20 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Finance his estimate of the impact on VAT receipts of the planned reduction in June in the lower rate of VAT from 13.5% to 12%. [5422/11]
Vol. 728 No. 4
20 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Finance his estimate of the impact on VAT receipts of the planned reduction in June in the lower rate of VAT from 13.5% to 12%. [5422/11]
The Government has committed in the Programme for Government, to lower the 13.5% reduced rate of VAT to 12% up to the end of 2013. It is intended that this VAT reduction will be undertaken within the first 100 days of office as part of a series of measures to resource a Jobs Fund.
It is estimated that a reduction of 1.5% in the reduced VAT rate would cost €353 million in a full year. If the proposed VAT reduction is introduced on 1 June 2011 it is estimated that this would reduce VAT receipts by €147 million this year.
21 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance the plans for the six financial institutions under the bank guarantee scheme; when it is envisioned that the public stakes in the banks will be disposed of as per the programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5395/11]
The strategy for the future structure, functioning and viability of Irish financial institutions is being developed in detail and will be agreed with the IMF, ECB and the European Commission. Within the context of a comprehensive reorganization and downsizing of the banking sector, the strategy will identify the appropriate path to ensure that the banking system will operate without the need of further State support.
As provided for in the Programme for Government, this Government is committed to the disposal of the public stakes in the financial institutions as soon as possible at the best possible return to the taxpayer. A timeframe for this has not yet been developed, as our first priority is to stabilize the institutions to ensure they provide the economy with the credit required.
22 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Finance the date on which the Fiscal Advisory Council will be appointed; the number of members who will be appointed to this council; the frequency with which this council will report to the Dáil; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5405/11]
The establishment of an independent Fiscal Advisory Council is a key aspect of budgetary reform which the Government is committed to implementing under the terms of the Government Programme. My Department is already working towards strengthening fiscal and budgetary procedures, including the establishment of a Fiscal Council. I hope to review this work shortly and consider how best it can inform the wider debate on budgetary reform.
I will bring forward in due course detailed proposals, including those relating to an establishment date, membership of the Council and the nature and extent of its reporting relationship with Dáil Éireann. Furthermore, I would like to remind the Deputy that under the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support, Ireland is obliged to establish such a Council by the end of June 2011.
It is very important for the effectiveness of the Council that it will be, and will be seen to be, transparent in its work and activities. With this in mind, it is intended that the modelling assumptions and inputs of the Fiscal Advisory Council will, as far as possible, be open to public scrutiny and its outputs would be freely available to external bodies, including, in particular, the opposition parties.
The House will be aware that the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service produced a detailed report in November 2010 entitled "Macroeconomic Policy and Fiscal and Economic Governance". This report included proposals in respect of a Budget Review Council which would, among other things, evaluate fiscal policy outcomes relative to targets as well as the sustainability of the fiscal position adopted by Government.
23 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the steps he is taking to address the summer flooding in the Shannon Callows; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5413/11]
The Deputy will be aware of the on-going national programme of catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management studies, which will lead to the development of comprehensive Flood Risk Assessment and Management plans for areas of significant flood risk. The Office of Public Works has assigned significant resources to this programme and it is intended that contracts to engage consultants to complete the programme by the end of 2015 will be in place by end 2011.
Jacobs International have been appointed as consultants to undertake a Catchment-based Flood Risk Assessment and Management Study for the River Shannon. The first principal reporting stage of this study will be the Preliminary Flood Risk Assessment which is required to be reported on at EU level by 22 December 2011 as set out in the EU Floods Directive. The outcome of this assessment will be presented to the local authorities within the River Shannon catchment prior to that.
The summer flooding of the Shannon Callows between Portumna and Athlone will be specifically examined in this study to reflect the social and environmental damage which it causes in the catchment.
I will continue to review the efficacy of any interim measures, to assist in mitigating flood impacts, in the Callows area which may be pursued in advance of the completion of the Shannon CFRAM study.
In parallel with the commissioning of the CFRAM study for the River Shannon, the OPW continues to liaise with Waterways Ireland and the ESB to review water management protocols for the major storage areas in the Shannon system.
24 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the planned aggregate adjustments that will be made in the economy each year from now until 2015; if he will provide a draft summary of the consolidation plans beyond 2012; if he will provide growth projections for this period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5391/11]
39 Deputy Brian Lenihan asked the Minister for Finance his estimate of the fiscal correction for each of the years 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 in order to achieve the programme for Government’s stated objective of reducing the deficit to 3% of GDP by 2015. [5417/11]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 24 and 39 together.
Firstly, let me make clear that this Government believes that sustainable public finances are a pre-requisite for economic stability and growth and we are committed to a determined deficit reduction strategy over the coming years.
The previous Government set out a multi-annual fiscal consolidation strategy in the National Recovery Plan 2011-2014, which projected the General Government deficit being reduced to under 3 per cent of GDP by 2014. While remaining fully committed to reaching the 3 per cent of GDP deficit target, we believe that the appropriate time-scale to achieve this is over the period to 2015. It is important to point out that this additional year had already been provided for by the Ecofin Council agreement of December last and as such is entirely consistent with the views of the EU Commission.
In relation to the budgetary consolidation to be undertaken in each of the years until 2015, the Government intends to adhere to the aggregate fiscal adjustment previously set out for the combined period 2011 to 2012. We believe that this level of consolidation is appropriate and that delivering on these targets will enhance our international credibility.
The details of the level of consolidation which will be necessary in the years 2013 to 2015 are currently being reviewed, in light of emerging economic and fiscal data and the extension of the adjustment period. My Department's view, based on its assessment last November, is for annual average GDP growth of around 2.75 per cent per annum over the period 2011 to 2014. As part of the new EU semester which applies to all Member States, revised economic and fiscal projections will be published with the Stability Programme Update next month. These forecasts will take account of the latest domestic and international data available and will present an assessment of prospects out to 2015.
Of course, all projections are subject to a significant degree of uncertainty and this is why the Programme for Government foresees a review of the progress on deficit reduction in the approach to Budget 2013 in order to ensure a deficit below 3 per cent of GDP is delivered by 2015. This is an entirely sensible position as it will be important to reconsider the scale of the adjustment needed at that stage in the light of the circumstances that pertain.
That said, I would point out that the Government believes that achieving the 3 per cent of GDP deficit is an intermediate step in the process of restoring the public finances and that further reductions in the deficit to GDP ratio will be required thereafter.
The new Government is determined to restore sustainability to our public finances and we will work with our Programme partners to ensure that this is achieved.
25 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance if he will proceed with the standardisation of tax reliefs as set out in the national recovery plan; the property tax reliefs, tax reliefs and property shelters that will be reduced, capped or abolished; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5403/11]
The Deputy may be aware that we undertook in the programme for Government to reduce, cap or abolish property tax reliefs and other tax shelters which benefit very high income earners. All tax reliefs are reviewed as part of the annual budget and Finance Bill process. The EU/IMF programme of assistance included commitments to, among other things; reduce tax relief over the period to 2014 on pension contributions. These proposals form part of the fiscal consolidation commitments agreed with the EU Commission, the IMF and the ECB. This approach has implications for the incentive for individuals to save for retirement and I will be examining the potential for alternative approaches in the coming months.
In relation to the property tax reliefs, the Deputy will be aware that the Finance Act 2011 provides for the progressive restriction and eventual abolition of the use of accelerated capital allowances under the various property and area-based tax incentive schemes and the relief for lessors of certain residential property, commonly known as section 23-type relief.
These restrictions are subject to a commencement order, which can come into effect 60 days after the publication of an economic impact assessment.
I am currently considering this matter.
26 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Finance when the Strategic Investment Bank will be set up; the staff requirements needed in the new bank; the branch structure envisioned for the new bank; the way this bank will be established; the way this bank will be funded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5399/11]
The Government has published a comprehensive programme setting out its goals over the full range of policy concerns. The Government will address this programme over its term of office in a measured and prioritised way. I would draw the Deputy's attention to those elements of the programme for Government which refer to reform of the way in which Government spending is assessed, planned, decided and reviewed. Major projects, as the setting up of a Strategic Investment Bank undoubtedly is, will require a detailed business case or, where appropriate, a cost-benefit analysis. When the necessary detailed assessment and planning work has been done, the Government will be in a position to decide on the timing and the structure for setting up the Strategic Investment Bank.
