to be formally established; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42795/10]

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 on 15th April last. This proposal 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 have been considered and my Department expects to report to Government shortly on the matter and will be submitting a Scheme of a Bill to provide for the Statutory Fund.

To date €20.6m has been received in contributions towards the Statutory Fund as follows: Brothers of Charity — €1,000,000; Dominican Friars — €6,500,000; Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul — €1,000,000; Daughters of the Heart of Mary — €1,500,000; Hospitaller Order of St John of God — €1,000,000; Presentation Brothers — €2,000,000; Presentation Sisters — €4,000,000; Sisters of Charity — €1,000,000; Sisters of Our Lady of Charity — €600,000; Sisters of St. Clare — €1,000,000; and Sisters of St Louis — €1,000,000.

These contributions have been deposited in an interest bearing account in the Central Bank of Ireland pending the establishment of the Statutory Fund.

Departmental Expenditure

Willie Penrose

Question:

92 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will outline in comprehensive detail the reason her Department has not paid the expenses legitimately incurred and audited which have been submitted by an association (details supplied) and if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the non-payment thereof is likely to lead to the closure of the office facilities in Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42976/10]

In order for expenditure to be approved for reimbursement from the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) it is required that it be verified that the expenditure was on services covered by the terms of the EGF. Expenditure claims made in this regard are currently under examination.

Catchment Boundaries

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

93 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the number of schools she has changed from one catchment area to another in the past three years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42428/10]

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

94 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the number of schools she has changed from one catchment area to another in the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42429/10]

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

95 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the number of schools she has changed from one catchment area to another in the past ten years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42430/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 93 to 95, inclusive, together.

Catchment boundaries have their origins in the establishment of free post primary education in the late 1960s. For planning purposes, the country was divided into geographic districts, each with several primary schools feeding into a post primary education centre with one or more post primary schools. The intention was that these defined districts would facilitate the orderly planning of school provision and accommodation needs. They also facilitated the provision of a national school transport service, enabling children from remote areas to get to their nearest school.

In general, the Department does not change schools from one catchment area to another. However, when a new post primary centre is established, it is necessary to create a new catchment area for the purposes of identifying feeder primary schools, previously belonging to other post primary centres, for the new centre. This happened, for example, in Meath in recent years where two new post primary centres were established in Ratoath and Laytown. This is not the case where an additional school is provided in an existing post primary centre as this centre then becomes a multi-school centre.

Furthermore, where a sole post primary school in a post primary centre is closed, the existing feeder primary schools may have to be reassigned to another appropriate post primary centre.

Unfortunately, it has not been possible to gather the specific details requested by the Deputy in the time available. However, I will arrange for the details to be forwarded separately to the Deputy.

Psychological Service

Arthur Morgan

Question:

96 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the reason a school (details supplied) in County Donegal has no access to the National Education Psychological Service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42432/10]

I can inform the Deputy that all primary and post-primary schools have access to psychological assessments either directly through my department's National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) or through the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments (SCPA). Schools that do not currently have NEPS psychologists assigned to them may avail of the SCPA, whereby the school can have an assessment carried out by a member of the panel of private psychologists approved and paid for by NEPS.

In common with many other psychological services and best international practice, NEPS encourages a staged assessment process, whereby each school takes responsibility for initial assessment, educational planning and remedial intervention. Only if there is a failure to make reasonable progress in spite of the school's best efforts, will a child be referred for individual psychological assessment. This system allows the psychologists to give early attention to urgent cases and also to help many more children indirectly than could be seen individually. It also ensures that children are not referred unnecessarily for psychological intervention.

Should school authorities have specific difficulties with regard any of the foregoing or in relation to a specific pupil I would suggest that they should contact the relevant local NEPS Regional Director, for whom contact details are available on my Department's website.

The Deputy will no doubt be aware of the undertaking within the Renewed Programme for Government to an overall expansion of NEPS psychologist numbers to 210, currently NEPS staffing numbers stand at 157.

However I can inform the Deputy that my Department and the Public Appointments Service (PAS), following the organisation of a competition and interview process earlier this year, has put in place a new recruitment panel for NEPS. PAS is currently poling candidates for an initial intake of 22 psychologists which it is hoped will, following the required Garda vetting process, be available for intake into NEPS by years end or early in the new year. It is also envisaged that the remainder of the required intake, to the level of that committed to in the Renewed Programme for Government, will receive similar offers shortly thereafter.

The assignment of a NEPS psychologist to the school referred to in the Deputy's question is a matter for consideration by the relevant NEPS Regional Director and will be subject obviously to the availability and engagement of suitably qualified personnel in the above process for the relevant NEPS office.

Schools Refurbishment

Brendan Howlin

Question:

97 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if her attention has been drawn to the fact that both safety and comfort for pupils and teachers are severely compromised by the current state of a school (details supplied) in County Wexford; in view of the fact that her Department has not spent a large proportion of its schools budget for the current year, if she will review the funding application submitted in respect of emergency repairs to the roof and other parts of this school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42438/10]

An application for funding under Emergency Works was submitted by the school in question. However, following an assessment of the application and in light of the nature and scale of the works involved it is not possible to provide funding at this time.

It is open to the school authority to submit an application for these works under the next round of the Summer Works Scheme.

FÁS Training Programmes

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

98 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she or her Department took legal advice in advance of issuing a circular to FÁS in January 2010 which restricted the eligibility for FÁS training allowances only to persons who have been receipt of jobseeker’s allowance or jobseeker’s benefit immediately prior to entering FÁS training courses; if she or her Department has taken legal advice since the implementation of this circular with regard to it constituting indirect discrimination to workers from other European Union countries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42469/10]

The measure to restrict the payment of a FÁS training allowance to those persons who, immediately prior to the commencement of their training, had an entitlement to either Jobseeker's Benefit (JB) or Jobseeker's Allowance (JA) was one of a series of savings measures taken as part of Budget 2010.

In relation to the issue raised by the Deputy in connection with workers from other European Countries the matter is currently under review.

Schools Building Projects

Simon Coveney

Question:

99 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a school (details supplied) in County Cork; if previous assurances in relation to timescale and commencement of building times are accurate; when building work will commence; the length of time this building work will take; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42504/10]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that my Department recently authorised the Design Team to issue the Letter of Acceptance (i.e. award the contract).

Assuming that no issues arise, it is expected that the project will commence construction within weeks and will take circa 12 months to complete.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

100 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding improvements to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; if a new school is to be built or an extension added to the existing school and when a design team will be appointed to the project. [42508/10]

I can confirm that the school to which the Deputy refers has applied to my Department for large scale capital funding for an extension/refurbishment.

In accordance with the published criteria for large scale building projects, the project for this school has been assigned a Band 2 rating. Information in respect of the current school building programme along with all assessed applications for major capital works, including this project, 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 through to construction phase will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of my Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

Special Educational Needs

Richard Bruton

Question:

101 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the number of special needs assistants employed in each county in the years 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and to date in 2010 in tabular form. [42522/10]

The information requested by the Deputy on the number of special needs assistants employed in each county on the dates specified is not readily available.

The number of Special Needs Assistants employed nationally in each of the past five years and on 30th September 2010 is available in the document below. The details for each of the past five years are the December figures for the year in question. The primary schools information is inclusive of the special schools details.

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.

SNAs are allocated to schools to enable them to support pupils with disabilities who also have significant care needs. The allocation for any school and any adjustments to that allocation depends on a number of factors such as the number of pupils with care/medical needs leaving, the number of new pupils and the changing needs of the pupils. While SNA posts may be allocated to schools in line with my Department's criteria, SNA posts may also be suppressed where a child may leave or move school, or may achieve a greater level of independence.

I wish to confirm for the Deputy that my Department is very supportive of the SNA scheme. It has been a key factor in both ensuring the successful integration of children with special educational needs into mainstream education and providing support to pupils enrolled in special schools and special classes.

Number of Special Needs Assistants

Year

Number of Special Needs Assistants in Primary schools

Number of Special Needs Assistants in Post Primary Schools, including VECs.

2005

6,273

1,021

2006

6,974

1,416

2007

8,038

1,786

2008

8,440

2,002

2009

8,392

1,950

30/09/2010

8,141

2,065

School Staffing

Tom Sheahan

Question:

102 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will investigate the case of a person (details supplied) regarding registration and rates of pay in the teaching profession; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42536/10]

The details of the case referred to by the Deputy are being checked at present.

I will arrange for the Deputy to be notified of the position.

Higher Education Grants

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

103 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will respond to a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42547/10]

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.

School Services Staff

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

104 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills her views on an issue (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42548/10]

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 certain school secretaries and caretakers employed using grants issued by my Department. 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.

I do not propose to comment further until the outcome of the forum discussions is available.

School Staffing

Richard Bruton

Question:

105 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if the schemes of early retirement, voluntary redundancy and redeployment will be applied by her Department in respect of the members of trade unions who voted against the Croke Park agreement and if she will indicate the precise distinctions that will be drawn; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42550/10]

Currently there are no schemes for early retirement or voluntary redundancy open to officials at my Department other than the Cost Neutral Early Retirement Scheme which was introduced in early2005.

In the event any further new schemes of early retirement, voluntary redundancy or redeployment programmes are introduced for all civil servants or for staff of a particular grade, they will be offered to those that qualify regardless of their union affiliation. The introduction of such schemes for the civil or public service under the terms of the Croke Park agreement is a matter for the Minister for Finance in the first instance.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

106 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the reason nearly a year after sending in a final certificate that a public employee (details supplied) has not been allowed resume their duties. [42559/10]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

107 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she has accepted a final certificate from a person (details supplied). [42560/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 106 and 107 together.

The person referred to by the Deputy is employed by the Board of Management of the school.

Issues relating to the appointment and the employment of the person including the personnel issues referred to are a matter for the Board.

An official of my Department received a query in December 2009 from the secretary of the board of management of the school regarding the employment of the person referred to by the Deputy. The secretary was advised that the Board, as employer, should seek legal advice on the matter.

I understand from correspondence received from the person in question that an independent state body dealing in employment matters is involved in this case.

The person referred to should contact the Board with regard to issues concerning his employment in the school.

Schools Refurbishment

Tom Sheahan

Question:

108 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will review an application for emergency works grant for a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42592/10]

Funding for Emergency Works are made available to those schools most in need of resources as a result of unforeseen emergencies of a capital nature that may arise during the school year.

The school referred to by the Deputy has submitted an application for funding under this scheme to my Department and this application is being assessed. A decision will issue to the school as soon as possible.

Ministerial Travel

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

109 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the number of times she has used the Government jet in the past four weeks; the purpose and costs of the trips; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42755/10]

I have not used the Government jet in the past four weeks.

Special Educational Needs

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

110 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if and when a special needs unit will be provided for a school (details supplied) in County Kildare in view of the fact that the school cannot accept special needs pupils until a special needs unit is provided; if she will confirm the number of inquiries from parents and children with special needs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42768/10]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that funding for the provision of a special needs unit at the school in question has recently been approved.

Schools Building Projects

Deirdre Clune

Question:

111 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will confirm that funding for a school (details supplied) in County Cork will be protected in light of the fact that previously appointed contractors are not now in a financial position to construct the project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42785/10]

Simon Coveney

Question:

117 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills when work will begin on a school (details supplied) in County Cork; when the contractor will be officially given the go ahead to begin the building of this school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42889/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 111 and 117 together.

As the Deputies will be aware, the project to which they refer encountered delays in securing planning permission and land transfers. These problems were compounded by certain issues that subsequently arose with the preferred bidder and which resulted in a recent decision to re-tender the project.

It is envisaged that the project will be re-tendered shortly. Subject to no issues arising, it is anticipated that it will progress to construction in early 2011.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

112 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she has received formal complaints from stakeholders regarding the delays in delivering the school building programme budget; her views on any correspondence received; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42800/10]

My Department has ongoing discussions with stakeholders regarding the school building programme and in the course of recent discussions, the matter of the 2010 capital programme for my Department was raised.

The situation regarding delivery of the school building programme is outlined in such discussions and stakeholders are briefed on the same issues that I myself outlined to the House last week. Furthermore, as I also indicated to the House last week, my Department is taking steps to ensure that projects will continue to move on site in the remainder of the year.

Schools Refurbishment

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

113 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the amount that has been allocated to water conservation and rain water harvesting in schools to date in 2010; the number of schools that will benefit; the proportion of funding that has been drawn down to date by schools; the date by which funding must be spent; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42801/10]

As part of the Summer Works Scheme 2010, schools were invited to apply for Water Conservation Measures to reduce water usage by installing push type spray taps, low flushing toilets and urinal controls. Funding in excess of €9.6m was allocated to 1823 primary and post-primary schools in late October 2010.

Schools were advised that funding should be drawn down within two months from date of issue of approval letters and to-date draw down requests of approximately €36,000 have been received.

Institutes of Technology

Michael McGrath

Question:

114 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if a particular programme (details supplied) falls within the remit of her Department. [42851/10]

The Irish Homecoming Study Programme is an initiative developed by the Institute of Technology sector to promote the Institutes overseas, primarily in the US market. It does not fall within the remit of my Department, nor has it received any funding from my Department.

Schools Refurbishment

John O'Donoghue

Question:

115 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if a grant will be made available to a school (details supplied) in County Kerry under the emergency works scheme to enable the school authorities to remove an existing prefab on site which has become a hub for unsocial behaviour and is posing a serious health risk to both staff and pupils; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42879/10]

Funding for Emergency Works are made available to those schools most in need of resources as a result of unforeseen emergencies of a capital nature that may arise during the school year.

The school referred to by the Deputy has submitted an application for funding under this scheme to my Department and this application is being assessed. A decision will issue to the school as soon as possible.

University Financial Statements

Leo Varadkar

Question:

116 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the reason the consolidated financial statements for a college (details supplied) for the years 2003, 2004 and 2005 were only laid before the Dáil on 9 November 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42883/10]

Under the Universities Act, 1997, Universities must submit to the Comptroller and Auditor General their annual consolidated financial statements. A copy of the financial statements, together with a copy of the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the accounts, must then be presented by the University to both the Higher Education Authority and to my Department. My Department must then lay the accounts together with a copy of the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (C & AG) before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

In the case of the institution referred to by the Deputy, the accounts for the years 2003, 2004 and 2005 were signed off by the C & AG on 29th July 2009 and were subsequently received in my Department on 11th October 2010, and were sent to the Oireachtas Library on 1st November last. I understand that any further delay in submitting the accounts to my Department was due mainly to arrangements being made by the institution concerned to translate into Irish the relevant documentation concerned.

In April of this year my Department requested that the Higher Education Authority (HEA) remind all institutions of their responsibility in ensuring the immediate submission to my Department of their accounts once signed off on by the C & AG.

Question No. 117 answered with Question No. 111.

Site Acquisitions

Richard Bruton

Question:

118 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she has met with representatives of an organisation (details supplied) in relation to moving to a new site; the steps she has taken to help the school acquire this site; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42963/10]

I wish to advise that my officials have conducted technical inspections of two properties at the request of the school authority referred to by the Deputy. Technical reports are being finalised with a view to identifying the optimum solution. Once these are to hand, my officials will be in a better position to give further consideration to the proposed options and will appraise the school authority accordingly.

Departmental Reports

Brian O'Shea

Question:

119 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills her plans to publish the Hunt report before the budget; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42973/10]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

121 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 78 of 9 November 2010, when she received the report; when she circulated it to her Cabinet colleagues; the timeframe, if any, she gave within which to send their written replies; when she expects to bring a memorandum to Government for agreement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43027/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 119 and 121 together.

The terms of reference for the High Level Group which was established to develop proposals for a new national strategy for higher education provided for an extensive examination of all issues relating to the future development of the higher education sector. The Group has now completed its work and I received its report in August. I am consulting with my Government colleagues in relation to the report in accordance with standard procedures and the timeframe for publication of the report will be decided in that context.

Ministerial Travel

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

120 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 62 of 9 November 2010, if she will provide a list of the names of all the organisations that she met; the names of the principal representative of those organisations; the follow-up plan agreed between her and Enterprise Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43026/10]

The aim of the education mission was to increase awareness of Ireland as a destination for full-time academic study by US students, building on our strong position as the ninth most popular destination among American students studying overseas for a semester or academic year. My engagements were:

Networking event for Irish higher education institutions and high school counsellors from the Chicago area at which I delivered an address focusing on the benefits of studying in Ireland.

Interview and meeting with a group of Irish American media publishers. The principal contact among the US publishers in arranging the meeting was Mr Cliff Carlson, CEO of Irish American News.

Meeting with representatives of the Irish American Partnership (IAP). The IAP is an Irish American philanthropic organisation, with a focus on education projects, and is led by Mr Joe O'Leary, the CEO. Ongoing contact with the Partnership is maintained through the Consulate General of Ireland in Boston.

Working dinner with members of the Irish American business community and with current and prospective IDA clients in Chicago. This dinner was organised by the Consulate General of Ireland, IDA Ireland and the American Ireland Fund. IDA Ireland are following-up on the outcome of this working dinner.

An address to the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago, a significant partner to the Geary Institute at UCD. The Dean at the School is Prof Colm A. O'Muircheartaigh.

Meeting with Mr Richard M. Daley, Mayor of the City of Chicago.

Meeting with Ms Mary B. Richardson-Lowry, President of the Chicago Board of Education.

Working dinner with members of the Irish-American business community in St. Louis, organised by Mr Joseph McGlynn, Ireland's Honorary Consul in St. Louis.

Meeting with Ms Joyce Smith, CEO of the National Association for College Admission Counselling.

Working lunch with the senior leadership of the National Association of High School Scholars, led by Mr Claes Nobel, the Association's Chairman.

A meeting with the senior leadership of Fontbonne University in St Louis, led by President Dennis Golden.

Following the Education Mission, Enterprise Ireland (EI) has prepared a comprehensive range of initiatives relating to the US market, including:

The development of a number of research projects to validate/refine EI's US action plan. These are scheduled for completion by early 2011;

The development of specific marketing material for the US, based on feedback from contacts developed on the mission;

Follow up discussions have taken place with the Irish American publishers which I met. These have been very positive and it has been agreed that an Education Ireland supplement will be prepared and published in the Irish American publications during early 2011;

Based on the lessons learned from the Student Fairs organised as part of the Mission, a series of further fairs and events will be rolled out in 2011;

Enterprise Ireland is also seeking to deepen its relationships with counsellors who attended the Counsellor Breakfasts during the Mission and also developing relationships with others, including with specific local or regional associations such as the Massachusetts Catholic School Counsellors Association. They will also seek to develop relationships with Irish American Associations and with alumni, including through the development of a pilot Student Ambassador Programme. EI will be working closely with my Department on ongoing implementation of the international education strategy.

Question No. 121 answered with Question No. 119.

Customs and Excise Service

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

122 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Finance the number of aircraft searched by Customs and Excise at Baldonnel and Weston Airports in 2009 and to date in 2010; the number of seizures at each airport in each year; the number of drug seizures as a result of searches at each airport in each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42382/10]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that decisions on whether or not to search aircraft are taken following profiling and review of intelligence. In 2009, 61 searches of aircraft were carried out at Weston, while to date in 2010, 33 searches of aircraft have taken place there. No seizures were made and no drugs were detected in either 2009 or 2010. In relation to Baldonnel Aerodrome, no searches of aircraft have been carried out in the year 2009, or to date in 2010 on the basis that profiling of the traffic using the aerodrome and review of available intelligence suggests that the risk of smuggling through this location is minimal.

Cabinet Committees

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

123 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance the membership of the Cabinet committee on aspects of international human rights and the number of times the committee has met. [42391/10]

The Committee has met on three occasions to date.

Membership of the Committee

Minister for Finance (Chair)

Mr B Lenihan, TD

Minister for Transport

Mr N Dempsey, TD

Minister for Justice & Law Reform

Mr D Ahern, TD

Minister for Foreign Affairs

Mr M Martin, TD

Minister for the Environment, Heritage & Local Government

Mr J Gormley, TD

Minister for Communications & Natural Resources

Mr E Ryan, TD

Attorney General

Mr Paul Gallagher, SC

Pension Provisions

Finian McGrath

Question:

124 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will examine the Trident report on future pension provisions from the Irish National Teachers Organisation, the Teachers Union of Ireland and the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland and if he will support same. [42783/10]

Finian McGrath

Question:

125 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will support a matter (details supplied). [42882/10]

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

My Department is aware of the report by Trident Consulting entitled "Future Pension Provision" which was commissioned by the three teachers unions, ASTI, INTO and the TUI. In addition, my Department is aware of the views of these unions concerning the Government's planned introduction of a single pension scheme for all new-entrant public servants. The Trident Report was made available to officials of my Department and was the subject of a specific meeting between my officials and the teachers unions.

As I announced in Budget 2010, the Government are committed to the introduction of a new single public service pension scheme for new joiners. The new scheme is aimed at securing considerable long-term Exchequer savings, while continuing to offer fair and reasonable pensions to retired public servants. Its principal features will include career-average benefit accrual, inflation-indexation of benefits and an increased pension age. Extensive consultations on the proposed new scheme with Government Departments and with the staff side have taken place. Draft legislation to introduce the new scheme is currently in preparation, and it is planned that the scheme will be operational in 2011.

I welcome the Trident Report as a contribution to the debate on pension provision. However the Report's recommended approaches to pension provision differs in fundamental respects with the Government's policy and I can not accept the Report as a policy basis for pension provision for new-entrant teachers at this time.

Tax Collection

Phil Hogan

Question:

126 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Finance the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny was not allowed a tax refund under section 381 of the consolidation Act 2007 in view of the fact that the person operates a business and should be treated as such; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42470/10]

I have been informed by the Revenue Commissioners that loss relief was refused in this case under Section 662 (2)(b) of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 — " any loss — incurred in any year of assessment in a trade of farming or market gardening shall not be available for relief under section 381 if in each of the prior 3 years a loss was incurred in carrying on that trade."

For the years 2006, 2007 & 2008, the individual in question incurred substantial losses and tax was refunded accordingly. For 2009, a further more substantial loss was incurred. The individual was visited and the business examined in detail. Following this relief was refused. The individual in question failed to satisfy the Inspector concerned that Section 662(2)(d) should apply i.e.

