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 7, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 8 to 27, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 28 to 36, inclusive, answered orally.

Tax Reliefs

Seamus Kirk

Question:

37 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Finance if he will ensure that the stamp duty exemption for farm consolidation is renewed by the end of June this year. [17636/11]

The relief from Stamp Duty for farm consolidation expired on 30 June. I understand the level of take up of the scheme was not particularly high: there were only 115 applications for the relief from its introduction in 2005 until the end of 2009; figures for 2010 and 2011 are not yet available. I have no plans at this time to renew this relief.

Corporation Tax Policy

Timmy Dooley

Question:

38 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Finance his understanding of France’s position on Ireland’s corporation tax. [14629/11]

Taxation in the European Treaties is a sovereign issue for Member States and taxation matters at a European level can only be decided on the basis of unanimity. For this reason, Ireland is aware of the attitude of other Member States, including France, to our corporation tax rate. Corporation tax policy is critical to the Irish economic growth model. The foreign-owned sector is currently the main source of growth in the Irish economy. One recent report ranked Ireland as the top creator of employment, relative to population size, from foreign direct investment.

I have had discussions with the French Finance Minister and sought to explain the Irish perspective and to understand the French position on this issue.

Public Service Remuneration

Pearse Doherty

Question:

39 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons currently employed by the State who are earning more than €100,000 per year; and the total cost to the State of all earnings in excess of €100,000 per year. [18587/11]

Seán Crowe

Question:

43 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Finance the total savings to the Exchequer in a full financial year arising from a cap of €100,000 on public sector pay. [18588/11]

Pearse Doherty

Question:

45 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the legal obstacles that may exist to prevent placing a 45% levy on earnings of more than €100,000 per year for those working in the public service. [18586/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 39, 43 and 45 together.

Data on earnings in the public sector is sourced from the Revenue Commissioners and similar data to that sought was supplied in response to Parliamentary Questions, Reference Nos. 2785/2786/2787 and 2788, of 18 January 2011. On the basis of the available tax-based data it is not possible to identify and exclude income from public sources to groups that would not normally be regarded as employed within the public service or to distinguish the earnings of employees associated with atypical work patterns. Accordingly, it is not possible from this data to estimate the total cost to the State of all earnings in excess of €100,000.

However, the total savings to the Exchequer in a full financial year arising from a cap of €100,000 on public sector salaries is estimated at €265m. 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. As the combined effect of the estimated marginal tax rate and the pension related reduction at a pay level for a public servant of €100,000 p.a. or higher is at least 62.5%, the estimated net savings would be reduced to less than €100m.

There are an estimated 7,000 persons currently employed by the State on pay rates in excess of €100,000 per year. The placing of a 45% levy on earnings above €100,000 per year for those working in the public service is not proposed nor will I speculate on any legal considerations that might arise in the event of such a proposal being brought forward.

The estimates do not include staff of commercial State-sponsored bodies since the Minister for Finance is not responsible for setting the rate of pay for employees (other than CEOs) in the commercial state sector.

Commercial Property Valuations

David Stanton

Question:

40 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 97 and 98 of 28 June 2011, the number of staff employed in the Valuation Office; the reason for the slow progress of the revaluation process; the specific options under review by the commissioner to accelerate the delivery of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18564/11]

David Stanton

Question:

41 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 97 and 98 of 28 June 2011, if his attention has been drawn to the impact of the delays in the revaluation programme on businesses across the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18563/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 40 and 41 together.

There are currently 144 staff employed in the Valuation Office which is a statutory office headed by the Commissioner of Valuation. The Commissioner is responsible for all valuation matters under the Valuation Act 2001. I should point out that the Commissioner is independent under the Act and that I, as Minister for Finance, have no function in decisions in this regard.

As I explained in response to recent Questions, the revaluation programme began in November 2005 in the South Dublin County Council area where it was completed in 2007. It has since been completed in the Fingal County Council area in 2009 and in Dún Laoghaire — Rathdown in 2010. The revaluation of the Dublin City Council area was commenced in May this year having been postponed for well over a year because of the volatility and conditions in the property market. The Dublin City part of the programme will entail the valuation of approximately 25,000 properties and the new list will be published in 2013.

It is intended to roll out the revaluation programme to other local authority areas shortly and preparatory work has already taken place in relation to the Waterford local authority areas and Limerick City.

Following the completion of the Dublin City revaluation, approaching 50% of the national valuation base, in terms of monetary values, will have been completed. This represents some 26% of the national total in terms of the number of properties to be valued.

As you will appreciate, the revaluation programme is a major project in nature and scale, all the more so, given that such a nationwide exercise has not been undertaken since the mid-1800s and it has required new systems and processes to be developed and tested. However, notwithstanding the improvements that have been made, it is the case that the programme is taking considerably longer than expected. I understand from the Commissioner of Valuation that the specific options he is examining with a view to speeding up the work are outsourcing, introduction of a system of self-assessment or updating the values on existing lists through a system of indexation based on market analysis. All of these options raise issues that require detailed examination which is ongoing. No decision has yet been made.

I should point out also that the purpose of revaluation is to bring more equity, fairness and transparency into the local authority rating system. Revaluation will lead to a redistribution of the commercial rates burden between businesses depending on the relative shift of rental values between locations and categories of properties. Even though property values have fallen generally not every ratepayer will gain from revaluation — there will be losers as well as winners. It depends on how the rental value of each property changes relative to other property values and sectors.

As I mentioned previously, my Departmental officials are reviewing various provisions of the Valuation Act with a view to achieving greater efficiencies, including streamlining the appeals process.

Fiscal Policy

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

42 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Finance if lowering personal income tax bands and credits will form part of the additional revenue raising measures currently being considered by him as part of the fifth quarter requirements of the EU-IMF programme. [18594/11]

The Programme for Government states that as part of the Government's fiscal strategy we will maintain the current rates of income tax together with bands and credits. As the Deputy is aware, the Government has initiated a Comprehensive Review of Expenditure (CRE) to provide the Government with a set of decision options to meet the overall fiscal consolidation objectives and re-align spending with the Programme for Government priorities. The CRE is due to be completed by end September 2011.

When this review is complete, the Government will examine the findings and, based on these findings and consultation with the troika, will introduce fiscally neutral changes to the detail of the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland while maintaining the overall commitment to fiscal consolidation.

Question No. 43 answered with Question No. 39.

Proposed Legislation

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

44 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Finance in view of his stated intention to impose losses on unsecured senior bondholders in Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society subject to the agreement of the European Central Bank, if he intends to bring forward specific legislation to facilitate such a move. [18572/11]

I have indicated to the House that, consistent with Government policy, I will raise the issue of burden sharing which will allow for the imposition of loses on unguaranteed and unsecured senior bondholders in Anglo and INBS with the IMF and EU authorities in the autumn. The Government will not take any unilateral action in this area, but will work with our external partners to explain our perspective and hear their views. While legislation is in place to provide for burden sharing with subordinated debt holders under the Credit Institutions (Stabilisation) Act 2010 there are currently no provisions on the statute book to specifically provide for burden sharing with senior bondholders. If action is to be taken on this matter I will of course bring forward legislation to facilitate the imposition of losses on the senior bondholders of Anglo Irish Bank and INBS.

I would emphasise that Government policy remains that all senior bondholders in AIB/EBS, Bank of Ireland and Irish Life and Permanent will be repaid in full.

Question No. 45 answered with Question No. 39.

Eurozone Contingency Measures

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

46 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Finance if there are contingency measures being put in place in the event of an Irish withdrawal from the euro or a break up of the eurozone; if such contingencies might include discussions with non-eurozone countries and the printing of Irish punt; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18610/11]

The focus of Government is to work with our partners in the Euro Area and the broader EU to maintain and enhance the stability of the Euro. This is also the aim and intention of the wider international community including the IMF. Our actions support this. Financial support measures were put in place for Greece, and the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism, (the EFSM), and the European Financial Stability Facility, (the EFSF), were established. The permanent stability facility — the European Stability Mechanism — was agreed at the European Council. In addition to this, economic governance in the Euro Area has been enhanced with measures such as the Euro Plus pact. The European semester — for budgetary and economic policy monitoring and co-ordination is already in operation. A further significant step that all Member States are taking is to ensure and enhance fiscal sustainability. That is why difficult decisions are being taken right across Europe by responsible Governments. Restoring growth potential and improving the public finances is the way forward. Suggesting otherwise is misleading.

All these measures are concrete evidence of the determination of the Euro Area members to protect the currency, and also of their willingness and ability to do so. It is in the nature of modern economies and financial systems that difficulties will arise from time to time. The appropriate response to such difficulties is to take the measures necessary to defend an institution that has served its members — the Euro Area Member states, including Ireland — very well. This is the approach that all major economies take — they defend their currency — they do not abandon it at the first sign of difficulty.

The recent votes in the Greek Parliament, which were difficult for all concerned, are to be welcomed. We look forward to working with our European partners, including Greece to develop and safeguard the Euro.

Tax Code

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

47 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a progress report on the proposed reform of capital gains tax and acquisitions tax as outlined in the EU-IMF programme. [18598/11]

A number of possible changes to the Capital Acquisitions Tax (CAT) and Capital Gains Tax (CGT) provisions are under consideration. The Deputy may be aware that the CAT Group tax-free thresholds were reduced by approximately 20% in Budget 2011. The level and timeframe of any changes will be determined in the context of the Budget following the comprehensive expenditure review.

Mortgage Arrears

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

48 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he has received any communications from the banking or lending sectors with a view to achieving a basis for addressing the ever increasing issue of mortgage arrears which has been exasperated by unemployment and negative equity; if any progress can be made towards the elimination of compound interest being applied which in turn reduces the capacity of the borrower to resolve a debt problem; if any progress has been or can be made towards putting in place a mechanism that will at least give a householder with mortgage arrears a reasonable chance of regaining control over mortgage debt; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18529/11]

The revised Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears (CCMA) was issued to all mortgage lenders in December 2010 and has been effective since 1 January 2011. The CCMA sets out how mortgage lenders must treat borrowers in or facing mortgage arrears. The CCMA requires that each lending branch must have at least one person with specific responsibility for dealing with arrears and pre-arrears cases. It also requires frontline staff to be made aware of the lender's policy for dealing with arrears and pre-arrears cases and the relevant contact person and process. The revised CCMA also introduced the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP) framework for handling of arrears and pre- arrears cases.

Provision 9 of the revised CCMA states that "Lenders are restricted from imposing charges and or surcharge interest on arrears arising on a mortgage account in arrears to which this Code applies and in respect of which a borrower is co-operating reasonably and honestly with the lender in the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process. (Lenders will have been notified individually of the charges to which this applies) .”

The Central Bank issued Letters of Direction in December 2010 to mortgage lenders prohibiting them from imposing specific arrears charges or surcharge interest on mortgage accounts in arrears to which the revised CCMA applies and in respect of which a borrower is co-operating reasonably and honestly with the lender in the MARP from 1 January 2011.

With regard to monitoring compliance with the consumer protection codes, the Central Bank carries out themed inspections and mystery-shopping exercises. On 1st July 2011 the Central Bank published the findings of a themed inspection of mortgage lenders which examined compliance with Provision 9 of the revised CCMA and the Letters of Direction. This themed inspection was carried out across six mortgage lenders including credit institutions and retail credit firms. 655 customer mortgage account statements were reviewed during the course of the themed inspection. Further detail can be found at the following link: http://www.centralbank.ie/press-area/press-releases/Pages/CentralBankMonitorsLendersCompliancewiththeRevisedCode.aspx .

Tax Code

Michael Colreavy

Question:

49 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Finance if he intends to increase the top rate of VAT as indicated in the programme for Government commitment to limit the top rate of VAT to 23%. [18608/11]

The EU/IMF Programme provides for a 1% increase in the standard VAT rate to 22% with effect from January 2013, and a further 1% increase in the standard VAT rate to 23% with effect from January 2014. The Programme for Government continues this VAT policy by limiting the top rate of VAT to 23%, but does not specify the timeframe for this increase. The level and timeframe of any increases in the standard VAT rate will be determined in the context of the annual Budget cycle.

Banking Sector Remuneration

Billy Kelleher

Question:

50 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the appointment of a new chief executive officer at Allied Irish Bank; if he will confirm if the bank has requested him to give an exemption to the salary cap of €500,000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18574/11]

As I stated in my reply to questions on the same subject on 29 June 2011 (Ref. Nos. 17942/11 and 17943/11) the search for a new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Allied Irish Banks (AIB) is on-going. I am keen that a successful outcome is achieved shortly as AIB is a fundamental part of the announced Government strategy to restructure the banking sector and any proposed appointee would play a pivotal part in this process. Additionally, I am anxious that the situation whereby the Executive Chairman combines both positions of Chairman and CEO, as instituted by the previous Government, is resolved as it does not accord with good corporate governance practice.

The bank has indicated that, in their opinion, based on their search to date the salary cap applying to the post is causing difficulties in attracting suitably qualified candidates to the position and a higher figure may have to be contemplated. I am aware that this view is held by others who have an interest in this matter. However, it would be the intention of the Government that the cap of €500,000 would be honoured. No formal proposal from AIB to pay a particular amount or appoint a particular candidate is in front of the Government or Minister.

As has been stated publicly by the Taoiseach, a 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

Tax Code

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

51 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Finance his plans for an increase in the carbon tax in Budget 2012 as required under the terms of the EU-IMF support programme. [18597/11]

The level and timeframe of any tax changes in the excise area, including in the carbon tax rate, will be determined in the context of the annual Budget cycle.

Mortgage Arrears

Denis Naughten

Question:

52 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance his plans to assist families in mortgage difficulty; the discussions, he is planning with IFSRA on the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18432/11]

I would like to inform the Deputy that there are a number of measures in place to assist mortgage holders who are in genuine difficulties with regard to the payment of their mortgages. The Deputy will be aware of the work of the Expert Group on Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt. This Group published its final Report in November 2010. All of the Expert Group's recommendations are listed in Chapter 2 of the Report which can be accessed at www.finance.gov.ie .

One of the recommendations of the Group was that lenders should offer a Deferred Interest Scheme (DIS) to borrowers. Under this Scheme, borrowers are allowed, subject to certain criteria being satisfied, to pay at least 66% of their mortgage interest but less than 100%. Payment of the balance may be deferred for up to 5 years. Lenders representing the majority of the market have already indicated their willingness to implement the Group's proposals for a DIS or a variation of it. While the scheme is voluntary for all lenders, those who have signed up in support of the scheme will be monitored by the Central Bank to ensure compliance.

I have been informed by the Central Bank that the following mortgage lenders have agreed to sign up for the DIS, but with varying dates for its availability around end June/beginning July:

AIB and AIB Mortgage Bank,

Bank of Ireland and ICS Building Society,

EBS and Haven Mortgages,

Permanent TSB,

Irish Nationwide Building Society,

Springboard Mortgages,

Start Mortgages hope to have a scheme in place by end 2011.

Since the publication of the Group's Report, the Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears (CCMA) has been revised by the Central Bank to reflect many of the recommendations, including key recommendations relating to the introduction by all regulated lenders of a standardised Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP). The most significant changes in the revised CCMA include:

Penalty interest charges may not be imposed on borrowers in arrears who co-operate with the MARP,

Harassment of borrowers through unsolicited communications is outlawed,

Borrowers in financial difficulties, but not in arrears, are allowed to come under the MARP,

When a lender is determining the 12 month period the lender must wait before applying to the courts to commence legal action, the lender must exclude any time period during which a borrower is complying with the terms of an alternative repayment arrangement, making an appeal to the internal appeals board or making a complaint to the Financial Services Ombudsman.

The revised CCMA came into effect on 1 January 2011 and can be accessed at www.centralbank.ie. Lenders are required to comply with the CCMA as a matter of law and, with effect from 30 June 2011, they must have in place the requisite systems and trained staff necessary to support the implementation of the MARP.

The recommendation of the Group to amend the local authority needs assessment process has been implemented by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. Local authorities have been provided with guidance on the treatment of applicants for social housing support whose mortgages have been deemed unsustainable. Discussions are on-going between that Department and the Irish Bankers' Federation to enable borrowers whose properties are to be repossessed to remain in their homes for a period of time pending the sourcing of appropriate accommodation by the housing authority.

As regards the recommendations of the Group in relation to the Mortgage Interest Supplement Scheme (MIS), I have been informed by the Department of Social Protection that the implementation of these recommendations will require changes to both primary and secondary legislation. That Department is currently finalising an implementation plan that will set out a framework for the future of the MIS.

Finally, people in debt or in danger of getting into debt can avail of the services of the Money Advice and Budgeting Service. This is a national, free, confidential and independent service.

Tax Yield

Catherine Murphy

Question:

53 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the revenue, if any, that is collected on works of art, many of which appear to be selling for record prices; his plans for revenue raising measures on such assets at the point of transaction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18530/11]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the information furnished on tax returns does not generally require the yield from a particular sector or sub-sector of economic activity to be identified. In these circumstances the amount of tax revenues relating to works of art cannot be separately identified. There is, therefore, no statistical basis on which the information requested by the Deputy could be estimated. With regard to the VAT treatment of the supply of works of art, I am further advised by the Revenue Commissioners that different treatments for VAT purposes may apply. Works of art such as paintings, drawings, engravings and sculptures are normally liable at the 13.5% reduced rate. Other works such as tapestries, ceramics, enamels and some photographs are normally liable at the standard rate of 21%. However, the reduced rate may apply in certain circumstances (principally to imports from outside the EU and the supply by the original artist). This is part of the rates strategy in the EU VAT Directive designed to encourage the flow of works of art into the EU.

Where a work of art is sold under the margin scheme for taxable dealers or special auction scheme, the sale is liable at the standard VAT rate on the margin. The operation of these schemes is explained in Revenue's VAT Information Leaflets entitled "Margin Scheme — Second-Hand Goods" and "Auctioneering".

In relation to the capital gains tax treatment of works of art, works of art are assets for capital gains tax purposes and are thus within the charge to that tax if the person disposing of those assets is Irish-resident. There is, however, an exemption from capital gains tax for a disposal of a work of art that has been loaned to an approved gallery for a period of not less than 10 years and has been on display to the public in that gallery. In order to qualify for this exemption, a work of art must have a face value of at least €31,750 at the time it was loaned to the gallery. If the person disposing of works of art is trading in such goods, any profit on sale will be liable to income tax instead of capital gains tax.

I have no plans to change these taxation arrangements.

Tax Compliance

Dessie Ellis

Question:

54 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding his work with regard to the programme for Government commitment to ensure that tax exiles make a fair contribution to the Exchequer. [18593/11]

The level and timeframe of any taxation changes in this area will be determined in the context of Budgets over the lifetime of the Government.

Question No. 55 answered with Question No. 33.

National Asset Management Agency

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Question:

56 Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance in view of the National Assets Management Agency has a social good clause in its articles, the way citizens access information on which properties NAMA controls, via its loan portfolio as NAMA is not required under the Freedom of Information Act to answer to the public and the way persons may find information on which properties can be made available for social good when NAMA refuses to disclose the properties it manages. [18435/11]

NAMA has a commercial remit and a statutory objective to generate a return for the taxpayer. However, within the context of its commercial remit and consistent with section 2 of the National Asset Management Agency Act 2009, NAMA is at all times open to considering proposals aimed at contributing to broader social and economic objectives. Thus NAMA is open to facilitating the work of public bodies in the creation of vibrant sustainable communities where this is possible. The NAMA Board has committed to giving first option to State bodies on the purchase of property which may be suitable for their purposes where these bodies have requirements such as schools, hospitals, parks, and so on. I understand that officials of NAMA have already had contact with officials of the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, Department of Education and Skills, the HSE, local authorities and other public bodies to explore the scope for such arrangements. Section 55 of the National Asset Management Agency Act makes extensive provision for quarterly reporting by NAMA on a wide range of matters, including details in relation to loans. For instance, the quarterly report includes, among other things, information on the number of loans being foreclosed or otherwise enforced and the amount of money recovered by NAMA through the sale of property. These reporting arrangements allow for transparent reporting to the extent that it does not breach the obligation placed on the agency to respect the confidentiality of customers. To date, four quarterly reports, the most recent of which was for the fourth quarter of 2010, have been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Apart from the statutory reporting mechanisms that are designed to enhance the transparency of NAMA operations, the agency is aware of the need to enhance the availability of information with regard to properties. In that regard, under an initiative currently in preparation, NAMA will include on its website a database of properties which are under the control of receivers appointed to enforce against NAMA debtors. This will provide a single source of information on NAMA assets which are for sale and it will be updated on a very regular basis. NAMA expects to launch the site by the end of the month.

Banks Restructuring

Niall Collins

Question:

57 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Finance the discussions he has had with the Irish Bank Officials Association regarding the ongoing job losses in the banking sector arising from the restructuring process and if he has given consideration to a specific employment action plan for employees in the sector who lose their jobs. [18567/11]

The Deputy will appreciate that it is an inevitable, but unfortunate, consequence of the necessary restructuring of the banking system that job losses will arise. Essentially the banks will be smaller operations than previously with the focus being on the creation of the two universal full-service pillar banks with a more domestic remit and a restructured Irish Life & Permanent. My officials have had a preliminary engagement with the Irish Bank Officials Association on the overall picture. I have emphasised the necessity to treat all stakeholders in the process with fairness and integrity mindful of the prevailing challenging economic circumstances facing the banks and the country.

I have set up a task force consisting of my Department and representatives of the directly involved covered institutions to progress the matter. Within the parameters of these discussions the issue of specific employment action plan for employees will be considered.

State Banking Sector

Willie O'Dea

Question:

58 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Finance if he has had any consultations with the European Commission and the European Central Bank on the proposed establishment of a strategic investment bank and if they have given their views on the matter. [18569/11]

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

158 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Finance if he is actively considering the creation of a strategic investment bank with a capital allocation of €2 billion for the purpose of creating jobs. [14727/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 58 and 158 together.

As I said in a reply to a question from Deputy Flanagan on 21 June, ensuring that a strategic investment bank is operating in the domestic banking market, providing finance to large capital projects and acting as a conduit for venture capital as well as a lender to SMEs, is an objective in the programme for Government.

A comprehensive programme of bank recapitalisation and restructuring is currently underway following my statement on the future banking landscape in Ireland at the end of March last. The essential detailed assessment and planning work to meet this objective will be accelerated once the Government's key immediate objectives for the repair of the banking system have been completed. This phase of the Government's consideration of the issue will, as is the case in relation to all bank issues, be carried out in close consultation with our international partners including the European Commission and the European Central Bank.

Tax Code

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

59 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the development of a property tax to be included in Budget 2012 as required under the terms of the EU-IMF programme. [18596/11]

The EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland under its fiscal consolidation measures commits to the introduction of a property tax for 2012 and to an increase in the property tax for 2013. Decisions have yet to be taken on the precise legal mechanism to be used to introduce a property tax, what form that tax will take, and whether it will be introduced in tax legislation such as the Finance Bill or through other legislation which may fall within the ambit of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.

Debt Crises

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

60 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Finance in view of his recent comments on the matter, if he will explain his views on the main differences between Ireland and Greece in terms of their respective debt crises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18609/11]

While the underlying economic and fiscal situations in Ireland and Greece are very different, both countries clearly have to restore their economy to health and their public finances to a sustainable position. For example, the EU Commission Spring Forecasts project that Irish General Government Debt will be 112% of GDP at end-2011, while Greek General Government Debt will be some 158% of GDP. Despite the constant reporting of opposition to the necessary austerity measures in Greece, it is not widely recognised that the Greek Government has taken significant steps to date. I am confident that there is political will in Greece to proceed with implementing the Programme measures it has undertaken to complete and, in so doing, to bring its public sector debt under control.

In our case, Ireland is meeting its targets under the EU/IMF Programme and the troika teams have concluded that we have made a strong start. Nevertheless, yields on Ireland's sovereign bonds are remaining at elevated levels, although not as high as those of Greece, and it is clear that this position is being exacerbated by the ongoing uncertainties arising from the wider situation in Europe. Clearly, the current market view of Ireland as illustrated by our sovereign bond spreads is not what we would wish it to be. However, based on conservative projections of our funding needs and taking account of funding possibilities, there is no urgency about a return to the markets and Ireland has not issued bonds at these elevated yields. Indeed, the purpose of a programme such as the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland is to provide the space necessary for economic and fiscal adjustment to take place, while providing a secure source of funding which the State can avail of. Based on current projections and without going back to the markets in the meantime, Ireland has access to sufficient funds for its needs well into the second half of 2013. We are barely half a year into our Programme, so it is still very early in this process. However, as I have already said, we are meeting our targets and, as long as we continue to do so, we expect that the Programme will achieve its objectives.

Tax Code

Sandra McLellan

Question:

61 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide any evidence currently held by him to support the conclusion that reducing VAT in the tourism sector will create jobs and the mechanisms in place to measure the impact of this VAT reduction on job creation and retention. [18617/11]

As provided for in the Finance (No. 2) Act 2011, a second reduced VAT rate of 9% came into effect on a temporary basis in respect of certain services and goods mainly related to tourism on 1 July 2011 for the period up to end 2013. Specifically the 9% rate will apply to restaurant and catering services; hotel and holiday accommodation; various entertainment services such as admissions to cinemas, theatres, certain musical performances, museums, art gallery exhibitions and fairgrounds/amusement parks, the use of sporting facilities; hairdressing services; and printed matter such as brochures, maps, programmes, leaflets, catalogues, newspapers and magazines. In reducing the VAT burden on activities related to the tourism industry, this measure is aimed at contributing towards boosting tourism and the creation of additional jobs in that sector.

While the programme for Government included a commitment to lower the reduced VAT rate to 12% for all goods and services at that rate, the Government decided to introduce a more focused reduction. In this context, where the VAT reduction is targeted to a more select range of economic activity, a greater reduction in the VAT rate can be applied and hence increase the potential boost to that economic activity.

The VAT change announced in the Jobs Initiative will be kept under review and evaluated before end 2012 in order to determine its effectiveness in aiding the industry. Statistics are published quarterly by the CSO as part of the Quarterly National Household Survey, in relation to the numbers of persons employed in the State by gender and employment sector. These statistics, inter alia, provide details of employment levels in the accommodation and food services sector.

If it is shown that the VAT reduction has little or no effect in aiding the industry then the measure is open to being reformed or abolished.

Mortgage Assistance

Willie O'Dea

Question:

62 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Finance his plans to introduce specific measures to assist mortgage holders in advance of budget 2012 and if the programme for Government commitment to increase the mortgage interest relief to those who bought between 2004 and 2008 still stands. [18570/11]

This Government is fully aware of the difficulties that many homeowners, through no fault of their own, are having in meeting their mortgage repayments in respect of their principal private residence. There are a number of existing measures in place to assist homeowners in difficulty. These measures include the Central Bank of Ireland's Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears, the services provided by the Money Advice Budgeting Services and the Mortgage Interest Supplement.

The Mortgage Interest Supplement is managed by the Department of Social Protection and provides assistance where the mortgage relates to a person's home. The Deputy will be aware of the important support provided by the Money Advice and Budgeting Services. MABS provides a national, free, confidential and independent service operating from 53 offices nationwide. I would encourage anyone who is in financial difficulty to contact their local MABS office.

The Central Bank of Ireland's Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears has been substantially revised to implement the recommendations of the Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt Expert Group which published its final Report in November 2010. The Code sets out how mortgage lenders must treat borrowers in or facing mortgage arrears with due regard to the fact that each case of mortgage arrears is unique and needs to be considered on its own merits. An important recommendation of the Expert Group was that lenders would make available a Deferred Interest Scheme (DIS) to borrowers who cannot afford to pay the full interest on their mortgages but can pay at least 66% of the amount due. The borrower would have to pay the deferred interest at some agreed future date. Lenders representing the majority of the market have already indicated their willingness to make available deferred interest schemes. These are Allied Irish Bank, AIB Mortgage Bank, Bank of Ireland, ICS Building Society, EBS, Haven Mortgages, Irish Nationwide Building Society, Permanent TSB, Springboard Mortgages and Start Mortgages. While the making available of Deferred Interest Schemes is voluntary for all lenders, those who have signed up in support of the scheme will be monitored by the Central Bank to ensure compliance.

Another key recommendation of the Group relates to the requirement of all regulated lenders to introduce a standardized Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP). Borrowers who are in arrears and who co-operate with the MARP will not be charge penalty interest charges. A lender must establish a centralised and dedicated Arrears Support Unit which must be adequately staffed to manage cases under the MARP. Under the MARP, lenders must agree appropriate forbearance with each borrower following as assessment of the full circumstances and characteristics of each borrower. It is important to point out that borrowers who are in financial difficulties, but not in arrears, are allowed to come under the MARP.

In addition to these existing measures, the Government is considering the further necessary actions required to alleviate the increasing problem of mortgage over-indebtedness. The Deputy will be aware that the Programme for Government contains a commitment to help homeowners who are facing difficulty with their mortgage repayments and the Government will examine a number of proposals in relation to this commitment. In this context, the Government Economic Management Council recently asked that further work be carried out to address the situation of over indebted mortgage holders with a view to identifying a range of responses appropriate to individual circumstances. The work concerned will be carried out by a group chaired by Mr. Declan Keane, an accountant seconded to the Department of Finance and will report by end September. The Group has yet to be decided but may include officials from the Department of Finance, the Central Bank of Ireland, officials from other Government Departments and may also use expertise from within the banking system. Any changes to mortgage interest relief will be considered in the context of the annual Budget and Finance Bill process

Fiscal Policy

Billy Kelleher

Question:

63 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether the appointment of Christine Lagarde as head of the International Monetary Fund will be helpful to Ireland’s efforts to ensure debt sustainability and to impose losses on unsecured, unguaranteed senior bondholders in Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society. [18573/11]

As the Deputy will be aware we are seeking a reduction in the interest rate being charged on EU funds and have already explained our position in this regard to Christine Lagarde in her previous role as French Finance Minister. I am confident she is aware of our position but the IMF has no direct role in the decision on the interest rate for EU funds. As the Deputy is aware Ireland supported the appointment of Christine Lagarde to the post of Managing Director of the Fund and I look forward to a fruitful working relationship with her in that role.

I have indicated to the House that, consistent with Government policy, I will raise the issue of burden sharing to allow for the imposition of loses on unguaranteed and unsecured senior bondholders in Anglo and INBS with the IMF and EU authorities in the autumn. The Government will not take any unilateral action in this area, but will work with our external partners to explain our perspective and hear their views.

Jobs Initiative

Michael Colreavy

Question:

64 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Finance the mechanisms in place to monitor and review the impact of the jobs initiative. [18616/11]

The Jobs Initiative 2011 brought forward a number of sectoral measures and tax/PRSI changes. The purpose of these measures is to assist in employment generation, to provide opportunities for those who have lost their jobs and thus generate confidence in the economy. The Jobs Initiative should be viewed as one element of a wider strategy to support economic activity. The Finance (No. 2) Act 2011, which was passed by the Oireachtas in June, put into effect the changes to tax legislation necessary to implement the Jobs Initiative tax policy measures. As regards expenditure, the changes to departmental expenditure lines and profiles have been effected and will be published in a set of Revised Estimates in the coming days. The budgetary impact of the Jobs Initiative measures will be visible through the performance of Departments' expenditure issues against profile and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform will monitor and review progress in this regard. My Department will in turn monitor the effect of the revenue measures which will begin to impact upon the Exchequer Returns in the coming months.

In relation to the sectoral measures which have been introduced, it will be a matter for the relevant Ministers and their Departments to monitor the delivery and effectiveness of the initiatives within their remit.

The Jobs Initiative is designed to support a return to economic growth and strengthen its foundations. It is of course extremely difficult to separate out the increase in economic activity that is attributable to specific initiatives. Nonetheless, the Jobs Initiative is an important part of the Government's overall strategy to establish the correct conditions to allow our economy to recover, while at the same time respecting the requirement to return our public finances to a sustainable position. Repairing the banking system is another part of the Government's strategy. If we deliver on these goals, the impact of the Jobs Initiative will be evident in the increased confidence, economic activity and, ultimately, employment levels, which we will enjoy.

