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 14, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 15 to 23, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 24 to 36, inclusive, answered orally.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

37 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if farmers in disadvantaged areas will receive the full payment for this year in September under the disadvantaged area scheme. [17626/11]

The Disadvantaged Areas Scheme involves the processing of over 100,000 applications from farmers annually and under the Scheme in excess of €220 million is paid. The Scheme is part funded by the EU and forms one of the measures included in Ireland's Rural Development Programme (2007 to 2103).

I can confirm that the necessary progress in processing applications is being made which will ensure delivery of payments under the 2011 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme to the farmers concerned, as and from the latter half of September 2011. Furthermore, I have decided that the full amount due will issue at that stage, unlike last year, when an advance payment was made, at a rate of 75%.

The decision to opt for the advance payment in 2010 was taken when it became apparent that processing of the unprecedented number of maps, which farmers had submitted in 2010 in order to have various ineligible areas digitised, would not be completed by mid-September. This decision ensured that the maximum value of payments issued to the greatest number of applicants at the earliest possible date. That decision was appropriate and correct at that time, given the volume of maps that needed to be digitised. I am confident that this situation will not reoccur as the volume of maps requiring digitisation this year is closer to the annual norm, which means that full 100% payments should commence in September.

While there is no regulatory timeframe laid down as regards the timing of payments under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, my Department has committed to making payments as early as possible. It is recognised that second half of September is earliest date payments can realistically commence following the processing of applications and the initiation of all eligibility inspections, which is a requirement of the EU Regulations. It is simply not possible to commence payments earlier that this.

This target has been met each year over the lifetime of the current Rural Development Programme and, indeed, during the lifetime of the previous Programme. In conclusion, I am satisfied that the necessary inspections will be completed in sufficient time to allow Disadvantaged Area payments to commence, as usual, in the latter half of September.

Proposed Legislation

Michael Colreavy

Question:

38 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when the new Animal Health and Welfare Bill will be brought before the Houses of the Oireachtas. [17615/11]

The Programme for Government 2011 includes a commitment to amend and strengthen legislation on animal cruelty and animal welfare. In this regard I am proposing to publish an Animal Health and Welfare Bill later this year to give effect to this commitment and to build on ongoing legislative drafting in this area which includes the consolidation of a wide range of existing animal health and welfare legislation as well as replacing and repealing a long list of outdated legislation.

In the area of animal health, the Bill will deal with arrangements for the prevention, control and eradication of animal diseases. Provision will be made to require owners of animals to take measures to minimise the risk of spreading disease and it will be an offence to transmit a disease or introduce a disease agent.

Mindful of the fact that current animal welfare legislation dates back to 1911, it is opportune to update existing provisions in this area. The Bill therefore deals in some detail with animal welfare. It will provide that the welfare of animals is adequately protected and will address issues such as the prevention of needless pain or unnecessary suffering of animals as well as dealing with control measure relating to the abandonment of animals. Cruelty involving animals will be specifically prohibited and such activities will be an offence under the legislation.

The Bill will deal comprehensively with proscribed procedures and it will be an offence to mutilate animals, other than when necessary under veterinary supervision for the health and welfare of the individual animal. The Bill will also allow for the continuation of normal farming, sporting and other activities where these do not involve reckless endangerment of the welfare of animals.

The Bill provides for increased powers for authorised officers and will update the level of penalties to be imposed with fines being proportionate to the offence.

The Bill will consolidate into my Department overall responsibility for policy and legislative measures relating to both the health and welfare of all animals including for the first time pet animals. The updating of existing legislation in the area of animal health and welfare and its consolidation into a single statute will assist all those who deal with or have an interest in animal health and welfare matters.

Animal Welfare

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

39 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views regarding fur farming; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17633/11]

It is my intention to publish an Animal Health and Welfare Bill this year. However, as the Deputy will be aware the Bill is a complex one and will require extensive work in conjunction with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to complete the required legal drafting. Once a complete draft is available I intend to publish the Bill. The issue of fur farming is being examined in the context of the ongoing drafting of the Bill.

Live Exports

Denis Naughten

Question:

40 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps he is taking to support a live cattle trade to Britain; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17599/11]

The live export trade complements the processing trade by providing alternative market outlets for cattle producers. There are 2 main components to the live export trade; calf shipments to the Continent and the movement of forward stores and finished cattle to the UK. Data for the period from January to 11 June 2011 shows that overall live exports are 40% below the levels achieved during the corresponding period in 2010. Exports to Great Britain decreased by 61% on those for the same period in 2010 while those to Northern Ireland are down by 48% and those to all other destinations fell by 36%.

The main reason for the current decline in live exports is the ongoing strength of domestic cattle prices. Bord Bia figures for the week ending 11 June show that Irish R3 steer prices were 105% of the EU weighted average and 102.5 % of the British average. This convergence between the domestic cattle prices and those in UK reduces the financial attractiveness of live exports to the sterling area when associated costs are taken into account.

As part of its remit to support the agri-food industry, Bord Bia is working to facilitate the live export trade as customer demand and economic conditions allow. In this regard, it provides up-to-date market information to exporters in the form of weekly livestock reports and bi-monthly updates from each of the major markets, as well as regular communication with market offices. In addition, Bord Bia's market offices promote contact with new customers, organise promotional events for Irish livestock, arrange inward buyer visits, attend livestock trade fairs and forecasting meetings, commission market research and organise credit rating and language interpretation services as appropriate on behalf of the sector.

Sheep Sector

Denis Naughten

Question:

41 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps he is taking to support the sheep industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17600/11]

I am very pleased to see that there is renewed confidence in the sheep sector. Last year saw a welcome increase in the average factory price for heavy lambs, with prices approximately 17% ahead of the 2009 levels. Prices this year, irrespective of the current seasonal drop, are still above those for the same time last year. Another very encouraging sign is the fact that for the first time in over a decade, last year saw a hiatus in the annual decline in sheep numbers. Indeed numbers actually increased by 1.3%. I am very hopeful that 2011 will see another optimistic year for sheep farmers.

The long-term future of the sheep sector will depend on its ability to meet the needs of the market and to do this successfully it must focus on competitiveness, innovation and the demands of the consumer. Food Harvest 2020 Strategy which provides a vision for Irish Agri-Food and Fisheries for the next 10 years, targets a 20% growth in output value for the sector by 2020 and sets out specific recommendations for the sheep industry. It predicts that over the coming years, demand for sheepmeat on the European market will outstrip production levels, which could provide opportunities for exporting countries such as Ireland, which should in turn provide the potential for better returns, provided the market and product diversification we have seen in recent years continues. The producer too should benefit from improved price prospects provided there is an increased focus on production, efficiency and product quality.

The recommendations of Food Harvest 2020 for the sheep industry focus both on farm competitiveness and the processing sector. On the farm side the emphasis is on the use of on-farm labour efficiencies and new technologies, breed improvement and the production of a quality product. On the processing side, the report highlights efficiencies, innovation and improved product range.

Food Harvest 2020 also endorses the recommendations of the 2006 Sheep Industry Development Strategy Group. The responsibility for the implementation of most of the recommendations lies with the industry itself. However a number of its recommendations are the responsibility of my Department and the state agencies under its aegis, and significant progress has been made in implementing them. The initiatives taken include:

The establishment of ‘Sheep Ireland' to take over the Department's current breed improvement programme and develop a new one. An interim Sheep Board, comprising representatives of farming organisations and breeders is overseeing this process, with the Irish Cattle Breeders Federation (ICBF) providing the technical and professional service required.

The establishment of the Lamb Quality Assurance Scheme in 2007. This Scheme is operated by Bord Bia and now has 8,500 certified members.

As part of its efforts to promote lamb on the home and export market, Bord Bia, together with its UK and French counterparts, is part of a generic promotion campaign on the valuable French market.

Teagasc has developed a comprehensive plan to restructure its sheep support services, including a Better Farm Programme for sheep, which aims to establish focal points for the on-farm implementation, development and evaluation of technology that is relevant to the sheep sector. This approach provides an opportunity to engage with sheep farmers on the use of the latest management practices and to identify research and development needs.

In recent times the sector has received a number of key supports, including €7 million from the 2009 Single Farm Payment National Reserve under the Uplands Sheep Payment Scheme and €54 million for the three year grassland sheep scheme which commenced in 2010. These measures have provided a much-needed boost to sheep farmers' incomes, which should encourage them to stay in the sector. Bord Bia will also spend up to €1 million this year on the promotion of sheep and lamb at home and abroad and Teagasc has allocated almost €1.5 million for sheep research for 2011.

All of these initiatives and supports have benefited the sheep industry. I strongly believe that the Food Harvest 2020 targets for the sector can be met, provided its recommendations are followed. I remain committed to supporting this valuable industry and will continue to monitor its progress closely.

Question No. 42 resubmitted.

Horticulture Sector

Brendan Smith

Question:

43 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the effect of the recent E-Coli crisis on vegetable growers here and the arrangements made to compensate these growers [17624/11]

The recent E-Coli outbreak resulted in significant loses for horticultural producers and traders across the EU. Thankfully Ireland was not affected to the same extent as the main exporting countries such as Spain and the Netherlands. The sharp fall in consumer demand in light of the crisis resulted in a significant surplus of produce on the EU market.

I attended a specially convened Agriculture Council meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday 7 June 2011 to discuss both the public health and the market related issues involved. The Council was briefed by both Commissioners for Health and Agriculture, Dalli and Ciolos. There was an extensive discussion on the need for a fully funded EU market measure and I am pleased to say that the Commission responded promptly to that demand.

In an effort to remove the surplus product and contribute to the restoration of market balance, the EU Commission introduced a scheme with an EU wide budget of €210m. The Scheme which is 100% EU funded, runs from 26 May to 30 June 2011 and covers cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, courgettes and sweet peppers.

The rates of EU aid on offer are specifically targeted to attract unsold product on the market. In addition, an EU-wide co-efficient will apply to reduce the rates of aid payable if the budget is oversubscribed.

To date over 48 tonnes of unsold Irish cucumbers have been destroyed under the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food supervision in line with the EU scheme. A significant proportion of this produce was destroyed in the immediate aftermath of the E-Coli crisis when Irish demand for cucumbers fell significantly. As the scheme remains open until the end of June, a final figure for product withdrawal is not available.

With the exception of cucumbers, the Irish market has now strengthened to the extent that most of the reduction in demand for salad products is only due to our changeable weather. Cucumber sales have been slower to recover but their price and demand are both slowly returning towards normal.

The food safety implications of the crisis were also discussed at yesterday's meeting of EU Agriculture Ministers in Luxembourg, which I also attended. We heard a further report from Commissioner Dalli that there was a decreasing trend in new infections and that all batches of product from the German farm at the centre of the outbreak had now been traced. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) together with the French authorities are in the process of investigating an outbreak in France and a special task force has been established. To date, investigations are focusing on seed grown outside the EU and imported during 2010. Commissioner Dalli emphasised that there was no danger from the consumption of salad vegetables such as cucumbers, lettuce, courgettes and tomatoes.

The Commission acknowledged that there were lessons to be drawn from the outbreak in terms of coordination and the need for clear communication to the public. As is standard practice, the Commission will engage in a full review of early warning and response procedures over the coming months. It will also be looking at whether there is a need to strengthen EU hygiene rules on the production of seed for food for human consumption, taking into account the advice of EFSA.

The Commission also announced that the difficulties for EU exports of fruit and vegetables to Russia had been resolved following detailed discussions with the Russian authorities.

EU Funding

Dara Calleary

Question:

44 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his plan to ensure that Ireland secures the same proportion of the pillar 2 rural development fund in the Common Agricultural Policy post 2013. [17628/11]

The size of the CAP budget and how it will be divided between pillar 1 and 2 will ultimately be a matter for decision by EU Finance Ministers and Heads of State and Government in the context of the overall EU multiannual financial framework for the coming years. First proposals on this are expected from the EU Commission later this week. I want to see a strong and adequately financed CAP budget that, at the very least, allows the current mix of CAP policies to be maintained, both for pillar 1 and pillar 2.

Ireland's receipts from the second pillar will also depend on the extent to which there is a redistribution of CAP funds between Member States. Currently there are two schools of thought on how redistribution might be achieved ranging from the use of objective criteria to determine allocations to each Member State to applying a pragmatic approach that would rebalance current allocations and even out distribution levels.

I favour using a pragmatic approach both for pillar 1 direct payments and pillar 2 rural development funds, starting with the current distribution level and using eligible area as a comparator. On this basis, Ireland's average payments both in pillar 1 and pillar 2 are just below the EU average and I would see no justification for any negative effects on Ireland's receipts.

Using objective criteria, on the other hand, would give rise to much more uncertainty. The outcome would depend on the set of criteria selected and, although we could suggest very favourable criteria, others could equally suggest criteria very unfavourable to us, particularly for pillar 2.

It is for these reasons that I will continue to press strongly for the pragmatic approach. My overriding objective is to secure at the very least a continuation of the current level of CAP funding both for the first and second pillars.

Farm Waste Management

Michael Creed

Question:

45 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if, in view of the recent economic downturn and the fact that many building contractors involved in construction projects grant aided by him, including the farm waste management scheme, have gone out of business and are unable to furnish concrete certificates to grant applicants leaving farmers unable to draw down grants due to them, if he will consider accepting alternative evidence regarding concrete strength used in these construction projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17601/11]

A revised Farm Waste Management Scheme was introduced by my Department in March 2006 in order to assist farmers meet the additional requirements of the Nitrates Directive. By virtue of the terms of the EU state aid approval for the Scheme, all work had to be completed by farmers under the Scheme by end-December 2008. The Scheme provides that relevant quality certificates must, where specified, accompany materials used in the construction of developments.

I am aware, however, of a small number of cases where farmers were unable to secure such certificates due to the financial difficulties of the contractors which carried out the works. In such cases, my Department would always be prepared to consider any alternative documentation in relation to the quality of the materials used which may be available to the applicants concerned.

Grant Payments

Mick Wallace

Question:

46 Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will give assurances to this house that agri environmental options scheme payments due from 2010 and AEOS and REP scheme four payments for 2011 will be paid in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17620/11]

I am acutely aware scheme payments constitute an important part of cash flow and farm income that farmers are anxious to know when they will receive their payments. I wish to assure farmers that my objective is to ensure that all outstanding claims are processed to payment stage as quickly as possible without any undue delays.

All area based scheme payments are subject to exhaustive checks which are required under EU Regulations, must be carried out to the highest possible standard before payments can issue.

Insofar as REPS is concerned, payments in respect of 2010 REPS 4 commenced on 15th December 2010, and over 14,585 applicants received payment before the end of 2010. Payments continue to issue on a weekly basis. To date, out of 30,254 farmers who are due payments, 26,477 have been paid in full. The majority of outstanding payments have issues which need to be examined or resolved and these are being dealt with on an ongoing basis by my officials. A small number of farmers are awaiting their balancing payment of 25%, having already received 75%, because they have incurred breaches of the Scheme. The balancing payment cannot be paid until the appropriate penalties have been applied and work to complete this process is proceeding.

Work to facilitate REPS 4 payments for 2011 is well underway. All those who pass the administrative checks without issue will have their payment released in the first tranche of payments. It is my intention that REPS 4 payments for 2011 will commence in October and that all payments will issue as quickly as possible thereafter subject to compliance with the scheme conditions.

As regards AEOS, some 8,500 farmers who were approved for participation in AEOS 1 are due payment in respect of 2010. Initial computerised checks carried out on information contained in each application revealed a high incidence of errors in the information provided and these errors had to be rectified before the detailed administrative checks could commence and payment could issue. I have given the processing of payments a high priority and I expect that AEOS payments in respect of the first year will commence in August. Payments in respect of year two will commence in October.

I re-opened AEOS this year, in the face of very difficult budgetary circumstances. The 7,000 applications received for AEOS 2 are currently being processed by my officials and those which prove eligible will be receiving offers of acceptance into the Scheme once all applications have been assessed. These applications will then be subject to the same rigorous administrative checks mentioned already, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, and the outcome of those checks will determine when approvals issues and payments can commence.

It is my intention that, for the future, all REPS and AEOS payments will issue as expeditiously as possible within the constraints of passing all administrative checks and meeting all EU requirements.

Farm Consolidation

Michael Moynihan

Question:

47 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the discussions he has had with the Department of Finance in relation to renewing the stamp duty exemption for farm consolidation by the end of June 2011 and if he will outline the importance of renewing the exemption. [17622/11]

As the Deputy is aware, taxation measures are a matter for the Minister for Finance. I have written to the Minister for Finance in relation to the stamp duty exemption for farm consolidation outlining its importance as part of an overall strategy to encourage consolidation in the sector. Consolidation at farm level is important in the context of the Food Harvest 2020 strategy.

Apart from the stamp duty consolidation measure, a range of tax incentives are already in place to encourage the transfer of land, including:

100% stamp duty relief on transfers and purchase on land by young trained farmers;

90% agricultural relief from Capital Acquisitions Tax;

Full Capital Gains Tax — Retirement relief on farm disposals;

Rental income exemptions to encourage the long-term lease of land;

General stock relief, including 100% relief for young trained farmers;

12.5% capital allowance on plant and machinery and motor vehicles;

Capital allowances for milk quota — expenditure spread over seven years.

Proposed Legislation

Michael Moynihan

Question:

48 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his engagement with the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation on the introduction of fair trade legislation and when he expects draft legislation to be produced. [17621/11]

As the Deputy is aware, the programme for Government contains a commitment to enact fair trade legislation which will ban a number of unfair trading practices in the retail sector. My colleague, the Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD has recently indicated to this House his intention to give effect to this commitment by including a specific enabling provision in legislation. As Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, I work closely with my Ministerial colleagues on delivery of the Programme for Government. The Government is committed to ensuring that Ireland continues to have vibrant agrifood and retail sectors and balance in the relationship between the players in the grocery goods sector is important to this.

Grant Payments

Brendan Smith

Question:

49 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has satisfied himself that he will achieve an advance payment of the single farm payment from the European Commission. [17623/11]

The Single Farm Payment forms a significant part of the annual income of all farmers in Ireland. It is clear that the timing of this payment is extremely important to farmers, particularly those farmers with low farm incomes. Therefore, I decided that I would seek the approval of the EU Commission to make an advance payment of the SFP from 16 October 2011.

While the Commissioner's proposal is subject to ratification by the relevant EU Management Committee in July, given the widespread impact of the financial crisis across the Union, the impact of the drought in some Member States and the crises in the vegetable sector, I am confident that such support will be forthcoming and that approval for the Irish application can be obtained.

Live Exports

Nicky McFadden

Question:

50 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if tougher regulations are being proposed by the EU for the export of Irish cattle abroad; and if he will address farmers concerns that new legislation will add significant costs on the farming sector. [17603/11]

The EU has not proposed any new regulations relating to the export of Irish cattle.

Member States are legally obliged under Council Directive 64/432 on intra-community trade to certify, among other things, that bovines and pigs being exported for breeding or production have been on a single holding during the 30 day period prior to export or, if such animals are younger than 30 days, that they have been on the holding of their origin since birth. The EU Commission has taken the view that the arrangements in place in Ireland in this respect are not in line with the Directive. We have taken this matter up with the Commission with a view to seeking a resolution as part of the review of the animal health legislation in the framework of the new EU New Animal Health Strategy. An EU Commission proposal for a new animal health law is currently scheduled for adoption in 2013.

Public Sector Staff

Barry Cowen

Question:

51 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the discussions he has had with Teagasc regarding the impact of the public sector moratorium on teacher numbers at agricultural colleges. [17632/11]

I have had discussions with Teagasc in relation to the impact of the moratorium on operations including the delivery of education courses in the agricultural colleges. Delivery of the Teagasc education programme is an operational matter for Teagasc and its Board. I understand that over 200 staff are currently employed in the Teagasc owned colleges and the private agricultural colleges. The question of additional resources in Teagasc must have regard to Government policy on public service numbers and the need to achieve savings in the public service pay bill through planned reductions in staff numbers. Therefore, when vacancies arise, public service organisations must reallocate or reorganise work or staff accordingly. Any exceptions to this principle can only be considered in very limited circumstances in respect of mission critical posts and in full compliance with annual ceilings on staff numbers.

Agri-Food Sector

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

52 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent to which he has studied submissions from the various farming organisations or producer interest groups appertaining to the central role likely to be played by agriculture and the food industry in economic recovery; the extent to which he can set in motion the conditions most likely to benefit the industry and the economy with the emphasis on expanding production capacity, opening new export markets and ensuring that Common Agricultural Policy discussions leading into World Trade Organisation talks to not inhibit or impede such strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17641/11]

I and my officials were centrally involved in the examination of submissions made by the various stakeholders to the request for comments and input on the National Reform Plan submitted by Ireland to the EU Commission in the context of the EU 2020 strategy for recovery and growth.

Secondly, in regard to the agricultural sector specifically, the Food Harvest 2020 strategy, our blueprint for smart, green growth in the agri-food sector to 2020, although facilitated by my Department, was developed and led by the industry in association with stakeholders.

The strategy contains 215 recommendations and has set a series of ambitious growth targets to be achieved by 2020. There has been significant and widespread buy-in to the strategy from all the stakeholders and it has been incorporated as part of our national plan for economic recovery.

I am determined to work with all of the relevant shareholders to ensure the targets are achieved and those working in the sector can be assured of my commitment to work with them to create the conditions and environment within which the sector can prosper, deliver the Food Harvest 2020 targets and realise its full potential.

This includes ensuring the appropriate EU and international policy frameworks within which the strategy can be achieved. I am very conscious of the need for a strong and well-resourced CAP in the future based on the twin goals of competitiveness and sustainability. I am also conscious of the need for balance in our trade relations. Ireland is a small open economy and our future success is predicated upon our ability to grow our exports. In this respect, I want to see a balanced outcome to the WTO negotiations that does not undermine EU and Irish agriculture. I also want to ensure our approach to international trade is balanced between our offensive and defensive interests and that we do not sacrifice EU or Irish agricultural interests in our pursuit of bilateral agreements with our trading partners.

Fishing Industry Development

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

53 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent to which he expects to facilitate the development of the fishing industry with the objective of maximising employment opportunities, protecting fish stock, creating opportunities for those involved in the fishing industry, banning the dumping of surplus catch and setting out a national strategy to bring about maximum benefits and economic value through increased employment in the industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17642/11]

Food Harvest 2020 sets out a national strategy for development of the seafood sector to maximise its considerable potential to contribute to national economic recovery and provide increased employment in peripheral coastal communities. The report identifies a potential to increase employment from 11,000 to 14,000 by 2020, while increasing the value of the sector to €1 billion. Action is recommended in a number of areas to achieve this goal, including encouraging foreign vessels to land their catch in Ireland to increase raw material supply to Irish processors and the provision of specific support programmes for the development of innovative, consumer oriented seafood products and the restructuring of the processing sector.

In 2010, BIM published its 3-year Strategy ‘Delivering on the Potential of Irish Seafood'. The Strategy sets out over 70 detailed actions that underpin the opportunities for the Irish seafood sector.

On 3 June 2011, I announced the creation of 158 new jobs in the Seafood Processing Sector, arising from new investment of €7.4 million by 18 processing companies, supported by grants of €1.7 million under the Seafood Processing Business Investment Scheme. The Processing Scheme addresses the above recommendations of Food Harvest 2020 by providing support to seafood processing companies aiming to add value to Irish seafood products, improve efficiency, promote consolidation and create additional income and employment within the sector.

BIM also launched a new Seafood Value Adding Scheme in 2011 that will support seafood companies with projects that demonstrate a market lead business approach, including processing technology improvements, innovation and new product development. The scheme was developed by BIM in consultation with industry and aims to convert the high level of commodity seafood products into value-added products which meet high standards required within the retail and foodservice sectors in the domestic and export markets. BIM is expecting to support investment of up to €1 million in 2011 under this scheme.

BIM's Lean Seafood Business Programme is another important support Programme for the development of the seafood sector. This Programme seeks to identify how operating efficiencies can be maximised over a relative short time period to reduce the operating costs of seafood processing companies and assist them in improving their business performance and becoming more competitive. I understand that early participants in the Programme are achieving considerable cost savings.

Outside of the above schemes, on 3 June 2011 I also announced a pilot jobs initiative for the Killybegs region aimed at creating an additional 250 jobs in the area by 2014. As part of the pilot initiative a focused expert group has been tasked with identifying actions that can deliver those jobs, leveraging the talent, resources and infrastructure of the Killybegs area. The expert group will complete its work by the end of September 2011 and report to me on their progress and on the identified potential for job creation in Killybegs.

Since its opening in 2009, BIM's Seafood Development Centre in Clonakilty has been rightly lauded as a great success. The Centre has made considerable progress in driving seafood value-added activity. During 2010, over 180 seafood companies worked with the Centre, some of which have developed a range of successful new seafood products. BIM has set a target of achieving an additional €100 million worth of new seafood products over the next five years.

For the seafood processing sector to develop to its potential, an increased supply of raw material is essential. Food Harvest 2020 quite rightly identified the need to encourage foreign vessels to land their catch into Irish ports to increase raw material supply. Given the increasing cost of fuel for foreign vessels in returning their catch from our Atlantic waters to their home ports, I believe that the potential exists to develop Ireland as a European seafood-processing hub. BIM is actively working on this issue and is facilitating contact between the Irish processing industry and representatives of foreign fishing vessels.

Clearly, in the context of both raw material supply to our processing industry and the long term sustainability of our fisheries, measures to reduce and ultimately eliminate the wasteful and indefensible practice of discards is critical. I have been very active on this front and have had a series of discussions with fisheries Commissioner Damanaki, and fellow EU Fisheries Ministers on this topic, which is a major priority for me and for Ireland's vision for the new Common Fisheries Policy. I have been promoting practical and pragmatic measures which can demonstrably deliver on the shared objective of elimination of discards, while importantly having the maximum possible level of "buy in" from the industry. It is my firm belief that a "tool box" of flexible measures that can be implemented, where appropriate, on a fishery by fishery basis, is the best possible option.

Aquaculture Development

Martin Ferris

Question:

54 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will give an assurance that any increase as suggested by him via his commitments on a programme (details supplied) to increase fish farms by a multiple of ten, will not contaminate the natural wild salmon and trout and if he will also give an assurance that the locations of these fish farms will be far removed from any spawning grounds of natural wild trout and salmon. [17616/11]

All applications for aquaculture licenses are subjected to a rigorous examination by my Department and its scientific/technical advisers to ensure the maximum protection for the environment.

Full compliance with all EU and national legislation is a minimum requirement and the process of examination includes a period of public consultation. Inland Fisheries Ireland is a statutory consultee in relation to this process.

I am satisfied therefore that the application process is based on the best scientific advice available, affords the public an ample opportunity to comment on each application and conforms with all environmental protection measures.

Grant Payments

Dara Calleary

Question:

55 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if all REP scheme and agri environmental options scheme payments due in 2011 will be paid before the end of the year. [17627/11]

I am acutely aware scheme payments constitute an important part of cash flow and farm income that farmers are anxious to know when they will receive their payments. I wish to assure farmers that my objective is to ensure that all outstanding claims are processed to payment stage as quickly as possible without any undue delays.

All area based scheme payments are subject to exhaustive checks which are required under EU Regulations, must be carried out to the highest possible standard before payments can issue.

Insofar as REPS is concerned, payments in respect of 2010 REPS 4 commenced on 15th December 2010, and over 14,585 applicants received payment before the end of 2010. Payments continue to issue on a weekly basis. To date, out of 30,254 farmers who are due payments, 26,477 have been paid in full. The majority of outstanding payments have issues which need to be examined or resolved and these are being dealt with on an ongoing basis by my officials. A small number of farmers are awaiting their balancing payment of 25%, having already received 75%, because they have incurred breaches of the Scheme. The balancing payment cannot be paid until the appropriate penalties have been applied and work to complete this process is proceeding.

Work to facilitate REPS 4 payments for 2011 is well underway. All those who pass the administrative checks without issue will have their payment released in the first tranche of payments. It is my intention that REPS 4 payments for 2011 will commence in October and that all payments will issue as quickly as possible thereafter subject to compliance with the scheme conditions.

As regards AEOS, some 8,500 farmers who were approved for participation in AEOS 1 are due payment in respect of 2010. Initial computerised checks carried out on information contained in each application revealed a high incidence of errors in the information provided and these errors had to be rectified before the detailed administrative checks could commence and payment could issue. I have given the processing of payments a high priority and I expect that AEOS payments in respect of the first year will commence in August. Payments in respect of year two will commence in October.

I re-opened AEOS this year, in the face of very difficult budgetary circumstances. The 7,000 applications received for AEOS 2 are currently being processed by my officials and those which prove eligible will be receiving offers of acceptance into the Scheme once all applications have been assessed. These applications will then be subject to the same rigorous administrative checks mentioned already, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, and the outcome of those checks will determine when approvals issues and payments can commence.

It is my intention that, for the future, all REPS and AEOS payments will issue as expeditiously as possible within the constraints of passing all administrative checks and meeting all EU requirements.

Agri-Food Sector

Barry Cowen

Question:

56 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the progress made to date in developing the Brand Ireland proposal outlined in Food Harvest 2020. [17631/11]

The Brand Ireland recommendation in theFood Harvest 2020 strategy reflected an endorsement by the agri-food industry of the previous “Pathways for Growth” assessment by Harvard Business School working with Bord Bia. The approach is to develop an umbrella brand, or enhanced reputation, which is credible, distinctive and embraces all aspects of Irish food and drink. The complexity involved in delivering this is high, and its achievement will require the commitment of many key players in the sector.