The detailed requirements of the Strategic Investment Bank in relation to staffing, branch structure, and funding will be decided at the appropriate time.
29 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the way he plans to shed 25,000 jobs in the public sector in the period up to 2015; the cost savings he hopes to achieve; the schemes that will be introduced to ensure that these reductions are made in the public sector; the grades within the public sector most likely to be targeted for job losses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5397/11]
The Government plans to bring about a reduction of between 18,000 and 21,000 in overall public service numbers by 2014, relative to the end-2010 position, with a further 4,000 reduction in 2015, subject to there being no compulsory redundancies and to the protection of front line services. As outlined in the Government programme, this will involve a fundamental change to the way in which the Government and the public service operates, including the rationalisation of core processes across the public service, a reduction in the number of State bodies and the elimination of non-priority programmes and outsourcing of non-core functions, where appropriate. The measures necessary to give effect to these reductions are being developed on by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, taking account of the existing projections for staff numbers over the coming years. The upcoming comprehensive spending review will also focus upon reform and new ways of delivering public services, and the opportunities and challenges arising under the Croke Park Agreement. This Review will identify the policy decisions within which these numbers reductions will be made.
30 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance his plans to assist families in mortgage difficulty; the discussions he is planning with the Irish Family Services Regulatory Authority on the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5412/11]
As agreed in the Programme for National Recovery 2011 to 2016, the Government will examine a number of proposals aimed at helping mortgage-holders in difficulty. These will include: increasing mortgage interest relief to 30% for first time buyers in 2004-2008 (from the current sliding scale of 20% to 25% depending on the year the mortgage was taken out), financed in part by bringing forward the abolition of relief for new buyers from June 2011. Directing any mortgage provider in receipt of State support to present Government with a plan of how it intends to cut its costs, over and above existing plans, in a fair manner by a sufficient amount to forgo a 25 basis point increase on its variable rate mortgage. Introducing a two year moratorium on repossessions of modest family homes where a family makes an honest effort to pay their mortgage. Fast-tracking personal bankruptcy reform needed to bring Ireland into line with best international standards, such as introducing a flexible discharge period for "honest bankrupts", defined as one that has materially complied with the tax, NAMA and companies Acts among others. Converting the Money Advice and Budgeting Service into a strengthened Personal Debt Management Agency with strong legal powers. The agency will support families who make an honest effort to deal with their debts, including non-mortgage debt, providing protection from their creditors where appropriate, so that they have time to sort out their affairs. In order to do so, the Personal Debt Management Agency will have quasi-judicial status. Making greater use of mortgage interest supplement to support families who cannot meet their mortgage payments is a better and cheaper option than paying rent supplement after a family loses their home.
The Deputy will be aware that the Expert Group on Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt produced two reports, an interim report published in July 2010 and a final report published in November 2010. All of the expert group's recommendations are listed in Chapter 2 of the final report. They can be accessed at www.finance.gov.ie
Since the publication of the reports, the Code of Conduct for Mortgage Arrears (CCMA) has been revised by the Central Bank to reflect many of the recommendations of the expert group including key recommendations relating to the introduction by all regulated lenders of a standardised Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP). The most significant changes in the revised CCMA include: borrowers in arrears who co-operate with the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP) are not charged penalty interest charges; harassment of borrowers through unsolicited communications is outlawed; and borrowers in financial difficulties, but not in arrears, are allowed to come under the MARP.
The revised CCMA was published on 6 December 2010 and came into effect on 1 January 2011. The revised CCMA can be accessed at www.centralbank.ie. Lenders are required to comply with the CCMA as a matter of law but have been given a period of six months grace ending on 30 June 2011 to put in place the requisite systems and training of staff necessary to support the implementation of the MARP. In addition, the Central Bank has also written to lenders to issue directions under section 149 of the Consumer Credit Act 1995 which will mean that lenders cannot impose arrears charges or penalty interest on borrowers who are co-operating with MARP.
The Deputy will also be aware of the existing importance of the mortgage interest supplement (MIS) scheme and the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) in assisting consumers who have fallen into arrears or who are experiencing difficulties servicing their mortgage repayments. The MIS scheme currently supports approximately 18,000 mortgage-holders while MABS provides a national, free, confidential and independent service operating from 53 offices nationwide.
31 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance his view on the fact that the ten year bond yields have reached record high levels since the publication of the programme for Government; his plans to ensure that bond yields do not increase further; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5396/11]
The yield on Ireland's 10-year bond, which stood at 4.48% at the end of the first quarter of 2010, was 9.49% on 21 March 2011. The yield spread over the German 10-year bond increased from 1.38% to 6.35% over the same period. The secondary market in Irish Government bonds is negatively affected by a number of factors at the moment, including uncertainty about the implications for the capital requirements of the Irish banks arising from the PCAR and PLAR exercises. In addition, there is some uncertainty regarding the final outcome of the current discussions on the various mechanisms for supporting the euro-area debt markets. The implementation of measures by the Government to create a healthy and vibrant banking system together with the resolution of the Europe-wide dimensions of the banking and debt crisis should help create the conditions in which confidence would begin to return to our bond market.
Furthermore, the Government's programme to support growth which will in turn underpin its jobs strategy will also assist in a more favourable view of Ireland over the medium term.
32 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Finance when he will announce his plans for a jobs budget. [5423/11]
The Government is very strongly committed to a jobs and growth strategy. We are also fully committed to bringing forward as a matter of priority a jobs fund to put this strategy into effect. While a specific date for the publication of such a jobs fund has yet to be finalised, the Government is committed to its introduction in the early stages of its term. I can assure the House that this issue is a key priority for this Government and work is advancing on bringing the necessary policy measures forward.
33 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Finance when the McCarthy Review Group on State Assets will publish their report; if he has received a copy of this report; when it is envisioned that he will target the €2 billion in sales of State assets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5401/11]
The Review Group on State Assets and Liabilities is currently finalising its report and I expect that it will be brought to Government shortly. Publication of the report will be a matter for Government decision. On foot of Government's consideration of the group's recommendations, a programme of asset disposals will be drawn-up to meet the target that was agreed in the programme for Government. This will take account,inter alia, of the review group’s recommendations as to the appropriate candidates for disposal and the timing of such disposals.
34 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Finance the discussions that he and other representatives from the Department of Finance have had within the past few weeks with the International Monetary Fund; the positions taken by him and the IMF; the outcome of the meetings; if he will provide a schedule of meetings he is due to have with officials from both the Commission and the IMF; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5407/11]
The Minister for Pubic Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, myself and officials from my Department met with key officials from the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank, in my Department on Wednesday, 16 March to discuss the implications of the programme for Government for the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland. I restated this Government's commitment to the fiscal targets set out in the EU/IMF programme while outlining this Government's intention to reconsider some of the spending and revenue measures within the EU/IMF programme. I have committed to discussing any proposed changes to the programme with the IMF, European Commission and ECB. It is clearly understood that any changes to the EU/IMF programme that have cost implications will have to be compensated for with alternative measures.
In relation to the financial sector, I explained that the Government's approach to the bank restructuring as agreed under the EU/IMF programme will depend on the results of the stress tests which are not available until 31 March.
As you will be aware, the first EU/IMF programme quarterly review was due to take place last month. However, given the timing of the general election, the quarterly review was deferred and a technical mission took place in February in its place. The first quarterly review is being combined with the second quarterly review which has been provisionally scheduled to take place from the 5 to 15 April. The schedule for this review has yet to be finalised.
Finally, I would also point out that there are regular contacts at official level between the Irish authorities and the EU, the ECB and the IMF concerning the support programme.
35 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance the timeline for completion of the solvency stress tests of the banks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5393/11]
The Prudential Capital Assessment Review (PCAR) and Prudential Liquidity Assessment Review (PLAR) for AIB, Bank of Ireland, Irish Life and Permanent, and EBS Building Society will be completed by the Central Bank of Ireland by the end of March and form part of the economic and financial policies to be implemented during the period of the external programme to end of 2013. The PCAR includes stress tests based on adverse macro economic scenarios to establish the capital needs of banks over the next three years. Work is progressing to schedule and in agreement with the external authorities.
The PLAR will set banks specific funding targets consistent with Basel III and other international measures of stable, high quality funding. The PLAR will outline measures to be implemented with a view to steadily deleveraging the banking system and reducing the bank's reliance on short term funding.