(i) "that the whole of the — farming activities in the year following the prior 3 years are of such a nature, and carried on in such a way, as would have justified a reasonable expectation of the realisation of profits in the future if those activities had been undertaken by a competent farmer or market gardener, and

(ii) that if such a farmer or market gardener had undertaken those activities at the beginning of the prior period of loss, such farmer or market gardener could not reasonably be expected those activities to become profitable until after the end of the year following the prior period of loss."

The loss incurred may be carried forward under Section 382 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 for set off against profits incurred in the same trade in future years.

If the taxpayer is dissatisfied with this determination, the assessment issued may be appealed under Section 933 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. The taxpayer and her agent have already been advised verbally that the assessment could be appealed to the Appeal Commissioners.

Tax Code

Mary Upton

Question:

127 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance the progress that has been made in relation to addressing the future funding of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund; the way he proposes to address any shortfall in the funding, arising from the tax take on gambling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42473/10]

The funding of the Horse and Greyhound Racing fund is a matter for my colleague Minister Smith who has responsibility for the disbursement of the fund. In relation to the taxation of betting, I have stated previously that it is my intention to widen, if possible, the tax base on which betting duty would be applied. We have a situation where bets placed through one platform, namely betting shops, are subject to 1% betting duty but bets placed through other platforms are generally not. This is because bets placed either online or over the phone are generally with out-of-State companies so applying betting duty has been difficult.

I have asked my officials, in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General, the Office of the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Justice and Law Reform, to look at the scope to overcome legal and operational difficulties in this area. I have stated previously in this House that any extension of betting duty will be applied on a fair basis and should not be perceived as an attempt to threaten jobs. Also, tax changes will be in tandem with ongoing work by the Department of Justice and Law Reform on issues surrounding licensing and regulation.

I am trying to ensure that we can put together a solution that is fair and reasonable, has a sense of balance and will not threaten jobs.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

128 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance the cost of reducing the higher rate of income tax by 1% to 40% for all taxpayers affected and for all earnings less than €70,000 per annum single or corresponding married; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42505/10]

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 informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the full year cost to the Exchequer, estimated by reference to 2011 incomes, of reducing the higher rate of tax by 1% point would be approximately €185 million in a full year. If this rate reduction is confined to income earners whose gross incomes are below the income levels mentioned in the question the cost could be reduced to €65 million in a full year.

These figures are an estimate 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.

Tax Yield

Mary Upton

Question:

129 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance if he has an estimate of the amount of cash held in households across the country that is not in bank accounts; if he has an estimate of the annual loss to the Exchequer from lost deposit interest retention tax and other taxes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42496/10]

I have no information on the amount of money that is held privately in households, nor have I information on the amount of interest that is lost to such persons because they choose not to open deposit accounts for this cash. In the absence of this information, it is not possible to estimate how much Deposit Interest Retention Tax or other taxes may have been lost to the Exchequer.

Tax Reliefs

Jack Wall

Question:

130 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) can be supplied with a P21 for 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42509/10]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that PAYE Balancing Statements P21 for the year 2009 issued to the person concerned on 4 August 2010 and 10 August 2010. A further claim was received from the person concerned on 1 October 2010 in respect of interest paid. Tax relief at source was granted by the financial institution in relation to this interest so no additional tax relief is due to the person concerned. A further copy of balancing statement of 10 August 2010 will issue to the person concerned shortly.

Banking Sector Regulation

Tom Sheahan

Question:

131 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Finance if he will instruct the banks to make available a public database of all repossessed homes to all interested parties who wish to purchase a primary residence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42532/10]

Historically, repossessions in Ireland have been low and this continues to be the case. Recent statistics from the Central Bank show that all financial institutions operating in Ireland hold a relatively small number of repossessed houses. The Deputy will appreciate that disposal of repossessed houses is a commercial decision for the institution concerned.

Public Service Contracts

Tom Sheahan

Question:

132 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider the introduction of stronger regulations, other than the production of a tax clearance certificate, on main contractors competing for Government contracts as many of these contractors owe millions to sub-contractors and suppliers, however, as the main contractors have paid their tax no one else can tender for contracts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42533/10]

I have no proposals of the kind referred to by the Deputy. However the Government is supporting a Bill concerning payments to sub-contractors in the Construction Sector, which is currently before the Seanad.

Industrial Relations

Richard Bruton

Question:

133 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if a scheme such as early retirement and voluntary redundancy will be applicable in respect of members of trade unions who voted against the Croke Park agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42549/10]

Voluntary exit packages for implementation in the public service are determined having regard to a number of factors, in particular the business needs of the organisation and the financing available. The Government has however indicated that any party that chooses to remain outside the provisions of the Agreement or that opposes its implementation cannot expect to benefit from the principal commitments it gave as part of the Agreement, namely to no further reductions in pay, no compulsory redundancies and the extension of the period within which the January 2010 pay reductions will be disregarded for the purposes of calculating public service pension entitlements to the end of 2011.

Fiscal Policy

John Cregan

Question:

134 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Finance his views on amending the present time limit of ten years applicable to the National Solidarity Bond to a period of two to three years with an option to continue with this investment. [42551/10]

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.

The National Solidarity Bond is one of the State Savings products which are managed by the National Treasury Management Agency and are designed primarily for the retail investor. The National Solidarity Bond is designed as a ten-year product. It complements the existing savings bonds and savings certificates, which are shorter-term products for three and five-and-a-half years respectively. The other State Savings products are Instalment Savings and Prize Bonds.

I might add that it is possible to encash National Solidarity Bonds at any time but, as is the normal practice with longer-term investment products, the interest rate is structured so as to encourage investors to leave their money in the Bond as long as possible.

Departmental Staff

Michael McGrath

Question:

135 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance his plans to introduce a revised incentivised early retirement scheme for the Civil Service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42582/10]

There are currently no plans to introduce a revised incentivised early retirement scheme for the civil service.

Flood Relief

Joe Carey

Question:

136 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding a project (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42584/10]

Following a request from Clare County Council, OPW has agreed to put the Local Authority in funds so that they may design a flood defence scheme for the St. Flannan's College area. The proposed solution effectively involves the construction of an overflow weir and over 1,000 linear metres of culvert to by-pass an existing swallow hole located to the rear of St. Flannan's College. Clare County Council is currently assessing Tenders for this work and hope to appoint a consultant by the end of November 2010, with construction work to be completed in 2011.

Industrial Disputes

John Cregan

Question:

137 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Finance if he can recompense sub-contractors who were contracted to a company (details supplied) when this company was awarded State contracts and did not pay sub-contractors for works carried out. [42590/10]

The question of payment and the timing of payment to any party in a contract will depend on the terms in that contract. In regard to public works contracts the payment terms of a sub-contract is a matter between the main contractor and a sub-contractor. The matter of State compensation does not arise.

Departmental Staff

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

138 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Finance the number of appeals before the Civil Service Disciplinary Appeals Board in each of the years 2007, 2008, 2009 and to date in 2010; the number of persons sitting on the board; if any remuneration or expenses were awarded to board members in each of those years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42753/10]

The number of appeals heard by the Civil Service Disciplinary Appeals Board in each of the years 2007, 2008, 2009 and to date in 2010 is provided in the following table.

Year

Number of appeals before the Board

2007

2 appeals taken by the Chairperson

2008

6 appeals taken by the Chairperson

2009

7 appeals taken by the Chairperson

1 appeal taken by the Deputy Chairperson

2010 to date

3 appeals taken by the Chairperson

1 appeal taken by the Deputy Chairperson

The Civil Service Disciplinary Code Appeal Board currently comprises of

A Chairperson appointed by the Minister for Finance

A Deputy Chairperson appointed by the Minister for Finance

A panel of serving civil servants nominated by the Minister for Finance

A panel of serving civil servants or whole-time officials of recognised trade unions nominated by the General Council Staff Panel and appointed by the Minister for Finance

The composition of a Board for a hearing is the Chairperson or Deputy Chairperson, a member of the panel of civil servants appointed by the Minister for Finance and a member of the panel appointed by the Minister on the nomination of the General Council Staff Panel.

The Chairperson is paid a fee of €752.40 per sitting day and the Deputy Chairperson is paid a fee of €416.36 per sitting day. The majority of appeals are heard in one sitting day. Board members do not receive remuneration/expenses for their participation on the Board.

Disabled Drivers

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

139 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Finance the role of the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal; the number of appeals the board heard in each of the years 2007, 2008, 2009 and to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42754/10]

The Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal deals with appeals under the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme. It constitutes a Chairperson and a panel of medical doctors. In addition to the Chairperson, two doctors from the panel attend each Appeal Board sitting. All appointments to the Medical Board of Appeal are made by the Minister for Finance on the nomination of the Minister for Health and Children and are for a period of 4 years. The number of appeals the Board heard in each of the years from 2007 to 2009 and to date in 2010, is as follows:

Year

Number

2007

313

2008

379

2009

239

2010 (end Sept.)

264

Financial Services Regulation

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

140 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Finance the number of appeals heard by the Irish Financial Services Appeals Tribunal in each of the years 2004 to 2010 inclusive; the remuneration and expenses awarded to board members in each of those years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42756/10]

The Central Bank Act, 1942 (as amended) by the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Act 2003 provided for the establishment of the Irish Financial Services Appeals Tribunal (IFSAT). IFSAT is an independent body providing for appeals against certain decisions made by the Central Bank (formerly known as the Financial Regulator) including administrative sanctions. The Act provides for the appointment of two executive members i.e. the Chairperson and the Deputy Chairperson and no fewer than one and no more than five lay members.

In 2007, the President made the first appointment of seven members to IFSAT. The rate of remuneration of the members of IFSAT as determined by the President (in accordance with Section 57D(5) of the 2003 Act) in 2007 is:

Rate of Remuneration

Chairperson

€1,011.00 per day

Deputy Chairperson

€910.00 per day

Lay members

€666.00 per day

A reduction of 8% was applied by IFSAT in 2009:

Rate of Remuneration

Chairperson

€930.12 per day

Deputy Chairperson

€837.20 per day

Lay members

€607.20 per day

The 2003 Act (as amended) imposes a variety of executive and administrative duties on the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson. In 2007 the Chairperson and the Deputy Chairperson were required to allocate four days and two days respectively per month in the performance of those duties. In 2008 the commitment was reduced to two days for Chairperson and one day for the Deputy Chairperson with the consequent financial saving.

The number of appeals dealt with by IFSAT were as follows:

Year

Number

2004-2006

Nil

2007

1

2008

1

2009

2

2010

1

Remuneration of the Members from 2004 to 2010:

Year

2004-2006

Administrative Fees:

Nil

Hearing Fees:

Nil

2007

Administrative Fees:

74,954.40

Hearing Fees:

22,528.00

2008

Administrative Fees:

53,170.00

Hearing Fees:

Nil

2009

Administrative Fees:

37,531.00

Hearing Fees:

22,804.00

2010

Administrative Fees:

37,531.00

Hearing Fees:

2,144.00

IFSAT expenses:

Year

2007

1,725.00

2008

500.00

2009

485.00

2010

628.00

Foreign travel and subsistence expenses of €1,639.00 for 2010 in respect of the Deputy Chairperson and Registrar were paid.

Valuation Tribunal

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

141 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Finance the number of appeals before the Valuation Tribunal in each of the years 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and to date in 2010; the remuneration and expenses awarded to members of the tribunal on each of those years; the funding allocated to the tribunal in each of those years; the role of the tribunal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42757/10]

The Valuation Tribunal is an independent statutory body which was established under the Valuation Act, 1988 and continues under the Valuation Act, 2001. The role of the tribunal is as follows:

(1) In accordance with section 37 of the Valuation Act, 2001, It hears and decides appeals against decisions of the Commissioner of Valuation on the valuation and revaluation of commercial properties for rating purposes under 33 of the Act.

(2) In accordance with section 22(5) of the Derelict Sites, 1990, it must consider and determine appeals by owners of derelict sites against the determination by local authorities of the market values of those sites under section 22(1) of the Act.

The members of the tribunal are appointed by me, under statute, as Minister for Finance for a period not exceeding five years and are eligible for re-appointment. The membership is drawn mainly from the legal and valuation professions and the appointments are part-time. Currently, there are twenty members serving on the tribunal.

The remuneration (fees) and expenses paid to the members of the tribunal and the tribunal funding allocation in each of the following five specified years were as follows:

Year

Members Remuneration

Members Expenses*

Tribunal Funding Allocation

2006

131,367

62,785

228,000

2007

126,615

62,612

230,000

2008

159,119

82,356

233,000

2009

147,025

67,304

213,000

2010**

73,960

33,676

300,000

*Travel & subsistence.

**01/01/2010-11/11/2010.

The numbers of appeals before the tribunal were as follows:

Year

Valuation Appeals

Derelict Sites Appeals

2006

179

9

2007

185

2

2008

318

11

2009

122

6

2010

213

9

Informal Economy

Finian McGrath

Question:

142 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will assist small businesses which are suffering in the current economic climate due to lower prices in the black economy. [42781/10]

Internationally, a considerable amount of research has been undertaken in this area but, by definition, it is always difficult to quantify the scale of the informal economy.

The Government is taking costs out of businesses and, since 2007, measures we have implemented have saved small firms €20 million in red tape overheads. My colleague, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation will shortly announce further administrative savings in areas such as Company Law, Employment Law and Health and Safety Law.

The Government's priority is to ensure that the business environment continues to be supportive of enterprise. Addressing the needs of SMEs is a particular priority that my Department will continue to support.

The Enterprise Development Agencies continue to play a key role in stimulating the development of new businesses, facilitating the expansion of existing companies and targeting new foreign direct investment through a broad range of initiatives, including direct financial and non-financial supports to enterprises. These supports are aimed at improving productivity, market knowledge, competitiveness and leadership and management capabilities so that firms can compete successfully and grow their businesses and exports.

Access to bank credit for businesses, particularly SMEs, has been central to Government Initiatives in addressing the crisis in the banking sector. Both the 2009 and 2010 Bank Recapitalisation arrangements provided specific commitments from the recapitalised banks to assist SMEs. Under the 2010 Bank Recapitalisation arrangement, AIB and Bank of Ireland have both committed to making available not less than €3 billion each for new or increased credit facilities to SMEs in both 2010 and 2011. This must include funds for working capital for businesses. Finance is also made available to businesses, including SMEs, through the various supports and grant Schemes provided through the Enterprise Development Agencies operating under the aegis of my Department. My officials are also working with their counterparts in the Department of Finance and the Credit Review Office on potential new credit initiatives for SMEs.

I issued guidelines to public contracting authorities aimed at operating their tendering processes in a manner that facilitates increased participation by SMEs, while ensuring that all purchasing is carried out in a manner that is legal, transparent, and secures optimal value for money for the taxpayer. The guidelines also highlight practices that are to be avoided where they can unjustifiably hinder small businesses in competing for public contracts.

The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation also met with the Local Authority Managers in July to discuss what initiatives they can and should take to support business and facilitate training, to foster the business environment in their areas and to ensure that their procurement strategies promote innovation and provide greater SME access to public contracts. The message was also conveyed that competitiveness at local level is as important as it is at national level. Decisions made at local level have a huge role to play in determining the success of enterprise. More generally, we are seeing lower costs for business, particularly in areas such as rental of prime industrial space and office space.

I will continue to work with my Ministerial colleagues to ensure that State charges for the provision of services to business take account of the impact which such charges can have on the competitiveness of companies and their potential to create jobs in the economy.

Tax Yield

Finian McGrath

Question:

143 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the amount of finance money owed to the Revenue Commissioners which is currently circulating in the economy. [42782/10]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that due to the varying nature of the different taxes and the timing of payment and statutory return obligations, it is their practice to publish data in relation to tax debts on an annual basis. This facilitates meaningful comparative analysis. The latest published figures for outstanding taxes, showing the position as at 31 March 2010, is as follows:

Of the total debt on record of €2,112 million, €669m was under appeal and therefore not available for collection.

Of the total of €1,443m available for collection, €946m was under active collection while €378m was at enforcement and €119m was being managed through agreed instalment arrangement, where additional time to pay is given by Revenue.

Single Euro Payments Area

John Perry

Question:

144 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Finance the progress the Government has made in the implementation of the single euro payments area initiative; the stage of implementation of this initiative, which will assist in the streamlining of business across the eurozone and result in a reduction in red tape and costs for businesses here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42784/10]

For some years now the EU payments industry has been working to improve cross-border business activity by developing a pan-European electronic payments system for payments in euro, known as SEPA (the Single Euro Payments Area).

SEPA will be an area where consumers and companies can make and receive electronic payments in euro in Europe — whether between or within national boundaries, under the same basic conditions regardless of location.

The key components of SEPA are the new payments systems for:

SEPA Credit Transfers (SCT), that is, making payments electronically from or into bank accounts, including the use of internet or telephone banking and which was launched on 28 January 2008;

the SEPA Cards Framework, also launched on 28 January 2008; and

the SEPA Direct Debit Scheme (SDD), which was launched on 2 November 2009.

The Payment Services Directive (PSD) provides the necessary legal framework to support the implementation of SEPA. It came into effect on 1 November 2009 and my Department transposed it through the European Communities (Payment Services) Regulations 2009 (S.I. No. 383 of 2009) to enable Ireland to apply the PSD's provisions by that date.

SEPA relates only to electronic payments and industry has a key role to ensure that competitive SEPA-compliant services are available on the market. The Irish Payments Services Organization, which administers domestic payment schemes on behalf of Irish banks, has put in place a national SEPA migration plan for the industry here. I look forward to the industry's roll out of each of the above components of SEPA.

Recognising that public authorities have a key role to play in promoting migration to SEPA based payments in Member States, given the large volumes of payments that are executed throughout the public sector, the Government is currently considering how best to leverage the payments that it makes and receives towards promoting the implementation of SEPA in this jurisdiction.

In order to further incentivise migration, the European Commission is considering legislation to establish legally-binding end-dates and a draft EU Regulation to give effect to this is expected to be published by the Commission in early 2011. My Department is monitoring the position and will assess any such proposal in due course, with a view to supporting the swift implementation of SEPA consistent with national goals and obligations.

Tax Statements

Jack Wall

Question:

145 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare can be furnished with a P21 for 2009 as they require same for a third level grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42798/10]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a PAYE P21 balancing statement for the year 2009 will issue to the person concerned shortly.

Registered Employment Agreements

Joe McHugh

Question:

146 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Finance if he will acknowledge competition disparities between companies from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in electrical contracting; if he will acknowledge the need for a review of the registered employment agreement for electrical contracting in order to address these disparities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42819/10]

All firms tendering for projects, including firms from outside this jurisdiction, must tender on the basis of the terms of the contract that are included in the tender documents. In the case of public sector projects, the standard forms of contracts that are used include provisions requiring compliance with the Registered Employment Agreements (REAs). The National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) is responsible for enforcing REAs. Any review of the REAs would be a matter for the relevant parties to the Agreement.

Tax Code

Leo Varadkar

Question:

147 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance his plans to replace the 1% betting levy with a levy on pay-out; the amount it would raise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42844/10]

I have stated previously that it is my intention to widen, if possible, the tax base on which betting duty would be applied.

We have a situation where bets placed through one platform, namely betting shops, are subject to 1% betting duty but bets placed through other platforms are generally not. This is because bets placed either online or over the phone are generally with out-of-State companies so applying betting duty has been difficult.

This is an uneven situation and as the Minister responsible it makes sense to explore options to even-out the position. Consequently I have asked my officials, in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General, the Office of the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Justice and Law Reform, to look at the scope to overcome legal and operational difficulties in this area. I have stated previously in this House that any extension of betting duty will be applied on a fair basis and should not be perceived as an attempt to threaten jobs. Also, tax changes will be in tandem with ongoing work by the Department of Justice and Law Reform on issues surrounding licensing and regulation.

Some of the leading figures in the betting sector in Ireland have publicly stated they have no problem with extension of the betting duty once it is done in a manner that is enforceable for all and consequently does not disadvantage Irish based services.

I am endeavouring to ensure that we can put together a solution that is fair and reasonable, has a sense of balance and will not threaten jobs. In that context various proposals are being considered.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

148 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance the thresholds for payment of VAT for construction companies and contractors and if the threshold is different for different types of business or undertaking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42845/10]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

149 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance if he has given consideration to raising the threshold for VAT for construction and other contractors to discourage them from going into the grey economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42846/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 148 and 149 together.

The annual turnover threshold for VAT registration depends on the nature of the business carried on. In general, there are two thresholds: the goods threshold, which is currently €75,000, and the services threshold, which is €37,500. Where 90 per cent or more of the turnover of a person or company consists of the supply of taxable goods, that person or company must register and account for VAT on sales if the total annual turnover of the business exceeds the goods threshold. In most other cases registration is required if the annual turnover from the supply of taxable goods or taxable services exceeds the services threshold. However, a person who makes a supply of immovable goods (that is, land or buildings) has no threshold, and must register and account for VAT on all sales regardless of value.

Accordingly, a building contractor whose turnover is from the supply of construction services must register if the annual turnover of the business exceeds €37,500, whereas a property developer must register for VAT for all sales regardless of value.

With regard to raising the VAT registration thresholds for building contractors, or introducing a threshold for property developers, I would point out that the thresholds can only be increased in line with inflation, and the Irish services and goods thresholds are as high as they can be. Furthermore at €37,500, Ireland has the fourth highest threshold for services in the EU and some countries have no registration thresholds.

Informal Economy

Leo Varadkar

Question:

150 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance his views regarding the increase in persons participating in the grey or black economy; his plans regarding same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42847/10]

My Department does not produce estimates of the size of the informal economy nor of the estimated number of persons participating in such activities.

Internationally, a considerable amount of research has been undertaken in this area but, by definition, it is always difficult to quantify the scale of the informal economy.

Having said that, the Central Statistics Office in compiling estimates of national income, and in line with best international practice, makes adjustments to the figures in order to control for informal activity in some sub-sectors of the economy. This is done at a very detailed level, with the result that an overall economy-wide estimate is not available.