Progress has been made in relation to documenting sustainability, which is important to buyers and is a key element of the Brand Ireland concept as proposed in Food Harvest 2020. Bord Bia has worked closely with Teagasc and the Carbon Trust to include a carbon labelling component in its Beef and Lamb Quality Assurance Schemes and has achieved PAS2050 standard (Publicly Assured Systems). This is a very positive step and similar work will be undertaken with other products. Bord Bia has also carried out detailed research involving consumers and business audiences in six countries and work is underway with tourism interests to promote joined up approaches to developing Ireland's image abroad. The Deputy will be aware that under EU rules public funds may not be used to advertise on the basis of origin.

Public Sector Remuneration

Michael McGrath

Question:

57 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Taoiseach if he will list the number of positions under his control but outside of the Civil Service which will be affected by new salary caps; the specific cuts involved and any impact identified on the ability to recruit or to retain specific positions in the next 12 months. [17986/11]

The National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO) is the only agency under the aegis of my Department and is outside the Civil Service. No positions in NESDO are affected by the new salary caps.

Diplomatic Representations

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

58 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide an update on the most recent representations made by Ireland on behalf of a person (details supplied), the Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas in 2006; his plans to call for his release; his plans to make representations to the relevant Palestinian officials; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17728/11]

This week marks five years since Sergeant Gilad Shalit was kidnapped from Israel by Palestinian militants. His continued captivity is a deplorable situation for the soldier and his family. The Red Cross has been refused access to him, his family cannot send letters to him, and they have received no confirmation that he is still alive since 2009. Ireland, along with our EU partners, has repeatedly called for his release without delay, most recently at the European Council last week, which issued a Declaration demanding his immediate release. Last week I discussed Sergeant Shalit's case with the Israeli Ambassador, and made a statement reiterating the Government's call for his immediate release. Gilad Shalit was kidnapped by Hamas, an organisation with which the Government has no channel of communication. Hamas is listed as a terrorist organisation by the EU, and, accordingly, there is no contact at any level between Irish officials and representatives of Hamas.

There have been periodic reports that a prisoner swap deal between Israel and Hamas, conducted through third parties, would lead to the imminent release of Sergeant Shalit. Regrettably, this has not yet proved to be the case. It is my sincere hope that Gilad Shalit will soon be released and can return to his family in Israel.

Trade Relations

Seán Kenny

Question:

59 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to develop stronger links with Australia particularly in relation to education, trade and tourism. [17744/11]

The Deputy will be aware that Ireland enjoys strong historic and cultural links with Australia, with nearly 25% of Australians boasting some Irish heritage. Australia is also one of Ireland's top 20 trading partners. Total merchandise trade between Ireland and Australia in 2010 was worth €859 million, an increase of 9% on 2009 levels. Our services trade is on a similar scale.

The Government attaches importance to developing further our trade and economic links with Australia. Last year, the then Minister for Trade and Commerce led a multi-sectoral trade mission of 44 leading Irish companies to Australia. Both Enterprise Ireland and the IDA have offices in Australia. More than 75 Irish companies have a presence there, while 35 Australian companies are located in Ireland.

Tourism Ireland is also represented in Sydney, recognising that Australia is a very important market for Ireland. The Australian market recovered more quickly than other markets from the global economic crisis and 2010 saw a 2% increase in visitor numbers to Ireland. The target for Tourism Ireland this year is to return to consistent growth and reach 2008 levels (150,000 visitors) by the end of 2011.

An important support to Irish tourist promotion will arise from the major "Irish in Australia" exhibition running at the National Museum of Australia from 17 March-31 July 2011. It is expected to generate considerable interest, particularly in family history research.

The Embassy in Canberra has been supporting plans and preparations for this exhibition for many years and has provided extensive in kind support and my Department and Culture Ireland have provided over €60,000 in support. My colleague, the Minister for Children, Frances FitzGerald T.D., attended the opening of the exhibition in March and more than 35,000 people have visited the exhibition since then, which is far ahead of target.

There is a very successful Working Holiday Visa agreement in place between Ireland and Australia, and 15,000 Irish backpackers availed of this scheme in 2010. Around 500 Australians travelled to Ireland on the same scheme last year, fostering ongoing links between young people from both countries.

The Export Trade Council, which will be established shortly and which I will chair, will monitor implementation of the Government's Strategy for Trade, Tourism and Investment under which Australia has been identified as one of the priority markets. The Strategy brings together all of the relevant State Agencies which have committed to achieving specific targets in priority markets. The Ambassador in Canberra chairs a local market team with representatives of the relevant State Agencies to drive this strategic approach and ensure a sustained and coordinated use of all of the State's resources in support of Irish companies trading and growing their business in the Australian market.

Foreign Conflicts

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

60 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has concerns about civil unrest in Nepal; if the position and safety of Irish citizens there is being monitored by the Irish Embassy in New Delhi; if the Nepalese situation has been discussed by him with his European counterparts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17769/11]

The situation in Nepal is monitored closely by my Department and, in particular, through our Embassy in New Delhi, which is accredited there. There is a small Irish community in Nepal, which is mostly involved in development activities and with which the Embassy in New Delhi maintains close contact. Ethnic tension and occasional outbreaks of violence, linked to demands for greater autonomy, are a continuing aspect of life in the Terai and Eastern region of Nepal. In March 2011 four explosive devices were detonated on public buses operating in the Terai region. One person died and 44 people were injured.

While the overall level of violence in Nepal has declined in the past year, there remains a general threat of terrorism, including the possibility of indiscriminate attacks in places frequented by foreign travellers. The security situation, therefore, is still unpredictable. However, most tourists visit the country without incident.

Irish citizens visiting Nepal are advised by my Department to be vigilant, avoid large gatherings and demonstrations and keep away from those regions most subject to violence. They should regularly monitor political and security developments, including though the Department of Foreign Affairs website. Those travelling to Nepal should register on the Department's website and have comprehensive travel insurance.

The political situation in Nepal, while fragile, remains hopeful. A peace process, aimed at reconciliation across society, is active. Although the May deadline for a constitutional agreement passed without achieving its aim, I welcome the decision by the political parties in Nepal to extend the deadline and am encouraged by the commitment to resolve the outstanding issues.

A cross-party group of Nepalese politicians visited Ireland, North and South, for a lesson-learning visit in September 2009. The visit was coordinated by the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, with the assistance of the Department of Foreign Affairs. Ireland remains ready to assist further in the peace process in Nepal.

In 2010 Irish Aid provided approximately €690,000 in funding to NGOs active in Nepal. This funding was primarily for long-term development work in a variety of sectors, including governance, women's rights and education. A small amount of funding was also provided for disaster risk reduction through Irish Aid's Emergency and Recovery funding mechanisms.

While EU Foreign Ministers have not specifically discussed Nepal recently, senior official regularly discuss and review developments there.

Diplomatic Representations

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

61 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the contacts that he has had with the Israeli authorities and the engagement he has been involved in with his European counterparts with regards to the humanitarian aid flotilla journeying to Gaza; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17786/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have previously made clear that, while I have every respect and sympathy for the motives of those involved, I could not support citizens engaging in actions where there is a real risk of harm or injury, in this case by attempting to break a naval blockade. I understand the ships intending to form up into a new flotilla may put to sea shortly, including an Irish owned ship and some 25 — 30 Irish citizens, and that they expect to be approaching the waters off Gaza within the next week.

In a meeting last week with the Israeli Ambassador, which covered a number of issues, I made clear in relation to the flotilla that we expected Israel to exercise all possible restraint, and that any interception would be carried out in a peaceful manner so as to ensure the safety of our citizens and other participants. I asked him to convey these views to his authorities. We have previously conveyed the same messages by diplomatic channels, and we will continue to stress these points.

Israel has indicated that it intends to avoid any repetition of the tragic events of last year. I believe the Irish participants in the flotilla are likewise committed to avoiding any use of violence, and the other participants have signalled the same intentions. I am hopeful therefore that these events may pass off without injury to anyone.

The impending flotilla has formed part of the context of EU discussions on Gaza and the Middle East in recent months, and most partners have been predominantly concerned, as are we, with the safety of their citizens. I have to say that most have also considered that the flotilla, while well intentioned, is unwise and risks heightening tensions at a time of considerable instability in the region. Partners also recognise that, as I have stated previously, sailings to Gaza can never supply more than a fraction of the routine needs of the Territory, and the only real answer is to persuade Israel to fully open the land crossing points to normal traffic. The EU has repeatedly called on Israel to do so, but regrettably, while there have been some improvements, these have so far been wholly inadequate. A real opening of the crossings to normal traffic would make enterprises such as the flotilla redundant.

Official Engagements

Finian McGrath

Question:

62 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of formal and informal meetings he has had with the U.S. Ambassador. [17960/11]

I have had the opportunity to meet with Ambassador Dan Rooney on a number of occasions both formally and informally. Following my appointment to office, Ambassador Rooney paid a courtesy call on me in Iveagh House on Friday, 25 March. I met with Ambassador Rooney during President Obama's visit to Ireland on 23 May, including at the bilateral meeting between the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny T.D. and President Obama at Farmleigh and at the public address by President Obama at College Green. I also met Ambassador Rooney at the State Dinner for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in Dublin Castle on 18 May. My Department and I work very closely with Ambassador Rooney and his officials at the US Embassy. I have also met with his officials on a number of recent occasions including during the visits of the Congressional Sub-Committee on Europe and Eurasia, led by Congressman Dan Burton, on 16 May and during the visit of a Congressional group led by Senator Patrick Leahy on 3 June. I look forward to continued close contact with Ambassador Rooney and the US Embassy.

Public Sector Remuneration

Michael McGrath

Question:

63 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will list the number of positions under his control but outside of the Civil Service which will be affected by new salary caps; the specific cuts involved and any impact identified on the ability to recruit or to retain specific positions in the next 12 months. [17981/11]

There are no positions under my control but outside of the Civil Service which will be affected by new salary caps.

Public Procurement

Sean Conlan

Question:

64 Deputy Seán Conlan asked the Minister for Finance his plans to investigate and alter restrictively high turnover requirements for public procurement tenders, with specific regard to electrical e-tenders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17794/11]

The position is that 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. 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. In this regard, 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 turnover levels set by them must be both justifiable and proportionate to the needs of the contract.

Pension Provisions

Finian McGrath

Question:

65 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding a pension in respect of a person (details supplied). [17808/11]

I am not in a position to comment on the matter based on the information supplied with the question. I would advise that the individual concerned send all of the details of her pension plan and correspondence with the provider concerned (together with the details of her public service pension entitlements) to the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, Large Cases Division, Financial Services (Pensions), 2nd Floor, Nassau Street, Dublin 2 who will examine the issue and revert to her.

Departmental Expenditure

Finian McGrath

Question:

66 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the estimated cost of holding a referendum or multiple referenda. [17965/11]

The following table gives the cost of the two most recent referendums: Lisbon 1, 12 June 2008 and Lisbon 2, 2 October 2009.

Lisbon I

Lisbon II

€(000)

€(000)

To conduct the election including the printing of ballot papers and supply/delivery of election material the bulk of this figure is paid to Returning Officers’ to conduct the election.

13,641

12,662

Postal Expenses

3,540

1,703

Referendum Commission

4,990

3,096

Total Cost

22,171

17,461

The holding of a multiple question referendum would entail additional costs. Each question would entail a separate Referendum Commission and additional costs for conducting the count. There may be some economies of scale in procurement terms; the cost of a referendum commission is directly related to the complexity of the referendum proposal and the nature and scale of the information campaign necessary to ensure that the public are informed of the proposal. While it would not be possible at present to accurately calculate this additional cost, economies of scale and the fact that many costs would not be duplicated, would indicate that additional costs would be far less than for separate referendums.

Tax Code

Pearse Doherty

Question:

67 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the savings that would accrue to the State from the introduction of a 45% charge levied on all public sector incomes above €100,000 per annum, with the charge being applied to every euro above the first €100,000 earned. [17678/11]

Pearse Doherty

Question:

68 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the savings that would accrue to the State from the introduction of a 45% charge levied on all public sector incomes above €100,000 per annum, with the charge being applied to every euro above the first €100,000 earned. [17679/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 67 and 68 together.

The estimated full year savings through the application of a 40% and 45% charge on all earnings above €100,000 of Public Servants would be some €105m and €120m respectively. The estimate takes account of the reductions in pay arising from the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act, 2009, but does not take account of any offsetting reductions in taxes and levies. The estimate does not include staff of commercial State -sponsored bodies since the Minister for Finance is not responsible for setting the rate of pay for employees in the commercial state sector.

National Treasury Management Agency

Michael McGrath

Question:

69 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide details of the number of persons employed by the National Treasury Management Agency including NAMA who currently have a basic salary in excess of €100,000; the number in excess of €150,000; the number in excess of €200,000; and the number in excess of €250,000. [17681/11]

Michael McGrath

Question:

71 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide details of the number of persons employed by the National Treasury Management Agency including NAMA who received bonus payments in 2010; the overall amount that was paid and the average payment to the employees in question. [17685/11]

Michael McGrath

Question:

73 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons employed by the National Treasury Management Agency including NAMA who took a reduction in their basic salary in the past twelve months; and the overall aggregate amount of the reductions incurred by persons employed by the organisation. [17688/11]

Michael McGrath

Question:

76 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the overall number of persons employed by the National Treasury Management Agency including NAMA; and the average salary which was paid in respect of 2010. [17692/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 69, 71, 73 and 76 together.

Under the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) business model, its remuneration structure (including for staff employed on NAMA work) is such that there are no general pay grades and no pay scales and all staff are on individually-negotiated contracts. The legislation which established the NTMA positioned it outside of the wider public service structures with operational freedom to negotiate market competitive salaries so that it would have, for example, the flexibility to recruit specialists in mid-career from the private sector.

This business model has been essential in enabling the NTMA to staff itself with the necessary technical expertise to successfully carry out the financial and risk management functions which have been assigned to it. In the case of NAMA, most people are employed on the basis of specified purpose contracts, which means that as NAMA winds down and certain functions cease, their term of employment will come to an end.

The NTMA Senior Management team — nine people including the Chief Executives of the NTMA, NDFA and NAMA — all waived their performance-related payments due for 2010. The average payment made by the NTMA in February 2011 in respect of performance in 2010 was €7,681. The overall amount paid was €1,981,760, representing 6.6% of the NTMA's overall payroll. Payments were made to 258 staff members.

Details of NTMA salaries as at 28 June 2011 by salary band are follows:

Salary Band

Number of Staff

Up to €100,000

235

From €100,001 to €150,000

78

From €150,001 to €200,000

3

Over €250,000

14

There are currently 357 people employed in the NTMA.

There were 306 people employed in the Agency at end-2010. The average salary in 2010 was €97,992. Given the nature of its activities and its flat organisational structure, the NTMA staffing complement is primarily composed of people with professional and technical skill sets possessing substantial private-sector experience and it employs comparatively few administrative support staff.

NTMA staff members are subject to the Public Service Pension Deduction. While the NTMA was not subject to the Financial Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009 which applied reductions to public service salaries, in 2010 it secured a reduction of some 8% in overall payroll costs, on a like-for-like basis compared with the previous year. In 2011, it has secured a further reduction of almost 3% in overall payroll costs, again on a like-for-like basis.

Banking Sector Remuneration

Michael McGrath

Question:

70 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons employed by the Central Bank including the Financial Regulator who currently have a basic salary in excess of €100,000; the number in excess of €150,000; the number in excess of €200,000; and the number in excess of €250,000. [17682/11]

Michael McGrath

Question:

72 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons employed by the Central Bank including the Financial Regulator who received bonus payments in 2010; the overall amount that was paid and the average payment to the employees in question. [17686/11]

Michael McGrath

Question:

74 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide details of the number of persons employed by the Central Bank including the Financial Regulator who took a reduction in their basic salary in the past twelve months; and the overall aggregate amount of the reductions incurred by persons employed by the organisation. [17690/11]

Michael McGrath

Question:

75 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide details of the number of persons employed by the Central Bank including the Financial Regulator who took a reduction in their basic salary in the past twelve months; and the overall aggregate amount of the reductions incurred by persons employed by the organisation.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 70, 72, 74 and 75 together.

Under the Central Bank Act 1942, the employment of staff at the Central Bank and their terms and conditions are matters for the Central Bank Commission. However, I have been informed by the Central Bank of the information set out in the tables below. The information includes information relating to the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority prior to 1 October 2010.

The following table sets out the total number of staff of the Bank who currently have a basic salary in excess of €100,000, the number in excess of €150,000, the number in excess of €200,000 and the number in excess of €250,000.

Salary Ranges

Central Bank Staff Total

€100,000 to €149,999

92

€150,000 to €199,999

18

€200,000 to €249,999

1

€250,000 +

3

The Central Bank publishes information related to remuneration of executive and non-executive directors in its annual report. No bonuses were paid by the Central Bank in 2010.

I have been informed by the Central Bank that salary reductions and pension-related deductions were dealt with under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Acts and these took effect prior to the period to which the Deputy refers. As outlined in the Central Bank's 2010 Annual Report, the Governor's salary was reduced by 20% from 1 February 2010 and he also took an additional further voluntary salary reduction of 20%. The salaries of the Deputy Governor (Central Banking) and Deputy Governor (Financial Regulation) were reduced by 15% in 2010.

The following table sets out the number of persons employed by the Central Bank in 2010 and the average salary.

Total

Total Number Employed in 2010

Average of 1,114 (full time equivalent) staff employed for 2010.

Average basic salary for 2010

€60,724.

Question No. 71 answered with Question No. 69.
Question No. 72 answered with Question No. 70.
Question No. 73 answered with Question No. 69.
Question Nos. 74 and 75 answered with Question No. 70.
Question No. 76 answered with Question No. 69.

Public Service Contracts

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

77 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance if he deems it appropriate for public servants to take up new positions within the public service on retirement from a previous position whilst in receipt of a pension; and his view that appropriately qualified unemployed persons should be given the opportunity to take up work within the public and civil sector as it arises. [17705/11]

In general, recruitment to public service posts is on the basis of competition open to all eligible candidates. However, to respond to particular needs, former civil and public servants may be re-engaged in areas where specific expertise is required for a short, fixed period and where they provide a level of knowledge, experience and background that is compatible with requirements. If former civil or public servants are re-engaged, their pension may be subject to abatement. This means they cannot receive more by way of pension and salary than they would have received had they remained in their former employment. Former civil and public servants who retired under the Incentivised Early Retirement Scheme are not permitted to take up any employment in the same sector from which they have retired, other than in exceptional circumstances. In the case of the recent HSE Voluntary Early Retirement scheme, it is a specific condition of the scheme that people availing of the scheme will not be eligible for re-employment in the public health sector or in the wider public service or in a body wholly or mainly funded from public moneys. The same prohibition on re-employment applies under the HSE Voluntary Redundancy scheme also, except that the prohibition will be for a period of seven years, after which time any re-employment will require the approval of the Minister for Finance. These provisions also apply to re-employment on a contract for service basis in respect of all schemes. There are a number of programmes such as the FÁS Work Placement Programme which provide opportunities within the public service for unemployed persons to retain their skill levels and/or secure work experience that will assist them in getting a job. The FÁS Programme comprises two streams, one for graduates and one for other unemployed persons. The Programme is available to the civil and public service.

Banking Sector Regulation

Brendan Griffin

Question:

78 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance his views on State supported financial institutions increasing interest rates out of line with the European Central Bank to attract and retain depositors but to the detriment of mortgage holders with those institutions; the steps he will take on behalf of the mortgage holders; and if he will make a statement on the matter.[17706/11]

The interest rates that financial institutions operating in Ireland grant or charge to customers are determined as a result of a commercial decision by the institutions concerned. The interest rates in question are determined by a broad range of factors such as the European Central Bank base rates, deposit rates, market funding costs, the competitive environment and an institution's overall funding. The Government must maintain a balance between the support provided for individual banks and financial service providers generally through the bank guarantee scheme, other financial support incentives and broader public policy provisions, while, at the same time, ensuring that the day-to-day running of these institutions has regard to competition, market conditions and the need to develop stable commercial enterprises to meet the long term credit needs of households and businesses in the Irish economy.

Post Office Savings Bonds

Brendan Griffin

Question:

79 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance if depositors with Post Office Savings Bonds have any particular reason to be concerned at this point; if he will reassuresuch depositors that their moneys are safe; and if he will make a statement on the matter.[17708/11]

All State Savings money is placed directly with the Irish Government. 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. Ireland has never contemplated the possibility of defaulting on its sovereign debt and this position has been restated on several occasions. The Government, without any question, will fully honour all its legal obligations to its creditors and has no intention whatsoever of allowing a default. 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.

Public Sector Staff

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

80 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No 83 of 21 June 2011 if he will provide in tabular format a comprehensive breakdown of each public service sector employment control framework up to and including 2014. [17709/11]

I refer the Deputy to my answer to Question No. 83 of 21 June 2011. As soon as the information requested is available, full details up to and including 2014 will be published on the website of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Tax Code

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

81 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance the progress that has been made regarding the introduction of provisions to ensure compliance with the European Court of Justice ruling regarding VAT (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17710/11]

In its ruling of 16 July 2009 in Case C-554/07, the European Court of Justice found that Ireland had failed to correctly transpose EU VAT law regarding public bodies including local authorities. In order to comply with the ruling, it was necessary to make public bodies subject to VAT and the Finance Act 2010 included a provision to this end. This provision is now contained in Section 14 of the Value-Added Tax Consolidation Act, 2010. In effect, this means that from 1 July 2010 certain goods and services provided by local authorities are subject to VAT, especially where competition arises with private sector providers who have to apply VAT. Services that are liable to VAT include refuse collection, landfill and recycling services; off-street parking; toll roads; and rent from certain lettings of commercial property. It should be noted that such services were already subject to VAT if provided by a private operator. The standard or the reduced VAT rate applies as appropriate. Refuse collection is subject to the reduced VAT rate of 13.5% and off-street parking fees are liable to VAT at the standard rate of 21%. However, other services operated by public bodies including local authorities are not subject to VAT as they are otherwise exempted. In that context, for example, the supply of water, education, health and passenger transport services are not subject to VAT as they are otherwise exempted from VAT. Examples of the types of activities by public bodies where a charge applies, which will remain outside the scope of VAT, include parking fines, fees for passports, driving licences, development levies, casual trading licenses and certificates of compliance. These are purely regulatory functions.

Tax Reliefs

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

82 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the submission and subsequent delay in processing of a Med 1 form in respect of a person (details supplied); when this claim will be processed; the reason the Revenue Commissioners have not replied to any correspondence regarding same; and if he will expedite the matter. [17717/11]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that a PAYE Balancing Statement granting relief in respect of Health Expenses claimed on a form MED 1 submitted for 2010 was issued to the person in question on 14 January 2011. An additional a copy of the PAYE Balancing Statement was issued to the person in question on 4 February 2011. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they have no record of receiving any representations in April or June 2011 in respect of this case. If the Deputy has any further information, he may wish to contact the Revenue Commissioners at 1890 333 425.

Flood Relief

Michael McCarthy

Question:

83 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Finance if he will issue a progress report on the Bandon flood relief scheme in County Cork; the timescale for the completion of the works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17726/11]

The Office of Public Works commissioned both Design Consultants and Environmental Consultants in late 2010 to address the flooding problems which exist in Bandon and to develop possible solutions which are both economically viable and environmentally acceptable. A public information gathering day was held in January of this year which was very successful as a tremendous response was received from the public on the day. The study being undertaken is developing the possible options for dealing with the problem. It is intended to hold a second public information day in late August or early September which will present to the public the emerging preferred option along with the other options considered. Following the completion of the feasibility study, the Office of Public Works will take the proposed scheme, if one has emerged, to full public exhibition, as required under the Arterial Drainage Acts. The exhibition will take place over a four-week period and is programmed to take place before the end of the year. If the proposals are accepted locally, the next stage of the process will be to undertake the detailed design of the scheme and the procurement of a civil works contractor. It is not possible to say at this stage when any works might be completed, as any decisions on the progression of a Flood Relief Scheme for Bandon will be taken in the context of the Government's current review of its Capital expenditure profile to 2016.

Public Sector Recruitment

Seán Kenny

Question:

84 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Finance if there is any new recruitment planned or under way in the Revenue Commissioners. [17741/11]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that no recruitment campaigns are currently under way. In accordance with the Revenue Commissioners action plan under the Public Service Agreement, they are planning in the coming months, subject to sanction, to fill crucial skills gaps and strengthen capability in the organisation through targeted recruitment, as they did previously in 2010.

Tax Yield

Seán Kenny

Question:

85 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the amount generated to the Exchequer through the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products for the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011. [17742/11]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the yield from all tobacco products for the years 2008-2010 and the first five months of 2011 is as follows:

Year

Tobacco Products Tax

VAT (estimated)

2008

€1,171 million

€337 million

2009

€1,216.5 million

€336 million

2010

€1,159.6 million

€318 million

2011 (Jan to May)

€253.7 million

€128 million

Official Engagements

Seán Kenny

Question:

86 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on his recent visit to the US; the number of persons he met during the visit; the number of officials who accompanied him on the visit and the cost of the trip to his Department to date. [17743/11]

On my recent visit to New York and Washington, I had a series of economic, financial, media and cultural engagements. These included meetings with the IDA, Enterprise Ireland, senior officials and representatives from various client companies and certain target IDA companies. While in New York, my engagements included meetings with legal and financial market advisers including an investor lunch facilitated by the NTMA, a lunch hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and an official breakfast meeting at the New York Stock Exchange. The purpose of these meetings was to have an exchange of views on the global and European financial situation while also addressing Irish-specific issues. I outlined the prospects for the Irish economy and the measures taken by Government to restructure the Irish banking system and promote economic growth. I also toured Ireland House in New York and met officials from the various organisations located there. I also participated in Bloomsday celebrations.

My visit to Washington involved a series of meetings with the IMF, World Bank, US Treasury and the US Chamber of Commerce. A formal reception was also hosted by the Irish Ambassador where I had the opportunity to meet a wide selection of business people, Congressmen and other interested parties. Also while in the US, I had various press engagements including interviews with CNBC and Bloomberg. In line with common practice, I do not propose to provide the names of individuals who attended various meetings or engagements. This could jeopardise potential investment and, for example, hamper the ability of organisations such as the IDA to develop confidential relationships with target companies. I was accompanied on the trip by my Department's Second Secretary with responsibility for Bank Restructuring, Assistant Secretary in charge Budget and Economic matters, Press Officer, and my Special Advisor and Private Secretary. The full costs of the trip are not yet available as we are awaiting details from the Department of Foreign Affairs regarding accommodation and car hire costs. The costs of flights for myself and those who accompanied me on the trip amounted to €4,926.74.

EU Negotiations

John Paul Phelan

Question:

87 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Finance the progress of on-going discussions with European officials on the terms of the Irish bailout and interest rate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17756/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Euro area heads of state and government agreed in principle to a reduction in the interest margin charged to programme countries. This has been applied in respect of Greece and Portugal. However, a decision to apply it to Ireland's loans has not yet been taken. This is because another Member State is asking Ireland to deliver aquid pro quo in return for an interest rate reduction in the form of a change in our Corporation Tax. However, we have made it clear that we will not agree to this. Contacts on interest rates are continuing at official level. I have raised it at EU Finance Ministers meetings and in bilateral meetings with my EU counterparts, most recently at the Luxembourg meetings of the Eurogroup/ECOFIN Council. Furthermore, this issue was raised in the recent contacts that the Taoiseach had with President Sarkozy on the margins of last week’s European Council meeting. While recognising that the European focus is on the difficulties currently facing Greece, this Government will continue to avail of every suitable opportunity to press our case for an interest rate reduction.

Public Sector Pay

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

88 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the maximum basic salaries of new appointees to each of the commercial semi-State companies following the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform’s salary cap announcement on 22 June 2011, noting that the Minister’s announcement only included the general starting salary for new appointees. [17764/11]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

89 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance in view of the fact that the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has publically announced the Government’s intention to cap the pay of CEOs of commercial semi-State companies at €250,000 with the exception of the ESB CEO whose salary will be capped at €318,083, the measures he will put in place to ensure that additional elements of chief executives’ remuneration packages are not bolstered to make up the fall in expected salary for new entrants once the caps are in place; and if he will detail each additional element of each entrants remuneration package. [17765/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 88 and 89 together.

It is intended that new chief executive appointments will be made at the new appointments rate as outlined in the table that follows this reply. For incumbent CEOs the relevant "Hay" range, does not represent a pay scale — rather a single salary point within the range is sanctioned by the relevant Minister with the consent of the Minister of Public Expenditure and Reform. A board of a commercial State company may not increase the sanctioned salary point without the further sanction of the relevant Minister and the consent of the Minister of Public Expenditure and Reform. In imposing the pay ceilings for new appointees, the Government recognises that in a small number of cases exceptions may be necessary and appointments may need to be made above the minimum of the relevant range. Such exceptions will be limited to instances where the exception is for a role of substantial importance in the commercial State company and the person whose appointment is sought brings exceptional or scarce expertise and/or qualifications to the proposed role. Any such exception will be subject to my prior approval.

The remuneration arrangements for chief executives includes salary, pension, performance-related pay and other conditions (e.g. the provision of a car) and are specified in each employment contract which is subject, under statute, to the agreement of the relevant Minister and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. In this context, boards may not introduce new or enhance existing elements of the CEO's remuneration without obtaining prior Ministerial sanction. The annual remuneration of CEOs is published in the annual reports of commercial State companies. The performance-related pay arrangements for this sector are, as agreed by the Government some years back, for up to 35% of salary with 10% relating to multi-annual objectives and medium to long-term targets. The Government has decided I should review the current performance schemes for chief executive of commercial State companies in conjunction with Departments with such companies under their aegis. In the meantime, bonus payments to CEOs should not be paid.

