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 31, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 32 to 44, inclusive, answered orally.

Waste Management

Sean Fleming

Question:

45 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has given consideration to the Hennessy report on the Poolbeg incinerator; his plans to publish the report; and his plans to commission other reports on the Poolbeg incinerator. [11534/11]

The former Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Mr. John Gormley, appointed Mr. John Hennessy, SC, as an authorised person under section 224 of the Local Government Act 2001 in February 2010, to examine various financial matters arising in relation to the Waste to Energy facility proposed by Dublin City Council, on behalf of the Dublin local authorities, for Poolbeg in Dublin.

Mr Hennessy's report was prepared last year and received in October 2010. When I became Minister in March 2011, I was fully briefed in relation to it and I have been considering it in consultation with the Attorney General. I am working to conclude my assessment of the report as soon as possible and in that context must also give careful consideration to issues in relation to publication of the report and matters regarding commercial confidentiality. When I have concluded my assessment of all of the matters involved, I will be bringing the report to Government for decision.

I have no plans to commission further reports on the Poolbeg project, the future of which remains a matter for the parties to the contract involved.

Industrial Sites

David Stanton

Question:

46 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the action he has taken, or will take, regarding the clean-up of Haulbowline, County Cork, following developments at the European Union Petitions Committee last month and the letter of formal notification which was issued to Ireland by the European Commission last year in respect of European Court of Justice case C-494/01; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11565/11]

From 2004 to 2009, my Department had an interim role in the management of the former Ispat site in a manner which is consistent with good practice and minimisation of risk to human health and the environment. In that context, my Department arranged for the decontamination and demolition of buildings on the site and, post-demolition, for the procurement of a contractor to carry out site surface clearance, back filling of voids and the disposal of surface wastes.

An Office of Public Works chaired working group has been developing proposals for a structured and coherent approach to the further management of the former Ispat site. The working group's terms of reference include examining the regulatory requirements for the site and advising the Government on the site's most beneficial future use. Plans for future use will determine the levels and extent of further works and/or remediation required, as well as helping to clarify further regulatory requirements, national and European, which may fall to be met.

I understand that the working group is currently finalising its report, which will provide a further key input to the process of charting a definitive and transparent way forward in relation to the site, and assist in addressing concerns of the local community. I look forward to considering the report's conclusions with my Government colleagues at an early date.

Fire Services

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

47 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to ensure that his Department plays a role in implementing the recommendations of the Working Group on Land and Forest Fires; and the measures that his Department will implement. [11527/11]

The provision of a fire service in its functional area and the assessment of fire cover needs having regard to the nature of the fire hazards and the probable incidence and extent of fires in its area is a statutory function of individual fire authorities under the provisions of the Fire Services Act 1981. My Department's main role in this area is to ensure that fire authorities are equipped and geared to respond effectively to manage the effects of land and forest fires. The Department supports fire authorities through setting of general policy, the provision of capital funding, training support and issue of guidance on operational and other related matters.

The Working Group on Land and Forest fires established by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food reported earlier in 2011 and made 10 recommendations in relation to gorse and forest fires.

My Department will arrange the collation of data on land and forest fires in association with the relevant fire service mobilisation contracting authorities. The majority of instances of uncontrolled burning occur within specific geographical locations, and it was recommended by the Working Group that maps of land based fire ‘hot spots' should be compiled in order to help specifically target the advertising and educational campaigns at these areas.

In addition to this recommendation of the Working Group, my Department is seeking reports from the fire authorities who had significant wildland fires recently, with a view to identifying lessons and possibly issuing further guidance in this area to add to the current Standard Operational Guidelines for Fires in Rural Areas, which deals with wildland fire-fighting issues.

Homeless Persons

Sandra McLellan

Question:

48 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on the Towards 2016 aim of ensuring that no person is in emergency accommodation for longer than an emergency; if he aims to achieve this within its lifetime; and the measures being taken to ensure this happens. [11517/11]

The situation of homeless persons in emergency accommodation for protracted periods is a matter of particular concern to me and in this regard the commitment in the Programme for Government to review and update the existing homeless strategy is timely as Departments and agencies, together with community and voluntary service providers, are midway through the implementation of The Way Home — A Strategy to Address Adult Homelessness 2008-2013.

From my initial discussions with the sector, the appropriate strategies are largely under way, including measures to end involuntary rough sleeping and to improve delivery of mainstream housing to enable those residing in emergency homeless accommodation to move on to independent living.

However, key targets intended to be met by end 2010 have not been achieved and the current strategy review will take account of demands on existing housing, will assess how to best provide additional services and will ensure more effective prevention strategies. The Government will work with the sector to aggressively target the root causes of homelessness.

As part of the updated strategy, a ‘housing first' approach to accommodating homeless people will be introduced. In this way we will be able to offer homeless people suitable, long term housing in the first instance and radically reduce the use of hostel accommodation and the associated costs for the Exchequer.

Following consultation within the sector, and in parallel with the Government's expenditure review, I intend to complete the homeless strategy review and introduce an updated strategy this autumn, including clear performance targets and associated timelines.

Question No. 49 answered with Question No. 41.

Social and Affordable Housing

Catherine Murphy

Question:

50 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of affordable mortgage applications approved in 2010 by county; the average amount of the loan granted; if it is intended to modify this scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11499/11]

The majority of households purchasing affordable housing obtain loan finance from private financial institutions. Prospective purchasers under these schemes, or under the tenant purchase scheme, who have been unable to access credit elsewhere, can apply to the relevant local authority for a standard annuity loan.

While my Department has collected information on the number of these loans drawn down by local authority area each year since 1994, data in respect of 2010 are not yet available. My Department does not collect information on the amounts drawn down.

All local authority mortgage lending operates under the Housing (Local Authority Loans) Regulations 2009 and associated credit policy. These set out a maximum loan limit of €220,000 and a maximum term of 30 years.

I believe that the current regime is a fair scheme that adequately meets the needs of prospective borrowers, while also protecting the financial position of local authorities by adhering to prudent lending practices.

Gerry Adams

Question:

51 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will consider a review of the current income thresholds in respect of applicants for social housing. [11516/11]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

67 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he is satisfied with the current criteria set down for social housing applications. [11505/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 51 and 67 together.

The Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2009, provides for a new process of housing needs assessment for applicants for social housing support and empowers the Minister to make regulations setting out the criteria for determining the eligibility for such support. These criteria include, but are not limited to, income levels and the availability of alternative accommodation. In addition, to be eligible for social housing support a person must have a long-term right to reside in the State, a matter within the responsibility of the Minister for Justice and Equality.

On 1 April this year, the Social Housing Assessment Regulations, 2011, containing national eligibility criteria, including maximum income limits, came into effect. These mandatory criteria must be applied by all housing authorities in assessing a household's eligibility for social housing support. Moving to a more standardised and objective set of eligibility criteria is designed to bring greater consistency, equity and transparency to the assessment process.

The Social Housing Assessment (Amendment) Regulations, made on 29 March 2011, amended the original regulations and provided for a general increase of €5,000 in the income bands. These income bands refer to the net income of households, that is net of income tax, PRSI and the Universal Social Charge. The new increased maximum limits are €35,000, €30,000 and €25,000 for a single-person household, depending on the local authority area concerned. The new income limits will increase the number of households eligible for social housing support.

Local Authority Housing

Gerry Adams

Question:

52 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views regarding the suggestion that property in the control of the National Asset Management Agency be used in part to house those who remain on the waiting lists of local authorities or in housing unfit for habitation. [11515/11]

Two of the key challenges for the housing sector at present are the oversupply of housing in certain areas, including in respect of unfinished estates, and the need sustainably to meet the increasing demand for social housing in the context of a severely restricted resource environment. There are clear linkages between the roles of my Department and the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) in addressing these challenges and there is significant potential to align the objectives of the two organisations.

My Department has been engaging with representatives of NAMA, and since coming into office I have also met with the Chairman and the CEO of NAMA to discuss options for securing a social dividend through the acquisition of suitable residential units for social housing purposes, while providing a return in line with NAMA's mandate. I will be progressing this agenda as a matter of urgency.

Question No. 53 answered with Question No. 39.

Rural Development

Tom Barry

Question:

54 Deputy Tom Barry asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will address restrictions under the rural development programme which preclude hub towns from accessing certain funding streams because of their status under the national development plan. [11379/11]

For the purposes of implementing Axes 3 & 4 of the Rural Development Programme (RDP), the following areas are excluded:

The City Council boundaries of Dublin, Cork, Galway, Waterford and Limerick

The Borough Council boundaries of Kilkenny, Sligo and Wexford

The Town Council boundaries of Athlone, Ballina, Castlebar, Cavan, Dundalk, Ennis, Killarney, Letterkenny, Mallow, Monaghan, Mullingar, Tralee, Tuam and Tullamore.

During negotiations in respect of the Rural Development Programme, the European Commission indicated that the OECD definition of rural areas should be used to define the rural areas that would be covered by the Programme. The OECD defines rural areas as those with a population density of less than 150 persons per square kilometre. It was considered, in the Irish context, that a more appropriate course of action would be to remove the urban areas defined as hubs and gateways in the National Spatial Strategy from coverage under the Programme.

The use of this definition, rather than a population density calculation, ensures that Axes 3 & 4 Rural Development Programme funding is available to a more significant number of rural areas, which would otherwise not receive funding under the Programme.

This approach was adopted following detailed negotiations with the European Commission and is the best possible outcome in relation to Programme coverage.

The positive impact on rural areas will far outweigh any potential loss in hubs and gateways and, in overall terms, the level of investment resulting from the Rural Development Programme is a significant boost to the country as a whole.

Illegal Dumping

Seán Crowe

Question:

55 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to increase fines for illegal dumping. [11510/11]

Enforcement actions against illegal waste activity are a matter for the local authorities and the Office of Environmental Enforcement (OEE) within the Environmental Protection Agency. My role as Minister is to ensure that the necessary legislative provisions are in place to enable the relevant authorities to discharge their enforcement functions effectively and that appropriate penalties are available to be applied where transgressions arise.

The 2005 report of the OEE, The Nature and Extent of Unauthorised Waste Activity in Ireland, identified the unauthorised collection and dumping of waste as a problem area which needed to be further tackled. The report drew attention to the measures already being taken, including the appointment of some one hundred and twenty additional enforcement officers funded by my Department across the local authorities.

In 2008, there were 8,151 waste enforcement notices issued and 695 prosecutions initiated. Overall, this represents a very significant quantum of enforcement, consistent with the findings of the OEE's report Focus on Environmental Enforcement in Ireland, covering the period 2006 to 2008, which indicates that the handling of waste-related complaints has significantly improved.

In general, I am satisfied with the adequacy and appropriateness of the available enforcement powers and the maximum penalties of a fine of up to €15 million and/or imprisonment for up to 10 years for waste-related offences. While I have no immediate plans for legislative change in these matters I am keeping the performance in this area under regular review. In that context, I will also be considering any relevant recommendations that may be made in the report of the EPA Review Group which I expect to receive shortly.

Proposed Legislation

Martin Ferris

Question:

56 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the date on which he will publish climate change legislation. [11508/11]

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to publish climate legislation to give certainty and clarity in relation to the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to be achieved in line with EU targets. In progressing this commitment, I intend to follow a transparent process which will provide an avenue for engagement by all the relevant stakeholders.

My priority in the climate area is, in the first instance, to undertake a review of Ireland's climate-related policies and measures in light of existing and anticipated national greenhouse gas mitigation targets. This process, which I have requested my Department to complete by end-June, will underpin the development of future climate policy. My Department will then build on that process by, inter alia, exploring more fully the form and content of legislation that it would be appropriate to put in place to support the overall national effort in the climate area. In that context, I will be taking account of the work undertaken by the previous Government, which culminated in the publication of the Climate Change Response Bill 2010, although I do not agree with the contents of the Bill. Given the support of Parties on all sides of the House for climate legislation, it would be useful if we were to be able to move forward on an all-Party basis. Accordingly, once the new Committee arrangements are in place, I will be writing to the Chair of the relevant Committee in this regard.

At this point, taking account of the importance of advancing this issue in an inclusive way, providing a more robust basis for galvanising a broad measure of support, I expect to be in a position to publish a consultation paper on climate legislation early next year, with the heads of a climate Bill following during the year, and a final Bill being published as quickly as possible thereafter.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

57 Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if approval will issue in the near future for the Strandhill sewerage scheme, County Sligo. [11591/11]

The Grange/Strandhill/Tubbercurry Sewerage Scheme (Wastewater Treatment Plants Upgrade contract) is included in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012 as a contract to start during the lifetime of the Programme.

Under this scheme it is envisaged that wastewater treatment plants will be constructed at these three locations under a single Design/Build/Operate contract. Funding for this contract has been approved in principle, subject to the submission by Sligo County Council of some additional information. This information, which was received in my Department in April, is under examination at present and a decision will be made in the near future.

Social and Affordable Housing

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

58 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of social housing units built each year from 2005 onwards. [11522/11]

The detailed data requested in respect of social housing output from 2005 can be viewed on my Department's website, www.environ.ie. Data in respect of 2010 output have not yet been finalised. Between 2005 and 2009, 21,430 social housing units have been completed and 5,587 units have been acquired.

Question No. 59 answered with Question No. 39.

Nuclear Plants

Seán Crowe

Question:

60 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to increase his level of proactive engagement with the British Government to lobby for the closure of Sellafield. [11509/11]

The Government continues to bring pressure to bear on the UK authorities through a number of channels to decommission and close the existing Sellafield reprocessing plant on the basis that it poses an unacceptable risk. In addition to the reprocessing activities conducted there, Sellafield is the location of a large inventory of radioactive waste which will require active management by the UK authorities for many years into the future. From Ireland's perspective, it is important that this waste inventory be managed as safely as possible and that any hazard or risk it poses be reduced as a matter of priority.

I recently took the opportunity to raise Irish concerns in relation to Sellafield with the UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne, when I met him on 26 March. While I acknowledged the ongoing constructive dialogue between the Irish and UK authorities on nuclear safety issues, I re-iterated the concerns of the Irish Government in relation to Sellafield. Against the background of the accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, I emphasised the importance of the Ireland-UK Bilateral Notification Agreement for the early notification of nuclear accidents or incidents. I also expressed the view that Sellafield should be covered by the "stress testing" arrangements being developed for nuclear plants in the European Union in response to the Fukushima accident.

Secretary of State Huhne acknowledged the Irish Government's concerns and indicated his Government's continued support for the ongoing constructive engagement between Ireland and the UK on nuclear-related matters. He also confirmed that the UK will be participating in the development of the proposed ‘stress test' to ensure that the robustness of the safety arrangements at nuclear facilities, including Sellafield, are challenged and improved where necessary in light of events in Japan.

The European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG), on which Ireland is represented, met on 12 May 2011 to discuss the criteria for these "stress tests". Ireland expects the "stress tests" to be designed and applied such that they will contribute to real improvements in nuclear safety at all nuclear installations in Europe.

As well as my direct engagement with the UK Secretary of State there is a proactive ongoing engagement at official and regulator level with the relevant UK authorities on matters of nuclear safety and radiological protection, including the ongoing decommissioning programme at Sellafield.

Litter Pollution

David Stanton

Question:

61 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 53 of 25 November 2010 the progress, if any, he has made regarding support for adopt a road initiatives across the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11564/11]

Under the Litter Pollution Acts 1997 to 2009 the primary management and enforcement response to littering must come from local authorities. The role of my Department is to provide the legislative framework within which to combat litter pollution and to motivate and energise anti-litter responses as necessary.

Under the Anti-Litter Awareness Grant Scheme, which is administered by my Department, local authorities may apply for grant funding for suitable projects such as adopt-a-road. During 2010, six local authorities availed of funding under the Scheme to support small scale schemes of this kind. Typically these schemes involve local community groups agreeing to adopt a short stretch of road and clean it at regular intervals throughout the year with the local authorities' assistance and supervision. Schemes may also be sponsored by local businesses in return for signage detailing their involvement.

I have encouraged co-operation between businesses, the public, community groups and local authorities through the Civic Responsibility Week currently under way. My Department is now working on proposals to encourage the expansion of such schemes through engagement with local authorities and local communities. I will be giving urgent consideration to these proposals, when finalised, with a view to making early further progress in this area.

Question No. 62 answered with Question No. 44.

Commercial Rates

Michael Moynihan

Question:

63 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will consider issuing a directive to local authorities requesting them to reduce their commercial rates. [11535/11]

Local authorities are under a statutory obligation to levy rates on any property used for commercial purposes in accordance with the details entered in the valuation lists prepared by the independent Commissioner of Valuation under the Valuation Act 2001. The levying and collection of rates are matters for each individual local authority. The Annual Rate on Valuation (ARV), which is applied to the valuation of each property to obtain the amount payable in rates, is decided by the elected members of each local authority in the annual budget and its determination is a reserved function of a local authority.

I am acutely aware of the pressures on small and medium sized businesses at the present time. My Department, this year and in recent years, has requested local authorities to exercise restraint in setting commercial rates to support competitiveness in the economy and to protect the interests of communities. Local authorities have responded positively to these requests. Across the 88 local authorities, annual rates on valuation declined by an average of 0.64% from 2010 to 2011.

I will continue to keep the approach to rates by local authorities under active review, and am determined that every avenue will be pursued to optimise efficiency and certain costs in the local government sector.

Waste Policy

Pearse Doherty

Question:

64 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the date on which he will publish his new waste policy; if this policy will be free from incineration and thermal treatment projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11511/11]

The Programme for Government commits to the development of a coherent national waste policy, adhering to the waste hierarchy, which will aim to minimise waste disposal in landfill and maximise recovery. I am prioritising this commitment, as I am anxious to provide early regulatory certainty, in the form of both policy and legislation, to ensure that the necessary actions and investments are progressed to achieve those aims.

During the Dáil Second Stage debate on the Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill on 14 April, I outlined the guiding principles which will inform the waste policy development process. These principles will serve to ensure that future waste policy will—

be designed to minimise the volumes of waste generated and to extract the maximum value from those wastes which do arise;

be founded on a firm, evidence-based understanding of the many scientific, economic and social issues which are inherent elements of the waste policy discourse; and

be designed to facilitate necessary investment in infrastructure, within an appropriately regulated waste market framework.

I look forward to engaging with parliamentary colleagues and the range of interests in the waste sector in the development of this policy framework. It is my intention to complete policy development by the end of this year.

Social and Affordable Housing

Dessie Ellis

Question:

65 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in view of the death of a person (details supplied) who was left isolated in a detenanted flat block for over three years, the measures being taken to ensure that vulnerable persons are rehoused as soon as possible in situations like Ballymun, Dublin, where regeneration has slowed in progress and many blocks are left with very few tenants for extended periods of time. [11526/11]

Ballymun is by far the largest regeneration project ever undertaken in this country with a capital investment to date of over €700 million. This ambitious project has an expected completion date of 2014.

Since construction started in 2000, the project has delivered 1,620 social housing units, 105 voluntary housing units and 1,228 private and affordable units. A further 200 units are under construction at present. Six of the seven landmark towers have been demolished and close to half of the original 2,800 flats are either already demolished or under contract to be demolished.

My Department remains fully committed to supporting the completion of the regeneration programme at Ballymun in accordance with the plans and within the timeframe set out. This year, some €53 million has been set aside to support the delivery of projects as set out in the work programme submitted by the Ballymun regeneration office. Of this, €21 million of this will go towards new housing construction, €17 million for demolition and infrastructure provision, €5.5 million for social inclusion measures and €3 million to continuing the detenanting of blocks scheduled for demolition.

By any yardstick, these figures clearly show that there has been no throttling back on the Ballymun project.

I was saddened to learn of the tragic incident which occurred last January and I extend my sympathy to the family and friends of Rachel Peavoy. The circumstances surrounding this tragedy were recently considered in the Coroner's Court. I have noted the outcome of the Coroner's inquest and, in particular, that consideration should be given by Dublin City Council to reviewing the de-tenanting process for the remaining flat complexes. My Department has been in contact with the Council and the regeneration office with a view to assisting with the acceleration of the de-tenanting arrangements for occupied blocks. I will be happy to support any proposal from Dublin City Council in this regard.

Unfinished Housing Developments

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

66 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the amount of money drawn down by local authorities from the central funding provision to deal with immediate safety issues in unfinished housing developments. [11504/11]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

70 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the €5 million earmarked for making safe ghost estates has been allocated to local authorities; the housing estates, by county, that have been nominated; the allocations if any that have been made by county; if he intends to extend the €5 million allocation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11500/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 66 and 70 together.

The high-level Expert Group on Unfinished Housing Developments, established in October 2010 following the publication of my Department's National Housing Development Survey database, has identified practical and policy solutions to address the difficulties associated with unfinished housing developments. On foot of the interim analysis and findings of the Advisory Group my Department made available initial funding of €5 million to local authorities to deal with immediate safety issues and works to improve the living conditions for existing residents.

My Department has now put in place the necessary arrangements for local authorities to make applications for funding for the most urgent and serious cases. The first applications have been received and are being assessed. I anticipate that approved budgets in respect of these will issue shortly. No payments have been made to date.

Question No. 67 answered with Question No. 51.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Micheál Martin

Question:

68 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to play any role in international consideration of the climate change issue. [7691/11]

Ireland, through its membership of the European Union, is proactively supporting ongoing efforts under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to reach agreement on a comprehensive, global response to the threat of climate change.

While welcome progress was made at 16th Conference of the Parties to the Convention in December 2010, Parties must intensify their efforts towards reaching an agreement if a gap in the international response to climate change is to be avoided when the Kyoto Protocol expires at the end of 2012. Continued EU leadership, underpinned by the support of Member States, will be an important factor in intensifying the global effort and influencing further progress.

The EU position on the international climate agenda is most recently set out in the conclusions adopted by the Council of Environment Ministers on 14 March 2011. In view of the fact that the international negotiations are ongoing, including a round at official level which will take place in June 2011, I expect the EU position to be updated in the run up to the 17 Conference of the Parties to the Convention later this year. As well as contributing to further development of EU policy on the negotiations, as I have already done at the 14 March Environment Council and at an Informal Council held by the Hungarian EU Presidency later in March, it is my intention to attend and support EU efforts at this year's Conference of the Parties.

Fire Services

Brian Stanley

Question:

69 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will conduct an investigation into the provision of fire services in Counties Laois and Offaly to ascertain if the services currently provided are adequate. [11501/11]

The provision of fire services in local authority areas, including the establishment and maintenance of fire brigades, the assessment of fire cover needs and the provision of premises is a statutory function of the individual fire authorities under the provisions of the Fire Services Act 1981.

Section 26 of the 1981 Act requires each fire authority to prepare, and as occasion requires revise, plans for fire and emergency operations which, inter alia, set out the arrangements for the provision of fire services in the authority’s functional area. The making and revision of a plan is a reserved function of the local authority. Laois and Offaly County Councils have adopted plans in place.

My Department supports the local fire authorities through setting of general policy, training support and issue of guidance on operational and other related matters, and the provision of capital funding.

In recent years, international trends in managing emergency service provision have moved towards the use of Integrated Risk Management or a Risk-Based Approach (RBA). My Department's National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management is currently funding the development and use of a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software utility that will assist in moving towards such a risk based approach to fire cover.

The new approach favours the adoption of a formal risk appraisal process to enable fire authorities to determine priorities and manage available resources. Historical fire incident data, and demographic and other relevant data linked with information based on historical fire service responses and census data give an accurate ‘picture in time' of current activities and fire risk patterns and trends. This map-based information in turn is intended to be used as a management tool for analysis and strategic decision-making with a view to identifying the most vulnerable sectors of communities, and mitigating fire risk through community fire safety initiatives such as putting smoke alarms in the homes of the elderly, as well as planning fire service response.

The intention is that individual fire authority Section 26 plans, including those for Laois and Offaly, will be revised using the information produced under the risk based approach analysis, and that the information will assist and guide fire service management decisions on the deployment of available resources in the years ahead. The recommended risk based approach was developed following a procurement process, and piloted in a number of counties, and is now being applied on a progressive basis across all counties over the course of 2011.

I have no plans to conduct an investigation into the provision of fire services in Counties Laois and Offaly.

Question No. 70 answered with Question No. 66.

Water Services

Sean Fleming

Question:

71 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has received the detailed submission on the roll out of water metering; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11533/11]

The Programme for Government provides for the introduction of a fair funding model to deliver clean and reliable water. The objective is to install water meters in all households and move to a charging system based on usage above a free allowance. My Department is currently preparing a strategy to implement these proposals, including the funding of the metering programme, and I will be making further details available following Government consideration of the proposals.

Social and Affordable Housing

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

72 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of persons and families that will be deemed ineligible for social housing under the new Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act that were previously deemed eligible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11590/11]

I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 279 and 280 of 5 April 2011 which sets out the position in this matter.

Departmental Reports

Niall Collins

Question:

73 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on the Brosnan report; and the current status of this report. [11529/11]

I am very much aware of the urgent need to strengthen local government in Limerick. I am carefully considering the report of the Limerick Local Government Committee, published in September 2010, which contains recommendations in that regard and I intend to bring proposals to Government as soon as possible.

Economic Development

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

74 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans whereby local authorities can make a major contribution to economic recovery; if consideration will be given to the identification of specific measures that could positively affect the current economic situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11594/11]

Local authorities play a central role in supporting economic development and enterprise at local level. They do this in a number of ways including through their capital and current budgets, economic planning and development and the provision of goods and services as well as community infrastructure.

A number of initiatives have been taken by local authorities to promote and support enterprise and economic development. These include reducing commercial rates, supporting work placement schemes, and establishing business support units or equivalent arrangements in each county and city council. In addition, local authorities are working closely with the relevant agencies at local level, including through their leadership of the multi-agency County/City Development Boards, in relation to economic development and the promotion of enterprise in their areas.

Looking ahead, the Programme for Government provides for an expanded role for local authorities in local enterprise and community development. This in turn will maximise the impact of investment to produce jobs at local level. In addition, I will be asking local authorities to do all that they can to reduce rates and other charges which affect businesses. Furthermore, I will be considering how best local authorities can play their part in supporting relevant elements of the Government's Jobs Initiative.

Legislative Programme

Michael Moynihan

Question:

75 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he is committed to commencing the Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010. [11536/11]

The Dog Breeding Establishments Bill 2009 passed all Stages in the Seanad on 14 July, 2010 and was signed by the President on 21 July, 2010. I understand that the Act was not commenced, under the last Government, primarily in order to allow sufficient time for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to progress the Greyhound Welfare Bill 2010, providing separately for the regulation of greyhounds. This Bill was introduced in the Seanad in January 2011 and remains on the Seanad Order paper.

My Department is consulting with colleagues in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in relation to the synchronization of the two pieces of legislation and I am keeping the issue of commencement of the Act under review pending the outcome of those discussions.

Election Management System

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

76 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the date on which the task force established to deal with the matter of the sale of voting machine units will conclude its work; and where funds generated from their eventual sale will be directed. [11513/11]

In addressing the legacy of the electronic voting project, my priority is to see that the equipment is disposed of as soon as possible.

I have asked the Task Force that was established to oversee the cessation of the project to consider proposals for the disposal of the equipment, with a view towards immediately progressing arrangements. The Task Force met on 12 April 2011, and the necessary preliminary and background work to enable the disposal of the equipment to proceed is currently under way. This is to be completed as soon as possible.

While proposals have not at this stage been invited in respect of the equipment, some expressions of interest have previously been received. These were considered by the Task Force in the context of putting arrangements for disposal in place.

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

In this context, any funds that may be recovered following the disposal of the equipment will fall to be returned directly to the Exchequer.

Local Authority Housing Loans

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

77 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of house purchase loans offered by each of the local authorities in each of the past three years to date in 2011; the degree to which he proposes to ensure that a greater role in the provision of housing for first time purchases or housing applicants is undertaken by local authorities with particular reference to playing a major role in the housing sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11593/11]

House purchase loan approvals for each local authority area in 2009 are set out in the following table. Data for 2010 are being compiled at present. Data for 2011 are not yet available.

Local Authority

Total Loans Approved

County Councils

Carlow

8

Cavan

5

Clare

10

Cork

32

Donegal

30

DL/Rathdown

5

Fingal

36

Galway

4

Kerry

5

Kildare

1

Kilkenny

17

Laois

66

Leitrim

3

Limerick

3

Longford

8

Louth

0

Mayo

43

Meath

21

Monaghan

0

North Tipperary

5

Offaly

0

Roscommon

3

Sligo

4

South Dublin

240

South Tipperary

3

Waterford

9

Westmeath

5

Wexford

9

Wicklow

6

City Councils

Cork

24

Dublin

158

Galway

0

Limerick

9

Waterford

14

Borough Councils

Clonmel

0

Drogheda

3

Kilkenny

0

Sligo

3

Wexford

0

Town Councils

Athlone

0

Bray

0

Dundalk

3

Total

795

All local authority mortgage lending operates under the Housing (Local Authority Loans) Regulations 2009 and associated credit policy. These set out a maximum loan limit of €220,000 and a maximum term of 30 years.

I believe that the current regime is appropriately targeted and facilitates rather than incentivises house purchase by eligible, credit worthy first time buyers. The existing criteria are fair and adequately meet the needs of prospective borrowers, while also protecting the financial position of local authorities by adhering to prudent lending practices.

Constitutional Reform

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

78 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach his plans for bringing the constitutional convention to the people with nationwide meetings. [11664/11]

The Programme for Government commits the Government to establishing a Constitutional Convention to consider comprehensive constitutional reform and to report within twelve months of its establishment.

Work has commenced on the preparation of detailed proposals for the establishment of the Convention, and when ready these will be considered by Government. They will address matters such as the structure, composition, terms of reference, working methods and costs of the Convention, as well as the basis on which it will be established.

Census of Population

Michael McGrath

Question:

79 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Taoiseach the number of census forms that remain unreturned by householders or unavailable for collection by enumerators as part of Census 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11272/11]

The Census 2011 field operation concluded on Sunday 8 May. During the following week ending 15 May, enumerators summarised the results of their enumeration work and submitted these summaries to the CSO. These summaries will provide the necessary information for incorporation into the preliminary results which are due for publication before the end of June.

This preliminary Report will provide a count of the enumerated population and the number of vacant dwellings as well as a reconciliation between the number of forms delivered and collected.

Departmental Agencies

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

80 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Taoiseach the number of State agencies or organisations under his remit which are paid up members of the Irish Business and Employers Confederation; the name of each agency or organisation; the amount each State agency or organisation paid to the Irish Business and Employers Confederation for the years 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11328/11]

None of the State agencies or organisations under the remit of my Department are members of the Irish Business and Employers Confederation.

Departmental Expenditure

John McGuinness

Question:

81 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Taoiseach if he will confirm the number of credit cards issued by him and to whom; the criteria for issuing such cards; the credit card company used; if a competitive process was used to select the company; if the facility has had to be withdrawn from any person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11561/11]

The total number of official credit cards currently held by my Department is eight. The cards are held by the following officials:

Head of Information Technology Unit

Government Press Secretary

Head of Library Services/Archives

Private Secretary to the Taoiseach

Private Secretary to Government Chief Whip

Assistant Secretary, European and International Affairs

Head of Management Services Unit

Finance Officer

Departmental credit cards are used for official purposes only. They are allocated to officials where the facility will be of practical use in meeting the requirements of official business, for example, to facilitate meeting of travel expenses and official entertainment while away from the office, the procurement of goods and services such as on-line conferences bookings, air travel, purchase of IT equipment and library supplies.

The use of official credit cards is closely monitored by the Department's Finance Unit. Expenditure must generally be supported by receipts submitted by card holders each month as part of the approval process for the associated expenditure. The allocation and use of official credit cards are reviewed on an ongoing basis, with a view to minimising the number of cards allocated, and credit limits are assigned in line with requirements for official use on a case by case basis.

In 2005 following a competitive process Bank of Ireland was engaged to provide the credit card facility for my Department. To date the facility has not been withdrawn from any Departmental official.

Official Engagements

Seán Kenny

Question:

82 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Taoiseach if he will provide details of his recent visit to the USA; the number of officials who accompanied him on the trip; the number of persons he met while in the USA and the cost of the trip to date. [11735/11]

I travelled to New York on 4-6 May last.

During my visit I attended a number of events and gave a range of media interviews during which I stressed the progress we are making in Ireland in our economic recovery.

I met with a large number of groups and individuals from the worlds of politics, business and culture.

My delegation comprised a senior official from my Department, my special adviser, the Government Press Secretary, my private secretary, my personal assistant and a security officer.

The estimated costs of the visit are as follows:

2011

Sub-total

Total

Hotel

€1,766

Car Hire

€2,242

Miscellaneous

€315

€4,323

No other costs are currently available.

Passport Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

83 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if all requirements in respect of documentation have been submitted to facilitate and satisfy immigration requirements in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin who has been granted naturalisation and is waiting issue of a passport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11258/11]

The Passports Act, 2008 requires that before issuing a passport to a person, the Minister for Foreign Affairs shall be satisfied as to the identity of each applicant and that the person is an Irish citizen. Documentary proof in respect of identity and entitlement to citizenship are required for all passport applications. These requirements are outlined in the passport application form notes that accompany each application form. Details are also available on the Department's website. Birth certificates are among the standard documents that are required for all applications that involve children and persons, aged 18 and over the age, who are first–time applicants. These certificates are critical to the passport process in the following ways:

1. Each certificate confirms and verifies the applicant's personal details such as his/her date and place of birth which appear on that person's passport.

2. They help to demonstrate the person's entitlement to Irish citizenship which is a pre-requisite for passport issue; and

3. Details of parents are stated on these certificates. This is important to the Passport Service in ensuring that the full parental consent to the issue of a passport to a minor is provided.

In the case of the person in question, an application for a passport was received by my Department on 18 March, 2011. The application was made through the Passport Express service which is a ten working day service for properly completed applications. The application was supported by the applicant's certificate of naturalisation, which demonstrated his entitlement to Irish citizenship, by an affidavit in regard to his birth details and proofs of the use of his name and address. In line with passport policy, the Department wrote to him on 31 March, 2011 requesting him to provide his birth certificate and to provide additional ID such as his Angolan passport.

On 6 April, 2011 the applicant spoke to an official in the Department to advise that he had been a refugee from Angola and that he did not have a passport from that country.

On 8 April, 2011 the applicant provided in support of his passport application, a letter from the Department of Justice and Law Reform, which confirmed his status as refugee in this country, additional ID in the form of his Irish driver's licence and a further copy of his affidavit of birth.

On 26 April, 2011 the Department spoke to the applicant to inform him that his passport application could not be finalised until details of his birth affidavit could be verified. To this end, enquiries have been made in regard to the status and completeness of civil records of births in Angola with the assistance of the Irish Embassy in Maputo which is accredited to that country. These enquiries are ongoing. As soon as this information is received by the Passport Service, the application in question will be finalised. The applicant will be advised of this accordingly.

Departmental Agencies

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

84 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of State agencies or organisations under his remit which are paid up members of the Irish Business and Employers Confederation; the name of each agency or organisation; the amount each State agency or organisation paid to the Irish Business and Employers Confederation for the years 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11324/11]

There are no State agencies or organisations under the aegis of my Department.

