Written Answers

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 9, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 10 to 35, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 36 to 42, inclusive, answered orally.

Social Welfare Benefits

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

43 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider any measures to alleviate the impact of cuts to social welfare brought in by the previous Government; if she will explain the process through which social welfare payments for 22 to 24 year olds are sometimes below €144 and those for 18 to 21 year olds are below €100; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10473/11]

The challenge for this new Government is unlike any faced before. The priority of this Government is to get our economy moving, restore confidence, fix our banking system and support the protection and creation of jobs. The success of our economic plans will lay the foundation for the rest of our agenda for change and the jobs initiative being announced today is the first step in this regard. Sustainable public finances are a prerequisite for economic stability and growth. To this end, the State must pursue a determined deficit reduction strategy. We believe it is appropriate, in order to enhance international credibility, to stick to the aggregate adjustment as set out in the National Recovery Plan for the combined period 2011- 2012.

Accordingly, the appropriate levels of social welfare rates will be considered in the context of Budget 2012. This Government is committed to tackling Ireland's economic crisis in a way that is fair, balanced, and which recognises the need for social solidarity. In this regard, it is important to note that the Programme for Government contains a commitment to maintain social welfare rates.

Jobseeker's Allowance is a means tested social assistance scheme. The maximum personal weekly rate of jobseeker's allowance is €188 per week. The maximum weekly personal rates applicable to certain persons aged under 25 is lower. For those aged 18 to 21 years of age, the maximum personal rate is €100 per week while the rate applicable to those aged 22 to 24, inclusive, is €144. These reduced rates do not apply to people aged under 25 if they have dependent children or if they are participating in a course of education, training or community employment, nor do they apply to people transferring to jobseeker's allowance from jobseeker's benefit or disability allowance.

The weekly rate of jobseeker's allowance payable is the relevant maximum weekly rate less any means assessed. For means test purposes, account is taken of the income and assets of both the claimant and his or her spouse/partner. In addition, in the case of a single claimant aged under 25 years of age, account is taken of the value of any benefit and privilege enjoyed by that person by virtue of residing with a parent or step-parent. Accordingly, where the rate payable to a jobseeker's allowance recipient is less than the relevant maximum weekly rate, be it €188, €144 or €100 per week, it is the means assessed in the individual case which reduces the amount payable.

Social Welfare Appeals

Seán Crowe

Question:

44 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Social Protection her views that the delay in the hearing of appeals for mortgage interest supplement are causing difficulties and stalling court cases to which they are relevant; and the steps she will take to fast track these appeals. [10442/11]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which includes mortgage interest supplement, is administered on behalf of the Department by the Community Welfare Services division of the Health Services Executive (HSE). Mortgage interest supplements provide short-term income support to eligible people who are unable to meet their mortgage interest repayments in respect of a house which is their sole place of residence. There are currently 18,500 households benefiting from a mortgage interest supplement payment, an increase of 350% over those in payment at end 2007. Applications for mortgage interest supplement and appeals in relation to these applications are made in the first instance to the HSE. Those dissatisfied with the outcome of this process may appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

I am informed by that Office that 153 appeals in relation to Mortgage Interest Supplement were finalised by Appeals Officers in 2009, 140 in 2010 and 84 to date in 2011. The total number of appeals finalised by Appeals Officers in the same period were 10,027 in 2009, 17,499 in 2010 and 7,284 to date in 2011.

The overall number of supplementary welfare allowance appeals made to the Social Welfare Appeals Office was 789 in 2009 and 989 in 2010. While it is not possible to say how many of these related to Mortgage Interest Payments, the numbers decided show that it is quite low.

While in general, appeals are dealt with in strict chronological order, those appeals relating to basic supplementary welfare allowance payments are dealt with on a priority basis. The average time taken to process these appeals in 2010 was 6.9 weeks for those dealt with by way of a summary decision and 14.8 weeks for those given an oral hearing.

In an effort to reduce these processing times, the Department has made 9 additional appointments to the office in recent weeks. These assignments will augment the 3 appointments made to the Office in 2010, bringing the total number of Appeals Officers serving in the office to 29.

Question No. 45 answered with Question No. 42.

Social Welfare Benefits

Brendan Smith

Question:

46 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to introduce a single social assistance payment for all persons of working age; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10435/11]

Social assistance provision to people of working age was the subject of a review that was carried out by the Department of Social Protection (DSP) and published in November 2010. The review considered the desirability and feasibility of introducing a single social assistance payment for all people of working age. The report examined the current system of social assistance payments against the background of the broader policy rationale for a single payment, which is based on the policy that people are given or directed to the supports or services that they need in order to return to or take up work or other training or educational opportunities, matched by a requirement that they avail of that support. In other words, the people seeking to avail of income support have both rights and matching responsibilities. This approach builds on the NESC report: The Developmental Welfare State (2005) and on EU and OECD research.

The principle of a single working age payment is also based on the rationale that the outcomes for people from a poverty and social inclusion point of view must be improved, and also that any changes to the current system must ‘make work pay'. Such an approach would ensure that people are not further distanced from the labour market, especially in the current economic climate, and encourages people to maximise their potential.

However, I am aware that moving to a single social assistance payment is a complex task and would represent a fundamental overhaul of the assistance system.

The recently agreed Programme of Financial Support with the EU and IMF makes references to this report and that the DSP will build on it, together with other studies relating to the structural reform of the social welfare system, with a view to producing a comprehensive programme of reforms that can help better targeting social support to those on lower income, and ensure that work pays for welfare recipients, after consultation with stakeholders. To this end I propose to initiate consultations on the framework for a single social assistance payment and arrangements to hold a seminar for this purpose are currently being considered.

Creating jobs and tackling poverty are two of the key challenges that we face. It is essential that our tax and social protection systems play their part in addressing these problems. As outlined in our Programme for Government, a commission on taxation and social welfare will be established to consider a number of issues arising out of the operation of the tax and social welfare systems, including the elimination of disincentives to employment. The Government is currently considering the scope of the commission's work and the practical arrangements around its operation. An announcement on these will be made as soon as possible.

Social Welfare Fraud

Barry Cowen

Question:

47 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection her target for fraud savings 2011; the measures needed to achieve same; and the cost of these measures. [10431/11]

For 2011 the Department has a target of reviewing 780,000 individual welfare claims and to achieve €540 million in control savings. This figure is the value of the control activity in the Department and if this work did not take place there would, over time, be a similar increase in total social welfare expenditure. The prevention of fraud and abuse of the social welfare system is an integral part of the day-to-day work of the Department. A key objective of the Department's control strategy is to ensure that the right person is paid the right amount of money at the right time. A four-pronged control strategy has been adopted by the Department, namely prevention of fraud and error at the initial claim stage, early detection through effective review of claims in payment, measures to deter fraud, and the pursuit and recovery of overpayments.

Measures to control fraud and abuse include desk reviews of claim papers, home visits, the issue of review forms to selected customers, database checking, medical reviews in the case of illness payments etc. The Department is also engaged in data matching with other Government Departments and public bodies for control purposes.

The Department supplements reviews of entitlement by the frequent use of direct mail shot letters, particularly in relation to eligibility for child benefit.

In the case of persons receiving illness and disability payments, recipients are reviewed on a systematic basis through medical assessments and examinations, the frequency of which relates to the nature of the illness of disability.

Residency checks on social welfare claims by non-Irish nationals are undertaken nationwide in order to determine whether their residency status in the State is fulfilled.

New claimants for jobseeker payments are now exclusively paid through post offices. The Department's Special Investigation Unit (SIU) carries out a wide range of control activities and projects to investigate social welfare fraud and abuse, some of which are jointly with the Revenue Commissioners and with NERA. This unit participates in multi-agency vehicle checkpoints with other agencies, including the Gardaí, Traffic Corps, Taxi Regulator and the Revenue Commissioners. Some areas in which this unit will be working this year include the hidden economy, cases of concurrent working and claiming, multiple claiming and personation cases.

Reports of suspected fraudulent social welfare claims can be made by calling Central Control Section. Alternatively, there is an on-line facility for members of the public to report their suspicions of social welfare fraud on www.welfare.ie. All reported cases of suspected social welfare are thoroughly investigated.

It is the Department's policy to consider for prosecution all cases of fraud against the social welfare system. In 2010, 209 cases were referred for criminal proceedings under social welfare legislation. In addition to the 209 cases, a further 132 cases of serious fraud involving multiple claiming of social welfare payments were referred to the Gardaí for consideration of criminal proceedings under the Criminal Justice (Fraud and Theft) Act 2001. The Department actively pursues the recovery of debts from all persons who have received social welfare payments to which they were not entitled. Officials from this Department are involved with the Cross-Border Operational Forum. This body comprises selected investigators from the social welfare agencies in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the UK, who liaise at an operational level. Case by case data matching takes place between the Department of Social Protection and the Northern Ireland Social Security Agency and the Department of Work and Pensions in the UK, on cases where social welfare fraud or abuse is occurring.

The new Public Service Card will include a photograph and signature. One of the advantages of the card is that it will help to reduce fraud and error which results from the incorrect identification of benefit claimants. Roll out of the card is planned to commence later this year.

Fraud and Error Surveys, undertaken by the Department, provide an indicator of the estimated risk of fraud on the schemes surveyed at that point in time. This enables the Department to enhance its procedures and processes in relation to risk and control across the relevant schemes.

The costs of these control measures would include the costs of the staff directly involved. There are some 620 staff whose work includes control activities, who work at local, regional and headquarters level. Some 200 staff work full time on control work, while the other staff are responsible for routine investigations of new claims and reviews under the various schemes. The Special Investigation Unit comprise 89 inspectors whose exclusive function is that of fraud investigation.

Pension Provisions

Sandra McLellan

Question:

48 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Social Protection her views that her decision to raise the age for the State pension will disproportionately affect those on low and irregular income who do not have access to a private or occupational pension or savings. [10444/11]

The challenges facing the Irish pension system are significant. In particular, the task of financing increasing pension spending will fall to a diminishing share of the population. There are currently six workers for every pensioner and this ratio is expected to decrease to less than two to one by 2050. Increasing State pension age is one of the ways in which we can sustain the pensions system and also maintain the value of the State pension at 35% of average earnings. Extending State retirement age will also encourage and support those who have private or occupational pensions to remain longer in the workforce. This will improve overall pension sustainability and reduce costs for the employer. People are living longer and healthier lives with average life expectancy set to rise even further in the future, up to 89 years for women and 83 for men. People will still, therefore, be spending at least the same amount of time in retirement as they are today, even with a later State pension age.

Therefore, as announced as part of the National Pensions Framework, State pension age will be increased gradually to 68 years. This will begin in 2014 with the standardisation of the State pension age at 66 and will be increased to 67 years in 2021 and to 68 in 2028. As agreed under the EU/IMF Memorandum of Understanding, these changes will be provided for in legislation by mid 2011.

The aim of the Framework is to deliver security, equity, choice and clarity for the individual, the employer and the State. It also aims to increase pension coverage, particularly among low to middle income groups and includes proposals for an auto enrolment scheme to provide access to private pensions. The Framework also recognises that many people want to have the option to work longer and proposes, for those who wish to postpone drawing down their State pension, to put in place arrangements to enable them to receive an actuarially increased benefit. In addition, for those with contribution shortfalls at pension age, arrangements will be put in place to allow them to receive additional benefits if they continue to make paid contributions for pensions purposes while remaining in work or self-employment. The details and timeframes for these changes are set out in the National Pensions Framework, which was published on 3 March 2010. An implementation group chaired by my Department is developing the legislative, regulatory and administrative infrastructure required to put the necessary reforms into operation.

Given the changes to State pension age and the other proposals in the Framework, both employees and employers must be encouraged to change their attitudes to working longer. In the workplace, employers must seek to retain older employees and create working conditions which will make working longer both attractive and feasible for the older worker. Where this is not possible and people leave paid employment before State pension age, they will be entitled to apply for another social welfare payment until they become eligible for a State pension, as is the current situation.

Social Welfare Code

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

49 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection the way the latest agreement between the Government and the EU-IMF affects the programme for Government commitment to amend the 30 hour rule for rent supplement which acts as an unemployment trap; and the position regarding the progress of her plans in relation to same. [10440/11]

The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term income support, to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. In recent years, a significant number of people have come to rely on rent supplement for extended periods, including people on local authority housing waiting lists. One of the measures introduced to address the issue of long-term rent supplementation is the rental accommodation scheme (RAS) which gives local authorities specific responsibility for meeting the long-term housing needs of people receiving rent supplement for eighteen months or more.

Rent supplement is not payable where a person or their spouse or partner is in full-time employment, that is for 30 hours or more a week. However, provision was made in 2007 whereby a person on rent supplement, who is accepted as eligible for accommodation under RAS, may return to full-time work, subject to a means test, without losing entitlement to their rent supplement payment.

The Programme for Government contained several commitments in relation to those who find themselves dependent on rent supplement with long term housing needs including the need to remove any remaining barriers to employment. The Department is committed to targeting social support to those on lower incomes, and ensuring that work pays for welfare recipients. However, in order to fully address these household's needs we have to reduce the reliance on rent supplement, with eligible recipients moving to accommodation provided by local authorities. I am currently in discussions with my colleagues in the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government with a view to achieving this commitment and returning rent supplement to its original intention as a short term income support payment. The latest Memorandum of Understanding between the Government and the EU and the IMF does not directly impact upon these commitments.

Departmental Contracts

Barry Cowen

Question:

50 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to put the social welfare payments contract out to tender; and her views on comments by the Irish Postmasters’ Union that this will lead to major job losses in An Post. [10432/11]

Government policy aims to facilitate the greater use of electronic payment systems in the economy in the interests of developing a modern payments environment in Ireland. In this regard, my Department is currently developing a Payment Strategy to enable the Department to continue to modernise the payment of welfare benefits in line with wider Government policies and objectives such as better public services, better and more effective e-payments and the National Payments Implementation Programme. As the Deputy is aware, An Post issues Electronic Information Transfer (EIT) payments on behalf of my Department in respect of various Social Welfare schemes. The contract under which An Post provides this service will expire on 31 December 2013.

Public sector contracts for the supply of products and services are usually awarded following a competitive tender process. This ensures that the taxpayer receives value for money and it also ensures that all potential suppliers are given the opportunity to put forward for consideration and evaluation the most efficient, effective and competitive solutions.

The award of public sector contracts with a significant financial value is subject to various EU Directives. Because of the financial value of this particular service, the Department is required to tender for any new contract for the delivery of social welfare payments when the current contract with An Post expires in 2013.

It will of course be open to the current provider to bid for the business for the next period. The procurement process will be completed in advance of the termination of the contract, in order to ensure continuity of payments to our customers.

Social Welfare Code

Martin Ferris

Question:

51 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection the way the latest agreement between the Government and the EU-IMF affects the programme for Government's commitment to expand eligibility for the back to education allowance; and the position regarding the progress of her plans in relation to same. [10446/11]

The back to education allowance (BTEA) is one of a range of activation supports and policies with the objective of assisting social welfare recipients to improve their life chances by facilitating access to employment, work experience, education and training. The focus of BTEA is to assist those who are most marginalised and distant from the labour market to acquire the necessary education to improve their chances of becoming independent of the social welfare system. The BTEA scheme can offer participation in second and third level education by enabling eligible people on social welfare to continue to receive a payment while pursuing an approved full-time education course that leads to a higher qualification than that already held.

The Programme for Government 2011-2016 includes a commitment to resource a Jobs Fund that will finance a number of measures which will play an important role in enhancing the employability skills of jobseekers. BTEA and all other relevant measures will be considered under this commitment. The EU/IMF programme of financial support does not directly impact on these commitments.

Question No. 52 answered with Question No. 42.

Social Welfare Benefits

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

53 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the programme for Government’s commitment to maintain social welfare rates in view of the commitment to the EU and IMF that it will reduce social expenditure year on year starting in 2012. [10437/11]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

66 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will make a commitment that the eligibility rules for existing social welfare schemes and payments will not be further restricted in advance of the comprehensive report due from her by the end of 2012 under the latest EU-IMF deal. [10438/11]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

171 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will make a commitment that the eligibility rules for existing social welfare schemes and payments will not be further restricted in advance of the comprehensive report due from her Department by the end of 2012 under the latest EU-IMF deal [10539/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 53, 66 and 171 together.

The challenge for this new Government is unlike any faced before. The priority of this Government is to get our economy moving, restore confidence, fix our banking system and support the protection and creation of jobs.

The success of our economic plans will lay the foundation for the rest of our agenda for change and the jobs initiative being announced today is the first step in this regard.

Sustainable public finances are a prerequisite for economic stability and growth. To this end, the State must pursue a determined deficit reduction strategy. We believe it is appropriate, in order to enhance international credibility, to stick to the aggregate adjustment as set out in the National Recovery Plan for the combined period 2011- 2012.

This Government is committed to tackling Ireland's economic crisis in a way that is fair, balanced, and which recognises the need for social solidarity. This is explicitly recognised in the commitment in the Programme for Government to maintain social welfare rates.

At the same time, there will be an ongoing necessity to curtail expenditure in 2012 and in later years. Any changes to the wide range of schemes and services operated by my Department will be considered in a Budgetary context later this year. This consideration will be informed by the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure (CRE) currently underway which will be completed by September.

In addition, as provided for in the most recent Memorandum of Understanding with the EU/ECB/IMF, my Department will build on its recent studies on working age payments, child income support and disability allowance with a view to producing a comprehensive programme of reforms that can help better targeting social support to those on lower incomes, and ensure that work pays for welfare recipients. Consultation with stakeholders will take place. A progress report will be made by end-December 2011 and a programme of reforms will be submitted to Government at the end of the first quarter of 2012.

Community Employment Schemes

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

54 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans for community employment including any changes she will make to same. [10454/11]

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

60 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will raise the limit on the number of community employment participants in view of the fact that this is a positive activation measure. [10455/11]

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

73 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will restore the full FÁS training budget for community employment in order to maximise the activation potential of community employment. [10456/11]

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

190 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to increase the number of community employment places available. [7976/11]

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

192 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Social Protection if she is committed to supporting special community employment schemes as provided for in the National Drugs Strategy. [7969/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 54, 60, 73, 190 and 192 together.

From 1st January 2011 policy and funding responsibility for FÁS functions in relation to employment and community employment services was transferred to this Department in accordance with the provisions of the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2010. The FÁS schemes involved include the Community Employment programme (CE). FÁS remains responsible for the day to day operation of CE in accordance with the terms of a Service Agreement/Framework Document which it has concluded with this Department.

The aim of the CE scheme remains as an active labour market programme with the emphasis on progression into employment and/or further education and training. The programme is managed within this context, subject to the availability of resources and the needs of participants and the community.

Within the current budgetary constraints, the number of places on CE was increased to 23,300 in 2010. The budgetary provision for CE in 2011 will allow FÁS to continue the programme at the same level as 2010. In delivering these places, FÁS will continue to operate flexibly in the management of this allocation in order to maximise progression to the labour market, while at the same time facilitating the support of community services. There have been no changes to the training budget of CE.

A number of special community employment projects operate under the National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016. As part of the Strategy, FÁS is committed to providing 1,000 places on such projects as part of the overall funding for the community employment programme. The primary objective of the Strategy is to continue to tackle the harm caused to individuals and society by the misuse of drugs. It is my intention to ensure the continuation of such projects subject to the overall budgetary constraints for the community employment programme.

Public Services Card

Niall Collins

Question:

55 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection the progress made on the rollout of the introduction of the public services card. [10434/11]

The Department has developed, in conjunction with a number of other Government Departments, the specifications for a Public Services Card (PSC) under the Standard Authentication Framework Environment, or SAFE, programme. The specification provides for identification features, including a photograph. The aim is to develop a card that acts as a key for access to public services in general, identifying and authenticating individuals as appropriate and where required. Over the past few years significant progress had been made on the implementation of the project including the selection of a preferred bidder to provide a managed service for card production and related bureau services. Technical specifications were finalised and the necessary organisational change was designed.

However, in view of the uncertain economic climate, the project was suspended until formal sanction to proceed was received from the Department of Finance at the end of 2009. A contract was agreed with Biometric Card Services (BCS) as the managed service provider from early January 2010. The contract is for a complete managed service for the production, maintenance and distribution of the PSC. In summary this entails:

Production of the card

Personalisation of the card

Delivery of the card

Provision of help-desk functionality

All to be undertaken under strict and secure conditions.

Since the project was recommenced, significant work has been undertaken including decisions regarding the final design of the card and the physical construction of a secure card personalisation and distribution centre in Bray, Co. Wicklow. A specimen PSC was personalised on this site on 8th December 2010.

It is also necessary to develop a technical infrastructure within the Department to support the client registration as well as the management and administration of the cards. Development of some of this infrastructure is being undertaken by internal resources and this work began last year. Procurement for the remainder was finalised early this year and development work is currently ongoing. While, it is anticipated that the full suite of this functionality will not be available until the Autumn of this year, the technical infrastructure to process client registration is expected to be ready by the end of July.

It is intended that initial registration will involve customers of the Department and will take a number of forms: face to face at DSP Local Offices, through utilising data already held by the Department in relation to the All Ireland Free Travel Scheme and through utilising relevant data already held by the State (e.g. photographs and signatures held by the Passport Office). Customers of the Department will be contacted to arrange for capture of the data required to produce and issue a PSC to them. The overall timeframe for completion of initial deployment of a Public Services Card is dependent on the rate at which it will be possible to securely register all of those to whom it will be issued. Initial registration will be carried out in the Department. Other options that may exist for external registration are being explored.

The Public Services Card will replace cards currently in use, such as the Social Services Card and the Free Travel card, with highly secure cards. Other Departments and agencies will also be in a position to use the card and the infrastructure that will support it.

Departmental Schemes

Denis Naughten

Question:

56 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social Protection the steps she will take to develop the rural social scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7845/11]

The purpose of the rural social scheme is to provide income support for farmers and fisherpersons who are currently in receipt of specified social welfare payments. Persons are engaged for 19.5 hours per week to provide certain services of benefit to rural communities. Participants are paid the equivalent of the maximum rate of the social welfare payment they are entitled to plus €20 per week. The scheme is operated by the Department and delivered at local level by 35 local development companies and by Údarás na Gaeltachta in Gaeltacht areas. The scheme currently provides work opportunities for around 2,600 men and women and 130 supervisory staff. Some €46.1 million has been allocated to meet the costs of the scheme in 2011. Opportunities to develop the scheme are limited within the level of resources available and I have no plans to expand it further in the immediate future. However, significant latitude is allowed to each of the local development companies in the manner in which they deploy resources locally in response to identified community needs.

Question No. 57 answered with Question No. 42.

Social Welfare Code

Seán Crowe

Question:

58 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Social Protection the way the latest agreement between the Government and the EU-IMF affects the programme for Government commitment to amend the 30 hour rule for mortgage interest supplement which acts as an unemployment trap; and the position regarding the progress of her plans in relation to same. [10441/11]

Pearse Doherty

Question:

61 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection when she expects to complete the implementation plan regarding the recommendations of the review of the mortgage interest supplement, June 2010; and the likely time frame for the implementation of same. [10447/11]

Niall Collins

Question:

72 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection when she will publish an implementation plan incorporating the recommendations and findings from her Department’s review with those from the reports from the mortgage arrears and personal debt review group. [10433/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 58, 61 and 72 together.

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which includes mortgage interest supplement (MIS), is administered on behalf of the Department by the Community Welfare Services division of the Health Service Executive. MIS provides short-term income support to eligible people who are unable to meet their mortgage interest repayments in respect of a house which is their sole place of residence. The supplement assists with the interest portion of mortgage repayments which relate to the essential purchase, repair or maintenance of the home.

There are currently 18,500 households benefiting from a MIS payment. This is at an estimated cost in 2011 of over €77 million, an increase of 350% over those in payment at end 2007.

The Department's review of the administrative, policy and legal aspects of the mortgage interest supplement scheme was published in July 2010 in conjunction with the interim report of the Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt Review Group. The final review of the Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt Review Group was published in November 2010.

The Programme for Government contained a number of commitments in relation to helping homeowners in distress to weather the recession, and to ensuring that Ireland has a sustainable housing policy. These included commitments in areas such as taxation, welfare and banking.

The Department is currently formulating an implementation plan in relation to the various welfare commitments contained in the programme for Government, the review of the mortgage interest supplement scheme and report of the Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt Review Group. The plan will then be considered in the context of the resources available to the Government generally.

I can say that the Department is committed to targeting social support to those on lower incomes, and ensuring that work pays for welfare recipients. The latest Memorandum of Understanding between the Government and the EU and the IMF does not directly impact upon the commitment in relation to the 30 hour rule for mortgage interest supplement recipients.

Employment Support Services

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

59 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Social Protection if responsibility for the local employment service will transfer to her Department; and if so, the date of same. [10451/11]

Willie O'Dea

Question:

63 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection when she will establish the national employment and entitlements service; and if she will explain the way it will function. [9940/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 59 and 63 together.

The Programme for Government states that a new National Employment and Entitlements Service will be established under the management of the Department of Social Protection. The objective is to integrate the employment support services currently provided directly by the Department of Social Protection with those currently provided by FÁS into a single service. This service will also process payments in respect of employment related benefits and other benefits payable by the Department of Social Protection. The integration of employment services and related benefit payment services within the Department of Social Protection will provide a ‘one stop shop' for people wishing to establish their benefit entitlements, seek employment and / or seek advice about their training options. The focus will be very much on the individual, his / her rights to a payment, his / her access to an opportunity to engage in employment, training or upskilling, as appropriate and his / her responsibility to engage with such opportunities as they are provided. This should improve a person's life chances.

The Local Employment Service (LES) operates mainly through Local Area Partnership Companies on contract from FÁS. The objective of the LES is to focus on the provision of services to those most disadvantaged in the labour market as a direct response to the local context within which it operates. The intention is that this service will continue and that the relationship that the LES currently has with FÁS is the same relationship it will have with my Department in the future.

It should be noted that responsibility for skills training undertaken by FÁS currently resides with the Department of Education and Skills. The future development of the training and skills services of FÁS is a matter for the Minister for Education and Skills.

With regard to the timeline for the development of the National Employment and Entitlements Service, I am determined that this will be completed in the most expeditious manner possible and my officials are already actively engaged in a programme of work towards this end. While this will be a multi-annual programme of work requiring the development of the new service, the assignment of functions to the Service and the development of its organisational processes and operational systems, many aspects of the new service will be delivered within the coming 12 months.

The administration of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme has already been transferred to the Department of Social Protection with the secondment of the Community Welfare Service from the Health Service Executive at the beginning of this year. The intention is to have the staff fully transferred into the Department by the end of September this year. This will enable us to integrate the payment of all benefits into one organisation simplifying customer processes.

Planning for the transfer and integration of the Employment Services and Community Employment Services of FÁS to the Department has already commenced and it is envisaged that the transfer of staff will commence later this year. Again this will enable us to simplify and integrate the delivery of employment support services to customers.

A key objective of the Government in relation to the new service is that it will offer users a high level of personalised employment support and prioritise the provision of more intensive support for those on the live register who are identified as being most at risk of long-term unemployment. This will be achieved through the use of proactive approaches and modern case management systems. A number of pilot projects have already commenced in relation to the development of case management, the identification of those who are most at risk of falling into long-term unemployment, and the provision of appropriately tailored responses to their needs. These pilot projects will be completed and evaluated in the coming months after which approaches will be developed for their rollout nationwide as part of the National Employment and Entitlements Service.

Question No. 60 answered with Question No. 54.
Question No. 61 answered with Question No. 58.

Departmental Estimates

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

62 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she is satisfied that adequate financial resources are available to her to meet the current year’s budgetary needs in view of the ongoing economic situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10390/11]

The Estimates for the Department of Social Protection, as published last February in the 2011 Revised Estimates Volume, are based, in the main, on an analysis of trends as regards likely numbers of recipients and average value of payments in 2011. Actual trends on individual schemes are closely monitored on an ongoing basis. Given the demand led nature of the wide range of schemes operated by my Department, it is too early to accurately estimate the projected out-turn for 2011.

Question No. 63 answered with Question No. 59.

Social Welfare Appeals

Catherine Murphy

Question:

64 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of disallowed social welfare claims for the years 2009 and 2010 which were subsequently overturned on appeal; the categories of claims into which they fall; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10414/11]

I am informed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that the breakdown of the number of disallowed social welfare claims for the years 2009 and 2010 which were subsequently overturned on appeal by Appeals Officers and the categories into which they fall is given in the table. Overall, the number of appeals determined by Appeals officers which had a favourable outcome for appellants (i.e. either allowed or partially allowed) were 3,695 (37%) of 10,027 determined in 2009 and 4,747 (27%) of 17,499 determined in 2010. 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.

Appeals Allowed or Partially Allowed by Appeals Officers

2009

2010

Blind Pension

1

1

Carers Allowance

277

520

Carers Benefit

15

29

Child Benefit

57

135

Disability Allowance

762

979

Illness Benefit

447

626

Domiciliary Care

6

235

Deserted Wives Benefit

2

Farm Assist

20

32

Bereavement Grant

1

Family Income Supplement

24

27

Invalidity Pension

244

347

Liable Relatives

2

One Parent Family Payment

120

97

State Pension (Contributory)

2

5

State Pension (Non-Cont)

53

36

Occupational Injury Benefit

6

4

Occupational Injury Ben (Med)

11

5

Disablement Pension

151

69

Incapacity Supplement

2

Guardian’s Payment (Con)

6

8

Guardian’s Payment (Non Con)

1

3

Pre-Retirement Allowance

2

Jobseeker’s Allow (Means)

645

620

Jobseeker’s Allowance

365

534

Jobseeker’s Benefit

202

160

Respite Care Grant

39

49

Insurability of Employment

20

7

Supplementary Welfare All

207

212

Treatment Benefits

1

Widow’s Pension (Con)

2

1

Widow’s Pension (Non Con)

4

3

David Stanton

Question:

65 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 161 and 162 of 19 January 2011, if she will provide a breakdown of the total number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office for each payment respectively in 2010 and to date in 2011; the number awaiting decision per payment; the current average processing time for each scheme by summary decision and by oral hearing; the number of staff employed by the office in 2010; the number currently employed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10471/11]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

175 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the form of calculation used to calculate the average waiting times for appeals. [10292/11]

Robert Troy

Question:

183 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to eradicate the long delays for social welfare appeals. [10404/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 65, 175 and 183 together.