Salary Range for newly appointed CEOs of Commercial State Sponsored Bodies

Name of Organisation

Hay Range w.e.f. 01/09/08

New Appointments Rate

Min

Max

ESB

€415,795

€519,745

€318,083

An Post

€314,311

€392,862

€240,448

CIE

€314,311

€392,862

€240,448

Dublin Airport Authority

€287,413

€359,320

€219,871

RTE

€287,413

€359,320

€219,871

Coillte Teoranta

€249,692

€312,061

€191,014

VHI

€249,692

€312,061

€191,014

Bord Gais Éireann

€249,692

€312,061

€191,014

Iarnrod Éireann

€249,692

€312,061

€191,014

Bord na Mona

€249,692

€312,061

€191,014

Irish Aviation Authority

€229,867

€287,306

€176,000

Bus Éireann

€211,005

€263,730

€167,116

Bus Átha Cliath

€211,005

€263,730

€167,116

Eirgrid

€200,075

€250,121

€158,459

Dublin Port Company

€173,927

€217,435

€144,012

TG4

€168,000

€210,000

€139,104

Horse Racing Ireland

€165,889

€207,362

€137,356

Railway Procurement Agency

€165,889

€207,362

€137,356

Bord na gCon

€160,531

€200,611

€132,920

Cork Port Company

€151,101

€188,822

€125,112

Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company

€133,419

€166,747

€110,569

Irish National Stud

€133,419

€166,747

€110,569

Waterford Port Company

€97,626

€122,059

€81,577

Shannon/Foynes Port Company

€97,626

€122,059

€81,577

Drogheda Port Company

€97,626

€122,059

€81,577

Galway Harbour Company

€97,626

€122,059

€81,577

Dundalk Port Company

€84,338

€105,449

€70,814

New Ross Port Company

€69,013

€86,267

€58,204

Wicklow Port Company

€60,654

€75,872

€51,245

Tax Code

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

90 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance if he will include yoga studios as sports and recreational facilities under the currently proposed Finance Bill, in view of the fact that the VAT reduction would have a positive impact on the expansion and growth of these facilities. [17798/11]

VAT is charged on the supply of goods and services, and the rate applying is subject to the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. The provision of sporting facilities is among a number of tourist related services being made subject to a new temporary lower reduced VAT rate of 9% from 1 July next. All other goods and services that apply at a reduced rate will continue to be liable at the 13.5% rate.

While the supply of sporting facilities will apply at the new temporary 9% rate, services consisting of the care of the human body supplied in the course of a health studio business or similar business, such as a yoga studio, will remain subject to the 13.5% rate. This arises from the fact that many of goods and services to which Ireland applies a reduced rate of VAT, including yoga classes, have their basis under an EU derogation that provides that as we applied a reduced rate to these items on 1 January 1991, we are entitled to continue applying that reduced rate to those items. However, this continuation of reduced rate application is conditional on the rate being no less than 12%. These are known as ‘parked' items, and are provided for under Article 118 of the EU VAT Directive. As yoga studio services are part of these parked items, it is not possible for Ireland to apply the rate of 9% to them.

It is for this reason that the Finance (No. 2) Act 2011 introduced a 9% VAT rate in respect of tourist activities such as restaurant and hotel accommodation services, while other tourist activities such as tour guide services and the short-term hire of cars, boat, caravans and mobile homes remain liable to VAT at the 13.5%. However, it should be noted that in the majority of EU Member States yoga studio services apply at their standard VAT rate of up to 25% in some cases, compared to 13.5% in Ireland.

National Asset Management Agency

Brian Stanley

Question:

91 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Finance if there is a register of persons who have received payments or support from the National Assets Management Agency; the persons who have access to such a register; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17928/11]

NAMA informs me that there is no register of persons who have received payments from the Agency. In the normal course of its operations, NAMA advances funds to debtors for working capital purposes or to enable projects to be completed. Over €800m has been advanced to debtors for these purposes since March 2010.

NAMA cannot disclose the names of individual debtors because companies and individuals whose loans have transferred to NAMA and who are meeting their obligations are entitled to have this information kept confidential. NAMA is prohibited under Section 202 of the Act from disclosing confidential information, relating to debtors. Furthermore, Section 99 of the Act provides that, on acquisition of a loan, NAMA takes over the obligations of the participating institution under the loan, one of which is the contractual duty of confidentiality which the debtor enjoyed while still a customer of the participating institution. Information about individual debtors or guarantors is also protected against disclosure by the Data Protection Acts with which NAMA must comply as a data controller.

NAMA also makes payments to service providers who provide services to it, including the participating institutions as servicers of NAMA loans, property valuers, law firms and loan valuers, among others. A list of service providers who have been appointed to NAMA panels is available onwww.nama.ie. Each of these panels has been established following public procurement processes which are designed to obtain the most competitive fee pricing arrangements for the services concerned.

Brian Stanley

Question:

92 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons who have previously been declared bankrupt who are receiving support of payments from the National Assets Management Agency; the level of support or payment each person has received for their business broken down on a monthly basis since the establishment of NAMA; the location of these businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17929/11]

I assume that the Deputy is referring to NAMA debtors.

A register of bankrupts is available at the Office of the Examiner of the High Court and I am advised by NAMA that bankruptcy searches are carried out by NAMA as a matter of course on any personal borrower/guarantor prior to the advance of new funds or on a restructure. Bankruptcy searches are also carried out prior to loan acquisition. If a debtor becomes bankrupt subsequently, NAMA is informed because of its status as a secured lender.

NAMA cannot disclose the names or details of individual debtors because companies and individuals whose loans have transferred to NAMA and who are meeting their obligations are entitled to have this information kept confidential. I am informed by NAMA that in the case of debtors who have received advances from the agency for working or development capital purposes since March 2010, no information is publicly available on whether any of the debtors involved have previously been declared bankrupt. As regards discharged bankrupts, NAMA advises me that as long as a debtor is complying with their obligations to NAMA both under the NAMA Act and under the terms and conditions of their agreed business plan, the Agency does not concern itself whether that debtor is a discharged bankrupt or not.

NAMA has a commercial remit to manage its portfolio of over €70 billion in nominal terms and it has to consider, on a case-by-case basis, whether it is better to leave a debtor in place to manage his business or to appoint an insolvency expert. Should NAMA not be satisfied as regards the viability of a debtor or should the debtor fail to co-operate fully with NAMA, the agency will take enforcement action against the debtor. To date it has approved the appointment of 57 receivers.

Tax Code

Ciara Conway

Question:

93 Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding plans to tax lump sums payable to fire fighters upon retirement; if this taxation is dependent on years of service; if the tax will apply to the entire sum or a percentage thereof; the rate that will apply; when the tax will come into effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17941/11]

There are no proposals to specifically subject lump sum retirement gratuities of retained fire fighters to income tax other than what applies to all taxpayers.

Section 201 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 and Schedule 3 to that Act set out the legislation in relation to the exemptions that apply to retirement gratuities, and the taxation of any balance after applying these exemptions. The same rules apply to all employees and office holders.

Statutory redundancy payments are exempt from income tax. In addition,ex gratia redundancy payments or retirement gratuities in excess of the statutory redundancy amount are exempt from income tax up to certain limits, namely—

a basic exemption of €10,160 plus €765 per complete year of actual service in excess of the statutory redundancy payment;

or

Standard Capital Superannuation Benefit i.e. 1/15th of the person's annual income (average of the last three years) for each year of employment less any tax-free lump sum which is received or receivable under any approved or statutory pension scheme.

It is open to the taxpayer to choose whichever relief is of most benefit.

The basic exemption from income tax as outlined above can be further increased by up to €10,000 if the person is not a member of an occupational pension scheme. (This can only be claimed if the person has not made any claims in respect of a lump sum retirement gratuity received in the previous 10 tax years.)

Any amount of redundancy payment or retirement gratuity in excess of whichever exemption applies is liable to income tax. However, there is a further relief, called "top slicing" relief, which ensures that the lump sum is not taxed at a rate higher than the employee's average rate of tax for the three years prior to termination.

The Finance Act 2011 introduced a provision to restrict the tax-free element of ex-gratia redundancy payments or retirement gratuities to a lifetime limit of €200,000 with effect from 1 January 2011.

If the Deputy needs any further clarification in relation to an individual case the Revenue Commissioners will be happy to assist.

Banking Sector

Michael McGrath

Question:

94 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the appointment of a new chief executive officer for Allied Irish Banks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17942/11]

Michael McGrath

Question:

95 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will ensure that the salary cap of €500,000 will apply in the case of the appointment of a new chief executive officer at Allied Irish Banks. [17943/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 94 and 95 together.

The search for a new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Allied Irish Banks is continuing. The Deputy will be aware from my statement to the House on 31 March 2011 that this bank is to become one of the two domestic universal full-service banks to act as core pillars to the Irish banking system. How to achieve this objective is the effective job description for the position.

Presently, the Executive Chairman combines both positions of Chairman and CEO as authorised by the previous Government. I am anxious to resolve this situation as it does not accord with good corporate governance practice.

It would be the intention of the Government that the cap of €500,000 would be honoured. I am aware that suggestions have been made that this cap may cause difficulties with recruitment to the position at a time when we are seeking to have the best person available with a view to managing the State's investment and achieving our objectives — different conditions now pertain than when the cap was introduced in March 2009. Nevertheless, as has been stated publicly by the Taoiseach, an exceptionally compelling case would have to be made for the Government to consider setting aside this cap taking account of the recent decision on the pay ceilings for CEOs of Semi States and Senior Public Sector posts and the need for social solidarity to be shown by all individuals and sectors for the good of the nation and its recovery from the present challenging circumstances.

EU-IMF Fund

Michael McGrath

Question:

96 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if dates have been set for the next quarterly review by the troika of the EU/IMF Programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17944/11]

Part of the conditions of the EU-IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland is that there should be quarterly reviews of the programme to assess progress against the agreed targets.

The Review mission comprises a series of meetings to evaluate all the elements of the programme including fiscal developments, the macroeconomic outlook, progress on commitments in the restructuring of the financial sector and structural reform. These meetings, which are ongoing, range from technical discussions at official level to policy discussions at senior official and political level. Following the Review Mission, the staff of the IMF and the European Commission Services prepare staff reports for consideration and approval, respectively by the IMF Executive Board and Eurogroup/ECOFIN at subsequent meetings. This represents the completion of the review process.

The mission element of the third Review takes place between the 6 and 15 July 2011. It is expected that the Executive Board and Eurogroup/ECOFIN consideration will take place in late August and early September.

Banking Sector Regulation

Michael McGrath

Question:

97 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the progress that has been made on the Programme for Government commitment to force banks to absorb a 0.25% interest rate increase by the European Central Bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17945/11]

The Deputy is reminded of the exact terms of the programme for Government:

The Government will examine a number of proposals, including directing any mortgage provider in receipt of State support to present Government with a plan of how it intends to cut its costs, over and above existing plans, in a fair manner by a sufficient amount to forego a 25 basis point increase on their variable rate mortgage.

The Government has published a comprehensive programme setting out the goals to be achieved over the lifetime of the current Dáil. Items in the programme will be addressed in a measured way and prioritised during the five year term.

As part of the restructuring and recapitalisation, the banks are engaging in ambitious cost reduction plans which are already well under way. The effect of these cost reductions will be to improve operating margins and permit the banks to better absorb any future raises in funding costs without passing them on to customers or to indeed pass the savings onto mortgage customers. The Government remains in consultation with the banks in connection with the more significant parts of these plans including a significant reduction of employee numbers.

Tax Reliefs

Michael McGrath

Question:

98 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance when he plans to implement the Programme for Government commitment to increase the mortgage interest relief available to persons who purchased their principal private residence between 2004 and 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17946/11]

Billy Timmins

Question:

100 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Finance if he will be making a statement this month regarding mortgage interest relief which promised the increase of mortgage interest relief to 30% for first time buyers in 2004-08 financing it in part by bringing forward the abolition of relief for new buyers from June 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17967/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 98 and 100 together.

The position is that there is a commitment in the Programme for Government to help homeowners in distress. The Government will examine a number of proposals in relation to this commitment.

One of these proposals relates to increasing mortgage interest relief to 30% for First Time Buyers who bought between 2004 and 2008 and to finance this in part by abolishing mortgage interest relief for new buyers.

When this proposal has been thoroughly examined, I will decide on the appropriate action to be taken. However, any measures will not be introduced before Budget 2012.

Public Sector Staff

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

99 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a full break down by sector, health, education, local authority and so on of numbers of employees currently in the public sector and the way that compares to March 2008 the beginning of the moratorium on public sector recruitment. [17955/11]

The moratorium on public sector recruitment began at the end of March 2009. The following table sets out the changes in numbers serving by sector from December 2008 to the end March 2011.

2008

2011

Qtr 4

Qtr 1

Change from Q4 2008 to Q1 2011

Civil Service

38,817.38

36,762.98

—2,054.40

Defence Sector

11,265.00

10,444.60

—820.40

Education Sector

95,024.34

93,606.91

—1,417.43

Health Sector

111,025.30

105,664.22

—5,361.08

Justice Sector

15,691.50

14,686.39

—1,005.11

Local Authorities

35,007.53

30,416.26

—4,591.27

NCSA

13,060.41

11,875.62

—1,184.79

Total

319,891.46

303,456.98

—16,434.48

Question No. 100 answered with Question No. 98.
Staff Remuneration

Michael McGrath

Question:

101 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will list the number of positions under his control but outside of the Civil Service which will be affected by new salary caps; the specific cuts involved and any impact identified on the ability to recruit or to retain specific positions in the next 12 months. [17980/11]

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin, T.D. has announced the introduction of pay ceilings for higher posts across the public service and for CEO posts in Commercial State Companies. The Minister considers that CEO pay will be reduced in a proportionate manner to include—

a general pay ceiling of €200,000 for future appointments to higher positions across the public service;

a general pay ceiling of €250,000 for future appointments to CEO posts within Commercial State Companies.

While the above provisions will apply to new appointments to posts, the Government has given detailed consideration to the potential legal and contractual issues arising from the imposition of an immediate reduction of salaries on current incumbents (other than the Judiciary) whose salaries are in excess of the proposed salary ceilings. The Government has decided to seek, in the first instance, voluntary waivers of salary of 15%, or by a lesser amount if the application of the full 15% reduction would bring the salary levels of such individuals to below the proposed pay ceiling of, €200,000 for the public service and €250,000 for CEOs of Commercial State Companies.

In imposing the pay ceilings for new appointees, the Government recognises that in a small number of cases exceptions may be necessary. Such exceptions will be limited to instances where the exception is for a role of substantial importance in the public service or a Commercial State Company and the person whose appointment is sought brings exceptional or scarce expertise and/or qualifications to the proposed role. Any such exceptions are subject to the prior approval of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

A review of the current system of Performance Related Award Schemes for CEOs of Commercial State Companies in conjunction with Departments with Commercial State Companies under their aegis to consider whether it would be appropriate to amend the operation of the Schemes and to provide for more direct input and oversight by Ministers is also proposed.

The NTMA and the entities in the NTMA group (State Claims Agency, National Pensions Reserve Fund, National Development Finance Agency and National Assets Management Agency) are not covered by caps on salary.

Departmental Reports

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

102 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm that it is not his Department’s intention to publish the Comprehensive Spending Review. [17991/11]

The results of the Comprehensive Review process will be brought before Government for consideration in the autumn as part of the annual Budget and Estimates process. The question of publication of the outcome of the Comprehensive Review in respect of each Department will arise for consideration in that overall context.

Employment Support Services

John Lyons

Question:

103 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of persons under the age of 25 years on social welfare; the number who are in training or education; the number who have not taken up a training or education place; the number waiting on a place in training or education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17933/11]

My Department understands from the Department of Social Protection that the number of persons under the age of 25 years currently in receipt of Jobseeker's Supports, i.e. Jobseeker's Benefit and Jobseeker's Allowance, is 69,037.

As at end May 2011, there were 21, 953 participants on FÁS training courses. Of these, my Department understands that a total of 9,668 were under 25 years of age.

The total number under the age of 25 currently on waiting lists for FÁS training courses is 7,924.

40,587 learners under 25 years of age are currently availing of Adult and Further Education programmes funded by my Department and operated mainly by Vocational Education Committees (VECs).

In relation to the Higher Education system, I understand from the HEA that it can only provide actual numbers for the 2009/10 academic year in relation to persons who under the age of 25 years. In that regard, the overall number of students under 25 years of age for Institutes of Technology and Universities for the year 2009/2010 was 128,444.

The recent Jobs Initiative increased the number of training and education places available for the unemployed and my Department will continue to explore ways to increase the number of training and education places available for young people.

School Accommodation

John Lyons

Question:

104 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application for the expansion and development of a school (details supplied) in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17680/11]

The Deputy will be aware that in the context of making provision for the long term accommodation needs of the school in question, officials in my Department have conducted technical inspections of two properties at the request of the school authority. A proposal has been forwarded to the land owner for consideration. My Department is currently awaiting a response to this proposal. In the meantime, my Department has approved funding under the Emergency Works Scheme for works to the water main, roof and sewerage system.

School Staffing

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

105 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason no alleviation posts were allocated to a school (details supplied) in County Galway in view of the large number of traveller pupils in the school and the fact that more than five full time equivalent post are being suppressed in the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17702/11]

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

106 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills the criteria used to allocate alleviation posts to primary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17712/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 105 and 106 together.

Limited alleviation or adjustment measures have been provided to assist schools which have high concentrations of Traveller pupils who were previously supported by Resource Teacher for Travellers (RTT) posts. As the Deputy is aware, the decision to remove these posts was taken by the previous Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government in last December's Budget.

In respect of primary schools with DEIS, (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) status, including the school in question, Traveller enrolments have now been included in the valid enrolment for the purpose of allocating additional staffing under DEIS from the 2011/12 school year. Following an adjustment in staffing levels to include pupils previously supported by RTT posts in the valid enrolment for the purpose of allocating additional staffing under DEIS, the school referred to by the Deputy has been allocated 2 additional teaching posts. Adjustment measures have therefore been applied in relation to this school.

Higher Education Grants

Noel Harrington

Question:

107 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review the vocational education committee grant application and appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17724/11]

The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter for a student's grant awarding body. Where a grant awarding authority turns down an application and subsequently rejects an appeal, the applicant may appeal this decision to my Department. No appeal has been received by my Department from the student to date. A review of the case will be carried out as quickly as possible should an appeal be received.

Brian Stanley

Question:

108 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to introduce a third band of higher maintenance grant category in between the full adjacent and half adjacent qualifying distance between the student’s home and college to facilitate those who previously fell into the full adjacent grant category; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17730/11]

I regret that the economic circumstances of the country are such that I am not in a position to reverse or alter any of the changes to the student grant measures announced in Budget 2011 by the previous Fianna Fáil — Green Party Government. These changes included an increase in the qualifying distance criterion for the non-adjacent rate of grant. I understand the concerns of students with regard to the changes to the student grant schemes for the 2011-12 academic year and I will take account of these in considering any future changes as part of the budgetary process for 2012 and beyond, having regard to the position of the public finances.

School Staffing

Seán Kenny

Question:

109 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of persons employed by him by grade and the pay scale by grade. [17738/11]

The staff employed in my Department broken down by grade are set out in the following Table 1. The latest pay scales for non-administrative staff in my Department are set out in Table 2, which has been forwarded to the Deputy. The latest pay scales for General Service Grades which came into effect on 1 January 2010 are set out in Circular 28/2009: Revision of pay of Civil Servants available atwww.finance.gov.ie/documents/circulars.

NON-ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF

Grade

WTE

Accountant

5

Advisory Counsel

2

Architectural Assistant

10

Architect

4.33

Auditor

1

Cleaner

12

Early Education Specialist

1

Engineer

3

General Operative

1

Head Services Officer

1

Deputy Chief Inspector

1

Chief Inspector

1

Assistant Chief Inspector

8

Post Primary Inspector

30.8

Senior Inspector

29

District Inspector

32

Divisional Inspector

28

Manager

3

Director of NEPS*

1

Psychologist

123.13

Regional Director

8

Senior Psychologist

36.33

Quantity Surveyor

4

Supervisor of Cleaners

1

Services Officer

17

Senior Architect

4.73

Senior Statistician**

1

Solicitor

1

Statistician

2

Civilian Driver

4

Telephonist

1

Total

377.32

* Paid equivalent to Deputy Chief Inspector** Payscale Manager Education

ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF (incl.admin staff in NEPS and Inspectorate)

Grade

WTE

Secretary General

1

Assistant Secretary General

8

Director

1

Principal Officers

38.7

Assistant Principal

90

Higher Executive Officers

151.23

Employee Assistance Office (HEO equiv.)

1.00

AO

7.8

Executive Officer

260.39

Staff Officer

38.53

Clerical Officer

298.41

Special Advisor

1

Director of Communications

1

Personal Assistant

2

Personal Secretary

2

Total

902.06

Schools Refurbishment

Derek Keating

Question:

110 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider giving priority to the application for summer work on a school (details supplied) in County Dublin. [17750/11]

I can confirm that the school referred to by the Deputy applied to my Department for funding under the Summer Works Scheme 2011. Unfortunately, due to the scale of demand for funding under the scheme, it was not possible to grant aid all applications. As outlined in the Circular governing the operation of the scheme, applications for works in the higher categories of eligible works were prioritised and it was not possible to include the school referred to by the Deputy in the list of 453 successful schools that was announced on 30 March 2011 and in the further list of 374 schools that were successful under the Jobs Initiative. The school has been advised accordingly. The Deputy will be aware that a major capital project consisting of an extension and refurbishment is currently at an advanced stage of architectural planning. It is intended that the works which were the subject of the Summer Works application will be addressed within the context of this project.

Schools Building Projects

Jim Daly

Question:

111 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the proposed new secondary school application to be built in Skibbereen, County Cork; his views in relation to funding this development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17785/11]

In September 2005, my Department announced the allocation of funding of €300 million for an Education PPP Programme comprising of 23 new post primary schools and 4 new primary schools under a major expansion of the Government's Public Private Partnership Programme. The provision of the proposed new secondary school in Skibbereen was included in that announcement. The first bundle of schools comprising of Coláiste na Sionna, Banagher and Gallen Community School, Ferbane, Scoil Chriost Rí, Portlaoise and St. Mary's CBS Portlaoise have been completed and occupied since September 2010. The second bundle of primary and post primary schools comprising Bantry Community College and Gaelscoil Bheanntraí, Co Cork, Kildare Town Community School, Abbeyfeale Community College, Athboy Community School and Wicklow Town Community College are currently under construction and due to be completed in the 2nd half of this year. The third bundle of schools comprising Athlone Community College, Ballinamore Community School, Doughiska Primary and post primary schools, Galway, Doon Community School, Limerick, Tramore Secondary School, Coláiste Ailigh, Letterkenny and Gorey Community School is currently going through the procurement phase. Construction is due to commence on this bundle in the first quarter of 2012 with an expected completion date by September 2013. The provision of the school in Skibbereen will be considered for inclusion in future bundles of PPP schools. The make up and timing of school bundles in my Department's PPP school building programme will be determined in consultation with the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA). The issues to be considered in the timing and bundling of these schools include site availability for each school, geographical spread and the estimated total cost of the proposed school bundle.

Derek Nolan

Question:

112 Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the current situation with regard to the major capital works project of a school (details supplied) in County Galway, when a decision will issue on this project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17788/11]

As the Deputy is aware, a major project for the school to which he refers was included on the list of projects on the work programme for 2011, which was announced on 24 January 2011, where accommodation briefs will be formulated and the process of appointing a Design Team will commence. In order to progress this matter further, the Department is, in the first instance, reviewing the Schedule of Accommodation to ensure that appropriate provision is being made to meet the school's needs. My Department expects to be in contact with the school authorities shortly in this regard.

Higher Education Grants

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

113 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has plans to make provision for funding to colleges or through partnerships for hardship cases in view of the changes to the student grants due to commence in September and the fact that hardship may be caused in particular to those students affected that had started college prior to these changes being introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17790/11]

The financial circumstances of the country are such that I am not in a position currently to reverse any of the changes to the student grant schemes introduced by the previous Fianna Fáil — Green Party Government or to make extra funding available. However, students on particularly low incomes will continue to receive a "top-up" in the special rate of grant and the Student Assistance Fund at some €5m continues to be made available through the access offices of third-level institutions to assist students in exceptional financial need. The access offices themselves will also provide support and advice to students to enable them to continue with their studies.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

114 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of mature students in receipt of the non adjacent rate of grant which will in September be changed to the adjacent rate; the savings estimated from this particular change; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17791/11]

The Deputy is referring to the change to the student grant schemes introduced by the previous Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government which removes the automatic entitlement of mature students to the non-adjacent rate of grant. It is estimated that some 6,900 mature students live 45 kilometres or less from their institution. From September 2011, students qualifying for the maintenance element of the student grant in this cohort will receive the adjacent rate of grant together with payment of their fees and student contribution as appropriate. A full year saving of €13m is estimated from this measure.

Schools Refurbishment

Seán Crowe

Question:

115 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a school (details supplied) in County Wexford has been included in the 2011 summer works scheme. [17800/11]

I am pleased to confirm to the Deputy that the school to which he refers was among those 453 primary and post primary schools across the country who will be receiving funding under the 2011 Summer Works Scheme. Details of the schools in question are available on my Department's websitewww.education.ie. The school in question has received written notification to this effect from my Department.

Special Educational Needs

Dan Neville

Question:

116 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a laptop will be provided in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [17818/11]

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

Higher Education Grants

Mattie McGrath

Question:

117 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills when the higher education grant applications forms will be available. [17828/11]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the student grant scheme and application form for the 2011/12 academic year was published onwww.studentfinance.ie on 27 June, 2011.

School Enrolments

John McGuinness

Question:

118 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress if any relative to a section 29 appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; the timeframe in this process for a decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17833/11]

The case in question was admitted by the Section 29 Administration Unit of my Department on the 10th June 2011. In accordance with Section 29 of the Education Act 1998, appeals are generally dealt with within a period of 30 days from the date of receipt of the appeal. This appeal hearing is due to take place on 8th July 2011. Following the receipt of the Committee's determination, the Secretary General shall as soon as practicable write to both parties advising them of the outcome of the appeal.

Overseas Students

John Lyons

Question:

119 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of overseas students who will be attending third level educations institutions here in September; the amount of fee income this will generate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17932/11]

Details on the number of overseas students attending third level institutions in September 2011 will not be available until such students have registered with their respective colleges. I understand from the Higher Education Authority that preliminary figures for the 2010/11 academic year show that there were 24,399 international students in higher education institutions in Ireland (not including 1,623 students on programmes run off shore by Irish HEIs). These brought in an estimated fee income of €206m. It is anticipated that, with a more intensive market campaign introduced with the recent launch of the new "Education in Ireland" brand, there will be growth in numbers and income in 2011/12.

Site Acquisitions

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

120 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will secure a site in Buncrana, County Donegal and commence works on the campus with new buildings for schools (details supplied). [17936/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that preliminary discussions have taken place between officials from County Donegal Vocational Education Committee (VEC), Donegal County Council and my Department in relation to a proposed campus development in Buncrana. The VEC appointed consultants to carry out site suitability assessment reports on a number of potential sites in the area and one of these reports is currently with my Department for consideration. Due to commercial sensitivities attached to the site acquisition process I am not in a position to comment further at this point in time. The acquisition of a suitable site and the delivery of new school buildings will be considered in the context of existing commitments and other competing demands on the Department's capital budget.

Schools Building Projects

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

121 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he will make provision for the completion of the balance of permanent accommodation of 2,775M2 at a college (details supplied) in County Donegal in view of the current split campus agrrangement on site which presents operational difficulties inclusive of the deterioration and maintenance of the existing temporary accommodation. [17937/11]

The school to which the Deputy refers has applied to my Department for large scale capital funding. The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects and assigned a Band 2 rating. Information in respect of the current school building programme along with all assessed applications for major capital works, including the project referred to by the Deputy, is available on the Department's website atwww.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.

Vocational Education Committees

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

122 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the case being made by Donegal Vocational Education Committee for the public appointment moratorium to be relaxed to permit the advertisement and appointment of an Education Office and Estates Manager for the VEC. [17938/11]

The Deputy may be aware of the decision of the previous Government to implement a recruitment and promotion moratorium in the public sector. In respect of Vocational Education Committees, including Co Donegal VEC, positions other than teacher and SNA posts in schools, and teacher equivalents that are directly providing tuition to pupils in schools, in special programmes or in adult and further education, are comprehended by this decision. It is a matter for each VEC to implement work prioritisation across different functions, and to deploy available staff to execute those functions. My Department received correspondence in July 2010 from Co Donegal VEC requesting sanction to fill the vacant posts of Education Officer (acting) and Estates Manager. My Department responded by informing the acting Chief Executive Officer that under the terms of the moratorium those vacancies could not be filled and recommending that Co Donegal VEC reorganises or reallocates staff. The proposal referred to by the Deputy was resubmitted as part of Co Donegal VEC's 2011 Service Plan, received by my Department on 27th June 2011. The matter will be reconsidered and my Department will respond directly to the acting CEO.

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

123 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the proposal submitted to him by Donegal Vocational Education Committee under the heading Curricular Programme for Development for Outdoor Education to become a mainstream education service with salaries paid by him, relieving the financial difficulties encountered by the VEC in supporting an outdoor pursuits/education centre (details supplied) on an ongoing basis [17939/11]

The proposal referred to by the Deputy was included in Co. Donegal VEC's 2011 Service Plan, received by my Department on 27th June 2011. Funding for outdoor education centres is approved on the basis that they are self-financing and that their financial activities would be separate from the overall VEC finances. Accordingly, my Department's annual grants are contributory in nature and the allocations go mainly towards the core staffing costs involved in running the centres. I have no plans to change the current funding arrangements.