Pension Provisions

Tom Hayes

Question:

85 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding superannuation in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11375/11]

The Question relates to superannuation arrangements for a person who volunteered overseas with an Irish non-governmental organisation (NGO) for two periods in the 1980s. The person involved has discussed the situation with officials in my Department who contacted the NGO on her behalf to clarify the position. The organisation concerned has informed my Department that it has no records to indicate that there was an agreement to make superannuation payments in this case.

My officials remain ready to assist the person concerned should any additional documentation become available.

Overseas Development Aid

Pat Breen

Question:

86 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs following the expulsion of Britain’s High Commissioner from Malawi after a leaked email in which he criticised the President of Malawi; if he will confirm that Ireland’s aid commitment to Malawi will not be adversely affected by this diplomatic incident; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11409/11]

The Government of Malawi expelled the British High Commissioner to Malawi on 26 April 2011, following the alleged leaking of a diplomatic report. We have condemned this decision along with our EU partners, as have Churches and Non-Governmental Organisations in Malawi.

Malawi has been a priority country for Ireland's aid programme since 2006, with a commitment to long-term strategic assistance. It is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranked 153 out of 169 countries on the 2010 UN Human Development Index. Malawi has suffered two major famines in the last decade and over 54% of the population live below the national poverty line. Over 40% of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition and 12% of the adult population are living with HIV and AIDS.

The current Irish Aid five-year programme of assistance to Malawi, which commenced in 2010, is clearly focused on increasing the supply of food, improving nutrition, strengthening agricultural research and smallholder farming and helping to build democracy. The priorities reflect our commitment, across the aid programme, to playing a leading role internationally in the fight against global hunger and malnutrition. The Irish Aid programme is implemented in co-operation with communities in Malawi, with Irish, international and local NGOs, and with Government institutions.

We have clear differences of view with the Government of Malawi and are following developments closely through our Embassy in Lilongwe. Along with our EU partners, we have told the Government frankly that they need to demonstrate respect for human rights and for the principles of democratic government, and that we are closely reviewing developments in this regard.

It is important to emphasise that Ireland's aid programme is concentrated on the needs of the people of Malawi, and especially the poorest and most vulnerable communities. I want to ensure that it will continue to have an impact in reducing the risk of famine, building agricultural production, helping those living with HIV and AIDS and providing children with the opportunity of receiving a decent education. It is also important that we use our influence so that these children have the opportunity to build their lives in a truly democratic society.

EU Budget Review

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

87 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the approach that he will take to the negotiations which commence this summer on the new EU multi-annual financial framework which will run from 2013; the proposals he will make to ensure that the eradication of poverty features as the primary goal with associated effective measures to achieve it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11417/11]

The EU Budget is established within a Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF). The current MFF covers the period 2007 to 2013 and this was agreed between Member States in 2005. The negotiations of the next EU MFF for the period 2014 onwards are due to begin in the second half of 2011, following the publication of European Commission proposals at the end of June. These negotiations will decide on the maximum level of EU budget expenditure, the policy areas for expenditure and how this expenditure will be funded. The negotiations can be expected to be challenging and lengthy, running at least until mid-2012 and possibly beyond.

Ireland's overall approach to these extremely important forthcoming EU negotiations is that there should be a gradual evolution of the EU Budget expenditure rather than radical changes. This position was elaborated upon in Ireland's submission to the European Commission's public consultation process on the Review of the EU Budget which was published in October 2010.

The European Commission's Budget Review communication highlighted the desirability of aligning the MFF with the objectives of the ten year Europe 2020 Strategy for jobs and growth, agreed by EU Heads of State or Government in June 2010. As the Deputy will be aware, one of the five EU headline targets under the Europe 2020 Strategy is to promote social inclusion, in particular through the reduction of poverty, by aiming to lift at least 20 million people out of the risk of poverty and exclusion. Ireland's national target under this EU headline target, as set out in Ireland's National Reform Programme which was submitted to the European Commission at the end of April, is to reduce the number experiencing consistent poverty to between 2-4% by 2012, with the aim of eliminating consistent poverty by 2016, which will lift at least 186,000 people out of the risk of poverty and exclusion.

Efforts to support the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy through the MFF will be one of a broad and varied range of issues which will arise during the forthcoming negotiations, as the future funding of all areas of EU activities are considered carefully.

Passport Applications

Finian McGrath

Question:

88 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding a passport application in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9. [11423/11]

The passport was posted to the applicant on 10 May. I would like to thank the applicant for using the recommended Passport Express service and for submitting their application in good time. I regret the delay in the issuing of their passport. The Passport Service is experiencing surge in demand for passports, unprecedented in volume and timing, apparently fuelled by families taking foreign holidays earlier in year. The situation is further complicated by the number of applicants who are calling to the counter seeking the urgent renewal of their passports in order to enable them to travel on last-minute bookings.

The Passport Service regrets the delay and any difficulties caused in this regard. Additional temporary staff have been recruited and are in training. Within a short period, seasonal overtime and the additional output provided by temporary staff will bring processing times back to normal levels.

The public can also assist the Passport Service by checking the validity of their passports before making bookings to travel abroad. A valid passport should be the first item on any check list when considering foreign travel, whereas all too often it appears to be the last.

Overseas Development Aid

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

89 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the reason funding was not provided for Africa Day in Cork when funds have been allocated to this event in other cities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11450/11]

Africa Day on 25 May is the official day of the African Union and an opportunity to highlight the diversity and potential of the African continent and its people. Through Irish Aid in the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Government has supported initiatives in recent years to mark Africa Day in Ireland. The objective is to help build a more positive image of Africa and to promote public awareness of the Irish Aid programme, which is strongly focused on countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

For this year's Africa Day, Irish Aid has prioritised support for music, art, sporting and educational events and family activities which are organised at community level. A call for proposals to mark the occasion was advertised nationally, stating that applications would be assessed on the extent to which they contribute to the educational and awareness-raising objectives set for Irish Aid support. The clarity of proposals, the extent of collaboration with other organisations and value for money were also important considerations. Following a thorough assessment of the applications, twelve initiatives by cultural and community groups and colleges were approved for Irish Aid support.

A large number of applications was received, but on this occasion, the applications from organisations based in Cork were not successful. I look forward to future Irish Aid support for Africa day events in Cork.

Departmental Expenditure

John McGuinness

Question:

90 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will confirm the number of credit cards issued by him and to whom; the criteria for issuing such cards; the credit card company used; if a competitive process was used to select the company; if the facility has had to be withdrawn from any person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11557/11]

My Department, which is responsible for Vote 28 (Foreign Affairs) and Vote 29 (International Co-operation), operates a restrictive policy for the use of corporate credit cards for official expenditure. The use of official credit cards may be permitted for officials who, because of the nature of their work, need to make official payments by this method. Credit cards are typically used to make occasional flight and hotel bookings, for making on-line purchases where it represents better value and for making payments at short notice, where cash may not be acceptable or where invoicing arrangements cannot be put in place.

Their use is subject to the same authorisation and control procedures as other forms of payment and decisions to issue a card are made in response to identified business needs.

While credit card companies require that the accounts be operated by named authorised signatories, it must be stressed that in my Department they are used exclusively for official, rather than personal use.

There has been no instance where a corporate credit card has been withdrawn from any official.

There are currently 4 official credit cards in use by my Department in Ireland and 15 in use by Missions abroad. In each case, the authorised holder of the card is a named official of the Department. Details of these cards are set out below in tabular form. The identities of the officials concerned have been withheld for security purposes.

No of cards

Issuer

Department of Foreign Affairs HQ

Finance Units

Two

Visa

Library

One

Visa

Minister of State’s Office

One

American Express

Missions Abroad

Embassy, Berne

One

Visa

Permanent Representation of Ireland to the European Union, Brussels

Six

Visa

Consulate General, Chicago

Two

Visa

Embassy, London

One

Visa

Embassy, Mexico

One

Visa

Permanent Mission to the United Nations, New York

One

Mastercard

Embassy, Ottawa

One

American Express

Embassy, Paris

One

Visa

Embassy, Tokyo

One

Visa

The credit card service providers are selected on a case by case basis by comparing the rates and terms offered by service providers to ensure best value for money.

Passport Applications

John O'Mahony

Question:

91 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs his plans to clear the current backlog in the Passport Office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11653/11]

The Passport Service has, in recent weeks, experienced a very significant surge in demand, with requests for passports currently running at a level 13% higher than the same period in earlier years. At present the Passport Service is receiving an average of 4,260 applications per day. This is an unprecedented level of demand, with the number of applications received from Irish residents alone in two days over the past week at over 5,200, exceeding by 700 the highest number previously received on any one single day. The largest increase has been observed in passports for children between the age of 3 and 18 and is running 16% over previous years. Due to the surge in demand, the turnaround time for applications received through the Passport Express system is currently running between 11 and 13 working days. It normally takes 10 working days. The Passport Service regrets the delay and any difficulties caused in this regard. Notice of the current extended turnaround time and its likely duration has been published on the Passport Service website www.passport.ie . The Passport Office has also told An Post so that customers can be advised of the situation at the point of application.

The system is also coping with an unprecedented demand for passports at short notice, with some 350 people per day coming to the public office seeking passports within a period under 10 days. To protect the integrity of the system and the quality of the passport, the Passport Service cannot provide standard passports within a single day. The shortest turnaround time available is three working days for applications received over the public counter accompanied by proof of travel, other than in cases of genuine emergency.

The Passport Service has recently recruited additional temporary staff and these staff members are currently being trained in passport processing. Within a short period, seasonal overtime and the additional output provided by temporary staff, will bring processing times back to normal levels.

In the meantime, the Passport Service is appealing strongly to all members of the public not to make arrangements for themselves or their family to travel abroad until they have ensured that their passports are in date. The availability of last-minute holiday offers has led to an increase in the number of people looking for a turnaround of less than 10 days for their passport. Applicants must apply in time, taking into account that processing times are based on working days and that, for instance, 10 working days would usually equate to two full weeks.

Pension Provisions

Ciara Conway

Question:

92 Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding a pension being subjected to universal social charge in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11311/11]

The position is that the Universal Social Charge, which came into effect on 1 January 2011, is a tax payable on gross income, including notional pay, after any relief for certain trading losses and capital allowances, but before pension contributions. All individuals are liable to pay the Universal Social Charge if their gross income exceeds the threshold of €4,004 per annum (€77 per week). There are some exemptions including certain elements of foreign pensions. In accordance with the provisions of Section 200 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, (Certain Foreign Pensions) occupational and social security pensions that are disregarded for income tax purposes in the hands of a resident of a country of source will also be disregarded for income tax purposes in this state.

In summary if the taxpayer is in receipt of foreign pension similar to a pension paid by the Department of Social Protection it will not be subject to the universal social charge. However if the taxpayer is in receipt of a foreign occupational pension, which exceeds €4,004, it will be subject to the Universal Social Charge.

Motor Vehicle Registration

Billy Timmins

Question:

93 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding so-called ringer cars; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11652/11]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that vehicle identification is a primary requirement in the process of vehicle registration in the State. In this regard, in order that a vehicle may be formally identified at the time of presentation for registration, documentary evidence (i.e. EC certificate of conformity, foreign registration certificate or certificate of permanent export from another jurisdiction) confirming the vehicle identification number (VIN) in respect of the vehicle must be presented as part of the pre-inspection process (Statutory Instrument No. 400 of 2010 (Vehicle Registration and Taxation (Amendment) Regulations 2010) refers).

It should be noted that where the VIN on the documentary evidence presented does not match the VIN on the vehicle itself, registration is refused.

The Deputy may also wish to note that if his constituent has any specific information relating to any potential abuses of VRT legislation and regulations in the State, he/she may forward details on a confidential basis to their local Revenue office.

Finally, matters relating to motor tax are within the remit of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (policy) and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (administrative and operational).

Motor Taxation

Paul Connaughton

Question:

94 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Finance the changes to the vehicle registration tax of vintage tractors and cars that has taken place over the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11833/11]

The Deputy may be aware that the rate of €50 for Category C vehicles (which includes vintage tractors and cars) had not been increased since its introduction in 1993 (when it was set at £40 and converted to €50 in 2002). Given that the rate hardly covered the administration costs of registering a vehicle, it was decided in the 2011 Budget to increase the rate for registering a Category C vehicle to €200. The new rate is effective from 1 May 2011.

Public Procurement Contracts

Michael McGrath

Question:

95 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the imposition of minimum turnover requirements for prospective tenderers in public sector tendering competitions is restricting the ability of small and medium sized enterprises here to win public contracts, if he intends to address this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11200/11]

The Government recognises that the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector is very important to the economy and that public procurement can be a source of business for SMEs. Whilst public bodies may use a prospective contractor's turnover to assess a company's financial capacity, there are no centrally imposed requirements for a minimum turnover. Such requirements would normally be developed on a case by case basis with reference to the specific needs of the contract. In the context of making public procurement more accessible for SMEs, my Department has issued public procurement guidelines to public bodies which are aimed at facilitating greater participation of SMEs in public procurement opportunities. These guidelines are aimed at encouraging recently established firms, or firms with no previous experience of public contracts to tender for public projects. In relation to suitability criteria public bodies are reminded that any levels they set in relation to a potential tenderer's turnover must be both justifiable and proportionate to the needs of the contract.

In addition, I understand that the industrial development agencies look at procurement opportunities to assess whether the public contract notices contain requirements that might discourage SME participation and liaise with my Department as appropriate.

Public Service Staff

Finian McGrath

Question:

96 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance his plans to introduce a voluntary redundancy scheme in the civil service; if so, when this will take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11219/11]

The Government is committed to reducing Public Service numbers generally and is currently engaged in a Comprehensive Review of Expenditure with all Departments. Following a study of the outcome of this review, the Government will consider all options proposed by the review in order to ensure we meet the overall targets set out in the Programme for Government including taking into account expected natural wastage in the coming years.

Tax Code

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

97 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the tax credit entitlements in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11259/11]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, based on information to hand, the taxpayer in question is entitled to the following tax credit for 2011:

Personal Tax Credit of €1,650

PAYE Tax Credit of €1,650

Rent Tax Credit of €320

It should be noted that tax law does not provide for a tax "family marriage allowance for children".

The foregoing is based on the information to hand but I am further informed by the Revenue Commissioners that should the individual in respect of whom details have been supplied wish to discuss with Revenue whether she may be entitled to further tax credits, she may contact her local Revenue office.

Financial Services Sector

Michael McGrath

Question:

98 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a list of the financial institutions currently implementing the deferred interest scheme as recommended by the Expert Group on Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11269/11]

The Central Bank has advised me that the following lenders have notified the Bank of their intention to implement the recommendation of a Deferred Interest Scheme (DIS), as set out in the final report of the Expert Group on Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt:

Allied Irish Banks.

AIB Mortgage Bank.

Bank of Ireland.

ICS Building Society.

EBS.

Haven Mortgages.

Irish Nationwide Building Society.

Permanent TSB.

Springboard Mortgages.

Start Mortgages.

As at the end of December 2010, these named institutions held a market share of approximately 65% of the value of outstanding owner-occupier mortgages in the State.

The date at which lenders will be in a position to offer a DIS to borrowers varies. Some institutions expect to be in a position to offer the scheme by the middle of 2011.

Banking Sector

Michael McGrath

Question:

99 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons employed by the Central Bank of Ireland and of that total, the number of those who are employed on the basis of a 32.5-hour week; the number of those who are employed on the basis of a 35-hour week; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11274/11]

Michael McGrath

Question:

100 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of days annual leave attached to various staff grades at the Central Bank of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11275/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 99 and 100 together.

The Minister for Finance has no role in the employment of staff of the Central Bank of Ireland or in its terms and conditions. However, I have been informed by the Central Bank of Ireland that there are 1,384 persons employed by the Central Bank of Ireland . The majority of staff in the Central Bank fall into the category of Professional and Administrative staff. The remaining staff include technical and general staff and senior management. Since December 2008, all contracts for Professional and Administrative Staff, regardless of grade, are issued based on a 35-hour week (excluding lunch). This is in line with a labour court ruling. Prior to December 2008, contracts were issued for a 32.5-hour week (excluding lunch). There are a range of different contractual hours in place for technical and general staff including those in Sandyford, depending on the grade and category of staff and role. These include 32.5 hours (pre Dec 08), 35 hours, 37 hours and 39 hours (all excluding lunch). In addition, due to the nature of the work in the Currency Centre, a range of working patterns and shift patterns are in operation. Of the total number of staff, 726 Professional and Administrative staff are employed on the basis of a minimum 32.5-hour week and 356 on the basis of a minimum 35-hour week. Within these contractual hours, flexible working arrangements are in place which are managed locally to ensure business requirements are met at all times. In practice, management and many staff, work in excess of their contracted hours. It is expected that the ratio of staff with 32.5 minimum contracted hours compared to staff with 35 minimum contracted hours weeks will reduce further by the end of this year.

As regards leave arrangements, there are a range of grades in the Central Bank with differing leave arrangements. The majority of staff (technical and general, bank officers and bank executives) are in the 22–24 day range. More senior staff/managers have a greater leave entitlement with the majority in that category being on the 28–29 day range. In practice many senior managers do not get to take their full leave entitlement and also make themselves available for contact when they are on leave.

The number of days annual leave attached to various staff grades at the Central Bank of Ireland are set out in the table below.

Group

Grade

Allowance

Clerical & Administrative

TelephonistClerical SupportBank Officer 2Bank Officer 1

22 on entry23 after 10 years service in the Bank

Bank ExecutiveP4 — Programmer

22 on entry23 after 6 years servicei n the Bank

Professional

Bank Professional 3/SEOVault OfficerP3 Analyst

28

Management & Professional

Bank Professional 2/SAOBank Professional 1/Scale HP1 — Senior AnalystP2 — System Analyst

29

Senior Management

Deputy ManagerManagerAdvisorSenior Advisor

29

GovernorDeputy GovernorDirector

31

House Porters

PortersDriverAssistant Head PorterHead Porter

22

Currency Assistants

Currency AssistantsAssistant Foreman Currency Assistant

22

Foreman Currency Assistant

22 on entry23 after 5 years service in the Bank

Cleaning

CleanerCleaning SupervisorDeputy Cleaning Supervisor

22 on entry23 after 15 years service in the Bank

Catering

Catering

22

Head of Catering

24

Currency Checking

Currency CheckersSenior Currency Checkers

22

Currency Supervisors

22 on entry23 after 5 years service in the Bank25 after 10 years service in the Bank

Senior SupervisorsDeputy Senior Supervisor

25

Security

Security GuardsSenior Guards

22+6+4 (+4 = 1 day for each 3 months continuous shift working)

Chief GuardChief Security Supervisor

30

Technical — Currency

M&GA, M&GS, MGAAMGAI, MGCO, MTECLaboratory AssistantFitter, Electrician, Guillotine OperatorAssistant Print SupervisorAssistant Engineering SupervisorCCTV SupervisorNo. 1 & 2 PrinterFinishing SupervisorFinishing Process Co-ordinatorFinishing staffSenior Co-ordinatorQuality Assurance Supervisor (Mint)Working Chargehand

22

Chief Engineering SupervisorEngineering SupervisorPrint SupervisorMint Supervisor

24

Financial Services Regulation

Michael McGrath

Question:

101 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if businesses which offer debt management services to persons are required to be licensed and regulated by the Financial Regulator; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11278/11]

Some financial service providers, currently authorised by the Central Bank provide debt advice to consumers e.g. mortgage brokers. Consumers can confirm whether or not a financial service provider is authorised by checking the Register of Financial Service Providers on the Central Bank's website. However, there are also companies which offer debt advice and debt counselling services which are not registered or authorised by the Central Bank.

In the context of future legislation on financial regulation, I am examining the question of licensing companies that offer debt management services.

Bank Guarantee Scheme

Michael McGrath

Question:

102 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the amount, by covered institution, of senior bonds repaid during the two year period of 30 September 2008 to 29 September 2010 of the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11279/11]

The Central Bank of Ireland has advised me that the value of senior bonds that matured in the period between September 2008 and September 2010 is €70.3 billion

I do not have a breakdown by covered institution to hand as requested by the Deputy. I will however request a breakdown of guaranteed and unguaranteed senior bonds repaid during the above period from the covered institutions and forward it to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Departmental Correspondence

Joe Costello

Question:

103 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 510 of 29 September 2010, if he will respond to correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11280/11]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a full and detailed review of the circumstances arising in the case that the Deputy refers to has been completed. A copy of the outcome of the review has been sent to the Deputy.

Electronic Invoicing

Terence Flanagan

Question:

104 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance if he will meet with a company (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11300/11]

In 2010, the European Commission published a communication entitled: Reaping the benefits of electronic invoicing for Europe [Document Ref: COM (2010) 712 Final]. This communication sets out a number of actions to encourage the mass adoption of electronic invoicing. One such action is that eInvoicing be promoted at a national level and the National Procurement Service (NPS) in the Office of Public Works has been tasked with the establishment of a national multi-stakeholder eInvoicing forum for Ireland. The objectives of the Forum will be to promote eInvoicing at a national level and in particular:

To advocate the use of e-invoicing, in particular by SMEs

To co-ordinate existing and forthcoming initiatives to promote the uptake of eInvoicing and

To monitor and set targets for the adoption of eInvoicing.

The Forum will hold its inaugural meeting at the end of this month and will report to a central European eInvoicing Forum on progress over the next three years. It is hoped that through the establishment of this Forum, eInvoicing will become the norm in all payments transactions.

A list of the organisations that have been invited to propose nominations to the Forum is as follows:

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation

Department of Finance

Department of Justice and Equality

Enterprise Ireland

Health Services Executive

Higher Education Authority

Irish Business and Employers Confederation (and the Irish Software Association)

Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association

Local Government Computer Services Board

National Procurement Service

National Standards Authority of Ireland

Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General

Office of the Revenue Commissioners

Small Firms Association

Following its initial meeting, it is envisaged that the Forum will hold open meetings for interested parties to attend, such as eInvoicing operators, user groups and software suppliers. This will allow all the key stakeholders an opportunity to express their views. The company for which the details have been supplied to me should seek to participate in one of these open meetings. I suggest that this is the most appropriate method of progressing their proposals.

In addition to the establishment of the Forum by the NPS, the National Standards Authority of Ireland is also active at a European level in relation to the establishment of European standards in the area of eInvoicing.

National Debt

Terence Flanagan

Question:

105 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance the level of Ireland’s debt; the amount owed by State controlled banks to the ECB; the projections for the next five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11310/11]

Michael McGrath

Question:

107 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the anticipated nominal amount of the national debt, fully taking account of the amount of capital invested to date and expected to be invested in the banks, at the end of each of the years 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. [11332/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 105 and 107 together.

At the end of 2010, Ireland's National Debt stood at €93 billion. The projections for the National Debt for the years 2011 to 2015, based on the budgetary forecasts contained in the Stability Programme Update that was submitted to the European Commission and published on 29 April, are set out in the table below.

It should be noted that the National Debt differs from the General Government Debt (GG Debt), which is the standard measure used within the EU for comparative purposes. The latter includes the National Debt as well as Local Government debt and some other minor liabilities of Government. In addition, the GG Debt is a gross measure of debt; it does not allow for the netting off of cash balances (which had been built up considerably in recent years, so adding greatly to our GG Debt). As the GG Debt is the standard measurement of gross indebtedness used for comparative purposes within the EU, it is often referenced as a percentage of GDP. Ireland's GG Debt was estimated at 96 per cent of GDP at end-2010 or €148 billion. However, while General Government gross debt at end-2010 stood at €148 billion, net debt was lower. Taking account of the funds held in the discretionary portfolio of the National Pensions Reserve Fund and other liquid assets, General Government net debt is estimated to have stood at approximately €117 billion or 76 per cent of GDP at end-2010. The projections for the GG Debt based on the budgetary forecasts contained in the Stability Programme Update are also set out in the following table. The significant difference between the end-2010 National Debt and GG Debt is largely explained by the €31 billion in Promissory Notes committed to financial institutions in 2010. Due to the fact that the GG Debt operates on an accruals basis, this amount was added in full to the GG Debt in 2010 but the cash borrowing to fund these payments will only take place on a phased basis, beginning in 2011, and so only adds to the National Debt on a phased basis also.

The forecasts of General Government debt in the Stability Programme Update and the following table are based on cash balances being reduced by some €0.6 billion in 2011 and being held broadly constant at the end-2011 level over the course of 2012 and 2013. In the later years of the forecast period, the estimates of the General Government debt are based on cash balances being reduced by approximately €5.5 billion.

The recent banking stress tests carried out by the Central Bank identified an additional €24 billion in support to the banking sector as being required, including €3 billion of funds which take the form of contingent capital. However, it is anticipated that mitigating actions, such as burdening sharing, will mean that up to €5 billion of this €24 billion will not have to be provided by the State. At the same time, the following projections prudently assume that an additional €20 billion in State support to the banking sector will be required, with €10 billion of this being sourced from the National Pensions Reserve Fund and the balance funded by the Exchequer.

Public Debt 2011-2015

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

National Debt (€ bns)

122

139

153

162

169

General Govt Debt (€ bns)

173

187

198

202

204

The Deputy has also asked for a figure for the amount owed by Government controlled banks to the ECB and the projections for this figure over the next five years. The Central Bank has disclosed that at the end of March borrowings from the ECB from the six covered institutions was €79.2 billion, down from €85.6 billion at the end of February, though there were also substantial borrowings from the Central Bank. No breakdown is published for these banks. As regards the projected position over the next five years, the recently announced deleveraging plans by the Central Bank outline how we intend to achieve the progressive elimination of the substantial dependence of these banks on Eurosystem funding.

Departmental Agencies

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

106 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Finance the number of State agencies or organisations under his remit which are paid up members of the Irish Business and Employers Confederation; the name of each agency or organisation; the amount each State agency or organisation paid to the Irish Business and Employers Confederation for the years 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11323/11]

The following table lists the bodiesunder the aegis of my Department, that are members of the Irish Business and EmployersConfederation (IBEC), together with the amounts paid to that organisation in the years in question.

Body

Paid in 2007

Paid in 2008

Paid in 2009

Paid in 2010

Paid to Date in 2011

The Central Bank and Financial Services Authority /replaced by the Central Bank Commission in 2009*

23,367

24,820

25,626

23,649

39,965*

Financial Services Ombudsman Bureau

1,040

1,300

1,300

1,300

1,300

Anglo Irish Bank**

23,940

27,922

26,746

42,290

24,818

Irish Nationwide Building Society

14,354

13,471

13,944

15,475

17,479

National Treasury Management Agency***

9,179

10,180

9,130

9,280

Nil

*The sub for 2011 reflects an expanded membership which will result in savings on legal costs

**The figures provided include amounts paid in annual membership fees and fees paid in respect of training courses.

***Amounts paid in each year primarily relate to membership fees and in some years also includes fees for training courses and materials.

Question No. 107 answered with Question No. 105

National Asset Management Agency.

John O'Mahony

Question:

108 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Finance the number of solicitors, estate agents and valuers that were appointed on the National Asset Management Agency panel to work on its behalf; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11389/11]

John O'Mahony

Question:

109 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Finance the names of the solicitors appointed on the National Asset Management Agency panel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11390/11]

John O'Mahony

Question:

110 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Finance the names of the estate agents appointed on the National Asset Management Agency panel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11391/11]

John O'Mahony

Question:

111 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Finance the number of solicitors and estate agents from the National Asset Management Agency panel that have been assigned work since it was set up; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11392/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 108 to 111, inclusive, together.

I am advised by NAMA that all major contracts awarded by it since its inception have been awarded through www.etenders.gov.ie, the website for Irish public tenders and have been fully compliant with standard public procurement procedures, which require that the most economically advantageous bid be accepted. The names of all NAMA’s successful service providers are published on the NAMA website at www.nama.ie/TendersIntro.php.

As requested by the Deputy, a listing of the Legal Panels and the Real Estate Valuation Panel which is available on the NAMA website follows.

A total of 42 Solicitor firms were appointed to the Enforcement and Re-financing Panel for both Ireland and the UK on 29th October 2010. To date 29 firms have been assigned work from this Panel.

A total of 64 Solicitor firms were appointed to the Legal Due Diligence Panel on 28th November 2009. To date 18 firms have been assigned work from this Panel.

A total of 24 firms were appointed to the Real Estate Valuation Panel on 29th December 2009. To date 23 firms have been assigned work from this Panel.

A number of these firms have been appointed to more than one Panel.

Appointment to a Panel for the Provision of Certain Legal Services to NAMA

Group

Appointed

Ireland Enforcement Group 1

A&L Goodbody Solicitors

Arthur Cox

Byrne Wallace

Eugene F. Collins

Eversheds O’Donnell Sweeney Solicitors

Gartlan Furey Solicitors

Maples and Calder

Matheson Ormsby Prentice

McCann FitzGerald

Whitney Moore Solicitors

William Fry

Ireland Enforcement Group 2

A&L Goodbody Solicitors

Arthur Cox

Byrne Wallace

Eugene F. Collins

Eversheds O’Donnell Sweeney Solicitors

Gartlan Furey Solicitors

Hayes Solicitors

Lavelle Coleman Solicitors

LK Shields Solicitors

Maples and Calder

Matheson Ormsby Prentice

McCann FitzGerald

McDowell Purcell Solicitors

Ronan Daly Jermyn Solicitors

Whitney Moore Solicitors

William Fry

Ireland Refinancing Group 1

A&L Goodbody Solicitors

Arthur Cox

Byrne Wallace

Eugene F. Collins

Eversheds O’Donnell Sweeney Solicitors

Gartlan Furey Solicitors

Matheson Ormsby Prentice

McCann FitzGerald

William Fry

Ireland Refinancing Group 2

A&L Goodbody Solicitors

Arthur Cox

Beauchamps Solicitors

Byrne Wallace

Eugene F. Collins

Eversheds O’Donnell Sweeney Solicitors

Gartlan Furey Solicitors

Mason Hayes + Curran

Matheson Ormsby Prentice

McCann FitzGerald

McDowell Purcell Solicitors

Ronan Daly Jermyn Solicitors

William Fry

UK Enforcement Group 1

A&L Goodbody Solicitors

Allen & Overy LLP

Arthur Cox

Ashurst LLP

Brodies LLP

Burness LLP

C&H Jefferson Solicitors

Carson McDowell

Denton Wilde Sapte LLP

DLA Piper UK LLP

Dundas & Wilson LLP

Herbert Smith LLP

Hogan Lovells International LLP

John McKee & Son Solicitors

Simmons & Simmons

Taylor Wessing LLP

Tods Murray LLP

Tughans Solicitors

UK Enforcement Group 2

A&L Goodbody Solicitors

Allen & Overy LLP

Arthur Cox

Brodies LLP

Burness LLP

C&H Jefferson Solicitors

Carson McDowell

Denton Wilde Sapte LLP

DLA Piper UK LLP

Dundas & Wilson LLP

Eversheds LLP

Hogan LoveIls International LLP

John McKee & Son Solicitors

MacFarlanes LLP

Nabarro LLP

Simmons & Simmons

Taylor Wessing LLP

Tods Murray LLP

Tughans Solicitors

Wragge & Co LLP

UK Refinancing Group 1

A&L Goodbody Solicitors

Allen & Overy LLP

Arthur Cox

Brodies LLP

Burges Salmon LLP

Burness LLP

Carson McDowell

Clifford Chance LLP

Denton Wilde Sapte LLP

DLA Piper UK LLP

Dundas & Wilson LLP

Eversheds LLP

Herbert Smith LLP

Hogan Lovells International LLP

John McKee & Son Solicitors

Nabarro LLP

Olswang LLP

Simmons & Simmons

Slaughter and May

Taylor Wessing LLP

Tods Murray LLP

Tughans Solicitors

UK Refinancing Group 2

A&L Goodbody Solicitors

Allen & Overy LLP

Arthur Cox

Brodies LLP

Burges Salmon LLP

Burness LLP

Carson McDowell

Clifford Chance LLP

Denton Wilde Sapte LLP

DLA Piper UK LLP

Dundas & Wilson LLP

DWF LLP

Eversheds LLP

Hogan Lovells International LLP

John McKee & Son Solicitor

MacFarlanes LLP

Nabarro LLP

Olswang LLP

Simmons & Simmons

Taylor Wessing LLP

Tods Murray LLP

Tughans Solicitors

Wragge & Co LLP

Appointment to a panel for the Provision of Legal Services in connection with the acquisition of bank assets by the National Asset Management Agency

Appointed

Appointed

1. Alfred Thornton & Company Solicitors

33. Maples & Calder

2. Andrew Crean-Lynch Solicitors

34. Mason Hayes & Curran

3. Arthur Cox

35. Matheson Ormsby Prentice

4. Babington & Croasdaile Solicitors

36. McDowell Purcell Solicitors

5. BCM Hanley Wallace Solicitors

37. McGuire Desmond Solicitors

6. Beauchamps Solicitors

38. McKeever Taylor

7. Brian O’Donnell & Partners Solicitors

39. Michael Houlihan & Partners

8. Callan Tansey Solicitors

40. Murphy Mac Namara & Co

9. Cathal N Young O’Reilly & Co Solicitors

41. Murray Flynn Maguire

10. Comyn Kelleher Tobin Solicitors

42. MW Keller & Son Solicitors

11. Dillon Eustace

43. Nolan Farrell & Goff

12. Donnegans Solicitors

44. °Flynn Exhams Solicitors

13. Eugene F Collins

45. O’Rourke Reid law firm

14. Eversheds O’Donnell Sweeney

46. Orpen Franks Solicitors

15. Fitzgerald Solicitors

47. O’Sullivan Barnicle Solicitors

16. G & D Walsh Solicitors

48. O’Sullivan & Associates Solicitors

17. Gallenalliance

49. O’Sullivan Partners

18. Gartian Furey Solicitors

50. P J O’Driscolls Solicitors

19. Gore & Grimes Solicitors

51. P J O’Driscoll & Sons Solicitors

20. Hayes Solicitors

52. P O’Connor & Son Solicitors

21. Hegarty & Armstrong Solicitors

53. Richard Black Solicitors

22. Holmes O’Malley Sexton Solicitors

54. Ronan Daly Jermyn

23. Ivor Fitzpatrick & Company Solicitors

55. Sheehan & Company

24. James Riordan & Partners

56. Smith Foy & Partners

25. Kane Tuohy Solicitors

57. Stephen MacKenzie & Company

26. Kilfeather & Co

58. Stone Solicitors

27. Lavelle Coleman

59. Sweeney McGann

28. Lavery Kirby Gilmartin Solicitors

60. T P Robinson Solicitors

29. Lennon Heather Solicitors

61. V P Shields Solicitors

30. Lewis C Doyle

62. Vincent & Beatty Solicitors

31. Liston & Co

63. Whitney Moore

32. LK Shields Solicitors

64. William Fry

Appointment to a Framework for the Provision of Real Estate Valuation Services to National Asset Management Agency

Group

Appointed

Lot 1 — Ireland (national coverage)

CB Richard Ellis

Jones Lang Lasalle

Lisney

Savills

Lot 2 — Ireland (Connaught)

GVA Donal O’Buachalla

Lambert Smith Hampton

Rooney Auctioneers & Chartered Surveyors

Lot 3 — Ireland (Leinster & Dublin)

Colliers Jackson Stop

Bannon

GVA Donal O’Buachalla

HWBC

WK Nowlan & Associates

Lot 4 — Ireland (Munster)

Colliers Jackson Stop

GVA Donal O’Buachalla

Lambert Smith Hampton

Irish & European

Cohalan Downing

Lot 5 — Ireland (Ulster)

Colliers CRE (Belfast)

Osborne King & Megran

BTW Shieils

Frazer Kidd & Partners

Lot 6 — Great Britain

Cushman & Wakefield

Gerald Eve

Knight Frank

CB Richard Ellis

Drivers Jonas

GVA Grimiey

Lot 7 — USA (Coverage in major cities

CB Richard Ellis

Colliers CRE

Cushman & Wakefield

Jones Lang Lasalle

Departmental Responsibilities

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

112 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the responsibilities of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. [11421/11]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

144 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the role and responsibilities of the sectoral policy and public service management development divisions and the modernisation unit of the Department of the Taoiseach. [11817/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 112 and 144 together.