Figures in regard to the numbers of cases received and awaiting decision, by scheme for 2010 and 2011, the average time taken to process appeals by summary decision and by oral hearing by scheme type and the number of staff in the Social Welfare Appeals Office are given in the following tables.

I am informed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that the overall average waiting time for an appeal dealt with by way of a summary decision in 2010 was 27.4 weeks, while the average time to process an oral hearing was 45.6 weeks. These processing times are calculated from the registration date of the appeal to the date of its finalisation and include all activities during this period including time spent in the Department for comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal put forward by the appellant and any further investigation, examination or assessment by the Department's Inspectors and Medical Assessors that is deemed necessary. A considerable period of time is added to the process when an oral hearing is required because of the logistics involved in this process.

In an effort to reduce these processing times, the Department has made 9 additional appointments to the office in recent weeks. These assignments will augment the 3 appointments made to the Office in 2010, bringing the total number of Appeals Officers serving in the office to 29. In addition, since July 2010, 8 retired Appeals Officers, equating to a further full-time officers, have been assisting on a strictly part-time basis with the backlogs of appeals and it is intended that they will be employed until the end of the year.

In addition to the provision of extra staff, more emphasis is now placed on dealing with appeals on a summary basis so as to increase productivity. As a result, the number of appeals dealt with by way of oral hearing was reduced from 59% in 2009 to 31.5% in 2010.

As a result of the various initiatives taken, a total of 17,499 appeals were finalised by Appeals Officers in 2010 in comparison to 10,027 for 2009. When revised decisions and withdrawn cases are taken into account the total number of cases finalised in 2010 was 28,166 in comparison to 17,787 for 2009.

There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 when the intake rose to 32,432. In order to be fair to all appellants, appeals are being dealt with in strict chronological order.

I am assured by the Chief Appeals Officer that she is keeping current processes under continuous review with a view to achieving a more effective throughput of appeals, while ensuring that any progress does not conflict with due process in terms of the rights of appellants and adherence to the requirements of natural justice.

Appeals Received by Scheme 2010

Appeals awaiting decision at 1/1/2011

Average time taken to process appeals by summary decision by scheme in 2010

Average time taken to process appeals following oral hearing by scheme in 2010

Adoptive Benefit

2

2

32.6

Blind Pension

13

7

19.8

39.4

Carers Allowance

2,969

2,145

26.9

47.3

Carers Benefit

180

73

21.6

44.2

Child Benefit

1,050

1,187

48.4

63.1

Disability Allowance

4,568

3,046

30.8

51.1

Illness Benefit

5,313

2,658

39.2

56.4

Domiciliary Care Allowance

1,827

1,386

26.8

49.1

Deserted Wives Benefit

14

14

33.9

29.0

Farm Assist

244

163

23.2

50.7

Bereavement Grant

59

30

25.1

Family Income Supplement

224

105

21.4

29.0

Invalidity Pension

998

612

40.9

59.7

Liable Relatives

16

22

35.9

One Parent Family Payment

1,085

819

30.2

49.4

Maternity Benefit

29

21

37.7

State Pension (Contributory)

258

110

29.6

49.2

State Pension (Non-Cont)

353

230

26.5

49.9

State Pension (Transition)

7

11

30.7

Occupational Injury Benefit

22

18

55.7

53.8

Occupational Injury Ben (Med)

22

49

32.5

67.9

Disablement Pension

343

334

27.4

51.9

Incapacity Supplement

15

15

30.7

Guardian’s Payment (Con)

26

26

25.3

48.3

Guardian’s Payment (NonCon)

7

9

24.3

42.2

Pre-Retirement Allowance

2

1

Jobseeker’s Allow (Means)

4,000

2,496

22.2

46.9

Jobseeker’s Allowance

5,488

3,312

23.6

43.0

Jobseeker’s Benefit

1,292

766

22.6

36.0

Respite Care Grant

162

114

30.5

49.1

Insurability of Employment

121

112

31.3

67.4

Supplementary Welfare All

989

343

6.9

14.8

Treatment Benefits

8

4

21.9

57.8

Widow’s Pension (Con)

20

14

35.2

53.6

Widow’s Pension (NonCon)

12

13

31.9

54.6

Widows Parent Grant

3

1

20.9

Appeals Received by Scheme 2011 (To 30/4/2011)

Appeals awaiting decision at 1/5/2011

Average time taken to process appeals by summary decision by scheme in 2011 (to 30/4/2011)

Average time taken to process appeals following oral hearing by scheme in 2011 (to 30/4/2011)

Adoptive Benefit

1

1

27.9

Blind Pension

3

5

22.4

Carers Allowance

836

2,343

33.5

61.6

Carers Benefit

53

79

21.8

65.5

Child Benefit

257

1,148

48.6

68.5

Disability Allowance

2,032

3,686

26.1

61.5

Illness Benefit

1,107

2,645

35.5

58.2

Domiciliary Care Allowance

742

1,479

22.6

58.6

Deserted Wives Benefit

11

14

16.9

76.2

Farm Assist

75

173

23.2

53.9

Bereavement Grant

16

21

21.9

Family Income Supplement

68

101

20.2

28.5

Invalidity Pension

512

886

36.1

72.2

Liable Relatives

4

18

26.6

73.1

One Parent Family Payment

372

835

23.2

63.4

Maternity Benefit

11

24

25.0

65.3

State Pension (Contributory)

33

90

29.3

47.9

State Pension (Non-Cont)

131

224

19.1

50.9

State Pension (Transition)

8

11

33.0

Occupational Injury Benefit

10

15

23.7

48.5

Occupational Injury Ben (Med)

4

49

77.8

80.8

Disablement Pension

86

355

30.4

64.3

Incapacity Supplement

1

14

34.3

Guardian’s Payment (Con)

6

25

27.5

65.5

Guardian’s Payment (NonCon)

2

4

48.3

60.8

Pre-Retirement Allowance

1

2

Jobseeker’s Allow (Means)

1,183

2,386

18.9

56.5

Jobseeker’s Allowance

1,427

2,921

19.0

51.6

Jobseeker’s Benefit

450

744

15.7

32.0

Respite Care Grant

55

86

21.2

66.0

Insurability of Employment

22

106

27.0

66.2

Supplementary Welfare All

295

254

10.2

19.1

Treatment Benefits

1

30.3

Widow’s Pension (Con)

6

17

23.2

70.4

Widow’s Pension (NonCon)

14

20

14.5

39.8

Widows Parent Grant

1

1

39.0

Staff of Social Welfare Appeals Office

Grade

2008

2009

2010

2011 (at 1/5/2011)

Chief Appeals Officer

1

1

1

1

Deputy Chief Appeals Officer

1

1

1

1

Office Manager

1

—*

Appeals Officers

16.4

18.4

19.6

26.6

Retired Appeals Officers (from July 2010)

3

3

Higher Executive Officers

2.8

2.8

2.8

2.8

Executive Officers

8.9

8.9

9.2

9.2

Staff Officers

5

5

5

5

Clerical Officers

18.4

18.4

22.6

22.6

Total

54.5

56.5

64.2

73.2

* From February 2009, the position of Office Manager has been subsumed into the duties of the Deputy Chief Appeals Officer.

Question No. 66 answered with Question No. 53.

Employment Support Services

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

67 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans for labour activation measures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10472/11]

The National Employment Action Plan is the main activation measure for jobseekers and provides for a systematic engagement of the employment services with unemployed people. Under the Plan, all persons between the ages of 18 and 65 years, who are approaching 3 months on the Live Register, are identified by the Department of Social Protection and referred to FÁS for interview with the aim of assisting them to enter/re-enter the labour market. The Employment Action Plan process is a key element in addressing the progression needs of those on the Live Register. It provides a stimulus to job search and affords an opportunity to explore, under professional guidance, the full range of employment and training services offered by FÁS.

The Programme for Government states that a new National Employment and Entitlements Service will be established under the management of the Department of Social Protection. The objective is to integrate the employment support services currently provided directly by the Department of Social Protection with those currently provided by FÁS into a single service. This service will also process payments in respect of employment related benefits and other benefits payable by the Department of Social Protection. The integration of employment services and related benefit payment services within the Department of Social Protection will provide a ‘one stop shop' for people wishing to establish their benefit entitlements, seek employment and/or seek advice about their training options. The focus will be very much on the individual, his/her rights to a payment, his/her access to an opportunity to engage in employment, training or upskilling, as appropriate and his/her responsibility to engage with such opportunities as they are provided.

A key objective of the Government in relation to the new service is that it will offer users a high level of personalised employment support and prioritise the provision of more intensive support for those on the live register who are identified as being most at risk of long-term unemployment. This will be achieved through the use of proactive approaches and modern case management systems. A number of pilot projects have already commenced in relation to the development of case management, the identification of those who are most at risk of falling into long-term unemployment, and the provision of appropriately tailored responses to their needs. These pilot projects will be completed and evaluated in the coming months after which approaches will be developed for their rollout nationwide as part of the National Employment and Entitlements Service.

Question No. 68 answered with Question No. 42.

Pension Provisions

Sandra McLellan

Question:

69 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Social Protection her views that forcing older persons to remain in the workforce longer by raising the age for the State pension will reduce the number of job opportunities for the very high number of persons of current working age who are unemployed. [10443/11]

The challenges facing the Irish pension system are significant. In particular, the task of financing increasing pension spending will fall to a diminishing share of the population. There are currently six workers for every pensioner and this ratio is expected to decrease to less than two to one by 2050. Increasing State pension age is one of the ways in which we can sustain the pensions system and also maintain the value of the State pension at 35% of average earnings. As announced as part of the National Pensions Framework, state pension age will be increased gradually to 68 years. This will begin in 2014 with the standardisation of the state pension age at 66. State pension age will be increased to 67 years in 2021 and to 68 in 2028.

Recent research on intergenerational solidarity by the OECD demonstrates that the rate of employment of younger people has no relationship with the rate of employment of older people. Describing what is termed the ‘lump-of-labour fallacy' the OECD state that ‘the idea that public policy can re-shuffle a fixed number of jobs between workers of different ages is simply not true in anything but the very short-term'. The Department of Social Protection operates a range of employment support measures designed to encourage and support social welfare recipients of working age to reduce their dependency on welfare payments. While the primary responsibility for job creation rests with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, this Department already has a role in supporting people from welfare to work. The National Employment Action Plan process is a key element in addressing the progression needs of those on the Live Register. It provides a stimulus to job search and affords an opportunity to explore, under professional guidance, the full range of employment and training services offered by FÁS.

Social Welfare Benefits

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

70 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans for the future of child benefit. [10453/11]

Child benefit payments assist parents in contributing to the costs associated with raising children and play a very important role in the objective of reducing child poverty. A value for money review of child income support policies and associated programmes was published by the Department in November 2010. The review covered policy around child benefit, qualified child increases and the family income supplement payments as well as aspects of some other child-related payments. The Department is undertaking some follow-up work, including a recent consultation seminar with interest groups on the review, which gathered the views of stakeholders as to the future direction of policy on these payments. Creating jobs and tackling poverty are two of the key challenges that we face. It is essential that our tax and social protection systems play their part in addressing these problems. As we stressed in the preamble to our Programme for Government, in order to address the very substantial problems that we face, it is essential that new ways, new approaches and new thinking will form the constant backdrop to the work of the Government. For this reason we will seek to benefit from the expertise of a commission on taxation and social welfare that will consider a number of issues arising out of the operation of the tax and social welfare systems, including the issue of family and child income supports. The Government considers it a priority that a more fundamental examination of our system of family and child income supports is required. Consequently, the commission will be asked to examine and make recommendations on these payments, with particular emphasis on addressing the cycle of child poverty. The Government is currently considering the scope of the commission's work and the practical arrangements around its operation. An announcement on these will be made shortly.

Social Welfare Code

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

71 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection her views that the habitual residence rule discriminates against persons with disabilities. [10439/11]

The habitual residence condition was introduced in order to ensure that a person, who has had no attachment to the work force since arrival in Ireland and whose habitual residence is elsewhere, would not be entitled to payment under certain exchequer-funded schemes on arrival in Ireland. Decisions concerning habitual residence are subject to five factors which have been laid down by the European Court of Justice, and which are now incorporated into our domestic social welfare legislation. The five factors are:

(a) the length and continuity of residence in the State or in any other particular country;

(b) the length and purpose of any absence from the State;

(c) the nature and pattern of the person's employment;

(d) the person's main centre of interest, and

(e) the future intentions of the person concerned as they appear from all the circumstances.

I am satisfied that the habitual residence condition is achieving its intended purpose, allowing access to our social welfare schemes to persons who are genuinely and lawfully making Ireland their habitual residence. I am not aware of any particular difficulties arising regarding the habitual residence condition and persons with disabilities. If the Deputy has particular cases in mind, I will have these examined.

Question No. 72 answered with Question No. 58.
Question No. 73 answered with Question No. 54.

Expenditure Reviews

Joe McHugh

Question:

74 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Taoiseach if he will identify all assessments, reviews or reports being carried out by him under the terms of the EU-IMF programme of financial support; if these assessments, reviews or reports are being carried out internally by him or independently; when he expects each assessment, review and report to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10663/11]

There are no such assessments, reviews or reports being carried out by my Department under the terms of the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support.

Consular Assistance

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

75 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a person (details supplied) is stranded at a location and the steps he will take to secure their exit. [10329/11]

I can confirm to the Deputy that the person mentioned by him contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs in March 2011 regarding his difficulties entering Egypt from Gaza. The person concerned had in this instance been travelling on his US passport but has refused to seek consular assistance from the US authorities. Notwithstanding the complications arising from his travelling on a non-Irish passport, my Department has been providing consular assistance to him, through our Embassies in Cairo and Tel Aviv and our Consular Assistance Section, on the basis that he is also an Irish citizen. I can confirm that our Embassy in Cairo is making every effort, including making direct representations to the Egyptian authorities, in an effort to facilitate his proposed exit from Gaza and will continue to work to this end.

It is the case, however, that my Department has been advising Irish citizens against all travel to the Gaza strip and if citizens do decide to travel, against this advice, then they must take personal responsibility for the consequences of their actions in this regard and that the provision of consular assistance in those situations may be very limited.

I would also wish to advise the Deputy that my Department has, over recent months, provided extensive assistance to the person mentioned by him in circumstances where he has, in our opinion, put his own personal safety at risk. I understand that officials from our Embassy in Tel Aviv visited him in detention and assisted his safe departure from Israel when he was deported in June 2010. In addition an official from our Embassy in Ankara met him in Istanbul following his deportation to ensure his access to medical treatment and to facilitate his return home. I am informed that our Passport Office made personal arrangements with him regarding the replacement of his passport. I am also informed that last November 2010, our Embassy in Athens came to his assistance when he reported that he had been kidnapped by boat and taken from Libya to Greece, and was arrested and charged upon arrival.

My Department, through our Embassies mentioned above, have made representations to members of local police, judiciary and Foreign Ministries on behalf of this individual. I am aware that staff from the Embassies have also been dispatched to ports and airports to assist him. I also understand that consular access to visit him in detention has been demanded on his behalf in both Greece and Israel. In addition, I believe that our Embassies have assisted him on several occasions with emergency travel documents to enable him to return home.

This extensive consular support has been provided at considerable cost to the taxpayer and disruption to the normal working of our Embassies and Consulates.

My Department will nevertheless continue to liaise with the Egyptian authorities on this person's behalf.

Diplomatic Representation

John McGuinness

Question:

76 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of embassies established; if he has plans to add to this number; the number of staff employed in each; the year on year cost to operate each embassy over the past four years; his plans to promote trade through the use of the embassies; the way the promotion of trade will be linked to Enterprise Ireland; and the work being undertaken by that agency. [10623/11]

The Irish Diplomatic Network is made up of 76 overseas Missions, in addition to offices in Armagh and Belfast. The network consists of 58 Embassies, 7 multilateral Missions and 11 Consulates General and other offices overseas. In addition to their country of primary accreditation, many Ambassadors are also accredited to additional countries on a non-resident basis. The size and scale of our diplomatic network is considered by the Government on an ongoing basis. Any decision to open a new Mission overseas is undertaken having regard to clear national priorities and available resources, and must be on the basis of an anticipated and ongoing significant return for the State. There are no plans to open any new Embassies in the near term.

A detailed table giving staffing and costs of overseas Missions as requested is set out below.

The staffing figures include diplomatic staff and local staff engaged by the Mission. They also take account of officers of other Government Departments serving in our Missions abroad, most notably Ireland's Permanent Representation to the EU in Brussels and in Visa Offices operated within Embassies by staff seconded from the Department of Justice and Equality. Those include some staff whose salaries and other costs are borne by their parent Departments. Figures marked with an asterisk include some positions filled by personnel engaged through local employment agencies and not directly employed by the Missions.

The annual costs as set out in the table for 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 are the administrative costs of operating the mission. The figures do not include the salaries of the Irish based staff as these are a charge on the overall salaries budget of the Department rather than on a specific Mission. In addition to the administrative costs of operating a Mission, many Embassies fund programmes in their respective countries, in particular the Missions which fund Irish Aid activities. For example, in 2010, while the Embassy in Mozambique had administrative costs of almost €1 million, it managed an aid programme of €37.5 million through the Mission that year.

The administrative costs of offices in Irish Aid Programme Countries (highlighted in bold) are often high due to issues such as the additional security required in a developing country context. In addition to the normal staffing of Irish Aid offices, which generally consists of a small number of Irish diplomats, working with a maximum of three specialist technical staff from Ireland and a small number of locally-recruited administrative staff, there are often additional staff required to engage in programme activities or staff who are hired to provide specific services such as security — such staff are not included in the table below.

Also, from time to time Missions may incur significant capital expenditure in relation to their premises or for upgrading of essential infrastructure. These capital costs are not included in the annual administrative costs as detailed below.

The promotion of Ireland's economic interests overseas is a key focus of my Department. Ireland's network of 76 Missions will continue its work to restore Ireland's international reputation, which has been affected by the economic and financial crisis, and to support Ireland's economic growth.

My Department and the Embassy network works in close co-ordination with the State agencies to advance our economic goals in existing and emerging markets. Emerging markets and the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries in particular, provide significant trading opportunities for Irish companies. The Embassies and State Agencies in these countries, and other priority markets, have detailed market plans and are already very active in the promotion of Ireland's economic interests there. The Government will be looking at visits to key markets over the course of this year. In particular, the Taoiseach plans to lead a major trade mission to China later this year.

While the specific contribution of Embassies will necessarily differ depending on market conditions and other factors, all bilateral Missions have a role to play in promoting trade and investment. The role of the Embassies in trade promotion includes:

promoting an awareness of Ireland and its business potential;

assisting Irish companies in gaining and maintaining access for their goods and services;

reporting on economic and business trends and developments;

assisting in the resolution of problematic regulatory issues;

maintaining a network of high-level business related contacts

providing assistance and support to other Government Departments, agencies and, as appropriate, individual companies

The further development of the trade promotion role for my Department is a key priority. Discussions are currently taking place between officials in my Department and in the current Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation in this regard. I anticipate that these will result in an enhanced relationship between my Department and Enterprise Ireland.

Ireland's Embassies and Consulates continue to work closely with Enterprise Ireland abroad towards the advancement of Irish business and economic interests and there is also a very good working relationship between my Department and Enterprise Ireland here at home.

Mission

Mission Staff Numbers

Administrative Costs of OperatingMission

2007

2008

2009

2010

ABU DHABI (opened 2009)

12

429,990

600,261

(including visa office)

ABUJA

17

260,424

548,135

372,660

556,374

(including visa office)

ADDIS ABABA

9

1,199,888

1,064,185

898,000

898,685

ANKARA

7

412,851

429,022

405,487

422,633

ATHENS

7

532,525

477,093

484,116

525,292

ATLANTA (opened 2010)

2

26,885

BEIJING

26*

789,116

838,728

973,084

841,615

(including visa office)

BERLIN

12

999,025

1,181,612

1,009,825

930,500

BERNE

5

331,968

463,006

507,174

450,170

BOSTON

5

365,638

353,824

472,391

392,032

BRASILIA

6

540,443

510,761

450,012

579,964

BRATISLAVA

5

384,325

380,840

416,857

354,215

BRUSSELS (EMBASSY and P.F.P.)

13

1,202,904

1,126,087

1,230,063

930,301

BRUSSELS (PR-EU)

82

3,582,121

3,457,843

3,805,678

4,194,314

BUCHAREST

7*

566,044

577,947

484,421

457,869

BUDAPEST

6

485,572

511,156

495,581

444,950

BUENOS AIRES

5.6*

351,725

372,254

383,751

454,202

CAIRO

10

445,209

569,536

500,311

460,651

CANBERRA

9.5

742,471

743,869

681,238

788,271

CARDIFF (closed 2009)

213,966

182,170

79,757

CHICAGO

5.4

383,173

358,542

325,799

342,853

COPENHAGEN

6.4

540,031

476,526

430,412

448,180

DAR ES SALAAM

8

819,916

1,242,513

1,049,784

720,238

DILI

3

205,402

189,962

211,483

148,716

EDINBURGH

3

319,133

261,682

227,646

236,941

FREETOWN

3

197,673

204,871

215,114

199,440

GENEVA

13

1,124,538

1,096,146

1,134,003

1,142,564

HANOI

8

609,377

743,614

580,390

607,332

HELSINKI

5

655,345

634,690

637,618

539,507

HOLY SEE

5

740,532

498,334

437,683

455,820

KAMPALA

8

1,376,603

1,915,553

1,338,000

1,140,515

KUALA LUMPUR

7.5

380,607

418,700

359,821

409,445

LILONGWE

5

413,536

717,165

623,196

445,750

LISBON

5

496,611

548,396

437,493

376,459

LJUBLJANA

5

454,887

489,219

428,186

451,370

LONDON

51

5,610,590

4,669,648

4,065,867

3,702,234

(including visa and passport office)

LUSAKA

6

1,293,799

1,499,747

1,586,698

1,097,048

LUXEMBOURG

5

716,923

709,845

738,042

724,074

MADRID

14

1,242,986

1,273,566

1,239,494

1,106,768

MAPUTO

8

1,377,425

1,717,913

1,427,000

983,406

MASERU

4

700,082

795,256

523,259

512,812

MEXICO

8

696,226

598,562

475,576

528,437

MOSCOW

19*

970,958

896,238

873,407

1,064,758

(including visa office)

NEW DELHI

18

669,453

839,809

611,455

967,485

(including visa office)

NEW YORK — C.G.

17

2,281,554

1,903,026

1,920,283

1,915,099

NEW YORK — PMUN

16

2,443,225

2,681,0741

1,546,199

2,081,792

NICOSIA

5

406,801

428,485

417,208

419,656

OSCE — VIENNA

10

455,567

459,195

434,483

504,823

OSLO

5

715,292

787,891

634,870

601,640

OTTAWA

8

658,038

605,680

700,330

590,775

PARIS (incl OECD)

21

1,867,828

1,852,135

1,804,602

1,817,710

PRAGUE

8

524,173

573,544

604,233

612,292

PRETORIA

13*

1,407,145

1,318,279

968,255

1,111,600

RAMALLAH

6

419,099

373,828

286,792

354,106

RIGA

3*

437,135

438,808

372,586

360,659

RIYADH

10

404,299

386,430

547,777

381,231

ROME

11.8

1,292,690

1,270,120

1,202,705

1,180,581

SAN FRANCISCO

5

500,358

628,525

417,187

428,014

SEOUL

6

643,540

767,822

438,633

833,161

SHANGHAI

7*

512,507

466,888

511,801

667,532

SINGAPORE

7*

913,131

865,908

805,922

833,820

SOFIA

6*

617,814

452,737

425,518

367,670

STOCKHOLM

6

458,461

426,780

435,176

591,585

STRASBOURG

5

523,150

454,730

439,469

424,895

SYDNEY

5

546,538

511,344

489,353

587,275

TALLINN

3

445,663

426,396

352,791

415,288

TEHRAN

6

315,881

361,419

347,641

417,048

TEL AVIV

6

666,237

574,527

737,733

623,858

THE HAGUE

9

1,066,280

1,079,734

949,973

921,078

TOKYO

11

1,543,374

1,604,708

2,079,7742

1,637,651

VALLETTA

3*

369,535

329,452

330,122

372,090

VIENNA

8

677,684

664,055

633,729

662,725

VILNIUS

4.5*

677,347

545,639

452,692

425,124

WARSAW

8

909,879

996,352

713,657

842,848

WASHINGTON DC

20

1,540,392

1,268,050

1,250,786

1,329,159

* Includes positions filled by personnel engaged through local employment agencies and not directly employed by the Mission.

1Operating costs for PMUN New York in 2008 reflects rent costs paid in advance for 2009 (which achieved significant savings).

2Operating costs for Embassy Tokyo in 2009 reflects rent costs paid in advance for 2010 (which achieved significant savings).

Expenditure Reviews

Joe McHugh

Question:

77 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will identify all assessments, reviews or reports being carried out by him under the terms of the EU-IMF programme of financial support; if these assessments, reviews or reports are being carried out internally by him or independently; when he expects each assessment, review and report to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10659/11]

There are no particular reviews being carried out in my Department related to the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support. However, the general reviews under way, such as the recently-announced Comprehensive Spending Review, embrace my Department in the normal way.

Passport Applications

John O'Mahony

Question:

78 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps he has taken to inform the public of the new changes for a passport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10677/11]

John O'Mahony

Question:

79 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the changes in the method of the application for passports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10678/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 78 and 79 together.

All passport applications are subject to the provisions of the Passport Act, 2008. Section 6 of that Act provides, inter alia, that an applicant is required to submit any information and documents in relation to that person that is deemed necessary by the Minister for the purpose of processing passport applications.

Changes in the method of application for adult first time applicants and for those adults seeking to replace a lost/stolen passport were introduced on 17 January, 2011. The aim of the new requirements was to strengthen procedures to best protect against identity theft and fraudulent passport applications. Given the importance of strengthening procedures, it was decided that the new requirements had to be introduced without delay.

The new requirements were publicised on the Passport Office website www.passport.ie and on the Passport Office telephone information line. Information regarding the new requirements was also issued to An Garda and to An Post, who operate the Passport Express Service used by over 60% of passport applicants. Public notices were published in national newspapers to inform the public of the new requirements.

Details of these changes are not, however, reflected in the current version of the Passport Application Form Notes which accompanies each application form. There would have been a significant cost to destroying existing stock of forms and printing new forms. Given that those affected by the new requirements represent a relatively small percentage of overall applicants and in order to achieve maximum value for money, it was considered disproportionate to recall and destroy all existing stock at that time. All offices dispensing passport forms were informed of the changes. Revised information notes and application forms which include information on the new requirements introduced in January since that time are currently being developed. The new forms will be available from June 2011. A decision to re-introduce passport fees for citizens, aged 65 or over, was taken by the previous Government. This measure, which was announced in the Budget last December, took effect from 11 April 2011, which was the date set out in Statutory Instrument 47/2011 signed by the then Taoiseach and acting Minister for Foreign Affairs on 3 February 2011.

This Statutory Instrument also provided for an increase of €15 on the current fee of €80 for passports, where applications are submitted through the ordinary post or over the counter at the Passport Offices. It is important to note that this increase does not apply to those passport applications submitted through the ‘Passport Express' system (and Northern Ireland Passport Express — NIPX). Nor does it apply to applications received from overseas. Details of the new passport fees were publicised on the Passport Office website www.passport.ie. Public notices were also published in national newspapers to inform the public of this change.

Diplomatic Representation

Finian McGrath

Question:

80 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will support the case of a person (details supplied) who is detained at a location without charge since September 2009. [10731/11]

As the Deputy may be aware, my Department in September 2007, via our Embassy in New Delhi, was informed that the person mentioned by him was arrested on arrival at Colombo Airport, "under suspicion for involvement in terrorist activities" under order from the Ministry of Defence of Sri Lanka. I am informed that to date the person concerned has not been formally charged and the Sri Lankan authorities have indicated that the investigations into his activities are active and ongoing.

As mentioned in the Deputy's correspondence, my Department, through our Embassy in New Delhi and our Consular Assistance Section has provided extensive consular assistance to the person concerned and to his family here in Ireland. Our current and our previous Ambassador in New Delhi and our Honorary Consul in Sri Lanka has visited him in prison on numerous occasions and continue to raise his case at the highest level with the authorities there. I can assure the Deputy that my Department continues to call for him to be brought to trial or released as soon as possible and we maintain a high level of interest and involvement in his case.

I can confirm to the Deputy that my officials remain in close and direct contact with his wife and family and we continue to provide all possible consular assistance and advice to her on any development on his case.

Legislative Programme

Peter Mathews

Question:

81 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Finance his plans to amend the Construction Contracts Bill 2011 to ensure that contracts less than €200,000 are not excluded from the Act in order that the majority of small and medium contractors and specialists contractors benefit from the Act; and his plans to amend the Act to ensure that the adjudicators decision is binding when the dispute is referred to arbitration to protect the most vulnerable people serving the construction industry. [10264/11]

The Deputy will be aware that the Construction Contracts Bill 2010 was introduced by Senator Feargal Quinn and passed Committee and Remaining Stages in the Seanad on 8 March 2011. It is now placed before the Dáil. In relation to the exemption of contracts below €200,000 from the Construction Contracts Bill 2010, I understand that the Senator pointed out in the Seanad that this threshold was proposed to reduce the administrative burden on contractors involved in smaller contracts.