School Enrolments

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

124 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills the measures he will put in place to ensure a school place in respect of a person (details supplied). [17953/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the enrolment of a child in a school is a matter in the first instance for the parents of the child and the Board of Management of a school. My Department has no role in relation to processing of applications for enrolment in schools. Once a child has been enrolled in a school, the school can then contact the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for special educational needs supports. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support, which now includes a requirement for the NCSE to have regard to an overall cap on the number of SNA posts.

The Deputy may be aware that Circular 0042/2011 provides details of the staffing arrangements which will apply for special schools for the coming school year. This Circular outlines that, other than for schools which have declining enrolments, the existing levels of SNA support will be maintained in special schools for the coming school year, with a review to take place in the Autumn. The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is the statutory agency which assists parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The NEWB will try to help parents to find an alternative school placement if their child has been unable to secure a placement to date.

Special Educational Needs

Finian McGrath

Question:

125 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will not cut the teacher numbers for children with mild general learning disabilities at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 17 [17958/11]

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 meet 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 and where there are enough eligible pupils to retain a class. Schools are required to liaise with their local SENO in the context of any proposed placements in special classes. All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. In respect of pupils with mild general learning disability (MGLD) who are in a class which is being discontinued due to reduced pupil numbers, these pupils will be able to receive teaching support through the teaching resources allocated to the school under the General Allocation Model (GAM). Schools decide themselves how best to use this allocation based on the needs of the pupils and how to adjust their support in line with the changing needs of pupils as they mature. My Department provided a circular SP ED 02/05 to schools to assist them in deploying the General Allocation Model resources. Schools in the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) programme with Band 1 status, including the school in question, receive beneficial GAM allocations in addition to enhanced pupil-teacher ratios.

Finian McGrath

Question:

126 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a special needs assistant in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin [17959/11]

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. 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 are currently in the process of informing schools of their annual SNA allocation for the coming school year.

Croke Park Agreement

Michael McGrath

Question:

127 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has examined the current or potential impact of public service pay or numbers policy on the ability of organisations under his control to allocate and oversee the efficient use of State resources [17970/11]

As the Deputy will be aware the Programme for Government contains a commitment to reduce the total number of public sector employees by between 18,000 and 21,000 by 2014, compared to the total number at the end of 2010. The key to ensuring the successful fulfilment of this commitment is by ensuring that the Public Service Agreement 2010-2014 is implemented fully throughout the public sector.

In the Education sector there have been substantial savings arising from the implementation of staffing and budgetary measures in the period since March 2010. The Moratorium and Employment Control Frameworks have resulted in significant decreases in staffing and payroll savings since the negotiation of the Public Service Agreement.

As you will be aware the Implementation Body established under the Agreement published its first report recently. The Implementation Body considers that the Agreement is a key enabler of economic recovery as it provides for:- more productive public services underpinning wider economic recovery;- more focused public services to support citizens and business affected by the current downturn; and- stability, certainty and a climate of industrial peace, contributing to the restoration of Ireland's reputation. The Agreement provides the mechanism to secure the active co-operation of staff for the changes needed to ensure the significant ongoing reduction in numbers does not adversely impact on services. The Body noted that, since the Agreement was reached at the end of March 2010, there has been initial progress in achieving an increasingly integrated public service which is significantly leaner, more productive and more focussed on the needs of citizens and business. In addition to directly attributable savings, the Agreement is enabling the implementation of measures by my Department which will deliver savings to the Exchequer, because the Agreement and the action plan require unions to co-operate with numbers reductions, Employment Control Frameworks and other budgetary efficiency measures. In the higher education sector, staff numbers have fallen significantly in the last 12 months while student numbers are increasing (3% additional students attending Universities and 12.5% additional students attending IOTs). Non-teaching staff numbers have also fallen in VECs and community and comprehensive schools. These staff numbers reductions are being managed successfully which is especially noteworthy given the increasing student numbers attending primary, secondary and third-level education in the State. As well as enabling management in the education sector to manage services with reduced numbers and budgets, the Public Service Agreement means that teachers and lecturers are required to work additional time. These blocks of additional time, which will be used to maintain and improve education delivery, are significant and would cost substantial sums of money were we to have to pay staff to work them. However, under the Public Service Agreement they are being provided by teachers and lecturers at no additional payroll cost. I firmly believe that the full implementation of this Agreement in the Education sector will facilitate the required reduction in public service numbers in the sector while continuing to sustain and even enhance the delivery of excellent public services, both to the growing cohort of students accessing the Irish education system, and to the wider public.

Public Sector Remuneration

Michael McGrath

Question:

128 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will list the number of positions under his control but outside of the civil service which will be affected by new salary caps; the specific cuts involved and any impact identified on the ability to recruit or to retain specific positions in the next 12 months. [17978/11]

Four positions under my control in the Higher Education Sector will be affected by the new salary cap of €200,000. They are the Presidents of UCD, UCC, NUIG and the Provost of TCD. The approved salary for each position will be reduced by €11,000 approx. No impact on the ability to recruit or retain these positions in the next 12 months has been identified.

Job Losses

Brendan Smith

Question:

129 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the discussions, if any, he has had with a company (details supplied) in relation to its proposal to move jobs to offshore locations; if he will convey to the company the obvious concerns of employees and the need to retain the maximum number of jobs here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17689/11]

I am very concerned about the job losses that have been announced and of the impact that they have had on the workers concerned and their families as well as the communities affected. I understand that Vodafone Ireland, which is not an IDA or EI client, has announced this as a part of a review of its European operations and which will also impact on its operations in other EU Member States. I am advised, as part of this process, that the company has been in discussions with unions and its Irish Call Centre contract partner, Rigney Dolphin. I am aware that Vodafone has decided that a portion of the existing contracted call centre operations in Dundalk and Dublin will be moved to other locations — Egypt and India — within the Vodafone Group and to other specialist contractors in Ireland.

This decision will impact 45 Vodafone roles and 139 in Rigney Dolphin — the 139 staff are employed by Rigney Dolphin but are in-sourced to Vodafone and are based at its sites in Dublin and Dundalk. I have been assured that Rigney Dolphin will work through the implications of the redundancies with their employees. I also understand that all impacted Vodafone employees will be offered the opportunity to transfer to alternative roles within Vodafone Ireland, and voluntary redundancy packages will be offered. A consultation process is now underway with all Vodafone employees affected by the decision to finalise the alternatives available. The changes to Vodafone Call Centre operations will take place in late 2011 and early 2012.

My officials and Minister of State Sean Sherlock recently met with Vodafone. The company explained that in the current market environment, cost efficiencies are a prerequisite so as to ensure their continued ability to compete in the Irish market where they employ over 1,000 people. In particular, this includes being in a position to make major funding investments in Ireland that will be required in the future to compete in the market. I have indicated that I am available to meet with the Communications Workers Union to discuss their concerns.

Job creation is central to economic recovery and the Programme for Government has job creation at its core. The role of my Department is to ensure that we have the right policies in place that will support and grow our enterprise base in order to facilitate both job creation and job retention. The programmes supported by my Department and its agencies will be critical in achieving economic growth through promoting the export potential of enterprise in Ireland and driving our Smart Economy.

Departmental Staff

Seán Kenny

Question:

130 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of persons employed by him by grade and the pay scale by grade. [17735/11]

The following table identifies the number of staff employed in my Department by grade and by relevant pay scale.

By Grade

Full time Equivalents

Pay Scale

Secretary General

1

€215.590

Assistant Secretary

5

€127.796—€153.885

Principal Officer

30

€80,051—€110,844*

Assistant Principal

73.10

€61,966—€88,598*

Administrative Officer

8

€31,619—€60,224*

Higher Executive Officer

126.03

€43,816—€60,224*

Executive Officer

205.73

€29,024—€49,837*

Staff Officer

32.95

€33,070—€46,171*

Clerical Officer

270.67

€22,015—€38,135

Head Accountant

1

€80,051—€110,8448

Accountant Grade 1

7

€65,247—€84,935*

Chairperson

1

€168,000

Controller

1

€93,197—€110,665*

Corporate Compliance Manager

1

€90,355—€110,844*

Deputy Chairperson

2

€127,796—€146,191

Director

2

€127,796—€146,191

Examiner

3

€32,206—€61,963*

Senior Examiner

1

€58,070—€74,416*

Legal Advisor

5.8

€80,051—€103,472*

Solicitor

2

€33,576—€80,678*

Principal Solicitor

1

€84,132—€103,472*

Member

6

€130,676

Min Special Advisor

1

€80,051—€98,424*

Minister’s Personal Assistant

3

€43,715—€56,060*

Minister’s Personal Secretary

3

€456.50—€915.20*

Civilian Driver

6

€631.75 per week

Service Attendant

5

€398.74—€552.08* per week

Service Officer

26

€398.74—€704.36* per week

Telephonist

2.3

€444.17—€715.62* per week

Cleaner

16

€380.76—€465.35* per week

Total

848.58

*After 6 years satisfactory service at the maximum.

Trade Missions

Seán Kenny

Question:

131 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will report on his recent trade mission to the West Coast of the US; the number of persons he met during the visit; the number of officials who accompanied him on the trip and the cost of the trip to his Department to date. [17739/11]

I recently visited the West Coast of the United States from 12th to 17th June 2011 on a marketing programme organized by IDA IrelandI was accompanied by three persons, Barry O'Leary, CEO of IDA, and two officials from my Department.

The primary objective of my visit was to market Ireland as an ideal business location for US companies wishing to invest or increase their investment overseas. It was also an opportunity to further enhance and develop the relationships Ireland has with US companies who already operate here. It is worth noting that 70% of IDA's client base originates in the United States. The programme involved meeting Chairpersons, CEOs and other senior executives of leading companies across all sectors including ICT, Life Sciences and Business Services which are located on the West Coast.

Some of the companies which I met have substantial and valuable activities in Ireland and those meetings focused on retaining, expanding and further embedding the employment footprint here. For companies who do not have a presence in Ireland the focus was to underpin Ireland as the location for their proposed investment activities against intense competition from other locations around the world.

Overall engagement at the meetings was positive with many companies upbeat in their discussions on expansion/growth strategies. I held individual meetings with 22 companies across a number of targeted sectors, including five of the top ten technology companies in the USA. The companies I met include several top internet companies with household names.

The 22 companies employ a total of over 350,000 people worldwide, with combined revenues of over $230 billion. They also include:

13 companies which are present in Ireland already, employing a total of 13,000 people here, as well as several companies which may be considering investing here for the first time;

A total of 15 technology companies;

Several rapidly growing "new technology" companies which are characteristic of the new Silicon Valley boom;

Four leading US life sciences companies;

Companies in international services, entertainment and aviation.

One investment announcement (Aruba Networks, 40 jobs, 13th June 2011) has already been made as part of the trade mission and a number of further announcements are on the way in the coming weeks.

The cost of the visit forms part of the IDA's Marketing and Promotions Budget. Costs for this particular visit have not yet been reconciled but will be available in due course.

Departmental Functions

John Paul Phelan

Question:

132 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the position regarding the restructuring of his Department; the way these new changes will help promote job creation and economic revitalization; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17758/11]

The new structures in my Department are aimed at maximizing the potential of the Department to support mine and the Government's top priority, which is job creation and retention. Each of the Divisions in my Department has a key role to play in supporting this agenda and helping to restore the economy, through improved competitiveness, market liberalization and increasing our export potential.

The new structures will help to support the outcomes of a number of exercises that we are currently engaged in, including the development of a new Strategy for the next three years, a Comprehensive Expenditure Review of current and capital expenditure and modernisation of work practices under the Croke Park Agreement.

A particularly important development has been the establishment of a new:

Competitiveness and Jobs Division, which has responsibility for promoting and delivering the Jobs Strategy and the Jobs Initiative, improving business access to finance including the development of a targeted partial loan guarantee scheme and the setting up of a new micro finance fund, increasing competitiveness, and developing policy in relation to Small Business and Indigenous Enterprise. The Division also monitors the impact of climate change issues on enterprise.

Other Divisions are configured to maximise delivery on the Programme for Government including:

EU Affairs and Trade Policy Division, which has responsibility for Internal Market issues, EU Affairs, with a particular focus on Ireland's upcoming EU presidency from January to June 2013, Multilateral Trade Policy, Economic Immigration Policy and Health and Safety and Chemicals Regulation.

Corporate Services, Employment Rights and Industrial Relations Division, which has responsibility Labour reform and the employment rights regulatory framework, enhancement of dispute resolution machinery as well as responsibility for maximising the Department's own capacity to deliver in terms of HR, financial management and organisational systems and processes.

Innovation and Investment Division, which has responsibility for the IDA and Science Foundation Ireland, the multinational sector and inward investment Policy, as well as for R&D and innovation.

Commerce, Consumer and Competition Division, which has responsibility for Competition and Consumer Policy, Better Business Regulation and Company Law.

County Enterprise Boards

Tom Fleming

Question:

133 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will take cognisance of the job creation activities of the Kerry County Enterprise Board (details supplied). [17767/11]

The Programme for Government and the recent Jobs Initiative set out a number of measures which this Government is taking to assist micro, small and medium enterprises with a view to maximising their potential in the context of economic recovery. These measures build on the existing enterprise supports available to small businesses. Support nationally and locally for micro-enterprises, small businesses and new start-ups is provided by my Department through the wide range of assistance offered by the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) and Enterprise Ireland. The Kerry Enterprise Board plays an active role supporting local micro-enterprises.

The Deputy will be aware that the issue of restructuring the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) has been in the public domain since the publication of the McCarthy Group Report in 2009 under the last Administration.

The CEB model has served the micro-enterprise sector in Ireland well over the years but there is also no doubt that some restructuring of that model is now required. There have been many changes to the social, economic and technological landscape of Ireland since the establishment of the Boards in 1993. I am of the view that it is timely and appropriate to re-structure, and re-focus, how the State delivers its support to the indigenous micro-enterprise sector given that this Sector will be vital to job creation and to overall economic recovery in Ireland.

Both I, and my officials, are currently seeking to determine the extent to which there should be restructuring of the County and City Enterprise Boards having regard to the Programme for Government, and to other recommendations on CEB restructuring, to the need to achieve a rational and focused model for entrepreneurs, as well as the need to ensure that there is targeted local delivery of enterprise support, driven by a national enterprise policy, in a manner which eliminates overlap and duplication.

Employment Rights

Tom Fleming

Question:

134 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will confirm the length of delay in cases referred to the Employment Appeals Tribunal and Rights Committee Services; and the steps he is taking to shorten the periods. [17768/11]

The Rights Commissioner Service comes under the direct remit of the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) which is a statutory body that is independent of me in the performance of its functions. Accordingly, the length of time it takes for the Rights Commissioner Service to schedule hearings is a day-to-day matter for the Service and I have forwarded your Question to the Chief Executive of the LRC and asked that he respond directly to you on the matter.

Insofar as the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) is concerned, the EAT deals with disputes under 18 pieces of Employment Rights legislation. Members of the EAT panel — employee nominee Members, employer nominee Members and independent Chair and Vice-Chairs — are appointed for fixed terms of office and their services are utilised as required. My Department's direct responsibility in relation to the operations of the EAT extends to the provision of staffing resources, ICT facilities and accommodation for the Tribunal.

The EAT has seen a marked increase in its caseload in recent years, as it is one of the front-line services directly impacted upon by the significant economic downturn. Between 2007 and 2009, the number of claims coming to the Tribunal trebled, although there was a slight (7%) decrease in new claims lodged in 2010. However, the first half of 2011 has continued to show a high level of claims being submitted and contested.

Tribunal Staff are conscious that parties in dispute are anxious to have claims dealt with as early as possible and are working extremely hard to deal with the sizeable increase in claims submitted. In that regard, there has been a large increase in the number of claims disposed of by the Tribunal in recent years. These efforts have resulted in a 51% increase in cases disposed of in 2010 over 2008.

The increased number of cases referred to the EAT in recent times has, nonetheless, had a strong impact on case processing timeframes. I am informed that the longest waiting periods at the end of June 2011 ranged from 60 weeks to 90 weeks, although such figures can be somewhat misleading in terms of the very different nature of claims referred to the Tribunal.

Although the EAT conducts hearings in about 36 locations across the State, where the number of cases is relatively small, the Tribunal may wait until a sufficient number of cases are on hand before hearings in certain locations can be listed, so as to maximise value for money in relation to the costs of hearings outside Tribunal HQ. Once a critical mass of cases is assembled, 5 days of hearings in a single location can reduce the "waiting time" in the area concerned by approximately 30 weeks.

In relation to managing its caseload and costs, I understand that the EAT targets areas with the longest waiting period and highest level of claims outstanding, within the resources it currently has available, when scheduling hearings.

The EAT has been pro-active in driving efficiencies as it addresses the significantly increasing demands for its services at a time of significantly constrained resources. Divisions of the Tribunal are sitting longer, listing more cases per hearing, and seeking to manage the caseload so as to maximise efficiency. These efficiencies have resulted in improvements in the service provided to individual applicants and respondents and have also resulted in a significant increase in the EAT's output. In this connection, over 6,000 claims were processed between January and end-December 2010 — the highest number on record.

The EAT is also piloting the streaming of certain types of cases in particular, in order to increase the number of cases being dealt with and assist parties in these instances. The Tribunal is also in the process of developing a "fillable" electronic form, which will facilitate the more expeditious processing of a claim form once lodged. Furthermore, the Tribunal is piloting a specialist Division to hear claims submitted in relation to redundancy payments which are significant in number and where determinations by the EAT are necessary.

Most recently, my Department has supported the EAT in processing its increased caseload through the assigning of additional Tribunal Secretaries and support from the National Employment Rights Authority of my Department in managing the administration of case logging and document preparation. Such cross-unit support has been a vital support to the Tribunal in tackling its caseload.

All of these measures are being taken against the backdrop of severe resource constraints — both monetary and staffing — and I can assure the Deputy that my Department will keep the workload challenges for the EAT under review with a view to assisting it further improve its levels of customer service.

County Enterprise Boards

John McGuinness

Question:

135 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation further to Parliamentary Question No. 18 of 5 May 2011, if he will confirm the county enterprise boards that were consulted; if he will name the boards involved in the process and the extent of the consultation; if he will confirm the number of micro enterprises consulted and their geographic location; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17846/11]

As the Deputy is aware, the issue of restructuring the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) has been in the public domain since the publication of the McCarthy Group Report in 2009 under the last Administration.

A number of submissions concerning the role of the CEBs in the delivery of State support to the micro-enterprise sector have been received from the CEB Network since the publication of the McCarthy Report. I would point out that all 35 CEBs are represented on this CEB Network generally at CEO level. In addition my Officials meet regularly with the CEB Network (up to four times a year) and there have been numerous exchanges of views at these meetings on the issue of CEB restructuring. In addition submissions have been received from the Chairpersons of the CEBs on both a collective and on an individual basis on foot of a specific invitation issued by the CEB Central Coordination Unit to Chairpersons and CEB Board members to make their views known.

Other interested Parties such as the County and City Managers Association have also made submissions on the matter and this is in addition to the recommendations of the Local Government Efficiency Review Group. Although individual micro-enterprises were not specifically selected for consultation I would point out that some representations from members of the public have also been received on the matter.

Both I, and my officials, are currently seeking to determine the extent to which there should be restructuring of the County and City Enterprise Boards having regard to the Programme for Government, and to other recommendations on CEB restructuring, to the need to achieve a rational and focused model for entrepreneurs, as well as the need to ensure that there is targeted local delivery of enterprise support, driven by a national enterprise policy, in a manner which eliminates overlap and duplication.

I can assure the Deputy that the various options regarding the restructuring of the CEBs have been thoroughly examined.

Employment Rights

Micheál Martin

Question:

136 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he has satisfied himself that sufficient protections are in place for employees and contractors who are made redundant by a company in order to be replaced by other employees’ contractors at below registered employment agreement rates. [17948/11]

Micheál Martin

Question:

137 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if his attention has been drawn to any reports regarding companies making employees/contractors redundant in order to take on other employees/contractors at below regulation employment rates; the steps had he taken or will take to deal with same. [17949/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 136 and 137 together.

There are a range of safeguards built in to employment rights legislation to guard against abuses of the employer-employee relationship, particularly when dealing with matters relating to the termination of that relationship e.g. unfair dismissal. Where employees are let go in any job and they are replaced, it may be open to those employees to bring a case of unfair dismissal under the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977-2007. The Unfair Dismissals Acts lay down criteria by which dismissals are to be judged fair or unfair and provide redress for an employee whose dismissal has been found to be unfair. Under the Acts, the onus is generally on the employer to show that the dismissal resulted wholly or mainly from one or more of the grounds specified in the Acts or that there were other substantial grounds justifying dismissal. While one of the grounds justifying dismissal under the Acts is where a genuine redundancy situation exists, the genuineness or otherwise of a redundancy situation will be considered during the hearing of the case.

In addition to the above protections, the Government, by way of the Protection of Employment (Exceptional Collective Redundancies and Related Matters) Act 2007 enacted legislation to address concerns regarding possible compulsory collective redundancy with the planned replacement of workers by direct employees employed by the employer or by the use of other replacement workers by the aforementioned employer in the same location or elsewhere in the jurisdiction, on materially inferior terms and conditions, and with the new workers performing essentially the same functions as those to be made redundant.

The 2007 Act provides a mechanism for the setting up of a Redundancy Panel which allows for referral by employee representatives of a case to the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation who in turn can ask the Labour Court for an Opinion as to whether or not the proposed collective redundancy dismissals were in fact genuine. It also provides for a range of sanctions for situations where dismissals took place contrary to an Opinion of the Labour Court, with particular reference to redundancy rebate entitlements, tax treatment of redundancy payments as well as consideration of Unfair Dismissal entitlements in such situations, and for penalties and appeals.

By way of further obligations imposed under the terms of the Protection of Employment Act 1977, companies proposing collective redundancies must provide certain information to employee representatives regarding the proposed collective redundancy. They must enter into consultation with the employee representatives at least 30 days before anyone receives notice of redundancy. Companies must also notify the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation of the proposed redundancies at least 30 days before any employee receives notice of redundancy. The consultation with the employee representatives and the notification period for the Minister can run concurrently.

I should also emphasise that workers in sectors covered by statutory wage setting arrangements [Registered Employment Agreements (REAs) and Employments Regulation Orders (EROs)] may not be paid lower rates than those provided for in the relevant REA or ERO. REA's and ERO's are enforced by NERA inspectors including the issue of rates payable thereunder. In addition, a party to a REA e.g. in the Construction area can bring a case for a breach of the Agreement to the Labour Court for adjudication. NERA inspectors have power to enter premises, inspect wage sheets and other records, interview the employers and workers concerned, recover arrears and, if necessary, take legal proceedings against an employer who is in breach of an ERO or REA. An inspection can be undertaken either as part of a routine inspection by NERA or on foot of a complaint. I understand that NERA is not aware of any reports of the nature referred to by the Deputy.

The above provisions represent core elements of protections for employees and I am satisfied that the current protections are satisfactory. The situation in relation to contractors, who themselves may have their contract terminated, would be dealt with on a case by case basis as such persons may be employed on a contract-for-services basis rather than a contract-of-service basis i.e. they may be "self-employed" rather than an "employee".

Job Losses

Billy Timmins

Question:

138 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the position regarding the recent announcement by a company (details supplied) that it is moving more than 130 Irish jobs currently engaged in providing customer care services to off-shore locations in Egypt and India.; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17968/11]

I am very concerned about the job losses that have been announced and of the impact that they have had on the workers concerned and their families as well as the communities affected.

I understand that Vodafone Ireland, which is not an IDA or EI client, has announced this as a part of a review of its European operations and which will also impact on its operations in other EU Member States. I am advised, as part of this process, that the company has been in discussions with unions and its Irish Call Centre contract partner, Rigney Dolphin. I am aware that Vodafone has decided that a portion of the existing contracted call centre operations in Dundalk and Dublin will be moved to other locations — Egypt and India — within the Vodafone Group and to other specialist contractors in Ireland.

This decision will impact 45 Vodafone roles and 139 in Rigney Dolphin — the 139 staff are employed by Rigney Dolphin but are in-sourced to Vodafone and are based at its sites in Dublin and Dundalk. I have been assured that Rigney Dolphin will work through the implications of the redundancies with their employees.

I also understand that all impacted Vodafone employees will be offered the opportunity to transfer to alternative roles within Vodafone Ireland, and voluntary redundancy packages will be offered. A consultation process is now underway with all Vodafone employees affected by the decision to finalise the alternatives available. The changes to Vodafone Call Centre operations will take place in late 2011 and early 2012.

My officials and Minister of State Sean Sherlock recently met with Vodafone. The company explained that in the current market environment, cost efficiencies are a prerequisite so as to ensure their continued ability to compete in the Irish market where they employ over 1,000 people. In particular, this includes being in a position to make major funding investments in Ireland that will be required in the future to compete in the market. I have indicated that I am available to meet with the Communications Workers Union to discuss their concerns.

Job creation is central to economic recovery and the Programme for Government has job creation at its core. The role of my Department is to ensure that we have the right policies in place that will support and grow our enterprise base in order to facilitate both job creation and job retention. The programmes supported by my Department and its agencies will be critical in achieving economic growth through promoting the export potential of enterprise in Ireland and driving our Smart Economy.

Public Service Remuneration

Michael McGrath

Question:

139 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he has examined the current or potential impact of public service pay or numbers policy on the ability of organisations under his control to allocate and oversee the efficient use of State resources [17969/11]

I am currently engaged in a number of comprehensive and wide-ranging exercises aimed at identifying appropriate policies and objectives for my Department and its associated Agencies in the context of delivering upon the Programme for Government and assisting national recovery by optimising the focus on the creation and retention of jobs. The exercises encompass a Strategy Review, a Comprehensive Expenditure Review of current and capital expenditure and modernisation of work practices under the Croke Park Agreement all in the context of the public service numbers policy. These exercises, which involve extensive consultation with stakeholders, will help to prioritise the goals and objectives of my Department and its Offices and Agencies and improve their capacity to optimize the use of resources in delivering them.

Michael McGrath

Question:

140 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will list the number of positions under his control but outside of the civil service which will be affected by new salary caps; the specific cuts involved and any impact identified on the ability to recruit or to retain specific positions in the next 12 months. [17982/11]

None of the positions in the Agencies under my control are affected by the new salary caps.

Social Welfare Benefits

Martin Ferris

Question:

141 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Limerick will be paid back money for their supplementary benefit from October 2009. [17693/11]

The HSE has advised that arrears of supplement under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme for the period October 2009 to February 2011 will issue to the person concerned shortly.

Proposed Legislation

John Paul Phelan

Question:

142 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Social Protection if specific legislation relating to length, remuneration and remit of internships is planned; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17755/11]

The Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2011 has passed all stages in the Dáil and Seanad. In relation to the National Internship Scheme, the Bill provides that participants on the scheme will not be employees of host organisations for any enactment or rule of law with the exception of the Tax Acts and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005.

The National Internship Scheme itself will be an administrative scheme operated under my Department's remit. There are no plans to introduce legislation in relation to length, remit or remuneration of internships.

In order to participate in the national internship scheme both a host organisation and an intern must sign a Standard Internship Agreement. This agreement clearly stipulates the terms of the internship including its length, remit and issues such as the maximum number of hours an intern can work. In relation to remuneration participants on the national internship scheme will receive an internship allowance from my Department, which consists of their existing social welfare entitlements plus a weekly top up of €50.

Social Welfare Appeals

Martin Ferris

Question:

143 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry, will receive jobseeker’s allowance [17683/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 24 May 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 1 June 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 Code

Clare Daly

Question:

144 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to the situation which exists whereby persons in receipt of carer’s allowance who are allowed to work 15 hours per week, and work as paid carers for those 15 hours are required to obtain the FETAC level 5 qualification, but the training for this, which is provided by VETAC and is unpaid, counts as 5 of the 15 hours which you are allowed to work.; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17713/11]

A range of training courses are provided for those who wish to work as paid carers with awards granted by FETAC. The Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC) was set up as a statutory body on 11 June 2001 by the Minister for Education and Science.

Carer's allowance is a means tested income support payment for people who are providing full time care and attention to a person in need of such care. A person in receipt of carer's allowance can engage in employment, self-employment, training or education outside the home for up to 15 hours per week and still qualify for the payment.

A qualifying condition for the payment of carer's allowance is that the person receiving care is medically assessed as needing care on a full-time basis. It should be understood that the 15 hours rule covers not just paid work, but training or education activities outside the home, paid or unpaid and which could therefore interfere with the ability of the carer to provide full time care and attention for the person being cared for.

While it is considered reasonable that carers may work or engage in training or education for up to fifteen hours per week and still be able to provide full time care and attention for someone, I have no plans for a further increase in the hours beyond this allowance. Any further expansion would necessarily dilute the very notion of ‘full time care and attention' and could directly impact on the person who needs that care.

Social Welfare Fraud

John Paul Phelan

Question:

145 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Social Protection the way she plans to address the growing problem of prisoner benefit fraud; if this issue will be resolved in the upcoming budget; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17752/11]

The Department has abroad-ranging and comprehensive control strategy. The emphasis is to minimise risks of fraud and eliminate incorrect payments. Ensuring that the right person is paid the right amount of money at the right time is an integral part of the day-to-day work of the Department.

The Department has, in the last number of years, been engaged in data matching with other Government Departments and public bodies for control purposes. Current legislation provides for this information sharing for the purposes of detecting and deterring social welfare fraud. Data matching is viewed as a very efficient and effective mechanism to target control-related activity.

The Department receives data for social welfare fraud control purposes from the Irish Prison Service (IPS). Data is received on a number of occasions annually and is matched against the Department's systems. This data matching is used to identify cases where prisoners are receiving a payment from the Department while in custody. All social welfare payments are terminated where it is confirmed that a prisoner is either in prison or unlawfully at large.