My colleague, Deputy Batt O'Keeffe, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation is working with the business community to lower their administrative burden and other business costs. The Budget and the Four-year plan will also examine further measures that may be taken to improve labour activation. These actions will help discourage participation in the informal economy.

Insurance Industry

Joe McHugh

Question:

151 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Finance his views on rising home insurance costs; his further views on whether house prices and house rebuilding prices should at least partially determine home insurance premiums, together with market trends; if he agrees that costs should be kept to a minimum in the interests of taxpayers and unemployed homeowners who face a tough budget this winter; if he will engage with the Financial Regulator regarding same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42875/10]

At the outset it should be noted that neither I in my role as Minister for Finance nor the Central Bank of Ireland can prohibit or restrict an insurance company from changing its annual premium rates, as this is a commercial decision for the company in question.

I am aware of increased pressure on insurance premiums in recent times particularly in the household insurance area. Much of this is due to the unprecedented level of claims which the insurance industry suffered last winter. The insurance industry estimated that between last November's flooding and the big freeze at the start of this year they have paid out about €550 million worth of claims. The industry has put the level of claims in further context by indicating that the insured cost of these two weather events exceeded the total cost of all serious weather events that have occurred in the last decade estimated at €358 million.

The question of house prices and house-rebuilding prices determining home insurance premiums is a matter between an individual householder and his or her insurance company. If a householder is of the opinion that the value of his or her house has changed when renewing cover, then it is a matter for that person to inform the company accordingly rather than the company to make this assumption and perhaps make it incorrectly. I have been informed that the Society of Chartered Surveyors have a guide to house rebuilding costs on its website, scs.ie, which anybody can use to establish what their rebuilding costs should be for insurance purposes.

As the Deputy is probably aware insurance costs must reflect the underlying risk — one of the factors which is previous claims history — because from a prudential perspective insurance companies are required by the Central Bank to meet their capital requirements on an ongoing basis in order to ensure the sustainability of their business. In these circumstances when they are exposed to higher level of claims, such as that incurred in the last 12 months, it is inevitable that their capital position will suffer and put pressure on prices. In this regard, it should be noted that the new prudential regime for insurers in the EU, known as Solvency II, which will come into force from the start of 2013 will place a greater emphasis on the need to price risk appropriately than the existing regime, and will in turn require insurance companies to be more conscious of their pricing policy. This will benefit the consumer in many instances, however in circumstances where there has been a significant increase in claims, it is likely to result in higher premiums.

The Government is of course committed to ensuring that the insurance costs in Ireland are competitive and correspond to appropriate international benchmarks. In that context the Revised Programme for Government contains a commitment to review insurance costs. It is expected that this review will commence shortly.

National Asset Management Agency

John O'Donoghue

Question:

152 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for Finance if reports in a newspaper (details supplied) to the effect that the National Asset Management Agency is making or allowing payments of up to €200,000 to certain former and present developers are true; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42877/10]

NAMA has a commercial remit to manage its portfolio of over €70 billion and it has to consider, on a case-by-case basis, the overhead costs associated with leaving a debtor in place to manage his business at an agreed salary level versus the commercial alternative of appointing an insolvency expert.

NAMA has advised that it is currently reviewing business plans for the largest 30 debtors whose loans it has acquired. Part of that process involves addressing the unsustainable and unrealistic level of debtor overheads which had been permitted by the participating institutions. As part of the debtor business plan process, NAMA has typically required debtors to reduce their business overheads by between 50% and 75%.

These reduced overheads have to cover a broad array of expenses, including salaries for relevant executives. NAMA does not specify the salary of any individual but the level of business overheads permitted by NAMA will reflect the business activity of each debtor and the requisite added value that a debtor can add in terms of achieving the financial and other targets set by NAMA.

Tax Code

Michael McGrath

Question:

153 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding a certain type of employment payment for income tax purposes (details supplied). [42890/10]

The position is that the type of employment payment referred to by the Deputy is subject to income tax. As with any employment, of whatever occupation, an employer is obliged to make the appropriate deductions of income tax, income levy, PRSI and health levy on the making of any payment of such income.

An individual's liability to tax is, of course, reduced by virtue of that individual's tax credits and allowances.

Tax Reliefs

Jack Wall

Question:

154 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance the reasons a person (details supplied) has had a tax credit deducted from their tax allowance 12 months after the Revenue Commissioners granted the credit when the person supplied an IT18 application form, and the reason the Revenue Commissioners are now seeking the person to repay €3,000 due to the error of the Commissioners in the first instance in granting the tax credit, if correct, and the action or determination the applicant must take to appeal the removal of the tax credit in the first instance and the arrears due in the second instance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42907/10]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the tax credit was granted to the person concerned on 25 September 2009 on the basis of the IT18 submitted. As part of Revenue's verification program, the claim was identified for checking and additional details were requested to support the claim. This request issued on 29 September 2009. As no reply was received to that request, in October 2010, the person concerned was advised that the credit was being withdrawn. A revised tax credit certificate for 2010 was issued on 19 October 2010, withdrawing the relief for the remainder of 2010.

In addition a PAYE Balancing Statement (P21) for the year 2009 was also issued. This statement shows an underpayment of €3,054.

A further letter has now been issued to the person concerned again requesting the details necessary to verify the claim. On receipt of a reply to that letter with the necessary supporting documentation the position will be reviewed and the relief will be restored if it is correctly due.

Flood Relief

Paul Connaughton

Question:

155 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Finance if there is a new report about to be published concerning the next phase of remedial works as a result of the severe flooding in November 2009; the funding that has been made available to Ballinasloe for current projects; the next phase of proposals for Ballinasloe and its hinterland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42933/10]

Flood Alleviation Ballinasloe, a local community group, commissioned a flood study of Ballinasloe which was recently submitted to the Office of Public Works and Galway County Council for consideration in advance of its publication. The report is currently being considered by the OPW.

To date in 2010, Galway County Council has been allocated a total of €994,700 under the Minor Flood Mitigation Works Scheme for measures in Ballinasloe town. In addition, funding totalling €136,800 was allocated to the Council under the scheme for ten projects in the Ballinasloe hinterland. The initiation and progression of projects being funded under the scheme is a matter for the Council.

It is open to the Council to submit further applications for the Ballinasloe area under the scheme during the remainder of the year. If an application is submitted by the Council that meets the relevant eligibility criteria, it will be assessed having regard to the total funding available for flood risk management.

Tax Reliefs

Michael McGrath

Question:

156 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Cork could claim tax relief for qualifying third level fees. [42952/10]

I have been informed by the Revenue Commissioners that qualifying third level fees are allowable against Irish tax liability. I understand that in the particular case referred to by the Deputy, the taxpayer is working in the United Kingdom, and is not liable to pay tax in Ireland. Any claim for tax relief must therefore be made to the UK tax authorities.

Departmental Properties

Michael Creed

Question:

157 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance if he will furnish the financial detail regarding the relocation of staff at a building (details supplied) in County Cork; to whom the vacated premises was disposed of and the consideration paid for same; if he will provide details regarding the total consideration paid for the new offices secured for these staff in Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42955/10]

In December 2004, the Commissioners of Public Works invited proposals from Property Developers in a position to provide high quality offices to facilitate the relocation of Revenue Commissioners from Sullivan's Quay. The requirement arose when the need was identified for the complete refurbishment of the existing Revenue offices at Sullivan's Quay to bring them into compliance with accommodation regulations. When it became clear that the likely cost of such a refurbishment, including temporary re-location of staff, would be prohibitive, it was agreed that acquisition of a new building, in exchange for the existing one, would provide a more cost-effective and timely solution.

The new purpose built offices in Blackpool were valued at the time at €39,136,000.00. OPW paid a monetary contribution of €19,136,000.00 and also provided the Sullivan's Quay Premises as part of the transaction. This represented exceptionally good value to the State.

Banned Substances

Joe Costello

Question:

158 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will reconsider her decision not to allow cannabis- based drugs to be used for the medical treatment of multiple sclerosis sufferers and other patients; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that such drugs are legally prescribed in other countries; if her further attention has been drawn to the fact that Irish citizens must live abroad to receive such medication; if she is satisfied that their rights as Irish citizens are protected; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42398/10]

Cannabis and cannabis based medicinal products are Schedule 1 controlled substances under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977. They are considered as having no medicinal use and their manufacture, production, preparation, sale, supply, distribution and possession is unlawful except for the purposes of research.

I am aware that claims have been made in respect of the possible health benefits of cannabis based medicinal products for patients suffering from certain conditions. I am also aware that cannabis based medicinal products may be legally prescribed in other countries.

As cannabis is the drug which is most abused in Ireland, I am reluctant to loosen the controls on its use. However, my Department is currently seeking expert advice on whether or not there is a need, from a clinical perspective, to amend the Misuse of Drugs legislation to allow for the use of cannabis based medicinal products.

Ambulance Service

Michael Kennedy

Question:

159 Deputy Michael Kennedy asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide full details of the Health Service Executive ambulance service in Swords, including the number of ambulances in current use, the hours per day of their usage, the number of staff involved in the ambulance service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42401/10]

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

Services for People with Disabilities

John Cregan

Question:

160 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children the entitlements, concessions or supports available to a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42414/10]

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.

Health Service Staff

Arthur Morgan

Question:

161 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of advanced paramedics deployed full-time in the north east Health Service Executive region and in each of the past three years; the location to which each advanced paramedic was deployed; the projected numbers of advanced paramedics to be deployed in this region for each of the next three years; the number of training places available for training to advanced paramedic level for applicants in the north east region; the frequency with which advanced paramedics are deployed to patient transport that brings them out of the region and for approximately how long on average each time; the level of cover in place in the region on such occasions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42422/10]

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

Care of the Elderly

Michael Ring

Question:

162 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if the home help service in county Mayo will be privatised [42452/10]

Michael Ring

Question:

163 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if a court injunction has been taken by the unions against the Health Service Executive West in County Mayo in regard to the recent cutbacks in the home help service and, if a court injunction has been taken, if the hours will be restored to the home help providers until the court case is held. [42453/10]

Michael Ring

Question:

164 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if a court injunction has been taken by the unions against the Health Service Executive West in County Mayo in regard to the recent cutbacks in the home help service; if the injunction is in place, whether the other home help providers in County Mayo who have lost home help hours will be given back their home help hours until this matter is resolved; if the review of the home help service in the other parts of County Mayo is still ongoing; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42454/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 162 to 164, inclusive, together.

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

Hospital Services

John O'Mahony

Question:

165 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive an appointment to have surgery; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42460/10]

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

Services for People with Disabilities

Jack Wall

Question:

166 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive an appointment for an assessment of need. [42463/10]

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.

Health Services

Róisín Shortall

Question:

167 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children on waiting lists for orthodontic assessment and for orthodontic treatment in Dublin North West; the steps taken by the Health Service Executive to reduce these waiting list; and when a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9 will receive orthodontic treatment. [42472/10]

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

Medical Cards

Jack Wall

Question:

168 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application for a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42480/10]

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Medical Aids and Appliances

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

169 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children when a prosthetic limb will be provided for a person (details supplied) who has completed the examination process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42497/10]

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.

Recognition of Professional Qualifications

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

170 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will reconsider her decision not to permit an appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) against a decision not to recognise their qualifications under Directive 2005/36/EC; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42499/10]

Directive 2005/36/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 September 2005 on the recognition of professional qualifications applies to all EEA nationals wishing to practise a regulated profession in an EEA Member State other than that in which they obtained their professional qualifications. Its intention is to make it easier for certain professionals to practise their professions in European countries other than their own but due safeguards are provided in the assessment of the qualification for public health and safety and consumer protection.

The Directive provides for member states to assess member state nationals with non-EEA qualifications under their own rules. The person whose details are supplied is an Irish national whose qualifications were not obtained in the EEA but she has been given the full benefit of the assessment regime of the Directive. For the purposes of the Directive, a regulated profession is defined as a professional activity access to which is subject, directly or indirectly, by virtue of legislative, regulatory or administrative provisions to the possession of specific professional qualifications. Where statutory registration does not exist for a profession in Ireland, non-Irish qualifications are assessed for their equivalence to the Irish entry-level qualifications required to work in the Health Service Executive. Pending the establishment of statutory registration under the Health and Social Care Professionals' Act, a health and social care professional with non-Irish qualifications is free to seek employment in the private sector without having their qualifications recognised.

Under Statutory Instruments Nos. 139 and 166 of 2008, which transpose the Directive into Irish law, the Minister for Health and Children is the Competent Authority for the profession in question. Under Regulation 23(1) of S.I. No. 139 of 2008, an applicant may appeal to the High Court any decision of a competent authority, or any failure of a competent authority to make a decision, in relation to an application by him within a period of 42 days from the date of communication of the decision. This was made clear to the person in question when a decision issued to her and the Minister has no role in such an appeal process.

The Department has put in place an administrative appeals process to facilitate applicants in avoiding the time and cost of a High Court Appeal. Such an administrative appeal must also be submitted within 42 days from the date of the decision being conveyed. Again this was indicated to the person in question when a decision issued to her. I do not intend to reconsider my decision not to allow an administrative appeal in relation to the decision on the application of the person in question as the appeal was sought well after the 42 day period for appeal. To disrespect this time frame would set an undesirable precedent, be unfair to applicants who respect the process and create administrative uncertainty in the Validation Unit of my Department where more than 1000 applications are processed annually.

Services for People with Disabilities

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

171 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will arrange for a person (details supplied) in County Cork to be assessed. [42500/10]

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.

Infectious Diseases

Terence Flanagan

Question:

172 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will deal with a matter (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42506/10]

Guidelines on the Prevention and Control of Tuberculosis in Ireland were published in April 2010 by the Health Service Executive on behalf of the National TB Advisory Committee. They recommend that all new entrants to Ireland who originate from a country with a high incidence of tuberculosis (= 40 TB cases per 100,000 population notified per year) and who will be spending at least three months in Ireland should be provided with an opportunity to be screened for Tuberculosis (TB). Screening is undertaken on a voluntary basis. The introduction of mandatory health screening is not being considered at this time. Healthcare professionals are advised to be vigilant for the symptoms of TB in persons from countries with high TB notification rates.

Adoption Services

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

173 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children the position of parents seeking to adopt a child through one of the adoption agencies (details supplied) whose legal status now appears uncertain. [42537/10]

Firstly I want to emphasise that the contention included in recent media coverage on this matter that adoption agencies, babies in hospital or in care and prospective adoptive parents will be "left in limbo" as a result of the Adoption Act 2010 is incorrect, nor is there any doubt about the legal status of agencies.

Accredited bodies — organisations delivering adoption services — must comply with the terms of the 2010 Act. This legislation ends the practice whereby a single adoption agency could provide the full range of adoption services, from pre-birth counselling to post birth placement with prospective parents. This was a very clear policy decision taken to avoid the obvious conflicts that could arise. This decision was communicated to the agencies involved on several occasions over the course of the past 12 months. Each agency needs to decide what services it wishes to deliver and apply to the Adoption Authority for accreditation.

The HSE already provides a wide range of adoption services and can if necessary take over cases if an agency decides not to deliver the particular service involved. I can assure the House that any hand-over that might arise will be handled sensitively and that no-one will be left without service, nor will anyone have to go back to the beginning of the process.

Medical Cards

Jack Wall

Question:

174 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding renewal of a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied). [42538/10]

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Children in Care

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

175 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 157 of 11 May 2010, the position regarding a matter (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42541/10]

The work of the Independent Review Group on Child Deaths is ongoing. The HSE has transferred files regarding the deaths of children in care over the last ten years. I would expect that the case referred to by the Deputy will be included as part of the validated list to be supplied to the Review Group. The Group is not in a position to answer queries related to individual cases, however I understand that the Review Group has been in contact with the family of the individual concerned since the previous PQ and may do so again in the future.

Hospital Services

Noel Ahern

Question:

176 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Health and Children the situation regarding the provision of MRI scans and if they are provided free as part of the general medical services to inpatients and outpatients; the number of MRI scans that took place in the past year or any recent year for which data is available; if she will provide details of the waiting list for MRI scans in each of the individual Dublin hospitals; if the National Treatment Purchase Fund is dealing with the backlog of MRI scans; if any innovative scheme such as part payment by the client has been considered in cases of severe waiting lists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42543/10]

Under the current eligibility framework, there is no charge for MRI scans provided to public patients in public hospitals. However, the Minister has approved the application of charges to private patients receiving MRI services in approved public hospitals. The Health Service Executive is responsible for the management of patient data in relation to MRI scans and I have forwarded the Deputy's queries on this matter to the Executive.

The National Treatment Purchase Fund, by the end of 2010, will have facilitated over 13,000 MRIs and ultrasound diagnostic procedures since 2006. Hospitals refer patients to the Fund and this arrangement is aimed at those patients who have been waiting longest. The Fund's annual figures are set out in the table.

Year

Number

2006

1,928

2007

2,300

2008

3,098

2009

2,513

2010

3,500 (projection)

Total

13,339

Voluntary Sector Funding

Shane McEntee

Question:

177 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Health and Children if the health service would be in a position to fund the support service (details supplied) and, if so, when funding will be available. [42552/10]

Earlier this year I was happy to approve a grant of almost €172,000 from my Department's 2010 allocation of National Lottery funds to the organisation referred to by the Deputy. I agree that it is very important to ensure that appropriate counselling is available to all those that the organisation supports and both I and the HSE are anxious that all former patients of the consultant are made aware of the free counselling support that is available.

The HSE has made arrangements for counselling support, using the National Counselling Service, which provides individual, couple, family, group and psychosexual counselling. Persons affected by these issues, but who do not wish to avail of counselling can also speak with a psychologist or counsellor in confidence. The need for additional support will be continuously monitored by the HSE. The HSE has assigned co-ordinating responsibility for these matters to the Area Manager for Consumer Affairs in the North East who will continue to liaise as required with former patients and support groups.

Mental Health Services

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

178 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide details of the provision of mental health services for 16 and 17 year olds in north Dublin; if she will enhance adolescent mental health services in this region given that there is just one six-bed unit available for the provision of mental health services for 16 and 17 year olds for a region stretching from north Dublin to Cavan and Monaghan; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that 16 and 17 year olds in need of specialist emergency psychiatric care are spending days in the emergency department of Beaumont Hospital because there are no other facilities available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42583/10]

Terence Flanagan

Question:

191 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a matter (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42802/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 178 and 191 together.

‘A Vision for Change' — the Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy — acknowledges gaps in the current provision of services for children and adolescents and makes several recommendations for the further improvement of such services. In these circumstances, I welcome the fact that the HSE has prioritised the development of mental health services for children and adolescents. In relation to the availability of dedicated in-patient beds for children and adolescents, the position is that during 2009 bed capacity almost doubled, bringing the total number of in-patient beds to 30. Capacity will further increase this year with the commissioning of two purpose built 20-bed units in Bessboro, Cork and Merlin Park, Galway, and plans are at an advanced stage for the development of a further 6 beds at St Vincent's, Fairview and 4 beds at Warrenstown.

In relation to the delivery of mental health services to 16-17 year olds, as this is a service matter, the question has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Medical Cards

Joe Behan

Question:

179 Deputy Joe Behan asked the Minister for Health and Children the eligibility criteria for free medical care and medical card for citizens of the UK who have been ordinarily resident in Ireland for more than 25 years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42586/10]

Under the Health Acts, eligibility for health services is based on residency and means. Determination of eligibility is the responsibility of the HSE. Any person, regardless of nationality, who is accepted by the HSE as being ordinarily resident in Ireland is entitled to either full eligibility (medical card holders) or limited eligibility for health services.

Regulation (EC) 883/2004 deals with the coordination of social security, including health care, for those moving within the European Union. Under its provisions, persons residing in Ireland who are attached to the social security system of another member state, are entitled to receive health care services in Ireland at the cost of that member state provided they are not subject to Irish social security legislation. Persons in this category are entitled to full eligibility and receive a medical card as evidence of their entitlement.

Health Services

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

180 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 155 of 5 October 2010 concerning the denial of social assistance to migrant women facing domestic abuse and the Health Service Executive’s reply, which indicated that repatriation would be an option, if she will guarantee that repatriation is only considered an option where it is the clear and expressed wish of the woman in question, that no subtle or direct pressure is applied on women to take this option rather than being given assistance, and that no woman suffering domestic abuse will ever be placed in the position of having to be repatriated because assistance has been denied for failure to meet the habitual residence condition. [42614/10]

I wish to inform the Deputy that the issue of repatriation is dealt with by Repatriation Division, Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, Department of Justice and Law Reform and as such the deputy should direct his question to the Minister for Justice and Law Reform.

Finian McGrath

Question:

181 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support a matter (details supplied). [42747/10]

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.

Departmental Bodies

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

182 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children the differences in the roles of the National Social Work Qualifications Board and the Social Workers Registration Board; if she will outline any remuneration and expenses received by each member of both boards in the years 2007, 2008, 2009 and to date in 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42749/10]

The National Social Work Qualifications Board (NSWQB) was established in 1997 under the Health (Corporate Bodies) Act 1961 and is the designated authority for the profession of social work in Ireland. As the Irish recognition authority for social work qualifications, the main functions of the NSWQB include the following:

awarding the professional social work qualification in Ireland, the National Qualification in Social Work (NQSW), to persons who have successfully completed a recognised course;

accrediting course that lead to the NQSW;

accrediting holders of non-national qualifications who wish to work in Ireland as professional social workers, when candidates meet the criteria.

The Health and Social Care Professionals Council (HSCPC) was established in March 2007 to implement the Health and Social Care Professional Act 2005. The Act provides for the establishment of a system of statutory registration for twelve health and social care professionals, including social workers, will apply to the twelve professions regardless of whether they work in the public or private sector or are self-employed and is the first time that fitness to practice procedures will be put in place for these professions on a statutory basis. The structure of the system of statutory registration will comprise a registration board for each of the professions to be registered, a Health and Social Care Professionals Council with overall responsibility for the regulatory system and a committee structure to deal with disciplinary matters.