As indicated in my reply to a previous PQ, it was my intention that the Minister Deputy Howlin and I would present the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Bill for consideration by the Government at its meeting, today Tuesday, 17 May, with a view to publishing it as soon as possible thereafter.

In general terms, it is proposed that the following broad functions will be transferred to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform:

the entirety of functions relating to the public service;

public service reform functions which will, for the first time, be placed on a statutory footing;

In terms of expenditure, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform will be responsible for managing public expenditure within the overall envelope set by the Government, while the Minister for Finance will retain responsibility for overall budgetary parameters.

Sectoral Policy Division deals with sectoral policy advice and formulation in conjunction with the responsible departments; public expenditure management issues, including the Annual Estimates, Annual Output statements and the multi-annual capital investment process; infrastructural investment and the National Development Plan; the elaboration of Frameworks and guidance to promote better value for money; aspects of policy in relation to commercial state bodies; policy on public-private partnerships; environmental policy; civil service organisational issues such as structures, staff numbers and administrative budgets; superannuation policy in the Public Service and co-ordination of pension matters within the Department and policy on Government contracts, e-procurement and the National Lottery.

Public Service Management Development Division deals with public service modernisation, public service pay and conditions and public service policy on HR, equality, recruitment and promotions, mobility and redeployment, ethics, freedom of information, decentralisation, IT, e-Government, telecommunications policy, Civil Service Training Centre and Language training.

The Public Service Modernisation Division of the Department of the Taoiseach is transferring to the new Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. That Division has principally been involved in co-ordinating , supporting and communicating the Public Service transformation programme, including through supporting the participation of the Taoiseach and Ministers in the relevant Cabinet Committee and the senior officials groups under that, and participating in the negotiation and implementation of the Public Service Agreement, as well as a broad range of other functions such as initiating the Senior Public Service (a leadership initiative) and the conduct of the Organisational Review Programme (where capacity of individual Government Departments is examined).

Tax Code

Peter Mathews

Question:

113 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Finance his plans to reduce the amount of mortgage interest on an investment property that can be written off against tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11427/11]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that in so far as an 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, in the case of residential investment property, is restricted to 75% of the interest otherwise allowable.

As the Deputy will be aware there is no specific proposal in the Programme for Government to decrease the amount of interest on borrowings that can be offset against rental income for tax purposes, however, as a matter of course taxation measures and reliefs are reviewed on a regular basis and considered in the context of ongoing budgetary and economic policy.

Pension Provisions

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

114 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if consideration is being given to the release of private pension funds, particularly to those who are in difficult financial straits and perhaps are unable to pay their mortgage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11428/11]

The Deputy's question is principally a matter for the Minister for Social Protection, but tax legislation and rules are also relevant to the issue. Generally speaking, once an occupational pension scheme member has at least two years qualifying service for pension purposes, that member is entitled under the Pensions Acts to preserved pensions benefits on leaving employment and does not get a refund of contributions.

The rationale for giving various tax reliefs to pension savings schemes in the first place is to encourage and promote savings over the long term in order that individuals will have an adequate replacement income in old age. Emerging demographic indicators point to increasing numbers of people living longer and healthier lives with more of their lives spent in retirement than previously.

I am conscious of the case being made for pre-retirement access to pension funds but there is also a strong case for maintaining the ring-fencing of pension savings to ensure that individuals have an adequate post-retirement income. This is not a simple matter and while I am open to examining it further, in conjunction with the Minister for Social Protection, it would require very careful consideration before any changes could be made to the current arrangements.

Public Service Staff

Charles Flanagan

Question:

115 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance if he intends to introduce a special incentive career break scheme, similar to that which obtained in 2009 as part of the Government’s effort to achieve a reduction in spending on the pay bill with particular reference to the Department of Health and Children as contained in DOHC Circular S/146/99; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11443/11]

As the Deputy will be aware the Special Civil Service Incentive Career Break Scheme 2009 was introduced as a once-off measure in the Supplementary Budget on 7 April 2009. The measure was extended to staff in different areas of the public service, including the local government sector and the HSE. The closing date for participation in this scheme has expired and there is no current proposal to extend this scheme.

Company Closures

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

116 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm the action employees can take to be issued with a P45, when a company has ceased trading. [11462/11]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that it is the responsibility of an employer to issue a P45 when an employee has ceased in employment. Part 1 of the P45 is given to Revenue to notify that the employment has ceased. Parts 2, 3 and 4 are given to the employee to give to their new employer to avoid paying emergency tax, to claim a refund of tax during unemployment or to claim Social Welfare benefits.

In this instance, Revenue has requested the company to issue P45s to all employees and has also endeavoured to have P45s issued in response to inquiries from individual employees. Revenue has not received P45s (Part 1) from the company since it ceased to trade.

The company in question has been dissolved on the Companies' Register with effect from 5 March 2010. As the company is no longer a legal entity, the employees are unable to take any action to be issued with P45s and Revenue cannot institute legal proceedings for failure to file a P35 as the company was dissolved before it ceased to trade.

However, although the company did not issue P45s, Revenue was able to assist some employees in regard to claims for refund of tax during unemployment and to avoid paying emergency tax in their new employments. Former employees of the company are now encouraged to contact Revenue's Donegal District, Government Offices, High Road, Letterkenny in order to establish how Revenue might be able to assist them with tax reviews of their 2010 income and also, where possible, provide documentation to assist with claims for social welfare benefits.

Public Service Staff

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

117 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the way he intends to do business and deliver services to citizens while reducing the number of public servants required to deliver said services each quarter. [11471/11]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

118 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the positions of the 15 employees whose jobs have been cut in the Taoiseach group between the end of quarter four 2010 and the end of quarter one 2011. [11472/11]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

119 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the positions of the 48 employees whose jobs have been cut in the Finance group between the end of quarter four 2010 and the end of quarter one 2011. [11473/11]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

120 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the positions of the 287 employees whose jobs have been cut in the Environment group between the end of quarter four 2010 and the end of quarter one 2011. [11474/11]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

121 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the positions of the 211 employees whose jobs have been cut in the Education group between the end of quarter four 2010 and the end of quarter one 2011. [11475/11]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

122 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the positions of the 12 employees whose jobs have been cut in Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs between the end of quarter four 2010 and the end of quarter one 2011. [11476/11]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

123 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the positions of the 1,348 employees whose jobs have been cut in the Health group between the end of quarter four 2010 and the end of quarter one 2011. [11477/11]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

124 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the positions of the 81 employees whose jobs have been cut in Tourism, Culture and Sport between the end of quarter four 2010 and the end of quarter one 2011. [11478/11]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

125 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the positions of the 2,305 employees whose jobs have been cut in the Health group between the end of quarter four 2010 and the end of quarter one 2011. [11479/11]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

126 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the positions of the 30 employees whose jobs have been cut in Transport between the end of quarter four 2010 and the end of quarter one 2011. [11480/11]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

127 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the positions of the 40 employees whose jobs have been cut in Agriculture between the end of quarter four 2010 and the end of quarter one 2011. [11481/11]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

128 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the positions of the 18 employees whose jobs have been cut in Communications, Energy and Natural Resources between the end of quarter four 2010 and the end of quarter one 2011. [11482/11]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

129 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the positions of the 24 employees whose jobs have been cut in Foreign Affairs between the end of quarter four 2010 and the end of quarter one 2011. [11483/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 117 to 129, inclusive, together.

The Government is committed to continuing improvement in the efficiency of public services and, in order to achieve this, to formulate and promote policies which drive efficiency and effectiveness across the public service. As part of the Programme for Government, public service bodies have to adhere to targets in terms of numbers employed at the end of each year from 2011 to 2014. Returns for the first quarter of 2011 indicate that we are broadly on targets. Departments are also striving to provide an efficient, high quality service to customers, in particular by the re-organisation of work and priorities, by ensuring that they have, to the greatest extent possible, the necessary skills and expertise, systems and technology to address their needs and deliver required services. The continued co-operation of staff interests in accordance with the Croke Park Agreement is a vital element of this programme which will necessarily involve fewer staff delivering services, or delivering services in a different way.

I would also refer to the Deputy's questions (Reference Nos. 11472/11 to 11483/11) Nos. 118 to 129, inclusive, in relation to specific numbers reductions in various Departments and Vote Groups in the first quarter of 2011. These reductions are due to early and natural retirements, staff availing of unpaid leave for particular circumstances, those availing of time off under work/life balance schemes such as the Shorter Working Year scheme and to the normal turnover of staff at any given time of the year. As I have already indicated it is a matter for local managements to address service delivery issues with reduced numbers.

Departmental Expenditure

John McGuinness

Question:

130 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm the number of credit cards issued by him and to whom; the criteria for issuing such cards; the credit card company used; if a competitive process was used to select the company; if the facility has had to be withdrawn from any person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11556/11]

There are currently 5 departmental credit cards issued to officials in my Department. My Private Secretary and my Press Officer both have been issued with credit cards. These cards are used generally for official expenses in connection with travel, including accommodation and subsistence expenses, and official hospitality.

The three remaining cards are for the general usage of the Department in the purchase of a range of goods and services, mainly the online purchase of publications and for booking training courses and conferences.

I am not aware of any case in which the facility has had to be withdrawn. In the normal course, officials would surrender an official credit card when they are no longer dealing with the business function for which it was intended or when the card is no longer required for that purpose.

The credit card in use is Bank of Ireland Visa and this was awarded following a tendering process.

Tax Code

Brendan Griffin

Question:

131 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that the valuation for VAT purposes provided by the Valuation Office to Campus and Stadium Ireland Development Limited on 25 October 2002 is a valid valuation for VAT purposes; if it was appropriate for the NSCDA to allow the Supreme Court to rely on the valuation in the recent case that came before the Supreme Court; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11584/11]

Arthur Spring

Question:

136 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that the valuation for VAT purposes provided by the Valuation Office to Campus and Stadium Ireland Development Limited in 25 October 2002 is a valid valuation for VAT purposes; and if he is further satisfied that it was appropriate for the NSCDA to allow the Supreme Court to rely on the valuation in the recent case that came before the Supreme Court in June 2010. [11680/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 131 and 136 together.

The Valuation Office is the State property valuation agency, headed by the Commissioner of Valuation. The Office provides statutory valuations under the provisions of the Valuation Act, 2001. It also provides a valuation consultancy service to Government departments and public bodies.

On foot of a request, the Valuation Office provided a valuation for VAT purposes to the public body concerned, dated 25th October 2002.

The Commissioner of Valuation is independent in the exercise of his duties and I, as Minister for Finance, have no function in decisions in this regard.

It would not be appropriate for me to comment on how any proceedings that were before the Supreme Court in relation to this matter were conducted or on the outcome of any such proceedings, to which the Minister for Finance was not a party.

Public Procurement Contracts

Noel Grealish

Question:

132 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Finance the number of public contracts awarded to European companies and the number awarded to indigenous companies over the past five years; the monetary value of the projects awarded to European companies as opposed to indigenous companies for the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11610/11]

The National Procurement Service (NPS), based in the Office of Public Works, is responsible for eProcurement and for the operation of the eTenders public procurement portal (www.etenders.gov.ie). On average 5000 tenders for the procurement of goods, services and works are advertised on eTenders every year. The overall procurement spend by the public sector amounts to an estimated value of between €14 and €16 billion per year.

Since 2009, the NPS has been responsible for producing annual statistical information in relation to above-EU threshold procurement activity by the Irish public sector and providing these statistics to the European Commission. Current thresholds (valid from January 2010 to December 2011) above which tenders must be advertised in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) are as follows:

Threshold

Works:

Contract Notice

4,845,000

Threshold applies to Government Departments and Offices, Local and Regional Authorities and other public bodies.

Supplies and Services:

Contract Notice

125,000

Threshold applies to Government Departments and Offices

Contract Notice

193,000

Threshold applies to Local and Regional Authorities and public bodies outside the Utilities sector.

Utilities:

Works Contracts/Prior Indicative Notice

4,845,000

For entities in Utilities sectors covered by GPA

Supplies and Services

387,000

For entities in Utilities sectors covered by GPA

The information that is available currently for the years 2005-2009 relates to above-EU threshold contracts only and is contained in the following tabular statement. Data in respect of 2010 will not be available until later this year. The Deputy should be aware that the figures contained in the table relates to the number of contracts placed which were above the EU Threshold for the year in question and must not be interpreted as indicative statistics for the overall procurement spend. It must also be borne in mind that these statistics relate only to above threshold procurements, where contract award notices were published, and where the nationality of the winning tenderer was disclosed.

For example, when considering the year 2009, €2.8 billion worth of expenditure was advertised in the Official Journal, out of the €15 billion public procurement spend in that year. Of this €2.8 billion, 12% went to non-domestic companies. The NPS estimates that less than 5% of the overall spend went to non-domestic suppliers, as a significant proportion of the overall procurement spend is below the EU threshold and is also below the threshold for advertising on eTenders (the eTenders threshold was €50,000 in 2009).

The figures for 2008 are broadly similar, but indicate that a higher number of above-threshold tenders were advertised in the OJEU. The EU Commission has agreed that the figures for 2008 can be taken to indicate, "about 95% of all procurement by value was from domestic suppliers".

It should be noted that the statistics do not distinguish between companies in the UK and those based in Northern Ireland, so of the contracts going "abroad", many of the contracts may have stayed on the island of Ireland.

It should also be noted also that all the statistics relating to non-domestic suppliers relate to suppliers with an address in countries other than Ireland and do not distinguish between European and non-European suppliers.

Above Threshold Contracts awarded to Irish and non-domestic suppliers 2005-2009

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

No. of Contracts

Value €000

No. of Contracts

Value €000

No. of Contracts

Value €000

No. of Contracts

Value €000

No. of Contracts

Value €000

Irish Suppliers

487

1,953,630

800

2,682,751

*

4,786,975

1,016

4,217,564

777

2,2,537,622

Non-Domestic Suppliers

102

458,604

151

1,039,696>

*

513,146

296

568,338

170

347,137

Total

589

2,412,234

951

3,722,447

5,300,121

1,312

4,785,902

947

2,885,759

% to Non-Domestic Companies

19.01%

27.93%

9.68%

11.88%

12.03%

*Numbers not available for 2007 contracts.

Departmental Agencies

Dara Calleary

Question:

133 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that the highest possible standards of human resource management are in place across all agencies of his Department including the National Asset Management Agency; and if his attention has been drawn to any serious HR issues in any of these agencies including NAMA. [11623/11]

The day-to-day management, including the human resource function, of all of the agencies under the remit of my Department is a matter for the respective heads of the agencies concerned. However, with specific regard to NAMA, Section 42(1) of the National Asset Management Agency Act, 2009 provides that the NTMA shall assign so many of its staff to NAMA as the Board determines, upon the recommendation of the Chief Executive officer of NAMA, after consultation with the Chief Executive of the NTMA, to be necessary for the performance by NAMA of its functions under this Act.

Sections 7(1–3) of the National Treasury Management Agency Act, 1990 provides:

(1) that the Agency may appoint such, and such numbers of, persons to be members of the staff of the Agency as it may determine.

(2) (a) A member of the staff of the Agency (other than the Chief Executive) shall be paid, such remuneration (including allowances for expenses and benefits-in-kind) as the Agency may determine.

(2) (b) A member of the staff of the Agency referred to in paragraph (a) shall hold his office or employment on such other terms and conditions as the Agency may determine.

(3) The categories of the staff of the Agency and the numbers of staff in each category shall be determined by the Agency.

Credit Guarantee Scheme

Dara Calleary

Question:

134 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Finance the 2011 budget for the proposed temporary partial credit guarantee scheme as announced by him on 10 May 2011; and his implementation plan for such a scheme. [11624/11]

As I indicated last week, in accordance with the commitment in the Programme for Government, we will be initiating a tendering process for the development of a temporary, partial credit guarantee scheme.

The design of the scheme will draw from international experience to support new lending that would not otherwise have been extended by the banks. In this way, the scheme will complement, rather than be a substitute for, existing lending activities by the main financial institutions. It will be designed to encourage banks to lend to new or expanding commercially viable SMEs so that they can grow their company, develop new products or expand into new markets.

The Government's commitment will be for an initial period of one year. Specific performance criteria will be set down that allow for review and revision of the scheme at the end of that initial period before committing to a roll-over of the scheme for subsequent years. There will be a modest and known level of exposure to the taxpayer when the scheme is launched but I will be expecting to see a significant positive knock-on benefit to the economy in terms of job creation, welfare savings and returns to the Exchequer by way of tax revenue generated.

The Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation and I will develop this proposal further with our officials. It is our intention to announce the details of the scheme in June with a view to having a targeted scheme in place by the autumn. Until this proposal has been further developed, it is not possible to fix a budget for the scheme.

Tax Code

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

135 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider reducing the rate of the VAT applied on the sale of hurleys to help struggling GAA clubs promote the State's national game. [11675/11]

I would point out that the VAT rating of goods and services is subject to the requirements of EU VAT law, with which Irish VAT law must comply. The rate of VAT applicable to the supply of hurleys is the standard rate, which in Ireland is 21%. Under EU law there is no scope for applying a reduced rate of VAT to the supply of hurleys or other sports equipment.

Question No. 136 answered with Question No. 131.

State Laboratory

Seán Kenny

Question:

137 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the number of vacancies in the State Laboratory; and his plans to fill these positions. [11739/11]

There are currently no vacancies in the State Laboratory.

Public Sector Employment Policy

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

138 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance his policy on the employment in the public sector of former employees who have left the service through redundancy or retirement; the number of former public sector workers who have been re-employed whether on contract or on a temporary basis; the grade they previously held; if they are re-employed on the equivalent grade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11761/11]

It is a general condition of the Incentivised Scheme of Early Retirement (ISER) that persons availing of this Scheme will not be eligible for re-employment in the same part of the public service. In order to ensure compliance with the provisions of the form of acceptance, Departments and other Public Service employers must inquire of relevant future job applicants if they have availed of the terms of this Scheme. If the person was formerly in the Civil Service and availed of the ISER, s/he is ineligible for subsequent re-employment in the Civil Service. Similar restrictions apply elsewhere in the Public Service. However, if the person retired from another area of the Public Service under a similar ISER and is subsequently employed in a Civil Service Department, that Department must inform the person's former employer to this effect. The former employer will abate the pension so that s/he receives no more by way of pension and salary than the pay s/he would have received had s/he remained in the former employment. (In the event that the pay in the new employment equals or exceeds that of the former employment, the pension will cease.) This abatement will apply until the employee reaches the maximum pension age under the former employer's pension scheme (my Department's Circular 12/2009 refers). There is provision for staff to be re-employed in the same area in exceptional circumstances (e.g. in the case of a staff member with specialist skills who might be permitted to be re-engaged for a very limited period — again subject to abatement of pension).

In the case of the HSE's more recent Voluntary Early Retirement (VER) scheme, those who availed of that scheme are not eligible for re-employment in the Public Service as the terms and conditions provide for an absolute prohibition on re-employment in the Public Service (the Department of Health & Children Circular 07/2010 refers). Those who availed of the HSE's recent Voluntary Redundancy (VR) Scheme (also covered by Circular 07/2010) are not eligible for re-employment in the Public Service for 7 years, following which the specific consent of the Minister for Finance is required for applications for re-employment. The restrictions also apply to re-employment on a contract for service basis in respect of all schemes.

Information is not held centrally on the former employment status of all public service employees. It would not therefore be possible to provide the specific details sought by the Deputy.

Financial Services Regulation

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

139 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that the corporate governance structures at a company (details supplied) where the roles of chief executive officer and chairman of the board are held by the same person are appropriate to a large financial services company providing a range of insurance products here in view of what has been learned regarding the necessity of applying best practice in corporate governance over the decade prior to his entering office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11762/11]

At the outset, the Deputy should note that while I have responsibility as Minister for Finance for the development of the legal framework governing financial regulation, the day to day responsibility for the supervision and authorisation of financial institutions is a matter for the Central Bank which is statutorily independent in the exercise of its regulatory functions. I therefore will have no input or influence over the authorisation of the company in question.

I understand however that the authorisation process will take 12 weeks to process from receipt of application by the Central Bank. As part of that process the company will have to be able to demonstrate amongst other things that it will be in a position to comply with the Central Bank's new Corporate Governance code on an ongoing basis which has been designed to address many of the lessons learned over the last decade.

Departmental Schemes

Ray Butler

Question:

140 Deputy Ray Butler asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 136 of 12 April 2011, if an update is available on the timescale involved for the signing of the commencement order for the employment and investment incentive; if it will be fast tracked in any way in view of the fact that businesses are anxiously awaiting this decision based on the simplified certification requirements and the increase in the limits that can be raised compared to the BES scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11772/11]

As I indicated to the Deputy in my previous response of 12th April, the approval of the European Commission is required before the new scheme can be commenced.

My officials are engaged in ongoing discussions with the European Commission with regard to the proposed changes. I can assure the Deputy that the scheme will be implemented as soon as possible once approval has been received. However, it is not possible to stipulate when that might be.

Financial Services Regulation

John Halligan

Question:

141 Deputy John Halligan asked the Minister for Finance if he will compel those banks that are now in State ownership to repay the payment protection insurance which they wrongly sold alongside personal loans, credit cards and mortgages to all those persons who are self-employed, unemployed, seasonal workers or unable to work due to illness; if he will order the banks to conduct a cost analysis into the amount this payout is going to cost the taxpayer; the time frame for the completion of this analysis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11790/11]

The Central Bank of Ireland'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, inter alia, must:

Act honestly, fairly and professionally and in the best interests of its customers and the integrity of the market;

Act with due skill, care and diligence in the best interests of its customers;

Not recklessly, negligently or deliberately mislead a customer as to the real or perceived advantages or disadvantages of any product or service.

Any breach of the Consumer Protection Code may be considered under the Central Bank's Administrative Sanctions Procedure. If a consumer feels that they have been improperly treated or has grounds for complaint for some other reason, they may make a complaint to the institution directly. It the complainant feels the issue has not been addressed to their satisfaction they may refer the complaint to the Financial Services Ombudsman. 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 is conducting a themed inspection of Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) policies sold to consumers who would not have been eligible to make an unemployment/redundancy 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 sale 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.

Banking Sector

Shane Ross

Question:

142 Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Finance the number of expressions of interest or responses he has received to his requests for interests in board vacancies at the banks; the number of candidates who fulfilled the necessary criteria; if all responses will receive replies; the persons who will be conducting the interviews; if the final decision on the appointments will rest with the Government or Minister; if the Government will be bound by any recommendations from any chosen interviewing group; the number of vacancies that exist at the banks' boards; and if the Government can ignore all the candidates and parachute their own chosen directors into the vacancies without being subject to the interview process. [11811/11]

In excess of 500 expressions of interest were received by the closing date of last Thursday 12th May 2011 in response to the media advertisement of 28th April 2011. I would like to express my appreciation to those individuals who took the time and effort to submit applications.

The Deputy will understand that at this early stage it would not be possible to indicate the number of candidates who fulfilled the necessary criteria. All applications will receive due consideration as part of the process of identifying suitably qualified people for selection and have been acknowledged. As the numbers are so high, it may not be practicable to respond individually to each expression of interest.

The next stage in the process is shortlisting to bring the applications down to a more manageable number. It will take some time to go through this level of applications evaluating them against the specified criteria though this part of the process will be undertaken as speedily as possible.

What the Government has sought to do here, as part of its reform agenda and in tandem with its proposals for the appointment of directors to State boards, is to broaden the candidature from which such appointments may be made. Based on the number of expressions of interest received this has been achieved. From a quick examination, the expressions of interest come from a variety of disciplines with the common thread of some financial sector experience. The vast majority would appear to have supplied Irish addresses but there has been some minor interest from outside the country from both Irish people living abroad and non-nationals. I would hope that a number of candidates will emerge from this process that would be suitable for consideration for appointment to the board of a covered institution.

It is imperative that individuals of high calibre and competency are appointed to such positions. Accordingly, it would not be wise or prudent for the Government to rely solely on this process for the appointment of directors to the covered institutions as further qualified people will inevitably emerge from other avenues that would merit serious consideration. The final decision on who to nominate to fill such vacancies must rest with the relevant Minister or the Government but a wider range of candidates, who will have gone through a selection process, will now be available for consideration. This is a major departure, I'm sure the Deputy will agree, from the practice heretofore which was adopted up to now.

It is not possible to be precise on the number of vacancies to be filled but there are a range of vacancies across a number of the 6 covered institutions. In my statement on the Nyberg Report on 20 April 2011, I indicated that I have asked each institution to supply a Board Renewal Plan to include, amongst other matters, a programme of rotation of board members commencing with those appointed before September 2008. As the Minister for Finance presently is the major, majority, or full shareholder or has controlling interest in 5 of the 6 institutions there is scope for the best interest of the taxpayer and the institution to be at the forefront in deciding the number and timing of such vacancies.

Departmental Appointments

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

143 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the positions held by a person (details supplied) recently appointed as Secretary General of the Department of public expenditure and reform, within the Department of Finance before and after his employment at a company and the consultancy contracts undertaken by the company on behalf of the Department of Finance over the past ten years. [11816/11]

I refer the Deputy to PQ 10416/11 which was answered in written format to the Deputy on Tuesday, 12 May 2011 and which contains the bulk of the information requested.

In addition, the individual mentioned in the Deputy's question had the following career history with my Department:

Date

Position Held in Department of Finance

06/12/93

Appointed Administrative Officer — Budget & Economic Division

15/01/99

Promoted to Assistant Principal — Budget & Economic Division

30/03/01

Resigned

Question No. 144 answered with Question No. 112.

Prize Bonds

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

145 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the protections in place for persons who have invested in prize bonds and the Post Office in the event of our financial situation becoming more precarious. [11820/11]

All State Savings money is placed directly with the Irish Government, and repayment of all NTMA State Savings money, which includes principal, interest and bonus payments if due (or, in respect of Prize Bonds, cash prizes), is a direct, unconditional obligation of the Government of Ireland.

State Savings is the brand name used by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) to describe the range of savings products offered by the NTMA to personal savers.

The suite of State Savings products includes Savings Certificates, Savings Bonds, Prize Bonds, National Solidarity Bond, Instalment Savings and Deposit Accounts such as the Ordinary Deposit Account and the Deposit Account Plus.

An Post and the Prize Bond Company are agents of the NTMA for the operation of the State Savings schemes. However, neither An Post nor the Prize Bond Company retain or manage any State Savings money. All State Savings money is a part of the national debt which is under the management of the National Treasury Management Agency.

NTMA State Savings products have been an important and dependable component of Government borrowing for many years and make a valuable contribution to the national finances.

Health Insurance

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

146 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Finance his views on a proposal regarding the VHI health insurance premiums and income tax (details supplied). [11825/11]

The position is that health expenses relief is granted at the standard rate only, in respect of expenses incurred from 1 January 2009 except for nursing home expenses which continue to be granted at the marginal rate (up to 41%). Further information can be found in leaflet IT6 and Tax Briefing 68 on www.Revenue.ie

It should be noted that the Finance Act 2010 also allows relief at the marginal rate in respect of private contributions made towards the cost of the upkeep of an individual under the Fair Deal Scheme for nursing home care.

Section 470 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides for income tax relief in respect of payments made to authorised insurers under relevant contracts in respect of medical insurance and dental insurance. Income tax relief is granted at the standard rate of tax and is generally granted at source under the Tax Relief at Source system (TRS).

In order to provide additional assistance to those aged 60 years or more, additional tax credits are made available under section 470B of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 where medical insurance is renewed or entered into. The amount of these additional tax credits was increased by section 9 of the Finance Act 2011 and is now €625 where the individual is aged between 60 and 70 years; €1,275 where the individual is aged between 70 and 80 years; and €1,725 where the individual is aged over 80 years. These additional tax credits are also given under the TRS system.

The universal social charge (USC) was introduced with effect from 1 January 2011. USC applies to gross income without any provision for tax credits or reliefs for expenditures such as pension contributions or medical expenses. There is an exempt annual threshold of €4,004 (€77 per week). However, where this threshold is exceeded, the entire amount is chargeable.

The standard rates of charge are:

2% on the first €10,036,

4% on the next €5,980, and

7% on the balance.

The USC does, however, provide relief for those who are in possession of a full medical card or a Health Amendment Act card or who are aged 70 years or over in that the maximum rate of charge of USC for individuals in receipt of employment or pension income is capped at 4% irrespective of the level of their income. In the case of individuals who are in receipt of income subject to the self-assessment system of taxation, this 4% rate increases to 7% where an individual's income from self-employment exceeds €100,000.

A comprehensive publication of "Frequently Asked Questions" (FAQs) in relation to the USC has been posted on the Revenue website and is updated at regular intervals.

This charge is separate from income tax.

I should point out that there is no proposal in the Programme for Government to allow income tax relief or USC relief at the marginal rate in respect of healthcare costs or health insurance premiums.

However, as a matter of policy, taxation measures are reviewed on a regular basis as part of the annual Budget and Finance Bill process.

Tax Code

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

147 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Finance if he has considered a proposal to tax children’s allowance as an alternative to means testing the children’s allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11827/11]

The position is that there is no specific proposal in the Programme for Government to means test or tax child benefit payments.

However, as a matter of policy, taxation measures are reviewed on a regular basis as part of the annual Budget and Finance Bill process.

Bank Executives’ Compensation

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

148 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Finance if a proposal (details supplied) has been brought to his attention regarding the Irish bank executives’ compensation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11828/11]

The Deputy may wish to note in relation to the matter of remuneration at the covered institutions that the NTMA have recently, on behalf of my Department, requested the CEOs of each of the covered institutions to review remuneration policy and practices in their institutions. In this context the covered institutions have been requested to consult with my Department in advance of giving any additional commitments on redundancy payments. The institutions have also been asked to consider measures that could be undertaken to align staff expectations with regard to benefits/remuneration to the changed economic environment and the financial circumstances of the banks.

Public Sector Pay

Catherine Murphy

Question:

149 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Finance when the review of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Bill 2009 will take place; the length of time the review will take; when the results of this review are likely to be prepared and laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11842/11]

The Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act, 2009 provided for the reduction in remuneration of public servants with effect from 1 January 2010. Section 7 of the Act requires that the Minister for Finance undertake a review of the operation, effectiveness and impact of this Act, having regard to the overall economic conditions in the State and national competitiveness, before 30 June 2011. It is my intention, in accordance with the requirements of the Act, to lay a written report of the outcome of the review to each House of the Oireachtas shortly thereafter.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

150 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Finance his views whether the stated purpose of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Bill 2009, to reduce the significant shortfall between expenditure and revenue is served by applying section 2 to workers paid exclusively through privately raised funds in fee-paying school but who are classified as public servants for the purpose of the Bill, thus decreasing tax revenue for the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11843/11]

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 within the meaning of 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 staff of recognised schools are, whether employed in recognised public or private schools, deemed to be public servants within the meaning of and for the purposes of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009. This position has been confirmed by legal advice.

Differentiation between workers paid exclusively through privately raised funds in recognised fee-paying schools and those funded in whole or in part through Exchequer funds would create difficulties as there is a variety of staff across the education sector who are employed by public service bodies but who are either wholly or partly funded from non-Exchequer sources. Within this cadre, there are also staff undertaking the same or similar duties to staff who are fully Exchequer funded. It would be inequitable and inappropriate to exempt the staff paid exclusively through privately raised funds from the pay reductions while other staff continued to be subject to the legislation.

Tax Code

Catherine Murphy

Question:

151 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Finance if there is a mechanism or provision whereby private fee-paying schools that are in receipt of public funds and that are subject to section 2 of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Bill 2009 can extend the exemption in section 6 to workers who are paid exclusively through privately raised funds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11844/11]

The staff of recognised private fee-paying schools are deemed to be public servants for the purposes of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Bill 2009. This position has been confirmed by legal advice. It is of course open to such schools to make a formal application seeking an exemption under Section 6 of the Act from the relevant Minister.

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 (which included certain staff such as caretakers and secretaries) until 31 December 2010. Accordingly, the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act has been applied to those specific categories of workers in the education sector since 1 January 2011 in contrast to all other persons employed by organisations deemed to be "public service bodies" for the purposes of the Act for whom the reductions have applied since 1 January 2010.

Section 7 of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act provides that the Minister shall, before 30 June 2011 and every year thereafter, carry out a review of the operation, effectiveness and impact of the Act, having regard to the overall economic conditions in the State and national competitiveness. That review will not however involve the consideration of the position of individual or groups of public servants within the meaning of the Act.

EU-IMF Programme

Finian McGrath

Question:

152 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if it is correct that US Treasury Secretary Geithner vetoed the haircut at a G7 conference; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11854/11]

Ireland is not a member of the G7, and does not participate in its discussions. I therefore have no record of the matter raised in the question. I do understand that there have, from time to time, been discussions about Ireland among various parties. However, Ireland's engagement in relation to our EU/IMF programme of support has been principally with the IMF and the EU institutions, along with the member states concerned.

Residential Institutions Redress Board

Noel Grealish

Question:

153 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the €110 million that had been allocated for children who resided in schools and orphanages, which are not covered under the Redress Board; when he plans to allocate this funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11615/11]

Following publication of the Ryan Report in May 2009, the then Government and Dáil Éireann called on the Congregations to commit to making further substantial contributions by way of reparation. In response the Congregations offered additional contributions, including cash and various property transfer proposals. In April 2010, the then Government announced its intention to utilise the cash element of €110m of the congregations' offers of contributions, to establish a Statutory Fund to support the needs of survivors of residential institutional child abuse.

Having undertaken a comprehensive consultation process in relation to the proposed Statutory Fund, my Department has prepared proposals, together with a General Scheme of a Bill to provide for the Statutory Fund. I am considering these proposals and intend discussing them with my Cabinet colleagues in the near future.