State Visits

Joe Higgins

Question:

65 Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on the total costs to the State of the visits of Queen Elizabeth II and the President of the USA. [18434/11]

There were no costs to my Department arising from the visits of Queen Elizabeth and President Obama. I understand that the Office of Public Works and the Departments which incurred the major costs arising from these visits will respond to the Deputy on their own behalf.

Constitutional Amendments

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

66 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Finance the progress made to date on a wording for the referendum to protect whistleblowers; and if he intends to pursue a sectoral based or a central approach. [16789/11]

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to a referendum to protect the right of citizens to communicate in confidence with public representatives. In addition, there is a commitment that we will legislate and change Dáil standing orders to support the confidentiality of information entrusted to members of the Dáil by their constituents or informants. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform is currently developing proposals to address these commitments. Separately, the Programme for Government also has a commitment that the Government will introduce legislation to protect whistle-blowers. In this regard, the Government has decided to introduce overarching legislation providing for good faith reporting and protected disclosure on a uniform basis for all sectors of the economy. The Government has also decided to expedite the preparation of this legislation and the necessary preparatory work on drafting the legislation has begun in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The draft legislation will be presented for enactment by the Houses of the Oireachtas in due course.

Tax Code

Gerry Adams

Question:

67 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance his views of the compatibility of the requirements on personal income tax bands and credits contained in the EU-IMF support programme with the commitments contained in the programme for Government to maintain the current rates of income tax together with bands and credits. [18600/11]

The Programme for Government states that as part of the Government's fiscal strategy we will maintain the current rates of income tax together with bands and credits. As the Deputy is aware, the Government has initiated a Comprehensive Review of Expenditure (CRE) to provide the Government with a set of decision options to meet the overall fiscal consolidation objectives and re-align spending with the Programme for Government priorities. The CRE is due to be completed by end September 2011.

When this review is complete, the Government will examine the findings and, based on these findings and consultation with the Troika, will introduce fiscally neutral changes to the detail of the EU-IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland while maintaining the overall commitment to fiscal consolidation.

Departmental Funding

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

68 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance if he will detail the funding provided by him to meet the programme for Government commitment to accelerate capital works that are shovel ready and labour intensive including schools and secondary roads. [18602/11]

As the Deputy is aware, I recently announced this Government's Jobs Initiative. The Initiative provided for a further €30 million for school works and associated works in 2011 over the existing allocation. Some €20 million of this is being reallocated by the Minister for Education and Skills from within his own Department's allocation. A further €10 million of Exchequer funding has been made available to the Department from the proceeds of the new pension levy also announced in the Initiative. This is to be allocated to immediately-ready projects to be delivered by schools. The Initiative also provided for an additional €60 million to be reallocated from within the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport's overall allocation to invest in our regional and local roads to carry out much-needed surface restoration and road reconstruction works. This important remedial work is overdue and the additional money invested will allow local authorities to bring forward important projects to 2011 that had previously been pushed back to 2012.

We are currently undertaking a major review across Government of our capital investment programme with a view to ensuring that allocations are prioritised towards those capital projects and programmes that will maximise economic benefits to the state, promote sustainable jobs growth in the medium term and address immediate and urgent social deficits.

Debt Crises

Niall Collins

Question:

69 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Finance his views on the impact on Ireland of the ongoing debt crisis in Greece and if he will provide details of any specific assurances he has received from our European partners that any contagion impact will not affect Ireland. [18568/11]

The main channel through which the Greek sovereign debt crisis is impacting on Ireland is through a widening of sovereign bond spreads. It must be remembered, however, that Ireland is not dependent upon market financing at the moment, so that higher yields are simply notional as opposed to actual costs. In the various discussions that I have had with our EU partners, I have stressed the importance of clear communication regarding the need to support countries that are implementing their programmes.

It is also worth pointing to the recent change to the ESM Treaty — agreed by Finance Ministers in June — to ensure that any bonds issued in the future by the ESM on behalf of programme countries will not enjoy preferred creditor status. In addition, the euro area Heads of State or Government have reiterated their commitment to do whatever is necessary to ensure the financial stability of the euro area as a whole, as evident from the Council Conclusions from the June European Council meeting.

These, I think, demonstrate the willingness of our EU partners to support programme countries that are delivering and will help these countries — including Ireland — return to market-based funding as soon as possible.

State Properties

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

70 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a list of the revenue gained by the State from buildings leased by the State to either private sector or public sector tenants which are currently subject to upward only rent reviews. [18591/11]

The Office of Public Works (OPW) has 94 leases where non-OPW parties fund rent. As will be seen from the following tables, virtually all the parties to these leases are State bodies and agencies. Based on current indicative information, this lease stock involves:

76 leases that attach to rented buildings and the total rental revenue is €10,721,082 — see Table A below

18 leases that attach to owned buildings and the total rental revenue is €1,602,067 — see Table B below

The leases pertinent to the rented buildings (Table A) attract the upward rent review clause and the leases associated with owned buildings (Table B) are currently being reviewed in this regard.

Rented Buildings — Monies billed by OPW

COUNTY

LOCATION

BUILDING

RENT PA €

TENANT

CARLOW

CARLOW

No 4 Court View Carlow

8,894

National Education Welfare Board

CAVAN

CAVAN

Elm House Kinnypottle Cavan

3,631

National Council for Special Education

CORK

CORK

3/F Hibernian House Cork

20,677

Family Support Agency

CORK

CORK

4/F Hibernian House Cork

18,284

Family Support Agency

CORK

CORK

Heritage Business Park Mahon Co Cork

4,992

National Council for Special Education

CORK

CORK

Mahon Co Cork

43,284

National Education Welfare Board

DONEGAL

LETTERKENNY

Letterkenny

2,602

National Education Welfare Board

DONEGAL

LETTERKENNY

Pearse Rd Letterkenny

4,185

National Council for Special Education

DUBLIN

BLACKROCK

2/F Trident House Main St Blackrock Co Dublin

26,190

National Council for Special Education

DUBLIN

BLACKROCK

4/F Trident House Blackrock Co Dublin

135,700

Rail Safety Commission

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 01

16 Parnell Sq Dublin 1

322,329

National Economic and Social Development Office

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 01

4th Floor 89/94 Capel Street Dublin 1

115,864

Crisis Pregnancy Agency

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 01

77 Upper Gardner Street Dublin 1

243,440

Health Service Executive

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 01

Findlater House 29/32 O Connell St Dublin

417,450

Dept of Foreign Affairs

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 01

ILC Abbey St

900,000

Commission for Communications Regulation

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 01

Millenium Hs 52/56 Great Strand St D1

265,675

Ombudsman for Children

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 01

Parnell Sq Dublin 1

19,865

National Council for Special Education

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 02

1/Floor St Stephens Green House Dublin 2

171,661

Family Support Agency

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 02

17 Andrews Street Dublin 2

340,000

Unesco/Cultivate ECO

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 02

2/F St Stephens Green House Dublin 2

262,407

Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 02

24 Merrion Sq Dublin 2

269,000

National Council for Curriculum and Assessment

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 02

3 New St Killarney Co Kerry

55,788

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 02

4th Floor St Stephens Green House Dublin 2

221,638

Family Support Agency

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 02

Clonmel Place 2/3 Clonmel Street Dublin 2

201,125

Irish Youth Justice Service

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 02

Clonmel Place 2/3 Clonmel Street Dublin 2

201,125

Equality Authority

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 02

D Olier House

162,844

FÁS

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 02

Dunsceine Harcourt Rd Dublin 2

500,000

National Transport Authority

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 02

Frederick House Frederick St Dublin 2

188,050

Residential Institutional Redress Unit

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 02

Harcourt Road Dublin 2

138,872

National Consumer Agency

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 02

Harcourt Road Dublin 2

393,876

National Consumer Agency

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 02

Joyce House Lombard Street Dublin

135,128

Health Service Executive

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 03

Bond Road Extension East Wall Dublin 3

336,380

Dept of Agriculture,Fisheries and Food

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 03

Dublin Port Crosby Court Dublin 2

86,878

Dept of Agriculture,Fisheries and Food

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 04

1/F St Martins House Waterloo Road Dublin 4

570,000

Mental Health Commission

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 06

Canal House Canal Road Dublin 6

129,389

Health Insurance Authority

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 07

George Court Georges Lane Smithfield D 7

655,940

Health Information Quality Authority

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 07

Manor Street Business Park Dublin

85,000

National Council for Professional Development of Nursing and Midwives

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 08

Directors House Kilmainham Dublin 8

7,200

Irish Museum of Modern Art

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 08

Floor 3 Phoenix House Conyngham Rd Dublin 8

70,818

Health Service National Partnership Forum

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 11

Finglas Shopping Centre

39,500

FÁS

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 14

1/F Aras Ui Dhalaigh Inns Quay

208,572

Court Service

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 15

1/F Block 3 Grove Court Blanchardstown D 15

23,386

National Council for Special Education

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 15

Blanchardstown

38,119

National Education Welfare Board

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 15

Top Floor Block A Westend Office Park Blanchardstown D15

153,858

Irish Sports Council

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 15

Westend House Office Park Blanchardstown D15

28,524

Citizens Information Centre

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 15

Westend House Office Park Blanchardstown D15

71,476

FÁS

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 15

Westend Office Park Blanchardstown Dublin 15

18,075

Family Support Agency

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 24

Block 1 Floors 4/5 The Exchange Tallaght

188,554

Personal Injury Assessment Board

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 24

County Hall Belgard Sq North Tallaght

12,275

National Council for Special Education

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 24

County Hall Belgard Sq North Tallaght

24,095

National Education Welfare Board

DUBLIN

SWORDS

Ballyheary Road Swords Co Dublin

1,000,000

National Museum

DUBLIN

SWORDS

Unit A Swords Business Campus Swords Dublin

231,444

Inland Fisheries Ireland

DUBLIN

SWORDS

Unit C Swords Business Campus Swords Dublin

173,227

Inland Fisheries Ireland

GALWAY

GALWAY

The long Walk Galway

41,722

Irish Water Safety

GALWAY

GALWAY

Victoria Place Eyre Sq Galway

9,540

National Council for Special Education

GALWAY

NEW INN

Fenian Street carpark

32,748

Foras na Gaeilge

GALWAY

SPIDDAL

Technology Park An Spideal Co Galway

55,867

Coimisiner Teanga

KILDARE

NAAS

Block A Maudlins Hall Naas Co Kildare

18,036

National Council for Special Education

KILDARE

NAAS

Government Offices Maudlins Hall Naas

13,794

National Education Welfare Board

KILDARE

NAAS

Willow House Millenium Park Naas Co Kildare

119,163

Irish Auditing & Accounting Supervisory Authority

LAOIS

PORTLAOISE

Eircom Building Knockmay Portlaoise

191,000

Dept of Agriculture,Fisheries and Food

LAOIS

PORTLAOISE

Gratten House Portlaoise Co Laois

3,641

National Education Welfare Board

LAOIS

PORTLAOISE

Gratten House Portlaoise Co Laois

4,655

National Council for Special Education

LAOIS

PORTLAOISE

Kilminchy Portlaoise Co Loais

83,259

Dept of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

LIMERICK

LIMERICK

Punches Cross Limerick

23,129

National Education Welfare Board

LIMERICK

LIMERICK

Rosbrien Road Punches Cross Limerick

12,725

National Council for Special Education

LOUTH

DROGHEDA

CCO Hs Ind Estate Drogheda

9,796

National Council for Special Education

MEATH

NAVAN

Government Offices Kilcairn Navan Co Meath

10,728

National Education Welfare Board

MEATH

NAVAN

Government Offices Kilcairn Navan Co Meath

4,016

National Council for Special Education

MEATH

TRIM

Mill St Trim Co Meath

87,646

National Council for Special Education

SLIGO

SLIGO

Beulah Buildings Sligo

4,928

National Council for Special Education

SLIGO

SLIGO

Sligo

6,870

National Education Welfare Board

WATERFORD

WATERFORD

Johnstown Business Park Waterford

11,360

National Council for Special Education

WATERFORD

WATERFORD

Johnstown Ind Estate Waterford

12,705

National Education Welfare Board

WESTMEATH

MULLINGAR

Friars Mill Road Mullingar Co Westmeath

11,234

National Council for Special Education

WESTMEATH

MULLINGAR

Government Offices Friars Mill Rd Mullingar

5,235

National Education Welfare Board

Owned Buildings — Monies billed by OPW

COUNTY

LOCATION

BUILDING

RENT PA €

TENANT

CORK

CORK

Cork Gov Off Irish Life Bldg

15,999

Health & Safety Authority

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 02

Fitzwilliam Pl 31Advanced Stud

58,090

Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 02

Merrion Square 5 Inst/Advan Stud

5,022

Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 02

Merrion Square 7 Bd na Gaelilge

350,000

Foras Na Gaeilge

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 04

Burlington Road 10

50,167

Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 05

Coolock Civic Centre

71,306

FAS

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 11

Dunsink Observatory

330

Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 24

Tallaght SWO / FÁS / HSE

29,598

FÁS

DUBLIN

DUBLIN 24

Tallaght SWO / FÁS / HSE

54,102

HSE

DUBLIN

DUN LAOGHAIRE

Dun Laoghaire BIM

835,000

Bord Iascaigh Mhara

LEITRIM

CARRICK ON SHANNON

Carrick-on-Shannon Gov Office

8,229

FÁS

LIMERICK

NEWCASTLEWEST

Newcastlewest Government Offices

5,714

FÁS

MAYO

CASTLEBAR

Castlebar Government Offices

40,378

Coillte

SLIGO

SLIGO

Sligo Gov Off-Cranmore Road

27,960

Coillte

SLIGO

SLIGO

Sligo Gov Off-Cranmore Road

33,836

FÁS

TIPPERARY

CLONMEL

Clonmel Former SWO

5,000

South Tipperary VEC

WATERFORD

WATERFORD

Waterford Gov Off-The Glen

3,719

Health & Safety Authority

WICKLOW

ARKLOW

Arklow Government Offices

7,618

FÁS

Fiscal Policy

Seán Crowe

Question:

71 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Finance if he expects to meet the €1,500 million additional revenue raising target for 2012 as set out in the EU-IMF support programme. [18589/11]

Dessie Ellis

Question:

72 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a report on the additional revenue raising measures currently being considered by him as part of the fifth quarter requirements of the EU-IMF programme. [18592/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 71 and 72 together.

As part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Specific Economic Policy Conditionality of the Joint EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland, actions for the fifth review or to be completed by the end of the fourth quarter of 2011 include the presentation of a Budget for 2012 to include budgetary consolidation measures amounting to at least €3.6 billion.

The revised MOU noted that in relation to budgetary consolidation measures for 2012 the Joint EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland agreed in December 2010 provided for revenue measures to yield €1.5 billion in a full year along with a reduction in expenditure of €2.1 billion. As previously stated, the Government is committed to the overall level of budgetary adjustment. However, the precise nature of the measures to be implemented in 2012 will be decided upon in advance of Budget 2012 in light of more up-to-date economic and fiscal data and the outcome of the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure, which is currently underway.

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

73 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Finance if reducing private pension tax reliefs will form part of the additional revenue raising measures currently being considered by him as part of the fifth quarter requirements of the EU-IMF programme. [18595/11]

The gradual reduction from marginal to standard rate tax relief on pension contributions commencing in 2012 forms part of the fiscal consolidation measures in the agreement with the EU, IMF and the ECB over the period 2011 to 2014. When introducing the temporary pension scheme levy to pay for the Jobs Initiative on 10 May last, I gave a commitment to examine the issue of reducing the tax relief on pension contributions to the standard rate.

The Government has initiated a Comprehensive Review of Expenditure in order to provide it with a set of decision options to meet the overall fiscal consolidation objectives and re-align spending with the Programme for Government priorities. The Review is due to be completed by end September 2011. The Government will then examine the findings and, in consultation with the EU, IMF and ECB, will introduce fiscally neutral changes to the detail of the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland while maintaining the overall commitment to fiscal consolidation. I will examine the scope for any change to the proposed standard rating of tax relief on pension contributions in that context.

Judicial Remuneration

Derek Keating

Question:

74 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Finance the percentage of judges who have voluntarily agreed to a contribution equivalent to the pension levy in accordance with the provisions of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act of 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16622/11]

This is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners. Section 161 of the Finance Act 2010 provides for a voluntary scheme that enables members of the Judiciary to make a gift to the State of an equivalent amount to the pension related deduction imposed on State employees under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009. Subsection (8) of that Section provides that, inter alia, the Revenue Commissioners shall publish for each year of assessment details of the number of donors who avail of this scheme in the year. I understand that the Revenue Commissioners published information in their Annual Report for 2010, in accordance with Subsection (8), which shows that 126 Judges participated in the Scheme in 2010.

National Asset Management Agency

Gerry Adams

Question:

75 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a progress report on the programme for Government commitment to provide the highest standards of transparency in the operation of the National Asset Management Agency, on reduction in the costs associated with the operation of NAMA and that decision making in NAMA does not delay the restoration of the Irish property market. [18601/11]

As Minister for Finance I met with the NAMA Board on 13 April 2011 when I explained that I expect the agency to comply with the Government commitment to the highest standards of transparency to the maximum extent possible. This is an issue which I will be following closely. There are a range of statutory reporting requirements which ensure transparency of NAMA operations. Apart from the statutory reporting mechanisms, NAMA advises me that it is seeking to enhance the availability of information with regard to properties. In that regard, under an initiative currently in preparation, NAMA will include on its website a database of properties which are under the control of receivers. This will provide a single source of information on NAMA assets which are for sale and it will be updated on a monthly basis. NAMA expects to launch the site later this month.

Excluding €30m in due diligence costs which were borne by the participating institutions, NAMA costs in 2010 were €46m. €17m of this was expended on salary and other direct costs (including office rent and audit fees) associated with running the Agency. Another €15m was payment to about 500 staff in participating institutions that carry out the day-to-day administration of loans on behalf of NAMA. The residual costs of €14m are one-off payments associated with setting up the agency.

NAMA advises me that if one-off due diligence and other costs are excluded, core costs — €32m — are only 0.1% of the acquisition price paid for acquired loans. I have been assured by the Chairman and Chief Executive of NAMA that they are very conscious of the need to keep costs to the absolute minimum and to ensure that value for money is achieved.

As regards decision making in NAMA, the agency has directed all participating institutions to ensure that credit applications are forwarded to it within ten business days of being received from debtors. NAMA, in turn, aims to respond to applications within ten business days of receiving them from institutions. Accordingly, in normal circumstances, a debtor credit application should be processed within twenty business days of being submitted by the debtor to the institution and, in the case of letters of release, this process would be further expedited.

I have asked the NAMA Board to consider initiatives which would help to get the property market moving again in a sustainable manner. One such proposal is currently being considered by officials from my Department, in conjunction with officials from NAMA and from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.

Fiscal Policy

Michael McGrath

Question:

76 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he supports the statement by An Taoiseach that budget 2012 will contain no income tax increases. [18565/11]

The Programme for Government states that as part of the Government's fiscal strategy we will maintain the current rates of income tax together with bands and credits. As the Deputy is aware, the Government has initiated a Comprehensive Review of Expenditure (CRE) to provide the Government with a set of decision options to meet the overall fiscal consolidation objectives and re-align spending with the Programme for Government priorities. The CRE is due to be completed by end September 2011.

When this review is complete, the Government will examine the findings and, based on these findings and consultation with the Troika, will introduce fiscally neutral changes to the detail of the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland while maintaining the overall commitment to fiscal consolidation.

There is no difference between my position on taxation and that of the Taoiseach.

Office of the Ombudsman

Derek Keating

Question:

77 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Finance his plans to extend the powers of the Ombudsman; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17164/11]

The Ombudsman (Amendment) Bill 2008 was published in July 2008. The Bill completed all stages in the Dáil in June 2010 and is awaiting second stage in the Seanad. The primary purpose of the Bill is to extend the Ombudsman's remit. This Bill represents the most significant extension of the Ombudsman's remit in almost 30 years. The main areas being included are third level education institutions and VECs. A range of other agencies not previously subject to investigation by the Ombudsman are also being brought in, including the National Roads Authority, the National Treatment Purchase Fund, and the Courts Service.

The inclusion of additional bodies, beyond those already covered by the Ombudsman (Amendment) Bill 2008, will be reviewed in line with the Government Reform Agenda over the coming months.

Question No. 78 answered with Question No. 33.

Tax Code

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

79 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a progress report on proposals to reduce tax expenditures as required under the terms of the EU-IMF programme. [18599/11]

Budget and Finance Act 2011 introduced a range of measures which reduced tax expenditures. Principal amongst these were:

Reduction of Income Tax credits, bands and exemption limits;

Removal of various Stamp Duty reliefs and exemptions;

Abolition of a scheme of accelerated capital allowances for farmers.

I have initiated a public consultation as part of an economic impact assessment of the potential effects of amending, curtailing or abolishing the legacy property-based tax reliefs. The results of this assessment will be considered in the context of Budget 2012.

Further measures may be considered also for inclusion in the Budget and Finance Bill. While initial preparation for these has already commenced, the Deputy will be aware it is not the policy of the Minister to comment in advance on any such initiatives.

Fiscal Policy

Barry Cowen

Question:

80 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Finance if the explicit permission of the European Commission, the ECB and IMF has been received to allow the State to use any remaining balance of the €35 billion, originally earmarked for the banking system, to fund the Exchequer once the bank recapitalisation scheme has been completed. [18575/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, the EU — IMF support programme provides for a total of €85 billion in financial support from both internal and external sources — with €17.5 billion of this being provided from our own resources. When the programme was announced €50 billion was identified as being available for the exchequer funding with the remaining €35 billion identified as being for the banking sector. Following the recent banking stress tests carried out by the Central Bank — the amount identified as being required for the banking sector was reduced to €24 billion including €3 billion of funds which take the form of contingent capital. However, it is anticipated that mitigating actions, such as burden sharing, will mean that up to €5 billion of this €24 billion will come from private sector sources.

The budgetary forecasts contained in the recently published Stability Programme Update (SPU) prudently assume that an additional €20 billion in State support to the banking sector will be required. On that basis, some €15 billion of the funding originally earmarked for the banking sector is available for use for sovereign purposes, bringing the potential total available under the Programme for exchequer funding purposes to €65 billion. The release and use of all externally provided funding is dependent on the continued satisfaction of the programme conditions — as verified by the quarterly review process.

During the course of the forthcoming quarterly review, the financing plan for the remainder of the Programme of Support will be discussed with the Troika and the question of how to use any remaining balance taking account of the lower banking recapitalisation cost will be addressed in that context.

Tax Code

Catherine Murphy

Question:

81 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of the high fuel prices which have a knock on affect on the cost of living and the cost of getting to work, he will consider adjusting excise rates downwards to address same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18531/11]

Ireland, as with other countries, has experienced an increase in the cost of petrol and auto-diesel. The increase in fuel prices is an international phenomenon. Fuel prices are driven by a number of factors including the price of oil on international markets, exchange rates, production costs and refining costs. The rise in oil prices over recent periods reflected additional factors such as geopolitical uncertainty in Northern Africa and the Middle East with potential supply disruptions. However, the price of oil has decreased somewhat recently. The excise rates (including the carbon charge) in Ireland on motor fuels are 57.6 cent on a litre of petrol and 46.6 cent on a litre of auto-diesel. Ireland's excise rates are the ninth and third highest in the EU27 for petrol and auto-diesel respectively. However, our rates remain lower than many of our main trading partners and significantly lower than our nearest neighbour the UK.

The Exchequer yield from excise, as excise is set at a nominal amount, does not increase as the price of fuels increase. On the other hand, the yield from VAT per litre of fuel, as VAT is set as a percentage of the price, increases as the price of fuels increase.

It is on this latter basis that there are often demands to reduce taxes on fuel. However, I would point-out that the Exchequer gain may be limited because:

1. the increase in petrol and diesel prices reduces the quantity of such fuels being purchased,

2. spending in the economy is likely to be re-allocated to petrol and other oil products, and away from other VAT liable spending, and

3. the overall level of economic activity is reduced by higher oil prices.

It should also be noted that businesses are of course entitled to reclaim VAT incurred on their business inputs, including VAT incurred on fuel. For example, VAT incurred on auto-diesel and marked gas oil (MGO or green diesel) used in the course of business is a deductible credit for business in the Irish VAT system. VAT on petrol cannot be deducted/reclaimed.

There are no plans for temporary taxation adjustments, as to do so could lead to significant costs to the Exchequer. The issue of rising fuel prices was recently briefly discussed by EU Finance Ministers at an ECOFIN meeting and they reconfirmed the approach taken in 2005 and again in 2008, when oil prices were very high, which endorsed a coordinated approach towards not making distortionary fiscal adjustments.

Census Staff

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

82 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Taoiseach the number of enumerators employed on short-term contracts for census 2011; the number of these who were in receipt of public service pensions; the number who were in receipt of jobseeker’s benefit or allowance immediately prior to their employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18373/11]

A total of 4,854 census enumerators were recruited to assist with the field work on the 2011 census. All of the recruitment for the census field operation was carried out by the CSO under licence by the Commission for Public Service Appointments and complied with their strict recruitment principles regarding fairness, equality, openness and transparency.

It is important to note that all applicants for enumerator positions were assessed at interview on their availability for census work (given the need to make frequent calls to households at different times of the day). Availability was one but not the only criterion used in accessing candidates, but clearly those in full-time work would have been assessed as having low availability and therefore this would have had a negative effect on their candidature. It was not open to the CSO to exclude candidates on the basis of their employment status.

The following table indicates the employment situation and live register status of the 4,854 enumerators, prior to their employment on the census, detailed by the 44 census regions. Information on whether persons were previously self-employed, the sectors in which they previously worked and, if applicable, their pension arrangements is not collated as part of the recruitment process and so is unavailable. Information on the number of retired public servants employed as enumerators as requested by the Deputy is not available.

Region

Previous Employment Situation of Census Enumerators

Total No. of Enumerators

Of which: On Live Register

Employed

Not employed

1

Dublin North (part)

38

61

99

1

2

Dublin North (part)

47

64

111

6

3

Dublin West (part)

44

83

127

17

4

Dublin West (part)

37

83

120

10

5

Dublin North (part)

48

70

118

16

6

Dublin South(part)

42

73

115

47

7

Dublin North Inner City

35

64

99

15

8

Dublin South Inner City

47

60

107

25

9

Dublin South

46

72

118

3

10

Dublin South

39

77

116

4

11

Dublin South

33

80

113

13

12

Wicklow North

47

76

123

3

13

Kildare South,Carlow North

34

63

97

17

14

Wicklow South,Wexford North

29

81

110

11

15

Kilkenny (part), Carlow (part)

40

70

110

26

16

Wexford South

37

73

110

1

17

Donegal North

45

66

111

11

18

Donegal South, Leitrim (part)

54

55

109

45

19

Mayo North, Sligo North

44

66

110

24

20

Mayo South

52

59

111

9

21

Longford (part),Roscommon (part), Leitrim (part)

40

71

111

24

22

Galway North

40

69

109

43

23

Galway City and Surrounds

40

69

109

1

24

Cavan North, Monaghan (part)

54

55

109

0

25

Longford (part),Westmeath (part), Meath (part)

39

61

100

27

26

Louth (part), Cavan (part), Meath (part)

53

58

111

40

27

Offaly (part), Westmeath (part)

32

78

110

18

28

Meath (part), Kildare (part)

38

75

113

28

29

Louth (south), Meath (part)

31

69

100

15

30

Kildare (part)

33

77

110

6

31

Galway (east), Offaly (part)

51

58

109

9

32

West Clare

40

65

105

8

33

Limerick City, Clare (east)

29

70

99

23

34

Laois (part), Tipperary (part)

32

77

109

0

35

Kerry North West

39

72

111

48

36

Limerick South

54

66

120

17

37

Kerry South,Cork (part)

53

57

110

1

38

Tipperary (part)

38

72

110

11

39

Cork County (North)

29

80

109

14

40

Cork (east), Waterford (part)

35

86

121

28

41

Waterford City and County (part)

41

68

109

34

42

Cork (west)

28

82

110

23

43

Cork City West

34

73

107

3

44

Cork City and County East (part)

36

73

109

15

Total

1,777

3,077

4,854

740

Departmental Agencies

Seán Kyne

Question:

83 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Taoiseach his views on the timeframe for decisions from the Office of the Chief State Solicitor and his further views that the office would benefit from participating in the jobs initiative such as job bridge which would provide great opportunities for law and FE 1 examination graduates while also helping to speed up decision-making. [18815/11]

It is not clear what type of decisions the Deputy is referring to. In general the Chief State Solicitor's Office acts on the decisions or instructions of its client Departments and Offices. The time-frame for such decisions is often dictated by court deadlines, rules of court or legislation.

The Office is already committed to making some appointments under the FÁS Work Placement Scheme and will consider the merits of availing of the recently announced Job Bridge Scheme.

Departmental Staff

Gerry Adams

Question:

84 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach when he plans to appoint a second Secretary General in his Department; the remit of the new post; the area of responsibility that will be under the new Secretary General; the recruitment process for the new position; and the level of remuneration for the post. [19072/11]

Gerry Adams

Question:

89 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach when he envisages the appointment of a second Secretary General to his Department; the salary for that position; if he will outline the recruitment procedure for the position; and the responsibilities of the second Secretary General within his Department. [18653/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 84 and 89 together.

The post of Second Secretary General in my Department will have responsibility for coordination of EU Affairs from a whole-of-Government perspective, reporting to the Tánaiste and myself as appropriate, and also for supporting the work of the Government Economic Management Council.

In addition to these central coordinating functions, the Second Secretary General will also support the Tánaiste in his engagement with whole-of-Government issues, including Cabinet Committees. The Second Secretary General will be a member of the Management Advisory Committee of my Department.

I expect to recommend an appointment to the Government in the very near future. The salary for the post will be €180,000 before imposition of the pension levy.

Census of Population

Sean Fleming

Question:

85 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Taoiseach the contact he had with the Central Statistics Office in relation to the 2011 census and its assessment of its success; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18301/11]

My functions in relation to the Central Statistics Office (CSO) were delegated to the Government Chief Whip, Minister of State Paul Kehoe T.D., on the 22 March 2011 under the Statistics (Delegation of Ministerial Functions) Order 2011, as per section 2(1) of the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1977 (No. 28 of 1977).

It is my understanding that Minister Kehoe has met with the CSO twice in relation tocensus 2011.

The Census which took place on Sunday 10 April was a very successful operation. Enumerators were in the field for a period of 10 weeks from Friday 11 March to Friday 13 May. Forms were delivered to and collected from 1.7 million occupied dwellings. In addition enumerators accounted for the dwelling status of all dwellings in the state as to whether they were occupied, vacant, a vacant holiday home or temporarily absent on Census night.

The reception at the doorstep to the Census was generally very good due to the success of the Census Publicity campaign which focused on the community value of Census data.

All Census field staff had finished work by Friday 3rd June at which stage all forms, materials and equipment was back at base in CSO.

The field operation finished up on time and well within budget. The preliminary count of the Census based on a clerical summary prepared by Enumerators was published on 30th June which is very good by international standards.

Sean Fleming

Question:

86 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Taoiseach when he expects the Central Statistics Office to be in a position to publish the preliminary results of census 2011. [18302/11]

The Preliminary results of the census were published on Thursday 30 June. This was just 12 weeks after Census day, Sunday 10th April.

The results provided total population of males and females by County, Constituency and Electoral Division. The results also provided the housing stock, the number of vacant dwellings and the vacancy rate at County level.

Sean Fleming

Question:

87 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Taoiseach the number of persons who have failed to return their census forms to the Central Statistics Office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18303/11]

Approximately 6,400 households which were considered to have been occupied on Census Night failed to return a completed census form for a variety of reasons. The reasons included householders who moved or died before the enumerator returned to collect the Census Form.