I understand that the provision making the decision of an adjudicator non-binding where the dispute is referred to arbitration was included in the Senator's Bill to ensure that the State had the right to appeal a decision to protect the taxpayer. These two concerns remain valid, nonetheless, I am now examining the Bill and will then decide how best to proceed. It is important that a solution to the problem of non-payment must not place an unnecessary regulatory or cost burden on the parties to the dispute, other parties involved in the project, or the State.

Tax Code

Terence Flanagan

Question:

82 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the universal social charge in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10523/11]

The position is that all Department of Social Protection payments are exempt from the Universal Social Charge (USC). As the individual in question is aged greater than 70 the following rates are applicable to his private pension:

2% up to €10,036

4% income above €10,036

It is assumed that the person in question does not have income from self-employment in excess of €100,000. In addition, I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that in early 2011 Revenue issued a notice directly to all pension providers advising them of the rates and thresholds of the USC.

Insurance Industry

Ann Phelan

Question:

83 Deputy Ann Phelan asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the widespread practice of mis-selling of insurance protection policies imposed by lending agencies on mortgages and other borrowing products in past years, which in some cases amounted to an extortive demand; and if he will investigate the matter by seeking details from all such lending institutions from all their data on these products with the aim of compensation to those who were or are victims of this shameful and unjust practice. [10590/11]

The Central Bank's Consumer Protection Code requires that a regulated entity must ensure that, in all its dealings with customers and within the context of its authorisation, it acts honestly, fairly and professionally, in the best interests of its customers the integrity of the market, and acts with due skill, care and diligence in the best interests of its customers. Any breach of the Consumer Protection Code may be considered under the Central Bank's Administrative Sanctions Procedure. If a consumer feels that he/she has been improperly treated, or that he/she has grounds for complaint for some other reason, he/she may complain to the institution directly. If he/she feels that the complaint has not been addressed to his or her satisfaction he/she may refer the complaint to the Financial Services Ombudsman, who deals with individual consumer complaints. The Ombudsman will adjudicate on the complaint on the basis of the regulatory requirements on the firm.

The Consumer Protection Division of the Central Bank of Ireland is conducting a themed inspection of Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) policies sold to individuals who subsequently had their claims turned down. The scope of this themed inspection is limited to establishing whether PPI policies were sold to consumers who would not have been eligible to make a redundancy/unemployment claim under the policy and the information should have been known or gathered at the time of the sale. This will be achieved by reviewing both the claim file for declined claims alongside the relevant sales file for the policy. Feedback will be issued in the form of a letter to the industry following the review, together with suggested proposed changes (if any are identified) to current practices. In addition, if it is necessary and if it is found that firms are not in compliance the appropriate regulatory action will be taken.

In 2009 the Financial Regulator (now the Central Bank of Ireland) conducted an examination of the claims handling processes for PPI policies. The examination sought to identify possible claims-related issues before they arise and assess whether reasons for declining to pay out on policies were appropriate. It did not focus on the sales process of PPI products which are typically sold through banks, building societies, credit card providers, credit unions and, to a lesser extent, independent brokers.

The examination found that:

Where claimants have satisfied the terms and conditions of the policy, the insurance companies have carried out the claims handling process in an efficient and fair manner.

The highest number of declined claims on illness/disability grounds related to claimants' pre-existing medical conditions, while the highest number of declined claims on unemployment/redundancy grounds related to employment criteria not being met by claimants.

In the course of the onsite inspections it was noted that some claims can be delayed while the firm is waiting on verification from third parties such as doctors and previous employers.

The Financial Regulator wrote to all providers to inform them of the findings of the themed inspection and advised firms that:

Sellers of these products should ensure that the relevant exclusions, together with qualifying periods at the start of policies, are highlighted to the consumer at the point of sale.

Insurance companies should ensure that the sellers of regular premium PPI products are aware that the premiums for these policies are not necessarily fixed and may increase. As this may affect whether the consumer can afford the premiums in the subsequent years, firms need to impress on the PPI sellers that this should be highlighted in any product sales material.

The present practice across the PPI industry is that, unlike, for example, life assurance policies, firms do not gather information from customers on their state of health or medical history. This information is analysed at the time of a claim being assessed. Firms must ensure that this practice, and its consequences in relation to claims handling, are fully explained to consumers at point of sale.

Firms should endeavour to ensure that consumers are not disadvantaged due to excessive delays on the part of third parties in supplying claim related information. My Department will consult with the Central Bank on ongoing monitoring in this regard.

Tax Relief

Brendan Griffin

Question:

84 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance if disabled driver VRT exemption qualification criteria will be widened to include passengers with Down’s syndrome; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10684/11]

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and Vehicle Registration Tax (up to a certain limit), and exemption from motor tax, on the purchase of an adapted car for transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities. The disability criteria for these concessions are set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994. To get a Primary Medical Certificate, an applicant must be permanently and severely disabled within the terms of these Regulations. Some 13,500 people benefited under the scheme in 2010 at an overall estimated cost of €55 million. I have no plans to widen the exemption qualification criteria.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

85 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance the measures he intends to bring forward regarding mortgage interest relief for the categories of principal residence, second homes and investment properties; the distinction between a second home and an investment property; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10186/11]

There is a commitment in the Programme for Government to help homeowners in distress to weather the recession. One of these proposals relates to increasing mortgage interest relief to 30% for First Time Buyers who bought between 2004 and 2008 and to finance this in part by abolishing mortgage interest relief for new buyers from June 2011.

When this proposal has been thoroughly examined and analysed and the findings and recommendations are presented to me, I will decide on the appropriate action to be taken. However, it is unlikely that any measures will be introduced before Budget 2012. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the terms "second home" and "investment property" are not defined in the tax code for mortgage interest tax relief purposes and, as such, it is not possible to be definitive on the distinction between the two. However, in so far as a second home is generally understood to refer to a property that an individual uses as a home but which is not his or her principal private residence — for example, a holiday home or an apartment used by family members during the academic year — there is no provision in the tax code for interest relief on loans to acquire or improve a second home and I have no plans to introduce any new interest tax relief for this category.

In so far as a residential investment property is generally understood to be a property from which the owner seeks to derive profits through lettings, a deduction is allowed (subject to certain conditions) for interest on borrowed money employed in the purchase, improvement or repair of the premises concerned. However, for interest accruing on or after 7 April 2009, the deduction is restricted to 75% of the interest otherwise allowable. Like all proposals for new tax or expenditure measures, this will fall to be considered in the context of the ongoing development of budgetary and economic policy. I would add that the status of a property for tax purposes can vary over time. For example, a second home in use during the academic year might be let at other times of the year. Alternatively, a letting by an individual of a room in his/her principle residence would not give rise to a restriction of mortgage interest relief where the letting is under the rent-a-room scheme.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

86 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm that support for Irish produced bio-fuel E85 has been discontinued; if he will introduce future support for this fuel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10188/11]

The Biofuel (Mineral Oil Tax) Relief scheme that was operated by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources provided for excise relief for 16 companies selected by means of an open competitive process. The scheme ran for around five years and ended on 31 December 2010. Consequently, with effect from 1 January 2011, all biofuels, including E85, are subject to full mineral oil tax rates; however, unlike conventional fuels, biofuels are exempt from the carbon charge. The promotion of biofuel is primarily a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

The National Biofuel Obligation, which is operated by the National Oil Reserves Agency (NORA), is now the Government's means of supporting the use of biofuel in the future. The National Biofuel Obligation requires suppliers of road transport fuels to ensure that 4% of their volumes sold on the Irish market is biofuel; it will underpin delivery of the national biofuel target and will take full account of EU biofuels policy, including the sustainability criteria. Experience in Ireland and elsewhere has shown that short-term fiscal measures cannot provide sufficient certainty to producers, and that only an obligation type system can ensure that Ireland seizes the opportunity to take advantage of biofuel, and that the considerable opportunities for the indigenous production of biofuel are exploited .

Sports Grants

Niall Collins

Question:

87 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding documents (details supplied) to be processed in order to progress an application for a sports capital grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10204/11]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that there are two instruments in this particular case and, as is standard practice in cases of this type, the stamp duty liabilities on both instruments were subject to the adjudication process. This process has been completed and the Commissioners have stamped one instrument and will be in a position to stamp the other instrument on receipt of a response to their adjudication process finding on the stamp duty to be paid.

Insurance Industry

Finian McGrath

Question:

88 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance in relation to Quinn Insurance and the State’s ability to cover its losses, the position regarding the funds collected over the years by way of levies charged on general insurance premiums; and if levies ranging between 1%-3% were charged on every Irish general insurance premium each year. [10228/11]

In order to protect policy holders in the event of their insurer becoming insolvent, money can be raised by the Central Bank through the placing of a levy of up to 2% of an insurance company's aggregate income under Section 6 of the 1964 Insurance Act. A levy of 2% of gross premium income was introduced on 1 January 1984 following the collapse of PMPA in October of the preceding year. The levy was paid by all non-life insurers at this rate until 31 December 1991 and a reduced levy of 1% applied for the period 1 January 1992 to 31 December 1992, when it was discontinued as sufficient moneys had been collected to successfully complete the administration of the former PMPA.

This insurance levy is separate from the stamp duty on non-life insurance premiums introduced in 1982. The rate of stamp duty when introduced was 1%, rising to 2% in 1993 and further increased to 3% in the 2009 Supplementary Budget. This stamp duty forms part of general stamp duty receipts and is paid into the Central Fund along with other tax receipts.

Banking Sector Regulation

Michael Creed

Question:

89 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance if he will publish details of the employment contracts of all the senior management in financial institutions covered by the State guarantee; if he has satisfied himself that in the event of him requiring termination of the employment of these senior managers that there will not be a repeat of the recent incident arising from the termination of the employment of the chief executive of the AIB; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10242/11]

Michael Creed

Question:

93 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance if he will publish details of the contract of employment and provisions therein of the former Chief Executive of the AIB; if he will provide details regarding the provisions therein dealing with their severance package; if he will instruct AIB not to comply with the provisions of the contract and such reimbursement of funds paid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10377/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89 and 93 together.

The Deputy will appreciate that there would be serious obstacles to be addressed to allow for publication of the individual details of the contracts of employment of senior management in financial institutions of the covered institutions and I am not convinced that this would serve, at this stage, the public interest. The Deputy will also appreciate that what we are dealing with here are legacy issues. For example, the payments to the former Managing Director of Allied Irish Banks took place before this Government took office.

What this Government has decided to do to address these issues is to ask the National Treasury Management Agency to oblige the covered institutions to undertake a review of their remuneration practice including an analysis of severance payments. The institutions were also instructed not to commit to further termination payments until the review is completed. When this information is to hand the Government will decide what approach to take on the matter.

In relation to the payments to the former Managing Director alluded to by the Deputy, I have stated that the amount of money paid is an absolute disgrace and undermines the concept of social solidarity we need to engender if we are to emerge from our present extremely challenging circumstances. While I have outlined some of the facts of this matter — which all took place on the watch of my predecessor — I am not convinced that the Government is in full possession of all of the facts. I am presently addressing this deficit with a view to seeing what actions may be available for consideration. I would point out that I can give no assurances that there will not be legal issues which may act as impediments to either recovering moneys already paid or in preventing similar payments.

Tax Code

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

90 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance if it is his intention to alter the requirement whereby the tenant is required to satisfy the taxation obligations in regard to rental income of absentee landlords; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10285/11]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, under section 1041 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, a tenant who pays rent on property located in the State directly to a person whose usual place of abode is outside the State and who has not appointed an agent in the State to collect the rent, is required to deduct tax from the gross rent at the standard rate of income tax, which is currently 20%. The tax deducted by the tenant is effectively a withholding tax at source. The property owner, however, is responsible for his/her own tax affairs and must prepare and submit rental accounts and pay any additional tax due where appropriate.

This provision, which governs the commercial rented sector as well as the residential rented sector, has a number of valid and important functions. Firstly, it is a control measure designed to promote greater compliance in this area, having regard to the obvious risk factors associated with non-resident taxpayers. Secondly, it also ensures that a minimum tax payment is made by non-resident landlords in respect of rental income arising here. In the absence of a withholding tax, it would be relatively easy for non-resident landlords to evade tax as Revenue would have no mechanism to recover the tax due as there is no way to force such non-residents to make an Irish tax return and to declare their income.

Following a commitment given during the Committee Stage debate on the 2008 Finance Bill, the legislation was reviewed with a view to establishing if alternative arrangements could be put in place that would minimise the risk of opening up opportunities for tax evasion. The conclusion was that a withholding tax remained the most effective approach and that an alternative arrangement that would minimise the risk of opening up such opportunities simply did not present itself. It is accepted, however, that the section 1041 provision could give rise to some practical difficulties in some cases. In recognition of this, where a tenant acts in good faith and is genuinely unaware of the obligation to deduct tax, or of the residence status of the landlord, Revenue will only seek to apply the legislation from a current date. This practical approach is reflected in Revenue's operational instructions in this area.

Departmental Staff

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

91 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Finance the public sector employment vacancies that exist to be filled and the grades in Sligo and Mayo by staff transfers between Departments, State agencies and local authorities pursuant to the Croke Park Agreement. [10345/11]

Under the terms of the moratorium posts may only be filled by recruitment or promotion with the sanction of the Minister for Finance but this does not preclude public service organisations from internally reorganising work or redeploying staff internally to accommodate changes in work priorities. The deployment and management of staff in a Government Department or Office is primarily a matter for the head of that Department in the first instance, having regard to policy and operational priorities and the budgets available. Changes in the services provided and in their delivery, in the allocation of work and in the use of information technology are taking place on an ongoing basis within Departments. The current Programme for Government includes a range of initiatives which are intended to lead to savings in the public service pay bill through the reduction of numbers, while the 2011 Budget provides inter alia for the reduction in day to day spending, among other significant policy changes. All of these measures would have a significant bearing on the need for additional staff, and their recruitment and allocation. For this reason, it would not be possible to adduce the number of vacancies in particular grades or locations.

Departmental Expenditure

Peter Mathews

Question:

92 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Finance if he will ensure that non-teaching staff in a private school whose wages are not paid by the Exchequer are excluded in the reduction in public sector wages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10366/11]

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, as defined under the Act, 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 staff referred to in the question are, whether employed in a recognised public or a recognised private school, 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 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.

Question No. 93 answered with Question No. 89.

Legislative Programme

Seán Crowe

Question:

94 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Finance the date on which the remit of the Ombudsman will be extended to third level institutions. [9857/11]

The Ombudsman (Amendment) Bill 2008 will significantly extend the remit of the Ombudsman to a much wider range of public bodies including third level institutions. The Bill completed all stages in the Dáil in June 2010 and is currently awaiting Second Stage in the Seanad.

Consultancy Contracts

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

95 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the positions held by a person (details supplied) and the consultancy contracts undertaken by a company on behalf of his Department over the past ten years. [10416/11]

The individual who is the subject of the Deputy's question was appointed on 01/01/2008 following an open public competition by the Top Level Appointments Committee (TLAC) to the position of Assistant Secretary in the Public Expenditure Division (PED), later the Sectoral Policy Division (SPD) in my Department. Subsequently, he was appointed by the Government to the position of Secretary General of Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on 26/04/2011. Prior to his appointment in 2008, it is understood that the individual was employed by the company mentioned in the Deputy's question from 31/03/2001. The table details amounts paid to the company in question during the years 2002-2011

Year

Amount

2002

64,450

Public Transport Evaluation

2005

162,626

Review of certain property based tax incentive schemes

2007

42,592

Update of review of scheme of tax relief for residential units associated with nursing homes

2007

92,111

Review of Section 481 Film Relief Scheme

Departmental Staff

Sean Fleming

Question:

96 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Finance the job description being used for the recruitment of ministerial drivers; if these positions will be advertised publicly; if applicants will have to be registered with FÁS; the efforts being made to make these posts available to the general public, including those currently on the live register; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10426/11]

Sean Fleming

Question:

97 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Finance the steps that are being taken to ensure that ministerial driver positions will not be filled by persons already in receipt of a State or occupational pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10427/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 96 and 97 together.

The Government decided that Ministers and Ministers of State, the Attorney General and the Ceann Comhairle can appoint two civilian drivers on a contract of employment that is co-terminus with their period of appointment as Office Holder. Alternatively, Office Holders have the option to appoint civilian drivers to a twelve month contract if they prefer.

The right of selection rests with an Office Holder and such appointments are personal appointments, under excluding order, as unestablished civil servants. When a Minister of the Government or Minister of State ceases to hold that office for any reason (including a Minister of State becoming a Minister of the Government or vice versa) the contract of his or her personal appointees terminate on that date. Given the nature of the working relationship between Minister and civilian driver this system of selection and appointment will remain in place for the current round of appointments.

In the case of the recent HSE Voluntary Early Retirement scheme, persons availing of the scheme are not eligible for re-employment in the public health sector or in the wider public service or in a body wholly or mainly funded from public moneys. The same prohibition on re-employment applies under the HSE Voluntary Redundancy Scheme also, except that the prohibition will be for a period of 7 years, after which time any re-employment will require the approval of the Minister for Finance.

National Asset Management Agency

Seamus Healy

Question:

98 Deputy Seamus Healy asked the Minister for Finance if he will intervene with the National Asset Management Agency to ensure that the 128 jobs under threat at two retail units in counties Tipperary and Kilkenny (details supplied), currently under the NAMA umbrella, are saved in view of the fact that these jobs in two viable businesses are under threat due to NAMA’s attitude to job protection and retention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10481/11]

NAMA informs me that the retail businesses referred to in the Deputy's question are owned by a partnership and that differences have emerged among some of the partners as regards the ongoing management of the businesses. NAMA is committed to contributing to the purposes of the Act which, inter alia, require it to contribute to the social and economic development of the State in addition to protecting the interests of the taxpayer by ensuring that the value of any assets securing its loans is not diminished. In this context, NAMA assures me that it is a particular priority for NAMA, in situations such as this, to minimise the adverse impact on the viability of any of the businesses involved or on the sustainability of any jobs that may be at stake. NAMA fully recognises the importance of ensuring the continued viability of businesses, which can generate cash flow to repay debt and provide sustainable employment.

Tax Code

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

99 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance his plans to reintroduce the excise duty rebate (details supplied) to coach operators; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10482/11]

A derogation under EU Directive 2003/96 on Energy Taxation allowed the application of a reduced rate of Mineral Oil Tax to fuel used for the purposes of certain road passenger services. That derogation has expired and the arrangement was, therefore, terminated by the Finance Act 2008. It would not be possible, having regard to the relevant provisions of EU law, to re-introduce a scheme of that nature for those services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

100 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 47 of 21 April 2011 wherein he stated that section 64, Finance Act 2011 removes the exemption on a conveyance of property by or to a housing authority or the Affordable Homes Partnership, if he will confirm the accuracy of his reply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10497/11]

My officials have informed me there was an inaccuracy in the reply to the earlier question. I apologise to the Deputy for any inconvenience or confusion this may have caused. Section 106B Stamp Duty Consolidation Act 1999 previously provided for a stamp duty exemption on a conveyance of property either by or to a housing authority or the Affordable Homes Partnership.

This section was amended by section 64 Finance Act 2011, which removes the Stamp Duty exemption on a conveyance of property by a housing authority or the Affordable Homes Partnership but provides that the maximum duty on an instrument effecting such a transfer shall be €100. However, Stamp Duty continues not to be chargeable on a conveyance of property to a housing authority or the Affordable Homes Partnership.

Interest Rates

Jim Daly

Question:

101 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Finance if he will make any intervention in relation to guaranteed Irish banks that are increasing the interest rate on commercial mortgages to borrowers that request to pay interest only for a short period due to cash flow shortage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10512/11]

The Government is conscious of the difficult environment commercial mortgage holders are facing. Operating in this challenging economic climate is not easy for businesses. As I informed the Deputy in the House last week, I will ask the regulatory authorities to examine this area to see if something can be done.

Tax Code

Brendan Ryan

Question:

102 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Finance the timeline for introducing the increase in mortgage relief to 30% for first time buyers who purchased their homes from 2004 to 2008 as set out in the programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10575/11]

There is a commitment in the Programme for Government to help homeowners in distress to weather the recession. One of these proposals relates to increasing mortgage interest relief to 30% for First Time Buyers who bought between 2004 and 2008 and to finance this in part by abolishing mortgage interest relief for new buyers from June 2011. When this proposal has been thoroughly examined and analysed and the findings and recommendations are presented to me, I will decide on the appropriate action to be taken. However, it is unlikely that any measures will be introduced before Budget 2012.

National Anthem

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

103 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 109 of 3 May 2011, if the State will consider purchasing the copyright to the national anthem when the copyright runs out in December 2019 or amending the Copyright Act in order that the national anthem is vested in the State and therefore ensuring it cannot be used, abused or misused if the copyright were lost to the State. [10593/11]

In response to the Deputy's question, my Department is aware that the copyright to the National Anthem will expire in December 2012. I can assure the Deputy that consideration will be given prior to that date to protect the National Anthem to ensure that is not used in an inappropriate context and without due deference, such as to render it an object of scorn or derision.

Public Sector Pay

John McGuinness

Question:

104 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance the progress being made in relation to the implementation of the Croke Park agreement; if he will meet all targets within the timeframe required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10643/11]

The Government is determined that public service management will be proactive and ambitious in delivering on the full range of productivity and change measures envisaged in the Public Service Agreement (Croke Park Agreement), and accepted as necessary by all parties to it. The Government is on record as saying that it would like to see an accelerated implementation of the ambitious reform agenda set out in the Agreement. Progress under the Agreement is overseen by the Implementation Body established in July 2010. The Body comprises the independent chair, Mr. P.J. Fitzpatrick, whose appointment was agreed by the parties, and nominees representing both public service management and the Public Service Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

In line with paragraph 1.16 of the Agreement, a review of implementation is to be undertaken on an annual basis by the Implementation Body to determine the sustainable savings that have been achieved. The first such annual review is currently underway. In the immediate weeks ahead, the Body will be assessing detailed submissions from each sector on the progress to date on delivering the actions set out in their sectoral Action Plans and well as details on sustainable savings achieved over the past twelve months. Arising from this review, the Body will finalise a comprehensive report which it is expected will be submitted to Government in the coming weeks and published shortly thereafter. As the Deputy will appreciate, it would be inappropriate to comment further on these issues pending receipt of this detailed report on progress from the National Implementation Body.

Expenditure Reviews

Joe McHugh

Question:

105 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Finance if he will identify all assessments, reviews or reports being carried out by him under the terms of the EU-IMF programme of financial support; if these assessments, reviews or reports are being carried out internally by him or independently; when he expects each assessment, review and report to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10658/11]

Given the nature of the EU/IMF Programme and the resulting content of the Programme documents, there are numerous references to assessments, reviews and reports. Most of these concern regular reporting requirements that Ireland has to comply with or the quarterly reviews of Programme compliance by the EU, ECB and IMF (Troika). However, there are references to a number of assessments, reports, reviews and studies where these represent, or are pivotal to, the delivery of an action/condition.

The texts of the Memorandum on Economic and Financial Policies (MEFP) and the Memorandum of Understanding on Specific Economic Policy Conditionality (MoU) are generally clear on deadlines and responsibility for the item in question is normally clear from the issue it relates to. Furthermore, there are also references in some cases to "independent" reviews, reports or assessments. The Government is committed to ensuring that the deadlines specified in the Programme are complied with. Both the MEFP and the MoU have been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas and circulated to all Deputies in a composite document that also includes the letters of intent to the Troika.

With regard to the areas under the responsibility of my Department, and that of my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Mr Brendan Howlin T.D., I would draw the Deputy's attention to the following:

The Government is preparing legislation to introduce a new single pension scheme for all new entrants to the public service. In framing the legislation, a review was carried out by my Department of accelerated retirement for certain categories of public servants and indexation of pensions to consumer prices. The results of the review have informed the preparation of the new scheme which, under the programme, must be legislated for by the end of September 2011.

There are several references to the Comprehensive Review of Public Expenditure, which comes under the aegis of Minister Howlin. This review, which is ongoing, is expected to be completed next September.

Minister Howlin's Department will also have primary responsibility to review by the end of September 2011 whether the achieved and projected savings arising from administrative measures to increase efficiency and from public service numbers reductions will meet the projected level required to achieve the fiscal consolidation targets in the Programme.

Finally, the Central Bank of Ireland also has to complete a number of reports, etc. under the EU/IMF Programme. These include:

An independent advisor is in the process of validating the methodology used in the estimation of future credit losses of Anglo and of performing a three year lifetime loan loss forecast for INBS. The Central Bank will release the conclusions of this exercise in May.

A detailed action plan to strengthen the Central Bank's capacity to supervise credit institutions is to be prepared by end-June 2011. A comprehensive progress report on implementing this action is required quarterly for the duration of the programme.

Six-monthly progress reports on loan-to-deposit ratios are to be submitted to the external authorities from July 2011, with updates to be provided on the intervening quarters.

Quarterly progress reports on implementing the strategy for the reorganisation of Irish credit institutions are to be submitted to the external authorities from the end of this Quarter.

A report on the treatment of loans in arrears under the Code of Conduct for Business Lending to Small and Medium Enterprises is to be published by the Central Bank by the end of September 2011.

A report on the evolution of the capital within the banks covered by the Prudential Capital Assessment Review (PCAR) must be prepared by the end of the year and annually thereafter.

A progress report of the banks' deleveraging plans under the Prudential Liquidity Assessment Review (PLAR) 2011 is to be discussed with the external authorities by the end of the year and every six months thereafter.

The Prudential Capital Assessment Reviews for 2012 and 2013 have to be completed by end-June 2012 and 2013 respectively.

Tax Code

Thomas Pringle

Question:

106 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Finance the measures in place to prevent persons from using business VAT numbers to make purchases free from VAT in Northern Ireland; if the Revenue Commissioners investigate these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10687/11]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that traders in any EU Member State who sell goods at the zero rate of VAT to traders in another EU Member State have legal obligations in relation to verifying the VAT numbersof the purchasers; this may be done through the European Commission website at http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/vies/. Traders also have obligations in relation to justifying the application of the zero rate of VAT. The goods must be dispatched or transported from the State in question and the trader has an obligation to confirm that the purchaser of the goods is, in fact, the holder of the VAT registration number quoted at the time of supply.

The purchaser of goods under these intra-Community transactions is then legally obliged to account for and pay over the VAT due on the goods at the rate of VAT applicable to the goods in the Member State of that purchaser. Thus, for example, traders in the State who purchase goods from Northern Ireland traders must account for and pay over to the Revenue Commissioners the Irish VAT due on those goods. The EU VAT directives provide that any VAT-registered trader who exports goods to a VAT-registered person in another Member State must complete a VIES statement detailing all the VAT-registered customers in other Member States to whom he/she has supplied goods in respect of which that customer is liable for payment of the VAT due. The VIES statements form the basis of tax compliance programmes in Member States. Council Directive 2008/8/EC (amending Directive 2006/112/EC) provides for the more frequent filing of VIES statements and provides that traders may submit statements on a quarterly or monthly basis. The increased frequency of filing of VIES statements will assist in countering cross-border evasion of VAT.

In the case of cross-Border transactions between the UK and this State, checking the validity of VAT registration numbers, and indeed other tax compliance information, with their counterparts in Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs in Northern Ireland in particular, is part of the checks carried out by Revenue officers during audits and assurance checks where risk or suspicions arise. These checks are carried out using the EU VAT Mutual Assistance Programme, which has been designed specifically to tackle cross-border VAT fraud. This programme allows for exchanges of information between EU Member States in relation to VAT matters, and it also allows the presence of officials from one Member State in another Member State while inquiries are being carried out.

Checks of the control procedures in place between the State and Northern Ireland form part of the work programmes of Revenue's Investigations and Prosecutions Division and the Revenue Regions. Revenue is currently engaged in a number of investigations involving suspected cross-border VAT fraud.

Special Educational Needs

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

107 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to ensure that children with hearing loss or absence receive signing lessons from early on in order to understand the concept of language. [10290/11]

The Deputy may be aware that Section 2 of the Official Languages Act 2003 states that "the official languages" of the State are (a) the Irish language (being the national language and the first official language) and (b) the English language (being a second official language) as specified in Article 8 of the Constitution. I wish to advise the Deputy that Irish Sign language (ISL) has formal recognition in the Education Act, 1998. Under the Act, it is a function of the Minister for Education and Science (Skills) to ensure, subject to the provisions of the Act, that there is made available to each person resident in the State, including a person with a disability or who has other special educational needs, support services and a level and quality of education appropriate to meeting the needs and abilities of that person. This includes provision for students learning through ISL.

A number of initiatives which seek to promote, develop and implement ISL in order that it will achieve greater recognition and use in the education system are currently in place. These include:

the special schools for the deaf have been encouraged in relation to the use of sign language in class.

funding for an ISL weekly home tuition service whereby deaf tutors visit the homes of deaf pre-school children and deaf school-going pupils to provide training in ISL for the deaf children, pupils, their siblings and parents.

In addition, the Visiting Teacher Service for Children and Young People with a Hearing Impairment is provided by my Department from the time of referral through to third level education. The Visiting Teacher service provides advice and support to ensure that the needs of children and young people with hearing impairment are met. This service is available at pre-school, primary and post-primary levels. Specifically, the service works in partnership with parents of pre-school children with hearing impairment, visiting their homes and/or meeting them in groups to inform, advise and offer guidance in matters pertaining to their education and overall development and in helping their children to derive maximum benefit from the educational opportunities available.