To date €20.6m has been received and placed in a special interest bearing account in the Central Bank pending the establishment of the Statutory Fund. The remaining congregations are awaiting confirmation that the legislation will provide for the charitable status of their contributions to the Fund or sight of the proposed terms and structure of the Fund, prior to making their initial contributions. The offers of contributions envisaged that the cash contributions would be made over a period of years.

School Accommodation

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

154 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Limerick. [11166/11]

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

This application is currently being assessed. Officials in my Department will convey a decision on the application to the school authority when the assessment process has been completed.

Schools Refurbishment

Dara Calleary

Question:

155 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extra schools in County Mayo that have been included in the summer works scheme 2011 as a result of the extra funding announced in the jobs initiative. [11194/11]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that 12 primary and post primary schools were successful under this years Summer Works Scheme.

Details of the successful applicants under the 2011 Summer Works Scheme were announced on 30th March 2011 and are published on the Department's website, www.education.ie. €41.2m will be made available under the summer works scheme and will see major improvements in primary and post primary schools around the country including Co. Mayo. 453 primary and post primary schools across the country have been successful in their applications for funding under the Summer Works Scheme this year.

I am also pleased to inform the Deputy that 22 applications from schools in County Mayo were successful under the Jobs Initiative announced on 10th May 2011 and are published on the Department's website, www.education.ie. €40 million will be made available through the Jobs Initiative to fund 374 primary and post primary school building projects. These funds will allow schools to carry out small and medium scale building works such as special needs access, toilet facilities, roof works and window replacements. It is envisaged that the investment will also create 2,400 direct and 480 indirect much needed jobs in the construction sector.

I have set out below lists of all successful applications for Co. Mayo under both Schemes for the Deputies convenience.

SWS 2011 March 2011

County

Roll No.

Name and Address of School

Project

MAYO

07054L

Cullen’s N. S. Knockduff

Mechanical

MAYO

07075T

S N Naomh Feichin an Crois

Electrical

MAYO

13080V

Kilmovee N. S. Ballaghadeerreen

Mechanical

MAYO

13797U

Lecanvey N. S. Westport

Mechanical

MAYO

14258S

Cill Mhor Iorrais Beal an Mhuirthead

Mechanical

MAYO

14808E

Irishtown N. S. Claremorris

Mechanical

MAYO

15257V

Quignamanger N. S. Ballina

Mechanical

MAYO

15539I

St John’s N.S. Lugboy

Mechanical

MAYO

18876S

Ballycushion N.S. Ballycushion

Mechanical

MAYO

19402B

Ballyvary Central N. S., Ballyvary

Electrical

MAYO

19951L

Swinford N.S., Swinford

Mechanical

MAYO

64510J

St Muredach’s College, Sligo Road

Gas

MAYO

72020L

Moyne College, Ballina

Mechanical

Capital Jobs Initiative May 2011

County

Roll No.

Name and Address of School

Project

MAYO

13389F

SN an Trian Lair, Swinford

Roofs

MAYO

13667H

SN Muine Chonallain, Ballina

Roofs

MAYO

13945J

Eskeragh N. S., Dooleg, Ballina

Access For All

MAYO

16283E

S N Pol A Tsomais, Ballina

Access For All

MAYO

17098O

S N Tighearnain Naofa, Via Crossmolina P.O.

Roofs

MAYO

17585C

S N Beal Caradh, Belcarra

Roofs

MAYO

17922R

Cloghan’s Hill N. S., Tuam

Roofs

MAYO

18542M

S N Naomh Padraig, Castlebar

Roofs

MAYO

19324H

S N Teaghlaigh Naofa, Louisburg

Access For All

MAYO

19911W

St Patrick’s Central N.S., Kilmaine

Toilets

MAYO

19972T

S N Uileog De Burca, Clar, Claremorris

Roofs

MAYO

64500G

Balla Secondary School, Balla, Castlebar

Toilets

MAYO

64590K

Naomh Iosaef, Clochar na Trócaire, Castlebar

Windows

MAYO

64610N

Coláiste Cholmáin, Claremorris

Windows

MAYO

64630T

Jesus & Mary Secondary School, Gortnor Abbey, Crossmolina

Roofs

MAYO

64660F

Sancta Maria College, Louisburgh

Roofs

MAYO

64691Q

Coláiste Mhuire, Tourmakeady

Toilets

MAYO

64700O

Rice College, Castlebar Road, Westport

Roofs

MAYO

64710R

Sacred Heart School, Westport

Roofs

MAYO

72050U

St. Brendan’s College, Belmullet

Windows

MAYO

72160E

Carrowbeg College, Westport

Windows

MAYO

91494R

St Louis Community School, Kiltimagh

Roofs

Traveller Education

Dara Calleary

Question:

156 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on directing any of the additional funding made available to him in the jobs initiative to reverse decisions taken in relation to traveller resource teachers around the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11195/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the decision to withdraw Resource Teacher for Travellers was taken by the previous Government as part of the last Budget. The requirement to make expenditure savings and to ensure that staffing numbers remain within the Public Service Employment Control Framework prevent me from re-visiting this decision.

Resource Teacher for Traveller posts/Teaching Hours for Traveller pupils will be withdrawn, effective from 31st August 2011. Traveller pupils who are eligible for learning support teaching should receive this tuition through the existing learning support provision in schools. All schools should select students for learning support on the basis of priority of need.

Limited alleviation or adjustment measures are being provided to assist schools that have high concentrations of Traveller pupils who were previously supported by Resource Teachers for Travellers.

In respect of DEIS, (Developing Equality of Opportunity in Schools), Traveller enrolments have been included in the valid enrolment for the purpose of allocating additional staffing under DEIS from the 2011/12 school year. The schools involved have already received their staffing allocations for next year.

For schools other than DEIS schools in receipt of enhanced pupil teacher ratios, alleviation measures are being provided to assist schools with high concentrations of Traveller pupils who were previously supported by RTT posts. Any alleviation measures must be considered in the context of the limited resources that are available to my Department. As such, alleviation measures are being concentrated on schools which had 33 or more pupils supported by RTT posts, based on 2009/10 school year enrolments. The funding made available in my Department to support the Jobs Initiative announced last week was earmarked to allow this Government to meet the pledge in the Programme for Government to deliver an additional 15,000 places in training, work experience and educational opportunities within our first 100 days in office. The measures contained in the Jobs Initiative will provide those seeking employment with an additional 20,900 places, with the majority coming from my own department. Capital funding was also made available through the jobs initiative to fund a number of primary and post-primary school building projects.

These measures, together with the other measures announced as part of the Jobs Initiative, are intended to assist in employment generation, provide opportunities for those who have lost their jobs, and thus generate confidence in the economy. The success of such measures is essential if this country is to regain its economic sovereignty.

School Transport

Dara Calleary

Question:

157 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on directing any of the additional funding made available to him in the jobs initiative to reverse decisions taken in respect of school transport charges, regulations and routes around the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11196/11]

The funding made available by the Government to the jobs initiative will be used solely for that purpose. 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 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

Finian McGrath

Question:

158 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding grant aid in respect of persons (details supplied). [11205/11]

Under my Department's student grant schemes, students who are entering approved courses for the first time are eligible for grants where they satisfy the prescribed conditions of funding, including those relating to age, residence, means, nationality and previous academic attainment. Details of the 2011/12 student grant scheme are due to become available following publication, currently planned for end-May 2011. Information and application forms will then be made available on the website, www.studentfinance.ie which also provides comprehensive information on the full range of supports available in further and higher education, including the student grant, the Student Assistance Fund and other relevant supports. New applicants may apply for grant assistance to their local authority or Vocational Education Committee, depending on their choice of course. Online application will be possible for a number of grant awarding authority areas. Eligible students with particularly low reckonable incomes may also qualify for the special rate or “top-up” grant.

The Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) is a third-level admissions scheme for students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The scheme is operated by a number of higher education institutions and not by my Department. Admissions to the institutions are regulated by the institutions themselves. The Deputy may wish to contact the Irish Universities Association, which operates the HEAR scheme on behalf of participating institutions. Further details are available at www.accesscollege.ie.

Schools Building Projects

Finian McGrath

Question:

159 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will spend some of the €30 million for the school building programme at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [11206/11]

The €30 million allocation for the school building programme referred to by the Deputy was for small to medium scale works. Construction is already underway, since February 2011, on a large scale extension/refurbishment project at the schools referred to by the Deputy. Therefore there will be no requirement for additional funding for these schools from the €30 million allocation.

School Closures

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

160 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to close a primary school (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11283/11]

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

161 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills the measures he plans to put in place to protect rural schools (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11284/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 160 and 161 together.

The value for money review on small schools, currently being carried out by my Department, is part of the normal review processes undertaken by all Departments on an annual basis on selected areas of expenditure and is being conducted in line with the standard procedure for value for money reviews. These procedures require that the views of stakeholders be obtained and the public consultations were designed to achieve this aim. This was done by issuing a direct invitation to relevant interest groups to provide a submission. The interest groups included the school patron bodies, management bodies, teacher unions, national parents' council, Irish language groups and other groups who operate in the area of social inclusion.

A letter, inviting submissions, issued on 8 February 2011 to these interest groups and a deadline for reply was given for 18th March 2011. As these groups represent a wide spectrum of membership it could be reasonably expected they would communicate with their membership in regard to the review. In addition to the direct letter of invitation issued to these groups, a general invitation for submissions was posted on the Department's website also at the same time. Indeed the large response of in excess of 1,000 submissions seems to support the view that there is high general awareness of the review and a lot of interest in it.

The review will attempt to explore the general policy options for re-organisation of small schools including the sharing of resources and clustering arrangements towards small schools. I think it is important to clarify that this study is part of an overall requirement across all Government Departments to have a rolling programme of such studies. This review was initiated last October by the previous Fianna Fail-Green Party Government and is not driven by any ideology. The study is simply about ascertaining the facts to inform future policy. It does not mean that any policy decision has been taken at this point or that any particular outcome is sought.

Given that the Government has recently announced a Comprehensive Review of Expenditure, all Government expenditure and programmes will come under similar scrutiny. The terms of reference acknowledge the important role primary schools play in their local communities. In considering any policy change in relation to small schools, the Department of Education and Skills is conscious that there is a wider dimension to be considered in addition to the cost of maintaining small schools.

Among the issues that will need to be taken into account are questions such as availability of diversity of provision, ethos of schools, parental choice, language of instruction, travel distances, transport costs and the impact of schools on dispersed rural communities. The review will examine the locations of small schools relative to each other and to other schools of a similar type. It will also examine the costs of running small schools and the educational outcomes associated with small schools.

Educational quality for the students must be one of the main criteria in any consideration of primary school size. We must also consider the needs of local communities and wider social and cultural factors. Decisions on school provision and reorganisation must be widely perceived to be cost-effective, equitable and reasonable. These decisions need to be based on a rigorous evaluation of requirements and needs, not just at a local level but also at both regional and national levels.

With regard to the specific school referred to by the Deputy, the existing rules and current sustainability limits will continue to apply and there are no plans at this time to close this school.

Literacy Levels

Brendan Smith

Question:

162 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will ensure that the Irish data being gathered in a survey (details supplied) distinguishes between persons who have gone through the Irish school system and those who were educated in other education systems. [11291/11]

The aim of the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) is to assess the literacy competency levels of adults between the ages of 16-64. It is not designed to collect detailed data on participants' educational history. However, PIAAC will provide some information on the levels of education achieved and on the profile of the participant, including country of birth and, where relevant, the date the participant entered the country. It will also be possible to identify qualifications achieved abroad and the country where they were achieved. The survey also seeks information on the equivalence of foreign qualifications to Irish qualifications. It will be possible when the qualification data and the participant profile data is considered together to obtain information on a participant's educational past.

School Transport

Paudie Coffey

Question:

163 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application (details supplied) for the remote area grant scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11292/11]

To be eligible for school transport children must reside not less than 3.2 kilometres from and be attending their nearest national school, as determined by my Department, having regard to ethos and language. Eligible children for whom no transport service is available may, following their application for transport, receive a Remote Area Grant towards the cost of making private transport arrangements. Bus Éireann which operates the school transport schemes, on behalf of my Department, has advised that they have no record of receiving an application for school transport from the person in question. The position regarding transport or a grant can be assessed on receipt of a completed application form.

Paudie Coffey

Question:

164 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the remote area grant scheme is applicable to transition year students; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11293/11]

To be eligible for post-primary school transport pupils, including transition year pupils, must reside not less than 4.8 kilometres from, and be attending, their appropriate post-primary education centre/school, as determined by my Department. Eligible pupils for whom no transport service is available may, following their application for transport, receive a Remote Area Grant (RAG) towards the cost of making private transport arrangements. In general, the RAG is payable for the duration of a pupil's post-primary education unless circumstances change e.g. a service may be established under the terms of the scheme. Parents/guardians of eligible pupils should, in the first instance, liaise with their local Bus Éireann office regarding the availability of school transport services.

School Curriculum

Paudie Coffey

Question:

165 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Education and Skills if all students have the right to be educated through the Irish language; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11294/11]

The Education Act provides for the right of parents to send their children to a school of the parents' choice, having regard to the rights of patrons and the efficient use of resources. The Act also places specific obligations on the system to contribute to the realisation of national policy and objectives in relation to Irish, to the maintenance of Irish as the primary community language in Gaeltacht areas, and to promoting the language and cultural needs of students having regard to the choices of their parents.

The promotion of the Irish language has been an important aim of successive Irish Governments and the Department of Education and Skills has responded to the increased demands for Irish-medium schooling in recent years. At primary level, this is evidenced in the increased numbers of gaelscoileanna established outside Gaeltacht areas. Since 2005, a total of 17 new gaelscoileanna have been recognised by the Department to give a total of 138 recognised Irish-medium primary schools. At post-primary level, the number of gaelcholáistí (Irish-medium second-level schools) has grown to 45 (of which 13 have been established since 2000) and this provision is supplemented by 10 aonad (specialised Irish-medium units attached to an existing second-level school) and 10 sruth (stream or Irish-speaking class within an English medium school). Both the aonad and sruth structure facilitate the provision of Irish-medium education in cases where there is significant demand for education in Irish but where this demand would be insufficient for an independent Irish-medium school.

The population increase over the past ten years or so has resulted in a requirement to provide significant additional school places in some areas of the country and this increase is expected to continue in the short to medium term. There are increasing demands for diversity of provision of school type, including Irish-medium education, distributed throughout the country in areas of both static and growing population. These growing demands have required a revision of the procedures for the recognition of new primary schools. These have been reviewed by the Commission on School Accommodation which reported in February 2011. The recommendations in the report are being considered by me in the context of the wider debate on patronage and pluralism in primary schools through the Forum which I have established in April 2011. The Forum is due to present its report at the end of the year.

In the interim my Department is adopting a strategy whereby it will only allow new primary schools to be established to cater for demographic growth in order to deliver on the overall priority that every child has a school place available to them. The demands to extend the provision of Irish-medium education at primary level will be considered in the context of the new arrangements which emerge from the outcome of the Forum's work.

At post-primary level, I am considering the arrangements that will apply for the recognition of new second-level schools consistent with the commitment in the programme for Government. Similar to the position at primary level, the intention is that new schools will only be established where there is demographic demand. The issue of how best to facilitate the provision of all-Irish education at post-primary level will form part of my consideration.

Schools Refurbishment

Paudie Coffey

Question:

166 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a school (details supplied) that has been identified by the school authorities, the local authority and the Garda Síochána as urgently requiring external improvement works in the interest of road traffic and pedestrian safety will be considered in the new allocation of funds under the summer works scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11295/11]

In general, individual school authorities are responsible, in the first instance, for ensuring the safety and welfare of children and others in their care, including traffic management measures. The issue of road safety measures outside the vested site areas of schools, such as road signage, traffic calming measures etc., is a matter, however, for the relevant Local Authority. Local Authorities have the power to decide on road safety measures outside schools and should ensure that measures are in place to protect the safety of local school children.

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

Brendan Smith

Question:

167 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will detail the number of schools that have benefited from the summer works scheme in each year of its operation. [11302/11]

The Summer Works Scheme was introduced in 2004. The purpose of the Scheme is to devolve funding to individual school authorities to undertake small-scale building works which, ideally, can be carried out during the summer months or at other times that avoid disrupting the operation of the school. Under the terms of the Scheme, school authorities are empowered to manage these works with guidance from, and minimal interaction, with the Department.

Ten categories of works are eligible for funding under the Scheme. These include, Gas, Electrical, Mechanical, Projects to facilitate inclusion and access for special needs pupils, Toilet facilities, Roof works, Window projects, Curricular requirement projects, Structural improvements and External environment projects. Since its introduction in 2004, over €590m has been grant aided to schools under the Summer Works Scheme. A Scheme did not operate in 2008. The Scheme has allowed the completion of projects in over 6,000 primary and post primary schools as follows: 457 schools in 2004759 schools in 2005785 schools in 2006970 schools in 20071,026 schools in 20091,567 schools in 2010 453 schools in 2011.

In addition to the 2011 Summer Works Scheme, a further €30 Million has been made available this year under the Jobs Initiative to fund school building works in 374 primary and post-primary schools. These funds will allow schools to carry out small and medium scale building works such as special needs access, toilet facilities, roof works and window replacements.

Brendan Smith

Question:

168 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the programmes which will be reduced as a result of his decision to switch €20 million from current funding to the summer works scheme. [11303/11]

Brendan Smith

Question:

169 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will detail the efforts undertaken by him to discern the likely number of jobs which will result from the increased allocation of funding to the summer works scheme and the number of jobs impacted upon in other areas by his redirection of €20 million to the scheme. [11304/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 168 and 169 together.

An additional €40m worth of school projects will commence this summer under the Jobs Initiative, of which €30m will be spent this year. Some €20m of this has been reallocated by me from within my own Department's 2011 capital allocation for higher education and an additional €10m has been made available to the Department from the Exchequer. The funding was not switched from the current budget.

Progress has been slow on a number of higher education major capital works. Where a project slows down we would normally seek to speed up expenditure on other major projects or allocate funding to minor works or for higher education site purchases, where there are always a small number of acquisitions under consideration. However, given the importance of the jobs initiative I decided to transfer €20m from the higher education capital budget to the schools capital budget.

In relation to the calculation of the number of jobs generated, there is general agreement that school works are very labour intensive. Industry norms as recommended by the Construction Industry Council have been used to determine the number of jobs likely to be generated from the investment in question. The Council has suggested that there are 10 direct jobs and 2 indirect one for every €1m capital spend. I would estimate that this funding will create at least 2,400 direct and 480 indirect jobs in the economy for around 2 months per project.

School Transport

Ciara Conway

Question:

170 Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review an application for the remote area grant in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford. [11312/11]

To be eligible for school transport children must reside not less than 3.2 kilometres from and be attending their nearest national school, as determined by my Department, having regard to ethos and language. Eligible children for whom no transport service is available may, following their application for transport, receive a Remote Area Grant towards the cost of making private transport arrangements. Bus Éireann which operates the school transport schemes, on behalf of my Department, has advised that they have no record of receiving an application for school transport from the person in question. The position regarding transport or a grant can be assessed on receipt of a completed application form.

Departmental Agencies

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

171 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of State agencies or organisations under his remit which are paid up members of the Irish Business and Employers Confederation; the name of each agency or organisation; the amount each State agency or organisation paid to the Irish Business and Employers Confederation for the years 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11320/11]

The information requested by the Deputy is provided in the following table.

Amount of fees payable to IBEC 2007-2011 to date

Agency Name

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

FÁS (See Note 1)

55,123.98

58,583.14

58,583.10

0

0

Further Education and Training Awards Council

1,616.00

1,681.00

1,681.00

1,463.00

1,337.00

Higher Education and Training Awards Council

1,248.82

1,300.00

1,300.00

1,300.00

1,300.00

Léargas

1,248.81

1,986.39

1,910.00

1,795.40

1,566.21

National Educational Welfare Board

8,681.13

5,065.62

5,082.96

5,082.96

10,430.80

(see Note 2)

National Qualifications Authority of Ireland

975.00

1,040.00

1,300.00

1,300.00

1,300.00

Skillnets Ltd

3,153.62

2,131.60

3,138.90

4,270.50

0

(See Note 3)

Note 1: Following a review of its expenditure FÁS cancelled its membership of IBEC during 2009.

Note 2: IBEC membership fees are calculated based on payroll costs. Based on its payroll up to and including 2010 the NEWB paid an incorrect membership fee. The membership fee paid for 2011 was set following negotiation with no arrears paid in respect of previous years.

Note 3: Skillnets Ltd paid both 2010 & 2011 membership fees in 2010.

Higher Education Grants

Niall Collins

Question:

172 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the availability of grant assistance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11339/11]

The student grant schemes include provision for grants to eligible students pursuing certain full-time undergraduate courses of at least two years duration within the EU. The position is that the third level grant schemes do not extend to postgraduate study outside of Ireland. The Deputy will appreciate that the current economic circumstances are such that I am not in a position to consider changing the arrangements at this time.

School Staffing

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

173 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to change the rules regarding the employment of substitute and temporary teachers and lecturers in primary, secondary and tertiary education in order that persons who are in receipt of pensions from the State from teaching will not be eligible for such positions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11343/11]

My Department has issued a number of directives to schools to ask them to prioritise newly qualified teachers over retired teachers when considering applications for teaching and substitute work. Where retired teachers return to teach on a full-time basis or on certain part-time contracts, their pension is abated. To further reduce the impact of retired teachers returning to teach, I have directed my officials to examine whether and how there should be pension consequences for retirees returning to the classroom for shorter periods.

The scale of this issue should be put in context, however. For example, in a two month sample period in the last school year, retired teachers accounted for less than 8% of the number of substitute days worked in primary schools. Therefore, while it remains an issue, its effects are limited to a relatively small number of days worked.

Under the terms of the Employment Control Framework for the Higher Education Sector, third level institutions have been instructed to give priority when filling posts to the employment of new or recently qualified staff over those who are retired, wherever possible. Re-employment of retired staff should only occur in very limited exceptional circumstances and in these cases the salaries offered may not exceed 20% of the full-time salary an individual was in receipt of at the time of their retirement, adjusted to reflect the application of Government pay policy in the period since their date of retirement. Any such proposed arrangements should be put in advance to the Higher Education Authority.

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

174 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of retired teachers, in receipt of pensions from the State employed at present in a temporary or substitute capacity in primary, secondary and tertiary education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11344/11]

Teachers employed in primary, secondary and community/comprehensive schools are paid on payrolls operated by my Department. There were one hundred and eighty six retired primary teachers in receipt of a pension paid on the primary payroll of the 12th May 2011. One hundred and forty seven post-primary retired teachers in receipt of pension will be paid on the post primary payroll of the 19th May. Teachers employed in Vocational Education Committees are paid by the individual VECs and staff in third level institutes are paid by the individual institutes.

Higher Education Grants

David Stanton

Question:

175 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider making a course (details supplied) an approved course for the purposes of the higher education grants scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11367/11]

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 that 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. The Deputy will appreciate that, in the current economic climate, I am not in a position to consider any such extension of the list of approved institutions. 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 the 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 the Revenue Commissioners' website at www.revenue.ie.

Schools Building Projects

Seán Kyne

Question:

176 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the proposal to devolve an annual capital budget to schools to enable such schools to plan for capital projects by themselves in a similar manner to that of the devolved scheme method, which was pioneered by a school in Claregalway, County Galway. [11387/11]

This Government's Programme for National Recovery 2011-2016 commits that administrative functions relating to maintenance and school building projects currently carried out by school principals will be devolved locally and that the devolution of an annual capital budget to schools will be piloted to allow schools to plan for capital projects. In order to expedite the process of delivering projects and to maximise the output from within existing resources, my Department has been exploring alternative methods of delivering major projects. As well as the Public Private Partnership method of delivery, my Department has also initiated a process whereby a local authority and a number of VECs have been given responsibility for managing the delivery of major projects. This process has the potential to offer the Department of Education and Skills another mechanism within which school buildings could be delivered in the future.

In addition to the major capital projects funded by my Department, there are grant schemes in which responsibility for project managing and overseeing the delivery of these projects within budget is devolved to the school authority. Schemes such as the Summer Works Scheme, the Permanent Accommodation Scheme and the Emergency Works Scheme operate on this basis. The further implementation of the commitments in the Programme for National Recovery 2011-2016 will be informed by progress in the new devolution arrangements underway.

Special Educational Needs

Peter Mathews

Question:

177 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to ensure special needs assistant positions and resource hours are not cut from schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11403/11]

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 Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. This now includes a requirement for the NCSE to have regard to an overall cap on the number of SNA posts as well as a temporary suspension of the allocation of additional resource teaching support hours.

In respect of SNA support, 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 SNA support to eligible schools. The NCSE asked schools to submit all applications for SNA support to them 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.

In respect of resource teaching support, the NCSE has issued a Circular to schools advising them that the final date for schools to submit any outstanding, completed, applications for resource teaching supports is 13th May 2011. On receipt of all outstanding applications the DES and NCSE will be in a position to consider resource allocation for the coming school year, in the context of the Departments Employment Control Framework obligations. Schools, including the application referred to by the Deputy, will be notified of their allocations as soon as possible. In the interim, children who are eligible for resource/ learning support teaching can receive this tuition through the existing learning support provision in schools.

School Curriculum

Joe McHugh

Question:

178 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Skills if post-primary schools have full discretion regarding the subjects they provide for leaving certificate programmes, or if he can influence this process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11413/11]

The Rules and Programme for Secondary Schools require that all schools offer an approved syllabus in the following subjects:

Irish, English, Mathematics,

Science or a language other than Irish and English; or a subject of the Business Studies Group,

Civic, Social and Political Education and Social, Personal and Health Education (at junior cycle)

History and Geography in a secondary school, or Technical Graphics or Art Craft Design or Home Economics or Business Studies in a vocational school, and either option in a community and comprehensive school

a physical education programme, and a Relationship and Sexuality Education programme in senior cycle.

The Department has also stipulated a specific format for participation in the Leaving Certificate Applied and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programmes. Other than this, schools have discretion as to what subjects they may offer, from the 34 approved subjects for the Leaving Certificate, and the 25 subjects at Junior Certificate. Such decisions are of necessity made at school level taking account of the overall staffing resources available to the school, the level of demand, the viability of class groups, the mix of programmes and levels being offered, the qualifications profile of staff, and student and parent interests.

School Staffing

Peter Mathews

Question:

179 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to create jobs for graduate teachers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11425/11]

The process of allocating teaching resources to schools for 2011/2012 and the arrangements for filling vacant or new teaching posts, including temporary posts, takes place in the context of the EU/IMF Programme of Support for Ireland and the Public Service Agreement 2010/2014. It is necessary for my Department to exercise additional control and reporting measures this year to ensure that the numbers of teachers employed in schools is consistent with the EU/IMF Programme of Support for Ireland. This requires that all permanent and fixed term positions are in the first instance made available to those surplus teachers with either permanent contracts or contracts of indefinite duration before they can be filled in any other manner such as by fixed-term teachers or by graduates.

Circular 66/2010 issued by my Department permits schools to participate in the FÁS Work Placement Programme (WPP). This programme is intended to assist people who are unemployed to retain their skills levels and secure work experience that will assist them in finding employment. This involves a placement for a defined period, rather than employment, and participants in this voluntary programme may be entitled to maintain their social welfare entitlements subject to the rules of the Department of Social Protection.

School Provision

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

180 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will give positive consideration to the demands for an all-Irish secondary school serving the south County Dublin area and particularly to the use of an existing school building as proposed by the lobby group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11426/11]

The Forward Planning Section of my Department is finalising an analysis of all areas of the country in order to determine the level of additional provision which will be required at both primary and post-primary level up to 2017. Overall post-primary requirements in the South County Dublin area, including the case for the provision of a new second level all Irish language school, will be fully considered in this context.

Schools Refurbishment

Seán Crowe

Question:

181 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will clarify if a school (details supplied) in County Wexford has been listed for the school summer works programme; and if not included, that consideration be given to same, in view of the fact that many parents believe this school is in a substandard condition. [11430/11]

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 am pleased to confirm that the application made by the school in question was selected. A letter to this effect has issued to the school.

School Curriculum

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

182 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Skills if there is an investigation under way to establish the reasons that led to the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment sample mock papers being rejected by all 24 pilot schools and the subsequent direction to those schools to ignore the sample paper; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11431/11]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

183 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 75 of 21 April 2011, if he will clarify the following ambiguities: the meaning of inferential statistics, as this term does not seem to appear in the syllabus, and specifically which elements of inferential statistics have been deferred; the specific elements of synthetic geometry that are optional; to which syllabus does he refer when he states the syllabi issued to all schools in August 2010; if he will supply a copy of same; the way said syllabus differ from the syllabus which will issue in August 2011; if they do differ does this mean an entirely new syllabus will be issued in August 2011, in view of the fact that the absence of this information is preventing the publication of the relevant textbooks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11433/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 182 and 183 together.

I indicated in reply to Question No. 75 of 21 April 2011 that Project Maths is being implemented on a phased basis over a 3 year period, over 5 strands of mathematics. It began in all schools in September 2010 in junior and senior cycle, building on the experiences of 24 schools which began the initiative in 2008. The syllabus for each of the 5 strands is being finalised for mainstream schools in the light of the experiences in the 24 Project Schools.

Inferential statistics refers to the drawing of conclusions, usually in respect of a particular population of interest on the basis of data collected from a random sample of the population. The syllabuses for the mainstream schools and the 24 project maths schools are shown on the website www.ncca.ie\projectmaths, and labelled in accordance with the relevant examination year. Section 1.7 of the syllabus for the 24 Project Schools sitting the Leaving Certificate examination in 2011, page 22 and 23, lists the elements of inferential statistics which have been deferred for an interim period. As these were adjusted before August 2010, the syllabuses issued for mainstream schools sitting the Leaving Certificate in 2012 in Strands 1 and 2 do not detail this content, but flag the fact that elements have been deferred (Section 1.7 on page 20). In regard to Synthetic Geometry, Section 2.1 of page 22 of the Leaving Certificate Mathematics syllabus for mainstream schools sitting the examination in 2012 sets out the elements which are optional for an interim period.

The educational publishers have been briefed on an ongoing basis by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and the draft syllabuses have been published on the Council's website from the earliest possible stage. The adjustments to the syllabus have given rise to elements being deferred or made optional only. It is not accepted therefore that the evolutionary nature of the project has prevented the publication of textbooks.

The syllabuses which issued in hard copy in August 2010 to all mainstream schools are on my Department's website www.education.ie, as well as the NCCA website. These reflect changed content for Project Maths in Strands 1 and 2 only, together with the pre-existing content for the other elements of Mathematics.

The syllabuses which issue in August 2011 to all mainstream schools for candidates sitting the Leaving Certificate in 2013, and the Junior Certificate in 2014, will reflect Project Maths content across Strands 1-4, and are not expected to change vis a vis the drafts already published. It is not the normal practice to issue mock examination papers. However, the NCCA issued mock papers to the 24 Project Schools in February 2011 which were intended to supplement sample question material already sent to schools for the relevant strands the previous summer, and the sample papers published by the State Examinations Commission in October 2010.

The feedback indicates that the questions in the mock papers were more difficult than expected. In response, all of the project schools were notified that it was the sample paper published by the SEC which reflects the standards and type of question likely to arise in the actual examination. Schools were also supplied at that stage with additional materials, and extra follow up from the Project Maths Support Team. No future mock examination papers will be issued by NCCA. In line with normal practice, the State Examinations Commission will continue to publish a sample examination paper where syllabus change arises.

Schools Building Projects

Anne Ferris

Question:

184 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application for a school extension submitted in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Wicklow in view of the fact that this application was made more than seven years ago; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11446/11]

The school to which the Deputy refers has applied to my Department for large scale capital funding for an extension and refurbishment project. The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects and assigned a band rating of 1. Information in respect of the current school building programme along with all assessed applications for major capital works, including the project referred to by the Deputy, is available on the Department's website at www.education.ie. The progression of all large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction phase will be considered in the context of my Department’s multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of the Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

Departmental Expenditure

Timmy Dooley

Question:

185 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason the professional service development for teachers, PSDT, is cutting back on its funding to a centre (details supplied) in County Clare; if he will guarantee the future of the centre in view of the fact that its funding is being severely depleted by the PSDT service; if he will guarantee the long-term future of the centre’s staff and administrators as a result of the measures taken by PSDT; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11447/11]

The Education Centre network plays a key part in the overall provision of continuing professional development (CPD) for teachers, and in this context my Department provides funding in respect of core budget, local courses, and, where a centre is the host location for a national CPD support programme, for the administration and operation of the programme in question. The core budget and the local course budget for Clare Education Centre in 2011 are the same as 2010.

Each Education Centre is a body corporate with perpetual succession. The Centre has a management committee to manage the business and staff of the centre. Apart from the education centre directors who are usually seconded teachers, all other centre staff are non-public servants. Matters relating to the employment, pay, conditions and the numbers of employees are the responsibility of the management committee, and I am not in a position to make any commitments with regard to the future of the Centre's staff.

The Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) was established in September 2010. The PDST is a team of seconded teachers, which offers professional development support to primary and post-primary teachers on a wide range of topics. Clare Education Centre is currently the administration base for three strands of the PDST: the leadership and planning strand, the Leaving Certificate Applied strand and the Maths Recovery strand. In allocating budgets for the three PDST strands my Department aims to ensure that the approved allocation is commensurate with the level of activity and the role of the Centre in their administration, and there is ongoing communication between Clare Ed Centre and my officials in this regard. The Deputy will appreciate that, as is the case with all expenditure, the level of funding to Clare Education centre, the education centre network as a whole, and indeed the teacher support services, is under regular review within my Department, with a view to ensuring value for money and economic efficiency, while providing a high quality service to the education sector.

Higher Education Grants

Alan Farrell

Question:

186 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Education and Skills the plans he has with regard to third level grant allocation and the delays suffered by many students due to the lack of resources being allocated by local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11485/11]

The assessment and payment of third level or further education grants is a matter for the relevant local authority or VEC. The timing of payment varies between the 66 awarding bodies depending on a number of variables including the volume of applications received, staffing resources and whether or not properly completed application forms have been received.

In order to address the overall issue of delays in processing and payment of student grants, I am moving ahead with plans to introduce a single grant awarding authority from 2012. In this regard, following the recommendation of an independent selection panel and subject to agreement of an implementation plan, the City of Dublin VEC will be designated as the single grant awarding authority. The centralised awarding authority will operate on a transitional basis accepting all new applications from the 2012/13 academic year. The existing grant awarding authorities will continue to process grant renewals for their grantholders. Although the existing 66 awarding bodies will continue to process grants for 2011/12, I am pleased to be able to inform the Deputy that students can look forward to some significant improvements to the student grant schemes this year when it is intended to introduce a single unified scheme to replace the existing four schemes. In tandem with these developments, my Department will continue to roll out the grants online application system and the payment of grants to students by way of electronic funds transfer. All of these developments are designed to provide a better and more efficient service for students and will provide for fundamental reform of the student grants system commensurate with the provisions of the Student Support Act.