36 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Finance when the comprehensive spending review will be undertaken; the persons who will make up this comprehensive spending review; the deadline for the review to be completed; the terms of reference for the review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5402/11]
The Government intends to initiate a Comprehensive Spending Review shortly and to complete the exercise within approximately six months, so that its findings can be reflected in the Budget for 2012. The details of how the Review is to be conducted are now being finalised by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.
37 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the personnel from outside the current system that will be brought into the public sector as per the programme for Government; the number of new personnel expected to be brought in; the proposed grades of these new personnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5398/11]
In regard to public sector reform, the Programme for Government 2011 set out the following: the introduction of new personnel from outside the current system, particularly experts in change management. New talent and skills brought into the Department of Finance; new skills and rigour brought into policy-making across all Departments. All appointments at Principal Officer level and above will be open to external competition and at least one-third of such appointments will be reserved for candidates from outside traditional civil service structures for a 5-year period.
As the Deputy is aware, there is a recruitment and promotion moratorium in place in the Civil Service, local authorities, non-commercial State bodies, the Garda Síochána and the Permanent Defence Forces. Decisions in respect of future recruitment campaigns will be taken in the context of the business needs of the relevant organisation, the moratorium on recruitment and promotion and any redeployment arrangements agreed for the civil and public service. Open competitions have always been held for recruitment to entry level grades of Clerical, Executive and Administrative Officer. The Social Partnership Agreements,Sustaining Progress and Towards 2016 , made provision for open recruitment to other Civil Service grades under the themes of Public Service Modernisation. A number of open competitions at Principal Officer, Assistant Principal Officer and Higher Executive Officer levels have been held since 2003.
The current situation is that appointments at senior level are already open to external applicants. It is already the case that for some grades, more than one third of appointments are offered to external candidates. Applicants from outside the Civil Service who make it to the final stages of the competitions do well.
In late 2010 the Revenue Commissioners recruited, by open competition, Principal Officers and Assistant Principals with relevant skills (taxation, IT, audit) and Solicitors. This resulted in a very significant proportion of appointments from the private sector. This shows that once there is a clear and targeted identification of specific skills to suit the needs of the organisation that appointments may be made, and are made, of people with the skills required, whether from public or private sector.
In relation to the grades above Principal Officer, since early 2007 the policy has been that open competitions are held for Assistant Secretary, Deputy Secretary and equivalent posts. More recently this policy has been extended to Secretary General Posts, with the exception of a limited number of Secretary General posts which are filled by the Government without a TLAC competition. In 2010, from 12 competitions for posts at Assistant Secretary level, the TLAC recommended the appointment of three candidates from outside the civil service, two from the private sector (one of whom did not take up the post) and one from the public service.
38 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Finance the progress being made to finalise the work on the Commission’s six legislative proposals on economic governance; the progress made in implementing the recommendations of the task force; the progress in putting together the National Reform and Stability Programme required by the European Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5410/11]
The Commission published legislative proposals in September 2010, following its Communications earlier in 2010 on strengthening budgetary discipline and introducing new procedures to prevent the occurrence of harmful macro-economic imbalances and excessive divergences in competitiveness in the euro area. The Commission's proposals have been under consideration by a Council working group which has taken account also of the parallel recommendations of the Van Rompuy Task Force on economic governance which reported last autumn.
I understand that tomorrow's European Council is expected to adopt conclusions on the proposals. This will form a basis for discussion with the European Parliament with a view to implementation of agreed changes thereafter. The main aspects of the proposals relate to prudent fiscal policy making, greater emphasis on debt levels, prevention of macro-economic imbalances and strengthening of national fiscal frameworks in line with the Stability and Growth Pact. In the context of the euro area, there is also provision for financial sanctions in the event of persistent non-compliance with Council recommendations.
In line with the arrangements which have been agreed in the context of the new European Semester, a draft National Reform Programme (NRP) was submitted to the European Commission in December 2010. The NRP is currently being finalised and along with a Stability Programme Update will be submitted to Government for approval in the coming weeks. These programmes are due to be submitted to the European Commission by the end of April. The European Semester aims to allow for a simultaneous assessment of both budgetary measures (Stability Programme) and structural reforms (National Reform Programme) fostering growth and employment so that better account is taken of the EU and euro area dimensions when countries prepare budgets and economic reform programmes.
40 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Finance the Government’s policy is on the NAMA (Amendment) Bill 2010. [5419/11]
The NAMA (Amendment) Bill 2011 which was published on 26 January 2011 made provision for the transfer of sub €20 million land and development loans from Allied Irish Banks and Bank of Ireland with a view to achieving further deleveraging of those banks. The Government has clearly stated in the Programme for National Government that further asset transfers to NAMA are unlikely to improve market confidence in either the banks or the State. At this stage, it is not intended to proceed with the Bill. Consideration of a range of options in terms of reorganisation of the banking sector is ongoing in conjunction with the domestic and external authorities.
41 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance the medium-term, affordable, official financing that will be made available to the banks as per the programme for Government; the source of this funding; the cost at which this funding will come; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5394/11]
Consistent with the terms of the EU-IMF Programme for Ireland, the Central Bank will perform a Prudential Liquidity Assessment Review (PLAR) which will be completed by the end of March. The PLAR will set out measures to achieve steady deleveraging and bring about a reduction in the reliance of the banks on Central Bank funding by the end of the programme period. In addition to the PLAR, the Prudential Capital Assessment Review (PCAR) will be completed by the Central Bank of Ireland by the end of March which will establish the capital needs of banks over the next three years.
The agreed EU-IMF Programme provides for a recapitalization, fundamental downsizing, restructuring and reorganization of the Irish banking sector. The aim of the process is a smaller banking system, which will be capitalised to highest international standards with renewed access to normal market sources of funding. This will enable the Irish banks to reduce their reliance on Eurosystem and Central Bank funding mechanisms.
This Government is committed to a smaller banking system that reduces its reliance on funding from the Irish and European Central Banks. As referred to in the programme for Government, as an interim measure, the Government will seek to replace emergency lending to our banks with medium-term, affordable, official financing. This commitment is part of a comprehensive programme which sets out the Government's goals over a full range of policy concerns and will be addressed in a measured and prioritised manner. All appropriate options to replace emergency lending will be considered.
42 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Finance when he plans to restructure the boards of the banks and replace the directors as per the programme for Government; when the review into the remuneration schemes at banks will be undertaken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5400/11]
The commitments referred to by the Deputy contained in the "Government for National Recovery 2011 – 2016" programme — namely those relating to the restructuring of the boards of the covered institutions and the review of remuneration schemes operating in such institutions – will form a vital part of this Government's objective of making the banking system an engine of economic recovery by restoring public and market confidence in its financial health, management competence and ethical integrity. Actions on these matters will be addressed by this Government and the regulatory authorities as appropriate at the earliest possible date consistent with the on-going discussions concerning banking matters. In this regard the Deputy will note the action of the Central Bank, announced yesterday, to review the fitness and probity of all existing executive and non-executive directors of banks which have received Government assistance which is aligned with the objective above. The Central Bank is also reviewing how credit institutions are addressing the new EU wide regulations, effective from 1 January 2011, on the remuneration policies and practices of credit institutions which are designed to impose a binding obligation on such institutions to have remuneration policies and practices that are consistent with and promote sound and effective risk management, accompanied by high level principles on sound remuneration.
43 Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding the Economic Partnership Agreements; if there will be flexibility in the discussions on these agreements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5561/11]
44 Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that many non-governmental organisations are concerned that safeguards will be put in place in order to counteract cheap imports in African countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5562/11]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 43 and 44 together.
Since 2002, the EU has been negotiating a series of new trade and development agreements with the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of States. The negotiations for these Economic Partnership Agreements are being carried out by the European Commission, on behalf of the European Community and the Member States. They were necessitated by rulings by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that the unilateral trade preferences which the EU had previously granted to the ACP countries established unfair discrimination between developing countries.
The original aim had been to conclude comprehensive Agreements with six regional groupings of the ACP States by the end of 2007, the deadline set by the WTO. However, following a process of protracted and difficult negotiation, only one of the ACP regional groups, representing Caribbean States, was ready to initial an Economic Partnership Agreement by that date. In order to avoid trade disruption, interim Agreements were agreed and initialled at the end of 2007 with 21 other ACP States, either individually or in regional groupings. These interim Agreements provide for full duty and quota-free access to the European Union market but allow the ACP countries a flexible and asymmetric trade liberalisation schedule.