The Deputy may be aware that assessment, rehabilitation and information services for children with hearing impairment and their families are funded by the Health Service Executive (HSE), either directly or indirectly. Services provided include communication therapy and lip-reading classes as well as sign language classes. My Department, through the Higher Education Authority (HEA), has established and funds a Centre for Deaf Studies in Trinity College, Dublin which provides diploma courses for ISL/English interpreters, deaf tutors and in deaf studies. The course modules deal with issues such as sign linguistics, bi-lingualism and socio-linguistics of sign language. The course is delivered in seminar sessions/group work and the award of the diploma is based on continued assessment and a project and course design. The HEA has allocated €387,000 in core funding to the Centre in the current academic year.

Finally, I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has commissioned an external, high-level review of the issues surrounding deaf education. This review will focus on models of provision with reference to evidenced-based outcomes and the implications of adopting different approaches. I look forward to receiving the policy advice from the NCSE in this regard.

Gerry Adams

Question:

108 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of special needs assistant whole time equivalent posts funded by him in the school year 2009-10 and also the same figures for 2010-11; the savings if any of the reduction in WTE posts in these two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10189/11]

The number of wholetime equivalent Special Needs Assistants funded by my Department was 10,342 in the 2009/2010 school year and 10,543 for the 2010/2011 school year. The figure quoted is the December figure for each year. The Deputy will note that there has in fact been an increase in the number of SNA posts. The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for allocating special needs resources to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. The NCSE will continue to support schools, parents, children and teachers and special needs assistants will continue to be deployed to schools to meet children's needs in line with my Department's policy.

School Staffing

Finian McGrath

Question:

109 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will support the following matter (details supplied) regarding adult education. [10198/11]

When the moratorium was introduced the Government exempted Principal and Deputy Principal posts in all primary and post-primary schools and these continue to be replaced in the normal manner. The impact of the moratorium is therefore limited to the Director of Adult Education, Assistant Principal and Special Duties allowances payable to teachers on promotion. Vacancies at this level arise due to retirements in the specific grades and typically also from the knock on effect of filling Principal and Deputy Principal posts. Some further limited alleviation was introduced for schools that are acutely affected by the impact of the moratorium. The alleviation arrangements are set out in Circular 42/2010.

Schools Refurbishment

Finian McGrath

Question:

110 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a summer works scheme in respect of a school (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [10199/11]

I can confirm that the school referred to by the Deputy applied for funding under the 2011 Summer Works Scheme. A list of 453 successful schools was announced on 30 March 2011 and I regret that the application made by the school in question was not selected. A letter to this effect has issued to the school.

Applications from schools for gas, mechanical and electrical works were prioritised for Summer Works funding this year. Unfortunately, due to the scale of demand for funding under the scheme, it was not possible to grant aid all applications and accordingly it has been necessary to prioritise some categories of works over others. My Department has sought to prioritise the funds that are available towards works that are most relevant to the health and safety of staff and students alike in our schools.

In light of further funding being made available under the Jobs Initiative, projects submitted under the 2011 Summer Works Scheme by primary and post primary schools will be considered further. My Department will be writing to schools that will be included in this latest round of funding in the near future.

Schools Building Projects

Finian McGrath

Question:

111 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a new school (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [10200/11]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that construction has already commenced on the project to which he refers.

Noel Coonan

Question:

112 Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application for building works in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary; when a decision will issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10226/11]

The project for the school to which the Deputy refers is included in the 2011 School Building Work Programme to complete tender documents and proceed to tender this year. Planning Permission has been secured and my Department is currently awaiting submission of the stage 2(b) report, including tender documents, from the school and its design team. When the stage 2(b) submission has been received and examined and assuming no issues arise, the project will then proceed to tender stage.

Tom Fleming

Question:

113 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will make a provision in the building plan of the new primary school at a location (details supplied) in County Kerry to allow for the initial foundations onto the school wing and future construction on a phased basis in view of the fact that the proposal to use prefabricated buildings is illogical and poor value for money. [10235/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that in relation to the above mentioned school in Kenmare, the construction of 12 classrooms (GRD) has commenced. I can confirm that the school to which the Deputy refers has applied to my Department seeking funding to provide additional accommodation for increased enrolments and to accommodate a Special Class for Autism. The application is currently being assessed and officials in my Department will convey a decision on the application to the school authority when the assessment process has been completed.

Higher Education Grants

Niall Collins

Question:

114 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills if grant aid will be made available to a person (details supplied) in County Cork to complete their studies. [10255/11]

Under my Department's student grant schemes, eligible candidates may receive funding provided they are attending an approved course at an approved institution as defined in the relevant scheme. I understand the college referred to by the Deputy is a private college and is not on the list of approved institutions for the purpose of the student grant schemes. However, Section 21 of the Finance Act 2000 provides for the introduction of tax relief for fees paid in publicly funded colleges here and in other EU Member States as well as in private colleges in this state. This relief, which applies at the standard rate of tax, is available to full time and part time students and includes distance education courses offered by publicly funded colleges in other EU Member States. Further details on claiming this relief are available from local tax offices or on the Revenue Commissioners website www.revenue.ie.

School Transport

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

115 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will reverse the changes to the school transport scheme introduced as part of budget 2011 that have placed an additional burden on working families in rural communities. [10260/11]

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

116 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will honour his historical commitment under the closed school rule to families in some rural communities and reverse the plans announced in budget 2011. [10261/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 115 and 116 together.

The changes to school transport services were announced in the 2011 Budget by the previous Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government and derive from a recommendation in the recently published Value for Money Review of the scheme. Given the major financial constraints facing the country, I regret that I cannot reverse the changes to school transport as announced by the previous government. We all have to understand the legacy of economic mismanagement which the last Government gave to the country.

Higher Education Grants

Michael McCarthy

Question:

117 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a third level grant will be awarded to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10295/11]

While the decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter for a student's local grant awarding authority, my Department understands that a delay has arisen in processing the grant application from the student in question because the application was not accompanied by some of the necessary supporting documentation. The grant awarding authority has advised my Department that it has sought this documentation from the student and that it will be able to take a decision on the application as soon as this is received.

Schools Refurbishment

John O'Mahony

Question:

118 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a decision will issue on an application for additional accommodation in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10305/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that Scoil Naomh Pádraig was approved funding towards the provision of an additional mainstream classroom. On foot of this approval, the Board of Management of the school submitted an appeal requesting that additional funding be granted to the school to replace an old rented prefab with a permanent structure. Officials of my Department have been in contact again with the Board of Management of Scoil Naomh Pádraig and have requested additional information in relation to the location of the Puraflo Treatment System and floor plans to be submitted. Once the information and floor plans requested have been received, the matter will be considered further.

Noel Coonan

Question:

119 Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a decision will issue on an application under the emergency works scheme in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10309/11]

An application under my Department's Emergency Works Scheme for roof works has been received from the school referred to by the Deputy. The purpose of the Emergency Works Scheme is solely for unforeseen emergencies or to provide funding to facilitate inclusion and access for special needs pupils. An emergency is deemed to be a situation which poses an immediate risk to health, life, property or the environment which is sudden, unforeseen and requires immediate action and in the case of a school if not corrected would prevent the school or part thereof from opening.

As the scope of works for this project is outside the terms of the Emergency Works Scheme it cannot be considered for emergency funding. The school has been informed of the decision. In light of further funding being made available under the Jobs Initiative, projects submitted under the 2011 Summer Works Scheme by primary and post primary schools will be considered further. My Department will be writing to schools that will be included in this latest round of funding in the near future.

Noel Coonan

Question:

120 Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a decision will issue on an application under the emergency works scheme in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10310/11]

An application under my Department's Emergency Works Scheme for roof works has been received from the school referred to by the Deputy.

The purpose of the Emergency Works Scheme is solely for unforeseen emergencies or to provide funding to facilitate inclusion and access for special needs pupils. An emergency is deemed to be a situation which poses an immediate risk to health, life, property or the environment which is sudden, unforeseen and requires immediate action and in the case of a school if not corrected would prevent the school or part thereof from opening.

As the scope of works for this project is outside the terms of the Emergency Works Scheme it cannot be considered for emergency funding. The school has been informed of thedecision.

Noel Coonan

Question:

121 Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a decision will issue on an application under the emergency works scheme in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10311/11]

An application under my Department's Emergency Works Scheme for roof works has been received from the school referred to by the Deputy.

The purpose of the Emergency Works Scheme is solely for unforeseen emergencies or to provide funding to facilitate inclusion and access for special needs pupils. An emergency is deemed to be a situation which poses an immediate risk to health, life, property or the environment which is sudden, unforeseen and requires immediate action and in the case of a school if not corrected would prevent the school or part thereof from opening.

As the scope of works for this project is outside the terms of the Emergency Works Scheme it cannot be considered for emergency funding. The school has been informed of the decision.

In light of further funding being made available under the Jobs Initiative, projects submitted under the 2011 Summer Works Scheme by primary and post primary schools will be considered further. My Department will be writing to schools that will be included in this latest round of funding in the near future.

Dessie Ellis

Question:

122 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a school (details supplied) was not awarded a summer works grant when other schools in the area were; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10325/11]

I can confirm that the school referred to by the Deputy applied for funding under the 2011 Summer Works Scheme.

A list of 453 successful schools was announced on 30 March 2011 and I regret that the application made by the school in question was not selected. A letter to this effect has issued to the school.

Applications from schools for gas, mechanical and electrical works were prioritised for Summer Works funding this year. Unfortunately, due to the scale of demand for funding under the scheme, it was not possible to grant aid all applications and accordingly it has been necessary to prioritise some categories of works over others.

My Department has sought to prioritise the funds that are available towards works that are most relevant to the health and safety of staff and students alike in our schools.

In light of further funding being made available under the Jobs Initiative, projects submitted under the 2011 Summer Works Scheme by primary and post primary schools will be considered further. My Department will be writing to schools that will be included in this latest round of funding in the near future.

Schools Building Projects

John McGuinness

Question:

123 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to provide second level Educate Together schools; if funding will be made available for such a secondary school in Kilkenny City; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10341/11]

My Department has recently announced plans to open at least 13 new post-primary schools over the next five years in the following locations — Gorey, Doughiska (Galway), Lucan (Clonburris), Kingscourt, Ashbourne, Mulhuddart, Blanchardstown West, Drogheda, Claregalway, Maynooth, Naas, Navan and North County Dublin/South County Louth.

The Forward Planning Section of my Department is currently examining all areas of the country to determine where additional provision will be required at both primary and post primary level up to 2017. Overall post-primary requirements in the Kilkenny area will be fully considered in this context.

The Programme for Government gives a commitment to move towards a more pluralist system of patronage at second level, recognising a wider number of patrons. It is my intention to address this policy and I will consider the role that all patron bodies, including Educate Together, can play in ensuring our education system caters for a pluralism of choice which reflects the needs of Ireland today and into the future.

School Transport

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

124 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills if any consideration has been given by him to allowing on an optional pilot basis for two teacher and three teacher schools for a one year period the option of receiving a block grant for school transport and allowing school in consultation with the local rural transport provider to provide the service themselves; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10352/11]

Rural Transport Services are already considered by Bus Éireann, as one of the range of options currently available, for transporting children to and from school under the school transport scheme.

In the School Transport Value for Money Review, a number of possible approaches were considered through which the State could seek to support transport to school. The preferred option, as recommended in the report, is to continue with the organisation, on behalf of the State, of a school transport system as currently operated.

Foireann Scoile

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

125 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna, ag tagairt do fhreagra ar cheist scríofa Uimhir 101 an 19 Aibreán 2011, sonraí an naisc ar shuíomh gréasáin na Roinne a thugann an t-eolas a d’iarr mé i gceist Uimhir 101; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [10355/11]

Ar leathanach baile shuíomh gréasáin mo Roinne tá nasc dar teideal "Iarraidh ar Aighneachtaí ar athbhreithniú ar an luach airgid um bhunscoileanna beaga" (Bunscoileanna a raibh níos lú ná 50 dalta acu i 2009-10) agus tá an t-eolas atá iarrtha ag an Teachta san áireamh ann.

School Staffing

Peter Mathews

Question:

126 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will ensure that non-teaching staff in a private school whose wages are not paid by the Exchequer are excluded from the reduction in public sector wages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10367/11]

I assume that the Deputy is referring to Circular 0070/2010 issued by my Department on 26 November 2010, which outlined that adjustments in salary should be applied, with effect from 1 January 2011, to all relevant staff in the employment of recognised schools or VECs who were not already affected by the pay reductions introduced under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009. Some of the categories of staff affected by this Circular included non-teaching staff in all recognised schools (including recognised private schools).

The Deputy should be aware that this measure was introduced by the previous Government. I am aware of the impact this has had on non-teaching staff in recognised schools. Workers across the public sector have taken pay cuts in recent years and the current Government has stated that it will seek to avoid the introduction of further pay cuts in return for full implementation of the Public Service (Croke Park) Agreement.

The Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009 determined the criteria for reducing the pay of public servants with effect from January 2010. However, when the Act was introduced, there was a question as to how a public servant should be determined for the purposes of this Act. Subsequently, following receipt of legal advice, it has now been determined that all staff employed by a recognised school or VEC come within the definition of "public servant" solely for the purposes of the Act. The legislation does not exempt any individual or groups save for the Judiciary and the President due to provisions in the Constitution. Section 6 does provide a limited power to the Minister for Finance to exempt or vary the reduction in pay rates provided for in the legislation where exceptional circumstances exist or because of an arbitration award. In view of the time lapse involved in reaching a determination on this issue, the previous Minister for Finance allowed for a temporary exemption from the application of the Act for these categories of staff up until 31 December 2010.

Accordingly, my Department outlined that adjustments in salary should be applied with effect from 1 January 2011, to all relevant staff in the employment of recognised schools or VECs, who were not already affected by the pay reductions introduced under the Act.

Higher Education Grants

Robert Troy

Question:

127 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a higher education grant appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Longford. [10378/11]

The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter, in the first instance, for the relevant grant awarding authority, i.e. the applicant's local authority or VEC. The grant awarding authority in question has advised my Department that an application for a grant from the student referred to by the Deputy was unsuccessful. I understand that the student appealed this decision to the grant awarding authority. Following a review of the application, the grant awarding authority upheld its original decision.

Where a grant awarding authority decides to reject an appeal, the applicant may appeal this decision to my Department by submitting an appeal form clearly outlining the grounds for the appeal. I understand that the relevant form in this regard has issued to the student. No appeal has been received by my Department from the student to date.

Teaching Council

Robert Dowds

Question:

128 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Education and Skills the purpose of the Teaching Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10379/11]

Robert Dowds

Question:

129 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he is considering the abolition of the Teaching Council. [10380/11]

Robert Dowds

Question:

130 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Education and Skills the annual budgetary allocation of the Teaching Council. [10381/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 128, 129 and 130 together.

The Teaching Council was established under the Teaching Council Act 2001 in March 2006 to promote teaching as a profession and the professional development of teachers, to maintain and improve the quality of teaching in the State, to provide for the establishment of standards, policies and procedures for the education and training of teachers, to provide for the registration and regulation of teachers and to enhance professional standards and competence.

The Teaching Council became a self funding body from the 28th March 2008. The Council raises its funding, in the main, from teachers' initial registration and renewal of registration fees. There is no annual budget allocation from the State.

I am fully committed to working with the Teaching Council to bring change and improvement and my Department works closely with the Council on an ongoing basis for the betterment of education generally in the State. To that end, I am not considering the abolition of the Teaching Council.

The Department of Education and Skills believes all children should be taught by qualified teachers. The purpose of the Teaching Council is to ensure that all teachers employed in Irish schools have appropriate qualifications and that the high quality of the teaching profession is maintained.

The Teaching Council is similar in purpose to other regulatory bodies for the legal and architectural professions. There is a need to maintain the high quality of our education system and the Teaching Council is part of this framework.

The Department of Education and Skills will continue to review the best way of maintaining rigorous educational standards within our education system and the wider teaching profession while ensuring that this is done in a cost effective manner for both the taxpayer and teacher alike.

School Transport

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

131 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review a school bus route (details supplied). [10398/11]

Under the terms of the Primary School Transport scheme pupils are eligible for free transport if they reside 3.2 kilometres or more from, and are attending, their nearest national school or school of amalgamation.

Bus Éireann, which operates the school transport scheme on behalf of my Department, has advised that the pupils referred to by the Deputy are not attending their school of amalgamation and are therefore not eligible for school transport under the Closed School Rule (CSR).

The Deputy may be aware that the cessation of the Closed School Rule (CSR) as it relates to primary school transport eligibility was announced in the 2011 Budget by the previous Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government and derives from a recommendation in the published Value for Money Review of the scheme.

This change is scheduled to take effect in September 2012 and will apply only in the case of pupils commencing their primary education from that date.

Available statistics, based on sampling undertaken as part of the Value for Money Review, indicate that the impact of this change will be limited as the majority of pupils categorised under the closed school rule are in fact attending their nearest school. Before implementing this change which is proposed for 2012, my Department has requested Bus Éireann to conduct a detailed analysis of the "on the ground" impact for individual schools and the rural communities they serve. This analysis will be based on the most up to date information available on current school transport usage patterns and I expect to have this information available to me this summer.

I will then have an opportunity to carefully examine the likely effects of this change well in advance of the 2012 implementation date.

Higher Education Grants

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

132 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review the operation of the non-adjacent rule in relation to third level grants in view of the fact that it seems to discriminate against urban-based low-income mature students; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10406/11]

I understand that the changes to the student grant schemes introduced under Budget 2011 by the previous Fianna Fáil-Green Party government were designed to manage additional cost pressures arising from a significant increase in the number of students qualifying for grants, a proportionate increase in the number of students qualifying for higher rates of grants and payment of the Student Service Charge on behalf of grant-holders.

These changes include removal of the automatic eligibility of mature students to the higher non-adjacent rate of grant. This will come into effect from the start of the 2011/12 academic year.

I regret that given current economic circumstances I am not in a position to reverse any of the 2011 budgetary changes to the student grant schemes including that relating to the qualifying distance criteria for the non-adjacent rate of grant.

The Deputy may wish to know that qualifying mature students, as with all other qualifying students, will continue to receive student grants at the current rate applicable to their individual circumstances together with full support for payment of fees and the Student Contribution. Those on particularly low incomes will also continue to receive a "top-up" in the special rate of maintenance grant. In addition, some €5m remains available through the access offices of third-level institutions to assist students in exceptional financial need.

In addition, qualifying mature students who reside 45 kilometres or more from their higher education institution will be eligible for the higher non-adjacent rate of grant.

I understand the concerns of students with regard to the 2011 measures and I will take account of these in considering any future changes as part of the budgetary process for 2012 and beyond, having regard to the position of the public finances.

School Curriculum

Simon Harris

Question:

133 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills the thought process behind the adoption of the Project Maths model for all junior certificate and leaving certificate students and if he will make clear the implementation costs of Project Maths, including the costs of the new syllabi, teacher training materials, days and cover; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10420/11]

Simon Harris

Question:

134 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the considerable difficulties the new Project Maths syllabus poses to students with learning difficulties, in view of the verbose nature of proposed examination questions. [10421/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 133 and 134 together.

Project Maths is designed to encourage better understanding of mathematics, to reinforce its practical relevance to everyday life, and to ensure better curriculum continuity across the system. A key objective is to improve attainment levels in Maths and to encourage more students to take the subject at higher level. The reforms are being implemented on the recommendations of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and build on research on international practice, which was published in 2006 by the NCCA (International Trends in Post Primary Mathematics Education — Perspectives on Learning Teaching and Assessment). There are particular concerns that Irish students' performance in OECD PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) is not in keeping with the needs of the knowledge society, and that students find particular difficulty in applying mathematical concepts in non familiar contexts.

Project Maths has been widely welcomed by the partners in education, the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs, the National Competitiveness Council, Engineers Ireland, the Task Force on Innovation, and by higher education and industry interests. Improving understanding of and attainment in mathematics is a critical part of the strategy to promote Ireland as a smart economy Project Maths is being implemented on a phased basis over a three period across 5 strands of mathematics as follows:—

Phase 1: Strand 1 — Statistics and Probability + Strand 2 — Geometry and Trigonometry;

Phase 2: Strand 1+2+ Strand 3 — Number + Strand 4 — Algebra;

Phase 3: Strand 1+2+3+4+ Strand 5 — Functions

Strands 1 and 2 began in all schools in September 2010 for first examination in 2012 at Leaving Certificate and 2013 at Junior Certificate. Strands 3 and 4 will begin in 2011, and strand 5 will start in 2012. The programme builds on the experiences of 24 schools which started the initiative in September 2008.

Examinations in Mathematics continue to be offered at three levels in the system — Ordinary, Higher and Foundation levels, designed to meet the diverse needs of the student population. Given that a key objective is for students to be able to apply mathematical understanding and concepts in familiar and unfamiliar contexts, the format of questions sets out greater detail on the nature of the problem to be addressed, and questions are more "wordy" than heretofore as a consequence. However, every effort is being made to keep the language at a level appropriate to the age of students and the level being studied.

With regard to costs for the programme of professional development, the table below includes average salary and team costs, the cost of seminars and professional development events for some 6000 teachers, the cost of administrative support, the development of materials etc.: 2008, €386,058; 2009, €1,757,620; 2010, €2,163,104; 2011, €2,321,157.

The costs shown above exclude substitution costs, and the additional costs of post graduate programmes for teachers who need intensive support.

The Department proposes to tender for these courses shortly. Since 2010, up to €2m per year has been made available for substitution costs for teachers attending professional development events in school time. Substitution is claimed by schools on a needs basis and the drawdown for this area of expenditure varies in accordance with school needs at any given time.

Costs for the next 2 years are expected to be similar to those for 2011. Costs for further years of the project will be determined at a later date, following consideration of any further requirements for professional development support at that time, and the available resources.

School Staffing

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

135 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of language support teachers in schools in County Meath in each of the years 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 in tabular form; the number of language support teachers per school in this academic year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10490/11]

There are over 1,120 language support posts at primary level and 280 wholetime equivalent posts at post primary level in the current school year. The figures for the number of language support posts across the country in previous years are provided as follows.

Year

Primary

Post Primary

2007-2008

1,517

479

2008-2009

1,620

560

2009-2010

1,180

365

The additional information sought by the Deputy would take some time to provide in the format requested. I regret that my Department is not able to provide the requested breakdown on a county by county basis at this time. The main focus of the Teacher Allocation Section within my Department is the allocations process for the 2011/12 school year and the redeployment of surplus teachers into vacancies.

School Accommodation

Dessie Ellis

Question:

136 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the future of a school (details supplied) in Dublin 11 which is currently in a rented building and receiving only a small proportion of its funding from the State but is growing year on year and requires considerable works to its premises. [10494/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department has provided significant funding to enhance the accommodation currently occupied by the school to which he refers. The school is located in a former primary school and I am pleased to confirm that my Department provided in excess of €360,000 in 2010 for heating upgrade and improvement works to toilet facilities under the Emergency Works and Summer Works Schemes.

In addition, my Department also grant aids the rental of the existing school accommodation at a cost of €85,000 per annum. In light of further funding being made available under the Jobs Initiative, a number of projects submitted under the 2011 Summer Works Scheme by primary and post-primary schools, including the school referred to by the Deputy, will be considered further. My Department will be writing to schools that will be included in this latest round of funding in the near future.

School Staffing

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

137 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will deal with an issue regarding the supervision-substitution scheme in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry. [10535/11]

The issue referred to by the Deputy relates to the allocation of the 5% administration fee provided for in the Supervision/Substitution scheme. The current arrangements for the allocation of the 5% administration fee provide for the allocation of the fee on the basis of 2.5% towards VEC administration staff and 2.5% to schools. These arrangements are set out in my Department's Circular 26/2009 and only apply with effect from the commencement of the 2008/09 school year.

These arrangements were put in place following agreement with the relevant staffing and management interests, namely the Teachers' Union of Ireland, IMPACT and the Irish Vocational Education Association. Accordingly, there is no scope for my Department to apply these terms retrospectively.

The arrangements in place for the administration of the Supervision/Substitution scheme in VEC schools prior to the 2008/09 school year are a matter for individual VECs. In the case referred to by the Deputy, that is Co Kerry VEC (Kerry Education Service), my Department does not have any role in determining the arrangements made by Co Kerry VEC in respect of the distribution of the administration fee prior to the 2008/09 school year.

Bullying in Schools

Simon Harris

Question:

138 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills the guidelines in place for addressing bullying in schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10542/11]

Simon Harris

Question:

140 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to conduct a nationwide survey to ascertain the level of bullying in primary and post-primary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10544/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 138 and 140 together.

I take the issue of bullying in schools very seriously and am committed to ensuring that schools tackle bullying in all its forms. Under the Education (Welfare) Act 2000, all schools are required to have in place a Code of Behaviour and this code must be drawn up in accordance with the guidelines of the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB). The NEWB guidelines were issued to schools in 2008 and make it clear that each school must have policies to prevent or address bullying and harassment and schools must make clear in their code of behaviour that bullying is unacceptable. The guidelines further state that as well as making explicit that bullying is prohibited in the school, and having an anti-bullying policy, the code of behaviour should indicate what action the school will take in relation to alleged breaches of the school's bullying policy.

Every school therefore must have in place a policy which includes specific measures to deal with bullying behaviour, within the framework of the school's overall school code of behaviour. Such a code, developed through consultation with the whole school community and properly implemented, can be the most influential measure in countering bullying behaviour in schools. The Department has also issued Guidelines on Countering Bullying Behaviour as an aid to schools in devising measures to prevent and deal with instances of bullying behaviour. These guidelines were drawn up following consultation with representatives of school management, teachers and parents, and are sufficiently flexible to allow each school authority to adapt them to suit the particular needs of their school.

As a further aid to post primary schools, the Department published a template that can be used by post-primary schools in developing an anti-bullying policy. The anti-bullying policy template is based primarily on the key document Guidelines on Countering Bullying Behaviour. However, it also takes account of more recent legislative and regulatory changes, and reference is made to issues of contemporary concern such as the need to tackle text bullying, cyber-bullying and homophobic bullying.

I have no plans to conduct a survey of schools in relation in this area. Responsibility for tackling bullying falls to the level of the individual school, as it is at local level that an effective anti-bullying climate must be established and at that level that actions should be taken to address allegations of bullying.

The Deputy may be aware that when a Whole School Evaluation (WSE) is conducted by my Department's Inspectorate, the code of behaviour, including its anti-bullying policy, is reviewed by the inspection team to check that it is in line with the Department's guidelines. Inspectors normally meet with the principal, the board, post-holders, year heads, class teachers, programme co-ordinators, the pastoral care team, representatives of the students and parents. During these meetings there is a particular emphasis on the quality of student care and support. The inspectors' evaluation is also informed by observations in classroom settings and throughout the school. Where there are weaknesses in a school's policy or implementation of policies clear recommendations for improvement are made and are included in the published report of the inspection.

Revised procedures for WSE in schools have recently been put in place. A new element of the revised WSE process involves the issuing of questionnaires directly to pupils and parents. Children and parents will be asked to respond to questions about how the school deals with bullying, discipline in the school and whether or not the school provides a safe environment for children. This enhanced engagement with parents and pupils through questionnaires aims to further support all schools to implement effective measures to counter bullying.

The education of students in both primary and post-primary schools in relation to anti-bullying behaviour is part of the Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) curriculum. SPHE is now a compulsory subject both at primary level and in the junior cycle of post-primary schools. Since 2001, national professional development support services have provided ongoing support to schools in planning policies on child protection and the code of behaviour and in supporting teachers and principals in the implementation of SPHE. In addition, training on The Stay Safe Programme is offered on an ongoing basis to primary schools.

Other measures in place include the Webwise Internet Safety Initiative, the EU Safer Internet Programme campaign and the establishment of the National Behaviour Support Service (NBSS) which is currently working with over 70 Post Primary Schools to promote and support positive student behaviour.

Simon Harris

Question:

139 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills if there is a requirement for primary and post-primary trainee teachers to receive training on dealing with bullying in the classroom prior to their qualification; the nature of such training; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10543/11]

The content of initial teacher education courses is, currently, a matter for the individual providers and the methodologies used to address bullying varies amongst the providers. In accordance with Section 38 of the Teaching Council Act 2001, the Teaching Council is empowered to review and professionally accredit programmes of initial teacher education. The Teaching Council has initiated reviews of a range of initial teacher education programmes and will consider course content in this context.

In general, at primary level, the issue is addressed extensively in a number of different subject areas/modules including Teaching Studies, Professional Development, Social, Personal and Health Education and Psychology. The topics covered include the nature and incidence of bullying in classrooms, types of bullying, effects of bullying, signs and symptoms of bullying, prevention of bullying, dealing with bullying and school policy and bullying. More generally, students cover the area of emotional intelligence, self-esteem etc.

At post primary level, as stated above provision varies from provider to provider. However the topic of bullying is addressed in specific modules and seminars related to professional practice of student teachers e.g. Classroom Management, Classroom Mediation Skills, Psychology and Sociology of education. The topic of bullying is also integrated across subject areas. Some providers also run a number of professional development seminars designed to relate to issues student teachers face on teaching practice which cover the topic of bullying. The topic is also dealt with by tutors of teaching practice on an ad hoc basis.

My Department's Guidelines on Countering Bullying in Primary and Post Primary Schools (1993) require all schools to have an anti bullying policy. The anti-bullying policy is subject to school inspection. My Department's Template for Developing an Anti Bullying policy makes reference to the nine grounds listed in equality legislation. Schools are advised to include reference to issues of contemporary concern such as text bullying, cyber-bullying and homophobic bullying.

The SPHE Support Service provides advice and guidance to schools at Post Primary level on developing and updating their anti-bullying policies. The SPHE Anti-Bullying Co-ordinator is available to give schools in depth advice and support on issues to do with bullying at their request and in addition runs training courses on positive strategies for managing bullying issue.

Question No. 140 answered with Question No. 138.