School Staffing

Alan Farrell

Question:

187 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the withdrawal of a resource and reading teacher from a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11486/11]

Firstly, I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from primary and post primary schools for special educational needs supports. This includes the allocation of resource teaching hours to schools as well as the establishment of special classes in various geographical areas as required and the discontinuation of such classes where the need no longer exists.

The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such supports.

In respect of special classes, schools are required to observe Department policy in enrolling children to these classes. This includes having a professional assessment confirming that the child's attainment levels meets the Department's criteria and a recommendation for special class placement. Schools are eligible for resources for special classes when the pupils enrolled meet the Department's criteria.

Schools are required to liaise with their local SENO in the context of any proposed placements in such classes. All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO.

Where the number of pupils qualifying for special class placement declines, the number of special classes may also be reduced accordingly. The NCSE has advised that on this basis, the number of special classes at the school referred to by the Deputy reduced this year from three to two.

In respect of resource teaching support for the coming school year, the NCSE has issued a Circular to schools advising them that the final date for schools to submit any outstanding, completed, applications for resource teaching supports is 13th May 2011. On receipt of all outstanding applications the DES and NCSE will be in a position to consider resource allocation for the coming school year, in the context of the Departments Employment Control Framework obligations. Schools will be notified of their allocations as soon as possible.

Adult Education

Alan Farrell

Question:

188 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Education and Skills following the announcement by the Minister for Finance, if he will sanction the position of director of adult education to be appointed, in view of the fact that the salary for same can be sourced from contributions made by teachers to the teaching council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11487/11]

A moratorium exists in relation to the filling of posts in the public sector generally and accordingly, the Teaching Council cannot fill any post without the prior approval of my Department and the Department of Finance. Requests for the filling of posts are considered in the context of the Government's policy on public sector numbers and overall budgetary policy.

Although the Teaching Council has not requested sanction for the creation of the position of Director of Adult Education, my Department has had discussions with the Council in relation to a request for the appointment of an Education Officer and other staffing requirements of the Council.

The announcement of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform that the Deputy refers to concerns third level education and a relaxation of the numbers ceiling applying to non-Exchequer funded posts in the higher education sector, in order to facilitate the maximum possible employment creation potential of that sector, while also encouraging institutions to seek to diversify their sources of funding away from the Exchequer. The Minister envisages that similar type arrangements will also apply to contract posts involved in research activity in non commercial state agencies, and my officials will explore this matter further in the context of the Teaching Council.

School Staffing

Brian Walsh

Question:

189 Deputy Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will examine and reverse the decision of the previous Government to withdraw a resource teacher for Traveller posts in the small number of cases in which there is a high concentration of Traveller children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11497/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the decision to withdraw Resource Teacher for Travellers was taken by the previous Government as part of the last Budget. The requirement to make expenditure savings and to ensure that staffing numbers remain within the Public Service Employment Control Framework prevent me from re-visiting this decision.

Resource Teacher for Traveller posts/Teaching Hours for Traveller pupils will be withdrawn, effective from 31st August 2011. Traveller pupils who are eligible for learning support teaching should receive this tuition through the existing learning support provision in schools. All schools should select students for learning support on the basis of priority of need.

Limited alleviation or adjustment measures are being provided to assist schools that have high concentrations of Traveller pupils who were previously supported by Resource Teachers for Travellers.

In respect of DEIS, (Developing Equality of Opportunity in Schools), Traveller enrolments have been included in the valid enrolment for the purpose of allocating additional staffing under DEIS from the 2011/12 school year. The schools involved have already received their staffing allocations for next year.

For schools other than DEIS schools in receipt of enhanced pupil teacher ratios, alleviation measures are being provided to assist schools with high concentrations of Traveller pupils who were previously supported by RTT posts. Any alleviation measures must be considered in the context of the limited resources that are available to my Department. As such, alleviation measures are being concentrated on schools which had 33 or more pupils supported by RTT posts, based on 2009/10 school year enrolments.

Grant Applications

Niall Collins

Question:

190 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will approve an application for a devolved grant in respect of a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11498/11]

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

This application is currently being assessed. Officials in my Department will convey a decision on the application to the school authority when the assessment process has been completed.

Departmental Expenditure

John McGuinness

Question:

191 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will confirm the number of credit cards issued by him and to whom; the criteria for issuing such cards; the credit card company used; if a competitive process was used to select the company; if the facility has had to be withdrawn from any person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11553/11]

Two business credit cards are operated by staff in my Department. One card is operated by the Private Secretary in my own office and the second by the Private Secretary in the office of Minister of State Mr. Ciaran Cannon.

The granting of credit cards in my Department is allowed in very limited circumstances. The provision of such cards will only be considered for officers or post-holders whose work requires expenditure to support the business needs of the Department, in extremely time limited circumstances where the spending needs cannot be easily satisfied by the Department's normal billing process. Strict guidelines govern the use of such cards.

To obtain its current corporate credit cards my Department was required to have a business banking relationship to support the granting of the cards. The Department's two credit cards have been supplied by Bank of Ireland.

As officers of the Department have been re-assigned, credit cards have been surrendered by previous post holders and, where appropriate, new cards obtained for successors in those posts. Additionally, where a business need for a card was deemed to no longer exist, such cards were discontinued. There is no record of a business credit card having been withdrawn from any officer of my Department.

Schools Refurbishment

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

192 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a list of all schools, primary and post-primary, in County Meath that have applied for and who were approved for funding under the summer works scheme for the years 2009, 2010 and 2011. [11573/11]

Details of primary and post-primary schools in County Meath who applied for and were approved funding under the Summer Works Scheme for the years 2009, 2010 and 2011 are included in the table for the Deputy's information.

In addition, I am pleased to advise the Deputy that as part of the Government's Jobs Initiative, details of which were announced recently, €40m in funding has been made available for building works in schools. Details of those schools in County Meath who were successful under this initiative is also set out below for the Deputy's information.

Summer Works Scheme 2009

Name of School

Primary School

20033D

DUNBOYNE SENIOR N S DUNBOYNE

Primary School

19300Q

CASTLEJORDAN CENTRAL NS CASTLEJORDAN

Primary School

19018A

DANGAN MIXED N S DANGAN

Primary School

18453N

S N MHICHIL NAOFA CILL

Primary School

18448U

S N RATH BEAGAIN RATH BEAGAIN

Primary School

18429Q

S N MHUIRE CUL RONAIN

Primary School

18051Q

COOLE N.S, GARRADICE,

Primary School

18037W

S N MHUIRE BAILE UI EARAIN

Primary School

17742P

SCOIL NAIS MHUIRE NAOFA KILTALE

Primary School

17623H

SCOIL NAIS UI GRAMHNA ATHBOY

Primary School

17513A

S N CILL BHRIGHDE KILBRIDE

Primary School

17220I

S N BHRIGHDE MEATH HILL

Primary School

17175G

BOHERMEEN N S BOHERMEEN

Primary School

17162U

S N BHRIGHDE BAILE CORR

Primary School

17123K

KILMAINHAM WOOD N S KILMAINHAM WOOD

Primary School

16991I

CARNAROSS N S CARN NA ROS

Primary School

16774A

SCOIL NAIS AN OBAIR NOBBER

Primary School

16143L

S N PHEADAIR AGUS PHOIL DRUMCONRATH

Primary School

15483H

ST LOUIS N S RATHKENNY

Primary School

15104T

BRIDE NAOFA N S CANNISTOWN

Primary School

12068D

OUR LADY OF MERCY NS KELLS

Primary School

05630L

SCOIL MHICHIL NA BUACHAILLI SCOIL NA MBRATHAR

Primary School

03275H

NEWTOWN N S NEWTOWN

Primary School

00883P

AINE NAOFA N S NAVAN

Post Primary School

91456J

St Ciaran’s Community School Navan Rd

Post Primary School

72010I

Beaufort College Trim Rd

Post Primary School

71991T

Coláiste Pobail Rath Cairn Ráth Cairn

Post Primary School

71990R

St Oliver Post Primary Oldcastle

Post Primary School

71970L

St. Fintinas Post Primary School Longwood

Post Primary School

64410F

Eureka Secondary School Kells

Post Primary School

64350N

St Patrick’s Classical School Moatlands

Summer Works Scheme 2010

Name of School

Primary School

20033D

DUNBOYNE SENIOR N S DUNBOYNE

Primary School

19813W

KILDALKEY CENTRAL N S KILDALKEY

Primary School

19768U

SCOIL MHUIRE ASHBOURNE

Primary School

19476H

ST OLIVER PLUNKETT NS NAVAN

Primary School

19300Q

CASTLEJORDAN CENTRAL NS CASTLEJORDAN

Primary School

19018A

DANGAN MIXED N S DANGAN

Primary School

18887A

SCOIL NAIS MAOL HOSAE KILCOCK

Primary School

18448U

S N RATH BEAGAIN RATH BEAGAIN

Primary School

18413B

S N NAOMH TREASA BELLEWSTOWN

Primary School

18358T

S N FIACH BAILE NA CRIADH

Primary School

18344I

S N MHUIRE MOYNALVEY

Primary School

18174J

S N CAITRIONA NAOFA BAILE OIRTHIR

Primary School

18169Q

S N RATH RIAGAIN BAILE AN BHOTHAIR

Primary School

18132Q

S N MUIRE CARLANSTOWN

Primary School

18051Q

COOLE N.S, GARRADICE,

Primary School

17986U

S N NMH SHEOSAMH BOYERSTOWN

Primary School

17946I

SCOIL NAIS NAOMH AINE MAIO

Primary School

17930Q

S N SEACHNAILL NAOFA DUNSHAUGHLIN

Primary School

17857J

S N AINDREIS NAOFA CURRAHA

Primary School

17856H

S N DUN UABHAIR DUN UBHAIR

Primary School

17742P

SCOIL NAIS MHUIRE NAOFA KILTALE

Primary School

17652O

SCOIL OILIBHEIR NAOFA COILLCLUANA

Primary School

17629T

S N PADRAIG NAOFA ARD A’CHATHA

Primary School

17520U

S N MHUIRE ROBINSTOWN

Primary School

17513A

S N CILL BHRIGHDE KILBRIDE

Primary School

17480L

S N BAILE CHEANT BAILE CHEANT

Primary School

17312N

S N CUL AN MHUILINN CULMULLEN

Primary School

17220I

S N BHRIGHDE MEATH HILL

Primary School

17203I

S N ULTAIN NAOFA DOMHNACH PADRAIG

Primary School

17175G

BOHERMEEN N S BOHERMEEN

Primary School

17123K

KILMAINHAM WOOD N S KILMAINHAM WOOD

Primary School

16991I

CARNAROSS N S CARN NA ROS

Primary School

16825O

KILBRIDE NATIONAL SCHOOL CLONEE

Primary School

16722E

SCOIL CHOLMCILLE NAVAN ROAD

Primary School

16549Q

KNOCKCOMMON N S KNOCKCOMMON

Primary School

16143L

S N PHEADAIR AGUS PHOIL DRUMCONRATH

Primary School

16100Q

MERCY CONVENT N S NAVAN

Primary School

15483H

ST LOUIS N S RATHKENNY

Primary School

14348T

CARRICKLECK N S CARRICKLECK

Primary School

12488C

OLDCASTLE MXD N S CHAPEL ST

Primary School

12068D

OUR LADY OF MERCY NS KELLS

Primary School

11978O

SCOIL MHUIRE NS MOYLAGH

Primary School

10801Q

DRUMBARRAGH N S DRUMBARRAGH

Primary School

09238I

BALLINLOUGH N S BALLINLOUGH

Primary School

05630L

SCOIL MHICHIL NA BUACHAILLI SCOIL NA MBRATHAR

Primary School

03275H

NEWTOWN N S NEWTOWN

Primary School

01421F

KILSKYRE MIXED N S KILSKYRE

Primary School

01309L

STACKALLEN N S STACKALLEN

Primary School

00883P

AINE NAOFA N S NAVAN

Post Primary School

91495T

Ashbourne Community School Deerpark

Post Primary School

76088T

Ratoath College Jamestown

Post Primary School

72010I

Beaufort College Trim Rd

Post Primary School

71991T

Coláiste Pobail Rath Cairn Ráth Cairn

Post Primary School

71990R

St Oliver Post Primary Oldcastle

Post Primary School

71950F

St Peter’s College Dunboyne

Post Primary School

64450R

Scoil Mhuire Convent Of Mercy

Post Primary School

64410F

Eureka Secondary School Kells

Post Primary School

64360Q

St. Joseph’s Secondary School, Navan, Mercy Convent

Post Primary School

64350N

St Patrick’s Classical School Moatlands

Summer Works Scheme 2011

Name of School

Primary School

20258E

Gaelscoil an Bhradáin Feasa Mill Road

Primary School

19671F

ST PAULS N S ABBEYLANDS

Primary School

19560T

ST MARYS SPECIAL SCHOOL JOHNSTOWN

Primary School

19300Q

CASTLEJORDAN CENTRAL NS CASTLEJORDAN

Primary School

18448U

S N RATH BEAGAIN RATH BEAGAIN

Primary School

17986U

S N NMH SHEOSAMH BOYERSTOWN

Primary School

17856H

S N DUN UABHAIR DUN UBHAIR

Primary School

17742P

SCOIL NAIS MHUIRE NAOFA KILTALE

Primary School

17629T

S N PADRAIG NAOFA ARD A’CHATHA

Primary School

17560J

S N SEOSAMH NAOMTHA DUN DOIRE

Primary School

17513A

S N CILL BHRIGHDE KILBRIDE

Primary School

16067V

SCOIL NAIS FININ NAOFA CLONARD

Primary School

15483H

ST LOUIS N S RATHKENNY

Primary School

15104T

BRIDE NAOFA N S CANNISTOWN

Primary School

11978O

SCOIL MHUIRE NS MOYLAGH

Primary School

09238I

BALLINLOUGH N S BALLINLOUGH

Primary School

03275H

NEWTOWN N S NEWTOWN

Primary School

01309L

STACKALLEN N S STACKALLEN

Post Primary School

72010I

Beaufort College Trim Rd

Post Primary School

64350N

St Patrick’s Classical School Moatlands

Jobs Initiative 2011

Name of School

MEATH

Primary School

19768U

SCOIL MHUIRE ASHBOURNE

MEATH

Primary School

18169Q

S N RATH RIAGAIN BAILE AN BHOTHAIR

MEATH

Primary School

17857J

S N AINDREIS NAOFA CURRAHA

MEATH

Primary School

17652O

SCOIL OILIBHEIR NAOFA COILLCLUANA

MEATH

Primary School

17494W

S N AN RATH MHOR RATHMORE

MEATH

Primary School

17203I

S N ULTAIN NAOFA DOMHNACH PADRAIG

MEATH

Primary School

16722E

SCOIL CHOLMCILLE NAVAN ROAD

MEATH

Primary School

16646O

ST MARYS CONVENT N S TRIM

MEATH

Primary School

12488C

OLDCASTLE MXD N S CHAPEL ST

MEATH

Post Primary School

91495T

Ashbourne Community School Deerpark

MEATH

Post Primary School

76088T

Ratoath College Jamestown

MEATH

Post Primary School

71991T

Coláiste Pobail Rath Cairn Ráth Cairn

MEATH

Post Primary School

71970L

St. Fintinas Post Primary School Longwood

MEATH

Post Primary School

64450R

Scoil Mhuire Convent Of Mercy

Higher Education Grants

Michael McCarthy

Question:

193 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reasons for the delay in processing a maintenance grant application to the vocational education committee in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork and when the person may expect to receive money. [11599/11]

I understand that the student referred to by the Deputy was paid by Cork Institute of Technology on 15th April 2011 and a further instalment issued on May 13th 2011.

School Transport

Dara Calleary

Question:

194 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills the envisaged savings in 2011 and in 2012 as a result of the changes to the school transport scheme. [11627/11]

Dara Calleary

Question:

195 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider suspending changes to the school transport scheme until the review of school catchment areas is complete; the progress of that review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11628/11]

Dara Calleary

Question:

196 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills the appeals mechanism available to those affected by changes to the school transport scheme. [11629/11]

Dara Calleary

Question:

197 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of schools affected on a county basis, based on the 2010/2011 academic year figures, by the change to the closed school rule in school transport scheme. [11630/11]

Dara Calleary

Question:

198 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of schools affected on a county basis based in the 2010/2011 academic year figures by the change to the minimum numbers rule in the school transport scheme. [11631/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 194 to 198, inclusive, together.

The four year national recovery plan requires savings of €4.5 million to be made through operational efficiencies and other savings measures in the school transport budget in 2011, rising to overall full year savings of €17million by 2014. The aggregation of the measures being implemented arising from the Value for Money Review will be an important element in achieving these savings.

The changes to school transport services were announced in the 2011 Budget by the previous Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government and derive from recommendations in the 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.

From the 2012/13 school year, the use of the catchment boundary system will cease for all new post-primary pupils. Eligibility for school transport for all new pupils entering post-primary will be on the basis of the nearest post-primary centre or school. Existing eligible post primary pupils will retain their eligibility for the duration of their post primary education cycle provided they continue to meet the terms of the current scheme.

The cessation of the Closed School Rule (CSR) is also 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.

My Department has requested Bus Éireann to conduct a detailed analysis of the "on the ground" impact for individual primary schools and the rural communities they serve, in terms of the closed school rule and the minimum numbers. 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.

Teachers’ Remuneration

Jim Daly

Question:

199 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to introduce a scheme that will involve adding five years of service to teachers over the age of 50 years to encourage their early retirement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11643/11]

I have no plans to introduce a scheme that would involve giving added years for pension purposes to teachers to encourage their early retirement.

Psychological Service

Dan Neville

Question:

200 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Education and Skills if an assessment will be carried out without delay in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11666/11]

I can inform the Deputy that all primary and post primary schools have access to psychological assessments either directly through my Department's National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) or through the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments (SCPA) which is administered and paid for by NEPS.

In common with many other psychological services and best international practice, NEPS has adopted a consultative model of service. The focus is on empowering teachers to intervene effectively with pupils whose needs range from mild to severe and transient to enduring. Psychologists use a problem solving and solution focused consultative approach to maximize positive outcomes for these pupils. NEPS encourages schools to use a continuum based assessment and intervention process whereby each school takes responsibility for initial assessment, educational planning and remedial intervention for pupils with learning, emotional or behavioural difficulties. Teachers may consult their NEPS psychologist should they need to at this stage in the process. Only in the event of a failure to make reasonable progress, in spite of the school's best efforts in consultation with NEPS, will the psychologist become involved with an individual child for intensive intervention.

This system allows psychologists to give early attention to urgent cases and also to help many more children indirectly than could be seen individually. It also ensures that children are not referred unnecessarily for psychological intervention. This process has been embedded by NEPS psychologists in the Primary sector with the production by the Department of Special Educational Needs — A Continuum of Support.

I have checked on the matter with the NEPS service and the student in question has not been brought to the attention of the assigned psychologist by current school authorities. I would suggest that an approach be made to the relevant school principal in the first instance in this connection.

School Staffing

Áine Collins

Question:

201 Deputy Áine Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a special needs assistant finishes in a school will they be put on a panel for their next job; and if not, the way same will operate. [11670/11]

Firstly, I wish to advise the Deputy that Special Needs Assistant (SNA) allocations are not permanent, as the level of SNA support allocated to a school may be increased or decreased as pupils who qualify for SNA support enrol or leave a school. They are also decreased where a child's care needs may have diminished over time. There are no plans to introduce a panel for SNA's.

I wish to advise the Deputy also that the recruitment and deployment of SNAs within schools are matters for the individual Principal/Board of Management. The Board is the SNA's employer and the terms of employment are subject to the conditions of the contract of employment.

The Deputy may be aware 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 them 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.

Schools Provision

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

202 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans for a school (details supplied) in Dublin 7; and if these plans include its continuing use as a secondary school and a vital resource in its local community. [11674/11]

My Department's most recent projections indicate that enrolments at post-primary level will rise from current levels of circa 312,200 pupils to about 336,600 pupils by the year 2017 and at primary level enrolments are expected to increase from the current total enrolment of circa 505,600 pupils to an expected enrolment circa 567,300 pupils by the year 2017.

It is within this context that the Forward Planning Section of my Department is finalising its analysis of all areas in the country in order to determine the level of additional school provision which will be required at both primary and post primary level up to 2017.

In the meantime, the school to which the Deputy refers has been approved funding under the 2011 Summer Works Scheme to undertake works to its electrical system.

School Staffing

Michael Lowry

Question:

203 Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of retired teachers currently holding any primary school teaching positions, permanent, temporary, mainstream or otherwise, in counties Tipperary and Offaly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11676/11]

The information requested by the deputy is not available in the format requested.

Teachers employed in primary schools are paid on payrolls operated by my Department. There were one hundred and eighty six retired primary teachers in receipt of a pension paid on the primary payroll of the 12th May 2011. This includes appointments to all permanent, temporary and substitute positions in primary schools.

School Transport

Arthur Spring

Question:

204 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the students of a school (details supplied) in County Kerry will continue to receive free school transport as agreed during the amalgamation process. [11677/11]

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

From the beginning of the 2011/12 school year a €50 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. Eligible pupils holding medical cards and pupils with special educational needs will be exempt from paying the charge. In addition, the maximum family charge at primary level for eligible pupils will be €110 while the overall combined maximum charge per family is not being increased from the current rate of €650 per annum. Parents will continue to be given the option of spreading the annual payments over two instalments in July and December.

It is important to stress that there are a number of dimensions to the cessation of the Closed School Rule (CSR). The first of these, which will be implemented from September 2011, involves the uniform application of the distance criterion to all pupils travelling under the primary transport scheme, including those travelling under the CSR. This means that children residing less than 3.2 kilometres from their school of amalgamation will be deemed ineligible for school transport. In such cases, these children may apply for concessionary transport.

The second element of the 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. This second element will restrict school transport eligibility for those pupils entering in September 2012, to pupils who meet the distance eligibility criterion and are travelling to their nearest school.

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 CSR are in fact attending their nearest school and will not be affected by this change.

Before implementing this second main 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.

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

Arthur Spring

Question:

205 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider exempting students in receipt of the non-adjacent education grant living in rural areas without suitable public transport system and who were enrolled in full time third level education prior to the budget of 2011 from the new measures regarding grant allocation introduced in the budget. [11678/11]

I understand that the changes to the student grant schemes introduced under Budget 2011 by the previous Fianna Fail — 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.

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.

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.

Schools Refurbishment

Arthur Spring

Question:

206 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding funding for a school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11679/11]

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. Applications from schools for gas, mechanical and electrical works were prioritised under the Summer Works Scheme funding this year 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.

While further funding has been made available for school projects under the Government's Jobs Initiative, I regret that the application referred to above was also unsuccessful under the Initiative as it was necessary to prioritise some categories of works over others.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

207 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding funding (details supplied) in respect of a person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11707/11]

The school referred to by the Deputy submitted an application for funding towards roof replacement under the Emergency Works Scheme in January 2011. The school was subsequently advised by my Department that due to budgetary constraints, replacement of the roof could not be considered. However, the school was advised to secure costings for repair works to the roof and to revert to my Department. A response is awaited.

I can confirm that the school also applied for funding under the 2011 Summer Works Scheme for window replacement. 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.

For works that are of a very urgent nature, it is open to the school authorities to consider if the works in question qualify for funding under the Department's Emergency Works Scheme. 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. Details of the Scheme, together with an application form for grant assistance, can be accessed on the Department's website at www.education.ie.

School Staffing

Robert Dowds

Question:

208 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Education and Skills if primary schools will be given a little flexibility in terms of retaining excellent temporary teachers who may not be on the redeployment panel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11729/11]

The process of allocating teaching resources to schools for 2011/2012 and the arrangements for filling vacant or new teaching posts, including temporary posts, takes place in the context of the EU/IMF Programme of Support for Ireland and the Public Service Agreement 2010/2014. It is necessary for my Department to exercise additional control and reporting measures this year to ensure that the numbers of teachers employed in schools is consistent with the EU/IMF Programme of Support for Ireland.

This requires that all permanent and fixed term positions are in the first instance made available to those surplus teachers with either permanent contracts or contracts of indefinite duration.

The purpose of these changes is to ensure all surplus teachers are absorbed into vacancies that exist in other schools. Flexible redeployment arrangements are required in order to ensure all surplus permanent teachers are redeployed into vacancies. The country simply cannot afford to have surplus teachers in a school while permitting recruitment to take place in another school. The Government is committed to ensuring the delivery of frontline services is protected as much as possible in our education system.

It is the intention of the Department to restore recruitment from fixed-term teachers on the main panels, supplementary panels or public advertisement at the earliest possible opportunity, after all the surplus permanent teachers have been redeployed.

Through these redeployment measures, the Government is committed to ensuring the delivery of frontline services is protected in as much as possible in our education system.

Robert Dowds

Question:

209 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will examine the case of a school (details supplied) in County Dublin, which is due to lose two posts due to the suppression of resource teachers for Traveller pupils; and the action that can be taken to save these posts for the school. [11731/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the decision to withdraw Resource Teachers for Travellers was taken by the previous Government as part of the last Budget. The requirement to make expenditure savings and to ensure that staffing numbers remain within the Public Service Employment Control Framework prevent me from re-visiting this decision.

Resource Teacher for Traveller posts/Teaching Hours for Traveller pupils will be withdrawn, effective from 31st August 2011.

Traveller pupils who are eligible for learning support teaching should receive this tuition through the existing learning support provision in schools. All schools should select students for learning support on the basis of priority of need.

Limited alleviation or adjustment measures are being provided to assist schools that have high concentrations of Traveller pupils who were previously supported by Resource Teachers for Travellers.

In respect of DEIS, (Developing Equality of Opportunity in Schools), Traveller enrolments have been included in the valid enrolment for the purpose of allocating additional staffing under DEIS from the 2011/12 school year. The schools involved have already received their staffing allocations for next year.

For schools other than DEIS schools in receipt of enhanced pupil teacher ratios, alleviation measures are being provided to assist schools with high concentrations of Traveller pupils who were previously supported by RTT posts. Any alleviation measures must be considered in the context of the limited resources that are available to my Department. As such, alleviation measures are being concentrated on schools which had 33 or more pupils supported by RTT posts, based on 2009/10 school year enrolments.

Robert Dowds

Question:

210 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the request from a school (details supplied) in County Dublin for an English teacher as an additional language support post will be granted. [11732/11]

Significant support is given to schools by way of language support provision. The level of extra teaching support provided in respect of language support to any school is determined by the numbers of eligible pupils enrolled and the associated assessed levels of those pupils' language proficiency. This is done through an annual application process in the Spring/Summer of each year. My Department has received an application for language support in respect of the school referred to by the Deputy for the 2011-2012 school year. All such applications are currently being processed and schools will be notified of the outcome shortly.

Registration Fees

John Lyons

Question:

211 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason students attending post-primary education are required to pay a school registration fee; if he will outline the rights of parents in this regard; and if assistance is available to families who simply are unable to afford this fee. [11789/11]

It is a fundamental principle of the free post-primary education scheme that no charge is made in respect of instruction in any subject of my Department's programme for Secondary Schools; recreation or study facilities where all the pupils are expected to avail themselves of these as part of the school programme or; any other activities in which all pupils are required to take part.

The Department recognises that registration fees are sometimes requested by schools in order to avoid "double booking" of pupils in schools. Under current arrangements, schools are allowed to request a booking fee/registration fee when considering applicants for enrolment, provided this is refundable at all times following a decision on enrolment.

Voluntary contributions by parents or charges for optional extras over and above what is provided for in the general school programme are permissible under the scheme, provided it is made absolutely clear to parents that there is no question of compulsion to pay, and, that in making a contribution, they are doing so of their own volition.

School Staffing

Michael McCarthy

Question:

212 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of retired teachers, resource teachers and special needs assistants who, in 2009 and 2010, were re-hired by the education system on a short-term or contractual basis in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11809/11]

The information sought by the Deputy is not available in the requested format.

There were one hundred and eighty six retired primary teachers in receipt of a pension paid on the primary payroll of the 12th May 2011. One hundred and forty seven post-primary retired teachers in receipt of pension will be paid on the post primary payroll of the 19th May.

There were two Special Need Assistants in receipt of pension paid on the non teaching staff payroll of the 12th May 2011.

School Curriculum

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

213 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the proposed new maths syllabus project codenamed project maths which has been designed to tackle both the issue of poor levels of performance in maths in the leaving certificate and the problem of the lack of teachers who are maths graduates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11822/11]

Project Maths began in all second level schools in September 2010, building on the experience of 24 schools which began the initiative in 2008. The programme 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.

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 in junior and senior cycle simultaneously, and is being phased in 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.

The programme is being supported by a comprehensive programme of investment in professional development for teachers, and the provision of resource materials, details of which are available at www.projectmaths.ie.

I am aware of the issues which have been highlighted in regard to the qualifications of mathematics teachers. Information from the Teaching Council when applied to the estimated 5900 staff teaching mathematics at second level, would suggest that 65% have a qualification in mathematics.

The deployment of teachers to subjects which are not part of their major qualification is also a feature of education systems in other jurisdictions. For example, a report in 2010 on the issue of out-of-field teaching in mathematics (www.nce-mstl.ie) shows that Finland, Canada and Australia, (which ranked 2nd, 6th, and 8th respectively in Mathematics out of 57 countries in the 2006 OECD PISA (Programme of International Student Assessment)) study hadii68%, 25% and 72% respectively of students taught by certified teachers with mathematics as a major qualification.

As part of Project Maths, funds have been provided for the development of post graduate courses in mathematics for those who need additional support, or who do not hold a qualification in mathematics. My Department proposes to tender for these courses shortly.

School Transport

Sean Fleming

Question:

214 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills if approval will be given for a school bus route to bring pupils to a primary school (details supplied) in County Laois; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11830/11]

The school transport scheme is operated by Bus Éireann on behalf of my Department.

Under the terms of my Department's Primary School Transport Scheme, children are eligible for school transport if they reside not less than 3.2 kilometres from and are attending their nearest national school, as determined by my Department, having regard to ethos and language.

School transport services may be established or retained provided this can be done within reasonable cost limits, where there are a minimum of 10 eligible children residing in a distinct locality, as determined by Bus Éireann.

Parents/guardians of eligible children should liaise with their local Bus Éireann office regarding the availability of school transport services.

Building Regulations

Brendan Ryan

Question:

215 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation with regards to the level of pyrite acceptable in quarry stones as set out by the National Standards Authority of Ireland in SR21, the reason the NSAI so far has not moved to the latest international guidelines which require a lower standard of pyrite in quarry stones, as the UK have done; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11290/11]

I am informed by the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) that the quarry material that gave rise to the presence of reactive pyrite in houses was a fill material used beneath ground floor concrete slabs. The NSAI published the product standard associated with this material, which is I.S. EN 13242:2002 + A1 2007 (Aggregates for unbound and hydraulically bound materials for use in civil engineering work and road construction). This standard is a harmonized European standard mandated under the Construction Products Directive (89/106/EEC). In addition to this European standard, NSAI has published a supplementary guidance document S.R. 21:2004 + A1 2007 which is a guidance document for the application in Ireland of the previously mentioned European standard.

NSAI have informed me that the standard does not address the issue of the presence of pyrite in aggregates nor does it prescribe a test to make such a determination or to set limits on its presence. Given the absence of particular requirements for pyrite in the European standard and in keeping with CEN (European Standards body) regulations, NSAI is restricted as to the extent to which the pyrite issue can be addressed through its publication S.R. 21. However, in response to an intervention by the then Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in order to address industry concerns with regard to pyrite, NSAI agreed to amend S.R. 21 in 2007, in order to provide advisory guidance to specifiers and producers of aggregate with regard to the type of aggregate material to be used for fill purposes.

NSAI understand that the issues of presence of or tests for pyrite in quarry stones have not been addressed by the British Standards Institute (BSI) through its national publication of the European standard (BS) EN 13242 or through the BSI's accompanying UK guidance document BS PD 6682-6 (Aggregates for unbound and hydraulically bound materials for use in civil engineering works and road construction — Guidance on the use of BS EN 13242).

The national Building Regulations are the responsibility of the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government. I understand that the relevant Technical Guidance Document (TGD-C) to the Building Regulations was amended to reference the amended NSAI SR, and give it practical effect in the context of building works. A copy of the relevant amendment to TGD-C is available at www.environ.ie.

Departmental Programmes

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

216 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation if Chambers Ireland has completed repayments for outstanding sums owed in relation to three programmes, namely Dawn, Prism III and the Competency Development Programme; the amounts, if any, of sums that have been written off; if Chambers Ireland has received any funding since September 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11154/11]

I have responsibility for the PRISM III Programme, and as a result, I can only provide material in relation to that Project.

The other two programmes, i.e. Dawn and the Competency Development Programme are matters for the Minister of Education and Skills and should be referred to that Department for reply.

In June 2003, Chambers Ireland was allocated funding under the Information Society Fund, for their Prism III project. Following the project's conclusion at the end of 2003 and the production of audited accounts, an expenditure amount of €52,111 was deemed ineligible out of the overall €500,000 total.

Chambers Ireland subsequently reached agreement with my Department to refund the amount of €52,111 over a period of time. Chambers Ireland fully repaid this amount to the Department by the end of 2010. No sums were written off in relation to the PRISM III project. My Department welcomes the satisfactory resolution of this issue.

There have been no payments to Chambers Ireland by my Department since September 2010.

Departmental Reports

Dara Calleary

Question:

217 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation further to Parliamentary Question No. 195 of 12 April 2011, the progress made on this matter; the other Ministers who have been contacted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11197/11]

The Economic Scoping Report contains a wide range of proposals for the economic development of the Airport and its hinterland. My Department has circulated the report to the Departments of Transport, Tourism and Sport; Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and Environment, Heritage and Local Government for their observations on the recommendations that come within their area of responsibility. The views of Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland have also been sought and my Department will consider the observations on their receipt.

Departmental Agencies

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

218 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the number of State agencies or organisations under his remit which are paid up members of the Irish Business and Employers Confederation; the name of each agency or organisation; the amount each State agency or organisation paid to the Irish Business and Employers Confederation for the years 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11321/11]

This is a day to day matter for the agencies in question and I have no direct function in the matter.

Departmental Expenditure

John McGuinness

Question:

219 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation if he will confirm the number of credit cards issued by him and to whom; the criteria for issuing such cards; the credit card company used; if a competitive process was used to select the company; if the facility has had to be withdrawn from any person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11554/11]

I interpret the Deputy's question as relating to corporate charge cards issued by my Department.

Since my taking Office as Minister my Department has not issued any corporate charge cards, one card has been cancelled and none have been withdrawn.

My Department recognises that certain staff may incur substantial up-front costs in the course of their official business. In this context, my Department can facilitate the issuing of a corporate charge card by a commercial provider. In order to be provided with this facility staff must satisfy certain criteria; there must be a business need for the card and a supervisor at Principal Officer level or higher must approve the application. In addition, the Finance Officer must be satisfied that the applicant is required to travel on a regular basis and/or requires the charge card facility, having regard to the officer's duties.