The first registration board under the Council, the Social Workers Registration Board, has recently been established. Under the 2005 Act, the Social Workers Registration Board is charged with establishing statutory registration for all social workers. The object of the registration board of each designated profession in the 2005 Act is to protect the public by fostering high standards of professional conduct and professional education, training and competence among registrants of that profession. The functions of the registration board of a designated profession are to:

establish and maintain a register of members of the designated profession;

issue certificates of registration under section 41;

give guidance to registrants concerning ethical conduct and give guidance and support to them concerning the practice of the designated profession and continuing professional development;

monitor, in accordance with section 49, the continuing suitability of programmes approved by the board for the education and training of applicants for registration, and

make recommendations under part 6 with respect to sanctions to be imposed on the designated profession.

The Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 provides for the subsuming of the National Social Work Qualifications Board into the Health and Social Care Professionals Council. The appointment of the Social Workers Registration Board will now allow for the dissolution of the National Social Work Qualifications Board in advance of the associated Social Workers Register opening to accept receipt of registrants in the profession in 2011.

With regard to the remuneration and expenses received by members of both boards, no such expenses have been paid to members of the Social Workers Registration Board. Information regarding the remuneration and expenses received by board members of the NSWQB is currently being collated and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

183 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children the role of the Poisons Council; the number of times she has met the council for advice in each of the years 2006 to date in 2010, inclusive; the remuneration or expenses awarded to members of the council in each of those years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42751/10]

The role of Comhairle na Nimheanna (The Poisons Council) is to provide advice to me or my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, in relation to any Regulations made under the Poisons Act and on any other matter in relation to poisons, their manufacture, storage, transport, distribution, sale or use.

The Council meets only as required and its last meeting was held on 11th March 2008 to discuss the making of the Poisons Regulations 2008. The Council does not employ staff and its members do not receive any remuneration. A total of €564.60 was paid in expenses to members who attended the last meeting. No other payments have been made during the years in question. I have not met with the Poisons Council during the years in question.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

184 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children the role of the Advisory Committee for Human Medicines; the number of times the committee has met in each of the years 2006 to date in 2010, inclusive; the remuneration or expenses awarded to committee members in each of those years; if she will outline any funding allocated to the committee in each of those years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42758/10]

The Advisory Committee for Human Medicines (ACHM) assists and advises the Board of the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) in relation to any matters pertaining to public health or the safety, quality or efficacy of medicinal products for human use which may be referred to it by the Board. The Committee advises the Board on matters relating to the proposed refusal to grant a licence or authorisation in respect of a medicinal product or class of medicinal products, or the manufacture or wholesale of a medicinal product or class of medicinal products for human use, on any grounds relating to the safety, quality or efficacy of the product. The Committee also advises the staff of the IMB on matters of public health, safety, quality or efficacy, relating to medicinal products for human use which are referred to the Committee.

Members of the ACHM are not paid a salary for sitting on the Committee. No exchequer funding is allocated to the Committee. The number of times the Committee has met and the expenses paid to Committee members by the IMB out of its own resources is outlined in the table below.

No. of meetings

Expenses

2006

3

1,646

2007

5

3,133

2008

4

4,003

2009

3

3,295

2010

3 so far, 1 more to be held on November 25

3,469

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

185 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children the role of the Advisory Committee for Veterinary Medicines; the number of times the committee has met in each of the years 2006 to date in 2010, inclusive; the remuneration or expenses awarded to committee members in each of those years; if she will outline any funding allocated to the committee in each of those years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42759/10]

The Advisory Committee for Veterinary Medicines assists and advises the Board of the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) in relation to any matters pertaining to public health, safety, quality or efficacy of medicinal products for veterinary use which may be referred to it by the Board. The Committee advises the Board on matters relating to the proposed refusal to grant a licence or authorisation in respect of a medicinal product or class of medicinal products, or the manufacture of a medicinal product or class of medicinal products for veterinary use, on any ground relating to the safety, quality or efficacy of the product. The Committee also advises the staff of the IMB on matters of public health, safety, quality or efficacy relating to medicinal products for veterinary use which are referred to the Committee.

Members of the ACVM are not paid a salary for sitting on the Committee. No exchequer funding is allocated to the Committee. The number of times the Committee has met and the expenses paid to Committee members by the IMB out of its own resources is outlined in the following table.

No. of meetings

Expenses

2006

5

5,172

2007

4

3,027

2008

3

3,363

2009

3

913

2010

2 so far, 1 more to be held on November 24

1,237

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

186 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children the role of the Children’s Act Advisory Board; the remuneration or expenses awarded to board members in the years 2006 to date in 2010, inclusive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42760/10]

The Children Acts Advisory Board (CAAB) was established in 2007. Section 227 of the Children Act, 2001, as amended, sets out the functions of the Board, as follows:

(a) on request advise the Ministers on policy issues relating to the co-ordinated delivery of services under this Act and the Act of 1991 (including residential accommodation and support services to children detained in children detention schools and special care units),

(b) publish guidance on the qualifications, criteria for appointment, training and role of any guardian ad litem appointed for children in proceedings under the Act of 1991,

(c) in consultation with the Health Service Executive, prepare and publish criteria for the admission to and discharge from special care units of children subject to special care and interim special care orders,

(d) subject to subsection (6) of section 29 (as amended by section 3 of the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2007) of the Act of 1991, authorise in writing a class or classes of persons representing the Board to prepare reports referred to in, and for the purposes of, subsection (5) of that section 29,

(e) give its views on any proposal of the Health Service Executive, pursuant to section 23A(2)(b) (inserted by section 16 of this Act), to apply for a special care order under Part IVA of the Act of 1991,

(f) using published sources, report on the level and nature of residential accommodation and support services to children detained in children detention schools and special care units,

(g) promote enhanced inter-agency co-operation (including the sharing of information) under this Act and the Act of 1991,

(h) promote, organise or take part in meetings, seminars, conferences, lectures or demonstrations (whether in the State or elsewhere) in relation to its functions set out in paragraphs (a) to (g), and

(i) conduct or commission research, and collect, maintain, research and evaluate statistics and other data, relating to its functions set out in paragraphs (a) to (h).

2. The Act provides for a Board comprising 12 persons. I am advised that fees paid to board members in the period 2008 to date are as follows:

2008 — €54,000. Paid in respect of years 2007 & 2008 at the rate of €9,000 per annum per person for 3 board members.

2009 — €24,300. Paid in respect of year 2009 at the rate of €8,100 per annum per person for 3 board members.

2010 — €23,085. Paid in respect of year 2010 at the rate of €7,695 per annum per person for 3 board members.

Expenses paid to board members in the period 2007 to date are as follows:

2007 — €13,972.20;

2008 — €6,257.50;

2009 — €2,660.90;

2010 — €580.70.

In October 2008 a decision was made by Government to subsume the functions of the Children Acts Advisory Board (CAAB) into the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. This is provided for under the Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2009 which recently passed Committee Stage in Dáil Eireann. The Bill is due to complete its passage through the Oireachtas shortly.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

187 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children the role of the Health Research Board; the expenses and remuneration awarded to each individual board member in the years 2006 to date in 2010, inclusive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42761/10]

The Health Research Board (HRB) is a statutory body under the aegis of the Department of Health and Children with a mission:-

(a) to promote, assist, commission or conduct health research to improve health and increase the effectiveness of the health services;

(b) to maintain, develop or support health information systems for the purposes of research and to provide the evidence for health policy and services;

(c) to liaise and cooperate with other research bodies in the State and outside the State in the promotion, commissioning or conduct of relevant research; and

(d) to liaise and cooperate with other information bodies in the State and where appropriate outside the State in the development and support of health information systems.

No fees or expenses were paid to any board member in 2006 or 2007. In 2008, four board members received fees of €13,875 (including arrears) and one member received €18,500 (including arrears). Expenses of approximately €225 were paid to one board member in 2008. In 2009, three members received fees of €8,400 and one member received €16,150 (including arrears). No expenses were paid to any member of the board in 2009. In 2010 (to date), three individual members have received fees of approximately €10,000, €6,500 and €3,500 respectively. One board member received expenses of €3,600 to date in 2010.

Medical Cards

John McGuinness

Question:

188 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if an application for a medical card will be expedited and approved in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [42763/10]

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

189 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application for a medical card in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42766/10]

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

Nursing Home Subventions

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

190 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when nursing home subvention will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42767/10]

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

Question No. 191 answered with Question No. 178.

Health Services

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

192 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of beds contracted by the Health Service Executive for the purpose of long-term residential care; if she could provide a breakdown of these contract beds by type of long-term residential care; if she will provide a breakdown of fees paid to providers of residential care under this scheme; the average annual cost of a bed under this scheme; the average length of stay in each contract bed broken down by type of long-term residential care service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42808/10]

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

Mental Health Services

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

193 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons under 18 years in adult psychiatric units; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42811/10]

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

Nursing Homes Support Scheme

Pat Breen

Question:

194 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. [42820/10]

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

Ambulance Service

Margaret Conlon

Question:

195 Deputy Margaret Conlon asked the Minister for Health and Children if the ambulance base in Monaghan will have access to services at the new hospital that is currently under construction in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42857/10]

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

Hospital Services

Margaret Conlon

Question:

196 Deputy Margaret Conlon asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Irish Government has made any financial contribution to the new radiotherapy unit in Altnagelvin Hospital, Derry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42858/10]

The Business Case for the development of the Altnagelvin Centre has now been finalised and is under consideration by Minister McGimpsey. My Department and the HSE's National Cancer Control Programme have nominated representatives to the Cross Border Sub Group, the Project Board and the Service Design and Workforce Planning Subgroup for the development. I have committed to providing a capital contribution to the development, in recognition of the fact that approximately one third of the patients who will attend the Altnagelvin Centre will be from Donegal and the surrounding areas. In addition, the Health Service Executive's National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) will contribute on an agreed basis to the operating costs in respect of patients from the Republic of Ireland who attend this service.

Health Services

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

197 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist in a specific application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [42916/10]

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

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

198 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children the residential facilities available in County Meath for persons with traumatic brain injury; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42928/10]

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.

Medical Cards

John McGuinness

Question:

199 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will expedite approval of a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [42936/10]

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

John McGuinness

Question:

200 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if a medical card will be issued to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [42937/10]

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

Hospital Services

John McGuinness

Question:

201 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 271 of 6 July 2010, the reason an assessment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny was cancelled until 2011; if the assessment can be arranged earlier at another location in view of the urgency of the case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42942/10]

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

Health Service Staff

Michael Ring

Question:

202 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether there is a health and safety issue for residents (details supplied) when no replacement was provided for a nurse in view of the fact that the residents live on an island. [42945/10]

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

Michael Ring

Question:

203 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if a nurse (details supplied) who is currently on sick leave will be replaced. [42947/10]

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

Nursing Homes Support Scheme

Michael Creed

Question:

204 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will clarify the State’s obligation regarding the entitlement of citizens to private nursing home care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42957/10]

The Nursing Homes Support Scheme is a new system of financial support for people in need of long-term nursing home care. The scheme applies to both public and private nursing homes. In the case of private nursing homes, the scheme replaces the previous nursing home subvention scheme (although people who were in receipt of subvention prior to the introduction of the new scheme can choose to retain it or transfer to the new scheme).

Anyone who is ordinarily resident in the State and who has been assessed as needing long-term nursing home care is entitled to apply for financial support under the Nursing Homes Support Scheme.

The objectives of the scheme are to equalise the level of State support available for public and private nursing home care and to ensure that such care is affordable for all who need it.

Under the scheme, the level of financial support payable to each individual is calculated based on a standardised means test. Each person makes a contribution towards their care based on ability to pay and the State meets the full balance of the cost of care. A person can choose their nursing home and will make the same contribution towards their cost of care regardless of whether they enter a public or private nursing home.

The scheme is budget-capped. A dedicated subhead was established for the purposes of the scheme (subhead B12 in Vote 40 refers). This is managed centrally within the HSE and funding is allocated to qualifying individuals on a ‘first come, first served' basis.

An additional €97 million was provided for the Nursing Homes Support Scheme in Budget 2010. The additional funding brings the total budget for long-term residential care in 2010 to €979 million. This is effectively the budget for the Nursing Homes Support Scheme albeit that transitional arrangements must also be facilitated from within the subhead, i.e. people in contract beds or people who choose to remain on subvention.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme

David Stanton

Question:

205 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 284 of 9 February 2010, the number of claims concluded and repayments issued respectively under the Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006 to date; the number of cases in which funds have been deposited into patient private property accounts and the amounts deposited respectively; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43031/10]

The Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the Health Repayment Scheme in conjunction with the appointed scheme administrator KPMG accountants and McCann Fitzgerald solicitors.

A total of 35,406 claims have been received for the scheme. Just under 35,400 or 99.9 % of all claims have been concluded. To date nearly 19,500 repayments of charges to the value of €438m have been processed under the Scheme. This includes 4,515 repayments deposited to patient private property accounts valued at €116m. The remaining claims are being progressed currently and it is expected that these will be finalised very shortly.

David Stanton

Question:

206 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 41 of 11 February 2010, if moneys lodged to a patient’s private property account can be accessed by the Health Service Executive for use for the benefit of that patient; if other representatives such as parents of the patient can apply for access to moneys in the patient’s private property account to purchase equipment or health or other services for the patient; if so, the way this can be done; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43032/10]

Under the Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006, a relevant person or a connected person as defined in the Act was entitled to apply for a repayment under the scheme.

A relevant person is a person who was charged and paid recoverable health charges.

A connected person includes the following:

(a) a person who has been nominated in writing by the relevant person

(b) the Registrar of Wards of Court if the relevant person is a ward of court,

(c) a person with an enduring power of attorney in respect of the relevant person,

(d) a next friend appointed by a court,

(e) the HSE if none of the aforementioned is applicable to the relevant person, and the relevant person is unable to make an application due to a physical or mental disability or ill-health,

(f) a living spouse or living child of the relevant person who has paid recoverable health charges on behalf of the relevant person.

In regard to patients in the care of the HSE who were deemed by a medical practitioner not to have sufficient mental capacity to understand the scheme and for whom there was no other connected person as defined in the legislation, the HSE made application to the Scheme Administrator for a repayment on their behalf. As provided for in the legislation, all such payments made in respect of HSE applications were lodged to the patient's own private property account. The legislation also provides that an application may be made to a judge of the Circuit Court for the repayment to be made otherwise than to the patient's private property account.

Where monies have been lodged to a patient's private property account, the HSE ensures that this money is used only for the benefit of the patient. All funds held in a patient's private property account are the property of that patient and are retained for the exclusive use of the patient. The HSE is always happy to involve interested family members in the management of each patient's finances, so as to ensure that the patient's available funds are used to best effect in providing benefit to the patient concerned.

David Stanton

Question:

207 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 41 of 11 February 2010 regarding moneys lodged to a patient’s private property account, if these moneys transfer to the patient’s next of kin in the event of the death of a patient; if not, to whom any such moneys would transfer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43033/10]

Funds of a deceased patient are passed to the patient's Legal Personal Representative for them to administer the estate of the deceased faithfully according to the law.

This question is addressed at length in the Patients Private Property Guidelines which sets out the procedures to be followed in operating these Patient Private Property accounts.

Health Services

Olwyn Enright

Question:

208 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the funding being provided to a person (details supplied) for both respite and day care services; the reason for the reduction in this person’s respite care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43049/10]

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.

Finian McGrath

Question:

209 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 17. [43050/10]

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

Penalty Points System

Seymour Crawford

Question:

210 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Transport the progress, if any, that has been made with the Northern Ireland and UK authorities regarding the problems of speeding and other activities where penalty points should be applicable either north or south of the Border so as to minimise the risks of accident and death especially along the motorways; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42827/10]

Bilateral arrangements between the UK and Ireland, under Article 15.4 of the 1998 EU Convention on driving disqualifications, came into operation on 28th January 2010. These arrangements relate to disqualifications arising from a range of traffic offences. Now that the mutual recognition of driving disqualifications is in place, a project plan will be developed to pursue the mutual recognition of penalty points, between this country, Northern Ireland and the UK.

Unlike driving disqualifications, there is no agreed international framework dealing with the recognition of penalty points for driving offences and a very significant volume of work needs to be done to, among other things

provide an appropriate framework of law and international agreement

put in place the necessary administrative systems, involving the development, implementation and operation of computer systems; and

overcome the practical difficulties arising from the differences in the penalty points systems in the UK and Ireland.

Officials from all three jurisdictions will continue to work towards next steps regarding this longer-term project.

However, as there is no mutual recognition of penalty points at present between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, there is a need to address the aggregation of such penalty points in the overall context of a move towards the mutual recognition of penalty points between the UK and Ireland.

National Car Test

David Stanton

Question:

211 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Transport if he is satisfied the Road Safety Authority is taking all necessary action to address the ongoing problems with online booking and availability of test times in the national car test system; if he has received figures or updates from the Road Safety Authority in relation to the backlog of appointments or the average waiting times in different test centres across the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42384/10]

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 477 of 2006) vehicle testing arrangements are matters for the Road Safety Authority (RSA). There is regular and ongoing contact between the Road Safety Authority and my Department in regard to the National Car Testing (NCT) Service. My Department receives reports from time to time in relation to the delivery and operation of the service. I understand that NCT has taken a number of steps to increase capacity to meet the substantial increase in demand in the early part of the year due to car owners wishing to become compliant early because of my introduction of penalty points last year for failure to display a valid NCT certificate. Additional staff have been employed, some test centres have increased opening hours to include evenings and weekends and two new test centres have opened in Carndonagh, Co Donegal and Greenhills in Tallaght. A new test centre is planned for Ballinasloe and the test centres at Arklow, Waterford and Portlaoise are being extended.

During the period November 1 to November 7 2010, 99% of those applying for a test received a date within 30 days. At this stage of the year any backlog has been cleared and NCT are encouraging car owners due a test in the early part of 2011 to come forward for test before year end.

The RSA continues to monitor the position regarding demand for car testing and testing arrangements and I am satisfied that the RSA is taking action as appropriate.

Transport Plans

Joe Costello

Question:

212 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the concerns of the Dundalk retailers association regarding the pedestrian, parking and transport plans for the town centre, if he will ensure that the DRA is consulted regarding the plans prior to any final decision being made; the amount of money involved in the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42388/10]

I take it that the Deputy is referring to issues raised by some retailers in the context of the bid submitted to my Department by Dundalk Town Council as part of the Smarter Travel Areas Competition. As no decision has yet been announced in relation to that competition it would not be appropriate for me to comment on any of the applications.

Taxi Regulations

Sean Sherlock

Question:

213 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport if he will meet with a group (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42519/10]

I am conscious of the challenges facing the taxi industry and, indeed, all sectors of society in the current difficult economic circumstances. However as the deputy will be aware the Commission for Taxi Regulation is the independent public body responsible for taxi regulation under the Taxi Regulation Act 2003, which includes the day-to-day regulation of the taxi industry. In the circumstances I do not consider that a meeting with the Irish Taxi Council is appropriate or necessary.

Departmental Bodies

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

214 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Transport the number of times the Railway Safety Advisory Council has met in each of the years 2007, 2008, 2009 and to date in 2010; the role of the council in the aftermath of the Malahide viaduct collapse; the remuneration and expenses awarded to each board member in each of the years 2007, 2008, 2009 and to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42750/10]

The Railway Safety Advisory Council met once in the years 2007, 2008 and 2009. I expect the Council will meet shortly under its recently appointed Chairman, Mr. John Power, Director General, Engineers Ireland. The function of the Council, as set out in the Railway Safety Act 2005, is to consider issues relevant to railway safety and to make recommendations, as appropriate, to the Commission or to the Minister.

In accordance with the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No.2) Act, 2009 ,the per diem fee payable to the Chair of RSAC is €712.50, subject to an annual limit of €9,262.50. No remuneration was paid to the Chairman or indeed any member of the Board in 2007, 2008, 2009 or to date in 2010. No expenses were paid in 2007, 2009 or to date in 2010. An amount of €415.83 in respect of the expenses of one member was paid in 2008.

Rail Network

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

215 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the amount of money spent on the Limerick-Nenagh-Ballybrophy rail line on track renewal and improvements for each year over the past ten years; if a cost benefit analysis has been carried out in terms of the proposed closure of this critical line vis-à-vis the money that has been spent on improving the line over the past few years and in conjunction with an enhanced marketing campaign will clearly attract more passengers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42927/10]

The Deputy will be aware that the approval of the National Transport Authority (NTA) is required before any Public Service Obligation (PSO) funded service, such as that on the Limerick — Nenagh — Ballybrophy line, can be discontinued. I am advised by the NTA that no such request has been received. The amount of money that is spent on individual rail lines including the Limerick-Nenagh-Ballybrophy rail line, in relation to track renewal and improvements as well as marketing campaigns is a matter for Iarnród Eireann. I have therefore asked the Company to compile and forward the information sought directly to the Deputy.

Airport Charges

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

216 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the way the various charges applicable at the various airports throughout the country compare with each other and in comparison with neighbouring and EU jurisdictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42978/10]

As I have previously informed the Deputy, the Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) regulates airport charges levied at Dublin Airport. Airport charges at Cork and Shannon Airports are set by the relevant airport authority while charges at the six regional airports, which are owned and operated independently, are a matter for each airport concerned. In relation to comparative charges at other airports in Europe, I understand that a number of relevant benchmarking studies have been conducted or referenced by the Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR). The most recent report, conducted by Indecon-Jacobs during the 2009 regulatory determination process, demonstrated that the operating costs per passenger at Dublin Airport were the second lowest of the sample of comparator airports in Europe in 2008.

Other reports have consistently demonstrated that charges at Dublin Airport are amongst the lowest of comparable airports in Europe. For example in 2008 Airports Council International, the representative body for Airports worldwide, identified Dublin as having the lowest airport charges among the top 20 airports in Europe and preliminary results for the 2009 survey show a similar position. Finally, the annual Airport Charges Monitor, published by the air transport consultancy RDC Aviation, which measures the top 50 airports in Europe, consistently shows that Dublin Airport is well below average with respect to airport charges. In the 2009 survey, Dublin is ranked 39th cheapest in terms of the level of airport charges for common short-haul aircraft operations. I understand from the DAA that charges at Cork and Shannon also compare favourably with European benchmarks.