In recent years, there have been well-founded concerns that momentum in the negotiations was being lost, and that there was a need to revitalise the original shared commitment to the achievement of strong Agreements which serve the development needs of the ACP countries, promoting economic growth and regional integration. In light of these concerns, a positive development at the EU-Africa Summit last November was the commitment by political leaders from both sides "to conclude Economic Partnership Agreements that support socio-economic development, regional integration and the integration of Africa into the global economy". There was a clear commitment also from EU leaders to show flexibility in addressing concerns raised by African countries in the negotiations.
The Deputy refers to concerns which several Non-Governmental Organisations have raised in the context of the negotiations regarding the danger of an increase in cheap imports to African countries. These concerns have been raised with the Commission, and discussed among the EU Member States. Under the terms of the interim Agreements, ACP countries are permitted to exclude a wide range of sensitive goods and sectors from any trade liberalisation. In practice, these exclusions have covered agricultural products considered key to food security and the income of rural communities, products from industries considered vulnerable and, in some cases, products where import duties provide essential state revenues. Safeguard clauses in the Agreements provide an additional safety net, allowing countries to take measures to protect infant industries, food security and rural development or any other production sector in the event of a threat of market disruption by imports.
I will follow these negotiations closely in order to ensure that they reflect the commitment made at the EU-Africa Summit. I believe it is essential that Agreements reached strongly support the development needs of the ACP countries and specifically their programmes to reduce poverty. I am very aware of the concerns that have been raised in the past by African countries and by NGOs, and I will want to work with our partners to ensure that the EU's negotiating approach allows for the application of all the trade flexibility permissible under WTO law. The negotiations being led by the European Commission must serve to strengthen the EU's partnership with the ACP States, and I will work with our partners, in the EU and in Africa, to this end.
45 Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has received representations from non-governmental organisations on their concerns at the low capacity of developing countries to implement fair and effective tax collection systems; if an estimate is available on the loss of money from developing countries due to tax avoidance and evasion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5563/11]
Efficient and fair tax systems in developing countries are essential for sustainable growth, poverty reduction, and the provision of services so that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) can be met. They also help in promoting democracy and state legitimacy, since tax payers are more likely to hold their governments to account. This is why building government systems, including tax and other systems of good governance, is such an important pillar of Ireland's overseas aid programme, Irish Aid.
I welcome the growing interest in, and representations from non-governmental organisations on, the importance of building fair and transparent government systems.
Tax avoidance and evasion is a major issue for developing countries. It is difficult to estimate the exact cost to state exchequers in all developing countries. According to the Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation, reported estimates of revenue losses suffered by developing countries range between approximately US $35 billion and US $160 billion per year.
However, there are also grounds for optimism. First and foremost, governments of developing countries are seeing domestic revenue mobilisation in a new light. The uncertainty created by the global economic crisis has underpinned the realisation that it is primarily fair and efficient taxation that will meet the revenue needs of developing countries. The formation of the African Taxation Administrators Forum (ATAF) by revenue authorities across Africa, supported by our overseas development programme, Irish Aid, is playing an important role in building capacity in that regard.
These efforts are being reinforced by a growing international consensus around taxation and development. The G8 and the G20 have made considerable advances with the assistance of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the International Monetary Fund and others towards addressing illicit capital flows and tax evasion. The EU has also adopted, with Ireland's support, an action plan to support tax administration and reforms in developing countries.
I am also happy to note that a comprehensive Tax and Development Programme was recently launched, with the active engagement of OECD members, including Ireland, developing countries, non-governmental organisations, civil society and business. This Programme will respond to the new opportunities for more international tax transparency, and work towards an enhanced enabling environment for developing countries to collect tax revenues and to build effective states.
Finally, Ireland is supporting through our aid programme a number of other important initiatives aimed at strengthening tax systems in Africa. This includes support for regional efforts such as AWEPA's work with the East African Community Customs Union. The very fruitful collaboration between the Irish Revenue Commissioners and the Rwanda Revenue Authority is also being supported. More generally, our partnership with the Irish Aid Programme Countries places an emphasis on strengthening the management of public finances and ensuring that revenues raised are used effectively and efficiently to tackle poverty.
46 Deputy Brian Lenihan asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm the status of the fiscal targets set out in the National Recovery Plan 2011- 2014. [5519/11]
The previous Government set out a multi-annual fiscal consolidation strategy in the National Recovery Plan 2011-2014, which projected the General Government deficit being reduced to under 3 per cent of GDP by 2014. While remaining fully committed to reaching the 3 per cent of GDP deficit target, we believe that the appropriate time-scale to achieve this is over the period to 2015. It is important to point out that this additional year had already been provided for by the Ecofin Council agreement of December last and as such is entirely consistent with the views of the EU Commission. In relation to the budgetary consolidation to be undertaken in each of the years until 2015, the Government intends to adhere to the aggregate fiscal adjustment previously set out for the combined period 2011 to 2012. We believe that this level of consolidation is appropriate and that delivering on these targets will enhance our international credibility.
The details of the level of consolidation which will be necessary in the years 2013 to 2015 are currently being reviewed, in light of emerging economic and fiscal data and the extension of the adjustment period. As part of the new EU semester which applies to all Member States, revised economic and fiscal projections will be published with the Stability Programme Update next month. These forecasts will take account of the latest domestic and international data available and will present an assessment of prospects out to 2015.
47 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if all 14 of the candidates selected for the OPW/RIAI architectural graduate training scheme will be offered positions considering seven applicants are yet to be offered positions, though the start deadline is March 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5464/11]
This Office sponsors a post-graduate architect training scheme to provide practical experience for graduate architects wishing to prepare for the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (R.I.A.I.) (NUI) examination in professional practice or RIBA Part 3 examinations. The training programme is available for up to a maximum of 30 Graduates for a period of 3 years. This Office currently has twenty four Graduates on the training programme including seven from the most recent competition run by the R.I.A.I. The remaining seven applicants will be placed on the programme as and when the work programme permits and the necessary resources are available. While it was hoped that all the graduates would have been placed between October of last year and March this year it may be some months before further calls are made. All remaining seven applicants have been informed of the situation.
48 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Anglo Irish Bank is tendering for new IT systems and the way this can be justified in view of the stated intention to wind down that bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5470/11]
As the Deputy is aware, the day to day running of the bank's operations is a matter for the Board of Anglo Irish Bank. However, the Bank has confirmed that it's tendering does not focus on new I.T. systems other than what is required to maintain the Bank's business and provide essential I.T. maintenance services to support its existing infrastructure and systems. The maintenance of these existing systems is necessary for the Bank to effectively manage its requirements under the Restructuring plan currently under consideration by the European Commission.
49 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if consideration is being given to the impact of escalating oil prices on the transport industry; if any temporary taxation adjustments or other measures are being considered in view of the high knock-on effects of ever rising fuel costs for all businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5477/11]
Ireland, as with other countries, has experienced an increase in the cost of petrol and auto-diesel. The increase in fuel prices is an international phenomenon. Fuel prices are driven by a number of factors including the price of oil on international markets, exchange rates, production costs and refining costs. The rise in oil prices over recent periods reflected additional factors such as geopolitical uncertainty in Northern Africa and the Middle East with potential supply disruptions. The excise rates (including the carbon charge) in Ireland on motor fuels are 57.6 cent on a litre of petrol and 46.6 cent on a litre of auto-diesel. Ireland's excise rates are the ninth and fourth highest in the EU27 for petrol and auto-diesel respectively. However, our rates remain lower than many of our main trading partners and significantly lower than our nearest neighbour the UK.
The Exchequer yield from excise, as excise is set at a nominal amount, does not increase as the price of fuels increase. On the other hand, the yield from VAT per litre of fuel, as VAT is set as a percentage of the price, increases as the price of fuels increase.
It is on this latter basis that there are often demands to reduce taxes on fuel. However, I would point-out that the Exchequer gain may be limited because:
1. the increase in petrol and diesel prices reduces the quantity of such fuels being purchased,
2. spending in the economy is likely to be re-allocated to petrol and other oil products, and away from other VAT liable spending, and
3. the overall level of economic activity is reduced by higher oil prices.