Staff who are issued with corporate charge cards under this arrangement hold individual accounts with the issuing credit card company. Each cardholder is responsible for paying any balances due on his/her account directly to the credit card company. In this context, it would not be appropriate to provide the names of the officials holding these cards.

Staff are entitled to reclaim from my Department travel, subsistence and other official expenses incurred in connection with their official duties, in accordance with Department of Finance regulations and applicable rates. Reimbursements of this nature are paid directly to the officers concerned. As mentioned above officers are responsible for paying the balances due directly to the credit card company.

At present, 7 staff of my Department hold corporate charge cards under the arrangement outlined above. I can advise the Deputy that my Department has more recently explored alternative providers and my officials are satisfied that the current provider best meets the Department's requirements.

Smithfield Market

Terence Flanagan

Question:

220 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation if he will respond to correspondence (details supplied) regarding Smithfield horse fair, Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11572/11]

The welfare of animals is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

As far as the horse fair in Smithfield in Dublin is concerned, in response to calls for the extinguishment of the market right, I sought the advice of the Attorney General. The advice I have received confirms that Dublin City Council is the owner of the market right and that this ownership together with the ample powers conferred on local authorities under the Casual Trading Act, 1995 enables Dublin City Council to regulate the market in such a way that the concerns expressed can be addressed.

Health and Safety Regulations

Dara Calleary

Question:

221 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation to whom has he delegated powers in relation to the Health and Safety at Work Acts; his views on the level of farm fatalities in 2011; his plan for dealing with same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11632/11]

I have not delegated any powers under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Acts 2005 to 2010 to a Minister of State.

The levels of farm fatalities recorded in recent years have been extremely high given the numbers employed in the agriculture sector as a proportion of the overall labour force. Unfortunately this trend has continued since the turn of the year, where over one third of workplace fatalities so far in 2011 have occurred in the agricultural sector.

The Health and Safety Authority has specifically targeted farm safety as a priority area for 2011 and plans to increase its visits to farms to 3,000 in 2011.

I have recently announced my intention to call farming interests together in the near future to discuss farm safety and to encourage them to continue to spread the farm safety message. I am aware of an increased focus on farm safety by all farm interests and I appreciate the efforts which have been put into promoting awareness within their organisations and to their members.

Agriculture is a vital element in Ireland's recovery and it is imperative that those who work in this area do so in the safest way possible.

Legislative Programme

Dara Calleary

Question:

222 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the position regarding the Employment Law Compliance Bill; and when he proposes to bring it to committee. [11633/11]

As the Deputy will appreciate, there are a number of specific legislative priorities to be addressed by me under the programme for Government. In due course, therefore, I will be reviewing the position regarding the EMPLOYMENT LAW COMPLIANCE BILL 2008, which lapsed on the dissolution of the 30th Dáil.

Proposed Legislation

Dara Calleary

Question:

223 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the legislative changes envisaged as a result of the review in the Joint Labour Committee and registered employment agreements. [11634/11]

The report of the independent review team has been completed and was received by me on 28th April. I am currently examining the Report and it will be published and made available to Members of the Oireachtas 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, setting out proposals for any legislative action that may be necessary to give effect to reform measures. Consultation with, and the co-operation of, relevant stakeholders will also be sought to ensure that the required reforms can be progressed as a matter of urgency.

Jobs Initiative

Dara Calleary

Question:

224 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the 2011 budget for the proposed temporary partial credit guarantee scheme as announced by him on 10 May; his plan for the implementation of such a scheme; and if he has the agreement of the Department of Finance for such a scheme. [11635/11]

As part of the Jobs Initiative announced in this House last Tuesday, 10th May, both the Minister for Finance and I confirmed the Government commitment to initiating a tendering process for the development of a temporary, partial credit guarantee scheme.

The design of the scheme will draw from international experience to support new lending that would not otherwise have been extended by the banks. In this way, the scheme will complement, rather than be a substitute for, existing lending activities by the main financial institutions. It will be designed to encourage banks to lend to new or expanding commercially viable SMEs so that they can grow their company, develop new products of expand in to new markets.

The Government's commitment will be for an initial period of one year. Specific performance criteria will be set down that allow for review and revision of the scheme at the end of that initial period before committing to a roll-over of the scheme for subsequent years. There will be a modest, and known, level of exposure to the taxpayer when the scheme is launched but there will be a significant positive knock-on benefit to the economy in terms of job creation, welfare savings and returns to the Exchequer by way of tax revenue generated.

Any costs arising in 2011 will be minimal and associated with the design and set up of the scheme which is due to be in place by the autumn.

Employment Rights

Jim Daly

Question:

225 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation his views on the National Employment Rights Authority regulations that the struggling service industries are bound by in relation to the higher minimum wage that is stipulated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11641/11]

I presume the Deputy is referring to the statutory minimum rates of pay that are provided for in Employment Regulation Orders under the Joint Labour Committee (JLC) system.

Minimum rates of pay, and other conditions of work, for workers in certain sectors are determined by JLCs. Each JLC is composed of representatives of workers and employers in the sector concerned. JLCs operate in areas where collective bargaining is not well established and wages tend to be comparatively low, for example in the Hotels, Catering and Retail Grocery sectors. While JLCs are established by means of a statutory order made by the Labour Court, they are independent bodies — with representatives of employers and workers — which determine minimum rates of pay and conditions of employment for workers in their respective sectors. The pay and conditions agreed by the JLCs are given the force of law in Employment Regulation Orders made by the Labour Court on foot of proposals made to the Court by the JLCs. NERA has no function with regard to the making of the EROs, but rather is the body responsible for their enforcement.

We need to ensure that statutory wage fixing mechanisms work effectively and efficiently and that they do not have a negative impact on economic performance and employment levels. Any such mechanism in a modern economy must be responsive and fit for purpose in the context of the challenges being faced by employer and employee alike.

In this context, an independent review of the statutory wage setting mechanisms 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 received by me on 28th April. I am currently examining the Report and it will be published and made available to Members of the Oireachtas, 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, setting out proposals for any legislative action that may be necessary to give effect to reform measures. Consultation with, and the co-operation of, relevant stakeholders will also be sought to ensure that the required reforms can be progressed as a matter of urgency.

Departmental Reports

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

226 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation if he will ensure that the annual reports on the regulation of the licensing and monitoring of exports and brokering of military and dual-use goods from Ireland under the Control of Exports Act 2008 due to be laid before Dáil Éireann under that Act are produced in a timely fashion in view of the fact that no annual report has yet emerged for the years 2008, 2009 or 2010. [11665/11]

I fully appreciate that there are a wide range of stakeholders in the area of export control that rightly expect increasing transparency in the operation of export controls. It is for this reason that I propose to publish the first report on the operation of the Control of Exports Act 2008 imminently. The report will provide much greater transparency than heretofore in regard to both dual-use and military exports, including a country by country breakdown on the destination of exports for the years 2008 and 2009.

At the time of publication of the report I will be making a number of proposals to ensure more timely publication of relevant information related to dual use and military exports, including the Annual Report which is required under the Control of Exports Act.

Official Engagements

Seán Kenny

Question:

227 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation if he will report on his recent trade mission to India and Saudi Arabia; and the number of jobs that are expected to be created from the trade mission. [11733/11]

On this recent Trade Mission, organised by Enterprise Ireland, I led a group of 22 Irish companies to India. — 11 Educational bodies and 11 others, mainly in the IT, telecommunications, and construction sectors. For the Saudi Arabia programme, I had 13 leading Irish universities and Institutes of Technology and 10 construction companies involved. The Trade Mission has been organised because of the high growth potential for Irish exports to both countries and as a direct response to growing interest in the market among Irish companies. The key objective of the mission was to highlight the excellence of Ireland's higher education offering and the product and service capability of Irish companies generally.

Both countries are recognised as high growth potential markets for Irish exporters in the recently launched strategy and action plan for Irish Trade, Tourism and Investment to 2015, entitled Trading and Investing in a Smart Economy Strategy.

India is rapidly transforming into a global economic powerhouse and there has been a doubling of Enterprise Ireland client company exports to that country over the last three years. With a population of 1.2bn India is forecast to become a major world economic power by 2020. Its shift to a more open economic policy in the 1990s, dismantling trade barriers and welcoming foreign investment, has resulted in unprecedented economic growth and a more business-friendly environment. India is the 7th largest country in the world and the 4th largest economy in terms of purchasing power. It now ranks next to China in terms of the pace of economic development. Economic growth has averaged more than 7% per year since 1997.

In relation to Saudi Arabia, Irish exports to that country have been growing very strongly and we are keen to build on these successes. Saudi Arabia has by far the largest population (approximately 27 million) in the Gulf region and this is growing rapidly, exacerbating serious infrastructural deficits that match newly available Irish supply capability. Crucially, that country can readily fund all of its development needs and their administration has recently announced considerable additional funding for social spending and physical infrastructure. This offers additional opportunities for Irish companies. Surging oil prices are ensuring continued financial security.

During the mission, I was involved in a range of promotional and networking events for the participants, including leading the Irish companies in key corporate presentations to promote their products and services to potential partners and buyers. In addition, I met key political leaders, including relevant Ministers and also corporate decision makers, in both countries, to endorse and promote Irish companies and Irish products and services.

Given the particular focus on educational services in both countries, I formally launched the "Education in Ireland" brand in Saudi Arabia, from where we currently have over 400 students currently studying in our Higher Education Institutions, as well as the same number of Saudi students studying English language in Ireland. In addition I launched a new ‘trusted agents' programme to promote Irish higher-level education in India.

The education of both Indian and Saudi students in Irish colleges is an important element in reinforcing the positive trading relationship with these countries and we are keen to further develop this area for our mutual benefit.

Given the gradual lead-in time involved in fully developing new contracts, relationships and links, it is not possible at this stage to specify levels of additional jobs which will arise in the companies and bodies that participated on the mission. However, given the size of both the Indian and Saudi economies, and the growth opportunities in both countries, I believe there is significant job creation potential for Irish companies.

Trade Missions

Seán Kenny

Question:

228 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation his plans to have a new trade mission to China. [11734/11]

The Government attaches great importance to developing our trade and bilateral links with our Asian partners and in particular with China. The latest available data shows that Ireland has a modest trade surplus with that country, a dramatic turnaround from the position as recently as in 2006, when we had a trade deficit of €2.9bn with China. We look forward to building on the excellent bilateral relations that exist between our two countries to further enhance our trade, investment, education and tourism links with China. Towards this end, the recently launched strategy and action plan for Irish Trade, Tourism and Investment to 2015, entitled Trading and Investing in a Smart Economy Strategy, has identified China as a key high-growth and high-potential market for Ireland.

Key instruments to pursue trade expansion are, of course, Trade Missions. In this context, the Taoiseach very much hopes to be in a position to lead a Trade Mission to China, perhaps later this year, though of course this is a matter for agreement with the Chinese authorities. Contact between our respective administrations is continuing, including through our Embassy in Beijing, to see if a visit can be confirmed on mutually acceptable dates. The Taoiseach will, of course, be accompanied by other relevant Ministers on that Mission, in order to maximize its trade and other benefits for Ireland.

Jobs Initiative

Brian Stanley

Question:

229 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the number of green jobs that will be generated from the new jobs initiative. [11528/11]

The Jobs Initiative, which was outlined to the Dáil on 10th May by the Minister for Finance, outlined a range of measures which will be taken to assist people to get back to work, stimulate the domestic economy and restore confidence in Ireland internationally.

As part of the Jobs Initiative, the Minister for Finance announced that an additional €30 million would be invested in the national Retrofit Home Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Programmes this year. The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Minister Rabbitte announced that this investment would be matched by a further €30 million in private sector investment, and would support an additional 2,000 jobs in 2011. This is on top of the 3,800 jobs already supported by the existing budget allocation for retrofitting.

Energy retrofitting is just one area where the potential exists for jobs to be generated in the green economy. Other measures announced in the Jobs Initiative, such as halving the lower rate of employer's PRSI until end-2013 on jobs that pay up to €356 per week, and incentives in the tourism sector, will help to promote jobs in green tourism.

Equally, the reform of the system of sectoral wage agreements offers scope to further generate jobs across the wider economy. I recently received the Report of the Independent Review of Employment Regulation Orders and Registered Employment Agreements, which indicates that the system requires radical overhaul to make it fairer and more responsive to changing economic circumstances and labour market conditions. I intend to announce details of this wide ranging reform in the coming weeks.

The new initiatives announced in the Jobs Initiative to help improve credit to business will further support the creation of jobs in the economy generally. I will develop a proposal with the Minister for Finance for a targeted partial loan guarantee scheme which we intend to have in place by the Autumn. This measure will be of particular help to the type of innovative companies that operate in the green economy. For every €400m that is guaranteed by the State an additional 4,500 companies can get further credit that will in turn create more than 8,000 jobs.

The Jobs Initiative was an important step in delivering the Government's objectives of restoring confidence in the economy, improving our competitiveness and facilitating job creation and retention. I am continuing to work, along with the enterprise agencies and with my colleagues in Government, to develop further initiatives in sectors which offer potential for job creation, including the green economy. Details of these initiatives will be announced in due course.

Social Welfare Code

Pearse Doherty

Question:

230 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection her plan to include or introduce a disregard for the new agri-environment options scheme payment for farmers applying for farm assist. [11182/11]

The farm assist scheme is a means-tested payment broadly similar to the jobseeker's allowance scheme. It features a more generous means test, which takes account of the specific nature of farming and, unlike jobseeker's allowance, farmers claiming this payment do not need to be available for work outside of the farm in order to qualify.

The agri-environment options scheme (AEOS) is an agri-environment scheme and is the successor to the rural environment protection scheme (REPS). While both schemes give farmers a five year agri- environment contract, AEOS provides a more targeted approach to protecting the environment and is specifically aimed at addressing the key challenges of biodiversity, water quality and climate change. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine relaunched the AEOS on 6 April, 2011. Funding of €25m per annum has been allocated to the scheme, with the maximum payment per farmer set at €4,000 per annum.

AEOS payments are not disregarded for means testing purposes under the farm assist scheme. Any changes to the farm assist scheme would have to be considered in a budgetary context.

Question No. 231 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Benefits

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

232 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Social Protection if the free travel scheme for persons aged 66 years and over will be restricted on new private bus routes; if the free travel scheme will apply to a new service (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11299/11]

Peter Mathews

Question:

233 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will ensure that old age pensioners will receive free transport from private bus companies (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11405/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 232 and 233 together.

The free travel scheme permits free travel on most CIE public transport services, Luas and a range of services offered by over 90 private operators in various parts of the country at an annual cost to the exchequer of some €74 million in 2010. The scheme is available to persons aged 66 years or over, to carers and to certain categories of people in receipt of social welfare payments.

As outlined in The National Recovery Plan 2011-2014 funding for the free travel scheme is frozen at 2010 levels of expenditure for the duration of the plan. In March 2011, the Department received an application under the free travel scheme for the new route referred to by the Deputies. In the circumstances, the Department is not in a position to consider applications for additional routes to the scheme which would incur increased costs. Free travel customers can avail of alternative free transport services under the scheme to reach Dublin Airport.

The measure has not impacted on existing levels of service available under the free travel scheme. Nor does it impact on the number of customers who can qualify for the scheme or the qualifying conditions.

Billy Timmins

Question:

234 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the rates of pay for married men and single men; if there is a difference in the rates of pay if they are on community employment schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11603/11]

Billy Timmins

Question:

274 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the social welfare rates of pay for married men and single men; if there is a difference in the rates of pay; if there is a difference if they are on community employment schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11602/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 234 and 274 together.

In general, the rate of social protection payment is not based on marital or civil status. In respect of jobseeker's payments, the amount paid reflects any means assessed, where means are relevant, with appropriate additional payments for a dependant adult and children, as appropriate. The rates paid by FÁS in respect of CE are based on the actual rates of social welfare payments made by my Department prior to commencing employment, with some exceptions. When a person commences CE, their jobseeker's payment ceases and they transfer to the FÁS-funded payment instead. The standard payment on CE is €208 per week and all participants receive this as a minimum payment, regardless of the prior social protection payment. Any person with a social protection payment which was means assessed for an amount below €188 (including provision for adult and child dependants) will receive a minimum of €208 per week (gross) from CE. A person who was assessed to receive an amount in excess of €188 per week by my Department will receive the same rate on CE as their social protection payment, plus the €20 per week CE participation bonus.

Persons in receipt of disability-linked social protection payments retain some or all of their original social protection payment (this can include provision for an adult and child dependants) and additionally receive the CE single adult rate of €208 per week from FÁS.

Lone parents retain most of their original social protection payment (including full child dependant allowances) and additionally receive the CE single adult rate of €208 per week plus an additional €29.80 per week per child.

Ministerial Responsibilities

Noel Grealish

Question:

235 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Social Protection the Minister who will have responsibility for promoting the national carer’s strategy in line with the commitment in the programme for Government; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11619/11]

The Programme for Government was adopted by the Government at its first meeting as the framework for its work over coming years. It sets out the policies and initiatives to be progressed over the term of the Government to tackle the many and varied challenges facing the country. The Department of the Taoiseach will be supporting the implementation of the Programme as a whole and it will do this with a more explicit focus on its role as a Cabinet Office.

As part of the Programme for Government, the Government is committed to developing a carers' strategy. It will consider how to progress the development of the strategy, including ministerial responsibility, taking into account the prevailing economic realities.

The Department of the Taoiseach chaired an interdepartmental group in 2008 which undertook work, to develop a National Carers' Strategy. The Departments of Finance, Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Health and Children, and Social and Family Affairs, as well as the Health Services Executive (HSE) and FÁS were represented on the group. While each of the themes set out in the terms of reference was examined in terms of the current position, because of the prevailing economic situation, it was not possible to agree future targets or time limits which could be achieved. In that context, rather than publishing a document which did not include any significant plans for the future, the then Government decided not to publish a strategy.

Pension Provisions

Terence Flanagan

Question:

236 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on the charges currently levied by fund managers on private pension schemes; her plans to change the current system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11637/11]

The overall objective of the pension system is to provide an adequate basic standard of living through direct state supports and to encourage people to make supplementary pension provision for themselves so that they can have an adequate income in retirement. A system which delivers on this objective must be sustainable and affordable. The charges associated with the provision of private pensions are an important element in achieving these objectives in an effective and efficient manner.

The National Pensions Framework which was launched in March 2010 recognises the difficulty that people can have in understanding the various charges that can arise and how these charges are applied. In this regard, it was proposed in the framework to introduce regulations to increase the transparency of pension charges.

Following the publication of the framework, the Government established a number of groups to analyse all options in relation to the National Pensions Framework. These groups, comprising officials from a number of Government departments and agencies are charged with overseeing all elements of the implementation process. One of these groups is charged, among other things, with examining the options to bring greater simplification and transparency to the issue of pension charges.

Jobs Initiative

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

237 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection if the new government internship programme could facilitate apprenticeships on farms for those who wish to receive training in agriculture; and if there will be places for farmers among the 20,000 training places on the programme. [11657/11]

Last week the Government announced the Jobs Initiative which contained an additional 20,900 training, education and work experience places for the unemployed. The new National Internship Scheme was one of the new measures contained in the Jobs Initiative and will provide 5,000 participants with a work experience opportunity for between 6-9 months in the public, private or community and voluntary sectors.

Under this scheme unemployed individuals who are on the Live Register and have been in receipt of Jobseeker's Allowance / Benefit or signing on for credits for at least 3 months will be eligible to participate and will receive €50 in addition to their existing social welfare payment. The National Internship Scheme is not an apprenticeship nor will it contain a specific training element. However, it will provide participants with the opportunity to gain valuable work experience while maintaining close links with the labour market. Internships will only be provided in organisations that are a legal entity and have a minimum of 1 full time employee. If a farm qualifies under these criteria then they will be free to offer an internship opportunity.

In relation to the remaining 15,900 new activation places for the unemployed, they are in the education and training sectors and fall under the remit of my colleague the Minister for Education and Skills, Mr Ruairí Quinn T.D. I have been informed that farmers and other individuals will be able to access these additional places subject to their meeting the specific eligibility criteria of the relevant programmes.

Social Welfare Benefits

Noel Harrington

Question:

238 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Social Protection if an application for supplementary welfare will be awarded in view of the extenuating circumstances to a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11660/11]

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 the application for assistance from the person concerned was refused as the need was not established. The person concerned was advised in writing of her right to appeal the decision to the relevant appeals office in the HSE.

The HSE has further advised that the appeals officer has upheld the decision of the Community Welfare Officer to refuse an ENP to the person concerned.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

239 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of landlords in receipt of rent supplement payments who are resident overseas; the value of such payments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11710/11]

Of the 97,400 tenancies, where rent supplement is currently payable, the Department systems show 1,725 tenancies where the landlords address is recorded as outside the State. Rent supplement is paid directly to the tenant in Ireland in 1,500 of these cases with 200 cases where the rent supplement is paid directly to the landlord outside of the State.

The current annual value of rent supplement payments made to tenants whose landlords live outside the state is approximately €8.2 million per annum; this represents approximately 1.6% of the total expenditure on rent supplement. The value of rent supplement payments being paid directly to landlords living abroad is approximately €1 million per annum; this represents approximately 0.2% of the total expenditure on rent supplement.

Question No. 240 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Appeals

Áine Collins

Question:

241 Deputy Áine Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on an appeal for domiciliary care allowance in respect of a person (details supplied). [11971/11]

Finian McGrath

Question:

242 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding domiciliary care allowance in respect of a person (details supplied). [11908/11]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

243 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a domiciliary care allowance appeal in respect of persons (details supplied). [12157/11]

Joan Collins

Question:

265 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will review an appeal for domiciliary care (details supplied). [11448/11]

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

289 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Social Protection the reasons a domiciliary care allowance was refused in respect of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11815/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 241 to 243, inclusive, 265 and 289 together.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 05 February 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 12th March 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.

Frank Feighan

Question:

244 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a respite application in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon which is with her Department since June 2009. [11149/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 14 February 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 08 March 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.

Social Welfare Benefits

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

245 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the delay in processing rent supplement in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12; when payment will issue and if the application will be dealt with as a matter of urgency. [11188/11]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised the person concerned made an application for rent supplement on 25 February 2011 and has been requested to provide further information in order to process his application for rent supplement. A decision will be made on his application when the requested information has been provided.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

246 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the correct level of rent support payable in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare in respect of two adults and two children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11248/11]

The Health Service Executive has advised that the rent supplement payment of €652 per month is correct and appropriate to the circumstances of the person concerned.

Social Welfare Appeals

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

247 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if and when rent support will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11249/11]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that the persons concerned were refused a rent supplement on the grounds that they did not satisfy the scheme's habitual residence condition. The HSE has further advised that this decision was appealed to its designated Appeals Officer who will decide on the matter in due course.

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

248 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason rent support has been discontinued for the past five months in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11250/11]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that it has terminated payment of rent supplement in this case as the person concerned failed to provide the financial and foreign travel documentation requested by the community welfare officer.

Social Welfare Appeals

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

249 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if partial rent allowance is payable in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11251/11]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that the person concerned was refused a rent supplement on the grounds that her spouse is engaged in full-time employment. The HSE has further advised that the HSE's designated Appeals Officer has upheld the decision of the Community Welfare Officer to refuse payment in this case.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

250 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if rent support will be restored in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11252/11]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised the person concerned was refused rent supplement as she vacated accommodation provided by a local authority without just cause for doing so. The HSE further advised that the person concerned has appealed the decision to refuse rent supplement to the HSE Appeals Office. The HSE Appeals Office will contact the person concerned directly when a decision has been made on her appeal.

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

251 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when rent support will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11253/11]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that the person concerned was refused a rent supplement on the grounds that his rent was in excess of the prescribed rent limit for a single person. The person concerned also failed to provide the HSE with supporting documentation in relation to his household composition.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

252 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the grounds for refusal of jobseeker’s allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare in view of the fact that they supplied all information requested; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11254/11]

The person concerned applied for jobseeker's allowance on 18 January 2011. A decision has not yet been made on her application as some details requested by the deciding officer are still outstanding.

Social Welfare Code

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

253 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason exceptional or compelling means payment was refused in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare in view of the fact that failure to make such provision has now resulted in arrears of payment in respect of household bills and may eventually lead to an unsustainable situation; if she will expedite examination of the situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11255/11]

Under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme an exceptional needs payment (ENP) can 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.

The HSE has advised that an application for an exceptional needs payment was made in April 2011 by the person concerned and that this was refused.

The person concerned was advised by the community welfare officer of the services of the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS). This is a free and confidential service for people with debt problems and money management problems. MABS offices are staffed by trained Money Advisers, who can:

Help individuals deal with debts and make out a budget plan;

Examine an individual's income to make sure they are not missing out on any of their entitlements;

Contact creditors on their behalf with offers of payment if they are not able to do it themselves;

Help individuals decide on the best way to make the payments.

FÁS Training Programmes

Frank Feighan

Question:

254 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of FÁS schemes in operation in County Roscommon and the total number employed on same. [11287/11]

There are 19 FÁS Community Employment schemes currently in operation in County Roscommon, employing 344 participants and 24 supervisors.

Departmental Agencies

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

255 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of State agencies or organisations under her remit which are paid up members of the Irish Business and Employers Confederation; the name of each agency or organisation; the amount each State agency or organisation paid to the Irish Business and Employers Confederation for the years 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11327/11]

My Department is not a member of the Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC) and only one of the Department's Agencies is an IBEC member.

Details of payments made by that Agency are set out in the table.

State Board/Agency

Amount paid 2007

Amount paid 2008

Amount paid 2009

Amount paid 2010

Amount paid to date in 2011

Citizens Information Board

€9,643.50

€14,862.00

€10,812.00

€19,442.32

€16,084.28

Social Welfare Code

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

256 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Protection when the regulations for the implementation of the partial capacity scheme will be published; when the scheme will be operable and if those working in the private sector who at present have an exemption under the current invalidity pension scheme will be granted an extension automatically to the term of the exemption until the partial capacity scheme is implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11346/11]

The legislative basis which provides for the introduction of the Partial Capacity scheme is contained in the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2010, which was enacted by the Oireachtas in December 2010.

A programme of work is currently underway to cater for the new scheme. This includes the preparation of Regulations, as required by legislation, to cover, amongst other things, the medical protocols which will determine eligibility for the scheme as well as the rates of payment which will apply to those who apply to participate in the scheme; the development of the necessary medical criteria against which partial employment capacity will be assessed; and the development of the necessary processes and information technology systems to process, record and pay applicants.

Every effort is being made to complete these necessary steps as soon as possible in order to allow for the formal introduction of the scheme at the earliest possible date. At this stage, the intention is that the Regulations will be introduced in the Autumn of this year and that the scheme will be formally introduced before the end of the year. In the interim, persons in receipt of an exemption to undertake employment in the private sector under the current invalidity pension scheme will have the period of that exemption extended automatically.

Social Welfare Appeals

Brendan Ryan

Question:

257 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Social Protection if a full review of the disallowance of domiciliary care allowance will be undertaken in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11363/11]

An application for domiciliary care allowance was received for the person in question on the 4th May 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 10th June 2010 refusing DCA, the person concerned subsequently lodged an appeal against the decision. He was informed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 18th November 2010 that the appeal had been disallowed. He then requested, in the light of new information he provided, that the Appeals Officer review the decision. The Appeals Officer did not consider that the new information contained any facts that would cause him to change his decision. The person in question was notified of this in writing on the 2nd March 2011. 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 Benefits

Jack Wall

Question:

258 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a rent supplement application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11368/11]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that the person concerned was refused a rent supplement on the grounds that his rent was in excess of the prescribed rent limit for a single person. The person concerned also failed to provide the HSE with supporting documentation in relation to his household composition.

Social Welfare Appeals

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

259 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal against the decision to disallow a claim for supplementary welfare allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11385/11]

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 the application for assistance from the person concerned in April 2011 was refused as the need was not established.

The HSE has advised that the Appeals Office in the HSE has upheld the decision of the Community Welfare Officer to refuse an ENP to the person concerned. The person concerned has asked for his case to be reviewed by the Ombudsman's office. The HSE are currently in preparing a file with the relevant papers which will be forwarded to the Ombudsman for consideration.

Social Welfare Benefits

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

260 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she has investigated further the case of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11398/11]

The person concerned applied for a Lone Parent's Allowance (now One-Parent-Family Payment) as a widowed person in October 1992. The Lone Parent Allowance (One Parent Family Payment) is a means tested payment. Neither she nor her late spouse had sufficient social insurance contributions paid to satisfy the qualifying conditions for a Widows Contributory Pension. She was awarded maximum rate Lone Parent's Allowance with effect from 27/11/1992.

In her application form for the Lone Parent's Allowance, the person concerned signed an undertaking to notify the Department of any changes to her circumstances which may affect her payment. In 1994, 1997 and 1998 she did advise the Department of changes of circumstances with regard to earnings from employment and her entitlement was reviewed accordingly.

In August 2010, it came to the Department's attention that she had, for a period of some years from 2005, increased earnings from employment in excess of the means limits for One-Parent-Family Payment, which had not been notified. A Deciding Officer determined that an overpayment had arisen for the person concerned from 7thJanuary 2005 to 16th September 2010 totalling €68,586.70, and this was communicated to her on 8th December 2010. A letter also issued in relation to the overpayment, and the range of repayment options available.

The Department is willing to discuss an appropriate method and rate of repayment with the person concerned, with due regard to her financial circumstances.

Social Welfare Appeals

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

261 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social Protection when an appeal on an application for carer’s allowance will take place in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11411/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 30 December 2010. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 21 March 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. 262 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Fraud

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

263 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of social welfare inspectors dealing solely with social welfare fraud specifically. [11442/11]

The Department currently employs 406 Social Welfare Inspectors, 319 of whom are assigned to general inspection work and 87 of whom are assigned to the Department's Special Investigation Unit (SIU).

The role of the 319 general Inspectors includes the investigation of entitlement to the Department's means-tested schemes (except supplementary welfare allowance); responsibility for ensuring that employers comply with the legislation governing PRSI contributions; and for investigating insurability of employment cases. In addition to these duties, the remit includes the combating of fraud and abuse of the Department's schemes.

The Department 87 Inspectors in the SIU work full-time to combat fraud and abuse on Departmental schemes. They also undertake employer inspections to ensure compliance with PRSI obligations. In 1986, a Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) was established, drawn from inspectors in SIU and the Office of the Revenue Commissioners. This co-ordinated approach, combining the powers of both agencies, monitors compliance with both the PRSI and taxation systems.

The role of the inspector involves calling to private homes to establish whether a customer who is making an initial claim has an entitlement to payment or whether an existing customer continues to satisfy eligibility conditions. They also call to places of employment to ensure that there is no abuse of the Department's schemes and that the employer is fulfilling his obligations under social welfare legislation.

All staff working in the area of scheme administration have a role to play in combating fraud by ensuring that only genuine claims are put into payment and that customers continue to fulfil the statutory conditions of the scheme involved.

Social Welfare Appeals

Billy Timmins

Question:

264 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for a domiciliary care allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11445/11]

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 hand, 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. 265 answered with Question No. 241.

Joe Costello

Question:

266 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will expedite a domiciliary care allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; the reason there is such a delay in deciding such appeals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11461/11]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the evidence, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of summary decision. The person concerned has been notified of the decision.

Under Social Welfare legislation, the decision of the Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed by the Appeals Officer in the light of new evidence or new facts. If there is any new evidence or new facts pertinent to this case that was not brought to the attention of the Appeals Officer during the determination of this appeal, they may be submitted to the Social Welfare Appeals Office for further consideration.

The legislation also provides that an Appeals Officer may decide a case before him/her on the basis of the documentary evidence. This course of action was taken in this case as it was considered that an oral hearing was not warranted.

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.

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that the average waiting time for a domicillary care allowance appeal dealt with by way of a summary decision in 2010 was 26.8 weeks, while the average time to process an oral hearing was 49.1 weeks. These processing times are calculated from the registration date of the appeal to the date of its finalisation. These 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. As can be seen from the figures, 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 order to be fair to all appellants, these appeals are dealt with in strict chronological order.

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 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.

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.

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

267 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Social Protection the outcome of an appeal decision in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11466/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the disability allowance claim of the person concerned was disallowed following an assessment by a Medical Assessor who expressed the opinion that she was medically unsuitable for the allowance. An appeal was registered on 15th March 2011 and in accordance with the statutory procedures the relevant department papers and the comments of the Social Welfare services on the matter raised in the appeal have been sought. In that context, an assessment by another Medical Assessor will be carried out.

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 Code

Finian McGrath

Question:

268 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection if there is any scheme or funding in place to relocate families in the event of the flooding of their family homes and in particular family homes where there is a very high likelihood of reoccurrence of flooding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11467/11]

In recognition of the devastation suffered by people in many areas of the country as a result of the flooding from November 2009 onwards the Government set up a humanitarian assistance scheme to provide income tested financial support to people who have suffered damage to their homes not covered by insurance. The scheme had two objectives. First, it provided financial and other assistance, without an income test, in the immediate aftermath of the flooding. Secondly, it provided income tested financial support for the replacement of essential household items and home repairs in cases not covered by insurance.

The Community Welfare Service of the Health Service Executive (HSE) provided support to households under the humanitarian assistance scheme with payments being made to over 1,300 individuals to the value of almost €1.7m throughout the country. The bulk of the overall cost of repairing the damage caused to individuals' homes by the flooding was met through insurance policies held by the people affected.

Most of the payments made under the humanitarian assistance scheme were in respect of immediate needs such as clothing, food, bedding and emergency accommodation needs. These emergency payments were made without delay and without regard to the household income as the primary objective were to address the person's immediate needs.

The level of payment available under the aid scheme to any qualified individual depended on the severity of the damage to that person's home and the extent of the loss experienced as well as household income and general family circumstances. The scheme provided hardship alleviation as opposed to full compensation. As on previous occasions, commercial or business losses were not covered by the scheme nor were losses which were covered by household insurance.

The Government is aware that for various reasons, a small number of people have been unable to resume living at their home and others, while they have resumed living at their home, are still faced with significant problems arising from the flooding. The Government is also aware that some householders who are continuing to experience significant housing problems as a result of the November 2009 flooding are considering the possibility of relocating rather than resuming living at their original home.

In light of this, the Government has decided that support may be available in such cases where:

1. Serious and permanent damage has been caused to the family home by the November 2009 flooding;

2. There is a high probability of a recurrence of serious flooding because of flood depth, duration or frequency on a scale that could further damage the family home;

3. The house cannot be protected from flooding at an economically feasible cost;

4. The household is unable to secure insurance against flooding as a result of the November 2009 floods.

Support will only be considered for relocation in cases where the cost of remedial works would exceed the cost of relocation, as determined by the Office of Public Works (OPW).

The following considerations will also apply:

1. The gross cost of relocation underpinning the level of support provided will not exceed the cost of providing a reasonable home in the area in question, as determined by the local authority;

2. The existing house must be demolished and the site must be rehabilitated , which may require planning permission from the local authority;

3. If the household has settled a claim with their insurance company, the funds provided in settlement of that claim will be taken into account in determining the amount of funding, if any, provided for relocation. Beneficiaries will be required to instruct their insurance company to provide information in that regard;

Officials from the Department have visited the homes in question and are now in discussions with the Office of Public Works to establish what remedial works, if any, can be carried out to protect these houses from future flooding.