Road Safety

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

217 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the total budget set aside for road safety in each of the past three years and to date in 2010; his intentions in this regard for 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42982/10]

The Revised Estimates Volume (REV) sets out the annual budget for all Departments. The following amounts, as published in the REV, were provided to road safety agencies (Road Safety Authority and the Medical Bureau of Road Safety) in recent years under Subhead B3 of the Transport Vote: 2007 — €37.035 million.

2008 — €44.152 million; 2009 — €37.198 million; 2010 — €33.303 million.

Local Authorities are also granted specific funds for low cost safety improvement schemes from my Department's Vote. For the years in question, the following amounts were provided for these schemes under Subhead B1: 2007 — €6.4 million; 2008 — €7.2 million; 2009 — €5.9 million; 2010 — €6.3 million. Indications are that all the relevant funding for 2010 will be drawn down by the end of the year.

In addition, the National Roads Authority (NRA) also allocates funding to low cost remedial safety improvements and high cost safety improvements. Under Section 17 of the Roads Act 1993, the responsibility for dispersal of these funds rests with the NRA and they do not report specifically on such expenditure. The road safety budget for next year will be considered as part of the Estimates process for 2011.

Penalty Points System

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

218 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the total number of drivers who currently have penalty points; the number of drivers who have had to re-sit driving tests arising from application of the maximum number of penalty points; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42984/10]

The records of my Department's National Vehicle and Driver File (NVDF) indicate that 683,261 drivers currently have penalty points. Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 477 of 2006) responsibility for the driver testing function lies with the Road Safety Authority.

Departmental Expenditure

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

219 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which the capital programme for his Department is likely to be used to generate economic activity with particular reference to the current climate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42985/10]

It is widely recognised that investment in transport infrastructure projects contributes to our economic growth. All transport projects are subject to cost benefit analyses, which must clearly demonstrate the returns and value for money of the investment. The Review of Infrastructure Investment Priorities for the years 2010-2016, which was published by the Department of Finance in July 2010, acknowledges the importance of further targeted investment in transport, stating that it has the potential to unlock productive capacity in the economy and enhance national competitiveness.

Estimates of the labour intensity of investment in transport infrastructure across the public transport and roads sectors are in the range of eight to twelve jobs created per €1 million invested. Having regard to the above, transport investment is targeted in the Capital Review published in July to continue to be the largest capital programme in the years up to 2016.

Road Safety

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

220 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if he will indicate, on a county basis, the number of accident blackspots at which five or more fatalities have occurred in the past 20 years. [42986/10]

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 477 of 2006) responsibility for the collection of structured information on road collisions lies with the Road Safety Authority. Road fatalities and road collision statistics are available on the Road Safety Authority's website www.rsa.ie.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

221 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 50 of 28 October 2010, where the extra 22 intoxilysers will be placed on a county basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42562/10]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that an additional 22 intoxilyser devices have been requested from the Medical Bureau of Road Safety for installation in the following Garda Divisions:

Division

No. of Intoxilysers

DMR West

2

DMR North

1

Laois/Offaly

1

Meath

1

Kildare

3

Clare

1

Cork City

1

Kerry

1

Cork North

1

Sligo/Leitrim

2

Donegal

1

Cavan/Monaghan

2

Wexford

2

Tipperary

3

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

222 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 50 of 28 October 2010, the length of the detailed training programme for the Garda Síochána in the use of the instruments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42926/10]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that training is provided on an ongoing basis by the Director of Training through the continuous professional developments schools in every Garda Division. This includes training for members of An Garda Síochána as operators of the equipment used for evidential breath testing. The length of this training is kept under review and is currently of half a day's duration.

Asylum Applications

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

223 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 has not heard from the Department in more than three years on an application; the reason for the delay in assessing their application and the failure to keep them abreast of the process. [42436/10]

Arising from the refusal of his asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 20 June 2007, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006.

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

I would advise the Deputy that it is practice in my Department, where a legal representative is on record, to correspond with that legal representative and not the person concerned, unless correspondence is received directly from that person. I should remind the Deputy that queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by Email using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. The service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek this information through the more administratively expensive Parliamentary Questions process.

Citizenship Applications

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

224 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the reason for the delay in granting citizenship to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12; the reason citizenship was refused in a previous application and the further reason they have not heard anything since they have applied in 2007. [42437/10]

At the outset, I should point out that the legislation governing naturalisation does not provide an inherent right to any applicant to a grant of naturalisation on foot of their application. In December 2006, the person concerned was advised by letter — which also set out the reasons — that his application for naturalisation was not successful. In December 2007, a fresh application was received from him.

The application is currently being processed in the normal way with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision in due course. I should remind the Deputy that queries in relation to the status of individual Immigration cases may be made direct to INIS by Email using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. The service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek this information through the more administratively expensive Parliamentary Questions process.

Visa Applications

Phil Hogan

Question:

225 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform when an application for a stamp 4 visa will be processed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42445/10]

I wish to inform the Deputy that the person concerned applied for permission to reside in the State based on his parentage of an Irish born child. This application was refused because he was not resident in the State at the time of his application.

The person concerned subsequently entered the State in September 2008 and was granted permission to remain for 90 days on Stamp 3 conditions, as a spousal dependant, up to 14 December 2008. He sought an extension of this permission in November 2008 and again in January 2009 and was requested to provide documentation regarding his finances and future intentions in the State. Some documentation was supplied by the person concerned in January 2010 but was insufficient to prove his ongoing residence in the State and further documents were requested in April 2010. To date the person concerned has not responded to this request and I would advise that he do so as soon as possible given that he is currently in the State without permission.

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

Residency Permits

Jackie Healy-Rae

Question:

226 Deputy Jackie Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the reason Irish citizens in a proven relationship with a non-EU citizen have to pay a fee to remain in the State under the de facto relationship clause, however, if an EU citizen from any country within the EU zone applied for permission to remain in Ireland under the de facto relationship clause the fee is waived; his plans to correct this anomaly as it is discriminates against Irish citizens; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42447/10]

Jackie Healy-Rae

Question:

227 Deputy Jackie Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will add non-married de facto partners of Irish citizens to the wavier list SI 336 of 2008 on EU treaty rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42448/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 226 and 227 together.

The Immigation Act, 2004 (Registration Certificate Fee) Regulations 2008, SI 336 of 2008, sets out the fee payable for obtaining a certificate of registration under the Immigration Act, 2004 and the categories of persons for whom no fee is applicable.

The fee charged and the categories of persons for whom no fee is applicable are being reviewed at the present time and I have noted the matters raised in the Deputy's questions in this regard.

Citizenship Applications

Terence Flanagan

Question:

228 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will deal with a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42456/10]

A valid application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in September 2008.

All valid applications are dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants. The average processing time from application to decision is now at 26 months. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average, while an element of straight forward cases can be dealt with in less than that timescale.

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

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

Courts Service

David Stanton

Question:

229 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the way in which the Courts Service is accountable to the Minister and the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42466/10]

The accountability structures and responsibilities of the Courts Service are set out in detail in the Courts Service Act 1998.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Courts Service operates under its own Vote — Vote 22 — for which the Chief Executive Officer of the Service is the Accounting Officer. The Vote, in common with all other votes in relation to State authorities, is approved annually by this House. The functions and responsibilities of the Chief Executive Officer, which include attendance before an Oireachtas Committee, are laid out in the Courts Service Act 1998.

Tax Collection

Mary Upton

Question:

230 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the action he has taken to ensure that taxation from gambling, in particular the potential taxation from online gambling, is captured; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42474/10]

As the Deputy is aware, the objective of the review of gambling being undertaken by me is to provide Government with options for a new and comprehensive legal and organisational framework governing the gambling architecture in the State. As I have said before, we must first achieve a policy in relation to a new gambling architecture that is capable of winning broad spectrum agreement. It is when this goal is achieved that we will be in a position to address the matter of legislative change, with some degree of confidence.

I am now considering a report from my officials on a proposed policy for the better regulation of gambling. Following consideration of the report by me I will make the necessary arrangements to bring it before the Government. Pending a decision on the matter by the Government, I do not intend to make any further comment on the substance of the document under consideration.

On the specific matter of taxation, may I say that while taxation did not form part of the review, it is my personal view that gambling should be subject to taxation . The Deputy will be aware, however, that taxation — where it is applied and at what rate — is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Finance who will, I am sure, pursue that issue as part of any new regulatory framework adopted for gambling in general and on-line gambling in particular.

State Airports

Thomas Byrne

Question:

231 Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the reasons for refusing entry at Dublin Airport to a person (details supplied). [42481/10]

Section 4 of the Immigration Act, 2004, empowers an immigration officer, on behalf of the Minister, to authorise a non-national to land or be in the State. Sub-section (3) of Section 4 sets out the various circumstances which an immigration officer may have regard to in refusing to give such authorisation. These circumstances, any one of which may give rise to a permission to land being refused, include:

(a) that the non-national is not in a position to support himself or herself

(b) that the non-national intends to take up employment in the State, but is not in possession of a valid employment permit;

(k) that there is reason to believe that the non-national intends to enter the State for purposes other than those expressed by the non-national.

Furthermore, in performing his/her functions under the Immigration Act, 2004, an immigration officer is obliged, pursuant to the provisions of section 4(10) of the said Act, to have regard to all the circumstances of the non-national concerned known to the officer or represented to the officer by him/her and, in particular, to matters including the following :

(a) the stated purpose of the proposed visit to the State;

(b) the intended duration of the stay in the State;

(c) any family relationships (whether of blood or through marriage) of him or her with persons in the State;

(d) his or her income, earning capacity and other financial resources

(e) the financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which he or she is likely to have in the foreseeable future

(f) whether he or she is likely to comply with any proposed conditions as to duration of stay and engagement in employment, business or profession in the State;

On arrival in the State on 1 October 2010, the person referred to was obliged to present at the immigration control facility at the port of entry for the purpose of making an application to land in the State. In the course of the examination of the person concerned, the immigration officer to whom the person presented established that he had first arrived in Ireland on 14 August 2006, at which time he was granted permission to remain in the State until 23 September 2006. However, in the course of conversation with the person, the immigration officer established that the said non-national remained in the State unlawfully for over one year, until at least the end of 2007, during which time he engaged in employment, without having permission to do so. The Immigration Officer also spoke to a brother of the person, who confirmed this information.

As a result of information ascertained during the above mentioned process, the Immigration Officer refused the person's application for permission to enter the State, on the basis that circumstances set out at section 4 (3)(k) of the Act of 2004 existed. The person was informed, in writing, of the grounds for the decision to refuse to grant them permission to land in the State.

Residency Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

232 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the position regarding residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42487/10]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 13 September 2002 and applied for asylum on 16 September 2002. The Refugee Applications Commissioner refused him a declaration of refugee status. This decision was subsequently upheld by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. A Deportation Order was made in respect of him on 11 May 2005.

The person concerned instituted Judicial Review proceedings on 18 April 2005 challenging the Deportation Order made in respect of him and accordingly, as the matter is sub judice, I do not propose to comment further.

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

Deportation Orders

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

233 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the position regarding residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42488/10]

I refer the Deputy to my detailed Reply to Parliamentary Question No. 352 of Tuesday, 18 October 2010, in this matter. The position in the State of the person concerned is as set out in that Reply.

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

Prisoner Transfers

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

234 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the arrangement for the transfer of a prisoner between Britain and Ireland who has been made subject of orders under mental health legislation in either jurisdiction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42489/10]

The Council of Europe 1983 Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons provides a mechanism whereby prisoners sentenced in the United Kingdom may be returned to Ireland in order to serve their sentences. The Transfer of Sentenced Persons Acts 1995 and 1997 provide a legislative basis for this Convention in Ireland. Under the Acts, a sentence is defined as any punishment or measure involving a deprivation of liberty ordered by a court or tribunal for a limited or unlimited period of time on account of the commission of an offence. A sentenced person is defined as anyone on whom a sentence has been imposed in the territory of a Convention state. Each transfer is subject to the consent of both states and the individual concerned. There is no obligation on any state to agree to a transfer.

Without a specific case to refer to, it is difficult to comment on the transfer of prisoners suffering from mental illness. Cases of this nature would require individual assessment. However, the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act, 2006 and in particular section 15, provides a mechanism whereby a prisoner suffering from a mental illness can be transferred from a prison in this state to a designated centre under the Act. Currently the only designated centre is the Central Mental Hospital at Dundrum in Dublin. The Act provides that a transfer can be made following an assessment by a registered medical practitioner or approved medical officer with the agreement of the prisoner. Where the prisoner does not agree to be transferred, the transfer may still proceed where two medical practitioners or approved medical officers are of the view it is in the best interests of the individual in question.

Citizenship Applications

Pat Breen

Question:

235 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the position regarding an application in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42511/10]

I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that the person concerned made an application for Family Reunification in September 2009.

The application was forwarded to the Refugee Applications Commissioner for investigation as required under Section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996. This investigation is completed and the Commissioner has forwarded a report to INIS.

This application will be considered by INIS and a decision will issue in due course. Applications are currently taking approximately 19 months to process.

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

Pat Breen

Question:

236 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the position regarding an application in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42512/10]

A valid application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in September 2007.

All valid applications are dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants. The average processing time from application to decision is now at 26 months. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average, while an element of straight forward cases can be dealt with in less than that timescale.

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

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

Garda Vetting Services

Jack Wall

Question:

237 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 351 of 27 October 2010, the position regarding the application (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42556/10]

An application for vetting in respect of the person to whom the Deputy refers has been received by the Garda Central Vetting Unit and is in the course of being processed. A response will issue to the registered organisation in due course.

Proposed Legislation

Leo Varadkar

Question:

238 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform his plans, if any, to introduce a single whistleblowers Bill as proposed by bodies (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42558/10]

I have responsibility for two Bills currently before the Houses, the Property Services (Regulation) Bill 2009 and the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, which contain whistleblower protections.

Given the broad spectrum of areas where whistleblowing could arise, it is not an issue that could easily be effectively addressed by any one Department or piece of legislation. Nevertheless, it has been suggested by a number of parties that a single, all-encompassing whistleblower provision might be the best way to proceed. When the matter was considered by Government some years ago legal obstacles were identified to the provision of a single statute which would be effective in the variety of circumstances in which it was to apply. The Government did not want to introduce whistleblower protection, which, if tested in the courts, might be found wanting. What is needed are solutions that will work well in the particular circumstances of each case. That is ultimately why, on balance, it became clear that a sectoral approach to the issue would be more effective and practical. Ministers in the course of preparation of Bills are required to include whistleblowing provisions, as appropriate, having regard to the nature, purpose and scope of the proposed legislation in question.

The number and range of whistleblower protection provisions introduced in the past number of years is a clear indication of the Government's commitment to this issue. These include the Protections for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act 1998, the Competition Act 2002, the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, the Garda Síochána Act 2005,the Employment Permits Act 2006, the Health Act 2007, the Communications Regulation (Amendment) Act 2007, the Consumer Protection Act 2007, the Medical Practitioners Act 2007, the Chemicals Act 2008, the Labour Services (Amendment) Act 2009, the National Asset Management Agency Act 2009, the Charities Act 2009, and the Inland Fisheries Act 2010. In addition a number of Bills currently in preparation contain whistleblower protections such as the Employment Agency Regulation Bill 2009, the Employment Law Compliance Bill 2008, and the Local Government (Mayor and Regional Authority of Dublin) Bill 2010.

Towing Services

Noel Ahern

Question:

239 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the position regarding contracts entered into by the gardaí with towing operators with or without car park compounds; if draft guidance documents are provided by his Department to assist with such contracts; his views on cases where persons co-operated with gardaí and allowed their cars to be taken away for forensic examination being charged storage charges as they did not collect their car rapidly when so advised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42566/10]

The making of arrangements for the provision of towing services to An Garda Síochána is a matter for the Garda Commissioner. I am advised by the Garda authorities that a decision has been taken to outsource the management of towing services in each Garda Division, following a successful pilot project. This process is ongoing and a number of contracts are currently in place. These contracts provide for the management of the overall service, including recovery, storage, disposal and receipt of payment of fees.

I am further informed by the Garda authorities that they provide a detailed guidance document for towing contractors.

Residency Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

240 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the position regarding an application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42776/10]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 1067 of 29 September 2010. I expect a decision to issue to the person concerned in the near future

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

Child Sex Abuse

Sean Sherlock

Question:

241 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform when a report (details supplied) will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42779/10]

On 26 October 2010, following a request from the Commission of Investigation examining the handling of complaints, allegations and suspicions of child sex abuse by clergy under the aegis of the Diocese of Cloyne, the Government extended the Commission's term to 31 December, 2010 in order to enable it to complete its work.

Road Traffic Offences

Tom Hayes

Question:

242 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of fixed charge notices that have been made in relation to lorries and trucks travelling at more than 80 kilometres an hour each year since 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42794/10]

I have requested a report from the Garda authorities in relation to the matter referred to by the Deputy. I will contact the Deputy again when the report is to hand.

Community Service Orders

Paul Connaughton

Question:

243 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform his views on whether community service orders may be a better way of punishing offenders and if he has given consideration to a system of collection of fines from social welfare or from other earnings applicable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42796/10]

I am of the view that there is scope for greater use of community service orders in relatively minor cases. To that end, a proposal to draft a Criminal Justice (Community Service) (Amendment) Bill was approved by Government on 9 November. An amendment to existing legislation will require courts to consider imposing a community service order in any case where they had envisaged imposing a prison sentence of 6 months or less.

Also, when section 18 of the Fines Act 2010 has been commenced it will be possible for the court to impose a community service order on a person who defaults on payment of a fine, rather than sending the defaulter to prison. The Act does not include provision for attachment of earnings or social welfare payments. However, when section 15 of the Act is commenced it will allow a person on whom a fine has been imposed to make an application to the court to pay by instalments. It will be possible for the court to direct that the fine be paid over a period of 12 months, and exceptionally, over a two year period.

I would like to see how these arrangements operate in practice before considering other measures for the recovery of fines.

Liquor Licensing Laws

Paul Connaughton

Question:

244 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he has powers under the provision of the 2008 Intoxicating Liquors Act to bring charges before the courts, if there is below cost selling of intoxicating liquor by some supermarkets and multiples; if so, has there been any breaches of the law in so far as court judgements are concerned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42797/10]

Enforcement of the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2010, including the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008, is a matter for the Garda. As regards below-cost selling of intoxicating liquor, the position is that the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment revoked the Restrictive Practices (Groceries) Order 1987 in March 2006, thereby removing price controls from alcohol products. However, in March 2009, the Government agreed to include alcohol in the National Substance Misuse Strategy and a Steering Group was subsequently established under the aegis of the Departments of Health and Children and Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs to develop proposals for integrating alcohol misuse into that Strategy.

I understand that the Steering Group has been examining a range of issues relating to alcohol policy, including pricing, and is due to submit its report, including policy recommendations, by the end of the year.

Immigration Service

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

245 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of persons refused leave to land at various entry points; the specific number at each entry point; the reasons leave to land was refused in each case; the ages and nationalities of the persons refused; the countries they were returned to; if persons refused were given access to a translator and legal advice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42810/10]

Section 4 of the Immigration Act, 2004, empowers an immigration officer, on behalf of the Minister, to authorise a non-national to land or be in the State. Sub-section (3) of Section 4 sets out the various circumstances which an immigration officer may have regard to in refusing to give such authorisation.

The table below sets out the number of persons refused permission to land in the State between January and September 2010 at various points of entry:

Location

Number refused

Dublin airport

1,512

Dundalk

428

Dublin port

124

Cork airport

88

Rosslare Port

65

Shannon airport

42

Dún Laoghaire

31

Kerry

12

Knock

10

Cork Port

5

Galway airport

2

Monaghan

2

Border with Northern Ireland

2

Sligo airport

1

Limerick

1

Donegal airport

1

Other

23

Total

2,349

A further breakdown of these figures by gender and age is not available and would necessitate a disproportionate expenditure of Garda time and resources to obtain.

The following table shows the number of persons refused permission and the reason for such refusal, as set out in sub section 3 of section 4 of the Immigration Act, 2004:

Subsection

Reason for refusal

Number of refusals

a

That the non-national is not in a position to support himself or herself and any accompanying dependants.

216

b

That the non-national intends to take up employment in the State, but is not in possession of a valid employment permit (within the meaning of the Employment Permits Act 2003).

78

c

that the non-national suffers from a condition set out in the First Schedule;

0

d

That the non-national has been convicted (whether in the State or elsewhere) of an offence that may be punished under the law of the place of conviction by imprisonment for a period of one year or by a more severe penalty.

6

e

That the non-national, not being exempt, by virtue of an order under Section 17, from the requirement to have an Irish visa, is not the holder of a valid Irish visa

715

f

That the non-national is the subject of — (i) a deportation order (within the meaning of the Act of 1999) or (ii) an exclusion order (within the meaning of that Act), or (iii) a determination by the Minister that it is conducive to the public.

30

g

That the non-national is not in possession of a valid passport or other equivalent document, issued by or on behalf of an authority recognised by the Government, which establishes his or her identity and nationality

715

h

That the non-national — (i) intends to travel (whether immediately or not) to Great Britain or Northern Ireland, and (ii) would not qualify for admission to Great Britain or Northern Ireland if he or she arrived there from a place other than the

235

i

That the non-national, having arrived in the State in the course of employment as a seaman, has remained in the State without the leave of an immigration officer after the departure of the ship in which he or she so arrived

1

j

That the non-national’s entry into, or presence in, the State could pose a threat to national security or be contrary to public policy

35

k

That there is reason to believe that the non-national intends to enter the State for purposes other than those expressed by the non-national.

874

*NB a person may be refused for more than one ground, therefore the figures will not necessarily be identical.

The following table shows a breakdown of the age groups of persons refused, where such information has been determined, to date in 2010 (30th September, 2010):

Age Group

Number

18-19

75

20-29

974

30-39

743

40-49

299

50-59

90

60-69

38

70-79

1

80-89

2

The following table provides a breakdown, by nationality of the number of persons refused permission to enter the State in 2010, to 30th September, 2010:

Nationality

No.

Nationality

No.

Nationality

No.