Special Educational Needs

Simon Harris

Question:

141 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills the provisions in place to provide education for academically gifted children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10545/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the 1998 Education Act requires Boards of Management of each school to publish the policy of the school relating to participation by students with special educational needs, including students who are exceptionally able. The measures schools take in this regard are required to be stated in the school plan. It is the duty of the Board of Management to ensure that appropriate education services are made available to such students.

Schools at both primary and second level use strategies such as curriculum differentiation, curriculum enrichment and acceleration to facilitate the development of pupils who are exceptionally able.

Syllabi and curricula for second-level schools have been designed in such a way to enable teachers cater for the wide range of pupil ability. The revised primary curriculum, which has been supplied to every primary teacher, recognises the importance of developing the full potential of the child and caters for pupil diversity, including meeting the needs of exceptionally able pupils.

Content is outlined in the curricula at both levels and process is also heavily emphasised. Enabling children to learn how to learn is stressed and facilitated. The development of language skills, investigatory and problem-solving skills, higher-order thinking skills and working individually, and as a member of a group, are all encouraged at both levels. While the use of information and communication technologies and the use of class and school libraries are of benefit in project work with all pupils, they have a special importance for pupils who are exceptionally able.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), in collaboration with its counterparts in Northern Ireland, the Council for Curriculum Examination and Assessment (CCEA), has produced draft guidelines for teachers of exceptionally able students. These guidelines issued to all Primary and Post Primary schools in November 2007 along with a questionnaire for feedback.

The NCCA/CCEA guidelines are designed to raise awareness of the social, emotional and academic needs of exceptionally able students and to assist teachers in planning their teaching and learning. The guidelines provide advice to schools on identification of gifted children, set out profiles of students, and whole school and classroom strategies and case studies which demonstrate how schools can best meet the needs of such students. The general strategies include differentiated teaching, acceleration and enrichment approaches in the context of participation in mainstream schools.

The Special Education Support Service (SESS) is a service under the management of my Department which provides support for teachers to assist them in meeting the needs of all pupils with special educational needs, including those pupils who are exceptionally able. The service is available to schools who may be seeking advice or support relating to a specific special education issue in the school. More information on the range of programmes offered by the SESS is available on www.sess.ie.

In addition, the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST), also under the management of my Department, provides training in differentiation, in terms of differentiating for all pupils, whether less able/more able. Issues around exceptional ability and giftedness are addressed as part of the school planning process which is facilitated by the PDST.

Finally, I wish to advise the Deputy that the Programme for Government sets out this Government's commitment to examining supports in place for gifted students and specifically to the creation of improved links with third level institutions on a regional basis, to provide gifted students with access to new programmes or educational resources.

School Transport

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

142 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason for the delay in issuing the March payment under the school transport grant in respect of persons (details supplied); when payment will issue; when they can expect the April payment to be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10550/11]

The grant payment for March has been processed and will issue to the relevant parents later this week.

Meanwhile, the request for the April grant payments, which was received by my Department last Friday, is being processed and will issue shortly.

Special Educational Needs

Nicky McFadden

Question:

143 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a special needs assistant will be provided in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10558/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for allocating resource teachers and SNAs to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. This now includes a requirement for the NCSE to have regard to an overall cap on the number of SNA posts.

The NCSE has issued a circular to all schools advising of the allocation process for the 2011/2012 school year. A key feature of the amended scheme will be to provide for an annual allocation of Special Needs Assistant support to eligible schools.

The NCSE asked schools to submit all applications for SNA support to it by 18th March 2011 and intends to inform schools of their annual SNA allocation as soon as possible, in advance of the coming school year.

Nicky McFadden

Question:

144 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a special needs assistant will be provided in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10559/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for allocating resource teachers and SNAs to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. This now includes a requirement for the NCSE to have regard to an overall cap on the number of SNA posts.

The NCSE has issued a circular to all schools advising of the allocation process for the 2011/2012 school year. A key feature of the amended scheme will be to provide for an annual allocation of Special Needs Assistant support to eligible schools.

The NCSE asked schools to submit all applications for SNA support to it by 18th March 2011 and intend to inform schools of their annual SNA allocation as soon as possible, in advance of the coming school year.

Simon Harris

Question:

145 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will investigate the needs of a person (details supplied) whose school requires additional funding in order to allow them to complete their junior and leaving certificates; and if funding will be made available to secure their place at the school for three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10562/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that Special Schools funded by my Department are intended to cater for children and young persons with special educational needs from 4 years until the end of the school year in which they reach their 18th year. At that point, the Department of Health and Children/Health Service Executive assumes direct responsibility for young adults with special educational needs who are over 18 years. My Department, at that stage, may allocate resources towards an education component of such provision.

However, my Department will consider requests from schools who wish to retain students who are over 18 years of age, for an extra school year, in circumstances where they are following courses leading to accreditation at a level of FETAC 3 or above. Applications received from schools in respect of individual pupils will be considered in the context of my Department's policy in this regard, as set out above.

I understand that the student in question will remain in her present school for the 2011/2012 school year as she will not reach 18 years of age until 2012.

My Department encourages parents and school authorities to engage locally regarding pupils' education. It is open to the parents concerned to raise any queries they may have relating to their child's special educational needs, including education planning, directly with the school authorities.

Schools Building Projects

Billy Timmins

Question:

146 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application for accommodation works in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10579/11]

The school to which the Deputy refers has made an application to my Department for funding for large scale capital works. The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects and assigned a Band 2 rating.

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

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

Site Acquisitions

Seán Kyne

Question:

147 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding land acquisition adjoining a school (details supplied) in County Galway for a planned school extension in view of the fact that there is local concern that this land is to be sold at public auction. [10595/11]

The proposed acquisition of land adjacent to the school referred to by the Deputy is agreed, in principle, subject to contract. The Chief State Solicitor's Office has had recent interactions with the vendor's solicitor in relation to standard pre-contract enquiries on my Department's behalf and both parties are actively working together on this matter.

Departmental Funding

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

148 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will set out in tabular form the amount of Exchequer funding provided, or intended to be provided, to fee-paying post-primary schools for each year from 2007 to December 2011 and, side by side with that, if he will set out in tabular form the amount of money provided, or intended to be provided, from the Dormant Accounts Fund to post-primary schools serving children from disadvantaged areas DEIS schools for each year from 2007 to December 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10601/11]

I will send the information requested to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Fee-Charging Schools

Current Funding

Capital Funding

Assistive Technology

ICT

Total

2007

8,693,353

3,184,665

67,879

101,312

12,047,208

2008

9,936,385

2,239,518

49,601

12,225,503

2009

6,723,021

3,317,215

26,271

10,066,507

2010

6,376,955

3,169,210

17,626

2,551,492

12,115,284

2011 (to date)

4,351,614

423,994

11,656

4,787,264

2011 (projected)

2,148,386

2,148,386

Total

38,229,714

12,334,602

73,033

2,652,804

53,390,152

Gross salary payments to staff in fee-paying schools from 1/9/06 to 31/12/10

Teachers’ Salaries

Clerical Officers

SNA’s Salaries

Total

2006-2007

91,406,969.00

276,552.02

1,275,137.81

92,958,658.83

2007-2008

124,963,508.14

288,512.40

1,673,844.63

126,925,865.17

2008-2009

117,104,702.72

315,555.41

1,839,855.55

119,260,113.68

2009-2010

105,744,788.82

305,905.87

1,660,380.31

107,711,075.00

1/9/10 to 31/12/2010

32,520,039.67

96,489.89

624,168.53

33,240,698.09

Total

471,740,008.35

1,283,015.59

7,073,386.83

480,096,410.77

DEIS Schools Dormant Accounts

Year

Total

2007

452,863

2008

4,381,828

2009

1,655,483

2010

82,529

2011 (projected)

189,000

Total

6,761,703

School Transport

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

149 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to reverse the charges proposed to the primary school transport scheme from September 2011 in view of the fact that to maintain a school transport service for a minimum number of seven eligible school going children for pupils in rural areas when no other public transport option is available, the charges will have a disproportionately negative impact on these children and their families. [10608/11]

The changes to school transport services were announced in the 2011 Budget by the previous Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government and derive from a recommendation in the recently published Value for Money Review of the scheme.

The charge, which applies to all eligible primary pupils, is being introduced to ensure that school transport provided for these pupils is fully utilised in a cost efficient manner.

Given the major financial constraints facing the country, I cannot reverse the changes to school transport as announced by the previous Government. We all have to understand the legacy of economic mismanagement which the last Government gave to the country.

Expenditure Reviews

Joe McHugh

Question:

150 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will identify all assessments, reviews or reports being carried out by him under the terms of the EU-IMF programme of financial support; if these assessments, reviews or reports are being carried out internally by him or independently; when he expects each assessment, review and report to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10655/11]

There are no assessments, reviews or reports specific to my Department under the terms of the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support.

The Comprehensive Review of public expenditure, recently announced by Government, will shortly be incorporated in the revised EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland. This follows the successful conclusion of the first and second quarterly reviews of the programme with the EU Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. As part of this review my Department will prepare a comprehensive Expenditure Report by the end of June in respect of the Department and its associated agencies, to identify expenditure programme savings, scope for savings arising from efficiency and other reforms, proposals for reducing and/or merging of agencies and associated reductions in staff limits. The Comprehensive Spending Review process will feed into the Budgetary process for 2012 and beyond.

School Closures

John Deasy

Question:

151 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will examine in detail the concerns expressed by a school (details supplied) in relation to the abolition of the closed school rule which if introduced will involve the children in the community attending school in another county and outside their parish; his views that this type of change will decimate communities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10666/11]

The Deputy may be aware that the cessation of the Closed School Rule (CSR) as it relates to primary school transport eligibility was announced in the 2011 Budget by the previous Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government and derives from a recommendation in the published Value for Money Review of the scheme.

This change is scheduled to take effect in September 2012 and will apply only in the case of pupils commencing their primary education from that date.

Available statistics, based on sampling undertaken as part of the Value for Money Review, indicate that the impact of this change will be limited as the majority of pupils categorised under the closed school rule are in fact attending their nearest school.

Before implementing this change which is proposed for 2012, my Department has requested Bus Éireann to conduct a detailed analysis of the "on the ground" impact for individual schools and the rural communities they serve. This analysis will be based on the most up to date information available on current school transport usage patterns and I expect to have this information available to me this summer.

I will then have an opportunity to carefully examine the likely affects of this change well in advance of the 2012 implementation date.

Departmental Schemes

John Deasy

Question:

152 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to change the conditions of the remote area grant scheme to allow transition year students to attend a Gaeltacht college outside of their area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10667/11]

The purpose of the Remote Area Boarding Grant is to give pupils who are educationally disadvantaged because of their remoteness from schools an opportunity to attend school on the same basis as other pupils not so disadvantaged. Grants are paid for pupils whose normal place of residence is outside the range of public transport services to a school providing suitable free second-level education. To qualify for a boarding grant, an applicant must be:

normally resident in the State; and

resident at least 4.8 km from a second-level school where suitable free second-level education is available and more than 3.2 km from a pick-up point on a transport service to such a school; and

unable to obtain a place in a suitable second-level school within 25 km of his/her normal place of residence.

Pupils resident on off-shore islands that do not have a school providing suitable free second-level education may also qualify for assistance under the scheme.

I do not have any plans to amend the scheme to permit pupils who do not otherwise qualify for the grant to attend Irish-medium schools during transition year.

School Transport

Frank Feighan

Question:

153 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a response will issue regarding a school transport query in respect of a person (details supplied). [10669/11]

Bus Éireann, which operates the School Transport Schemes, on behalf of my Department has advised that the pupil referred to resides less than 3.2 kilometres from the school in question. The pupil is currently availing of school transport under the Closed School Rule (CSR).

Changes to school transport services, which were announced in the 2011 Budget by the previous Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government, will take effect from the beginning of the 2011/12 school year and will mean that the distance criterion will be applied to all pupils attending primary schools. This means that pupils categorised for transport under the CSR who reside less than 3.2 kilometres (2 miles) from the school of attendance will lose their transport eligibility. This change to school transport provision means that the distance eligibility criterion will be applied uniformly and equitably on a national basis.

Primary school pupils who are not eligible for school transport may apply for concessionary transport subject to the terms of the scheme. Parents should liaise with their local Bus Éireann office regarding the availability of concessionary school transport.

Schools Building Projects

Noel Coonan

Question:

154 Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application for building works in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary and when a decision will issue. [10676/11]

I can confirm that the school to which the Deputy refers made an application to my Department recently to construct a G.P. room/PE Hall, which was rejected as this school had already submitted an application for large scale capital funding for a project which included the construction of a G.P. Room. That application was assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects and assigned a band 2.4 rating, reflecting the fact that the deficit in mainstream accommodation represents a significant proportion of the schools overall needs.

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

The Forward Planning Section of my Department has identified 43 priority areas throughout the country where significant additional accommodation will be required at primary and post-primary level in the medium term. Factors considered included population growth, demographic trends, current and projected enrolments, recent and planned housing developments and capacity of existing schools to meet demand for places. The area to which the Deputy refers has not been included on this list.

The progression of all large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction phase will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. At that point, options to meet the schools needs will be considered further. Information in respect of the current school building programme, along with all assessed applications for major capital works, includingthe project referred to by the Deputy, is now available on my Department's website at www.education.ie.

However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of the Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

Schools Refurbishment

Brendan Griffin

Question:

155 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a school (details supplied) in County Kerry will qualify for emergency works funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10685/11]

An application under my Department's Emergency Works Scheme to replace water tanks and internal water pipes was received from the school referred to by the Deputy. The purpose of the Emergency Works Scheme is solely for unforeseen emergencies or to provide funding to facilitate inclusion and access for special needs pupils. An emergency is deemed to be a situation which poses an immediate risk to health, life, property or the environment which is sudden, unforeseen and requires immediate action and in the case of a school if not corrected would prevent the school or part thereof from opening.

As the scope of works for this project is outside the terms of the Emergency Works Scheme it cannot be considered for emergency funding. The school has been informed of the decision.

Brendan Smith

Question:

156 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of schools that were approved funding under the summer works scheme 2010 in County Cavan; the number of applications received from County Cavan for the 2011 summer works scheme and the number approved for 2011. [10698/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that 36 applications from schools in County Cavan were approved funding under the Summer Works Scheme 2010.

A total of 58 applications from schools in County Cavan were made for funding under the Summer Works Scheme 2011 and 8 schools were successful in their applications. In light of further funding being made available under the Jobs Initiative, projects submitted under the 2011 Summer Works Scheme by primary and post primary schools will be considered further

My Department will be writing to schools that will be included in this latest round of funding in the near future.

Brendan Smith

Question:

157 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of schools that were approved funding under the summer works scheme 2010 in County Monaghan; the number of applications received from County Monaghan for the 2011 summer works scheme and the number approved for 2011. [10699/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that 34 applications from schools in County Monaghan were approved funding under the Summer Works Scheme 2010.

A total of 42 applications from schools in County Monaghan were made for funding under the Summer Works Scheme 2011. Of these, 12 schools were successful in their applications for funding. In light of further funding being made available under the Jobs Initiative, projects submitted under the 2011 Summer Works Scheme by primary and post primary schools will be considered further.

My Department will be writing to schools that will be included in this latest round of funding in the near future.

School Curriculum

Paudie Coffey

Question:

158 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to introduce politics as a new leaving certificate subject; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10728/11]

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment has been progressing the development of a new subject "Politics and Society", which is proposed as an optional examinable full subject in the Leaving Certificate. A draft syllabus has been developed by the Council and was published for consultation. The syllabus is currently being revised in the light of the feedback. After this process has been completed, the Council's formal proposals on the matter will be submitted to me, and will be considered in the light of overall system needs and priorities.

It should be noted that education for citizenship is covered extensively in the curriculum for primary schools as part of Social Personal and Health Education, and History, Geography and Science. At second level, these themes are continued, and Civic Social and Political Education is a mandatory subject for all pupils in the junior cycle. It is examined in the Junior Certificate by means of a written terminal examination and an innovative action project which is designed to give students a practical experience of active citizenship.

FÁS Training Programmes

Jack Wall

Question:

159 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the assistance available to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare regarding their re-employment course; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10183/11]

This is a day to day matter for FÁS under the Labour Services Act 1987.

Employment Rights

Martin Ferris

Question:

160 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation if he will support a Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers at the International Labour Organisation Conference in Geneva in June 2011. [10187/11]

At the forthcoming International Labour Conference to be held in Geneva, in June 2011, the proposal for a draft Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers is a significant and important agenda item. In accordance with standard procedure in respect of the negotiation of any such international labour instruments at the International Labour Organisation (ILO), this matter will be the subject of discussion on a tripartite basis involving Governments, Employer Representative Bodies and Worker Representative Bodies over a three-week period. The possible adoption of any such international labour instruments such as an ILO Convention supplemented by a Recommendation will be subject to the outcome of these discussions at the Conference in June.

The Deputy will appreciate that in advance of the detailed discussion and negotiation on the text of any such international instrument, it would be inappropriate to anticipate our position on a draft Convention, the final text of which is not yet settled.

However, it is worth pointing out that the full suite of employment rights that apply to workers in Ireland are equally applicable to domestic workers. Indeed, Ireland has been cited internationally as an example of good practice in this area, not least through the introduction of a voluntary Code of Practice entitled Code of Practice for Persons Employed in Other People’s Homes in 2007. Moreover, during Ireland’s tenure on the Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation, the Irish Government representative supported the inclusion of an ILO standard-setting instrument in this area on the agenda for consideration by the International Labour Conference.

In the context of the forthcoming International Labour Conference, in June, Ireland will continue to play an active role and it is hoped that the ILO will be in a position to adopt a Convention on decent work for domestic workers.

Local Authority Charges

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

161 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation if he has proposals to reduce the burden of rates on small businesses. [10275/11]

The setting of commercial rates is a matter for Local Authorities which come under the remit of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Local Authorities are under a statutory obligation to levy rates on any property used for commercial purposes, in accordance with the details entered into the valuation lists prepared by the independent Commissioner of Valuation.

The levying and collection of commercial rates are matters for each individual Local Authority. The Annual Rate on Valuation (ARV) is applied to the valuation of each property to obtain the amount payable in rates. The ARV is decided by the elected Members of each Local Authority in their annual budgets, and its determination is a reserved function of the Local Authority.

The issue of reducing the burden of rates on small businesses, as suggested by the Deputy, would be a policy matter for consideration by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, in consultation with the Local Authorities and the Minister for Finance.

However, I can report that preliminary results from a review carried out by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on commercial rates for 2011 show that 32 of 88 Local Authorities have decreased their annual rate on valuation this year, while 53 kept the same rate as 2010. This follows a similar pattern to last year, when 31 Local Authorities reduced their ARV and 55 maintained the same ARV as 2009.

I have had detailed discussions with the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government on how we can work together to maximise opportunities for local business development and to keep all costs which impact on business as low as possible. This work will continue and will include the exploration of options for further reducing Local Authority charges to business.

City and County Enterprise Boards

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

162 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the position regarding proposals to restructure the county and city enterprise boards; if he envisages a closer link between the enterprise boards and the local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10399/11]

The County and City Enterprise Boards have been the principal deliverers of State support to the micro-enterprise sector since their establishment in 1993. The CEBs support the micro-enterprises, employing up to 10 people, in the start-up and expansion phases and also promote economic activity and entrepreneurship at local level. The CEBs deliver a series of Programmes to underpin their role and they can provide both financial and non-financial assistance to an eligible micro-enterprise. The micro-enterprise sector is a key component of the indigenous small business sector and, I am confident, that it will be key to our economic recovery.

In relation to the restructuring of the CEBs there is no doubt but that the County Enterprise Board model has served the micro-enterprise sector very well over the years but there is also no doubt that some restructuring of that model is now required. There have been many changes to the social, economic and technological landscape of Ireland since the establishment of the Boards in 1993 and so it is timely to restructure. However any restructuring must not compromise the State's engagement with and support for our important micro-enterprise sector and in particular must not make it more difficult for the end-user to access the support services available for the Sector.

The question of restructuring of the CEBs has been an issue in the public domain since the publication of the Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes (the "McCarthy Report") in July 2009. Subsequent to the publication of the McCarthy Report, a variety of consultations and discussions with the main stakeholders involved have taken place, including CEB senior staff and Boards, Enterprise Ireland and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.

As Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation I want to ensure that there is a coherent and cohesive delivery of State support to the indigenous business sector based on clear enterprise policy principles laid down by my Department and to ensure that any structural or institutional changes do not compromise the State's support for indigenous businesses. There are a number of schools of thought on the best way forward in relation to any CEB restructuring. All options are being considered at this stage and I am engaging with my officials and with other Government colleagues in order to determine the best way forward

Ministerial Appointments

Simon Harris

Question:

163 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the appointments that were made to State boards and State agencies under his remit during the period 29 September 2004 to 7 May 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10515/11]

It has not been possible in the time available and with limited resources to compile the specific information sought by the Deputy. However, I would refer the Deputy to Dáil Question No. 181 of 3 February 2010 and to a table which has been forwarded to him and which contains most of the information requested. Additional information about appointments to boards of State agencies under the aegis of my Department is published and available in the annual reports of those bodies.

Irish Language

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

164 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the cost of compliance, in terms of preparing and implementing schemes under the Official Languages Act in accordance with sections 11 and 15, to his Department and to all bodies under its remit since the coming into force of the Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10521/11]

The cost of compliance in terms of preparing and implementing Schemes under the Official Languages Act for my Department and its Offices was €180,052 from the coming into force of the Act in 2003 to the end of April 2011.

My Department is fully committed to the implementation of the Official Languages Act 2003, and is currently in the process of rolling-out the enhancement of services to be provided in the Irish Language, as provided for in my Department's Irish Language Scheme 2010-2013, which was prepared in accordance with Section 11 of the 2003 Act.

I am not in a position to provide similar information in relation to the State Agencies associated with my Department, as that would be a day-to-day matter for the Agencies concerned.

Public Procurement Guidelines

Peter Mathews

Question:

165 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the procurement guidelines followed by the National Standards Authority of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10556/11]

The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) follows the appropriate competitive process under EU and national rules in discharging procurement processes. These rules are detailed in the Public Procurement Guidelines published by the Department of Finance and available on the national etendering website. NSAI provide a feedback service to tenderers and is available to provide clarification on any specific enquiry, if required.

Industrial Development

Brendan Ryan

Question:

166 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the efforts that have been undertaken by the Industrial Development Agency to bring foreign direct investment to Balbriggan, County Dublin, noting that Balbriggan has a highly educated and multi-skilled workforce readily available and has more than 40 acres of land zoned commercial and industrial by Fingal County Council ready to be built upon whenever required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10574/11]

Balbriggan, in Fingal, North County Dublin forms part of IDA Ireland's East Region, which comprises Dublin City and County as well as the counties of Kildare, Meath and Wicklow, and is the largest region in Ireland and one of the fastest growing economic zones in Western Europe. The East Region is now home to 60,935 FDI jobs.

IDA Ireland promotes Fingal for foreign direct investment as part of the East Region. In addition the Agency continues to work with significant client companies in the Balbriggan area, in order to support them in transforming their Irish operations to ensure jobs can be maintained and losses minimised.

The Fingal area is well equipped to compete with other areas for potential foreign direct investment with high quality property solutions. IDA Ireland promotes all land and property solutions in the Fingal area, irrespective of ownership to potential FDI clients as opportunities arise. In addition the Agency is represented on the Fingal Development Board and the Fingal Economic Forum and works to promote Fingal for Foreign Direct Investment in partnership with those agencies.

In selecting locations to show companies, IDA Ireland seeks to include locations which have been affected by closures/job losses. Typically, a company is shown three or four selected towns, which can meet its requirements for skills, labour, site and/or buildings, infrastructure, etc. While IDA Ireland seeks to influence the selection of location, the final decision on location is taken in all cases by the promoting company.

Expenditure Reviews

Joe McHugh

Question:

167 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation if he will identify all assessments, reviews or reports being carried out by him under the terms of the EU-IMF programme of financial support; if these assessments, reviews or reports are being carried out internally by him or independently; when he expects each assessment, review and report to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10656/11]

As part of the review mission of the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland which took place in April a number of revisions to the Programme were agreed. This revised Programme contains agreed actions for Ireland across the whole of Government, some of which will require assessments, reviews or reports.

A number of Structural Reforms fall within the remit of my Department, mainly in the following 3 areas:

1. To facilitate adjustment in the labour market

Under the terms of the revised Memorandum of Understanding with the EU /IMF, the Government is committed to reversing the recent reduction in the national minimum wage.

The commitment to reverse the recent cut in the national minimum wage will require primary legislation. I intend publishing Heads of a Bill to give effect to this commitment as soon as possible.

In addition an independent review of the Framework REA (Registered Employment Agreements) and ERO (Employment Regulation Orders) arrangements was initiated on 8 February last and was undertaken jointly by Kevin Duffy, Chairman of the Labour Court acting in an ad hoc capacity, and Dr Frank Walsh, School of Economics, UCD, under specific terms of reference. The review is a commitment under the EU/IMF programme, which provided not only for agreement with the European Commission Services on the terms of reference but also for follow up discussions on the programme of actions arising.

The report of the independent review team has been completed and was submitted to me on 28 April last. I intend publishing it following consideration by the Government. It is proposed to have early discussions with the European Commission Services on the main findings of the review, in line with the provisions in the EU/IMF Programme. Arising from these discussions, I will present a time-bound comprehensive action plan to follow up on the report's recommendations before the completion of the 4th Review of the EU/IMF Programme due later this year, setting out proposals for any legislative action that may be necessary to give effect to reform measures.

2. To enhance competition in open markets

In relation to the commitment on strengthening competition law by ensuring the availability of effective sanctions for infringements of Irish Competition Law, my Department is in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General in the matter with a view to meeting the commitment deadline (end Q3 2011).

3. To encourage growth in the retail sector

The original EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland obliged the Government to conduct a study on the economic impact of eliminating the cap on the size of retail premises with a view to enhancing competition and lowering prices for consumers and to discuss implementation of its policy considerations with the EU Commission's services. My Department, in conjunction with the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, commissioned Forfás to carry out this study. Forfás recently completed its study and forwarded a report of its findings to both myself as the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and to the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government on 28 April 2011. Implementation of the commitment in the revised EU/IMF plan on this issue is a matter for my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to pursue, within whose remit planning guidelines rest.

My Department is currently taking part in the Comprehensive Spending Review, due to be considered by the newly established Economic Council in September 2011.

Question No. 168 answered with Question No. 42.

Social Welfare Benefits

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

169 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Social Protection if the Health Service Executive pay rent allowance to owners of properties at a location (details supplied) in Dublin 8. [10569/11]

According to the Department's computer records, rent supplement is payable in respect of a number of tenancies at the location in question.

Employment Action Plan

Barry Cowen

Question:

170 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection the measures she will introduce to help highly educated unemployed persons re-enter the workforce. [10528/11]

The National Employment Action Plan is the main activation measure for jobseekers and provides for a systematic engagement of the employment services with unemployed people. Under the Plan, all persons between the ages of 18 and 65 years who are approaching 3 months on the Live Register, are identified by the Department of Social Protection and referred to FÁS for interview with the aim of assisting them to enter/re-enter the labour market. The Employment Action plan process is a key element in addressing the progression needs of those on the Live Register. It provides a stimulus to job search and affords an opportunity to explore, under professional guidance, the full range of employment and training services offered by FÁS.

The Programme for Government states that a new National Employment and Entitlements Service will be established under the management of the Department of Social Protection. The objective is to integrate the unemployment payments elements currently provided directly by the Department of Social Protection and the employment services currently provided by FÁS into a single service. This integration of employment services and related benefit payment services within the Department of Social Protection will provide a ‘one stop shop' for people wishing to establish their benefit entitlements, seek employment and / or seek advice about their training options. The focus will be very much on the individual, his / her rights to a payment, his / her access to an opportunity to engage in employment, training or upskilling, as appropriate and his / her responsibility to engage with such opportunities as they are provided.

A key objective of the Government in relation to the new service is that it will offer users a high level of personalised employment support and prioritise the provision of more intensive support for those on the live register who are identified as being most at risk of long-term unemployment. This will be achieved through the use of proactive approaches and modern case management systems. The cohort referred to by the Deputy will benefit from this approach.

Question No. 171 answered with Question No. 53.

Social Welfare Benefits

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

172 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Social Protection if an application for rent supplement for a person (details supplied) in County Offaly will be reviewed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10196/11]

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

185 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Social Protection if a case (details supplied) will be reviewed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10408/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 172 and 185 together.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that on 4th April 2011 it refused the person concerned's application for rent supplement on the grounds that the rent payable was in excess of the prescribed rent limits pertaining to his family circumstances. Furthermore it advised that the person concerned had not provided documentation presenting evidence of an assessment of his housing need completed by his local housing authority.

This decision was subsequently upheld by the HSE's designated Appeals Officer. The HSE has further advised that it is preparing papers on this case for submission to the Department's Chief Appeals Office. A decision on entitlement will be made by that office in due course.

Question No. 173 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Appeals

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

174 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [10276/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case.

There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 when the intake rose to 32,432. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order. In the context of dealing with the considerable number of appeals now on hands, the Department has made a further 9 additional appointments to the office in recent weeks.

While every effort is being made to deal with the large numbers awaiting oral hearing as quickly as possible, it is not possible to give a date when the person's oral hearing will be heard, but s/he will be informed when arrangements have been made.

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.

Question No. 175 answered with Question No. 65.

Joe Costello

Question:

176 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will reconsider her decision to withdraw illness benefit in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10300/11]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that, an Appeals Officer, having considered all the available evidence, disallowed by way of summary decision the illness benefit appeal of the person concerned.

Following the submission of additional medical evidence, the case has been forwarded to the Chief Medical Advisor for his opinion. The person concerned will be informed of the outcome.

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.

David Stanton

Question:

177 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Social Protection when will the social welfare appeals office set a date for an oral hearing for a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10323/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case.