The Department is in regular contact with the IPS in relation to prisoners who may be claiming social welfare payments. It is currently in talks with the Irish Prison Service to enable more scheduled and frequent data sharing in relation to prisoners.

Social Welfare Benefits

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

146 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider the position of workers at a plant (details supplied); if she will ensure that these workers will re qualify for jobseeker’s benefit, in view of the circumstances which prevail at the plant where lay offs were for five weeks in 2008, 11 weeks in 2009, 22 weeks in 2010 and 13 weeks, to date, in 2011; if she will further explain the reason the workers and management at the plant have been unable to secure a meeting with senior Social Protection personnel to discuss their situation, despite having sought this meeting over a period of six months; if she will direct senior personnel in her Department to meet with the interested parties; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17801/11]

Jobseeker's benefit is payable for a maximum period of 312 days or 234 days depending on a person's social insurance record. Workers at the plant in question are currently in receipt of jobseeker's benefit due to reduced working week or temporary lay-offs.

A person in receipt of jobseeker's benefit can re-qualify for jobseeker's benefit when their claim exhausts if they satisfy the normal contributions conditions for qualifying for jobseeker's benefit and have paid at least 13 Class A social insurance contributions from the date that 156 days benefit was paid on their claim. In addition, a part-time worker or a person working on a systematic short-time basis must have suffered a substantial loss to their normal pattern of employment. The decision as to whether or not the substantial loss clause applies can only be made at the time the benefit exhausts and on a case by case basis.

In February 2011, the manager of the local social welfare branch office met with management of the plant where she outlined the conditions for receipt of jobseeker's benefit and supplied them with a written outline of the details. If there is any further clarification required by the management or worker representatives at the plant they should advise the local office accordingly.

To protect the confidentiality of personal details it is not possible to discuss specific cases with management or worker representatives. It is open to individual workers to contact their local social welfare office with any enquiries regarding their eligibility for jobseeker's benefit.

It is the practice of the Department to advise customers well in advance of exhausting their jobseeker's benefit of the option of applying for jobseeker's allowance so that their entitlement to jobseeker's allowance is established once jobseeker's benefit payment exhausts and where the re-qualification conditions for jobseeker's benefit are not met.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

147 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if partial interest relief is payable on foot of mortgage of €1340 per month in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17829/11]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that there is no record of an application for mortgage interest supplement from the person concerned. If the person concerned wishes to make an application for mortgage interest supplement he should contact the community welfare officer at his local health centre.

Social Welfare Appeals

John McGuinness

Question:

148 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if payment of social welfare benefit will be restored in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny and if supplementary allowance will be paid while they are waiting for the matter to be resolved. [17841/11]

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

A supplementary welfare allowance appeal, by the person concerned, was registered in that office on 08 June 2011 and will, in due course, be referred to an Appeals Officer who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

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

John McGuinness

Question:

149 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if a claim for arrears of child benefit has been resolved in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny and if the matter will be finalised soon in view of the original date of the claim. [17842/11]

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 s/he will be informed when arrangements have been made.

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

Question No. 150 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Benefits

Joe Costello

Question:

151 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for rent supplement in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3; if she will explain the request for repayment of rent supplement already paid to them; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17947/11]

People in full-time education are normally excluded from receipt of rent supplement under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. However, people participating in approved courses under the back-to-education allowance scheme receive a standard weekly rate of payment equivalent to the maximum rate of their previous social welfare payment and may retain any secondary benefits, such as rent supplements, which had been in payment prior to the commencement of their education course. It is also open to them to make application for rent supplement in respect of private rented accommodation if they have not been previously getting a supplement. The benefit to those participating in the back-to-education allowance scheme is that their status as a full-time student does not preclude them from receiving rent supplement.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that the person concerned has been notified that an overpayment will be raised against him as he was in receipt of rent supplement while in full-time education. The HSE further advised that the person concerned was not in receipt of the back-to-education allowance while in full time-education. The HSE has further advised that they are in contact with the person concerned to make arrangements to repay the overpayment.

Social Welfare Fraud

Michael McCarthy

Question:

152 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Social Protection the amount of savings made by her in 2008, 2009 and 2010 separately as a result of welfare anti-fraud measures in tabular form; the steps that are currently underway to address welfare fraud; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17963/11]

The prevention of fraud and abuse of the social welfare system is an integral part of the day-to-day work of the Department. A key objective of the Department's control strategy is to ensure that the right person is paid the right amount of money at the right time. A four-pronged control strategy has been adopted by the Department, namely:

prevention of fraud and error at the initial claim stage;

early detection through effective review of claims in payment;

measures to deter fraud; and

the pursuit and recovery of overpayments.

A number of measures are used by the Department to control fraud and abuse. These include desk reviews of claim papers, home visits, the issue of mailshots to selected customers, database checking and medical reviews in the case of illness payments etc. Controls are exercised at both the initial claim stage and at subsequent stages during the claim life cycle. Claims are reviewed on a regular and targeted basis. The Department is also engaged in data matching with other Government Departments and public bodies for control purposes. Following these data matches, selected cases are referred for further investigation. The Department's Special Investigation Unit carries out a wide range of control activities and projects to investigate social welfare fraud and abuse, some of which are done jointly with the Revenue Commissioners and with the NERA. This Unit also participates in multi-agency vehicle checkpoints with other agencies, including the Garda Traffic Corps, Taxi Regulator and the Revenue Commissioners. This year, the Unit's focus will include the hidden economy, cases of concurrent working and claiming, multiple claiming and impersonation cases.

In addition, it should be noted that:

The new Public Service Card will include a photograph and signature to tackle identity fraud. Roll out of the card is planned to commence later this year;

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

It is the Department's policy to consider for prosecution all cases of fraud against the social welfare system. It actively pursues the recovery of debts from all persons who have received social welfare payments to which they were not entitled; and

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

Control Savings are an estimate of the future savings to the Department as a result of the various control activities. Control savings are not actual monies recovered by the Department but are good indications of the increase in social welfare expenditure that would occur if these activities did not take place. Actual monies recovered arise where the Department raises and recovers overpayments in individual cases.

The control savings recorded by the Department for 2010 was €483m. However, due to industrial action, the total 2010 control savings were not fully recorded. The control savings recorded for each of the years 2008, 2009 and 2010 are as outlined in tabular form.

Total Control Savings Recorded

Year

€m

2008

475.9

2009

483.9

2010

483.2

The Department is committed to ensuring that social welfare payments are available to those who are entitled to them. In this regard the control programme of the Department is carefully monitored and the various control measures are continuously refined to ensure that they remain effective.

Public Sector Remuneration

Michael McGrath

Question:

153 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will list the number of positions under her control but outside of the civil service which will be affected by new salary caps; the specific cuts involved and any impact identified on the ability to recruit or to retain specific positions in the next 12 months. [17985/11]

I wish to confirm that none of the positions, in the bodies under the aegis of my Department, are at a salary level of €200,000 or above, and, therefore in this instance, voluntary salary waivers and future reduced starting salary levels would not apply to those positions.

Arts Plan

John Paul Phelan

Question:

154 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if Trinity College, Dublin 2 will play any role in the management of the proposed literary centre at the Bank of Ireland’s historic branch on College Green, Dublin 2; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17753/11]

It is too early to say how the management of any putative cultural facility at the Bank of Ireland might be managed or which bodies might have a role in that management.

Public Sector Remuneration

Michael McGrath

Question:

155 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will list the number of positions under his control but outside of the civil service which will be affected by new salary caps; the specific cuts involved and any impact identified on the ability to recruit or to retain specific positions in the next 12 months. [17974/11]

I am advised that there are no positions in the public service bodies within the ambit of my Department which attract a level of remuneration that will be affected by the new salary caps.

Turbary Rights

Frank Feighan

Question:

156 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht further to Parliamentary Question No. 102 of 22 June 2011, when payment will issue to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17989/11]

I am advised that the Chief State Solicitor's Office has confirmed that contracts were received in 2009 in the case referred to by the Deputy but that these have not yet been signed. Processing of applications to the voluntary bog purchase scheme has been slower than anticipated due to capacity constraints in undertaking the conveyancy work involved. In light of these constraints and of available budgetary resources, priority has been given to applications from within Special Areas of Conservation where turf cutting is no longer permitted or must cease by the end of 2011. The individual referred to by the Deputy has applied to sell land located in Corracramph Bog National Heritage Area in County Leitrim. My Department will be in touch with the individual as his application progresses.

Alternative Energy Projects

John Paul Phelan

Question:

157 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide specific figures related to British financial support for the Irish wind farm industry; if this support will provide the funding necessary to continue development of the growing Irish renewable sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17754/11]

The British Irish Council agreed an All Islands Approach across Ireland and Britain to encourage commercial development of opportunities for generation and transmission, facilitating the cost-effective harnessing of the renewable energy resources available, increasing integration of their markets and improving security of supply.

In the fully liberalised energy markets that are already in place, it is up to the private sector to develop energy projects and there are no proposals to change this.

There is no UK financial support for the Irish wind industry. Financial supports will only be relevant in the context of developing a renewable electricity export market, where the electricity and the ability to measure the renewable value of that electricity towards EU renewable energy targets is being traded across jurisdictions. Details of any such proposals between Ireland and Britain remain to be worked out in the ongoing work programme.

Telecommunications Services

John Paul Phelan

Question:

158 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the proposed high speed broadband scheme; the prospects of job creation with this plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17760/11]

The provision of electronic communications services, including the provision of high-speed broadband, is, in the first instance, a matter for private sector service providers, regulated by the independent regulator, the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg).

Under the NewERA proposals in the Programme for Government, there is a commitment to co-invest with the private sector and commercial Semi State sector to provide Next Generation Broadband to every home and business in the State. Earlier this month, I convened a meeting of the Next Generation Broadband Taskforce (NGBT), which I chair. The Taskforce comprises the CEOs of all of the major telecommunications companies currently operating in the Irish market and CEOs of some Internet Service Provider companies. Its purpose is to discuss how best to deliver the optimal policy environment and to identify a roadmap for the speedy delivery of high speed broadband across Ireland. The Taskforce will consider issues such as appropriate targets, investment plans, and the role of Government policy and actions in driving and facilitating investment.

The private sector is continuing to invest in the delivery of high speed broadband and new technologies, services and business models are emerging to deliver faster speeds to more consumers. I expect that the NGBT will help to identify the optimal policy position to facilitate that investment and deliver wider customer access to high-speed broadband generally. The delivery of high speed broadband will facilitate employment and economic growth not just in the build out of critical infrastructure but also by providing improved broadband access for business and consumers.

Public Sector Remuneration

Michael McGrath

Question:

159 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will list the number of positions under his control but outside of the civil service which will be affected by new salary caps; the specific cuts involved and any impact identified on the ability to recruit or to retain specific positions in the next 12 months. [17975/11]

My colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin, T.D, recently announced the terms of a Government Decision for the introduction of pay ceilings for higher posts across the public service and for CEO posts in Commercial State Companies. The salary caps are as follows:

A general pay ceiling of €200,000 for future appointments to higher positions across the public service; and

A general pay ceiling of €250,000 for future appointments to CEO posts within Commercial State Companies.

In addition, the Government signalled its intention to seek voluntary waivers of 15% of salary from current incumbents whose salaries are in excess of these figures or a lesser amount if the application of the full 15% reduction would bring their salary level below the thresholds.

By capping the pay of new appointees, the Government recognises there may be a small number of exceptions where the role is of substantial importance in the public service or a Commercial State Company and the person whose appointment is sought brings exceptional or scarce expertise and/or qualifications to the proposed role. Any such exceptions will be subject to the approval of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. Future recruitment will be managed within these parameters.

The table sets out the numbers of posts in Bodies under my aegis which exceed the thresholds.

Name of Body

Number of posts at CEO level where salary exceeds €250,000

ESB

1

An Post

1

Bord Gáis Éireann

1

Nuclear Plants

Gerry Adams

Question:

160 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on recently published plans by the British Government that could see it build a next-generation nuclear power plant adjacent to the controversial Sellafield site in Cumbria by 2025. [17707/11]

Ireland recognises the right of States to determine their own energy mix, including whether or not to develop nuclear power. It is Ireland's expectation that, where a State chooses to develop a nuclear power industry, this will be done in line with the highest international standards with respect to safety and environmental protection.

In view of the potential for transboundary impacts, however unlikely, the importance of prioritising nuclear safety and environmental protection is a matter of concern to non-nuclear States such as Ireland. With regard to the UK's plans for new nuclear build, including at Sellafield, my Department has engaged bilaterally with the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change on these plans since they were first signalled a number of years ago.

My Department has also participated in formal UK Government consultations on the issue, including on the Nuclear National Policy Statement recently published by the UK. This engagement serves to highlight to the UK any concerns identified from Ireland's perspective in relation to the planned new nuclear build. Concerns raised to date have related to the long-term management of radioactive waste, about which there are a number of unresolved issues. My Department has also questioned whether the potential cumulative impacts of having multiple nuclear sites in one area have been adequately assessed, including with respect to emergency planning and response and radioactive discharges to the Irish Sea.

As part of these ongoing discussions UK authorities have advised my Department that they have identified no likely significant transboundary effects. I will continue in these efforts to ensure that the UK authorities are made aware of and address our concerns and take all possible steps to ensure that the highest levels of safety apply at Sellafield and any other new plants to be developed in the coming years. At the request of my Department, the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland is conducting an independent assessment of possible impacts for Ireland from the UK's new nuclear build programme. This work is ongoing and it is expected that the results of the assessment will be provided to my Department in Autumn 2011.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Michael McCarthy

Question:

161 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 266 of 5 April 2011, if Cork County Council has submitted forms to him which were needed to process the Bandon wastewater treatment and sewerage scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17725/11]

Cork County Council submitted the Contract Documents for the sewerage network element of the Bandon Sewerage Scheme Phase 2 on 8 June 2011 and this documentation is currently under consideration in my Department. My Department is awaiting the submission by the Council of a revised brief for the appointment of Consultants to prepare a Preliminary Report for the upgrade of the wastewater treatment plant.

Timmy Dooley

Question:

162 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding the Tubbercurry, Grange and Strandhill waste water treatment plant bundle in County Sligo; when authorisation to proceed with the contract award and commencement of construction stage will be given; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17824/11]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 57 of 17 May 2011 which sets out the position in this matter.

Local Authority Housing

John McGuinness

Question:

163 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the level of funding required by Kilkenny County Council to enable them to carry out works to local authority houses in which tenants have special needs; when a decision will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17834/11]

My Department allocated €317,377 to Kilkenny County Council on 23 May, 2011 to enable them to meet their expenditure in 2011 in respect of Improvement Works in Lieu/Extensions and Disabled Person's Grants. It is a matter for the County Council to decide which works should be carried out under these headings subject to full compliance with my Department's scheme conditions.

Commercial Rates

Brendan Smith

Question:

164 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the proposals, if any, he has to reduce the burden on ratepayers, particularly those with small businesses in view of the growing concern about the inequity of the system which does not take into account ability to pay, for instance, when a substantial reduction in turnover occurs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17848/11]

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, determined by the Valuation Office, 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.

A ratepayer can appeal the valuation of a property to the Commissioner of Valuation under the provisions of sections 30-33 of the Valuation Act 2001. This Act comes under the remit of the Minister for Finance. I recognise that these are difficult economic times for many businesses and I will continue to keep all matters relating to rates under regular consideration in my Department.

Planning Issues

Jack Wall

Question:

165 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that receivers who have being appointed to development companies who have housing estates on their property books that have not being taken in charge by a local authority are now stating that they have no responsibility for the every day running of such estates where they state there is no saleable assets in the specific estate; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that this action is leaving hundreds of home owners without many of the services that are provided in such estates that is watersewerage, lighting and so on when problems occur with such services; the actions he will take to overcome such legal issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17850/11]

The developer of any development, including a residential development, is statutorily required to complete the development in accordance with the terms of the planning permission and any conditions attached to the permission, such as a requirement for the establishment and operation of a management company. A development which has not been completed in accordance with the planning permission is unauthorised development and may be subject to planning enforcement. These provisions apply to all residential developments, whether or not they are to be managed by a management company.

Insofar as the taking in charge of residential developments is concerned, Section 180 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 provides that, where an estate is completed to the satisfaction of the planning authority in accordance with the planning permission (and any conditions attached to the permission), the planning authority must initiate taking in charge procedures as soon as possible following a request to do so by the developer or by the majority of the owners. Similarly, where an estate has not been completed to the standard outlined in the planning permission and the planning authority has not taken enforcement action within the appropriate period, section 180 also provides that the planning authority must initiate taking in charge procedures if requested to do so by the owners of the units concerned. The decision as whether an estate should be taken in charge is ultimately one for the elected members of the planning authority.

Section 180 was amended in the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010 to provide that a planning authority may take in charge an unfinished estate at any time after the expiration of the planning permission, in situations where enforcement actions have failed or the planning authority has not taken enforcement action. Planning authorities were also specifically empowered in 2010 Act to take in charge part of an estate, or some but not all of the facilities in an estate.

Housing estates and apartment developments not taken in charge normally remain private developments until such time as the owners of such developments take the necessary steps to have the development taken over by the relevant local authority. In the case where a receiver has been appointed by a financial institution, it is a matter for that receiver and institution to consider what steps they may wish to take to have the development taken in charge, including the realisation of assets on other sites within the control of the overall group in receivership, to fund any necessary works.

Commercial Rates

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

166 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to enable businesses to challenge their local authority rate setting processes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17940/11]

A ratepayer can appeal the valuation of a property to the Commissioner of Valuation under the provisions of sections 30-33 of the Valuation Act 2001. This Act comes under the remit of the Minister for Finance.

A ratepayer may also appeal against the rate made by the local authority. The appeal is to the Circuit Court and must be made within four months of the publication of the notice by the local authority that the rate has been made. The grounds of appeal under the Poor Relief (Ireland) Act 1838 are:—

(1)the ratepayer is aggrieved by the rate;

(2)the ratepayer has material objection to any person or persons being included in or excluded from the rate;

(3)the ratepayer has material objection to the sum charged on any person.

The rate is properly due and payable pending the outcome of any appeal.

Capital Projects

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

167 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding the capital programme submitted to his Department by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council for approval; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17954/11]

Consideration of the proposed programme of capital projects is a matter for the local authority concerned, in this case Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council.

In February 2009, my Department set out details of the financial requirements for local authorities relating to their overall management of capital and current accounts. These requirements flow directly from the requirement for Government finances as a whole to be managed in accordance with the Stability and Growth Pact established under the Maastricht Treaty, and the associated limitation on budget deficits.

The Government set a limit of €200m for the contribution of the local government sector to the deterioration in the General Government Balance (GGB) in any one year. This is not a new requirement. However, the downturn in the economy and substantial pressures on Government funding generally require a sharp focus in all sectors, including local authorities, to ensure effective control and management of public finances.

In order to stay within the overall GGB limits, it is necessary for local authorities to maintain both their current and capital accounts broadly in balance. The only restriction on local authorities is that, in aggregate, capital income equals capital expenditure in the year. Balance is only required at an overall level and this allows considerable scope for authorities to draw on their existing capital reserves as an element of their overall investment programme. The precise manner in which capital and current accounts are managed in order to achieve the overall balance necessary is a matter for individual local authorities themselves.

However, within these overall limits, there is additional capacity for non-mortgage borrowing and the expenditure of capital balances on hand by local authorities. Subject to the maintenance of balanced current and capital accounts, and allowing for the repayment of existing borrowings, up to €250m in new loan finance and expenditure of capital balances on hand can be made available to the local government sector annually to fund capital investment in necessary infrastructure projects. The process of prioritising applications for such projects for 2011 is completed and my Department has been guided by local authorities in respect of the most critical projects requiring funding at this time. While I appreciate that these GGB requirements impose limitations on local authorities, there are considerable funding constraints at all levels of Government. It is a matter for every local authority, including Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, to determine its own spending priorities in the context of the annual budgetary process having regard to both locally identified needs and available resources within the GGB limits as set out. My Department will continue to work with all local authorities to ensure that, within the context of the overall GGB requirements, decisions on matters of capital investment are taken in a way which maximises available resources and gives the necessary prioritisation to environmental, economic and social infrastructure.

Social and Affordable Housing

Billy Timmins

Question:

168 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding the new social housing regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17957/11]

Sections of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2009 dealing with social housing support, and related Social Housing Assessment Regulations, 2011, were commenced on 1 April 2011. A new standard procedure for assessing applicants for social housing was introduced in every housing authority.

One of the important provisions of the new regulations is that a household need only apply to one housing authority for the purpose of determining whether or not they have a housing need. The idea behind the new arrangements is to streamline the process of applying for social housing support, both for the applicant and the local authority, while at the same time allowing a reasonable level of choice to households as to the areas in which they would like to receive social housing support.

A household may apply to the housing authority for the functional area

where it normally resides — this would include a household residing in rented accommodation, or

where it has a local connection.

In accordance with the Regulations a local connection can be established if the applicant or a member of the household;

has lived in the area for a continuous 5 year period previously;

is employed in the area or within 15 km of the area;

is in full-time education, or attending specialist medical care in the area;

has a relative living in the area for 2 years or longer.

"Relative" of a member of the household is defined in the Regulations as a parent, adult child or sibling and may include another relative, such as a stepparent, grandparent, grandchild, aunt or uncle, who has close links with the household member in the form of commitment or dependence.

A household may then specify up to three areas of choice in any housing authority in the county. At least one of these choices must be in the functional area of the housing authority of application. Therefore, a household living in, or having a local connection with, a town council area, may make a single application to that town council for housing support in the town, but on that application may also express its choice to live in areas within the wider administrative county council area.

Alternatively, a household living in, or having a local connection with, the county area may choose to apply to the county council, but also express areas of choice within the town council areas in the county. Eligible households will appear on the waiting lists of each of the authorities where they have expressed areas of choice. A housing authority may also decide at its discretion to accept a household who does not meet these residence or local connection criteria. In this case, the household may only express areas of choice within the functional area of that particular housing authority.

Public Sector Remuneration

Michael McGrath

Question:

169 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will list the number of positions under his control but outside of the civil service which will be affected by new salary caps; the specific cuts involved and any impact identified on the ability to recruit or to retain specific positions in the next 12 months. [17979/11]

The only position in agencies under the aegis of my Department that will be affected is the Chairperson of An Bord Pleanála. The Government recently approved the appointment of a new Chairperson to An Bord Pleanála. The Chairperson of An Bord Pleanála holds office on such terms and conditions as are determined by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government with the consent of the Minister for Finance and in accordance with section 106(14) of the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2010. The pay of the Chairperson of the Board of An Bord Pleanála is currently linked to the pay of a judge of the High Court, but it is intended that relevant legislation will be amended in this regard as soon as possible.

Legal Employment

Sean Conlan

Question:

170 Deputy Seán Conlan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the opportunities he will make available to law graduates who have completed the FE1 solicitor’s exams but who cannot, due to the economic downturn, secure apprenticeships to complete their qualification. [17797/11]

I share the Deputy's concern that access to the solicitor's profession is limited because of the way in which apprenticeships operate. This long-standing difficulty is particularly exacerbated by the recession in the economy at present. I have recently been in touch with the Law Society to ascertain its views on how matters can be improved and I am looking forward to its response.

Legal Aid Service

John Lyons

Question:

171 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the average waiting period by county, to access free legal aid services in 2009 and 2010; the waiting times by county; his plans to address these waiting times; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17715/11]

I can inform the Deputy that, while it is difficult to quantify average waiting times for access to free civil legal aid services, the information following provides a breakdown of the waiting time for a non-prioritised matter in each County for 2009 and 2010. On the matter of the Legal Aid Board's plans to address the waiting times the Deputy might wish to review the detailed information provided in Parliamentary Questions number 1 and 15 of 23 June 2011 in which I explained the background to the increased waiting times and the measures that the Board has taken to try to alleviate the problem.

County

Average Waiting Times (Months) 2009

Average Waiting Times (Months) 2010

Dublin

4

4

Cork

5

6

Cavan

4

4

Clare

3

3

Donegal

2

3

Galway

6

3

Kerry

4

5

Kildare

5

6

Kilkenny

2

3

Laois

4

4

Limerick

1

2

Longford

4

4

Louth

0

0

Mayo

3

4

Meath

3

4

Monaghan

3

4

Offaly

3

4

Sligo

3

4

Tipperary

5

6

Waterford

3

3

Westmeath

4

5

Wexford

5

7

Wicklow

6

6

I can further inform the Deputy that there are no waiting lists associated with the criminal legal aid scheme. The assignment of lawyers, or the granting of aid are matters for the Court and, as such, are handled by the judiciary. The Court must be satisfied that, by reason of the "gravity of the charge" or "exceptional circumstances", it is essential in the interests of justice that the applicant should have legal aid. An applicant for criminal legal aid must establish to the satisfaction of the Court that his/her means are insufficient to enable him/her to pay for legal representation him/herself and if the Court is so satisfied it will award criminal legal aid.

John Lyons

Question:

172 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons by county currently waiting to access free legal aid services: if he will provide a breakdown of the nature of the applications that is family law and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17716/11]

I can inform the Deputy that as of 1 June 2011 there were 3,806 persons awaiting a first appointment with a solicitor under the civil legal aid scheme. A breakdown of this figure by county is provided in the following table. The Legal Aid Board does not maintain management information in relation to the nature of the problem for which applicants seek legal services. However, I understand that of the cases in which the Board provided services in 2010 approximately 84% of them related to family disputes, with a further 4% related to children at risk of being taken into care by the HSE. The remainder related to a range of non-family law civil matters.

County

Numbers Waiting at 1 June 2011

Dublin

827

Cork

434

Cavan

92

Clare

113

Donegal

27

Galway

74

Kerry

92

Kildare

238

Kilkenny

217

Laois

205

Limerick

41

Longford

82

Louth

24

Mayo

120

Meath

141

Monaghan

108

Offaly

106

Sligo

81

Tipperary

178

Waterford

104

Westmeath

137

Wexford

236

Wicklow

129

I can further inform the Deputy that there are no waiting lists associated with the criminal legal aid scheme. The assignment of lawyers, or the granting of aid are matters for the Court and, as such, are handled by the judiciary. The Court must be satisfied that, by reason of the "gravity of the charge" or "exceptional circumstances", it is essential in the interests of justice that the applicant should have legal aid. An applicant for criminal legal aid must establish to the satisfaction of the Court that his/her means are insufficient to enable him/her to pay for legal representation him/herself and if the Court is so satisfied it will award criminal legal aid.

Proposed Legislation

Dan Neville

Question:

173 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to introduce legislation to regularise the time frame to register title following completion to purchase property. [17722/11]

The position is that under section 24 of the Registration of Title Act 1964 compulsory first registration of title has been extended to all sales of freehold land and assignments of leases of more than 21 years' duration with effect from 1 June 2011. This means that where any such unregistered land is sold or assigned after that date, the title must be registered in the Property Registration Authority.

Section 25 of the 1964 Act (as substituted by section 128 of the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009) specifies the consequences of non-registration. It provides that a person shall not acquire an estate or interest in land in any case in which registration of title is compulsory unless the person is registered as owner of the land within 6 months after the purported acquisition or at such later time as the Property Registration Authority may sanction in any particular case.

Where land which is already registered in the Property Registration Authority is sold or assigned, the Registration of Title Act 1964 does not specify a time limit within which the change in ownership must be registered. It is however very much in the interests of a purchaser to register the change without undue delay as the estate or interest in the land, together with all associated rights, vest on actual registration and in the absence of such registration, the protection afforded to purchasers by registration, including the State guarantee of title, will not apply to the land.

Residency Permits

Dara Murphy

Question:

174 Deputy Dara Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the immigration status of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17727/11]

I have been informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service that the person in question has both permission to remain and work in the State.

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

Small Claims Court

Brian Stanley

Question:

175 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to increase the threshold of claims that may be brought to the Small Claims Court; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17732/11]

The current maximum value of cases that can be taken under the small claims procedure of the District Court is €2,000. This limit was set in 2006 and was last reviewed in 2009 in advance of the expansion of the scheme to cater for business to business claims of the same nature which came into effect on 5 January 2010. I am informed that the review found that the existing limit was appropriate and should remain unchanged as an increase risked a negative impact on the level of service provided by Small Claims Registrars throughout the country. The procedure is labour intensive but provides a satisfactory service at present.

In addition, new European Small Claims Procedures, provided for under Regulation (EC) No. 861/2007, were introduced in 2009. These procedures also provided for a maximum claim limit of €2,000.

My Department will continue to keep the matter under review.

Brian Stanley

Question:

176 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if a company contracted by a person to provide a service to that person may bring seek redress from that person through the Small Claims Court for non-payment of the aforementioned service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17733/11]

The small claims procedure of the District Court is an alternative method of dealing with a civil proceeding in respect of a small claim. The majority of claims are dealt with by administrative staff in the local District Court offices. Typical claims are:

a claim in respect of goods or services purchased from somebody selling them in the course of a business

minor damage to property (excluding personal injuries) and

the non-return of a rent deposit for certain types of dwellings.

Since 5 January 2010 the procedure has been expanded to allow for business to business claims of the same nature. The procedure does not cover claims in respect of debts, personal injuries or breaches of leases or higher purchase agreements. Generally such cases may be more effectively and speedily dealt with by way of civil bill. However I have requested my officials to review the matter.

Prison Service Recruitment

Sean Fleming

Question:

177 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when recruitment will re-commence into the Irish Prison Service for the position of prison officers; the position regarding those who have applied some time ago and are currently on a panel; if persons will be recruited from this panel this year; the number expected to be recruited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17734/11]

I am informed by the Irish Prison Service that a panel of suitable candidates for the position of Prison Officer was created following a recruitment process in 2008 and this remains in place. A total of 480 candidates have so far been called for interview, and 179 have been recruited.