Unemployment Levels

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

269 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons registered as unemployed at the Coolock and Kilbarrack social welfare offices in 2007, 2008, 2009 2010 and to date in 2011; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11489/11]

According to the records of the Department, the following table gives the numbers of persons registered as unemployed at Coolock and Kilbarrack local offices from 2007 to date in 2011. The figures are from end December in each year from 2007 to 2010 and up to 6 May 2011.

Year

Coolock

Kilbarrack

2007

2,288

2,148

2008

3,584

3,533

2009

5,150

5,237

2010

5,015

5,360

2011

4,937

5,340

Question No. 270 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

271 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for one parent family allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11545/11]

The person concerned applied for one-parent family payment from 30th September 2010. Her claim was disallowed on the grounds that she is not considered to be habitually resident in the state. No appeal was lodged.

Departmental Expenditure

John McGuinness

Question:

272 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will confirm the number of credit cards issued by her and to whom; the criteria for issuing such cards; the credit card company used; if a competitive process was used to select the company; if the facility has had to be withdrawn from any person; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11560/11]

There are currently six credit cards in use by officers of the Department and one by the Pensions Ombudsman who operates under aegis of the Department and for whom the Department makes payments in respect of administration costs. Details of the cardholders are set out in the following table.

Grade

Section

Company

Assistant Principal

Information Unit

American Express

Pension Ombudsman

Office of the Pension Ombudsman

American Express

Assistant Principal

EU International

American Express

Assistant Principal

Staff Development Unit

Bank of Ireland

Private Secretary

Minister’s Office

Bank of Ireland

Assistant Principal

Central IT Services

Bank of Ireland

Assistant Principal

Appeals Office

Bank of Ireland

The number of cards issued is very strictly limited to instances where a strong business case for their use is made to the Accountant of the Department. Credit Cards are used for official purposes only and are generally used for room hire, purchase of equipment, software, air-fares, fees and official entertainment. Credit card holders are made aware of procedures for the use of the card and sign a form of undertaking to abide by the conditions of use for credit cards as set down by the Department.

There was no competitive process used in selecting the companies the Department uses for the issue of credit cards.

The facility has never had to be withdrawn from any person apart from when officials are moving from their role in the business area that requires use of a credit card.

Community Employment Schemes

Billy Timmins

Question:

273 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the rate of pay on a community employment scheme in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if this will be rectified; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11601/11]

As Minister for Social Protection, I do not have a role in the administration of individual cases in regard to the operation of the Community Employment programme. The administration of individual cases under Community Employment is a day-to-day matter for FÁS as part of its responsibility under the Labour Services Act 1987, as amended by Part 3 of the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2010. The person in question was in receipt of jobseeker's allowance of €73.90 per week prior to commencing Community Employment, which indicates that he/she had means assessed against his/her maximum family entitlement to jobseeker's allowance (including provision of his/her spouse and two children). In circumstances where the actual weekly payment drops below the standard €188 social welfare payment, as in this case, the person is placed on the minimum FÁS-funded allowance grant to the community employment employer for the participant which is equivalent to the single adult rate of €208 per week. By participating on community employment, the person is €134.10 per week better off.

Question No. 274 answered with Question No. 234.

Public Procurement Contracts

Noel Grealish

Question:

275 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of public contracts awarded to European companies and the number awarded to indigenous companies over the past five years; the monetary value of the projects awarded to European companies as opposed to indigenous companies for the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11613/11]

The information requested by the Deputy is currently being compiled within my Department and will be made available to the Deputy as soon as possible. Procurement by my department is undertaken based on the requirement to achieve value for money and bearing in mind our obligations under EU and national legislation, particularly concerned with transparency and non-discrimination: this does not permit us to distinguish between vendors based in Ireland or elsewhere in the EU. Nevertheless, my department is committed to ensuring that in procuring goods and services, our procedures do not impose barriers which could disadvantage small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) in competing for contracts, while at the same time having regard to our legal obligations. In this respect we take into account the guidance set out in Finance Circular 10/10: Facilitating SME Participation in Public Procurement (13 August 2010) and Guidance for Public Contracting Authorities: Facilitating Participation of SMEs in Public Procurement. My Department has a long history of working closely with both large and small Irish based suppliers and service providers in meeting our requirements for goods and services. The Department is particularly conscious of the need for engagement with SMEs, particularly those involved in innovation. In this respect a senior official has been designated with responsibility for this area and is working closely with Enterprise Ireland to identify suitable opportunities.

Social Welfare Fraud

Noel Grealish

Question:

276 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to proceed with mandatory direct payment of rent supplement to tax compliant landlords in the interest of efficiency and combating fraud; if she will agree to meet with national representatives of buy-to-let investors to discuss the issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11616/11]

The purpose of rent supplement is to provide short-term support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. The scheme is intended as a temporary income support payment and is not designed to be a medium to long term housing support or a permanent solution to a person's housing needs. Current legislation already provides for the making of a rent supplement payment to another person (e.g. a relative, a landlord or landlord's agent) on behalf of the recipient, at the tenant's request and is subject to the consent of the Community Welfare Service.

Approximately 20% of rent supplement payments are currently paid to a person other than the tenant. Under the legislative provisions governing rent supplement, the Department's relationship is with the tenant; the tenant makes the application for rent supplement and payment is made to the tenant. Rent supplement is specifically for the benefit of tenants to assist them with their accommodation needs.

Under the current arrangements, even with direct payment, landlords still have to collect the tenant contribution towards their rent (a minimum of €104 per month). The amount of rent supplement payable depends on the tenant's income; in some cases tenants pay only the minimum contribution while for others the tenant makes an additional contribution to their rent based on their financial circumstances. For example, where a person is in part-time income and receives just 10% of his or her rent directly from the State, the landlord would receive the 10% directly whilst still having to collect the 90% from the tenant. The efficiency of the scheme would be significantly affected if this arrangement were to be changed; for example, community welfare officers would potentially have to create a formal relationship with some 97,000 additional clients, the landlords. This would involve greater complexity and significant resources to deal with a new set of third parties. In particular, it would also result in community welfare officers being drawn into disputes between landlords and tenants.

There may also be financial and control implications in cases where a tenant moves address and neither the landlord nor tenant informs the Department. Similarly, where a tenant is no longer eligible for rent supplement and the Department ceases paying the landlord, the Department may find itself involved in eviction proceedings. The current arrangements provide tenants with flexibility in terms of location, the freedom to move to a different location whilst allowing recipients time to seek alternative long-term housing solutions provided by their local authority. The tailoring of additional payments, such as rent supplement, to meet the specific needs of individuals and making the payment direct to the tenant is regarded as an effective way of helping individuals realise their potential and take individual responsibility. To remove the right of the tenant to receive this payment by making it payable only to the landlord would require legislative amendment and I have no plans at present to make this change.

National Partnership Agreement

Noel Grealish

Question:

277 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will continue the practice of quarterly round table discussions with the voluntary pillar of the national partnership agreement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11617/11]

The Government acknowledges the vital role of the community and voluntary sector working in partnership with local communities, State agencies and local authorities. The Government is committed to tackling Ireland's economic crisis in a way that is fair, balanced and which recognises the need for social solidarity and it values dialogue with the representatives of the voluntary and community sector in that regard. This dialogue continues to take place in different ways and through different fora across Government Departments and agencies, for example at the National Economic and Social Council. The question of whether and how this dialogue with the social partners could be enhanced has not yet been decided but in the meantime, I have met members of the community and voluntary sector since becoming Minister and will continue to do so as policy and administrative issues of interest to the sector come up for consideration.

Pension Provisions

Noel Grealish

Question:

278 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the national pensions framework; if she will agree to meet, at an early stage, national delegations who have a representative role; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11618/11]

Following the publication of the National Pensions Framework in March 2010, a technical implementation group was established to develop the legislative, regulatory and administrative infrastructure required to put the reforms announced in the framework into operation. The group is chaired by the Department of Social Protection and includes representatives from other key Departments and agencies. A number of subgroups have also been established and have advanced particular elements of the framework. Consultation is a key element of the implementation process. My predecessor hosted a consultation forum last year. Since then, my officials have been involved in a number of other consultation meetings with representative groups. Work in relation to the development of a new model of defined benefit pension provision is well advanced. A consultation paper outlining possible options has been circulated to a number of stakeholder organisations. I intend to meet those groups in the coming weeks to discuss their responses to that document. The implementation phase is expected to take three to five years. There will of course be further opportunities for consultation as the process advances.

Question No. 279 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Appeals

Jim Daly

Question:

280 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will be reached in relation to an application lodged for appeal in January 2009; the reason the applicant was refused supplementary welfare allowance in the interim period; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11640/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that a jobseeker's allowance appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case. There was a significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office between 2007, when the intake was 14,070, and 2010, when the intake rose to 32,432. This has had a significant impact on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings. 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 nine 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 for when the person's oral hearing will be heard, but s/he will be informed when arrangements have been made.

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme (SWA) is administered on behalf of the Department by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive. Apart from a number of excluded categories, anyone in the State who satisfies a habitual residency condition and a means test, and has registered for employment, may qualify for a weekly payment of SWA unless they have a physical or mental disability and can prove unemployment. People in a number of categories are specifically excluded from receiving SWA, including people in full-time work, people in full-time education and people involved in trade disputes. A person is considered to be in full-time education if he/she is attending a course of study as specified under section 148 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 2005. At the time that the person concerned applied for SWA in 2009, he was in full-time employment and his application was refused. The person concerned is now an adult dependant on his wife's current SWA claim, pending a determination of her application for Jobseeker's Allowance.

Departmental Staff

Seán Kenny

Question:

281 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons employed in the social welfare offices in Kilbarrack and Coolock in Dublin 5 by grade; the number of vacancies in each office by grade and if additional staff are likely to be posted to these offices; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11744/11]

Details of the number of staff, and full-time equivalent posts, in the social welfare offices in Kilbarrack and Coolock are shown in the table below. There are no unfilled posts in either office at this time.

Grade

No. of Staff in Kilbarrack

No. of Posts in Kilbarrack

No. of Staff in Coolock

No. of Posts in Coolock

Higher Executive Officer

1

1

1

1

Executive Officer

5

5

4

4

Staff Officer

7

6.8

8

7.8

Clerical Officer

14

12.95

20

17.3

Services Officer

1

1

1

1

Total No. of Staff

28

26.75

34

31.1

The staffing needs in my Department are kept under constant review to ensure best use is made of all available resources to meet the business needs. There are no plans to assign additional staff to either of the offices in question.

Social Welfare Benefits

Finian McGrath

Question:

282 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding rent allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [11775/11]

The person concerned has been awarded a weekly supplementary welfare allowance of €137.60 pending a decision on his claim for illness benefit. The Health Service Executive has advised that the person concerned is in receipt of a rent supplement payment of €787.33 per month. It has further advised that it is reviewing the rent supplement entitlement in this case and will advise the person concerned of its decision in due course.

John O'Mahony

Question:

283 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of applications made for domiciliary care allowance in 2008, 2009 and 2010 in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11779/11]

John O'Mahony

Question:

284 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of applications which were granted for domiciliary care allowance in 2008, 2009 and 2010 in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11780/11]

John O'Mahony

Question:

285 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Social Protection the numbers of appeals lodged for domiciliary care allowance in 2008, 2009 and 2010 in tabular form; the number of theses appeals that were successful; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11781/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 283 to 285, inclusive, together.

The Department has been accepting new claims for domiciliary care allowance since 1 April 2009. Statistics relating to the period prior to April 2009 are not held by this Department and are a matter for the HSE, as the previous administrator of the scheme. The following table sets out the number of domiciliary care allowance applications received:

Applications received

Applications fully processed

Applications allowed *

Applications refused

2009 (From 1st April)

3,389

2,823

1,220

1,603

2010

5,457

5,333

2,576

2,757

*Includes cases initially disallowed but allowed on review following receipt of additional information.

This table sets out the number of domiciliary care allowance appeals received and processed:

Appeals registered

Appeals withdrawn as allowed on review

Appeals allowed

Appeals disallowed

Appeals outstanding

2009

836

189

268

340

39

2010

1,858

518

179

462

699

Social Welfare Appeals

John O'Mahony

Question:

286 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of appeals lodged for disability allowance in 2008, 2009 and 2010 in tabular form; the number of theses appeals that were successful; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11787/11]

Figures regarding the numbers of disability allowance appeals which received a favourable decision in 2008, 2009 and 2010 are given in the table that follows this reply. Overall, the number of appeals determined by appeals officers which had a favourable outcome for appellants — either allowed or partially allowed — were 3,288 (35%) of 9,423 determined in 2008, 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.

Disability Allowance Appeals

Appeals Received

Revised Decisions by Deciding Officers

Appeals Decided by Appeals Officers

Appeals Allowed or Partially Allowed by Appeals Officers

2008

3,522

1,103

1,429

685

2009

4,696

995

1,546

762

2010

4,840

972

2,535

979

John O'Mahony

Question:

287 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Social Protection the numbers of appeals lodged in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and a breakdown of each category in tabular form; the number of theses appeals that were successful; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11788/11]

Figures in regard to the numbers of cases received by category for 2008, 2009 and 2010 are given in the tables that follow this reply. Overall, the number of appeals determined by appeals officer which had a favourable outcome for appellants (i.e. either allowed or partially allowed) were 3,288 (35%) of 9,423 determined in 2008, 3,695 (37%) of 10,027 determined in 2009 and 4,747 (27%) of 17,499 determined in 2010. These outcomes do not necessarily relate to the appeals received in these years. 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 Received by Scheme 2008

Appeals Received by Scheme 2009

Appeals Received by Scheme 2010

Adoptive Benefit

1

2

2

Blind Pension

9

22

13

Carers Allowance

1,043

1,966

2,969

Carers Benefit

58

121

180

Child Benefit

682

1,350

1,050

Disability Allowance

3,410

4,560

4,568

Illness Benefit

3,560

4,897

5,313

Domiciliary Care Allowance

836

1,827

Deserted Wives Benefit

13

5

14

Farm Assist

59

132

244

Bereavement Grant

40

45

59

Family Income Supplement

135

166

224

Invalidity Pension

517

633

998

Liable Relatives

19

2

16

One Parent Family Payment

742

795

1,085

Maternity Benefit

15

11

29

State Pension (Contributory)

84

87

258

State Pension (Non-Cont)

272

320

353

State Pension (Transition)

16

22

7

Occupational Injury Benefit

29

37

22

Occupational Injury Ben (Med)

39

41

22

Disablement Pension

288

261

343

Incapacity Supplement

8

8

15

Guardian’s Payment (Con)

25

22

26

Guardian’s Payment (NonCon)

2

12

7

Pre-Retirement Allowance

9

2

2

Jobseeker’s Allow (Means)

1,877

3,566

4,000

Jobseeker’s Allowance

2,347

3,159

5,488

Jobseeker’s Benefit

1,339

1,337

1,292

Respite Care Grant

311

258

162

Insurability of Employment

87

103

121

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

425

769

989

Treatment Benefits

18

10

8

Widow’s Pension (Con)

20

16

20

Widow’s Pension (NonCon)

14

19

12

Widows Parent Grant

1

3

Social Welfare Code

Michael McCarthy

Question:

288 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Social Protection in respect of County Cork, the average time it takes a social welfare inspector to assess a person’s claim following the initial submission of all relevant documentation to the local office; the subsequent amount of time it takes to process the particular claim following the inspection; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11810/11]

I understand the Deputy's question relates specifically to jobseekers schemes. In determining entitlement for jobseeker's allowance, a customer must satisfy a means test. The time taken to process individual claims varies significantly having regard to the circumstances in each case. Straightforward means-tested cases are "fast-tracked" by deciding officers in local offices. More complex cases are forwarded to inspectors who establish the details of the case by interviewing the customer in a local office or, if it is considered necessary, by undertaking a home visit. Factors outside my Department's control can impinge on the time taken to make a decision in any case. These factors include the supply of relevant information by the customer, employers, other EU countries or other third parties. Claim processing performance is monitored on an ongoing basis and staff re deployed as necessary to meet the requirements of fluctuating volumes of work. The following table shows the average processing time in weeks for claims in County Cork decided in April 2011:

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Jobseeker’s Benefit

Bandon

5.86

5.17

Bantry

3.05

1.98

Carrigaline

4.19

1.36

Clonakilty

7.17

4.24

Cobh

1.33

3.67

Cork

5.41

1.64

Fermoy

6.50

2.43

Kinsale

10.21

1.98

Macroom

7.46

3.35

Mallow

7.23

1.41

Midleton

6.79

3.11

Skibbereen

4.90

1.66

Youghal

6.76

2.18

Question No. 289 answered with Question No. 241.

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

290 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection the measures in place to ensure the speedy processing of entitlements and services for parents who have children with disabilities and care for them full-time; the improvements that are proposed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11823/11]

The payments relating to disabled children administered by the Department include domiciliary care allowance and carer's allowance. Domiciliary care allowance is a payment to the parent or carer of a child who has a disability so severe that it requires the child to need care and attention or supervision substantially in excess of another child of the same age. The child must be likely to require this level of care and attention for at least 12 months. Every application is assessed by one of the Department's Medical Assessors. An individual medical opinion, based on the information submitted by the applicant in support of their claim, is offered in each case. The deciding officer then makes a decision having considered the medical opinion provided and all the other information available.

Applications for domiciliary care allowance are processed by date of receipt. It currently takes approximately eight weeks to process an application, which is in line with target. Entitlement to carer's allowance is based on satisfying medical, means and residency conditions. In determining entitlement to the allowance there are, in certain cases, unavoidable time lags involved in making the necessary investigations and enquiries to enable accurate decisions to be made. Delays can also arise if people applying for the allowance are not in a position to supply all the necessary information at the time of submitting their claim. Carer's allowance applications are currently taking approximately 12 weeks to process. A total of 3,815 applications were registered in the first three months of 2011 and 3,883 were processed in the same period, there are currently 4,509 applications awaiting a decision.

The main reason for the deterioration in the processing time for carer's allowance is due to staff being engaged in work on a major service modernisation project involving the development of IT functionality and associated business reorganisation. This work involves a significant level of data clean-up and related work to ensure the 51,000 existing carer's allowance customers can be successfully transferred onto the new IT platform. It is anticipated that the new system will introduce significant processing efficiencies and a quicker and more responsive service to the customer. I am pleased to say the modernisation project is currently on target for delivery in July 2011. The staff and other resources available to the Department are regularly reviewed having regard to the workload and competing priorities and the position continues to be kept under review.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

291 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway is not entitled to have their teeth cleaned under their PRSI entitlement. [11832/11]

The dental treatment benefit scheme is an employment-based scheme, available to customers and their dependent partners who have paid a certain number of PRSI contributions. For claims made in 2011, customers aged over 25 years need the following to qualify: (1) a total of 260 Class A, H, E, or P PRSI contributions paid since first starting work; (2) 39 contributions either paid or credited in 2009; and (3) 13 contributions paid in any of the last three years. As the person concerned does not appear to meet any of these conditions, she is not currently qualified for dental benefit. In addition, it should be noted that following the budget changes introduced in January 2010, the dental benefit scheme currently provides a free dental examination to qualified customers and no longer provides for the cleaning of teeth. If the person concerned holds a medical card, she may be entitled to dental treatment under the Health Service Executive scheme.

National Parks

Tom Fleming

Question:

292 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport if he will review staffing levels at a national park (details supplied). [11297/11]

I assure the Deputy that, as in previous years, Muckross Gardens continue to be managed and maintained to the highest possible standards, as evidenced by the many positive comments from visitors to the gardens and also the favourable mention of the gardens in a magazine, The Irish Garden, last year. As with all gardens, climatic conditions can have a marked bearing on the appearance of Muckross Gardens. In this regard, it should be noted that the past two winters have been the coldest since records began at the weather station in Muckross. Unfortunately, due to these exceptionally cold winters many of the Southern Hemisphere and tender plants in the Gardens were damaged or lost. However, the dedicated staff at Muckross Gardens are continuing their work on the rehabilitation or removal and replacement of damaged shrubs and plants with a view to restoring Muckross Gardens to pristine condition. I am satisfied, given the current economic circumstances, that the staffing levels at Muckross Gardens are appropriate.

Air Services

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

293 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport when air services to Inishbofin Island will commence; if these can commence with the provision of temporary air terminals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11354/11]

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

294 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport the position regarding the provision of terminals at the airstrips at Cluain Leacht an Abba, An Cloigeann and on Inishbofin Island; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11355/11]

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

295 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport if he will make a site available immediately at Cluain Leacht an Abba, An Cloigeann to the Coast Guard Service which will act as a headquarters for the local coast guard unit; his views that such an arrangement is a good use of State resources; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11356/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 293 to 295, inclusive, together.

The current position regarding the provision of air service facilities at Inishbofin and Cleggan is that the building of both runways is largely complete. My Department has engaged consultants to make progress with the next phase of development, which is to design and apply for planning permission for the terminal buildings. This work is ongoing at the moment. A decision with regard to the next phase of the development will be made when the outcome of this process is known. My Department has had some preliminary discussions with the Irish Coast Guard in relation to the provision of facilities at Cleggan. No decision on the provision of such facilities will be made until the outcome of the planning permission application previously referred to is known. My Department does not in principle oppose the provision of a site for the Irish Coast Guard at Cleggan.

Forbairt Tionscail Iascaireachta

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

296 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Turasóireachta, Cultúir agus Spóirt an bhfuil cead ag Údarás na Gaeltachta deontais a cheadú do thionscal na mbradán feirme agus mura bhfuil, cad iad na cúiseanna leis seo; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [11374/11]

Tá sé curtha in iúl dom ag Údarás na Gaeltachta go bhfuil cosc ar an eagraíocht deontais a íoc le hearnáil na feirmeoireachta bradán faoi láthair. Tuigim ón údarás go n-eascraíonn an cosc seo ó fhorálacha maidir le bradáin fhiáine a chosaint ó mhíolta mara atá sa Chlár Náisiúnta um Bhia na Mara. Foilsíodh an Clár Náisiúnta seo i 2010.

Special Areas of Conservation

Sean Fleming

Question:

297 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport if the National Parks and Wildlife Service is examining or reviewing the possibilities of further designations of any bogs or peatlands as special areas of conservation, natural heritage areas or any other designations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11840/11]

Ireland has a significant proportion of its raised and blanket bogs designated for protection within Special Areas of Conservation or Natural Heritage Areas. I have no plans to add to the overall area of bog designated for protection.

Brian Stanley

Question:

298 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport his plans to review the criteria used to designate areas as special areas of conservation and natural heritage areas. [11693/11]

I have no plans to review the criteria used for designating Natural Heritage Areas, which are set out in the Wildlife Acts, or for designating Special Areas of Conservation, which are provided for in the EU Habitats Directive, as transposed into Irish Law through the European Communities (Natural Habitats) Regulations.

Departmental Agencies

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

299 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport the number of State agencies or organisations under his remit which are paid up members of the Irish Business and Employers Confederation; the name of each agency or organisation; the amount each State agency or organisation paid to the Irish Business and Employers Confederation for the years 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11329/11]

The details requested by the Deputy in respect of the period from 2007 to date in 2011 are set out in the following table:

Agency

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011 (to date)

Irish Film Board

5,429

5,636

5,556

5,656

5,636

Arts Council

1,653

1,872

1,872

1,713

1,872

National Gallery of Ireland

5,509

5,730

5,272

5,310

5,042

Irish Museum of Modern Art

2,387

2,483

2,483

0

0

National Concert Hall

1,139

1,490

2,216

2,216

2,177

Crawford Art Gallery

0

0

2,500

3,000

0

Chester Beatty Library

1,102

1,337

1,337

1,337

1,337

Údarás na Gaeltachta

9,004

9,348

9,380

9,380

9,348

Foras na Gaeilge

1,653

1,604

1,604

1,604

0

Heritage Council

1,040

1,300

0

0

0

Waterways Ireland

18,394

19,252

16,579

27,999

0

— the 2011 membership fee was paid in 2010

Tourism Industry

Patrick Deering

Question:

300 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport if he has any proposals to invest in the rivers and waterways tourism initiative, in view of the fact that this investment is necessary to draw down the matching money from the EU. [11484/11]

The Deputy will be aware that Waterways Ireland falls within the ambit of my Department. I have been advised by that body that it is not involved in the Rivers and Waterways Tourism Initiative referred to by the Deputy. The Deputy may wish to pursue the matter with my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, who has overall responsibility for tourism affairs.

Departmental Expenditure

John McGuinness

Question:

301 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport if he will confirm the number of credit cards issued by him and to whom; the criteria for issuing such cards; the credit card company used; if a competitive process was used to select the company; if the facility has had to be withdrawn from any person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11562/11]

My Department has four credit cards issued to officials for use in the course of their business. These cards are issued to the Private Secretary to the Minister, the Assistant Secretary in my Department's Arts Division, my Department's Accountant and the Chief Executive Officer of Culture Ireland. Cards are issued in individual cases following an examination of the business need arising. All credit cards are Visa cards issued by Allied Irish Bank. An evaluation process was applied in 2006 to identify a service provider and Allied Irish Bank emerged as the favoured supplier. While I am advised that the number of credit cards held by officials in my Department has fallen in recent years, I understand this has been solely on the basis that there has not been a continuing business case for the use of a Departmental credit card by the individuals involved. My Department will continue to keep under review the business need for credit cards in each individual case.

Home Energy Saving Scheme

Joe McHugh

Question:

302 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the proposed changes planned for the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11162/11]

Brendan Griffin

Question:

304 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the rationale behind the reduction in grant aid levels under the home energy saving scheme (details supplied); the overall cost to the Exchequer of the scheme to date; if the scheme is cost neutral due to the stimulus that it provides to the construction sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11758/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 302 and 304 together.

I announced the launch of Better Energy: The National Upgrade Programme on Wednesday, 11 May 2011 on foot of the Jobs Initiative. Better Energy will replace the three existing energy efficiency and renewable energy programmes: the Home Energy Savings Scheme (HES), the Warmer Homes Scheme (WHS) and the Greener Homes Scheme (GHS). There are three strands to Better Energy. The first strand allows domestic customers to apply for an Exchequer supported incentive, currently a grant but which will migrate to an up-front discount later in the year. The measures grant-aided under this strand include roof and wall insulation, high efficiency boilers, heating control upgrades and solar thermal.

The second strand brings 25 energy suppliers on board as partners. These companies have been asked to finalise voluntary agreements with the SEAI by the end of June, which will deliver 200GWh of energy saving measures in 2011. Energy companies can meet their target by directly offering upgrade services, or by sub-contracting the work to third parties.

The third strand provides support for energy efficiency upgrades in low-income private housing, covered by the Warmer Homes Scheme. Applications are collected centrally, via a managing agent, or through a network of 28 community-based organisations who deliver the retrofit work free of charge to the homeowner.

The SEAI will monitor all activity by recording the Building Energy Rating of every home before and after works are carried out, and verifying what measures have been carried out to the appropriate standards. The Better Energy grant levels have been set to ensure that the level of Exchequer support is in line with market prices. Since the HES scheme was launched in 2009, there have been substantial reductions in the prices being charged for most of the measures covered by the scheme, the exception being external insulation which is a relatively new technology in Ireland. It is clearly essential that the level of Exchequer support reflects market prices.

Joan Collins

Question:

303 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the fact that persons are being prohibited from applying for the home energy savings scheme administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, in view of the fact that a company (details supplied) is charging a fee of €800 to move their gas meter in order that external insulation fits. [11650/11]

The operation of the Home Energy Scheme is a day to day matter for the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). I have no function in the matter.

It is a legal requirement under The Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006 that all domestic gas works must be undertaken and certified by a registered gas installer (RGI) who is registered with the RGII (Register Gas Installers of Ireland).

Bord Gáis advises that the installation of external wall insulation to a property with an existing natural gas supply must ensure compliance with all relevant national gas, safety and technical standards. If the external insulation will have an impact on the gas service line/meter location, then Bord Gáis Networks should be contacted so that a suitable solution can be achieved. If the insulation is planned to cover an existing wall area where a gas service/meter is located, then either the meter can be moved to a non-affected location or temporarily moved for the period of works and then reinstated.

Only Bord Gáis Networks can move a meter and whilst this may result in additional costs for homeowners this is a necessary legislative and safety requirement. Any up-front costs associated with the installation of energy efficiency measures will be recouped through energy savings in future.

Question No. 304 answered with Question No. 302.

Fishing Licences

Brendan Griffin

Question:

305 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason a draft net licence for 2011 was refused to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11161/11]

I understand that the individual referred to by the Deputy applied for a draft net salmon fishing licence. Applications for fishing licences were considered by Inland Fisheries Ireland, in accordance with the terms of the Control of Fishing for Salmon Order 2011 (S.I. No 123, 2011). This Order determines the priority status afforded to each application based on the applicant's fishing track record. In the event of the number of applicants being in excess of the licences available, IFI determined the allocation in accordance with Article 6 of the Order.

Television Licence Fee

Michael McGrath

Question:

306 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans for a review of the television licence system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11270/11]

The Programme for Government commits to examining the role and collection of the TV Licence Fee in light of existing and projected convergence of broadcasting technologies and to transform the TV licence into a household based Public Broadcasting Charge to be applied to all households and applicable businesses, regardless of the device they use to access content.

In line with this commitment, my Department is currently undertaking an exercise whereby it is examining both the effectiveness and efficiency of the current model of television licence fee collection, in the context of the changing technological environment, and examining the efficiency of various international models for the funding of public service broadcasting. The results of the exercise will be an analysis of the most effective models in terms of efficiency, capability to fund our public service broadcasting service and equity of applicability.

I would emphasise the need to provide certainty as regards the funding base for public service broadcasting. The licence fee has provided much certainty although it is subject to a certain degree of evasion.

Any changes that may be proposed and implemented must continue to provide a secure base for public service broadcasting funding whilst also recognising the reality of new mechanisms to access TV content.

The scope of work being carried out under this review is quite extensive. Nevertheless, I expect to receive recommendations arising out of this review by year end and, following that, work will begin on developing any necessary legislative proposals that might be required to facilitate the implementation of any recommendations that I decide to take forward.

Departmental Agencies

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

307 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of State agencies or organisations under his remit which are paid up members of the Irish Business and Employers Confederation; the name of each agency or organisation; the amount each State agency or organisation paid to the Irish Business and Employers Confederation for the years 2007 to date in 2011, inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11317/11]

I can inform the Deputy that the payment of subscriptions by State Agencies in respect of corporate membership of organisations, including Irish Business and Employers Confederation is a day-to-day operational issue for the agencies themselves.

Telecommunications Services

Robert Troy

Question:

308 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if the number of new sites established under the national broadband scheme has reached the target of over 400 stated previously on his website; if not, the number of new sites that have been completed and are functioning correctly at present; and the number of those that are masts supporting antennae in new locations. [11439/11]

My Department entered into a contract with "3", a Hutchinson Whampoa company, for the delivery of the National Broadband Scheme (NBS) in late December 2008. Since then, 3 has progressed its network roll-out and since October 2010, NBS broadband services are available in all of the 1,028 designated Electoral Divisions (ED) covered under the Scheme, in line with contractual commitments.

3's primary contractual obligation centred on ensuring that service was available in all NBS areas by October last. In order to ensure the successful delivery of this obligation, 3 extended and enhanced its network and now has 390 sites across the NBS areas. I have provided a table below which details the breakdown of these sites.

Breakdown of Structures for NBS

Total

Greenfield Sites (new build structures)

197

Co-location on existing structures

186

Buildings

7

Total

390

My Department has put in place robust monitoring arrangements to ensure that the NBS network delivers the minimum specified service or better to all users. Performance delivery data, which is submitted to my Department on a monthly basis or as required, is critically analysed by independent technical consultants, Analysys Mason Ltd.

On the basis of the information provided to my Department, I am satisfied that the specified service levels required under the NBS contract are being met.

Robert Troy

Question:

309 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if the subsidy of ongoing charges for satellite services provided under the national broadband scheme will be maintained after the NBS contract ends in or around July 2014. [11440/11]

The National Broadband Scheme (NBS) contract guarantees that broadband connectivity is available to 100% of the buildings within the NBS coverage areas. In recognition of the fact that some areas will be very costly and technologically challenging to reach using standard infrastructure, a limited number of residences and businesses in the NBS coverage area are covered by a satellite service.

"3", the NBS service provider, has entered into a contract with two satellite providers on a non-exclusive basis for the provision of the NBS satellite service.

After the expiry of the NBC contract in July 2014, tariffs for NBS customers will be determined by the service provider in accordance with market forces and conditions.

Robert Troy

Question:

310 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when and where he will publish the relative weighting which he will give to each of the criteria chosen in awarding the contract for the rural broadband scheme, as recommended by the Community guidelines; if he will publish the results of the tender evaluation process; if he will publish the eventual contract entered into with the winner of the tender; if it can be correctly inferred from his briefing on his Department’s website that the scheme will cover equipment installation only and will not subsidise or cap ongoing broadband charges; and the body that will be appointed to resolve any disputes that might arise between the RBS contract winner regarding equipment installation and ongoing service. [11441/11]

Following the formal launch of the Rural Broadband Scheme earlier this month, my Department is currently taking applications from members of the public who wish to be included in this scheme. This application and verification phase will last at least 3 months.

In the second half of this year my Department intends tendering to procure a service provider who will supply the actual broadband connection and service to eligible applicants. This procurement will be administered in full compliance of public procurement rules and regulations including the commercial confidentiality of those bidding for the contract.

The full details of how this competition will be designed and run are not yet finalised. However, I can confirm that the scheme is designed to subsidise the initial capital cost of providing the actual physical broadband connection and, that under the rules applying to the EU funding for the scheme, we are precluded from subsidising monthly tariffs for the service provided.

Departmental Expenditure

John McGuinness

Question:

311 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will confirm the number of credit cards issued by him and to whom; the criteria for issuing such cards; the credit card company used; if a competitive process was used to select the company; if the facility has had to be withdrawn from any person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11550/11]

There are currently two cardholders on my Department's Credit Card Account, the Private Secretaries to the Minister and the Minister of State. It is my Department's policy that credit cards are issued only to the Minister and Minister of State through their respective Private Secretaries.

My Department's commercial bank accounts, including its credit card account, are held with Bank of Ireland. My Department's credit card account was opened in January 2007 following the introduction of banking online services on our existing Bank of Ireland accounts.

A total of 22 individual card holders have operated through this Department's credit card account at various stages since it opened in January 2007. The Management Committee, in November 2008, revised the Department's credit card policy to the effect that credit cards would only be issued to the Minister and Minister of State through their relevant Private Secretaries. All other credit cards were withdrawn at that time.

Telecommunications Services

Billy Timmins

Question:

312 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding broadband in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11575/11]

The issue referred to in the Deputy's Question relates to the monthly data cap allowance for National Broadband Scheme (NBS) customers and forms part of the terms and conditions of the contract between the service provider and subscriber.