There were a small number of householders who refused to complete a Census Form, a number of which are being examined with a view to prosecution under the Statistics Act 1993.

In all cases where the enumerator was sure a dwelling was occupied on Census Night but the enumerator failed to get a completed Census Form, enumerators were instructed to record the approximate age, sex and nationality of the occupants by making discrete enquiries locally. The estimated number of persons in these households which failed to make a return was 13,800 representing less than a third of one percent of the total population.

This number ranks very well by international standards and results from a very tight field operation with 440 field supervisors and 4,854 census enumerators on the ground for a period of five weeks both before and after Census day.

Sean Fleming

Question:

88 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Taoiseach the penalties which can be incurred by persons who do not return their census forms to the Central Statistics Office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18304/11]

The Statistics Act 1993 provides that any person who fails or refuses to provide the information in response to a direction from the Director General from the Central Statistics Office (which includes information on the census form) may be subject to a fine of up to €25,000.

The legislation provides for a fine not exceeding €1,250 on summary conviction and not exceeding €25,000 on conviction on indictment.

Question No. 89 answered with Question No. 84.

Consultancy Contracts

Robert Troy

Question:

90 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Taoiseach the number of external consultants that have been engaged either on a short term or long term by the Government since March 2011. [18737/11]

My Department has engaged no external consultants since March 2011.

EU-IMF Programme

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

91 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Taoiseach the reason he agreed a text at the conclusion of the most recent EU Council meeting which states that Ireland’s debts will be sustainable without an interest rate cut; if he will further indicate his acceptance of the fact that this represents a reversal of the position adopted by the last Government and by his Government during March; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18848/11]

I reported to the House on 28 June on the meeting of the European Council that took place in Brussels on 23-24 June.

The European Council welcomed the progress made in Ireland in the implementation of our EU/IMF Programme, and confirmed that this is well on track. This is a welcome recognition of the efforts being made by the Irish Government and people.

The principle of an interest rate reduction to better take into account debt sustainability has already been agreed. Resolution of this issue is being taken forward by Finance Ministers.

Ministerial Meetings

Timmy Dooley

Question:

92 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Taoiseach the number and dates of formal meetings that he has had with the management advisory committee in his Department since his appointment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18927/11]

It has not been the practice for formal meeings to take place in this Department between the Taoiseach and the Management Advisory Committee, having regard to the small size of the Department and the nature of its work. I have, however, met with all of the staff of the Department, both together and in the various sections and divisions of the Department. I discuss the work of the Department on a daily basis with the Secretary General, who advises me on issues considered by the MAC and I also meet frequently with the three Assistant Secretaries, who are the other members of the MAC. As a result, I am satisfied that the MAC is focused on adapting the Department to the role it will play in supporting the Government in implementing its Programme.

I envisage that I will meet the MAC on a formal basis, from time to time, to review progress in achieving our objectives in support of the working of Government, the operation of Cabinet Committees and the other responsibilities which the Department discharges in support of my role as Head of Government and member of the European Council.

Departmental Agencies

Paudie Coffey

Question:

93 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Taoiseach with regard to agencies (details supplied) and their sub-agencies, the levels of office rental paid; the location of offices and their landlords for the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011; the length of the lease in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18945/11]

The following tables set out the position in relation to the bodies listed for which my Department has responsibility.

YEAR 2008

Name

Rent Paid

Location of Office

Landlord

Length of Lease

National Statistics Board

None

No premises *

None

n/a

National, Economic and Social Development Office **

€588,295

16 Parnell Square East, Dublin 1.

OPW

Not subject to any duration of lease.

Ireland Newfoundland Partnership Board

None

17-19 Lr. Hatch Street, Dublin 2.

OPW

n/a

Law Reform Commission

€317,816 ****

35 Shelbourne Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.

Liddington Limited. Fitzwilliam House, 6, Lr. Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin 2.

31 December 2017

Ireland/America Economic Advisory Board #

None

No premises

n/a

n/a

National Forum On Europe

None

Dublin Castle.

OPW

n/a

YEAR 2009

Name

Rent Paid

Location of Office

Landlord

Length of Lease

National Statistics Board

None

No premises *

None

n/a

National, Economic and Social Development Office **

€588,295

16 Parnell Square East, Dublin 1.

OPW

Not subject to any duration of lease.

Ireland Newfoundland Partnership Board

None

17-19 Lr. Hatch Street, Dublin 2.

OPW

n/a

Law Reform Commission

€450,000

35 Shelbourne Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.

Liddington Limited. Fitzwilliam House, 6, Lr. Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin 2.

31 December 2017

Ireland/America Economic Advisory Board #

None

No premises

n/a

n/a

National Forum On Europe##

None

Dublin Castle.

OPW

n/a

YEAR 2010

Name

Rent Paid

Location of Office

Landlord

Length of Lease

National Statistics Board

None

No premises *

None

n/a

National, Economic and Social Development Office **

€322,328 ***

16 Parnell Square East, Dublin 1.

OPW

Not subject to any duration of lease.

Ireland Newfoundland Partnership Board

None

Department of the Taoiseach. Government Buildings.

OPW

n/a

Law Reform Commission

€450,000

35 Shelbourne Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.

Liddington Limited. Fitzwilliam House, 6, Lr. Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin 2.

31 December 2017

Ireland/America Economic Advisory Board #

None

No premises

n/a

n/a

YEAR 2011

Name

Rent Paid

Location of Office

Landlord

Length of Lease

National Statistics Board

None

No premises *

None

n/a

National, Economic and Social Development Office **

€161,164 (to end of 2nd quarter)

16 Parnell Square East, Dublin 1.

OPW

Not subject to any duration of lease.

Ireland Newfoundland Partnership Board

None

Department of the Taoiseach. Government Buildings.

OPW

n/a

Law Reform Commission

Due to be paid at a rate of €450,000 p/a

35 Shelbourne Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.

Liddington Limited. Fitzwilliam House, 6, Lr. Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin 2.

31 December 2017

Ireland/America Economic Advisory Board #

None

No premises

n/a

n/a

* The National Statistics Board have no paid staff and no office accommodation. The secretariat work of the Board is undertaken on a part-time basis by a Senior Statistician. The Board meets either in the Department of the Taoiseach, Government Buildings or Central Statistics Offices in Cork.

** NESDO [ includes the National Economic and Social Council (NESC). It also includes the National Centre for Partnership and Performance (NCPP) and the National Economic and Social Forum (NESF) which were discontinued in April, 2010].

*** Following the discontinuation of the NCPP and the NESF in April 2010, NESDO reduced its office area by 46% resulting in a rent savings of €265,967.

**** The rate of rent for the Law Reform Commission was fixed in 2004 and has not been increased since. In 2008, the Commission acquired additional floor space to accommodate extra staff. Hence, part of the rent for 2008 was at the rate of €450,000 per annum.

# The Ireland/America Economic Advisory Board was established in 1992 to provide a forum through which the thinking of the most senior and successful leaders of corporate Irish-America could be conveyed directly, and at the highest level, to the Government.

The Board normally meets at least once but sometimes twice a year, usually in the US. The Taoiseach is responsible for appointing the Board, and the members give voluntarily of their time. The Board does not have an office premises. The Department of Taoiseach maintains contact with the Board primarily through the embassy in Washington.

# #The National Forum On Europe ended in May 2009.

Departmental Staff

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

94 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach the number of Secretaries General who sit on State agency boards; the Departments that the Secretaries General are representing; the corresponding agency boards they are appointed to by the Government; and the remuneration they receive for board membership. [19500/11]

The National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO) is the only agency under the aegis of my Department. Together with the Secretary General in my Department, the following Secretaries General are members of the National Economic and Social Council (NESC), which is a constituent body of NESDO: Secretary General, Department of Finance; Secretary General, Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; Secretary General, Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government; and Secretary General, Department of Education and Skills. The Secretary General from my Department is also a member of the Board of the National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO). Members do not receive any remuneration in relation to their roles on the Board of NESDO or the NESC.

Irish Language

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

95 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the reason it is difficult for Irish citizens to have their passport details in the Irish language in view of the fact that their PPS number and the birth certificate registration number would prevent any duplication in the English language. [18209/11]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

96 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will make it easier for Irish citizens to use the Irish language version of their name on their passport in view of the use of modern technology which would ensure that a check of PPS numbers and the birth certificate registration number would prevent any duplication in the English language; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18210/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 95 and 96 together.

All Passport applications are processed under the provisions of the Passports Act, 2008. This Act provides, inter alia, that the Department must be satisfied as to the identity of each individual from his/her witnessed application and photographs as well any submitted supporting documents. In the Department's ongoing efforts to combat passport and identity fraud, additional photo identity such as a driver's licence is now required for first-time adult applicants or those persons who have lost or had their passports stolen. This is in addition to the standard requirement of birth certificates.

The Act also makes provision for the name in which a passport is to issue. It is the Department's policy that a person's legal name is that by which he/she is commonly known as through use and repute. For the majority of people, names will be based on the registered details with the General Registrar's Office (GRO) which is evidenced by issued birth certificates. In cases where a name change has occurred as a result of marriage, such details will be recorded by the GRO and evidenced by marriage certificates.

In other situations where a name that is requested to appear on a passport is different, other than by marriage, from details on a birth certificate, the Department seeks documentary evidence under the Passports Act, 2008 of the use of that name over a two year period. As access to PPS numbers and birth certificate registration numbers are not available to international border control authorities, alternative measures must be put in place. In this context, therefore, those applicants, who supply documentary evidence as to the use of the Irish form of their name over two years, receive their passports in that name without difficulty.

It should also be noted that the Department may exercise discretion in regard to the application of the two year proof of usage requirement of a new name. These cases are considered on a case by case basis. However, such considerations must take into account that a passport is primarily an international travel identity document and that name change requests must therefore be balanced with the Department's obligations to uphold the integrity of the Irish passport among the international community and to protect against identity switching and identity fraud. In those cases where the Department accepts that there are exceptional reasons for a name change from English to Irish or the reverse, a passport will be produced in the new name without the two year proof of usage. However, an observation will be printed on page three of the passport stating the person's birth name or if appropriate his/her previous passport name.

It should also be noted that the majority of name change requests received relate to a request for a new English name. I should therefore stress that the procedure in operation must be applied in the same way for all name change requests, including from the English to the Irish form of the name.

I would like to re-assure the Deputy that the Department's policies and practices are intended to ensure that our citizens receive their passport in their known and established identities, thus ensuring their safe and unhindered travel abroad. I believe that these arrangements are fair and maintain an appropriate balance between the need to protect the reputation of the Irish passport and a citizen's wish to have an alternative name appear on their passport.

Human Rights Issues

John Halligan

Question:

97 Deputy John Halligan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has made or intends to make an official statement regarding the recent unlawful killing of 15 Syrian citizens who were peacefully protesting in the towns of Homs and Kiswa south of Damascus; and if he will ask the Syrian Government to enter into negotiations with Syrian pro-democracy groups whose main aim is to bring Syria to a democracy status. [18220/11]

I am deeply concerned about the current situation in Syria and the violent repression against large numbers of people in Syria who have been simply trying to exercise their right to freedom of expression, whether in the street or online. After Friday prayers on 24 June, Syrian armed forces once again opened fire on unarmed protestors in several cities, killing a further 15 people. The death toll now numbers more than 1400, with thousands more detained. I am appalled by the Syrian Government's shocking use of lethal force. Such actions are completely unacceptable and a violation of the Syrian Government's responsibility and international obligations to protect its citizens. The European Council discussed the situation in Syria at its meeting on 23-24 June and condemned in the strongest terms the ongoing repression. Heads of State and Government, including the Taoiseach, noted that by choosing a path of repression instead of fulfilling its own promises on broad reforms, the Syrian regime is calling its own legitimacy into question. The Council was also strongly supportive of diplomatic efforts aimed at ensuring that the UN Security Council can assume its responsibility and give an adequate response to the situation in Syria. The EU has also adopted a third round of sanctions against leading instigators of the repression, including President Assad.

Furthermore, the EU has strongly and consistently called for the start of a genuine and inclusive dialogue, including with pro-democracy groups, and fundamental reforms in response to the demands of the Syrian people. I note the fact that President Assad has announced that a national dialogue will commence and that opposition figures met publicly for the first time in Damascus on 27 June. However, I also note that many opposition figures refuse to enter talks with the government while it continues to instruct its army to fire on unarmed protestors.

Ireland and the EU will continue to use all economic and political means to actively seek a change in policy in Syria until this cycle of appalling and ruinous violence ends.

Comhaontú Aoine an Chéasta

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

98 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Tánaiste agus Aire Gnóthaí Eachtracha agus Trádála cén fáth nach bhfuil príosúnach atáá choinneáil i bpríosún Mhaigh gCabraí i Lios na gCearrbhach, Contae Aontroma clúdaithe faoi shocruithe Chomhaontú Aoine an Chéasta; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh [18327/11]

Baineann forálacha Chomhaontú Aoine an Chéasta faoi scaoileadh saor príosúnaigh le daoine a ciontaíodh cheana i gcionta a déanadh roimh 1998. Ní bhaineann na forlálacha seo le daoine nach raibh fós ciontaíthe nó daoine a dhéan cionta tar éis an dáta sin.

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

99 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Tánaiste agus Aire Gnóthaí Eachtracha agus Trádála an bhfuil aon achainí déanta aige féin nó ag a Roinn go scaoilfí saor ar chúinsí daonnachta príosúnach atáá choinneáil i príosún Mhaigh gCabraí i dTuaisceart Éireann agus a bhfuil drochshláinte air, agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [18328/11]

Tá eolas agam ar an gcás luaite ag an dTeachta. Tuigim go bhfuil an príosúnach atá i gceist tar éis imeachtaí dlí a thionscnamh chun scaoileadh níos luaithe a fháil. Toisc an t-ábhar a bheith os comhair na gcúirteanna, bheadh sé neamhfhóirsteanach dom níos mó a rá ach amháin go leanann oifigigh mo Roinne d'fhaireachán a dhéanamh ar an gcás.

Citizenship Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

100 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 317 of 17 November 2009 and 145 of 20 May 2010, if a determination has been made regarding the entitlement of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18402/11]

The position in regard to passport entitlement in this case was outlined by my predecessor in his reply to your question 317 of 17 November, 2009, namely that the evidence of residence in Ireland in respect of the person in question, which was submitted in support of her daughter's passport application, was insufficient to demonstrate her child's entitlement to Irish citizenship under section 6B(2) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 2004 (the 2004 Act). I can confirm that in the interim no correspondence or evidence has been submitted to the Passport Service by the person in question to demonstrate her daughter's entitlement to Irish citizenship under section 6B(2) of the 2004 Act. However, as stated in the reply of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to your question 145 of 20 May, 2010, it remains open to this person to make an application for a certificate of naturalisation on behalf of her daughter under section 15 of the 1956 Act, when the child has 5 years reckonable residency in the State.

In the meantime as entitlement to Irish citizenship for this person's daughter has not been demonstrated to date, the Passport Service is unable to issue a passport to her under the Passports Act, 2008.

Overseas Development Aid

Mattie McGrath

Question:

101 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the amount of foreign aid given to Botswana in each year since 2001. [18442/11]

The Government's aid programme, which is administered by Irish Aid in the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade, is concentrated on the least developed countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Botswana is not one of the priority countries for the aid programme. However, since 2001, just over €680,000 has been provided in assistance for development work in the country by Non-Governmental Organisations and missionaries. The grants have included support for people living with HIV/AIDS, for primary health care and basic education and for the protection of human rights.

The following is a breakdown of funding provided annually since 2001. Funding details for 2011 are not yet finalised.

Year

Amount

2010

€13,000

2009

€48,000

2008

€200,018

2007

€159,451

2006

€89,607

2005

€67,678

2004

€21,912

2003

€48,364

2002

€35,390

2001

€0

Total

€683,420

Consular Services

Seán Kyne

Question:

102 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide the staffing levels in the Irish Embassy in Canberra, Australia; and the level of assistance it is permitted to provide to Irish citizens who appear before Australian courts. [18514/11]

Seán Kyne

Question:

103 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if consular assistance is available in all the major Australian cities; and if, in view of the numbers of Irish citizens presently in Australia, he is satisfied that there is ease of access to such assistance to Irish citizens. [18515/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 102 and 103 together.

My Department has two offices in Australia, the Embassy, which is located in Canberra and a Consulate General in Sydney. The Embassy in Canberra provides consular assistance to Irish citizens in all of the Australian states except New South Wales, which is catered for by the Consulate General in Sydney. The Embassy is also accredited to New Zealand and Fiji.

The staffing levels of the Embassy and Consulate General are as follows:

Embassy Canberra

Consulate General Sydney

Ambassador

Consul General

1 First Secretary

1 Third Secretary

1 Office Manager

1 Clerk Secretary

3 Clerk Secretaries

2 Consular Officers

2.5 Consular Officers

1 Receptionist

1 Driver/ Messenger

If an Irish citizen is brought before the Australian courts, they may request assistance from the Embassy. The Embassy cannot provide legal advice, but can provide information, including regarding legal aid and how to locate a local lawyer. The role of the Embassy is to ensure that the citizen is not disadvantaged, but is able to avail of all protections which would apply to an Australian citizen in the same circumstances. The Consular Services Section in Dublin can liaise with family at home and can request the Embassy/Consulate to raise any issues of concern that they may have with the authorities.

The huge geographical reach of the mission means that, of necessity, much of its consular assistance is provided to Irish citizens over the phone and by e-mail. I am satisfied that there is ease of access to consular assistance, including outside regular office hours, where both the Embassy and the Consulate provide an out of hours telephone answering service.

In emergencies, the Embassy works closely with Irish citizens in distress in Australia and where necessary, the Consular Assistance Section in Dublin liaises with their families at home. The Embassy and Consulate assist in providing linkages with contacts in Federal, State and local authorities across Australia. The Embassy can also, on request, link citizens with Irish community organisations in their area.

On an ongoing basis, the Embassy provides Irish citizens in Australia with advice and direction to services available from the Australian authorities.

While we do not have a physical presence in the major cities, I am pleased to have the opportunity to acknowledge the excellent support work undertaken across Australia by the Irish Welfare Bureaus, Support Associations and Irish Clubs, many of whom are supported by my Department's Emigrant Support Programme. We have provided grants in this regard to groups in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Wollongong. These groups complement the work of the Embassy and Consulate and provide support and local advice to visiting Irish citizens and to those experiencing difficulty while in Australia.

Passport Applications

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

104 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when a passport will issue to a person (details supplied); when the passport in question was printed; the reason for the delay in issuing same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18636/11]

The passport in question was printed on 01 July and has been sent to the Passport Office in London for onward dispatch to the applicant. The applicant should receive her passport by the middle of this week. During the peak summer period, application processing times can lengthen for all passport services. I very much regret that the volume of applications received so far this year has given rise to increased delays, particularly in the case of applications submitted from overseas. Measures have been taken with the recruitment of temporary staff and the use of overtime to bring turnaround times back to normal levels at the earliest opportunity.

Trade Missions

Terence Flanagan

Question:

105 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will be leading any trade missions to China in 2011; his plans to increase trade to China; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18645/11]

The Government attaches importance to developing our trade and bilateral links with China. The latest available data shows that Ireland has a modest trade surplus with China, a dramatic turnaround from the position as recently as in 2006, when we had a trade deficit of €2.9 billion. We will be building on the excellent bilateral relations that exist between our two countries to further enhance our trade, investment, education and tourism links with China.

The Taoiseach hopes to lead a Trade Mission to China later this year and contact is continuing, including through our Embassy in Beijing, to arrange mutually acceptable dates. The Taoiseach will, of course, be accompanied by other relevant Ministers on that Mission, in order to maximise its trade and other benefits for Ireland. The recently launched Strategy and Action Plan for Irish Trade, Tourism and Investment to 2015, entitled Trading and Investing in a Smart Economy, has identified China as a key high-growth and high-potential market for Ireland, and the local market team set up under the Strategy and chaired by our Ambassador is already active. A local market plan for China has been prepared and its implementation will be reviewed by the Export Trade Council, which I will chair, and which will hold its inaugural meeting later this month.

In recognition of the importance of our partnership with China, we have in addition to our Embassy in Beijing, a Consulate General in Shanghai which is a key commercial centre. Enterprise Ireland is co-located with both the Embassy and the Consulate General.

China is also one of the small number of countries with which Ireland has a Joint Economic Commission. The last meeting of the JEC took place in Beijing last October and provided an opportunity for intensive bilateral discussions on a range of issues that have the potential to deepen our economic engagement.

Passport Applications

Derek Keating

Question:

106 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of new passports that are applied for per month; the number of renewal passports; the current waiting time from the date of application to the date of receipt by the applicant in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18778/11]

The number of applications received by the Passport Service in the first six months of 2011, (with comparisons to 2009 and 2010) are set out in the following table. The Passport Service does not maintain statistical data differentiating between first time and renewal applications. Accordingly, it is not possible to produce the data sought by the Deputy in this regard.

Month

2009

2010

2011

January

47,546

45,098

52,221

February

49,648

57,215

59,424

March

59,181

85,470

68,407

April

65,207

84,575

70,735

May

75,837

72,890

89,235

June

81,602

78,293

83,556

Total

379,021

423,541

423,578

In assessing the demand profile since 2009, it should be noted that industrial action in 2010 distorted to some degree the demand profile in the early part of that year. Therefore, it is reasonable to compare the first half annual demands in 2011 with 2009 to establish in real terms the growth of passport services. The details in the table above show a 12% increase over 2009. This has resulted in a temporary backlog of approximately 5 days in the processing of Passport Express applications and about 2 to 3 weeks delay in applications made by general mail. The Passport Service regrets the delay and any difficulties caused in this regard. Notice of the current extended turnaround time and its likely duration has been published on the Passport Service website www.passport.ie since 18 April 2011. It is regularly updated. The Passport Service has also informed An Post so that customers can be advised of the situation at the point of application

The exceptional peak season demand on all passport services is being tackled by the recruitment of 85 additional temporary staff and the use of overtime. The ongoing efforts in this regard will see the Passport Service bring processing times back to normal levels in the coming weeks.

Human Rights Issues

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

107 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on ongoing allegations of political repression and intimidation in Zimbabwe; his further views on whether early elections in Zimbabwe should be delayed until critical democratic reforms are implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18818/11]

I share the Deputy's concern regarding continuing abuses of the rights of citizens in Zimbabwe. Violence, intimidation and ongoing arrests demonstrate a disregard of human rights. Lack of rule of law and accountable governance remain fundamental challenges. The hope of the Global Political Agreement, upon which the Government is based, was to permit Zimbabweans to live in peace and free from violence and to be empowered to elect their representatives in parliament and Government through democratic elections. On the positive side, the conclusions of the Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government of SADC countries held in Sandton on 12 June 2011 on Zimbabwe, were encouraging. Ireland and its EU partners commend SADC, and in particular President Zuma, the SADC facilitator on Zimbabwe, on the progress made in their facilitation efforts. The Sandton Summit is another step towards the full implementation of the Global Political Agreement, a new Constitution, and laying the foundations for democratic reforms and elections in Zimbabwe.

The question of when elections should be held is related to the progress which is made, under SADC facilitation, toward agreement on a roadmap to the achievement of a new Constitution and democratic reforms. Such reforms are necessary to provide a measure of trust and an environment which is as free from violence and intimidation as possible. We shall continue to support the efforts of SADC to achieve this agreement, and to urge the parties in Government in Zimbabwe to work in good faith to that end.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

108 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if any initiatives have been taken at EU and UN level to address the reports of the alleged serious mistreatment of democracy activists in prisons in Iran; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18819/11]

The Government is deeply concerned about the continued high level and gravity of human rights violations in Iran, including the mistreatment of democracy activists and other detainees in prisons in Iran. Issues of particular concern in relation to detainees include widespread torture and other ill-treatment in detention, coerced confessions, the failure to uphold detainees' right to legal counsel and family visits, failure to observe proper procedure during the trial process and the frequent and arbitrary application of the death penalty. The EU has sought to raise human rights issues in Iran relating to detainees and the judicial process, as well as the application of the death penalty, with the Iranian authorities on several recent occasions. On 6 June, Hungary carried out a demarche on behalf of the EU to the head of the Human Rights Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ali Bahreini, on a number of detainees. This follows an earlier demarche in April regarding detained human rights defenders (Javid Houtan Kian and 6 others).

In a further effort to increase the EU's impact on human rights in Iran, including the rights of detainees, the Foreign Affairs Council in April adopted a travel ban and asset freeze against a number of serious human rights offenders in Iran. This sends an important political signal to those in the judicial system and elsewhere in the Iranian regime who perpetrate human rights abuses.

At UN level, Ireland was active in ensuring the successful adoption at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in March of a decision providing for appointment of a Special Rapporteur to examine Iran's human rights situation. We call upon the Government of Iran to extend the utmost cooperation to the Special Rapporteur.

At a bilateral level, my Department engages in ongoing dialogue with the Iranian Ambassador and his Embassy on these issues. My officials have already held a number of meetings with the Ambassador since the start of this year to convey our grave concerns at the human rights situation in Iran. Ireland will continue to raise human rights in Iran, including the rights of activists and other detainees, bilaterally and at the EU and UN, at all appropriate occasions.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

109 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position regarding the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the UN peace keeping mandate in the country; the action being taken at EU and UN level to address the ongoing extreme level of human rights abuses and sexual violence there; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18820/11]

The international community is following closely the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as the country recovers from the effects of the 1996-2003 civil war. Since the 2002 Sun City peace accords, progress has been made in establishing a democratic system of government in the DRC. However, while much of the country has achieved a degree of stability, several localised conflicts have continued, in particular in the east of the country. These conflicts have in many cases been characterised by an appalling degree of brutality, with large-scale attacks on the civilian population and widespread sexual violence. The humanitarian situation in eastern DRC, where more than a million people have been forced to flee their homes due to the effects of ongoing conflict, remains a cause of deep concern. The United Nations has sought to enhance stability in the DRC through the work of MONUSCO, formerly MONUC, the UN's largest peacekeeping mission. MONUSCO's current strength is just under 20,000 troops, military observers and police, along with 3,767 international and local civilian staff and 616 UN volunteers. 49 countries, including Ireland, contribute military personnel to the mission. MONUSCO is a Chapter VII mission under the UN Charter, which means it is authorised to use all necessary means to carry out its protection mandate, including the effective protection of civilians, humanitarian personnel and human rights defenders under imminent threat of physical violence, as well as the protection of United Nations personnel, facilities, installations and equipment. On 28 June, the mandate of the mission was extended until 30 June 2012.

The EU has also been active in supporting efforts to address ongoing instability in the DRC. Two missions are currently active in DRC as part of the European Security and Defence Policy: EUSEC, a Security Sector Reform mission supporting the Congolese authorities in the key task of providing advice and assistance for security sector reform, and EUPOL, a policing mission monitoring, mentoring and advising the Congolese police. These missions underline the EU's commitment to the Congolese people and the importance of consolidating the rule of law, security and stability in the DRC.

Successfully conducted elections are absolutely critical to the consolidation of peace and security in the DRC and in the Great Lakes Region as a whole. The current major focus of MONUSCO is to provide logistical support for the 28 November Presidential elections, with voter registration already completed in four of the eleven provinces and over 80% of registration completed in the remaining provinces. Ireland and its EU partners are investing heavily in ensuring that the forthcoming elections are successful, given the major organisational challenge they represent for a country the size of western Europe with extremely poor basic infrastructure and ongoing security problems. The EU recently confirmed that it will provide funding of €47.5 million for the elections and last month sent an EU exploratory mission to assess political and security conditions for the deployment of election observers, as was the case during the 2006 elections.

The issue of sexual violence in situations of armed conflict is of serious concern to Ireland and we have sought to address it in the context of our work on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. This Resolution, with its associated Resolution, 1820, recognises a direct relationship between the widespread and systematic use of sexual violence as an instrument of conflict and the maintenance of international peace and security. It commits the Security Council to taking action to end such atrocities and to punishing their perpetrators. In 2010, Ireland co-sponsored UN Security Council Resolution 1888 which led to the appointment of Margot Wallström as the United Nations Secretary General's first Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. The Special Representative has played an important role in leading a stronger international response to this critical issue, and has taken an active interest in the situation in the DRC.

The DRC will continue to face considerable challenges in the post-election period and it will be important for the international community to remain engaged. The country ranks among the world's least developed countries, with a position of 176 out of 182 countries on the UN's 2010 Human Development Index. The EU is the largest humanitarian donor to the DRC and in 2010 gave almost €47 million through its humanitarian assistance office (ECHO) to address the needs of vulnerable populations there.

Since 2010, Ireland has disbursed more than €13 million in response to the needs of the population in the DRC. To date in 2011, Ireland has allocated a total of over €4.5 million in emergency funding to the DRC via the UN administered pooled fund and through our NGO partners. Of this €1 million has been allocated to NGO partners. With our partners in the EU and the wider international community, Ireland will continue to work to bring an end to the conflicts which persist in the DRC, to address immediate humanitarian needs, and to help develop the capacity of the Congolese state to govern and protect its people.

Ministerial Meetings

Timmy Dooley

Question:

110 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number and dates of formal meetings that he has had with the management advisory committee in his Department since his appointment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18922/11]

I chaired a formal meeting of the Management Committee of my Department on April 8th and I would intend to convene the next such meeting in September. In the meantime, I meet with the officials on the Management Committee, either individually or in groups, on an almost daily basis. The Management Committee also meets regularly under the chairmanship of the Secretary-General to deal with administrative issues.

Departmental Agencies

Paudie Coffey

Question:

111 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade with regard to agencies (details supplied) and their sub-agencies, the levels of office rental paid; the location of offices and their landlords for the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011; the length of the lease in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18940/11]

There are no State Agencies or Sub-Agencies operating under the aegis of my Department. My Department did not make any rent related payments in respect of the advisory committees/bodies listed which operate under the aegis of my Department.

The Board of the Ireland-United States Commission for Educational Exchange (Fulbright Commission) enjoys autonomy of management and administration, in accordance with the Educational Exchange (Ireland and the United States of America) Act, 1991.

The operation of InterTrade Ireland is a matter for the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

Ministerial Meetings

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

112 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will detail the date, location and duration of all bilateral meetings he has personally held with Ministers of eurozone countries separate from meetings on the margins of meetings of the external relations Council. [18988/11]

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

113 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will detail the date, location and duration of all bilateral meetings held by the Minister of State for European Affairs with Ministers of eurozone countries separate from meetings on the margins of EU ministerial meetings. [18989/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 112 and 113 together.

The Government is determined to restore Ireland's standing as a respected and influential member of the European Union. To this end the Government is engaging at senior levels with fellow EU Member States. We are making clear the economic and financial realities confronting us and the steps which we have taken to get the public finances in order, to repair the banking sector and to restore growth. We are emphasising our determination to see this process through to a successful conclusion. We count on the continuing solidarity of partners. We seek to inform and to persuade, pointing to the benefit for the euro area and EU as a whole of Irish success.

Members of the Government avail of every appropriate opportunity to meet their EU counterparts, including those who are members of the euro area.

The most time-efficient and cost-efficient way in which to meet EU Ministerial counterparts has proved to be in the margins of the European meetings that we attend and this is where the majority of such meetings have taken place — in the case of the Minister of State for European Affairs and myself, at the Foreign Affairs Council and the General Affairs Council.