Any further recruitment will be considered in the context of discussions which are ongoing in relation to staffing levels under the Transformation Agenda and the Croke Park Agreement. In this context too, the Deputy will be aware that the Irish Prison Service is subject to the moratorium on public service recruitment and recruitment is subject to the approval of the Minister for Public Service Expenditure and Reform.

Garda Equipment

Seán Kenny

Question:

178 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of additional Garda riot helmets and garda riot shields purchased in 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011; the cost for each year and the name and contact details of the company that supplies An Garda Síochána with the riot shields and riot helmets. [17745/11]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that 1,350 helmets were purchased in 2008, 350 in 2009 and 150 in 2010. The contract for supply of helmets was awarded to Helmet Integrated Systems Ltd., Stranraer, Scotland. No riot shields were purchased in the period referred to by the Deputy.

I am further advised that, for commercial competition reasons, it would not be appropriate to provide details of the cost of individual items.

Juvenile Liaison Service

Seán Kenny

Question:

179 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of Garda juvenile liaison officers by rank in the Dublin region; the stations to which they were attached and his plans to increase this number. [17746/11]

I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the number of Garda Juvenile Liaison Officers by rank in the Dublin Region on 31 May 2011, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was as set out in the following table:

Division/Station

Sergeants

Garda

Total

DMR South Central

1

4

5

DMR North Central

0

3

3

DMR North

1

10

11

DMR East

1

5

6

DMR South

1

8

9

DMR West

1

8

9

Total

5

38

43

I wish to inform the Deputy that the Programme for Government includes a commitment to give a special emphasis to alternative programmes for young offenders through extensions to the Juvenile Liaison Officer Scheme and the Diversion Programme. I will be considering the implementation of this measure in consultation with the Garda Commissioner and with my colleague the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

Crime Prevention

Seán Kenny

Question:

180 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of Garda crime prevention officers by rank in the Dublin region; the stations to which they were attached and his plans to increase this number [17747/11]

I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that within each Garda Division in the Dublin Metropolitan Region there are specialist Crime Prevention Officers who are of Sergeant Rank. They are trained to encourage, promote and advise on crime prevention to both private and business communities.

There are 10 Crime Prevention Officers in the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR), 6 of which are attached to the 6 Garda Divisions as set out in the following table:-

South

North

East

West

North Central

South Central

Tallaght

Santry

Shankill

Blanchardstown

Store Street

Pearse Street

The remaining 4 are attached to the National Crime Prevention Unit in Harcourt Square providing national support. The allocation of Garda resources, including personnel, is a matter for the Garda Commissioner and his senior management team. Resource levels are constantly monitored, in conjunction with crime trends and the situation is kept under continuing review to ensure optimum use is made of all resources and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public.

Ministerial Transport

Seán Kenny

Question:

181 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of drivers and vehicles that are currently in use for the Ministerial transport for the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011; the age and type of vehicles that are being used in each of the years and the cost of the Ministerial transport for the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011 [17748/11]

I have requested the information sought by the Deputy from the Garda authorities. I will be in contact with the Deputy when this information is to hand.

Garda Transport

Seán Kenny

Question:

182 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the amount spent on maintenance and repairs to Garda vehicles for the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011; the name of the garages that were awarded the contract for the maintenance and repairs to Garda vehicles and the length of the contract. [17749/11]

I have requested the information sought by the Deputy from the Garda authorities. I will be in contact with the Deputy when this information is to hand.

Magdalene Laundries

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

183 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the date the independent chair of the Magdalene Laundries inter-Departmental Committee will be appointed; will the terms of reference of the Committees’ investigation include access to relevant Government Departments records including his Deparment who approved on a Statutory basis the use of St. Mary Magdalene’s Asylum, Lower Sean McDermott Street, Dublin 1 as a remand institution. [17766/11]

The Deputy can be assured that I am considering the appointment of an appropriate independent person to chair the inter-departmental Committee and hope to make an announcement next week. As I said in the House last week, this will be a person of stature whose independence will not be open to question.

All relevant Departments which retain information that gives an insight into the level of State involvement or contact with the Laundries will be represented on the committee. Its terms of reference will include the making of such records available as far as possible while respecting the rights of the individuals to privacy. The committee will be required to produce an interim report on progress made within three months of its establishment.

I might also add that my own Department has previously offered, and will continue to offer, every assistance possible to allow access to the available records in the normal way.

Proposed Legislation

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

184 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when the heads of Bill for the legislation required to end upward only rents will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17771/11]

I intend to bring proposals before Government in the near future to address the commitment in the Programme for Government to abolish upwards only rent reviews in existing business leases. No decision has yet been taken as to when any legislative proposals will be published.

Refugee Status

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

185 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding an application for family re-unification in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17772/11]

I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that the person referred to by the Deputy was granted refugee status in April 2005 and became eligible to apply for family reunification. He subsequently made a Family Reunification application in respect of his wife and daughter in October 2005.

I am advised that the file relating to this application is not lost and covers the period from 2005 to date. The applicant has failed at all times in that period to provide the necessary information and documentation to allow the application to progress to decision stage.

I am further advised by INIS that a letter issued to the legal representative of the person concerned on 28th April 2011 requesting further information and original documentation. The necessary information and documentation requested have not been received and a further letter has issued detailing the information necessary to finalise the application.

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

Garda Vetting of Personnel

Seán Crowe

Question:

186 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the numbers of persons living in Dublin South West who are currently awaiting garda vetting for supervised work or voluntary work with children and vulnerable adults; the longest waiting period for same; the number of personnel assigned to deal with the waiting lists to an acceptable level and if he will consider requesting that the Garda Commissioner temporarily assign additional staff to the Vetting Unit to speed up the processing of applications. [17787/11]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that applications for Garda vetting received from registered organisations are recorded by name and date of birth of the person for whom a vetting request is being made and not by reference to geographical origin. Accordingly, it is not possible to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

I recognise that it is important to process these applications within a reasonable time frame both for the benefit of the applicants and the organisations involved. I am determined to address this aspect of the Garda vetting process.

A number of immediate measures are being taken to improve the situation. The sanction of the Department of Finance has been obtained to retain the services of ten temporary employees in the Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU). A further sanction has been obtained to engage an additional ten temporary employees for the Unit and the process of recruiting these is underway. This should have an impact on processing times. In addition, further steps are under consideration with a view to alleviating the pressure on the staff of the GCVU and to reduce the time taken for the processing of applications.

I am informed by the Garda Authorities that at present there is a total of five gardaí, 76 full-time Garda civilian personnel and ten temporary civilian personnel assigned to the GCVU. This represents a very significant increase in the level of personnel assigned to the unit, which stood at only 13 before the current process of development in Garda vetting began in 2005.

The average processing time for vetting applications fluctuates in line with periods of increased demand. In processing an individual vetting application, additional time may be required in cases where clarification is needed as to the details provided or where other enquiries need to be made, for example, when the person in question has lived and worked abroad. There will always be a reasonably significant time period required to process a vetting application. Registered organisations have been advised to take account of this in their recruitment and selection process. However, the Garda makes every effort to reduce the time to the minimum possible consistent with carrying out what are very necessary checks. I am informed by the Garda authorities that, at present, the average processing time for vetting applications received at the GCVU is approximately 10 weeks.

The GCVU has managed a substantial increase over recent years in the numbers of vetting applications it receives from around 188,000 in 2007 to almost 292,000 in 2010. At present, there are approximately 55,000 applications in the course of being processed.

Missing Persons

John McGuinness

Question:

187 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans regarding the demand for a special unit within the police force to investigate cases of missing persons; if he will consider the on going use of qualified persons in this area of investigation from other jurisdiction; his plans to put in use the EU hotline number reserved by the EU commission since 2007 relative to missing children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17832/11]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that all incidents where a person has been reported missing remain under investigation until such times as the person is located. The District Officer (Superintendent) in the area where a person has gone missing takes direct responsibility for all investigations and searches carried out. Local investigation teams are appointed by the District Officer, and all means necessary, including the services of specialist units, are deployed to assist in these investigations, as considered appropriate.

The Garda Missing Persons Bureau, which is responsible for all data relating to missing persons, provides expert assistance and advice to District Officers in all high risk missing person cases. Incidents of persons reported missing are subject to review, on a regular basis, by the Missing Persons Bureau.

I am informed that the Garda authorities are satisfied that adequate resources, including staff and technological resources, are in place to deal with missing persons cases and are in line with best international practice.

The telephone number to which the Deputy refers has been reserved by the European Commission as a common missing children telephone hotline throughout the EU. It is made available by national telecoms regulators to organisations they consider to be qualified to offer such a service. The allocation of the number in Ireland is therefore a matter in the first instance for the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

I am informed that ComReg has published an information note on its website which makes all relevant information available to potential applicants who may wish to provide the 116 000 service. It also issued on a number of occasions national press advertisements inviting applications, most recently on 20 June.

Fines Collection

John McGuinness

Question:

188 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the total value of all outstanding fines for each of the past five years after adjusting for appeals or cancellations; the collection rate for each year; the actions being taken to improve the system of collection; the value of outstanding fines which are deemed as impossible to collect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17838/11]

Under the current system for fines collection, the value of fines outstanding is assessed on the basis of a rolling 12 month period. For the 12 months to the end of December 2010, the total number of fines imposed was 120,000 with a value of €43m. After adjusting for appeals and cancellations the total number of fines collectable was 92,000 with a value of €29m. The number of collectable fines paid was 68,000 with a value of €21m resulting in a collection rate of 73% based on volume and 71% based on value. However, indications to end of May 2011 are that compliance rates both in terms of volume and value of fines collected have decreased to approximately 65%. This may, in part, be attributable to the general downturn in the economy.

I am advised that information on the value and collection rate for fines in the previous five years is not readily available but the estimated compliance rate was in the region of 50%. The improvement demonstrated in respect of the compliance rate during 2010 yielded significant additional revenue of approximately €8m to the Exchequer and results from improvements made to the fines collection process including the introduction of options for online payment facilities.

In late 2010, following a competitive procurement process for the collection of unpaid fines, a Fines Collection Service was appointed to assist in the collection process. The service is funded from a commission payment from the proceeds of fines collected and is being closely monitored. The average commission being 9%.

The Garda authorities have considerably strengthened their process of warrants enforcement in recent years. Various measures aimed at reducing the number of warrants on hand were identified and are being implemented. These measures include the re-assignment of additional Gardaí to this function and the appointment of Inspectors with responsibility for execution of outstanding warrants. The position is closely monitored by senior Garda management.

I can assure the Deputy that the area of fines collection is being kept under close review.

Public Sector Remuneration

Michael McGrath

Question:

189 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will list the number of positions under his control but outside of the civil service which will be affected by new salary caps; the specific cuts involved and any impact identified on the ability to recruit or to retain specific positions in the next 12 months. [17984/11]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the announcement by my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform concerning pay ceilings for CEOs of Semi States and senior public sector posts.

I await the issuing of formal guidelines in relation to the new policy by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform which will set out the posts to which the policy will apply and the posts which may be excepted. At this point I will be able to assess what legislative amendments may be required to give full effect to the new policy and what other considerations need to be taken into account.

Michael McGrath

Question:

190 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Defence if he will list the number of positions under his control but outside of the civil service which will be affected by new salary caps; the specific cuts involved and any impact identified on the ability to recruit or to retain specific positions in the next 12 months. [17977/11]

There are no positions under the aegis of the Department of Defence which will be affected by the introduction of the new pay ceilings for higher posts across the public service and for CEO posts in Commercial State Companies.

Departmental Schemes

Michael Moynihan

Question:

191 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reasons behind the closure of the targeted agricultural modernisation scheme in view of the fact that only €24.7 million of the €90 million available had been applied for. [17804/11]

The Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes (TAMS) were temporarily suspended for new applications on 8 June 2011 until the position in relation to the availability of funds for next year is clarified. As I indicated at the time, I could not defend a situation in which my Department continued to accept applications under schemes when there was a question-mark over the financing of those grants when they became due for payment. The TAMS include both my Department's Bio-energy Scheme as well as the five measures in regard to on-farm investment (i.e. poultry welfare, sow welfare, sheep fencing/handling, dairy equipment and rainwater harvesting).

As the Deputy has mentioned in his Question, an indicative allocation of €90 million is provided for the five on-farm investment schemes concerned in Ireland's Rural Development Programme. However, although my Department's Estimates for 2011 provide sufficient funding for these schemes for this year, the capital budget for my Department for 2012 is under severe pressure and I am not in a position to accept further applications under these schemes until the comprehensive review currently taking place of my Department's expenditure is completed.

I also announced on 8 June that applications received prior to the date of suspension of the TAMS would be processed and approved up to the level of the current tranches of funding. As the values, in grant terms, of the applications received under the five schemes concerned are within the financial ceilings of the current tranches, all eligible applications received up to that date under the five schemes concerned will be processed to approval stage.

I hope to be in a position to make an announcement in relation to the future of the schemes concerned in the very near future.

Question No. 192 withdrawn.

Departmental Staff

Seán Kenny

Question:

193 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of persons employed by him by grade and the pay scale by grade. [17737/11]

The detail requested by the Deputy is contained in the following table.

PAYSCALE

GRADE DESCRIPTION

FTE

MIN. (€)

MAX. (€)

LSI 1 (€)

LSI 2 (€)

ADVISORY COUNSEL GRADE 3 — PPC

1.0

71,359.00

85,628.00

88,305.00

90,988.00

AGRICULTURAL INSPECTOR

33.0

57,225.00

75,476.00

78,146.00

80,814.00

AGRICULTURAL INSPECTOR — PPC

41.4

60,200.00

79,319.00

82,126.00

84,935.00

AO HIGHER SCALE — PPC

3.0

42,838.00

60,224.00

AO STANDARD SCALE

2.0

31,619.00

51,653.00

57,532.00

55,412.00

AO STANDARD SCALE — PPC

19.0

33,247.00

54,329.00

56,314.00

58,294.00

AREA SUPERINTENDENT

14.0

49,818.00

59,617.00

61,677.00

63,739.00

ASSISTANT SECRETARY

6.0

127,796.00

146,191.00

ASST AGRICULTURAL INSP AGRIC

9.0

33,526.00

55,757.00

57,686.00

59,604.00

ASST AGRICULTURAL INSP AGRIC -

95.9

35,254.00

58,655.00

60,681.00

62,701.00

ASST PRINCIPAL

83.0

61,966.00

72,268.00

74,514.00

76,768.00

ASST PRINCIPAL — PPC

8.0

65,185.00

75,934.00

78,302.00

80,678.00

ASST PRINCIPAL HIGHER

23.8

67,913.00

79,337.00

81,821.00

84,296.00

ASST PRNCP SNR SYS ANALYST

9.0

61,966.00

72,268.00

74,514.00

76,768.00

CHEMIST

1.0

33,598.00

57,964.00

59,965.00

61,963.00

CHEMIST — PPC

1.0

35,326.00

60,974.00

63,077.00

65,188.00

CHIEF INSPECTOR AGRIC

1.0

154,839.00

CHIEF TECHNOLOGIST

1.0

55,678.00

73,685.00

CHIEF VETERINARY OFFICER

1.0

154,839.00

CIVILIAN DRIVER

4.0

631.75 p.w.

CLEANER

13.8

380.76 p.w

412.73 p.w

423.94 p.w

442.07p.w

CLEANER — PPC

1.0

397.64 p.w

433.97 p.w

446.24 p.w

465.35 p.w

CLEANER PART- TIME

9.0

126.97 p.w.

CLERICAL OFF

240.3

22,015.00

33,735.00

34,954.00

35,515.00

CLERICAL OFF — PPC

326.4

23,177.00

35,471.00

36,753.00

37,341.00

CLERICAL OFF DATA ENTRY

2.5

22,015.00

33,735.00

34,954.00

35,515.00

CLERICAL OFF PROGR — PPC

6.0

23,177.00

35,471.00

36,753.00

37,341.00

CLERICAL OFF SEN COMPUTER OP

1.0

22,015.00

33,735.00

34,954.00

35,515.00

CLERICAL OFF SEN COMPUTER OP -

4.0

23,177.00

35,471.00

36,753.00

37,341.00

CLERICAL OFF TEMP

17.3

22,015.00

33,735.00

34,954.00

35,515.00

CLERICAL OFF TEMP NEW ENTRANT

1.0

22,015.00

33,735.00

34,954.00

35,515.00

CLERICAL OFF TYP

49.9

22,015.00

33,735.00

34,954.00

35,515.00

CLERICAL OFF TYP — PPC

17.7

23,177.00

35,471.00

36,753.00

37,341.00

CLERICAL OFFICER HIGHER SCALE

135.1

23,042.00

36,267.00

CLERICAL OFFICER PROGRAMMER

0.8

22,015.00

33,735.00

34,954.00

35,515.00

CLERICAL OFFICER TEMPORARY TER

1.0

22,015.00

33,735.00

34,954.00

35,515.00

CO NEW ENTRANT PPC

105.6

22,015.00

33,735.00

34,954.00

35,515.00

CRAFTSMAN

7.5

667.58 p.w.

706.29 p.w

DAIRY PRODUCE OFFICER

4.0

40,987.00

50,725.00

52,473.00

54,219.00

DEPUTY CHIEF INSPECTOR

1.0

93,197.00

106,826.00

110,172.00

113,503.00

DEPUTY CHIEF TECHNOLOGIST

1.0

52,439.00

70,481.00

DEPUTY CHIEF VETERINARY OFF

2.0

105,691.00

112,291.00

115,817.00

119,405.00

DEPUTY CHIEF VETERINARY OFF -

1.0

111,125.00

118,130.00

121,910.00

125,689.00

DIRECTOR OF LABORATORIES

1.0

121,208.00

138,655.00

DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT

94.6

35,054.00

53,816.00

55,782.00

57,745.00

DUBLIN GENERAL OPERATIVE BAND 3

4.0

507.93 p.w

564.27 p.w.

ENGINEER GRADE 1 CIVIL

2.0

65,247.00

75,476.00

78,146.00

80,814.00

ENGINEER GRADE 1 CIVIL — PPC

1.0

68,553.00

79,319.00

82,126.00

84,935.00

ENGINEER GRADE 2 CIVIL

2.0

55,863.00

64,956.00

67,051.00

69,132.00

ENGINEER GRADE 2 CIVIL — PPC

3.0

58,765.00

68,260.00

70,448.00

72,642.00

ENGINEER GRADE 3 CIVIL

1.0

30,738.00

55,757.00

57,686.00

59,604.00

ENGINEER GRADE 3 CIVIL — PPC

5.0

32,317.00

58,656.00

60,681.00

62,701.00

EO HIGHER SCALE

90.2

29,024.00

47,379.00

EO HIGHER SCALE — PPC

9.6

30,516.00

49,837.00

EO STANDARD SCALE

176.4

29,024.00

42,760.00

44,187.00

45,616.00

EO STANDARD SCALE — PPC

109.5

30,516.00

44,967.00

46,473.00

47,975.00

EO TRAINEE ANALYST HIGHER

11.0

29,024.00

47,379.00

EO TRAINEE ANALYST HIGHER PPC

2.0

30,516.00

49,837.00

EO TRAINEE ANALYST STANDARD

12.6

29,024.00

42,760.00

44,187.00

45,616.00

EO TRAINEE ANALYST STND — PPC

24.0

30,516.00

44,967.00

46,473.00

47,975.00

FIRST ASST SOLICITOR AGRIC

2.0

67,913.00

81,471.00

84,016.00

86,555.00

FORESTRY INSPECTOR GRADE 1

2.0

65,247.00

75,476.00

78,146.00

80,814.00

FORESTRY INSPECTOR GRADE 1 — PPC

1.0

68,553.00

79,319.00

82,126.00

84,935.00

FORESTRY INSPECTOR GRADE 2

9.0

55,863.00

64,956.00

67,051.00

69,132.00

FORESTRY INSPECTOR GRADE 2 — PPC

4.0

58,765.00

68,260.00

70,448.00

72,642.00

FORESTRY INSPECTOR GRADE 3

11.0

30,738.00

55,757.00

57,686.00

59,604.00

FORESTRY INSPECTOR GRADE 3 — PPC

5.0

32,317.00

58,656.00

60,681.00

62,701.00

HARBOUR CONSTABLE

2.0

634.91 p.w

705.30 p.w.

HARBOUR MASTER

3.0

30,738.00

55,757.00

57,686.00

59,604.00

HARBOUR MASTER — PPC

3.0

32,317.00

58,656.00

60,681.00

62,701.00

HEAD LABORATORY ATTENDANT

1.0

536.22 p.w.

625.33 p.w.

646.52 p.w.

669.87 p.w.

HEAD OF AGRICULTURAL LABS

1.0

105,691.00

112,291.00

115,817.00

119,405.00

HEAD SERVICES OFFICER

1.0

536.22 p.w.

625.33 p.w.

646.52 p.w.

669.87 p.w.

HEO FORMER SUPV OFF HIGHER SCA

1.0

46,426.00

57,251.00

HEO HIGHER SCALE

63.1

46,426.00

57,251.00

HEO HIGHER SCALE — PPC

1.0

48,831.00

60,224.00

HEO STANDARD SCALE

101.9

43,816.00

51,653.00

53,532.00

55,415.00

HEO STANDARD SCALE — PPC

50.7

46,081.00

54,329.00

56,314.00

58,294.00

HEO SYSTEMS ANALYST HIGHER

14.0

46,426.00

57,251.00

HEO SYSTEMS ANALYST HIGHER PPC

1.0

48,831.00

60,224.00

HEO SYSTEMS ANALYST STANDARD

14.2

43,816.00

51,653.00

53,532.00

55,415.00

HEO SYSTEMS ANALYST STND — PPC

8.0

46,081.00

54,329.00

56,314.00

58,294.00

HIGHER LEGAL EXECUTIVE

1.0

43,816.00

51,653.00

53,532.00

55,415.00

HIGHER SEED ANALYST

3.8

34,638.00

44,051.00

INDUSTRIAL FOREMAN

5.0

871.87 p.w

899.67 p.w.

INSPECTOR & ENG FISHERIES

1.0

78,939.00

92,672.00

95,550.00

98,424.00

INSPECTOR GRADE 1

1.0

65,247.00

75,476.00

78,146.00

80,814.00

INSPECTOR GRADE 2

5.8

55,863.00

64,956.00

67,051.00

69,132.00

LABORATORY ANALYST

23.2

32,780.00

49,592.00

50,570.00

LABORATORY ANALYST — PPC

44.1

34,463.00

52,162.00

53,194.00

LABORATORY ATTENDANT AG&MAR

19.0

397.79 p.w

507.08 p.w

524.32 p.w

544.03 p.w

LABORATORY ATTENDANT AG&MAR- PPC

9.0

415.56 p.w

533.73 p.w.

551.74 p.w

571.94 p.w

NRP — CLERICAL OFFICER TEMP

13.0

379.72 p.w

581.87 p.w

602.88 p.w

612.56 p.w

NRP — LABORATORY ATTENDANT

1.0

358.01 p.w

456.37 p.w

471.89 p.w

489.63 p.w

NRP — TEMPORARY EO

2.0

27,464.00

40,470.00

41,826.00

43,178.00

PERSONAL ASSISTANT MIN/MIN. STATE

4.0

38,945.00

47,755.00

POULTRY OFFICER

4.0

27,507.00

45,704.00

PRINCIPAL

21.0

80,051.00

92,672.00

95,550.00

98,424.00

PRINCIPAL HIGHER

10.0

85,957.00

99,236.00

102,335.00

105,429.00

PRINCIPAL LEGAL EXECUTIVE PPC

1.0

84,132.00

97,417.00

100,446.00

103,472.00

PROFESSIONAL ACCOUNTANT GR 1 -

1.0

68,553.00

79,319.00

82,126.00

84,935.00

QUALITY MANAGER

2.0

52,439.00

70,481.00

QUALITY MANAGER PPC

1.0

55,160.00

74,060.00

RESEARCH OFFICER

8.0

57,560.00

84,578.00

87,188.00

89,791.00

RESEARCH OFFICER — PPC

11.7

60,555.00

88,896.00

91,650.00

94,392.00

RURAL GENERAL OPERATIVE BAND 1

6.0

593.21 p.w.

655.92p.w

RURAL GENERAL OPERATIVE BAND 2

20.5

565.65 p.w

625.37p.w

RURAL GENERAL OPERATIVE BAND 3

19.8

524.24 p.w

580.09 p.w.

SECRETARY GENERAL AGRICULTURE

1.0

200,000.00

SEED ANALYST

5.2

521.84p.w

760.36 p.w

775.25 p.w

SEED ANALYST — PPC

5.8

549.18 p.w

799.59 p.w

815.30 p.w

SENIOR AUDITOR

1.0

61,966.00

72,268.00

74,514.00

76,768.00

SENIOR DAIRY PRODUCE OFFICER

2.0

41,927.00

55,757.00

57,686.00

59,604.00

SENIOR INSPECTOR

12.0

78,939.00

92,672.00

95,550.00

98,424.00

SENIOR LABORATORY ANALYST

39.9

47,842.00

64,315.00

SENIOR RESEARCH OFFICER

7.8

84,578.00

92,672.00

95,550.00

98,424.00

SENIOR RESEARCH OFFICER — PPC

2.0

88,896.00

97,416.00

100,447.00

103,472.00

SENIOR SEED ANALYST

1.0

40,986.00

53,296.00

SENIOR SEROLOGICAL ASSISTANT

1.0

43,828.00

48,470.00

SENIOR SUPERINTEND VET INSP

8.0

93,197.00

104,158.00

107,409.00

110,665.00

SENIOR SURVEYOR

1.0

36,021.00

41,518.00

42,907.00

44,293.00

SEROLOGICAL ASSISTANT

20.3

521.84 p.w

760.36 p.w

775.25 p.w

SEROLOGICAL ASSISTANT — PPC

10.8

549.18 p.w

799.59 p.w

815.30 p.w

SERVICES ATTENDANT

5.0

398.74 p.w

489.28 p.w.

505.57 p.w.

524.65 p.w

SERVICES OFFICER

34.5

398.74 p.w

495.55 p.w

512.32 p.w

531.61 p.w

SERVICES OFFICER — PPC

3.0

416.49 p.w

521.52 p.w

539.36 p.w

559.23 p.w

SPECIAL ADVISOR 1

1.0

130,000

SPECIAL ADVISOR 2

1.0

80,051.00

92,672.00

95,550.00

98,424.00

STAFF OFF SENIOR PROGRAMMER

1.0

33,070.00

41,473.00

42,530.00

43,906.00

STAFF OFFICER

67.2

33,070.00

41,473.00

42,530.00

43,906.00

STAFF OFFICER — PPC

9.0

34,771.00

43,616.00

44,725.00

46,171.00

SUPERINTEN SEN RESEARCH OFF

3.0

93,197.00

104,158.00

107,409.00

110,665.00

SUPERINTEN SEN RESEARCH OFF -

1.0

97,968.00

109,507.00

112,935.00

116,386.00

SUPERINTENDING VET INSP

43.0

84,578.00

92,672.00

95,550.00

98,424.00

SUPERINTENDING VET INSP — PPC

1.0

88,896.00

97,416.00

100,447.00

103,472.00

SUPERVISING SEROLOGICAL ASST

7.8

34,638.00

44,051.00

SUPERVISORY AGRIC OFF

217.5

34,038.00

46,935.00

48,641.00

50,352.00

SUPERVISORY AGRIC OFF AG&EE -

21.0

35,795.00

49,362.00

51,162.00

52,966.00

TECHNICAL AGRICULTURAL OFF

295.0

23,123.00

39,371.00

40,681.00

41,992.00

TECHNICAL AGRICULTURAL OFF — P

172.8

24,341.00

41,401.00

42,788.00

44,169.00

TECHNICAL GRADES LEVEL 4

5.0

45,347.00

54,556.00

VETERINARY INSPECTOR

69.2

57,560.00

84,578.00

87,188.00

89,799.00

VETERINARY INSPECTOR — PPC

131.1

60,555.00

88,896.00

91,650.00

94,392.00

VISUALLY IMPAIRED TELEPHONIST

3.0

22,015.00

33,735.00

34,954.00

35,515.00

Grand Total

3,604.6

Common Fisheries Policy

John Paul Phelan

Question:

194 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding the importance of reforms to the Common Fisheries Policy in economic revitalization of coastal communities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17757/11]

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is the fisheries policy of the European Union which was first put in place in 1983 and has been subject to reviews every 10 years, the most recent was in 2002 and the next reform is scheduled for adoption in the latter half of 2012.

The reformed CFP is a critical policy issue for Ireland as it will shape the strategic blueprint for the European fishing industry for the next decade. The CFP impacts on the social, economic and environmental pillars of the wider seafood industry and the proposals will hold both opportunities and risks for Ireland.

My overarching goal for the new CFP is for a sustainable, profitable and self-reliant industry that protects and enhances the social and economic fabric of rural coastal communities dependent on the seafood sector, while balancing these objectives with the need to deliver a sustainable and eco-centred fisheries landscape for future generations.

The key features of interest to Ireland will include:—

Retention of the Hague Preferences;

The retention of a management system based on national quotas supported by increased flexibility and a rejection of the mandatory privatisation of fish quotas or the introduction of international trading of fish quotas;

New focus on addressing discarding of fish at sea with a complete ban being introduced for stocks in a depleted state.

In the current economic climate, we need a policy that both simplifies and reduces the administrative burden while at the same time strengthens and supports the industry's capacity to maximise employment in coastal community's dependent on fishing.

In particular, I will be pursuing initiatives that will deliver and sustain jobs in coastal communities rather than those that promote the concentration of wealth and delivery of excessive profits for a few big international businesses.