The NBS contract sets out the minimum specification retail service that "3" must provide which includes the retail tariffs applicable (€19.99 per month) as well as minimum upload and download speeds and an uncharged monthly data cap of 25GB (20 GB download and 5GB upload). Where a subscriber exceeds their monthly data cap limit a retail services ancillary charge of 5 cent per MB in excess of the cap will be levied.

This forms part of the terms and conditions of each individual subscriber's contract with "3" under the NBS.

Additionally, under its contract with the Government, "3" is prohibited from offering non-NBS products and services in NBS areas.

Public Procurement Contracts

Noel Grealish

Question:

313 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of public contracts awarded to European companies and the number awarded to indigenous companies over the past five years; the monetary value of the projects awarded to European companies as opposed to indigenous companies for the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11605/11]

In the time available, it has not been possible to conclude an examination of the relevant records.

Officials within my Department are continuing the examination of the position and I will revert to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Energy Prices

Dan Neville

Question:

314 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the recent announcement from ESB Electric Ireland on the introduction of reduced tariff for their customers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11769/11]

I have no statutory function in the setting of energy prices, whether in the regulated or non-regulated sector. Responsibility for the regulation of the electricity and gas markets is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which is an independent statutory body. I welcome the recent ESB announcement of price cuts of up to 17% for electricity and gas customers on foot of the de-regulation of the retail electricity market. This is a positive example of competition at work in the market which should have good results for consumers.

Dan Neville

Question:

315 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will ensure customers in receipt of the free electricity allowance who need discounts more than most will be included in the new ESB package; and his views that the insistence that customers must actively request that they be put on the new lower rates would exclude many categories of citizens, for example the elderly and the disabled. [11770/11]

The Household Benefits Package, of which the "free electricity allowance" is part, is a matter for the Minister for Social Protection and the administration of that package is for the Department for Social Protection.

Some 340,000 households are recipients of the free electricity allowance as part of this package from the Department for Social Protection. Recipients of the free electricity allowance, including the elderly and the disabled, receive 2,400 free units of electricity per year, minimising or eliminating bills for these consumers.

I have no statutory function in the setting of energy prices, whether in the regulated or non-regulated sector. Responsibility for the regulation of the electricity and gas markets is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which is an independent statutory body.

In the deregulated electricity sector, enhanced market monitoring is now a key function of the CER. Mindful of potential changes in an increasingly competitive market and the possible discrimination that could occur on prices between different customer groups, the CER have issued a decision paper on Price Discrimination and Customer Protection in the Deregulated Electricity Market (CER/11/059 -13th May 2011). The decision states that CER will not impose a mandatory obligation of non-discrimination on any supplier in the market at this time, as it considers it premature to impose such as condition. The CER will continue to monitor the market and will identify appropriate remedies where necessary.

The offerings of discounts and their application to customers is a commercial decision for all electricity suppliers including ESB Electric Ireland. I have no function in these decisions. Following deregulation, ESB Electric Ireland has introduced a range of new Price Plans, reflecting normal competitive practices in the deregulated energy market. I welcome the ESB's announcement of price cuts of up to 17% for electricity and gas customers.

Broadcasting Services

Seán Kenny

Question:

316 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if TV3 and TG4 are paying RTÉ NL in respect to their services on Saorview, the digital terrestrial television service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11814/11]

It is the responsibility of my Department, in conjunction with RTÉ, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), ComReg and other stakeholders to progress the digital switch-over process so that it meets the 2012 timeline for analogue switch off.

Accordingly, I imposed, by order, a requirement on RTÉ to make its public service DTT multiplex available to 90% of the population from 31st October 2010. On 29th October, RTÉ launched the DTT service (called Saorview) to over 90% of the population on a pilot basis. RTE considered that a pilot phase was essential to provide for the roll out of the network nationally, test new content and to allow for technical testing. In addition they considered that this period could be used to develop additional content and services and to ensure the availability of a variety of Saorview approved receivers, prior to the national launch. Because of the nature of this pilot phase it was considered appropriate that broadcasters should not be charged for DTT services during this period.

The pilot network is available to the public and currently broadcasts RTÉ 1, RTÉ 2, TG4, TV3, 3e and 2 test services — RTÉ News Now service and an RTÉ digital teletext service. RTÉ is proposing a full national launch in the second quarter of 2011. Further information on the RTÉ DTT service is available on www.saorview.ie.

Public Transport Services

Simon Harris

Question:

317 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the process by which a private bus company is entitled to install bus shelters; the level of consultation required with local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11756/11]

Under the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2010 and the associated Regulations, all development commenced on or after 1 October 1964 requires planning permission unless specifically exempted. While certain developments are exempted under section 4 of the Act and Part 2 and Schedule 2 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001, as amended, there is no specific exemption provided for bus shelters.

The decision as to whether to grant a planning permission in any particular case is a matter for the planning authority in the first instance, or An Bord Pleanála on appeal.

Local Government Reform

Niall Collins

Question:

318 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on the proposal in the McCarthy report to reduce the number of local authorities from 34 to 22; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11796/11]

The Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes was published in July 2009 and, since publication, its recommendations have provided important input to Government and Ministerial consideration of options for expenditure reduction and policy development.

Consistent with the approach of the Special Group, the Report of the Local Government Efficiency Review Group includes recommendations for efficiency and other savings in the local government sector, to be attained in the short, medium and long term. In addressing the potential to achieve scale efficiencies, the Review Group recommended the delivery of corporate functions and other service areas on a joint basis across contiguous local authorities. I have recently established an Implementation Group to drive forward relevant recommendations of the Report, with a focus on key recommendations that will remove costs and yield early savings.

The recommendation to deliver certain services on a joint basis has potential implications for the structure of local government, with ten such dual administrative areas put forward for consideration and a clear-cut recommendation for, at a minimum, joint administration in the case of Limerick City and County. The subsequent report of the Limerick Local Government Committee, which was published in September 2010, recommended full merger of Limerick City and County and I intend to bring proposals to Government on local government structures in Limerick at an early date.

I am also considering wider proposals to renew and develop the local government system in line with the Programme for Government. Key objectives in this regard include devolution of greater decision-making to local level; strengthening the powers and functions of local authorities; enhancing the development and leadership role of local government; and strengthening its structures and funding arrangements.

State Property

Jack Wall

Question:

319 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the Department has ownership of a property (details supplied) in County Kildare or if he has received any application for funding from a local authority for the stated property; if so, the position of this application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11156/11]

The site at Magee Barracks was one of the State lands assigned to the Affordable Housing Initiative. In October 2009 it was the view of the Project Board set up to oversee the development of the site via a Public Private Partnership that the site could not be economically developed for the purposes of the Affordable Housing Initiative. The lands had not been formally transferred to Kildare County Council and remain under the control of the Department of Defence.

An application was received in 2010 for payment of the expenditure that Kildare County Council had incurred in respect of the planning for the site including costs incurred for the public consultation process and other related expenses. €1,097,861 was paid to Kildare County Council in respect of the claim in December 2010. This amount related to expenditure incurred by the Council up to 31 October 2009.

Dormant Accounts Fund

Dan Neville

Question:

320 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding an application under the dormant accounts for €250,000 in respect of an organisation (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11170/11]

Dan Neville

Question:

341 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding payment of RAPID grants to Rathkeale, County Limerick. [11578/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 320 and 341 together.

I refer to the reply to Question No. 257 of 10 of May 2011.

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.

Local Authority Staff

Dara Calleary

Question:

321 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will outline on an authority basis, the amount of staff employed by each local authority on 31 December 2010; and the percentage of the overall budget of each authority accounted for by labour costs. [11191/11]

Information regarding the number of whole time equivalent (WTE) staff employed in each local authority on 31 December 2010 and gross cash remuneration as a percentage of the overall expenditure for each local authority (based on the latest unaudited 2010 Annual Financial Statements data available to the Department) is presented in the following table.

Local Authority

No. of WTE Staff at December 2010

Gross Cash Remuneration as a percentage of overall budget

Carlow

297.24

16.39

Cavan

434.09

21.11

Clare

810.19

20.77

Cork

2,255.16

21.34

Donegal

999.11

20.22

Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown

1,143.4

11.99

Fingal

1,441.9

11.98

Galway

846.87

11.80

Kerry

1,194.63

20.50

Kildare

925.4

14.79

Kilkenny

545.24

11.73

Laois

392.79

11.13

Leitrim

294.85

18.69

Limerick

686.38

13.85

Longford

306.01

19.54

Louth

674.64

17.33

Mayo

1,103.65

20.28

Meath

668.82

17.60

Monaghan

412.72

16.68

Offaly

418.5

20.62

Roscommon

487.12

22.94

Sligo

510.45

17.36

South Dublin

1,344.7

14.25

North Tipperary

515.57

22.69

South Tipperary

651.1

20.17

Waterford

503.61

25.12

Westmeath

480.43

17.02

Wexford

788.38

18.38

Wicklow

789.45

18.24

Cork City

1,374.0

26.09

Dublin City

6,298.3

23.94

Galway City

442.8

16.70

Limerick City

485.41

17.10

Waterford City

379.93

16.30

Total

30,902.84

18.15

Local Authority Funding

Dara Calleary

Question:

322 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the total amount of moneys outstanding to a local authority (details supplied) from him; and the date on which the outstanding amounts will be paid. [11192/11]

The information requested in respect of the main programmes for which my Department is responsible is set out in the following table.

Programme

2011 Allocation

Amount paid to end April 2011

Remaining Balance

Expected Payment Date

Housing

Rental Accommodation Scheme

Nopredeterminedannualallocation

€1,872,910

n/a

n/a

Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability

€2,175,646

€118,508

€2,057,138

Dependent on Council submitting claims

Local Authority Housing

€1,275,000

€20,000

€1,255,000

Dependent on Council submitting claims

Remedial Works/Energy Efficiency

€2,309,557

€302,316

€2,007,241

Dependent on Council submitting claims

Capital Assistance Scheme

€2,500,000

€11,489

€2,488,511

Dependent on Council submitting claims

Water Services

Water Services Training Group

€29,000

€0

€29,000

Dependent on Council submitting claims

Rural Water Grant

€9,470,000

€1,198,382

€8,271,618

Dependent on Council submitting claims

Water Services Investment Programme

Nopredeterminedannualallocation

€18,329

Claimscurrentlyon hand tothe valueof up to€600,000,which aresubject toexaminationby theDepartment

Examination of claims will be completed as soon as possible

Waste

Civic Amenity

Nopredeterminedannualallocation

€0

€86,648

Dependent on Council submitting additional information

Local Government

Local Government Fund — General Purpose Grant*

€32,135,562

€14,969,008

€14,969,008(estimated)

Q3 and Q4 of 2011

Fire Services

Nopredeterminedannualallocation

€261,473

€135,984

€31,049 to be paid in May 2011, with the balance of €104,935 dependent on Council submitting outstanding claims

Libraries — Swinford Library

€273,283

€49,324

€223,959

Dependent on Council submitting claims

Local Government — Community & Voluntary Fora

€19,392

€0

€19,392

Dependent on Council submitting additional information

*General Purpose Grant allocations are paid to local authorities net of retained pension related deductions.

Local Authority Staff

Dara Calleary

Question:

323 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to proposed redundancies at Mayo County Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11193/11]

Staffing and organisational arrangements are a matter for each County and City Manager in respect of the local authorities for which he or she is responsible. I understand that a systematic review of staffing requirements has been undertaken by the management of Mayo County Council, which has identified a need to make savings, and that the redeployment process agreed under the Public Service Agreement may be utilised in this regard.

I am not aware of any proposals by the Council regarding redundancies. Any proposals for voluntary redundancies would require sanction from my Department with the agreement of the Department of Finance.

Waste Disposal

Michael McGrath

Question:

324 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to carry out a comprehensive clean-up at the former Irish ISPAT site at Haulbowline, County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11268/11]

An Office of Public Works chaired working group has been developing proposals for a structured and coherent approach to the further management of the former ISPAT site. The working group's terms of reference include examining the regulatory requirements for the site and advising the Government on the site's most beneficial future use. Plans for future use will determine the levels and extent of further works and/or remediation required, as well as helping to clarify further regulatory requirements, national and European, which may fall to be met.

I understand that the working group is currently finalising its report, which will provide a further key input to the process of charting a definitive and transparent way forward in relation to the site, and assist in addressing concerns of the local community. I look forward to considering the report's conclusions with my Government colleagues at an early date.

Local Authority Staff

Michael McGrath

Question:

325 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to reduce the annual leave entitlements of county managers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11276/11]

The Local Government Sectorial Plan under the Public Service Agreement, prepared by management and agreed with unions in September 2010, contains an action relating to the standardisation, across all local authorities, of annual leave, with an implementation date of December 2011.

County and City Managers have agreed that a maximum of 32 days annual leave will be implemented on a voluntary basis in respect of all County and City Managers while this issue continues to be progressed under the Croke Park agreement.

Planning Issues

Finian McGrath

Question:

326 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if, following discussions with the European Commission, if all county development plans are in compliance with Articles 43 and 56 of the EC Treaty, specifically with regard to the inclusion of inurement clauses in the granting or planning permission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11285/11]

In June 2007, a Letter of Formal Notice issued from the Commission of the European Communities to Ireland under Article 226 of the EC Treaty, seeking to address areas of possible concern around the compatibility of certain provisions in specified County Development Plans with Articles 43 and 56 of the EC Treaty regarding the fundamental principles of freedom of establishment and the free movement of capital, respectively.

The Letter of Formal Notice stemmed from concerns that the ‘local needs' assessment process set out in my Department's 2005Sustainable Rural Housing Guidelines for Planning Authorities and contained in the named County Development Plans may have impacted on the freedom of establishment of business and the free movement of capital.

In response, and following substantial consultation with the Commission, my Department issued Circular Letter SP 5/08 in September 2008 to all planning authorities clarifying the policy position in respect of compliance with Articles 43 and 56 of the Treaty. In particular, it was made clear that development plans incorporating the ‘local needs’ assessment test must not discriminate against planning applicants wishing to establish a full-time, home-based business in an area but, rather, that such applicants should be given due consideration within the proper planning and sustainable development objectives for the area. Furthermore, all planning authorities were requested to examine their current (or draft) development plan policies and practices to ensure compatibility with the provisions of Articles 43 and 56 of the EC Treaty and, if necessary, introduce variations of the plan to ensure a consistency of approach.

In addition and with particular regard to the attachment of occupancy (or inurement) conditions to planning permissions, Circular Letter SP 5/08 notes that such conditions remain valid provided they are applied in a non-discriminatory manner as between local and non-local applicants and recommends that all rural planning authorities should, if they are not already doing so, adopt and implement a seven-year period in respect of the length of occupancy.

In response to Circular Letter SP 5/08, the planning authorities have now confirmed to my Department that all County Development Plans conform, with or without amendment, withthe relevant Articles of the EC Treaty. This information has been forwarded to the Commission.

HomeBond Guarantee Scheme

Brendan Ryan

Question:

327 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government on the HomeBond Guarantee Scheme, the amount of money set aside by HomeBond for the rectification of structural damage, including pyrite induced damage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11288/11]

Brendan Ryan

Question:

328 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to whether HomeBond has carried out any risk assessment or analysis for the potential cost of remedial damage caused by pyritic materials; and if the moneys set aside for remediation are adequate to meet the potential cost of such remediation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11289/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 327 and 328 together.

HomeBond is a private company providing structural defect insurance cover for new homes and I have no function in relation to the matters raised.

Departmental Agencies

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

329 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of State agencies or organisations under his remit which are paid up members of the Irish Business and Employers Confederation; the name of each agency or organisation; the amount each State agency or organisation paid to the Irish Business and Employers Confederation for the years 2007 to date in 2011, inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11322/11]

My Department does not hold this information. Day to day operational matters, including membership of professional organisations, of the agencies under the aegis of my Department are matters for the agency or body concerned.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

330 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when the consideration of the environmental impact statement report and the contract documents for the Casla regional water scheme, County Galway, will be completed; and when approval will be given to the council to proceed with the project in view of the fact that he previously indicated this would happen in May 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11349/11]

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

331 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when the approval on the contract documents for the wastewater plant in Clifden, County Galway, will be given in view of the fact that he previously indicated that this would happen in April 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11350/11]

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

332 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when the approval of the DBO contract documents for both the wastewater plant and the collection system for the Claregalway and Miltown sewerage schemes, County Galway, will be given in view of the fact that he previously indicated that this would happen in March 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11351/11]

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

333 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when approval will be given to Galway County Council to proceed with the preparation of contract documents for the Oughterard sewerage scheme, County Galway, in view of the fact that he previously indicated that this would happen in May 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11352/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 330 to 333, inclusive, together.

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 Galway. The Programme includes contracts under construction and to commence to the value of some €130 million in the county during the period of the Programme.

An Bord Pleanála has approved the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Costelloe Regional Water Supply Scheme with conditions. Galway County Council submitted a copy of the EIS to my Department in October 2010, together with its report on the EIS conditions. My Department is currently finalising its examination of the Contract Documents in conjunction with this report and it is expected that a decision will be conveyed to the Council by the end of this month. Once approved, the Council can then proceed to invite tenders for the construction of the scheme.

Yesterday, I announced the approval of Galway County Council's Contract Documents for the Clifden Sewerage Scheme Network and Wastewater Treatment Plant (DBO) at an estimated cost of €7 million. The Council can now proceed to invite tenders for the construction of the scheme.

I also announced the approval yesterday of Galway County Council's Contract Documents for the Networks for the Milltown and Claregalway Sewerage Scheme at an estimated cost of €2.9 million. The Council can now proceed to invite tenders for the construction of the networks.

Last month my Department requested Galway County Council to revise the Design Build Operate Contract Documents for the wastewater treatment plant for Milltown and Claregalway Sewerage Scheme. Once the revised Contract Documents are submitted and approved by my Department, the Council can then proceed to invite tenders for this contract.

My Department awaits Galway County Council's revised Design Review Report for the Oughterard Sewerage Scheme, which was requested last month. Once the report is submitted and approved by my Department, the Council can then proceed with the preparation of contract documents for the scheme.

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

334 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding the provision of sewerage treatment plants (details supplied) in County Limerick; the date of applications; the stages that the applications have gone through to date; when he expects to be able to move forward with the applications; his plans to restructure the applications on a priority basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11399/11]

A comprehensive range of new water services infrastructure has been approved for County Limerick in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012, a copy of which is available in the Oireachtas Library. The total value of contracts underway and those proposed for commencement during the period of the Programme in County Limerick is some €23 million.

The Programme aims to prioritise projects that target environmental compliance issues and support economic and employment growth. A key input to the development of the Programme was the assessment of needs prepared by local authorities, including Limerick County Council, in response to my Department's request to the authorities in 2009 to review and prioritise their proposals for new capital works in their areas. These were further appraised in the Department having regard, inter alia, to the level of funding likely to be available over the period of the programme. Inevitably, through this process, certain projects that had been proposed had to give way to others that were more strategically important.

The Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012 provides for the commencement of contracts relating to the Askeaton and Dromcollogher Sewerage Schemes whereas the Pallasgreen, Bruff, Hospital, Shanagolden, Adare, Foynes, Glin and Athea Sewerage Schemes were not included in the Programme.

My Department is examining Preliminary Reports for the Askeaton and Drumcollogher Sewerage Schemes. A decision on the Preliminary Reports will be conveyed to the Council as soon as possible.

My Department wrote to all local authorities at the end of March 2011 in relation to the annual review of the Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012. The deadline for receipt of returns was 21 April 2011. Given the short time which has passed since the extensive review of the Programme was completed in 2009/2010, and having regard to the ongoing pressure on Exchequer funding generally, it is envisaged that only minor adjustments will be made to the Programme at this stage. Limerick County Council has proposed that the Adare Sewerage Scheme be included in the Programme. It is envisaged that a decision will be conveyed to Limerick County Council in relation to this proposal by the end of June 2011.

In addition, some of the schemes referred to were included in the Council's bids for funding under the 2011 Rural Water Programme. Responsibility for the administration of the Rural Water Programme has been devolved to local authorities since 1997. The selection and approval of individual schemes for advancement and funding under this programme, within the overall priorities set by my Department and subject to the block grant allocations provided, is therefore a matter for the local authorities with the exception, in the case of Limerick County Council, of a special allocation of €465,000, specifically for improvements identified under the River Basin Management Planning process, at Bruff Waste Water Treatment Plant.

Water Charges

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

335 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has been involved in discussions with other Departments regarding the likely implications for social welfare recipients and those on low incomes of the flagged introduction of water charges; if research has been conducted to quantify the likely demand for emergency payments from social protection funds should such charges be introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10445/11]

The Programme for Government provides for the introduction of a fair funding model to deliver clean and reliable water. The objective is to install water meters in all households and move to a charging system based on usage above a free allowance. My Department is currently preparing a strategy to implement these proposals and it will be considering the potential impacts on low income households in consultation with the Department for Social Protection. I am not aware of any research by the Department of Social Protection on the likely demand for emergency payments.

Local Authority Services

Brendan Ryan

Question:

336 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the time-line for the establishment of www.fixmystreet.ie, the provision of which is outlined in the programme for Government. [11496/11]

Local authorities have arrangements and applications in place which facilitate citizens in making complaints or suggestions or in reporting problems through various mediums, including by post, phone, text, fax, e-mail and on-line through their websites. In the context of the commitment in the Programme for Government, my Department is working with local authorities in developing options for the enhancement of these arrangements which will further assist citizens in availing of local authority services and in reporting problems or faults to their local authority. I expect to receive proposals in this regard shortly.

Library Projects

John McGuinness

Question:

337 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide the funding necessary for the provision for a new library for Kilkenny city and Thomastown, County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11542/11]

Proposals for a new Central Library, to be located at John Street in Kilkenny, and replace the existing Carnegie building were received by my Department in November 2010. My Department wrote to Kilkenny County Council in March 2011 seeking additional information, and the Local Authority has indicated that a Stage 2 Application (Sketch design/Cost plan) will be submitted in June 2011. This will be considered under the public library capital programme, having regard to available resources.

My Department has not received an application in respect of Thomastown.

Fire Services

John McGuinness

Question:

338 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will increase the level of funding to local authorities to ensure that the current level of fire service is maintained; if his attention has been drawn to the concerns of the Kilkenny fire service relative to changes being proposed by Kilkenny County Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11543/11]

The provision of a fire service in its functional area, including the establishment and maintenance of a fire brigade, the assessment of fire cover needs, the provision of a premises and the making of such other provisions as it considers necessary or desirable, is a statutory function of individual fire authorities under the provisions of the Fire Services Act 1981.

My Department supports fire authorities through the setting of general policy and guidance, and the provision of capital funding, including the recoupment (within the overall funding available) of costs incurred by fire authorities in relation to the approved purchase of fire appliances and equipment.

The purpose of my Department's fire service capital programme is the replacement and renewal of existing local authority fire service infrastructure and the maintenance of the fire vehicle fleet so that fire service buildings and vehicles/equipment are fit for purpose. Following significant investment in fire service infrastructure, fleet and equipment over the last decade, Ireland's fire service infrastructure is now acknowledged to be first rate. The last four years have seen a capital investment of almost €90 million under the capital programme.

There are 7 fire stations in County Kilkenny and the fire service responds to 1,300 call-outs annually. A new fire station in Castlecomer was opened in 2010 with €1 million investment from the fire services capital programme. Total capital investment of some €6.02 million has been provided to Kilkenny County Council Fire Service under the programme during the period 2002 to 2010.

In keeping with other reductions, it has been necessary to reduce the fire service capital allocation for 2011 but, given the current excellent state of fire service infrastructure, this is not expected to impact on or disrupt service delivery in any way.

Under Section 26 of the 1981 Act, each fire authority is required to prepare, and as occasion requires, revise a Fire and Emergency Operations Plan. The making of this Plan is a reserved function of the local authority. Inter alia, the Plan sets out the location of fire stations in the authority’s functional area, operational procedures, and training arrangements. The statutory responsibility for determining fire cover standards and providing response capability rests with the local Fire Authority, and any changes being proposed are for the local authority to determine.

In recent years, international trends in managing emergency service provision have moved towards the use of Integrated Risk Management or a Risk-Based Approach (RBA). My Department's National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management is currently funding the development and use of a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software utility that will assist in moving towards such a risk based approach to fire cover.

The intention is that individual fire authority Section 26 operational plans, including Kilkenny's, will be revised using information produced under the risk based approach analysis, and that the information will assist and guide fire service management decisions on the deployment of available resources in the years ahead. The recommended risk based approach was developed following a procurement process, piloted in a number of counties, and is being progressively applied access all counties during 2011.

Service managers in all counties will have access to appropriate information to facilitate effective deployment and use of resources and to ensure that an appropriate balance between fire prevention, protection and response measures is achieved using the resources available.

Brendan Griffin

Question:

339 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on whether it will be possible for a voluntary fire service in Castlegregory, County Kerry, to continue to operate in view of the fact that it has done for decades in the context of existing health and safety regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11547/11]

The provision of a fire service in its functional area, including the establishment and maintenance of a fire brigade, the assessment of fire cover needs, the provision of a premises and the making of such other provisions as it considers necessary or desirable, is a statutory function of individual fire authorities under the provisions of the Fire Services Act 1981. Accordingly, the question of whether the voluntary fire service referred to in the question should continue to operate is a matter for the relevant fire authority.

County, city and borough councils are designated fire authorities under the legislation. Outside the main cities which employ full-time fire fighters, fire services are provided by a retained staffing system. Retained fire-fighters are employees of fire authorities, and are organised to provide a full professional fire service for their communities. They are trained, equipped, supervised and operate to the same procedures as their full-time colleagues. Volunteer fire units operate in a relatively small number of areas, but outside the direct control of the fire authority.

The volunteer unit in question does not have the requisite training to attend certain types of incidents. While it has received some training, equipment and funding from the Council in the past, it does not report to and is not under the control of the Council's Fire Section.

As part of my Department's role in supporting and assisting local authorities in delivering fire services, including the setting of national policy and the provision of funding under the fire service capital programme, a programme for the preparation and dissemination of Standard Operating Guidelines (SOGs) covering all aspects of operational activity is in train. These are intended to assist fire authorities to meet their statutory duties, with due cognisance to compliance with health and safety.

Departmental Expenditure

John McGuinness

Question:

340 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will confirm the number of credit cards issued by him and to whom; the criteria for issuing such cards; the credit card company used; if a competitive process was used to select the company; if the facility has had to be withdrawn from any person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11555/11]

My Department has issued credit cards to the 4 office holders set out below.

Credit card holder

Private Secretary to the Minister

Private Secretary to the Minister of State

Principal Officer, ICT Section

Head of Administration and Training Division, Met Éireann

Departmental credit cards are issued for authorised official use only in circumstances where a strong business case has been established. Cards are withdrawn when the business case no longer exists and transferred into the name of the incoming officer, as appropriate, when there is a reassignment of duties.

Credit cards are issued to the private secretaries to the Minister and the Minister of State to facilitate the payment of goods or services which would prove more difficult under normal invoicing arrangements, such as reserving hotel accommodation abroad. In the cases of Met Éireann and ICT, the credit cards are used to facilitate the purchase of ICT hardware and software licenses and for the renewal of subscriptions to work-related publications.

The credit card service (Visa Card) has been provided by Allied Irish Banks for many years. There are no records readily available in my Department to show how this company was selected.

Question No. 341 answered with Question No. 320.

Departmental Funding

Noel Grealish

Question:

342 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when he expects to be in a position to announce grants awarded under the funding scheme to support national organisations in the community and voluntary sector; if he will give an indicative timescale for the announcements; if the delay in making the announcement is due to a cutback on the funding available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11620/11]

The Funding Scheme to Support National Organisations which was operated by the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs expired on 31 December 2010 and a new Funding Scheme was advertised.

On 2 December 2010, organisations funded under this Scheme were offered an extension to their contracts until 31 March 2011. In light of the transfer of the community function to my Department on 1 May, I have decided to roll over the current interim funding until the end of June 2011, in order to allow for a final decision on the assessment process regarding the new Scheme.

Accordingly, the timing of the announcement has been affected by the change of Government in March and the changes in Departmental functions subsequent to the formation of the new Government.

Private Residential Tenancies

Noel Grealish

Question:

343 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans for a deposit retention scheme for private rented properties; if he will agree to meet with national representatives of buy-to-let investors prior to any decision; his views that such a scheme may not be needed in view of the small volume of deposit retention cases dealt with by the Private Residential Tenancies Board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11621/11]

The Residential Tenancies Act 2004 regulates the tenant-landlord relationship in the private rented residential sector. My Department conducted a review of the Act in 2009 with a specific emphasis on whether the Act best supports the PRTB's key functions and on whether legislative amendments would support either the achievement of additional operational efficiencies by the PRTB in the delivery of those functions or the broader good working of the private rented sector. The outcomes of the review were announced by my predecessor as Minister of State and, in April 2010, the Government approved the preparation of the Heads of a Bill to deliver on the review's recommendations.

The incorrect retention of deposits by landlords was identified in that review process as one of a range of issues that merited specific attention. I am at present evaluating the review recommendations and associated legislative proposals and I intend to submit proposals in that regard to Government in the near future.

I have already met with the PRTB which has engaged in some research as to the viability of a separate deposit retention scheme pursuant to its function, under section 151(1) of the Act, to provide advice to the Minister concerning policy in relation to the private rented sector. On foot of that meeting, I have asked the PRTB to carry out further research on how best to address the issue of deposit retention and this research will further inform my thinking on this matter.

In reviewing the Act, my Department engaged in extensive public consultations in 2009 and received a wide range of submissions including from both individual landlords and representative organisations. As Minister, I welcome submissions regarding the development of policy in this sector and I am certainly willing to meet with representative organisations.

Local Authority Funding

Jim Daly

Question:

344 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the scheme published by Cork County Council in relation to the issuing of home loans to applicants that have been refused by banks for home loans is exclusive to first time buyers only; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11644/11]

Provisions governing mortgage lending by local authorities are set out under the Housing (Local Authority Loans) Regulations 2009 and associated credit policy. To ensure effective targeting of resources, loan finance continues to be available to first time buyers only. Income limits are also in place, distinguishing between single and dual income households and a maximum loan limit is applied. In assessing loan applications local authorities take account of the household's ability to finance the loan based on their net household income.

Planning Issues

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

345 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide guidance on an issue (details supplied) in relation to planning permission. [11645/11]

The decision whether to grant planning permission with or without conditions is a matter for the relevant planning authority and, in the event of an appeal, for An Bord Pleanála, having regard to the provisions of the Planning and Development Acts and associated Regulations and, where relevant, the Habitats Regulations 1997.

I have no role in the matter and under section 30 of the Act, I am precluded from exercising any power or control in any individual case with which a planning authority or the Board may be concerned.

Local Government Reform

Catherine Murphy

Question:

346 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will make changes to the local government system in advance of the 2014 local elections; if so, the changes he will make; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11655/11]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

350 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to devolve further powers to local government; if so, which powers and responsibilities; the date on which it will occur; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11689/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 346 and 350 together.

I refer to the reply to Question No. 318 on today's Order Paper.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

347 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his intentions in relation to the establishment of a directly elected mayor for Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11656/11]

The Local Government (Mayor and Regional Authority of Dublin) Bill 2010 lapsed on the dissolution of the last Dáil. I made clear during the debates on the Bill that, while I was not opposed to the principle of a directly elected mayor, I have a number of concerns regarding the particular proposal and its timing. Accordingly, it is not proposed to have this Bill restored, but the matter can be looked at again ahead of the 2014 local elections in the context of a more effective, accountable and modernised local government system.

Active Citizenship

Gerry Adams

Question:

348 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the status of the recommendations of the Task Force on Active Citizenship; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11458/11]

Progressing the recommendations of the Taskforce on Active Citizenship is a matter for several Departments as well as my own. I am pleased that a number of the recommendations have been advanced to date, including the following:

Audits of existing community facilities have been completed and appropriate arrangements are being made by local authorities to make the results of the audits available at local level. The main purpose of the audits was to establish the current level of provision so that, in the event of future public funding for community facilities, any applications for such financing support would take account of the results of the audit in terms of identifying needs in specific geographic areas.

The Taskforce recommended the strengthening of local civic participation, which informed the preparation of the Green Paper on Local Government: Stronger Local Democracy — Options for Change. While work was subsequently advanced on a White Paper on Local Government last year, I will be further developing this theme in the context of local government policy development this year.

The Department of Education and Skills has encouraged schools to make their premises available for community use. In addition, a scheme is currently funded under the Dormant Accounts (Educational Disadvantage Fund) to enable DEIS Band 1 schools in Limerick City to open after school hours to maximise community use of school premises and facilities. All of the DEIS Band 1 schools in Limerick City, a total of 22 schools (16 primary and 6 post primary), are participating in this scheme. There are approximately 200 after-school activities running in all 22 schools.

At second level senior cycle, the NCCA (National Council for Curriculum Assessment) is developing a syllabus for a full optional exam subject called ‘Politics and Society' as an extension of the current Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE) subject in Junior Cycle, which currently gives students practical experience of active citizenship.

In relation to the adult education sector, the range of Further and Adult Education programmes are geared towards enabling participants to contribute more fully to the social, cultural and economic life of this country, through education and information courses.

Active Citizenship was a key theme of the Social Inclusion Week arranged by local authorities late in 2010 as part of the Irish National Programme of activities supporting the EU Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion 2010.

My Department is playing a full and active role in promoting the European Year of Volunteering 2011, in conjunction with the national coordinating body for the Year, Volunteering Ireland. Central to the Year is the whole concept of Active Citizenship, of which volunteering is just one part.

Proposed Legislation

Thomas Pringle

Question:

349 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the status of the Mobile Phone Radiation Warning Bill 2010; his plans to progress same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11682/11]

The Mobile Phone Radiation Warning Bill 2010 to which the Deputy Question refers was a Private Members Bill introduced in Seanad Éireann and did not proceed beyond that stage. I have no plans at present to bring forward legislation in this regard.

An Expert Group Report on the health effects of electromagnetic fields, including those generated by mobile phones, was 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 monitors this research and key developments therein will inform any consideration of possible future policy interventions in this area.

Question No. 350 answered with Question No. 346.

Local Authority Funding

Joan Collins

Question:

351 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the former Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government approved funding of €2 million in respect of proposals for the regeneration of the eastern quadrant of Sligo; if he will indicate the townlands and or district electoral divisions that make up what is described as the eastern quadrant of Sligo; the location at which a map of the eastern quadrant of Sligo is available for inspection; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11695/11]

I refer to the reply to Question No 248 of 10 May, 2011 which sets out the position in relation to funding for regeneration in Sligo.

It will be a matter for Sligo Borough Council, in the context of the development of a masterplan for the regeneration project, to determine the areas to be included for regeneration.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Paudie Coffey

Question:

352 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the details of the European Court of Justice ruling against Ireland in respect of ground water with particular reference to septic tanks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11696/11]

Michael Creed

Question:

354 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide some background information regarding the raison d’être for the Water Services Bill, the EU Court Rulings on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11706/11]