It should also be noted that businesses are of course entitled to reclaim VAT incurred on their business inputs, including VAT incurred on fuel. For example, VAT incurred on auto-diesel and marked gas oil (MGO or green diesel) used in the course of business is a deductible credit for business in the Irish VAT system. VAT on petrol can not be deducted/reclaimed.
There are no plans for temporary taxation adjustments for specific sectors or businesses in general, as to do so, could lead to significant costs to the Exchequer. The issue of rising fuel prices was briefly discussed by EU Finance Ministers at the ECOFIN meeting on 15 March and they reconfirmed the approach taken in 2005 and again in 2008, when oil prices were very high, which endorsed a coordinated approach towards not making distortionary fiscal adjustments.
50 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if he will reconsider the directive requiring a 5% cut in pay for low paid school-based non-teaching staff considering in most cases, and certainly in private schools, the pay levels for caretakers, secretaries and so on have no implications for the public purse; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5488/11]
The Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No 2) Act 2009 provides for the reduction in the pay rates of all persons employed by public service bodies with effect from 1 January 2010. Such reductions apply irrespective of whether a particular post is funded in whole or in part through non-Exchequer funds or income. The non-teaching staffs referred to in the question are, whether employed in public or private schools, deemed to be public servants within the meaning of and for the purposes of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009. This position has been confirmed by legal advice.
The former Minister for Finance approved a temporary exemption under Section 6 of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act for certain categories of workers in the education sector (including certain caretakers and secretaries) until 31 December 2010. Accordingly, the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest(No. 2) Act has been applied to those specific categories of workers in the education sector since 1 January 2011 only.
It is important to understand that while there is a variety of staff across the education sector who are employed by public service bodies but who are either wholly or partly funded from non-Exchequer sources, there are also staff undertaking the same or very similar duties whose posts are fully Exchequer funded. All of these staff have now been subject to the terms of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009.
51 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Finance the reason a person (details supplied) in County Longford and their spouse with students at third level cannot receive tax relief on rents paid for these students, none of whom have grants, while any other couple paying rent can claim up to €4,000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5494/11]
Section 473 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides tax relief for rent paid, up to certain limits, for private accommodation used as a sole or main residence. A phased withdrawal of this relief was announced in the recent National Recovery Plan 2010 – 2014, Budget and Finance Act. The amount of rent that can be relieved will reduce on a gradual basis, culminating in the total withdrawal of the relief for the year 2018 and subsequent years. The relief takes the form of a reduction in income tax liability. The reduction is an amount equal to the lowest of:
the total amount of rent paid multiplied by the standard rate of tax for that year;
the specified limit (which in the case of a person assessed to tax as a married couple is €3,200 or, if the person is aged 55 years or over, €6,400 for the tax year 2011) multiplied by the standard rate of tax for that year; and
the amount that reduces the income tax of that person to nil.
The relief is not available to any person who was not paying rent on 7 December 2010.
Rent paid by parents for accommodation for their children undergoing third level education does not qualify for the relief as the rented accommodation is not the sole or main residence of the parents.
Notwithstanding the above, the Government acknowledges the continuing financial pressures on parents and students and is therefore making significant commitments in the area of third level education. In general, there are no tuition fees payable at undergraduate level. This is an effective subsidy to students and their parents or guardians who would otherwise have to pay some or all of the economic cost of providing such undergraduate education.
52 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to introduce a scheme which would facilitate apprentices who have been made redundant in the completion of their apprenticeships; when such a programme will be put in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5473/11]
A significant number of measures are currently in place to enable registered redundant apprentices to progress in their apprenticeships.
Under the apprenticeship programme administered by FÁS, the rules for off-the-job training have been amended to permit redundant apprentices to progress to their next off-the-job training phases. To date in 2011, 714 apprentices registered as redundant had completed their next off-the-job training. An additional 454 are scheduled to commence off-the-job training in April 2011. The Redundant Apprentice Placement Scheme introduced by FÁS last year to provide work placement opportunities for redundant apprentices to complete on-the-job training at Phase 3, 5 and 7 has been broadened in 2011 include placements with employers in both the private and the public sectors. The scheme for which €7.3m in funding is being provided aims to provide placement and training for up to 1,000 apprentices. The maximum period of placement is 26 weeks at Phase 3 or 26 weeks at Phase 5 or 12 weeks at Phase 7. Under the 2010 scheme, the employment costs of the redundant apprentice which were in line with industry wage norms, were paid by the employer with FÁS contributing a weekly subsidy of €250. 443 redundant apprentices availed of this measure in 2010.
The new 2011 scheme requires no wage contribution from the employer but instead a standard training allowance is paid to the redundant apprentice by FÁS related to the particular training phase involved. Eligible redundant apprentices are referred by FÁS to approved employers to participate in the scheme. To date 254 redundant apprentices have been placed on the scheme with a further 77 applications approved.
In addition, under the Phase 7 Equivalent Assessments Scheme, redundant apprentices in the trades of Carpentry and Joinery, Cabinet Making, Electrical, Plumbing, Brick and Stonelaying and Plastering who have successfully completed Phases 1 to 6 of their apprenticeships but who have not completed on-the-job Phase 7 Assessments, are scheduled by FÁS to undertake Phase 7 Equivalent Assessments over a 4 weeks period in a FÁS Training Centre.
Under the Recognition of Prior Learning Scheme, redundant apprentices who have successfully completed Phases 1 to 7 (or Phase 7 Equivalent Assessments) of their apprenticeships but who have not completed the statutory four years in employment as apprentices may be granted an exemption from this requirement by validating their competence. FÁS invites qualifying redundant apprentices to submit a portfolio of evidence of trade related work experience gained at home, abroad or in trade related training and education on the basis of which evidence exemptions may be granted. 51 applications under the scheme have been received to date in 2011.
Under the EU Leonardo da Vinci Lifelong Learning Programme, 12 redundant apprentices commenced on-the-job training with employers in Germany last month. Under the Fee Waiver Scheme, FÁS day and evening course fees are waived for redundant apprentices to facilitate them to enhance their employable skills. Finally, a number of new programmes for redundant apprentices and craftspersons are being developed currently by FÁS in conjunction with the Higher Education Authority and Institutes of Technology. These programmes include a post-Phase 6 certificate in craft transferable skills, a special course in advanced skills for redundant plastering craftspersons, a certificate in entrepreneurship for redundant craftspersons and short duration courses to prepare apprentices to repeat their outstanding assessments.
53 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a grant application for inclusion in the summer works scheme in respect of a school (details supplied) in Dublin 18; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5471/11]
I understand that the school referred to by the Deputy has submitted an application for works under the 2011 Summer Works Scheme. Applications for funding under the scheme are being processed in my Department, as outlined in the Circular governing the operation of the Scheme, and the school authority in question will be notified of the decision on the application shortly.
54 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9 regarding tuition and supports. [5521/11]
The home tuition scheme provides funding to parents to provide education at home for children who, for a number of reasons such as chronic illness, are unable to attend school. The scheme was extended in recent years to facilitate tuition for children awaiting a suitable educational placement and also to provide early educational intervention for preschool children with autism. I have arranged for an application form to be forwarded to the parents in question.
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 to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.
All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie. I have arranged for the details supplied to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.
55 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will respond to an issue regarding a pension raised in correspondence (details supplied). [5527/11]
The Public Service Pension Reduction (PSPR) is a once-off reduction applied to the gross annual pension of public service pensioners by reference to a set of rates and income bands.
The Financial Emergency Measure in the Public Interest Act 2010 (No. 38 of 2010) gave effect to PSPR.
The measure does not alter in any way other aspects of Public Service Pensions so all regulations and conditions pertaining to the award of a pension to the teacher in the particular case referred to by the Deputy would continue to apply.
In the case of the teacher referred to, the award of the pension was subject to the condition that they would not be eligible for future employment in any capacity as a teacher/lecturer in any school or college recognised and funded directly or indirectly by the Department of Education and Skills and should they be subsequently employed in any such capacity payment of pension would immediately cease.
The following information contains further details on the Public Service Pension Reduction.
Public Service Pension Reduction (PSPR) — Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the basic design of the public service pension reduction?