Afghan

80

Hong Kong

4

Peruvian

1

Albanian

20

Indian

69

Philippine

36

Algerian

11

Indonesian

1

Qatar

4

American

81

Iranian

18

Russian

13

Angolan

10

Iraqi

22

Rwandan

4

Argentinian

8

Israeli

10

Saudi Arabian

14

Australian

8

Ivorian

2

Senegalese

1

Azerbaijani

1

Jamaican

2

Serbian

1

Bangladeshi

16

Japanese

8

Seychellois/Seychelloise

2

Belarusian

3

Jordanian

5

Sierra Leonean

7

Bolivian

101

Kenyan

6

Singaporean

1

Botswanian

4

Kosovar

1

Somali

33

Brazilian

270

Kurdish

1

South African

109

British Overseas

9

Kuwaiti

3

South Korean

4

Burkinabe

1

Lebanese

7

Sri Lankan

5

Burundian

2

Lesotho

1

St. Lucian

1

Cameroon

22

Liberian

4

Canadian

17

Libyan

4

Sudanese

24

Cape Verdean

1

Macaon

1

Swazi

2

Chilean

5

Macedonian

2

Taiwanese

2

Chinese

288

Malawian

28

Tanzanian

2

Colombian

10

Malaysian

90

Thai

8

Congolese

14

Mauritanian

3

Timor-Leste

1

Croatian

17

Mauritian

19

Togolese

3

Cuban

3

Mexican

12

Tunisian

1

Democratic Republic of Congo

3

Moldovan

20

Turkish

20

Ecuadorean

6

Monaco

1

Ugandan

5

Egyptian

46

Mongolian

2

Ukrainian

32

Equatorial Guinean

1

Moroccan

13

United Arab Emirate

2

Eritrean

9

Myanmar

1

Ethiopian

5

Nepalese

18

Venezuelan

9

Gabonese

1

New Zealander

11

Vietnamese

4

Gambian

2

Nigerien (Niger)

3

Yemenese

3

Georgian

7

Nigerian

156

Zairean

1

Ghanaian

14

Zambian

1

Guatemalan

2

Pakistani

59

Zimbabwean

43

Guinean

4

Palestinian

9

Guyanian

4

Panamanian

1

Information regarding persons refused leave to land, including nationality and age, might not be established at the time of arrival in the State, particularly in circumstances where the passport or identification card produced to an immigration officer is discovered to be bogus. The information provided above relates only to circumstances where the immigration officer concerned was satisfied he/she was in a position to establish the nationality and/or age of the person refused leave to land.

In circumstances where consideration is being given to refusing an application made by a non-national for ‘a permission' to enter the State and the non-national is not proficient in the English language, the services of a translator are frequently employed. Where a person being refused leave to land makes a request to make contact with a legal advisor, the opportunity to do so is provided.

In accordance with the provisions of Immigration Act, 2004, every refused person is served a notice in which the reason or reasons for refusing an application for a permission to enter the State, is detailed.

Irish Prison Service

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

246 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the total prison population; the number of prisoners on temporary release; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42812/10]

I wish to inform the Deputy that the total number of prisoners in custody on 15 November 2010 was 4,416. The number of prisoners on temporary release for that day was 660.

The Deputy will appreciate the Irish Prison Service must accept all prisoners committed by the Courts. There has been a consistent increase in the total prisoner population over recent years. This situation is particularly apparent over the past 12 months during which time the total number in custody has increased by 435. This represents an 11% rise in the number in custody.

Temporary release arrangements can operate similarly to a system of parole, which is a feature of prison system worldwide. They are an important vehicle for reintegrating an offender back into the community in a planned way. The generally accepted view is that the risk to the community is reduced by planned re-integration of offenders compared with their return to the community on completion of their full sentence. The Irish Prison Service has also judiciously used temporary release as a means of reducing numbers in times of serious overcrowding.

Each case is examined on its own merits and the safety of the public is paramount when decisions are made. In addition, all releases are subject to conditions, which in the vast majority of cases include a requirement to report on a regular basis to the offender's Garda Station. Of course, any offender who breaches his or her conditions may be arrested and returned to prison immediately by the Garda.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

247 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of complaints and reports relating to rodents, insects and other pests in all prisons here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42813/10]

I can advise the Deputy that the number of complaints and reports relating to rodents, insects and other pests received are set out in the following table:

Prisons

Complaints/Reports from 2009 to date

Arbour Hill

Nil

Castlerea

Nil

Cloverhill

Nil

Cork

Nil

Dóchas

Nil

Limerick

3 Reports

Loughan House

Nil

Midlands

Nil

Mountjoy

Nil

Portlaoise

Nil

Shelton Abbey

1 Reports

St Patrick’s Institution

7 Reports

Training Unit

Nil

Wheatfield

Nil

I am informed by the Irish Prison Service that service contracts for pest control are in place in all prisons. The terms of these contracts are that all prisons are visited on eight occasions during the year and bait boxes are inspected and replenished. These regular service visits take place without fail.

Should any report of sightings of rodents, insects or other pests be made by staff or prisoners the contractors are called in immediately outside of the normal contract visits. A report is signed off by the engineer indicating where additional bait boxes are laid, together with a suggestion of a return visit date.

Garda Deployment

Michael Ring

Question:

248 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if a person will be replaced in a Garda station (details supplied). [42824/10]

Responsibility for the allocation of resources, including personnel, within the Force rests with the Garda Commissioner, in consultation with his senior management team. Resource levels are constantly monitored, in conjunction with crime trends and other demands made on An Garda Síochána. The situation is kept under continuing review to ensure optimum use is made of these resources and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public.

Citizenship Applications

Jack Wall

Question:

249 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the position regarding an application for naturalisation in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42854/10]

A valid application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in August 2006.

Officials in that section inform me that letters requesting further documentation have been sent to the applicant on 7 November 2008 and further letters were issued on 14 May 2009 and 4 August 2010. This documentation was received on 12 August 2010. All valid applications are dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants. The average processing time from application to decision is now at 26 months. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average, while an element of straight forward cases can be dealt with in less than that timescale.

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

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

Departmental Expenditure

Martin Ferris

Question:

250 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will provide a breakdown of the €7.223 million paid to citizens in 2008 as a result of awards against the gardaí and the number of cases in which disciplinary action was taken against members of the force. [42864/10]

The amount paid in damages in respect of civil claims handled by my Department, arising from the actions of members of the Garda Síochána, is set out in the table below. This information is also available on my Department's website. In addition to the claims handled in my Department, the State Claims Agency also manages other categories of personal injury and property damage claims against the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána. The amount paid out by the State Claims Agency in 2008 in Legal Claims following actions by Gardaí in the perfomance of their duties is €134,695.00.

Category of payment

Assault

UnlawfulArrest

Other

Overall total

Awards

€12,500.00

(1)

€5,500.00

(1)

€12,500.00

(1)

Settlements

€505,000

(15)

€56,024.34

(6)

€648,157.58

(20)

Costs

€816,847.70

(15)

€713,468.42

(16)

€4,317,975.40

(36)

Total

€1,334,347.70

€774,992.76

€4,978,632.98

€7,087,973.34

*The figure in brackets indicates the number of cases of this type dealt with in the particular year.

The question of discipline is a matter for the Garda Commissioner in the first instance. The information requested by the Deputy is not currently to hand and I will write to the Deputy when it has been received.

Legal Aid Service

Terence Flanagan

Question:

251 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will deal with the following matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42887/10]

I can inform the Deputy that the full details of the estimate for 2010 for legal aid, both civil and criminal, are contained in the Revised Estimates for Public Services 2010, while the costs for the earlier years sought are contained in the Revised Estimates volume for each of the years concerned. As the Deputy will be aware, copies of these documents are available at www.finance.gov.ie and in the Oireachtas Library.

Garda Vetting Services

Arthur Morgan

Question:

252 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the position regrading an application for Garda clearance made in August 2010 given that additional staff were brought in to deal with the backlog; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42893/10]

I am informed by the Garda Authorities that an application for Garda vetting in respect of the person to whom the Deputy refers is in the course of being processed and a response will issue in due course.

Visa Applications

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

253 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 209 of 10 November 2010, the number of applications for a student visa that have been rejected in 2010 on the basis that the student needs to undertake a course in the State is not demonstrated or warranted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42930/10]

The number of applications for a Study Visa that have been rejected so far in 2010 on the basis that the student's need to undertake a course in the State is not demonstrated or warranted is 298 worldwide. This figure represents slightly less than 6% of Study Visa applications received. The period covered is from 1 January 2010 to 11 November 2010.

Crime Prevention

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

254 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the steps being taken by gardaí to tackle the escalating house burglaries in the Skryne valley and Tara valley areas of County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42934/10]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that, up to 12 November, 2010, there has been a reduction of approximately 10% in the number of burglaries in Meath Garda Division, compared with the same period in 2009.

Crime prevention initiatives have been put in place by local Garda management. These include high visibility patrols and checkpoints by uniform personnel, supplemented as required by plain-clothes units, to prevent, reduce, disrupt and detect this type of criminality.

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

County Sheriffs

John Deasy

Question:

255 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the powers of county sheriffs in executing orders against debtors; if there is a standard cost structure in charging fees and expenses for the execution procedure; if the fees are at fixed rates or based on the value of the debt; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42935/10]

I am not in a position to provide legal advice in response to Parliamentary Questions. However, I can say, generally, that the powers of Sheriffs and County Registrars are as prescribed in various Courts Acts.

The charges and fees levied by a Sheriff are set out in the Sheriff's Fees and Expenses Order 2005 (S.I. No. 644 of 2005).

Garda Vetting Services

John McGuinness

Question:

256 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the reason for the inordinate delay in the processing of Garda clearance applications; if he will consider taking immediate steps to relieve the backlog of applications as the future job opportunities of the applicants are threatened in some cases due to the delay; if he will expedite an application for clearance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42939/10]

The Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) provides employment vetting for a large number of organisations in Ireland registered with the Gardaí for this purpose and which employ persons in a full-time, part-time, voluntary or training capacity to positions where they would have substantial, unsupervised access to children and/or vulnerable adults.

The processing time for vetting applications fluctuates in line with periods of increased demand. Furthermore, additional time may be required to process an individual vetting application in cases where clarification is required as to the details provided or where other enquiries need to be made, for example, when the person in question has lived and worked abroad. There will always be a reasonably significant time period required to process a vetting application. Registered organisations have been advised to take account of this in their recruitment and selection process. However, the Gardaí make every effort to reduce this to the minimum possible consistent with carrying out the necessary checks. I am informed by the Garda Authorities that the current average processing time for vetting applications received at the GCVU is approximately 12 weeks.

I am further informed by the Garda Authorities that the Garda Central Vetting Unit has not received a vetting application in respect of the person referred to. In the circumstances, I can only suggest that the person seeks clarification from the organisation submitting the application.

Road Traffic Offences

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

257 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the levels of speeding taking place in Kentstown, County Meath; if he will provide details of the number of speeding fines issued in the Navan district in each of the past five years; the number of unpaid speeding fines in the Navan district in each of these years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42946/10]

I have requested a report from the Garda authorities in relation to the levels of speeding at the location referred to by the Deputy. I will contact the Deputy again as soon as the report is to hand.

The issuing and payment of fines are matters for the courts. Under the Courts Service Act 1998 the Courts Service is independent in the performance of its functions which include, inter alia, the provision of statistical and other court related information.

UN Convention Against Corruption

David Stanton

Question:

258 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the reasons for the delay in ratifying the UN Convention against Corruption signed by the State in 2003; when he expects to be in a position to ratify same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43034/10]

The United Nations Convention Against Corruption was signed on behalf of Ireland when that Instrument opened for signature in December 2003. There are certain legislative measures required to be in place before Ireland can proceed with ratification, and it is intended that the arrangements will be made for ratification of this Convention, as soon as the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill 2008, which is currently under consideration by the Oireachtas, has been enacted.

Legislative Programme

David Stanton

Question:

259 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform further to his comments in a speech on 21 May 2010, the progress that has been made in the consolidation of all the anti-corruption legislation in a single statute; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43035/10]

It is my intention to consolidate anti-corruption legislation with a view to making the law more accessible for people, and to bring greater clarity to this area. As the Deputy will be aware, the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill 2008, is currently under consideration by the Oireachtas. Its enactment will facilitate fulfilment of our international obligations in regard to the United Nations Convention against Corruption and the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. Once the amending legislation is passed, work on consolidation legislation can be progressed.

Crime Prevention

David Stanton

Question:

260 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No.1163 of 29 September 2010, the discussions he has had with An Garda Síochaná in relation to proposals for changes to white collar crime law; when he expects to publish a discussion document on white collar crime on same; the persons involved in the consultation process on this document; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43036/10]

I can inform the Deputy that I published a discussion document entitled Organised and White Collar Crime on 22 October 2010, as part of the consultation process leading to a White Paper on Crime. The document has been widely circulated and is available to download from my Department’s website or in hard copy by request. Submissions on the issues raised in the document may be made by end December, 2010. A report on the submissions received will be published early next year and will feed into the deliberations leading to the White Paper on Crime, which is due for publication in 2011.

This consultation process complements, but does not hold up, consideration of the proposals made by the Garda Commissioner on foot of my request that he examine the law in the area of white collar crime in light of experience gained in current and past investigations. In this regard, and as the Commissioner's proposals have implications for various areas of the law, I am in contact with relevant ministerial colleagues and the Attorney General about them.

Garda Operations

Joe Carey

Question:

261 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform his plans to review anti social behaviour orders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43044/10]

Part 11 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 provides for civil proceedings in relation to anti-social behaviour by adults, and Part 13 of the Act relates to anti-social behaviour by children. These provisions set out an incremental procedure for addressing anti-social behaviour. For adults they provide for a behaviour warning and a civil order. For children, they range from a behaviour warning from a member of An Garda Síochána, to a good behaviour contract involving the child and his or her parents or guardian, to referral to the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme and to the making of a behaviour order by the Children Court. Applications to the courts for civil orders and behaviour orders are considered only as the last stage in a process. If the offending anti-social behaviour has been addressed at an earlier stage in the process, it is not necessary to apply to the courts for an order.

The range of legislative, policy and operational measures which target anti-social behaviour, including those provided for in the Criminal Justice Act 2006, are under ongoing review by my Department, in consultation with the Garda authorities and other relevant Departments, in the light of the experience gained in their utilisation.

Juvenile Offenders

Joe Carey

Question:

262 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will report on the matter by which recently enacted gangland legislation will interact with the Irish Youth Justice Service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43045/10]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question 29 on 4 February, 2010. The position remains as stated.

National Drugs Strategy

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

263 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the action he is taking to address the serious heroin problem here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43047/10]

The Government's approach to tackling the problem of drug misuse, including heroin use, is through a co-ordinated and integrated approach under the National Drugs Strategy. The Strategy tackles the issue under pillar headings of drugs supply reduction, education and prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and research. Drugs and organised crime are being prioritised by An Garda Síochána as a core focus for 2010, through the Garda Síochána Policing Plan, which reflects Government strategies contained in the National Drugs Strategy.

Drugs units are in place in every Garda Division and work in partnership with the Garda National Drugs Unit in tackling and targeting drug-related crime. Divisional and District Policing Plans also reflect the focus of the Policing Plan in terms of drugs law enforcement. In addition, An Garda Síochána has strong and strategic partnerships in place at international level targeting drug trafficking. The links between organised crime and the illicit drugs trade continue to be actively pursued. The Garda National Drugs Unit, working with other national units, including the Organised Crime Unit and the Criminal Assets Bureau, are targeting persons involved in the heroin trade who are the subject of intelligence-led operations aimed at detecting and prosecuting offenders.

An Garda Síochána is satisfied that, in addition to the considerable volume of drugs seized to date in 2010, a significant impact has also been made by arresting and prosecuting a number of major players involved in the trafficking of drugs including heroin. All of this work is underpinned by the stringent and wide ranging criminal justice legislative package of measures targeting organised crime, including drug trafficking, which I have brought through the Houses in recent times. I can assure the Deputy that my Department, and all the agencies under its aegis, remain fully committed to the approach adopted in the National Drugs Strategy and to its implementation.

Departmental Expenditure

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

264 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the amount spent on judicial reviews for asylum cases in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43048/10]

The Deputy will be aware the asylum process encompasses the activities of the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal (RAT), both of which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice and Law Reform in relation to the granting of refugee status. Persons who are refused a declaration under Section 17 of the Refugee Act 1996 that they are a refugee, subsequently enter what is commonly referred to as the "leave to remain" process. This is separate to the asylum or refugee status determination process.

I would point out that payments in relation to JRs are made on foot of Bills of Costs submitted (following clearance by the Chief State Solicitor's Office's Costs Accounting Section) by applicants' legal representatives. Accordingly, there are often considerable delays in the submission of Bills of Costs for payment; that is to say that the time between the finalisation of cases before the courts and the submission of the Bills of Costs to my Department can vary considerably.

Official Engagements

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

265 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he or officials from his Department have met or will meet the representatives of the survivors and bereaved relatives of the Stardust fire disaster of 1981; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37906/10]

I can inform the Deputy that there are ongoing discussions with the Stardust Victims Committee concerning the forthcoming 30th anniversary of the tragedy and related matters.

Visa Applications

Mary Upton

Question:

266 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform , further to the release of the latest Government document on tourism development, Trading and Investing in the Smart Economy, the immediate measures being taken to reform the visa process for tourists from high growth markets such as China and India; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36688/10]

As part of the five year strategy ‘Trading and Investing in a Smart Economy', which was launched by the Taoiseach in September this year, my Department has undertaken to establish a mechanism to ensure that the visa regime here supports the priorities set out in the Strategy. This new mechanism will be designed to ensure that entrepreneurial, business and tourist travellers to Ireland who can be identified as such, are specifically facilitated, and that businesses promoting trade, tourism and investment are not placed at a competitive disadvantage. My Department has written to all relevant Government Departments inviting them to nominate high level officials to sit on a Consultative Group on Visa Issues to deliver on this commitment. In addition the relevant State Agencies will also be involved.

As with all visas in all countries worldwide, the central concern is to strike an appropriate balance between protecting the country's vital national interests by maintaining an effective immigration regime, while at the same time not placing unnecessary or unreasonable obstacles in the way of those who intend travelling for legitimate purposes and who are likely to abide by the terms of their visa. Each visa application is decided on its individual merits and I believe that, in most cases, my Department achieves this balance. Visa approval rates for the countries mentioned by the Deputy bear this out.

Approval rates for visa applications of all types processed through the Irish overseas Visa Offices in India and China in 2009 were:

New Dehli (serving India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal) — 90%

Beijing (serving China, Cambodia, Mongolia) — 86%

Currently, straightforward ‘visit' visa applications are being decided upon within 10 working days by the Visa Office, Beijing. The decision time frame is even shorter where applications are lodged via a Chinese government approved tourist agent, such applications being decided upon within 1-3 working days. A decision time frame of 1-5 working days applies to ‘visit' visa applications considered by the Visa Office, New Delhi. Whilst I am satisfied that Ireland compares favourably with international competitors regarding processing times and approval rates for Visas from China and India, my Department continually examines ways in which the visa process can further facilitate the promotion of tourism to the State from these markets, in conformity with the needs of an effective immigration regime.

Road Safety

Joe Costello

Question:

267 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform when the traffic camera roll-out will take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42728/10]

The Garda Commissioner and I signed the contract for an outsourced safety camera network with the preferred service provider in November, 2009 following a tender and evaluation process. In accordance with the provisions of the contract, following the necessary preparatory work, roll-out of the national mobile safety camera network commenced at midnight on 15 November, 2010 and is expected to reach full capacity in early 2011. The cameras will be deployed at locations which have been identified as having a high incidence of speed related collisions. Information on these locations is available on the Garda website www.garda.ie. As well as enforcing vehicle speeds, the cameras will carry out surveys of the speed of vehicles at the locations, so as to ensure that the cameras are deployed where they are most needed. On completion of the roll-out early in 2011, the network will provide 6,000 hours of monitoring and 1,475 hours of surveying per month.

An Garda Síochána will determine the scheduling of the speed monitoring and survey sessions and will oversee the day-to-day running of the project. The service provider will have responsibility for ensuring monitoring and survey sessions are conducted in accordance with those schedules and providing the survey and monitoring data to An Garda Síochána. The selected supplier will also provide the necessary vehicles, monitoring and survey equipment and operating personnel. An Garda Síochána will issue fixed charge notices to speeding drivers who are detected and pursue any court prosecutions undertaken. The service provider will be paid according to the level of service provided. The number of speeding drivers detected by the service provider will have no effect on the level of payment. The purpose of the contract is to reduce speed, and so increase road safety, not to generate revenue either for the State or the service provider.

Crime Prevention

Jack Wall

Question:

268 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform his views regarding illegal fireworks and bonfires and the effect they have on our communities, and especially our older population; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39290/10]

As the Deputy may be aware, the Explosives Act, 1875 provides for the control of the importation, manufacture, storage and sale of fireworks. The 1875 Act was amended by the Criminal Justice Act, 2006 which came into effect in August, 2006 to provide for new offences governing the possession of illegally imported fireworks with intent to supply. The amendments also provided for significantly increased penalties governing the illegal importation, sale and use of fireworks.

Under the provisions, it is an offence:

for any person to possess a firework with intent to sell or supply, without a licence,

to throw an ignited firework at any person or property, and

to light unlicensed fireworks in a public place.

The penalty for such offences is now a fine of up to €10,000 or 5 years imprisonment or both.

A nationwide information campaign took place in the run up to Hallowe'en using national and regional newspapers to highlight to the public the dangers of fireworks and the significant penalties that exist for their illegal use.

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that Operation Tombola, the annual Garda operation, was in place for policing during the Hallowe'en period. I understand that Operational Orders were put in place in every Garda Region, in particular in the Dublin Metropolitan Region and Border Divisions, to prevent and detect the organised importation of fireworks in the lead up to Hallowe'en and to police the Hallowe'en period.

Persons suspected of engaging in the importation, supply or sale of fireworks were identified and targeted, including by way of intelligence-led operations and searches which to date in 2010 (as of 2nd November, 2010) have resulted in 164 seizures of fireworks, worth an estimated €59,216. These statistics are operational and liable to change.