There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 when the intake rose to 32,432. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order. In the context of dealing with the considerable number of appeals now on hands, the Department has made a further 9 additional appointments to the office in recent weeks.

While every effort is being made to deal with the large numbers awaiting oral hearing as quickly as possible, it is not possible to give a date when the person's oral hearing will be heard, but s/he will be informed when arrangements have been made.

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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

178 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the circumstances whereby invalidity pension was terminated in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if the appeal will be listed at an early date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10337/11]

Following a medical review of ongoing entitlement to invalidity pension for the person concerned, she was found not eligible for invalidity pension from 28 April 2011. Subsequently, on foot of further medical evidence submitted, her case was reviewed by the deciding officer but it was decided that the position remained unchanged and the disallowance should stand.

The person concerned has appealed this decision to independent Social Welfare Appeals Office and arrangements have now been made for her to attend an appeal medical examination on 3 June 2011. Her future entitlement will considered in the light of the outcome of this examination.

Money Advice and Budgeting Service

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

179 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Protection the increase in funding that has been given by her to the Money and Budgeting Advisory Service in 2011; the fees being charged to MABS by the Citizens Information Board for 2011; if these have increased over 2010 and the amount of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10348/11]

The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) assists people who are over-indebted and need help and advice in coping with debt problems. The role of money advisers is to help clients to assess their financial situation, make a budget plan and deal with creditors.

There are 52 independent MABS companies operating the local MABS services from 65 locations throughout the country, with national support provided by the MABS NDL. In addition, the MABS National Telephone Helpline is available from 9am to 8pm Monday to Friday and the MABS website can be accessed 24 hours a day at www.mabs.ie. Some 90% of clients presenting to MABS are assisted through the telephone helpline, which provides assisted self-help to ensure clients take steps to assess and address their situation.

Responsibility for MABS transferred to the Citizen Information Board (CIB) in July 2009. There is no fee charged to MABS by CIB, rather CIB are the funding body for all MABS companies. In 2010, the CIB allocated a total budget of some €18.2m for the delivery of money advice and budgeting services and this figure was increased to €18.3m in 2011.

I am satisfied that MABS provides a high quality personal service to assist people in overcoming their indebtedness and managing their finances.

Social Welfare Code

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

180 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Protection if applicants for the position of supervisor on the Tús scheme have to be on the live register or in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance to be eligible for these positions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10349/11]

Barry Cowen

Question:

188 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection the criteria for the awarding of a supervisory position under the Tús scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10489/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 180 and 188 together.

The then Minister for Finance announced the introduction of a community work placement initiative for up to 5,000 persons in his Budget statement to Dáil Éireann on the 7th December 2010. The initiative, known as Tús, was launched on the 21st December 2010 and work on developing the necessary implementation structures has been underway since then. The aim of Tús is to provide short-term, quality work opportunities for those who are unemployed for more than a year. Some €30 million has been provided in the Department's Estimates in 2011 to fund the roll-out of the initiative.

Participants will, in the first instance, be identified by the Department of Social Protection by applying the following conditions:

A person must be unemployed and in receipt of a jobseeker's payment for at least 12 months, and

Currently in receipt of jobseeker's allowance, and

Fully unemployed.

Persons with disabilities and in receipt of disability allowance and persons in receipt of one-parent family payment are not eligible for participation on Tús.

Social Welfare Appeals

Jack Wall

Question:

181 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the reasons an application for a domiciliary care allowance payment was refused in respect of a person (details supplied); if the person can appeal at this stage; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10387/11]

An application for domiciliary care allowance was received on the 25th August 2010. This application was referred to one of the Department's Medical Assessors who found that the child was not medically eligible for the allowance. A letter issued on 21st October 2010 refusing the allowance. This decision was subsequently appealed and the person concerned was informed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 16th March 2011 that the appeal had been disallowed.

The decision/appeal process for this application is now complete. If the person concerned has additional information which was not made available to the deciding officer and appeals officer when they made their decision, it is open to him to re-apply.

Social Welfare Code

Seán Crowe

Question:

182 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to expand the eligibility for the back to education allowance. [9832/11]

The back to education allowance (BTEA) is one of a range of activation supports and policies with the objective of assisting social welfare recipients to improve their life chances by facilitating access to employment, work experience, education and training. The focus of BTEA is to assist those who are most marginalised and distant from the labour market to acquire the necessary education to improve their chances of becoming independent of the social welfare system. The BTEA scheme can offer participation in second and third level education by enabling eligible people on social welfare to continue to receive a payment while pursuing an approved full-time education course that leads to a higher qualification than that already held.

The Programme for Government 2011-2016 includes a commitment to resource a Jobs Fund that will finance a number of measures which will play an important part in enhancing the employability skills of jobseekers. BTEA and all other relevant measures will be considered under this commitment.

Question No. 183 answered with Question No. 65.

Social Welfare Appeals

Robert Troy

Question:

184 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath. [10405/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case.

There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 when the intake rose to 32,432. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order. In the context of dealing with the considerable number of appeals now on hands, the Department has made a further 9 additional appointments to the office in recent weeks.

While every effort is being made to deal with the large numbers awaiting oral hearing as quickly as possible, it is not possible to give a date when the person's oral hearing will be heard, but she will be informed when arrangements have been made.

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.

Question No. 185 answered with Question No. 172.

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

186 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Social Protection if an appeal (details supplied) has been received; when the appeal process will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10409/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 3rd May 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Social Welfare Services on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the appeal in question will be referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

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.

Joe Costello

Question:

187 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason an appeal for carer’s allowance lodged in January 2011 is taking over six months to process in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10410/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 7 January 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 20 April 2011 and the appeal will be referred to an Appeals Officer, in due course, who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Question No. 188 answered with Question No. 180.

Social Welfare Benefits

Michael Creed

Question:

189 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive a decision on their application for carer’s allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10491/11]

The person concerned applied for carer's allowance on 13 January 2011. The case has been referred to an investigative officer of this Department for means assessment and confirmation that the conditions necessary for receipt of the allowance are satisfied. On completion of the necessary investigations a decision will be made and he will be notified directly of the outcome.

Question No. 190 answered with Question No. 54.
Question No. 191 answered with Question No. 42.
Question No. 192 answered with Question No. 54.

Social Insurance

Pearse Doherty

Question:

193 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of employees in each year from 2007 to date in 2011 whose earnings meant that their employers were liable for the low rate of employers PRSI of 8.5%; the steps she will take to ensure that the lowering of the rate of PRSI will not encourage employers to reduce wages to come within the qualifying criteria for this new measure; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9655/11]

Workers whose weekly earnings are below €356 and for whom employers pay PRSI contributions at the rate of 8.5%, fall into PRSI Sub-classes AO and AX. (Sub-class AO applies to employees whose weekly earnings are between €38 and €352. Sub-class AX applies where weekly earnings are between €352.01 and €356.00).

The numbers of contributors insurable at PRSI Sub-classes A0 and AX for the years 2007, 2008 and 2009 are set out as follows.

2007

2008

2009

AO

624,353

612,483

576,255

AX

33,280

6,490

4,066

Total

657,633

618,973

580,321

Returns for subsequent years are not available. The Programme for Government contains a commitment to halve the lower 8.5% rate of PRSI up to end 2013 on jobs paying up to €356 per week.

A lower rate of employers' PRSI for workers earning below €356 per week, has been in operation for a number of years. There is no particular evidence to suggest that the existence of a lower rate of PRSI encourages employers to reduce wages to come within the qualifying criteria to attract the lower rate.

Social Welfare Benefits

Pearse Doherty

Question:

194 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of civil and public servants who are in receipt of family income supplement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9666/11]

There are currently approximately 24,646 people in receipt of a weekly family income supplement (FIS) payment of which 2,574 (or just over 10%) are civil or public servants.

Social Welfare Appeals

Emmet Stagg

Question:

195 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Social Protection when a review of a decision regarding a domiciliary care allowance will be determined in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath. [10518/11]

An application for domiciliary care allowance was received on 17 January 2011. This application was referred to one of the Department's Medical Assessors who found that the child was not medically eligible for the allowance. A letter issued on 9 February 2011 advising the person concerned of the decision. The person concerned subsequently lodged an appeal and supplied additional information in support of her claim. As part of the appeal process, the application, along with the additional information was reviewed by a second Medical Assessor on 28 April. The application was again deemed to be medically ineligible. The case will now be referred to the Social Welfare Appeals Office for the appeal to be considered.

Social Welfare Benefits

Dessie Ellis

Question:

196 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Social Protection the amount of money paid by her in rent supplement in the years 2009 and 2010; the projected spend for the year 2011 and a breakdown of the spend according to local authority. [10547/11]

A breakdown of expenditure on rent supplement by local authority is not available. The total expenditure on rent supplement was €511 million in 2009 and €516m in 2010. The Revised Estimates Volume have provided for expenditure of €465m for 2011.

Departmental Schemes

Martin Ferris

Question:

197 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection if persons with disabilities in receipt of disability allowance and persons in receipt of lone parents allowance will be eligible to seek employment in the Tús scheme. [10565/11]

The then Minister for Finance announced the introduction of a community work placement initiative for up to 5,000 persons in his Budget statement to Dáil Éireann on 7 December 2010. Work on developing the necessary implementation structures has been underway since then. The aim of Tús is to provide short-term, quality work opportunities for those who are unemployed for more than a year. Some €30 million has been provided in the Department's Estimates in 2011 to fund the roll-out of the initiative.

Participants will, in the first instance, be identified by the Department of Social Protection by applying the following conditions:

A person must be unemployed and in receipt of a jobseeker's payment for at least 12 months, and

Currently be in receipt of jobseeker's allowance, and

Be fully unemployed.

The purpose of the new scheme is to focus on those people who are long-term unemployed. For this reason, eligibility is at present confined to those on the Live Register for 12 months and in receipt of jobseeker's allowance. These provisions are to ensure a targeted approach to those currently affected by long-term unemployment.

People in receipt of a disability allowance or one parent family payment have access to a range of other supports such as family income supplement, back to work enterprise allowance, back to education allowance and earnings disregards. There are also supports available from FÁS for people with disabilities wishing to access the labour market.

Community Employment Schemes

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

198 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) cannot be accepted on a community employment scheme. [10573/11]

The person concerned should contact their local office of FÁS to verify the reasons that that they are ineligible to participate in the community employment programme. The eligible criteria are published by FÁS and are available locally. As Minister for Social Protection I do not have a role in determining the eligibility of individual cases in regard to the operation of CE. The administration of individual cases and the determination of eligibility is the responsibility of 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.

Social Welfare Appeals

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

199 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social Protection when an appeal of a disability allowance application will be made in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10581/11]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that, the appeal from the person concerned has been referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing on 10 May 2011. The person concerned has been notified of the arrangements.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Benefits

John McGuinness

Question:

200 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if a claim for supplementary welfare allowance will be expedited and approved in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny and if a separate application for the purpose of assistance with the purchase of special footwear will also be approved. [10625/11]

Under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme an exceptional needs payment (ENP) may be made by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to help meet an essential, once-off cost which the applicant is unable to meet out of his/her own resources. There is no automatic entitlement to this payment. Each application is determined by the HSE based on the particular circumstances of the case. Eligible people would normally be in receipt of a social welfare or HSE payment. The HSE has advised that an application for assistance was made by the person concerned on 29 April 2011

A decision regarding the person's needs will be made by the local community welfare officer in the HSE in due course.

Question No. 201 withdrawn.

Expenditure Reviews

Joe McHugh

Question:

202 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will identify all assessments, reviews or reports being carried out by her under the terms of the EU-IMF programme of financial support; if these assessments, reviews or reports are being carried out internally by her or independently; when she expects each assessment, review and report to be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10662/11]

The Programme of Financial Support for Ireland will be monitored through quantitative performance criteria and structural benchmarks. There are quarterly reviews of the arrangement with the EU/ECB and IMF. The reviews will assess progress in implementing the programme and reach understandings on any additional measures that may be needed to achieve its objectives.

My Department provides financial data on expenditure and Social Insurance Fund income to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on a monthly basis. This is incorporated in the overall monthly report on adherence to budget targets as provided for in the Memorandum of Understanding.

In addition, as provided for in the most recent Memorandum of Understanding with the EU/ECB/IMF, my Department will build on its recent studies on working age payments, child income support and disability allowance with a view to producing a comprehensive programme of reforms that can help better targeting social support to those on lower incomes, and ensure that work pays for welfare recipients. Consultation with stakeholders will take place. A progress report will be made by end-December 2011 and a programme of reforms will be submitted to Government at the end of the first quarter of 2012.

Finally, officials from my Department have met representatives of the EU, ECB and IMF on a number of occasions and briefed them on developments in the social protection area generally.

Social Welfare Appeals

Frank Feighan

Question:

203 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a disability appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon. [10670/11]

Payment of illness benefit, to the person concerned, was disallowed by a Deciding Officer following an examination by a Medical Assessor of the Department who expressed the opinion that she was capable of work. An appeal was opened and in the context of that appeal her case was reviewed by a second Medical Assessor who also expressed the opinion that she was capable of work.

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that, following receipt of the grounds of appeal from the person concerned, the relevant Departmental papers and comments of the Department have been sought. On receipt of its response the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

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.

Question No. 204 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Benefits

Jack Wall

Question:

205 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for rent allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10679/11]

The Health Service Executive has advised that the application for rent supplement has been refused as the person concerned has not provided documentary evidence from the relevant local housing authority to show she has been assessed as having a housing need.

Vóta na Roinne

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

206 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Coimirce Sóisialaí cén t-eolas airgeadais a cuireadh ar fáil di don tréimhse 1/1/2011 go 31/3/2011, cén chaoi a bhfuil cúrsaí caiteachais agus ioncaim go dáta i gcomparáid leis na meastacháin a foilsíodh ag tús na bliana agus leis na próifílí caiteachais a réitíodh don bhliain, an gcuirfidh sí cóip den eolas a tugadh di ar fáil dom; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [10743/11]

Bhí mionteagasc ar na Meastacháin don bhliain 2011 san áireamh sa Mhionteagasc Aire a d'ullmhaigh an Roinn dom ar mo cheapadh im' Aire Coimirce Sóisialaí. Tá an mionteagasc sin ar fáil ar shuíomh Gréasáin na Roinne.

Foilsíonn an Roinn Airgeadais anailís mhíosúil ar an nGlanchaiteachas Vótáilte de réir Vót-Ghrúpa. Mí Aibreáin atá faoi chaibidil san anailís is déanaí agus taispeánann sé go raibh feidhmíocht i gcomparáid le próifíl i gcás mo Vóta-sa €48 milliún (nó 1.1%) faoi phróifíl. Tá na sonraí sin ar fáil ar shuíomh Gréasáin na Roinne Airgeadais.

Employment Support Services

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

207 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Protection the progress made with the revised pilot employment action programme that was been rolled out during the tenure in office of the previous Minister, the number of people contacted, the number who turned up for interview, the number referred for the Tús scheme and the number who have had payments ceased or suspended and any other relevant information; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10745/11]

The then Minister for Finance announced the introduction of a community work placement initiative for up to 5,000 persons in his Budget statement to Dáil Éireann on the 7th December 2010. The initiative, known as Tús, was launched on the 21st December 2010 and work on developing the necessary implementation structures has been underway since then. The aim of Tús is to provide short-term, quality work opportunities for those who are unemployed for more than a year. Some €30 million has been provided in the Department's Estimates in 2011 to fund the roll-out of the initiative.

Following the launch, the Department conducted two trials to develop the delivery of Tús. One trial was based in the Coolock area of Dublin City with the other based in Mullingar, County Westmeath. A total of 119 persons were randomly selected from the live register and offered the opportunity to participate. The results of both trials have been evaluated and the results have informed the development of the initiative.

The preliminary results of both trials are summarised in the table.

TABLE

Coolock local office

Mullingar local office

%

%

Number of person invited

59

100

60

100

Initial replies received

49

83

51

85

Failed to reply/suspended

10

17

9

15

Signed off live register

1

0

Of those who replied:

Expressed interest

41

69

44

73

Not interested

8

14

7

12

Interested after suspension

9

15

9

15

Of those referred to the Local Development Company/Partnership

Total Referred

50

100

53

100

Expressed interest

50

100

46

86

Not interested in interview

0

0

7

14

Called to interview/meeting

50

100

46

100

Attended

50

100

33

75

Did not attend

0

0

13

25

Suitable for placement

40

80

18

58

Not suitable for placement

10

20

15

42

Arrangements are being made to offer work opportunities for those suitable in the coming weeks.

Promotion of Tús to potential work placement providers has been underway for some weeks as part of a process of identifying suitable work placements and local development companies are currently recruiting supervisory staff. The random selection of participants by the Department will commence in the coming weeks as the necessary arrangements become operational at local development company level.

An Caighdeán Oifigiúil

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

208 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Turasóireachta, Cultúir agus Spóirt cén dul chun cinn atá déanta ag an gCoiste Athbhreithnithe ar an gCaighdeán Oifigiúil a bhunaigh an Rialtas anuraidh, an mbeidh an obair críochnaithe faoi lár na bliana seo mar a bhí beartaithe; an ndeimhneoidh sé go mbeidh aon eagrán nua den Chaighdeán atá le foilsiú amach anseo bunaithe ar shaothar críochnaithe an Choiste Athbhreithnithe; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [10351/11]

Ag an bpointe seo, tá an próiseas athbhreithnithe dá dtagraíonn an Teachta dó ag teacht chun críche. Comhairlítear dom go ndearnadh 5 cinn de thréimhsí comhairliúcháin a reáchtáil agus gur thapaigh an pobal an deis le haighneachtaí a chur isteach ar na moltaí éagsúla. Tuigim go bhfuil i gceist go mbeidh dhá chruinniú eile den Choiste Stiúrtha ann agus go bhfuiltear ag súil leis go gcuirfear bailchríoch ar a gcuid oibre an mhí seo chugainn.

Mar a thuigfidh an Teachta, beidh sé mar ghnó don Rialtas cinneadh a dhéanamh i dtráth cuí maidir le Caighdeán Oifigiúil uasdátaithe a fhoilsiú.

Natural Heritage Areas

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

209 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport when special areas of conservation and natural heritage area appeals due in the Connemara area will be heard and decided (details supplied); and when a decision will issue. [10353/11]

I understand that the Designated Areas Appeals Advisory Board is in the process of scheduling the appeal hearing in relation to the second case referred to by the Deputy in the "details supplied". A decision will be made by my Department shortly on the appeal in the first case referred to, which is at the informal stage of the process.

Appointments to State Bodies

Robert Troy

Question:

210 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport if he will consider a representative of a group (details supplied) to be a member of his newly established Peatland Council in view of the fact that currently there is no representative of domestic turf cutter. [10386/11]

There are 139 raised bogs designated for protection within Special Areas of Conservation or Natural Heritage Areas. The Deputy will appreciate it would not be possible to include representation from interested parties on each of these bogs within the Peatlands Council. I have endeavoured to ensure national representation for turf cutters through the participation of the Irish Farmers Association, the Turf Cutters and Contractors Association and Irish Rural Link.

The input of groups such as that mentioned in the Deputy's Question will play an important role in the work of the Council. It is open to the group referred to by the Deputy to input to the deliberations of the Council directly or through the organisations mentioned above.

In that regard, I understand that the Council is willing to meet with interested community or representative groups in order to hear their views, concerns and potential approaches to the long-term management of these sites.

The Council may be contacted at the following address: The Secretary, Peatlands Council, 7 Ely Place, Dublin 2, by e-mail at peatlandscouncil@environ.ie or by phone at 01 8883207.

Proposed Legislation

Gerald Nash

Question:

211 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport his plans to initiate legislation to ban the importation of alien plants and potentially invasive species which pose a threat to inland fisheries and marine life; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10525/11]

Under the Wildlife Acts, it is against the law to release any species of wild animal, including wild birds, with the intention of establishing a new wild population, unless under a licence. In addition, the planting or growing in a wild state of any species of flora is prohibited without a licence.

However, the spread of invasive species continues to be threat to biodiversity. As well as threatening native wildlife and flora, invasive species can have seriously detrimental effects on a number of sectors including agriculture, forestry angling and tourism. It is my Department's intention, therefore, to include enhanced provisions in the forthcoming Birds and Natural Habitats Regulations which will provide for appropriate regulatory measures to be taken to control movement, sale, possession and dispersal of ecologically harmful and invasive species of plants and animals in Ireland.

Planning Issues

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

212 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport if he will provide guidance on an issue (details supplied) regarding a quarry extension. [10529/11]

Issues in relation to the operation of the planning system are a matter for the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government.

Commemorative Events

Brian Stanley

Question:

213 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport the date and venue for the Famine commemoration organised by the national famine commemoration committee which is normally held in the second or third week in May; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10624/11]

The National Famine Commemoration Committee was appointed for a second term of office in February of this year and has a broad role in terms of serving, on behalf of the Government, to generate ideas and to make recommendations regarding appropriate arrangements for the annual commemoration of the Great Famine and related events.

While the National Famine Commemoration is normally held in mid May of each year, the 2011 will take place at a later date than this in 2011. I can confirm to the Deputy that the National Famine Commemoration Committee, which I now chair, will meet during this month with a view to finalising the date and venue for the 2011 event and following that meeting, I envisage that I will be in a position to announce the date and venue of the 2011 event.

Departmental Schemes

Frank Feighan

Question:

214 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport the position regarding the sale of bogland in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim; and when it is envisaged that this person will receive payment for their bogland. [10672/11]

In May 2010, the voluntary bog purchase scheme was closed to new applicants. However, there are a number of applications still on-hand.

In general, priority under the scheme is being given to applications pertaining to those 31 raised bog Special Areas of Conservation where turf cutting has already ended. The site in question is not within a Special Area of Conservation and it is not prioritised for payment.

My Department will be writing to existing applicants under the voluntary purchase scheme to outline their options in light of the availability of alternative compensation arrangements.

Íocaíochtaí Deontas

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

215 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Sport Turasóireachta, Cultúir agus Spóirt an bhfuil teorainn ama ghinearálta leagtha síos faoinar gá gach obair a bheith críochnaithe le bheith cáilithe le haghaidh íocaíochta deontais a ceadaíodh faoi Achtanna na dTithe (Gaeltacht), 1929 — 2001; an bhfuil sé sásta eisceacht a dhéanamh in aon chás; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [10741/11]

Mar is eol don Teachta, tá an Scéim Tithíochta faoi Achtanna na dTithe (Gaeltachta) 1929–2001 ar fionraí anois ó mhí Aibreáin 2009. É sin ráite, nuair a cheadaítear deontas, tugtar tréimhse don deontaí chun an obair a dhéanamh. Tugtar bliain don deontaí chun oibreacha feabhsúcháin a dhéanamh agus dhá bhliain chun teach nua a thógáil.

Tá roinnt deontas atá ceadaithe ach nach bhfuil íoctha ag mo Roinn ag an bpointe seo. Tuigtear dom go mbeidh an chuid is mó de na cásanna sin críochnaithe agus íoctha roimh dheireadh na bliana seo.

Comhairlítear dom nach féidir síneadh ama a thabhairt ná eisceacht a dhéanamh in aon chás. Mura mbíonn an obair déanta faoin spriocdháta, is é nós mo Roinne-se ná an deontas, nó pé fuílleach atá fágtha ag an am, a chur ar ceal.

Expenditure Reviews

Joe McHugh

Question:

216 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport if he will identify all assessments, reviews or reports being carried out by him under the terms of the EU-IMF programme of financial support; if these assessments, reviews or reports are being carried out internally by him or independently; when he expects each assessment, review and report to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10664/11]

While my Department is not required to produce specific assessments, reviews or reports of the nature referred to by the Deputy under the terms of the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support, I can confirm that it will be engaging in the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure to be carried out under the aegis of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. This will involve the review of expenditure areas in my Department, to be carried out in-house, and the preparation of reports over the period to end-July. I understand that the overall Review is expected to be completed next September.

Telecommunications Services

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

217 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will maximise the revenue to the State through an analogue spectrum auction in the context of the recent comments on this matter in the McCarthy report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10244/11]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

218 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources following the McCarthy Report’s investigation into all aspects of Irish spectrum licensing and availability, if he will produce plans to maximise revenue to the State by any further measures whether a spectrum auction or otherwise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10245/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 217 and 218 together.

The management of the radio spectrum is a statutory function of ComReg under the Communications Regulations Act 2002. In accordance with this function and with its obligations under EU law, ComReg designs and manages the spectrum assignment process bearing in mind its overarching objective of promoting competition in the market and protecting the interests of consumers.

ComReg has recently engaged in consultations on the proposed assignment of spectrum in the 800/900 MHz and 1800 MHz by means of a competitive auction. Based on expert independent advice, it has set a reserve price for the spectrum at a level that reflects the market value of the spectrum and has set a cap on the amount of spectrum that any one operator may bid for, in order to allow new operators to bid for the spectrum and thus increase the level of competition in the market. As the McCarthy Report states, the policy issues surrounding the granting of such licences, permits or rights extend, in some cases, beyond the narrow one of realising maximum market value. In this case, the opening up of the market to new operators resulting in more competitive prices and choice of services for the consumer is of paramount importance in meeting ComReg's overarching objective.

ComReg is independent in the exercise of this spectrum management function and I await the outcome of its deliberations in relation to this matter.

Michael Creed

Question:

219 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the process involved in implementing a new national broadband scheme for areas outside the current scheme; the stage the process is currently at; the length of time the process will take to complete; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10263/11]

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

The European Commission has set aside a portion of the European Economic Recovery Programme (EERP) funding for rural broadband initiatives. Using this funding, which will be augmented by an Exchequer contribution, I have earlier this week formally launched a Rural Broadband Scheme. This scheme aims to identify the remaining individual premises in rural Ireland, outside of the NBS areas that are unable to obtain a broadband service and to provide a basic broadband service to those premises, where requested. Information in relation to acceptance of applications and the process of qualification under the scheme is available on my Department's website (www.dcenr.ie), through contacting my Department on lo-call 1850 678100 and through a wide range of outlets associated with Regional and Local Authorities. Information on the Scheme has also been sent to all provincial newspapers.

Nicky McFadden

Question:

220 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the availability of broadband in an area (details supplied). [10333/11]

The provision of broadband services is, in the first instance, a matter for private sector service providers operating in Ireland's fully liberalised telecommunications market. Broadband services are provided by private service providers over various platforms including DSL (i.e. over telephone lines), fixed wireless, mobile, cable, fibre and satellite.

Details of broadband services available in each county can be found on ComReg's website at www.callcosts.ie.

In cases of market failure the Government will intervene, where it is appropriate and possible to do so. The National Broadband Scheme (NBS) represents such an intervention.

EU State Aid and competition rules govern how states can intervene in areas where there are existing service providers operating. Accordingly, the NBS is prohibited from providing a service in served areas where to do so would give rise to an unacceptable level of market distortion.

I am pleased to say that broadband is now available under the NBS in all designated Electoral Divisions (EDs) in the NBS Coverage Area, including the designated EDs in the Longford Westmeath area.

It continues to be a priority of the Government that there will be broadband coverage across the entire country. I am aware that there continues to be a small percentage of premises throughout the country that are not currently capable of receiving broadband services. This is primarily due to technical and other reasons (suitability of a telephone line, distance from an enabled exchange, no line of sight etc.). The European Commission has set aside a portion of the European Economic Recovery Programme (EERP) funding for rural broadband initiatives. Using this funding, which will be augmented by an Exchequer contribution, I have earlier this week formally launched a Rural Broadband Scheme. This scheme aims to identify the remaining individual premises in rural Ireland, outside of the NBS areas that are unable to obtain a broadband service and to provide a basic broadband service to those premises, where requested.

Information in relation to acceptance of applications and the process of qualification under the scheme is available on my Department's website (www.dcenr.ie ), through contacting my Department on lo-call 1850 678100 and through a wide range of outlets associated with Regional and Local Authorities. Information on the Scheme has also been sent to all provincial newspapers.

Departmental Reviews

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

221 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide the details of all reviews instigated by him and his Ministers of State since assuming office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10363/11]

The Programme for Government/NewERA is a standing item at management meetings in my Department and 2011 Business Plans reflect this Programme.

Together with my colleague, Minister of State, Fergus O'Dowd, T.D., I am working to ensure delivery on the commitments of the Programme which fall within the remit of the Department and keep progress under regular review.

Mineral Resources

Joe McHugh

Question:

222 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will examine the viability of a proposal (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10561/11]

I would agree with the Deputy that if valuable recoverable copper or other material is lying dormant around the coastline every effort should be made to recover such material. If the material in question is the property of private companies, it would be a matter for those companies to seek its recovery and disposal.

While the recovery and disposal of redundant copper lines lying offshore or elsewhere is not an issue in which my Department has a function, I have asked my officials to contact the Deputy with a view to establishing who the owners of the material are in order that the potential value and recovery of the material might be considered.

Post Office Network

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

223 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he plans to close further post offices or if he is committed to maintaining the offices and services as they are at present. [10602/11]

Matters relating to the post office network, including post office closures, are an operational matter for the management and Board of An Post and one in which I have no statutory function.

Expenditure Reviews

Joe McHugh

Question:

224 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will identify all assessments, reviews or reports being carried out by him under the terms of the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support; if these assessments, reviews or reports are being carried out internally by him or independently; when he expects each assessment, review and report to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10652/11]

Under the terms of the EU/IMF programme the Government is committed to undertake an independent assessment of the efficiency of the electricity and gas sectors.

Arrangements are being put in place for the undertaking of this independent assessment in the context of the International Energy Agency's Country Review of Ireland later this year.

The assessment is timetabled to commence in Quarter 3 2011 with a view to a further strengthening of the regulatory and market reform programme for the energy sector by end Quarter 2 2012.