The measure is a once-off reduction applied to the gross annual pension of public service pensioners by reference to a set of rates and income bands. In this sense it is not a levy in the way that the public service pension-related deduction is often called the pension levy.
It will apply to existing pensioners and persons retiring up to end-February 2012. Retirees thereafter will not be affected, but their pensions will be lower as they will be affected by the January 2010 pay cuts.
The reduction has a proportionately greater impact on persons with more substantial pensions. Pensions below €12,000 will be exempt.
2. From what date will the reduction apply?
The Public Service Pension Reduction (PSPR) applies to the pensions of civil and public servants with effect from 1 January 2011.
When making the first pension payments in the year 2011, public service employers must ensure that the PSPR only applies in respect of the days of the first 2011 pay period that fall in 2011.
This means that any part of such 2011 pension payments attributable to the year 2010 must not be subjected to the PSPR.
3. Who is and who is not subject to the reduction?
Persons currently receiving public service pensions, or who start to receive them up to 29 February 2012 are subject to the reduction.
Persons who retire after 29 February 2012 will not be affected by the reduction. This is because their pensions will be automatically lowered as they are based on the reduced pay rates applicable in the public service since 1 January 2010.
4. What income bands and rates are used to determine the reduction?
Between €12,000 and €24,000
Between €24,000 and €60,000
5. Where a pensioner also gets a State Pension from the Dept. of Social Protection, is that State Pension income be subject to the reduction?
6. Are retirement lumps sums or death gratuities affected?
No, only pensions.
7. Are survivor pensions payable under public service schemes liable to the reduction?
8. For persons on pension rate of pay, does the reduction apply?
9. How will public servants at different income levels be affected?
Pension before Reduction
Department of Finance 17 December 2010.
56 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will reverse the proposal in the new circular, 0019/2011, with regard to the way that temporary and substitute teachers are dealt with. [5531/11]
The process of allocating teaching resources to schools for 2011/2012 and the arrangements for filling vacant or new teaching posts takes place in the context of the Programme for National Recovery, the EU/IMF Programme of Support for Ireland and the Public Service Agreement 2010/2014.
It is necessary for my Department to exercise additional control and reporting measures this year to ensure that the numbers of teachers employed in schools is consistent with the Programme for National Recovery and the EU/IMF Programme of Support for Ireland.
It is necessary therefore, for my Department to ensure this year that all permanent and fixed term positions are in the first instance made available to those permanent and CID holding teachers that are surplus and are to be redeployed.
This means that until further notice that no school can be given authority to commence recruitment until my Department is in a position to assess the number of these teachers, if any, that remain to be redeployed.
It is the intention of the Department to restore recruitment from fixed-term teachers on the main panels, supplementary panels or public advertisement at the earliest possible opportunity, after all the surplus permanent teachers have been redeployed.
57 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the delay in various educational establishments receiving payment from the education finance board for the rehabilitation and development of former residents of institutions. [5547/11]
The Education Finance Board is an independent statutory body established pursuant to the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (Amendment) Act, 2005. My officials have made enquiries of the Board who advise that there has been a significant increase in the number of applications received which has given rise to an inevitable and regrettable increased delay in clearing payments to applicants. The Board is making every effort to finalise the processing of all outstanding applications as quickly as possible.
58 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons denied a welfare payment due in 2010 due to failure to satisfy the habitual residence condition. [5456/11]
59 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of Irish citizens who were denied a welfare payment in 2010 due to failure to satisfy the habitual residence condition. [5457/11]
60 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of non-Irish EU citizens who were denied a welfare payment in 2010 due to failure to satisfy the habitual residence condition. [5458/11]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 58 to 60, inclusive, together.
The following table gives details of the number of people who were disallowed a social welfare payment during the year 2010 because they did not satisfy the habitual residence condition. Due to industrial action which took place during the first half of 2010 , figures in respect of 2010 are incomplete. HRC information in relation to nationality of citizens of countries other than Ireland is not routinely maintained by the Department.
Nationals of Countries other than Ireland
One-Parent Family Payment
State Pension (Non-Con)
Note: Data incomplete due to industrial action during 2010.
61 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of appeals filed in 2009 and 2010 against refusals to provide a payment on the basis of the habitual residence condition, and the number of these that succeeded. [5466/11]
I am informed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that the statistics requested by the Deputy in relation to the number of appeals received by that Office against refusals to provide a payment on the basis of the habitual residence condition are not maintained.
However, in 2009, 1,383 decisions were by made by Appeals Officers in relation to the Habitual Residence Condition of which 328 were allowed or partly allowed and 1,055 disallowed. In 2010, 4,146 decisions were made in relation to Habitual Residence Condition, of which 747 were allowed or partially allowed and 3,399 disallowed. 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.
62 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has had rent supplement suspended; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5497/11]
The Health Service Executive has advised that payment of rent supplement was suspended in this case in the course of a routine review. The person concerned should contact the community welfare officer at her local health centre in order to discuss her continued entitlement to rent supplement.
63 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will reconsider her decision not to allow a person (details supplied) to participate in a community employment scheme given that neither FÁS nor the Department of Social Protection advised the person of entitlements to seek a place on a scheme prior to their job scheme payment ceasing and given the fact that a community employment place is available. [5552/11]
As Minister for Social Protection I do not have a role in the administration of individual cases in regard to the operation of the Community Employment programme. The administration of individual cases under Community Employment is a day-to-day matter for FÁS as part of its responsibility under the Labour Services Act 1987 as amended by Part 3 of the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2010.
64 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in view of the difficult financial situation for all new homeowners, he will, as a matter of urgency, introduce legislation to exempt owners who bought homes under the affordable housing and shared ownership schemes from the claw-back charge by the county councils in line with the exemption granted to those who bought post 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5465/11]
While I am mindful of the difficulties many households are facing in terms of mortgage arrears and issues relating to negative equity it is not intended to introduce a scheme on the lines proposed. It is important to note that the claw-back is intended to prevent short-term profit taking on the resale of the house to the detriment of the objectives of the schemes.
However, where a person is selling and the claw-back amount payable would reduce the proceeds of resale below the initial price actually paid the legislation provides for the amount of the claw-back payable to be reduced to the extent necessary to avoid that result.
65 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if all local authorities have complied with the requirements of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1997, together with other relevant legislative procedures, measures and courses of action for dealing with anti-social behaviour in estates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5524/11]
The Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1997 (as amended) and section 35 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 confer a range of powers on housing authorities relating to combating anti-social behaviour in their housing stock. Authorities are required by the 2009 Act to adopt an anti-social behaviour strategy. The exercise of these powers is a matter for the relevant authority.
66 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon will receive their agreed payment for the sale of turbary rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5548/11]
The Chief State Solicitor's Office had been in contact with the vendor's Solicitor in relation to the purchase of turbary rights on the land in question. Title on part of the property was unregistered and the vendor had not been able to produce good marketable title. As a result of this the purchase could not go ahead in its entirety. I understand that the purchase of turbary rights on the portion of the property for which good title is available can go ahead and I have requested the Chief State Solicitor's Office to proceed with this.
67 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when a grant will be awarded in respect of a project (details supplied) in County Laois; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5551/11]
My Department approved €2,800 under the Environment Fund for Biodiversity Awareness 2010 to the Abbeyleix Bog Group in County Laois. Payment in 2010 was subject to the grant being drawn down by the end of November 2010. The paperwork to process payment was not received from the Abbeyleix Bog Group until 5 January 2011, and, accordingly, payment of this grant could not be met in 2010.
However I can confirm that the grant will be paid shortly.
68 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of parents of Irish citizen children deported in each of the years 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and to which countries. [5450/11]
69 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of parents of Irish citizen children who have voluntarily left the country following the issuing of a deportation order since 2006 and to which countries. [5451/11]
70 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of Irish citizen children who have left the country following the issuing of a deportation order to their parents and to which countries. [5452/11]
71 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of parents of Irish citizen children who have been issued with deportation orders but are still living here. [5453/11]
I propose to take Question Nos. 68 to 71, inclusive, together.
I wish to inform the Deputy that it is not possible to provide the information requested as statistics are not compiled by my Department in a manner which readily identifies if a person is the parent of an Irish citizen. In addition, a number of parents of Irish citizen children may have left the State voluntarily before becoming the subject of a deportation order or, once they became the subject of a deportation order, may have made their own arrangements to leave the State as required by that deportation order without informing my Department. Accordingly, no figures are available to my Department in respect of such persons. In relation to deportations effected, I can inform the Deputy that I am aware of 12 Irish citizen children in 2010 whose parents chose to bring them with them to Nigeria where one or both parents were the subject of deportation orders. Details for previous years are not readily available.