However, both Minister Creighton and I have also met our counterparts from the euro area on other occasions. These meetings have taken place either as part of a wider programme during bilateral visits to the countries concerned or in the margins of other multilateral or international meetings. The following tables provide details of these meetings and include a visit that I will undertake later this week to Berlin, during which time I will meet the German Foreign Minister, Dr. Guido Westerwelle.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade

Date

Meeting

Location

Duration

24 May 2011

Mr. Alain Juppé, French Ministre d’État (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Foreign and European Affairs

Paris

55 minutes

8 July 2011

Dr. Guido Westerwelle, German Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs

Berlin

60 minutes

Minister for State for European Affairs

Date

Meeting

Location

Duration

11 May 2011

Mr. Laurent Wauquiez, French Minister for European Affairs

Paris

45 minutes

12 May 2011

Dr. Wolf-Ruthart Born, State Secretary, German Federal Foreign Ministry

Berlin

60 minutes

13 May 2011

Mr Eckart von Klaeden, Minister of State in Chancellor’s Office

Berlin

45 minutes

7 June 2011

Mr Wolfgang Waldner, Austrian Minister of State for European Affairs

Gödöllö, Hungary (en marge of ASEM Foreign Ministers Meeting)

20 minutes

20 June 2011

Dr Ralf Brauksiepe, Parliamentary State Secretary in the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs

Dublin

90 Minutes

24 June 2011

Mr Ben Knappen, Netherlands Minister for European Affairs and Development,

Brussels (en marge of European Council)

30 minutes

State Visits

Joe Higgins

Question:

114 Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on the total costs to the State of the visits of the Queen of England and the President of the USA. [19486/11]

I refer to the Deputy to my reply of 16th June on this matter. The updated costs accruing to my Department from the State visit of Queen Elizabeth II is €220,895.02 and the visit by President Obama is €56,978.03. These costs relate to expenditure on transport, overnight accommodation costs for staff, official entertainment and catering, I.T. and administrative costs as well as overtime payments to some staff working on the visits. There still remains some further expenditure to cover residual costs which have not yet been finalised.

Departmental Staff

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

115 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of Secretaries General who sit on State agency boards; the Departments that the Secretaries Generals are representing; the corresponding agency boards they are appointed to by the Government; and the remuneration they receive for board membership. [19495/11]

There are no State Agencies operating under the aegis of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. There are four bodies operating under the aegis of my Department. These are: the Ireland — United States Commission for Educational Exchange (the Fulbright Commission); the Development Education Advisory Committee; the Irish Aid Expert Advisory Group; and the Emigrant Services Advisory Committee. There are no Secretary Generals from Government Departments sitting on these boards.

The Secretary General of my Department does not sit on the board of any government body.

Illicit Trade in Fuel

Gerald Nash

Question:

116 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider establishing a multi agency task force involving Customs and Excise, Revenue Commissioners, Garda and local authorities to combat the illegal fuel laundering, sale and supply which affects Border counties in particular; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18222/11]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners, who are responsible for the collection of mineral oil tax and for tackling the illicit trade in fuel products, that they are very conscious of the ongoing threat to the Exchequer posed by the laundering of markers from mineral oil and the onward sale and supply of the laundered product as auto diesel. I wish to inform the Deputy that a multi-agency Cross Border Fuel Fraud Enforcement Group (CBFFEG) was established in 2008 specifically to deal with the illicit trade in mineral oil in the border area. State representatives on this group include the Revenue Commissioners, An Garda Síochana, Criminal Assets Bureau and the Department of the Environment. Our Northern Ireland colleagues include HM Revenue & Customs, UK Border Agency, Police Service of Northern Ireland, Serious Organised Crime Agency and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. A total of twelve meetings of the group have taken place to date with multiple meetings of subgroup members at regular intervals.

Since its inception, this combined force has successfully targeted a number of illegal operators in the border area. In one such cross-border operation on the Monaghan/Armagh border in April 2009, three oil laundering plants, oil laundering equipment, over 100,000 litres of fuel, cash and a number of vehicles were seized. These multi-agency operations are planned to supplement the normal ongoing level of Revenue detection and enforcement strategy.

The Revenue Commissioners also inform me that they employ a broad range of compliance and enforcement strategies and methods to monitor and detect illicit practices involving mineral oils. These include the monitoring and auditing of trade and retail activity, random physical sampling at road checkpoints and intelligence driven operations, using covert surveillance to identify oil laundry locations and their times of activity. The Commissioners are determined to apply all the resources required to counteract this threat to the Exchequer.

In 2010, Revenue Enforcement Officers detected four oil laundering plants and seized a total of 268,000 litres of laundered fuel. Also in 2010, nine retailers were found dealing in laundered oil and eight haulage companies were detected using laundered oil. There were four convictions for other laundering offences. Already in the period January to June of this year, five oil laundry operations have been detected and approximately 140,300 litres of laundered fuel have been seized. Seven retailers and three haulage companies have also been detected in respect of laundered oil offences. In all of these cases, criminal proceedings have been taken or are being considered against individuals where sufficient evidence of involvement has been established.

Moneylender Regulation

Barry Cowen

Question:

117 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Finance if legislation will be required to implement the commitment in the programme for Government to regulate moneylenders. [18290/11]

Persons operating as unlicensed moneylenders are in breach of the law. Any evidence of their activities should be brought to the attention of An Garda Siochana. If legislation is required to deal with unlicensed moneylenders, that will be a matter, in the first instance, for my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality. I will consider any subsequent follow-up regulatory requirements, so as to implement, in the full, the commitment in the Programme for Government. The Deputy may wish to know that there is already a comprehensive regulatory licensing system in place for moneylenders. Moneylenders have to apply to the Central Bank annually to have their licences renewed. Section 93 of the Consumer Credit Act, 1995 (as amended) sets out the Central Bank's powers in relation to the grant or refusal of a moneylender's licence. The appropriate moneylending application form (new or renewal) must be completed and returned to the Central Bank with a number of items, for review and consideration.

In addition to the licensing system, the Central Bank has in place a Consumer Protection Code for Licensed Moneylenders (the Code). The Central Bank has power to impose sanctions on moneylenders for a contravention of the Code. The Code sets out General Principles with which a moneylender must comply. For example, a moneylender must act honestly and professionally, with due skill, care and diligence in the best interest of consumers. The Code also places requirements on moneylenders in relation to the provision of information to the consumer, preservation of a consumer’s rights, knowing the consumer, suitability, unsolicited contact (cold calling), disclosure, errors, handling complaints, consumer records, unsolicited credit facilities, arrears and guarantees, debt collection and the contents and presentation of advertisements.

On 18 February 2011, the Central Bank published the results of a themed inspection of licensed moneylenders. The inspection showed a high level of compliance with the requirements of the Code among firms. Inspections were conducted in 11 of the 46 licensed moneylenders currently operating in Ireland. The inspections focused on whether consumers were being charged in accordance with the moneylenders' authorised APRs (Annual Percentage Rates) and costs of credit as set out in the moneylenders' licences. It also examined whether firms had their licences on display and, if they indicated the high-cost nature of loans on loan documentation issued to consumers, as required by the Code. Overall the inspections found a high level of compliance with the requirements and that consumers were been charged in accordance with the moneylenders' authorised APRs and costs of credit. In addition, firms had their licences on display and indicated the high-cost nature of loans on loan documentation issued to consumers.

I would expect that, in future, the Annual Regulatory Performance Statement of the Central Bank will refer to the regulation of moneylenders

Tax Code

Catherine Murphy

Question:

118 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Finance in the context of developing our own domestic renewable energy sector, particularly wood biomass and wind-generated electricity, as well as reducing our over-dependence on imported fossil fuels, when the sections of the Finance Act 2010 which apply the carbon tax to solid fuels will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18342/11]

The section in the Finance Act 2010 that provides for the application of the carbon tax to solid fuels (coal and commercial peat) is subject to a Ministerial Commencement Order. This approach was primarily adopted by the previous Government in order to allow time for a robust mechanism to be put in place to improve the control of high sulphur coal being sourced from Northern Ireland suppliers. As the Deputy may be aware, in that context the Department of the Environment in conjunction with the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) proposed new regulations for coal which would effectively extend the existing voluntary agreement for low sulphur coal to the entire State on a regulatory basis. A stakeholder committee was established to provide an input into the proposed regulations. Under EU law dealing with technical barriers to trade, Member States are required to notify the European Commission of all draft technical regulations concerning products before they are adopted in national law. Formal notification of the proposed new standard for coal issued from NSAI to the EU Commission in November 2010.

Following acceptance of the proposal by the EU Commission, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has recently introduced a new specification for the sulphur content of coal placed on the market for residential use in Ireland. This has been given legal effect through the Air Pollution Act, 1987 (Marketing, Sale and Distribution of Fuels) (Amendment) Regulations 2011.

In light of these developments, the issue of coal with a high sulphur content potentially being sourced from Northern Ireland has been addressed. In those circumstances the timing of the application of the carbon tax to solid fuels, as had been planned, will be considered.

Question No. 119 withdrawn.

Tax Reliefs

James Bannon

Question:

120 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding an application for revenue assist in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18730/11]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the person (details supplied) must make an application for Revenue Job Assist on form RJA1to his Revenue Office, Government Offices, Pearse St, Athlone, Co. Westmeath. Part 1 of form RJA1 must be completed by the named person and Part 2 must be completed by the named person’s employer. The completed application will be processed as quickly as possible.

Form RJA1 is available for download on Revenue's website www.revenue.ie .

Constitutional Amendments

Alan Farrell

Question:

121 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Finance when he plans to introduce the constitutional referendum to bring about changes to reverse the effects of the Abbeylara judgment to enable Oireachtas committees to carry out full investigations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18768/11]

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to the holding of a referendum to amend the Constitution to reverse the effects of the Abbeylara judgement to enable Oireachtas committees to carry out full investigations. The Taoiseach said in this House on the 25th May that the Government believed that this Referendum should be held on the same day as the Presidential Election. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform is working with the Attorney General to examine the complex legal issues involved, and to prepare legislative proposals to bring this forward as a priority.

Departmental Agencies

Alan Farrell

Question:

122 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Finance if he will investigate, reassess and alter the restrictively high turnover requirements for legal services for State and semi-State agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18774/11]

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. If the Deputy has examples of what he regards as inappropriately high turnover requirements, he should supply them to the procurement unit in my Department for monitoring purposes.

European Central Bank

Micheál Martin

Question:

123 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide details of any texts relating to reform of the European Central Bank which he has circulated to other EU leaders at any point; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18232/11]

Micheál Martin

Question:

154 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance if he has tabled any measures at the European Council or eurogroup concerning the reform of the European Central Bank. [16290/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 123 and 154 together.

As the Deputy is aware, the ECB is independent and this independence is set out in Article 282(3) of the Treaty, which states that the European Central Bank "shall be independent in the exercise of its powers and in the management of its finances".

Currently there are no proposals on the table for reform of the European Central Bank and I have not tabled any such proposals.

Micheál Martin

Question:

124 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance the nature and duration of all discussions he held with Mr. Mario Draghi previous to agreeing to his appointment as president of the European Central Bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18233/11]

Micheál Martin

Question:

126 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance the connections he has had with Mr. Mario Draghi prior to agreeing to his nomination as president of the European Central Bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18389/11]

Micheál Martin

Question:

128 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance the steps he is proposing regarding the handling by EU Heads of state and government of appointments to the European Central Bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18395/11]

Micheál Martin

Question:

150 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance the contacts he has had with other European leaders regarding the appointment of the next president of the European Central Bank. [15005/11]

Micheál Martin

Question:

151 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance if he has tabled any proposals regarding the work of the European Central Bank as part of the discussions regarding the appointment of its next president. [15006/11]

Micheál Martin

Question:

152 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance the contacts he has had with persons who may be seeking the position of president of the European Central Bank. [15007/11]

Micheál Martin

Question:

153 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance if he will detail discussions which he held with nominees for the position of president of the European Central Bank prior to the European Council’s decision on this matter. [16289/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 124, 126, 128 and 150 to 153, inclusive, together.

The ECB is independent and this independence is set out in Article 282(3) of the Treaty, which states that the European Central Bank "shall be independent in the exercise of its powers and in the management of its finances".

The Executive Board of the European Central Bank comprises the President, the Vice-President and four other members. This is set out in Article 283(2) of the Treaty and Article 11 of the Statute of the ECB. The members of the Board are appointed by the Heads of State or Government of the euro area Member States, acting by a qualified majority, "from among persons of recognised standing and professional experience in monetary or banking matters". They must be a national of a euro area Member State. They are independent and their term of office is eight years and is not renewable.

The appointment procedure is as follows:

1) the Ecofin Council makes a recommendation (only euro area Member States voting) to the European Council, following agreement at the Eurogroup meeting;

2) the European Parliament and the ECB are consulted; and

3) the European Council (only euro area Member States voting) adopt the decision.

On the 17th May the Ecofin Council made a Recommendation to appoint Mr Mario Draghi as the President of the European Central Bank for a term of office of eight years, with effect from 1 November 2011.

On 9th June the European Central Bank stated that they had no objection to the Council's Recommendation to appointment Mr. Mario Draghi as the President of the ECB.

On 23rd June MEPs endorsed the nomination of Mr. Draghi as incoming President of the European Central Bank.

On the 24th June the European Council formally appointed Mr. Mario Draghi to be the next president of the European Central Bank.

I have had no discussions with nominees and have not tabled any proposals regarding the work of the European Central Bank as part of the discussions regarding the appointment of its next president. This issue was discussed during the Eurogroup meeting on 16th May, which I attended, with the European Council making the final decision at its meeting on the 24th June.

Departmental Representatives

Micheál Martin

Question:

125 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance the instructions he has given to the officers of his Department who represent him on the groups dealing with Ireland’s position on the next EU budget; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18387/11]

I assume that the Deputy is referring to the recently published Commission proposals on the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework for the EU post 2013. The negotiation of the next Multi-annual Financial Framework will be one of the key engagements for the Government at EU level over the next few years. Engagement in the negotiations will be an ongoing process and we will work effectively with partners to ensure the best outcome for the EU and Ireland. Ireland's approach will be guided by the following principles:

The overall size of the EU Budget as a percent of EU Gross National Income (GNI) should reflect the agreed policy priorities of the Union, while keeping in mind the budgetary consolidation imperative faced by all Member States including Ireland;

There should be a gradual evolution of the EU Budget expenditure rather than radical changes;

The need for continued food security and safety would warrant only gradual changes to the Common Agriculture Policy; in this regard, Ireland is committed to maintaining a strong and effective CAP which will support a vigorous consumer-focused agricultural production base in Europe;

We will be working to identify all possibilities for benefitting from available EU funds, especially in the Europe 2020 areas including competitiveness, productivity enhancing actions/measures (including R&D etc), cohesion and employment, climate change and energy, etc.

In terms of financing, Ireland along with all other Member States will look carefully at the Commission proposals on alternative financing arrangements ("own resources"). Our view has always been that the GNI key provides the fairest and most effective base.

At this early stage, it must be acknowledged that the very detailed and comprehensive proposals set out by the Commission last week will be examined thoroughly by all over the months ahead. In this regard we will be studying these proposals very closely, listening to the views of all other parties concerned and seeking to achieve the best possible outcome for Ireland and the EU. In so doing we will work with all other Member States in a constructive manner on this important dossier.

Question No. 126 answered with Question No. 124.

Micheál Martin

Question:

127 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance the representatives from the Department of the Taoiseach who sit on the tax strategy group. [18391/11]

The Department of Finance has recently been advised that the Department of the Taoiseach will be represented on the Tax Strategy Group by Mr. John Shaw, Mr. Mark Kennelly, Mr. Andrew McDowell and Mr. Martin Fraser.

Question No. 128 answered with Question No. 124.

State Agencies

Michael McGrath

Question:

129 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he intends, in view of recent disclosures of salary and bonus information at the National Treasury Management Agency, to introduce greater transparency and ministerial control in relation to the remuneration, including bonus arrangements that apply at the agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18893/11]

Michael McGrath

Question:

176 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance in view of recent disclosures of salary and bonus information at the National Treasury Management Agency, his plans to introduce greater transparency and ministerial control in relation to the remuneration, including bonus arrangements that apply at the NTMA; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18847/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 129 and 176 together.

Performance-related pay has been an integral part of the NTMA approach to remuneration, reflecting the approach to remuneration in the private sector organisations with which the NTMA competes for staff. At the same time, public sector organisations must operate having due regard to the wider public policy context, which includes general economic circumstances. Accordingly, it is my intention to examine the approach to remuneration in the NTMA in more detail in the coming months following consultation with my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. I will then see what changes, if any, might be appropriate in relation to the remuneration of all staff in the NTMA, having regard to the changing economic circumstances of the State and the need for transparency in public expenditure. The legislation which established the NTMA in 1990 deliberately 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. Under the NTMA business model, its remuneration structure is such that there are no general pay grades and no pay scales and all staff are on individually-negotiated contracts.

This business model has allowed the NTMA to staff itself with the necessary technical expertise to carry out the financial and risk management functions which have been assigned to it by Government since its initial establishment as a single-function agency managing the National Debt. These additional functions include the State Claims Agency, the National Pensions Reserve Fund, the National Development Finance Agency and the National Asset Management Agency.

The NTMA Advisory Committee, the members of which are appointed by the Minister for Finance, formally advises the NTMA on remuneration, including performance-related pay, on an ongoing basis. The remuneration of the Chief Executive, including any performance related payments, is determined by me after consultation with the Committee. The Advisory Committee makes recommendations to the Chief Executive on the specific remuneration of the other members of the senior management team and on general remuneration policy in the NTMA.

It should be noted that the members of NTMA's senior management team waived their performance-related payments due for 2010 in view of the serious economic situation facing the country.

Turning to the point the Deputy raises regarding transparency, detailed information on salaries by salary band was furnished by the NTMA to my Department and included in my response to a parliamentary question from the Deputy last week. Similar information was previously provided to the Committee of Public Accounts. In addition, in line with the requirements of the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies, full details of the remuneration of the Chief Executives of the NTMA, NAMA and NDFA will be published on an annual basis in the respective agencies' Annual Reports.

Bank Guarantee Scheme

Pearse Doherty

Question:

130 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a month-by-month breakdown of bonds due to mature in Allied Irish Banks, Bank of Ireland, EBS and Permanent TSB broken down by bond type; their value; their date of maturity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18896/11]

The Deputy will be aware that on 1 April 2011, the Central Bank published the total senior and subordinated debt issuances by those banks covered by the Guarantee as at March 2011. This information is available on the Central Bank's website at www.centralbank.ie. The Central Bank published the individual figures on a once-off basis and they were disclosed with the consent of the financial institutions. The most up to date information available to the Central Bank for the total aggregated outstanding debt by bond type for Bank of Ireland, AIB, EBS and ILP is set out as follows:

€m

Senior Bonds Guaranteed

Senior Bonds Unguaranteed Secured

Senior Bonds Unguaranteed Unsecured

Subordinated Bonds

Total

17,775

19,944

12,491

6,082

I understand that the institutions referred to by the Deputy have in excess of 100 bonds outstanding which would be encompassed by this request. These are denominated in a number of different currencies, in addition to the euro, have various maturity dates extending in some cases beyond the next ten years and have both fixed and floating interest rates.

The Deputy may however wish to note that the Central Bank has advised me that the dates of maturity and the total aggregate amounts for secured, unsecured and subordinated debt due to be repaid by all of the covered institutions is as follows:

Year of Maturity

Amounts €m

2011

7,029

2012

13,062

2013

15,706

2014

3,721

2015

10,742

2016

438

2017

2,291

2018

458

2019

1,211

2020

1,197

2021 +

5,769

Total

61,625

Financial Services Sector

Frank Feighan

Question:

131 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Finance the avenue open to a person (details supplied) who was refused a mortgage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18215/11]

I would like to inform the Deputy that I, as Minister for Finance, have no responsibility with regard to the provision or refusal of a mortgage to a particular individual. The Central Bank's Consumer Protection Code is a set of general principles combined with more detailed requirements in certain areas. It requires financial institutions to act in the best interests of their customers by selling them products that are suitable, explaining why the products offered are suitable and treating customers fairly if things go wrong. A financial institution must comply with the general principals of the Code in all its dealings with customers.

The ‘Knowing the Consumer Process', set out in the Code, involves, inter alia, gathering relevant information from consumers about their financial situation, their individual circumstances and needs. Based on this information the financial institution is required to complete a Suitability Process where only products suitable to that particular consumer are offered. While affordability is a prime component of suitability, a fuller consideration of a consumer's individual circumstances and needs would be required in order to comply with the ‘Suitability Process'. In this regard, when assessing suitability in relation to mortgage products, the Central Bank has informed me that it is of the opinion that factors such as, but not limited to employment, income and repayment capacity, purpose of borrowings, type and length of loan, plans for early redemption, attitude to fixed/variable interest, age, savings track record, loan to value ratio, should be considered. As suitability is specific to the circumstances and needs of each individual consumer, financial institutions should be satisfied that written statements reflect an assessment of each individual consumer's specific circumstances and needs, thereby the financial institution may meet the ‘Knowing the Consumer' process, i.e. requirements of the Code.

If a consumer feels that he or she has been improperly treated, or that he or she has grounds for complaint for some other reason, then a complaint may be made directly to the financial institution concerned. If the consumer is not satisfied with the response received from the institution, there may be grounds to forward the complaint to the Financial Services Ombudsman (FSO), who has the statutory powers to investigate complaints against financial services providers. The FSO will only consider a case once the internal complaints procedure within the financial institution concerned has been followed. The Code outlines the complaints handling process up to and including the role of the FSO.

Flood Relief

Question:

132 Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the drainage of the Dunkellin River, County Galway; the cost of same; the phases or stages involved; when work will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18223/11]

Galway County Council is undertaking a flood relief scheme for the Dunkellin River (from Craughwell to Kilcolgan) and the Aggard Stream with funding from the Office of Public Works. OPW personnel will carry out the construction works acting as agents of the Council.

The Council has appointed consultants to carry out an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) of the proposed works and to complete the detailed design of the scheme to enable the necessary statutory permissions to be obtained.

The Council is progressing the scheme through An Bord Pleanála under the Strategic Infrastructure Act. OPW understands that An Bord Pleanála will formally consider the scheme on completion of the EIS, which the Council expects towards the end of 2011. Pending the completion of the scheme design and the decision of An Bord Pleanála, it is not possible to confirm the cost of the scheme or when works can be commenced. Progression of the scheme will also have to have regard to the Government's review of capital expenditure.

Property Valuations

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

133 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Finance if he will instruct the Valuation Office and local authorities not to apply commercial rates to sporting organisations that are not for profit such as GAA clubs and golf clubs; and if necessary, if he will introduce legislation to prevent this from happening. [18225/11]

The Commissioner of Valuation is independent in the exercise of his duties under the Valuation Act 2001 and the making of valuations for rating purposes is his sole prerogative. The statute does not accord me, as Minister for Finance, any function in this regard. The Valuation Act 2001 provides for the exemption from rates of land that is developed for sport such as playing pitches, land on golf courses, tennis courts, etc. The Act also provides that community halls such as sports clubhouses which are not licensed to sell alcohol and whose facilities are not used primarily for profit or gain are not rateable. However, the Act provides that where a club is licensed to sell alcohol and is registered under the Registration of Clubs (Ireland) Act 1904, it is no longer deemed to be a community hall and therefore the premises occupied by that club are rateable.

The sale of alcohol is a commercial activity and licensed club premises are competing with other licensed premises. The effect of removing any category of rateable property from the valuation base would be to increase the rates burden on other ratepayers.

I have no plans to provide for special treatment of licensed clubs under the Valuation Act 2001, which maintains the long-standing principle that all properties are valued in a fair and equitable manner.

Departmental Contracts

Clare Daly

Question:

134 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Finance the reason the typing of documents and transcription of digital dictation has been outsourced to the Philippines by the Revenue Commissioners and other public bodies. [18253/11]

I should point out that the question of awarding of individual contracts is a matter for each contracting authority. However, I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they have not outsourced the typing of documents and transcription of digital dictation to the Philippines.

Financial Services Sector

Pearse Doherty

Question:

135 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Permanent TSB’s interest rate on variable rate mortgages is significantly above that of other banks covered by the blanket guarantee; the steps he will take to assist struggling mortgage holders who are at risk of falling into serious arrears as a result of this higher interest rate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18318/11]

As Minister for Finance, I have no statutory role in the setting of interest rates charged or paid by regulated financial institutions, including the institution mentioned by the Deputy. The Central Bank of Ireland has responsibility for the regulation and supervision of financial institutions in terms of consumer protection and prudential requirements and for ensuring ongoing compliance with applicable statutory obligations. Each institution determines the rate it charges its customers, depending on a number of factors such as cost of funds and commercial considerations (such as competition, risk pricing and the impact on deposit rates).

In February 2011, the Central Bank advised mortgage lenders that it expects them to notify affected consumers, in writing, at least one month in advance of any increases in their standard variable rate. This notification must include:

a) the date from which the new rate will apply,

b) the details of the old and new rates,

c) the revised repayment amount, and

d) an invitation for the consumer to contact the lender if he/she anticipates difficulties meeting the higher repayments.

With regard to consumers in arrears or in danger of getting into financial difficulty and/or concerned about going into mortgage arrears, the revised Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears (CCMA) offers increased protections to these consumers. The revised CCMA was issued to mortgage lenders on 6 December 2010 and has been effective since 1 January 2011. It builds on the provisions of the previous version, but includes more detailed requirements, including the establishment of a formal Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP). Other examples of significant changes are:

pre-arrears cases must be treated in accordance with the MARP,

arrears have been defined,

the primary residences which can be protected by the CCMA have been defined, and

an appeals process under the CCMA replaces the complaints process under the Consumer Protection Code. The Central Bank has also published a guide for consumers on mortgage arrears ‘Mortgage Arrears — A Consumer Guide to Dealing with your Lender' and this is available on the Central Bank website: http://www.centralbank.ie/regulation/processes/consumer-protection-code/Documents/Consumer%20Booklet%20-%20FINAL%20Feb%202011.pdf

With regard to monitoring compliance with the consumer protection codes, the Central Bank carries out themed inspections and mystery-shopping exercises. On 1st of July 2011, the Central Bank published the findings of a themed inspection of mortgage lenders which examined compliance with the requirement of the revised CCMA specifically relating to charges on mortgage accounts in arrears, and the related Letter of Direction (‘Direction') issued by the Bank. The Direction instructed mortgage lenders to refrain from imposing interest surcharge on arrears and other specific charges arising on a mortgage account in arrears to which the revised CCMA applies and in respect of which a borrower is co-operating reasonably and honestly with the lender in the MARP from 1 January 2011. Provision 9 of the CCMA refers to the restriction on imposing such charges. Lenders were individually notified of the charges to which this Provision applies in the Direction that issued in December 2010. This themed inspection was carried out across six mortgage lenders including credit institutions and retail credit firms. 655 customer mortgage account statements were reviewed during the course of the themed inspection. Further detail can be found at the following link: http://www.centralbank.ie/press-area/press-releases/Pages/CentralBankMonitorsLendersCompliancewiththeRevisedCode.aspx

State Bodies

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

136 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Finance if the national economic advisory council has met; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17335/11]

I am aware that last November, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance and the Public Service published a report entitled Macroeconomic Policy and Fiscal and Economic Governance. As part of a number of recommendations, the report proposed the establishment of an independent Economic Advisory Council. However, as the Deputy may be aware, the Government is committed to significant reform of our Budgetary architecture including the introduction of an independent Fiscal Advisory Council, medium-term expenditure planning and performance management. The Programme for Government sets out our commitments in this regard.

In addition, the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support contains commitments to establish an independent Fiscal Advisory Council by mid-year and to introduce a Fiscal Responsibility Bill by the end of the year. The first of these commitments has been met and, in this regard, I will be making an announcement in the coming days. Work is already well advanced in relation to the Fiscal Responsibility Bill and it is intended that the commitment in relation to this will also be met before the end of the year.

Semi-State Bodies

Michael McCarthy

Question:

137 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Finance the number of semi-State companies here that paid bonus payments to their chief executive officer in 2009 and 2010 separately; the amount of each bonus payment; the corresponding company name; the name of the bonus recipient; the date the bonus was paid in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18332/11]

Michael McCarthy

Question:

138 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Finance the number of semi-State companies that paid bonuses to second-tier management staff in 2009, 2010 and 2011 separately; the amount of each bonus paid; the corresponding company; the name of bonus recipient; the date on which the bonus was paid in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18345/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 137 and 138 together.

My Department does not hold this information. Information on performance related payments for chief executives and second tier management in Commercial State Companies is appropriate to the relevant Department. In relation to CEOs the information is published in the annual reports of such Companies.

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

139 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance if the 15% voluntary cut in salary he is seeking from existing commercial semi-State chief executive officers includes previous pay cuts or is it 15% of current salaries. [18350/11]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

185 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider extending his review of the current performance schemes for chief executives of commercial State companies to all levels of management who are awarded bonuses; and if he will extend his instruction that bonus payments to CEOs should not be paid to all commercial semi-State management. [18876/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 139 and 185 together.

It is my intention to seek a 15% voluntary pay adjustment from incumbent Chief Executive Officers in Commercial State Companies who are in receipt of salaries in excess of €250,000. Where an adjusted salary figure is less than or equal to the €250,000 salary cap that lesser sum would be sufficient.

The Government's decision is that I should review the current performance schemes for Chief Executive Officers of Commercial State Companies in conjunction with Ministers with such companies under their aegis. While the issue of such payments to management and staff below the level of CEO is not covered by the review, it is to be expected that the outcome of the review will inform the future structure of performance related award schemes in these companies.

Financial Services Sector

Joe Costello

Question:

140 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Finance the number of home mortgages which were approved by the Irish banks in each of the past ten years; the average amount of money approved in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18353/11]

According to statistics published by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government on 1 June 2011, approximately 790,000 mortgages were approved by banks and building societies in Ireland between and including the years 2001 to 2010. This information relates to loans for the purpose of financing the purchase of a home (houses and apartments) including residential investment property (which must involve the transfer of ownership) or building of a new home. Loans approved for the purpose of refinancing existing loans whether with the same or a different lender, or loans involving a new increased mortgage or house improvements are not included in these figures. The Deputy should note that if a borrower was approved for a mortgage by 4 different lenders, these 4 mortgage approvals will be included in the figures. Further information is available on www.environ.ie. The average loan size:

In 2001 €126,000

In 2002 €154,000

In 2003 €178,000

In 2004 €202,000

In 2005 €231,000

In 2006 €274,000

In 2007 €271,000

In 2008 €271,000

In 2009 €230,000

In 2010 €208,000

The number of mortgage approvals:

In 2001 69,000

In 2002 93,000

In 2003 98,000

In 2004 104,000

In 2005 120,000

In 2006 114,000

In 2007 89,000

In 2008 56,000

In 2009 29,000

In 2010 20,000

The figures detailed are based on data supplied by the following banks and building societies: Bank of Ireland, Mortgage Bank, Allied Irish Banks, National Irish Bank, Ulster Bank, Bank of Scotland, Permanent TSB, KBC Bank, First Active, E.B.S. (Including Haven), Irish Civil Service and Irish Nationwide.

Since 2006, the Irish Banker's Federation has published a quarterly report on mortgage lending by its members which is available on its website (www.ibf.ie).

Joe Costello

Question:

141 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Irish banks are not approving mortgages for applicants who are employed on contract; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18354/11]

Each mortgage provider is responsible for evaluating the capacity of the borrower to manage and repay the loan and it would be normal that the employment status of the applicant would be one factor taken into account. The mortgage provider must have regard to the Central Bank's Consumer Protection Code (the Code) which is a set of general principles combined with more detailed requirements in certain areas. It requires financial institutions to act in the best interests of their customers by selling them products that are suitable, explaining why the products offered are suitable and treating customers fairly if things go wrong. The lending institution must comply with the general principles of the Code in all its dealings with customers. When providing a product or service to the consumer, a financial institution must comply with the ‘Knowing the Consumer' and ‘Suitability Provisions' of the Code.

The Knowing the Consumer process involves, inter alia, gathering relevant information from the consumer about his/her financial situation, individual circumstances and needs. Based on this information the financial institution is required to complete a suitability assessment where only products suitable to that particular consumer are offered.