An Garda Síochána also engaged with local communities, Local Authorities and other stakeholders, such as Dublin Bus, in putting plans in place to address the issues that arise around the Hallowe'en period. Through the Schools Programme and other local programmes members of An Garda Síochána have highlight the dangers associated with illegally imported fireworks. With regards to bonfires, Gardaí have a liaison mechanism in place with Local Authorities for the removal of identified stockpiles of combustible materials, in advance of Hallowe'en night.

Gardaí have also advised Managers of Off-Licences to ensure that staff are apprised of their obligations and responsibilities under Licensing legislation relating to the sale of alcohol, in particular to underage persons.

I am also informed that proactive policing arrangements were in place covering the period coming up to and including Hallowe'en night. Additional patrols were carried out by uniform personnel as part of high-visibility policing initiatives supported by plain-clothes personnel, including District Detective and Drug Units, Divisional Crime Task Force, Traffic Corps personnel and Community Policing and Mountain Bike Units.

Given the offences and increased penalties that now exist, together with the measures outlined above, I expect that the Garda operations will continue to be successful in combating the illegal importation, sale and use of fireworks.

Controlled Drug Sales

Jack Wall

Question:

269 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he is satisfied that the recent legislation passed by the Dáil has resulted in the closure of all the head shops here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39279/10]

The Criminal Justice (Psychoactive Substances) Act 2010 is one element of the Government's multi-pronged approach to targeting the activities of so called ‘headshops' and the sale of unregulated psychoactive substances. The Act works in tandem with the ongoing controlling, as appropriate, of identified harmful substances by the Department of Health and Children through the Misuse of Drugs legislation and the National Drugs Awareness campaign which is highlighting the dangers of the use of psychoactive substances.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Criminal Justice (Psychoactive Substances) Act, 2010, which came into effect on 23 August, 2010, has had an immediate effect in significantly reducing the number of ‘headshop' outlets operating in the State. As of 4 November, 2010, only 12 such outlets continue to operate in the State. I am further informed that none of these outlets have been found, or are suspected of being, involved in the sale or supply of harmful psychoactive products. In contrast, the information provided to me in May of this year by the Garda authorities indicated that there were 102 headshops operating in the State at that time. I am satisfied that the operation of the Criminal Justice (Psychoactive Substances) Act 2010 has had a significant impact on the operation of such outlets. I can assure the Deputy that the situation will continue to be closely monitored by senior Garda management.

Foreign Conflicts

Finian McGrath

Question:

270 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will insist that a company (details supplied) withdraw from supporting a company and their involvement in the supply of cement and building materials for use in the illegal occupation of Palestine. [43043/10]

As I have stated in reply to previous questions on this matter, Cement Roadstone Holdings owns a minority shareholding of approximately 25% in Mashav Initiating and Development Limited, which is the holding company for the main Israeli cement producer, Nesher. This 25% stake does not give CRH any control over Nesher's operational matters. The Israeli company supplies cement to all of the concrete manufacturers in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Nesher does not have a say in the final use of the concrete products.

Social Welfare Appeals

Joe Carey

Question:

271 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on a disability allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42381/10]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 23 April 2010. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received back in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 31 August 2010 and the appeal will be referred in due course to an Appeals Officer who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Dan Neville

Question:

272 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Social Protection if the Appeals Office will now accept the disability allowance application as an appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [42443/10]

I am informed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that a form for the opening of an appeal has been forwarded to the person concerned and requesting him to state the grounds for his appeal. On receipt of his reply the appeal will be opened and processed in the normal manner. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Benefits

Róisín Shortall

Question:

273 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection the number and percentage of tenants in receipt of rent supplement where the landlord and tenancy is registered with the Private Residential Tenancies Board. [42479/10]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

285 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will provide a breakdown of rent supplement recipients in regard to the unit size of their rented property that is the number of bedrooms or other form of measure. [42821/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 273 and 285 together.

The Department does not record whether a rent supplement tenancy is registered with the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB). However, the Department works closely with the PRTB to ensure that all tenancies where rent supplement is in payment are registered with the PRTB. To that end, the Department provides details of new rent supplement payments to the PRTB to enable them identify tenancies that are not registered and to take any follow-up action necessary. The Department does not maintain records on accommodation size or property types of individual tenancies.

Employment Support Services

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

274 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 82 of 2 November 2010, if he raised the FÁS materials budgets including payments for light bulbs, toilet rolls and sanitary bins during the Government deliberations on the four year budgetary framework and the outcome of those specific deliberations and if not, to outline whether his Department on his own initiative will take steps to reverse the recent trend in FÁS decisions including stipulations that lightbulbs other than those in staff areas, toilet rolls outside specified staff toilets and sanitary towel bins where community employment participants are post menopause cannot be claimed once responsibility transfers to him. [42526/10]

It is not appropriate to reveal the content of the on-going Government deliberations on the four year budgetary framework. Day-to-day management of the Community Employment Scheme is a matter for FÁS and this position will not be altered by the terms of the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2010 when commenced. The future administration of the Community Employment Scheme, when the relevant functions of FÁS are fully integrated with my Department, will be considered in the context of the circumstances, including the budgetary environment and the requirements of value for money, prevailing at that time.

Social Welfare Appeals

Michael Ring

Question:

275 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath residing here since March 2007 has been refused disability allowance. [42574/10]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 3 July 2010. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received back in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 15 September 2010 and the appeal will be referred in due course to an Appeals Officer who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Benefits

Willie Penrose

Question:

276 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Social Protection if an application for mortgage interest supplement can be expedited in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42591/10]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that it requires a copy of the original mortgage application from the lending institution before it can make a decision on any entitlement to mortgage interest supplement in this case. The HSE has further advised that it has recently requested the required documentation from the lending institution on behalf of the person concerned and will be in a position to make a decision on entitlement when this has been received.

Departmental Expenditure

Michael Ring

Question:

277 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social Protection the total amount of discretionary payments or exceptional needs payments made in 2007, 2008 and 2009; the estimated spend on same in 2010 in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42606/10]

Under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which is administered on behalf of the Department by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive, an exceptional needs payment (ENP) may be made to help meet an essential, once-off cost which the applicant is unable to meet out of his/her own resources. There is no automatic entitlement to this payment. Each application is determined by the Executive based on the particular circumstances of the case.

The expenditure on exceptional needs payments between 2007 and 2009 was follows:

Year

Expenditure

2007

69,828,000

2008

82,255,000

2009

75,210,000

Expenditure to October 2010 is €56,760,000.

Social Welfare Appeals

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

278 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when a domiciliary care appeal will be heard in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42770/10]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case. The person concerned will be informed when arrangements have been made.

There was a 46% increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office in 2009 when compared to 2008, which in itself was 27% greater than the numbers received in 2007. There was an increase of a further 44% in the number of appeals received in the first eight months of 2010. These increases have caused delays in the processing of appeals. In order to be fair to all appellants, oral hearings are arranged in strict chronological order.

A number of initiatives have been put in place to enhance the capacity of the office to deal with the current caseload and inflows. In that regard:

3 additional Appeals Officers were assigned to the Office in 2009,

A number of additional staff were assigned to the administration area of the Office,

The organisation of the Appeals Officer's work has been changed so as to increase productivity,

A project to improve the business processes in the office was undertaken which has resulted in a number of improvements being implemented, and

Significant enhancements have been made to the office's IT and phone systems.

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

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

279 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for rent support in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42772/10]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that the person concerned was refused a supplementary welfare allowance payment in April 2010 as she was not regarded as habitually resident in the State. The HSE has further advised that it has not received an application for rent supplement from the person concerned.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

280 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when jobseeker’s allowance arrears will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42773/10]

The person concerned claimed jobseeker's allowance from 25th September 2010. Her claim has been awarded and all payments due from that date have been issued. No application has been received from the person concerned for payment of jobseeker's allowance for the period 6th September 2010 to 24th September 2010.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

281 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the way means have been assessed in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who has been without employment since July 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42774/10]

The person concerned submitted a claim for Jobseeker's Allowance on 12 July 2010 and I am pleased to say that his application has been awarded with effect from that date at a weekly rate of €57.00. His weekly means from self employment were calculated at €139.00 per week based on €13,815.62 annual gross earnings less expenses of €6,600. The person concerned first payment will issue to his local Post Office on 17 November 2010.

Social Welfare Appeals

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

282 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when an oral hearing will be arranged for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42775/10]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case. The person concerned will be informed when arrangements have been made. In order to be fair to all appellants, oral hearings are arranged in strict chronological order.

There was a 46% increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office in 2009 when compared to 2008, which in itself was 27% greater than the numbers received in 2007. There was an increase of a further 44% in the number of appeals received in the first eight months of 2010. These increases have caused delays in the processing of appeals. In order to be fair to all appellants, oral hearings are arranged in strict chronological order.

A number of initiatives have been put in place to enhance the capacity of the office to deal with the current caseload and inflows. In that regard:

3 additional Appeals Officers were assigned to the Office in 2009,

A number of additional staff were assigned to the administration area of the Office,

The organisation of the Appeals Officer's work has been changed so as to increase productivity,

A project to improve the business processes in the office was undertaken which has resulted in a number of improvements being implemented, and

Significant enhancements have been made to the office's IT and phone systems. In addition, it was decided to use experienced retired staff strictly on a short term basis to supplement the current resources and the services of eight retired officers have now been secured on a part-time basis and have been operating since July.

I am assured by the Chief Appeals Officer that she is keeping current processes under continuous review with a view to achieving a more effective throughput of appeals, while ensuring that any progress does not conflict with due process in terms of the rights of appellants and adherence to the requirements of natural justice.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Benefits

Paul Kehoe

Question:

283 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason for the delay in processing a farm assist application in respect of a person (details supplied) which was submitted in January 2010 and the applicant has had no further contact from the Department; the efforts being made to reduce the waiting time on farm assist applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42786/10]

The person concerned made an application for Farm Assist on 26/2/2010. These applications are means tested and require investigation by a Social Welfare Inspector. While the person concerned was written to in June 2010, the claim has not yet been finalised. This delay is regretted and arrangements are being made to have the person concerned interviewed this week.

Departmental Staff

Deirdre Clune

Question:

284 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of staff in his Department in an area (details supplied) in County Cork; his plans to increase this number; if these plans will involve acquiring additional office space; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42789/10]

There are currently 20.1 permanent posts (21 people) serving in Carrigaline Local Office. One Executive Officer is due to report in the coming weeks to fill a vacancy in the office, and work is in train to assign a further Executive Officer to fill an outstanding vacancy. In addition, one Temporary Clerical Officer has been assigned to assist in dealing with the increase in claims for unemployment schemes. One HEO Investigator and one EO Investigator are also based in Carrigaline.

Staffing needs are kept under constant review to ensure that best use is made of all available resources. The Office of Public Works (OPW), which has responsibility for the provision of office accommodation for my Department, has been requested to acquire additional office space for Carrigaline. Options in this regard are currently being examined by the OPW.

Question No. 285 answered with Question No. 273.

Social Welfare Benefits

Sean Sherlock

Question:

286 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will provide a breakdown nationally of the amount paid out in rent allowance for the year 2009 and to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42892/10]

The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term income support, to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. There are currently over 96,200 tenants benefiting from a rent supplement payment — an increase of 61 per cent since the end of 2007. Expenditure on rent supplement for 2009 was €511m with €509m provided for in 2010. Expenditure to date to end October 2010 is €429m.

James Bannon

Question:

287 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for jobseeker’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42899/10]

There is no record of an application for Jobseeker's Allowance from the person concerned. He is currently in receipt of casual Jobseeker's Benefit at weekly rate of €196.00 and receives payment each week in respect of days of unemployment.

James Bannon

Question:

288 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for invalidity pensions in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath. [42902/10]

Entitlement to invalidity pension is determined on receipt of a completed application form. There is no record of an application form having been received for the first named customer who is currently in receipt of jobseekers benefit at a weekly personal rate of €196.00.

The other referenced customer is in receipt of invalidity pension which was awarded from 11th February 2010 at the rate of €201.50. This was subsequently reduced to a rate of €182.50, the reduction being applied for the recovery of an overpayment incurred while she was in receipt of illness benefit.

James Bannon

Question:

289 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason the back to work enterprise allowance and jobseeker’s allowance has been stopped in relation to a person (details supplied) even though their new enterprise is not making a profit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42903/10]

The Department has no record of a Jobseeker's Allowance or Back to Work Enterprise Allowance application from the person concerned. If he wishes to submit an application he should contact Longford Local Office as soon as possible.

Social Welfare Appeals

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

290 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection if a decision has been made on a domiciliary care allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42905/10]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 19 August 2010. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received back in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 2 November 2010 and the appeal will be referred in due course to an Appeals Officer who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Michael McGrath

Question:

291 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for domiciliary care allowance in respect of a person(details supplied) in County Cork. [42911/10]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 25 June 2010. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received back in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 9 September 2010 and the appeal will be referred in due course to an Appeals Officer who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

John McGuinness

Question:

292 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will be made in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [42938/10]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that, an Appeals Officer, having considered all the available evidence, disallowed the jobseeker's allowance appeal of the person concerned.

However, following the submission of additional evidence the Appeals Officer agreed to review the case. The person concerned will be contacted when the appeal has been finalised.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Pat Breen

Question:

293 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with a date for an oral hearing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42950/10]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned in relation to two sons was received, there was no appeal received in relation to the daughter of the person concerned. The appeal was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case. The person concerned will be informed when arrangements have been made. There was a 46% increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office in 2009 when compared to 2008, which in itself was 27% greater than the numbers received in 2007. There was an increase of a further 44% in the number of appeals received in the first eight months of 2010. These increases have caused delays in the processing of appeals. In order to be fair to all appellants, oral hearings are arranged in strict chronological order. A number of initiatives have been put in place to enhance the capacity of the office to deal with the current caseload and inflows. In that regard:

3 additional Appeals Officers were assigned to the Office in 2009,

A number of additional staff were assigned to the administration area of the Office,

The organisation of the Appeals Officer's work has been changed so as to increase productivity,

A project to improve the business processes in the office was undertaken which has resulted in a number of improvements being implemented, and

Significant enhancements have been made to the office's IT and phone systems.

In addition, it was decided to use experienced retired staff strictly on a short term basis to supplement the current resources and the services of eight retired officers have now been secured on a part-time basis and have been operating since July.

I am assured by the Chief Appeals Officer that she is keeping current processes under continuous review with a view to achieving a more effective throughput of appeals, while ensuring that any progress does not conflict with due process in terms of the rights of appellants and adherence to the requirements of natural justice.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Pat Breen

Question:

294 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection when an application will be processed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42954/10]

An application for domiciliary care allowance was received for the person in question on the 30th August 2010. This application was referred to one of the Department's Medical Assessors who found that the child was not medically eligible for the allowance. A letter issued on the 5th October 2010 where the customer was advised of the decision. Where a person is not satisfied with the decision of a Deciding Officer he/she may appeal the decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.As yet, no appeal has been registered against this decision.

EU Directives

Michael Creed

Question:

295 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social Protection if his attention has been drawn to a new EU Directive which proposes to give an employee full pay for 20 weeks when on maternity leave and if he will indicate his views on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42968/10]

I understand the Deputy is referring to a current European Parliament proposal to extend maternity leave to 20 weeks and to introduce paternity leave of 2 weeks, both at full pay.

Ireland has been generally supportive of EU initiatives to enhance the minimum level of protection for pregnant workers and is committed to supporting gender equality and ensuring there is a high participation by women in the labour force. In this context it may be noted that current national provisions extend well beyond the current minimum requirements at EU level of 14 weeks for maternity leave. Maternity leave of 26 weeks is provided for, during which maternity benefit may be paid at the rate of between €225 and €270 per week. A further 16 weeks unpaid maternity leave may also be taken.

The issues now fall to be discussed by the Council of Ministers. In this regard, the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs, with whom primary responsibility in this area rests, and my Department are liaising on ongoing basis.

Arts Funding

Mary Upton

Question:

296 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport if her attention has been drawn to the level of cuts being imposed on independent rural arts centres, that these cuts will dramatically impoverish cultural infrastructure in rural areas if allowed to continue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42502/10]

Mary Upton

Question:

297 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport her views that support for older independent rural arts centres is declining; her further views on whether it is appropriate that a formal policy be established to ensure that these centres are adequately supported, based on their local community value and that it is important for the future that the role of local authorities in supporting the arts is formalised and is coordinated with other sources of funding and supports; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42503/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 296 and 297 together.

Primary responsibility for the promotion of the arts at all levels throughout the country is devolved to the Arts Council which, under the Arts Act, is independent in its funding decisions. The allocation to the Arts Council for 2010 is €68.6m from which it may also provide funding to local authorities for arts initiatives.

My Department is responsible for the provision of capital monies for the arts infrastructure such as arts centres, galleries and theatres. Under the ACCESS 11 programme, for instance funding has been provided for around 80 projects. Some of these were local authority led projects and the table below shows the total funding allocated under the ACCESS programme to local authorities during the period 2005-2010.

Year

Funding Allocated to Local Authorities for Arts Capital Projects

2005

40,000

2007

6,785,000

2008

4,300,000

2009

Nil*

2010

Nil*

Total

11,125,000

*No ACCESS programme allocation in these years.

There are other projects supported by local authorities but which were not local-authority-led projects. A list of ACCESS II projects and the amount of grant aid allocated to each project is available on my Department's website.

The increase in the availability of facilities and the enhancement of their quality, as a result of the arts capital schemes, has greatly improved access to and participation in the arts for a great many people.

Funding for the arts for 2011 including the allocation for the Arts Council will be decided in the context of the ongoing Estimates' process.

Sports Capital Programme

John O'Mahony

Question:

298 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport if funding will be available for a project (details supplied) in County Mayo. [42483/10]

Under the Sports Capital Programme, which is administered by my Department funding is allocated to sporting and community organisations for the capital costs of providing sports facilities and the purchase of non-personal sports equipment at local, regional and national level throughout the country. Applications for funding must be in respect of projects that are of a capital nature and must be directly related to the provision of sporting or physical recreation facilities. This means that the project must involve improving or building an asset or buying non-personal sports equipment that will be used for at least five years.

The Programme does not provide grants towards buying sites, premises or personal equipment. In the assessment process the guiding principle is that priority is given to the facilities closest to actual participation in sport. In this regard bar facilities, landscaping and car parks are not funded under the Programme.

It is open to the club in question to apply to the Department for funding under any future round the Sports Capital Programme should they have a suitable project. No decision has been taken on the timing of the next round of the Programme.

Fáilte Ireland undertakes a range of activities to promote angling in Ireland, including investment in infrastructure. Previous grant assistance under Fáilte Ireland's Tourism Capital Investment Programme has been aimed at ensuring that the angling product is maintained and where necessary upgraded to increase supply and improve the quality of the product to bring it in line with best international standards. Because of the infrastructural nature of the investment, Fáilte Ireland has provided funding in conjunction with the relevant local authorities. A direct approach to Fáilte Ireland (88-95 Amiens Street, Dublin 1, Ph: 1890 525 525) by the group in question is recommended.

Arts Funding

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

299 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport if she will provide a breakdown of the capital projects financed under cultural development by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42514/10]

Capital funding for arts and cultural projects supported by my Department is primarily provided from the Cultural Development subhead, D5, of Vote 35 of the Revised Estimates Volume.

Under this subhead, capital grants have been awarded for the development of arts and cultural infrastructure throughout the country. Integrated arts centres, theatres, museums, galleries, arts studios and creative and performance spaces have received capital funding. The capital funding provided to the National Cultural Institutions is set out in Votes 33 and 35 of the Revised Estimates Volume. The tables beneath set out the payments made under the aforementioned subhead D5 in 2009 and in 2010 to date.