The Hague Preferences are a major priority for me as they deliver additional shares of quotas for key whitefish stocks around our coast. These additional quota shares are essential for the economic viability of our whitefish fleet and I will fight any interference that results in Ireland losing these benefits.

Currently, we have approximately 5,000 jobs in our fleet, with another 2,900 employed in our processing plants with around 1,200 employed in ancillary support industries. These jobs are dependent on Irish quotas being landed into Irish ports. Any change to this would seriously jeopardise the ongoing viability of these jobs with disastrous consequences. Therefore, my focus will remain in opposing measures that could threaten this important sector for the Irish economy while proposing and supporting measures that will create more employment and generate more opportunities for the processing sector.

Clearly, the health and long-term sustainability of the fish stocks around our shores are fundamental to a thriving fishing and processing sector. In that context I have been very active in the debate to eliminate the damaging and wasteful practice of discarding. I have been promoting practical and pragmatic measures which can demonstrably deliver on the shared objective of elimination of discards, while importantly having the maximum possible level of "buy in" from the industry. It is my firm belief that a "tool box" of flexible measures that can be implemented, where appropriate, on a fishery by fishery basis, is the best possible option.

To deliver on Ireland's overall objectives, I am seeking additional funding for measures: to develop and secure a sustainable European fishing and aquaculture industry; to support industry as it adapts its fleet to make it more competitive; to promote measures to protect and enhance the environment; and to help fisheries communities most affected by the resulting changes to diversify their economic base and to implement new measures on discards, technical measures, environmental compliance and restructuring. I am also seeking new and additional funding for research and fisheries control.

Grant Payments

Michael Moynihan

Question:

195 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when will the final 25% payment for REP scheme 4 be paid to farmers who may have had a small penalty imposed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17773/11]

Of the total of 30,254 farmers in REPS 4, 28,882 farmers have received payment in respect of the 2010 scheme year. The majority of outstanding payments have issues which need to be examined or resolved and these are being dealt with on an ongoing basis by my officials.

A small number of farmers are awaiting their balancing payment of 25% — having already received 75% — because of breaches incurred in the scheme. The balancing payment cannot be paid until the appropriate penalties have been applied. The Department is processing these cases to a conclusion with a view to completing the work and issuing the REPS payments at the earliest possible date.

Milk Quota

Michael Moynihan

Question:

196 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the amount of milk quota available for re-distribution under the milk quota appeals tribunal hardship scheme in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17774/11]

The Milk Quota Appeals Tribunal considers all valid applications for additional milk quota submitted on the grounds of hardship. Applicants recommended for approval by the Tribunal are allocated milk quota from the National Reserve, and the amounts involved can vary depending on individual circumstances. There is no overall fixed pool of quota assigned for allocation.

Grant Payments

Michael Moynihan

Question:

197 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the date when farmers who applied under the dairy equipment scheme will receive approval to proceed with their investment; if he will confirm if all eligible applicants will qualify for a grant with no selection criteria applied; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17775/11]

The Dairy Equipment Scheme was suspended for new applications on 8 June 2011 as part of my decision to temporarily close the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes (TAMS) until the position in relation to the availability of funds for next year is clarified. As I indicated at the time, I could not defend a situation in which my Department continued to accept applications under schemes when there was a question-mark over the financing of those grants when they became due for payment.

I also announced at that time that applications received prior to the date of suspension of the TAMS would be processed and approved up to the level of the current tranches of funding. As the value, in grant terms, of the applications received under the Dairy Equipment Scheme prior to its suspension is within the financial ceiling of the current tranche, all eligible applications received up to that date under the Scheme will be processed to approval stage. Processing of these applications is continuing within my Department and the issuing of approvals under the Scheme should commence in the near future.

Michael Moynihan

Question:

198 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will set out any changes to procedures or penalties for the single farm payment area and cross compliance checks in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17776/11]

My Department, in the context of delivering the Direct Payment Schemes, is required to carry out on-the-spot inspections on a number of farms covering such issues as eligibility under the Scheme, compliance with EU legislation in the areas of the environment, food safety, animal health and welfare and plant health and ensuring that the farm is maintained in good agricultural and environmental condition.

A minimum of 5% of Scheme applicants are required to be inspected under the eligibility rule. These checks are carried out to verify that the actual area claimed in the application form corresponds to the area held by the farmer and to ensure there are no overlapping claims or duplicate claims. Up to two-thirds of these inspections are carried out without a farm visit, using the technique of remote sensing. Under EU regulations governing the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme and the Single Payments Scheme all ground eligibility inspections must be completed before any payment can issue to any applicant under either scheme, including those not selected for a ground eligibility inspection.

For 2011 the rate of on-farm inspection required for cross-compliance remains 1% of those farmers to whom the Statutory Management Requirements or GAEC apply, however, the numbers to be inspected the Bovine Animal Identification and Registration requirements has been reduced from 5% of producers to 3%. The requirements in relation to sheep farmers as prescribed under the relevant Regulations remains at 3% for 2011. There are no changes with regards to penalties.

In 2010, in an effort to minimise duplication of farm inspections, my Department agreed to carry out some 1,600 farm inspections under the GAP regulations on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. This arrangement was retained for 2011 and the majority of these inspections have already been completed.

Michael Moynihan

Question:

199 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of penalties imposed on farmers by county under the single farm payment scheme, disadvantaged area scheme, the suckler cow welfare scheme, the REP scheme and the agri environment option scheme in 2011 and the % penalty applied on these farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17777/11]

As processing of the 2011 applications under both the Single Payment Scheme and the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme is in the early stages, the closing date for receipt of applications having been 16 May, with a facility for receipt of late applications up to and including 10 June, the position regarding penalties under these 2011 Schemes has not yet been established. Therefore, the 2010 Schemes have been used as the basis of this reply. In addition, given the variety of the regulatory penalties and the range of individual circumstances of applicants, it is not feasible to tabulate the range of penalties applied.

Single Payment Scheme

Annually, some 124,000 farmers benefit under the Single Payment Scheme. The following table shows that a total of 3,852 individuals warranted some level of penalty under the 2010 Scheme. A variety of regulatory penalties apply, ranging from late penalties, where an application form is received after the Scheme closing date, to various parcel-related penalties (dual claims, over-claims), an penalties following field inspections, where issues are identified relating to Cross Compliance, etc.

County

Carlow

39

Cavan

151

Clare

142

Cork

438

Donegal

260

Dublin

25

Galway

375

Kerry

231

Kildare

69

Kilkenny

102

Laois

69

Leitrim

83

Limerick

194

Longford

70

Louth

43

Mayo

274

Meath

124

Monaghan

102

Offaly

74

Roscommon

135

Sligo

105

Tipperary

269

Waterford

121

Westmeath

80

Wexford

192

Wicklow

85

Total

3,852

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme

Annually, in excess of 100,000 farmers benefit under this Scheme. While there are no Scheme-specific penalties under DAS, the regulatory penalties applicable under SPS also apply to DAS.

Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme

Penalties have been applied under the Suckler Welfare Scheme as set out on the table below. These penalties were applied to animals born during 2010, the majority of the payments having been made in 2011 but with some payments having issued in December 2010. The penalties are calculated on the basis of the number of animals that have been rejected for payment, for non-compliance with the Terms and Conditions of the Suckler Welfare Scheme, in direct relation to the number of animals registered in the Scheme during 2010.

County

Carlow

78

Cavan

215

Clare

384

Cork

291

Donegal

208

Dublin

2

Galway

485

Kerry

165

Kildare

66

Kilkenny

146

Laois

136

Leitrim

141

Limerick

139

Longford

129

Louth

52

Mayo

407

Meath

115

Monaghan

157

Offaly

130

Roscommon

299

Sligo

175

Tipperary

174

Waterford

89

Westmeath

156

Wexford

113

Wicklow

70

Total

4,522

REPS/AEOS

The data for REPS/AEOS is not available at this time; it will be made available to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Michael Moynihan

Question:

200 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will give a commitment that all eligible applicants under the various schemes will be paid on time in 2011 and in accordance with the Farmers Charter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17778/11]

Single Payment Scheme

The Single Farm Payment forms a significant part of the annual income of the farming community in Ireland. It is clear that the timing of this payment is extremely important to farmers, particularly those farmers with low farm incomes. It is also important in the current difficult financial circumstances where farmers, like other sectors in the economy, are finding it very difficult to access credit. Therefore, I decided that I would seek the approval of the EU Commission to make an advance payment of the SFP from16 October 2011, the first day of the new EU financial year.

In the event that such approval is forthcoming, I am confident that the necessary inspections will be completed in sufficient time to allow the advance payments begin issuing as and from 16 October.

It is a requirement of the EU Regulations that all eligibility checks are initiated prior to the commencement of payments under the Single Farm Payment, Disadvantaged Area Scheme and other area-based Schemes. I am, however, satisfied that all of the eligibility inspections will be initiated in order that the payments can commence as already outlined and that the maximum number of payments can be made before the end of the calendar year.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme

The necessary progress in processing applications is being made which will ensure delivery of payments under the 2011 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme to the farmers concerned, as and from the latter half of September 2011. Furthermore, I have decided that the full amount due will issue at that stage, unlike last year, when an advance payment was made, at a rate of 75 per cent.

While there is no regulatory timeframe laid down as regards the timing of payments under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, my Department has committed to making payments as early as possible. It is recognised that second half of September is the earliest date payments can realistically commence following the processing of applications and the initiation of all eligibility inspections, which is a requirement of the EU Regulation and I am satisfied that the necessary inspections will be completed in sufficient time to allow Disadvantaged Area payments to commence, as usual, in the latter half of September.

The payments under the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme are dependent on the participants in the Scheme completing the registration of the events required under the Terms and Conditions of the Scheme. Payments to farmers are made on an ongoing basis as soon as the events registered by the participants in the Scheme are verified and found to satisfy all of the requirements of the Scheme.

All REPS 4 payments will be made in accordance with the Farmers Charter.

To date, 85 per cent of REPS 3 valid applications are being scheduled for payment within 8 weeks, and 100 per cent of those approved are paid within 1 month.

In relation to the —

Farm Improvement Scheme;

Dairy Hygiene Scheme;

Young Farmers' Installation Scheme;

Pig Welfare Scheme; and

Alternative Enterprises Scheme;

I can confirm that my Department will endeavour to ensure that all payments under the above Schemes will be processed within the periods referred to in the Farmers' Charter.

All payments under the Farm Waste Management Scheme have now effectively been made. In the case of the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes (TAMS), the current Farmers' Charter does not set out any commitments, but again my Department will endeavour to ensure that processing of applications/payments takes place as speedily as possible.

Over 90 per cent of all valid applications for approval and payment under the Afforestation Scheme are within the targets set out in the Farmers Charter.

All compensation payments under the TSE Eradication Programmes are processed and paid within the agreed time-frame.

ERAD compensation schemes are processed in compliance with the provisions set out in the Farmers' Charter. I am satisfied that the payment commitments are and will be adhered to by my Department in 2011.

Credit Availability

Michael Moynihan

Question:

201 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the initiatives he will to take to improve the credit situation for farmers and to prevent banks imposing penal surcharges when farmers run into temporary financial difficulty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17779/11]

I have had meetings with the banking sector in recent months and my officials are in regular contact with them to discuss current challenges for credit availability in the agriculture and food sector. Farmers who are not satisfied with the service provided by their banks can ask for an internal review by the relevant bank and if they are still not satisfied can apply to the credit review office to have their case reviewed. Some of the banks have been involved recently in organising information sessions and conferences to explain the credit facilities available in the sector. They also provide information online, via the Irish Banking Federation, as to the type of information that they require when making a decision on a loan request in the agriculture sector.

Departmental Functions

Michael Moynihan

Question:

202 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the measures he will take to reduce the cost of farm inputs to levels comparable with Northern Ireland and in particular veterinary medicines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17780/11]

It is not within the power of the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to control farm input prices as they compare to any other jurisdictions, however my officials do monitor all movements in input and output prices produced by the Central Statistics Office. The latest Annual CSO figures available, for 2010, show that overall input prices dropped by 1.6% during the year (see following table). This, combined with a 11.9% increase in output prices, meant there was a 13.8% change in favour of farmers in the Terms of Trade during last year. Included in these figures was a marginal increase of just 0.2% in the price of veterinary expenses.

Input Price Index (Base 2000 = 100)

Index/Year

2008

2009

2010

Total Index

155.9

142.2

139.9

All Fertilisers

220.6

185.0

162.2

Motor Fuels

173.6

143.5

168.6

Electricity

159.9

167.4

156.9

Veterinary Expenses

128.9

130.9

131.1

Source CSO Data (base to 2000=100)

My Department does not have any statutory function in relation to the pricing of veterinary medicines. However, it does have statutory responsibility for the regulation of veterinary medicines from the point of view of public health and animal health and welfare. In exercising these functions, my Department is conscious of the need to minimise costs for farmers and pet animal owners and has, within the limits afforded by EU legislation, adopted a number of measures over the years with a view to stimulating competition in the supply of medicines.

Measures adopted by my Department aimed at empowering farmers and other animal owners to get the best value when purchasing medicine supplies include:

A requirement for all outlets to display price lists and, in the case of vets, to show on invoices the cost of the medicine separate from the cost of the professional service;

A requirement on vets to issue written prescriptions, enabling farmers to shop around and purchase from the best value outlet;

An extension of the range of outlets from which many prescription only medicines can be purchased to include Licensed Merchants, in addition to pharmacies and veterinary practices;

An extension of the maximum validity of a prescription to 12 months, thereby enabling farmers stagger their purchases to meet their immediate and seasonal needs.

In addition to the foregoing, the policy of my Department is a to retain a viable ‘off-prescription' category for medicines which, on scientific evaluation, do not need to be prescribed by a veterinary practitioner. I might add that, during the last review of the EU medicines regime, Ireland strongly opposed Commission proposals to reserve all veterinary medicines to the "prescription-only" category. We were largely successful in this regard, with the result that farmers can continue to purchase major categories of medicines, such as wormers and vaccines, from a wide range of authorised outlets, without incurring the cost of a veterinary call-out fee.

I believe these measures provide clear evidence of my Department's commitment to playing its part in minimising costs. I would encourage farmers to take maximum advantage of these measures and I would ask manufacturers and distributors of veterinary medicines to play their parts in driving down costs by offering best value consistent with a reasonable commercial return.

Milk Quota

Michael Moynihan

Question:

203 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he intends to take any measures post milk quota abolition that will ensure that all dairy farmers milk is collected and processed irrespective of geographical location and remoteness; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17781/11]

Following the abolition of milk quotas in 2015, the supply management arrangements that currently exist will no longer be relevant, and it is not anticipated that any alternative form of supply management will replace milk quotas. Therefore the collection and processing of milk will, subject to requirements in relation to hygiene standards, be a matter between milk processors and their supplier customers.

Departmental Funding

Michael Moynihan

Question:

204 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the level of funding allocated by him to environmental and other non government organisation’s and the purpose of this funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17782/11]

Since 1995, my Department has provided funding of over €12m to animal welfare groups, many of whom are voluntary. My Department also contributes around €20,000 annually to Gorta's World Food Day.

Departmental Agencies

Michael Moynihan

Question:

205 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the measures he will take to ensure that there will be adequate places at agriculture colleges for young persons pursuing a career in agriculture; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17783/11]

Under the Agriculture, (Research, Training and Advice) Act, 1988, Teagasc has statutory responsibility for the provision of education, advisory and research services to the agriculture sector. Teagasc develops its programmes, services and activities in conjunction with its clients and partners overseen by an Authority that is representative of the main stakeholder groups in the agri-food sector. It is a matter for Teagasc and its Board to prioritise activities in the delivery of these services and to allocate its resources in accordance with these priorities. Ministerial responsibility is confined to matters of policy in accordance with the Act and the Minister does not interfere in the day-today operations of Teagasc.

Delivery of the Teagasc education programme is an operational matter for Teagasc and its Board. I understand that over 200 staff are currently employed in the Teagasc owned colleges and the private agricultural colleges. The question of additional resources in Teagasc must have regard to Government policy on public service numbers and the need to achieve savings in the public service pay bill through planned reductions in staff numbers. Therefore, when vacancies arise, public service organisations must reallocate or reorganise work or staff accordingly. Any exceptions to this principle can only be considered in very limited circumstances in respect of mission critical posts and in full compliance with annual ceilings on staff numbers. In that context, I have had discussions with Teagasc in relation to the impact of the moratorium on operations including the delivery of education courses in the agricultural colleges.

EU Directives

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

206 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when the commencement order will be signed for the implementation of the European Directive for micro chipping of horses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17789/11]

The EU regulation providing inter alia for microchipping is directly applicable and has been in force since 1st July 2009. A Statutory Instrument providing for powers of authorised officers and other matters will be signed in the near future.

Grant Payments

Sean Conlan

Question:

207 Deputy Seán Conlan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason a person (details supplied) has not received grant moneys approved under the farm improvement scheme for a farm shed prior to the transferral of the farm and herd number in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17795/11]

The person concerned has taken over a farm which was the subject of an application under the Farm Improvement Scheme. Payment of the grant will take place when it has been determined that all the terms and conditions of the Scheme have been complied with. The checks concerned should be completed in the near future.

John O'Mahony

Question:

208 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their payment under the agri environment options scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17809/11]

The person named was approved for participation in the Agri-Environment Options Scheme with effect from 1 September 2010.

Under the EU Regulations governing the Scheme and other area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, must be completed before any payment can issue. I expect that the checking process will be complete and that payments to participants in the scheme in respect of the first year will commence in August. Payments in respect of year two will commence in October.

Milk Quota

John McGuinness

Question:

209 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if an application to the scheme for the allocation of milk quota to new entrants in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will be reviewed in view of the further information relative to their qualifications which has been submitted; and if he will expedite a response. [17830/11]

The 2011 Scheme for the Allocation of Milk Quota to New Entrants was announced on 31 January 2011, with a closing date of 8 April 2011.

The application from the person named was in fact received in the Department on 11 April 2011 and as is the case with all applications received after the closing date, it was not submitted to the assessment group for consideration.

Seafood Exports

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

210 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent to which new markets for Irish fish and fish products have been established over the past five years; the degree to which further new markets are likely to be established in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17916/11]

Ireland exported 220,000 tonnes of seafood to 70 countries in 2010, valued at €368 million.

EU markets account for 80% of our seafood exports. Bulk seafood exports have increased to Nigeria, Russia and Egypt. Seafood exports are also increasing to high growth Asian markets, notably China and South Korea. Potential exists for value adding exports to these countries, particularly with newer pelagic species such as blue whiting and boarfish. BIM is actively working with seafood companies to develop product formats to fit these markets. The Russian market is targeted for specific development of pelagic value added products.

Bord Bia is responsible for development of seafood export markets and focuses its activities on generating additional, higher value business in core seafood export markets such as France and Spain, while exploring emerging and alternative markets for alternative species and product forms. Bord Bia has carried out trade studies in Greece, Germany, the Benelux markets, Russia, Croatia, Hungary, Romania and Slovenia to identify potential new buyer leads for the Irish seafood sector. Country research is currently underway in Austria and Switzerland.

Category research has been carried out for crab, mussels and prawns in core European markets. In order to build awareness of the new extensive Bord Bia network, bimonthly retail store audits are carried out in key export markets and distributed to seafood exporters.

A range of promotional activities are carried out by Bord Bia's international network including point of sale promotions in major core markets across a range of species such as Irish crab, oysters, mussels and organic salmon, according to preferences and opportunities in respective markets. Media trips with leading trade and consumer press media from core European markets are regularly carried out to raise awareness of Irish seafood export capabilities within key markets.

The domestic market remains an important outlet for Irish seafood. New initiatives are being taken to stimulate consumption with the introduction of ready to eat and new microwaveable fish formats. Branding initiatives such as "Responsible Irish Fish" are building consumer awareness of the high quality of Irish product. The BIM Seafood Circle Programme highlights the best seafood retail and restaurants through ongoing quality improvement and mentoring programmes.

Food Labelling

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

211 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent if any to which multinational retail outlets find it convenient to source their food products in this jurisdiction or outside; if he has received communications from the farming organisations in this regard; his proposal, if any, to deal with any issues arising; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17918/11]

The purchasing arrangements of retailers are a commercial matter under the competition rules operating in the Single Market.

My colleague the Minister for Health and Children has overall responsibility for food labelling legislation. Under the EU labelling Directive 2000/13/EC the origin of foodstuffs circulating in the EU is required to be declared only if its absence might mislead the consumer to a material degree. As products traded within the Community are not generally required to indicate origin on their packaging, figures as requested by the Deputy are not available.

Common Agricultural Policy

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

212 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent to which he has had discussions with his EU colleagues with a view to ensuring the future viability of the food sector in this country and throughout the EU particularly in the context of any ongoing or future World Trade Organisation discussions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17919/11]

I and my officials have had extensive contacts with EU colleagues regarding the future viability of the EU and Irish agri-food sectors. These contacts have taken place against the background of the negotiations on reform of the CAP, the ongoing negotiations on the WTO Doha Development Agenda and the discussions on the proposed Free Trade Agreement with the MERCOSUR group of South American countries.

There has been serious engagement both at official and Ministerial level with the EU Commission, European Parliament and other Member States to press Ireland's position on the future policy direction of the CAP in advance of formal legislative proposals later in 2011.

I have held formal meetings with Commissioners Ciolos and Geoghegan-Quinn and with my French, Spanish and Danish counterparts. I will be meeting my UK counterpart later this week. I have also had the opportunity to engage with all my EU Ministerial colleagues at three formal, one informal and one emergency meeting of the EU Council of Agriculture Ministers.

Intensive lobbying has also taken place in regard to the negotiations for a trade agreement with the MERCOSUR group of South American countries. Council meetings and bilateral discussions have afforded me the chance to present Ireland's formal position and have also presented an opportunity for me to engage informally with other EU colleagues.

Ireland's objectives both on CAP reform and MERCOSUR have been pursued through a range of other channels. My Department took an active part in high-level conferences organised by the Austrian Ministry of Agriculture and attended by some 20 Member States and, more recently, the Polish Ministry of Agriculture and attended by all 27 Member States. A series of bilateral meetings with the Commission services, the cabinets of Commissioner Ciolos, Barroso and Geoghegan Quinn and with MEPs, rapporteurs and officials from the European Parliament have also been held.

The WTO negotiations are stalled at present. Nevertheless, I continue to make my views known on the need for balance in any WTO agreement and to ensure that EU and Irish agriculture do not pay an unacceptable price for a successful deal.

Animal Slaughter

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

213 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent, if any, to which he intends or expects to increase the slaughtering capacity at various meat processing plants throughout the country with particular reference to those which have indicated a preference in this regard over the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17920/11]

Research by Enterprise Ireland shows current slaughter capacity in Ireland is under used by up to 50%, depending on the level of supply.

Decisions to increase slaughter capacity at individual meat establishments are taken by the management on a commercial basis. When making changes to systems and procedures, approved meat establishments are advised to signal their intentions to my Department and discuss their plans with the Official Veterinarian assigned to that plant. This is to ensure compliance with the requirements of the European Communities (Food and Feed Hygiene) Regulations, S.I. No. 432 of 2009.

Food Safety Standards

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

214 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent and level of any discussions he has had with his EU colleagues in the context of EU food security and the discouragement of international speculation resulting in market manipulation, distortion and control of food industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17921/11]

In the context of discussions on the future direction of the Common Agricultural Policy, I have consistently emphasised the importance of security of food supplies and the need to maintain and increase the food production potential of the European Union. There is good support among my EU Ministerial colleagues for these arguments and I am pleased, in that respect, that preserving food production potential in the EU is one of the central themes of the Commission's communication of November last on the CAP towards 2020.

There is also growing recognition within the EU of imbalances along the food supply chain and the need to provide greater transparency and to eliminate market manipulation. I am a member of the EU High Level Group on Agri-competitiveness that was established to address these issues.

Discussions on food security have also taken place in recent months prior to the meeting of G20 agriculture ministers in Paris in mid-June 2011. This meeting produced an action plan to provide more market information and to improve regulation with a view to eliminating market abuses and reducing volatility in commodity markets. France holds the Presidency of the G20 and provided information to the Council of EU Agriculture Ministers earlier this week concerning the outcome of the G20 discussions.

Beef Industry

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

215 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps, if any, he has taken or proposes to take to ensure the future growth of the beef sector with particular reference to the need to increase the national herd; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17922/11]

Beef production is the predominant activity on Irish farms with more than 100,000 farm families involved in supplying the raw material for a labour intensive industry that employs almost 8,000 people and exported product worth more than €1.5 billion in 2010. This strong export orientation means that it will be a critically important component of our plans for economic recovery.

TheFood Harvest 2020 report provides a road map for the long-term development of the Irish agri-food and fishery sectors, including the beef industry, and the Programme for Government endorses the overall 2020 strategy. In relation to the beef sector specifically, an Activation Group chaired by Mr. Michael Dowling was established earlier this year to progress implementation of the relevant recommendations in consultation with various stakeholders. The group recently presented its report, which advocates a co-ordinated approach to the development of the beef sector and puts forward a series of recommendations over a wide range of areas that should lead to a significant increase in the value of beef output. These recommendations include the establishment of a breeding road map for suckler cows and for beef bulls bred to dairy cows, more focussed research and wider technology transfer programmes, implementation of eradication schemes for endemic non-regulated animal diseases, processing efficiencies, more focused and coordinated marketing centred on the Brand Ireland concept, and specific pricing arrangements for winter beef production.

The report suggests that there is market demand to support growth in the suckler and dairy herds. Maximising beef output potential from the national herd is contingent on a number of factors, not least on the price of beef on EU and international markets. In light of current and future market developments, it is essential that all of the stakeholders focus on improving efficiency, maintaining high standards of quality and food safety and maximising the market potential of Ireland's unique natural advantages.

Having previously signalled my commitment to implementing the recommendations ofFood Harvest 2020, I will engage constructively with all stakeholders, taking into account the recommendations of the Beef Activation Group, to ensure that the beef industry can grow and develop to its full potential over the next decade.

Pigmeat Sector

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

216 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent, if any, to which the number of pigs produced in this jurisdiction has fluctuated over the past five years; the extent to which current numbers are sufficient or satisfactory in the context of meeting requirements; if it is intended, expected or required to increase the numbers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17923/11]

The following table sets out the numbers of pigs slaughtered in Export-Approved plants in each of the last five years.

Year

Number of Pigs Slaughtered

2006

2,618,501

2007

2,569,535

2008

2,527,596

2009

2,365,568

2010

2,601,701

Total pig population has fallen by approximately 10% over the same period, but grew slightly in 2010.

Pigmeat production in 2010 amounted to 215,000 tonnes, while exports totalled 147,000 tonnes. Both Ireland and the EU are self-sufficient in pigmeat production.

The ‘Food Harvest 2020 Report’, which was published in July 2010, sets out the vision for the future of the food industry including the pig sector. Ambitious targets have been set in relation to sow productivity, the size of the national herd, together with a 50% growth in the value of output by 2020. I am chairing a High Level Implementation Group to ensure that the recommendations in the report are implemented.

Sheepmeat Sector

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

217 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent to which sheep numbers are likely to increase or decrease over the next five years based on current or previous trends; the extent, if any to which he intends or expects to address any issues in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17924/11]

According to the latest National Sheep and Goat Census, which was completed in December 2010, the number of sheep declared by herdowners, at 3,116,232 head, represented an increase of 1.3% on the 2009 figure. This is the first year on year increase recorded since the first census was carried out in 2005 and it confirms the indications in the 2009 census that the decline in sheep numbers has bottomed out.

2010 saw a welcome boost in lamb prices which averaged 17% ahead of the previous year. This trend is continuing in 2011, with prices for the year to date running at 11% ahead of 2010, on average. I am confident that Irish sheep farmers will respond to the improved prices on offer by taking steps to increase production and ewe numbers in the future and there is some evidence that this has already begun.

The Food Harvest 2020 report set a target of an increase in output value of 20% for the sheep sector by 2010. I am confident that this can be achieved given favourable market conditions. Any policy initiatives impacting on the sheep sector will be assessed for how they can contribute to achieving this target. The Grassland Sheep Scheme is proving to be a valuable support mechanism in terms of improving income and confidence in the sector.

Meat Exports

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

218 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent to which Irish beef, lamb and or pork and bacon exports have increased or decreased over the past five years to date in 2011; the potential for increased exports in the future under each heading; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17925/11]

The following table details both the volume and value of beef exports since 2006.

Irish Beef Exports 2006-2010

Year

Volume (tonnes cwe)

Value €

2006

520,000

1.5bn

2007

523,000

1.5bn

2008

483,000

1.5bn

2009

460,000

1.4bn

2010

505,000

1.5bn

Ireland exports some 90% of its beef production and around 99% of exports go to other EU Member States. The United Kingdom remains our largest market for beef exports. Shipments to the UK in 2010 were valued at €685m and accounted for over half of total beef exports by volume for the year. The data for 2010 shows a resumption of more normal levels of output following the downturn in activity caused by the economic fragility of the previous two years.

The key challenges facing the sector are to maintain and expand Irish beef's position as a premium product in EU markets and to improve viability across the supply chain. New smart approaches, in genetics for example, are necessary to upgrade output quality thus leading to greater output value. The EU is only 96% self-sufficient in beef production and consumer demand for beef is expected to further exceed EU production in the coming years.

Expanding global demand for food clearly presents enormous opportunities for the agri-food sector as a whole. The challenge for the beef industry in the current economic climate is to build on our share of premium markets in a time of global supply constraints and strong demand.

The following table details both the volume and value of sheepmeat exports since 2006.