While affordability is a prime component of suitability, a fuller consideration of a consumer's individual circumstances and needs would be required in order to comply with the Suitability Provisions of the Code. In this regard, when assessing suitability in relation to mortgage products, the Central Bank is of the opinion that factors such as — but not limited to — employment, income and repayment capacity, purpose of borrowings, type and length of loan, plans for early redemption, attitude to fixed/variable interest, age, savings track record and loan to value ratio, should be considered. As suitability is specific to the circumstances and needs of each individual consumer, financial institutions should be satisfied that written statements reflect an assessment of each individual consumer's specific circumstances and needs, thereby meeting the Knowing the Consumer requirements of the Code.

It should be noted that the Code is currently being reviewed and a second consultation on the review of the Code is now underway.

Joe Costello

Question:

142 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Finance his plans to introduce an independent appeals mechanism for applicants who have been refused home mortgages by Irish banks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18355/11]

I do not plan to introduce an independent appeals mechanism specifically for applicants who have been refused home mortgages by Irish banks. I believe that mortgage lending must be undertaken on a sustainable and prudential basis by financial institutions and conform fully with regulatory requirements both in relation to the financial institution itself and also the safeguarding of the consumer's interests.

The decision on whether or not to grant individual mortgages must remain a commercial decision for individual lending institutions. It is important that each lending institution is allowed to assess properly and independently the individual risks that it is considering accepting.

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. Consequently outside pressure should not be put on mortgage lenders to accept or reject individual mortgage applications.

However, if a consumer feels that he or she has been improperly treated, or that he or she has grounds for complaint for some other reason, then a complaint may be made directly to the financial institution concerned. If the consumer is not satisfied with the response received from the institution, there may be grounds to forward the complaint to the Financial Services Ombudsman (FSO), who has statutory powers to investigate complaints against financial service providers. The FSO will only consider a case once the internal complaints procedure within the financial institution concerned has been followed.

EU-IMF Programme

Pearse Doherty

Question:

143 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the savings to the State arising from a 1% reduction, a 2% reduction and a 3% reduction in the interest rate on the EU portion of the EU and IMF support programme loan broken down by year and with a total for the lifetime of the loan on the assumption of a seven and a half year loan period as outlined in the memorandum of understanding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18411/11]

The assessment of the impact of changes in the interest margin on our EU loans is based on a number of assumptions about the level of the reduction, the date on which it applies and the amount of the loan to which it applies. Each of these elements has been changing in the past number of months. Because of this, the figures provided for any interest rate reduction are qualified as being illustrative and the precise position will not be known until the actual arrangement is finally agreed. Also, a decision to grant a reduction in the interest margin is a political one at EU level and is decided on a case by case basis. No change has yet been agreed for Ireland. In mid-May, the Eurogroup decided on the margins for the EU financial assistance to Portugal which — if applied to Ireland's EU funding — would amount to a reduction of about 0.6%. This crystallised the level of reduction likely to be available to Ireland. My understanding at that time also was that the benefit of any reduction would not apply retrospectively. More recently, I have received clarification that, if we were to get the benefit of the arrangements that apply to Greece, retrospection would not apply to any interest payments made before the decision.

There is, therefore, a range of options in terms of the value of a reduction and this depends on the terms granted, which are decided on a case by case basis. The following estimates of the likely impact illustrate the extent of this range. If the same interest rate reduction as Portugal's is applied (i.e. the equivalent to about 0.6% off Ireland's margin) to the coupons on future disbursements from the EU funds only (i.e. all the funds available to us under the EFSF and the EFSM) then the savings would be approximately €150 million per annum. Similarly, if the same interest rate reduction as Portugal's (i.e. the equivalent to about 0.6% off Ireland's margin) was applied to all future coupons on those EU funds (EFSF and EFSM) then the saving could be up to €240 million per annum. The upper end of this range of options referred to earlier would be a 1% reduction applied to all future coupons for both the EU funds and the bilateral loans from EU partners, which would provide savings of the order of €450 million per year, assuming all the funds are drawn down and that Ireland would pay a lower interest rate than that applied for Portugal recently. Although no decision has yet been made on an interest rate reduction for Ireland, based on the latest information available as set out, any benefit is unlikely to be at the higher end of the range outlined.

In that context, for illustrative purposes, applying the saving for the middle range outlined for the 7.5 year average maturity envisaged for the overall programme funding, would give cumulative savings of approximately €1.8 billion. The prospective savings from any putative 2% or 3% reduction would be pro rata to the amounts outlined above. It must be noted, however, that a reduction of 3% would result in an interest rate below the cost of funds to the EFSF and the EFSM.

The value of any interest rate reduction granted to Ireland will be known if and when a decision is taken on granting such a reduction, and on the terms and conditions on which it is to be granted. We will continue to press our case for such reduction. We will also continue to press the case for a larger reduction in the interest rate for all programme countries.

Pension Provisions

Emmet Stagg

Question:

144 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Finance the reason correspondence from a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has not been dealt with. [18430/11]

As the Deputy is aware, the case which he raises has been the subject of lengthy correspondence with my officials. The retiree concerned was informed in replies of 29th December 2010 and 4th January 2011 from my Department that there were no grounds for his retirement to be cancelled and for him to be reinstated, and the basis for the introduction of the Public Service Pension Reduction (PSPR) was explained to him. The essential point in these replies was that the application of the reduction to the person's pension is in accordance with the provisions of Oireachtas legislation which was enacted to deal with the financial emergency prevailing. Replies have now issued to both the Deputy and the person in question. Correspondence since then has asked for an elaboration of previous replies which I am happy to give as follows. As you know, the PSPR is in place since 1 January 2011, and was legislated for in the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2010. Section 2 of that Act provides that the public service pension of a pensioner (as defined) is reduced. Section 2(2) specifically provides, among other things, that the reduction “has effect notwithstanding . . . any circular or instrument or other document, any written agreement or contractual arrangement . . .”.

The PSPR applies to public service pensions generally, including those of retired Ministers, Judges and other senior public servants. Any reduction in pension payments is, of course, a serious step. However, the grave state of the public finances and the threat to Ireland's economic well-being provide the context for exceptional measures such as the PSPR. In this connection, you will be aware that Ireland is availing of financial assistance programmes provided by the IMF and the EU and has undertaken to meet fiscal targets in that regard.

It should also be noted that the first €12,000 of pension is exempt from the reduction, and that the bands and rates of the reduction are progressively structured so that persons on lower pensions are proportionately less affected than those on higher pensions.

Section 6 of the Act gives the Minister power to exempt a class or group of pensioners from the imposition of some or all of the reduction, if he is satisfied that they are materially distinguished by some particular aspect of their pension position from others who are subject to the reduction and the Minister considers it just and equitable to do so.

The person in question may wish to make a formal application for exemption under Section 6, and the matter will be given consideration. The delay in replying to the later letters is regretted and I have asked my Department to convey these regrets to the correspondent.

State Agencies

Pearse Doherty

Question:

145 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if the chairman of the National Asset Management Agency shall be remunerated pursuant to the terms or conditions of his contract with NAMA; the sum of remuneration in the event of the chairman resigning of his own volition, by way of mutual agreement or in the event of him dismissing the chairman from his position; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18482/11]

The terms and conditions governing the appointment of the Chairperson of the National Asset Management Agency are as determined by the Minister in accordance with the relevant provisions of the National Asset Management Agency Act 2009. The terms attaching to the present incumbent to the position are that his appointment is for a period of five years from 22 December 2009 at an annual fee of €150,000 (which was reviewed downwards in March 2011 from its previous setting of €170,000).

Public Service Remuneration

Joan Collins

Question:

146 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Finance if the expenses paid to persons from the public purse should be known in addition to the pay rates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18516/11]

The pay rates and expense allowances in respect of civil service grades, for which my Department is responsible, are publicly available for consultation on the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform's website (at www.per.gov.ie/pay-and-other-circulars) and the civil service personnel code website (www.personnelcode.gov.ie).

Social Welfare Fraud

Gerald Nash

Question:

147 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide details in relation to the resources available to the Revenue Commissioners dedicated to the area of fraud detection with particular reference to social welfare fraud; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18519/11]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they have over 2,000 staff engaged in activities that are dedicated to target and confront non-compliance. These activities include audit assurance checks, anti-smuggling, investigations, prosecutions and anti avoidance. Revenue has close working relationships with other agencies, especially the Department of Social Protection, to support a joined up approach to fraud and evasion. Sharing of information between Revenue and the Department of Social Protection is important. In addition to co-operation across all Revenue's activities, 32 Revenue officers are assigned to Joint Investigation Units who work closely with the Department of Social Protection on joint operations.

EU-IMF Programme

Pearse Doherty

Question:

148 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide details of projected future draw down of moneys from the EU/IMF programme for the remainder of 2011; the date on which such draw downs are expected to take place; the amount of these draw downs; the source of the moneys and the interest rate charged on each portion of these draw downs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18543/11]

Future disbursements are kept under constant review and are the subject of discussion in the quarterly reviews. Disbursements in each quarter can only take place after the IMF Executive Board, the Eurogroup and ECOFIN have approved the compliance reports prepared, respectively, by IMF Staff and the European Commission Services. The actual disbursements take place in the period following the respective meetings. Disbursements from the EFSF and EFSM are somewhat dictated by the timing of their market interventions and discussions around this are held with the NTMA as appropriate.

Under the combined 1st and 2nd Reviews, which took place in April 2011, the disbursement profile was agreed as set out in the following table:

Source

Q3 — 2011

2012

2013

Totals

EU (incl. Bilaterals)*

€3.0 bn

€7.7 bn

€12.7 bn

€6.6 bn

€30.0 bn

IMF

€1.5 bn

€3.9 bn

€6.3 bn

€3.4 bn

€15.1 bn

Total

€4.5 bn

€11.6 bn

€19.0 bn

€10.0 bn

€45.1 bn

* These are net disbursement figures. Gross borrowing will be higher due to the credit enhancement measures required under EFSF arrangements.

The funds to be sourced from the EU include an estimated €4.8 billion of bilateral loans from the UK, Sweden and Denmark. Under the bilateral agreement with the UK, which provides funding amounting to Stg£3.2 billion (€3.8 billion, based on the conversion rates prevailing in November 2010, is the assumed value in the table above), the funds should be disbursed in eight equal tranches starting in the third quarter of 2011.

The bilateral loan agreements, including the disbursement profiles, with Sweden and Denmark are being finalized. The current expectation is that the combined €1 billion from these sources will be split equally over 2012 and 2013.

The interest cost of future loan tranches from the EFSM and EFSF will be set on the disbursement date for each particular tranche but will be fixed for the term of the loan. All IMF monies have the same floating interest rate and margin adjustments. However, IMF monies drawn down to date have been hedged by the NTMA into fixed rate euro. The pricing structure for the EFSM, EFSF, the IMF and the bilateral loans is set out below:

EFSM: Loans are priced on the basis of the issuance yield on the bonds sold by the European Commission to fund the loan plus a margin of 292.5 basis points. The total interest cost will also include issuance costs incurred by the Commission.

EFSF: The basic interest cost of EFSF loans is calculated as the issuance yield payable by the EFSF on the bonds it has sold to fund the loan, plus a margin of 247 basis points. However, in its current form, the EFSF is required to undertake a number of credit enhancement measures to ensure it maintains the highest possible rating from the credit rating agencies. These measures include a Loan Specific Cash Buffer and the prepayment of the margin due on the loan. Under the Loan Specific Cash Buffer measure, the EFSF retains and invests a portion of monies it raises from the bonds it has issued to fund a specific loan. The borrower has to pay the difference between the yield on the bond issued and the return earned by the EFSF from its investment of this money. The prepayment of the margin of 247 basis points is done on a net present value basis. Accordingly, the coupons payable by the borrower over the term of the loan only relate to the cost of funds borne by the EFSF. This structure is unwieldy and agreement has been reached to amend it, including the pricing mechanism, and this will end the requirement for a Loan Specific Cash Buffer and the prepayment of the entire margin. Legislation is being prepared for the Oireachtas to ratify these amendments.

IMF: Interest is paid quarterly at the IMF's standard interest rate for drawings under its Extended Fund Facility. This rate is set by reference to the IMF's basic rate of charge plus surcharges which are based on the size of the outstanding loans relative to the country's IMF quota.

For borrowings up to three times quota the interest rate is the weekly SDR rate (latest is 0.55%) plus 1% surcharge, i.e. 1.55%.

Borrowings above the threshold of three times quota are charged an additional 2% i.e. 3.55%

From 18 January 2014, the third anniversary of the availability of the 1st disbursement of the IMF funds to Ireland, an additional 1% is charged on borrowings over 3 times quota i.e. 4.55%

In addition to the interest charge there is a once off up front handling fee of 0.5% for all draw downs. This equates to about 0.07% per annum over the weighted average life of the loans of 7.5 years. The SDR interest rate is reset weekly and is based on a weighted average of the three-month Eurepo rate, three-month Japanese Treasury Discount bills, three-month UK Treasury bills, and three-month US Treasury bills. It should be noted that the NTMA has converted the floating rate cost of IMF borrowing into fixed rate euro.

Bilateral Loans: To date there have been no draw downs from the bilateral partners. The UK loan agreement, which has been finalised for some time, stipulates that the interest rate on the amounts drawn down will be based on the Sterling Pound mid-market semi-annual swap rate at the time of drawdown plus a margin of 2.29%. The Danish and Swedish loan facilities have not yet been signed but are near completion. It is proposed that the interest rate on each will be based on the 3-month Euribor interest rate, a market reference rate of good standing, plus a margin yet to be agreed.

Departmental Staff

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

149 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the number of Secretaries General who sit on State agency boards; the Departments that the Secretaries General are representing; the corresponding agency boards they are appointed to by the Government; and the remuneration they receive for board membership. [18621/11]

In response to the Deputy's question, the Secretary General of the Department of Finance is a member of the Advisory Committee of the National Asset Management Agency but does not accept remuneration in respect of the position. In addition, the Secretary General was appointed to the Central Bank Commission in an ex-officio capacity and he also receives no fees in respect of this role. Both of these Bodies come under the aegis of my Department. The Secretary General is also a member of the National Economic and Social Council which comes under the aegis of the Department of the Taoiseach. There is no remuneration for this role. The Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform sits on the Commission for Public Service Appointments for which he receives no fees.

Questions Nos. 150 to 153, inclusive, answered with Question No. 124
Question No. 154 answered with Question No. 123

Ministerial Responsibilities

Micheál Martin

Question:

155 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance the arrangements he has made for fulfilling the role proposed for him in the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Bill 2011 in resolving issues of relative competencies between the him and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. [17285/11]

Section 24 of the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Bill 2011, as passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas, provides for a situation where any doubt, question or dispute arises as to the Minister of the Government in whom any particular function is vested by virtue of this Act. The Ministers in this instance are the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. The Bill allows for such a question to be determined by the Taoiseach.

EU-IMF Programme

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

156 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Finance if he will meet with the EU-IMF delegation during its forthcoming visit to Ireland for the next quarterly review of the EU-IMF deal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17336/11]

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

157 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Finance the input he will have in the preparations for the forthcoming quarterly review of the EU-IMF deal and visit of the EU-IMF delegation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17337/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 156 and 157 together.

The position is the third quarterly review of the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland will take place from the 6th to the 15th July 2011.

It is my intention to meet with the troika delegation during the programme review. The review will comprise of 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. The meetings will range from technical to policy discussions and will be conducted, under my direction and that of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and the Governor of the Central Bank as appropriate, by senior officials from my Department, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the Central Bank and the Financial Regulator, the National Treasury Management Agency and the Office of the Attorney General.

Question No. 158 answered with Question No. 58

Banking Sector Regulation

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

159 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Finance his plans to change lending practices within banks towards giving credit to businesses on the basis of their health and potential rather than on the assets that they have. [14721/11]

The Deputy will be aware that the banking system restructuring plan creates capacity for the two Pillar Banks, Bank of Ireland and AIB, to provide lending in excess of €30 billion in the next three years. SME and new mortgage lending for these banks is expected to be in the range of €16-20bn over this period. In each bank, a team of senior managers will be dedicated to the task of ensuring lending continues to grow to support economic growth. This lending capacity is incorporated into the banks' deleveraging plans which allow for repayment of Central Bank funding through asset run-off and disposals over the period to 2013.

Both pillar banks provide my Department with monthly figures on balance sheet volumes, sanctioned facilities and geographic and industrial breakdowns of their SME lending. The Deputy may also be aware that under the terms of the government recapitalisation, both banks also produce a quarterly report which incorporates figures for sanctions and drawdowns by SMEs. The data contained in these reports will continue to be reviewed and analysed by my Department and the Credit Review Office to ensure that the banks are compliant with the terms of the Government recapitalisation as it relates to the provision of credit for SMEs.

As I have said before, the Credit Review Office will, on application from the borrower, carry out an independent and impartial review of a bank's decision to refuse or reduce credit. This is another means of ensuring that the money is lent to the productive sector. I would strongly advise anyone who has unsuccessfully appealed through the bank's own internal appeals process to seek a review by the Credit Review Office. In addition, Enterprise Ireland is working with both banks to develop staff who are well versed in the issues facing exporters especially in the emerging sectors and are capable of cashflow based lending.

Job Creation

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

160 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Finance his estimate of both the rate and number of unemployed by the end of 2011; his estimate of the rate of emigration in the State by end of 2011; the number of additional jobs that the jobs initiative will deliver by the end of 2011; and the cost of each of these jobs. [14718/11]

The latest Quarterly National Household Survey data revealed that in seasonally adjusted terms there were 296,000 people unemployed in the first quarter of 2011, resulting in an unemployment rate of 14 per cent. The data also highlighted the volatile nature of quarterly Irish economic data. Reflecting this, my Department's labour market forecasts are based on annual averages rather than quarterly figures. On this basis, my Department currently anticipates that the unemployment rate will average 14.4 per cent in 2011, while the number of unemployed will average 305,000. Underpinning this forecast is an assumption that there will be net outward migration of around 45,000 during the year. These forecasts were set out in the Irish Stability Programme Update which was published at the end of April. Subsequently, the Central Statistics Office has revised down unemployment rates at the start of the year, and as a result the risks to the above forecasts are on the downside. My Department will continue to analyse the situation in light of later data and will produce revised economic forecasts prior to the Budget in the Pre-Budget Outlook.

There is no doubt that the labour market remains weak. This was highlighted once again by last week's live register data which revealed that there were almost 460,000 people signing on in June. As is widely recognised, there is a significant difference between those signing on the live register and those classified as unemployed under the Quarterly National Household Survey. The Central Statistics Office note that the former is not designed to measure unemployment, however, as it includes part time workers, seasonal and casual workers. Recovery in the labour market typically lags recovery in economic growth, as firms adopt a wait and see approach and achieve higher levels of output by using existing resources more productively. As a result, net employment is expected to decline once again this year — albeit at a much slower pace than in previous years — before starting to expand once again in 2012.

The measures announced in the Jobs Initiative represent the government's first steps to increase competitiveness in important sectors of the economy and improve the functioning of our labour market. In the high value added tourism sector, for example, the introduction of a new temporary second reduced rate of VAT and reduction of the air travel tax to zero will have a positive effect on both costs and sentiment. Accordingly, while it is very difficult to quantify the exact number of jobs that the Initiative will deliver by the end of the year, the measures will play a role in sustaining and generating employment throughout the economy.

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

161 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Finance if he will give an assurance that the proceeds from the sale of State assets will be used to fund job creation measures. [14635/11]

The Programme for Government provides for the sale of non-strategic assets up to a value of €2 billion to fund investment in key networks of the economy. This will occur when market conditions are right and when adequate regulatory structures have been established to protect consumer interests. Following publication of the Report of the Review Group on State Assets and Liabilities in April, my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform asked Departments to give their considered views on the Review Group's recommendations. I understand that Minister Howlin's Department is considering these views and will bring proposals to Government shortly on the matter. Under the EU/IMF Programme, the Government has agreed to discuss its plans with the European Commission, the IMF and the ECB when it has finalised its response to the Review. This is to take place by the end of the year.

Tax Code

Michael Colreavy

Question:

162 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to proposals emanating from the EU that the duty conditions associated with agri-diesel are to be changed; and if he will veto any changes emanating therefrom. [17614/11]

The taxation of energy products is to a certain extent harmonized at EU level. Directive 2003/96/EC known as the Energy Tax Directive (ETD) refers. The current ETD provides for minimum excise rates of taxation for energy products based on the volume of a product released for consumption. Member States must respect the minimum rates and not tax products below those rates, but are free to set higher rates for individual fuels as they see fit. The current Irish national rates are generally well above the EU minimum rates. The aim of the Commission's proposal is to revise the ETD to bring it in line with wider EU climate change and energy policy to which all Members States have signed up. Ireland broadly supports the principle of the proposal and welcomes the introduction of the carbon tax into the EU minimum rates; it will serve to lessen competitiveness concerns arising from Ireland being a lead country in the area of carbon taxes.

The Commission's proposal essentially involves a provision for energy taxation to consist of two components, CO2-related taxation and general energy related taxation. The EU minimum rates would no longer be based on the volume of the product, but instead be a combination of the CO2 and energy contents of the product. In relation to fuel for uses covered by Article 8 of the ETD (which includes the use for agriculture), as with other fuels covered by the ETD, there would under the proposal be a change to how the minimum rate is calculated i.e. the split in CO2 and energy content. It is also proposed to increase the EU minimum rate from 2013. However, the revised minimum rate would remain below our current national rate. It should be noted that discussions on the Commission’s proposal are at a very early stage. Ireland, as well as a significant number of other countries, has reservations with some of the specific technical and administrative provisions the Commission has included in its proposal.

Legislative Programme

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

163 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide an update on his proposals for whistleblowers legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16719/11]

The Government has decided to introduce overarching legislation providing for good faith reporting and protected disclosure on a uniform basis for all sectors of the economy. The Government has also decided to expedite the preparation of this legislation and the necessary preparatory work on drafting the legislation has begun in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The draft legislation will be presented for enactment by the Houses of the Oireachtas in due course.

Mortgage Arrears

Jack Wall

Question:

164 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance his views on a matter (details supplied); if there is any mechanism available to the person to deal with the matter using the method the person proposed or is there any appeal mechanism or review mechanism available to them to deal with same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18626/11]

The Deputy will appreciate that I cannot comment on individual cases.

The Deputy will be aware of the work of the Expert Group on Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt which published its final Report last November. Since the publication of the Group's Report, the Central Bank has revised its Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears to reflect many of the Expert Group's recommendations including key recommendations relating to the introduction by all regulated lenders of a standardized Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP). It is important to point out that borrowers who are in financial difficulties, but not in arrears, are allowed to come under the MARP.

I also refer the Deputy to the Expert Group's comments on the potential to improve the position of some mortgage holders who are in negative equity where households would be willing to trade-down. Trading down would produce a reduction in mortgage debt and more affordable monthly payments. The Group noted that “for some mortgage holders who are in negative equity, trading down would produce a reduction in mortgage debt and more affordable monthly payments. The Group recommends that further consideration should be given by lenders to facilitating trading down by borrowers in this situation. Such options would have to meet relevant prudential standards, with appropriate controls in place, and be in the customers’ best interest.”

Trading down involves selling a current property and buying a cheaper one. Trading down may be an option to reduce the level of mortgage repayments, resulting in more affordable monthly repayments. The Group's recommendation was aimed at helping mortgage holders remain as home owners while reducing their level of repayments. There will also be situations where mortgage holders in negative equity may wish to move home, for example, to take up new employment opportunities. There is merit in facilitating house moves by those in negative equity in certain situations and subject to certain criteria set down by the Central Bank. Ultimately, these are matters for lenders and the Central Bank to decide upon. Any lender planning to provide a negative equity type product must notify the Central Bank in advance to ensure that appropriate measures and controls are taken, as the Central Bank must be satisfied that such a product meets relevant prudential standards and does not lead to consumers being over exposed.

Departmental Programmes

Sean Fleming

Question:

165 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Finance his plans for the introduction of cloud computing and other emerging information technology systems for use in Government services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18655/11]

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is currently engaged in research and conducting trials with a number of major international ICT companies to determine Cloud Computing approaches appropriate for public service data and applications. That research is also examining commercial models to ensure that any adoption of Cloud Computing by public bodies provides compelling value-for-money. The Department also intends to work on the Implementation Group recently announced by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

Departmental Staff

Sean Fleming

Question:

166 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Finance the current arrangement in place regarding established civil servants wishing to take career break in 2011; the periods of which these career breaks can be taken; his plans to amend this scheme or introduce an incentivised career break scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18658/11]

The current arrangements in place regarding established civil servants wishing to take a career break in 2011 are set out in civil service circular no. 18/98 — Special leave without pay for career breaks and were amended in letter to Personnel Officers of 3 March 2008 — available on www.personnelcode.gov.ie. This scheme allows for established civil servants, who have satisfactorily completed two years’ continuous service to apply for special leave without pay for a career break, provided they have not reached retirement age and the duration of a career break may not extend beyond retirement age. (Periods of special leave without pay which have been taken in accordance with Maternity Protection Legislation, Adoptive and Carer’s Leave and Parental Leave are not considered to break continuity of service for this purpose).

A career break consists of special leave without pay for a period of not less than six months and not more than five years. A career break may be extended by periods of six months or more up to a period of five years. Eligible staff may, in general, avail of three career breaks in the Civil Service. A second and third career break may not normally be taken until the officer has been back at work for a period equal to the duration of the initial or second career break. The total period of the career breaks should not exceed ten years in all and no one period of absence should exceed five years. There is no plan to amend this scheme.

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

Tax Reliefs

Sean Fleming

Question:

167 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Finance in his consideration of extending tax breaks to the Eircom Employee Share Ownership Trust scheduled to end in 2014, if he has considered the contingent/potential cost to the tax payer for any shortfall in the pension fund over and above that provided by the company at the time of privatisation in respect of members of staff of the former Department of the Post and Telegraph; the cost in relation to this pension issue and the cost of extending the tax breaks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18659/11]

I assume the Deputy is referring to my conditional undertaking to bring forward legislative changes to provide for an extension in the time period in which ex-employees can benefit from the tax treatment available for shares allocated via an Employee Share Ownership Trust (ESOT). If this change is implemented, it would apply to all ESOTs. The introduction of the extension would effectively have little or no cost. This is because, in the absence of the extension, the ESOTs would merely allocate the shares they already hold in advance of the existing deadline. Thus, the measure, if implemented, would defer the cost to the Exchequer of the scheme rather than impose an additional cost. In relation to the pension fund at Eircom, I would not necessarily see any significant link between the two issues. The Eircom No. 2 Pension Fund is to provide for the pension liabilities arising from the pre-vesting day service of former civil servants who were employees of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, many of whom are not members of the Eircom ESOT. As regards the Fund, my Department maintains contact with the trustees and would be cognisant of the potential cost to the Exchequer in the event of a shortfall in the fund over and above what was provided following the privatisation of the company in 1999. No shortfall is anticipated to arise in the medium term. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform will keep the matter under review in consultation with the trustees of the scheme.

Tax Code

Tom Hayes

Question:

168 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Finance the reason the laundry and dry cleaning industry as a main service provider to the tourism industry, has not been included in the reduced VAT rate of 9%; if there are plans to reverse same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18681/11]

VAT is charged on the supply of goods and services. The rate applying is subject to the requirements of EU VAT law, with which Irish VAT law must comply. While many tourist-related services were made subject to a new temporary lower reduced VAT rate of 9% from 1 July, it is not possible to extend this treatment to the goods and services that remain subject to the 13.5% rate. This arises from the fact that many of the goods and services to which Ireland applies a reduced rate of VAT, including dry cleaning and laundry services, 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 laundry and dry cleaning services are such parked items, it is not possible for Ireland to apply the rate of 9% to them. It is for this reason that the Jobs Initiative 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, boats, 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 dry cleaning and laundry services apply at their standard VAT rate of up to 25% in some cases, compared to 13.5% in Ireland.

Banking Sector Regulation

Pearse Doherty

Question:

169 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide figures for the way AIB, BOI, EBS and IL&P are spending on advisers including lawyers, investment advisers and underwriters as part of their efforts to raise the €24 billion committed by him following the latest stress tests; and the measures taken to ensure value for money with respect to this expenditure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18683/11]

The financial institutions referred to in the Deputy's question have advised me of the following summary information:

Bank of Ireland

On 18 June 2011, Bank of Ireland published a Prospectus which outlined that the estimated expenses to generate the €4.2 billion Core Tier 1 capital and €1 billion of contingent capital required to meet regulatory requirements by 31 July 2011 would amount to circa €150 million. Details of fees payable under the Transaction Agreement (where the NPRFC/Minister for Finance has agreed to underwrite the Rights issue and to subscribe for the potential State Placing and the Contingent Capital instrument) are set out in the Prospectus. BOI has agreed to pay the following fees to the NPRFC and/or the Minister in consideration for the NPRFC and the Minister's obligation under the Transaction Agreement, including the underwriting of the Rights Issue, the State Placing and the subscription for the Contingent Capital instrument:

An underwriting fee of 4% of the gross proceeds of the Rights Issue (including in respect of those securities that the NPRFC is entitled to take up pursuant to its proportionate entitlement);

A placing fee of 1.5% of the gross proceeds of the State Placing;

A corporate finance fee of €3 million; and

A fee of 1.5% of the amount of the Contingent Capital Instrument, i.e. €15 million.

BOI has also agreed to pay all costs and expenses of the State, or in connection with the Debt for Equity Offers, the Rights Issue, the State Placing, the EGC, the entry into the Transaction Agreement, the issue of the New Ordinary Stock and the issue of the Contingent Capital Instrument in the amount of €4 million. In addition, BOI has agreed to pay the Joint Sponsors and the Joint Bookrunners the following fees in consideration of their services under the Transaction Agreement, including in respect or procuring places under the Rump Placing:

A fixed fee of 0.4% of the gross proceeds of the Rights Issue (excluding in respect ofthose securities that the NPRFC is entitled to take up pursuant to its proportionate entitlement);

An incentive fee of 1% of the gross proceeds of the New Ordinary Stock taken up in the Rights Issue or to the Rump Placing by 31 July 2011, but excluding any New Ordinary Stock subscribed for by the NPRFC pursuant to the Rights Issue, its underwriting commitments or taken up pursuant to the State Placing;

A transaction co-ordinator / financial adviser fee of €4 million; and

A sponsor fee of €1 million.

Bank of Ireland has agreed to pay the Joint Sponsors and Joint Bookrunners' costs and expenses of, or in connection with, the Rump Placing. As in normal procurement matters, Bank of Ireland applied value for money principles in determining the expenses of the capital raising. When it is negotiating fees or expenses, Bank of Ireland takes into account market precedent, benchmarking and includes appropriate incentivisation.

Allied Irish Banks

Allied Irish Banks have informed me that, to date, their capital raising fees total circa €6.25 million which includes fees for the bank's Liability Management Exercise. AIB's capital raising is not complete so further unquantified fees will be incurred. The bank has advised that it has and continues to maintain the cost of professional fees in line with market norms.

EBS

The EBS has advised that to date, that in the context of its capital raising measures, the company has spent c. €270,000 on legal fees, c. €6,000 on accountancy fees, c. €6,000 on Investment bank and c. €150.000 on trustees/tender agents. EBS advised that the company received fee quotes from a number of investment banks and therefore ensured that fees paid were competitive, indeed the fees charged by the investment bank chosen were lower than all other quotes. Regarding the other advisers, it was more cost efficient to use the previous legal advisors on the transaction as they were familiar with the structure. If other firms had been used it would have cost considerably more.

Irish Life and Permanent

Irish Life and Permanent has advised me that to date, it has spent €2 million on lawyers, investment advisors and underwriters as part of the institution's efforts to raise capital. There will be further significant amounts due in relation to the IPO and the disposal of the Life Assurance company and other banking businesses. I am advised by ILP that the institution effectively tendered the business to reputable firms and in some instances set a fixed price on the contacts to ensure value for money and to guard against a potential ‘drift' in variable fees.