Caiteachas Ranna

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

225 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Cumarsáide, Fuinnimh agus Acmhainní Nádúrtha cén t-eolas airgeadais a cuireadh ar fáil dó don tréimhse 1/1/2011 go 31/3/2011; cén chaoi a bhfuil cúrsaí caiteachais agus ioncaim go dáta i gcomparáid leis na meastacháin a foilsíodh ag tús na bliana agus leis na próifílí caiteachais a réitíodh don bhliain; an gcuirfidh sé cóip den eolas a tugadh dó ar fáil dom; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [10744/11]

Seolfadh faisnéis airgeadais de chuid na Roinne agamsa don tréimhse 1/1/2011 go dtí 31/3/2011 chuig an Roinn Airgeadais. D'fhoilsigh an Roinn Airgeadais an Anailís go Deireadh Mhárta 2011 den Ghlanchaiteachas Vótáilte do mo Roinnse mar a leanas:

Próifíl Deireadh Mhárta (€m)

Táirgeacht Deireadh Mhárta (€m)

Athraitheach (€m)

Athraitheach (%)

Iomlán

54

40

-14

-25.7

Caiteachas Reatha

27

22

-5

-17.0

Caipeatal

27

18

-9

-34.3

Ar na mhórchuid éiríonn na haithreathais as cúrsaí uainiúcháin agus as caiteachas a bhí níos moille ná mar leagadh amach sna próifílí i leith scéimeanna áirithe a sholáthraíonn cistí ar bhonn an éilimh. Meastar go bhfillfidh caiteachas mo Roinne-se ar an bpróifíl i gcaitheamh na bliana.

Departmental Contracts

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

226 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on whether a contract awarded recently by Bord na Móna (details supplied) was fully compliant with public procurement procedures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10746/11]

The procurement of services and goods by Bord na Móna is a commercial operational matter for the company and not one in which I have a function. It would be inappropriate for me or my Department to have an involvement in any tendering process leading to an award of contact by State bodies under my aegis.

Noise Pollution

Robert Dowds

Question:

227 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will outline the current law regarding noise as a public nuisance. [10202/11]

Robert Dowds

Question:

228 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will update the law regarding noise as public nuisance. [10203/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 227 and 228 together.

I refer to the reply to Question No. 273 of 5 April 2011 which sets out the current position on this matter.

Leader Programmes

Niall Collins

Question:

229 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if grant aid from Leader funds will be made available to a person (details supplied) to complete their studies. [10257/11]

Axes 3 and 4(LEADER) of the Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2007-2013 have total funding of €427m available to be allocated to qualifying projects up to the end of 2013. One of the objectives of the RDP is to equip rural dwellers and communities with the appropriate range of skills and training to derive maximum social and economic benefit from the initiatives available under the Axes. Support in this regard is provided for in the Training and Information measure which has an overall programme allocation of €29.45m.

The types of support that may be provided under this measure include the provision of flexible learning opportunities in new technology for women, young people and minority groups in particular; the development of training facilities in rural areas both fixed and mobile; facilitation of distant learning through the use of new technologies and developing the capacity of rural dwellers to utilise ICT including the internet and other public/commercial electronic applications. However, the regulatory framework provides that support under this measure shall not include courses of instruction or training which form part of normal education programmes or systems at secondary or higher levels. Support for mainstream vocational education and training programmes specifically geared to the general labour market are the remit of the European Social Fund (ESF). Training available under the RDP is targeted towards responding only to local community niche needs specific to the measures contained in the programme, e.g. learning to utilise ICT to enhance a rural tourism project. In this context the course outlined in the question would not be eligible for support under the Rural Development Programme.

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

230 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of Leader applications under consideration by him because the proposed grant was more than €150,000; the date each request for approval was received by him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10354/11]

To date 53 such applications have been received by my Department, 40 of which have received approval to proceed. A full and detailed assessment of each of these projects is required and my Department is awaiting clarifications in relation to two projects. A further four were returned for re-consideration to the relevant Local Action Group as the projects as proposed could not be approved. The assessment of the seven remaining projects is nearing completion following receipt of necessary clarifications from the relevant groups and these applications were received on the following dates:

22 December 2010

25 January 2011

28 February 2011 (two applications)

14 March 2011

31 March 2011

4 May 2011

Community Development

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

231 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the plans he has for the RAPID programme; if it is intended to develop the programme further; when the next meeting of the national monitoring committee will take place; if he will meet all the chairs, community representatives on the area implementation teams and the RAPID co-ordinators; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10357/11]

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

232 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of RAPID area implementation teams he has met since assuming office and the details of the plans she has to meet AITs in the coming two months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10358/11]

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

Responsibility for the RAPID programme transferred to my Department on 1 May 2011. The RAPID Programme aims to ensure that priority attention is given to tackling the spatial concentration of poverty and social exclusion within designated RAPID areas nationally. It is a matter for individual Departments to report on the provision of funding and progress on delivery with regard to projects under their responsibility in the different RAPID areas.

My Department administers the RAPID Leverage Schemes, which seek to support small-scale projects identified locally by Area Implementation Teams in each of the RAPID areas. These schemes have been co-funded by the relevant agencies and projects have focused on estate enhancement, graffiti removal, traffic calming, community closed-circuit television, health and sports facilities and the provision of playgroups.

The RAPID Programme faces significant challenges, given that the budget for the RAPID Leverage Schemes has reduced from an out-turn of €9 million in 2009 to a capital allocation of €2.5 million in 2011. In order to ensure the continued relevance of RAPID, my Department is assessing the case for changing the policy direction of the programme, with a greater focus, inter alia, on the coordination and local consultation roles of the programme, and enhancing the opportunities for input by residents in disadvantaged areas. As part of these deliberations, consultations with the National Monitoring Committee as well as the Chairs and Coordinators of the Area Implementation Teams will take place in due course.

Forbairt Pobail

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

233 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Comhshaoil, Gnóthaí Pobail agus Rialtais Áitiúil cén fáth a bhfuil an t-iniúchadh atá ar bun ag Pobal ar MFG ag tógáil chomh fada ar siúl ó Eanáir 2010, agus an féidir leis a rá cén uair a bheidh bailchríoch air; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [10361/11]

Beidh a fhios ag an Teachta go ndearna Pobal, a riarann an Clár Forbartha Áitiúil agus Pobail ar son mo Roinnse, iniúchadh ar Mheitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta Teo (MFG) i mí Eanáir 2010. Cé gur cuireadh na fionnachtana agus na moltaí a ghabhann leo in iúl do MFG i mí an Mheithimh 2010, tá aghaidh le tabhairt fós ag an gcomhlacht sin, ar chuid de na ceisteanna a n-éiríonn sa tuarascáil.

Tá an comhlacht agus Pobal ag comhoibiú chun teacht ar réiteach ar na ceisteanna atá idir chamáin agus ina leith, tá sé socraithe go n-ainmneofar Feidhmeannach Neamhspleách do MFG chun aghaidh a thabhairt ar na ceisteanna atá idir chamáin agus chun teacht ar mheicníochtaí oiriúnacha chun iad a réiteach. Beidh tuarascáil an Fheidhmeannaigh Neamhspleách ag díriú freisin ar inniúlacht MFG cistí a dháileadh ar an gcomhlacht trí Phobal a bhainistiú.

Ainmneofar an Feidhmeannach Neamhspleách trí phróiseas tairisceana iomaíoch. Táthar ag súil go mbeidh críoch curtha leis an bpróiseas seo i rith na míosa seo chugainn agus go mbainfidh tréimhse trí mhí leis an gceapachán. Táthar ag súil go gcabhróidh an tuarascáil seo le Pobal moltaí a dhéanamh do mo Roinnse i leith airgeadú amach anseo agus i leith socruithe conarthacha le MFG. Tabharfaidh mé breis eolais don Teachta ar an ábhar seo ag an am sin.

Social Welfare Payments

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

234 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if any inspections of properties have taken place at a location (details supplied in Dublin 8) in terms of their habitability. [10569/11]

According to the Department's computer records, rent supplement is payable in respect of a number of tenancies at the location in question.

Planning Issues

Pearse Doherty

Question:

235 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to change the regulation regarding the erection of mobile telephone masts, including the placing of these masts close to public buildings such as schools; and the output levels from these structures. [10681/11]

In general, planning permission must be obtained for the erection of an antenna support structure or mast. A decision on a planning application is, of course, a matter for the relevant planning authority or An Bórd Pleanála on appeal.

Under Article 6 and Schedule 2 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001, certain classes of development carried out by a statutory undertaker authorised to provide a telecommunications service are, subject to specified conditions, exempted development from the requirement to obtain planning permission. These include the attachment of additional antennae to an existing antennae support structure; the erection of an antennae support structure in place of an existing antennae support structure; and the attachment of antennae to certain existing structures, such as lamp posts, flag poles, CCTV poles, electricity pylons and certain public or commercial buildings (other than education facilities and childcare facilities or hospitals).

The above exemptions are conditional, among other things, on the field strength of the non-ionising radiation emissions from the site not exceeding the limits specified by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg).

My Department published Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Telecommunication Antennae and Support Structures in 1996. The Guidelines are intended to assist planning authorities, An Bórd Pleanála, the licensed providers of mobile telecommunications services and the public by providing guidance on dealing with these developments within the planning system.

The Guidelines set out a locational hierarchy in relation to the siting of radio masts and advise that free-standing masts should only be located within or in the immediate surrounds of smaller towns or villages as a last resort. If such a location should become necessary, the masts and antennae should be designed and adapted for specific location. In the vicinity of large towns and in city suburbs, operators should endeavour to locate masts and antennae in industrial estates or in industrial zoned land. The Guidelines further advise that, only as a last resort, and if all the alternatives are unavailable or unsuitable, should free-standing masts be located in residential areas or beside schools. Under Section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, planning authorities are required to have regard to any Ministerial Guidelines in the performance of their functions. The issue of the potential health effects of mobile phone masts was the subject of an Expert Group Report commissioned by the Government and published in March 2007. This Report, entitled "Health Effects of Electromagnetic Fields", is available for download on my Department's website (www.environ.ie). The Expert Group reported that the majority scientific opinion to date is that no adverse short or long term effects have been demonstrated from exposure to electromagnetic fields at levels below the limits recommended by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). However, a minority group of scientists believe otherwise and extensive international research on the issue continues to be coordinated through bodies such as the World Health Organisation.

My Department's current advice to those living in close proximity to mobile masts or base stations, based on the conclusions of the Expert Group, is that there is no scientific basis or evidence of adverse health effects in children or adults as a result of exposure to electromagnetic fields below ICNIRP levels. This applies irrespective of the location of the mobile phone mast.

I have no current plans to amend the Regulations in this matter.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Frank Feighan

Question:

236 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the grant aid or financial assistance available to households who have to upgrade their septic tank and sewerage treatment systems. [10912/11]

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

255 Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the consideration he is giving to the licensing of septic tanks relating to one-off houses in the countryside and when he proposes to proceed in this matter; if he is considering through any Government or local government agency providing householders of limited means grant aid towards the cost of upgrading any waste water treatment units. [10570/11]

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

256 Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the Environmental Protection Agency will consider undertaking a review of the 2010 Code of Practice: Waste Water Treatment Systems for Single Houses before the end of 2011; if the EPA were to conduct a review, if this would include a recommendation of treatment systems for specific soil types>90 referred to in section 6.5 in the code rather than the current recommendation that such sites may be deemed suitable for treatment system discharging to surface water in accordance with a Water Pollution Act licence. [10571/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 236, 255 and 256 together.

In October 2009, the European Court of Justice ruled that Ireland failed to adopt the necessary legislation to comply with Articles 4 and 8 of Council Directive 75/442/EEC, known as the Waste Directive, regarding domestic waste waters disposed of in the countryside through septic tanks and other individual waste water treatment systems. I expect to announce the details of proposed legislation to address the judgment, following Government consideration of the matter.

The introduction of a grants scheme for any purpose must be managed within current budgetary constraints. Insofar as support for the upgrading of septic tanks is concerned, this matter is being considered by my Department in the context of developing the overall response to the ECJ judgment.

The question of carrying out a review of the Environmental Protection Agency's Code of Practice: Waste Water Treatment Systems Serving Single Houses is a matter for the Agency. The Agency is authorised under Section 76 of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Act, 1992 (as amended), to prepare and publish codes of practice for the purpose of providing guidance with respect to compliance with any enactment or otherwise, for the purposes of environmental protection. The Code stipulates that site suitability assessors should carry out all assessments in accordance with the guidance provided in the Code and that the site suitability assessment methodology set out in the Code should be used by planning authorities to satisfy the requirements of Article 22(c) of the Planning and Development Regulations, 2006. The EPA has indicated that the Code of Practice will be subject to ongoing review with regard to emerging on-site wastewater treatment system technologies. However, the frequency and nature of such reviews are matters for the EPA.

It should be noted that the Code of Practice provides that where a site is deemed unsuitable for discharge to ground, any alternative options may be discussed with the relevant planning authority. The Code of Practice also provides that innovative products and technologies may be used in Ireland if they have the appropriate certification, are fit for purpose in the conditions in which they are used and meet the performance requirements of the Code.

Finally, I understand that the EPA is funding a research project regarding the use of on-site wastewater treatment systems in low permeability soils and subsoils. This project may contribute solutions to the difficulties posed by sites with difficult percolation conditions.

Housing Aid for the Elderly

Gerry Adams

Question:

237 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the 2011 housing aid for older people, housing adaption grants and mobility aid grants schemes in Louth County Council were suspended on 1 April 2011; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that this is creating great hardship for elderly, ill and disabled people; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact there is a huge demand for these schemes and due to a decrease in financial support the suspension of the schemes will result in a deterioration of health for those concerned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10193/11]

My Department's involvement with the Housing Adaptation Grant Schemes for Older People and People with a Disability relates primarily to the recoupment of a proportion of local authority expenditure on the payment of individual grants. The grant schemes are funded by 80% recoupment available from my Department together with a 20% contribution from the resources of the local authority. The detailed administration of the schemes, including the assessment, approval of applications and the level of funding to be directed to each of the various grant measures is the responsibility of the relevant local authority.

To assess the overall level of demand for grant assistance under the suite of grants my Department requested local authorities to submit details of their funding requirements for 2011, broken down into contractual commitments in respect of works underway, value of applications currently on hand and value of anticipated applications in 2011, with a view to determining the allocations for this year as soon as possible after the publication of the 2011 Revised Estimates for Public Services.

Exchequer allocations totalling almost €64m were notified to local authorities under the grant schemes on 17 February 2011, giving a combined allocation of almost €79.5m. The allocation to Louth County Council for 2011 is €1.08m. This compares to an exchequer allocation in 2010 of €2.16m of which €2.14m was drawn down by year end, relating to the payment of 244 grants. So far, Louth County Council has not drawn down any of the 2011 allocation.

Local Authority Staff

Gerry Adams

Question:

238 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of persons employed in local authorities in County Louth in each of the years 2007 to 2010 and to date in 2011. [10194/11]

The numbers of Whole-Time Equivalent staff employed in Local Authorities in County Louth in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 to date, are set out in the table.

Local Authorities in County Louth

Permanent

Temporary

Total

December 2007

681

60

741

December 2008

710

24

734

December 2009

679

13

692

December 2010

667

7

674

March 2011

662

9

671

Housing Grants

Dessie Ellis

Question:

239 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the person who has final responsibility for the decision of who will receive a home improvement grant for the replacement of windows which are no longer fit for purpose, awarded by local authorities. [10206/11]

My Department's involvement with the suite of Housing Adaptation Grant Schemes for Older People and People with a Disability relates primarily to the recoupment of a proportion of local authority expenditure on the payment of individual grants. The grant schemes, introduced in November 2007, are funded by 80% recoupment available from my Department together with a 20% contribution from the resources of the local authority.

Three separate schemes are available. The housing adaptation grant for people with a disability assists people with a disability to have necessary adaptations, repairs or improvement works carried out in order to make their accommodation more suitable for their needs. Eligible works include the provision of access ramps, stair lifts, accessible toilet and shower facilities, wheelchair access and extensions. The effective maximum grant under the scheme is €30,000, which may cover up to 95% of the approved cost of works for applicants, including those in full-time employment, who have gross household incomes of up to €30,000 per annum, tapering to 30% for those with incomes of €54,001 to €65,000.

The mobility aids grant scheme is available to fast track grants of up to €6,000 to cover a basic suite of works to address the mobility problems of a member of a household. Qualifying works include the provision of stair lifts, level access showers, access ramps, grab rails and some minor adaptation works to the fabric of the house such as adaptation of downstairs room/closet to provide sanitary facilities etc. The effective maximum grant available is €6,000 and may cover 100% of the cost of works subject to a maximum annual household income threshold of €30,000.

The housing aid for older people scheme provides grants of up to €10,500 to assist older people living in poor housing conditions to have necessary repairs or improvements carried out. Grant eligible works include structural repairs or improvements, re-wiring, repairs to or replacement of windows and doors, provision of water supply and sanitary facilities, provision of heating, cleaning, painting etc. Maximum grant available is €10,500 which may cover up to 100% of the costs of works for applicants with gross annual household incomes of less than €30,000, tapering to 30% for those with incomes of €54,001 to €65,000.

Matters such as the assessment and approval of individual applications, decisions on the eligibility of particular works, fixtures or fittings for grant assistance, and the payment of grants to householders, are the responsibility of the relevant local authority.

Water Services

Niall Collins

Question:

240 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of water services capital contracts in existence in 1997; and the number of water services capital contracts each year between 1997 and 2011. [10297/11]

Niall Collins

Question:

241 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of water services capital projects completed in 1997; and the number of water services capital projects completed each year between 1997 and 2010. [10298/11]

Niall Collins

Question:

242 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will detail the funding provided for water conservation projects in 1997; and the funding provided for such projects each year between 1997 and 2011. [10299/11]

Niall Collins

Question:

268 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the funding provided for water services infrastructure in 1997 and the funding provided each year between 1997 and 2011. [10296/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 240 to 242, inclusive, and 268 together.

Almost €6 billion in Exchequer funding has been invested in water services infrastructure between 1997 and 2010. The expenditure is administered through the Water Services Investment Programme and the Rural Water Programme. The Water Services Investment Programme is a multi-annual investment plan for the provision of major water and sewerage schemes. The first rolling 3-year Water Services Investment Programme was launched in July 2000 to meet identified water services needs. The water services investment programme 2010-2012 is the current such plan, and is available in the Oireachtas library along with previous plans.

Responsibility for the administration of the Rural Water Programme, which includes group water schemes and small public water and sewerage schemes, has been devolved to local authorities since 1997. The selection and approval of individual schemes for advancement and funding under the programme, within the overall priorities set by my Department and subject to the block grant allocation provided, is therefore a matter for the local authorities.

Total Exchequer expenditure on Water Services capital works in the years 1997 to 2010 is outlined in the following table:

Year

Total Expenditure

Water Services Investment Programme

Rural Water Programme

€m

€m

€m

1997

206.6

181.0

25.6

1998

235.0

205.7

29.3

1999

360.0

317.0

43.0

2000

425.3

380.3

45.0

2001

506.6

453.1

53.5

2002

492.5

435.3

57.2

2003

449.6

374.8

74.8

2004

400.0

314.1

85.9

2005

417.9

298.9

119.0

2006

465.0

335.0

130.0

2007

496.7

366.7

130.0

2008

496.4

391.4

105.0

2009

512.0

412.0

100.0

2010

495.0

407.0

88.0

Total 1997-2010

5,958.6

4,872.4

1,086.3

Expenditure under the Water Services Investment Programme includes spending on water conservation. Following the launch of the national water conservation programme in 2002, some €168m was spent between 2003 and 2010 on water conservation and annual spending on this measure in these years is outlined in the table.

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

Total

€m

11.3

11.8

11.8

16.8

20.8

30.7

27.2

37.7

168.1

As the rural water programme is devolved to local authorities, information on the activity in terms of contracts underway or projects completed in any year is available from the individual local authorities. The water services investment programme 2010-2012 outlines the number of major contracts which it is anticipated will commence in the period together with details of schemes in planning. Schemes can comprise a series of contracts, for example for treatment plants and networks. Statistics on activity under the Water Services Investment Programme from 1997 to 2009 generally relate to schemes, while data set out in the table in relation to the number of projects completed in 2010 relates to contracts.

Completion Year

Wastewater

Water Supply

Total

1997

13

11

24

1998

22

16

38

1999

13

18

31

2000

62

40

102

2001

39

41

80

2002

30

19

49

2003

27

22

49

2004

13

12

25

2005

15

10

25

2006

11

10

21

2007

21

23

44

2008

23

18

41

2009

28

14

42

2010 (contracts)

39

33

72

Total 1997-2010

356

287

643

Leader Programmes

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

243 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has received correspondence recently from the south west inner city RAPID area implementation team; if he has replied to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10359/11]

Responsibility for this area transferred to my Department on 1 May 2011. I have not received any recent correspondence from the South West Inner City RAPID Area Implementation Team.

Water Services

Jack Wall

Question:

244 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding an application (details supplied) for funding under the service land initiative programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10418/11]

The Ballymore Eustace Wastewater Treatment Plant was approved for funding under the Serviced Land Initiative of my Department's Water Services Investment Programme. Work on schemes under this Initiative must be completed, and funding drawdown applications received, by the end of 2012.

The first annual review of the main Water Services Investment Programme is currently underway. Kildare County Council has submitted an application to my Department to have the Ballymore Eustace scheme transferred to the Programme under the review mechanism, which is being carried out using strictly defined criteria. The council's application is under examination, together with review applications from all water services authorities, and a decision will be made in the near future.

Community Development

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

245 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will transfer responsibility for local development companies-partnerships to the city-county development boards which also have a social inclusion aspect to them. [10430/11]

The Community related functions of the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs transferred to my Department on 1 May 2011. The former Department had, over the past number of years, pursued a process of cohesion of local delivery structures in order to simplify and enhance the effectiveness of the delivery of a range of local development programmes.

This process has resulted in the realignment of local delivery structures and has reduced the overall number of local development bodies from 94 to 52. These comprise 15 Local Development Companies (LDCs) in urban areas and 37 in rural areas.

The current phase of this work, which is well advanced, is focused on integrating some 160 Community Development Projects across the country with the 52 LDCs. This process has been the subject of extensive engagement with the various stakeholders and is due to be completed in the coming months.

While I have no immediate plans to transfer responsibility for the Local Development Companies to the City/County Development Boards, my Department will continue to work towards identifying further efficiencies to bring about more effective delivery of services and supports for citizens at a local level. This will include the consideration of options for the greater alignment of local development arrangements and Local Government in accordance with the Programme for Government.

The City/County Development Boards (CDBs) already play a key role in endorsing the strategic plans of the Local Development Companies operating within their areas. This process facilitates and promotes a co-ordinated delivery of the services provided by the LDCs at local level, by ensuring complementarity between their individual plans and the CDB Strategy for the relevant county/city. It aims to avoid duplication of work by the local bodies concerned and allow CDBs to identify gaps in the work being carried out by the various local bodies, thereby helping to maximise the impact of programmes for local communities.

Private Rented Accommodation

Jim Daly

Question:

246 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason a ruling by the Private Residential Tenancies Board (details supplied) regarding a determination order has recommended Circuit Court proceedings when the PRTB states that its very formation was to replace the use of courts for such disputes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10509/11]

I have no function in the operational matters of the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB), an independent statutory body established under the Residential Tenancies Act, 2004, and cannot therefore comment on the specifics of any individual case.

However, the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 makes provision for enforcement by the Courts of Determination Orders made by the PRTB. If the Board or a party mentioned in a Determination Order is satisfied that another party has failed to comply with one or more terms of that order the Board or the first mentioned party may make an application to the Circuit Court in accordance with section 124 of the Act.

Foreshore Licences

Jim Daly

Question:

247 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 211 of 19 April 2011, when he expects a decision to be issued to the applicant of a foreshore licence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10511/11]

As indicated in the reply to Question No. 211 of 19 April 2011, this application was referred to the Chief State Solicitor's Office for legal advice in February 2011 following a challenge to the State's ownership of the foreshore concerned; the applicant was advised of this referral at the time. The position is unchanged

Local Authority Funding

Joan Collins

Question:

248 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to a letter of 8 March 2011 in which the former Minister of State with responsibility for housing and local services approved funding of €500,000 towards the enhancement of O’Connell Street, Sligo; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that the total estimated cost of the enhancement of O’Connell Street is €5,016,466, and when the balance of €3,216,822 which was sought by Sligo Borough Council for the enhancement of the street will be provided; the conditions, if any, the former Minister of State attached to the allocation of the €500,000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10532/11]

My Department is providing a capital allocation of €2 million to Sligo Borough Council in 2011 in respect of proposals for the regeneration of the Eastern Quadrant of Sligo. This includes a provision of €500,000 in respect of improvement works to facilitate the pedestrianisation of O'Connell Street.

My Department understands the Borough Council is at present preparing a programme of works in this regard, details of which will be submitted for consideration and approval. Any conditions attaching to the recoupment of the capital funding will be set out in the formal response to this submission.

Sligo Borough Council submitted a number of proposals under the Gateway Innovation Fund (GIF) in 2007, including a proposal for the enhancement of O'Connell Street. Funding decisions under the GIF were deferred in 2008 due to the prevailing budgetary conditions and no budgetary provision was made in respect of the GIF for 2011.

Departmental Funding

Nicky McFadden

Question:

249 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding the funding application status for Mullingar RAPID; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10551/11]

In relation to the proposal to allocate funding for the Mullingar RAPID area, projects have been assessed and prioritised by Pobal, and these are currently being considered by my Department in the context of the reduced level of funding available in the current year, and also in the context of the review of expenditure that is being undertaken. Any decisions arising will be notified to all applicants as soon as possible.

Nicky McFadden

Question:

250 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide an update on the funding application for a RAPID group (details supplied) in County Westmeath for the purpose of regeneration and closed circuit television; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10554/11]

Responsibility for this area transferred to my Department on 1 May 2011. I have not received an application from the RAPID group referred to in the Question under the Community CCTV Scheme.

Unfinished Housing Developments

Peter Mathews

Question:

251 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide this Deputy with a copy of the interim report on the advisory group on unfinished housing developments that was completed last February; if he will provide a copy of the submission received from Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10557/11]

The Unfinished Housing Developments Interim Report, published on 17 February 2011, is available to download from my Department's website at www.environ.ie. I received the final Report of the Advisory Group on Unfinished Housing Developments on 6 May 2011; I will consider its findings and recommendations as a matter of urgency and will bring proposed actions and recommendations to Government for approval.

I am not aware of the submission referred to in the Question.

Local Authority Housing

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

252 Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the level of funding allocation for the regeneration project at Sligo Borough Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10566/11]

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

253 Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the allocation of funding for the provision of local authority housing for Sligo County Council in 2011 and 2012. [10567/11]

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

254 Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the allocation of funding for the provision of local authority housing for Sligo Borough Council in 2011 and 2012. [10568/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 252 to 254, inclusive, together.

The allocations notified to Sligo County Council and Sligo Borough Council under the various measures contained in my Department's Social Housing Investment Programme (SHIP) for 2011 are set out in the table. The allocations for next year will be determined in the light of the budgetary provision for the SHIP in 2012.

Measure

Sligo County Council

Sligo Borough Council

Social Housing Supply

900,000

850,000

Capital Assistance Scheme

1,800,000

5,700,000

Capital Loan and Subsidy Scheme

5,490,140

0

Improvement Works Programme

225,000

2,350,437*

Traveller Accommodation

500,000

Rental Accommodation Scheme

1,726,249

*includes €2,000,000 for the Regeneration Project.

Questions Nos. 255 and 256 answered with Question No. 236.

Dormant Accounts Fund

Dan Neville

Question:

257 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will review an application in respect of a club (details supplied) in County Limerick for funding under the Dormant Accounts Fund; and the details of when this matter will be assessed. [10576/11]

Under the programme in question, I understand that an Area Implementation Team (AIT), which draws up a plan based on the particular needs of the area so that available funding can be targeted where it will do the most good in the community, has been established for the area in question. The inaugural meeting of the AIT took place on 15 April 2010.

The AIT includes representatives of the Department of Social Protection, the relevant local authority, An Garda Síochána, Youth Services, HSE, VEC and others. I understand that the community forum structure has been agreed, task groups have been formed and there is agreement on the role of agencies and on chairing of task groups. A Co-ordinator for the area is in place since January 2010, funded by the local authority.

As regards the proposal to allocate additional funding for the area in question from the Dormant Accounts Fund, I can confirm that eight projects have been prioritised by Pobal. These are currently being considered by my Department in the context of the reduced level of funding available to the Department in the current year, and also in the context of the review of expenditure that is being undertaken. Any decisions arising will be notified to all applicants as soon as possible.

Unfinished Housing Developments

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

258 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will ensure that all valuable finished and partially finished properties in so called ghost estates are adequately insured; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10586/11]

It is a matter for owners of unfinished housing developments to ensure that such properties in their possession within these developments are adequately insured. I have no role in the matter.

Dormant Accounts Fund

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

259 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will confirm the costs borne specifically by the Exchequer, and not by the fund itself arising from the operation of the Dormant Accounts Fund since it inception; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10597/11]

The Dormant Accounts Acts provide for an annual transfer by credit institutions and insurance undertakings of monies in accounts determined to be dormant into the Dormant Accounts Fund (DAF). Since its establishment in April 2003 to the end of February 2011, the transfers to the DAF have totalled some €589m, which includes interest earned of some €35m. Funds reclaimed in that period by account holders amounted to approximately €208m. On 1 May 2011, the functions relating to Dormant Accounts, previously administered by the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs, transferred to my Department.

A summary of the current status of the DAF is available on the website www.pobail.ie and I am arranging for a copy to be sent to the Deputy in the coming days. This provides a profile of the Fund showing yearly inflows, reclaims, disbursements, etc, from 2003 to the end of February 2011. Disbursements from the DA Fund are paid from the Votes of the relevant Departments which, in turn, are reimbursed from the Fund. Expenditure under the Fund is spread across some 10 Departments and Agencies.