72 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if, following the recent Zambrano judgment in the European Court of Justice, he will undertake to return the deported parents of Irish citizen children to Ireland. [5454/11]
73 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if, following the recent Zambrano judgment, he will now undertake not to deport the parents of Irish citizen children. [5455/11]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 72 and 73 together.
In reply to the Deputy's question, I refer to the statement I issued on 21st March in relation to the implications of the Zambrano judgment which I have appended to this reply.
Statement by Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr Alan Shatter, TD, on the implications of the recent ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union in the case of Ruiz Zambrano.
The Zambrano case was referred to the ECJ by a Belgian tribunal. Ireland along with a number of other Member States intervened in the proceedings. In summary, the Court ruled that Article 20 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union precludes a Member State from refusing a third country national upon whom his minor children, who are EU citizens, are dependent, a right of residence in the Member State of residence and nationality of those children, and from refusing to grant a work permit to that third country national, in so far as such decisions deprive those children of the genuine enjoyment of the substance of the rights attaching to the status of European Union citizen. [See background note for more detailed explanation of the case.]
Ireland’s Approach to Implementing the Judgement
First it is important to state that this judgement applies only where the child is a citizen. It has no implications whatever for Irish Citizenship law. The granting of citizenship remains a matter entirely for the Oireachtas under the Constitution [see background note].
Given the importance of the ruling in the Zambrano case, I have decided, with the support of my Government colleagues, to make a brief public statement outlining the consideration being given to cases involving Irish minor dependant citizen children who have a non-national third country parent or parents.
One possible approach in these matters is to wait for pending cases to be determined by the Irish Courts and for the Courts to interpret and apply the Court of Justice ruling. That is an entirely justifiable approach from a legal standpoint. However in this case the Government has agreed that there needs to be a more proactive approach and that it should make a clear statement of its intention to take early action in these cases, insofar as it is unnecessary to await rulings of the Courts. We should not tie up the courts unnecessarily or ask eligible families to wait longer than necessary.
Accordingly I have asked my officials to carry out an urgent examination of all cases before the courts (approximately 120 at present) involving Irish citizen children to which the Zambrano judgment may be relevant.
The Government has agreed with my proposal that early decisions in appropriate cases to which the Zambrano judgement applies be made without waiting for further rulings of the Courts.
I have also asked my officials to examine the cases in the Department in which the possibility of deportation is being considered in order to ascertain the number of cases in which there is an Irish citizen child and to which the Zambrano judgment is relevant. In addition, consideration will be given to those cases of Irish Citizen children who have left the state whose parents were refused permission to remain.
This initiative is being taken in the best interests of the welfare of eligible minor Irish citizen children and to ensure that the taxpayer is not exposed to any unnecessary additional legal costs.
The Zambrano judgment applies EU law to certain situations which had previously been considered to be internal to a Member State and to be regulated by national law, not EU law. Indeed, all the Member State Governments which submitted observations to the European Court of Justice in the Zambrano case, and the European Commission, submitted that the provisions of European Union law referred to by the Belgian court in its reference to the European Court of Justice were not applicable to the dispute in the main proceedings. However, the Court of Justice ruled otherwise.
Other intervenors in the case were Germany, Austria, Denmark, Netherlands, Poland, Greece and the EU Commission. All intervenors including the Commission were in agreement that this was a matter of national competence. The Court did not support this argument. The Court ruled as follows.
"As the Court has stated several times, citizenship of the Union is intended to be the fundamental status of nationals of the Member States.
In those circumstances, Article 20 TFEU precludes national measures which have the effect of depriving citizens of the Union of the genuine enjoyment of the substance of the rights conferred by virtue of their status as citizens of the Union.
A refusal to grant a right of residence to a third country national with dependent minor children in the Member State where those children are nationals and reside, and also a refusal to grant such a person a work permit, has such an effect.
It must be assumed that such a refusal would lead to a situation where those children, citizens of the Union, would have to leave the territory of the Union in order to accompany their parents. Similarly, if a work permit were not granted to such a person, he would risk not having sufficient resources to provide for himself and his family, which would also result in the children, citizens of the Union, having to leave the territory of the Union. In those circumstances, those citizens of the Union would, as a result, be unable to exercise the substance of the rights conferred on them by virtue of their status as citizens of the Union.
Accordingly, the answer to the questions referred is that Article 20 TFEU is to be interpreted as meaning that it precludes a Member State from refusing a third country national upon whom his minor children, who are European Union citizens, are dependent, a right of residence in the Member State of residence and nationality of those children, and from refusing to grant a work permit to that third country national, in so far as such decisions deprive those children of the genuine enjoyment of the substance of the rights attaching to the status of European Union citizen".
The judgement has no implications in terms of eligibility for Irish citizenship.
Prior to the 2005 Citizenship Referendum, any person born on the island of Ireland was entitled to Irish citizenship. Since the referendum, where a child is born in Ireland to non-national parents, one of those parents must have been lawfully resident in Ireland for 3 out of the previous 4 years, other than as an asylum seeker or a student, in order for the child to acquire Irish citizenship.
Children may also apply for naturalisation in their own right in certain circumstances.
74 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform his plans to re-instate gardaí engaged in the plain clothes anti-drugs squad in the Longford area, who were very successful in combating drugs in the county but were withdrawn by the previous Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5522/11]
Responsibility for the allocation of personnel, both uniformed and plain clothes, in An Garda Síochána rests with the Garda Commissioner. I have been informed by him that the full time dedicated Divisional Drugs Unit for the Roscommon/Longford Division is based in Roscommon Garda Station and comprises six Gardaí under the supervision of a Detective Sergeant. Local Garda Management is of the view that the establishment of the Unit, based in Roscommon, ensures a more cohesive and coordinated approach to the enforcement of drugs legislation within the Division. While the members are physically based in Roscommon, their remit remains division-wide.
The Divisional Officer is satisfied that the Unit is deployed on a regular basis in Longford and other locations within the Division, as the need and crime trends indicate. Liaison is maintained with local District Officers regarding intelligence-gathering and the monitoring of movements of local suspected offenders in respect of the sale and supply of illegal drugs within the Division. The situation is closely monitored by local Garda Management in consultation with the Regional Assistant Commissioner.
75 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform his plans to review Gardaí divisions, following the retrograde step by the previous Government, which resulted in the splitting of Longford/Westmeath and placing Longford in the Roscommon division; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5523/11]
In accordance with the provisions of the Garda Síochána Acts, proposals to alter the boundaries of a divisional geographical area are a matter in the first instance for the Garda Commissioner in the context of the Annual Policing Plan. The 2008 Policing Plan, which was laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas, contained proposals from the Commissioner to realign Garda boundaries in a number of areas around the country.
In that context the Commissioner established a Programme Board, chaired by an Assistant Commissioner, to oversee the implementation of changes to Garda boundaries nationwide. In addition, Project Boards chaired by the local Divisional officers were established in each Division to develop tailored implementation plans and ensure that service delivery to the community would be maintained to a high standard following realignment.
The boundary changes in question resulted in the establishment of the new Roscommon/Longford Division and they were part of an overall package to provide an improved service to the general public. I have been advised by the Garda authorities that they are satisfied that this objective has been realised and that currently they have no plans to alter Garda divisional boundaries.
76 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the position regarding a family reunification case in respect of a person (details supplied). [5532/11]
I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that the person referred to made a Family Reunification Application in February 2010.
A decision on this case issued to the legal representative of the above named on 24 February 2011 and a copy of the consideration detailing the reasons for the decision was also provided. 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.
77 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason for the delay in payment of the 2010 single farm payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford; if he will expedite payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5460/11]
The application under the 2010 Single Payment Scheme, received from the person named on 4 May 2010, included 26 land parcels, 15 of which required re-digitisation. Payments under the 2010 Single Payment Scheme commenced nationally on 18 October 2010 and, while payments issued to the person, these were on the basis of those land parcels that were clear for payment on each date. The digitising of a number of parcels has been completed, which will now allow the remaining payment to issue shortly to the person named.