Irish Sheepmeat Exports 2006-2010

Year

Volume (tonnes)

Value €

2006

58,000

186m

2007

56,200

177m

2008

47,900

161m

2009

46,400

160m

2010

39,300

157m

Exports of sheepmeat have declined over the last five years due to declining domestic production coupled with relatively stable domestic consumption. France is the major export market for Irish sheepmeat, accounting for approximately 54% of exports in 2006 and 49% of exports in 2010.

Exports to Non-EU countries accounted for just 0.45% of the total in 2006 and 1.45% of the total in 2010. Exports to non-EU countries have been limited in the past due to the factors including the fact that the European Union is a net importer of sheepmeat, the prevalence of lower prices in third countries and the absence of export refunds. However, there are signs of greater interest in third countries at present due to higher prices for meat in general. My Department is giving assistance to exporters in gaining access to new third country markets.

Food Harvest 2020 sets a target of a 20% increase in output value by 2020. While sheep numbers have fallen significantly in recent years, there are signs that the decline has bottomed out and numbers have stabilised. The good prices available for sheep over the past 18 months should encourage farmers to increase production in the future and this increased production together with buoyant prices should allow the Food Harvest 2020 target to be met.

The following table details both the volume and value of pigmeat exports since 2006.

Irish Pigmeat Exports 2006-2010

Year

Volume (tonnes)

Value €

2006

139,000

378m

2007

142,000

370m

2008

138,000

340m

2009

127,000

290m

2010

147,000

317m

Pigmeat remains the most consumed meat worldwide with demand expected to continue to increase in the medium term. This will continue to present opportunities for Irish producers. All markets which were closed as a result of the dioxin incident have been reopened and demand has recovered strongly particularly in international markets.

Food Harvest 2020 sets ambitious targets for the pig sector, including a 50% increase in the value of output by 2020. Increased sow productivity will be the key driver of this growth together with an increase in the size of the sow herd. Work towards the achievement of these targets is ongoing.

Food Safety Standards

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

219 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is satisfied regarding food health and hygiene regulations as applied throughout the industry in respect of both native and imported produce; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17926/11]

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) under the aegis of the Minister for Health has overall responsibility for the enforcement of food safety in Ireland. It carries out this remit through service contracts with my Department and other agencies including the HSE, Local Authority Veterinary Service and Sea Fisheries Protection Authority.

The work to ensure compliance with the application of health and hygiene regulations within the remit of my Department is carried out by staff from the Veterinary Public Health and Agriculture Inspectorates who specialise in particular sectors of primary food production. They are supported in this work by Department laboratories through sampling and analyses of the products concerned. All compliance work is subject to regular audit by both the FSAI and the Food and Veterinary Office of the EU.

Regarding imported produce, consignments of food products of animal origin directly entering on to the territory of the EU must be the subject of a prior notification of import. My Department, in co-operation with Customs service, monitors and operates animal and public health controls at EU approved Border Inspection Posts (BIP) on all direct imports into Ireland coming from non-EU (or third) countries.

These are required to undergo veterinary examination at the BIP of entry to include documentary checks (100%), identity checks (100%) and physical checks ranging from 20% to 50% of consignments according to whether the consignment consists of meat or meat products. Consignments failing to comply with veterinary control checks may be detained for further examination and where non-compliance is established are returned to the exporting country or destroyed at the importers cost.

As competent authority for monitoring and control of pesticide residues my Department also undertakes import control under new EU harmonised legislation for food safety risks because of pesticide residues in designated foods of non-animal origin coming from specified third countries. Importers of food commodities from such countries are required to pre-notify their import into the EU and submit relevant consignments for checks and sampling, according to EU requirements, at designated points of entry (DPE). Consignments undergoing sampling are held and not released unless a satisfactory result has been obtained.

My Department also enforces marketing standards for fresh fruit and vegetables requiring that fruit and vegetables may only be marketed if they are sound, fair and of a marketable quality and if the country of origin is indicated.

Proposed Legislation

Finian McGrath

Question:

220 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the proposals regarding proposals to ban fur farming. [17961/11]

It is my intention to publish an Animal Health & Welfare Bill this year. However, as the Deputy will be aware the Bill is a complex one and will require extensive work in conjunction with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to complete the required legal drafting. Once a complete draft is available I intend to publish the Bill. The issue of fur farming is being examined in the context of the ongoing drafting of the Bill.

Grant Payments

Finian McGrath

Question:

221 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the proposals regarding proposals to ban fur farming. [17962/11]

It is my intention to publish an Animal Health and Welfare Bill this year. However, as the Deputy will be aware the Bill is a complex one and will require extensive work in conjunction with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to complete the required legal drafting. Once a complete draft is available I intend to publish the Bill. The issue of fur farming is being examined in the context of the ongoing drafting of the Bill.

Departmental Bodies

Michael McGrath

Question:

222 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list the number of positions under his control but outside of the Civil Service which will be affected by new salary caps; the specific cuts involved and any impact identified on the ability to recruit or to retain specific positions in the next 12 months. [17973/11]

My understanding is one CEO of a commercial State Body under the aegis of my Department has a salary in excess of the new pay ceiling of €250,000. As the Deputy will be aware, voluntary waivers of salary will be sought from incumbent CEOs of State Bodies whose salaries are in excess of this ceiling.

Constitutional Amendments

John Paul Phelan

Question:

223 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs when she expects the referendum on children’s rights to occur; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17751/11]

The Programme for Government 2011 states that the referendum on Children's Rights is a priority, and that wording will be along the lines of that proposed by the All Party Oireachtas Committee. On taking office, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs commenced discussions with the Attorney General, with a view to preparing a draft wording which will more closely reflect the work of the Committee, than that which the previous Government approved in draft form.

When these discussions have been concluded, I intend to bring the matter to Government for approval to draft a bill and hold a Referendum. The Taoiseach has already stated that the Referendum will not take place on the same day as the presidential election, in view of the concern that to do so might unnecessarily and unhelpfully politicise children's rights, and that a separate referendum is more appropriate for this important and sensitive issue.

Inter-Country Adoptions

Jim Daly

Question:

224 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the discussion she has had regarding adoptions and a bilateral agreement with Ethopia; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17820/11]

The Adoption Act, 2010 gives force of law to the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption. The new legislation, which incorporates the provisions of the Hague Convention, is designed to provide a framework to ensure that appropriate procedures have been followed and that all adoptions are effected in the best interests of the child.

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

Ireland does not have a bilateral agreement with Ethiopia in respect of adoption. Consideration of this matter is ongoing. Officials of my Department have been in touch with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Irish Embassy in Ethiopia as part of an assessment of adoption practice and the child welfare and protection systems in place in Ethiopia.

The Adoption Act, 2010, contains a provision that will enable prospective adoptive parents to proceed with an adoption from a non-Hague or non-bilateral country, if prior to the establishment date, they have been issued with a Declaration of Eligibility and Suitability to adopt. The provision requires that the Adoption Authority would be satisfied that the particular adoption meets all the standards of the Hague Convention. In practice this will mean that persons with a Declaration of Eligibility and Suitability from the Adoption Board issued prior to 1 November 2010 can continue the adoption, provided it is a Hague standard adoption.

Jim Daly

Question:

225 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she is in receipt of correspondence from the Irish Ethiopian Adoption Organisation regarding a request for a meeting; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17822/11]

Following my appointment as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, I received a large number of meeting requests from various individuals and organisations. Due to the volume of correspondence, it has taken some time to work through the requests. I have received the correspondence from the Irish Ethiopian Adoption Organisation and will address their request as soon as possible.

Departmental Bodies

Michael McGrath

Question:

226 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will list the number of positions under her control but outside of the Civil Service which will be affected by new salary caps; the specific cuts involved and any impact identified on the ability to recruit or to retain specific positions in the next 12 months. [17976/11]

None of the posts in agencies under the aegis of my Department are affected by the new salary caps.

Services for People with Disabilities

John McGuinness

Question:

227 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health if an application for mobility allowance will be approved in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [17843/11]

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Food Labelling

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

228 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the number of instances in respect of which mislabelling of food or food products have been identified in the past three years and to date in 2011 with particular reference to imported products being sold as or of Irish origin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17917/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

229 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the number and nature of inspections carried out in respect of labelling of product in the food sector; the extent of any violations identified or discovered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17927/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 228 and 229 together.

I have asked the Food Safety Authority of Ireland to contact the Deputy directly with a answer in relation to these two questions.

Medical Cards

Martin Ferris

Question:

230 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health when a decision will issue on a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry. [17684/11]

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

Nursing Homes Support Scheme

Gerry Adams

Question:

231 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health if nursing home fees are set by the National Treatment Purchase Fund; if so, the considerations taken into account to determine the fees; and if so whether they take into account the standard of care offered in the nursing homes [17700/11]

In order to become an ‘Approved Nursing Home' for the purposes of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme, a private or voluntary nursing home must:

be registered under the Health Act 2007,

have agreed a price for the purposes of the scheme with the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF), and

hold a valid tax clearance certificate.

The NTPF has statutory responsibility for the negotiation of the price for the cost of care in private and voluntary nursing homes. The NTPF is independent in the performance of this function. The NTPF may examine the records and accounts of nursing homes and has particular responsibility to ensure value for money for both the individual and the State. The Minister for Health recently instructed the NTPF to renegotiate with nursing homes with a view to achieving price decreases because the increases agreed over the last number of months are not sustainable.

Under the Health Act 2007 statutory responsibility is given to the Chief Inspector of Social Services, part of the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), for the independent inspection and registration of certain categories of designated centres. This includes residential care settings for older people. Since the 1st July 2009 all nursing homes (public, private and voluntary) are registered under the Health Act 2007 (Registration of Designated Centres for Older People) Regulations 2009, as amended, by the Chief Inspector. All nursing homes are inspected under the Health Act 2007 (Care and Welfare of Residents in Designated Centres for Older People) Regulations 2009, as amended, and must meet theNational Quality Standards for Residential Care Settings for Older People in Ireland.

All nursing homes are subject to the same care standards in relation to quality and safety. The Chief Inspector has the power to refuse to register, attach conditions to a registration or cancel the registration of a designated centre in the event of non-compliance with the regulations or the standards.

Hospital Services

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

232 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Health the steps he proposes to take to ensure that transport services are provided to dialysis and cancer care patients from 1 July 2011 in view of the circular letter issued by the national ambulance service on 17 June 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17701/11]

As you are aware, the fiscal situation in this country is critical and requires efficiencies to be made in every area of public expenditure. The HSE, with a reduction of €638m to its allocation, is committed to delivering service levels for 2011 which are broadly in line with 2010 levels. To maintain these core services, it is necessary for the HSE to evaluate and identify where efficiencies can be made, while ensuring that those patients with a clear clinical need are prioritised and continue to have access to health care.

I have instructed the HSE generally not to withdraw any services from acute hospitals unless and until I receive a full briefing on the details of what is proposed, the alternative arrangements to be put in place, and the overall implications for patients. I will certainly not stand over a situation where there is a proposal to withdraw services from people with a clear clinical need for those services

Non-emergency transport comprises inter-hospital transfers and patient transport between home and health facility. It includes both HSE and private transport providers. The National Ambulance Service (NAS) provides pre-hospital emergency care and emergency and some non-emergency patient transport.

Supported by my Department and by HIQA, the NAS is working to improve the management and integration of its services, including standard national criteria for non-emergency transport. These criteria will allow a patient transport service that is transparent and accessible for service users.

There are a number of supports for cancer patients who have to travel for treatment, through the Community Welfare Office services and the Travel2Care scheme. Travel2Care is being implemented on a phased basis with the transfer of cancer services to the 8 designated cancer centres and the approved satellite centre in Letterkenny, where this transfer of services would otherwise cause financial hardship. The scheme provides some financial help towards public transport costs, such as trains or buses, private transport costs or petrol and parking. It is funded by the National Cancer Control Programme and administered by the Irish Cancer Society.

Derek Nolan

Question:

233 Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) in County Galway will be given an appointment for an operation. [17704/11]

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

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

234 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) in County Louth will receive an operation. [17714/11]

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

Health Services

Brian Stanley

Question:

235 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the respite services at a centre (details supplied) are due to end, that the kitchen in the centre has been recently refurbished at considerable cost, that it is already located on the hospital campus at Tullamore, that the Health Service Executive propose to relocate this elsewhere and his view on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17731/11]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to his previous question in relation to this matter on 15th June last and in particular the reassurance that the respite service will continue to be provided in Tullamore and the quantum and quality of services will remain the same. I have asked the Health Service Executive to update you directly in relation to developments at Clochan House, Tullamore, Co Offaly.

Departmental Staff

Seán Kenny

Question:

236 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Health the number of persons employed by him by grade and the pay scale by grade. [17736/11]

There were 453.76 Whole Time Equivalents (WTE) employed in my Department at the end of May 2011 (the latest available figures). This includes individuals working in the Office of the Disability Appeals Officer and the former Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

The following table details the breakdown of staff by grade at the end of May 2011.

Grade Level

Whole Time Equivalent

Pay Scale (Where scales vary depending on the rate of PRSI contribution that applies, the scales shown are those paid to employees to whom full PRSI rates apply. Scales for those paying modified PRSI are reduced so that net pay is unchanged)The pay of a small number of individuals (for example staff on secondment from agencies external to the Department) may vary slightly from the bands shown.

Secretary General

1.00

€215,590 (this was voluntarily reduced to €214,187 and more recently further reduced voluntarily to €200,000)

Deputy Secretary

2.00

€168,000

Assistant Secretary

5.00

€127,796 — €146,191

Deputy Chief Medical Officer

4.00

€97,668 -€119,445

Principal Officer

25.83

€84,132 — €103,472

Principal Officer Higher Scale

15.80

€90,355 — €110,844

Assistant Principal

64.54

€65,185 — €80,878

Assistant Principal Higher Scale

35.40

€71,359 — €88,595

Higher Executive Officer

65.03

€46,081 — €58,294

Higher Executive Officer Higher Scale

25.50

€48,831 — €60,224

Administrative Officer

10.50

€33,247 — €58,294

Administrative Officer Higher Scale

3.80

€42,838 — €60,224

Executive Officer

60.30

€30,516 — €47,975

Executive Officer Higher Scale

18.90

€30,516 — €49,837

Staff Officer

11.43

€34,771 — €46,171

Clerical Officer

70.93

€23,177 — €37,341

Clerical Officer Higher Scale

11.80

€24,255 — €38,135

Head Porter /Services Officer (Weekly)

2.00

€563.97 — €704.36

Services Officer (Weekly)

8.00

€416.49 — €559.23

Personal Assistant

3.00

€43,715 — €56,060

Personal Secretary

3.00

€23,820 — €47,755

Special Advisor

2.00

€80,051 — €98,424

Civilian Driver

4.00

€32,965

Total Staff

453.76

All general service grades employed in my Department are paid in accordance with Department of Finance Circular 28/2009 Revision of Pay of Civil Servants. All Ministerial appointees are paid in accordance with the Department of Finance guidelines "Instructions to Personnel Officers — Ministerial Appointments for the 31st Dáil" which were issued on the 1st April 2011.

Hospital Services

Seán Kenny

Question:

237 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Health if he will increase the capacity of the intensive care unit of Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9. [17740/11]

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

Nursing Home Inspections

Gerry Adams

Question:

238 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health the number of nursing homes in the State that are subject to inspection; and the frequency with which they are inspected. [17813/11]

Under the Health Act 2007 statutory responsibility is given to the Chief Inspector of Social Services, part of the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), for the independent inspection and registration of certain categories of designated centres. This includes residential care settings for older people (nursing homes).

As of 26 June 2011 there are 590 designated centres (nursing homes) - this includes all active designated centres and new builds. Inspection frequency in terms of an actual site inspection varies on a centre by centre basis. All centres receive a registration inspection every three years. The frequency of any other site inspections are determined by the case holding inspector and take into account a range of factors to determine whether a site inspection is required.

In 2010 HIQA carried out 815 inspections. This year 368 inspections were completed between 1 January and 24 June.

Medical Cards

Dessie Ellis

Question:

239 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Health the measures he is putting in place to ensure that medical card holders are not charged by their general practitioners for the completion of a medical checkup required by the Irish Amateur Boxing Association. [17814/11]

The General Medical Services (GMS) GP contract stipulates that General Practitioners "shall provide for eligible persons, on behalf of the HSE, all proper and necessary treatment of a kind usually undertaken by a GP and not requiring special skill or experience of a degree which GPs cannot reasonably be expected to possess". The contract between the HSE and general practitioners under the GMS Scheme stipulates that fees are not paid to GPs by the HSE in respect of certain medical certificates which may be required, for example, "under the Social Welfare Acts or for the purposes of insurance or assurance policies or for the issue of driving licences".

Consultation fees charged by general practitioners to private patients and to GMS patients outside the terms of the GMS contract are a matter of private contract between the clinicians and the patients. While I have no role in relation to such fees, I would expect clinicians to have regard to the overall economic situation in setting their fees. I should add that General Practitioners who hold GMS contracts with the HSE must not seek or accept money from medical card or GP visit card holders in respect of routine treatment.

John McGuinness

Question:

240 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health if he will expedite a response to an application for a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow. [17831/11]

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

John McGuinness

Question:

241 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health if a medical card application will be expedited and approved in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if there is a time frame for such decisions. [17840/11]

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

Health Services

Brendan Smith

Question:

242 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Health further to the adjournment debate of 15 June 2011, if he will ensure that further urgent consideration is given to the need to provide adequate medical cover through the North East Doctor on Call service; if he will ensure that the service is structured to continue general practioners service after 10.00 p.m. nightly at the NEDOC centre in Cavan town; if his attention has been drawn to the widespread concern among the public and health professionals in relation to the proposal to cease such a service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17849/11]

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

Departmental Reports

Gerry Adams

Question:

243 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health if the independent research report on the practice of symphysiotomy will be published once it is completed. [17851/11]

Following receipt of this report, which is due to be received in September 2011, my Department will further engage with patient representative groups. I will then quickly decide on the next steps required to address this situation. It is my intention that the report be published, subject of course to the usual legal and related considerations, which are as of now not expected to create any significant barriers to publication.

Health Service Staff

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

244 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Health when implementing future staff reductions in the Health Service Executive, his plans to reduce the number of nurses who are over the age of 55 years within the system specifically those in administration; if he has considered a targeted voluntary redundancy package for these areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17852/11]

The Government is committed to bringing about a significant reduction in the number of staff across the public service over the period to 2015, to realise efficiencies in the delivery of public services and contribute to the overall correction of the national finances, while protecting front-line services as far as possible.

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform is currently considering the range of measures that will be necessary to bring about the necessary numbers reductions. Policy measures across various areas of Government activity should contribute to this overall objective, and a comprehensive review of expenditure to examine all areas where savings and numbers reductions might be identified is currently taking place.

Part of the overall policy on public service numbers may involve voluntary staff exit mechanisms, and the options in this regard will be considered by the Government in this overall context.

However, there are currently no specific plans in place to reduce the number of nurses.

Nursing Homes Support Scheme

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

245 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health his views on the future of the fair deal (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14522/11]

The processing of approvals for financial support under the Nursing Homes Support Scheme re-commenced the week beginning 13th June. Approvals are being issued to those applicants processed to final stage in the chronological order in which they were received in the Central Office in Tullamore. Approvals are currently being issued to the first 400 of these applicants. Funding is being assigned on a daily basis. There are approximately 700 further applications processed to final stage and now awaiting approval and these will be dealt with as a priority.

The key focus of the Minister for Health is to ensure that those who require nursing home care will be able to access it and, to this end, the Department estimates that almost 24,000 people will be in long-term nursing home care by year end. This would mean a net increase of around 1,700 people between now and the end of the year.

In order to fund this increase, and to offset other pressures on the subhead such as increases in average length of stay, cost increases etc., the Minister identified a range of savings and income sources, one of which is a potential saving of up to €30 million in non-service related spending. This funding will come primarily from capital spending which is running significantly behind budget so far this year.

The Programme for Government commits us to review the system of financing nursing home care with a view to developing a secure and equitable system of financing for community and long term care. This commitment will be carried through.

In addition, the Nursing Homes Support Scheme is due for formal review commencing in 2012. The scheme will be three years in operation at that stage. The reason for allowing this period to elapse is to ensure that established and validated trends and statistics will be available in order to inform this work. It is still intended to proceed with this review and it will look at the ongoing sustainability of the scheme, the relative costs of public versus private provision and the balance of funding between residential and community care.

Medical Cards

Finian McGrath

Question:

246 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17930/11]

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

Health Services

Billy Timmins

Question:

247 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health the position regarding speech and language therapy in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17935/11]

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters, I have arranged for this question to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Nursing Homes Support Scheme

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

248 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Health if he will provide a break down of like for like in terms of levels of dependency cost of nursing home care for an elderly person in a public nursing home and in a private nursing home. [17950/11]

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

249 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Health in view of the discrepancy between the recently publicly quoted cost of public and private nursing home care, the amount of this discrepancy that can be explained by the higher level of dependency in public nursing homes. [17951/11]

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

The Nursing Homes Support Scheme encompasses a Care Needs Assessment which identifies whether the individual has sufficiently high care needs to warrant nursing home care or whether their care needs can be met in the community. The purpose of the assessment is to ensure that long-term residential care is the most appropriate option for the particular individual.

The Care Needs Assessment is carried out by appropriate healthcare professionals appointed by the HSE. An assessment may be completed in a hospital or community setting and includes consideration of the following:

the individual's ability to carry out the activities of daily living, e.g. bathing, shopping, dressing,

the medical, health and personal social services being provided to the person or available to the individual at the time of the assessment and generally,

the family and community support available to the individual, and

the individual's wishes and preferences.

The Nursing Homes Support Scheme Act 2009 defines "long-term residential care services" as maintenance, health and personal care services. The services which fall within the scope of long-term residential care are:

nursing and personal care appropriate to the level of care needs of the person,

basic aids and appliances necessary to assist a person with the activities of daily living,

bed and board, and

laundry service.

Under the scheme, the cost for each public nursing home is determined using the definition of "long-term residential care services" underpinned by an agreed set of cost components which have been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. The cost of care is reviewed on an annual basis. When the review was carried out in 2010, the cost of care reduced in approximately 80% of public nursing homes. The 2011 review is underway at present. Given the very significant differences between the average cost of care under the scheme in public and private nursing homes, and in the absence of evidence to the support such a difference, the Minister for Health considers that it will be necessary to identify ways of achieving further significant reductions in public nursing home costs either as part or outside of the review.

The National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) has statutory responsibility for the negotiation of prices in private and voluntary nursing homes. The NTPF is independent in the performance of this function. The NTPF may examine the records and accounts of nursing homes and has particular responsibility to ensure value for money for both the individual and the State.

The cost of care for each nursing home that is participating in the NursingHomes Support Scheme is published on the HSE's website at:http://www.hse.ie/eng/services/Find_a_Service/Older_People_Services/nhss/. At present, the weighted average cost of care is approximately €1,275 in a public nursing home and €900 in a private nursing home.

Following the examination of the Scheme, the Minister for Health is considering a range of increased governance and monitoring arrangements and it is hoped to convey these to the HSE within the next few days. These will include issues already signalled by the Minister such as a clinical audit of the Common Summary Assessment Report (CSAR) process to establish the levels of dependency for those accessing care and to attempt to explain the unforeseen increase in average length of stay.

Medical Cards

Finian McGrath

Question:

250 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [17964/11]

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

Public Service Remuneration

Michael McGrath

Question:

251 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health if he has examined the current or potential impact of public service pay or numbers policy on the ability of organisations under his control to allocate and oversee the efficient use of State resources. [17971/11]

The Government's policies on public service pay and numbers, whereby pay has been reduced or capped and staff numbers are also being brought down, have been introduced of necessity, in response to the present serious economic and fiscal conditions. Such policies mean that all organisations across the entire public service, not just in the health sector, need to manage their resources in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. The Public Service Agreement (PSA) has been a key enabler in this regard and the real achievement in implementing the PSA in the health sector has been to continue to provide the same level and quality of services with much reduced budgets.

The Deputy will also be aware that the Government is also carrying out a Comprehensive Review of Expenditure. Under this review, it is committed to examining all aspects of public expenditure, with a view to ensuring that, where State programmes do continue, that all resources are used in the optimum manner to deliver services to citizens.

Michael McGrath

Question:

252 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health if he will list the number of positions under his control but outside of the Civil Service which will be affected by new salary caps; the specific cuts involved and any impact identified on the ability to recruit or to retain specific positions in the next 12 months. [17983/11]

Having regard to the ongoing severe economic conditions, the Government has introduced general policies in relation to the pay for future appointees to the Public Service and CEOs of Commercial State Companies. These policies are that a salary ceiling of €200,000 will apply to persons in higher positions across all sectors of the public service and a salary ceiling of €250,000 will apply to CEOs of Commercial State Companies. Current incumbents whose salaries are in excess of these salary ceilings have been requested to agree to a voluntary waiver of salary.

Revised rates for new appointments as academic consultants are to be prepared which will reflect the pay ceiling of €200,000. These new policies do not apply to medical consultants generally. The other health sector positions outside the Civil Service and which will be affected by this cap are the CEO of the HSE and the CEO of the VHI.

The CEO of the HSE has already agreed to a voluntary waiver of 15% of his salary.

I am aware that the CEO of the VHI had already announced his intention to resign his position and has given the required six months' notice, prior to the announcement of these new policies. The recruitment process for a new CEO has not yet commenced.

Suicide Incidence

Gerry Adams

Question:

253 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health if he will prioritise resources for those agencies that are responsible for increasing awareness regarding the growing problem of deliberate self-harm. [14501/11]

Dealing with the current high levels of suicide and deliberate self harm is a priority for this Government.Reach Out — the National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention (2005 — 2014) provides a policy framework for suicide prevention activities in Ireland. It calls for a multi-sectoral approach to the prevention of suicidal behaviour involving health, education, community, voluntary and private sector agencies. The total funding available nationally through the HSE for suicide prevention is about €9 million of which €4.2 million is available to the National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP) and approximately €5 million is available regionally to fund Resource Officers for Suicide Prevention, Self-Harm Liaison Nurses in Hospital Emergency partments and local suicide prevention initiatives including crisis awareness groups.

The funding being provided in this area this year includes a special allocation of €1 million specifically to target initiatives to address the increasing incidence of suicide and deliberate self harm. The emphasis will be placed on the most vulnerable groups identified in‘Reach Out’ and more recent research.

The Government has also committed to ringfencing €35 million annually in future budgets to develop community mental health services and to implementReach Out.

Irish Coast Guard

Gerald Nash

Question:

254 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the cost of the service provided by the Irish Coast Guard at the concerts held at Slane Castle, County Meath, in each of the years from 2004 to 2011 inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17696/11]

The Irish Coast Guard regularly pre-positions assets at major events such as Volvo Ocean Race, Tall Ships events, Cork Week Regatta, and any costs are captured within the overall training and incident response budget. Volunteers involved are entitled to claim an allowance for their time on service. This allowance is the same for any incident response and the current rate is €10.16 for the first hour and €3.81 for each subsequent hour.

29 Coast Guard volunteers, on foot of a request from local Gardaí, attended Slane Castle in 2011 and similar numbers in 2005, 2007 and 2009.

Road Network

Derek Nolan

Question:

255 Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his attention has been drawn to the ongoing delay in deciding the route of a proposed road in the vicinity of Spiddal, County Galway (details supplied); if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that the delay has resulted in landowners of close to 15,000 acres of land around the proposed routes not being able to apply for planning permission to build on their land for a number of years; if a route will be decided upon or if landowners in the area will be allowed apply of planning permission in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17711/11]

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads, in its area, is a statutory function of each road authority in accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Roads Act, 1993. Works on such roads are a matter for the relevant local authority to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State road grants. The initial selection and prioritisation of projects to be funded is also a matter for the local authority.

A total of €439.676 million has been allocated to local authorities under the Regional and Local Roads Investment Programme. From this allocation, Galway County Council are being provided with a total of €24.234 million. This total figure includes the additional allocation of €3.381m which was made to Galway County Council as part of the Jobs Initiative in May. Also included in that allocation is funding of €500,000 towards R336 Connemara Access Road Bearan to Rós an Mhíl.

I understand that Galway County Council, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and RPS consulting engineers met with the EU Commission in May this year and that the Council hope to have a public consultation on route selection in the Autumn.

Rail Network

John Paul Phelan

Question:

256 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of the new railway in Dublin West; when he expects that it will be open; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17759/11]

I presume the Deputy is referring to Luas Citywest which will be officially opening on Saturday 2 July next, with passengers services commencing at 12 noon.

This 4.2 km rail line will have 5 new stops at Fettercairn, Cheeverstown, Citywest Campus, Fortunestown and Saggart serving local communities and the Citywest business area. There will also be a 300 space park and ride at Cheeverstown. It is expected that an additional 2 million Red Line passenger journeys will be made per year. On the new line there will be a 10 minute frequency at peak with the Tallaght terminus having a 6 minute frequency at peak.

Public Service Remuneration

Michael McGrath

Question:

257 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will list the number of positions under his control but outside of the Civil Service which will be affected by new salary caps; the specific cuts involved and any impact identified on the ability to recruit or to retain specific positions in the next 12 months. [17987/11]

Following the recent Government decision to cap the salaries of persons serving in higher positions across all sectors of the public service at €200,000 and at €250,000 for Chief Executive Officers of commercial state companies, I will seek voluntary waivers of 15% of salary from current incumbents whose salaries are in excess of these figures or a lesser amount if the application of the full 15% reduction would bring their salary level below the thresholds.

From information provided to me by the agencies I estimate that 4 people will be affected by these new caps.

In the current economic difficulties, the decision of the Government to impose salary caps on the higher earners in the public service and the Chief Executives of the commercial State companies is a necessary one. I am hopeful that staff with the necessary skills and expertise can be recruited or retained at the adjusted salary levels.