National Treasury Management Agency

Pearse Doherty

Question:

170 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide figures for the amount the National Treasury Management Agency is spending on advisers including lawyers, investment advisers and underwriters as part of the oversight of AIB, BOI, EBS and IL&P’s capital raising efforts as agreed by him following the latest stress tests; the measures taken to ensure value for money with respect to this expenditure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18684/11]

I am informed by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) that it expects to recoup the external advisory fees associated with the NTMA Banking Unit's involvement in the oversight of the capital-raising exercise from the four financial institutions referred to in the question. These fees include costs associated with achieving burden-sharing with holders of subordinated debt together with costs in relation to the raising of additional capital. The NTMA appointed corporate finance advisors (Goldman Sachs) following a competitive tender evaluation process involving a number of corporate finance firms. Fees of up to €7.8 million may be payable to Goldman Sachs depending on the completion of transactions and performance. In addition, following a competitive tender evaluation process, the NTMA has in place a legal panel comprising A&L Goodbody, Arthur Cox and Matheson Ormsby Prentice from which to draw general legal services, at significantly discounted fees, required by the NTMA Banking Unit. These general legal services include the provision of legal services required as part of the oversight of the banks' capital-raising exercises.

Tax Reliefs

James Bannon

Question:

171 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding an application for a 2008-09 PAYE refund in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18704/11]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they have no record of receiving an application for a PAYE refund for the tax years 2008 or 2009 in respect of the person in question. Furthermore, according to Revenue records, no tax was deducted from the named person's salary in those years, in which case no refund could arise.

Credit Availability

Jim Daly

Question:

172 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Finance the options available to a non-business or farming person to appeal a decision of an Irish guaranteed bank to approve facilities for them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18736/11]

Any decision on whether to grant credit facilities is a commercial decision for an individual lending institution. It is important that each lending institution is allowed to assess properly and independently the individual risks it is considering accepting. However, if a consumer feels he or she has been improperly treated, or has grounds for complaint for some other reason, a complaint may be made directly to the financial institution concerned. If the consumer is not satisfied with the response received from the institution, there may be grounds to forward the complaint to the Financial Services Ombudsman, which has statutory powers to investigate complaints against financial service providers. The Financial Services Ombudsman will only consider a case once the internal complaints procedure within the financial institution concerned has been followed. The Credit Review Office was established in March 2010 by my predecessor. The purpose of the office is to ensure the credit system is operating effectively for small and medium sized enterprises, including sole traders and farm enterprises. The office will, on application from a borrower who is a farmer or a small or medium sized enterprise, carry out an independent review of a NAMA participating bank's decision to refuse or reduce credit. The office will not hear appeals from those not engaged in business.

Pension Provisions

Robert Dowds

Question:

173 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on his recent discussions with the pensions industry regarding the industry’s ability to absorb the cost of the pension levy, and if he will report on the outcome. [18752/11]

Robert Dowds

Question:

174 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Finance his plans to mount a public awareness campaign in the media to advise pensioners of the levy and its implications; and if so, if he will give details of that campaign. [18753/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 173 and 174 together.

In late May, I met a number of bodies representing the pension fund industry to discuss the 0.6% levy on pension scheme assets introduced to pay for the Jobs Initiative. I outlined my contention at those meetings that the cost of the levy be absorbed by a reduction in the fees and charges made by their members. In June, I wrote to the same representative bodies reiterating my contention and asking for their comments. I have received a response from one of the representative bodies concerned. The response indicates that the question of the absorption of the cost of the levy into existing fees and charges is a matter for individual companies in respect of the pension schemes and personal pension plans to which they provide services. The letter went on to say that the scope for those companies to absorb the levy is extremely limited. I will await developments in the coming months to see if the pension fund administrators and providers have absorbed any of the pension fund levy this year. In the light of those developments, I intend to pursue the matter further with them in the Autumn. As regards a public awareness campaign, the recently enacted Bill giving effect to the levy was substantially debated in this House and in the Seanad as well as being widely reported on in the media. I see no need for a media campaign and I have no plans for such.

Mortgage Assistance

Gerald Nash

Question:

175 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Finance his plans, to address and control the issue of rising mortgage rates in lending institutions such as EBS which are effectively owned by the State; his plans to assist mortgage holders who are in arrears with such institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18784/11]

The Deputy will be aware that the Government is conscious of the difficulties many homeowners are having in meeting their mortgage repayments in respect of their principal private residence. There are a number of existing measures in place to support those homeowners struggling with their repayments. These measures include the Mortgage Interest Supplement, the Money Advice Budgeting Services and the Central Bank of Ireland's Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears. The Mortgage Interest Supplement is managed by the Department of Social Protection and provides assistance where the mortgage relates to a person's home. The Deputy will be aware of the important support provided by the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS). MABS provides a national, free, confidential and independent service operating from 53 offices nationwide. I encourage anyone who is in financial difficulty to contact their local MABS office.

The Central Bank's Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears has been substantially revised to implement the recommendations of the Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt Expert Group which published its final report in November 2010. The code sets out how mortgage lenders must treat borrowers in or facing mortgage arrears with due regard to the fact that each case of mortgage arrears is unique and needs to be considered on its own merits. An important recommendation of the Expert Group was that lenders would make available a Deferred Interest Scheme to borrowers who cannot afford to pay the full interest on their mortgages but can pay at least 66% of the amount due. The borrower would have to pay the deferred interest at an agreed future date. Lenders representing the majority of the market have indicated their willingness to make available deferred interest schemes. These are Allied Irish Bank, AIB Mortgage Bank, Bank of Ireland, ICS Building Society, EBS, Haven Mortgages, Irish Nationwide Building Society, Permanent TSB, Springboard Mortgages and Start Mortgages. While the making available of Deferred Interest Schemes is voluntary for all lenders, those who have signed up in support of the scheme will be monitored by the Central Bank to ensure compliance.

Another key recommendation of the Group relates to the requirement of all regulated lenders to introduce a standardised Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP). Borrowers who are in arrears and who co-operate with the MARP will not be charge penalty interest charges. A lender must establish a centralised and dedicated Arrears Support Unit which must be adequately staffed to manage cases under the MARP. Under the MARP, lenders must agree appropriate forbearance with each borrower following as assessment of the full circumstances and characteristics of each borrower. It is important to point out that borrowers who are in financial difficulties, but not in arrears, are allowed to come under the MARP. In addition to these existing measures, the Government is considering the further necessary actions required to alleviate the increasing problem of mortgage over-indebtedness.

The Deputy will be aware that the Programme for Government contains a commitment to help homeowners who are facing difficulty with their mortgage repayments. The Government will examine a number of proposals in relation to this commitment. In this context, the Government Economic Management Council recently asked that further work be carried out to address the situation of over-indebted mortgage holders with a view to identifying a range of responses appropriate to individual circumstances. The work concerned will be carried out by a group chaired by Mr. Declan Keane, an accountant seconded to the Department of Finance. The group will produce a report by the end of September. The composition of the group has yet to be decided but may include officials from the Department of Finance, the Central Bank and other Government Departments. It may also use expertise from within the banking system. As part of the restructuring and recapitalisation of the banks, the banks are engaging in ambitious cost reduction plans which are well under way. The effect of these cost reductions will be to improve operating margins and permit the banks to better absorb funding costs. 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.

Question No. 176 answered with Question No. 129.

Estate Administration

Pat Breen

Question:

177 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding an application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18852/11]

I understand from the Chief State Solicitor that, following the issue of Letters of Administration, a claim has come forward on behalf of possible next of kin of the deceased as a result of advertisements placed in national newspapers. The Chief State Solicitor's Office is currently investigating this claim and has informed the applicant's solicitor.

Irish Government Bonds

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

178 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Finance his plans to issue sovereign bonds to the pension industry from the National Treasury Management Agency along the lines provided for in the social welfare legislation in December 2010; if not, the reason for this decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18857/11]

The NTMA has had detailed discussions with the pensions and insurance industries and with other stakeholders regarding the details of the bonds to be issued and the optimum timing for such issuance so as to best meet the needs of the pensions industry as a whole and the interest of the Exchequer. The NTMA will issue the bonds when it is satisfied from its discussions with the market participants that there is a demand for them. This will depend in part on conditions in the overall market for Irish Government bonds and on the detailed guidelines and decisions of the Pensions Board. The NTMA will continue to monitor the position very closely with a view to finalising its issuance plans as soon as conditions are appropriate.

Consultancy Contracts

Michael McGrath

Question:

179 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide full details, including a breakdown by unit with the agency, of professional and consultancy fees incurred by the National Treasury Management Agency for each of the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18866/11]

Professional, legal and consultancy fees incurred each year by the National Treasury Management Agency, the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission and the National Asset Management Agency are published in the Annual Reports of each body. Fees and expenses incurred by the National Development Finance Agency in the performing of its financing and advisory functions in relation to specific public investment projects are reimbursed by the relevant State Authority.

National Treasury Management Agency

2008€m

2009€m

2010€m

2011 (to end May)€m

Banking

2.44

5.60

7.92*

2.41

NAMA

-

1.63

-

-

State Claims Agency

0.07

0.29

0.18

0.04

Funding and Debt Management

0.15

0.09

0.04

0.01

Legal (excluding banking issues)

0.14

0.15

0.03

-

Finance, Technology and Risk

0.20

0.32

0.44

0.07

Audit

0.10

0.10

0.10

-

HR, Corporate and Communications

0.17

0.52

0.63

0.35

Total

3.27

8.70

9.34

2.88

*€2.9m of the banking costs incurred in 2010 are recoverable from the covered credit institutions .

The banking costs incurred in 2008 relate to fees paid to Merrill Lynch following a request from the Minister for Finance to engage advisers to provide advice on structural issues in financial markets.

The banking costs incurred in 2009 relate to a further €4.9 million payment to Merrill Lynch and a €0.7 million payment to Rothschild in respect of the provision of banking advisory services to the Minister for Finance acting through the NTMA.

The NAMA-related expenses incurred in 2009 relate to legal and consultancy expenses associated with the establishment of NAMA.

€6.2 million of the banking costs incurred in 2010 relate to further payments to Rothschild in respect of the provision of banking advisory services to the Minister for Finance acting through the NTMA.

Banking fees discharged to date in 2011 include costs associated with achieving burden-sharing with holders of subordinated debt.

National Pensions Reserve Fund

2008€m

2009€m

2010€m

2011 (to end May)€m

Legal and Tax*

0.83

0.20

0.44

0.08

Consultancy

0.33

0.10

0.19

0.01

Audit

0.14

0.15

0.14

0.06

Directed Investments

-

3.65

0.47

-

Total

1.30

4.10

1.24

0.15

*Legal and tax fees relate primarily to the costs of due diligence on alternative asset investments.

The fees and expenses incurred by the NPRF Commission are charged to the National Pensions Reserve Fund.

The directed investment costs incurred in 2009 relate to the due diligence exercise which the Commission had conducted on Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Banks at the request of the Minister for Finance prior to the €3.5 billion investment in each of these institutions by the Fund at the direction of the Minister. The Fund received €30 million in arrangement fees in respect of each of these transactions.

The directed investment costs incurred in 2010 relate to legal advice in respect of Bank of Ireland's capital raising and other ongoing legal advice in respect of the directed investments.

National Asset Management Agency (NAMA)

2010€m

2011 (to 31 March 2011)€m

Financial Adviser and Consultancy Fees

5.01

0.17

Portfolio Management

5.09

0.57

Legal and Tax Fees

3.78

0.88

Consultancy incurred by NTMA in set up

0.83

-

Audit

0.70

0.54

IT Costs

-

0.29

Treasury

-

0.18

Total

15.41

2.63

Legal and consultancy fees incurred in 2009 in setting up NAMA are included with the information on the NTMA above.

The fees and expenses incurred by NAMA are not borne by the Exchequer but are recovered through the operating activities of the agency. NAMA fees and expenses are published in NAMA's quarterly reports to the Minister for Finance.

The financial advisor and consultancy fees incurred in 2010 include fees paid for accounting, financial and business process advice over the period from the incorporation of NAMA to the end of 2010. NAMA seconded staff from external consultancy firms and financial advisers to assist in the initial set-up of business units (until NAMA officers were recruited by the NTMA) and the development and implementation of processes and policies.

The portfolio management fees incurred in 2010 relate to the review of debtor business plans.

The legal and tax costs incurred in 2010 relate to fees paid to professional service firms in respect of legal and tax advice and the secondment of staff for legal due diligence.

It is expected that the level of professional and consultancy costs in future will not be as significant as the costs incurred during 2010 which include costs associated with the establishment of NAMA, particularly relating to the secondment of staff prior to the recruitment of NAMA's own staff.

In addition to the above figures, NAMA incurs due diligence costs as part of the process of acquiring loans and related derivatives from the Participating Institutions (PIs). These costs include legal, valuation and property due diligence fees together with the fees of the audit co-ordinator. NAMA incurred due diligence costs of €29.6 million in 2010 and €9.0 million for the first quarter of 2011. However, NAMA factored these costs into the acquisition price of the assets so that they were recovered from the PIs in the form of a reduced payment for the assets.

Tax Reliefs

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

180 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Finance the amount of tax generated by the Exchequer from stallion fees for each of the years 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. [18871/11]

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

181 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Finance the way in which he can reconcile the intent of the Finance Act 2006 to close tax shelters and loopholes in order to ensure that the wealthy paid their fair share of tax with the measure in the 2007 Finance Act which enables stallion owners to shelter profits by applying a valuation on their stallions irrespective of the investment made. [18872/11]

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

182 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Finance the amounts of tax revenue foregone to date due to the transition mechanism in the 2007 Finance Act in each of the years 2008, 2009 and 2010. [18873/11]

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

183 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm that stallion owners have the right to apply a market value on their stallions as of 1 August 2008 irrespective of the money they spent acquiring the stallion and that this market value enables owners to shelter profits and pay little or no tax as a result. [18874/11]

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

184 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Finance in view of the fact that the transitional measure in the 2007 Finance Act has become a significant tax shelter for stallion owners in which large numbers of breeders will not have paid or not be paying tax on stallion fees for at least four years, 2008 to 2012, if he will justify this exceptionally favourable tax treatment in view of the fact that the country has been gripped in an economic crisis since 2008; if he will move to close this loophole in the 2007 Finance Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18875/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 180 to 184, inclusive, together.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that as statistics on income tax and corporation tax receipts do not generally distinguish between the yields from different sources of income, the figures of tax yields from stallion stud profits are not separately identifiable. Figures of the profits earned from the provision of stallion stud services were required to be returned in income tax and corporation tax returns for the year 2009. The figures thus entered were €0.5 million for Income Tax and €4.0 million for Corporation Tax. However, it is not possible to infer from these figures the amount of tax that would be generated as they would be subject to deductions for allowable expenses and other costs.

The current scheme for the taxation of stallion profits and gains was introduced with effect from 1 August 2008 and replaced the exemption for stallion stud fees which terminated on 31 July 2008.

Under the exemption scheme, profits or gains arising to an owner or part owner of a stallion from the sale of services of mares within the State by the stallion or from the sale of rights to such services were exempt from income and corporation tax.

Under the current scheme, stallions are treated as stock in trade which means that income from stud fees and profits or gains on the sale of the stallions are fully taxable in the hands of both corporate and individual owners.

When the current scheme was introduced, it was suggested by the then Minister for Finance that the horse racing and bloodstock industry was (and continues to be) of enormous benefit to this country, not just economically but also from the social and sporting point of view as well.

In computing profits, a write-off over 4 years of the "initial value" of the stallion is allowed as a deduction for tax purposes. It is not the case that this provision is a loophole. It reflects the fact that some stallions have a short nomination life and also takes into account that the majority of stallions are unsuccessful at stud. The impact of the deduction on taxable profits during the write-off period is directly related to the success, or otherwise, of the stallion. Without this provision the cost of a stallion would, under normal rules, be allowed as a deduction upon its disposal or death.

The "initial value" of a stallion is its market value on the later of 1 August 2008 (i.e. the date the new scheme commenced) or when it is purchased for, or appropriated to, stud activities. For this purpose, "market value" is the price the stallion would fetch on the open market or, where the purchaser and vendor are not connected and the transaction is at arm's length, the price actually paid.

The "initial value" of a stallion standing at stud before 1 August 2008 was set at the market value of the animal as of that date on the basis that any alternative arrangement could have resulted in the sale overseas of top quality stallions and a freeze in the acquisition of new stallions in the period prior to the termination of the exemption scheme. As the value of many stallions purchased before 1 August 2008 would have declined by that date, the use of market value at 1 August 2008 would have reflected that reduction. On this basis I do not accept that this measure constitutes a significant tax shelter for many stallion owners.

As regards whether I will close off this provision, I would advise Deputy Ó Ríordáin that, like all proposals for new tax or expenditure measures, this will fall to be considered in the context of the ongoing development of budgetary and economic policy. However, as advised above, if this provision was discontinued, the cost of a stallion would be allowed as a deduction upon its disposal or death under normal rules. As the benefit of the 4 year write-off is largely one of timing, its abolition would not be expected to give rise to gains to the Exchequer in the long run, as any resultant annual gains would be offset by increased tax deductions in the year of disposal or death of the stallion.

In relation to the amounts of tax revenue foregone in each of the years 2008, 2009 and 2010, I wish to reiterate the advice to me from the Revenue Commissioners that the figures of tax yields from stallion stud profits are not separately identifiable as statistics on income tax and corporation tax receipts do not generally differentiate between the yields from different sources of income. Figures of the profits earned from the provision of stallion stud services for the year 2009 are as set out earlier. However, as they would be subject to deductions for allowable expenses and other costs, it is not possible to deduce from these figures the amount of tax that may have been foregone.

Question No. 185 answered with Question No. 139.

Tax Code

John McGuinness

Question:

186 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance on the commitment in the programme for Government to direct the Revenue Commissioners to examine the feasibility of introducing on a revenue neutral basis a single business tax for micro enterprises with a turnover of less than €75,000 per annum to replace all the existing taxes on sole traders and small businesses, if such a direction has been given to the Revenue Commissioners; if so, when is it expected that the results of such an examination will be given to him; if not, when will such instruction be given; the taxes and charges it is envisaged will be included in such a single business tax; if he will make available to the House the results of such an examination; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18886/11]

The position is that I have not, as yet, directed the Revenue Commissioners to examine the feasibility of a single business tax as outlined in the Programme for Government. The Deputy will appreciate that the Programme for Government is a comprehensive document containing many proposals and commitments to be fulfilled over the lifetime of the Government. Among the first commitments in the Programme which we promised to deliver within the first 100 days of Government was the Jobs Initiative. This has been delivered on time in the past few weeks. I intend, over the coming weeks and months, to turn my attention to the other aspects of Programme for Government that are within my area of responsibility. This will include the proposal to examine the feasibility of a single business tax.

State Banking Sector

John McGuinness

Question:

187 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance the progress that has been made to date on the commitment in the programme for Government to establish a strategic investment bank; the preliminary work, if any, that has commenced on this matter; the envisaged time line for the establishment of the strategic investment bank; if this bank will be a new bank wholly separate from the two pillar banks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18888/11]

As I said in a reply to a question from Deputy Flanagan on 21 June, ensuring that a strategic investment bank is operating in the domestic banking market, providing finance to large capital projects and acting as a conduit for venture capital as well as a lender to SMEs, is an objective in the Programme for Government.

A comprehensive programme of bank recapitalisation and restructuring is currently underway following my statement on the future banking landscape in Ireland at the end of March last. The essential detailed assessment and planning work to meet this objective will be accelerated once the Government's key immediate objectives for the repair of the banking system have been completed. This assessment will include the bank's relationship with the two pillar banks and the time line for its establishment.

Ministerial Meetings

Timmy Dooley

Question:

188 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Finance the number and dates of formal meetings that he has had with the management advisory committee in his Department since his appointment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18921/11]

Timmy Dooley

Question:

206 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Finance the number and dates of formal meetings that he has had with the management advisory committee in his Department since his appointment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18998/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 188 and 206 together.

Since my appointment as Minister for Finance, I have engaged fully with all members of the senior management of the Department, who comprise its Management Advisory Committee, on a very regular basis and as the need arises on a wide range of strategic and policy issues.

I am satisfied that these arrangements are working well but, as with all matters in my Department, they are kept under ongoing review to ensure their appropriateness and effectiveness in dealing with emerging developments.

Departmental Agencies

Paudie Coffey

Question:

189 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Finance with regard to agencies (details supplied) and their sub-agencies, the levels of office rent paid; the location of offices and their landlords for the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011; the length of the lease in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18939/11]

Paudie Coffey

Question:

205 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Finance with regard to agencies (details supplied) and their sub-agencies, the levels of office rent paid; the location of offices and their landlords for the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011; the length of the lease in each case. [18997/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 189 and 205 together.

Details in respect of office rental paid by bodies under the aegis of my Department are contained in the following tables.

Public Service Benchmarking Body, Review Group on Higher Remuneration in the Civil Service

Year

Premises

Landlord

Annual Rent

Rent in years 2008 -2010

Length of Lease

2008

Le Pole House Ship St Great Dublin 8

Luxor Investments

€306,759

€230,069* vacated in Oct 2008.

2 years from 2006

2009

0

2010

0

2011

0

Valuation Tribunal

Year

Premises

Landlord

Annual Rent

Rent in years 2008 -2010

Length of Lease

2008

Ormond House Dublin 7.

New Ireland Assurance Co Ltd

€167,614

€167,614

35 Years from 1977

2009

€167,614

2010

€167,614

2011

€167,614

Special EU Programmes Body

Year

Premises

Landlord

Annual Rent

Length of Lease

2008

6 Cormac Place, Gasworks, Belfast

Venture International Limited

€107,883

5 years extended to 30/09/09

1/01/2009-31/12/2009

6 Cromac Place, Gasworks, Belfast

Venture International Limited

€86,860

5 years extended to 31/12/09

01/10/2009-31/12/2009

7th Floor, 2 Clarence Street West, Belfast

Ovolo Limited

Rent Free Period

Lease commenced 1/10-/09

01/01/10-31/03/10

7th Floor, 2 Clarence Street West, Belfast

Ovolo Limited

Rent Free Period

Lease commenced 1/10/09

01/04/10-31/12/10

7th Floor, 2 Clarence Street West, Belfast

Ovolo Limited

€173,595

15 years to 30/09/24

2011 to date

7th Floor, 2 Clarence Street West, Belfast

Ovolo Limited

€58,248

15 years to 30/09/24

2008

11 Kevlin Road, Omagh

Patrick Fox & Kathleen Fox

€53,470

5 years to 30/10/10

2009

11 Kevlin Road, Omagh

Patrick Fox & Kathleen Fox

€45,481

5 years to 30/10/10

01/01/2010-30/10/2010

11 Kevlin Road, Omagh

Patrick Fox & Kathleen Fox

€35,198

5 years (ending 30/10/10)

01/11/2010-31/12/2010

11 Kevlin Road, Omagh

Patrick Fox & Kathleen Fox

€11,926

5 years (new lease)

2011 to date

11 Kevlin Road, Omagh

Patrick Fox & Kathleen Fox

€24,613

5 years to 30/10/15

01/01/2008 — 30/04/2008

European Union House ,Castlemeadow Court, Monaghan

Frank Kierans

€15,760.80

5 years (ending 30/04/08)

1/05/2008 — 31/12/2008

M-TEK II Building, Armagh Rd. Monaghan

Monaghan County Enterprise Fund Limited

€28,744.96

9 yrs 11 months to 31/03/18

Nt2009

M-TEK II Building, Armagh Rd. Monaghan

Monaghan County Enterprise Fund Limited

€43,295.64

9 yrs 11 months to 31/03/18

2010

M-TEK II Building, Armagh Rd. Monaghan

Monaghan County Enterprise Fund Limited

€43,176.84

9 yrs 11 months to 31/03/18

2011 to date

M-TEK II Building, Armagh Rd. Monaghan

Monaghan County Enterprise Fund Limited

€21,647.82

9 yrs 11 months to 31/03/18

*Please note that the Omagh and Belfast office rents were supplied in sterling, these figures have been provided in the table using the exchange rates in use for each year i.e. 2008/2009/2010/2011.

Central Bank of Ireland

Year

Premises

Landlord

Annual Rent1

Length of Lease

2008

No. 3 Spencer Dock, North Wall Quay, Dublin 1

Anglo Irish Assurance

€1.1m

25 Years from July 2008

2009

No. 3 Spencer Dock, North Wall Quay, Dublin 1

Anglo Irish Assurance

€2.3m (Full year)

25 Years from July 2008

2010

No. 3 Spencer Dock, North Wall Quay, Dublin 1

Anglo Irish Assurance

€2.3m (Full year)

25 Years from July 2008

2010*

Block D, Iveagh Court, Harcourt Road, Dublin 2

Sean Reilly

€0.3m

4 Years from November 2010

2011

No. 3 Spencer Dock, North Wall Quay, Dublin 1

Anglo Irish Assurance

€2.3m (Full year)

25 Years from July 2008

2011

Block D, Iveagh Court, Harcourt Road, Dublin 2

Sean Reilly

€1.3m (full year)

4 Years from November 2010

1 This figure includes the effect of spreading the benefit of rent-free periods over the lease term or, if shorter than the full lease term, the periods prior to the first lease review date, in accordance with SSAP 21 ‘Accounting for leases and hire purchase contracts’.

*Initially sub-let for a number of months from State Street Bank (formerly Investor's Trust).

§ No further leases are held by the Central Bank of Ireland in the name of Financial Services Consultative Consumer Panel and the Financial Services Consultative Industry Panel.

§ Leases relating to IFSRA are included within the above details for the Central Bank of Ireland as a whole

National Treasury Management Agency

The National Treasury Management Advisory Committee, the National Pension Reserve Fund Commission, the State Claims Agency Policy Committee and the National Development Finance Agency Board all perform functions in respect of activities which have been delegated to the National Treasury Management Agency by the Government or in respect of which the National Treasury Management Agency acts as the executive.

The National Treasury Management Agency operates from Treasury Buildings, Grand Canal Street, Dublin 2. It has a lease of 35 years on the 5th floor of its premises from 1991 and a 22 year 7 month lease on accommodation on the 1st floor of its premises from 2004. In 2007 NTMA took over a 35 year lease (from 1990) on the ground floor of its premises. This lease expires in 2025.

The landlord is Ambiorix Limited. Rent paid for each of the years 2008 to 2010 inclusive was €1,757,500 per annum. The same rent will apply for 2011.

My Department is not involved in the day to day issues with regard to the running of the Financial Service Ombudsman and the Irish Financial Service Appeals Tribunal as these are independent bodies and are not funded by the Exchequer.

Commission on Credit Unions

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

190 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Finance in keeping with the commitment in the programme for Government to establish a commission to review the future of the credit union movement, if he will confirm the time frame for establishing the commission; the persons who will be appointed to the commission; the stakeholders that will be represented; if the terms of reference for the Commission will provide for consultation; and to whom the commission will report and the time frame within which the commission shall report. [18948/11]

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

191 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Finance his plans to retain an independent credit union regulator; if the regulator will have an obligation to report to him; if he will enable such an independent regulator to restrict the value of loans which may be granted by credit unions; if the guidelines set down by such a regulator will be negotiated with the various stakeholders; and if there will be an appeal procedure to any decisions of the regulator. [18949/11]

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

192 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Finance in recognition of the community based and focused philosophy and ethos of credit unions, if a different regulatory structure will apply to credit unions than will apply to banks; if the regulatory structure for credit unions will be provided for in one stand alone credit union Act; if the regulatory guidelines will be negotiable; and if they will incorporate industry changes. [18950/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 190 to 192, inclusive, together.

The functions of the Registrar of Credit Unions under the Credit Union Act 1997 are to regulate credit unions with a view to the protection by each credit union of the funds of its members and the maintenance of the financial stability and well being of credit unions generally. While the terms of reference of the Commission on Credit Unions allow for an examination of the governance and regulatory framework for credit unions, I have no intention of altering the current independent position of the Registrar as part of the independent Central Bank structure.

When making recommendations on, inter alia, the governance, regulatory and legislative framework for credit unions, the Commission is required to take into account the philosophy and ethos of the credit unions.

Under the Central Bank Reform Act 2010, the Central Bank of Ireland is required to prepare a statement relating to its performance in regulating financial services, including credit unions. This performance statement is provided to me, as Minister for Finance, each year before 30 April and I am required to lay this statement before each House of the Oireachtas within one month of its receipt. The report received this April deals with credit unions on pages 20 and 21 and was laid before this House on 27 May 2011.

The Commission on Credit Unions was established by Government on 31 May 2011 and has begun its programme of work. It met for the first time on 20 June 2011 and had a subsequent meeting on 24 June 2011. The Commission may decide on its own consultation arrangements.

The Commission will make initial recommendations on the strengthening of the regulatory framework by 30 September 2011 and will submit a final report to me, as Minister for Finance, by 31 March 2012.

Membership of the Commission is as follows:

Chairman

Professor Donal McKillop (Professor of Financial Services, School of Management, Queens University, Belfast) and Member of the Credit Union Advisory Committee.

Ordinary members of the Commission on Credit Unions:

Mr. Kieron Brennan (Chief Executive Officer, Irish League of Credit Unions)

Ms. Fiona Cullen (Head of Legal Department, Irish League of Credit Unions)

Mr. Billy Doyle (Management Committee, Credit Union Development Association)

Ms. Eileen Fitzgerald (Senior Manager in the Citizen's Information Board, with responsibility for MABS)

Mr. Eamonn Kearns (Financial Services Division, Department of Finance),

Mr. Tom McCarthy (Chief Executive Officer, Irish Management Institute)

Mr. Tim Molan (National Secretary, Credit Union Managers Association)

Mr. Robert Moynihan (Qualified Chartered Accountant and Regulatory Consultant)

Mr. James O'Brien (Registrar of Credit Unions)

Mr. Dan O'Gorman (Solicitor)

Mr. Joe O Toole (Former Senator), and

Prof. John Wilson (Professor of Banking, St. Andrew's University, Scotland)

The Government agreed the terms of reference of the Commission on Credit Unions and these are as follows:

Having regard to the commitments

in the Programme for National Government 2011-2016 to review the future of the credit union movement and to make recommendations in relation to the most effective regulatory structure for credit unions, and

under the EU/IMF Programme of Support for Ireland to design a strategy for the future evolution of the credit union sector, to assist credit unions with a strengthened regulatory framework including more effective governance and regulatory requirements and to make recommendations to the Minister on legislation to be submitted to the Oireachtas by end-2011; and

taking into account

the not-for-profit mandate of credit unions, their volunteer ethos and community focus, paying due regard to the need to fully protect depositors' savings and financial stability,

the comprehensive strategy to enhance the viability of the credit union sector prepared under the EU/IMF Programme of Support for Ireland;

international best practice in the structure, organisation and regulation of credit unions or analogous entities; and

the strengths and weaknesses of the sector as set out in work done in the Strategic Review of the Credit Union Sector in Ireland;

the Commission on Credit Unions is invited to:

1. Define the role of credit unions in the context of a restructured financial services sector. This will focus on the credit union as a cooperative, owned and run by its members and providing its members with the financial services that they require. Consideration will also be given to the role of the credit union in relation to the community in general. In particular, the objects of a credit union as set out under section 6 of the Credit Union Act 1997 will be examined including the function of the common bond in the context of modern financial services systems. The Commission should also consider the question of the prudential supervision of loan societies and credit cooperatives registered under the Friendly Societies Act 1896 and the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1893 that engage in taking deposits from and providing loans to their members and make recommendations in this regard.

2. Propose a model for modern credit unions and define the structure/parameters within which financially viable credit unions will operate. At the same time, the Commission will examine how credit unions may continue to provide the services required by their members while meeting regulatory requirements sufficient to protect the savings of depositors and the financial stability of the credit union sector as a whole. This should examine how the size of a credit union, the variety and complexity of the services it provides and the competencies of its management and staff influence its viability. The question of credit unions competing with the larger financial institutions should be studied.