78 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding the introduction of an Animal Health and Welfare Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5496/11]
The Programme for Government 2011 includes a commitment to amend and strengthen animal welfare legislation. A draft Animal Health and Welfare Bill is in the course of preparation.
The Bill will consolidate and update existing legislation in the area of animal health and welfare with the aim of ensuring that the welfare of all animals, including non-farm animals, is properly protected. Some new provisions will also be included, specifically to strengthen the powers of authorised officers and to increase penalties for offenders.
79 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive payment under the new REP scheme. [5533/11]
Under the EU Regulations governing the Agri-Environment Options Scheme and other area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, must be completed before any payment can issue. Payment will issue at the earliest possible date once these checks have been completed.
80 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding an application for the single farm payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [5534/11]
An application under the 2010 Single Payment Scheme was received from the person named on 19 April 2010. The application was fully processed and has been paid in full.
81 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will reverse the decision which disallowed the flexibility for children with a disability to avail of their entitlement to preschool hours over a two year period in view of the fact that in many cases they are simply unable to avail of the three hours available to the majority of children; his views that this flexibility is absolutely essential to ensure that the children who need it most can avail of this scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5463/11]
The free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme, was introduced in January 2010 with the objective of providing one free pre-school year to all eligible children before they commence primary school. Children qualify for the free pre-school year where they are aged more than 3 years 2 months and less than 4 years 7 months at 1 September in the relevant year. This means that children born between 2 February 2007 and 30 June 2008 will qualify for the free pre-school year in September 2011.
The programme includes a number of provisions to take account of children with special needs. These include an exemption from the upper age limit for qualification under the scheme where a child is developmentally delayed and would benefit from starting primary school at a later age. In addition, children with special needs can apply to have the pre-school year split over two years on a pro-rata basis, for example availing of the scheme for 2 days a week in the first year and for 3 days a week in the second year. Many parents of children with special needs have chosen to avail of the pre-school year on a pro-rata basis and this arrangement continues to be available as part of the ECCE programme.
82 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children in respect of the early childhood care and education scheme when the age of the child would preclude them from availing of the scheme, for instance when the child is 3 years 2 months on the designated date, some flexibility could be allowed to permit such children to avail of the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5472/11]
The free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme, was introduced in January 2010 with the objective of providing a free pre-school year to all eligible children. Children qualify for the free pre-school year where they are aged more than 3 years 2 months and less than 4 years 7 months at 1 September in the relevant year. This means that children born between 2 February 2007 and 30 June 2008 will qualify for the free pre-school year in September 2011. There is no provision under the programme to enrol children who are below the qualifying age.
The objective of the ECCE programme is to make early learning in a formal setting available to eligible children in the year before they commence primary school. To achieve this, services participating in the pre-school year are expected to provide age-appropriate activities and programmes to children within a particular age cohort. For this reason, it is appropriate to set minimum and maximum limits to the age range within which children will qualify.
A number of parents have asked for the lower age range to be reduced on the grounds that they wish to send their children to school when they are 4 years and 2 months of age or less. The issue was referred by some of these parents to the Office of the Ombudsman for Children. That Office found no reason to remove or amend the lower age range, accepting it as reasonable having regard to the various factors which apply.
83 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the renewal of a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5446/11]
As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.
84 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children if funding will be made available for the provision of day care commencing in September in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6W. [5448/11]
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.
85 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Cavan will receive a date for their operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5459/11]
As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.
86 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24 will receive an appointment. [5467/11]
As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.
87 Deputy Joe O’Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children his plans to deal with dental procedures which have been revoked under the previous Government for medical card holders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5469/11]
88 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children if and when it is intended to restore the dental benefits previously enjoyed by medical card holders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5478/11]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 87 and 88 together.
I am considering the measures introduced by the HSE to contain expenditure on the Dental Treatment Services Scheme at the level of €63 million.
89 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if a medical card will be granted without delay in respect of persons (details supplied) in County Kilkenny and if the application will be expedited. [5483/11]
As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.
90 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children when he expects the vacant consultant paediatric endocrinologist post to be filled at Cork University Hospital; the stage the recruitment for this position has reached; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5484/11]
As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.
91 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children in which hospitals or other medical centres paediatric and adolescent diabetes care is provided by the Health Service Executive; the number of patients under the age of 19 years who attend for diabetes care at each of these hospitals or centres; if he will indicate, for each hospital or centre, the counties in which each of these patients is resident; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5485/11]
93 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will state, in respect of the hospitals or other medical centres at which paediatric and adolescent diabetes care is provided by the Health Service Executive, whether insulin pump technology is available to paediatric and adolescent patients at each of these centres; the number of paediatric patients who have been fitted with insulin pumps at each centre since 2005; the counties in which each of these patients are or were resident; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5487/11]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 91 and 93 together.
The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available in my Department. Therefore my Department has asked the Health Service Executive to supply the necessary information. I will respond to your enquiry as soon as this information becomes available.
92 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will state, in respect of the hospitals or other medical centres at which paediatric and adolescent diabetes care is provided by the Health Service Executive, the number or whole-time-equivalent of paediatric endocrinologists, general paediatricians with an interest in diabetes, paediatric diabetes nurses specialists, diabetes nurses, dieticians, social workers and psychologists who are allocated to paediatric diabetes care in each of those hospitals or centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5486/11]
The information requested is currently being collated by the Health Service Executive and I will respond to the Deputy as soon as the information is available to my Department.
94 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding respite patients at a centre (details supplied) in County Longford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5493/11]
As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.
95 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will set out his programme of legislation for the implementation of the commitments on health care in the programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5553/11]
I am identifying the detailed legislative measures required to give effect to health service policies as set out in theGovernment for National Recovery and the necessary legislative proposals will be included in the Government’s Legislative Programme on a sequential basis.
96 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children when he intends to establish the special delivery unit in the Department of Health and Children to assist in the reduction of hospital waiting lists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5554/11]
I intend to set up a Special Delivery Unit, driven by my Department, which will focus on reducing unacceptable waiting times for patients. I am examining options for the Unit at present and will put it in place as soon as possible.
97 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children his plans to begin negotiations for a new general practitioner contract; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5555/11]
My Department and the Health Service Executive are preparing proposals for a new form of contract with General Practitioners providing services under the General Medical Services (GMS) scheme. I intend to initiate discussions with relevant stakeholders at an early date.
98 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children when the primary care fund will be established and the estimated amount of money that will be placed in the fund and over what period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5556/11]
I have asked my Department to prepare proposals on these matters for consideration by the Government.
99 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children his plans to restore any or all of the services cut from Monaghan General Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5557/11]
100 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children his plans to restore any or all of the services cut from Louth County Hospital, Dundalk; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5558/11]
101 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children his plans to restore any or all of the services cut from Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan, County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5559/11]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 99 to 101, inclusive, together.
I am committed to ensuring that as many services as possible can be provided safely in smaller, local hospitals. In order to fully consider the issues involved, I have sought a briefing from the Health Service Executive (HSE) on the plans for organising acute services in each region and on the important set of clinical programmes being developed by the HSE. These inter-related programmes are most important in terms of improving service quality and effectiveness, including ensuring that patients are treated at the lowest level of complexity that is safe, timely and efficient, whilst patient safety remains the first priority.
102 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children his plans regarding ending the policy of co-location; his plans regarding current contracts for co-location; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5560/11]
As indicated in the Programme for Government, it is the Government's intention that the existing private hospital co-location policy will come to an end. I am discussing with my Department the implementation of this commitment. The HSE has signed project agreements in respect of four co-location projects and I have asked the Executive to keep me informed of developments in this regard.
103 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Transport if the cost of a driving test has increased by €10 to €85, and if so the reason for this increase; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5528/11]
In January 2011, my predecessor approved an increase in the driving test fee from €75 to €85, as well as an increase in the cost of the driving theory test from €35.60 to €40.60. These increases were on foot of requests made by the Road Safety Authority in the context of budgetary arrangements for the Authority for the year 2011.
104 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Transport the average failure rate of persons undergoing the driving test for the first time, second time, third time and fourth time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5529/11]
Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 477 of 2006) the Road Safety Authority has responsibility for the delivery of the driving test.
Noting this I have referred the Deputy's question to the Road Safety Authority for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you don't receive a reply within 10 working days.