Table 1: Capital payments to Cultural Development projects in 2009 by county

County

Visual Arts

Carlow

118,379

Aras Oidhreacht, Spanish Point

Clare

96,793

Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Ennistymon

Clare

18,494

Cork Arts Theatre

Cork

16,462

Cork Opera House

Cork

1,450,000

Everyman Theatre

Cork

9,473

National Sculpture Factory

Cork

157,887

Abbey Community Arts Ballyshannon

Donegal

43,157

Raphoe diocesan archives

Donegal

3,285

Draiocht Ltd, Blanchardstown

Dublin

135,088

Gallery of Photography

Dublin

428,996

Graphic Studio Gallery

Dublin

140,318

Irish Film Institute

Dublin

985,751

Natural History Museum (OPW)

Dublin

50,000

Project Arts Centre

Dublin

60,000

Royal Hibernian Academy

Dublin

470,099

The Abbey Theatre

Dublin

196,272

The Ark Cultural Centre for Children

Dublin

13,124

The Gate Theatre

Dublin

322,159

Druid Theatre

Galway

822,237

Solas Galway Pitcture Palace

Galway

720,468

Siamsa na Carraig

Kerry

52,662

St John’s Theatre Listowel

Kerry

48,505

Castalia Arts Centre, Callan

Kilkenny

127,016

Watergate Theatre

Kilkenny

38,547

Arthouse Stradbally

Laois

43,303

Belltable Theatre

Limerick

152,294

Foynes Flying Boat Museum

Limerick

188,557

Irish Chamber Orchestra

Limerick

28,784

Limerick City Gallery of Art

Limerick

120,977

Backstage Theatre

Longford

174,366

Droichead Arts Centre, Drogheda

Louth

297,060

Ballina Arts Centre

Mayo

300,000

Kiltimagh Theatre

Mayo

27,567

Linenhall Arts Centre, Castlebar

Mayo

21,983

Iontas Castleblaney Rehearsal Space

Monaghan

14,571

Scotshouse Community Hall Clones

Monaghan

2,000

Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Riverstown

Sligo

7,500

Model, home of the Niland Collection

Sligo

2,967,307

Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Brú Ború Cashel

Tipperary

80,193

Theatre Royal Waterford

Waterford

1,783,699

St Michael’s Hall

Wexford

13,782

Wexford Arts Centre

Wexford

612,184

Wexford Theatre Royal

Wexford

2,584,271

Fossets Circus

National

192,247

National Association of Youth Drama

National

7,600

National Treasury Management Agency PPP projects

National

887,962

Office of Public Works PPP projects

National

187,089

Technical assistance

National

74,415

Total

17,294,879

Table 2: Capital payments to Cultural Development projects in 2010 to date by county

County

Aras Oidhreacht Spainish Point

4,792

Clare

National Sculpture Factory

10,078

Cork

Abbey Community Arts

56,843

Donegal

Royal Dublin Society Bookbinding

15,000

Dublin

Royal Irish Academy Art And Architecture Project

75,000

Dublin

Irish Film Institute

40,977

Dublin

Hugh Lane Gallery

26,780

Dublin

Graphic Studio Gallery

15,593

Dublin

Church Genealogy Projects

34,377

Dublin

Dublin City Council Digitization Of Registers

129,459

Dublin

The Abbey Theatre

16,694

Dublin

Imma (Opw)

4,971

Dublin

Solas Pilture House

143,642

Galway

St Johns Theatre

21,495

Kerry

Irish Lebanon Veterans Living History Group _ Exhibition

10,000

Kildare

Watergate Theatre

4,000

Kilkenny

Arthouse Stradbally

376,697

Laois

Opw/Hunt Museum

100,000

Limerick

Bell Table Arts

97,613

Limerick

Backstage Theatre

73,617

Longford

Droichead Arts

2,939

Louth

Model Art & Niland

49,719

Sligo

Nenagh Community Arts Centre

447,122

Tipperary

Wexford Arts Centre

137,816

Wexford

St Michaels Hall

6,218

Wexford

Wexford Theatre Royal

133,387

Wexford

OPW/National Museum Of Ireland

1,000,000

National

Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann

1,871,012

National

National Gallery Of Ireland (Opw)

16,335

National

National Treasury Management Agency Ppp Projects

51,422

National

Technical Assistance For Capital Programme

33,556

National

Total

5,007,156

Sports Capital Programme

John O'Donoghue

Question:

300 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport the reason for the inordinate delay in making payment of a sports capital grant to a centre (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42876/10]

Payment of an allocation under the Sports Capital Programme is subject to compliance on the part of the grantee with the Programme's terms and conditions. Provisional allocations under the Programme cannot be formally approved until all legal requirements are met. The grantee in question was informed in the letter of provisional allocation on 9 May 2007 that no works should be carried out prior to receipt of formal approval from the Department.

The terms and conditions include a requirement, for grantees in receipt of allocations that cumulatively exceed certain threshold levels, to execute a Deed of Covenant and Charge, which is designed to protect the Minister and taxpayers' interest in the grant-aided facility.

Where grantees hold a lease to the property in question, and that lease contains a forfeiture clause, grantees are required to have the landlord execute a landlord agreement. This agreement stipulates that in the event that the facility reverts to the landlord within the period of the Minister's charge, the landlord will either maintain the facility in sporting use or repay the unexpired value of the grant to the Department. The Chief State Solicitor's Office (CSSO) advised in September of this year that landlord agreements should remain an integral part of the Minister's security under the Department's capital programmes.

In the case of the grantee in question, the landlord refuses to enter into such a landlord agreement. The Department is consulting with the CSSO and the landlord concerned to identify a solution to this matter. Following a recent meeting with the landlord in question, the Department wrote to the CSSO on Friday last, 12 November 2010, seeking observations on a proposed solution.

Postal Voting

Joe McHugh

Question:

301 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he plans conferring voting rights on Irish citizens who have emigrated since 2007 for economic reasons; if he acknowledges that the views of these citizens should be reflected in the outcome of the next general election; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42167/10]

In order to be able to vote at elections and referenda in this jurisdiction, a person's name must be entered in the register of electors for a constituency in the State in which the person ordinarily resides.

Postal voting is provided for in electoral law in respect of certain categories of person who are entered in the register of electors. The Electoral Act 1992 provides for postal voting by whole-time members of the Defence Forces, members of the Garda Síochána, and Irish diplomats serving abroad and their spouses. Subsequent legislation enacted by the Oireachtas has extended postal voting to other categories: electors living at home who are unable to vote because of a physical illness or a physical disability (the Electoral (Amendment) Act 1996); electors whose occupation, service or employment makes it likely that they will be unable to vote in person at their local polling station on polling day and full-time students registered at their home who are living elsewhere while attending an educational institution in the State — in these cases, the law provides for completion of the necessary voting documentation at a Garda station (the Electoral Act 1997); certain election staff employed at the poll outside the constituency where they reside (the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2001); and electors who because of the circumstances of their detention in prison pursuant to an order of a court are likely to be unable to go in person on polling day to vote (the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2006).

While electoral law is subject to ongoing review I have no proposals at present to alter existing arrangements for postal voting.

Hare Coursing

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

302 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason he granted licences to two coursing clubs (details supplied) to hold coursing meetings on a day not specified in the hares order, that is, 25 September 2010. [42399/10]

Section 26(3) of the Wildlife Act 1976 allows me, as Minister, to grant a licence to a coursing club to undertake hare coursing on a day or days which are outside the Open Season Order dates, (the period between 26 September and 28 February). The two clubs referred to in the question applied to my Department to hold meetings on Saturday 25 September, 2010. I approved these two applications as most meetings are traditionally held at weekends and given the fact that the granting of licences would not result in additional coursing meetings being held. Similar licences were issued to clubs in previous years.

Planning Issues

Finian McGrath

Question:

303 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will clarify the role of an organisation (details supplied). [42423/10]

An Bord Pleanála was established in 1977, under the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act 1976, primarily to provide for independent consideration of planning authorities' decisions on planning applications in the event that such decisions are appealed.

An applicant for permission, and any person who has made a valid submission or observation on a planning application, may appeal the decision of a planning authority to An Bord Pleanála. An Bord Pleanála, in determining an appeal, reviews the entire case, having regard to the same matters as the planning authority in deciding the application, i.e. the proper planning and sustainable development of the area, having regard to the provisions of the development plan, any submissions or observations received, and relevant Ministerial or Government policies, including any guidelines issued by my Department.

As Minister, I am specifically precluded, under section 30 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 and 2010, from exercising any power or control in relation to any particular case with which a planning authority or An Bord Pleanála is concerned.

Departmental Expenditure

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

304 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the size of the underspend if any for each of the budget lines or grant-aided projects administered by his Department this year; if each local authority will have spent their various capital grants by the end of the year, and the amount he anticipates will be returned to the Department or not drawn down due to non-completion of projects, delays in delivery or start-up of contracts. [42425/10]

The Revised Estimates for Public Services 2010 provide a capital allocation to my Department for this year of €1,509.103m; capital expenditure to the end of October 2010 is €720.170m. Details of the allocations and spend across the various capital programmes within my Department's remit, which are administered primarily by local authorities, are set out in the following table.

Programme Area

2010 Estimate

Expenditure to End October 2010

€000

€000

Administration

A.5 Office Machinery

1,843

782

Housing

B.1 Social Housing Provision and Support

550,500

211,186

B.2 Local Authority Estate Regeneration and Remedial Works

240,000

72,988

B.3 Private Housing Adaptation Grants and Other Supports

89,500

47,842

Water

C.1 Water Services

508,000

316,672

Environment

D.1 Environmental Protection Agency

1,500

592

D.2 Environmental Radiation Policy

304

250

D.4 Carbon Fund

33,223

32,870

Waste Management

E.2 Landfill Remediation

4,000

1,264

Local Government

F.2 Fire and Emergency Services

18,000

12,294

F.3 Local Authority Library and Archive Service

7,300

1,956

F.4 Community and Social Inclusion

1,600

221

F.5 Disability Services

7,700

1,922

Heritage

G.1 Grant For Heritage Council

4,500

1,912

G.2 Built Heritage

11,500

3,161

G.3 Natural Heritage (NPWS)

14,200

4,060

Planning

H.3 Urban Regeneration

102

0

Other Services

I.2 Miscellaneous Services

15,331

10,198

Total

1,509,103

720,170

It is usual that there is significant expenditure from the Vote towards the end of the year and I expect that this will also be the case in 2010. The position in relation to 2010 spending is being monitored closely by my Department, in consultation with local authorities. While it is likely that there will some capital savings in 2010, it is not possible at this stage to quantify the precise extent of any savings. I do, however, expect that any such amount will be modest relative to the overall capital provision.

Mortgage Arrears

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

305 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of households purchasing homes under the various affordable housing schemes administered by local authorities who are in ongoing arrears of more than six months, 12 months or 18 months in their mortgage repayments; the steps he will take to help mortgage holders and the local authorities to cope with this growing problem. [42434/10]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

306 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the consideration that he has given to allowing local authorities to purchase back affordable homes from those who have fallen into arrears of 18 months or more, as a logical use of the house purchasing programme which the councils engage in on an ongoing basis to add to local authority housing lists and thus ensure that those families do not end up homeless and that the council receives income in the form of rent for said properties. [42435/10]

I propose to take Question Nos. 305 and 306 together.

The majority of households who purchased under the various affordable housing schemes would have done so using loan finance from a private lending institution. These are essentially private homeowners and my Department does not therefore collect data in respect of the performance of such mortgages.

The Government has put in place a range of supports for home owners facing difficulty in meeting their mortgage repayments including a Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears which applies to all mortgage lenders; support from the Mortgage Interest Scheme under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance system; and the provision of advice on debt management through the Money Advice Budgeting Service (MABS).

In addition, the Expert Group on Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt — which published its interim report in July 2010 — has now submitted its final report to the Minister for Finance. This is expected to include recommendations on further measures to assist such homeowners.

In terms of local authority borrowers, data published in the annual Service Indicators in Local Authorities gives details on local authority mortgage arrears generally, including some mortgages drawn down by households purchasing under the various affordable housing schemes as well as those purchasing under Tenant Purchase. The most recent data from the 2008 Report show local authorities mortgage arrears running at 11.7%.

Section 34 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 enables a housing authority to enter into an arrangement with a household for the rescheduling of payments of accumulated arrears, including interest, due to it in respect of specified rents, equity charges and loans, where the authority is satisfied that the household would otherwise suffer undue hardship.

Local authorities can and do exercise the powers available to them and endeavour, in all arrears cases, to engage proactively and constructively with a distressed borrower with the aim of enabling a household remain in their home. In addition, I issued comprehensive guidance earlier this year based on the Financial Regulator's Code of Practice, to ensure that cases of local authority mortgage arrears are handled in a manner that is sympathetic to the needs of the particular household, while also protecting the position of the local authority concerned. My Department has also been represented on the above–mentioned Expert Group on Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt.

Where any borrower, either from a local authority or from a private financial institution, is facing difficulties in meeting mortgage repayments, they should engage proactively and constructively with the lender to seek to achieve an agreed solution.

Turbary Rights

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

307 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 225 of 4 November 2010, if he will provide the details of each of the number of cases in which his Department, the Environmental Protection Agency or a planning authority has determined that an Environmental Impact Assessment is required for the extraction of peat, pursuant to Directive 85/337/EEC, and the number and details of EIAs undertaken on the basis of such determinations; each case in which his Department, the EPA or a planning authority has determined that an appropriate assessment is required for the extraction of peat, pursuant to Directive 92/43/EEC, and the number and details of appropriate assessments undertaken on the basis of these determinations; and each case in which his Department, the EPA or a planning authority has determined that peat extraction is not an exempted development under Class 17 of Part 3 of Schedule 2 to the Planning and Development Regulations 2001, as amended SI No 600/2001, on the basis that such peat extraction would be likely to have significant effects on the environment. [42459/10]

For purposes of consents given under the Planning and Development Acts, it is a matter for the planning authority in question to decide whether or not an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) or Appropriate Assessment, in accordance with the Habitats Directive, is required. Similarly, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for determining whether an EIA and/or Appropriate Assessment is required in relation to its licensing functions.

My Department collects statistics from planning authorities on the total number of EIA planning applications received in any year, but I am advised that these are not broken down by type of development such as peat extraction. I am not, therefore, in a position to provide the information requested in that regard. My Department does not have information regarding the number of Appropriate Assessments undertaken by Local Authorities, nor does it have information regarding Environmental Impact Assessments and Appropriate Assessments undertaken by the EPA. However, my Department is aware of a number of cases where a determination has been made that EIA is required for proposals relating to turf extraction. I will arrange for details of such cases to be forwarded to the Deputy.

Applications for consent for turf extraction below ten hectares within Special Areas of Conservation and Natural Heritage Areas are decided by me, as Minister, on the basis of the provisions of the European Communities (Natural Habitats) Regulations and the Wildlife Acts. In such circumstances, it is also open to me to require that an Environmental Impact Assessment be carried out where I consider that the proposed activity is likely to have significant effects on the environment.

In my role as a consent authority in this regard, I have refused several requests for consent to extract turf within SACs. I will arrange for details of these requests to be provided to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Following the end of a ten–year grace period granted regarding turf-cutting for domestic purposes in SACs and NHAs, the Government confirmed earlier in 2010 that no further turf extraction should occur in such sites without the explicit consent of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. This applies to 31 raised bog SACs from this year, the remaining 24 raised bog SACs from the end of 2011 and 75 Natural Heritage Areas from the end of 2013. In these sites, appropriate assessment will be required for all such determinations. It will also be open to me to require Environmental Impact Assessment in such cases.

I have no function in determining whether or not a proposal is an exempted development under Class 17 of Part 3 of Schedule 2 to the Planning and Development Regulations 2001.

Departmental Schemes

Róisín Shortall

Question:

308 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the overall savings to the State in each of the years since the inception of the rental accommodation scheme arising from the transfer of tenants to that scheme from the rent supplement scheme. [42478/10]

The core objectives of the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) are to reform the approach towards providing accommodation within the private rented sector for long-term dependents on rent supplement and to enhance the response of housing authorities to meeting long-term housing need.

Funding for the RAS is provided by a transfer of monies from the Department of Social Protection's (DSP) Vote to my Department's Vote. Monies are provided on an exchequer neutral basis to meet the costs of persons transferring from the Rent Supplement Scheme to the RAS. The issue of savings does not therefore arise.

The total budget for RAS in 2010 is €125 million, which represents a 38.1% increase on the budget provision for 2009 (€90.5m). The €125m budget provided for RAS in 2010 is intended to support the costs of all existing rent supplement households transferred to the scheme previous to 2010 and to fund the costs of rents of additional new transfers to the scheme during the year.

My Department has supported external review of RAS undertaken by the Centre for Housing Research, as well as undertaking an Interim Value for Money and Policy Review of the scheme. In line with the Department of Finance guidelines on the latter, the completed review has been the subject of an external evaluation and will be published in the New Year.

Water Pollution

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

309 Deputy Darragh O’Brien asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if there are any environmental standards applicable to the operation of car wash facilities, for example, in relation to water run-off, silt, oil and so on and if stand-alone car wash facilities, not part of a garage, require planning permission. [42513/10]

Under the Water Pollution Acts 1977 and 1990 it is an offence to permit polluting matters to enter waters. The Acts require that discharges of trade effluent to waters or to sewers are licensed by local authorities. In granting a licence, the local authority may attach such conditions as it considers appropriate, for example, covering the nature, composition and volume of discharges.

In addition, regulations made in 2009 and earlier this year as part of the ongoing implementation of the Water Framework Directive establish environmental quality standards and environmental objectives for surface waters and groundwater across a range of substances. Local authorities are required to have regard to these when licensing discharges of trade effluents to waters. Under the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2010 and the associated regulations, all development commenced on or after 1 October 1964 requires planning permission unless specifically exempted. Section 4(1) of the Act, and Article 6 and Schedule 2 of the Regulations, set out certain broad categories of development that are exempted from the requirement to obtain planning permission. There is no specific exemption for car wash facilities.

Local Authority Charges

David Stanton

Question:

310 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, under the Local Government (Charges) Act 2009, mobile homes, chalets and holiday homes in holiday parks and holiday villages and used primarily for holidays are exempt from paying the non-principal private residence charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42524/10]

The Government in the Local Government (Charges) Act 2009 broadened the revenue base of local authorities through the introduction of the charge on non-principal private residences. The charge is set at €200 and is being levied and collected by local authorities. With some exemptions, the charge applies to a residential property that is not the sole or main residence of the owner, including holiday homes. Mobile homes do not come within the ambit of the Act.

Any property in respect of which commercial rates are paid is not liable under section 2 of the Act for the non-principal private residence charge.

Proposed Legislation

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

311 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the climate change Bill will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42539/10]

I expect the Bill to be published before the end of the current Dáil term.

Cross-Border Co-operation

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

312 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the discussions, if any, he has had with his counterpart in the Six Counties in relation to the creation of a public all-Ireland water distribution system (details supplied). [42564/10]

There is ongoing co-operation between my Department and the Department of Environment in Northern Ireland and other relevant agencies in a wide range of areas related to the environment. Within the North South Ministerial Council, we have discussed matters mandated under the Good Friday Agreement such as waste, water quality, and environmental research and monitoring. Other important areas of co-operation, outside the remit of the Council, include biodiversity, spatial planning and housing.

Specifically, in the area of water services, the Water Framework Directive requires that, in cross-border river basin districts, Member States must coordinate their activities. On the island of Ireland, three of the eight river basin districts are cross-Border districts and the authorities in both jurisdictions have worked closely together in the preparation of the river basin management plans. The primary means of co-ordination is through the North-South Water Framework Directive Coordination Group, comprised of representatives from the implementing authorities in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The issue of an all-Ireland water distribution system has not been discussed. This does not, however, preclude local authorities in the Border regions from co-operating with neighbouring councils in relation to water services.

Building Regulations

Joe McHugh

Question:

313 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in the context of his Department’s ongoing review of retail planning guidelines, if he will take views (details supplied) into account; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42612/10]

Michael McGrath

Question:

314 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the review of the retail planning guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42615/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 313 and 314 together.

I refer to the reply to Question No. 199 of 14 October 2010 which sets out the position in this matter.

Local Authority Housing

Mary Wallace

Question:

315 Deputy Mary Wallace asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the role available for the members of local authority in the allocation of local authority housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42616/10]

Under section 22 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, which came into operation on 14 June 2010, the making and amendment of an allocation scheme for social housing is a reserved function of the elected members of each housing authority. Section 22(11) provides that the allocation of a dwelling under an allocation scheme is an executive function of the manager of the housing authority concerned.

Waste Management

Emmet Stagg

Question:

316 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the accumulative surplus of the environment fund, deriving from the landfill levy and plastic bag levy, can be used to fund the removal of illegally dumped waste from a landfill when the operators have effectively abandoned the landfill. [42764/10]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

317 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the accumulative surplus of the environment fund, deriving from the landfill levy and plastic bag levy, can be used to fund the provision of landfill gas collection infrastructure on landfills when the operators have effectively abandoned the landfill. [42765/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 316 and 317 together.

Revenues from the levies on plastic shopping bags and the landfill of waste are paid into a ‘ring-fenced' Environment Fund, established under the Waste Management (Amendment) Act 2001, and can be used for activities that are of benefit to the environment. The purposes for which the Fund may be used are set out in section 74(9) of the Waste Management Act 1996 (as inserted by section 12 of the Waste Management (Amendment) Act 2001) and the Waste Management (Environment Fund)(Prescribed Payments) Regulations 2003.

It is essential that every effort is made to ensure that those responsible for environmental damage fully meet the costs involved and any question of the State funding any remedial works involved, whether from the Environment Fund or any other source, would fall to be considered in that context.

Departmental Reports

Deirdre Clune

Question:

318 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will publish a report (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42790/10]

While the Cork Docklands Forum Report, which was submitted to the then Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment in 2008, has not been formally published, I understand that the main findings and recommendations of the report are in the public domain.

As stated in the reply to Question No. 104 of 19 October 2010, enabling measures are currently being considered further to progress the development of Cork Docklands in conjunction with Cork City Council and other stakeholders.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

John O'Mahony

Question:

319 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount of money owed to a body (details supplied) in County Mayo by his Department; when will this money be paid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42814/10]

My Department has paid Mayo County Council a total of €6.243 millionto date in 2010 in respect of water services schemes in the county, against a total claimed of almost €7.1 million. The shortfall is largely due to some claims being adjusted by the Department to comply with approved scheme budgets or to exclude ineligible expenditures.

My Department is currently examining claims on hands with a value of about €2 million and it is expected that the eligible payments will made before the end of the year. In addition, my Department is examining the final accounts for a total of 14 water services schemes on which monies may be owed to the Council. The Department also awaits the final accounts on a further two schemes. It is not possible to declare the amount of monies still owed to the Council on all such schemes until the Department has assessed the final accounts in each case and agrees the final outturn figures for each scheme with the Council.

Under my Department's 2010 Rural Water Programme, Mayo County Council has been notified of a block grant allocation of €14.610 million. To date, €9.525 million of this amount has been paid to the Council. The balance will be paid when my Department is satisfied that any payment claims, either already received or which will be received in good time for payment this year, are due to the Council and in order for payment.

Planning Issues

Denis Naughten

Question:

320 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to review legislation regarding the licensing of outdoor events for less than 5,000 persons; if his attention has been drawn to the lack of control associated with such events; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42825/10]

Section 230 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 provides that a licence is required in respect of the holding of an event, or class of event prescribed under Part 16 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 (Licensing of Outdoor Events).

While I have no specific proposals for review, I will continue to keep the operation of Part XVI of the 2000 Act under scrutiny to ensure its effective operation.

Local Authority Services

Noel Grealish

Question:

321 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will clarify the response (details supplied) from Galway County Council to a company that wishes to be included on the panel of topographical surveyors is correct; if it is his policy to retain a panel for five years, particularly given the current economic climate where prices for such services have dropped significantly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42885/10]

The detailed terms and conditions under which public authorities may enter into framework agreements, and contracts based on agreements, are set out in Regulations 33, 34 and 35 of the European Communities (Award of Public Authorities' Contracts) Regulations 2006, which were made by the Minister for Finance. The duration of a framework agreement may not generally exceed 4 years. It is a matter for local authorities as contracting authorities to implement public procurement procedures in accordance with the relevant legislative requirements.

Building Regulations