3. Options for restructuring. The Commission will make recommendations on the possibility of voluntary consolidation or restructuring of the credit union sector over time, recognising the need to maintain local presence and taking into account the not for-profit mandate, the volunteer ethos and community focus of credit unions. In this consideration, due regard must be given to the need to protect depositors savings and financial stability. Central Bank of Ireland proposals in relation to possible restructuring of some credit unions should be examined and recommendations made to the Minister for Finance as these may arise over the term of the Commission. The Commission is required to engage with the Department of Finance, make recommendations and exchange information on legislative proposals during the course of its deliberations.

4. Shared services. The Commission will examine the options for groups of credit unions to share services on a formal basis and the extent to which this model is appropriate. The Commission should consider which services are most suitable for delivery by a separate entity, e.g. purchasing, auditing, compliance, credit control, legal, marketing, human resource management, administration and training. Progress in relation to the introduction of modern information technology and management information systems for and in credit unions will be examined and recommendations made in this regard.

5. Determine and set out the basic governance and regulatory requirements that must be met. The Commission will focus on a set of benchmarks that credit unions should meet if they are to be registered to operate in the State. These benchmarks should include capital requirements, sizes of loan books and of loans, competencies of directors and staff, investments policy, fitness and probity and governance standards. Recommendations will be made in relation to management reporting arrangements both internally and with the Registry of Credit Unions.

6. Make recommendations for legislative change. The Commission will examine the existing legislation and in particular the Credit Union Act 1997 and make recommendations on changes required to implement their findings. The Commission should make initial recommendations required to strengthen the regulatory framework of credit unions by 30 September 2011. A final report should be submitted to the Minister for Finance by 31 March 2012.

Deposit Guarantee Scheme

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

193 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Finance his plans to put in place a scheme of guarantees for credit union stakeholders. [18951/11]

Credit union members are covered by the Deposit Guarantee Scheme for up to €100,000 per saver per credit union. I have no plans to introduce a further guarantee scheme.

Mortgage Arrears

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

194 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the steps that can be taken to encourage the mortgage lending sector to address the issue of the multiplication of mortgage arrears through the medium of compound interest; if the lending sector would take a realistic position whereby the missing of a monthly instalment would not result in the application of penalties such as compound interest; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18975/11]

The revised Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears, (CCMA) was issued to all mortgage lenders and came into effect on 1 January 2011.

The CCMA sets out how mortgage lenders must treat borrowers in or facing mortgage arrears. The CCMA requires that each lending branch must have at least one person with specific responsibility for dealing with arrears and pre-arrears cases. It also requires frontline staff to be made aware of the lender's policy for dealing with arrears and pre-arrears cases and the relevant contact person and process. The revised CCMA also introduced the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP) framework for the handling of arrears and pre-arrears cases. Provision 9 of the revised CCMA states that "Lenders are restricted from imposing charges and or surcharge interest on arrears arising on a mortgage account in arrears to which this Code applies and in respect of which a borrower is co-operating reasonably and honestly with the lender in the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process. (Lenders will have been notified individually of the charges to which this applies)."

The Central Bank issued Letters of Direction in December 2010 to mortgage lenders prohibiting them from imposing specific arrears charges or surcharge interest on mortgage accounts in arrears to which the revised CCMA applies and in respect of which a borrower is co-operating reasonably and honestly with the lender in the MARP from 1 January 2011. With regard to monitoring compliance with the consumer protection codes, the Central Bank carries out themed inspections and mystery-shopping exercises. On 1st July 2011 the Central Bank published the findings of a themed inspection of mortgage lenders which examined compliance with Provision 9 of the revised CCMA and the Letters of Direction. This themed inspection was carried out across six mortgage lenders including credit institutions and retail credit firms. 655 customer mortgage account statements were reviewed during the course of the themed inspection. Further detail can be found at the following link: http://www.centralbank.ie/press-area/press-releases/Pages/CentralBankMonitorsLendersCompliancewiththeRevisedCode.aspx

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

195 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the estimate of the number of persons currently showing arrears in respect of mortgage repayments; the extent to which this is likely to fluctuate in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18976/11]

I would like to inform the Deputy that figures published by the Central Bank on 19 May 2011 show that, at the end of March 2011, there were 782,429 private residential mortgage accounts held in the Republic of Ireland to a value of almost €116 billion. Of these, 49,609 accounts, or 6.3%, were in arrears for more than 90 days. For further information, please see the relevant press release on the Central Bank's website: www.centralbank.ie.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

196 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the lending institutions, if known, most amenable to accommodating those with arrears of mortgage; the nature of any such accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18977/11]

Neither I, as Minister for Finance, nor the Central Bank comment on individual lending institutions in the manner referred to in the Deputy's question.

However, all mortgage lenders are obliged to adhere to the requirements of the revised Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears (CCMA) which is effective from 1 January 2011. The Code sets out specific requirements mortgage lenders must adhere to when dealing with customers in arrears and those at risk of falling into arrears. The CCMA requires that each branch must have at least one person with specific responsibility for dealing with arrears and pre-arrears cases. It also requires frontline staff to be made aware of the lender's policy for dealing with arrears and pre-arrears cases and the relevant contact person and process involved. The revised CCMA also introduced the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process framework for the handling of arrears and pre-arrears cases.

Full details of the Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears and on the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process may be found on the Central Bank's website: www.centralbank.ie.

House Repossessions

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

197 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance to indicate the number of private houses repossessed by the various lending institutions in each of the past five years to date in 2011; the future prospects given any trend emerging; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18978/11]

I have been informed by the Central Bank of Ireland that this information has only been collated since September 2009. Since that date, the Central Bank has published quarterly data on arrears and repossessions on its website: www.centralbank.ie. The number of repossessions of private houses for each quarter is as follows:

Date

Repossessions

To quarter end September 2009

110 repossessions

To quarter end December 2009

101 repossessions

To quarter end March 2010

91 repossessions

To quarter end June 2010

86 repossessions

To quarter end September 2010

81 repossessions

To quarter end December 2010

106 repossessions

To quarter end March 2011

140 repossessions

I do not consider it productive to speculate on the future trend with regard to such repossessions.

Banks Restructuring

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

198 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the full position in regard to projected or anticipated mergers, takeovers or other restructuring measures in the banking sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18979/11]

The Deputy will be aware from my Statement on Banking on 31 March 2011 that the future of Ireland's banking landscape will be built around the two pillar banks, Bank of Ireland and AIB. Each of these banks has already begun to reorganise their operations into core and non-core functions and to implement a carefully managed programme of deleveraging. Both Bank of Ireland and AIB have submitted revised deleveraging plans for consideration by the Central Bank of Ireland. In my Statement on Banking, I said that the Irish banking system needs to be reduced to a size appropriate to our economy. Our banks will become smaller, more focused on core operations, better funded and better capitalised. In that context I announced that the operations of AIB and EBS would be combined to build a second pillar bank from the strengths of both institutions. The Deputy will be aware that I signed the acquisition agreement on 26 May 2011 and the acquisition was completed on 1 July 2011. The Deputy will be aware that the Memorandum of Understanding between the Irish Government and the EU-IMF requires that the legal merger procedure be completed not later than end September 2011.

In addition, also on 1 July 2011 the High Court granted a Transfer Order under the Credit Institutions (Stabilisation) Act 2010 to transfer with immediate effect the assets and liabilities of Irish Nationwide Building Society to Anglo Irish Bank Corporation Limited. The granting of the Transfer Order combined with the EU Commission's approval of the Joint Restructuring and Work Out Plan for Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society on 29 June 2011 are significant milestones in removing these banks from the Irish banking system. The removal of these banks from the system is a key element of the Government's restructuring of the Irish banking system. The purpose of the merger is to ensure a concentrated and vigorous work out of the existing loans.

Irish Life and Permanent is being radically restructured by selling its life insurance subsidiary and deleveraging its banking activities with a continuous assessment of sales opportunities in the market over time. A Direction Order was granted by the High Court on 9 June 2011, to allow ILP take the necessary steps to prepare its life insurance business for disposal by way of initial public offering or private sale. Irish Life and Permanent are required to submit their restructuring plan to the European Commission for approval by 31 July 2011.

A fundamental element of Government strategy has been to restore a functioning banking system and the Government has made particular commitments to recapitalising the banks and restructuring the banking sector as part of its programme for Government. This radical restructuring of the banking system is designed to put our banking system on a firm footing which is essential to Ireland's economic recovery.

Banking Sector Regulation

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

199 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which, in his view, the stress test carried out in the banking sector here and throughout Europe has been sufficiently robust to safeguard the durability of the sector in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18981/11]

As I said in my Statement on Banking in March, the PCAR bank stress tests carried out by the Central Bank are certainly among the most thorough and demanding such tests ever performed in Ireland and or indeed anywhere. The detailed results methodology and assumptions underlying these stress tests have been published, emphasising Ireland's firm commitment for this critical exercise to be fully open and transparent. In specific terms I am satisfied on the basis of the results of the PCAR assessment carried out by the Central Bank which have been endorsed by the external authorities that the loan loss assumptions made reflects a high degree of conservatism and underpin the robustness and credibility of the exercise overall.

The Central Bank of Ireland has advised me that the EU-wide bank stress test process is still underway and is expected to be completed shortly. As regards the robustness of the stress test, the European Banking Authority is working with national banking supervisors and other European stakeholders, such as the European Commission, European Central Bank, and European Systemic Risk Board, to ensure there is consistent and conservative application of the stress test to all participating banks.

Price Inflation

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

200 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the degree or extent to which it has been possible to identify any inflationary factors in the economy in each of the past three years to date in 2011; the issues now emerging as acquiring attention in this regard; the means by which it is likely to become possible to address these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18982/11]

The Deputy will be aware that through 2009 and 2010, there were few inflationary pressures. Indeed, price levels fell, with the CPI declining by 4.5% in 2009 and 1% in 2010, and HICP falling by 1.7% and 1.6% respectively. In the latter months of 2010 and to date in 2011, the drivers of inflation have been insurance premium hikes and increases in the price of commodities on the back of rising global demand and supply side issues, namely the political instability in the Middle East and North Africa. The CPI has also been affected by increases in mortgage rates. In May 2011, the annual rate of increase in the CPI was 2.7% and 1.2% in the HICP.

Looking further out the horizon, the main inflationary risks are likely to come from the external side in the form of further commodity price increases, ECB policy rate increases and domestically from administered prices. In terms of limiting the impact of inflationary pressures, the Deputy will be aware of the Government's recent initiative to reduce the rate of VAT for a range of services connected to the hospitality and tourism sectors. The overall picture remains one where muted domestic demand and considerable spare capacity in the economy are expected to keep underlying Irish inflation in check for some time to come. Therefore, modest price rises will assist in restoring our relative competitive position globally.

Tax Code

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

201 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which he has become aware of taxation incentives in other eurozone states which might be deemed to influence investment in such jurisdictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18983/11]

It is customary for jurisdictions to continually update and amend their tax regimes to reflect changes and developments in both the structure of companies and current practices in domestic and international trade and commerce. The tax offering of any jurisdiction is critical to its attractiveness to international business and all jurisdictions compete on the tax front for foreign direct investment. Such tax competition is quite legitimate and there are mechanisms and controls in place at both EU and OECD level to ensure that such competition does not migrate into the sphere of unfair tax competition. In that respect my Department and the Office of the Revenue Commissioners keep a watching brief on all significant developments in competing jurisdictions which could feed into our own policy considerations.

Foreign Direct Investment

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

202 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which his European Union colleagues are conscious of issues most likely to affect foreign direct investment and economic progress with particular reference to direct access to major markets, geographic location, the future of the smaller economies within the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18984/11]

My fellow European Finance Ministers and I regularly discuss at our meetings the economic situation in the EU, eurozone and in individual Member States. This includes matters of common interest with regard to foreign markets and any items which have the potential to negatively impact or delay economic recovery. In this regard, making Europe attractive for global foreign direct investment is important and forms part of the emphasis behind the EU2020 process. I will remain in regular contact with EU colleagues to continue our ongoing work in pursuing the EU's, eurozone's and individual Member States' economic recoveries, including Europe's attractiveness for foreign direct investment.

Croke Park Agreement

Sean Fleming

Question:

203 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Finance in view of the savings of €289 million in the sustainable pay bill under the Public Service Agreement 2010 to 2014, if he will provide an estimate of the costs of the severance payments and additional annual pension costs that will accrue to the taxpayer in respect of those persons who have left the service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18990/11]

The Implementation Body for the Public Service Agreement 2010 — 2014 published its first progress report on 15th June last. The body found that, over the 12 months to end March 2011, sustainable Exchequer pay bill savings in the order of €289 million had been achieved, driven primarily by a reduction in public service staff numbers of 5,349 over the period. Public service pension costs have increased over the period. However, this is not a direct function of or causally linked to the Croke Park agreement but, rather, represents costs which would arise in any event. The cost increase is not due to the Croke Park agreement but is essentially caused by increased longevity (i.e. fewer pensioners dying) and more people retiring normally.

The body's report, correctly, foot-noted the pension increase over the period but, equally correctly, did not seek to relate it to the Croke Park reform process. The body's report also footnotes the costs associated with the voluntary early retirement and redundancy schemes which were offered in the HSE last year. It should be noted that any voluntary early retirement scheme incurs up-front once-off costs while the savings remain sustainable into the future.

As regards the payments to those who left under the most recent exit mechanisms, i.e. the HSE scheme and the Incentivised Scheme of Early Retirement (ISER), the total amounts paid out in terms of lump sum and severance, including statutory redundancy, was of the order of €106 million. The associated ongoing annual pension cost is of the order of €46 million. Increased pension costs associated with the schemes decline over time as early retirees reach the age at which they would have retired in any event. In addition, some of those who retired under these schemes did so outside the relevant period within which the Croke Park agreement was in operation, i.e. before March 2010.

Industrial Relations

Willie O'Dea

Question:

204 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Finance if he has received documentation regarding a sports complex (details supplied) in County Limerick with regard to being awarded payment by the Labour Court on 19 May, 2011; if he will sanction this payment and, if so, the date of same. [18993/11]

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has recently received documentation from the Department of Education and Skills regarding the Labour Court recommendation in relation to the sports complex referred to by the Deputy. This issue is currently under examination by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and a response will issue to the Department of Education and Skills when the matter has been fully examined.

Question No. 205 answered with Question No. 189.
Question No. 206 answered with Question No. 188.

Employment Support Services

Alan Farrell

Question:

207 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans for the improvement of the qualifying criteria for the Springboard schemes to include recently unemployed persons who would not normally qualify; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18771/11]

Springboard is a specific initiative targeted at unemployed people who have lost jobs in sectors where employment levels will not return and who will need new qualifications and skills to re-enter employment as the economy recovers. To be eligible for a place on a Springboard course an applicant must have been unemployed for a minimum of six months when the course starts. At the time of starting a Springboard course an applicant also must be in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance, Jobseeker's Benefit or One Parent Family Payment or be signing for contribution credits and be available and actively seeking employment. The rationale for applying a six months waiting criteria to the initiative is to ensure that the limited resources available for Springboard are directed at unemployed people, who may be most in need of upskilling or reskilling in order to get back into employment. In calculating the qualifying period of six months unemployed, time in receipt of any of the following allowances will also be taken into account: — Disability Allowance — Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) — Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA) — VTOS training allowance — FÁS Training Allowance.

Religious Congregations Indemnity Agreement

John McGuinness

Question:

208 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills the amount of money given over by the religious orders to fund services or supports for individual victims of abuse as part of the agreement with the State; the names of the organisations administering these funds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18885/11]

The following table sets out the position in relation to the realisation of the €128 million contribution due from the eighteen congregations under the 2002 indemnity agreement. The completion of the legal arrangements in the case of 24 properties, valued at €23.34 million, remain outstanding, although the physical transfers of these properties have taken place. The Chief State Solicitor's Office continues to pursue the legal requirements issue under the indemnity agreement. In addition, a potential shortfall of €160,000 has been projected between the value of properties to be transferred and the total amounts due under the agreement. However, this is subject to change if good and marketable title cannot be realised on certain properties and the final shortfall or surplus will not be known until all properties are completed under the terms of the indemnity agreement. In accordance with the terms of the agreement, €12.7m of the fund was used to provide an educational grants scheme for former residents and their families. This fund continues to be administered by the Education Finance Board who, at the end of 2010, still had a balance of approximately €3.64 million remaining in the fund. The remaining cash balance was lodged in the special account and used to offset the cost of the payment of redress awards.

Section 7(iv) of the indemnity agreement provides that part of the contribution of the congregations shall comprise "counselling and other support services for former residents of institutions and their families already provided or to be provided to the extent that the value of the same amounts to €10 million". My Department received confirmation from Faoiseamh, an organisation providing counselling and psychotherapy referral service for people abused by priests or religious, that it received contributions amounting to €13.9m from the contributing congregations between 11th May 1999 and December 2009. This represents compliance with their obligations in terms of this aspect of the indemnity agreement.

As the Deputy will be aware, the question of further contributions from the congregations towards meeting the costs of the response to residential institutional abuse is also being pursued.

Contributions by Religious Congregations Under the 2002 Indemnity Agreement

Sums Pledged

Sums Realised

Sums Outstanding

€m

€m

€m

Cash — original

28.44

28.44

Cash — adjustment

13.28

13.28

Property — original

76.86

40.08

23.50

Property — adjustment

(13.28)

Cash for Education Fund

12.7

12.7

Counselling and Support Services

10

10

Total

128

104.5

23.50

School Transport

Micheál Martin

Question:

209 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated savings that will be achieved from the abolition of the closed rule agreement in respect of the school transport scheme; and his plans to reverse this decision which is due to be implemented at the beginning of the next school term. [18254/11]

Changes to school transport services, including the cessation of the Closed School Rule, were announced in the 2011 budget by the previous Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government and derive from recommendations in the Value for Money Review of the scheme.

Under the four year recovery plan, there is a requirement to deliver savings of €17 million on the school transport budget and these measures, including the ceasing of the closed school rule, are an integral part of this. Given the major financial constraints facing the country, I regret that I cannot reverse the changes to school transport as announced by the previous Government. We all have to understand the legacy of economic mismanagement which the last Government gave to the country.

Micheál Martin

Question:

210 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will meet with a representation of parents from a school (details supplied) in County Cork to discuss the proposed changes in the school transport scheme for their children, 70% of whom avail of the scheme. [18255/11]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that this meeting has taken place.

Micheál Martin

Question:

211 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he could lay before Dáil Éireann all documents pertaining to the closed school rule agreement together with the actual agreement. [18256/11]

Changes to school transport services relating to the Closed School Rule were announced in the 2011 budget by the previous Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government and derive from recommendations in the Value for Money Review of the scheme. I wish to inform the Deputy that school transport arrangements under the Closed School Rule originated from the last major amalgamation of schools in the late 1960's. Under the Closed School Rule, transport is generally provided to the school of amalgamation for pupils who reside in a closed school area. However, over the course of the last 42 years, many parts of Ireland have experienced changes in population, the number of schools in an area may have increased and private transport is more widely available. My Department must always seek to ensure that every service that is funded by the public is operated in a manner that delivers for pupils, parents and taxpayers alike.

School Staffing

Catherine Murphy

Question:

212 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a replacement teacher will be provided to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare in view of the fact that in the absence of a replacement some of the subjects could not be taught; if there is a general policy on such situations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18259/11]

Teacher allocations to all second level schools are approved annually by my Department in accordance with established rules based on recognised pupil enrolment. In accordance with these rules each school is required to organise its subject options within the limit of its approved teacher allocation. The deployment of teaching staff, the range of subject offered and ultimately the quality of teaching and learning are in the first instance a matter for the Board of Management of the schools. In accordance with existing arrangements, where a school management authority is unable to meet its curricular commitments within its approved allocation, my Department considers applications for additional short term support, that is, curricular concessions. No such application was received from this school during the application process that was done earlier this year. Now that the redeployment process is completed post-primary schools have been notified that they can fill their remaining teaching vacancies in the normal manner.

Special Educational Needs

Pat Breen

Question:

213 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 64 of 30 March 2011, if the person (details supplied) will be facilitated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18260/11]

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.

In relation to applications for Resource teaching support, Circular 37/2011 provides information to schools regarding the arrangements which are being put in place for the 2011-12 school year for the allocation of Resource Teaching hours for children with assessed special educational needs. The main elements of the arrangements outlined in the Circular are that for the coming 2011-12 school year, an allocation of 90% of valid identified resource teaching allocations will be made to schools, in the first instance, to provide schools with the majority of their allocation, while also preserving enough capacity to deal with late applications and ensure that the Department of Education and Skills can remain within Employment Control Framework obligations. The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) have now notified schools of their allocations for the coming school year. Schools have also been asked to forward as soon as possible any outstanding applications, or additional outstanding materials to support incomplete applications, to the NCSE for consideration, but in any event by no later than 16th September 2011. Following consideration of all of the applications received, if the level of demand permits, the initial 90% allocation may be revisited and increased.

John O'Mahony

Question:

214 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to review SP ED 02/05 in order that Down’s syndrome qualifies for special needs assistance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18269/11]

I wish to clarify for the Deputy that pupils with Down's syndrome may receive additional teaching support in primary schools, either under the terms of the General Allocation Model (GAM) of teaching supports, if the pupil's educational psychological assessment places the pupil in the mild general learning disability/high incidence disability category, or through an allocation of individual additional resource teaching hours if the child is assessed as being within the low incidence category of special need, as defined by my Department's Circular Sp Ed 02/05.

Pupils with Down's syndrome who have care needs may also receive access to Special Needs Assistant support. A review of the General Allocation Model has been undertaken and completed by my Department. The issue of whether Down's syndrome should be classified as a low incidence disability in all instances was considered as part of this review. The recommendations of the review will be considered in the context of the Departments Employment Control Framework obligations and competing demands on teacher numbers and educational resources.

Robert Dowds

Question:

215 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will use the schools inspectorate at both primary and secondary levels to ensure that special needs assistants are best placed in terms of pupil or student needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18273/11]

The Deputy will be aware that Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) are allocated to schools to enable them to support the care needs of pupils with disabilities who also have a significant medical need or a significant impairment of physical or sensory impairment. Students with an assessed special educational need who present with significantly challenging behaviour may also qualify for some SNA support.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), which was established under the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act, 2004 (EPSEN Act) has responsibility for processing resource applications, including applications for SNA support, for children with disabilities who have special educational needs through its regional Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs). The NCSE also has responsibility for planning and co-ordinating the provision of education and support services for students with special educational needs, in accordance with my Department's policy.

The NCSE may seek the advice of my Departments inspectorate division, if required, on educational matters concerning children with special educational needs. However it is the responsibility of the NCSE to allocate SNA posts to schools and to ensure that SNAs are best placed to meet the care needs of eligible pupils.

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

School Staffing

Robert Dowds

Question:

216 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of qualified primary teachers who will emerge in 2011 from the State teacher training colleges. [18275/11]

Robert Dowds

Question:

217 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of qualified primary teachers who will emerge in 2011 from the privately run colleges which provide primary teaching qualifications. [18276/11]

Robert Dowds

Question:

218 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of jobs that are available this year for those emerging with primary teaching qualifications. [18277/11]

Robert Dowds

Question:

219 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has powers to limit or increase the numbers undertaking courses which lead to primary teacher qualifications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18278/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 216, to 219, inclusive, together.

The level of student intake to the state funded Colleges of Education is determined annually by my Department and it takes account of the supply of, and demand for, primary teachers. The level of intake to these Colleges has decreased in recent years in light of available resources and factors impacting on demand. Approximately 1,350 students will graduate from the State-funded Colleges in 2011.

The Graduate Diploma in Primary Education offered by Hibernia College has been recognised for the purpose of qualification as a primary teacher for almost ten years. As Hibernia College is a privately-owned institution providing a privately run course, neither my Department, nor any other State body, has a role in regulating the number of students enrolled. It is estimated that over 650 students will graduate in 2011.

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

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

My Department has recently advised schools that they can proceed to fill fixed-term vacancies subject to a contingency being held for possible future redeployment of any remaining surplus permanent teachers. These fixed-term vacancies and remaining permanent vacancies that are not required for the redeployment of surplus permanent teachers will create opportunities for fixed-term teachers and newly qualified teaching graduates.

Schools Building Projects

Anthony Lawlor

Question:

220 Deputy Anthony Lawlor asked the Minister for Education and Skills the current status of the building project at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; when funding for the commencement of building works at the school will become available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18325/11]

The school to which the Deputy refers has applied to my Department for large scale capital funding for a new school. 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 at www.education.ie. All large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction phase are being progressed in the context of my Department’s multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme and the available financial resources. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of my Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

School Staffing

Gerald Nash

Question:

221 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of retired teachers who have been re-engaged on teaching duties in schools for the years 2008, 2009 and 2010 in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18326/11]

The following table sets out the numbers of retired teachers that were engaged in teaching duties in substitute and part time capacities for the school years 2007/08, 2008/09 and 2009/10.

Number of retired teachers employed as substitute / part time teachers

School year

Primary

Post Primary

2007/08

1,506

392

2008/09

1,453

368

2009/10

1,421

389

School Accommodation

Michael McCarthy

Question:

222 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the total cost of renting prefabs in primary and secondary schools in 2009, 2010 and 2011 separately; the exact number of school prefab contracts to which the State is tied in 2011 and when each individual contract will expire in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18330/11]

The amount spent on renting temporary accommodation at primary and post-primary level, including — but not limited to — prefabricated accommodation in since 2009 is as follows:

2009: €39m (Primary €36m/Post-Primary €3m);

2010: €29m (Primary €27m/Post-Primary €2.3m);

2011 (to date): €13m (Primary €12m/Post-Primary €1m).

Generally, where schools require temporary accommodation, the Board of Management is responsible for acquiring this accommodation and the rental contract is between the Board of Management and the supplying contractor. As the rental grant-aid is devolved to schools, my Department does not hold records of all contracts held by boards of management for rental of temporary accommodation. Prefab rental contracts range from six months to three years with an option to renew at the end of each contract period.

Schools Building Projects

James Bannon

Question:

223 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Education and Skills when payment will be made to a company (details supplied) in County Longford for State works, in view of the fact that the non-payment of same is threatening the viability of the company, subcontracted to carry out the works, but now facing the loss of at least 20 jobs due to delayed payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18334/11]

There is no contractual relationship between the sub-contractor to which the Deputy refers and my Department.

In general all sub-contractors employed on school building projects are employed directly by the Main Contractor or indirectly by the Main Contractor through other sub-contractors. It is a matter for all sub-contractors to agree terms and conditions and a schedule of payments with the Main Contractor as their direct employer.

I can confirm that all monies due to be paid under the terms of the main contract have been paid to the main contractor. My Department is liaising with the schools involved and their Design Teams in relation to next steps.

Martin Ferris

Question:

224 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a request for an extension will be assessed in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18347/11]

I can confirm that the school referred to by the Deputy has submitted an application for large scale capital funding for an extension and refurbishment. The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects and assigned a band 2.2 rating. The progression of all large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual school building and modernisation programme. However, in light of competing demands on the capital budget of the Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of this project at this time.

School Staffing

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

225 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills if, in view of the large number of unemployed young teachers seeking work, he will inform schools that his Department will not be willing to pay salaries to substitute and temporary teachers in our schools from 1 September 2011 when those teachers are already in receipt of a pension from the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18357/11]

I issued a Circular in May of this year which requires schools, in making appointments on or after 1 September 2011, to prioritise teachers over unregistered persons, appropriately qualified teachers over teachers qualified for different sectors and unemployed teachers over teachers in receipt of a public sector pension.

Schools are also required to hold a list of appropriately qualified registered teachers who have notified the school that they are available for substitute work. This list must not include the names of registered teachers in receipt of a pension. Where it is not possible to source a registered teacher from a national service such as TextaSub or SubSearch or from the school's list of registered teachers then there is an obligation on the principal of the school to record in writing that a registered teacher who is not in receipt of a pension could not be employed and the reasons for this. The principal is also required to report to the Board of Management on a regular basis where it has been necessary to employ a retired teacher or an unregistered person in place of a teacher.

Higher Education Grants

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

226 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide special support for independent mature students, who have dependent children, and who from the beginning of the academic year 2011-12 will only receive the adjacent rate grant rather than the non-adjacent rate grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18358/11]

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

227 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of independent mature students who will lose the higher rate non-adjacent rate grant from the beginning of the academic year 2011-12; the number of these with dependent children; the saving in total from this change of rules this year; the cost that will be involved if those with dependent children, who lost out due to this rule change, were to be given a special cost of child care allowance of €1,000 per annum for the academic year 2011-12; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18359/11]

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

The change to the student grants scheme to which the Deputy refers — the removal of the automatic entitlement of mature students to the non-adjacent rate of grant — was introduced by his Fianna Fáil — Green Party Government under Budget 2011. It is estimated that some 6,900 mature students qualifying for grant support 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 or student contribution as appropriate. A full year saving of €13m has been estimated from this measure.

A statistical breakdown for independent mature students with dependent children is not available. The economic circumstances of the country are such that I am not in a position to reverse or vary any of these changes. A costing is not, therefore, available for a child-care allowance for independent mature students.

However, all students, including independent mature students, on particularly low incomes will continue to receive a "top-up" in the special rate of maintenance 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. In such circumstances, child care costs can be supported under this fund.

State Examinations

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

228 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of invigilators or supervisors employed on short-term contracts for the State examinations in 2011; the number who were in receipt of jobseeker’s benefit or allowance when offered a position; the number in receipt of a public service pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18374/11]

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations including organising the holding of examinations, determining procedures in places where examinations are conducted including the supervision of examinations and making arrangements for the marking of work presented for examination. In view of this I have forwarded your query to the State Examinations Commission for direct reply to you.

Third Level Examinations

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

229 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of invigilators or supervisors employed on short-term contracts for the third level examinations in 2011; the number who were in receipt of jobseeker’s benefit or allowance when offered a position; the number in receipt of a public service pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18375/11]

Universities and Institutes of Technology are autonomous academically independent institutions within the meaning of the Universities Act, 1997 and the Institutes of Technology Act, 2006. Under the terms of these Acts the operational management of the institutions, including the recruitment and appointment of staff, is the responsibility of their management authorities. Accordingly, as details of the appointments referred to are not required to be reported the information requested by the Deputy is not available to me.

Special Educational Needs

Terence Flanagan

Question:

230 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding a mild general disabilities class; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18396/11]

Niall Collins

Question:

260 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a request from a school (details supplied) in Dublin 17; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18654/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 230 and 260 together.

I wish to advise the Deputies 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.

In respect of pupils with mild general learning disability enrolled in the class being suppressed due to reduced pupil numbers, these pupils will have access to additional teaching support through the teaching resources allocated to the school under the General Allocation Model (GAM). 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.

There may be instances where children who are enrolled in a MGLD class fall within the low incidence disability category. These children may qualify for individual resource teaching support through the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) and it is open to schools to liaise with the local Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO) in this regard.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

231 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Skills the strategy he is adopting to ensure that children on the autistic spectrum and other children with special needs currently being educated in mainstream primary schools can continue their education at post-primary level while retaining all essential supports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18413/11]

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

257 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Skills the way he proposes to approach the situation in which some post-primary schools refused to admit children with special needs or refused to develop ASD units to meet the specific demands of students in their catchment areas who progressed from such units at primary level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18631/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 231 and 257 together.

The Deputy will be aware of my Department's commitment to ensuring that all children, including those with special needs, can have access to an education appropriate to their needs. The expansion in the network of autism-specific special classes in schools is reflective of the recent commitment to educational provision for children with special educational needs and this commitment remains a key Government priority. The Deputy will be aware that there has been unprecedented investment in providing supports for pupils with special needs in recent years, with over €1 billion being spent this year in supporting special educational provision.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for co-ordinating special needs education provision at local level and arranging for the delivery of special educational services. The SENOs act as single points of contact for parents of students with special educational needs. Another specific function of the SENO is to identify appropriate educational placements for children with special educational needs. Each SENO works in an assigned local area with parents, schools, teachers, psychologists, health professionals and other staff who are involved in the provision of services in that area for children with special educational needs. SENOs are a valuable resource to parents and in particular at times of transition for children including for example to post primary level where an element of forward planning may be required. All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact SENOs directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.