Under the Government Accounting procedures, disbursements on dormant accounts measures are paid in the first instance "up front" from a Department's Vote in the same way as with any other spending programme. Therefore, Government Departments have to source funding for dormant accounts programmes from their Exchequer allocations. However, once expenditure takes place, either on administration of the measure, or by the project itself, it is reimbursed to the Exchequer from the Dormant Accounts Fund in accordance with the Dormant Accounts Acts, in the form of Appropriations-in-Aid payable through the relevant Department's Vote. In this way, the costs associated with dormant accounts measures are Exchequer neutral, though it should be noted that Government Departments cannot spend Appropriations-in-Aid directly themselves once they are reimbursed from the Fund. They are instead refunded to the central Exchequer.

Monies disbursed from the Fund increase Government debt levels as the money belongs to the account holder, who can reclaim it at any time, and not to the State. Consequently, every euro spent from the Fund is regarded in accounting terms as a potential Government liability.

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

260 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will report on the projected savings to the Exchequer in the event of the Dormant Accounts Board being abolished, as recommended in the report of the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10598/11]

The Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes (The McCarthy Report) recommended the discontinuation of Dormant Accounts Board (the DAB), which has statutory functions relating to disbursements from the Dormant Accounts Fund. The Report stated that this would result in an annual saving to the Exchequer of €1.7m. It should be noted, however, that the majority of the administrative budget for DA is paid to Pobal, who administer my Department's and certain other Departments' DA Measures. The DAB receives only a small proportion of the overall administrative budget.

The annual expenses of the DAB for the year 2010 were €0.12m approximately. The 2010 figure compares with a corresponding figure of €0.21m for 2009 and €0.2m for 2008. Legislation is currently in preparation to dissolve the Dormant Accounts Board and introduce a revised disbursement process for Dormant Accounts Funding. The Bill is scheduled for publication in the current Dáil session.

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

261 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he is satisfied that the accounting procedures applicable to the Dormant Accounts Fund within both his own Department and within the Department of Finance are fully consistent with Part 6, section 41(a) of the Dormant Accounts Act 2001: 41.—(1) The moneys in the investment and disbursement account shall be applied by the Agency, on the direction of the Board, for the following purposes: (a) programmes or projects that are designed to assist the personal, educational and social development of persons who are economically, educationally or socially disadvantaged or persons with a disability (within the meaning of the Equal Status Act, 2000) and, in particular, programmes or projects that are designed to assist primary school students with learning difficulties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10599/11]

As regards the purposes for which dormant accounts funding may be spent, any measures approved for funding by the Government from the Dormant Accounts Fund fall under one of the three purposes listed in the Dormant Accounts Act 2001. I should add that expenditure by Departments from the Fund is subject to scrutiny by the Comptroller and Auditor General in the same way as other funding programmes.

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

262 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he is satisfied that the discretion of the Dormant Accounts Board has been applied consistently to investments and disbursements over the life of the Dormant Accounts Fund; if, over the remaining life of the board, he can confirm that moneys in the investment and disbursements account shall be applied on the direction of the Dormant Accounts Board, for as long as the board continues in existence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10600/11]

As regards the discretion of the Dormant Accounts Board, I am satisfied that disbursements approved by the Board have been properly and fairly applied. However, the statutory powers of the Dormant Accounts Board were substantially diminished by the Dormant Accounts Act, 2005, and, as a consequence, since then the Board has not been involved in approving specific dormant accounts disbursements.

Nonetheless, I can assure the Deputy that the Board will continue to be required to comply with its statutory obligations under the Dormant Accounts Acts, and provision is being made in the legislation in preparation to ensure that the Board is fully accountable up until its dissolution.

Expenditure Reviews

Joe McHugh

Question:

263 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will identify all assessments, reviews or reports being carried out by him under the terms of the EU-IMF programme of financial support; if these assessments, reviews or reports are being carried out internally by him or independently; when he expects each assessment, review and report to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10657/11]

The information requested is set out in the following table:

Review

Undertaken by

Expected Completion Date

A review concerning financial reporting by the local government sector.

My Department.

End June 2011.

An economic analysis of the potential impact on competition and consumer prices of eliminating or relaxing the floorspace cap on retail premises.

My Department, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation and Forfás.

End September 2011.

An assessment of the transfer of responsibility for water services provision from local authorities to a water utility.

A tender competition to select a consultant is underway.

End December 2011.

Foreshore Licences

Thomas Pringle

Question:

264 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to progress the backlog of foreshore applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10688/11]

Since the transfer of certain foreshore functions into my Department on 15 January 2010, significant work has been undertaken to improve the throughput of foreshore applications and to modernise the consent process involved. There are now 300 active applications for a lease or licence currently on hand. These applications vary in terms of size of project, level of complexity and state of progression through the foreshore consent process. Since the transfer of functions into my Department, 47 applications have been received, 46 have secured Ministerial approval and 30 leases and licence have been executed.

The short-term administrative and regulatory measures which have been developed to improve the throughput of foreshore applications include:

Introduction of a pre-application consultation process;

A scheme of prioritisation for all foreshore applications;

Development of standard operating procedures;

Drafting of guidelines for applicants in relation to engineering and habitats issues;

Draft regulations to put a time limit on consultations with prescribed bodies.

Work on the drafting of a General Scheme of a Bill to further improve the foreshore consent process is also progressing. It is intended that the Bill will, inter alia, integrate the foreshore consent process for major infrastructure projects within the strategic consent process operated by An Bord Pleanála, while the foreshore consent process for non-strategic infrastructure projects will be integrated within the wider planning consent process operated by the local authorities.

Local Authority Funding

Brendan Smith

Question:

265 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if approval will issue without further delay for a scheme (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10697/11]

A submission requesting funding approval in the amount of €3.512 million in respect of Stage 3 of the Mullaghmatt Remedial Works Scheme was received in my Department from Monaghan Town Council on 14 January, 2011. The cost plan has been examined and the Council has been asked to revise the proposal to facilitate the phased implementation of this scheme. My Department understands the revised plan will be submitted shortly.

Forestry Sector

Anne Ferris

Question:

266 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the issues affecting the forestry sector, specifically inconsistent implementation of the Planning and Development Act regarding road access to forests, which is preventing the thinning and felling of forests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10181/11]

Section 4(1) of the Planning and Development Act 2000 sets out development which is exempted from the requirement to obtain planning permission, including "development consisting of the thinning, felling and replanting of trees, forests and woodlands, the construction, maintenance and improvement of non-public roads serving forests and woodlands and works ancillary to that development, not including the replacement of broadleaf high forest by conifer species".

Article 9 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 provides that development consisting of the formation, laying out or material widening of a means of access to a public road the surfaced carriageway of which exceeds 4 metres in width is not exempted development. However, this did not qualify the exemption in the Act referred to above, which provided a complete exemption for private forest roads including the making of an access onto a public road.

As this resulted in a position where no consent was required to join forest roads to a public road, section 5 of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010 amends section 4 of the Principal Act to provide that the exemption for forest roads does not extend to the provision of access to a public road. Section 5 of the 2010 Planning Act will be commenced as soon as possible.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Tom Fleming

Question:

267 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when contracts will be signed and when work will commence on a water treatment plant at a location (details supplied) in County Kerry. [10240/11]

The Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012, a copy of which is available in the Oireachtas Library, provides for the development of a comprehensive range of new water services infrastructure in County Kerry. The Waterville Water and Sewerage Scheme (Design/Build/Operate Contract) is included in the Programme amongst the list of contracts in the county to start in the period 2010-2012. Work on the water distribution and sewer network contract for Waterville is substantially completed. In December 2010 my Department advised Kerry County Council that funding is available to allow it award the contract for the Waterville Water and Wastewater Treatment Plants Design/Build/Operate contract, at a cost of €8.67 million. The contract will be funded on a shared basis between my Department and Kerry County Council. It is now a matter for the Council to progress this contract to construction.

Question No. 268 answered with Question No. 240.

Planning Issues

Nicky McFadden

Question:

269 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the matter of farmers’ rights of way and the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009, with specific reference to the way farmers will be affected by new legislation requiring registration. [10265/11]

The position is that Part 8 (Chapter 1) of the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 has updated the law in relation to the acquisition of easements and profits a prendre in line with recommendations of the Law Reform Commission. Section 35 of the Act, which entered into operation on 1 December 2009, provides that such legal interests in land shall be acquired at law by prescription only on registration of a court order under that section.

Late last year the Law Society made a submission to my Department which contained proposals to amend the 2009 Act with a view to simplifying the procedures for registering easements and profits a prendre acquired by prescription. During recent discussions involving my Department, the Law Society and the Property Registration Authority, agreement was reached on the outline of a draft scheme whereby the Authority would be empowered to register such legal rights without a court order under section 35 of the 2009 Act on being satisfied that the claim had been substantiated.

In order to give statutory effect to the proposed scheme, amendments to the Registration of Title Act 1964 and the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 will be required. I intend therefore to include the necessary amendments to both Acts in the forthcoming Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which will be published later this year.

Registration of Title

Joan Collins

Question:

270 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will establish the ownership of a derelict and abandoned house at a location (details supplied). [10522/11]

I can inform the Deputy that the Property Registration Authority (PRA), which manages the Land Registry and Registry of Deeds, is the registering body in relation to property in Ireland. A search has been carried out in the Land Registry and it appears that the address in question is an unregistered property.

While it is possible to conduct a search in the Registry of Deeds, Henrietta Street, it is difficult to establish the name of an owner from the records held there. This is because the Registry of Deeds is a register of grantors (i.e. the persons who sold or granted the property to the current owners), and not a register of owners. In order to carry out a search the customer would therefore need to know the name of the grantor. Other possible sources of relevant information are:

the Valuation Office

Thom's Directory (this gives the name of the occupier who may not always be the owner)

The Deputy might also wish to note that if the property appears to be a derelict and abandoned site, this should be brought to the attention of the Derelict Sites Section, Dublin City Council, Development Unit, Block 3, Floor 3, Wood Quay, Dublin 8.

Proposed Legislation

Andrew Doyle

Question:

271 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the action he is taking to contribute to the reform of the outdated bankruptcy law here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10540/11]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question Number 126 of 20 April 2011 which indicated the following:

The Government commitment under the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland is to publish insolvency reform legislation by Quarter 1 of 2012. The legislative programme for my Department includes a Personal Insolvency Bill that will provide for a new framework for settlement and enforcement of debt and for personal insolvency. The Bill, proposals in respect of which are being developed in my Department, will take into account the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission in its Report on Personal Debt Management and Debt Enforcement of December 2010.

The Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, that is in the course of being drafted with a view to publication as soon as possible this year, will contain some interim measures in relation to reform of the law on bankruptcy.

I have nothing further to add to that reply.

Liquor Licensing Laws

Nicky McFadden

Question:

272 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on proposals by an association (details supplied) to introduce a nightclub permit or allow for the payment of special exemption orders by direct debit in order to clear up paper trails and ease court time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10197/11]

I am aware that proposals have been made by industry representatives for the introduction of a nightclub permit. However, I am not aware of any proposals to provide for the payment of special exemption order fees by direct debit. I assure the Deputy that the Courts Service will consider any proposal which would provide an opportunity to improve efficiency.

Asylum Applications

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

273 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding an application for asylum here in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [10272/11]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 20 May, 2010. His asylum application was considered by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, both of whom concluded that the person concerned did not meet the criteria for recognition as a refugee. Arising from the refusal of his asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 3 February 2011, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006.

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

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

Ministerial Meetings

Terence Flanagan

Question:

274 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will meet with a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10313/11]

If the Deputy communicates privately with me regarding the subject matter of the meeting, I will respond to him expeditiously.

Payment of Fines

John McGuinness

Question:

275 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his proposals, if any, to accept payment of fines handed down by the courts in instalments or by means of some other easy-payment system to be applied to those who have no means and simply cannot pay in full in the form of a single payment; the value of the fines outstanding and not paid to the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10340/11]

Section 14 of the Fines Act 2010, which was commenced from 1 January last, places an obligation on the court to take account of the defendant's financial circumstances before a fine is imposed. Section 15 of the Act, when commenced, will allow a person on whom a fine has been imposed to apply to the court to pay the fine by instalments. If the court is satisfied that to pay in full by the due date for payment would cause undue hardship, it can direct that payment be made by instalments over a period of one year and, in exceptional circumstances, over a two year period. This provision will apply to fines over €100. The Act is being commenced on a phased basis. It is intended to commence section 15 as soon as the necessary arrangements have been put in place by the Courts Service to facilitate its operation.

The Deputy will appreciate that the length of time an offender has to pay a fine can vary considerably and is determined amongst other things by the discretion of the judge and value of the fine. I am however informed that the Courts Service has made significant improvements to the fines collection process for court imposed fines. This includes timely and frequent issue of reminders, together with the provision of a convenient on-line payment facility.

The value of fines outstanding is assessed on a rolling 12 month period. For the 12 months to the end of December 2010, the total value of fines imposed was €43m (120,000 fines). The total value of fines collectable after adjusting for appeals or cancellations was €29m (92,000) of which €21m (68,000) were paid giving a collection rate of 71% based on value and 73% based on volume. This leaves approximately €8m (24,000) fines outstanding in the year ending 31 December 2010. This represents a significant improvement over an estimated collection rate of 50% in 2007 and in 2010 resulted in an estimated additional €8.0m in fines collected. Finally, the Programme for Government 2011 to 2016 contains a commitment to provide for attachment of earnings in relation to fines and I am developing proposals in this regard at present.

Garda Vetting of Personnel

Jack Wall

Question:

276 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when a Garda vetting application will be processed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10369/11]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) has no application for vetting on hand in respect of the person to whom the Deputy refers. In the circumstances I can only suggest that the person contacts the registered organisation involved. A previous vetting application in respect of the person to whom the Deputy refers was processed by the GCVU and a response was returned to the registered organisation involved in September 2009.

Departmental Records

Noel Harrington

Question:

277 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has records of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8 who has been resident here for more than 20 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10372/11]

I have been informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that records exist in my Department regarding the person referred to in the Deputy's question, and that they have contacted him regarding renewing his immigration status.

Garda Status

Michael McCarthy

Question:

278 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to award members of the Garda Síochána special status and protection while on duty in view of the fact that they have no standing under current legislation as had been highlighted by the case of the late Garda Robbie McCallion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10460/11]

I believe it is right that the law recognises the gravity of any attack on a member of An Garda Síochána or the emergency services who are carrying out their duty, serving and protecting the public. The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994, as amended by the Criminal Justice Act of 2006, specifically provides that any person who assaults or threatens to assault a peace officer (including members of An Garda Síochána) acting in the execution of his or her duty, knowing that he or she is, or being reckless as to whether he or she is, a peace officer so acting, shall be guilty of an offence. The 2006 Act also increased the maximum penalty to 7 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine. Any person who resists or wilfully obstructs a peace officer in the execution of his or her duty is also guilty of an offence. I have no proposals at present for further legislation in relation to this matter but the situation will be kept under review.

Proposed Legislation

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

279 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to introduce legislation to criminalise the purchase of sexual acts; his further plans to criminalise the acts of pimping, procuring and trafficking of persons for sexual exploitation; the stage of advancement of these plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10492/11]

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

289 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to introduce legislation criminalising the purchase of sexual acts, thus making it illegal to buy sex, and decriminalise those persons who are prostituted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10582/11]

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

290 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when he will release the report he has received from the Attorney General on the visit by an Irish delegation to Sweden in September 2010 in respect of the sex industry. [10591/11]

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

291 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to introduce legislation and criminalise the action of buying sex. [10592/11]

Anne Ferris

Question:

293 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when he intends to publish a Bill regarding sex trafficking and the penalisation of the purchase of sex; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10604/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 279, 289 to 291, inclusive, and 293 together.

It should be noted that under the criminal law as it stands at present, it is not an offence, in itself, to sell sex. In general, it is not an offence to purchase sex either. Consequently, neither party to the transaction is currently criminalised. Any proposal to amend the law in terms of criminalising the purchase of sex would require very careful examination. In this jurisdiction, the criminal law governing prostitution is aimed at protecting society from the more intrusive aspects of such activity from a public order perspective, while also seeking to protect prostitutes from exploitation.

Under the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993, it is an offence to solicit in a street or public place for the purpose of prostitution. The offence can be committed by the prostitute, the client or a third party — a pimp, for example. The Act also provides for offences such as organising prostitution, coercing or compelling a person to be a prostitute, knowingly living on the earnings of a prostitute, or keeping or managing a brothel. In addition, the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008, which criminalises the trafficking of persons for the purposes of sexual exploitation, makes it an offence to knowingly solicit or importune a trafficked person, in any place, for the purpose of prostitution.

In 2010, the Swedish Government completed an evaluation of its 1999 legislation criminalising the purchase of sex. The Dignity Project arranged a visit to Sweden in September last year to learn more about the evaluation and the delegation included representation from my Department. The Dignity Project was a research project funded by the EU. An inter-agency and inter-jurisdictional initiative led by the Dublin Employment Pact and the Immigrant Council of Ireland, examined services provided to victims of human trafficking with a view to replicating best practice models in partner countries. My Department's Anti-Human Trafficking Unit and the Garda National Immigration Bureau were partners with observer status.

I will be examining a report prepared by my Department following the visit to Stockholm and which was submitted to the Attorney General's Office. I will also be examining the Attorney's recent advices concerning the legal and constitutional implications of introducing a ban on the purchase of sex. It will be appreciated that I have not yet had the opportunity to consider the report, including the question of its publication, and the advices received.

Road Traffic Accidents

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

280 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí and forensic collision investigators qualified to read tachographs and to present the evidence obtained from such charts in court; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10500/11]

The information sought by the Deputy is currently being collated by the Garda authorities and I will write to the Deputy directly when this information is to hand.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

281 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if a garda, a forensic collision investigator or a public service vehicle inspector is responsible for gathering and analysing the tachograph evidence at the scene of fatal collision; if such a person is qualified in each Garda division; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10501/11]

The information sought by the Deputy is currently being collated by the Garda authorities and I will write to the Deputy directly when this information is to hand.

Garda Training

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

282 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí who have been trained in the enforcement of the European working time directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10502/11]

I have requested this information from the Commissioner and I will revert to the Deputy immediately upon its receipt.

Road Traffic Offences

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

283 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of prosecutions for dangerous driving that have been taken against commercial drivers involved in fatal collisions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10503/11]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

284 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of prosecutions for dangerous driving taken against commercial drivers involved in fatal collisions that were related to tachograph offences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10504/11]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

285 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of prosecutions for dangerous driving taken against commercial drivers involved in fatal collisions were related to breaches of the European working time directive for driving hours, rest periods and rest days; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10505/11]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

286 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of prosecutions for dangerous driving taken against commercial drivers involved in fatal collisions were related to breaches of the speed limit for commercial vehicles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10506/11]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

287 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of prosecutions for dangerous driving taken against commercial drivers involved in fatal collisions were related to the use of a mobile phone when texting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10507/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 283 to 287, inclusive, together.

Following the submission in 2004 of a report and recommendations by an expert group on crime statistics, it was decided that the compilation and publication of crime statistics should be taken over by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, from An Garda Síochána. The Garda Síochána Act 2005 consequently makes provision for this and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose. Following the setting up of the necessary technical systems and auditing of the data from which the statistics are compiled, the CSO is now compiling, publishing and responding to queries regarding recorded crime statistics. I have requested the CSO to provide statistics directly to the Deputy.

Garda Deployment

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

288 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will increase the policing resources for an area (details supplied) in Dublin 9; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10580/11]

Responsibility for the allocation of resources, including personnel, within the Force rests with the Garda Commissioner in consultation with his senior management team. I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that the area referred to by the Deputy is covered by Clontarf Garda Station. The personnel strength of Clontarf Garda Station, on the latest date for which figures are readily available (31 March 2011), was 79, and of these 7 are assigned as Community Gardaí.

Questions Nos. 289 to 291, inclusive, answered with Question No. 279.

Courts Service

Seán Kyne

Question:

292 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his view of recent decisions by the High Court in the case of persons (details supplied) both deaf who wished to serve on juries when summoned to do so; and his plans to end the discrimination against deaf persons willing to do jury service. [10596/11]

Section 64 of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2008 introduced an amendment to the First Schedule of the Juries Act 1976 which places the emphasis on a person's capacity to perform the duties of jury service and does not automatically exclude any person because of an infirmity. My Department is considering, in consultation with the Attorney General, the High Court judgment in the Clarke case.

In addition, as the Deputy may be aware, the Law Reform Commission is considering Jury Service as part of its Third Programme of Law Reform 2008 — 2014 . The Commission engaged in a public consultation last year and I look forward to the publication of their final report and recommendations which I understand is likely to be completed in the latter half of this year.

Question No. 293 answered with Question No. 279.

Legislative Programme

John McGuinness

Question:

294 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his view on the Spent Convictions Bill 2007; if he will introduce such legislation during this term; if there is any mechanism available now to have an old or dated conviction removed from the record and if so, if there are categories of offences excluded from such consideration. [10629/11]

I am pleased to be able to tell the Deputy that the Government's legislative programme for the current term provides for the publication of a new Spent Convictions Bill. The new Bill will build on the recommendations contained in the Report prepared by the Law Reform Commission. Unlike the 2007 Bill mentioned by the Deputy, it will elaborate the arrangements in a very comprehensive way, leaving no doubt about the conditions to be met before a conviction can be regarded as spent.

It is important to understand that neither the 2007 Bill nor the one I will bring forward provide for the removal of a conviction from the criminal record. Instead, the legislation will provide that in certain circumstances, the details need not be disclosed.

Currently, the only mechanism available for the non-disclosure of previous convictions is that provided in Section 258 of the Children Act 2001. That section provides for non-disclosure after a period of 3 years has elapsed in the case of certain convictions for offences committed before turning 18. Offences triable by the Central Criminal Court are excluded. In addition, the section can be availed of only if the person has not been dealt with for an offence in the previous three years.

No similar legislation exists at present in respect convictions acquired by adults. The proposals that I will be bringing forward will provide for the non-disclosure of past convictions of adults for certain offences where the sentence is within specified limits and after a qualifying conviction free period has elapsed. However, the Bill will provide for exceptions, such as job applications for certain sensitive employment posts. It is intended that the provisions will have full retrospective and prospective effect, in other words, it will apply to qualifying convictions acquired before the commencement of the legislation as well as those acquired following commencement.

Court Judgments

John McGuinness

Question:

295 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the action he will take to ensure that judgments in the Commercial Court ordering debts to be paid by persons or companies are enforced, particularly when the party owing the money remains in business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10630/11]

I have no function as Minister in the enforcement of court judgments. Enforcement of the judgments which are in question is the responsibility of the relevant County or City Sheriff who on receipt of an order of the court may seek to enforce it by way of the seizure of funds or assets of the debtor.

Garda Investigations

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

296 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the outcome of an internal investigation into the alleged non-execution of a bench warrant or community order issued at Castlebar District Court, County Mayo, in respect of a person (details supplied). [10635/11]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the investigation referred to by the Deputy is on-going.

Expenditure Reviews

Joe McHugh

Question:

297 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will identify all assessments, reviews or reports being carried out by him under the terms of the EU-IMF programme of financial support; if these assessments, reviews or reports are being carried out internally by him or independently; when he expects each assessment, review and report to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10661/11]

The commitments under the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland, in so far as they relate to my Department, are:

to introduce legislative changes to remove restrictions to trade and competition in the legal profession, establishing an independent regulator and implementing the recommendations of the Legal Costs Working Group and outstanding Competition Authority recommendations to reduce legal costs — the time-line for these actions is the end of quarter three, 2011;

to legislate for reform of the bankruptcy regime that will balance the interests of both creditors and debtors — the time-line for this action is the end of quarter one, 2012.

As indicated in the Legislation Programme announced by the Government on 5 April 2011, a Legal Services Bill to provide for regulation of the legal professions and legal costs and a Personal Insolvency Bill to provide a new framework for the settlement and enforcement of debt and for personal insolvency are in the course of being developed in my Department to meet the EU/IMF requirements.

Prisoner Releases

Thomas Pringle

Question:

298 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if it is a requirement when a person is released from prison that they receive a final certificate of release from the Prison Service. [10693/11]

I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that there is no formal certificate of imprisonment and consequently no requirement to issue such a document. However, a Prison Governor can provide a prisoner with a written record of his or her imprisonment if requested.

Human Trafficking

Ann Phelan

Question:

299 Deputy Ann Phelan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the report Globalisation, Sex Trafficking and Prostitution: The Experience of Migrant Women in Ireland (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10734/11]

The Deputy's question confuses two reports. The report "Globalisation, Sex Trafficking and Prostitution — The Experiences of Migrant Women in Ireland" commissioned by the Immigrant Council of Ireland is separate from the report referred to by the Deputy as having been produced by the voluntary and NGO Group ‘Turn off the Red Light' lodged with the Attorney General's Office.

The Anti-Human Trafficking Unit in my Department were asked by the previous Minister to examine the report "Globalisation, Sex Trafficking and Prostitution — The Experiences of Migrant Women in Ireland". The Report is wide ranging and its recommendations required extensive consultation. The examination which was conducted in conjunction with a number of other Government Departments and Agencies is at an advanced stage. Many of the Report's recommendations insofar as they relate to the trafficking of human beings for sexual exploitation have been addressed in the National Action Plan To Prevent and Combat Trafficking of Human Beings in Ireland 2009-2012 published in June 2009 and through the consultative structures such as the Round-table Forum and five interdisciplinary Working Groups described in the National Action Plan. I expect to receive a report in the coming months and I will consider what further actions, if any, are necessary.

The report lodged with the Attorney General's Office was a report prepared by officials of my Department following a visit to Sweden in September 2010 by them and members of the Dignity Project to examine Swedish legislative provisions in relation to prostitution, the so-called ‘Swedish model'. The Dignity Project was a two year, EU funded, research project into international best practice for services to victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking which concluded on 7 February 2011. In relation to this other report, I would refer the Deputy to my comprehensive reply of today to Questions Nos. 279, 289, 290, 291, and 293.

Asylum Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

300 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will clarify the residency status of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 2; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10739/11]

I refer the Deputy to my reply below to Parliamentary Question No. 212 of Tuesday, 22 March, 2011. The position is unchanged since then.

Arising from the refusal of his asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 13 January 2006, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him. He was subsequently notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006.

The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

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

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

Deportation Orders

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

301 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will clarify the residency status of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 2; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10740/11]

I refer the Deputy to my reply below to Parliamentary Question No. 164 of 14 October 2008, Parliamentary Question No. 264 on Tuesday 3 February 2009, Parliamentary Question No. 197 on Wednesday 1 July 2009, Parliamentary Question No. 277 on Tuesday 8 December 2009 and Parliamentary Question No. 134 on Thursday 25 November 2010. The status of the person concerned remains largely unchanged since then.

The person concerned applied for asylum on 9th January, 2002. His asylum application was considered by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, both of whom concluded that the person concerned did not meet the criteria for recognition as a refugee.

Arising from the refusal of his asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 10th June, 2003, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him. Representations were received on behalf of the person concerned at that time.

Following the consideration of his case, in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, the then Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform made a Deportation Order in respect of the person concerned on 8th August, 2004.

This Order was served by registered post dated 12th January, 2005 which placed a legal obligation on the person concerned to ‘present' at the Offices of the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2 in order to make travel arrangements for his removal from the State. The person concerned ‘presented' as required.

On 28th February, 2005, judicial review proceedings were lodged in the High Court on behalf of the person concerned, challenging the decision of the then Minister to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. The Judicial Review Leave application was refused on 29th November, 2006. The person concerned was advised by registered letter dated 9th January, 2007 that as the judicial review proceedings had been determined, it was intended to proceed with his removal from the State. He was required to ‘present' at the Offices of the GNIB on Monday 15th January, 2007 in order to make arrangements for his removal from the State. He ‘presented' as required and was given further presentation dates.

An application for Subsidiary Protection was made on behalf of the person concerned, by his legal representative, under cover of a letter dated 23rd March, 2009. While it appeared at that time, based on an earlier High Court Judgment, that a person subject to a Deportation Order could seek the exercise of Ministerial discretion, pursuant to Regulation 4 (2) of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006, to having a Subsidiary Protection application examined, in circumstances where new facts or circumstances had been advanced which demonstrated a change from the position which obtained at the time the Deportation Order was made, this position was overturned by a Supreme Court decision dated 9th July, 2010 which ruled that Minister did not have such a discretion. As a result, it is not open to the Minister to consider an application for Subsidiary Protection from a person who was the subject of a Deportation Order on the date the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 came into force on 10th October, 2006. Accordingly, the Subsidiary Protection application submitted by the person concerned cannot be considered.

The person concerned, through his legal representative, has submitted further representations which are being treated as an application for the revocation of the existing Deportation Order, as provided for under Section 3(11) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended). This application is under consideration at present. When a decision has been made on that application, the decision, and the consequences of the decision, will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

In the mean-time, the person concerned remains the subject of a Deportation Order and, as such, he is legally obliged to comply with any reporting requirements placed on him by the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

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

Departmental Correspondence

Finian McGrath

Question:

302 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Defence his views on correspondence regarding the Irish Red Cross (details supplied). [10536/11]

I have examined the correspondence in question and the previous correspondence that it also refers to. My position in relation to the issues raised in the parliamentary questions that are mentioned in the correspondence is as set out in my responses to each such question.

Defence Forces Reserve

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

303 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Defence the number of members per unit of the Reserve Defence Force paid a gratuity in 2010; the number of training field days held for the RDF in 2009 and 2010 and the number of RDF members who attended each field day; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10205/11]

A breakdown of the above information is being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as it becomes available.

Fire Services