The Deputy will be aware that enrolment issues are a matter in the first instance for the parents of children and the Boards of Management of schools where they wish to have their children enrolled. My Department has no role in relation to processing applications for enrolment to schools. 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.

Pearse Doherty

Question:

232 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason for the reduction in special needs assistant provision in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18418/11]

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.

It should be noted that SNA allocations are not permanent, as the level of SNA support allocated to a school may be increased or decreased as pupils who qualify for SNA support enrol or leave a school. They are also decreased where a child's care needs may have diminished over time.

The qualifying criteria for the allocation of Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support is outlined in my Department's Circular 07/02. The recruitment and deployment of SNAs within schools are matters for the individual Principal/Board of Management. SNAs should be deployed by the school in a manner which best meets the care support requirements of the children enrolled in the school for whom SNA support has been allocated. It is a matter for schools to allocate support as required, and on the basis of individual need, which allows schools flexibility in how the SNA support is utilised.

School Transport

Billy Timmins

Question:

233 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding school transport (details supplied) in view of changes to the scheme that will come into effect from September 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18424/11]

Billy Timmins

Question:

234 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a matter (details supplied) in relation to the closed school rule; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18425/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 233 and 234 together.

Changes to school transport services relating to the Closed School Rule were announced in the 2011 Budget by the previous Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government and derive from recommendations in the Value for Money Review of the scheme. It is important to stress that there are a number of dimensions to the cessation of the Closed School Rule (CSR). The first of these, which will be implemented from September 2011, involves the uniform application of the distance criterion to all pupils travelling under the primary transport scheme, including those travelling under the CSR. This means that children residing less than 3.2 kilometres from their school of amalgamation will be deemed ineligible for school transport. In such cases, these children may apply for concessionary transport.

The second element of the change is scheduled to take effect in September 2012 and will apply only in the case of pupils commencing their primary education from that date. This second element will restrict school transport eligibility for those pupils entering in September 2012, to pupils who meet the distance eligibility criterion and are travelling to their nearest school. Available statistics, based on sampling undertaken as part of the Value for Money Review, indicate that the impact of this change will be limited as the majority of pupils categorised under the CSR are in fact attending their nearest school and will not be affected by this change. Before implementing this second main change which is proposed for 2012, my Department has requested Bus Éireann to conduct a detailed analysis of the "on the ground" impact for individual schools and the rural communities they serve. This analysis will be based on the most up to date information available on current school transport usage patterns and I expect to have this information available to me this summer. I will then have ample opportunity to carefully examine the likely affects of this change and act on it, if necessary, well in advance of the 2012 implementation date.

Schools Building Projects

Peter Mathews

Question:

235 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to his announcement that a new primary school will be built in the catchment area of Stepaside, south Dublin, if he will ensure that a school (details supplied) will be upgraded from prefab accommodation to a permanent school building; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the capacity of the current prefabs is only 161 children whereas the 2006 census shows there are 2,705 children in the catchment area of the school; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact this means the school is only able to cater for one out of every 17 children in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18443/11]

A building project to deliver a new 24 classroom building for the school referred to by the Deputy is currently at architectural planning stage. The Board of Management was informed last week that the project may proceed to stage 2b, to secure planning permission, fire certificate and disability access certificate.

When the relevant statutory approvals have been obtained and stage 2b completed, and assuming no issues arise, my Department will be in contact with the Board of Management with regard to progressing the project to the tender and construction stages.

Special Educational Needs

Martin Ferris

Question:

236 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will ensure that a person (details supplied) in County Meath will be given full special needs assistant care when they commence their first class in September. [18445/11]

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.

Bullying in Schools

Martin Ferris

Question:

237 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of primary school teachers who have received training in anti-bullying procedures under the professional development support for teachers programme since September 2010; the number of teachers who received training in the stay safe programme in the three years from 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18448/11]

Martin Ferris

Question:

238 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he is satisfied there are adequate anti-bullying supports in place at primary school level under the professional development support for teachers programme; if he is satisfied that PDST has the resources to deal with bullying at primary level; if he will provide a breakdown of the numbers of personnel from the PDST that are specifically dedicated to anti-bullying at primary level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18449/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 237 and 238 together.

Since September 2010 a total of 535 primary school teachers in 70 primary schools have received school-based support in the following areas:

Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE)

Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE)

Child Protection Guidelines

School policy planning including Code of Behaviour & Anti-Bullying Policy formation.

School-based support is given by PDST in response to schools' requests for support and may include support in relation to bullying depending on the needs identified. Usually the issue of anti-bullying is treated in a more in-depth manner in support for school policy planning including Code of Behaviour & Anti-Bullying Policy formation, although this depends of the circumstances of individual schools. It is worth noting that supports in these areas have been available to schools for a number of years prior to 2010.

In addition to this support, the Child Abuse Prevention Programme (CAPP) provided training in the Staysafe programme, which has an element related to anti-bullying, to almost 2,400 teachers in the last school year. Since 2007, CAPP have provided training to almost 20,000 teachers. PDST provides a wide range of continuing professional development supports to primary and post primary school teachers. The approach of the PDST is to work on a cross-sectoral basis and steps have been taken to achieve this aim, while also addressing the individual needs of each sector. Planning for the next school year is currently underway.

In relation to experience in anti-bullying, there are ten full time people on the PDST team who have particular expertise and training in the areas where anti-bullying content is likely to arise such as Social Personal and Health Education, Relationships and Sexuality Education, Child Protection and Policy Development including Code of Behaviour and Anti-Bullying.

It is acknowledged that the level of resources available to support services have been reduced in recent years in line with the changed economic situation. Accordingly, schools may experience some delay in accessing supports. Needs identified by schools are responded to as quickly as possible.

I consider these supports to be adequate, particularly given the overall range of priorities that the teacher support services aim to address on an ongoing basis.

Teacher Training

Martin Ferris

Question:

239 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will give a full breakdown of the number of personnel employed on the professional development support for teachers programme; the number who have primary level background and skills; the number who have post-primary background and skills; the number with primary backgrounds who have experience in anti-bullying; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18450/11]

In the 2010/2011 the breakdown of staff in the PDST between those with primary and post-primary backgrounds was 48 primary teachers and 27 post primary teachers. The skill sets of the team members range from subject and programme specific to generic support across a range of areas.

The approach of the PDST is to work on a cross-sectoral basis and steps have been taken to achieve this aim, while also addressing the individual needs of each sector. Planning for the next school year is currently underway.

In relation to experience in anti-bullying, there are ten full time people on the PDST team who have particular expertise and training in the areas where anti-bullying content is likely to arise such as Social Personal and Health Education, Relationships and Sexuality Education, Child Protection and Policy Development including Code of Behaviour and Anti-Bullying.

It is acknowledged that the level of resources available to support services have been reduced in recent years in line with the changed economic situation. Accordingly, schools may experience some delay in accessing supports and needs identified are responded to as quickly as possible.

I consider these supports to be adequate, particularly given the overall range of priorities that the teacher support services aim to address on an ongoing basis.

Special Educational Needs

John Lyons

Question:

240 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No 138 of 19 April 2011, if he has now considered in full a proposal from an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18455/11]

Alan Farrell

Question:

279 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will be meeting or has met with representatives of the proposed ABA academy for children with Autism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18764/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 240 and 279 together.

I have asked that my officials arrange a meeting with representatives of the centre in question, which I hope will take place later this week.

My Department has taken a decision not to provide funding to support the centre referred to by the Deputies as the proposal submitted was not in line with my Department's policy on educational provision for children with autism.

As the Deputies are aware my Department's policy is focused on ensuring that all children, including those with autism, can have access to an education appropriate to their needs, preferably in school settings through the primary and post primary school network. This facilitates access to individualised education programmes, fully qualified professional teachers who may draw from a range of autism-specific interventions, including ABA, special needs assistants, and the appropriate school curriculum with the option where possible of full/partial integration and interaction with other pupils.

As each child with autism is unique it is important that children have access to a range of interventions so their broader needs can be met. My Department's policy is to provide for children with special educational needs, including autism, to be included in mainstream schools unless such a placement would not be in their best interests or the interests of the children with whom they are to be educated. Some children may be supported in a special class attached to a mainstream school. These students have the option, where appropriate, of full/partial integration and interaction with other pupils. Other children may have such complex needs that they are best placed in a special school. Students with special educational needs have access to a range of support services including additional teaching and/or care supports. In special schools and special classes, students are supported through lower pupil teacher ratios. Special needs assistants may also be recruited specifically where pupils with disabilities and significant care needs are enrolled.

School Curriculum

Brendan Ryan

Question:

241 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he expects the National Council for Curriculum Assessment recommendations for second level junior cycle reform to be published; if he can give any assurances that geography will be protected as a core single subject; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18462/11]

The NCCA has been asked to review the junior certificate and advise on the scope for reform designed to strengthen literacy and numeracy, embed key skills, promote active learning and enhanced creativity and innovation, and ensure appropriate ways of generating evidence of learning. Concerns have also been raised about curriculum overload, and rote learning.

The Council has completed a public consultation process and has published a report of the consultation findings on its website www.ncca.ie. The Council is currently finalising its advice to me on the direction of reform, in consultation with the partners in education. I expect the Council’s advice in the Autumn.

I am aware that teachers of history and geography have raised concerns that their subjects will no longer be compulsory. The requirement to study history and geography in a secondary school but to have different options in vocational schools is a historical anomaly which is no longer appropriate. I believe that students should have as wide a choice as is feasible in their schools given the overall level of student demand and interest, the teaching resources available, and the qualifications profile of staff. They should also acquire a range of knowledge, essential skills and values which will contribute to lifelong learning, and effective social and economic participation. The importance of history and geography in promoting critical analysis skills, interculturalism, an understanding of human development, democracy, past and current world issues, and the skills for an environmentally sustainable life are fully appreciated. I will be guided by the NCCA's advice in this matter.

Higher Education Grants

Michael Creed

Question:

242 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No 129 of 21 June 2011 if he will confirm that he received an appeal on a higher education grant in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18464/11]

I confirmed in my response to Parliamentary Question No. 129 of 21 June 2011 that my Department received an appeal from the student in question on 24/02/2011. I also informed the Deputy in my response that the outcome was that my Department asked the grant awarding body to re-assess the grant application. My Department informed the student of this on 7/3/11.

The Deputy will also be aware form my reply that the grant awarding body subsequently re-assessed the grant application and a decision issued to the student, in writing, on 30 March 2011. There is no change in this position.

School Transport

Michael McNamara

Question:

243 Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will make the records of the 1969 closure of a school (details supplied) in County Clare available to the board of management, in order that they can confirm the agreement given to parents in relation to the new arrangement for school bus transportation of children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18465/11]

Changes to school transport services relating to the Closed School Rule were announced in the 2011 Budget by the previous Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government and derive from recommendations in the Value for Money Review of the scheme.

I wish to inform the Deputy that school transport arrangements under the Closed School Rule originated from the last major amalgamation of schools in the late 1960's. Under the Closed School Rule, transport is generally provided to the school of amalgamation for pupils who reside in a closed school area.

However, over the course of the last forty two years, many parts of Ireland have experienced changes in population, the number of schools in an area may have increased and private transport is more widely available.

My Department must always seek to ensure that every service that is funded by the public is operated in a manner that delivers for pupils, parents and taxpayers alike.

School Patronage

Peter Mathews

Question:

244 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to establish an Irish language secondary school in the Dundrum/Ballinteer area of Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18478/11]

I recently announced that 20 new primary and 20 new post-primary schools are to be established in the next six years. Of the 40 new schools, one new post-primary school will be located in the general Ballinteer/Stepaside area of South Dublin. I also announced the introduction of new arrangements for the recognition of both primary and post-primary schools that will provide an opportunity for all patrons to seek to apply for patronage of these schools. My Department will shortly inform patron bodies of the details of the first schools that are to be established. Applications for patronage of the new schools will then be sought.

Teaching Qualifications

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

245 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the qualification system for primary teachers is changing in 2012; his plans to assist teaching graduates who have not been able to get full-time positions and complete their diplomas under the current system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18481/11]

I understand the question to relate to the probationary process for primary teachers.

The Teaching Council has been informed that the relevant sections of the Teaching Council Act 2001 will be commenced no later than 1 September 2012. The Council has begun to consider the procedures and criteria for the induction and probation of primary and post-primary teachers that the Council would wish to implement.

Transitional arrangements for probation of primary teachers were put in place by my Department last year. These are set out in Circular 58/2010. I hope that these arrangements will make it easier for newly qualified teachers to complete probation.

If a registered teacher is unable to complete the requirements of a registration condition within the specified period, the teacher may apply to the Council for an extension to that period in the year in which it is due to expire. Information on this process is available on the Teaching Council website.

Schools Building Projects

Sean Fleming

Question:

246 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will supply details regarding projects (details supplied) in County Laois; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18501/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that all information in respect of the current school building programme along with all assessed applications for major capital works together with details of schools approved funding under the Summer Works, Jobs Initiative, Emergency Works and Additional Accommodation Schemes is available on my Department's website at www.education.ie.

For the Deputy's convenience, I have listed details of those schools in County Laois who have been allocated funds under the various schemes.

Primary School Projects in Co Laois Approved funding in 2011

Schools approved under 2011 Summer Works Scheme

Roll No

School

Category

07636K

St Fintan’s National School

Mechanical

13741Q

Rath Mixed National School

Mechanical

18150S

Fraoch Mor National School

Mechanical

19791P

Scoil Tígearnach Naofa Cullohill

Mechanical

19750B

Scoil Mhuire Abbeyleix

Mechanical

Schools approved under Jobs Initiative Scheme in 2011

Roll No

School

Category

13343E

Scoil Bhride, Still Brook, Mountrath

Roofs

Schools Granted Devolved Funding under Temporary Accomodation Scheme in 2011

Roll No

School

Type

13741Q

Rath Mixed National School

Permanent Accommodation

17883K

Castlecuffe NS, Clonaslee

Permanent Accommodation

20353V

St Colmans NS Stradbally

Permanent Accommodation

Major Projects Announced in January 2011 for Progression

Roll No

School

Project

Details

18547W

Faolan Naofa NS, Ballyroan

Extension/Refurb

Brief to be formulated in 2011

20100P

Kolbe Special School

New School

Brief to be formulated in 2011

20081O

Gaelscoil Phortlaoise

New School

Brief to be formulated in 2011

20347D

Portlaoise Educate Together NS

New School

Brief to be formulated in 2011

15556I

Presentation Primary School, Portarlington

Extension/Refurb

Brief to be formulated in 2011

07442U

Convent of Mercy NS

New School

Commenced Construction

17617M

Scoil Chomhgain Naofa, Killeshin

New School

Commenced Construction

14260F

Abbeyleix Sth National School

New School

Commenced Construction

20071L

Scoil Bhríde, Rathdowney

Extension/Refurb

Commenced Construction

Schools in receipt of grant for temporary accommodation

Roll No

School

01556F

Scoil Bhride, Ballyroan

07183W

St Joseph’s Girls NS, Mountmellick

07636K

St Fintan’s Primary School

12231L

Pike of Rushall NS

12692B

Killadooley Mixed NS

13741Q

Rath Mixed NS

14260F

Abbeyleix South NS

14838N

Maryborough NS

15446B

GS Thromaire

15556I

Presentation Convent

17064U

St Patricks NS, Ballylinan

17557U

St Abbans NS

17617M

Killeshin NS

18150S

The Heath NS

18547W

Ballyroan Boys NS

18828H

St Paul’s Primary, Portlaoise

19747M

Scoil Bhride, Knockmay

20224K

GS an tSli Dala

20347D

Portlaoise Educate Together NS

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

247 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will grant permanent recognition to a school (details supplied) in Dublin 9, a special unit for children with autistic spectrum disorder who are still in unsuitable premises; and the position regarding a site at a former Enterprise Ireland location for their school. [18504/11]

I can confirm that the school to which the Deputy refers has made an application to my Department for permanent recognition. The application is currently being assessed and my Department expects to be in a position to convey a decision to the school authority shortly.

The Deputy will be aware that in the context of making provision for the long term accommodation needs of the school, my Department has 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 school's water main, roof and sewerage system.

Departmental Staff

Patrick Deering

Question:

248 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of architects, architectural technicians and quantity surveyors employed by him; and his views on the level of expertise available when his officials decide on building works applications. [18507/11]

The following are the numbers of Technical and Professional staff employed in the Department of Education and Skills Planning and Building Unit : Technical and Professional Managers, 3; Senior Architects, 5; Architects, 5; Architectural Technicians, 10; Quantity Surveyors, 4; Senior Engineers, 3.

All applications for capital funding are assessed in the Planning and Building unit of the Department. The assessment process determines the extent and type of need presenting based on the demographics of an area, condition of buildings, site capacity etc., leading to an appropriate accommodation solution.

Input from Technical and Professional staff is requested for this process where required. The level of expertise available from the technical and professional staff is of a very high standard, based on their experience over many years of assessing and monitoring school building projects.

Schools Building Projects

Noel Harrington

Question:

249 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will report progress made on the replacement of prefab accommodation at a national school (details supplied) in County Cork; the timetable for this work to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18524/11]

My Department has no record of receiving an application for capital funding from the school referred to by the Deputy for the works in question.

It is open to the school authority to submit an application for such funding, details of which can be found on the Department's website www.education.ie.

Special Educational Needs

John McGuinness

Question:

250 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason Kilkenny Vocational Educational Committee has refused to establish a special class to cater for eight autistic children, a project supported by him with a grant of €80,000; the information that was available to the VEC when members considered the matter at their June meeting which led them to the decision not to approve the class; if he will insist on the decision being reversed in view of the demand for such places in Kilkenny city; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18537/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through the local special educational needs organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from primary and post primary schools for special educational needs supports including the approval of special classes for autism. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.

All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.

I have arranged for the information requested by the Deputy to be forwarded to the NCSE for their direct reply.

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

251 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position for school year 2011/2012 regarding the allocation of special needs assistants in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Cork. [18581/11]

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.

School Transport

Brendan Smith

Question:

252 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to co-ordinate transport services between school transport, rural transport and Health Service Executive transport services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18583/11]

My Department is co-operating fully in the development of practical initiatives, led by the Department of Transport, to promote coordination of State supported transport services such as school transport, rural transport and the Health Service Executive transport services. Bus Éireann which operates the school transport scheme on behalf of this Department is involved in this process. My priority is not only to ensure optimum efficency and effectiveness between all programmes which receive State support including school transport which, with a budget of €180 million is a significant area of expenditure, but also to establish how this work can assist in meeting the €17 million savings target in respect of the school transport budget by 2014.

Brendan Smith

Question:

253 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the savings that will accrue this year from the implementation of ten as the eligible number of children to retain or establish a school transport service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18584/11]

Brendan Smith

Question:

254 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the savings that will accrue this year from the application of the distance criteria for all pupils attending primary schools and availing of the school transport scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18585/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 253 and 254 together.

The changes relating to the Primary School Transport Scheme derive from decisions of the previous Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government to implement recommendations in the School Transport Value for Money review and the need to obtain savings under the four year national recovery plan.

The decisions announced cover the uniform application of the distance requirement, cessation of the Closed/Central School Rule (CSR), the minimum number of eligible children required to establish and retain services and the introduction of charges for eligible primary pupils.

It is essential to stress that the wider context within which all these changes are taking place, is a situation of the most serious financial difficulties. Under the four year recovery plan, there is a requirement to deliver savings of €17 million on the school transport budget and these measures are an integral part of this.

Special Educational Needs

Jack Wall

Question:

255 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Skills the criteria for a scheme and the position regarding an application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18618/11]

The scheme to which the Deputy refers is the July Provision Scheme. Participation in the scheme is an option for all special schools and mainstream primary schools with special classes catering for children with autism or severe to profound general learning disability that choose to extend their education services through the month of July. Home based tuition of 10 hours per week for the four weeks in question is provided to children who attend schools which choose not to participate in the scheme. For home based provision my Department's preference is that the tuition be undertaken by a fully qualified teacher. However where parents have difficulties in sourcing fully qualified teachers my Department accepts some tutors with alternative qualifications and modifies the rate of payment accordingly.

Officials in my Department have contacted the parent to whom the Deputy refers and have advised her with regard to her application for home based provision.

Michael McCarthy

Question:

256 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will confirm the number of special needs assistants in County Cork who will lose their jobs as a result of the decision to cap numbers of whole-time equivalent SNAs to 10,575; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18624/11]

I wish to inform the Deputy that 10,575 whole time equivalent (WTE) posts are being provided for SNA support for the coming school year. This is a significant number of posts and unlike other areas of the public sector vacancies are being filled up to this number.

It is considered that with equitable and careful management and distribution of these resources that there should be sufficient posts to provide access to SNA support for all children who require such care support to attend school, in accordance with Departmental criteria.

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. As this process is ongoing, it is not possible to provide details of the level of allocation of SNAs in any given area

Question No. 257 answered with Question No. 231.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

258 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the numbers of special needs assistants employed at each school in County Monaghan for the school year beginning September 2010 in tabular form; the corresponding figure for each of the years 2009, 2008 and 2007; the expected figures for 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18632/11]

The information requested by the Deputy on the number of special needs assistants employed in County Monaghan is not readily available.

The number of Special Needs Assistants employed nationally from 2007 to 2010 is set out as follows. The details for each year are the December figures for the year in question. The primary schools information is inclusive of the special schools details.

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for allocating special needs resources to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. The NCSE will continue to support schools, parents, children and teachers and special needs assistants will continue to be deployed to schools to meet children's needs in line with my Department's policy.

Number of Special Needs Assistants

Year

Number of Special Needs Assistants in Primary schools

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

2007

8038

1786

2008

8440

2002

2009

8392

1950

2010

8401

2142

School Accommodation

Billy Kelleher

Question:

259 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he will make a decision on the devolution grant application submitted in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Cork [18652/11]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the school in question has been allocated a devolved grant under my Department's Additional Accommodation Scheme. The school authority has been informed of this decision.

Question No. 260 answered with Question No. 230.

School Staffing

Gerald Nash

Question:

261 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has considered an application from a school (details supplied) in County Meath for a full-time learning support post; when a decision will issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18663/11]

I wish to confirm that an application form has been received from the school referred to by the Deputy for a residual balance of resource teaching hours for 2011/12 that it could not obtain from any surplus capacity in neighbouring schools. The application form will be processed in due course and the school will be advised accordingly.

Schools Amalgamation

Michael McCarthy

Question:

262 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the planned amalgamation of three post primary schools (details supplied) in County Cork; if funding is still available for this project; the expected timescale for the commencement of this project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18672/11]

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. A site has been acquired for the new amalgamated school.

As part of the Jobs Initiative announcement I confirmed that I am developing two further bundles of PPP schools. The provision of the school in Skibbereen will be considered for inclusion in this context. The make up and timing of school bundles in my Department's PPP school building programme will be determined by 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. The normal time scale for the provision of the accommodation from the time of the announcement of a bundle of schools, is 4 years approximately.

School Enrolments

Finian McGrath

Question:

263 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review a matter in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9 regarding entry to a school. [18674/11]

The selection and enrolment of pupils in schools is the responsibility of the authorities of the individual school. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking school places in an area. However, this may result in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice. As schools may not have a place for every applicant, a selection process may be necessary. This selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants.

Under section 15(2)(d) of the Education Act, 1998, each school is legally obliged to disclose its enrolment policy and to ensure that as regards that policy that principles of equality and the right of parents to send their children to a school of the parents choice are respected.

Section 29 of the Education Act 1998 provides for an appeal by a parent or guardian to the Secretary General of my Department, or in the case of a Vocational Education Committee (VEC) school to the VEC in the first instance, where a Board of Management of a school, or a person acting on behalf of the Board, refuses to enrol a student in a school. My Department has no authority to compel a school to admit a pupil, except in the case of an appeal under Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 being upheld.

A Section 29 appeal recently took place in respect of a refusal to enrol this child to the school in question. This appeal was not upheld. Following the receipt of the Appeal Committee's determination, the Secretary General wrote to both parties advising them of the outcome of the appeal.

This letter was copied to the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB). The NEWB is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The NEWB has indicated that it will treat children for whom an appeal under Section 29 has been unsuccessful as priority cases in offering such assistance. The contact details for the NEWB in the area in question is NEWB, Block 3, Floor 1, Grove Court, Blanchardstown Dublin 15, Tel: 01 8103261.

Schools Building Projects

Tom Fleming

Question:

264 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills the new primary schools in County Kerry that will be included in the new school building programme over the next six years. [18687/11]

Tom Fleming

Question:

265 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills the new second level schools in County Kerry that will be included in the new schools building programme over the next six years. [18688/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 264 and 265 together.

Based on my Department's most recent statistics, it is expected that enrolments will increase nationally from a current enrolment at primary level of circa 509,652 pupils to circa 552,800 pupils by 2017 and at post-primary level from a current enrolment of circa 317,432 pupils to circa 342,300 pupils by 2017. My Department is currently examining all areas of the country to determine where additional provision will be required at both primary and post-primary level up to 2017.

It is within this context that I recently announced that up to 40 new schools are to be established within the next six years, comprising of twenty new primary schools and twenty new post-primary schools. Of the 40 new schools, 17 will be in the Dublin area with a further twelve in the commuter belt of Wicklow, Kildare, Meath and Louth. Six new schools will be established in Cork, three in Galway and one each in Wexford and Cavan.

In addition, it will be necessary to extend the capacity of many existing schools to meet the demand for increased pupil places. Should the demand for increased pupil places emerge in County Kerry, it may be necessary to increase the capacity of schools in the area.

The current status of all projects on the school building programme, including those in County Kerry, may be viewed on my Department's website at www.education.ie and this will be updated regularly throughout the year.

Special Educational Needs

Gerry Adams

Question:

266 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps he will take to ensure that additional special needs assistants are granted to a school (details supplied) in County Louth which has seen a surge in pupils with special needs for the incoming school year. [18692/11]

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.

Departmental Bodies

Gerry Adams

Question:

267 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills the total running cost of the National Council for Special Education; if he will provide a breakdown as to the way in which this money is spent; the amount that covers administrative costs and the amount that covers service provision. [18693/11]

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) was established as a result of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act, 2004. The Act provides a comprehensive legislative framework to govern the delivery of services while the establishment of the NCSE is intended to improve and speed up the delivery of services to pupils with special educational needs, their parents and schools. The Act sets out a range of services which must be provided, including assessments, education plans and support services.

The functions of the Council include:

carrying out research and providing expert advice to the Minister for Education and Skills on the educational needs of children with disabilities and the provision of related services;

providing for a range of services at local and national level in order that the educational needs of children with disabilities are identified and provided for, and;

co-ordinating with HSE, schools and other relevant bodies, the provision of education and related support services to children with disabilities.

Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) allocate additional teaching and other resources available to support the special educational needs of children with disabilities and makes recommendations in relation to the provision of specialist equipment and school transport.

The number of staff employed by the Council at year end 2010 was 109, made up of 12 Senior Special Educational Needs Organisers (SSENOs), 75 SENOs and 22 Head Office staff. In 2010 expenditure on salaries for SSENOs and SENOs amounted to €4,788,605 and Head Office staff salaries to €1,367,548 giving a total of €6,156,153. Superannuation contributions of €301,955 were deducted from staff salaries and remitted to the Department of Finance. In addition, pension levy deductions of €426,056 were made from staff salaries and remitted to the Department of Education & Skills.

The NCSE budget allocation for 2011 is €9.015m which is subdivided into pay and non-pay at €6.93m and €2.085m respectively.

Special Educational Needs

Gerry Adams

Question:

268 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills the cost to the State of each additional special needs assistant that is provided. [18694/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that there are a number of factors in determining rates of pay of Special Needs Assistants such as length of working day and number of years service, for example. The applicable payscales for Special Needs Assistants are available on my Department's website, www.education.ie.

Jim Daly

Question:

269 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the allocation of special needs assistants that will be allocated to a school (details suppplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18701/11]

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.

School Books

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

270 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to reduce the publication of unnecessary new school book editions; and his plans to reform the grant made available to schools to assist in purchase of school books. [18715/11]

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

271 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to introduce at primary and post primary level a national book rental scheme. [18716/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 270 and 271 together.

I am aware of the concern expressed by many parents and organisations in relation to the high cost of school books and the frequent rate of revisions made by book publishers. I previously indicated to the House that I would meet with book publishers and representatives of parents to discuss this important issue in greater detail. I can confirm to the Deputy that I met recently with these groups, including representatives of the St. Vincent de Paul. I emphasised to book publishers the need to minimise the amount of changes they make in textbooks and the avoidance of new editions, where only minor changes are involved. I also urged them to consider closely the cost of books they supply to the market.

I also raised concerns from sections of the visually impaired community about the level of co-operation between book publishers and the National Braille Production Centre. The educational publishers have agreed to reflect on the concerns I raised with them and I am currently awaiting a formal response from them in response to our recent meeting. I sympathise with parents who are experiencing difficulty in paying for school books. The harsh economic reality in Ireland means money is tight for many parents. It is precisely for that reason that I will continue to encourage schools to establish book rental schemes as the most effective means of lowering the cost of books for all students.

Many schools are already using the funding for books provided by my Department to operate successful rental schemes, however there remains room for improvement across the wider education system. I am currently examining how best to encourage schools to establish book rental schemes and I have asked the National Parents Councils to provide me with examples of best practice that they have encountered in this area and I will disseminate these to schools.

School Accommodation

Dara Calleary

Question:

272 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he will issue a revised schedule of residual accommodation and suggested future use of existing accommodation in respect of a college (details supplied); and when a design team will be appointed. [18724/11]

A major project for the school referred to by the Deputy was included on the list of projects on the work programme for 2011, which was announced on 24 January last. A technical assessment of the school has been completed and my Department has agreed the Overall Schedule of Accommodation with the school authority. The material referred to by the Deputy is currently being prepared and will be forwarded to the school when finalised. Thereafter, the process for the appointment of a Design Team will commence. All large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction phase are being progressed in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme and the available financial resources.

Schools Building Projects

Peter Mathews

Question:

273 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding payments in respect of a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18725/11]

The major building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at architectural planning stage. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the Stage 2a submission for the school's major building project was approved by my Department on 30 June 2011. In relation to the major building project, my Department releases funds for payments of outstanding invoices on confirmation that the work involved has been completed to the requisite standard.

With regard to payments associated with rental of temporary accommodation, grant aid issues from my Department when the school authority submits the relevant invoices.

Special Educational Needs

Brendan Griffin

Question:

274 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a whole time equivalent special needs assistant will be provide to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry in view of the severe issues involved in their case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18732/11]

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.

School Staffing

Finian McGrath

Question:

275 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding panel rights in respect of a person (details supplied). [18741/11]

The primary redeployment panel rules agreed between the relevant education partners and my Department provide supplementary panel rights to eligible fixed-term teachers with between three and five years reckonable teaching service. The teacher referred to by the Deputy was offered these rights in 2010 in respect of the 2010-2011 school year but failed to respond at the time. Under the agreed rules which are published on my Department's website, teachers who do not respond to an offer of panel rights within a specified time forfeit their panel rights.

Schools Building Projects

Timmy Dooley

Question:

276 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will publish a list of outstanding capital works on all primary and secondary schools in County Clare particularly a school (details supplied); the timeline for their completion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18744/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that all information in respect of the current school building programme along with all assessed applications for major capital works, is available on my Department's website at www.education.ie.

A project at the school to which he refers is at an advanced stage of the architectural planning process. The school authority has advised my Department that Stage 2(b) — Detailed Design, including planning permission and tender documents, will be submitted to my Department shortly.

When the relevant statutory approvals have been obtained and Stage 2b completed, and assuming no issues arise, my Department will subsequently be in contact with the school authority with regard to prog